National News

In Gaza, A Day That Begins In Fear Ends In Cease-Fire Agreement

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 12:15

The day began with Israel's military calling up 16,000 more reservists, stoking fears of a widening offensive in Gaza; it ended with a 72-hour cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

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Dow Dives 317 Points, Erasing A Month Of Gains

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 12:06

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 16,563. It was the worst daily decline since April.

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Should We Return The Nutrients In Our Pee Back To The Farm?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 12:03

A group of environmentalists in Vermont aren't at all squeamish about "pee-cycling." A local hay farmer is using their pee as fertilizer as they run tests to find out how safe it is for growing food.

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Israel Allowed To Tap U.S. Munitions Cache For Gaza Offensive

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 11:56

The stockpile, located on Israeli soil, was set up in the 1980s as an emergency supply during wartime. The last time the U.S. granted Israel permission to use it was during the 2006 Lebanon war.

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Meet the baseball player who invented the high five

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 11:35

It was October 2, 1977. The Los Angeles Dodgers were up against the Houston Astros on the last game of the regular season. Dodgers’ outfielder Dusty Baker was at bat. He swung and knocked it out of the park, his 30th homerun of the season - making the Dodgers the first team in history to have four position players with 30-plus homeruns each.

But, this story isn’t about those hitters.

"As Baker was rounding the bases, a young rookie came out and just spontaneously threw his hand up in the air, and slapped Baker five," says Mike Jacobs, director of Grantland’s short documentary, "30 for 30: The High Five".

That young rookie was Glenn Burke, outfielder number 12 for the Dodgers. Jacobs says Burke was a young and enthusiastic baseball player, who was just excited to be playing in a major league. He enjoyed making his teammates laugh.

"The Dodgers rallied around the high five and they even trademarked it," says Jacobs. "They made these fliers that they handed out for spring training in the 1980 season."

The Dodgers and their fans eventually moved on.

"Burke soon found himself out of favor in the Dodgers organization, amidst rumors of his sexual orientation," says Jacobs. "He was traded to the Oakland A's."

However, Burke didn’t fit in quite as well during his time with the Oakland Athletics, and within a year was forced out of the game.

Glenn Burke passed away in 1995 from AIDS-related pneumonia. He was 42-years-old.

"Unfortunately, he died too early," says Jacobs. "But really, the high five gives us an opportunity to share his story and to celebrate his legacy in that way."

House Cancels Vote On $659 Million Border Security Bill

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 11:21

Tea party conservatives objected to sending money to the White House to address the crisis. GOP leaders said another vote was possible yet today.

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Kentucky Buoys Noah's Ark Park With Millions In New Tax Breaks

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:43

The Christian theme park, featuring a 510-foot-long replica of the ark, is getting $18 million in new incentives from the state's tourism board.

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What it's like to write 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:17

When Marvel hired writer Nicole Perlman, they offered her a list of superheroes she could delve into.

Perlman chose "Guardians of the Galaxy" because she loved the characters.

“Each one brought something very specific to the team.” Perlman says. Gamora, an alien assassin and adopted daughter to Marvel baddie Thanos, seemed like an exciting one to write.

“There’s a lot of [female characters] in comics but in terms of movies that are focused primarily on a female lead, I think it’s something that will become more common as we go. But it’s still considered a bit of a risk.”

The setting was also familiar: “I had a background in writing science and technology-related scripts. A lot of projects that were space-related."

She wanted the chance to write an action filmm but admits she wasn't well-versed in the Marvel universe before she started working for the company. That meant a lot of nights reading comic books. A research assistant helped her further explore Marvel lore.

“I could call him up and say, ‘Bring me anything you have that involves a character that’s a genius and that’s his super power.’ And he would bring me 16 different characters, going back to the 1950s."

Perlman’s background in science  came in handy, even if the scientific accuracy of "Guardians" had to bend a little.

“After all,” she says, “we do have a talking raccoon.”

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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