TIME 2014 Election

Washington Votes on Dueling Gun Control Measures 11 Days After Deadly School Shooting

Washington Marysville Shooting Gun Violence
Students grieve beside a makeshift memorial at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash. David Ryder—Getty Images

Gun control is a charged topic in any election, but the issue has taken on extra weight in Washington as voters are being asked to decide on two competing firearms measures on the Nov. 4 ballot just 11 days after a school shooting in the rural city of Marysville left three teenagers dead and three others wounded.

Initiative 594 would expand the state’s background check requirements to cover gun transfers or sales, including those that take place at gun shows or online. The other, Initiative 591, is backed by gun rights advocates and would prohibit the state from requiring background checks that are stricter than those imposed by the federal government. Far more money is behind the measure expanding background checks, and polls show it has more support. Aided by six-figure donations from Bill and Melinda Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the committees dedicated to passing the expanded background checks initiative have spent more than $10 million promoting it, dwarfing the nearly $2 million spent by groups opposing the measure or pushing the competing one.

A poll conducted by the nonpartisan Elway Research group in early October found that 60 percent of registered voters backed I-594, down from 72 percent in April, while support for the competing measure fell during the same period from 55 percent in April to 39 percent in October. Elway pollsters attributed the declines to voters learning more about the proposals, pointing out that in April 40 percent said they would vote for both measures, which fell to 22 percent in October. (In the unlikely event that both measures pass, effectively canceling each other out, courts would likely decide the final outcome.)

No polls measuring public opinion on the initiatives have been released since the Oct. 24 shooting, but University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the Marysville incident might erode support for the measure that would limit background checks..“The spate of unconscionable school shootings across the country, and now here in Marysville, has left voters ready to take responsible action on gun issues,” Barreto said. “We saw the same thing in 2012-2013 following the Newtown killings.”

Recent high-profile shooting incidents have not always led to tighter gun laws. If anything, getting permission to carry guns in more public spaces is easier than it has been in decades. President Obama’s attempt to harness outrage over the 2012 Newtown, Conn. school massacre into a federal ban on assault weapons went nowhere. States adopted 109 new gun measures in the year after Newtown, according to Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control organization. Seventy of these laws loosened restrictions on guns and gun ownership, in some cases extending the right to carry to school grounds. Such measures were adopted on the belief that more guns in public might prevent future school shootings.

In Washington, supporters of the background check measure acknowledge that the Marysville shooting would likely have happened even if the proposal had been law. Police said the shooter, a 14-year-old high school freshman, used a gun that was legally registered to a family member. But advocates believe that it can help their cause. School shootings, says Zach Silk, the campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, “are very crystalizing for voters. They focus peoples’ minds.”

If so, it’s not clear how many voters will actually be swayed. Residents cast ballots by mail in Washington and many already sent theirs in before the Marysville shooting. “I’m not sure just how much that will have an influence,” says Dave Workman, a spokesman for a citizen’s committee working for the anti-background check measure. “I think we’re just going to see how it shakes out Tuesday night when the ballots come in.”

TIME Military

U.S. General Cracks Down on South Korean ‘Juicy Bars’ Linked to Human Trafficking

Women "are subjected to debt bondage and made to sell themselves as companions, or forced into prostitution"

The commander of U.S. troops in South Korea has thrown down an order to all military personnel: no more “juciy bars.”

The bars sell overpriced juice often exchanged for the companionship of young women, who might have been illegally brought into the country and held against their will after owners strip away their visas, officials say.

“They are subjected to debt bondage and made to sell themselves as companions, or forced into prostitution,” Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti wrote in an Oct. 15 memo. “The governments of the Republic of Korea, the United States, and the Republic of the Philippines have linked these practices with prostitution and human trafficking.”

Scaparrotti said military personnel will now be barred from providing “money or anything of value” in exchange for an employee’s “companionship.”

“This includes paying a fee to play darts, pool, or to engage in other entertainment with an employee, or buying a drink or souvenir in exchange for an employee’s company,” he wrote. Troops who fail to comply with the new rules may be subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Military Times notes that the crackdown on “juicy bars” follows a similar move announced last year by Air Force Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas for a base outside Osan Air Base, south of Seoul.

 

TIME Education

Think You Can Cheat on the SAT? The College Board Says Think Again

Security measures include air gaps, fake test takers, alarm doors, photo verification and handwriting samples

The SAT is never uploaded to the Internet. Test questions are never emailed. And even the computers that test creators use to write and edit the questions are never, ever connected to the web.

“The idea is that you can’t hack something that isn’t there,” said Ray Nicosia, the director of the Office of Testing Integrity at the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which oversees the security of the College Board’s SAT and SAT II subject area tests. Every year, those tests are administered at 25,000 test centers in 192 countries around the world.

Earlier this week, the College Board sent emails to all students living in China or Korea who had taken the SAT on October 11, informing them that their test scores would be reviewed and delayed for up to a month because of allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the latest in a long line of alleged and full-blown cheating scandals in the last few years that have involved not only the SATs, but nearly every other widely-administered standardized test, including Advance Placement tests, the ACTs, and English language qualifying exams.

“They’re always going to be people trying to challenge the system,” Nicosia said. “We stop a lot but there’s always someone trying new a way.” The advent of cell phones, tiny cameras and nearly undetectable recording devices, for example, has required his team to up their game, he said.

A quick search on YouTube reveals dozens of innovative cheating ideas, like scanning answers onto soft drink wrappers or printing formulas onto fabric, each complete with instructions on how to pull it off. One company sells an eraser that doubles as a microphone, designed to help sneaky individuals communicate with “helpers” up to 3,000 feet away.

In 2007, two students in China used tiny, wireless listening devices in their ear canals to cheat on an English exam; they were later hospitalized when the devices got stuck, according to China Daily. But, Nicosia said, those “James Bond tactics” are not as common as other, more run-of-the-mill cheating gambits. For example, in 2011, twenty students were arrested on Long Island, New York, for hiring other students—for a cool $3,600 bucks—to impersonate them in the SAT exam room.

Nicosia would not speak specifically about the allegations of cheating in the Oct. 11 test. But early speculation has focused on the possibility that the same test administered overseas on Oct. 11 had been administered previously in the U.S. ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing confirmed that ETS does reuse tests in different locations, though he would not comment on the Oct. 11 test.

Parke Muth, who volunteers as a consultant and advisor to Chinese students said he’s heard that test preparation companies will offer to pay test takers to memorize a half-dozen or so questions from a given test and write them down after they’ve left the testing area. “They do that a hundred times and they have the full test,” Muth said. He said he also heard allegations of students ripping out individual pages of a test booklet and smuggling it out of the test center.

Ewing didn’t seem too surprised by these suggestions. “The costs of test security have been steadily escalating over the years and ETS spends literally millions and millions of dollars in this area,” he said, adding that the Office of Testing Integrity, which Ray Nicosia has overseen since the mid-‘90s, has grown substantially. It now monitors every stage in the SAT and SAT II test-making and test-taking process—from the moment questions are written to the moment that students sit down to take the exam.

It’s a big job, made slightly easier by the fact that, unlike the ACT, which can now be taken on a computer in some locations, neither the SAT or the SAT II is available on any computer or digital device. Those exams must be taken instead with a good old-fashioned pencil and a paper booklet.

Still, Nicosia said, his oversight process doesn’t cut any corners. It begins in the College Board’s secure offices, which are patrolled by security guards who monitor suspicious vehicles in the area. Employees dealing directly with the test questions are required to use computers that are not, and never have been, connected to the Internet, and no part of the test, perhaps needless to say, is ever stored on the cloud. Test writers themselves are subject to background and criminal checks, and can have their briefcases and bags searched upon exiting the building to ensure that they are not transporting a thumb drive or other device containing information about the test’s content.

Once the test is written, it is moved in “a secure carrier,” Nicosia said, declining to elaborate, to a print shop that uses security protocols similar to companies that print casino vouchers, which can be exchanged for cash. “All our printers have alarm doors and security cameras and whole list of other things we mandate,” Nicosia said. “You don’t have a print shop employee just walking outside for a cigarette break.” At the end of the printing process, the SAT test booklets are “packaged in a certain way” so that tampering with the booklets themselves is either impossible or immediately obvious, he said.

From there, the test booklets are delivered to pre-vetted test administrators and school principals, who have gone thorough an ETS training and who must, in turn, provide ETS with assurance that the tests will be kept in a locked and secured location. In some instances, ETS has arranged to have the test booklets hand-delivered by a ETS employee on the day of the test.

On test day, a host of precautions are also in place. For example, ETS requires test takers to upload a photo of themselves when they register for the exam and then provide on test day a photo ID that matches both their registration photograph and their appearance. Test takers are also required to provide a handwriting sample that can be used should any subsequent investigation be necessary.

In most locations, ETS does not search students for cell phones or other digital devices, but if a proctor sees or hears a digital device, the student is immediately dismissed from the test, his scores are canceled, and a review is launched. In areas where cheating is suspected, ETS also sometimes deploys undercover investigators—employees in their late teens or early twenties who pretend to be test-takers—in order to “get the birds’ eye view of what’s going on without raising any eyebrows,” Nicosia said. At the end of tests, students are required to leave all testing materials behind.

All told, while the extent of cheating efforts is probably “extremely overblown in people’s imaginations,” Nicosia said his team takes every tip, allegation or rumor “very, very seriously.” “Whatever challenge is next, we’re looking for it,” he said.

TIME Know Right Now

See What You Missed This Week

Here are four of the biggest stories for the last week of October

This week, a nurse who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa defied quarantine restrictions in Maine when she went out for a bike ride.

One of the world’s top singers is expected to go platinum on her first week of record sales.

The World Series, which went to Game 7, ended in a close matchup — and with more than 23 million viewers.

And Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly came out, writing that “being gay is among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

TIME White House

Obama Dashes Adult Hopes on Halloween for Presidential M&Ms

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I. on Oct. 31, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I. on Oct. 31, 2014. Evan Vucci—AP

Rhode Island college students disappointed, but the candy is not for them

President Barack Obama violated the first rule of Halloween Friday: If you bring candy, bring enough for the entire class.

Speaking at Rhode Island College at an event highlighting Democratic priorities for women, Obama referenced Friday evening’s annual trick-or-treat at the White House. “A good thing about being president is we never run out of presidential M&Ms,” Obama said, referencing the customized candy boxes handed out at the White House and aboard Air Force One bearing the president’s signature. “And so we’re going to be giving those out.”

When a member of the audience shouted that she wanted some candy, Obama was forced to dash her hopes. “You want some, is that what you said?” Obama asked as the crowd roared. “Only to kids,” he added to laughter.

In practice, the Presidential chocolate candies are a perk for VIPs, young and old, who visit the White House or ride on Air Force One. Sometimes even members of the White House press corps, who pay to travel with the President, are offered a box. The boxes have been known to end up for resale on online auction sites like Ebay.

Obama spoke wistfully of when his daughters were younger, saying Malia and Sasha are now too old to dress up for Halloween.

“That’s so sad. You know, I used to be – we’d dress them up, and we still have the pictures, and they’ll resent them later. But at the time, they were fine with it. They were so cute.”

Aside from the candy, children visiting the White House Friday night will also receive the Michelle Obama-approved dried fruit mix.

TIME Military

Fissure Opens Between Pentagon and White House Over Assad’s Fate

WASHINGTON (Oct. 30, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel holds a press briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon Oct. 30, 2014. DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that internal Administration debate over what to do in Syria must be "honest" and "direct." DoD Photo / Sean Hurt

Hagel told Rice a lack of clarity is complicating U.S. efforts to combat ISIS

President Barack Obama declared in August 2011 that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must “step aside” for the good of his country after his forces had killed nearly 2,000 fellow citizens. More than three years later, with Assad still in power, the Syrian civil war has killed some 200,000 people and given Islamic extremists territory to occupy. That has led Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to warn the White House that the U.S. has to stop ignoring the Syrian dictator.

In a two-page memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice two weeks ago, Hagel said the lack of clarity is complicating U.S. efforts to combat the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, Pentagon officials say. The memo’s existence was first reported in the New York Times on Thursday.

It’s no secret that there’s much teeth-gnashing inside the Pentagon because of a belief that U.S.-led air strikes against ISIS have transformed the U.S. military into a Syrian air force, of sorts. And after more than three years of increasing violence—including Assad’s brazen use of chemical weapons against his own people that Obama vainly warned was a “red line” that he’d better not cross—frustration is mounting among the U.S. military.

They say plans to train 5,000 “moderate”—i.e., non-ISIS—Syrian rebels annually to fight the militants is complicated by the civil war inside Syria, even if much of the training is slated to take place outside the country. So long as Assad remains in power, they fear the moderate rebels’ attention could be diverted from fighting ISIS to battling Assad.

Hagel wouldn’t say much about his concerns. “This is a complicated issue,” he told reporters Thursday. “We are constantly assessing and reassessing and adapting to the realities of what is the best approach.”

Such internal debates are the “responsibility of any leader,” he added. “And because we are a significant element of this issue, we owe the President and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this. And it has to be honest and it has to be direct.”

Unsurprisingly, a White House spokesman agreed. “The President wants the unvarnished opinion of every member of his national-security team,” Josh Earnest told CNN on Friday. “That’s the way he thinks we are going to reach the best outcomes.”

TIME Transportation

How Daylight Saving Time Can Be Dangerous

Beware traffic accidents

When you’re enjoying your extra hour in bed Sunday morning, spare a thought for what that 60 minutes might cost.

While some dislike the seasonal shifts of Daylight Saving Time (DST) for the minor inconvenience to their sleep cycles and busy schedules, there’s a more serious side to the scheme: the loss of an hour of afternoon sunlight when it ends—as it does this weekend—may increase the likelihood of traffic accidents.

“Darkness kills and sunlight saves lives,” said University of Washington Law Professor Steve Calandrillo, who has studied the effectiveness of different DST policies. “The question is ‘when do you want sunlight?'”

For Calandrillo, who advocates for DST to be implemented throughout the year, the answer is simple: more people are active during the evening, including kids, and the additional sunlight that DST provides helps provide drivers with the visibility necessary to see pedestrians. “At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” he said. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”

In addition to leading to poor visibility in darkness, some experts say the requirement for people to abruptly adapt to a time change overnight may lead to dangerous driving. “Even though it’s dark, you’re still behaving like it’s light,” said Lawrence University economist David Gerard, of the first weeks after a time change. People may drive faster, he said, and pedestrians may be less attentive.

Advocates of perpetual DST have some statistics on their side. Adding an hour of sunlight in the evening year-round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually, according to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The lives of nearly 200 vehicle occupants would also theoretically be saved by the change.

But despite this data, some child advocacy groups such as the National PTA have argued for more sunlight in the morning hours when children will be traveling to school. In 2005, the group opposed bringing DST forward into March from April. “People who take their kids to school in the morning, they kind of like Daylight Saving Time,” said Gerard. “They can deal with [darkness] at the end of the day, but in the morning it’s tough getting going.”

Both advocates and opponents of DST can agree, however, that better light equals greater safety — which is why some child safety advocates say that communities need to focus on providing better artificial street lighting, regardless of whether it’s used in the morning or evening. “The more visible kids are,” said Margaux Mennesson, a spokesperson for the group Safe Routes to School,”the safer they are.”

TIME ebola

Maine Judge Says Nurse Must Follow Ebola Quarantine for Now

Kaci Hickox, Ted Wilbur
Nurse Kaci Hickox, right, and her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, take delivery of a pizza at their home in Fort Kent, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Robert F. Bukaty—AP

A victory for Kaci Hickox

A judge in Maine on Friday rejected the state’s attempt to forcibly quarantine a nurse who has been clashing with officials over her defiance of a voluntary Ebola quarantine, reversing a court order that briefly mandated she avoid public places and transportation. The nurse must continue daily temperature monitoring and approve travel with state officials, the judge ordered.

The order came Friday, the Associated Press reports, following a temporary order Thursday. The state has been pushing the nurse, Kaci Hickox, to follow quarantine guidelines laid out by federal officials for people at “some risk” of Ebola. The judge ruled that Hickox would

Following the decision, Maine Gov. Paul LePage described the decision as “unfortunate,” but promised to enforce it.

MORE: The CDC has less power than you think and likes it that way

Hickox, who recently returned from West Africa to Ebola patients suffering from the outbreak that has killed almost 5,000 people, went for a bike ride with her boyfriend Thursday in defiance of Maine’s voluntary quarantine guidelines.

Hickox has not shown any symptoms and has tested negative for the disease, which has a 21-day incubation period. She was fiercely critical of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when she was first quarantined on a state order there before being allowed to return home to Maine, calling it a violation of her human rights. Health advocates have criticized quarantine measures put in place as putting fear over science and potentially hampering efforts to contain the outbreak in West Africa by making it harder for health workers to travel to and from the region.

“I’m fighting for something much more than myself,” Hickox said this week. “There are so many aid workers coming back. It scares me to think how they’re going to be treated and how they’re going to feel.”

TIME National Security

Former Navy SEAL Who Wrote Bin Laden Raid Book Under Investigation

Book Review No Easy Day
"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden," by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer. AP

Matt Bissonnette wrote 'No Easy Day' (2012) under the pen name Mark Owen

A former Navy SEAL is being investigated by the Justice Department for potentially outing classified material in his best-selling book about the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to a new report.

An attorney for Matt Bissonnette told The New York Times that his client, who wrote No Easy Day under the name Mark Owen, had apologized for not allowing the Pentagon to sign off on his book and offered to relinquish a portion of the millions in royalties he earned from it. Others familiar with the probe said investigators are also interested in Bissonnette’s paid speeches at corporate events.

The report of an investigation comes as Bissonnette readies to release a second book called No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL.

[NYT]

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: Why Is the Military So Strict With Quarantines?

These are three reasons the U.S. military is being quarantined

President Barack Obama thinks states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois are too harsh with their quarantine or isolation protocols for health workers returning from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, yet the military he commands is similarly strict.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a mandatory 21-day quarantine this week for all returning service members, meaning all military personnel can’t return home until after the outer limit of their holding period passes.

Watch #TheBrief to understand the three reasons why the military has such strict Ebola quarantine regulations.

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