TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 1

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: Hobby Lobby happened, what's next; Obama to issue executive action on immigration; GM issues another recall; Israel bombs Gaza after teen bodies found; and confidence in Obama falls.

  • White House chooses Congressional fight over Hobby Lobby decision [TIME]
  • How John Roberts’ court is slowly bridging the political divide [TIME]
  • Get ready for an even bigger threat to Obamacare [LA Times]
  • Obama’s immigration pivot [Politico]
  • “General Motors Co. recalled another 8.5 million vehicles on Monday, including more than 8 million for ignition-switch defects, and said it knew of three deaths in accidents involving the affected cars.” [WSJ]
  • “Victims of General Motors’ faulty ignition switch could get as little as a few thousand dollars, or as much as millions of dollars, according to Kenneth Feinberg, who detailed on Monday the GM fund he’ll oversee to compensate for deaths and injuries.” [USA Today]
  • Fighting intensifies in Ukraine after cease-fire is ended [NYT]
  • Poll: Confidence in Obama trails rating for Bush in 2006 [RealClearPolitics]
  • Parties looking for political edge in Supreme Court contraceptive ruling [TIME]
  • Israeli bombs Gaza site hours after bodies of Israeli teens found [Reuters]
  • “A senior Israeli government official on Monday likened Hamas to the brutal fighters sowing chaos in Iraq and said there could be no dealing with a Palestinian government that includes the group, just hours after three Israeli teenagers believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas were found dead.” [TIME]
TIME Television

Things Just Got Steamy Between Jason & Eric on True Blood

Ryan Kwanten
Ryan Kwanten arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of the 7th and final season of "True Blood" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Richard Shotwell—Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Jason Stackhouse had an epic dream

Before the credits rolled on the second episode of the HBO hit True Blood’s final season Sunday, fans of the vampire drama got two surprises. One, Bon Temps’ (arguably) hottest vampire Eric Northman was seen alive (!!) and he and the fictional Louisiana town’s hottest resident were finally getting it on.

It was the stuff of legend. After a bit of teasing—a belt buckle tug, a playful tackle—the two were rolling around lustfully, and making out with a bajillion candles flickering behind them.

Just when thing got really interesting, Jason Stackhouse woke up in the pew of a church—bewildered, and a little turned on.

It wasn’t the show’s first vampire-on-man sex scene (remember Bill and Sam Merlotte in the shower? Or Jason and Warlow’s sexy shave set to the sultry sounds of Miguel?), but it was certainly the most surprising. And it was probably the highlight of Sunday night’s lackluster episode.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 30

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: Blackwater warning came before shooting; Obama defends Clinton amid wealth comments; Facebook manipulated your newsfeed; Obama to tap P&G chief to head VA

  • Before shooting in Iraq, a warning on Blackwater [NYT]
  • Obama to tap soap salesman to clean up VA [TIME]
  • “The extremist Sunni group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Sunday declared a new caliphate — or an Islamic state to claim dominion over Muslims across the globe — on the territory it holds in the two countries.” [TIME]
  • ” The U.S. Justice Department is expected to announce on Monday a settlement with BNP Paribas involving a record fine of nearly $9 billion over alleged U.S. sanctions violations by France’s biggest bank, sources familiar with the matter said.” [Reuters]
  • Supreme Court poised to rule on O-care’s birth control mandate [The Hill]
  • Background From TIME: Hobby Lobby’s contraception showdown [TIME]
  • Big Unions could take a big SCOTUS hit [Politico]
  • White House to seek $2 billion to stem rise of kids crossing the border illegally [TIME]
  • “President Barack Obama doesn’t believe comments made by his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about how she and former President Bill Clinton were ‘not only dead broke but in debt’ when they exited the White House will matter too much if she chooses to run for president.” [ABC News]
  • Everything we know about Facebook’s secret mood manipulation experiment [The Atlantic]
  • The pitchforks are coming for us plutocrats [Politico Magazine]
  • Psych evaluation: Oscar Pistorius not mentally incapacitated during shooting [CNN]

 

TIME intelligence

New NSA Chief: Snowden Didn’t Do That Much Damage

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is interviewed by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong
NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden in a still image taken from video during an interview by the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong on June 6, 2013 Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras—The Guardian/Reuters

Says leaks don't mean "the sky is falling"

The head of the National Security Agency says in a new interview that the massive leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden didn’t do irreparable damage to national security.

“You have not heard me as the director say, ‘Oh, my God, the sky is falling,’” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the new NSA director, told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday. “I am trying to be very specific and very measured in my characterizations.”

But Rogers did say terrorist groups have been using the leaked data to their advantage. “I have seen groups not only talk about making changes, I have seen them make changes,” he said.

While at the NSA, Snowden was able to downloaded more than one million secret documents that detailed the agency’s wide-ranging surveillance efforts. Rogers said he’s working to ensure leaks will not happen again, but does not rule out the possibility. The key, he said, is to keep the volume of stolen data from reaching that of Snowden’s.

“Am I ever going to sit here and say as the director that with 100 percent certainty no one can compromise our systems from the inside?” he said. “Nope. Because I don’t believe that in the long run.”

[NYT]

TIME Music

Robin Thicke Made Yet Another Plea to Win His Wife Back

Robin Thicke
Robin Thicke performs at the BET Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello—Chris Pizzello—Invision—AP

If at first you don't succeed, try again

Robin Thicke made yet another plea for his estranged wife Paula Patton during Sunday’s BET Awards, debuting a song from his upcoming album “Forever Love.”

Thicke’s plea could have been considered heartfelt, given the endless fog, breaks for tears, and the opening dedication “to my wife to say I miss you, and I’m sorry,” but the video for his single “Get Her Back” is still fresh.

Later in the evening, the “Blurred Lines” crooner turned king of sorry tweeted a picture of the couple back when they were still happy.

Keep trying, Robin. If all the singing doesn’t work, hopefully the sales from your strategically-named album, Paula, will be of comfort.

TIME justice

From Big House to White House: Ex-Convicts To Be Honored By Obama Administration

Fortune HIV AIDS
In this May 29, 2014 photo, Stan Richards, right, an executive with the Fortune Society, listens as Melissa Carter, left, speaks during an interview in New York. Bebeto Matthews—AP

The White House will honor 14 champions for change on prisoner reentry Monday

Stanley Richards is living proof that giving ex-offenders a second chance can pay off.

Richards grew up amid the drug and gang epidemic that terrorized black communities in early 1980s New York, and spent more time on the streets than in school. After bouncing in and out of jail as a teen, he eventually caught a charge that stuck and was sentenced to nine years in prison for robbery. After serving his time, and collecting a GED an associates degree while behind bars, he wanted to turn his life around. “I began to believe life could be different for me,” Richards says. “Just maybe, through education, things could get better.”

Upon his release, he sought employment at several community organizations but kept getting doors slammed in his face due to his lack of experience. Eventually, the Fortune Society, a Bronx-based non-profit that supports successful reentry, was the exception; it hired Richards as a counselor. And after 23 years of employment and several promotions, Richards will be one of 14 honored by the White House on Monday as a Champion of Change for prisoner reentry.

Richards will be joined at the White House by state lawmakers, business leaders and others, who are gathering to discuss how to reduce recidivism by offering more opportunities for the ex-offender population.

The Obama Administration has been rolling out prison reform policies over the past year in an effort to cut America’s prison budget and save the toughest penalties for the worst criminals. The Administration is also working to provide retroactive relief to some criminals impacted by harsh federal drug laws that have since been reformed. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in April that some prisoners could be eligible for a shortened sentence as a result; the Department of Justice is expecting thousands of applications for clemency this year.

The statistics, as they now stand, are not encouraging. Nearly 68% of released prisoners return to prison within three years. After five years, 76.6% of prisoners are back behind bars, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

There are solutions, however, and states have been leading the way in implementing them. In fact, the Council of State Governments’s “State Pathways to Prosperity” initiative, which is working to smarten states’ approach to criminal justice across all branches of government, was a driving inspiration behind Monday’s White House panel.

The states that are making progress have focused on finding employment and stable housing for ex-convicts when they are released. In Pennsylvania, an overhaul of halfway houses and other corrections facilities has already led to a 24% reduction in recidivism among those who pass through facilities with state contracts. “We’re trying to transform the system by looking at the needs of the community and the needs of offenders,” says John Wetzel, the Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, who will be a part of a White House panel Monday to discuss best practices.

Rhode Island Department of Corrections is ramping up its partnership with the state’s Department of Labor to employ offenders upon their release. The director of corrections in Rhode Island, A.T. Wall, has been working in corrections for 38 years, and calls employment and housing the “twin pillars of effective reintegration.” “I have an opportunity to spend a lot of time in our institutions, talking to inmates shortly before release,” Wall says. “When I ask them ‘what do you need,’ the overwhelming majority say ‘I need a job.’”

While the need for ex-offender employment and housing opportunities is obvious to corrections officers, and increasingly lawmakers, private employers and landlords still have to buy in to the idea for it work. And many have been reluctant. “Some employers say it would be wreck less to hire ex-offenders, but wouldn’t it be just as wreck less to say no to employing someone just because they were in state prison?” Wetzel says. “One thing we’ve recognized is that when you have a good outcome in corrections and you can place someone in a job–that’s grassroots crime reduction.”

The Johns Hopkins Hospital system, which will be recognized as a Champion of Change Monday, has been leading the way in employing those with criminal histories. Of the 5,000 people they hired last year, 5% had criminal records. The key, says Pamela Paulk, senior Vice President of Human Resources at Johns Hopkins, is the screening and thoughtful placement of all hires. Recruiters work with the security team, head up by a former Secret Service agent, to make sure potential hires would be a good match for a certain job, depending on what crime they committed.

“We’re not going to put someone with a drug history in the pharmacy department,” Paulk says. The hospitals hiring guidelines also prohibit employing people who have committed violent crimes; those with sex-related histories do not work near patients.

Paulk says she hopes Monday’s event will increase dialogue among hiring managers. “We need more employers willing to expand hiring opportunities,” she says. “Jobs are what ‘s going to help with reducing the recidivism rate.”

For, Richards, who plans to bring his wife, youngest son, and nine-year-old grandson on Monday, it’s a bit more personal. “I’m from the big house to the White House,” Richards says. “That’s pretty powerful.”

TIME 2014 Election

More Bad News for Democrats in 2014 Battleground States

A new survey of likely voters in 12 key Senate races shows the electorate continues to skew Republican

A new survey has more bad news for Democrats running in key battleground states this November.

The poll by Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps, Republican and Democratic research firms, respectively, found that President Barack Obama’s approval rating in 12 states with the most competitive Senate races is only 38%—3 points lower than his national approval number.

Recent headlines surrounding the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, the Veterans Affairs and IRS scandals, and the initially botched rollout of the health care reform law haven’t helped: 57% of voters consider them to be “real problems that raise serious doubts about the competence of the Obama Administration.”

“That is a problem for the Obama Administration,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey, told reporters Thursday. “But it is a problem for the Democrats running for reelection in these battleground states because the reputation of the President always overshadows midterm elections.”

While the slew of scandals may not drive voters to the poll, Ayres said, the results make it difficult for incumbent Democrats to stand with the President on key issue.

And Republicans have the upper hand when it comes to party trust on key issues, according to the survey: 50% of all voters favor Republicans’ handling of foreign policy, 16 percentage points higher than their trust in Democrats. The split is less dramatic on the economy, with 47% of voters trusting Republicans, compared to 37% trusting Democrats. Among independents, who often cast the key swing votes in close races, 48% say they trust Republicans handling of the economy while only 28% trust Democrats.

Even on health care, Republicans are favored, albeit slightly: 45% of all voters trust Republicans to handle health care and 41% of voters trust Democrats.

The problem for Democrats is more their weakness than Republicans’ strength.

“There is enormous frustration… for Congress in general,” Ayres said. “But the Republican leaders in the House are not on the ballot in these… battleground states.

“The playing field,” Ayres added, “looks more promising for Republicans than any time in recent memory.”

TIME World Cup

The U.S. Soccer Coach Just Wrote You a Note to Skip Work for the Big Game

Jurgen Klinsmann
U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann watches as his players stretch during a training session in Recife, Brazil, on June 25, 2014 Julio Cortez—AP

Forget watching on a livestream behind that report you're blowing off, use Jurgen Klinsmann's letter to skip work all together

For U.S. soccer fans who have to work during Thursday’s noontime World Cup match between the U.S. and Germany, don’t fret: the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team has you covered.

On Wednesday night, the national team tweeted a picture of coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s handwritten letter, which reads, “Please excuse ______ from work on Thursday, June 26th.”

It goes on, “I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause.”

Indeed it is. If the U.S. wins — or Germany fails to beat the team by a substantial margin, and the Portugal-Ghana game ends well — the home team could advance to the next round of the 2014 World Cup.

In other words, tomorrow’s game is a big freakin’ deal.

So while you could take an extended lunch or spend the afternoon switching between tabs of the live stream and something more legitimate looking whenever your boss walks past, wouldn’t it be easier just to send this letter to your boss and spend the afternoon cheering, “USA”?

We thought so.

 

TIME neuroscience

New Technology Helps Brain Signals Move Paralyzed Hand

An innovative device sends brain signals directly to muscles, skipping over the spinal cord of the injured patient

A quadriplegic man was able to move his hand simply by willing it to happen with his mind–a medical breakthrough made possible with the help of a new device still in its testing phase.

23-year-old Ian Burkhart, paralyzed in a diving accident four years ago, was the first participant to try out a decade-in-the-making technology called Neurobridge, which sends neural signals directly to muscles.

This April, researchers planted a tiny chip that interprets brain signals into the part of Burkhart’s brain that controls hand and arm movements. The chip interprets signals from a computer and transfers them to a sleeve that stimulated Burkhart’s muscles, thereby skipping over his damaged spinal cord.

“The surgery required the precise implantation of the micro-chip sensor in the area of Ian’s brain that controls his arm and hand movements,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, one of the clinicians leading the trial.

Part of a clinical trial at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, in collaboration with technology development company Battelle, researchers hope that Neurobridge could become a future aid for many patients impacted by spinal cord injuries or traumatic cerebral events like strokes.

TIME Foreign Policy

John Kerry Tells Iran and Syria to Back Off Iraq

Secretary of State John Kerry warned U.S. adversaries in the Middle East not to foment unrest in Iraq

+ READ ARTICLE

Amid mounting reports of military intervention in Iraq by Syria and Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry strongly advised that surrounding countries in the Middle East step away from any action that might further unhinge the delicate security situation.

“We’ve made it clear to everyone in the region that we don’t need anything to take place that might exacerbate the sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension,” Kerry told a NATO summit. “And so it’s very important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respect to the sectarian divide.”

The Syrian government reportedly bombed Sunni militant strongholds on Tuesday, along the western border of Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly sent in drones and other military supplies. Kerry added that questions about Iran’s intentions in Iraq should be directed at the Iranian and Iraqi governments.

While the U.S. had a stake in what happens to Baghdad, the American government will not directly pick Iraqi leadership, Kerry said. Iraqi citizens must develop a government that can push back against terrorism and “will not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday opted against forming an interim “national salvation government” in order to unite the sectarian groups butting heads in the region, calling it “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

“It’s up to Iraqis to decide who has the ability to do that and who represents that future,” Kerry said.

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