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.

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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.

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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 Law

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Vetoes Gun Magazine Reduction Bill

Faith And Freedom Coalition Holds Policy Conference
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel on June 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill Wednesday that would have banned ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

(NEWARK, N.J.) — Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill Wednesday that would have banned ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

In his veto message, the Republican governor rejected the idea that limiting the number of bullets that guns can hold will put an end to mass shootings, calling it a “simplistic” and “trivial” approach. The bill would have reduced the legal ammunition capacity from 15 to 10 rounds.

In the bill’s place, Christie called for a series of reforms to mental illness treatment, including a new standard that would make it easier to commit people involuntarily.

“Mass violence will not end by changing the number of bullets loaded into a gun,” said Christie, whose stance on guns is being watched closely ahead of a potential run for president in 2016.

Supporters of the bill, including parents of children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, have argued the limit would make mass shootings less deadly by requiring shooters to stop to reload more often, giving police and potential victims more time to react.

Christie signed several firearms bills into law last year, but he issued conditional vetoes of some of the more contentious ones, including a ban on .50-caliber rifles.

Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, a lead sponsor of the legislation, slammed the governor’s decision and suggested Christie was pandering to the primary voters he may end up courting.

“The governor’s action today can best be described with the words used in his own veto statement, ‘difficult choices are brushed aside.uncomfortable topics are left unexplored.’ I would imagine this is a very uncomfortable topic to have with conservative voters in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said.

Added Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat: “This veto sounds like it was geared more for a national audience, rather than crafted for the streets of New Jersey.”

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.

TIME celebrities

Tracy Morgan Out of Hospital After Accident

106 & Park Live
Actor Tracy Morgan visits 106 & Park at BET studio on April 16, 2014 in New York City. Bennett Raglin—BET/Getty Images

Now in private rehab

Comedian Tracy Morgan has left the hospital following a deadly car accident earlier this month and has been moved to undisclosed rehabilitation facility, his publicist said Friday.

Morgan is expected to continue his recovery there for the next few weeks, publicist Lewis Kay said. “While he is continuing to show signs of improvement, he still has a long way to go,” Kay said in a statement. “He and Megan wanted to publicly express their deepest gratitude to everyone at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for the unbelievable care and attention they provided him.”

Morgan was placed in intensive care after a truck crashed into his limousine SUV earlier this month. One man died in the crash while four others, including Morgan, were injured. Authorities have since said the driver of the truck was speeding and driving with little sleep.

TIME celebrities

Tracy Morgan Still in Critical Condition After Wreck

The 30 Rock star is stable after being seriously injured when a truck plowed into his bus

+ READ ARTICLE

The comedian Tracy Morgan is in stable but still critical condition, after being hospitalized on Saturday in an early-morning accident on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Tracy reportedly continues to show signs of improvement and his medical team remains optimistic that his recovery is “progressing,” spokesperson Lewis Kay said in a statement. “In addition, Jeff’s wife asked us to pass along that Jeff has also shown much improvement over the past few days. She is very thankful for the love and support she and their family continue to receive.”

The truck driver who collided with the limousine bus Morgan was riding in has pleaded not guilty, the Associated Press reported earlier this week.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Cuts Pension Payments as Fiscal Record Shows Cracks

NJ Gov. Chris Christie
NJ Gov. Chris Christie Ethan Miller—Getty Images

The New Jersey governor was forced to cut pension payments to make up for lower-than-expected tax revenues, another dent in his brand as a no-nonsense reformer

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie moved Tuesday to cut more than $2 billion in state pension payments, which would cover a budgetary shortfall but is also sure to spark a political backlash.

The likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate cited the state constitution’s requirement to have a balanced budget for his decision to cut pension payments for inactive state employees. It would help close an estimated $807 million deficit in the current fiscal year, brought on by revenues that fell short of expectations. Christie said Tuesday he was caught off guard by how quickly he was again forced to confront the state’s burgeoning liabilities, blaming the state’s budget gap on overly-optimistic revenue projections by his budget economists and changes in federal tax law. He also criticized his Democratic and Republican predecessors for failing to make necessary pension payments. “We will not make the payments that apply to the sins of the past,” Christie said at a news conference.

The state will still make more than $1.3 billion in pension payments for those active in the system over the next 14 months, Christie said. He said he would present the legislature with a plan to reform pensions and benefits in the next month, and called on lawmakers to work with him to make additional changes. Christie’s decision exacerbates the burden on a stressed system, with the state putting its total unfunded pension liability at $52 billion, and calls into question one of his crowning achievements: a bipartisan 2011 pension and health care overhaul that helped propel him onto the national stage. The move comes after Christie changed the state’s pension formula earlier this year to save $900 million through the end of his term.

And it risked undercutting his political brand as a no-nonsense problem solver, a brand already hurt by the traffic scandal that put his White House hopes in peril.

“Maybe the folks in Washington, D.C. should tune in their TVs right now to see how it’s done,” Christie said last year when he handily won reelection by touting his record on reforming pensions and benefits. But Christie conceded Tuesday that the effort hasn’t made “much of a dent.”

“We’re still digging out of problems two decades in the making,” he said.

Under the 2011 agreement, Christie raised the retirement age for state employees and increased the rate at which they have to contribute to their pension and healthcare, while devoting additional resources to paying down the state’s unfunded liabilities. Indeed it was in defending the agreement that Christie first became a household name, as he bluntly debated critics in town hall meetings that quickly became YouTube fodder.

The announcement Tuesday reflected a scaling back of those plans. It came on the heels of another round of credit downgrades for New Jersey, with Moody’s Investors Service lowering the state’s rating from last week, following similar actions by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings. Those downgrades put New Jersey’s debt in the same troubled category as California and Illinois.

“The downgrade… reflects the weakened financial position resulting from recurring revenue shortfalls and ongoing reliance on non-recurring resources that have deferred structural imbalances into future years,” Moody’s analysts wrote. “Additionally, high and rapidly-growing fixed costs have pressured the budget and limited the state’s flexibility to make structural changes that would improve long-term budget balance. As a result, the state’s liquidity position has weakened to levels that provide minimal cushion against budget surprises.”

Democrats seized on the change to cast Christie’s fiscal stewardship into doubt.

“One would expect someone who has dug such a deep hole for himself to stop digging,” John Currie, who chairs the state’s Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Chris Christie has not learned that lesson.”

The fiscal drama comes as Christie is fighting to restore his national image following the allegedly politically motivated closure of lanes to the George Washington Bridge by aides. The governor is also heavily traveling the country on behalf of other Republican governors and to boost his own political ambitions, most recently delivering a speech outlining some of his foreign policy principles on Sunday night. Christie used the 2011 agreement to burnish his credentials as a deal-maker capable of working across party lines, but a similar outcome on another agreement is far from guaranteed this time around. Meanwhile, Christie will have a hard time campaigning on a pension deal he was forced to scale back.

TIME nature

Beached Whale in New Jersey Becomes Frat Graffiti Mural

Atlantic City Whale
Bob Schoelkopf, right, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, looks over a minke whale that washed up along with a common dolphin, in foreground, in Atlantic City, N.J., Thursday, May 1, 2014. Vernon Ogrodnek—AP

The corpse of beached whale in New Jersey appears to have been spray painted with graffiti letters of a fraternity that has chapters at nearby schools. It's not immediately clear what killed the animal, but it’s not uncommon for whale corpses to wash ashore in the area

The corpse of a beached Minke whale in New Jersey became a canvas for graffiti artists, Atlantic City police confirmed Thursday.

The whale was discovered Thursday morning covered in purple graffiti that appeared to be the Greek letters Tau Epsilon Phi followed by the number 94. Several schools in the area host fraternities named for the same Greek letters.

At more than 12 feet long, disposing of the whale is proving contentious in among Atlantic City’s beach community. The corpse was dragged from beneath the pier down the beach where authorities plan to bury it, which has some business owners worried about the stench of decomposing whale, the Press of Atlantic City reports. The whale washed up along with the corpse of a common dolphin. It’s not uncommon for the corpses of either animal to wash ashore in the area.

[Press of Atlantic City]

 

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