TIME Foreign Policy

Convicted Spy’s Ex-Wife Says Israel Should Fund His Legal Defense

Jonathan Pollard
Karl DeBlaker—AP In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C.

Jonathan Pollard becomes eligible for parole in November

(JERUSALEM)—The former wife of Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, called on the Israeli government to pay for an attorney to facilitate his freedom on Saturday amid international speculation he could be released soon.

Jonathan Pollard was arrested in 1985 as he tried unsuccessfully to gain asylum in Israel’s Washington embassy. Since then, the case has stoked passions and divided opinions in both countries.

Supporters argue that he was punished excessively given that he spied for a country that’s a U.S. ally and point to other cases where spies from less-friendly countries were treated more leniently.

Critics, including prosecutors and government officials, call him a traitor who they say damaged U.S. national security by disclosing a trove of sensitive documents.

He becomes eligible for parole in November, on the 30th anniversary of his arrest on charges of selling classified information to Israel.

This week, there was widespread media speculation that Pollard could be released sooner.

Anne Pollard told Israel’s Channel 2 TV Saturday night that “that there is no official word that Jonathan is being released on any date.”

She said that the Israeli government should fund a budget “so that Jonathan can hire a top, top-notch attorney” for his upcoming parole hearing.

Once he is released he will want to move to Israel “100 percent,” she said, “otherwise nothing would make sense to him.”

“I just want to see him out, I can’t bear it anymore, that he sat and lost all of his life in jail, it’s a crime, it’s such a crime,” she said.

Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, told The Associated Press on Friday that he hoped his client would be released, but said he had received no commitment from the Obama administration.

Pollard’s release now could be seen as a concession to Israel, which strongly opposed the just-concluded U.S. nuclear deal with Iran. The U.S. has previously dangled his release, including during Israel-Palestinian talks last year.

Pollard’s supporters maintain the information he relayed was material that the U.S. had traditionally shared with the Israelis as part of an intelligence agreement but was being held back.

Advocates throughout the years of his incarceration asserted that he had either been used as a scapegoat or was victim of anti-Semitism.

The affair damaged relations between Israel and the U.S and has been a lingering sore point between the two allies.

Pollard, 60, has battled health problems in recent years and is being held in a North Carolina prison. The Federal Bureau of Prisons website lists his expected release date as November 21.


Tipsters Help Police Search for Movie Theater Shooter’s Motive

Police hope to figure out what prompted the right-wing extremist with a history of erratic behavior and violent threats to open fire

(LAFAYETTE, La.)—Police on Saturday thanked the many people providing tips about John Russell Houser as they work to reconstruct his movements before he killed two people, wounded nine and then killed himself in a movie theater.

By interviewing victims and witnesses and studying his cell phone records, internet postings and other contacts, they hope to figure out what prompted the right-wing extremist with a history of erratic behavior and violent threats to open fire.

“Our intelligence section is still analyzing a lot of that,” Lafayette Police Col. Paul Mouton said, adding that many people “feel they have had some sort of contact or run-in with this individual.”

An initial report about Houser will likely be released next week, the police spokesman said. By Monday, they expect to remove police tape and return some measure of normalcy to the theater where a romantic comedy exploded into violence.

Houser, 59, said not a word as he aimed at the audience, witnesses said. He left a horrific scene of blood, bullet holes and spent shell casings, and purses, wallets and shoes.

Emily Mann, 21, escaped with her friend by crawling out on her hands and knees while he picked off his victims one by one.

Mann said they arrived late for Thursday’s “Trainwreck” feature and quietly found seats near the back of the small theater. They didn’t notice the man in their row until he started firing, about 20 minutes into the movie.

“You hear one loud shot and you’re sure that’s not what it is because it would never be that. And then you hear another and another and another and you realize that those aren’t just lights and sounds,” Mann said.

Houser was a deeply troubled man with a reputation of angry behavior in the communities where he lived in Georgia and Alabama. He had a regular seat on local television and radio shows and board meetings, providing a provocative and conspiratorial counterpoint to more mainstream political voices, according to many accounts.

He flew a large Confederate flag outside his home and a Nazi swastika outside a bar he owned, and put “doomsday” fliers in his neighbors’ mailboxes, urging them to pool resources for the coming global economic collapse, his former neighbor Rick Chancey said.

Houser’s own family said he had a history of “manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder” as they persuaded a judge that he needed mental health treatment in 2008. In 1989, another judge had ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Houser after he was arrested for allegedly trying to kill a lawyer by hiring an arsonist to torch his office, according to court records.

Houser became estranged from his family, lost his businesses, his home was foreclosed on, and when he was finally evicted, he ruined the property by pouring concrete into the plumbing and glue into the fixtures, police said.

Filing for divorce in March, his estranged wife, Kellie Houser, said he lashed out at her, asked for money and said “I’d better watch out because he always wins.”

Houser’s mother then called to say her son had “threatened to commit suicide in front of the retirement community where he believes her to be living if she didn’t give him money,” the divorce papers allege.

Kellie Houser said she urged his mother not to pay, and to send him instead to a psychiatric facility.

Instead, police said, Houser’s mother sent him $5,000.

Given his background, authorities are being asked how he was allowed to buy a semi-automatic handgun from a pawnshop in Phenix City, Alabama, where the sheriff said Houser’s concealed weapons permit was denied.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday that “now is not the time” to discuss gun control, a position backed by rock musician and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent, who was in Lafayette for a sportsmen’s exposition.

Nugent came to the theater with Saturday with retired Col. Allen West, a FOX news commentator, to lay flowers and show their respect for the victims, and was asked whether the gun buy should have been blocked.

“I think it’s inappropriate to even approach that subject. I think it’s all about prayers for the victims and the families And showing support for the community,” Nugent said.

On right-wing extremist message boards, Houser praised Adolf Hitler as well as “the power of the lone wolf,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose hate-group watchdogs began tracking Houser in 2005, when he registered to meet with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

“He was pretty even-keeled until you disagreed with him or made him mad,” said Jeff Hardin, the former mayor of Phenix City, Alabama, just across the state line from Columbus. “Then he became your sworn enemy.”

Authorities in Louisiana and Alabama bemoaned the underfunding of mental health services in America as they were asked about the case.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said his office, which oversees Phenix City, denied Houser’s request for a concealed weapons permit in 2006 because of the arson arrest and a domestic violence complaint that his wife ultimately dropped.

Pressed to explain why Houser wasn’t convicted of anything, Sheriff Taylor pointed instead to cuts in the safety net.

“What should be scary for the community is that the cuts being made in mental health around the state are allowing these people, who should not be walking around, to be out in the community,” the sheriff said.

What prompted Houser to kill people Thursday night remains unknown. Police said it appears that suicide was not his first option.

Inside the Motel 6 room he rented in Lafayette, they found wigs, glasses and other disguises. Houser also swapped the license plates on his 1995 Lincoln Continental before parking it by the theater’s exit door. He stashed the keys atop one of its wheels.

He wore no disguises however as he entered The Grand 16 theater, one of 25 people who bought tickets to the film starring feminist comedian Amy Schumer as a boozing, promiscuous reporter.

Mann said after hearing the first shot, she looked to her left and saw Houser fire at least four more times in a semi-circle in front of him. The situation was so difficult to comprehend that people didn’t scream.

“It was a strange. You go to the movies to escape from problems and escape from thoughts and due dates,” she said. “You needed a second to think, ‘OK, this is real, this is happening.'”

The two women killed were 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson. Breaux’s body was brought to the same hospital where she was preparing to become a radiologist. Johnson ran boutiques, played ukulele in a band and planted fruit trees for the homeless.

Across Lafayette, there’s been an outpouring of love for the victims with people leaving them flowers and holding vigils or moments of silence. “Stay strong Lafayette,” read a sign in front of a Walgreen’s.

“I will never know those women but I think there will always be a love for them,” Mann said, a senior at Louisiana State University who wants to become a doctor.

TIME remembrance

Sandra Bland Remembered as ‘Courageous Voice’ at Funeral

Funeral for Sandra Bland
Tannen Maury—EPA Sharon Cooper, left, talks with supporters as she arrives for the funeral service for her sister, Sandra Bland, at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois on July 25, 2015.

Hundreds attended her funeral

(LISLE, Ill.)—Family and friends of an Illinois woman found dead in a Texas jail remembered her Saturday as a “courageous voice” for social justice and promised to keep fighting for clarity on the circumstances surrounding her death.

Hundreds of people attended Sandra Bland’s funeral near the Chicago suburb where she grew up. They celebrated her life, but some also said they were still struggling to understand how a traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation and landed her in the cell where authorities say she killed herself three days later.

The Harris County, Texas, medical examiner’s office determined through an autopsy that Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag. The 28-year-old woman’s family has questioned the finding, saying she was excited about starting a new job and wouldn’t have taken her own life.

The Rev. Theresa Dear told reporters outside the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church that friends and family continue to have those doubts, even as authorities release documents in support of their conclusion it was suicide.

“When you are about to start a new job, when you know your family is about to bring the money for your release, when you are an activist and a fighter, you don’t take your own life,” she said.

The traffic stop, which was captured on police dash cam video and on a bystander’s cellphone, and Bland’s death in custody have resonated on social media, with many grouping it with other prominent U.S. cases involving confrontations between the police and blacks over the past year.

Bland had spoken out about that issue and others in a series of videos she posted online this year with the hashtag “SandySpeaks.”

Mourners at Saturday’s funeral wore T-shirts with the tag. One person had it scrawled across a car window. Some took to Twitter with the hashtag “SandySTILLSpeaks.”

The July 10 traffic stop became heated when Bland refused the officer’s request to put out a cigarette and his subsequent order to get out of the car. He threatened to shoot Bland with a stun gun unless she obeyed his order and said she kicked him during the tussle. He has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

Dear told mourners that Bland should be celebrated for standing up for herself.

“She challenged and asked the question why, ‘Why should I put out the cigarette?'” Dear said. “She asked 12 times, ‘Why am I being arrested?’ And so we celebrate that part of her personality.”

Her story so moved people that her funeral even drew some who never met her.

“I don’t know Sandra, and I don’t know what happened,” Hank Brown, of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. “But I do know she didn’t have to die. There’s an epidemic of police terror in this country, and people need to stand up.”

TIME Crime

Animal-Rights Activists Arrested for Releasing 5,740 Mink

American Mink
Getty Images

They're also accused of vandalizing the homes and businesses of fur industry members

(OAKLAND, Calif.)—Two animal-rights activists have been charged with terrorizing the fur industry during cross-country road trips in which they released about 5,740 mink from farms and vandalized the homes and businesses of industry members, the FBI said Friday.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Joseph Brian Buddenberg, 31, and Nicole Juanita Kissane, 28, both of Oakland, California, and federal prosecutors charged them with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday said the two caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages during 40,000 miles of cross-country trips over the summer and into the fall of 2013.

“Whatever your feelings about the fur industry, there are legal ways to make your opinions known,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “The conduct alleged here, sneaking around at night, stealing property and vandalizing homes and businesses with acid, glue, and chemicals, is a form of domestic terrorism and can’t be permitted to continue.”

Buddenberg and Kissane allegedly sneaked onto farms in Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota and freed mink and destroyed breeding records. In one case, they released a bobcat from a farm in Montana, according to the FBI.

They allegedly slashed vehicles’ tires, glued businesses’ locks or smashed windows, vandalizing property in San Diego, Spring Valley and La Mesa, California. They are also charged with vandalizing and attempting to flood the Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, home of an employee of the North American Fur Auctions.

The indictment states that they covered their tracks by avoiding phones or logging into known online accounts and email. Instead, they used public Internet computers and encrypted email and cash for purchases while traveling. They would allegedly withdraw hundreds of dollars while back home in the San Francisco Bay Area before another trip.

The FBI states that they drafted communiques and posted them online to publicize their actions on websites associated with “animal rights extremists.”

The two were under house arrest with electronic monitoring until a scheduled court date on Tuesday. It was not clear whether either has hired an attorney.

If convicted, they each face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

TIME California

California to Review Videos Targeting Planned Parenthood

The videos were secretly filmed

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that she plans to review two undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood’s procedures for providing fetal tissue to researchers, to see if any laws were broken.

Harris announced the move in a letter to four Democratic members of Congress who had requested an investigation, saying she’ll use her office’s authority to regulate charity organizations to see if the organization that made the videos violated registration or reporting requirements, or broke any other rules. Harris, a Democrat, plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

“We will carefully review the allegations raised in your letter to determine whether there were any violations of California law,” Harris said in the letter to four members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

She said her office will look into “allegations that individuals impersonated corporate officials from a fake biologics company, resulting in the release of secretly filmed videos of Planned Parenthood physicians without their consent.”

The videos show Dr. Mary Gatter, a Planned Parenthood medical director in Southern California, meeting with people posing as potential buyers of intact fetal specimens. The conversation focuses largely on how much money the buyers should pay.

David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the videos, said it follows all applicable laws when making the videos that he called investigative journalism.

He said in a statement that Planned Parenthood is “trying to use the power of their political cronies to shut down free speech” and to “silence the freedom of the press.”

The videos have brought investigations of Planned Parenthood’s policies on aborted fetuses by three Republican-led congressional committees and three states.

Federal law prohibits the commercial sale of fetal tissue, but it allows the not-for-profit donation of tissue if the women who underwent abortions give their consent. Planned Parenthood says the payments discussed in the videos pertain to reimbursement for the costs of procuring the tissue — which is legal.

Gatter says in the second video, which was released on Tuesday a week after the first, that “We’re not in it for the money,” while also discussing whether a payment of $100 per fetal specimen would be adequate.

Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said in a statement after the release of the second video that the organization behind the videos “is a group of extremists who have intimidated women and doctors for years in their agenda to ban abortion completely.”

TIME Crime

Theater Gunman Killed With Handgun He Bought Legally

"He took his time, methodically choosing his victims"

(LAFAYETTE, La.) — A man who lost his family, home and businesses as he spent years angrily espousing right-wing extremism on television, the Internet and to anyone else who would listen did not say a word as he opened fire on strangers in a darkened movie theater, authorities said Friday.

John Russell Houser, 59, stood up about 20 minutes into Thursday night’s showing of “Trainwreck” and fired on the audience, killing two people and wounding nine with a semi-automatic handgun.

“That was a horrific scene in there — the blood on the floor, sticks in the seats (showing the trajectory of the bullets), the smell,” state police Col. Michael Edmonson said after top officials got an inside look at the theater.

“He took his time, methodically choosing his victims,” Gov. Bobby Jindal added. “One of the surviving wounded victims actually played dead to stay alive.”

Houser then tried to escape by blending into the fleeing crowd after one of his victims pulled a fire alarm and hundreds poured out of the theater complex. But he turned back as police officers approached, reloading and firing into the crowd before killing himself with a single shot inside the theater, police said.

“This is such a senseless, tragic action,” Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said. “Why would you come here and do something like this?”

Investigators recovered Houser’s journals, were studying his online postings and trying to reconstruct his movements to identify a motive and provide what Edmonson called “some closure” for the victims’ families.

Craft said Houser bought the weapon legally at a pawnshop in Phenix City, Alabama, last year, and that he had visited the theater more than once, perhaps to determine “whether there was anything that could be a soft target for him.”

He had only been in Louisiana since early July, staying in a Motel 6 room littered with wigs and disguises. His only known connection to the Lafayette was an uncle who died there three decades ago.

Details quickly emerged about Houser’s mental problems, prompting authorities in Louisiana and Alabama to bemoan the underfunding of mental health services in America.

Court records describe erratic behavior and threats of violence that led to a brief involuntary hospitalization in 2008 and a restraining order preventing Houser from approaching family members. Houser “has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder,” his estranged wife told the judge.

Educated in accounting and law, he owned bars in Georgia — including one where he flew a Nazi banner out front as an anti-government statement. He tried real estate in Phenix City, Alabama. But Houser’s own resume, posted online, says what he really loved to do was make provocative statements at local board meetings and in the media.

On an NBC television affiliate’s call-in show in the 1990s, Houser encouraged violent responses to abortion and condemned working women, host Calvin Floyd recalled. He was an “angry man” who spoke opposite a Democrat and really lit up the phones, he added.

Houser wrote that he was a weekly guest for 60 episodes on “Rise and Shine WLTZ” in Columbus, Georgia, where he “invited political controversy on every one of them, and loved every minute of it.”

In recent years, Houser turned to right-wing extremist Internet message boards, where he praised Adolf Hitler, and advised people not to underestimate “the power of the lone wolf,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose hate-group watchdogs spotted Houser registering to meet with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 2005.

What prompted Houser to kill people Thursday night remains unknown.

He seemed like just another patron as he entered Lafayette’s Grand 16 theater, one of 25 people who bought tickets to the romantic comedy starring feminist jokester Amy Schumer as a boozing, promiscuous reporter.

Police believe he hoped to escape his deadly ambush before police closed in. Inside a Motel 6 room he rented, they found wigs, glasses and other disguises. Houser also swapped the license plates on his 1995 Lincoln Continental before parking it by the theater’s exit door. He stashed the keys atop one of its wheels.

Once inside, he sat by himself and gave others in the theater no reason for concern before he began shooting, firing first at two women who were sitting in front of him, then wounding nine other people.

“He wasn’t saying anything,” Katie Domingue told The Advertiser. “I didn’t hear anybody screaming either.”

Randall Manning’s 21-year-old daughter, Emily, and a friend were sitting in the same row as the gunman, and saw the flashes from his gun barrel.

“She hit the floor immediately,” Manning said of his daughter, who escaped along with her friend but was “traumatized.”

Jeanerette High School English teacher Ali Martin and librarian Jena Meaux were credited with helping save lives amid the chaos. Meaux, who was shot in the leg, told her colleagues that Martin, who was shot in the kneecap, still managed to pull a fire alarm, their former principal Heath Hulin said.

The lights came as the siren sounded, with a message urging everyone to leave. Outside, a woman was laying down, shot in her leg, said Jacob Broussard, who heard the gunshots from another theater across the hall.

“She was bleeding on the grass, in the front of the theater,” Broussard said. “A man had actually dragged her out.”

Theatergoers didn’t panic, police said, but they left in a rush, leaving behind purses, keys and even shoes. Officers found 15 spent shell casings.

The two women killed were 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson. Breaux’s body was brought to the same hospital where she was preparing to become a radiology technician. Johnson ran clothing and art boutiques, played in a rootsy rock band and planted fruit trees for neighbors and the homeless.

The wounded ranged in age from teenagers to their late 60s, Craft said. Five were treated at Lafayette General Health Center. Three patients had been stabilized, including one who remained in intensive care. Two others were released Thursday night.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said his office denied Houser’s request for a concealed weapons permit in 2006 because he had been treated for mental illness and arrested for arson in Georgia.

“He was pretty even-keeled until you disagreed with him or made him mad,” said Jeff Hardin, the former mayor of Phenix City, Alabama, just across the state line from Columbus. “Then he became your sworn enemy.”

Hardin said he once partnered with Houser on a real-estate project, but they had a falling out and hadn’t spoken since around 2007.

Houser was evicted from his home in Phenix City last year, then returned to throw paint, pour concrete down the plumbing and tamper with a gas line, Taylor said.

Houser’s wife filed for divorce in March, saying their differences were irreconcilable and his whereabouts were unknown. His mother recently lent him $5,000, but “It just seems like he was kind of drifting along,” Craft said.

Houser’s only known relative in Lafayette, an uncle, died 35 years ago.

After detailing each victim’s wounds, David Callecod, president of Lafayette General Health, pleaded Friday for society to provide as much funding for mental health services as it does for other medical problems.

Pressed to explain why Houser wasn’t arrested before, Sheriff Taylor also blamed cuts in the safety net.

“There’s cuts being made all over,” Taylor said. “What should be scary for the community is that the cuts being made in mental health around the state are allowing these people, who should not be walking around, to be out in the community.”

TIME Crime

Louisiana Shooter Was Disturbed but Politically Ambitious

He ran for office but dropped out after he was caught stealing his opponent's signs

Long before he opened fire in a crowded Louisiana movie theater this week, John “Rusty” Houser had a history of erratic behavior that scared his family—but he also had a strong interest in local politics, running for office in Georgia in the 1990s in an attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps.

People who knew Houser over the past two decades described a man who at times seemed untethered. He was easily excitable and passionate about political issues, and often highly critical of the local government. He also suffered from bipolar disorder and had a dark and unpredictable streak, leading many who knew him to be wary of him.

On Thursday, Houser stood up at a showing of Trainwreck in Lafayette, La. and, giving no explanation, fired 13 shots, killing two people and injuring nine others, before turning the gun on himself. He was living out of a motel for the months leading up to the shooting, and police described him as a lone drifter.

According to court documents, in 2008 his family got a protective order against him, citing mental illness and “various acts of family violence” (a domestic abuse complaint was filed in 2005). His wife, schoolteacher Kellie Houser, was so worried that she removed all the guns from their home and had him temporarily committed to a mental hospital. They later divorced, and he’s been estranged from his family since.

But things weren’t always this way. In the 1990s, Houser was an aspiring city politician in Columbus, Ga., hoping to follow in his father Rembert Houser’s footsteps. He was a fixture at community meetings in Columbus, now a town of about 200,000, and quick to weigh in on whatever topics were on the agenda.

“He did interviews, he ran for office, his dad was an elected official,” local Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters, who was then mayor of Columbus, told TIME. “I think he looked at himself as kind of a citizen’s watchdog, where he kind of kept an eye on government to make sure everything was done correctly.”

Peters added, “He didn’t trust government—he was always questioning everything we do.”

Houser dabbled in real estate development and owned two short-lived local bars, according to a now-deleted LinkedIn page with his name and photo. In 1996, he ran as a Republican for tax commissioner, mostly on the legacy of his father, who had previously held the office, as first reported by the Ledger-Enquirer. “He ran on his father’s name,” said Lula Huff, who won that election and is still serving as Columbus tax commissioner. “It didn’t matter what subject matter he discussed, it would always come back to ‘I’m the son of Rembert Houser.'”

Still, there were flashes of disturbed behavior. Houser was arrested for arson in 1989 or 1990, police said, one of several things that prevented him from being approved for a pistol license in 2006. (Police said late Friday that he bought the gun used legally at a pawn shop in Alabama last year, and that he visited the theater more than once before the shooting). Huff said she never received any threats during the campaign, but “citizens of the community told me to be cautious.”

Houser eventually dropped out of the 1996 race after he was caught removing Huff’s campaign signs from other people’s yards, Huff said. “Wherever I placed yard signs, he physically removed them,” she said. “When he was caught in the act by a police officer, he had more than 25 in his possession.”

Patti Meadows, a tax clerk who works in Huff’s office, knew Houser from when she worked for his father. The younger Houser would occasionally give her then-13-year-old son Darrick rides to church, and would frequently employ him to do odd jobs around the parish. But often Darrick would make up an excuse to avoid working with Houser. “He would come home and say ‘Rusty was not himself today,'” Meadows told TIME. “My son would tell him he had more homework” in order to go home.

Peters, the former mayor, said Houser seemed mentally unstable at times, but he remained ambitious.

“He talked fast, he moved fast, it was hard to keep him focused,” Peters recalled. “He just seemed like he had not found his niche. He was always searching for that niche and he wanted to be involved, he wanted to be in the forefront.”

TIME Kenya

See How Kenyan Political Cartoonists View Obama

An exhibit of political cartoons in Nairobi is timed for Obama's first visit to the country as a U.S. President

Correction appended, July 25

President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya marks the first time an American leader has ever visited the East African nation, and residents of the capital, Nairobi, put up banners, billboards and flags to celebrate the occasion. Over at PAWA254, an artists’ collective that prides itself on speaking truth to power, organizers prepared a different kind of welcome: a cartoon retrospective spanning Obama’s association with Kenya, from his visit as a senator in 2006 to his return this month.

“The idea was to explain how perceptions of Obama have changed since he was last here in 2006,” says award-winning Kenyan political cartoonist Patrick Gathara, who launched the exhibit just as Obama’s plane was touching down. (Obama first visited Kenya in 1988, but cartoonists back then weren’t paying attention to a gawky teenager’s pilgrimage to his father’s birthplace in a rural village.)

When Obama was elected President in 2008, Kenya declared a national holiday. But Gathara says that Obama’s image, charted through the prism of Kenya’s editorial cartoons, has suffered through the years from a U.S.-born American politician returning to his father’s birthplace to a historic presidential hopeful to the ultimate symbol of American might, for both good and bad. “In 2006 he was welcomed as Kenyan coming from abroad, but now people see him as an American President, and that carries a lot of baggage,” says Gathara. Relations between the U.S. and Kenya hit a low point over the 2013 Kenyan presidential elections, when Obama’s State Department was perceived to be critical of Kenya’s current president, Uhuru Kenyatta. Johnnie Carson, then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said that the United States did not have a preferred candidate in the election, but that “choices have consequences,” a comment that was widely taken as a slur against Kenyatta, who came to power in 2007 through a disputed, and violent, election.

Though the United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Kenyans believe that the U.S., and Obama in particular, backed a 2012 indictment against Kenyatta alleging that he’d orchestrated the 2007 violence. The charges were withdrawn in December 2014 for lack of sufficient evidence.

The ICC theme features frequently in the cartoon exhibition. So too do pointed commentaries on U.S. calls for ending discrimination against homosexuals in Africa, a touchy subject in a country, that like most of Africa, has a hard time accepting homosexuality.

Gathara says he personally believes in equal rights for Kenyan homosexuals, but adds that it has been a difficult subject to tackle for cartoonists—especially since there is a knee jerk resistance to American lecturing among Africans, no matter how justified the lesson. Cartoonists, he says, too often simply reflect public opinion. “I think it is time that we as cartoonists stop pandering to our audience and challenge them instead, by looking at how we deal with our own issues and our own problems.”

Other cartoons in the exhibit speak to a more universal theme: that of a President who has taken a beating during his time in power. Another theme is waning American influence, as Kenya, tired of American lectures, courts China, which has invested more than $5 billion in the East African nation since 2011.

Even though Kenyans are tried of being told how to act by the U.S., some, like Gathara, hope that Obama’s visit will bring more than just improved relations, goodwill and a few nice speeches. Kenya, he says, has a lot of problems, from insecurity to terrorism and corruption—and the country’s leadership doesn’t seem to be doing much to address those issues. “Ours is a government that responds to pressure, not nice words. So I hope behind closed doors, Obama is telling our leaders to stop running this country like a game and to start doing their jobs, so we, as Kenyans, can keep doing ours.” There is a cartoon somewhere in that, he muses. He is just waiting to see how the Obama visit goes before putting it in pictures.

Correction: The original story misstated the amount of Chinese investment in Kenya since 2011. It is more than $5 billion.

TIME justice

Sandra Bland’s Death Draws Attention to Jail Suicides

Suicide is the leading cause of death in jails after natural illness

(DALLAS) — When Sandra Bland died in a small Texas jail last week, she became just the latest name on a long list of inmates whose deaths were determined to be suicides.

Bland’s death following her arrest for a minor traffic violation added fresh fuel to the national debate over police use of force on blacks. It also focused new attention on the longstanding problem of inmates who take their own lives.

The traffic stop “is one issue and that will be dealt with,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said earlier this week. “But she lost her life in the jail. And that’s what we have to look at.” If the correct procedures had been in place, “maybe she would be alive today.”

Suicide is the leading cause of death in jails after natural illness. In fact, inmates take their own lives three times more often than the average population, according to a 2010 study cited in the National Study of Jail Suicide.

Since 2000, the total number of jail suicides has remained fairly constant — around 300 a year, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. Improved awareness and monitoring have helped make suicides far less common than in the 1980s or 1990s.

“You talk to any sheriff 20 years ago and they would say suicides are not preventable,” said Lindsay Hayes, author of the national study. “Today, more often than not, a sheriff is going to be much more proactive or better-read about that issue.”

Statistically, white male inmates are most likely to die by their own hand, both nationally and in Texas. Women make up just a fraction of total jail suicides, and Bland was the only black woman found to have killed herself in a Texas jail since 2009.

The heightened risk of suicide behind bars results from various factors, including those that arise from the jail environment itself.

“Suicides are often spontaneous and notoriously difficult to forecast,” said a 2013 article on Texas jail suicides in the LBJ Journal of Public Affairs published by the University of Texas. “Some stressors may come from the jail environment itself where isolation, loss of control, conflict with other inmates or staff, frustration with legal proceedings, or distress and shame over incarceration may flare suicidal tendencies.”

State law requires all county jails to use one of two “objective jail classification” forms to determine an inmate’s suicide risk and whether enhanced security measures are needed, said Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

It’s then up to each jail to determine how inmates are monitored, he said, noting that state law requires only that a county inmate be observed in-person by jailers at least once every hour. An inmate who may be suicidal or who displays bizarre behavior must be checked every 30 minutes.

A doctor’s order takes priority, Wood added, so jailers must comply if there’s a medical order to monitor an inmate more frequently.

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith has said Bland was not on suicide watch and was supposed to be observed once every hour. But he also acknowledged that jailers at least once violated state rules by interacting with her via intercom and not in-person.

The intercom conversation, during which Bland asked how to make an outgoing call using a phone in her cell, came about an hour before her body was found July 13 hanging from a noose fashioned from a plastic garbage-can liner.

Two jailers who assessed Bland when she was being booked in the county jail were “adamant” that she appeared fine, the sheriff said.

Bland’s relatives have refused to accept authorities’ finding that she took her own life. Her death remains under investigation, as does the traffic stop that led to her arrest and detention three days earlier.

Authorities announced Thursday that an autopsy revealed no injuries that would suggest she was killed by someone else.

When the 28-year-old Chicago-area woman was booked into the county jail on July 10, records show, she reported having attempted suicide after a failed pregnancy. Her sister said the miscarriage happened in 2014. Other booking papers indicated Bland did not have suicidal thoughts at the time of her arrest.

The commission cited the jail last week for violating standards on staff training and observation of inmates, and the sheriff said he was forming a task force to review jail procedures.

Nationally, about 33 percent of all inmate deaths resulted from suicide from 2010 through 2012, compared with 29 percent for the same time period in Texas.

Women have been responsible for just 14 of the 140 inmate suicides in Texas since September 2009, when the jail commission began tracking deaths, according to data released to The Associated Press immediately after Bland died.

With jails becoming the largest providers of mental health treatment in many communities, they need more resources and better standards to keep up with increasing demand, said Michele Deitch, a University of Texas law school lecturer.

Many people who are arrested are already suffering from mental illness, trauma or addiction, Deitch said.

“All of those factors combined with the trauma of suddenly being in jail — the realization of the enormity of what has just happened to them — all of those things can be combined to make them particularly vulnerable in that setting.”


Associated Press Writer David Warren contributed to this report.

TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Caught Up in California Pot Raid

U.S. Army/Getty Images In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag.

But he was found to be uninvolved with marijuana farm, and was not arrested

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for five years, found himself caught up in a raid on a marijuana farm in California on Tuesday.

The pot raid, originally reported in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, took place on a farm where Bergdahl was visiting friends on authorized leave. He was found to be uninvolved with the marijuana operation and was not arrested. The Pentagon reportedly asked Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman to deliver Bergdahl to Santa Rosa to be collected by the army.

Bergdahl returned from Afghanistan in June 2014 after five years in captivity; in exchange, the U.S. government released five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo. He was subsequently charged with desertion and will face court martial.

[Anderson Valley Advertiser]

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