National / International News

House Cancels Vote On $659 Million Border Security Bill

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 11:21

Tea party conservatives objected to sending money to the White House to address the crisis. GOP leaders said another vote was possible yet today.

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Amos beats Rudisha to 800m gold

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:55
Nijel Amos produces a stunning run down the final straight to beat David Rudisha to 800m Commonwealth gold.

Firefighters to strike over eight days

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:43
Firefighters in England and Wales are to stage a new series of strikes over eight days from 9 August in a row over conditions.

Kentucky Buoys Noah's Ark Park With Millions In New Tax Breaks

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:43

The Christian theme park, featuring a 510-foot-long replica of the ark, is getting $18 million in new incentives from the state's tourism board.

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'Concern' over one in five prisons

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:37
The performance of more than a fifth of prisons in England and Wales is "of concern", a government body says.

What it's like to write 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:17

When Marvel hired writer Nicole Perlman, they offered her a list of superheroes she could delve into.

Perlman chose "Guardians of the Galaxy" because she loved the characters.

“Each one brought something very specific to the team.” Perlman says. Gamora, an alien assassin and adopted daughter to Marvel baddie Thanos, seemed like an exciting one to write.

“There’s a lot of [female characters] in comics but in terms of movies that are focused primarily on a female lead, I think it’s something that will become more common as we go. But it’s still considered a bit of a risk.”

The setting was also familiar: “I had a background in writing science and technology-related scripts. A lot of projects that were space-related."

She wanted the chance to write an action filmm but admits she wasn't well-versed in the Marvel universe before she started working for the company. That meant a lot of nights reading comic books. A research assistant helped her further explore Marvel lore.

“I could call him up and say, ‘Bring me anything you have that involves a character that’s a genius and that’s his super power.’ And he would bring me 16 different characters, going back to the 1950s."

Perlman’s background in science  came in handy, even if the scientific accuracy of "Guardians" had to bend a little.

“After all,” she says, “we do have a talking raccoon.”

Flight Delays In China Leave Travelers Feeling Squeezed

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:14

Air traffic snarls at some of eastern China's busiest airports have stranded thousands of travelers and highlighted the increasing competition for airspace between military and civilian flights.

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Dinosaurs 'shrank' to become birds

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:12
Huge meat-eating, land-living dinosaurs evolved into birds by constantly shrinking for over 50 million years, new research shows.

Memo reveals response to CIA 'abuse'

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 10:07
A still-secret Senate report on CIA enhanced interrogations "tells a story of which no American is proud", a leaked White House memo states.

Students and families are borrowing less for college

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:56

Families are taking fewer loans and using more of their own money to pay for college than at any point in the last five years. That’s according to a new study from Sallie Mae, the student-loan and financial-services company.

The study, which has been conducted annually for the last seven years, found that while families are still spending just as much on college as they were before, they paid 22 percent of costs through loans in 2014, compared to 27 percent both in 2013 and 2012.

The remaining costs were covered by out-of-pocket spending (42 percent), scholarships and grants (31 percent), and friends and relatives (4 percent).

The study also found:

  • The average family spent $11,012 on two-year, public schools in 2014. For four-year public schools, the figure was $21,072. Spending on four-year private schools was $34,855.
  • Low-income students are borrowing less than the general population.
  • More students are turning to two-year schools to cut costs. Enrollment is at 34 percent this year, compared to 30 percent last year.
  • Common cost-cutting strategies included attending in-state schools (69 percent), spending less on entertainment (66 percent), living closer to home (61 percent), and living at home (54 percent).
  • Only 38 percent of respondents said they had a plan to pay for all college costs before enrolling in college.
  • One-third of families said they were surprised by some expenses, especially textbooks.

Graphic courtesy of Sallie Mae

Man jailed after door banging death

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:42
A hammer-wielding drug addict is jailed after a woman suffered a heart attack and died when she was terrorised in her own home.

Greeks cleared of shooting migrants

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:34
The owner and head foreman of a farm in southern Greece are cleared over the shooting and wounding of a group of Bangladeshi migrant workers.

VIDEO: Tory MP: World won't tolerate deaths

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:23
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza "is wrong" and has "no justification in terms of results", a Tory MP has said.

Met Opera in late union talks

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:20
The Metropolitan Opera in New York says it hopes last minute negotiations with unions over a pay dispute will avoid a staff lockout.

Senegal corruption trial 'political'

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:20
The flamboyant son of Senegal's ex-President Abdoulaye Wade calls himself a "political prisoner" during a first appearance at his corruption trial.

Filipinos urged to leave Libya

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:11
A top diplomat from the Philippines is to oversee the evacuation of 13,000 citizens from Libya after a Filipino worker was beheaded and a nurse raped.

Bank of America will pay a $1.3 billion penalty

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 09:00

Federal judge Jed Rakoff has imposed a civil penalty of $1.3 billion on Bank of America. 

This is the first time a jury has found a bank — or an individual banker — guilty of mortgage fraud in the financial crisis. A former mid-level Countrywide executive, Rebecca Mairone, was found liable and fined $1 million. Bank of America did not say whether it will assist her in paying the penalty.

The ruling comes after a jury in October 2013 found the bank liable for risky mortgages that were deliberately misrepresented as safe and sound, and sold to government mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgages were marketed by Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America purchased for $2.5 billion in 2008.

The fraud took place in 2007-2008 (before Bank of America's acquisition of the troubled bank), during the run-up to the financial crisi - just as the housing market was crashing. The marketing plan for the risky mortgages had a name in Countrywide’s corner offices, says analyst Chris Whalen at Kroll Bond Rating Agency: It was called “the hustle.” That came from the acronym for “High Speed Swim Lane,” or HSSL.

“The hustle program was about selling as many loans as possible as fast as possible, regardless of the defects of those loans,” said Whalen.

In his ruling, Judge Rakoff said the program was “driven by a hunger for profits and oblivious to the harms thereby visited, not just on the immediate victims but also on the financial system as a whole.”

Bank of America has fought this case, asserting that it should not be held fully accountable, nor pay such a severe penalty, because it didn’t own Countrywide when the fraud and other shoddy mortgage practices occurred. Bank of America and several of the country's largest banks were at the time being pressured by federal banking regulators to acquire institutions like Countrywide that were teetering on collapse, to prevent them from causing a cascade of panic and failure throughout the financial system.  

“I find it troubling that B of A is effectively being penalized for having done a public good, which was to acquire Countrywide so that it would not have otherwise failed,” said banking analyst Bert Ely. “We want to get rid of too-big-to-fail, but if you have large financial firms that are in trouble for whatever reason, who wants to buy them?”

Cleaning up Countrywide has cost BofA approximately $55 billion in legal settlements so far, more than 20 times what it paid for the bank. 

'Africa Is Champion': Reporting From A Changing Continent

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 08:53

Tell Me More has been dedicated to covering stories from Africa. Host Michel Martin speaks to NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton about reporting on the changing continent.

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Gatwick staff to help with baggage

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 08:39
Gatwick Airport will bring in up to 45 of its own staff to help with luggage handling to ensure there is no repeat of last weekend's delays.

Giraffe dies after 'hitting bridge'

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-31 08:31
South Africa's animal rights body is probing the death of a giraffe that reportedly hit its head on a bridge as it was being transported on a motorway.
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