TIME Immigration

Obama Sets No Timeline for Action on Immigration

Obama Immigration
Demonstrators are lined up as they are being arrested, during a protest on immigration reform, outside the White House on Aug. 28, 2014 Evan Vucci—AP

145 protesters were arrested midday on Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience

(WASHINGTON) — With a self-imposed deadline looming, President Barack Obama said Thursday he still intends to act on his own to change immigration policies but stopped short of reiterating his past vows to act by end of summer.

Obama raised the slim hope that Congress could take action on a broad immigration overhaul after the midterm elections in November. He said that if lawmakers did not pass an overhaul, “I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”

But for the first time since pledging to act by summer’s end, he signaled that such a target date could slip. He said that the administration had been working to reduce the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border and noted that the number of apprehensions at the border had fallen in August.

“Some of these things do affect time lines and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” he said in a news conference where he also addressed Russian aggression in Ukraine and action against Islamic State militants.

Two months ago, Obama angrily conceded that the House did not intend to take up immigrationlegislation this year and ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with actions the president could take on his own.

“I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,” he said at the time.

Since then, the administration was forced to deal with the sharp rise of young migrants from Central America who were crossing the southwest border. Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the flow, a request that Republican lawmakers rejected.

At the same time, some Democrats worried that if Obama took action on his own to reduce deportations it would mobilize Republican voters in hotly contested Senate races.

Frank Sharry of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice said there were no indications the White House planned to delay the announcement, and lots of evidence Obama is preparing for an announcement in September.

“If for whatever reasons they decide to delay, it’s going to be a huge problem for an immigration reform movement that has worked tirelessly for years and been promised action for years,” Sharry said. “I don’t think people are going to take a delay without a big response.”

Obama said Thursday that addressing the inflow of unaccompanied minors has not stopped the process of looking into “how do we get a smart immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act.

“And it continues to be my belief that, if I can’t see the congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.”

The most sweeping, controversial step under consideration involves halting deportation for millions, a major expansion of a 2012 Obama program that deferred prosecutions for those brought here illegally as children.

Roughly half a million people have benefited from that program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

In a sign of how heated the demands on Obama to act have become, 145 protesters were arrested midday Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience. Demanding a halt to deportations, protesters draped themselves in American flags and held signs saying “I am a witness for justice” as onlookers cheered them on. The U.S. Park Police said the protesters were charged with blocking the sidewalk.

Republicans are already hinting they’ll consider legal action to thwart what they’ve denounced as a violation of the separation of powers. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a conference call this month with GOP House members, accused Obama of “threatening to rewrite our immigration laws unilaterally.”

“If the president fails to faithfully execute the laws of our country, we will hold him accountable,” Boehner said, according to an individual who participated in the call.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., predicted Thursday that Congress would not tackle an immigration overhaul before the fall elections.

“There are too many members of the House that are scared of the tea party, and they are afraid to death that they won’t get the extremist support in the election,” Nelson told reporters in Orlando, Florida. “There is nothing being done on immigration until after the election, and probably not until we get a better sense of where we’re going into next year.”

The House has passed legislation to block Obama from expanding DACA and, through its power of the purse, could attempt to cut off the funds that would be needed to implement the expansion. House Republicans could also consider widening or amending their existing lawsuit against Obama over his health care law, a case both parties have suggested could be a prelude to impeachment proceedings.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Washington and Michael Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report

TIME Environment

Potentially Deadly Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water

The water system is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water for many communities near it

(BATON ROUGE, La.) — A potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba was discovered in a water system that serves more than 12,500 people, and state officials started flushing the system Thursday.

No illnesses or deaths have been attributed to the amoeba.

The flushing process will take two months, but the water is safe to drink for people in St. John the Baptist Parish, which is in southeast Louisiana, the state Department of Health and Hospitals said. Swimming or diving in freshwater lakes and rivers is the most common way to contract the amoeba, which can cause injury or death if it gets to the brain, usually through nasal passages.

The amoeba is rare. In 2011, a child died after apparently contracting the organism in St. Bernard Parish, a New Orleans suburb.

The water system is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water for many communities near it. The system was sampled as part of a state surveillance program launched earlier this month.

Water purification processes usually kill the organism before it gets into drinking water, but health officials say it can seep through pipe cracks underground after the purification process.

Normal purge treatment involves raising chlorine levels in drinking water, which produces a strong odor when water flows out taps in homes and businesses.

St. John the Baptist Parish is an industrial and farming community roughly midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Officials said the Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER’-ee-uh FOW’-lur-ee) amoeba was found in the watersystem serving for people in the Reserve, Garyville and Mount Airy communities.

TIME Business

Labor Day: Raising the Minimum Wage Stiffs the Poor

Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles on May 15, 2014.
Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles on May 15, 2014. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

There are at least three better ways to help low-income workers — and few ways that are worse

Another Labor Day, another bold plan to increase the minimum to help the working men and women of America!

On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will announce a proposal to jack his city’s minimum wage from $9.00 all the way up to $13.25 over three years. That puts him ahead of President Obama, who has called for goosing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

Increasing the minimum wage is typically sold as a way of aiding poor people — LA business magnate and philanthropist Eli Broad says Garcetti’s plan “would help lift people out of poverty.” But it’s actually a pretty rotten way to achieve that for a number of reasons.

For starters, minimum-wage workers represent a shrinking share of the U.S. workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the percentage of folks who earn the federal minimum wage or less (which is legal under certain circumstances) comes to just 4.3 percent of hourly employees and just 3 percent of all workers. That’s down from an early 1980s high of 15 percent of hourly workers, which is good news — even as it means minimum wage increases will reach fewer people.

What’s more, contrary to popular belief, minimum-wage workers are not clustered at the low end of the income spectrum. About 50 percent of all people earning the federal minimum wage live in households where total income is $40,000 or more. In fact, about 14 percent of minimum wage earners live in households that bring in six figures or more a year. When you raise the minimum wage, it goes to those folks too.

Also, most minimum-wage earners tend to be younger and are not the primary breadwinner in their households. So it’s not clear they’re the ones needing help. “Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers,” says BLS, “they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.” Unemployment rates are already substantially higher for younger workers — 20 percent for 16 to 19 year olds and 11.3 percent for 20 to 24 year olds, compared to just 5 percent for workers 25 years and older — and would almost certainly be made worse by raising the cost of their labor by government diktat. While a number of high-profile economists such as Paul Krugman have lately taken to arguing that minimum wage increases have no effect on employment, the matter is far from settled and basic economic logic suggests that increases in prices reduce demand, whether you’re talking about widgets or labor.

Finally, there’s no reason to believe that people making the minimum wage are stuck at the bottom end of the pay scale for very long. According to one study that looked at earning patterns between 1977 and 1997, about two-thirds of workers moved above the minimum wage within their first year on the job. Having a job, even one that pays poorly, starts workers on the road to increased earnings.

If we want to actually raise the standard of living for the working poor via government intervention, the best way to do it is via transfer payments — food stamps, housing subsidies, or even plain cash — that directly target individuals and families at or below the poverty line.

University of California sociologist Lane Kenworthy, a progressive who has called for a more generous social safety net, argues that virtually all increases in income for poor families in the U.S. and other wealthy countries since the late 1970s have been a function of “increases in net government transfers — transfers received minus taxes paid.” That’s partly because workers in poor households often have “psychological, cognitive, or physical conditions that limit their earnings capability” and partly because today’s “companies have more options for replacing workers, whether with machines or with low-cost laborers abroad.”

To be sure, arguing that you want to increase direct aid to poor families doesn’t give a politician the same sort of photo-op as standing with a bunch of union leaders on Labor Day and speechifying about the urgent need to make sure an honest day’s work is rewarded with a living wage.

But making just such a case could have the benefit of actually helping poor people in the here and now. Certainly a savvy politician could sell that to voters who know the value of hard work — and the limits of economic intervention.

 

TIME Civil Rights

Buffett Heir Buys Rosa Parks Archive

Rosa Parks On Bus
Rosa Parks seated toward the front of the bus, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

(DETROIT) — Hundreds of items that belonged to civil rights icon Rosa Parks that have been sitting unseen for years in a New York warehouse have been sold to a foundation run by the son of billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett, the younger Buffett said Thursday.

Howard G. Buffett told The Associated Press that his foundation plans to give the items, which include Parks’ Presidential Medal of Freedom, to an institute he hasn’t yet selected. Buffett said the items belong to the American people.

“I’m only trying to do one thing: preserve what’s there for the public’s benefit,” he said. “I thought about doing what Rosa Parks would want. I doubt that she would want to have her stuff sitting in a box with people fighting over them.”

A yearslong legal fight between Parks’ heirs and her friends led to the memorabilia being removed from her Detroit home and offered up to the highest bidder.

Parks, who died in 2005 at age 92, was one of the most beloved women in U.S. history. She became an enduring symbol of the civil rights movement when she refused to cede her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man. That triggered a yearlong bus boycott that helped to dismantle officially sanctioned segregation and helped lift the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King to national prominence.

Because of the fight over Parks’ will, historians, students of the movement and the general public have had no access to items such as her photographs with presidents, her Congressional Gold Medal, a pillbox hat that she may have worn on the Montgomery bus, a signed postcard from King, decades of documents from civil rights meetings and her ruminations about life in the South as a black woman.

TIME Crime

Boston Suspect’s Sister Charged in NYC Bomb Threat

Ailina Tsarnaeva
Ailiana Tsarnaeva, sister of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, departs district court in Boston's South Boston neighborhood on Oct. 13, 2013. Steven Senne—AP

(NEW YORK) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sister was arrested Wednesday on suspicion she threatened to bomb a woman who previously had a romantic relationship with her boyfriend.

Ailina Tsarnaeva, who lives in North Bergen, New Jersey, made the threat against an upper Manhattan woman via telephone on Monday, police said. She turned herself in at a Manhattan police precinct, and police charged her with aggravated harassment.

Several media outlets reported Tsarnaeva told the Harlem woman she had “people who can go over there and put a bomb on you.”

Officers gave Tsarnaeva an appearance ticket and released her pending a Sept. 30 court date.

A telephone number linked to Tsarnaeva was disconnected. Her lawyer, George Gormley, said he had left his office and would speak Thursday.

Tsarnaeva has been required to check in with Massachusetts probation officers since prosecutors said she failed to cooperate with a 2010 counterfeiting investigation.

Prosecutors said Tsarnaeva picked up someone who passed a counterfeit bill at a restaurant at a Boston mall and “lied about certain salient facts during the investigation.”

At a hearing last October, Gormley said Tsarnaeva was pregnant with her second child and was unlikely to flee.

Tsarnaeva once lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at an apartment linked to her brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who were the subjects of an intense manhunt in the Boston area in the days after the deadly April 2013 marathon bombing.

Records show Tsarnaeva now lives with a sister, Bella Tsarnaeva.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with building and planting the two pressure cooker bombs that exploded near the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunbattle with police.

TIME States

California Passes First-Ever Bill to Define Sexual Consent on College Campuses

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

A new definition of sexual consent

The California Senate passed a first-in-the-nation bill Thursday to define what amounts to consensual sexual activity in colleges in the state, a milestone at a time when colleges across the country are under close scrutiny for how they handle campus sexual assault.

The bill will head next to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. If enacted, it would make colleges adopt a student conduct policy requiring “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” as a condition for state funding. The bill defines consent to sex as the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no,” a cultural shift that victim’s groups have long advocated. In practice, colleges would be required to use the bill’s definition when they teach students about sexual assault during orientations, and when investigating claims of sexual assault. It would apply any public or private colleges that receive state financial aid funding.

California’s bill comes after more than a year of pressure from the federal government, Congress, and student activists for higher education institutions to do more to prevent the widespread sexual assault occurring on the nation’s campuses. Colleges and universities have been changing their policies for months in response to federal pressure. And after recent changes in the Violence Against Women Act that require colleges to explicitly report their prevention efforts, many colleges will be unveiling new policies and programs this fall where they never existed before.

The so-called “affirmative consent” standard that California’s legislature has introduced in the latest bill is not a new concept. Similar affirmative consent policies already exist at some 800 post-secondary institutions across the country, including the 10 campuses that make up the University of California system. Educators from the University of California collaborated on the bill with its author, State Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democrat, and the system’s president, Janet Napolitano, has endorsed it. This would be the first time that a state has tried to put such a policy, usually confined to student conduct handbooks, into law.

There is some disagreement in higher education about whether the affirmative consent standard is the best practice. Though many colleges have adopted it, Harvard recently rewrote its sexual assault policy without adopting an affirmative consent standard, to the dismay of women’s advocates. Harvard’s Title IX Officer, Mia Karvonides, said the school rejected such a policy because there is no “standard definition of affirmative consent,” according to the student newspaper The Crimson. Critics of affirmative consent policies often point to an unrealistic set of standards set in 1991 by Antioch University in Ohio, which required verbal consent (excluding “moans”) for “each new level” of sexual activity—a standard that doesn’t reflect the real interactions between human beings during sex.

The California bill stops short of Antioch’s standard.The bill’s language clarifies the definition of consent by stating what it is not. “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent,” it reads. “Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

The bill’s language does not require verbal consent, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for de Leon, adding that it would allow for “verbal and non-verbal” consent. Conlon said the intent of the bill was to change the way school administrators approach their definition of sexual assault. Instead of asking: “Did she say no?” We are having them ask, did she consent?,” Conlon said. The bill does not require specific punishments for students found in violation of the policy.

Brett Sokolow, a higher education risk management consultant who supports affirmative consent policies and the bill in California, uses a traffic metaphor to describe the kind of behavior these policies are designed to prevent. “You go forward on a green light. You stop on a red light. But most people tend to run the yellows. They tend to increase their speed rather than slowing down to look both ways. Affirmative consent is telling you to slow down at the yellow light. You’ve been able to fondle, pet, kiss, if you assume those lead you to the next behavior without permission, then you are running a yellow light. You are putting your needs to get through the intersection above the needs for others’ safety.” Sokolow said the affirmative consent policy is preventative—it won’t stop predators, but it will coax some male students towards a healthier norm.

Those who oppose the bill are concerned that such a policy, combined with unavoidably murky sexual encounters, will deny college men due process and unfairly categorize them as rapists, causing potentially unfair suspensions and expulsions or reputational damage. Matthew Kaiser, a lawyer in Washington who represents college men accused of sexual assault, said the policy’s broad language could ensnare young men who acted in good faith. Even though the policy isn’t as explicit as Antioch’s, Kaiser sees a similar effect. “When people are having sex,” he said, they “don’t stop and say “can I do this now? It just sort of happens. If someone is sober and awake and not acting upon the other person, that looks like it would be prohibited under this [bill]. That strikes me as problematic, but its not clearly sexual assault. … When you look at the language of the bill, its not clear what counts as sexual assault and what doesn’t. It doesn’t give the school flexibility to be discerning.”

In addition to putting the schools at risk of losing federal funds, Kaiser said, the policy’s enshrinement in student conduct codes would also put schools at risk of breach of contract from a female student if she felt that the male student wasn’t punished adequately.

The notion of consent as part of a rape definition isn’t as controversial as some critics make it sound. In 2012, the federal government changed its definition of rape for the purposes of compiling statistics from “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Though the federal change is less specific than the California bill, the spirit of the changes is the same—changing the definition from one rooted in the woman’s refusal to requiring her active consent.

Administrators in California reached by TIME didn’t see the policy as overly broad. Any policy that attempts to design the ground rules in sex is inherently imperfect, they said, but the policies that don’t define consent are even less clear. (Harvard’s new definition for sexual assault, for example, prohibits “unwelcome” contact—an impossibly subjective and equally vague term). Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman at UCLA, which has already adopted an affirmative consent policy, said it’s actually “a little less gray” than the previous policy that didn’t explicitly define consent.

“It makes it more clear. Is it crystal clear? Is it infallible? No. But that’s just the nature of sexual activity,” she said. No matter how the policy is written, colleges investigating sexual assault will come up against the same challenging he-said, she-said, confusion that any person investigating sex crimes must contend with. This policy at least gives students more information about the college’s expectations. Klein rejects the idea that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction with this policy. “Both parties don’t have to sign a contract before they unzip their pants” she said.

The bill is also helpful, administrators said, because it brings publicity to the sexual assault issue, making it easier for them to get students to understand why understanding the definition of consent is so important.

“The more people talk about it, the more women feel empowered to speak up when they are in bad situations,” said Jerry Price, the Dean of Students at Chapman University, a private university in Orange, Calif. “If men are predators, the more this is talked about, the more reluctant they are going to be to try to get away with things. All this fanfare is good for what we are trying to accomplish.”

TIME Crime

Oklahoma Death Row Inmate Died From Lethal Injection, Not Heart Attack

An independent autopsy of death row inmate Clayton Lockett, who was executed in April at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., ruled that Lockett died as a result from the drugs administered to him by prison officials and not from a heart attack. AP

Autopsy reveals officials at "botched" execution attempted to tap a vein in Clayton Lockett's groin, chest, neck, both arms and one of his feet

An independent autopsy released Thursday declared that Clayton Lockett, an Oklahoma death row inmate whose botched execution in April caused the state to temporarily halt executions, died from “judicial execution by lethal injection” and not from a heart attack, as prison officials had concluded at the time.

The autopsy, conducted by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, Texas, detailed multiple locations where officials attempted to inject Lockett, including in the groin, chest, neck, both arms and one of his feet. Several puncture wounds were found in his neck and chest, the autopsy said.

Oklahoma executed Lockett, convicted in the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman, using a three-drug lethal injection protocol that included midazolam, vecuronium and potassium chloride. The execution took 51 minutes as prison officials struggled to find a vein to properly administer the drugs.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton has said that one of Lockett’s veins collapsed during the execution, which led officials to search for other access points. Ultimately, state executioners administered the drugs through Lockett’s groin, a highly unusual move. During the procedure, Lockett reportedly writhed and groaned on the execution table. Halfway through, prison officials used a curtain to block views of the chamber from those watching the execution in a nearby viewing room.

Following the lethal injection, Patton announced that Lockett died of a heart attack and that one of the lines had become dislodged and likely leaked drugs into the inmate’s surrounding tissues rather than directly into the bloodstream.

The independent autopsy released Thursday, however, found traces of all three drugs in Lockett’s system and declared that he died from the administered drugs. But the autopsy did not address the questions surrounding the prolonged execution and why it was so problematic.

“What this initial autopsy report does not appear to answer is what went wrong during Mr. Lockett’s execution, which took over 45 minutes, with witnesses reporting he writhed and gasped in pain,” said Dale Baich, an attorney for Oklahoma death row prisoners, in a statement.

Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered a review of the state’s execution procedures that is still ongoing while the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has delayed all executions in the state until November. The next lethal injection is set for Nov. 13.

TIME Crime

Oklahoma City Police Bid a Sad Goodbye to K-9 ‘Kye’

Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City, on Aug. 28, 2014.
Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City, on Aug. 28, 2014. Sue Ogrocki—AP

The dog was stabbed during a burglary

K-9 Kye, a three year old Belgian German Shepard, died Aug. 25 after being stabbed by a burglary suspect the day prior. Sgt. Stark tried to separate the dog and the suspect before fatally shooting the suspect.

TIME Healthcare

Planned Parenthood Appeals Ban on Telehealth Medication Abortions

Planned Parenthood patients, volunteers and supporters rally outside the office of Assembly Speaker-elect John Perez to oppose cuts to family planning funds by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 12, 2010 in Los Angeles.
Planned Parenthood patients, volunteers and supporters rally outside the office of Assembly Speaker-elect John Perez to oppose cuts to family planning funds by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 12, 2010 in Los Angeles. David McNew—Getty Images

Planned Parenthood is appealing a ban from the Iowa Board of Medicine over their telehealth medication abortion system for rural women

On Thursday, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed an appeal with the Iowa Supreme Court over a ban that outlaws a video-conferencing system Planned Parenthood provides for medication abortions.

The group launched the telemedicine abortion system in Iowa in 2008 so that women living in rural areas could get a medication abortion over video conferencing, a convenience that cuts down on wait time and the 500-mile round-trip drive some Iowa women must take to visit one of the state’s few abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood brought the system to several other states in the Midwest, but the majority of them banned the systems in a wave of abortion restrictions starting in 2011. Currently, 17 states have laws or regulations that specifically ban telemedicine for medication abortion, but both Iowa and North Dakota are appealing these bans. Iowa is now the only state where Planned Parenthood widely uses the system.

The procedure is very similar to an average medication abortion. Before making a decision, the woman speaks with a counselor at length about her options, including having the baby, adoption, and abortion. If the woman decides to terminate the pregnancy, she has a conversation with a physician over a secure videoconferencing system. A Planned Parenthood staff member is in the room to provide support, and the doctor reviews the woman’s medical history and answers her questions. The physician then administers the mifepristone (the first drug taken for medication abortion) by using a computer to remotely open a secure drawer within the health center and instructs the woman to take the medication while the staff member is in the room. The doctor then presents the woman with misoprostol (the second drug taken) and tells her to take it at home within 24 to 48 hours. That medication process is exactly the same as the procedure in the presence of a doctor.

The Iowa Board of Medicine investigated Planned Parenthood’s system in 2010 and deemed it safe. However, when Republican Governor Terry Branstad replaced the board in 2013, the new board reversed the decision, a move that Planned Parenthood and a former board member believe was entirely politically motivated and not based in scientific evidence.

On August 19, a judge ruled that the board was within its authority to ban the use of telehealth systems for medication abortions, and that the board cited concerns that a doctor needs to be present to perform an in-person checkup of the woman before she can take the abortion pills.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health, disagrees with the argument that a doctor is needed for an in-person assessment.”[Our studies have shown] it’s safe, that the prevalence of adverse events and complications was low, and that statistics are not different compared to women at the same affiliate who went through the procedure in person,” he said. In 2012 Grossman and a team of researchers found that remote medication abortions did not increase the number of overall abortions in Iowa and that the number of abortions taking place in the second trimester, when the risk for complications is higher, dropped slightly.

“We also found that women were more likely to recommend it compared to women who underwent an in-person procedure,” said Grossman. “In some of the interviews, women decided to go to a telemedicine site because it meant they could have it done sooner. If they waited, they would have to have a surgical abortion.”

Telemedicine is growing, and it’s long been used in even more invasive procedures, from physical exams to surgeries. Major hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic are developing their own systems to cut costs and reduce readmission rates. In 2011, the Veterans Health Administration conducted more than 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine, and companies like Doctor on Demand even allow doctors’ appointments over video chat and cell phone.

Recently, The New York Times Magazine highlighted a growing international push to find ways for women to take the abortion pills in the privacy of their own homes, specifically a program called Women on Web which helps women get access to safe abortion pills.

According to Planned Parenthood, if the ban takes effect, only three health centers in the state of Iowa will continue to offer safe and legal abortions. “This rule would jeopardize women’s health and target women who already have the least access to medical care–all in the name of politics,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote in an email to TIME. “What’s happening in Iowa is part of a dangerous national trend–politicians using underhanded tactics to impose their personal beliefs on women and restrict access to safe, legal abortion. It’s unacceptable and unconstitutional to deny safe care to women in need, which is why we are going directly to the state Supreme Court and fighting with everything we’ve got.”

TIME United Kingdom

No, Britain Is Not Poorer Than Alabama

Is the United Kingdom really "poorer than much-maligned Kansas and Alabama"? Er, not quite

Britain just loves confirming the worst about itself. Our tabloids thrive on stories that portray the country as a teeming mass of greedy migrants and workshy idlers, run by a parliament of elites in alliance with a small uber-class of the 1%. The truth is rather more complex than that, of course, but no newspaper will go broke telling Brits that their country’s gone to the dogs.

Take Fraser Nelson’s bleak diagnosis in The Spectator of how Britain compares to the poorest states in the U.S., which has been picked up widely by media on both sides of the pond. If Britain were somehow to become the 51st state of America, Fraser suggests, it would rank near the bottom:

“If you take our economic output, adjust for living costs and slot it into the US league table then the United Kingdom emerges as the second-poorest state in the union. We’re poorer than much-maligned Kansas and Alabama and well below Missouri, the scene of all the unrest in recent weeks. Only Mississippi has lower economic output per head than the UK; strip out the South East and Britain would rank bottom.”

This may shock Americans who stick to an outmoded idea of the United Kingdom as a sceptred isle of pageantry and gentility (though any Yank who has ever visited an urban center outside of London on a Friday night will know that it isn’t all tea and hunting parties). But are our poorest areas really comparable to the worst of Mississippi or Alabama?

The statistics tell only part of the story, and it seems Nelson has rather skewed them to favor his conclusion. In pure GDP per capita, the UK ranks 21st in the world. That’s behind the U.S., at 6th, but ahead of countries such as Italy, Israel and Japan. When compared to U.S. states, it puts Britain in the lower half of the table, nestled between Tennessee and Missouri.

It’s only when you adjust the UK GDP per capita for living costs—that is, when you factor in that a dollar goes further in the U.S. than its equivalent in sterling does in the UK—that the Brits sink to the bottom of the state-by-state listings.

But here’s the thing: Nelson doesn’t appear to have attempted to factor in living costs within the U.S. The idea that a dollar spent in New York goes equally as far as a dollar spent in Alabama is laughable, but the comparison he uses proceeds from that assumption.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds sizable regional differences in the Consumer Price Index, with the South some 21 points below the Northeast. There’s no easy way to work that differential into Nelson’s back-of-an-envelope study, especially as the BLS doesn’t break down CPI by state. But isn’t it a little inaccurate to factor in the living costs of the UK and not the states used as a comparison?

It is also a little simplistic to equate poverty with GDP, which measures business and government spending as well as individual consumer behavior. Poverty is better reflected by rates of joblessness, education level and life expectancy. The UK’s unemployment rate is 6.6%, roughly comparable to New York (36th among the states). The UK has a 91% high school equivalent graduation rate, which would put it in the top 5 among states. And the UK’s life expectancy at birth is over 80; that would rank it among the top 10 states.

None of this is to say that Britain—an island of roughly the same square mileage as Michigan, but with a population almost twice the size of California—doesn’t have huge structural economic problems, or its own areas of persistent blight. But it shouldn’t take an oversimplified comparison to Mississippi to make residents see them.

Nelson does, however, get one thing absolutely right. If there’s one thing the Brits enjoy more than despairing at their own squalid state of affairs, it’s smugly noting that at least the Americans have it worse.

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