TIME Health Care

Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Will Stay Open After Court Ruling

Abortion-Mississippi
Abortion support signs outside of the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss. on November 21, 2013. Rogelio V. Solis—AP

A federal appeals panel blocked a law that would have closed the one abortion clinic in Mississippi

The sole abortion clinic in Mississippi will remain open after a federal appeals panel on Tuesday blocked a state law that would have required its doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in a 2-to-1 vote that the law would have effectively ended abortion in the state, as the clinic’s doctors have been unable to receive admitting privileges from local hospitals. The panel said Mississippi would be illegally shifting its constitutional obligations to neighboring states, the New York Times reports.

“A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights,” Judge E. Grady Jolly wrote.

Mississippi lawmakers who supported the law said it only sought to address safety issues and “the regulation of abortion clinics,” said State Rep. Sam C. Mims. Opponents of the law said it was intended to end abortion in the state.

The U.S. Appeals Court ruling did not consider whether the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals was justified on safety grounds, and only ruled that Mississippi could not close its sole abortion clinic.

Federal courts in Alabama, Kansas and Wisconsin have blocked similar laws, reports the Times, while they have taken effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

A Texas law that requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges and has caused one-third of the state’s abortion clinics to close was upheld in March, forcing women in some parts of the state to drive more than 100 miles to obtain an abortion.

Judge Emilio M. Garza of the appeal court said in a dissenting opinion that “no state is obligated to provide or guarantee the provision of abortion services within its borders.”

[NYT]

TIME justice

Jesse Ventura Successfully Sues ‘American Sniper’ Author for $1.8 Million

Jesse Ventura
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura makes his way back into Warren E. Burger Federal Building during the first day of jury selection in a defamation lawsuit, on July 8, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn. Jim Mone—AP

The former wrestler and Minnesota governor claimed a scene in Chris Kyle's autobiography defamed him

Jesse Ventura, the wrestler, politician, and television host won $1.8 million Tuesday in a defamation lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle for including an inflammatory anecdote in his book “American Sniper,” prompting publisher HarperCollins to announce it will remove the passage from the book.

A federal jury ruled that Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who was shot dead at a Texas gun range last year, defamed Ventura for including a passage in his bestselling autobiography that described a man saying the Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.” In interviews at the time of the book’s release, Kyle identified the man as Ventura.

Ventura filed a lawsuit against Kyle, testifying that Kyle fabricated the passage, which included a description of Kyle punching Ventura. The jury awarded Venture $1.3 million for unjust enrichment and $500,000 in damages for defamation, CBS reports.

“I’m relieved. I feel bad that it had to happen in the first place,” Ventura said in an interview with Russia Today on Tuesday. Ventura had long said he was not interested in the money, but rather an apology from Kyle. Kyle died in Feb. 2013, allegedly killed by a former Marine he was helping overcome PTSD.

“I was really backed into a corner,” Ventura said, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. “I was left with no choice but to continue the litigation to clear my name, because the story is fabricated. It never occurred, and it accuses me of committing treason. Treason against my own. I am part of the UDT (underwater demolition team) SEAL Community. These are my brothers. We’re a fraternity.”

Legal experts had said that Ventura’s case had to meet a high bar and prove both that Kyle intended “actual malice” toward Ventura, and that he knew that he wrote was untrue.

Ventura was a professional wrestler for much of his career and acted in the 1987 movie Predator, in which he became famous for uttering the line “I ain’t got time to bleed!” the New York Times reports. He served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.

Ventura testified that while he was in the bar on the night Kyle described in his book, he never said the SEALs deserved “to lose a few.” He also denied that Kyle punched him. Ventura’s lawyer said the testimony from defense witnesses was so inconsistent that they couldn’t be trusted.

Publisher HarperCollins said Wednesday it will remove the passage from “American Sniper” that sparked the lawsuit, the Associated Press reports. The book sold 1.5 million copies.

TIME weather

This Is the Deadliest of the 4 Seasons

US-WEATHER-SNOWSTORM
A worker shovels snow from the walkways at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC March 17, 2014 the morning after yet another snow storm. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

Winter is actually deadlier than summer

Winter is a deadlier season than summer, according to a new report that shows twice as many people die of causes related to winter cold than of those related to summer heat.

Of the 2,000 U.S. residents who die each year from weather-related causes, about 63 percent died due to exposure to excessive natural cold and hypothermia, while about 31 percent died due to excessive heat, heat stroke, or sun stroke. The remaining 6 percent died of floods, storms or lightning, according to the survey by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Counties in the highest quartile of household income had the lowest rates of death due to weather-related causes, the report shows, and cold-related mortality increased in the West in less urban counties. Most heat-related deaths occurred in the South and West.

Moreover, the elderly are much more susceptible to weather-related death, with about 40 deaths per million due to cold among people 85 or older, compared with less than one death per million for children aged five to 14.

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Liable for Employees’ Treatment, Labor Board Rules

Fast Food Workers Across U.S. Rally For Increased Wages, Unionization
Fast food workers and activists demonstrate outside McDonald's downtown flagship restaurant on May 15, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson—Getty Images

If upheld, the decision could make it easier for fast food workers to unionize

In a key decision that could pave the way to unionization for thousands of fast food workers, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that McDonald’s is jointly responsible for employees’ treatment by the brand’s franchise owners.

McDonald’s has long held that it isn’t liable for the treatment of its employees at the approximately 90% of its 14,000 restaurants that are owned by franchisees. But the recent decision could make McDonald’s liable for the labor practices of thousands of independent operators at its locations, and where employees have claimed they were fired for trying to unionize.

The NLRB said in a statement that of the 181 complaints involving McDonald’s since November 2012, McDonald’s will be named as a joint respondent in 43 of them, making it responsible for actions taken at thousands of its restaurants.

Labor organizers have long argued that McDonald’s should be held accountable as a joint employer because it controls menus, uniforms, supplies and many other terms of operations. The New York Times reports that in the past McDonald’s has urged franchises to lower wages.

“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the NLRB shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” Micah Wissinger, an attorney at Levy Ratner who brought the case on behalf of McDonald’s workers in New York City, said in a statement.

The International Franchise Association criticized the decision, saying it could hurt the franchise business model and jeopardize jobs in the fast food industry.

“If franchisors are joint employers with their franchisees, these thousands of small business owners would lose control of the operations and equity they worked so hard to build,” Steve Caldeira, CEO of IFA in a statement. “The jobs of millions of workers would be placed in jeopardy and the value of the businesses that employ them would be deflated.”

The mean hourly wage at restaurants as of mid-last year was $8.74, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fast food workers have been calling in recent months for the right to form a union without retaliation and $15 hourly wages.

Other chains, including KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Taco have a franchise model similar to McDonald’s.

McDonald’s said in a memo to its franchisees that it believes there is “no legal or factual basis for such a finding” and that it is appealing the decision, the Wall Street Journal reports.

TIME Data

Meet the Man Who Turned NYC Into His Own Lab

Steven Koonin, under secretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy, listens during the 2011 CERAWEEK conference in Houston on March 11, 2011.
Steven Koonin, under secretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy, listens during the 2011 CERAWEEK conference in Houston on March 11, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Using big data to make a difference

In the mornings, Steven Koonin often dons a light blue shirt and khaki suit jacket, walks out of his apartment above Manhattan’s chic Washington Square park and heads for the subway. As he beelines down the sidewalk, the West Village buildings burp up black clouds of smoke as their boilers are fired on. At Sixth Avenue, an express bus screeches to the curb and blocks the pedestrian crosswalk. And as Koonin sits in the subway, he notices some of the signs are badly placed. “Can we fix this?” he wonders. He gets off at Brooklyn’s Jay Street-Metrotech station and rides an elevator to the 19th floor of a commanding building perched high above his native city. Then he gets to work.

Koonin is the director of New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), which is to say, he is the big data guru of New York City. He’s been given a lot of cash, millions of data points and a broad mandate by the city of New York: make it better. No big data project of this scale has been attempted before, and that’s because the tools never existed, until now. “There’s an enormous amount of data out there,” Koonin says with the vestiges of a Brooklyn accent. “If we can use the data to understand what’s going on in cities, we can improve them in a rational way.”

CUSP is both a research laboratory and a school. This year, it will have more than 60 students and 8 full-time faculty members. The students collaborate with the faculty and the city on big projects while they work toward either a Master of Science degree or an educational certificate. About a quarter of students this year will have social science degrees, another quarter each are engineers or scientists by training, and the rest will hail from fields as miscellaneous as film and fashion design. Their collective challenge is to turn numbers, spreadsheets, graphs and charts into a model that makes New York City work faster, cleaner, and more efficiently.

The program is already starting to make policy recommendations to the city, and as the institute attracts more talent, it will begin to play an important role in everything from easing Manhattan’s nasty rush hour traffic congestion, advising on prekindergarten school placement, cutting back on city pollution and helping businesses decide where best to open a franchise. “CUSP is able to work on those projects and take it to a deeper level of making more vetted recommendations,” says Nicholas O’Brien, the chief of staff in the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics. “They bridge the gap between city data and creating actionable policy for city agencies.”

Koonin grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and in the late 1960s attended the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, where he and his friends once tried to use an old IBM computer (“it clunked along and had less power than your phone,” he says) to try and figure out the shortest time a subway rider could visit every single city stop on one fare. Koonin would go to the MTA headquarters to copy down timetables and input them into the computer.

Forty years later, Koonin has more data than he knows how to use. There are figures for household water consumption, purchases of goods, noise levels, taxi ridership, nutrition, traffic levels, restaurant inspections, parking violations and public park use; subway ridership, bus deployment, boiler lifespans, recycling rates, reservoir levels, street pedestrian counts; granular demographic breakdowns, household income, building permits, epidemic monitoring, toxin emissions, and on, and on and on. The challenge is making sense out of it, and that’s where CUSP comes in.

“The city has very little time to stand back and ask itself, ‘what are the patterns here?’” Koonin says. “That’s because they’re up to their asses in alligators, as you almost always are in government.”

Koonin would know. After receiving a Ph.D from MIT, he taught as a theoretical physics professor at Caltech before eventually working for BP and then the Obama administration. As Undersecretary of Energy for Science in the Obama administration, he was frustrated by the glacial progress on energy policy. To get things done, Koonin concluded, he needed a novel approach. “I came up with this notion of, ‘I’m going to go instrument a city as a scientist would,’” he says. In April 2012, he was announced director of the newly created CUSP program to make New York a living laboratory for urban improvement. Since then, Koonin has overseen a rapidly growing operation as it dances between 13 city agencies, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the mayor’s office, and NYU, taking chunks of data and imagining actionable city policy.

CUSP’s temporary location (before it moves into the retrofitted Metropolitan Transit Authority headquarters) is an eclectic mix of high-tech and deep retro. The foyer, with firm orange chairs and dull wood paneling, looks like an Ikea designer recreated a 1970’s-era therapists’ office, but inside, two robots patrol the halls wielding touchscreens. A glass-enclosed conference room has 60 high-resolution monitors that on one Wednesday displayed the city’s taxi pick-up and drop-off data from the evening of May 1, and hundreds of teal and black taxi icons are scattered around a detailed digital map of Manhattan. In Koonin’s impressive corner office with magisterial vistas of downtown Brooklyn, he keeps a classic slate blackboard next to a keyboard. He can fluidly play “You Go To My Head,” the J. Fred Coots jazz standard, and “The Way You Look Tonight.”

“My dream is to be a lounge pianist,” Koonin the data-meister says drolly.

Like a doctor holding a prodigious stethoscope to New York City’s skyscrapers, Koonin needs to give the city a thorough physical before he can write a prescription. “The city has a pulse, it has a rhythm. It happens every day. There’s a characteristic pattern in the rise of economic activity, energy use, water use, taxi rides, et cetera,” Koonin says. “Can we measure the physiology of the city in its various dimensions? And define what normal is? What’s normal for a weekday, what’s normal for a weekend?”

“Then you can start to look for abnormalities,” he continues. “If subway ridership was low, was that correlated with the weather? When subway ridership is low, is taxi ridership high? You get a sense of what’s connected to what in the city. Can we look for anomalies, precursors of things? Epidemics, economic slowdown. So measuring the pulse of the city is one of the big things we’re after.”

CUSP is creating a system to measure microbiological samples from the city’s sewage system, using genomic technology to learn more about people’s nutrition and disease based on their waste. Do certain neighborhoods need better nutritional or hygienic practices? Another project involves a camera fixed to the roof of CUSP headquarters that can see anonymized data of when people’s lights turn on and off and monitor energy usage. When do people go to sleep? How regular are people’s sleeping hours? The institute is also working out a way to help the city’s Parks Department measure how many people use city parks, and what they do in them. (Hint: it could involve lots of infrared video.) The city could then much more intelligently design its public spaces.

“This is opening the door to the possibility that we would very accurately and very comprehensively understand how people would use our public spaces,” says Jacqueline Lu, director of analytics at the Parks Department.

The city’s 8.3 million-strong crowds, packed together on the subway like brightly colored gumballs or streaming through the streets like grains of sand blown by the wind, will be the ultimate beneficiaries of Koonin’s work. On his morning commute, he notes how the city has changed since he was a kid coming up in the public schools. “Everyday it’s really interesting to look at the crowds and see how they interact with one another,” he says. “The city works better. The trains are pretty much on time. So it’s pretty good.”

TIME Israel

Israel Acknowledges Mortar Strike at UN School, But Denies Casualties

Blood stains of displaced Palestinians are seen inside the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun after it has been hit, Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
Blood stains of displaced Palestinians are seen inside the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun after it had been hit, Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

But Israel says the shell didn't kill anyone, while Palestinian officials claimed it took 16 lives

Israeli military officials acknowledged Sunday that a mortar shell fried by Israeli troops landed in the courtyard of a UN school in Gaza, but they deny reports the shell killed more than a dozen people when it exploded there Thursday.

Palestinian officials, meanwhile, have claimed the mortar killed 16 people and injured others at the Beit Hanoun school, which had been converted into a shelter for Gazans fleeing ongoing fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.

“A single errant mortar landed” on the school, Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Sunday, citing an internal military probe, but he said it was “extremely unlikely that anybody was killed as a result of this mortar,” the Associated Press reports.

Israel first promised to investigate the incident after news reports citing witnesses, including a Reuters photographer on the scene, began to arise Thursday. Israel initially said that militants near the school had opened fire on Israeli troops, and the soldiers responded “in order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attack Thursday, though he said at the time that “circumstances are still unclear.” Ban earlier said that rockets had been found in two separate evacuated UN schools, saying that “those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets.”

[AP]

TIME movies

Watch the Thrilling Trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road

The fourth Mad Max film is slated for release in 2015

+ READ ARTICLE

There have already been three, so why not one more? The Mad Max franchise is gearing up for a fourth installment, slated for release on May 15, 2015. The preview above is a riveting look at the upcoming film’s fast-paced action and grisly desert wars waged from anachronistic-looking vehicles.

The Mad Max series, inspired by the 1973 oil crisis, is as much about conflict over the scarcity of resources as it is about a lone hero struggling to survive in a dystopian world. In this latest installment, Mad Max: Fury Road, the battle is over water.

“People effectively went to war for oil” after 1973, said series director George Miller, The Verge reports. “We arguably have been fighting oil wars ever since. Now, in some places in the world, there are water wars.”

It’s hard to make any definite plot conclusions from the preview alone, but one thing seems certain: there will be more than enough explosions to satisfy adrenaline seekers.

TIME Economy

The Average American Family Is Poorer Than It Was 10 Years Ago

The typical American household is worth a third less than it was in 2003, according to a new study

The typical American household was significantly poorer in 2013 than it was ten years earlier as a result of the Great Recession, a new study shows, an effect that is compounded by growing wealth inequality in the United States.

The net worth of the typical American household in 2003 was $87,992, adjusting for inflation. Ten years later, it was just $56,335, a decline of 36 percent, according to a study by the Russell Sage Foundation.

But even as the average American household’s wealth declined, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially. The average wealth of the American household in the 95th percentile was $1,192,639 in 2003, and $1,364,834 ten years later, an increase of 14 percent.

The authors of the study said the reason for the disparity was that affluent households were able to ride the success of the surging stock market after the 2008 crash, while middle class families were severely impacted by the decreasing value of their homes.

Wealth declined for everyone in the aftermath of the Great Recession, but better-off families were able to rebound. Households at the bottom of the wealth distribution, on the other hand, lost the largest share of their wealth.

‘The American economy has experienced rising income and wealth inequality for several decades, and there is little evidence that these trends are likely to reverse in the near term,” wrote the authors of the study.

TIME Crime

Spider-Man Caught on Camera Punching Times Square Cop

Spider-Canned

+ READ ARTICLE

Spider-Man — or at least a man dressed as him — punched a police officer in the face while resisting arrest Saturday at New York City’s Times Square, the latest episode of dressed-up crowd-pleasers acting, well, out of character.

The man, dressed as Spider-Man in a black skintight suit and mask, posed with another man and a woman who offered him $1 in exchange for the photo on Saturday, the New York Times reports. When Spider-Man told the couple the bill was too small, an officer intervened and said she could give whatever amount of money she wanted.

“Mind your own business,” Spider-Man said. The officer asked Spider-Man for identification, and Spider-Man, later identified as Junior Bishop, 25, said he had none. The officer moved to arrest him.

In a video taken by a passerby and posted by the New York Post, Bishop can be seen struggling with the officer and punching him in the face. The officer was treated at New York University Medical Center for a swelling of the eye and a cut.

Characters in Times Square, who are allowed to collect donations but not demand money, have gotten into a number of altercations with tourists in recent months. A different Spider-Man was fined earlier this month for harassing a tourist, and an Elmo known for using anti-Semitic language went to jail for an unrelated offense.

[NYT]

 

TIME Ukraine

U.S.: Satellite Imagery Shows Russians Shelling Eastern Ukraine

Satellite imagery shows evidence of Russian artillery attacks against the Ukrainian military, U.S. officials say

+ READ ARTICLE

U.S. officials released satellite images Sunday they say offer proof that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government in Kiev. Obama Administration officials said as early as last week that the Russians were launching attacks in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine.

One image dated July 25–26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

DNI 1
DigitalGlobe via DNI

A slide from a day earlier is said to show self-propelled artillery on the Russian side of the border oriented toward Ukraine, with impact areas near Ukrainian military units:

DNI 2a
DigitalGlobe via DNI

Russian officials denied on Friday allegations of involvement in eastern Ukraine, calling it a U.S.-led “smear campaign,” the New York Times reports.

The Ukrainian military said Saturday it was poised to reclaim Donetsk, the city at the heart of the pro-Russian insurgency, even as Russian forces numbering around 15,000 amassed on the border, the Washington Post reports.

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