After a gunman burst onto a Centennial, Colo., high school, the community is asking a familiar question: Why? In
As a therapist, Nelba Márquez-Greene has spent a career counseling mentally ill and troubled young people. But she'll never understand what drove a young man to take the life of her 6-year-old daughter and 25 others. A year later, she is trying to prevent violence and promote healing.
More than 60 percent of parents with children in kindergarten through grade 5 reported increased security precautions, according to a recent poll. It was the first national survey since the 1999 Columbine tragedy to ask parents how schools reacted to a mass shooting.
On the surface, it may look like the gun lobby ultimately won the political battles that mattered in the past year. After all, Congress failed to pass tougher gun laws. But the reality is more mixed; the result was more of a standoff.
Marketplace Money is about you and the choices you make everyday. How to not only get more money out of those choices, but more value.
This week in how we live money: How to save when you're your own boss or changing jobs, how to get your hard-earned savings out of limbo, and how to say, 'I do,' -- when it comes to finances, at least.
Marketplace Money listener Mark lives in Great Falls, Montana, is 66 years old and retired. And he's ready to make a change in his life. His wife of almost 40 years died three years ago. A little note here, Mark's wife handled all the finances, since she was good at that. "She was a saver, more than I am," Mark says.
He was part of the military as an aircraft mechanic. Mark retired early, at age 47, so his pension is not funded at the full amount. But he currently takes home about $44,000 a year.
Mark's starting to date again. And he hopes he might find luck twice, another wonderful woman to spend his life with. Mark's wondering what he should think in terms of talking money with the future Mrs. Mark.
"One lady was upset when I insisted on paying for dinner, because she wanted to go dutch," Mark says. "A lot of women today are feeling more independent."
Carmen says, "For a lot of couples ... to consider the fact that you both will probably earn money. And you want some sense of autonomy, especially when you're older, you're just used to having your own money. That's why it's a really good idea to have an account for shared expenses. So having that checking account which is your household account. And, then you can also have a household savings account, [if] you want to take a vacation every year."
To hear more advice for Mark, click the play button above.
Ann Cavoukian, privacy commissioner for Ontario, Canada, says the tech industry has the power to make products that protect users' personal information. The trick, she says, is to think about privacy while creating a new app or service, not after.
When we grow up and create a new way of living In response to the bad habits of those around us, going against the grain can be exactly what we need to move forward. With that in mind, this blog caught our eye: "7 Ways To Eat Good On A Hood Budget."
It was authored by musician Khnum Ibomu, better known as Stic from the hip-hop group Dead Prez.
Stic and his wife Afeeya, a nutritionist, joined Marketplace Money to talk about how their family breaks bread without breaking the bank.
On if 'healthy' food is more expensive
KI: "A lot of people feel that it's tougher. It's more expensive because of our concept of what health food is. And we think it's all the packaged foods and the whole foods aisle, but really the most dense nutrient-wise foods are the cheapest. It's the produce aisle, so you know, lettuce, apples, carrots, things of that nature is the cheapest thing in the whole supermarket. So that's the first thing about health food being less expensive is, what is health food?"
On what they ate growing up
AI: 'I actually was very sick as a kid, and I became vegetarian at 15 due to health issues. I grew up ... my mother, she was a single mother, she worked 3 jobs so we were kind of on our own. So it was fast food, soda, twinkies you know. That was my main food. And just being sick all the time, I finally found a doctor who said it could be the foods that I was eating. And that is really what started my journey.
KI: 'Well when I grew up, soul food was the thing. We ate fish fries and the soul food fixin's. That's how I grew up. Until I read Malcom X's autobiography, I never thought [about] food as it relates to our health. And Malcolm would talk about the pork [and] its relationship to hypertension and high-blood pressure. And I started thinking [about] my family, my uncles, cousins and all the different health issues. And it made me say, "Wow, I didn't know." At that point I got radicalized. Our son, he's 12 now, he grew up vegan, he was born vegan, he's jumping off the walls and turning back flips. And he's aight"
On finding the time
AI: "I have to think ahead, make big meals ahead. I''ll make, like, a big pot of soup. That will be my lunch, our dinner, our son's lunch. Sometimes, it's about priorities. If I want to watch [TV show] "Scandal," can I do that and be making some food at the same time?
On affording healthier food
AI: "I just want to say something here. If you drink alcohol, if you smoke cigarettes, if you have more than basic cable, if your kids have video games, [if] you're on name brands, if you can afford to do these things, you can afford to eat healthier. Again, it goes back to priorities."
KI: "I really value feeling good. I really value having energy. So, when I have to make a choice between this or that, I'm always going to choose the organic source of nutrients. you know."
AI: "Farmer's market, that's one of the most inexpensive places to purchase food, because it's not marked up like a regular grocery store would be. And usually those foods are in season. So if you buy what's in season, that's usually cheaper as well. And once again, buying in bulk. Not so much packaged, pre-made foods, and not that you can't have that. That should just not be the main thing in your basket. And one of the cheapest ways to get food is to grow it yourself. It costs about a dollar for a whole pack of seeds. And you only need a few seeds to get a whole bunch of produce."
Equality for all South Africans, regardless of race or color, was at the core of the struggle against apartheid. Nineteen years after Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president in the country's first democratic elections, what is the status of race relations?
Twitter on Thursday changed its blocking policy, then changed it back. Users were outraged that the initial switch allowed stalkers and abusers open access to their posts. Some say the incident shows that Twitter isn't listening to women and cyberbullying victims on the site.
In two apparently unrelated cases this week, federal prosecutors arrested citizens of China and charged them with stealing seeds that American companies consider valuable intellectual property. Court documents offer an entertaining mixture of Midwestern farming, alleged corporate espionage and a whiff of international intrigue.
A congressional expert says it was worthwhile for Senate Democrats to change the filibuster rules because despite dragged-out debate, they know they can win.
One year after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., the issue of gun violence continues to resonate around the country. In some communities, like the Castlemont neighborhood in Oakland, Calif., some young people try to cope with the threat of daily violence by simply trying to tune it out.
This year's shower might serve up more than a hundred shooting stars every hour, but the bright streaks could be washed out by a nearly full moon.
The House adjourned for the holidays Thursday night after passing a two-year budget agreement. But despite pressure from President Obama and congressional Democrats, the deal did not include an extension of the long-term unemployment benefit program that aids 1.3 million Americans.
Police say the gunman was a student who killed himself at Arapahoe High School near Littleton, Colo., the site of the 1999 Columbine massacre.
This final note today, in which James Bond is revealed to be not much more than a lush.
A group of doctors over in the UK sat down and read all 14 Bond novels, noting each and every martini...
Shaken, not stirred.
Over the course of the 88 days depicted in the books, Agent 007 had the equivalent of 5 vodka martinis a day...
Which, the doctors say...would've left him impotent and near death.
Cornyn's voting record ranks him as the second most conservative Republican in the Senate. But some on the right feel he was insufficiently supportive of Sen. Ted Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare, and now he faces a primary challenge from Steve Stockman, a Houston-area House member.
In a basement lounge at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, a few dozen students line up for fried chicken and an array of international sauces, from Indian curry to British pineapple chutney.
This is the Blanding III holiday party. About half the students in the dorm are the first in their families to go to college. They’ve chosen to live together, study together and tonight make gingerbread houses together in a friendly competition.
Cody Russell and Alejandra Sanchez lean over a ping-pong table, attempting to hang tiny frosting icicles on their gingerbread roof.
Cody is from Taylor County, Ky., in the rural heart of the state. He was raised by a single mom. She worked at the Fruit of the Loom factory -- before it closed. Then she worked at an auto plant making side mirrors. He says watching her sometimes work two jobs and struggle to pay the bills, he was determined to go to college.
But when he got here, "it was a complete culture shock," he says.
With its vast campus and almost 30,000 students, most freshmen would find UK daunting. The whole point of this dorm is to help them adjust. Students got to move in a few days early, so they bonded before classes even started. Older students who were also the first in their families to go to college serve as mentors.
"It makes this big university for a lot of us that came from small towns a little bit smaller, and a little bit more like home," Cody says.
The so-called First Generation Living Learning Community was created to address a crisis in Kentucky. The state has a smaller share of college graduates in the workforce than almost any other state.
At UK, only about 22 percent of first-generation students finish in four years. Just 46 percent graduate in six years.
"So we're not serving our mission to educate the commonwealth, if we're sending half of those students home with a broken dream," says Matthew Deffendall, director of First Generation Initiatives at the university.
Deffendall helped launch the program two years ago to keep more of those students coming back.
"As we know from student development theory, if they make a connection to campus, they'll want to stay," he says. "So we thought, why not create a community of other students who were going through the same thing?"
Students don't just live together. They have events and workshops focused on life skills, and special staff advisers. And they take classes together, like UK 101 -- a class on how to navigate college life.
The night after the holiday party, many of the students were in a communications class together presenting digital projects. Faculty lecturer Jami Warren says students in the program seem to catch on more quickly than her other students.
"I think a great deal of that probably comes from the fact that they’re not only taking this course together, but they’re also living together," she says. "So they do homework together, they have study sessions together."
In the first years of the program, 92 percent of students have come back for their second year, compared to just over 72 percent of all first-generation students on campus. Their grades are higher, too, says Deffendall.
"So they’re performing stronger, they’re being retained at a higher rate, and they’re forming connections," he says.
And they’re not just changing their own futures -- but that of their families.
Josh Johnson came from Pikeville in Eastern Kentucky, where college wasn’t in the cards for most of his fellow students.
"Most of them go straight in the workforce, or go into coal, because that’s the main industry where I’m from," he says. "I wanted to have a better life for myself and my children."
His example has rubbed off on his younger brother; Josh is helping him apply for college now.
But as programs like Kentucky's have cropped up on other campuses, some worry about isolating first-generation students. One benefit of college is mixing with more advantaged students, says Richard Kahlenberg with the Century Foundation, and those connections pay off in career opportunities later in life.
"To the extent that colleges are encouraging low-income and first-generation students to socialize separately and apart from others, I think that’s not doing those students any good," he says.
Those in Kentucky's program say they meet lots of other students. For one thing, after the first year most of them will live off campus or in other housing. Samantha La Mar from Erlanger, Ky., says having that home base has actually helped her branch out.
"Since I got here and was able to kind of open up and meet new people and I started to feel comfortable, I was like, ‘Hey, I met all these people that are like me, so maybe I can say "hi" to the girl sitting next to me in my English class, or maybe I can join a group,’" she says.
Or even lead one. She wants to be resident advisor in the dorm next year, to help other students make the transition.
Many people have regained equity in their homes lately, thanks to rising housing prices. But for others, the housing crisis isn’t over. Almost 15% of mortgaged homes are still underwater, to the tune of more than $400 billion, according to CoreLogic’s second quarter figures.
Now struggling homeowners who seek relief could face an unexpected tax bill.
Real estate broker Fernando Herboso thinks it’s unfair that a law called the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act expires this month. He remembers how hard it was for underwater borrowers before the law passed. As the market declined, they started calling him, saying:
“Fernando, I’m having problems paying. I don’t know what to do.”
Soon, he was helping his clients with short sales in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia.
Let’s say a client owed $300,000 on her home, but could only sell it for $200,000.
Herboso would explain that in a short sale, “The bank then gives you an imaginary check for the other $100,000.”
In other words, the lender forgives that mortgage debt. But there’s a catch.
“Then the IRS sees that as an income,” Herboso would explain. “Someone just gave you a check for $100,000. And you have to pay taxes for it.”
In normal times, mortgage debt that’s forgiven through short sale, mortgage restructuring, or even foreclosure can be considered taxable income. But in late 2007, Congress recognized that people on the brink of losing their homes couldn’t pay a hefty tax. So it passed the temporary law exempting from taxation a lot of canceled mortgage debt on primary homes.
“Early on, when this was passed, you could argue it simply wasn’t a matter for individual households, it was a macroeconomic matter,” says Mark Calabria, who was senior staff at the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs when the act first passed.
“We’re at the point now where it’s not really a macroeconomic matter,” he says.
Calabria is now at the Cato Institute. He says that since the worst of the housing crisis is over, he’d lean towards letting let the law expire. He says we shouldn’t create the wrong incentives.
“If you’re underwriting somebody’s losses on the housing market, then you’re much more encouraging people to take risk in the housing market,” he says.
But David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, says parts of the country are still struggling.
“And the problem with this is this will now create, potentially, an impediment for a borrower who could be offered a debt forgiveness program,” he says.
They’d get debt relief on one hand, and a tax bill in the other.
Recent settlements with banks like JP Morgan Chase make more funds available to forgive mortgage debt. The question for Congress is whether taxing that help will force people to forgo it.
For those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of mortgage debt forgiveness, here’s more information:
- The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 has been extended twice already.
- If the measure expires on December 31, Congress could extend it retroactively.
- The IRS on mortgage debt forgiveness, including caps and exemptions for insolvency.
A blockbuster video game director is working on a game where you don't shoot back. It puts the player inside the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and it's a financial and personal risk to the game makers.