TIME History

Obama to Award Civil War Hero With Posthumous Medal of Honor

Alonzo Cushing
This undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society shows First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing AP

The young lieutenant died repelling Confederate forces during arguably the most decisive battle of the American Civil War

Alonzo Cushing, who died aged 22 during the American Civil War, will receive the nation’s highest military honor for conspicuous gallantry and unbridled valor as displayed on the killing fields of Gettysburg 151 years ago.

The White House announced this week that President Barack Obama approved the awarding of the Medal of Honor to the young first lieutenant, who “distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.”

Cushing’s death came during the battle’s climatic third day when Confederate General Robert E. Lee, against the wishes of his top lieutenant, hurled three infantry divisions against entrenched Union forces in an ill-fated thrust, later coined Pickett’s Charge.

The maneuver was arguably the greatest military blunder in the course of the Civil War and led to the gratuitous slaughter of thousands of young Virginians by the well-positioned bluebacks.

The defeat would serve as the beginning of the North’s reversal of the war’s tide following a string of brazen victories by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Cushing was killed in action as he manned the last remaining serviceable piece of field hardware from his unit’s battery. As Confederate forces lurched closer to his position, he refused to retreat and continued to fire into the enemy despite suffering multiple injuries.

“With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand,” read a statement released by the U.S. Army. “His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault.”

Cushing was later buried with full military honors at his alma mater West Point.

Following the defeat at Gettysburg, the conflict, which began as a campaign to subdue rebellion but later evolved into a war of conquest and emancipation, would grind on for two more bloody years.

General Ulysses S. Grant took the fight to the South and Lee eventually surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

TIME Immigration

Obama Sets No Timeline for Action on Immigration

Obama Immigration
Demonstrators are lined up as they are being arrested, during a protest on immigration reform, outside the White House on Aug. 28, 2014 Evan Vucci—AP

145 protesters were arrested midday on Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience

(WASHINGTON) — With a self-imposed deadline looming, President Barack Obama said Thursday he still intends to act on his own to change immigration policies but stopped short of reiterating his past vows to act by end of summer.

Obama raised the slim hope that Congress could take action on a broad immigration overhaul after the midterm elections in November. He said that if lawmakers did not pass an overhaul, “I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”

But for the first time since pledging to act by summer’s end, he signaled that such a target date could slip. He said that the administration had been working to reduce the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border and noted that the number of apprehensions at the border had fallen in August.

“Some of these things do affect time lines and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” he said in a news conference where he also addressed Russian aggression in Ukraine and action against Islamic State militants.

Two months ago, Obama angrily conceded that the House did not intend to take up immigrationlegislation this year and ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with actions the president could take on his own.

“I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,” he said at the time.

Since then, the administration was forced to deal with the sharp rise of young migrants from Central America who were crossing the southwest border. Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the flow, a request that Republican lawmakers rejected.

At the same time, some Democrats worried that if Obama took action on his own to reduce deportations it would mobilize Republican voters in hotly contested Senate races.

Frank Sharry of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice said there were no indications the White House planned to delay the announcement, and lots of evidence Obama is preparing for an announcement in September.

“If for whatever reasons they decide to delay, it’s going to be a huge problem for an immigration reform movement that has worked tirelessly for years and been promised action for years,” Sharry said. “I don’t think people are going to take a delay without a big response.”

Obama said Thursday that addressing the inflow of unaccompanied minors has not stopped the process of looking into “how do we get a smart immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act.

“And it continues to be my belief that, if I can’t see the congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.”

The most sweeping, controversial step under consideration involves halting deportation for millions, a major expansion of a 2012 Obama program that deferred prosecutions for those brought here illegally as children.

Roughly half a million people have benefited from that program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

In a sign of how heated the demands on Obama to act have become, 145 protesters were arrested midday Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience. Demanding a halt to deportations, protesters draped themselves in American flags and held signs saying “I am a witness for justice” as onlookers cheered them on. The U.S. Park Police said the protesters were charged with blocking the sidewalk.

Republicans are already hinting they’ll consider legal action to thwart what they’ve denounced as a violation of the separation of powers. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a conference call this month with GOP House members, accused Obama of “threatening to rewrite our immigration laws unilaterally.”

“If the president fails to faithfully execute the laws of our country, we will hold him accountable,” Boehner said, according to an individual who participated in the call.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., predicted Thursday that Congress would not tackle an immigration overhaul before the fall elections.

“There are too many members of the House that are scared of the tea party, and they are afraid to death that they won’t get the extremist support in the election,” Nelson told reporters in Orlando, Florida. “There is nothing being done on immigration until after the election, and probably not until we get a better sense of where we’re going into next year.”

The House has passed legislation to block Obama from expanding DACA and, through its power of the purse, could attempt to cut off the funds that would be needed to implement the expansion. House Republicans could also consider widening or amending their existing lawsuit against Obama over his health care law, a case both parties have suggested could be a prelude to impeachment proceedings.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Washington and Michael Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report

TIME Environment

Potentially Deadly Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water

The water system is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water for many communities near it

(BATON ROUGE, La.) — A potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba was discovered in a water system that serves more than 12,500 people, and state officials started flushing the system Thursday.

No illnesses or deaths have been attributed to the amoeba.

The flushing process will take two months, but the water is safe to drink for people in St. John the Baptist Parish, which is in southeast Louisiana, the state Department of Health and Hospitals said. Swimming or diving in freshwater lakes and rivers is the most common way to contract the amoeba, which can cause injury or death if it gets to the brain, usually through nasal passages.

The amoeba is rare. In 2011, a child died after apparently contracting the organism in St. Bernard Parish, a New Orleans suburb.

The water system is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water for many communities near it. The system was sampled as part of a state surveillance program launched earlier this month.

Water purification processes usually kill the organism before it gets into drinking water, but health officials say it can seep through pipe cracks underground after the purification process.

Normal purge treatment involves raising chlorine levels in drinking water, which produces a strong odor when water flows out taps in homes and businesses.

St. John the Baptist Parish is an industrial and farming community roughly midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Officials said the Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER’-ee-uh FOW’-lur-ee) amoeba was found in the watersystem serving for people in the Reserve, Garyville and Mount Airy communities.

TIME Business

Labor Day: Raising the Minimum Wage Stiffs the Poor

Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles on May 15, 2014.
Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles on May 15, 2014. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

There are at least three better ways to help low-income workers — and few ways that are worse

Another Labor Day, another bold plan to increase the minimum to help the working men and women of America!

On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will announce a proposal to jack his city’s minimum wage from $9.00 all the way up to $13.25 over three years. That puts him ahead of President Obama, who has called for goosing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

Increasing the minimum wage is typically sold as a way of aiding poor people — LA business magnate and philanthropist Eli Broad says Garcetti’s plan “would help lift people out of poverty.” But it’s actually a pretty rotten way to achieve that for a number of reasons.

For starters, minimum-wage workers represent a shrinking share of the U.S. workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the percentage of folks who earn the federal minimum wage or less (which is legal under certain circumstances) comes to just 4.3 percent of hourly employees and just 3 percent of all workers. That’s down from an early 1980s high of 15 percent of hourly workers, which is good news — even as it means minimum wage increases will reach fewer people.

What’s more, contrary to popular belief, minimum-wage workers are not clustered at the low end of the income spectrum. About 50 percent of all people earning the federal minimum wage live in households where total income is $40,000 or more. In fact, about 14 percent of minimum wage earners live in households that bring in six figures or more a year. When you raise the minimum wage, it goes to those folks too.

Also, most minimum-wage earners tend to be younger and are not the primary breadwinner in their households. So it’s not clear they’re the ones needing help. “Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers,” says BLS, “they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.” Unemployment rates are already substantially higher for younger workers — 20 percent for 16 to 19 year olds and 11.3 percent for 20 to 24 year olds, compared to just 5 percent for workers 25 years and older — and would almost certainly be made worse by raising the cost of their labor by government diktat. While a number of high-profile economists such as Paul Krugman have lately taken to arguing that minimum wage increases have no effect on employment, the matter is far from settled and basic economic logic suggests that increases in prices reduce demand, whether you’re talking about widgets or labor.

Finally, there’s no reason to believe that people making the minimum wage are stuck at the bottom end of the pay scale for very long. According to one study that looked at earning patterns between 1977 and 1997, about two-thirds of workers moved above the minimum wage within their first year on the job. Having a job, even one that pays poorly, starts workers on the road to increased earnings.

If we want to actually raise the standard of living for the working poor via government intervention, the best way to do it is via transfer payments — food stamps, housing subsidies, or even plain cash — that directly target individuals and families at or below the poverty line.

University of California sociologist Lane Kenworthy, a progressive who has called for a more generous social safety net, argues that virtually all increases in income for poor families in the U.S. and other wealthy countries since the late 1970s have been a function of “increases in net government transfers — transfers received minus taxes paid.” That’s partly because workers in poor households often have “psychological, cognitive, or physical conditions that limit their earnings capability” and partly because today’s “companies have more options for replacing workers, whether with machines or with low-cost laborers abroad.”

To be sure, arguing that you want to increase direct aid to poor families doesn’t give a politician the same sort of photo-op as standing with a bunch of union leaders on Labor Day and speechifying about the urgent need to make sure an honest day’s work is rewarded with a living wage.

But making just such a case could have the benefit of actually helping poor people in the here and now. Certainly a savvy politician could sell that to voters who know the value of hard work — and the limits of economic intervention.

 

TIME Civil Rights

Buffett Heir Buys Rosa Parks Archive

Rosa Parks On Bus
Rosa Parks seated toward the front of the bus, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

(DETROIT) — Hundreds of items that belonged to civil rights icon Rosa Parks that have been sitting unseen for years in a New York warehouse have been sold to a foundation run by the son of billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett, the younger Buffett said Thursday.

Howard G. Buffett told The Associated Press that his foundation plans to give the items, which include Parks’ Presidential Medal of Freedom, to an institute he hasn’t yet selected. Buffett said the items belong to the American people.

“I’m only trying to do one thing: preserve what’s there for the public’s benefit,” he said. “I thought about doing what Rosa Parks would want. I doubt that she would want to have her stuff sitting in a box with people fighting over them.”

A yearslong legal fight between Parks’ heirs and her friends led to the memorabilia being removed from her Detroit home and offered up to the highest bidder.

Parks, who died in 2005 at age 92, was one of the most beloved women in U.S. history. She became an enduring symbol of the civil rights movement when she refused to cede her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man. That triggered a yearlong bus boycott that helped to dismantle officially sanctioned segregation and helped lift the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King to national prominence.

Because of the fight over Parks’ will, historians, students of the movement and the general public have had no access to items such as her photographs with presidents, her Congressional Gold Medal, a pillbox hat that she may have worn on the Montgomery bus, a signed postcard from King, decades of documents from civil rights meetings and her ruminations about life in the South as a black woman.

TIME Crime

Boston Suspect’s Sister Charged in NYC Bomb Threat

Ailina Tsarnaeva
Ailiana Tsarnaeva, sister of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, departs district court in Boston's South Boston neighborhood on Oct. 13, 2013. Steven Senne—AP

(NEW YORK) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sister was arrested Wednesday on suspicion she threatened to bomb a woman who previously had a romantic relationship with her boyfriend.

Ailina Tsarnaeva, who lives in North Bergen, New Jersey, made the threat against an upper Manhattan woman via telephone on Monday, police said. She turned herself in at a Manhattan police precinct, and police charged her with aggravated harassment.

Several media outlets reported Tsarnaeva told the Harlem woman she had “people who can go over there and put a bomb on you.”

Officers gave Tsarnaeva an appearance ticket and released her pending a Sept. 30 court date.

A telephone number linked to Tsarnaeva was disconnected. Her lawyer, George Gormley, said he had left his office and would speak Thursday.

Tsarnaeva has been required to check in with Massachusetts probation officers since prosecutors said she failed to cooperate with a 2010 counterfeiting investigation.

Prosecutors said Tsarnaeva picked up someone who passed a counterfeit bill at a restaurant at a Boston mall and “lied about certain salient facts during the investigation.”

At a hearing last October, Gormley said Tsarnaeva was pregnant with her second child and was unlikely to flee.

Tsarnaeva once lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at an apartment linked to her brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who were the subjects of an intense manhunt in the Boston area in the days after the deadly April 2013 marathon bombing.

Records show Tsarnaeva now lives with a sister, Bella Tsarnaeva.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with building and planting the two pressure cooker bombs that exploded near the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunbattle with police.

TIME States

California Passes First-Ever Bill to Define Sexual Consent on College Campuses

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

A new definition of sexual consent

The California Senate passed a first-in-the-nation bill Thursday to define what amounts to consensual sexual activity in colleges in the state, a milestone at a time when colleges across the country are under close scrutiny for how they handle campus sexual assault.

The bill will head next to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. If enacted, it would make colleges adopt a student conduct policy requiring “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” as a condition for state funding. The bill defines consent to sex as the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no,” a cultural shift that victim’s groups have long advocated. In practice, colleges would be required to use the bill’s definition when they teach students about sexual assault during orientations, and when investigating claims of sexual assault. It would apply any public or private colleges that receive state financial aid funding.

California’s bill comes after more than a year of pressure from the federal government, Congress, and student activists for higher education institutions to do more to prevent the widespread sexual assault occurring on the nation’s campuses. Colleges and universities have been changing their policies for months in response to federal pressure. And after recent changes in the Violence Against Women Act that require colleges to explicitly report their prevention efforts, many colleges will be unveiling new policies and programs this fall where they never existed before.

The so-called “affirmative consent” standard that California’s legislature has introduced in the latest bill is not a new concept. Similar affirmative consent policies already exist at some 800 post-secondary institutions across the country, including the 10 campuses that make up the University of California system. Educators from the University of California collaborated on the bill with its author, State Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democrat, and the system’s president, Janet Napolitano, has endorsed it. This would be the first time that a state has tried to put such a policy, usually confined to student conduct handbooks, into law.

There is some disagreement in higher education about whether the affirmative consent standard is the best practice. Though many colleges have adopted it, Harvard recently rewrote its sexual assault policy without adopting an affirmative consent standard, to the dismay of women’s advocates. Harvard’s Title IX Officer, Mia Karvonides, said the school rejected such a policy because there is no “standard definition of affirmative consent,” according to the student newspaper The Crimson. Critics of affirmative consent policies often point to an unrealistic set of standards set in 1991 by Antioch University in Ohio, which required verbal consent (excluding “moans”) for “each new level” of sexual activity—a standard that doesn’t reflect the real interactions between human beings during sex.

The California bill stops short of Antioch’s standard.The bill’s language clarifies the definition of consent by stating what it is not. “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent,” it reads. “Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

The bill’s language does not require verbal consent, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for de Leon, adding that it would allow for “verbal and non-verbal” consent. Conlon said the intent of the bill was to change the way school administrators approach their definition of sexual assault. Instead of asking: “Did she say no?” We are having them ask, did she consent?,” Conlon said. The bill does not require specific punishments for students found in violation of the policy.

Brett Sokolow, a higher education risk management consultant who supports affirmative consent policies and the bill in California, uses a traffic metaphor to describe the kind of behavior these policies are designed to prevent. “You go forward on a green light. You stop on a red light. But most people tend to run the yellows. They tend to increase their speed rather than slowing down to look both ways. Affirmative consent is telling you to slow down at the yellow light. You’ve been able to fondle, pet, kiss, if you assume those lead you to the next behavior without permission, then you are running a yellow light. You are putting your needs to get through the intersection above the needs for others’ safety.” Sokolow said the affirmative consent policy is preventative—it won’t stop predators, but it will coax some male students towards a healthier norm.

Those who oppose the bill are concerned that such a policy, combined with unavoidably murky sexual encounters, will deny college men due process and unfairly categorize them as rapists, causing potentially unfair suspensions and expulsions or reputational damage. Matthew Kaiser, a lawyer in Washington who represents college men accused of sexual assault, said the policy’s broad language could ensnare young men who acted in good faith. Even though the policy isn’t as explicit as Antioch’s, Kaiser sees a similar effect. “When people are having sex,” he said, they “don’t stop and say “can I do this now? It just sort of happens. If someone is sober and awake and not acting upon the other person, that looks like it would be prohibited under this [bill]. That strikes me as problematic, but its not clearly sexual assault. … When you look at the language of the bill, its not clear what counts as sexual assault and what doesn’t. It doesn’t give the school flexibility to be discerning.”

In addition to putting the schools at risk of losing federal funds, Kaiser said, the policy’s enshrinement in student conduct codes would also put schools at risk of breach of contract from a female student if she felt that the male student wasn’t punished adequately.

The notion of consent as part of a rape definition isn’t as controversial as some critics make it sound. In 2012, the federal government changed its definition of rape for the purposes of compiling statistics from “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Though the federal change is less specific than the California bill, the spirit of the changes is the same—changing the definition from one rooted in the woman’s refusal to requiring her active consent.

Administrators in California reached by TIME didn’t see the policy as overly broad. Any policy that attempts to design the ground rules in sex is inherently imperfect, they said, but the policies that don’t define consent are even less clear. (Harvard’s new definition for sexual assault, for example, prohibits “unwelcome” contact—an impossibly subjective and equally vague term). Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman at UCLA, which has already adopted an affirmative consent policy, said it’s actually “a little less gray” than the previous policy that didn’t explicitly define consent.

“It makes it more clear. Is it crystal clear? Is it infallible? No. But that’s just the nature of sexual activity,” she said. No matter how the policy is written, colleges investigating sexual assault will come up against the same challenging he-said, she-said, confusion that any person investigating sex crimes must contend with. This policy at least gives students more information about the college’s expectations. Klein rejects the idea that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction with this policy. “Both parties don’t have to sign a contract before they unzip their pants” she said.

The bill is also helpful, administrators said, because it brings publicity to the sexual assault issue, making it easier for them to get students to understand why understanding the definition of consent is so important.

“The more people talk about it, the more women feel empowered to speak up when they are in bad situations,” said Jerry Price, the Dean of Students at Chapman University, a private university in Orange, Calif. “If men are predators, the more this is talked about, the more reluctant they are going to be to try to get away with things. All this fanfare is good for what we are trying to accomplish.”

TIME Crime

Oklahoma Death Row Inmate Died From Lethal Injection, Not Heart Attack

An independent autopsy of death row inmate Clayton Lockett, who was executed in April at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., ruled that Lockett died as a result from the drugs administered to him by prison officials and not from a heart attack. AP

Autopsy reveals officials at "botched" execution attempted to tap a vein in Clayton Lockett's groin, chest, neck, both arms and one of his feet

An independent autopsy released Thursday declared that Clayton Lockett, an Oklahoma death row inmate whose botched execution in April caused the state to temporarily halt executions, died from “judicial execution by lethal injection” and not from a heart attack, as prison officials had concluded at the time.

The autopsy, conducted by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, Texas, detailed multiple locations where officials attempted to inject Lockett, including in the groin, chest, neck, both arms and one of his feet. Several puncture wounds were found in his neck and chest, the autopsy said.

Oklahoma executed Lockett, convicted in the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman, using a three-drug lethal injection protocol that included midazolam, vecuronium and potassium chloride. The execution took 51 minutes as prison officials struggled to find a vein to properly administer the drugs.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton has said that one of Lockett’s veins collapsed during the execution, which led officials to search for other access points. Ultimately, state executioners administered the drugs through Lockett’s groin, a highly unusual move. During the procedure, Lockett reportedly writhed and groaned on the execution table. Halfway through, prison officials used a curtain to block views of the chamber from those watching the execution in a nearby viewing room.

Following the lethal injection, Patton announced that Lockett died of a heart attack and that one of the lines had become dislodged and likely leaked drugs into the inmate’s surrounding tissues rather than directly into the bloodstream.

The independent autopsy released Thursday, however, found traces of all three drugs in Lockett’s system and declared that he died from the administered drugs. But the autopsy did not address the questions surrounding the prolonged execution and why it was so problematic.

“What this initial autopsy report does not appear to answer is what went wrong during Mr. Lockett’s execution, which took over 45 minutes, with witnesses reporting he writhed and gasped in pain,” said Dale Baich, an attorney for Oklahoma death row prisoners, in a statement.

Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered a review of the state’s execution procedures that is still ongoing while the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has delayed all executions in the state until November. The next lethal injection is set for Nov. 13.

TIME Crime

Oklahoma City Police Bid a Sad Goodbye to K-9 ‘Kye’

Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City, on Aug. 28, 2014.
Oklahoma City police officer Sgt. Ryan Stark, center, leans over the casket of his canine partner, K-9 Kye, following funeral services for the dog in Oklahoma City, on Aug. 28, 2014. Sue Ogrocki—AP

The dog was stabbed during a burglary

K-9 Kye, a three year old Belgian German Shepard, died Aug. 25 after being stabbed by a burglary suspect the day prior. Sgt. Stark tried to separate the dog and the suspect before fatally shooting the suspect.

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