National News

Dance Of Human Evolution Was Herky-Jerky, Fossils Suggest

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 23:36

Maybe it was messier than we thought, some scientists now say. Big brains, long legs and long childhoods may have evolved piecemeal in different spots, in response to frequent swings in climate.

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Damming The Mekong River: Economic Boon Or Environmental Mistake?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 23:33

Laos' government says it needs the money the two dams will generate. But environmentalists and downstream neighbors say the dams are a major threat to fish migration and agriculture.

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Colorado marijuana dispensaries have nowhere to put their money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 16:28

Let’s say you’re a new retail business owner, and you’ve hit the sales jackpot. The product you’re offering is moving faster than snow-cones in the Sahara, and the cash just keeps coming in.

But there’s one hiccup: You can’t deposit said cash into a bank.

That’s the problem recreational marijuana vendors in Colorado are facing. Because the federal government considers marijuana illegal, and because that same federal government regulates banks, THC retailers in Colorado are sitting on piles of cash they can’t do anything with. These vendors are keeping the mounds of cash in backrooms, specially designed vaults, and specially created security firms to hold the money. Yet, there are still significant security concerns about keeping all that cash on hand (not to mention the hassle when it comes to paying taxes, bills and fees).

The IRS, meanwhile, is so opposed to the cash payments on federal taxes, that they’ve begun charging penalties to businesses that pay in greenbacks.

So to help fix the problem, the Colorado legislature has created a co-op that would act very similar to a bank. It would allow pot vendors to make deposits, withdrawals and even electronic transfers.

The problem is that in order to have the co-op function fully, it needs to get approval from – wait for it – the federal government.

Mike Elliot from the Marijuana Industry Group says the regulatory hurdle with the co-op has to do with the Automated Clearing House (ACH), the same system used to make direct deposits for employees.

As Elliot explains to Lizzie O’Leary, most people in Colorado’s marijuana industry think the chance of this co-op passing federal muster are about the same as finding one of those snow-cones in the Sahara Desert.

As Ebola Cases Spike, WHO Asks For More Money And Help

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 16:19

The deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to grow in West Africa. Even as health leaders met to figure out how to stop the virus, the number of cases surged — by nearly 20 percent in a week.

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Big Ideas: Jeremy Rifkin and the internet of everything

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 15:34

Now and then we like explore some of the big ideas changing our world.

Like the so-called "internet of everything."

In 2014, it's fair to say that most of us think of capitalism as one of the planet's default economic systems. Markets around the world are interconnected, and even communist countries like China buy and sell internationally.

Jeremy Rifkin is one of the people behind our big idea this week, and he argues that capitalism is, in effect, eating itself. That, thanks to the internet, we've gotten so good at making things cheaply, that everyone can.

Rifkin is an economic theorist who has advised the European Union, and he lays out those ideas his latest book is called the "Zero Marginal Cost Society," which is, he explains,

"The emergence of a news economic system called the 'collaborative commons.' This is actually the first new economic system to emerge since the advent of capitalism and socialism."

On profit motive:

"There's another whole institution that everyone on this planet relies on every day. It's called 'the social economy...' we have millions of organizations that provide all sorts of goods and service from health care to school systems...they're not considered by economists because they create social capital, not market captial."

Listen to the full innterview in the player above.

 

 

High Court Temporarily Suspends Contraception Mandate For Christian College

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 15:24

The order, which doesn't affect the court's ultimate opinion, drew a scathing dissent from the court's three women.

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Authors Take Opposite Sides On Hachette, Amazon Spat

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 14:34

Bestsellers published by traditional means accused Amazon of "unfair pricing." Self-published authors penned a stinging critique of traditional publishing.

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Jobs rise, unemployment falls... but the economy?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:57

Since April, the economy has averaged 275,000 new jobs per month (288,000 in June 2014), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate is approaching 6 percent (6.1 percent in June 2014) and within the next year will likely be in the mid-5-percent range, low enough for the Federal Reserve to end some of its extraordinary stimulus measures on interest rates and asset purchases. Moreover, long-term unemployment has slowly fallen over the past 12 months (from 36.9 percent to 32.8 percent), and in June more than 80,000 people entered the workforce, reversing a trend during the recession and much of the recovery, of declining participation in the labor force.

But this recovering economy is not yet mirroring a healthy pre-recession economy either, say economists.

The economy has now recovered all of the millions of jobs lost in the recession. Both private payrolls and overall payrolls (including government) are now at record highs.

But that still leaves a significant shortfall in the labor market, considering that millions of people grew up into adulthood or immigrated to the U.S. and needed new jobs, says economist Harry Holzer at Georgetown University. “The fact that we’ve caught up with a number that existed six and a half years ago," says Holzer, "when the population and the labor force have grown way beyond that point - we’re still in a jobs hole.”

Holzer also points out that a high proportion of the new jobs that have been created are in low-paid service industries, such as retail, hotels and restaurants. And a lot are temporary or part-time. Many of the jobs that were lost in the recession were better-paid—in manufacturing, construction, financial services.

Holzer does believe some well-paying middle-class jobs will come back—in business services and manufacturing and construction—if employers see the recovery is strong, steady and long-lived.

Darlene Miller is president of Permac Industries, a precision manufacturing firm outside Minneapolis that supplies a wide variety of industries, including transportation, medical, food, and avionics. The company laid off more than two dozen workers in the Recession. Now the payroll is back up to thirty employees. And there are several open positions—though Miller says she is having difficulty finding skilled, certified machinists to hire.

“I would say the economy is slowly progressing,” says Miller. “I wouldn’t say we’re back to pre-2009. But we are seeing improvement. I’m optimistic—optimistic with caution.”

Jeff Kravetz, investment manager at US Bank Wealth Management, says businesses are increasing their spending on capital equipment, and predicts hiring will also pick up. And he anticipates optimism among American consumers will return to pre-recession levels.

“They see that their portfolios have recovered, and their homes have come back in value significantly,” says Kravetz. “They feel wealthier, and that bodes well for a nice steady recovery.”

Kravetz also says the economy and financial system are on sounder footing than during the boom of the mid-2000s, when inflated home prices, over-leveraging and risky borrowing by consumers and corporations led the economy into catastrophe.

SunTrust Settles In Probe Into Mishandled Home Loan Modifications

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:41

The bank's mortgage-lending arm agreed to pay up to $320 million to resolve allegations that it bungled applications for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

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Weekly wrap: Cashing out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:40

We discuss the week that was with Sudeep Reddy from the Wall Street Journal and Linette Lopez from Business Insider. The magical number this morning was 288,000, which Lopez claims made today “a pretty good day.”

But be wary, Reddy warns. Getting through the issues the economy currently faces is “a whole other story,” he says.

Obama: Immigration reform could lead to growth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:23

In his interview with Kai, President Obama said that the economy could see $1.4 trillion in additional growth if the government passed immigration reform.

Believe it or not, there are two $1.4 trillion figures the White House has mentioned when it comes to immigration reform and they mean two completely different things: One comes from the Congressional Budget Office. And one comes from the Center for American Progress.

At the heart of both is the idea that citizenship brings higher wages. That's something multiple researchers have studied, including Madeleine Sumption with the Migration Policy Institute.

"We found that citizens earn between 50 percent and two thirds more than non-citizens," she says. "Most of that is explained by the fact that citizens are more educated and they speak better English and they've been in the country for longer."

But, she says, once you control for those factors, citizens still get a 5 percent wage boost or more.

More wages means more spending and more tax revenue. The Center for American Progress added up the ripple effect of that and got … $1.4 trillion in GDP growth over ten years.

"The $1.4 trillion in our report was more of a hypothetical thing," says Patrick Oakford, who co-wrote that report. "What if they got legal status and citizenship status right away."

That report also looked at different timelines for naturalization with different economic outcomes. Big picture: the timing of citizenship matters for economic growth.

But of course in the immigration debate, there is no overnight path to citizenship. The Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate's actual bill, with its decade-plus path, and came up with … about $1.4 trillion in growth over twenty years.

Manual Pastor directs the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California.

"The numbers, the $1.4 trillion, look very much the same," he says. "But the difference is one is scoring the actual legislation and the other is a thought exercise."

The CBO looked at comprehensive immigration reform which is about more than just the path to citizenship.

In A Battle For Web Traffic, Bad Bots Are Going After Grandma

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:13

"Bad" Web bots are going after everyone they can, but why? Because by hijacking Grandma's computer, they make it look as if she visits a site often, thus making the site more valuable to advertisers.

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Deportation Threat Doesn't Diminish Young Migrants' U.S. Hopes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:56

The U.S. is returning unaccompanied minors to their home countries. But life in Guatemala, where many of them are from, is so hard, they say they'll keep trying until they succeed.

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Red State Democrats Tread Lightly On Hobby Lobby Ruling

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:48

Some Democratic Senate hopefuls have to be more measured than others in their responses to the recent Supreme Court decision.

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Jobs Numbers Buoy Dow Above 17,000 For The First Time

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:27

The Dow rallied on better-than-expected news from the jobs market. The S&P also closed higher, continuing its positive run.

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Colombia Gives Federal Workers Afternoon Off To Watch Soccer Match

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:13

Local governments are also starting to follow suit. Undefeated thus far, the Colombian national team has provoked euphoria.

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Iran Nuclear Negotiations Try To Hurdle Impasse As Deadline Nears

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:09

Iran and six world powers are saying they want to agree upon a nuclear deal this month. Troublingly, Iranian officials now appear to be laying the ground work for an excuse should the talks fail. They also don't appear to be preparing for significant reductions in its uranium enrichment capacity, which the U.S. says is critical to any agreement.

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Lawmakers' Step Back Toward Disclosure Driven By Optics

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:09

The House Ethics Committee is undoing a recent change to its annual financial disclosure form that deleted information about free trips members have taken. Members had explained the change as a way to streamline paperwork, particularly when more detailed information is available elsewhere. They decided the bad publicity wasn't worth the trouble.

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Export-Import Controversy Gives Rise To A Tale Of Two Washingtons

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 12:09

While a debate rages over the future of the Export-Import Bank in Washington, D.C., the bank's potential demise has drawn warnings from the other Washington — Washington state. Ashley Gross of KPLU reports that businesses, labor unions and politicians are raising alarm bells about potentially severe consequences.

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