TIME

States That are Cheating Death

Where you live can help determine how long you'll live.

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The only sure things in life are death and taxes, and now your home state might control both of them. A report in the Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report this week analyzed premature deaths from the five leading causes – heart disease, cancer, lower respiratory illnesses, stroke and unintentional injuries – by state and found that 40% of them were preventable.

The fact that we can do better in avoiding early death isn’t news, given that we’re fond of some unhealthy habits, including smoking, eating lots of fat, sugar and salt and not exercising enough, but what’s surprising is that where you live plays such a large role in determining how likely you are to die early from a preventable cause. Living in states in the southeast, for example, can increase your chances of dying prematurely from each of the five leading causes than living in certain western states. Different regional lifestyles certainly play a part, but the availability of health-related programs such as screening for cancer and blood pressure, and safe places to exercise, can also help to bring preventable death rates down. Living healthy is half the battle in avoiding an early death, and living in the right state can be the other.

TIME States

Florida Inches Closer to Passing Immigrant In-State Tuition Bill

Florida senators voted in favor of a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for the same in-state tuition rate at public universities that U.S. citizens do. Representatives are due to approve several minor changes before Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it into law

Florida is on track to be the latest state to offer the children of undocumented immigrants residential rates on tuition at public universities, after a bill cleared the senate on Thursday.

Following a highly charged debate on the floor where lawmakers quoted the likes of Langston Hughes and Aristotle, Florida senators voted 26-13 in favor of the legislation, according to the Associated Press. If the bill is signed into law, Florida would be the 20th state in the Union to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Governor Rick Scott called the passage of the bill through the senate “historic.”

“It’s an exciting day for every student that dreams of a college education,” he said at an impromptu press conference. “Children who grow up in this state now get the same tuition as their peers.”

Scott is up for re-election at the end of the year but currently lags 10 points behind his Democratic opponent and former governor Charlie Crist, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. Analysts say he is attempting to curry favor with the state’s large Latino population.

And more than a dozen fellow Republicans were less than enthused about potentially losing out on an estimated $50 million if the bill is implemented.

“I know it feels good giving benefits away,” said Republican Senator Aaron Bean. “We are giving so many benefits to noncitizens … Does it matter even being an American citizen anymore?”

The bill is now headed back to the house, where representatives will vote to approve the minor changes in the senate before it is sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

If approved, undocumented students would pay the same tuition rates as residents if they have attended a Florida school for at least three years prior to graduating from high school.

[AP]

TIME States

Mass.gov Apologizes for Tweeting ‘Sexual Assault Is Always Avoidable’

The tweet, which came at the end of Sexual Assault Awareness month, said that "sexual assault is always avoidable." Many accused @MassGov of victim blaming, but a state government official said there was "no malicious intent behind the tweet"

Massachusetts officials apologized Thursday for an offensive tweet about sexual assault sent from the government Twitter account.

“Sexual assault is always avoidable,” the Wednesday night tweet from @MassGov read, according to ABC. Many accused @MassGov of victim blaming. “The only person to blame for rape is the rapist,” one woman wrote on Twitter.

The tweet was later deleted.

On Thursday, the twitter account posted a series of tweets apologizing:

The Mass.gov director Geoffrey Kula issued a statement Thursday explaining how exactly the tweet went out and what action would be taken against the tweeter:

In this instance, the author of the sexual assault awareness tweet did not send this tweet to the editorial gatekeeper for review, and instead scheduled the tweet independently. Having spoken with the author this morning, it is clear there was no malicious intent behind the tweet; the tweet inaccurately summarized the content in the linked-to blog post, which discussed services available for victims of sexual assault. The tweet author agrees that perpetrators of sexual assault are always at fault, and it was never the author’s intent to blame victims for crimes perpetrated. The author has agreed to participate in sexual assault awareness training.

The incident comes at the end of Sexual Assault Awareness month and just when the Obama administration is doubling down on efforts to prevent sexual assault on campus. Today, the Department of Education released the names of 55 colleges facing Title IX sexual assault investigations.

TIME States

Gas Explosion at Pensacola Jail Kills 2, Injures More Than 100

A gas explosion ripped through a Florida correctional facility after severe rains deluged the southeast, killing two and injuring more than 100 inmates and staff. More than 400 other inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties

A gas explosion at a Pensacola jail killed at least two and injured more than 100 inmates and correctional staff Wednesday night — one day after historic floodwaters devoured roads and ruined homes across the panhandle.

The explosion reportedly erupted at about 11 p.m. local time near the facility’s book center, causing part of the structure to collapse, according to the Associated Press. There’s no word if the accident was caused by the week’s heavy storms, which did flood portions of the jail.

The injured were taken to hospitals and more than 400 uninjured inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties.

On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 counties and called on state and local agencies to respond rapidly to the needs of affected families.

“We’re continuing to work with local leaders on the ground to give them the support they need to keep families safe and get them back on their feet,” he said in a statement.

“To support our local leaders, early this morning I instructed the National Guard to deploy 24 high-water vehicles to the impacted counties to assist with rescue and recovery operations.”

At least one woman in Pensacola, Florida, died after her car was swept into a drainage ditch, according to authorities.

On Tuesday night, more than 15 in. of rain fell before midnight at Pensacola Airport — setting a new record for the rainiest single day in the area.

“We’ve seen flooding before, but never flooding that washes the back of a house away,” said CNN iReporter Matt Raybourn of Pensacola. “There are no words for what we are seeing here.”

Elsewhere in Escambia County, local officials responded to 281 emergencies while fire rescue teams answered more than 266 pleas for help on Wednesday. According to the county’s official website, the local 911 dispatch received more than 4,000 calls between the start of the emergency at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The behemoth three-day storm system cut through large swaths of the Great Plains and South as tornadoes, hail and floods left more than 30 people dead.

TIME Drugs

Rocky Mountain High: Colorado Symphony Unrolls ‘Classical Cannabis’ Series

Denver Marijuana Celebration
Partygoers dance and smoke pot on the first of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver on April 19, 2014 Brennan Linsley—AP

In a bid to attract a new and younger listenership, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is staging special summer concerts at which the audience will be encouraged to roll up and toke on the state’s now legal marijuana

In a bid to attract a new and younger listenership, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is staging a summer classical-music series in Denver at which the audience will be encouraged to toke up on the state’s now legal weed while enjoying the orchestra’s beautiful repertoire.

Billed as “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series,” the program is being sponsored by a number of companies hailing from the state’s burgeoning, four-month-old marijuana industry.

Organizers point out, however, that pot will not be sold at the shows, which are strictly Bring Your Own Cannabis.

Promoters are hoping the BYOC events will give a financial boost to an orchestra that has been long plagued by financial setbacks.

“Part of our goal is to bring in a younger audience and a more diverse audience, and I would suggest that the patrons of the cannabis industry are both younger and more diverse than the patrons of the symphony orchestra,” CSO executive director Jerry Kern told the Denver Post.

However, some classical-music fans are not quite as convinced that bud and Beethoven make appropriate bedfellows.

“I know that the symphony needs new sponsors, and they are trying to go after a younger group,” local-event organizer Judith Inman told the Associated Press. “I just don’t think this is the way to go about it.”

Maybe not. But then again, marijuana has often been used to make very long, complex pieces of music more palatable. Just ask any Grateful Dead fan.

TIME States

Lone Mississippi Abortion Clinic Fights Closure

The Jackson Women's Health Organization is fighting a Mississippi law that would shutter the state's last standing abortion clinic

The operators of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic appeared in federal court Monday to fight a 2012 state law that would force its closure—which would make Mississippi the first state in the 41 years since Roe v. Wade to not have an abortion provider.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is challenging HB 1390, which stipulates that all physicians in the state who perform abortions have admitting privileges at hospitals. Although doctors at the bright-pink colored clinic have repeatedly applied for privileges, they have been denied for reasons ranging from religion to desire to avoid controversy.

“Some we received no response from, but the ones that we did, they made reference to the fact that because the care we provide is related to abortion, they felt it might be disruptive to the internal politics, as well as the external politics, for the hospital,” Dr. Willie Parker, a plaintiff in the case, told NPR. Parker files to Jackson from Chicago every week to be one of two doctors to perform the abortions.

A different three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar law in Texas last year, causing one-third of its clinics to close.

Lawyers on both sides have been arguing about the constitutionality of the law.

“Women across the state will be plunged back into the dark days of back-alley procedures that Roe was supposed to end,” Julie Rikelmann, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights fighting on behalf of the clinic, said in a statement. “This is a blatant violation of women’s constitutional rights and an imminent danger to their health and well-being.”

“It seems to me you’ve got a steep hill to climb when you say the only clinic in the state is closing,” Judge E. Grady Jolly told attorney Paul Barnes of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the Associated Press reports. But Barnes told the three-judge panel that while the Supreme Court says the constitution allows for the right to an abortion, it doesn’t allow for the right on an unsafe one.

[AP]

TIME States

Minneapolis to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day On Columbus Day

The city will commemorate the country's indigenous natives on the second Monday in October, the same day as Columbus Day, in order to honor the "more accurate historical record" of Columbus's 1492 discovery

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted on Friday to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the same date as Columbus Day in the future.

The federal, state and city governments will continue to recognize Columbus Day on the second Monday in October, according to the resolution, but now the city will also recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day.

Christopher Columbus is frequently credited with discovering America, though his arrival to what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1492 — Columbus never landed on present-day continental United States — led to the enslavement and extermination of millions of native Taino people.

Plans for a holiday dedicated to celebrating indigenous people began in 1977, when a United Nations delegation of native nations first proposed the idea.

“For me, it’s been almost 50 years that we’ve been talking about this pirate [Columbus],” civil rights activist Clyde Bellecourt told Al Jazeera America.

Minneapolis is the first city in the state to officially recognize an alternative to Columbus Day.

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]

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