TIME Crime

9 Paintings in Big L.A. Art Heist Are Recovered

Authorities were tipped off about a man in Europe soliciting buyers

Court documents show local and federal authorities have recovered nine works of art that were stolen during a 2008 California heist, one of the largest in Los Angeles history.

Los Angeles police and the FBI launched an undercover operation after being tipped off in September about a man in Europe who was said to be soliciting buyers for the art, which was valued at $10 million but going for $700,000, the Los Angeles Times reports. The works recovered include Diego Rivera’s “Peasants” and a piece by Marc Chagall. They were among a dozen stolen from the home of a wealthy real estate investor in August 2008; three were still missing as of Dec. 1.

Raul Espinoza, 45, was charged with one count of receiving stolen property following the October bust and being held on $5 million bail. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Oct. 27.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME weather

Storm Brings Tornado to Los Angeles

The 'Pineapple Express' brought extreme weather to southern California Friday

The storm system dubbed a “Pineapple Express” swept through California Friday, triggering a tornado that tore off rooftops and felled trees in southern Los Angeles. The severe weather also brought rain that unleashed mudslides and prompted river rescues, and winds that knocked out power.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a small EF0 tornado — the smallest type of tornado with winds reaching 65 to 85 mph — touched down at about 9:20 a.m. Friday. The twister knocked down trees, blew out windows, damaged an apartment complex’s roof and the roofs of two homes and a steel billboard, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

MONEY Jobs

Best—and Worst—Cities for Jobs in 2015

Cape Coral Florida along the Caloosahatchee River.
More than a third of employers in Cape Coral, Fla., plan to increase hiring next year. Florida Images—Alamy

These are the places where the most employers say they'll be adding jobs next year. Some of them might surprise you.

Big picture, the job market is doing pretty well. But drill down to the cities that are projecting the most—and the least—hiring when 2015 kicks off, and you find some surprising places.

In its quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, out today, the employment services company asked 18,000 employers in 100 metropolitan statistical areas how they expect hiring will change in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the fourth quarter of this year.

One-fifth of employers anticipate hiring staff in the first quarter, while just 6% are planning workforce cuts.

The strongest job prospects are expected in Cape Coral, Fla., with 32% of employers projecting more hiring. Better known as a Gulf Coast beach destination, Cape Coral was recently recognized as a top city for startup businesses. Growth in tourism and hospitality is also boosting the job market there.

Mexican border town McAllen, Texas, came in at number two, with 29% of employers projecting an increase in jobs. Thanks to the tariff-free trade agreements between the U.S. and Mexico, American companies including General Electric and Nokia have major facilities there, fueling job growth.

Deltona, Fla., another beach destination, came in third, with 26% of employers expecting to hire. Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters for several major office-furniture manufacturers including Herman Miller, as well as a hub for aviation and auto manufacturers, also expects a 26% bump up in hiring.

At No. 5, Oxnard, Calif., is another city driven by international trade. Home to a major commercial port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, employers there expect a 24% jump in hiring in the first quarter.

Though the hiring outlook wasn’t negative in any of the 100 metropolitan areas Manpower surveyed, there were weak spots. Despite low unemployment rates, fewer than 10% of employers in these metropolitan areas expect to be adding jobs: Boston; Bridgeport, Conn,; Minneapolis; New York; Portland, Ore.; and Spokane, Wash.

For more places with hot job prospects, check out MONEY’s Best Places to Live:
The Best Places to Find a New Job
The Top-Earning Towns
See all the Best Places to Live

 

 

TIME Opinion

Like It or Not, Uber is Transforming Life in Middle America

Ridesharing services are under fire amid breakneck growth but they way they’re changing city life in flyover country is not trivial

In cities around the world, Uber is fighting for its life. On Monday, Portland, Oregon, sued to force the company to stop operating after it opened up shop without the city’s blessing. This comes on the heels of a statewide Uber ban in Nevada and a crackdown on the company in New Delhi following a rape accusation against a driver.

Many of Uber’s problems are of its own creation, a result of its extraordinarily fast ascent and equally extraordinary hubris. The company has managed to marry runaway success with a corporate culture that evidently permits executives to say and do some incredibly stupid things. And Uber drivers may have been involved in some truly scary assaults (which is not to say that traditional taxi drivers haven’t). But as taxi drivers, regulators and a critical media push back against the young company we’re faced with a baby and the bathwater situation. I want to make a case for not throwing out the good with the bad.

Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing services are often framed as alternatives to taxis. But the reality in most of America, where taxi services are often clunky and undependable, is that they aren’t alternatives to anything. They’re something entirely new that is transforming life and culture for the better.

I asked my network of friends who live outside the beltway and west of the Hudson River if, and if so, how, ridesharing had changed their lives.

“In a city like Houston where you can’t get a cab on the street (or very quickly from a call most of the time) it is life changing to have cheap car service available within minutes,” says Brandie Mask, a 29-year-old attorney. “Also, it’s great to have the same service in different cities so you don’t need to figure out the cab situation in an unfamiliar place. You just open your trusty app.”

When I posed the question to people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, (my hometown) the responses were unanimous that the recent introduction of ridesharing companies into the city had changed for the better how people move around town.

“I use Uber a lot in Tulsa,” said Mike Villafuerte, 35. “I been using them since I’ve had back surgery and also suffer from fibromyalgia. Last year I was in ICU for a month. I survived and I’m a big user of Uber to get to my doctor appointments.”

Amanda Gammill, 31, who lives with her husband in a suburb just outside of Tulsa, reports using ridesharing services while traveling and even on a night out in Tulsa though she owns a car. “We use it so we don’t get lost,” Gammill says. “And if we happen to decide to drink, we are safe. Cheaper than tolls, parking etc., and no risk of break in.”

The drinking and driving issue is key because in many cities rather than find a taxi dispatcher’s phone number and wait unknowable amount of time for a generally unclean car that may never come at all the truth is that many people just drink and drive. The question has come up before, as analysts—most notably Uber itself on its blog—have tried to parse out any correlation between a decline in DUI’s and the introduction of Uber into a market. Whether or not that is a causal relationship is a question for the statisticians but as a matter of cultural change there is no question as to the cause and its effect. By allowing people to efficiently get affordable rides between any location around town, ridesharing services are utterly transformative in the car-bound cities of Middle America.

In parts of the country where taxis are unreliable at best and public transportation is spotty if it exists at all, ridesharing links neighborhoods and opens cities up to the carless—or less car-dependent—lifestyle that many of todays urban professionals seem to prefer. Cities that shut down ridesharing services at the behest of grumbling taxi companies send a clear message to young professionals—move somewhere else, because this town ain’t for you. But just like it’s not only the kids these days who send text messages and have Facebook accounts, its not just the young and hip who use Uber.

Jason Boston, a driver for Uber and Lyft in Cincinnati, says that while he gets a lot of passengers in the younger set there’s a whole cohort of retired people who he sees using the services too. “I think the unique thing about the retirees,” he tells TIME, “is that they typically don’t go out that often but these new services allow them to go out with safe reliable options to get to and from a destination where they may have a few drinks.”

Last year I was at home alone in residential Washington, DC, attempting to fix a broken window when I slashed my arm on a piece of broken glass. I hardly needed an ambulance but I don’t own a car, wasn’t going to wait around for the bus and, with one arm useless and a belt tourniquet held taught through my teeth, I wasn’t inclined to start calling dispatchers trying to find a cab. So I opened up an app and caught a ride to the emergency room. That ride literally saved me hundreds of dollars.

The above is an extreme example but it illustrates how powerful ridesharing apps can be. In much of the country—especially the places between the coasts where most policymakers and national media people don’t live—the changes brought about by ridesharing aren’t trivial. Uber needs to grow up and all ridesharing companies need to make peace with regulators but cities that shutdown these services are likely to fall behind cities that don’t.

TIME cities

Chlorine Gas Sickens 19 at Furries Convention

Visitors of the Midwest FurFest convention walk on the street outside the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel on Dec. 7, 2014, in Rosemont, Ill.
Visitors of the Midwest FurFest convention walk on the street outside the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel on Dec. 7, 2014, in Rosemont, Ill. Nam Y. Huh—AP

Many were dressed in cartoonish animal costumes

(ROSEMONT, Ill.) — Chlorine gas sickened several people and forced the evacuation of thousands of guests from a suburban Chicago hotel early Sunday, including many dressed in cartoonish animal costumes for an annual furries convention who were ushered across the street to a convention center hosting a dog show.

Nineteen people who became nauseous or dizzy were treated at local hospitals, and at least 18 were released shortly thereafter. Within hours, emergency workers decontaminated the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and allowed people back inside. Six-foot-tall rabbits, foxes and dragons poured into the lobby, chatting and giving each other high paws.

“I think we’ll recover from this,” said Kit McCreedy, a 28-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, his fox tail swinging behind him as he headed back inside for the last day of the Midwest FurFest. “People are tired but they’re still full of energy.”

The source of the gas was apparently chlorine powder left in a ninth-floor stairwell at the hotel, according to the Rosemont Public Safety Department. Investigators believe the gas was created intentionally and are treating it as a criminal matter.

McCreedy was one of a few thousand attendees for the Furfest, also called “Anthrocon,” in which attendees celebrate animals that are anthropomorphic — meaning they’ve been given human characteristics — through art, literature and performance. Many of the attendees, who refer to themselves as “furries,” wore cartoonish animal outfits.

While authorities conducted their investigation, organizers tried to assure the participants that the evacuation would not overshadow the convention. But attendees seemed to think the evacuation was part of the fun — particularly those who recalled being herded into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center as it was hosting a dog show.

“In walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes,” said Pieter Van Hiel, a 40-year-old technical writer from Hamilton, Canada, chuckling as he thought back to the scene.

Others said they did not have a clue as to why anyone would intentionally disrupt the convention that includes dance contests and panel discussions on making the costumes, with some quick to point out that the brightly colored outfits are made from fake fur and foam and not real fur.

“Nobody uses real fur,” said Frederic Cesbron, a 35-year-old forklift operator who rode a plane to Chicago from his home in France. He attended the convention dressed head-to-toe in a fox outfit that he said cost him about $2,000 four years ago but would go for $3,000 today.

Attendees said they came for fun, but also for the spiritual and artistic aspects of the convention that have them celebrating animal characters from movies, TV shows, comic books and video games. Some also create their own characters and appreciate being in an atmosphere where nobody seems surprised or shocked by an elaborate, bright purple dragon.

“Everyone is from a different background,” said Michael Lynch, a 25-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, who, like his buddy, McCreedy, dressed as a fox. “Nobody judges anybody. It’s nice to come to a place like that.”

Or, as Van Hiel put it, “It’s kind of weird, but it’s not weird here.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 3

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

1. The Obamas should consider teaching in an urban public school after 2016.

By Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post

2. Tech journalism needs to grow up.

By Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week

3. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, the surge strategy didn’t end the war in Iraq. We shouldn’t try it again against ISIS.

By Daniel L. Davis in The American Conservative

4. Adjusting outdated rules for overtime could give middle class wages a valuable boost.

By Nick Hanauer in PBS News Hour’s Making Sense

5. A new solar power device can collect energy even on cloudy days and from reflected lunar light.

By Tuan C. Nguyen in Smithsonian Magazine

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.

TIME cities

Power Has Been Restored In Detroit Following a 7-Hour Outage

Detroit Power Outage
Detroit fire fighters and EMS responded to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to rescue people from elevators and assist others down the stairs after a massive power outage hit downtown Detroit, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Diane Weiss—AP

Schools, colleges and public transportation are expected to resume normal operations Wednesday morning

Detroit’s electricity grid was restored Tuesday night, after an outage that saw large parts of the city — including schools and hospitals — lose power for about 7 hours.

The power went out at 10.30 a.m. and was completely restored by 5.15 p.m., Associated Press reports.

Among the major institutions affected were Detroit Receiving Hospital, which had to rely on backup power, and Wayne State University, which cancelled all classes for the second half of the day.

The university, and several public schools that were forced to declare a half-day, will reopen Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

A statement from city authorities said the outage also affected 740 traffic signals and 36 fire stations. It said that the DTE Energy Company has taken over the power grid’s operation and is in the process of an 18-month inspection of the system.

“This is a case where a part of the old system that hadn’t failed before failed,” said city mayor Mike Duggan, “Every month that goes by, we’ll be more and more on a more modern system and the likelihood of this happening will go down. But it’s part of rebuilding the city.”

TIME Crime

Violent Crime in New York City Hits 2-Decade Low

The number of homicides is down by 7%

Violent crime in New York City has declined to its lowest level since 1993, city officials said Tuesday.

“Thanks to the NYPD and the leadership of Police Commissioner [William] Bratton, crime in New York City is at historic lows,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “But this administration doesn’t rest on its laurels.”

The number of homicides decreased by 7% from this August to November compared with last year, while the number of robberies was down 14%.

The decline was even more dramatic for low-level marijuana arrests. The total decreased by 61% after the launch of a be Blasio program to issue tickets instead of arresting people in possession of small quantities of marijuana.

TIME cities

Detroit Hit by Massive Power Outage

Michigan Gov And Detroit Emergency City Manager Orr Discuss Bankruptcy Filing
A view of Downtown Detroit on July 19, 2013. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

Fire stations, schools and office towers among the approximately 100 buildings without power

A sprawling power failure in downtown Detroit forced widespread closures and evacuations of buildings across the city on Tuesday.

City officials confirmed that a power grid went down Tuesday morning around 10:30 am, plunging courts, fire stations and office towers into darkness, according to reports by ABC News affiliate, WXYZ Detroit. A spokesperson for DTE Energy told USA Today that roughly 100 buildings had been affected.

The outage has forced some fire stations to switch on back-up generators, USA Today reports, and prompted a growing number of schools to close for the day. Wayne State University listed more than 40 buildings on campus affected by the outage.

Pictures of darkened buildings were shared on Twitter throughout the morning. The exact cause of the outage is still unknown.

 

TIME Education

Inside Detroit’s Plan to Woo Middle-Class Parents to Its Public Schools

Detroit Public School
Detroit Public Schools has closed more than 80 schools due to severe drops in enrollment. Sarah Butrymowicz—Hechinger Report

A central office war room and customer-service tips from Target

Dara Hill diligently scribbled notes as the principal of Detroit’s Nichols Elementary-Middle School led her and several of her neighbors on a tour of the school. A room for special education students was brimming with stuffed animals, but the hallways were sparsely decorated. Work displayed in the kindergarten classroom was charming and developmentally appropriate. But why were there six students sitting to the side during gym class?

Hill has two more years before she has to pick a school for her four-year-old daughter, but she and her husband are starting their search now because she is overwhelmed by the number of options in Detroit, and underwhelmed by the quality of many of them. To help with the decision, Hill joined The Best Classroom Project, a Facebook group formed to help parents navigate Detroit’s large and under-resourced school system. Since beginning in 2013, the group has grown to more than 250 parents, a mostly middle and upper-middle class mix of life-long residents and recent transplants. Several of them care about sending their children to public schools. And they are precisely the type of people Detroit school officials need to court as the city claws its way back from bankruptcy.

Thirteen years ago, Detroit’s school system had 200,000 students. Today, it has less than 50,000. It’s saddled with a $127 million deficit and its students perform well below the rest of the state. In the 2013-14 school year, for instance, just 14.6% of Detroit third-graders and 7% of city 11th-graders passed the state math test, according to Michigan education data. And graduation rates also lag. Sixty-five percent of students graduated from Detroit public schools in four years in 2012-13. The state average is 77%.

Such numbers make it tough to convince parents like Hill, a professor of education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, to commit to the city’s public schools. A statewide school choice system allows students in Detroit to attend any school in the district or pick from dozens of charter schools, but it also lets them apply to suburban schools. And many families with the means choose to bypass the system entirely and send their children to area private schools.

Keeping middle class families in the Detroit school system is particularly important because there are only so many of them. About 38% of Detroit households earn more than $35,000 compared to 56% of households across America, according to 2012 American Community Survey figures published by the Census Bureau. For the city to grow its tax base, the schools need to improve. But to significantly improve, the school system needs more students – and the money that comes with them.

“We recognize we’re a central anchor to the city,” says Roderick Brown, the district’s chief strategy officer and the man charged with finding ways to convince more families to pick the public school system. “Our success is tied to the success of the city.”

The War Room

Hill should be an easy mark for the school district. The daughter of German and Jamaican immigrants, she graduated from Detroit Public Schools in the 1980s and fondly remembers a time when black and white students would walk together to the Detroit Public Library after middle school. She met her husband in high school and stayed in the city after graduating, teaching first in the city and then in a nearby suburb.

She watched as Detroit continued a decline that began in the 1960s. And the city’s decades of struggle have been intertwined with those of the school system. Detroit Public Schools was first placed under state control in 1999 and then again in 2009 as test scores continued to falter. The district’s enrollment has fallen to 49,800 students as families moved or opted for charters that promised — but didn’t always deliver — better results. Nearly 40,000 students in the city now attend charter schools. Detroit Public Schools has shuttered more than 80 schools and the state has taken over 15 of the lowest performers in the past 5 years.

On top of that, in May, the district missed the deadline for applying for about $4 million in federal Head Start money because of technical problems. Officials said they would find money elsewhere to offer preschool to all students this school year, not just low-income ones, but to Hill, the incident is indicative of larger administrative problems. “There are things going on that are really good at many of the school levels, but as a district, it’s like, ‘Oh get it together,’” she said. “It just makes you wonder.”

The process of reassuring her begins in a conference room in the school system’s downtown headquarters that has been turned into a campaign-style war room. A translated quote from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” hangs on one wall, next to a poster titled., “THE QUESTION: How shall DPS compete and win the marketplace?” The answer: “Empowered DPS employee’s operating via synchronized, lean agile and leveraged work efforts.”

The business jargon is evidence of Brown’s time at General Motors, where he was a manager of strategic facilities planning at the nation’s largest automaker. He’s brought more than the lingo with him to DPS. Brown thinks in terms of markets and supply chains, and argues that along with improving academics, Detroit Public Schools also must improve the overall customer experience for students and parents. That’s why district officials invited Target to train school office workers in customer service. Among the tricks: smile when answering the phone to sound friendlier. “We didn’t do the best job of serving our existing customer base,” Brown says.

The effort to change that started in 2009, when then-Emergency Manager Robert Bobb launched an “I’m in” campaign encouraging families to enroll in Detroit Public Schools. Since then, improvements such as universal pre-kindergarten and increased test scores, have been advertised with flyers, open houses and old-fashioned door-knocking.

“You can’t win this on the defensive,” says Steve Wasko, the district’s assistant superintendent for community relations. “The only way to survive and thrive is to be on the offensive.”

The first step was trying to ensure basics like making schools safe. District officials gathered community volunteers to walk with children to school and are working with the city’s lighting authority to get broken streetlights near schools replaced before all of the other busted ones in town. And they designated 20 schools as community hubs, to be open 12 hours a day as resource-centers for parents.

The district has also launched new academic programs, including the three-year-old Benjamin Carson High School of Medicine and Technology, named for the retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who attended Detroit public schools. Many students there said they returned to the district from charter schools because they were attracted by Carson’s small size and focus on science. Yet even Carson has struggled. In the spring, in the school’s first year of state testing, only 9% of 11th-graders passed the state math test and just 1% passed the science exam. They fared better in reading and writing, with about 40% considered proficient.

Similarly, music or art is now taught at every elementary school, but many schools can’t afford to offer both.

But there has been progress. Last fall, enrollment barely dipped after a more than a decade in which it dropped by about 10% every year. Daily attendance is up to 86%, which is meaningful for a system that in 2011 had to return more than $4 million in state funding for having an average daily attendance rate below 75%. And some schools have begun to make gains on state tests that outpace the rate of improvement in the rest of the state.

Uphill Battle

Three weeks before Hill and her peers observed classes at Nichols, a group of volunteers with the nonprofit group Excellent Schools Detroit wandered around two pre-kindergarten classrooms at Bow Elementary School in a heavily blighted neighborhood in the Northwest of the city. In one room, a handful of children gathered around an iPad, while another group paraded through the classroom playing tambourines and wooden blocks. The volunteers made careful notes as the lights flickered. The day before, the power had gone out entirely. (Some schools in Detroit lost as many as 13 days of school last year because of power outages caused by the city’s outdated electrical grid.)

Bow, where 86% of students receive free or discounted lunch, is emblematic of the obstacles DPS faces as it attempts to shed its poor reputation. The school was one of 29 to receive a D this year in the influential rankings published by Excellent Schools Detroit. Only one K-8 Detroit Public School got an A.

For parents in the neighborhood, with few resources to get their children to schools miles away or little knowledge of how to navigate the school-choice process, the only other option is a similarly low-performing K-8 charter school across the street, which Bow’s former principal, Ernestine Woodward says has been drawing away students for years. Last summer staff from Bow knocked on every door in the neighborhood trying to get families back.

The school is doing the best it can with the resources it has, says Woodward, who retired at the end of last year. There’s not nearly enough money for the technology she would have liked, nor for social workers and other services to meet the needs of her students. But they do have afterschool and arts programs and make an effort to get parents into the school whenever possible.

Yet with a reputation for poor performance, it’s a school that Hill would never consider. And Nichols is out of the running, too, even though it should have been a good option. Nichols typically performs at or slightly above average on state tests. And it’s a five-minute walk from Hill’s home in Indian Village, one of the few neighborhoods that look untouched by Detroit’s downturn. But Hill found the class sizes were too large, and she didn’t like that the English curriculum required teachers to follow a script. She’s now leaning toward sending her daughter to a private school, underscoring how difficult it will be for Brown and DPS to convince parents like her.

“Can the public schools really appeal to us?” she says. “I don’t know that they have the resources or the ability to do that right now.”

This story was produced by the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

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