TIME Television

How Melissa Benoist Felt When She Put on Her Supergirl Costume for the First Time

"It’s impossible not to feel empowered when you put it on"

Melissa Benoist, the star of the upcoming television series Supergirl, felt a range of emotions the first time she put on her signature leotard and cape to play Kara Zor-El—but most of all she felt empowered.

“It’s impossible not to feel empowered when you put it on,” the former Glee cast member told Entertainment Weekly. “I feel like a different person almost. It really is an alter ego, where I feel inspired, hopeful and empowered.”

Benoist’s new show premieres on CBS in October.

Read more at Entertainment Weekly.

 

TIME society

Utah Teen Bullied for Her Big Ears Gets Free Surgery

The teen said she was called names like "Dumbo"

A Utah surgeon gave free corrective surgery to a teen who was bullied for having big ears.

Isabelle Stark told PEOPLE kids in her high school would walk up to her and tug her protruding ears and call her “Dumbo.” But thanks to a surgeon who was no stranger to ear-related taunts while growing up, the 18-year-old was able to undergo a corrective procedure free of charge.

“I know what it’s like to be bullied about something you can’t control,” Steven Mobley, a Salt Lake City surgeon who runs a foundation that offers free ear-pinning surgery to low-income kids, told PEOPLE. “I’m really happy for Isabelle—now maybe she can move on to the next chapter of her life.”

Read more at PEOPLE.

Read Next: Nip. Tuck. Or Else

TIME Military

Women in the Navy, Marine Corps Get More Maternity Leave

Ray Mabus navy maternity leave
Molly Riley—AP Navy Secretary Ray Mabus testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 10, 2015.

Women now have triple the amount of time they were provided before July 2

Women in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy can now take 18 weeks of maternity leave, triple the amount of time they were provided prior to July 2.

Women are not required to take all of the leave at once, but they must take it within the first year of their child’s life.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday allowing women to take more time off will be beneficial to both their families and their service.

“We have incredibly talented women who want to serve, and they also want to be mothers and have the time to fulfill that important role the right way. We can do that for them,” Mabus said in a statement. “Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county. This flexibility is an investment in our people and our Services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members.”

The new policy is effective immediately and applies to women who took leave after Jan. 1, 2015.

TIME new orleans

Essence Festival Day of Service Offers Snapshot of New Orleans Recovery

The annual Essence Festival kicked off with a day of community service

Thursday morning was bittersweet for Shanti Taylor.

The 34-year-old had returned to the old Frederick Douglass High School building in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward, where she was a student in the mid-’90s. As she walked through the building at 3820 St. Claude Avenue, she recalled the artwork that once lined the hallways, including images of the school’s Bobcats mascot.

“It was a little dated, but we liked it,” she said. “It was fun.”

But Taylor hadn’t just returned to reminisce—she was part of a team of volunteers carrying in stacks of chairs and sorting books in the library, getting the building ready for KIPP Renaissance High School to move in next month.

The school was one of a handful of locations the Essence Festival chose as host sites for its day of community service on Thursday. The annual festival, thrown by Essence Magazine, which is also owned by TIME’s parent company Time Inc., devoted a day to giving back to the local community ahead of the weekend’s entertainment.

The day of service at KIPP Renaissance High school was like a snapshot of the work that has taken place across New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the 10 years since the levees broke and flooded 80% of the city, 94% of metro New Orleans’ 2000 population has returned. The economy is on the rebound with big businesses and startups popping up all across the area, though poverty remains pervasive in pockets of the city. The city’s all-charter school system has been held up by local officials as a potential model for the rest of the country, though reports from Mother Jones and Think Progress have found there is cause for concern in some areas, namely standardized test scores. Ask anyone—from the Mayor to Thursday’s volunteers—and they’ll acknowledge how far the city has left to go, but they can’t help but note how far it has come.

“There’s a lot to be proud of,” Ericka McConduit-Diggs, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, told TIME via telephone. “The city has made tremendous progress, but [the] reality is communities of color face real inequities.”

“I don’t think there’s any city in America that has suffered as much as we have suffered and as broadly,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu told TIME last week, naming storms including Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav, the national recession and the BP oil spill among the disasters the city has faced. “It has been amazing, the resilience that the people of this city have shown and how much they’ve built back and how fast they’ve built back.”

That recovery is due in large part to the individuals and community groups who put the city back together piece by piece. That work was on full display Thursday in a steamy stairwell in Renaissance where an assembly line of folks in sweat-stained powder blue T-shirts carried desks to the second and third floors of the building. As that team worked, older volunteers lent a hand by sorting books in the school library. At every turn, there was movement. Some volunteers, like Efua Darley of Washington, D.C., had come to help out ahead of the weekend’s more lively festivities. Others, like Taylor and her mother Linda Fernandez, 58, felt compelled to give back given their past connection to the school.

Kyle Jones, dean of operations at KIPP Renaissance High School, said Thursday that it was important to have the community’s help in getting the school ready.

“Obviously, as a school we give education, but we want to make sure we give more than just educating somebody’s children,” Jones told TIME. “I’m hoping to become more of a part of the community.”

Jones, a New Orleans native, now works down the street from where his mom Jocelyn Jones spent a part of her 34-year career as an educator. He’s seen a lot of change in the city over the years, which he said can be difficult even as some of the changes are positive.

“It’s always bittersweet, but it’s always great to see new traditions and new growth happen in a city that hasn’t always had new growth,” Jones said. “And to see people come and embrace it is great too.”

One of those changes is KIPP, a nationwide network of charter schools aimed at helping kids in underserved communities succeed, which took over the old Frederick Douglass school after it suffered academically. KIPP Renaissance opened in the Frederick Douglass building in 2010 but moved elsewhere for the past several years as part of a school reshuffling. The program is now returning home to its original spot.

For Taylor, KIPP Renaissance will represent a new tradition for her family as her 14-year-old daughter Breon will start ninth grade at Renaissance when school begins on Aug. 3.

Breon was on hand Thursday, sporting the same powder-blue shirt as the other volunteers, and helping carry desks and chairs to the classrooms she’ll soon occupy.

“It’s going to be her school,” said Fernandez, who brought three of her five grandchildren to Thursday’s service event. “She should be here to help get the school together.”

TIME animals

A Dog Is Running for Mayor in Upstate New York

The 13-year-old pooch is running as "Schenectady's best friend"

The latest candidate to enter the race for mayor in Schenectady, N.Y. doesn’t just have a leg up on her competition—she has two. Diamond, a 13-year-old dog, is running as a write-in candidate in the city’s race. And according to the Daily Gazette, she’s running as “Schenectady’s best friend.”

Diamond’s entrance into the race for mayor—which features three human candidates, Mayor Gary McCarthy, Roger Hull and Chris Gibbs—isn’t the first time a four-legged friend of the upstate town has made a foray into local politics. In 2007, Sparky the cat ran for mayor, followed by Roger the cat in 2011. In 1999, the Gazette reports, Loffredo the dog entered a mayoral race. No furry candidate, of course, has actually won, but McCarthy and Hull told the paper they welcome the competition.

“I assume our paths will cross in the campaign,” McCarthy said of Diamond.

[The Daily Gazette]

TIME White House

President Obama Sang the Davy Crockett Theme Song at an Event

"Is your name really Davy Crockett? That's a cool name"

When a man named James Davy Crockett asked the President a question at a town hall on Wednesday, President Obama had some questions of his own—and also, the urge to sing.

“Is your name really Davy Crockett? That’s a cool name,” Obama said. “But you don’t have that beaver cap?”

“I’ve got one at the house,” Crockett replied. (The frontiersman Crockett was actually known for a coonskin cap.)

Obama then recalled the Davy Crockett show that aired in the 1950s. “”Ya’ll remember that TV Show?” he asked the giggling crowd at Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Madison, Tenn. He then briefly broke into the show’s theme song.

The President’s exchange with Crockett began much more seriously—Crockett told the President he had unsuccessfully tried to get Social Security benefits, but had been turned down four times. Crockett’s story has been highlighted in the past, with an April Tennesseean article detailing his struggles with his health and gaining insurance. During Wednesday’s event, Obama promised to reach out to the Social Security Administration to get Crockett’s application expedited.

Obama took questions for about 50 minutes from a friendly crowd at the elementary school. He said his work on health care was not yet finished and thanked local leaders for their work in getting people in their states insured. The event followed the recent Supreme Court decision that kept the Affordable Care Act in place.

Watch a clip of Obama’s exchange with Crockett:

 

 

 

TIME

Obama Announces Cuban Embassies

But he pushed Congress to go further

President Obama called the reopening of U.S. and Cuban embassies after a half century a “historic step forward,” but pushed Congress to go even further and end the trade embargo with the island nation.

“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people,” he said in a brief announcement at the White House that was carried live on Cuban television. “We begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.”

The reopened embassies are just the latest step in a rapprochement that began in December when Obama announced the U.S. would normalize diplomatic relations with the communist country. The Obama Administration has also removed Cuba from an official terror list, and Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the country at the end of summer, after the expected July 20 embassy openings.

Republican presidential candidates largely oppose the move, with only Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul backing Obama’s decision. The Republican-led Congress is also unlikely to end the longstanding trade embargo, with the House already including provisions to block Obama from the moves he has already taken on Cuba.

But Obama cited one prominent Republican, former George W. Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who wrote in a New York Times column in June that he has changed his mind and now supports normalizing ties.

Obama said that “nobody expects Cuba to transform overnight,” but he stressed that he believes a new policy of engagement will advance American interests and the cause of democracy and human rights there.

“This is what change looks like,” Obama added.

 

TIME Essence Music Festival

Essence Music Festival to Get Serious on ‘Black Lives’

Activist Sybrina Fulton participates in a panel conversation at the Manifest:Justice pop-up art space on May 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Amanda Edwards—WireImage Activist Sybrina Fulton participates in a panel conversation at the Manifest:Justice pop-up art space on May 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Much of the annual 4-day event will focus on the black lives matter movement

Correction appended, July 1

Civil rights leaders will join survivors of tragedy for a frank discussion on the black lives matter movement in New Orleans this week.

The 21st annual Essence Festival, hosted every Fourth of July weekend, will take on a more serious tone during a series of daytime events at the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. At the festival’s Empowerment Series, Rev. Al Sharpton will share a stage with Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, in conversations on injustices facing the black community.

Organized by Essence magazine, which is owned by TIME’s parent company Time Inc., the festival comes amid a renewed discussion of race relations in America, especially the relationship between the black community and police and violence against African Americans. Last week, many of the Essence festival’s featured guests were in Charleston, S.C., for the funeral of a pastor gunned down along with eight parishioners by a man allegedly driven by racial hatred.

“The work that the community needs is urgent and pressing,” says Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks. “We can’t just have a party.”

Essence Editor-in-Chief, Vanessa K. De Luca recently told the Huffington Post that she hopes to focus on positive solutions that can come out of recent tragedies.

“What better place than the festival to bring harsh conversations to light and deliver solutions?”

The event will also commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, with a series of community service events around the city, focusing on still-struggling areas.

For the past 21 years, the Essence Festival has brought a “party with a purpose” to New Orleans, tackling issues of from gentrification to mental health during the day and rocking out to performers like Prince, Beyoncé, and Mary J. Blige every night over the Fourth of July Weekend. City officials credits the festival with helping add energy to the often-quiet holiday weekend in the Big Easy.

Over the past 20 years, the festival has generated over $2 billion for the local economy, according to Ebanks, including over $240 million that was generated in 2014 alone.

“New Orleans is very early to this discussion,” says New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “We’re losing way too many lives on too frequent a basis. It is a conversation that we have had every year in New Orleans around this and we’re going to continue to have it as we go forward.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the festival. It is the Essence Festival.

TIME intelligence

CIA Lags in Recruiting Diverse Workforce, Reports Finds

Mission not yet accomplished on diversity

The Central Intelligence Agency’s efforts to bring more minorities into its workforce haven’t been as effective as hoped, according to a new internal report.

The report finds that since 2008, recruitment of minority officers has declined “to levels lower than what is necessary” to maintain the agency’s current levels of minority representation. Currently, racial and ethnic minorities make up about 24% of the entire CIA workforce.

The CIA says diversity and maintaining a diverse workforce is essential to its mission. Without varieties of perspective among employees, CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday, officers can become susceptible to “group think,” which could lead to lapses in intelligence and security.

Without a diverse workforce, Brennan said, “we’re not going to be able to do our job.”

MORE The CIA’s Latest Mission: Improving Diversity

CIA Director John Brennan commissioned the Diversity in Leadership study in January 2014, shortly after a report led by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that examined women’s leadership roles across the agency. That study, released in 2013, found that women comprise about 45% of the agency’s workforce and 31% percent of senior leadership positions. The agency is currently in the process of implementing the recommendations of that report. The 2015 Diversity in Leadership study was chaired by famed Civil Rights activist and attorney Vernon Jordan.

Brennan said increased competition in the workforce has likely contributed to the decline in minority recruitment. At a recent trip to a historically black college, he said, the students he met with were impressive—but also courting several offers from private companies that have more attractive salaries and benefits than the agency.

The agency’s challenge is to become an “employer of choice” for applicants who can thrive—and make a lot of money—at private companies.

And once recruits get in the door, impediments to success remain. Only 10.8% of the senior ranks of the CIA are racial and ethnic minorities, according to the study. The number of African-Americans in the senior ranks has declined in both percentage and actual number between 2004 and 2014. The percentage of Hispanics in the CIA workforce is significantly lower than in the civilian workforce. The study also found that the agency lacks an inclusive culture and that many groups don’t have access to formal informal networks that can lead to career advancement.

A survey of officers found that many LGBT, minority, and officers with disabilities felt that they had to “hide aspects of their identity” in order to thrive within the agency. Many officers said they didn’t even feel comfortable advocating alternative viewpoints within their work groups.

In lieu of agency-led networks, African-American officials have historically hosted informal groups where they can talk freely about their experiences and assist officers in efforts to seek new positions.

In an interview with TIME earlier this year, a veteran officer said some still meet regularly for social and networking events. “We made that a point of pride,” he told TIME. “It was a thing of, ‘I may not get there but we want to position you to get to the top.’”

Brennan said he hopes the report sends a strong signal to his workforce that he takes diversity and increasing minority representation across the board seriously.

TIME

Beloved Japanese Cat ‘Elevated to Status of Goddess’ at Lavish Funeral

Cat stationmaster Tama, superstar in western Japan, dies
Kyodo/AP Tama, a cat stationmaster of a railway station in western Japan, attends an event at her Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan in Jan., 2013.

Tama wasn't just any old cat to this community

The beloved rail station cat who died in Japan last week had a funeral fit for a goddess.

Rail officials and thousands of fans attended the funeral for Tama, who died last week after years of attracting tourists to a rail station in Western Japan. According to BBC, she was “elevated to the status of a goddess” at her Shinto-style funeral and titled an “honorary permanent stationmaster.”

The feline was more than just a cute addition to the station, BBC reports, she was also a cash cow. By having her as stationmaster, the railway was able to help turn around from near bankruptcy. Her presence helped generate about 1.1 billion yen.

As a thank you, well-wishers are leaving flowers and cans of tuna outside of the station.

[BBC]

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