April 20 marks the three-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which took the lives of 11 men and resulted in the largest oil spill in American history. BP, along with Transocean and Halliburton, are still in the midst of a civil trial held in New Orleans federal court over liability for the catastrophe.
The extent of the damage and the long-term effects from the spill remain impossible to determine. Some scientific evidence -- for example, that collected by NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program, which includes the results of necropsies of dead sea turtles and dolphins -- is not available, since it is being used as evidence in the trial.
Yet even three years later, the residual effects of the oil spill are still apparent on the Gulf Coast. I covered the BP oil spill from the start, and have gone on documenting the effects of the hardest-hit areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, revisiting those areas over the last week. Below are some of the photos I have taken. Along the Mississippi coast one can still find tar balls. In Louisiana I observed, among other disturbing signs of the spill, oil sheen along a coastal marsh, and erosion on an island in Barataria Bay sped up by the death of mangrove trees and marsh grass.
Cat Island was once a rookery for pelicans and other birds. The island is now a fraction of its former size, void of the mangrove trees and healthy marsh grass that thrived there before the spill. The birds that would normally would be nesting this time of the year are also absent. (April 18/All images Julie Dermansky)
Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, La., stands on what remains of Cat Island, holding pelican bones. (April 18)
A bird rookery on a barrier island in Barataria Bay. The lack of mangrove trees in the area has forced the pelicans to nest in the marsh grass. Alternations of the tide put their eggs at risk here. (April 18)
A dead Kemp's Ridley Sea turtle on the beach in Pass Christian, Miss. Necropsies of sea creatures are being presented as evidence in an ongoing case against companies implicated in the spill -- though it's not clear what killed this turtle in particular. (April 13)
Road sign near Grand Isle, La. (April 14)
Containers holding material removed from Elmer's Island, La., where the BP oil spill clean up is ongoing. (April 14)
Messages from resident in the form of handmade signs remain on Grand Isle. This one offers an optimistic message. (April 14)
A makeshift memorial on the beach in Grand Isle for those killed in the blast that started the BP oil spill. (April 14)
On the beaches of Louisiana's state park on Grand Isle, I found large tar balls that were tough like rubber, distributed roughly one every couple of feet. (April 14)
In the marsh along the edge of Bay Jimmy, Plaquemines Parish Director of Coastal Zone Management P.J. Hahn found hardened oil coating the roots of now-dead marsh grass. (April 15)
Oil sheen is visible in the Bay Jimmy marsh. (April 15)
Environmental groups at a rally and press conference in front of the Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans, where the BP oil spill trial is in session. (April 16)
Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.
The billionaire’s bid for the nomination was opposed by many insiders—but his success reveals the ascendance of other elements of the party coalition.
In The Party Decides, an influential book about how presidential nominees are selected, political scientists John Zaller, Hans Noel, David Karol, and Marty Cohen argue that despite reforms designed to wrest control of the process from insiders at smoke-filled nominating conventions, political parties still exert tremendous influence on who makes it to general elections. They do so partly through “invisible primaries,” the authors posited—think of how the Republican establishment coalesced around George W. Bush in 2000, long before any ballots were cast, presenting him as a fait accompli to voters who’d scarcely started to think about the election; or how insider Democrats elevated Hillary Clinton this election cycle.
The comedian's n-bomb at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner highlights a generational shift in black culture.
Georgia McDowell was born the daughter of farmers and teachers in North Carolina in 1902. She was my great-grandmother, and she taught me to read, despite the dementia that clouded her mind and the dyslexia that interrupted mine. I loved Miss Georgia, though she kept as many hard lines in her home as she had in her classrooms. One of the hardest lines was common to many black households: The word “nigger” and all of its derivatives were strict taboos in person, on television, and on radio from any source, black or otherwise, so long as she lived and breathed. She’d kept the taboo through decades of teaching black students and raising black children. For most of my childhood, the taboo was absolute.
The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project said it knows the location of British explorer Captain James Cook’s famous vessel.
By the time it was lost, HMS Endeavour had been conscripted into the American Revolutionary War and renamed. Years before, the British explorer Captain James Cook had sailed the 100-foot oak ship on his first voyage to Australia.
After Cook’s first voyage, the Endeavour was largely forgotten. While searching for Australia, Cook wrecked the ship into a coral reef, so upon return to England, workers at a dockyard refitted it as a naval transport. Cook got a new ship. Meanwhile the Endeavour delivered provisions to the Falkland Islands in 1772, was sold in 1775, then renamed the Lord Sandwich, and unceremoniously, and purposefully, sunk in 1778 in the shallow waters of a Rhode Island harbor to block advancing French ships that’d come to help the Americans. And there the Lord Sandwich still lies.
The Republican front-runner’s repetition of a blatantly ridiculous story about Ted Cruz’s father shows his symbiotic relationship with the press.
Brace yourselves for shock, but Donald Trump said something ridiculous and baseless Tuesday morning. The subject was Rafael Cruz, Cuban-born father of his primary remaining rival, Senator Ted Cruz.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being—you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said during a phone interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”
Let’s clear a few things up: It has been reported, which is why Trump knows about it, but it was reported in the National Enquirer. Also there is no evidence for it; it’s bogus. Yes, the National Enquirer has been right about some things in the past, most notably John Edwards’s affair; no, that does not prove that it is right about this.
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
For some, abandoning expensive urban centers would be a huge financial relief.
Neal Gabler has been a formative writer for me: His Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity was one of the books that led me to think about leaving scholarship behind and write nonfiction instead, and Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination was the first book I reviewed as a freelance writer. To me, he exemplifies the best mix of intensive archival research and narrative kick.
So reading his recent essay, "The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans," was a gut punch: First, I learned about a role model of mine whose talent, in my opinion, should preclude him from financial woes. And, then, I was socked by narcissistic outrage: I, too, struggle with money! I, too, am a failing middle-class American! I, too, am a writer of nonfiction who should be better compensated!
Journalists and policy makers can have a hard time describing the economy when "average" departs so markedly from what's normal.
There is an easy story to tell about the Obama Recovery. Devastated by a financial crash, the U.S. launched a historic comeback. The private sector added jobs in 73 consecutive months, the longest stretch ever. Unemployment is lower today than in the month Reagan left office. Real GDP has grown more than 13 percent since its most-recent low in 2009, Obama’s first year in office. That’s more than twice as much growth as in some western European countries, like France. Compared to how countries typically perform after financial crises, the United States has “probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history,” President Obama toldThe New York Times Magazine.
But there is an opposite story that is attracting widespread support and millions of votes: The recovery is a failure. Donald Trump is an IMAX projection of white working-class grievances, calling America “a third-world country.” Bernie Sanders’s supporters describe a country where poverty and financial insecurity are not bugs but rather features of a rigged economy. The pessimistic style is not niche: Trump and Sanders have amassed a combined 16 million votes.
When Apple announced in 2013 that its next iPhone would include a fingerprint reader, it touted the feature as a leap forward in security. Many people don’t set up a passcode on their phones, Apple SVP Phil Schiller said at the keynote event where the Touch ID sensor was unveiled, but making security easier and faster might convince more users to protect their phones. (Of course, Apple wasn’t the first to stuff a fingerprint reader into a flagship smartphone, but the iPhone’s Touch ID took the feature mainstream.)
The system itself proved quite secure—scanned fingerprints are stored, encrypted, and processed locally rather than being sent to Apple for verification—but the widespread use of fingerprint data to unlock iPhones worried some experts. One of the biggest questions that hung over the transition was legal rather than technical: How might a fingerprint-secured iPhone be treated in a court of law?
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.