TIME Courts

SeaWorld Faces Lawsuit Over Treatment of Whales

USA, California, San Diego, Sea World, Killer Whale (orca)
Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket/Getty Images A killer whale (orca) at SeaWorld in San Diego.

The suit says customers who were deceived about the parks' practices should be refunded

A class action lawsuit has been filed against SeaWorld claiming that customers were deceived about the parks’ harmful treatment of whales, and that they should be refunded for their tickets.

The plaintiff is Holly Hall, a California woman who lawyers say would not have taken her family to a SeaWorld park in 2011 if she had known about the way the whales were treated, citing powerful drugs, forced breeding and cramped quarters that are detrimental to their health, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The lawsuit says any visitors to the parks in the last four years should be refunded, alleging that SeaWorld deliberately misleads the public about its care for orca whales.

The lawsuit comes two years after the popular documentary Blackfish, which sought to expose abuses in the sea-park industry through the story of one whale. On Tuesday, former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove published his own exposé, Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. The lawyers in the class action lawsuit had previously represented Hargrove.

SeaWorld is calling the suit “a publicity stunt intended to generate more news coverage of John Hargrove’s anti-SeaWorld book,” emphasizing that there is “no higher priority for SeaWorld than the health and well-being of its animals.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

TIME portfolio

Meet America’s First Video Game Varsity Athletes

The newest route to college is through a video game

Correction appended, March 27, 2015

Parents who think that video games are an academic distraction, take heart: pounding on the controller can now help pay for college.

Last fall, Robert Morris University in Chicago became the first college in the US to make competitive gaming ­ or “e-sports” ­ a varsity sport, and offer athletic scholarships for players. “My parents were always telling me to get off the Xbox,” says Jonathan Lindahl, a freshman e-sports player at Robert Morris. “So I’m really rubbing it in their faces.”

At Robert Morris, video game scholarships can be worth up to half of tuition and housing, or $19,000. What’s more, since the NCAA doesn’t regulate e-sports, they’re not bound by the rules of amateurism. A couple of Robert Morris players, for example, recently played in a semi-pro tournament and each earned around $1,000. Want to get paid as a college athlete? Stay on the Xbox.

Robert Morris spent $100,000 ­and received help from video game sponsors ­ to retrofit a classroom into a full-fledged gaming hub with hi-tech monitors, headsets, and chairs. The players look a bit like fighter pilots, and play League of Legends, a five-on-five battle game popular among college students. The top Robert Morris team has qualified for Sweet 16 of the North American Collegiate Championship (NACC), which starts on March 28: traditional sports powers like Michigan, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M are also in the mix. The “Final Four” will be held in Los Angeles in early May. Each member of the winning team will receive $30,000 in scholarship money.

A sure sign that college video games are like traditional sports: one member of the Robert Morris squad, freshman Adrian Ma, 18. left the school in November to join a pro team. “The opportunity was too good to pass up,” says Ma. A second school, the University of Pikeville in Kentucky, will offer e-sports scholarships this fall. For gamers, March Madness has indeed arrived.

Read the full story, The Varsity Sport of the Virtual World, in the latest issue of TIME magazine and on TIME.com.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the student in slide 9. His name is Zixing Jie.

TIME energy

Oil Council: Shale Won’t Last, Arctic Drilling Needed Now

Arctic Oil Drilling
Al Grillo—AP In this 2007 file photo, an oil transit pipeline runs across the tundra to flow station at the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska's North Slope.

A new study from the Energy Department advisory council says the U.S. should begin Arctic drilling

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. should immediately begin a push to exploit its enormous trove of oil in the Arctic waters off of Alaska, or risk a renewed reliance on imported oil in the future, an Energy Department advisory council says in a study to be released Friday.

The U.S. has drastically cut imports and transformed itself into the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas by tapping huge reserves in shale rock formations. But the government predicts that the shale boom won’t last much beyond the next decade.

In order for the U.S. to keep domestic production high and imports low, oil companies should start probing the Artic now because it takes 10 to 30 years of preparation and drilling to bring oil to market, according to a draft of the study’s executive summary obtained by the Associated Press.

“To remain globally competitive and to be positioned to provide global leadership and influence in the Arctic, the U.S. should facilitate exploration in the offshore Alaskan Arctic now,” the study’s authors wrote.

The study, produced by the National Petroleum Council at the request of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, comes at a time when many argue the world needs less oil, not more. U.S. oil storage facilities are filling up, the price of oil has collapsed from over $100 a barrel to around $50, and prices are expected to stay relatively low for years to come. At the same time, scientists say the world needs to drastically reduce the amount of fossil fuels it is burning in order to avoid catastrophic changes to the earth’s climate.

The push to make the Arctic waters off of Alaska more accessible to drillers comes just as Royal Dutch Shell is poised to restart its troubled drilling program there. The company has little to show after spending years and more than $5 billion preparing for work, waiting for regulatory approval, and early-stage drilling. After assuring regulators it was prepared for the harsh conditions, one of its drill ships ran aground in heavy seas near Kodiak Island in 2012. Its drilling contractor, Noble Drilling, was convicted of violating environmental and safety rules.

Environmental advocates say the Arctic ecosystem is too fragile to risk a spill, and cleanup would be difficult or perhaps even impossible because of weather and ice.

“If there’s a worse place to look for oil, I don’t know what it is,” says Niel Lawrence, Alaska director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “There aren’t any proven effective ways of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic.”

But global demand for oil, which affects prices of gasoline, diesel and other fuels everywhere, is expected to rise steadily in the coming decades — even as alternative energy use blossoms — because hundreds of millions of people are rising from poverty in developing regions and buying more cars, shipping more goods, and flying in airplanes more often.

In order to meet that demand and keep prices from soaring, new sources of oil must be developed, the council argues. The Arctic is among the biggest such sources in the world and in the U.S.

The Arctic holds about a quarter of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and gas deposits, geologists estimate. While the Russian Arctic has the biggest share of oil and gas together, the U.S. and Russia are thought to have about the same amount of crude oil — 35 billion barrels. That’s about 5 years’ worth of U.S. consumption and 15 years of U.S. imports.

The council’s study acknowledges a host of special challenges to drilling in the Arctic, including the sensitive environment, the need to respect the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples living there, harsh weather and sea ice.

But the council, which is made up of energy company executives, government officials, analysis firms and nonprofit organizations, says the technology and techniques needed to operate in the region are available now, and the industry can safely operate there. The report contends the industry has developed improved equipment and procedures to prevent a spill and clean up quickly if one occurs.

The council makes a number of suggestions designed to make U.S. Arctic development more feasible. They include holding regular sales of drilling rights, extending the amount of time drillers are allowed to work each year, and doing more scientific studies of the wildlife in the region to ensure it is disturbed as little as possible.

“It’s important to have good information to make these decisions,” says Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Global Energy Policy. “We need to make sure we’re doing this in the right way.”

TIME Law

California Loosens a Blanket Ban on Sex Offenders Living Near Schools

Low-risk offenders will now be given more freedom to live where they choose

A key provision of a Californian law that prohibits all registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 ft. of a school or park is to be revised.

The so-called Jessica’s Law was approved nine years ago and enforced a blanket restriction on where all sex offenders could live, whether or not their crimes involved children, reports the Los Angeles Times.

However, on March 2 the California supreme court ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Parolees in San Diego argued that Jessica’s Law made it difficult for them to find places to live and many were made homeless with a lack of access to health care, rehabilitation services and psychological counseling.

Parole officers will now be given more freedom to decide whether offenders pose a risk on a case-by-case basis.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said those offenders who were high risk, or whose crimes involved children under 14, would still be barred from living within half a mile from a school.

Jessica’s Law was named after Jessica Lunsford, a child who was abducted from her house in Florida, and raped and murdered by a sex offender living nearby.

[L.A. Times]

TIME Religion

George Takei Asks Twitter Followers to #BoycottIndiana Over Religious Objections Law

Critics say the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legalizes discrimination

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday that allows business owners to deny same-sex couples service on religious grounds, then quickly defended it. Within hours, Star Trek actor and LGBT activist George Takei took his outrage to Twitter using the hashtag #BoycottIndiana, which began trending.

Democratic lawmakers, LGBT rights activists and civil liberties groups have argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legalizes discrimination. And other celebrities aside from Takei have questioned Pence’s decision to sign the bill. On Monday, Jason Collins—the first openly gay NBA player—tweeted at the Governor, asking him if he will be discriminated against when he attends the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis next week.

On Thursday, the Indianapolis-based NCAA, expressed its own doubts. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.

Several other businesses plan to protest the law by denying Indiana their business. The gamer convention Gen Con threatened in a letter to pull its event out of Indianapolis when its contract with the city ends, and Mark Benioff, CEO of the $43 billion tech company Salesforce, said company will no longer proceed with its plans to expand to the state.

Read next: Indiana Governor Defends Signing of Religious Objections Bill

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME College Basketball

Notre Dame Beats Wichita State for Spot in Elite Eight

Zach Auguste #30 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dunks in the second half against Rashard Kelly #0 and Darius Carter #12 of the Wichita State Shockers during the Midwest Regional semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Gregory Shamus—Getty Images Zach Auguste #30 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dunks in the second half against Rashard Kelly #0 and Darius Carter #12 of the Wichita State Shockers during the Midwest Regional semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

This marks the first time Notre Dame has reached the Elite Eight since 1979

The most intriguing matchup of the Sweet 16 didn’t live up to its billing. Notre Dame shot 56% from the field and 47% from three-point range Thursday in beating Wichita State, 81-70, to earn a spot in the Elite Eight.

While Wichita State didn’t get much offensive production from players not named VanVleet or Carter, it lost this game on the other end of the floor. Despite rating out as one of the better defensive teams remaining in the field, the Shockers simply could not slow down Notre Dame’s high-powered offense. To wit: the Irish rang up roughly 1.25 points per possession.

The first five minutes hinted at the outcome of the game. Notre Dame opened with a flourish, opening up a 13-point lead thanks to a trio of three-point shots from guards Demetrius Jackson and Pat Connaughton and two-point field goals from center Zach Auguste. The Irish’s third-ranked efficiency offense had ignited, and Wichita State seemingly had no means to stop it.

The Shockers quickly found their bearings and began narrowing Notre Dame’s deficit. After a layup from Auguste around the 15-minute mark, Wichita State ripped off a 9-2 run. Then Shockers guard Ron Baker drilled a three-point shot to slice the deficit to six and, about a minute later, hit another trey to make it a one-possession game.

Notre Dame weathered Wichita State’s charge, and a Connaughton jumper at the 3:40 mark put the Irish up by eight points. But the Shockers finished the half on a strong note, with guard Fred VanVleet scoring seven points over the final three and a half minutes.

VanVleet and forward Darius Carter helped the Shockers take their first lead (38-37) of the game early in the second half. After Notre Dame’s Jackson and Steve Vasturia scored a jump shot and a layup to give the Irish a five-point lead, Carter maneuvered inside for two two-point buckets and VanVleet knocked down a pair of free throws.

Notre Dame answered decisively. In the next two-plus minutes, the Irish showed why they boast the nation’s third most efficient offense. Jackson drained two threes and converted a layup, Vasturia buried a trey of his own, and guard Jerian Grant and forward Bonzie Colson finished layups. When the run ended, Notre Dame led by eight and seemed on track for a comfortable win.

Another offensive onslaught a few minutes later effectively sealed the game. Grant sank a three, Auguste connected on two two-point field goals, Vasturia and Connaughton also converted from downtown and Jackson made two free throws to put Notre Dame up 19.

This marks the first time Notre Dame has reached the Elite Eight since 1979. The Irish have now won 32 games this season, the second most in program history. Meanwhile, this is the fourth consecutive year Wichita State has reached the tournament, and the third consecutive year in which it has won at least one game.

As impressive as it was for Notre Dame to pull through against a Wichita State team that ranked among the nation’s top 20 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, don’t expect the Irish to advance to the Final Four. Barring a massive upset on Thursday night at the hands of No. 5 seed West Virginia, Kentucky will meet Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.

The question of whether the Irish are a good or bad matchup for the Wildcats misses the point, because there is no team that matches up well against Kentucky.

It’s disappointing that Wichita State won’t get an opportunity to face the Wildcats. While the Shockers may not have been able to beat the Wildcats, anyone who watched the two teams play a thrilling game in the Round of 32 last season would have welcomed a rematch.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME States

Indiana Governor Defends Signing of Religious-Objections Bill

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on March 26, 2015.
Michael Conroy—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on March 26, 2015.

The state became the first to enact such a change this year among about a dozen other states where such proposals have been introduced

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence vigorously defended the state religious objections bill that he signed into law Thursday as businesses and organizations including the NCAA pressed concerns that it could open the door to legalizing discrimination against gay people.

The state became the first to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. Arkansas’ governor said Thursday he supported a similar bill that’s advancing in that state’s Legislature.

Pence, a Republican mulling a possible 2016 presidential campaign, signed the bill privately in his office with at least a couple dozen supporters on hand. He later met with reporters and refuted arguments from opponents that law would threaten civil rights laws by saying that hasn’t happened under the federal religious freedom law Congress passed in 1993 and similar laws in 19 other states.

“There has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bill,” Pence said. “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would’ve vetoed it.”

Those arguments didn’t satisfy opponents who worry the law, which will take effect in July, presents Indiana as unwelcoming and could give legal cover to businesses that don’t want to provide services to gays and lesbians.

National gay-rights consider the Indiana bill among the most sweeping of similar state proposals introduced as conservatives brace for a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign said Indiana lawmakers “have sent a dangerous and discriminatory message.”

“They’ve basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it’s OK to discriminate against people despite what the law says,” said Sarah Warbelow, the group’s legal director.

The Indianapolis-based NCAA, which is holding its men’s basketball Final Four in the city next weekend, said in a statement it was concerned about the legislation and was examining how it might affect future events and its workforce.

“We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Soon after Pence signed the bill, Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff announced on Twitter that he was canceling all programs that require its customers or employees “to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

The San Francisco-based company bought Indianapolis-based marketing software company ExactTarget for $2.5 billion in 2013 and has kept hundreds of employees in the city. A company spokeswoman declined to elaborate on Benioff’s statement.

Conservative groups backing the bill have said it merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.

Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter praised the new law, saying it would give abortion opponents legal recourse if they are pressured to support the procedure. The organization circulated an online petition to thank Pence for signing the bill.

At least two groups — the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and gamers’ convention organizer Gen Con — have said they would reconsider plans to events in Indianapolis because of the legislation.

Pence pointed out that President Barack Obama voted in favor of a similar state law while he was an Illinois legislator. But when Pence was asked whether he would support matching Illinois by adding sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law, he responded: “That’s not on my agenda. I won’t be pursuing that.”

TIME justice

Will Congress Reform the Criminal Justice System?

Civil rights activist Van Jones speaks onstage at '#YesWeCode: From The 'Hood To Silicon Valley' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on March 16, 2015.
Robert A Tobiansky–Getty Images Civil rights activist Van Jones speaks onstage at '#YesWeCode: From The 'Hood To Silicon Valley' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on March 16, 2015.

There's bipartisan backing, but that doesn't mean a bill will pass

Correction appended, March 27

Van Jones likes to call his Republican buddies “brother.” As in Brother Mark (Holden, the general counsel at Koch Industries), or Brother Matt (Kibbe, the CEO of the conservative group FreedomWorks). Jones, a Democratic activist and former Obama adviser, beamed as he strolled the halls of a cavernous Washington hotel Thursday, clasping shoulders and squeezing hands with one unlikely conservative ally after the next. And Jones wasn’t the only one basking in the warm vibes of bipartisanship.

If you mistakenly wandered into the Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform, you might have thought you had fallen into an alternate universe. Scores of liberal and conservative activists, policy wonks and lawmakers gathered for an all-day conference that seemed to defy all the old saws about Washington gridlock. Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich lauded Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who volleyed back praise for his Republican partners. Even Attorney General Eric Holder drew warm applause in a ballroom dotted with conservatives.

But as unusual as that may be in Washington, it’s becoming a routine sight when it comes to criminal justice reform. In recent months, a growing bipartisan alliance has formed around the need to change a prison system that critics say is broken and bloated. Thursday’s crowd was the clearest sign yet of the coalition’s breadth. “When you have an idea whose time has come,” said Jones, one of the hosts of the summit, “it winds up being an unstoppable force.”

Maybe. But it’s never easy in Washington to channel a cause into actual change. A show of force is not a strategy. Despite general agreement about the problems riddling the justice system, it remains unclear how a collection of interest groups with divergent ideologies can marshal their money and organizing muscle to move bills through a fractious Congress—all before the 2016 presidential election puts the legislative process on pause.

The good news is the array of powerful figures who have united behind the idea. Activists and policy groups on the left (such as the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union) are working with traditional foes on the right (such as the Kochs, the American Conservative Union and Right on Crime) as well as nonpartisan groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In Congress, the cadre of lawmakers who have teamed up on criminal-justice reform legislation run the ideological gamut, from Democratic Senators Booker, Pat Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse to Republicans counterparts Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Rob Portman and John Cornyn.

The unlikely alliances have formed in part because the problem is so obvious. The percentage of incarcerated Americans has ballooned 500% over the past three decades; the nation’s prison population, at 2.2 million people, surpasses that of any other developed nation. The one-in-three Americans with a criminal record struggle to reintegrate into society because of restrictions on housing, voting and employment—which in turn promotes recidivism. Liberals deplore a system that disproportionately punishes minorities and the poor for petty crimes, while many conservatives have long been appalled by the moral and fiscal issues associated with the soaring U.S. incarceration rate.

Whether the legislative branch has the ability to tackle these sprawling issues remains an open question. “The way Congress moves is at a glacial pace,” said Booker, a freshman Senator from New Jersey. “This is not going to change unless we push and fight and work together.”

A big part of the battle is figuring out the best place to start. In the Senate, one option is a bill sponsored by Whitehouse and Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, which is designed to reduce recidivism and help nonviolent prisoners transition back into society after serving time. An earlier version of the bill sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2014 with the support of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who now serves as the committee’s chairman. As chairman, Grassley’s support for the legislation is crucial. His reticence to reforming mandatory minimum sentencing is one reason why the Cornyn-Whitehouse bill is thought to have a better chance of success than a popular mandatory-minimum bill sponsored by Booker, Paul and others.

Grassley’s counterpart in the House, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, is another Republican steeped in the tough-on-crime ethos that long reigned in the party. But the House GOP has a host of respected leaders who are on board with criminal justice reforms, from Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan to fellow Wisconsin conservative Jim Sensenbrenner, who advocates identify as a key player in any deal to get a bill through the House.

Gingrich, a co-host of Thursday’s summit, said the key would be to gather support in the Senate first. “If you build a big enough bipartisan majority in the Senate, it’s going to pass,” said Gingrich, who argued that as a cause, criminal justice had little in common with comprehensive immigration-reform, another recent bipartisan issue with plenty of hype and heavy hitters behind it, but which ultimately stalled in Congress.

Unlike immigration reform, “there’s no massive opposition to rethinking how we’ve been incarcerating people,” Gingrich argued, predicting that each 2016 Republican presidential contender would support some form of justice reform. “There’s a much, much bigger consensus.”

There’s also an urgency to capitalize before presidential politics grinds the legislative machinery of the capital to a halt. On a panel Thursday morning, Democratic commentator Donna Brazile predicted a comprehensive criminal justice bill could pass by the end of the year. “I think we’ve got to get it done in 2015,” said Kibbe of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, “before we get back in our corners and start fighting again.”

Correction: The original version of this story identified Families Against Mandatory Minimums as a left-leaning group. It is nonpartisan.

TIME Accident

Watch the Building Collapse in Manhattan’s East Village

In a video provided to TIME by Dan Bowens, a Fox5 reporter, a building in New York’s East Village neighborhood collapsed Thursday after witnesses reported hearing an explosion, sparking a fire that spread to several other buildings. At least 12 people were hurt.

Read next: A Dozen Injured in Manhattan Building Explosion

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com