TIME Behind the Photos

The 10 Best Daredevil Rooftopping Photos

These adrenaline seekers are not afraid of heights

Armed with cameras, they climb, often illegally, some of the world’s tallest structures. They’re in search of new sensations — or just new vantage points from which to admire the world.

Their names are Vitaliy Raskalov, Vadim Makhorov, Daniel Lau, Tom Ryaboi, Alexander Remnev and Kirill Oreshkin, and they’re not afraid to appear in the stunning and vertigo-inducing images they snap hundreds of feet above ground, as part of a trend known as rooftopping.

“We were curious to get to where you can’t shoot,” says the Russian duo Raskalov and Makhorov, known as On the Roofs. “With our photos, we try to show people the cities they know, but from unusual angles. From the ground, you can’t see such [things].”

The pair always searches for particularly high buildings — or ones that are highly symbolic — from Shanghai to Cairo, New York to Chicago. “They should offer stunning views,” Raskalov and Makhorov tell TIME. “The quality of our images is also [an important factor]. We use the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 6D. It may seem inconvenient to carry big cameras to such heights, but we’re used to it.”

Despite their newfound fame — many such climbers regularly receive sponsorship deals — Raskalov and Makhorov are still on the hunt for new structures to climb. “It doesn’t affect what we do.”

Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, is an associate photo editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME weather

Listen to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Laugh at Himself by Reading from The Onion

Bill de Blasio
Bebeto Matthews—AP New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, and top city officials hold press conference at the city's Office of Emergency Management, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in New York

Satirical post warns NYC, "All shall meet their death in the coming tempest"

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio injected some self-deprecating humor into the city’s no-snowpocalypse Tuesday with an dramatic reading of an article from The Onion.

The 53-year-old reads, and praises, “NYC Mayor: ‘Reconcile Yourselves With Your God, For All Will Perish In The Tempest,” which pokes fun at his reaction ahead of what was supposed to be a historical blizzard, but ended up as a simple snowstorm.

The mayor had come under criticism for stoking fears that the storm would devastate the Big Apple, which led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, food runs on supermarkets and the threat of fines for those caught flouting a driving ban.

But despite the unexpectedly benign conditions, de Blasio showed he has the chops to weather a media-storm instead.

TIME Crime

Texas Girl Shot to Death by 3 Police Officers

A 17-year-old girl was fatally shot by three police offers in the lobby of the Longview Police Department, public information officer Kristie Brian confirms to PEOPLE.

“Kristiana Coignard was shot after she was brandishing a weapon at the officers,” Brian said. “The officers are now on an administrative leave.”

When Coignard entered the station last Thursday around 6:30 p.m in Longview, Texas, she picked up a lobby phone that rings directly to police dispatch, and said that she needed an officer.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials have declined to identify the weapon, but Longview Mayor Jay Dean said he was told a “female wielding a knife entered the police department,” according to the Marshall News Messenger.

Coignard had been in Longview since December, her aunt, Heather Robertson, told Think Progress.

“I think it was a cry for help. I think they could have done something,” Robertson told the news outlet. “They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”

She also told them that her niece had been struggling with mental illness, including bipolar disorder, since her mother died when she was four.

Coignard had been hospitalized twice in recent years after suicide attempts.

The investigation of Coignard’s death is now being handled by the Texas Rangers, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Gay Marriage

Gay Lawmaker Threatens to Out Cheating Peers Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Rep. Patricia Todd, of Birmingham, Ala. discusses a bill during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting in Montgomery, Ala. on Jan. 15, 2014.
Butch Dill—AP Rep. Patricia Todd, of Birmingham, Ala. discusses a bill during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting in Montgomery, Ala. on Jan. 15, 2014.

"I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out."

It must be tough to be an openly gay lawmaker in the Bible Belt.

But Alabama state Rep. Patricia Todd, a Democrat, isn’t backing down.

After a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, Todd wrote a Facebook post that might have a few of her peers worried.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” Todd wrote. “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”

Todd elaborated on her threat to the Huffington Post: “If certain people come out and start espousing this rhetoric about family values, then I will say, ‘Let’s talk about family values, because here’s what I heard.’ I don’t have direct knowledge, because obviously I’m not the other person involved in the affair.”

“One thing I’m pretty consistent on is I do not like hypocrites,” she added. “If you can explain your position and you hold yourself to the same standard you want to hold me to, then fine. But you cannot go out there and smear my community by condemning us and somehow making us feel less than, and expect me to be quiet.”

On Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade issued a two-week stay on her ruling, giving the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals until Feb. 9 to decide whether to continue the delay.

Figuring out whether Todd will make good on her threats in the intervening time will certainly make Alabama politics rather interesting.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Government

Government Officials May Be Using Less Mumbo Jumbo

Courtesy of the Center for Plain Language This report card shows how well federal government agencies did in 2014, in terms of speaking plainly when communicating with the public. It was released on Jan. 27, 2015.

"They just don’t write that well"

On Tuesday, the non-profit Center for Plain Language released its third annual report card for federal government agencies. Those who are following the spirit and letter of the Plain Writing Act—a 2010 law designed to eliminate bureaucratic gobbledygook—got A’s. Those who failed to abide and didn’t submit documents to be reviewed earned big fat F’s.

The bad news is that government agencies are still using words like weatherization, gasification, grantsmanship and interdependencies. The good news is that, overall, the average grade is going up, with 16 of 22 departments improving over the previous year’s grades.

That means fewer sentences like this, from the Department of Defense:

The Deputy Secretary, the second-highest ranking official in the DoD, is delegated full power and authority to act for the Secretary and to exercise the powers of the Secretary on any and all matters for which the Secretary is authorized to act.

And more sentences like this, from the Social Security Administration:

You need a Social Security number to get a job, collect Social Security benefits and get some other government services.

As well as fewer sentences like this, from the Department of Education (note, this really is just one sentence):

Comparison teachers included those from traditional routes to certification (those who completed all requirements for certification, typically through an undergraduate or graduate program in education, before they began to teach) and teachers from less selective alternative routes to certification (programs that allowed teachers to begin to teach before completing all requirements for certification, but that were not as selective as TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs).

And more sentences like this, from the Transportation Security Administration:

Fireworks are not permitted in checked or carry-on baggage.

But the Center for Plain Language also did things a little bit differently this time around. Rather than just grading compliance (Does the agency appoint someone to oversee their plain language endeavors? Is there a way for the public to give the agency feedback about their language?), they gave each agency a grade for compliance, writing samples and information design. The latter is a web-inspired category that’s all about using typeface and white space and graphics to make complex ideas easier to digest. In that area, most agencies came away with C’s.

“They just don’t write that well,” Annetta Cheek, co-founder of the Center for Plain Language, says about government employees. “There’s a lot of feeling that if it doesn’t look complex and legal maybe it’s not legal … It’s just counter to the culture of the government, and people struggle to write plainly.” When it comes to visual elements, she says that’s not even on most agencies’ radars. They’re all text and no pictures. “It will be a while before they dig themselves out of the hole and get to the high level that some private sector companies already have,” she says.

Cheek has been lobbying for Washington, D.C., denizens to speak simply with the public for the past 20 years. And she says that despite the government’s taste for overwrought sentences, “we are finally seeing some significant progress.”

The full report card is above. Cheek says that they’ll likely be dropping the compliance grade next year, since almost every agency has figured out how to follow the letter of the law (note all the A’s). And rather than letting the agencies cherry-pick samples to submit—which forces some skepticism about how much these grades really convey—the Center’s researchers will be making their own selections. The grades for writing were determined by feeding example documents through a software program that picked out red flags like long words, needless words and passive verbs. The information design scores were determined by two people independently scoring the documents’ visual elements.

The Act itself doesn’t include a process for oversight, which is why the Center for Plain Language developed this annual process for rewarding straightforward speech and holding jargon-lovers’ feet to the fire.

TIME weather

How Much Did the Snowstorm Shutdown Cost New York City?

NYC Snowstorm
Andrew Burton—2015 Getty Images NYC Snowstorm

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

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

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

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

It costs money to clean up snow

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

The city isn’t getting money from parking tickets

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

Fewer New York City residents are taking the subway

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

 

Overall cost to the economy

This category is the major question mark.

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

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

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

Summing it up

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

TIME Crime

Boy Scouts’ ‘Perversion Files’ to Be Unveiled in Molestation Trial

Boy Scouts, Parents Deliver Petition To Boy Scout HQ To End Ban On LGBT Scouts
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A detail view of a Boy Scout uniform.

The trial will focus on documents between 1971 and 2007

Nearly 100,000 pages from the Boy Scouts of America’s so-called “perversion” files – documenting the alleged sexual abuse of scouts by adult volunteers – will play a key role in a civil trial that began on Monday in Santa Barbara, California.

“The Boy Scouts of America has a long and sordid history of child sexual abuse committed against young Scouts, committed by Scout leaders, and that timeline goes back, the files show, until at least the 1920s,” attorney Tim Hale told the jury in his opening statements, according to the Associated Press.

Hale represents a now 20-year-old former Scout who was sexually molested seven years ago by volunteer Al Stein, 37, while the two worked in a Christmas tree lot in Goleta, California, Stein later served time in prison for the assault that his victim contends resulted in depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress so severe that he cannot leave his home.

Hale maintains that the organization did little to properly educate and train adult volunteers and parents about sex abuse. He told the jury that once deliberations begin they will receive a CD containing thousands of abuse cases gathered by the organization.

“You are going to be the first people in the United States with the opportunity to review these files,” said Hale, who got the green light to use the files as evidence by a judge earlier this month.

Nicholas Heldt, an attorney for the Scouts, argued that the “perversion” files, aka ineligible volunteer (IV) files, were used to develop a list of adults who shouldn’t be allowed to participate in Scouts. He added that while the organization may have made mistakes in the past, it currently maintains an intensive program to protect children from pedophiles and the files will reveal what strides have been made in recent years to protect children.

“I think this is a case in which the one instance of sexual abuse against [the plaintiff] could not have been prevented and it wasn’t prevented,” Heldt said in his opening statements, per the AP. “But the training program may have helped prevent the second or the third instance of sexual abuse.”

In this particular case, Heldt maintained that the training program helped the victim understand what was happening during his sexual assault and resist the attack. He quickly notified his mother and she alerted Scout leaders about the incident, who informed police.

“The behavior described in this suit is absolutely unacceptable and runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands,” Deron Smith, communications director for the organization, tells PEOPLE. “The ineligible volunteer files (IV) exist solely to keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting and Scouts are safer because those files exist. Experts have found that the BSA’s system of IV files functions well to help protect Scouts by denying entry to dangerous individuals, and Scouting believes that they play an important role in our comprehensive youth protection system.”

In 2012, an Oregon Supreme Court judge first ordered the release of the “perversion” files from 1965 to 1985 after a former scout was awarded a $20 million settlement in a molestation case. The records revealed that many of the abuse allegations brought to the attention of the national organization were never reported to police.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times created a detailed database documenting the nearly 5,000 men and several women expelled from the organization between 1947 and 2005 after being suspected of sexual abuse.

In the ongoing trial, Hale plans on focusing on documents between 1971 and 2007.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME weather

Here’s a Closer Look at the ‘Snowmenclature’ People Are Using

Literal is so hot right now

Every great blizzard that hits the U.S. sends people running to the grocery store to stockpile canned goods and, in recent years, to their keyboards for rampant hashtagging. As snow hit the Northeast on Monday and Tuesday, social media was rife with references to the #snowicane, the #snowjam and the #snownado.

TIME partnered with Hashtracking to find out which trending hashtags were getting the most traction on Twitter, as New York residents geared up for chaos that never really hit and New Englanders battened down the hatches. The results are in: The top hashtag for tweeting about the storm is the quite literal #blizzardof2015. (You can get a closer look at the chart here.)

Chart complied by Hashtracking

But, as with many competitions, the winners aren’t as interesting as the losers. Juno, the green line above in a solid third place, is the name for the storm chosen by the Weather Channel. That cable network decided two years ago that it would start giving names to winter storms like the government does for hurricanes, a move many saw as a branding “ploy”.

The government hasn’t endorsed the Weather Channel’s names and doesn’t name winter storms itself because snowstorms are more frequent and more ambiguous than events like hurricanes. The network has said its aim is to make people more aware of such events, but it appears that people prefer to orient themselves with the more straightforward #blizzardof2015 than the more arbitrary #Juno.

That unpoetic hashtag has also trumped the long-dominant blizzard-time puns #snowmageddon and #snowpocalypse. This blizzard may mark the first time some people are hearing this duo of “portmansnows”—as Stanford University linguist Arnold Zwicky dubbed them—but they have been around for at least a decade. And they may finally have reached a point of exposure where they’re on the way out.

Ben Zimmer, executive editor at Vocabulary.com, found evidence of bloggers using this “snowmenclature” when storms hit the U.S. in 2005. But, he says, they didn’t really blow up until Twitter had taken hold in 2010. Even President Barack Obama was on board that year. “Hashtags lend themselves to this play with blended words,” Zimmer says. “And a successful blend, one people recognize and understand, is one where the parts are obvious at first glance, like snowmageddon.”

MORE: Why Blizzards Turn Us Into Irrational Hoarders at the Grocery Store

Clearly snowmageddon is a blend of the white precipitation commonly known as snow and Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil that leaves the earth in ashes—just as snowpocalypse is a blend of snow and apocalypse, a last catastrophe that marks the end of the world.

But what really makes these words irresistible (at least for a while) is the nature of the events that inspired them. As Zimmer says, “It makes you feel like you’re in a disaster movie.” And what’s the best part of a huge snowstorm or a zombie takeover that leaves 10 newly acquainted survivors huddled in a farmhouse? The same thing. There’s a suspension of the rules. You’re expected to figure things out for yourself and you get to do things you wouldn’t on any regular day. Walking right down the middle of what is usually a busy street is a thrilling little treat, whether everybody’s dead or everybody’s cars are stuck in their driveways.

Just like those survivors in the farmhouse, there is also a sudden solidarity among everyone who is having their normal lives upended. “There’s something kind of exciting and it kind of draws everybody together,” says Tom Skilling, top weather broadcaster for WGN in Chicago. “‘We’re about to go through this as a group and if we all deal with this together, we’ll get through this.’ Major weather events affect everybody, all ages, all demographic groups. And if it doesn’t happen too often, there’s a drawing together that goes on.”

That said, Skilling is not a big fan of these “gimmicky” words. He’s more of a #blizzardof2015 kind of guy. The fact that they’re so hyperbolic—clearly no one is taking a snowstorm as seriously as an apocalypse—makes them playful. And the fact that they’re playful might lead to people not taking dangerous weather events as seriously as they should, he says. “You’re dealing with an event in nature that really does have great consequence,” he says. “Sometimes we’re better off just dealing with facts.” (Then Skilling apologizes for being a killjoy.)

Here is a short selection of puns and plays on words the people are using to get themselves through this cold, dark time.

#snowbomb
#snowboken
#SnowCountryForOldMen
#SnowEndInSight
#snowghazi
#snowgate
#snowicane
#snowjam
#snowjob
#snowku (for haikus about the storm)
#snowlarvortex
#snowmageddon
#snownado
#SnowtoriousRex
#snowwhat

(Feel free to tweet the author with other puns to add.)

TIME weather

Why the Big Blizzard Fizzled in New York

Inside the imprecise art of weather forecasting

Mother Nature took a huge swing at New York City and missed by miles. And while the Blizzard of 2015 turned into the Fizzard of 2015 for the Big Apple, just up the coast, Providence and Boston got walloped as scheduled. Beantown conspiracy theorists are wondering: Did this blizzard get bribed?

Not quite, it just got shoved a few miles to the east at the last minute, which changes everything as storms move up the Atlantic coast. That more easterly track is exactly what computer models had been predicting until three days before storm hit—but a critical shift by one model moved the storm track a little more to the west, which triggered the snowpocalyptic forecast. “Before that, the models all took the storm out to sea,” says Joel Gratz, a meteorologist and CEO of Open Snow, which makes detailed snow forecasts for skiers. “That is a something to be cautious about when they pick something out so late in the game.”

Why did the models goof? There are four weather models used by meteorologists around the world: the American Global Forecast System, the European model, called the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the UKMET model from the U.K., and the Canadian model. The European model had shifted the track west and it has been the best predictor, with the UKMET model second and the American third. Late in the game, though, the UKMET model kicked the storm that critical few miles. “Over the weekend, the UKMET model nudged it a little bit further east,” says Gratz. “That just kind of gave me pause when the number two model in the world is pushing the storm a few more miles out to sea.”

The National Weather Service (NWS), on the other hand, kept jacking up the forecast totals even as the models were giving a broad range of snowfall, from six inches to three feet. “NWS’s adjustments were all in the ‘more severe’ category, says Ryan Maue, a research meteorologist at the private firm WeatherBEL. “That’s an ominous signal that suggested NWS had a high-level of confidence in their forecast. However, it was clear at the time that the exact opposite was true—this was a low-confidence solution, meaning the chance of a 30-inch snowfall occurring in NYC required everything to ‘go right’ for the blizzard’s track, intensity, and motion.” Private forecasters, including the Weather Channel, might have been skeptical about the 30-inch forecast, says Maue, but they don’t want to risk sending a mixed message that confuses the public about what to do.

There was never any doubt that New England was going to get nailed, but that was the easier part of the forecast—a lock, says Gratz. It’s the back edge of a storm that carries the most uncertainty. That left forecasters with a bit of a conundrum: follow the models and predict a dire and dangerous storm, or back off a bit, which might lead both officials and civilians to let down their guard at the wrong time.

MORE: Why Blizzards Turn Us Into Irrational Hoarders at the Grocery Store

Officials reacted to the fear factor. And, as Maue points out, the NWS absolutely nailed the last catastrophic storm, Hurricane Sandy, which caught some government agencies off guard. So in New York, hundreds of flights were canceled, mass transit shut down, stores closed and people loaded up on necessities, some in a panic state, in anticipation of not going anywhere for a couple of days. But the snow machine turned off at about 10 p.m. Monday night. Central Park ended up with about six inches of snow by Tuesday morning. The NWS’s Gary Szatkoski felt compelled to tweet an apology. “My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public,” he said. “You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn’t. Once again, I’m sorry.”

If weather is difficult to predict, precipitation is harder and snow even more difficult. The reason is that forecasters not only have to get the storm track right, they also have to nail the temperature, since the temperature influences how snow crystals form, which in turn determines how much snow falls. It’s compounding complexity and Atlantic winter storms have shown no discernible pattern over the decades.

Gratz does admit that there’s another possible reason behind the blown forecasts. When meteorologists see a big storm brewing they get a little too excited about it and want to share their knowledge and forecasting chops.

It’s only natural. Just like the weather.

TIME weather

East Coasters Share Amazing Storm Photos on Social Media

People across the northeast took to Instagram to post their #Snowmageddon2015 photos

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