TIME Basketball

Watch High School Dunk Sensation Derrick Jones in Action

Like dunks? Here you go

Pennsylvania High School senior Derrick Jones is making the case that the NBA dunk contest should not be restricted to, well, NBA players.

In a video making the rounds on social media, the 6-ft. 6-in. UNLV commit not only pulls off Michael Jordan’s iconic free-throw-line jam but he one-ups the legend by adding a smooth windmill move to the mix.

Jones is considered by many to be the best dunker in high school basketball and his victory in an absolutely mind-boggling high school dunk contest in April may have cemented that status. But if out-jamming His Airness isn’t convincing enough, here some other examples the kid’s capabilities.

He’s looking down into the rim on this one.

Normal players can’t dunk over four other people, can they?

Blake Griffin and Zach LaVine better watch out; there is a new cat in town.

TIME animals

Rare Cancer Discovered in Pennsylvania Smallmouth Bass

A smallmouth bass fish
Joel Sartore—National Geographic/Getty Images A smallmouth bass fish, Genoa, Wisconsin .

It's the first confirmed case of its kind in the Susquehanna River

A rare cancerous tumor was discovered on a smallmouth bass pulled out of the Susquehanna River.

The fish was caught last year, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission confirmed the case this week. Fish are not particularly susceptible to cancer, and it’s the first such case in the species in that location, though fish were previously found with sores and lesions, the Washington Post reports.

The disease may be the result of pollution, and officials want the river to be included on the EPA’s list of “impaired waterways.” The EPA, however, says it bases that list on water quality, not the health of species living there.

A Pennsylvania Department of Health official said that consuming fish with cancer should not pose a risk to humans, but urged fishers not to eat those with sores and lesions.

[Washington Post]

TIME Crime

Mother Tosses Baby Off Bridge, Then Jumps

The mother is charged with attempted homicide

A teen mother was seen throwing her baby over a Pennsylvania bridge and into the water below, before jumping off the bridge herself.

The apparent attempted murder-suicide happened Sunday around 1:45 p.m in the city of Allentown, KTLA 5 reports. Witnesses said the 19-year-old mother was seen pushing the baby in a stroller before throwing the child, and then herself, over the Hamilton Street Bridge.

The mother was found unconscious under the bridge and the baby was found 700 yards downstream. Police officers were able to perform CPR on the child. Both the mother and the baby are expected to survive, according to Allentown Police Capt. William Reinik.

The mother has been charged with attempted homicide, NBC10.com reports.

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 justice

Pennsylvania Stops Using the Death Penalty

Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School on Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa.
Matt Rourke—AP Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School on Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa.

The governor will grant temporary reprieves until the state reaches a final decision

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that the state has effectively put a moratorium on the death penalty.

While Wolf awaits a report from a task force on the state’s use of capital punishment, he will grant temporary reprieves for all death row inmates whose executions are scheduled. That begins with Terrance Williams, who was slated to be executed on March 4.

Wolf noted said the moratorium “is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes.” But he also said capital punishment is expensive, possibly ineffective and sometimes inaccurate—six Pennsylvania men have been exonerated from death row.

TIME technology

Uber and Carnegie Mellon Partner Up to Design Driverless Taxis

And Google is also eyeing similar technology

Uber is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to open a research center in Pittsburgh called the Uber Advanced Technologies Center, with a view to eventually building driverless cars.

The robotics research facility will allow CMU researchers and Uber designers to develop new technology, including for improved mapping, safety and self-driving vehicles.

“We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched,” said Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden in a press release.

This development comes on the heels of news that one of Uber’s financial backers, Google, may be invading the ride-sharing app’s turf. Although Google invested $258 million in Uber back in 2013, it is rumored to be developing a similar service using the company’s famed driverless cars, according to Bloomberg News. If this happens, it may directly compete for customer fares.

TIME Campaign Finance

Dark-Money Group in Pennsylvania Could Face Fine

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters strands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters strands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

Union-backed group failed to file mandatory tax return

Union-backed Pennsylvanians for Accountability, which spent more than $1 million on political advertisements targeting Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and a handful of state lawmakers, failed to file a mandatory tax return, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.

For failing to file returns with the IRS on time, the secretive, Pittsburgh-based Pennsylvanians for Accountability could be fined up to $50,000.

The IRS confirmed the agency had not received the group’s tax filing — the kind of document that provides a key window into the inner workings of politically active nonprofit groups like Pennsylvanians for Accountability, which are becoming increasingly influential in state and national elections.

Adam Bonin, a Philadelphia-based lawyer who represents Pennsylvanians for Accountability, acknowledged the nonprofit didn’t file its tax return on time. He said the group would soon be submitting documents to the IRS.

Bonin provided an unofficial copy to the Center for Public Integrity, which showed the group raised $1.23 million in its first year of existence. Most of the money came from labor unions.

Almost immediately after its formation in September 2012, Pennsylvanians for Accountability, which is organized as a “social welfare” group under Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, produced mailers critical of several Republicans running for re-election to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.

The 501(c)(4) tax status allows organizations like Pennsylvanians for Accountability to lobby to advance a “social welfare” mission and engage in politics, so long as overt support of or opposition to candidates is not their primary purpose.

This tax status also generally allows these nonprofits to keep the names of their donors secret, unlike political action committees, which must disclose their funders. This has earned them the moniker “dark money.”

Such “dark money” nonprofits have been increasingly active in elections, thanks, in part, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010, which allowed corporations, including certain nonprofit corporations, to bankroll political ads that call for the election or defeat of candidates.

One of the Republican lawmakers targeted by Pennsylvanians for Accountability was state Rep. Rick Saccone. The group’s mailers asserted that “our kids” weren’t Saccone’s “top priority” because he had supported cuts to education spending.

Saccone denounced the group for “trying their hardest to slander me” and persuade voters in his heavily Democratic district not to vote for him. He ultimately won by just 112 votes out of the nearly 29,000 votes cast.

The copy of Pennsylvanians for Accountability’s tax return for the first year of its existence showed the nonprofit spent about $475,000 in 2012 on political mailers and digital ads in nine state-level races in Pennsylvania, including Saccone’s.

Pennsylvanians for Accountability, it turned out, was just getting started.

A ‘shell game’

The following spring, Pennsylvanians for Accountability launched a barrage of TV ads attacking Corbett, the state’s Republican governor, for playing a “shell game” by cutting education spending while supporting “big tax cuts for his corporate backers” and “giveaways to his campaign donors.”

The new tax document indicates Pennsylvanians for Accountability spent $725,500 for its various anti-Corbett messages in 2013, which it classified as a “public education campaign.” This included both television and online ads. Corbett later lost his re-election bid in November 2014.

As a social welfare nonprofit, Pennsylvanians for Accountability isn’t required to reveal the identities of its funders. Therefore, it wasn’t known during its advertising barrage who was bankrolling the group — or even who was leading it.

But Department of Labor records and tax documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity show three unions combined to give Pennsylvanians for Accountability $1.11 million — 90 percent of the money it raised between Sept. 1, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2013, the tax year covered by the return.

The largest donor was the National Education Association, which contributed $650,000.

The Service Employees International Union’s Pennsylvania State Council gave $280,000, and the SEIU’s national headquarters contributed $180,000.

An additional $100,000 came from by another Democratic-aligned social welfare nonprofit — America Votes, a Washington, D.C.-based group that seeks to create “a permanent progressive campaign infrastructure across the country.”

SEIU’s Pennsylvania State Council and America Votes did not respond to numerous email and phone messages seeking comment about the contributions. Officials with both the NEA and the national SEIU declined to comment for this story.

“We received your inquiry, but we will not have a comment on this,” SEIU spokesman Beau Boughamer said.

NEA spokeswoman Sara Robertson also declined to comment. saying the union had “no control over” Pennsylvanians for Accountability’s operations.

Previously, officials at the SEIU have criticized political “dark money” for “polluting” American democracy. And both the SEIU and NEA have endorsed measures to curb the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Mum’s the word

The people listed on documents as running Pennsylvanians for Accountability don’t want to talk about the group either.

In state business filings, Pennsylvanians for Accountability lists three union-connected activists — Linda Cook, Kevin Kantz and Georgeanne Koehler— as the people who incorporated the group. The same three union activists, who are all Pennsylvania residents, are listed in the group’s new tax filing as its only officers.

Both Cook and Kantz have worked for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, where, tax records show, they both served as directors as recently as 2012. Koehler also has ties to organized labor: she’s an SEIU member and healthcare activist.

When reached by phone, Cook said: “I have no comment for your story.”

Neither Kantz nor Koehler responded to multiple requests for comment.

Koehler, however, did talk to a reporter with PublicSource.org, a Pittsburgh-based investigative reporting group, in May 2013 — though she didn’t shed much light on the inner workings of Pennsylvanians for Accountability.

“I’m not sure who started it or why it was started, other than they want to fight for a better life for our citizens,” Koehler said at the time.

“I don’t know who’s in charge,” she continued, adding that she was recruited to serve as a director of the organization by Mary Shull, the state director of America Votes in Pennsylvania.

And Koehler wasn’t Shull’s only connection to Pennsylvanians for Accountability.

Daniel Ford, who worked with Shull at America Votes in Pennsylvania until May 2013, was listed in multiple documents as a point of contact for Pennsylvanians for Accountability.

Reached by phone, Ford, who now works at a community organizing company in California, declined to comment. Shull did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A call for more transparency

Shortly after the PublicSource.org article in May 2013, Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican, called for a hearing to determine if Pennsylvanians for Accountability was violating the state’s election law. The hearing, though, never took place.

“A group attempting to influence the outcome of an election ought to register as a political committee,” Metcalfe said at the time. “They appear to be a political committee more than anything else.”

Lynsey Kryzwick of public relations firm BerlinRosen, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvanians for Accountability at the time, dismissed the criticism as “nothing more than a partisan attempt to silence the real concerns that Pennsylvania taxpayers have with Gov. Corbett’s budget and the direction that he’s taking our state.”

Since the anti-Corbett advertising blitz in early 2013, Pennsylvanians for Accountability has all but disappeared.

Media outlets rarely mention the group anymore, and it has not produced any additional TV ads, according to Kantar Media/CMAG, an advertising tracking firm. Its largest presence appears to have been online, where Pennsylvanians for Accountability’s Facebook page — which boasted more than 8,000 likes — regularly promoted content throughout the 2014 midterm election, mostly news articles critical of Corbett.

The nonprofit’s most recent activity on Facebook came on Oct. 29, 2014 — just days before Democrat Tom Wolf defeated Corbett at the ballot box. The group’s Facebook page appears to have been deactivated following inquiries from the Center for Public Integrity.

Metcalfe, who chairs the House state government committee, called Pennsylvanians for Accountability a “shell organization” that was used as “an attack dog” and was “trying to skirt the law.”

Voters deserve transparency to “know who’s actually behind these operations,” Metcalfe told the Center for Public Integrity, adding that when the Pennsylvania legislature reconvenes, it would be a “high priority” for him to address this issue.

“The law is meant to ensure that the citizens of Pennsylvania have good information to work with when they are going and choosing who their leaders are going to be,” he said.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative journalism organization, reporting on the influence of ‘dark money’ in politics.

TIME weather

Road Salt Prices Skyrocket After Last Winter’s Snowstorms

Road Salt Woes
Carlos Osorio—AP Salt is unloaded at the Scio Township, Mich. maintenance yard on Sept. 16, 2014. Some Midwest county road officials are facing price increases that are three times what they paid last year.

Prices have risen by up to three times since earlier this year

Last winter’s severe snowstorms triggered road salt shortages around the U.S., pinching supplies and forcing some transportation departments to stock up early. The result: road salt costs have doubled, and even tripled in some parts of the country, thanks to increased demand by states hoping to keep the roads clear.

From Minnesota to New York, states have had to pay premium prices for road salt this year. In Michigan, prices up are up 50%. In Indiana, they’re up almost 60%. In Missouri, some local transportation departments are reporting prices that have doubled. St. Louis, for example, is paying $112 a ton, up from $49 last year.

“Several severe winters are forcing prices upward,” says Todd Matheson, a spokesman for the department of transportation in Wisconsin, where more than four feet of snow fell in some places last week.

Wisconsin normally goes through about 500,000 tons of salt a year. But because of the potential for a repeat of last winter’s severe weather, this year the state has 564,000 tons on hand with 141,000 tons as an option to purchase. Costs are up statewide 14% compared with this time last year, averaging $69 a ton, Matheson says.

Ohio, which got unexpectedly hit with by storms over the weekend, triggering snow emergencies across the central part of the state, paid $105 a ton for a portion of the 600,000 tons of salt it currently has on hand. On average, the state paid $57 a ton compared with $38 last year.

Even with the rising prices, most states are not reporting road salt shortages. The New Jersey Department of Transportation is currently at 100% capacity (164,000 tons) and is in the process of adding 20,000 tons of storage space set to be available this winter. It can also store 716,000 gallons of liquid calcium and 150,000 gallons of brine, which is often applied to roads before a storm hits to help keep snow and ice from sticking.

One state that is running below average is Pennsylvania. The state has in store 90% of the average amount it uses during a winter, says Richard Kirkpatrick, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesperson. The average is 841,000 tons, and last year the state went through 1.2 million tons. But this year it only has 694,000 tons on hand with another 65,000 on order. And the long-range forecast? Above normal snowfall for much of the state.

TIME Baseball

Mo’ne Davis Helps Draw a Record Little League Viewership

Nearly 5 million viewers in all tuned in

Little League World Series’ sensation, 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis, may have got pulled during her game on Wednesday night, but the event did garner the largest viewership of a Little League game in ESPN’s history, says the Hollywood Reporter.

Despite the 8-1 loss by Davis’ Philadelphia team Taney Dragons to Las Vegas’ Mountain Ridge, the coverage drew a 3.1 rating, which, according to ESPN, was up 155% from last year’s viewership. In Philadelphia, 14.9% of homes tuned in on Wednesday, while 16.3% watched from their homes in Las Vegas. Nearly 5 million viewers in all tuned in for Wednesday night’s game.

Davis was catapulted to fame this summer as the first female in the history of the Little League World Series to pitch a shutout game. She landed a Sports Illustrated cover and a ton of fans.

However, her unfettered success took a turn when she was pulled in the third inning after allowing Las Vegas three runs on Wednesday. She was then unable to pitch against Chicago during Thursday night’s game (because of restrictions designed to prevent arm strain). And because Philadelphia lost 5-6, the possibility of her taking to the mound during a Saturday night rematch with Las Vegas was quashed.

Davis’ manager Alex Rice nonetheless has big hopes for the 13-year-old’s future. “The world’s her oyster, right?” Rice told the Associated Press after the Chicago loss on Thursday. “Mo’ne will figure out her future, and it’s going to be terrific.”

TIME nature

Woman Hospitalized After Massive Sinkhole Swallows Car Whole

A man looks at a car as it falls into a sinkhole on McKnight Road in Ross Township of Pittsburgh on Aug. 12, 2014.
Roxanne Oglesby—Reuters A man looks at a car as it falls into a sinkhole on McKnight Road in Ross Township of Pittsburgh on Aug. 12, 2014.

"I felt a thunk"

A Pittsburgh woman escaped her car in the nick of time, eyewitnesses said, after a massive parking lot sinkhole opened up beneath the car and it sunk into a water-filled pit. Photos showed the back of the sedan sunken nearly up to its front wheels in a hole roughly three times the car’s width.

The woman reportedly escaped through the passenger window and was listed in good condition.

“I felt a thunk,” the car’s owner, Natalie Huddleston, told KDKA news, “and all of a sudden I was tilted and I felt movement, I was swaying, I kept drifting back and realized I was stuck in this hole.”

[KDKA]

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