National News

Kai Ryssdal vs. the American Girl Store

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:26

Walk into an American Girl store - any American Girl store - and you'll see different shades of pink. Everywhere. That, and dolls, which cost a minimum of $110. Accessories and services like ear-piercing cost more.

American Girl has been around since the 1980s. Their dolls started out as historical characters, who starred in accompanying books about significant periods in American history. Over the years, the line has expanded to include more contemporary characters.

Jean McKenzie, the woman who runs American Girl for its parent company, Mattel, says parents see the dolls as an investment. "I think they feel good about it because it’s quality and there’s just a lot of meaning behind it.”

She took Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal on a tour of her store, at The Grove in Los Angeles  He's ... well, you should just watch:

Video produced by Preditorial

Director: Rick Kent

Producer: Mimi Kent

Director of Photography: Anton Seim

Editor: Zachary Rockwood

Music: "Run Amok" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Human Rights Watch Researcher Reports ISIS Abuses In Iraq

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:26

Letta Tayler recently returned from Iraq, where she documented stories about the militant Islamist group ISIS and abuses by the Iraqi government. She tells Fresh Air what she learned.

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Zoo In Argentina Says 'Sad Bear' Too Old To Go To Canada

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 09:01

The plight of the nearly 30-year-old polar bear, who lost his enclosure mate two years ago, has attracted attention from well-wishers the world over who want him moved.

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A fund to invest more in rural infrastructure

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 08:57

Parts of rural America might be getting an infrastructure upgrade.

The Department of Agriculture is partnering with the private sector to launch a new investment fund stocked with $10 billion to go toward rural infrastructure development.

The idea is to bundle projects together so investors can more easily fund them, ranging from schools and hospitals to wastewater treatment facilities or even broadband.

For example, the state of Georgia exports nearly 30 percent of its agricultural products, according to Kent Wolfe, director of the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development at the University of Georgia.

“In order to get those products to the port and compete on a global basis, we need to make sure that we have an efficient transportation system, requiring additional funds in rails, roadways, and port facilities,” Wolfe says, describing the type of investment his area might benefit from.

Especially in more rural locations, communities simply can’t afford to do these large projects on their own.

“Rural areas often have farmland and lower cost rural housing and that’s about it to tax,” says Larry DeBoer, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. “In order to do a big project, the tax rates you’d need to do this sort of thing at normal interest rates would be quite high.”

CoBank, a national cooperative bank based in Colorado, is putting up the first $10 billion, though the Department of Agriculture is seeking additional funding from other private sources, like pension funds, endowments, and foundations.

The agency will then act as the matchmaker, finding projects for this fund to invest it. Some loans will be all private money, others a mix of private and public funding.

Syrian President Issues New Stamps, But Can't Deliver The Mail

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 08:55

The set of three stamps commemorates Bashar Assad's recent presidential election victory. But what seems like a mundane occurrence says a lot about power in the war-torn country.

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When Federal Privacy Laws Protect Hospitals Instead Of Patients

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 07:43

A 1996 law has been cited to scold a mom taking a picture of her son in a hospital and to keep information away from police investigating a possible rape at a nursing home.

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Ukraine's Prime Minister Quits After Allies Withdraw From Coalition

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 07:42

The Svoboda and Udar parties pulled out of the governing coalition, prompting Arseniy Yatsenyuk's decision. Parliament's speaker said it was up to the two parties to name a temporary prime minister.

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Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People's Gut Bacteria

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 07:32

Scientists have discovered what may be the most common virus in people worldwide. The tiny critter doesn't make us sick but may be involved in obesity and diabetes.

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European Court Rules Against Poland In CIA 'Black Sites' Case

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 07:08

The European Court of Human Rights said Poland broke the European human rights convention by allowing the CIA to imprison and torture two terrorism suspects in secret prisons on its soil.

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U.S. Database Glitch Delays Passport, Visa Processing

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 07:01

The problem in the U.S. State Department system could cause problems for millions of people worldwide who are awaiting travel documents.

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Shades Of The Middle Ages: The Plague Popped Up In China And Colorado

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 06:47

Is this 2014 or 1348? The plague — yes, the infamous Black Death — was reported in China and Colorado. It's the same disease as the Middle Ages pandemic. Only now we know how to treat it.

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Israeli Artillery Hits U.N.-Run School In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 06:44

More than a dozen people have been killed at the school used as a shelter in Beit Hanoun, according to Palestinian officials.

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Montana Sen. Walsh Says PTSD May Have Played A Role In His Plagiarism

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 05:28

Sen. John Walsh lifted at least a quarter of his United States Army War College master's thesis, according to a report in The New York Times. Walsh was appointed to the Senate in February.

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Iraq Elects Kurdish Politician To Ceremonial Post Of President

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 05:27

Fouad Massoum, who has a long history in Iraqi politics, took the oath of office vowing to protect the constitution and the unity of the country.

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Saving Lives In South Miami, One Pool At A Time

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 04:04

Swimming pool drowning rates among school-aged black children are more than five times higher than they are among white kids the same age.

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A Simple Way To Reduce Stroke Risk: Take Your Pulse

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 03:57

Most people can't tell when they're having the irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation that puts them at risk of stroke. Simply learning to take your own pulse could help, researchers say.

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Gaza Conflict Day 17: Here's What You Need To Know

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 03:24

For the first time since Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration is allowing flights to Israel. The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 700.

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PODCAST: Breaking the glass ceiling

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 03:00

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has voted to change the way money market funds work. More on that decision. Plus, more on a new study shows that women and minority leaders tend to be punished for focusing on diversity, while white men are rewarded for the same behavior. Also, with the influx of young migrants detained at the Southwest border this year, we take a look at the countries from which most are fleeing: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Debating corporate tax inversions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 03:00

Corporate tax inversions are the latest topic of debate on Capitol Hill. Allan Sloan, senior editor at large for Fortune magazine, appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday to talk about  international taxation and ways to reverse American companies reincorporating overseas.

Click the media player above to hear Allan Sloan in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to explain the maneuver, why it’s happening, and what government should do to regulate it. 


Some bond insurers oppose Detroit's bankruptcy plan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 03:00

Retirees and employees have voted to accept benefit cuts under Detroit’s bankruptcy blueprint, but not all creditors are on board. Two of the biggest holdouts are bond insurers.

Some are cooperating with Detroit’s plan, but not Syncora Guarantee Inc.

“They’re fighting tooth and nail against the city’s proposed settlement, because it’ll cost them money,” says Alan Schankel, a municipal research analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Syncora and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) insured almost $1.5 billion of Detroit’s pension debt. The city is offering ten cents on the dollar, or less. That may not be enough.

“Bond insurers got in a lot of trouble in the 2008 crisis. A lot of them were investing in some very exotic derivatives and other things,” says Eric Scorsone, a public finance economist at Michigan State University.

Syncora was insuring mortgage backed securities and other complicated financial products, says analyst Alan Schankel. As the housing crisis hit, Syncora lost capital and its AAA rating.

This all comes at a time when fewer muni bonds are even getting insured. Schankel says before the financial crisis, more than half of new bonds got insurance.

“This year to date that percentage is 4.85 percent,” he says, calling it a precipitous drop.

He believes marketshare will improve over time. The question is whether it will happen in time for Syncora. 

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