President Obama has ordered a one-year review of the military's response to sexual assault within the ranks, saying his administration has "an urgent obligation" to respond to the problem.
"If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks," the president said in a statement on Friday.
As Reuters says:
"He acted in response to a spate of embarrassing sex-related incidents in the military that provoked strong calls for reform and a Pentagon report showing a 37 percent jump in the estimated number of cases of unwanted sexual contact last year."
The Associated Press reports:
"The president's remarks are his first on legislation that would crack down on sexual assault passed by the Senate late Thursday."
"Obama said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey have been instructed to continue with their ongoing efforts to address the problem."
"'I have also directed that they report back to me, with a full-scale review of their progress, by Dec. 1, 2014,' Obama said."
As we reported in August, Hagel issued a directive aimed at preventing sexual assault.
In the one-page memorandum from the defense secretary, Hagel "ordered enforcement of policies against inappropriate relationships between recruiters, instructors and trainee soldiers; establishing a victim-advocacy program in each service branch; giving commanders authority to transfer those accused of sexual abuse; and mandating a lawyer be appointed for all preliminary hearings involving allegations of sexual assault."
Just a few hours before he heads to Hawaii for a two-week vacation, President Obama is meeting with reporters at the White House Friday afternoon.
We'll update with highlights as it happens. It's expected the president will get questions about the federal health care program, the economy, the crisis in Syria, strained relations with Russia and other subjects.
The news conference is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET — but such sessions do sometimes get started late. If you wish to hear it, click on the "LISTEN LIVE" line above. Many NPR stations will also be broadcasting as it happens. It also, of course, is being streamed by C-SPAN and the White House, and is being aired by the cable news networks.
On this week's round-table podcast, featuring special guest Chris Klimek, we start with a conversation about The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug. We talk about the dragon, the dragon-izer, the walking, the absence of lengthy dishwashing sequences, and many, many other things. Can Glen continue to hold the line for hairy-foot fans? You'll have to find out for yourself. (You can also check out the Village Voice review Chris references.)
[By the way, if this episode came to your podcast feed titled ENTER TITLE, we know! We're sorry. This is affecting a bunch of NPR podcasts, and we hope it's fixed soon.]
And then we find ourselves bells-deep in a conversation about holiday music, spurred by a piece Chris recently published in Slate. His thesis: there hasn't been a new holiday tune added to the canon in many years — not since "All I Want For Christmas Is You." The rest of us try less to argue that the canon has indeed accommodated new songs and more to suggest songs that might be deserving and reasons they might not have made it.
As always, we close the show with what's making us happy this week. Stephen is happy about an exhibit so great he got out his tux for it. Chris is happy about a piece of theater he particularly enjoyed. (Because he was sitting in Trey's chair, you see.) Glen was happy about ... well, you'll hear it. And I was happy about a very high-quality Showtime show that brought me a lot of thoughtful fodder over the last couple of weeks.
The conflation of R&B with hip-hop on most of Billboard's genre charts can make for an inaccurate portrait of the year in R&B music. Cross-genre collaborations dominate, especially since they benefit from Top 40 radio support, and musicians with years in the business overshadow burgeoning artists. So finding all the new and excellent R&B released every year is a scavenger hunt, one that winds through blogs, Tumblr and Twitter, but can miss mainstream music media and commercial radio. Here are the 10 songs I came across that should have got more love.
King, "In the Meantime"
Each year in R&B, there are a handful of new artists who burst on the scene and ride a buzz with two or three debut cuts. This was the case with King back in 2011, when they put out an EP called The Story. In 2012 we heard from the L.A. trio through a collaboration with Robert Glasper. This year they delivered two more teasers to keep us hanging for a forthcoming album, a gorgeous mid-tempo version of Fela Kuti's "Go Slow" for the Red Hot + Fela compilation and this song. Amber and Anita glide across Paris's atmospheric arrangement and toy with the listener through the hook. Well played, ladies.
The Foreign Exchange, "On a Day Like Today" from Love In Flying Colors
Producer Nicolay and M.C. and singer-songwriter Phonte have released four albums as divergent from each other as their dedicated and diverse fans. This year's Love In Flying Colors is the brighter side of its predecessor, Authenticity. Phonte's pen offers an insightful view of love lost and found, while track by track, he writes through his adjustment to a new skin. Nicolay's continuous evolution as a producer is best heard on the lead single, "Call it Home" and "On a Day Like Today," which goes great with sunshine and a two-step.
Stacy Barthe, "Flawed Beautiful Creatures" from P.S. I Love You
You probably know Stacy Barthe's work even if you've never heard her name. The major labels have her on speed dial, and she's worked with everyone from Britney Spears and Katy Perry to T.I. to John Legend. But she's managed to keep a few gems tucked away for her own projects. This year she put out her third offering, P.S. I Love You. The track "Flawed Beautiful Creatures" was the absolute standout of the EP, with its deceptively simple statement, "I'm only human" beautifully elaborated.
The Hics, "Tangle" from Tangle
If you long for the good old days of PG-13 rated R&B, look right across the pond to the U.K. Meet The Hics, a London sextet that all studied music at the same school. While they aren't bound by a specific genre, the group's sound is clearly influenced by R&B and soul music. The title track of the EP The Hics put out this year is a composition that starts small and swells into something we haven't heard in a quite a while. The way the band's chord sequences fuse with Roxane's gentle tone and Sam's downright eerie vocal is stunning. Next year, look for The Hics to make that jump from "slept on" to "best of" lists.
Iman Omari, "Gravitate" from Vibe(rations)
Everything about Iman Omari's method is unpredictable. In 2011, with virtually no warning, he put out his debut EP, Energy, and set the Internet ablaze. He was tapped for a number of guest spots and collabs but no solo offerings until this summer when he released an LP called Vibe(rations). The album was available to stream only for a few weeks, then vanished for another few and, finally, in August, was made available for purchase. His sound is equally convoluted and intriguing. The song "Gravitate" serves as the best illustration of this, with vocal layers stacked to create fascinating harmonies.
Kelly Rowland featuring Pharrell, "Feet to the Fire" from Talk a Good Game
I'm confident pinpointing 2013 as the formal resurgence of Pharrell Williams. He's had his paws on everything from the #1 Pop hit of the year to random album and mixtape placements. He was so prolific, some of his tracks ended up sleepers — most notably a bonus track on Kelly Rowland's Talk a Good Game. On "Feet to the Fire" Rowland and Pharrell tag team verses over a crispy snare and sticky Rhodes to create a classic mid-'00s Neptunes feel. It'll never get old.
Omar, "Bully" from The Man
Omar is another example of an artist from the U.K. schooling today's American singers. He returns after a 7-year hiatus with his best album to date, The Man. The writing and subject matter on his latest opus shows distinctly that Omar has stayed sharp while away from the game. The glaring horns and percussion on "Bully" dare you not to move at least one body part, sugar-coating a message of peace in a West Indian-inspired jam.
Bilal, "Lost for Now" from A Love Surreal
Many great songs are the result of great pain. Bilal's "Lost for Now," from his latest album A Love Surreal, exposes his agony during the darkest hour of heartbreak. It's the moment he accepts the fact that it's undoubtedly over. Backed by just guitars and drums, Bilal's lyrics poke at his fresh wound. In the past he's displayed vocal acrobatics over tracks by some of hip-hop's greatest producers (Dr. Dre, J. Dilla) but it's refreshing to hear him subdued on a stripped-down instrumental. The song is a brilliant moment of maturity.
The Stepkids, "The Lottery" from Troubadour
The Stepkids stuck to the script on their second go-round (Troubadour) after making waves with their 2011 debut LP. "The Lottery" is summer jam whose jagged groove spans genres. Although there's an initial correlation to Fagan and Becker, the trio sonically infuses Parliament Funk, Philly soul and a curveball of Nashville country into one arrangement without sounding contrived. When the synths and harmonies kick in, the sound is completely organic. Only thing missing is the crackle of vinyl.
SZA, "Teen Spirit"
TDE's sole singer unleashed "Teen Spirit" following her signing to the former all-male, all-hip-hop label. The accompanying video brings teenage producer Wondergurl's cryptic soundscape to life. SZA crawls over the track, injecting passion but never overpowering it. I think it's safe to safe to say that this song showcases only one facet of SZA's abilities. After all, she ends by repeating, "You don't even know me." She's been drafted into the big leagues but it'll be interesting to see which way the pendulum swings for SZA in 2014.
By a vote of 59-34 the Senate on Friday moved the nomination of Janet Yellen to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve past a key procedural hurdle.
The vote invoked "cloture" — effectively preventing Republicans from filibustering President Obama's nominee.
Next up for Yellen's nomination: A confirmation vote, set for Jan. 6. With the Democratic caucus controlling 55 of the Senate's 100 seats, she's expected to get a majority and then become the first woman to head the central bank.
Yellen, 67, is currently the Fed's vice chairman. As we've written previously, post-confirmation hearing analyses of her recent testimony before the Senate Banking Committee concluded that Fed policy likely wouldn't change much, if at all, should she replace outgoing chairman Ben Bernanke. The central bank is expected to begin gradually reducing the amount of stimulus it's giving the economy, probably as soon as next month.
The Fed's thinking: The economy, which sank into recession in late 2007 and spent the better part of the next 5 years or so either in decline or only growing weakly, has regained some of its strength. That impression was reinforced Friday when the Bureau of Economic Analysis said gross domestic product expanded at a healthy 4.1 percent annual rate in the third quarter.
Bernanke's term expires on Jan. 31.