TIME tragedy

Police: Poison Likely Killed Utah Family of 5

Utah Five Bodies Found
The home where five Utah family members found dead in their home in Springville, Utah, on Sept. 28, 2014 Rick Bowmer—AP

Investigators found empty methadone bottles, 10 empty boxes of nighttime cold medicine and two boxes of allergy medicine in their garbage, along with a red liquid substance in Pepsi cups

(SALT LAKE CITY) — A Utah couple and their three children found dead in their home last month were likely poisoned, their bodies found together in a locked room with cups next to each of them, and empty bottles of methadone and nighttime cold medicine in a trash can.

Police in Springville aren’t saying who killed the family or whether one of the parents might have been involved. Toxicology results have not determined an exact cause of death, but search warrants obtained Wednesday say the family was likely poisoned.

Benjamin and Kristi Strack were in bed, with children ages 11 through 14 lying around them, tucked in bedding up to their necks, according to the search warrants. Kristi Strack had a red liquid coming out of her mouth.

Some of the bodies looked to have been positioned after they died Sept. 27. They were found by the couple’s older son and Kristi Strack’s mother, who said she couldn’t believe “she” would do this to the kids but wouldn’t elaborate, police wrote.

Investigators found empty methadone bottles, 10 empty boxes of nighttime cold medicine and two boxes of allergy medicine in their garbage, along with a red liquid substance in Pepsi cups. They also found a pitcher of red juice, a purple bucket with yellow liquid, a bag of marijuana and other medications, including sleeping pills.

Springville police Lt. Dave Caron said Wednesday he couldn’t comment on the search warrant or speculate about the cause of death until results of a toxicology test come back. That’s expected in late November, he said.

“Until I get those, I really don’t have anything,” he said. “I could come up with all sorts of theories, but it’s not helpful.”

The search warrant says it wasn’t normal for the children to be in their parents’ room because they have their own rooms.

Kristi Strack was last seen alive at 6 a.m. by the older son’s girlfriend, who also lives in the home. The girlfriend went back to sleep after talking with Kristi Strack, and the house was quiet when the older son and his girlfriend left the house that afternoon.

When they returned at 7 p.m. and saw the house was still quiet even though all the cars were in the driveway, they knocked on the master bedroom door. When no one answered, the couple called Kristi Strack’s mother and her friend, who helped them force it open.

Authorities have previously said the five did not die violently.

The five were identified as Benjamin Strack, 37, his wife, Kristi, 36, and three of their children: Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11.

Little is known about the family. A family spokesman has declined to reveal much and, at a vigil, family members declined comment.

Benjamin Strack’s former boss said he worked off-and-on for six to seven years at AK Masonry, a bricklaying company, and had borrowed money in the past. Court records show Benjamin and Kristi Strack pleaded guilty to misdemeanor forgery charges in 2008 and disorderly conduct the following year.

Springville is a city of about 30,000 near Provo, about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.

TIME Health Care

Terminally Ill Brittany Maynard May Not End Her Life, After All

Death With Dignity Advocate
This undated file photo provided by the Maynard family shows Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life under Oregon’s death with dignity law. AP

The 29-year-old woman, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, explains her state of mind two days before her scheduled death

A terminally ill 29-year-old woman who has said she plans to commit physician-assisted suicide on Nov. 1 implies in a heart-wrenching new video that she may not go through with it in the end.

In the six-minute clip, released with advocacy group Compassion & Choices, Brittany Maynard says she may or may not choose to die on that date, People reports.

“So if Nov. 2 comes along and I’ve passed, I hope my family is still proud of me and the choices I made,” says Maynard, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six months to live last spring.

Read more at People

Read next: Dear Brittany Maynard: Our Lives Are Worth Living, Even With Brain Cancer

TIME

Lava 100 ft. From Hawaii Home, Nearing Main Road

Dozens of homes, business and other structures are in the area of the lava flow. That number could increase as the flow front widens

(PAHOA, HAWAII) — Rain fell Wednesday on a red-hot river of lava as it threatened to consume its first home on its slow advance into a rural Hawaii town.

A breakout of the lava flow was about 100 feet from a Pahoa residence — about the length of a basketball court, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira. The couple that lives in the home has left.

Scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory who are walking alongside the lava reported its leading edge was 240 yards from Pahoa Village Road, which goes through a commercial hub of the Big Island’s sprawling and isolated Puna district.

“This is just a little quiet village is a very rural community. We farm, we fish, we hunt,” said Jamila Dandini. “We’re going to be an island on an island.”

The leading edge remained in a large agricultural parcel that included another house, which was about 100 yards from the lava, Oliveira said.

Dozens of homes, business and other structures are in the area of the lava flow. That number could increase as the flow front widens.

“The people who are meant to stay will stay. The people that have to leave, sadly, will leave,” Dandini said.

So far, lava has burned a garden shed, tires and some metal materials.

On Wednesday, it burned mostly vegetation, while the rain helped tamp down smoke from the crackling stream.

Officials are monitoring hazards from the smoke. Chemists from the observatory detected only low levels of sulfur dioxide, Oliveira said.

The lava flow emerged from a vent in June and until recently had been slowly weaving through uninhabited forest and pastureland.

The flow is expected to slither past properties across the street from Jeff and Denise Lagrimas’ home as it works its way toward the ocean, about 6 miles away. The Lagrimases decided not to stay and see if the lava burns their home. They packed up to leave for a town 14 miles away.

“I don’t want to stick around and just wait for it to come and take it,” Denise Lagrimas said while taking a break from loading kitchen cups and bowls in cardboard boxes. “You just never know.”

She said they decided to move to Kurtistown because it’s a safe distance away.

“Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava,” Denise Lagrimas said.

Erbin Gamurot, 48, a handyman, said Pele, the volcano goddess, just wants to visit her sister, Namakaokahai, the sea goddess.

“She gotta go see her sister. She gotta go say hi. You know how family are. It’s all good,” Gamuret said.

TIME Military

The Capabilities of the Afghan Military Are Suddenly a Secret

Enduring Freedom
Recruits get ready to become members of the Afghan National Police force in Kandahar province. DoD photo / TSgt Adrienne Brammer

Watchdog says U.S. taxpayers can’t know if investment is paying off

For years, American taxpayers have been able to chart how well the Afghanistan security forces they’re funding are faring, because “capability assessments” detailing their progress have been routinely released.

Not anymore.

As the U.S. military prepares to withdraw most of its 34,000 troops still in Afghanistan by the end of this year, the American-led command there has suddenly made such information secret.

Classifying the data “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says in Thursday’s quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”

A U.S. Army spokesman says the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan decided to classify the capability ratings as part of its “responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners” as they assume “full security responsibility” for their country’s defense.

U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $50 billion training and outfitting Afghan security forces. In the prior quarterly report, issued in July, the IG used the then-available-but-now-classified data to report that 92% of Afghan army units, and 67% of Afghan national police units, were “capable” or “fully capable” of carrying out their missions.

Capability ratings like these from July are now classified. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

“The Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] capability assessments prepared by the [U.S. and NATO-led] International Security Assistance Force Joint Command have recently been classified, leaving the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction without a critical tool to publicly report on development of the ANSF,” the report says. “This is a significant change.”

The capabilities of Afghan forces become more important as the U.S. and its allies pull out, leaving local troops to battle the Taliban largely on their own. There are reports that Taliban forces are gaining ground in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, vacated earlier this week by U.S. Marines and British troops, and in the northern part of the country.

Past SIGAR reports have used summary data about major Afghan units’ readiness, sustainability and other measurements to trace their progress. More detailed reporting on smaller units has always been classified to keep the Taliban and other insurgents ignorant of Afghan military weaknesses. “It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the report says.

“SIGAR has routinely reported on assessments of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police as indicators of the effectiveness of U.S. and Coalition efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF,” the report says. “These assessments provide both U.S. and Afghan stakeholders—including the American taxpayers who pay the costs of recruiting, training, feeding, housing, equipping, and supplying Afghan soldiers—with updates on the status of these forces as transition continues and Afghanistan assumes responsibility for its own security.”

ISAF made the change an after August review “to address potential concerns about operational security,” Army Lieut. Colonel Chris Belcher said in an email from Afghanistan. He said that such information “could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and the coalition forces serving alongside them.” He added that ISAF “will continue to provide SIGAR access to the information necessary to enable the organization to carry out its Congressionally mandated duties.”

TIME Crime

Child Rape Suspect Caught in New York

Gregory Lewis had been spotted in a handful of states since he fled Massachusetts in August

A Massachusetts man accused of raping a child who had been on the run since September was arrested late Tuesday in New York, authorities said.

Gregory Lewis, 26, was also wanted in several states in connection with a series of sexual assaults, kidnappings, and armed robberies, CNN reports. He’s accused of robbing, assaulting, and handcuffing several victims who he met online.

Lewis was arrested Tuesday after fleeing New York state troopers attempting to pull him over for driving with a missing license plate, authorities said. Lewis later crashed his car into a river. The suspect, who had been charged with four counts of felony child rape in August, fled Massachusets after cutting off his GPS-monitoring bracelet. Lewis had been seen in Charlotte, Denver, Portland, Boise, and Salt Lake City since he fled.

[CNN]

TIME Education

Allegations of Mass SAT Cheating Delay Test Scores in China and South Korea

Students in China and South Korea who took the SAT on Oct. 11 will have their test scores delayed

All students living in China and South Korea who took the SAT on Oct. 11 will have their test scores delayed and reviewed because of allegations of widespread cheating, officials from the College Board and its global test administration and security provider, Educational Testing Service (ETS), tell TIME.

The allegations of cheating, which are “based on specific, reliable information,” according to the officials, could be held up for as many as four weeks, potentially excluding some students for “early decision” or “early action” admissions to U.S. colleges and universities. Each individual test score will be evaluated for evidence of cheating.

“The College Board will make universities aware of the circumstances and can supply students with a letter to share with the schools to which they are applying,” ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing tells TIME. “Students should contact their preferred schools for more information.”

“Universities generally do their best to accommodate late scores from students when there are extenuating circumstances,” Ewing adds. Even if test scores are delivered in November, they will be reported as October scores, he says.

Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, confirms that “the administrative delay will not hurt the chance of admission for an individual applicant, since any scores that arrive before our review process is complete will be considered.” He adds that students from countries like China where there are no SAT test centers available are not required to submit SAT scores.

The College Board has faced cheating scandals in the past, although this appears to be the first time “reliable allegations” have affected more than one entire country at the same time. “We have conducted administrative reviews in a number of countries over the years including the United States when we want to assure that no student gained an unfair advantage over students who tested honestly,” Ewing says.

In May 2013, the College Board canceled a scheduled exam in South Korea because of allegations of widespread cheating, affecting an estimated 1,500 students. That was the first time allegations of cheating affected an entire country.

Students from China, India and South Korea now make up roughly 50% of the total number of international students in the U.S., according to a 2013 Institute of International Education report. The number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. has increased by 20% every year since 2008, reaching nearly 200,000 in late 2012.

Under current rules, Chinese students without foreign passports must travel outside of mainland China to take admissions tests for U.S. universities. “Chinese national students interested in taking the SAT are welcome to take it in SAT testing centers in Hong Kong, Macao or any other country such as Taiwan or Korea, among others,” the College Board website reads. Those with foreign passports can take the test in China at international schools.

“The scores under question are for Chinese test takers who tested outside of China (not Hong Kong) and NOT for those taken at the international schools in China,” Ewing says in an email.

“Based on specific, reliable information, we have placed the scores of all students who are current residents of Korea or China and sat for the October 11th international administration of the SAT on hold while we conduct an administrative review,” according to a statement from the College Board and ETS released Wednesday to TIME. “The review is being conducted to ensure that illegal actions by individuals or organizations do not prevent the majority of test-takers who have worked hard to prepare for the exam from receiving valid and accurate scores.”

The College Board sent emails this week to all students affected by this round of allegations of cheating. “Dear Test Taker: We at ETS are highly committed to quality standards and fairness,” the email reads. “After every test administration, we go to great lengths to make sure each test result we report is accurate and valid. It is with this objective in mind that we sometimes take additional quality control steps before scores are released. For the reasons stated above, your October 2014 SAT scores are delayed because they are under administrative review.”

The email ends by denouncing “organizations that seek to illegally obtain test materials for their own profit” and asks that individuals share any information with the College Board that could help in the investigation. “We take action on all credible information and go to great lengths to ensure each test result we report is accurate and valid,” the email says.

— With reporting by Tessa Berenson

Read next: This Is How the New SAT Will Test Vocabulary

TIME ebola

Ebola Brings Another Fear: Xenophobia

Amadou Drame, 11, and brother Pape Drame, 13, right, listen as their father, Ousmane Drame, responds to questions during a news interview on Oct. 28, 2014, in New York.
Amadou Drame, left, 11, and brother Pape Drame, right, 13, listen as their father Ousmane Drame responds to questions during a news interview on Oct. 28, 2014, in New York City Frank Franklin II—AP

A father's claim that his two boys were beaten and called "Ebola" raises concern among Africans

The father says the bullying began soon after his two sons arrived at their New York City school from Senegal almost one month ago. They were called “Ebola” by other students, taunted about possibly being contagious and excluded from playing ball. Ousmane Drame says the baiting finally erupted into a physical fight on Oct. 24 when 11-year-old Amadou and his 13-year-old brother Pape were pummeled by classmates on the playground of Intermediate School 318 in the Bronx.

“It’s not just them,” Drame said at a press conference. “All the African children suffer this.”

The brothers’ experience is an extreme example of the backlash felt by some Africans in the U.S. since the Ebola virus arrived from West Africa. Many others tell of facing subtler, but no less hurtful, forms of discrimination at work, in school and as they commute as fear of the little-known but often deadly disease has spread among the public.

In Staten Island, the largest Liberian community outside of Africa, one woman says she was forced to take temporary, unpaid leave from her job because of her nationality. Liberians in Minnesota have been told to leave work after sneezing or coughing. In New Jersey, two elementary school students from Rwanda were kept out of school after other parents pressured school officials. At Navarro College, a public community college in Texas, officials mailed letters rejecting international applicants from African countries, even ones from countries without confirmed Ebola cases. (The school has since apologized for sending out “incorrect information.”)

“This is a larger problem,” says Charles Cooper, president of the New York City–based African Advisory Council, an advocacy group. “People are on the train and they sneeze and hear, ‘I hope you don’t have Ebola. I hope you don’t give me Ebola.’ Xenophobia is growing around this, but many people are afraid to come out publicly.”

The spread of previously unknown, contagious diseases in the U.S. has often led to these sorts of overreactions. For Ebola, those fears appear driven by the circumstances of the virus — its high mortality rate, its gruesome symptoms, its origins on a continent often misunderstood by Americans — even though the odds of contracting it in the U.S. remain exceedingly low. A recent poll from the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than half of adults worry there will be a large Ebola outbreak inside in the U.S. over the next year, while over a third are worried that they or a family member will be infected.

While fears erupted around people diagnosed with polio in the 1940s and SARS in the 2000s, public-health experts point to the start of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s as the last time Americans attached a similar stigma to people even loosely associated with the virus. At the time, many Americans refused to be near those suspected of having HIV, unaware of how it was actually transmitted.

“A lot of what I’m seeing today was present at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic,” says Robert Fullilove, a Columbia University professor of sociomedical sciences, who has been researching HIV since the mid-1980s. “It’s this tendency to separate between two different groups, when somebody’s ‘otherness’ is associated with a deadly disease. It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

That toxic brew of fear and misinformation led to discrimination against gays — the disease was unfairly yet colloquially known as the “gay plague” for its disproportionate toll among homosexual men — and people from Haiti, which was the first country in the western hemisphere with confirmed cases of HIV.

“Haiti itself became stigmatized,” says Dr. Joia Mukherjee, a Harvard Medical School associate professor. “The same thing is happening now with Liberians, and indeed all of Africa.”

In both cases, the driving forces are the same: a general lack of understanding about the disease, how it is transmitted and where it’s been concentrated.

“The average American doesn’t even recognize how big Africa is,” Fullilove says of the Ebola stereotypes.

The bullying allegedly faced by the Drame brothers is a case in point. The vast majority of Ebola cases are in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Senegal had only one confirmed case and is now considered free of the disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Countering such misinformation has been central to the messaging strategy of the CDC and government officials. It’s no coincidence that President Obama hugged Nina Pham after the Dallas nurse was declared free of the virus. And the image offensive may be paying off. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, the people least worried about catching the disease or a larger U.S. outbreak were the ones who knew the most about how Ebola is transmitted.

Read next: 2 Kids from Senegal Were Beaten Up in NYC by Classmates Yelling ‘Ebola’

TIME Sexual Assault

The Troubling Statistic in MIT’s Sex Assault Survey

MIT Campus Sexual Assault
The main entrance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Rick Friedman—Corbis

Many students were uncertain about what qualified as sexual violence -- even the ones who experienced assault

A new survey of student experiences with sexual assault at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is an encouraging step for schools working to put an end to the shamefully widespread problem of campus rape.

That the prestigious school released the study publicly is helpful in erasing the stigma surrounding sexual assault. And the numbers show that even an institution far better known for Fields Medals than frat parties has an incidence of campus rape comparable to other colleges. Roughly 35% of MIT’s 11,000 graduates and undergraduates took the anonymous survey. Of the undergrads, about 17% of women and 5% of men reported experiencing sexual assault while at the Massachusetts school.

But a deeper look at the numbers points to a more troubling statistic. Even though 17% of female undergraduates reported an experience that fits the survey’s definition of sexual assault (“unwanted sexual behaviors … involving use of force, physical threat, or incapacitation”), only 11% of female undergraduates checked “yes” when asked directly if they had been “raped” or “sexually assaulted.” Despite a concerted effort by the Obama Administration, state officials and campus leaders, MIT students were uncertain about what qualified as sexual violence — even when reporting that they had experienced assault.

Sadly, that’s not exactly surprising. Experts say there are numerous reasons students struggle to understand the definition of sexual assault, including denial about the experience and and the hesitation to apply the label to attackers or those who experience it. “There is still such a stigma to be a ‘rape victim’ or a ‘rapist,'” says Jane Stapleton, a University of New Hampshire researcher and expert in sexual assault prevention.

The MIT survey also indicated a tendency among undergraduates to blame victims, including themselves, for assaults that had taken place. Fifteen percent of female undergraduate respondents and 25% of male undergraduates said that a drunk person who is assaulted is “at least somewhat responsible” for what happened, while 31% of female undergraduate respondents and 35% of males said they believed that sexual assault and rape “happen because men can get carried away in sexual situations once they’ve started.”

Of students who said they had been assaulted, many blamed themselves, which may explain why so few of them decided to report the incident. Of the assault victims, 72% said they didn’t think it was “serious enough to officially report” and 44% said they “felt they were at least partly at fault or it wasn’t totally the other person’s fault.”

These attitudes are somewhat incongruous with the fact that assault victims also reported having felt a great deal of trauma because of the assault–35% reported being unable to complete assignment and 30% reported being unable to eat. Only about 5% of respondents to MIT’s survey reported the experience to someone in an official capacity.

MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart says part of the challenge in reducing assault is educating students about all the forms it takes. “We can’t prevent what is not agreed upon by everyone,” she says.

Barnhart says that MIT has had an increase in reported sexual misconduct since the survey was advertised last spring, a sign that awareness is growing.

Still, as Stapleton says, “it’s going to take time to change the culture.”

TIME Military

Hagel Orders 21-Day Ebola Quarantine for Returning U.S. Troops

A health worker takes the temperature of U.S. Marines arriving to take part in Operation United Assistance on Oct. 9, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia.
A health worker takes the temperature of U.S. Marines arriving to take part in Operation United Assistance on Oct. 9, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty Images

Military commanders had recommended that Hagel implement a quarantine

U.S. troops who are returning from Ebola missions in West Africa will be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days upon their return home, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.

Military leaders recommended the 21-day quarantine, which goes beyond precautions advised by the Obama Administration for civilians, the Associated Press reports. President Obama has said that the military’s situation is different, however, partly because the troops are not in West Africa by choice.

“The secretary believes these initial steps are prudent given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

Hagel said his order was in response to a recommendation sent to him Tuesday by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The policy will be up for review in 45 days.

About 1,000 U.S. troops are in Liberia and Senegal supporting efforts to combat and contain the virus. Some returning soldiers were put on a 21-day quarantine earlier this week.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: White House Computers Hacked

Hackers thought to be working for the Russian government are suspected of breaching White House computers

Russian hackers are suspected of breaching White House computers over the past few weeks, temporarily disrupting services.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House computer system had been infiltrated, but added that there’s no evidence the hackers had access to classified information or damaged any systems. The White House learned of the breach two to three weeks ago.

The FBI, Secret Service, and NSA are all investigating the breach which shut off Intranet or VPN access. The hack, however, did not manage to down the email system.

 

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