TIME Military

Airmen No Longer Required to Say ‘So Help Me God’ During Oath

Untited States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony
Craig F. Walker—The Denver Post/Getty Images United States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, May 29, 2013.

“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously," the Air Force Secretary said in a statement

The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday that enlisted members and officers are permitted to omit the phrase “so help me God” from their oaths if they so chose. In a statement Wednesday, the Air Force said it arrived at the decision after consulting with the Department of Defense General Counsel; last week an airman who was prohibited from re-enlisting until he uttered the phrase threatened to sue if the Air Force did not change their policy.

“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”

The change will go into effect immediately and enlistment instructions will be adjusted within the coming weeks.

TIME Canada

Rob Ford Has Cancer

Toronto Mayor Ford participates in a mayoral debate hosted by the Canadian Tamil Congress in Scarborough in this file photo
Fred Thornhill—Reuters Toronto Mayor Rob Ford participates in a mayoral debate in Scarborough, Ontario, on July 15, 2014

The Toronto mayor has said he won't seek re-election amid health problems

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, his doctor said Wednesday.

Dr. Zane Cohen of Mount Sinai Hospital confirmed that Ford has a rare cancer that will be treated with chemotherapy, CTV reports. Ford is expected to make a complete recovery. Cohen said the mayor is in “some pain still” but that doctors are working to manage it.

Ford was initially hospitalized last week after complaining of intense abdominal pain and had been diagnosed with a tumor, but further details of his condition couldn’t be confirmed until a biopsy was conducted. Ford, who drew global headlines when he admitted to doing crack cocaine, said last week that he won’t be seeking re-election.

[CTV]

TIME NFL

Adrian Peterson’s Mom Says Critics ‘Don’t Know His Heart’

Palestine running back Adrian Peterson, right, smiles after signing a national letter of intent to play football for Oklahoma on Feb. 4, 2004, in Palestine, Texas. At left is his mother Bonita Jackson, and at center is his brother, Jaylon Jackson.
David Branch—Tyler Morning Telegraph/AP Palestine running back Adrian Peterson, right, smiles after signing a national letter of intent to play football for Oklahoma on Feb. 4, 2004, in Palestine, Texas. At left is his mother Bonita Jackson, and at center is his brother, Jaylon Jackson.

“People are judging him, but they don’t know his heart"

Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson never intended to hurt his four-year-old son when he beat him with a tree limb, his mother said Wednesday, in her first interview since news of the abuse allegations broke.

Peterson’s mom Bonita Jackson told the Houston Chronicle that Peterson is “not a perfect man by any means,” but that she’s proud to be the mother of a 29-year-old son she says is a loving person.

“For the most part he is trying hard to be a good parent, he’s working at it,” said Jackson, 50. “People are judging him, but they don’t know his heart. This was never his intent.”

Jackson said in the interview that she and Peterson’s father were both “big disciplinarians” when their children were young, and that she used belts, her hands, and switches—which Adrian Peterson reportedly used on his four-year-old—to get her kids in line.

“I don’t care what anybody says,” Jackson said. “Most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes.”

[Houston Chronicle]

TIME NFL

Panthers Player Latest to Get Benched for Domestic Violence

Defensive lineman Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh.
George Gojkovich—Getty Images Defensive lineman Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh.

Greg Hardy was previously allowed to participate in NFL games, despite his domestic violence conviction

The Carolina Panthers said Wednesday that defensive end Greg Hardy will be placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list, effectively banning him from playing with the team until the domestic violence case against him is resolved.

The NFL Players Association said Hardy had taken a “voluntary leave of absence” from the team. Hardy was convicted of assaulting an ex-girlfriend over the summer, but had been allowed to play in NFL games since the 2014 season began. Hardy is appealing the conviction.

The league has been under close scrutiny in recent weeks for its handling of the revelation that star running back Ray Rice punched his then-fiancee unconscious. Rice was initially suspended for just two games until publication of a video of the assault sparked outrage and led the Baltimore Ravens to cut him and the league to suspend him indefinitely.

TIME Companies

Uber to Military Veterans: We Want You

German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide
Adam Berry—Getty Images In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

The on-demand car service announced a new program aimed at providing economic opportunities to those who serve in the military

Uber announced a new program Wednesday that aims to get 50,000 military service members, veterans and spouses to enlist as drivers for the on-demand car service. Over the next 18 months, UberMILITARY will enlist drivers from the military community in an effort to “empower them as entrepreneurs and small business owners,” according to an Uber blog post.

Uber says its drivers’ flexible schedules could be of benefit to veterans working transition back into civilian life. The company also says the program could help members of the service community and their families combat the unique challenges they face, including high levels of unemployment and frequent relocation. Military spouses move an average of eight times over a 20-year career, while veterans under 25 face an unemployment rate of 21.4% (the national unemployment rate is 6.1%).

To achieve its goal, Uber is enlisting the help of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will serve as the chairman of UberMILITARY’s advisory board. In a joint op-ed published by Politico Magazine Wednesday, Gates and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that “UberMILITARY is a reflection that high-quality service, an unparalleled commitment to safety and the leadership potential inherent to small business entrepreneurship are values shared by those who have selflessly served our country.”

TIME Congress

Senator Seeks to Cancel NFL Tax-Exempt Status Because of Redskins Name

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins
TJ Root—Getty Images A Washington Redskins helmet sits on the grass during a preseason football game between the Redskins and Cleveland Browns at FedExField on August 18, 2014 in Landover, Maryland.

Sen. Maria Cantwell announced the upcoming legislation at a press conference hosted by the Change the Mascot campaign

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Tuesday that she would soon be introducing legislation to end to the NFL’s tax-exempt status because of its refusal to pressure the Washington Redskins to change the team name.

“The NFL needs join the rest of America in the 21st century. We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans,” Cantwell, a member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said Tuesday. “This is not about team tradition; it is about right and wrong.”

Cantwell joined tribal leaders and lawmakers at a press conference on Capitol Hill hosted by the Change the Mascot campaign. It’s been a year since the Oneida Indian Nation launched the Change the Mascot ad campaign against the Washington Redskins. On Tuesday, the campaign announced they would continue pressing the NFL to get urge Redskins owner Dan Snyder to reconsider the Washington team’s mascot and call on other team owners to join the effort to get the name changed.

In an open letter being sent to every NFL team owner, the Change the Mascot campaign says “the league is promoting this racial slur with the resources of every team, including yours, which makes it a league-wide crisis.” The letter continues, “If owners like you finally stand on the right side of history and publicly demand action, the NFL can and will change the team’s name.”

The coalition calling for a name change has grown over the past year, with lawmakers including President Obama speaking out against the Washington team’s name. Broadcasters and publications have agreed to not use the term. And earlier this summer a federal agency canceled the team’s trademark because of its use of a racial slur, though the Redskins organization has appealed that decision.

Through it all, however, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has said repeatedly he will not change the team’s name or mascot. “I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country,” Dan Snyder wrote in a letter to fans last October.

TIME Illicit Drugs

Teens Are Using Drugs Far Less Than They Used To

Camden Battles Crime And Poverty In Effort To Re-Vitalize Community
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Reggy Colby, age 30 and a recovering heroin addict, displays a bag heroin is sold in, on August 21, 2013 in Camden, New Jersey.

About 8.8 % of young people surveyed were current illicit drug users, down 13% from 2009.

New data show that efforts to reduce drug use among teens have succeeded, to an extent.

Illicit drug use among people age 12 to 17 is down 24% since 2002, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Tuesday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. About 8.8 % of young people surveyed were current illicit drug users, down 13% from 2009. Fewer adolescents also reported consuming alcohol, with 11.6% reporting doing so in 2013 compared to 12.9% in 2012.

The survey also had promising data on the efforts to reduce opioid abuse. Though 4.5 million Americans 12-years-old and above reported using pain-relievers for non-medical purposes in 2013—a rate unchanged from 2011 and 2012—there was a slight decline among young adults who have had the highest rates of abuse. Abuse of opioids, including pain relievers and heroin, has been particularly concerning due to the rates of overdose among users.

About 24.6 million Americans are illicit drug users, according to the annual survey. The most common illicit drug among Americans is marijuana; about 19.8 million people reported using the drug within the past month in 2013.

TIME Immigration

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary: Border ‘More Secure’ Than Ever

U.S. Agents Patrol Mexico Texas Border
John Moore—Getty Images Women and children sit in a holding cell at a U.S. Border Patrol processing center after being detained by agents near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 8, 2014 near McAllen, Texas.

Alejandro Mayorkas spoke Tuesday at an event hosted by the liberal think tank NDN

The U.S. border is “more secure than it has ever been before,” Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday while speaking on the federal government’s response to the surge in minors crossing the country’s southern border unaccompanied.

Mayorkas, addressing a crowd at the National Press Club in Washington, said that though the number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased from the 300-per-day that were seen at the peak of the ongoing crisis, he would not declare the problem itself solved.

“It would be premature at best to declare a victory and say the past is behind us because we don’t know,” Mayorkas said. “What we have achieved is tremendous progress.”

More than 66,000 kids have crossed the southern U.S. border without their parents or guardians between October 2013 and the end of August, most starting from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and making the final leg over the U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley area. However, the number of youths making the trip has decreased dramatically in the late summer from the peak in May and June — in August, unaccompanied minor border crossings were at their lowest point since February 2013, with just over 3,100 kids apprehended that month.

Mayorkas credited that decline to various steps the U.S. government has taken to address the crisis, including expediting the processing of children apprehended at the border and working with the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to keep kids from coming in the first place.

The issues at the border, however, are likely far from over. There have been allegations of abuse and substandard living conditions at some immigration detention centers, for example. And though the administration set aside $2 million to provide legal representation for immigrant minors, advocates say many of them still lack counsel. Immigrants do not have a legal right to a lawyer, but advocates say legal representation would help ease the strain on the courts which the influx of minors creates. And though the number of children crossing the border dropped in the hot summer months, there is a possibility for an uptick in crossings as temperatures cool down.

TIME 2014 elections

Wendy Davis Campaign Accuses GOP Opponent of Ignoring Abuse Allegations

The ad accuses Texas Attorney General of doing nothing about allegations of abuse at a state run school in 2005

This post was updated at 1:50 pm.

The campaign for Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis released an incendiary ad on Monday accusing her Republican opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, of ignoring allegations of abuse at a state run school in 2005.

“Young boys at a state run school are sexually abused,” the voice over says during the 30-second ad. After eleven months and a notification from a Texas ranger, the ad alleges, “Abbott does nothing.” In 2010, the West Texas State School, a juvenile detention center in Pyote, Texas, closed amid an abuse scandal that involved two former administrators at the center.

“What insider was Greg Abbott covering up for this time?” the ad asks.

The Abbott campaign said in a statement Monday that Davis’s allegations “distort the facts.” The campaign says Abbot was “not legally authorized to prosecute the crimes” at the facility until the local District Attorney requested assistance. Abbott’s campaign also cites an AP report that says the case was “quickly taken over” by Abbott after a request was made in 2007. The campaign suggests Davis is hoping to distract voters from questions about her ethics. “Texans deserve a candidate who puts public service before personal profit, and Sen. Davis’ behavior is unworthy of a candidate for Texas Governor,” Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch said in a statement.

The ad is just the latest negative ad to come out of the Davis campaign. In early August, the state senator’s camp released an ad alleging Abbott sided with a corporation and not the victim in a rape case that went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. The Abbott campaign condemned that ad as “gutter politics.” “No one has a stronger record fighting the heinous crime of sexual assault than Greg Abbott,” a campaign spokesperson said in a statement to a local news outlet in August.

Davis is currently trailing Abbott by between 8 points and 18 points, according to poll data published by the Houston Chronicle.

TIME National Security

Feds to Boost Efforts to Prevent Americans Joining ISIS

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Civil Rights Investigation Into Michael Brown Death
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces a Justice Department 'patterns and practice' investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department during a news conference at the department's headquarters Sept. 4, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Department of Justice initiative will bring together local community representatives with religious leaders and government officials in several cities across the U.S.

The Department of Justice unveiled a sweeping initiative Monday to combat the threat of Americans joining terror networks like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in communities across the country.

In a video address released Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the creation of pilot programs bringing local community representatives together with religious leaders and Justice Department officials, in the hope of keeping more Americans from attempting to join terrorist organizations abroad. Hundreds of Americans are suspected to have traveled to the Middle East in attempts to join terror organizations such as ISIS.

The programs are a collaboration between the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center. Through the programs, community groups, local officers, and U.S. attorneys will work to “build a broad network of community partnerships to keep our nation safe,” according to the Department of Justice.

“Ultimately, the pilot programs will enable us to develop and more inclusive ways to build a more just, secure and free society that all Americans deserve,” Holder said. “We must be both innovative and aggressive in combating those who would sow intolerance, division and hate.”

The programs were announced just days after extremists beheaded a British aid worker being held captive by ISIS, just one week following the murder of American journalist Steven Sotloff. President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have condemned the killings, promising to “destroy” ISIS and the threat of extremism.

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