TIME 2014 Election

Two-Thirds of Elected Representatives Are White Males, Study Finds

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, the nation is 52% female and 38% people of color

Two-thirds of elected representatives in the U.S. are white males, while two-thirds of their constituents are not, according to a new research effort that spotlights demographic gaps between America’s leaders and their electorate.

Researchers at “Who Leads Us,” a project backed by the Women Donors Network, collected demographic information on 42,000 elected officials in order to answer the question, “Do America’s elected officials reflect our population?” Judging by their race and gender, not so much. 71% of elected officials are men and 90% are white, representing a national population that, according to Census data cited by the study, is 52% female and 38% persons of color.

Women of color stood out as the most underrepresented group in elected office, making up 4% of elected officials and 19% of the population. This incongruity between electorate and representatives, the study’s authors conclude, confirms “that the face of America’s leadership bears little resemblance to our country’s population.”

TIME Military

Pentagon to Brief Obama on Grim Battle Against Jihadists

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani, Oct. 8, 2014.
Umit Bektas—Reuters Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani, Oct. 8, 2014.

Commanders to tell Commander-in-Chief about tough fight to keep key Syrian border town out of ISIS hands

President Barack Obama is heading to the Pentagon Wednesday afternoon for an update on the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), and he’s not going to like what he hears. The key Syrian town of Kobani is likely to fall to ISIS fighters in coming days, senior U.S. military officials will tell Obama—and there’s not a whole lot the U.S. and its allies can do to halt the ISIS victory or the expected bloodbath following its collapse.

“We’re not expecting any change to our strategy as a result of today’s meeting,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday afternoon shortly before the 3 p.m. ET session. “This is going to be a long, difficult struggle.”

An air offensive to protect Kobani from being overrun by ISIS totters on the verge of failure. Stepped-up allied air strikes and Kurdish defenders, armed with only small arms, are fighting up to 9,000 jihadists outfitted with tanks and rockets. But it seems to be too little, too late as ISIS’s black flags rose above an eastern neighborhood Monday and remained flying Wednesday. Kurdish officials have warned that ISIS militants would kill thousands if they prevail.

The fight for Kobani is a key test of a U.S. military strategy limited to air strikes, while its local allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria are proving ineffective or non-existent. Turkish troops with tanks are simply watching from across the border as the battle for nearby Kobani rages. Nearly half of the area’s 400,000 residents have fled to Turkey. U.S. officials are angry that Turkey, a NATO ally, has refused to do more to avert a slaughter, they say largely because of its bloody history with the Kurds. American officials are heading to Ankara to urge Turkish officials to do more.

The second piece of the U.S. strategy is training up to 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels a year to fight ISIS on the ground. But that’s a long-term gambit with no guarantee of success, because many of the rebels are more interested in fighting their three-year old civil war against Syrian strongman Bashar Assad than ISIS.

For now, the jihadists are doing their best to frustrate air strikes by abandoning key outposts and breaking into smaller units. They have given up little ground. The terrorist fighters are moving into civilian areas where they know the U.S. and its allies will not bomb—especially without hard intelligence from on-the-ground scouts they trust. Obama has refused to dispatch such spotters as part of his ban on U.S. ground troops in the conflict.

Obama will be meeting with Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has told Congress he will ask Obama to dispatch U.S. ground troops—especially forward air controllers to call in air strikes—if Dempsey thinks it’s required. Kirby said the Pentagon would not be making such a request of Obama during Wednesday’s meeting.

The growing U.S. frustration has been evident as the U.S. ordered AH-64 Apache helicopters into action beginning Oct. 5 against militant targets in western Iraq. The low-and-slow gunship is better than a jet bomber for attacking moving targets. But that capability also makes its two crewmembers more vulnerable to ground fire. ISIS has shot down a pair of Iraqi choppers in recent days, killing all four pilots aboard.

TIME cities

San Francisco Moves to Legalize Airbnb, But With Restrictions

Airbnb Said to Be Raising Funding At $10 Billion Valuation
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Airbnb Inc. application is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2014.

A new law will make it legal to operate Airbnb in San Francisco

San Francisco lawmakers voted Tuesday to legalize short-term rentals in the city by passing the “Airbnb law,” which permits residents to host guests via services like Airbnb but places restrictions on the practice.

The new law, passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors, will allow Airbnb to operate in the city where it began six years ago, and where laws previously barred residential rentals of less than 30 days, SFGate reports. Thousands of residents ignored the existing laws, which have been lightly enforced.

“The status quo isn’t working; we have seen an explosion in short-term rentals,” Board President David Chiu said in introducing the law.

But the “Airbnb law” will also place restrictions on Airbnb hosts, allowing them to offer only short-term rentals, establishing a city registry for hosts, mandating the collection of hotel tax, limiting rentals to 90 days per year, and requiring liability insurance for each listing.

The law passed in a 7-4 vote, and if it passes a pro forma vote and is signed by the mayor as expected, it will take effect in February. The law was first introduced in April and was intended in part to prevent landlords from renting out extra apartments to Airbnb guests, a practice critics say exacerbates an affordable housing crisis.

[SFGate]

TIME animals

Is a Chimpanzee a ‘Legal Person’? Court Set to Decide

Tarongas Animals Receive Christmas Treats
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images

Could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful

A New York appeals court will begin hearing a landmark case on Wednesday that could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful.

Animal rights lawyer Steven Wise filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee kept by a private owner in upstate New York. The lawsuit alleged that keeping the chimpanzee in captivity was unlawful, because a chimpanzee was not merely a possession of the owner, but rather “a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

As such, the case called upon the court to grant Tommy the status of “legal personhood,” thereby extending the fundamental human right of habeas corpus, or the right to not be unlawfully imprisoned, to a primate.

The case grabbed headlines, including TIME’s, for its ambitious attempt to blur a longstanding legal distinction between humans and animals. The organization pressing the case, the Nonhuman Rights Project, has stated that the case will not end with Tommy: “Our goal is, very simply, to breach the legal wall that separates all humans from all nonhuman animals.”

TIME Crime

Vermont Mom Accused of Killing Son By Spiking IV With Alcohol

Teen born with serious medical conditions and physical handicaps that required constant IV

A Vermont mother is accused of killing her 13-year-old son by putting alcohol in his IV, police say.

Investigators said Melissa Robitille and Walter Richter III of Hardwick, Vt. put alcohol in teenager Isaac Robitille’s IV, which he required to keep him alive after being born with serious medical conditions and physical handicaps.

Robitille called police after finding her son dead, UPI reports. Isaac was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.146 percent, and a medical examiner said that alcohol was a contributing factor in the teen’s death. The cause of death was homicide, said the examiner.

Police arrested her and her boyfriend Tuesday after completing the teenager’s autopsy and toxicology.

[UPI]

TIME ebola

U.S. Ebola Survivor Donates Blood to Infected Journalist

Emory Hospital Releases American Aid Workers Treated For Ebola
Jessica McGowan—Getty Images Dr. Kent Brantly an Ebola patient at Emory Hospital during a press conference announcing his release from the hospital on Aug. 21, 2014 in Atlanta.

Dr Kent Brantly, who contracted the disease in west Africa, gives blood to help NBC journalist fight the disease

The first American flown back to the U.S. after contracting Ebola has donated blood to an NBC News freelance cameraman who was also diagnosed with the virus.

Photojournalist Ashoka Mukpo’s family told NBC News early Wednesday that Dr. Kent Brantly was contacted by the Nebraska Medical Center and asked to give plasma. Experts hope the survivor’s antibodies will kick-start Mukpo’s immune system.

Brantly was on a road trip from Indiana to Texas when he received a call from the medical center telling him his blood type matched Mukpo’s…

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME ebola

Dallas Ebola Patient’s Son: “Keep Praying”

Karsiah Duncan, Mike Rawlings, Saymendy Lloyd
Tim Sharp—AP Karsiah Duncan, center, son of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan speaks during a news conference while Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, left rear, and Saymendy Lloyd look on, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Dallas.

Thomas Eric Duncan’s son sent a message to his mom in quarantine: be strong

The son of the Liberian man fighting for his life in a Dallas hospital after contracting Ebola asked the community to keep praying for his family in a statement to the media Tuesday night.

“I just came out here because I feel like God was calling me to see my dad even though I got school still going on,” said Karsiah Eric Duncan, who is in college in West Texas and hasn’t seen his father, Thomas Eric Duncan, since he was three.

Karsiah has visited Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where his father is in critical condition and being treated with an experimental Ebola drug, but did not get to see him.

Duncan is the first person diagnosed with Ebola outside of Africa, though a nurse in Spain has since come down with the disease after treating two Ebola-stricken missionaries who had returned from Sierra Leone.

Karsiah thanked members of the community for their support, the hospital treating his father, and President Obama for deploying troops to join the fight against Ebola in West Africa. He also had a message for his mother, Louise Troh, who has been living under quarantine for a week so far to ensure that she has not contracted the disease.

“Be strong,” he said. “Even though it’s hard being in a house for 21 days and not knowing what’s going to happen after she gets out.”

Ebola can take up to 21 days to manifest symptoms.

The young man also had a request for the community at large. “Keep praying that my family is going to be okay and my dad makes it out safely,” he said. “I hope they find a cure for it.”

TIME Crime

Report: Number of NYPD Chokehold Complaints Highest in Decade

People and relatives attend the funeral ceremony of Eric Garner who died after NYPD cops put him in a banned chokehold,
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images People and relatives attend the funeral ceremony of Eric Garner who died after NYPD cops put him in a banned chokehold.

Report says the illegal restraining method isn't always properly investigated

The number of complaints against the New York Police Department’s use of illegal chokeholds in the past year is the highest in a decade, according to a civilian-run agency tasked with investigating complaints against the NYPD.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board released a report Tuesday stating that between July 2013 and June 2014 it received 219 chokehold complaints, a number previously unseen since 2010. From 2006-2010, the agency received over 200 chokehold complaints per year.

“These findings demonstrate that, at least from the point of view of the particular experience of the complainants, police officers continue to use choke holds and the persistence of this practice puts civilians at physical risk,” the CCRB said in a statement.

The board added that these complaints were often not investigated, and that police were often not disciplined for using the restraining that has been prohibited by the NYPD Patrol Guide for over 20 years, the report said.

According to NYPD policy, a chokehold includes but is not limited to “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

The definition has led some police officers to believe that a restraint is a chokehold only if breathing is restricted, which the CCRB maintains is a too limited interpretation. As a result, the number of chokehold incidents are likely underreported or misclassified, which has led to police officers bypassing discipline and investigation, said the report, which recommended the creation of a group involving both CCRB members and police officers to ensure that chokeholds are prohibited.

The NYPD’s use of force has drawn criticism in recent months after a bystander filmed a video of officers restraining in Eric Garner in July as he was arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner died while he was pinned down, which the medical examiner’s office ruled a homicide. A grand jury will be convened to decide whether or not to charge the officers.

TIME Crime

Marijuana Police Accidentally Raid Man’s Okra Garden

Growing Okra
Joshua McCullough—Getty Images Growing Okra

They thought the gumbo ingredient was the illicit drug

Police flying in helicopters looking for marijuana plants last week tracked down a man who they believed was illegally growing cannabis. Yet they soon discovered the plants were actually okra, a gumbo ingredient that’s very much legal.

Dwayne Perry of Cartersville, Georgia, noticed that a helicopter was mysteriously flying low over his home, and soon learned of the cause when police and a canine unit showed up on his doorstep attempting to bust him for growing cannabis, according to CNN.

“It did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant,” Georgia State Patrol Capt. Kermit Stokes told CNN affiliate WSB. Both plants are green and leafy, but while a cannabis plant generally has seven or nine leaves, an okra plant has only five.

The Georgia police has since apologized to Perry and his neighbors, who had grown suspicious of the police near his home. Yet Perry remains frustrated that he was mistakenly targeted.

“Here I am, at home and retired and you know I do the right thing,” Perry told WSB.

Aerial police surveillance of cannabis plants has increased in the recent months, particularly in Northern California, “the capital of American cannabis cultivation.

TIME Crime

Federal Drug Agency Sued for Creating Fake Facebook Profile

A Facebook page for "Sondra Prince"
AP A Facebook page for "Sondra Prince"

Woman arrested on drug charges claims the agency made a fake profile of her to extract drug secrets from her friends

A federal agency responsible for enforcing drug law has been sued for creating a fake Facebook profile of a woman arrested on drug charges.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is accused of using photos and information Sondra Arquiett’s cellphone to create a false Facebook profile that was used to extract drug secrets from her friends, according to the Associated Press. Arquiett was arrested in New York in 2010 on charges that she was involved in a drug distribution network.

A Department of Justice spokesman said Tuesday that the government is now reviewing the incident and the practice, even though it previously defended itself, according to August court filings. In the documents, the DOJ argued that while Arquiett did not directly authorize a DEA agent to create a fake Facebook profile, she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in … ongoing criminal investigations,” AP reported.

The trial is scheduled for next week.

[AP]

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