TIME natural disaster

Witness to a Disaster: Journalists Recall Covering Hurricane Katrina

A writer and a photographer who covered the disaster for TIME in 2005 reflect on the experience

In the days leading up to Aug. 29, 2005, the world was watching the Gulf Coast. On that day—ten years ago this weekend—Hurricane Katrina made landfall. It brought winds as strong as 125 mph, nearly a foot of rain, and a 25- to 28-ft. storm surge that destroyed levees in Louisiana, leaving thousands of New Orleans residents underwater and puncturing the soul of the south.

One of those people watching the gathering clouds was Chris Usher, who was at the time a freelance photographer covering the White House for TIME. He told his editor that he would be going down to the Gulf Coast whether the magazine wanted or not. She asked him to please wait, not to put himself in the storm’s way—but he wouldn’t listen.

“I was like, ‘No! I’ve got to be there when it happens, before it happens,'” he now recalls.

Usher packed up his “war-wagon”—a 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser equipped with a lift kit and a roof rack—and headed out. The very next day, he was driving on Interstate 55 in Jackson, Miss., when the storm hit. Driving through the weak side of the storm, he witnessed trees falling and heavy rain, but nothing about the journey hinted at the type of devastation he’d soon witness in New Orleans and in parts of Mississippi.

“Every day, I would walk amongst all of the wreckage and it was just insane. The smells—that’s one that you kind of wipe out and forget about, the smells, especially as it wore on, because I spent three weeks covering it, every day,” he says. “The first couple of days, you know, ‘So what?’ But then, in Gulfport, [Miss.], there were a whole bunch of semi-box containers, filled with chicken that got loose and that was rotting everywhere.”

Meanwhile, TIME’s Brian Bennett—who had reported from post-Sept. 11 conflict zones for TIME and had, at that point, recently returned from a stint as Baghdad bureau chief—was back in Washington, D.C. When Bennett heard reports that journalists on the ground were having difficulty accessing New Orleans, he called around to some helicopter rescue units he’d flown with in Iraq to see if any would let him tag along. A unit in Florida invited him to join them if he could make it to Jackson, Miss. That was how, a few days after the storm had swept through New Orleans, he found himself approaching the city by air. It was immediately clear that something was wrong. “Instead of streets you saw canals,” he recalls. “There was water in a lot of places and there was a lot of roof damage, a lot of debris, no car traffic, the streets were empty.”

Stories with Bennett’s reporting and Usher’s photographs populated the pages of TIME and TIME.com in the days and weeks that followed. In one, Bennett wrote that the helicopter crew wasn’t the only thing the experience shared with his time covering a mission near the Persian Gulf rather than the Gulf of Mexico. Seeing New Orleans was like seeing “Baghdad on the Bayou”:

The scene looks like a war zone, houses blown to splinters, cars abandoned on the roads, crowds of huddled refugees escaping a fallen city. It also smells like a war zone. Flying over the neighborhoods where water reaches the eaves of most houses, my nostrils burn with the fumes of diesel fuel, which swirls in rainbow iridescence in the fetid eddies below. It’s the dry areas of the city that smell the worst, where the water poured in fast and receded. There, the smell is unmistakably of death — the rotting contents of abandoned refrigerators, and the corpses of the drowned.

The scene on the ground is worse. We land on a patch of dry ground at New Orleans Lakefront Airport. For days, rescue teams like this one have been doggedly shuttling survivors from the putrid streets of the city to this desolate airstrip. Hundreds and hundreds of refugees plucked from parking garages, apartment buildings, highway overpasses, the roofs of their homes, whatever high ground they could find, are now stuck standing on the dark runway, waiting for someone to take them somewhere, anywhere but here.

Bennett, who is now a writer at the Los Angeles Times, quickly realized that the landscape of the city would be changed for many years to come. “It was really difficult to see these people’s homes destroyed, emptied out by the tide, these floodwaters that came in and swept out all their belongings, the mold taking over their homes and the places they’d lived for generations in some cases,” he says. On a visit to New Orleans last year, his prediction was proved true: though some neighborhoods seem untouched, he says that other places—even where rebuilding has happened—are just not the same.

For Usher, the emotional impact of covering the devastation was overwhelming. “In a weird way, I was very numb at first and then I was very highly engaged in it and it was draining,” he says. “Especially when you come up on something that’s kind of identifiable—maybe a family photo…or stuffed doll. And then you go ‘Man, that was some little girl’s favorite doll, what happened to her?'”

Even when he returned home after three weeks in New Orleans, feeling that his numbness meant he could no longer do the story justice, the experience made him want to continue documenting the lives of Katrina survivors. He and his wife spent the past decade traveling across the country, finding survivors of Katrina where they were and sharing their stories—particularly the less inherently dramatic ones, the stories that got less attention but might resonate with a larger number of people. The images he’s captured will be on display at a gallery in New Orleans this fall.

“Everyone goes for the jugular when it’s coverage. You want bang for the buck. You want that typical person who’s in the trailer and is not getting FEMA help and whatever. But there’s another side,” he says. “There’s always another side.”

(With reporting by Lily Rothman)


Black Lives Matter Activist Says Man on Birth Certificate Isn’t His Biological Father

Shaun King addresses scrutiny about his race

A prominent activist in the Black Lives Matter movement denied allegations that he’s been misleading the public about his race Thursday, saying the man listed as his father on his birth certificate is not actually his biological father.

“I refuse to speak in detail about the nature of my mother’s past, or her sexual partners, and I am gravely embarrassed to even be saying this now, but I have been told for most of my life that the white man on my birth certificate is not my biological father and that my actual biological father is a light-skinned black man,” Shaun King wrote on the Daily Kos website.

King has been under scrutiny after conservative bloggers published what was purportedly his government-issued birth certificate, which lists both his father and mother as white. The news evoked for some the controversy of Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP chapter president in Washington state who said she identified as black even though she is biologically white.

King had not directly addressed the matter until Thursday’s post, in which he revealed that he and his now elderly mother had discussed the affair and his racial identity.

“This has been my lived reality for nearly 30 of my 35 years on earth,” he said. “I am not ashamed of it, or of who I am—never that—but I was advised by my pastor nearly 20 years ago that this was not a mess of my doing and it was not my responsibility to fix it.”


Mexican Authorities Discover 63 Children Working in Terrible Conditons

The children, ages 8 to 17, were reportedly working 15 hour days

Mexican authorities have discovered 63 children toiling under horrible conditions at a vegetable packing company.

Dozens of children were found working for about 100 pesos, or $6, per day with only a half day off per week, the Associated Press reports. The children were living on mats only steps from where they are suspected to have worked 15 hour days. The ages of the children ranged from eight to 17.

Authorities have moved the children and some adults found working with them to a shelter. Their conditions were reportedly discovered when the father of a young girl attempted to pick up his daughter from the company but was prevented from doing so because she hadn’t completed her tasks.

Mexican law allows for children between 14 and 16 to work, although generally not in agriculture. However, the AP reports child labor is common in the country.

[Associated Press]

TIME California

Wolves Have Officially Returned to California

Handout photo of wolf pack in Siskiyou County, California
California Department of Fish and Wildlife/Reuters A wolf pack is shown captured near Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou County, Calif. on Aug. 9, 2015.

And that's a good thing

Wolves are back in the Golden State.

Seven gray wolves have been spotted in California, the California Department of Fishing and Wildlife announced on its official site. The state that hasn’t had a confirmed wolf inhabitant since 2011 and that animal, known as OR7, has been missing from California for more than a year. Before OR7, no known wolf had called the state home since 1924.

The department reports the new group of wolves, dubbed the Shasta Pack, consists of five wolf pups and two adults. The pack was photographed in Northern California.

“This news is exciting for California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW Director, in a press release. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.”

Gray wolves are listed as endangered in California under the Federal Endangered Species Act, making attempts harm, kill, harass or hunt them illegal in the state.

TIME Disease

New Study Identifies 9 Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease

The risk factors, which include obesity, low educational attainment and depression, might be preventable

Two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases could be attributed to nine risk factors that are potentially fixable, according to a new study released Thursday.

Researchers linked obesity, carotid artery narrowing, low educational attainment, depression, high blood pressure, frailty, smoking habits, high levels of homocysteine (an amino acid), and type 2 diabetes in the Asian population to about two-thirds of global Alzheimer’s cases in a recent analysis of existing data. The study, published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, is purely observational but the researchers think its findings could help medical professionals prescribe specific lifestyle changes that could have a targeted effect at reducing the number of Alzheimer’s cases around the world.

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, the broad term for the deterioration of memory and mental abilities. There is currently no cure for dementia, which impacts 1 in 14 people over age 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

For the study, researchers pooled and analyzed data from over 300 studies to identify the most common risk factors for the disease. Researchers also found evidence that some hormones, vitamins and drugs to reduce high blood pressure can help lower the risk of developing the disease while homocysteine and depression were associated with heightened risk.

Read next: How Exercise Helps Curb Alzheimer’s Symptoms

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TIME Crime

Burglary Suspect Mocks Sheriff’s Department on Its Own Facebook Page

"Deputies continue to look for me but Are frustrated that i am unable to be located...."

A wanted Florida man has been mocking the cops that are looking for them—on their own Facebook page.

Logan Hale of Polk County Florida is wanted for his alleged involvement in an armed burglary, but the fugitive has been making fun of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office via their Facebook page.

“HELLO here i am……,” Hale, 21, commented on his wanted post on Aug. 18 at 7:28p.m. Minutes later he added, “Deputies continue to look for me but Are frustrated that i am unable to be located….” He added “Finallyfree” to his Facebook name for an added joke.

The original #FridayFelons Facebook post that features Hale’s mugshot is littered with a mix of tough love, criticism, and support but the harshest words came straight from the sheriff’s department:

“Remaining “at large” is only going to result in your having to change your FB name from “Finallyfree” to “Back In Jail” – it would be wise for you to turn yourself in to the nearest PCSO facility. Or give us a call – we’ll be happy to provide transportation. 863-298-6200,” they commented.

TIME Jon Stewart

Over 100,000 People Want Jon Stewart to Host a Presidential Debate

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" #JonVoyage
Brad Barket—Getty Images Jon Stewart hosts "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in New York City on Aug. 6, 2015.

Petitioners say the former "Daily Show" host is "more than qualified" to moderate a debate

Should Jon Stewart host a 2016 presidential debate? More than 100,000 people think so.

A group of Stewart fans launched a Change.org petition about two weeks ago, shortly after the comedian left his post as host of the Daily Show, asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to consider letting Stewart grill candidates during a future contest. At the time of this writing, the petition was about 31,000 signatures shy of its 150,000 signature goal.

The petitioners believe Stewart is “more than qualified” to moderate a debate, given his track record interviewing political big wigs. According to the petition’s authors, he’s interviewed 15 heads of state, 22 Cabinet members, and 39 members of Congress. The page also cites Stewart’s Peabody Award winning coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as a qualifying factor.

A request for comment from the Commission on Presidential Debates was not immediately returned.

Read next: Jon Stewart Will Host a Giant Wrestling Competition

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TIME movies

Suge Knight Lawyer Blasts Straight Outta Compton

Preliminary Hearing For Marion 'Suge' Knight In Robbery Charge Case
David Buchan—Getty Images Marion "Suge" Knight appears in court with his lawyer for a preliminary hearing at the Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles on April 8, 2015.

The lawyer said Knight wouldn’t like it because the movie " is exaggerated and silly and ridiculous"

A lawyer for Suge Knight, the former music mogul facing murder charges for his alleged involvement in a deadly hit-and-run accident, says the box office hit Straight Outta Compton is not as true-to-life as its producers make it seem.

In an interview with the Wrap, Attorney Thomas Mesereau blasted the film, which chronicles the rise of the Compton-based gangsta rap group N.W.A.. Knight is portrayed in the film by a lookalike with a brash style and a penchant for violence. In the film, his character physically attacks N.W.A. leader Eazy E in order to get Dr. Dre out of his contract.

Mesereau, however, insists the story is “exaggerated” and that his client is “misunderstood.”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t like it because a lot of it is exaggerated and silly and ridiculous,” Mesereau told the Wrap, given that Knight can’t see the film because he’s in jail.

He added: “A lot of the media does not realize how many good things he did for people, particularly in his community…He financed athletic facilities in schools, he gave money to the homeless, money to people in need.”

“He’s a good person, and this will come out in due time,” the attorney said.

Knight is currently awaiting trial on charges of murder and attempted murder after allegedly running over two men on the set of a Straight Outta Compton promotional video.

Read more at The Wrap.

Read next: When N.W.A. Was America’s Most Dangerous Group

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TIME Television

Watch Patrick Stewart Give Conan O’Brien a Big Kiss

"You were looking at me in a way that I recognize," Stewart said


Actor Patrick Stewart stopped by Conan on Monday and things got a little intimate between the two. During his chat with host Conan O’Brien, the two discussed X-Men star’s recent smooch with co-star Ian McKellen.

Though the red carpet kiss went viral, Stewart got a sense that seeing it wasn’t enough for Conan.

“Do you want to try it out,” Stewart asked. “You were looking at me in a way that I recognize.”

The two shared an epic smooch, which Conan said made him feel like Stewart “finally accepted me as your better.”

After, Stewart posted this sensual post on Twitter.

TIME Television

Watch Josh Groban Give Trump’s Tweets a Musical Treatment

"Donald Trump's tweets will make you laugh, they'll make you cry, but mostly they'll make you cry"

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump’s commentary—especially that which gets posted to his Twitter account—is ripe with fodder for late night comedians but on Monday, Jimmy Kimmel put a different spin on dissecting Trump’s tweets.

Singer Josh Groban made an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel where the star was tasked with singing some of Trump’s most classic insults. Groban presented the tweets as if he was selling an album via an infomercial, similar to his classic stunt on Kimmel where he sang the best tweets of Kanye West.

“Sorry losers and haters,” Groban croons from behind a piano. “But, my I.Q. is one of the highest and you all know it. Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”


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