TIME States

Doctor Says Oklahoma Inmate Suffered in Execution

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — A doctor who examined the body of an Oklahoma inmate who died during a botched execution told a federal judge Wednesday that he is convinced the man suffered after being declared unconscious.

Dr. Joseph Cohen, a pathologist hired by the inmate’s lawyer, said that recently released witness statements corroborate his belief that Clayton Lockett was conscious when given drugs to stop his heart and breathing. Several witnesses, including an Associated Press reporter, saw the inmate struggle against his restraints, mumble and try to raise his head.

“Mr. Lockett had been deemed unconscious but became conscious again,” Cohen testified at a hearing on whether Oklahoma should resume executions Jan. 15 after a self-imposed moratorium. Death row inmates say they fear the state is conducting human experiments on them by using newly approved drug combinations during executions.

The state maintains that Lockett’s problematic execution was an anomaly caused by an improperly set intravenous line and not the result of using the sedative midazolam as the first in a three-drug combination.

Assistant Attorney General John Hadden said Oklahoma and other states have been forced to look for other drug alternatives after more commonly used short-acting barbiturates became scarce because of manufacturers’ opposition to the death penalty.

Oklahoma was the first state ever to use 100 milligrams of midazolam as part of a three-drug protocol during Lockett’s execution. Florida has used 500 milligrams, the level Oklahoma’s new protocol calls for using.

But a Florida anesthesiologist, Dr. David Lubarsky, testified that midazolam has a ceiling effect, and that increasing the dose does not increase the effect. He also said it’s used mostly to calm a patient before a surgery, and not as an anesthetic that produces unconsciousness.

“It’s simply not strong enough to reduce all electrical activity in the brain,” Lubarsky said.

Based on his belief that Lockett was conscious when the second and third drugs were administered, Lubarsky said it’s likely Lockett felt a progressive suffocation and then an intense pain once the potassium chloride was injected.

“It’s been described as liquid fire,” Lubarsky said.

Hadden noted that Lubarsky also testified in a Florida case challenging the use of midazolam, in which a judge determined that state’s protocol was constitutional.

Karen Cunningham, a victim services coordinator for the state attorney general’s office who has witnessed about a dozen executions, said that although Lockett mumbled and moved, it didn’t appear as though he was struggling.

“He didn’t seem uncomfortable. It didn’t seem like suffering,” Cunningham told Department of Public Safety investigators in a statement she reaffirmed Wednesday. She added, however, “he did raise up more than what I had ever seen.” Cunningham does not have any medical training.

Cohen was hired by Lockett’s lawyer to perform an autopsy after the body was returned to Oklahoma from Dallas, where doctors performed an exam on the state’s behalf. Lockett’s lawyer, David Autry, said it was apparent to him that Lockett became conscious after being declared unconscious. Autry also is not a medical professional.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot opened the three-day hearing Wednesday. Oklahoma has four executions scheduled from Jan. 15 to March 5.

The judge also heard from Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell, who was inside the death chamber during Lockett’s execution. Trammell acknowledged that the execution team, including the doctor inside the chamber, was not adequately trained and did not have the proper supplies.

Since Lockett’s execution, prison officials have purchased new medical equipment and renovated the death chamber to give the executioners more room.

Lockett was convicted of shooting Stephanie Nieman, 19, with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999.

TIME States

Missouri Governor Ends State of Emergency for Ferguson Protests

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon takes questions at a news conference after swearing in the Ferguson Commission in St. Louis
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon takes questions at a news conference after swearing in the Ferguson Commission in St. Louis, Mo., on Nov. 18, 2014. Nixon named 16 members to a panel charged with addressing social and economic inequalities in Ferguson. Adress Latif—Reuters

(ST. LOUIS) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday ended the state of emergency that he declared for the St. Louis area ahead of unrest over the Ferguson grand jury decision, praising the work of police and the National Guard in preventing any protest-related deaths.

He issued his executive order on Nov. 17. Protests, including some that turned violent, broke out on Nov. 24 after St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that the grand jury wouldn’t indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, for the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old. Wilson has since resigned from the department in the St. Louis suburb.

“I want to thank state and local law enforcement, the leaders of the unified command, and the members of the Missouri National Guard for working tirelessly to protect the public,” Nixon said in a statement. “As the hard work of healing and rebuilding continues, the fact that not a single life was lost as a result of the unrest is a credit to the hard work and dedication of these brave men and women.”

On the night of the grand jury announcement, 700 members of the Guard were deployed in the St. Louis region. Nixon sent in 1,500 more troops after some of the unrest became violent that first night and led to looting and fires that destroyed 12 Ferguson-area businesses.

After deployment of the additional troops, scattered violence erupted the night of Nov. 25.

Protests continued in the following days but the violence ceased as local and state police stayed in charge of crowd control and the Guard protected buildings.

The actions of police have been widely criticized, with protesters and others saying officers were too quick to arrest peaceful demonstrators and displayed tactics that were too militarized.

Alexis Templeton, a 20-year-old college student and co-founder of Millennial Activists United, said Nixon sent the large number of Guard members and police officers to “instill fear.”

“I feel he was trying to run the narrative that protesters were dangerous,” she said Wednesday.

Templeton was among about 75 people who marched from St. Louis police headquarters to St. Louis City Hall — a frequent target of activists — to protest how police handled demonstrations related to the Brown shooting. They also claimed police have been intentionally targeting demonstration leaders for arrest.

Their protesting led to City Hall being quickly shut down. The closing affected office workers and citizens attempting to do city business. The city also canceled several public meetings scheduled for Wednesday.

“They have been changing up the tactics,” said Derek Laney, a community organizer charged with assault on a law enforcement officer who accused him of accidentally making contact while falling to the ground at an earlier City Hall “die-in” demonstration. “They want to intimidate us, they want to smear our names. They’re attempting to paint a picture to promote a narrative of violence.”

Several members of the city’s Board of Aldermen joined protesters outside the building in support of their efforts to gain entry. No arrests were reported and the protest was peaceful.

“This is a public building,” Alderwoman Megan Green said. “We support your right to be here.”

The Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation related to the Brown shooting. It’s not clear when those findings will be released.

___

Associated Press writer Alan Scher Zagier contributed to this report.

TIME States

These States Produced the Most Peace Corps Volunteers in 2014

Vermont is "Peace Corps heaven"

Vermont produced the most Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other state in 2014.

According USA Today, for every 100,000 Vermont residents there are 7.8 volunteers—more than any other state. The second largest proportion of volunteers comes from Washington, D.C., where there are 6.7 volunteers for every 100,000 residents.

Volunteers from the storied government organization travel to areas around the globe to serve communities in the most need.

USA Today reports Vermont has taken the spot three times in the past five years. “Vermont is the happy hunting ground for Peace Corps. It really is Peace Corps heaven,” Elizabeth Chamberlain, spokeswoman for Peace Corps Northeast Regional Recruitment Office, told USA Today.

California, however, tops the list of states that produce the most total volunteers. In 2014, 926 Peace Corps members came from California, followed by New York, Washington, Florida, and Texas.

[USA Today]

TIME States

Cow in Idaho Escapes Slaughter Only to Be Killed by Police

The cow escaped a meat processing business and jumped a six-foot fence

(POCATELLO, Idaho) — A 1,000-pound cow being prepared for slaughter jumped a 6-foot fence and bolted through the streets of Pocatello before police shot and killed it following a lengthy pursuit.

Pocatello Police Chief Scott Marchand tells the Idaho State Journal (http://bit.ly/1DtMaME) that his officers fired two shots at the heifer because it posed a safety risk.

The cow had escaped from Anderson Custom Pack, a meat processing business, on Friday afternoon.

Early in the chase, an officer shot the cow in the head but the wounded animal kept running.

The cow led police and animal control officers on a chase on foot and in vehicles through the city’s north side. It rammed an animal control truck and two police cars.

The animal was eventually cornered in a residential backyard about 3 miles away, and was shot and killed by a police officer.

TIME Drugs

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Lower Marijuana Possession Penalties

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation. Andres Stapff—Reuters

A new bill would make the possession of up to one oz. punishable with a $100 ticket

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Moody said in a statement. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

Under current Texas law, possessing up to two oz. of weed can yield six months of jail time and a $2,000 penalty. Under the proposal, adults caught with up to one oz. would get a $100 ticket, similar to a parking violation. Larger amounts would still lead to criminal penalties. The measure would make Texas the 20th state plus the District of Columbia to remove the threat of jail time for the possession of small amounts of weed.

The bill is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the pro-legalization group that spearheaded the passage of Colorado’s historic legalization measure. The bill is also the first in a series that the MPP expects to be introduced in Texas this year, the next attempting to legalize medical marijuana and the third attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.

The latter two are long shots, and the first won’t be an easy sell to the Republican-controlled legislature. Texas Governor Rick Perry has said he opposes legalization. He has intimated that he supports decriminalizing weed, but has also said that the state has “kind of done that.” In 2007, Texas passed a measure giving local governments the power to respond to marijuana possession with a summons rather than an arrest, but few counties have adopted it and someone issued a summons may still end up in jail.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, another pro-legalization group, says that Texas is in a tier of states that are the least likely to ease marijuana restrictions. These “third tier” states, he says, are ones in which “the legislature has never shown any want to move in this direction and/or there is an executive at the top who is going to oppose and veto any reforms.”

A poll commissioned by MPP in 2013 found that 61% of Texas residents would support a penalty reduction like the one Moody is proposing, while 58% would support the legalization of medical and recreational weed.

At a press conference on Monday, Moody was joined by representatives from other groups who support the bill, such as the ACLU of Texas and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Support from such libertarian-leaning conservatives will be crucial in the heavily Republican state.

“Texas doesn’t seem to be ready for a full legal market,” acknowledges Heather Fazio, a representative for MPP in Texas. “That doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be happening.”

TIME Environment

Environmentalists Go to Battle Over Face Wash

Vials of microbeads alongside products that use such small, plastic spheres.
Vials of microbeads alongside products that use such small, plastic spheres. Photo courtesy of 5 Gyres

Environmentalists are hoping a landmark report about how much plastic is in the world's oceans will help get bans on small plastics passed

Face washes claiming to be “blackhead erasers” or “superfruit scrubs” may seem appealing for scrubbing your way to a fresh new face, but some of them also contain an ingredient that environmental advocates and lawmakers are trying to ban. Tiny, round bits of plastic known as microbeads, no bigger than a grain of couscous, may pose hazards in the natural world.

These little orbs, introduced to replace harsher exfoliants like pumice, are so small that after they’re washed down the sink or tub, they sneak through sifters at water treatment plants and end up in the ocean and other bodies of water. Once in the ocean, researchers have found, these plastics act like sponges for toxins, and can be accidentally ingested by fish, thus ending up in the food chain.

Several states considered bills to ban microbeads last session, but only Illinois passed a law, becoming the first state to do so. Now lawmakers in at least three states are gearing up for another go in 2015.

“We were outgunned,” says Stiv Wilson, associate director at 5 Gyres, a non-profit dedicated to fighting plastic pollution. In California, the industry group Personal Care Products Council—which represents companies like Johnson & Johnson and Clinique—lobbied members to oppose a bill that would have banned the use of microbeads, saying it was “overly aggressive and unrealistic.” The bill failed by one vote. The same state assemblyman who proposed that bill, Richard Bloom, plans to try again, with what Wilson says will be a “much broader coalition” of supporters.

5 Gyres has also been working with lawmakers in Hawaii and Vermont, and hopes to find sponsors in Ohio, Florida and Maryland. The group developed model legislation that states have used as the foundation for bead-banning bills and hopes that a new report published on Dec. 10 in journal PLOS ONE will bolster their cause.

Part of the problem in getting these bills passed is that microbeads, just one type of plastic ending up in the ocean, only became de rigueur among companies about a decade ago, so there’s little hard science showing their particular effects on the environment.

The new report, based on 24 expeditions from 2007 to 2013, produced the first global estimate of just how much plastic of all sizes is in the ocean—including microplastics. According to the investigation, there are more than 5 trillion pieces afloat at sea. “There’s 20 times the amount of plastic in the North Pacific as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” Wilson says.

Many companies have voluntarily vowed to phase microbeads out of their products, including giants like Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal and Proctor & Gamble. But environmentalists have continued to pursue legislative bans to make sure no companies slip through the cracks and to hold companies to a firm timeline. Wilson believes that just a few states need to pass bans for companies to entirely reformulate products, to avoid cumbersome distribution challenges.

“The fundamental question is going to be: do we wait to take this material out until we prove that this microbead causes harm?” Chelsea Rochman, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Davis, who specializes in microplastics research told TIME in an interview for a previous story. She’s currently working on research to find out more about how much of a threat microplastics pose to marine life.

“This is not rocket science,” Wilson says. “We’re running out of time. These policies need to be passed.”

Read next: Know What’s In Your Face Wash: Why Illinois Banned Microbeads

TIME Obesity

The 10 Healthiest and 10 Least-Healthy States

Slice of meat in shape of US
Getty Images

Here are the states that are doing it right—and those in real need of a checkup

In some ways, Americans today are healthier than they were in 1990, when the United Health Foundation first published America’s Health Rankings, an annual state-by-state assessment of our nation’s health. Cardiovascular and cancer deaths are down, and the smoking rate has decreased 36%. Plus, life expectancy is at an all-time high—78.7 years. “But although we’re living longer, we’re also living sicker, with preventable illness at an alarming level,” says Reed Tuckson, MD, external senior medical advisor to United Health Foundation. The number-one reason: Obesity. “Since 1990, the obesity rate went from 11.6% to 29.4%, a 153% increase,” Dr. Tuckson says. In the last year alone, it rose 7%. Physical inactivity is also at a new high: 23.5% of Americans do not exercise at all.

Read on for the states that are doing it right—and the 10 that have a lot more work to do to improve their health.

The 10 Most Healthy States

10. Nebraska

2013 Rank: 11
Change: +1

Nebraska is among the healthiest states in America in 2014, coming in at number 10 (a slight increase over last year). Nebraska has a low rate of drug deaths, high rate of high school graduation, and high immunization coverage among children.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of Salmonella
Large disparity in health status by education level

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9. North Dakota

2013 Rank: 9
Change: None

North Dakota is the ninth most-healthy state in the U.S. this year, thanks to its low rate of drug deaths, high immunization coverage among teens, and low prevalence of low birth weight. North Dakota also came in ninth in 2013.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High prevalence of obesity
High occupational fatalities rate

8. Colorado

2013 Rank: 8
Change: None

Colorado is known for its outdoor activities—hiking, skiing, biking—so it should come as no surprise that the state has the lowest rates for obesity and diabetes in the United States. It ranks eighth for the second year in a row.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High prevalence of low birth weight
Large disparity in health status by education level

7. New Hampshire

2013 Rank: 5
Change: -2

New Hampshire comes in at number seven, and is just one of several New England states to rank in the top 10 for 2014. New Hampshire residents are more active than most Americans, enjoy a low rate of infectious disease, and have a low infant mortality rate. There is also high immunization coverage among teens.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of drug deaths
Low per capita public health funding

6. Minnesota

2013 Rank: 3
Change: -3

Minnesota is known for its bitterly cold winters, but that doesn’t stop residents of this snowy state from keeping active, which also helps the state have one of the lowest obesity and diabetes rates in the nation. Minnesota also has a low rate of drug deaths.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of pertussis
Low per capita health funding

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5. Utah

2013 Rank: 6
Change: +1

Fewer people smoke in Utah than in any other state. Utah also has the second-lowest diabetes rate, the fourth-lowest obesity rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Challenges:
High rate of drug deaths
Low immunization coverage among teens
Limited availability of primary care physicians

4. Connecticut

2013 Rank: 7
Change: +3

Connecticut, the 4th-healthiest state in the U.S. this year, has a low prevalence of smoking, high immunization coverage among children, and a low occupational fatalities rate.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of preventable hospitalizations
Large disparity in health status by education level

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3. Massachusetts

2013 Rank: 4
Change: +1

Massachusetts is the third-healthiest state in the nation in 2014. In the past two years, drug deaths have decreased by 9% and the rate of physical inactivity has decreased 11%. Massachusetts also has more residents with health insurance than any other state.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of preventable hospitalizations
Large disparity in health status by education level

2. Vermont

2013 Rank: 2
Change: None

The runner-up—and the healthiest state in the continental U.S.—is Vermont. Vermont has the highest high school graduation rate in the country, a low percentage of children in poverty, and a low violent crime rate. In the last year, binge drinking has decreased 11% (though it’s still a challenge), and in the last two years, smoking has declined by 13%.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
Low immunization coverage among children
Large disparity in health status by education level

1. Hawaii

2013 Rank: 1
Change: None

For the second year in a row, Hawaii earns the honor of healthiest state in America. Relatively few people in the Aloha State are obese, the cancer rate is low, and the state has the lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations in the country. Smoking has decreased by 21% in the last two years, and binge drinking has declined by 15%.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of infectious disease
Low immunization coverage among children

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The 10 Least Healthy States

41. Indiana

2013 Rank: 41
Change: None

With 31.8% of adults obese, 28.3% of adults never exercising, and a huge air pollution problem, Indiana comes in at number 41.

Strengths:
Low incidence of infectious disease
Low percentage of children in poverty
High immunization coverage among teens

42. South Carolina

2013 Rank: 43
Change: +1

Coming in at 42, South Carolina is struggling to keep its children healthy: it has a low rate of high school graduation, high prevalence of low birth weight, and ranks in the bottom half of the states for the immunization of children. It also has high rates of obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Low rate of preventable hospitalizations

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The 10 Least Healthy States

43. Alabama

2013 Rank: 47
Change: +4

Ranking 43rd overall, Alabama has the highest diabetes rate in the nation, at 13.8% of adults—a 17% increase over the last two years. The state also has a high prevalence of low birth weight and a limited availability of dentists.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High immunization coverage among children
Small disparity in health status by education level

44. West Virginia

2013 Rank: 46
Change: +2

With 27.3% of the adult population lighting up, West Virginia has the highest prevalence of smoking in America. It also has more drug deaths than any other state, as well as the second-highest obesity rate.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of infectious disease
High per capita health funding

45. Tennessee

2013 Rank: 42
Change: -3

Tennessee ranks 50th for violent crime, 49th for physical inactivity, 47th for obesity, and 45th overall.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Ready availability of primary care physicians

46. Oklahoma

2013 Rank: 44
Change: -2

Ranking 46th, the Sooner State has a high prevalence of physical inactivity, low immunization coverage among children, and a limited availability of primary care physicians. Since 1990, violent crime has increased 12%, while the nationwide rate dropped 37% during the same time period.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Low prevalence of low birth weight

47. Kentucky

2013 Rank: 45
Change: -2

While lots of people in Kentucky smoke, very few of them exercise, a combination that lands the Bluegrass State at number 47. Kentucky also suffers from a high percentage of children in poverty and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low violent crime rate
High immunization coverage among children

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48. Louisiana

2013 Rank: 48
Change: None

Louisiana ranks 48th in 2014 thanks to its high incidence of infectious disease, high prevalence of low birth weight, and high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Strengths:
Low incidence of pertussis
High immunization coverage among teens
Small disparity in health status by education level

49. Arkansas

2013 Rank: 49
Change: None

Coming in second to last—same as in 2013—Arkansas has a high incidence of infectious disease, a limited availability of dentists, and low immunization coverage among children. Additionally, obesity has increased 12% over the last two years.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High per capita public health funding
Small disparity in health status by education level

50. Mississippi

2013 Rank: 50
Change: None

For the third year in a row, the least-healthy state in the U.S. is Mississippi. Mississippi ranks last on six measures: physical inactivity, rate of infectious disease, low birthweight, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths, and premature deaths.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High immunization coverage among children
Small disparity in health status by education level

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME LGBT

Meet the Republican Who Lost His Election Fighting for LGBT Rights

Michigan Rep. Frank Foster (R) speaks on the floor in the Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing. Michigan House of Representatives Photographer Mike Quillinan

A young star in Michigan is spending his final days as a lawmaker working to expand the state's civil rights protections

In Michigan, a 28-year-old Republican state lawmaker is using his lame-duck session to fight for a bill that cost him his reelection in a primary this summer. Rep. Frank Foster is trying to extend the state’s civil rights act—which protects people from discrimination on the basis of age, race, religion, sex and weight—to also include sexual orientation. Even though he puts his bill at a 10% chance of passing, he says he has no regrets. “This is important, and if it’s not law in 2014, we’re still having the conversation,” Foster tells TIME. “Until it’s equal, it’s not equal.”

On Dec. 3, the commerce committee, of which Foster is the chair, was the site of a heated debate about tolerance and persecution. The public was invited to give testimony on Foster’s bill and another bill to amend the civil rights act to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. Supporters of the bills made arguments that passing them wasn’t just about protecting another class of citizens but about Michigan’s reputation and making the state feel welcoming to the broadest possible array of workers and companies.

One of those testifying in support was Allan Gilmour, a former second-in-command at Ford who made headlines when he came out as gay after his first retirement from the company in 1995. Updating the law, he said, “is necessary if Michigan is to attract and retain talent. And on an individual basis, no one should live in fear that they will lose their job or injure their careers should they live openly.”

Those opposing the bills, largely representatives from Christian groups, argued that the measures threaten to jeopardize religious freedoms, like those of Christian small-business owners who would prefer not to bake a cake or take photographs for a same-sex wedding—and might lose their business license for such a refusal under an amended civil rights law. “Why should that baker or photographer be forced against their religious beliefs and conscience to participate in that? And if they refuse to because of their religious conscience, to be put out of business?” said David Kallman, speaking on behalf of Michigan Family Forum, a conservative Christian organization. Multiple speakers also argued that there was no hard data showing that LGBT discrimination was a problem that needing solving. (There are reports on the issue and more research is being done on the topic.)

After giving his own testimony, Foster oversaw the meeting stoically, with one exception. Stacy Swimp, President of the National Christian Leadership Council, gave a speech about how he was “rather offended” that anyone would equate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to black Americans when it came to fights for civil rights. “They have never had to drink out of a LGBT water fountain,” he said, recounting that black Americans had been lynched and denied many basic rights in the past. He called any comparison “intellectually empty, dishonest” and accused the LGBT community of exploiting the struggles of black Americans.

Once he finished, Foster pulled his own microphone toward him. “Sir, I will agree with you on the fact that African Americans in this country’s short history have been discriminated against,” he said. “But if you don’t think the LGBT community has been discriminated against, been drug behind cars, been hung up by their necks til they’re dead, been denied housing, been denied commerce opportunities, then you’re just not looking very far.”

It was an impassioned speech from a native Michigander who never met a homosexual person until going to college at Grand Valley State University. Foster grew up in the tiny town of Pellston (pop. 831) in the midst of his current district, which spans the water where the state’s upper and lower peninsulas nearly meet. It’s an area known for fishing and hunting and tourism on islands like Mackinac, whose residents are also among his constituents. It’s also socially conservative.

By the time he finished his degree at Grand Valley State, Foster had been elected student body president, twice. He had organized rallies and marches against an amendment to ban affirmative action (which eventually passed by a nearly 20-point margin in 2006). He had accompanied administrators to Washington, D.C., to argue for better higher education funding. And he had worked to get gender identity added to non-discrimination policies in the student and faculty handbooks. “That was really the first time I socialized with people of different ethnic backgrounds and different races,” he says. “College was the way it was supposed to be for me.” He won his first race for a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2010, with 63% of the vote, and became one of only two freshmen to be appointed committee chairs.

After Foster was reelected in 2012, a Democratic colleague approached him about helping to support a non-discrimination bill. Like many people—one poll put the number at 87%—Foster assumed it was already illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, though there is no federal protection and only 21 states have passed such a law (18 of those, and D.C.’s, also include gender identity). Eventually, Foster and his colleague decided it would be more powerful if the Republican didn’t just co-sponsor the bill but introduced it. “I had no idea we did not have those folks included in Michigan’s civil rights act. When I found that out, it became a passion of mine,” he says, adding that he thought “as a young Republican, I could communicate to my colleagues and the party where we needed to go.”

Before Foster got around to actually introducing a bill, word got out that he planned to and he did interviews that confirmed people’s suspicions. In late 2013, Foster also called for the resignation of his Republican colleague Dave Agema, who caused an uproar after posting an article on Facebook that decried the “filthy” homosexual lifestyle. Agema was among those who encouraged a teacher at a Christian academy—who was considering running for Foster’s seat when he hit his term limit in 2016—to run against Foster in 2014 instead. Foster says his opponent, Lee Chatfield, gave him a deadline to publicly come out against legislation that would amend the civil rights act. “I wasn’t able to make that deadline, didn’t want to make that deadline,” says Foster. “So he filed in January and made this the center point of the campaign.” Foster lost by less than 1,000 votes in the primary against Chatfield, who had support from the Tea Party.

That loss not only cost Foster his job, but hurt his chances of getting the bill passed. The prospects had been looking good. He and other supporters of the bill had been rallying support among his fellow Republicans and gained the backing of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, a group with big-name members like Chrysler, Delta Airlines, Google and Kellogg that formed to support the legislation. “After my election, they slowly faded away,” Foster says of his GOP colleagues. “It was a pretty successful, religious-mounted campaign that beat me, and if that can happen in my community, that can happen anywhere.”

Foster says he’d like to see a bill pass that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity but had limited his to the former thinking that it would have a better chance of passing. When Michigan’s civil rights act was proposed in the 1970s—named Elliott-Larsen for the lawmakers who championed it—the inclusion of sexual orientation threatened to kill the bill, so it was removed. “Forty years later, here we are still trying to add sexual orientation, and it’s the transgender piece that was slowing the bill down,” Foster says. He also knows that by compromising, he may lose the support of Democrats. “Democrats are not going to vote for anything less than fully inclusive, and Republicans will not vote for fully inclusive,” he says. “So, in my mind, we’re sort of stuck.”

After winning his reelection, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, sat down with the Detroit Free Press and its editorial board reported that “he will encourage the Legislature to take up an expansion of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to also include the LGBT community, prohibiting discrimination in hiring and housing decisions.” Foster is somewhat hanging his hopes on that report. “He can add some muscle to the argument and help me get this thing across the line,” Foster says. For now, both bills remain in the commerce committee. After potentially being voted out, a bill still has to win a floor vote in the House before repeating the process in the Senate.

Regardless of what happens, Foster is going home at the end of the session. He’ll work full time at Rehabitat Systems, a company which provides long-term care to people with traumatic brain and spinal-cord injuries, where he’s currently an executive officer. Right now, he’s frustrated with where the two-party system has gotten him. “I don’t want to necessarily be in the box anymore, where if I’m Republican it means I’m x, y and z,” he says. “The rest of my demographic, the 20-somethings, don’t think that way.”

But he says he’d like to have another go at being a Republican politician down the line, especially because their fiscal policies resonate so strongly with him. “There needs to be some more time,” Foster says. “My party has to change some of its social stances. And if that can happen, I think I’ll become more appealing to the party and vice versa.”

TIME Courts

Judge Overturns One of 9 Convictions Against Former Virginia First Lady

Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell And Wife Appear In Court For Federal Corruption Case
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen leave the court in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 24, 2014 Mark Wilson—Getty Images

However, eight other convictions stand

A federal judge on Monday overturned one conviction against Maureen McDonnell, the wife of the former Virginia governor, but allowed all other convictions against the couple to stand.

McDonnell and her husband, Bob McDonnell were found guilty in September of collecting more than $165,000 in gifts from a dietary supplement producer, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., in exchange for boosting the product’s reputation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. A federal jury convicted the former governor on 11 of 13 counts and his wife on nine of 13.

The pair had sought to have the charges overturned or to win a new trial.

The former first lady is now guilty of eight charges. The tossed out charge, for obstruction, relates to allegations that she sought to cover up the corruption in a note to Williams.

The couple are expected to be sentenced on Jan 6.

[Richmond Times-Dispatch]

TIME Crime

National Guard Presence to ‘Significantly’ Ramp Up Around Ferguson

Police officers in riot gear stand guard in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 Barrett Emke for TIME

Gov. Jay Nixon said deployment in and around Ferguson to rise from 700 to more than 2,200

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pledged Tuesday to “significantly” ramp up the National Guard’s presence in and around Ferguson after a night of violent riots, fires and looting followed the announcement that a white police officer would not be indicted in the August shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

“No one should have to live like this, no one deserves this. We must do better and we will,” he said. “The violence we saw last night cannot be repeated.”

More than 2,200 Guardsmen would be deployed in the region, up from 700 in 100 locations on Monday night, in an effort to avoid repeating the events that played out in the area. Looters damaged or destroyed at least a dozen buildings, while others set several cars aflame, as law enforcement officers fired smoke bombs in a bid to restrain crowds of angry protesters.

Television networks, photographers and ordinary citizens wielding smartphones latched onto scenes of unrest, disseminating them widely as the night went on. In the morning, some showed scenes of the smoldering buildings and cars while others focused on immediate clean-up efforts.

Nixon was joined by several state officials who used similarly grim language. “Last night was a disaster,” said Col. Ronald Replogle, head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. And Daniel Isom, director of Missouri’s Department of Public Safety, called Monday night “a disappointment in so many ways.”

“Our community not only needs to be safe,” added St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. “They need to feel safe.”

The announcement of the security boost came soon after Ferguson Mayor James Knowles criticized the lack of National Guard presence amid the tumult, saying he was “deeply concerned” that Nixon chose not to deploy additional Guardsmen as violence increased in the area. “It was my understanding that they would be deployed, if needed, to maintain order and protect businesses,” Knowles said. “They were not.”

VOTE: Should the Ferguson protestors be TIME’s Person of the Year?

Knowles also revealed that Wilson remains on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Prior to the grand jury announcement Monday, Ferguson’s police chief had said the officer may be able to return to his job should he not be indicted.

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