TIME Crime

Sandra Bland’s Family to File Federal Lawsuit Over Death

Sandra Bland poses for a photo.
Courtesy of the Bland Family/AP Sandra Bland poses for a photo.

The lawsuit names the trooper who arrested Bland "and others responsible for [her] death."

The family of Sandra Bland will file a federal lawsuit over the 28-year-old’s death in police custody, according to the family’s attorney.

The lawsuit, which will be filed in Houston on Tuesday according to KHOU, targets Brian Encinia, the white Texas state trooper who arrested Bland, “and others responsible for [her] death”, KHOU reports.

Bland was arrested on July 10 in Waller County, Texas, for failing to signal while changing lanes and allegedly kicking Encinia after being stopped. She was found dead in her jail cell three days later at the Hempstead prison facility where she was being held. A July 14 autopsy report ruled Bland’s death a suicide, and found she used a plastic bag to hang herself. Members of her family have said they do not believe the official explanation for her death.

Bland’s death and footage of the arrest, in which Encinia threatened Bland with a taser, have ignited protests and controversy over her treatment at the hands of the police. Officials released video last week showing Bland in jail to quell claims that Bland was hurt by the police.

[KHOU]

TIME Crime

Homicides Are Spiking This Year After Falling for Decades

A study says homicide rates are down. But 2015 rates—especially for gun violence—are very different.

Since 1960, U.S. homicide rates have been falling—that is, until this year. Meanwhile, intimate-partner violence and child abuse affect up to 12 million and 10 million Americans, respectively, according to a survey released Tuesday in JAMA. Taken together, it paints a bleak picture for Americans’ safety, and it has violence prevention scholars trying to figure out what led to the changes—and when.

At the annual meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association on Monday, police chiefs grappled with the fact that some cities are seeing a 50% increase in murders compared with last year. Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier pointed to the nation’s capital as an example: This time last year, D.C. had 69 homicides; this year, D.C. has seen at 87 homicides. Nearby Baltimore tallied 42 homicides in May alone, with 45 in July. And in Chicago, there have been 243 homicides this year so far—a 20% spike from last year.

Until 2012, “we saw decreases for homicide and aggravated assault,” says Dr. Debra Houry, a co-author of the JAMA study who works with the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “It’s promising because it shows that violence is preventable.”

Homicide rates in 1980 stood at 10.7 per 100,000; by 2013, they’d been cut in half. Aggravated assault saw a similar halving of incidences between 1992 and 2012.

But Andrew Papachristos, a professor of sociology at Yale and a criminal justice expert who has focused much of his research on Chicago’s gang and gun violence, says that JAMA‘s findings may not offer a nuanced enough picture of what’s going on in the United States, because it looks at general trends across the country. While on average crime might have fallen until to this year, some cities, such as Chicago and Milwaukee, are still facing severe problems with violence, particularly in certain areas of the city. Indeed, within cities, “the rates of violence across neighborhoods can be exponentially higher in certain areas and almost zero in others,” he says.

Policy changes can make a difference, says Papachristos. Programs that aim to decrease unemployment, particularly among African Americans, is a critical policy adjustment, he says, since unemployment is correlated with gun violence. He also cites outdated gun laws as part of the problem.

One policy bright spot was found in a study released by the American Journal of Public Health earlier this summer, which looked at Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase handgun law as a case study. The law dates to 1994 and it requires gunowners to purchase a license prior to acquiring a handgun. The state would only allow people to buy guns if they passed a background check and gun-safety course. The result? Connecticut residents can credit the law for a 40% reduction in gun-related homicides. (Of course, in a dreary statistic that illustrates Papachristos’ point, it’s not down everywhere in the state; Hartford is experiencing a massive surge in gun violence this year.)

But even with some signs of promise, any changes to law or policy might come too late for many victims of American crime this year. Criminal justice expert Rod Wheeler told Fox that America is snowballing into the most violent summer the country has seen in decades.

“I said this back in June, that we’re going to have a long, hot, bloody summer,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s coming to pass.”

TIME safety

FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers

The pressure to be "always on" is leading young people to take their eyes off the road

A frightening amount of drivers will fess up to texting while driving. One recent survey found that 70% of people will admit to using their smartphones at the wheel. Now a new study goes beyond bad behaviors to investigate the motivations behind them. When it comes to teen drivers at least, it appears the culprit is an ascendant cultural plague: FOMO.

FOMO, an acronym for fear of missing out, is not just another cloying bit of slang, report Liberty Mutual Insurance and the non-profit SADD, an acronym for Students Against Destructive Decisions. In their study of 1,622 high school juniors and seniors around the country, teen drivers said they feel pressure to respond immediately to texts even while driving and that they can’t help but peek at their phones when notifications pop up in their apps. The expectations of their “always on” lifestyles, the researchers say, have “potentially deadly consequences.”

“Today’s hyper-connected teens … may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” says William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in a statement. Teens may struggle to attend to everything they should on the road even without a smartphone, he says, because they are less experienced drivers. Once a device is thrown into the mix, messages and updates and videos and tweets become additional competitors for their attention, along with the radio, the climate controls or the hundred things happening outside the car.

In the study released Tuesday, more than half of teens said they text while driving in order to keep their parents updated and about one-fifth of them said they believe their parents expect a response within a single minute, even when they are at the wheel. (For their part, nearly 60% of 1,000 parents also surveyed for the study said they do not have a set expectation for response times.) About half of teens said they text more when they’re in the car alone than when others are in the car with them. The most popular apps they said they used while driving break down as follows:

  • Snapchat: 38%
  • Instagram: 20%
  • Twitter: 17%
  • Facebook: 12%
  • YouTube: 12%

The list highlights that, like older drivers, teenagers aren’t just texting while driving. They’re watching videos and taking selfies.

The feeling that they must like an Instagram photo or reply to a Facebook comment the moment it’s posted not only makes teenagers distracted, the researchers say, but may contribute to their general fatigue. In their survey, 58% of teens said they had either fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, and about half of them said they get only three to six hours of sleep per night during the week, often because they’re up staring into their smartphone screens. The effects of driving while sleepy, the researchers point out, are similar to those of driving under the influence; 24 hours without sleep can be the equivalent of three cocktails.

SADD was founded to stop young people from drinking and driving but has expanded its mission to combat an array of things that undermine young people’s health and safety. Their experts suggest parents act on data like this by talking to their kids, making it clear that it’s fine not to respond while they’re en route somewhere and making sure they get a decent amount of shuteye each night. “Today’s parents are juggling their own busy schedules, and too often young drivers’ risky habits go unrecognized,” says SADD’s Stephen Gray Wallace in a statement.

It appears they should also continue to pound away at the message being trumpeted by everyone from trauma centers to wireless carriers: It’s dangerous to use your phone while driving, and despite how you might feel at the time, whatever it is can wait. Nearly 90% of the teens who said they use apps on the road also said they consider themselves “safe” drivers, the study found, as did 60% of those who make calls. While many said they’re texting with purpose—to coordinate an event or update a friend—nearly 20% say they text while driving “just for fun.”

“It’s critical that parents focus on pinpointing these dangerous driving habits early on,” says Wallace, “and have frequent conversations with their children about what safe driving really means.”

TIME NASA

Star Trek Actress Nichelle Nichols to Fly on NASA Mission

Nichelle Nichols nasa flight
Gustavo Caballero—Getty Images Nichelle Nichols attends Florida Supercon at the Miami Beach Convention Center on July 4, 2014 in Miami Beach.

She's be flying on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

It’s been 49 years since Nichelle Nichols took on the role of Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series, but her relationship with space exploration is continuing.

The actress, 82, revealed on Friday during a Reddit AMA that she will be a passenger on an upcoming flight of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an aircraft equipped with a powerful telescope used to study the planet’s atmosphere, investigate comets and more. The flight takes off on Sept. 15.

Nichols – who has recovered from a minor stroke she suffered in June – clarified on Reddit that no, she won’t actually be heading into the final frontier, however.

“SOFIA does not, sadly, fly into space,” she said. “It’s an airborne observatory, a massive telescope mounted inside a 747 flying as high as is possible. I was on a similar flight, the first airborne observatory, back in 1977. It’s an amazing experience, you get a totally different perspective than from Earth. I do hope someone gets some great pictures.”

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Religion

Mormons To Shed Light on Church’s Origins in Document Release

To match Special Report MORMONCHURCH/
Jim Urquhart—Reuters The LDS Church's Mormon Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, on Jan. 27, 2012.

The volume being released is a printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church is taking another step in its push to be more transparent, and is releasing more historical documents that shed light on how Joseph Smith formed the religion.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the volume being released at a news conference Tuesday in Salt Lake City is a printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

Mormons believe that 185 years ago, God helped Smith translate a story that was written in ancient Egyptian and engraved on gold plates. It became known as the Book of Mormon.

The religion counts 15 million followers worldwide after experiencing a tripling of membership in the past three decades. Some outsiders have criticized it as being secretive about its practices and beliefs.

This is the church’s latest step toward making available documents or clarifying some of the more sensitive parts of its doctrine or history.

TIME Sports

Why Officials are Puzzled by the Deaths of Yosemite Jumpers

dean-potter
Cedar Wright Dean Potter practicing the art of slacklining in Yosemite Valley

Dean Potter and Graham Hunt were killed on May 16 when they slammed into the ridgeline at 100 mph

FRESNO, Calif. — World-famous wingsuit flier Dean Potter had strapped his iPhone to the back of his head and hit record before jumping from a cliff in Yosemite National Park in what was to be an exhilarating flight through a V-shaped rocky formation — a route that left little margin for error.

Potter set the phone at this position to capture a video of his partner, Graham Hunt, behind and above him as the pair leaped off the granite diving board at Taft Point, 3,500 feet above the valley.

Twenty-two seconds later the video abruptly stops. The two were killed when they slammed into the ridgeline at 100 mph-plus attempting to soar through the notch in the rock formation called Lost Brother.

Through a records request, The Associated Press obtained investigation reports about the deadly flight on May 16. National Park Service investigators relied heavily on Potter’s bashed iPhone, interviews and a series of rapid-fire photos taken by Potter’s girlfriend, Jen Rapp, who stayed behind at the launch site as the spotter.

The investigation concluded the deaths were accidental, but despite the video and photos of the jump, officials consider the specific reason why they died a mystery. Investigators listed several possible contributing factors — including indecision, distraction, miscalculation and air turbulence — as the jumpers made split-second decisions.

Potter, 43, and Hunt, 29, were both experienced in the extreme sport of wingsuit flying, a dangerous offshoot of BASE jumping — an acronym for parachuting off buildings, antennas, spans such as bridges and Earth. They would glide frighteningly close to cliffs and trees, wearing the suits that have fabric stitched between the arms and body and between the legs, so jumpers spreading their limbs can stay aloft longer and control their path with subtle body movements.

In 2009, Potter made the longest known BASE jump — off the Eiger North Face in Switzerland. He remained in flight for 2 minutes and 50 seconds, earning him National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year title.

In his final flight, Potter stood with Hunt on the ledge in Yosemite. It was still light at 7:35 p.m. with hovering rainclouds, according to the investigation. Potter wore a red suit, while Hunt’s was black and yellow. Hunt zipped his phone in his pocket, after trying unsuccessfully to text his girlfriend, who was waiting in the valley. Potter’s iPhone video recording captured what sounded like him saying “Ready?”

Potter told Rapp that he planned to fly through the notch. If he lacked elevation, he would instead go around the ridgeline. Rapp snapped photos of Potter making the leap, followed closely by Hunt.

Seconds into flight, Rapp lost sight of them. Instead, she told investigators that she heard a “thwack” followed a second later by a “guuuuhhh.” She shouted in their direction, hoping the noises were parachutes opening, not impacts of bodies. She didn’t received the text Potter usually sent with the word “safe” to assure her that he had once again beaten the odds.

Dusk turned to darkness and desperation. Rapp drove to their agreed upon meeting place. Not finding the jumpers, she returned to Potter’s nearby home, where she found Hunt’s girlfriend.

“Are they OK? Have you talked to them?” Hunt’s girlfriend asked. Rapp said she hadn’t.

The two women at 10 p.m. went to the residence of Mike Gauthier, Yosemite’s chief of staff and a friend of Potter. Gauthier urged the women to report the men missing and they made an emergency phone call. A dispatcher reported a woman calling, asking if any BASE jumpers had been arrested. Upon hearing a “no,” the caller broke down crying.

A ground search that night turned up nothing, but a helicopter crew the next morning found their bodies.

Autopsies found that Potter had struck headfirst and that Hunt hit with the front of his body. Blood samples showed no drugs or alcohol for either man.

Investigators say Rapp’s still photos show Hunt flying left, then right, then left and a final hard banking right before his impact. After Potter’s iPhone was repaired, the video shows him a foot or two above the ground just before the video stopped. Park officials did not provide the video to the AP, saying it was in possession of Potter’s family. Rapp declined an AP request for the photographs that she took.

An unnamed wingsuit flier investigators consulted estimated that Potter and Hunt had flown through the notch about five times, a path well known among wingsuit fliers as being dangerous.

The flier inspected both wingsuits for the park service and found no equipment flaws, the investigative reports said.

Among other things, they noted that Hunt may have been distracted by phone calls and texts he attempted immediately before jumping and that Potter may have seen his partner strike the ground and flinched, or he simply misjudged his elevation.

“No one but Potter and Hunt will every truly know what happened,” investigators concluded.

TIME Congress

Watch Elizabeth Warren’s Speech in Defense of Planned Parenthood

She was speaking before Monday's vote on a defunding proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized members of Congress who want to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Do you have any idea what year it is?” Warren asked, speaking before Monday’s Senate vote on the defunding bill. “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

Warren was speaking after covertly recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the costs associated with fetal-tissue extraction. That footage, roundly criticized by both parties, set off a political firestorm, with Republicans alleging that the conversations proved that staffers were selling baby body parts for profit.

Senator Joni Ernst introduced a bill involving the sweeping defunding of the organization, in a bid to hit back against what, in a recent TIME op-ed, Ernst and Senators Rand Paul and James Lankford called “callous actions that strike at the moral fabric of our society.”

In response, Planned Parenthood has maintained that the videos were taken out of context and alleges that they were edited.

The Senate later voted down the bill, but the issue is expected to resurface as Congress attempts to pass spending bills later in the year.

TIME Aviation

Airlines Ban Big Game Trophies from Cargo After Cecil the Lion Death

The ban is on all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo "trophies"

The international indignation ignited by the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe last month is persuading some airlines to consider their policy on the shipment of big-game carcasses and body parts (known in hunting parlance as “trophies”).

On Monday, Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines announced that they would no longer allow such shipments.

Delta — which can get you to Lagos, Accra, Dakar and Johannesburg from Atlanta or New York — has been the subject of a major online campaign. It capitulated Monday, issuing a statement saying it would “officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight.”

United followed suit, telling NBC News that it too would enact a ban. American Airlines also tweeted its own prohibition on transporting big game trophies:

United noted that it “hasn’t had many big-game shipments” — a statement that TIME cannot independently confirm, though the New York Times reports that the lion’s share of non-African hunters on the continent come from the U.S. Fifteen thousand Americans go on African hunting holidays each year, and “the vast majority want to take trophies of their kills home,” conservationists told Reuters in June.

South African Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa and Emirates have all stopped freighting such trophies.

TIME California

Cooler Weather Helps Crews Battling California Wildfires

APTOPIX California Wildfires
Jeff Chiu—AP Firefighters spray a hose at a fire along Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., on July 31, 2015

At least two dozen homes were destroyed

(LOWER LAKE, Calif.) — Cooler weather helped crews build a buffer Monday between a raging Northern California wildfire and some of the thousands of homes it threatened as it tore through drought-withered brush that hadn’t burned in years.

At least two dozen homes were destroyed over the past few days, and more than 13,000 people were urged to flee.

The fire — the largest blaze in drought-stricken California — roughly tripled in size over the weekend to 93 square miles, generating its own winds that fanned the flames and reduced thousands of acres of manzanita shrubs and other brush to barren land in hours.

“There’s a lot of old growth-type vegetation and four years of drought to dry it all out,” said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It was ready to go.”

The fire was burning in the Lower Lake area, about 100 miles north of San Francisco and 10 miles from Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake entirely within California and a popular spot for boaters and campers. Fire officials said no homes around the lake were threatened.

Evacuated residents were amazed at how quickly the flames spread.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Donna McDonald, of Clear Lake, said at a high school that had been turned into a shelter. “I was very happy at one point when I saw no smoke at all. Then all of a sudden it just flared up real big again.”

Layna Rivas, of Clearlake Oaks, evacuated her home over the weekend and wanted to get back to feed her chickens.

“You have to have that let go feeling and know everything is going to be OK,” she said. “My place is going to be safe, my animals are going to be safe.”

Lower temperatures and higher humidity Monday allowed firefighters to contain more of the fire, said CalFire Capt. Don Camp.

“We are hoping we only have to deal with winds from the weather instead of the fire creating its own winds,” he said.

Numerous other wildfires in California, Washington state and Oregon took off as the effects of drought and summer heat turned the West Coast combustible. California blazes killed a firefighter last week and injured four others.

Crews in the Lower Lake area conducted controlled burns, setting fire to shrubs to rob the blaze of fuel and protect some of 5,500 homes threatened. The fire was burning in a rural area of grasslands and steep hills.

The fire destroyed at least 24 homes and 26 outbuildings. More than 13,000 people have been forced from their homes or have been warned to leave.

More fire crews were brought in, bringing the number of firefighters to nearly 3,000. Two more National Guard air tankers were being brought in from Colorado to drop retardant, Tolmachoff said.

Crews battled 20 other wildfires in California — some sparked by lightning — though none as big as the Lower Lake blaze. Mandatory evacuations were also in place farther north in a remote rural area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The Lower Lake fire is well short of historic proportions. One of the largest wildfires in California history was a 2013 blaze that took out 400 square miles of Sierra Nevada wilderness.

___

Daley reported from Middletown, Calif. Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco and Yara Bishara in Phoenix contributed to this report.

TIME new hampshire

Two Killed When Circus Tent Collapses in New Hampshire

LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) — Authorities say a circus tent collapsed when a severe storm raked a New Hampshire fairground, killing two people and injuring 15 others.

WMUR-TV reported that state Department of Safety spokesman Michael Todd confirmed the fatalities.

The accident happened Monday evening at the Lancaster fairgrounds, about 90 miles north of the state capital in Concord. Florida-based Walker International Events was scheduled to do two shows Monday before moving on to Vermont on Tuesday. The company did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday night.

State police say it’s unclear exactly how many people were hurt but up to 250 people were in the tent when it collapsed.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said state officials are monitoring the situation.

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area during the time of the collapse.

The collapse comes a day after one man died and more than a dozen were injured when a tent where people had sought shelter during a brief storm blew off its moorings and fell on some of the crowd at a festival in a Chicago suburb. The annual celebration known as the Prairie Fest had attracted about 5,000 people when the tent collapsed.

The popular Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago’s Grant Park briefly shut down Sunday afternoon due to the weather, then resumed less than an hour later. Organizers ended the final day of the festival 30 minutes early Sunday night when another storm hit the area.

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