TIME Companies

Go Inside an American Steel Mill

Nucor Corp. is the largest steelmaker in the United States, manufacturing some 20 million tons of steel each year to supply steel for skyscrapers, bridges, cars, and appliances. TIME visited Nucor's mill in Crawfordsville, Ind., one of the company's 24 steelmaking facilities

Cheap natural gas is giving manufacturer Nucor a shot at reversing the long decline in American steelmaking

On the day after christmas 2013, John Ferriola received a FedEx package containing a dozen metal pellets, each about the size of a blueberry and the color of charcoal. They had been refined with natural gas at a temperature one fifth that of the surface of the sun. To most, the contents of the box would have looked like a heap of rubbish. To Ferriola, CEO of Nucor Corp., the tiny pellets represent a huge bet for the biggest steelmaker left in the U.S.

The technology may also help rekindle American steel manufacturing. Nearly a third of U.S. steelmaking jobs have disappeared over the past 15 years as the industry has boomed in China and other emerging economies. The lone …

Read the full story here

TIME Crime

Police: Indiana Suspect Hints at More Killings

Darren Vann is a suspect in the slayings of seven women whose bodies were found in northwestern Indiana over the weekend.
Darren Vann is a suspect in the slayings of seven women whose bodies were found in northwestern Indiana over the weekend. Texas Department of Criminal Justice/AP

(GARY, Ind.) — Police investigating the slayings of seven northwestern Indiana women whose bodies were found over the weekend said Monday it could be the work of a serial killer, and that the suspect has told them his victims might go back 20 years.

Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said at a news conference that the suspect is 43-year-old Darren Vann of nearby Gary, Indiana, who was convicted of a sex offense in Texas in 2009. His confession to the slaying of a woman in Hammond led police to the grisly discovery of six other bodies in Gary, including three in on the same block, authorities said.

He said the Gary slayings appear to have happened recently, though Vann indicated there could be earlier victims. He said police are not actively looking for more bodies and have no indication that any murders have occurred in another state. He said Vann is cooperating with investigators in the hope of making a deal with prosecutors.

“It could go back as far as 20 years, based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated,” Doughty said.

Charges were expected to be filed later Monday in the death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, whose body was found about 9:30 p.m. Friday at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Doughty said. The Lake County coroner’s office said she was strangled.

Doughty said she was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website. Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy and “was provided suspicious text responses that she believed to be from the suspect while he was still inside the motel room.”

Police said they took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon after obtaining a search warrant for a home and vehicle in Gary.

Vann allegedly confessed to killing Hardy, then told investigators where more bodies could be found in abandoned homes in Gary, a deteriorating former steel town about 30 miles southeast of Chicago, police said.

Police found the body of 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, on Saturday night in an abandoned home. She had been missing since Oct. 8.

Five more bodies were found on Sunday in other homes, said Doughty, who identified two of the women as Gary residents Teairra Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36. Police have not determined the identities of the other three women, including two whose bodies were found on the same block where Jones’ body was found on Saturday.

Hardy’s mother, Lori Townsend, said police told her that Vann asked that she perform a certain sex act, and “when she said ‘no’ and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her,” she said, speaking from her home in Colorado. “This man is sick.”

Hardy graduated from high school in late 2013 and planned to go on to college to study music, Townsend said.

“She was full of life. She lit up a room with her smile and her beauty,” she said. “And she had a voice like a songbird.”

Gary, once a thriving steel town of 178,000 where thousands worked in the mills, has been struggling for decades. Its population has shrunk to just over 78,000 and its poverty rate hovers around 40 percent. Thousands of homes are abandoned, many with weeds choking broken sidewalks — often on the same streets where other homes are tidy and well-kept.

One of the houses where police found a body was overgrown with trees in the front and there was trash strewn in the back of what looked like a falling down garage or shed.

On Monday, people in Gary tried to make sense of the tragedy.

“That’s devastating. That’s sick,” said Jay Jackson, 25, a health care worker visiting a woman a few houses from where one of the bodies was found. “All we can do is pray for the city and hope for recovery.”

TIME Crime

Indiana Couple Sues Cops After Traffic Stop Ends in Tasering

The driver's 14-year-old son captured disturbing footage of the encounter on his cellphone

An Indiana driver has produced disturbing cellphone footage to bolster a federal lawsuit against local police, alleging that the officers used excessive force during a routine traffic stop when one shattered the window of her car and shocked her boyfriend with a Taser in front of her children.

The cellphone footage, recorded by the 14-year-old son of Lisa Mahone from the backseat of the vehicle and first obtained by Fox 32 News, shows only the tail end of the encounter. The officer can be heard telling the passenger, Jamal Jones, to open the door, before suddenly smashing open the window and tasering Jones.

Lawyers for the couple alleged that the incident was evidence of a wider failure by the city to discipline officers for unlawful use of force. “The City has failed to adequately investigate allegations of officer misconduct, has failed to adequately discipline officers for the use of excessive force, and has failed to adequately train its officers on the proper use of force,” read a complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Hammond police department defended the officer’s conduct, telling Fox 32 News that the situation escalated after Jones refused to show identification or exit the vehicle. The couple filed suit against the police on Monday.

[Fox 32]

TIME The Brief

Obama Offers U.S. Help for Nigeria After Boko Haram Kidnaps More Girls

Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now--from the editors of TIME.

Here are the stories TIME is watching Wednesday, May 7:

  • Barack Obama pledged American help for Nigeria after eight more girls were abducted by Boko Haram Tuesday in addition to the more than 200 already held captive. The U.S. will send military, law enforcement officials and hostage negotiators in an effort to return the girls to their families.
  • Few Tea Party challengers unseated their incumbent GOP rivals in Tuesday’s Republican primaries in North Carolina, Ohio, and India.
  • Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is getting ready to go public in the U.S. in what could be the biggest tech IPO in history.
  • Kevin Durant was named NBA MVP after having a stellar statistical season and leading his Oklahoma Thunder to the playoffs.

The Brief is published daily.

TIME health

First U.S. MERS Patient May Be Sent Home Soon

MERS
AP

Indiana health officials say the first U.S. case of the deadly virus is recovering and no hospital workers or family members have tested positive yet

The first person in the U.S. to have tested positive for the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is almost well enough to be sent home.

Authorities in Indiana appear to have kept the first American case of the disease contained after isolating the unnamed patient. Staff and family members who came in contact with him were kept under observation and have now all tested negative for the virus.

The patient, who was diagnosed with MERS on Friday, is reportedly in better health and off supplementary oxygen, while doctors are mulling whether to discharge him from the hospital soon.

However, officials will continue to monitor those who came in contact with the patient regularly throughout the virus’ incubation period, which typically lasts 14 days.

“Having the first case of MERS in the United States appear right here in Indiana is a scary situation,” said state health commissioner William VanNess II in a statement.

“I want to assure everyone that our state medical experts, CDC and Community Hospital in Munster have been working around the clock to contain the spread of this disease and protect Americans.”

The patient is believed to have contracted the virus while working in Saudi Arabia, where MERS was first detected two years ago. More than 400 people have since been infected in a dozen countries, nearly a third of which have been fatal cases.

TIME Education

Dad’s Rant About Common Core Math Problem Goes Viral

Dad with engineering degree calls math problems "ridiculous" in viral rant, just as Indiana drops the Common Core. Ouch.

Common Core, this is not your week. First you get publicly dumped by the entire state of Indiana, then a dad with an engineering degree calls your math strategy “ridiculous” in a viral Facebook post. The frustrated father pointed out that if anyone at his job approached a problem in the way he’s saying is recommended by the Common Core, they’d be fired. This is embarrassing, considering the program was designed as a set of national curriculum standards that would teach kids the skills they need for real-world careers. The post has almost 6,000 likes, and has been shared over 61,000 times on TheBlaze.com.

On Monday, Indiana became the first state to officially give up on the Common Core. Governor Mike Pence’s decision was seen as a victory for conservatives who believe the national standards dilute state’s power to determine local school curriculum. “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” Pence said in a statement. “By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high, and I commend members of the General Assembly for their support.”

The new law doesn’t radically change Indiana’s curriculum, it just strikes any mention of the “Common Core” and asks the state’s board of education to adopt new standards that correspond to national and international college-readiness expectations. Oklahoma is also taking steps to create a state curriculum that resembles the Common Core (for testing purposes) but doesn’t use the name.

Backlash against the Common Core has been especially fervent in conservative states. There’s been fierce opposition in states like South Carolina, where Governor Nikki Haley said, “They’re still trying to put us all in one basket, and we’re not to be put in one basket.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan antagonized parents and gave fuel to the opposition late last year when he said that the anti-Common Core movement was mostly “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were,” for which he later apologized.

But the real problem may be parents like Jeff Severt, the engineering degree dad whose detailed criticism of what he says was a Common Core designed math question, was about the recommended strategy, not his child’s score. Severt, who said on Glenn Beck’s show that he had a “meltdown” trying to help his son with the math assessment that asked students to use a complicated number line strategy to solve a simple subtraction problem. The assignment was to find the error and then write a letter to him telling the errant student how to use the number line method solve the problem. Severt’s response is below:

Dear Jack,

Don’t feel bad. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering which included extensive study in differential equations and other higher math applications. Even I cannot explain the Common Core Mathematics approach, nor get the answer correct. In the real world, simplification is valued over complication. Therefore:

427 – 316 = 111

The answer is solved in under 5 seconds: 111. The process used is ridiculous and would result in termination if used.

Sincerely, Frustrated Parent

 

Yikes.

TIME Education

Indiana Drops Common Core Education Standards

Common Core Indiana
Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence embraces a preschool student at the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis, Feb. 26, 2014. Tom LoBianco—AP

Legislation signed by Gov. Mike Pence makes Indiana the first state to step back from the standards that establish proficiency targets in math and reading. Critics slight the program as federal overreach and say Pence's move will leave the benchmarks mostly intact

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation Monday making his the first state to withdraw from national Common Core education standards that have become a lightning rod for critics of federal government overreach.

“I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the country that will take a hard look at the way Indiana has taken a step back, designed our own standards and done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents and developed standards that meet the needs of our people,” Pence said.

Indiana and 44 other states adopted Common Core standards in recent years. The program establishes targets for proficiency in math and reading and is designed to establish consistency and rigor in the nation’s education system.

But the national education standards have been the focus of vocal criticism from conservative grassroots groups, who believe Common Core amounts to a government takeover of education. Critics have said Indiana’s new standards are strikingly similar to the Common Core framework and the new legislation is little more than a change in name rather than substance, the Associated Press reports.

Other states have been taking similar steps to move away from Common Core, including Oklahoma, where a Senate panel endorsed a similar measure Monday.

[AP]

TIME Antitrust

Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Faces Scrutiny From States

Cable Giant Comcast To Acquire Time Warner Cable
Brian Hunt, Director Engineering, South Florida, stands among the cables and routers at a Comcast distribution center where the Comcast regional video, high speed data and voice are piped out to customers on February 13, 2014 in Miramar, Fla. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

More than two dozen state governments are working with the Justice Department to make sure Comcast's $45 billion offer to snatch up Time Warner Cable doesn't violate antitrust laws, as critics warn of increasing media consolidation

More than two dozen states including California, Florida and Connecticut are working with the Justice Department to determine if Comcast’s $45 billion offer to buy Time Warner Cable runs afoul of antitrust laws, sources confirmed to TIME on Wednesday.

The proposed merger of the two largest cable companies in the United States has attracted criticism from public interest groups who say that the deal would concentrate too much market power in the hands of one company.

Along with the Justice Department, which will address antitrust concerns, the merger faces scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission, which is charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. Comcast maintains that the deal isn’t anticompetitive because the two companies don’t compete in the same markets, and says the merger will result in improved service for consumers.

Some 25 states are currently participating in the multistate group reviewing the proposed transaction, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen’s office is part of the group, a spokesperson for Jepsen confirmed to TIME. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is also participating. “We are part of a multistate group reviewing the proposed transaction along with the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division,” a spokesperson for Bondi said in an emailed statement.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office is also part of the multistate review group, according to a person familiar with the matter. Harris’s office declined to comment. New York is not part of the multistate review group at this time, a spokesperson told TIME. A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he “cannot confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of an investigation.”

Indiana officials are also examining the deal to determine “the potential impact in Indiana,” a spokesperson told Reuters, which first reported the states probes. Pennsylvania, where Comcast is headquartered, is “reviewing the case independently,” a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office told Reuters. A spokesperson for the Justice Department confirmed the federal antitrust probe, but declined to comment on the multistate review group.

Combining Comcast and Time Warner Cable would create a corporate giant with approximately 33 million pay-TV customers and about one-third of the U.S. broadband Internet market. Comcast already owns NBCUniversal, after buying the media company from industrial conglomerate General Electric. As part of the proposed Time Warner Cable deal, Comcast will extend the commitment it made during the NBCUniversal review to abide by open-Internet principles until 2018.

Major entertainment and content companies that sell programming to cable and satellite companies have expressed concern that the merger could create a powerful gatekeeper with unprecedented buying power in the market. This could give the combined company what economists call “monopsony” power, which is one buyer with many sellers, as opposed to “monopoly” power, which is one seller with many buyers.

Such monopsony power could have benefits for consumers, because the combined company would have increased leverage in contentious negotiations with the TV broadcasters over “retransmission consent fees,” which cable and satellite companies pay for the right to carry popular programming like prime-time shows and sports. That could mean downward pressure on prices for consumers, but only if the combined company chose to pass those savings on to them, which is by no means certain.

Retransmission consent fees were at the heart of last year’s dispute between CBS and Time Warner Cable, which led to an unprecedented, monthlong CBS blackout for more than 3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Time Warner Cable, which was spun off from TIME parent Time Warner in 2009, is an attractive takeover target because of its major presence in several important markets, including New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas, as well as large portions of Ohio, North Carolina and Maine. In order to help assuage regulators, Comcast has said it’s willing to jettison as many as 3 million subscribers in order to make sure the new company does not exceed 30% of the cable market.

Comcast declined to comment on the state probes, but it’s worth noting that these state attorneys general reviews are typical for a proposed merger of this size, because the deal has the potential to affect millions of consumers across the country. During the review process for Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal, some 14 states participated.

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