TIME White House

Former White House Counsel Takes Name Out of Running for Attorney General

Nominating Kathy Ruemmler would have invited questions on advice she gave the President on an array of sensitive topics

Former White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler has removed her name from consideration to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General, a White House official confirmed Friday.

Ruemmler, once one of President Barack Obama’s closest aides, was seen as the front-runner for the nomination, which would have required Senate confirmation. Obama asked Ruemmler to consider taking the job in September, shortly after Holder informed Obama he intended to step down after nearly six years on the job. “She took the step this week at her own volition,” the official said.

Regardless of the outcome of next month’s midterm elections, nominating Ruemmler would have exposed her to questions on the nature of the advice she had given the president on an array of sensitive topics. The White House announced earlier this month that the president would not seek to announce a replacement for Holder before the elections.

Ruemmler was one of the lead prosecutors in the government’s case against former Enron executives and worked as a white-collar defense lawyer. She joined the Obama administration in 2009, rising to become the White House Counsel, the president’s in-house lawyer, before stepping down earlier this year.

“Kathy is someone who always tells it like it is, is a world class lawyer, and remains a trusted advisor to the president,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Anyone who knows Kathy knows she has impeccable judgment, extraordinary foresight, and is a formidable force. She is also as selfless as they come, and the president is proud to call her a close friend.”

The official said Obama had not yet decided on a successor to Holder, and has not made a determination of whether to announce the nomination during the lame-duck period after the election or after the new Congress is seated in January.

TIME

#AskTIME Subcriber Q and A: Haley Sweetland Edwards

Welcome to TIME Subscriber Q&A, with TIME political correspondent, Haley Sweetland Edwards, who has written this week’s cover story on David Welch, the tech titan who has taken on public school reform.

MrObvious asks, I don’t know if there’s a serious reflection among journalists in the current Ebola scare and other issues, but do any of you feel the slightest responsibility for fomenting this panic through wall to wall coverage of PANIC NOW? I ask because this week alone we’ve had several written articles on both how scary terrible Ebola is and how unlikely it will be to catch it. We’ve also had an article about polling likely voters and the ignorance displayed of the basic political climate. And that voters feel a deep mistrust for the government in their handling of various crisis and the events – displaying what I feel is a sense of fear and panic over events that seems to stem from the type of chaotic and hyperbolic coverage from Media. Not to mention a lack of proportionate view or rational understanding of what can possible be a government response and that of Media ratcheting up the alarm and then complaining of the lack of sirens from the government in response. Have any of you reflected on the irony of first seeing Medias panic train fly over the cliff and then dryly write about the polling showing the effect of it?

We do have long discussions in the newsroom about how to cover the panic surrounding Ebola, as well as other political potent issues that stoke unfounded fears. When politicians recently began calling for the Federal Aviation Administration to cancel all flights to and from West Africa, we tried to make sure our coverage looked unflinchingly at the politics motivating those calls, while simultaneously explaining why a ban on flights would not, in fact, make Americans any safer.

PaulDirks asks, I had a bad teacher once. She disliked me personally and encouraged other classmates to pick on me. She did NOT prevent me from learning. The number one factor for success in school is a home environment that encourages curiosity. The number two factor is a peer group that doesn’t treat learning and intelligence as a stigma. Number three is access to materials. Teacher quality IMHO comes in at number four at best.

You’re right to say that all of those factor matter. Certainly, a child’s home environment matters immensely. But there have also been at least a half dozen studies indicating that a teacher is the most important component to a child’s in-class learning experience. For example, as Nancy Gibbs writes in her editor’s note, “one Texas study found that cutting class size by 10 students was not as beneficial as even modest improvement in the teacher. A McKinsey survey of the world’s best schools…found that they consistently draw 100% of their teachers from the top third of graduates…” I think it’s safe to say that teachers matter, too!

Nflfoghorn asks, Stated as a question “What do people think qualifies as a bad teacher and what should they be doing differently?” I personally think that if we’re not addressing the problem at home then we are not addressing the problem.

That’s a great question and one that’s very, very hard to answer. How do you “rate” a teacher? What qualifies as “bad” as opposed to just “average”? And what if a teacher is really good at inspiring her students or instilling in them a lifelong love of reading, but those qualities are not reflected in those students’ test scores? I try to explore this question a little bit in this week’s cover story, but the truth is, no one has the whole answer, full stop. Many education reformers argue that we need to look at test scores – at “student outputs” – to measure how well a teacher is doing. Others advocate for a more subjective approach that includes peer-to-peer evaluations, in-class observations, student evaluations, and test scores. Still others say that the quality of a teacher cannot be measured at all.

nflfoghorn asks, Dear Haley – why can’t we progress from textbooks to laptops in order for kids to catch up in learning with the rest of the world?

A lot of school districts are trying to move toward using iPads and laptops in the classroom, but there are a lot of obstacles between here and there. I recommend reading Michael Scherer’s story from Oct. 9 (http://time.com/3483905/the-paperless-classroom-is-coming/) that addresses some of those issues.

Sue_N asks,, Haley, re: your Sept. 4 story on the FCC chairman and his statement that America’s lack of broadband competition is “intolerable,” given the crucial importance that the internet plays in American life, commerce and education today, are we anywhere near coming to regard access to the internet as another utility like water, electric and gas? Something that is basic and necessary to every American home and business? Or is it still “that thing kids do on their phones”? And is that leap in thinking something will have to happen before we get true competition in broadband access, or will we need competition to make that leap?

It seems to me that we still tend to think of the internet, ubiquitous as it is, as something that’s nice to have, rather than as something that we need (and I speak as a parent whose daughters, one college and one high school, would be utterly unable to complete classwork or homework without it, and whose job pretty much depends on it). And I’m constantly amazed that the very politicians whose job it is to legislate and regulate the ‘net seem to have so little understanding of it.

Where do you see, especially our politics, in terms of making that mental shift?

There’s a robust discussion raging in Washington, DC right now about the pros and cons of regulating the internet “like a utility.” I won’t get into all that here, but the truth is that regulating the Internet like a utility is politically unfeasible, at least right now. I think you’re right to say that the Internet is becoming an increasingly vital tool in all of our lives. Many of us—including your daughters, you, and me—could not do our jobs (or our school work) without it, and in the next decade, I think most Americans will begin using the Internet as their primary means of watching TV, talking on the phone, communicating with their health care providers, and even attending school/college. Asking how we, as a nation, can ensure that all Americans have access to those digital “pipes” in the future is one of the most important questions facing Congress and the FCC today.

sacredh asks, it’s not even to the midterms yet, but can you see any GOP candidate having coat tails in 2016? Assume that Hillary would be the democrats nominee.

This is the big “cocktail party question,” so to speak, in Washington, DC right now, but I don’t think anyone—and that includes the Republican leadership!—is sure who the nominee will be quite yet. I think I’ll save my rampant speculation for 2015.

deconstructive asks, Haley, thanks for your 9/9 post about regulating Big Banks. Two issues here –

  1. After your research into banking issues for your report, what do YOU think should be done to keep another banking collapse from happening? I think restoring the Glass-Steagall separation of traditional banking and investment / gambling should be part of the solution.
  2. Do you agree with the proposals’ idea to exempt small local banks from new regulations over the Big Banks? I disagree – all banks need equal scrutiny. But size matters, no? How can a small local bank inflict much damage? Look back to the savings and loan crisis during the Reagan 80’s. Some of the guiltiest players that caused massive damage were tiny savings and loans like Vernon Savings from Vernon, TX. and others (like Keating’s). They grew too fast making sloppy loans, engaged in back-scratching deals that made money off themselves, and eventually collapsed the whole system …all with minimal Fed oversight and overwhelmed Fed resources. Thoughts, Haley? Thanks.

 

  1. I don’t think there’s any political appetite at the moment for reinstating Glass-Steagall, but that said, I do firmly believe that we need safeguards to ensure that American taxpayers are not and cannot be held responsible for risky bets made by institutions that are not behaving like a traditional bank. (It says something about the current financial landscape that the word “bank” no longer means what it used to!)
  2. I have not reported on this particular issue – how to regulate big banks vs. small banks – so I can’t give you a thoughtful answer either way, although I do think we ought to regulate certain banking activities differently. The truth is, most small, community banks simply aren’t engaging in the kind of risky, speculative investments that got us into trouble in 2007 and 2008. That doesn’t mean they should go without oversight entirely, but I’m not convinced that family-owned community outfits should be required to jump through the same hoops as the JPMorganChases of the world.

deconstructive asks, Haley, thanks for writing about net neutrality, including polls showing people don’t like the idea of fast lanes, and also mentioning in one of your posts that Big Cable is “poised to benefit from Americans’ increasing demand for online streaming, a service that requires super-fast Internet connections.” (9/16, about HBO streaming proposal) Why have the cable companies fought net neutrality? Is it simple greed from trying to grab the high speed streaming trade? Do they see Netflix as an enemy or an ally in the streaming game? Do they fear the Netflix model? Or is it simple laziness and inertia of NOT wanting to change the status quo (and having to spend money on technical upgrades for high-speed streaming, let alone competitng with Netflix for customers)?

One of the more frustrating parts of covering the net neutrality issue is that there is no single definition of “net neutrality.” The big cable companies say that they are in favor of it, but their definition is often diametrically different than that offered by most Americans. But to answer your second question: no. I don’t think the big cable companies fear the Netflix model, at least in the short term. At this particular point in time, the biggest cable companies in the country—Comcast, Time Warner Cable, etc.—actually benefit from a growing interest in watching TV and movies online. After all, watching high-definition video online, in the form of YouTube or Skype or Netflix or Hulu or HBO Go or anything else, requires an enormous amount of bandwidth. Most Americans looking to upgrade their bandwidth only have one choice: their cable company. So, at least at this point in time, Americans’ hunger for Netflix, and therefore for more bandwidth, is actually driving cable companies’ bottom line.

deconstructive asks, Haley, why do the cable companies oppose ala carte programming? Maybe that could help fight back the wave of online streaming (Netflix, soon HBO) by making customers happy through customization and NOT put with awkward bundling packages – customers like to customize their products all the time, so why fight the tide and alienate them? Besides the cable cabal moaning, “it costs too much,” I’m guessing there are other factors at work, which are _______? (Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the cable companies charge more for the ala carte privilege, thus defeating the purpose just to squeeze more money out of customers, but I digress.)

The short answer to this question is that we’re starting to see the beginning of a move toward a la carte programming. HBO Go’s promise recently to begin offering an online-only service is a major bellwether. But it’s true that the current economy undergirding the television and cable industries remains largely symbiotic. TV producers still stand to make much more money by licensing their content (charging “retrans fees”) to cable companies, rather than relying on a smaller population of loyal viewers to purchase it a la carte online. We may begin to see those economics change in the near future.

RichardAB asks, H.S.E., we keep hearing the word education, while we virtually never hear the word culture. The two should always go hand-in-hand. An educated person is not necessarily a cultured person, but we absolutely need more of the second. What would you suggest could be done to improve the situation?

I agree that an educated person is not necessarily a cultured person, but I’m afraid you’ve stumped me on we, as a society, begin to teach people to be cultured. I suppose “culture” is best taught through communities, families, friends, parents, churches and through engaging in civil service. Some folks have suggested that we ought to require every American between the ages of, say, 18 and 25, to participate in some form of service, whether that’s through their church or in the Armed Services or through a community center or a formal organization, like the Peace Corp or Teach for America. I have no idea how that would work but it’s an interesting suggestion.

yogi asks, HSE, recent studies have shown that students can lose 2 months of grade level skills due to long summer vacations. So why aren’t school reformers more focused on trying to switch districts to year around schedules? The idea that students need a long summer is based on the archaic belief that our nation still primarily an agricultural nation, but I’ve decon-gressed. Doesn’t this seem like an easier task to be able to change than tenure?

That’s a great question and one that I’ve heard asked from others as well. I don’t know what the contours of that debate are, but I imagine it’s more complicated than we think. After all, there’s a robust economy—summer camps and vacations and amusement parks and day care centers—that rely on the fact that kids are not in school during the summer. I imagine there might be some serious pushback from that crowd if it were to change. I also wonder how much more expensive year-round school would be for taxpayers. Presumably, we would have to pay more to keep our schools open for an additional 3 months every year, and we’d have to pay teachers more too. Would taxpayers be willing to shoulder that extra cost?

yogi asks, HSE, why have so many conservative state governments rejected common core when many of the standards its proposing could apply to teacher performance and the lessening of teacher’s unions clout? Is it simply because it was proposed by Obama?

The politics of education today are complicated, but in general: the fact that the Obama administration chose to support the Common Core State Standards definitely helped those who were opposed to it by giving them the ability to dismiss the whole shooting match as “Obama’s standards.” But I’m not convinced that Obama’s support for CCSS is entirely responsible for the backlash. In many states, the rollout was executed poorly, the idea behind the new standards was badly communicated to teachers and parents, and students were tested on ideas they had never learned. Even in the best of times, that’s not an environment that tends to foster trust.

TIME justice

Report: Investigators Mistreated Monica Lewinsky in Clinton Probe

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky speaks to attendees at Forbes Under 30 Summit at the Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa on October 20, 2014. Star Shooter—Star Shooter/MediaPunch/IPx

According to a December 2000 report thought sealed from public view

Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky was mistreated in 1998 by authorities who were looking into her alleged affair with former President Bill Clinton, according to a newly released government report from two years after the incident.

The report, thought to be sealed from the public but recently obtained by the Washington Post via a Freedom of Information Act request, details a 12-hour meeting in January 1998 between Lewinsky, FBI agents and prosecutors.

Lewinsky had been scheduled to meet with Linda Tripp, a White House secretary, at the food court of a Washington, D.C.-area mall. Instead, she was ambushed by federal agents and prosecutors. According to Lewinsky’s version of events — detailed in a rare public appearance earlier this week — when she asked to see an attorney, she was told her cooperation would be worth less if she spoke to counsel and told she could receive some 27 years in prison for allegedly lying about her affair with the President in an affidavit, among other crimes.

The findings vindicate her side of how things played out that day and, the report found, call into question ethical decisions made during the aggressive questioning of Lewinsky and her mother by lawyers working for Ken Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel.

[The Washington Post]

TIME United States

These Are the Most Democratic and Most Republican States

Republicans Democrats
Getty Images

According to a new guide from The Hill

Alabama is the most Republican state in the union and Washington the most Democratic, according to a new ranking guide published by the Washington, D.C. newspaper The Hill.

The paper’s results mirror but don’t completely match up with last year’s Gallup ranking of the most liberal and conservative states, which set Alabama as the most conservative state and Massachusetts as the most liberal. Gallup conducted its list through 2012 interviews, while The Hill analyzed congressional delegations, the makeup of state legislatures and recent presidential elections.

Rounding out the top five Republican states are Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Mississippi, according to The Hill, and the top five most Democratic states include Minnesota, Oregon, California and Rhode Island.

You can find The Hill‘s complete guide here.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: October 24

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

How Ready Is NYC for Ebola?

A doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in one of the hardest-hit countries in the West Africa outbreak tested positive on Thursday for the virus. Can the Big Apple handle its first case better than Dallas? Its leaders certainly think so

Amazon’s 3rd Quarter Slouch

Big spending and a lower-than-expected forecast for the holiday season put a cloud over the tech giant’s share price, which was down 10% after hours

Ottawa Gunman Wanted Passport for Mideast

A portrait of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the 32-year-old who police said launched a deadly attack on Canada’s seat of government, is beginning to emerge

Queen Elizabeth II Sends Her First Tweet

While opening the Information Age exhibit at London’s Science Museum, Queen Elizabeth II sent her first tweet from the official account of Buckingham Palace. She was invited to mark the occasion with a tweet by the museum’s director

NYPD Officers Shoot, Kill Man Who Attacked With a Hatchet

An unidentified man was shot and killed in Queens on Thursday after he attacked four NYPD officers with a hatchet. The assailant was seen taking the weapon out of a backpack before assaulting the rookie officers at around 2 p.m.

Boko Haram Said to Abduct More Women, Girls in Nigeria

The militant Islamist group is accused of abducting dozens more women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state. Residents said the alleged kidnappings took place a day after a reported truce between the militants and Nigerian government

Football Player Accused of Rape Texted Alleged Victim

Accused quarterback at University of Florida Treon Harris reportedly texted his accuser “don’t tell nobody ’bout nothing” shortly after the encounter. Harris was suspended from the team on Oct. 6, but was reinstated after the accuser withdrew her complaint on Oct. 9

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino Stops Chemo

Menino’s announcement saddened Bostonians who knew him as their leader for five terms over two decades. “While I continue to fight this terrible disease, I feel it is time for me to spend more time with my family, grandkids and friends,” he said in a statement

Leaks Reveal New Details About Ferguson Shooting

As a grand jury weighs whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, a sequence of leaks in recent days have fanned the flames in Ferguson and raised questions about the investigation

Sweden Calls Off Search for Suspected Submarine

Swedish authorities said they called off their search for a suspected submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Officials haven’t blamed any country for the supposed intrusion, though most Swedish defense analysts said Russia would be a likely culprit

Filipina Transgender’s Murder Sparks LGBT Outrage

The burial of Jennifer Laude has sparked a “National Day of Outrage” in the Philippines, with LGBT groups staging vigils on Friday. The groups say her killing — for which a U.S. Marine has been accused — highlights the vulnerable position of trans people in the Philippines

Halle Berry to Relaunch French Lingerie Line at Target

The Academy Award-winning actress is relaunching French lingerie line Scandale and teaming up with Target to sell in the states. Berry discovered the 80-year-old luxury lingerie label while shopping in Paris and wanted to revive the brand globally

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, October 24, at 1 p.m., with TIME political reporter, Haley Sweetland Edwards, who wrote this week’s cover story on David Welch, the tech titan who has taken on public school reform.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

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TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Oct. 17 – 24

From the sentencing of Oscar Pistorius and a fatal shooting at the Canadian War Memorial, to a pair of white lion cubs in Serbia and Darth Vader on the campaign trail, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME

White House Dogs Return to Duty After Scuffle With Intruder

Adorable and ready for duty

The two Secret Service dogs that brawled with a man who allegedly jumped over the White House fence Wednesday evening have been cleared to return to duty, according to tweets from the official Secret Service Twitter account.

Hurricane and Jordan suffered minor bruising from the incident. A video posted by Fox News shows the alleged intruder, Dominic Adesanya kicking Jordan before being tackled by Hurricane. Adesanya then proceeded to repeatedly punch Hurricane, according to a criminal complaint. Adesanya has been charged with two counts of assaulting a K-9 police officer—a felony—as well as resisting arrest, making threats and unlawful entry.

Hurricane and Jordan returned to work on Thursday. When they’re not patrolling the White House grounds, Hurricane likes playing with his Kong Toy and Jordan enjoys taking strolls.

TIME 2014 Election

Democrats Positioned to Elect Republican Congressman in Washington State

Washington Primary
Fourth Congressional District candidate Dan Newhouse smiles after learning Aug. 5, 2014 in Yakima, Wash. that he was one of the top two finishers in the congressional primary. Gordon King—Yakima Herald-Republic/AP

The question these days in central Washington is not whether a Democrat or a Republican will represent the Congressional district, but what kind of Republican. And Democrats will play a big role in making the decision.

For the first time in the state’s history, Washington’s top-two system will pit two congressional candidates of the same party: Tea Party-backed former Redskins tight-end Clint Didier and state legislator Dan Newhouse. Democrats, upset with having no representation in the general election, will likely turn to Newhouse, the moderate alternative endorsed by incumbent Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).

“It’s hard for me to believe that all of those people who have been voting for Democrats over the past decade are suddenly going to vote for Didier—I just don’t see that happening,” says Democrat Jay Clough, who ran unsuccessfully against Hastings the past two cycles. Of the around 75,000 Democrats who have voted the past few cycles in Washington’s 4th district, Clough suspects that “at least half if not more” will go to Newhouse, and only a “small contingent” will sit out of the race or throw in a write-in ballot. In 2012, 38% of the district voted for Barack Obama.

“Newhouse is most likely going to win because of Democratic support,” says Clough.

It’s clear why Democrats wouldn’t like Didier, who ran and lost races for statewide office twice before winning the primary this year by around 6,500 votes. In an interview with the Tea Party News Network this year, Didier said that he wants to go back to the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve, end foreign aid, and relinquish the United Sates’ membership in the United Nations. He has been endorsed by Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin.

Newhouse, who served under former Democratic governor Christine Gregorie as the state’s Department of Agriculture director, calls himself a “strong conservative” on his website. But despite the lack of good polling in the region, the nonpartisan election handicappers at the Cook Political Report say the race is leaning Newhouse due to “his greater appeal with Democrats.”

“While we don’t like Newhouse—he doesn’t agree with us on very many issues…[he] has been appointed by a Democratic governor in a pretty prestigious position and has said publicly that he not only is willing to but sees it as a duty of holding office to work with the other party,” says Clough. “There’s a difference between that and a guy who wants to tear down basically the structures of government in our country.”

“It’s not a huge stretch to say that Democrats have a lot more in common with Newhouse than Didier,” he adds.

Larry Stickney, the Didier campaign manager, says that Didier’s personality and views on protecting civil liberties, including opposition to National Security Agency domestic surveillance and “unconstitutional wars,” will attract Democrats to their side. Stickney called Newhouse a “cheerleader for the John Boehner crowd” but Didier “a bit of a populist conservative.”

“He’s a guy with some charisma and even some celebrity from his NFL days—kind of favorite son status here,” says Stickney of Didier. “[He] has a lot of personal appeal and some of the Democrat folks are willing to forgive him maybe on some of his conservative views because they like him.” He adds that the Democrats “don’t seem to be really super organized” too.

Indeed, the Democrats have not embarked on any voter mobilization efforts, although Clough and other party leaders have “suggested” voting for Newhouse, according to Clough. “What I’ve said as chair of the Benton County Democrats is that we will not work for a Republican candidate because we’re not Republicans,” Clough says. “We’re Democrats.”

“Right now we’re trying to do what’s best for our community,” he adds. “And what’s best for our community right now is not Didier.”

TIME Crime

What the Ferguson Leaks Tell Us About Michael Brown’s Death

Police face off with demonstrators outside the police station as protests continue in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's death on Oct. 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police face off with demonstrators outside the police station as protests continue in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's death on Oct. 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

A guide to the latest news from the Ferguson case and grand jury investigation

As a St. Louis County grand jury weighs whether to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a series of leaks have provided new information about the skirmish that led to Brown’s death and ignited a national debate about race and police violence. A lot has happened since Brown died after a confrontation with Wilson on Aug. 9. Here’s a guide to making sense of it:

What’s new?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained Brown’s official autopsy report on Oct. 22, which indicates he was shot near the right thumb at very close range. Medical experts interviewed by the paper said the findings may support Wilson’s contention that Brown was reaching for the officer’s gun inside the police SUV where their original struggle occurred. A separate autopsy conducted for Brown’s family by Dr. Michael Baden, a well-known forensic pathologist, concluded that none of the teen’s wounds indicated he was shot at such close range.

Wilson told investigators that Brown punched him in the face through the open window of the vehicle, according to the Post-Dispatch. In Wilson’s version of events, the punch prompted him to draw his gun and Brown grabbed for it. As they struggled over the weapon, Brown was shot in the hand. According to Wilson, Brown then ran away from the vehicle, so the officer jumped out to give chase. Wilson reportedly told investigators that Brown defied the officer’s command to stop, then turned and ran at him, at which point Wilson fired the fatal shots.

According to the Washington Post, “a half-dozen unnamed black witnesses” have provided testimony to the grand jury that supports Wilson’s version of events. Brown’s blood was found on the gun, on Wilson’s uniform and spattered on an inside door panel of the car, according to the New York Times. Other witnesses have provided divergent accounts of the incident, alleging that Brown was shot with his hands in the air or while fleeing. Protesters pictured with their hands-up became one of the iconic images of the unrest that wracked Ferguson in the weeks after Brown’s death.

What’s not?

In many ways, the leaks amplify what we already knew. From the beginning, the Ferguson police department has said publicly that Wilson shot Brown after the teen instigated a struggle in the SUV that made the officer fear for his safety. Independent witnesses have said there was a scuffle, though they differ on whether it happened in or near Wilson’s vehicle. Apart from detailed forensic information about Brown’s wounds, the autopsy includes a toxicology report indicating the presence of marijuana in Brown’s system. Previously released surveillance video shows Brown stealing a pack of Swisher Sweets, cheap cigars that are commonly used to roll blunts, from a convenience store shortly before the altercation with Wilson. But that incident had nothing to do with the confrontation, which occurred after Wilson ordered Brown and a friend to move onto the sidewalk as they walked down the middle of a street.

How important is this information?

The details of the struggle in the SUV matter. In Missouri, as elsewhere, a police officer has wide latitude to use deadly force if he has justifiable reason to feel his life is in danger. If forensic information and witness testimony support Wilson’s account that Brown grabbed for his gun, the grand jury—or, in the event of an indictment, a trial jury—would ostensibly be more likely to determine that the use of force was justified.

What don’t the leaks tell us?

They don’t explain the origin of the skirmish, which seems to have escalated abruptly. In describing the toxicology report, the Post’s sources say “the levels in Brown’s body may have been high enough to trigger hallucinations,” but there is no scientific link between marijuana and violent behavior.

Most importantly, the leaks do not provide new forensic information about the sequence of fatal shots. “What we want to know is why Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown multiple times and killed him even though he was more than 20 feet away from his patrol car,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said in a statement. “This is the crux of the matter!” The autopsy does not offer any answers.

What’s going on with the grand jury?

Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, has said that he expects the deliberations to wrap up this month or next. The grand jury process has been unusual in a number of ways, as TIME reported last month.

Prosecutors declined to recommend a specific charge for Wilson, which is rare. Instead, they are presenting evidence as it becomes available, and allowing the grand jury members to determine whether it warrants charges of murder or manslaughter. (There are two options for each charge: first- or second-degree murder; and voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.)

All testimony in the case is being transcribed, which is unusual because it exposes witnesses to future legal proceedings. McCulloch has delegated the task of presenting evidence to two attorneys in his office in an attempt to neutralize allegations that he lacks objectivity. (McCulloch’s father, a police officer, died in the line of duty, and African Americans have criticized his handling of past police shootings.) In another rare move, McCulloch has pledged to immediately release transcripts of the proceedings. According to the prosecutor’s office, these decisions were made in the interest of transparency, though it may also be an attempt to head off criticism in the event that the grand jury declines to indict Wilson.

Is there a motive for the leaks?

It’s a criminal act to leak information about grand jury proceedings, so the number of leaks the investigation has sprung in recent days is conspicuous. The Department of Justice, which is conducting its own inquiry into the shooting, has condemned the trickle of information.“There seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case,” it said on Oct. 22.

The leaks have also raised questions about whether sources connected to the investigation are spreading this information to prepare the community for the possibility that the grand jury declines to indict. The information that has leaked suggests the likelihood of that may be greater than protesters realize.

How is Ferguson reacting?

The daily demonstrations are ongoing. Protests tapered off in the weeks after Brown’s death, but the Oct. 8 killing of Vonderrit Myers, a black 18-year-old shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer, rekindled the community’s fury. (Cops say Myers fired at the officer first; forensic evidence released by the police department, including lab results that reportedly show gunpowder residue on Myers’ hand and in the waistband of his jeans, appear to corroborate that version of events. Myers’ family says they believe he was unarmed.)

Thousands of people massed in St. Louis in mid-October for coordinated protests following Myers’ death. There were some arrests and sporadic clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, but nothing on the scale of the August riots. But it was enough to upset the fragile peace that had set in during September and on Oct. 21, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the formation of a commission to address issues like race relations.

The recent autopsy and other leaks have fanned the flames in Ferguson. That anger is likely a mere preview of how the community will react if Wilson is cleared. “If there is no indictment,” said one protester, “all hell is going to break loose.”

Read next: Mourning Ferguson

TIME 2014 Election

Democrat vs. Democrat Down To Wire in Silicon Valley House Race

Barack Obama, Mike Honda
President Barack Obama is greeted by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., as the president arrives in Los Altos Hills, Calif., where he will attend a fundraising event Wednesday, July 23, 2014, during his three-day West Coast trip to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. AP

California hopes the non-partisan, open system will lead to a more functional Congress

Don’t look now, but a moderate might get elected to Congress next month from California.

In California’s 17th congressional district, which encompasses much of Silicon Valley, two Democrats are on the ballot on Nov. 4. One is seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, 73, and the other 38-year-old former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna, who is trying to unseat his fellow Democrat.

Why wasn’t this battle decided in California’s June 3 primary? Honda and Khanna both “won” that primary: they both gained enough votes to advance to the general election and under California’s new rules—this is the second cycle the system has been in place—it doesn’t matter that they are both Democrats. In fact, seven out of California’s 53 congressional districts have two candidates from the same party competing in the General Election.

More than 30 years ago, California led the country in closing its primaries. But that, coupled with redistricting that gerrymandered safe seats, led to increasingly partisan politicians more afraid of a primary challenge than of losing to the other party. In other words: politicians more likely to blow up the government than make deals across the aisle.

So in 2010, Californians voted to take the parties out of redistricting and opened up its primary process in the hopes of electing people who didn’t think compromise is a dirty word, or at least seek to work with their opponents instead of vanquishing them.

Whether this political experiment has worked remains to be seen. But if any place in the country understands disruption and reinvention, it’s Silicon Valley. And the Honda/Khanna race, while troubling fratricide to most of the party, carries undertones of California’s intent: moderation.

Khanna spent a whopping $3 million to come in a distant second in the primary, which Honda won by 20 points. Honda has the endorsement of much of the establishment, including President Obama, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and the California Democratic Party. Khanna enjoys the backing of some deep-pocketed Silicon Valley tycoons, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a campaign team drawn from Obama’s presidential bids.

Khanna burned through another $1 million post primary and by the end of September had just $218,000 cash on hand compared to Honda’s $965,000. “We were always the underdog going into this thing,” Khanna tells TIME. “But we will have enough money to compete on Election Day. We’ve built a strong campaign on a lot of retail politics.”

Khanna has been attacking Honda as ineffectual and unwilling the reach across the aisle to get things done. During the debate Khanna mocked Honda’s “bipartisanship.” Honda has been attacking Khanna as a Republican in Democratic clothing. “He sent out a mailer labeling me a liberal,” Honda tells TIME. “I am a Democrat. He is?” Honda has also been promoting his seniority and his ability to deliver for the district, including helping to secure a BART train extension to the area. And, yes, he has touted his “bipartisan” credentials working with Republicans on legislation and initiatives.

Polls show the race in a dead heat with just three weeks to go until Election Day. But just the fact that the race is a debate over which candidate would be more functional, pragmatic and less dogmatic is already a victory for state reformers.

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