National News

Retracing Ralph Waldo Emerson's Steps In A Now 'Unchanged Eden'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 12:28

A century and a half ago, the poet and philosopher headed to New York's Adirondack Mountains with some notable pals. Today, we follow his journey with a new crew, the help of a painting and a book.

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Vietnam War Study Raises Concerns About Veterans' Mental Health

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 12:28

A federally mandated study shows that almost 300,000 Vietnam veterans still struggle with daily health problems linked to the traumas they experienced more than 40 years ago during the war.

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Dark Pluto Bares Its Heart

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 12:18

NASA's probe to Pluto has revealed stunning new pictures of the distant world. They show evidence of glaciers moving across the surface.

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Obama Greeted Warmly On First Presidential Trip To Kenya

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 11:11

The visit has a personal resonance for the president, whose father was born there. He is expected to discuss trade and security issues.

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Building tiny homes for the homeless

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-24 10:52

When Elvis Summers moved to South L.A. last August, he met Smokie, a 60-year-old homeless woman whose real name is Irene McGhee. She was living on the street and would come by to ask for recyclables. 

When Summers learned about Smokie's living situation — essentially in the dirt, with a broken chair — Summers wanted to help. After $500 and a trip (or two) to Home Depot, a tiny home for Smokie was born:

The house was built on wheels and parked on the street — technically a vehicle under city law. As long as the home/vehicle is moved every 72 hours, it's allowed to stay.

After building Smokie's house, he continued to build tiny homes for other homeless individuals he met in the area:

You can learn more about Summers' project in the audio player above or at his website: My Tiny House Project LA

No More Hidden Sugar: FDA Proposes New Label Rule

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 10:32

The FDA wants to revamp the Nutrition Facts panels on foods. The labels would have to list how much added sugar the foods contain — and how much it counts against your recommended daily allowance.

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Hulk Hogan's WWE Contract Terminated After Alleged Racist Language In Sex Tape

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 10:14

WWE said it's "committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers, and fans worldwide."

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Why A Vaccine That Works Only A Third Of The Time Is Still A Good Deal

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 10:12

The first vaccine against a parasite — one that causes malaria — was recommended for approval. It's not as effective as researchers had hoped. But they still think it could make a big difference.

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Let's Roomba!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-24 09:45

Robots are coming! Do they save you money? Or time? Are they intelligent? Where are they filling in the gaps, and when are they not good enough?

What would you never trust a robot to do?

We want to hear your stories. Send us an email or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

How do robots collide with your life?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-24 09:45

Robots are coming! Do they save you money? Or time? Are they intelligent? Where are they filling in the gaps, and when are they not good enough?

What would you never trust a robot to do?

We want to hear your stories. Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Kenya's Twitterati Send Thousands Of Messages To Obama

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 09:33

And to CNN, too (which called Kenya "a hotbed of terror"). And to each other. It's one of Africa's tweetiest countries.

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#NPRreads: Electric Dylan, Fracking And The Iran Deal Deconstructed

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 09:30

Also this week, the world's most famous DJ you've probably never heard.

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The economics of a Los Angeles homeless shelter

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-24 09:23

In the basic pyramid of human needs, shelter is right at the bottom. It is a building block of who we are and how we protect ourselves, our families and our societies.

In the past two years, homelessness in and around Los Angeles has gone up by 12 percent, driven largely by unemployment, high rents and low wages. The city council recently passed controversial ordinances to crack down on street encampments. 

Marketplace Weekend visited the Downtown Women's shelter this week in L.A.'s Skid Row, where a lot of homeless people gather. The center offers help with housing and daytime drop-in programs. Lizzie O'Leary spoke with Amy Turk, the chief programs officer there, to find out what it's like to run a shelter.

Delaware Gets A Rare Out-Of-State Visitor: A 7-Foot Manatee

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 09:04

The marine mammal was spotted in the narrow canal that connects the Chesapeake and Delaware bays just a few days after one was seen in an estuary of the Potomac River.

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Russian native finds asylum in Los Angeles

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-24 08:25

Daniyar Aynitdinov came to the U.S. from Russia on a work and travel program six years ago. At the time, he was studying to be a petroleum engineer at Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas. Aynitdinov is gay, and in the past few years Russia has instituted laws curtailing rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He was granted asylum this year.

He's settled now in a rented room in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. He spoke to Marketplace Weekend from his room, where he reads from a diary he kept before he came to the U.S. He writes that he had high hopes of becoming an actor in Los Angeles. Now, years later, he's performing in Hollywood.

Click the media player above to hear Daniyar's full story.

The Gene For Sweet: Why We Don't All Taste Sugar The Same Way

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 08:10

We know that a gene can determine how strongly we experience bitter flavors. Scientists wanted to know if this was also true for sweet. Their study shows genetics may affect our taste for sugar, too.

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It's Pie And Beer (And Pioneer) Day In Utah!

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 08:04

Friday honors the arrival of Mormon settlers at Salt Lake Valley in 1847 while non-Mormons celebrate Pie and Beer Day. And 37 other states also celebrate these unique holidays.

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Two Teachers Hailed As Heroes In Louisiana Shooting

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 07:48

Teachers Jena Meaux and Ali Martin survived the attack, but both reportedly suffered gunshot wounds.

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Carnations, Coffee And Denim: A Look At Kenya's Top Ten Exports

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-24 07:41

Those jeans you bought at Walmart? They might have been made in Kenya. Here's a look at the country's leading exports.

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Housing is up and down, but mostly up

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-24 07:00

With summer, the housing market has been warming up. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales were up 3.2 percent in June, on top of strong sales in April and May, to a level not seen since early 2007. June’s new home sales figures were disappointing, with sales down 6.8 percent month-to-month.

Overall, though, it’s been a good first half of 2015 for housing, according to research firm RealtyTrac’s mid-year market report. In fact, the housing market has hit multiple benchmarks not seen since the housing crisis in the late 2000s, including: most homes and condos sold; most price appreciation; and fewest foreclosures and distressed properties sold.

RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist says investors (often paying cash for distressed properties) are exiting the market, making more room for regular folks trying to buy a home to live in.

“More buyers using low down-payment loans are coming back, and that includes the traditional first-time buyers who've never bought a home, and it also includes the boomerang buyers,” Blomquist says. “They're people who lost their home during the last housing crisis. They're coming back to the market, and typically they're going to use a low down-payment loan as well, because they're not moving up, they don't have equity to bring to the table.”

Blomquist says these buyers are taking advantage of favorable loan products now available from the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But he says the rise in buyers without a lot of cash or equity to plow into a home purchase shouldn’t pose a danger to the economy, since mortgage underwriting standards, as well as employment and income verification have been tightened substantially since the housing crash.

Blomquist says home builders may see promise in the improving sale and price trends, and in coming months he predicts they’ll be breaking ground on more single-family homes and condos. Thus far in the recovery, the hottest market for builders has been multi-unit rental properties.

But Blomquist says the market recovery, though broad-based, is still tentative. “I think this market is still very interest-rate sensitive and fragile,” Blomquist says, “and if we see interest rates go up, the kind of boom we were seeing in the first half of the year could quickly disintegrate,” as homes become less affordable with higher interest payments. 

Mortgage rates are low right now, averaging just over 4 percent for a fixed-rate, 30-year home loan. But borrowing costs could start rising as the Federal Reserve tightens interest-rate policy.