National News

Beirut's Holiday Inn: Once Chic, Then Battered, Still Contested

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 23:28

The Holiday Inn was a landmark that towered over glittering Beirut in the 1970s. The Lebanese civil war ravaged the city and the hotel. The debate over the hotel's carcass carries on to this day.

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Frustrated By The Affordable Care Act, One Family Opts Out

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 23:27

Many new plans created under Obamacare have consumers and doctors scrambling to figure out which providers accept which plans, and what services are covered.

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How Health Insurance Exchanges Are Like Flea Markets

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 23:25

To know if taxpayers got good value in setting up the health care exchanges we need to see what happens in the next few years, economists say. Will buyers and sellers keep coming?

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Lack Of Affordable Housing Puts The Squeeze On Poor Families

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 23:23

They are being pushed out of the rental market in fast-growing cities like Washington, D.C. Many end up spending most of their income on housing, living in substandard housing, or homeless.

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States Consider Bills To Crack Down On Workplace Bullies

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 23:23

About a dozen states across the country are taking up laws to give workers legal protections against workplace abuse, though critics say it's impossible to legislate against somebody being a jerk.

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How Soviet Kitchens Became Hotbeds Of Dissent And Culture

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 23:22

After Stalin's death, people in the Soviet Union could begin to debate politics again without fear of repression. This "thawing" took place in private kitchens, where music and art flourished, too.

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What the heck does ETF stand for? An explainer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-26 22:32

Anyone can invest in exchange-traded funds. That's the beauty of them: they're dead simple in concept and dead easy to use.

But they're also like matches: they're so simple that a toddler can use them, and there's a real risk of getting burned.

I'm not saying that retail investors who buy ETFs are toddlers – although, let's be honest, most of us could use some supervision or advice when we make investment decisions – but I do think many investors are lulled into a false sense of security by the apparent simplicity of the ETF model.

Part of the problem is that ETFs look a lot like one of the most easily understood investments out there: the company share.

Just like a company share, an ETF is listed on an exchange; just like a company share, the ETF rises and falls depending on investors view of the fund; and just like a company share, you can trade in and out of an ETF any time.

But just because they look easy to understand, doesn't mean they are. ETFs are often a lot more complicated than company shares. For one thing, as Forbes columnist Rick Ferri points out, there are several kinds of ETFs. Depending on how your ETF is structured, you may be taking on a lot more risk than you think you are, and you may be treated differently by the taxman.

And ETFs can go into some dangerous territory.

One of the great lures of ETF investing to retail investors is our ability to gain exposure to a market that would otherwise be closed to us, or at least difficult to access. ETFs allow us to make bets on commodities like gold and palladium without having to buy the actual product or leave the comfort of our den.

They also allow us to wager on the health of corporations via the credit derivatives market. That's right, the kind of wildly complicated investment that helped drag the financial system to its knees is now open to you and I via the magic of ETFs.

Most normal people have no idea how a credit default swap works. So, for most of us, investing in an ETF of CDS is highly risky. It's true that most people won't invest in this kind of fund – the letters CDS will probably have the same effect on retail investors as a sign that says "Warning! Land mines!" – but the same rules apply for all ETFs: if you don't understand the stuff that's in the fund, you'd be wise not to buy the shares.

After all, if you have no idea what you're investing in, you're a whole lot more likely to get burned.

Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 22:07

The research project would place electronic devices in the brain in an attempt to combat post-traumatic stress, depression and other problems that have plagued many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Pfizer Drops $119 Billion Bid For AstraZeneca

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 21:36

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been circling its smaller rival for months. AstraZeneca has rejected every offer saying Pfizer undervalues the company, and that it wants to remain independent.

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