National News

Why The Democrats' Koch Brothers Fixation?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 15:09

Democrats are painting Republican senatorial candidates as stalking horses for the billionaire Koch brothers. Republicans say Democrats are desperate.

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Girl Scout Sells Record 18,107 Boxes, Says She Can Move Samoa

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 14:38

Katie Francis, a sixth-grader in Oklahoma City, had some sweet success and the old record apparently crumbled. One of her secrets: "Ask everybody that I see" to buy a box.

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Senate Poised To Approve Ukraine Aid, Russian Sanctions Bill

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 14:11

On Monday, the measure overcame a procedural hurdle in the Senate, signaling the body was ready to move forward. The House will take up a similar measure on Tuesday.

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New contact lenses have night-vision capability

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-24 14:00

Researchers at the University of Michigan say they've discovered a way to make contact lenses that have night vision capability.

It's all about using super-thin layers of graphene, if you want to know the science of it.

Call me a geek, but I mean... cool, right?

 

[<a href="//storify.com/Marketplace/who-can-see-in-the-dark" target="_blank">View the story "Who can see in the dark?" on Storify</a>]

The impact of sanctions against Russia

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-24 14:00

President Obama was in Europe Monday, discussing economic pressure on Russia. He’s also warning of potentially stronger sanctions, “a greater cost,” if Russia keeps at it in Ukraine.

Current sanctions include a number of Russian government officials and oligarchs, as well as Bank Rossiya, described by the U.S. Treasury Department as “the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation.”

On its face, sanctioning one bank and a handful of Russian billionaires may not sound like a sweeping move. But because of their broad network of affiliated companies and deep involvement with Russian business and politics, the impact could potentially be more widespread than it may first appear.

Russia’s currency and stock market have both fallen in recent days, impacting an economy that was lacklustre even before the crisis in Ukraine. Now potential investors in Russia are thinking twice, worried that the next round of sanctions could target their interests. That means Russia could lose out on the business deals and investment it needs.

Russia’s Economy By The Numbers, by Marketplace’s Tobin Low

-13.71%

How much Russia’s key index is down. YTD, representing tens of billions in company value destroyed.

-8%

How much the conversion rate of 1 ruble to $1 has fallen.

Mark Garrison: Russia’s key stock index is down nearly 14% this year. That’s tens of billions in company value gone. This as the ruble has sunk. Cliff Kupchan of Eurasia Group lays out the sanctions so far.

Cliff Kupchan: We sanctioned a number of oligarchs very close to Mr. Putin, but only one company, Bank Rossiya, which is alleged to run a lot of the Kremlin’s money.

A handful of Russian billionaires may not sound like a sweeping move, but it’s more than you might think.

Christopher Swift: It’s also every single entity that these individuals own or control.

International lawyer Christopher Swift of Foley & Lardner points out that these oligarchs weave tangled webs.

Swift: Because a lot of these individuals operate their business empires through third-party proxies and shell companies in Europe and North America, the scope is much broader than most people assume just looking at this list.

And that’s before we get to what else the U.S. and allies could do.

Juan Zarate: These are the initial stages of what could be a more comprehensive financial isolation campaign.

Juan Zarate is senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Russia had economic trouble well before the crisis in Ukraine.

Zarate: I think there had already been questions as to the strength of the Russian economy. And then you add to this the uncertainty as to what may come and I think investors are starting to worry as to what the next stages are.

Which means, says Cliff Kupchan, that even companies not on the list could suffer.

Kupchan: Everybody’s now wondering what Russian companies indeed are off limits. Should I consummate a deal with x Russian company or will I be sanctioned?

Harsher sanctions aren’t in place yet. But global business leaders are starting to act like they’re coming. That means Russia could lose out on deals and investment it needs. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Ebola Breaks Out In West Africa For The First Time

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:30

A deadly form of Ebola has killed 59 people in Guinea. Early reports suggested the disease had spread to other neighboring countries. But none of the more far-flung cases have been confirmed.

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25 years after the Exxon Valdez crisis, we've learned...?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:24

It’s been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez hit a reef and spilled millions of gallons of oil, polluting hundreds of miles of Alaska’s shoreline.

If you were alive during the spill, you can probably still recall the video footage: black shorelines, dead sea otters, oil soaked birds.

“It was vivid,” said Zygmunt Plater, an environmental law professor at Boston College who worked on the Alaska Oil Spill Commission after Valdez. “It pointed to the problems of the oil mega-system." Along every step of the process, he said, “there was repeated cost cutting to increase risk. Our commission concluded that this mega-system was dominated by complacency, collusion and neglect.”

Those are words heard after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nearly 20 years later.

Valdez also showed us just how vulnerable the environment can be, in a way that previous oil spills, including the Santa Barbara spill in 1969, had not.

“It underscored the enormous risk that we place natural resources at when we produce and distribute oil,” said Bob Deans, a spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The risk was something we hadn’t quite come to terms with, he said. “There was this perception that it was safe to do this,” Deans said, “and that if the oil got in the water, surely industry had a way to clean it up. Surely there was a way to save the oceans and marine life from the consequence of a spill like this, and we found out that none of that was true.” 

After the Exxon Valdez and again, after the BP oil spill, regulations were tightened.

But spills are not things of the past.

Over the weekend, about 170,000 gallons of oil gushed out into Galveston Bay when an oil barge and cargo ship collided.

Apple + Comcast = ?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:20

Apple and Comcast are reportedly discussing a deal that would give Apple special access to Comcast's wires, the ones that bring cable TV into your home. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple would then deliver streaming television through a set top box.

The deal, if it becomes a deal, would give Apple access to what's called "the last mile" -- the last section of cable that runs from a neighborhood box into individual homes.

"Apple would get what's called managed service access," says Kevin Werbach, a telecom consultant and professor of business ethics at The Wharton School of Business. "So their content would go over a distinct high-priority pipe across the Comcast network and not be mixed in with other internet traffic."

As you've probably noticed, the quality of video on your TV can vary greatly between traditional cable TV and streaming TV. Take Netflix, for example: lots of people had trouble streaming the new season of "House of Cards". So Netflix agreed to pay extra to Comcast for more bandwidth.

A managed service deal with Apple would be great for Comcast because it would allow the cable company to maintain its role as a gatekeeper for content, says Craig Aaron, president of Freepress, a consumer advocacy group.

"Apple should be a competitor with Comcast, Netflix should be a competitor with Comcast, helping bring down prices, offer more choices," he says. But under a managed service deal, Apple's content would have to go through the cable companies infrastructure, effectively turning Comcast's biggest threat into a source of revenue.

It also solves another problem for Comcast. Increasingly people are not signing up for cable. Instead, they are using apps and internet devices to watch video. A deal like this would also make Comcast relevant in the new media landscape.

Short On Dollars, Venezuela Tries To Halt Black-Market Trading

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:07

Venezuela placed controls on its currency as it rapidly lost its value. But that only made matters worse. Now it is rolling out a new system in hopes of stabilizing its weak currency.

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Indiana Becomes First State To Back Out Of Common Core

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:03

Forty-five states have adopted the set of standards governing grade-school education. The standards have unleashed political fights that blur party lines.

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Putin's Out Of The Club For Now: G-8 Is Back To Being The G-7

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:00

President Obama and other leaders of the world's biggest industrialized nations say they're not going to summit with Russia in June.

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Will you get rich? Your last name may tell you

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:48

Here's a depressing thought: Your last name is a pretty good determination of how educated you will be, what class you'll be in, and when you will die. And chances are, you won't change that for your children, grandchildren, or any of your offspring.

That's the conclusion of a new book by University of California Davis economics professor Gregory Clark called "The Son Also Rises". Clark studied surnames over hundreds of years from the U.S., Sweden, England, India, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and Chile, and he found that social mobility is not only tied to your last name, it's kind of a sealed deal:

"If you take any level of social status and then look at people by surname groupings, it'll pretty reliably show which are the high status groups and which are the low status groups. And one of the interesting things with the surnames is that we actually detect groups that we hadn't even thought of as distinctive (in the U.S.).

He points to people with French surnames, who statistically fall into the lower class. Clark says many governments pour huge resources into try ing to increase economic and social mobility, but his book concludes that's kind of a waste of time:

"Even societies that have spent much more effort than the U.S. in trying to increase rates of social mobility have not, by and large, succeeded. Modern social mobility rates are no higher than in Medievel England or in pre-industrial Sweden. Even dramatic events like the Communist revolution in China had very little effect on social mobility rates.

Clark laughs off the idea that employers or colleges will ever use last names in hiring or admissions, but he does say there's one realm where his research could come in handy.

"The only case that the book finds that this would matter would be if your goal in life was to produce high status children. It would actually be a guide to dating. So the idea of the book is you shouldn't look at Match.com, you should go to Ancestry.com. If that's your ambition."

In the U.S., there are two metrics that Professor Clark says can help you determine your last name's social status:

1) How many doctors there are per thousand people with your surname.

2) The average age of death. 

We had Professor Clark break down the surname social status of some famous folks. Here's what he found:

Its all in the name... | Create Infographics

Carp(e) Diem: Kentucky Sends Invasive Fish To China

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:13

Asian carp are not just a problem for the Great Lakes region. Fish processors in Kentucky are finding novel ways to dispose of them — including sending them to China, where they are prized as food.

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Madoff Aides Found Guilty For Role In Massive Ponzi Scheme

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

Five of Bernie Madoff's former employees were found guilty of helping him fleece investors of $17 billion. They were convicted on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.

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Oil Spill Disrupts A Waterway Thick With Barges And Birds

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

Thousands of gallons of fuel oil spilled from a barge in Galveston Bay, Texas, over the weekend. The spill disrupted shipping and threatens wildlife in the area, and the containment effort has begun.

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Venezuelan Attorney General Opens Probes Into Excessive Violence

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

Venezuela's top state prosecutor has accused security forces of excess in their response to protests. As John Otis reports, the prosecutor announced investigations into alleged human rights abuses.

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Caution And Concern Prevail In Days Following Washington Landslide

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

Officials in Washington say they've received 108 reports of people missing in the region hit by a recent landslide. But they say that is a "soft number" and rescue efforts continue.

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Indiana Cuts The Core Without Telling Teachers What Comes Next

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

Indiana became the first state to adopt, then repeal, the Common Core State Standards. As Elle Moxley of WFIU reports, the repeal has left some teachers scratching their heads.

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Crimea Casts Long Shadow In Amsterdam, Where G7 Leaders Meet

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

A major nuclear summit in the Netherlands is convening more than 50 world leaders, including President Obama. The meeting allows European and U.S. leaders to discuss a concerted response to Russia.

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Missing Jet May Be Thought Lost At Sea, But The Search Carries On

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:00

The Malaysian prime minister announced that the missing airliner was likely lost in the Indian Ocean. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel discusses how this was determined and where the search will go from here.

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