TIME tragedy

Co-Founder of a Refuge for Elephants Is Accidentally Killed by an Elephant

Jim Laurita
Jim Laurita, executive director and foounder of Hope Elephants, feeds a carrot to one of the two retired circus elephants at his not-for-profit rehabilitation and educational facility in Hope, Maine on Nov. 13, 2012. Robert F. Bukaty_AP

Hope Elephants, which cares for two aging former circus elephants, described James Laurita's passion for the animals as "boundless"

A retired circus elephant has unintentionally killed a founder of the shelter where it lived.

James Laurita, a veterinarian and co-founder of Hope Elephants, died on Tuesday when one of the Maine-based refuge’s elephants stepped on him, the Portland Press Herald reports. His death has been ruled a tragic accident.

“The elephant was not aggressive in any way,” Mark Belserene, administrator for the state medical examiner’s office, told the Associated Press. “It was clearly an accident.”

Officials said Laurita, 56, was found unresponsive in the nonprofit’s barn in Hope, some 87 miles northeast of Portland, Maine. He appeared to have fallen down and hit his head before the elephant stepped on him, officials said.

Laurita first worked with elephants as a juggler and elephant handler in the Carson & Barnes Circus in the 1970s and ’80s, according to the Portland Press Herald. He later opened a veterinarian practice in Camden, Maine, but in 2011 sold it to found Hope Elephants with his brother, who had been a ringmaster in the same circus. The center tended to two elephants, Rosie and Opal, with whom Laurita had worked in the traveling circus and who suffered from a range of medical problems related to their big-top careers.

Laurita lived with his family in the Portland area.

“Jim’s passion for all animals, but especially elephants, was boundless,” wrote the Hope Foundation in a statement posted to their Facebook page. “It was Jim’s ability to share that passion with all around him that not only helped to make our organization a reality, but also enriched and enhanced the lives of all those who had a chance to know Jim.”

The refuge has one other elephant handler on staff and an emergency plan is in place to ensure that the animals are cared for, according to the Portland Press Herald. Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been called to investigate the center, the newspaper said.

Hope Elephant’s Twitter account, last updated in December 2012, described the two elephants as acclimating well to their new home in Maine, munching on hay and lounging in the sunshine.

“Opal is throwing sand and trumpeting,” reads the last post. “Seems like joy from where I stand.”

TIME U.S.

Why Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Is a Waste of Taxpayer Money

Drug Test
Matej Divizna—Getty Images

States already do a good job of ensuring no one gets a "free ride." We don't need another one--especially one that stimgatizes

The tired image of the welfare queen with six kids, driving around in a Cadillac, watching soap operas on an expensive television and eating junk food on the couch has had its day.

It is 2014, years into the Great Recession, and millions have been helped by hundreds of social services put in place by the government to stabilize families in this time of need. Yet the states insist upon making the lines between the rich and poor ever darker, ever harder to cross. Maine lines up as the latest in a host of states beginning to enforce drug-testing legislation for welfare recipients.

The testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isn’t being “wasted” on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month, only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only 2.6% of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8%, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year.

People tend to forget that those using the programs are most likely also taxpayers, or were at some point. In 2010, nearly half of poor or near poor mothers on welfare were working at least part time. My husband and I, for instance, worked a combined 45 years, paying taxes, before he lost his job two weeks before I had premature twins, and had to apply for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. During the time we were on aid, I held a fulltime job, meaning I was paying in to the system from which I was simultaneously benefiting.

Our family is not alone. Denise Calder, a middle school teacher in Broward County, Florida, has a Bachelors of Science from Tufts University and has worked steadily since 1994. “Now I’m 42 years old, divorced, a single mother of four,” she told me. She makes $41,300 year. “Every penny goes to food, rent, gas, medical bills,” she says. “Since 2009, I have had to apply for and accept Medicaid & SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] twice to provide for my children when I took maternity leave in 2009 and 2013.”

When I signed up for WIC services in 2008, I was a television producer in Boston, creating a news show seen by millions of people a night. I was making $40,000 a year and my husband had just been laid off. During my three months of maternity leave, my salary was $25,000, but our family qualified for the WIC program on my full income. We used it for 18 months. And we needed it.

WIC is an income-based program. Women must make no more than 185% of the Federal poverty line guidelines, and in some states, they must actually be living at or below the poverty line. Statistics from the Food and Nutrition Service department show that 73% of people on WIC are making less than the federal poverty line. The income cut-off for a family of four is $44,123 a year.

It’s also not just a phone call and done. Women applying must be pregnant or up to six months post-partum. Children can receive services up to their fifth birthday, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services. Once you’ve called, you have to provide proof of income for everyone in the household, proof of identity, proof of residence, proof of participation in any other program—including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or General Assistance—immunization records for your children, pregnancy confirmation (official note from your doctor), recent height and weight measurements and a blood test for hemoglobin levels, and a WIC Referral Form from your doctor. You also have to provide documentation of any child support payments, unemployment benefits, or short-term disability money received. These requirements vary slightly from state to state, but for the most part they are consistent.

Once you’ve gone through all that, you have to wait to be processed and either accepted or rejected. After the whole process, you may still hear that you aren’t poor enough (for instance, if you are receiving child support or if you can’t provide certain paperwork). Bree Casson, a divorced former army wife who works part-time at McDonald’s, was turned away from the WIC office last week because she didn’t have her family’s Medicaid cards, despite multiple phone and mail requests to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I dragged my three kids out, with all our paperwork, including our Medicaid numbers,” she said, “and they insisted they needed the physical cards to prove our income eligibility. I’ve been trying to get those cards for two years with no luck. All this for some milk and cheese and vegetables.”

Applying and being accepted for aid is a mentally grueling process that can stretch on for months. Add to that the humiliation of having to pee in a cup just because you can’t afford to eat. There’s already a huge stigma about having to receive services, a spiral of shame and embarrassment that permeates the use of the system. Instead of wasting taxpayer money to weed out a small percent of those in need, demonizing an entire sect of people in favor of misleading stereotypes, maybe it’s time we put our funds into helping them find their way out of the system and onto their own two feet.

Darlena Cunha is a mother of twins and a freelance writer for The Washington Post, Gainesville Sun and Gainesville and Ocala magazines. You can reach her @parentwin on Twitter.

TIME Food & Drink

The 24 Best Lobster Rolls in America

The Clam Shack J. Steven Kingston

In honor of National Lobster Day

Never mind the tired regional debate—whether they’re best Maine style (chilled, with mayonnaise) or Connecticut (warm, with drawn butter). Lobster rolls are delicious, and in addition to honoring the classic styles, seafood-obsessed chefs have embraced new possibilities. From a modern Asian spin with a charcoal-lacquered bun to a torpedo bun laden with a whole pound of meat, here are our favorites.

The Clam Shack

Kennebunkport, ME

Overlooking the scenic Kennebunk River, at the peak of the summer season, the cooks at the Clam Shack shell roughly 1,000 pounds of local lobster a day. For their assembled-to-order rolls, they pile a little of each part (claw, knuckle, tail) onto an oversize, locally baked burger bun. Customers choose between a swipe of mayo, a drizzle of warm butter or a little of both. The Clam Shack even sells lobster roll kits, shipped fresh overnight.

Neptune Oyster

Boston

This North End restaurant’s famous hot lobster roll features succulent pieces of lobster tail, claw and knuckle meat drizzled with clarified butter, served on a grilled and buttered brioche hot dog bun. A mayo-based cold roll is also available for purists.

MORE: 15 Epic Lobster Recipes

Bob’s Clam Hut

Kittery, ME

Bob’s Clam Hut hasn’t changed its lobster roll recipe in 50 years, for good reason: There’s no better way to serve their juicy chunks of Maine lobster than to toss them with a little mayonnaise and pack them into a grilled, buttered hot dog bun.

The Ordinary

Charleston, SC

Chef Mike Lata’s new seafood hall celebrates the “merroir” (ocean terroir) of the entire East Coast with a wide range of sustainably caught fish. His spin on the New England lobster roll includes a whopping half-pound of lobster meat bought straight off a Maine day boat. The mayo dressing is zingy with Tabasco, lemon, celery, garlic, mustard, chives, shallot and a light dusting of Old Bay.

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Brooklyn, NY

This food truck and storefront operation serves its Maine claw and knuckle meat rolls two ways: Maine style, with the lobster dressed in a lemony house-made mayo, or Connecticut style, the meat drizzled with melted butter. To keep things strictly New England, both versions come in a Country Kitchen-brand split-top bun from Maine.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE.

MORE: America’s Best Hot Dogs

MORE: Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

MORE: Best Burgers in the U.S.

MORE: Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.

TIME Courts

Court Rules for Transgender Student in Maine Bathroom Dispute

The school wrongfully denied Nicole Maines her right to use the girl's student restroom, according to Maine's highest court.

Maine’s high court has ruled that school administrators violated anti-discrimination law when they wouldn’t allow a transgender fifth-grader to use the girls’ restroom.

School officials had said in 2009 that Nicole Maines could only use a staff restroom after a classmate’s grandfather complained. That prompted a lawsuit by Nicole’s family, and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday that officials violated state law, the Associated Press reports. Nicole was identified as male at birth but began identifying as female when she was 2.

“It sends a message to my kids that you can believe in the system and that it can work,” said Wayne Maines, Nicole’s father. “I’m just going to hug my kids and enjoy the moment, and do some healing.”

The court concluded that the Orono school district violated Maine’s anti-discrimination law ensuring ensures equal treatment regardless of sexual orientation and gender identification, overturning a lower court’s ruling.

“This is a momentous decision that marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people,” said, Jennifer Levi, director of Boston’s Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ Transgender Rights Project.

[AP]

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