TIME Rights

A Nevada Rancher Wants to Disarm Federal Agencies

Rancher Cliven Bundy gestures at his home in Bunkerville
Rancher Cliven Bundy gestures at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. He has called on sheriffs to join him in a quixotic crusade to disarm the Federal government © Jim Urquhart / Reuters—REUTERS

Rancher Cliven Bundy has called on sheriffs to “take away the guns from the United States bureaucrats” after hundreds of his armed supporters forced U.S. rangers to return 300 impounded cattle, a crusade that has the support of conservative politicians and gun-rights activists

A Nevada rancher has called on local sheriffs across the U.S. to join his crusade against government overreach after he successfully reclaimed seized cattle from federal land managers over the weekend.

Cliven Bundy’s livestock was rounded up near Bunkerville, some 74 miles northeast of Las Vegas, by the federal Bureau of Land Management earlier this month, reports Reuters. Officials were seeking to settle an apparent debt of more than $1 million in back fees and penalties for grazing herds on federally managed land.

Soon armed anti-government groups, conservative politicians, local militias and gun-rights activists became involved in an four-hour standoff that temporarily shut down Interstate 15. Federal rangers faced at least 1,000 of Bundy’s armed supporters and released 300 appropriated animals to avoid any escalation.

Emboldened by the support, Bundy, 76, has now called upon sheriffs to join his crusade. “Every sheriff across the United States of America, take away the guns from the United States bureaucrats,” he told followers on Monday at the entrance to his property.

He was joined by a Republican Nevada state Assemblywoman, Michele Fiore, who addressed the crowd, saying the reason the standoff did not escalate was because of “each and every one of our Americans watching us and protecting us with our firearms.”

Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Bundy’s call was tantamount to insurrection.

“They are stirring a very volatile and dangerous pot,” he told Reuters. “It could goad more people to do the same kind of thing.”

[Reuters]

TIME Crime

Utah Mother Admits to Killing Six Of Her Infant Children

Seven Dead Babies Arrest
Police tape surrounds the Utah home of Megan Huntsman, who admitted to killing six of her infant children and hiding their bodies Rick Bowmer—AP

Authorities have set bail at $6 million for Megan Huntsman, 39, who has admitted to killing 6 of the 7 infant children whose bodies were found at her home near Salt Lake City that she shared with her husband, who police say is not suspected of any involvement

The Utah woman accused of killing six of her infant children has admitted to the crime and been given $6 million bail.

Megan Huntsman, 39, has been cooperating with detectives, said Pleasant Grove Police Lieutenant Britt Smith, who was not at liberty to disclose the woman’s motive.

“It’s just an absolutely heinous crime that’s going to leave everybody asking, ‘why,’ even when they hear the motive,” Smith told Reuters.

The dreadful story unfolded when Huntsman’s estranged husband discovered the body of a baby in a cardboard box, stuffed into a cabinet in a garage along with six others. Huntsman had apparently been keeping her pregnancies secret, then strangled or suffocated the infant children directly after giving birth to them, before wrapping up the bodies and hiding them.

Authorities believe one of the babies was stillborn. The bail sum represents a one million dollars each for the other six infants.

The case will be heard on April 21.

TIME Military

Disaster in the Sky: Old Planes, Inexperienced Pilots—and No More Parachutes

A view shows wreckage of Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker plane near site of crash near Kyrgyz village of Chaldovar
Part of the tail of the doomed KC-135. Vladimir Pirogov / Reuters

A routine Air Force mission supporting the Afghan war turns tragic

Putting young, inexperienced pilots into a 50-year-old Air Force plane seems like a risky idea. Even riskier? Getting rid of crew’s parachutes to save money.

But that’s what the Air Force did last May 3, when it launched a mission to refuel U.S. warplanes over Afghanistan using a KC-135 Stratotanker delivered by Boeing to the Air Force on June 26, 1964. A problem with the plane’s flight-control system cascaded toward trouble after actions by what the Air Force has concluded was its inadequately-trained crew. In short order, the double-barreled dilemmas ripped the airplane’s tail off three miles above Kyrgyzstan’s Himalayan foothills. The plane quickly entered a steep dive, dooming all three aboard.

Both pilots graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008, shortly after the service decided it couldn’t afford to keep parachutes on KC-135s. “A lot of time, manpower and money goes into buying, maintaining and training to use parachutes,” the Air Force said in March 2008. “With the Air Force hungry for cost-saving efficiency under its Air Force for Smart Operations in the 21st Century Program, commonly known as AFSO 21, the parachutes were deemed obsolete.”

Captain Mark Tyler Voss, 27, Captain Victoria Pinckney, 27, and Technical Sergeant Herman “Tre” Mackey III, 30, were the first airmen killed in a KC-135 crash since the Air Force stripped the parachutes from the planes.

Given the violent end of their mission, the parachutes may not have made any difference, according to the official Air Force investigation into the crash. “The [accident investigation] board sort of concluded, informally, in talking among themselves, that even if there had been parachutes, there would have been no way for them in this particular case for them to be used,” Air Force Lieut. Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for the service’s Air Mobility Command, said Monday.

Others aren’t so sure. “Deploying aircrews to a combat zone without parachutes is an unconscionable risk,” says Alan Diehl, who spent 18 years as an Air Force civilian investigating the safety of the service’s aircraft. “The airmen aboard this KC-135 would have had to don their chutes, jettison the cockpit bailout hatch, and dive overboard—all in a matter of seconds. But to take away the option just seems wrong.”

The aerial tanker arrived in Kyrgyzstan the day before the accident. Earlier flight-control problems had reportedly been fixed. Pilot Tyler, co-pilot Pinckney and, Mackey, the refueling boom operator, boarded the aircraft early that afternoon at the Pentagon’s transit hub at Manas, just outside Bishkek, the country’s capital.

120522-F-FI711-030
A KC-135 refuels an F-15 fighter. 2nd Lt. Lindsay Horn / Air Force

They were the first crew to fly the 707-based aircraft toward Afghanistan, loaded with 175,000 pounds of aviation fuel, since its arrival at Manas. Tanker crews are the unsung heroes of the service, the so-called “global reach” that vastly extends how far Air Force aircraft can fly without landing to refuel.

Voss had slightly more than 1,000 hours flying such tankers; Pickney had fewer than 600. Mackey was the most experienced member of the crew, with 3,350 KC-135 flight hours, but as the boom operator he had nothing to do with flying the airplane.

Shortly after the flight, dubbed Shell 77, took off, a problem with the flight-control system triggered “rudder hunting,” which caused the airplane to yaw, its nose turning from left to right and back again.

A dutch roll. Picascho

Nine minutes into the flight, the plane entered a “dutch roll,” which can happen as increasing yaw generates more lift on one wing than the other. That causes the plane to roll, until increased drag pulls the wing back and the process repeats itself with the other wing. “It’s kind of waffling,” the crew reported as they climbed above 20,000 feet. “The jet’s bent.”

The pilots tried to bring the five-second-long dutch rolls under control by using the plane’s rudder and auto-pilot. But that only made matters worse.

“The cumulative effects of the malfunctioning [flight-control system], coupled with autopilot use and rudder movements during the unrecognized dutch roll, generated dutch roll forces that exceeded the mishap aircraft’s design structural limits,” the Air Force said in its investigation into the crash, released last month. “The tail section failed and separated from the aircraft, causing the mishap aircraft to pitch down sharply, enter into a high-speed dive, explode inflight and subsequently impact the ground.”

Voss’s superiors described him as a “peerless aviator” who was “highly motivated and extremely dedicated.” Pickney’s commanders said she was “a superior leader with the drive and ability to succeed at any task.”

But despite their demonstrated skills, the investigation said that instead of trying to halt the dutch roll with the rudder and auto-pilot, they should have shut down the malfunctioning flight-control system and manually used the ailerons on the main wings to regain control.

So why didn’t they?

“The mishap crew appears to not have been adequately trained for the dutch roll recognition and recovery; they experienced a condition they had not encountered in training,” the investigation concluded. “The mishap crew received a total of 10-15 minutes of recognition and recovery training several years prior to the mishap,” during initial pilot training.

Such training “appears to be insufficient,” the probe added. “The mishap crew was a qualified, but minimally experienced, crew” whose “inexperience led them to rely on the autopilot to make timely inputs in an unstable flight regime. Although the Inflight Manual does not explicitly prohibit autopilot use in dutch roll, the system is incapable of making the precisely timed inputs that are required to counteract dutch roll. Both times the mishap aircraft engaged the autopilot the oscillations grew worse.”

Shouldn’t KC-135 pilots train for such predicaments in their simulators? They can’t. “Insidious onset of dutch roll is impossible to replicate in KC-135 simulator training due to mechanical limitations,” the probe said. Nor can the simulator replicate more serious forms of the roll: “A former KC-135 Instructor Pilot and current simulator operator, who experienced severe dutch roll in flight, confirmed the current simulator training does not reproduce a severe dutch roll.”

Can’t pilots practice it, carefully, while actually flying? No. “The Inflight Manual prohibits pilots from practicing dutch roll recognition and recovery in the aircraft, specifically stating `intentionally-induced dutch roll and aerobatics of any kind are strictly prohibited’” the investigation noted.

Once their plane lost its tail, was the crew’s fate sealed? “Egress was not possible,” the accident report said. “The KC-135R is not equipped with parachutes, ejection seats, or any other means of inflight egress.” The report didn’t mention that parachutes had been on the planes until 2008.

The crew “made no comment on the flight data recorder that `We need to get out of here’ or `This is going down,’” Thomas, the Air Force spokesman, said (the recorder shut down when the plane was at 21,760 feet). “The indications were that they continued to fight to regain control of the aircraft until probably they lost consciousness.”

And how did that happen? “There is some surmising that goes on,” Thomas explained. “But [the accident board] had several experts to address this point directly, and their best understanding of what probably happened—because they have to put together their best guess based on the flight data—is that when the tail broke off, the aircraft that remained pitched, and because it was in the middle of a dutch roll it probably pitched up first, because as the tail section broke off it probably gained altitude as part of the physics of it swinging back and forth, they probably experienced negative G-forces that would have probably blacked them out.”

That 2008 Air Force news article detailed the logic of getting rid of the KC-135’s parachutes:

By design, parachutes slow things down. Crew members forced to evacuate in-flight aircraft with parachutes, for example, have much gentler impacts with the ground than those without chutes. But the only thing being slowed by parachutes aboard KC-135 Stratotankers, Air Force leaders recently decided, was the mission. So they got rid of them. Removing parachutes from military aircraft may sound peculiar, but KC-135s are not like other aircraft. They seldom have mishaps, and the likelihood a KC-135 crew member would ever need to use a parachute is extremely low.

“The [accident investigation board’s] technical experts didn’t recall that there’s ever been an attempted, successful or otherwise, egress from a tanker aircraft,” the Air Force’s Thomas said.

But the technical experts are wrong, according to former airman Joseph Heywood. He bailed out of a KC-135 over Michigan—along with three other airmen—as their plane ran out of fuel in August 1969 (the pilot landed the plane short of the runway, but safely, at the now-closed K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base). “If they were in a dutch roll, I think it’d be almost impossible for them to get out,” he said. But removing the parachutes “doesn’t make any sense—it’s just another way of saying that money is more important than people.”

Bailing out used to be a key part of the KC-135’s Cold War mission. “Our job was to fly up and plug B-52s up near Greenland,” he says. “And if they demanded it, to give them all of our fuel, and then to bail out onto the ice pack and make our way back on foot to Billy Mitchell field in Milwaukee.”

The missing parachutes don’t bother Heywood now. “It doesn’t cause me any heartburn, because I’m not one of the people flying them,” he says. But the former Air Force captain well remembers when he needed one. “The day after I bailed out I took a bottle of booze—I think it was Chivas Regal, actually—to the guy who packed mine,” he recalled. “I’d rather have a slim chance than no chance.”

The combination of an aging aircraft, poorly-trained young pilots, and the need to save money that led the Air Force to remove the parachutes, shows a force frayed by ever-tightening, and perhaps misallocated, budgets. “The various problems surfaced by this mishap—overlooked maintenance issues on older aircraft, limited crew experience and training, poor flight simulator fidelity, and no parachutes—are all driven by funding limitations,” former Air Force crash investigator Diehl says. “The Pentagon and our Congress need to stop sequestering safety.”

The Air Force recently detailed changes it is taking following the crash. KC-135 crews will be getting more training to help them deal with dutch rolls. The service is revising flight manuals, beefing up maintenance, and improving rudder controls for the 396 KC-135s still flying. The fleet is also in the middle of a $1 billion refurbishment. But restoring parachutes to the planes—slated to fly until at least 2040—isn’t on the list of improvements.

Transit Center honors fallen heros
An honor guard carries photos of the KC-135 crew members during a memorial service at Manas six days after the crash. SSgt. Stephanie Rubi / Air Force
TIME

Your Tax Refund Is Safe: Social Security Will Stop Seizing Refunds to Collect Old Debt

The Social Security Administration plans to stop intercepting tax refunds in order to settle debts more than 10 years old. It had been seizing state and federal tax funds from about 400,000 Americans whose relatives owed it money

The Social Security Administration plans to stop collecting taxpayer debt older than 10 years old, the Washington Post reports. The federal government has been reportedly seizing state and federal tax funds from about 400,000 Americans whose relatives owed money to Social Security.

The collection dates back to 2008 when a farm bill lifted a statute of limitations on government debt older that was more than 10 years old and the Treasury Department allowed the government to intercept tax refunds to settle the debts. Approximately $2 billion worth of intercepted tax refunds have been collected by the Treasury this year, the Post reports, $75 million of which was for 10-year-old, or older, debts.

“I have directed an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program to recover debts owed to the agency that are 10 years old and older pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law,” Social Security’s acting commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, said in a statement.

[Washington Post]

TIME National Security

The Guardian and Washington Post Nab Pulitzer For Snowden Coverage

Edward Snowden Speaks To The Guardian
The Guardian/Getty Images

Coverage of leaked information on mass surveillance from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden helped The Guardian and The Washington Post win journalism's most prestigious award

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism was awarded Monday to The Washington Post and The Guardian’s U.S. edition for their reporting on National Security Agency leaks from its former contractor Edward Snowden.

According to the Pulitzer committee, each media organization was awarded journalism’s highest honor “for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.”

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden first approached documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras with his cache of documents. Poitras assisted Snowden in bringing the documents to The Washington Post and Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, which first published reports about the leaks. Both papers share this year’s Pulitzer for their ongoing coverage of Snowden’s leaks, which have shed new light on the agency’s tactics and operations, and provoked a vigorous international debate on the rights and wrongs of government surveillance.

In response to Monday’s news, Snowden said in a statement, “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance.”

Other winners included the Boston Globe, which was honored for its breaking news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013; the novelist Donna Tartt, whose novel The Goldfinch won the fiction award; and The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, which was honored for its editorial writing.

TIME Crime

Kansas City Shooting Suspect to Face Hate Crime Charges

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora, Missouri, is led to a police car after his arrest following shooting incidents which killed three people at two Jewish centers on Sunday in Overland Park, south of Kansas City, Kansas in a still image from video April 13, 2014.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora, Missouri, is led to a police car after his arrest following shooting incidents which killed three people at two Jewish centers on Sunday in Overland Park, south of Kansas City, Kansas in a still image from video April 13, 2014. Reuters

Local authorities say they have enough evidence to categorize Kansas City-area shooting spree by a known white supremacist as a hate crime

The suspect accused of killing three people in a shooting rampage outside of a Jewish center and a retirement community Sunday will face hate crime charges, authorities said Monday.

“We have unquestionably determined through the work of law enforcement that this was a hate crime,” Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass told the Associated Press.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement earlier on Monday saying federal prosecutors would work with their local counterparts “to determine whether the federal hate crimes statute is implicated in this case.”

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was arrested Sunday in an elementary school parking lot after he shot two people at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan. before driving to a nearby retirement community, where he shot a third. Cross reportedly shouted “Heil Hitler!” while in police custody.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, identified Cross as a well-known white supremacist and a former “grand dragon” of a wing of the Ku Klux Klan. Cross is also known to have contributed writings to the Vanguard News Network, an anti-Semitic organization that he supported financially.

All three people Cross killed were Christians, the AP reports.

[AP]

TIME Military

U.S. Army Rejects Clemency for WikiLeaks Source Manning

Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted out of a military court facilityÊduring the sentencing phase of his trial Aug. 20, 2013 in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning, being escorted out of a military-court facility in Fort Meade, Md., on Aug. 20, 2013 Mark Wilson—Getty Images

A U.S. Army general has endorsed the 35-year sentence imposed on the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks

Correction appended: April 15, 2014

The U.S. Army has declined a request for clemency from the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning, who was convicted last year of leaking a massive amount of classified government data to the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks.

Major General Jeffrey Buchanan approved the 35-year sentence handed down by Judge Denise Lind in Manning’s court-martial in August 2013. Buchanan’s decision was issued Thursday but announced to the public Monday.

Manning was convicted of 20 separate offenses, including violations of the Espionage Act, but acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carried a sentence of up to life in prison. The 35-year sentence levied against Manning is the longest sentence imposed on someone for leaking information to the media in American history.

At the time of her conviction, Manning was known by the first name Bradley. She has since formally requested a name change to Chelsea and indicated to the public that she identifies as female.

Manning and her supporters are also pursuing other avenues to reduce the leaker’s punishment, including a clemency request with President Barack Obama and a military-appeals process that could terminate in the U.S. Supreme Court.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the U.S. Army major general. He is Jeffrey Buchanan, not Buchannan.

TIME Health Care

Obamacare Will Be Billions Cheaper Than Expected

The Congressional Budget Office says the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act will cost $104 billion less than it previously believed

The cost of expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be billions less than previously expected, according to a report released Monday.

An analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the coverage provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, will cost the federal government $104 billion fewer over 10 years than the CBO predicted back in February.

The revision is due almost entirely to a drop in the amount the federal government is expected to spend on subsidies to cover some or all of the cost of private health plans purchased through Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. Premiums for exchange plans sold in 2014 ended up being cheaper than the CBO predicted, partially because insurers marketed and sold plans with narrow networks that typically cost less.

Overall, the CBO expects the federal government will spend $1.38 trillion on the ACA’s coverage provisions between 2015 and 2024. That figure includes the cost of subsidies provided through the exchanges and Medicaid. It also factors in revenue from a tax on high-cost plans, as well as penalties collected from individuals without coverage and employers that fail to provide insurance to workers.

In 2014, the CBO predicts the federal government will spend $17 billion on subsidies to consumers who purchase private plans through exchanges, $20 billion on new Medicaid enrollees and $1 billion on tax credits for small business owners who provide employee insurance plans.

The CBO’s report also says 31 million U.S. residents will be uninsured by 2025, 26 million fewer than would go uninsured without the ACA.

TIME faith

Louisiana Bill Would Make The Bible Official State Book

Bible could be official Louisiana state book
Getty Images

Supporters of the bill say making the Holy Book its first ever official book wouldn't be in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which specifically prohibits the establishment of state religions. Others, however, called the bill offensive

The Bible could become Louisiana’s official state book if state legislators have their way.

A Louisiana House committee voted 8-5 last week to recommend a bill that would make the Bible Louisiana’s first-ever state book, the Baton Rouge, La. Advocate reported Monday.

Republican State Rep. Thomas Carmody said recognizing the Bible in this way would not be the same as making Christianity the official state religion, which would be illegal under the U.S. Constitution. “The Holy Bible would be appropriate for the state of Louisiana,” Carmody said, citing the state’s religious history.

While some representatives called the bill offensive and said it should be more inclusive of other religions, others debated which version of the Bible, such as a King James version, should be chosen if the bill goes ahead.

“Why not put all versions of the Bible?” Rep. Robert Billiot, D-Westwego, asked. “If there’s one, what are we saying about the rest of the people?”

Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said she was not pleased with the plan.

“This whole thing is really a not very well concealed effort to use discrimination against those people in Louisiana who do not include the Holy Bible in their belief system,” she told TIME. “It’s unfortunate that Louisiana thinks it’s okay to try and enshrine discrimination in the law.”

[Baton Rouge, La. Advocate]

TIME Health Care

Sebelius: Obamacare Rollout Was ‘Terribly Flawed’

Obama Announces His Choice For Health and Human Services Secretary To Succeed Sebelius
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama on April 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks frankly just days after her resignation about the botched introduction of the Affordable Care Act, saying original estimates of its timetable were "flat-out wrong"

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius called the rollout of the government’s healthcare reform law “terribly flawed” and said the administration’s original predictions about its timetable were “flat-out wrong” in a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press following her resignation last week.

Sebelius attempted to stay positive while acknowledging the failures of the rollout. “Could we have used more time and testing? You bet. I’ve said that from the start,” she told NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell. “But the site actually works. And the great thing is, there’s a market behind the site that works even better. People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market.”

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was flawed from its Oct. 1, 2013 launch date, mostly because of technical glitches and web outages affecting the federal Healthcare.gov site. Republicans cite the flawed launch as further evidence that the Affordable Care Act represents unacceptable government overreach. But despite the poor rollout, the number of enrollees in healthcare plans under the law ended up exceeding the Obama administration’s target of 7 million people.

Sebelius also partially attributed the technical failures to the fact that the administration didn’t know until 6 months before enrollment which states would be building their own sites and which would be using the federal site, calling the web development “a moving target.”

The former Secretary also said she didn’t think the White House oversold the program, but instead said that the problem of reforming health insurance was so thorny it defied easy solutions. “I think what we said from the outset was, you know, this was fixing a very broken market– where individuals really were on their own,” she said. “If you were healthy and wealthy, you could get coverage. If you weren’t, you were pretty much on your own”

When asked whether her resignation was voluntary or whether she had been ousted, Sebelius said she had been planning to leave at the end of the first term but didn’t want to jump ship before the health care rollout was complete.

[NBC]

 

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser