National News

'Cheated' Out Of An Education: Book Replays UNC's Student-Athlete Scandal

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:46

Authors Jay Smith and Mary Willingham explain how the school steered athletes to pass-through courses in order to keep players eligible.

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Existing home sales report reveals caution

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:19

The National Association of Realtors released its February existing home sales report on Monday, March 23rd, 2015. Numbers were up by 1.2 percent, but that wasn't enough to make up for the drop in existing home sales in January of 4.9 percent.   Even LeBron James is having trouble selling his Miami house and just dropped the price to $15 million. James is not the only homeowner having trouble finding a buyer, but there aren’t many homeowners putting their houses up for sale either, says Adam DeSanctis, with the National Association of Realtors.     “Current homeowners are possibly waiting for their equity to build up a little bit longer before selling,” he says, or sitting on some low interest rates they snagged refinancing in the last year or two.     McKay Price, who teaches real estate at Lehigh University, says this shortage of homes is good for home sellers, but “If I’m a home buyer and I’m interested in finding just the right house, then I’d be a little bit grumpy about the inventory being as tight as it is,” he says. “I’d want more choices.”   Especially for folks who can’t afford a down payment, much less a 16,000-square-foot mansion. Sorry, LeBron.   

Does This Strong Dollar Make U.S. Look Too Fat For Foreign Investors?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:10

The economic expansion makes the country look both attractive for making money and expensive for companies getting started here.

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Justices Debate Place Of Offensive Language On License Plates

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 13:41

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to allow Texas to refuse a personalized license plate design featuring the Confederate flag.

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Obama chief of staff: Israel's 50-year 'occupation' must end

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 13:17

The Obama administration is pushing back hard against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's suggestion that a two-state solution is dead and his reluctance to back an Iranian nuclear deal.

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Now Algorithms Are Deciding Whom To Hire, Based On Voice

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 12:40

If you're trying out for a job, the one judging you may not be a person — it could be a computer. Algorithms are evaluating human voices to determine which ones are engaging, calming and trustworthy.

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Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson Is Now Munching On Bug Cuisine

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 12:27

At an event to honor the modern-day science hero, $15,000 worth of edible insects were on the menu. So Tyson was willing — if not exactly eager — to explore the delicacies on offer. For science.

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In Congress, New Attention To Student-Privacy Fears

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 12:19

A House bill seeks to restrict what private companies can do with information collected on students.

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Why The War On Cancer Hasn't Been Won

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 12:00

Medical researchers have made only modest progress treating the most common cancers since the war on cancer was declared in 1971. The disease has proved far more complicated than doctors had hoped.

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Wilson Sporting Goods Acquires Louisville Slugger Brand

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:57

The $70 million dollar deal will join the makers of Major League Baseball's official bat with the company that produces MLB's official glove.

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Stats Split On Progress Against Cancer

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:53

When you dig into the number on cancer, the results are mixed. Overall, deaths are up. But survival five years after diagnosis has improved for many forms of the disease, including breast cancer.

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Supreme Court Declines Challenge To Strict Wisconsin Voter ID Law

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:51

Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, a handful of challenges to state voter ID laws are making their way through the courts, including to strict laws in Texas and North Carolina.

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Greece: Time and money is running out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:23

The Greek government is running out of money. The country has only enough cash to last another couple of weeks.

So when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin today, it's not surprising he wanted her support for financial concessions.

Germany is the largest contributor to Greece's various bailouts, so it has a powerful voice in European negotiations. However, the relationship between the two countries isn't going so well.

Just as the saying goes: "history repeats itself" — the two countries’ disagreement goes back to World War II.

"The Greeks have dusted down an old claim for reparations for Nazi atrocities against Greece during World War II," says Marketplace’s Stephen Beard. "That has played very badly in Germany."

Meet the guardian of Fenway Park

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:00

Boston's Fenway Park is the hallowed home of the Red Sox, famous for the so-called "green monster" wall that lives out in high left field and the lone red seat in the bleachers that marks the park's farthest home run.

David Mellor, director of grounds at Fenway Park, keeps the park and all its famous landmarks in good shape and ready for ball games.

Mellor knows all there is to know about the park itself, including temperaments of the green monster.

"The green monster, being 37 feet high and green, absorbs a lot of heat," says Mellor. He says during the spring, fall and winter, the massive heat-absorbing wall helps melt the snow and warm up the grass. "But in the summer, that radiant heat is something we have to monitor and make sure the grass doesn't get too hot or dry out," Mellor explains.

Before it was his job to take care of the park, Mellor dreamt of pitching for Major League Baseball. But a tragic accident ruined Mellor's plans to become a player for the MLB.

"A month after I got out of high school, before I could play baseball in college, I was hit by a car," says Mellor.

In the end, Mellor was destined for Fenway.

"My job is the next best thing to playing, I'm very honored to be here," Mellor says.

Sandwich Monday: Burger King's YUMBO

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 10:55

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try the YUMBO. It's a Burger King sandwich with ham and cheese recently pulled out of retirement.

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Israel's Netanyahu Apologizes For Remarks On Arab Voters

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 10:19

The Israeli leader, in an attempt to get his supporters to vote last week, warned that Arab citizens were voting "in droves" to unseat his government. The comments were widely criticized.

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Justice Dept. Faults Philly Police For Poor Training On Deadly Force Policy

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:43

A review of the city's 394 officer-involved shootings between 2007 and 2014 also found police recruits were not trained in a "systematic and modular fashion."

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Liberte, Egalite, Gastronomie? France Rallies To Defend Its Food's Honor

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:42

With fast food now a staple at home and Danish and Spanish chefs in the limelight, France's culinary supremacy is no longer a given. The government has mobilized to save French food traditions.

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America's next financial crisis?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:40

Michael Lewis is always writing something, and, more often than not, something damning about the financial industry. Most recently, his book "Flash Boys" followed Brad Katsuyama, a Wall Street insider who saw significant problems in high frequency trading. 

In a new afterword for the paperback edition, also published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Lewis notes, "When I sat down to write 'Flash Boys,' in 2013, I didn’t intend to see just how angry I could make the richest people on Wall Street." 

The anger was simply a byproduct of what Lewis thought was a straightforward story. 

"The story was: what happens when a good man walks onto Wall Street and finds a problem," Lewis says. "But of course it irritated all the people who were making lots of money off the problem."

That problem was a result of high frequency trading, the transactions that happen in microseconds or nano-seconds. Traders at large firms had access to information moments before other investors, essentially a view a just fractions of a second into the future. Multiply a few pennies to their advantage over 2 million trades per second, it adds up. 

Katsuyama created his own exchange which, Lewis says, puts a few speed bumps in front of that supersonic trading to create a level playing field. Called IEX, it's growing, with backing from venture capitalists and institutional investors. Will that be enough to solve the problem?

"I think there's every possibility, over a period of five to ten years of market-based change," Lewis says. "I don't hold a lot of hope of other sources of change."

Other sources of change could include new regulation, or self-imposed discipline on the part of traders. Regulation would be the purvey of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but officials there have radically different views on how well the market is functioning. On one hand, chair Mary Jo White has told Congress that markets are operating well. Contrast that with former SEC official John Ramsay, who likened the structure of U.S. stock markets to the Death Star. Ramsay is among Lewis's sources, and has gone on to join IEX.  

As for self-discipline, there's too much money encouraging traders to stick with current habits. 

"If you go back to the financial crisis, what caused it wasn't really bad people, it was people badly incentivized," Lewis said. "This is that all over again. It's a very badly incentivized stock market."

And, depressing as that is, it gets worse. At least when Lewis asked the experts he featured in "Flash Boys."

"If the market continues to be structured as it is, you're looking at the next financial crisis."

If You're Going To Die Soon, Do You Really Need Statins?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:17

Many older people are taking a lot of meds, and some drugs may not be doing them much good. When terminally ill people went off statins, they said they felt better. And it didn't increase their risk.

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