National News

'Natural' Food Sounds Good But Doesn't Mean Much

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:48

A consumer advocacy group says it's time to ban the word "natural" from food labels because it's misleading. But the quest to get the government to outlaw the word entirely faces tough legal hurdles.

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Rich politicians emphasize humble beginnings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:45

The economic disparity between the common man and the politician is as old as democracy itself. In 64 BC when Cicero was running for consul of the Roman Republic, his brother is believed to have written what could be called the first electioneering handbook.

“One question I think people should be asking is does it matter that politicians are so much better off than the people they are supposed to represent,” says Nicholas Carnes, the author of "White Collar Government: The Hidden Roles of Class in Economic Policy Making." “And what I find is that yeah, it really does matter. Politicians, who don’t have experience doing working class jobs really do think differently, vote differently, and introduce different kinds of legislation than the few politicians who do know what it’s like to be a blue collar worker.”

Carnes says that the average member of Congress spent 1.5 percent of his pre-Congress career working in manual labor or service industry jobs, a percentage that has changed little over the last 100 years.  

But talking about that divide can be a political landmine as evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s recent claim that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House.

 

Alex  Gourevitch teaches political Science at Brown. He says the politicians who are best at pretending to be equal are the ones who avoid talking about their own wealth at all, or emphasize their humble beginnings, like John Edwards for example, who campaigned not as a wealthy attorney, but as the son of a mill worker.

 

Another strategy is to be upfront about wealth as Romney did during his bid for the presidency.

 

Here's Bill Clinton discussing his life before he was an attorney in 2008.

 

And here's Jimmy Cater in a campaign commercial from 1976:

 

Surprising data on student loans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:40

A new Brookings Institution report on student loan debt is causing quite a stir. It says the student loan crisis we’ve heard so much about may not be as bad as we think.  

The findings are so startling, even co-author Matthew Chingos didn’t believe them at first.

“My first reaction when we ran these data was, this has to be wrong,” he says.

But Chingos re-checked the data until he was satisfied with his conclusions. Among them: monthly student loan payments have stayed at three to four percent of a borrower’s monthly income, since 1992. Chingos also says, in 2010, only two percent of young households owed more than $100,000. 

“There don’t seem to be more of those than there used to be," he says. "If anything there are less.”

But Chingos says more people have student loans. Because more students are going to college. The people he really worries about? Those who never got their degree. People like Rhonda Wanzer, who at 48, has a good job with the federal government, but no college degree. She still owes about $28,000.

“I’m trying to devise a plan where I can pay it off at least before I can retire retire," she says. "I can retire in about 15, 20 years.”

Chingos insists Wanzer isn’t typical. He says most student loan borrowers do finish college, and eventually pay off their loans. 

His study has its critics who say his data -- which is from the Federal Reserve -- is too limited, doesn’t count everyone, and is old. 

Chingos says the Fed data is the best there is for this kind of research. And he’ll take a close look at new data when it comes out in the next six months or so. 

Other researchers, using Education Department data, agree with Chingos’s conclusions.   

Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, says the real culprit here is high college tuitions.

"Tuition has certainly gone up rapidly, and particularly, in recent years,  in public colleges and universities, ” she explains.

Chingos says soaring tuition is the disease. And student loans are just the symptom. 

 

A New Jersey Law That's Kept Smart Guns Off Shelves Nationwide

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:15

The law says that once "personalized" guns are available in the U.S., all handguns sold in New Jersey must be smart guns. So, to avoid triggering the law, vendors aren't selling them — anywhere.

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Meet The New Stars Of Campaign Ads: Mom And Dad

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:07

The smiling spouse, kids and a dog once made for a perfect campaign ad. But politicians are increasingly turning to their parents to help them make the pitch to voters.

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Living Up To His Past, Suarez Apparently Bites Italian Opponent

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:04

Uruguay's win against Italy was overshadowed by a bite. Once again, Luis Suarez courted controversy at a World Cup Game.

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In Wyoming, Going Deep To Draw Energy From Coal

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:58

The United States has lots of coal, but most of it is buried far underground. A new method can extract it, but the environmental costs might prove too high for nearby landowners.

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Report Points To 'Dangerous Militarization' Of U.S. Law Enforcement

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:58

The American Civil Liberties Union studied 800 deployments of SWAT teams in 20 locales across the country and found most were for drug searches.

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Ukraine's Cease-Fire Jeopardized By Deadly Attack

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:53

Pro-Moscow separatists shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter, killing nine servicemen, one day after the rebels vowed to respect the cease-fire.

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Addressing Border Crisis, Politicians Find Invitation In Misperception

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:50

The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing Tuesday to address the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America.

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3-D Mammography Finds More Tumors, But Questions Remain

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:35

A newer form of mammogram that takes multiple X-rays makes it less likely that women will be called back for more screening, a study finds. But it's still too early to know if it increases survival.

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In Rift Over Interfaith Ban, A New Fault Line For Burmese Politics

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:18

Myanmar's parliament is now considering a bill that would restrict marriages of people from different religions. Critics are lambasting the proposed law as discriminatory.

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Iraqi Crisis Brings Focus On Indian Migrants Who Seek Profit Amid Peril

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:15

When the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was captured by Sunni militants, 40 Indian construction workers were taken hostage. It's one of the first diplomatic challenges for the new government in India, which sees millions of migrant workers move abroad and send some $70 billion back home to family.

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A 'Major Shift' Promised In Oversight Of Special Education Programs

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:15

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced new procedures for how the department oversees state special education programs.

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At Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery, Siege Nears A Complicated Conclusion

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:15

Both ISIS militants and the Iraqi government claim to control the country's largest oil refinery. But NPR's Deborah Amos reports that the rebels have closed in and are negotiating with the beleaguered forces inside.

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A 'Major Shift' In Oversight Of Special Education

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:15

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announces new measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are making progress.

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U.S. Faces Challenges In Shoring Up Iraq's Crumbling Military

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:15

U.S. military advisers sent to Iraq to assess the state of the country's military will find an army in far worse shape than the one they left behind in 2011. It lacks troops, training and leadership.

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A Wild West In Flight: Drones Outpace The Rules Reining Them In

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:15

Drone technology has moved at a quicker pace than the rules regulating their use, creating an environment that journalist Craig Whitlock likens to the Wild West.

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The Map Of Native American Tribes You've Never Seen Before

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 12:03

Aaron Carapella couldn't find a map showing the original names and locations of Native American tribes as they existed before contact with Europeans. That's why the Oklahoma man designed his own map.

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The numbers behind the Export-Import bank

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 11:59

The Export-Import Bank of the United States is a government agency that facilitates exports by U.S. companies. It's been doing this since 1934.

It works like this: A U.S. company wants to sell stuff to a foreign buyer but the foreign buyer needs some kind of financing to buy that stuff. Sometimes, U.S. banks won't offer that financing because the foreign buyer is in an unstable country, or perhaps because the bank doesn't think it's worth it to send someone abroad to vet a small loan that won't be repaid for five years, or otherwise considers lending abroad too risky. And sometimes, foreign banking systems aren't robust enough to offer these kinds of loans themselves, or they charge very high interest rates.

The Export-Import Bank offers insurance on loans to convince a bank to make that loan to a foreign buyer, and sometimes the Export-Import Bank will make that loan itself.

The total amount of international trade facilitated by this in 2013 comes out to $36 billion, a small fraction of the $2.3 trillion in U.S. exports. But the support goes primarily (90 percent) to small businesses, and the large businesses that do use these tools are generally of major economic significance, such as satellite or airline manufacturers.

1.2 million

The number of jobs the Ex-Im Bank reports it has supported since 2009

$2 billion

The amount of money the bank has generated over and above the cost of its operations over the last five years

0.211 percent

The bank's default rate, as reported to Congress this year. That's less than a quarter of one percent.

59

 The number of other export credit agencies around the world competing with the U.S.'s Ex-Im Bank.

(Source: The Export-Import Bank of the United States)

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