TIME Football

FCC Rejects Claim That the Word ‘Redskins’ Is Obscene

Washington Redskins helmets lay on the ground during a game against the Oakland Raiders
Washington Redskins helmets lay on the ground during a game against the Oakland Raiders Ezra Shaw—Getty Images

Denies a law professor’s attempt to strip a radio station of its license because of repeated use of the word

The Federal Communications Commission denied a Washington area law professor’s petition to strip a radio station of its license because of repeated use of the word “redskins” when talking about the football team.

George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf believes the Washington Redskins name is offensive to Native Americans, and should be banned. On Thursday, however, the FCC denied his petition to reject a license renewal by Buckland, Va.-based sports broadcaster, WWXX-FM on the grounds that they use obscene or profane language. The broadcasting licensee’s parent company is part owned by Daniel Snyder, who is also the team’s general manager.

The FCC said the word isn’t obscene, citing a Supreme Court ruling defining obscene material as something sexual in nature. Banzhaf’s petition was one of several to be considered by the FCC.

There has been a growing coalition of groups, politicians, and broadcasters speaking out against the use of “Redskin” as part of the Washington football team name. Last May, 50 U.S. Senators asked Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name, and at least one federal agency has deemed it too racist to stand. Over the summer, the U.S. patent office canceled the team’s trademark license. The team, however, has appealed that ruling.

TIME White House

Obama Calls into Public Radio Show Hosted by Gov. Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick
Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick gestures during a news conference at the Statehouse in Boston, Jan. 22, 2014. Charles Krupa—AP

“This is Barack Obama, formerly of Somerville"

President Obama, who introduced himself as “Barack Obama, formerly of Somerville,” called into a Massachusetts radio show on Wednesday to praise his friend, the outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Governor, this is Barack Obama, formerly of Somerville and I’ve got a few complaints about service in and around the neighborhood,” President Obama said before noting that he had “moved down South since that time.”

Obama lived in the Boston area while attending Harvard Law School, but obviously now calls 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home. There, mostly likely, “service” isn’t really an issue.

On the call, Patrick immediately asked if it was an impersonator.

“I want to find out how it is that you got Massachusetts so strong and moving in the right direction,” Obama quipped, mispronouncing the state name.

Patrick replied: “Mr. President, you know I love you, but you still have trouble saying Massachusetts. You know that don’t you?”

The President’s call came during Patrick’s final appearance as governor on Boston Public Radio, where a host didn’t hesitate to ask whether or not he had paid of the slew of parking tickets he had acquired while studying at Harvard. The President also wished listeners a happy holidays.

After he hung up, a host can be heard asking “Was that Jay Pharoah?” referencing the Saturday Night Live comedian who often impersonates Mr. Obama.

[WGBH]

TIME White House

Obama Gives ‘Christmas Clemency’ to 20

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

Advocates and scholars call this clemency a "drop in the bucket"

President Obama quietly changed the lives of 20 people on Wednesday, granting what has come to be known as “Christmas clemency” to Americans tangled up in the criminal justice system. But advocates for less punitive sentencing say there’s still much work to be done in order to grant reprieves.

Obama granted 12 pardons to people convicted of various crimes from 1964 to 1997: possession of an unregistered distillery, counterfeiting, and conspiracy to transport a stolen car. Obama also commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners serving lengthy sentences for drug crimes. None claim to be innocent, but they argued that they’ve served their time. In many cases, the crimes would not have received the same punishment if they were committed today.

It was welcome news for the eight prisoners, who will be out from behind bars by June. One of those who received a commutation was Barbara Scrivner, who has served nearly 20 years of a 30-year sentence for crimes related to methamphetamine. Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums says she received an email from Scrivner on Wednesday with at least eight exclamation points expressing her excitement.

“It’s like the river has been frozen and it’s finally breaking up,” says Stewart, whose organization has been working on clemency for nearly two decades.

Still she argues that the water still isn’t quite flowing as it could be.

The U.S. Pardon Attorney’s office has received 15,646 petitions for commutation thus far in Obama’s presidency (since 2009). In 2014 alone, the Pardon Attorney received 6,561 applications. Throughout Obama’s time in office, a total of 6,596 petitions have been denied while only 18 have been granted.

Though Obama has granted more commutations than Presidents Reagan, Bush who commuted 13 and 11 prisoners, respectively, considering how many prisoners are behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses who could qualify for clemency, Doug Berman, a professor of law at Ohio State University, refers the grants like the ones from yesterday “holiday crumbs.”

“If [Obama] does this every day for the rest of his tenure, he can catch up with the backlog,” Berman says.

That’s not to say nothing has been done about it. Legislation to address the sentencing disparities for controlled substances passed Congress early in Obama’s tenure. Expanded sentencing reform has been introduced and several states have already moved to curb the practice of issuing harsh mandatory minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes. The President, through the Department of Justice, has made tackling the harsh sentences drug offenders face as thanks to tough-on-crime laws of the past a priority. New guidelines on sentencing have been issued to judges. And just last year, Obama released the sentences of eight federal crack-cocaine offenders who could have gotten shorter sentences if they were punished under the updated law.

The grants from yesterday also fit neatly into the criteria laid out in the Department of Justice’s clemency initiative of 2014, which prioritizes non-violent, low-level offenders who’ve served at least 10 years, and have no significant criminal history. Legal advocacy groups joined together following that announcement to launch Clemency Project 2014, which has been actively screening inmates for clemency consideration and pairing inmates with attorneys who can help them get applications to the agency. As of Oct. 31, over 25,000 inmates have applied; a little over 5,000 were automatically disqualified.

But, the announcement of that project led many to believe clemency grants would be more regular and substantial. So far, Wednesday’s announcement is all that has come.

At least, it helps that the grants from Wednesday had some teeth to them, says P.S. Ruckman, a political science professor who runs a popular blog on pardons. “These register on the impact scale,” he says, though he still considers Obama among the least merciful Presidents in modern history. Ruckman also notes that while holidays are a nice time for the President to grant pardons and commutations, they don’t have to be the only time.

Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s criminal law project and a member of Clemency Project 2014’s steering committee, said Wednesday’s announcement is definitely encouraging.

“These are the kind of cases or people we have been screening for,” Edwards says. “I hope the President continues to exercise his authority to help more prisoners in the coming months.”

In the end, advocates argue the criminal justice system would be best served if the root problem—the harsh sentences too many nonviolent offenders face—were properly addressed.

“[Clemency] is not the only answer,” Edwards says. “We’re going to continue to look at reforms today so that in 20 years, 30 years, and 40 years we do not have to submit these kind of petitions.”

TIME Crime

9 Paintings in Big L.A. Art Heist Are Recovered

Authorities were tipped off about a man in Europe soliciting buyers

Court documents show local and federal authorities have recovered nine works of art that were stolen during a 2008 California heist, one of the largest in Los Angeles history.

Los Angeles police and the FBI launched an undercover operation after being tipped off in September about a man in Europe who was said to be soliciting buyers for the art, which was valued at $10 million but going for $700,000, the Los Angeles Times reports. The works recovered include Diego Rivera’s “Peasants” and a piece by Marc Chagall. They were among a dozen stolen from the home of a wealthy real estate investor in August 2008; three were still missing as of Dec. 1.

Raul Espinoza, 45, was charged with one count of receiving stolen property following the October bust and being held on $5 million bail. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Oct. 27.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Travel

Twitter Laments the Certain ‘Ruin’ of Havana by Tourists

Thanks, Obama

Moments after President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. would begin restoring relationships with Cuba, which includes loosening the existing travel ban, the perpetual curmudgeons of the Twitterverse declared Havana in all its exclusive, un-commercialized glory officially over. Don’t even think about going there now, some users griped. And if you do, get there literally right now because hipsters are definitely going to ruin it.

Havana, so it seems, according to Twitter, will soon go the way of Brooklyn and the countless other cities effectively ruined by well-meaning yuppies and fanny-pack-donning tourists, who heard great things about a place from their one cool and/or worldly cousin on Facebook.

Take this as a fair warning. Book your flights now before the Starbucks, J.Crew, and McDonald’s pop up.

Others, however, were a bit more upbeat about the potential for more Americans to experience Cuba firsthand.

TIME Foreign Policy

Here’s What Hillary Clinton Said About Alan Gross, U.S.-Cuba Relations in Hard Choices

Hillary
Hillary Rodham Clinton listens before delivering remarks at an event in New York City on Nov. 21, 2014. Bebeto Matthews—AP

Former Secretary of State Clinton considers the U.S.'s failure to bring Alan Gross home one of her "regrets"

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in her recent autobiography one of her biggest regrets of her tenure was that she was not able to bring home an American who was held as a prisoner in Cuba. Today, President Obama will announce that Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was arrested in 2009 for bringing satellite equipment to Cuba, will return to the U.S.

In Hard Choices, Clinton calls the Cuban government’s refusal to release Gross unless the U.S. released five convicted Cuban spies a “double tragedy,” saying in part:

It is possible that hard liners within the regime exploited the Gross case as an opportunity to put the brakes on any possible rapprochement with the United States and the domestic reforms that would require. If so, it is a double tragedy, cosigning millions of Cubans to a kind of continued imprisonment as well.

On the embargo, she had this to say:

Near the end of my tenure I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America. After twenty years of observing and dealing with the U.S.-Cuba relationship, I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive.

In an interview with Fusion TV in July, Clinton repeated that the embargo has been a failure and said she would like to visit Cuba one day.

Read next: U.S. and Cuba Move to Thaw Relations After Prisoner Exchange

TIME intelligence

Attorney General Allows Limited Subpoena of New York Times Journalist

A man crosses the Central Intelligence A
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder has given federal prosecutors permission to subpoena New York Times reporter James Risen for some information regarding his connection to a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Though New York Times reporter James Risen has been adamant about not revealing his sources and the Department of Justice indicated last week it would not force the Pulitzer Prize winner to reveal who his sources were, prosecutors announced Tuesday they will be seeking his testimony in the case of Jeffery Sterling.

The Department of Justice charged Sterling, a former agent, of unlawfully obtaining documents and spilling national secrets in 2010, and subsequently accused him of being a source in Risen’s 2006 book State of War.

Information regarding confidentiality agreements for Risen’s book, whether articles and chapters from his book, “accurately reflect information provided to him by his source (or sources), that statements attributed to an unnamed source were, in fact, made by an unnamed source, and that statements attributed to an identified source were, in fact, made by an identified source” will be sought during the trial, scheduled to begin on Jan. 12.

According to a court filing, prosecutors needed approval in regard to the subpoena given new Department of Justice guidelines on seeking information from the news media. The guidance, issued in July, provides some protection from members of the media in civil and criminal proceedings. The guidance came following scandals involving the DOJ seizing phone records and emails of reporters from the Associated Press and Fox News.

Media organizations and advocacy groups including the Newspaper Association of America have been calling on Congress to pass a law that would protect journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources in criminal and civil proceedings without having to face legal consequences.

A federal judge in Virginia requested last week that the federal attorneys come to a clear decision on whether or not they would subpoena Risen by Tuesday.

Requests for comment from Risen’s attorneys were not immediately answered.

TIME States

These States Produced the Most Peace Corps Volunteers in 2014

Vermont is "Peace Corps heaven"

Vermont produced the most Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other state in 2014.

According USA Today, for every 100,000 Vermont residents there are 7.8 volunteers—more than any other state. The second largest proportion of volunteers comes from Washington, D.C., where there are 6.7 volunteers for every 100,000 residents.

Volunteers from the storied government organization travel to areas around the globe to serve communities in the most need.

USA Today reports Vermont has taken the spot three times in the past five years. “Vermont is the happy hunting ground for Peace Corps. It really is Peace Corps heaven,” Elizabeth Chamberlain, spokeswoman for Peace Corps Northeast Regional Recruitment Office, told USA Today.

California, however, tops the list of states that produce the most total volunteers. In 2014, 926 Peace Corps members came from California, followed by New York, Washington, Florida, and Texas.

[USA Today]

TIME justice

Bill Clinton Says Eric Garner ‘Didn’t Deserve to Die’

The Thelonius Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition And All Star Gala Concert
Bill Clinton speaks onstage during The Thelonius Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition and All Star Gala concert held at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. on Nov. 9, 2014. Michael Tran—FilmMagic/Getty Images

“He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money."

Former President Bill Clinton is set to address the Eric Garner case in a Tuesday interview with cable TV channel Fusion, saying that the unarmed black man from Staten Island, N.Y. did not deserve to die for allegedly selling cigarettes on the street.

“He was doing something he should not have been doing. That was illegal,” Clinton said during the interview. “He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money. But he didn’t deserve to die because of that.”

Clinton spoke to Fusion during the Clinton Foundation’s “Future of the Americas” summit in Miami last week. Protests have continued in the days since a New York City grand jury opted not to indict a white police officer who subdued Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold, leading to his eventual death. The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, has denied using a chokehold.

Read more Selma Cast and Crew Wear ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts to New York Premiere

Over the weekend, thousands of protestors took to the streets in Washington, D.C. and New York to show their discontent with the way police often treat brown and black people.

Clinton added there are “preconceptions wired into us and we have got to get beyond them,” when talking about race relations in America.

The full interview is set to air on Tuesday at 10p.m.

[Fusion]

Read next: Poll: 57% of Americans Say Grand Jury Wrong Not to Indict Cop in Garner Case

TIME celebrities

Brad Pitt Leads Hollywood Criticism of Media After Sony Email Leak

"We shouldn't be participating and these sites that are disseminating them should stop."

Correction appended

Hollywood stars are pushing back against the highly-publicized leaking of hacked Sony emails, with Brad Pitt, Seth Rogen and writer Aaron Sorkin blasting the media for reporting sensitive information stolen from the Hollywood studio.

“I was just saying that I don’t see a difference in News Corp hacking phone calls and hacking e-mails. I don’t think we should be able to participate,” Pitt said on Monday, Yahoo reports.

Pitt, who was speaking at the premiere of his wife Angelina Jolie’s new film Unbroken, continued: “I think someone’s conversation, whether in e-mail or in person, should be private. We shouldn’t be participating and these sites that are disseminating them should stop. They won’t. And we should stop reading them. We won’t. It’s more of an indictment on us, I think.”

Jolie was the subject of a particularly scathing email released in the hack, in which producer Scott Rudin called the actress a “minimally talented spoiled brat.”

Pitt’s sentiments echo those of writer Aaron Sorkin, who penned a harsh op-ed in the New York Times against the hackers. On Tuesday, he said the leak was worse than a recent iCloud hack that had led to the leaking of several celebrities’ naked images.

“There are certainly times when the press should, has an obligation to publish things that are stolen,” Sorkin said on the TODAY show. “Is there anything in these emails at all that’s in the public interest? There isn’t, there’s just gossip there.”

A chorus of Hollywood stars have blasted the email leak, including Seth Rogen, whose upcoming movie The Interview, is largely believed to be the reason for the hacking of Sony Pictures’ networks. The film centers on a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Rogen said the media had no right to report on “stolen information” during a recent appearance on Howard Stern’s Sirius XM radio show. “I think it’s f–ked up that anyone is talking about it,” he said. Stern added that if North Korea is behind the leak it’s “no different than a 9/11-type attack.”

“I can’t believe people are just so happy be like, ‘Look at this stolen information,” Rogen went on to say. “[The email authors] are not doing anything illegal. They’re not trying to fool you as the consumer. They’re having private correspondence with one another.”

Correction: This post originally misattributed a quote comparing the Sony Pictures leak to 9/11. Howard Stern made that remark.

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