National News

A Scottish Yarn: A Knit In Time Saves The Fabric Of Shetland Life

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:31

In the remote cluster of rocks in the North Sea, knitting is a deeply ingrained tradition that stretches back for centuries — and persists despite the money that oil and gas have brought to Shetland.

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In War's Looming Shadow, Gazans Hope Peace Will Hold

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:21

For more on the Palestinian reaction to recent tensions with Israel, Robert Siegel speaks with Mkhaimer Abu Sada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City.

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Meet the other undocumented immigrants

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:10

It doesn’t get much attention, but 30 – 40 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. entered the country legally. Some come as tourists. Others arrive here with a student or work visa.

A man I’ll call "Will" came to Los Angeles from Canada.

The last time he crossed the border, Will told the U.S. official he was just coming to Seattle to shop for the weekend. “So I basically entered the country on a lie.”

He eventually applied for – and got – a visa to work legally for a music company in LA. Then, the music industry tanked. Will lost his job and his visa.

Now 50-years-old, Will has lived in LA for half of his life. Much of that time, he’s worked under the table.

“In conversation, I’ll kind of jokingly say, ‘Well, I’m an illegal alien,’” says Will. “And people are always shocked because I don’t look or sound like an illegal alien.”

He’s white, with a medium build and sandy-brown hair. And even though he may not look the part, he does represent so-called "illegal aliens."

At least a third of the 10 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. didn’t sneak across the border. Many of them flew here in an airplane with completely legitimate papers.

But it’s what happens next that concerns Republican Congressman Lou Barletta.

“They come on a visa. The visa expires and they simply don’t go home. They blend in to the interior of the country and we can’t find them,” says Barletta.

Those folks are known as ‘visa overstays.’

Will, the Canadian, is one of them. In the underground economy, he sometimes works alongside undocumented Latinos.

“As a handyman, I do work in houses that are under construction and I see how Mexicans are treated and how they’re paid. And I am not treated that way, even though I am just as undocumented as they are,” says Will.

Americans simply aren’t on the lookout for Canadians because they’re not seen as an economic threat.

Will says, “Canada has such a high standard of living. Much higher than it is in America. And most people in Canada have no desire to come here.”

But when Canadians do come here for work, Will says, they don’t necessarily have to start at the bottom. “I don’t see many Canadians who come here and work as busboys.”

Canadians are hardly alone. Educated professionals from around the world work in the U.S. without official authorization.

Congressman Barletta sees this flaw in the immigration system as a threat to national security - and job security.

“They may not be looking for an entry level job. They may be looking for much different jobs. And some of them even high tech jobs,” says Barletta.

Barletta has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to stay in the country after a visa expires.

In terms of any broader immigration reform, Congressman Barletta won’t support any legislation that doesn’t address visa overstays. He says, “It’s a non-starter for me.”

One solution involves the collection of biometric data from foreign visitors. At airports, we collect the biometric data on the way in. But not on the way out. That means there is no reliable calculation for the number of people who may have overstayed their visas.

“To do biometrics on departure would require implementation of some sort of infrastructure at all of our ports of entry – air, sea and land – that simply doesn’t exist yet,” says Theresa Cardinal Brown with the Bipartisan Policy Center, which recently studied the issue.

That new infrastructure would cost taxpayers north of $3 billion; money that hasn’t been allocated. So the U.S. is still a long way from being able to identify and track down visa overstays.

And that’s lucky for Will, the Canadian, living in LA. At home, Will plays the piano for an audience of one – his dog. It seems like a carefree existence.

But it could all be taken away. And after 25 years here, LA is the only home Will knows.

“I have nothing in Canada. I have no place to go,” says Will. “It would be just like going to another country and starting over. I have nightmares about it.”

Will is trapped in immigration limbo. If he ever returned to Canada, he would not be allowed back into the U.S. He’s already told his mother that he can’t return, even if she gets sick.

“I said, ‘You know, if something happens, I can’t go. If you have a heart-attack in Canada, I can’t go there.’ And she’s like, ‘I know. And I understand. And it’s okay,’” says Will.

That’s just one of the compromises necessary for people like Will who continue to work in this country after their visa has long since expired.

Benghazi Suspect Spends A Day In Court

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a suspect charged in connection with the 2012 Benghazi attacks, had a hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C. After a public defender outlined her arguments in Khattalah's defense, the judge ordered that he be detained.

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Bipartisan Board OKs NSA Surveillance Program, With Suggestions

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

The independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has offered recommendations on how to reform one of the surveillance programs deployed by the National Security Agency. The privacy board found that the program, which was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is constitutional and free of abuse, but it's still proposing reforms.

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Digital Homestead Records Reopen A Crucial Chapter Of U.S. History

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

Files detailing Nebraska's homesteading history have been digitized and are now available to the public. The milestone's part of a larger effort by the Homestead Digitization Project to put all homesteading documents from around the U.S. online. For more on the subject, Robert Siegel speaks with historian Blake Bell from the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Neb.

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Palestinian Teen's Death Dredges Fears Of Reciprocal Violence

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are as high as they have been in years, following the killings of three Israeli teens and the death of a young Palestinian.

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For Interior Secretary, Getting Outdoors Is In The Job Description

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

As CEO of an outdoor equipment retailer, Sally Jewell was used to taking risks. Now, as the secretary of the interior, she has found there's little appetite for it in government.

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Tensions Eddy In Murrieta After Protesters Turn Back Buses Of Migrants

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

The California city of Murrietta is embroiled in unrest, as anti-illegal immigration protesters have successfully blocked three buses transferring migrants from Texas to a local Border Patrol screening facility.

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Apps That Share, Or Scalp, Public Parking Spots

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:06

A new breed of tech company is offering mobile apps to help drivers using public, metered parking spots sell them to the highest bidder. But in San Francisco, city officials want to put a stop to it.

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Facebook's Sandberg Apologizes For Newsfeed Experiment

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 12:04

Facebook scientists were criticized for a study that manipulated what some Facebook users saw on their feeds. COO Sheryl Sandberg said they didn't mean to upset users.

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TSA To Step Up Security Measures At Some Airports Overseas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 11:46

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did not provide specifics for the new measures, but he said the agency is hoping to cause "as few disruptions to travelers as possible."

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Ask Me Anything: Emily Harris On Everything Mideast

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 11:35

Just over a year ago, NPR's Emily Harris packed up and moved to Jerusalem. She covers Israel and the Palestinian territories, which means plenty of politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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As Supreme Court Term Ends, Journalist Examines Its Decisions

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 10:47

The Supreme Court term ended Monday. The New York Times correspondent and lawyer Adam Liptak talks with Fresh Air's Terry Gross about what the decisions reveal about the nine justices.

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Homeowners brace for another foreclosure wave

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-02 10:42

In the thick of the housing crisis, some lenders slashed borrowers’ interest rates to as little as 2 percent. But rates start to rise again this year, and that will be hard for homeowners who are still struggling.

That group includes Adriana Martinez. She and her husband bought their dream house, in Olney, Maryland, in 2005. Right now, their monthly mortgage payment is about $2,200, thanks to an interest rate cut they got in 2010, through the government’s Home Affordable Loan Modification Program, which is referred to as HAMP. But even that payment has been tough, since Martinez lost her job last November.

“I need to find a job because, you know, it’s hard. It’s hard,” she says, holding back tears.

Martinez’s 16-year-old daughter, Julie, tries to help. She works part time at a gift shop. Julie says she and her mom were at the bank last week, confronted with a zero balance after the mortgage payment was deducted.

“I gave my mom my entire paycheck -- it was like $150 -- because she really actually needed it," she says.

And Martinez’s mortgage payment will rise by about $240 a month next year, because the HAMP interest rate cut is only temporary. After five years, the rate goes up by one percentage point a year, until it reaches the average interest rate at the time the loan was modified. Now, Martinez is afraid she’ll lose her home. 

She is trying to get help, meeting with a housing counselor at the non-profit Housing Initiative Partnership, or HIP. They talk about how Martinez can pare expenses, maybe try to get the principle on her loan reduced.

HIP counseling director Mary Hunter says they have a lot of clients like Martinez, who are already struggling and now face rising interest rates.

“If the mortgage payment goes up but their income hasn’t gone up, they’re going to be stretched,” she says, adding that some my lose their homes. “I am worried that there’ll be a new wave of foreclosures in the next year.”

It’s already happening. More than a million homeowners got a mortgage interest rate reduction through the HAMP program. But since the program began in 2009, about a third of them have dropped out. 

“Well, over 350,000 were not able to make their payments," says Christy Romero, inspector general of the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. "And more than a third of those lost their home in foreclosures. Others lost their home in other ways, like short sales.” 

Romero says the Treasury still hasn’t spent about $26 billion that was supposed to be used to help homeowners. Recently, Treasury announced it’ll use some of that money to extend the HAMP program to more people, through 2016. But Romero says Treasury should focus on homeowners already in HAMP, to keep them from dropping out, and causing that new foreclosure wave.

Homeowners across the country who got an interest rate cut through HAMP are now facing a rate increase. Some haven’t been able to keep up with their mortgage payments.

Special Inspector General, Troubled Asset Relief Program quarterly report to Congress. April 30, 2014

U.S. Privacy Board Says NSA Internet Spying Is Constitutional

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 10:42

Some parts of the program come "close to the line of constitutional reasonableness," so the board is offering some proposals to fix those concerns.

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Protesters Turn Back Buses Of Immigrant Detainees Near San Diego

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 10:10

The buses were carrying nearly 140 people who had reportedly crossed the border in Texas. The protest drew a counterprotest by advocates for immigrants.

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Costlier Digital Mammograms May Not Be Better For Older Women

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 09:43

Digital mammograms are sharper and aid diagnosis, radiologists say. But these scans aren't significantly better than film scans in finding tumors in older women, a study finds. And they cost more.

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Unions Fear High Court's Ruling Opens Door To More Trouble

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 09:05

In a major labor law decision, the Supreme Court stopped short of preventing public employee unions from collecting compulsory dues. But some justices might be willing to take that step soon.

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With Help From Extinct Humans, Tibetans Adapted To High Altitude

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 09:03

When it comes to living at extreme altitudes, Tibetans may have gotten a leg up from Denisovans, a species of archaic humans that lived about 50,000 years ago.

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