National / International News

VIDEO: Footage shows lorry and car collide

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:38
A lorry's onboard camera has caught the moment a car became wedged across the front of the cab as it travelled along the M25 near Gatwick.

Customers must spend more for free shipping

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:32

While there is no such thing as a free lunch, it seems that might hold true for free shipping, too.

Retailers are apt to promote free shipping around the holidays, but online shoppers using Amazon, Best Buy or the Gap will have to spend more money this year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a customer must spend $82 on average to qualify for free shipping, based on data from July, up from $76 at the same time last year.

The companies claim the increased price is to cover the cost of the service in the first place.Last year, for instance, Amazon spent about $6.64 billion on shipping, but brought in only about $3.1 billion in payments for shipping.

The article also reports customers tend to change their shopping behavior in order to qualify for the free shipping, like adding an extra item to meet the minimum requirement.

Glow-In-The-Dark Treats To Light Up Your Halloween

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:21

Two entrepreneurs have developed new tricks to make food that's literally illuminating, using ingredients that are as natural and unprocessed as possible. It's just basic food chemistry, folks.

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The oil man who caused a silver craze - and bust

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:19

Nelson Bunker Hunt, the billionaire oil tycoon who once tried to corner the world's silver market, died yesterday in Dallas at the age of 88. He was an heir to the Hunt oil fortune and at one time, among the richest people on the planet. But a huge bet on the silver market in the late '70s led to a silver craze and a financial debacle.

Hunt's obituary in The Dallas Morning News describes him as an oilman, patriot, horseman, Christian and John Birch Society member, among other things. But in financial circles he and his brother were best known for owning a frighteningly big chunk of the world's silver. They wanted to hedge against raging inflation, they said.

"They bid up the price of silver from $9 an ounce to, at its peak, something like $50 an ounce in January 1980," said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University.

But when worried regulators set new trading limits on silver, the Hunts couldn't meet a margin call. Silver prices collapsed, they lost over a billion dollars, their lenders were in trouble, and yes, a federal bailout of sorts ensued. Hunt declared bankruptcy – the largest personal bankruptcy in American history.

"It took me probably 30 days to get an organizational chart dealing with probably more than 250 companies that he owned or had an interest in all over the world," said Hunt's bankruptcy lawyer, Russell Munsch, of Munsch, Hardt, Kopf and Harr.

The front page of the New York Times on March 28, 1980 with a headline about Silver Thursday and the Hunt brothers. It reads, Silver's Plunge Jolts Hunts' Empire And Brings Turmoil to Wall Street, Fears of Sell-Off of Metal Depress Stock Prices and Pose Threat to Broker.

Jeffrey Williams, who wrote "Manipulation on Trial: Economy Analysis and the Hunt Silver Case," says lots of people lost money. But reforms? Not so much.

"The more time has passed," says Williams, who is a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC-Davis, "the more I'm forced to conclude that the case did not have much effect on the way we regulate commodity markets."

Jim Stone, who chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission at the time, today said the silver crisis "nearly torpedoed top financial institutions in much the same way mortgage derivatives did in 2008." The Hunts were highly leveraged, and that problem, Stone says, remains "unfixed" and "the lesson unlearned."

High In The Andes, Bolivia's Gondolas In The Sky Ease Congestion

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:17

One of Latin America's poorest countries is building the world's longest urban cable car system. The aim is to transform the lives of commuters who battle chronic traffic problems.

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The numbers for October 22, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:16

Ottawa was in lockdown after a shooting at the Canadian Parliament building and a war memorial Wednesday morning. A soldier and one suspect were killed, the CBC reported. Details are scarce, but Vox has a summary of what's confirmed and unconfirmed as of late Wednesday morning. Another useful reference: the breaking news consumer's handbook from "On the Media."

As we wait to learn more, here are the stories we're reading — and some numbers we're watching — Wednesday.

17

That's how many Pulitzers the Washington Post won under the leadership of Ben Bradlee, who served as editor for 26 years and died Tuesday at age 93. Bradlee lead the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal and the publication of the Pentagon papers, and he's credited with elevating the Post to one of the top newspapers in the country.

11 out of 20

According to the Federal Reserve, that's how many banks totally failed to meet the last big chunk of Dodd-Frank rules, in part because they weren’t thorough enough or made mistakes in their reporting. It's why some are turning to a computer program called the Volcker Assistant. It is, for all intents and purposes, like a Turbo Tax for banks trying to comply with financial regulations.

40 percent

Four in 10 people surveyed by Pew Research said they've experienced harassment online. A little less than half of those — 18 percent of all Internet users — said that harassment went on longer, or involved physical threats, sexual harassment or stalking.

The murky origin of the 20 percent down payment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:10

Picture a mortgage, and you're likely imagining a down payment of 20 percent of the price of the house. 

"I think the 20 percent down payment has become the default, no pun intended," says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants. "To many homeowners, I think it symbolizes a commitment."

The requirements of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the government-backed entities that support the vast majority of new mortgages — are the most obvious reasons the standard applies today.

"Under Fannie and Freddie's rules, you can get a lower down payment mortgage, but that then requires extra payment in the form of mortgage insurance," says Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. 

The history of that requirement dates back to the Great Depression. According to Wachter, before the 1930s most mortgages were short-term and non-amortizing: a home buyer had to either pay off the whole house in a lump sum after a few years, or roll over the loan at a new interest rate. Down payments, on the other hand, were typically more than 30 percent.

After the resulting foreclosure crisis and construction halt — similar to what happened after the recent financial crisis — the government created the Federal Housing Administration, which backed mortgages, but required a 20 percent down payment. After World War II, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the FHA adopted a 30-year, fixed-rate standard. By the mid '50s, most mortgages fit that description.

But 30-year, fixed-rate, 20 percent-down loans weren't strictly the result of government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.

"When I bought my first home it was $22,000 and I had to put 20 percent down, and it was a conventional loan," says Chris Polychron,  president-elect of the National Association of Realtors. "The conventional lenders mimicked what the GSEs did."

Since the 1950s, 20 percent has remained the average down payment — with the exception of the run-up to the financial crisis in 2008. But how did 20 percent become that dividing line in the first place, back in the 1930s? As with so much of our economic life, it’s anybody’s guess.

"I would speculate if you scored 80 percent, you’re a B-minus student, and I guess that means you’re above average," says Miller. "So maybe that has something to do with it."

The economics behind the rush for an Ebola vaccine

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:03

Johnson & Johnson is the latest pharmaceutical firm to say it will join the race to find a vaccine for Ebola. The firm has even been talking with rival GlaxoSmithKline about ways to collaborate to speed up development.

That urgency speaks to the idea that while the epidemic is well under control in the U.S., it’s out of control in West Africa, where the World Health Organization reports nearly 1,000 people have been infected in just the past week.

“What you are seeing is a collaboration among industry, a collaboration with governments, a collaboration among charities to address what is becoming a horrific public health crisis,” says GSK’s Donna Altenpohl.

Until recently, developing a vaccine wasn’t viewed as lucrative in the industry. But Adel Mahmoud, former President of Merck Vaccines says the power of this virus is persuasive.

“What has changed today is failure of almost all control methods that we now exist,” he says.

Mahmoud says with public health efforts like quarantine and containment falling short it’s now obvious a vaccine is essential. With millions of Africans in need as well as medical workers worldwide, Mahmoud says it’s clear there’s a huge market.

It’s not clear how profitable that market will be. But believe it or not, that’s a secondary concern right now to drug makers, says USC economist Joel Hay.

“They hope if they develop good vaccines they can be compensated at some point. But I don’t think they are doing this out of a profit motive, they are doing it because they believe it’s the right thing to do,” he says.

Certainly down the road, the company that comes up with a vaccine first could score a major public relations win. But right now, Hay says, nobody – including the drug makers – stand to benefit if Ebola spreads beyond West Africa.

“Just think what would happen if people though that airplanes were not safe to fly in. the economy could be devastated very quickly,” he says.

Hay says for pharmaceutical companies in the business of making people better it’s gut check time.

'No rules broken over fans ban'

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:49
Uefa says no rules were broken despite fans being at the game between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City.

VIDEO: Schools 'should check kids' teeth'

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:45
Schools and nurseries need to step in to tackle the worrying trend of tooth decay in children, the advisory body NICE has said.

A 45,000-Year-Old Leg Bone Reveals The Oldest Human Genome Yet

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:39

The DNA in this ancient Siberian leg bone shows that the man had Neanderthal ancestors — yet more proof that humans and Neanderthals interbred. And he lived much farther north than expected.

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Ebola: US restricts airport arrivals

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:38
US rules requiring air passengers from the three West African countries worst hit by Ebola to travel via one of five airports come into effect.

WHO crisis team holds Ebola talks

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:36
The World Health Organization's emergency committee holds talks on travel restrictions and screening measures on the Ebola outbreak.

Evans 'hopes' for football return

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:33
Ex-Sheffield United and Wales striker Ched Evans wants a return to football after serving a rape sentence.

Four guilty of Blackwater killings

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:16
A US federal jury finds four Blackwater security guards guilty of killing 14 Iraqis in a square in Baghdad in 2007.

Bad And Good News About The Second Deadliest Infectious Disease

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:07

The number of tuberculosis cases is far higher than previously thought. And Ebola is making some patients stay away from hospitals. Yet the mortality rate is dropping.

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VIDEO: Video shows Canada parliament shootings

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:05
Footage from the Toronto Globe and Mail shows a hail of bullets being fired inside the Canadian parliament building.

More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:05

Lots of groups and individuals try to help the homeless in their communities by offering them food. But a report finds that cities are increasingly passing measures to restrict these efforts.

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Cuba leads way on Ebola effort

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:01
Cuba sends a second group of medical staff to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak, becoming the biggest single provider of healthcare workers.

Freed N Korea detainee back in US

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-22 09:53
A US citizen freed from detention in North Korea receives an emotional homecoming in Ohio as Washington works to release two other Americans.
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