TIME Transportation

Cities Have Found a New Way to Take Your Money

Yellow Traffic Light
Getty Images

Watch your speed at those yellow lights

Correction appended, Oct. 15.

All yellow traffic lights are not created equal, it seems. Especially in Chicago.

Earlier this year, the city began issuing tickets to motorists who drove through yellow lights that turned red fractions of a second shorter than the three-second city minimum. The change was slight, but the effect for the cash-starved city was real: nearly $8 million from an additional 77,000 tickets, according to the city’s inspector general.

All of those $100 tickets were issued after cameras installed at intersections caught the drivers as they passed through. These systems, known as red light cameras, are an increasingly controversial tactic for policing roadways. Established in the name of public safety, critics contend the cameras have become little more than a way for municipalities to funnel money into their coffers.

“If the machine is set to catch more people and generate more revenue, then it does not really seem to be about safety but about revenue,” says Joseph Schofer, a professor of transportation at Northwestern University.

Chicago isn’t the first municipality to benefit from shorter yellow traffic lights. In 2011, the Florida Department of Transportation secretly reduced its policy on the length of yellow lights, likely bringing millions of dollars in additional revenue to the state.

There is no federal rule for how long a yellow light should be illuminated, but the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends three to six seconds. Nationwide, a minimum of three seconds is generally considered standard. John Bowman, a spokesperson for the National Motorists Association, which opposes the cameras, says the organization routinely gets calls from people saying they received a red light camera ticket, believing the yellow light was too short.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to get a public official on the record saying, ‘We shortened them to make more money,’” Bowman says. “But I think that clearly goes on.”

Red light cameras gained popularity in the 1990s after New York became the first U.S. city to install a network. The initial motivation was safety, says Hani Mahmassani, the director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center. The hope was that cameras would deter drivers from running red lights if they knew it would lead to a ticket. But in the 2000s, as the popularity of the cameras grew, cities and the companies that manufactured, installed and helped operate the cameras adopted a revenue-sharing model. The more violations caught by the cameras, the more money the city and the businesses stood to make.

“That’s when it became a greed thing,” Mahmassani says.

By the end of the decade, red light camera networks were in hundreds of municipalities. Today, 499 towns and cities have adopted them, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

While the potential for profit is clear, the public safety value of red light cameras is fuzzy. Studies on whether red light cameras actually enhance safety are mixed. Several studies conducted by IIHS, which supports the cameras, show that crashes have not only decreased in intersections that utilize the cameras but that vehicle-related deaths have declined in those cities as well. But other research has shown that the cameras actually increase rear-end collisions because they force drivers to stop more quickly over fear that they’ll run the light and get ticketed, causing tailing motorists to smack into them.

And many of the systems have had other problems. In New Jersey, 17,000 motorists never received tickets for running a red light, while in Chicago, a former city official and the former CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems have been indicted as part of an alleged bribery scheme. There have also been reports of unexplained spikes in tickets given out by the system.

All of which has led to a growing backlash against the cameras. Red light cameras are currently banned in seven states, and others are considering outlawing them. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie says it’s unlikely he’ll extend the state’s red light cameras beyond their expiration date at the end of the year. In Ohio, state lawmakers are looking at banning them by requiring speeding or red light tickets to be handed out in person by officers. And in Chicago, the city said it will no longer ticket motorists who breeze through the shorter yellow. But it’s keeping the money from the ones it already issued.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the relationship between the length of Chicago’s yellow lights and the city’s ticketing policy. Chicago began issuing new tickets for traffic violations after the city started using a different red light camera vendor earlier this year.

TIME New Jersey

Watch Chris Christie Get Totally Defensive About Being Friends With Bruce Springsteen

Chris + Bruce 4Ever

Correction applied Wednesday, August 20

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lost his cool Tuesday after a state resident suggested that the Bruce Springsteen superfan might not be in the Boss’s good graces.

After being asked about a rumor that Springsteen had requested Christie stop using his music at his rallies (a rumor that has not been substantiated), Christie totally freaked, as seen in this video from NJ.com.

“No. Never did that. No, you’re wrong about that,” Christie said. “Bruce has never asked me to do that. He never has. You’re wrong.”

The New Jersey resident then asked about whether he had been dancing with Bon Jovi in the Hamptons, prompting Christie to remind her that he has many celebrity friends besides Springsteen.

“I wasn’t dancing with Bon Jovi, actually, I was dancing with Jamie Foxx,” he said. “So if you’re gonna be cute, we should get the story right.”

But of all his famous friends, the Boss is Christie’s BFF. In fact, they hung out just recently!

“I saw Bruce about a week and a half ago,” Christie said. “And he had every opportunity to tell me not to, he didn’t, and he never has told me not to. Listen, I know him and you’re wrong. I know Bruce, and I’ve spoken to Bruce, and you’re wrong.”

The governor appeared furious at the insinuation that he and Bruce were on the outs, although he did not provide any proof of their friendship, such as letters from camp, friendship bracelets, or selfies. He ended by telling the female journalist, who seemed very calm, to calm down.

“When I leave, just so we can have this lady be a little calmer, let’s play Bon Jovi on the way out,” he said, adding: “If you want to debate, run for governor and I’ll debate you.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the woman who confronted Christie. She was a New Jersey resident.

[NJ.com]

TIME politics

Chris Christie Shows Off His World-Famous Dance Moves Onstage With Jamie Foxx

The New York Post called it "rambunctious gyrating"

At a benefit in the Hamptons this weekend, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie busted out his incredible dance moves (which he recently showed off on The Tonight Show), much to the delight of the crowd.

“I know you’ve got a dance in you, Chris Christie,” said Jamie Foxx, who urged the politician to join him onstage, according to the New York Post. He promptly made his way up to the stage for what the Post aptly described as “rambunctious gyrating.”

Sadly, there’s no audio, so we recommend turning on some Donna Summer to play in the background. Here, hit play on this and then return to the Christie video:

 

TIME 2014 Election

Fact Checking Group Slams New Democratic Ad for ‘Deception’

Tom MacArthur
In this Thursday, April 24, 2014 photograph, candidate in New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District, Tom MacArthur answers a question in Brick Township, N.J. Mel Evans—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Factcheck.org comes down on the DCCC but the Democratic group stands by the ad

The political fact checking site FactCheck.org slammed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Thursday over an ad the group described as deceptive, a characterization the DCCC disputes.

The ad was released by the DCCC in the New Jersey race between Republican Tom MacArthur and Aimee Belgard. It accuses MacArthur of “cheating disaster victims” while a CEO of a risk management company. MacArthur and Belgard are competing to fill the congressional seat being left open by GOP Rep. Jon Runyan, who is not seeking reelection.

Factcheck.org’s primary objection to the ad is that MacArthur was never personally cited for wrongdoing, but rather that his company was sued—twice—for mishandling insurance claims of Hurricane Ike and the 2008 Syre Fire in California, while MacArthur was chairman and CEO. Factcheck objects chiefly to a visual that placed MacArthur’s name above the quote “accused of cheating disaster victims.” The audio of the ad does say that MacArthur ran the insurance company, not that he was personally accused.

In a statement to TIME, the DCCC stood by the ad and criticized FactCheck.org for not contacting the group for comment before running it’s critique.

“If factcheck.org had called us before running their item, we would have happily shared the reality: that this ad clearly and accurately communicates to voters that under Tom MacArthur’s leadership, his company was accused of cheating disaster victims and he profited,” said DCCC spokesperson Emily Bittner.

 

TIME animals

Here’s a Bear Casually Strolling Around New Jersey Like It’s a Person

This is both wildly entertaining and extremely unsetting

What’s this? Oh, you know, just a giant bear walking upright like a human. The bipedal creature is seen in the video above just going for a stroll, occasionally pausing to do things like peek into a trash can. According to the video description, the bear was seen in Jefferson Township, NJ.
 
A Facebook user near Green Pond, NJ, posted an additional — and slightly more unnerving — video of the bear hanging out in a backyard and terrorizing a neighborhood dog:
 

 

TIME Crime

DOJ: Newark Cops Have Pattern of ‘Unconstitutional Policing’

Embattled City Of Newark Holds Mayoral Election
People walk by a police car in downtown on May 13, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

Violations range from stop-and-frisk to use of excessive force

Following a three-year federal investigation, the Newark Police Department was mandated by the Department of Justice Tuesday to overhaul its behavior due to “a pattern of unconstitutional policing,” which included stop-and-frisk tactics and the use of excessive force.

The DOJ report said that Newark police used excessive force in more than one out of five arrests. Some police, the report found, arrested individuals who either questioned cops’ tactics or behaved in a “disrespectful” manner, a potential breach of the First Amendment. The report also said that many officers in drug and gang units were found to have stolen property from people they had arrested.

“Our investigation uncovered troubling patterns in stops, arrests and use of force by the police in Newark,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “With this agreement, we’re taking decisive action to address potential discrimination and end unconstitutional conduct by those who are sworn to serve their fellow citizens.”

The DOJ probe was launched in 2011 after New Jersey’s American Civil Liberties Union filed a misconduct complaint.

MONEY Travel

7 Great American Vacation Spots (That Won’t Bust Your Budget)

Our mission: to find a geographically diverse group of top U.S. destinations where your summer travel dollars can — with a little bit of planning — go a very long way. Then: recommend particular attractions, eateries, and places to stay that will make the most of your visit without breaking the budget.

Nashville, TN

If Bristol, Tennessee, is the birthplace of American county music, Nashville is where it moved after growing some sideburns (or curves). Soak up live performances any night of the week and spend your days investigating Nashville’s many other artistic, gustatory, and historical delights.

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Johnny Cash Museum

Do: During the daytime, get heady on harmonies at the Johnny Cash Museum — where you can see the singer’s handwritten lyrics and Martin guitar ($15 entry) — and the Country Music Hall of Fame, which just underwent a $100 million expansion ($25; $2 off with a visitmusiccity.com coupon). Then hit a Grand Ole Opry live radio show (from $29.50, three days a week) for big names like Blake Shelton, as well as old-school and up-and-coming performers. For a taste of Nashville’s noncountry scene, check out the Stone Fox for the nightly live performances, many with no cover charge, and $1-off happy-hour specials. If visual art is more your speed, you can enjoy works by Goya, Hopper, and Wyeth at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located in a renovated Art Deco post office ($10), and take tours of 135-year-old letterpress shop Hatch Show Print — during which you make your own print to take home ($15).

Eat: Go for a handmade pasta, like garganelli verdi with heritage pork ragout ($17), at Rolf and Daughters, which opened last year in a 100-year-old factory building in Germantown. Then there’s Pinewood Social, a restaurant/karaoke bar/bowling alley, great for treats like hot sweetbreads ($13) and pork-belly salad ($12). But no matter what else you eat, don’t leave town without trying Prince’s Hot Chicken, which is nothing short of a buttery, crunchy, fiery revelation ($7.65 for a half chicken). It’s a few miles northeast of downtown, on the way back from Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate. Newcomer 400 Degrees, near the Hall of Fame, is a close second ($5.86 and up).

Sleep: If your timing is flexible, you can snag discounts at hotels that reward you for longer stays. The Hutton, where rooms typically range from $200 to $300 per night, offers 15% off three-night stays and 20% off four-night stays this summer. Save even more by staying farther from downtown: A new branch of Homewood Suites in the Vanderbilt area, just west of center city, costs 30% less than the downtown Homewood Suites in August — $180 a night compared with $260.

Splurge: Good cowboy boots ain’t cheap, but you can allay the sticker shock by checking out the bargain section of French’s Shoes and Boots. Before bed, grab a nightcap at The Patterson House, a gorgeous speakeasy (and celebrity hangout) serving up class, sass, and incredible cocktails.

 

Portland, OR

Portland has a well-earned hipster rep, but it’s also become a buzzy culinary hotspot. Isn’t it time you went to taste the hype for yourself?

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Danita Delimont—Alamy

Do: Get your bearing with a free walking tour from Secrets of Portlandia, billed as a “stand-up comedy about Portland’s history and culture (twice a day through September 3). You’ll get a rundown of various neighborhoods, see the city’s best known street art, get bar and restaurant recommendations, and more. Still feeling a little of that World Cup fever? Get tickets for the Portland Timbers, the popular local Major League Soccer team. Of, if you’re after a more intellectual pursuit, head to Powell’s City of Books, the flagship of the world’s largest independent chain of bookstores. The store is always hosting interesting readings and book clubs, so check the calendar to see what’s on while you’re in town.

Eat: Portland is a foodie favorite known for two things: creativity and affordability. Start your noshing with the city’s famous food carts. Go to Foodcartsportland.com (or download their 99 cent app) to get the scoop on where to find the most mouthwatering options. One to try: Gastro Mania, home of the $8 foie gras burger. Check Under the Table with Jen, a local food blog run by Jen Stevenson, for sit-down eats. For an evening of wine, cheese, and charcuterie, Stevenson recommends Cyril’s: “It has a ‘secret’ patio, and they just added a bocce court.” Finally, don’t leave town without a stop at the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts, one of the originators of the creative doughnut craze.

Sleep: Portland has some great hotels, but if you’re traveling mid-summer, you’re unlikely to find a well-located place for less than $250 a night. For a more affordable option, try the Everett Street Guesthouse, which is an easy walk to many restaurants and cafes and a six-minute drive from downtown. Rooms start $100, including breakfast.

Splurge: If you’ve ever watched IFC’s Portlandia, the Portland-based comedy starting former SNL cast member Fred Armisen and musician Carrie Brownstein, you remember the “Put a Bird On it” sketch. That scene was filmed at Land, a store/gallery that carries a range of affordable gifts and artworks made by local craftspeople. No matter your taste, you’ll likely find a goodie worthy of a spot in your suitcase.

 

Santa Fe/Albuquerque, NM

New Mexico perfectly captures the spirit of the Southwest — and is full of fun, affordable activities. Start in Albuquerque, then drive an hour northeast to Santa Fe, home to one of the most vibrant art scenes in the country.

140703_EM_TRAVEL_6
http://www.visitalbuquerque.com

Do: With among the highest concentrations of Native Americans in the country, New Mexico is a great place to learn about Navajo and Zuni Pueblo culture. In Albuquerque, catch a dance performance and read about the history of the state’s 22 tribal communities at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center ($6 admission). If you’re visiting in August, try to catch the Santa Fe Indian market, where more than 170,000 people gather each year to learn about and buy contemporary Native American arts and crafts. For a dose of 20th century Americana, check out Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum ($12 for adults, free for youth under 18) — and don’t leave the state without catching a dramatic sunset on North America’s longest aerial tram, the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque ($20).

Eat: Enjoy the kitchy décor and savory diner-food-with-a-twist at Owl Cafe in Albuquerque; try the sumptuous green chili cheeseburger ($5.25) and the onion loaf ($4.95) — a plateful of thin, golden rings piled high. Up in Santa Fe, there’s something for everyone at Harry’s Roadhouse, where the saucy and delicious tacos, burritos, and enchiladas can all be made vegetarian. Generally, top-rated Mexican food abounds, so you just have to remember one rule: Dip those sopapillas in honey.

Sleep: Even nicer hotels in Albuquerque are much less expensive than their counterparts in other cities: The Hotel Parq Central, top-rated on TripAdvisor, charges less than $150 a night for stays in August. Santa Fe is considerably pricier, so go for a bed and breakfast instead, like the whimsically decorated El Paradero Inn, where rooms are available from $155.

Splurge: Take advantage of the hot-but-dry desert weather at the outdoor Santa Fe Opera, which shows original works alongside classics like Carmen. Ticket prices range based on dates and seats from $30 to $300.

 

Long Beach Island, NJ

Don’t be misled by the Jersey Shore GTL stereotype. While there is certainly plenty of fist pumping in some New Jersey beach towns, Long Beach Island is more of an old-school family getaway, complete with salt water taffy, mini-golf, and 18 miles of beach.

140703_EM_travel_1

Do: Climb the 217 steps of the Barnegat Lighthouse for panoramic views of the island and Barnegat Bay ($3 entry fee). You may even be lucky enough to be in town when the lighthouse is open for a “night climb,” which happens just a few times per summer (check the schedule). When you’re ready to hit the water, try a lesson at LBI Surfing. Non-surfers may want to try an SUP—stand-up paddling—class instead. Group lessons are $55 per person. Finally, don’t forget to grab a beach pass; they start at $5 a day.

Eat: You’re on vacation, so eat some fried food. Locals like The Clam Bar in Beach Haven. Try the fried flounder and fry platter for $12.95 or go old school with Clams Casino ($9.95). The line can get long, but you can always call ahead for take-out (and no matter what you do, mind the no cellphone policy!). For another fun indulgence, head to the infamous Chicken or the Egg, once featured on the Man vs. Food show on the Travel Channel. You’ll have plenty of egg dishes to choose from, of course, but the casual eatery is also known for its chicken wings, which come with a choice of 16 sauces.

Sleep: Rather than overpay for a funky beach hotel, look into renting your own place. A recent search of AirBnB turned up 1-bedroom condos starting at $160 per night, and a 4-bedroom cottage for a manageable $190 a night. Bonus: Many rentals come with bikes, grills, and beach chairs.

Splurge: Go to the original Ron Jon Surf Shop, opened in 1961. You know you want a new pair of board shorts or sunglasses, so pick them up at this massive, wonderfully cheesy beach emporium.

 

Yellowstone National Park, WY

America’s national parks are a shared treasure — and Yellowstone is the granddaddy of them all. Check an important item on your domestic bucket list and pitch a tent here.

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Neal Herbert—NPS

Do: Swim, hike, and horseback ride through the two-million-plus acres of our country’s first national park, containing the world’s largest collection of geysers and hot springs — which come in every color of the rainbow. Bring binoculars to get the best view of Yellowstone’s wild fauna, including bison, elk, bobcats, coyotes, moose, mountain lions, wolves, and bears. And of course, catch a glimpse of Old Faithful erupting. The park’s $25 entrance fee is good for a week’s stay, and seniors older than 62 (and their families) and military families can get in for free.

Eat: Nothing beats the smell of barbeque mingling with the fresh outdoor air, so cook outside in one of the park’s designated picnic areas for pleasure — and savings. If you need a break, grab a seat in the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room, located right next to the famous geyser, and order the smoked bison and pheasant and chicken sausage ($15.95) or make your way to Roosevelt Lodge for some farm-raised trout ($18.75).

Sleep: Hotels and cabins are available within the park, but you should decrease the hit to your wallet and up the excitement by pitching a tent in one of Yellowstone’s tent and RV campgrounds. Whereas a room at the Old Faithful Lodge can go for $124 a night in August, camping sites are only $21. There are five grounds where you can reserve spots online, and seven that are first-come, first-served.

Splurge: Bring along some high-quality thermal underwear — the park is surprisingly cold at night, with average lows in late August dipping below 40 degrees. And if you make any gift shop purchases, avoid this book, unless you want to spend your evenings dreaming about bear attacks.

 

New Orleans, LA

Despite its reputation as a party city, New Orleans is much more than beads and bachelor bacchanals. The city is rich with culture, food, lore, and one of the most American of musical genres — jazz.

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Viewminder—Flickr

Do: Get to know New Orleans and its history intimately with one of Free Tours By Foot’s two-hour walking tours, after which you tip the guide whatever you’d like. Start with the French Quarter tour, where you’ll learn about the city’s founding (details are delightfully macabre and salacious) and see historic spots like the Tennessee Williams house. Then branch out with the cemetery or Garden District tours, where you might glimpse a celebrity pet. In the evening, unless you are a dead serious jazz enthusiast, forgo the long line and $30 ticket prices at Preservation Hall and enjoy a live performance at effervescent (and free-of-cover) Fritzel’s.

Eat: Trying the sweet, fluffy beignets at Cafe du Monde ($2.65 for three) is a crucial rite of passage for NOLA visitors, as is ordering a po’boy from one of the city’s many worthy shops. Wash down the grease with the quintessential New Orleans cocktail, the Sazerac, at the quintessential New Orleans bar: the Napolean House ($7).

Sleep: Skip chain hotels like the Marriott or Hyatt, where prices typically top $200 a night, and soak up local charm by staying at a family-owned bed and breakfast. At the 1830s Creole-style Bourgoyne Guest House on Bourbon Street (just north of the hubbub) you’ll pay only $95 a night for studios overlooking a quiet inner courtyard. The plates in the attached kitchenette come in handy to collect crumbs from a late-night muffaletta.

Splurge: Reward yourself for hours of walking — or dancing at The Spotted Cat — with dinner at romantic, atmospheric SoBou. An appetizer of sweet potato beignets is fancied up with foie gras fondue, duck debris, and chicory coffee ganache ($12).

 

Chicago, IL

Always one of America’s most exciting cities, Chicago really comes alive in summer, when residents can finally shed all those layers and get out and enjoy their town.

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Stephanie Lamphere—Flickr

Do: No matter what part of the city you’re itching to explore, you’ll find an intriguing itinerary at ChooseChicago.com. The site runs down a weekly calendar of what’s going on, and suggests routes through 51 different areas. You’ll also find a bevy of free activities throughout the city this summer, including 30 concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. For more culture, seek out one of the dozens of shows put on by small theater companies every weekend. Tickets usually range from $15 to $35 and Chicagoreader.com offers current listings. Finally, no one with even a passing interest in America’s Game should skip Wrigley Field. Check the schedule and get tickets—some at as little as $20—at the Cubs’ website.

Eat: Start with the classic: a Chicago-style hot dog topped by sport peppers, tomato slices, and bright green relish from Hot Doug’s on the North Side. Or, for the type of neighborhood joint locals love, Stephanie Callahan, of food blog Stephanie Eats Chicago, suggests Home Bistro in Lakeview. “It’s a cozy, BYOB place that always has the best ingredients and freshest flavors,” she says. Want a $20 a person dinner (including tax and tip)? Get away from the downtown Loop for a range of ethnic food, including Mexican, Indian and Vietnamese.

Sleep: Hotels in the city center are pricey in summer, but you can save by choosing a B&B. Check out options in Chicago’s North Side neighborhoods, such as Andersonville, Old Town, or Wicker Park. The Wicker Park Inn, for instance, has rooms in July for $159 a night and occasionally offers special rates as low as $99.

Splurge: Reward yourself for a day of serious sightseeing with an al fresco cocktail at Shanghai Terrace, in the Peninsula Hotel. A Green Tea Mojito or Sour Cherry Old Fashion goes down even easier with a cool breeze and sweeping skyline view.

Need more ideas for summer sojourns? Take our quiz: Which Movie Matches Your Travel Style — and Dream Destination?

 

 

TIME

This App Tells You How Much Pizza to Order

pizza
Getty Images

No, there's no "All of it" option

Few things are as difficult as ordering the right amount of food for a group; it’s a complex task where the vital details—how hungry everyone is, how much they can eat, what everyone’s in the mood for—are mostly intangible. That goes double when you’re hungry.

Fortunately, someone’s addressed the problem (for pizza, at least): Web designer Rick Mendes has written an app, Pizza Counter, to accurately assess how much pizza you should get.

Here’s Alyssa Bereznak, from her review of the app over at Yahoo Tech:

The tool, made by New Jersey-based Web designer Rick Mendes, takes into account three important factors when you’re ordering for a group: everyone’s general level of hunger, the maximum size of pie you can order from the restaurant in question, and how many people will be eating. It’ll also use your location to pull up the closest pizza places nearby”

Although seriously – is there really such a thing as too much pizza?

TIME Chris Christie

Christie’s Office Faces Probe Over a Second Bridge

Faith And Freedom Coalition Holds Policy Conference
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference on June 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

The New Jersey governor's administration has reportedly been linked to a second bridge investigation that could bring charges of intent to deceive bondholders

Associates of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been subpoenaed for a second investigation involving a New York bridge, the New York Times reports, even as federal investigators continue to investigate the Christie administration for politically motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.

The bridge at the center of the second investigation is the Pulaski Skyway, an aging four-lane causeway connecting New Jersey to Manhattan that the Christie administration had lobbied the Port Authority for $1.8 billion worth of road repairs. Port Authority lawyers objected to the request, warning that the bridge was property of the state of New Jersey and therefore could not legally be funded by the Authority.

Eventually the two sides reached an agreement that re-characterized the bridge as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which more than 40 blocks north of the Skyway. Bonds issued for the repairs described the project as “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements,” the New York Times reports. If that statement is found to be inaccurate, it could run afoul of state and federal securities laws, and prompt felony charges to be brought against its authors.

Deborah Gramiccioni, the Port Authority’s deputy executive director and a Christie appointee, told the Times the plan to fund the bridge had been “thoroughly vetted” by the New Jersey attorney general lawyers. Christie has previously made similar statements about the funding of the road repairs. “Dozens and dozens of lawyers from both sides of the river reviewed that financing plan and approved it,” he said in April, “as did the commissioners of the Port Authority.”

The investigation was spun off of a prior investigation into the administration’s alleged involvement in lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in Sept. 2013 as retaliation against local political opponents.

[New York Times]

TIME beauty

Illinois Bans Cosmetics Containing Microbeads

Great Lakes Plastic Pollution
In this July 2013 photo provided by the State University of New York at Fredonia, Sherri Mason, right, a New York environmental scientist who led a research team studying microplastics in the Great Lakes, examines a trawling device used to collect plastic “microbeads” from the water's surface with University of Buffalo student Shayne McKay AP

Those tiny little beads in your exfoliating cleanser? They're killing the marine environment

Illinois has become the first American state to ban cosmetics containing microplastics. The move has been taken in response to growing concern over the marine damage caused by plastic waste, which a report published recently by the U.N. Environment Programme puts at $13 billion or more annually.

Among the products that will be removed from Illinois shelves are several brands of exfoliating face wash. While natural versions of this popular product use the likes of oatmeal or ground kernels as an exfoliant, cheap commercial varieties use nonbiodegradable plastic beads, known as microbeads. One average-sized tube can hold thousands of them.

Because of their size — less than a millimeter across — microbeads are not sifted out from wastewater during the sewage-treatment process, but instead end up being released into large bodies of water, like the Great Lakes, where they cause irreparable harm. One California-based institute found almost 470,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer of the Great Lakes, and most of them (81%) were microbeads. Fish and birds think the beads are food and end up eating them, often with lethal consequences.

New York, Ohio and California are expected to follow Illinois’s lead. According to a report released by New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman, 19 tons of microbeads are released into New York wastewater annually. New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone meanwhile introduced a proposal in mid-June, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2014, that would ban the creation and sale of products that contain microbeads nationwide by 2018. “By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it’s too late,” Pallone wrote.

In the meantime, consumers wanting to help reduce the impact of this insidious pollutant can download an app called Beat the Microbead, which allows you to check whether or not a product contains the miniscule plastic balls.

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