Urban News

By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Oct. 23, 2002 at 1:15 AM
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(MIAMI) -- Few problems were reported Tuesday in the far-flung northern suburb of Miami, Opa-locka. Election officials tried out the new touch-screen voting machines for the first time in the city's primary election. Officials tell the Miami Herald the entire process went without a major glitch.

One election clerk told the newspaper anyone wanting a demonstration of how the high-tech system worked was given the "short course" before voting. Everyone seemed to be pleased with the simplicity of the new voting machines.

The machines, of course, were put into action in the wake of the federal election debacle in the Miami area (and much of Florida) during the Bush-Gore tangle for the White House. The nation watched as Florida re-counted, made excuses and promised to do better the next time around.

At least in Opa-locka, it would appear that election officials followed through on their promises.

(LAS VEGAS) -- The bankrupt Aladdin hotel and casino has recorded its fifth money-losing month. The latest figures, for September, were relayed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. They show that the property, which has over 2,500 hotel rooms, lost about $2.5 million during that month. The loss in June was more than $3.5 million.

This September's shortfall is nearly equal to the one registered in the same month last year in the wake of the terror attacks that nearly crippled the tourist trade in Las Vegas for a while.

While the Aladdin was reporting a flood of red ink, one of the Strip's newest gambling palaces, the Bellagio, reported a cash flow of more than $177 million in just the first six months of this year.

There are published reports that two casino operators, based in California, may have their eyes on the Aladdin and could join forces in making a bid for it. The asking price could be half a billion dollars with another $100 million needed in renovations.

(INDIANAPOLIS) -- The capital city of Indiana is often called the "Crossroads of America, " though the Crossroads of American Motel was in Vandalia, Ohio, some two hours to the east. (But that's another story and has to do with transportation in the early 1800s.) Because of its central location and the fact that all Interstate highways in the area seem to converge there, the city of Indianapolis, when viewed strictly in respect to the highways there, is an asterisk. No fewer than eight major Interstate exchanges ring the city's beltway.

One of the busiest and most-congested junctions in Indianapolis has been the interchange between the beltway (I-465) and Interstate 70, headed to Ohio and points east. That interchange carries a quarter of a million vehicles a day.

Since March the I-465/I-70 interchange has been a mess, while engineers worked to redesign and redo it.

Now, according to the Indianapolis Star, the work is nearing completion. Starting in a few weeks traffic may begin flowing again, over new wider lanes, without all the construction signs, detours and temporary corridors.

The project -- the price tag for which is estimated to be about $67 million -- is slated to be finished by Thanksgiving. But for each day that it is completed ahead of schedule the contractor will get a big bonus. So will once-frustrated commuters on the east side of Indianapolis.

(PHILADELPHIA) -- Say the words "Philadelphia Orchestra" and in the minds of many people will come images of a huge symphony under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. But, to many young people in the City of Brotherly Love, the same phrase conjures up images of a local high school band. For the past 11 years or so the Central High School Orchestra has been one of the most respected high school groups of that type in the country. Now the Philadelphia Inquirer says its reputation has reached the inner workings of the government of China.

An official request has now come from the Chinese government for the "kids from Central" to bring their style of music to the Great Wall. The group, honored by a division of the Grammys for its excellence in musicianship, has been under the same teacher-director for more than two dozen years, Stephen Wilensky.

The invitation to go to China is the first ever given to an American student orchestra; and this at a time when many schools have forsaken music education because of budget woes.

Wilensky tells the publication that he's anxious to take his students to China. It would be the experience of a lifetime.

But, unless some corporate sponsor can be found, it may take a lot of bake sales to make the dreams of 70 eager high school students come true.

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