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University Head's Remarks On Trump Spur Some Alumni To Return Diplomas

8 hours 27 min ago

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growing group of Liberty University alumni say they plan to return their diplomas because the school's president continues to back President Donald Trump.

Those alumni say they're specifically protesting Jerry Falwell Jr.'s support of Trump's comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After members of the so-called alt-right, KKK and neo-Nazis clashed with counter-protesters, Trump said several sides deserved blame.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," Trump said shortly after the violence.

Two days later, Trump condemned neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK by name, calling them hate groups.

But a day after that, Trump again said Charlottesville was an issue with multiple sides.

SEE MORE: Some Worry Trump's Charlottesville Comments Could Hurt Tax Reform

"You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent," Trump said.

Falwell tweeted he was proud of Trump's "bold truthful [statements] about Charlottesville."

And in a Sunday interview with ABC, Falwell reiterated that support, saying he agreed with Trump's statement that there were "very fine people on both sides" in Charlottesville.

The alumni group hopes "revoking all support" will send a message to the board of trustees that Falwell is unfit to lead the university.

The group says it plans to return diplomas to Falwell's office by Sept. 5.

10 Sailors Missing After US Navy Warship Collision

10 hours 8 min ago

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Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing after a Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship east of Singapore.

The USS John S. McCain sailed toward port without assistance after the collision, but the Navy says it suffered "significant damage" to its hull.

That damage reportedly includes flooding in the ship's sleep and machinery compartments. 

The McCain was on its way to a port visit in Singapore Monday morning local time when it collided with the 30,000-ton chemical and oil tanker flying a Liberian flag. 

SEE MORE: US Navy Announces Punishments For Crew On USS Fitzgerald

Search and rescue operations started immediately after the crash. As of Monday morning in the U.S., 10 sailors are missing. Another five sailors were injured in the collision. 

The McCain collision comes after another Navy warship — the USS Fitzgerald — collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Japan back in June. Seven sailors on board the Fitzgerald died.

The Navy says it will investigate this latest incident. 

The McCain has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 sailors. 

Missouri Lawmaker Apologizes For Trump Assassination Facebook Post

10 hours 26 min ago

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The Missouri state lawmaker who said she hoped President Donald Trump would be assassinated has apologized.

"I made a mistake, and I'm owning up to it," Democratic state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said.

During a press conference in Ferguson, Chappelle-Nadal said she learned her lesson after posting on Facebook, "I hope Trump is assassinated!"

The senator later deleted the controversial comment, and she told reporters she "didn't mean" what she wrote.

SEE MORE: Johnny Depp Spoke Of Assassination — And The Secret Service Noticed

But Missouri lawmakers from both sides of the aisle quickly criticized the post.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill called the comment "outrageous" and said Chappelle-Nadal should step down.

And Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens also called for her resignation, saying, "We can have differences in our country, but no one should encourage political violence."

Chappelle-Nadal said last week she has no plans to resign.

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' Kills Box-Office Hopes For 'Logan Lucky'

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 23:51

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Taking the No. 1 spot this week is a buddy cop flick that would make Danny Glover blush. "The Hitman's Bodyguard" brought in an estimated $21.6 million in its debut weekend, overcoming less-than-solid reviews on its way to a more-than-solid opening.

As the summer movie season comes to a close, weekend box office revenue has been down nearly 30 percent. Fortunately, though, "The Hitman's Bodyguard" only cost about $29 million to produce, which makes this debut even better for the folks at Lionsgate.

Now, that doesn't change the critical reception

Critics over at What The Flick?! called the movie "never as funny as it could be," "the textbook definition of 'whatever'" and "off, tonally."

But much like with "The Emoji Movie" from last month, not everybody is checking with "professional movie watchers" before they decide if they're heading to the theater.

So despite a score on the low end of the Tomatometer, "The Hitman's Bodyguard" scored high marks where it counts: the ticket counter.

Falling to No. 2 this week is "Annabelle: Creation," bringing in an estimated $15.5 million in its sophomore weekend.

Taking the No. 3 spot is this weekend’s other new release. "Logan Lucky" brought in a mediocre $8 million in its debut weekend.

Despite the average opening, "Logan Lucky" seemingly did everything right. For one, its stars include Daniel Craig, aka James Bond; Adam Driver, who doubles as Kylo Ren; and Magic Mike, who occasionally goes by Channing Tatum.

Also, this heist film was directed by the same Oscar winner who was in the director's chair for all of the "Ocean's" movies.

And to top it all off, it has a 93 percent on the Tomatometer. So what happened? Well, I guess it's just hard to beat Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds screaming at each other.

As for next week, no wide releases. But "Leap" will be in select theaters, so take your little Misty Copeland to the multiplex.

No Spoilers: 'Game Of Thrones' Spinoff Writer Drops A Hint

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 21:04

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If you're a serious "Game of Thrones" fan, you're probably aware of the five potential spinoffs in the works. A recent interview with one of the writers shed a tiny ray of light on what those shows will be about.

Jane Goldman is one of the writers working on the spinoffs. She's known for writing the screenplay for "The Woman in Black" and co-writing screenplays for "Kick-Ass" and "X-Men: First Class."

In a recent interview with IGN, she let slip that the show she's working on "would be recognizable as a past event" to current "Thrones" fans.

HBO hired five writers to work on five separate shows, all of which have been confirmed as prequels to the current "Game of Thrones" timeline. Author George R. R. Martin has said no existing characters would appear in the spinoffs, leading fans to speculate what era the new series might take place in.

SEE MORE: Direwolves Of 'Game Of Thrones' Lead To Dire Problems For Real Dogs

Possible settings that have been mentioned include: the Doom of Valyria, which saw the rise of House Targaryen and its eventual conquest of Westeros; the construction of the ice Wall and the events leading up to its construction, including the Long Night during which White Walkers first appeared; and the invasion of the Andals, who conquered all the southern lands of Westeros and pushed the First Men, who would become known as Wildlings or Free Folk, into the far north.

And the reception to more "Thrones" has been a lot less icy than reactions to another show HBO has in the works.

Plans for "Confederate," a show about an alternate history in which the southern states won the Civil War, have been criticized on social media, despite having both "Game of Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at the helm.

Scientists Puzzled By Weekslong Fire On Icy Greenland

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 20:50

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A massive fire that's been burning in Greenland for at least two weeks has scientists shaking their heads.

The fire is in the country's western region, and as of Aug. 16 was just 40 miles from the Greenland ice sheet. It's unusual because of its large size — about 3,000 acres — and the length of time it's been burning.

There have been no definitive reports on what started the blaze. It first appeared on satellite radar July 31, but could have started before then.

And while scientists may not know exactly when or how the fire started, they do have pretty strong ideas about its implications.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Melting The Arctic Ice Out From Under Our Buildings

They suspect it will exacerbate the melting of Greenland's already dissolving ice sheets.

Researchers say if soot from the fire settles on the ice, it will decrease the deflection of heat from the sun.

That means more heat will be absorbed into the ice, increasing melt.

Scientists at the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology say it's been the worst year for wildfires in Greenland in 18 years.

Climate change is also expected to contribute to larger, longer-lasting fires in Greenland's future. That's not great news, considering Greenland is the largest global contributor to rising seas. If its entire ice sheet were to melt, the water could flood or submerge much of the world's coasts.

Comic Legend Jerry Lewis Dies At 91

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 20:37

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The dynamic and controversial actor and comedian Jerry Lewis has died. He was 91. 

Lewis was known as a legendary physical comedian and longtime comic partner to singer Dean Martin. 

The two began performing together in the mid-1940s and became one of the most successful duos in show business. After their split in 1956, Lewis went on to enjoy a long career in film.

He starred in box office hits like "The Bellboy" and 1963's "The Nutty Professor."

SEE MORE: Civil Rights Activist And Comedian Dick Gregory Dies At 84

In his later years, Lewis took up the cause of muscular dystrophy awareness. He hosted annual telethons wherein he raised over $2 billion to fight the disease, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

In the last decade of his life, he faced scrutiny for racially-charged and sexist statements.

Lewis is survived by his wife, SanDee Pitnick, and seven children.

Trump Said To Have Decided On Strategy In Afghanistan

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 19:49

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On Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed the president has decided on a strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

Mattis didn't give any details about the plan, but what's newsworthy is that Trump's agreed to one. 

The administration had promised to have a strategy ironed out by mid-July, but the question of U.S. troop involvement seemed to be the biggest problem.

According to national security adviser H. R. McMaster, U.S. soldiers need to stay in Afghanistan for four more years, and their numbers have to increase modestly.

SEE MORE: Pentagon Spent $94M On 'Inappropriate' Uniforms For Afghan Troops

But in past tweets, Trump's pushed for a "speedy withdrawal." The conflict has been the U.S.' longest, and most expensive.

Trump may have no choice but to increase troops considering recent major gains the Taliban has made in Afghanistan.

Trump is expected to announce the new strategy Monday night.

Saudi Arabia Says Its King Will Fund Qatari Pilgrims' Trip To Mecca

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 19:09

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Saudi Arabia says it will allow all Qatari citizens inside the kingdom for the annual hajj pilgrimage without permits, despite an ongoing blockade imposed on Qatar.

The news was announced by Saudi Arabia's official Saudi Press Agency following a meeting between a Saudi crown prince and a member of the Qatari royal family.

It marks the first change to a months-long blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. 

Those countries accuse Qatar of supporting terror groups and attempting to destabilize the region, among other things. Qatar rejects those claims.

It also comes after Qatar accused the Saudis of politicizing the hajj. The country announced in July that Qatari pilgrims could only enter through Qatar's capital city, Doha. Now, the Salwa border point will be open for Qatari pilgrims to pass through "without electronic permits."

SEE MORE: Venezuela's Controversial New Assembly Voted For Law-Passing Powers

The hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam; every Muslim who is able must make the trip to Mecca at least once in their life.

The Saudi Press Agency says Saudi Arabia's King Salman will fund Qatari pilgrims' trips to Mecca. But the authenticity of the deal has come into question.

That's because the Qatari who met with the Saudi crown prince is Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani. He's a member of the royal family, but doesn't hold any role in government. His family lost power in 1972.

Qatar's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said the move was "politically motivated," but that it was a step forward in relations. 

After 72 Years, Researchers Have Finally Found Lost World War II Ship

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 18:24

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Seventy-two years ago, the USS Indianapolis was hit by Japanese torpedoes and sank beneath the waves, never to be seen again.

Until now, that is. A team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has found the ship in the Philippine Sea.

The Indianapolis was on its way back from a top-secret mission: Dropping off atomic bomb components that would eventually be used in the attack on Hiroshima.

Of the 1,196 people on board, about 400 died when the ship was hit by the torpedoes. But those that did survive the blast spent five days in shark-filled waters. A passing pilot spotted them by chance, and 316 men were saved. 

SEE MORE: World War II Bomb Washes Up On Florida Beach

You might recognize that story from a famous scene in the movie "Jaws" when Robert Shaw's character, Quint, is recounting the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. 

As Quint tells it: "Eleven-hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour."

Allen seeks out lost artifacts from the Second World War in an attempt to preserve them. In 2015, he discovered the Japanese battleship Musashi.

And last year, new information about the Indianapolis' location helped jump-start his search for the ship. But it was still like finding a needle in a rather large haystack — his team had 600 square miles of ocean to sift through.

The exact location of the Indianapolis is going to be kept a secret. The wreckage is considered a war grave, and by U.S. law shouldn't be disturbed. Twenty-two Indianapolis crew members are still alive today.

China's Government Gets Historic Publisher To Censor 300 Articles

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 16:30

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Cambridge University Press — the world's oldest publishing house — is censoring more than 300 scholarly articles at the request of the Chinese government. 

The articles were published in The China Quarterly, which describes itself as "the leading scholarly journal in its field, covering all aspects of contemporary China including Taiwan."

Many of the banned papers are focused on Tibet, which China claims sovereignty over.

Other topics that were censored include the Tiananmen Square protests and the legacy of former Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, whom some have accused of starving and enslaving people in China's lower class. 

SEE MORE: Trump Wants To Investigate China's Intellectual Property Rules

The articles are only being blacklisted within China, but the editor of The China Quarterly called the move a "restriction of academic freedom." 

For its part, Cambridge University Press said it feared if it didn't censor the articles, the Chinese government would block entire collections.

Civil Rights Activist And Comedian Dick Gregory Dies At 84

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 15:26

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Civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory has died. He was 84 years old.

Gregory was known for using humor, particularly satire, to help bridge racial divides. He was a crossover comedian popular with black and white audiences during the 1960s, which was a rarity at the time. 

On integration he once said: “I sat in at a lunch counter for nine months. ... When they finally integrated, they didn't have what I wanted.”

He also once famously said: "We tried to integrate a restaurant, and they said, 'We don't serve colored folk here.' And I said, 'Well, I don't eat colored folk nowhere.'"

SEE MORE: Comedian and Actor Charlie Murphy Is Dead At 57

Gregory was a dedicated social activist. He attended the March on Washington during the civil rights movement and participated in integration protests and sit-ins.

Later in life, he spoke out on issues including police brutality, sexism and animal rights.

Gregory died Saturday in Washington, D.C.

Mosquitoes Are Awful. So Why Haven't We Tried Exterminating Them?

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 13:41

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Mosquitoes are annoying. And because they spread malaria, Zika, dengue fever and other diseases, mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world, killing about 725,000 people each year.

That begs the question: Why don't we just exterminate them?

Humans are skilled at getting rid of animal species. We've killed off dodo birds and Tasmanian tigers, and they were actually kind of cool.

But wiping out the mosquito population might not be helpful in the long run. Some mosquitoes can provide a food source for other animals and help pollinate plants.

Plus, only a fraction of the 3,000 mosquito species bite humans. And of those that do, only a handful, like Aedes aegypti, can actually spread disease.

SEE MORE: Scientists Want To Release 20 Million Male Mosquitoes Here

Scientists are still trying to remove as many of the bloodsuckers as possible with some pretty creative methods.

In one trial, scientists altered Aedes aegypti DNA to create infertile offspring. Those insects were released in the Cayman Islands and caused a 96 percent drop in the mosquito population.

Other methods are less science and more science fiction: Researchers have developed a system that targets mosquitoes and shoots them down with lasers.

But no matter what methods are used, mosquitoes are likely here to stay. The executive director of Chicago's North Shore Mosquito Abatement District said "it is absolutely impossible to kill all the mosquitoes. … There will always be a remnant population somewhere that will repopulate."

Boston 'Free Speech Rally' Ends Early, Thousands Join Counterprotest

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 21:22

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Saturday's high-profile "Free Speech Rally" in Boston disbanded shortly after it was scheduled to begin.

Samson Racioppi, a congressional candidate originally scheduled to speak at the rally, told WCVB the event "kind of fell apart." About 90 minutes after the rally had begun, police declared it "officially over."

As of Saturday afternoon, it was unclear why the rally ended early. But many speculate it had to do with safety concerns. Soon after rally attendees were escorted out, police in riot gear arrived to control the crowds.

And hours before the rally began, thousands of counterprotesters began marching around the city. By noon, police estimated there were at least 15,000 of them, with more joining throughout the day.

Compared to the "Free Speech Rally" — which garnered roughly 50 attendees, according to The Boston Globe — the counterprotests rapidly overtook the city.

SEE MORE: Preparing For Saturday, Boston Refuses To Be The Next Charlottesville

Boston police were prepared for that, but officials didn't want it to happen. 

During a public safety press conference on Friday, Mayor Marty Walsh urged people to stay away from the rally. Earlier in the day, the Boston Police Department took to Twitter to ask for "respectful & responsible behavior." 

Organizers of the rally said before it began that they just wanted to defend the freedom of speech. They also denounced racism, bigotry and violence. 

But speakers and attendees at a Boston Free Speech rally in May had many concerned.

Augustus Invictus, a notable conservative figure and planned speaker, reportedly encouraged people at May's free speech rally to arm themselves for a civil war. Members of some of the so-called "alt-right" groups that rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, were also in attendance.

As of Saturday afternoon, CNN reported at least eight people were arrested. Despite all that, it's worth noting the event was much more peaceful than the incidents in Charlottesville.

Some Worry Trump's Charlottesville Comments Could Hurt Tax Reform

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 21:10

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President Donald Trump's comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, have some worried about the future of tax reform.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and top White House economic adviser and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn both play major roles in the administration's effort to reform the tax code. But the two have some other things in common: Both are Jewish, and both reportedly expressed their distaste for the remarks Trump made at a Tuesday press conference where they were both front and center. 

People close to Cohn and Mnuchin told reporters they both privately distanced themselves from Trump's comments. But they weren't willing to publicly break from Trump, something outside forces have lobbied both men to do.

"A number of people" reportedly called Cohn to suggest he resign from the Trump administration. And more than 300 former Yale classmates of Mnuchin have signed a petition urging him to "resign in protest of President Donald Trump's support of Nazism and white supremacy."

SEE MORE: How Nazi Sympathizers Gained A Foothold In The US

The Trump administration would likely struggle to pass tax reforms without Cohn or Mnuchin. Republicans have said they want to introduce a bill as early as next month.

Cohn and Mnuchin were two of six people mainly involved in getting that bill ready, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.

All that said, reports indicate both Cohn and Mnuchin plan to stay on in their respective roles. 

But previous White House shake-ups were preceded by similar reports, most recently with the departure of former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon.

National Parks Ditch An Obama-Era Plastic 'Water Bottle Ban'

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 19:24

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The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era policy that encouraged national park-goers to ditch their disposable plastic water bottles in favor of reusable ones.

The so-called "water bottle ban" was an effort to reduce plastic waste. Several parks, including Grand Canyon National Park, restricted the sale of individual plastic water bottles.

But the administration says it should be up to visitors to decide how they want to stay hydrated.

The National Park Service points out the 2011 policy only restricted the sale of plastic water bottles, but it didn't restrict bottled soda and other sweet drinks.

SEE MORE: Government Will Waive Environmental Laws For Part Of The 'Border Wall'

Bottled water companies have aggressively lobbied against the so-called ban. But the rollback has met criticism from watchdog groups and others. The executive director of Food & Water Watch says this puts the NPS QUOTE "firmly on the side of major corporations."

The park service says it will still encourage people to recycle the disposable plastic bottles or to drink from reusable bottles that they can fill up at filling stations.

Venezuela's Controversial New Assembly Voted For Law-Passing Powers

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 18:39

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Venezuela's controversial Constituent Assembly has voted to give itself legislative power. It's the latest move critics say pushes the country toward a dictatorship.

The vote doesn't get rid of the country's existing opposition-controlled congress, the National Assembly. But by taking over the power to make laws, the Constituent Assembly has taken away the opposition's main tool against President Nicolás Maduro.

The Constituent Assembly was questionably elected. Several countries, including the U.S., have denounced Maduro and called the new assembly a step toward dictatorship. 

Maduro pushed to create the new assembly after anti-government protests worsened an ongoing economic crisis in Venezuela. The new assembly could re-write the country's constitution. Opposition leaders rejected the plan, calling it another attempt by Maduro to increase his power. 

SEE MORE: Amid North Korea Threat, Trump Weighs Military Action In Venezuela

Previously, Maduro and his allies in the supreme court tried to dissolve the assembly and take over legislative authority, but that effort was reversed after it led to a new wave of intense protests. More than 100 people have died due to the unrest.

The U.S. sanctioned Maduro directly following the assembly's creation. Experts say passing nation-wide sanctions or targeting Venezuela's oil industry could do more harm than good. Broad diplomatic strokes like those have the potential to make matters even worse for the Venezuelan people. The inflation is in triple digits; shortages of food, medicine and everyday items like toilet paper helped push Venezuela to the brink.

Some opposition lawmakers, mayors and military personnel have fled the country. Others have fought back.

A group of armed men attacked a Venezuelan military base earlier this month. Maduro's hold on power is directly linked to the military's loyalty: Loyal officers are often promoted and given control of food supplies. 

Do High-Profile Sexual Assault Cases Encourage Survivors To Report?

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 18:32

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In pursuing a sexual assault case against former DJ David Mueller, Taylor Swift said she wanted to "serve as an example to other women" who want to seek justice.

And according to advocacy groups for sexual assault survivors, she may have done just that. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, says calls to its national hotline increased by 35 percent over the weekend before Swift's win.

RAINN's president told ABC News: "Seeing someone that they respect, that they identify with ... has a big impact. I think that will encourage others to come forward."

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, making it one of the most underreported crimes. The National Institute of Justice says this is due in part to self-blame, shame and a lack of trust in the justice system.

Some women also fear others won't believe them, but experts say the prevalence of false reports is between just 2 and 10 percent.

But whether or not high-profile sexual assault cases encourage more reports isn't clear, and not a lot of research has been done to answer the question.

SEE MORE: This Bill Could Change The Way Hospitals Handle Sexual Assault

After major publicity surrounded the sexual assault charges against Penn State University coach Jerry Sandusky and pediatrician Earl Bradley, researchers wanted to see if high-profile media cases of sexual abuse encouraged disclosures from other survivors. 

They found no significant increase in the number of doctor's visits for sexual abuse evaluation either before or after those cases came to light. Though it's worth noting the research was limited to child abuse and analyzed only one pediatric emergency department. 

Outside of that study, the idea that high-profile sexual assault cases may encourage more reports comes from anecdotes from advocacy groups and activists.

During the trial of Bill Cosby, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape saw a noticeable rise in the number of abuse reports. And after the trial of Stanford student Brock Turner, several women said they were inspired by the vulnerability of the survivor to come forward with their own stories.

As helpful as high-profile cases can be for some survivors, the impact of other cases can be just as damaging.

When Rolling Stone published its infamous and soon-retracted story "A Rape On Campus," critics said the poor investigation would hurt survivors the most. 

Even then, University of Virginia students said after the story was published, the campus did become more aware of the prevalence of sexual assault. The Columbia journalism school even reported Rolling Stone had reason to be skeptical of the university's management of sexual assault cases.

Similarly, the controversial documentary "The Hunting Ground" drew major criticism from higher ed officials and others. Despite that criticism, the film still managed to galvanize activists. Since its debut — and subsequent Oscar nomination — some say the culture regarding sexual assault on college campuses has notably progressed

And after Turner's trial, California legislators passed a law supporting survivors and imposing mandatory sentences to assaulters.

Trump Cancels Kennedy Center Honors Reception After Artists Speak Out

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 17:21

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The president and first lady are usually very involved in the Kennedy Center Honors. But 2017 will be an exception.

The White House issued a statement saying President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump "decided not to participate in this year's activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction." 

The decision of whether or not to meet with Trump had become a big topic of conversation surrounding the prestigious awards ceremony for the honorees.

Dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade said she would boycott the reception over the president's "socially divisive and morally caustic narrative."

SEE MORE: President's Arts And Humanities Committee Disbands Over Trump Comments

Singer Lionel Richie also said he would skip the reception, as did television icon Norman Lear. Lear has criticized the administration for eliminating arts endowments.

Almost all members of the President's Committee On The Arts And The Humanities resigned over budget cuts to arts programs and Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville rally. The White House said the committee was "not a responsible way to spend American dollars."

Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan said she would attend the reception to talk to Trump about his immigration policy and tell him: "As a proud immigrant of this country, it's very important for me that you see the wonderful contributions we have made."

Only rapper and actor LL Cool J said he was planning on going for the intended purpose — being celebrated for his artistic contributions.

The Kennedy Center issued a statement saying it respected President Trump's decision, which "ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees."

The ceremony will take place in early December and air on TV Dec. 26.

Carl Icahn Pulls Out Of Role As Special Adviser To The President

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 15:50

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Carl Icahn has stepped down from his role at the White House, but not for the reason you might think.

The billionaire businessman announced Friday he would no longer act as President Donald Trump's special adviser on regulatory matters. Icahn said he made the decision with Trump's blessing.

Trump's lost two advisory councils in the last week due his comments about violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. But that's not why Icahn is leaving.

SEE MORE: Steve Bannon Joins The Growing List Of Ousted Trump Aides

"What about the alt-left that came charging at the — as you say, the 'alt-right'? Do they have any semblance of guilt?" Trump asked. "What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do," Trump said. 

Icahn says his exit is due to Trump's appointment of Neomi Rao as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Icahn says he's been questioned about whether his role in the White House, which wasn't an official government position, would overlap with Rao's duties.

His departure might have also come down to conflicts of interest. When Icahn took the job, some U.S. senators raised concerns over whether he'd used his role to help his business, CVR Energy.

Icahn has repeatedly denied that his policy proposals were designed to benefit his company.