National News

Tracy Morgan, Wal-Mart Settle Lawsuit Over Truck-Limousine Crash

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 15:56

The actor sued the retail giant for negligence last year after he was seriously injured in a crash in which his limousine was struck by a Wal-Mart truck traveling 20 mph over the speed limit.

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Danish Broadcaster Says Killing Of Rabbit On Air Highlighted Hypocrisy

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 15:44

The rabbit was clubbed to death during a debate on animal cruelty. Radio24syv says it wanted a debate about the hypocrisy toward perceptions of cruelty toward animals. Critics aren't buying it.

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Map: Where (And How) The Government Can Execute People

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 14:08

Nebraska just repealed its death penalty. Here's a look at where the law stands in your state.

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On The Road To Recovery, Detroit Property Taxes Aren't Helping

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 14:02

Even with cheap rent, the cost of doing business is high. With the nation's highest commercial property taxes, one business mogul says this stunts entrepreneurship in a city that needs more jobs.

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Nebraska Repeals Death Penalty, But U.S. Isn't Quite Ready To Abandon It

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:52

Cost and lethal-injection complications have led some states to reconsider the death penalty. U.S. support for the practice has declined over the last two decades, but three-in-five still support it.

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Bugs: Not What's For Dinner — Until They're Tastier, Maybe

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:34

A U.K. researcher says the environmental argument for eating bugs isn't working on its own. She says chefs and policymakers must "make insect dishes appeal as food, not just a way to save the planet."

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For Next President, The Fight Against Extremism Will Hit Closer To Home

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:24

The so-called Islamic State is endlessly creative in trying to get young men and women to leave home to Syria and Iraq. It's something the next president will have to wrestle with from Day 1.

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Rick Santorum Announces Presidential Run

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:20

The former Republican senator from Pennsylvania appeals to his party's social conservatives. Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, but this time around he faces a crowded Republican field.

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Justice department moves on FIFA corruption

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Early this morning Zurich time, Swiss police arrested seven top officials from FIFA, the international organization governing soccer. What’s more, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice will indict some FIFA executives, including former Vice President Jack Warner.   

“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves,” Lynch said in a statement. The U.S. charges include racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

In all, 14 people have been indicted, but not the man at the top, longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

“He’s basically said to have been running sort of a corrupt organization for the better part of two decades,” says Edward Derse, a senior vice president at Universal Sports Network.

Blatter and other FIFA executives are known for their luxurious lifestyles, too.

“Blatter has a huge expense budget. He lives very well,” Derse says.

But even though it looks as if he might soon be elected to another term as FIFA president, Blatter will undoubtedly have a lot of questions to answer as part of the DOJ’s investigation.  

“I think it’s going to change things a lot for FIFA," Derse says. "I mean, clearly, you know, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that this is not going to stop here."  

U.S. Attorney General Lynch moves on FIFA corruption

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Early this morning Zurich time, Swiss police arrested seven top officials from FIFA, the international organization governing soccer. What’s more, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice will indict some FIFA executives, including former Vice President Jack Warner.   

“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves,” Lynch said in a statement. The U.S. charges include racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

In all, 14 people have been indicted, but not the man at the top, longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

“He’s basically said to have been running sort of a corrupt organization for the better part of two decades,” says Edward Derse, a senior vice president at Universal Sports Network.

Blatter and other FIFA executives are known for their luxurious lifestyles, too.

“Blatter has a huge expense budget. He lives very well,” Derse says.

But even though it looks as if he might soon be elected to another term as FIFA president, Blatter will undoubtedly have a lot of questions to answer as part of the DOJ’s investigation.  

“I think it’s going to change things a lot for FIFA," Derse says. "I mean, clearly, you know, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that this is not going to stop here."  

After purchase, Re/code gets Vox's secret weapon

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

In purchasing the tech news site Re/code, Vox Media is adding to its portfolio of news sites — and giving Re/code access to its "secret weapon."

Much has been made of Vox's content management system, Chorus. Most online news outfits have systems that are chaotic behind the scenes thanks to decades of updates and adjustments, says newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor.

"Endless meetings, endless investments and endless years go by in trying to transform legacy companies to being what are essentially digital-first companies" to limited success, Doctor says.

Vox basically skipped all of this. It was born digital, and it built its Chorus publishing system for the digital age. The system allows for an integrated publishing of photos, text, tweets, links and other elements all processed quickly and seamlessly. It is all aimed at creating in-depth stories quickly and getting them online.

"Chorus is a killer technology," Doctor says. "It is that understanding that technology is the core of the new business."

"It's a kind of leap ahead of where a great many organizations, especially legacy organizations, are," says Rick Edmunds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.

Vox has also adapted that same technology to make it easier to target ads. And that's an area where the news industry lags.

"The print advertising dollar has continued to decline," says Amy Mitchell, head of journalism research at the Pew Center. "Digital has grown a bit, but it's not been able to keep up with the decline that's being seen in print."

Doctor says that's where Vox's Chorus technology could teach news organizations how to sing a new tune.

Mixed feelings for landfill run deep in Alabama

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Back in 2008, an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash was released into the Emory River in Tennessee when a dam breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant. It was the biggest coal ash spill in the nation. Much of that coal ash was hauled to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Residents of the poor, mostly African-American county have filed a lawsuit saying they're suffering as a result of the coal ash. But the landfill is also a vital part of the local economy.

William Gipson lives across the street from the Arrowhead landfill, just off a two-way country road in Perry County, Alabama, about 30 minutes outside of Selma. Sometimes, he says, it smells like rotten eggs. Garbage is one thing, he says. "I'm fine with that. But why would they put a contaminated landfill here in this neighborhood, right here at my front door?

The contamination Gipson is referring to arrived six years ago: 4 million tons of coal ash, hauled in after the dam breach in Tennessee. Several residents have filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the landfill is lowering property values, causing illness and letting toxic chemicals flow into nearby creeks.

Gipson says runoff from the landfill heads into a ditch and ultimately trickles into a creek.

"It just comes under the road and runs right through there."

He says water at his house used to run clear from the tap. Now, he says, there's a white film around his pots and pans. He says he just can't tell what's in the water, and he's worried.

Perry County Commissioner Tim Sanderson says he doesn't buy any claims that he landfill is unsafe. "I've always been a firm believer in 'show me some proof',' " he says. "You can make allegations all day long."

Fact is, Perry County needs this landfill. People have been leaving in droves; the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Schools are closing. So are restaurants and shops.

"Jobs are not here," Sanderson says. "So people are going where the jobs are because of gas prices and other reasons."

Perry County's median household income is $28,000. For every ton of waste collected at Arrowhead, the county gets a dollar. Four million tons of coal ash meant $4 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and savings on the county's own dumping fees.

Sanderson says people who complain about a landfill in Perry County aren't being realistic.

"Everybody was saying, 'Oh we're killing the kids, we're causing all these problems,' " he says. " 'Let's carry it to Mississippi and kill all their kids and cause problems over there.' That's not the good Christian way."

Mike Smith, attorney for Green Group Holdings, which owns the landfill, says an elaborate liner system protects the groundwater, and he says the water is tested regularly.

"It's not nearly as bad a water as you would think it would [be], or as other people have led the residents to believe it is," he says.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead and boron, and environmentalists fear these chemicals can cause health problems.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected the landfill for drainage problems last month. The results: certain areas need to be "stabilized" with vegetation, and inspectors noted cloudy water leaving the landfill property where it shouldn't be.

Smith acknowledges some of the issues noted in the report, and he says they'll be addressed. He also points out that the $4 million the coal ash deal brought Perry County was a windfall, some of which went to the schools.

"But for that," Smith says, "they would've had a severe cutback in their services."

Arrowhead has also tried to win over residents by cleaning up parks and buying the high school a new PA system. But this month Arrowhead started aggressively marketing itself as the place to dump coal ash. New EPA regulations require utilities to comply with strict standards, and as a landfill, Arrowhead isn't subject to the new EPA rules.

"Now we're getting to the area now where our partial closure's been conducted," Smith says, "and that's the area where the coal ash has been....

Smith points out the area where the last load of ash is buried.

"It is safely stored away," he says.

If Arrowhead gets its wish, there will be lots more coal ash coming to Perry County.

Correction: A previous headline misidentified the state where the Arrowhead landfill is located. The text has been corrected. 

Mixed feelings for landfill run deep in Tennessee

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Back in 2008, an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash was released into the Emory River in Tennessee when a dam breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant. It was the biggest coal ash spill in the nation. Much of that coal ash was hauled to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Residents of the poor, mostly African-American county have filed a lawsuit saying they're suffering as a result of the coal ash. But the landfill is also a vital part of the local economy.

William Gipson lives across the street from the Arrowhead landfill, just off a two-way country road in Perry County, Alabama, about 30 minutes outside of Selma. Sometimes, he says, it smells like rotten eggs. Garbage is one thing, he says. "I'm fine with that. But why would they put a contaminated landfill here in this neighborhood, right here at my front door?

The contamination Gipson is referring to arrived six years ago: 4 million tons of coal ash, hauled in after the dam breach in Tennessee. Several residents have filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the landfill is lowering property values, causing illness and letting toxic chemicals flow into nearby creeks.

Gipson says runoff from the landfill heads into a ditch and ultimately trickles into a creek.

"It just comes under the road and runs right through there."

He says water at his house used to run clear from the tap. Now, he says, there's a white film around his pots and pans. He says he just can't tell what's in the water, and he's worried.

Perry County Commissioner Tim Sanderson says he doesn't buy any claims that he landfill is unsafe. "I've always been a firm believer in 'show me some proof',' " he says. "You can make allegations all day long."

Fact is, Perry County needs this landfill. People have been leaving in droves; the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Schools are closing. So are restaurants and shops.

"Jobs are not here," Sanderson says. "So people are going where the jobs are because of gas prices and other reasons."

Perry County's median household income is $28,000. For every ton of waste collected at Arrowhead, the county gets a dollar. Four million tons of coal ash meant $4 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and savings on the county's own dumping fees.

Sanderson says people who complain about a landfill in Perry County aren't being realistic.

"Everybody was saying, 'Oh we're killing the kids, we're causing all these problems,' " he says. " 'Let's carry it to Mississippi and kill all their kids and cause problems over there.' That's not the good Christian way."

Mike Smith, attorney for Green Group Holdings, which owns the landfill, says an elaborate liner system protects the groundwater, and he says the water is tested regularly.

"It's not nearly as bad a water as you would think it would [be], or as other people have led the residents to believe it is," he says.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead and boron, and environmentalists fear these chemicals can cause health problems.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected the landfill for drainage problems last month. The results: certain areas need to be "stabilized" with vegetation, and inspectors noted cloudy water leaving the landfill property where it shouldn't be.

Smith acknowledges some of the issues noted in the report, and he says they'll be addressed. He also points out that the $4 million the coal ash deal brought Perry County was a windfall, some of which went to the schools.

"But for that," Smith says, "they would've had a severe cutback in their services."

Arrowhead has also tried to win over residents by cleaning up parks and buying the high school a new PA system. But this month Arrowhead started aggressively marketing itself as the place to dump coal ash. New EPA regulations require utilities to comply with strict standards, and as a landfill, Arrowhead isn't subject to the new EPA rules.

"Now we're getting to the area now where our partial closure's been conducted," Smith says, "and that's the area where the coal ash has been....

Smith points out the area where the last load of ash is buried.

"It is safely stored away," he says.

If Arrowhead gets its wish, there will be lots more coal ash coming to Perry County.

 

Cleveland looks to firms to help fund police reform

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

The U.S. Department of Justice started investigating the Cleveland Police Department in 2013, concluding in a report last December that the department used unreasonable and sometimes unnecessary force.

Cleveland has reached an agreement with the DOJ that avoids a long, expensive court fight. But, “Everything has to be paid for," says Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.  

By everything, he means requirements in the agreement for things like training officers to deal better with minorities and people who are mentally ill and equipment, like computers in patrol cars.

“Officers in their cars should connect up with all the data that we collect on people that they’re arresting and the dangers that they’re facing every day,” Dettelbach says.

Mayor Frank Jackson says the cost will be in the millions, and he’ll be looking for what he calls "external help."

That help could come from people like Michael Stanek, owner of Cleveland Cycle Tours and chief financial officer of Hunt Imaging, which makes toner. 

“If there were some training programs they were looking to implement, I think it would be very appropriate for me as a small businessman to help out,” Stanek says.

How much help would he give?

“A thousand maybe,” Stanek says, but he the money would have to be earmarked for a specific program— he won't write a blank check.

Cleveland’s business community has dipped into its pockets before. It helped fund an education reform program a few years ago.

“The community realizes this is going to need to be a public-private partnership," says Joe Roman, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the city’s chamber of commerce. "And I think everybody is all in, trying to figure out what the right role is that they can play.”

And how much it’ll cost.

Taco Bell to go au naturale

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Common sense wins a rare victory over corporate America.

Taco Bell, as you may have heard, has decided to take artificial flavors and colors out of its offerings.

For the detail-oriented among you, the company's going to switch from using artificial black pepper to, and this is a quote, "natural black pepper flavor."

Which does raise this very hair-splitting question, I grant you: is there a problem with, you know, actual black pepper?

Football, brought to you by Goldman Sachs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:54

About 15 years ago, investment banker Greg Carey helped the New England Patriots secure the money for a stadium. He soon took his talents to Goldman Sachs.

Over a decade later, Goldman Sachs has become a leader in stadium finance, securing money for the 49ers’ Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, and the new Yankee Stadium in New York. Goldman Sachs doesn’t just provide the money however, it also helps make stadiums as profitable as possible.

“They’ve been the ones who have come up with all the new innovations in this business,” the Los Angeles Times’ Tim Logan tells Kai Ryssdal. Among the innovations: securing low interest loans, personal seat licenses (PSLs), and turning multi-billion-dollar stadiums into tax-free public entities.

The city of Carson recently announced that Goldman Sachs would bankroll a new stadium that could potentially be shared by the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. If it succeeds, it will be one of the most expensive stadiums ever built.

Logan says most of the money will come from PSLs, and they’re expecting to sell a ton of them: about $800 million worth. “If they can raise $800 million with PSLs and they can sell it through a public entity that owns a public stadium, that money is not taxed,” Logan explains. “[They’ll] see all that money [go] into the stadium deal.”

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:33

The scanners are standard equipment for police, but what's not settled is what happens to all the data collected. That data can link people to certain addresses and flag unusual activity.

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Women Fight Their Way Through Army's Grueling Ranger School

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:33

Two years after the Defense Department lifted the ban on women serving in combat units, the Army is allowing women to go through the training program for soldiers who aspire to be infantry leaders.

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A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements To Lure English Majors

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:33

Many of the students at Mount Sinai's medical school in New York majored in English or history, and never took the MCAT. The school sees that diversity among its students as a great strength.

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Iowa Group Divorces Itself From Controversial Marriage Pledge

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:25

An anti-same-sex-marriage pledge from a social-conservative group included a lot more than that in 2012. Looking to avoid the backlash it created in the last presidential election, the group nixed it.

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