A community inflamed
During the 10 days and nights after a suburban St. Louis police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, protests escalated—and authorities seemed unsure how to calm a community inflamed over that death and larger racial tensions.
Prayer meetings. Community forums. Looting and shooting. Smoke bombs. Armored vehicles. Tear gas. Curfews. SWAT teams. Missouri National Guard. All of that and more grew out of Brown’s confrontation with Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Mo., police force. Witnesses differed on whether the unarmed Brown, with his hands in the air, was running away from or toward Wilson. More than 40 FBI agents came to Ferguson to investigate the incident, and the state was conducting a separate investigation.
Reports out of Ferguson have mainly centered on nighttime clashes between police in riot gear and angry protesters looting and throwing objects. As news outlets showed video of domestic warfare, some questioned the police’s militarized response. Michelle Higgins, worship and outreach coordinator of South City Church, said that even when the police are patient and polite, “their appearance is so daunting that it creates a tension that does not have to be there.”
Tensions increased after police released a video apparently showing Brown robbing a convenience store, and social media drew to Ferguson many people from other cities. Police arrested dozens of protesters, including a few journalists who didn’t clear out quickly enough. In a statement on Aug. 18, President Barack Obama called for calm, asking those in Ferguson to address “the gulf of mistrust” between residents and law enforcement. African-Americans are heavily underrepresented on the police force and in city leadership.
Yet during the day, a different scene emerged. The main throughway, West Florissant Avenue, filled with peaceful demonstrators holding signs, raising their arms (as witnesses said Brown had), and praying for change. Dawn Jones, an intern at South City Church, said the daytime demonstration she joined was “very emotional, I saw a unity that we needed in the city,” as people of many ages and races came together. Even police marched with demonstrators as church groups passed out water bottles and a choir performed on the sidewalk.
Events also brought together churches of different ethnicities and denominations. Jones noted that “St. Louis is so segregated that it’s easy for anyone who is not black to see this as ‘not their problem.’” But since the protests began, she’s seen “a lot of lamenting and crying out” as churches engage in conversations about racial reconciliation and what they can do to help heal the broken city.
For some this meant cleaning streets and supporting mom-and-pop shops in Ferguson that the riots hurt. Jones, a student at Covenant Seminary, brought a group of mostly white seminarians to Ferguson to walk the streets, see the living conditions, visit the memorial for Brown, and pray. She hoped they would connect to what’s going on and see what the community needs: “It’s not just justice, it’s Christ.”
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation reported that nine out of 10 uninsured Americans won’t pay the Obamacare penalty for not having health insurance this year, due to numerous hardship exemptions the administration has carved out for various groups. The joint finding, which showed as few as 4 million nonelderly people paying $4 billion in fines, stoked fears that younger Americans do not have enough incentive to obtain health insurance—a scenario that would drive up premiums and could result in a “death spiral” for the unpopular law.
More missing emails
Another administration official’s emails have disappeared, and the person again happens to be at the center of a congressional investigation. The Department of Health and Human Services informed House lawmakers it couldn’t turn over subpoenaed documents related to the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov. The Internal Revenue Service previously informed investigators email records for more than a dozen officials were unrecoverable due to computer crashes.
General Motors faced more embarrassing safety questions when federal safety regulators revealed faulty power window switches could cause 2006 and 2007 GM model SUVs to catch fire. GM told owners to park the vehicles outside until the part could be replaced. The recall covers 189,000 vehicles—one of more than 60 total GM recalls covering almost 29 million vehicles this year.
Republicans moved closer to a Senate takeover as Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., announced his withdrawal from the November election in the wake of a plagiarism scandal. Walsh, an Iraq War veteran, was appointed to the position earlier this year when Sen. Max Baucus resigned to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. Democrats on Aug. 16 chose state Sen. Amanda Curtis to run in Walsh’s place.
Back in Iraq
The U.S. military began carrying out air attacks on Islamic State targets in Iraq, less than 12 hours after President Obama announced he was authorizing limited action to protect U.S. personnel in the country (see “Numbers matter”). As Obama left for a two-week vacation, Iraq’s new president, Fouad Massoum, named Haider Al-Abadi to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who on Aug. 14 agreed to step down. On Aug. 19, Islamic State terrorists beheaded American freelance journalist James Foley in what they said was retaliation for the U.S. air strikes and threatened to kill kidnapped American journalist Steven Sotloff if the strikes didn’t stop.
Acts 29 action
Acts 29 removed Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill, and its 14 satellite campuses from membership in the church-planting network he helped found in 1998. Acts 29, led by Texas megachurch pastor Matt Chandler, asked Driscoll to “step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help” for “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.” Recent charges against Driscoll include accusations of plagiarism, inflating book sales, and posting profane comments online. The Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources announced it will pull Driscoll’s books from its 186 stores.
A police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old black man during an altercation, sparking protests, looting, and vandalism in the St. Louis suburb. Authorities initially declined to release the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown but days later identified him as Darren Wilson. Two witnesses say the officer shot Brown while he was trying to surrender, but the incident was not captured on video footage. Missouri’s Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon eventually deployed the Missouri National Guard in response to the subsequent rioting and violence.
Kurdish military forces retook two towns in northern Iraq, one of the first instance of setback for the radical Islamic State group. Officials said Kurdish troops repelled extremists from Makhmour and al-Gweir, while U.S. forces carried out a fourth round of air attacks in nearby Irbil. Most countries limited involvement to humanitarian aid, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated U.S. resolve not to send ground troops.
Against the grain
After a string of losses over 14 months, a state gay marriage ban finally withstood a court challenge. Tennessee Judge Russell Simmons ruled that neither the federal government nor other states are allowed to dictate marriage laws to another state, a decision affecting gay couples who want a divorce in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex unions. Simmons rejected the argument that the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause forces one state to recognize marriages from another state and said the Supreme Court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision does not topple state sovereignty on the issue.
Israel and the terrorist group Hamas began a three-day cease-fire agreement while indirect peace talks unfolded in Cairo. The two sides made little progress on the long-term disagreements they have with each other, but the parties later agreed to extend the cease-fire an additional five days. Hamas then broke the cease-fire on Aug. 19 by firing rockets at Israel, and Israel launched air strikes against Hamas in retaliation.
Ukrainian authorities said they would not allow 280 Russian humanitarian trucks to cross its border, claiming the convoy was a covert attempt to smuggle arms to pro-Russian separatists. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said his country would accept humanitarian aid, but only if the items were unloaded off the trucks at the border or approved by the Red Cross. Russia eventually allowed border officials to inspect the trucks.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began mailing notices to more than 300,000 Obamacare enrollees who have questionable immigration statuses. The letters require recipients to respond with verification of U.S. citizenship or legal status by Sept. 5, or risk losing coverage. Originally almost 1 million Obamacare enrollees had immigration questions, but CMS resolved 660,000 of the cases. Texas and Florida residents account for 146,000 of the remaining 310,000.
A day after another leading physician died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, three American missionaries who returned to the United States from Liberia on Aug. 10 remained in a 21-day quarantine to ensure they aren’t infected. Modupeh Cole, the physician who died on Aug. 13, was an American-trained doctor who had tested positive for the disease only a week before his death. Ebola has this year infected more than 2,200 persons and killed more than 1,200. The World Health Organization predicted the situation will worsen, saying the scope of the outbreak may be vastly underestimated.
Major League Baseball team owners voted to approve Rob Manfred to replace retiring Commissioner Bud Selig. Manfred, who bested Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner for the position, is MLB’s chief operating officer and was the lead negotiator for the last three collective bargaining agreements. Selig spent two decades leading the league, avoiding another labor stoppage after the disastrous 1994 strike but also presiding over baseball’s steroid era.
Going to jail
A Maryland judge sentenced Nathaniel Morales, a former youth leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing teenage boys in the 1980s. Judge Terrence McGann during sentencing called Morales, 56, a “pathetic human being” and a “cowardly pervert.” Covenant Life, which was at the time the flagship church of Sovereign Grace Ministries, maintains that it knew nothing of the abuses when they occurred, but testimony at Morales’ May trial revealed three teens came forward in the early 1990s.
A Texas grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on charges that he abused his power when he vetoed a budget item—authority he has under Texas law. The Republican governor called for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign last year after a well-publicized arrest and drunken driving conviction, but she refused. Perry then pledged to cut $7.5 million in funding for Lehmberg’s public integrity unit, which was at the time investigating a Perry-backed project. He is the third potential GOP presidential candidate to face legal attacks from opponents, joining New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The Associated Press released its long-awaited ranking of the top 25 teams in college football, naming the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles the best team in the country. Florida State starts the season No. 1 for the sixth time—but the first since 1999—after winning last year’s national title game, 34-31, over Auburn University. The University of Alabama, the only other school to receive first-place votes, begins 2014 at No. 2, leading a record-tying eight teams from the Southeastern Conference in the top 25. The college football season opens Aug. 27.
Nepal and India reported more than 180 deaths after several days of torrential rains led to massive flooding. The inundation displaced thousands and governments dispatched military personnel in hundreds of boats to rescue those who were stranded. Earlier in the month, a mudslide buried an Indian village, killing more than 150.
A network of more than 200 hospitals in 28 states announced hackers breached its computers and stole more than 4.5 million patient records. Community Health Systems said the theft included names, Social Security numbers, home addresses, birthdays, and telephone numbers for patients who received treatment in the last five years. The company is working closely with the FBI to apprehend the perpetrators, whom investigators determined are in China.
How much to spend?
A Department of Agriculture annual report found the average middle-class cost of raising a child born in 2013 would top $245,000—not including college costs. Housing continued to account for the largest expense, about 30 percent, followed by education and child care. The report in 1960 estimated a middle-income family would spend $25,230, equal to $198,560 today, to raise a child to age 18. But it doesn’t have to cost that much: The average includes those on shoestring budgets and parents who fork over $1,249.99 for a stroller.
More than a drop in the bucket
The ALS Association released fundraising numbers for the Ice Bucket Challenge, an internet sensation supporting Lou Gehrig’s Disease research. The association said it raised $22.9 million in a three-week period, compared to $1.9 million in the same time span last year, including 453,210 new donors. The challenge featured people, including many celebrities, posting videos of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads and challenging others to do the same—or make a donation. Many people elected to douse themselves and still donate.