TIME Crime

Ferguson Wrestles With What to Do Next

Michael Brown Sr, yells out as his son's  casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis
Richard Perry—Pool/Reuters Michael Brown Sr., center, yells out as his son's casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis on Aug. 25, 2014

The town is trying to figure out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement

The funeral was choreographed to the smallest detail, from the celebrities sprinkled through the church to the Cardinals cap laid atop the black-and-gold casket. A massive crowd filed past the television cameras and into the jam-packed sanctuary or the overflow rooms live-streaming the service. The ceremony was billed as a celebration of Brown’s life, which ended Aug. 9 in a hail of bullets fired by a white policeman, and the crowd heard upbeat gospel music, stirring sermons and a eulogy from the Rev. Al Sharpton. But it was also an opportunity to send a message to his mourners. “We are required,” Sharpton told them in his peroration, “to leave here today and change things.”

For the residents of Ferguson, Mo., Brown’s funeral on Monday closed one chapter and opened a new period of uncertainty. The worst of the violence appears over, and the protests are beginning to subside. Soon the television cameras will get packed up, leaving a town that has become the latest shorthand for America’s racial divide to figure out how to translate the energy, intensity and anger of the past two weeks into concrete change.

The problem is that nobody is quite sure how to do it — or what that change would even look like. The shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man at the hands of a white Ferguson policeman opened all sorts of wounds that have festered for generations. Of the thousands who have tromped up and down West Florissant Avenue since Brown’s death, there are nearly as many diagnoses about what Ferguson needs now.

To some, the answer is erasing the pattern of improper police behavior that has plagued this St. Louis suburb. To others, it is addressing income inequality or struggling schools. Still more cite the need to regain lost jobs, or repair the ruptured trust between the community and the people sworn to protect it. Then there is the glaring lack of African-American political representation: Ferguson is a city that is two-thirds black, run by a white mayor and nearly all-white city council.

“This is Jim Crow country,” says Garrett Duncan, a professor of education and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “You still have a predominantly white and affluent population voting for who runs North County,” the collection of townships like Ferguson north of St. Louis.

Ferguson’s protesters are united on one point: they want justice, in the form of an indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown at least six times just after noon on Aug. 9. (A new audio recording, provided to CNN by an unidentified resident, who alleges he inadvertently captured the incident on tape, purports to show that Brown was killed in two distinct bursts of gunfire separated by a pause. CNN says it cannot authenticate the tape.) But an indictment will be slow, if it comes at all. Robert McCulloch, the lead prosecuting attorney in the case, has estimated he won’t finish presenting evidence to a grand jury until about mid-October. Issues can flare and fade in a blink. If the courtroom lag diverts attention from the systemic problems that led to Brown’s shooting, the community could lose the momentum it has gathered.

To Larry Jones, bishop of the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, the solution is to reach out to a generation of young, black men who don’t believe the system is geared to represent them. Part of that, he says, is to form mentorship programs that help blacks prepare to enter the workforce and to cope with episodes of police targeting. But another part is improving civic participation. “We have forgotten the power we’ve been given to go to the polls and cast our vote,” says Jones. “It’s those local elections that really affect our lives. We do have a voice, and we need to use it.”

In 2013 municipal elections, just 6% of African Americans turned out to vote. The figures are so low, in part, because the elections were held in the spring of an off-year. But that doesn’t explain the racial gap: whites, who comprise just one-third of the city’s population, were three times more likely to vote. A number of groups are trying to improve African-American participation. The organization HealSTL, launched in the wake of the shooting, leased office space in town as part of its bid to “turn a moment into a movement.” Other organizations have also erected voter-registration booths alongside the protests.

Another challenge will be fixing the issues with local police, which range from widespread reports of bias to the heavy-handed crackdown on the protests. Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, has announced workshops this autumn designed to diversify the state’s urban police forces. (Ferguson, whose force is 94% white, is hardly the only township with an unrepresentative police department.) Democratic Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and William Lacy Clay, both of Missouri, met last week with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to air their concerns about the “militarization” of area police, who responded to the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored tanks. “If there is any good that can come out of the tragedy in Ferguson,” they wrote in a statement on the meeting, “our hope is that this effort will spur a national discussion about how to achieve a fundamental shift in local law enforcement, away from military-style responses, and towards a more community-based policy.”

Other residents hope that the exhale following the funeral will allow them to rebuild the city’s reputation. Ferguson has become a byword for racial strife and civic unrest, but it is more complex than a single stretch of heavily photographed road. Other sections of town bear the ubiquitous signs of urban reinvention: a downtown strip dotted with a wine bar and refurbished loft apartments, a farmers’ market, community gardens. In 2010, a 30-person delegation even traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to compete for an All-America City Award, for which the city was a finalist.

“For the most part, we get along,” says Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor who is one of the founders of a group called I Love Ferguson. The committee has passed out more than 8,000 signs bearing that credo, which dot leafy yards in the more affluent neighborhoods and line some of the city’s streets. It hopes to raise money to repay the businesses that suffered in the looting, and maybe even enough to incentivize others to move in. “The image that we’ve received is a city in chaos. We don’t ignore the fact that there’s racial tension and segregation,” says Fletcher, who is white. “We have chosen to stay here. We’re not leaving. It is an amazing community.”

The community has done some amazing things since Brown’s death, from the volunteer peacekeepers who soothed tensions between protesters and police to the residents who showed up each day with crates of bottled water and trays of food, paid for out of their own pockets. Now the challenge, as Sharpton told the mourners at the funeral, is to “turn the chants into change.” But marching orders are much more easily given from the pulpit than carried out on the street. It is up to Ferguson to figure out whether it will be known for a shooting or the healing that followed. “How we responded to the tragedy,” says Fletcher, “will become the real legacy.”

TIME Crime

FBI Probing Alleged Audio of Michael Brown Shooting

Ferguson Community Continues To Demonstrate Over Police Shooting Death Of Michael Brown
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Roses are seen in a memorial setup for Michael Brown on the spot where his body lay after he was shot by police, Aug. 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Autopsy reports say that Brown was shot at least six times, but up to 11 shots are heard on the recording

Prosecutors say the FBI is trying to validate an audio recording that allegedly captured the police shooting of Michael Brown—including what sounds like a volley of six shots, a brief pause, and then another four or five shots.

The unidentified man who made the recording says he was using a phone app to create a video text message at the same time the unarmed 18-year-old was killed in a midday confrontation with a cop in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, according to his lawyer, Lopa Blumenthal…

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

TIME technology

SpaceX Delays Launch Days After Test Mishap

SpaceX
Joe Raedle—Getty Images A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on a lauch pad on Oct. 7, 2012 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is delaying this week's Falcon 9 rocket launch by a day following an explosion of a test flight of its experimental Falcon 9R rocket.

The company says it will review flight record details before the next test flight

SpaceX delayed the launch of a commercial communications satellite on Tuesday, days after an experimental rocket failed mid-flight.

The private space firm founded by Elon Musk was set to launch the AsiaSat 6 satellite on its Falcon 9 rocket early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but the launch was delayed 24 hours, the Los Angeles Times reports.

On Friday, a test flight of the Falcon 9R, an experimental reusable rocket, experienced an anomaly, SpaceX said in a statement. As a result, the flight was terminated–the rocket blew itself up.

No one was injured in the incident, and the company said that the experimental flight was “particularly complex.”

But SpaceX said at the time that it would review flight record details before the next test flight, and the LA Times reports that the space exploration company is taking extra time to review the case ahead of the AsiaSat 6 satellite launch.

[LA Times]

TIME Guns

9-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Shoots, Kills Instructor at Gun Range

The operator says it allows supervised children age eight and up to handle weapons

A nine-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed a shooting range instructor in Arizona, police say.

Charles Vacca, 39, was instructing the girl on how to use an automatic Uzi on Monday when the girl, who was accompanied by her parents, pulled the trigger and then lost control of the weapon, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. Vacca was shot in the head and died of his injuries.

Sam Scarmardo, the operator of the shooting range Last Stop where the accident occurred, said the range allows accompanied children age eight and older to handle weapons.

He said Vacca, a longtime military veteran, had been working at the range for roughly two years. Scarmardo also said the range had not had an accident since it was opened more than a decade ago.

The girl’s parents were recording the tutorial on their cell phones when the incident occurred and handed the footage over to authorities, according to Scarmardo.

TIME natural disaster

How 10 Seconds Could Save Lives During Earthquakes

Napa Area Businesses Continue Recovery Effort From Earthquake
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A crack runs down the center of an earthquake-damaged street in Napa, Calif., on Aug. 26, 2014

California eyes warning system after latest quake

Ten seconds could save your life. That’s the message from researchers developing an early-warning system in California that could eventually alert the public an earthquake is about to hit.

The research program, run by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in partnership with several California universities, is still in beta form, but was put to the test last weekend when an earthquake struck the Napa area. At the University of California, Berkeley, to the south, the system detected and sent out a warning signal to the scientists about six seconds before the tremor reached the area.

The technology behind the system uses sensors across the state that detect early waves from an earthquake before the main event strikes. While it’s not possible to issue warnings to those located right next to an earthquake epicenter, those further away could be warned seconds or even a minute in advance.

Doug Given, USGS’s early-earthquake-warning coordinator, says 10 seconds might not seem like a lot, but it could be enough for people to take cover before an earthquake hits and for public services and private industry to take precautionary steps. This might include systems that force elevators to let passengers off at the closest available floor and those that let first responders know they should open garage doors ahead of tremors so they can quickly begin search-and-rescue missions afterward. Given says other applications include letting hospitals know an earthquake is coming, so they can prepare doctors and patients. “If you’re in an MRI machine, you might want them to pull you out before it starts shaking hard,” says Given. Likewise, he says surgeons performing delicate operations — on eyes, for example — could have notice that their work is about to be interrupted.

“Imagine being a dental chair,” says Margaret Vinci, manager of the Office of Earthquake Programs for the California Institute of Technology, one of the colleges partnering with USGS. “Would you not want that dentist to pull that drill out of your mouth?”

Given and Vinci also say a statewide early-earthquake-warning system could tell rapid transit systems to slow trains to help prevent derailments. A similar alert program exists in earthquake-prone Japan, where earthquake warning alerts automatically slow bullet trains.

Japan and Mexico are two countries that already have the kind of earthquake-warning system California lacks. Devastating quakes in those countries prompted major public investments in such systems. As recently as April, residents in Mexico City had a full minute of warning before a 7.2-magnitude quake 170 miles away rocked the capital.

California’s program, though, is hobbled by lack of adequate funding, according to Given, who says the program needs an investment of $80 million over five years and about $12 million a year to maintain operations. California passed a law recently calling for a statewide early-earthquake-warning system to be set up, but did not provide funding. Given says the program currently includes about 400 sensors set up around the state, but needs at least double that figure for the warning system to be fully functional. “We hope we will be the first country that builds its system before the big earthquake rather than after,” Givens says.

Investments in the system itself wouldn’t include spending by local governments and private businesses that would need to establish response plans, and possibly automated systems, to take advantage of the USGS warnings. As for the public, earthquake warnings could be sent out via text message and through local television and radio stations, but that too requires advance planning and spending. Vinci says if the early-warning system was fully funded, it could be ready for public consumption in two years.

In the meantime, researchers involved in the project are asking public and private organization to test whether the alert system works and offer suggestions about how to improve it. Disneyland, the city of Long Beach and the Bay Area Rapid Transit system are among those serving as testers. Researchers are also studying which kinds of warning sounds and signals work best with the public. When activated, the existing system, which is called ShakeAlert and which runs on computers for those involved in the program or serving as beta testers, kicks in to tell users an earthquake is coming, how soon it will happen and how severe the shake will be. The warning includes a loud quick buzz with a speaker saying, ”Earthquake! Earthquake!”

“Right now the ShakeAlert we have now is kinda scary,” Vinci says.

TIME Crime

Former Government Cybersecurity Head Convicted on Child Pornography Charges

The US Department of Health and Human Se
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown in Washington, D.C., 21 July 2007.

He is the sixth person convicted in an ongoing DOJ investigation of three child pornography sites

The former acting head of cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was convicted on child pornography charges in a Nebraska federal court, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

The former official, Timothy DeFoggi, allegedly expressed interest in the violent rape and murder of children in online exchanges and at one point suggested meeting up with another web user to fulfill such fantasies, the Justice Department said in a statement.

DeFoggi, 56, was convicted of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography, and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography, according to the DOJ.

He was the sixth person convicted in an ongoing investigation into three child pornography websites, the DOJ said. The administrator of the sites has previously been convicted of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. According to the Justice Department, DeFoggi registered on the site in March 2012 and was active until it was taken down in December of that year.

It’s unclear if his illegal activity overlapped with his work for the government. In an HHS budget report for Fiscal Year 2014 that was found by the Washington Post, a Tim DeFoggi is identified as head of OS IT Security Operations for the department.

 

TIME Military

Watch the 100-Year History of Tear Gas in 2 Minutes

Banned in warfare, but used for crowd control at home.

Tear gas, a noxious agent that causes tearing, vomiting and pain, was first used in combat by the French military during World War One 100 years ago. It was soon co-opted by the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service for use as a crowd control agent.

After being initially introduced as a replacement for poison gas after that substance was banned from battlefields, tear gas was soon being used used to quell large crowds in the 1920’s and 1930’s that gathered in the midst of food scarcity and economic uncertainty.

Its use continued throughout the 1960s, being used to corral anti-war protestors, most notably at the University of California, Berkeley. Despite now being banned from wartime use, tear gas is still in use for domestic crowd control, most recently seen during recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

TIME

The Knee Defender Is Cheating—And Of Course Guys Love It

No Leg Room
Getty Images

One person should not have the right to determine his own destiny while the rest of us suffer

If you have been busy following real news about people with real problems you might not know that on Sunday, on a flight between Newark and Denver, a woman dumped a cup of water on a man sitting behind her when he prevented her from reclining her seat back with a device called a Knee Defender.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the man who purchased the Knee Defender and the woman who reclined her airplane seat into the knee defender and subsequently dumped a cup of water on his head are both total jerks. Anyone who can’t control themselves 40,000 in the air and causes stress for their fellow passengers and flight attendants needs to be alerted to the whole “other people in the world” thing. That said, the Knee Defender guy is probably more of a jerk than the woman who reclined. Why? Well, this is perhaps a bit of a sophomoric defense. But…

He Started It.

If you made a list of things you’d expect to see on an airplane, among “fellow travelers,” “suitcases” and “small packets of nuts,” you would also very likely list “reclining seats.” Reclining seats are to be expected, a known entity. They are part of the Social Contract.

What is not part of the Social Contract? The Knee Defender. The Knee Defender has only been around since 2003. Justin Bieber is older than the Knee Defender, and only slightly more obnoxious. When you buy an airline ticket, you think, Oh, maybe I will watch a show about giraffes on the Discovery Channel. Or, maybe I will drink tomato juice. Or, maybe I will sit next to my future wife. Or, maybe I will sit next to someone who smells. But you don’t think, Maybe the person behind me will have a little plastic device with its own key that keeps the seat from reclining, because why shouldn’t one person have the right to determine his own destiny while the rest of us suffer?

Buying a Knee Defender is cheating. It is like insider trading, but worse, because not everyone expects to get rich. Everyone does expect to recline.

Another thing about the Knee Defender that sucks: its tagline (“Standing Up For The Right Of The Tall Guy to Sit Down”). I can just hear the company spokesperson(man) saying, “Women also buy the Knee Defender,” and I am sure that, indeed, the company has five or six female customers. But the fact that “guy” is in the tagline, well, it’s clear that the target market is a man who is absolutely horrified that he might have to be uncomfortable for a few hours, i.e. men.

Putting a giant thing up in the sky that moves through the air and needs to be scheduled in such a way that it doesn’t run into other giant things in the sky is complicated and expensive. I am not going to say that the airlines are our friends, but I think they have a lot to deal with. Gas costs a lot. Employees cost a lot. Weather happens. And you can’t ever make everyone happy.

Yes, the seats on airplanes are very small. I don’t think anyone would argue with that, except of course people who fly First Class all the time, and they are too busy complaining about paying taxes to complain about air travel. But air travel is mostly a miracle and a privilege. You can get from coast to coast in five hours, and you can do so because you have at least some disposable income. We’ve gotten so used to it, however, that we forget how amazing it is.

I can just hear the Knee Defender guy right now: So what am I supposed to do then? Just be squished for five hours? Well, until there’s a better solution, yes, squished—just like the rest of us. When it gets really bad, just think about how the Donner Party crossed the country. Now that is uncomfortable.

TIME Food

The Surprising Reason ‘Pink Slime’ Meat Is Back

Beef to Tomato Send July 4 Food Cost to Record
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images Ground beef is portioned onto trays at a supermarket meat department, July 2, 2014.

It has something to do with the weather

The attention was damning. In 2012, ABC News ran an 11-segment investigation on a low-cost meat product critics called “pink slime,” a moniker coined by a former USDA employee who argued the filler wasn’t really beef.

In an attempt to steer the public away from it, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver “recreated” it on his TV show by throwing beef scraps into a washing machine and dousing the results with ammonia. Soon, social media feeds were blanketed with photos supposedly of the product that made the meat look like soft-serve strawberry ice cream.

The backlash was intense. Though the USDA considers the product safe for human consumption, fast food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell publicly renounced it and public schools around the country stopped serving it for lunch. By May 2012, Beef Products, Inc,, the South Dakota-based inventor of the product, was on the brink of collapse—closing three of its four plants and laying off 700 employees.

What a difference two years makes.

On Aug. 18, BPI reopened one of its shuttered plants. While production is nowhere near pre-freak-out levels, when the product BPI calls “lean finely textured beef” was estimated to be in 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S., the company has been gradually regaining business. The reason is the same one that made finely textured beef successful in the first place: it’s cheap. And lower costs are particularly attractive to processors facing record high prices for ground beef. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average price of ground beef in June was $3.88, up 14% from last year.

For that, you can thank the sustained drought that has gripped much of the American West and Great Plains, including cattle producing regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas.

“The main issue is the drought,” says Dan Hale, an animal science professor at Texas A&M University. “A lot of the U.S., especially parts that raise cattle, have experienced a severe drought. And those animals are no longer available for producing calves that we can in turn generate for beef trimmings.”

In the summer of 2012, more than 50% of the country was considered in moderate or extreme drought. Those conditions forced ranchers to rush cows to slaughter, which led to fewer calves in the following years and lower head of cattle overall. Meanwhile, demand for beef kept rising, pushing prices higher along with it. With supply down, prices up and memories of the “pink slime” moment fading, the market for finely textured beef is growing again.

BPI makes its product by spinning discarded beef scraps in a centrifuge to separate the lean, edible trimmings and then treating the result with ammonium hydroxide meant to kill food-borne pathogens like E. coli. Processors blend it with other cuts as a cost-saving measure and the product can account for as much as 10% of the meat in a package of ground beef.

“If you can utilize more of the animal, that helps mitigate some of the low supply numbers,” says Lee Schulz, an agricultural economics professor at Iowa State University.

BPI remains embroiled in a a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News over the network’s coverage of its product. The company is now producing close to 1 million lbs. a week. of lean finely textured beef—down from nearly 5.5 million lbs in 2012. But BPI is optimistic that the worst days are behind it. The newly opened Kansas plant will work with global meat processor Tyson Foods, collecting its raw beef trimmings and shipping them to a BPI facility in Nebraska that will process the scraps into profit.

“BPI continues to experience growth and remains confident this growth will continue,” Craig Letch, BPI’s director of food quality and food safety, said in a statement. “This is certainly a step in the right direction.”

TIME

Knees Need a Defender: There’s No Excuse for Leaning Back on an Airplane

Passenger With His Knees Against a Sleeping Businessman's Chair on an Aeroplane
Digital Vision/Getty Images

'If you try to move that seat back again I’m going over the top of your chair and strangling you'

Nobody over six feet tall is surprised that a couple of passengers got into a fight on a United flight from Newark to Denver over the use of a gadget called Knee Defender — two small, wedge-like devices that prevent the seat in front of you from reclining. The passenger using the device, a guy seated in a middle row, refused to remove it when the woman seated in front of him tried to recline. Words were exchanged; then a cup of water was hurled aft. The flight was diverted to Chicago, and the two were removed.

Me, I’m with Knee Defender guy.

I don’t travel with a Knee Defender, but I do travel with knees. Just being an airline passengers makes everyone cranky to begin with. Being 6 ft. 2 in. and long of leg, I’m in a near rage by the time I wedge myself into a coach seat. And now you want to jam your chair back into my knees for four hours? Go fly a kite. It’s an airline seat, not a lounge chair. You want comfort, buy a business class seat. What’s surprising is that there haven’t been more fights over Knee Defender. Or perhaps these incidents haven’t been reported. I’ve gotten into it a few times with people in front of me who insist that the space over my knees is theirs, as if they have some kind of air rights. And I’m sure I will again.

United says it has a no Knee Defender policy, although the device is allowable on other carriers. My own knee defense is this: As soon as the seatbelt sign goes off and people are free to annoy me, I wedge my knees against the seat in front of me. Any attempted move back is met with resistance. (Very good exercise, too.) At first, the person in front thinks there’s something wrong with his chair and tries again, meeting like resistance. Then there’s that backward glance, and the dirty look. I smile and say: “Sorry, those are my knees. And I’m not moving them.” Secretly I am saying, “If you try to move that seat back again I’m going over the top of your chair and strangling you.” Did I mention that flying is infuriating?

This has led to some very unfriendly exchanges on the friendly skies of United and elsewhere. And should my adversary, during an unguarded moment, manage to intrude into my space, there’s always the opportunity to resort to 8-year-old mode, accidentally kicking the chair every once in a while. If I’m not going to be comfortable, you’re not.

Yes, it’s not the most civil behavior, but United and other airlines brought this about by treating us like cargo. Consider the situation on Flight 1462. United runs 737s, among the smallest in the Boeing fleet, out of Newark to distant places. It’s four hours to Denver from Newark. The coach seats are 17.3 inches wide. The pitch is 31 inches in Economy and 34 inches in the so-called Economy Plus, where the dueling pair was sitting. Economy Plus used to be called by another name, Economy, until the carriers started adding rows and squeezing the space. This fight started because the guy was trying to work on his laptop. You can’t use a laptop when the seat in front of you is in your lap. And it’s only getting worse when you realize that the proportion of flights longer than two hours that now use commuter jets is growing.

Personally, my policy is to not recline, even if the seat does. I’m trying to respect the space of the passenger behind me. So please respect mine, or be prepared for a bumpy ride.

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