National News

Quiz: Closing achievement gaps

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:22

In a study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, researchers look at how improving educational achievement of lower classes would boost the economy.

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My Money Story: The economics of life in a wheelchair

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:16

Jay Cramer was rock climbing with friends in Malibu Creek State Park. He had just been chosen as a semi-finalist to appear on "Survivor," and he wanted to train. He had never been bouldering — free climbing with no ropes — but his friends were experienced. 

A 30-minute hike lead Cramer to a section of the park that was all water and rock. He took a few harmless falls into the water and got right back up. Then, clinging to the rock, he knew he was going down again. His friend told him to "just let go," but Cramer pushed off the rock instead. 

His head hit rock, he plummeted into the water below. And he couldn't move, couldn't flip over. Eyes open, conscious, he looked down into the water. His friends thought he was joking, but when they saw blood, they came to pull him out, and called for an airlift. 

After a long surgery, Cramer woke up in the hospital, paralyzed from the chest down. He shattered his C5 vertebrae, an incomplete injury that left him with feeling, but limited his movement. Fourteen of his friends spent the night in the hospital, and Cramer says when he saw them, he "knew everything was going to be okay."

"My finances changed when my mobility changed," Cramer says. "Because there are certain parameters that you have to live by when you need the things that I need."

Cramer is confined to a power wheelchair. He can drive, and says he's about 90 percent self-suffiencient, and leads a very normal life. He does need a caregiver in the mornings, to help him out, "and that can get quite expensive."

Government funded programs like In Home Supportive Services give people like Cramer money for a caregiver.

"In order to get that, in order to get Medi-Cal, and anything else that you need, there's only a certain amount of money you can have in your bank account, and there's only a certain amount of money that you can make, per month, in order to receive benefits," Cramer says. 

"It's a very, very fine line that you have to walk, so to speak, to make sure that you've got the money that you need to live and survive," he says. Balancing his own income with state support is tricky, but Cramer says there's a huge leap to get to total financial independence. 

Cramer says that in order to make enough money, "so that you don't receive any more benefits and you can be self-sufficient, it's quite a big jump, because there's a lot of things that you need to take care of now, medically."

"I am a very mobile person ... because it's not a when life hands you lemons you made lemonade kind of situation, it's you just want to live your life. It doesn't matter what kind of curve balls are thrown at you," Cramer said. "The best you can do is learn to adjust and adapt, which oddly enough are two of the important traits that it takes to get you through a game show like survivor." 

His life has changed a lot since his accident. He's found success as an actor and a comedian — the stand-up comedy community rallied around him after he was injured, helping to raise money that he eventually used to buy a car. He also started supervising the Know Barriers peer mentoring program at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center. 

Cramer also found love. He was single at the time of his accident, but is now married to Katy Sullivan, an athlete who completed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and a fellow actor. 

"You figure it out, you move and you shake, and you make your way through it," said Cramer, "I honestly see the sky as the only limit, and maybe not even that."

God, Grits And American Dreams: It's Presidential Candidate Book Season

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:12

The Iowa caucuses are a year away, which means it's time for presidential campaign books. Marco Rubio will be in Iowa Friday to hawk his new work.

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Your Brain May Want That Bottle Of Soda Because It's Easy To Pick Up

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:37

Coca-Cola has launched a small, easy-to-hold bottle in Kenya. And the size and shape could make people crave it. That's the belief of psychologist Sian Beilock, author of How the Body Knows Its Mind.

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Your Brain May Want That Bottle Of Soda Because It's Easy To Pick Up

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:37

Coca-Cola has launched a small, easy-to-hold bottle in Kenya. And the size and shape could make people crave it. That's the belief of psychologist Sian Beilock, author of How the Body Knows Its Mind.

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Why Convention Sites Don't Make Very Good Swing State Strategy

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:36

The idea that convention cities are decided with an eye toward winning the host city's state is popular to the point of being irresistible. But it doesn't fare well against the facts.

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Alabama Police Officer Arrested Over Severe Injuries To Indian Man

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:31

Sureshbhai Patel, 57, was stopped last week as he walked in his son's new neighborhood. Patel remains hospitalized after surgery to fuse bones in his neck; his son says he now has limited mobility.

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Internet Pioneer Warns Our Era Could Become The 'Digital Dark Ages'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:24

Google Vice President Vint Cerf says that our complete reliance on digital information that is often not preserved could result in an information "black hole" for future historians.

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How NAFTA Changed American (And Mexican) Food Forever

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:16

The trade agreement has helped the U.S., Mexico and Canada sell a lot more food to one another. That's meant more seasonal produce for the U.S., and more processed food and supermarkets for Mexico.

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A Radio Journalist Who Put His Life On The Line

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 06:48

Yusuf Ahmed Abukar did stories about Somalia's poor and suffering souls. He was critical of the government and of militants. Then one day he got a text message that said someone was coming for him.

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Calculate how much water you use

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 06:05
The average American family of five uses 500 gallons a day, but that depends on many factors. Curious about your own water footprint? Check out our water calculator here:

Boko Haram Ventures Out Of Nigeria, Hitting Village In Chad

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 05:27

The Islamist extremist group which has killed and kidnapped thousands in Nigeria, is increasingly expanding its area of operation as it reportedly tries to establish an independent state.

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As Cease-Fire Nears, Europe Warily Watches Fighting In Ukraine

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 04:24

Despite Thursday's breakthrough, "The enemy shelled positions of the 'anti-terrorist operation' forces with the same intensity as before," a Ukrainian military official said Friday.

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California Health Exchange Considers Extending Enrollment Deadline

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 04:07

Plenty of uninsured people will discover they owe a penalty as they file their taxes over the next two months, and will also learn they could be locked out of buying insurance to solve the problem.

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Obama To Urge Companies To Share Data On Cyber Threats

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 03:13

The Obama administration promotes a framework for sharing information about data breaches, hoping to prevent or limit attacks like those that recently hit Sony and Anthem Inc.

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PODCAST: The film industry heads south

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 03:00

A very interesting report to watch is consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan. This early February reading will be especially helpful after the oddly anemic retail sales report yesterday, given new jobs being created and low gas prices. We get to the bottom of this emerging economic conundrum. Plus, When it comes to North American film production, Hollywood, New York, and Vancouver, Canada are obvious hot spots. But they are not alone. Among regions that have been using incentives to lure production is Georgia.

CEOs skip cybersecurity summit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 03:00

President Barack Obama is in Silicon Valley Friday for a summit on cybersecurity.

He's trying to get more cooperation from tech companies in responding to massive data breaches. But some key players aren’t showing up.  

The CEOs of Google, Yahoo and Facebook are skipping the summit. They’re sending their information security executives to the summit instead. Only Apple’s Tim Cook will be there. 

Some analysts say the big tech dogs are staying away because of tensions between the White House and Silicon Valley.

“Most of it comes from the fact that the government wants to have their hands into everything," says tech analyst Jeff Kagan. "They want to control everything.”

He says specifically, the feds wants backdoor keys to software. The government says it needs the keys to, say, prevent a terrorist attack. 

But some Silicon Valley giants have protested. Kagan says more government control would hamper innovation.

“I think the government wants to have a hands on approach, and that’s something that  would be a death knell to the growth curve that we’ve seen over the last few decades. And that’s the struggle,” he says.

Kagan says it’s a matter of balance. President Obama is proposing a framework companies could use to share information during a major data breach, like we just saw at the insurer, Anthem. He thinks that could help.

The CEOs of American Express, Master Card, Visa and Walgreens are expected at Friday’s summit.





Georgia's film industry sees a boom

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 02:00

The Hunger Games. Selma. The Walking Dead. Georgia's film industry has seen rapid growth in the past decade, anchored by some of the biggest movies and television shows.

Chris Carr, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, says film has grown from a $250 million-a-year industry in 2007 to more than $5 billion in 2014. The state offers incentives, including a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend at least $500,000 in state, and an additional 10 percent for producers willing to insert the state's peach logo into the credits.

Ed Richardson and Brian Livesay, CEOs of 404 Studio Partners, at the site of what will become Atlanta Metro Studios. 

Noel King

Brian Livesay is the CEO of 404 Studio Partners. His company will handle sales and marketing for the Atlanta Metro Studios, a new space currently under construction. He says he never considered Atlanta to be a movie-making hub, until a project he was working on was lured from Los Angeles to Atlanta. Now, he's in Georgia for good. And that state hopes to make stories like his the norm. 

Consumers are confident. So why aren't they spending?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 02:00

Consumer sentiment is now at the same level as in 2004, well before the Great Recession hit. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey for February (preliminary) will be reported Friday, and the consensus among leading economists is that the measure will move modestly higher — to a reading of 98.5, compared to 98.1 in January.

“The American consumer is doing better, maybe paying down some debt, spending more,” says economist Chris Christopher at IHS Global Insight.

But consumers still aren’t on a spending spree. Retail sales in January were up only 0.2 percent after excluding volatile cars and gasoline (the figure was -0.8 percent including cars and gasoline). In December, spending (excluding cars and gasoline) didn’t rise at all.

“Median household income, adjusted for inflation, is still approximately 7 to 8 percent lower than it was in 2008,” says Christopher. “There are a lot of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. Lower pump prices are helping them spend on higher food prices, which have been relatively elevated over the past year.”

Economists don’t expect consumer spending to rise strongly until wages across the income spectrum begin increasing at a faster pace than inflation, month after month.

The market doesn't charge for Florida's climate risk

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 02:00

Twenty-year government bonds and thirty-year mortgages are bumping into the horizons for serious damage to South Florida from rising seas. So far, those enormous risks haven’t sent home prices tumbling, or sent borrowing costs skyrocketing. The trillion-dollar question is: When and how will the market start charging for those risks? 

Financially, the most important piece of information about rising seas clobbering Miami and South Florida is the one nobody knows: When, exactly?

"Geologic time doesn’t give us that answer," says John Englander, author of “High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis.”

"It doesn’t get us down to human time scale of, 'What decade will it happen?'" he says. "Or, 'What year will it happen?'"

As a Fort Lauderdale home-owner, Englander thinks that uncertainty works to his advantage, for now. He thinks he might sell in five or ten years — to get out while the getting is good — and he thinks his case isn’t unusual. Even though the typical mortgage is 30 years, many home-owners think about their investment in five-year increments.

That’s the same horizon bond-rating agencies use when they evaluate public-works plans. That's as far as they can look, says Geoff Buswick, who runs the public-finance infrastructure group at Standard and Poors.

"Once you get past that, the financial forecasts are softer," he says. "Fifteen years from now, it could be a completely different management team, and a completely different environment."

There’s a reason big investors are OK with a five-year evaluations of what may be, on paper, a bond with a 20, or 30 or 100-year payoff.

"They’re not planning on holding that for 30 or a hundred years," says Sharlene Leurig, who runs the sustainable water infrastructure program for the non-profit Ceres. "They’re planning on flipping it, maybe in eight." 

So, from all sides, the risks don’t get priced into the market.

"Everyone thinks they’re going to be the first to realize where the risk is, the first to liquidate," says Leurig. "And that there will be an opportunity to roll that capital into the next thing, which will be less risky."

Keith London seems like someone who should be especially concerned about the risks of South Florida real estate. He’s a city commissioner and longtime homeowner in the Miami suburb of Hallandale Beach. Rising seas have already required some big spending there, just to protect the city’s drinking water supply.  

But he doesn’t think his town has it worse. Just first.

"We are the canary in the coal mine," he says. "We have all the issues and all the problems. But this is a bigger problem than just South Florida. There’s going to be global disruptions, everywhere."

He hopes that means global mobilization to address the challenges.

Meanwhile, he thinks South Florida is a fine place to live.