National News

Why the secrecy behind trade talks?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-05 13:00

Negotiations are a lot like chess — you’ve probably heard that one before. But in trade negotiations, instead of two players, there are potentially a dozen, each thinking about their best move, each trying to minimize the threat other pieces on the board may pose to them.

 

“It’s a long, drawn-out process,” says Eswar Prasad, a trade policy professor at Cornell University, adding that working out these deals can take years.

 

“Typically, the final points of negotiation are not made public,” he says, though generally, “there is awareness of what the big issues are.”

 

The closed-door nature of the negotiation process has become one of the major stumbling blocks to advancing trade deals currently in the works, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade deal between the U.S., Japan and 10 other countries.

 

However, there’s a reason the details are private, says Gary Hufbauer, a former trade negotiator with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

 

“To reach an agreement, one party or the other, has to be seen and reported to be giving up, making a concession,” Hufbauer says. “And since negotiations are all about compromise, that really makes compromise much harder.”

 

Hufbauer thinks pending legislation could open up parts of the process, but he says making negotiations public in real time would essentially kill these kind of agreements.

 

Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, thinks the public should know what’s in the deals, especially as they become closer to being finalized.

 

“I can read the deal and go in and see it, as long as there’s a U.S. trade representative sitting there,” Brown says. “I can’t take notes and take them out of the room. When I’m back in Ohio, my staff can’t go in there, even though she has all the clearance necessary to get access to CIA and Department of the Defense documents.”

 

He says controls like this make him question what there is to hide.

Microsoft put a new emoji in Windows 10

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-05 13:00

While this particular final note might not be suitable for younger audience members, it does kind of give you a whole other level of respect for Microsoft.

According to the emoji-tracking website Emojipedia — yes, that's a real thing — the software company that everybody loves to hate is going to introduce a new emoji when it rolls out Windows 10 later this year.

It's technically called: "Reversed hand with middle finger extended."

You can call it what you like.

Making a living off an Etsy business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-05 13:00

ThreeBirdNest is an online retail business run by Alicia Shaffer in Livermore, California. Shaffer began her business by selling handmade accessories for women on Etsy.

"For me, Etsy was a great place to start because the marketplace was there. I didn’t have to invest a lot of money into getting people to come to the website organically," says Shaffer.

Shaffer is not a rookie in the small business industry — this is her third business. Her first business was a baby product line and the second was a brick-and-mortar store — both ended and she and her family found themselves in debt.

"In the beginning, this was out of necessity," says Shaffer. "I needed to make money to pay for financial loss that we had had, I didn’t want to lose our house, and I have three kids I needed to provide for."

Shaffer’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to Etsy and says she saw it as a chance to try again, and not make the same mistakes she made in her other businesses.

Shaffer now owns her own e-commerce site for ThreeBirdNest. It's Etsy’s second-most successful handmade goods shop.

What's at stake in the British election

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-05 13:00

Britons go to the polls this week in their most unpredictable general election in decades. No one party seems likely to emerge with an overall majority; a coalition government involving two, three or even four parties is a possibility.

The repercussions of the vote could be enormous, conceivably leading to: the exodus of thousands of wealthy foreigners, the beginning of the end of Britain’s role as a nuclear power, the exit of Britain from the European Union and even the break-up of the United Kingdom.
 
Here's a breakdown of the key issues:
 
Exodus

Dan Hill/Marketplace
More than 100,000 people living in Britain today enjoy a special tax status, known as ‘non-dom.’  They may have lived in the U.K. for decades, but they are not regarded as permanent residents — and therefore are not required to pay tax on their overseas income. The opposition Labour Party has promised, if it wins power, to abolish non-dom status. 

Labour’s critics say this could trigger the departure of thousands of 'non-doms,' depriving the government of the $12 billion tax they pay on their UK earnings and damaging London as an international financial centre.
 
Nuked

Dan Hill/Marketplace
Labour will likely form a government only if it has the support of the Scottish National Party. The SNP is vehemently opposed to Britain’s nuclear weapons  program, the Trident submarine system based in Scotland, and has indicated that the price of its support for Labour might be Trident’s removal from Scottish territory.

Labour insists it will not do political deals with national security, and at this stage Trident looks safe. But the country must decide next year whether or not to renew the $150 billion system, and pressure to scale down, or even scrap, this costly weapon could grow.
 
Brexit

Dan Hill/Marketplace
If the Conservatives win power again, they have promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union and hold an in-out referendum no later than 2017. British business is largely in favor of continued membership if the EU is reformed. Euro-skepticism  has declined amongst the general population, and opinion polls show that a majority of Brits would probably vote to stay in. But European referendums have a habit of blowing up in the politicians’ faces; this vote — if it takes place — could herald Britain’s departure with unpredictable consequences, for Britain and for the rest of Europe.

Mind you, one leading British economist, Roger Bootle, author of “The Trouble With Europe,” thinks Britain would be better off out than in.
 
Break-up

Dan Hill/Marketplace
If the Scottish National Party wins big, as opinion polls suggest they will, the SNP will not only be able to exert undue pressure on the national government in London, the party will also demand a re-run of last year’s referendum on independence for Scotland. And if the political outcome of this week’s election is as messy as forecast, the case for Scottish separation may grow stronger. 

Next time by a small majority, the Scots could vote to break up their 308-year-old union with the English.

Fracking chemicals found in Pennsylvania drinking water

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-05 13:00

A report out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says chemicals used in fracking have turned up in drinking water in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. There have been all kinds of suspected and hotly debated claims of such contamination. This is one of the very few that have been put out there on the record.

The state regulator concluded that natural gas from the Marcellus Shale contaminated the drinking water. And the company, Chesapeake Energy, settled with three families for $1.6 million dollars.

The authors aren’t totally sure about how the chemicals got into the water. But they say the most likely path is substandard well construction.

The EPA is supposed to release the final draft of its study on fracking and drinking water this spring. The study will incorporate findings from Bradford County, Pennsylvania. 

From Oakland To Baltimore: Lessons Learned From Cities Of Unrest

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 12:29

What comes from such tragic events are crucial lessons about policing for other cities. Mainly, they've taught officials the importance of keeping the public informed and good community relationships.

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In Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis, There Are No Easy Solutions

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 12:29

After years of recession and rampant tax evasion, the U.S. territory is desperate to renegotiate its $73 billion debt. But it can't declare bankruptcy, and plans to raise taxes face strong resistance.

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Virtual Volunteers Use Twitter And Facebook To Make Maps Of Nepal

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 11:59

After the earthquake struck, they began using social media to find out the extent of the damage, who needs help — even where aid groups are setting up shop.

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Obama Laces Up To Tout Asian Trade Deal At Nike

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 11:56

The president says he's pushing for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership in part to boost "Made in the U.S.A." products around the world. So why make the pitch at Nike?

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It's No Joke: Venezuela Cracks Down On Comedians

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 11:37

Venezuela's economic woes provide plenty of fodder for comedians. But the government doesn't seem to have a sense of humor: comics say they are being targeted and prevented from performing.

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New French Rules Would Expand Surveillance Of Terrorism Suspects

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 11:19

Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve the measure. The legislation, which must still be approved by the country's Senate, has been criticized as highly intrusive.

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London's Dominance Becomes A British Election Issue

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 11:13

London completely dominates the political, cultural and economic life of the U.K. to an extent rarely seen in other countries. That imbalance has been an issue in the run-up to Thursday's election.

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New Fighting Along Yemen Border Closes Schools And Airports

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 09:21

Fresh fighting around Najran comes after a nearly six-week Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels. Aid agencies urge a halt to bombing Yemen's airports so humanitarian supplies can be delivered.

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Natural GMO? Sweet Potato Genetically Modified 8,000 Years Ago

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 09:19

People have been farming — and eating — a GMO for thousands of years without knowing it. Scientists have found genes from bacteria in sweet potatoes around the world. So who made the GMO?

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Attorney General Meets With Freddie Gray's Family In Baltimore

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 08:42

Loretta Lynch is also scheduled to meet with police, local officials, members of Congress and community groups.

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Spore Wars Help Fend Off Life-Threatening Bacterial Infections

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 07:42

Infections with C. difficile are a big problem for people in hospitals and nursing homes. An experimental treatment with spores from a harmless version of the bacterium prevented new infections.

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Announces Presidential Run

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 07:41

Huckabee, who previously sought the presidency in 2008, hosted a television program on Fox until January when he ended the eponymous show to consider his political future.

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Whooping Cough Vaccine's Protection Fades Quickly

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 07:35

Effectiveness of the vaccine within one year of the final booster was 73 percent. But it fell to 34 percent in two to four years, an analysis of a Washington state epidemic found.

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Do We Really Need Libraries?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 07:03

Between 1886 and 1919, Andrew Carnegie planted nearly 1,700 libraries across America. Over the years they grew. Now they are trying to survive.

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One Chart That Explains A Big Issue Behind Baltimore Protests

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-05 06:57

A Harvard economist and colleagues looked at data for millions of families. They found that kids living in Baltimore City went on to make less money than their peers in adulthood.

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