TIME Barack Obama

Poll: One Third of Americans Want Obama Impeached

President Barack Obama in Colorado
President Barack Obama RJ Sangosti—Denver Post/Getty Images

But solid majority would oppose a move sought by some conservatives

Roughly a third of adult Americans want to see President Barack Obama impeached, according to a new CNN poll released Friday.

Support for impeachment cuts down party lines, with 57% of Republicans favoring the idea but just 35% of independents and 13% of Democrats feeling similarly.

The poll comes a day after the House Rules Committee approved Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the President over part of his signature health care law. Some conservatives, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have gone a step further than the lawsuit, calling for Obama’s impeachment.

The solid majority of Americans who oppose impeaching the president is similar to previous years, CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. In 1998, 67% of Americans opposed impeaching President Bill Clinton and 69% opposed impeaching George W. Bush in 2006.

The poll surveyed 1, 012 adult Americans between July 18-20 with a 3% margin of error.

TIME tobacco

$23.6 Billion Lawsuit Winner to Big Tobacco: “Are You Awake Now?”

Cynthia Robinson with her attorneys Willie Gary (left) and Christopher Chestnut (right) as she speaks during an interview on July 21, 2014 in New York City.
Cynthia Robinson with her attorneys Willie Gary (left) and Christopher Chestnut (right) as she speaks during an interview on July 21, 2014 in New York City. Bebeto Matthews—AP

The widow who won a $23.6 billion lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds talks to TIME about the suit and what she hopes the victory will accomplish

“Are you awake now? Do you hear what the jury is saying? You have to stop,” Cynthia Robinson wants to tell the tobacco industry. The Florida widow recently won a $23.6 billion lawsuit against tobacco company R.J. Reynolds, one of the largest recent judgments on the industry, and in an interview with TIME, she says she hopes they listen to the jury’s message.

Robinson’s husband Michael Johnson died in 1996 at age of 36 from lung cancer, and in her lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds, she and her attorneys argued that the company was aware that cigarettes were addictive and caused lung cancer, but was negligent in telling smokers like Johnson about those risks.

Johnson got hooked on cigarettes when he was just 13-years-old, and eventually smoked up to three packs a day, often lighting his next cigarette with the burning end of the one he just finished. “He was a quiet person. He read the Bible every day, he took the kids swimming, he mowed the yards of all the elderly neighbors,” Robinson says. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1995 and lived for almost a year in constant pain. “The pain [from the cancer] was always there. When you’re on oxygen and you have to step outside for a cigarette, you can’t stop. You’re addicted.”

Johnson tried multiple times to stop smoking with no success. During one of her husband’s hospital visits, Robinson knew something was wrong when he began sweating and one of his eyes started to droop. The doctor said he would live for only a couple of months, but he survived for 10 more months. “He suffocated and died for so long, it was awful,” says Robinson, recalling how hard it was for her husband to breathe in the months before his death.

The day Johnson died, he could not stop coughing up blood. His brother tried to hold him up, and Robinson wanted to get him into an ambulance, but his mother told her that he was already gone. “The blood was everywhere, it was awful. Only 36 years old and he was already gone,” says Robinson.

Ten years later Robinson filled her lawsuit. It’s one of many Florida lawsuits referred to as an “Engle progeny,” stemming from a 2000 $145 billion verdict in a class action suit led Dr. Howard A. Engle, a Miami Beach pediatrician who smoked, and eventually died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The case was overturned in appeals court, and it was ruled that smokers could not make up a class. But the Engle case established that the tobacco industry had deceived Americans, by knowingly putting addictive and cancerous products on the market, and paved the way for thousands of individual Florida cases to take on Big Tobacco. On Friday July 18, Robinson did, and won her bittersweet victory.

“It was justice. It was time, and it had been a long time,” Robinson says. “I thought, oh my God, we did it. We may have to keep fighting, and will. It’s for Michael, and anyone who lost their lives to lung cancer. There are thousands right now dying of lung cancer. Michael died so young, he missed graduations and weddings.”

“We expected every dime and more,” says Robinson’s attorney Willie E Gary. “Johnson started smoking when he was a teen. How aware of the risks can you be at that age? But [the tobacco industry] would market and target kids. To this day they are going after our youth, stuffing their pockets. It’s all about the profits and it’s nothing about the health and safety of the people.”

As TIME reported earlier this week, R.J. Reynolds plans to appeal, and based on the industry’s track record with lawsuits, the damages will likely be lowered. Gary isn’t deterred: ” We expect to win. Winning is not about getting everything that you want. We know that we made a difference.”

It’s small consolation for losing her husband, but Robinson is satisfied that her time, effort, and daily prayers were enough to topple Goliath, at least in court last Friday. “We had to go all the way no matter how many years it took. Life has been lost,” she says. For the thousands of other pending lawsuits, she urges plaintiffs to persevere. “Don’t give up no matter how much they try to discourage and belittle you, you fight them to the very end, and you’ll succeed,” she says.

 

TIME Health Care

Johns Hopkins to Pay $190 Million to Victims of Secretly Recorded Exams

A sign stands in front of part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex on July 8, 2014, in Baltimore.
A sign stands in front of part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex on July 8, 2014, in Baltimore. Patrick Semansky—AP

A male gynecologist secretly filmed and took pictures during exams with female patients

Johns Hopkins Hospital announced on Monday that it reached a $190 million settlement with patients whose exams were secretly recorded by a gynecologist.

The class-action lawsuit involved more than 8,000 former patients of Dr. Nikita Levy, the Associated Press reports, and the deal marks one of the largest involving sexual misconduct by a doctor. Most of the discovered videos and photographs—about 1,200 videos and 140 photos—did not include the women’s faces and were taken with a pen-like camera he wore around his neck.

The case never led to criminal charges but essentially argued that Johns Hopkins should have been aware of what the doctor was doing. Levy committed suicide 10 days after he was fired in February 2013, which occurred after an employee came forward with suspicions.

Johns Hopkins released a statement in October on the discovery of Levy’s “misconduct and breach of trust,” writing: “We have redoubled our efforts to ensure that all of us in the Johns Hopkins community understand our responsibility, and we want to encourage you to speak up if you have any concerns about patient care or privacy.”

In a statement sent to reporters, Jonathan Schochor, the lawsuit’s lead attorney, said: “When learning of Dr. Levy’s behavior, our clients were extremely distraught. They felt a great breach of faith and trust. They felt betrayed. Now, with this proposed settlement, we can begin the process of healing our community.”

The settlement still needs final approval by a judge, the AP reports.

“We assure you that one individual does not define Johns Hopkins,” the hospital system said on Monday, acknowledging the settlement. “Johns Hopkins is defined by the tens of thousands of employees who come to work determined to provide world-class care for our patients and their families.”

TIME Congress

Boehner: House Will Sue President Over Obamacare Employer Mandate

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 10, 2014. Joshua Roberts—Reuters

House Speaker John Boehner says says the suit is based on the fact that Obama revised the Affordable Care Act mandate without approval from Congress

House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the chamber will sue President Barack Obama for delaying the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate last year.

The decision gave companies with at least 50 full-time employees an extra year to provide health insurance or face a fine. Earlier this year, the Administration delayed the mandate until 2016 for companies employing between 50 and 99 workers.

“Today we’re releasing a draft resolution that will authorize the House to file suit over the way President Obama unilaterally changed the employer mandate,” wrote Boehner in a public statement. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

Democrats immediately ridiculed the measure as a political stunt.

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt,” wrote Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a public statement. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction.”

TIME Accident

Six Flags Sued by Injured Roller Coaster Riders

Roller Coaster Accident
Members of the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park security staff monitor the situation at the exit of the park after riders were injured on the Ninja coaster Andy Holzman— AP

22 passengers were injured after a tree branch fell on roller coaster tracks

Two riders who injured their heads Tuesday in a roller coaster accident at the Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California are suing the amusement park. Jeremy Ead and Olivia Feldman were among 22 riders who suffered injuries Monday after a tree branch fell on the roller coaster track, derailing the car in which they were riding. Fire fighters rescued the passengers after they spent two hours suspended 40 feet above the ground.

The Ninja roller coaster was built 25 years ago and weaves among many trees. Attorney Barry Noack says his clients, Ead and Feldman, question how safe it is to build a ride in the “wilderness.” They are seeking unspecified damages after suffering “direct trauma,” according to NBC Los Angeles. Ead told the Los Angeles Times that a branch fell on his head: “I was there bleeding from my head.”

The California Department of Industrial Relations is still investigating whether the park is responsible for the crash. “The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority and as a precaution, the ride will remain closed until a thorough inspection of the area is complete,” park officials said in a statement after the derailment.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME republicans

Republicans Can’t Decide if Obama Is a Weakling or a Tyrant

Is Obama the weakest president in a generation, or a dangerous autocrat ruling by fiat? The GOP tries to have it both ways

At some point over the next few weeks, the House will vote to sue President Obama to compel him “to follow his oath of office and faithfully execute the laws of our country,” House Speaker John Boehner said in an op-ed on CNN.com over the weekend.

“[T]oo often over the past five years, the President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives through executive action, changing and creating his own laws, and excusing himself from enforcing statutes he is sworn to uphold—at times even boasting about his willingness to do it, as if daring the American people to stop him,” Boehner wrote.

The White House has called the move a stunt and notes that, compared with other Presidents, Obama’s 182 executive orders is actually a relatively moderate number: Ronald Reagan had 381 such orders, Bill Clinton had 364 and George W. Bush had 291 (though Obama still has a few years yet to catch up).

“Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions,” Obama told a crowd in Minneapolis on June 27. “They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something. I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.”

The judicial branch has long settled disputes between the executive and legislative branches, though. Individuals, or in the case of Hobby Lobby, “closely-held corporations,” have sued the President, or his representatives, and won. The Supreme Court 13 times in the past three years has struck down the President’s executive orders: just last month it found three of Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board unconstitutional.

And Boehner’s list of grievances against the President is long: selectively enforced sanctions against Iran passed by Congress; the unilateral pushback of several launch and enrollment dates for Obamacare; the issuance of tough coal laws by the Environmental Protection Agency; the unannounced release of the Taliban five in exchange for POW Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan; and the No Child Left Behind waivers that Republicans hate. It remains unclear whether Republicans will sue on some or all of these points.

But as they mull how to proceed, Boehner and the GOP might be hard pressed to prove a personal loss—a necessity to win the suit—due to any of these policies; indeed they have raised vast sums of money from making Obama out to be a tyrant worthy of deposing. And Democrats will benefit too. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has boasted of raising nearly $3 million “since Boehner and the Republicans announced their ludicrous plan to sue President Obama.” No word from GOP groups how much they’ve raised.

The problem is, the Republican Party is not uniform on Obama’s autocracy. Conservative blogger Eric Erickson mocked Boehner’s move. “John Boehner’s lawsuit is nothing more than political theater and a further Republican waste of taxpayer dollars,” he wrote Monday. “John Boehner and the House Republicans may lack the testicular fortitude to fight President Obama.”

Worse, many Republicans have actually called on Obama to use his executive powers more, calling him the weakest President in a generation. As the GOP has moved on from Obamacare and the recovery economy, it has taken up a schizophrenic approach to its criticism of the President. Here are seven ways Republicans have called on Obama to use his “pen and his phone,” as Obama puts it, more not less:

1. Keystone Pipeline: Congressional Republicans have been eager for the Administration to make up its mind on whether to build this pipeline from Canada to Louisiana. They’ve even passed resolutions calling on the President to approve it.

2. Trade: Forget the fact that Congress hasn’t granted the President the authority to negotiate free trade acts. Republicans are encouraging Obama to complete two massive deals ASAP—one with Asia and one with Europe. That Free Trade Promotion Authority needed to approve those deals? No worries, Republicans will overcome Democratic doubts and pass it whenever the President likes.

3. Border Security: Immigration reform may be dead, but one part of it is very much alive: shoring up the border. The fence! The patrols! Must keep those unaccompanied minors out! Republicans have been clamoring for beefed up border security since the immigration debate under Bush in 2005, even after they built the massive 1,951-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

4. Syria: Remember when Obama decided he needed congressional approval to bomb Syria? Congress went from hawk to dove overnight, suddenly balking at the idea of taking responsibility for another war in the Middle East. Which is partly why Syria never got bombed—well, that and Vladimir Putin’s cagey moves. Resolutions have been introduced in both chambers calling on Obama to do more to help arm and train the moderate Syrian opposition. Never mind needing permission from Congress.

5. Iraq: If Syria wasn’t hard enough, Iraq is an even bigger challenge. Many GOP neocons blame the collapse on Obama’s pulling out of all U.S. forces from Iraq two years ago and ending U.S. involvement there. Clearly, then, he’s not doing nearly enough to fix the problem. Boehner even accused Obama of “taking a nap” while Iraq burned. Does he need permission to act? Nah, he still can use Bush’s old war powers resolution still in effect from 12 years ago.

6. Boko Haram. Bring back our girls, were the instructions from Congress after the terrorist group kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria. The girls still haven’t been found, but Obama did send over military advisers to help look for them. Again, no permission from Congress needed—lawmakers simply wanted Obama to act ASAP.

7. Ukraine/Russia: Obama is getting played by Putin. Obama’s is Putin’s lap dog. Or so the GOP refrains go. Clearly, the President should be doing more to help Ukraine stand up to tyranny and oppression—not to mention Russia annexing the Crimea—or so says a spate of congressional resolutions. What “more” means is fairly vague: sanctions, visa restrictions, frozen accounts? All things presidents do with pens and phones.

MONEY credit cards

AmEx’s Battle With the Feds Could Mean Lower Costs for Credit-Card Users

The American Express Co. logo, along with those of Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., are displayed in a shop window in New York, NY
Scott Eells—Bloomberg via Getty Images

American Express is facing off against the Justice Department today in a court battle that could shape the future of the credit card industry.

The suit, which concerns the fees merchants pay every time a customers uses plastic, is the culmination of a four-year war between federal authorities and the New York-based credit card giant. Its outcome won’t just affect the way American Express does business, but will likely impact consumers at the checkout counter as well.

Currently at stake is AmEx’s “take it or leave it” policy. Every time a customer pays with a credit card, the merchant must pay a processing fee, generally between 2% and 3% of the total purchase. American Express — which, according to the government, charges the highest merchant fees of any card network — forbids its merchant partners from offering customers incentives to use cards that are cheaper for the vender to accept.

The Department of Justice argues that the policy is anti-competitive because AmEx—which accounts for 26% of all money transacted through credit cards in the U.S.—is too important for most businesses to drop. It also claims customers, even those who use a different card, end up paying for AmEx’s higher rates because merchants compensate by increasing prices.

American Express, of course, disagrees. The company says it is too small to have an anti-competitive effect on the market. Court documents show that there were 53.6 million AmEx cards in circulation in 2013, compared to 178 million MasterCards and 254 million U.S.-issued Visa cards. It also argues these higher fees are necessary to provide merchants with services like fraud reduction programs, financing and marketing, and data analytics.

This is the latest battle in a four-year-old war over credit-card company business practices. In 2010, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against MasterCard, Visa, and American Express for various merchant restrictions that the department found ultimately result in consumers paying more for their purchases. Visa and MasterCard quickly settled, later agreeing to a record-high $5.7 billion antitrust settlement with U.S. merchants over alleged fee fixing. But AmEx held out. In 2013, it reached a separate peace with merchants, allowing them for the first time to add a surcharge to AmEx purchases as long as they added the same charge to all credit-card transactions — the “take it or leave it” policy. But the settlement failed to satisfy the Justice Department, which now seeks to force AmEx into the same deal it cut with Visa and MasterCard.

For AmEx, the stakes are high. Merchant fees make up 65% of the company’s revenues, and it depends on high processing rates to offer its customers benefits like discounts and frequent-flyer miles. A loss would allow merchants to offer customers incentives for using a competitor’s card, and could cut into AmeEx’s profits by pushing the company to lower its merchant fees.

For consumers, a D.O.J. victory could potentially mean lower prices. Many businesses have historically priced in credit-card processing fees by raising the cost of their goods by 1% to 3%. Past settlements have allowed merchants to pass on these fees directly to credit card users, theoretically sparing cash and debit customers from having to share in the cost of accepting credit cards. However, many have questioned whether merchants are actually passing their savings onto consumers.

If American Express loses, merchants would be allowed to offer additional discounts to credit-card users with cards that charge lower fees. This won’t pacify those who say customers are paying the same prices as before plus new credit-card processing fees, but it does mean certain credit-card users might pay less than others.

Don’t expect AmEx to give up. The company may “need those rules in place to remain competitive with Visa and MasterCard,” Darren Bush, an antitrust law expert at University of Houston Law Center, told Bloomberg. “They’re willing to put more on the line.”

TIME justice

Judge Dismisses Zimmerman’s Lawsuit Against NBC

George Zimmerman, Mark O'Mara
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara, left, talks to defendant George Zimmerman during a recess in Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla on June 17, 2013. Part of a lawsuit against NBC Universal that claims that the television network defamed Zimmerman in a 2012 broadcast was thrown out by a Florida judge Thursday, June 19, 2014, putting the entire litigation in jeopardy. Joe Burbank—AP

A defamation lawsuit filed by George Zimmerman against NBC and three reporters for causing him emotional distress and mental anguish was dismissed by a Florida judge on Monday.

(ORLANDO, Fla.) — A Florida judge on Monday dismissed the defamation lawsuit filed by George Zimmerman against NBC and three reporters, saying the former neighborhood watch leader failed to show the network acted with malice.

Judge Debra Nelson said the malice standard was appropriate because Zimmerman became a public figure after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford in February 2012, generating a national conversation about race and self-defense laws.

Zimmerman was acquitted last year for Martin’s shooting. He said he shot Martin in self-defense when the teenager attacked him. Martin was black. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Zimmerman “voluntarily injected his views into the public controversy surrounding race relations and public safety in Sanford and pursued a course of conduct that ultimately led to the death of Martin and the specific controversy surrounding it,” said Nelson, who presided over Zimmerman’s criminal trial last summer.

In his lawsuit, Zimmerman said NBC’s editing of a story on the shooting made it sound as if Zimmerman voluntarily told an operator that Martin was black. He was actually responding to a dispatcher’s question about the Miami teen’s race. Zimmerman said the broadcasts made his seem like a racist and exposed him to public ridicule and threats. He was seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish.

Zimmerman also said he was defamed when an NBC reporter said he uttered a racial slur during the call with the dispatcher. Zimmerman denied using a slur and law enforcement analyses of the call have been unable to conclude what he said and so defamation can’t be proved on that case either, the judge said.

Zimmerman’s attorney, James Beasley, was in depositions for another case Monday and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

NBC News spokeswoman Ali Zelenko said in a statement that the network is “gratified by the court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be without merit.”

Zimmerman still owes his defense attorneys $2.5 million. Any award he could have gotten from the lawsuit was expected to help him pay those bills.

A spokesman for Mark O’Mara, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys, didn’t have an immediate comment.

TIME Congress

Obama: Boehner’s Lawsuit Is a ‘Stunt’

Barack Obama
In this Wednesday, June 25, 2014, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the League of Conservation Voters Capitol Dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

The President dismissed the Speaker’s planned legal action as a political ploy

President Barack Obama isn’t worried about a lawsuit House Speaker John Boehner plans to bring against him over his use of executive power, Obama said on Good Morning America Friday.

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” Obama said. “The suit is a stunt.”

Boehner said Wednesday he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the President over what he calls “an effort to erode the power of the legislative branch” over the last five years. “I believe the President is not faithfully executing the laws of the country and on behalf of the institution and our constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in the best long-term interest of the Congress,” the House Speaker said.

Faced with a Republican-dominated Congress that has steadfastly thwarted much of his agenda, Obama has ramped up his use of executive actions to circumvent the House on matters like delaying implementation of parts of the Affordable Care Act, halting deportations of child immigrants and boosting the minimum wage and job protections for federal contractors.

“What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is: If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?” the President said. “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?”

TIME celebrities

Hugh Grant on Phone-Hacking Verdict: Don’t Forget the Guilty Pleas

The 59th Hugh Grant Evening Standard Theatre Awards - Ceremony
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Hugh Grant the 59th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards at The Savoy Hotel in London on Nov. 17, 2013. David M. Benett—Getty Images

The actor has been an outspoken critic of the illegal reporting practices that led to the sensational U.K. trial

Hugh Grant would like to amend the score card being touted by most news stories about verdicts in the British phone-hacking trial this week. Most have noted that just one of the seven defendants, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, was found guilty of conspiring to intercept calls. Six others, including Rebekah Brooks, who was editor before Coulson, were found not guilty. Grant, one of the most prominent victims of the phone-hacking in question, is concerned that coverage of the trial isn’t complete, because the tally is leaving out the guilty pleas of others charged in the scandal. In a statement issued to TIME, the actor, who in 2012 settled with the paper’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News International, for damages over the hacking, wrote:

Some newspapers here are spinning these verdicts in the way you describe as “only one out of seven defendants found guilty.” This is deliberately to ignore the guilty pleas of others charged with the same offenses. These guilty pleas could not be reported during the trials and are not being widely reported now by some newspapers who are intent on minimizing the extent of criminality in their industry. The true figures are these (as per today’s Guardian): Of eight journalists charged with hacking, six have now been found, or have pleaded, guilty — one editor, three news editors and two hackers. Twelve more trials of News International (now rebranded News UK) journalists are currently scheduled.

And it may not stop there: In addition to the “dozens” of journalists who the Guardian says could potentially face charges related to this scandal, the paper also reports today that Murdoch, who owned the now-defunct News of the World, has been informed by Scotland Yard that they would like to interview him about the case.

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