National News

Europe faces produce glut after Russian ban

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:48

Fancy an apple? The Warsaw government hopes so. It’s asked the U.S. to buy apples now that Poland’s farmers have been shut out of their biggest export market: Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned most food imports from the EU, the U.S. and other western countries in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine. That’s left European farmers, in particular, with the headache of offloading their unwanted produce.

Last year European farmers sold $16 billion worth of food to Russia, which is 12 times what the U.S. supplied. Peter Kendall, a British farming industry spokesman, worries that the EU is losing one of its best customers for milk, butter and cheese.

'They’re taking away a market that takes 300,000 tons of dairy products from the European Union a year. This could have really very damaging impacts," Kendall says.

The answer could be that European farmers will  have to try to sell their surplus produce at a decent price abroad. However, the U.S., Australia and other countries that export to Russia have also been sanctioned and they’ll have their own surpluses to sell.

British pig farmer Jim Leavesley is bracing himself for an influx of pork from Canada and Brazil.

“If you have something like only 5 percent extra supply into the market,” says Leavesley, “this can have a devastating effect upon the whole of the price paid across the whole of the European herd.”

Consumers may be licking their lips at the prospect of lower prices, but they shouldn’t, warns meat industry spokesman Mick Sloyan: Farmers still have to make a living.

"They stop producing if prices go too low and then, subsequently, prices rocket," he says. "So, seeing prices going up or down all over the place really isn’t in the interest of consumers.”

The European Commission has just unveiled a potential solution: They have plans to prop up peach farmers affected by the Russian sanctions. The EU will buy 10 percent of their crop and withdraw it from sale.

So, with peach mountains and milk lakes looming, Europe could soon be adding to its agricultural reserves.

 

The murky world of military aid

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:48

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Tuesday the U.S. government is “working with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces, to get military equipment to the peshmerga."

Members of that Kurdish militia have been asking the U.S. for more aid, to help them fight Islamic militants. So far, the peshmerga have received some “light weapons,” but they say they need more of them, and bigger ones too.

When it comes to arming Kurdish fighters, the U.S. government has options.

“There are a number of ways,” says Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “It depends on how quickly and how quietly we want to arm them.”

One way is above board. Many countries effectively write checks for weapons payable to the U.S. The government shoulders the risk. According to Douglas Ollivant, a senior national security fellow with the New America Foundation, the Defense Department works with the State Department, and lawmakers get involved.

“It’s all there,” he says. “It’s all transparent. Then, of course, there are other agencies who do things differently.”

Ollivant is referring to one agency in particular: the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Normally speaking, the Defense Department deals with governments, and the CIA deals with non-state actors,” explains Stephen Biddle, a professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University.

The Pentagon regularly brokers weapons deals with other state governments, including the Iraqi central government, but Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region.  The Defense Department may not want to deal with a militia.

“As far as we can tell, yes, the CIA is now committed to provide weapons and ammunition directly to the peshmerga,” Biddle says. That has been widely reported, but a CIA spokesman declined Marketplace’s request for comment.

According to Biddle, if the CIA is involved, it does have the wherewithal to get weapons from U.S. allies, even international weapons dealers.

Harrison says we’re talking about weapons that are probably worth a few hundred million dollars altogether. In all likelihood, the CIA has money set aside to pay for stuff like this.  But, Harrison says, there is no way to know how much.

“We can’t see directly what the CIA receives in terms of its total budget,” Harrison notes. That is classified.

The Defense Department also has some budgetary flexibility. The Pentagon has $85 billion for what are called “overseas contingency operations.”

'Sup: The new Yo?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:48

A dispatch from the Marketplace Desk of What Could Possibly Go Wrong.

From the website Business Insider, this item: a new app called 'Sup, as in "what's up?"

Anyway, you send a 'sup to a friend. If they accept your 'sup it turns on the camera on their phone and you can see what they're doing for 10 seconds.

Again, what could possibly go wrong? I know I say that a lot, but this time I really mean it.

Chocolate fried chicken: A taste test

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:45

When Umami Burger founder and CEO Adam Fleischman announced he was stepping down to work on his next venture, fans of the Los Angeles-based burger chain wondered what exactly he had up his sleeve.

The answer was chocolate fried chicken – a surprise after a steady fare of burgers and pizza.  

ChocoChicken opened earlier this summer in downtown Los Angeles. Fleischman credits Keith Previte and Sean Robins with the idea – the pair of entertainment producers came up with the recipe and convinced Fleishman to invest.

Kai Ryssdal got a taste:

North Carolina weighs the future of filming tax breaks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:23

These days, you don’t have to be in Hollywood or New York City to make a blockbuster movie.  Southern states like Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina now have a big chunk of the action.

But in North Carolina, it’s not clear if the tax credit that has helped lure big movie productions to the state will continue.

North Carolina fought hard to get the makers of “Iron Man 3” to film in its borders.  It was a top grossing movie last year.

The mayor of Wilmington, North Carolina is Bill Saffo.  He recently invited Governor Pat McCrory to visit the film studios and staff in his city to see the economic impact first-hand. Saffo worries about the blow his city would take if the state’s package of film incentives ended.

“God help us, I hope we can keep it and save it for all of us for many years to come,” said Saffo.

“Iron Man 3” was filmed in Wilmington.  So was the hit television series “Under the Dome”.  Saffo believes subsidies helped bring them, so he wants the state to continue its lucrative 25 percent tax credit, giving  filmmakers up to $20 million in tax refunds. Not everyone in North Carolina agrees.

A radio ad from “Americans for Prosperity North Carolina” is airing in Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington.   It says, “Tell Raleigh to put North Carolina first, not Hollywood producers.  Stop the Hollywood handouts.” Americans for Prosperity is a group that lobbies against excessive government spending.

Debate over film industry subsidies is growing nationwide as well.

Kevin Clark is Executive Director of the Association for Film Commissioners International.  He says now is not the time for states to pull the incentives - film-making brings jobs.

“They’re well-paying jobs, they are usually above what the median income is in the area,” said Clark.

North Carolina, like several other states, has to decide what level of subsidy, if any, is appropriate.  Right now, lawmakers are deadlocked over a state budget for a fiscal year that has already started.

Iowa's Corn Farmers Learn To Adapt To Weather Extremes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:17

Studies warn that climate change will threaten corn production in coming decades. Meanwhile, farmers are experimenting with new planting methods in hopes of slowing soil erosion from torrential rains.

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Unlocking France's Secrets To Safer Raw Milk Cheese

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:58

A British cheesemonger wants to translate a French guide to raw milk microbiology into English. She says it has the potential to revolutionize our approach to cheese flavor and safety.

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The Trans-Siberian Railway's long journey

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:53

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's longest railway line, stretching between Moscow and Vladivostok. 

"It’s a railway along which wars have been fought. It’s a railway that united the world’s largest country, Russia," says Christian Wolmar, author of "To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Railway". "And it's a major artery of Russia and, therefore, incredibly important."

Before it was built in the 19th century, there was no simple way to get to the depths of Siberia. Today, it still acts as the main form of transportation between many Russian towns, including the rural Vladivostok and Irkutsk.

"There aren’t many flights and they’re very expensive for ordinary Russians," says Wolmar. "And the roads are just too long."

Wolmar tells us more of the story behind the 5,700 mile long railway in the audio player above. 

Ebola Shuts Down The Oldest Hospital In Liberia

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:50

Ebola has claimed another victim. Reeling from the loss of staff and unable to cope with the deadly virus, St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital has closed its gates.

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Colorado Case Puts Workplace Drug Policies To The Test

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:32

The urine test employers typically use to detect marijuana picks up cannabis smoked or swallowed days or weeks earlier. Should firms be allowed to fire workers who legally use marijuana at home?

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Glossary: Marbles Edition

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:28

Everything you need to know to talk like a mibster.

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Gaza's Casualties Of War Include Its Historic Mosques

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:27

More than 40 mosques in the Gaza Strip were destroyed or damaged in the recent fighting.

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U.S. Response In Iraq: From Emergency Solution To Slate Of Paths Forward

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:09

The U.S. has begun sending humanitarian aid and conducting limited airstrikes in the attempt to protect Iraq's refugee populations. Going forward, the U.S. is facing several possible approaches there.

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In Ferguson Shooting's Tumultuous Wake, Leaders Call For Peace And Protest

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

Tensions are still high in a Missouri town where a black teenager was fatally shot by a police officer on Saturday. Religious leaders and activists are calling for calm and peaceful demonstrations after three nights of protests that alternately involved looting and police in riot gear.

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Russian Convoy Heads To Ukraine, Bearing Aid — But Some Suspect Foul Play

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

A Russian convoy of nearly 300 trucks has left for eastern Ukraine, carrying what Russia claims to be humanitarian aid. Ukrainian leaders suspect the convoy could be a cover for a military operation. Katherin Hille of the Financial Times joins Robert Siegel to discuss the situation.

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South Sudan's Leaders Jostle For Power As Prospect Of Famine Looms

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

South Sudan is facing the worst food security situation in the world, according to the United Nations and the Obama administration, which announced it would provide another $180 million to help feed the people of South Sudan. The U.S. has been warning that the country could face famine as rival political factions fail to make peace.

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Ebola Closes The Doors Of One Of Liberia's Oldest Hospitals

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

A Spanish priest who was infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia has died at a hospital in Madrid. The Liberian hospital that Father Miguel Pajares had been working at in Monrovia is now shut down, because so many staff members have been infected with Ebola.

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Ethics Panel Endorses The Use Of Experimental Drugs To Slow Ebola

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

A panel convened by the World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental drugs and vaccines to combat the Ebola outbreak, so long as certain conditions are met.

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Iraqi Helicopter Goes Down, But Rescue Effort Has More On The Way

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

Iraqi military helicopters have been bringing food and water to Yazidi refugees trapped in the mountains near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, also at times even evacuating people off the mountain.

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Matthew Fred Thinks You Shouldn't Judge A Liberian By His Tribe

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 11:52

He was persecuted because some of his own countrymen didn't like the tribe he belongs to. Now the quiet 27-year-old is an anti-tribalism activist.

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