National News

Saudi Arabia Shifts Military Campaign In Yemen; Airstrikes Continue

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:50

It's unclear what the Saudi-led coalition is planning for the next phase of its military operation in Yemen. The group has said it will protect civilians and ensure the flow of humanitarian aid.

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Why Somali Grandmas And Aid Workers Might Be Short On Cash

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:49

Money transfer agencies are the life blood of Somalia. But Kenya has shut down 13 East African branches to keep money out of the hands of terrorists blamed for a deadly attack early this month.

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Wilding? Ruff Ride? Dog's Road Romp On Tractor Sparks Puns

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:19

Traffic Scotland took pains to say it was a serious event, not a joke. But that didn't stop people from putting their own spin on the story of the border collie who took control of a tractor.

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Is It Time To Make Medical And Family Leave Paid?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 03:56

Democrats in Congress have reintroduced a bill that would create a national paid leave program, covering two thirds of people's wages for up to 60 days a year. But small business owners are wary.

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'Sliver Of Hope' In Freddie Gray Case, Former Baltimore Police Chief Says

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 03:22

"This is possibly the spark that's going to ignite change, real change, in this city, and with the Baltimore Police Department," says former commissioner Leonard Hamm.

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PODCAST: The spark behind the "Flash Crash"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 03:00

First up, we talk about the challenge of proving that a trader is out to manipulate a financial market. We talk to Joel Hasbrouck, a financial industry consultant and Professor of Business Administration and Professor of Finance at the NYU Stern School of Business, for more. Plus, search giant Google could launch its new wireless service as early as today. The Wall Street Journal reports a key feature is customers paying only for the data they use instead of buying data in bulk, whether they use it or not. And a California appeals court has ruled that one city's special system of charging for water—the more you use, the higher the price—is invalid. Pricing water is tough, even in places not beset by drought.

A look at how you're doing based on where you vote

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:30

One useful way to answer the question of how America is doing is to consult a new statistical analysis out Wednesday called "Geographies of Opportunity."

It looks at statistics on health, education, and what we earn and produce what's called a Human Development Index. As the campaign gears up, the report offers a breakdown by congressional district in the U.S., compiled by an outfit called Measure of America.

The report also allows for comparison between congressional districts on everything from median earnings, to level of education, to life expectancy.

Measure of America

Especially interesting among the findings: The higher the proportion of foreign-born residents in a congressional district, the longer people live. For example, data shows foreign-born Latinos live much longer than native-born Latinos.

Measure of America co-director Kristen Lewis says one possible theory points to social cohesion and family support buffering the effects of poverty to create better outcomes.

Click the media player above to hear Kristen Lewis in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Police departments grapple with body camera costs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:01

In light of recent high profile police use-of-force headlines, form Ferguson to New York, to North Charleston, there's been a lot of talk of arming police officers with body cameras.

President Barack Obama this past December proposed spending hundreds of millions to equip police departments.

But the costs don't just end at the initial expense of buying cameras. Police departments that are already using the devices, from trials to full implementation, report that maintaining and managing volumes of video data is the bigger cost.

There seems to be little doubt among police executives on the merits of the cameras, according to a report by the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization that provides research and support to police chiefs. PERF reports that many police chiefs think the cameras make a measurable difference in reducing complaints against officers.

Mary D. Powers, 92, of Chicago can attest to the benefits of introducing cameras in policing. Powers first became a watchdog thorn on the Chicago police department's side more than 45 years ago.

"In the early days, people thought you were a kook if you were talking about police brutality," Powers says.

Still, Powers and those in her now-disbanded watchdog group Citizens Alert, successfully fought to get cameras installed in Chicago's police interrogation rooms. Powers says many commanders reported reductions in abusive interrogation tactics — tactics such as the ones that this month led the city of Chicago to pay reparations to victims of former commander Jon Burge. Burge oversaw a program of police torture of suspects using tactics such as electric shock and mock executions to elicit confessions. 

Powers says public attitudes have changed, and quickly, with the mass availability of cheap smartphone cameras that have captured the kinds of abuse she used to report one flier and public meeting at a time.

"The public is certainly a lot more aware," Powers says, and more "acknowledging that some of these things do happen, which was unpatriotic to admit that in the old days. You were questioning your government."

Powers is in favor of police body cameras, saying the devices represent the next step in the evolution of police transparency and accountability.

A recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, a group that conducts research for law enforcement chiefs, found that many chiefs agree with Powers. In many departments that already use them, police executives report body cameras correlate to a noticeable drop in complaints against officers.

"Certainly there are chiefs who see the potential here," says Brian Jackson, a researcher with the Rand Corporation's Center on Quality Policing. But Jackson says implementing cameras worn on uniforms comes with a whole host of questions, and policy and budget considerations, which all still have to be worked out.

For example, "deciding when they have to be turned on," says Jackson, "And when you're a department who's ... taking video a good chunk of every day, the amount of that data just adds up very fast."

Storing all of that data, according to the PERF survey, costs departments more than the cameras themselves. The survey found that 39 percent of police executives cite cost as the primary reason for not implementing body cameras at their departments.

In Baltimore, the city's mayor initially vetoed a body camera bill because of the costs. A city-wide program to furnish cameras to officers would cost between $5.5 million and $7.9 million annually. The city is now consider a limited trial program.  

But other departments see clear benefits that outweigh the costs.

"If the purpose is to use those cameras to get at the truth: what happened between an officer and a citizen ... how can you not afford ... to outfit your officers?" asks Michael Wagers, the chief operating officer of the Seattle Police Department.

His department plans to spend $2 million on 1,000 cameras. He is now testing a system to automatically redact the videos those cameras will produce, and upload them all on YouTube. The idea is to reduce manpower costs and allow access to the videos, which will be blurred and without sound. The YouTube videos will be used as an index, from which people can then request specific segments of video.

The idea is to have people request minutes, not hours, of tape, which workers would then sift through, redact any sensitive information (such as children's identities) that they are legally required to, and release the clear versions of the videos to the public.

Right now, the Seattle Police Department already has its own channel on YouTube, with some experimental videos uploaded. Wagers says the hope is to eventually blur the videos less. He's employing volunteer coders to figure out how to do that, perhaps only automatically blurring faces, in the near future. As they are now, the videos are fuzzy and unclear.

Wagers was recently invited to a White House meeting held with a number of law enforcement experts, to discuss body cameras and the various issues involved with their implementation. 

Longtime police watchdog Mary Powers applauds Seattle's attempts, but she's underwhelmed by their project.

"It doesn't seem to be all that practical, but I think it's wonderful that they have the intent of sharing all this information, making it available. Why not?" Powers says.

Raising water rates isn't just a California problem

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:00

A California appeals court found that one city’s tiered rate system violates a constitutional limit on fees. The ruling has potentially serious implications for California, which is deep in drought.

But California isn’t the only state struggling to set an appropriate cost for water, and scarcity isn’t the only factor putting pressure on prices.

Newsha Ajami is director of urban water policy at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. “You might now have a water scarcity problem, but you might also have a water quality problem,” she says.

Furthermore, the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure is rarely fully accounted for in water rates. “There are a lot of other municipalities that might not have the capacity or manpower or expertise to set up the rates properly ... or they just don't do it," Ajami says.

Peter Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute. "The proper pricing of water is, frankly, a global issue,” Gleick says. “We argue about it in the West, and in California in the context of drought, but it’s a national issue as well. We ought to pay the full price of the water services we get."

Gleick says raising rates to reflect the true cost of water is the best way to develop better infrastructure and encourage people to use less.

You're mortal, so write your will

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:00

Just 56 percent of American parents have gone through the fairly uncomfortable process of writing up a last will and testament to divide up their assets among beneficiaries upon their death, according to a new survey from Caring.com.

Not having an estate well ordered before your death can result in turmoil after your passing. Some famous examples are the estates of Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robin Williams. 

"If the person has gotten their lives and their paperwork in order then it should be a fairly simple process," says Sally Hurme, author of ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes.

But it's not always so easy. Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, says using an additional step—placing assets into a living trust—can help keep your estate out of probate court, in which a judge determines who gets what.

If you don't do that, "the estate goes to probate. It can drag on in the courts for years, it can cost a lot of money and most importantly it’s a lot of heartache for the families."

Spoof, there it is

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 01:59
600 points

That's how many points the Dow rapidly dropped in 2010 in what became known as the "Flash Crash." Regulators have continually struggled to pinpoint exactly what happened. But now there may be some answers. Navinder Singh Sarao, a British futures trader, was arrested on Tuesday, and charged with manipulating the market via spoofing, in which large orders are placed and then almost immediately cancelled. The practice forces other investors to move on false figures. As the NY Times reports, Sarao is alleged to have made $40 million in profits.

Prop 218

That's an amendment to the California state constitution. Passed about two decades ago, prop 2018 protects against utility fees, but it's had unintended consequences, curbing attempts at tried pricing, a water-saving measure in a state ravaged by drought. 

$5.5 million to $7.9 million

That's the potential cost to the city of Baltimore, MD to outfit all of its police officers with body cameras. The mayor vetoed the plan initially, but now the city is considering a trial run. With President Barack Obama's (now on hold) proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to equip police departments, we take a look at the pros and cons of using body cameras, and the costs after the cameras start rolling.

44.8 percent

The portion of emoji typed by SwiftKey users showing a happy face, according to new data released by the company this week. That may seem mundane, but it's actually widest-reaching data we have about emoji use, and it has some surprises. Fusion notes the U.S. leads all countries in use of the eggplant emoji, for example, while Canadians prefer the poop emoji.

$900 million

That's what start-up Fad was once valued at, though it went onto be acquired for about $30 million. The problem? Overspending. Sam Altman, head of tech incubator Y Combinator, says too many start-ups are aggressively burning through money so they can grow. He's reaching out to YC alumni, Business Insider reported, warning that burning cash are threatening the industry more than ballooning valuations.

Merchant Ships Called On To Aid Migrants In Mediterranean Feel The Strain

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 23:50

Commercial ships have rescued tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross by boat to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. But the vessels and their crews aren't equipped to handle these missions.

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Last Armenian Village In Turkey Keeps Silent About 1915 Slaughter

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 23:49

The Ottomans killed some 1.5 million Armenians a century ago, and many Armenians are talking about that terrible time as the centennial begins this week. But not the Armenians in one Turkish village.

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Bruce Jenner's Long History Of Clearing Hurdles

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 23:48

Ahead of a highly publicized interview where the reality-TV star is expected to talk about his gender identity, a look back at Jenner's younger days as an Olympic athlete adjusting to new fame.

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National Guard Members Struggle To Keep Civilian Careers

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 23:47

National Guard soldiers live in two worlds: They can be deployed in a crisis, but must support themselves and their families with civilian jobs. That's made harder by the Guard's unpredictable needs.

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The activists are coming!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-21 14:16
Every year, at about this time, many of America's public companies gather their shareholders together for their annual general meetings.

The AGM is a usually carefully choreographed affair, with the board doing its best to provide a canned, self-congratulatory narrative about the company's performance over the last 12 months, and issuing a bland-yet-optimistic forecast for the next year. 

More and more often these days, however, the kabuki performances are interrupted and disrupted by activist investors. These gadflies like to show up and throw hand grenades about the place, trying to force the board of directors to do things that most of them don't want to do: buy back shares; merge with other companies; ditch certain board members; the list goes on. If you don't know what an activist investor is, watch this short video for an explanation:

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We all want things. The difference between most of us and activist investors is that they are prepared to spend lots of money and cause lots of pain until they get what they want. Last year was a particularly successful year for activist investors: they ousted the CEO of Sotheby's and  got shareholders to overthrow the entire boards of both Darden Restaurants and CommonWealth REIT, now renamed Equity Commonwealth. This year they're going after Tempur Sealy International, DuPont, MGM Resorts, Macerich and Shutterfly.

In his Dealbook column, Steven Davidoff Solomon, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, says this year more sparks may fly than usual, because companies appear to be digging in their heels and pushing back. And it's not just companies. The heads of several big institutions (investors in those companies) have said publicly that they believe the current vogue for share buybacks — a favorite of shareholder activists — is bad for the economy. That may give companies heart as they announce their opposition to the activist scourge.  

At Last: Kentucky Authorities Bust Ring Behind Great Bourbon Heist

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 14:15

In 2013, more than 200 bottles of pricey Pappy Van Winkle bourbon vanished from a Kentucky distillery. Tuesday authorities announced indictments in what appears to be a much bigger crime syndicate.

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Too Often, Some Say, Volunteer Officers Just Want To Play Cop

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 13:47

The fatal shooting of a suspect by a volunteer deputy in Tulsa, Okla., raises the question that some have already been asking: Why are nonprofessionals allowed to wear badges and carry guns?

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In Sentencing Phase, Prosecutors Say Tsarnaev Is 'Unrepentant And Unchanged'

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 13:45

A jury is now deciding whether Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death.

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Teaching Students To Hear The 'Music' In The Built World

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-21 13:16

Cooper Union architecture professor Diana Agrest has influenced generations of accomplished architects. Now in her 70s, Agrest was one of the first women to teach in the largely male dominated field.

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