TIME LGBT

Judge Orders California to Pay for Inmate’s Sex Change

A March 28, 2014 photo of Michelle-Lael Norsworthy
California Department of Corrections/AP A March 28, 2014 photo of Michelle-Lael Norsworthy

This is the first time a sex-change surgery has been ordered in California

(SACRAMENTO) — A federal judge on Thursday ordered California’s corrections department to provide a transgender inmate with sex change surgery, the first time such an operation has been ordered in the state.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco ruled that denying sex reassignment surgery to 51-year-old Michelle-Lael Norsworthy violates her constitutional rights. Her birth name is Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy.

The ruling marks just the second time nationwide that a judge has issued an injunction directing a state prison system to provide the surgery, said Ilona Turner, legal director at the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, which helped represent Norsworthy.

The previous order in a Massachusetts case was overturned last year and is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his ruling in California, Tigar said the surgery has actually been performed just once on an inmate, an apparent reference to a person who castrated himself in Texas then was given the surgery out of necessity.

Norsworthy, who was convicted of murder, has lived as a woman since the 1990s and has what Tigar termed severe gender dysphoria — a condition that occurs when people’s gender at birth is contrary to the way they identify themselves.

“The weight of the evidence demonstrates that for Norsworthy, the only adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria is SRS,” Tigar wrote, referring to sex reassignment surgery.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said they are considering whether to appeal the ruling.

“This decision confirms that it is unlawful to deny essential treatment to transgender people” in or out of prison, said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “The bottom line is no one should be denied the medical care they need.”

If the order stands, Norsworthy would be the first inmate to receive such surgery in California, said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver who controls California prison medical care.

Hayhoe said it’s not known how much the surgery would cost, but it could run as high as $100,000, depending on the circumstances.

Corrections officials, in previous court filings, argued that Norsworthy has received proper medical and mental health care for more than 15 years and is in no immediate medical danger if the surgery is not performed.

Her care included counseling, mental health treatment and hormone therapy that the department said “has changed her physical appearance and voice to that of a woman” while helping her find her gender identity.

That care is consistent with what other judges nationwide have found to be appropriate for transgender inmates, the department said.

Norsworthy has been in prison since 1987, serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. She has twice delayed her scheduled parole hearings in recent months.

She currently is housed at Mule Creek State Prison, an all-male prison in Ione, 40 miles southeast of Sacramento.

The sex change surgery would prompt practical problems, the department said.

It said keeping Norsworhy in a men’s prison could invite violence, including possible assault and rape.

But she could also face danger at a women’s prison – or pose a threat herself – because she had a history of domestic violence before her murder conviction, the department said.

Last month, attorneys for the transgender inmate convicted of murder in Massachusetts asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling denying her request for sex reassignment surgery.

A federal judge in 2012 ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to grant the surgery to Michelle Kosilek, but the ruling was overturned in December by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As in California, the appeal in Massachusetts cited security concerns about protecting the inmate.

Courts in other states have ordered hormone treatments, psychotherapy and other treatments but not surgery.

TIME Crime

UberX Driver Arrested for Trying to Rob Woman’s Home After Taking Her to Airport

Mobilitäts Apps
Britta Pedersen—Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images An iPhone user is seen using the Uber app as Taxis queue

The incident is the latest to raise safety concerns regarding the hugely popular ride-sharing app

Police in Denver arrested an UberX driver Tuesday on suspicion of attempting to burgle a woman’s house after he dropped her off at the airport.

According to the Denver Post, 51-year-old Gerald Montgomery was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted second-degree burglary, a felony. Montgomery allegedly tried to break in through the backdoor of the woman’s home but fled when her roommate noticed.

“Upon learning about this incident from our valued rider, we immediately deactivated the driver’s access to the platform, pending a full investigation. We remain committed to supporting Denver law enforcement in any way we can,” Uber spokesman Taylor Patterson says in a statement to TIME.

Uber performs a three-step screening process that includes a county, federal and multistate background check. However, according to the Post, Montgomery had no criminal history in Colorado. Uber says they work closely with the police department to facilitate the arrest of individuals accused of crimes.

UberX is a low-cost version of the wildly successful ride-sharing program. Based in San Francisco, the firm has been the subject of numerous legal challenges — including from a Philadelphia woman who accused an UberX driver of rape a little over a week ago.

Montgomery is due to appear in court on Friday.

[Denver Post]

TIME Crime

America’s Largest Death Row Has Run Out of Room

San Quentin Prison shown on July 10, 2013, in Larkspur, Califo.
George Rose—Getty Images San Quentin Prison shown on July 10, 2013, in Larkspur, Califo.

708 out of 715 death row cells at San Quentin are occupied

California has not seen an execution for nearly a decade and, with an anticipated 20 new arrivals per year, the largest execution system in the U.S. has run out of room.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Governor Jerry Brown has requested $3.2 million in special funding to expand death row at San Quentin State Prison by 97 cells — utilizing facilities that have become free thanks to an overall drop in the state’s inmates following voter approval last fall of Proposition 47 (which reclassified most nonviolent drug crimes as misdemeanors).

Official documents obtained by the Times say “it is not feasible to delay the approval and implementation of this proposal.”

But because California’s death row has been embroiled in litigation for years, the expansion plans for San Quentin could be a stopgap solution at best.

On July 16, 2014, Orange County federal Judge Cormac J. Carney deemed the state’s death penalty to be unconstitutional. The last California inmate to be executed was Clarence Ray Allen in 2006 and since then 49 inmates have died from other causes.

“Until the litigation is resolved, this cost-effective proposal allows [the state corrections department] to safely house condemned inmates going forward,” corrections-department spokeswoman Terry Thornton told the Times.

San Quentin, just north of San Francisco, can house 715 condemned inmates and currently 708 prisoners reside in the cells. Twenty women are housed in the Central California Women’s Facility (near Chowchilla, Calif.) and another 23 prisoners are held at locations throughout the state due to various extenuating circumstances.

Governor Brown’s proposal is scheduled for a hearing in late April.

TIME politics

San Francisco Lawmakers Propose Tougher Restrictions on Airbnb Rentals

Airbnb
Airbnb

The proposal would take a trailblazing regulation measure passed last year and make it more restrictive

At a meeting of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, a local lawmaker returned to an issue that sparked long and contentious hearings in 2014: regulation of the city’s short-term rentals facilitated by Airbnb and similar companies.

“This law is a mess,” David Campos, one of the 11 board members, said of a measure passed last year that legalized short-term rentals. “It’s a mess that needs to be cleaned up. And we need to clean it up as soon as possible.”

Campos introduced legislation that would place stricter limitations on how often people can rent out rooms or homes, putting a “hard cap” of 90 days on every property, regardless of whether the host is present. It would also require companies such as Airbnb to share data about rentals, ban rentals in certain neighborhoods that have been zoned for no commercial use and give disturbed neighbors—like ones living next door to people who rent out units illegally—the right to sue for damages.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement to TIME that the new proposal is just creating tension over an issue that was settled in 2014.

“Elected officials spent three years debating all aspects of this issue before passing comprehensive legislation, but some folks still don’t think you should be able to occasionally share the home in which you live,” said Christopher Nulty. “We should all be striving to make the law work but these ad hoc rules and this new bill just make things more confusing.”

Campos’ measure has been co-sponsored by two other members of the board.

Under the law passed last year, residents in San Francisco are allowed to rent out their properties an unlimited amount of days if the host is present, while there is a 90-day cap on un-hosted rentals. The different limits were aimed at maximizing the economic potential for residents who depend on sites like Airbnb for income, while making it impossible for landlords to put rental units on those sites full-time. Before the law passed, all short-term rentals were technically illegal; rentals shorter than 30 days were banned.

MORE: 5 Things You Never Knew About the Sharing Economy

The problem, Campos says, is that the city planning commission, which is charged with enforcing the law, says there’s no method of determining when hosts are at home sleeping in their own beds, meaning they cannot monitor whether people are respecting the limits. Campos called the law a “paper tiger” that is “unenforceable” because it has no teeth.

Local lawmakers have pushed for limits on short-term rentals to make sure the sharing economy doesn’t cannibalize existing housing stock. “The concern is you take your unit off the market,” says Supervisor Jane Kim, who supports a 90-day cap.

In recent years, San Francisco has been in the midst of a housing crisis, with the amount of people wanting to live in the city exceeding the apartments that are available—which has sent rental prices skyrocketing. The law was partly aimed at stopping landlords from taking much-needed units off the market because renting them out every night on sites like Airbnb was more valuable than collecting a monthly check. It also legitimized a business popular with tourists and locals.

Kim points out that 90 days per year breaks down to about a week per month, or could be the length of a summer when a college student is out of town. It’s sufficient for what one might consider “regular” hosts who use Airbnb, she says. “If you’re doing more than 90 days, you’re running a business,” she says. Kim believes that people in that camp should apply for a bed-and-breakfast license, which requires hosts to meet more requirements like installing exit signs.

With the aim of making oversight more feasible, Campos’ proposal would require platforms like Airbnb to give the city data about how often properties are being rented through their sites. “Without that data, there’s simply no way of knowing,” Campos says. He adds that Airbnb has responded to previous requests for such data by demanding the city subpoena them and notes that Airbnb has fought such subpoenas in states like New York.

Under the current law, which went into effect in February, all hosts must register with the city before listing a property on a site like Airbnb. Campos says that as of two weeks ago only a few dozen residents have registered, while there are “thousands” of rooms and units being listed on short-term rental sites. In an attempt to incentivize compliance with the law, the proposal would also fine hosting platforms that list unregistered units in San Francisco to the tune of $1,000 per day.

“All of us support short-term rentals,” Campos said of the board members during Tuesday’s meeting. “We know that short-term rentals are part of San Francisco, that they are here to stay … That said, I think that those of us that have been talking about this believe there should be reasonable, fair regulation of this industry,” he continued. “The law that was passed last year does not constitute what we would like to see.”

Read next: Baby, You Can Drive My Car, and do My Errands, and Rent My Stuff…

TIME justice

Lawsuit Claims Instacart ‘Personal Shoppers’ Should Be Classified as Employees

Kaitlin Myers a shopper for Instacart studies her smart phone as she  shops for a customer at Whole Foods in Denver.
Cyrus McCrimmon—Denver Post/Getty Images Instacart shopper Kaitlin Myers navigates through the aisles at Whole Foods in Denver.

A case filed in California's Northern District Court claims that the grocery delivery service owes workers for expenses

A new lawsuit alleges that Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery service valued at $2 billion, misclassifies its workers as independent contractors to avoid paying expenses like overtime, reimbursements for gas and workers’ compensation.

The class action complaint, which was filed on Jan. 9th but has not been previously reported, describes Instacart’s business practices as “unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous” and seeks damages for anyone who has worked as a “shopper delivery person” for the company since 2012.

The complaint, which contains allegations similar to those in two ongoing lawsuits also pending in California’s Northern District Court against ride-app companies Uber and Lyft, is the latest potential legal hurdle for the surging on-demand economy.

“Instacart does all it can to distance itself from the employer-employee relationship,” says Bob Arns, whose San Francisco-based Arns Law Firm brought the suit on behalf of workers including Dominic Cobarruviaz, who was injured in an accident while delivering groceries for Instacart. “Why does a company want to do that? It’s to keep the bottom line lower, to unfairly compete against other companies. That’s the crux of our case.”

The suit contends that Instacart, which is two-and-a-half years old and operates in 15 markets around the U.S., has violated labor laws due to the workers’ “misclassification, unpaid workers’ compensation insurance, unpaid tax contributions, unreimbursed expenses, and related misconduct.” The complaint also claims that the company has committed fraud, knowing workers should be classified as employees, and used unfair business practices.

“[There is] this narrative that I think companies like Instacart and Uber and Lyft want to become more mainstream,” says Jonathan Davis, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, “that somehow these antiquated laws don’t apply to these types of work relationships. And frankly it’s ludicrous. Just because a worker is directed and controlled by an algorithm that comes through a phone as opposed to a foreman doesn’t do anything to change the fundamental relationship of employment.”

Instacart has not responded to requests for comment. The case names the company as Maplebear Inc., which does business as Instacart.

Instacart customers order groceries through a smartphone app, choosing items they want from their preferred store. The app then relays grocery orders to workers, who shop for the products and deliver them using their own vehicles in as little as an hour or two. The company takes a cut from a delivery fee and gets an undisclosed amount from retailers that customers buy groceries from through the app.

In late February, the case was assigned to District Judge Edward Chen, who is also hearing the Uber case, which claims that Uber drivers are employees rather than independent contractors and should be reimbursed for expenses like gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance. On March 11, Chen denied Uber’s request for a summary judgment ruling that drivers are independent contractors, saying that a jury would have to decide whether the drivers are employees or “partners,” as the company calls them. In his ruling, the judge said Uber’s claim that it is a “technology company” and not a “transportation company” is “fatally flawed.”

Instacart’s CEO Apoorva Mehta has likewise said that Instacart is a software company, not a grocery delivery company.

Arns believes that the terms the company sets out, which customers must agree to, could pass liability along to the person ordering groceries. If Instacart is “solely a communication platform” for facilitating a connection between the customer and the shopper, he says, damages from an accident or injury like the one Corbarruviaz had could be the responsibility of the customer who started the communication.

The suit rejects the idea that Instacart is simply a middle man, claiming that the company “is in the business of providing online grocery shopping and delivery service.” The suit seeks to define the class as everyone who “performed grocery delivery service” for Instacart from Jan. 1, 2012 to the present. As of June 2014, about 1,000 people were reportedly registered to shop and deliver groceries for the company. Arns estimates that the size of the class could be 10,000.

The growing independent-contractor workforce is a key reason that companies like Instacart and Uber have been able to grow so quickly. In January, Forbes put Instacart at the top of its “America’s Most Promising Companies” list. The cost of organizing independent contractors is much less than hiring employees. The companies who operate this way don’t have to pay unemployment tax or overtime, or ensure that workers are making at least minimum wage. They don’t have to pay for their own fleet of vehicles or costs associated with operating them since the workers use their personal cars. In many cases, they don’t have to pay for the smartphones or data plans workers need to do the jobs.

Arns and Davis say that after the costs of being a worker for Instacart are added up, many of them are not making minimum wage. Unlike drivers on platforms like Uber and Lyft, who can log in to work and log out at any time, personal shoppers for Instacart set their own hours in advance and work in shifts.

“We can’t sacrifice the gains that have been made over time in this country to create good, solid middle-class jobs simply at the altar of expediency and technology,” Davis says. They contend that the lawsuit is beneficial for companies in the sharing economy in the long run, even if it ends up costing them millions. “We want to see Instacart succeed,” says Arns, “and it can succeed by complying with the law.”

Corbarruviaz v. Maplebear, Inc.

Read next: This Is Where Starbucks Will Test Its Delivery Service

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TIME Apple

Apple Unveils 12-Inch Retina MacBook

The company just introduced its lightest laptop ever

Apple on Monday unveiled a svelte new addition to its lineup of laptops: the 12-inch MacBook. At a press briefing in San Francisco, the electronics giant introduced the long-anticipated update to its MacBook line.

CEO Tim Cook touted the device’s light weight and thin enclosure. It weighs 2 lbs. and, at its thickest point, the MacBook is 13.1 millimeters thick, 24% thinner than the 11-inch MacBook Air. It also features the company’s ultra-high-resolution Retina display. And unlike previous models, the device will be available in multiple colors, silver, grey and gold. Introducing the computer, Cook joked with the audience, “It is unbelievable! Can you even see it?”

Marketing chief Phil Schiller said the device represents the company’s vision of the future for notebooks. Rather than a multitude of ports, the device will have one connector, dubbed USB-C, to provide power, video output, and device connectivity. Schiller said the standard was being adopted across the computer industry. On stage, Schiller called it “the world’s most energy efficient laptop.”

The base model MacBook comes with a 1.1 Ghz dual-core Intel Core M processor, Intel HD 3500 graphics, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD hard drive. It begins at $1,299 and will be available next month. The company also announced several moderate upgrades to its other laptops.

CEO Cook said during the presentation that while the notebook market shrank 2% last year, Apple’s MacBook business grew 21% during the same period. Ultra-light notebooks like the one Apple introduced today have been the lone bright spot as personal computer sales have sputtered over the past few years. According to researcher Gartner, sales of so-called ultra mobile premium computers like the new MacBook are expected to grow to 85 million annually, up from 39 million last year.

Read next: HBO’s Streaming Service Launching Next Month Exclusively on Apple TV

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY Census

Most Americans Are Crammed Into 3% of the Country

aerial view of subdivision
David Sucsy

We love cities. A lot.

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re living in one very small portion of the United States. That’s because, according to a new Census report, nearly 63% of the population resides in what’s known as an incorporated area—we know it as a city—and those cities take up just 3.5% of the country’s landmass.

In other words, more than half of the people in the country are crammed into an area a little smaller than the state of Montana.

Not only have most Americans shoehorned themselves into cities, but more people are moving in by the day. The population of incorporated places jumped by 24.1 million between 2000 and 2013, slightly faster than the country’s population growth as a whole.

That shouldn’t be too surprising, since we know there’s a general trend toward urbanization in society, and while not all cities are urban areas, there’s some serious overlap. The majority of incorporated places are actually relatively small, but 60% of city folk live somewhere with a population of at least 50,000.

That said, it’s worth taking a second to consider how 198 million people, the total number of city residents, are all essentially trying to live on a tiny sliver of the country’s total area. New York, the nation’s most populous city, alone holds 2.6% of the U.S. population, despite taking up one-fifth the space of Rhode Island, America’s smallest state.

So the next time you think your apartment is too small, just remember: there’s a whole lot of space out there in the rest of the country. You just don’t want to live there.

TIME Football

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick Launches Searing Verbal Attack on Fan via Twitter

"Get better at life!"

Colin Kaepernick, the talented but often criticized quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, lashed out at a fan on Twitter on Wednesday.

The outburst started after Kaepernick posted this on his timeline:

To which the fan, Stephen Batten, replied:

That was enough to prompt Kaepernick to let loose with a volley of tweets going after Batten.

It is unconfirmed if Batten indeed had eight followers when he sent out the first tweet, but as of publishing he now has over 1,500 followers — and that number is climbing fast.

Batten has yet to respond to Kaepernick’s broadside, while the quarterback retweeted the support he received from fans and media alike, including the famous sportscaster Erin Andrews.

This is the second time in two weeks that a controversial athlete has become embroiled with a fan on social media. Last Monday, embattled Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III got into a heated argument with a fan on Instagram.

TIME Chemistry

The Chemist Who Helped Develop the Pill Has Died

Carl Djerassi
Boris Roessler—AP Scientist and patron of the arts Carl Djerassi sits during an interview with the DPA German Press Agency at the university in Frankfurt Main, Germany, 29 October 2013.

His scientific work led to the world's first oral contraceptive in 1952

Carl Djerassi, a 91-year-old Stanford chemist who helped to develop the birth control pill, passed away from cancer Friday in San Francisco.

Djerassi’s scientific work led to the world’s first oral contraceptive in 1952, which gave women the option to control pregnancies. He developed a synthetic molecule called norethindrone, the effects of which simulated, in stronger form, those of progesterone. For his work, he earned an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and received the presidential National Medal of Science, which only a few hundred scientists have received since its creation.

“Carl was interested particularly in individual freedom and self-determination, and believed that all of us, women included, should have that opportunity,” said Dr. Philip Darney, the director of UCSF’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. “He saw birth control and access to abortion as agents of that opportunity.”

Djerassi, a polymath, penned three biographies The Pill, Pygmy Chimps and Degas’ Horse, In Retrospect: From the Pill to the Pen and This Man’s Pill, and founded a free art residency program called the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, funded by earnings from the birth control pill.

[SF Gate]

TIME Crime

Man Arrested in Connection with Headless Torso Discovery

The victim is thought to be a light-skinned male

Police in San Francisco have arrested a man suspected of involvement in the case of a suitcase discovered earlier this week containing a headless human torso, plus other body parts in surrounding blocks.

59-year-old Mark Andrus was arrested today less than a mile from where the suitcase was discovered, reports NBC Bay Area.

An anonymous tipster called the SFPD and said that Andrus, allegedly shown in a photograph released by police, was staying at the Sala Burton Manor apartment building.

The suitcase was found in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, a block away from Twitter’s headquarters.

The victim has yet to be identified, but medical examiners have confirmed that the parts are from a light-skinned male.

[NBC Bay Area]

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