National News

Weakened Arthur Heads Up U.S. East Coast

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-04 04:44

The National Hurricane Center predicted further weakening as the Category 1 storm moved offshore. Arthur knocked out power for about 44,000 people in North Carolina.

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Ex-Editor Gets 18 Months In U.K. Phone Hacking Case

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-04 04:29

Andy Coulson, the former editor of the now defunct News of the World, was found guilty last week of conspiracy to hack personal voicemails.

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Big Data Comes To College

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-04 03:38

The exploding field of "learning analytics" raises ethical questions similar to those arising from the recent Facebook revelations.

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Bored On The Fourth Of July? Try These Movies

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-04 03:03

Action, singing and lots of fireworks — American movies celebrate the Fourth of July.

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Here comes yet another increase in transit fares

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-04 02:43

Drivers getting out of town on this Fourth of July weekend will pay the highest gas prices since 2008, but transit riders are also feeling the sting of new rate increases in major cities like Boston, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.

But even with semi-regular fare hikes, transit systems still lose money. Revenue from fares isn’t enough to cover rising costs, like labor, fuel, expanded services, and infrastructure maintenance, even though ridership in 2013 was the highest it's been in nearly six decades. 

“The actual fare rider could be paying half of the rider cost, sometimes two thirds of it,” says Mitchell Moss, director of the NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

Nationally, fare revenues covered only 33 percent of the operating cost of all transit systems in 2012, according to the National Transit Database.

But raising fares is tricky.

“When you increase fairs, it tends to discourage ridership,” says Steve Schlickman is with the Urban Transportation Center at University of Illinois at Chicago. “If you increase fares too much, you discourage so much ridership that you really don’t have an increase in revenue.”

It falls to cities and states make their transit systems’ deficits. But the Department of Transportation is warning that without intervention from Congress, a critical source federal funds for many transit and highway projects will run out of money later this summer. 

Here's a look at which cities bring in the most revenue from transit fares per rider, and which cities are planning to hike their fares this summer:

North Dakota oil wells drain energy and money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-04 02:00

A defining sight in the booming oil fields of North Dakota is flames flaring from the top of wells -- burning off natural gas that escapes during pumping.

Today oil wells in the state burn about a third of the natural gas that comes when fracking for oil. North Dakota officials estimate that’s like burning about $50 million dollars a month.

The problem is drillers have rushed to extract oil and ignored building pipelines to capture natural gas needed to ship to market. Basically, economist Philip Verleger says ,it’s cheaper to burn money than build pipelines.

“The economics of constructing a pipeline to every one of these large number of wells becomes prohibitive,” he says.

After getting input from industry, this week state officials said that by the fall, wells must capture 76 percent of natural gas or be forced to cut oil production.

Western Environmental Law Center Senior Policy Advisor Thomas Singer says state leaders and industry officials know the current level of flaring is unsustainable.

“They recognize that a gold rush in the Wild West where everybody goes out and starts poking holes is really a very wasteful way to develop these resources,” he says.

Singer says the test now is to see if the state enforces its own rules. 

With credit card debt, not all states are equal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-04 02:00

The average American has more than $3,600 in credit card debt, but that number is falling.

“Not a huge decline overall -- about $27 dollars this year compared to last, but it’s still an improvement,” says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com. “It’s a good thing for consumers to carry less credit card debt. It’s good for their credit score and it’s good for their wallets.”

So why do some states owe more than others?

Alan Ikemura, senior product manager at Experian, says people have bigger credit card debt in states that have higher costs of living and where the employment picture hasn’t improved.

“The economy hasn’t picked up as well in certain areas and so there might actually be an immediate need for the utilization of credit," Ikemura says. "On the flip side, [people in states] that have recovered really well, [are] more confident overall in the economy, so they’re just spending more.”

Ikemura says the fact that American’s are paying down their credit card debt is a sign the overall economy is improving. 

Experian Decision Analytics released a list of average credit card debt by state for Q1 of 2014. So which states have the highest average debt?

1. Alaska -- $4,472

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

2. New Jersey -- $4,431

Craig Barritt/Getty Images

3. Connecticut -- $4,351

Elsa/Getty Images

4. Maryland -- $4,214

  Patrick Smith/Getty Images

5. Georgia -- $4,192

 RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images

6. Delaware -- $4,165

 Hulton Archive/Getty Images

7. Washington, D.C. -- $4,115

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages

8. Virginia -- $4,068

 Grant Halverson/Getty Images for Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

9. Rhode Island -- $4,056

 Stacy Revere/Getty Images

10. Texas -- $4,047

   Harry How/Getty Images

Silicon Tally: Independence and surveillance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-04 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally. How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? This week we're joined by Julia Angwin, author of "Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance." var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/", id: "silicon-tally-independence-surveillance", placeholder: "pd_1404443731" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'https://polldaddy.com/survey.js':'http://i0.poll.fm/survey.js';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

Dance Of Human Evolution Was Herky-Jerky, Fossils Suggest

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 23:36

Maybe it was messier than we thought, some scientists now say. Big brains, long legs and long childhoods may have evolved piecemeal in different spots, in response to frequent swings in climate.

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Damming The Mekong River: Economic Boon Or Environmental Mistake?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 23:33

Laos' government says it needs the money the two dams will generate. But environmentalists and downstream neighbors say the dams are a major threat to fish migration and agriculture.

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Colorado marijuana dispensaries have nowhere to put their money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 16:28

Let’s say you’re a new retail business owner, and you’ve hit the sales jackpot. The product you’re offering is moving faster than snow-cones in the Sahara, and the cash just keeps coming in.

But there’s one hiccup: You can’t deposit said cash into a bank.

That’s the problem recreational marijuana vendors in Colorado are facing. Because the federal government considers marijuana illegal, and because that same federal government regulates banks, THC retailers in Colorado are sitting on piles of cash they can’t do anything with. These vendors are keeping the mounds of cash in backrooms, specially designed vaults, and specially created security firms to hold the money. Yet, there are still significant security concerns about keeping all that cash on hand (not to mention the hassle when it comes to paying taxes, bills and fees).

The IRS, meanwhile, is so opposed to the cash payments on federal taxes, that they’ve begun charging penalties to businesses that pay in greenbacks.

So to help fix the problem, the Colorado legislature has created a co-op that would act very similar to a bank. It would allow pot vendors to make deposits, withdrawals and even electronic transfers.

The problem is that in order to have the co-op function fully, it needs to get approval from – wait for it – the federal government.

Mike Elliot from the Marijuana Industry Group says the regulatory hurdle with the co-op has to do with the Automated Clearing House (ACH), the same system used to make direct deposits for employees.

As Elliot explains to Lizzie O’Leary, most people in Colorado’s marijuana industry think the chance of this co-op passing federal muster are about the same as finding one of those snow-cones in the Sahara Desert.

As Ebola Cases Spike, WHO Asks For More Money And Help

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 16:19

The deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to grow in West Africa. Even as health leaders met to figure out how to stop the virus, the number of cases surged — by nearly 20 percent in a week.

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Big Ideas: Jeremy Rifkin and the internet of everything

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 15:34

Now and then we like explore some of the big ideas changing our world.

Like the so-called "internet of everything."

In 2014, it's fair to say that most of us think of capitalism as one of the planet's default economic systems. Markets around the world are interconnected, and even communist countries like China buy and sell internationally.

Jeremy Rifkin is one of the people behind our big idea this week, and he argues that capitalism is, in effect, eating itself. That, thanks to the internet, we've gotten so good at making things cheaply, that everyone can.

Rifkin is an economic theorist who has advised the European Union, and he lays out those ideas his latest book is called the "Zero Marginal Cost Society," which is, he explains,

"The emergence of a news economic system called the 'collaborative commons.' This is actually the first new economic system to emerge since the advent of capitalism and socialism."

On profit motive:

"There's another whole institution that everyone on this planet relies on every day. It's called 'the social economy...' we have millions of organizations that provide all sorts of goods and service from health care to school systems...they're not considered by economists because they create social capital, not market captial."

Listen to the full innterview in the player above.

 

 

High Court Temporarily Suspends Contraception Mandate For Christian College

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 15:24

The order, which doesn't affect the court's ultimate opinion, drew a scathing dissent from the court's three women.

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Authors Take Opposite Sides On Hachette, Amazon Spat

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 14:34

Bestsellers published by traditional means accused Amazon of "unfair pricing." Self-published authors penned a stinging critique of traditional publishing.

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Jobs rise, unemployment falls... but the economy?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:57

Since April, the economy has averaged 275,000 new jobs per month (288,000 in June 2014), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate is approaching 6 percent (6.1 percent in June 2014) and within the next year will likely be in the mid-5-percent range, low enough for the Federal Reserve to end some of its extraordinary stimulus measures on interest rates and asset purchases. Moreover, long-term unemployment has slowly fallen over the past 12 months (from 36.9 percent to 32.8 percent), and in June more than 80,000 people entered the workforce, reversing a trend during the recession and much of the recovery, of declining participation in the labor force.

But this recovering economy is not yet mirroring a healthy pre-recession economy either, say economists.

The economy has now recovered all of the millions of jobs lost in the recession. Both private payrolls and overall payrolls (including government) are now at record highs.

But that still leaves a significant shortfall in the labor market, considering that millions of people grew up into adulthood or immigrated to the U.S. and needed new jobs, says economist Harry Holzer at Georgetown University. “The fact that we’ve caught up with a number that existed six and a half years ago," says Holzer, "when the population and the labor force have grown way beyond that point - we’re still in a jobs hole.”

Holzer also points out that a high proportion of the new jobs that have been created are in low-paid service industries, such as retail, hotels and restaurants. And a lot are temporary or part-time. Many of the jobs that were lost in the recession were better-paid—in manufacturing, construction, financial services.

Holzer does believe some well-paying middle-class jobs will come back—in business services and manufacturing and construction—if employers see the recovery is strong, steady and long-lived.

Darlene Miller is president of Permac Industries, a precision manufacturing firm outside Minneapolis that supplies a wide variety of industries, including transportation, medical, food, and avionics. The company laid off more than two dozen workers in the Recession. Now the payroll is back up to thirty employees. And there are several open positions—though Miller says she is having difficulty finding skilled, certified machinists to hire.

“I would say the economy is slowly progressing,” says Miller. “I wouldn’t say we’re back to pre-2009. But we are seeing improvement. I’m optimistic—optimistic with caution.”

Jeff Kravetz, investment manager at US Bank Wealth Management, says businesses are increasing their spending on capital equipment, and predicts hiring will also pick up. And he anticipates optimism among American consumers will return to pre-recession levels.

“They see that their portfolios have recovered, and their homes have come back in value significantly,” says Kravetz. “They feel wealthier, and that bodes well for a nice steady recovery.”

Kravetz also says the economy and financial system are on sounder footing than during the boom of the mid-2000s, when inflated home prices, over-leveraging and risky borrowing by consumers and corporations led the economy into catastrophe.

SunTrust Settles In Probe Into Mishandled Home Loan Modifications

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:41

The bank's mortgage-lending arm agreed to pay up to $320 million to resolve allegations that it bungled applications for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

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Weekly wrap: Cashing out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:40

We discuss the week that was with Sudeep Reddy from the Wall Street Journal and Linette Lopez from Business Insider. The magical number this morning was 288,000, which Lopez claims made today “a pretty good day.”

But be wary, Reddy warns. Getting through the issues the economy currently faces is “a whole other story,” he says.

Obama: Immigration reform could lead to growth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:23

In his interview with Kai, President Obama said that the economy could see $1.4 trillion in additional growth if the government passed immigration reform.

Believe it or not, there are two $1.4 trillion figures the White House has mentioned when it comes to immigration reform and they mean two completely different things: One comes from the Congressional Budget Office. And one comes from the Center for American Progress.

At the heart of both is the idea that citizenship brings higher wages. That's something multiple researchers have studied, including Madeleine Sumption with the Migration Policy Institute.

"We found that citizens earn between 50 percent and two thirds more than non-citizens," she says. "Most of that is explained by the fact that citizens are more educated and they speak better English and they've been in the country for longer."

But, she says, once you control for those factors, citizens still get a 5 percent wage boost or more.

More wages means more spending and more tax revenue. The Center for American Progress added up the ripple effect of that and got … $1.4 trillion in GDP growth over ten years.

"The $1.4 trillion in our report was more of a hypothetical thing," says Patrick Oakford, who co-wrote that report. "What if they got legal status and citizenship status right away."

That report also looked at different timelines for naturalization with different economic outcomes. Big picture: the timing of citizenship matters for economic growth.

But of course in the immigration debate, there is no overnight path to citizenship. The Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate's actual bill, with its decade-plus path, and came up with … about $1.4 trillion in growth over twenty years.

Manual Pastor directs the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California.

"The numbers, the $1.4 trillion, look very much the same," he says. "But the difference is one is scoring the actual legislation and the other is a thought exercise."

The CBO looked at comprehensive immigration reform which is about more than just the path to citizenship.

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