TIME justice

Ferguson Cop Skips Sixth Court Date, Letting Suspect Walk Free

Activists March In Ferguson On Nat'l Day Of Action Against Police Brutality
Scott Olson—Getty Images Demonstrators project a wanted poster with a picture of Police Officer Darren Wilson on a wall near the pollice station in Ferguson, Missouri.

Officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, has refused to turn up to numerous court dates while on paid administrative leave

The Ferguson police officer who shot dead an unarmed teenager there in August failed to appear in a Missouri court Monday for the hearing of a man he arrested on felony drug charges, forcing the judge to let the suspect walk free.

The ruling to dismiss the case marks the sixth time Officer Darren Wilson’s absence from court has resulted in a dismissal, a county attorney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Attorneys for the defendant, Christopher A. Brooks, said Wilson could not be compelled to appear in court so long as he was on paid administrative leave from the police force.

Darren Wilson has remained in hiding since Brown’s shooting in August prompted weeks of angry demonstration in Ferguson, Miss., with many calling for Wilson’s arrest for murder.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

TIME sex trafficking

How to Spot a Sex Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

Man and woman in hotel lobby
Getty Images

Happens in five star hotels as well as slummy ones

As it has become clear over the last few years that sex trafficking takes place on every continent (O.K., maybe not Antarctica), approaches to defining it and ending it have changed. While there are ghastly situations in which young girls’ virginity is sold off by their debt-stricken parents in Cambodia, the reality is that western countries are by no means immune to the trade. Runaways, girls who have fallen for the wrong guy and naive women who have traveled from another country on the promise of a legitimate job can get trapped in prostitution rings anywhere.

One front in this battle has been the hotel industry. Traffickers like to use hotels to ply their trade, since they can get in and make some money and then move on before they attract too much attention. Neighbors tend to take a dim view of brothels and report them to the authorities. “It happens in hotels that are five star hotels and it happens in the sleaziest, slummiest rent by the hour hotels,” says Tammy Lee Stanoch, VP of corporate affairs for Carlson.

Perhaps because of this, some hoteliers were early activists in the anti-trafficking cause, including Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the former chairman of the chain (which owns a bunch of hotels including the Park Plaza, Country Inns and Suites and all the different types of Radisson). Initially, this was against the advice of their legal teams, who were leery of highlighting any illegal activity that was taking place within the hotels’ walls, but now many hotel chains, including Hilton, have signed on to the ECPAT Code of Conduct. “These women and children are being victimized in hotels, and whether they’re our hotels or our competitors, we’re going to take a stance on it,” says Stanoch. “Hotels need to be part of the solution because unfortunately that’s where many of these crimes happen.”

Many hotels now train their employees to watch for red flags, and the people at Carlson agreed to share some of what they’ve learned.

One of the key times is at check in. Paying with cash is obviously a cause for concern, especially if the reservation was originally made with a credit card. When an older man or woman checks in with younger women who don’t appear to be his or her children—they speak a different language, they’re distant from him, they look dazed or afraid, or if they’re made up to look older than they really are—that often means the women are not there willingly. A bunch of guys checking in with two young Latvian women alarmed this hotel employee, who went called the cops on them and broke up a trafficking ring. And then there’s the luggage clue; legitimate travelers usually bring a bunch of bags with them.

For hotels, the next line of defense after a vigilant front desk clerk is the in-house security team. Sometimes traffickers will check in to the room and only much later smuggle the girls and the johns into the hotel through a side door. “Very few women are being paraded by the front desk,” says Stanoch. Hotels have put in very sophisticated camera equipment, but that doesn’t mean they catch everything. Rooms which are being used by traffickers typically have a lot of men coming and going, and sometimes have men congregating outside the door, in the lobby or in the parking lot.

FBI San Antonio Special Agent Michelle Lee told local media after an undercover sting in June that traffickers often use two rooms. “One room is the working hotel room and the other room is where everyone else usually stays and they have just a few, very limited belongings.” Stanoch notes that the hotel staff moves pretty fast, once their suspicions have been raised. “This isn’t something we wait on,” says Stanoch, about how bringing in law enforcement. “It all happens very quickly.”

The hotel housekeepers are key players here too, since traffickers tend to decline cleaning services for days on end. They’re also less likely to tidy up, so the housekeeping staff may find large amounts of condoms and lubricant when they do get in to the room. (Stanoch says people who are having consensual sex generally tend to be neater with their paraphernalia. Who knew? ) Cleaners are also trained to watch out for a large number of computers or cell phones in a room. And then there’s porn. If one room is watching an unusual amount of porn on their hotel TV, that can trigger suspicions especially if it happens in tandem with other signs of trafficking. Not always, of course. “We are very sensitive to our guest’s privacy,” says Stanoch. “If something is suspicious in the guest room, in addition to indicators like a room that has been paid for in cash or multiple men coming and going, this may be cause for concern.”

Checking on the contents of another traveler’s room (or their TV habits) is of course frowned upon for regular guests, but there are things any traveler can watch out for: if you’re checking in or in the lobby, do the women being checked in have their own credit cards and forms of identification? Do they look to be in good health? Do they seem disoriented or disheveled? Are their “boyfriends” significantly older? Do the men seem to be preventing the women from moving about freely? There have even been reports of some women having tattoos that mark ownership.

If you’re on the same floor as a room which seems to have a lot of men hanging around outside, or a constant stream of visitors, you might want to let the hotel authorities know. Each of these symptoms on its own could have a perfectly plausible explanation, but if more than one or two of these warning flags are waving, then it might be time to tell hotel management of your concerns.

The Polaris Project, which works to combat slavery of all kinds (more people are enslaved by forced labor than the sex trade) has just released this awesome map, which identifies the local trafficking-fighting agencies all over the world. But Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT USA, suggests that hotel security is your first line of attack. “It does get more complicated overseas because it depends on the nationality of the perpetrator and what country you are in,” says Smolenski. “We still recommend that if people are in a hotel when they notice something wrong, they should report it to the hotel management.” And if you’re in the United States, it be worthwhile to keep this number handy, too, 1-888-373-7888, the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Have the new guidelines many any difference? Carlson didn’t provide any numbers and some observers are dubious, but Stanoch is persuaded they have. “Since we’ve started this training, I’d say the incidence of trafficking has dropped dramatically.” Now activists want to move further upstream, fighting trafficking at the source, by supporting organizations that offer vulnerable women training and job skills.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the title of Ms. Stanoch. She is VP of corporate affairs, not external affairs.

Read next: Watch This Woman Get Harassed 108 Times While Walking in New York City

TIME ebola

Chris Christie Defends Controversial Ebola Quarantine

"They don't want to admit that we were right and they were wrong"

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his heavily criticized decision to forcibly quarantine a nurse returning from West Africa for Ebola on Tuesday morning, saying the state’s policy of mandatory quarantining of returning health workers will remain in place.

“I don’t think it’s draconian,” Christie, appearing on the Today show, said of New Jersey’s mandatory 21-day quarantine on health care workers returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. “The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we are not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change.”

Nurse Kaci Hickox was discharged and allowed to go home to Maine Monday after being held in isolation for three days at University Hospital in Newark over protests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), members of the Obama administration, and her lawyer. “Governors ultimately have the responsibility to protect the public health and public safety,” Christie said, noting that when Hickox tested negative she was sent home.

Christie denied he had acted out of political expediency, arguing that mandatory quarantines are a nonpartisan issue, having been adopted by at least six red and blue states. “I will not submit to any political pressure in doing anything less than I believe is necessary,” he said.

The governor also said the CDC has been too slow to change its policies, and is now “incrementally taking steps to the policy we put in effect in New Jersey.” The CDC announced on Monday new guidelines for people traveling from West Africa, but still recommends voluntary at-home isolation rather than state-mandated quarantines.

“What’s the difference of telling someone who has been a health care worker at high risk that they can’t go in public places, public transportation and we want them to work from home, what’s the difference between that and a quarantine?” he said. “They don’t want to admit that we’re right and they were wrong.”

Read next: Ebola Quarantines ‘Not Grounded on Science,’ Say Leading Health Groups

TIME National Security

Postal Service Approved 50,000 Requests to Track U.S. Mail, Report Says

US Postal Service Mail Delivery Ahead Of Second-Quarter Results
Bloomberg—Getty Images U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks sit at the Brookland Post Office in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 2013.

An internal audit raised concerns over mail-tracking oversight

The United States Postal Service (USPS) approved some 50,000 requests from law enforcement officials and its own inspectors in 2013 to track Americans’ mail for security and criminal purposes, a New York Times report revealed Monday.

An internal 2014 USPS audit cited by the Times suggested that the protocol for approving the tracking of U.S. mail suffered from a number of flaws, as some requests to track mail were approved without adequate oversight while others didn’t receive immediate attention.

“Insufficient controls could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail and harm the Postal Service’s brand,” the report found.

Read the full story in the New York Times

TIME ebola

2 Kids from Senegal Were Beaten Up in NYC by Classmates Yelling ‘Ebola’

Ironically, Senegal is Ebola-free and has been widely praised for its response to the disease

Two Senegalese-American brothers were assaulted at a New York City school by classmates who yelled “Ebola” at them.

WABC News reports that the African Advisory Council and the children’s father told reporters that the two boys, who were born in the U.S. but returned from Senegal about a month ago, were assaulted during lunchtime on Friday at a public school in the Tremont neighborhood of the Bronx.

The boys were “rushed to the hospital with severe injuries,” the council said in statement.

The World Health Organization declared Senegal free of Ebola on Oct. 17. The African nation has only had one case of the disease, and its containment efforts are held up as a model for other countries to follow.

Pabe Drame, 13, who does not speak English, told the council that classmates assaulted his 11-year-old brother Amadou on the school playground, yelling “Ebola” as they slugged him. When Pabe tried to come to his brother’s aid, the school kids turned on him too.

The children’s father, Ousame Drame, said that the boy’s classmates had taunted and ostracized the kids for weeks, muttering “Ebola” and encouraging other students to shun the newcomers.

The African Advisory Council has called for the assault to be referred to the NYPD for treatment as a hate crime. The NYPD told local news website DNAinfo.com that it is investigating.

NYC’s Department of Education said it is also investigating the matter and that it had sent additional security to the boys’ school.

“We will not tolerate intimidation or bullying of our students, especially in this moment when New Yorkers need to come together,” schools chancellor Carmen Farina said in a statement.

[WABC]

TIME Disaster

Residents of Pahoa, Hawaii, Are Preparing to Flee a Frightening Lava Flow

The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen advancing across a pasture near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii
Reuters The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen advancing across a pasture between the Pahoa cemetery and Apa'a Street in this U.S. Geological Survey image taken near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii on Oct. 25, 2014.

Those living in the direct path of the molten mass have already begun to leave

Lava inched closer to homes in Pahoa, Hawaii, on Monday evening, spurring the evacuation of residents living in the direct path of the molten mass gushing from the Big Island’s most active volcano.

Authorities and Pahoa residents have been nervously watching the lava coming from the nearby volcano Kilauea for months, since a fresh flow started moving northeast toward the tiny town of 900 earlier this summer.

One official told TIME that locals were taking the necessary precautions in case widespread evacuations are ordered. Over the weekend, residents living in close proximity to the lava flow packed their possessions into trailers in preparation.

As of Monday evening, the lava flow was within 70 yards of the nearest home, according to a statement released by the County Civil Defense Agency.

“Residents in the flow path were placed on an evacuation advisory and notified of possible need for evacuation beginning last night,” read the report.

Local officials continued to fret over the possibility that the lava may eventually cut into nearby Highway 130. The road serves as the major transportation thoroughfare in and out of the town and is used by approximately 8,000 to 10,000 commuters a day. As a precaution, county authorities have opened two auxiliary roads in the area.

Earlier in the day, reports of small-scale looting in the remote community began to surface. “Crime is starting to pick up because a lot of people abandoned their houses. Two of my brother-in-laws’ houses got ripped off,” Matt Purvis, an owner of a local bakery, told CNN.

Late last week, Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie penned an official request for a presidential disaster declaration, which would provide the state with federal assistance to bolster local emergency services.

TIME Transportation

Bike Deaths Spiked 16%, Study Finds

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Hero Images—Getty Images Rear view of triathletes cycling on street

More than a quarter of bikers 16 and older who were killed in 2012 in motor-vehicle crashes had been drinking

The number of bicyclists killed in motor-vehicle crashes jumped up 16% between 2010 and 2012, after many years of decline.

A study released Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests that recent growth in the popularity of biking has contributed to the rising death toll, though the findings do not offer conclusive data.

“To the extent encouragement of bicycling is successful, exposure and fatalities are likely to continue to increase,” the study says.

In 2012, the most recent year in which figures are provided, 722 bikers were killed in motor-vehicle crashes, up from 621 in 2010. The figure is still down from 1975, when the data was first compiled and 1,003 people were killed in motor-vehicle crashes.

The majority of bikers killed in motor-vehicle crashes were adults over the age of 20, a dramatic shift from 1975 when the majority of bikers killed in motor-vehicle crashes were younger than 20, and adults comprised only 21%.

The study also found that the lack of helmets was a “major contributing factor” in fatalities. More than two-thirds of fatally injured bikers were not wearing helmets, though it’s not clear what portion of riders generally wear helmets.

One figure has remained relatively constant since at least 1982: roughly a quarter of bikers over age 16 who were killed in 2012 had been drinking.

“Despite the association of biking with healthy lifestyles and environmental benefits, a surprisingly large number of fatally injured bicyclists have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher,” the study said.

TIME Disaster

BP Oil Spill Left Rhode Island-Sized ‘Bathtub Ring’ on Seafloor

BP announced that it is ending its "active cleanup" on the Louisiana coast from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 19, 2014 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of gallons of oil.
Sean Gardner—Getty Images BP announced that it is ending its "active cleanup" on the Louisiana coast from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 19, 2014 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of gallons of oil.

The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf

New research shows that the BP oil spill left an oily “bathtub ring” on the sea floor that’s about the size of Rhode Island. The study by UC Santa Barbara’s David Valentine, the chief scientist on the federal damage assessment research ships, estimates that about 10 million gallons of oil coagulated on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico around the damaged Deepwater Horizons oil rig. Valentine said the spill left other splotches containing even more oil. The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf through the summer. Scientists are still trying to figure where…

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

TIME Crime

Florida State’s Karlos Williams Investigated in Domestic Abuse Case

Notre Dame at Florida State
Orlando Sentinel—MCT/Getty Images Florida State running back Karlos Williams picks up yards against Notre Dame at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Seminoles confirmed that the status of their star running back is under review pending investigation

Florida State running back Karlos Williams is being investigated by police in Tallahassee in an alleged domestic abuse case.

Tallahassee Police Department said that it had received the case on Saturday and was conducting an ongoing investigation.

Florida State University confirmed the case involved the team’s leading rusher. “The Athletics Department is aware of an investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department involving football student-athlete Karlos Williams,” it said in a statement. “Until we receive more information regarding the alleged incident his status with the team will be under review.”

Williams became a starter this year for the No. 2 Seminoles–the defending national champions–and has racked up 388 yards and seven touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in a victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 18, according to ESPN. The team’s next game is on Thursday.

The announcement comes after FSU coach Jimbo Fisher denied a local radio report on Friday that Williams was suspended.

“It’s funny how, that guy, who’s a tremendous kid, I don’t even know where that would come from,” Fisher said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “It kind of caught me off guard, like, ‘Whoa’. I don’t have no problem about [the question]. Karlos has been wonderful.” Fisher is expected to address the investigation in a news conference after practice on Monday, according to the Sentinel.

Also on Friday, a woman reported to be Williams’s girlfriend posted images of a bruised arm on Facebook and suggested it was the result of domestic violence. The Facebook post, which isn’t currently visible, did not name Williams, and it’s unclear if it is connected with the investigation.

It’s not the first time a Florida State player has been the subject of controversial allegations — Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of rape by a FSU student almost two years ago, but a lengthy investigation turned up insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime.

TIME Transportation

Gas Prices Tumble to 4-Year Low

The average price at the pump is currently $3.08 a gallon, the lowest it's been since Dec. 2010

The average price of gas at pumps across the country have dropped to a near four-year low of $3.08 a gallon, according to a recent survey.

The price has dropped by 29 cents since last year and represents the lowest average cost of gas since Dec. 17, 2010, according to the Lundberg Survey released Sunday. Gas prices have been steadily falling in recent months and are expected to continue to decline amid increasing oil production in the U.S. and abroad.

“The crude oil price crash has been passed through by refiners,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, told Bloomberg News. “Retailers will probably be pressed to pass through at the pump a few more pennies of price-cutting sometime soon.”

The cheapest prices could be found in Memphis, Tenn., where gas was going for an average of $2.73 a gallon, according to Lundberg. San Francisco has the most expensive gas, at an average of $3.45 a gallon.

The Lundberg Survey tracks prices at some 2,500 gas stations across the lower 48 states.

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