TIME Guns

NRA Ad Campaign Has Michael Bloomberg in Its Crosshairs

Multimillion-dollar campaign tells billionaire gun control advocate to go back to New York

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In an effort to combat former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s high profile campaign for stronger gun control, the National Rifle Association is launching a national ad campaign to malign the business magnate and strike back at one of the gun advocacy group’s biggest detractors.

The campaign, which kicks off Wednesday, is part of a multimillion-dollar effort to stir up negative perceptions of the New York billionaire, USA Today reports. Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, called Bloomberg “an arrogant hypocrite who thinks he knows best how people should live their lives.”

Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million to build a grassroots network of gun control advocates in order to counter the NRA’s lobbying prowess, and has spent money across the country to defeat candidates who are staunch gun rights advocates.

Americans remain divided on gun control law, according to an Oct. 2013 Gallup poll. Public support for stricter laws covering the sale of firearms fell to 49% after reaching 58% in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings in which 20 children were killed. A total of 37% say laws should be kept as they are, with 13% wanting more lax regulations.

Gun control advocates say Congress’s failure to pass a measure to restrict the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines after the Sandy Hook shootings reflects the NRA’s pervasive influence on Capitol Hill.

An NRA ad will run nationally on cable television and in digital ads in states with key Senate races including Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina and Georgia. “Hey, Bloomberg: Keep your politics in New York. And keep your hands off our guns and our freedom,” says the commercial.

[USA Today]

TIME Crime

Echoes of History Resound in Ferguson, Mo. Unrest

Frustration in a St Louis suburb after the shooting of a black teen has led to violence. But the roots of the anger are embedded in the past

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The death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. has once again raised questions about the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

But on a broader scale, it’s brought back to America’s attention the often fraught relationship between law enforcement and the communities they police – especially when those communities are largely impoverished, and mostly African-American.

A look at the history of race-related unrest in the U.S. — from the 1919 race riots in Chicago to Los Angeles’ infamous Rodney King riots in 1992 — shows that what is playing out on the streets of Ferguson is just the latest chapter in a long and troubled story.

TIME justice

FBI to Probe Police Shooting of Unarmed Missouri Teen

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Demonstrators took to the streets of a St. Louis suburb Monday to protest the fatal shooting Saturday of an unarmed black teenager by police, as officials appealed for calm after a night of riots and the FBI said it would investigate the incident.

“Ferguson police show us no respect,” Chanel Ruffin, 25, said during the protest. “They harass black people all the time.”

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Ferguson, Mo., police chief Tom Jackson said Monday on CNN as protesters marched. “Nobody wanted this to happen but what we want to do is we want to heal. We want to build trust with the community and part of that is to have a transparent, open investigation, conducted by outside party.”

The protests Monday remained mostly peaceful, in contrast to the looting that took place Sunday night. A spokesman for the family of the teenager, Michael Brown, told media outlets his family wants “justice.” A list of demands being circulated among protestors Monday was much broader, calling for, among other things, a more diverse police force and that the officer who shot Brown be identified, fired and charged with murder. In a sign of the growing national attention focused on the small town, the hacking group Anonymous hacked Ferguson’s website on Sunday night.

Jackson said he understood the concerns of demonstrators and that a full, independent probe would help the community move forward. The FBI informed Jackson on Monday that it will investigate, the Associated Press reports. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, among other officials, had called for such an investigation.

“It is vital that the facts about this case are gathered in a thorough, transparent and impartial manner, in which the public has complete confidence,” Nixon said.

Attorney General Eric Holder also released a statement saying the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will work in conjunction with local officers to conduct a thorough investigation.

“The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities,” Holder said in a statement. “At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right. “

It remains unclear—and a matter of hot dispute—what led to the shooting Saturday of Brown, 18. Police say the teenager had assaulted an officer and reached for his gun. Many in community are skeptical of that account.

In downtown historic Ferguson on Monday morning, hundreds of protestors gathered around the Ferguson Police Department demanding justice for Brown, who they called a “gentle giant.” With raised hands in the air, people shouted “Don’t shoot me.”

Some protesters were peaceful. Others got in police officers’ faces, screaming obscenities and crossing police lines. Officers shouted “cuff him” while arresting at least a half-dozen protesters. Most protesters dispersed after a couple hours.

As news of the protests spread via social media, people of all races came from the region—one more than 60 miles—for a second, impromptu anti-police protest, this time in front of a burnt and looted convenience store. Protesters said they heard about the earlier demonstrations and drove to Ferguson to support to Brown’s family and the community.

Police in riot gear stayed mostly quiet as protesters shouted “no justice, no peace” and drivers honked in support. Police were not addressing the crowds.

The shooting has come at a time of heightened scrutiny across the country over police tactics and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. But Jackson resisted comparisons to other cases.

“This case, I know it seems like it’s similar to others, but what I would really hope is that we could allow the investigation to play out,” said Jackson, who, in an indicator of how hot tensions are running, reported being shot at himself Sunday night in a local Walmart parking lot.

The riots Sunday night in Ferguson left a trail of destruction, with cars vandalized, stores looted and walls spray-painted. More than 30 rioters were arrested, and police said two of their officers were injured.

“People were acting out of emotions,” Ruffin said. “There are a lot of people hurting. I’m not saying what they did was right. … We want justice.”

Police were on hand Monday to keep order.

“We can’t have another night like last night,” Jackson said on CNN. “So we hope it doesn’t happen, but we’re prepared for the worst.

About 130 police formed a line, in riot gear, as protesters chanted “we’re not stupid. We ‘re not stupid.” Protesters formed their own line with their hands up, crying out things like “don’t shoot me” and “you got to stop killing our people.” Brice Johnson, 27, held up a sign that read: “Please do not shoot. My hands are up. RIP Mike Brown.”

Police arrested at least half-a-dozen people who did not disperse.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Jackson, the police chief, said of the shooting. “Nobody wanted this to happen, but what we want to do is we want to heal, we want to build trust with the community. And part of that is to have a transparent, open investigation, conducted by outside party.”

-Kristina Sauerwein reported from Ferguson, Mo.

 

TIME Law

Somebody Crashed a Drone Into Yellowstone’s Biggest Hot Spring

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Grand Prismatic Spring Quan Yuan—Getty Images/Flickr RM

Drones aren't allowed in the area, but one hit Grand Prismatic Spring on Saturday and sank, potentially damaging the geothermal feature, the largest hot spring in the park and third largest in the world, said a park official

An influx of camera-equipped drones illegally flying over national parks reached a new level this week when one crashed into—and possibly damaged—a famed hot spring at Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.

A park official told Reuters on Wednesday that the unmanned aerial vehicle crashed into the Grand Prismatic Spring on Saturday and sank, potentially damaging the geothermal feature, the largest hot spring in the park and third largest in the world.

The National Parks Service banned drone flights in June as parks are reporting a spike in drones, which are annoying some visitors and, at times, crashing. Earlier this summer, according to Reuters, a drone crashed into a marina at Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone National Park now has to decide whether–and how–to extract the doomed drone from the hot spring, which is more than 121 feet deep.

“What we have to determine is whether the presence of this radio-controlled recreational aircraft poses a threat to that unique resource,” park spokesperson Al Nash told Reuters.

[Reuters]

 

TIME Booze

New Hampshire Law May Deter D.C. Visitors From Buying Booze

Live free or die...sober?

New Hampshire’s alcohol law might at first look just like those around the country, in that one must be 21 to purchase booze. It differs, however, in its handling of how out-of-town visitors can buy booze.

Here’s the hitch: Because the law focuses on other states and countries, it excludes U.S. territories. Which means that anyone from Washington D.C. may run into some problems when dropping in to one of the Granite State’s fine package stores.

The Associated Press reports that the issue arose earlier this month, when a clerk refused to sell alcohol to a 25-year-old resident of the nation’s capital. After the incident was reported by the Concord Monitor, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission “told retailers they should accept Washington, D.C., driver’s licenses when determining a buyer’s age, even though state law does not explicitly include them,” the AP said.

Liquor Commission’s Executive Councilor, Colin Van Ostern’s statement is as follows:

Tourism is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry, and the state rakes in money from out-of-staters lured by its tax-free booze. It also prides itself on having the nation’s largest state Legislature and its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, which gives lesser-known candidates a fair shot and attracts political visitors from around the country.

Van Ostern said he believes new legislation will likely be needed to permanently fix the problem. As it stands, the commission’s clarification doesn’t take into account residents of U.S. territories, he noted.

“I have no doubt this was an oversight, and I do think a fair reading of legislative intent would be to allow all those IDs, but I don’t think we should be putting it on individual store clerks to be trying to decide what legislators meant 20 years ago when they passed a law,” he said.

As one might guess, the law on New Hampshire’s books regarding tobacco products contains the same wording as the alcohol law.

TIME Immigration

Migrant Girls Share Haunting Stories About Why They Fled

Central American Female Immigrants
Central American immigrants await transportation to a U.S. Border Patrol processing center on July 24, 2014 near Mission, Texas. John Moore—Getty Images

A recent UN report gives haunting accounts from some of the girls who fled

The number of young girls captured at the US-Mexico border has increased by 77 percent this year, according to Pew Research Center analysis released Friday.

The number of girls under the age of 18 apprehended at the border this fiscal year was 13,008 compared to last year’s 7,339, according to Pew. The number of boys under 18 apprehended is still much higher at 33,924, but that represents only an 8% increase from 2013.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released a report earlier this year that included haunting accounts from some of the young girls apprehended, in an analysis of 404 children from Mexico and Central America who had been detained at the border.

“The head of the gang that controlled her neighborhood wanted Josefina to be his girlfriend and threatened to kidnap her or to kill one of her family members if she didn’t comply,” the report writes, of one 16-year-old from El Salvador. “Josefina knew another girl from her community who had become the girlfriend of a gang member and had been forced to have sex with all the gang members.”

Two-thirds of the children from El Salvador, both male and female, reported threats of violence from organized crime as one reason for fleeing. “One of [the gang members] ‘liked’ me. Another gang member told my uncle that he should get me out of there because the guy who liked me was going to do me harm,” said 15-year-old Maritza. “In El Salvador they take young girls, rape them and throw them in plastic bags. My uncle told me it wasn’t safe for me to stay there.”

Other girls reported domestic violence as a reason for leaving. Lucia, a 16-year-old from Guatemala, escaped her abusive grandmother’s home only to move in with an abusive boyfriend. “He beat me almost every day,” Lucia said. “I stayed with him for four months. I left because he tried to kill me by strangling me. I left that same day.”

The increasing numbers of children from Mexico and Central America seeking refuge in the United States has prompted a legislative battle in Washington. It remains unresolved.

TIME justice

Arizona Inmate Dies After Nearly 2 Hours in Apparently Botched Execution

Joseph Wood is pictured in this booking photo.
Joseph Wood is pictured in this booking photo. Arizona Department of Corrections—Reuters

One of the judges that issued a stay of execution, later overturned, wrote in an opinion that the firing squad would likely be a better option for executions

Updated July 23, 22:30 ET

Arizona death row inmate Joseph Wood gasped and struggled for breath for at least an hour on Wednesday during what is being considered another botched execution using a lethal cocktail of drugs.

“The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona,” one of Wood’s attorneys, Dale Baich, said in a statement. “It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes.”

According to the Arizona Attorney General’s office, Joseph R. Wood III, who was sentenced to death for killing his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1991, was pronounced dead at 3:49pm, nearly two hours after his execution commenced at 1:52p.m.

During the execution, Wood’s attorneys filed an emergency appeal in federal court claiming Wood was “gasping and snorting for more than an hour,” according to the Associated Press.

Baich witnessed the execution and says Arizona now joins the number of states that have “been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution.”

“We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today,” Baich’s statement said.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer issued a statement expressing concern at the time it took to execute Wood. “I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process,” the Governor said. However, she added: “Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

A request for comment from the Arizona Department of Corrections was not immediately returned.

Wood’s execution came after what Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne described as “after several days of legal maneuvering.” On Tuesday, the Supreme Court lifted Wood’s stay of execution following the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to postpone his death due to the mystery around the lethal injection drugs that would be used.

One of the judges that issued the original stay, Judge Alex Kozinski, said in an opinion that the firing squad would likely be a better option for executions.

“Eight or ten large-caliber bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time,” Kozinski said. “Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood.”

TIME Law

U.S. Judge Grants Investigators Access to Gmail Accounts in Criminal Probes

The judge says the law already supports giving investigators access to documents simply to determine whether they're warrantable or not.

A New York federal judge ruled on Friday that prosecutors have a legal right to access Gmail-based emails in criminal probes that involve money laundering, a sharp turnaround from previous rulings in comparable cases and an alarm bell for privacy advocates.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said that his decision was based on a law already on the books that allows investigators to seize documents–which Gorenstein interpreted as including emails–to determine whether data should be subject to a warrant, Reuters reports.

The big question is what happens if a user’s email account doesn’t yield any information that would justify a legal warrant, and how much public support lies behind the idea of privileging high profile investigations over personal privacy.

[Reuters]

TIME Autos

GM’s Mary Barra Faces Another Capitol Hill Mauling

General Motors CEO Mary Barra Testifies Before Senate Committee About GM's Recalls
CEO of the General Motors Company Mary Barra testifies during a hearing before the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on July 17, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Barra is headed to the Senate for her fourth congressional hearing since record series of recalls began in February

Senators grilled GM’s general counsel Michael Millikin during a hearing Thursday after an internal investigation released last month found that his legal team knew of safety concerns linked to a faulty ignition switch for several years before recalls were announced in 2014.

“How in the world, in the aftermath of this report, did Michael Milliken keep his job?” asked Sen. Claire McCaskill, chair of the Subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety, and insurance, which held the hearing. “It is very clear that the culture of lawyering up and Whac-A-Mole to minimize liability in individual lawsuits killed innocent customers of general motors.”

“The failure of this legal department is stunning,” she said.

CEO Mary Barra, making her fourth hearing appearance on Capitol Hill since the company began massive recalls this year related to the ignition switch problem that has been linked to at least 13 deaths, was largely praised by Senators for her handling of the scandal, which erupted just weeks after she assumed the post.

Thursday’s hearing came in the wake of a New York Times report that found that GM withheld information from regulators inquiring about fatal accidents. Citing documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that GM “repeatedly found a way not to answer the simple question from regulators of what led to a crash.” In some cases, GM said it had not conducted an assessment and in others it simply declined to provide an answer. In another case, the company cited attorney-client privilege.

The hearing in Congress aimed to focus on accountability in corporate culture, as lawmakers aim to keep corporations from covering up safety concerns. Three senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would impose criminal penalties for corporate executives who hide product dangers.

Milliken says he was not informed about the safety concerns until February of this year, and Barra defended her decision not to fire him. “He is a man of high integrity,” she said.

Following the internal investigation last month, GM fired 15 employees and Barra blamed “a pattern of management deficiencies and misjudgments.” But she said the probe found no deliberate cover-up by the company.

The Justice Department is separately investigating why it took the company more than a decade to address the problem.

Barra and Millikin were joined at the hearing by Anton Valukas, who headed up the internal report, and Rodney O’Neal, the head of the ignition switch supplier, Delphi. Kenneth Feinberg, who is administering GM’s compensation payments, also took questions from lawmakers about the compensation program.

TIME Military

Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ to Obama

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for nearly five years before being released in May. U.S. Army / Getty Images

Army sergeant held by Taliban believes President’s decision “saved his life,” his attorney Eugene Fidell tells TIME

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney.

“Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

Eugene Fidell Yale

But Fidell did suggest the case—now being investigated by a two-star Army major general—is more complicated than he originally thought. That’s saying something: Fidell is a prominent military-law expert who lectures at Yale Law School on the topic, and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

“Before I was in the case, I was skeptical that the investigation called for a major general,” Fidell says. “I thought that a talented lieutenant colonel would be more than enough horsepower—I thought it was overkill.” Army officials say Major General Kenneth Dahl has yet to interview Bergdahl.

Fidell said he has changed his mind as he has dived into the case. “Based on what I now know about the complexity of the issues, which are in a number of spheres that I’m not going to get into, I understand why the Army thought that a general officer should be involved,” Fidell adds. “I now understand why management thought that it was a good idea to have a two-star officer doing this investigation.”

The lawyer, who has taken the case pro bono—without pay—declined to discuss the specifics that led him to change his mind. But Bergdahl’s case is complex: according to the soldiers with whom he served, Bergdahl simply walked away from his combat outpost in June 2009 before being captured by the Taliban along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Some of those troops have called Bergdahl a deserter, and alleged that fellow soldiers died hunting for him.

Questions also surround the Army’s decision to allow Bergdahl to enlist, two years after he washed out of Coast Guard boot camp after only 26 days. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill have criticized Obama for giving up five senior Taliban leaders for Bergdahl, now 28.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., told TIME on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the swap was in the nation’s interest. “We were duty bound to bring him back, but I think we’re duty bound to bring him back in the right way,” said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee. “What other opportunities were there for us to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release besides releasing these five high-ranking Taliban officials?…we did increase the risk to Americans and American interests by releasing these five.”

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said that Bergdahl is now free to come and go like any other soldier. “He’s free to leave base…he’s not under any particular restrictions,” Kirby said. “And I would remind you, he’s not been charged with anything.”

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