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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday addressed a viral TikTok video of an emotional Marine saying her "perpetrator", who admitted to misconduct, had been allowed to stay in the service.

Driving the news: Austin called the video "deeply disturbing," and said he has asked his staff to get more information and provide assistance to the Marine.

  • In the video, the Marine, through tears, says that a commanding general had stepped in to allow her alleged perpetrator to remain in the Corps, despite an "admission to guilt."
  • “This is exactly why” women in the military have died by suicide, the Marine adds.
  • The video, posted to TikTok on Thursday, has gone viral across several social media platforms.

What they're saying: "We are aware of the video circulating social media concerning one of our Marines," the Marine Corps said in a statement Friday Friday.

  • "This video specifically refers to an allegation of misconduct regarding the wrongful appropriation & distribution of personal information," the Corps added.
  • "The current administrative separation process for the accused perpetrator mentioned in the video is ongoing. The Marine in the video is safe & has been afforded the opportunity to meet with senior representatives in her command."
  • "We take all allegations of prohibited conduct & activities seriously to ensure our people are fully supported with appropriate resources specific to the nature of an incident."

The big picture: In one of his first official acts as Pentagon chief, Austin directed senior military leaders to send him reports on sexual assault prevention programs, so the department can evaluate which initiatives have been most effective.

  • There were 7,825 sexual assault reports involving service members as victims in 2019, up 3% from the previous year, per the Defense Department.
  • While the military has been criticized for its handling of sexual misconduct allegations for years, the issue gained renewed attention following the murder of 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who told family and friends she had been sexually harassed before she disappeared from Fort Hood in April 2020.
  • An independent review of the case found that "there was a permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood. "

Austin reiterated on Friday that he takes the issue of sexual assault "very, very seriously."

  • “We have been working at this for a long time in earnest, but we haven’t gotten it right,” Austin said. “And my commitment to my soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and dependents is we’re going to do everything in our power to get it right.”

Go deeper: Austin orders evaluation of military sexual assault prevention programs

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.