National News

White House Seeks More Time From Congress On Iran

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 05:38

There is bipartisan support for sanctions — and a veto threat from the president. His chief of staff, Denis McDonough, says the White House would consider congressional action "later in the year."

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Jury Selection To Start In Aurora, Colo., Mass Shooting Trial

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 04:36

James Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 in the theater shooting in July 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury pool of 9,000 is one of the largest ever.

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State of the Union Will Tout Progress, But Is The Economy Fixed?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 04:07

The economy has improved greatly since President Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009. But is his economic legacy impressive enough to justify taking a victory lap during his State of the Union address?

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Beware Of Japanese Balloon Bombs

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 04:00

During World War II, the Japanese aimed thousands of wind-borne explosives at North America. To this day, many have not been accounted for.

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Beware Of Japanese Balloon Bombs

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 04:00

During World War II, the Japanese aimed thousands of wind-borne explosives at North America. To this day, many have not been accounted for.

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Islamic State, In Video, Threatens To Kill 2 Japanese Hostages

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 03:48

In a message to Japan's prime minister, the group said it will kill the men unless it gets $200 million — equivalent to Japan's pledge in nonmilitary aid to countries facing threats from the group.

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State Of The Union: 5 Things To Watch

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 03:05

The prospects for passing major parts of President Obama's agenda slim to none. So what kind of tone will he take toward Congress?

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PODCAST: Faster, supercomputer! Faster!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 03:00

Some context on what the President might say tonight in regards to college tuition. Plus, Fidelity will reportedly lead the creation of a new private, stock trading venue, otherwise known as a dark pool. More on that. And Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory may once again be home to the world's fastest supercomputer. Its current machine was the fastest when it went live in 2012. That title only lasted six months - then a computer in China took the top spot. But the U.S. recently put aside more $400 million to keep itself in the race.

Obama, In Tonight's State Of the Union, Will Focus On Middle Class

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:48

Despite economic growth and the falling unemployment rate, challenges remain. The president will articulate his vision to a Republican-majority Congress.

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The unending race to make the fastest supercomputer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory may once again be home to the world’s fastest supercomputer. It held the title in 2012, but only kept it for six months — then a computer in China took the top spot. But the U.S. recently put aside more than $400 million to stay in the race.

The supercomputer at Oak Ridge, called Titan, is the size of a basketball court and sounds like a jet engine. It can make 27 quadrillion — that’s 27 followed by 15 zeros — calculations per second.

“It’s almost like it’s alive,” says Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. “It has a pulse to it. You can feel it in your body when you walk in the room.”

These kinds of machines are used to do incredibly complex simulations of real-world things, such as analyzing weather patterns over time or predicting new chemical combinations in drugs. Faster computers mean more scientific breakthroughs.

Like any computer, whether it's a Titan or your personal laptop, it will be basically obsolete in a few years, Bland says.

“Because we can go out and buy a new machine for less than it costs to pay the maintenance of the old machine,” he says.

The U.S. has been a leader in supercomputing for decades, and staying up-to-date and ahead of the pack is pricy. Oak Ridge’s next computer, called Summit, could cost up to $280 million.

Yet Congress has funded supercomputing with gusto. In November, the Department of Energy pledged $425 million to help build Summit and a computer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., says it’s a priority that stretches across party lines.

“This is a case where the Obama administration and I and others in Congress since 2008 have had the same goal: We wanted double funding for supercomputing,” he says.

Alexander gives two reasons: First, national security — some federally funded machines manage the country’s nuclear weapons.

Second, private companies can apply for time on the computers to develop products more quickly. For example, Procter and Gamble has used Oak Ridge’s Titan to research how  skin might react to its products.

And then there’s something that has nonmonetary value: pride.

“It’s like being number one in football,” Alexander says. “We like the idea of having the fastest supercomputer in the world, and we have had that at Oak Ridge.”

Summit is expected to go live in 2017, but Oak Ridge isn’t calling it the fastest yet — by that time, some other country may be building one that’s even faster.

 

Closing the loophole on a tax advantage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will urge what is now a Republican senate and a Republican house to dump what the President sees as a loophole that allows the wealthiest of American families to pass on a big tax advantage to their heirs.

Along with raising capital gains taxes for some in the higher brackets, the idea is to use the money to let low income people keep $500 a year of their money when both spouses work, and among other things, to help families with under five years olds pay for child care. But let's start with a closer look at this trust fund business.  

Click the media player above to hear finance reporter David Cay Johnston in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Can community colleges cope with being free?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

President Barack Obama is expected to give a big boost to community colleges in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The President has proposed making tuition at two-year public colleges free for students in good standing. If the proposal passes Congress—and that’s a big if—can community colleges handle a surge in students?  

Click the media player above to hear more.

The race to make the fastest supercomputer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory may once again be home to the world’s fastest supercomputer. It was in 2012, but that title only lasted six months — then a computer in China took the top spot. But the U.S. recently put aside more than $400 million to keep itself in the race.

The supercomputer at Oak Ridge right now, called Titan, is the size of a basketball court and sounds like a jet engine. It can make 27 quadrillion — that’s 27 followed by 15 zeros — calculations per second.

“It’s almost like it’s alive,” says Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. “It has a pulse to it. You can feel it in your body when you walk in the room.”

These kinds of machines are used to do incredibly complex simulations of real-world things, such as analyzing weather patterns over time or predicting new chemical combinations in drugs. Faster computers mean more scientific breakthroughs.

But Bland says like any computer, whether it’s Titan or your personal laptop, will be basically obsolete in a few years.

“Because we can go out and buy a new machine for less than it costs to pay the maintenance of the old machine,” he says.

The U.S. has been a leader in supercomputing for decades, and staying up-to-date and ahead of the pack is pricy. Oak Ridge’s next computer, called Summit, could cost up to $280 million.

Yet Congress has funded supercomputing with gusto. In November, the Department of Energy pledged $425 million to help build Summit and a computer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) says it’s a priority that stretches across party lines.

“This is a case where the Obama administration and I and others in Congress since 2008 have had the same goal: We wanted to double funding for supercomputing,” he says.

Alexander gives two reasons: First, national security — some federally funded machines manage the country’s nuclear weapons.

Second, private companies can apply for time on the computers to develop products more quickly. For example, Procter and Gamble has used Oak Ridge’s Titan to research how the skin might react to its products.

And then there’s something that has non-monetary value: pride.

“It’s like being number one in football,” Alexander says. “We like the idea of having the fastest supercomputer in the world, and we have had that at Oak Ridge.”

Summit is expected to go live in 2017, but Oak Ridge isn’t calling it the fastest yet — By that time, some other country may be building one that’s even faster.

 

Gasoline prices are all over the map

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

You hear about the average national gasoline price, but it’s often different from the station down the block. So why are prices so inconsistent from station to station, not to mention state to state?

A gallon of gasoline costs about 50 percent more in New York than Missouri. Taxes vary by as much as 35 cents a gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Geography plays a role, too. States like Missouri and Oklahoma are near lots of refineries, and those refineries have pipeline access to cheaper crude supplies from the U.S. and Canada. Finally, state and local regulations produce many different varieties of gasoline, with different ethanol blends, octane requirements and emissions standards. 

 

Disappointing economic growth in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:30
7.4 percent

With a low not seen in a quarter century, China's economic growth dropped to 7.4 percent in 2014. As reported by the WSJ, some economists predict that disappointing numbers from 2014 are just the start of a global deceleration of growth.

2,000

That's about how many times Ronald Reagan used the word "freedom" for every million words in his State of the Union addresses, the Atlantic reported. He also lead the pack on "god." The Atlantic has an automatic tool showing frequently-used words by president.

50 percent

You may have noticed disparities in gas prices from station to station, but what about state to state? For example, a gallon of gasoline costs about 50 percent more in New York than Missouri. Turns out, there's a lot of factors that play into why you'll pay more or less for a tank of gas in different states.

46 percent

President Barack Obama's approval rating heading into Tuesday's State of the Union address. It's a bump up from the past year, the New York Times' Upshot reported, and it'll become more important in the homestretch of Obama's second term and looking to Democrats chances in 2016.

27 quadrillion

That’s 27 followed by 15 zeros, and it's also the number of calculations per second the Titan supercomputer at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can compute. And it's not even the fastest in the world. That title is currently held by a supercomputer in China. It's why Congress has begun funding supercomputing with gusto, pledging over $400 million to building Oak Ridge's next supercomputer.

80

That's how many of the world's richest people it would take to match the collective wealth of the poorer half of the population, Quartz reported. That's a sharp drop from 2010, when you would have needed 388 super-rich to do the same.

 

IRS Budget Cuts May Make For An Unpleasant Tax Filing Season

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:06

The IRS commissioner warns that congressionally mandated budget cuts are hurting the agency's ability to crack down on tax cheats, process timely refunds and even staff its help lines.

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Working 3 Jobs In A Time Of Recovery

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 00:03

If Elkhart County, Ind. was the symbol of the recession, then Ed Neufeldt was the face of the unemployed worker. Elkhart's economy has recovered but Neufeldt is still struggling to bounce back.

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Analysts Watch For Impacts Of European Economic Weakness On U.S.

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-19 23:18

German automakers have several plants in the South, and Florida counts on European tourists. Analysts hope efforts to stimulate Europe's economy will keep investments in the U.S. from slipping.

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Despite Lower Oil Prices, IMF Cuts Global Growth Forecasts

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-19 21:44

The International Monetary Fund lowered its growth forecasts over the next two years. It warned on Tuesday that weakness in most major economies will trump gains from lower oil prices.

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Should Judicial Candidates Be Allowed To Solicit Campaign Money?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-19 21:03

Once, judicial elections were a pretty tame affair, with relatively little money spent. Not anymore. On Tuesday the Supreme Court hears arguments on how candidates should be allowed to gather funding.

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