National News

South Africa Condemns Apparent Coup In Lesotho

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 11:53

Early Saturday, soldiers in the tiny kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa took to the streets amid gunfire, forcing the prime minister to flee. The army has denied a takeover.

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U.N. Peacekeepers Rescued After Being Trapped By Syrian Militants

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 09:49

Dozens of blue-helmeted Filipino soldiers were extracted after a firefight with militants on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

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Nicaraguan Miners Trapped After Collapse

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 08:24

Four miners remain trapped after 22 others were rescued at a gold and silver mine near the south central city of Bonanza.

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Rick Perry's Legal Trouble: The Line Between Influence And Coercion

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 08:19

The Texas governor is charged with abuse of office and coercing a public official, but he claims he was just doing what governors do: Vetoing a budget item.

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How Are Different Asian-American Groups Faring Economically?

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 06:25

In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Labor broke down different economic outcomes among Asian-American and Pacific Islander ethnic subgroups.

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John Walker Jr., Cold War Spy For Soviets, Dies At 77

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 06:09

The U.S. Navy warrant officer recruited his son, his brother and a friend to help him steal and sell classified message keys to the USSR over a 17-year period.

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Poroshenko Says Ukraine Near To 'Full-Scale War'

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 04:43

Speaking at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, the Ukrainian president says Kiev is "close to the point of no return," over Moscow's direct support of separatists.

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Fiancée Of Imprisoned Journalist Advocates For His Release

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 03:30

Mohammed Fahmy is among three Al Jazeera journalists who have been jailed in Egypt on terrorism charges. His fiancée continues to plan their wedding, even as the case languishes.

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What No Strategy On The Islamic State Means For The Region

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 03:30

Scott Simon talks to Jane Harman, director and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center, about the threat of ISIS and the United States' counterterrorism strategy.

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Russian Incursion Continues In Ukraine

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 03:30

Ukrainian forces are defending the port city of Novoazovsk from what they say is a Russian invasion. Scott Simon talks to correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

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Can Oxfam Nudge Big Food Companies To Do Right?

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 02:48

Oxfam is scoring the 10 biggest food companies on a scale of 1 to 10 on a host of issues, from worker rights to climate change. But will promises translate into concrete changes?

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Results From Screening Tests Can Be High In Anxiety

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 01:12

A healthy man paid $150 for a battery of tests at his church. The findings frightened him and didn't give his doctor any information that changed the man's care.

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Results From Screening Tests Can Be High In Anxiety

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 01:12

A healthy man paid $150 for a battery of tests at his church. The findings frightened him and didn't give his doctor any information that changed the man's care.

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Tech Week: Uber's Tricks, JPMorgan Hacked & A Desk Microwave

NPR News - Sat, 2014-08-30 00:45

Also in this week's roundup, Amazon's $1 billion purchase surprises some tech watchers. Yet we're most excited about finding a way to avoid physical exertion at lunch.

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Federal Judge Blocks Texas Restriction On Abortion Clinics

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 18:22

Requiring every center that performs abortions to meet all the standards of a surgical center is excessively restrictive, says the federal district court judge who blocked the state rule Friday.

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McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns To Avoid Being 'Distraction'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:27

There's an investigation into a payoff scheme before the 2012 presidential caucuses in Iowa. Jesse Benton says suggestions of his involvement are inaccurate and politically motivated.

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Federal Judge Blocks Texas Abortion Restrictions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 15:10

Regulations passed in Texas, which affected clinics that perform abortions there, have been blocked by a federal judge, on the grounds that they unconstitutionally restricted access to legal abortion.

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Micro-unit apartments: Tiny and booming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:31

Having roommates gets old. And having roommates is cramped, says New Yorker Marcos Sanchez.

“Nine people, five cats, and a number of regulars who are guests,” Sanchez describes the residents of his Bushwick loft as he gives a tour. “This building used to be a warehouse.” 

The metal stairwell is dark, but brightened by some impressive graffiti featuring yellow jellyfish. An old bucket of sand holds legions of cigarette butts, and rust has eaten through one of the steps. 

Inside the apartment, the ceilings are high. Art supplies fill one communal room, an old film crane frames the couches in another.

In many ways, this loft realizes a romanticized ideal of youth and resourcefulness. The roommates host salons and potlucks, artist exhibitions and game nights. They sip beer on the roof in view of the Manhattan skyline. There’s a dilapidated water tower atop the building that offers entertainment for the adventurous and tetanus-resistant. Many of the roommates wouldn’t have it any other way.

Perhaps best of all, the rent is around $900 – about as cheap as it gets in New York City.

There is an additional price to be paid, however.

“You hear sex through the walls,” Sanchez says with a laugh. “You hear some bathroom noises. There are frequently dirty dishes in the sink. The cats are really nice but I think they’re gross. They’re the nicest creatures. It weighs on my conscience when I speak ill of them.”

But he does anyway. And he’s right, they smell.

“When I have my lotto fantasies, one of the first things I do is I get a place of my own near my job," he says.

The Desire To Live Alone

Marcos Sanchez is not alone.

“More people are living alone than at any time in the history of our species," says Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at NYU and author of "Going Solo". “Contemporary people, given the option, would rather go solo, which is why we see such incredible demand in the real estate market."

The key phrase there is “given the option.” Many people aren’t given any option at all, he notes.

"The problem is that real estate has become so expensive in the central urban areas that many people are priced out of the rental market,” Klinenberg says.

A one-bedroom in Manhattan easily goes for $3,000 a month or more. Rents are higher than before the recession and renters' incomes are lower. Mass migrations to urban centers have continued, pushing rents up even more.  

Compounding the simple imbalance of supply and demand, there is a mismatch across the U.S. between the type of housing desired and the type of housing available. 

“The population of singles and couples far exceeds the number of studios and one bedrooms,” says John Infranca, research affiliate at NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. He is coauthor of a report examining this mismatch. In many cities, the available housing is 50-70 years-old on average, and thus designed for a different era. In his words, it was “a time when we had more large families [and] people weren’t living alone until they start[ed] their own family.”

Infranca says this means families today are paying a price for the lack of housing for singles.

“The demand for housing of this population is currently being met instead by our stock of two- and three-bedroom units...pricing families out of those units because they have to compete with two or three single individuals.”

Finding Answers in Tiny Places

One possible solution is the micro-unit. It’s a small – sometimes very small – single-person apartment. Inside of an immense factory space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Tom O'Hara, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Capsys Corp., stands over the emerging skeleton of one such unit.

“This is the combined living-dining area. [The] kitchen goes back in this corner. This is about 300 square feet.”

Capsys builds modular residences – pre-fabricated, stackable, movable homes or apartments or hotels. 

Sabri Ben-Achour/Marketplace

The apartment he shows me is being made for the MyMicro project, an experiment launched under Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City. 

It’s small, concedes O'Hara, but that is the point.

“I don’t know that anyone would live in a space this small in Peoria, but in New York City, you have a place like this because you live in the city, and this is where you take a shower and sleep.”

The kitchen island will fold down from the wall; the bed will be either a Murphy bed or a convertible sofa. 

The 55 units being built in Brooklyn will include 22 rent-restricted units, which will run from $939 to $1,873 a month depending on the income of the renter. The remaining 33 will be market rate, which means they could go for higher.

In dense cities, people live their lives outside – the coffee shop down the street, the bar around the corner. At least, that is the bet that a lot of cities are beginning to make as they allow developers to experiment with building micro-units, from Austin to Denver to Washington, DC. In most cities, minimum apartment size requirements and zoning codes make micro-units either impossible or cost prohibitive without express sanction from local authorities. 

So far, the experimentation has confirmed a deep need.

“These units are renting out very quickly, if not fully rented the moment construction is finished,” says Infranca.

In that sense, it has been a success: the city is meeting demand for housing with new supply.

Then there's the question of whether this kind of apartment represents good urban planning. In Seattle, micro-units as small as 120 square feet have been built in not-very-dense parts of the city. Some residents worry about parking problems and other issues created by a sudden increase in population that could come from the creation of this kind of housing.

Those irks may be the lesser of two evils. If young people or single people can’t move to a city because there’s nowhere affordable to live the way they want, they'll just go somewhere else. And that's a far greater existential threat.

Suction on Leith: The EU bans high-power vacuums

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:26

The EU is banning the manufacture of vacuums over 1600 watts, starting September 1st.

What will that mean for Patricia Ware, owner of a vacuum repair shop in Edinburgh? Ware demonstrates the difference in sucking power from her shop, Radio Electrics.

"When you have pets with a lot of dog hair and cat hair, you need to have that suction [a more powerful vacuum provides]," says Ware. "Why they're doing this, I have no idea. This is the EU crap that goes on in Brussels. But nevermind about all the racing cars that raise all the emissions in the air, that's ok, we're going to worry about a vacuum cleaner that's ... on for a half hour."

 

Tech IRL: A smart way to stay cool

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:26

It's boiling hot out. Want to come home to a cool house, without running up your electric bill? There’s an App for that. The device is from SmartAC. And it’s free.  So, what’s in it for power companies? Marketplace Tech’s Ben Johnson and Lizzie O’Leary experiment with controlling a coworker’s air conditioner… from their office.  
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