National News

Credit: What's in your wallet?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 13:00

The world of consumer credit has been pretty bleak in the years since the economic crisis. But things are definitely looking up. According to Fair Isaac Corporation, or FICO for short, the average FICO score is 695 — the highest it’s been since 2005.  Almost 20 percent of consumers are scoring 800 or above, a slight increase over six months earlier. And fewer consumers are coming in below 550.

Basic money management, or how not to be broke: Pay your bills on time, pay down that credit card debt and seriously, do you really need those $300 boots? Everyone’s heard it. Now people are actually doing these things.

“People have been saving money, putting money in the bank, and being more careful about their use of money,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Also, he says it’s a lot easier now to know what’s going on with your credit. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been pushing banks and creditors to give away credit scores for free. This week, American Express joined other big card companies in making FICOs available to cardholders.

“And that may be helping to educate more consumers,” Mierzwinski says.

But there could be something else boosting credit scores. Since the economy tanked, a lot of people have given up on credit.

“The economy was so poor for so long that people were reluctant to take on debt, to engage in credit use,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian.

A lot of credit card dropouts are millennials. 

"I don’t know if this is young adults seeing their parents go through some type of financial trauma, or if it’s just them being a little more risk averse,” says Carly Urban, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.

Griffin points out that millennials’ reluctance to use credit cards might work against them. It's hard to build good credit when you don’t use credit. 

 

Creator Of The 'Rent Is Too Damn High' Party Endorses Candidate Deez Nuts

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:56

New York politician Jimmy McMillan founded The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Now he's endorsing presidential candidate Deez Nuts, a 15-year-old boy from Iowa.

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Autopsy Reveals St. Louis Police Shot Mansur Ball-Bey In The Back

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:34

This latest incident comes less than two weeks after mourners marked the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, who was killed a white police officer in nearby Ferguson, Mo.

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Examining the Gulf Coast's master plan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:31

When you talk to some residents along the Louisiana coast about rebuilding after Katrina, they'll say it almost doesn't matter if you rebuild the area unless its protected from another storm — and like many things, that hinges on money.

The legislature came up with a $50 billion master plan for coastal restoration to take care of projects like rehabbing the wetlands, which act as a natural storm barrier. But the plan is about $20 billion short in funding.
Mark Schleifstein covers the coast and environment for nola.com, the Times-Picayune website. In 2002, he predicted what a storm like Katrina could do to the city in a piece called "The Big One." In it, he wrote: "A major hurricane could decimate the region, but flooding from even a moderate storm could kill thousands. It's just a matter of time."

He outlines the importance of coastal restoration in his recent story "New Orleans' future depends on coastal restoration, but where's the money?"

Those demands are the ones the state Legislature has recognized by supporting the state's Master Plan, a $50 billion, 50-year outline that split its proposed resources between coastal restoration and flood protection.

But even state officials acknowledge they picked the $50 billion price tag because that's the most they believed the state could raise in the first 50 years. Inflation alone has increased that price, some say, and combined with delays in the most significant projects — including major Mississippi and Atchafalaya river diversions — has likely raised the cost to at least $100 billion.

Just where is all this money going to come from? That's a key question for the future of New Orleans and most of the region.

 

Judge To Redraw Florida's Congressional Maps After Legislature Fails To Reach Deal

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:23

Because the Sunshine State's legislature can't decide on how to redraw lines, a Florida judge will do it for them.

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Felicia Day and the guild of geek

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:21

In her memoir "You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)," Felicia Day discusses her successful web series "The Guild" and how the internet has shaped her career.

Day was inspired by the “massively multiplayer online role-playing game,” World of Warcraft. She says the game is “a place where millions of people all over the world log on and play together or alone in a virtual world.” She adds the game was “very transformative for me personally, because it inspired me to start writing, and I created a show based on gamers called 'The Guild.'”

Getting her show off the ground wasn’t so easy. Hollywood executives weren’t excited about a show about gamers.

“So I couldn’t get it made and got discouraged, and a friend of mine had been making sketches for this new online service called YouTube,” Day says. YouTube was just in its infancy when she started her web series, so the concept of starting a show online was still pretty new. “I was like OK … maybe we could cut it up into pieces and make it ourselves in our garage. And that’s really where everything started.” The web series was a hit, and it gained a large fan base.

Despite the success of all her internet endeavors, she still enjoys just regular old acting.

“It is fantastic, because I get to do just one job. I mean I have signed on for the career of a million hats, and they’re stacked a mile high … that’s kind of what’s required of you in the digital world. You can’t be a specialist, I think; you have to be very broadly talented in a way,” Day explains.

When she finally ended "The Guild" and started her own company, Geek & Sundry, the burnout she felt was significant.

“I don’t think anyone talks about you can struggle as much with the pressures of success as you do the pressures of failure.” She acknowledges that that struggle of being successful can be a finer line to walk. Luckily, she has lots of people on the internet that keep her grounded.

“I always have a sniff test at the end of something. I try to think: ‘Is this really going to piss someone off?’ Is this arrogance? Is this hubris?' Because the internet is the first in line to knock you off a pedestal.”

At least, Day says, “that is a constant you can always rely on."

Mayor Landrieu Tells Displaced New Orleanians: 'Y'all Can Come Home'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:15

In the decade since Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of New Orleans residents fled the city and never returned. This week New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu went on the road to call his people home.

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U.S.: Islamic State Deputy Leader Killed In Airstrike

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 12:13

Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, described as running the finance, media, operations and logistics wings of ISIS, was killed on Tuesday near Mosul, U.S. officials say.

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Yes, The U.S. Is On A Historic Lucky Streak In Dodging Major Hurricanes

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 11:49

A major hurricane hasn't hit the U.S. since 2005. There hasn't been a lull that long since 1861 to 1868 — when Abraham Lincoln was president.

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Jeb Bush Is Suddenly Attacking Trump. Here's Why That Matters

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 11:27

Facing a drop in polls and on the defensive, the former Florida governor is trying to find his swagger by attacking Trump. But it's an uncomfortable position for the non-confrontational Bush.

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How Katrina changed the face of New Orleans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 11:18

In the 10 years since Katrina, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been reshaped in many ways: who lives there, the kind of work they do and what they can afford. Being Marketplace, we wanted to "do the numbers" on New Orleans.

Allison Plyer is executive director of the Data Center, a New Orleans-based think tank that publishes the New Orleans Index, a data-based looked at the demographics of New Orleans.

Total city population: Down

"The city has about 384,000 people now. Pre-Katrina, according to the census in 2000, we had about 484,000."

Population growth: Up

"But every year we gain population. I always remind folks, that's the most important thing, as long as every year it's going up, that's good."

African-American residents: Down

"Pre-Katrina, about 66 percent of the population was African-American. We've lost about 97,000 African-American residents, which was a large chunk, so now, we're just about 59 percent Africa-American."

White residents: Down

"We also lost about 9,000 white residents. A lot of folks don't realize that. But still proportionally now, the city has a larger share of whites, just because of how the African-American population has declined so much."

Hispanic residents: Up

"We've gained about 6,000 Hispanics and a couple thousand Asians. So we're diverse in a different kind of way than we were pre-Katrina."

Bus transit: Down

"We used to have a pretty good system of buses, relative to many other cities in the country. Certainly not relative to New York or San Francisco, but relative to other cities. Those buses were flooded, as I think everybody saw. The reimbursement from FEMA was such that we were only able to acquire about one-fifth of the buses we had pre-Katrina. That means we have a lot fewer routes running right now and a lot less frequency. And that's really hard for a lot of our workers who work in the tourism industry and rely on that."

Community-based clinics: Up

"There's been a movement towards community-based clinics that spawned, really, out of Katrina, and has been more effective in supplying primary health care than our previous model, which was all centralized downtown in the [Charity Hospital region]. It delivered a lot of other care really well, but for primary care, this decentralized system of clinics has proven to give more access to low-income communities. And we're seeing that now in the studies that are coming out."

Grocery stores: Mixed

"Grocery stores have rebounded to pre-Katrina levels. Tulane just came out with a study on that. Pre-Katrina levels were not as good as they should be, we still have food deserts, but there was a time it was really dire here, in terms of availability of grocery stores."

The push for better cybersecurity in cars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 11:10

Over the next few days, members of the automotive industry are gathering in Detroit for this year’s Autonomous Cars Conference, and one of the big issues facing the field is cybersecurity for vehicles.

Last month, you may remember, a Wired Magazine reporter lost control of his transmission, driving 70 miles an hour on a highway in St. Louis as a sort of demonstration project set up by "white hat" hackers. If there had been any doubt whether new cars rolling off the assembly line are at risk, last month’s stunt answers that clearly.

“Theoretically, hackers can take control over all control of the car, the steering wheel, can take control of the brakes, can take control of the engine and shut it off,” says Pete Samson, with the firm Security Innovation.

If your vehicle’s computer is networked to any other computer, your vehicle is vulnerable. Kathleen Fisher of Tufts University says automakers are beginning to recognize that now they must become software companies too.

“It’s going to take significantly more investment in the software that is running the cars written to higher standards of quality,” she says. “It’s going to take a culture of assuming hackers are trying to break in and thinking in a defensive mindset.”

Fisher says a bill moving through the Senate, the Spy Car Act, may force the industry to make necessary changes. If done right, she says, that could make hacking so hard, attackers would look for easier marks.

The push for better cyber-security in cars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 11:10

Over the next few days, members of the automotive industry are gathering in Detroit for this year’s Autonomous Cars Conference, and one of the big issues facing the field is cyber-security for vehicles.

Last month – you may remember month – a Wired Magazine reporter lost control of his transmission, driving 70 miles an hour on a highway in St. Louis as a sort of demonstration project set up by ‘white hat’ hackers. If there had been any doubt whether brand new cars rolling off the assembly line are at risk, last month’s stunt answers that clearly.

“Theoretically, hackers can take control over all control of the car, the steering wheel, can take control of the brakes, can take control of the engine and shut it off,” says Pete Samson, with the firm Security Innovation.

If your vehicle’s computer is networked to any other computer, your vehicle is vulnerable. Kathleen Fisher of Tufts University says automakers are beginning to recognize that now they must become software companies too.

“It’s going to take significantly more investment in the software that is running the cars written to higher standards of quality,” she says. “It’s going to take a culture of assuming hackers are trying to break in and thinking in a defensive mindset.”

Fisher says a bill moving through the Senate, the Spy Car Act, may force the industry to make necessary changes. If done right, she says, that could make hacking so hard, attackers would look for easier marks.

#NPRreads: Decision-Making, And China's Corporate Culture Shock

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 10:34

Also this week: Two years after her husband choked to death, a producer for Morning Edition relates a journey of heartbreak and humor.

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Banksy's 'Dismaland' Living Up To Its Name With Ticket Debacle

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 09:31

The graffiti artist's darkly themed art show in England spurred wild demand for tickets, causing the website to crash. Now people are wondering if the confusion is all part of the show.

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Rethinking Breakfast: What We Eat May Trump When We Eat

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 08:38

A lot of American adults aren't sitting down to breakfast anymore — they're eating on the go. And what we eat in the morning is likely more important then when we eat it.

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First Female Soldiers Graduate From Army Ranger School

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 08:17

First Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest endured the grueling nine-week course, meeting the same physical standards as their male counterparts.

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NASA: Rumors Of Impending Doom Are Greatly Exaggerated

NPR News - Fri, 2015-08-21 07:08

NASA says "numerous recent blogs and web postings" that a giant asteroid will smash into Earth next month are just a hoax.

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Trombone Shorty visits his childhood home

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 06:49

Troy Andrews, who is better known as Trombone Shorty, started performing as a child in a family and neighborhood of musicians in Treme, New Orleans.

Now he's one of the city's musical luminaries. He also started a foundation to teach young musicians how to make a living in the music business.

Andrews speaks with Lizzie O’Leary while strolling through his old neighborhood.

Click the media player above to hear the full interview.

Leah Chase’s 65 years in the same New Orleans kitchen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-08-21 06:46

Since 1946, Leah Chase has been in the kitchen Dooky Chase's Restaurant in New Orleans. She’s served Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Ray Charles, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and many others.

Quite simply, she's a legend in the city. Her restaurant was flooded with 5 1/2 feet of water from Katrina and closed for two years. Now 93, she speaks with Lizzie O’Leary from her kitchen, where she still shouts out orders to her staff every day.

Click the media player above to hear Chase's story.

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