National / International News

VIDEO: Treasury Committee

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:52
MPs hear evidence on the press briefing of Financial Conduct Authority information.

NHS backs multimillion pound drug

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:47
A drug costing millions of pounds per patient has been given the green light for use on the NHS by the medicines watchdog NICE.

First Lady headscarf row - do Saudis really care?

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:43
What Saudis really think about Michelle Obama's bare head

Kenya Christian broadcaster hacked

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:41
Suspected hackers briefly hijack a popular Christian radio station in Kenya, and play Islamic verses before it went off air.

US warns of more sanctions on Russia

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:41
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew threatens a possible extension of sanctions on Russia because of the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.

TV camera plans for Scottish courts

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:39
Some court cases could be shown live on television, under proposals put forward by Scotland's judges.

Schools rake in record donations ... unequally

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:30

Harvard University raised more money last year than any U.S. school ever: $1.16 billion dollars in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, according to an annual survey from the Council for Aid to Education. That brings the school’s endowment to $36.4 billion as of June; Stanford is runner up with $21.4 billion. 

Part of the explanation is that Harvard kicked off a capital campaign to raise $6.5 billion by 2018, but 2013/14 was a great year for American colleges and universities in the aggregate: they received almost $38 billion dollars, an 11 percent increase over the previous fiscal year and one of the biggest jumps in more than a decade.

 

Donations of property – largely art or land – have increased dramatically

Council to Aid for Education

The bumper year has to do in part with giant gifts of private art collections, but it also has to do with the stock market. Many gifts to schools come as securities or stocks, and the period saw tremendous gains for markets. Endowments in general grew by around 15 percent in the same period.

But just as with personal income in the United States, there is palpable inequality in this accumulation of wealth. Less than 2 percent of colleges raised 30 percent of the money. Even the percentage of alumni who donate is shrinking, while the amount they gave rose. 

Nearly 44 percent of donations are earmarked for student financial aid.

More money than ever is flowing into the top funded institutions. But how much money are we talking about?

1. Harvard University ($1.16 billion)
2. Stanford University ($928.46 million)
3. University of Southern California ($731.93 million)
4. Northwestern University ($616.35 million)
5. Johns Hopkins University ($614.61 million)
6. Cornell University ($546.09 million)
7. University of Texas at Austin ($529.39 million)
8. University of Pennsylvania ($483.57 million)
9. University of Washington ($478.07 million)
10. Columbia University ($469.97 million)

Attacks on Israeli-Lebanon border

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:27
An attack on an Israeli military vehicle wounds four solders near the Lebanon border and the Israeli army responds with shellfire.

National Gallery staff go on strike

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:25
Staff at the National Gallery in London are to stage a five-day strike in a row over plans to hand visitor services to a private company.

Mourinho fined £25,000 over comments

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:24
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is fined £25,000 by the Football Association over comments about a "campaign" to influence referees.

Couple charged with child cruelty

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:22
A couple are with child cruelty as part of a police investigation into the care system in north Wales.

Glitter sobs over child porn images

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:21
Gary Glitter breaks down in tears as he tries to explain to jurors why he had been in possession of child pornography images.

VIDEO: Home alone children rescued from fire

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:19
Fire fighters in Fresno, California save three children from a burning apartment.

Missing woman's partner in court

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:18
The partner of a mother-of-four who has been missing for six days appears in court charged with her murder.

Litvinenko: Russians 'still wanted'

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:16
British police are still investigating the death of Alexander Litvinenko and want to speak to two Russians suspected of his murder, an inquiry hears.

As numbers of homeless kids rise, resources fall short

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:10

On Katie Jeffery’s seventeenth birthday, her mom kicked her out of the house—She then spent four months living on the streets of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Jeffery stayed in hotels, friends’ places, cars, even a shed for a couple of weeks. All the while, she worked to finish up her final year of high school.

“Worst part is, nobody really noticed that I was homeless,” Jeffery says. “Because I showed up every day to school and did what I had to do.”

The number of students experiencing homelessness in the U.S. has increased 85 percent since before the recession, according to Department of Education data. But the resources available to help them have remained flat.

States with small populations—like Wyoming—have seen some of the biggest increases in homeless students, but have the fewest resources. In Cheyenne, there are shelters for adults living on the streets, but nothing for unaccompanied minors like Jeffery.   

“If I was a 35-year-old ex-con, there’s housing, there’s jobs. There’s no problem,” Jeffery says. “I’m a 17-year-old female who’s trying to finish high school and I was given a box of food and a blanket and told to stay out of trouble.”

Kids who, like Jeffery, are crashing temporarily with friends or in hotels, account for the majority of the country’s 1.3 million homeless students. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, only counts people sleeping on the streets or in shelters as homeless. 

“Eighty percent of the children who are identified by public schools are not considered homeless by HUD, and are not eligible for some of the critical services they need to get back on their feet,” says Barbara Duffield, policy and programs director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

That’s why lawmakers have introduced a bill that would amend HUD’s definition to include the rest of these kids. Opponents say the change could mean fewer HUD services for homeless adults. But Duffield says prioritizing students makes sense long-term.

“By not paying attention to the urgency of child development now, we’re actually creating a system where adult homelessness is being perpetuated,” says Duffield.

Sponsors of The Homeless Children and Youth Act hope to see their legislation taken up by Congress this year. 

 

 

The Koch brothers' $900 million war chest

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:00

Even in the big-money world of politics, $900 million dollars is a striking amount. Some Washington watchers say the fact that the money will come from just a handful of people ought to raise concerns that the U.S. is teetering on the brink of becoming an oligarchy.

Big donors are a relatively rare breed. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, in the 2012 election cycle, only about 0.4 percent of Americans donated more than $200 to a candidate, political party or political action committee. And, as the 2012 presidential campaign illustrated, the party that spends the most doesn't necessarily win.

Click the media player above to hear more.

How big banks turn prisons into profit centers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:00

Greg Cavaluzzi spent four years in federal prison, eating cold oatmeal and white bread for breakfast and bologna for lunch and dinner. So the first thing he wanted to do when he was released was to eat "something normal." When his parents picked him up from Fort Dix in New Jersey, he took them to Wendy's.

"We didn't really talk," he says. "We ate. We were just so happy to be next to each other."

He ordered two bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, and paid for the meal with a JP Morgan Chase debit card featuring a photo of him in his prison-issued khakis, a backdrop measuring his height in the background. The cards are standard in the federal prison system for giving discharged inmates money sent by friends and family or earned at in-prison jobs.

Cavaluzzi's meal cost about $10. Or as Cavaluzzi puts it: "Everything. It was everything. I was used to making $10 a month."

He made that money as a librarian in prison, where wages start at 11 cents an hour. But those hard-earned dollars disappeared faster than he expected, and when he called Chase, he found out the reason was fees.

"It just seemed a little..." Cavaluzzi trails off. "It was sketchy."

The fees on prison-issued debit cards were agreed to in a 2011 contract with a branch of the Department of the Treasury, which provided the schedule of fees below.

It costs 45 cents to check your balance at an ATM, $1.50 if your account is inactive for 90 days, $2 to withdraw money at a non-Chase ATM, and $7.50 to replace the card a second time within a year.

The absolute numbers aren't radically high, but experts say even small penalties can be both more significant – and more insidious –for newly released prisoners, who tend to have less money and banking experience, and face many other barriers to reintegrating into society.

"It's bus fare to a job, it's a meal, it's a room for a night," says Karin Martin, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She researches debt and fees in the criminal justice system. 

"There's this split mentality – on the one hand, we are saying we would like to re-integrate people, and on the other hand, we are having lots of policies that undermine their ability to reintegrate," she says.

Still, contracting with private companies that charge inmates for their services is hardly exceptional.

"The Bureau of Prisons contracts out all kinds of goods and service type things," says Jack Donson, who was a case manager in the federal prison system for more than two decades. "The institution has food vendors, vending machine vendors, halfway houses."

In all of these cases, companies have a (literally) captive market, and prisoners frequently complain about being overcharged. Though there is no competition for the business of prison inmates, there is typically competition for the contracts – as there are for most such contracts with the federal government – for sound economic reasons.

"When it comes to products or service that are somewhat standard, easy to describe, where the deliverables are clear and reasonably measurable, then competitive bidding is by far the most efficient method of procurement," says Steve Tadelis, a UC Berkeley associate professor of business and public policy who has studied government contracts.

A good example of this kind of standardized good or service is a pencil.

"If you're a government agency and you want to procure pencils, well there are gazillion producers of pencils," says Tadelis. An open competitive bidding process asks all pencil producers to make an offer and allows that competition to drive down the pencil price.

But a Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the contract with JP Morgan Chase – as well as a contract between the Department of Treasury and the Bank of America for financial services inside of prisons –were not subject to an open, competitive bidding process.

"When I hear 'no bid contract,' forget prison environment, that does surprise me a little bit," Donson says.

From an economist's view, Tadelis says, it could make sense to skirt competitive bidding, but only if the goods or services are complicated, evolving or difficult to describe.

"From what I've read and heard about these issues with the bank accounts and debit cards, I think it's pretty clear this looks a lot more like a pencil than a fighter jet or a complex IT system," Tadelis says.

Treasury's Office of the Inspector General is now investigating the contracts with JP Morgan Chase and the Bank of America and is expected to issue a report later this year.

Gregg Cavaluzzi now works at the Fortune Society, helping to find jobs for other newly released prisoners.

"Until these banks find a way to make money on the rehabilitation of people, and not the incarceration," he warns, "this will continue."

The Koch brothers' $900 million warchest

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:00

Even in the big-money world of politics, $900 million dollars is a striking amount. Some Washington watchers say the fact that the money will come from just a handful of people, ought to raise concerns that the U.S. is teetering on the brink of becoming an oligarchy.

Big donors are a relatively rare breed. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, in the 2012 election cycle, only about .4 percent of Americans donated more than $200 to a candidate, political party or PAC. And, as the 2012 Presidential campaign illustrated, the party that spends the most doesn't necessarily win.

Click the media player above to hear more.

How big banks turned prisons into profit centers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:00

Greg Cavaluzzi spent four years in federal prison, eating cold oatmeal and white bread for breakfast and bologna for lunch and dinner. So the first thing he wanted to do when he was released was to eat "something normal." When his parents picked him up from Fort Dix in New Jersey, he took them to Wendy's.

"We didn't really talk," he says. "We ate. We were just so happy to be next to each other."

He ordered two bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, and paid for the meal with a JP Morgan Chase debit card featuring a photo of him in his prison-issued khakis, a backdrop measuring his height in the background. The cards are standard in the federal prison system for giving discharged inmates money sent by friends and family or earned at in-prison jobs.

Cavaluzzi's meal cost around ten dollars. Or as Cavaluzzi puts it: "Everything. It was everything. I was used to making ten dollars a month."

Cavaluzzi made that money as a librarian in prison, where wages start at $.11 an hour. But those hard-earned dollars disappeared faster than he expected, and when he called Chase, he found out the reason was fees.

"It just seemed a little..." Cavaluzzi trails off. "It was sketchy."

The fees on prison-issued debit cards were agreed to in a contract with a branch of the Department of the Treasury in 2011, who provided the below schedule of fees.

Fees for JP Morgan Chase debit cards provided to newly released federal prison images

Department of Treasury

It's $.45 to check your balance at an ATM, $1.50 if your account is inactive for 90 days, $2.00 for withdrawing money at a non-Chase ATM, and $7.50 for replacing the card a second time within a single year.

The absolute numbers aren't radically high, but experts say even small penalties can be both more significant—and more insidious—for newly released prisoners, who tend to have less money, less banking experience and many other barriers to reintegrating into society.

"It's bus fare to a job, it's a meal, it's a room for a night," says Karin Martin, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who researches debt and fees in the criminal justice system. "There's this split mentality—on the one hand, we are saying we would like to reintegrate people, and on the other hand, we are having lots of policies that undermine their ability to reintegrate."

Still, contracting with private companies that charge inmates for their services is hardly exceptional.

"The Bureau of Prisons contracts out all kinds of goods and service type things," says Jack Donson, who spent 23 years as a case manager in the federal prison system. "The institution has food vendors, vending machine vendors, halfway houses."

In all these cases, companies have a (literally) captive market, and prisoners frequently complain about being overcharged. Though there is no competition for the business of prison inmates, there is typically competition for the contracts themselves—as there are for most such contracts with the federal government—for sound economic reasons.

"When it comes to products or service that are somewhat standard, easy to describe, where the deliverables are clear and reasonably measurable, then competitive bidding is by far the most efficient method of procurement," says Steve Tadelis, an associate professor of business and public policy at UC Berkeley who has studied government contracts.

A good example of this kind of standardized good or service is a pencil.

"If you're a government agency and you want to procure pencils, well there are gazillion producers of pencils," says Tadelis. An open competitive bidding process asks all the pencil producers to make an offer, and let's that competition drive down the pencil price.

But a Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the contract with JP Morgan Chase—as well as a contract between the Department of Treasury and the Bank of America for financial services inside of prisons—were not subject to an open, competitive bidding process.

"When I hear 'no bid contract,' forget prison environment, that does surprise me a little bit," says Donson.

Tadelis says, from an economist's point of view, it could make sense to skirt the competitive bidding process, but only if the goods or services are complicated, evolving or difficult to describe.

"From what I've read and heard about these issues with the bank accounts and debit cards, I think it's pretty clear this looks as lot more like a pencil than a fighter jet or a complex IT system," says Tadelis.

Treasury's Office of the Inspector General is now investigating the contracts with JP Morgan Chase and the Bank of America, and is expected to issue a report later this year.

Gregg Cavaluzzi now works at the Fortune Society, helping to find jobs for other newly-released prisoners.

"Until these banks find a way to make money on the rehabilitation of people, and not the incarceration," he warns, "this will continue."

A sign in the lobby at the Fortune Society, where Gregg Cavaluzzi now works as an account manager.

Stan Alcorn/Marketplace

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