National News

NASA Image Shows Volcanic Island Has Annexed Its Neighbor

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 08:28

NASA says the Western Pacific island of Nishino-shima has merged with its newly created volcanic companion, forming one larger landmass.

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Global Aid For Health Hits Record High As Funding Sources Shift

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 08:01

The $31.3 billion given by wealthy nations, aid groups, charities, large foundations and others in 2013 reflects the shifting mix of donors backing international health projects, an analysis suggests.

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Restaurants squeezed by high price of limes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 07:51

So just how expensive are limes these days?  Danny Herrera manages Fonda San Miguel, one of the priciest Mexican restaurants in Austin.  He says six months ago, he was paying $14 a case.

"Then it kinda went up to $20, and then it slowly started getting higher and higher," he says. "And then as of last week, it was up to $99."

Herrera stopped garnishing his meals with limes, and he's rethinking his Margarita prices. 

Most of the limes we consume come from Mexico - particularly the state of Michoacan, an area dominated by the drug cartels and citizen militias. Producers say they'd rather burn their crops than sell at the pitiful prices the cartels pay. I talked to one of the lime producers in Michoacan. He asked me to change his name to Carlos because he's afraid of the cartels.

Carlos says local lime prices are not high, they've held steady. "I don't understand why the public says the price is too high."

When I tell Carlos that some restauranteurs in the U.S. are paying around $100 per case, he's shocked.

"Son of a… That's a gross exageration."

Carlos says somebody is making a lot of money. But it isn't him. He says floods and plagues have cut citrus production in Mexico by half.

And there's a growing global taste for limes.

"In Asia, it's an important part of their supply and demand," says Dr. Eric Thor from the School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University. He says limes are more expensive now - in part - because there are millions more people using them. "Today we use the fruits in everything from special Margaritas to Asian noodles."

Now, planes full of fruit from the Americas are flown to China. And that has increased the price of everything from limes to cherries. But why do people in the United States pay for what consumers in China want? Thor says, basically, because we're still willing to pay for limes -- no matter the price.

He says the price will come down based on the time of year, and based on production.

As for now, it's hard to find limes in some Austin taco eateries. During my last visit to my favorite taco place, the attendant handed me a lemon instead of a lime. Can you believe that? In my book, that's a "no no." Tacos and lemons don't go together.

 

Nevada Offers Rare Deal: Year-Round Sales Of Health Plans

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 07:50

It is the only state to require insurers that sell individual plans outside the online marketplace to make coverage available to customers anytime.

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Sharpton Rejects Detailed Story About FBI Informant Role

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 07:44

The Rev. Al Sharpton says he isn't a former FBI asset who informed on Mafia figures to a special task force in New York City during the 1980s, despite a recent report by The Smoking Gun.

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Oscar Pistorius Sobs On Witness Stand At His Murder Trial

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 07:17

The double-amputee runner tells the court of the moment he says he realized he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and not an intruder.

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Windows XP Users, It's Time To Upgrade. Here's How

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 07:11

Microsoft support for Windows XP stops Tuesday. If you're still using the 12-year-old operating system — an estimated quarter of PC users still run XP — here are some tips to get through an upgrade.

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Avoiding The Nursing Home Ups The Risk Of Unwanted Medical Care

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 07:11

Two-thirds of older adults suffer from cognitive impairment or dementia in their last year of life, a study finds. That fact and being cared for at home increase the risk of aggressive treatment.

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Quinoa Is Kosher For Passover, But Mom May Not Approve

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 06:25

The Orthodox arbiters of kosher inspected quinoa fields in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia. And now for the first time, they've given their Passover seal of approval to the ancient "pseudo-cereal."

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Mouthwash And Poor Dental Hygiene May Up The Risk Of Oral Cancer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 06:02

Freshening up your mouth with a regular rinse could come with a long-term health hazard. But cancer specialists are far more concerned about tobacco, alcohol and betel nut chewing.

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Russia Issues Warning As Ukraine Forcibly Removes Protesters

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 05:26

A Ukrainian minister says police arrested around 70 demonstrators who had seized an administration building in Kharkiv, Ukraine's 2nd-largest city. Separatists have also seized a building in Donetsk.

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With NCAA Title, UConn Answers Questions About Kentucky, And Itself

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 04:11

UConn won it all, 60-54, by staying a step ahead of Kentucky's talented five starting freshmen. The Huskies also made all of their free throws, while the Wildcats struggled at the line.

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Why don't we like to talk about our pay?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 02:41

President Obama is set to sign an executive order Tuesday prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries.

This effort to increase wage transparency has another obstacle: our workplace culture, in which asking your cube-mate what he or she makes is virtually taboo.

"Well, it's said that Americans love to talk about sex, but don't like to talk about their salaries," says Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution. 

However, many employers also have policies discouraging or prohibiting workers from sharing compensation information. That’s despite the fact that the National Labor Relations Board considers wage discussions a ‘protected’ activity.

Banco Popular retreats toward its home base

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 02:16

Banco Popular is based in Puerto Rico, but it has operations in mainland U.S. cities like New York and Miami. A recent news report says the bank is looking to sell its branches in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Just four years ago, Banco Popular rebranded itself in those cities as Popular Community Bank, hoping to broaden its customer base. Now it's moving in the opposite direction.

"At some point it makes sense for the company to exit the market," says Mark Palmer, managing director of BTIG, "and focus on its operations in Puerto Rico, where it's gaining market share, gaining deposits." And, making better profits.

At home in Puerto Rico, Banco Popular gets a better spread between the interest it pays depositors and the interest it gets paid on loans. Banco Popular is the island's biggest bank, and even in a weak economy, it's been growing.

Analyst Brian Klock watches Popular for the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. He thinks that this move to streamline could be partly intended to please bank regulators.

Popular wants to pay back TARP bailout funds, so it can start paying dividends to shareholders again. Before regulators accept that payment, they require proof that the bank is in good shape, and well-run.

"That's because the regulators are focused on making sure we don't go through this again," he says, referring to the 2008 financial crisis.

Klock thinks that's good news for the rest of us. "The regulator is doing his job," he says, "to try to make sure this is a safe and sound banking system."

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included a photograph of the incorrect bank. The photo has been corrected.

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