A payday loan is a costly form of credit operating on the fringes of the economy. That's why the target of a new crackdown by federal regulators may surprise you: Instead of a forlorn-looking storefront with a garish neon sign, it's your familiar neighborhood bank.
A small but growing number of banks, including some major players, have been offering the equivalent of payday loans, calling them "deposit advances."
That is, at least, until bank regulators stepped in Nov. 21 and put new restrictions on the loans.
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Protests are planned at fast-food chain restaurants 100 American cities today. Unions are staging these protests as part of a campaign to press the industry to pay more than the minimum wage. In fact, organizers are calling for $15 per hour. In some cases, that would double the pay that workers get now, and the industry appears unlikely to do that voluntarily.
The IRS is taking aim at the growing political role of tax-exempt social welfare groups. It's a category of American politics where spending has increased 80-fold in the last decade. Donors can give as much money as they want to these groups, and their names are not disclosed to the public. The IRS wants to roll back the social welfare politicking, after a summer of controversy over the way it treated Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status.
It is freezing here in Southern California. Overnight, temperatures plunged into the 20s and that cold front is threatening citrus and avocado orchards through Central and Southern California. Citrus alone is a $20 billion industry here. So growers are scrambling to protect their crops.
We reached one of them - Jim Churchill - who grows Pixie tangerines in the Ojai valley north of Los Angeles. He was spending the night in his orchard. And Jim Churchill, good morning. And this is probably the first of a few nights, right?
Wal-Mart opened its first two stores in Washington, D.C. yesterday, earning cheers from the district's mayor and some residents who say they'll be happy to shop in the city and not in the suburbs. But there have been months of debate over the wages the big box store pays its employees. Some activists and lawmakers say Wal-Mart does not pay workers enough to live on.
NPR's business news starts with an Asian breakthrough for Apple.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: Wireless phone carrier China Mobile has signed a deal with Apple to offer iPhones on its network. According to The Wall Street Journal, the deal would give Apple access to China Mobile's many subscribers - around 700 million of them. That's about seven times more subscribers than Verizon - which is the largest mobile carrier in the United States.
So there's a long history behind this conflict. There appears to be an agreement to hold off on the conflict, at least for a bit, and NPR's Anthony Kuhn is still with us. And Anthony, can you tell us, does it appear then that a crisis has been averted?
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Well, at least postponed. I mean, you know, they covered topics in their talks, Steve.
Even though Christmas and New Year are still a few weeks away, we're already well into holiday party season. And punch bowls are often the centerpieces of festive gatherings. For tips on how to make sure the punch bowl does its job as star libation attraction, writer Julia Reed. She's a columnist for Garden & Gun, a Southern lifestyle magazine.
Chinese naval soldiers stand guard on China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning as it travels toward a military base in Sanya, Hainan province, in this undated picture made available on Nov. 30.
Credit China Stringer Network / Reuters/Landov
A group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, sit inside China's self-declared air identification zone, rankling the U.S., Japan and others in the region.
China has been building up its military strength for some time now, and pushing ever farther from its coastline and into international waters. The real concern now is for miscalculation — particularly with Japan — that ends up in gunfire.
Just six months ago, the Pentagon released its annual report on China's military. Its defense budget was growing. The country was building more stealthy aircraft and submarines. It even bought an aircraft carrier from the Ukraine.
Pentagon official David Helvey highlighted particular areas of concern.
A teen's relationship — or lack of good relationship — with parents, pals or teachers may have a lot to do with why most kids aren't getting the nine to 10 hours of sleep that doctors recommend. The hormonal disruptions of puberty likely also play a role.
In August, Attorney General Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to no longer hit low-level drug offenders with charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. But it's not yet clear how broadly that directive is being interpreted.
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:44 am
A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.
And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.
"The league said Tomlin's actions — he was standing on the white stripe that borders the playing field and took a step onto the field during Jacoby Jones' kickoff return — should have resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty."
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 5:27 pm
MSNBC host Martin Bashir has resigned from the network following controversial remarks he made about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Some three weeks ago, Bashir referred to Palin as a "world-class idiot" for suggesting that U.S. indebtedness to China was akin to slavery. The television host quoted from plantation owner Thomas Thistlewood's diary describing a punishment for slaves that involved having others defecate in their mouths.
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:29 am
Drugs that help women become pregnant have replaced in vitro fertilization as the main culprit behind high-risk multiple births, according to a study looking at births of triplets and higher-order multiples.
"IVF, which is usually the one we tend to point fingers at, was not the leading culprit," says Eli Adashi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University who was senior author of the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Want to understand why House Republicans aren't onboard with an immigration overhaul? Take a close look at the districts they represent.
Hispanics today make up 17 percent of the nation's population and are the fastest-growing ethnic group. But an NPR analysis of U.S. census data shows they live disproportionately in districts represented by Democrats. The average Democratic district is 23 percent Latino; the average Republican district, less than 12 percent.
A train leaves the Rangeland Energy company's crude oil loading terminal near Epping, N.D. So far this year, 60 percent of all oil produced in North Dakota left the state by rail. One economist says there aren't enough oil tankers to fill the demand.
The oil boom in the United States is creating another boom — for the railroad industry.
So far this year, in North Dakota alone, 140 million barrels of oil have left on trains. Shipments of crude oil by rail are up almost 50 percent over last year — and this upward trend is expected to continue.
A visit to the world-famous Tehachapi Loop, part of a winding mountain pass in Southern California, demonstrates the scale and reach of the oil boom in the middle of the country. As a train full of oil tanker cars rumbles past, it's hard not to think of it as a pipeline on wheels.
As it has done for the past 16 years, the Embassy of Norway decorated a Christmas tree at Union Station in Washington, D.C. — a gift to the American people to say thanks for helping Norway during World War II.
This year is no different. The tree was lit in a ceremony Tuesday evening, but what stands out is the nature of the ornaments that adorn the artificial tree: In addition to small American and Norwegian flags, the tree is decked out with 700 shining decorations with the iconic image from Norwegian Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 4:22 pm
Telemundo recently announced that its telenovelaEl Señor de los Cielos (Lord of the Skies) will be back for a second season; production began this week in Mexico City. This resurrection sets it apart from almost every other telenovela because, unlike American soap operas, telenovelas have a clear beginning and a definitive ending, airing for a set number of episodes.
At least 10 pilot whales are dead and dozens stranded in the shallows off Florida's southwest coast, as wildlife workers struggle to redirect them back out to deep water.
Blair Mase, the marine mammal stranding network coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says four of the whales had to be euthanized on Wednesday, and six others had already died since the stranding was first identified on Tuesday.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 3:59 pm
There's a new report Wednesday on the scale of surveillance by the National Security Agency: The Washington Post reports that the agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.
U.S. soldiers look at a crane that tipped over while trying to move a CHU, or Containerized Housing Unit, at a small COP, or Combat Outpost, in southern Afghanistan. A dozen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a whole new military vocabulary.
Credit David Gilkey / NPR
A U.S. military helicopter takes off in southern Afghanistan. They may still be called "choppers" in the movies, but troops universally refer to them as "birds."
It's painful for U.S. soldiers to hear discussions and watch movies about modern wars when the dialogue is full of obsolete slang, like "chopper" and "GI."
Slang changes with the times, and the military is no different. Soldiers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an expansive new military vocabulary, taking elements from popular culture as well as the doublespeak of the military industrial complex.
An aircraft-carrying Japanese supersubmarine built during World War II has been found on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off Oahu, nearly 60 years after it was hastily scuttled by the U.S. Navy in an effort to keep its technology out of Soviet hands.
"The accidental discovery of the 1-400 ... on the rock- and debris-littered ocean floor, some 2,300 feet beneath the surface, has solved the mystery surrounding a ship long thought to be further afield.
The University of California, Santa Barbara is experiencing a meningitis outbreak a lot like the one that hit Princeton earlier this year. The California university confirmed a fourth case of meningococcal disease on Monday.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 1:53 pm
The man accused of opening fire last month at Los Angeles International Airport, killing a TSA agent, was ordered Wednesday to be held without bond pending his trial.
Judge David Bristow determined that Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, was a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Ciancia's appearance at a San Bernardino County jail facility where's he's being kept in federal custody is his first in public since the Nov. 1 shooting at LAX's Terminal 3. He was shackled at his hands and feet, and wasn't asked to enter a plea. If convicted, Ciancia faces the death penalty.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 3:57 pm
Emergency calls from last year's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting reveal 911 dispatchers who dealt with the situation calmly, urging callers to take cover and inquiring about the welfare of the children.
One caller told dispatchers that a gunman was shooting inside the building and that she could see him. The New Haven Register has put audio of the calls online here. (Warning: some of it might be graphic).