The Slatest
Your News Companion

May 24 2015 2:37 PM

Watch a Police Officer Taser, Pepper-Spray a Man Who is Suffering a “Massive Stroke”

Recently released video from police body cameras shows how an officer in Fredericksburg, Virginia used a Taser and pepper-sprayed a man who was suffering from a medical emergency on May 4. Fredericksburg police officer Shaun Jergens resigned on May 14 although he insists he did nothing wrong. Jergens was one of three officers who responded to calls of a hit and run driver going the wrong way down a street. David Washington, 34, was driving a Hyundai that hit a jeep before stopping in the middle of an intersection, reports WTOP. When the officers arrive they demand Washington put his hands up but the driver is nearly motionless and does not say anything. “Get out of the car or I’m going to fucking smoke you,” Jurgens says at one point. Jurgens then draws his Taser before using a huge amount of pepper spray on Washington’s face.

The way in which Washington barely reacted to such a large amount of pepper spray should have maybe been a hint that something was wrong. But another officer proceeds to yank Washington to the pavement and at that point he can be heard moaning. “I can’t breathe,” he says before telling the officers he has been sick for days and doesn’t know what’s wrong. He was later taken to the hospital and sources tell the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star that Washington “had a massive stroke and was treated in the intensive care unit.” Charges have been filed against Washington for hit and run, reckless driving and driving on a revoked license.

Advertisement

In a statement, Jurgens insists he acted out of concern for public safety. But the police department determined the amount of force used in the incident was “not appropriate.” Fredericksburg Police rules say officers cannot use a Taser on someone who is behind the wheel of a car or anyone who is “passively resisting,” according to WTVR.  “The use of force demonstrated in the incident involving Mr. Washington was not in compliance with department policy or training,” Capt. Rick Pennock said. “We take matters such as these very seriously and require that officers at all times exercise appropriate restraint and good judgment.”

Video Advertisement

May 24 2015 12:28 PM

Police Arrest 71 During Protests Over Cleveland Officer’s Acquittal

Cleveland police arrested 71 people on Saturday during protests that erupted after officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of killing two unarmed black suspects who died in a hail of police gunfire. The 31-year-old Brelo continues to be suspended without pay and could still face administrative charges but his acquittal on two counts of voluntary manslaughter means he won’t be going to prison. Shortly after the verdict, people gathered for mostly peaceful protests but later in the day some demonstrators “crossed the line,” Police Chief Calvin Williams said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

"We only moved into make arrests when things got violent and protesters refused to disperse," Williams said. "We wanted to make sure people understand we are going to help you in this process, but if things turn violent, we will take action to preserve safety."

474566982-people-block-e-4th-st-and-protest-in-reaction-to
People block E 4th St and protest in reaction to Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo being acquitted of manslaughter charges after he shot two people at the end of a 2012 car chase in which officers fired 137 shots May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images

Advertisement

Police are reviewing video to determine who will face criminal charges, notes the Northeast Ohio Media Group, whose crime editor was arrested during the protests. Kris Wernowsky did not have his press pass on him when officers in riot gear picked up a group of protesters, “mostly young black men whose only crime seemed to be failing to get out of the street when police asked them to move.”

Despite the arrests, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Cleveland should be seen as a model to the country due to the largely nonviolent reaction to Brelo’s acquittal. “They should be so proud of themselves and we should look at Cleveland as a model,” Kasich told ABC News’ This Week. “The people of Cleveland protest, they ought to protest, that's their right, but violence has been kept to an absolute minimum in that city.”

May 24 2015 10:41 AM

A Beautiful Mind Mathematician John Nash Killed in Car Crash

Princeton University mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash was killed when the taxi he was riding in on Saturday crashed into a guard rail on the New Jersey Turnpike. His wife of nearly 60 years, Alicia Nash, was also killed in the crash. John and Alicia Nash were traveling southbound on the Turnpike when their taxi driver lost control as he tried to pass a car that was in the center lane, leading to the crash, reports NJ.com. A law enforcement officer said the Nashes likely weren’t wearing seatbelts because they were both ejected from the car when it crashed. The taxi driver, however, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Nash, who was 86, worked as a senior research mathematician at Princeton University. Alicia Nash was 82. Nash won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, which “marked not only an intellectual triumph but also a personal one,” notes the Washington Post. It came four decades after he had written a 27-page thesis on game theory that would go on to become one of the most celebrated works in his field. The Post explains what happened next:

Before the academic world could fully recognize his achievement, Dr. Nash descended into a condition eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. For the better part of 20 years, his once supremely rational mind was beset by delusions and hallucinations.
By the time Dr. Nash emerged from his disturbed state, his ideas had influenced economics, foreign affairs, politics, biology—virtually every sphere of life fueled by competition. But he been absent from professional life for so long that some scholars assumed he was dead.
Advertisement

Although already well-known, Nash became an international celebrity when his life story, including his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia, were portrayed by Russell Crowe in the 2001 film "A Beautiful Mind," which won four Oscars including Best Picture. "Stunned...my heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts," Crowe posted on Twitter today.

May 23 2015 3:08 PM

Man Convicted of Killing Chandra Levy is Likely to Get a New Trial

Federal prosecutors changed their mind on Friday and finally gave in to long-held demands to have a new jury hear the case against a man convicted in the 2001 killing of intern Chandra Levy. Attorneys for Ingmar Guandique have been arguing for more than a year that a former gang leader who issued crucial testimony lied when he said that his onetime cellmate Guandique had confessed to killing Levy. The “stunning legal reversal,” according to McClatchy, would mean that defense attorneys won’t get to cross-examine the original prosecutor over how she handled that key witness who has now come under fire because he was cooperating with prosecutors in other cases.

If the judge grants the request by the defense it means the mystery that engulfed Washington for years could return to the spotlight a case that “was challenging for authorities from the start,” notes the Washington Post. Guandique was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison even though there was no forensic evidence, no murder weapon and no eyewitness accounts, which is why the questioned testimony was so important for the 2010 trial. Despite the reversal, the prosecution insists it remains confident that Guandique is guilty. “We remain firm in our conviction that the jury’s verdict was correct and are preparing for a new trial to ensure that Mr. Guandique is held accountable,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Still, “The interests of justice will therefore be best served by the government's withdrawal of its opposition to the defendant's motion and affording him a new trial.”

May 23 2015 1:42 PM

Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted for Firing 15 Shots That Killed Unarmed Black Couple

Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo stood on a car and fired 15 shots at the two occupants inside seconds after he and other officers fired more than 120 shots at the vehicle. But he was acting within his constitutional rights, Judge John P. O’Donnell ruled on Saturday.

Brelo was the only one charged in the 2012 killings of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams even though he was one of 13 officers who fired 137 shots into the car after it backfired, leading officers to believe someone had fired a gun, reports ABC News. Out of all the officers who fired their weapons though, prosecutors said Brelo was the only one who actually intended to kill 43-year-old Russell and 30-year-old William noting that the other officers stopped firing at the car once it had been surrounded by police. Prosecutors say that at the time he climbed onto the car’s hood, Brelo’s actions went from justifiable to reckless, reports the New York Times.

rtr4wv27
The windshield of Timmothy Russell's car is shown as the crime scene was mocked up for the court to review during the manslaughter trial for a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio April 10, 2015.

REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Advertisement

After reading a 34-page summary of the case, the judge made it clear he disagreed, saying that "Brelo's entire use of deadly force was a constitutionally reasonable response to an objectively reasonably perceived threat of great bodily harm from the occupants of the Malibu, Russell and Wiliams."

Anger at the verdict was immediate outside the Cleveland courtroom as people began changing “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t soot,” reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "All I know is that I don't trust police no more. No police. None," said Malissa Williams' brother Alfredo Williams. "I can't recover from this. ...This verdict isn't real. This verdict is fake." Brelo’s lawyer, meanwhile, portrayed his client as the underdog in a “David vs. Goliath fight,” notes CNN. "The prosecution in this case spared no expense and was, in fact, ruthless," attorney Patrick D'Angelo told reporters.

The case is unlikely to end here. The U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI will begin reviewing the testimony and evidence to examine all available legal options. "We will continue our assessment, review all available legal options, and will collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable laws in the federal judicial system," said the joint statement cited by the Associated Press.

The killing of Russell and Williams is only one of the incidents in recent years that has raised questions about use of deadly force by the Cleveland Police. And the verdict comes as residents wait for the investigation into the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed when he was seen holding a toy gun. Saturday's verdict amounts to "a very bad precedent for Cleveland," an activist tells the AP. "Police murder people of color and not have to serve one day in jail."

May 23 2015 10:50 AM

It’s a Yes: Irish Voters Overwhelmingly Back Marriage Equality

Update at 2:55 p.m.: The vote has been counted and 62.1 percent cast their ballots in favour of equality with 60.5 percent of 3.2 million eligible voters participating in Friday's referendum. In Dublin, as many as 73 percent of voters in certain areas cast their ballot to support marriage equality, according to the Irish Times.

474482396-drag-queen-artist-and-yes-campaign-activist-panti-bliss
Drag queen artist and Yes campaign activist, Panti Bliss joins supporters in favor of same-sex marriage celebrate and cheer as thousands gather in Dublin Castle square awaiting the referendum vote outcome on May 23, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Original post: Ireland looks on-track to become the first country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples via a popular vote. Although full results are not in, all signs point to voters backing the referendum by a wide margin in the traditionally Catholic country. The only question now is how big that victory will actually be as both government ministers and prominent anti-equality campaigners have both acknowledged the referendum will pass, reports the BBC. Analysts are predicting the “yes” vote will likely receive more than 60 percent support, notes the Associated Press. Some are predicting support in Dublin will reach as high as 75 percent.

474453140-the-count-gets-underway-as-the-ballot-boxes-are-opened
The count gets underway as the ballot boxes are opened at the RDS count centre on May 23, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Advertisement

The news that equality would win out was widely expected, particularly because of the number of people who went to cast a ballot. Irish national broadcaster RTE said on Friday that it appeared to be one of the highest ever turnouts for a referendum in the country, according to Reuters.  

Government officials did not wait for the official results to celebrate the news. Minister for Health Leao Varadkar, who came out as the country’s first gay minister earlier this year, said the vote turns Ireland into a “beacon of light” for the world, reports the Irish Times. Minister for Equality Aodhan O Riordain said on Twitter: “I'm calling it. Key boxes opened. It’s a yes. And a landslide across Dublin. And I’m so proud to be Irish today.”

May 23 2015 8:26 AM

The Week in Photos

A festival visitor walks through the “Kaleidoscope” installation as part of the Vivid Sydney Festival on May 22, 2015, in Sydney.

May 22 2015 6:00 PM

Obamacare May Force Some Insurers to Boost Their Premiums an Alarming Amount

On the whole, the Affordable Care Act is working pretty well, getting more people insured and increasing the quality of insurance overall. But on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported an alarming development: Health insurers on many state exchanges are looking to boost their premiums a ridiculous amount in 2016. New Mexico's leading provider, for instance, is seeking a 51.6 percent hike, while Maryland's is seeking a 30.4 percent hike. (Insurers in other states, like Vermont and Indiana, are asking for minimal increases.)

Libertarian and conservative outlets are, predictably, citing the rate hike as yet another Obamacare catastrophe. But it's actually a fairly foreseeable—and possibly temporary—problem. The ACA forced a bunch of uninsured people to get insurance. A hefty amount of these newly insured people were sick when they joined their new plan. Suddenly able to afford treatment, these sick people drained insurers' funds. But as they regain their health and remain on their plan, they'll stop draining their insurers' resources and start boosting them instead.

Advertisement

There's another huge footnote to the initially eye-popping premium boosts. These are all proposed hikes: In many states, insurance regulators can force insurers to justify their rate increases, and some can reject any increase they find to be unjustified. The federal government, too, can require insurers to explain any premium increase beyond 10 percent—though it lacks the power to reject a rate hike. Thus, some insurers may have initially overestimated their premium increases so they can comfortably negotiate downward.

All of these estimates, by the way, rely on the assumption that the Supreme Court won't gut Obamacare in June by revoking federal subsidies for people in states that didn't set up their own exchanges. Should the court go down that rabbit hole, the havoc wrought on the American health care system would be catastrophic and, most likely, irreversable.

May 22 2015 4:54 PM

Digging Through the Clinton-Benghazi Friday News Dump

The State Department on Friday made public 296 emails related to Libya and the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that were sent to and from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account.

Slate—along with the rest of the Internet—will continue to sift through the 848-page trove, but don’t be surprised if there’s not much major news to be found, at least for now. This batch of emails was previously turned over to the GOP-led House panel probing the 2012 Benghazi attacks, and roughly a third of those documents—presumably containing the most juicy bits—were subsequently leaked to the New York Times, which reported on their findings earlier this week.

Advertisement

You can check out the Times recap of what they found here, but their biggest takeaways were: 1) Memos from Sidney Blumenthal—a longtime Clinton ally with business interests in Libya who was reportedly barred from working for the State Department by the Obama administration—were often forwarded to Clinton’s team without making it clear where they came from; and 2) Clinton’s email shows that her private server hosted information known as “sensitive but unclassified.”

So far, the biggest revelation from Friday’s news dump was that Clinton received information about the Benghazi attack on her private email server that has since been classified. The email in question related to reports of arrests of possible suspects in the attack on the consulate, but because the information was not classified at the time the email arrived on Clinton’s private server, no laws were violated.

There very well may be more news of note in the full trove, but it's likely that the messages will color in between the broad brush strokes we already have, not paint an entirely new picture. One new thing I did learn by digging through the trove (or, more accurately, clicking through an incredibly slow-loading database): By far the most common notes Clinton sent to her staff—from what I’ve gotten to so far, at least—were simply asking someone to print something out, or in Clinton’s preferred shorthand, “Pls print” (or, occasionally, “Pis print").

There were online articles to be printed:

And timelines of her pre-attack actions:

And compilations of her post-attack statements:

And even thank you notes:

Clinton's emails give us some insight into her and her team's thinking before and after the attack—the pre-attack timeline, for instance, suggests that Clinton once hoped Libya would be a bright spot on her State resume. And of course there is more to come. The rest of the 55,000 emails from Clinton's time at the State Department that she and her staff decided were worth saving will be released in stages. The State Department had originally wanted to wait to release them all at once in January 2016, but a judge rejected that plan and ordered the department to come up with a rolling schedule, which has not yet been finalized. When they are released, it's a safe bet that Clinton will have someone print them out for her.

May 22 2015 4:49 PM

Ireland Was Once “the Most Catholic Country.” Now It Might Be the First to Vote to Legalize Gay Marriage.  

Irish citizens are at the polls today for a historic vote that could make the country the first in the world to legalize gay marriage through referendum. The referendum has been heavily favored to pass in opinion polls, though the gap has been narrowing in the days leading up to the vote. The votes won’t be counted until tomorrow, but even if the polls are wrong and the measure doesn’t pass, the fact that the referendum is even taking place—and that all of the country’s major political parties are supporting legalization—shows a remarkable social change in a famously Catholic country that legalized divorce only 20 years ago.

The archbishop who would later become Pope Paul VI described Ireland as “the most Catholic country” in 1946. Church attendance was once nearly universal in the Republic, and the church controlled almost all the schools and hospitals, as well as exerted substantial influence over the government. John Paul II visited Ireland on one of his first foreign trips in 1979 and drew some of the largest crowds in Irish history. But around that time, Catholicism in Ireland began a long, slow decline. 

Advertisement

Eighty-four percent of the Republic’s citizens still describe themselves as Catholic, but that’s becoming more of a cultural than a religious identity. According to the country’s archbishop, weekly church attendance has declined from 90 percent in 1984 to 18 percent in 2011. Less than half of Irish now consider themselves religious, and surveys show religiosity is declining faster in Ireland than almost every other country in the world. Ireland now ranks seventh in the world for atheism. And Ireland’s Catholics are decidedly non-orthodox about their faith: Ninety percent believe priests should be allowed to marry, for instance. Ireland once supplied priests to churches throughout the world, but the country now has so few that the church fears there may soon not be enough for weddings and funerals. 

So what accounts for Ireland’s dramatic retreat from the pews? For one thing, it’s part of an international trend: Church attendance has been declining in nearly every European country. Globalization likely played a part: Ireland joined the EU (then known as the European Economic Community) in 1973, increasing its exposure to the region’s larger social trends. Immigration also transformed Irish society, with 17 percent of the country’s population now foreign-born. Free secondary education and mass broadcast media, neither of which was universal in Ireland until the 1960s, also likely played a role, as did the “Celtic tiger,” the country’s late-1990s economic boom, which transformed what was formerly one of Europe’s poorest countries into one of its wealthiest.

It’s also hard to overstate the impact of wave after wave of abuse scandals that rocked the country in the 2000s, revealing an endemic culture of sexual abuse within the church stretching back to the founding of the Republic, as well as massive cover-ups by both clergy and the police. The abuse revelations implicated the Irish state as well: In 2013 the Irish government finally apologized for its role in sending thousands of women to the church-run laundries where they were detained, sometimes for decades against their will, for crimes like being unwed mothers.

The church hasn’t retreated from society completely. It still controls over 90 percent of the country’s schools, though the government is working to transfer hundreds of them to secular control. And in contrast to the support for gay marriage, abortion still remains illegal in the vast majority of circumstances. But even that might be changing. After a horrendous case in 2012, in which an Indian dentist died after being denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy, caused international outrage, Ireland finally legalized abortion for cases when the mother’s life is at risk.

Irish voters have consistently rejected legalizing abortion in any circumstances, but the question hasn’t been put to the public since 2002, a lifetime ago given how fast public opinion has been shifting in the country on social issues. If gay marriage is legalized tomorrow, proponents may be emboldened to push for another vote

READ MORE STORIES