National News

Dish Network's Sling: A shot aimed at cable

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 11:03

Dish Network rolls out its streaming service, Sling , tomorrow. Twelve channels, 20 bucks a month plus live sports and news. It's upped the ante for everyone looking to lure the cord cutters to their streaming service.  

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You're grounded: How airlines make those tough calls

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 11:02

With a big snowstorm forecast to hit the Northeastern Seaboard, airlines began canceling flights scheduled for early this week before snowflakes began to fall.

But deciding how and when to cancel such flights can be tricky. 

If airlines cancel too early, they may find themselves stuck on the ground while competitors continue to fly, says Darryl Jenkins, chairman of the American Aviation Institute. But if companies wait too long, they may have to divert planes, stranding passengers, crew and equipment in random cities, says Bob Mann, president of airline consulting firm R.W. Mann & Company.

Diversions can be costly for airlines because it can take longer for an airline to return to its regular schedule than it would if flights were canceled and passengers were re-booked on later flights.

 

Greek's new government promises winds of change

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 10:59

Alexis Tsipras, head of the far-left Syriza party, was sworn in as Greece's prime minister after winning a stunning victory in the general election over the weekend.

The new leader says he expects his victory to have resonance well beyond the borders of Greece. “Our future in Europe is not the future of austerity. It is the future of democracy, solidarity and cooperation,” Tsipras told the media on election night. To reach the widest possible audience abroad, he spoke in English.

Syriza is known for its plans to defy Brussels and Berlin, and roll back some of the budget cuts and economic reforms imposed on Greece in return for the country’s $280 billion bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Syriza believes that when Greece throws off the yoke of German-inspired austerity, other heavily-indebted southern European countries will follow. “Change in Greece is going to be the beginning of a change all over Europe, starting, of course, from the South where the problems are bigger,” says John Milios, Syriza’s chief economist.

Syriza claims Spain, Portugal and Italy will also jump on the anti-austerity bandwagon. George Katrouglas, a member of the European parliament for the party, says: Don’t blame Greece if the EU falls apart. “It could break up, but not because of us, but because of the German insistence on policies that have clearly failed,” Katrouglas says. 

Not everyone sees Syriza as a dynamic new force that's leading the charge against Germany’s crippling rigidity, nor as a new broom that will sweep away corruption and pork-barrel politics at home. 

“They appear to be something new … but they’re not,” says John Loulis, a leading Greek political analyst who is not impressed with Syriza or Greek politicians in general. “The people who get involved in politics are the pits,” says Loulis. “If they were not involved in politics, they would be unemployed.”

Many Syriza activists come from the Greek public sector, he notes, which is not a guarantee of efficiency or dynamism. As the new government prepares to do battle over austerity on the European stage, millions of Greeks can only hope that, this time, Loulis is wrong.

Tossing Out Food In The Trash? In Seattle, You'll Be Fined For That

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 10:54

Seattle is the first city in the nation to fine people for not properly sorting their garbage. The law took effect on Jan. 1 as a bid to keep food out of landfills and encourage composting instead.

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Big changes for Medicare

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 10:35

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced a plan to move Medicare away from the current fee-for-service system and toward a quality-based payment system.

"By the end of 2016, 85 percent of its budgets is going to be tied to outcomes," says Dan Gorenstein, Marketplace’s Health Desk correspondent.

Monday’s announcement by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell could have a much bigger impact on consumer healthcare spending.

"What Medicare does really sets the table for the entire industry," Gorenstein says. "So, oftentimes whatever the federal government does the private insurers, private industry usually follows."

Abortion Vote Shows How Much Democrats' World Has Changed

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 09:46

Of those 64 Democrats who cast a key anti-abortion vote in November 2009, only 12 remain in the House today.

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U.S. Drone Strikes Target Suspected Al-Qaida Militants In Yemen

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 09:39

The strikes come just days after Yemen's the U.S.-backed government resigned in the face of an uprising by Shiite Houthi rebels, effectively leaving the country with no government.

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Long-lost WWII photographs are found

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 08:50

In late 2014, Levi Bettwieser bought 31 undeveloped rolls of film at an auction in Ohio. They turned out to be photos from World War II.

"I knew that I potentially had something special just from the look of the rolls themselves and what was written on them," says Bettwieser. "But you never know what you’re going to get because obviously you have no idea what the condition of the images might be that are still on the film."

About two years ago, Bettwieser, a video producer and film photographer in Boise, Idaho, founded The Rescued Film Project to salvage undeveloped rolls of film from around the world.

The rolls had hand-written notes that hint at what they might contain, but most are labeled with various location names, like LaHavre Harbor, Lucky Strike Camp or Boston Harbor. "One was labeled 'Roll of French Funeral,' and so we were able to actually recover some funeral pictures of a French officer," Bettwieser says.

From the beginning, Bettwieser has funded the project with his own money.

"This is not my full-time job, I also have a full-time job sustaining myself," says Bettwieser. "I have spent thousands of dollars of my personal funds to fund the project just because I believe in it, and it’s a passion project. The cost does not make any difference to me – you can’t put a price on the value of saving these images."

India's Modi Makes A Name For Himself — Literally — In Meeting With Obama

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 08:03

The Indian prime minister wore a suit with pinstripes that read "Narendra Damordas Modi." The reaction on social media was scathing, but Modi is often lauded for his fashion choices.

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Pediatricians Say Don't Lock Up Teenagers For Using Marijuana

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 07:46

Making pot legal for adults makes it more likely that teens will use too, according to the nation's pediatricians. And that's a problem, because marijuana harms developing brains.

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Quiz: Booming bachelors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 07:43

Nearly a third of Americans older than 24 have at least a bachelor’s degree, up from 28 percent a decade ago, according to the Census Bureau.

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Greece's Left-Wing Prime Minister Takes Charge

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 07:01

Alexis Tsipras, who led Syriza to an improbable win in parliamentary election, was sworn in today amid fears about what his win means for the country's bailout agreements with the European Union.

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'Device,' Possibly A Small Drone, Discovered On White House Grounds

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 04:18

The White House says the device posed no threat. The president and the first lady are in India.

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Competency-Based Degree Programs On The Rise

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 04:03

A new report says 52 colleges offer, or plan to offer, some credits based on learning, not just seat time.

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Obama Attends India's Republic Day Celebrations

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 03:49

The president became the first U.S. head of state to attend a parade to mark the day India adopted its constitution.

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From New Jersey To Maine, Northeast Braces For Massive Blizzard

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-26 03:03

The potentially historic Nor'easter could bring more than 2 feet of snow to the region today and Tuesday. Travel is expected to be affected, with thousands of flights already canceled.

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PODCAST: The 1 percent is uneven

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 03:00

Starting today, some first-time homeowners will find it easier to afford a monthly mortgage payment. The FHA is lowering what it charges to insure mortgages. More on that. Plus, at the World Economic forum now concluded in Davos, there was a lot of focus on income inequality and what it does to society. Now there's a report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute that not all 1-percenters are created equal. With interest rates at some point headed up in the US, investments in so-called emerging markets have seemed less attractive to many investors. And among the varied effects of this shift, an increase in remittances, when family and friends in the U.S. send money back to their home country.  

A responsible approach to Artificial Intelligence

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

Artificial Intelligence, or AI as it’s usually known, is gaining ground fast. Microsoft’s Cortana is all over Windows 10, and German researchers claim they have introduced emotions to Mario, a famous video game character. All of this is making some people wary.

People like Ryan Calo, Assistant Professor of Law at University of Washington & Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. 

Calo recently signed an open letter that detailed his and others’ concerns over AI’s rapid progress. The letter was published by the Future of Life Institute, a research organization studying the potential risks posed by AI. The letter has since been endorsed by scientists, CEOs, researchers, students and professors connected to the tech world.

What they want is research that works towards creating socially responsible AI. That is, algorithms that don’t inadvertently “disrupt our values,” or “discriminate against people who are disadvantaged or people of color,” says Calo.

Isn’t it our responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen? Sure, says Calo, but he doesn’t think it’s that simple or even straightforward. He thinks it’s more a question of how AI evolves and how much agency it develops. Would it develop to such an extent that an AI system could break out of it’s given role and attempt to do more?  

He says we need more research to understand how AI could be harmful, even if it isn’t at this moment. If we use AI to drive cars in the future, he adds, “it’s conceivable that they’ll act in harmful ways.”

“That’s a more plausible scenario than a robot twisting its moustache trying to plan to kill humanity,” he says. “What's exciting about AI is precisely what’s dangerous about it.” 

The FHA lowers charges to new borrowers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

First-time homebuyers will find it a little easier to afford a monthly mortgage payment starting Monday. The Federal Housing Administration is lowering the rate it charges to insure mortgages by half a percent, which will add up to an average savings of about $75 a month, according to the FHA.

FHA loans are popular with first-time homebuyers, because they require a smaller down payment—as low as 3.5 percent. The federal government hopes lower monthly payments will spur as many as 250,000 new homebuyers into the market, in addition to reducing monthly costs for the expected 2 million borrowers who the government projects will take out FHA loans over the next three years.

But Jim Parrott, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center and a former housing advisor in the Obama Administration, says the change will likely help only some potential first-time homebuyers—For most, the obstacle is the tough standards for qualifying for a loan in the first place.

"There are probably more folks out there who are being locked out of the market because they can't get a loan than those who are simply unable to afford the loans that are being offered," Parrott says.

Still, Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac says the drop in monthly mortgage costs will help make some medium-sized cities more affordable: Denver, parts of Seattle and Boston, and Minneapolis, for example.

The top 1 percent is richer in some states than others

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

Income inequality has increased since the Great Recession, and President Barack Obama has prescribed an antidote in the form of so-called ‘middle-class economics’—tax reforms and education spending to help the bottom 99 percent of earners climb the economic ladder.

On Monday, the Economic Policy Institute issues a report, “The Increasingly Unequal States of America,” that offers a new look at income inequality in states and regions of the U.S.

According to the report, the average income among the top 1 percent of earners is $1.3 million a year. (Note: income includes pre-tax wages, salary, bonuses, employee compensation via asset transfer [e.g., 401k contributions or stock option grants], and investment income such as dividends, interest and capital gains; most recent income data in the report is for 2012.)

In Connecticut and New York, the average income among the top 1 percent is more than $2 million a year. And in those states, the income ratio between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent is approximately 50:1; significantly higher than other states, says economist and report co-author Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center in Pennsylvania.

“This is pretty thin air at the top of the income distribution," he says.

The highest incomes and widest income disparity result from the resurgent financial sector, says Price, as pay for bank and hedge fund managers soars again.

In oil patch states such as North Dakota, the top 1 percent are also doing better than before the recession. But in that state, the income gap is not nearly as great as in Northeast states dominated by the financial sector. In North Dakota, average income for the bottom 99 percent has risen 21 percent in recent years, Price says. In New York and Connecticut, pay for the bottom 99 percent has declined.

A map displaying the income threshold for being in the top 1% in each state.

Economic Policy Institute

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