Pension, retiree healthcare and debt service costs combined increased nearly 54 percent from 2009 to 2014, from $129 million to $198 million in 2014, Moody's noted, while fixed costs exceeded 30 percent of the city's operating revenues, even as its contribution to its public pensions fell $17.7 million short in fiscal 2014. New Orleans is also dependent on the oil and gas sector, which is volatile, and its population remains about roughly 18 percent below pre-hurricane levels. In addition, after using its reserves to fill budget gaps during the recession, its liquidity is weak, Moody's said.
Researchers returned on Sunday from mapping and sampling a massive swirling cluster of trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as the Dutch-borne crew works to refine a clean-up strategy it will roll out globally. The crew of the Ocean Cleanup, backed by volunteers in sailboats, ventured to areas of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", a swirling mass of human-linked debris spanning hundreds of miles of open sea where plastic outnumbers organisms by factors in the hundreds. The debris, concentrated by circular, clockwise ocean currents within an oblong-shaped "convergence zone", lies near the Hawaiian Islands, about midway between Japan and the U.S. West Coast.
By Eric M. Johnson SEATTLE (Reuters) - Beleaguered ground crews battling newly swelled wildfires across Washington state were aided by softer winds on Sunday as they welcomed the expected arrival of new fire engines and water-carrying tankers to a military base in the drought-stricken U.S. region. The full fleet of 20 large fire engines, to be deployed to hot spots threatening homes, and 10 water tankers will arrive at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane before Tuesday, officials said. Overall, there were 24 large wildfires or clusters of fires burning across Washington state and Oregon on Sunday, among the nearly 70 blazes raging in Idaho, California and Montana, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise reported.
By Laila Bassam and Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) - Protests against the Lebanese government turned violent for a second day on Sunday, and Prime Minister Tammam Salam threatened to resign as public discontent brought thousands into the streets. Anger at the Salam-led unity cabinet grouping Lebanon's fractious politicians has come to a head over its failure to resolve a crisis over garbage disposal that reflects the wider failings of the weak state. Salam's cabinet has been hamstrung by political and sectarian rivalries that have been exacerbated by wider crises in the Middle East, including the war in neighboring Syria.
Larger-than-usual crowds of wellwishers meant former President Jimmy Carter had to teach an extra Bible class at his rural Georgia church on Sunday, after he announced on Thursday cancer had spread to his brain. Carter, 90, a lifelong Baptist and church deacon, has taught Sunday school for decades and the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia is used to a throng. The theme of the lesson was love, Carter told the 300 people who filled the church's sanctuary, after briefly alluding to his health.