TIME justice

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law to Stand Ahead of Midterms

Voter ID Test
A voter shows his photo identification to an election official at an early voting polling site, in Austin, Texas on Feb. 26, 2014. Eric Gay—AP

Three justices issued a dissent calling the law "purposefully discriminatory"

The Supreme Court decided Saturday that Texas can enforce its controversial voter identification law in November’s midterm elections, despite recently blocking several similar laws in other states.

The law, which requires Texas voters to show photo identification like a driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport, is championed by some who argue that it reduces voter fraud. However, critics say it’s a means of disenfranchising voters, particularly minority groups and the poor, who can be less likely to have the government-issued identification required by the law.

While the Court left its decision over the law unexplained, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a dissent criticizing the voter ID rules, calling them “a purposefully discriminatory law” that undermines “public confidence in elections.” Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Ginsburg’s dissent, the New York Times reports.

A report released this month by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office showed that voter ID laws similar to those in Texas contributed to lower voter turnouts in two states in 2012—between about 2.2 and 3.2 percentage points in Tennessee and 2 percentage points in Kansas. Those declines were greater among younger and black voters.

Critics of the Texas law say it would disenfranchise 600,000 registered voters in Texas, disproportionately affecting blacks and Hispanic or Latino voters. Texas officials have countered by saying that estimates of the number of people who could be deterred from voting by the law are unfounded.

After many months of legal wrangling, the Texas law, first passed in 2011, was blocked earlier this month by Texas Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi. The Supreme Court’s decision overturns Gonzales’ injunction against the law, allowing it to be applied.

In the absence of an official explanation of the Court’s decision, some observers are speculating the justices allowed the law to stand to prevent confusion so close to the November’s elections. Those observers feel that reluctance to disturb the status quo as voting looms near has been the single common thread tying together several of the Court’s seemingly discordant decisions regarding voter ID laws in recent weeks.

[New York Times]

TIME 2014 Election

Democratic Senate Candidates Back Ebola Travel Ban

Amid vocal Republican calls for travel restrictions

Two Democrats in hard-fought Senate races bucked the Obama Administration and health experts Friday, announcing their support for increased travel restrictions on flights from West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak there.

North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn backed the travel ban as Republicans are increasingly criticizing the Obama Administration over its handling of the crisis, which has now led to three cases of the deadly disease being diagnosed in the U.S. Both their Republican opponents have been vocal in backing a travel ban.

“I am calling on the Administration to temporarily ban the travel of non-U.S. citizens from the affected countries in West Africa,” Hagan said in a statement Friday. “Although stopping the spread of this virus overseas will require a large, coordinated effort with the international community, a temporary travel ban is a prudent step the President can take to protect the American people, and I believe he should do so immediately.”

The statement marked a turnabout for Hagan, who said Wednesday that a travel ban is “not going to help solve this problem” and “not going to contain the epidemic.” Hagan’s opponent, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, seized on the apparent flip-flop. “When I came out strongly for an Ebola travel ban, Sen Hagan said it wouldn’t help,” he said on Twitter. “Now she agrees with me?”

A few days after Nunn’s opponent, businessman David Perdue, called for “immediate flight and travel restrictions,” Nunn said she supported a “temporary travel ban” to affected countries in West Africa with an exception for military and health workers.

Experts widely agree that travel bans would only make it more difficult to contain the outbreak in West Africa by hampering aid efforts.

Hagan and Nunn are fighting in two of the closest Senate races in the country.

TIME ebola

Rick Perry Wants to Ban Air Travel From West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

Rick Perry
Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, delivers the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event titled "The Border Crisis and New Politics of Immigration," August 21, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

He joins a growing list of politicians calling for such a ban

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called on the federal government to impose a ban on air travel from the West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, joining a growing list of politicians supporting such a travel restriction.

Perry reasoned a ban is the right move given that the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled from Ebola-ridden Liberia to eventually reach Texas, the Associated Press reports. The governor’s call for travel restrictions is a reversal of his stance from just 10 days ago when he said an enhanced medical screening process would be more effective at keeping Ebola out of the country.

“The impact from banning flights from these areas is not going to be an efficient way to deal with this,” Perry said last week, according to The Hill. Referring to a travel ban, Perry added, “There are some that would make the argument that it would [hamper the fight against Ebola].”

Several prominent Republican politicians in particular, including Mitt Romney, have called for flight restrictions, but many health officials say that such a ban would only hurt efforts to contain the disease.

[AP]

TIME ebola

Why Airlines and the CDC Oppose Ebola Flight Bans

Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, during testimony at the Rayburn House Office Building on October 16, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, during testimony at the Rayburn House Office Building on October 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Washington Pos/Getty Images

Some Republicans say flight bans would be life-saving, but medical experts worry such measures could be deadly

The debate surrounding travel bans as a way to curb the spread of Ebola has intensified after Thursday’s congressional hearing, unleashing a flurry of impassioned arguments on both sides.

The stakes are high: those for a flight ban believe it’s a necessary protection against a deadly epidemic that has already reached American soil, but those against it say a ban would make the U.S. even more vulnerable to the virus.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who ran the hearing, wants to prohibit all non-essential commercial travel from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as institute a mandatory 21-day quarantine order for any American who has traveled to the stricken African nations. This quarantine would include a ban on domestic travel.

Murphy explained his position at the opening of Thursday’s hearing: “A determined, infected traveler can evade the screening by masking the fever with ibuprofen… Further, it is nearly impossible to perform contact tracing of all people on multiple international flights across the globe, when contact tracing and treatment just within the United States will strain public health resources.” Murphy is not alone; other lawmakers such as House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) agree.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, maintains that these congressmen have it backwards. While they think a travel ban would secure the U.S. border from Ebola and shrink the potential spheres of contact, CDC director Tom Frieden says instituting a flight ban would forfeit what little control we currently have over the virus.

“Right now we know who’s coming in,” Frieden said at the hearing. “If we try to eliminate travel… we won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave, we won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive, we won’t be able—as we do currently—to see a detailed history to see if they’ve been exposed.” The White House has sided with Frieden. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that a travel ban is “not something we’re considering.”

Even if Republican lawmakers are correct that a travel ban could curb the spread of Ebola in the U.S., it would also curb the movement of American health workers to the West African countries that are already desperate for more aid.

“If we do things that unintentionally make it harder to get that response in, to get supplies in, that make it harder for those governments to manage, to get everything from economic activity to travel going, it’s going to become much harder to stop the outbreak at the source,” Frieden said this week. “If that were to happen, it would spread for more months and potentially to other countries, and that would increase rather than decrease the risk to Americans.”

There’s also a practical concern surrounding the bans. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States and who later died from the disease, took three flights and flew on two airlines on his trip from Monrovia, Liberia to Dallas, TX, stopping in Belgium on the way. Prohibiting travel from West Africa to the United States quickly falls down the rabbit hole of connecting flights in Europe, especially since there currently aren’t any direct flights between the U.S. and the primary Ebola hot zones.

A spokesperson for Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for leading U.S. airlines, told TIME, “We agree with the White House that discussions of flight bans are not necessary and actually impede efforts to stop the disease in its tracks in West Africa.”

And if domestic or international travel bans were to be instituted, others familiar with the airline industry warn of unintended consequences. Greg Winton, founder of The Aviation Law Firm outside Washington, D.C., told TIME that mass flight restrictions “will have a huge impact financially, certainly on the whole economy, not just the aviation sector.”

But at this point Winton says anything is possible, citing the Federal Aviation Administration’s shut down of air travel following 9/11 as an extreme precedent. “As far as FAA aviation law, none of that really takes precedence over disease control at this point,” he said.

TIME White House

Obama Signs Order to Secure Government Credit Cards From Data Breaches

US-POLITICS-OBAMA-CFPB
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order to implement enhanced security measures on consumers' financial security following remarks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in Washington, DC, October 17, 2014. SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

"Identify theft is now America's fastest growing crime," said Obama.

President Obama signed an executive order Friday to improve security measures for government credit and debit cards, equipping them with microchips in place of the standard magnetic strips and PINs. Obama discussed the new order during remarks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Friday.

“Last year . . . more than 100 million Americans had information that was compromised in data breaches in some of our largest companies,” said Obama, referring to high-profile security breaches at Target and Home Depot. “Identify theft is now America’s fastest growing crime. These crimes don’t just cost companies and consumers billions of dollars every year, they also threaten the economic security of middle class Americans who worked really hard for a lifetime to build some sort of security.”

“The idea that somebody halfway around the world could run up thousands of dollars in charges in your name just because they stole your number or because you swiped your card at the wrong place at the wrong time—that’s infuriating,” said Obama. “For victims it’s heartbreaking. And as a country we’ve got to do more to stop it.”

Obama highlighted the efforts of Home Depot and Target to secure their systems after being hit by breaches this year. They will join Walmart and Walgreens in installing chip and PIN technology in all their stores, most by the beginning of next year. Obama also noted that the Federal Trade Commission will develop IdentityTheft.gov for victims to aide the reporting and remediation process with credit bureaus.

“Identity theft has been American consumers’ number one complaint for more than a decade, and it affects people in every community across the nation,” said Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “I welcome the opportunity for the Federal Trade Commission to participate in this new initiative advancing efforts to address this insidious problem on behalf of consumers.”

The White House also called on Congress to pass data breach and cybersecurity legislation. “The current patchwork of laws governing a company’s obligations in the event of a data breach is unsustainable, and helps no one,” wrote the White House in a statement.

With reporting from Sam Frizell

 

 

 

TIME State Department

Clinton Aides Faulted for Strong-Arming State Investigations

Key Speakers At 2014 The DreamForce Conference
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, speaks during the DreamForce Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A State Department investigation has found that aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contributed to the “appearance of undue influence and favoritism” in three departmental investigations related to alleged sexual conduct by officials in the field.

In the highest-level case, the department’s inspector general found that senior State Department officials declared an allegation that the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium had solicited a prostitute in a public park as a “management issue.” The move effectively halted an investigation by the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The ambassador, Howard Gutman, was recalled to Washington from Belgium to meet with Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy and Clinton Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, according to the report.

“At the meeting, the Ambassador denied the allegations and was then permitted to return to post. The Department took no further action affecting the Ambassador.” But the inspector general report finds that department officials offered varying reasons for declaring it a “management issue,” and that the diplomatic security investigation was halted before all potential witnesses, including the Ambassador, were interviewed.

In the second case, department managers were found to have interfered in the investigation into a Regional Security Officer accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. In the third, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security was found to have improperly delayed for four months a diplomatic security interview with Brett McGurk, the Obama administration nominee’s to be Ambassador to Iraq in 2012. McGurk withdrew his nomination after flirtatious emails were leaked between him and a then-Wall Street Journal reporter while the two were based in Baghdad in 2008. The inspector general said the investigation into the leak was brought to a temporary standstill until McGurk could be interviewed.

The revelations were first reported in a 2013 leaked draft of the inspector general report.

Republicans, looking for any ammunition to use against Clinton as she prepares for a likely presidential run in 2016, are likely to attempt tying Clinton to the report’s findings, though the inspector general did not find any direct link to the former secretary.

TIME People

Fed’s Yellen Says She’s Concerned by Rising Economic Inequality

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Economic Conference on Inequality of Economic Opportunity in Boston on Oct. 17, 2014.
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Economic Conference on Inequality of Economic Opportunity in Boston on Oct. 17, 2014. Brian Snyder—Reuters

In a speech, Fed chief says Americans should ask whether it is compatible with their values

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerns her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

The speech, heavy on data compiled by the Fed and by other sources, continued Yellen’s focus on the trials of America’s unemployed and underemployed.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy.

Income disparity between the richest Americans and the rest has risen in the wake of the 2007-2009 recession. An extensive Fed study published last month suggests wealth and income is concentrated not just within the top 1 percent, as some analyses have suggested, but actually among a slightly broader slice of the ultra-rich: the top 3 percent.

Yellen, who raised concerns about inequality well before taking the Fed’s reins earlier this year, acknowledged that a rebound in house prices over the last two years has restored much wealth to those at the bottom.

But she cited several troubling contributors to a lack of equality of opportunity, including the expensive cost of higher education faced by the young.

In another threat to economic opportunity, she said a slowdown in business formation may depress productivity.

The speech comes after a report found that the top 113 earners among staff at the Fed’s Washington headquarters make an average of $246,506 per year, excluding bonuses and other benefits — more than Yellen and nearly double the normal top government rate.

Meanwhile, the Fed was center stage this week in a volatile market selloff not seen in years.

Global stocks jumped on Friday, following a U.S. rebound on Thursday when St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the central bank should keep buying bonds longer than planned.

Eric Rosengren, head of the Boston Fed, said on Friday however that recent market turbulence and signs of global economic weakness haven’t yet dimmed U.S. economic forecasts and won’t likely change the Fed’s policy path unless they do.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME White House

Obama Appoints Ron Klain As Ebola Czar

Lawyer and politcal operative Ron Klain on May 13, 2008 in New York City.
Lawyer and politcal operative Ron Klain on May 13, 2008 in New York City. Andrew H. Walker—Getty Images

He's a longtime Democratic insider

President Barack Obama has appointed longtime insider Ron Klain to coordinate the administration’s global response to the Ebola epidemic, a White House official confirmed. The move came just hours after a Texas nurse diagnosed with Ebola after treating a patient with the disease was moved from Dallas to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The President has asked Ron Klain to take on the task of coordinating his administration’s whole of government Ebola response,” the official said Friday. “He will report directly to the President’s Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and the President’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice as he ensures that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa.”

Klain, who served as chief of staff to Vice President Biden and former Vice President Al Gore, helped to oversee the 2009 stimulus bill. He will now be tasked with coordinating both the domestic public health response and the international humanitarian and military efforts to stop the virus in West Africa. Klain will work out of the White House’s West Wing.

“Klain’s role is consistent with the view the President articulated in the Oval Office [Thursday] night that Monaco, Rice and others have done outstanding work in confronting this challenge so far – but given their management of other national and homeland security priorities, additional bandwidth will further enhance the government’s Ebola response,” the White House official said.

Republican lawmakers had been calling on the White House to appoint the so-called “czar” for weeks to lead the Administration’s response. The White House had been cool on the subject until Thursday, when Obama told reporters he was considering making such an appointment. Other Obama “czars” have coordinated the auto bailout and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to boost banks after the 2008 financial crisis.

 

 

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: October 17

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

Obama Considers Ebola Czar

President Obama said Thursday night he is considering appointing an Ebola czar, quickly adding that the new role would not be because people like CDC chief Tom Frieden “haven’t been doing an outstanding job working hard on this issue”

A Guide to the Ebola Blame Game

The Ebola crisis in Texas has resulted in the death of one patient, the infection of two health care workers and an endless round of finger-pointing

Apple Pay Starts Monday

Apple’s mobile payment platform will start on Monday, allowing customers to make purchases in stores using their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus

ISIS Retreats From Syrian City

The Syrian city of Kobani, just across the border from Turkey, breathed more easily on Thursday as U.S. coalition air strikes helped dislodge jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria from several neighborhoods

Giants Beat Cardinals to Face Royals in World Series

Travis Ishikawa hit the first homer to end an NL Championship Series, a three-run drive that gave San Francisco a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 on Thursday night, sending the Giants to the World Series, where they’ll play the Kansas City Royals

Report: Hunter Biden Leaves Navy After Drug Test

The Vice President’s youngest son was kicked out of the military in February after testing positive for cocaine, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press, saying he was discharged barely a year after being made a part-time Navy Reserve public affairs officer

Here’s How to Stop Teens From Drinking Soda

Researchers analyzed 3,000-plus drink purchases by youth ages 7 to 18 in low-income Baltimore neighborhoods and found that sugary drinks accounted for 98%, but that dropped to 89% when researchers put up colorful signs with calorie information

Body Found in Seattle Is Believed to Be Missing Actress

Police said on Thursday night that a body found hours earlier in a wooded area outside Seattle was presumed to be that of Misty Upham, 32, the August: Osage County actress who was reported missing by her father on Oct. 6

FBI Head Implies Action Against Tech Giants’ Encryption

FBI Director James B. Comey has expressed exasperation at the advanced data-encryption technologies that companies like Apple and Google say they will offer their customers, and implied that the government might attempt regulations to ensure a way around them

How the iPad Helped Bring Down the L.A. Schools Chief

Superintendent John Deasy of the Los Angeles Unified School District stepped down on Thursday after abandoning a plan to get iPads in the hands of all 650,000 students in the system. The school board reportedly sent him packing with $60,000 in severance pay

Hong Kong Braces for New Clashes

Pro-democracy demonstrators threatened to build fresh barricades at a protest site cleared by police early Friday morning, local time. The challenge comes two days after clashes in the government and financial district saw 45 arrests and allegations of police brutality

Al Pacino Set for Broadway Return

Al Pacino will return to Broadway next fall in a new bill by playwright David Mamet, who worked with Pacino on four previous projects and said he wrote the latest play called China Doll specifically for the legendary actor

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A today, Friday, October 17, at 1 p.m., with TIME Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, who wrote this week’s cover story on the most interesting man in politics, Rand Paul. His other stories can be found here.

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