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Cell phone thieves, military rape

Cellphone thefts are becoming an epidemic in the United States: Nearly one-in-three robberies involve phone theft and consumers lose more than $30 billion each year to lost and stolen phones.

New cellphones don’t lack for computing power, and advanced security features such as “kill switches” could easily be standard equipment, available to all users — but they aren’t.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to change that.

In a letter to wireless industry leaders, Klobuchar urges companies to take action to stem mobile device thefts by ensuring consumers have access to the most advanced security features, such as a “kill switch” that would deter criminals who intend to illegally resell the devices.

“Mobile devices aren’t just telephones anymore – increasingly people’s livelihoods depend on them,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why we need to do more to crack down on criminals who are stealing and reselling these devices, costing consumers billions every year. The wireless industry needs to step up to the plate and address these thefts, and make sure consumers have the most advanced security technology at their fingertips.”

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairs the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, and has been a leader in standing up for consumers and boosting competition in the marketplace. She authored legislation — the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act and the Wireless Consumer Choice Act — to strengthen consumer protections in the wireless industry, including looking at allowing consumers to unlock their phones.

Klobuchar has also pushed the FCC to examine the competitive impact on consumers from the wireless carriers’ exclusive arrangements with cell phone manufacturers.

And Klobuchar cosponsored legislation led by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer that adds criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for tampering with cell phones in order to circumvent the service ban on a stolen phone.

Klobuchar has not been idle in the Senate.

Her  provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act to help fight sexual assault in the military passed the Senate and will now head to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Klobuchar’s provisions would require automatic retention of sexual assault records, strengthen whistleblower protections and help stop repeat offenders.

Automatic retention of records will make it easier for servicemen and women who have been sexually assaulted to get VA benefits for assault-related ailments or to seek justice in the future.

Another Klobuchar provision  expands whistleblower protection so service members can report sexual assault crimes without facing retaliation from superiors or peers that re-victimizes them and threatens their careers.

Sixty-two percent of victims of military sexual assault reported that they faced some kind of retaliation, and it is the biggest deterrent to victims reporting the crimes.

Another provision requires that the disposition of substantiated sex offenses be noted in personnel records, so commanders are aware of repeat offenders.

Charges of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or attempts to commit these offenses will now be disposed of by court-martial rather than by non-judicial punishment or administrative action.