National News

Administration Defends Bowe Bergdahl's Release Amid Criticism

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 05:05

President Obama said that regardless of the circumstances of the Army sergeant's capture by the Afghan Taliban, "we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity."

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Despite Law, Rape Victims Sometimes Pay For Medical Services

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 05:02

Federal law seeks to keep sexual assault victims from paying for forensic exams, but in some states they may have to cover tests and treatment for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

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President Obama to increase military presence in Europe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 04:42

President Obama asked Congress today to approve up to $1 billion to boost the U.S. military presence in Europe, where unease over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has altered the security dynamic.

The president announced the effort after meeting with the Polish president at the start of a European tour, which should include Obama’s first bilateral meeting with the president-elect of Ukraine.

President Obama says he wants to preposition more equipment in Europe, expand training exercises with allies, and increase the number of U.S. military personnel rotating through Europe. He also wants to “step up” partnerships with non-NATO countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.

All this comes amidst Russia and Ukraine trying to find a way to settle Kiev’s multi-billion dollar gas bill.

President Obama looks to increase presence in Europe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 04:42

President Obama asked Congress today to approve up to $1 billion to boost the U.S. military presence in Europe, where unease over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has altered the security dynamic.

The president announced the effort after meeting with the Polish president at the start of a European tour, which should include Obama’s first bilateral meeting with the president-elect of Ukraine.

President Obama says he wants to preposition more equipment in Europe, expand training exercises with allies, and increase the number of U.S. military personnel rotating through Europe. He also wants to “step up” partnerships with non-NATO countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.

All this comes amidst Russia and Ukraine trying to find a way to settle Kiev’s multi-billion dollar gas bill.

I vow...to hide my assets in Bitcoin

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 04:33

Here at Marketplace, we've talked a lot about the various uses of bitcoin. From buying beef jerky in bulk online, to getting a check up at the doctor's, the cryptocurrency is getting closer and closer to becoming part of every day life. Certainly, though, it has seen its share of controversy, and the fact that it has largely been used for the sale of illicit material via online black markets is a blight on its reputation. But now there's an entirely new possibility for bitcoin users who want to use the digital currency for evil: hiding assets from a spouse.

A recent report looks at the possibility that the unique qualities of bitcoin might allow, in this case, a husband to hide finances while dividing assets in divorce proceedings. It could be especially problematic in the UK, where judges tend to recognize spouses as being more equal, while making less of a distinction between the merits of who is the breadwinner versus who is the homemaker. Considering the fact that bitcoin is hard to associate with a distinct owner, and that a spouse could discreetly and quickly move their currency into a friend's digital wallet, divorce proceedings could be made entirely more difficult to get right. 

So before walking down the aisle, maybe think about a bitcoin addendum to your prenup. 

Syrians Head To Polls In An Election Expected To Go To Assad

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 04:11

Only residents in areas controlled by President Bashar Assad's regime are allowed to vote.

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Obama Seeks $1 Billion To Boost U.S. Military Presence In Europe

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 04:10

His comments in Europe come amid simmering tensions with Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

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Local Views Of New Orleans' Changing School Landscape

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 04:03

Measurable gains, yet a sense of loss.

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Reduce carbon, create jobs?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 02:18

New carbon-emission targets proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week will put some coal-fired power plants out of operation, and could eventually squeeze employment in the coal-mining industry as well.

The EPA is calling for a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, from 2005 levels. They also predict that meeting the new target will cost electric utilities $8 billion per year, but says it will ultimately save the U.S. economy $50 billion a year or more in health care costs, as pollution from power plants and fossil fuel production falls.

The EPA’s fact-sheet and press release provided no firm numbers on projected job creation from meeting the new carbon standards, though. A lengthy “Regulatory Impact Analysis” report, however, provided tentative estimates from peer-reviewed labor-economics research, predicting net job increases totaling 105,000 a year.

That figure takes into account coal-mining jobs that would be lost, offset by new renewable-energy and energy-efficiency jobs: retrofitting power plants, pumping cleaner natural gas, upgrading the electricity grid, installing solar and wind generation capacity, and deploying energy-saving appliances.

But green-energy job predictions can vary widely — the Natural Resources Defense Council recently predicted more than 200,000 new jobs per year, based on slightly different carbon targets and date benchmarks.

Job predictions can also be highly politicized, says Ron Pernick, managing director at Clean Edge, an energy research firm.

“There are a lot of variables,” says Pernick. “It’s part art, part science.”

Pernick says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has stopped collecting and crunching data on green-economy jobs due to sequester-related budget cuts. Though, he points out that jobs in renewable energy have been growing strongly for years, and tougher carbon regulation can only help.

Marty Rosenberg, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine EnergyBiz, says the EPA’s plan to let states develop their own plans and energy mixes for hitting the new carbon targets will help drive innovation, and promote new green-energy startups. 

“Each state, if you will, will become a laboratory,” says Rosenberg. “There are men and women out there testing new ideas. I do think this will be an economic stimulant.”

Opponents of the EPA's carbon targets, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, disagree, arguing that shunning coal will destroy jobs and raise operating costs for American businesses.

 

 

Harley Davidson's fastest growing market? Women

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 02:11

Harley-Davidson is branching out.

The iconic motorcycle manufacturer plans to roll out leaner and lighter bikes into showrooms by the end of the month.

Good-bye hogs, hello street bikes?

“An interesting way for Harley to expand its business is to cater to a wider audience,” says Moringstar analyst Jaime Katz.

Katz says 30 percent of last year’s sales went to what Harley calls its "outreach market" -- anyone other than white men over the age of 35. The company hopes its "Street" models -- bikes that are lower, lighter, and easier to handle -- will create a higher demand, especially among the fastest growing demographic groups: women.

“Women are climbing corporate ladders, they own a lot of small businesses and so they have money and time,” says Genevieve Schmitt, founder and editor of Women Riders Now.com. Schmitt says in a sign that the female bikers market is growing, she expects Harley’s new line to attract new female riders.

Justice Department Renews Focus On Homegrown Terrorists

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 00:59

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is drawing new attention to the threat from homegrown, lone-wolf radicals. He's pulling together a group of prosecutors and FBI agents to address domestic terrorism.

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Singapore's got some big retirement issues

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 23:39

Here in the U.S., it’s pretty standard to complain volubly and publicly about government programs, particularly those to do with retirement – Social Security, healthcare for the elderly and the poor and pension and retirement plans in general

Not so in Singapore. The people in Singapore rarely question government policy, and almost never criticize it. So when you hear people complain openly about government policy on retirement and Singapore’s version of social security, it’s worth paying attention.

“Openly” being, of course, on the Web. On blogs and on social media, and particularly on Facebook (Singaporeans were big users of Facebook at a time when most Americans were still obsessed with MySpace). A debate that would ordinarily have been held in private, in coffee shops or around dinner tables, has been running for some time in the very public forum of social media. 

Many Singaporeans are not happy about the way their retirement program, the Central Provident Fund (CPF), is being handled by the government, and, for once, they’re not being shy about expressing their feelings. Emotions are running so high that  a prominent blogger named Roy Ngerng recently made the claim that Singapore's prime minister had "misappropriated" Singaporeans retirement money. The prime minister responded equally disproportionately, by slapping Ngerng with a lawsuit.

I’m not going to drive you insane with an explanation of how CPF works: it deals with social security, retirement planning and medical insurance all in one-go, so as you can imagine, it’s pretty complicated. You can read more here and here. Many observers point admiringly at the CPF, saying it's an excellent example of effective central planning. But just like Social Security in the U.S. and equivalent programs in Europe and the rest of the world, CPF is coming under intense pressure.

The pressure comes in two parts. First, Singaporeans are living longer. Second, healthcare costs here are soaring. Any of that sound familiar? It's a double-barreled shotgun that every developed nation is facing down right now.

Singapore's response will sound equally familiar: The government, more accurately the ruling Peoples Action Party (which has won every election ever held here),  is demanding its citizens cough up more money. Its recent demand that some Singaporeans put a greater proportion of their salary into the CPF sounds to many like a tax hike. Which it effectively is.

The changes to CPF are not going down well. But it's encouraging to see some Singaporeans standing up and demanding transparency from the government about the way CPF is run. It's a pity, however, that the PAP is resorting to old-school methods to deal with the media storm. They're missing an opportunity to show how mature Singapore is, how unafraid are its leaders of criticism, and how much more open they can be about the way government programs are handled.

Regardless, Singapore has a problem: it has become too successful, too quickly. When the country gained independence in 1963, its people expected to live until around 66 years of age, on average. Today they expect to live until they're 82. That's a sign of how quickly and efficiently the country has developed, but it has put its systems under enormous strain.

It almost makes America's social security system look as though its in relatively good shape!

Paddy Hirsch filed this while on vacation in Southeast Asia.

How Atomic Particles Helped Solve A Wine Fraud Mystery

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 23:31

By testing for radiation, detectives showed that wine bottles purportedly from Thomas Jefferson's collection were fake. And with wine fraud rising, authentication is getting even more sophisticated.

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The Common Core Curriculum Void

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 23:29

States and school districts are struggling to navigate the flood of new materials claiming to be Common Core-aligned.

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Curveball: Are teachers prepared for test prep?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 19:18
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/assessment">View Survey</a>

Seattle Council Passes $15 Minimum Wage

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 16:33

The ordinance gradually increases the minimum wage in the city to $15, which would make it the highest in the nation.

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Coup Attempts And Safaris: The Ups And Downs Of Juan Carlos' Reign

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:36

King Juan Carlos announced he would abdicate in favor of his son, sparking a fierce debate over whether he should be allowed to pass on the crown — or if the monarchy should be abolished altogether.

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New EPA Rules Burn Red State Democrats

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:32

In coal-producing Kentucky and West Virginia, Democrats can't put enough distance between themselves and the Obama administration.

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Dozens Of Haitian Migrants Abandoned Near Puerto Rico

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:30

Smuggling Haitians has become a big — and deadly — business. In recent days, several groups of migrants have been abandoned by smugglers on uninhabited islands in the Caribbean.

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Vox CEO Jim Bankoff on which numbers matter

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:21

Economists love the numbers. For some companies, the numbers that are most important are the ones that say how many clicks and hits they’re getting on their website.

"ComScore.com is definitely one of the many metric sites we look at for sure," says Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media. "ComScore reports monthly. We have metric services that report in real time. We can literally look at a dashboard and just be obsessed with what’s going on, who’s looking at our content and how many people at any given moment."

So how interested are companies like Vox Media in having people understand the numbers by which they do their job?

"We make money by growing our metrics and those metrics are largely transparent," says Bankoff. "For instance, you can go to your favorite website and see how many people shared your favorite article on Facebook or Twitter. A lot of these metrics are now transparent and we’re making them more transparent. In our case, our ratings are transparent to our advertisers too."

Is there such thing as too much data?

"Absolutely," says Bankoff. "We like to tell our people that they should be data-informed as opposed to data-driven."

Bankoff says that although the numbers allow companies to produce content in a more targeted and efficient way, technology should be used to assist the story telling and assist the consumption, not replace it.

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