National News

EPA Chief Claims Greenhouse Gas Rules Will Save Country Billions

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 11:30

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calls new rules on greenhouse gas reduction perhaps the most significant in the agency's history.

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A tour of China's ghost towns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 11:26

For the past three decades, China’s growth model has been anchored in building big projects: highways, bullet trains, and real estate. And that’s left hundreds of cities across China, nearly empty – ill-conceived projects built for the sole purpose of boosting GDP growth.

An empty shopping mall in the ghost city of Ordos, China.

Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

As part of Marketplace’s stage performance in the beltway “How I learned to stop worrying and love the numbers,” China Correspondent Rob Schmitz will take audience members on a tour of China’s ghost towns, ghost malls, and ghost suburbs, delving into the numbers that explain how a land of 1.4 billion people can have so much empty real estate.

A glimpse into China's most-famed "ghost cities"

China has laid out an ambitious plan to transform 250 million people from the countryside into city dwellers in the next 20 years. Its push for urbanization has encouraged local governments and developers to build skyscrapers and residential complexes, many under the belief of “build it and they will come”. However, the construction spree has left soaring debt, creating insolvency risks for local governments and inflating the country's real estate bubble. By China’s official account, China’s local governments owed $ 1.8 trillion of debt by the end of June 2013, about a third of China’s GDP. A CLSA report says China is "addicted to debt".

We'll take listeners to a Chinese replica of Manhattan, a city that was built to replace New York City as the world’s financial capital, but is now one of the world’s largest abandoned construction sites. He’ll bring listeners on a journey to one of China’s largest ghost cities, a metropolis built for a population the size of Pittsburgh’s, but that is now largely empty, a place where squatters have begun to occupy empty offices and where the government is in so much debt that it’s turned to developers to bail it out.

The city of Yujiapu is being built to become the world's largest financial capital. Construction on the city, a replica of Manhattan, has been recently halted due to a lack of investor confidence.

Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

It’s a side of China you rarely hear about, but it’s an incredibly important phenomenon to understand to grasp the totality of the economic changes China’s embarking on as it attempts to rebalance its economy.

What Syria's President Seeks From A Not-So-Democratic Election

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 11:22

Bashar Assad is certain to cruise to victory Tuesday in a vote that's been widely condemned. But the point is not the voting. Rather, it's an attempt to show he still controls parts of the country.

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Reaching Immigrant Children By Helping Their Parents

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 11:03

A new report calls out the special challenges America faces in educating our most diverse generation yet.

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The Fortune 500

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 10:48

Ah, springtime. Each year it arrives like clockwork with its trademark signs: ramps on the menu, crocuses peeking out of the ground, the anticipation of longer days and beach season. Another rite of spring for the past seven years — as long as I have been at Fortune — has been the preparation and release of the Fortune 500, the definitive ranking of America's largest companies. The 500 is our king of lists, for 60 years running the definitive ranking of the biggest in business in revenue, and it is our own biggest issue in every way: heft (390 pages this year), hits (millions of page views each year) and in bandwidth; it is a massive project drawing in almost all the Fortune staff in some way from early April until the end of May. I started at Fortune in April 2007, in the middle of the Fortune 500 close, and every year since I've been involved in some way or another. Over the years I've come to look forward to the day I get to first lay eyes on the top-secret new 500 list more than almost any other day of the year. That's because in its numbers lie telling data, revealing narratives, over-arching themes, countless stories of success and retrenchment, and so much more.

The 500 is first and foremost a measure of scale. Walmart, No. 1 this year, clocks in with sales of $476,294,000,000. That's twelve digits, six zeros and almost half a trillion dollars. We don't dip "down" into eleven figures until No. 23, IBM at $99.75 billion (work on the 500 long enough and the difference between $126.7 billion and $128.7 billion starts to seem amusingly meaningless).

But pull the camera back — waaaay back — and you can see a narrative of business by the decade: The list's first two decades were a testament to the sheer dominance of General Motors; the now-beleaguered automaker held the number one spot from 1955 to 1974 straight, and for all but nine years from 1955 to 2000 (you remember the saying — as goes General Motors, so goes America). Then came ExxonMobil, then an on-fire Walmart, which ascended in 2002 (we only started adding service companies in 1995). The last decade has been a two-horse race between Walmart and ExxonMobil.

Individual storylines play out on the list over the years: Apple has marched steadily upward since 2005, moving from No. 263 that year to No. 103 in 2008, No. 71 in 2009, to No. 35 in 2011, to No. 17 in 2012 to this year, landing in the top five for the first time. Sometimes whole industries ebb and flow in unison, like homebuilders (14 piled on in 2007, all fell off in 2010). Last year Facebook made the list for the first time. Today we welcome newcomers Coach, Blackstone and Alaska Air, and we bid adieu to Yahoo, OfficeMax and Pitney Bowes, among others.

You can also see in the 500 with vivid clarity what we all know to be true: the stunning surge in corporate productivity. This year the collective profits for the Fortune 500 crossed the trillion dollar mark for the first time ($1.08 trillion, to be exact). That's up 31.7 percent over 2012. But in the same time the group added only 180,000 jobs, an increase of 0.7 percent. (I have vivid memories of the financial crisis in 500 terms, too; in 2010, companies on the list shed a collective, and gutwrenching, 821,000 jobs.)

We often get asked who's No. 500 — that company teetering right at the edge each year that just barely hung on as we tallied up the totals. This year our caboose is United Rentals, a Stamford, Connecticut-based seller and leaser of commercial construction, HVAC and other heavy equipment with revenue of $8.8 billion. Hurrah United Rentals! Surely they're celebrating up in Stamford today. (At the same time, No. 501, Irving, Texas- based industrial machinery maker Flowserve, is likely plotting its strategy for knocking United off and taking its spot next year. Because hey, that's business.)

Speaking of celebrating, there's a final number that's particularly key to the Fortune team this year. That's 5, as in 5 o'clock today, when our entire staff will meet in a conference room to have a big official toast to the release of the list — as well as the launch of our newly-independent, brand-new website, Fortune.com. We've been working our butts off on both these babies for months.

Yes, the 500 is a killer set of numbers. But today, five o'clock will also be a quite valuable number indeed.

In Bowe Bergdahl's Release, As Many Questions As Answers

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 10:08

The release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five senior members of the Taliban has been cheered as well as criticized. A look at why the move has been so polarizing.

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91-Year-Old Woman Breaks Marathon Record

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:38

Harriette Thompson, a cancer survivor and concert pianist, on Sunday became the second-oldest woman in U.S. history to complete a marathon.

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Jacques Cousteau's Grandson Plans To Spend A Month Underwater

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:27

Fabien Cousteau and a crew of five headed down to the underwater laboratory Aquarius, just off the Florida Keys, on Sunday. He and his team intend to stay submerged until July 2.

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Native Americans Have Superfoods Right Under Their Feet

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:17

Obesity and diabetes rates have soared among Native Americans as sugary, high-carb foods have replaced traditional foods. A study found that 10 wild plants from the Great Plains are highly nutritious.

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Britain is giving subsidies for rock music

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:13
Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 14:09 Earache Records

Savage Messiah – subsidized by British taxpayers. 

In Britain, government subsidies for the arts have traditionally been focused on ballet, opera and theater. But now, they are giving a boost to a rather less exalted area of creativity: thrash metal bands, acid punk and nu-grunge groups.

The aim is to promote British musical talent abroad by subsidising the cost of mounting a foreign tour. The grants – which have so far totaled more than three quarters of a million dollars – have caused outrage in conservative circles and have stirred criticism from low-tax campaigners.

But the recipients have defended the subsidy.

"As a band trying to break through, the cost of touring abroad can be prohibitive," argues Dave Silver, lead singer of the heavy metal band Savage Messiah. The band is getting $25,000 of public money.

Is this sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll at the taxpayers’ expense?

“Absolutely not !” says Silver “ There are strict controls on how you can spend the money. It can only be used for things like marketing costs, tour support, venue costs, international travel and so on.” 

The taxpayer will not be footing the bill for: tattoos, studs, chin spikes or other body piercing… let alone picking up the tab for wrecked hotel rooms and wild parties. Not that Silver indulges in such excesses.

“I don’t actually drink alcohol at all. I don’t smoke. I don’t take drugs. So yeah, we’re pretty well behaved, really," he says.

The bands say they need state aid because they’re losing money from illegal downloads. And the only way to make a decent living is to break through into the live touring circuit. 

The government clearly believes that it’s worthwhile offering a helping hand to up and coming talent and supporting the smaller, independent record labels.

Music is an important export for Britain. The British Recorded Music Industry – a trade body – claims that one in ten of all the albums sold in the United States are by British artists; the figure for continental Europe is one in four. 

None of this cuts any ice with the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a group that campaigns for lower taxes. Political director Dia Chakravarty claims that the touring subsidy is wasteful and  unnecessary. 

“British bands have a long history of breaking overseas markets but that’s because they had great songs to sing, not because of taxpayers’ subsidies,” she argues.

Chakravarty takes a keen personal interest in the music industry. 

“I’ve actually just finished working on my first album of Bangladeshi songs but I’ve supported that by having a day job….working at the Taxpayers’ Alliance,” she says. “I’ve not taken a single penny from taxpayers.”

Oddly enough, her argument against subsidy strikes a chord with Dave Silver. The lead singer of Savage Messiah divides his time between headbanging and studying economics and he’s a real fan of the Austrian School of Economics which favors the free market. So why accept the government grant?

“We’re a band. We’re four people in the band and not everyone in the band is of the Austrian School, so what can we do?" saysSilver. And he laughs: “ Yeah in an ideal world privatize everything that moves  and have no state intervention in the economy. But that’s not where we’re at now. We've got to break into overseas touring.”

Marketplace for Thursday June 5, 2014 Stephen Beard/Marketplace

 Dave Silver - lead singer of Savage Messiah and fan of the Austrian School of Economics.

Stephen Beard.

Dia Chakravarty – Political Director of the Taxpayers’  Alliance and recording artist – unsubsidized. 

 

by Stephen BeardPodcast Title Britain is giving subsidies for rock music Story Type FeatureSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Mailman Accused Of Stealing 20,000 Pieces Of Mail

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 08:54

Authorities say a Maryland letter carrier stole Netflix DVDs, along with medicine and other items, including Mother's Day cards. The haul was stockpiled in his house, they say.

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Are Pre-Existing Condition Bans For Health Insurance Still With Us?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 08:46

Contradictory letters from an insurer spur a health reporter to explore why the implementation of this key health law protection turns out to be more complicated than she thought.

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PODCAST: The EPA cuts emmissions; Seattle raising minimum wage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 08:24

The EPA is aiming to cut carbon emmissions from power plants by 30% by the year 2030. Part of the strategy will be to allow states flexibility in how they meet the demand, hopefully sparking innovation amidst competition. Also, Seattle is set to approve the highest minimum wage for a city of its size: $15. Hear why business leaders are actually advocating for the pay raise. Finally, why HELOCs -- a form of second mortage -- are on the rise again.

An excuse for cat pictures all month

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:59

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Tuesday, June 3:

In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on factory orders for April.

A Senate subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy discusses "Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Hunting in an Era of Changing Climate."

Have you been up to some spring cleaning? Maybe cleaning out the garage to make room for a new car? Automakers are slated to report sales for May.

Read some poetry in honor of Allen Ginsberg. He was born on June 3rd, 1926.

And pet proof your place. June is Adopt-a-Cat Month. That's pretty self-explanatory.

'Drunk Mom' Tackles New Motherhood And Old Addictions

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:48

The title of Jowita Bydlowska's memoir Drunk Mom pulls no punches. She tells Michel Martin about her struggles with motherhood and addiction.

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'Harvest Of Shame': Farm Workers Struggle With Poverty 50 Years On

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:48

The documentary Harvest of Shame was revolutionary in its raw portrayal of poverty amongst migrant farm workers. NPR's Elizabeth Blair discusses the film's legacy and the state of migrant work today.

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Google 'Courageous' For Admitting Diversity Problem, So What Now?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:48

Tech giant Google recently owned up to a lack of gender and ethnic diversity amongst its staff. Host Michel Martin is joined by two members of the industry to discuss what it means for the tech world.

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Should Getting High Stop You From Getting Hired?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:48

FBI director James Comey recently quipped that current marijuana policies make it hard to hire good people. Is this a sign of changing attitudes towards hiring and pot?

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EPA gives states flexibility in cutting carbon emissions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:36

The Obama Administration unveiled the first-ever regulation aimed at cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants. The president is using his executive powers to go after the country’s biggest source of carbon pollution.

The draft rule aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants 30% from 2005 levels by the year 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the rule under the auspices of the Clean Air Act. The proposal also gives states flexibility in how they achieve their cuts.

“It doesn’t tell power plants exactly how to go about reducing emissions. It tells states to figure that sort of thing out,” says Jerry Taylor, who heads the libertarian Niskanen Center in Washington. “So it’s less command and control than one could imagine, but it’s more command and control than most economists would want to see in place.”

To meet their specific goals, the EPA is proposing that states could create compliance plans in which fossil-fuel burning power plants don’t bear sole responsibility for reducing emissions. In other words, states could reduce emissions by creating their own allowance trading programs, partnering with other states, increasing energy efficiency, or using more renewable energy.

The EPA projects that, in 2030, the rule “would result in net climate and health benefits” of up to $82 billion.

Durwood Zaelke of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development says the rule won’t solve the climate change problem, but it should spur innovation.

“This is also the best way to get experimentation. It may be that the state of New York, the state of Michigan, the state of California, finds the best way forward faster than another state,” he says.

That innovation, he says, will be crucial to combat climate change in the decades ahead. 

'Times' Reporter Must Testify About Source, Court Decides

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:27

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. Media outlets had hoped the court would grant greater protection to journalists.

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