TIME Local Politics

Rapper 2 Chainz is Serious About Running for Mayor

2 Chainz, Tauheed Epps
This Aug. 31, 2013 file photo shows 2 Chainz performing at the 2013 Budweiser Made in America Festival in Philadelphia, Pa. Charles Sykes—Invision/AP

2 chainz: rapper, fierce debater, champion for felon voting rights, and, now perhaps, mayor?

Rapper Tauheed Epps, better known by his stage name 2 chainz, is apparently mulling a run for mayor of his hometown, College Park, Ga. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Epps—whose hits include “I Luv Dem Strippers” and “No Lie”—Epps said that he was seriously considering a run.

“I am looking forward to running at the end of this year or next year. [I’m] waiting to see if I meet all of the qualifications!” the Grammy-nominated artist told the paper.

Interest in Epps’ political ambitions peaked earlier this week after he told XXL Magazine about his potential run.

“I’m supposed to be running for mayor in College Park. I got everybody wishing,” Epps said. “I’m really gonna do this little mayor thing in College Park. I’m just trying to make sure I have the right qualifications.”

2 chainz wouldn’t be the first rapper to dabble in local politics. In 2011, Luther Campbell, formerly known by his rap name “Uncle Luke” of the 2 Live Crew ran for mayor of Miami-Dade County in South Florida. Campbell lost.

Though Epp is known musically for rhyming booty with itself and rapping about selling crack (though the author is particularly partial to the line “Pull up to the scene with my roof gone/when I leave the scene bet your boo gone”), Epps knows about more than just money, women and clothes.

The 37-year-old attended Alabama State University on a basketball scholarship and reportedly received high marks while he was there. Though a convicted felon, Epps is a champion for restoring felons’ voting rights. He also recently made headway for going toe-to-toe with HLN host Nancy Grace over the legalization of marijuana, and arguably, besting her in a fierce debate.

If qualified to run for office, Epps could prove a worthy contender for incumbent College Park mayor Jack Longino. Longino, however, isn’t worried. The 20-year mayor told the Daily Beast recently he doesn’t believe Epps is a College Park resident. But if he does and decides to run, Longino said, “we’ll let the people decide.”

TIME Congress

Pro-Life Congressman Explains Why He’s Now Pro-Choice

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks at a news conference in Washington on Feb. 14, 2007.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks at a news conference in Washington on Feb. 14, 2007. Susan Walsh—AP

Ryan says talking to women helped change his mind

Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan has officially changed his stance on abortion—from pro-life to pro-choice.

Ryan, who has been serving in the House of Representatives since 2003, says he has self-identified as pro-life for the majority of his political career, having being raised Catholic. But the Ohio representative wrote in an op-ed published by the Akron Beacon Journal on Wednesday that his conversations with women across Ohio and the country about the myriad reasons that lead them to have an abortion led him to change his mind.

“These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families,” Ryan writes.

Ryan goes on to say, “each and every American deserves the right to deal with these difficult situations in consultation with their families, close friends, or religious advisers.”

The op-ed comes nearly a week after some Republican women in the House of Representatives stopped a vote on an anti-abortion bill because of language included in it that would have but restrictions on women seeking to end pregnancies that resulted from rape. A vote on that bill was scheduled for Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, Roe v. Wade.

As recently as 2009 Ryan trumpeted his record on pro-life legislation, while promoting a bill that would reduce unintended pregnancies in an effort to find common ground among pro-choice and pro-life communities. In 2013, Ryan opposed a ban on abortions after 20-weeks, saying it was “dangerous in its implications.” Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life Committee, a leading pro-life organization, calls Ryan a “pro-life impersonator” and notes he’s never consistently voted pro-life—according to the organization’s scorecard, he’s voted “against” them more times than he has for them throughout his time in office.

“This is dog-bites-man from my perspective,” Johnson tells TIME.

Yet given his past self-identification as pro-life, Ryan’s stance is now abundantly clear. “I am a 41-year-old father and husband whose feelings on this issue have changed. I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal. And while I have deep respect for people on both sides of this conversation, I would be abandoning my own conscience and judgment if I held a position that I no longer believed appropriate,” he writes

Women’s health organization Planned Parenthood has lauded Ryan’s pivot on the divisive issue saying in a statement that they look forward to working with him.

“Congressman Ryan joins the overwhelming majority of Americans who want women to have access to abortion and don’t want politicians to interfere in women’s personal medical decisions,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.

Read next: Mormon Church Supports LGBT Protections in Shift

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Loretta Lynch’s Sorority Sisters Came to Her Attorney General Confirmation Hearing

Loretta Lynch Howard Sorority Sisters
Congresswoman Alma S. Adams posted this photo on Jan. 28, 2014. "Supporting Greensboro native, Loretta Lynch, in her confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General. #NC12" Alma S. Adams (@RepAdams) via Twitter

Including some members of Congress

Women of the storied African American sorority Delta Sigma Theta flooded a Senate hearing room on Wednesday to support their fellow sorority sister and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Lynch, who is set to face a tough hearing for the post, started a chapter of the sorority at Harvard with current Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife, Sharon Malone. Though the connection was seen as controversial to members of the right-wing media, her sorority sisters proudly donned the organization’s signature colors—crimson and cream—in the hearing room.

The sorority was founded in 1913 at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University on tenets of empowerment, justice, and community service. Several current and former members of Congress are members, including Reps. Joyce Beatty and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Rep. Yvette Clark of New York, and former Congresswomen Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm.

TIME Congress

Republican House Takes Aim at Human Trafficking Again

House Republicans
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise conduct a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol, Jan. 27, 2015. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

The House passed a dozen bills that combat the issue of human trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking

Several bills passed the House of Representatives this week to combat human trafficking worldwide. Between Monday and Tuesday, a total of 12 bipartisan bills attacking the issue from all angles—from the demand for sex trafficking to the welfare system’s response to victims—passed the Republican-controlled House.

Many of the bills that passed Tuesday had passed the House during the 113th Congress, but didn’t get voted on in the Senate. Republicans are hopeful that will change this time around.

“Though last year many of these same bills got stuck in the Senate, for the sake of all those affected by human trafficking, I’m hopeful that these bills will be passed through the Senate, sent to the President’s desk, and finally become law,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

A total of 13 bills focused on trafficking passed the House last session and one, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, was signed into law last September. The bills were lauded by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as important steps toward ending the practice, seen across the globe as a modern form of slavery.

Bills on the issue of human trafficking have also been introduced in the Senate, including a bill from Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called the Combat Human Trafficking Act, aimed at those who engage in sex acts with victims of trafficking. The bill, introduced Jan. 8, would also ramp up law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute buyers and increase victim services. In a statement to TIME, Sen. Portman called human trafficking the “human rights cause of our time.”

“I am hopeful that legislation to strengthen law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute all who commit sex trafficking crimes will soon become law,”said Portman.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) spoke on the Senate floor urging action on a bill he and several Senators introduced in January called the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. “Yes, human trafficking is happening right in our own backyard, and more than 80% of sex trafficking victims in America are U.S. citizens,” Cornyn said, noting that big sporting events like the Super Bowl can be hotbeds for sex trafficking.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a multinational, multibillion-dollar industry and one of the most lucrative international criminal practices. The Department of Homeland Security estimates over 20 million men, women, and children are victims of trafficking. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming child sex trafficking victims every year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The bills before Congress address what’s arguably the most maligned form of trafficking—child sex trafficking— and they go pretty far, too. One bill, the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, calls on states to provide welfare services including counseling to keep child victims from having to enter the criminal justice system. Another bill, International Megan’s Law, would require the U.S. to communicate about when and where convicted child sex offenders are traveling internationally. One bill would make it a crime to “knowingly” sell advertising that offers certain commercial sex acts, in an effort to stop websites like backpage.com.

Though the issue of child sex trafficking is well addressed in the bills, little attention is given to international and domestic labor trafficking, of which there are an estimated 14.2 million victims worldwide. The oversight hasn’t gone unnoticed by leading anti-trafficking group Polaris , which operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

“Overall the introduction of these bills is a step in the right direction,” Brandon Bouchard, a spokesperson for Polaris tells TIME. “We just wish Congress would include labor trafficking in their efforts to combat trafficking worldwide.”

The group is also worried that some of the new initiatives proposed under the legislation will impose on already cash-strapped programs.

“Funding for survivor services is already severely limited. Adding new programs and initiatives that draw funding from these minimal allocations is counterintuitive,” said Polaris director of national programs Keeli Sorensen in a statement.

The bills came at the start of a busy week on the issue of trafficking. Human rights organization Human Rights First will host a working group meeting in Washington, bringing together government and non-profit leaders from across the nation to discuss how to best address the issue.

TIME europe

Auschwitz Survivors Mark 70th Anniversary of Camp’s Liberation

World leaders joined about 300 survivors at the infamous Nazi camp

Correction appended

Hundreds of survivors returned to the Holocaust’s most infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz, to mark the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation for what’s expected to be the last time.

World leaders, including the presidents of Germany and France, joined about 300 survivors at a commemorative event at the Polish site on Tuesday, the BBC reports. About 1,500 survivors returned in 2005; many of the remaining survivors, now elderly, were children and teens when they were held in Auschwitz.

French President Francois Hollande’s presence at the event comes in the wake of terror attacks in Paris, including an attack at a Jewish supermarket. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend Tuesday’s commemoration, though the Soviet army was responsible for liberating the camp in 1945.

The site opened as a museum just two years later, in 1947.

[BBC]

Correction: The original version of this story has been updated to clarify the location of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp

TIME Travel

Disney to Bring the Frozen Experience to Cruise Ships

Frozen Disney
Elsa in Frozen, 2013. Disney

The Academy-Award winning movie and its beloved songs are hitting the high seas

Parents may be sick of hearing the songs from Frozen, but Disney can’t quite Let It Go.

Select Disney Cruise Line ships will debut a new “Frozen experience” starting summer 2015 on trips to parts of Europe and Alaska, the company recently announced.

The experience will treat guests to a daylong Frozen-themed experience complete with a three-song production, character meet-and-greet, and storybook adventures. Or for some families: a regular Saturday morning.

A couple of songs and scenes will be performed for the first time in forever on the cruise — but don’t worry fans and foes, there was no way this could happen without a performance of the film’s mega-hit song “Let it Go.” In fact, a press release bills it as a sing-along.

Perhaps they’ll make Frozen margaritas a part of the deal, too.

TIME space

SpaceX, Boeing on Track to Get Astronauts into Space by 2017

SpaceX Falcon 9 Elon Musk
The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Jan. 10, 2015. Mike Brown—Reuters

Boeing's first unmanned test flight is scheduled for 2016

Boeing and SpaceX expect to be in a position to launch astronauts into space by 2017, NASA announced Monday.

At a press conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA said the two companies were on track to fly U.S. astronauts to the ISS within two years. Boeing and SpaceX have already completed some of the preliminary testing necessary to get vessels in orbit.

“It’s an incredible testament to American ingenuity and know-how, and an extraordinary validation of the vision we laid out just a few years ago as we prepared for the long-planned retirement of the space shuttle,” said Charlie Bolden, NASA administrator, according to a press release.

The two companies were selected to build vessels under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will help the U.S. launch astronauts into low-earth orbit and get them to the International Space Station.

NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011 and has been relying on Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, to get astronauts into space ever since—at a cost of $71 million per seat.

“I don’t ever want to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017,” Bolden said Monday, according to NBC News. “If we can make that date, I’ll be a happy camper.”

Boeing expects to conduct a crewless test flight in April 2017 and one with a test pilot by that July. SpaceX said Monday they will conduct a crewless flight in late 2016, and get a pilot in the air by early 2017. Eventually, the program is also expected to open a pathway to getting private citizens into space.

TIME Crime

U.S. Lawyers Seek to Interview Prince Andrew About Sex-Crime Claims

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, visits Georg August University in Goettingen, Germany on June 3, 2014.
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, visits Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany, on June 3, 2014 Swen Pförtner—AP

Lawyers move forward with legal discovery in a sex scandal that spans the Atlantic Ocean

American lawyers for a woman who claims to have been trafficked for sex with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, have asked Queen Elizabeth’s second son to answer the charges in an interview under oath.

Lawyers Paul Cassell and Bradley Edwards, who represent a woman who alleges she was kept as an underage “sex slave” by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, sent the formal request on Jan. 14 through their own attorney. In it, they ask to discuss what happened “at the time … and shortly thereafter” a widely circulated photo from 2001 was taken. The photograph shows Prince Andrew with his arm wrapped around the bare midriff of Virginia Roberts, the self-described “sex slave,” who is identified in court documents as Jane Doe No. 3.

Epstein, a financier who has recently split his time between New York and Palm Beach, Fla., settled the criminal case against him in 2008 by cutting a deal with federal prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to two Florida state crimes, registered as a sex offender, served a short jail term and agreed to assist financially his alleged victims in filing civil lawsuits against him. The case has been kept alive since then through those civil cases, and through a federal lawsuit by Cassell and Edwards that alleges the prosecutors violated the victims’ rights in their handling of the case.

The newest documents, filed Wednesday in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, reveal further details about the allegations in the tangled legal case. In one new filing, Roberts says that she has not disclosed all the information that she has about sexual encounters she claims to have had with other powerful men, including politicians, because she is “very fearful of these men.” But she adds, “If a judge wants me to present my information in more detail, including more specific descriptions of the sexual activities with the men Epstein sent me to, I could do so.”

At a separate point in the document, Roberts clarifies past statements about her alleged encounters with former President Bill Clinton at a Caribbean retreat owned by Epstein. “Bill Clinton was present on the island at the time I was also present on the island, but I have never had sexual relations with Clinton, nor have I ever claimed to have had such relations,” she says in the document. “I have never seen him have sexual relations with anyone.”

Edwards, one of the attorneys for Roberts, says in another filing that he previously sought to depose Clinton about his knowledge of illegal activity by Epstein and his accomplices. “The flight logs showed Clinton traveling on Epstein’s plane on numerous occasions between 2002 and 2005,” Edwards writes.

In her own sworn statement, Roberts repeats the claim that she was forced into sexual encounters with both Prince Andrew and Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a friend and attorney for Epstein. Buckingham Palace has denied that Prince Andrew had “any form of sexual contact or relationship” with the woman, saying in a previously released statement that her claims are “categorically untrue.” Dershowitz also denied the claims, and has filed legal actions against Cassell and Edwards for allowing the accusations to show up in legal filings, prompting Cassell and Edwards to countersue Dershowitz for defamation. A representative for Epstein has dismissed Roberts’ claims as old and discredited.

“I had sex with him three times, including one orgy,” Roberts says in the affidavit, describing her alleged encounters with Prince Andrew. “I knew he was a member of the British Royal Family, but I just called him ‘Andy.’”

In her affidavit, Roberts says, “I have seen Buckingham Palace’s recent ‘emphatic’ denial that Prince Andrew had sexual contact with me. That denial is false and hurtful to me. I did have sexual contact with him as I have described here — under oath.”

She asked that the Prince “simply voluntarily tell the truth about everything” and agree to be interviewed by her lawyers under oath.

TIME celebrities

Bill Cosby’s TV Son Says Hearing Allegations Is ‘Painful’

13th Annual AARP's Movies For Grownups Awards Gala - Arrivals
Actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner attends the 13th Annual AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards Gala at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Feb. 10, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Imeh Akpanudosen—Getty Images

It's "painful" to watch Cosby "go through this"

The actor who played Bill Cosby’s son on The Cosby Show has spoken up amid the controversy surrounding sexual-assault allegations against the comedian.

Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played Theo on the hit sitcom, said in an interview with Billboard that it was “painful” to watch what’s happening to his former TV father.

“He’s one of my mentors, and he’s been very influential and played a big role in my life as a friend and mentor,” Warner said. “Just as it’s painful to hear any woman talk about sexual assault, whether true or not, it’s just as painful to watch my friend and mentor go through this.”

MORE Jay Leno on Bill Cosby: Why Is It ‘So Hard’ to Believe Women?

Warner is the most recent Cosby Show cast member to speak out amid the dozens of assault allegations against Cosby. So far, more than 15 women have accused the comedian of drugging or sexually assaulting them. In early January, Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby’s wife, defend him against the accusations.

While Warner said he couldn’t speak on the allegations, he also said: “The Bill Cosby I know has been great to me and great for a lot of people.”

[Billboard]

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Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME White House

31.7 Million Tuned in to Obama’s State of the Union Address

Down from 33.3 million in 2014

The numbers are in, and it was another lackluster year in terms of live telecast viewership of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Nielsen reports 31.7 million people tuned in to the various networks that hosted the annual telecast, down from 33.3 million in 2014.

The low viewership comes as no surprise, really. There’s been a steady decline in telecast viewership over the past several years, but the 2015 audience was the smallest audience that Obama has drawn since taking office in 2009. During his first address, about 52.4 million people tuned in.

Social media participation in the address, however, was high. Some 2.6 million tweets were sent out during the hour-long address, Nielsen noted, with 44,000 tweets being sent out after the now-infamous moment when the President noted he had no more campaigns to run.

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