TIME obituary

5-Term U.S. Representative John Myers Dead at 87

U.S. Representative John Myers served for 30 years in politics

(COVINGTON, Ind.) —Former U.S. Rep. John Myers, who represented western Indiana’s 7th District for three decades, has died.

Owner Robert Shelby of Shelby Funeral Home in Covington says the 87-year-old Myers died Tuesday morning in his home following a brief illness.

Myers was a lifelong Covington resident. The Republican served in U.S. House from 1967 to 1997.

Visitation will be held Friday at the Covington United Methodist Church, with the funeral at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church. Burial will follow in Mount Hope Cemetery.

TIME Gay Marriage

Gay Lawmaker Threatens to Out Cheating Peers Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Rep. Patricia Todd, of Birmingham, Ala. discusses a bill during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting in Montgomery, Ala. on Jan. 15, 2014.
Rep. Patricia Todd, of Birmingham, Ala. discusses a bill during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting in Montgomery, Ala. on Jan. 15, 2014. Butch Dill—AP

"I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out."

It must be tough to be an openly gay lawmaker in the Bible Belt.

But Alabama state Rep. Patricia Todd, a Democrat, isn’t backing down.

After a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, Todd wrote a Facebook post that might have a few of her peers worried.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” Todd wrote. “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”

Todd elaborated on her threat to the Huffington Post: “If certain people come out and start espousing this rhetoric about family values, then I will say, ‘Let’s talk about family values, because here’s what I heard.’ I don’t have direct knowledge, because obviously I’m not the other person involved in the affair.”

“One thing I’m pretty consistent on is I do not like hypocrites,” she added. “If you can explain your position and you hold yourself to the same standard you want to hold me to, then fine. But you cannot go out there and smear my community by condemning us and somehow making us feel less than, and expect me to be quiet.”

On Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade issued a two-week stay on her ruling, giving the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals until Feb. 9 to decide whether to continue the delay.

Figuring out whether Todd will make good on her threats in the intervening time will certainly make Alabama politics rather interesting.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Government

Government Officials May Be Using Less Mumbo Jumbo

This report card shows how well federal government agencies did in 2014, in terms of speaking plainly when communicating with the public. It was released on Jan. 27, 2015. Courtesy of the Center for Plain Language

"They just don’t write that well"

On Tuesday, the non-profit Center for Plain Language released its third annual report card for federal government agencies. Those who are following the spirit and letter of the Plain Writing Act—a 2010 law designed to eliminate bureaucratic gobbledygook—got A’s. Those who failed to abide and didn’t submit documents to be reviewed earned big fat F’s.

The bad news is that government agencies are still using words like weatherization, gasification, grantsmanship and interdependencies. The good news is that, overall, the average grade is going up, with 16 of 22 departments improving over the previous year’s grades.

That means fewer sentences like this, from the Department of Defense:

The Deputy Secretary, the second-highest ranking official in the DoD, is delegated full power and authority to act for the Secretary and to exercise the powers of the Secretary on any and all matters for which the Secretary is authorized to act.

And more sentences like this, from the Social Security Administration:

You need a Social Security number to get a job, collect Social Security benefits and get some other government services.

As well as fewer sentences like this, from the Department of Education (note, this really is just one sentence):

Comparison teachers included those from traditional routes to certification (those who completed all requirements for certification, typically through an undergraduate or graduate program in education, before they began to teach) and teachers from less selective alternative routes to certification (programs that allowed teachers to begin to teach before completing all requirements for certification, but that were not as selective as TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs).

And more sentences like this, from the Transportation Security Administration:

Fireworks are not permitted in checked or carry-on baggage.

But the Center for Plain Language also did things a little bit differently this time around. Rather than just grading compliance (Does the agency appoint someone to oversee their plain language endeavors? Is there a way for the public to give the agency feedback about their language?), they gave each agency a grade for compliance, writing samples and information design. The latter is a web-inspired category that’s all about using typeface and white space and graphics to make complex ideas easier to digest. In that area, most agencies came away with C’s.

“They just don’t write that well,” Annetta Cheek, co-founder of the Center for Plain Language, says about government employees. “There’s a lot of feeling that if it doesn’t look complex and legal maybe it’s not legal … It’s just counter to the culture of the government, and people struggle to write plainly.” When it comes to visual elements, she says that’s not even on most agencies’ radars. They’re all text and no pictures. “It will be a while before they dig themselves out of the hole and get to the high level that some private sector companies already have,” she says.

Cheek has been lobbying for Washington, D.C., denizens to speak simply with the public for the past 20 years. And she says that despite the government’s taste for overwrought sentences, “we are finally seeing some significant progress.”

The full report card is above. Cheek says that they’ll likely be dropping the compliance grade next year, since almost every agency has figured out how to follow the letter of the law (note all the A’s). And rather than letting the agencies cherry-pick samples to submit—which forces some skepticism about how much these grades really convey—the Center’s researchers will be making their own selections. The grades for writing were determined by feeding example documents through a software program that picked out red flags like long words, needless words and passive verbs. The information design scores were determined by two people independently scoring the documents’ visual elements.

The Act itself doesn’t include a process for oversight, which is why the Center for Plain Language developed this annual process for rewarding straightforward speech and holding jargon-lovers’ feet to the fire.

TIME 2016 Election

The Palin v. Hillary Troll-Off of 2015

Sarah Palin
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) walks onstage to speak at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

At the Iowa Freedom Summit over the weekend, Sarah Palin did her very best to troll Hillary Clinton. At one point, she held up a “Ready for Hillary” car magnet and quipped, “I’m ready for Hillary.” The dig earned a cacophony of hooting and applause.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Super PAC Ready for Hillary, which has been laying the groundwork for a Clinton campaign for the past two years, fired back. The group launched a new online fundraising site that pictures a still frame of Palin holding up the Ready for Hillary car magnet—an obvious attempt to aggravate the Democratic base, which loves to hate the wink-prone former governor of Alaska.

“Sarah Palin says Republicans will be ready for Hillary,” the text above the photograph reads. “Let’s show her she’s wrong.” It urges Clinton supporters to pony up $20.16 or more for a Ready for Hillary car magnet of their own.

At the Iowa Freedom Summit, Palin struck a feminist note, which was itself a not-so-subtle dig at Clinton’s potential electoral strength as the first female president. Palin said there shouldn’t be a “no girls allowed” sign on the Oval Office door, but insinuated that the first female commander-in-chief should be her rather than Hillary.

Palin also played off the title of Clinton’s 1996 book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, reminding her fellow conservatives that it will take a “village” to defeat Clinton, should the former Secretary of State win the Democratic nomination.

TIME Education

Obama Drops Effort to Tax College Savings Plans

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address - DC
US President Barack Obama delivers his sixth State Of The Union address to the nation at the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2015. Olivier Douliery—SIPA

He just proposed it in the State of the Union.

Just one week after proposing the idea in his State of the Union Address, President Obama was forced to withdraw a proposal to change the way tax-preferred college savings plans work after criticism from Republicans and members of his own party.

A White House official confirmed Tuesday that Obama is no longer calling to tax income from so-called 529 plans in his budget to be released next week, but will maintain the other elements of his plan to make college more affordable. The administration had argued that the plans benefited those higher on the income scale and planned to use the savings to pay for the president’s free community college proposal and expanded tax breaks that would help those at lower incomes.

“We proposed it because we thought it was a sensible approach, part of consolidating six programs to two and expanding and better targeting education tax relief for the middle class,” a White House official said. “Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support, as well as the President’s broader package of tax relief for childcare and working families, paid for by eliminating the trust fund loophole and making sure the wealthy pay their fair share.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed Obama to drop the proposal with administration officials Tuesday aboard Air Force One as she joined Obama on his trip from India to Saudi Arabia. The White House said that Obama’s other proposals to close the so-called trust-fund loophole on inherited wealth and a new fee on the liabilities of the nation’s largest financial institutions would more than cover the cost of his education proposals.

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner called on Obama to withdraw the proposal. “529 plans help middle-class families save for college, but now the president wants to tax those plans,” he said. “It’s another example of his outdated, top-down approach­ when our focus ought to be on providing opportunity for all Americans. And so, for the sake of middle-class families, the president ought to withdraw this tax increase from his budget when he submits it soon.”

TIME Congress

Republican House Takes Aim at Human Trafficking Again

House Republicans
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise conduct a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol, Jan. 27, 2015. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

The House passed a dozen bills that combat the issue of human trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking

Several bills passed the House of Representatives this week to combat human trafficking worldwide. Between Monday and Tuesday, a total of 12 bipartisan bills attacking the issue from all angles—from the demand for sex trafficking to the welfare system’s response to victims—passed the Republican-controlled House.

Many of the bills that passed Tuesday had passed the House during the 113th Congress, but didn’t get voted on in the Senate. Republicans are hopeful that will change this time around.

“Though last year many of these same bills got stuck in the Senate, for the sake of all those affected by human trafficking, I’m hopeful that these bills will be passed through the Senate, sent to the President’s desk, and finally become law,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

A total of 13 bills focused on trafficking passed the House last session and one, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, was signed into law last September. The bills were lauded by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as important steps toward ending the practice, seen across the globe as a modern form of slavery.

Bills on the issue of human trafficking have also been introduced in the Senate, including a bill from Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called the Combat Human Trafficking Act, aimed at those who engage in sex acts with victims of trafficking. The bill, introduced Jan. 8, would also ramp up law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute buyers and increase victim services. In a statement to TIME, Sen. Portman called human trafficking the “human rights cause of our time.”

“I am hopeful that legislation to strengthen law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute all who commit sex trafficking crimes will soon become law,”said Portman.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) spoke on the Senate floor urging action on a bill he and several Senators introduced in January called the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. “Yes, human trafficking is happening right in our own backyard, and more than 80% of sex trafficking victims in America are U.S. citizens,” Cornyn said, noting that big sporting events like the Super Bowl can be hotbeds for sex trafficking.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a multinational, multibillion-dollar industry and one of the most lucrative international criminal practices. The Department of Homeland Security estimates over 20 million men, women, and children are victims of trafficking. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming child sex trafficking victims every year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The bills before Congress address what’s arguably the most maligned form of trafficking—child sex trafficking— and they go pretty far, too. One bill, the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, calls on states to provide welfare services including counseling to keep child victims from having to enter the criminal justice system. Another bill, International Megan’s Law, would require the U.S. to communicate about when and where convicted child sex offenders are traveling internationally. One bill would make it a crime to “knowingly” sell advertising that offers certain commercial sex acts, in an effort to stop websites like backpage.com.

Though the issue of child sex trafficking is well addressed in the bills, little attention is given to international and domestic labor trafficking, of which there are an estimated 14.2 million victims worldwide. The oversight hasn’t gone unnoticed by leading anti-trafficking group Polaris , which operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

“Overall the introduction of these bills is a step in the right direction,” Brandon Bouchard, a spokesperson for Polaris tells TIME. “We just wish Congress would include labor trafficking in their efforts to combat trafficking worldwide.”

The group is also worried that some of the new initiatives proposed under the legislation will impose on already cash-strapped programs.

“Funding for survivor services is already severely limited. Adding new programs and initiatives that draw funding from these minimal allocations is counterintuitive,” said Polaris director of national programs Keeli Sorensen in a statement.

The bills came at the start of a busy week on the issue of trafficking. Human rights organization Human Rights First will host a working group meeting in Washington, bringing together government and non-profit leaders from across the nation to discuss how to best address the issue.

TIME The Holocaust

The Selection at Auschwitz

Auschwitz survivors and families visit the Birkenau Memorial carrying candles on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland.
Auschwitz survivors and families visit the Birkenau Memorial carrying candles on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland. Ian Gavan—Getty Images

Primo Levi's account of his arrival at the death camp

Seventy years ago today, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied southern Poland where, from 1942 on, the Nazis killed at least 960,000 Jews, 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma (Gypsies), 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and 10,000-15,000 others. Most were killed in gas chambers designed and constructed for the purpose.

In February 1944, less than a year before the liberation, the Italian chemist Primo Levi arrived at the camp with more than 600 other Jews who had been deported from German-occupied Italy in sealed train cars. In all, some 10,000 Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps from Italy after the German occupation in September 1943.

Following is Levi’s account of the selection process by means of which the Nazis determined who would be killed and who would be kept alive for slave labor, from Survival in Auschwitz, (Simon and Schuster):

The climax came suddenly. The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger. A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors. A little beyond it, a row of lorries. Then everything was silent again. Someone translated: we had to climb down with our luggage and deposit it alongside the train. In a moment the platform was swarming with shadows. But we were afraid to break that silence: everyone busied himself with his luggage, searched for someone else, called to somebody, but timidly, in a whisper.

A dozen SS men stood around, legs akimbo, with an indifferent air. At a certain moment they moved among us, and in a subdued tone of voice, with faces of stone, began to interrogate us rapidly, one by one, in bad Italian. They did not interrogate everybody, only a few: ‘How old? Healthy or ill?’ And on the basis of the reply they pointed in two different directions.

Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences. We had expected something more apocalyptic: they seemed simple police agents. It was disconcerting and disarming. Someone dared to ask for his luggage: they replied, ‘luggage afterwards’. Someone else did not want to leave his wife: they said, ‘together again afterwards’. Many mothers did not want to be separated from their children: they said ‘good, good, stay with child’. They behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. But Renzo stayed an instant too long to say good-bye to Francesca, his fiancée, and with a single blow they knocked him to the ground. It was their everyday duty.

In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been collected together in a group. What happened to the others, to the women, to the children, to the old men, we could establish neither then nor later: the night swallowed them up, purely and simply. Today, however, we know that in that rapid and summary choice each one of us had been judged capable or not of working usefully for the Reich; we know that of our convoy no more than ninety-six men and twenty-nine women entered the respective camps of Monowitz-Buna and Birkenau, and that of all the others, more than five hundred in number, not one was living two days later…

This is the reason why three-year-old Emilia died: the historical necessity of killing the children of Jews was self-demonstrative to the Germans. Emilia, daughter of Aldo Levi of Milan, was a curious, ambitious, cheerful, intelligent child; her parents had succeeded in washing her during the journey in the packed car in a tub with tepid water which the degenerate German engineer had allowed them to draw from the engine that was dragging us all to death.

Thus in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.

[The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

[Centro Primo Levi, New York]

Read next: Eva Kor: What It Was Like to Be Experimented on During the Holocaust

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TIME Congress

Partisan Lines Drawn in Congress Over Immigration

John Boehner Holds Media Briefing At The Capitol
Speaker of the House John Boehner takes questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Republicans prepare to sue the President, while Democrats join together against protest bill.

The deep divisions over illegal immigration were laid bare on Tuesday, as the House GOP discussed how to sue the President over his recent executive actions and Senate Democrats joined together to pressure the new Republican leadership to back down from controversial provisions in a must-pass spending bill next month.

Republicans have struggled to coalesce around a strategy opposing Obama’s November decision to temporarily defer deportations and provide work permits to up to five million people who entered the country illegally. Republicans led the effort to pass a short-term funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security—which enacted the President’s immigration actions—to increase their leverage with the new Republicans Senate.

But after every Senate Democrat signed a letter on Tuesday calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass a DHS bill for the remainder of the fiscal year without the House package’s immigration provisions—including one that would defund Obama’s 2012 program granting deportation relief to young adults who came to the country illegally as children—it’s clear Senate Republicans won’t be able to pass the House’s dream bill. Republicans only control 54 seats in the Senate; they need 60 to pass the bill and 67 to overcome a White House veto. Congress needs to pass a spending bill by February 27 or “nonessential” parts of the agency will shut down.

“The message we are sending today is clear: we should not play politics with critical homeland security resources that keep our country safe,” said New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, who helped orchestrate the Democratic letter. “Protecting our homeland from threats is one of our most important responsibilities here in Congress, and I hope Republicans will put aside partisanship to live up to this responsibility.”

After rejecting the Senate’s bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, House Republicans said that will consider the issue in a step-by-step approach, starting with border security. But the House GOP leadership pulled its recent bill—led by chief sponsor and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, who has branded it the “toughest” ever—on Monday due to the blizzard. While there was talk of attaching the bill to the DHS funding package, the bill’s status is now up in the air as conservatives claim credit for sidetracking it. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has said that the bill, which would set new penalties unless the agency prevents all illegal U.S. southern border crossings in five years, is “extreme to the point of being unworkable,” while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects that the agency would be unable to meet the bill’s deadline requirements for “nearly all construction projects.”

Another option Republicans are considering is to sue the Administration over the President’s immigration executive actions. House Speaker John Boehner reportedly told colleagues on Tuesday that the leadership is “finalizing” plans to authorize litigation, but that effort will be time-intensive, potentially expensive, unlikely to address some conservatives’ concerns and could very well not hold up in court. Republicans on the Hill are not alone, however, as 26 states are protesting Obama’s executive actions through a lawsuit.

Last year before Obama announced his executive actions on immigration, Boehner warned Obama that he would “burn himself” if he proceeded. He has since decried the actions as unlawful and unconstitutional. But from here on, he may be left to speeches. After the Senate Democrats’ letter Tuesday, it’s as clear as it has ever been that Republicans have few good options to overturn what they believe is a massive executive overreach.

TIME 2016 Election

The Secret Meanings Behind the Names of Presidential Super PACs

Conservative Activists And Leaders Attend The Iowa Freedom Summit
Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, waves to the crowd during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015. Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Long before the campaign buttons and bumper stickers, today’s presidential candidates must create an outside fundraising committee. And while they aren’t always in total control of these groups, the names can be secret decoder rings that explain the central themes of the campaigns they are preparing.

Here’s a look at the names of five groups backing 2016 candidates and what they might signal.

Right to Rise

What is it? A leadership PAC and a separate super PAC

Who does it benefit? Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida

Where does the name come from? The “right to rise” was coined by a historian to describe President Lincoln’s views on economic opportunity. After Rep. Paul Ryan used the phrase, Bush wrote a guest editorial about it in the Wall Street Journal in 2011.

What’s it mean? The name is a sign that Bush intends to focus on pocketbook issues for the middle class, which has been stuck with stagnant wages for more than a decade. The fact he embraced the term was also a key tipoff that Ryan was not going to run.

Our American Revival

What is it? A tax-exempt 527 organization

Who does it benefit? Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin

Where does the name come from? Walker used the phrase “our American revival” in a recent statement critiquing President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

What’s it mean? The term “revival” has religious undertones that Walker, a preacher’s kid, surely recognizes. It’s also a sign he intends to run as a bold, populist counterpoint to Obama’s tenure in Washington.

Leadership Matters for America

What is it? A political action committee

Who does it benefit? Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey

Where does the name come from? Christie used the phrase “leadership matters” during his 2012 keynote speech at the Republican presidential convention for Mitt Romney.

What’s it mean? Christie is running on his own personality and leadership style. He intends to highlight his time as governor as well as his brash and sometimes confrontational style to contrast himself with Obama and his Republican opponents.

Stand for Principle

What is it? A super PAC

Who does it benefit? Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas

Where does the name come from? In a 2014 speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, Cruz argued that Republicans need to “stand for principle” in order to win elections.

What’s it mean? Cruz intends to run as the conservative choice among the Republican field, with an orthodoxy at the center of his message that will contrast him against past nominees such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, not to mention current contenders like Christie and Bush.

Ready for Hillary

What is it? A super PAC

Who does it benefit? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Where does the name come from? The super PAC was formed by Clinton supporters to build lists of grassroots supporters and recruit major donors before she announced a campaign.

What’s it mean? The name doesn’t portend much about Clinton’s campaign, since she didn’t choose it, at least not personally. But it does take on a central theme of the emerging Clinton juggernaut—the notion that America is now “ready” for a female president and that it’s Clinton’s turn after her 2008 primary loss.

TIME

This Is How Far Barack Obama Has Traveled Around the World

President Obama’s meeting in Saudi Arabia Tuesday with its new king marks his 84th visit to a foreign country as president, including repeat visits. By TIME’s estimation, he has now accumulated over 447,000 frequent flyer miles in international travel since January 2009, including flights returning to the United States.

Follow each of those trips below with the arrow buttons and watch those totals accumulate. You can skip to the end by using the left arrow from the first slide.

Methodology

Total miles are calculated as the round-trip distance between Washington, D.C. and a given location. Since the figures don’t account for routes and intermediate stops for refueling, the actual figure is likely to be higher. For trips that include multiple stops, the calculation only factors in the flight from Washington for the first and last leg.

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