Monday, February 14, 2011

The tunnel people of Las Vegas: How 1,000 live in flooded labyrinth under Sin City's shimmering strip

Deep beneath Vegas’s glittering lights lies a sinister labyrinth inhabited by poisonous spiders and a man nicknamed The Troll who wields an iron bar.

But astonishingly, the 200 miles of flood tunnels are also home to 1,000 people who eke out a living in the strip’s dark underbelly.

Some, like Steven and his girlfriend Kathryn, have furnished their home with considerable care - their 400sq ft 'bungalow' boasts a double bed, a wardrobe and even a bookshelf.

Austin Hargrave Las Vegas tunnels

Deeper underground: Steven and Kathryn live in a 400sq ft 'bungalow' under Las Vegas which they have lovingly furnished with other people's castoffs

Austin Hargave
Austin Hargave

One man's junk... Tunnel residents have created wardrobes for their clothes and salvaged furniture to make the subterranean world more homely. However, there is little they can do about the water on the floor

Steven and Kathryn

House proud: Steven and Kathryn have also compiled their own library - and constructed shelves to house it

They have been there for five years, fashioning a shower out of a water cooler, hanging paintings on the walls and collating a library from abandoned books.

Their possessions, however, are carefully placed in plastic crates to stop them getting soaked by the noxious water pooling on the floor.

'Our bed came from a skip oustide an apartment complex,' Steven explains. 'It's mainly stuff people dump that we pick up. One man's junk is another man's gold.

‘We get the stuff late at night so people don't see us because it's kind of embarrassing.’

Austin Hargrave flood tunnels

Flood tunnels: Amy lives in the labyrinth with her husband Junior. The couple lost their home after the death of their baby son

Austin Hargrave tunnel pix

Treasured photo: Amy's son Brady, who died at four months

Steven was forced into the tunnels three years ago after his heroin addiction led to him losing his job.

He says he is now clean and the pair survive by ‘credit hustling’ in the casinos, donning second-hand clothes to check the slot machines for chips accidently left behind.

Astonishingly, Steven claims he once found $997 (£609) on one machine.

Further into the maze are Amy and Junior who married in the Shalimar Chapel – one of Vegas’s most popular venues - before returning to the tunnels for their honeymoon.

They lost their home when they became addicted to drugs after the death of their son Brady at four months old.

‘I heard Las Vegas was a good place for jobs,’ Amy said. ‘But it was tough and we started living under the staircase outside the MGM casino.

‘Then we met a guy who lived in the tunnels. We’ve been down here ever since.’

Matthew O’Brien, a reporter who stumbled across the tunnel people when he was researching a murder case, has set up The Shine A Light foundation to help.

Austin Hargrave flood tunnels

Home comforts: The tunnel people decorate the homes and even lay scraps of carpet on the concrete floor to make it more comfortable

Las Vegas and tunnels

Graffiti artists have turned this area of the tunnel network into a gallery: The channels stretch for more than 200 miles under the ground

‘These are normal people of all ages who’ve lost their way, generally after a traumatic event,’ he said.

‘Many are war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

‘It’s not known how many children are living there, as they’re kept out of sight, but I’ve seen evidence of them – toys and teddy bears.’

O’Brien has published a book on the tunnel people called Beneath The Neon.

These evocative images which show the community's astonishing way of life were taken by Austin Hargrave, a British photographer now based in the U.S.

They show how the destitute and hopeless have constructed a community beneath the city and have even dedicated one section of tunnels to an art gallery filled with intricate graffiti.

Las Vegas

Back above ground: The blazing lights of the strip give no indication of the city's dark underbelly

Las Vegas and tunnels

Entrance: The towers and fantastical buildings of Vegas can be seen in the background

Las Vegas and tunnels

Chink of light: Most of the people who live underground have fallen into destitution after struggling with drink, drugs or mental health problems

Greece slams IMF-EU interference

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou
The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have been accused of interfering in Greece's domestic affairs after demanding asset sales to ease the country's debt burden.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou accused the EU and the IMF of practicing “unacceptable behavior,” on Saturday.

On Friday EU and IMF inspectors, along with European Central Bank experts had been monitoring Greece's implementation of a bailout plan which saved Athens from bankruptcy, AFP reported.

After finding revenue shortfall and reform processes being at risk in a quarterly audit, the three bodies demanded that Athens should act towards reforms at a faster pace and sell more public assets, a 50-billion-euro asset sale being among the demands.

Papandreou complained of the three inspecting bodies to IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The prime minister has reportedly taken the matter to EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn.

After years of great public deficits, Greece currently has a public debt of around 300 billion euros.

In 2009 the country's deficit reached a 15.4 percent of output, which is over five times the level allowed by the EU.

The EU and IMF approved a 110-billion-euro loan package for Greece last May.


Where Are The Wall Street Prosecutions!" - Gretchen Morgenson Agrees With Spitzer & Angry C-SPAN Callers

Video - NYT's Morgenson and William Cohan on CNN's Parker & Spitzer - Jan. 27

Editor's Note: You can also watch this clip on Youtube if you want a larger picture. In 2011, CNN still does not allow their youtube content to be embedded, which explains why their clips rarely get seen. Earth to CNN, wake up fools. Ths shared video world is passing you by.

Gretchen Morgenson has covered the financial crisis better and more extensively than just about anybody in the print media. Cohan is the author of House of Cards about the collapse of Bear Stearns.

In this clip, Morgenson, Cohan and Spitzer are asking the same question: Where are the prosecutions for crimes connected to the financial crisis? Geithner and Bernanke also take a beating for failures of regulation and oversight during the build-up. Spitzer calls it "The Peter Principle on steroids." Great discussion -- they sound like they've been reading the Daily Bail.


Morgenson on C-SPAN from a weeks ago...

Great discussion. A righteous call.

In this clip, Morgenson appears on C-SPAN's Washington Journal. If you've ever watched this show you know that the people who call in can be a little nutty. But these days, nutty (in an angry kind of way) just makes sense.

Callers on the day that Morgenson appeared are IRATE that almost no white-collar criminals have been prosecuted for financial crimes. First caller says we better start seeing some prosecutions soon or else "something like Egypt [is going] to happen here." Right on, brother.

Morgenson pretty much agrees with him and the other callers, noting that prosecutor and Department of Justice inaction, in light of trillions of dollars in financial damage, is a "burning question" -- one that she gets asked over and over by people from all over the country.

Jim Rogers - Abolish the WB and the IMF (13 February 2009)

Click this link .....

The Fiat Kilogram?

A ‘new urgency’ is how the New York Times, in a marvelous editorial this week, describes the rush to redefine the official kilogram. That famous weight and measure turns out to be what the newspaper describes as a cylinder of platinum and iridium maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. It is kept there under three glass domes accessible by three separate keys. It is, the Times notes, more than 130 years old and is what the paper calls the “only remaining international standard in the metric system that is still a man-made object.” The “new urgency” comes from the discovery that the official cylinder may be losing mass, which, the Times says, “defeats its only purpose: constancy.”

Of course, we could let the confounded kilogram just float. After all, we let the dollar just float, its creation and status as legal tender a matter of fiat, its value adjusted by the mandarins at the Federal Reserve depending on such variables as they from time to time share, or not, with the rest of the world and, in any event, as would have floored the Founders, who granted the Congress the power to coin money and regulate its value and did so in the same sentence in which they also granted the Congress the power to fix the standard of the other weights and measures, like, say, the aforementioned kilogram.

The Founders, many of whom promptly went into the Congress, turned around and regulated the value of the dollar at 371 ¼ grains of pure silver. The law through which they did that, the Coinage Act of 1792, noted that the amount of silver they were regulating for the dollar was the same as in a coin then in widespread use, known as the Spanish milled dollar. And they said a dollar could also be the free-market equivalent in gold. They never expected the value of the dollar to be changed any more than the persons who locked away that cylinder of platinum and iridium expected the cylinder to start losing its mass.

But here in the modern age, the members of the Federal Reserve Board don’t worry about how many grains of silver or gold are behind the dollar. They couldn’t care less. And when the value of a dollar plunges at a dizzying rate, the chairman of Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, goes up to Capitol Hill and, in testimony before the House, declares merely that he is “puzzled.” No “new urgency” to redefine the dollar for him. The fact is that we’ve long since ceased to define the dollar, and it can float not only against other currencies but against the 371 ¼ grains of pure silver.

So why not the kilogram? After all, when you go into the grocery to buy a pound of hamburger, why should you worry about how much hamburger you get — so long as it’s a pound’s worth. A pound is supposed to be .45359237 of a kilogram, of course. But if the Congress can permit Mr. Bernanke to use his judgment in deciding what a dollar is worth, why shouldn’t he — or some other PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology — be able to decide from day to day what a kilogram is worth? Why, not to put too fine a point on it, is the New York Times so concerned about the consarned constancy?

No doubt some will cavil that the fact that the dollar floats makes it all the more reason for the kilogram to be constant. But we would say, what’s so special about the kilogram. Maybe they should both float. If the fiat dollar floats, one has no idea what it will be worth when it comes time to spend it. If the kilogram — that basic unit of weight of all that we buy by weight — also floats, it will be twice as hard to figure out what whatever we’re buying will be worth. So what if, when we unwrap our hamburger, the missus has to throw a little more sawdust in the meatloaf.

To those who would say that would be unfair, if not completely deconstructionist, let us compromise. Let’s go to a fiat kilogram, that is, permit the kilogram float, but apply the new urgency to fixing the dollar at a specified number of grains of — and we might as well pick something essentially inert — gold. To those who say it would be ridiculous to fix the dollar but let the butcher hand you whatever amount of hamburger he wants for a kilogram or a pound of the stuff, we say, what’s the difference as to whether it’s the measure of money that floats or the measure weight.

For that matter, one could go whole hog and fix the value of both the kilogram and the dollar but float the value of time. You say you want to be paid $100 an hour. That’s fine by your boss. But he gets to decide how many minutes in the hour. Or how long the minute is. You know you’ll get a kilogram of meat for the price a kilogram of meat costs. But you won’t know how long you have to work to earn the money. It strikes us as a risky deal. But speaking here for The New York Sun, we say if people are going to insist that the whole point of the kilogram is its constancy, then we’re going to say that there’s no point to it without, as well, a constant dollar.

US man 'kills four people' in New York 28-hour rampage

Click to play

The man, alleged to be Ukrainian-born Maksim Gelman, 23, was armed with five knives

A man fatally stabbed his stepfather, ex-girlfriend and her mother, before running over a pedestrian in a 28-hour rampage in New York City, police said.

The man, alleged to be Ukrainian-born Maksim Gelman, 23, was armed with five knives when he went on a stabbing spree early on Friday, officials said.

Four other people were knifed but survived the attacks.

Mr Gelman was finally arrested on a train on Saturday morning after an all-night manhunt.

Charges against him are pending.

"It's so horrendous and bizarre. We have no reason to know why he did this," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

He said had not recalled seeing "anything like this" in the decades he had worked for the New York police department.

'Stabbed 11 times'

Police said the suspect had stabbed three people to death, hijacked two cars, run over a pedestrian and attacked several others in the violent spree which covered three New York City boroughs.

The attacks are said to have begun after 0500 local time (1000 GMT) on Friday when Mr Gelman allegedly killed his stepfather, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay neighbourhood.

The suspect had had a fight with his mother after she refused to allow him to use her car, a Lexus, and 54-year-old Mr Kuznetsov had intervened, police said.

Blood stains the sidewalk at the scene of one of the stabbings - photo 12 February The attacks began after an argument between the suspect and his mother

Less than six hours later, at about 1030 local time, Mr Gelman went to his ex-girlfriend's home where he killed her 56-year-old mother, Anna Bulchenko.

Yelena Bulchenko, 20, is said to have discovered her mother and called police.

The attacker, who was still in the house, then chased her outside and stabbed her 11 times.

Police said he drove away in the Lexus, hitting another car in Brooklyn's Midwood neighbourhood.

When the driver confronted him, Mr Gelman allegedly stabbed him three times in the chest. The victim survived and is in a stable condition.

The suspect then allegedly hit a pedestrian, 62-year-old Stephen Tanenbaum, who died of his injuries.

'Knife in hand'

At about 0100 local time on Saturday, the suspect confronted a cab driver in the Crown Heights area, stabbing him. He then approached a couple in a Nissan and stabbed the man in the hand several times before taking their car. Both men survived.

Later that morning, according to Commissioner Kelly's account, a passengers on an upper Manhattan train got off and told police officers a man fitting Mr Gelman's description had knocked a newspaper out of her hand and said: "Do you believe what they're writing about me?"

Police say Mr Gelman then got off the train, crossed the tracks and boarded a different train where he stabbed a passenger.

Mr Gelman made his way up to the driver's compartment and knocked on it, claiming to be police, Commissioner Kelly said.

A police officer in the driver's cab opened the door and wrestled Mr Gelman to the ground, knocking a knife from his hand before he was taken into custody.

Police described the suspect as an unemployed drug user with 10 previous arrests, mostly linked to graffiti and drugs.

Gerald Celente – Economic Crisis, Arab Revolutions and Upcoming War 10th Feb 2011

Click this link ......

100 more Reno city employees get layoff notices

RENO, Nev. (AP) - One hundred more Reno city employees have received layoff notices, prompting the immediate closure of a downtown police substation to the public.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reports the workers were advised by the personnel office of their options Friday, including unemployment benefits and self-paid, extended health coverage.

City spokeswoman Michele Anderson says the employees were put on administrative leave until the layoffs take effect March 1 so they have more time to find work while under the city's health insurance coverage.

Last year, the city laid off 126 full-time positions and left another 56 positions empty. In all, 381 positions have been eliminated in the last two years, reducing city staff to about 1,240.

A severe budget shortfall has prompted the layoffs.

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal,

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Borders to close some stores, but hasn’t announced when or where

Book stores are wonderful places to browse for that great novel a friend recommended, get a cup of coffee or sometimes just to chill out with your laptop or listen to a local singer.
But the day for such places is apparently numbered.
Borders Group, the country’s second largest traditional bookstore chain, may file for bankruptcy reorganization as early as Monday or Tuesday, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
And it will be shutter some of its stores. WSJ, citing unnamed sources, said about 200 of its 674 stores could close.
I contacted the manager of the Borders store in Central Park, one of two in the Fredericksburg area, and was told to call Borders Group spokeswoman Mary Davis.
She confirmed this afternoon that the company is going to initiate a store closing program, but said it has not indicated where those stores are or when the closings might take place.
“I have no details to share with you today,” she told me. “When we are ready to talk publicly about it, we will do so.”
If the one in Central Park is among those that close, it would be the second store in that section of the big box shopping center to fold. Shoppers Food & Pharmacy closed recently, and its large, plate-glass windows were being boarded up when I drove past there Wednesday.

Obama struggles to balance budget cuts, investment

© AFP/File Jim Watson
AFP/Activist Post

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama unveils his fiscal 2012 budget Monday, an election year plan forged from conflicting needs to cut spending and stoke the economic recovery.

With vast crisis payments and sharply lower tax revenues making it difficult for the government to balance its books, Obama will set out an austerity plan that will help set the tone for next year's presidential race.

It is expected to address widespread public anger that the government is living beyond its means, detailing tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars of spending cuts, while making investments that will help "win the future."

To square the circle, Obama has already said the budget will set in motion cuts to non-essential programs worth $400 billion over five years.

It is also expected to cut $78 billion from the defense budget over five years, slash energy subsidies for the poor and freeze public workers' pay.

But faced with high unemployment and an economic recovery that is still struggling to escape the orbit of the 2008 economic crisis, Obama will also give states more flexibility to pay for unemployment benefits.

He will also argue for an $18 billion plan to improve high speed Internet access, and $8 billion for high-speed railways in the fiscal year starting October 1.

At 2,448 pages and a weight of 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) the budget will contain something for most members of Congress -- who have to approve it -- but plenty more that will be loathed.

Ahead of the budget's publication, Republicans have been outdoing themselves in the promotion of ever-deeper spending cuts and criticizing Obama for not doing enough.

Republicans argue spending cuts will help boost growth, while the Obama administration argues cuts are needed, but should be carefully measured for fear of derailing the recovery.

Bringing the two sides together is likely to be a long process that takes up most of the year. Congress has yet to approve the fiscal 2011 budget.

"There's no limit to the amount we're willing to cut to help get our economy moving again," said House Speaker John Boehner, promising a $100 billion cut in spending to the 2011 budget, with more to come.

But experts say cuts in discretionary spending, like those proposed by Obama and the Republicans, are just a drop in the fiscal bucket.

"This spending accounted for just one-fifth of total outlays last fiscal year," said Augustine Faucher of Moody's Analytics.

"Even if it had been entirely eliminated -- wiping out the budgets for running the government, education, national parks and the like --the fiscal 2010 deficit still would have topped $600 billion."

Fears are growing that the inability of the United States to get its budget under control could eventually lead to a debt crisis and a possible default that would plunge the globe into crisis.

This week, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned that dramatic change was inevitable.

"The question is whether these adjustments will take place through a careful and deliberative process that weighs priorities and gives people adequate time to adjust to changes... (or) as a rapid and painful response to a looming or actual fiscal crisis," Bernanke said.

The US budget deficit is currently at the highest levels since World War II, and is projected to hit $1.48 trillion this year, or 9.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Congressional Budget Office.