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Obama, visiting New York, pledges help in storm recovery

NEW YORK — President Barack Obama got a look on Thursday at the muddy wreckage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake, flying over ravaged neighborhoods in Queens, consoling devastated homeowners under tents and in the streets on Staten Island, and promising a strong and continuing federal role in the recovery.

“We’re reminded that we are bound together and have to look out for each other,” Obama said after walking down a block that had been all but demolished in the storm.

Obama, flanked by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said he wanted federal officials to work with state and local leaders in New York and New Jersey on “a game plan for how we’re going to be able to resource the rebuilding process.”

The president also said he was assigning Shaun Donovan, the secretary of housing and urban development and a former New York City housing official, to oversee the federal recovery effort in the New York area.

“We’re going to have to put some of the turf battles aside,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure everybody’s focused on doing the job as opposed to worrying about who’s getting the credit or who’s getting the contracts and all that stuff that sometimes goes into the rebuilding process.”

Aboard Air Force One on the way to New York, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters that the administration had not received details of Cuomo’s proposal; the president listened during the flight as the two senators made their case for a significant infusion of federal money.

Schumer said later that the president made it clear that he would push to get the money to help the region recover.

“He left us with the feeling that he was very hands-on and would work very hard to get the funds we need,” Schumer said.

The storm killed more than 100 people as it churned its way up the East Coast, with most of the deaths in low-lying sections of New York and New Jersey. It exacted a particularly high toll on Staten Island. Of 43 deaths attributed to the storm in New York City, 23 were on Staten Island.

—James Barron, The New York Times

Fashion houses weigh deeper investment in Africa

ROME — Has Africa’s golden moment arrived? For the gurus of the luxury world, the answer is a resounding yes — at least as a source of inspiration for design trends rippling through the fashion industry.

Designers from Vivienne Westwood to Jean Paul Gaultier have long drawn on the vibrancy of African culture in their clothing lines. But now the industry is taking a tentative look at whether it makes sense to put down larger stakes as the African economy begins to take its place alongside the world’s other promising emerging markets.

After decades of struggle, and despite continued serious challenges that include poverty and conflict, a middle class is forming in several large countries that have managed to diversify their economies away from basic commodities.

That is fueling a perceptible rise in large cities like Nairobi in the numbers of people who are aspiring to more than necessities, creating a demand for luxury goods, participants at a luxury conference in Rome said Thursday. The event was convened by The International Herald Tribune.

“We all know that Nigeria was all about oil and natural resources for a long time,” said Omoyemi Akerele, the creative and managing director of Style House Files, a guide to fashion, style and beauty. “Now we have telecoms, banking, marketing, retail and tourism.”

Studies offer wildly different estimates of the number of Africans moving into the middle class — anywhere from 80 million to 300 million. What is certain is that economic output is surging: growth is forecast to rise to around 12 percent in 2015, after growing an average of 4.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2008.

—Liz Alderman, The New York Times

Hospital death in Ireland renews fight over abortion

DUBLIN — The death of a woman who was reportedly denied a potentially lifesaving abortion even while she was having a miscarriage has revived debate over Ireland’s almost total ban on abortions.

The woman, Savita Halappanavar, 31, a dentist who lived near Galway, was 17 weeks pregnant when she sought treatment at University Hospital Galway on Oct. 21, complaining of severe back pain.

Halappanavar was informed by senior hospital physicians that she was having a miscarriage and that her fetus had no chance of survival. However, despite repeated pleas for an abortion, she was told that it would be illegal while the fetus’ heart was still beating, her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, said.

It was not until Oct. 24 that the heartbeat ceased and the remains of the fetus were surgically removed. But Savita Halappanavar contracted a bacterial blood disease, septicemia. She was admitted to intensive care but never recovered, dying on Oct. 28.

Praveen Halappanavar, in an interview with The Irish Times from his home in India, said his wife was told after one request, “This is a Catholic country.”

Two investigations into the case have been announced, and politicians have been quick to express their condolences and to call for legal clarity. Kathleen Lynch, a junior health minister, said medical professionals needed guidelines to deal with such circumstances.

In a statement, the hospital said it would cooperate fully with any inquest but that it had not started its own review because it wanted to consult the woman’s family first.

Praveen Halappanavar told the newspaper that he still could not believe his wife was dead. “I was with her those four days in intensive care,” he said. “They kept telling me: ‘She’s young. She’ll get over it.’ But things never changed; they only got worse. She was so full of life. She loved kids.”

—Douglas Dalby, The New York Times