National News

In Retaliation, Russia Bans Some Food Imports From U.S., Europe

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 03:44

Russia was responding to sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its European allies over the crisis in Ukraine. The ban includes all beef, pork, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

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What A Balloon Shouldn't Do, But For Some Reason Does

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 03:03

Tether a balloon to the floor of a car, step on the gas, and watch the balloon do something it shouldn't. Ask why. Then discover the answer. Then feel smart.

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PODCAST: Big money from BofA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 03:00

Two published reports today suggest that Bank of America could pay something in the range of $16 billion dollars to settle with the government for alleged misconduct in the run up to the 2008 financial crisis. More on the how the situation might play out. Plus, President Obama is expected to sign legislation that would pump just under $17 billion dollars into the Department of Veterans Affairs' struggling healthcare system. The agency came under fire for sometimes fatal delays for treatment and staff manipulating waiting lists. The money will go towards hiring more nurses and doctors - and to allow some veterans to get care outside the VA system. Also, one of the biggest business and policy stories of the decade is emerging from Mexico, where the Senate there has approved the centerpiece of a new plan for the country's oil industry.  The decision ends the 75-year long monopoly held by the state-owned company Pemex.  Privatization is on the way.

Russia Gives Edward Snowden 3-Year Residence Permit

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 02:31

Snowden has been in exile for a little more than a year, after he leaked a cache of classified documents that revealed some of the United States' most deeply held security secrets.

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Mexico ends Pemex's 75-year monopoly on oil

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 02:00

One of the biggest business and policy stories of the decade is emerging from Mexico, where the Senate there has approved the centerpiece of a new plan for the country's oil industry. The decision ends the 75-year long monopoly held by the state-owned company Pemex. In other words, privatization is on the way. León Krauze, anchor and longtime correspondent for Univision News, has been looking into the radical change for one of Mexico's most powerful institutions.

Click the audio player above to hear León Krauze in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Will the cash from the VA healthcare overhaul help?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 02:00

President Barack Obama is expected to sign legislation that would pump just under $17 billion into the Department of Veterans Affairs’ struggling healthcare system.

The agency came under fire earlier this year over unacceptable treatment delays and after staff manipulated patient wait lists. The money from this legislation would go toward hiring staff — nurses and doctors — and to allow some veterans to get care outside the VA system.

It's a sign Congress wants veterans to get care, pronto.

That’s why the feds will cover private doctor visits for veterans who either live 40 miles from a VA medical center or have waited more than 30 days for a visit. But Disabled American Veterans Executive Director Garry Augustine says vets, by and large, like what they get at the VA.

“The VA knows how to treat the post-traumatic stress. The different type of spinal cord injuries. Those are done better in the VA than any place else,” he says.

Surveys dating back a decade concur. They show vets are more satisfied with the care they receive at the VA than patients are with what they get in private sector hospitals.

Former VA administrator Dr. William Duncan says the challenge is providing timely care and keeping vets tethered to the VA. He knows peeling people away – even temporarily – means connecting them to other providers who may even be less functional.

“There’s a lot of doctor’s offices that are not electronic. It depends on paper. Paper gets lost. It’s a mess,” he says.

Duncan hopes the money to hire more doctors and nurses will add capacity to the VA, but he warns this money will only be well spent if the VA can build smart systems to track and treat their patients, too.

Why, for many, the price of homes is too damn high

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 02:00

A new report shows homes in a third of the country are getting harder to purchase for many Americans. Thursday’s RealtyTrac report looks county by county at income and housing prices to find out how affordable homes are. While they’re still affordable in much of the U.S., many people in certain areas are increasingly finding it hard to own.

“Prices are getting out of touch with what folks can actually afford in those markets,” explains RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist.

In these areas, home prices are rising faster than income. This affordability problem is not so much because of a hot housing market, but rather a frosty job market. Many of those new jobs we hear about in monthly labor reports just don’t pay well enough.

“It’s particularly key in terms of first-time homebuyers that even though the rate of employment growth has gone up, the rate of wage growth hasn’t really gone up much,” says housing economist Michael Carliner.

Mortgage rates aren't likely to get much lower, so something’s got to give. Either the job market improves or home prices will hit the brakes.

Mark Garrison: The RealtyTrac report looks county by county at income and housing prices to find out how affordable homes are. They’re still affordable in much of the country, but many people in certain areas are increasingly finding it hard to buy.

Daren Blomquist: Prices are getting out of touch with what folks can actually afford in those markets.

RealtyTrac VP Daren Blomquist says in those areas, home prices are rising faster than income. This affordability problem is not so much a hot housing market. It’s a frosty job market. Housing economist Michael Carliner says all these new jobs we hear about don’t pay well enough.

Michael Carliner: I think that is key. It’s particularly key in terms of first-time homebuyers that even though the rate of employment growth has gone up, the rate of wage growth hasn’t really gone up much.

Mortgage rates aren’t likely to get any lower, so something’s gotta give. Either the job market improves or home prices will hit the brakes. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Password breach renews focus on authentication

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 02:00

In one of the largest cyber thefts in history, a Russian crime ring has stolen more than a billion internet usernames and passwords. While it’s still not clear which businesses and individuals are affected, it is clear that many businesses are threatened.

 We spoke to Cyrus Farivar, Senior Business Editor at Ars Technica, to talk keeping passwords secure. Here were his insights:

One potential solution to the problem of easy to remember/hard to hack passwords is a password manager, but even this requires remembering a master password to the manager.

Non-password based solutions such as eye scanners and fingerprint scanners are not yet in the consumer space (save the current iPhone), but they are in high security areas like banks and military installations.

Even so, the best advice going forward for consumers, according to Farivar, is the same it has always been: don’t use the same password for too many accounts, especially if one is substantially more important than others. 

A future we haven't imagined, but might forget

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 01:00

We've been covering the European top court ruling and subsequent battles over the "Right to be forgotten" for some months now. At this point, the motivations of the key players seem clear.

Google wants to organize all of the Internet's information without it saying "redacted" all over it.

A guy who had some debts but paid them -- and apparently 70 thousand other people -- felt like the top result when people search for his name infringes on his right to have that material wiped from the Internet record.

Government officials want to protect citizens and introduce some order to an environment that seems chaotic.

Each kind of party involved has gloomy predictions about the future if the right precautions aren't taken. And while I've envisioned all of those predictions as possible, there's one potential future I didn't imagine: What if only a small number of people request takedowns, but they're all the worst kind of people?

This is what dawned on me while I was reading the news about Wikipedia's first transparency report, which includes information about granted rtbf requests. Among the five Wikipedia entries and 50 links affected: One on an Italian criminal with four life sentences, an Irish bank robber, a musician, a chess player, and an Italian gang (Italy gets two!).

Wikipedia has discouraged us from assuming the anonymous requesters are always the same people whose entries are being impacted. But I feel like it's safe to say these do not seem like hugely important entries. So who is requesting the search results for them be changed? 

I worry that the new European policy will be manipulated not by waves and waves of people who want that awkward photo taken down, like tech companies would have us believe. Nor by people who have legitimate arguments (and we should be cognizant of the importance of second chances).

Instead the policy might be used by a very select few. People who have too much time on their hands (OK maybe not the end of the world). But perhaps also organizations and people that benefit directly from keeping the truth hidden or at least blurred. Even on a small scale, that kind of selective editing can be annoying, and even dangerous.

Grandmother Finds Grandson, Abducted In Argentina's Dirty War

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 00:59

Estela de Carlotto's grandson was taken as a baby when her daughter was a political prisoner in the 1970s. NPR's David Greene talks to writer Francisco Goldman, who has chronicled her struggle.

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NCAA Vote Could Boost Student-Athletes' Benefits, Big Schools' Power

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 00:59

Major college sports programs could take a significant step toward sharing their wealth. The NCAA Board of Directors is to vote on a plan to restructure Division I athletics.

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California Experiments With Fast-Tracking Medical School

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 23:26

Medical school is now one year shorter for aspiring doctors. An initiative at the University of California, Davis aims to produce more primary care doctors with less med school debt.

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Will Americans Buy Bug Snacks? Maybe ... If They're Funny And Cute

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 23:25

The "ick factor" has kept consumers in the U.S. from eating crickets, locusts and mealworms. To convert skeptics, bug-food advocates are trying to win them over with sleek packages and clever names.

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Rich Kid, Poor Kid: For 30 Years, Baltimore Study Tracked Who Gets Ahead

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 23:24

Take two kids, the same age, who grew up in the same city. Which one is more likely to go to jail ... or college?

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When And How To Die: Germany Debates Whose Choice It Is

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 23:22

German courts have supported some types of assisted suicide, but the ruling party has vowed to stop doctors and organizations it says are profiting from the practice.

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Army Asks Bergdahl About Incident That Led To Taliban Capture

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 21:37

The U.S. Army has begun interviewing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl about his disappearance in Afghanistan that led to five years in captivity by the Taliban, his attorney and an Army spokeswoman said Wednesday.

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2 Top Khmer Rouge Leaders Sentenced To Life In Prison

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 21:14

A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal on Thursday sentenced two top leaders of the former regime to life in prison on war crimes charges for their roles during the country's 1970s terror.

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Federal Judges Weigh Gay Marriage Cases From 4 States

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 20:46

The outcome of the hearing could put more pressure on the Supreme Court to make a decision on states' same-sex marriage bans.

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Bank Of America 'Close' To Settlement With Justice Department

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 15:32

The bank would pay between $16 billion and $17 billion for alleged mortgage-related abuses, according to a source familiar with the talks. A final announcement could come next week.

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