National News

Tea Tuesdays: The Chemis-Tea Of Pouring The Perfect English-Style Cuppa

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 09:57

The British are very specific about how they take their tea: black, with milk and sugar. But steeping the optimal cup requires a surprising amount of chemistry. Here's a guide to the science.

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Finnish Public Broadcasting To Read Entire Quran In New Series

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 08:55

Radio 1, the radio arm of broadcaster Yle, will begin reading Islam's holy book on March 7 in 60 installments. Fewer than 50,000 Muslims live in Finland, which has a population of about 5 million.

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The Great U.S. History Battle

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 08:33

The College Board redesigned the framework for its Advanced Placement U.S. history course, and many conservative lawmakers aren't happy about it.

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Eurozone Approves Greek Overhaul Plan

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:47

The Greek plan would keep Athens' budget under control while spending more on social programs. European ministers agreed to extend financial assistance by four months, but the IMF was more skeptical.

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Emotional Scars Of Modern Slavery Run 'Deeper Than Any Visible Wound'

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:32

Scientists interviewed more than a thousand men, women and children who were forced into sex work and hard labor. The result is the largest study to detail the health of human trafficking survivors.

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House Of Carbs: A Big Ball O' Carbohydrates Is Good Eating In Ghana

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:20

Our Peace Corps correspondent meets the giant ball of carbs that floats in many a Ghanaian stew. She takes a pinch (using her right hand only). And she learns to almost love it.

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Keystone XL vetoed, and the Eurozone kicks the can

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:14

The line of the day goes to President Obama, by way of the 'Marketplace Desk of News We Could have Told You Yesterday.

"I am hereby returning herewith, without my signature, S. 1, the 'Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.'"

Which is the long and presidential way of saying ... veto.

Also, this note from Brussels, Belgium. Eurozone finance ministers rubber-stamped Greek economic reforms that Athens promised to write down as a condition of the bailout extension they got last week. Which means we'll be doing the Greek debt crisis thing again come June.

Yep, the can kicked ... once again.

How the EPA made gas-mileage numbers accurate

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:09

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidelines to car makers this week, clarifying how they should measure gas mileage. Auto-makers like Hyundai, Kia and Ford have gotten in trouble for over-stating fuel-economy claims, and many consumers assume that the miles-per-gallon numbers on a new-car sticker must be taken with a heavy grain of salt.

However, the big surprise about those numbers is this: For most cars, they’re pretty accurate.

David Greene, a professor at the University of Tennessee, was one of the architects of the website fueleconomy.gov, where consumers report their actual mileage. Now, he's looking at how close those thousands of reports are to the official mpg numbers.  

"They are pretty close— within a couple of percentage points— on average," he says. "But that’s kind of like saying the average family has 2.6 children. Nobody has 2.6 children."

As the saying goes, your mileage will vary, depending on how and where you drive. But the numbers reflect the average.

It wasn’t always this way, but in 2008 the E.P.A. changed testing procedures to reflect reality— including driving speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, air-conditioning systems running against 95-degree heat, and the like.

The result: the estimated mpg on most cars dropped by 10 to 20 percent.

Commuter Train Derails After Hitting Vehicle In Southern California

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:09

Emergency crews are working among several Metrolink train cars that were thrown onto their sides by a powerful collision near Oxnard, California.

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Head Of U.N. Climate Change Panel Resigns Amid Harassment Allegations

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 07:09

Rajendra K. Pachauri's departure from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a big embarrassment for the group, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with former Vice President Al Gore.

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The housing market is still struggling

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 06:52

The price of an existing home grew 4.46 percent last year, according to the Case Shiller Home Price Index. Sales of existing homes, while not at pre-recession peaks, were up, but new home sales and construction were still weak. 

New home sales are a particularly key figure to focus on. While existing home sales are important, an existing home doesn’t help GDP the same way a brand new home does, and a lot of new homes aren’t being built — because people aren’t buying them.

“The housing recovery is faltering. While prices and sales of existing homes are close to normal, construction and new home sales remain weak. Before the current business cycle, any time housing starts were at their current level of about one million at annual rates, the economy was in a recession ... The softness in housing is despite favorable conditions elsewhere in the economy: strong job growth, a declining unemployment rate, continued low interest rates and positive consumer confidence,” says David Blitzer in a statement, manager of the S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, who oversees the Case Shiller Home Price Index.

Why does housing remain sluggish? Why does it still seem haunted by the recession while other economic indicators are improving?

1.“It’s exceedingly expensive and I don’t have the financial capability to do that”: Those are the words of Phil Litman, a random person on the street. Random, but also typical. “I mean if I had an unlimited source of financing, I’d rather buy, yes, but in my current situation right now, I’d rather rent.” It’s basically that, in the words of Mark Willis, executive director of NYU’s Furman Center, a lot of people just don’t have a lot of money. “There are parts of the market ... having to deal with relatively stagnant incomes,” he says. 
 
2. Millennials: Young people, the would be first-time homebuyers, face financial instability. Chris Mayer teaches Real Estate at Columbia Business School, and says there are signs of this in demographic data. “People are getting married later, and having kids later and settling down later.”
 
3. The rise of renting: Connected, perhaps, to prolonged financial instability for millennials, is the shift towards renting. “Renter construction rate still up and up pretty dramatically – 20% over the year,” says Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School.
 
4. Credit, still tight: People are renting, not just because buying is expensive, but because borrowing is still hard. “The uneven recovery in construction is fundamentally reflective of tight credit conditions,” says Wachter. Interest rates may be low, but that doesn’t guarantee someone will qualify for a loan.    
 
5. Something else entirely: As much as we like to pin our dismal housing sector on the recession that just won’t die, the reality is there were changes in housing happening way before it. “Homeownership actually peaked in 2004, before the recession, in fact, before the clear boom in housing peaked,” says S&P Dow Jones’ David Blitzer. He says the recession may have just accelerated a larger trend that was happening anyway.

19 Stuck Manatees Rescued From Florida Storm Drain

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 06:37

The manatees swam into the warm waters of the drainpipe after a recent cold snap, but were unable to turn around to get out.

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The Courage And Ingenuity Of Freedom-Seeking Slaves In America

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 06:33

Did daring stories of fugitive slaves perhaps move the national political needle toward abolition?

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FIFA Panel Backs Winter World Cup In Qatar In 2022

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 06:08

Soccer's World Cup is typically played over the summer, but temperatures in Qatar during that season can exceed 110 degrees. But a winter tournament would coincide with the European club season.

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VA Secretary Apologizes For Making Special Forces Claim

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 05:54

The story drew attention late Monday, weeks after McDonald, an Army veteran and West Point graduate, made the claim during a conversation with a homeless veteran.

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Separatists In Ukraine Say They're Pulling Heavy Weapons Back

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 04:32

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire.

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ISIS Reportedly Abducts Dozens Of Christians In Syria

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 03:53

The mass abduction took place in rural villages in a portion of Syria that's less than 150 miles west of Mosul, Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Marijuana Is Now Legal In Alaska, The Third U.S. State To OK Pot

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 03:12

The new law means people over age 21 can consume small amounts of pot — if they can find it. It's still illegal to sell marijuana in Alaska.

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Supreme Court considers retirement plan lawsuits

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 03:00

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Tuesday about a case that centers on whether there should be a six-year time limit on being able to sue a company over its oversight of funds it offers in a retirement plan. The question has pitted the AARP, the U.S. Solicitor General and others against groups representing employers and the financial industry.

"The people who run these plans have a legitimate interest in saying: look you can't sue us for 20 years of damage," says Norman Stein, a professor at Drexel University who is an expert on laws surrounding employee benefits and pensions.

But employers are arguing that that six-year limit should apply not to damages, but to when a fund was introduced into a company's retirement plan. That would limit the number of funds subject to lawsuits.

PODCAST: A state of the art tunnel

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 03:00

Market players are focused on key testimony about interest rates and jobs that starts this morning. More on that. Plus, Comcast stock is up a bit after the cable and media content company reported fourth quarter profits up from a year earlier. This a few weeks before federal regulators are scheduled to decide whether to allow a merger with Time Warner Cable. And underground water and drain pipes in America are often state of the art ... if we were living in 1915. Money to replace and upgrade has been in short supply. But in the nation's capital, the utilities are embarking on a $2.6 billion dollar remedy in the form of a tunnel.

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