TIME White House

Obama Responds to Republican Push Back on Immigration Reform

President Obama Departs White House For Chicago
President Barack Obama walks toward Marine One while departing the White House on Nov. 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Obama criticized Republicans for not working on their own immigration bill

On the same day that House Republicans voted for a no-chance bill to overturn his recent executive action on immigration, President Obama criticized them for failing to pass a comprehensive reform bill and instead working to “force talented young people” out of the country.

“The immigration issue is, I recognize, one that generates a lot of passion, but it does not make sense for us to want to push talent out,” Obama said.

Speaking at a White House summit on College Opportunity Thursday, Obama denounced a symbolic bill that passed the House along party lines later on Thursday, the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014. (219 members voted for the bill, while 197 against it.) Introduced by Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida, the bill would nullify Obama’s plan to grant work permits and temporary legal status to about 5 million undocumented immigrants.

“Notwithstanding any other law, the executive branch of the Government shall not— exempt or defer, by Executive order, regulation, or any other means, categories of aliens considered under the immigration laws,” the bill text reads.

The vote offers Republican lawmakers an opportunity to formally express their disdain for the president’s executive action. The bill has no chance of passing the current Senate, but Obama would veto it anyway. It also comes amid the pending struggle to ensure that the government stays funded after Dec. 11, which many speculated could be held up if the President acted alone on immigration.

The vote will also come as 17 states including Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Montana and Louisiana sued the federal government over the actions. Texas governor-elect Greg Abott is leading states’ charge against the action, saying it “tramples” the U.S. Constitution.

Obama and the White House, however, are holding firm. Next Tuesday, the President will appear in Nashville to again tout his actions.

“The President took action after leaving the door as wide open as possible for bipartisan action,”said a senior administration official. “He took an important first step and he will continue to press the case for that step and for Congress to do it’s job and fix the immigration system that is broken.”

TIME Sexual Health

How Investing in Women’s Sexual Health Helps the Economy

Birth control pills
Laura Johansen—Getty Images

A new report looks at the myriad benefits of increasing contraception access and prenatal care around the world.

For about the cost of ticket to the movies and small popcorn, says Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), millions of women across the globe could gain access to vital reproductive health services.

The benefit of doing so, he says, can have a lasting impact not just on women and families, but the global economy.

“When you do that, protect the health of the woman or the girl,” says Osotimehin,”she becomes more productive in her community and the world. She becomes an asset.”

According to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 225 million women in developing countries do not currently have access to contraceptives, despite wanting to delay or avoid pregnancy.

Once they become pregnant, millions do not receive the pre- and postnatal care that can help protect their and their babies’ lives. Fifty-four million women do not attend the minimum prenatal visits recommended by the World Health Organization. Forty-three million deliver babies outside of a health care facility, and some 33 million newborn babies don’t get the care they need for health complications after birth. There are many more staggering statistics about women who cannot and do not access sexual health services, which can exacerbate fixable problems like contracting a bacterial sexually transmitted infection causing infertility and newborn death.

Compare that to the developed world, where almost all American women have babies at a hospital.

“We’re similar in that the more disadvantaged you are in the U.S., you have less access to care, but over all we’re doing a lot better than the disadvantaged in developing countries,” says Jacqueline E. Darroch, a senior fellow at Guttmacher and one of the report’s authors.

And yet, that’s not to say there hasn’t been dramatic progress over the past two decades. There are over 140 million more women using modern contraceptives today than in previous years. Infant and maternal mortality rates have fallen and more women are gaining access to prenatal care now than were in 2004, when the first Adding it Up report was released. Yet, in many parts of the world disparities persist, particularly in areas where health systems are the weakest including sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The greatest unmet need is in the poorest countries and among the poorest people,” says Darroch.

And making additional progress will not be cheap: it would cost about $39.2 billion to provide the necessary services for women annually, which averages out to about $25 per woman between 15 and 49. Currently, funding levels are at about $18 billion annually. In some countries, where access to care is worse, the cost ticks up to between $31 and $76 per year. It will fall on current funding sources: women and families seeking care, governments, and private organizations to boost dollars.

But, the long-term impact, Osotimehin says, will be significant. As the former Minister of Health in Nigeria, he has seen first hand the benefits of investing in reproductive health to better the lives of women, girls, and families.

“When a woman’s health needs are met, and she is able to go to school, she has children who also do that,” Osotimehin says. “Then you can begin to have new generations of young people who are more viable, more empowered than older generations.”

 

 

 

TIME

Mourners Gather in Germany for Funeral of Slain ‘Hero’ Tugce Albayrak

Student teacher praised for intervening in harassment of two girls in a fast food restaurant

Hundreds of mourners in Germany paid their respects on Wednesday to the student-teacher hailed as a martyr after succumbing to injuries she had sustained after standing up for two girls who were being harassed in a fast food restaurant.

Some 1,500 people, including politicians and religious leaders, gathered to recall Tugce Albayrak with a communal prayer at a mosque east of Frankfurt, the Guardian reports. “Her warmhearted and generous nature set a worthy example for others to follow,” Volker Bouffier, the prime minister of Hesse state, said. Friends and family then took part in a funeral service in Bad Soden-Salmünster, her birthplace.

Albayrak had been in a coma for two weeks after the Nov. 15 attack when her parents took her off life support on Friday, her 23rd birthday. Germany’s president has been deluged with requests to posthumously honor the woman with a national medal of honor.

[The Guardian]

TIME Crime

Justice Department to Investigate Eric Garner’s Death

Garner died following a police altercation on Staten Island in July

The U.S. Department of Justice will launch a civil-rights investigation into a New York man’s police-involved death by apparent chokehold after a grand jury declined to indict the officer, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday evening.

Holder made televised remarks from a lectern in Washington, D.C., as protestors began to gather and march at several locations around New York City in response to the grand jury’s decision in the case of Eric Garner. Federal prosecutors would conduct a “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation” into Garner’s death, Holder said, after acknowledging he informed Garner’s widow that the Justice Department would launch the inquiry. “His death was a great tragedy,” he added. “All lives must be valued, all lives.”

MORE: Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation With New York Police

A city medical examiner had previously ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of the neck (chokehold)” and chest compressions he incurred while being subdued by police on July 17. Officers on Staten Island accused Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes and had attempted to arrest him, which he protested. Footage of the altercation, shot by a friend, shows a group of policemen forcing Garner to the ground as one of them, officer Daniel Panteleo, appears to put Garner in a chokehold, which is banned by the city’s police department.

Holder appealed for calm Wednesday as protestors gathered in New York and Washington in response to the announcement. The news came about a week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to indict white officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The Justice Department is also investigating that case.

The Attorney General also began a series of conversations in communities across the country between police officers and minorities to improve relations between the two groups. Holder said such conversations would proceed “as we seek to form trust and foster understanding.”

TIME Crime

Officer in Tamir Rice Shooting Death Said to Have Handgun Performance Issues

According to a 2012 letter from a previous police department

The police officer in Cleveland who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November had a poor history of handling guns, according to a new report.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a 2012 letter from Deputy Chief Jim Polak, of the Independence Police Department where officer Tim Loehmann previously worked, labeled his performance as “dismal” and claimed he was “distracted” and “weepy” during handgun training. “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies,” Polak added in the letter included in the officer’s personnel file, which suggested the department and officer separate.

Loehmann shot and killed Rice on Nov. 22 less than two seconds after he and another officer arrived at a park, where police had been alerted of someone thought to have a gun. Rice was found to be in possession of a fake gun.

Read more at the Cleveland Plain Dealer

TIME justice

Lawmakers Call for Federal Investigation Into Chokehold Death

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling for more inquiry into the death of Eric Garner

Lawmakers called for a Department of Justice investigation into the July death of Eric Garner, following a grand jury’s decision Wednesday not to indict the New York police officer who put the Staten Island father of six into a chokehold that killed him.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer said on Twitter that the DOJ “must launch a federal investigation into Eric Garner’s death as soon as possible.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, also representing New York, called Garner’s death a “tragedy that demands accountability.”

“Nobody unarmed should die on a New York City street corner for suspected low-level offenses,” Gillibrand’s statement reads. “I’m shocked by this grand jury decision, and will be calling on the Department of Justice to investigate.”

Garner’s family and the Rev. Al Sharpton met in August with Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch—who was tapped in November as President Obama’s top pick to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General—to ask that the case be formally investigated by the Federal government.

President Obama quickly commented on the situation before a planned address at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington.

“As I said when I met with folks from Ferguson, this is an issue that we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made,” Obama said. “This is American problem, not just a black problem.”

TIME Crime

No Charges for Officer Who Put Eric Garner in Deadly Chokehold

Grand jury's decision in Eric Garner case sparks outrage after similar outcome in Ferguson

The announcement Wednesday that a grand jury declined to indict a New York police officer in the chokehold-related death of a Staten Island man prompted protests around the city and led a number of officials to again acknowledge Americans’ frustrations over community-police relations.

The grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to file charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, following an altercation with a group of officers on July 17 that was videotaped by one of the victim’s friends. Officers suspected Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes and attempted to detain him, which Garner protested.

The footage depicts several officers forcing Garner, 43, to the ground while Pantaleo puts him in what appears to be a chokehold, an aggressive move that is banned by the city’s police department. In the video, which went viral, Garner can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” That phrase has been frequently invoked at protests around the country. A city medical examiner later ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of the neck.” Although several officers were involved in Garner’s arrest, Panteleo was the only one who faced a potential indictment in the fatal encounter.

President Barack Obama later weighed in from Washington, among several cities where demonstrations would pop up on split-screen news segments next to analysts going over the fallout. “When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that is a problem and it’s my job as President to help solve it,” he said.

The grand jury’s decision came just over a week after the announcement that Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., would not be indicted in the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. That news ignited a night of looting, arson and riots in the St. Louis suburb, and touched off demonstrations from New York to Los Angeles.

“It’s a very painful day for many New Yorkers” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an afternoon news conference. “No family should have to go through what the Garner family went through.”

MORE: Justice Department to Investigate Eric Garner’s Death

A small but fierce crowd gathered at Union Square soon after the announcement was made public. Some demonstrators led chants of “Indict! Convict!” and “The whole damn system is going to hell!” Others had tears streaming down their faces and held up their smartphones to capture the protest. Many said they were not shocked to see jurors decline to indict the officer.

“No, when you’re black, you can’t be surprised,” said Omar Holmon, 29, a writer and performer. “The worst part is feeling numb to it.”

The march snowballed in size as it snaked north to Rockefeller Center, where the annual Christmas tree lighting was due to take place, causing the protestors to mix in with tourists. Chants of “Am I next?” were punctuated with calls of “Don’t ruin my Christmas!” and frantic gesturing of out-of-towners lost in the crowd.

“I’m tired of seeing people who look like me get killed,” Holmon added, holding back tears. “I want justice.”

Just as they did after Fergson, a number of elected officials spoke out Wednesday in the wake of the announcement.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted that the Justice Department needed to launch a federal investigation into Garner’s death “as soon as possible.” And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the fatal incident “a tragedy that demands accountability.”

MORE: Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation With New York Police

Local, state and federal officials have received rampant condemnation over the police-involved deaths this year of unarmed black men like Brown and Garner, as well as the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Obama recently announced the launch of a national task force that would aim to improve trust between police departments and communities of color. In addition, he said a three-year, $263 million package would expand the use of body cameras among police officers and increase their training for surplus military equipment.

The nation’s top cop also held a brief news conference Wednesday evening, saying the Justice Department would launch a civil-rights inquiry into Garner’s death. Federal prosecutors would conduct an “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “His death was a great tragedy,” he added. “All lives must be valued, all lives.”

As the night went on, protestors in New York fanned out into the streets and blocked traffic as officers kept pace. At one point, a group of protestors took over a section of the West Side Highway, resulting in a handful being detained. Police said there were at least 30 arrests around Manhattan as of 10:15 p.m., local time.

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Peggy Young
Peggy Young, a Virginia woman who lost her UPS job because she became pregnant, speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. The Supreme Court is weighing how much employers must do to accommodate pregnant workers under a federal law aimed at combating discrimination against them. Susan Walsh—AP

The Justices will soon decide how the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 should be interpreted

Is a pregnant woman like an employee who got injured on the job? Or more like someone who fell off an all-terrain vehicle over the weekend?

Those were the analogies that Supreme Court justices pondered on Wednesday in the most high-stakes challenge to pregnancy discrimination law in a generation. The answer could determine whether they side with UPS and business groups who interpret the law narrowly or with a former UPS employee who said the company was wrong to deny her request for an alternative assignment during her pregnancy.

A lawyer for UPS argued that the company’s policy — which granted workers alternative assignments if they were injured on the job but not for those hurt outside the workplace — did not discriminate because it treated pregnancy just like an off-the-job injury. The policy, they said, was neutral.

Justice Samuel Alito seemed sympathetic to that line of reasoning, asking rhetorically if a worker who fell off an ATV would have been treated the same way.

But an attorney representing former UPS employee Peggy Young argued the distinction between on-the-job and off-the-job workers was meaningless. If some workers were allowed to take alternative assignments when injured, he said, then not giving that same opportunity to pregnant women amounted to discrimination under the law.

Justice Elena Kagan seemed to agree. Her line of questioning was often the most aggressive, particularly when she was addressing the attorney representing UPS.

“The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has to be given a fair reading,” she said. “Saying a policy that accommodates some workers and puts pregnant women on one side of the line … seems like an unfair reading of the PDA.”

The Justices also heard from the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli who on Wednesday said the federal government’s position on the matter changed in response to guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the summer.

Following the morning’s oral arguments, Young addressed a crowd of reporters saying she was “hopeful” that the Justices would rule in her favor. Her daughter Trinity, with whom she was pregnant when she worked for UPS, is now 7 years old. Young said Wednesday she doesn’t want her or her older daughter to have to go through the same thing she has.

“Women can work and be pregnant at the same time,” Young said. Young was only 7 when the PDA was passed, but she could soon represent the modern interpretation of the landmark law, which determined that pregnancy discrimination is in fact a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

During oral arguments, a crowd of Young supporters—including both pro-choice and pro-life activists— chanted and rallied outside of the Court. Their rallying cry of “Stand With Peggy” echoed on the marble steps of the Court just moments before Young spoke.

Her supporters were also joined by Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who urged the court to protect the rights of working pregnant women across the country.

“A woman should never have to face a choice between her job and pregnancy,” Shaheen said Wednesday.

The Senators authored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would secure a woman’s right to seek on-the-job accommodations during her pregnancy without the risk of retribution. The act could offer remedy if the court decides against Young in the coming months, but women’s rights activists including Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center say that change would do nothing to help Young, who missed six months of pay and later lost medical benefits after her request for accommodation was denied.

TIME Supreme Court

Is This Pregnancy-Discrimination Case the Next Lilly Ledbetter?

Women's rights leader Lilly Ledbetter, namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2012.
Women's rights leader Lilly Ledbetter, namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2012. Jessica Rinaldi—Reuters

Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court found that treating pregnant women unfavorably was not sex discrimination. Two years later, Congress came back with an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly saying it was.

Almost four decades later, the high court is again considering a case of pregnancy discrimination, in a move that has baffled women’s rights activists.

“Here we are at the end of 2014, talking about pregnancy discrimination, which we women’s rights advocates thought we had addressed and basically fixed in 1978,” says Judith Lichtman, senior adviser at the National Partnership of Women and Families.

In the decades since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the act, says discrimination complaints have increased. In 1997, over 3,900 complaints were filed. In 2013, that number jumped to 5,342.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Young v. UPS, after which it will consider whether refusing to accommodate pregnant women in the workplace always amounts to discrimination.

In Young’s case, the former UPS employee was placed on unpaid medical leave soon after she asked that her duties be shifted after her doctor told her to avoid lifting heavy objects. The company refused, noting it only did that for certain workers including those who had sustained injuries while on the job or who were covered by the American Disabilities Act. Young was instead placed on unpaid leave and eventually, according to the petition, lost her health coverage.

The company says it had the legal right to deny Young’s request at the time, though UPS has since changed its policy and will allow pregnant workers to take alternative assignments when necessary starting next year. In its legal filings, the company argues that Young is seeking special treatment for pregnant employees, a standpoint shared by pro-business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They argue that would set an unwelcome precedent on other corporate policies.

“If Petitioner’s approach were adopted,” read an amicus brief filed by the Chamber of Commerce , “it would overturn the seniority policies of thousands of American businesses and frustrate the valid goals of these policies.”

Young and her supporters argue that pregnant workers whose doctors say should limit their work should be treated similarly to any other temporarily disabled employee.

The tide of opinion appears to be in their favor. A recent poll by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, found that 79% of Americans think the Supreme Court should support Young in the case. Twelve states and two cities including West Virginia, Texas, New York City and Philadelphia have laws that in some way require employers to accommodate workers whose abilities may be limited by their pregnancies. And in July, the EEOC issued guidelines that say employers should not “refuse to treat a pregnant worker the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work by relying on a policy that makes distinctions based on the source of an employee’s limitation.”

Still, women’s groups are not sure that they’ll prevail before the Supreme Court. If that happened, the ball would be in Congress’ court, much like it was when the justices ruled against women claiming pregnancy discrimination back in 1976 — or, more recently, when the high court ruled against a woman who said she was not paid fairly in the Lilly Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case. That ruling led directly to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which addressed the problem justices had with the statute. Congressional Democrats have already introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, says that the Young case can also help put a face on the problem of pregnancy discrimination, much like how Ledbetter’s case helped publicize the issue of pay gaps between men and women.

“Lilly Ledbetter epitomized and embodied what happens to a woman working throughout a lifetime who has been paid less systematically,” Greenberger said. “Peggy Young is at an earlier stage in her career and she epitomizes the kinds of barriers that are erected against women during their child-bearing years, including when they become pregnant.”

TIME Congress

Why Facebook Rants End Careers on Capitol Hill

Climber
Elizabeth Lauten from the office of Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

A response of "no comment" could be of use on social media sites, too

Congressional staffers have long been held to a higher standard than the rest of us when it comes to what you can’t say. And for good reason, since their words are seen as a reflection of their bosses, who just happen to run the country.

But it used to be a little easier to live up to that standard. Avoiding sharing your inflammatory opinions used to be as simple as telling a reporter “no comment” and hanging up. But these days, social media sites like Facebook —with its ever-demanding question “What’s on your mind?” — are like a siren song, luring staffers to their doom.

Consider Elizabeth Lauten, who one Facebook rant ago was a spokeswoman for Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. Though she apologized for writing in a status update that President Barack Obama’s teen daughters should “try showing a little class” when appearing at televised public events after their teen angst was broadcast at the National Turkey Pardoning ceremony, by Monday morning she had resigned.

Lauten’s case is just the latest example of someone getting in trouble at work for a social media post that went viral. But for Congressional staffers, those rants, selfies and status updates are much more likely to get them in hot water.

“If you’re a manager at Walmart and you post something about Barack Obama or John Boehner, it’s much different than if you work for Barack Obama or John Boehner,” noted Brad Fitch of the Congressional Management Foundation.

As a management consultant for members of Congress and a former Hill staffer, Fitch says Congressional staffers should recognize that what they do is subject to a different degree of scrutiny than most private employees. And press secretaries, the public voice of members, are held to even higher standard. As a precaution, he says, staffers should get a second set of eyes on their posts before pressing send.

“Having someone else look at what you’re about to publish is just generally a good idea,” Fitch says. “It was a good idea in 1965 when your statement was being published and 2012 when you’re putting it on Facebook.”

In Lauten’s case, the target of her ire was also poorly chosen.

Rebecca Gale at Roll Call, who runs a blog on career advice for Congressional staffers, says staffers should also be mindful of the fact that attacking the children of officer holders is typically off-limits.

“Democrat or Republican, high-ranking or low, kids are usually trotted out for the campaign photo and Christmas card, then tucked away in private lives. Sling mud all you like between parties and opponents, but political courtesy (if such exists) deems insults to kids off limits,” Gale wrote.

The bottom line: If you work on Capitol Hill, the next time Facebook asks “What’s on your mind?” you should probably answer “No comment.”

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