National / International News

What a $6 billion anti-terrorist campaign amounts to

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-10 13:41

Among the defense-contractor set, there’s an expectation that the war against extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will cost an extra $6 billion next year. That would pay for things like warplanes, drones for surveillance, listening to enemy phone calls and training rebels.

The corporate winners among defense contractors include familiar names. “Boeing and Raytheon make smart munitions,” says Guggenheim Securities aerospace and defense policy analyst Roman Schweizer. “Lockheed Martin or ATK are certainly also in the mix. Northrup Grumman and General Atomics are the two primary drone manufacturers.”

For context, this is war on the cheap. Put the $6 billion estimate next to a defense and war budget of around $560 billion, and it’s a rounding error. Or, consider the price of one laser-guided JDAM smart bomb dropped on an ISIS target.

“The unit price of those is $25,000–$40,000,” says Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners. “Now, that’s the price of a car. But in the context of companies that may have revenues of anywhere from $25–80 billion, you have to drop an awful lot of those to really start impacting the bottom line.”

The bigger impact of all this may be political. The current budget environment of strict spending caps — remember the term “sequestration”? — squeezes all contractors. But now, with a new enemy, the appetite for spending on war could grow.

“I think the calculus may be starting to change,” says Yair Reiner of the investment firm Oppenheimer. “With the rise of ISIS, Americans — and I think not just the political class — may be willing to contemplate intervention.”

Further on, winning this fight could mean winning the peace: soldiers, body protection and armored vehicles. Down the road, if the mission creeps, that would be real money.


From a defense perspective, $6 billion could seem like chump change, but this graphic by Marketplace's Marlena Chertock puts the number in perspective:

Souls Tumbling In The Light

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 13:30

Every fall, birds head south and, around Sept. 11, New York sends two beams into the sky. When birds and lights collide, that could mean trouble — but New York is surprisingly gentle.

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Underneath Stonehenge, 'A Map Of What Was There In The Past'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 13:26

Researchers from Birmingham University used high-tech equipment to map 17 ritual monuments in the area. That's in addition to the iconic circle of stones that has stood there for thousands of years.

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Woman dies in forecourt collision

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 13:01
A young woman dies after a collision between two cars at a petrol station in Linwood.

Suicides Rise In Middle-Aged Men, And Older Men Remain At Risk

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:50

Researchers don't know why middle-aged men are increasingly likely to kill themselves. But they say it shows that efforts to reduce the toll of suicide should be focused on men.

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'Abuse' council to face inspection

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:41
Rotherham Council is to face an independent inspection following the report that revealed 1,400 children were sexually abused in the town.

Cell carriers are getting creative with phone plans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:40

The iPhone release schedule has grown pretty predictable over the past seven years. Usually, the latest phone goes on sale for $199 with a two-year contract, the old model’s price gets cut in half to $99 and the (now ancient) model from two years ago is thrown in the trash offered for free.

But as Apple has started introducing multiple phones each year and the smartphone market becomes more competitive, that pricing structure has been upended. At its announcement yesterday, Apple provided an offer similar to those in previous years: With a two-year contract, you can get an iPhone 6 for $199 or the larger iPhone 6 Plus for $299.

On Wednesday morning, as the reality distortion field cleared, major carriers were all clamoring to buy old iPhones and get a leg up on each other with some interesting deals.

Let’s take a look at what carriers are offering as of Wednesday afternoon:

Sprint: An iPhone for "life"

The cost: $70/month for a new phone every two years


Sprint wants you to lease a phone like you would a car, with no money down and an extra $20 per month on top of their $50 unlimited plan. Every two years you can trade up for the new iPhone “for life.”

(Or as long as iPhones actually exist — keep in mind the original iPod was discontinued Tuesday after 13 years.)

All of this means you’ll pay $480 for a phone every two years, and if you break it, you buy it. If you don’t want to lease, you can still buy the iPhone 6 from Sprint for $199, with that same unlimited plan costing $85 per month.

Overall, the lease is cheapest in the short-term, but the long-haul winner is Sprint. Plus, if you own your phone, the company is already offering to buy it back for up to $300, claiming to match any other buyback offers. If they keep that up, leasing is really a bad deal.


Cost: Matching trade-ins plus an extra $50; $50–80/month for plans


The self-proclaimed “un-carrier” — which also insists on calling smartphones “superphones” — is also offering to match any of its competitor’s trade-in offers, but it’ll throw in another $50.

That said, T-Mobile’s plans are more expensive, with their $50 plan capping 4G LTE use at one gigabyte. Getting everything unlimited will cost about $80.


Cost: Trade in a phone and a get an iPhone 6 for free; $60/month for a plan


The most straightforward deal comes from Verizon, who will give you an iPhone 6 for free when you trade-in your old phone and sign a two-year contract. So there’s no opportunity to make a little extra money off your trade-in, but there’s also no haggling or pitting other carriers (or “un-carriers”) against eachother.

The other compromise is that while Verizon’s single-line plan is pretty cheap at $60, they’ll cap your data no matter what.

Overall, each plan will end up costing almost the same over two years, depending on your data needs, and with nearly everyone (including Wal-Mart and Target) offering comparable trade-ins, the whole thing ends up being a wash.

Welcome to the hypercompetitive world of superphone smartphone shopping.

A New Brand Of Paul Gains Support In Iowa

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:30

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has already made significant inroads in Iowa as he explores a presidential bid. Supporters say it's because he builds on his father's work but stays his own person.

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This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music.

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:28

A new study suggests that learning to play a musical instrument helps improve the brain's ability to process language. That means music lessons could give kids from low-income communities a big boost.

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In Strange Twist, Kenyans March For Police Officer Accused Of Murder

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:19

In a land where police have a reputation for corruption and violence, Titus Musila is a rare officer who is popular. Now that he's accused of a vigilante killing, residents have rallied around him.

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VIDEO: Star Wars spaceships spied by pilot

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:18
Spaceships from the new Star Wars film have been spotted by a man taking photos for a flying school.

Invictus Games open in London

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 12:12
The Invictus Games for wounded servicemen and women open at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, with Prince Harry saying lives will be changed.

Sex chat councillor refuses to quit

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 11:49
A Wigan councillor refuses to stand down after being accused of sexism towards female council staff - but apologises to women he has offended.

Women Who Eat Fish Twice Weekly Cut Their Risk Of Hearing Loss

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 11:48

Something as simple as eating fish can help lower the risk of hearing loss, researchers say. All types of fish helped. And since many people don't eat fish at all, there's an opportunity here.

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VIDEO: Scanners reveal Stonehenge secrets

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 11:02
Scientists have discovered a hidden complex of archaeological monuments at Stonehenge, challenging the modern impression that it stood in isolation.

Man Utd have 'bright future ahead'

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 10:57
Manchester United are on the brink of "something special," despite the club's profit loss, says chief Ed Woodward.

A flood washes away one Colorado town’s infrastructure

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-10 10:47

One of the hardest-hit centers following the 2013 Colorado flood was the 2,000-person town of Lyons. Key pieces of the town's infrastructure, like sewer, water and gas lines, were severely damaged. Fast-forward a year, the town is still working on a list of 87 projects ranging from park and riverbank repair to bridge rebuilding.

You wouldn't be able to tell by taking a walk down Main Street. In the town's busiest corridor, you can barely see signs of the flood. But almost everyone in town has a story — including Connie Sullivan, owner of the St. Vrain Market.

"We essentially lost nearly 100 percent of our inventory," said Sullivan, who either lost or gave away food from the St. Vrain Market during the flood.

When the water receded, she found a foot of mud in her shop. With destroyed roads, water and sewer lines, many residents couldn’t even return home for two months. Sullivan said that put a wrinkle in her recovery plan.

"You didn't have electricity and then you had to figure out when your customer base is going to be returning, and what types of products you would be able to sell even once they did return," she said.

One big change? Lyons lost about 20 percent of its available housing — and Sullivan’s business now looks different. The town has made a big push to have more people visit and boost sales tax revenue. Her sandwich sales to the increasing number of tourists are up. Sales through Colorado’s Food Assistance — or food stamp — program are down.

"We served that niche of the community," said Sullivan. "It's sad to see that those customers are some of the ones that haven't returned."

Those residents have moved to nearby towns like Longmont or Berthoud. Some moved to outlying counties, while a few left the state.

The housing shortage in Lyons becomes apparent a few short blocks from Main Street in the Confluence neighborhood. Nearly every home on one block of Park Street is in the midst of repairs or demolition.

Lyons mayor John O'Brien points to a pile of rocks and debris. “You can see this cobble; you can see where the stream was. During the flood this became really another rivulet,” he explained.

Nearby are the remains of a home that's expected to be bought by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant program. O’Brien said it’s too dangerous for the homeowner to move back.

"… because we know when the next big flood comes, it's going to come right through here," O’Brien said.

In the weeks immediately after the flood, the first priority was to repair downed sewer and water lines. But O’Brien said the work is still far from complete, with work still needed to repair parks, streams and bridges.

One year after the flooding, Colorado's Chief Recovery Officer Molly Urbina said it will take homeowners and businesses many more to rebuild.

“It’s not really a sprint. This is a marathon for a recovery,” she said.

While both federal and state agencies have pumped millions into repairs, Urbina said there will still be a shortfall for some communities.

“There was way more damage than there is going to be for grant funding. So the local communities have to look at their own budgets and see how this all fits. You know: What’s the gap and how do we get there?” said Urbina.

The gap in Boulder County is expected to be $56 million. To soften the financial blow, the county is asking voters to approve a Flood Recovery Sales and Use tax this November.

While there is a long list of repairs ahead, Mayor John O’Brien said a key concern is the lack of affordable housing.

“We’ll be concerned with replacing the housing that we lost — that 20 percent which was substantially damaged,” he said.

The town lost both of its two trailer parks, which held about 50 homes.

 “It’s going to be difficult. I mean, because Lyons is the last best place in Boulder County it means that housing values continue to rise,” said O’Brien.

Town officials expect to hold public meetings on when, where and how to build affordable housing in the coming months. But completing the project will take years. O’Brien said flood recovery won’t be complete until everyone who wants to move back to Lyons can return home. 

'Ask The White Guy' About The Hawks

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 10:46

Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson's email about the diversity of the team's fans could end his run in the NBA. But were his comments really out of bounds?

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Pakistanis flee flood dyke breach

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 10:33
Pakistani authorities breach a strategic dyke in flood-affected Punjab to ease pressure on flood defences downstream and protect urban areas.

Ukraine offers rebels more autonomy

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-10 10:31
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he is willing to grant more autonomy to separatists in the east but will not let the country break apart.