National News

Study: Just 20 Percent Of Female Campus Sexual Assault Victims Go To Police

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 11:36

Justice Department research finds that women ages 18-24 who aren't enrolled in college are more likely than those who are in school to report having been assaulted.

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Greenpeace Apologizes For Stunt At Peru's Sacred Nazca Lines

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 11:34

Members of the activist group trespassed on the site of giant earth markings estimated to be more than 1,500 years old. Peru says it will pursue criminal charges against those responsible.

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Where is all the gas money going?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 11:00

What you and I and all the other drivers in the country aren't spending on gas could add up to hundreds of billions of dollars in savings. Columbia  professor Geoffrey Heal says that savings will act as an economic stimulus. 

“It will. Definitely," he says. "We’re giving consumers significantly more spending power.”

But don't put a new pony and castle on your Christmas list just yet. Consumers aren't planning to spend all that money right away, says Kent Smetters, a professor of business economics and public policy at Wharton. 

“They have a little bit more money, but at the same time their investment are doing a little less well," he says, "so they don’t necessarily feel that much richer.

Low gas prices could have a negative impact on the stock market. Shares of oil producing companies might go down, so would our retirement funds which puts us in the mood to save, not spend.

Scott Wren, a Senior Equity Strategist with Wells Fargo Advisors, says we have seen low gas prices act as an economic stimulus in the past. But that was then, and this is a recovering economy.

“In the past people were more prone to increase their spending. They were more prone to borrow money as well, do things like home equity loans," she says. "And I think right now the mentality is a little different."

At least we still like a deal. 

Why D.C. is up in arms about derivatives ... again

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 11:00

The most controversial provision of the 1,600-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill currently before Congress could be the proposed roll-back of Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill: "PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES."

It's also known as the "Lincoln Amendment," after its original sponsor, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, or as the "swaps push-out rule," but what does it actually do?

It was first proposed to push all derivatives off the balance sheets of FDIC-insured banks – what Michael Greenberger, professor of law at the University of Maryland, calls a "hundred trillion-dollar market in notional value."

Mike Konczal, who writes about financial reform for the Roosevelt Institute, says the "push-out rule" has since been scaled back to apply to only its riskiest segment, like the kind of credit default swaps that brought down AIG. Aaron Klein at the Bipartisan Policy Center, who supports the roll-back of this rule, says pushing derivatives off of the banks' balance sheets into hedge funds and bank subsidiaries won't necessarily keep the financial system safe.

McDonald's sales are not so hot

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 10:47

McDonald's is in some trouble. The world's biggest fast-food chain just isn't cutting it anymore.

“McDonald’s recently reported that same store sales haven’t been positive since October 2013,” says Venessa Wong, associate editor at Bloomberg Businessweek.

McDonald’s said back in July they have a recovery plan underway and were going to take 18 months to launch their improvements.

“These improvements are part of what McDonald's is calling the ‘Experience of the Future,’” Wong says.

The fast-food chain will roll-out several menu changes and digital campaigns through 2015.

“There’s just so much competition now in fast food, not only in the burger category, but also in the fast-casual chains,” says Wong. “They are still a small part of the market, but at a time when fast-food sales are not growing, they are stealing market share and preventing some of the larger chains from growing their sales.”

What's the value of a fake social media follower?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 10:36

It seems we have an unlimited appetite for softly filtered photos. Instagram now has 300-million users, making it bigger than Twitter.

The photo sharing site has announced it's working on removing fake accounts. No biggie, you think?  Who cares about a bunch of bots and spammers?

Turns out there's a lot of value in fake social media accounts.

1. Fake followers can attract real followers.

"No one wants to go to a party with only one or two people," says Ari Lightman, a professor of digital media at Carnegie Mellon University.  

2. Fake followers can also attract real money.

Alice Wright, who runs a snarky blog about bloggers called Get Off My Internets, says bloggers often juice their social media stats.  "They have to have the numbers," says Wright, in order to grab advertisers. "It's not just about your website stats anymore, it's about social media."

3. Fake accounts make social media sites and services look bigger

"It’s always interesting to me when a company goes after the fraud," says USC social media professor Karen North, "because at the beginning it’s the fraud that helped them." Fake accounts can make the total number of people using a service look larger, "it’s like everybody is there, look at all the big numbers," says North. A company or brand can start tossing those fake accounts, says North, when it’s popular enough to be popular without them.

House Poised To Vote On Controversial 'Cromnibus' Spending Bill

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 10:29

The House narrowly moved a massive spending bill forward Thursday, setting up a potentially close final vote. The bill has been criticized for easing rules on campaign finance and banks.

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Postcard From Mexico: Mother Clings To Hope That Students Are Still Alive

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 10:25

Mexican authorities recently identified the remains of one of the 43 students believed killed by drug traffickers working with police. Families are having a tough time believing the official story.

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Coding in classrooms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 10:16

Marketplace Tech Report host Ben Johnson chats with Adriene Hill about the Hour of Code,, and why some classrooms are rushing to add coding to the curriculum. 

Click play above to hear the interview

CIA Chief Brennan Defends Agency After Senate's 'Torture Report'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 10:13

His comments come two days after the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of its report on the agency's interrogation practices.

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'Pineapple Express' Brings Winds, Rain To Northern California

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 08:09

There are power outages and school closures, as well as flight and transit delays. But the system will provide some relief to farmers affected by a three-year drought.

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Fidel Castro Awarded China's Confucius Peace Prize

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 07:08

The award was set up in 2010 after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Chinese dissident. Chinese media said the former Cuban leader was honored because he didn't use force in foreign relations.

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Does Snoring Leave Tots More Vulnerable To Childhood Obesity?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 06:54

Young kids who don't get enough shut-eye, or who are noisy breathers when they doze, are more likely to have weight issues as adolescents, a British study suggests.

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Wilbur Goes To Work: New, Very First-Class Video On Village Life

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 06:47

In his last video, he dunked a chicken. Now Wilbur tests his workaday skills: balancing a water jug on his head, climbing a coconut tree, doing laundry the very old-fashioned way.

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A Prediction For How 'Serial' Is Going To End

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 05:51

In part one of a roundtable on the Podcast Everyone's Talking About, Matt Thompson makes the brave and foolhardy decision to predict the conclusion.

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Quiz: TMI? No such thing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 04:58

A majority of Americans say the internet and cell phones improved their learning abilities, according to the Pew Research Internet Project.

Dick Cheney On Senate Torture Investigation: 'The Report Is Full Of Crap'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 04:40

The former vice president defended the brutal interrogation of terrorism suspects and said he would "do it again in a minute."

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U.S. Says It Has Closed Its Final Detention Center In Afghanistan

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 03:54

The U.S. said it closed its detention center at Bagram, ending a controversial chapter in the country's history. The U.S. said it no longer holds any prisoners in Afghanistan.

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Debunking Vaccine Myths Can Have A Surprising Effect

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 03:37

People concerned about potential flu vaccine side effects may be less likely to get the shot after learning that their worries are misplaced than they were to start with.

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Medical bills, bills, bills

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 03:00

43 million Americans have overdue medical debt on their credit reports, according to a new report out today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This means about one in five credit reports contain medical debt that’s been turned over to a collection agency, often dragging down consumers’ credit scores.

Unlike a credit card bill or an auto loan, medical bills often takes people by surprise, says Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

“Nobody chooses to say, ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to go the emergency room for an appendectomy,’” she says.

“Many people who walk into doctor’s office have absolutely no idea expense they’re about to incur,” adds Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a consulting firm.

Even if patient do ask, it can be difficult to get an answer.

“You’re in a system that is not ready to tell you how much things are going to cost,” says Mendelson.

Moreover, uninsured consumers often pay the highest rates for services, which they can’t afford.

For those patients with insurance, Wu says “there are billing errors [and] the providers might use the wrong codes. What happens is that if the bill gets too old, it automatically gets sent to a debt collector.”

That can ding consumers’ credit scores, which impact more than just interest rates and loan applications, says Susan Grant, with the Consumer Federation of America.

“It can be used by employers to decide whether or not to hire you, by landlords to decide whether or not to rent to you, by your insurance company to determine you rates," she says.

The CFPB is currently reviewing debt collection processes and will require the major credit reporting agencies to submit reports on how consumer disputes are handled.