PHOENIX — The human backup driver in an autonomous Uber SUV was streaming the television show "The Voice" on her phone and looking downward just before fatally striking a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix, according to a police report.
The 300-page report released Thursday night by police in Tempe revealed that driver Rafaela Vasquez had been streaming the musical talent show via Hulu in the 43 minutes before the March 18 crash that killed Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a darkened road outside the lines of a crosswalk. The report said the crash, which marks the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle, wouldn't have happened had the driver not been distracted.
Dash camera video shows Vasquez was looking down near her right knee for four or five seconds before the crash. She looked up a half second before striking Herzberg as the Volvo was traveling about 44 miles per hour. Vasquez told police Herzberg "came out of nowhere" and that she didn't see her prior to the collision. But officers calculated that had Vasquez been paying attention, she could have reacted 143 feet before impact and brought the SUV to a stop about 42.6 feet before hitting Herzberg.
"This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted," the report stated.
Tempe police are looking at a vehicular manslaughter charge in the crash, according to a March 19 affidavit filed to get a search warrant for audio, video and data stored in the Uber SUV.
The detective seeking the warrant, identified as J. Barutha, wrote that based on information from the vehicular homicide unit, "it is believed that the crime of vehicular manslaughter has occurred and that evidence of this offense is currently located in a 2017 Grey Volvo XC-90."
A previously released video of the crash showed Vasquez looking down just before the crash. She had a startled look on her face about the time of the impact.
The National Transportation Safety Board, in a preliminary report issued last month, said the autonomous driving system on Uber's Volvo XC-90 SUV spotted Herzberg about six seconds before hitting her, but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled.
The system is disabled while Uber's cars are under computer control, "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior," the NTSB report said. Instead of the system, Uber relies on the human backup driver to intervene, the report stated. But the system is not designed to alert the driver.
Uber pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona the day before the NTSB report was released, eliminating the jobs of about 300 people who served as backup drivers and performed other jobs connected to the vehicles. The company had suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto while regulators investigated the cause of the crash. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was run over.
Police initially determined that Vasquez was not impaired after giving her a field test.
Analysis of video taken from the vehicle shows Vasquez looked downward 204 times in the 11.8 miles traveled before the crash. While the SUV was in motion, Vasquez averted her eyes away from the roadway nearly a third of the time, according to the report.
"Sometimes, her face appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down," the report said. "Her hands are not visible in the frame of the video during these times."
Attempts by The Associated Press to contact Vasquez through email and phone numbers on Friday weren't successful.
Cristina Perez Hesano, a lawyer for Herzberg's daughter and husband, and Pat McGroder, an attorney representing Herzberg's mother, father and son, declined to comment on the police report.
An Uber spokeswoman said in a prepared statement Friday morning that the company is cooperating with investigations while it does an internal safety review. "We have a strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles. We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our program soon," the statement said.
Use of a mobile device while an autonomous vehicle is moving is a fireable offense, and "this is emphasized on an ongoing basis," the statement said.
After the crash, the ride-hailing company said it did a top-to-bottom safety evaluation, reviewing internal processes and safety culture. Uber also said it brought in former transportation safety board chairman Christopher Hart to advise the company on safety.
Both Vasquez and Uber could still face civil liability in the case, Uber for potentially negligent hiring, training and supervision, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who closely follows autonomous vehicles.
Vasquez could be charged criminally, and if there's evidence that Uber or its employees acted recklessly, then charges against them are possible, Smith said. But charges against the company are not likely, he added.
"This should not have happened in so many ways and on so many levels," Smith said. "This report, if true, makes things worse. And obviously it would not look good to a jury."
Uber settled quickly with some of Herzberg's family members but others have retained legal counsel.
The Yavapai County Attorney's Office hasn't set a deadline for deciding whether to bring charges, said Penny Cramer, assistant to County Attorney Sheila Polk. The prosecutorial agency declined to comment on the police report.
The case was handed to Polk's office after the prosecutor's office in metro Phoenix passed on the case, citing a potential conflict of interest. The agency in Phoenix had previously participated in a public-safety campaign with Uber.
On a body camera video the night of the crash, police gathered at the scene quickly realized that they were dealing with a big story because an autonomous vehicle was involved.
An officer who identifies himself as supervisor of the unit that investigates fatal crashes is seen asking a man who appears to be an Uber supervisor about getting video from the SUV and whether Uber's lawyers have been contacted.
"You guys know as well as I know that this is going to be an international story," the police supervisor says. "We want to make sure that we're doing not only what we normally do and not doing anything different, but also making sure that everything's above board and everything's out in the open."
The supervisor goes on to say that he's going to communicate as honestly as he can. "I hope that you guys do the same because we're going to be working together throughout this whole process from now, probably for months from now."
The former Game of Thrones co-stars were married at Scotland's Kirkton of Rayne church on June 23 in front of their family, friends and, of course, castmates. The reception will be held at nearby Wardhill Castle — a property that's been in the Leslie family for generations.
"I rang [the scheduling producer] up and I said, 'I’m getting married and it’s your fault actually,'" Harington revealed during an October 2017 appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show. "I was like, 'You need to factor in a Game of Thrones wedding by the way.' They [the cast] have all got to be there so the whole thing has got to shut down."
Notable Thrones players in attendance included Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams, who wore coordinating outfits. Co-stars Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke were also spotted in the area on Friday.
“The engagement is announced between Kit, younger son of David and Deborah Harington of Worcestershire, and Rose, middle daughter of Sebastian and Candy Leslie of Aberdeenshire,” the announcement — under the names Mr. K.C. (Kit Catesby) Harington and Miss R.E. (Rose Eleanor) Leslie — read.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama opened up about race and the elevated expectations that come with being "the first" while speaking at the American Library Association's annual conference in New Orleans on Friday.
"Barack and I knew very early that we would be measured by a different yardstick," Obama said of her husband's tenure as the nation's first black president during a conversation with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden. "Making mistakes was not an option for us. Not that we didn't make mistakes, but we had to be good — no, we had to be outstanding — at everything we did....When you're the first, you're the one that's laying the red carpet down for others to follow."
Obama, who spoke during the conference's opening general sessions, also emphasized the need to look beyond a person's color.
"It's just a shame that sometimes people will see me, and they will only see my color, and then they'll make certain judgments about that," she said. "That's dangerous, for us to dehumanize each other in that way. We are all just people."
A jogger who says she inadvertently crossed the Canadian border while running was reportedly detained by U.S. authorities for two weeks.
Cadella Roman, a 19-year-old French woman who was visiting her mother in White Rock, British Columbia, said she accidentally ran across the Canadian border into Blaine, Washington, on May 21, CBC News reports. Roman claimed she did not see any signs marking the border, and told CBC she did not know her beachside run had taken her into the U.S. until she was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
"I said to myself, well I may have crossed the border — but they'll probably only give me a fine or they'll tell me to go back to Canada or they'll give me a warning," Roman told CBC.
Instead, CBP took Roman — who did not have any documentation with her during the jog — into custody and transferred her to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, where she remained for two weeks, CBC reports.
Roman was released on June 6, after her mother, Christiane Ferne, provided immigration officials with her daughter's paperwork and authorities in both the U.S. and Canada determined that the jogger could return to Canada.
CBP did not immediately respond to TIME's request for comment, but a representative told CBC that the case was handled appropriately — regardless of whether Roman knew she had crossed the border.
"It is the responsibility of an individual traveling in the vicinity of an international border to maintain awareness of their surroundings and their location at all times to ensure they do not illegally cross the border," the representative said in a statement. "Additionally, it's important for people traveling near the border to carry identification at all times, so that agents or officers can easily verify their identity."
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's adult son has reportedly been accused of inappropriately touching a female passenger during a flight from Washington, D.C., to Boston.
Multiple local outlets reported that a woman accused Andrew "AJ" Baker of groping her breast during a JetBlue flight on Wednesday. The woman told authorities that flight attendants had to move her to another seat after Baker allegedly refused to stop touching her, CBS Boston reports.
JetBlue did not immediately respond to TIME's request for comment, but confirmed to CBS Boston that "an incident between customers" occurred on the flight.
“On June 20, the crew of flight 1345 were notified of an incident between customers shortly before landing in Boston," a representative said in a statement. "The aircraft landed at approximately 11 p.m. local time where it was met by local authorities.”
No charges have been filed against Baker, but a representative for Gov. Baker told TIME that he will fully cooperate with authorities. “This is a personal matter for the Baker Family and A.J. will cooperate with any request from authorities," Lizzy Guyton, Gov. Baker's communications director, said in a statement.
The case falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Baker graduated from Massachusetts' Swampscott High School in 2012, and from New York's Union College in 2016. He played football for both schools.
Natural gas production in the U.S. is about to experience another boom with production increasing 10% this year over 2017 and 60% in the next two decades, according to a new report from IHS Markit. The report’s authors say that means more jobs and less climate change-causing carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.
But there’s also a dark side to the natural gas boom: a study published this week in the journal Science shows that natural gas production emits significantly more methane than previously understood. Methane, which contributes to global warming, is more potent than carbon dioxide but stays in the atmosphere for a shorter period of time.
The two realities underscore a growing divide among environmental groups and policymakers about the place natural gas should have in the future U.S. energy mix. Some progressive groups argue that the fossil fuel should be purged entirely while pragmatic environmentalists say technology can help reduce methane emissions and help address climate change.
“Methane is this industry’s Achilles heel as they look out toward the future,” says Matt Watson of the Environmental Defense Fund, which organized the study. “If this industry wants to be a valuable part of a decarbonizing future they have to tackle this problem.”
The Science study, led by EDF in collaboration with a slew of academic institutions and industry partners, found that methane emissions across the oil and gas industry’s supply chain — meaning during production and transportation — are approximately 60% higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated. Annual methane emissions of the scale highlighted in the new study have the same effect trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere as the carbon dioxide emissions from actually burning the natural gas, according to the study.
Leaders at EDF say stemming methane emissions present a relatively easy avenue to address global warming. The group has advocated a number of different methods along those lines from federal policies that require oil and gas companies to prevent leaks to pushing industry to implement new technology. Such initiatives have received some support in the oil and gas industry in large part because trapped methane can create a new stream of revenue. A 2015 report from the Rhodium Group estimated that methane leaks across the globe resulted in a $30 billion of lost revenue in 2012.
In that view, natural gas will serve as a "bridge fuel" that will help the globe transition away from coal entirely while renewable energy technology continues to develop. Last year U.S. large carbon dioxide emissions hit their lowest point in years in large part due to the rapid deployment of natural gas that displaces coal.
But continued expansion of natural gas may make it difficult to keep that trend alive as the energy source now primarily competes with renewables rather than coal. In response, some environmental groups have launched campaigns to tip the scale in favor of renewables. The efforts seek to stop natural gas power plant and pipeline construction.
“Simply put, no amount of methane leakage is OK for the planet,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, an environmental group, in a statement. “Instead of looking for ways to patch up inherently flawed energy approaches like gas fracking, we should be placing an immediate moratorium on all fossil fuel development."
That’s easier said than done. The natural gas industry boomed a decade ago has hydraulic fracturing — known as fracking — and the new methods of drilling reduced the cost of the energy source. And, even after that boom, today regions like the Permian Basin in West Texas hold vast untapped reserves. Moreover, most projections show natural gas use continuing to expand across the globe as energy demand grows. And a slew of new natural gas power plants have come online in recent years that would be uneconomic too close.
With that in mind, many climate policymakers have sought to engaging those companies. “Without participation of the energy sector in the transformation that we need to have to address climate change we will not be able to get to the goals set in the Paris Agreement,” Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told TIME at an energy conference in Houston this March. “We need to engage with all the actors that have an impact in achieving those goals.”
President Donald Trump explicitly compared the tragedy of families whose relatives have been killed by undocumented immigrants to the family separations at the border, saying that the "angel families" are "permanently separated" from their family members.
"These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones, the word 'permanently' being the one you have to think about," Trump said Friday afternoon at an event with the family members. "They’re not separated for a day or two days. They’re permanently separated."
The event came at the end of a controversial week for Trump and his Administration's immigration policies. Public backlash grew over a "zero-tolerance" policy that led to the separation of families at the southern border, and on Wednesday, Trump signed an Executive Order to end family separations by detaining children and parents together.
But Trump and some of the grieving family members he appeared with on Friday attempted to cast perspective on the border separations by discussing their own tragedies. "We weren’t lucky enough to be separated for five days [or] ten days, we’re separated permanently," said Laura Wilkerson, whose 18-year-old son was killed in 2010. "Any time we want to see or be close to our kids, we go to the cemetery, because that’s where they are."
Trump often brought members of "angel families" to events with him during his presidential campaign, and he continued to showcase them at Friday's event to spur action on his signature campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration. "Your loss will not have been in vain," he told the group. "We will secure our borders... We’re going to have a safe country and your loved ones are going to be playing— and will continue to play— a big part in it." (Data disputes the notion that immigrants raise crime rates in the U.S.)
Trump also promoted the office his Administration created at the Department of Homeland Security dealing with immigrant crime called VOICE (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement). He said VOICE, launched last year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was set up to help victims receive information on their perpetrators.
As Congress struggles to bridge bitter divides on immigration policy, family members at the event also hoped their stories would encourage politicians to pass immigration reform. "Let’s work together and get this done, all politicians, I don’t care what side you’re on," said Sabine Durden, the mother of another victim. "You don’t want your child in a casket or in an urn. So get it together for God’s sake for this country. For our citizens."
What is an anti–Donald Trump Republican to do? For Steve Schmidt — a top campaign aide to President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential run and other top Republicans’ races — the answer was to quit the party and become an independent.
While the decision to become an independent in these circumstances might make sense for a veteran Republican operative, it is the rise of independent voters among the general public that has contributed to some of the very problems independents often speak out against. Schmidt’s decision to go independent should not serve as an example to the average American voter.
In a series of Twitter posts, Schmidt announced on June 20, “29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.” He then called for voters to support Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections in order to hold Trump accountable.
Schmidt’s decision joins an array of other prominent Republicans who have become independents in response to Trump’s rise, including Evan McMullin, the former GOP staffer who decided to run for president as an independent.
The rhetoric around independents is and has been quite bold and self-congratulatory. It goes: Independents are citizens who have the moral courage to declare a pox on both houses, and the capacity for free-thinking that enables them to say “no” to the partisan options that have been presented to us; they chart their own path. These independents supposedly hold the key to breaking through our bitter partisanship, our rampant tribalism.
But if independents were truly the key to fixing our politics, our politics would be just about fixed by now. In 2014, the percentage of Americans who identified as an Independent reached an all-time high of 43%. Today, it sits at 42%. There are more Independents in this country than either Democrats or Republicans. Fifty percent of Millennials are political independents. So why don’t our politics reflect these free-thinking, morally pruned voters? A rise in independents should result in a politics more focused on common ground, not less — right?
The problem is that politics is not an individualistic endeavor. Independents tend to spurn institutions generally, and then feel vindicated when our institutions do not reflect their views. But while Independents think they are sending political parties a message, political parties do not hear them.
This is not an abstract argument. It is a practical problem. In many states, you cannot vote in a party’s presidential primary unless you belong to that party. You cannot become a party delegate and vote on the party platform unless you belong to that party. In essence, Independents actively minimize their impact on elections and party positions. When people leave (or fail to join) parties in protest, they starve those parties of ideological diversity, driving them to their extremes.
This reveals a deep flaw in how we think about political parties. The truth is: You join a political party to influence that party, not for that party to influence you.
Parties hold no actual control over the political convictions of their registered members. When you register to join a political party, there is no fine print that reads, “I hereby sign over my conscience to every jot and tittle of my party’s platform.” There is no loyalty pledge involved.
Political parties certainly want you to think that’s not the case — it’s much easier for their officials to lead if they can convince you that they define who is a “real Democrat” or a “real Republican” and who is not. But our political parties only have the power to change our views if we give it to them.
While Schmidt’s personal ties to the Republican party may prevent him from joining the Democrats, who he has spent a lifetime trying to defeat, for those who do not work in politics and whose choice about party affiliation is not so woven in the fabric of their lives, becoming an Independent generally weakens your influence as a citizen. If you look at the state of our political parties today, and agree with Schmidt that the Democratic Party is “the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent and remains fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies,” you should become a Democrat.
If you believe one party more closely — not perfectly, but closely — aligns with your political views of what is best for your neighbors and your country, you should join that party. If you believe your party, however flawed, is still the best option for the country, stay and fight for it — regardless of the immoral actions of its leader. If after taking into consideration the structural impediments in our system for third parties, you still believe investing in a third party is the best choice, do that. But to withdraw from our political parties is to unilaterally forego one of the primary levers we have of influencing the direction of our government. Party participation is not an identity statement. It is a choice about how to use your power as a citizen.
What our political parties need most right now are people who will proudly identify as a member of that party, and are willing to advocate from within that party on issues of disagreement. While it may be desirous to posture as separate from our political dysfunction — to try to absolve ourselves of blame for the state of our political parties — the sobering reality is that our politics are always a reflection of who we are. Now is not the time to withdraw. Instead, it is in this time of profound political dysfunction, that we must commit to reclaim the best of our parties for the good of our nation.
Demi Lovato surprise-releases a heartbreaking ballad about addiction and mistakes, "Sober," that tugs at heartstrings. Paul McCartney returns with a new single that will have old fans waxing nostalgic, and new fans eager to rediscover the Beatles discography. Boy band PRETTYMUCH get a bit of that Ed Sheeran magic on their breezy new song "Summer on You." Singer-rapper Bryce Vine offers up some swagger in the form of song on "On the Ball." And Cheat Codes teams up with Little Mix for an EDM bop.
A 9-year-old boy visited an ophthalmology clinic in Larissa, Greece, complaining of vision problems in his left eye, the case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says. Despite having 20/20 vision in his right eye, doctors found that his left eyesight was around 20/100 — a discrepancy explained by a hole on his left macula, a part of the retina that "provides sharp, central vision," according to the National Eye Institute. Macular holes can cause blurry and distorted vision, and typically happen through eye trauma or as part of the natural aging process.
After interviewing the patient, doctors determined that his eye damage was likely caused by playing with and staring at the light of a green laser pointer. Given the extent of the damage, the boy's doctors opted not to operate, and said his vision has not improved during 18 months of follow-up.
"Macular hole, in general, is usually repairable, but it doesn't usually happen from laser pointers," explains Dr. John Miller, director of retinal imaging at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. (Miller was not involved in the case.) "The laser actually heats up the tissue...and almost burns or vaporizes the retinal tissue, so it's lost, as opposed to in the more typical traumatic injury or in the older patient population."
Miller says most patients who experience laser-related damage see less-severe — but still potentially permanent — injuries, typically affecting only the outer retina. Massachusetts Eye and Ear sees in the ballpark of three to five such cases per year, he estimates.
Lasers can cause eye damage in as little as a few seconds, and anything from the power and wave length of a laser to the angle at which it's viewed can affect the severity of an injury, Miller says. But based on the extent of the Greek boy's injuries, Miller guesses that his exposure was prolonged.
"Most likely, with the size of the hole, this was an extended period of exposure," he says. "It would not be likely to happen with a very brief exposure, but it's hard to know."
To play it safe, Miller recommends keeping kids away from laser pointers, even if they seem harmless.
"A laser pointer, to many, would seem safe, but there are many out there that are not properly screened and they don't have the proper warnings," Miller says. "If you notice your child is playing with it, take it away or very carefully look at it to make sure [it's safe]. There's really no reason kids should be playing with laser pointers, basically."