TIME Health Care

Utah’s Abortion Rate Is at Its Lowest Ever

Restrictive abortion laws, economics and the increased availability of contraceptives could all be behind the trend

Utah’s abortion rate has dropped to its lowest ever since the state began keeping records in 1975.

The number of women in Utah who had an abortion in 2013 was 2,893, that is 4.6 women in every 1,000, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Utah’s abortion statistics have been in decline from a high of 11.1 per 1,000 in 1980.

Several reasons could be behind the downward trend. There are more restrictive abortion laws in the state — including one that imposes a waiting period of 72 hours.

But Laurie Baksh from Utah’s Department of Health cites economics as a possible reason for lower abortions, saying people are thinking about the financial realities of raising a child.

[Salt Lake Tribune]

TIME Crime

Ezell Ford Had ‘Muzzle Imprint’ After Fatal Police Shooting

LAPD Releases Autopsy Report On Police Shooting Of Mentally-Ill Man
David McNew—Getty Images Activists look at a mural of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill black man at the site where he was shot and killed by two LAPD officers in August on Dec. 29, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Autopsy report on Los Angeles man's death released Monday

A mentally ill man who died in a summer police shooting in South Los Angeles was shot three times, including once at very close range, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Ezell Ford on Aug. 11, two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., sparked nationwide police protests.

Authorities claim that Ford, 25, was involved in an altercation with two officers and was shot as he struggled with them and attempted to reach for one of their weapons. But, the Los Angeles Times reports, a family friend who saw part of the encounter alleges there was no struggle. Ford was shot once in the right side, once in the right arm and once in the back. The latter wound showed signs of a “muzzle imprint,” the report details, suggesting the gun was fired at a very close range.

Police had asked the coroner’s office to withhold the report, claiming it could influence statements by witnesses in the ongoing case, but Mayor Eric Garcetti called for it to be released earlier this month. Ford’s family has filed a wrongful-death suit against the police department.

TIME Podcast

Serial‘s Key Witness, Jay, Reveals New Details About the Case

Serial
Serial

Jay Wilds explains lying to the police and helping bury Hae Min Lee's body

The man who served as the key witness against Adnan Syed in the 2000 Baltimore murder investigation, which recently has gained national attention thanks to the hit podcast Serial, revealed new details about the case in a report released Monday.

Although Jay Wilds declined to be formally interviewed by Serial host Sarah Koenig, he told The Intercept in a multi-part interview that he was unfairly portrayed.

Koenig investigated the circumstances surrounding the death of Hae Min Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend, and the role that Wilds played. Syed was later found guilty of murder and is serving a life sentence in prison. Although Wilds admitted to police that he helped Syed bury her body, he denied further involvement — and Koenig questioned why his story surrounding the afternoon of Lee’s murder changed over time. Wilds, who dealt pot at the time, said:

I wasn’t openly willing to cooperate with the police. It wasn’t until they made it clear they weren’t interested in my ‘procurement’ of pot that I began to open up any. And then I would only give them information pertaining to my interaction with someone or where I was.

Wilds also clarified his friendship with Syed (“I only smoked with him two or three times”), his fear of retribution for dealing drugs (“I also ran the operation out of my grandmother’s house and that also put my family at risk”) and chilling details about seeing and burying Lee’s body.

Read more at The Intercept

Read next: The Innocence Project Tells Serial Fans What Might Happen Next

TIME States

This Is How Many Americans Will Ring in the New Year

At the beginning of the new year, a baby will be born in the U.S. every 8 seconds

More than 320 million Americans will ring in the New Year, the United States Census Bureau said on Monday.

New projections released by the agency show the U.S. population is expected to hit 320,090,857 on Jan. 1, which is 2.33 million or .73%, more than New Year’s Day 2014.

“In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds,” the bureau said in a statement. “Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds.”

On a global level, an estimated 7,214,958,996 people will be alive to celebrate the New Year, up 77.3 million from last year.

See the real-time figures here:

TIME Military

See the U.S. Military’s Last Days of Combat in Afghanistan

The U.S.-led coalition ended its combat mission on Sunday

The United States-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission on Sunday, 13 years after it began in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 10,000 troops will remain on the ground to aid Afghan forces in a new U.S. role that called Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Almost 1 million U.S. troops served at least one tour in Afghanistan; a total 3,485 allied troops were killed, including 2,356 Americans.

Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson documented the final days of the U.S.’s official combat campaign with the men and women of Forward Operating Bases Gamberi and Fenty in Laghman and Nangarhar provinces, respectively.

Read next: U.S. Ends Its War in Afghanistan

TIME Bizarre

Obama’s Golf Game Prompts Couple to Relocate Wedding Set for Next Day

US-MALAYSIA-OBAMA-NAJIB-GOLF
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama jokes with reporters as he plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razzak at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Dec. 24, 2014

The President called the bride to apologize

President Barack Obama’s golf game in Hawaii forced a military couple to relocate their wedding a day before their planned nuptials on Sunday.

Natalie Heimel and Edward Mallue Jr. had just finished their rehearsal at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, located on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, when they were informed they would have to move their planned ceremony at the 16th hole because the President would be playing through the holes, Bloomberg reports.

Wedding organizer Naile Brennan said anyone who plans an event there while Obama is in town is warned ahead of time about the chance of an 11th-hour rescheduling. The ceremony was moved to a “much prettier and much nicer venue,” she said. “It’s more secluded and there are no golfers yelling ‘Fore!'”

Even though the newlyweds knew Obama was in town — they invited him to their wedding but received a congratulatory no-show letter in response — their relocation still came as a shock. After Obama found out what happened, according to Jamie McCarthy, a sister of Mallue, “he apologized and congratulated them” in a “wonderful” personal call to the bride.

[Bloomberg]

TIME justice

The Growing Republican Divide on Criminal Justice Reform

Charles Koch
Bo Rader—Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries, on Feb 27, 2007.

GOP leaders are embracing reform, but the base remains committed to the party's law-and-order roots

Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican Party donor, says he will make criminal justice reform a major cause in 2015. “Over the next year, we are going to be pushing the issues key to this, which need a lot of work in this country,” Koch said in an interview with the Wichita Eagle.

Koch is a big spender—and something of a bogeyman among many liberals—so this made news. The “conservative mega-donor,” a Politico story blared, “is opening his wallet on an unexpected issue.”

Except it shouldn’t be unexpected. Koch is a libertarian, and libertarians have a history of opposing policies, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, that have made the U.S. incarceration rate the highest in the world. What’s perhaps more surprising is how Republican politicians from other parts of the spectrum are beginning to embrace criminal justice reform as well.

Over the past few years, GOP leaders in Washington and around the country have seized on justice reform as an issue that is both good policy and good politics. This view places them in conflict with many Republican voters, who still hew to the law-and-order beliefs on which the party had long been united. As a result, criminal-justice policy may emerge as one of the GOP’s key fault lines in 2015, as tensions simmer amid ongoing protests over police behavior and the presidential primary begins to heat up.

Virtually all of the likely 2016 Republican field supports some element of criminal-justice reform. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is the most visible and least surprising proponent; as a libertarian-leaning conservative, he has staked his candidacy on the idea that the GOP must adjust its policies as the composition of the electorate changes. But Paul is hardly the only 2016 hopeful to plant a flag on the issue. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has called for an end to the “failed war on drugs” and signed legislation that sent some offenders to rehab instead of prison.

Rick Perry, the conservative governor of Texas, has been among the nation’s top prison reformers, even winning a national award for his support of drug courts as an alternative to incarceration. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, another Republican governor eyeing a 2016 bid, pushed legislation that would boost the state’s drug rehab program and make some nonviolent offenders eligible for early release.

Conservatives in Congress also have an appetite for reform. Paul Ryan produced a white paper on poverty that includes proposals like giving judges sentencing flexibility for nonviolent offenders and letting some inmates earn time off their prison stays for successful participation in programs. Mike Lee, a Republican senator from Utah and a Tea Party favorite, was one of the original sponsors, with liberal senators Dick Durbin and Pat Leahy, of a bill called the Smarter Sentencing Act, which attempts to curtail the draconian sentencing that has left some 2.2 million Americans behind bars. Among the Republicans who have since signed on: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another presidential hopeful.

Why have Republicans come around on law-and-order issues? Part of it is politics. As the country grows younger and more diverse, GOP leaders grasp the need to reach out to the minority groups who are disproportionately affected by the excesses of the justice system. It’s no surprise that Ryan, who knows firsthand how a lack of minority support can erode the viability of the Republican presidential ticket, spent time touring inner cities after 2012—nor that Paul, who hopes to avoid the same fate in ’16, launched a listening tour of his own.

There is also, Republicans note, a conservative case for overhauling a bloated prison system that drains resources and divides families. “You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money,” Perry said. A group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty inveighs against the failures of capital punishment, a process riddled with “waste, inaccuracy and bias” that “does not square up with conservative ideology.”

But the GOP base—which is older and whiter and wealthier than the average America, and thus less likely to be ensnared by the system—has been slower to embrace these ideas. And the bitter national debate catalyzed by the recent deaths of black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner looks likely to impede the process.

Police behavior is a different thing than, say, eliminating mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders—a point on which even the majority of Republicans agree. But the debate has revealed the degree to which law-and-order attitudes dominate in Republican circles.

Polls reveal that perspectives on police behavior break along partisan lines almost as sharply as racial ones. If Republicans are less likely to accept the prevalence of police misconduct (and they are), it follows that they would be less likely to buy into the notion that the system requires reform. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News survey, eight in 10 white Republicans said the Brown and Garner cases were isolated incidents, and a similar percentage say they are “confident that police treat blacks and whites equally.”

As long as support for cops stays sacrosanct among primary voters, criminal-justice reform is unlikely to become a campaign rallying cry during the GOP primary, even in a field that predominantly supports it. The Republican Party is evolving on criminal justice. But politicians will still talk on the trail about what voters want to hear.

TIME Companies

Lyft and Uber Team Up With MADD for Safer New Year’s Eve

Lyft Gives Up Pink Mustaches To Challenge Uber In New York City
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images The Lyft Inc. application (app) is displayed for an arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on July 9, 2014.

The leading ridesharing services are pledging thousands of dollars to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) announced Monday it is teaming up with ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber to promote safer roads this New Year’s Eve.

Lyft will donate $1 for every person who makes a “pledge” to travel safely this New Year’s (up to $10,000; 3,753 had pledged as of 2:45 p.m. ET). It started at 6 a.m. local time on Dec. 29 and will run through 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Uber will give $1 for every ride nationwide using the promo code “MADDNYE” made between 6 p.m. local time on New Year’s Eve to 6 a.m. the next morning.

New Year’s Day in 2013 was the year’s deadliest day on the roads for drunk driving, according to MADD, with 70 people killed. The organization has supported ride-sharing services in the past, arguing that they help reduce drunk driving by providing alternative options.

TIME New York

Mayor de Blasio Booed at New York City Police Academy Graduation

Hundreds of cops had turned their backs to de Blasio at a slain officer's funeral

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s graduation speech to fall Police Academy graduates was met with mixed audience reactions on Monday, as de Blasio struggles to bridge relationships with New York police officers after a fatal ambush on two cops last week.

Mayor de Blasio was booed and heckled by the audience before he had begun speaking, the New York Times reported. The ceremony for the 884 graduating cadets, held in Madison Square Garden, came only two days after hundreds of officers had turned their backs on de Blasio as he spoke at the funeral of one of the two slain officers.

The mayor continued his speech, and drew applause when he said, “You will confront problems that you didn’t create. You will confront poverty, you will confront mental illness, illegal guns and the challenges of a still-divided society.”

The murders of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu widened a chasm between de Blasio and New York police officer and community leaders, who have accused the mayor of endangering officer safety by supporting ongoing protests. The protests, scattered nationwide, seek to address police racism after several killings of unarmed black Americans by white police officers, whose grand jury investigations returned non-indictments.

[NYT]

TIME California

Surfer Bitten By Shark in California

It's possible the shark was a great white

A man was recovering in hospital on Monday after he was attacked by an eight to 10-foot long young shark while surfing in Sand Spit Beach in Montana De Oro State Park in California.

The man, who remains unidentified, was attacked around 11:30 a.m on Sunday and bitten on his right hip. The size and appearance of the bite marks on the surf board, are indicative of a young great white shark, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Friends of the surfer say the shark appeared to swim up from depth and attack the board and then dragged the surfer under water. The man was able to paddle himself to shore with the help of friends who called 911.

Officials say the man is expected to survive the attack.

[Los Angeles Times]

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