National / International News

A Helmand that is rarely seen

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 12:23
A daredevil taxi driver, wandering nomads and football fans

One More Year, Yankees' Jeter Says, Announcing Retirement Plan

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-12 12:21

"I want to start by saying thank you," New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter tells fans. The idea of Jeter retiring from pro ball has been a subject of debate in recent years, driven in part by his age and a nagging ankle injury.

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Ex-New Orleans mayor took bribes

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 12:17
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was in office during Hurricane Katrina, is found guilty of corruption.

California's drought: Bad, but not the whole economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 12:16

It’s dry here in California. Really dry. The state is facing its worst drought in more than a century.

President Obama will be in Fresno, the heart of the agricultural Central Valley, to check things out Friday. The governor has declared a statewide emergency.

The drought is decidedly bad for farmers. But what it’ll mean for the rest of the economy isn’t as obvious. 

At 7:30 a.m. at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, the day was coming to an end. Jesse Martin, president of Value Produce, showed me the fruit he had for sale: kiwi, strawberries, grapes, melons. His take on the drought: "everyone is going to get hurt."

But, he’s not that worried. "It’ll be a little more money to the housewife," he says.

The housewife -- and the rest of us who eat.

But, a few extra dollars for fruit each week is nothing compared to what some California farmers are in for. Without water, crops will die. The California Farm Water Coalition estimates 500,000 acres will be fallowed. It says the drought could cost the agriculture industry $2 billion. And $2 billion sounds big. It is big.

But, it isn’t a disaster for the state. Not yet.

"It’s not the sort of thing that’s going to tip the state into recession or anything like that," said Jeffrey Michael, head of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific.

California’s GDP is $2 trillion.  The economy here is the same size as Russia’s.

"The state’s overall economy is primarily a service economy in big coastal metro areas," Michael said, "which is pretty much unaffected by the drought." 

Agriculture uses about 80 percent of California’s developed water. The state grows two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. But, agriculture is only about 2 percent of the state’s economy.

"The economy of California is huge," Michael said. "We don’t want to minimize the impacts. You can make just about anything in California look small just by comparing it to the total."

The power industry is pinched by the drought. Fisheries. Recreation. Some towns are just a few months away from running out of water.

Without rain, or a change in how we use water, things could get a whole lot worse.

David Rose is an analyst and water expert at Wedbush Securities. We peered out a tenth floor window, looking at rooftops dotted with cooling towers. These towers, Rose said, sustain Los Angeles. And use a tremendous amount of water.

Everyone needs water. Farmers. Manufacturers. Lawyers. Movie executives. Even securities analysts.

"It’s very important for California from a competitive perspective to attract businesses," Rose said, "and in order to attract businesses, you have to insure 100 percent reliable affordable water, every single day."

Right now, Rose said, California is thirsty for more water than it has. If this drought continues, it may have even less to drink in the future. Which means the state has some long term figuring to do.  

Study casts doubt on value of mammograms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 12:10

When it comes to women's health, routine mammograms are part of the gospel. But now, an in depth study in the British Medical Journal says the screening tests may not be that useful after all.

Researchers followed 90,000 women for 25 years, and determined that there was no difference in breast cancer deaths between women who got mammograms and those who did not. 

Around 37 million mammograms are performed every year in the US, and they cost about $100 a piece. That’s not always money well spent, says Dr. Steven Narod, one of the study' authors.

"Our conclusion is that if it worked, we would see it," says Narod.

He adds this study is just the latest of many that have found mammograms to be ineffectual for most women. Still, mammograms remain one of the most widely used medical screenings. Nearly 75 percent of women over 40 have had one in the past year, and study findings have been widely disputed.

"The pushback comes from two sides: One is the radiologists, and secondly, the patients themselves," says Narod.

J.B. Silvers is a professor of health care finance at Case Western Reserve University. He says years of awareness campaigns and marketing have patients demanding the tests, and a lot of doctors prescribing them.

"The whole idea of medicine is 'do no harm', it doesn’t say 'do cost effective'. So, if it looks like something might be of value and might be able to help you out, there’s a big incentive to go ahead and do it."

But there can be real harm in taking unneeded tests. "We end up with 1 screen-detected cancer in 3 being over-diagnosed, and that means that women got breast cancer therapy that they really didn’t need," says epidemiologist Cornelia Baines, who co-authored the study.

In a statement, The American College of Radiology said mammograms have saved millions of lives, the study is deeply flawed, and didn’t include the most updated screening technology.

How much do Olympic figure skating dresses cost?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:55

Olympic figure skating costumes are all about fit, flare, and a few thousand rhinestones. All that glitter isn't cheap. The dress Gracie Gold wore on the cover of Sports Illustrated would set you back $3,000.  

Designers say dresses run anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 each. And Olympic contestants need more than one. It takes a wardrobe of shine to succeed on the ice.


How much do Olympic figure skating dresses cost?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:55

Olympic figure skating costumes are all about fit, flare, and a few thousand rhinestones. All that glitter isn't cheap. The dress Gracie Gold wore on the cover of Sports Illustrated would set you back $3,000.  

Designers say dresses run anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 each. And Olympic contestants need more than one. It takes a wardrobe of shine to succeed on the ice.


Imagine a landscape free of shopping carts

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:50

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Thursday:  

  • In Washington, the Commerce Department issues retail sales data for January.
  • The International Energy Agency releases its monthly oil market report on supply and demand around the globe.
  • If you spot an orphaned shopping cart on your block help it find its way home. February is 'Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month.' Hey, does pushing a grocery cart across a parking lots count as exercise?
  • Musician Peter Gabriel turns 64.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture is schedule to release its ten-year agricultural projections. The report is published each February.

Farrington secures halfpipe gold

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:42
America's Kaitlyn Farrington defeats defending champion Torah Bright to win gold in the ladies' halfpipe competition.

For Lower-Income Students, Snow Days Can Be Hungry Days

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:42

When bad weather shuts down school or delays its openings, it locks out many needy kids from a key source of nutrition. Some 70 percent of U.S. schoolchildren who eat school lunches get them for free or at reduced prices.

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Man City's game with Sunderland off

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:23
Manchester City's hopes of returning to the top of the table are hit as their home game with Sunderland is postponed.

Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Barbie?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:21

Fans of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue may be surprised by the newest model to grace the pages of the upcoming issue.

It's a doll -- Barbie, to be specific. The 55-year-old female icon will be featured in a spread, shot by the same photographer who shot cover model Kate Upton and her fellow swimsuit-wearing women. Mattel is also releasing a special edition Sports Illustrated swimsuit doll, and a new ad campaign featuring the hashtag #unapologetic.

Spotted in NYC: Barbie traded her parka for a one-piece! What are you #unapologetic about today?

— Barbie (@Barbie) February 10, 2014


Let's start with the obvious question. Why would Mattel want to put a doll made for little girls in a magazine made for grown men?

"The swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated actually reaches quite a few women," says Lisa McKnight, senior vice president of marketing for North America at Mattel.

The women who purchase the magazine for fashion reasons are potential Barbie fans.

"Target is a big sponsor of this issue, and then will sell a swimwear line in their stores," says McKnight.

Also available at Target: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition of Barbie, whose full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. The doll will be featured in a modern version of the black and white swimsuit that she wore when she was introduced to the world in 1959. Toy analyst Sean McGowan says this isn't the first time Mattel has marketed Barbie to adults.

"There was a big store in Shanghai that actually had a bar. That doesn't seem very kid friendly," McGowan says.

But putting Barbie in a swimsuit magazine is a very risky move.

"For example," says McGowan, "my wife is an ardent feminist and a teacher of girls from K-12. And she has only reluctantly come around to the idea that Barbie can be used to project positive images of empowerment, and choice, and career options."

Barbie's appearance in a magazine that objectifies the female body, adds McGowan, could undo the progress Mattel has made in convincing parents that Barbie is a positive role model.

British Syria suicide bomber named

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:20
A British man thought to have carried out a suicide bombing in Syria last week was 41-year-old Abdul Waheed Majid, the BBC learns.

Police investigate council payments

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:03
Police investigate payments by two councils to their chief executives described as unlawful by a spending watchdog.

CAR leader 'declares war' on militia

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:03
Central African Republic leader Catherine Samba-Panza says she will "go to war" with Christian militias who are slaughtering Muslims.

US Army tests smart-rifle scope

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:02
The US Army is testing a smart-rifle technology that promises to only fire if a target is properly lined-up and can compensate for weather conditions

Niche Online Dating Promises A Different Site For Every Preference

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:01

The cyber-dating industry is stretching far beyond its mass-market beginnings, with niche dating sites for every lifestyle or preference. "You name the obscure interest, there's probably a site for it," says online dating expert Dan Slater.

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Collingwood handed England role

BBC - Wed, 2014-02-12 11:00
Paul Collingwood is named England assistant coach for the limited-overs tour of the West Indies and the World T20.

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Found Guilty Of Corruption

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-12 10:58

Ray Nagin was indicted last January, when prosecutors said he engaged in bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

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FCC caps rates for prison phone calls

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-12 10:55

This week the FCC adopted new phone rates for people in prison, jail or detention centers. Under the new rules, interstate collect phone calls can cost no more than 25 cents per minute and  debit or pre-paid phone calls can cost no more than 21 cents per minute.

Before the rate caps, an interstate call could cost as much as $17 for a 15 minute call.  Under the new rate caps, a 15 minute call would be about $3.15.

"This is essentially the federal government putting its foot down on a system that’s been broken for a decade," said Leah Sakala, a policy analyst with the Prison Policy Initiative.

Sakala said the prison phone industry preys on people who can’t afford it.

"This is a market that profits from exploiting communities who are the most economically vulnerable," said Sakala.

Sakala claims that the more notable phone companies  used to profit from  the prison phone industry, but were bought out by companies  owned by investment banks.

Below is a rundown of how much certain compnies charge in fees for calls from prison:


 The Los Angeles Times reports that the prison phone market brings in over $1.2 billion every year.

 Today's prison phone market, which brings in $1.2 billion annually, is dominated by two little-known phone companies. Global Tel-Link, based in Atlanta, and Securus Technologies of Dallas, both backed by private equity firms, make up more than 80% of the market, according to Standard & Poor's.

The phone companies insist it simply costs more to provide inmate phone services, which require security features such as call screening, restricting phone numbers and blocking three-way calls.

 "All the real work to allow an inmate to make a call happens before the call is even accepted," said Stephanie Joyce, counsel for Securus. Securus and other companies charge fees to initiate a call, add funds to an account or receive statements, partially to help recoup those costs, Joyce said.

Securus Technologies said the new caps on phone charges will cost them over $10 million in revenues.  

In an interview with Bloomberg BNA, Securus Technologies CEO Richard Smith said he's unsure of what the real impact will be: 

 “Securus is committed to providing high end security features that one third of all the prisons in the U.S. require and we will continue to fight for prisons and jails to fight for the prices that they deem are necessary to support their own prisons and jails."

The U.S Court of Appeals denied a bid to stay the FCC's new rate caps.

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