TIME Travel

Advocates for the Blind Accuse Uber of Civil Rights Violations

In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014. Adam Berry—Getty Images

A complaint filed by the National Federation of the Blind in San Francisco federal court alleges that UberX drivers refused service, harassed blind passengers and mishandled dogs

Updated, 6:11 p.m. ET

A chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) claims that Uber drivers have subjected blind customers to “systemic civil rights violations” by repeatedly refusing to transport passengers who use service animals.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court by the NFB’s California chapter focuses on drivers of the company’s UberX service, a travel option that is lower priced than the company’s signature black car service, through which drivers can use their own cars to transport app users. The suit alleges that blind travelers have been refused service by UberX drivers on a total of at least 30 occasions because they had service animals with them.

The complaint also alleges that such riders were sometimes charged cancellation fees or abandoned in the midst of “extreme weather.”

Uber said in a statement to TIME that their practice is to ban such drivers from using their app:

The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities. It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform.

When asked for additional comment about the specific allegations and their policies, an Uber spokesperson responded that “in general, it’s our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”

President of the NFB’s California chapter Mary Willows said that she and counsel met with representatives of Uber months ago in an attempt to avoid litigation, but were unable to work out an agreement for how the company would address the situation. The lawsuit claims that complaints from blind travelers have gone largely unaddressed by the company and that Uber has sometimes responded by simply denying responsibility for the drivers’ behavior.

“The problem is that drivers are independent contractors, so Uber says they have no control over what they do,” Willows tells TIME. “And our argument is, if they’re working for you, you do have control over what they do.”

Willows says that blind people have encountered similar problems with taxis in the past, but that cab companies have been more expedient in remedying the problem.

Uber’s competitors are also taking note of the rift. After the NFB initiated contact with Uber about the issue, Willows says that the car service Lyft reached out to “make sure they develop a good relationship with us.”

In some cases, according to the lawsuit, UberX drivers who did not outright refuse service to riders with guide dogs nonetheless mishandled the animals or harassed the riders, in one case forcing a guide dog into a closed trunk of a sedan without the rider’s knowledge. When the owner of the dog figured out what had happened and asked the driver to pull over, according to the complaint, he refused.

The suit was also filed on behalf of Michael Hingson, a blind author who uses a guide dog and says he has been deterred from using the service because of its reputation among similarly situated travelers.

“Independence is critical in having equal opportunity in life,” Willows says. “And being able to travel independently is key to it. And any transportation system that inhibits equal travel is a problem.” The complaint alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The document can be read in full below.

NFB of California vs. Uber

TIME NFL

NFL Commissioner Doesn’t ‘Rule Out’ Ray Rice Playing Again

Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (R) walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images

Roger Goodell insisted the football league didn’t see the video of Rice’s attack on his fiancé before Monday

Updated 9:34 a.m. E.T. on Sept. 10

In his first public comments since a video went viral that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée, now-wife out unconscious, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wouldn’t count the currently suspended Rice out of the game forever.

Goodell stipulated that Rice “would have to make sure that we are fully confident he is addressing this issue, clearly he has paid a price for the actions he has already taken,” in order to return to professional football. Goodell spoke to CBS News in an interview that aired Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. He also said the league is giving Rice and his wife the “resources” needed to “help them work through” the issue.

“He’s got a lot of work to do [and] the family got a lot of work to do,” Goodell said.

The NFL suspended Rice indefinitely Monday, hours after a second video of the February incident was released by TMZ Sports. Rice had initially been suspended for just two games after a first video was released showing Rice dragging his now-wife’s body out of an elevator in the same incident. The two game penalty was decried by many for being too lenient.

This week, the NFL and the Ravens came under fire again for reacting too slowly to the violent video.

Goodell said the NFL did not see the video of the punch before the rest of the public on Monday. “We had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator,” he said. “We assumed that there was a video, we asked for the video, we asked for anything that was pertinent, but we were never granted that opportunity.”

[CBS Evening News]

TIME domestic violence

Women Are Most Likely to Be Killed by a Man in These States

A new report list the ten states with the highest rates of male on female homicide

Alaska, South Carolina and Oklahoma were the states where a woman was most likely to be killed by a man in 2012, according to a new report from the Violence Policy Center.

The center’s study looks at the most recent available data from the FBI on instances nationwide in which one woman is killed by one man. Due to substantive policy changes, the number of such attacks have declined in the last 20 years, the report says. Nonetheless, the threat of violence against women remains remarkably high.

“Women are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved,” the report says. “Moreover, women are much more likely to be victimized at home than in any other place.”

The report notes that the prevalence of deadly violence against black females was particularly high — in 2012, black women were “murdered at a rate nearly two and a half times higher than white females.” Women are more likely to be murdered by someone they know intimately than someone they don’t, according to the study.

The top ten states where, per capita, women were most often killed by men are listed below.

Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2012 Homicide Data.

The report notes that incidents in which women are killed by men have declined sharply since 1996 and credits government policy for spurring on that change. In particular, the report cites Sen. Paul Wellstone’s (D—MN) 1993 amendment to the Violence Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that prohibits people subject to a protective order related to domestic violence from buying a gun. The report also credits Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D—NJ) provision that bans people who have misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from buying guns (felons are already banned).

Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2012 Homicide Data.
TIME faith

Ferguson’s Reach: A Shot Felt in South Africa

Racially-based injustice is America’s ongoing apartheid

I was in South Africa on August 9, when a young, unarmed black man was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO. It didn’t take long before Michael Brown’s story was on all the news channels in South Africa. After that, in every media interview I did Ferguson came up. “How could this have happened?” all the journalists asked. When I laid out the pattern of this happening regularly to men of color in America at the hands of white police or other men with guns, they were stunned. “White cops couldn’t get away with that anymore in South Africa,” they said.

On my speaking tour I met a new generation of South African leaders who are not content to just re-tell the stories of winning political freedom. They are now laying out their own agenda and vocation—of turning political liberation into economic liberation and gender equality, goals that have yet to be achieved. Economic inequality is actually greater now than under apartheid and gender violence is a frightening epidemic. But a rainbow nation they now are and the image of a young black man with his hands in the air being shot multiple times by a white American policeman was appalling to both blacks and whites.

As a young man, I was deeply blessed and forever changed when I was invited into the South African struggle during the 1980’s. I witnessed the miracle of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and the birth of a new nation which taught me my theology of hope. Back then I learned what it means to “believe in spite of the evidence then watch the evidence change” as I often say.

Now I was blessed again, coming back to South Africa and making a deep connection with a new generation of leaders. I watched Ferguson from South Africa. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of events from our own civil rights movement it’s time for a new generation and a new agenda to be lifted up. At its heart will be reforming a criminal justice system that still reveals America’s original sin of white racism. The myths of a post-racial society have been swept away by the structural racial realities of our arrests, sentencing, and convictions. The mass incarceration of people of color is the fatal flaw that undermines the success of the civil rights movement. This is America’s ongoing apartheid.

Young men of color are vulnerable to white men with guns, whether police officers or new white vigilantes whose violence has become legally justified. Every black family in America, of every class and status, knows that to be true. Every black parent has had “the conversation”—a painful fact to which every parent with young boys must recognize and respond. And when young men of color are rightfully distrustful of law enforcement, our society is in deep moral jeopardy.

The young people I met on my trip know they cannot achieve a genuinely new South Africa without a new relationship between all races. Christians call that reconciliation, but these young people realize it can only be trusted by concrete commitments to racial and economic justice. And that applies to us too. Black churches must not be left alone to fight the mass incarceration of their young people. A racial issue must be turned into a gospel issue for churches and a democratic issue for the nation. Both the gospel and our democracy are being tested by the kind of events that keep happening in places like Ferguson.

A young black South African leader told me what happened to him when he worked for the Salvation Army in the United States. He and two of his young white co-workers were driving one night when a white police officer pulled them over. The cop asked the driver for her license and registration, which were in her bag. When my friend lifted her bag to her the cop pulled his gun and said, “What are you doing?” When he explained the cop holstered his weapon. But when the young man suggested that they turn down the car radio so they could hear the officer, the cop put his gun in the black man’s face and said, “What did you say to me?” This was in Rhode Island, not Florida or Missouri. “I grew up knowing I might get shot in South Africa, but didn’t think I would get shot in America,” my young friend told me.

This behavior is a sin—against our brothers and sisters, against true democracy in America and ultimately a sin against God. The sin must be repented of and turned around. Reversing the sins of a racist criminal justice system must become an agenda for a new generation of Christians from every race and faith community in America.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The UnCommon Good is available in stores.

TIME justice

Why Holder’s Probe Won’t Fix Ferguson

National Guard Called In As Unrest Continues In Ferguson
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (L) talks with Capt. Ron Johnson, right, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Aug. 20, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—Pool/Getty Images

Not all investigations are created equal, and this one is tackling a big problem with small tools

Is the Ferguson police department racist?

Nearly a month after the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a white police officer, that question is going to get an official answer, as Attorney General Eric Holder has announced a broad investigation into whether the cops in Ferguson, Mo. engaged in a pattern or practice of civil rights violations over the years.

But not all investigations are created equal, and the new DOJ probe may not deliver the kind of results that last month’s impassioned demonstrators were looking for.

The Department already has a targeted probe into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, by the police officer, Darren Wilson. That investigation is designed to answer the narrow question of whether Wilson broke the law by shooting and killing Brown. The first step in the process of answering that question will come when a grand jury decides whether or not to indict Wilson; the final step would be a trial jury’s determination of his guilt or innocence.

For all the power of that criminal probe, though, Wilson’s fate won’t fix Ferguson, one way or the other. Unfortunately for that struggling suburb, it is unlikely Holder’s new civil rights investigation will either.

The new investigation is being undertaken by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section. It doesn’t prosecute crimes–there’s a separate criminal section in the division designed to help prosecutors do that. Instead, among other things, the Special Litigation Section seeks settlements and court orders to require systemically discriminatory police departments to improve their behavior. It gets them to do that by imposing reforms like increased transparency and data collection, fostering community-police partnerships, reviewing uses of force and providing training and supervision.

Which is not to say such steps aren’t useful. Holder today called the work of the Special Litigation Section “historic” and said the department has opened 20 such investigations in the last five years, and is enforcing 14 agreements with law enforcement organizations.

But even if the new investigation does find systemic discrimination in Ferguson, and even if it does lead to a settlement or a court order, that will amount to one small step in the beleaguered community’s efforts to rebuild and reform.

TIME justice

Justice Department to Investigate Ferguson, Missouri, Police

Police Shooting Missouri
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2014. Charlie Riedel—AP

The Justice Department intends to launch a civil rights investigation of the entire Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department, according to administration officials.

An announcement of the investigation is planned for Thursday.

With the help of the FBI, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating last month’s fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, who was wounded several times by a Ferguson police officer. The shooting touched off several days of sometimes violent protest.
But this new investigation would be much broader, looking at the conduct of the entire Ferguson Police Department over the past several years…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Mixed Martial Arts

MMA Fighter Could Face Life in Prison if Convicted for Savage Domestic Attack

Jonathan Koppenhaver
Johathan Koppenhaver who appeared in UFC's Ultimate Fighter TV show in 2007. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/AP

Jonathan Koppenhaver is facing 32 felony charges in a Las Vegas court for the alleged attack

A former MMA fighter who goes by War Machine was informed of the 32 felony charges he’s facing in Las Vegas on Wednesday following an August attack on his ex-girlfriend. If convicted, the 32-year-old could face a life sentence for charges of attempted murder, domestic battery by strangulation, first-degree kidnapping, and sexual assault, ESPN reports.

In August, War Machine, whose birth name is Jonathan Koppenhaver, allegedly attacked his former girlfriend, adult film star Christy Mack. Mack posted graphic images of her injuries following the attack on social media. After a weeklong hunt, Koppenhaver was arrested in a California suburb.

Though he legally changed his name to War Machine in 2008, ESPN reports, he is being referred to by his birth name, Jonathan Koppenhaver, in the Las Vegas court. Koppenhaver was a contestant on the UFC reality series The Ultimate Fighter, and has served time before in 2012, for attempt to commit battery with substantial bodily harm.

[ESPN]

TIME justice

Deadly Butt Injection Lands Mississippi Woman Life Sentence

Tracey Lynn Garner
This Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 file photo shows Tracey Lynn Garner during her trial in Jackson, Miss. Rogelio V. Solis—AP

Tracey Lynn Garner was convicted of murder over the fatal silicone injection

The Jackson, Mississippi, woman who administered an unlicensed silicone buttox injection that killed another woman was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison.

Tracey Lynn Garner, 54, was convicted last week of depraved-heart murder, a legal designation that signifies disregard for human life, for the 2012 silicone injection she gave to Karima Gordon, 37. Gordon fell ill immediately after the injection and died days later. Prosecutors argued that Garner was motivated by greed, Reuters reports.

Garner, who is transgender, was previously known by the name Morris Garner.

An investigator testified during the trial that he found a bottle of silicone and syringes labeled “veterinary use only” in Garner’s home.

[Reuters]

TIME Crime

Ferguson Wrestles With What to Do Next

Michael Brown Sr, yells out as his son's  casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis
Michael Brown Sr., center, yells out as his son's casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis on Aug. 25, 2014 Richard Perry—Pool/Reuters

The town is trying to figure out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement

The funeral was choreographed to the smallest detail, from the celebrities sprinkled through the church to the Cardinals cap laid atop the black-and-gold casket. A massive crowd filed past the television cameras and into the jam-packed sanctuary or the overflow rooms live-streaming the service. The ceremony was billed as a celebration of Brown’s life, which ended Aug. 9 in a hail of bullets fired by a white policeman, and the crowd heard upbeat gospel music, stirring sermons and a eulogy from the Rev. Al Sharpton. But it was also an opportunity to send a message to his mourners. “We are required,” Sharpton told them in his peroration, “to leave here today and change things.”

For the residents of Ferguson, Mo., Brown’s funeral on Monday closed one chapter and opened a new period of uncertainty. The worst of the violence appears over, and the protests are beginning to subside. Soon the television cameras will get packed up, leaving a town that has become the latest shorthand for America’s racial divide to figure out how to translate the energy, intensity and anger of the past two weeks into concrete change.

The problem is that nobody is quite sure how to do it — or what that change would even look like. The shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man at the hands of a white Ferguson policeman opened all sorts of wounds that have festered for generations. Of the thousands who have tromped up and down West Florissant Avenue since Brown’s death, there are nearly as many diagnoses about what Ferguson needs now.

To some, the answer is erasing the pattern of improper police behavior that has plagued this St. Louis suburb. To others, it is addressing income inequality or struggling schools. Still more cite the need to regain lost jobs, or repair the ruptured trust between the community and the people sworn to protect it. Then there is the glaring lack of African-American political representation: Ferguson is a city that is two-thirds black, run by a white mayor and nearly all-white city council.

“This is Jim Crow country,” says Garrett Duncan, a professor of education and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “You still have a predominantly white and affluent population voting for who runs North County,” the collection of townships like Ferguson north of St. Louis.

Ferguson’s protesters are united on one point: they want justice, in the form of an indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown at least six times just after noon on Aug. 9. (A new audio recording, provided to CNN by an unidentified resident, who alleges he inadvertently captured the incident on tape, purports to show that Brown was killed in two distinct bursts of gunfire separated by a pause. CNN says it cannot authenticate the tape.) But an indictment will be slow, if it comes at all. Robert McCulloch, the lead prosecuting attorney in the case, has estimated he won’t finish presenting evidence to a grand jury until about mid-October. Issues can flare and fade in a blink. If the courtroom lag diverts attention from the systemic problems that led to Brown’s shooting, the community could lose the momentum it has gathered.

To Larry Jones, bishop of the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, the solution is to reach out to a generation of young, black men who don’t believe the system is geared to represent them. Part of that, he says, is to form mentorship programs that help blacks prepare to enter the workforce and to cope with episodes of police targeting. But another part is improving civic participation. “We have forgotten the power we’ve been given to go to the polls and cast our vote,” says Jones. “It’s those local elections that really affect our lives. We do have a voice, and we need to use it.”

In 2013 municipal elections, just 6% of African Americans turned out to vote. The figures are so low, in part, because the elections were held in the spring of an off-year. But that doesn’t explain the racial gap: whites, who comprise just one-third of the city’s population, were three times more likely to vote. A number of groups are trying to improve African-American participation. The organization HealSTL, launched in the wake of the shooting, leased office space in town as part of its bid to “turn a moment into a movement.” Other organizations have also erected voter-registration booths alongside the protests.

Another challenge will be fixing the issues with local police, which range from widespread reports of bias to the heavy-handed crackdown on the protests. Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, has announced workshops this autumn designed to diversify the state’s urban police forces. (Ferguson, whose force is 94% white, is hardly the only township with an unrepresentative police department.) Democratic Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and William Lacy Clay, both of Missouri, met last week with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to air their concerns about the “militarization” of area police, who responded to the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored tanks. “If there is any good that can come out of the tragedy in Ferguson,” they wrote in a statement on the meeting, “our hope is that this effort will spur a national discussion about how to achieve a fundamental shift in local law enforcement, away from military-style responses, and towards a more community-based policy.”

Other residents hope that the exhale following the funeral will allow them to rebuild the city’s reputation. Ferguson has become a byword for racial strife and civic unrest, but it is more complex than a single stretch of heavily photographed road. Other sections of town bear the ubiquitous signs of urban reinvention: a downtown strip dotted with a wine bar and refurbished loft apartments, a farmers’ market, community gardens. In 2010, a 30-person delegation even traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to compete for an All-America City Award, for which the city was a finalist.

“For the most part, we get along,” says Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor who is one of the founders of a group called I Love Ferguson. The committee has passed out more than 8,000 signs bearing that credo, which dot leafy yards in the more affluent neighborhoods and line some of the city’s streets. It hopes to raise money to repay the businesses that suffered in the looting, and maybe even enough to incentivize others to move in. “The image that we’ve received is a city in chaos. We don’t ignore the fact that there’s racial tension and segregation,” says Fletcher, who is white. “We have chosen to stay here. We’re not leaving. It is an amazing community.”

The community has done some amazing things since Brown’s death, from the volunteer peacekeepers who soothed tensions between protesters and police to the residents who showed up each day with crates of bottled water and trays of food, paid for out of their own pockets. Now the challenge, as Sharpton told the mourners at the funeral, is to “turn the chants into change.” But marching orders are much more easily given from the pulpit than carried out on the street. It is up to Ferguson to figure out whether it will be known for a shooting or the healing that followed. “How we responded to the tragedy,” says Fletcher, “will become the real legacy.”

TIME remembrance

Ferguson Gathers to Say Farewell to Michael Brown

Michael Brown, Lesley McSpadden
Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, wipes a tear as she stands by his casket at his the funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Richard Perry—AP

Lively but mournful service was held at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis on Monday

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis on Monday for the funeral of slain Missouri teen Michael Brown.

Musicians, politicians, civil rights activists, and residents of the teenager’s hometown of Ferguson joined the family in mourning the African American 18-year-old, whose fatal shooting by a police officer on Aug. 9 exposed racial tensions within the suburb and sparked widespread demonstrations and several nights of violent protest.

“Michael Brown’s blood is crying from the ground…crying for justice,” said Michael’s uncle, Charles Ewing. “At such a time as this, God is shaking this nation.”

Though it was a somber occasion, the church sanctuary was often overrun with praise as family members and friends took to the podium to share memories of the young man they called “Mike Mike.” Brown would have been about a week into his freshman year of college on Monday.

“He said one day the world would know his name,” a family member said. “He did not know how his name would be remembered, but we are here today remembering the name of Michael Brown.”

Eulogizers calling on members of the community to channel their anger over the death of the teen in positive ways—through voting and peaceful assembly—and calling on the country to take a hard look at how law enforcement engages with black and minority communities.

“America, it’s time to deal with policing,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered a speech at the funeral. “We’re not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in the community that are wrong need to be dealt with.”

Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, wearing a red sleeveless dress, sat just steps from her son’s closed casket which was surrounded by enlarged photos of the teenager. Throughout the service, mourners reached to console McSpadden, who was often overcome with emotion.

Brown’s funeral comes two weeks after the teen was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in circumstances that are still unclear. The investigation into Brown’s death is still ongoing, though the federal government has stepped in to conduct a separate analysis of the events alongside local authorities.

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