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Environment
3:03 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Federal Flood Insurance Program Drowning In Debt. Who Will Pay?

Even when a flood obliterates homes, as Superstorm Sandy did in 2012 in the Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., the urge to rebuild can be strong.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Millions of American property owners get flood insurance from the federal government, and a lot of them get a hefty discount. But over the past decade, the government has paid out huge amounts of money after floods, and the flood insurance program is deeply in the red.

Congress tried to fix that in 2012 by passing a law to raise insurance premiums. Now that move has created such uproar among property owners that Congress is trying to make the law it passed disappear.

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All Tech Considered
2:58 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Banks Try To Save Big With 'ATMs Of The Future'

An ATM at a Chase lobby in New York is part of what company executives are touting as a "branch of the future" — a place where machines distribute exact change and count cash so tellers don't have to.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

There's a drive-thru ATM in Charlotte, N.C., that looks pretty standard, but it has an extra function: a button that says "speak with teller."

The face of a woman wearing a headset sitting in front of a plain blue background flashes onto the ATM screen. "Good afternoon," she says. "Welcome to Bank of America. My name is Carolina. How are you today?"

She's one of a cadre of Bank of America employees in Florida and Delaware call centers, where they remotely control ATMs across the country. I ask for $26.

"Just a $1, a $5 and $20," I say.

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Parallels
6:56 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Japan's State Secrets Law: Hailed By U.S., Denounced By Japanese

A November demonstration against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Designated Secrets Bill drew thousands of protesters. The Japanese Parliament has since passed the law, under which people convicted of leaking classified information will face five to 10 years in prison.
Franck Robichon European Pressphoto Agency/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 8:31 pm

Earlier in December, the normally sedate Japanese Parliament disintegrated into chaos. Opposition party members screamed, pounded the speaker's desk and flapped papers in his face — but all in vain.

In a shocking display of brute force, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, railroaded into law a sweeping, vague and hastily drafted secrets protection bill.

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The Salt
6:07 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Here's How Young Farmers Looking For Land Are Getting Creative

Chris and Sara Guerre are among a growing number of farmers who have made the choice to rent land to farm instead of buy because of increasing property values.
Zac Visco for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 8:02 pm

Across the country, there's a wave of interest in local food. And a new generation of young farmers is trying to grow it.

Many of these farmers — many of whom didn't grow up on farms — would like to stay close to cities. After all, that's where the demand for local food is.

The problem is, that's where land is most expensive. So young farmers looking for affordable land are forced to get creative.

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The Two-Way
5:50 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Utah Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Stop Gay Marriages

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 8:07 pm

Utah's attorney general has filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay that would allow the state to enforce its limit of marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

Similar requests have already been rejected by district and circuit courts. Earlier this month, a federal district court invalidated Utah's ban on gay marriage that was endorsed by voters in 2004, saying it is not constitutional.

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