The Israeli-Palestinian conflict includes a shadow war in which Israel turns to Palestinian informants to gather intelligence. Palestinian Abed Hamed el-Rajoub was imprisoned for fighting against Israel, but while in jail, he secretly gathered information from fellow Palestinian prisoners.
Overweight kindergartners are much more likely to be obese by eighth grade compared to their normal-weight peers, a study finds. The solution may be for women to avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy, researchers say, as well as helping kids get exercise and eat healthy foods.
On Wednesday, President Obama directed the Treasury Department to create a new retirement plan called "myRA." The decision, a circumvention of Congress, follows through on one of the promises made by the president in his State of the Union. As Yuki Noguchi reports, the success of the plan may depend on its ability to move beyond the limitations of existing retirement plans.
Among the many issues in contention at the Syrian peace talks is the possibility of humanitarian relief for cities and villages under siege. No place is in greater need of assistance than the city of Homs in western Syria. One of the first regions to rise up against President Bashar al-Assad, Homs is now the site of an ongoing humanitarian aid crisis. Approximately two to three thousand people find themselves trapped in a disputed district and in increasingly desperate circumstances.
Snow and ice continue to plague parts of the Deep South, including Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala. As Rose Scott reports from Atlanta, city and state officials were surprised by the strength of the storm, and many people found themselves stuck on interstates highways.
Federal Reserve policymakers are wrapping up a two-day meeting as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke prepares to step down later this week. Investors expect the Fed to stick with its plan to "taper" bond purchases and keep short-term interest rates where they are.
A day after delivering his State of the Union, President Obama is beginning a four-city road trip. He plans to use the trip to push the priorities he emphasized during his address, with a focus on a raise to the federal minimum wage.
North Dakota's oil sector is booming, but agriculture remains the state's largest industry. And while many farmers and ranchers are profiting from the oil beneath the prairie, others complain that drilling is interfering with their business — and changing rural life as they know it.
Meteorologists are used to people faulting their weather predictions. But when Georgia's Gov. Nathan Deal called Tuesday's crippling winter storm "unexpected," he drew responses from several forecasters. One answer came from the head of the American Meteorological Society, who lives in the state.
Scientists know that a small percentage of humans' genes came from Neanderthals. But they were surprised to find that one-fifth of Neanderthal genes are in modern humans living today. That includes genes associated with diseases including Type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease and lupus.
Scientists know that a small percentage of humans' genes came from Neanderthals. But they were surprised to find that one fifth of Neanderthal genes are in modern humans living today. That includes genes associated with diseases including Type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease and lupus.
President Obama unveiled the new "MyRA" plans in his State of the Union speech last night. He stumbled a bit over the name, and there's still some confusion about what they'll be called -- some of the folks we talked to are pronouncing it "Myra," like the name. But the idea behind the accounts is simple, according to Karen Friedman, executive vice president and policy director of the Pension Rights Center.
"It’s a starter plan," she says. "It at least enables people to save in a secure, government-backed account."
The new accounts are aimed at low-income workers, who have few retirement saving options.
"Roughly half of the workforce right now doesn’t have a pension plan at work," says David Certner, legislative counsel with AARP. "Which is where most people prefer to save -- by having these monies deducted automatically from a paycheck."
And that’s how the new accounts would work. Employers and their workers have to volunteer to participate in the plan. But once they do, money will be deducted automatically, and invested in safe, government bonds. The initial investment could be as little as $25.
"The little amounts are what end up being the big amounts later on," says Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. "So we shouldn’t be poo-pooing the smallness of getting people started."
In fact, the Obama administration already has plans for when the accounts get big. Once they hit $15,000, they have to be transferred into a private-sector IRA.
An environmental scientist from Marshall University said water samples taken from a downtown Charleston restaurant had traces of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. "It's frightening, it really is frightening," he said.
What can't Pope Francis do? First he's Time's "Person of the Year," then he's a Rolling Stone cover story. Now, graffiti art in Rome is depicting the pontiff as a comic-book caped crusader. Even the Vatican approves.
You're in a hurry and just want to make your connection. Unfortunately, your boarding pass doesn't make it easy to quickly see the information you need. A British designer has an answer.
There's a bit of a technical issue in this country: The amount of data being gobbled up by smartphones is increasing ad jnfinitum, but the digital plumbing has limits. Only so many tweets and YouTube videos can flow through it.
The FCC has proposed a solution, one that takes its inspiration from a pre-school lesson: Sharing is Caring. The FCC wants TV stations to share the spectrum with one another other, essentially doubling up on a single channel. And the very first experiment of this digital sharing idea is about to begin.
The two stations taking part in this experiment are KLCS, a PBS station, and KJLA, a commercial Spanish language station, both in Los Angeles. "We decided we would rather be informed than not informed," says Alan Popkin, director of TV engineering at KLCS.
In describing this experiment he uses this analogy, "You don't jump out of an airplane and then invent the parachute on the way down."
The experiment will begin off-air, then move to non-peak hours, and eventually, the entire schedule of both stations will be transmitted from one channel. The results will show whether two channels can be packed into one without compromising the quality of the broadcast, and will look at out how TV's will know which channel to display, when faced with two programs on the same part of the spectrum.
If channel sharing works, it could save stations a lot of money because two stations could share the cost of transmission.
"There would be one tower and one transmitter and that would cut down a lot on the cost of operation," says Lonna Thompson, chief operating officer* and executive vice president of the Association of Public Television Stations. In addition, she says, each station would be able to sell its unused bandwidth to the FCC in an Incentive Auction next year.
"The incentives auction is an effort that the FCC is leading to create incentives to use spectrum as efficiently as possible and to free spectrum for mobile broadband services," says Scott Bergmann, vice president of regulatory affairs with CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group.
Companies like T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint are currently arguing over how much of the spectrum each company should get. Bergmann says mobile carriers could use their share to improve services for customers by providing greater capacity, faster speeds, and less congestion.
"The channel sharing pilot is an effort to make the incentive auction successful," Bergmann says.
The auction is scheduled for mid-2015 and is expected to generate $25 billion.
*CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we misidentified Lonna Thompson’s position at the Association of Public Television Stations. She is the chief operating officer. The text has been corrected.
The latest twist in this evolutionary whodunnit has us questioning whether the lack of vitamin D from the sun played any role in our complicated, sometimes dangerous, love affair with milk. New DNA analysis of ancient farmers from sunny Spain suggests that this theory may have gone sour.
The Federal Reserve said the economy continues to improve, so it is slowing its purchase of bonds by $10 billion a month.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, listed "insider threats," alongside cyber attacks and terrorism. This marks the first time unauthorized disclosures are given such prominence in a threat assessment report.
WE GOT 99 PROBLEMS, AND CURRENCY’S ONE.
India, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina – they’ve all had currency depreciations. Brazil has faced inflation concerns. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index, an average of emerging market stocks, has fallen nearly 7 percent this month, recently reaching a five month low. Emerging market equities have lost more than $995 billion in value since May.
To explain this, we have to talk about money -- and how money moves.
THAT GIANT SLOSHING SOUND
"There are trillions of dollars sloshing around global markets looking for high returns," says Gerald Epstein, director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. That money belongs to hedge funds, institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds, and regular investors alike.
With productive investments few and far between, "there’s more money out there, more money looking for more speculative investments."
During the depths of recession, the one place you wouldn’t be getting higher returns was in developed countries like the U.S. On the one hand, their economies weren’t doing well. And on the other, Central Banks were keeping interest rates low.
"It’s kind of simple," says Andrew Burns, manager of Prospects at the World Bank. "In the past, if you’re an investor, you have options. You could invest in U.S. Treasuries; they were giving a return of 1.5 percent last April. Or you can invest in Brazil where you’re getting return of 5 or 6 percent, maybe it’s a little bit risky."
So investors put money into developing economies.
At the same time, commodity prices were high, fueling emerging markets to the point they were leaders in global growth.
"The last four or five years, supported by very strong commodity prices, we’ve had very material capital flows into these countries," says Robert Kahn, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "These are small economies relative to the U.S. or Japan, and their ability to absorb this capital is not as great, and there is a tendency for these markets to go through boom bust cycles."
When the Fed first started talking about tapering last May, it became clear to investors that the economy was getting better, and interest rates in the U.S. would start to rise. And they have. The return on some treasury bonds has nearly doubled since then.
"In that context you say, ‘You know what? I had $100 over here in Brazil. I’m gonna pull some of it back in the United States,”" says the World Bank’s Burns.
“The Fed’s decision to taper was a trigger for these outflows,” says Kahn, “but at the end of the day, it’s not the primary reason for it.” Rather, it was the simple realization that there are safer -- and possibly better -- investments reappearing elsewhere in the developed world.
And indeed, money moved out. Local currencies continue to fall. As a result, it becomes more expensive for people in affected emerging markets to buy food and energy from abroad. Inflation sets in. Politicians in these countries then have to make a “Sophie’s choice”, says Professor Epstein. In order to fight that inflation, and in order to incentivize investors to keep their money in the country, governments have raised interest rates. That creates a drag on the economy.
"Turkey doubled the interest rate, interest rates have gone up in South Africa, Argentina," says Epstein. "And not only does this slow down their economy -- which if they already have a high unemployment rate is a big problem -- but it might also backfire." Backfire as in "push some companies into bankruptcy, further scaring off international investment."
Epstein argues there are few good options for lower income countries other than to control capital flows, a tool which has its own risks.
COMPLACENCY VS. PREPAREDNESS
On the one hand, many emerging markets came out of the global financial crisis in fairly good shape. But it doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable – as has become evident.
"Policy makers got complacent in these countries," says Kahn, "because they had access to very cheap money... We’ve seen before when things reverse – when commodity prices fall and capital flows turn around – it can be pretty hard. We’re at the beginning of that cycle."
WE’RE NOT DONE YET
"It’s not going to be smooth," says Kahn, "and there’s still more turbulence to be seen."
The process of global capital reallocation is not over. Throw in the fact that developing countries aren’t making as much from commodities, China is buying less from them, and a spate of political scandals, and it may be a very rough ride for lower income countries, indeed.