TIME States

Another States Moves to Criminalize ‘Revenge Porn’

Annmarie Chiarini, Jon Cardin, Danielle Keats Citron
In this Oct. 30, 2013 photo (from left), anti-revenge-porn campaigner Annmarie Chiarini, University of Maryland law professor Danielle Keats Citron and state Rep. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, are silhouetted during a news conference to announce a bill that would criminalize revenge porn in Baltimore. Chiarini got behind the cause after an ex-boyfriend took to the Internet to post nude images that she shared with him privately over the course of their relationship. After California and New Jersey passed laws outlawing revenge porn, an increasing number of states looking to follow suit. Patrick Semansky—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Colorado joins some two dozen other states working on legislation that would criminalize the nonconsensual online publication of sexual photos of a person specifically to humiliate or blackmail them

The ranks of states seeking to criminalize “revenge porn” has grown now that Colorado has embarked on the same path.

A bipartisan proposal from Colorado lawmakers sailed through the House Judiciary Committee with an 11-0 vote this week, setting the stage for a debate in front of the House, Reuters reports. Revenge porn refers to the posting of sexual images of a person online without their consent, in order to humiliate or blackmail that individual — often after a divorce or painful break-up. At least two dozen other states are currently working on legislation that would criminalize the practice.

In accordance with Colorado’s proposed law, publishing revenge porn would be categorized as a class-one misdemeanor.

“I’m pleased that Colorado is taking steps to protect victims of cyber crime,” said Republican Representative Amy Stephens, who sponsored the bill.

Last year, California became the first state to pass legislation that criminalizes revenge porn. New Jersey has since followed suit.

[Reuters]

TIME States

The Nevada Ranch Rebellion Takes a Racist Turn

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Cliven Bundy became an overnight icon for his refusal to pay the government to graze his cattle herd on public land in Nevada, but that stance lauded by some conservative media is becoming overshadowed by his recent pro-slavery comments

It doesn’t take much to mint an icon in this political climate. Cliven Bundy became one nearly overnight. The story of Bundy’s battle against federal bureaucrats fit neatly into a resonant narrative: the defiant land-owner taking a stand against government overreach.

As word of Bundy’s refusal to pay the federal government to graze his herd on public land spread, more than 1,000 armed sympathizers descended on his Nevada ranch in the desert outside of Las Vegas. When the U.S. Bureau of Land Management abandoned its effort to seize Bundy’s cattle, the rancher, 68, was celebrated as a hero in certain right-wing circles. Supporters compared the Battle of Bunkerville, Nev., to the American Revolution; there was even a hashtag, #AmericanSpring. With his ten-gallon hat and gruff rhetoric, Bundy was an irresistible symbol of a certain frontier ideal.

The reality was much different. Bundy’s herd of cattle has been illegally grazing on federal land for more than 20 years. He owes the government more than $1 million, which he refuses to pay because, he says, he does not recognize federal authority to collect it. While some conservative media outlets rushed to canonize Bundy, the vast majority of elected Republicans steered clear of the standoff, perhaps because the facts suggested Bundy was less a patriot than a deadbeat.

Or worse. Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Bundy digressed into a discussion of race. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, according to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times:

Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

These remarks will surely dim Bundy’s spotlight. The few national politicians who flocked to his cause have already denounced the remarks. Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who had praised Bundy’s supporters as “patriots,” released a statement Thursday morning calling his views on race “appalling.” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who said Bundy’s case raised a “legitimate constitutional question” about federal authority, called his remarks offensive. “I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said.

Conservative media and political outfits which had promoted Bundy’s cause fell silent. Fox News ignored the remarks, though journalist Greta Van Susteren, who has featured the story, released a statement condemning Bundy’s remarks. Americans for Prosperity’s Nevada branch, which also latched onto the ranch rebellion, condemned Bundy’s comments in a statement to TIME. “I think most people would agree that spending over a million dollars to chase ‘trespass cattle’ in the Nevada desert is a poor use of tax dollars,” says spokesman Zachary Moyle. “It’s important to note that our opposition to wasteful government spending in no way lends support to offensive remarks made by Mr. Bundy or anyone else.”

Calls to Bundy’s ranch and to a mobile phone belonging to his family went unanswered Thursday. Craig Leff, a spokesman for the BLM, told TIME the agency will “continue to pursue this matter administratively and judicially.” The Battle of Bunkerville is over. Now the backlash has begun.

This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. on April 24 to include comments from Americans for Prosperity

TIME Crime

Wisconsin Inks Bill to Prevent Parents From ‘Giving Away’ Adopted Children

Wisconsin Governor Mellencamp
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker answers questions from reporters on April 16, 2014, in Madison, Wis. Scott Bauer—AP

Wisconsin has passed a first-in-the-nation law that prevents parents from handing over custody of their adopted children without judicial approval

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law on Wednesday aimed at limiting private custody transfers of their unwanted adopted children following a disturbing report that detailed the unregulated trade of adopted minors in the state.

The legislation is a national first and was launched following a five-part Reuters investigation into the practice of “re-homing children.”

According to the news outlet’s expose, hundreds of parents were using social media sites to advertise their adopted children and were then handing them over to strangers found through the Internet.

Without proper safeguards in place, numerous children were being given to abusive adults, and in one disturbing instance a mother handed over her nine-year-old adopted son in a motel parking lot to a pedophile hours after posting a notice about the child on a Yahoo message board.

“With virtually no oversight, children could literally be traded from home to home. In Wisconsin, that is now against the law. Hopefully citizens of the country will follow our lead,” said Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who sponsored the legislation.

In accordance with the new law, parents seeking to transfer the custody of their children must receive judicial approval first. Those who fail to comply with the new regulation can face up to nine months in jail or be fined $10,000.

[Reuters]

TIME States

Judge Stays Ohio Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black agreed to stay his ruling that the state recognize same-sex marriages from out-of-state, citing the potential for confusion and high legal costs as Ohio appeals the order

A federal judge in Ohio stayed his ruling that the state must recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, though he carved out an exception for the four couples that originally filed suit against the state.

District Court Judge Timothy Black said he issued the stay for the benefit of the public because the state is planning to appeal his original decision, the Columbus Dispatch reports. “The federal appeals court needs to rule, as does the United States Supreme Court,” Black said, citing the potential for confusion and high legal costs if same-sex couples were to act on his ruling.

The state asked Black to stay his decision to avoid “premature” reactions from same-sex couples, such as traveling to other states to get married. The four couples’ attorneys argued the decision caused unnecessary harm because three of the couples are expecting children and want to name both parents on birth certificates. In Wednesday’s decision, Black said the state must recognize the marriages of the four couples that filed suit against the state. Three of the couples are Ohio residents and one couple lives in New York.

Judges have acted similarly in several cases where state bans on same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriage have been challenged.

[Columbus Dispatch]

TIME Health Care

Arizona Approves Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer makes a statement saying she vetoed the controversial SB1062 bill at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. On Tuesday, she signed a bill allowing snap inspections of the state's abortion clinics Samantha Sais —Reuters

A new piece of legislation signed by Arizona’s Republican Governor will allow health officials to conduct surprise inspections of the state’s nine abortion clinics

Health officials will be able to inspect Arizona’s abortion clinics without warrants after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law Tuesday.

The new law nullifies previous measures that required judges to approve any potential inspection of the state’s nine registered abortion clinics.

“This legislation will ensure that the Arizona Department of Health Services has the authority to appropriately protect the health and safety of all patients,” said the Governor’s spokesman Andrew Wilder, according to Reuters.

Pro-choice advocates said the Republican Governor’s decision as part of her sustained attack on women’s health.

“[Brewer] has been hostile to women’s health care, including abortion and family planning, since the day she took office,” the president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Bryan Howard, said in a statement following the passage of the bill.

Arizona joins ten other states that allow for similar snap inspections of abortion facilities.

[Reuters]

TIME States

The Armed Rebellion on a Nevada Cattle Ranch Could Be Just the Start

Protesters gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy was being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014.
Protesters gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle seized from rancher Cliven Bundy was being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

The Feds may have set a troubling precedent by allowing a Nevada rancher and his band of armed followers to win a standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The rancher refused to pay more than $1 million in fines for letting his cows graze on government land

It could have been a catastrophe. For several days last week, hundreds of angry protesters faced off with federal workers on an arid ranch near Bunkerville, Nev. Militiamen squatted among the sagebrush and crouched on a highway overpass, cradling guns and issuing barely veiled threats at the government officials massed behind makeshift barricades. The specter of a violent standoff hung over the high desert.

The hair-trigger tension seemed at odds with the arcane origins of the dispute. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided to clear privately owned cattle off this patch of public land to protect the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise. Dozens of ranchers left. Cliven Bundy stayed.

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Bundy, 68, has refused to recognize federal authority over the land, or to pay the feds for allowing his cattle to graze there. Those accumulated fees and fines now total more than $1 million, according to the government. Armed with fresh court orders, the government moved last week to impound a few hundred of the rancher’s cows.

Bundy balked, and the far right-wing media sounded a clarion call for his cause, casting the standoff as a flashpoint in a broader struggle against federal oppression. A cavalry of patriots arrived, bearing weapons and a seemingly bottomless grudge against the government.

On April 12, BLM retreated, abandoning the round-up amid “serious concerns” over the safety of federal employees. The cattle “gather is over,” BLM spokesman Craig Leff says. No shots were fired; no blood was spilled. Bundy declared victory in the Battle of Bunkerville. His supporters festooned a nearby bridge with a hand-lettered sign reading: “The West Has Now Been Won!”

For the government, it is not yet clear what was lost. The decision to de-escalate the situation was a wise one, according to officials familiar with the perils posed by such confrontation. “There was no need to have a Ruby Ridge,” says Patrick Shea, a Utah lawyer and former national director of BLM, invoking the bloody 1992 siege at a remote Idaho cabin, which became a rallying cry for the far right. Shea praises BLM’s new director, Neil Kornze, for defusing the conflict and skirting the specter of violence. There are plenty of ways for the government to recoup the money Bundy owes, Shea says, from placing liens on his property to collecting proceeds when the cattle go to slaughter. When you have been waiting a generation to resolve a dispute, what’s another few weeks?

But prudence may also set a dangerous precedent. Having backed down from one recalcitrant rancher, what does BLM do the next time another refuses to abide by the law? “After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million,” Kornze said in a statement. “The bureau will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.” A BLM spokesman would not say what those remedies might be, and declined to make officials available to explain how the agency may treat similar situations in the future.

The government’s legal case against Bundy is strong. It has been winning courtroom battles against the rancher since 1998, and over the past two years has obtained court orders requiring Bundy to remove his cattle from public lands. This month’s roundup was a long-threatened last resort, and Bundy’s success in spurning it could spark copycat rebellions.

“I’m very concerned about that, as I’m sure others are,” says Bob Abbey, a former BLM director and state director for Nevada. Nearly all ranchers whose animals graze on public land are in compliance with federal statutes, Abbey says. But “there always is a chance that someone else may look at what happened with Mr. Bundy and decided to take a similar route.”

Especially since Bundy has become something of a folk hero for people who resent federal control of the old American frontier. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of land, including about 60% of the territory across a swath of 12 Western states. About 85% of the land in Nevada is managed by the feds.

Bundy, whose ancestors have inhabited the disputed land since the 19th century, rejects this arrangement. The rancher, whose family did not respond to multiple interview requests from TIME, says he does not recognize federal authority over Nevada’s public land. “I abide by all state laws,” he said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But I abide by almost zero federal laws.” He has warned that the impoundment of his cattle would spark a “range war,” and said in a court deposition that he would attempt to block a federal incursion, using “whatever it takes.”

Likeminded libertarians in the West have resurrected the spirit of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a 1970s-era movement to transfer control of federal lands to the states. Demar Dahl, an Elko County, Nev., commissioner and longtime friend of Bundy, says the rancher is willing to pay the back fees he owes (though both dispute the amount) to the county or to the state, but not the federal government. “He says the federal government doesn’t have the authority to collect the fees,” Dahl says. “You can call him bullheaded. He’s a strong and moral person. He decides what needs to be done and how, and where he stands.”

To Bundy’s supporters, the legal proceedings are nothing but a land grab. And some of them believe government invoked the protection of the desert tortoise as a pretext. This line of thinking holds that Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader whose former aide, Kornze, now runs the BLM, wants to requisition the land so that his son and Chinese investors can build a lucrative solar farm. At the same time, the left sees in the resistance the ubiquitous hand of the Koch brothers, whose main political outfit, Americans for Prosperity, has rallied support for Bundy.

While the protesters have mostly dispersed, the standoff “isn’t over,” Reid declared Monday. And local officials know just how close they crept to a cataclysmic incident. “That was as close to a catastrophe as I think we’re ever going to see happen,” Dahl says.

The high drama seemed to stoke a sense of theatrics in the protesters. At a press conference on April 14, they invoked battles against the British and shouted quotes from the Scottish revolutionary William Wallace, memorialized in the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart. The men who rode to Bundy’s defense got to play the hero in the movies of their minds; the threat is that the next climax doesn’t have a peaceful ending.

Bundy “would probably rather be a martyr than a profitable rancher,” says Shea, the former BLM director. “Eventually, you have to draw the line. We go through these sad episodes where fanaticism has to be brought under legal control. And inevitably, somebody is killed.”

TIME States

Minnesota To Hike Minimum Wage To $9.50 By 2016

With the governor’s signature Monday, the state will go from having one of the lowest minimum wage rates in the country to one of the highest

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation Monday that will boost the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 by 2016, among the highest rates in the United States.

The bill was passed by the state legislature with only Democratic votes Thursday. Under the new law, Minnesota’s current minimum wage of $6.15 per hour, one of the lowest in the country, will rise by more than $3 gradually over the next few years, after which it will be tied to inflation, the Associated Press reports.

The minimum wage doesn’t affect smaller employers with gross sales under $500,000, though they too will have to pay employees at least $7.25 per hour by 2016. The law includes exceptions for teenagers and for people being trained into new positions. In all, roughly 325,000 people are expected to see a wage increase as a result of the law.

Minnesota joins states including Connecticut and Maryland in passing minimum wage legislation, as the effort to increase the federal minimum wage—currently $7.25 per hour—remains stalled in Congress.

[AP]

TIME States

Inside the Sriracha Factory Causing A Stink In California

The city council in Irwindale, Calif. voted Wednesday to declare the new factory a public nuisance, claiming the smell of chilies wafting out of the facility is upsetting local residents. Here's the view from the factory floor

The first thing you notice when you approach Huy Fong Foods’ factory in Irwindale, Calif. is not the smell of roasting chiles, but its sheer enormity of the building. The company, maker of the wildly popular Sriracha “Rooster” hot sauce, began moving from a smaller factory in a nearby town to its new 650,000-square-foot plant in 2011, betting that the time was right to switch from being the purveyor of a niche Asian product to maker of the next great American condiment.

They may be regretting that bet this week. The Irwindale city council voted Wednesday to declare the new factory a public nuisance, claiming the smell of chilies wafting out of the facility caused nearby residents to suffer breathing problems and bloody noses. The action came after the city filed an odor-related lawsuit against the company last year. Once the council adopts a resolution next month making the public nuisance designation official the company will have 90 days to contain the fumes.

But company owner David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant who founded Huy Fong Foods in 1980, has insisted the odor concerns are overblown — and indeed there are signs the controversy may be as manufactured as Sriracha itself.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which includes Irwindale, has never issued a citation to the company and Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the district, says that many of the 70 odor complaints the district had received as of April 7 came from just a handful of households. The first person to file a formal complaint was the relative of a city official, according to court documents. Atwood says inspectors from the district visited the Huy Fong Foods factory and determined the company was not in violation of current air quality regulations. If a smell is bad enough that the district would take action, he says, “You’re going to get dozens if not hundreds of complaints.”

That hasn’t happened yet, but the factory remains in danger of being shut down. Irwindale officials have even said they may have the right to install air-filtering equipment inside the factory and bill Huy Fong Foods for the expense.

Some locals seem baffled by all the fuss. Tania Bueno, who owns a salon a few blocks from the factory, told TIME in February she’s never detected an odor from the Huy Fong Foods factory. “None of my clients have mentioned any smells.” Tran recently opened his doors for public tours to allow Irwindale residents to decide for themselves how strong the smell is.

Meanwhile, Sriracha devotees, from hipsters to housewives to top American chefs, remain concerned that the famous hot sauce could disappear from store shelves and restaurant tables. On blogs and Twitters, fans last fall braced for the Great Sriracha Shortage of 2014 or even a #srirachapocalypse. Meanwhile, competitors are gearing up. Trader Joe’s now sells its own Sriracha sauce and even the maker of Tabasco has reportedly said the company is experimenting with a Sriracha-style condiment.

TIME justice

The Tennessee Senate Has Backed a Bill to Reinstate the Electric Chair

Aaron Dickson, President of the Board of Directors of the Texas Prison Museum stands on November 19,..
A file photo from November 19, 2002 of "Old Sparky," the Texas electric chair in which 361 killers were executed. Senators in Tennessee voted to reinstate the electric chair this week. STR New / Reuters

Lawmakers in the Volunteer State say the electric chair could be used to kill inmates on death row—there are currently 81—if their prisons are unable to secure the proper pharmaceuticals to perform lethal injections

Tennessee Senators overwhelming voted on Wednesday to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections.

In a 23-3 vote, the Senate approved the Capital Punishment Enforcement Act, tabled by Sen. Ken Yager, which would provide the state’s Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean.

A similar piece of legislation has reportedly been tabled in Tennessee’s House of Representatives.

The senatorial vote follows the Volunteer State’s decision last year to use the sedative pentobarbital as the lethal pharmaceutical agent to execute. States that rely on pentobarbital are increasingly having a difficult time procuring a steady source of the drug, as European pharmaceutical firms object to supplying their products to execute inmates.

Despite the passage of the bill, activists remained hopeful that the chair will not see active duty again in Tennessee.

Executive director for the Death Penalty Information Center Richard Dieter told Reuters that execution by electrocution is “painful and torturous,” which means the use of the chair would likely be challenged in court on the grounds that such a method violates the Constitution’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Tennessee currently has 81 inmates on death row.

[Reuters, The Tennessean]

TIME Environment

SeaWorld Will Keep Its Orcas for at Least Another Year

Baby Killer Whale Born At SeaWorld San Diego
A newborn baby killer whale swims with its mother on Dec. 21, 2004, at Shamu Stadium in SeaWorld San Diego Getty Images

Lawmakers disappointed animal-rights activists by tabling the so-called Blackfish bill for further study at a committee hearing in Sacramento. The study likely won't conclude for another 12 months

SeaWorld’s San Diego location will get to keep its 10 killer whales for the time being.

At a committee hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday, lawmakers heard impassioned arguments for and against a bill that would force SeaWorld San Diego to stop using orcas in its shows, but the issue never came to a vote. Instead, the committee recommended that the bill go through a detailed study that likely won’t conclude for another year.

The bill, introduced by Los Angeles–area state-assembly member Richard Bloom, would make it unlawful to hold any wild orca in captivity for entertainment or performance purposes, as well as breed orcas in captivity. All orcas held in captivity before the bill was passed would be returned to the wild if possible and to “sea pens” if not.

Hundreds of people flooded the hearing room in support of the bill, having arrived from all over California. Some were associated with groups like the Humane Society or local unions, while others were simply individuals who opposed keeping large mammals in captivity. “We are the voice for the voiceless,” one supporter said, a phrase that was repeated or paraphrased by many at the hearing. “You have the power to free these animals,” another said to the committee members. “Please do so.”

Representatives from SeaWorld and opponents of the bill argued that the money generated from millions of visitors to the parks helps support the much larger population of orcas in the wild and generates interest in marine life, providing close encounters between people and whales that would be unlikely otherwise.

Bloom introduced the bill after seeing the controversial film Blackfish, a 2013 documentary about the consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity, which has led to death in some cases. The team from SeaWorld has fought back against the perspective of the film and at the hearing called it “dominated by falsehoods.” The parks have 29 orcas throughout the world.

The decision to study the bill further was not the desired result for animal-rights activists, but some saw it as only a temporary setback. “The writing is on the sea wall,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “The public has learned how orcas suffer psychologically, succumb to premature deaths, and lash out in frustration and aggression in SeaWorld’s orca pits, and they’ve responded with lower attendance levels, public protests, and legislation. SeaWorld can take the year to figure out how to release the orcas into ocean sanctuaries.”

Bloom’s office would have preferred a favorable vote that would keep the bill moving through the California legislature and toward Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, but his chief of staff, Sean MacNeil, says the study period will also allow for more public hearings and discussion about the issue. “The study, in many ways, can serve as an opportunity,” he said.

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