TIME Personal Finance

This City Now Has America’s Highest Sales Tax

USA, Illinois, Chicago, Grant Park, Chicago Skyline
Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket via Getty Images It's not just the buildings that are sky-high.

A new hike is aimed at filling a gaping pension shortfall

Chicago has long had a steep sales tax, but a vote by Cook County commissioners Wednesday night made the city’s rate the highest in the nation.

The commissioners approved a 1% hike, which bumped the sales tax rate in Cook County—where Chicago is located—from 9.25% to 10.25%. The increase passed with the minimum number of votes needed and is aimed at helping bail out the pension system for county workers.

Chicago’s 10.25% sales tax rate, which goes into effect January 1, 2016, surpasses four cities in Alabama—Birmingham, Montgomery, Macon, and Mobile—that previously captured the highest sales tax title, according to the Tax Foundation. They all have city sales tax rates of 10%. Other cities near the tip-top are Fayetteville, Ark. (9.75%) and Santa Monica, Seattle, and Tacoma, Wash., which all have sales tax rates of 9.5%.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who advocated for the hike, said the increase would generate an estimated $474 million more in sales tax per year and is necessary to ward off the “pension tsunami” that’s closing in on the county. The retirement fund has a shortfall of $6.5 billion—a figure that’s growing by $360 million per year.

TIME Crime

U.S. Cities See a Wave of Homicides

Violence Baltimore police
Karl Merton—Baltimore Sun/Getty Images Madison Street is blocked by police due to a barricade situation on May 20, 2015 in Baltimore.

Some cite local problems; others blame a "Ferguson effect"

For a number of cities around the country, the summer of 2015 is beginning to look like the end of the years-long decline in violent crime.

Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., among others, have all seen significant increases in their murder rates through the first half of 2015.

Homicides in St. Louis, for example, are up almost 60% from last year while robberies are up 40%. In Washington, D.C., 73 people have been killed so far this year, up from 62 last year, an 18% jump. In Milwaukee, murders have doubled since last year, while in nearby Chicago homicides have jumped almost 20%.

It’s unclear what’s driving the increase across multiple cities, as some cities are dealing with localized issues that may not apply when looking at the rising crime rates elsewhere. St. Louis police say that judges have been too lenient against criminals who have had histories of illegal gun possession and prosecutors haven’t aggressively pursued murder charges.

In Milwaukee, officials say they’re dealing with lax gun laws in the state, while Chicago officials blame criminals who are buying guns in states like Wisconsin and Indiana–two states with fewer firearm restrictions–and using them in criminal acts in the city.

Criminologists warn that the recent spikes could merely be an anomaly, a sort of reversion to the mean after years of declining crime rates. But there could be something else going on, what some officials have called a “Ferguson effect,” in which criminals who are angry over police-involved shootings like that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in August, have felt emboldened to commit increased acts of violence.

TIME Markets

No More ‘Roar’ as Famed Trading Pits Come to an End

Virginia McGathey
Charles Rex Arbogast—AP Commodities broker Virginia McGathey talks about the demise of the agricultural-futures pits after trading ended for the day at the CME Group in Chicago on July 1, 2015

"If people came to your spot, you shoved them out of it"

(NEW YORK) — Pete Meegan had every intention of going back to college, but then he got a summer job in the Chicago trading pits and fell in love with the “roar” of the floor, the excitement of “4,000 people yelling, ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!'” and decided no more classroom for him.

That roar will soon go silent. On Monday, most futures pits in Chicago and New York, where frenzied buying and selling once helped set prices on cattle and corn, palladium and gold, and dozens of other commodities, are expected to close for good. Traders yelled and shoved and flashed hand signals, just as they did in the movie “Trading Places.” But now the computer — faster, cheaper and not nearly as noisy — has taken over.

It will be a sad day for Meegan, still in the pits 34 years after dropping out of college, donning a tradingjacket and mustering the courage to tell his dad.

“I thought he was gonna kill me, but he was like, ‘I don’t care if you pick up garbage or you’re a dog groomer. If you are happy doing what you are doing, you’re ahead of 99 percent of the people in the world,'” recalls Meegan, now 54.

The few dozen jobs that will be lost when the pits shut down is just part of it, veterans say. What’s also disappearing is a rich culture of brazen bets, flashy trading jackets and kids just out of high school getting a shot at making it big. The pits were a ruthless place, but they were also a proving ground where education and connections counted for nothing next to drive and, occasionally, muscle.

“If people came to your spot, you shoved them out of it. ‘This is my two-foot space … so get out of it,'” says Dan Sullivan, a broker who’s been working in the pits since 1981. The competition, he adds, also bred camaraderie. “These guys knew me better than my wife.”

Dan Grant, 53, traces his love affair with the pits to a $150-a-week job as a “runner” ferrying messages between clerks taking phone orders from customers and brokers executing them.

Six years into his career, on Oct. 19, 1987, stocks were plunging around the world and he was a clerk taking orders from the head traders at Chemical Bank and Drexel Burnham Lambert desperate to buy anything to protect themselves. Grant still marvels that, just 24 years old and with no college degree, he wielded such power in the crash, later known as Black Monday.

“They were buying Treasurys and currencies, and watching their stock portfolios go to zero,” he recalls. “It was a lot of fun.”

The pits that are closing deal in futures, or contracts to buy or sell something at a later date at a set price. They’re used by farmers to lock in prices for their crops before harvest, for instance, and investors as a way to bet that prices will go up or down.

Not all futures pits are going away. In its February announcement about the closings, the owner of the exchanges said the pits where Standard and Poor’s 500 stock futures and options on futures are tradedwill remain open. Floor trading of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, which is owned by a different company, won’t end, either.

But the few remaining pits are a small, perhaps fleeting, victory for the dwindling number of traders who still use hand signals to buy and sell.

Where once futures on everything from pork bellies and wheat to Treasurys and Eurodollars were onlytraded in this “open outcry” system, now just 1 percent are. Where once thousands of futures traders stood shoulder to shoulder, now just a few dozen show up on a typical day.

“There were five (people) in the wheat pit today,” laments broker Virginia McGathey after the closing bell in Chicago last Wednesday. “Back in the day, there were 400.”

Scott Shellady, a broker standing nearby, worries that fewer humans could mean more violent swings in food prices. He fears turbulence could be triggered by an unusually large offer from a stranger in India or another far off place to buy or sell a futures contract.

“That pit, with 500 guys, you can’t have a flash crash because … there are 499 people that know he doesn’t normally trade that big,” says Shellady, who wears a black-and-white cow print jacket, a reminder of a time when brokers needed to stand out on the floor.

Since at least 1870, when the first octagonal pits were installed in Chicago, traders have been reading the “tone” of the crowd to sense where prices might be heading and feeling the “rush” when placing a big bet.

After more than 40 years of trading, George Gero knows all about the feel and thrill of the pits. But he is also familiar with wrenching change, and learning to adapt to it.

After fleeing from the Nazi’s in wartime Hungary, he came to New York, and found a home in the commodities pits downtown. And at 79, he’s still at it, marveling at how the computer allows him to find prices for gold and currencies around the world, no matter the time of day.

But Gero, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets, is not a complete fan of the new way. “It’s very cold … strictly numbers,” he says.

Grant, the runner turned clerk who now oversees his own trading firm, says he has embraced change, too. But he mourns the loss of the kind of entry-level positions that gave kids without much education a chance to prove themselves, just as he did.

“The customer doesn’t have to call anyone to execute a trade,” he says.

Sullivan, the broker, puts it bleakly.

“It’s kind of a slow death for people,” he says. “Maybe I am holding on to something that needs to go.”

TIME celebrity

Lady Gaga Mistakes Chicago Mariachi Festival for Pride Parade

"Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big"

In an attempt to show her support of the Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday, Lady Gaga instead championed the world of mariachi performers.

Gaga shared a photo on Instagram Sunday from the balcony of her Chicago apartment overlooking what appears to be a huge gathering of people down below.

“Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big,” the “Born This Way” singer, 29, wrote. “So many happy people. Happy pride!”

In the image, Gaga goes shirtless, instead bearing the words “Gay Pride” across her chest and stomach.

The issue? The singer wasn’t anywhere near the city’s pride parade. The gathering was in fact the Chicago Mariachi and Folklórico Festival.

The event, honoring the Mexican folk music, was held at the recognizable Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.

The parade, however, took over the city’s Uptown and Lakeview neighborhoods.

The Mariachi Heritage Foundation first caught the snafu and shared it through their Facebook page, writing, “‘So many people’ she says!”

They later had a little fun with an image of Gaga above the festival, photoshopping a sombrero on her head and ‘Mariachi’ onto her chest.

Regardless of setting, the star was still proud to support gay rights.

“This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued,” she wrote on another pic.

This article originally appeared on People.com


Ford to Test a Car-Sharing Service

Ford is joining the likes of Zipcar and other car-sharing services.

The 112-year-old automotive company is partnering with car-sharing companies Getaround (in America) and easyCar Club (in the U.K.) to test an all-Ford, peer-to-peer car-sharing service for drivers. The test will run through November in six cities: San Francisco; Berkeley; Oakland; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago. Ford will directly invite around 14,000 American and 12,000 British customers to try out the service. GM launched a similar car-sharing program in 2012, but ended it not long after.

Read next: 3 Ways to Avoid Costly Rental Car Insurance

TIME Aviation

Nut Rage Redux: Man Diverts Rome-Chicago Plane Over In-Flight Snacks

The incident echoes 2014's "nut rage" case that saw a South Korean airline executive briefly jailed

A man whose behavior is alleged to have caused a United Airlines flight traveling from Rome to Chicago to be diverted to Belfast on Saturday appeared in court Monday on charges of endangering the safety of a plane, being disorderly, and assaulting one of the cabin crew.

According to William Robinson, police constable in charge of the U.K. case, Jeremiah Mathias Thede, an American citizen with a registered address in Berkeley, Calif., is alleged to have stood up during the flight’s ascent, while the seatbelt sign was still on and refused to sit down until he was served nuts and crackers. Ten minutes later, he allegedly again asked for the snacks and became abusive when he was refused, the BBC reports.

Testimonies in court contend that Thede was belligerent with the crew, lifted bags in and out of overhead lockers, and blocked aisles until both passengers and crew felt unsafe. The flight was therefore diverted before it crossed into open water.

Thede said he was the victim of a conspiracy and was being “picked on,” Robinson told the BBC.

The United Airlines flight landed safely in Belfast, dumping more than 13,000 gallons of fuel. The airline estimates the incident could cost as much as $500,000 in compensation.


TIME movies

Spike Lee’s Newest Film Project Chiraq Hit With Trademark Claim

Director Spike Lee & Actor John Cusack Discuss Upcoming Film
Daniel Boczarski — Getty Images Spike Lee attends a press conference to discuss the upcoming film 'Chiraq' at St. Sabina Church on May 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

An individual has contacted the director’s attorney, demanding that Lee refrain from using the term

Spike Lee’s latest film project about the Windy City’s troublesome record with gun violence appears to have attracted another detractor.

The upcoming movie, Chiraq, first angered local officials, who fear the film will adversely affect the city’s image. Now somebody has come forward claiming to have several trademarks tied to the slated title of the project.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Emmett Benjamin has contacted the director’s attorney, demanding that Lee refrain from using Chiraq because of its links to the House of Christ Temple Divine he is associated with.

Benjamin lists the concept of the “Sovereign nation of Chi-raqi” in the group’s official charter, reports the Tribune. The organization has reportedly used “Chiraq” on articles of clothing, in song lyrics and on myriad websites associated with the temple.

“We put over $100 into marketing last year to try to spread awareness,” Benjamin told the daily. “I hate to say it, but Spike Lee’s project would seem to be a result of our hard work in marketing.”

Lee has not responded publicly to these allegations.

[Chicago Tribune]

MONEY Travel

Southwest Airlines Flights Priced from Just $49 in Flash Airfare Sale

Joe Amon—Denver Post via Getty Images

Wanna get away?

From now until 11:59 p.m on Thursday, Southwest Airline is offering super cheap fares nationwide in a new sale. Tickets for some of its shortest flights are available for just $49 each way, and many more routes are priced at less than $100.

For example, there are $99 trips from New York to New Orleans and Houston to Chicago. On shorter-haul flights such as Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Boston-Baltimore/Washington, fares start at $49 one way. Cross-country routes, like Los Angeles-Atlanta, are available for $149, a bargain compared to the usual prices nowadays.

Unfortunately the promotion won’t work for last-minute travel, as the sale applies to departures between August 25 and December 16 of this year. Plus some holiday periods are blacked out, including around Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Another key bit of fine print to note is that the sale does not apply to flights on Fridays or Sundays.

Be warned: Southwest’s site might be buggy right now because of the high web traffic it’s attracting due to the sale.

This promotion is the latest from the popular airline, which tends to get relatively few complaints from passengers, is about to add wider seats, and is known for great customer service—though, of course, not everyone feels that way.

Read Next: Why Travelers Should Love It When Travel Stocks Tank

TIME Crime

What’s Behind Baltimore’s Record-Setting Rise in Homicides

baltimore police shooting maryland
Colin Campbell—Baltimore Sun/Getty Images Police pick up a pair of tennis shoes after a double shooting in the 2300 block of E. Preston Street in Broadway East on May 24, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.

Emboldened criminals, low officer morale and fears of jail time for police

Baltimore police officers making routine stops or arrests around the city are encountering something very different these days: bystanders, often dozens of them, crowding around and recording their every move.

Since the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black Baltimore resident who died in police custody on April 19, the balance of power between police and citizens in the city appears to have tilted on its axis. Protests following Gray’s death, which at first experienced little police pushback, have led to elevated levels of violence around the city by criminals who some experts say appear emboldened. There were 43 homicides in May, the most in any month since December 1971—when the city was almost one-third bigger than it is today. According to numbers compiled by the Baltimore Sun and the FBI, the average number of monthly murders in May from 2009 to 2014 was 21.

At the same time, arrests have plummeted. In the first two weeks of May, arrests by Baltimore police were down 57% from the year before.

Since six officers were indicted in Gray’s death on May 1, police officers’ concerns over potential prosecution for improper use of force now appear to be holding many of them back from arresting suspects altogether. When they do, they’re surrounded by smartphone-wielding citizens. It’s as if the police are no longer patrolling Baltimore the way they once did; instead, the citizens are patrolling them.

“The cops I’ve spoken to say it’s different now,” said Peter Moskos, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and former Baltimore City police officer. “Cops are saying, If we’re going to get in trouble for well-intentioned mistakes, then f— it, I’m not working.”

Recent events in Baltimore aside, crime often goes up in the summer in cities across the country, not necessarily because the heat drives people to violence but because more people are outdoors and teenagers aren’t in school. Last year, the worst months for violence in Baltimore were May and August, while June and July are generally the deadliest for New York City and Chicago, according to police data.

Like Baltimore, New York City and Chicago have experienced increases in homicides this year. According to the New York Times, shootings in New York are up 20% from 2013 while there have been 98 homicides involving guns so far this year, an increase from 69 in the same period in both 2013 and 2014. In Chicago, there have been 161 homicides this year through May 31, up from 140 in 2013 and 137 in 2014. Officials in New York have blamed the rise in homicides on deadly conflicts between “career criminals” and gang activity in Brooklyn and the Bronx, while Chicago officials say criminals are buying guns in neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin, which have fewer restrictions on firearms, and committing crimes with them in Chicago.

But what’s been happening in Baltimore is different. The number of murders has doubled while shootings are up more than 80%, and most experts say that it’s at least partly linked to a reluctance by police to actively do their jobs.

“There’s a sense that the criminal element is recognizing that the police are in a very defensive position,” said Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor who studies policing.

Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore city’s Fraternal Order of Police, says that due to the violent nature of Baltimore’s protests in April, many residents now feel as if they can get away with crimes they couldn’t have previously.

“They were allowed to break the law without being arrested,” Ryan said. “The criminal element is taking advantage of the crisis. They don’t believe there’s any recourse.” Ryan added that many officers he’s talked to are concerned that mistakes on the force could potentially get them indicted. “Officers are afraid of doing their job,” he said. “They’re more afraid of going to jail than getting shot and killed right now.”

Morale within the department appears to be at an all-time low. Greenberger said many officers have had to give up vacation time and off-duty hours to respond to crises, while others have left the department altogether. Many on-duty officers are also being pulled away from their normal beats to back up other officers during a stop or an arrest because of the groups of people who gather to record their actions. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has described situations in which “30 to 50 people” are surrounding officers on duty.

“They’re still doing their jobs, but now these stops takes four officers instead of two because they’re surrounded by people filming them,” Moskos said.

Baltimore also appears to be at least a short-term test case for how much of an effect policing has on crime. Moskos said some experts don’t accept the notion that policing is linked to crime rates and that crime can only be lessened by tackling root causes like poverty or poor education, rather than boosting a police force.

“The link to police and crime has never been fully accepted,” he said. “But it’s not like poverty got worse over night. Those root causes didn’t change over night, but policing did change. There’s absolutely less aggressive policing as crime is going up. Cops are doing less because they don’t want to get in trouble.”

The Freddie Gray incident has also brought to light years of frustration and anger toward the police department. Greenberger argues that much of that anger goes back to policing strategies put in place in the 1990s under former Mayor Martin O’Malley, now a Democratic candidate for president, who focused the police department on a “zero tolerance” strategy that relied on achieving arrest quotas, oftentimes of low-level crimes. That strategy, a version of what is often called Broken Windows policing, is sometimes criticized for leading to racial profiling.

“You cannot underestimate the anger of people in some of these communities,” Greenberger said. “That anger, I believe, has led the police department to be much more cautious in its policing mechanisms.”

Alex Tabbarok, who studies the relationship between crime and policing, said he believes that even if policing had stayed the same, crime would’ve probably gone up because of some of the root causes, like poverty.

“But you can’t have such a dramatic fall in arrests without seeing an increase in crime,” he said.

TIME Music

Riot Fest Announces Lineups Featuring Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and No Doubt

BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend Norwich 2015 - Day 1
Dave J Hogan—Getty Images Snoop Dogg performs on stage at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend at Earlham Park on May 23, 2015, in Norwich, England

Some top names will be performing their classic albums in full

Organizers have announced the first wave of lineups for the multicity, touring music festival Riot Fest.

This year, the flagship Chicago event will take place in a new location in Douglas Park from Sept. 11 to 13 and features Modest Mouse, No Doubt, Faith No More, Iggy Pop, Drive Like Jehu, Motörhead, Tenacious D, Coheed and Cambria, Eagles of Death Metal and loads more.

Several artists will also perform their classic albums in full, including Ice Cube (Straight Outta Compton), Snoop Dogg (Doggystyle) and Rancid (… And Out Come the Wolves).

Denver’s fest runs between Aug. 28 to 30 and features many of the artists above as well as the Pixies, Run DMC, Explosions in the Sky and more.

Toronto closes the festival at Downsview Park between Sept. 19 to 20 and is set to feature Wu-Tang Clan, Tyler the Creator and others.

Check out the full festival lineup and buy tickets here.

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