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NPR News Coverage

Banks count their blessings in recovery

1 hour ago

Three big banks posted their quarterly results Friday. And they were good. When you hear that profits at a bank like JPMorgan Chase were up almost 25 percent, you have to wonder: Why? Well, one reason is banks are making a lot more from you and me.

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Letters recently sent from two female inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville describe their growing desperation as their basic hygienic supplies disappeared.

"I ran out on Saturday 9/30," one wrote, "and although I continually asked for [toilet paper], was told they were out. They did have pads that I used as [toilet paper] until Monday 10/1 when they ran out. I then had to use a wash rag until Wed morn."

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, premiums are going down for most policies sold in the federally run exchanges. 

One reason 2019 premiums will be 1.5 percent lower? It has to do with how high they were in 2018. They increased by an average of 36.9 percent for 2018, said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

"These premium decreases are really about returning excess profits," he said. 

Aric Toler isn't exactly sure what to call himself.

"Digital researcher, digital investigator, digital something probably works," Toler says.

Toler, 30, is part of an Internet research organization known as Bellingcat. Formed in 2014, the group first got attention for its meticulous documentation of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Toler used posts to Russia's equivalent of Facebook, VK, to track Russian soldiers as they slipped in and out of eastern Ukraine — where they covertly aided local rebels.

The government of Nauru, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific, and the charity Doctors Without Borders are in a bitter dispute over mental health care for asylum seekers and refugees.

The controversy revolves around approximately 900 individuals sent to Nauru by the Australian government since 2013. They arrived in Australia by boat, coming from such countries as Iran, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Syria; the government sent them to Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Most of them have been there four years.

In the penguin habitat at an aquarium in Sydney, love is in the air.

The newest penguin couple here are named Sphen and Magic, and the two males are about to take the leap into parenthood.

At this time last year Riyadh was gearing up to host a raft of leading figures from the world of business and banking at its inaugural Future Investment Initiative. Dubbed "Davos in the Desert" — in a nod to the yearly global economic forum and the kingdom's own lofty ambitions — the conference in the Saudi capital suggested a new era of openness and innovation under the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

When mortgages hit the roof

4 hours ago

It’s become more expensive to borrow money for a house or condo.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has climbed to 4.9 percent — the highest rate in seven years, according to data from Freddie Mac. However, over the past several decades, rates below 5 percent haven’t been the norm. They started dipping below that figure in the late 2000s, eventually bottoming out at 3.31 percent in November 2012. 

As Ebola continues to spread through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government has been issuing daily updates. These press releases are mainly a recitation of facts and figures: The total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak was declared August 1 — 165 as of Friday. The death toll – 90 people. The number of individuals who've been given an experimental vaccine – 15,807. And a summary of the latest efforts by responders to reach affected communities.

After Hurricane Michael blasted through the Florida coastal towns of Eastpoint and Apalachicola, some residents are beginning the long process of cleaning up.

This area, just 30 miles east of where the powerful storm's eye made landfall on Wednesday, was expected to – and did – receive the worst of the storm surge.

Asian-Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in California, now making up more than 14 percent of the population. It's a slice of the demographic pie that has tripled since 1980.

The rollout plan for the new TV series The Romanoffs is unusual for Amazon — just as the drama series itself is an unusual experiment for the show's creator, Matthew Weiner.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TINGLER")

The rate of cesarean sections around the world is increasing at an "alarming" rate, reported an international team of doctors and scientists on Thursday.

Since 1990, C-sections have more than tripled from about 6 percent of all births to 21 percent, three studies report in The Lancet. And there are no "signs of slowing down," the researchers write in a commentary about the studies.

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

Roughly two years after Turkish authorities detained Andrew Brunson on suspicion of espionage, the U.S. pastor is a free man once more. Turkey ordered his release Friday, ending a case that heightened tensions between Turkey and the U.S.

Princess Eugenie of York, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, walked down the aisle Friday to wed Jack Brooksbank.

Goats (and sheep) have been recruited in the effort to fight wildfires.

Northern Spain has a "Fire Flocks" project, in which dozens and dozens of the ruminants chip in by doing what they do so well: eat.

A new video from BBC World Hacks, which highlights "brilliant solutions to the world's problems," tells the story. It was published on October 11.

A Republican congressman who should have waltzed to re-election is now in the fight of his career. Duncan Hunter, who has represented an inland Southern California district for a decade, was indicted in August on charges of using a quarter of a million dollars in campaign funds for personal expenses.

(Markets Edition) The volatile nature of the markets, especially this week, can take a mental toll on anyone paying attention. It hasn’t been this active since February, so we talked to market pro Barry Ritholtz, founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, about it. Then, despite all the news of trade tensions between China and the U.S., China actually has a trade surplus with the U.S. Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

Mortgage rates hit highest level in 7+ years

9 hours ago

It’s getting more expensive to get a mortgage. Data out this week from Freddie Mac shows the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 4.9 percent. That’s the highest it’s been in seven years. What does that mean for prospective home buyers? 

 

They claim to help you sleep, make your hair grow, speed weight loss, improve your sex life and ward off the nasty cold going around the office. Though it's often impossible to tell if dietary supplements work, consumers generally feel certain they can't hurt.

But they can.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

At least 11 people have died from Hurricane Michael, which slammed into Florida's Panhandle with 155-mph winds on Wednesday. The storm hacked a trail of catastrophic destruction in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before finally heading back out over water.

Five deaths were reported in Virginia, in addition to four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

(U.S. Edition) The Dow’s roughly 1400-point drop this week seemed to have a ripple effect across the global markets as well, but now things appear to have settled down as of Friday morning. We talk to Barry Ritholtz of Ritholtz Wealth Management on how to deal with this kind of activity day-to-day. Then we check in with columnist and ProPublica editor Allan Sloan about the role of interest rates in the ongoing tale of President Trump and his blaming of the Federal Reserve for the market issues this week.

At 10 a.m. on Sept. 22, Granville Street in Vancouver turned into a river. Brightly colored cardboard salmon, bicycle floats and hundreds of people dressed in costumes flowed down the street, carrying huge silkscreen banners and flags as big as sails printed with the words "Wild Salmon Forever." People sang, beat drums and called the wild salmon home.

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(Global Edition) From the BBC World Service … Businesses are turning away from Saudi Arabia after reports a dissident journalist was killed by the country’s security forces. Then, we hear from Paul Romer, who won this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences for his research into how innovation can be used to protect the environment. Afterwards, Netflix and Amazon are battling in India to increase viewers. But competition from Indian production houses is complicating efforts.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., who has been accused of covering up sexual abuse scandals during his tenure as the bishop of Pittsburgh.

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