TIME nation

President Obama Celebrates New Orleans on Katrina’s Anniversary

"There's something in you guys that's irrepressible. You know the sun comes out after every storm," Obama said of New Orleans. "You've got hope."

President Obama called New Orleans a beacon of resilience and strength, a city swiftly moving forward in the wake of an epic tragedy just days before the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the Gulf regions’ most devastating storms.

“You are an example of what is possible when in the face of tragedy, in the face of hardship good people come together and lend a hand,” Obama said on Thursday during a speech at the Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center in the Lower Ninth Ward; an area that was hard hit during Katrina and is still struggling to recover.

At the beginning of his speech, Obama took a moment to call on Congress to pass a budget and avoid a government shutdown.

It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina’s wrath ravaged the Gulf Coast, breaking the levees designed to hold back the rising tide and leaving parts of the Crescent City and its surrounding areas underwater. About 80% of New Orleans flooded. Over 1,000 people died. President Obama noted that the structural inequities that plagued the city before the Hurricane only compounded the destruction and displacement the city faced after the storm.

“Like a body weakened, already, undernourished already, when the storm hit there were no resources to fall back on,” Obama said.

Now, the city, as a whole, is well on the path to recovery. According to the city, about 94% of metropolitan New Orleans’ 2000 population has returned and 14 of its 73 neighborhoods have surpassed their pre-Katrina populations. Some 14,000 new jobs have been added from major companies, according to the Katrina 10 website. And many local leaders uphold the city’s charter-school-centric education system as a potential model for the rest of the country. Obama praised New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was the Lieutenant Governor when the storm hit, for his work to restore New Orleans to a point better than it was when the storm hit and the progress they’ve made thus far. And yet, there’s much work to be done.

“The progress you’ve made is remarkable,” Obama said. “That’s not to say things are perfect.”

Earlier on Thursday, President Obama toured the historically black neighborhood of Tremé , where jazz music’s roots run deep and residents and tourists flock to the famous restaurant Dooky Chase. About 21% fewer residents live in Tremé post-Katrina, according to the White House. The area was home to the Lafitte public housing projects, a 900-unit complex that was demolished after sustaining damage in the storm. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has provided some grant funding for an 812-mixed income unit that’s being constructed in its place. Obama walked down Magic Street in the neighborhood, which housed “two neat rows of sizable and spanking clean single family and duplex homes” donning brightly colored paint and wooden shutters, according to the pool report.

But the image of the new homes wasn’t an indication that the work in New Orleans is done.

“This is a community, obviously, that still has a lot of poverty. This is an area where young people still, too often, are taking the wrong path before they graduate from high school. This is a community that still needs resources and still needs help,” Obama told reporters after the tour in Tremé.

During his speech, Obama noted the disparities in employment between blacks and whites in the city, the lack of public and affordable housing, and the high levels of crime that plague pockets of the city—particularly among African American males.

“You’ve made a lot of progress. That gives us hope. But that doesn’t allow for complacency. It doesn’t mean we can rest,” Obama said. “But there’s something in you guys that’s irrepressible. You know the sun comes out after every storm. You’ve got hope.”

 

TIME

Boy Survives Desert Heat After Dying Parents Give Him Their Water

white sands new mexico
Giovanna Dell'Orto—AP Contoured patterns in the endless white sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico in March, 2014.

Park rangers found the boy next to his dead father

A young French boy’s life was spared after his parents offered him more of the little water they had while hiking on perilous trail in New Mexico. His parents both died and he has since been reunited with his grandmother.

The tourists had traveled to the White Sands National Monument and set out to hike the Alkali Flat Trail, a 4.6 mile journey that takes visitors to the heart of the park’s sand dunes. Because of the extreme heat that visitors can face in the summer, the park recommends visitors carry about a gallon of water with them while on the trail and resting frequently. The park also recommends hiking during cool times—the early morning and evening.

The couple, however, only had two 20 ounce bottles of water among them, according to the Alamogordo Daily News, a local newspaper. And according to CNN, officials believe they started their hike around 1 p.m. local time, when temperatures hovered around 101 degrees.

To keep their son hydrated, the couple reportedly drank one sip of water as he took two. Both of the parents, identified as Ornella and David Steiner, died in the heat. The boy told officials Ornella was trying to head back to the start of the trail when she collapsed. The father and son were attempting to carry out the remainder of the journey, but only made it another 2,000 feet before succumbing to the heat. Rangers later found the bodies and the son next to his dead father.

According to Alamogordo Daily News, the boy’s grandmother flew to New Mexico from France to take care of him.

TIME nation

Internet Rallies Behind Fired Toll Booth Worker

The employee had worked at the toll for 29 years

A toll booth collector named Vladislav Samsonov — but goes by Sam — in Boca Grande, Fl, was fired for helping someone out.

Samsonov, a military veteran who had worked at the booth for 29 years, said he was fired for covering someone’s toll fee out of his own pocket. NBC2 reports that Samsonov realized he had charged a truck driver too little and covered the difference with his own money — something he had occasionally done in the past when drivers were short on cash. “In my eyes there was no crime committed, I just helped somebody out,” he told the outlet. “I’d put the six dollars in, I got the six dollars back the next day.”

His former employer, the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority, told NBC2 that they couldn’t comment on the issue.

When Samsonov’s daughter Patricia posted what had happened to Facebook, hundreds of people shared the story and offered kind words and fond memories of the beloved toll booth worker.

For his part, Samsonov told NBC2 he was overwhelmed with the support, saying, “Makes me feel good, makes me want to cry.”

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TIME Crime

Parents Force Teen to Live in the Woods For Eating Pop-Tart

crystal and james driggers
Sumter County Sheriff's Office

A South Carolina couple face neglect charges

A South Carolina couple is facing neglect charges for allegedly forcing their teenaged daughter to live in the woods as a form of punishment.

James and Crystal Driggers are accused of not allowing their 14-year-old to enter their home for at least two days because she ate a Pop-Tart without permission, NBC News reports. The girl was reportedly told not to come home for a week; someone from her household was to deliver her food at specific times. According to authorities in the report, the girl was told to pitch a tent in the woods and was provided with only a roll of toilet paper, a whistle, a flashlight, and a watch.

The girl’s grandmother was able to take her in and report her situation to police, but after a short while police discovered she was sent back out. The parents were arrested and face one count of unlawful neglect of a child and could face more.

[NBC News]

 

TIME nation

An Economic Checkup

Economist Martin Feldstein on the state of the recovery

The U.S. economy is at a critical juncture. The Federal Reserve’s very easy monetary policy during the past few years has been the root of both good and ill: reduced unemployment on the one hand and increased financial risks on the other. The danger now is that the inevitable rise in interest rates over the next few years could cause substantial losses to banks and investors that, in turn, could weaken the economy’s overall performance and lead to another economic downturn.

The Federal Reserve’s unconventional monetary policy during the past five years–the combination of massive purchases of long-term bonds and its promise to keep short-term rates very low for a very long time–caused a sharp rise in the stock market and in the prices of owner-occupied homes. Together these raised household net worth by some $10 trillion in 2013. This large increase in wealth caused households to raise their spending and businesses to invest in new capacity. That increase in spending raised employment by enough to drive the unemployment rate down to just 5.4%. But the very easy monetary policy has also left us with dangerously low interest rates and overvalued assets.

With the overall unemployment rate down to 5.4% and the rate among college graduates at only 2.7%, there is little or no slack left in labor markets. As a result, labor costs are now rising at a faster rate. Compensation per hour in the nonfarm business sector rose at a 3.1% rate in the first quarter of this year, up from 2.5% in 2014 and 1.1% in 2013.

Rising labor costs usually lead to a higher rate of price inflation. This time inflation has temporarily been kept in check by the decline over the past year in the prices of gasoline and other forms of energy and by the rising dollar’s impact on the cost of imported goods. But those offsetting forces are shifting into reverse. With oil prices recently up from their lows and the dollar no longer rising, inflation will be heading higher in the year ahead.

Although there have recently been some mixed signals about the strength of demand, the economy will remain on a solid growth path for the coming year unless it is upset by events in the financial markets. Real inflation-adjusted GDP grew at more than 4% in the second half of 2013, driven by the rise of household wealth. Bad weather weakened the economy in the first quarter of 2014, but after that consumer spending and business investment together continued to rise at an annual rate of more than 4%.

The first quarter of the current year was again very weak because of terrible weather and other temporary forces. But those things are behind us, and the economy is recovering. Since households’ real after-tax incomes have increased at an annual rate of 4.5% in the most recent six months and employment prospects are strong, consumer spending is now likely to pick up. A rapid increase in housing starts–up more than 9% in April from a year earlier–will reinforce the stronger ordinary consumer spending. Because output can no longer be increased by significant reductions in unemployment, the potential pace of future GDP growth is likely to be limited to about 3%.

For the longer term, the economy faces a serious issue of preventing the projected explosion of the national debt. The ratio of the national debt to GDP has doubled in the past decade, from roughly 35% to about 75%. It is projected to start rising again in the near future, heading to 100% of GDP and higher unless legislative action is taken.

It is impossible to avoid the growth of the government debt by limiting increases in government spending on defense or on the budget items that are labeled as “nondefense discretionary,” i.e., federal-government domestic spending other than Social Security and Medicare. The defense budget is already projected to decline by 2025 to only 2.6% of GDP, the lowest level in the past half-century. Similarly, the nondefense discretionary outlays are already projected to decline by 2025 to only 2.5% of GDP, also the lowest level in the past half-century.

Fortunately, the growth of the debt can be limited and the ratio of debt to GDP can be pushed back to earlier levels without cutting outlays for Social Security and Medicare and without raising tax rates. The key is to slow the growth of those outlays and to limit the spending that is built into the tax code by a wide range of tax subsidies to individuals and businesses. This should be the task of the current Congress and the current President, but I think it will have to wait until after the election in 2016. That, together with tax reforms designed to stimulate faster growth, should be the legislative priority in 2017.

Feldstein, the George F. Baker Professor of Economics at Harvard University, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan Administration


This appears in the June 08, 2015 issue of TIME.

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