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White House Adviser: Putin Is Breaking Economic Promise

White House blames Russian Economic Stagnance on Putin

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While hitting the morning shows to talk about the economic sanctions against Russia, White House National Security Adviser Tony Blinken pointed the finger squarely at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He had a compact with his people and the compact was this. ‘I’ll deliver economic growth for you if you remain politically compliant.’ Right now he’s not delivering growth,” said Blinkin on CNN’s State of the Union.

The U.S. and other Western powers have placed economic sanctions on Russia in response to continued turmoil in Ukraine they believe is being fueled by Moscow’s support.

TIME

This Is What Real Affirmative Action Would Look Like

Instead of ignoring disadvantaged kids for 12 years and then tilting the field in their favor, start early to support their chances of success

Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered a robust eulogy for the traditional affirmative-action policies that the Supreme Court officially buried in a case out of Michigan decided last week. She hit hard at the most salient point in favor of the policies: that putting a thumb on the scale in favor of a student of color is no more unfair than putting a thumb on the scale in favor of children of alumni — especially alumni wealthy enough to write checks to the school.

Yet it has long seemed to me that most of what Sotomayor thinks of as affirmative action has become a crutch for schools and other institutions. It’s an excuse for them to take minimal action of the least affirmative kind. Killing it might force schools to be more active and more affirmative in their efforts to achieve diversity.

Here’s my thinking:

The ruling announced by the court last week, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, was the continuation of years of controversy in Michigan. Eleven years ago, in a linked pair of rulings, the Supreme Court struck down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate affirmative-action program because it automatically added points in favor of minority applicants regardless of their individual qualities. At the same time, in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Justices upheld the Michigan law-school program because it made race just one factor in its person-by-person analysis of applicants.

Michigan voters responded by approving a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to ban all traditional affirmative-action programs. The latest ruling — a 6-2 majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy — upheld the right of the voters to take that step. It’s likely the opinion will encourage some other states to do likewise.

What strikes me about the banned program and others like it is how little they actually do to increase the opportunity for poor and minority students to go to college. The august institutions of higher learning tend their websites and publish their catalogs, but otherwise pretty much figure that they’ve built the school, now students will come. Minority students with the imagination to seek an education and the discipline to complete high school (often in failing public schools) get extra points in favor of their applications. But far more underprivileged youngsters never make it to the point of applying.

Schools that truly want to increase the number of disadvantaged kids in their freshman class should take far more affirmative actions than they’ve taken in the past. They should hire scouts in the inner cities and decaying suburbs to look for bright elementary-school students. They should go into the homes of those children to explain to their parents that success in college can be a path to prosperity for the entire family. They should create advertising campaigns around their most successful minority students and alums, glamorizing the idea of academic achievement.

Steps like these should be taken for all disadvantaged kids of promise, regardless of race. But because they are aimed at the bottom of the economic ladder, they will serve to advance young people of color. If every major college and university in the country were to get serious about truly affirmative actions like these, I’m pretty confident we would ultimately see more high school seniors from minority groups who are able to meet race-blind admission standards. Instead of ignoring them for 12 years, then tilting the field in their favor when most of them have already given up, start early to support their chances of success.

Sound crazy? I might cop to the charge but for one fact: our major colleges and universities are already doing all of these things — and more — to raise the number of topflight athletes on their campuses. I would venture that there is not one 10-year-old basketball phenom in the state of Michigan who is not already on the radar of the big state schools. Indeed, a tall boy or girl with a good inside move is going to be scouted by universities across the country. He or she will be visited at home by university recruiters who fly in on private jets and fill Mom with visions of big paychecks to come. Meanwhile, the sports information departments and marketing teams spend vast sums and countless hours to tell the stories of each school’s greatest athletes, knowing that these stories will inspire the next young stars to follow in those footsteps.

Let me be clear: I’m not against college sports, which have been a path to success for thousands of young Americans who might otherwise never have been exposed to higher education. But our institutions of higher learning are heavily subsidized by taxpayers (rightfully so!), and we have purchased the right to expect that they will be as affirmative and as active in building young scholars. Leaving students of promise to find their own way to the college doorstep, then putting a thumb on the scale in the admissions office, is simply too late — and much too little.

TIME States

Minneapolis to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day On Columbus Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME

Students Honor Classmate Slain on Prom Day at Beach Gathering

Students arrive at beach for vigil in honor of slain student Sanchez wearing prom clothes carrying balloons in Milford
Students arrive at the beach for a vigil in honor of slain student Maren Sanchez wearing their prom clothes carrying balloons in Milford, Conn. April 25, 2014. Michelle McLoughlin—Reuters

Friends of 16-year-old Maren Sanchez honored the student at a seaside memorial, on what would have been their prom night. Her alleged attacker, a male classmate, may now be tried as an adult

Friends and classmates of 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, who was fatally stabbed on Friday, held a seaside memorial to the murdered teen on what would have been their prom night.

Students of Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Conn., many of whom were dressed in tuxedos and prom dresses they had picked out for the event, paid tribute to Sanchez by holding up her green dress and offering remembrances, People reports. More than 200 people attended the memorial. The prom has been postponed indefinitely.

Police took the alleged attacker, a 16-year-old male classmate, into custody and are investigating whether or not Sanchez was killed for rejecting the suspect’s invitation to be his prom date. Authorities are not releasing his name because of juvenile offender laws, but multiple media reports identify the suspect as Chris Plaskon. The suspect’s attorney says his client could be charged as an adult in accordance with Connecticut law, the New York Times reports.

“We are obviously devastated by the loss of one of our students, Maren Sanchez,” Superintendent Elizabeth Feser said Friday at a press conference. “She was a 16-year-old junior – vibrant, very, very involved in Jonathan Law High School, an incredible contributor, someone who was loved and respected.”

[People]

TIME weather

Severe Storms, Tornados Forecast Across Large Swath of U.S.

A storm chaser photographer looks at thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Vinson, Oklahoma
A storm chaser photographer looks at thunderstorms supercells passing through areas in Vinson, Oklahoma late April 23, 2014. The thunder storms on were a precursor of what's forecast for this coming weekend. Gene Blevins—Reuters

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service issued warnings about severe weather this weekend across Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. Local residents were urged to prepare for hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes

Updated 4:08pm ET

Multiple tornados and severe thunderstorms are forecast this weekend from Nebraska to Texas, in what could be the worst severe weather event of the season so far.

The storms are expected to begin late Saturday and could last into the night before spreading to other areas, according to AccuWeather.com.

Multiple tornados had already touched down in eastern North Carolina by Saturday afternoon, sending 16 people to the emergency room so far and destroying or damaging 200 homes, CBS News reports.

“South-central Kansas to west-central Oklahoma would be in an elevated risk area for severe weather Saturday evening,” meteorologist Scott Breit said. The storms could then move in the direction of Omaha, Neb., Wichita, Kan., Oklahoma City, and Dallas later at night.

Sunday could see more tornados and strong hail lasting into the evening as well, according to National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. It warned that Saturday’s storms would be severe, but “isolated and scattered.”

The relatively tame severe weather season so far makes the upcoming inclement weather a particular source of worry. “A reason for extra concern this weekend is that tornadoes have been nearly non-existent so far and people tend to forget what they have learned from year to year,” said Accuweather senior vice president Mike Smith.

[AccuWeather.com]

TIME Crime

Pennsylvania School Stabbing Suspect Had ‘More People To Kill’

Alex Hribal
Alex Hribal escorted by police to a district magistrate to be arraigned, April 9, 2014, in Export, Pa. Keith Srakocic—AP

The 16-year-old suspected of stabbing 21 people at a Pennsylvania school allegedly made chilling remarks when confronted during the attack, according to a criminal complaint released Friday

After he was tackled, the teenager suspected of stabbing 21 people at his Pittsburgh-area high school refused to drop his knives and said “My work is not done, I have more people to kill,” according to a criminal complaint released Friday, CNN reports.

Alex Hribal, the alleged attacker, was tackled by a vice principal and taken into custody after stabbing 20 fellow students and a security guard at Franklin Regional Senior High on April 9. All of the victims survived, though several were hospitalized.

The Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck told CNN Friday that Hribal is now being charged with 21 counts of attempted homicide as well as other charges, including bringing weapons—two 8-inch kitchen knives–onto school property. He was previously charged with four attempted homicides and 21 aggravated assaults counts. He was charged as an adult in both cases, according to CNN.

The criminal complaint released Friday revealed that investigators found a note in the suspect’s locker that appeared to signal his intentions, CNN reports.

“I can’t wait to see the priceless and helpless looks on the faces of the students of one of the ‘best schools in Pennsylvania’ realize their previous lives are going to be taken by the only one among them that isn’t a plebeian,” the note reads.

[CNN]

TIME Education

Drinking on Campus: University of Kentucky Relaxes Its Alcohol Policy

University of Kentucky fans celebrate on State Street after their team's come from behind victory over the University of Louisville to advance to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 28, 2014.
University of Kentucky fans celebrate on State Street after their team's come from behind victory over the University of Louisville to advance to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 28, 2014. David Stephenson—Zuma

University of Kentucky officials are drawing up new rules to allow students to drink on campus, as part of an effort to rein in off-campus drinking after a series of student riots. The move is a recognition that the school's dry campus policy isn't working

As the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team marched its way through the NCAA basketball tournament this year, UK students routinely poured into the streets, setting couches on fire and uprooting street signs. Much of it took place off-campus, where students often drink thanks to the university’s dry campus policy.

But on Thursday, UK President Eli Capilouto announced the university would change that policy, in part because of events like the off-campus riots, and allow alcohol to be served on campus under “predetermined guidelines” and conditions.

The move is a recognition that the university’s policy wasn’t restricting alcohol consumption. It merely moved it farther from campus, causing headaches for families living in those areas and pushing students further from the oversight of university officials.

“Off-campus drinking is a major problem at major universities,” says East Carolina University’s Jennifer Cremeens, who studies campus alcohol policies. “And I think many of them are moving to a harm-reduction policy, finding ways to monitor and control students’ drinking rather than trying to stop it altogether.”

Dry campus policies took hold around the U.S. a few decades ago as universities wanted to show that they were providing a healthy environment for their students. Historically, student unions often included bars for those over 21, but many colleges closed them down as officials cracked down on consumption, often believing those policies could influence students’ drinking behavior.

The problem was that students merely got drunk off campus at nearby bars or inside private residences. In a way, the policy backfired, and some universities appear to be changing tactics.

While there’s no single database of how many universities allow alcohol on campus, Cremeens published a study last year in the American Journal of Health Studies finding that 24% of schools surveyed prohibited all possession of alcohol on campus compared with 32% in 2005.

Stuart Usdan, a co-author of the survey, says that when bars were on campus, university officials could oversee the establishment and make sure it didn’t promote outrageous drink specials that could lead to binge drinking.

“The thought was that you could monitor this, that it was a more controlled environment,” Usdan says. “So allowing more drinking on campus may be a way for universities to regain some of that control.”

The university has yet to say under what guidelines drinking will be allowed, but the hope is that the shift will help prevent situations like the off-campus riots this year and especially the ones back in 2012 when UK’s men’s basketball team won the NCAA championship. The off-campus ruckus lead to multiple arrests and property damage.

“This might give off a negative impression that they’re being too care-free about this, but off-campus drinking is a much bigger problem,” Usdan says. “By bringing it on campus, they may be able to minimize some of the problems.”

TIME Crime

Oklahoma’s ‘Constitutional Crisis’ Ends With Execution Date Set

Death row inmates Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett seen in pictures from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Death row inmates Charles Warner, right, and Clayton Lockett are seen in a combination of pictures from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections dated June 29, 2011. Oklahoma Department of Corrections/Reuters

Oklahoma's highest court ended the state's "constitutional crisis" by ruling that the secrecy law permitting the anonymity of lethal injection drug suppliers is constitutional. The decision paves the way for two convicted murders to be executed next week

There was a time when the Oklahoma court system settled internal disputes far more privately than the way things played out this week, when a legal appeal from two death row inmates ignited a messy public fight among two state courts, the attorney general and the governor. In those days, according to longtime court watchers, disagreements between the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals were often resolved far away from prying eyes — inside a courthouse men’s room.

“The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the chief judge of the court of appeals would confer in the men’s bathroom because it was halfway between them,” says Stephen Jones, a prominent Oklahoma attorney who defended Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. “It was a toilet conference.”

Tales of those lavatory pow-wows may be inflated, but it is certain that the two courts could have used a similarly private conference after finding themselves locked in a a constitutional turf war over a state law protecting the anonymity of lethal injection drug suppliers. A challenge to the law from two condemned prisoners set off a bitter feud between the state’s highest court, its criminal appellate division, Oklahoma’s top law enforcement officer and its chief executive. Hanging in the balance was the fate of the two men — and the potential to set a national precedent in the increasingly tangled question over how the United States executes its condemned.

The roots of the dispute date to 2011, when most pharmaceutical companies stopped selling drugs to states for use in lethal injection. In response, Oklahoma and several other states passed laws providing drugmakers anonymity in an effort to protect them against protests or boycotts if word leaked that their drugs were being used in executions. As supplies from known drug companies dwindled, these states turned to compounding pharmacies, which are not regulated by the federal government, for their lethal drugs. Human rights activists have said that unregulated pharmacies risk turning out contaminated batches of drugs, which could cause pain and distress during executions, violating the Constitution’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The use of compounding pharmacies and untested drug combinations in lethal injections has led to a series of legal challenges from condemned inmates and human rights groups. In January 2014, convicted murderers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner sued the state on the grounds that they had a right to know the source of the drugs that would be used to kill them and to be assured that their deaths would not be cruel and unusual. In March, an Oklahoma district judge agreed with them, finding the secrecy law unconstitutional and transferring a stay of execution request to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The appeals court refused to grant a stay — and that’s when things started to run off the rails.

Attorneys for Lockett and Warner appealed to the state Supreme Court, which issued its own stay of execution in a 5-4 ruling. The court’s rationale was that a stay was necessary in order to have time to decide the pending lethal injection secrecy case. But to the state’s attorney general and governor, the high court’s ruling was nothing short of a power grab.

Scott Pruitt, the attorney general, called the situation a “constitutional crisis” and said the Supreme Court had no right to overrule the appellate court because the two bodies were co-equal branches of the judiciary. It was an opinion shared by Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor, who in the minority’s dissent to the stay ruling wrote: “We have never been here before and we have no jurisdiction to be here now.”

According to legal experts, the state’s Constitution allows the Supreme Court to determine which court has jurisdiction in the face of a conflict — a power it exercised in granting the stay of execution. But that debate was further clouded on April 22, when Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order overriding the Supreme Court’s indefinite stay while issuing her own seven-day stay of execution. Whatever clarity there was suddenly disappeared.

“I don’t think there’s any question she can issue a stay of execution,” says Andrew Coats, dean of the University of Oklahoma law school. “But it’s unclear whether she can override the Supreme Court.”

Before the dueling orders could be resolved, the Supreme Court acted to end the impasse, ruling on April 23 that the secrecy law is constitutional. The decision paved the way for Lockett and Warner to be executed on April 29 using a combination of midazolam (for pain relief), vecuronium bromide (as a paralytic), and potassium chloride (to stop the heart). The combination is one of five lethal injection protocols allowed under state law, though Oklahoma has never used it before. Florida is the state to have used the combination and there were no observable problems with the execution.

While the legal question is resolved, the sparring continues. To Jones and other observers, Fallin’s maneuver had little to do with the law, and everything to do with politics. In 2010, the state GOP gained control of the executive and legislative branches. But six of the state’s nine Supreme Court judges were appointed by Fallin’s predecessor Brad Henry, a Democrat. In the last few years, a number of Republican-sponsored bills involving abortion, gay marriage and tort reform have been struck down by the court.

“In my view, there’s a perception that the judiciary is the last Democratic party institution,” says Daniel Boudreau, a former Oklahoma Supreme Court justice. “The view among the conservatives in Oklahoma, I believe, is that the institution is too liberal.”

On Wednesday, Republican state Rep. Mike Christian drafted a resolution calling for the impeachment of the five justices that granted stays of execution for Lockett and Warner, telling the Associated Press that the judges’ actions showed a “willful neglect of duty.”

Fallin’s office said the governor was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s final ruling could help establish legal precedent around the nation. About a dozen states have laws or bills pending shielding the identity of lethal drug suppliers drugmakers — and many of them are being challenged in court.

“We believe knowing the source of these drugs is vitally important to know if extreme pain or suffering is occurring,” says Susanna Gattoni, a lawyer representing Lockett and Warner. “We shouldn’t want our government imposing the most severe penalty under secrecy, but that’s what’s happening.”

The Oklahoma ruling followed a convoluted path. But the final result could make getting those answers harder than ever.

TIME Economy

Poll: Americans More Optimistic About Jobs

Job Seekers Look For Work At Career Fair In Detroit
A woman seeking employment fills out an application at a job fair at the Matrix Center April 23, 2014 in Detroit, Mich. Joshua Lott—Getty Images

30% say now is a good time to find a job, up from 8% in 2010

More Americans are optimistic about the job market this month than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to a new poll, with 30% saying now is a good time to find a quality job.

That marks a significant improvement from the 8% who said they were optimistic about the job market in 2010, but it’s still a drop from the pre-2008 highs of almost 50%. And even though almost a third of Americans are optimistic, two-thirds still say the job market is lackluster; 66% of Americans say it’s not a good time to hunt for employment.

TIME technology

Potential Net Neutrality Changes Spark Lobbying Storm

US-POLITICS-BUDGET-FCC
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gives during a Subcommittee hearing on March 27, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

At least 69 interest groups have lobbied the FCC after the commission announced it will take another stab at writing up net neutrality rules. The commission said Wednesday that it is planning to let Internet service providers charge companies for Internet "fast lanes"

Hordes of lobbyists have been streaming in and out of the Federal Communications Commission’s doors over the past two months, as the Commission has been hard at work at new proposed rules governing the way Internet traffic is delivered to customers’ homes.

At least 69 companies, public interest groups and trade associations have lobbied the FCC in regards to the so-called net neutrality changes, the New York Times reports. Net neutrality refers to the concept that Internet service providers should treat all Internet traffic as equal in regards to speed of delivery. Proponents of the idea say it bolsters competition among media giants, while detractors argue it amounts to undue government interference in the marketplace.

The lobbying firestorm is likely to intensify after the commission announced Wednesday that it will propose rules allowing ISPs to charge companies for Internet “fast lanes.”

That’s a position some net neutrality proponents view as antithetical to the concept they hold dear. Many of those proponents argue the new proposal, being issued under the stewardship of recently-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, are a reversal of the net neutrality principals enshrined in an earlier FCC order that was the crowning achievement of the agency’s previous Chairman, Julius Genachowski.

Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, has defended the FCC’s new proposals, arguing they don’t defy the agency’s earlier order. Wheeler also said that the FCC under the proposed changes would be able to stop activity deemed harmful to consumers on a case-by-case basis.

“To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post Thursday.

FCC commissioners are set to vote on the proposed changes next month before they’re opened to public comment.

[NYT]

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