TIME russia

Chinese, Russian Media Turn Criticisms Back on U.S.

Police Shooting Missouri
A man is arrested as police try to disperse a crowd during protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 20, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

"China gets criticized so much by the West that when something like this happens, it's convenient to offer a countercriticism"

(BEIJING) — Chinese and Russian state media have seized on the U.S. police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old and ensuing protests to fire back at Washington’s criticisms of their own governments, portraying the United States as a land of inequality and brutal police tactics.

The violence in the St. Louis, Missouri, suburb of Ferguson comes amid tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, as well as friction between Washington and Beijing over what China sees as a campaign to thwart its rise as a global power.

Both countries have chafed under American criticism of their autocratic political systems — China and Russia tightly control protests and jail dissidents and demonstrators — and the events in Ferguson provided a welcome opportunity to dish some back.

“China gets criticized so much by the West that when something like this happens, it’s convenient to offer a counter-criticism,” said Ding Xueliang, an expert on Chinese politics at Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology.

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 at the hands of a white police officer has inflamed racial tensions in the predominantly black suburb of Ferguson, where the police force is mostly white. Violent confrontations between police and protesters followed, in which tear gas, flash grenades and Molotov cocktails were exchanged.

A tartly-worded editorial in China’s Global Times newspaper on Tuesday said that while an “invisible gap” still separated white and black Americans, countries should deal with their problems in their own way without criticizing others.

“It’s ironic that the U.S., with its brutal manner of assimilating minorities, never ceases to accuse China and countries like it of violating the rights of minorities,” said the popular tabloid, published by the ruling Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily.

The Xinhua News Agency ran a similar commentary, tossing in references to enduring racism, National Security Agency spying and drone attacks abroad.

“Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others,” Xinhua said.

U.S. criticisms of China center on attacks on political critics, along with heavy-handed policies toward minorities, especially Tibetans and the Muslim Uighur ethnicity from the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Washington also chides Russia over its intolerance of dissent and has joined the European Union in imposing sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for Ukrainian separatists.

Both China and Russia have invested heavily in state-controlled news outlets to project their own version of events.

In Russia, state television station Rossiya emphasized the use of force in dispersing protesters in Ferguson, sending the underlying message to Russians that the security forces in the democratic West are no less brutal or tolerant of protest than in Russia. Shots of rampaging protesters also seemed meant as a warning of the dangers of allowing protests to get out of control.

In Monday’s broadcast, a reference to recent U.S. military interventions was thrown in for good measure.

“Everything looked as if it were a military operation somewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq,” said reporter Alexander Khristenko. “Forming themselves into their own kind of fist, the police slowly moved forward, clearing the street, and the people saved themselves by running into residential areas.”

Like Rossiya, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV sent a reporter to report live from Ferguson — something unthinkable in the case of similar unrest in China. It also ran clips from U.S. talk shows blasting the police action and quoted African-American political commentator Richard Fowler saying social injustice was worsening.

“I don’t think it’s just African-Americans. I think what you have is a continued fight between the haves and the have-nots,” Fowler said.

Russia’s always-bellicose Russia Today channel ran an interview with U.S. professor and government critic Mark Mason, who called the Ferguson protests an outgrowth of income inequality and the militarization of American police forces.

“The police protect the Wall Street bankers, who own the City Hall, the City Council, the State House, the Federal government, the president of the U.S. and the Congress,” Mason told the channel.

There were also distinctions between the Russian and Chinese coverage, reflecting domestic concerns and the state of their relations with Washington.

While Russia and the U.S. have feuded bitterly and publicly, Beijing has sought to cultivate a stable relationship with Washington in which it is treated as an equal partner. Unlike in Russia, the U.S. is also widely admired by the Chinese public, who’ve made it a top choice for overseas education, investment and emigration.

China maintains an official policy of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and says criticisms should be made in private. Too much open vitriol could undermine that position, and apart from the opinion pieces, Chinese media’s coverage of Ferguson has been relatively straight-forward.

The issues of racism and social unrest are also delicate one for China, which has been shaken by a rising number of protests and a string of violent incidents blamed on Uighur radicals seeking to shake offChinese rule over Xinjiang. Critics say the ensuing security crackdown has led to widespread abuses, including the killing of civilians.

The danger is that overplaying its criticism of the U.S. could open the window for more critical self-reflection among Chinese citizens, especially minority groups, Ding said. “They want to avoid holding an unintended public education campaign.”

The government is aware of that and is likely muting its coverage of Ferguson to avoid comparisons with Xinjiang, said Qiao Mu, director of Beijing Foreign Studies University’s Center for International Communications Studies.

“They’re wary of collateral damage, of tainting themselves,” Qiao said.

— Associated Press writer Lynn Berry contributed to this report from Moscow

TIME Infectious Disease

A Patient Is Being Tested for Ebola at a California Hospital

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Getty Images

The hospital has not divulged details of the patient or stated if the patient has recently been in West Africa, the disease's epicenter

An unnamed patient has been admitted to a hospital in Sacramento over possible exposure to the Ebola virus, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“We are working with the Sacramento County Division of Public Health regarding a patient admitted to the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus,” Dr. Stephen M. Parodi, an infectious-diseases specialist and director of the hospital’s operations, said in a statement.

He said patient samples had already been collected and sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing. The hospital has also taken the necessary precautions to protect other patients, staff and doctors.

“This includes isolation of the patient in a specially equipped negative pressure room and the use of personal protective equipment by trained staff, coordinated with infectious disease specialists,” said Parodi.

The hospital did not give details about the patient, state when the patient was admitted, or say if the patient had recently been in West Africa, the Chronicle reported.

The world’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak has swept through several countries in West Africa and has killed more than 1,200 people since the first case was reported in Guinea in December of last year.

Two American aid workers, who contracted the disease in Liberia, returned to the U.S. for treatment earlier this month.

[San Francisco Chronicle]

TIME U.S.

Ferguson Pastor: How to Handle a Confrontation With the Police

The Rev. Willis Johnson confronts 18-year-old Joshua Wilson as protesters defy police and block traffic on West Florissant Avenue at Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 13, 2014.
The Rev. Willis Johnson (right) talks to 18-year-old Joshua Wilson as protesters defy police and block traffic on West Florissant Avenue at Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 13, 2014. Sid Hastings—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Within African-American communities and families, “the talk” is too often a cautionary tale

Every parent has had “the talk” at some time or another. All of us, no matter what our socioeconomic situation, race or ethnicity, have sat across from our children and shared with them what to do or how to behave when faced with the sometimes troubling realities of life. There is no script that tells us what to say, where to stand or how to feel. Despite this, as parents know, we try to equip our children for when these inevitable yet unpredictable situations arise.

As a pastor and community leader in Ferguson, Missouri, I have tried to keep protestors out of harm’s way. Within African-American communities and families, “the talk” too often has been a cautionary tale of how to respond to the police – how to navigate the precarious relations between citizens and those who are supposed to protect and serve the community.

Like many young men, when I was beginning to drive, my father sat me down and told me what to do if ever pulled over by the police. I was to present myself respectfully and do whatever was asked of me in order to remove myself from the immediate situation—to get out of harm’s way. He also taught me to be observant, and to get a badge number or an officer’s name if possible so that there would be a means to protect myself should it come to that. Unfortunately, I have had to use my father’s instructions throughout my life. I have been stopped while driving as a teen, as a university student, and just weeks ago.

My own experiences with the police are not much different from that of anyone else. I have been pulled over for just cause. Who hasn’t? But the reality is that you do not have to have done anything wrong to be stopped. Most recently, an officer followed me for about a quarter of a mile before turning on his siren lights. I was stopped for not having two license plates and got off with a warning. But throughout this encounter, I replayed my father’s instructions in my mind.

Anytime I am pulled over, I turn down my music and sit still. I make my hands visible. While I look in the direction of the officer, I rarely make eye contact. I usually have my ID, registration and insurance card ready. But if I don’t, I ask permission to reach into my console before doing so. Through my body language, I try to show deference to the officer. And I will often share that I am a pastor, to try to diffuse the situation. However, even that has the potential to be received as dangerous. A sharp mind can be considered a threat to the police.

Most people think you must have done something in order to be stopped. But that is not always the case. My father’s advice and the advice of many parents is don’t give the police probable cause. Don’t even put yourself in the situation where police can get handcuffs on you because they will put them on as tight as they can. Because if they stop you for anything, they will find something.

The talk my father gave me as a teen was a natural progression of regular talks that began as a small boy. The earliest version of this talk was to simply follow directions. His advice helped shape my encounters with police, and I have drawn on his wisdom in my own conversations with my children, especially my teenage son. And I know it will not be the last conversation I have with either my son or daughter on the subject. This is our reality.

My conversations with my children focus on ways in which they might be able to succeed and thrive in a challenging world, not just on surviving a particular situation. Our talks are about recognizing the dangers lurking around the corner, while also creating a way of being in the world. Above all else, these talks are about my desire to protect my children.

Situations like the one we face in Ferguson are not isolated incidents in our country, or even our world. For so many families across the country, these conversations are a regular occurrence. My role as a pastor and community leader is to not tell people what to think, but to encourage them to ask questions and to use the community as a resource. There is no one-size-fits-all guide. The talk I have with my children will sound different than yours. If you do not know where to begin, seek out faith communities, veteran parents, social workers and teachers in your school system. There are people willing to guide you through this rite of passage.

There is a whole lot of talk going on right now. The shooting of Michael Brown has fueled conversation at the national level. At some point, the cameras and reporters will go home and the headlines about Ferguson will recede. And parents will still sit across from their children and begin “the talk.” As a human being, and as a citizen, pastor and father, I am invested in what that conversation sounds like. I think you should be, too.

A third-generation educator, Dr. F. Willis Johnson is senior minister of the Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominately African-American intergenerational urban church plant. He was educated at United Theological Seminary in Dayton.

TIME Iran

One Result of the Gaza Conflict: Iran and Hamas Are Back Together

Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian ambassadors abroad during a ceremony in Tehran, Aug. 13, 2014.
Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian ambassadors abroad during a ceremony in Tehran, Aug. 13, 2014. EPA

Iran and Hamas were once tightly allied, but the Syrian war drove them apart. Now, after the Gaza conflict, the two sides are making up

Correction appended, 8/19/14

Long considered to be the biggest sponsor of Islamic militants battling Israel and designated as terrorist groups by the United States, Iran’s relationship with the Palestinian group Hamas was once touted as among its strongest. Not only had Iran brought Hamas on board the so-called Axis of Resistance, alongside its other regional allies Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah, but the Islamic Republic had always publicly boasted of its wide ranging support for the group, from providing financial backing to shipping weapons.

However, when the Arab Spring spread into Syria in 2011, the majority Shiite Iran’s long-standing alliance with Hamas deteriorated significantly when the militant group opted to break step with Tehran and support the mainly Sunni rebels against Syria’s Bashar Assad. The falling-out came to a head when the political leaders of Hamas moved their base from Syria to Qatar, a regional rival of Iran.

In retaliation Iran, Syria and Hezbollah reportedly ended their support for Hamas in all fields, effectively ousting it from their Axis of Resistance and cutting off one of Hamas’ most vital lifelines. “The Iranians are not happy with our position on Syria, and when they are not happy, they don’t deal with you in the same old way,” the deputy political leader of Hamas Moussa Abu Marzouk in February 2012, according to the Associated Press.

When the latest battle between Hamas and Israel, called the Zionist Regime in Tehran, flared up in early July, Iran initially remained relatively quiet, though it denounced Israel for the loss of life among civilians. But the number of Palestinian casualties grew, including many children and women, attracting significant international attention and sympathy. (As of Aug. 10 nearly 2,000 Palestinians had been killed according to the UN, along with 66 Israelis.) For Iran, the Gaza conflict was seen as an opportunity to improve its standing in the Islamic world, which had suffered—especially among Sunnis—thanks to its steadfast support of Assad.

Seeking to take advantage of this opportunity and to regain its position as the foremost supporter of the Palestinian militant groups battling Israel—and to reconcile with Sunni Muslims throughout the Middle East—a significant number of Iranian officials have now gone on the record to voice their support for Hamas, the main militant group in Gaza, over its latest battle with Israel. “We are prepared to support the Palestinian resistance in different ways,” said the commander of the revolutionary guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafaria, during a speech on Aug. 4, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. “Just as until now any show of strength in Palestine which caused the defeat of Zionists has its roots in the support of the Islamic Revolution [of Iran].”

The first sign of this shift came on July 29, when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, praised the resistance against Israel in a speech, calling on the Islamic world to equip Palestinians according to his official website Khamenei.ir. Two days later Khamenei was echoed by one of Iran’s top military officers, Major General of the Guards Qasem Soleimani, who commands the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guardians Corps. Soleimani published a rare public letter to the “Political leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the resistance,” lauding their continued efforts against Israel. The letter promised that Iran “will continue to perform our religious duty to support and help the resistance till the moment of victory when the resistance will turn the earth, the air and the sea into hell for Zionists,” according to the official IRNA news agency.

That was followed by numerous officials, MPs and military figures, all issuing statements in support of Hamas, and echoing Khamenei’s call for unity among Muslims. “In our defence of Muslims we see no difference between Sunni and Shiite,” said General Jafari, the commander of the guards, in an Aug. 4 speech. Some even promised a supply of weapons to Hamas, which has been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. “You will get the weapons and ammunition you need no matter how hard it might be to do so,” said Mohsen Rezaei, the former wartime commander of the revolutionary guards in a public letter to the commander of the military wing of Hamas Mohammed Deif, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

With Iran already deeply involving in shoring up the Iraqi and Syrian governments against militant Sunni groups, it is doubtful that these promises of support and weapons for Hamas could be fulfilled anytime soon, and while the Islamic Republic is also striving to break the impasse in its nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and other powers, arming militant groups against Israel, America’s main ally in the region, could be potentially disruptive for those talks. But in his letter to Deif, Rezaei tried to address that doubt, writing that “Israel is mistaken in its belief that the instabilities in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, and the pressure on Iran from the United States’ economic blockade has given them an opportunity.”

In the meantime Iran has continued its charm offensive on Sunni Muslims. The head of the influential State Expediency Council, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, met with Iran’s top Sunni clerics and activists recently, and called for unity among all Muslims. Promising them that Iran intended to support and defend all Abrahamic religions and sects—Rafsanjani condemned any act that could cause divisions among Muslims. Backing up that position, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced on Aug. 3 that it had shut down the offices and arrested the staff of four extremist Shiite satellite channels that regularly incite intolerance and hatred against other Islamic sects, especially Sunnis.

Hamas—which has been politically isolated since its last remaining backer, former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, was removed from power—has welcomed reconciliation with its old ally and benefactor. Hamas’ official representative to Iran, Khalid al-Qoddoumi, reportedly said on Aug. 9 that Iranians “have always been the first in line to help and support our people.” Reports from the semiofficial ISNA news agency also indicate that a long postponed visit to Iran by the head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, is set to happen soon. For Israel, the ongoing conflict in Gaza has had one more unexpected and unwelcome outcome: Iran and Hamas are together again.

Correction: Because of an editing error, the date of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry’s announcement that it had shut down the offices and arrested the staff of four extremist Shiite satellite channels was misstated. It was Aug. 3.

TIME Iraq

ISIS to U.S.: ‘We Will Drown All of You in Blood’

The militants are on the defensive following a series of successful U.S. airstrikes

The Sunni extremist group that is ravaging large swaths of northern Iraq has warned it will attack Americans “in any place” should U.S. airstrikes kill any of its members, Reuters reports.

American airstrikes began earlier this month in an attempt to help thousands of people—members of the Yazidi, an ethnic minority in the region—who were trapped on a mountain range by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). President Barack Obama formally told Congress on Sunday that he had sanctioned additional air raids, though he said they would be limited. The new strikes, requested by the Iraqi government, were intended to help Iraqi and Kurdish security forces who had been battling the militants for control of the strategic Mosul Dam. Aided by U.S. air support, these troops successfully recaptured it on Aug. 18.

U.S. Central Command said at least 14 airstrikes were conducted on Sunday, and had successfully damaged or destroyed ISIS vehicles and one of its checkpoints. The group’s latest missive might reflect its anger towards the U.S., whose aerial support has allowed the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim some of the territory that ISIS had seized in a lightning offensive in June.

Reuters adds that the purported ISIS video shows an image of an American, who was beheaded during the U.S.-led war in Iraq that ended in 2011. The 45-second film also shows people being shot by snipers and vehicles being blown up. Near the start of the clip, the group’s black flag appears next to an American one. A message, in English, then flashes up: “We will drown all of you in blood.” A crude splatter of blood then appears on the U.S. flag to emphasize the point.

The militants have focused on territorial gains in parts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, claiming them in its bid to establish a caliphate, or an Islamic state. But unlike al-Qaeda, which deemed this off-shoot too extreme, ISIS has not yet directly attacked the West.

[Reuters]

TIME Iraq

Kurdish Fighters Partially Retake Vital Iraqi Dam

Mideast Iraq
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter patrols near the Mosul Dam at the town of Chamibarakat outside Mosul, Iraq on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. Khalid Mohammed—AP

Peshmerga forces appear to have partially captured the Mosul Dam from Sunni extremists, with support from U.S. air strikes and Iraqi commandos

Kurdish forces pushed deeper into territory held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) throughout Sunday and regained partial control over the strategically vital Mosul Dam as U.S. warplanes launched fresh sorties against the Sunni insurgents from the skies.

The U.S. Central Command confirmed that American aircraft launched at least 14 strikes against ISIS-manned armor, checkpoints and heavy weaponry positioned near the dam on the Tigris River in northern Iraq.

“These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces as they work together to combat [ISIS],” read a statement released by U.S. military officials. The aerial onslaught follows at least nine separate air strikes launched against ISIS positions earlier on Saturday.

It is seen as vital that the dam not be in ISIS hands, because the Sunni insurgents could either use it to choke off water supplies to the capital, Baghdad, and areas south of it, or they could destroy it and unleash catastrophic floods.

President Barack Obama authorized the use of American airpower against ISIS fighters on Aug. 8 following the group’s offensive blitz into Kurdish territory earlier this month. The strikes are the first such military incursion into Iraq since U.S. forces withdrew from the country in 2011 and were successful in alleviating the siege of Mount Sinjar.

However, analysts argue that U.S. involvement in Iraq may not be as limited as the Obama Administration hopes.

“For a President who wanted to leave [Iraq] and had the strong backing of his people, [Obama]’s now very much in Iraq, and I think the U.S. commitment and direct engagement in Iraq is going to be long term,” Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, tells TIME. “It’s not going to be easy to dislodge [ISIS], both militarily or even in the hearts and minds of Sunni Iraqis.”

Meanwhile, across the border in Syria, forces loyal to embattled President Bashar Assad launched their own strikes against ISIS’s stronghold in Raqqa.

The onslaught by the Syrian air force reportedly killed 31 militants along with eight civilians, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The regime wants to show the Americans that it is also capable of striking [ISIS],” Rami Abdel Rahman, the group’s director, told AFP.

ISIS forces currently control vast swaths of territory along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers spanning northeastern Syria across the border into western and northern Iraq. The group is currently fighting on multiple fronts against Kurdish militias, the Iraqi army, forces loyal to the Assad regime and opposition rebels in Syria in a bid to consolidate its self-declared Islamic caliphate.

TIME Workplace & Careers

More Than a Third of Americans Have No Retirement Savings

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Trout—Getty Images

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young Americans are the least prepared

More than a third of people in the United States have no retirement savings at all, according to a new survey.

The survey, commissioned by Bankrate.com, found that 14% of Americans ages 65 and older are without a nest egg, USA Today reports. For the 50-to-64 age group, the proportion is 26%, while 33% of those aged 30 to 49 have nothing put aside. In total, 36% of Americans haven’t put aside a dime for retirement.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young Americans are the least prepared, with 69% of the 18-to-29 age group having no retirement savings.

“The key to a successful retirement is to save early and aggressively,” Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, told USA Today.

Some Americans are heeding that advice. The same survey found that 32% of people ages 30 to 49 began saving for retirement in their 20s, while 16% started in their 30s.

[USA Today]

TIME diplomacy

Reports: Germany Recorded Hillary Clinton Conversation

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif on July 23, 2014.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif on July 23, 2014. AP

The revelation is a potential embarrassment to Angela Merkel, who has decried American spying

German intelligence agents intercepted and recorded Hillary Clinton in conversation as she traveled aboard a United States government plane while she was Secretary of State to Barack Obama, three German media outlets reported Friday. Agents intercepted the conversation “by accident,” according to reports citing unnamed government sources by broadcasters NDR and WDR, along with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The revelation was among the more than 200 documents that a German spy, identified only as “Markus R.”, allegedly passed to the CIA.

The news, which comes as relations between the U.S. and Germany have soured over allegations that the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has the potential to embarrass the German government. As recently as last month, Merkel condemned alleged U.S. spying on Germany, stating, “I would see this as a clear contradiction to what I understand as trusting cooperation of intelligence services as well as of partners.”

U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff of Denis McDonough, have allegedly confronted their German counterparts on the recording.

The specific time and location of the recording remain unclear.

[NDR]

TIME U.S.

Why Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Is a Waste of Taxpayer Money

Drug Test
Matej Divizna—Getty Images

States already do a good job of ensuring no one gets a "free ride." We don't need another one--especially one that stimgatizes

The tired image of the welfare queen with six kids, driving around in a Cadillac, watching soap operas on an expensive television and eating junk food on the couch has had its day.

It is 2014, years into the Great Recession, and millions have been helped by hundreds of social services put in place by the government to stabilize families in this time of need. Yet the states insist upon making the lines between the rich and poor ever darker, ever harder to cross. Maine lines up as the latest in a host of states beginning to enforce drug-testing legislation for welfare recipients.

The testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isn’t being “wasted” on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month, only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only 2.6% of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8%, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year.

People tend to forget that those using the programs are most likely also taxpayers, or were at some point. In 2010, nearly half of poor or near poor mothers on welfare were working at least part time. My husband and I, for instance, worked a combined 45 years, paying taxes, before he lost his job two weeks before I had premature twins, and had to apply for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. During the time we were on aid, I held a fulltime job, meaning I was paying in to the system from which I was simultaneously benefiting.

Our family is not alone. Denise Calder, a middle school teacher in Broward County, Florida, has a Bachelors of Science from Tufts University and has worked steadily since 1994. “Now I’m 42 years old, divorced, a single mother of four,” she told me. She makes $41,300 year. “Every penny goes to food, rent, gas, medical bills,” she says. “Since 2009, I have had to apply for and accept Medicaid & SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] twice to provide for my children when I took maternity leave in 2009 and 2013.”

When I signed up for WIC services in 2008, I was a television producer in Boston, creating a news show seen by millions of people a night. I was making $40,000 a year and my husband had just been laid off. During my three months of maternity leave, my salary was $25,000, but our family qualified for the WIC program on my full income. We used it for 18 months. And we needed it.

WIC is an income-based program. Women must make no more than 185% of the Federal poverty line guidelines, and in some states, they must actually be living at or below the poverty line. Statistics from the Food and Nutrition Service department show that 73% of people on WIC are making less than the federal poverty line. The income cut-off for a family of four is $44,123 a year.

It’s also not just a phone call and done. Women applying must be pregnant or up to six months post-partum. Children can receive services up to their fifth birthday, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services. Once you’ve called, you have to provide proof of income for everyone in the household, proof of identity, proof of residence, proof of participation in any other program—including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or General Assistance—immunization records for your children, pregnancy confirmation (official note from your doctor), recent height and weight measurements and a blood test for hemoglobin levels, and a WIC Referral Form from your doctor. You also have to provide documentation of any child support payments, unemployment benefits, or short-term disability money received. These requirements vary slightly from state to state, but for the most part they are consistent.

Once you’ve gone through all that, you have to wait to be processed and either accepted or rejected. After the whole process, you may still hear that you aren’t poor enough (for instance, if you are receiving child support or if you can’t provide certain paperwork). Bree Casson, a divorced former army wife who works part-time at McDonald’s, was turned away from the WIC office last week because she didn’t have her family’s Medicaid cards, despite multiple phone and mail requests to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I dragged my three kids out, with all our paperwork, including our Medicaid numbers,” she said, “and they insisted they needed the physical cards to prove our income eligibility. I’ve been trying to get those cards for two years with no luck. All this for some milk and cheese and vegetables.”

Applying and being accepted for aid is a mentally grueling process that can stretch on for months. Add to that the humiliation of having to pee in a cup just because you can’t afford to eat. There’s already a huge stigma about having to receive services, a spiral of shame and embarrassment that permeates the use of the system. Instead of wasting taxpayer money to weed out a small percent of those in need, demonizing an entire sect of people in favor of misleading stereotypes, maybe it’s time we put our funds into helping them find their way out of the system and onto their own two feet.

Darlena Cunha is a mother of twins and a freelance writer for The Washington Post, Gainesville Sun and Gainesville and Ocala magazines. You can reach her @parentwin on Twitter.

TIME U.S.

Why Ferguson Was Ready to Explode

Ferguson Peaceful Protest
After several days of violent protests and intense confrontations between local police and protestors, the police decided to pull back and allow the protestors to march peacefully and protest, Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 14, 2014. Jon Lowenstein—Noor for TIME

A few cautionary tales point to the frustrating racial divide within St. Louis' suburbs that many African Americans feel is impossible to transcend

The late Tom Eagleton, longtime Democrat Senator from Missouri, in speaking to a group of NFL owners some years ago referred to St. Louis as “a raucous Des Moines,” despite its Southern pedigree (St. Louis had slavery); its role as portal to the American West (St. Louis proudly calls itself “the gateway city”); and its reputation of being more refined and “eastern” than its bigger western sister, Kansas City. Perhaps St. Louis, in its heart, is something of a mid-sized, Midwestern burg, a bigger, more lively, and urban version of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. St. Louis has always thought itself as current in a benign way, hardly avant-garde, but a charming, if declining, metropolis with a glorious past, when, in the 19th Century, the nation ran through this city.

It’s a past that is ever receding in history’s rearview mirror. Race relations here have been managed on the seemingly civil principle of slouching away from the worst, most benighted, aspects of the past in tolerable increments that comfort the white establishment and infuriate white liberals and leftists. There was no riot here during the 1960s, when they were almost a radical rite of passage for American cities. Some might even think that St. Louis was ahead of other cities in the political progress African Americans made here in the 1960s under Bill Clay, Percy Greene, and the Congress of Racial Equality.

Then comes the 21st Century and the age of Obama, and a policeman shoots an unarmed African American teenager in the African American, lower middle class suburb of Ferguson, and the pent-up racial fury of decades breaks loose. Is St. Louis now the canary in the mine, a harbinger, or was it always behind the curve?

St. Louis is a region of division: The depopulated, deindustrialized city (mostly African American) is legally divided from the far more prosperous (mostly white) county, with the city ardently seeking a reunion that the county vehemently spurns. North St. Louis city (largely African American) is estranged from south St. Louis city (mostly white) in a city that is now 48% African American. The maze of suburbs that make up north St. Louis county, where Ferguson is, is mostly African American and estranged from the maze of suburbs that make up south and west St. Louis counties, which are mostly white.

These interlocking networks of fragmentation that characterize the St. Louis, frequently deplored but diligently maintained, have managed to keep African Americans here contrarily concentrated and diffuse, politically empowered (there have been African American mayors, police chiefs, etc.) but also politically contained, and, in many respects, isolated from the cultural and political currents of the region. There remains in St. Louis a sense that African Americans are strangers in a strange land. The region is what sociologists call “hyper-segregated.”

Enter this iron triangle of control, neglect and racial alienation, and one uncovers several recent racial narratives that should have warned St. Louisans about what was coming—narratives about crossing the racial divide here. Metrolink, St. Louis’s light rail system, completed its second line in 2006. It provided African Americans of East St. Louis, one of the poorest cities in the country, and of north St. Louis county much easier access to the St. Louis Galleria Mall and the central cultural corridor of the city, including the hip Delmar Loop district. Concurrently, the Galleria has since seen an astronomical increase in shoplifting, and there has also been an increase in general crime and hooliganism in the Delmar Loop. This has led many to think that the Metrolink, as it has crossed racial boundaries, has enabled African American teenaged crime. This vicious cycle of young African Americans’ antisocial hostility and acting out, hardly unique to African Americans or even to Americans, and ever increasing white fear and barricade building, have intensified racial tensions, as people find the problem intractable and increasingly impossible to discuss honestly. The current riot in Ferguson is largely a war between police and the young African Americans who think cops exist mostly to prevent African American from harming whites.

Another cautionary signal: In February 2008, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton, a lifelong African American resident of the suburb of Kirkwood, murdered Kirkwood’s mayor (who died several months later), a police sergeant, a mayoral candidate and two other citizens at a city council meeting, an act that must rate among the most horrendous political assassinations in American history. Thornton was killed by police. He was clearly deranged, but what drove him crazy was his sense of betrayal at the hands of white Kirkwood. Thornton had grown up in the all-African American Meachum Park area of Kirkwood, was a rabid supporter of Kirkwood’s 1991 annexation of Meachum Park, and was, if anything, for a time, an emblem of crossing St. Louis’s racial divide.

Many of Thornton’s demons were imaginary. Yet his unhappiness, his disappointment that the racial divide within the suburbs was impossible to transcend is felt by many African American. So, Thornton, in his brother’s words, “went to war.” And so has, it now seems, a portion of African American St. Louis, triggered by a particular outrage, but largely an expression of rage against a particular set of enduring arrangements. Perhaps the problem with race relations is that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Gerald Early is Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at Washington University in St. Louis.

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