TIME

Every Execution in U.S. History in a Single Map

 

Read “Lethal Injection’s Fatal Flaws” from the May 26, 2014 issue of TIME.

Before his lethal injection was delayed at the eleventh hour by a federal appeals court Tuesday, Robert James Campbell was scheduled to become the 1,231st person to be executed by Texas since it joined the Union in 1845.

As Josh Sanburn writes in the magazine this week, capital punishment in the United States is at a crossroads as some states are having a difficult time finding the chemicals required for lethal injections.

The map above shows every legal execution by a state since 1776. Drag the red triangle to view the data at any point in time, or hit play to watch the map animate. Shrewd readers will note that the total figure in the lower righthand corner is significantly lower than the total in TIME’s chart of executions by method. This map only shows executions administered at the state level, not those implemented by the federal government or the military. Michigan, for example, has never executed someone since attaining statehood, but was the site to one federal execution.

Data for historical executions through 1976 are derived from research conducted by M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smykla. Data since the end of the hiatus come from the Death Penalty Information Center.

The source code for this project is available on Time’s GitHub page.

TIME Economy

Job Growth Good, Labor Market Bad

What happens with workforce participation will determine how you experience the recovery

Midway through the year, how is America’s economic recovery really doing? It’s complicated.

We’ve just gotten what in many ways appears to be a stellar jobs report. The U.S. economy created a whopping 288,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, its lowest level since 2008. Unfortunately, it didn’t fall just because tens of thousands of new jobs were created in construction and retail, for example. A bigger reason it fell is that fewer people are looking for work. In fact, the workforce-participation rate–the percentage of people who are actually in the labor market–dropped to its lowest level since 1978.

The question now is whether or not people who are shut out of the labor market for various reasons will be able to return to work as the recovery strengthens. Ultimately, the answer will determine how most Americans experience the next few years–how much it will cost you to buy a new car or home or what you will pay in student loans.

It’s not hard to see why workforce participation is such a hot topic. Over the past five years, the percentage of the population working in America has dropped to the levels of Europe as a whole. Typically in the U.S., about 15% of unemployed people are among the “long-term unemployed,” meaning they’ve been out of a job for more than six months. After the Great Recession, that share reached 45%, and even today it’s still 37%. The long-term unemployed suffer not just economically but also socially: they have higher rates of divorce, depression and suicide.

Will those people ever work again? Many experts say no, because research shows that employers often discriminate against the long-term unemployed and also their skills tend to atrophy. “More than ever before, skill erosion will be a major obstacle for those who wish to return to the workforce,” declared a recent Conference Board report. And then there’s another group: the baby boomers dropping out of the workforce who had likely planned to retire anyway but may have pushed the decision up by a few years because of gloomy work prospects. Historically, few such people ever return to the workforce once they leave.

So what does all this mean for the price of your mortgage or car loan? The amount of slack in the labor market is one of the key factors helping the Fed decide whether to raise interest rates. When markets are slack, or too many people who want work don’t have it, wages and prices stay down. But if labor markets get tight, wages go up, and that causes inflation. When inflation starts to rise, so do interest rates.

But inflation is tricky. It moves fast and often unexpectedly, which means it’s important for central bankers to try to anticipate it. That’s why there are vigorous disagreements about what to make of these latest numbers. Economists who see the bulk of labor-market dropouts as a lost cause believe they don’t really matter with respect to inflation. The short-term unemployment rate, which they believe is a better measure of the true slack in the labor market, is just a little more than 6%, right around where it ought to be historically. And important metrics, like the National Federation of Independent Business survey, show the labor market is as tight as it was in 2005. Whatever the unemployment rate, we may not have enough workers with the right skills. And a tighter labor market implies that inflation could come on sooner rather than later–and that rates could rise as early as 2015.

Plenty of people in the fed believe that could and should happen, but chair Janet Yellen isn’t one of them. Yellen recently said, “My own view is that a significant amount of the decline in [labor] participation during the recovery is due to slack, another sign that help from the Fed can still be effective.” The data on her side include the recent disproportionate declines in the unemployment rate for lower-income workers. The idea is that companies are starting by hiring cheap labor and they’ll eventually hire more workers higher up the pay scale. There’s also the fact that right before the Great Recession, there was a nascent trend toward older workers staying in the workforce longer, in part because of better health and the desire to work but also perhaps out of necessity: the average retirement savings of Americans ages 55 to 64 is about $120,000, not enough to fund anyone’s golden years.

If that’s the case, we may see many of those longer-term unemployed people come back into the workforce, keeping inflation (and rates) lower for longer. In economics, three’s a trend. The next two months of data will be crucial in understanding where labor markets, interest rates and the price of your debt are headed.

TIME celebrities

The Hotel Employee Who Leaked the Solange-Jay Z Video Got Fired

This May 5, 2014 file photo shows Jay Z, left, and Beyonce at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in New York, on the night when Beyonce's sister allegedly attacked Jay Z. Evan Agostini—Invision/AP

The Standard Hotel in New York said it had sacked the employee who recorded and released the security footage that appears to show Solange Knowles assaulting her brother-in-law, Jay Z, after the Met Gala and was posted this week on celebrity gossip website TMZ

New York’s Standard Hotel says it has identified and fired the person who leaked a security video that apparently shows Beyonce’s sister Solange assaulting her brother-in-law Jay Z in one of the hotel’s elevators.

The hotel said Wednesday that it will hand over “all available information to criminal authorities,” the Associated Press reports.

The video was posted on celebrity gossip website TMZ on Monday. Representatives for Jay Z, Beyonce and Solange have yet to comment on it.

[AP]

TIME Aids

CDC Recommends Anti-HIV Pill for High-Risk Groups

Truvada AIDS Anti-HIV
Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada are shown at Jack's Pharmacy in San Anselmo, Calif. on Nov. 23, 2010. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The daily medication, sold in generic form as Truvada, could transform AIDS prevention in America. If taken regularly, the drug can reduce risk of infection in high-risk populations by up to 92%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says

The U.S. government has recommended that hundreds of thousands of people at risk for AIDS take a daily drug that is effective in preventing the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an official recommendation Wednesday that people at high risk of contracting AIDS take a combination of two medicines called Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is known to help prevent infection of HIV, the virus that causes the deadly, incurable disease.

If taken regularly, the drug can reduce risk of infection in high-risk populations by up to 92%, the CDC says.

PreP comes in a generic version called Truvada and is used widely in AIDS treatment programs in poor countries. The CDC’s recommendation could, if followed widely, increase the number of people taking the drug in the U.S. from fewer than 10,000 to half a million, the New York Times reported.

The CDC recommends the drug, in combination with condom use, to gay men who have sex without using condoms, heterosexuals who sleep with intravenous drug users or bisexuals, and anyone who has sex with someone they know to be HIV-positive, as well as anyone who shares needles or injects drugs.

HIV rates have held stubbornly flat for the past decade, and a sharp decline in condom usage has raised concerns among health officials.

TIME

The Problem With Graduation Speaker Purity Tests

The protests forcing some commencement speakers to withdraw are a reminder that students are better at challenging values than maintaining them

These are salad days for organizers of petition drives. Never has it been so easy to circulate demands and collect virtual signatures. Not long ago, ardent activists clutched clipboards outside grocery stores or student unions as apathetic passers-by pretended not to notice them. But social media streamlines the search for the like-minded—a fact the White House discovered recently when more than 270,000 people joined a demand that misbehaving pop star Justin Bieber be deported to his native Canada.

It follows that these are glum times for college presidents. Zealous students at such institutions as Brandeis University, Smith College and Rutgers University have leveraged social media to drive away invited graduation–day speakers. They make it look so easy that students elsewhere will surely be tempted to join in the fun.

So far, the young thought police have used their powers to enforce left-wing purity, amid signs that today’s students have moved beyond identity politics to new orthodoxies. Trustees at Smith, an all–women’s college, probably thought they would be inspiring their students by inviting Christine Lagarde of France, the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund. Hardly. Lagarde bowed out on May 12 after a barrage of complaints about the IMF’s “imperialistic” lending policies (as one petition signer put it).

Earlier this spring, Brandeis rescinded an offer of an honorary degree to the provocative writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose criticism of Islam for antifeminist tendencies was dubbed “hate speech” by petitioners. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of the Rutgers commencement ceremony after students denounced her as a “war criminal” for her role in the Bush Administration’s war on terror.

At Haverford College, students demanded an abject apology before an honorary degree could be granted to Robert Birgeneau, the recently retired chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and a champion of access to higher education for undocumented immigrants. Birgeneau’s offense was that he presided over Berkeley in 2011, when campus police used rough tactics with students who were protesting state budget cuts. Rather than grovel, Birgeneau withdrew.

Fish swim, birds fly, students protest. Anyone who has been 20 years old surely recalls the fierce clarity of a college student’s mind. The sharp steel of a whetted education, undulled by the nicks and scrapes of experience, makes for the sort of slashing brilliance that breeds innovators and -artists—and revolutionaries. But they are better at challenging values than maintaining them.

As Smith’s president, Kathleen McCartney, put in when announcing Lagarde’s withdrawal, the protesters got what they wanted, “but at what cost to Smith College?”

If America’s treasured institutions of higher learning are to remain bastions of free speech and arenas of robust debate, there must be grownups ready to defend those ideals. And those grownups had better brace themselves for their own online denunciations, because the times, they are a-changin’.

TIME Veterans

VA Day of Reckoning: Head Could Roll Over ‘Secret Lists’

Obama Welcomes Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride To White House
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and President Obama at a veterans' event last year. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Secretary Eric Shinseki faces Congress, and trouble, if woes are widespread

There’s a sword of Damocles hanging by a hair over Veterans Administration chief Eric Shinseki as he heads to Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify on the VA’s expanding secret wait-list mess. It’s an apt place for the retired four-star Army general, himself a veteran wounded in Vietnam. He finds himself in the tightest spot in his five years as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, dealing with the downstream costs of two of the nation’s longest wars.

Charges—and confirmations—about VA double bookkeeping when measuring how long veterans have to wait for appointments are nothing new. But what has given the latest stories more impact are the deaths allegedly linked to the delays, the secret lists designed to hide them, and charges that the secret lists were a way for VA executives to mask shortcomings and thereby maximize their cash bonuses.

Those bonuses come from an annual $150 billion VA budget, triple 2001’s spending.

Congressional Research Service

Whether the sword falls won’t depend so much on what Shinseki tells the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He has already said he won’t resign. What’s critical is how Congress and veterans react to what he says, and what a VA-wide inspector general’s probe into the problem turns up. Shinseki will survive if he convinces them he was ignorant of such wrongdoing—he has denounced it as “absolutely unacceptable”—and shouldn’t have been expected to detect it on his own.

But anyone who has paid attention to VA data is aware that there have been persistent efforts inside the agency to make vets’ wait times seem shorter than they actually are. One 14-day limit for getting an appointment was ripe for abuse, and critics say such abuse should have been anticipated and eliminated. Shinseki’s defense becomes weaker with every corroborated story of his subordinates gaming the system. If there’s evidence that the problems are systemic, Shinseki’s days are numbered.

“This is an accountability moment for the VA,” says Phil Carter, who served as an Army officer in Iraq and now champions veterans issues at the nonprofit Center for a New American Security. “The key question is where within the organization to fix accountability: at the secretarial level, the regional level, the hospital level, or some other place.” Only after the IG’s inquiry, Carter says, can the government “decide who should be held accountable for these issues.”

“This is not a new problem,” Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, conceded last week. “Veterans have been dying in line for care for decades.” IAVA, like most veterans’ groups, has not called for Shinseki’s ouster.

But others have already made up their minds. “General Eric Shinseki has served his country well,” Daniel Dellinger, the commander of the American Legion, said May 5, when he and his 2.4-million-member organization called on Shinseki to step down. “However, his record as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs tells a different story. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”

There is a baby-bathwater issue, too. “Surveys suggest that patient satisfaction is high among the 6.5 million veterans who get care each year from the VA,” Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the veterans committee, said Wednesday. “And while the American Customer Satisfaction Index said VA patients rank their care among the best in the nation, it is clear to me that there are problems within the VA and that the VA has got to do better.”

The VA is the country’s single largest health-care system, with its 300,000 employees spread among 151 medical centers, 820 clinics, and other sites tending to the needs of 230,000 vets a day. “While of course Shinseki is responsible for everything that happens at VA, he’s been fixing serious problems and overall the system is improving,” says Ron Capps, an Army veteran who has sought help from the VA. “So we should give him some more time and space to continue with his plan.”

Whether or not the fudged wait lists are widespread, warning lights highlighting them have been flashing for years:

  • The VA’s “method of calculating the waiting times of new patients understates the actual waiting times,” the agency’s inspector general said in a 2007 report on outpatient visits. “Because of past problems associated with schedulers not entering the correct desired date when creating appointments, [the VA] uses the appointment creation date as the starting point for measuring the waiting times for new appointments.”
  • In 2012, the IG said that when it came to getting a mental-health appointment within the VA goal of 14 days, the agency claimed it met that target 95% of the time. But after drilling deeper into VA data, the IG concluded only 49% got their appointments within two weeks.
  • That same year, the IG reported that patients at a VA facility in Temple, Texas, had “prolonged wait times for GI [gastroenterology] care [that] lead to delays in diagnosis of colorectal and other cancers…staff indicated that appointments were routinely made incorrectly by using the next available appointment date instead of the patient’s desired date.”
  • Not surprisingly, the longer the wait for care, the worse the result. “Long-term outcomes, such as death and preventable hospitalizations, are more common for veterans who seek care at facilities that have longer wait times than for veterans at facilities that have shorter wait times,” the federal Institute of Medicine said last year.

 

 

TIME justice

Arkansas Voter ID Law Rescued by State Supreme Court

The high court overruled a decision from a lower court judge that struck down the law requiring voters to show an ID before casting a ballot

In a 5-2 ruling issued Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that had struck down the state’s voter ID law as unconstitutional.

The decision means the law, which requires voters to display a valid identification card in order to cast a ballot, survives for the time being. However, the justices declined to rule on the constitutionality of the measure, instead holding that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, who struck down the law, did not have the authority to do so, noting that no such request had been made in the case.

Fox ruled the voter ID law unconstitutional in another case as well, but that ruling is being appealed and will not take effect before the state hold’s a primary Tuesday.

The high court decision comes as similar laws are being challenged in states across the country. Proponents argue the laws prevent voter fraud, while detractors, chiefly Democrats, argue that they put an unfair burden on the poor and minorities, who are less likely to have official IDs and who tend to vote Democratic.

[AP]

 

 

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