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President Xi Jinping has presided over the first meeting of the recently established National Security Commission, and his remarks suggested that the commission would have the power to reach into nearly every aspect of domestic and foreign policy.

Plans for the commission were approved at a Communist Party leadership meeting in November, as part of Mr. Xi’s plans to reinvigorate the economy while enhancing the central leadership’s — and his own — hold on political power. The state news media reported that the National Security Commission held its first meeting on Tuesday, when Mr. Xi laid out its policy ambit.

Some experts have drawn analogies between China’s commission and the National Security Council that advises the president of the United States on national security, primarily foreign policy. Mr. Xi’s comments confirmed that he had a more expansive agenda for the commission, embracing both external and domestic issues.

“Nowadays, the denotations and connotations of national security for our country are more profuse than they’ve ever been at any period in history,” Mr. Xi said at the meeting, according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency. “Domestic and external factors are more complex than at any time in history, and we must adhere to a comprehensive view of national security.”

Mr. Xi listed areas that could come under the commission’s oversight: politics, homeland security, military affairs, economic policy, culture, science and technology, information, the environment and natural resources, and nuclear safety. The national security system, he said, must be “centralized and unified, effective and authoritative.”

In theory, then, China’s National Security Commission could be very busy, overseeing issues that the United States National Security Council leaves to others. In practice, there are still many unanswered questions about how the Chinese body will operate, and how it will live alongside the many other party and state agencies and bureaucracies with a stake in security issues.

Indeed, the official report of the commission’s first meeting did not say who attended, apart from Mr. Xi, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the party-controlled national legislature. Like much of Mr. Xi’s agenda, his ambitions are clear, but how he intends to realize them is less so.


In writing his book “The Accidental Prime Minister,” Sanjaya Baru, the former media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was trying to defend his former boss, who he said was consistently undermined by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress, over his two terms.

Throughout the book, Mr. Baru describes how the prime minister’s choice of senior ministers was overruled by Mrs. Gandhi and leaders loyal to her. Eventually, at least one of those senior ministers ended up being implicated in one of the corruption scandals that tainted the reputation of both Mr. Singh and the United Progressive Alliance, the governing coalition in New Delhi.

After the book’s release on Friday, the prime minister’s office issued a statement calling it fiction. A Congress party representative also called it a work of fiction written by a “disgruntled turncoat.” Upinder Singh, the prime minister’s daughter, told The Indian Express that the book was “a huge betrayal of trust.”

Mr. Baru, who stands by his book, spoke with India Ink on Tuesday about his thoughts on what he deems the Gandhi family’s corrupting influence on the Congress party and the dangers of dynastic politics, as well as the failures and successes of the prime minister.

You have said before that Manmohan Singh’s ascent is a more compelling narrative than Barack Obama’s. Why do you think that?

Here is a guy who lived in a very rural village in Punjab which is now part of Pakistan. There was no electricity, no school, no hospital, no modern infrastructure associated with modern life. He had to walk miles to go to school, his mother dies early, his father’s never there, he’s being brought up by his grandmother, and then finally he moves to live with an uncle in order to get an education.

And all of this is happening until he’s 12 years of age. And then by the time he’s 22, he’s at Cambridge. And then does his Ph.D. from Oxford and gets an international job, so that career track is a remarkable career track.

Obama’s starting point was not as low as Manmohan Singh’s starting point, and Obama’s rise was not as sharp.

You also compare Barack Obama’s ability to capitalize on his own narrative politically with Manmohan Singh’s complete inability to do so. Why do you think he wasn’t able to?

The problem was in 2004, Manmohan Singh was not part of the campaign. Sonia Gandhi was head of the party, and she chose him to become prime minister, so that’s why he called himself the accidental prime minister. But by 2009, he could have in fact run the campaign on the basis of his record. He could have said all the things I just said of his life and the way he’s made it up the ladder and his successful tenure as prime minister. But he would never want to do that because he thought it was not correct for him to project his political personality.

At the very end of the book, you start to talk about your personal disappointment as part of this middle-class electorate with the prime minister, and you say that the prime minister promised “loyalty to hereditary succession,” which is “a monarchical attribute, not a democratic one.” Do you think dynastic politics has hurt democracy in India, and will there be a referendum on that in this election?

First, the Indian National Congress is a party of our national movement. It’s a more than 150-year-old political party. And this is the political party that made India a free country. And I think it’s done enormous damage to Indian democracy that this national party, that this historic party has been taken over by a family, so that it’s just a mother, daughter, son-in-law, son, that become the key figures of the party. Everybody else is secondary, including the prime minister.

And secondly, this election is about a party in which the leader has come through like a meritocracy, a succession of leadership with Modi and the B.J.P. where he has climbed every step and come up challenging others. And then there is Rahul Gandhi, who has done virtually nothing in the last 10 years. I mean, he’s tried hard but made no impact. So here is a young man who has actually not been able to make a political impact, but he’s still there because he’s the son of his parents. And so I’m saying that we need to reverse it because we are a democracy, and we need political parties who can reinvent themselves.

You said you feel that the Gandhis have destroyed the office of the prime minister. Are you angry about that?

Absolutely. And I don’t only blame the Gandhis, I also blame Manmohan Singh. That’s the one charge I make against Manmohan Singh in this book. For all the criticism I’ve been showered with, people calling me a betrayer, a backstabber, frankly the only criticism I have of Manmohan Singh is that he weakened the office of the prime minister and he brought down the dignity of the office.

His daughter said you told her the book was going to come out after the elections. You’ve been criticized for allowing this book to come out at a politically damaging time for the Congress party, the implication being that you might have a motive behind it.

That is true, I told a lot of people that the book would come out after the elections, that was my condition with my publisher. I kept insisting that I don’t want it to come out before the elections, partially because it wasn’t very clear that this would be the end of prime minister. But when he announced his retirement, which was on Jan. 3, my publishers have become more insistent. So that was the reason for the change in timing. My publishers also thought that if I brought the book out after the election, Manmohan Singh would disappear from the public space. And there they were right.

The B.J.P. is showing passages of your book to indict their opponents.

Well, my book is political, so I’m not surprised. To be honest my biggest worry, and I kept saying that to my publisher, and my editors’ biggest worry, and my worry was that this book would be seen as propaganda for Manmohan Singh. They said listen, you’re being too nice, all you’re saying is he a great prime minister. I was never worried that I would be seen as criticizing.

People say that the Bharatiya Janata Party will win. As someone who served under the U.P.A. government, what’s your reaction to that?

In many ways the opinion polls and public perception vindicates the point I make in the book that the decline in the image of the prime minister and the image of the government and the image of the country in the last three to four years has created the space for the growth of the opposition, so Modi is walking into the space created by this government.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

WASHINGTON — One approaches the race fray with trepidation, but here we go, tippy-toe.

The race cards have been flying so fast and furious lately, one can hardly tell the kings from the queens.

Leading the weird lately has been Democratic Alabama state Rep. Alvin Holmes, who called U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina “Uncle Toms.” Holmes, who has also said that it’s fine by him if men want to marry mules and, while we’re exorcising demons, that white people are only pro-life until their daughter gets pregnant by a black man.

When Mark Childress wrote “Crazy in Alabama,” he wasn’t just whistling Dixie!

Holmes is a one-man book of quotes, but a particular statement got him in trouble. Not the Uncle Tom reference, but his offer of $100,000 to anyone who could show him that “a bunch of whites” had adopted black babies in Alabama.

His offer, which subsequently had to be modified, produced hundreds of mixed-race family photos posted to a website, “Faces of Families,” from Alabama and several other states. A statehouse rally of mixed-race, adoptive families also ensued. Holmes apparently has not been moved to retract his original statements.

No one denies that there are racists roaming the byways of Alabama — as elsewhere. But this doesn’t translate to all whites being racists, as Holmes implied, nor does it justify slinging racial slurs at African-Americans who don’t tow the party line. What can be more racist than insisting that all blacks think only a certain way?

That Scott and Thomas are conservatives who happen to be black earns them only contempt from what might be called “establishment blacks” — people whose identities have become so entrenched in past grievance that they can’t or won’t see that they have become what they loathed. History is littered with episodes of anti-establishment protesters becoming the new bureaucrats, victims the new oppressors.

To insist that Thomas and Scott are serving their white masters is above all a racist remark. The truth is, far more courage is required to be a black conservative than to foment outrage against manufactured heresy.

What’s merely crazy in Alabama is cognitively dissonant in Washington, which, you may recall, is home to a president and an attorney general who both happen to be African-American. Speaking recently at the 2014 convention of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, a nonprofit civil rights organization, Holder said that he and President Barack Obama have faced “unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity.”

“What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?” Holder said. “What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

How much time do you have?

Holder later denied making a race reference, saying he was only referring to the decline in civility. True, Holder didn’t say anything specifically racial — he’s far too smart for that — but aren’t we too smart to believe race isn’t what he meant? Inference isn’t a science, but the preponderance of evidence (the involvement of Sharpton; a largely African-American audience; the mention only of two black leaders, and not leadership in general, suffering incivility) suggests that only a fig would miss his point.

Do some Americans dislike Holder and/or Obama because they’re African-American? Undoubtedly. Does this explain why the president and the attorney general have been criticized? No. Could it have something to do with dissatisfaction in the direction they’re taking the country? Most certainly.

Holder cannot pretend that his conduct of the attorney general’s office is in question only on account of his skin tone. In a provocative observation, Fox News’ Brit Hume remarked that, contrarily, Obama and Holder have been given a pass precisely because they are African-American. Indeed, Obama said something similar not long ago, noting that no doubt some people dislike him because he’s black and, equally plausible, some give him a pass because he’s black.

Given that most blacks are Democrats, it is hardly surprising that they support the president. Likewise, it is hardly surprising that Republicans do not. But the latter cannot be construed as evidence that whites are racist or that their opposition to the current administration is race-based.

It is striking that during what many had hoped would be a post-racial America, racial division has been amplified, owing not least to sustained media attention. Then again, maybe we’re experiencing the final death rattle of our racist past. Perhaps all those suppressed thoughts and feelings of anger, hurt and frustration had to rise to the surface before they finally could be eradicated.

Let’s hope we’re almost done.

Washington Post Writers Group

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist.

kathleenparker@washpost.com

Every year baseball honors Jackie Robinson on April 15, and every year we hear about a generation of black athletes tuning the game out.

A USA Today survey revealed only 7.8 percent of the players on major league rosters opening day were African-American, continuing a longtime trend.

Why have so many young black men gravitated toward other sports?

After listening to a panel discussion on Robinson Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, Simeon senior outfielder Darius Day blamed a “lack of role models” in the sport.

“In basketball you have LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony — some big-time African-American athletes,” Day said. “In football you have Ray Rice, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick. … Baseball doesn’t have the big African-American names on ‘SportsCenter’ every night.

“There are some, but people don’t really pay attention. A lot of people in the inner city don’t follow baseball and don’t know about Jackie Bradley Jr., Dee Gordon, Andrew McCutchen …”

If you don’t watch them on TV, chances are you’re not going to become a fan. Baseball doesn’t market its stars as well as the NBA or NFL, so a perfect ambassador like McCutchen gets overshadowed by Yasiel Puig’s latest antics.

McCutchen believes the sports world simply has changed and young blacks today are more likely to enjoy sports with a higher percentage of African-Americans.

“Years ago, the NBA wasn’t predominantly black,” he said. “Now it is. Look at the NFL, things have changed. Baseball tends to go the other way because I feel more male athletes lean toward sports where the majority is African-American. It’s not just baseball that has changed, but the whole spectrum of sports.”

For his part, White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf invited dozens of high school athletes and coaches from Simeon, Kenwood, King, Leo, and Seton Academy to U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday to celebrate Robinson’s legacy on the anniversary of his game-changing debut when he broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

He was joined on a panel by Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and Carol Adams, CEO of the DuSable Museum of African-American History, with NPR’s Richard Steele serving as moderator.

It was a great history lesson for the kids, before lunch and a ballgame.

Williams told the kids to “develop your mind as vigorously as you’re developing your baseball talents,” while Adams asked them to “find your inner Jackie Robinson,” pointing to his ability to shut out all the racial hate directed toward him without losing his composure.

But one question that never was answered was how to get young black kids as interested in baseball as they are in football and basketball.

“You have to have facilities to play,” Reinsdorf said afterward.”In basketball, you stick a hoop up in the driveway or in the alley and you can play. Kenny is on a committee that is trying to develop a plan to get more kids playing. We have four or five academies we’ve opened up, but we have to do a better job getting people to have facilities. That’s what it’s all about.”

MLB created a task force in April 2013 to study how to increase diversity. Williams said it has reached no conclusions yet. But he’s not worried that other sports, and video games, have dulled kids’ interest in baseball.

“You can’t do anything about video games,” Williams said. “You can’t do anything about kids wanting to play other sports. You can only market your sport to the best of your ability and make it appealing to kids. Some kids will gravitate toward it, and some won’t.”

Seton Academy pitcher Bryson Westbrook pointed out that kids tend to do what they see their friends, older brothers and dads doing.

“When you expose a child to baseball, as my mom did … I fell in love with it immediately and didn’t want to stop,” Westbrook said. “But I see all my friends playing basketball.”

If baseball truly wants to revive interest in young black men, stars like McCutchen need to channel their “inner Jackie” and become magnets, like James and Wade.

McCutchen is up for the task, and wants to be an agent for change in baseball, if given the chance.

“I’m not the typical baseball player guys see,” he said. “I’m an African-American guy with dreads, and I play the game with my own type of spice. I respect the game, but I like to have fun and to show it.

“That’s something I can do, that I can be a part of.”

psullivan@tribune.com

Twitter @PWSullivan

Tethered to GPS devices and required to check in monthly with police, two convicted sex offenders so easily sidestepped efforts to monitor them that one was deemed safe enough to be formally released from state parole in the midst of what prosecutors now say was a months-long string of murders.

Steven Dean Gordon, one of two transients accused of raping and murdering four women, was discharged from his state parole last November, a month after two of the women vanished from the streets of Santa Ana and just days before a third victim, a 28-year-old mother, was allegedly killed.

Police said Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 25, appear to have been wearing their GPS devices even as they raped and killed women who frequented streets in Santa Ana and Anaheim known as havens for prostitution.

Both men had served prison terms for sex crimes with a child under the age of 14.

As the investigation continued Tuesday, police said they would begin to search Orange County’s landfill for the bodies of the three Santa Ana women. Kianna Rae Jackson, 20; Martha Anaya, 28; and Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, vanished last fall while running routine errands.

The body of a fourth victim, a 21-year-old with roots in Oklahoma, was found last month on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting facility. Like the other women, Jarrae Nykkole Estepp had a history of prostitution.

Police also appealed Tuesday for help in identifying a potential fifth victim in the case, a young African American woman described as petite with black hair and numerous tattoos.

Officers said the woman, who may have ties to the Compton area, was last seen along Beach Boulevard in Stanton between Feb. 14 and 16 and may have left her belongings in a motel room.

Police also said they have recovered an RV that was parked near the trash-sorting facility in Anaheim and that the two suspects were connected to the vehicle.

“They’re transients,” said Larry Yellin, the senior deputy district attorney prosecuting the case. “I think their primary lives are in their cars.”

Ian Pummell, the owner of an Anaheim auto body shop where Gordon worked, said he recalls his employee bringing an RV to work about five months ago so he could clean it up.

Gordon was on the job last Friday when police officers and SWAT teams descended on the business. Gordon, fellow employees said, quickly cut off his GPS device, jumped on a bicycle and tried to flee.

But officers arrested him before he even got to the center divider on East La Palma Avenue, Pummell said.

The shop owner said Gordon had worked at the business on and off over the years, cleaning cars and sweeping floors, and had recently returned after serving a prison sentence for kidnapping.

He was living in some bushes nearby, apparently with Cano, who had also recently completed a prison sentence. Pummell said he offered Gordon his old job back.

The shop owner said he knew about some of Gordon’s past convictions and that he was a sex offender. But because no women or children work at the shop, Pummell thought giving Gordon his job back would be the “Christian thing to do.”

“There was never an indication that he would do something like this,” Pummell said. “I never saw it coming.”

Every Tuesday, Pummell said, Gordon would leave for counseling, and about a month ago Gordon asked for more time off before one of his sessions because he said he had to take a lie detector test.

In a videotaped court hearing Tuesday morning, Gordon and Cano appeared briefly but did not enter a plea. Gordon was dressed in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, and Cano wore a black T-shirt with the word “California” on the front.

Outside court, Yellin said little about the alleged crimes but noted that the manner in which the two men approached potential victims was not consistent with a typical prostitution transaction. He declined to elaborate.

Yellin also said there is evidence that proves Cano and Gordon were the last people to be in contact with the women.

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Twitter: @AdolfoFlores3

Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.

What you need to know on Wednesday about India’s elections: Gandhi family members make some pointed jabs, but not just at the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the wealth gap between the richest and poorest candidates is $1.6 billion.

India Votes

News and analysis on the world’s largest election.

Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Congress party, accuses Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party of financing his campaign through the industrialists who have benefited from Mr. Modi’s “toffee model of development” in Gujarat.

Priyanka Gandhi, Mr. Gandhi’s sister, and her cousin, Varun Gandhi, are taking verbal potshots at each other over ideological differences.

The difference between the five richest candidates and the five poorest is 94 billion rupees, or $1.6 billion, with Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys and a Congress party candidate, leading the list.

A reporter accompanies Misa Bharti, daughter of Lalu Prasad Yadav, the former chief minister of Bihar, on her final day of campaigning in the rural areas.

The scholar Christophe Jaffrelot argues that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto mentions many policies it would like to implement, but not many concrete details.

The custodian of the shrine of Moinuddin Chishti, an important pilgrimage site for Muslims, says all the major political parties are to blame for polarizing voters.

In the southern state of Karnataka, whose assembly is dominated by the Indian National Congress, the Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is focusing on the state’s coastal regions, where Hindu nationalist sentiments are strong.

Seth Wenig/Associated Press
In the Video

Younger Skin Through Exercise

Phys Ed

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

Exercise not only appears to keep skin younger, it may also even reverse skin aging in people who start exercising late in life, according to surprising new research.

As many of us know from woeful experience, our skin changes as the years advance, resulting in wrinkles, crow’s feet and sagging skin. This occurs because of changes within our layers of skin. After about age 40, most of us begin to experience a thickening of our stratum corneum, the final, protective, outer layer of the epidermis, itself the top layer of your skin. The stratum corneum is the portion of the skin that you see and feel. Composed mostly of dead skin cells and some collagen, it gets drier, flakier and denser with age.

At the same time, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis, the dermis, begins to thin. It loses cells and elasticity, giving the skin a more translucent and often saggier appearance.

These changes are independent of any skin damage from the sun. They are solely the result of the passage of time.

But recently, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario began to wonder if such alterations were inevitable. Earlier studies at McMaster involving mice that were bred to age prematurely had shown that a steady regimen of exercise could stave off or even undo the signs of early aging in these animals. When members of this breed of mice remained sedentary, they rapidly grew wizened, frail, ill, demented, and graying or bald. But if they were given access to running wheels, they maintained healthy brains, hearts, muscles, reproductive organs, and fur far longer than their sedentary labmates. Their fur never even turned gray.

Of course, we humans long ago swapped our fur for naked skin. But if exercise could keep animals’ outer layer from changing with age, it might, the researchers speculated, do the same for our skin.

To test that possibility, the scientists first gathered 29 local male and female volunteers ages 20 to 84. About half of the participants were active, performing at least three hours of moderate or vigorous physical activity every week, while the others were resolutely sedentary, exercising for less than an hour per week. Then the researchers asked each volunteer to uncover a buttock.

“We wanted to examine skin that had not been frequently exposed to the sun,” said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster who oversaw the study, which was presented this month at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans.

The scientists biopsied skin samples from each volunteer and examined them microscopically. When compared strictly by age, the skin samples overall aligned with what would be expected. Older volunteers generally had thicker outer layers of skin and significantly thinner inner layers.

But those results shifted noticeably when the researchers further subdivided their samples by exercise habits. They found that after age 40, the men and women who exercised frequently had markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers in their skin. Their skin was much closer in composition to that of the 20- and 30-year-olds than to that of others of their age, even if they were past age 65.

But as the researchers realized, other factors, including diet, genes and lifestyles, might have influenced the differences in skin condition between the exercising and sedentary groups. It was impossible to know whether exercise by itself had affected people’s skin or been incidental to lucky genetics and healthy lives.

So the researchers next set a group of sedentary volunteers to exercising, after first obtaining skin samples from their buttocks. The volunteers were aged at 65 or older and, at the study’s start, had normal skin for their age. They began a fairly straightforward endurance training program, working out twice a week by jogging or cycling at a moderately strenuous pace, equivalent to at least 65 percent of their maximum aerobic capacity for 30 minutes. This continued for three months. At the end of that time, the researchers again biopsied the volunteers’ skin.

But now the samples looked quite different, with outer and inner layers that looked very similar to those of 20- to 40-year-olds. “I don’t want to over-hype the results, but, really, it was pretty remarkable to see,” said Dr. Tarnopolsky, himself a middle-aged exerciser. Under a microscope, the volunteers’ skin “looked like that of a much younger person, and all that they had done differently was exercise.”

How exercise changes skin composition is not completely clear, but in a separate portion of the study, the researchers checked for alterations in the levels of certain substances created by working muscles. Called myokines, these substances are known to enter the bloodstream and jump-start changes in cells far from the muscles themselves. In this case, the scientists found greatly augmented levels of a myokine called IL-15 in the skin samples of volunteers after exercise. Their skin samples contained almost 50 percent more IL-15 after they had been exercising than at the start of the study.

The researchers suspect that additional myokines and substances are also involved in the skin changes related to exercise, Dr. Tarnopolsky said, making it unlikely that any IL-15 pill, salve or injection will ever replicate the skin benefits of a workout.

Nor is there evidence that exercise reverses wrinkling and other damage from the sun, some of which many of us accumulate during outdoor exercise. Still, Dr. Tarnopolsky said, “it is astonishing to consider all of the intricate ways in which exercise changes our bodies” —including the skin beneath our shorts.

Taj Gibson on Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s approach after win on Monday.

By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter

12:34 p.m. CDT, April 15, 2014

Former Bulls forward Luol Deng has won the prestigious J. Walter Kennedy award, presented annually by the Pro Basketball Writers Association. The award is named after the NBA’s second commissioner and honors the player, coach or athletic trainer who displays superior community service.

Deng, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, long has drawn notice for his widespread philanthropic work, which has included extensive efforts in his native South Sudan. Deng also has established a charitable foundation that benefits endeavors in Great Britain, which granted his family political asylum, among other places.

The release announcing Deng as the winner cited his recent recording of a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org that urged peace during heightened conflict in South Sudan, which recently gained independence.

Through his Luol Deng Foundation, the released noted Deng’s desire for “building outdoor basketball courts and delivering initiatives to bring together local communities (in South Africa). Two courts, funded by Deng, will open in the summer of 2014 and include 12 hoops and locker rooms as well as basketball gear (shoes, jerseys, equipment).  Plans are also in the works to increase the support of schools and renovate and build schools in South Sudan.

“The program in the United Kingdom, where Deng grew up, focuses on providing opportunities for participation in basketball camps, clinics and events for all sections of the community. The primary goals are to increase participation in grassroots development, provide advice and support for children to pursue the sport at an elite level, and increase opportunities for participation among young women.”

The award has been presented since 1975. Other candidates this year were Ray Allen, Matt Bonner, Kevin Durant, Amir Johnson, Kyle Korver, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Steve Nash, Joakim Noah and Chris Paul.

By Timothy M. Phelps

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department, under pressure from Congress to reexamine the way it handles sexual assault cases, announced Tuesday a comprehensive review of the entire military justice system.

“It’s been over 30 years since the military code of justice was reviewed. It’s simply time,” said Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman. “Sexual assault will certainly be part of the compendium of issues that will be looked at, but it’s by no means the sole issue.”

Members of Congress and women’s groups have been strongly critical of how the military handles sexual assault cases, particularly the authority that military officers have to overturn the convictions of those under their command. A proposal by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to remove the chain of command from authority over cases involving major crimes was blocked last month by a filibuster in the Senate.

At the same time, military prosecutors have recently struggled with several high-profile sexual assault cases. Last month, a military judge found a former football player at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., not guilty of assaulting a female classmate. On the same day, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair escaped a prison sentence after pleading guilty to reduced charges involving his relationship with a subordinate who accused him of assaulting her.

Gillibrand was critical of the military’s move to review its justice system, noting that the panel would take a year and a half to complete its work. She said solutions were obvious now.

“We can do review after review after review — and I have no doubt they are all well-intentioned,” she said in a statement. “But according to the DOD’s latest available numbers, 18 months is another estimated 39,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact that will occur.”

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale University, said the review was probably prompted by the controversy over adjudication of sexual assaults in the military but that its scope would be much broader.

“As I understand it, it will be a top-to-bottom review, which means everything is on the table,” Fidell said. “I think this is part of the larger dismay that the country has been feeling about whether the system was functioning in the best way possible.”

The review panel will be headed by Andrew Effron, the recently retired chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and will include lawyers from all the military services. Judge David Sentelle, a noted conservative on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Judith Miller, a former Defense Department general counsel under President Clinton, will serve as advisors.

“I think this comes at a good time,” said Celia Richa, a policy advocate at Futures Without Violence, which frequently works to support victims of military assault. “Advocates for survivors really want to see results with this.”

Fidell said the panel would probably study not only the role of the commander in military justice, but such issues as what kinds of crimes should be prosecuted in military, as opposed to civilian, courts and whether more appeals should be sent from the military system to civilian appeals courts.

He said the panel should address a “dramatic disparity” between civilian and military defendants in their rights to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if convicted. Most of those convicted in military courts cannot appeal to the high court, he said, only to the military appeals court.

tim.phelps@latimes.com

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