TIME LGBT

See Some of the First Same-Sex Marriages in States That Didn’t Previously Recognize Them

The Supreme Court on Friday struck down the ban on same-sex marriages in all 50 states. These images show some of the first gay marriages Friday in states like Texas, Nebraska and Georgia, where same-sex marriages previously weren't recognized

TIME Crime

Which State Will Be Next to Abolish the Death Penalty?

Death Penalty Nebraska
Nate Jenkins—AP Nebraska's lethal injection chamber at the State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Neb. On May 27, Nebraska became the 19th state to repeal the death penalty.

Several more are primed to repeal capital punishment

Nebraska became the first Republican-leaning state in four decades to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday, the latest signal that momentum is on the side of those who oppose capital punishment. And in the next few years, it’s likely that several more states will outlaw the practice.

Delaware may be the next in line. Governor Jack Markell, a Democrat, has pledged to sign a death penalty repeal bill that has already passed the Senate and is currently in the majority Democratic House Judiciary Committee. That’s only if Montana or New Hampshire don’t get there first; state lawmakers in Montana fell one vote short of passing a bill to abolish the death penalty in February, reaching a 50-50 split on the bill after the Senate passed its own version. Similarly, the New Hampshire Senate also reached a deadlocked repeal vote in April 2014.

But there’s a whole list of states that might yet follow in Nebraska’s footsteps. The seven states that have now done away with capital punishment since 2007 all had one thing in common: they essentially had stopped using their execution chambers altogether. And six states with death penalty laws still on the books — Colorado, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming—haven’t executed anyone in more than a decade.

“When you look at most repeals, they were all in states in which the death penalty had fallen into disuse,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group. “Nebraska followed in the pattern of states in which the death penalty had been functionally discarded in practice.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of Americans still support the death penalty, but that number is at its lowest in four decades. Opposition is coming not just from Democrats, who have historically opposed capital punishment, but increasingly from Republicans who believe the death penalty is too costly and does nothing to deter people from the most heinous of crimes.

In both Kansas and Wyoming — states which haven’t executed anyone in years — conservative lawmakers have introduced repeal legislation in both states, and in South Dakota, another red-leaning state, several conservative legislators have voiced support for doing away with capital punishment. Last year, legislators in the South Dakota House were one vote shy of getting a bill to the floor.

“The death penalty is no longer getting a pass,” says Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “People may support the idea in the abstract, but when they see how it’s done, how it’s doing nothing to enhance public safety, and when they see innocent people being released from death row, they see that they can’t square it with their other values.”

TIME Crime

Nebraska Police Officer Gunned Down Hours Before Her Maternity Leave Begins

This photo provided by the Omaha Police Department shows officer Kerrie Orozco.
Omaha Police Department/AP This photo provided by the Omaha Police Department shows officer Kerrie Orozco.

Kerrie Orozco, 29, had delivered a premature baby girl in February

Omaha cop Kerrie Orozco had put off starting maternity leave until her premature baby girl could come home from the hospital. Just hours before bringing her daughter home and taking the long-awaited leave, Orozco was gunned down on the job by a suspect.

“A life taken too soon,” Omaha Police Department said on their Facebook page, adding that the seven-year veteran of the force was “not only a top notch police officer but she gave back to the community in so many ways.”

The 29-year-old Orozco delivered Olivia Ruth early in February. The baby girl stayed in the hospital for…

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

TIME justice

Why This Red State Is Poised to End the Death Penalty

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is seen through bars during a tour of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb., on May 19, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is seen through bars during a tour of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb., on May 19, 2015.

It would be the first conservative state to do so since 1973

As a college student in the mid-1990s, Colby Coash attended an execution at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. Two groups gathered to bear witness. On one side were death-penalty opponents, who prayed quietly. On the other side, the atmosphere was festive.

“It was like a tailgate party,” Coash recalls, replete with a band and barbecue, and locals banging on pots and pans. As the minutes ticked toward midnight and the condemned was strapped into the electric chair, the crowd drank beer and counted down “like it was New Year’s Eve,” says Coash, who supported the death penalty at the time. “Later, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t like how it felt to be a part of the celebration of somebody’s death.”

Coash now serves in Lincoln as a state senator, and on Wednesday he was among a cadre of conservatives who voted to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska. If the measure becomes law, Nebraska would become the first red state to ban capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican who supports the death penalty, has threatened to veto the bill. But Wednesday’s 32-15 margin in the Nebraska legislature indicates supporters have the votes to override such a move. Ricketts has five days to sign or veto the measure before it automatically becomes law.

The landmark vote was a reflection of the shifting politics of criminal justice. For decades, law-and-order conservatives have been staunch proponents of capital punishment. But in recent years, a growing number of Republicans have begun to oppose the death penalty, arguing it violates the central tenets of conservatism.

“It does things that are cardinal sins for conservatives,” says Marc Hyden, a former NRA staffer from Georgia who serves as coordinator of a national group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “It risks innocent life. It wastes taxpayer money when there’s cheaper alternatives, and fails to be representative of a limited government—while it meanwhile fails to deter crime.”

Overall, Americans’ support for the death penalty is relatively stable, according to a 2015 Gallup poll that found 63% of respondents favored capital punishment for convicted murderers. But among conservatives, support for the practice appears to be dropping, though it remains high. In 2014, Gallup found that 76% of Republicans supported the death penalty, down from 81% the year before. Says Hyden: “It’s just a broken government program that conservatives are speaking out against in greater numbers nationally.”

Eighteen states have banned the death penalty, mostly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Nebraska might seem an unlikely candidate to join them. The state is a conservative stronghold, and while its unicameral legislature is officially nonpartisan, 36 of its 49 seats are held by Republicans.

But the Cornhusker State has been down this road before. In 1979, a bill banning capital punishment passed the legislature before it was vetoed by the governor. Though Nebraska has 11 inmates on death row, no one has been executed in the state since 1997. In 2013 some observers believed there were enough votes to pass such a measure, though not enough to override a veto. The current legislature had voted twice already to abolish the death penalty.

In preparation for the push, opponents of the death penalty lobbied lawmakers extensively, circulating studies that show the practice is ineffective as a deterrent to crime and enlisting the family members of murder victims to testify about how the endless appeals process compounded their grief.

Stacy Anderson, a conservative Christian and former Republican operative who directs a group called Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the unique nature of the state legislature—the only nonpartisan, unicameral legislature in the U.S.—helped break down traditional partisan lines. “It’s a very cordial, small body,” Anderson says. “They engage the issues far beyond the regular political rhetoric.”

Some conservatives originally ducked meetings on the topic, Anderson added. Over time, a number came to change their minds. “They learned how much it cost, the risk of executing innocents, how it didn’t align with pro-life values,” she says.

Death penalty opponents hope Nebraska’s vote will be the beginning of a trend. A push to abolish capital punishment in conservative Montana fell one vote short earlier this year. Anti-death penalty legislation has also been introduced in Kansas.

Before the vote Wednesday, Ricketts released a statement urging lawmakers to listen to their constituents. “No one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska,” he said, calling a vote to abolish the death penalty a vote to “give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences. This isn’t rhetoric. This is reality.”

For Coash, that’s precisely the point. “People sent me here to Lincoln to find and root out government waste,” he says. In addition to the expense, he came to believe that the protracted appeals process prevented the families of victims from achieving closure. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he says. And “I’m a pro-life guy. I couldn’t reconcile my pro-life beliefs regarding the unborn with doing something different with the condemned.”

TIME States

Nebraska Has Ordered a State of Emergency Over Bird Flu

In this May 11, 2015 photo provided by John Gaps III, men in hazardous materials suits load dead poultry to be buried at Rose Acre Farms, Inc., just west of Winterset, Iowa.
John Gaps III—AP In this May 11, 2015 photo provided by John Gaps III, men in hazardous materials suits load dead poultry to be buried at Rose Acre Farms, Inc., just west of Winterset, Iowa.

Over 33 million birds in 16 states have now been affected by the pathogen

Governor Pete Ricketts ordered a state of emergency Thursday after Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture confirmed the highly contagious H5N2 avian flu virus had infected a second farm.

The declaration opens up emergency funding in the hopes it can help contain the pathogen that now threatens what is, according to local officials, a $1.1 billion poultry industry in Nebraska.

“While not a human health threat, the discovery of avian influenza is a serious situation for our poultry sector, and I want to provide responders with access to all appropriate tools to address it,” said Ricketts in a statement.

The proclamation follows similar actions taken in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. More than 33 million birds in 16 states have now been affected by the outbreak, which originated in a small backyard flock in Oregon.

The outbreak has hit Americans’ pocketbooks as, the Associated Press reports, the price of large eggs in the Midwest rose by 17% since mid-April and other price increases are being seen in turkey, boneless breast meat and mixing eggs.

TIME Infectious Disease

Everything You Want to Know About the Bird Flu Outbreak

An egg-producing chicken farm run by Sunrise Farm is seen in Harris, Iowa on April 23, 2015. Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state, found a lethal strain of bird flu in millions of hens at an egg-laying facility on Monday, the worst case so far in a national outbreak that prompted Wisconsin to declare a state of emergency. The infected Iowa birds were being raised near the city of Harris by Sunrise Farms, an affiliate of Sonstegard Foods Company, the company said.
Joe Ahlquist—Reuters An egg-producing chicken farm run by Sunrise Farm is seen in Harris, Iowa on April 23, 2015. Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state, found a lethal strain of bird flu in millions of hens at an egg-laying facility on Monday, the worst case so far in a national outbreak that prompted Wisconsin to declare a state of emergency. The infected Iowa birds were being raised near the city of Harris by Sunrise Farms, an affiliate of Sonstegard Foods Company, the company said.

More than 30 million birds have been culled so far

The United States is dealing with a nasty bird flu outbreak.

Sixteen states have reported cases of highly pathogenic H5 avian flu among flocks of birds like turkeys and chickens as well as wild birds since last December, resulting in the culling of at least 30 million birds. Recently, the disease was confirmed in a flock of 1.7 million chickens in Nebraska. Other states have also been hit hard, like Iowa, where more than 24 million birds from 39 different sites have been affected. On Wednesday, TIME asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) a few questions regarding the recent outbreak.

How many strains of bird flu are circulating?
So far in this outbreak, the U.S. has seen highly pathogenic cases of H5N8 and H5N2 strains in domestic poultry. Those same strains as well as a H5N1 strain have been discovered in wild birds. According to the USDA, the H5N8 virus started in Asia and spread among wild bird migratory pathways in 2014, and has mixed with other bird flu strains in North America, which has resulted in what the USDA calls new “mixed origin” viruses. The H5N1 seen in North America is not the same virus that has been seen in Asia, Europe and Africa, which has caused human infections.

Are all these outbreaks connected?
Yes, the viruses are all linked. According to the USDA, since mid-December 2014, there have been several ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza incidents along the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (routes used by migrating birds).

How does bird flu spread between states?
Among wild birds, outbreaks along flyways may explain some of the spread. But how it might be spreading from farms that are far away from one another is less understood at this time. The USDA says it’s currently conducting epidemiological investigations to understand how the virus is being introduced some of these other populations of birds. “Poultry operations have a very complex variety of inputs including air, feed, people, vehicles, birds, water and others,” the agency told TIME in an email. “Any of these might be the pathway of virus introduction on any single operation.”

Where does bird flu come from? Can someone be at fault?
As mentioned earlier, some of the viruses currently seen in the North American outbreaks originated in Asia and then spread to the U.S. and mixed with other viruses. It’s important to know there is a flu for birds just as there is for humans and, like people, some of these strains are worse or more severe than others. According to the USDA, native North American strains of bird flu occur naturally in wild birds and they can spread to domestic birds like poultry. Most often there are no signs a bird is infected. But in some cases, as with the current outbreak, the viruses are highly pathogenic. That means they kill chickens and turkeys quickly, and they spread fast. The USDA says there is no fault in an outbreak like this.

Why has this outbreak spread so much?
To date, the USDA says around 30 million birds have been culled (slaughtered) due to confirmed presence of the bird flu strains. Researchers are still conducting studies to learn how the virus is spreading to poultry operations, but the agency points out there have been other serious outbreaks in the past. For instance, in 1983 to 1984, 17 million chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl in Pennsylvania and Virginia were culled. In 2007, the presence of low pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza in West Virginia resulted in 25,600 poultry being culled. The high number of birds slaughtered during this outbreak is hard for farmers involved, but 30 million is still considered a small percentage of the overall U.S. poultry population. In 2014, according to the agency, the U.S. poultry industry produced 8.54 billion broilers, 99.8 billion eggs, and 238 million turkeys.

I can’t be infected, right?
Right. The virus strains involved in the current outbreak have never infected humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to the general public is currently low. However, the possibility of human infections cannot be completely ruled out, as similar bird flu viruses have infected humans in the past. In an April news conference, Dr. Alicia Fry, a CDC influenza control expert, told reporters “it is possible that we may see human infections with the viruses associated with recent U.S. bird flu outbreaks. Most human infections with avian influenza viruses have occurred in people with direct or close and prolonged contact with infected birds.” Fry said the CDC is “cautiously optimistic” there will not be human cases, but they are already preparing for the possibility just in case.

So what can I do to make sure I am safe?
The recommendations for the general public are to avoid wild birds and stay at a distance. The CDC says people should avoid contact with domestic birds or poultry that appear ill or have died, as well as surfaces that may have been contaminated with wild or domestic bird feces. People who do have contact with infected birds should monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms and some may even be given preventative antiviral drugs.

How can I tell if a bird is infected?
What has been observed is that turkeys will stop eating or drinking and then, sometimes only within a few hours, they will start to appear lethargic. The birds may look as though they are stargazing, the USDA says, or twisting their neck. Death happens pretty quickly after that. In chickens, they may start laying fewer eggs and stop eating. They can also look lethargic before they die.

Is there a vaccine?
There is currently a vaccine under development for emergency use in poultry, but it’s still too early for use. The CDC is also creating candidate vaccine viruses that could be used to make a vaccine for humans if one were needed. But this is a routine precaution.

TIME LGBT

This 66-Year-Old Woman Is Suing All Gay People—Yes, All of Them

Nebraska's Sylvia Driskell will represent herself in Driskell v. Homosexuals

A Nebraska woman is suing every gay person on Earth and asking a federal judge to rule on whether homosexuality is a sin.

Sylvia Driskell, 66, describes herself as an ambassador of “God, And His, Son Jesus Christ [sic]” and will serve as her own lawyer in Driskell v. Homosexuals, NBC News reports. In her seven-page petition, written entirely in cursive, Driskell doesn’t reference any case laws for U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard to consider, but she does quote the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary.

“I never thought that I would see a day in which our great nation or our own great state of Nebraska would become so compliant to the complicity of some people[’s] lewd behavior,” writes Driskell, who says “that homosexuality is a sin and that they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality. Why else would they have been hiding in the closet.”

Gay activist and columnist Dan Savage, one of the many millions of people being sued, has signaled he’d be willing to take the stand:

TIME public health

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria From Texan Cattle Yards Are Now Airborne, Study Finds

A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas

Researchers say the bacteria are capable of "traveling for long distances"

A new study says the DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in American cattle yards has become airborne, creating a new pathway by which such bacteria can potentially spread to humans and hinder treatment of life-threatening infections.

Researchers gathered airborne particulate matter (PM) from around 10 commercial cattle yards within a 200 mile radius of Lubbock, Texas over a period of six-months. They found the air downwind of the yards contained antibiotics, bacteria and a “significantly greater” number of microbial communities containing antibiotic-resistant genes. That’s according to the study to be published in next month’s issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

“To our knowledge, this study is among the first to detect and quantify antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes…associated with airborne PM emitted from beef cattle feed yards,” said the authors, who are researchers in environmental toxicology at Texas Tech University and at a testing lab in Lubbock.

Co-author Phil Smith told the Texas Tribune that the bacteria could be active for a long time and “could be traveling for long distances.”

His colleague, molecular biologist Greg Mayer, told the paper that some of the study’s findings “made me not want to breathe.”

Because antibodies are poorly absorbed by cows they are released into the environment through excretion. Once in the environment, bacteria will undergo natural selection and genes that have acquired natural immunities will survive.

The genes that have gone airborne are contained in dried fecal matter that has become dust and gets picked up by winds as they whip through the stockyards.

The Texas Tribune reported that representatives from the Texas cattle industry (estimated to control around 14 million beef cows) criticized the study, saying it portrayed the airborne bacteria as overly hazardous to human health.

But the mass of PM2.5 particles (the kind that can be inhaled into lungs) released into the atmosphere is eye opening, with the study estimating the total amount released by cattle yards in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas exceeds 46,000 lbs.(21,000 kg) per day.

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial DNA is already known to be transferable to humans if ingested via water or meat.


TIME Crime

Nebraska Considers Eliminating the Death Penalty

Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.

With support from Republican lawmakers

Nebraska legislators are considering a bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty, receiving significant support from Republican lawmakers and family members of murder victims.

MORE: Georgia Postpones 2 Executions Over ‘Cloudy’ Drugs

Dozens of people rallied at the Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday night in support of a bill that would do away with death sentences,the Associated Press reports, and replace them with life without the possibility of parole.

More than two dozen relatives of murder victims signed a letter supporting the bill, saying that the time between a conviction and an actual execution can be painful for families who see their loved one’s name appear in the news during appeals and often decades-long delays.

MORE: Ohio Looks to Shield Lethal Injection Drugmakers

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, an Independent, has worked to eliminate the state’s death penalty for years but appears to have more support this time around, especially from Republicans who make up the majority of the state’s nonpartisan legislature. The Journal Star reports that seven GOP senators have signed onto the bill.

While the legislation will likely make it out of committee, the bill may still face a veto if passed from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has supported the death penalty in the past.

Since 2007, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland have eliminated the death penalty, and currently 32 states still enforce capital punishment. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an effective moratorium on executions in the state in part over fears of putting innocent people to death.

Nebraska currently has 11 people on death row.

[AP]

TIME Laws

24/7 Bars in Nebraska? A New Bill Would Allow It

Beers
Getty Images

No more last calls in the Cornhusker State, if bill passes

A Nebraska state senator introduced legislation Thursday that would allow bars in the state to stay open all night.

State and local laws generally require Nebraska’s bars to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, state law requires bars to close at 1 a.m., but local governments can extend those hours to 2 a.m. through a supermajority vote.

But Sen. Tyson Larson, who introduced the bill, wants to change all that. The state senator told the Journal Star that getting rid of last call would prevent bars from “dumping too many people in the street all at once” while saying the move aligned with the “concept of free market.”

If the bill passes, Nebraska would join Louisiana and Nevada, two states that don’t require bars to have last call.

(READ NEXT: The History of Poisoned Alcohol Includes an Unlikely Culprit: the U.S. Government)

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