TIME Healthcare

Nonprofit Hospitals Seize Low-Income Patients’ Wages

An investigation reveals the ongoing struggles of people too poor to afford health insurance but no poor enough to qualify for Medicaid

Many hospitals in the U.S. receive tax breaks in exchange for the community service of providing care to those who cannot afford to pay. But hospitals in at least five states employ aggressive debt collectors to garnish the wages of low-income patients with unpaid debts, a ProPublica/NPR investigation revealed Friday.

Hospitals in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Missouri pass debts along to for-profit collection agencies. People affected tend to be those who earn too much to qualify for assistance in states that rejected the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama’s health care law, but not enough to purchase health care on their own. The cost of health care services for the uninsured tend to be significantly higher than for people with health insurance.

Read more at ProPublica

TIME Crime

Missouri Scales Back National Guard Amid ‘Improving Conditions’

Peaceful night in Ferguson
Missouri National Guard soldiers patrol the parking lot of the Ferguson Market & Liquor store on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson a little after 10 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2014. David Carson—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS/Getty Images

1,268 guards were stationed in St. Louis as of 1 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced a drawdown of National Guard operations on Tuesday, roughly a week after boosting security in the St. Louis region following the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Riots erupted in Ferguson shortly after the announcement and demonstrations quickly popped up around the country. Public officials, including Ferguson’s mayor, criticized Nixon for what they claimed was a too-delayed employment of the extra law enforcement officials, resulting in a night of arson, looting and riots that transfixed the national media and smoldered into the morning. Some 2,200 National Guardsmen were on the streets last week; Nixon said Tuesday that 1,268 were on patrol as of 1 p.m., local time.

“The men and women of the Missouri National Guard have served the people of the region admirably, and I greatly appreciate their professionalism, bravery and dedication,” Nixon said in a public statement. “As the Guard begins to scale back its operations, the Missouri State Highway Patrol will continue to work closely with local law enforcement agencies to protect lives and property in Ferguson and across the St. Louis region. My administration also remains committed to helping affected communities rebuild and recover, and building a safer, fairer and more united region for all.”

TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Gives Thanks After a Quiet Night

Volunteers paint a mural on boarded-up businesses before a third night of protests in reaction to the grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson
Volunteers Elliot Bailey, left, and Maria Whelan paint a mural on boarded-up businesses before a third night of protests in reaction to the grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 26, 2014 Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Children used paintbrushes to decorate the plywood covering many storefront windows

(FERGUSON, MO.) — Protesters in Ferguson pressed pause Thursday as the city welcomed Thanksgiving, decorating boarded-up storefronts with some Dr. Seuss inspiration and gathering for church services — a stark contrast to previous days of outrage over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.

No police officers or Missouri National Guard members stood sentry outside the Ferguson police station, which has been a nexus for protesters since Monday night’s announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, wouldn’t be indicted for fatally shooting the unarmed black 18-year-old in August.

On that downtown street, beneath a lighted “Season’s Greetings” garland, three children used paintbrushes to decorate the plywood covering many storefront windows that was put up to foil potential vandals. One quoted from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

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“We thought we’d do what we could to make it a little more attractive and then try to bring the kids into it and get them involved in making the businesses appear a little less scary, depressing,” said Leah Bailey, as her 7-year-old son Dennis climbed a ladder to finish an orange dragon.

Several hours after dark, a few people continued painting, but there was no visible protest activity. National Guard troops occasionally patrolled the area and surrounding neighborhoods in vehicles and on foot.

Since the grand jury’s decision, protests have taken place across the country. Most have been peaceful. But at least 130 demonstrators who refused to disperse during a Los Angeles protest were arrested Wednesday night, while 35 people were detained in Oakland following a march that deteriorated into unrest and vandalism, according to police officials.

Back in Ferguson, Greater St. Mark Family Church sits blocks from where several stores went up in flames after the grand jury announcement. A handful of people listened to the Rev. Tommie Pierson preach Thursday that the destruction and chaos was by “a small group of out-of-control people out there.”

“They don’t represent the community, they don’t represent the mood nor the feelings of the community,” Pierson said. “I would imagine if you talked to them, they probably don’t even live here. So, we don’t want to be defined by what they did.”

In downtown St. Louis, a group gathered near Busch Stadium for what organizer Paul Byrd called a “pro-community” car rally meant to be peaceful and counter the recent Ferguson violence he suggested has tarnished the region’s image.

Byrd, a 45-year-old construction worker from Imperial, Missouri, declined to say whether he supported Wilson but noted, “I totally support police officers.” The cruise was escorted by a city police vehicle; no protesters showed up.

TIME Crime

Protesters Clear Out as Ferguson Streets Calm Down

APTOPIX Ferguson
A police officer approach a police vehicle after a protester has thrown a smoke device from the crowd Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo David Goldman—AP

Arrests made as police car torched outside city hall

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Police have dispersed protesters from the streets of Ferguson after second night of demonstrations following a grand jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Tuesday was far calmer than the previous night, though officers did have to extinguish a police car that was set on fire and vandals managed to damage some additional storefronts.

Several arrests were made, but the protests did not approach the chaos of the previous night, which saw arson, looting and rioting in the streets.

Members of the National Guard — which tripled its numbers in the Ferguson region Tuesday — were far more visible and remained posted throughout the city after the protests ended.

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TIME Ferguson

See How Cities Across the U.S. Reacted to the Ferguson Decision

Protests erupted from New York to Los Angeles

Ferguson was not the only place protesting Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August. In New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, among others, outraged protesters shouted, “No justice, no peace” and “Hands up, don’t shoot,” late into Monday night. Watch the above footage of protests in those three cities.

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TIME Ferguson

See the Nation React to the Ferguson Decision

Citizens from L.A. to New York City staged protests following the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Officer Darren Wilson

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TIME Crime

Ferguson Erupts: Stirring Images from a Night of Protest

Ferguson was filled with demonstrations, tear gas, smoke and fire Monday night after a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown

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TIME Crime

Here’s How Long the Ferguson Prosecutor Talked Before Actually Breaking the News

A lengthy defense of the process and critique of the media precedes a highly anticipated announcement 

Nine minutes and 27 seconds.

That’s how long prosecutor Robert McCulloch spoke Monday night before finally announcing what the country had tuned in to find out: the Ferguson grand jury investigating the August shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson had decided not not to indict Wilson.

Viewers were left hanging to his every word—McCulloch uttered 1,315 of them, according to a transcript from C-SPAN—before he finally revealed the grand jury “determined that no probable cause exists to file any charges against Officer Wilson.”

The prosecutor’s lengthy statement began with a message of sympathy for Brown’s family and included a detailed account and defense of the investigation by local and federal authorities, the proceedings of the grand jury, as well as repeated criticism of social media and the 24-hour news cycle.

TIME Crime

Fires Burn in Ferguson, Gunshots Heard in Streets

APTOPIX Ferguson
People walk away from a storage facility on fire after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo Jeff Roberson—AP

Smashed window glass littered sidewalks and many businesses were ablaze

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Flames engulfed at least a dozen businesses in Ferguson early Tuesday and gunfire kept firefighters at bay after protests over the decision not to indict a police officer in Michael Brown’s death turned violent, despite pleas for peace from Brown’s family and others.

Protesters smashed windows out of police cars and buildings, several of which were later looted and set ablaze, and officers lobbed tear gas from inside armored vehicles to disperse crowds in scenes reminiscent of the early days of unrest that followed the Aug. 9 shooting.

But the violence that followed Monday’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the death of the unarmed black 18-year-old quickly took a more destructive turn — a storage facility, two auto parts stores, a beauty supply store and pizza shop were just some of the businesses that burned.

An Associated Press photographer saw firefighters arrive at one scene only to be turned back by gunfire.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said during an early morning news conference that he “personally heard about 150 shots fired” during the course of the night, but said police did not fire a shot. He said most of at least a dozen burned businesses were “total losses” and noted two police cars were “basically melted.”

“I don’t think we were underprepared,” Belmar said. “But I’ll be honest with you, unless we bring 10,000 policemen in here, I don’t think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community.”

Smashed window glass littered the sidewalks around many other businesses, from mom-and-pop shops to a McDonalds along the main drag. The Ferguson Market — where surveillance video had recorded Brown stealing cigars minutes before he was killed — was ransacked.

At least one building and several vehicles in a used car lot also burned in the neighboring city of Dellwood.

The vast majority of protesters had left the streets by late Monday, but looting and gunfire still were reported well after midnight.

Hundreds of people had gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department ahead of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s news conference to announce the grand jury’s decision.

As McCulloch read his statement, a crowd gathered around a car from which the news conference was broadcast on a stereo. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop the car. When the decision was announced, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.

A short time later, Brown’s family issued a statement asking people to keep their protests peaceful, echoing pleas they had issued several times in the days and weeks leading up to the decision.

“Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction,” the statement said.

But some protesters overran barricades and taunted police. Some chanted “murderer” and others threw rocks and bottles. The windows of a police car were smashed and protesters tried to topple it before it was set on fire, though some in the crowd tried to stop others from taking part in the violence.

Officers responded by firing what authorities said was smoke and pepper spray into the crowd. St. Louis County Police later confirmed tear gas also was used.

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TIME Crime

County Police Chief: Fabric of Ferguson Torn Apart

Jon Belmar "personally heard about 150 shots fired"

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says at least a dozen businesses are burning after protests in Ferguson turned violent.

Belmar said early Tuesday morning that two police cruisers also were burned and that he “personally heard about 150 shots fired” over the course of the night.

Belmar says the protests that followed the announcement that a Ferguson police officer wouldn’t be indicted in Michael Brown’s shooting death were “probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August” after Brown was killed.

He says police did not fire a shot during Monday night’s protests. But he says the fabric of the community has been torn apart.

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