TIME cities

Seattle Bus Fares Are Now Based on Your Income

Mass transit officials have long offered discounts to certain commuters—seniors, veterans and government employees, to name a few. On Sunday, Seattle added people from low-income households to the list.

Under a new program, commuters with household incomes less than two times the federal poverty line pay only $1.50 for most trips on the region’s buses, light rail trains and street cars. The county estimates that the program could save workers who commute during peak hours more than $900 per year.

Seattle, like cities across the country, has seen a growing income gap between its highly-educated residents with high incomes and poorer residents. The commuter program is one of many efforts to assist those on the lower end of that spectrum. The city’s highly-publicized $15 minimum wage, another such effort, takes effect in April.

 

TIME cities

Know Right Now: Washington, D.C. Legalizes Pot

Four other states have already legalized recreational marijuana

Recreational marijuana use and adult possession (up to two ounces) became legal in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, but there’s still no way to legally buy the drug. Watch today’s Know Right Now to find out more.

TIME weather

Boston Area Dogs Are Climbing Snow Banks to Escape

Winter Storm in Boston
Dominick Reuter—EPA A woman walks her dog through Copley Square during a blizzard in Boston on Feb. 15, 2015.

Police in Weymouth are warning pet owners to keep their dogs leashed

You know your city officially has too much snow when your dog can climb the mountainous snow bank in your yard and escape.

The Weymouth Police Department, about 15 miles outside of Boston, Mass., issued this warning on its Facebook page on Thursday: “Please watch your dogs. We have been dealing with a large number of dogs that are running the streets. Most of them are getting out of yards that are usually secure because of snow banks.”

MORE: Watch the Most Selfless Dog in the World Shovel Snow

The police department warned residents that their beloved pets could get hit by cars or picked up and sent to a shelter if they didn’t have their proper tags.

Snowfall in the Boston area has shattered records in the past month. Snow totals have now hit 100 inches for the season, and most snowfall has come within the past month. A University of Oklahoma meteorologist has even calculated that the likelihood of this much snow falling in a 30-day stretch would occur only once every 26,315 years.

TIME cities

NYC, Orthodox Jews Reach Deal on Circumcision Suction Ritual

Health officials have linked 17 cases of infant herpes since 2000 to the ancient ritual

(NEW YORK) — The city said Tuesday it has reached a tentative agreement with members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community over a tradition known as oral suction circumcision.

Health officials have linked 17 cases of infant herpes since 2000 to the ancient ritual of sucking blood from the wounds on the infants’ penises.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said mohels, as the circumcisers are called in Yiddish, should no longer be required to obtain signed consent forms before the rites.

Administration officials said they will ask the Board of Health to vote to rescind the requirement while working with a coalition of rabbinical leaders and medical experts to educate members of the ultra-Orthodox community about the possible dangers of the practice, known as metzitzah b’peh in Hebrew. A vote is expected in June.

If an infant is found to have herpes after a circumcision, officials will ask a rabbinical coalition to identify the mohel who performed it so his DNA can be tested. If he is found to have infected the infant, he’ll be banned from performing the ritual.

Oral suction circumcisions first came under scrutiny in 2012 during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, which asked parents or guardians to sign consent forms indicating they understood the medical risks.

But the city’s mohels, believed to perform more than 3,000 rites each year, say they apply strict medical procedures, including testing for herpes, sterilizing their hands and rinsing with mouthwash before the ceremony.

Rabbi A. Romi Cohn, who has performed 35,000 circumcisions, said he believes babies could have contracted the herpes virus from sources other than mohels.

Officials said Tuesday that DNA testing by health officials would likely prove or disprove whether there’s a match between an infected infant and a mohel. If not and a baby still tests positive, health officials will try to seek the source of the herpes, which often results in blisters on the skin.

Officials said the new agreement fulfills the mayor’s commitment to find a more effective policy that protects children and religious rights.

“Increasing trust and communication between the city and this community is critical to achieve the administration’s ultimate goal of ensuring the health and safety of every child, and this new policy seeks to establish a relationship based on engagement and mutual respect,” the administration said in a statement.

Details of the agreement haven’t been finalized, but officials concede it’s impossible to enforce the proposed measures in a community that practices its religious freedom in private.

Mohels have produced only one signed consent form in recent years, and rabbis have urged their faithful not to comply.

Of the 17 cases cited since 2000, two were reported in 2013 and four were reported last year. Families refused to name four of the six mohels, and the other two declined to be tested, the city’s Department of Health said.

De Blasio’s administration will ask hospitals, obstetricians and pediatricians who serve the community to distribute information about infants’ health risks associated with herpes, which they say can lead to brain damage or death.

The rabbinical coalition has pledged to cooperate with city health officials in identifying any mohel in question and asking him to undergo testing, administration officials said.

The new protocol roughly mirrors that of Rockland, a county north of New York City that’s home to thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

TIME cities

Rahm Emanuel Seeks to Avoid Runoff in Chicago Mayoral Election

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks with residents at a senior living center during a campaign stop on Feb. 23, 2015 in Chicago.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks with residents at a senior living center during a campaign stop on Feb. 23, 2015 in Chicago.

The incumbent must receive at least 50% of the vote in Tuesday's election

It’s Election Day in Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the four candidates that are vying for his spot spent the past couple of days scrambling for last-minute votes.

Emanuel needs to get over 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff in the non-partisan contest. He’s raised about $15 million in the race, according to the Chicago Tribune, and has received vocal support from President Obama, who praised his former White House chief of staff during a visit to Chicago last week. The president has appeared in a radio spot, is featured in Emanuel’s latest ad, and even stopped by a campaign office during his visit.

Emanuel’s biggest challenge comes from Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who has criticized the mayor for spending big in the race—saying it’s proof that wealthy donors are funding his campaign.

According to a recent Chicago Tribune poll, Emanuel had 45% of the vote while Garcia had 20%. Challengers Alderman Bob Fioretti and Businessman Willie Wilson each had 7% of the vote and candidate William Walls held 2% of the vote.

[Chicago Tribune]

TIME Television

The Wire, Serial and the Decline of the American Industrial Empire

AP ON TV The Wire
Paul Schiraldi—AP Photo/HBO Clarke Peters, left, and Dominic West in a scene from season five of "The Wire"

What TV can teach us about Baltimore, and what Baltimore can teach us about the world

When The Wire first aired on HBO, critics and fans swooned over the performances of Idris Elba, as drug pusher Stringer Bell, and Dominic West as the shambolic but determined detective Jimmy McNulty. But the often-overlooked star of the series was the city of Baltimore itself.

While ostensibly a dark police drama, The Wire is also a window into the history of Baltimore over the last 30 years, and what happens when sociological theories become public policy. The viewers hailing it as the best television show ever made were being shown a side of American urban history that is rarely explored in such detail.

The Wire is a story of systems, people’s role in them and resistance to them. The global capitalist system is the force that has built up and then abandoned Baltimore. In season 2, longshoremen are shown a promotional film of robotic cargo handling at Rotterdam, and realize that their jobs will be eradicated by this new technology. They are unable to resist this change.

The importance of “the system” extends to all of the characters. In 1938, Earl R. Moses conducted a study on the “Negro Delinquent in Baltimore” for the Works Progress Administration. This study was included in Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay’s influential 1942 book Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas, which promoted Social Disorganization theory to explain the phenomenon of juvenile crime. This book’s introduction endorsed the new federal housing projects that were then being proposed, and which later formed the main location for the start of The Wire. Social disorganization theory holds that location is the key factor for crime, not an individual’s race or personal tendencies: put very simply, people in rough neighborhoods are more likely to be rough. Paradoxically, while housing projects were meant to clean up crime-ridden areas, in many places they made it worse — for precisely the reasons the sociologists should have expected. Once criminal elements took over the projects, kids within them were more likely to be drawn to crime.

These projects — and the world they created — were partly responsible for how gang crime changed since the 1960s, when it was largely a juvenile phenomenon of petty delinquency, to a system of groups that include older members and more entrepreneurial activities. Changing attitudes in social control meant that, rather than seeing troublemaking youngsters in need of guidance, authorities saw organized crime in need of punishment.

And, though social disorganization theory fell out of favor after the 1960s, around the same time that the nature of gang crime changed — and when criminologists often turned to cultural explanations, for example the idea that young, black men are violent because of the legacy of slavery, or because of absent fathers — it has recently come back into vogue. The “broken windows” policing theory is related to social disorganization theory; both share the emphasis on place as a contributing factor in crime.

But what makes this scene distinctive to Baltimore as opposed to any other city plagued with gang crime? Why is this place special? It’s a matter of scale: The Wire depicts a world in which gang participation had reached a critical mass. The teenagers involved are not deviating but conforming. While these young men have been largely excluded from the legitimate economy, participation in a gang can offer a job, a sense of inclusion and also protection. (Even though it will never be lucrative for most participants. As Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt showed us in Freakonomics, while the leaders may profit, the kind of money filtering down to the lowest level soldiers, or “hoppers,” is very small.)

Despite the numbers, members of the urban underclass are not empowered citizens. They are not citizens at all, in police parlance, a “citizen” being a law-abiding, presumably tax-paying, member of the community. Even the gang members on The Wire recognize and accept this classification themselves, distinguishing in their own victims between fellow criminals and “citizens,” and priding themselves on not harming the latter. So, in the context of this community, a large proportion of the black male population will never be regarded as “citizens.” Thus they are faced with resisting a system from which they are excluded, and which regards them as a problem to be managed.

Which brings us back to the housing project, one of the management systems used. We learn from the show that all residents of are photographed for identification and security. In addition, the police are often watching from rooftops, taking photos: making the housing projects a panopticon in which all are under scrutiny. Supposedly to “detect and punish deviance,” in the words of James C. Scott’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance, CCTV seems to be a punishment in itself, denying people privacy. In The Wire, the opening credit shot shows a more aggressive resistance to this oppression, as the view is shown through a CCTV camera that is hit with a rock, fracturing the lens.

Baltimore is unlucky as hell, from what we see. Parasitic government, politically hamstrung and underfunded police, hellish public schools, dying economy, rampant drug crime. A perfect storm of urban dysfunction.

In reality, the city has tried — as other post industrial cities have — to find ways to resist or accommodate an economy in which its old industries are no longer needed.

Anyone visiting Baltimore today can see its waterfront regeneration, which was depicted in The Wire from the perspective of political corruption and a working class forced out by gentrification, but this redevelopment doesn’t necessarily reach the average resident. And the city still feels awkward about its past. It lacks a city museum; H. L. Mencken’s house is no longer open to the public; Edgar Allen Poe’s house has also struggled despite the efforts of fundraisers, its ability to attract visitors no doubt impaired for many years by its proximity to the crime-ridden Poe Homes projects. The biggest tourist draw is Fort McHenry, just outside the city.

Baltimore’s murder rate went from 27.6 per 100,000 in 1985, to a peak of 48.2 in 1993. It remained close to that peak through the 1990s, and had dropped back to 37.3 in 2009 and remains there currently, according to FBI figures. This is better than it was, but still equates to over 230 homicides annually, and demonstrates that Baltimore has not seen the massive drop in violent crime experienced in other big cities. (New York’s murder rate is now 4, and Chicago’s 6.5.)

More recently, the podcast Serial drew the eye of crime watchers back to Baltimore, by investigating the 1999 murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee. Serial is not The Wire—it’s not fiction; it takes place in Baltimore County rather than the city; its focus is a single crime—but it touched on a number of elements of Baltimore’s crime narrative. Most disturbingly, one episode discussed Leakin Park, where Lee’s body was found. This wooded park has been notorious since the 1960s for the number of bodies dumped there. The same location was discussed in The Wire, where a detective talks of going to look for a body there, and being warned, “We’re looking for one body in particular—if you go grabbing every one you see, we’ll be here all day.” There’s even a website that keeps a ghoulish tally of the bodies found there, and it is assumed there are more than have been recorded — another example of the importance of place. Even as the city tries to rebound in reality, these two very different narratives keep bringing back the bad associations for Baltimore, which is even more unfortunate if one subscribes to theories about location.

By inviting us to witness those “sharing a dark corner of the American experiment,” as the show phrased it in Season 3, The Wire explains the recent history of Baltimore, a city that has been sidelined in American popular culture of the last generation. And though its story is specific, its broader message is the decline of the American Industrial Empire, and how one of the biggest cities in America became a byword for crime and decay: “Charm City” indeed.

TIME indonesia

These Cities Have The Worst Traffic in the World, Says a New Index

INDONESIA-SOCIAL-TRAFFIC
BAY ISMOYO—AFP/Getty Images This picture taken on January 20, 2015 shows a gridlock in Jakarta's main road. Jakarta has just won the distinction of having the worlds worst traffic, according to a recent index.

And you thought your commute was bad?

Jakarta is the worst city in the world for traffic jams, according to new index created by motor oil company Castrol. Drivers in the Indonesian capital are stopping and starting their cars 33,240 times per year on the road, a Castrol study found.

Relying on information from TomTom navigation devices in 78 countries, the index used an algorithm to determine the number of times a car started and stopped per kilometer, then multiplied it by the average annual driving distance in the country.

After Jakarta, the worst cities for traffic jams are Istanbul, Turkey; Mexico City, Mexico; Surabaya, Indonesia; and St. Petersburg, Russia. No American cities appeared in the top ten.

Take a look at the entire list here.

Read next: 9 out of 10 Chinese Cities Fail Pollution Test

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Local Politics

Rapper 2 Chainz is Serious About Running for Mayor

2 Chainz, Tauheed Epps
Charles Sykes—Invision/AP This Aug. 31, 2013 file photo shows 2 Chainz performing at the 2013 Budweiser Made in America Festival in Philadelphia, Pa.

2 chainz: rapper, fierce debater, champion for felon voting rights, and, now perhaps, mayor?

Rapper Tauheed Epps, better known by his stage name 2 chainz, is apparently mulling a run for mayor of his hometown, College Park, Ga. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Epps—whose hits include “I Luv Dem Strippers” and “No Lie”—Epps said that he was seriously considering a run.

“I am looking forward to running at the end of this year or next year. [I’m] waiting to see if I meet all of the qualifications!” the Grammy-nominated artist told the paper.

Interest in Epps’ political ambitions peaked earlier this week after he told XXL Magazine about his potential run.

“I’m supposed to be running for mayor in College Park. I got everybody wishing,” Epps said. “I’m really gonna do this little mayor thing in College Park. I’m just trying to make sure I have the right qualifications.”

2 chainz wouldn’t be the first rapper to dabble in local politics. In 2011, Luther Campbell, formerly known by his rap name “Uncle Luke” of the 2 Live Crew ran for mayor of Miami-Dade County in South Florida. Campbell lost.

Though Epp is known musically for rhyming booty with itself and rapping about selling crack (though the author is particularly partial to the line “Pull up to the scene with my roof gone/when I leave the scene bet your boo gone”), Epps knows about more than just money, women and clothes.

The 37-year-old attended Alabama State University on a basketball scholarship and reportedly received high marks while he was there. Though a convicted felon, Epps is a champion for restoring felons’ voting rights. He also recently made headway for going toe-to-toe with HLN host Nancy Grace over the legalization of marijuana, and arguably, besting her in a fierce debate.

If qualified to run for office, Epps could prove a worthy contender for incumbent College Park mayor Jack Longino. Longino, however, isn’t worried. The 20-year mayor told the Daily Beast recently he doesn’t believe Epps is a College Park resident. But if he does and decides to run, Longino said, “we’ll let the people decide.”

TIME weather

How Much Did the Snowstorm Shutdown Cost New York City?

NYC Snowstorm
Andrew Burton—2015 Getty Images NYC Snowstorm

There's the cost of the shoveling and salt, but there's also lost productivity from the travel ban

The purported blizzard of record-breaking proportions never struck New York City Monday, as some meteorologists predicted it would. By Tuesday morning, around eight inches of snow had fallen in Central Park, instead of the forecasted two to three feet.

But much of the city was shut down anyway, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended subway service, street traffic and commuter lines in and out of the city as a precaution Monday night. Schools, too, were closed for the day.

How much did the the snowstorm cost the greater metropolitan area? There are direct expenses—the cost of snow removal, for instance—and then there are bigger economic costs, like the productivity loss. A preliminary cost is difficult to measure accurately, but here are a few ways to think about the costs involved:

It costs money to clean up snow

When the city sends out trucks to plow the snow and spread thousands of tons of rock salt, then sends workers to remove the snowfall, those costs really add up. Though the city hasn’t yet announced the cleanup expense associated with this week’s storm, a decent rule of thumb is that each inch of snow in New York costs $1 million dollars to remove. Multiply that by the eight to 10 inches the city got, and that’s at least somewhere in the $10 million range.

The city isn’t getting money from parking tickets

The city collects an average of about $270,000 each day in fines from drivers who violate alternate-side parking rules. With those rules suspended through Wednesday, New York City is losing about $500,000—but its residents and businesses are holding on to that much more cash, which could boost spending (and sales tax income) down the road.

Fewer New York City residents are taking the subway

More than 55% of New York City’s approximately 3.9 million employees take the subway, train, bus or ferry to work. They earn an average of $409 a day, according to the New York Times. Transportation was shut down for the morning rush hour, but started to resume around 9 a.m. Assuming one in every five New Yorkers didn’t make it to work and couldn’t work remotely, you can very roughly guesstimate about $320 million in lost productivity. But there are lots of variables here, ranging from workers’ income to the distance between a worker’s home and place of business.

 

Overall cost to the economy

This category is the major question mark.

The greater New York metropolitan area’s gross economic output was roughly $1.4 trillion in 2014. Let’s assume the city has about the same economic output on the weekends as the weekdays: That’s about $3.8 billion in economic output per day. Does that mean the city lost $3.8 billion in economic output thanks to the storm?

That figure is a tempting starting point, but it’s way too high. The city didn’t completely shut down, as it might have if the storm really walloped the five boroughs. Lots of parents of school-free kids and commuters stayed at home, but some chose to work remotely. And many thousands braved the commute Tuesday morning when subway service began and travel bans were lifted. Electricity was still produced and paid for, radiators turned on, food was bought and sold, services exchanged.

But snowstorms still have far-ranging economic impacts. How did the storm and travel shutdown affect the metro area’s economy? According to a 2014 study by IHS Global Insight, a single-day travel shutdown costs New York State about $700 million, mostly in lost retail sales and lost wages. Consider that the greater New York metropolitan area’s economy (including parts of Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) is larger than New York State’s as a whole, and that figure looks like a decent ballpark range to start for New York City — but it’s tough to put a precise number on things.

Summing it up

These numbers are really slippery. If previous studies are correct, the shutdown’s total cost was likely over $500 million, but not much more than $1 billion. The takeaway is this: For New York, biggest economic cost of dealing with this snowstorm probably isn’t the weather itself, which wasn’t as bad as feared. Instead, it’s the productivity loss related to the travel shutdown that’s the mostly costly thing.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Though the “No Child Left Behind” brand is thoroughly tarnished, the law sparked the revolution of data-driven educating.

By Nick Sheltrown in EdSurge

2. To help cities plan for flooding, drought, wildfires and other effects of climate change, the University of Michigan built an adaptation tool for the Great Lakes region.

By Lisa A. Pappas at University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute

3. Teachers are underpaid in America. Early childhood workers earns even less for setting the foundation of all future learning for our children. That should change.

By Laura Bornfreund at New America Foundation

4. Chicago’s ‘Crime Lab’ — which uses scientific research to understand and experiment with innovative ways to prevent crime — could be replicated in other cities.

By Tina Rosenberg in Fixes, at the New York Times

5. To reduce billions of needless miles driving, a startup is bringing the Uber model to the trucking industry.

By Liz Gannes in Re/code

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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