TIME cities

Three Atlantic City Casinos Will Go Dark This Month

Slew Of Casino Closures Threatens To Take Toll On Atlantic City
A man gambles at the Showboat casino, which is scheduled to close, in Atlantic City, N.J., on July 29, 2014 Spencer Platt—Getty Images

September is expected to be hard month for Atlantic City, as three of its casinos deal out their last hands

Three casinos will close this month in Atlantic City, N.J., signaling that this metropolis of neon lights and blinking slot machines can no longer bet on gaming revenues.

More than 5,000 workers will be out of a job when the casinos Showboat and Revel close this weekend, the Associated Press reports. Even more will lose their livelihoods when the Trump Plaza cuts its lights on Sept. 16.

The expected closure of the three casinos, one of which is just two years old, is the latest slap to this city, coming just eight months after the Atlantic Club ran out of luck. By the end of September, more than 25% of the city’s casino workforce, or 8,000 people, will be out of work, the New York Times reports.

When New Jersey legalized gaming in 1976, casinos were marketed as a sure bet for economically battered Atlantic City, the AP reports. But the regional gaming market has since become flush with competitors, with casinos in New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania claiming chunks of the once prodigious profits flowing into Atlantic City. Even Massachusetts, a once gaming-averse state, is eyeing a share of the rewards, as it flirts with inviting three casinos to the state.

TIME cities

Explosion at BP Refinery, No Injuries Reported

Officials at the BP plant did not immediately provide details about the explosion

(WHITING, Ind.) — An explosion at a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, has rattled nearby homes. No injuries have been reported and no evacuation has been ordered.

A Whiting Fire Department spokesman said the explosion late Wednesday could be heard clearly several blocks from the plant. However, when fire commanders called plant officials to see if assistance was needed, they were told only to stand by.

Plant officials say the plant’s fire department was handling the incident. Officials at the BP plant, just east of Chicago, did not immediately provide details about the explosion.

The Chicago Sun-Times said Wednesday was the anniversary of a 1955 explosion in Whiting that killed two people.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Father Wants ‘Day of Silence’ for Michael Brown Funeral

From left: Michael Brown, Sr., Reverend Al Sharpton, and Lesley McSpadden during a news conference outside the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 2014.
From left: Michael Brown, Sr., Reverend Al Sharpton, and Lesley McSpadden during a news conference outside the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

“Please, please take a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please"

The father of the unarmed Missouri teenager whose shooting death at the hands of police sparked widespread protests called for peace Sunday as he and his family prepared to lay their son to rest Monday.

“Please, please take a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please. That’s all I ask. And thank you,” Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, said during a rally Sunday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The event, known as Peace Fest, is an annual festival held in a St. Louis park, but its message held particular resonance this year for a community still reeling from the death of Brown, 18, and its aftermath. Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Protests and sometimes violent clashes rocked the St. Louis suburb for days following the shooting.

Attention will again turn to Ferguson again on Monday for the funeral. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m., and three White House officials will attend, the Washington Post reports.

TIME Crime

Parents Turn Teen Daughter into Police After Finding Naked Cellphone Photos

The mother says she was concerned for her daughter's future

The parents of a 13-year-old Virginia girl turned their daughter over to police after finding nude photos on her phone, the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday.

“Looking through the phone and the tablet we did find sexual pictures, conversations that were very inappropriate for her age,” the girl’s mother told a local television station.

The mother said she is particularly concerned about whether the people she shared photos with were adults. The sheriff’s office declined to provide details about the investigation, but confirmed that it was looking into whether adults were involved.

“We believe them to be 17-18ish… Definitely older than her,” the mother told the local CBS affiliate.

The mother said she turned her daughter over to authorities out of concern for her daughter’s future.

“We did this now to protect her for now and in the future, because this could get worse,” she said. “She could be taken.”

TIME Crime

These 4 Cities Show What Federal Intervention Could Look Like in Ferguson

Seattle police fire teargas and pellets at protesters outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, Washington on November 30, 1999.
Seattle police fire teargas and pellets at protesters outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, Washington on November 30, 1999. Andy Clark—Reuters

The Department of Justice has intervened in other cities in the past

In the wake of unrest in the city of Ferguson, Mo., the Department of Justice says it will investigate reports of excessive force by local police. The investigation is in its earliest stages, but the history of the federal government’s intervention in more than 20 cities over the past two decades provides an idea of what Washington’s approach to local police reform might look like if they find wrongdoing in the case.

In response to findings of police misconduct in the past, cities across the country have entered into agreements, called consent decrees, that have allowed the federal government to force police departments to enact policies that curb racial profiling, improper interrogation and illegal search and seizure, among other things. The exact terms and conditions vary in each case, and the deals are lifted only with the approval of a federal judge.

Here is a look at how federal intervention played out in four cities:

Seattle

When Seattle cracked down on protestors at a World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 the world took notice. Just over a decade later, the city’s police found themselves facing more allegations of improper use of force, this time from the Justice Department. The city’s consent decree required the city to rethink its firearm policies. Officers were required to carry less dangerous weapons and to utilize “de-escalation techniques.”

Seattle police fire teargas and pellets at protesters outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, Washington on November 30, 1999. Andy Clark—Reuters

New Orleans

New Orleans, and its scandal-ridden local government, received attention for civilian deaths caused by police in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It also received an unusually far-reaching consent decree. A 2012 Department of Justice investigation found multiple cases of illegal use of force that resulted in death, inappropriate use of “uncontrollable” dogs to find suspects, discriminatory targeting of minorities for arrest, and other violations. The decree mandated extensive officer training, new supervision requirements and data collection to solve the issue. Recent reports suggest that the police department still has a way to go.

New Orleans Police subdue a man who refused to cooperate when he was asked to step out of his car and who was found to have a knife in the front seat, at the scene of a house fire in New Orleans East on July 6, 2006. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles

In 2001, a decade after the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the riots that followed, the Justice Department entered into a consent decree with the Los Angeles Police Department. The beating was one of many allegations of misconduct by the LAPD. A letter to then-Mayor James Hahn from a Justice Department official outlined a number of areas of concern, including the LAPD’s use of excessive force and false arrests. The letter also said that the department lacked procedures to deal with the issues. The consent decree required that department to collect data on police actions like firearm use and its response to cases of resisting arrest. Under the plan, supervisors were then instructed to monitor officers’ action and report potential policy violations. After more than a decade of federal oversight, the consent decree was lifted by a judge in 2013.

Video image of LA cops beating black motorist Rodney King as he lies on ground; taken by camcorder enthusiast George Holliday fr. window overlooking street. Charles Steiner—Image Works/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Oakland

Federal involvement took a slightly different form in the city of Oakland. The city entered into a settlement with more than 100 plaintiffs in 2003 that mandated a number of police reforms. Ten years later the city acknowledged that it had failed to deliver on its end of the bargain and asked the federal government to help. A federal officer, whose powers included the ability to fire the chief of police, was appointed to oversee the department. The overseer also failed, and was removed by a federal judge this year.

Occupy demonstrators clash with Oakland police during May Day protest in Oakland, California on May 1, 2012. Stephen Lam—Reuters
TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 13

1. True rehabilitation: We can reform prisons and reduce recidivism if we treat prison labor less like modern-day slavery and more like on-the-job training.

By Beth Schwartzapfel in American Prospect

2. Drones are a powerful military and civilian tool. Reforms are desperately needed if the U.S. wants to stay at the top of the drone food chain.

By Missy Cummings in Wired

3. Liberia’s fragile democracy may fall victim to the Ebola virus outbreak.

By Ashoka Mukpo in Al-Jazeera America

4. Mayors need the partnership and protection of a UN for big cities to test new solutions and spread innovation.

By Richard Florida in Citylab

5. The biggest barrier to nonprofit innovation isn’t the lack of money. It’s knowing the right way to scale up and spend big infusions of cash.

By Mathu Jeyaloganathan Ivey Business Review

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

TIME Crime

Protests Build in Missouri Town Where Police Shot Unarmed Teen

TEAR GAS SHOT AT PROTESTORS
A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers worked to break up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road near West Florissant in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 13, 2014. Robert Cohen—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Zuma Press

Pleas for calm go unheeded

Violent protests escalated early Wednesday in the St. Louis suburb where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager last weekend, with two people shot despite pleas for calm from officials including President Barack Obama.

One man was critically wounded shortly after 1 a.m. by a St. Louis County Police officer following a night marked by loud, angry protests near the QuikTrip convenience store that was looted and burned following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. St. Louis County Police Officer Brian Schellman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that authorities received reports of shots fired in the area and armed men in ski masks, culminating in a man pulling a handgun on an officer, who then fired back. A handgun was recovered at the scene and police used tear gas. Also on Wednesday, just after midnight, a woman was apparently shot in the head in a drive-by shooting, also near the QuikTrip. But it’s unclear if the violence is related to the protests. The woman is expected to survive.

The shootings erupted after a tense night between protesters and police in full riot gear, guns sometimes drawn, as they stood in line barricading streets near the QuikTrip. At least three armed SWAT tanks were also on the scene.

The shooting death of Brown has had the town of Ferguson on edge for days, drawing national attention as some hold it up as an example of racial disparities in police action and the criminal justice system. Police have said Brown was killed in a struggle after he reached for an officer’s weapon, an account disputed by one of his friends and by his family.

Ferguson police also issued their first official statement since the shooting, saying Wednesday that they are “working to restore confidence in the safety of our community and our neighborhoods so that we may begin the healing process.”

“We ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner,” the police department said.

Protests on Tuesday altered between calm and raucous, with protestors throwing bottles at police and sometimes refusing to disperse. In one instance, a man accelerated his car toward the police line, coming within about 30 ft. of authorities before turning around to both cheers and jeers from the crowd.

Throughout the night, crowds mobbed the busy street near the QuikTrip, with some walking sporadically in the street, obstructing traffic, while others peacefully marched on the sidewalk to the church where national civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton preached justice and peace during a town hall meeting.

From noon to midnight on Tuesday, the sound of car horns could be heard near the QuikTrip, with drivers honking in support of protesters yelling, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and brandishing signs that read “RIP Mike Brown.”

Obama called the shooting of Brown “heartbreaking” on Tuesday and called for calm.

“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” Obama said in a statement. “We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

Community members swept glass shards and bagged debris from the burned and looted QuikTrip on Tuesday. Several businesses that were vandalized reopened, including the Northland Chop Suey, where the inside smelled more like the plywood boarding windows than the crab ragoon customers love.

“It’s been slow,” said Boon Jamg, 60, “I’ve owned restaurants in the area for 35 years and I know people by name, many since they were kids. This is a good community. I love these people. I respect them. I am sad that some people disrespected me by vandalizing my business.”

He said the violence doesn’t represent Ferguson. “People are friendly,” Jamg said. “They care about this neighborhood. I’ve never had any problems until this week.”

TIME cities

Trump Isn’t the Only Loser in Atlantic City

Revel Closing
People walk past the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. on July 23, 2014. Mel Evans—AP

Four casinos are expected to close this year in the New Jersey gambling destination

How big a loser is Atlantic City? So big that Donald Trump sued to have his name removed from two casinos he no longer controls. He may have to amend the suit, since one of them, Trump Plaza plans to shut down next month. And it will have company. The two-year old, twice-bankrupt, $2.4 billion Revel casino will also close after its owners failed to find a buyer, company officials announced Tuesday. As the saying goes, you don’t throw good money after bad.

Revel’s shutdown brings A.C.’s losing streak to four properties that announced a closing this year. The Atlantic Club was taken out earlier this year and Showboat, owned by Caesars Entertainment, locks down at the end of the month. Through June, revenues at the casinos are down 6.3%, continuing a long-term trend. The city’s casinos brought in $2.86 billion last year compared with $5.2 billion in 2006.

Atlantic City is a victim of the saturated mid-Atlantic casino market, and nearly 8,000 workers are slated to lose their jobs as the price to pay. There will be more closings, and not just in the mid-Atlantic states. In Tunica, Miss., Harrah’s (also part of Caesars) is closing a casino, citing declining gaming revenues due to higher competition.

In Atlantic City, some of those displaced workers will be able to catch on at the city’s remaining seven casinos—who will no doubt see an uptick in business—but the losses and closures are indications that the runaway growth days of gaming are over. Any new casino built in the region—indeed, just about anywhere– will have to take business away from somebody else.

And that’s exactly what’s been happening to Atlantic City– a municipality that never blossomed into the revived seaside resort envisioned when New Jersey opened its first legalized casino in 1978. It has remained mostly a weekend gambling jaunt for many punters, and they have since found other places to play. Oddly enough, north of Atlantic City, from Asbury Park to Long Branch, Jersey’s casino-less shore towns have revitalized and grown, despite taking a hit from Hurricane Sandy.

What’s grown around Atlantic City is competition. Just to the south in Delaware, three casinos are now operating. But one of them, Dover Downs, showed a 10% drop in revenues its first quarter. In Pennsylvania, there are 12 casinos in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, in the Poconos and near Pittsburgh. And revenues in that state have begun to slide in part because of competition from Ohio. The Buckeye state is about to open its 11th gambling den with the debut of the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.

Americans threw down nearly $39 billion in gaming halls last year, according to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, but that amount is flat with 2012. Meanwhile, the number of gambling locations continues to rise. As a result, says UNLV, 10 out of the 22 states with gaming in 2007 have seen declines since then. That would include Connecticut. Revenues from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun peaked at $1.7 billion in 2006; they dropped to $1.17 billion last year according to UNLV. Pieces of the pie will only get smaller now that Massachusetts is planning to join the game.

It’s still possible that someone could buy the closed Revel and reopen it as a casino. “We hope that Revel can be a successful and vital component of Atlantic City under a proper ownership and reorganized expense structure,” the company said in a statement. But that doesn’t make much economic sense. Neither does building another casino anywhere in the region, but don’t bet against it. Plans are being hatched for a betting fortress in Jersey City, where the population density might favor the house a little more. And across the border in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is planning to add four casino destinations in the upstate region to the nine racinos and five casinos already operating. The promise is jobs and more tax revenue, but New York may eventually discover what New Jersey did: that it had four more casinos than it actually needs.

TIME cities

Mystery of Who Placed White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge Solved

ODD Brooklyn Bridge Mystery Flags
A white flag flies atop the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York City, on July 22, 2014 Richard Drew—AP

The culprits appear to have been German artists who are mystified by the reaction the act got in the U.S.

Two Berlin-based artists have taken credit — and provided evidence to back up their claim — for swapping out two giant American flags over the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this summer and replacing them with all-white versions.

After the flags suddenly appeared over the bridge on July 22, numerous people rushed to claim credit for the stunt. But German artists Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke have produced videos and pictures apparently taken from the Brooklyn Bridge that indicate they were, in fact, the culprits, the New York Times reports.

Many in New York City saw the flag stunt as a security breach, and embarrassed authorities rushed to launch an investigation. But Leinkauf and Wermke say they were shocked that the flags were perceived that way. Their actions weren’t supposed to be provocative, they said, but merely intended to celebrate “the beauty of public space.” They pulled off the caper on the anniversary of the 1869 death of John Roebling, the German engineer who built the bridge.

“We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfill his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space,” Leinkauf said. “That beauty was what we were trying to capture.”

The pair said that between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on July 22 they carried the homemade white flags in backpacks while climbing the cables to the top of the bridge, where they replaced the American flags with the all-white versions. They did not see security cameras. They ceremonially folded the American flags, they said, and promise to return them.

[NYT]

TIME Transportation

FAA Implements No-Fly Zone in Ferguson Amid Unrest Over Killed Teen

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
With their hands raised, residents gather at a police line as the neighborhood is locked down following skirmishes on August 11, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Police say their helicopter was shot at multiple times Sunday

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri, Tuesday at the request of the St. Louis County Police Department.

The St. Louis County Police Department told TIME it asked the FAA for the flight restriction after a police helicopter was fired upon “multiple times” during civil unrest Sunday. Ferguson, located just outside St. Louis, Missouri, erupted in street violence amid demonstrations sparked by the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot and killed by police on Saturday.

The FAA order restricts flights over the Ferguson area below 3,000 feet to first responders only, including medical and police helicopters. Private aircraft, including news helicopters, are prohibited from flying below 3,000 feet in a 3-mile radius around the town. The rule doesn’t apply to aircraft landing at or taking off from the nearby Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, a major commercial hub. The restriction is in place through August 18.

The order says the flight restrictions were put in place “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities.” The FAA would not elaborate further on the reason for the St. Louis County Police Department’s request. “If you want it, file a FOIA,” FAA Spokesperson Elizabeth Cory told TIME, in reference to a Freedom of Information Act request.

It’s not unusual for local police departments to request flight restrictions over potentially dangerous zones, and it’s typically done to clear airspace for police helicopter operations. The Ferguson restriction, however, may make it more difficult for news media to get aerial footage of the town as the Brown story continues to develop.

“If we feel that order is restored we can request ran early termination,” St. Louis County police spokesperson Bryan Schellman told TIME.

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