TIME justice

Anxieties Mount as Ferguson Waits on Grand Jury

Protestors march in front of the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo on Nov. 23, 2014.
Protestors march in front of the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo on Nov. 23, 2014. Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Despite preparations for a weekend decision in the Ferguson shooting case, the grand jurors apparently need more time to deliberate, and the uncertainty just seemed to feed the anxiety and speculation Sunday in a city already on edge.

More than 3½ months have passed since police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown after a confrontation in the middle of a street in the St. Louis suburb. The shooting triggered riots and looting, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.

Many in the area thought a grand jury decision on whether to charge Wilson with a crime would be announced Sunday, based partly on a stepped-up police presence in the preceding days, including the setting up of barricades around the building where the panel was meeting.

The grand jurors met Friday but apparently didn’t reach a decision, and they were widely expected to reconvene on Monday, though there was no official confirmation of that.

During church services Sunday, some pastors encouraged their flocks not to fret.

A choir sang, “We need you Lord right now” at the predominantly black Greater Grace Church in Ferguson. The pastor, Bishop L.O. Jones, referred to the pending grand jury decision briefly.

“Everybody stand to your feet and tell somebody, ‘Don’t be afraid. God is still in control,’” Jones said as church members repeated after him.

The Rev. Freddy Clark of Shalom Church in nearby Florissant told the mostly black interdenominational congregation that “justice will be served” whichever way the decision goes, because God will take care of it.

“None of us are pleased about what happened,” said parishioner James Tatum. “Whatever the verdict is, we have to understand that’s the verdict.”

As they wait, some people have continued daily protests, while speculation has grown that the delays are intentional.

“People feel like it’s been engineered, so that the results wouldn’t come out until after the election and until the weather got cold, and it would be more difficult to protest,” said Susan McGraugh, supervisor of the Criminal Defense Clinic at the Saint Louis University School of Law. “It’s really adding fuel to the fire.”

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch had said he expected a grand jury decision by mid-to-late November. But that’s not ultimately in his control.

The 12-person grand jury deliberates in secret, without McCulloch, and sets its own schedule depending upon when the members are available.

It’s not uncommon for deliberations to take a while in complex cases when, such as in the Brown shooting, self-defense is alleged or there are two widely conflicting versions of events, said Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson, who is not involved in the Ferguson case.

Downtown STL Inc., a St. Louis civic group that promotes downtown businesses, told members in an email Saturday that the grand jury will reconvene Monday to continue deliberating. The email did not explain how the group knew that, and McCulloch’s office has not commented on the grand jury’s schedule.

If jurors meet Monday, there is no guarantee they will reach a decision that day, or even this week.

“In the course of their deliberations, if one grand juror convinces the others that ‘Look, we need to hear from an additional witness,’ and they all agree, the prosecutor’s got a duty to bring that witness in,” Richardson said.

When the panel reaches a decision, it will be up to McCulloch to publicize it.

Sunday would have been an opportune time to minimize disruptions from protests, since schools and governments are planning on only a partial work week because of Thanksgiving, said Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He said Monday or Tuesday would still make sense.

But “my belief is that with the holiday, releasing it on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday would produce a negative reaction,” Joy said.

TIME Military

Report: Obama Broadens Mission in Afghanistan

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. troops in Afghanistan may once again engage Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists, under new guidelines quietly approved by President Barack Obama, administration officials say.

The armed forces were to limit their operations in Afghanistan to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, until Obama broadened the guidelines in recent weeks. The plan comes as the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home and the military prepares for a narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

Obama’s decision also means the U.S. can conduct air support when needed.

One U.S. official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.

“To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe,” the official said.

The Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama’s authorization. The president’s decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the U.S. officials said.

The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s decisions by name.

The decision to expand the military’s authority does not impact the overall number of U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, Obama ordered the U.S. force presence to be reduced to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut by half by the end of 2015.

The president wants all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan a year later, as his presidency draws to a close.

Some of the Obama administration’s planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year. It took months for the winner of the country’s presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.

In Kabul, officials with the Afghan Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday, while officials with the presidency could not be reached.

However, Afghan military analyst Jawed Kohistani said the move probably will be welcomed. President Ashraf Ghani’s new administration, upon taking office, immediately signed a deal with the U.S. to allow a residual force of 12,000 foreign troops in the country.

“We have heard from many military officers who are involved in direct fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents that still there is a need for more cooperation, there is need for an ongoing U.S. combat mission and there is need for U.S. air support for the Afghan security forces to help them in their fight against the insurgents,” Kohistani said.

TIME weather

Evacuation Plans Readied as Buffalo Flooding Looms

Erie County Holding Center inmates help pile sandbags to prepare for possible flooding following a massive snow storm in Williamsville
Erie County Holding Center inmates help pile sandbags to prepare for possible flooding following a massive snow storm in Williamsville, N.Y. on Nov. 23, 2014. Mark Blicnh—Reuters

"You prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that's what we're doing"

BUFFALO, N.Y. — First came the big storm, then the big dig. Now comes the big melt.

Residents of flood-prone areas around Buffalo should move valuables up from the basement, pack a bag and prepare to for the possibility of evacuation as up to 7 feet of melting snow posed the threat of flooding, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Sunday.

“Err on the side of caution,” Cuomo said at a news conference in Cheektowaga. “You prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Across the Buffalo region ? where rising temperatures were expected to approach 60 degrees on Monday ? people took that advice to heart.

In Hamburg, Pete Yeskoot bought a portable generator to make sure his sump pump will keep working once the roughly 80 inches of snow that fell on his property melts. Possessions are up on blocks in the basement and he has food for several days.

“Behind us is an 18-mile creek so everything in the village will come through us at some point, so we have to get ready for the possibility of flooding,” he said. “And given all this snow, we have to expect that this is real.”

Rain fell Sunday, with temperatures rising to 50. It was expected to be even warmer Monday, accompanied by more rain and rising winds, leading to the threat of toppled trees and power outages.

National Guard members spent Sunday clearing storm drains and culverts to facilitate runoff, and shoveling snow off roofs.

The National Weather Service said core samples of the deep snowpack showed it contained as much as 6 inches of water. Forecasters said some stretches of road in urban areas might become submerged under several feet of water if storm drains remained clogged.

The melt could first cause basements to fill up and roads to flood, but another concern was creeks overflowing. In West Seneca, there was already a sewer pump stationed near Michelle Pikula’s house along the Buffalo Creek.

“Hopefully the rain won’t be here until later and this will be a slow thaw, but flooding is our major, major concern here.”

Cuomo said evacuation plans and emergency shelters were being readied in case of flooding Sunday night and Monday. As a backup to Red Cross shelters, Cuomo said the state would have shelters at community colleges and state university campuses.

The state Thruway, which had been closed for 132 miles at the height of the lake-effect storm last week, was entirely open Sunday. All driving bans were lifted except in Lackawanna, where snow-removal crews worked to open up streets that had become parking lots with hundreds of abandoned, buried vehicles.

TIME Terrorism

The Long, Hard Slog Continues

Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a Taliban attack in Kabul
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a Taliban attack in Kabul on Wednesday. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

After 13 years, there is no "pause" button in the war on terror

On Saturday, Islamist militants halted a bus crammed with 60 passengers in northeastern Kenya, killing 28 who could not recite a Muslim declaration of faith. The same day, word leaked that President Obama has agreed to a stepped-up combat role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the original Dec. 31, 2014, deadline.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 49 people—mostly kids—at a volleyball game in eastern Afghanistan. Later in the day, the Washington Post told of one of the final U.S. military units readying to ship out for Afghanistan, even as the Taliban grow in strength just outside Kabul.

As the brutality in Africa and Afghanistan suggests, the U.S. preoccupation with defining conflicts by country and calendar is the way nations, not terrorists, wage war. The U.S. mostly views the troubled map stretching from Libya to Pakistan as a chessboard governed by sovereign borders that its foes ignore.

“All across these unstable regions we are confronting a multitude of threats to the U.S. and our interests, from longstanding well-known terrorist groups but also from newer and much more loosely connected networks of like-minded violent extremists,” Nicholas Rasmussen, tapped to head the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing Thursday. These new breeds, he warned, “operate without regard to national borders or established organizational norms.”

Deaths caused by terrorism jumped from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013, a 61% hike, according to an independent accounting released last Tuesday. Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria accounted for 80% of the toll, according to the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace. Officials blamed four radical Islamist groups for two-thirds of the carnage.

Don Rumsfeld was right.

In the falls of 2003, the defense secretary defined the post-9/11 wars as a “long, hard slog.” Eleven years later, war-weary Americans—eager to escape wars that have no intention of letting them go, are gaining an appreciation for what he meant.

“The Middle East is in turmoil with the deepening of the enmity between Sunnis and Shias, the collapse of a number of nation states, really failed states, and the elimination of meaningful borders,” political scientist Michael Curtis wrote in an essay for the weekend’s Halifax International Security Forum (as if to prove the point, jihadists piggybacked on tweets from the gathering in Nova Scotia’s capital to distribute a video featuring a British captive being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria).

Meanwhile, late Friday, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report concluding that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans was more screw-up than cover-up. For two years, lawmakers have sought to cast the event as an epic White House scandal, when reality has suggested it was more a string of mistakes and bad luck. A foreigner couldn’t be blamed if she thought GOP lawmakers viewed Obama as a bigger menace than al Qaeda. Imagine if all that partisan firepower had been directed at the real enemy.

The U.S. and its allies have yet to take on this spreading scourge in a way that is sustainable and successful. That’s going to require an international front willing to take on autocracies, kleptomaniacs and nascent nuclear powers. Success won’t come to politicians nervously glancing at their watches, or their electoral calendar. It’s going to take decades.

After his memo leaked in 2003, Rumsfeld groused to reporters that the U.S. too often measures the wrong things.

“We have lots of yardsticks and metrics where we can measure things like what’s taking place in Iraq, what’s taking place in Afghanistan, how we’re doing in the finances, how we’re doing in capturing and killing, for example, the top 55 Iraqi leaders or the top al Qaeda leaders,” he said.

But the U.S. and its allies too often have come up empty-handed when it comes to tallying the important numbers.

“How many young people are being taught to go out as suicide bombers and kill people?” Rumsfeld wanted to know. “That’s the question. How many are there? And how does that in-flow of terrorists in the world get reduced so that the number of people being captured or killed is greater than the ones being produced?”

More than a decade after Rumsfeld asked, we still have no idea.

TIME Crime

Police Arrest Naked Man Who Crashed Through Airport Bathroom Ceiling

He then attacked an 84-year-old man

Police in Boston have arrested a man who allegedly got naked inside a woman’s airport bathroom, climbed into the ceiling, crashed through it and then attacked an 84-year-old man, authorities said.

Cameron Shenk, 26, was arrested on charges including attempted murder, assault on a police officer, assault and battery on a person over 60 and committing and a lewd and lascivious act, NBC News reports.

The incident took place at Logan International Airport’s Terminal C around 11:58 a.m. The elderly man sustained non-life-threatening injuries, police said. A member of the Massachusetts State Police was also injured during the arrest.

[NBC News]

TIME Education

New Jersey Looks at ‘Yes Means Yes’ College Policy

Laura Dunn
Laura Dunn executive director of the sexual assault survivors’ organization SurvJustice poses for a picture near a church in her neighborhood in Washington on Nov. 11, 2014 Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

TRENTON, N.J. — You think the attractive woman at the party who has been chatting you up all night is ready to take things to the next level. She seems to be throwing all the right signals.

But if things turn sexual, are you sure that will hold up under legal scrutiny?

That’s a question at the center of a national debate surrounding “yes means yes” — more accurately called affirmative consent — the policy that requires conscious, voluntary agreement between partners to have sex.

A new proposal in New Jersey makes it the latest state moving to require college campuses to define when “yes means yes” in an effort to stem the tide of sexual assaults.

Whether the policy will reduce assaults remains unclear, but states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations.

California adopted a similar measure in August, and New York’s governor directed the State University of New York system to implement a similar standard. New Hampshire lawmakers are also considering it.

Supporters and critics agree the measure could encourage students to talk openly and clearly about sex and that a culture of “yes means yes” — an affirmative agreement compared with the “no means no” refrain of previous decades — could help address the issue of campus sex assaults.

Laura Dunn, executive director of the sexual assault survivors’ organization SurvJustice, said she was raped as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin in 2004, after a night of drinking at a party by two men and fellow members of the crew team. She agreed to be identified by The Associated Press.

Dunn believes such a standard could have helped her case during campus judicial proceedings, which failed to find wrongdoing. Her experience led her to become an advocate for sexual assault survivors, she said.

“Had they had an affirmative consent standard they would have realized I would never have consented,” she said.

But skeptics of the policy raise questions — many of which have yet to be settled because the standard is new and it is unclear how many cases have been subjected to the standard— about whether it offers enough protections to the accuser and accused alike.

Affirmative consent standards could unfairly shift the burden of proof to the accused, critics say, pointing out that any sexual contact could then be ruled inappropriate absent some proof of consent.

Some critics also say they could prove to be unfair to victims, who may themselves facing a heavier burden during campus tribunals under Title IX — widely known as the law governing the role of men and women in athletics, but which also aims to protect students from sexual discrimination — which currently defines the standard as “unwelcome and offensive touching.”

Yes means yes “sounds so darn good,” said Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at New England Law and an attorney handling sex assault cases. “(But) it doesn’t get better than ‘unwelcome and offensive.’”

Some students, though, express skepticism over the “unwelcome and offensive” standard, saying it fails to convey the seriousness of sexual assault. Student groups at Harvard started a petition last month to get their university to adopt affirmative consent language.

“We certainly agree with the university’s desire to address a wide range of behaviors through their policy,” said Jessica Fournier, a member of Our Harvard Can Do Better, one of the groups organizing the petition. “However, we believe referring to these acts simply as ‘unwelcome’ does not encapsulate the severity of these actions.”

Nationally, reports of forcible sexual offenses on campus rose from 3,443 in 2011 to 4,062, according to the Education Department. In New Jersey, the figure rose from 78 in 2011 to 83 in 2012, the most recent year available. That’s because of increased reporting of crimes due to a culture change and greater support for victims, said Paul Shelly of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. Indeed, only 13 percent of forcible sexual assault victims reported the crime to police or campus authorities, according to a 2007 National Institute of Justice study.

What changed, experts said, are students’ attitudes.

“It’s great that it’s receiving this attention, but it’s not a new issue. I think what’s fueling it are student protests about how their institutions have mishandled cases,” said Sarah McMahon, the co-director of Rutgers’ Center on Violence Against Women and Children.

In New Jersey, state Sen. Jim Beach introduced legislation since the debate was making waves nationally. The bill that would withhold state funds from colleges and universities unless they adopt an affirmative consent standard is still waiting for its day in committee.

“We saw what happened in California, realized that it was a problem not only in California but in New Jersey and other campuses around the country,” Beach said. “So we thought that if we did that we would certainly accomplish raising awareness of the entire problem.”

Skeptical supporters said the policy needs to be coupled with education in order for it to succeed.

“The policy is not a magic bullet,” McMahon said.

TIME Crime

UVA Suspends Fraternities After Rolling Stone Article About Rape

The University of Virginia has suspended fraternities until early January following a story about sexual assault on campus

The University of Virginia has suspended all its fraternities until next year, following an article detailing one student’s brutal sexual assault and her quest for justice.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement on Saturday saying all “fraternal organizations and associated social activities” were suspended until Jan. 9, the beginning of spring semester.

Sullivan said she has asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the 2012 incident described in the Rolling Stone article, and called on students to come forward about what happened that night.

“The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community,” she said. “Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation’s colleges and universities. “

The university’s Inter-Fraternity Council had voluntarily suspended social activities for the weekend, but Sullivan noted that the “challenges will extend beyond this weekend.”

TIME Crime

12-Year-Old Fatally Shot by Police Who Mistook Replica Gun for Real One

The boy died at the hospital after officers shot him on a playground

A 12-year-old boy who was shot by police after they mistook his replica airsoft gun for a real gun died Sunday, police said.

Officers responded on Saturday afternoon to a call about someone waving around a gun at a Cleveland playground, Cleveland.com reports. The caller told police that gun was likely not real and that the person was “probably a juvenile,” but those comments were never relayed to the officers who responded.

“There is a guy with a pistol, it’s probably fake, but he’s pointing it at everyone,” the caller says in a recording of the 911 call released by police, USA Today reports.

Police reportedly fired two shots; the boy was hit in the torso and underwent surgery on Saturday. A hospital spokesperson confirmed Sunday that the boy had since died.

The police department said in a statement that an orange marker that typically appears on toy guns to distinguish them from real guns was missing. Two police officers have been placed on administrative leave, NBC reports.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating along with the Cleveland police.

[Cleveland]

TIME Election 2016

Obama: Voters Want ‘New Car Smell’ in 2016

US President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama at the Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21 2014. Michael Nelson—EPA

The President said he himself has gotten a few 'dings' while serving two terms

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that voters will be looking for a “fresh start” as they go to the polls in 2016 to select his successor.

“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want—you know, that new car smell. You know, their own—they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me,” Obama told ABC This Week’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Friday in Las Vegas, a day after Obama announced his executive action on immigration.

The president acknowledged he’s accumulated “some dings,” while in office, adding he’s “very interested” in making sure a Democrat is his successor. “So I’m gonna do everything I can, obviously, to make sure that—whoever the nominee is is successful,” he said.

Obama spoke positively of likely Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose age and longevity in Washington has already become a target of likely Republican challengers, and against whom he ran in 2008 as the ‘new car smell’ candidate. He called Clinton a friend and told Stephanopoulos they still speak regularly, adding, “I think she and—and a number of other possible Democratic candidates, would be terrific presidents.”

But Obama, who was largely absent on the campaign trail for Democrats in 2014 due to his low poll numbers, acknowledged his successor would likely want him to stay away in 2016. “You know, they’re– they’re probably not gonna be looking at me to campaign too much,” he said, predicting “folks will be ready to see me—go off to the next thing.”

TIME justice

FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Arrests have already been made for firearm charges

The FBI has sent some 100 agents to the St. Louis area to prepare for the grand jury decision on whether to indict the police officer who shot the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

A decision by the grand jury is expected within days, and there are signs that unrest is brewing. The FBI arrested two men earlier this week near Ferguson on firearms charges as part of the increased law enforcement presence in the St. Louis suburb, CBS reports.

The 100 FBI agents were ordered to mobilize and arrive in Ferguson Friday, and additional personnel have been put on alert so they can be called in as a second emergency wave, ABC reports.

President Obama, Brown’s family, and Attorney General Eric Holder have urged protestors to remain peaceful.

[ABC]

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