National / International News

Man charged over MP Twitter messages

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:13
A man is charged over offensive messages sent on Twitter to Labour MP Stella Creasy.

VIDEO: Concrete incident closes tube

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:02
Part of the Victoria London Underground line has been suspended after wet concrete flooded a control room.

After 20 Years, Transgender Inmate Is A Step Closer To Surgery

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:00

Last week, a federal appeals court in Massachusetts ruled that convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek has a right to gender reassignment surgery "even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox." State officials are weighing whether to keep fighting a battle that critics say has gone too far.

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At The Barricades In Kiev, A City Seethes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:00

Robert Siegel interviews journalist David Stern, who reports from the barricades created by protesters in Kiev. He describes the scene, as well as what the protesters are demanding from the Ukrainian government.

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Weed Grows On The White House — And Many Americans, Too

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:00

Weed has grown on President Obama. In a recent New Yorker profile, he described marijuana as a bad habit, a personal vice but no more dangerous than alcohol. This marks a shift from the stance that he had once held and the position voiced previously by the U.S. drug czar. The president's current ambivalence on marijuana may mirror the feelings held by many Americans.

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Privacy Board Recommends Eliminating NSA Phone Record Program

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:00

A report released Thursday by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommends that the National Security Administration's bulk phone record program be eliminated. The report finds that not only is the program illegal, it's also ineffective. These findings come less than a week after President Obama called for keeping the program, but only after making some changes.

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China Sends 500 Million Users On An Internet Detour

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:00

For up to eight hours on Wednesday, some 500 million people in China could not get web pages to load. It was an outage of epic proportions, which immediately spawned chatter and headlines wondering what exactly happened. The working theory right now? Rather than blocking websites, as intended, Chinese Internet restrictions actually redirected users to those same sites. For more information on the outage, Melissa Block talks to New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth.

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New Va. Attorney General Declares Same-Sex Ban Unconstitutional

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 13:00

In his second week in the job, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that his office will no longer defend the state's ban on same-sex marriages. Herring says he has concluded that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional.

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Barcelona president Rosell resigns

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:57
The president of Barcelona football club quits after a Spanish court decides to investigate last summer's signing of Brazil forward Neymar.

Jobs warning from Google's Schmidt

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:43
The jobs problem will define the next two to three decades, Google chairman Eric Schmidt says at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Jailed In North Korea: Five Americans Who Got Out

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:40

As Kenneth Bae pleads for release, here's a look how five other Americans detained in North Korea won freedom from the Kim clan's wardens. They include another missionary, journalists, a tourist and a businessman who went on to found a university in Pyongyang.

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Incarceration In North Korea: 5 Americans Who Got Out

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:40

As Kenneth Bae pleads for release, here's a look how five other Americans detained in North Korea won freedom from the Kim clan's wardens. They include another missionary, journalists, a tourist and a businessman who went on to found a university in Pyongyang.

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Bieber charged after 'road racing'

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:31
Singer Justin Bieber appears before a Florida court charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs after allegedly racing his sports car on a Miami Beach street.

Contagious Cancer In Dogs Leaves Prehistoric Paw Prints

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:31

Dogs can catch a strange type of cancer through sex. Now scientists have decoded the DNA of the tumor and found that the cancer cells are a living fossil of an ancient dog that lived thousands of years ago. This cancer doesn't affect people, but the findings may offer insights into how tumors fool the human immune system.

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Flaunting their riches is not for the "stealthy wealthy"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:30

I knew this wouldn’t be the easiest story. It’s not like you can just send out a mass email saying "I want to talk with rich people on national radio about the very thing that they don’t want to talk about with anyone."

But, that’s essentially what I did. I emailed my friends asking if they had ever had the experience of discovering that someone they knew was wealthy after already knowing them a good while. (For the purposes of this story, I defined wealthy as "never needing to work again if you don’t want to.") I explained that I'd had that experience and wondered, "How did I miss this? It seems like a pretty fundamental fact about that person."

I got a message back saying, “Sean, we used to know each other. I might be able to be of some service on your story. My contact info is below. Adam Blank.” Adam went to school with a close friend of mine. We’d crossed paths a few times almost twenty years ago. At first, I didn’t even know why he was writing to me. Turns out he’d inherited millions of dollars from his grandfather and his father. On the phone, he described himself as a “high net-worth individual.” He suggested we do the interview at his house. 

Adam lives in Brooklyn. I live in Brooklyn. I don’t know any other people who live in Brooklyn, the way Adam does. As soon as I walked through his front door I started laughing.

"Conspicuous, is it not?" he said.

 "It" is a three-story house with floor to ceiling windows looking out on a back deck and backyard. "It" has a garage. A garage. In Brooklyn. In most other respects, though, Adam is a lot like me. He had crappy jobs as a kid, worked in social services after college, and then in the film industry. In the league of the "stealthy wealthy," he’s about as stealthy as they come. 

"You didn’t know I was wealthy because you never came to my house," he told me, in his home office, which has a door. "I don’t dress wealthy. If I had wealthy friends, you probably wouldn’t know me. My peer set is more like you, right? Writers, designers. So I can’t go, ‘Oh! Sean! Whaddaya think about private equity investing? How does it make you feel to have the money that you have?' Because it mirrors exactly how I feel about the money that I have."  

As a result, he doesn’t tend to talk about his money overmuch. But it comes up. He told me about a casual conversation he had, with a casual acquaintance, years back. 

"We were talking about our kids," said Adam. "And I said what schools they went to and he goes, ‘I don’t mean to be indelicate…’ basically saying ‘I’m going to be indelicate.’ ‘How in the hell do you afford sending your kids to school like that? You’ve got three of them.’ Which indicates a lot of things: he didn’t know that I had money, just based on our casual relationship. And then I had to deal with identity issues for this guy, who was, like, wanting something out of that."     

In my adventures with the stealthy wealthy, I noticed a few commonalities among the folks I interviewed. For instance, none of them seemed to know the money was coming to them until it did, and all of them were thrown by it, to one degree or another. Probably the most unsettled among them was Burke Stansbury. He’s a political activist living in Seattle with his wife and son. He remembers the day his dad handed him a four-page printout of his investments, and trust fund, etc. 

"I laughed," Burke told me, "More than anything it struck me as totally ridiculous that I would have that kind of money. The absurdity of why I, of all people, should have a million dollars coming to me, it struck me. Like I had never done anything to deserve that money." 

Burke was 19 years old at the time. Not long after The Day of the Ledger, he went traveling in Mexico. Soon, he came to the belief that people are poor in the world because other people are rich. 

"And because I had just realized that I was a millionaire," he said, "I saw myself on the wrong of that divide. That was a moment where I started to enter into pretty deep depression… because of feelings of shame and guilt around who I was, and my background."

"There’s very little resources for people to go and talk," said Jamie Traeger-Muney with Wealth Legacy Group. She describes herself as a coach and consultant for the wealthy, who draws on her background as a psychologist. 

"You know if you say to someone, ‘Wow I just found out that I have a ten-million dollar trust fund and I’m really overwhelmed by it,'" she said, “That isn’t usually met with a lot of sympathy. People are usually like ‘Waaah-waah, I wish I was in your position." 

That’s what you were thinking right? Me too. 

"I know it’s a lot of fun sometimes to bash the wealthy," Traeger-Muney said. "But it’s sort of a lose-lose proposition. Because people go underground. They don’t use their resources in positive ways and… one of the most important things they want to do is be part of something larger than themselves, make a positive difference in the world. And when they’re caught up with the shame in the guilt and the hiding, it doesn’t allow them to move as freely and to use those resources to benefit the world in the ways they’d like to."

Burke Stansbury was lucky. He found a group called Resource Generation, which mainly helps young, wealthy people leverage their money toward the social causes they care about. He met other inheritors who were interested in issues of economic justice and wealth disparity. As a side benefit, Burke was able to take part in group-discussions about issues that his non-wealthy friends and co-workers would never be able to relate to. These days he’s a lot more comfortable talking openly about his financial situation. 

"I call it my rich kids unpack their [expletive] group," said Rachel Schragis, another member of Resource Generation. "And I say to people ‘You are so glad that I have rich kids unpack their [expletive] group. ‘Cause otherwise I might wanna unpack it on you. And that’s not appropriate.'" 

Rachel’s a graduate student, studying art and also teaching it in New York Public Schools. She also does "cross-class activist work" and designed a poster that became a totem of the Occupy movement. Artists who come from money aren’t rare birds. What sets Rachel apart is that she weighs her complicated feelings about her class privilege in the work itself. 

"It’s okay to have a creative life that takes up a lot of my time,” she told me in her studio,  "But if I’m going to do that, I have an obligation to be transparent about the economic realities that make that possible." 

Still, Rachael said there are still times when it’s not easy to join a basic conversation – especially when people are commiserating, as people do, about not having enough money. 

"At different points in my life," she said, "I would play along… and be like ‘oh I’m broke.’ And realized oh, that’s a game. When I mean I’m broke, I mean there’s no more in my checking account and I just have to transfer some more. That’s not what other people mean! They mean broke! And so sometimes you just have to like… not talk. Right? Like not say anything." 

Does the U.S. government live paycheck to paycheck?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:30

That new era in Washington, heralded by the budget deal we got last week, where compromise is on the table?  It's about to be put to the test: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says lawmakers will need to raise the debt limit come late February, or the U.S. won't be able to pay its bills.

After we hit the debt limit on Feb. 7, the Treasury Department can keep us solvent for a little while longer using what’re called “extraordinary measures.”

“The ‘X-date’ is when the extraordinary measures run out,” says Steve Bell, with the Bipartisan Policy Center. He pays close attention to that X-date, and how much cash the government has on hand.

If the government is robbing Peter to pay Paul, it would seem the government is living paycheck to paycheck.  A better analogy? Maybe it is like the government is living payday loan to payday loan. (Of course, the government gets a much better interest rate than you’d get at a payday lender.)

Now, it is hard to say precisely when the government will come up short. On any given day, it doesn’t know for sure how much money is coming in and how much money is going out. But Bell says if history is any guide, “This is the worst possible time you could have this happen.”

It turns out February is a tough month budget-wise.

“Treasury is going to have a lot of payments going out relative to receipts coming in,” says Alex Gelber, who teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. That is because a lot of Americans file their taxes in February – namely, Americans who know they are going to get refunds.

According to Rudy Penner, a fellow with the Urban Institute, on top of those payments, the government will cut a lot of other checks.

“They make a gargantuan number of payments,” he says.

There are interest payments, Social Security payments. In all, we’re talking about three to five million payments each and every day.

South Sudan Signs Cease-Fire With Rebels

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:21

The agreement is aimed at ending five weeks of bloodshed that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. It is hoped the deal is a first step toward a broader peace agreement in the world's newest country.

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VIDEO: More schools are making the grade

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:13
More secondary schools in England are meeting baseline government targets on GCSEs, the latest league tables show.

South Sudan rivals sign ceasefire

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:13
South Sudan's government and rebels sign a ceasefire to halt a month of fighting which has displaced more than 500,000 people.

Ukraine protests spread beyond Kiev

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 12:08
Violent protests in Ukraine spread beyond the capital, Kiev, as President Viktor Yanukovych holds crisis talks with the opposition.

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