National News

Obama Has Support For Syria Strikes, But Are They Legal?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 07:16

Many legal scholars say the White House lacks a legal justification for the strikes inside Syria. But the administration disagrees, saying its actions are covered by post-Sept. 11 legislation.

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Airstrikes hit ISIS-controlled oil refineries

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 07:00

The U.S. and its allies are pursuing a new target in eastern Syria. A wave of airstrikes is being aimed at modular oil refineries controlled by ISIS. The revenue from those small refineries is believed to be helping ISIS finance its operations in the region.

Click the media player above to hear reporter Noel King in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio. 

Eric Holder To Step Down As Attorney General

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 06:40

The nation's first black U.S. attorney general had a tumultuous tenure marked by civil rights advances, national security threats, sentencing reforms and battles with congressional Republicans.

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The numbers for September 25, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 06:39

After nearly six years as attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr. will step down, according to several published reports. President Obama is expected to make the announcement Thursday. This is not a complete surprise. Holder had said earlier that he planned to step down before the end of the year. Word is he will stay at the Justice Department until a successor is chosen, even if it's not until 2015.

In the meantime, here's what we're reading — and the numbers we're watching.

$2 million

That's how much the Pentagon estimates ISIS makes every day from selling oil, now that the extremist group controls 60 percent of production in Syria. Last night, the U.S. and its allies hit about a dozen ISIS mobile refineries in an effort to choke that funding stream.


The number of television and movie companies expected to get Federal Aviation Administration permission on Thursday to use drones, the Washington Post reports. Commercial drone use has been effectively banned by the FAA for some time, but filmmakers will soon be able to use them for aerial shots in place of helicopters, saving money. 


 The average price on StubHub yesterday for a ticket to Derek Jeter's final game with the Yankees, which is now in danger of being rained out. According to Business Insider, that's bad news for sellers, who would have to return the money they made — as much as $12,000 for the best seats — if the game is called off and not rescheduled.

Richard Branson Thinks Employees Should Have Unlimited Vacation

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 06:12

The British billionaire and Virgin Group founder has long been a business revolutionary, but his latest venture is raising a few eyebrows.

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Grand Jury Won't Indict Officers In Ohio Wal-Mart Shooting

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 05:50

The Department of Justice says it will begin a review of police department procedures in Beavercreek, Ohio, where officers fatally shot a 22-year-old black man at a Wal-Mart store.

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Radical Muslim Cleric Reportedly Among 9 Arrested In Britain

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 04:10

Anjem Choudary, the former head of al-Muhajiroun, is said to be among those arrested on suspicion of encouraging terrorism or supporting a banned organization.

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Q&A: The Mis-Education Of African-American Girls

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 04:03

A new report digs through the research and finds a daunting list of challenges facing black girls in the classroom.

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Airstrikes Hit ISIS-Controlled Oil Refineries

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 03:16

The facilities, captured by Islamic State militants earlier this year, are said to produce $2 million worth of refined oil each day to help fund the extremist organization.

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PODCAST: The number of uninsured Latinos drops

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 03:00

Here's why we have to be careful with headlines: There's news that orders for expensive, long-lasting merchandise fell more than 18 percent in August, the most precipitous drop on record. But all is not as it seems. And in health care news, there's data showing the percentage of Latinos who don't have health insurance in America has fallen by more than a third since the health care reform law kicked in. More on that. And we think we live in the future — Apple's new Dick Tracy watch might be evidence of that — but there is an argument that, in at least one regard, the United States currently is like Europe in the 19th century. 

The Airbnb of classical music

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 03:00

It’s not uncommon to sell the idea of a new startup based on the model of another (think: "It’s the Uber of pet adoption,” or “It’s like Tinder for baristas").

Sam Bodkin’s business is no different, even if he’s a bit reluctant to be categorized: “We refer to ourselves as the Airbnb of classical music,” he says.

The comparison isn’t unfair, though. Groupmuse — started in 2012 and run by Bodkin, Ezra Weller and Kyle Nichols-Schmolze — matches Groupmuse users looking to host a concert with willing musicians needing a venue to perform. Once a match is set up, other “Groupmusers” are invited to attend, creating an event that’s part house concert, part party, part social platform.

Where the sharing economy and the arts intersect

It’s a melding of some of Bodkin’s experiences: his travels through Europe using online platform to find people willing to host him, and his love of classical music discovered through musicians he befriended in Boston as an undergraduate student.

Combining his interest in classical music and the sharing economy of couch surfing, he came up with Groupmuse.

While the endeavor is inherently artistic, Bodkin isn't aiming to become a not-for-profit organization.

“We are absolutely a startup, and we fancy ourselves as such. It’s a social startup, built around a web platform,” he says.

There’s certainly a social network aspect to the experience: Members interested in attending a Groupmuse connect through Facebook, sending a message to prospective hosts to introduce themselves before the event. Additionally, musicians who regularly perform have access to guest lists of people who come to their performances and are regular Groupmuse attendees.

Have a problem? Found a startup.

If classical music and startup culture seem like odd bedfellows, to Bodkin, it only makes sense. Fading interest in classical music was a problem he wanted to address, and he sees this kind of entrepreneurial thinking as a solution.

“This is how, basically, people of our generation resolve to deal with these challenges that they see," he says. "We found companies.”

Groupmuse is currently up and running in three cities (New York, Boston and San Francisco), but there are still some aspects to be worked out as the company grows — for example, musicians are currently paid by donation, whereas ideally Bodkin envisions payment will eventually be built in to the Groupmuse platform.

While in the process of raising venture capital funding, Bodkin says he's also looking to partner with companies interested in hosting Groupmuse for their employees as part of a new funding structure.

Ultimately, aside from promoting the music itself, Bodkin would like to see it turn into a tool for musicians to manage their careers, building a fan base that is personally invested in their success.

He even has a startup buzzword for it: “Micropatronage.”

Liberian Expatriates In Atlanta Join Together To Fight Ebola

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 02:03

A community of about 20,000 Liberians lives around Atlanta. "We all know family, friends, neighbors that are falling victim" to the epidemic back home, one man says. He's collecting supplies to help.

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Grading the political campaign manager

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 02:00

In sports, a team's record is very important. Coaches and managers are judged on how many games they have won and lost. Is the same thing true of campaign managers and consultants?

This week, the Atlanta Braves held a press conference. "We have announced this morning that we have terminated our general manager, Frank Wren," said John Schuerholz, the team's president.

That got David Berri's attention. He's a sports economist at Southern Utah University.

"They didn't have that bad of a season," he says. The team's record is about .500, and that will keep them out of the postseason. "Why are they firing their general manager? Because the Braves have very high expectations. They expect to compete for a World Series every year."

Politicians also have high expectations. They also want to win. So, it is surprising to Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College, "how little accountability there is, given the amount of money that's being spent on consultants." And even if they lose, they continue to get hired.

According to Nyhan, this is because politicians have a hard time evaluating managers and consultants.

"It's the same kind of problem you face as a patient when you go into the doctor's office," he explains. You have to gauge how good someone is at something you don't know much about.

Ethan Roeder, the New Organizing Institute's executive director, has looked at what campaign managers and consultants get paid. He says they don't tend to advertise their records "because there is a general understanding that races are much more individual than that." What they will advertise are individual races in which they beat the odds.

Roeder points to a primary election in which a then-unknown Tea Party candidate defeated Eric Cantor, now the former House Majority Leader. The campaign manager known for helping David Brat win that race will always be the campaign manager known for helping David Brat win that race.

"You know he was probably working for peanuts, and they gave him a gas stipend and a flip phone and that was basically his compensation for the job," Roeder says.

The way the system is set up, there is no incentive for the best consultants to work on the toughest, most competitive races. Greg Martin, a professor of political science at Emory University, discovered that, along with Zachary Peskowitz, who teaches at The Ohio State University.

"Congressional elections, in general, are extremely predictable," Martin says, noting an incumbent is likely to win 90 percent of the time.


Health care coverage reaches Latinos

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 02:00

The percentage of Latinos who lack health insurance has fallen by more than a third since the Affordable Care Act kicked in this year, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, a health care policy group.

Historically, Latinos have been one of the least-covered groups in the U.S. when it comes to health insurance. Michelle Doty, the lead author of the report, says the low coverage has a lot to do with employment trends.

"For a long time, Latinos have tended to work in jobs that don't provide health insurance — low wage and small firms," Doty says.

But now that coverage gap is quickly being filled, Doty says, at least in states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The uninsured rate for Latinos has dropped from 35 percent to 17 percent in less than a year.

That shift translates to fewer emergency room visits and more preventive care for patients at the AltaMed community clinics that Alfonso Vega runs in Southern California. The clinics serve many low-income Latinos, many with diabetes. Without insurance, Vega says, many patients would avoid health care until crisis hit, but that has been changing as more people have enrolled in Medicaid in the last few months.

"There's countless patients that we're seeing that are seeing a primary care doctor every 90 days like they're supposed to — getting all the tests that they're supposed to have done on a periodic basis," Vega says.

In the states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare — where more than 20 million Latinos live — their uninsurance rates remain basically unchanged.

Americans appear ready to go shopping again

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 02:00

Over the past seven years, Americans have pulled back on major purchases, such as houses and big appliances — they’ve paid down debt, shopped "deep-discount," tried to put money away for a rainy day.

Now, according to a survey in the latest issue of Consumer Reports, Americans are ready to spend it up again. Of the people Consumer Reports surveyed, 64 percent said they were planning a big-ticket purchase this year — a new or used vehicle, a new home, a home remodel or a major appliance.

The trend can be seen among the ranks of wannabe homebuyers in many urban markets that have rebounded in the past several years. Lee Ritter, 31, is a successful web designer who had been outbid recently for houses in Portland, Oregon. He’s very eager to buy.

“I see the market going steeper and steeper into territory that I can’t follow,” said Ritter. “And there’s lots of competition.”

That competition makes realtors happy, and makes homebuilders more willing to take the risk of breaking ground. It’s also good news for big-box stores and local chains that sell washer-dryers and big-screen TVs.

Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports, says survey data from the publication show that as the acute effects of the recession fade, Americans are more ready to spend.

“Nearly half of Americans either bought a new or used vehicle in the past year, or plan to buy in the year ahead,” said Marks. “And a third recently completed or are ready to undertake a major home remodeling.” Marks said the 2015 housing market forecast is the best in years.

Marks chalks up these increasingly robust spending expectations to the fact that Americans see more jobs being created; many also see their family balance sheets improving. Also, people put off purchases for so long, cars are breaking down now and houses are no longer big enough for growing families.

Most economists anticipate steady improvement, rather than a sharp upward spike in major retail purchases in the coming year, though. They say Americans are still loathe to take on debt, or pay more than they have to for anything.

For Police, A Debate Over Force, Cop Culture And Confrontation

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 01:05

When it comes to police using force, what is acceptable and when? And are police too aggressive? Cops say they're trying to survive, but reformers say aggressive cop culture is making things worse.

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Prominent Muslim Sheik Issues Fatwa Against ISIS Violence

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 01:05

Sheik Abdullah bin Bayyah is considered one of the most influential Muslims in the world. As a respected scholar, he has issued edicts to explain why groups such as the Islamic State have it wrong.

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Sayonara To 'Super-Size Me'? Food Companies Cut Calories, So Do We

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-24 23:24

Major food companies have cut trillions of calories, and studies show Americans are consuming fewer calories because of it. But some advocates think companies should do more to improve our diets.

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To Prevent Repeat Hospitalizations, Talk To Patients

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-24 23:23

Part of each hospital's income now hinges on keeping patients with chronic conditions healthier outside the hospital. One medical center has hired nurses and social workers to act as health coaches.

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Tsarnaev Trial Will Stay In Boston, Start In January

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-24 18:34

The marathon bombing defendant's lawyers had hoped to move the trial to Washington, D.C., arguing media coverage in Boston had biased the jury pool. They'd also hoped to delay the trial 10 months.

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