National News

Greeks Shun Mainstream Politics Without Great Alternatives

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

Many Greeks say they plan to vote outside the political mainstream in this month's election because they want an end to the corrupt, populist politics of the past. So they're reaching out to radical parties, including the leftist Syriza Party, which is expected to win the election, after holding just four percent of parliamentary seats in 2009

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Obama Announces Tech Proposals Ahead Of State Of The Union

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

On Monday President Obama called for new measures to protect consumers against identity theft and to safeguard students' electronic privacy. It's part of a weeklong series of technology-themed proposals as Obama prepares for next week's State of the Union address.

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Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Sign Regulation Case

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case challenging a town's right to limit the size of signs based on their content.

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Feinstein Proposal Would Lock In Anti-Torture Measures

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

The CIA's excruciating interrogations of suspected terrorists, widely seen as torture, are detailed as official acts in the Senate report released last month. Now Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who spearheaded that report, wants to prevent such acts from ever happening again. She's proposing legislation and administrative moves for which her Republican colleagues see little need and which activists deem too timid.

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'La Dolce Vita' Star Dies At 83

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

Swedish-born actress Anita Ekberg, who was best known for her role as Sylvia in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, died in Italy on Sunday at the age of 83.

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Five Years After Earthquake, Haiti's Recovery Remains Uneven

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

Five years after an earthquake leveled Haiti's capital, killing more than 100,000 people and leaving millions homeless, Port au Prince is being resurrected. High-rises stand where previous buildings were reduced to rubble in the temblor. However, thousands of people still are without permanent housing.

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First College Football Playoff In New System Pits Ducks Against 'Bucks'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

The nation's first official college football championship in the new playoff system pits the Oregon Ducks against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday night. Both defeated favored teams to play in Dallas.

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Obama: 'If We're Going To Be Connected, Then We Need To Be Protected'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

The president is calling for new measures to protect consumers against identity theft and to safeguard students' electronic privacy.

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New York City ID Program Could Open Up Doors — And Privacy Concerns

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

New York City launched the largest municipal ID program in the country on Monday. All New Yorkers age 14 and older may apply, regardless of immigration status. Officials hope the new photo IDs will help undocumented immigrants and the homeless better navigate city services.

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For Cuba, Hostile Relationship With U.S. No Longer An Alibi

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

The U.S. rapprochement with Cuba seems to be on track. On Monday, the State Department confirmed that Cuba has kept its pledge to release 53 political prisoners and a top state department official is moving ahead with her plans to visit the island next week.

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Young Egyptian's Suicide Reverberates Among Activists

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

The suicide last year of a well-known Egyptian activist shocked Cairo and highlighted the hopelessness of many amid the country's turmoil and stagnation.

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Texan winks, plays 'let's make a deal' with customers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 11:55

A furniture dealer in Houston — arguably the center of the American oil industry — is offering quite the deal: If a customer spends $7,000 or more at his store, he'll refund the money if oil is going for $85 per barrel or more by Dec. 31, 

Current forecasts put crude somewhere between $50 and $75 by the end of the year. 

So, you know, caveat emptor.

Donating A Single Rollerblade Is Not Going To Help Disaster Victims

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 11:47

Yet that's what someone gave after the Haitian earthquake. A staffer at one nonprofit offers a plan to discourage unuseful donations from individuals and corporations and get what's really needed.

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Auto shows are in the business of creating a buzz

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 11:44

More than 750 cars are on display at Detroit's annual auto show, which opened for media previews Monday. It is one of the largest auto shows in the country – setting up the exhibition space takes months, says Rod Alberts, executive director of the North American International Auto Show, which is the Detroit show’s official name. Lighting installation alone took two weeks.

Yet for all that work, no cars are available for sale. So what’s the point?

A primary goal, Alberts says, is to help auto manufacturers get media attention for their new cars. David Cole, a former professor of auto engineering and chairman of AutoHarvest.org, says manufacturers also use auto shows to see what upcoming offerings resonate with the public.

 

Farmers, big oil fight over railroad access in Dakotas

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 11:42

Railroads and rail shippers are trying to figure out how to prevent a repeat of last year's troubles in the Dakotas.

When demand and bad weather joined to make a perfect storm, farmers had a lot of trouble getting railroads to ship their crops to market. There was too much competition for locomotives and crews between South Dakota farmers and oil producers in North Dakota.

“Agriculture was derailed by big oil interests," says Dennis Jones, a corn farmer in Bath, South Dakota. "We were basically shoved off the tracks.”

South Dakota farmers produced a bumper crop in 2014, and the North Dakota oil fields were going gangbusters, too, Jones says. The railroads couldn’t ship everything, so they had to make a choice, according to Jones.

“The railroad got paid a lot more for shipping oil," he says. "Grain cars were unhooked so the locomotives could hook onto oil and pull more oil."

The railroads say they didn’t favor oil over agricultural products. They say last year’s shipping problems were caused by one of the most severe winters in decades. But it is true that they can charge more to ship certain things, if there’s competition and those products could be shipped another way, such as by truck or water.  

“The railroad can set any price they want to, anywhere, anytime, and they do,” says Denver Tolliver, director of the Upper Great Plains  Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University. 

If shippers think the railroads are charging too much they can complain to the federal Surface Transportation Board, he says. But not many do, because it’s a complicated, expensive and slow process.  

It wasn’t always this way. 

Railroads and their rates used to be tightly regulated. But they were deregulated in the 1980s, after railroads were devastated by a growing trucking industry. 

“There was a time when you used to have what’s called' standing derailments,'” says Frank Mulvey, a semiretired economist who spent about a decade at the Surface Transportation Board. “The railroad infrastructure was so badly deteriorated that trains that weren’t even moving, standing on tracks – waiting on tracks – would fall over.”

Some railroads went bankrupt, Mulvey says.  Those that were left improved tracks and bridges, and became viable, strong companies – strong enough to turn back recent attempts at re-regulation.

“The railroads have been very, very successful as a lobbying organization,” Mulvey says.

One railroad, BNSF, spent more than $2.5 million dollars on political contributions during the 2014 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The railroads say they can provide good service without more regulation. 

So far, so good this year in the Dakotas. There’s still a lot of oil being shipped out of North Dakota. But it’s balanced by falling demand from farmers, like Jones, who won’t ship their corn at today’s low prices.

“You’re selling corn today at below the cost of production," Jones says. "It would be suicidal almost – financial suicide – to sell it below your cost of production."

Farmers won’t ship their corn until prices go up, he says.  The railroads say they’ll be ready for the corn shipments, even if they start this winter. BNSF says it's added snow-removal crews and equipment and heaters on some rail switches.

Railroads try to avoid another Dakota bottleneck

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 11:42

Railroads and rail shippers are trying to figure out how to prevent a repeat of last year's troubles in the Dakotas.

When demand and bad weather joined to make a perfect storm, farmers had a lot of trouble getting railroads to ship their crops to market. There was too much competition for locomotives and crews between South Dakota farmers and oil producers in North Dakota.

“Agriculture was derailed by big oil interests," says Dennis Jones, a corn farmer in Bath, South Dakota. "We were basically shoved off the tracks.”

Jones says South Dakota farmers produced a bumper crop in 2014, and the North Dakota oil fields were going gangbusters, too. The railroads couldn’t ship all that stuff, and Jones says they had to make a choice.

“The railroad got paid a lot more for shipping oil," he says. "Grain cars were unhooked so the locomotives could hook onto oil and pull more oil."

The railroads say they didn’t favor oil over agricultural products. They say last year’s shipping problems were caused by one of the most severe winters in decades. But it is true that they can charge more to ship certain things, if there’s competition and those products could be shipped another way, by, for example, truck or water.  

In that case, “the railroad can set any price they want to, anywhere, anytime, and they do,” says Denver Tolliver, director of the Upper Great Plains  Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University. 

He says shippers can complain to the federal Surface Transportation Board if they think the railroads are charging too much.  But not many do, because it’s a complicated, expensive and slow process.  

It wasn’t always this way. 

Railroads and their rates used to be very tightly regulated. But they were deregulated in the 1980s, after railroads were devastated by a growing trucking industry. 

 “There was a time when you used to have what’s called standing derailments,” says Frank Mulvey, a semi-retired economist who spent about a decade at the Surface Transportation Board. “The railroad infrastructure was so badly deteriorated that trains that weren’t even moving, standing on tracks – waiting on tracks – would fall over.”

Mulvey says some railroads went bankrupt.  Those that were left improved tracks and bridges, and became viable, strong companies – strong enough to turn back recent attempts at re-regulation.

“The railroads have been very, very successful as a lobbying organization,” Mulvey says.

In fact, one railroad, BNSF, spent more than $2.5 million dollars on political contributions during the 2014 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The railroads say they can provide good service without more regulation. 

So far so good this year, in the Dakotas. There’s still a lot of oil being shipped out of North Dakota. But it’s balanced out by falling demand from farmers, like Jones, who won’t ship their corn at today’s low prices.

“You’re selling corn today at below the cost of production," Jones says. "It would be suicidal almost – financial suicide – to sell it below your cost of production."

Jones says farmers won’t ship their corn until prices go up.  The railroads say they’ll be ready for the corn shipments, even if they start this winter. BNSF says it's added snow-removal crews and equipment and heaters on some rail switches.

U.Va. Reinstates Fraternity Accused In 'Rolling Stone' Rape Story

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 11:26

Phi Kappa Psi was at the center of a story alleging a 2012 gang rape at its house at the University of Virginia. The fraternity has consistently denied that events detailed in the article took place.

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Sandwich Monday: The White Castle Veggie Slider

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 10:55

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a new sandwich for vegetarians: the White Castle Veggie Slider. It's a mini-burger made with carrots, broccoli and other veggies.

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'Charlie Hebdo's' Next Issue Will Feature Prophet Muhammad Cartoons

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 10:53

The gunmen who attacked the French magazine last week said they had "avenged" the prophet as they left the scene. The magazine frequently targeted religion – including Islam and its prophet.

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Albuquerque Police Officers Face Murder Charges Over 2014 Shooting

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 10:24

James Boyd, 38, was killed after being confronted for illegally camping in the city's foothills. Months later, two officers who shot him are being charged with murder.

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