TIME

‘Unprecedented': Drug May Help Heal Damaged Spine

The drug helped rats with spinal injuries move their back legs again

Researchers say they’ve developed a drug that may help heal a damaged spine — the first time anything like a drug has been shown to help.

The drug works on nerve cells that are cut, sending connections across the break, and it helped injured rats move their back legs again and also gave them back control of their bladders.

“This recovery is unprecedented,” said Jerry Silver, a neuroscience professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio who led the study.

Right now, there’s no good way to heal a broken spine. Sometimes people grow nerve cells back, but usually not. […]

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Yemen

Al Qaeda Threatens to Execute U.S. Hostage in Yemen

A video grab taken from a propaganda video released by al-Malahem Media on Dec. 4, 2014 purportedly shows hostage Luke Somers, 33, kidnapped more than a year ago in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, calling for help and saying that his life is in danger.
AFP/Getty Images A video grab taken from a propaganda video released by al-Malahem Media on Dec. 4, 2014 purportedly shows hostage Luke Somers, 33, kidnapped more than a year ago in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, calling for help and saying that his life is in danger.

In video gunmen threaten the life of Luke Somers

Militants in Yemen have released a video threatening to execute a British-born American hostage in three days if its demands to the U.S. government are not met, according to a company that monitors terrorist groups.

The video from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was purportedly released Thursday, does not specify what those demands are, SITE Intelligence Group said. But in a translation provided by the company, AQAP accuses the U.S. of bombing its fighters. In the video, a man the group claims is U.S. citizen Luke Somers is threatened with execution.

TIME Crime

Watch: Protests Erupt In New York City After No Chokehold Indictment

Demonstrators took over highways, squares and streets in waves of outrage

Protesters expressed outrage on the streets of New York City Wednesday night after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer over the controversial death of Staten Island man Eric Garner in July.

In the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, in Times Square and in Union Square, crowds chanted “I can’t breathe” — the same words Garner uttered as he was wrestled to the ground by officer Daniel Pantaleo what appeared to be a banned chokehold.

The demonstrations come just after a week a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to indict a white police officer in another racially charged killing of a black man. The decision in that case ignited waves of violence in Ferguson, with businesses burned and looted.

As of Wednesday evening, about 30 protesters were arrested in New York City, with more arrests likely to come, according to a statement to CNN by New York police chief William Bratton.

TIME Crime

Protests Erupt After Cop in Eric Garner Chokehold Death Not Indicted

A large crowd of protesters took over a section of Manhattan’s West Side Highway and were in a standoff with police Wednesday evening, hours after a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island earlier this summer — in a case that was recorded on video and showed the dead man crying “I can’t breathe.”

A crowd estimated to number more than 100 was on the highway and was seen being pushed north by a line of police officers wearing helmets and armed with batons at around 9:30 p.m. …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

Justice Department to Investigate Eric Garner’s Death

Garner died following a police altercation on Staten Island in July

The U.S. Department of Justice will launch a civil-rights investigation into a New York man’s police-involved death by apparent chokehold after a grand jury declined to indict the officer, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday evening.

Holder made televised remarks from a lectern in Washington, D.C., as protestors began to gather and march at several locations around New York City in response to the grand jury’s decision in the case of Eric Garner. Federal prosecutors would conduct a “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation” into Garner’s death, Holder said, after acknowledging he informed Garner’s widow that the Justice Department would launch the inquiry. “His death was a great tragedy,” he added. “All lives must be valued, all lives.”

MORE: Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation With New York Police

A city medical examiner had previously ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of the neck (chokehold)” and chest compressions he incurred while being subdued by police on July 17. Officers on Staten Island accused Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes and had attempted to arrest him, which he protested. Footage of the altercation, shot by a friend, shows a group of policemen forcing Garner to the ground as one of them, officer Daniel Panteleo, appears to put Garner in a chokehold, which is banned by the city’s police department.

Holder appealed for calm Wednesday as protestors gathered in New York and Washington in response to the announcement. The news came about a week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to indict white officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The Justice Department is also investigating that case.

The Attorney General also began a series of conversations in communities across the country between police officers and minorities to improve relations between the two groups. Holder said such conversations would proceed “as we seek to form trust and foster understanding.”

TIME Crime

Officer in Tamir Rice Shooting Death Said to Have Handgun Performance Issues

According to a 2012 letter from a previous police department

The police officer in Cleveland who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November had a poor history of handling guns, according to a new report.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a 2012 letter from Deputy Chief Jim Polak, of the Independence Police Department where officer Tim Loehmann previously worked, labeled his performance as “dismal” and claimed he was “distracted” and “weepy” during handgun training. “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies,” Polak added in the letter included in the officer’s personnel file, which suggested the department and officer separate.

Loehmann shot and killed Rice on Nov. 22 less than two seconds after he and another officer arrived at a park, where police had been alerted of someone thought to have a gun. Rice was found to be in possession of a fake gun.

Read more at the Cleveland Plain Dealer

TIME Opinion

The Problem With Frats Isn’t Just Rape. It’s Power.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article last week alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations.
Steve Helber—AP The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article alleged a gang rape at the hous

Too many frats breed sexism and misogyny that lasts long after college. Why we need to ban them—for good.

At the university I called home my freshman year, fraternity row was a tree-lined street full of Southern style mansions, against a backdrop of the poor urban ghetto that surrounded the school. Off-campus frat parties weren’t quite how I pictured spending my weekends at a new school – I wasn’t actually part of the Greek system – but it became clear quickly that they were the center of the social structure. They controlled the alcohol on campus, and thus, the social life. So there I was, week after week, joining the throngs of half-naked women trekking to fraternity row.

We learned the rules to frat life quickly, or at least we thought we did. Never let your drink out of your sight. Don’t go upstairs – where the bedrooms were housed – without a girlfriend who could check in on you later. If one of us was denied entry to a party because we weren’t deemed “hot” enough – houses often ranked women on a scale of one to 10, with only “sixes” and up granted entry to a party – we stuck together. Maybe we went to the foam party next door.

In two years at the University of Southern California, I heard plenty of stories of women being drugged at frat parties. At least one woman I knew was date raped, though she didn’t report it. But most of us basically shrugged our shoulders: This was just how it worked… right?

If the recent headlines are any indication, it certainly appears so. Among them: women blacked out and hospitalized after a frat party at the University of Wisconsin, only to discover red or black X’s marked on their hands. An email guide to getting girls in bed called “Luring your rapebait.” A banner displayed at a Texas Tech party reading “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” – which happened to be the same slogan chanted by frat brothers at Yale, later part of a civil rights complaint against the university.

And now, the story of Jackie, who alleged in a Rolling Stone article — swiftly becoming the subject over fairness in reporting whether the author was negligent in not reaching out to the alleged rapists — that she was gang raped by seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi house at the University of Virginia, and discouraged from pressing charges to protect the university’s reputation.

The alleged rape, it turned out, took place at the same house where another rape had occurred some thirty years prior, ultimately landing the perpetrator in jail.

“I’m sick about this,” says Caitlin Flanagan, a writer and UVA alumna who spent a year documenting the culture of fraternity life for a recent cover story in the Atlantic. “It’s been 30 years of education programs by the frats, initiatives to change culture, management policies, and we’re still here.”

Which begs the question: Why isn’t every campus in America dissolving its fraternity program — or at least instituting major, serious reform?

Not every fraternity member is a rapist (nor is every fraternity misogynist). But fraternity members are three times more likely to rape, according to a 2007 study, which notes that fraternity culture reinforces “within-group attitudes” that perpetuate sexual coercion. Taken together, frats and other traditionally male-dominated social clubs (ahem: the Princeton eating club) crystalize the elements of our culture that reinforce inequality, both gender and otherwise.

For starters, they are insulated from outside perspective. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that Greek organizations eradicated whites-only membership clauses; as a recent controversy at the University of Alabama revealed, only one black student had been permitted into that Greek system since 1964. Throughout the country, the fraternities grew into “caste system based on socioeconomic status as perceived by students,” John Chandler, the former president of Middlebury, which has banned frats on campus, recently told Newsweek.

And when it comes to campus social life, they exert huge social control: providing the alcohol, hosting the parties, policing who may enter–based on whatever criteria they choose. Because sororities are prohibited from serving alcohol, they can’t host their own parties; they must also abide by strict decorum rules. So night after night, women line up, in tube tops and high heels, vying for entrance. Even their clothes are a signifier of where the power lies. “Those with less power almost invariably dress up for those who have more,” Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at Stony Brook University, wrote in a recent column for TIME. “So, by day, in class, women and men dress pretty much the same … At parties, though, the guys will still be dressed that way, while the women will be sporting party dresses, high heels and make up.”

And when frat boys grow up? They slide right into the boys club of the business world, where brothers land Wall Street jobs via the “fraternity pipeline,” as a recent Bloomberg Businessweek piece put it — a place where secret handshakes mean special treatment in an already male-dominated field. Fraternities have graduated plenty of brilliant Silicon Valley founders: the creators of Facebook, Instagram, among others. They’ve also brought us Justin Mateen, the founder of Tinder, who stepped down amid a sexual harassment lawsuit, and Evan Spiegel, the Snapchat CEO, whose recently apologized for e-mails sent while in the Stanford frat where Snapchat was founded, which discussed convincing sorority women to perform sex acts and drunkenly peeing on a woman in bed.

(VIDEO: My Rapist Is Still on Campus: A Columbia Undergrad Tells Her Story)

If we lived in a gender-equal world, fraternities might work. But in an age where 1 in five college women are raped or assaulted on campus, where dozens of universities are under federal investigations for their handling of it, and where the business world remains dominated by men, doesn’t the continued existence of fraternities normalize a kind of white, male-dominated culture that already pervades our society? There is something insidious about a group of men who deny women entry, control the No. 1 asset on campus – alcohol – and make the rules in isolated groups. “[Colleges] should be cultivating the kind of sensibility that makes you a better citizen of a diverse and distressingly fractious society,” Frank Bruni wrote it in a New York Times column this week. “How is that served by retreating into an exclusionary clique of people just like you?”

The argument for Greek life – at least for the mainstream, largely white frats that seem to be the problem – goes something like this: It’s about fostering camaraderie. (According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, fraternity and sorority members have stronger relationships with friends and family than other college graduates.) It’s about community: As the Washington Post reported, chapters at UVA reportedly raised $400,000 for charity and logged 56,000 hours of community service during the past academic year. It’s part of a student’s free right to congregate. And also about training future leaders. According to Gallup, fraternity and sorority members will end up better off financially, and more likely to start businesses than other college graduates.

But the real benefit – at least the unspoken one – may be about money. Frats breed generous donors: as Flanagan pointed out in her Atlantic piece, fraternities save universities millions of dollars in student housing. At least one study has confirmed that fraternity brothers also tend to be generous to their alma maters.

All of which is part of the problem. Who wants to crack down on frats if it’s going to profoundly disturb campus life?

UVA, for its part, has suspended the frat in question until the new year, what the Inter-Fraternity Council described as a helpful opportunity for UVA’s Greek system to “take a breath.” The university’s president has said that the school “is too good a place to allow this evil to reside.” But critics saw the punishment as a slap on the wrist: a suspension, when most students are out of town for the holidays?

There are other options on the table: The school is reportedly considering proposals to crack down on underage drinking and even a ban on alcohol. Other universities have explored making fraternities co-ed. And there’s some evidence that fraternity brothers who participate in a rape prevention program at the start of the academic year are less likely to commit a sexually coercive act than a control group of men who also joined fraternities.

Yet all the while, the parade of ugly news continues. A group of frat brothers at San Diego State University interrupted a “Take Back the Night” march last week by screaming obscenities, throwing eggs and waving dildos at marchers. The next night, a woman reported she was sexually assaulted at a party near the school’s campus; she was the seventh person to come forward this semester. And on Monday, Wesleyan announced that its Psi Upsilon fraternity would be banned from hosting social events until the end of 2015, also because of rape accusations.

Fraternities have created something that’s fairly unique in the modern world: a place where young men spend three or four years living with other men whom they have vetted as like them and able to “fit in.” What do you expect to happen at a club where women are viewed as outsiders, or commodities, or worse, as prey, and where men make the rules? It should be no surprise they end up recreating the boys club — and one that isn’t all so great for the boys, either.

Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s non-profit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

Read more views on the debate about preventing sexual assault on campus:

Caitlin Flanagan: We Need More Transparency on the Issue of Fraternity Rape

A Lawyer for the Accused on Why Some Rules About Consent Are Unfair to Men

Ban Frat Parties–Let Sororities Run the Show

TIME Crime

No Charges for Officer Who Put Eric Garner in Deadly Chokehold

Grand jury's decision in Eric Garner case sparks outrage after similar outcome in Ferguson

The announcement Wednesday that a grand jury declined to indict a New York police officer in the chokehold-related death of a Staten Island man prompted protests around the city and led a number of officials to again acknowledge Americans’ frustrations over community-police relations.

The grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to file charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, following an altercation with a group of officers on July 17 that was videotaped by one of the victim’s friends. Officers suspected Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes and attempted to detain him, which Garner protested.

The footage depicts several officers forcing Garner, 43, to the ground while Pantaleo puts him in what appears to be a chokehold, an aggressive move that is banned by the city’s police department. In the video, which went viral, Garner can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” That phrase has been frequently invoked at protests around the country. A city medical examiner later ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of the neck.” Although several officers were involved in Garner’s arrest, Panteleo was the only one who faced a potential indictment in the fatal encounter.

President Barack Obama later weighed in from Washington, among several cities where demonstrations would pop up on split-screen news segments next to analysts going over the fallout. “When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that is a problem and it’s my job as President to help solve it,” he said.

The grand jury’s decision came just over a week after the announcement that Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., would not be indicted in the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. That news ignited a night of looting, arson and riots in the St. Louis suburb, and touched off demonstrations from New York to Los Angeles.

“It’s a very painful day for many New Yorkers” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an afternoon news conference. “No family should have to go through what the Garner family went through.”

MORE: Justice Department to Investigate Eric Garner’s Death

A small but fierce crowd gathered at Union Square soon after the announcement was made public. Some demonstrators led chants of “Indict! Convict!” and “The whole damn system is going to hell!” Others had tears streaming down their faces and held up their smartphones to capture the protest. Many said they were not shocked to see jurors decline to indict the officer.

“No, when you’re black, you can’t be surprised,” said Omar Holmon, 29, a writer and performer. “The worst part is feeling numb to it.”

The march snowballed in size as it snaked north to Rockefeller Center, where the annual Christmas tree lighting was due to take place, causing the protestors to mix in with tourists. Chants of “Am I next?” were punctuated with calls of “Don’t ruin my Christmas!” and frantic gesturing of out-of-towners lost in the crowd.

“I’m tired of seeing people who look like me get killed,” Holmon added, holding back tears. “I want justice.”

Just as they did after Fergson, a number of elected officials spoke out Wednesday in the wake of the announcement.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted that the Justice Department needed to launch a federal investigation into Garner’s death “as soon as possible.” And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the fatal incident “a tragedy that demands accountability.”

MORE: Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation With New York Police

Local, state and federal officials have received rampant condemnation over the police-involved deaths this year of unarmed black men like Brown and Garner, as well as the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Obama recently announced the launch of a national task force that would aim to improve trust between police departments and communities of color. In addition, he said a three-year, $263 million package would expand the use of body cameras among police officers and increase their training for surplus military equipment.

The nation’s top cop also held a brief news conference Wednesday evening, saying the Justice Department would launch a civil-rights inquiry into Garner’s death. Federal prosecutors would conduct an “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “His death was a great tragedy,” he added. “All lives must be valued, all lives.”

As the night went on, protestors in New York fanned out into the streets and blocked traffic as officers kept pace. At one point, a group of protestors took over a section of the West Side Highway, resulting in a handful being detained. Police said there were at least 30 arrests around Manhattan as of 10:15 p.m., local time.

TIME Education

No Formal Police Investigation Yet in UVA Rape Case

A University of Virginia student looks over postings on the door of Peabody Hall related to the Phi Kappa Psi gang rape allegations at the school in Charlottesville, Va. on Nov. 24, 2014.
Steve Helber—AP A University of Virginia student looks over postings on the door of Peabody Hall related to the Phi Kappa Psi gang-rape allegations at the school in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 24, 2014

Police still "evaluating next steps" as account of incident comes under scrutiny

While questions mount regarding the credibility of an account of an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia (UVA) fraternity, police have yet to open a formal investigation.

University officials have said — as recently as Dec. 2 — that they have been instructed by police not to discuss the specific incident because it is the subject of a police inquiry. But TIME has learned that so far, that inquiry has not crossed the threshold for the Charlottesville Police Department to treat it as a criminal investigation. Because the alleged incident took place at a fraternity house off campus, it falls under the jurisdiction of municipal law enforcement rather than the university’s own campus police.

Police had previously confirmed that UVA president Teresa Sullivan had contacted the department to request a criminal investigation and said they were reviewing a published account of the alleged incident. But police have not yet accumulated enough information to take the matter beyond an inquiry and open a formal investigation.

Asked by TIME for a response, Charlottesville Police spokesman Captain Gary Pleasants said he could not confirm that a formal investigation was under way and reiterated a previous statement that the department was “evaluating the next steps.” He added, “In most cases, a formal investigation would be launched when a victim of a crime or witness to that crime makes a report to the police.”

The latest news about the status of the law-enforcement inquiry comes amid growing criticism of the article that placed UVA into the spotlight for an alleged brutal sexual assault and subsequently resulted in sanctions by the university against fraternities. That account, published by Rolling Stone on Nov. 19, described a gang rape at a fraternity involving seven men and was told through the first person account of a young woman. The story has come under scrutiny in recent days for relying solely on the alleged victim’s account and failing to make any attempts to contact the accused individuals, who were not identified.

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