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Ex-Defense Secretary Gates takes over Boy Scouts amid questions over gay troop leaders

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By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) – As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is set to head the Boy Scouts of America, many are wondering if the official who helped end the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy will also lift the scout’s ban on gay adult leaders.

The century-old Texas-based organization kicked off its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday as questions lingered over its decision last year to allow gay scouts in its ranks but bar them from adult leadership posts.

Gates, a former CIA director, will succeed Boy Scouts President Wayne Perry, who led the group through the emotionally charged debate in May last year when the council voted to lift a ban on openly gay scouts, a decision criticized by both conservatives opposed to the change and gay rights groups for not going far enough.

Gay rights groups are optimistic that Gates, who will officially take his new post on Thursday, will end the ban on adult leaders.

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Gates was secretary of defense from December 2006 to July 1, 2011, serving both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which barred openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service, was repealed on December 22, 2010.

Gates’ appointment could prompt a return of major sponsors, such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Intel Corp, which pulled funding to protest policies seen as discriminatory.

“Secretary Gates already knows the dedication and professionalism of gay and lesbian military members, so bringing full inclusion to the Boy Scouts should be a no-brainer,” said Rich Ferraro, spokesman for the gay rights group, GLAAD.

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Gay scouts were officially allowed in from January 1., prompting some parents to pull their boys out of the organization.

A group of conservatives broke away and formed the start-up Trail Life USA, which condemns sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and woman as “sinful before God.”

On Wednesday, gay activists delivered a Change.org petition signed by 120,000 people to Amazon.com Inc asking the online retail giant to cut all ties to the Boy Scouts unless the group stops discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

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(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Richard Chang)

[Image: Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks after being awarded the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sept. 22, 2011. By Tim Shaffer for Reuters]


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US senator calls for investigation into FaceApp over security concerns

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Popular Russia-based application FaceApp, which allows users to change their appearance to look older or younger, came under fire in the United States Wednesday, with one senator urging an FBI investigation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the FBI and the FTC, the US consumer protection body, to "look into the national security & privacy risks" connected to FaceApp, which is used by millions of Americans but was developed by a Saint Petersburg-based company.

"FaceApp's location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments," the New York senator said in a letter to the FBI.

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First US murder conviction overturned using DNA, family tree evidence

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An American man was exonerated Wednesday for a decades-old murder he did not commit, using evidence based on DNA and a genetic family tree, the first such result using a revolutionary investigative technique.

Christopher Tapp, 43, had served 20 of his 30-year sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge.

On Wednesday, a court in the state of Idaho completely overturned his conviction based on evidence found with "genetic genealogy" -- the technique used to identify the suspected "Golden State Killer" by making DNA matches with his distant relatives.

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Buzz Aldrin has landed — for the Apollo 11 anniversary

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The suspense had been building for 24 hours: would Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, show up Wednesday night in Huntsville, Alabama -- nicknamed "Rocket City" for the nearby NASA space flight center?

Public appearances by the former astronaut, now 89, are rare. On Tuesday, he left his former Apollo 11 crewmate Michael Collins in the lurch.

Aldrin declined to join him at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the two were supposed to appear together on NASA TV to mark the 50th anniversary of their mission (Neil Armstrong died in 2012).

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