In-flight sexual assault reports on the rise, FBI says

BALTIMORE — The number of sexual assault reports aboard airplanes has grown by nearly two-thirds in recent years, according to the FBI.

Sixty-three cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to federal authorities in the last fiscal year, the FBI said. That’s up from the 38 cases reported in the 2014 fiscal year, according to the agency, which has jurisdiction to investigate crimes on airplanes.

Most in-air sexual assault cases go unreported and involve unwanted touching — a felony that can result in prison time, the FBI said.

Incidents generally happen on long-haul flights when the cabin is dark, and victims typically report that they had been sleeping in the middle or window seats, often covered with a blanket or jacket, when they awoke to find their seatmate’s hands inside their clothing or underwear, the FBI said.

—The Baltimore Sun

Scientists discover world’s first known manta ray nursery

SAN DIEGO — The University of California, San Diego has discovered the world’s first known nursery for manta rays, an idyllic spot in the Gulf of Mexico where the “gentle giants” approach divers along colorful reefs that seem drawn from the imagination of Walt Disney.

An exploration team led by Josh Stewart, who is finishing up his doctorate in marine biology at the university’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, made the discovery and confirmed its importance over the past few years.

He was aided by colleagues from NOAA who manage the site, which is part of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuaries, about 70 miles south of Galveston.

Finding adult manta rays is easy; divers see them in many locations. But in a mystery that has long confused scientists, juveniles rarely swim openly in defined places during the four to five years that it takes them to become adults.

Stewart has been trying to solve the mystery for years, and had some initial success in 2016 when he saw a juvenile oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris). He later saw more juvenile mantas and, with help from the NOAA researchers, determined that he’d happened upon a nursery. The discovery was published this week in the journal Marine Biology.

The juveniles were largely found in an area when the sea floor slopes into deeper water.

—The San Diego Union-Tribune

Pompeo says U.S. agreed to ‘alter’ Korea armistice at summit

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has agreed to “alter” the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War if North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, revealing an apparent promise from Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un that wasn’t announced at the time.

“He has made very clear his commitment to fully denuclearize his country,” Pompeo said of the North Korean leader during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday. “In return for that, the president has committed to making sure that we alter the armistice agreement, provide the security assurances that Chairman Kim needs.”

Before the June 12 summit, Trump raised the possibility that a formal peace treaty ending the Korean War of 1950-1953 could be one outcome of his meeting with Kim. But the joint statement the pair signed made no such promise. Instead, it said only that the U.S. and North Korea would “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

Asked about Pompeo’s comment, a National Security Council official, who asked not to be identified speaking about private deliberations, declined to confirm what Pompeo said. The official said only that the two sides had committed to the building of a peace mechanism whose eventual goal would be to replace the armistice.

It wasn’t the first time the administration disclosed a U.S. commitment from the summit that wasn’t cited in the final document. Hours after meeting Kim in Singapore, Trump told reporters the U.S. would suspend military exercises with South Korea as long as North Korea continues down the path toward denuclearization.

Trump was criticized for suspending the exercises without a major concession in return. A promise to alter the armistice raises questions because it’s not something the U.S. could do on its own: Any formal treaty would probably need a sign-off from other nations, including China, and need ratification from the United Nations Security Council.

—Bloomberg News