National / International News
A new poll shows Americans think the rich have too much influence and that the political money system needs an overhaul, but they rate it low on the priority list.
Five years ago, Erik Castro came back from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and an alcohol problem, though he wouldn’t admit to either.
“I don’t want to ask for help,” he says. "I wanted to do what I know how to do. Violence. Drinking. In the Marine Corps, it was just drinking a lot.”
It’s a combination — PTSD or other mental illness and substance abuse problems — that has landed a disproportionate number of veterans in the criminal justice system. In response, more than 200 jurisdictions have opened veterans courts. Modeled on drug courts, they offer defendants an alternative to jail or prison time, and proponents say, save counties and states money in the process.
Castro ended up in the veterans court in Orange County, California, after he got drunk and beat up a worker in a Subway restaurant. He says he doesn’t remember much of what happened, but he woke up the next morning in jail facing a bunch of felony charges.
The veterans court wasn’t his first choice, he says, but it seemed better than prison. And when he started the program, he was pleasantly surprised to find that it felt familiar.
“It was like being in the Marine Corps again,” he says. “They’re watching you ... they’re on you.”
The program is modeled on drug courts, so the emphasis is on treatment and recovery rather than punishment. In this case, the court connects clients to existing services, mostly through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and then forces the vets to make use of them or go back to jail. It’s intense: there’s substance abuse treatment, group therapy and individual therapy, plus regular check-ins with the judge and probation officer at court.
“They make you get those demons out,” Castro says. “They make you work, work, work.”
But it’s also supportive.
“What makes this unique,” says Joe Perez, the presiding judge, “is we’re all getting together, trying to figure out what’s the best way to keep this person from coming back.”
In Orange County, one of the ways they try to keep people from coming back is to make court feel like the military. The judge makes references to the military, sometimes addressing clients by their rank.
Every participant is assigned a mentor — themselves all combat veterans — to help them figure out how to cope. At the beginning of each court session, the mentors introduce themselves by name and branch of service. The courtroom responds with a cheer.
Perez says keeping people like Castro out of prison has all kinds of benefits, but “the bottom line: it’s saving lives and money.”
The court estimates the program has saved the county more than $2 million in jail and prison costs since it started five years ago. But it’s still small. There are just under 40 people in it today; about 100 others have either graduated or been asked to leave.
Douglas Marlow, who is an expert on these kinds of alternative courts, says it’s too early to say how well veterans courts work. “But comparing it to what the success rates are in the justice system in general,” he says, “we have good reason to believe we will have substantial impacts above and beyond what’s happening currently.”
In other words, veterans fare so poorly in the regular criminal justice system, these are almost guaranteed to have better outcomes.
Roth's reporting on mental illness and the criminal justice system was supported by a Soros Justice Fellowship.
Palentologists have to do a lot of digging to tell a story.
But it didn't take much to unearth the news that lots of natural history museums are hoping to capitalize on "Jurassic World," when it makes it ways into theaters next week.
"We felt like Jurassic World was a great opportunity for us to sneak in a little promotion," says Randall Gann from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. The museum will have a booth in the lobby of one of the biggest theaters in Albuquerque on opening day, with staff, brochures and a Tyrannosaurus rex skull.
The Museum of the Rockies, in Bozeman, Montana, is holding a fundraiser where the movie will be screened before it opens in theaters. Tickets, which cost between $35 and $75 sold out in hours.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia recently screened the first three Jurassic Park films and held a dino-themed dance party.
The Morrison Natural History Museum in Morrison, Colorado, will also try to raise money with a special screening.
But, the bigger goal, says Morrison Director Matthew Mossbrucker, is education. "We're going to be able to take movie monsters and use them to generate conversation about real animals and real science," he says.
For one, Hollywood dinos are inappropriately large. "I've seen many times people stand in front of the skull of a T. rex and wonder if it's a baby," Mossbrucker says, "even though it's as big as a washing machine."
The goal is to turn fans of Hollywood’s supersized prehistoric creatures into fans of the real thing.
May's heavy rains have raised Texas reservoirs to 83 percent full, compared with 66 percent a year ago, according to the Texas Water Development Board. On the surface, that is good news for Texas, which has struggled with severe drought for years. But water experts say what looks like the end of a drought might just be the middle of one.
As of this week, more than 1,000 Texas public water systems were enforcing water restrictions. The good news: about 70 percent of Texas is now drought free, and the three-month outlook shows drought improving or ending in August.
But it’s tough to know when a drought starts and when it ends. John Tracy, president of the American Water Resources Association, says in the short term, Texas has more water than it can deal with.
“But when you look out a month or two, if the rain completely shuts off and they go back into low precipitation for the rest of the summer,” he says, “you can find yourself back in a drought pretty quickly.”
Tracy says drought is simply when you have a hard time meeting water needs. And if groundwater and reservoir levels are any indication, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Paul Block, who teaches civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says record-breaking rains have bolstered many Texas reservoirs, “but they are by no means full yet.”
That's about how much the average sticker price for medical procedures rose from 2011 to 2013, according to new government data, far outpacing inflation. The New York Times notes a couple of the highest-earning physicians are fighting charges related to alleged shady billing practices.200
That's how many jurisdictions have opened veterans courts. Like drug courts, they offer treatment options in lieu of prison time. With veterans often suffering from some combination of PTSD and mental illness, the courts can offer much needed help that officials say saves the state money in the long run.240,829
As of this writing, that's how many retweets the Vanity Fair cover debut of Caitlyn Jenner — formerly Bruce Jenner — received. It was a massive scoop for the magazine, and keeping the story and first photos of Jenner after her transition from leaking wasn't easy. Mashable learned that the whole package was produced on a single computer that wasn't connected to the internet, then stored on a flash drive overnight while the computer was wiped each day.$35 - $75
That's how much a ticket will cost you to a screening of the forthcoming "Jurassic World" at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. Sensing a marketing goldmine, many museums with dinosaur wings (both literal and figurative) are getting in on the potential for blockbuster fundraising.$8,500
That's about what it costs for horses to fly "business class." Yes, there are several businesses that will fly your prized horse around the country if need be, but they don't come cheap. As with human air travel, extra legroom is going to cost you.