TIME States

For $400,000 You Can Be a Town’s Owner, and its Bartender

A road marker highlights Swett, S.D.'s small borders on June 26, 2014.
A road marker highlights Swett, S.D.'s small borders on June 26, 2014. Eric Ginnard—AP

The entire town of Swett, South Dakota is up for sale, and there's a bar included

Ever wished your local bar was a little less crowded? Well wish no more. For a mere $400,000 you can become the proud owner of a bar, and the one-man town it’s based in, the Associated Press reports.

Lance Benson, a wealthy businessman, has put the town of Swett, S.D. up for sale. Benson bought the hamlet in 1998, lost it in a divorce and reclaimed it in 2012. Now he’s looking for a buyer so he can spend more time on his business.

The new owner of Swett will inherit a workshop, three trailers, Benson’s house, and, of course, the bar. Though the town is uninhabited, solitary drinkers need not make an offer. The Swett Tavern is the bar of choice for local cowboys and farmers within a 10-mile radius.

Gerry Runnels, a patron of the bar commented: “This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins.”

Benson put the town on the market last week, though a new proprietor is yet to be found. Its current owner isn’t too bothered though. Benson said if Swett doesn’t sell in a year, he’ll keep it.

[AP]

TIME States

Mummy Found in Tucson Manhole Likely Electrocuted

An ID was found on the man but authorities are waiting on DNA to verify who he is

The mummified corpse of a man found in a Tucson, Arizona, manhole last month likely died of electrocution, authorities said Tuesday.

The Pima County medical examiner’s office said the dead man was found in an underground, high-voltage utility vault holding bolt cutters, with cut copper wires nearby. His body was discovered by Tucson Electric Power crews May 19, between one and two years after his death, the Associated Press reports.

Identification for a 51-year-old man was found with the remains, but authorities are awaiting results of a DNA test to confirm the identity of the deceased.

[AP]

 

 

TIME States

Massachusetts Set for Highest Minimum Wage in U.S.

Massachusetts is not the only one looking to hike their minimum wages though.

Massachusetts could set a record: The state plans to adopt an $11 minimum wage by 2017. That would give Massachusetts the single highest minimum wage of any state in the country—but not by much. The bill is currently before Gov. Deval Patrick.

A handful of states are looking to hike their minimum wages over the next couple of years. Michigan wants to raise its minimum wage to $9.15 by 2018, while Vermont and Maryland want to raise theirs to $10.50 by then.

MORE: History of the Minimum Wage

TIME Drugs

New York Poised for Legal Medical Marijuana

Will be 23rd state

New York was on the cusp of becoming the latest state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes Friday.

The state Senate passed a bill that would limit consumption to edibles, pills, and oils—prohibiting the smoking or sale of actual marijuana plants. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill, which passed the Senate 49 to 10 after state leaders announced a legislative compromise Thursday.

“This legislation strikes the right balance,” Cuomo said in statement Thursday when the compromise was first reached. “Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering, and are in desperate need of a treatment that will provide some relief. At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted. I believe this bill is the right balance, and I commend the members of the Legislature who worked so hard on this measure.”

New York will be the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, according to the New York Daily News.

The state Department of Health will be charged with the regulation and licensing of medical marijuana manufacturers and distributors. The bill will place a seven-cent tax on marijuana sales.

MORE: Inside a Christian Pot Shop

TIME States

Wisconsin Governor Dismisses Reports of ‘Criminal Scheme’

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention in Milwaukee on May 3, 2014. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

“No charges—case over”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday dismissed reports of his involvement in a “criminal scheme” as a partisan prosecutorial witch hunt, saying a secret probe of his fundraising activities has already been “resolved.”

“No charges—case over,” Walker said on Fox News. Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was responding to documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge that allege Walker was involved in a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising activities with outside conservative groups during a recall election he faced. No charges have been filed and Walker hasn’t been formally been accused of any wrongdoing.

On Friday, Walker said he was going to have to “counter” partisan attacks “all over again,” and that he’d rely on the grassroots support that helped Wisconsin Republicans hold onto the state Senate in recall elections in 2011 and 2012 after supporting legislation that ended collective bargaining for public employees.

“This is a prime example of what happens when you take on the big government special interests,” Walker said. “They’re looking for ways to come at us. They’ll continue to do it. They did it two years ago in the recall election, they’re going to do it again now. We’ve got another tough election this fall and so they’re going to come at it with just about everything out there and the media—at least many in the media—are willing accomplices to this. But the facts of the case are pretty clear.”

TIME States

‘Criminal Scheme’ Will Haunt Scott Walker

The campaign finance rules are complicated, the political reality isn't

Correction appended, June 20

There’s one thing not under dispute in the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who now lies in the political equivalent of critical condition after disclosure of his alleged involvement in a “criminal scheme” to evade campaign finance laws: On May 4, 2011, Walker wrote an email to Karl Rove, the former White House aide and Republican strategist.

In that email, Walker boasted about the abilities of one of his political consultants, R.J. Johnson. “R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state,” Walker wrote.

The email matters because at the time Johnson was wearing a number of hats: He was a Walker advisor and a consultant to Walker’s own campaign, but he was also involved, sometimes with his wife, in other outside groups, like the Wisconsin Club For Growth and Citizens for a Strong America, which were supporting Walker. Another email obtained by prosecutors, which had been sent to Walker, described Johnson as having “coordinated spending through 12 different groups.”

From a distance, this looks bad. America’s campaign finance system is built upon a shaky assumption that there are two types of political spending: Spending controlled by candidates, which is heavily regulated, and spending that candidates do not control, which is far less regulated. In principle, the two pots of money must be kept separate, but in practice, those distinctions break down. Candidates intentionally send signals to direct the spending of outside groups, and donors make clear to candidates all they have given to help get them elected through third parties.

In the Walker case, there is an even further complicating factor: the meaning of what constitutes “political purposes” when it comes to coordination is contested. State prosecutors, according to their filings, have no doubt. They claim to have “established a concerted effort to circumvent Wisconsin’s campaign finance contribution prohibitions, limitations and disclosure requirements.” Under a state law allowing secret investigations, a state judge, who has since recused herself, issued subpoenas allowing the prosecutors to move forward with the case.

One federal judge, Ruldolph Randa, has since ruled that the coordination the prosecutors uncovered was not illegal since the outside groups only engaged in so-called issue advocacy—they did not expressly advocate Walker’s victory or defeat even though they clearly supported his efforts. Another state judge, Gregory Peterson, has made a similar ruling. But Peterson’s ruling is on appeal, leaving the law in doubt, and Randa’s ruling is now before a federal appeals court.

The same can be said for Walker, who will face reelection this fall, and is positioning himself for a 2016 presidential campaign. Elections, after all, rarely hinge on legal technicalities. They are about voter impressions, and “criminal scheme” is quite a phrase to overcome in a contested primary. Even if he skates criminal charges, he will now face the enormous task of explaining the byzantine technicalities of campaign finance law to the American public, which is predisposed, polls suggest, to believe that most candidates at all levels are bought and paid for by donors.

“This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law,” Walker said in a statement Thursday. “It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judge’s orders to end this investigation.”

The fate of the credibility of the nation’s campaign finance system is a different question altogether. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that there is virtually no risk of corrupting lawmakers as long as money is delivered to outside groups supporting the lawmakers, and not the lawmakers themselves. As the emails make clear, Walker was quite proud and deeply involved in monitoring the money being spent on his behalf by outside groups. The money helped his cause, and was directed by a close aide. Will Americans choose to believe that politicians in his position cannot be influenced by the donors who paid the bills?

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the nature of a federal appeals court ruling on a lawsuit seeking to block a state investigation into Scott Walker’s fundraising. It also incorrectly described the decisions by courts that have ruled on the issue of whether it is illegal for a candidate to coordinate with outside groups engaged only in issue advocacy.

TIME States

Prosecutors Say Wisconsin Governor at Center of ‘Criminal’ Fundraising Scheme

Wisconsin Republican Convention
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention on May 3, 2014, in Milwaukee. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

Legal setback for 2016 presidential hopeful

Prosecutors say Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising with conservative groups across the country, according to documents revealed on Thursday.

The documents were unsealed Thursday by order of a federal judge as part of a lawsuit that sought to block a secret state investigation, known as a “John Doe probe,” into the 2012 gubernatorial recall elections, which the incumbent Walker won. In the filing, the prosecutors say Walker, his chief of staff Keith Gilkes and another top adviser illegally coordinated with national conservative groups and national figures including GOP strategist Karl Rove. Rove’s assistant said he was traveling Thursday and couldn’t comment.

Walker, a potential Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential elections, has not been charged with a crime. In a statement, Walker decried the investigation as “partisan… with no basis in state law.”

“The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat District Attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false. In fact two judges, in both state and federal courts, have ruled that no laws were broken,
” he said.

The secretive investigation began in 2012 ahead of the gubernatorial recall election, when prosecutors began looking into whether independent conservative groups—which have no limit on their fundraising—illegally coordinated with campaigns for Walker and other state candidates, whose fundraising is much more regulated. But in May, a federal judge put the probe on hold, ruling that it was a breach of free-speech rights. That judge, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, also said in his ruling that that the type of coordination in question is not illegal if it focuses just on advocacy, and not on getting the candidates elected. A separate Wisconsin judge overseeing the probe had previously made a similar judgment.

The prosecutors are appealing Randa’s decision to halt the investigation.

But the controversy has the potential to disrupt Walker’s political ambitions, both in 2016 and in the fall. Walker, who is in the final months of his first term as governor, faces a close race for reelection. Polls show Walker and Democrat Mary Burke, a former Wisconsin state commerce secretary, locked in a tight race.

“Wisconsin has always been a clean-government state and allegations like this really resonate with voters,” said Scott Becher, a Wisconsin Republican political consultant turned public relations advisor.

Becher said that if Walker hopes to run in 2016, “voters of the state need to reelect him and he needs to have a good credible answer to what happened here.”

TIME States

Georgia Toddler Dies in Hot Car

The father of the 22-month-old was supposed to take him to day care on Wednesday, but went straight to work instead, leaving the child strapped in the hot car

An Atlanta-area toddler died Wednesday after being left in a car for hours, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The death comes amid a statewide campaign led by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to prevent child deaths in hot cars over the blazing summers.

The body was found Wednesday afternoon after the child’s father realized the 22-month-old had been strapped in a car seat all day. The dad was supposed to take the child to day care on Wednesday morning, but went directly to work instead. The high in Cobb County, the suburb where the child died, was 100 degrees.

The father stopped at a shopping-center parking lot to seek help, but the child did not survive. Authorities are reportedly questioning the father.

In late May, Deal launched the “Look Again” campaign, a partnership with early-education officials to warn adults that in “minutes the inside of your car can become a death trap for a child.”

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

TIME Transportation

Teen Airplane Stowaway: ‘I Could See Through the Little Holes’

Abdi has given his first interview since the April flight

A teen stowaway who survived a ride from California to Hawaii in a passenger jet’s wheel well earlier this year told a California CBS affiliate Tuesday that he randomly selected the plane in which he hid during the five-and-a-half hour flight.

The interview was Yahye Abdi’s first since his harrowing journey, which has dumbfounded medical professionals — people typically quickly lose brain function when more 35,000 feet above the ground without oxygen or pressurization systems.

Abdi told KPIX the ride wasn’t scary, though he couldn’t believe he survived. “It was above the clouds, I could see through the little holes,” the teen said.

Abdi, a 15-year-old Somali immigrant, says he ran away from home in April because he was unhappy in California with his stepmom. The teen also said he wanted to see his mother, as the two have not been with one another since Abdi was 7-years-old.

“I only did it because I didn’t want to live with my stepmom,” Abdi said. “Second of all, I wanted to find my mom. I haven’t seen her since I was young.”

“I took that plane because it was the closest one I could find that was going to go West,” he added. The teen is currently staying in a foster home, he plans to move to Minnesota to live with his aunt.

His advice for kids thinking about hopping on planes: “They shouldn’t run away, because sometimes they will end up dying.”

[KPIX]

TIME States

California Won’t Put Obesity Warnings on Sugary Drinks

Bloomberg—Getty Images

A bill that called for soda and other soft drinks to carry health warning labels died in the state Legislature Tuesday

Sugary soft drinks in California will not have to carry labels warning of diabetes, obesity and tooth decay after a bill died in the state Legislature on Tuesday, facing stark opposition from the food and beverage industry.

The measure, which would have required soda and other sweet beverages to advertise their negative health effects, passed the state Senate in May but failed on Tuesday in the Assembly’s health committee.

“Protecting the public’s health from the adverse effects of these products will help combat the diabetes and obesity epidemics in California,” said Democratic Senator Bill Monning, who failed last year to pass a measure enacting a tax on the drinks.

New research has shown that the overconsumption of carbohydrates, sugar and sweeteners is chiefly responsible for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, while the negative effects of fat have been greatly exaggerated.

(Read more in TIME’s June 23 cover story: Ending the War on Fat)

Public health advocates have proposed measures to fight rising obesity, and consumption of sugary drinks and junk food in states including California, Illinois and New York, but lawmakers have generally opposed regulations.

Illinois lawmakers rejected a soda tax in late May and a ban on large servings of sugary drinks proposed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was halted by a state judge last year.

[Reuters]

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