National News

In A Coal Town Where Jobs Are Few, Wild Ramps Are Plenty

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:29

The annual Ramp Feed, which celebrates the ramp, or wild leek, gives the economically depressed mining town of Richwood, W.Va., a reason to celebrate. And you can smell those alliums for miles.

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Rest in poverty?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:59

This is probably the grimmest indicator of Britain's growing inequality: There's been a striking rise in the number of paupers' funerals. 

To be fair, it is not a very precise indicator because the number of British people who cannot afford their own funeral and have to be buried or cremated at the state's expense is shrouded in secrecy.

Local authorities have a legal duty to dispose of the indigent dead – under the Public Health (Control of Disease ) Act - but they don't brag about the subject. In fact they have to be compelled by requests under the U.K.'s freedom of information law to divulge any details.

A series of these requests by the opposition Labour Party has revealed a disturbing trend: Over the past five years, the number of paupers' funerals (or Public Health Funerals as they are more decorously termed) has increased across the country by 35 percent to more than 3,000 a year. In southwest England, the number has doubled.

"It's becoming too expensive for the poor to die," says Dr. Kate Woodthrope, of the Death and Society Centre at Bath University. Woodthorpe is not entirely surprised by the secrecy surrounding this subject. "There is something Dickensian about this. And there is a Victorian legacy of shame about not being able to give someone a decent send-off."

Dr. Woodthorpe – a sociology lecturer - blames a number of factors for the increase in state-funded burials and cremations.

"The costs have been rising. A cremation now costs an average of around [$5,000] and much more for burial because of the shortage of land," she says. "That's too expensive for many poor people."

But she also says Britain's relatively high divorce and separation rates have led to families becoming more dispersed around the country, blurring the lines of responsibility for burying sometimes distant relatives. 

A pauper's funeral sounds like a desperately bleak affair. But Julie Dunk of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management says the service is not perfunctory; it's simple and dignified and although there is usually no memorial marking the grave, the the name of the deceased is always recorded in the cemetary register. And these state-funded funerals can be well attended.

"I once arranged a public health funeral for a homeless man," says Dunk. "And although there was no family or friends to pay for the service, he was such a well known figure in the local neighborhood, that more than hundred people turned up at the funeral to pay their respects."

 

Rest in poverty?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:59

This is probably the grimmest indicator of Britain's growing inequality: There's been a striking rise in the number of paupers' funerals. 

To be fair, it is not a very precise indicator because the number of British people who cannot afford their own funeral and have to be buried or cremated at the state's expense is shrouded in secrecy.

Local authorities have a legal duty to dispose of the indigent dead – under the Public Health (Control of Disease ) Act - but they don't brag about the subject. In fact they have to be compelled by requests under the U.K.'s freedom of information law to divulge any details.

A series of these requests by the opposition Labour Party has revealed a disturbing trend: Over the past five years, the number of paupers' funerals (or Public Health Funerals as they are more decorously termed) has increased across the country by 35 percent to more than 3,000 a year. In southwest England, the number has doubled.

"It's becoming too expensive for the poor to die," says Dr. Kate Woodthrope, of the Death and Society Centre at Bath University. Woodthorpe is not entirely surprised by the secrecy surrounding this subject. "There is something Dickensian about this. And there is a Victorian legacy of shame about not being able to give someone a decent send-off."

Dr. Woodthorpe – a sociology lecturer - blames a number of factors for the increase in state-funded burials and cremations.

"The costs have been rising. A cremation now costs an average of around [$5,000] and much more for burial because of the shortage of land," she says. "That's too expensive for many poor people."

But she also says Britain's relatively high divorce and separation rates have led to families becoming more dispersed around the country, blurring the lines of responsibility for burying sometimes distant relatives. 

A pauper's funeral sounds like a desperately bleak affair. But Julie Dunk of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management says the service is not perfunctory; it's simple and dignified and although there is usually no memorial marking the grave, the the name of the deceased is always recorded in the cemetary register. And these state-funded funerals can be well attended.

"I once arranged a public health funeral for a homeless man," says Dunk. "And although there was no family or friends to pay for the service, he was such a well known figure in the local neighborhood, that more than hundred people turned up at the funeral to pay their respects."

 

What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 18:04
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 21:00 ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) applauds during an agreement signing ceremony in Shanghai on May 21, 2014, with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller (C) and Chinese state energy giant CNPC Chairman Zhou Jiping (R) attending the ceremony. China and Russia signed today a monumental, multi-decade gas supply contract in Shanghai, CNPC said, with reports saying it could be worth as much as $400 billion.

In Shanghai Wednesday, China signed an historic deal with Russia's Gazprom, securing a 30-year natural gas supply for the country. Russia and China have been in discussions over building a pipeline to deliver gas from Siberia to China for more than a decade.

This was the perfect time for China to be at the bargaining table with Russia's Gazprom because of the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Russia's government is becoming increasingly nervous about its reliance on selling natural gas to Western Europe and the constant threat of isolation from the West. For Russia, this deal means a more diversified customer bas for its enormous gas supply. For China, the deal means 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year starting in 2018 – equal to a quarter of what China currently consumes each year –will be purchased to the tune of nearly $400 billion.

The deal reveals a future where Russia and China are much closer economic partners than they've been in the past.

China is buying so much natural gas through this deal that it could help Beijing in its efforts to clean up China's environment. Much of the air pollution in China is due to burning coal. Natural gas is cleaner burning, and it's likely Russian gas will be replacing some of China's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

China relies more and more on a diverse array of foreign countries for its energy, and the fact this is a 30-year deal will allow China's government to rest a little easier at night.

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday May 21, 2014Interview with Rob SchmitzPodcast Title What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas dealStory Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 18:00

In Shanghai Wednesday, China signed an historic deal with Russia's Gazprom, securing a 30-year natural gas supply for the country. Russia and China have been in discussions over building a pipeline to deliver gas from Siberia to China for more than a decade.

This was the perfect time for China to be at the bargaining table with Russia's Gazprom because of the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Russia's government is becoming increasingly nervous about its reliance on selling natural gas to Western Europe and the constant threat of isolation from the West. For Russia, this deal means a more diversified customer bas for its enormous gas supply. For China, the deal means 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year starting in 2018 – equal to a quarter of what China currently consumes each year –will be purchased to the tune of nearly $400 billion.

The deal reveals a future where Russia and China are much closer economic partners than they've been in the past.

China is buying so much natural gas through this deal that it could help Beijing in its efforts to clean up China's environment. Much of the air pollution in China is due to burning coal. Natural gas is cleaner burning, and it's likely Russian gas will be replacing some of China's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

China relies more and more on a diverse array of foreign countries for its energy, and the fact this is a 30-year deal will allow China's government to rest a little easier at night.

Supreme Court Halts Execution Of Missouri Inmate

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 15:46

The justices ruled that a lower federal court needs to re-examine the case of Russell Bucklew, who was hours away from being put to death when he was granted a temporary stay on Tuesday.

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Pelosi Picks Democratic Team For Benghazi Panel

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 15:07

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's decision to play ball with the House Benghazi select committee was defensive in nature.

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Invoking 'Castle Doctrine,' Mont. Man Pleads Not Guilty In Teen's Death

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 14:46

A Montana man says he was justified in shooting a prowler, a German exchange student, in his garage. The case has revived the debate over how far Americans should be able to go to defend their homes.

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Kidnapped California Woman, Missing Since 2004, Is Found Alive

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 14:10

The unidentified victim was reportedly abducted when she was 15 and held for years against her will. Her alleged captor has been arrested.

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For Automakers, Internet-Connected Cars Are A Balancing Act

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 14:04

General Motors is putting 4G capabilities directly into its vehicles. But analysts say connecting your car to the Internet poses a challenge to automakers: how to balance safety with convenience.

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China and the U.S.: Who's spying on whom?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:31
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 16:27 Feng Li/Getty Images

The Chinese state-controlled press is having a field day with U.S. Justice Department indictments claiming the Chinese army is spying on American companies. They have been leveling counter-charges that the NSA is doing the same thing to Chinese companies.

Who’s to blame all depends on which side you’re on, says David Sanger, the National Security Correspondent for the New York Times.
 
He says Americans argue that “…when the NSA spies, it is spying either for pure national security – say it’s hunting for terrorists or nuclear proliferators – or it is spying for some kind of national economic advantage.” They argue that the Chinese spy for individual companies.

Sanger has been writing about the charges since they were revealed earlier this week. He says it’s unlikely the Chinese and Americans will just acknowledge they’re both spying on each other and move on, a la The Cold War.

“American companies are losing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in stolen intellectual property. And frankly, the Chinese are not at a state of development where we’re that interested in stealing their stuff. But they’re highly interested in stealing ours. And so the cost of jobs in the United States, the cost in lost revenue is very high for us, and it’s been very low for the Chinese.”

Marketplace for Wednesday May 21, 2014Interview by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title China and the U.S.: Who's spying on whom?Story Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

China and the U.S.: Who's spying on whom?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:27

The Chinese state-controlled press is having a field day with U.S. Justice Department indictments claiming the Chinese army is spying on American companies. They have been leveling counter-charges that the NSA is doing the same thing to Chinese companies.

Who’s to blame all depends on which side you’re on, says David Sanger, the National Security Correspondent for the New York Times.
 
He says Americans argue that “…when the NSA spies, it is spying either for pure national security – say it’s hunting for terrorists or nuclear proliferators – or it is spying for some kind of national economic advantage.” They argue that the Chinese spy for individual companies.

Sanger has been writing about the charges since they were revealed earlier this week. He says it’s unlikely the Chinese and Americans will just acknowledge they’re both spying on each other and move on, a la The Cold War.

“American companies are losing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in stolen intellectual property. And frankly, the Chinese are not at a state of development where we’re that interested in stealing their stuff. But they’re highly interested in stealing ours. And so the cost of jobs in the United States, the cost in lost revenue is very high for us, and it’s been very low for the Chinese.”

In Kentucky, An Epic Senate Race Takes Shape

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:25

While GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell's strategy is to attack Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes as a tool of her national party, she's seeking to put the senator on the defensive over women's issues.

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What to do when your refrigerator starts advertising

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:18

Google, in a letter to the SEC, imagined a world where ads would be delivered in some pretty odd places: refrigerators, car dashboards, and thermostats, for starters. 

Which raises an interesting question: How will we ignore ads when they are in our thermostats, our cars, and our dashboards?

We’ve gotten pretty good at shooting down popups and closing video ads before they’ve even loaded and we know who they’re for. 

“When I’ve tested experienced users, one sees extreme results,” says Ben Edelman, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “One in 10,000 college graduates clicking a banner ad.”

Part of growing up and becoming familiar with the internet, is learning how to put up blinders to the internet. 

Some advertisers have tried coercion – forcing you to watch a video before you can get to the content you actually want to see. We’ve learned to ignore those too. 

“What I end up doing is switching browser tabs, muting  the ad – I’ve seen so many friends do this – and coming back to it later,” says Jeff Harmon, with Harmon Brothers Inc. He was behind one of the most famous ad campaigns of 2013, for bathroom deodorizer Poo-Pourri. 

But that’s really clinging to the old TV mindset, says Harmon, which doesn’t translate to the internet where ignoring annoyance is just a click away. Plus, many advertisers – Google among them – have been moving away from that kind of force-feeder advertising. 

These days, most video ads, for example, make you sit through just 5 seconds of an ad. So if you like it, you can watch the rest, and if you don’t, you move on. 

So really, the strategy that will win in the future will be the strategy that wins today:  “Being relevant and engaging,” says Harmon.

Perhaps in the future, we will turn to our Google-refrigerators and iCoffee makers for content: hilarious ads, dramatic ads, or companionship, friendship, and love. Oh sorry, not the last parts. But the content part.  

Check out the slideshow above for some especially creative advertising solutions.

Why people are still buying GM cars post-recall

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:11

The latest recall from General Motors came Wednesday. It was for a couple hundred thousand subcompact Chevrolet Aveos. That’s on top of a couple million cars and trucks recalled Tuesday. And, of course, that was on top of the big recall over ignition defects that were linked to 13 deaths. 

So far, GM has recalled almost 14 million vehicles this year, according to the company. But it's not slowing interest among people shopping for new GM cars, at least according to traffic on the car shopping site Edmunds.com.

Does the recall not matter? The site's consumer advice editor, Carroll Lachnit, notes their traffic only reflects new car shoppers, and some of GM’s recalled vehicles aren’t sold new anymore. And there's a question of branding: "In the majority of cases, the cars that people are looking at don't have the name GM on them," she says. "They're Chevrolets, they're Buicks."

Robert Passikoff of the group Brand Keys says GM’s brand loyalty had been edging back after quality issues and the hit of bankruptcy, but it still isn’t great. Passikoff recently surveyed the reaction of GM car owners who’ve had vehicles recalled.

And they were of course negative, but they were three times as large as brands where loyalty was high,” he says.

In other words, less loyalty going into a recall meant more unhappiness coming out. Passikoff says that will show up in GM sales down the line. 

Anxiety And MRIs May Be Driving The Rise In Double Mastectomies

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:09

More than two-thirds of women who had a double mastectomy after a cancer diagnosis didn't have the high risk that could be reduced by the surgery, a study finds.

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New DOJ Policy Urges Agents To Videotape Interrogations

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:04

The policy shift, set to take effect July 11, is designed to align practices across the federal government, where some law enforcement agencies employ recordings and others don't.

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Gazprom goes to China, Russia's economy rejoices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 13:03

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been visiting China. The result? The two countries are reported to have struck a $400 billion deal in which the Russian gas company Gazprom will supply energy-hungry China.

Gazprom is a company. It has a CEO, Alexei Miller, and you can buy its stock. But ownership is a combination of private and public, and Keith Crane, director of the Rand Corporation’s environment, energy and economic development program, says a little over half the shares are owned by the state and the state calls the shots.

“Gazprom’s key asset is the fact that if you’re a gas producer in Russia, there’s only one company you can sell your gas to, and that’s Gazprom.”

The company, says Crane, has something of a reputation. "It’s highly corrupt, and a lot of money leaks out of the country into the hands of various officials and individuals so I would not invest in it,” he says.

That's one reason why, he notes, this deal with China is so important.

Then, there's the European problem. With the tension between Russia and Ukraine,  through which most Russian gas moves, European countries are looking for alternative sources. Andy Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategeic and International Studies, says the European market for Russian gas is growing a lot more slowly.

“China is the largest growth engine, it’s the fastest growing consumer, and importer of hydrocarbons, oil and gas,” he says.

And, Kuchin notes, while oil makes up a large part of Russia's revenue, keeping natural gas prices low, for production and heating costs, is critical for the country’s domestic economy.

"A good way to think about it is that for the Russians, they’ll say, 'That’s oil, that’s dengi, that’s money. But for gas, 'That’s khleb, that’s our bread,'" he says.

Kuchins says Gazprom probably has rights to over 15 percent of the gas reserves in the world. And since it shares a border with China, this deal for gas should be a win for both countries.

71 Arrested For Internet Child Porn In New York

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 12:42

Described as the largest-ever such operation in the city, it yielded some 600 computers, tablets and smartphones containing what officials say are "shocking" images.

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Obama: U.S. Military In Chad To Aid Search For Missing Schoolgirls

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 11:39

The president tells Congress that 80 U.S. armed forces personnel have been deployed to the central African nation to help locate the nearly 300 girls kidnapped last month in Nigeria.

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