TIME technology

Missouri Passes Constitutional Amendment to Protect Electronic Privacy

Some Missouri lawmakers hopes other states follow its lead on protecting privacy.

Missouri became the first state in the nation Tuesday to offer explicit constitutional protections of electronic communications and data from warrantless search and seizure by law enforcement.

The amendment to the state’s constitution places communications such as emails, text messages, and cloud storage under the same Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures as “persons, homes, papers and effect” and will require police to have a warrant to gain access to phones, laptops, and electronic communications. It passed with 75% support in a statewide ballot effort.

“Yesterday’s overwhelming support for Amendment 9 reflects the emotion that Missourians feel about the invasion of their privacy,” said Republican state Sen. Rob Schaaf, who co-sponsored the measure with Republican Sen. Bob Dixon . “People are upset and they spoke with a very loud voice. They don’t want the government snooping.”

Schaaf says that the amendment’s specific legal impact will “take time to sort out” in Missouri, but he believes that the court will interpret it along the same lines as it interprets the right to privacy in person, paper, home, and effects. However, he believes that the national attention that the amendment receives will be its biggest impact, as that may inspire other states to follow suit.

“I think other states will look at this vote and they will follow Missouri’s lead,” Schaaf says.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search cell phones seized during arrest, but the ruling did not address broader concerns about data privacy on other devices. The Missouri amendment will include laptops and communications alongside the Supreme Court’s cell phone ruling.

Federal legislation has been proposed to address the need for updated electronic communication privacy protections stored by third parties. The Email Privacy Act would update to the Electronic Communications Act of 1986, which Chris Calabrese, American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative counsel for privacy, pointed out has not been updated “substantially” since the new era of personal electronics took hold. The legislation has been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but is currently in the House. “I think states will continue to act independently if there’s no federal legislation,” Calabrese says. “People care about privacy.”

TIME Congress

No More Hearings, No More Bills, Congress Is Headed Out for Summer

The U.S. House of Representatives chamber is seen December 8, 2008 in Washington.
The U.S. House of Representatives chamber is seen December 8, 2008 in Washington. Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images

Here's why Congress calls it quits every August

Updated on August 4, 2014 at 2 p.m.

Every August, the city of Washington, D.C. virtually shuts down. Beginning late Friday night, Congress has left town for five weeks, and there will be no hearings in session. Some may be wondering why exactly Congress is packing up and heading out of town.

The straight answer? It’s the law. In 1970, Congress enacted a mandatory five-week break for itself beginning the first week of August and extending past Labor Day weekend, all as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act. When the law passed, there were many younger lawmakers with children coming into Congress who wanted a more predictable legislative schedule and designated vacation times.

Over the years, legislative sessions had gotten longer and longer. From 1789 up through the 1930s, Congress convened in December and stayed in session for only five or six months. In fact, until the 20th century, the position was not full time and lawmakers could work other jobs in the half of the year they weren’t in session — a member also trained as a butcher could, theoretically make laws and sausage. By the 1950s, sessions were extending well into July, and by the 1960s Congress wasn’t adjourning until autumn. Sessions hit a record length in 1963 when Senate convened in January and adjourned in December — at that point, three-day weekends were the members’ only breaks.

So, largely under the leadership of Sen. Gale McGee who championed the idea of August recess as a way to “modernize Congress,” junior members lobbied senior members to install a recess in the schedule. The first official August recess began on August 6, 1971.

But just because it’s called a recess doesn’t mean Congressional leaders are taking a break. “Business still goes on,” Senate Historian Don Ritchie said. “There’s just no action on the floor during that period.”

Especially because this is an election year, many members will be campaigning, visiting offices and town halls in their home states and holding town meetings. Offices will stay open to receive mail and calls from constituents. Members who aren’t up for reelection might enjoy family time or a vacation, or they can take on a Congressional delegation, Ritchie said. Really, it’s entirely up to the member to decide what he or she wants to do during August recess.

However, should lawmakers decide they want to wrap up some work before vacationing, they have the option to do so. Members can push the August recess back by passing an extension resolution. There have also been instances where Congress has had to return mid-recess. In 2004, Congress came back to hold hearings in light of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report. In 2005, Congress returned to pass legislation to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. This year, the start of the recess was delayed slightly on Friday, as lawmakers worked on changes to two immigration bills.

“There are a lot of people who think they shouldn’t take time off. Some think the more time they’re away the better,” Ritchie said. “Every needs some vacation, though.”

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that it was published after Congressional passage of recent highway funding and immigration bills.

TIME

Libertarian Student Activists Rally at National Convention

White House contender Rand Paul revved up the youthful crowd, asking "Anybody here from the 'Leave Me Alone' coalition? How about the 'Leave Me The Hell Alone' coalition?”

A crowd of college kids screamed and cheered, belting out chants and pumping their fists. The energy in the room was palpable. Some craned their necks to get a better view and others nudged their friends in excitement. The kids weren’t waiting for a rock concert to start or a celebrity to walk across the stage. They were waiting for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) to kick off the annual Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention in Washington, D.C.

Almost 300 student activists for YAL traveled from around the country to convene for a five-day convention filled with talks about liberty and appearances by prominent libertarian leaders. The convention kicked off Wednesday evening with an address by Sen. Rand Paul followed by a House of Representatives panel, featuring six members of the House Liberty Caucus.

“Anybody here from the leave me alone coalition? How about the leave me the hell alone coalition?” Paul asked the room to a response of cheers. “Some people are writing and saying there’s a libertarian moment in our country right now.”

Speakers went on to talk about key libertarian party principles of personal and economic liberty, then touch on hot button issues for millennials, including the NSA, social security and the legalization of marijuana. The panel’s six congressional leaders detailed their personal journeys in politics and offered advice to the budding libertarian leaders. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) urged the student activists to “find more of you” and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told students to “be willing to lose.”

The discussion was more than just an advice session for aspiring college students. It was also a clear call for young people to help broadcast the Libertarian message and to recruit more of their peers to join the party.

“I keep reminding my Republican colleagues that if you want to continue to have a bunch of old people with old ideas in the Republican Party, we will no longer have a vibrant party,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Wisc.) said at the panel on Wednesday. “If we can invite young people that will actually bring new ideas and will bring energy to the party then we will be the dominant party in the United States.”

TIME Nutrition

Why Your Bottled Water Contains Four Different Ingredients

Getty Images

Water you buy in the store is not just hydrogen and oxygen. Here's why food producers add all those extra ingredients.

Next time you reach for a bottle of water on store shelves, take a look at the ingredient list. You’re likely to find that it includes more than just water.

Popular bottled water brand Dasani, for example, lists magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and salt alongside purified water on its Nutrition Facts label. SmartWater contains calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and potassium bicarbonate. Nestle Pure Life’s list includes calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, and magnesium sulfate. And these are just a few brands. Bottled water companies are purifying water, but then they’re adding extra ingredients back.

None of this should be cause for health concerns, says Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and professor of Sociology at New York University. The additives being put into water are those naturally found in water and the quantities of these additives are likely too small to be of much significance. “If you had pure water by itself, it doesn’t have any taste,” says Bob Mahler, Soil Science and Water Quality professor at the University of Idaho. “So companies that sell bottled water will put in calcium, magnesium or maybe a little bit of salt.”

Taste tests have revealed that many people find distilled water to taste flat as opposed to spring waters, which can taste a bit sweet. Minerals offer a “slightly salty or bitter flavors,” which is likely why low mineral soft waters have a more appealing taste, Nestle wrote in her book What To Eat.

Many of the ingredients that are added to bottled water occur naturally in tap water and in our daily diets. Potassium chloride, for example, is a chemical compound that is often used as a supplement for potassium, which benefits heart health and aids normal muscular and digestive functions. Magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, and calcium chloride are all inorganic salts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that Americans reduce current levels of sodium intake by 2,300 mg per day, so you would have to drink a lot of water to make much of a difference, Nestle says. The typical amount of sodium in water averages at around 17 mg per liter.

But just because additives are generally naturally occurring ingredients doesn’t mean that consumers shouldn’t look at labels. If labels show calories, that means sugars have been added. Some bottled waters can be high in sodium, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends only drinking water that contains 20 mg of sodium per liter or less.

The best choice that many water consumers can make may be to just stick to drinking tap water. “To the extent that tap water is clean and free of harmful contaminants,” says Nestle, “it beats everything in taste and cost.”

TIME 2016 Election

Sen. Rand Paul Is Killing It On Twitter: 10 Tweets You Should See

Rand Paul's Twitter offers more than just politics. Here are 10 of the senator's best tweets, from selfies at Subway to Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise.

Presidential candidates simply need to tweet, but there has never really been one who knows how to do it well. Enter Kentucky’s Rand Paul, a United States Senator who calls himself #DJRandPaul on Twitter, who is already way ahead of the other prospective 2016 contenders in the Twitter primary.

In a world of staff run Twitter accounts overflowing with campaign promises and political jargon, he brings candor, absurdity and personality. Between the standard tweets about current events and congressional hearings, there are music videos, Subway photos and shots of his socks. Surely not every senator can be a DJ like Paul, but they can take note that sometimes a little entertainment value goes a long way.

For those who have not yet followed, here are some of Paul’s best Twitter moments:

He offers his unique interpretations of current events. The Kentucky senator tweeted his thoughts on the President and the NSA after Obama met with Pope Francis in Vatican City for the first time.

He snaps photos of his cardboard cutout self. Is that considered a selfie?

In his free time, when he’s not tied up with his senatorial duties, Rand is apparently a DJ – at least via Twitter.

The DJ does not rest, as evidenced by the ensuing slew of music videos posted on his Twitter feed.

Sometimes he combines his double lives, offering DJ picks with a political spin.

In one tweet, he dedicates Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), with whom he says he shares a “bromance.”

Cory Booker isn’t the only senator getting music video dedications though. Paul passively aggressively tweets not-so-subtle hints to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about getting the vote over with already, in the form of a music video, of course.

Song lyrics never seem to be far from Rand’s mind when he’s tweeting, even at the Republican Party of Texas state convention.

But his Twitter account offers more than just music. There is also a blurry selfie at Subway, which Paul seems none too thrilled about. The other man pictured is Brad Woodhouse, the former spokesman of the Democratic National Committee, who now runs the liberal opposition research SuperPac, American Bridge.

And, the GOP socks. No words.

TIME 2014 Election

The Best 6 Political Campaign Ads of the Summer (So Far)

Charlie Crist, Democrat For Mayor

From sign language to football coaches, here are six of this season's best political ads.

These are the dog days of election year politics. The fields are mostly set, and the final battle is still too far away to matter much. Plus, who wants to think about politics in summer? The answer: The campaign ad makers. Political Mad Men have no problem working the heat into their spots, or doing even better by making political spots so compelling we can’t look away even when we would rather be swimming.

So without further ado, here is our take on 2014′s top 6 political ads of the summer, so far.

6.”Sunshine” – Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida

Charlie Crist pays homage to the sunshine state of Florida through this ad’s theme. The high-quality video clearly outlines what Crist accomplished in his last term and what his goals are should he be reelected, which gives viewers a clear picture of what this candidate wants you to think he is about.

5.”Question from Don – Retired Coal Miner” – Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky

This Alison Lundergan Grimes ad pulls off a political attack in an effective, tactful and even funny manner. Rather than loud accusations and a laundry list rant about her opponent Mitch McConnell, the complaint comes from the mouth of a concerned constituent who doesn’t attack but simply asks a question. The long silence gets a bit uncomfortable.

4.”Janey” – Kay Hagan, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator from North Carolina

This Kay Hagan ad hooks you in with a personal story involving a dad, who served in the military, and his daughter, who died of leukemia after drinking the base’s contaminated water. By selecting a particular issue and highlighting Hagan’s work within it, the ad neatly showcases her accomplishments.

3.”Coach” – Mike McFadden, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Minnesota

This ad is sure to stick in your memory because, hey, it’s not every day you see a grown man get hit in the crotch by a kid. The boys from his football team play spokespeople, adding a punch of cuteness and believability to his political message. He nails the all-American dad image with this advertisement, and when you are running against comedian-turned-senator Al Franken, it’s always good to be funny.

2. “Meet My Mom” – Emily Cain, Democratic candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District

This ad stood out from others for one reason: there was no sound. Emily Cain’s mom, an interpreter for the deaf, signs the whole advertisement, which has subtitles running across the bottom. The idea is unique and the mother-daughter relationship,­ a seemingly common tactic this ad season, offers a sense of familiarity and friendliness. The connection between the Deaf Community and voting for Cain might have been a bit of a stretch, especially because the ad didn’t offer any campaign promises or pros of the candidate, but the ad does stand out.

1.”In A Box” – Darius Foster, Republican state candidate for District 56, Alabama’s House of Representatives

While most political ads focus on the politician, Darius Foster switches it up by focusing on the constituents. His ad shows him as a man of the people. Foster doesn’t pile on promises and boost himself up, but instead offers personal facts about himself ranging from his recent attendance at a Lil Wayne concert to the fact that he’s the first in his family to attend college.

TIME Education

U.S. Students Fail to Make the Grade on Financial Literacy

California schools use blended learning to teach students
Fifth grade science and math teacher Stephen Pham helps a student at Rocketship SI Se Puede, a charter, public elementary school, on Feb. 18, 2014 in San Jose, California. Melanie Stetson Freeman—The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

One in 6 U.S. teens are unable to make simple, everyday choices about spending, says a new study

American students’ level of financial literacy, in comparison to that of other country’s students’, is distinctly average. A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development revealed that more than one in six U.S. teens are unable to make simple, everyday choices about spending, and only one in ten can solve complex financial tasks.

The findings resulted from an assessment of teens’ financial aptitude in skills such as understanding a bank statement. The U.S. ranked between 8-12 out of 18 countries and economies, with a mean score of 492. The OECD found 17.8% of US students do not even reach the baseline level of financial proficiency, compared to 15.3% in other OECD countries. The highest-ranking country, Shanghai-China, had an average score of 603. Colombia ranked last with a mean of 379.

With looming college debt and increasingly complex retirement plans, financial literacy is becoming increasingly important, especially for young adults, John W. Rogers, Jr., Chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Adults said at a panel at George Washington University Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan agreed, saying that, frankly, “average is not good enough.”

“Young people, to be successful, to secure retirement, to take care of their families, and to not be in poverty, have to have a level of financial literacy that 30, 40, 50 years ago maybe wasn’t required,” Duncan said at the event. “Today it’s an absolute necessity.”

Duncan thinks the solution lays in improved mathematics education, which the study found, along with reading, is very closely linked to financial literacy. Teachers can introduce pupils to the concept of financial responsibility in real world contexts such as explaining how investments and the stock market work.

Both Rogers and Duncan also mentioned the importance of looking at the issue by race. According to Rogers, African American and Latino workers have half as much saved for retirement as young white Americans, perhaps linking to the existing educational inequality issue of high-poverty and high-minority schools.

“There is never any one simple answer, but we are in this together,” Duncan said of finding a solution. “I think so many of the examples where other countries, in some areas, are frankly ahead of us, I think there are tremendous lessons that can be learned.”

TIME Education

White House Announces Plan to Improve Schools For Poor

Arne Duncan
Education Secretary Arne Duncan listens as President Barack Obama speaks about education during a lunch meeting with teachers, Monday, July 7, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Unable to move new legislation through Congress, the White House continued its unilateral efforts to change the country with a new education plan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down Monday with ten teachers and principals from across the country to discuss the continued problem of high-poverty, high-minority schools that still lack the resources they need to support their students. The event was meant to highlight a new initiative to help high-poverty, high-minority schools to attract and retain the quality teachers.

The three-part initiative will ask schools to create equity plans, which will be bolstered by a $4.2 million technical assistance network and educator equity profiles. The profiles will illustrate gaps in teacher equity between high- and low-poverty schools and high- and low-minority schools, with data on student achievement, school expenditures, teacher experience and certification, and student access to preschool and advanced course work. States will be required to submit plans by April 2015.

Although the Department of Education’s efforts were well received by attendees, including the American Federation of Teachers, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, this is not the first time that such an initiative has been attempted. The No Child Left Behind Act requested the each state have such an equity plan on file, but the Education Department’s website shows that fewer than half the states have such plans on file, and most have not been updated since 2006. Duncan said he is hopeful that this time will be different and that states will comply.

“The vast majority of states want to get better together,” Duncan said. “Frankly the solutions aren’t going to come from any of us based here in Washington. It’s going to look very different state by state.”

TIME Obama

Obama Threatens to Go It Alone if Congress Doesn’t Help Fix Highways

Obama-Infrastructure
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the economy in Georgetown Waterfront Park on July 1, 2014 in Washington. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Obama threatens to continue acting without Congress if they don't fix the Highway Trust

President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday was intended to call Congress to action on replenishing a fund for state and federal highway projects. Instead, it turned into a political rant against House Republicans, with Obama saying he’ll proceed without Congress’ help if need be.

The Highway Trust Fund is due to run out in 58 days, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, putting 877,000 jobs and $28 billion in U.S. exports at risk. The fund is rapidly depleting due to declining gas tax revenues, a problem Obama wants to fix by eliminating corporate tax breaks. House Republicans, however, have balked at his plan.

“House Republicans have refused to act on this idea,” said Obama. “I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted, it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.

“No, seriously. They’re not doing anything. Why don’t they do this?,” Obama added, before arguing that the U.S. spends a smaller portion of its economy on infrastructure than “just about every other advanced country.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, want to keep the highway fund rolling by ending Saturday U.S. Postal Service deliveries or enacting more stringent state online sales taxes. But in Tuesday’s speech, Obama was clearly frustrated by Congress’ inaction and with the increasing partisanship of the issue — House Republicans last month said they plan to sue Obama for what they argue has been the President’s abuse of executive actions, which allow the executive branch to take certain actions without approval from the legislature.

“It’s not crazy; it’s not socialism. It’s not the imperial presidency. No laws are broken, it’s just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing,” the President said, adding that if House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and his party won’t cooperate, he will continue to act independently.

“Middle class families can’t wait for a Republican Congress to do stuff,” Obama said. “So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

TIME Marijuana

Six Ways Science Says Marijuana May Hurt Your Health

New Year Celebration
Partygoers smoke marijuana during a New Year's Eve party at a bar in Denver, celebrating the 2014 start of retail pot sales in Colorado. Brennan Linsley—AP

With the increasing push for the legalization of marijuana across the country, science is rolling out research on why pot may not be so harmless.

Boosters of marijuana legalization often speak about the relative harmlessness of the drug, especially when compared to alcohol and tobacco, which kill millions of people a year worldwide. But while the evidence suggests that pot is less damaging than some other legal drugs, the exact effects of marijuana on human health have not been well studied. Existing research is often limited in scope and rarely shows a clear causal connection.

But there have been some worrying findings, especially considering the increasing use of marijuana by American adults. A paper published this year in Forensic Science International, for instance, described two rare deaths of young men that were attributed to heart conditions resulting from marijuana use.

With legalization taking place in Colorado and Washington State, more research will now be possible. For now, here is a tour of what has been documented so far about marijuana’s negative effects.

1. It can interfere with learning

Marijuana interferes with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, affecting cognitive functions such as movement, memory, and emotional control. A recent small study found that impairment in working memory occurs immediately after marijuana use. Subjects who received a higher dose of THC—marijuana’s main active chemical—took significantly longer to complete immediate recall and mental calculation tasks.

2. It can lead to dangerous driving

Pot impairs functions key to driving, including reaction time, hand-eye coordination and depth perception, a study by the University of Chicago reported. In the first full year after medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado, there was a 12% increase in traffic fatalities, according to data analysis by researchers at Columbia University. However, studies have not been able to provide consistent evidence to prove that the effects of marijuana cause an increased rate of collisions. According to a different study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, the closest comparison to the culpability of accident when under the influence of marijuana is to a driver who has taken penicillin, anti-depressants or an antihistamine, which suggests marijuana’s effects have a nominal impact on accident risk. More research is needed.

3. It may harm the developing brain.

Although a causal connection has yet to be found, studies show regular marijuana use—once a week or more—can change the structure of the teenage brain. Marijuana affects memory and problem solving abilities, both of which can impact academic performance. Researchers from the Harvard School of Medicine and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine surveyed a small group between the ages of 18 and 25 and noticed structural abnormalities in the brain, specifically in grey matter, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala, after recreational marijuana use.

4. It could make you panic.

Marijuana may alleviate anxiety for some, but for others it can cause it. THC can cause increased heart rate, poor coordination, or lightheadedness, which can be triggers for anxiety attacks. Some research suggests that people who frequently use of marijuana—and who started using it as young adults—were more likely to have anxiety disorders or depression. Whether cannabis use causes anxiety disorders, however, is not known.

5. It can be addictive.

One in 10 users exhibits symptoms of dependence, according to the American Psychological Association. Marijuana’s rate of dependence liability of 9% is comparable to that of anti-anxiety medications and is well under the liability rates of alcohol (15%) and tobacco (32%), according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. However, the reason why some become addicted and others don’t remains unclear. Genetic studies have suggested that the involvement, or lack thereof, of CB1 receptors in response to cannabis can influence the likelihood of addiction. The receptor gene has been found to have a connection to the development of dependence to drugs and alcohol. Studies done on animals suggest that cannabis triggers reward centers in the brain, including neurons that produce dopamine, which could also encourage continued use.

6. It can stress your heart

Marijuana-related deaths are so rare as to be treated as mythological by marijuana boosters, but a paper published this spring in Forensic Science International does describe the deaths of two healthy men, ages 23 and 28, who experienced heart trouble after using marijuana. “To our knowledge, these are the first cases of suspected fatal cannabis intoxications where full postmortem investigations, including autopsy, toxicological, histological, immunohistochemical and genetical examinations, were carried out,” the authors write. The authors surmise that the cardiovascular events were the result of increased heart rate that can happen in some pot smokers, particularly in the first hours after using marijuana. Nonetheless, the authors conclude, that the “absolute risk of cannabis-related cardiovascular effects can be considered to be low, as the baseline risk for most cannabis smokers is low and cannabis-induced changes are transient.”

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