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The nation in brief

By Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 4:43 a.m.

Bill seeks to curb campus sex assaults

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced legislation designed to curb the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

The measure would require schools to make public the result of anonymous surveys concerning assault on campuses, and impose significant financial burdens on universities that fail to comply with some of the law's requirements.

The legislation comes as the White House is putting increased pressure on colleges and universities. The administration formed a task force in January to address the issue, and the group found that 1 in 5 female college students in the United States has been assaulted.

The new measure would require every university in the United States to conduct anonymous surveys of students about their experience with sexual violence on campus, with the results published online. The survey, which had been pushed for by sexual-assault victims, is similar to one conducted by the military and would allow parents and high school students to make comparative choices.

Air Force calls for weaponry fast track

WASHINGTON -- The Air Force on Wednesday called for a shift away from big-ticket weapon systems that take decades to develop and for a move toward what Defense Department officials are calling "agile" high-tech armaments that can be quickly adapted to meet.

A 20-year Air Force strategic forecast, spurred in part by looming budget constraints, also calls for a faster pace, with lower price tags, in developing both airmen and the technology they use, warning that the current way of acquiring warplanes and weapons is too plodding.

The report, labeled a "call to action" by the Air Force secretary, Deborah Lee James, limits itself to how the country's most tech-heavy military service can adapt to looming threats and budget constraints. But it is also a warning to, and an admission from, the entire Defense Department that with military compensation and retirement costs rising sharply, the country may soon be unable to afford the military it has without making significant changes to the way it does business.

U.S. joins in to fight 2 states' poll laws

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department on Wednesday sided with challengers of voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, saying in court filings that measures in those states unfairly affect minority-group voters.

The department criticized a Wisconsin law that requires voters to present photo identification at the polls and an Ohio law that limits when voters can cast an early ballot. The court papers from the federal government are aimed at convincing judges that the laws, which are being challenged in court, are discriminatory and block access to the ballot box.

The Justice Department has warned of legal actions against states after the Supreme Court last year wiped out a major provision of the Voting Rights Act. That provision required select states with a history of discrimination in voting -- mainly in the South -- to receive Washington's approval before changing the way they hold elections.

Last year, the department sued Texas and North Carolina over measures in those states. But the government didn't use that approach in either Ohio or Wisconsin, instead submitting court filings joining with challengers who want the measures declared invalid.

6 Philly police charged, called thuggish

PHILADELPHIA -- Six city anti-drug officers used gangland tactics to shake down drug dealers, relying on guns, badges, beatings and threats to extort huge piles of cash and cocaine, federal authorities charged in an indictment Wednesday.

The police officers once held a suspect over an 18th-floor balcony and used a steel bar to beat someone else in the head, authorities said. They held one man captive in a hotel room for several days while he and his family were threatened, they said.

The scheme ran from 2006 to 2012, when officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested. He has since pleaded guilty and cooperated in the ensuing two-year probe. Walker and a colleague "stole and distributed a multikilo quantity of cocaine, like everyday drug dealers do," U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said.

The six accused officers -- Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser -- all pleaded innocent during brief federal court hearings Wednesday afternoon. They will be held without bail until detention hearings Monday.

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