MONEY Food & Drink

America Is Going to Spend Big to Celebrate Independence

From $725 million in fireworks to $1 billion in beer, Americans will shell out a lot of money this Independence Day.

When it comes to Independence Day, Americans aren’t shy about spending money. We’ll spend $725 million on fireworks, up from $695 million last year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Forty-two million people will travel for the holiday, thanks to low gas prices, says AAA. We’ll spend $71.23 per person on cookouts, which is $6.6 billion total, for 700 million pounds of chicken, 190 million pounds of beef and 150 million hot dogs. And to top it off, we’ll spend $1 billion on beer.

MONEY The Economy

The Worrisome Number in This Month’s Jobs Report

Despite a jump in jobs and lower unemployment, analysts are focusing on a different stat.

TIME world affairs

This Is the Method in the Greece Madness

The country's leaders had a good reason to act a bit crazy

The world’s financial elite think that Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is insane for holding a referendum on the country’s economic future. But there is method in his madness. Greece’s crisis has gone on for too long and caused too many innocent people too much pain. It’s time to end it. If Europe’s lenders can’t come to terms with the simple fact that Greece has borrowed too much and can’t pay it back, then Greece has to come to terms with it for them.

The conventional wisdom holds that the 40-year-old Tsipras is irresponsible, impulsive, and volatile. He sure looked that way last week when he walked away from Europe’s latest offer, which was for Greece to slash spending and raise taxes in return for the cash to make a $1.7 billion debt payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on June 30. Tsipras responded by closing the country’s banks, defaulting on that debt payment, and abruptly calling an election: Greek voters will decide Sunday whether to accept Europe’s terms. University of Athens economist Aristides Hatzis called the decision to hold a vote “irrational.” The Financial Times complained that Tsipras is “wielding” an “unjustified . . . referendum as a weapon against his Eurozone adversaries,” and counseled Greek voters to “listen closely to the words of Ms. Merkel.” The German chancellor and French president François Hollande have warned Greek voters that a vote against budget cuts and tax hikes is a vote to leave the euro.

But sometimes people have good reason to act a bit crazy. In 2009, Greece was running a budget deficit of more than 15% of annual spending, and investors were getting nervous. They wondered if Greece could make payments on its debt, then totaling about 130% of its national output—compared with about 75% for Britain, 54% for America, 61% for France, and 44% for Germany—and continue to provide public services. Investors cut Greece off, and the IMF, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank stepped in to provide Greece with €110 billion in return for spending cuts, tax hikes, and asset sales. The bailout didn’t work, and Greece’s economy continued to spiral down; Europe doubled its lending in 2012.

Lost in all of the talk about Greece’s possible default is that the country defaulted once before. In 2012, Greece used money from European governments to pay its private-sector creditors about half what it owed them. Was that a bailout of private creditors? The private creditors sure thought so—they happily took the deal. But Greece evidently didn’t default enough, since the rest of Europe felt the cure for Greece’s debts to private creditors was an even greater amount of debt to foreign governments.

Today, Greece owes 174% of its national output, a level of debt that simply can’t be repaid. As the IMF said last year, Greece’s debt, as a percentage of the economy, continues to rise, and “the extraordinary levels projected well into the next decade suggest that sustainability concerns”—that is, Greece’s ability to pay—“will remain an obstacle.” Greece has already tried cutting its budget and using the savings to pay down debt. In 2010, Greece raised its retirement age from 60 to 65 and reduced pension payments to retirees from 70% of their income to 60%. The formula for calculating pension payments was rejiggered to save the state money and “bonus” extra pension checks to retirees were eliminated. Because of these measures, Greece’s current budget is actually in surplus. “To have reached a surplus so swiftly is an extraordinary adjustment by any international comparison,” the IMF said last year. It wasn’t enough. Greece still can’t afford to pay its debt. Europe wants even more pension cuts as a condition of loaning to Greece. Without new loans, Greece won’t be able to pay off its old loans.

Greek citizens are suffering because their government promised them more than it could afford— and they may suffer more. But there’s no good reason why Greece’s creditors shouldn’t suffer more, too, because Greece’s government also promised them more than it could afford. If a sophisticated global creditor couldn’t grasp the debt problem before it was too late, how could a middle-class Greek retiree? Europe says it isn’t fair to ask German and French citizens to subsidize Greek retirements. By the same token, though, it’s not fair for Greece to shoulder a 27% unemployment rate—much higher among younger people—so that German and French investors, public or private, can avoid shouldering the loss they deserve for their own bad investment.

Moreover, the other measures that Europe wants Greece to take don’t seem particularly good for Greece. Europe wants Greece to raise its value-added tax and its corporate-income tax. Raising taxes in an environment of double-digit unemployment is never a good idea.

Greece’s default—and Sunday’s possible ratification of that default—need not push the country out of the euro. Greece can work out an arrangement with its European creditors, though they’ll have to settle for much less than they’re owed and wait longer to get it. Europe can force Greece out of the euro if it wants to by refusing to lend to Greek banks as they struggle to deal with panicked depositors withdrawing all their money. (Greece cannot keep its banks closed forever.) Either way, though, default doesn’t have to mean disaster, or, at least, a worse disaster than the current one.

A decisive Greek default might give the world a needed lesson: Stop lending money to borrowers who can’t pay it back fully—and when you’ve already lent too much money to borrowers who can’t pay it back, don’t expect to be fully repaid. The world should have learned this lesson in 2008, when the global financial crisis reached its nadir. Instead, Western governments continued to lend trillions of dollars at ever-cheaper interest rates to everyone from corrupt Brazilian oil companies to subprime American SUV buyers. Even with all this money sloshing around, Detroit couldn’t repay what it borrowed, Puerto Rico can’t repay what it borrowed, and Chicago probably can’t repay what it’s borrowed. Even healthier cities such as New York can’t make good on their obligations to bondholders and future pensioners.

People often visit Greece to take a vacation from reality. But perhaps it’s time for Greece to show the rest of the world what reality looks like.

TIME El Salvador

Meet the Crocodile ‘Nanny’ Who Is Trying to Preserve the Species

The crocodile "nanny" acts as mother to newly hatched crocs

Rangers at the Barra de Santiago nature reserve in El Salvador are working hard to preserve the American crocodile, which is on the brink of extension in the area. In addition to doing educational outreach programs, Jose Antonio Villeda, a park ranger, has personally taken on the task of preserving the species by caring for baby crocodiles, AFP reports.

Villeda, known as a crocodile “nanny,” asks local residents to bring him crocodile eggs that they find, and then he takes care of them for 85 days until they hatch. He then raises the crocodiles for approximately two months.

“What is gratifying is that we now have a real crocodile population. We have gone from five to more than 200,” Villeda told AFP.

The crocodile population in the area has significantly decreased as a result of hunting and egg consumption, prompting park rangers in the 1990s to begin monitoring crocodiles’ nests.

[AFP]

 

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Fireworks Can Trigger PTSD

Fireworks will be going off with a bang all weekend, but for some, they cause more anxiety than celebration

You may see the signs popping up around your neighborhood this July 4—red, white and blue notices that indicate the home of a vet with the request to “Please be courteous with fireworks.”

The signs are the work of a Facebook-launched nonprofit, Military With PTSD, begun by Shawn Gourley, whose husband, Justin, served in the Navy for four years and returned with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sudden and loud noises can trigger episodes of PTSD, bringing veterans back to traumatic experiences they have lived through during their service. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, up to 20% of military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan experience PTSD each year.

The signs are posted on the lawns of veterans’ homes to alert people to be more considerate when setting off fireworks in the area. According to Gourley, who spoke to CNN, the group has mailed 2,500 signs, some of which were paid for by donations and others by the vets themselves, while 3,000 people remain on a waiting list.

The signs are not meant to quash any Fourth of July celebrations, but to raise awareness that the explosive sounds, flashes of light and smell of powder may trigger unwelcome memories for some. “If you are a veteran, on the one hand July 4th should be one of the most patriotic holidays that you feel a part of,” says Dr. John Markowitz, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “On the other hand, the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air are likely to evoke traumatic memories, and you might want to hide. It’s a tricky one.”

Having advanced knowledge of a fireworks display can help some people with PTSD to better prepare and cope with any symptoms they may experience. “A big component of the startle response and PTSD is the unexpected,” says Rachel Tester, program director of the Law Enforcement, Active Duty, Emergency Responder (LEADER) Program at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital. “When people are able to anticipate, they are able to put into place mechanisms they have to cope ahead of time.”

That might include things such as relaxation techniques or being able to see the fireworks show and therefore know that they’re coming, as well as having headphones, music or other distractions at the ready.

Such strategies may not work for every PTSD patient, but being more aware that the explosive celebrations of the holiday might affect those with PTSD is an important step toward ensuring that everyone can enjoy the holiday without fear, anxiety or pain.

TIME celebrity

America Ferrera Thanks Donald Trump for Mobilizing Latino Voters

"Remarks like yours will serve brilliantly to energize Latino voters and increase turnout on election day against you"

Donald Trump’s insensitive comments about Mexican immigrants haven’t come without punishment from his now former business partners like Univision and NBC. But actress America Ferrera, herself of Honduran descent, wants to thank Trump for his recent statements.

In an open letter published by The Huffington Post on Thursday, Ferrera wrote to Trump in appreciation for the fact that his words will push more Latinos to the polls. “Remarks like yours will serve brilliantly to energize Latino voters and increase turnout on election day against you and any other candidate who runs on a platform of hateful rhetoric,” she wrote.

While the Ugly Betty actress wrote that Trump will never win the 2016 election without the Latino vote, and that he’s “living in an outdated fantasy of a bigoted America,” she thanked the billionaire for “reminding us that there remains an antiquated and endangered species of bigots in this country that we must continue to combat.”

Ferrera also provided some stats about recent Latino population growth in the U.S. and promised Latinos will fight back during elections season.

“We will do more than tweet about our indignation and beat piñatas of your likeness,” Ferrara wrote. “We will silence you at the polls. We will vote and use our growing position in U.S. politics. Our fellow Americans who understand and value our contributions will join us. We know there is nothing that scares you more.”

To read Ferrera’s complete letter, head to the The Huffington Post.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Greece

Everything to Know About Greece’s Debt Vote

It could have serious consequences for Europe's future

Q. Why and when are the Greeks voting on this referendum?

A. The Greek government called the referendum because it failed to get acceptable terms for debt relief and further assistance in four months of negotiations with the creditors. It felt it couldn’t agree to the last set of proposals received before the expiry of its bailout, because they couldn’t square it with their election promise to end austerity.

The referendum will be on Sunday, 5th July.

Q. So what are the Greeks actually being asked to vote on?

A. They’re being asked to vote on a set of proposals drafted by IMF, ECB and European Commission officials that were never formally completed or published.

This is the actual ballot. As you can see, the “No” (OXI) option, recommended by the government, is above the “Yes” (NAI) option.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 16.14.12

For the non-Greek readers, (or for those who only know ancient Greek), here’s a translation:

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 16.18.50

The two documents referred to can be found here and here (debt sustainability analysis).

Q. What are the key points?

A. The most contentious demand is that Greece squeeze another 1% of GDP in savings out of its battered pension system, specifically by eliminating top-ups that have been desperately needed by poorer pensioners to keep themselves above the breadline in recent years. The other big point is the elimination of VAT exemptions for Greece’s islands. The government argues this threatens the existence of the tourism industry on the islands.

The DSA, meanwhile, almost–but not quite–brings itself to admit that the debt load is unsustainable. If Greece adopts and implements the conditions immediately, it says, then the debt-to-GDP ratio could fall to 124% by 2022 from over 175% right now. That’s the best case scenario, and not one that sits comfortably with the last five years’ experience. It’s also not many people’s idea of sustainability.

Q. What happens if Greece votes ‘Yes’?

A. A ‘Yes’ vote would be the first step towards a third bailout agreement for Greece (the IMF suggested today that Greece will need €50 billion, or $56 billion, in financing to get it through to the end of 2018, as well as a 20-year grace period). The last one expired Tuesday.

Q. Could the Greek government collapse?

A. Probably. It has campaigned for a ‘No’ vote, so the blow to its credibility would be huge. Its electoral mandate–to end austerity while keeping the euro–would be obsolete. Individual ministers have already said they’ll resign in that event. However, the radical left-wing Syriza party is by far the largest in parliament, a large part of its lawmakers won’t sign any new bailout deal, and there is no stable pro-bailout majority without it. That points to new elections. Quite how negotiations could resume, and quite how the banks could reopen, in those circumstances isn’t clear.

Q. If Greece votes ‘No’, what happens?

A. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claims that a ‘No’ vote will strengthen the Greeks’ negotiating position by showing the strength of resistance to further austerity. However, the creditors have shown no sign that it would change their position. More likely is that the continued uncertainty will make it impossible for the banks, which have been closed since Monday, to reopen. They would be immediately faced with demands for cash that they can’t possibly meet. In practical terms, the banks couldn’t open again until the bulk of their liabilities–i.e. customer deposits–had been re-denominated in a new Greek currency. This would lead to a large part of the country’s savings being wiped out.

Q. Could this vote result in Greece leaving the Eurozone?

A. Absolutely, because it would be clear that the political will to share a currency with Germany and others was no longer there. How we get from A. to B. is unclear, because there are no precedents and no provisions for it in the E.U.’s treaty. There is a provision for leaving the E.U., but not even Tsipras wants to do that.

Q. Is the bailout deal they’re voting on even still on the table?

A. Not officially, but the creditors will look stupid, merciless and irresponsible if they don’t react to a ‘Yes’ vote with something to relieve the immediate pressure on Greece’s banks and the economy at large, and a large part of the political dynamic in this process is about dodging blame for the whole mess. It’s tempting to think that, once Syriza is out of government, some form of debt restructuring will become politically possible. The creditors would rather eat dirt than reward a party, and individual ministers, that they regard as dangerous charlatans.

Q. What does this mean for the global economy?

A. A ‘Yes’ vote would remove one of the big geopolitical risks that are currently holding back investment in the Eurozone, which would be a clear bonus to global growth (the Eurozone is over two-thirds of the E.U. economy, which about 20% of world GDP).

A ‘No’ vote, could have quite mild consequences if Greece can be kept inside the Eurozone and the ECB douses the flames of market fear with a flood of liquidity. That wouldn’t be as good for the economy, but it would at least contain the damage to financial markets. But a ‘No’ vote that leads to “Grexit” is another matter. Again, one would expect the ECB to throw money at the markets to keep volatility down, but the sight of European integration going into reverse would nix a basic geopolitical assumption of the last 60 years. The resulting political uncertainty could be highly damaging for investment not only in Europe, but also further afield.

 

TIME Education

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs to Grads: Happiness Is a Goal of Life

Cheryl Boone Isaacs gave this commencement speech at University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts I was first exposed to movies in the 1960s, which was one of the most creative and exhilarating periods in the history of film.

The young filmmakers and artists of that period were daring and brash and influenced by the social forces that were transforming society in such films as To Kill A Mockingbird, In The Heat of the Night, The Graduate, and A Hard Day’s Night.

One of my favorite films from that era was 1961’s West Side Story. At the time, my brother Ashley was an executive at United Artists, which released the film. I remember my family getting all dressed up to drive to New York to attend the premiere. And when the film won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and when cast members Rita Moreno and George Chakiris won Oscars, I was ecstatic.

When I graduated from high school, I thought I was going to work for the government. I went to college with the vision of working for the United States Information Agency and a career in public diplomacy.

After graduation from college, I decided to take time off from school, and took a number of different jobs including being a stewardess for Pan American World Airways.

But at age 25, I sat down and had an honest conversation with myself. I wanted to do something I love in a world that I loved, which was the film industry.

Little did I dream then that someday I would be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, much less its President.

The Academy is made up of more than 7,000 men and women working in film around the world, and led by a Board of Governors representing 17 different branches of the industry that include Directors, Actors, Editors, Cinematographers and public relations, which is the branch for which I’ve served as a Governor for 22 years.

The Academy’s mission today is largely the same as it was when I became a member in 1987, and when it was founded 87 years ago: to recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures.

As an Academy, we celebrate creative artists who are pushing the boundaries of cinema — men and women whose accomplishments touch people’s hearts and capture the world we live in.

Every year at the Oscars we honor the courage of filmmakers who cross borders and test boundaries, who give voice to challenging ideas and alternative points of view, and who encourage us to see the world and those around us in new ways.

As you embark on the next phase of your careers in the arts, I hope you will carry that torch, tell the truth about the world as you perceive it and change the narrative.

As the world becomes smaller and more globally connected, you as artists also have a responsibility to protect freedom of expression and ensure that no one’s voice is silenced by threats, violence or prejudice, and that different opinions can be shared without fear of personal or professional attack.

I want you all to follow your passion. There may be detours, but just keep moving forward. Stay focused on your goals and dreams.

Happiness is a goal of life.

In my years in the film industry, as a marketing and public relations executive both at major studios and independent companies, I have had to learn to maneuver both sides of the show business equation — the show side and the business side.

As creative artists nowadays, it’s incumbent on you to understand the business of the arts and the different funding channels available to you. A career in the arts does not guarantee financial stability, but if you’re smart about finding ways to monetize the work you love, the rewards will be immense.

I also urge you to give back to the community through the nonprofit sector.

In my career, I’ve also been lucky to serve as an artist in residence and university professor, to support programs for public schools in Los Angeles, to bring arts education to the under-served community and at-risk youth.

There are so many youngsters who haven’t had the opportunity to explore the arts. And as people have helped you, in your journey, I hope that you will support arts education for under-served youth.

In our ever-changing world there are countless opportunities available to your generation, more so than ever before.

With all of technology’s advancements one thing that has not changed is the human love of storytelling — whether it is music, painting, literature, dance or film.

It’s a thrill to stand here alongside you as you embark on this exciting next chapter of your lives. And I offer my very best wishes that you can bring the light of humanity and inspiration that you found here at UNC School of the Arts to the world around you.

This article was originally published by The Academy on Medium

MONEY Food & Drink

Whole Foods Apologizes for Overcharging Customers

The grocery chain's executives say they have a three-part fix to the problem.

TIME Business

New Bubble Wrap Has Bubbles You Can’t Pop

Bad news for people who find it cathartic to pop the stuff

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sealed Air, the original seller of bubble wrap, is rolling out new version of bubble wrap with bubbles that do not pop and that takes up less space in online retailers’ storage centers.

According to the article,Traditional Bubble Wrap ships in giant, pre-inflated rolls, taking up precious room in delivery trucks and on customers’ warehouse floors. One roll of the new iBubble Wrap uses roughly one-fiftieth as much space before it’s inflated.”

Talk about sucking the air out of a room, right?

 

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