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5 at 5: Gen. Lawson goes before committee

Also: Friends find a missing newborn with some help from Facebook and other top stories this afternoon

Gen. Thomas Lawson, chief of the Defence Staff, wait to appear at Commons defence committee hearing witnesses on sexual assault in the military Tuesday May 27, 2014 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Gen. Thomas Lawson, chief of the Defence Staff, at a Commons defence committee hearing on sexual assault in the military on Tuesday May 27, 2014 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Five of the top stories making headlines this afternoon.

Top military commander answers questions about sexual assault and harassment in the Canadian Forces. Gen. Tom Lawson was in the hot seat Tuesday, called before the House of Commons defence committee to answer questions after L’actualite and Maclean’s magazines published a story about ongoing allegations of sexual assault in the Forces. The story said that sexual assault in the Forces is still too common, and that often the complaints of those who do speak out are not taken seriously. Lawson said the military has already done an internal review in the wake of the report, which found that there are some barriers to reporting sexual assaults, and it is planning a third-party review, as well. Lawson said that, while there are problems, sexual assault and harassment are not part of the military culture.

Ready to debate the Reform Act. This evening, Parliament will hold its first debate on MP Michael Chong’s Reform Act, a bill that aims to fix some of the troublesome aspects of the parliamentary process by shifting some power away from party leaders and towards individual MPs. If passed, the bill would give more power to local riding associations, give MPs more power over who gets into caucuses, and would allow caucuses to boot their leaders. The Conservative backbencher already has support from at least 19 MPs for his bill, including Conservatives, independents and one NDP member. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Battle for Donetsk continues in Ukraine. There are reports of up to 50 dead after a battle that began yesterday with the Ukrainian military moving in to clear the rebel-held airport in the city. Most of those killed were members of a group calling itself “Donetsk People’s Republic,” pro-Russian militants who have declared the eastern city as its own republic, separate from Ukraine. The interior minister told journalists in Kiev that the airport was back under Ukrainian control as of Tuesday. However, militants maintain control of some buildings in Donetsk, and areas elsewhere in the eastern part of the country.  The military stepped up its actions Monday after the election of incoming Petro Poroshenko over the weekend. He will officially replace Ukraine’s interim president in June and has promised to use the military to clear rebel groups more quickly.

U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan until 2016. President Barack Obama set a firm date to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, saying that 9,800 troops will remain in the country after 2014, but that they will be gone by 2016. After that time, the only forces remaining will protect the embassy in Kabul. While there is now a firm end date to the U.S. Afghanistan mission, Obama’s announcement also leaves thousands of U.S. troops in potentially dangerous areas for the next two years. Obama also hinted that the U.S. might use some of its freed up resources to address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa. Details of that plan are expected to be released during a commencement address to West Point military academy Wednesday.

Social media helps find stolen newborn baby. A strange story with a happy ending is coming out of Trois-Rivières, Que. today, where a newborn baby was snatched from a nursery Monday, only to be tracked down hours later by four friends who recognized the suspect from a Facebook post. Police say a woman dressed as a nurse walked into the maternity ward, took baby Victoria from her mother, and walked out the door. Four friends saw the RCMP-issued alert about the missing baby and decided to drive around and see if they could find the suspect’s car. Charlène Plante, one of the four friends, then looked at Facebook and recognized  the suspect as her former neighbour. Sure enough, when the four friends drove up to the woman’s apartment they saw the lights were on and they immediately called police, who found the baby unharmed inside and returned her to her parents. The 21-year-old suspect is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.