National News

Rain Storms Pummel Upper Midwest, Drowning Resources

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 23:16

Iowa, Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest have been hit with record levels of rainfall recently. As water floods homes and businesses and threatens crops, local officials scramble to help.

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Behind ISIS Battle In Iraq, A Clash Between Two Arch-Terrorists

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 23:15

Focusing on Iraq's fight may be missing the point. Under the surface is a more fundamental war between al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

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Report Questions U.S. Policy On Overseas Drone Strikes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 20:03

The Stimson Center concludes that targeted killing operations may have protected Americans at home, but come at a heavy price abroad.

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North Korea Threatens War Over New Seth Rogen Comedy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 16:49

The plot of The Interview, which also stars James Franco, involves a television journalist and his producer who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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Arrivals And Departures: Films Explore The Immigrant Experience

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 15:38

The Immigrant and Zinda Bhaag are idea-driven films that delve into the global arc of migration from different corners of the world.

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SOS Note, Prison ID Reportedly Found In Chinese-Made Pants

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 14:43

A woman in Belfast, Northern Ireland, says she found a handwritten plea for help in a pair of pants she bought from a discount retailer in 2011 but had not worn until recently.

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Election Season Defies Conventional Storylines

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 14:34

That story about the passing of the Old Guard? Or the one about the resurgence of the Tea Party? Not so fast, the voters still seem to be saying.

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Is It Time For Food To Get Its Own Major Museum?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 14:13

The U.S. has no major museum dedicated to food and drink, but a group of upstart foodies says it can change that. The first exhibition will feature technology that revolutionized breakfast cereal.

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When did we become outnumbered by our devices?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 14:11
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/more-devices">View Survey</a>

Angry At Shiite-Led Government, Sunnis Are Loath To Help Calm Iraq

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:53

Minority Sunnis are helping the militants sweeping Iraq's north and west. The support of ordinary Sunnis shows how difficult it will be to reverse the sectarian partition that's already happening.

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Do you remember life before the bar code?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:46

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, June 26:

In Washington, the Commerce Department lets us know how much we earned and how much left our pocket books in May with the release of its personal income and spending report.

Two things that keep you moving—Winnebago and Nike are scheduled to release quarterly earnings.

Next, let's go back in time and stand in a supermarket checkout line in Troy, Ohio. Come on, it'll be fun. Hear that beeping sound? Forty years ago on June 26 a pack of Wrigley's gum made history when it became the first purchase scanned using a bar code.

It's National Chocolate Pudding Day. Doesn't that just take the word "diet" right out of your vocabulary?

And in Brooklyn, New York, the Cleveland Cavaliers have first dibs in the NBA Draft.

$200 a month for TV in 2020

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:43

On Wednesday's Marketplace, in an interview about the Supreme Court's decision ruling against the Aereo TV service, Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson mentioned he is a "cord cutter." Meaning, he gets his television and video content without paying a cable bill.

Here's why:

A survey out from the market research firm NPD group says the average cable bill now sits right near $90 per a month and we expect it to hit $200 per month by the end of the decade. $200. A month. For television.

GDP fell, and is rising again

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:38

U.S. gross domestic product fell 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to the third revised estimate from the U.S. Commerce Department. Earlier preliminary estimates had reported a smaller decline in GDP.

Contributing to this higher figure for GDP decline were downward revisions to health-care spending following the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. Government economists initially predicted that newly-insured Americans (and those on new plans) would spend more on healthcare than they did in the first quarter.

Most of the contraction in the first quarter is still attributed to severe winter weather across the country in early 2014 -- including the so-called Polar Vortex that spread across many northern states. It led consumers to go out, and spend, less. Businesses cut back on hiring, production, and investment. Other factors slowing the economy down included elimination of federal long-term unemployment benefits, and cuts to the federal food stamp program.

“This is a terrible number,” said economist John Canally at brokerage company LPL Financial in Boston. Yet, he said the stock and bond markets mostly ignored the statistic, looking forward instead to economic performance in the second quarter, as well as anticipated growth for the rest of the year and into 2015.

“The second quarter looks pretty strong,” said Canally, “with GDP tracking (positive) to between 4 percent and 5 percent. It would be the best run rate on the economy since well before the Great Recession.”

Canally pointed out that consumer confidence is up and so is hiring by businesses. Unemployment claims are down, while the manufacturing sector has strengthened.

There are also worrisome economic indicators on the horizon: rising consumer prices, especially for food and gasoline; stagnant wages for most workers; historically high levels of long-term unemployment; and international tensions in the Middle East, East Asia and Eastern Europe.

Most economists don’t think there’s much danger of the U.S. slipping back into recession -- at least, not without a significant shock, such as a further spike in oil prices.

MIT economist Jim Poterba is president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which determines when the U.S. is officially in recession. He said the GDP reversal this past winter does teach us something about economic prediction.

“What I think we learned from the Polar Vortex, and we could learn from a protected heat wave, is that there are closer links between extreme weather fluctuations and economic activity than we may recognize,” said Poterba. “Potentially, extreme heat can have similar kinds of effects -- extreme demands on the electricity grid, for example.”

The National Weather Service predicts higher-than-normal temperatures in many regions of the U.S. this summer, including the West Coast, the Southern Great Plains, the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic States.

Oil from fracking may end U.S. ban on exporting oil

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:38

Ever since the oil crisis of 1973, when oil prices nearly quadrupled as a result of an OPEC embargo following the Yom Kippur War, there has been a ban on U.S. crude oil exports. But that may change.

In two rulings, yet to be confirmed, the U.S. Department of Commerce will allow two private companies to export a special type of crude oil. It's a tiny opening in what could be a big change for the oil industry.

The crude oil at issue is a specific type of lightweight crude called condensate. It’s very different from what you probably picture when you think of crude oil. Condensate is not the thick, black oil that came a “bubblin” out of the ground in the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbillies. Condensate is thinner, it can look like tap water, and it’s highly volatile.

“Condensate,” says analyst David Bellman, “is actually one of the crudes that would be the easiest to refine.” It would be the easiest to refine, if it weren’t for one problem. “The problem is that the refining industry, for the last couple decades, has been told that crude oil is going to get heavier and heavier,” says Bellman.

As a result, refineries invested in equipment designed for refining heavy crude. But since the fracking boom, 96 percent of new oil production is ultralight, not heavy crude. “It’s not a great fit for the refineries in the U.S.,” says Severin Borenstein, co-director of the energy institute at the Hass School of Business at Berkeley.

Oil producers are worried that this bottleneck could get worse, driving down the price of condensate. “So the argument they are making is, they should be allowed to export those crude products,” says Borenstein.

Industry analyst Fadel Gheit says lifting the ban would lower crude prices on the global market. But it would raise condensate prices in the U.S. That’s bad news for U.S. refineries, as evidenced by a dip in their stock prices today. “They had one of their worst days in years,” says Gheit.

There is no consensus among analysts on what lifting the ban would do to the price consumers pay for gas at the pump.

AP Calls It For Charles Rangel

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:38

The longtime New York Democratic congressman edged out challenger Adriano Espaillat in a rematch of their 2012 primary nail-biter.

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For A Spanish Princess, An Indictment On Laundering Charges

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:36

Spanish Princess Infanta Cristina has been charged with money laundering. She faces 11 years behind bars for allegedly embezzling public money through fake charities.

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Few Doctors Warn Expectant Mothers About Environmental Toxics

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 13:32

Chemicals and other toxic substances in the environment can cause premature birth, birth defects and developmental delays, but obstetricians say they're reluctant to discuss the threats with patients.

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Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 12:40

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Utah's same-sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. The decision marks the first time that a federal appeals court ruled on the issue.

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Blow To Utah Gay-Marriage Ban Paves Way For Supreme Court Ruling

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 12:40

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals called marriage a fundamental right that shouldn't be determined at the ballot box. It marks the first time that a federal appeals court has ruled on the issue.

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Parsing The Numbers Of A Tuesday Packed With Primaries

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 12:15

Tuesday featured an extensive slew of primaries across the U.S. To learn more about the results, and what they mean for the midterm elections, Audie Cornish turns to NPR's Ron Elving for more.

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