So far, there are few details about the new commission aimed at fixing problems at the polls. But the reaction from voting-rights advocates has been lukewarm at best, while Republicans have been dismissive.
Nour Kelze, a 25-year-old resident of Aleppo, was a teacher. Then the war came to her city, and with it, a new career as a war photographer. She has been chronicling the violence from the front lines.
Friday's major meteor strike is the third such incident to hit Russia in just over a century. Coincidence?
Al Roker won fame as the ever-smiling weatherman on NBC's Today show. But he also endured years of indignities because of his weight. That was until he had bariatric surgery, and lost more than 100 pounds. During this encore presentation, Roker talks with host Michel Martin about his experiences, and his latest book, Never Goin' Back.
"We should think of doctors the same way we think of shirts," an economist says. "If we can get doctors at a lower cost from elsewhere in the world then we could save enormous amounts of money."
The Scottish singer-songwriter performed at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and her debut album Our Version of Events sold more copies than any other in the U.K last year. During an encore presentation, Emeli Sande performs for host Michel Martin and chats about her whirlwind success.
The engine room fire, power outage and ensuing problems aboard the stricken Carnival Triumph are far from the first major issues aboard a cruise ship. With bigger ships and more passengers than ever, the companies' safety concerns have been magnified.
About the size of an office building, asteroid 2012 DA14 flew by Earth on Friday — coming within about 17,000 miles of the planet.
The A350 is Airbus' version of Boeing's Dreamliner, which was grounded because of fires started by the battery packs. The move makes the launch of the A350 less risky.
The "gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care; they gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us," President Obama said.
There was a lot of attention on the sky Friday..
While most of us were sleeping, an exploding meteor -- the size of an 18-wheeler -- pummeled parts of Russia with massive shock waves that injured thousands.
It also blew out parts of a zinc plant there, causing zinc prices to spike almost one percent. There were worries thay the damaged plant would crimp supplies of the metal.
Not so, says Alex King, who directs the Ames National Laboratory.
“This [facility] is a very small component of the world’s total supply,” he says.
Zinc prices fell back to terra firma by day’s end, actually closing slightly down.
A bit later in the day, a totally unrelated asteroid known as DA14 -- 150 feet in length -- skirted past the earth at a record-close 17,200 miles.
DA14’s passage didn’t trigger any fluctuations in metal prices. But in the near future, similar flybys might.
Take, for example, if DA14 had been 150 feet of platinum.
“That’d be pretty valuable,” says Stephen Fleming, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech. “Actually, it’d crash the world markets.”
As DA14 passed, scientists hit the asteroid with radar to find out exactly what it’s made of. Most believe it’s probably just rock.
“Now that you’ve got two people in it, now you’ve got a horse race. Suddenly, it’s an industry,” he says.
Fleming believes early missions are on the horizon, although they’ll likely net only small amounts of precious metals at first. But there exists the potential for billions of dollars to be made.
Proof that what’s now considered space debris could one day be space treasure.
When you live out in the middle of nowhere, you can feel like you're in the Internet slow lane because broadband just isn't available. Residents in rural Lancashire in England created their own high-speed Internet connection because they felt no major supplier would do it for them.
The notion that being a little overweight could help people in old age is being challenged. Some of the studies in support of the so-called obesity paradox excluded people who lived in institutions, like nursing homes, or were too sick to participate, a critic says.
The prime minister proposed spending $2,716 a year on the treat for his household at the same time that his coalition government proposed austerity measures for the country.
Could the U.S. join Europe and share a common currency?
On the face of it, the question is patently absurd. Constitutional law and U.S. politics weigh overwhelmingly against the idea -- not to mention simple geography.
Nevertheless, here at Marketplace, we sometimes like to entertain patently absurd questions (don't ask us why), so we put together a fictional ‘what-if’ scenario sketching out an imagined U.S. campaign to join the eurozone (centered in the very real town of Brussels, Wisc., home to many descendants of Belgian immigrants to the U.S.).
To pull back the editorial curtain a bit: The idea for this ‘thought experiment’ came up in a brainstorm meeting we had at Marketplace early this year, after the short-term budget deal in Washington averted the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ of large tax increases and deep spending cuts.
One of our editors pointed out that the EU member states that launched the euro were required to meet very stringent fiscal targets for annual government budget deficits and long-term national debt.
So we asked ourselves: Could such a mechanism work for the U.S., where there is now such a clamor for debt and deficit reduction? Would the U.S. qualify for eurozone membership today... or in the near future?
Here’s what we found: The Maastricht Treaty establishing the eurozone requires countries to achieve a deficit-to-GDP ratio of 3 percent or less, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent or less, in the year prior to accession.
According to data from the OECD, the U.S. ratios in 2012 were 8.5 percent, and 109.8 percent, respectively. The short answer is (again, putting aside the geography): No, the U.S. could not join the eurozone today.
In fact, achieving such levels any time in the near future -- let’s say, within a decade -- would be virtually unthinkable, at least without massive revenue increases (i.e., tax hikes) and spending cuts (i.e., austerity). Even using deficit- and debt-ratio figures from the Congressional Budget Office, which show the U.S. in a considerably more favorable light, the targets are a long-shot in the near future. (For 2013, the CBO projects the U.S. federal deficit at 5.3 percent of GDP, and debt at 76 percent of GDP; the discrepancy with OECD figures is accounted for by the fact that the OECD includes state and local government deficits, as well as debts held by private and public investors, which would add the Social Security Trust Fund and other federal liabilities to total U.S. national debt.)
But here’s the rub: Most of Europe wouldn't qualify for eurozone membership right now, either. Many countries in Europe -- Greece (181.3 percent), Portugal (125.6 percent), Ireland (123.2 percent), Italy (127 percent), Spain (93.8 percent) -- are way over the debt-to-GDP line at this point. France (105.1 percent) and Germany (87.6 percent) have deficit-spent through the recession and now also have national debts significantly above the Eurozone accession targets.
At this point, Luxembourg (29.8 percent) and the Czech Republic (51.3 percent) would qualify, but not the Netherlands (82.5 percent) or Austria (83.1 percent).
And many of the eurozone’s original founding members turn out to have fudged their accounts to get in at the very start. Belgium (103.2 percent for 2012) bought and sold gold reserves and dealt in complex derivatives trades to make its debt and deficit appear to qualify, says Jacob Kirkegaard at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Similar creative accounting allowed Italy, Greece and other countries to qualify on paper, he says. And since then, as countries like France and Germany have busted the limits, he says little has been done to hold them accountable or even audit their national finances.
The bottom line in our examination is that the U.S. could certainly not join the eurozone right now; nor could most European countries, including our large-economy peers, like Germany, France and the U.K.
Some smaller peripheral European countries that are now seeking to adopt the euro, such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, would be in a better position than the U.S. at this point. And absent severe budget cuts and tax increases, the U.S. will likely fall more out-of-line with Eurozone accession criteria in coming years.
Love was in the air this week -- and we're not just talking about Valentine's Day. Businesses and investors also had their hearts aflutter.
American Airlines and US Airways announced wedding plans. The boards of both carriers approved a merger. And Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway said it is starting up a relationship with Heinz. Buffet's company will help buy Heinz for$23 billion in cash.
"There's almost a perfect combination of factors leading to a kind of dealmaking right now," says FT Alphaville's Cardiff Garcia. "Interest rates are low, expected to remain low. It's cheap to borrow money. The companies doing the buying have a lot of cash on their balance sheets."
Congress, meanwhile, is still having marital difficulties. With the massive spending cuts known as "the sequester" just two weeks away, Republicans and Democrats are no closer to seeing eye to eye.
"I've lived in this town long enough to know that the government moves very slow," says Nela Richardson of Bloomberg Government. "Until it doesn't. And then it moves very quickly."
In Richardson's estimation the effects of sequestion -- a reduction in GDP, 750,000 jobs cut -- "That's enough to get people's attention and actually make them get back to work and do this deal."
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama offered his own ideas on how to improve another long-term relationship -- the economy. He talked about deficit reduction and balancing the budget, while offering a long list of government programs he hopes to grow over the next four years.
There has to be some give and take for the relationship to work though, warns Richardson. Americans can't want everything wihtout wanting to pay for anything.
"Having your cake and eating it too is a perfectly fine state of being," she says,"until you run out of cake."
And we asked them to give us some suggestions for some weekend reading:
- An in-depth look at the effects of the oil boom in North Dakota -- both good and bad.
- The FT's Lucy Kellaway on the gambling addictions of London traders.
- A visit to Burning Man ... with dad.
And Richardson chose:
If you're not from St. Louis, you've probably never heard of Provel. It's a processed blend of cheeses extolled in the area for its buttery texture and smoky, tangy flavor. Now Provel has made its way into the unlikeliest of places: the hipster foodie mecca of Brooklyn.
Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be retiring from his position, but he's not the only prominent Catholic stepping down. Host Michel Martin speaks with top Catholic lobbyist and policy adviser, John Carr, about his own retirement and what's next for him and the Church.
The pictures were the first of Chávez during his 68-day absence. The Venezuelan commander is in Cuba for cancer treatment.
Reputable economists are predicting that Baby Boomers will bankrupt Social Security and Medicare. And millennials are none too pleased by this prospect. Some have even taken to calling us parasites and leeches.
At the risk of offending my fellow Boomers, I propose that we give up our senior discounts. It seems like the least we can do. After all, every time I get an old age price break, a Gen Y-er somewhere is subsidizing me.
As a 57 year old, I qualify to purchase a host of goods and services at prices 10-20 percent lower than my under-50 friends. I've racked my lawyer brain, but can't come up with any justification for this "youngster tax." While this seems like a form of reverse-age discrimination, it's not illegal. That's because those laws only apply to employers.
These discounts have been around since the 1950s and were instigated by AARP. They now pervade almost every industry-from restaurants to hotels to clothing stores to the national parks.
Perhaps there was some justification for giving oldsters a break 60 years ago, when Social Security benefits were stingy, people retired at 65, and expired soon thereafter. But, things have changed. Today people over 65 are less likely than younger people to live below the poverty line. Not only that, they have the highest net wealth of any age group.
These discounts are now absurd. If I live to 100 I'll be entitled to a senior discount for half of my life. I, like a lot of Boomers, don't need the price break. A recent college graduate who can't get a job is more deserving.
I'm appealing to my generation -- why not be a little magnanimous and give up your senior discounts? If nothing else, it might buy you some good will with your kids.