WASHINGTON — Ten Democratic senators on Wednesday demanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials respond to allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the government’s national security establishment.

The lawmakers cited an open letter published in late November that was signed by more than 200 current and former female government employees who said they had witnessed, been subjected to or knew of incidents of sexual harassment or assault at their workplaces or at the hands of co-workers.

The women included employees of the State Department, the Pentagon, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other parts of the government.

Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the other senators asked Tillerson and Mark Green, who heads USAID, to review and more effectively analyze data on sexual assaults and to “make dramatic, corrective change.”

“These incidents and the pervasive culture that all too frequently excuses these behaviors and actions have had serious and detrimental consequences for the careers and lives of those affected … and a deep and negative effect on our national security,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by 10 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which provides oversight for the State Department and USAID.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Trump blames Russia for helping North Korea evade sanctions

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump blamed Russia on Wednesday for helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions, saying Moscow is mitigating the impact of China’s increased efforts to restrict the flow of resources to Kim Jong Un’s government.

“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

Even as Trump credited China for stepping up its efforts, he said Beijing could apply additional pressure on the government in Pyongyang to cease its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The president’s comments came amid signs of increased cooperation between North and South Korea, which is hosting the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang starting Feb. 9.

The longtime adversaries have agreed to allow their athletes to march together in the opening ceremony and to jointly field a women’s hockey team.

Trump expressed increased concerns over North Korea’s nuclear progress, saying “they get closer every day,” as well as doubts about the prospects for diplomacy.

“I’d sit down, but I’m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” he told Reuters.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Scotland Yard opens third sexual assault investigation against Kevin Spacey

Scotland Yard has opened a third investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey, police said Wednesday.

The latest accusation was brought to police on Dec. 13 by a man who says the Oscar-winning actor sexually assaulted him in Westminster in 2005, Scotland Yard said in a statement to multiple outlets.

The subsequent investigation is the third against the actor. Two other probes involve alleged sexual assaults in 2005 and 2008.

Spacey was first accused of predatory behavior in October by actor Anthony Rapp, who claimed the “American Beauty” star made an unwanted sexual advance toward him when he was just 14.

Similar allegations quickly began flooding in against Spacey, and he was promptly fired from Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World.”

The actor served as the artistic director at London’s Old Vic theater from 2004 to 2015. The venue in November claimed it had received 20 complaints of inappropriate behavior during Spacey’s tenure.

He also stands accused of inappropriate conduct on the set of “House of Cards” after eight Netflix employees came forward with claims that Spacey created a “toxic” work environment with “nonconsensual touching and crude comments.”

—New York Daily News


Award-winning Orlando cop arrested on theft charges, accused of lying about hours worked

ORLANDO, Fla. — An Orlando police officer who received accolades last year for her actions in disarming a suicidal woman was arrested Friday on theft charges for claiming hours worked that she did not actually earn, documents show.

Orlando police investigators say Officer Laurin Gantt was paid more than $4,000 for the nearly 150 hours, but an investigation showed she never went into work, according to the affidavit.

Gantt requested to be put on desk duty for personal reasons in June. She was assigned to view the IRIS cameras that overlook downtown at Orlando Police Department headquarters.

But a review of the department’s card-entry system shows she never entered the building on 14 days she said she worked. Phone records show she was actually in Jacksonville one day, the affidavit said.

Gantt, who was hired in 2012, has been put on paid administrative leave, a department spokeswoman said.

Gantt was honored as the Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year in 2017 for getting a suicidal woman to drop a knife.

—Orlando Sentinel


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