TIME Crime

Why New York Cops Turned Their Backs on Mayor de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presser on NYPD Police Officers shot in Brooklyn
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to the media during a news conference after two NYPD officers were shot, in Brooklyn, New York, Dec. 20, 2014. John Taggart—EPA

The Dec. 2 killing of two police officers made a bad relationship worse

The killing of two New York City police officers on Dec. 20 has turned the department’s simmering feud with city hall into a political firestorm that has implications for the national debate over policing.

After officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed Saturday afternoon in an unprovoked attack, cops and union leaders publicly rebuked Mayor Bill de Blasio, arguing his earlier remarks had stoked anti-police sentiment. That night, officers turned their backs on the mayor as he walked through the Brooklyn hospital where the officers were taken.

De Blasio on Monday called for a suspension of protests and political debate over policing so that the families of the fallen officers could grieve in peace. “We all see the world through the prism of our families,” the mayor said in somber remarks at a charity luncheon. “Our first obligation is to respect these families in mourning.”

The call for unity came two days after Patrick Lynch, the president of the city’s biggest police union, openly blamed the mayor for the tragedy. “There’s blood on many hands tonight,” he said. “That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.”

New York’s current mayor has never been on friendly terms with New York’s finest. The strained relationship dates back to de Blasio’s campaign, when he pledged to reform the city’s stop-and-frisk practices, which the police credited for a decrease in crime but detractors decry as institutionalized racial profiling. The promise, along with de Blasio’s own mixed-race family and his outreach to black communities, helped him win 42% of the African-American vote in a crowded Democratic primary that featured an experienced black candidate, former city comptroller Bill Thompson.

De Blasio tried to couch his opposition to stop-and-frisk as a criticism of a practice championed by outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, not of the officers carrying it out. And de Blasio has not departed from the policy of “broken windows” policing, which targets low-level street offenses as a way to prevent more serious crimes. But New York’ police force, who were celebrated for their heroic response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and lionized by non-liberal mayors for two decades, have bristled at his perceived slights. “Quite frankly, the mayor ran an anti-police campaign,” former police commissioner Ray Kelly told ABC on Sunday.

The tension exploded this month after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the New York cop whose choke hold led to the death of Eric Garner. The incident became a new flashpoint for the nationwide protest movement against police violence ignited by the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In a plea for calm, de Blasio spoke candidly about the fraught relationship between young black men and police, and recalled telling his own son, a mixed-race teenager with a towering Afro, about the dangers embedded in an encounter with a cop.

“I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face,” de Blasio said. “A good young man, law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

To many New Yorkers, the statement betrayed the mayor’s sympathy with the protesters who flooded the streets rather than the officers charged with keeping the peace. So did de Blasio’s announcement that in the wake of the Garner case, some 22,000 officers would be required to complete a three-day “retraining” course. “The way we go about policing has to change,” he declared.

The furor over these remarks are best understood in the context of a political environment that treats criticism of cops by public officials as taboo. The Republican war on public-sector unions ends at the precinct doors. When it doesn’t, the public sides with the police—as in Ohio, where a 2011 bill to rein in collective-bargaining rights was overturned in a voter referendum in large part because it lumped in cops and firefighters with teachers. Prominent Republican politicians blasted de Blasio in the wake of this weekend’s killing, the first of a New York City officer in the line of duty since 2011.

Police are accustomed to unconditional support for performing a difficult and dangerous job, which may be the best explanation for the union spokesmen who reacted with indignation whenever a public figure expressed sympathy for what has come to be known as the Black Lives Matter movement. A St. Louis police-union spokesperson demanded an apology from the NFL when the Rams’ wide receiving corps took the field in late November with their hands raised aloft in a gesture of solidarity. A Cleveland police-union president called Browns’ wide receiver Andrew Hawkins “pathetic” for wearing a warm-up shirt that called for justice for Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old gunned down in that city mere seconds after a cop encountered him holding a toy gun.

None of that matched the invective that New York police officials heaped on de Blasio after protests cascaded across the city earlier this month. Within a week of the Garner decision, the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was circulating a petition that asked de Blasio and New York city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to stay away away from their funerals if they were killed in the line of duty. It is a short trip from this morbid request to scapegoating the mayor in a tragedy for which no one is responsible but the criminal who pulled the trigger.

TIME States

Federal Court Strikes Down North Carolina Abortion Ultrasound Law

The law required abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound to the pregnant woman, even if she refuses to look or listen

(RICHMOND, Va.) — A federal appeals court has struck down a North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound to the pregnant woman, even if she refuses to look or listen.

The unanimous ruling Monday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond upheld a lower court ruling that the mandate violates abortion providers’ free-speech rights.

Appeals court Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote that the law “is ideological in intent and in kind.” He says the ultrasound mandate goes far beyond what most states have done to ensure that a woman gives informed consent to an abortion.

U.S. District Judge Catharine Eagles struck down the law in January. The state appealed.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 22

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

New York Mourns Slain Officers

Following the shooting of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn on Saturday, NYPD officers have been directed to only go on foot patrols in pairs, detectives have been told to go out in teams of three and sentries have been deployed outside station houses

Cop Deaths and Race Relations

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes that the murder of two NYPD officers should inspire nationwide mourning, but also the pursuit of a better justice system

The Interview Still to Be Distributed

Sony Pictures lawyer David Boies asserted that the studio will still distribute the controversial comedy despite pulling it from theaters

Florida State Quarterback Cleared in Code of Conduct Case

Jameis Winston, the star quarterback accused of sexual assault by a female Florida State student in December 2012, has been cleared in his Code of Conduct case at the university and will not face discipline, a judge has ruled

The Hobbit Wins Weekend Box-Office Battle

The Peter Jackson film brought in $56.2 million over the weekend (and $90.6 million since its Wednesday opening), while Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Annie — all films showing in more than 3,000 locations — made almost $40 million less

Western Journalist Granted Access to Islamic State Lands

Jürgen Todenhöfer, the first Western journalist to be granted access to ISIS-controlled territories, has returned with a warning: the terrorist group is “much stronger and much more dangerous” than its adversaries understand

Dish Network Drops Fox After Failed Contract Negotiations

Fox News Channel and Fox Business were blacked out Saturday on satellite TV provider Dish Network, after the two parties failed to agree on a new contract, in negotiations that had gone on for the last several weeks. Both sides are pointing fingers at each other

North Korea Threatens Strikes on U.S. Amid Hacking Claims

President Barack Obama is “recklessly” spreading rumors of a Pyongyang-orchestrated cyberattack of Sony Pictures, North Korea says. Its National Defense Commission warned that its 1.2 million-member army is ready to use all types of warfare against the U.S.

Fast Food Could Make Children Perform Worse in School

A new study shows that American children who regularly eat fast food don’t perform as well as their fellow students in school. Researchers found kids who eat the most fast food have lower test scores in science, math and reading

Saudi Arabia Keeps the Wells Pumping

Saudi Arabia will not cut oil production to boost depressed prices, reversing the kingdom’s usual policy of moderating supply to control prices and sending a strong message about OPEC’s strategy for dealing with a slumped oil market

Anonymous Threatens Iggy Azalea

Hacker collective Anonymous is threatening to release stills from a purported sex tape involving rapper Iggy Azalea unless she apologizes for “misappropriating black culture, insulting peaceful protesters, and making light of Eric Garner’s death”

Pakistan Arrests Several Suspects for School Attack

Pakistani police say they have arrested several people suspected of facilitating the attack on a school in the city of Peshawar last week, which left 148 people dead. All seven assailants were reportedly killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban

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TIME Veterans

Rising VA Disability Payments Linked to Veteran Unemployment

Last US Military Convoy Departs Iraq
A U.S. soldier waves as the final American convoy pulls out of Iraq in 2011 at the end of the second Iraq war. Mario Tama / Getty Images

Stanford study suggests a seesaw relationship between the two

Unemployment persists among military veterans as a sharply growing number of them are receiving disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new study by a Stanford economist. The steep increase in such payments, Mark Duggan suggests, could be acting as a brake on their employment prospects.

Veterans receiving disability compensation from the VA rose from 8.9% in 2001 to 18% this year, Duggan’s study says. Even as the number of veterans shrank from 26.1 million in 2001 to 22 million this year, those receiving federal money for wounds linked to military service have climbed from 2.3 million to 3.9 million.

 

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

“The substantial rise in Disability Compensation enrollment in recent years suggests that this program may be affecting labor market outcomes for military veterans,” Duggan writes. He cites two possible reasons:

– It can reduce a veteran’s “propensity to work because—with the additional income—he may now prefer additional leisure to work.”

– Additional work may also “prevent a veteran from qualifying for a higher level of Disability Compensation benefits—and thus increase the effective tax rate on work.”

The jobless rate among post-9/11 vets was 7.2% in October, compared to the nation’s 5.8% rate—and a 4.5% rate among all veterans.

The study “is important because it shows how the good intentions of the disability system can sabotage the well-being of veterans,” says Sally Satel, a one-time VA psychiatrist who now works at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank. But the report, she adds, could boomerang: “Talking about reforming the veterans’ disability system is a third-rail topic because, on superficial glance, it appears as if reformers want to deny veterans help.”

But Satel, a reform advocate, denies that. “Reformers urge that assistance be given in the most constructive way possible,” she says. “This means that the VA should go all-out in terms of treatment and rehabilitation, to maximize entry into the workforce and minimize exit from it.”

Some vets believe the report misses the point. Repeated deployments and the lack of a formal, uniformed and organized enemy, ground down the Americans who fought the post-9/11 wars, says Alex Lemons, a Marine sergeant who pulled three tours in Iraq, “A number of my friends were blown into many pieces and they never quite reassembled them,” he says. “You might look at this person and think they look fine despite scars, but then you find out they can’t stand for more than an hour a day, they have shrapnel that works its way out of their dermis and have to pry it out, they are near deaf without hearing aids, or they can’t pick up things as a result of nerve damage in a hand. It means they will never be qualified for many jobs.”

Lemons says it’s good that troops are coming forward seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, which has gone from the 10th most-common condition among vets on disability in 2000, to third in 2013. “In my infantry battalion the number of Marines who are on PTSD disability is not more than 35%,” he says, “even though I believe everyone who deployed with us has it.”

The average monthly disability payment grew 46%—from $747 to $1,094—between 2001 and 2013, Duggan reports. While that’s not much per veteran, the nation paid out a total of $54 billion in such benefits in 2013.

Congressional Budget Office

Not only are more veterans receiving disability compensation, Duggan’s report says, but they’re receiving more than earlier veterans did. That’s because the VA has ruled that the impact of their military service on their health is greater than for earlier generations of vets. Disability payments are pegged to a VA-determined rating, which is expressed in 10 percentage-point increments. Between 2001 and 2013, the number of vets deemed 10% disabled—generating an average monthly payment of $131 last year—dropped by 1%. Over the same period, the more than 800,000 vets rated 80% or more disabled—receiving an average monthly payment of $2,700—rose by 221%.

Military service also may have “become more demanding over time,” accounting for less veteran participating in the labor force, Duggan’s report says. “Consistent with this explanation,” he adds, “veterans have become more likely than non-veteran males to report that their health is poor or just fair rather than excellent, very good, or good.”

Elspeth Ritchie, a retired colonel who served as the Army’s top psychiatrist before retiring in 2010, believes the report slights what troops experienced in the nation’s post-9/11 wars. “It does not seem to factor in the high rate of physical injuries, traumatic brain injury and PTSD in the veterans from these conflicts,” she says.

Since turning its back on its veterans following the unpopular war in Vietnam, American society has sung the praises of its veterans, and has been footing the bills for those hurt to prove it. “Spending on veterans’ disability benefits has almost tripled since fiscal year 2000, from $20 billion in 2000 to $54 billion in 2013—an average annual increase of nearly 8%, after adjusting for inflation,” the Congressional Budget Office reported in August. “VA projects that such spending will total $60 billion in 2014 and $64 billion in 2015, a 19% increase from two years earlier.”

Duggan reports that a “key driver” in the growth of such benefits has been the VA’s decision to make veterans who served in southeast Asia during the Vietnam war eligible for benefits if they have Type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, or B-cell leukemia. The agency took the action when it decided to “presume” the ailments were linked to military service in the theater and possible exposure there to the defoliant Agent Orange.

Today’s veterans, the study says, are more likely than their fathers to seek and gain VA disability benefits. Nearly one in four vets since 1990 are being compensated, compared to one in seven veterans prior to 1990. “This higher rate of enrollment may be primarily driven by the VA’s approval of presumptive conditions for Gulf War veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater from 1990 to the present (including Iraq and Afghanistan),” Duggan found.

 

Congressional Budget Office

He also reports that while veterans between 1980 and 1999 were more like to be employed than non-veterans, that has flipped since 2000. “This significant reduction in labor force participation among veterans,” he adds, “closely coincides with their increase in Disability Compensation enrollment during this same period.”

Duggan notes that a 2010 change in VA regulations no longer required veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD to document their exposure to wartime trauma such as firefights or IED blasts. The number of veterans being compensated for PTSD rose from 133,789 in 2000 to 648,992 last year. “The percentage of all veterans on the Disability Compensation program with a diagnosis of PTSD has increased by a factor of six during this period,” Duggan writes, “from 0.5% in 2000 to 3.0% in 2013.”

The jump doesn’t surprise William Treseder, who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine sergeant. “Many post-9/11 vets can tell you stories about the inflation of VA claims,” he says. “We are often told to file for certain conditions—especially post-traumatic stress—whether or not we think it’s actually an issue. It’s the chicken-soup principle in action: can’t hurt; might help.”

Like Duggan, Treseder believes more study is needed examining the impact of disability payments on veterans. “This is much-needed research,” he says. “I’m glad to see someone out there looking into this.”

TIME 2016 Election

Poll: Hillary’s Lead for 2016 Democratic Nomination Has Shrunk

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks onstage at the RFK Ripple Of Hope Gala on Dec. 16, 2014 in New York. Mike Coppola—Getty Images

December poll says 61% of likely Democratic voters say they would vote for Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s lead over possible candidates for the 2016 Democratic nomination has “shrunk significantly,” a new poll found.

61% of likely Democratic voters in December say they would vote for Clinton, according to a poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, down from her lead of 63% in November, and 73% in January.

Vice President Joe Biden is in second place with 14%, the poll said, and Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren is in third with 13%, though Warren has emphasized that she is not seeking a nomination.

For the Republican nomination, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney is leading with 19%, with Florida Governor Jeb Bush in second at 14%, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll last week.

[ABC]

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. Transfers 4 Guantánamo Prisoners to Afghanistan

Guantanamo Bay
A U.S. military guard on the grounds of the now closed Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Aug. 22 2013. Johannes Schmitt-Tegge—EPA

The transfer marks the first repatriation of prisoners to Afghanistan since 2009

Four Guantánamo prisoners were transferred to Afghan authorities, the Pentagon said Saturday, as part of a continuing push by the Obama administration to close the contentious prison.

The detainees boarded a U.S. military plane and were flown to Kabul overnight, ending a decade of detention at the prison for suspected involvement in Taliban-affiliated militias, Reuters reports.

“Most if not all of these accusations have been discarded and each of these individuals at worst could be described as low-level, if even that,” an unnamed senior official told Reuters.

The transfer marks the first repatriation of prisoners to Afghanistan since 2009. 132 detainees are still being held at the Guantánamo complex, which President Barack Obama vowed to shut down early in his presidency–a promise he has struggled to carry through amid legal obstacles and stiff resistance from Congress.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME White House

President Obama Confuses James Franco, Joe Flacco in Speech

U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 19, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The confusion creates a parody Twitter account @JamesFlacco

President Obama addressed the nation Friday regarding Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview following repeated cyber-attacks on the studio, but when he spoke about the film’s stars he accidentally conflated James Franco and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco into “James Flacco.”

Only moments after the slip up occurred someone had already snatched up the Twitter handle James Flacco and started a parody account.

The slip of the tongue was so talked about that even the Ravens quarterback got in on the fun, tweeting a quick correction to the President, and reaching out to Franco.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME White House

Barack Obama Holds First Ever All-Women Press Conference

President Barack Obama speaks during his speech to members of the media during his last news conference of the year in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Dec. 19, 2014 in Washington.
President Barack Obama speaks during his speech to members of the media during his last news conference of the year in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Dec. 19, 2014 in Washington. Alex Wong—Getty Images

The President made a statement without his actions

President Barack Obama’s traditional end-of-year press conference Friday was historic for reasons that had nothing to do with the substance of the president’s comments. All eight of the reporters who questioned Obama were women—and nearly all were print reporters—an apparent first for a formal White House news conference, a venue traditionally dominated by male television correspondents.

“The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day-in and day-out do the hard work of covering the President of the United States,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, after the event. “As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the President’s closely watched, end of the year news conference.”

The departure was noticed throughout the room, as Obama passed over male reporters in the front row and called on their female colleagues. “This seems unprecedented for a solo White House press conference,” said Towson University Presidency Scholar Martha Joynt Kumar, who tracks interactions between the president and the press corps, noting she does not recall a similar occasion in any previous administration. “It certainly is for Obama.”

The list of those called on:

  • Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
  • Cheryl Bolen, Bloomberg BNA
  • Julie Pace, Associated Press
  • Lesley Clark, McClatchy
  • Roberta Rampton, Reuters
  • Colleen M. Nelson, Wall Street Journal
  • Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
  • April Ryan, American Urban Radio

Before the George H.W. Bush White House, it would have been hard to find eight women to ask questions of the president, as there weren’t that many on the beat. Kumar noted that 10 women out of 21 reporters in the first three rows of the briefing room were women, the latest indication that the White House press corps is growing more diverse.

The White House informed the television networks they were unlikely to get questions at the new conference because each had asked the president questions at least twice since the midterm elections.

“It’s amazing for that to happen as that room is filled with a majority men,” said Ryan, who shouted out a question to the president and was acknowledged over questions shouted by male reporters. “I’ve been in one other historic press conference and got a question in the East Room and he called on a number of black reporters and it was amazing to be there. it was saying that maybe this room and this building is trying to reflect society and reflect America.”

In that press conference, on Sept 10, 2010, Obama called on four black reporters out of 12 questioners.

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