National News

Flight Delays In China Leave Travelers Feeling Squeezed

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:14

Air traffic snarls at some of eastern China's busiest airports have stranded thousands of travelers and highlighted the increasing competition for airspace between military and civilian flights.

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Students and families are borrowing less for college

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:56

Families are taking fewer loans and using more of their own money to pay for college than at any point in the last five years. That’s according to a new study from Sallie Mae, the student-loan and financial-services company.

The study, which has been conducted annually for the last seven years, found that while families are still spending just as much on college as they were before, they paid 22 percent of costs through loans in 2014, compared to 27 percent both in 2013 and 2012.

The remaining costs were covered by out-of-pocket spending (42 percent), scholarships and grants (31 percent), and friends and relatives (4 percent).

The study also found:

  • The average family spent $11,012 on two-year, public schools in 2014. For four-year public schools, the figure was $21,072. Spending on four-year private schools was $34,855.
  • Low-income students are borrowing less than the general population.
  • More students are turning to two-year schools to cut costs. Enrollment is at 34 percent this year, compared to 30 percent last year.
  • Common cost-cutting strategies included attending in-state schools (69 percent), spending less on entertainment (66 percent), living closer to home (61 percent), and living at home (54 percent).
  • Only 38 percent of respondents said they had a plan to pay for all college costs before enrolling in college.
  • One-third of families said they were surprised by some expenses, especially textbooks.

Graphic courtesy of Sallie Mae

Bank of America will pay a $1.3 billion penalty

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:00

Federal judge Jed Rakoff has imposed a civil penalty of $1.3 billion on Bank of America. 

This is the first time a jury has found a bank — or an individual banker — guilty of mortgage fraud in the financial crisis. A former mid-level Countrywide executive, Rebecca Mairone, was found liable and fined $1 million. Bank of America did not say whether it will assist her in paying the penalty.

The ruling comes after a jury in October 2013 found the bank liable for risky mortgages that were deliberately misrepresented as safe and sound, and sold to government mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgages were marketed by Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America purchased for $2.5 billion in 2008.

The fraud took place in 2007-2008 (before Bank of America's acquisition of the troubled bank), during the run-up to the financial crisi - just as the housing market was crashing. The marketing plan for the risky mortgages had a name in Countrywide’s corner offices, says analyst Chris Whalen at Kroll Bond Rating Agency: It was called “the hustle.” That came from the acronym for “High Speed Swim Lane,” or HSSL.

“The hustle program was about selling as many loans as possible as fast as possible, regardless of the defects of those loans,” said Whalen.

In his ruling, Judge Rakoff said the program was “driven by a hunger for profits and oblivious to the harms thereby visited, not just on the immediate victims but also on the financial system as a whole.”

Bank of America has fought this case, asserting that it should not be held fully accountable, nor pay such a severe penalty, because it didn’t own Countrywide when the fraud and other shoddy mortgage practices occurred. Bank of America and several of the country's largest banks were at the time being pressured by federal banking regulators to acquire institutions like Countrywide that were teetering on collapse, to prevent them from causing a cascade of panic and failure throughout the financial system.  

“I find it troubling that B of A is effectively being penalized for having done a public good, which was to acquire Countrywide so that it would not have otherwise failed,” said banking analyst Bert Ely. “We want to get rid of too-big-to-fail, but if you have large financial firms that are in trouble for whatever reason, who wants to buy them?”

Cleaning up Countrywide has cost BofA approximately $55 billion in legal settlements so far, more than 20 times what it paid for the bank. 

'Africa Is Champion': Reporting From A Changing Continent

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 08:53

Tell Me More has been dedicated to covering stories from Africa. Host Michel Martin speaks to NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton about reporting on the changing continent.

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Hospitals Fight Proposed Changes In The Training Of Doctors

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 08:28

The Institute of Medicine this week urged Congress to allocate to community clinics more of the $15 billion it spends annually on training new doctors. But hospitals say that's the wrong prescription.

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CIA Chief Apologizes To Sens. Feinstein, Chambliss Over Computer Intrusion

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 08:28

In a rare, scathing speech in March, Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA of tampering with the work of the intelligence committee. Now an internal CIA probe finds some officers acted improperly.

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How Will You Die?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 07:20

Cooking dinner, having sex and going to the bathroom are three of the riskiest things you can do in many parts of the world.

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Scientists Say The Moon Is Hiding A Lumpy Middle

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 07:11

It turns out that our nearest neighbor in space is sort of a squashed sphere. The lead author of a new paper published in Nature describes it as "a lemon with an equatorial bulge."

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds State's Controversial Labor Law

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 06:26

The law, championed by Gov. Scott Walker, sparked mass protests in the state capitol and attracted national attention. The decision gives Walker an important election-year victory.

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Thanks for the economy, Boomers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 06:00

Commentators have a habit of blaming whole generations for various economic troubles. Case in point: Millennials have been in the crosshairs a lot lately, accused of everything from shackling the housing market to setting the stage for the next global crisis with student loan debt.

These days, Baby Boomers are getting abuse, too. Some market watchers worry that as they sell their stocks to pay for retirement, the whole market will sag.

Click the media player above to hear Marketplace senior economics contributor Chris Farrell in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report guest host Mark Garrison.

As an added bonus for listening to the audio above, you'll hear the word "boomers" mentioned an impressive 18 times in two minutes.

20 Million Gallons Later, UCLA Water Main Finally Plugged

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 05:54

The 93-year-old main burst earlier this week, spewing water into a parking garage on campus.

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How To Order Pizza From A Nuclear Command Bunker

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 05:48

A trip to an underground Air Force nuclear bunker becomes a unexpectedly delicious culinary experience. Just don't order the gravy bowl.

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Conflict In Gaza: What You Need To Know Today

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 05:06

Israel called up 16,000 reservists, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy tunnels built by Hamas "with or without a ceasefire."

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Dutch, Australian Experts Reach MH17 Debris Field In Ukraine

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 03:24

The team's effort had been thwarted for a week by heavy fighting. But the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said experts were finally able to reach the site using a new route.

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PODCAST: Ambulance tech

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 03:00

First up, a look ahead to the Jobs number for July, which comes out on Friday. Plus, more on the announcement that Sony will offer certain classic Playstation games for streaming via a subscription service. Also, EMS workers have on-the-job fatality rates that are nearly three times the national average of other professions. That’s prompted many in the industry to call for better, safer ambulances.

Argentina's Default: 5 Headlines That Tell The Story

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 02:58

After talks with creditors broke down, the country has defaulted on its debt for the second time in more than 12 years. This could mean higher interest rates and higher inflation for Argentina.

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India plays chicken with the W.T.O.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 02:00

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits India on Thursday, just as India has thrown the world economy a curve ball by refusing to sign a World Trade Organization agreement at the last moment.

“They believe progress on discussing food security is not moving as quickly as it should, and so they want to use what they see as leverage,” says Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

That leverage is the Thursday deadline for the WTO deal to cut the red tape on international trade, specifically targeting the bureaucracy around customs.

Boosters say the deal would result in one trillion dollars worth of economic stimulus and create as many as 21 million new jobs worldwide.

“I don’t know how many jobs it’s going to create, and I think the numbers are exaggerated. But I think that it’s critical that this agreement happens so that we have this system of international rules under the WTO,” says Kimberly Elliott, a senior fellow with the Center for Global Development.

She says the WTO helps protect small, developing countries which – unlike India – would otherwise be at the mercy of their more powerful trading partners.

Sony streams PlayStation games online

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 02:00

Sony is experimenting with streaming some of its classic PlayStation games over the internet. The company says it will open up the market and increase its audience.

The PlayStation Now streaming service will allow gamers access to classics like Saints Row 4, Metal Gear Solid, and Ratchet and Clank.

Janelle Bonanno is Editor-in-Chief of the online gaming magazine, GameFront.com.  

“It kind of widens the field up for those who, let’s say, don’t have a $599 PlayStation 4,” she says.  

But you’ll need a Sony Bravia television or a tablet.

Sony says the plan is to introduce PlayStation to more customers on devices they use every day.

But analyst Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities is skeptical. He remembers the problems with OnLive’s streaming service.

“So the only thing you are going to see from Sony is really old stuff with really low value," says Pachter. "And they’re not paying much for it, and because it has low value, they’re not going to attract a lot of subscribers.” 

Sony hasn’t released its full pricing list yet, but says most games will rent for between $2.99 and $19.99.

On Twitter, addition by gender subtraction

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 02:00

Earlier this week, Twitter surpassed investor expectations on both revenue and user growth.

However, for frequent users, one of its challenges is that depending on whom you follow, the conversation can feel repetitive. Katie Notopoulos, senior editor at Buzzfeed, decided to solve the problem by unfollowing men on Twitter. 

Notopoulos drew much of her inspiration from a similar social experiment of only retweeting women for a year

While she started the unfollowing six months ago as part of a stunt, she says she stuck with it because it markedly improved her Twitter experience. 

"It turns out it's really nice," Katie says.

She says a major reason this has turned out so well is that being forced to follow a new set of people exposed her to a whole new set of voices and perspectives. 

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