Tensions Grow In Kenya As Results Awaited In Presidential Poll

A man seeking safety walks with his hands in the air through a thick cloud of tear gas toward riot police, as they clash with protesters throwing rocks in the Kawangware slum of Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday.

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Ben Curtis/AP

A dispute over election results in Kenya that has pitted supporters of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against his rival, Raila Odinga, intensified on Thursday, with the opposition presenting what it says is evidence of tampering with the electronic voting system.

The provisional results from Tuesday’s vote gave Kenyatta a substantial lead over Odinga. However, opposition official Musalia Mudavadi claimed to have obtained “complete data” from election commission servers showing that Odinga was actually ahead by several hundred thousand votes. That claim echoed one made by Odinga shortly after the voting.

Mudavadi said the opposition had gotten the information from “confidential” sources inside the election commission. He said it showed “a serious attempt to try to either doctor or alter the final results.”

Election commission chairman Wafula Chebukati acknowledged that an attempt to hack the voting system was undertaken on polling day, but that it failed. The election commission has until Aug. 15 to report final results.

While the country was largely peaceful, it has a history of deadly violence in the wake of disputed elections. And there were areas of unrest as protesters in the capital, Nairobi, sparred with police, who fired teargas.

NPR’s Eyder Peralta, reporting from Kibera, said a protest there was of particular concern. “In 2007 after disputed elections, here in Kibera is the place that saw the most violence in the capital,” he says. “Neighbors turned against neighbors, mostly along tribal lines, and I think we’re seeing the beginning of that here.”

“I haven’t seen anyone get hurt, but there’s palpable anger. There’s at least one little shop that has been destroyed,” Perlata said.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday urged candidates in Kenya to refrain from allowing their supporters to turn to violence.

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President Trump Thanks Putin For Ordering Expulsion Of U.S. Diplomats From Russia

President Trump speaks during a security briefing on Thursday at his Bedminster National Golf Club in New Jersey.

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President Trump said Thursday he was “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the expulsion of hundreds of U.S. diplomats from the country in response to sanctions — because the administration needs to cut the State Department’s budget anyway.

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump told reporters at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.

“There’s no real reason for them to go back,” the president continued. “I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposed cutting the State Department budget by 29 percent.

The comment drew a swift rebuke from former Amb. Nicholas Burns. “A shameful statement by Pres. Trump.,” Burns tweeted, “He justifies mistreatment of US diplomats by Putin. If he was joking, it shows his true character.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also said in a statement the president’s comment “plumbs new depths of disrespect toward the men and women who sacrifice and serve our country” and that Trump should apologize.

“No doubt, the President’s staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there’s nothing funny about this,” Engel said.

But, the president did not appear to be joking or responding sarcastically in his response to the question at hand, making the comments all the more surprising — especially given the fact that he’s come under fire for his praise of Putin in the past, and because there are several ongoing investigations regarding Russia’s interference in last year’s election and whether top Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia.

Putin announced last month that Russia would expel 755 U.S. diplomats and technical personnel from the country in response to new sanctions imposed by Congress intended to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. The bill passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and Trump signed it in into law, though he did so while calling it “seriously flawed” and attaching a signing statement that detailed what he deemed its “unconstitutional provisions.”

While Putin has denied the Russian government interfered in the election— and Trump himself has, at times, cast doubt on Russia’s role — the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russian intelligence services, acting at Putin’s direction, did interfere.

Many of the job cuts that happen as a result of Putin’s directive will likely be Russian staffers. But some U.S. personnel will also have to leave the country. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that this will be a difficult undertaking.

“It is a complex logistical matter, moving people out to reach the limit imposed by the Russian government,” Sullivan said.

NPR diplomacy correspondent Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.

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Yemen Teeters On Brink Of A New 'Catastrophe' As Blood Bank Eyes Closure

A medical worker sorts blood test samples at the National Blood Transfusion and Research Centre in Sanaa on Wednesday.

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In the past two years, Yemen has endured no end of crises.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war between Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition seeking to oust them from power. Still, Yemen’s health ministry says that violence has exacted a smaller death toll than the closure of the airport in the capital, Sanaa, which has left thousands more people incapable of seeking medical treatment abroad.

And both tolls pale in comparison to the cholera outbreak now ravaging the country, where an eroding infrastructure has allowed the disease to fester at a frightening rate. In the past three months alone, there have been nearly half a million suspected cases of the preventable disease, which has killed nearly 2,000 people, according to the United Nations.

Yet local health officials say the country stands on the brink of still another crisis: The national blood bank could be forced to shut down within a week, bereft of both funds and supplies.

National Blood Transfusion Centre has stopped receiving donations from the charity Doctors Without Borders, which after two years handed over its responsibilities to the World Health Organization. And while the WHO says it has ordered supplies for the facility, those shipments have yet to arrive.

In a violence-racked country where access is difficult, there is no guarantee that they will.

If the blood bank should be forced to shutter, spokesman Munir al-Zubaidi tells NPR’s Ruth Sherlock the entire country could be facing a humanitarian “catastrophe.”

Ruth notes the facility treats some 3,000 patients a month, helping “those with war wounds and ailments like cancer and kidney failure.”

“We are appealing to civil society organisations, businessmen, and all those doing charity work to save the lives of these patients and the wounded, so the centre does not go out of business,” medical worker Adnan Al-Hakimi tells Al Jazeera.

Since Sanaa’s international airport closed one year ago Wednesday, shuttered by the Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on Yemeni airspace, foreign aid agencies have struggled to fight what has become an increasingly dire humanitarian situation.

“Without access to safe, commercial travel, Yemenis are left with no way to access critical medical care,” Mutasim Hamdan, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s director in Yemen, said Wednesday in a statement.

And with Yemen’s war now mired in stalemate, Hamdan says the greater danger continues to rest with the interruption of basic health services — like the blood bank — that Yemenis rely on to survive.

“The result is devastating,” he adds. “Thousands of women, men and children who could have been saved have now lost their lives.”

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People Back Editing Genes To Treat Disease, But Are Wary Of Inheritable Changes

Scientists have edited out defective genes in a human embryo.

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People generally think that editing human genes might be OK, but most think that there’s a clear line that’s shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to changing traits that would be passed down to new generations, according to a survey reported Thursday.

It’s not an abstract question. Earlier this month, gene editing made headlines after scientists in Oregon reported they had successfully corrected a genetic defect in human embryos in the laboratory.

Along with the potential to prevent some diseases, this technology also comes with complicated ethical questions, including what kind of gene edits would be acceptable and who could benefit or be harmed.

Just 26 percent of people surveyed approved of making changes to genes that will be passed down to future generations for enhancing normal traits — edits that would change a person’s eye color, for example, or their height or IQ.

People were more accepting of gene editing aimed at treating or preventing disease. In these situations, about two thirds of people saw both inheritable treatments and those that can’t be passed down as “acceptable.”

Another report, published this week by the Pew Research Center, also showed that people are more concerned about germline editing, which changes can be passed down, than they are about gene editing done in somatic cells, which can’t be inherited by future children. Parents of minor children were more concerns.

“There’s probably much more optimism rather than pessimism about this technology overall,” says Dietram Scheufele. He’s a professor of science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the survey published Thursday in Science.

“In spite of that optimism, though, there’s also a really strong desire across different groups for broader public debates that involve different viewpoints and help us sort through some of the societal questions, the ethical questions, the political questions that this technology without a doubt raises, he says.

Scheufele and colleagues analyzed survey responses from 1,600 people in December and January to questions such as “How likely do you think it is that human gene editing will give some people too much power to change the course of human development?”

The survey also asked about different applications of gene editing that could be possible in the near future, including “How acceptable do you think it is to use gene editing to treat a person’s physical diseases or conditions, such as cancer, if those changes will not be passed on to future generations?”

Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard’s School of Public Health, offers a caveat to the data: Most adults in the U.S. aren’t gene editing experts.

“Very specific conclusions have to be tempered by the fact that the people being surveyed are not as aware of the issue or the science behind it,” Blendon says.

He’s seen from his past work, including an analysis of 17 gene-editing polls from the past three decades — that small changes in wording can cause respondents to change their answer to a question, even when the facts haven’t changed.

“When you use the term ’embryos’, you get a somewhat less supportive view,” he says. “So if you don’t mention embryos or anything like that, you get much higher views for you know, getting rid of things like Huntington’s disease.”

Scheufele responds that polls commonly ask people questions on topics they’re not necessarily familiar with. “We want to know where people are at right now,” he says.

In Scheufele’s analysis, one fourth of people didn’t answer any of the questions correctly, and more than one third answered most of the questions correctly. Knowing more about gene editing was associated with more support for it, according to the study.

Religion also seems to play a role in people’s opinions of gene editing. This survey found that 50 percent of highly religious people expressed support of gene editing for treatment purposes, while 75 percent of those with “low religious guidance” say they support these applications.

An earlier Pew report also surveyed people on religion and gene editing, finding that most highly religious Americans would not want gene editing that gives their baby a “much reduced risk of serious disease.” (The wording on the questions differed between the Pew survey and Scheufele’s survey).

Although Scheufele says there was a “relatively broad consensus” across groups that the scientific community should consult the public on the topic of gene editing, putting that into practice may be difficult. “I think that’s in many ways the million-dollar question,” he says.

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Seltzer's Popularity Bubbles Up In The U.S.

One particular brand of seltzer is having a moment among millennials: LaCroix.


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We may be in the middle of a seltzer bubble.

Americans are drinking nearly 170 million gallons of the fizzy stuff each year, and sales have gone up 42 percent over the past five years with no signs of slowing down. There’s even a restaurant in Boston offering a $40 flight of limited-edition seltzers.

“We’re now at a point in American history where seltzer is more popular than it’s ever been,” Barry Joseph, author of Seltzertopia, tells All Things Considered. He says today’s obsession with seltzer has its roots in 1971, when Perrier launched in the U.S.

“A new drink comes over from Europe in 1971 called Perrier, and suddenly people aren’t only interested in flat water anymore,” Joseph says. “Now, they like maybe a mineral water. They like the idea of sparkling water, and people rediscover this thing we’ve had around for a while: seltzer.”

Joseph says today people are turning to seltzer as a healthier option than soda. One brand in particular is having a moment among millennials: LaCroix.

Rapper Big Dipper’s YouTube hit “LaCroix Boi” is an ode to the sensual possibilities of seltzer.

It’s somewhat mysterious how a brand that was cool with Midwestern soccer dads in the 1980s has caught on with today’s 20-somethings. But it’s not just LaCroix that is gaining new popularity.

Seltzer brand Polar has carved out a space in a crowded fizzy water market with seasonal, limited-run flavors.

Rapper Big Dipper’s YouTube hit, “LaCroix Boi,” is an ode to the sensual possibilities of seltzer.

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Hard seltzer has also recently taken off, with popular brands White Claw and Truly. Sweet Cheeks, a barbecue joint in Boston, offers a $40 seltzer flight. Diners get four cans of Polar with four nips of vodka.

Owner Tiffani Faison points out that $10 vodka sodas aren’t rare in the city. And she says it’s supposed to be fun. The flight comes as a kit packed in ice that includes four cups with crazy straws.

“I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Faison says.

The seltzer flavors are pretty silly, too, with names like Dragon Whispers, Mermaid Songs, Yeti Mischief and Unicorn Kisses.

And if you’re wondering what Yeti Mischief could possibly taste like, Faison says it’s like lemon-lime with a handful of Skittles thrown in.

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Trump Renews Harsh Rhetoric Against North Korea

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before a security briefing at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday.

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President Trump is doubling down on his incendiary rhetoric aimed at North Korea, saying on Thursday that his promise earlier in the week to meet Pyongyang’s threats with “fire and fury” might have been too soft.

“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” the president said ahead of a security briefing with Vice President Mike Pence and other advisers. “They’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries.”

Trump says North Korea “better get their act together or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble.” Pyongyang should be “very, very nervous” about any attack on the U.S. or its allies, he said.

The latest remarks come as North Korea released details of a plan to fire four of its Hwasong-12 missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, which houses 7,000 U.S. military personnel and two major U.S. bases. The trajectory of the missiles would take them over Japan, which along with South Korea, has vowed a strong reaction should the North go ahead with the plan. Pyongyang’s military says the plan would require approval from leader Kim Jong Un.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post published a report citing an anonymous U.S. official who said that the Defense Intelligence Agency believes North Korea could field nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

The president’s remarks on Thursday come after days of mixed messages on North Korea from the White House. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to tamp down concern, saying: “I do not believe there is any imminent threat.” Tillerson said Trump “was sending a strong message to North Korea in a language Kim Jong Un would understand.”

But on the same day, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned Pyongyang that if it “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Asked on Thursday whether there was any prospect of resuming negotiations with North Korea, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that Washington “would need to know that North Korea is taking serious steps to deescalate its nuclear program.”

“The DPRK is not showing us that they are ready to sit down and talk any time soon,” she said, referring to North Korea by its acronym.

Nauert discussed U.S. efforts to pressure allies not to accept North Korean laborers, who she said repatriate their income not to families at home, but to government coffers in Pyongyang. The money, she said, was used in part to fund the nuclear program.

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Colleges Have Increased Women Computer Science Majors: What Can Google Learn?

Harvey Mudd College students Ellen Seidel and Christine Chen work on a summer research project in computer science.

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Harvey Mudd College

A Google engineer who got fired over a controversial memo that criticized the company’s diversity policies said that there might be biological reasons there are fewer women engineers. But top computer science schools have proven that a few cultural changes can increase the number of women in the field.

In 2006, only about 10 percent of computer science majors at Harvey Mudd College were women. That’s pretty low since Harvey Mudd is a school for students who are interested in science, math and technology. Then, Maria Klawe began her tenure as president of the college.

Klawe — a computer scientist herself — had always been told that girls weren’t good at these things. “This whole idea that women lean to liking doing one thing and men to doing another, it turns out I think if you do the curriculum and pedagogy well that’s just false,” she says.

In fact, as soon as she arrived Klawe joined in an effort to change the curriculum. First the school changed the name of the intro course, which had been called Intro to Java — a programming language.

Faculty came up with a new name: Creative Problem Solving in Science and Engineering Using Computational Approaches.

And then, Klawe says, the college also had to address the fact that a lot of women were intimidated by male students who showed off in class. Many had done some programming in high school and they would dominate discussion.

So, they created a second intro course for students who had no previous experience. Klawe says that it took away the “intimidation that comes of being a class where you’ve had no prior experience and somebody else has been programming since they were eight.”

Klawe says they also countered the stereotype that computer geeks were guys who spent all their time alone in a basement. “They had very deliberately made it collaborative and involving teamwork instead of being lonely,” she says.

Student Erin Paeng works on human-robot trust in Harvey Mudd College’s Human Experience and Agent Teamwork lab.

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Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd’s intro computer class became among the school’s most popular. And now, instead of 10 percent in any given year, the number of women computer science majors ranges between 40 percent and 50 percent.

Harvey Mudd isn’t the only school seeing success in this effort. Carnegie Mellon has also significantly raised the number of women who major in computer science. Jane Margolis, an education researcher at UCLA began a four-year study of Carnegie Mellon in 1994. At the time, only 7 percent of computer science majors were women.

“It was not a question of capacity or ability” Margolis says. “It was a question of women feeling that they weren’t welcome or that their existence was suspect.”

For example, Margolis says there was a computer science club in which the men put the women down if they didn’t think about coding all day and night.

And yet, when Margolis interviewed the men, she found they had other interests too. “Many of them would say I like to do other things besides computing. I like to hike or I like to bike. But they never felt like their presence was being scrutinized.”

Carnegie Mellon instituted a series of reforms. The school created a women’s computer club. The school made it harder to become a computer science major — as always applicants had to be good at math and science but now they also had to show they had leadership qualities.

Today, instead of 7 percent, over 40 percent of the computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon are women.

For companies like Google — where only 20 percent of women are in technical positions — the question is whether there is something to be learned from these educational programs.

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A 'Vaccine For Addiction' Is No Simple Fix

A vaccine against heroin wouldn’t be like the measles vaccine that you receive once for a lifetime of immunity, say scientists working on it. Multiple shots per year would likely be required, and it would be specific to just heroin and morphine.

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It’s always appealing to think that there could be an easy technical fix for a complicated and serious problem.

For example, wouldn’t it be great to have a vaccine to prevent addiction?

“One of the things they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect,” said Dr. Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services.

He was talking to reporters earlier this week, after the White House discussed the recommendations from a government commission tasked with suggesting ways to cope with the nation’s opioid epidemic.

But, as is so often the case, there’s no quick fix on the horizon for an epidemic that is now killing more Americans than traffic accidents.

Researchers have been working on vaccines against addictive drugs, including nicotine, cocaine and heroin, for almost two decades.

“Like any other vaccine, you inject the vaccine and you use your immune system to produce antibodies,” says Dr. Ivan Montoya, acting director of the division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “In this case, the antibodies are against the drugs of abuse.”

So antibodies generated by a heroin vaccine, for instance, would prevent the molecules that cause euphoria from getting into the brain. (The vaccine actually targets morphine and a related chemical, since heroin breaks down into those components before crossing into the brain, Montoya says. It doesn’t block endogenous opioids — the brain’s built-in painkillers.)

The trick would be getting your body to produce enough antibodies to soak up a surge of drug injected into the bloodstream. “That is the biggest challenge, to get enough antibodies,” Montoya tells NPR.

That’s apparently a major reason that previous attempts to make a nicotine vaccine for smokers failed, he says. “The second challenge is getting the person to be vaccinated on a regular basis.”

These vaccines aren’t like the measles vaccine that you receive once for a lifetime of immunity. Multiple shots per year would likely be required. So the strategy would only work in people who were actively trying to recover from a drug addiction. And people addicted to heroin who decide to get high could switch to some other opioid — like fentanyl, carfentanil, or oxycodone.

Kim Janda, a professor of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, says he’s thinking about developing a vaccine that targets both heroin and fentanyl. But his first priority is to test a heroin vaccine in people. So far, he’s used funding from the National Institutes of Health to test his potential vaccine in rodents and monkeys.

Human trials will cost tens of millions of dollars. The NIH generally doesn’t fund that kind of study and hasn’t made an exception for the opioid crisis. So Janda is hoping to get the money he needs from a pharmaceutical company, as other opioid vaccine developers have done.

He’s optimistic that human tests could begin in 18 months once he has funding, though it would take much longer than that to find out whether the vaccine is actually safe and effective.

Janda knows that a vaccine would supplement, rather than replace, the current approaches to treating addiction.

“I think we need to look at other ways of treating opioid addiction,” he says, “and I think this can help.”

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and at the University of Minnesota are also developing vaccines against opioids, but so far none has been tried in people.

You can reach Richard Harris at rharris@npr.org.

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Trump Says He Intends To Declare Opioid Crisis National Emergency

President Trump and Vice President Pence speak to the press on Thursday at Trump’s Bedminster National Golf Club in New Jersey before a security briefing. Trump said he would declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

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President Trump says he is ready to declare the nation’s opioid crisis “a national emergency,” saying it is a “serious problem the likes of which we have never had.” Speaking to reporters at the entrance to his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where he is on a working vacation, Trump promised “to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

The willingness to declare a national emergency is a change from earlier in the week, when after briefing the president on the administration’s response to the opioid crisis, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said declaring a public health emergency was usually reserved for “time-limited” problems such as the Zika outbreak. The president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recommended in an interim report released July 31 that the president immediately declare a national emergency.

Trump made his announcement Thursday in response to a reporter’s question, who asked if the opioid crisis was an emergency and, if so, why the president hadn’t made a formal declaration. Trump answered, “We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency.”

NPR contacted the White House for more details about who was drawing the papers and how an emergency declaration would be implemented. A spokesman referred back to the president’s remarks.

The chairman of the president’s opioid commission, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, thanked the president “for accepting the first recommendation” of the commission’s report.

“It is a national emergency and the President has confirmed that through his words and actions today, and he deserves great credit for doing so,” Christie said.

It’s not exactly clear what making the declaration will mean for federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis. But a number of states say similar declarations have helped.

Trump said opioids are a worldwide problem, as well as a national emergency.

PBS NewsHour via YouTube

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NCAA Will Require Athletes And Coaches To Complete Sexual Violence Education

The NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

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In the wake of a series of sexual assault allegations, college athletes, coaches and athletics administrators at NCAA member schools must now complete annual sexual violence prevention education.

That’s according to a new policy adopted by the NCAA Board of Governors after the high-profile scandals involving college athletes, including rape accusations against Baylor University football players that led to the removal of the university president.

Campus leaders, such as the school president and athletic director, “must attest annually that coaches, athletics administrators and student-athletes were educated in sexual violence prevention,” according to the NCAA.

The leaders from each of the 1,123 member campuses must declare that the athletics department is knowledgeable in the school’s sexual violence policies and prepared to respond to acts of sexual violence.

The school’s sexual violence policies must be “readily available” to the athletics department and given to each student athlete.

The NCAA adopted the new policy after a recommendation from a committee tasked with proposing solutions to campus sexual violence issues.

According to The Associated Press, “the NCAA policy does not delve into bans, restrictions or punishments for athletes who commit sexual violence, deferring to schools to set and follow their own policies.”

Just yesterday, as the wire service reported, “Youngstown State decided that a football player who served jail time for a rape committed while he was in high school will not be allowed to play in games this season.”

A federal lawsuit accuses a group of Baylor football players of gang-raping a young woman in 2012 as part of team bonding ritual, NPR’s Camila Domonoske reported. In the lawsuit, “Jane Doe” accuses the school of a “deliberately indifferent response.” The Big 12 Conference imposed a multi-million dollar sanction on the school after revelations of multiple alleged assaults.

Also on Thursday, the NCAA board created four new task forces to look into issues of mental health, football practice strategies, pain management and wearable technologies.

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