National News

Billboards That Drop Angels On Your Head

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 05:32

There you are in a train station, and if you stand in the right space, suddenly an angel — a lady with enormous wings, looking like the real deal — appears at your side. She's not real. She's a billboard display gone wild. Which is what a bunch of billboards have been doing lately. We visit three of the wildest.

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Phil Everly Dies; Transformed Rock 'N' Roll With Brother Don

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 05:00

The tight harmonies in the Everly Brothers' string of hits in the '50s and '60s were huge influences on others such as Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, and The Beach Boys. Among their biggest songs: "Bye Bye Love," "Wake Up Little Susie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream." Everly was 74. Brother Don is 76.

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Comic Artist Yumi Sakugawa On Friend-Love, Identity And Art

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 05:00

How should you tell your friends that you're in friend-love with them? Sakugawa, the artist and author of I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You shares what inspires her work.

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22 States Curb Access To Abortion In 2013

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 04:15

The 205 restrictions enacted between 2011 and 2013 outpaced the 189 enacted during the entire previous decade. Also, the number of U.S. states deemed by a leading reproductive rights group to be "hostile" to abortion rights continues to rise — from 13 states at the turn of the millennium to 27 today.

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Boeing Machinists Approve Contract To Secure 777X Work

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 04:09

The stakes were high and the vote was close as Boeing production workers agreed to concede some benefits in order to secure assembly of the new 777X airplane for the Puget Sound region.

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Lovebirds + String + Watering Can + Dog = Rube Goldberg Magic

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 02:53

The term "Rube Goldberg machine" has become shorthand for a convoluted contraption made up of a series of chain reactions. But Goldberg was also a real person, whose ideas for whimsical devices have captivated imaginations for decades.

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Transgender Issues Follow Path Blazed By Gay Rights

NPR News - Sat, 2014-01-04 01:46

Some gay and lesbian activists say 2013 was "the gayest year ever," but as 2014 opens, another issue is gaining traction — transgender rights.

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Want Perfect Pitch? You Might Be Able To Pop A Pill For That

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 21:50

The ability to identify musical notes by ear is usually thought to be something developed early in life. Now a Harvard study says a drug normally used as a mood stabilizer might allow adults with no musical experience to learn perfect pitch.

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For The Blind, Connected Devices Create A Novel Way To Read

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 17:02

Braille hasn't changed much in the nearly 200 years it's been around. But with tablets, smartphones and e-readers, how we read things has. Judy Dixon of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped talks with NPR about how technology has changed Braille — and whether it can endure.

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2014 Resolutions: Melissa and Joshua

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-03 14:52

Happy New Year! In 2014, Marketplace Money will follow a few listeners from around the country who’ve resolved to make over their personal finance lives. We’ll be checking up on their financial New Year’s resolutions periodically throughout the year and see if they're achieving their goals!

Name: Melissa, 39 and Joshua, 27

Family: Daughter, 14 months old

Location: Oakland, Calif.

Resolutions: “Break that paycheck-to-paycheck mentality. We’re starting to make money, we’re becoming more financially secure, but we’re still living like our paychecks are going to evaporate into dust if we don’t spend our money.”

“We don’t know what to do with our extra income. Do we pay off old debt?” Their combined student loan debt is at $70,000 at 6.3 percent interest, and they also have $7,000 credit card debt that is heading into collections. “Do we start our daughter’s  college savings account? We’re not quite sure what to do.”

“We could probably, if we really scrimped, could get $300-400 in savings.” They also have zero retirement savings.

Carmen Says: “We all want to give our kids a great education. The trouble is, when you give an education to a child at the expense of your needs, your kid is going to end up depending on you. And that is actually a situation that several million people are finding themselves in now where they’re taking care of aging parents … one of the biggest gifts you can give a child is to make sure that you are financially stable, so they can start their adult life without that added burden.” 

Carmen’s next suggestion, head to NFCC.org and find a non-profit credit counselor. “Find a non-profit credit counselor. What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to head over to things called debt repair or something like that.”

Carmen’s resolution prescription: “You’ve got about $300 to play with. I would put $100 a month in cash savings account, so that will keep your head above water, and you won’t have to borrow any more if the car breaks down. Two: start taking another 100 to 150 to start paying off that debt. If you have any money left over, go ahead and put some of that money in a pre-tax, your employer’s savings accounts, 401k’s. But that credit card debt, it may be a little while before you can save for retirement in a full way.”

2014 Resolutions: Melissa and Joshua Poland

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-03 14:52

Happy New Year! In 2014, Marketplace Money will follow a few listeners from around the country who’ve resolved to make over their personal finance lives. We’ll be checking up on their financial New Year’s resolutions periodically throughout the year and see if they're achieving their goals!

Name: Melissa, 39 and Joshua, 27

Family: Daughter, 14 months old

Location: Oakland, Calif.

Resolutions: “Break that paycheck-to-paycheck mentality. We’re starting to make money, we’re becoming more financially secure, but we’re still living like our paychecks are going to evaporate into dust if we don’t spend our money.”

“We don’t know what to do with our extra income. Do we pay off old debt?” Their combined student loan debt is at $70,000 at 6.3 percent interest, and they also have $7,000 credit card debt that is heading into collections. “Do we start our daughter’s  college savings account? We’re not quite sure what to do.”

“We could probably, if we really scrimped, could get $300-400 in savings.” They also have zero retirement savings.

Carmen Says: “We all want to give our kids a great education. The trouble is, when you give an education to a child at the expense of your needs, your kid is going to end up depending on you. And that is actually a situation that several million people are finding themselves in now where they’re taking care of aging parents … one of the biggest gifts you can give a child is to make sure that you are financially stable, so they can start their adult life without that added burden.” 

Carmen’s next suggestion, head to NFCC.org and find a non-profit credit counselor. “Find a non-profit credit counselor. What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to head over to things called debt repair or something like that.”

Carmen’s resolution prescription: “You’ve got about $300 to play with. I would put $100 a month in cash savings account, so that will keep your head above water, and you won’t have to borrow any more if the car breaks down. Two: start taking another 100 to 150 to start paying off that debt. If you have any money left over, go ahead and put some of that money in a pre-tax, your employer’s savings accounts, 401k’s. But that credit card debt, it may be a little while before you can save for retirement in a full way.”

Uncertainty ahead for India's economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-03 14:29

Manmohan Singh announced he will step down as India’s Prime Minister after elections in the spring. Singh has been in power for a decade and was the country’s Finance Minister for ten years before that. His policies helped India’s economy grow at a rapid rate -- though in the past few years, inflation and corruption scandals have tarnished Singh’s administration.

“How big a shift this is going to be will really depend on whether his successor is capable of grabbing the reins as it were and pushing ahead with the next phase of reforms which are politically very difficult things to deal with” says Andrew Walker, economics correspondent with the BBC.

Under Singh’s influence, India’s economy opened up more to foreign investment.    

India’s growth slowed in part because of the global recession. But the country’s crumbling infrastructure – including poorly maintained roads and an unstable power grid – has probably stifled investment.

 “I think history will see Manmohan Singh as being the one who started the transformation,” says Walker, “taking India away from this heavily government-dominated economy to a market oriented system that has grown strongly and is capable of doing so for a lot longer under the right kind of leadership.”

This Week's Massive Winter Storm, Seen From Space

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 14:19

On Friday, NASA tweeted a composite image of the storm that has covered large areas of the Midwest and Eastern U.S. with a blanket of snow.

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House GOP Puts Another 'Target' On Obamacare

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 14:08

House Republicans plan to start the year with a vote on legislation to better safeguard the personal data that HealthCare.gov collects. Democrats see it as yet another attempt to undermine the health law, but they also see political risk in voting against more security for sensitive consumer data.

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2014 Resolutions: Nina

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-03 13:56

Happy New Year! In 2014, Marketplace Money will follow a few listeners from around the country who’ve resolved to make over their personal finance lives. We’ll be checking up on their financial New Year’s resolutions periodically throughout the year and see if they're achieving their goals!

Name: Nina, 49
Family: Daughter, 18, in college
Location: Oakland, Calif.
Resolutions: “First and foremost, is to be financially set for retirement which isn’t too far off, so I have to figure out what to do to build my nest-egg a little stronger. At a minimum, I would need a million dollars. I’m no where near a million dollars” Nina says she has about $350,000 saved, is planning to retire around age 65, and she’s interested in retiring abroad where living costs could be cheaper.

She has about $50,000 left on her mortgage to pay off, which she’s been trying to pay down aggressively … perhaps too aggressively. Nina has been dipping into her emergency savings to get it paid off.

“My second resolution is, finding out how to find greater tax-shelters, to make sure that I’m not giving Uncle Sam too much of my hard-earned money.”

Carmen Says: “Number two may not be possible, because you can only max out your tax-shelter so much. But number one, we can absolutely get you there. Really focus on saving up money for your retirement. Please protect that emergency fund, at least have a years worth in there. And then any additional funds … you can split between bulking up your retirement and traveling, so you can see where you want to go.”

Carmen also suggested to not completely pay off her mortgage in lieu of properly saving up for retirement and emergencies. “You can’t take the house to the grocery store, the house won’t pay your bills.”

And one last tip, “Learn some spanish, so you can do your travel and enjoy retirement in the sun!”

Big Cities See Violent Crime Rates Fall In 2013

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 13:54

Cities across the country saw sharp drops in violent crime rates in 2013. For some big cities, murder rates reached historic lows. The numbers reflect a decades-long decline, which shows that plenty of neighborhoods in urban areas are safe while some remain troubled by violent crime.

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Will the big profits of 2013 continue this year?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-03 13:46

Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary, Leigh Gallagher of Fortune Magazine, and Felix Salmon of Reuters looked back on the huge gains in the stock markets and corporate profits in 2013 and whether we can look forward to workers -- as well as corporations -- sharing in the good fortune this year.

Gallagher says most analysts predict stock prices to continue to rise for at least part of 2014, but it won't all be smooth sailing:

"One thing that has been totally absent in this past year has been volatility. We forgot what it's like to be jerked around so much. Three percent gains, three percent drops -- it was just gone this year, so I think we'll see a little bit more of that."

Salmon agrees that profits will probably continue to rise, but wonders whether the rest of us will see some benefit as well:

"A much bigger proportion of the total economy is corporate profits than we've ever seen before, and so the big question for 2014 is, 'are workers going to get back some of those profits, in which case earnings are going to go down and the stock market will probabaly go down too, or are companies going to continue to make these insane profits?' In which case the stock market is looking perfectly well-placed right now."

The NSA's Quantum Code-Breaking Research Is No Secret

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 13:37

So the world's most clandestine spy agency is working on something called a quantum computer. It's based on rules Einstein himself described as "spooky," and it can crack almost any code. That's got to be top-secret stuff, right? Guess again.

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'Playboy' Gets Pranked: Group Flips The Script On Sex

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 13:29

A Baltimore-based group is working to change the messages companies are sending about sex. So far, it has created convincing, fake websites pretending to be Playboy and Victoria's Secret — but putting an emphasis on consent.

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Let Them Eat Sandwiches: USDA Eases School Lunch Restrictions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-03 13:16

Participation in the school lunch program suffered after USDA restricted the amount of grains and protein that could be served to kids at lunchtime. Now school food directors are applauding the decision to allow more of them back on lunch menus.

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