TIME Crime

3 Key Takeaways From Amnesty International’s Ferguson Report

Ferguson St. Louis Protests
Police officers in riot gear hold a line as they watch demonstrators protest in St. Louis on Oct. 12, 2014. Joshua Lott—AFP/Getty Images

It's the first time the human rights group has documented abuses inside the U.S.

Amnesty International made headlines in August when the international human rights organization dispatched a team to document the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, the first time it had ever investigated human rights abuses in the United States.

The resulting report was released Friday. It doesn’t shine any light on the altercation between Brown and police officer Darren Wilson or what led Wilson to kill the unarmed teenager. But there’s value in reading about the events in Ferguson through the lens of human rights. Here are three key claims made in the Amnesty report:

1) Lethal force was not justified

The report acknowledges that there are conflicting accounts of the physical altercation between Brown and Wilson, but says that none of them rise to the level that would have justified lethal force. “International standards provide that law enforcement officers should only use force as a last resort…Irrespective of whether there was some kind of physical confrontation between Michael Brown and the police officer, Michael Brown was unarmed and thus unlikely to have presented a serious threat.” But several witnesses testified in front of a grand jury that Brown and Wilson did struggle over Wilson’s gun, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. If Brown had tried to take Wilson’s gun, as some evidence suggests, then Wilson may not have broken the law.

2) Ferguson police violated the human right to peaceful assembly

Amnesty notes that according to international law, the right of peaceful assembly is a basic human right. The report notes that law enforcement imposed several restrictions on this right, including a curfew and the “keep walking” rule, which was imposed on Aug. 18 to deter groups from massing. The report says that in the 12 days after Michael Brown’s death, 132 people were arrested for “failing to disperse.” The Amnesty delegation also condemned the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests, and the threats made against journalists and legal observers. But the protests in Ferguson weren’t always peaceful– there were reports of protesters shooting at police cars, throwing bottles at police, and numerous other violent encounters.

3) There is not enough data on police shootings

The report calls for data on police shootings to be broken out by race, ethnicity and gender in order to give a complete picture of how many black men are killed by police per year. Amnesty also recommends that Congress pass the End Racial Profiling Act and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.

You can read the full Executive Summary of the report here: Ferguson Report Executive Summary

 

TIME ebola

How Ready Is New York City for Ebola?

The city says it's much more prepared for Ebola than Dallas

Doctors Without Borders physician Dr. Craig Spencer tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, Oct. 23, at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, immediately testing the strength of the city’s preparation for the deadly disease.

Given the mistakes made during the first case of diagnosed Ebola in the United States—Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas—New York City has more fears to quell and also more to prove. Can it do better than Dallas?

Its leaders certainly think so.

New York City has been prepping and drilling its hospitals for the possibility of an Ebola patient since July 28, when it was confirmed that Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol had contracted Ebola in Liberia. “I wanted to know that our staff was able to handle [a possible Ebola patient],” says Dr. Marc Napp, senior vice president of medical affairs at Mount Sinai Health System.

“We’ve prepared for a variety of different things in the past: anthrax, H1N1, small pox, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy,” Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) told TIME. “This preparation is not unusual.”

New York City is also one of the first cities to adopt a new system that designates one hospital within a region—Bellevue in this instance—to be the headquarters for Ebola care. If there’s a patient who is a risk, like Spencer, Bellevue will take the patient. Should a potential Ebola case walk into the emergency room of another hospital, those patients can be transferred to Bellevue.

This is not the first time New York officials have responded to a possible Ebola case. In early August, Mount Sinai announced it had a patient with a travel history and symptoms that were a red flag for Ebola. The emergency room isolated the patient and the hospital sent blood for tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—tests that ultimately came back negative.

The city wasn’t as lucky with Spencer, who had been self-monitoring since returning from Liberia. Spencer notified Doctors Without Borders when he ran a temperature on Thursday morning. Staff from New York’s Bellevue hospital were soon at his doorstep in hazmat suits, ready to take him in for treatment to the hospital.

“We were hoping [this] wouldn’t happen but we were realistic,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference at Bellevue Thursday night. “We can’t say this was an unexpected circumstance.”

Cuomo noted that New York City had the advantage of learning from Dallas’ experience and its mistakes. Texas Presbyterian Hospital failed to diagnose Duncan with Ebola right away, despite his Ebola-like symptoms and the fact he’d been in Liberia.

“The trigger went off again when the nurses got sick in Dallas,” says Mount Sinai’s Napp. New York officials worked closely with the CDC and local health departments as well as with JFK Airport to ensure procedures were in place for identifying people who may be at risk for Ebola at every point of entry to the country. On Oct. 21, the city hosted an Ebola education session that was run by area health experts, with members of the CDC who demonstrated the proper donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE). Over 5,000 health care workers and hospital staff members took part.

“As a result of the missteps in Dallas, there were a whole new series of protocols,” says Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

There are some challenges—New York has spent time and energy preparing based on now outdated CDC guidelines. The new CDC guidelines for PPEs were only announced on Oct. 20, which doesn’t give the city much time to “practice, practice, practice” them as CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden has suggested.

And New York City has the challenge of sheer size and density. New Yorkers live in very close quarters with one another. Thankfully, Ebola isn’t an airborne disease, so even though Spencer traveled Brooklyn to go bowling, since he wasn’t symptomatic, anyone he might have encountered is at very low risk of contracting the disease.

For now, New York City has just one patient, and it plans to get it right. Doing so might restore American confidence in the system—but failure would be devastating.

TIME ebola

Can You Get Ebola From Subway Poles and Bowling Balls?

Lots and lots of research says no

Concerns were raised Thursday that the New York City doctor Craig Spencer, MD, who has been diagnosed with Ebola, had been to a Brooklyn bowling alley, had ridden the subway, and been inside an Uber taxi.

So, can you get Ebola from bowling balls or subway poles, or Uber doorhandles for that matter?

The short—and accurate—answer is no, and that’s based on what scientists know after decades of studying Ebola. Spencer was not symptomatic at the time, according to reports, which means he was not contagious at the time.

But, you may ask again, shouldn’t people who rode on the same train, in the same taxi or who touched the same bowling balls as Spencer, worry a little?

The research that exists says, again, no. The virus only survives inside bodily fluid of an infected person—meaning their blood, sweat, vomit or feces—that then comes into contact with an open sore or the mucus membranes of another person.

Data suggests the virus can, in theory, survive on surfaces if it’s inside a liquid. But the only confirmed case of a person getting Ebola from an object or material that can carry infection was during an Ebola outbreak more than a decade ago in Gulu, Uganda, when a patient got the disease by sleeping with a blanket that had been used by an Ebola patient. Based on what we know about transmission of the virus, that blanket must have had an infected person’s wet bodily fluids on it.

A study from 2007 by researchers at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine sampled 31 objects and surfaces that were not visibly bloody—they looked at bed frames, stethoscopes, etc—inside an isolation ward that treated Ebola patients. All specimens tested negative for the virus, suggesting the risk of transmission from surfaces was extremely low.

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Oct. 17 – 24

From the sentencing of Oscar Pistorius and a fatal shooting at the Canadian War Memorial, to a pair of white lion cubs in Serbia and Darth Vader on the campaign trail, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME cities

Officials Consider Golden Gate Bridge Toll for Pedestrians

The Golden Gate Bridge on Nov. 15, 2006 in San Francisco.
The Golden Gate Bridge on Nov. 15, 2006 in San Francisco. Eric Risberg — AP

Charging tourists to walk across the national landmark is unlikely to happen but underscores a growing deficit problem

Officials in California are considering a proposal that would implement a toll for pedestrians and cyclists who cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Charging money to traverse the popular tourist attraction is one of a more than 40 solutions that special district authorities will consider Friday, in an effort to avoid a projected deficit of more than $200 million.

The body that oversees the bridge, known as the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, says that if no changes are made to current operations, they expect to be running at a deficit of $33 million in five years, up to $210 million in 10 years. The authority recently committed to new projects like helping to fund a $76 million suicide net, in addition to paying for expensive upkeep that will make the bridge more resistant to earthquakes.

About 10,000 pedestrians roll across the Golden Gate Bridge every day, according to current estimates from the district, along with 6,000 bikes, which could help offset those costs. A district official, however, told TIME that the new toll proposals are unlikely to see the light of day after the district’s Board of Directors hears them, given how politically unpopular pedestrian and cyclist fees would be.

The money the district needs is more likely to come from proposals to outsource jobs and labor negotiations, as well as the most traditional source: increased fares for the some 40 million cars that traverse the bridge each year. Only those vehicles traveling southbound, into the city, are charged the basic toll of $7, which will may be increased to $8 in the next few years.

TIME Aviation

Police: Plane, Helicopter Collide in Maryland

(FREDERICK, Md.) — Police say an airplane and helicopter have collided in mid-air at the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland.

Frederick police Lt. Clark Pennington says the aircraft collided Thursday afternoon. He says Maryland State Police are handling the incident.

It was not immediately known how many people were on board or whether anyone was hurt. Aerial footage from WJZ-TV in Baltimore showed aircraft wreckage in a stand of trees.

The airport opened in 1948. It has two runways.

Nurse Nina Pham arrived at the airport last week from Dallas on her way to treatment for Ebola at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

TIME ebola

Health Care Worker Tests Positive for Ebola at New York City Hospital

HEALTH-EBOLA-WAFRICA-US-DOCTOR
The entrance to Bellevue Hospital on Oct. 23, 2014 after a doctor who recently returned to New York from West Africa was rushed with a fever t o be tested for possible Ebola, the city's health department said. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

A test confirmed he has the virus

A health care worker who was rushed to New York City’s Bellevue Hospital Thursday has reportedly tested positive for Ebola.

Craig Spencer had recently returned to the United States from one of the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. The New York Times reported Thursday night that the Centers for Disease Control will need to confirm the initial positive test.

Spencer was transported to Bellevue by a specially-trained team wearing personal protective equipment, after he reported experiencing fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. Given the health care worker’s recent travel history, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York City Department of Health concluded that he should undergo Ebola testing. They also screened for more common illnesses like Malaria.

The patient recently worked with Doctors Without Borders, and contacted the group Thursday morning to report a fever, the organization confirmed. “As per the specific guidelines that Doctors Without Borders provides its staff on their return from Ebola assignments, the individual engaged in regular health monitoring and reported this development immediately,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement sent to TIME.

Disease detectives from the City’s Health Department have already started actively tracing the patient’s contacts as a precaution. They will notify and isolate anyone at potential risk of contracting Ebola. A White House official told TIME Obama has been briefed on the New York case multiple times Thursday.

New York City previously designated Bellevue Hospital to receive any Ebola patients that should enter the city. Bellevue has also been preparing to accept Ebola patients from other hospitals if need be. New York City hospitals in general have been preparing and drilling for the possibility of a patient with Ebola since August, most recently by holding an an Ebola education session for over 5,000 local health care workers on Tuesday.

This is the second time New York City has seen a potential case of Ebola. In the first case, a patient at Mount Sinai Hospital wound up testing negative for the virus.

–with additional reporting by Zeke Miller

TIME Infectious Disease

University of Maryland Confirms Meningitis Cases

The University of Maryland has confirmed an unknown number of meningitis cases among its students.

“There are confirmed and suspected cases of viral meningitis and viral syndromes on campus, and they are being tracked carefully by the University Health Center in partnership with the Prince George’s County Health Department,” University Health Center Director Dr. David McBride said in a statement sent to TIME on Thursday. “We have reached out to the organizations that are primarily affected with information about the condition and what to do in the event that they are feeling unwell.”

Viral meningitis is less severe than bacterial meningitis, but it can still cause stiff necks, nausea and fever. There’s no specific medication for the illness, but most people recover within seven to 10 days. Hospitalization may be necessary in particularly severe cases.

College students are thought to be at a greater risk for viral meningitis than the general population due to the closeness of college life, like sharing cups, living with roommates and eating in dining halls.

TIME Crime

What the Ferguson Leaks Tell Us About Michael Brown’s Death

Police face off with demonstrators outside the police station as protests continue in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's death on Oct. 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police face off with demonstrators outside the police station as protests continue in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's death on Oct. 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

A guide to the latest news from the Ferguson case and grand jury investigation

As a St. Louis County grand jury weighs whether to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a series of leaks have provided new information about the skirmish that led to Brown’s death and ignited a national debate about race and police violence. A lot has happened since Brown died after a confrontation with Wilson on Aug. 9. Here’s a guide to making sense of it:

What’s new?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained Brown’s official autopsy report on Oct. 22, which indicates he was shot near the right thumb at very close range. Medical experts interviewed by the paper said the findings may support Wilson’s contention that Brown was reaching for the officer’s gun inside the police SUV where their original struggle occurred. A separate autopsy conducted for Brown’s family by Dr. Michael Baden, a well-known forensic pathologist, concluded that none of the teen’s wounds indicated he was shot at such close range.

Wilson told investigators that Brown punched him in the face through the open window of the vehicle, according to the Post-Dispatch. In Wilson’s version of events, the punch prompted him to draw his gun and Brown grabbed for it. As they struggled over the weapon, Brown was shot in the hand. According to Wilson, Brown then ran away from the vehicle, so the officer jumped out to give chase. Wilson reportedly told investigators that Brown defied the officer’s command to stop, then turned and ran at him, at which point Wilson fired the fatal shots.

According to the Washington Post, “a half-dozen unnamed black witnesses” have provided testimony to the grand jury that supports Wilson’s version of events. Brown’s blood was found on the gun, on Wilson’s uniform and spattered on an inside door panel of the car, according to the New York Times. Other witnesses have provided divergent accounts of the incident, alleging that Brown was shot with his hands in the air or while fleeing. Protesters pictured with their hands-up became one of the iconic images of the unrest that wracked Ferguson in the weeks after Brown’s death.

What’s not?

In many ways, the leaks amplify what we already knew. From the beginning, the Ferguson police department has said publicly that Wilson shot Brown after the teen instigated a struggle in the SUV that made the officer fear for his safety. Independent witnesses have said there was a scuffle, though they differ on whether it happened in or near Wilson’s vehicle. Apart from detailed forensic information about Brown’s wounds, the autopsy includes a toxicology report indicating the presence of marijuana in Brown’s system. Previously released surveillance video shows Brown stealing a pack of Swisher Sweets, cheap cigars that are commonly used to roll blunts, from a convenience store shortly before the altercation with Wilson. But that incident had nothing to do with the confrontation, which occurred after Wilson ordered Brown and a friend to move onto the sidewalk as they walked down the middle of a street.

How important is this information?

The details of the struggle in the SUV matter. In Missouri, as elsewhere, a police officer has wide latitude to use deadly force if he has justifiable reason to feel his life is in danger. If forensic information and witness testimony support Wilson’s account that Brown grabbed for his gun, the grand jury—or, in the event of an indictment, a trial jury—would ostensibly be more likely to determine that the use of force was justified.

What don’t the leaks tell us?

They don’t explain the origin of the skirmish, which seems to have escalated abruptly. In describing the toxicology report, the Post’s sources say “the levels in Brown’s body may have been high enough to trigger hallucinations,” but there is no scientific link between marijuana and violent behavior.

Most importantly, the leaks do not provide new forensic information about the sequence of fatal shots. “What we want to know is why Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown multiple times and killed him even though he was more than 20 feet away from his patrol car,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said in a statement. “This is the crux of the matter!” The autopsy does not offer any answers.

What’s going on with the grand jury?

Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, has said that he expects the deliberations to wrap up this month or next. The grand jury process has been unusual in a number of ways, as TIME reported last month.

Prosecutors declined to recommend a specific charge for Wilson, which is rare. Instead, they are presenting evidence as it becomes available, and allowing the grand jury members to determine whether it warrants charges of murder or manslaughter. (There are two options for each charge: first- or second-degree murder; and voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.)

All testimony in the case is being transcribed, which is unusual because it exposes witnesses to future legal proceedings. McCulloch has delegated the task of presenting evidence to two attorneys in his office in an attempt to neutralize allegations that he lacks objectivity. (McCulloch’s father, a police officer, died in the line of duty, and African Americans have criticized his handling of past police shootings.) In another rare move, McCulloch has pledged to immediately release transcripts of the proceedings. According to the prosecutor’s office, these decisions were made in the interest of transparency, though it may also be an attempt to head off criticism in the event that the grand jury declines to indict Wilson.

Is there a motive for the leaks?

It’s a criminal act to leak information about grand jury proceedings, so the number of leaks the investigation has sprung in recent days is conspicuous. The Department of Justice, which is conducting its own inquiry into the shooting, has condemned the trickle of information.“There seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case,” it said on Oct. 22.

The leaks have also raised questions about whether sources connected to the investigation are spreading this information to prepare the community for the possibility that the grand jury declines to indict. The information that has leaked suggests the likelihood of that may be greater than protesters realize.

How is Ferguson reacting?

The daily demonstrations are ongoing. Protests tapered off in the weeks after Brown’s death, but the Oct. 8 killing of Vonderrit Myers, a black 18-year-old shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer, rekindled the community’s fury. (Cops say Myers fired at the officer first; forensic evidence released by the police department, including lab results that reportedly show gunpowder residue on Myers’ hand and in the waistband of his jeans, appear to corroborate that version of events. Myers’ family says they believe he was unarmed.)

Thousands of people massed in St. Louis in mid-October for coordinated protests following Myers’ death. There were some arrests and sporadic clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, but nothing on the scale of the August riots. But it was enough to upset the fragile peace that had set in during September and on Oct. 21, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the formation of a commission to address issues like race relations.

The recent autopsy and other leaks have fanned the flames in Ferguson. That anger is likely a mere preview of how the community will react if Wilson is cleared. “If there is no indictment,” said one protester, “all hell is going to break loose.”

Read next: Mourning Ferguson

TIME Outer Space

Look Up: There’s a Rare Partial Solar Eclipse Thursday

Sudan Solar Eclipse
A partial solar eclipse is seen over the Sudanese capital Khartoum on November 3, 2013. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Here's when to look up at the sky

As long as rainclouds aren’t obstructing the view, people across the United States will be able to look up Thursday afternoon to witness the moon cover part of the sun in a rare partial solar eclipse.

According to Weather.com, nearly all of North America, barring part of Canada and New England, will be able to see the display. Sky and Telescope has a list of when the eclipse will be visible in different major cities. The partial solar eclipse will be viewable in New York beginning at 5:49 p.m. and peaking at 6:03, though skywatchers on the west coast will get the best show — the eclipse begins in Los Angeles at 2:08 p.m. and hit its peak midway point at 3:28 p.m. local time.

Here’s a map that tracks eclipse visibility:

While there will be another partial solar eclipse Aug. 21, 2017, Business Insider reports there won’t be another that is visible to the entire country until 2023. So maybe step outside — but take precautions.

“Looking directly at the Sun is harmful to your eyes at any time, partial eclipse or no,” says Sky and Telescope’s Alan MacRobert. “The only reason a partial eclipse is dangerous is that it prompts people to gaze at the Sun, something they wouldn’t normally do. The result can be temporary or permanent blurred vision or blind spots at the center of your view.”

[Sky and Telescope]

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