TIME

Unemployed and in Debt, Young Americans Ask Congress for Help

Five years after the end of the Great Recession, America's young adults are still facing economic challenges.

For many millennials, the future looks bleak. “We don’t just face dreams that are deferred, we face dreams that are destroyed,” Emma Kallaway, executive director of the Oregon Student Association, told the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy Wednesday. But if they were hoping for answers from Congress, Kallaway and other young adults across America facing frustrations with student loan debt and the sluggish job market will have to wait.

Senate Democrats convened the subcommittee hearing entitled “Dreams Deferred: Young Workers and Recent Graduates in the U.S. Economy” to highlight youth unemployment and heavy student loan debt after Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) student loan bill stalled in the Senate earlier this month. Warren’s bill would have allowed an estimated 25 million people with long-existing student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates.

Just 63.4% of youth aged 18-29 are employed, Keith Hall, senior research fellow at George Mason University, reported in his testimony. The unemployment rate of workers under the age of 25 is 13.2%, more than twice the overall rate of unemployment.

As joblessness remains high, the cost of college continues to rise, compounding already hard-to-manage debt levels for many young Americans. Student debt in the U.S. now tops $1.2 trillion, according to Rory O’Sullivan, deputy director of the non-profit group Young Invincibles.

“It sounds like perfect storm in a way,” said subcommittee chair Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) of the snowball effects of the Great Recession on young adults.

Youth unemployment also affects overall spending in the broader economy because young adults cannot afford to move out of their parents’ house, buy big items like cars and homes, and get married. Taxpayers bear some of that burden. Youth unemployment deprives the federal government of over $4,100 in potential income taxes and Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes per 18-24 year old every year, and almost $9,900 per 25-34 year old, according to a recent study by Young Invincibles. That translates into an additional $170 of entitlement costs per taxpayer in the federal budget.

If the problem is clear, the solution is not. Witnesses at the hearing variously suggested state disinvestment in higher education, simplifying the federal aid application and repayment process, offering relief for existing borrowers, and holding institutions more accountable for providing affordable, quality credentials to graduating students.

Merkley asked the panel for their opinions on the merits of the “Pay It Forward” Guaranteed College Affordability Act, which would allow students to go to college without paying up front. Instead, students sign a contract to join an income-based repayment plan for a designated period of time after graduation. Several states are considering versions of the grant plan; Oregon signed one into law in 2013.

Although Kallaway and O’Sullivan said the plan would possibly circumvent the debt-to-income trap, both agreed it was not a long term fix. Kallaway believes the solution is to tackle the problem at the root, in high education costs, and not at the repayment level. “More affordable education upfront is what’s right,” Kallaway said. “Federal student loans should not be a form of income for the government.”

Hall believes that student debt and rising tuition are just symptoms of a larger disease. High unemployment numbers aren’t just an issue for young adults, he pointed out. The problem, he said, is a poorly functioning economy. “Until you solve this labor market problem […] this problem is not going away,” he said. “You’re going to have these continuing symptoms.”

TIME Congress

Senators Call on Men to Speak Up to End Violence Against Women

Senators sat down Tuesday to talk about how to reduce violence and discrimination against women around the world and whether to make those solutions a U.S. diplomatic priority.

A small refugee camp lies in the Democratic Republic of Congo next to a national park. Each day, the women of the community must venture into the forest to gather firewood to cook and to heat their homes. On an average day, ten of the women who go into the forest are raped. The women are faced with a bleak choice: their own safety or a resource necessary for survival.

This story, shared by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was amongst the dozens of tales told at Tuesday’s Senate Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues hearing on combating violence and discrimination against women. The hearing came as a push to pass the International Violence Against Women Act, which would make the reduction of violence against women a diplomatic priority for the U.S.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California underlined the importance of spreading the ethos that violence against women was not the behavior of a “real man.” She suggested using famous athletes and other popular role models as the faces of an effort to get more men to speak up. “Women can’t do this alone,” Boxer said. “This is a partnership.”

The bill has been introduced four times since 2007, but, despite bipartisan support, it has not had enough Republican support to pass. Although the legislation has yet to be discussed outside of the subcommittee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said that he plans to bring the issue to the attention of the full committee. “I struggle to understand why the United States has failed to pass the convention, but I understand politics,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. “We need to acknowledge our responsibility and our leadership on issues.”

Panelist Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo, an international group that works to engage men to promote gender equality, discussed the importance of men who witnessed violence against women speaking up, as one of the many potential solutions. He cited a study that revealed that men who use violence likely saw their father being violent toward their mother or experienced violence themselves. The perpetrators believed that two-thirds of the men around them thought that this violence was acceptable. “Something is really engrained in silence of other men and how systems don’t react to it,” Barker said.

Because there is not enough prison space to imprison every man who has committed an act of violence, Barker said, it is necessary to think about prevention.

TIME Congress

America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring House in Tallahassee, Fla. Alan C. Spector

Since its inception 27 years ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual list of America's 11 Most Endangered Places has saved more than 250 places.

This year’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places spans locations from New Jersey to Hawaii and includes everything from a medical care home for veterans to a Frank Lloyd Wright creation.

The list, released annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, features an array of places of cultural or architectural importance that are deteriorating or are at risk of destruction. Since its inception 27 years ago, the list and the awareness it generates have helped to save more than 250 endangered places.

But this year, the list has made an addition that’s not a place – the Federal Historic Tax Credit, which has been placed on ‘watch status.’ Some members of Congress are calling for the elimination of the Federal Historic Tax Credit as part of recent tax reform efforts, estimating that the provision could increase federal revenues by $10.5 billion between 2014 and 2023. The National Trust reports that the tax credit has created more than 2.4 million local jobs, leveraged nearly $109 billion in private investment for communities, and preserved more than 39,600 buildings, since it was signed into law in 1986.

Here are the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s selections for 2014.

 

1. Battle Mountain Sanitarium –Hot Springs, S.D.

Battle Mountain Sanitarium VA Medical Center Campus, Hot Springs, SD, Buddenborg 6.110104_mr
Buddenborg

For over a century, the sanitarium offered medical care to the region’s veterans. It has been claimed as one of the few National Historic Landmarks owned by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but they are currently moving forward with plans to abandon the building.

 

 

2. Bay Harbor’s East Island – Miami-Dade County, Fla.

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Dade County Office of Historic Preservation

Development proposals have put a collection of buildings constructed in the unique Modern Miami Architectural style at risk for demolition.

 

 

3. Chattanooga State Office Building – Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Chattanooga State Office

A change in ownership put this Chattanooga downtown landmark under the threat of demolition.

 

 

4. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spring House – Tallahassee, Fla.

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Alan C. Spector

Constructed in 1954, the Spring House is the only built private Frank Lloyd residence in Florida and one of the few of the architect’s houses that remain. However, weather and time have led to severe deterioration.

 

 

5. Historic Wintersburg – Huntington Beach, Calif.

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Chris Jepsen, Orange County Archives

This property that part of the story of Japanese American immigrants in Southern California and is currently threatened with demolition.

 

 

6. Mokuaikaua Church – Kailua Village, Kona, Hawaii

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Steve Conger

Earthquake damage and the ravages of time have deteriorated Hawaii’s first Christian Church, built in 1837.

 

 

7. Music Hall – Cincinnati, Ohio

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Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Since its construction in 1878, the Music Hall has played a key role in Cincinnati culture. Despite its National Historic Landmark status, the music hall has suffered significant deterioration and is in need of repair.

 

 

8. The Palisades – Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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Paul W. Romaine

Despite the designation of the cliffs along the Hudson River as a National Historic Landmark, the LG Corporation plans to build an office tower in the scenic landscape.

 

 

9. Palladium Building – St. Louis, Mo.

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Michael Allen

The Palladium Building was once home of a 1940s nightclub that contributed to the development of African American music. However, lack of protection from local and national historic designations has left the building’s future uncertain.

 

 

10. Shockoe Bottom – Richmond, Va.

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TV News Badge

The potential development of a minor league baseball stadium threatens the home of Solomon Northrup’s jail in 12 Years a Slave. Shockoe Bottom was a center of the American slave trade and still holds many underground artifacts.

 

 

11. Union Terminal – Cincinnati, Ohio

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Cincinnati Museum Center

The Cincinnati icon, built in the Art Deco style, is currently in need of extensive repairs to salvage it from its deteriorated state.

 

 

 

TIME North Korea

Report Says a Genocide May Be Happening in North Korea Right Now

A new report suggests that the current situation in North Korea may amount to genocide. Although the world has long been aware of potential human rights violations and crimes against humanity in North Korea, few have called the situation there an outright genocide.

The report came to light at a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing Tuesday, during which South Korea Human Rights Ambassador Lee Jong-hoon said the possible genocide extends to three groups: the so-called “hostile class” (which is the lowest class in the North Korean caste system), those who are adherents of religion — particularly Christianity — and those who are not ethnically North Korean. The genocide, Lee said, is largely by attrition and starvation.

Shin Dong-hyuk, who was held at a North Korean prison camp before escaping to South Korea eight years ago, also testified at the hearing. The prison camp experience remains as vivid to Shin as the scars that cover his body. He recounted his experiences at the hearing. Immediately upon his birth at the camp, he said, he was classified as a political prisoner and subjected to conditions that he described as not fit for even animals. He recalls the guards telling him as a young boy that only if he worked hard until he died would he be able to pay for his crimes.

“Even now as I speak here today there are still babies being born in the camps, public executions – like that of my mother and brother – happening in the camp, and dying from beatings and starvations,” Shin said.

Shin’s account, along with other high-profile arrests in North Korea, have captured the attention of the international community. This spring, an American tourist was imprisoned after leaving a Bible in his hotel room. However, North Korea’s diplomatic and political isolation has made negotiating solutions to those problems difficult.

“Even though we have tried, we have failed,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said after hearing Shin’s account. “This will require global mobilization … We need to do far more and that means a sustained effort.”

The report, which was commissioned by human rights group Human Liberty and compiled by law firm Hogan Lovells, recommends further action by the UN Security Council, including additional sanctions. It also shows how the International Criminal Court might open its own investigation without being referred the case by the Security Council.

TIME Congress

Lawmakers Caution Dr. Oz on Weight-Loss Tips

A hearing over deceptive advertising claims

Lawmakers warned the TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz on Tuesday to proceed with caution when offering weight-loss tips.

Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill called the host of The Dr. Oz Show to testify at a hearing on weight-loss scams and deceptive advertising for weight-loss products after recent endorsements made on his show.

“Your credibility is being maligned by fraudsters and frankly being threatened by the notion that anybody can take an itty-bitty pill to push fat out of their system,” McCaskill said to Oz during the hearing.

McCaskill cited the example of Oz’s recent suggestion that viewers to take FBCx, a diet pill, to get back on track if they cheat on their diets. The Dr. Oz Show website champions the pill as one of “3 Ways to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself.” Oz defended his recommendation, explaining that FBCx is essentially fiber and that his family uses the pill. He said he believes he has techniques that will work for people trying to lose weight and he wants people to try them so they can feel better.

“I fill a need to fuel passion in peoples’ lives about what they can do,” he said.

The hearing follows enforcement actions taken this year against companies engaged in deceptive advertising. Last month the Federal Trade Commission announced it is suing Pure Green Coffee, alleging “it capitalized on the green bean diet fad by using bogus weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market its dietary supplement.”

McCaskill told Oz that he is not only a celebrity but also a doctor, and cautioned him to be responsible in using his influence. Oz expressed concerns that he’s being censored.

“When I feel as a host of a show that I can’t use words that are flowery or passionate,” he said, “then I feel that my power has been disenfranchised.”

TIME Environment

Leonardo DiCaprio Pledges to Help Save World’s Oceans

The Hollywood star pledged $7 million towards the establishment of marine reserves at a State Department event

Foggy Bottom got a little taste of Hollywood Tuesday, when Leonardo DiCaprio appeared at a State Department event to pledge $7 million to ocean conservation.

The Wolf of Wall Street star unveiled the pledge at the State Department’s “Our Ocean” conference, saying the sum would go toward “meaningful” ocean conservation projects over the next two years, funding organizations and communities that are establishing marine reserves.

DiCaprio spoke on the same day it emerged President Obama would significantly expand marine sanctuary protections in the Pacific Ocean. While the actor applauded the Obama administration’s work on marine conservation, he said more needed to be done by the world’s governments to protect the fragile ocean environment.

“It’s the Wild West on the high seas,” DiCaprio said. “These last remaining underwater bio gems are being destroyed because there isn’t proper enforcement or sufficient cooperation among governments to protect them.”

DiCaprio, a diving enthusiast, described the environmental devastation that he had witnessed firsthand over the past 20 years in his dives in the Australian Great Barrier Reef. The “endless underwater utopia,” he said, is now filled with bleached coral reefs and massive dead zones. During a diving trip to Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, he witnessed illegal fishing vessels invade the waters of one of the world’s few shark sanctuaries.

“We’re plundering the ocean and its vital resources, and just because we can’t see the devastation from dry land doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous,” he said. “It needs to stop.”

DiCaprio has been a longtime ocean conservation advocate. Earlier this year, he gave a $3 million grant to Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization, through his Leonardo DiCaprio foundation.

TIME Art

Van Gogh and the Algorithm: How Math Can Save Art

NETHERLANDS VAN GOGH
In this composite photograph, a hidden portrait under the Vincent van Gogh painting ''Patch of Grass'' from 1887, is seen. Delft University of Technology/AP

With math equations that analyze brush strokes, new discoveries about the world's greatest art are possible.

It took X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and a painting algorithm to reveal the hidden portrait of a peasant underneath the painting of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Patch of Grass.” And that feat, accomplished in 2008, was just the beginning.

Art history and mathematics may seem an unlikely combination, but math techniques in image analysis is transforming the way art historians and conservationists do their work. Algorithms can be used to distinguish copies from originals, characterize and quantify the style of one artist in comparison to another, and restore cracks and fading. “What’s really important to note is that these are all non-invasive techniques,” says William Brown, chief conservator of the North Carolina Museum of Art, who gathered last week in Washington to discuss his work at a panel discussion sponsored by Duke University.

While many restoration techniques interfere with art’s chemical composition, the image analysis technique leaves art untouched. Signal processing extracts X-ray images of the art, allowing it to be viewed in enhanced or altered forms while the original remains.

“Basically, there is a mixture of sources in the artwork and we want to make sense of the mix and which elements are more present than others,” says Robert Calderbank, director of the Information Initiative at Duke. Calderbank likened the technique to the study of skin cancer, in which scientists separate different types of melatonin from within the same skin lesion.

Brown and Ingrid Daubechies, professor of mathematics at Duke, having been experimenting with the technique since 2011. The two first collaborated to characterize the style of Giotto di Bondone’s Peruzzi Altarpiece. For generations, scholars had noted that some of the faces looked much more naturalistic than others, suggesting the possibility that different artists, perhaps di Bondone’s apprentices, had painted portions of the altarpiece. By characterizing combinations, such as detail elements of brushstrokes, and using charts to visualize information and patterns, Brown and Daubechies were able to determine which panels were the ones likely painted by di Bondone, and which by his apprentices.

A restoration of another altarpiece, the Ghent Altarpiece, made it possible to distinguish once illegibly cracked calligraphy as the text of Thomas Aquinas on the Annunciation. Using an image-processing algorithm, Brown virtually removed the distortion created by the painting’s cradle resulting in an X-ray image of the art, sans cradle modification.

Daubechies is confident that the interdisciplinary work, enabled by data, can produce what neither mathematics nor art could produce independently. “We want to give you a third eye,” Daubechies said of entry of mathematics into the art world. “It’s not competitive.”

 

TIME 2014 Election

Gallup Poll Sees Historically Ugly Midterm Elections

USA Congress
USA Congress DHuss—Getty Images

National polling numbers have been bad for years. Now they are worse.

Congressional job approval is likely to be at its lowest ever in a midterm election year, according to a review of Gallup polls dating back to 1974. The current 16% approval rating could bring another high turnover in House membership in the election this November.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected defeat in Virginia’s primary election showed an early sign of candidates’ potential vulnerability in the upcoming elections. Approval ratings of Congress are down 5% from the 2010 survey, an election year that resulted in the defeat of 15% of House incumbents seeking re-election. In another Gallup poll taken this year, only 22% of voters said that most members of Congress deserve reelection. Fifty percent said their own member of Congress deserves reelection.

Voters’ dissatisfaction with the general direction of the country, above-average economic concern and Obama’s low job approval ratings also factor into the likelihood of a significant turnover this fall. Obama’s job approval rating of 44% is the same as it was in 2010, when the Democrats lost more than 60 seats in the House. Only two other presidents – George W. Bush in 2006 and Ronald Reagan in 1982 – have had lower job approval ratings in recent elections.

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Economic conditions are also a major cause of American’s dissatisfaction with the state of the nation and disapproval of government leaders. Although confidence in the economy is improving slightly, the public is now showing greater concern in the economy than in previous years.

Gallup predicts that improvement in the election indicators is unlikely between now and the fall midterm elections.

TIME Religion

Protesters Rally at the White House to Free Meriam

Protestors want the Obama administration to help save a Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan.

On Thursday morning, nearly 100 protestors gathered in front of the White House to push for the release of Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old woman in Sudan who has been sentenced to death for marrying a Christian man. Representatives from the Institute on Religion and Democracy and more than three dozen affiliated organizations, including travelers from as far as Jacksonville, Fla., clasped paper red chains in their hands and gave speeches to urge President Obama to speak up in her defense.

Ibrahim, 27, was sentenced last month to 100 lashes and to death for apostasy for marrying a non-Muslim man, Daniel Wani. Her case has drawn western attention because her husband is a US citizen and because she gave birth while in prison. Her sentence has been delayed while she nurses the child, and she is being held with her newborn daughter and 20-month-old son while her case moves through an appeals process. “We’re here at the White House because it’s up to President Obama,” Faith McDonnell, event organizer and member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), says. “We need to get them out of prison and really it will take the administration to call and say you’ve got to stop this now.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a brief speech at the rally and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) attended. “We are here today to speak out for faith and for liberty,” Cruz said into a megaphone. “Meriam Ibrahim is a mom, she’s a wife, she is married to an American citizen, a New Hampshire resident.” He continued: “Her crime is very simple, she is accused of and convicted of being a Christian, and tragically in Sudan that is a crime that carries with it a horrific punishment.”

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a bill on June 9 to grant the mother and her children permanent resident status in the US, but Meriam supporters worry that the legislation would not pass quickly enough. Death rates at the prison are high, they fear, and many are concerned that the more time passes, the less likely the survival of Meriam, or her newborn baby, will be. Meriam’s case deserves attention, they argue, especially because it is about religious freedom and women’s freedom in the developing world more broadly. “This is an issue that completely shouldn’t be a partisan issue about whether someone should be executed for their faith,” JP Duffy of Family Research Council (FRC) says.

Other top U.S. voices are speaking out as well. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted last month that “Meriam Yahya Ibrahim’s death sentence is abhorrent. Sudan should stop threatening religious freedom and fundamental human rights.” Mia Farrow also has pushed a campaign on Twitter to protest Meriam’s fate to the Sudanese Embassy.

The protestors plan to continue their efforts until action is taken. On Friday, they took their protest to the Sudanese Embassy. The hashtag #FreeMeriam continues to gain popularity, the website rescuemeriam.com has been created to further increase awareness, and a WhiteHouse.gov petition to free Meriam has received more than 45,000 signatures.

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