VIDEO: Today's Headline News from Associated Press
SENATOR SEEKS RECORDS ON MILITARY SEX CRIMES
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon is coming under pressure to give Congress detailed information on the handling of sex crime cases in the armed forces following an Associated Press investigation that found a pattern of inconsistent judgments and light penalties for sexual assaults at U.S. bases in Japan.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who's led efforts in Congress to address military sexual crimes, is pressing the Defense Department to turn over case information from four major U.S. bases: Fort Hood in Texas, Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton in California, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Such records would shed more light on how military commanders make decisions about court martials and punishments in sexual assault cases and whether the inconsistent judgments seen in Japan are more widespread.
AP's investigation, which was based on hundreds of internal military documents it first began requesting in 2009, found that what appeared to be strong cases were often reduced to lesser charges. Suspects were unlikely to serve time even when military authorities agreed a crime had been committed. In two rape cases, commanders overruled recommendations to court-martial and dropped the charges instead.
FEDS SAY THEY FIXED MEDICAID PROBLEM FOR CHILDREN
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- A wrinkle in the HealthCare.gov website that temporarily left some children without insurance coverage has been fixed, federal officials said Friday.
Children who have been denied Medicaid coverage can now be added to a subsidized plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a letter to a New Hampshire congresswoman.
U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter wrote to CMS after report by The Associated Press revealed the glitch last month.
Children who qualify for Medicaid cannot be covered under subsidized family plans purchased through the federal online markets. That left some without coverage until their Medicaid eligibility was determined while others who were rejected for Medicaid still couldn't be added to their parents' plans.
In a letter to Shea-Porter on Friday, CMS says consumers can now use the website to report if someone was denied coverage and take steps to add the child to a subsidized plan.
"This fix comes as a relief to families who had been stuck in a difficult situation," Shea-Porter said. "I'm glad CMS addressed my inquiry quickly, and I'll continue working to ensure that the Affordable Care Act works for New Hampshire families."
The web fix will also allow consumers to easily fix an error in their record such as a wrong birthday or Social Security number, CMS said.
EXPERTS INCREASINGLY CONTEMPLATE END OF SMOKING
ATLANTA (AP) -- Health officials have begun to predict the end of cigarette smoking in America.
They have long wished for a cigarette-free America, but shied away from calling for smoking rates to fall to zero or near zero by any particular year. The power of tobacco companies and popularity of their products made such a goal seem like a pipe dream.
But a confluence of changes has recently prompted public health leaders to start throwing around phrases like "endgame" and "tobacco-free generation." Now, they talk about the slowly-declining adult smoking rate dropping to 10 percent in the next decade and to 5 percent or lower by 2050.
Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak last month released a 980-page report on smoking that pushed for stepped-up tobacco-control measures. His news conference was an unusually animated showing of anti-smoking bravado, with Lushniak nearly yelling, repeatedly, "Enough is enough!"
"I can't accept that we're just allowing these numbers to trickle down," he said, in a recent interview with the AP. "We believe we have the public health tools to get us to the zero level."
This is not the first time a federal health official has spoken so boldly. In 1984, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for a "smoke-free society" by the year 2000. However, Koop - a bold talker on many issues - didn't offer specifics on how to achieve such a goal.
"What's different today is that we have policies and programs that have been proven to drive down tobacco use," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We couldn't say that in 1984."