National / International News

Jews 'forced' from Guatemala village

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 17:38
Some 230 members of an Orthodox Jewish group begin leaving a village in western Guatemala after a bitter row with the local indigenous community.

George Galloway attacked on street

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 17:29
George Galloway has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw after he was attacked on a London street, his spokesman says.

The Victorian pig singing competition

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 17:18
Author Jeremy Clay tells the story of a rather porcine talent show.

The makeover that's divided a nation

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 17:00
The multi-million dollar makeover that's divided a nation

Italian lawyers urged to work faster

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:55
Italian PM Matteo Renzi announces measures to quicken the pace of the country's notoriously slow justice system to help the struggling economy.

Mouse on lily tops photo competition

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:44
Animal nightlife - and other great natural images from ecology photo contest

Texas abortion provisions struck down

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:32
A US judge strikes down part of a Texas abortion law that would have closed more than a dozen clinics.

McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns To Avoid Being 'Distraction'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:27

There's an investigation into a payoff scheme before the 2012 presidential caucuses in Iowa. Jesse Benton says suggestions of his involvement are inaccurate and politically motivated.

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Ecuador to bring in digital currency

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 15:44
Ecuador says it will introduce the world's first digital currency issued by a central bank and it will go into circulation in December.

Making houses out of mushrooms

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 15:37
The natural resources used to make 'green' homes

Only two Games lane fines issued

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 15:31
Only two drivers were fined for breaching Commonwealth Games lane restrictions in Glasgow, data obtained by BBC Scotland shows.

Federal Judge Blocks Texas Abortion Restrictions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 15:10

Regulations passed in Texas, which affected clinics that perform abortions there, have been blocked by a federal judge, on the grounds that they unconstitutionally restricted access to legal abortion.

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Lucic-Baroni back in the big time

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 15:09
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni describes her US Open victory over world number two Simona Halep as "the best day of my life"

Ukraine 'slipping out of control'

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:45
The Ukraine crisis is "slipping out of control", Germany's foreign minister warns as EU leaders prepare to discuss new sanctions against Russia.

Disowned gay teen speaks out

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:38
...but not discouraged - gay son in video row speaks out

Viewpoint: Why Pakistanis crave stability

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:32
Why stability is all most Pakistanis really want

Micro-unit apartments: Tiny and booming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:31

Having roommates gets old. And having roommates is cramped, says New Yorker Marcos Sanchez.

“Nine people, five cats, and a number of regulars who are guests,” Sanchez describes the residents of his Bushwick loft as he gives a tour. “This building used to be a warehouse.” 

The metal stairwell is dark, but brightened by some impressive graffiti featuring yellow jellyfish. An old bucket of sand holds legions of cigarette butts, and rust has eaten through one of the steps. 

Inside the apartment, the ceilings are high. Art supplies fill one communal room, an old film crane frames the couches in another.

In many ways, this loft realizes a romanticized ideal of youth and resourcefulness. The roommates host salons and potlucks, artist exhibitions and game nights. They sip beer on the roof in view of the Manhattan skyline. There’s a dilapidated water tower atop the building that offers entertainment for the adventurous and tetanus-resistant. Many of the roommates wouldn’t have it any other way.

Perhaps best of all, the rent is around $900 – about as cheap as it gets in New York City.

There is an additional price to be paid, however.

“You hear sex through the walls,” Sanchez says with a laugh. “You hear some bathroom noises. There are frequently dirty dishes in the sink. The cats are really nice but I think they’re gross. They’re the nicest creatures. It weighs on my conscience when I speak ill of them.”

But he does anyway. And he’s right, they smell.

“When I have my lotto fantasies, one of the first things I do is I get a place of my own near my job," he says.

The Desire To Live Alone

Marcos Sanchez is not alone.

“More people are living alone than at any time in the history of our species," says Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at NYU and author of "Going Solo". “Contemporary people, given the option, would rather go solo, which is why we see such incredible demand in the real estate market."

The key phrase there is “given the option.” Many people aren’t given any option at all, he notes.

"The problem is that real estate has become so expensive in the central urban areas that many people are priced out of the rental market,” Klinenberg says.

A one-bedroom in Manhattan easily goes for $3,000 a month or more. Rents are higher than before the recession and renters' incomes are lower. Mass migrations to urban centers have continued, pushing rents up even more.  

Compounding the simple imbalance of supply and demand, there is a mismatch across the U.S. between the type of housing desired and the type of housing available. 

“The population of singles and couples far exceeds the number of studios and one bedrooms,” says John Infranca, research affiliate at NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. He is coauthor of a report examining this mismatch. In many cities, the available housing is 50-70 years-old on average, and thus designed for a different era. In his words, it was “a time when we had more large families [and] people weren’t living alone until they start[ed] their own family.”

Infranca says this means families today are paying a price for the lack of housing for singles.

“The demand for housing of this population is currently being met instead by our stock of two- and three-bedroom units...pricing families out of those units because they have to compete with two or three single individuals.”

Finding Answers in Tiny Places

One possible solution is the micro-unit. It’s a small – sometimes very small – single-person apartment. Inside of an immense factory space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Tom O'Hara, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Capsys Corp., stands over the emerging skeleton of one such unit.

“This is the combined living-dining area. [The] kitchen goes back in this corner. This is about 300 square feet.”

Capsys builds modular residences – pre-fabricated, stackable, movable homes or apartments or hotels. 

Sabri Ben-Achour/Marketplace

The apartment he shows me is being made for the MyMicro project, an experiment launched under Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City. 

It’s small, concedes O'Hara, but that is the point.

“I don’t know that anyone would live in a space this small in Peoria, but in New York City, you have a place like this because you live in the city, and this is where you take a shower and sleep.”

The kitchen island will fold down from the wall; the bed will be either a Murphy bed or a convertible sofa. 

The 55 units being built in Brooklyn will include 22 rent-restricted units, which will run from $939 to $1,873 a month depending on the income of the renter. The remaining 33 will be market rate, which means they could go for higher.

In dense cities, people live their lives outside – the coffee shop down the street, the bar around the corner. At least, that is the bet that a lot of cities are beginning to make as they allow developers to experiment with building micro-units, from Austin to Denver to Washington, DC. In most cities, minimum apartment size requirements and zoning codes make micro-units either impossible or cost prohibitive without express sanction from local authorities. 

So far, the experimentation has confirmed a deep need.

“These units are renting out very quickly, if not fully rented the moment construction is finished,” says Infranca.

In that sense, it has been a success: the city is meeting demand for housing with new supply.

Then there's the question of whether this kind of apartment represents good urban planning. In Seattle, micro-units as small as 120 square feet have been built in not-very-dense parts of the city. Some residents worry about parking problems and other issues created by a sudden increase in population that could come from the creation of this kind of housing.

Those irks may be the lesser of two evils. If young people or single people can’t move to a city because there’s nowhere affordable to live the way they want, they'll just go somewhere else. And that's a far greater existential threat.

Suction on Leith: The EU bans high-power vacuums

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:26

The EU is banning the manufacture of vacuums over 1600 watts, starting September 1st.

What will that mean for Patricia Ware, owner of a vacuum repair shop in Edinburgh? Ware demonstrates the difference in sucking power from her shop, Radio Electrics.

"When you have pets with a lot of dog hair and cat hair, you need to have that suction [a more powerful vacuum provides]," says Ware. "Why they're doing this, I have no idea. This is the EU crap that goes on in Brussels. But nevermind about all the racing cars that raise all the emissions in the air, that's ok, we're going to worry about a vacuum cleaner that's ... on for a half hour."

 

Tech IRL: A smart way to stay cool

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:26

It's boiling hot out. Want to come home to a cool house, without running up your electric bill? There’s an App for that. The device is from SmartAC. And it’s free.  So, what’s in it for power companies? Marketplace Tech’s Ben Johnson and Lizzie O’Leary experiment with controlling a coworker’s air conditioner… from their office.  

What was your first job?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:26

Remember your first day in an office (or, for some, a barn)?

Our first jobs shape us, how we view work and see ourselves as part of a bigger team.

We went around Los Angeles to find stories of first jobs and what lessons you still hold from your first time employed. Lizzie O'Leary told us about her first job in a sandwich shop, I was something called a 'video game quality assurance tester,' what was yours?

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