Attorney General: Hillary Clinton Email Case Is Closed

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said on Wednesday that she would accept the FBI's recommendation not to charge Hillary Clinton over her email server.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said on Wednesday that she would accept the FBI’s recommendation not to charge Hillary Clinton over her email server. Evan Vucci/AP hide caption

toggle caption Evan Vucci/AP

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, accepting the recommendation of FBI Director James Comey and others in the Department of Justice, is formally closing the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server without bringing any criminal charges.

The investigation centered on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s use of the server while she was secretary of state. Lynch announced the decision in a statement Wednesday, saying Comey and “career prosecutors and agents” unanimously recommended that the investigation be closed without charges.

As NPR has reported, Lynch had previously indicated that she planned to accept the recommendations of agents and prosecutors in the case. She made that announcement following a bipartisan uproar over a meeting between her and former President Bill Clinton.

And on Tuesday, Comey announced that the FBI would be recommending no charges. He roundly criticized Clinton and her team for poor judgment and a lack of caution, but said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges based on the evidence.

Comey is set to testify before a congressional panel on Thursday. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is calling him in to ask questions about the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

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Half A Million 'Hoverboards' Recalled Over Risk Of Fire, Explosions

A youth poses as he rides a hoverboard, which is also known as a self-balancing scooter and balance board, on October 13, 2015 in Knutsford, England. More than half a million of the devices have been recalled in the United States, after nearly 100 instances of the boards catching fire.

A youth poses as he rides a hoverboard, which is also known as a self-balancing scooter and balance board, on October 13, 2015 in Knutsford, England. More than half a million of the devices have been recalled in the United States, after nearly 100 instances of the boards catching fire. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

More than 500,000 balancing scooters — better known as hoverboards, though they do no hovering — are being recalled because of the risk of fire or explosions.

The devices were extremely popular gifts this past holiday season. Online, they were hits in viral dance videos … and in less-impressive videos of people falling off their new toys.

But hoverboards made headlines for another reason — some of them were apparently catching on fire.

Now several manufacturers and retailers are recalling the devices over the hazard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Wednesday — adding that many devices not included in the recall should be discarded for consumers’ safety.

“There have been at least 99 incident reports of the battery packs in self-balancing scooters/hoverboards overheating, sparking, smoking, catching fire and/or exploding,” the CPSC says, “including reports of burn injuries and property damage.”

The full list of recalled devices is at the CPSC site. They were all sold within the last year or so, for between $350 and $900. About 501,000 devices are involved in the recall.

The CPSC advises people who own a recalled hoverboard to stop using it, and to reach out to the manufacturer or retailer for a refund, repair or replacement, depending on what the company is offering.

And if your hoverboard isn’t on the list?

“Contact the manufacturer or retailer and demand that they give you your money back,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in a statement. Unless the manufacturer can show that the device has been certified as safe by Underwriters Laboratories, it should be considered “a fire hazard waiting to happen,” he wrote.

Hoverboards sold on AliExpress.com and Alibaba.com by third parties will be certified by testing agencies from now on, the CPSC says.

Last December, as reports were emerging of self-combusting hoverboards, Carnegie Mellon University’s Jay Whitacre spoke to NPR about what can cause such fires.

Whitacre, a professor of materials science and engineering, explained that lithium-ion batteries have a flammable electrolyte in them. In most products, including in most hoverboards, the batteries are safe.

But powerful, poor-quality batteries can be dangerous, he said.

“I think a lot of [hoverboard makers] are using second-tier battery sources which are going to have probably a higher rate of defects,” he said. “These things have more lithium-ion batteries in them than most things because they’re used to move you around. It takes more batteries to get you the power … to do that and as such there’s just more energy in a small space. And so if something does go wrong, it’s a bit more catastrophic.”

Whitacre advised consumers not to overcharge their hoverboards, and never to charge them or use them indoors.

Now, depending on the model, owners may have a third precautionary option: Sending the ‘board back for a refund.

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Episode 575: The Fondue Conspiracy

Fondue party in the 1970s.

ClassicStock/Corbis

Note: This episode originally aired in October 2014.

The popularity of fondue wasn’t an accident. It was planned by a cartel of Swiss cheese makers, which ruled the Swiss economy for 80 years.

On today’s show: Swiss cheese. A story about what happens when well-meaning folks decide that the rules of economics don’t apply to them — and got the world to eat gobs of melted fat.

Music: “Muddy Boots.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

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Former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson Sues Roger Ailes For Harassment

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes has been sued for sexual harassment by a longtime Fox News host and anchor who alleges her career suffered at the network because she refused his sexual advances.

Gretchen Carlson’s contract at the network expired late last month after a long stint as the co-host of the morning show Fox & Friends and nearly three years hosting her own show in the afternoon.

The accusations are not subtle.

In a lawsuit filed in a New Jersey civil court on Wednesday, lawyers for Carlson allege Ailes repeatedly dismissed her concerns that her colleagues on Fox & Friends had created a pervasively sexist atmosphere, telling her to learn to “get along with the boys.”

When Carlson met with Ailes to complain, she alleges Ailes replied, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” The suit says Ailes explained, “Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.” In other conversations, Carlson contends Ailes underscored what he could do for her career if she would look upon his invitations favorably. And she says he frequently ogled her, commenting on her figure and telling her to turn around so he could see her rear.

Carlson alleges she had high-profile interviews taken away from her. Ultimately, she says, she was reassigned from Fox & Friends to a role anchoring an afternoon show and given a pay cut for raising objections. And she contends that she was cut from Fox altogether for rebuffing Ailes’ sexual advances.

Carlson sued Ailes individually; Fox News is not an official party to the suit, though it can be expected to bear Ailes’ costs. Officials at 21st Century Fox and Fox News did not respond to detailed messages seeking comment. Nor did Peter Johnson, Ailes’ private lawyer.

In perhaps the most explosive part of her lawsuit for the network, Carlson appears willing to force female Fox on-air personalities to testify about whether they experienced sexual harassment — and whether they traded sexual favors with Ailes or other executives for jobs or financial gain.

In detailing what she called her demotion to the 2 p.m. slot, Carlson’s lawsuit states that Ailes reduced her pay though her workload as a solo host increased and “refused to provide her with anywhere near the level of network media support and promotion provided to other Fox News hosts who did not complain about harassment and rebuff his sexual advances.”

On the air, Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade offer the program something of a frat house ethos. In her lawsuit, Carlson alleges that Doocy routinely belittled, shunned and isolated her, even putting his hand on her during broadcasts to silence her. Kilmeade, who has referred to women as “babes” and “chicks” on the show, once inspired Carlson to walk off the set after one sexist comment too many. (She later said it had been a joke on her part.)

Carlson is a well-regarded violinist who is both a Miss America winner and a Stanford University graduate who went on to study at Oxford University. She wrote in her memoir that because of her looks, she felt self-conscious about whether people took her seriously. According to Ailes’ unauthorized biographer Gabriel Sherman, Ailes once pointed out Carlson to an associate as a Miss America, and then added, “It must not have been a good year.”

Carlson’s lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for damages.

In the past, Fox News has proved willing to settle cases rather let them fester; a former producer sued top rated host Bill O’Reilly for sexual harassment after capturing his explicit sexual come-ons on tape. The network paid what was reported to be a seven-figure settlement to keep that lawsuit from going to trial.

Lachlan and James Murdoch, the brothers who run 21st Century Fox on a daily basis, have a wary relationship with Ailes. Their father Rupert Murdoch, Ailes’ patron and still the company’s controlling owner, is all but certain to reward the years of loyalty and strong annual profits the Fox News chief has offered — almost regardless of what facts emerge.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is the author of “Murdoch’s World: The Last of the Old Media Empires.”

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After Medical Marijuana Legalized, Medicare Prescriptions Drop For Many Drugs

In states that made medical marijuana legal, prescriptions for a range of drugs covered by Medicare dropped.

In states that made medical marijuana legal, prescriptions for a range of drugs covered by Medicare dropped. Chris Hondros/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Prescription drug prices continue to climb, putting the pinch on consumers. Some older Americans appear to be seeking an alternative to mainstream medicines that has become easier to get legally in many parts of the country. Just ask Cheech and Chong.

Research published Wednesday found that states that legalized medical marijuana — which is sometimes recommended for symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety or depression — saw declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat those conditions and a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost on prescription medications.

Because the prescriptions for drugs like opioid painkillers and antidepressants — and associated Medicare spending on those drugs — fell in states where marijuana could feasibly be used as a replacement, the researchers said it appears likely legalization led to a drop in prescriptions. That point, they said, is strengthened because prescriptions didn’t drop for medicines such as blood-thinners, for which marijuana isn’t an alternative.

The study, which appears in Health Affairs, examined data from Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. It is the first study to examine whether legalization of marijuana changes doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could curb public health costs.

The findings add context to the debate as more lawmakers express interest in medical marijuana. This year, Ohio and Pennsylvania passed laws allowing the drug for therapeutic purposes, making it legal in 25 states, plus Washington, D.C. The approach could also come to a vote in Florida and Missouri this November. A federal agency is considering reclassifying medical marijuana under national drug policy to make it more readily available.

Medical marijuana saved Medicare about $165 million in 2013, the researchers concluded. They estimated that, if medical marijuana were available nationwide, Medicare Part D spending would have declined in the same year by about $470 million. That’s about half a percent of the program’s total expenditures.

That is an admittedly small proportion of the multibillion dollar program. But the figure is nothing to sneeze at, said W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia and one of the study’s authors.

“We wouldn’t say that saving money is the reason to adopt this. But it should be part of the discussion,” he added. “We think it’s pretty good indirect evidence that people are using this as medication.”

The researchers found that in states with medical marijuana laws on the books, the number of prescriptions dropped for drugs to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity. Those are all conditions for which marijuana is sometimes recommended.

The study’s authors are separately investigating the effect medical marijuana could have on prescriptions covered by Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. Though this research is still being finalized, they found a greater drop in prescription drug payments there, Bradford said.

If the trend bears out, it could have other public health ramifications. In states that legalized medical uses of marijuana, painkiller prescriptions dropped — on average, the study found, by about 1,800 daily doses filled each year per doctor. That tracks with other research on the subject.

Marijuana is unlike other drugs, such as opioids, in which overdoses are fatal, said Deepak D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who has researched marijuana. “That doesn’t happen with marijuana,” he added. “But there are whole other side effects and safety issues we need to be aware of.”

Study author Bradford agreed: “Just because it’s not as dangerous as some other dangerous things, it doesn’t mean you want to necessarily promote it. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, doctors can’t technically prescribe it. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, they can only write patients a note sending them to a dispensary.

Insurance plans don’t cover it, so patients using marijuana pay out of pocket. Prices vary based on location, but a patient’s recommended regimen can be as much as $400 per month. The Drug Enforcement Agency is considering changing that classification — a decision is expected sometime this summer. If the DEA made marijuana a Schedule II drug, the move would put it in the company of drugs such as morphine and oxycodone, making it easier for doctors to prescribe and more likely that insurance would cover it.

To some, the idea that medical marijuana triggers costs savings is hollow. Instead, they say it is cost shifting. “Even if Medicare may be saving money, medical marijuana doesn’t come for free,” D’Souza said. “I have some trouble with the idea that this is a source of savings.”

Still, Bradford maintains that if medical marijuana became a regular part of patient care nationally, the cost curve would bend because marijuana is cheaper than other drugs.

Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who has written two books on the subject, echoed that possibility. Unlike with many drugs, he argued, “There’s a limit to how high a price cannabis can be sold at as a medicine.” He isn’t associated with the study.

And, in the midst of the debate about its economics, medical marijuana still sometimes triggers questions within the practice of medicine.

“As physicians, we are used to prescribing a dose. We don’t have good information about what is a good dose for the treatment for, say pain,” D’Souza said. “Do you say, ‘Take two hits and call me in the morning?’ I have no idea.”

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Donald Trump Raises $51 Million In June But Details Are Hazy

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday. Gerry Broome/AP hide caption

toggle caption Gerry Broome/AP

Donald Trump’s fundraising operation kicked into gear last month and raised about $51 million, the campaign says in a press release. But the release offered a less than complete picture of the financial structure meant to propel the real estate developer and reality TV star to the White House.

There was a glaring omission in Trump’s statement: It didn’t include how much cash on hand the campaign held as of June 30. On its last report to the Federal Election Commission, the Trump campaign reported holding just $1.89 million as of May 31 — versus $42.5 million reported by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The disclosure reports, with complete information for June, must be released by July 20. That’s the day after the Republican convention is expected to officially nominate Trump.

The release detailed sources of Trump’s money: $25 million from wealthy donors, $22 million from small donors and online givers, and nearly $4 million from Trump himself. That brings his personal campaign spending to around $50 million.

Clinton’s campaign, in a press release last week, said she raised $69 million in June and finished the month with more than $44 million on hand.

On both sides, much of the cash was funneled to national and state party committees.

New data from NBC News and the media firm SMG Delta show the impact of Clinton’s financial advantage. By their analysis, the Clinton campaign and its sidekick superPAC, Priorities USA Action, have spent $45 million on TV and radio ads.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has spent nothing so far on advertising for the general election. The National Rifle Association and pro-Trump superPAC Rebuilding America Now have spent a combined $2.8 million on Trump’s behalf.

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Behind The Black Power Goddess: Betty Davis' Early Demos Released

The Columbia Years 1968-1969 is a collection of little-heard, long sought-after recordings by funk artist Betty Davis.

The Columbia Years 1968-1969 is a collection of little-heard, long sought-after recordings by funk artist Betty Davis. Light In The Attic Records hide caption

toggle caption Light In The Attic Records

Over the last 10 years, 1970s funk icon Betty Davis has enjoyed a renaissance of rediscovery. Her music has been lavishly reissued and anthologized, but for years the holy grail was a collection of songs she recorded for Columbia Records in the late ’60s, several of which her then-husband, Miles Davis, helped to produce. For decades, no one could hear those songs — until now. The Columbia Years 1968-1969 captures an artist beginning to assert her own voice.

Betty Mabry was already enjoying a budding music career when Miles Davis came into her life. She’d written “Uptown” for the Chambers Brothers and released a couple of her own solo singles, including 1968’s “Live, Love, Learn.”

Mabry and Davis became a couple later that year. She made an immediate impact on his music, and in return, Davis helped her produce a series of demo tracks recorded at the Columbia Records studio the following spring. For the past 47 years, those songs have been the subject of wild speculation over why they’ve never been let out of the vault. Somehow, the Seattle label Light In the Attic label finally got permission to release them.

Remember: These were intended to be demo tracks, not finished songs. But in their rawness you already hear how Mabry was shaping her identity as a “down home girl” from North Carolina. Those roots are right up front, both in her song’s themes and in that countrified accent she curls around her voice.

Almost all of the players on these sessions were jazz musicians, including Miles Davis’ sidemen at the time, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. The sound, though, was unmistakably influenced by rock and funk, most of all on her cover of “Politician” by Cream.

Most of the tracks, however, were Mabry’s original compositions. She was always aspiring to be her own artist and not just a face or voice. The compilation includes an outtake where you can hear her working through her ideas with the band in real time.

When Mabry reintroduced herself in 1973 as Betty Davis, it felt like she had appeared fully formed as an uber-confident, sexy Black Power goddess. But what the Columbia recordings reveal are her early ideas about presenting her music, her sexuality, her persona. Even nearly five decades later, it seems we still have something to learn about one of funk’s music’s most iconic artists.

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Senator Introduces Bill That Would Open Red Cross To Outside Oversight

Sen. Charles Grassley has introduced legislation that would force the Red Cross to open its books for examination.

Last year, NPR and ProPublica reported on the American Red Cross’ nearly $500 million of spending in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, finding “a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success.”

After that reporting, Grassley, R-Iowa, launched his own investigation into the practices of the charity. After months of inquiry, Grassley said he was unsatisfied with the charity’s responses, saying in a statement, “I have a lot more questions for the Red Cross.”

Now he’s asking the Senate to force the nonprofit to reveal the details of its finances, as ProPublica’s Justin Elliott reports:

“Grassley’s American Red Cross Transparency Act, would amend the group’s congressional charter to allow unfettered access to its records and personnel by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The Red Cross operates as a private nonprofit but was created by Congress over 100 years ago and has a mandated role to work alongside the federal government after disasters.

“As we’ve documented, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern tried unsuccessfully to kill a GAO investigation into the group’s disaster response efforts. The charity’s pushback, which included questioning the GAO’s authority, helped to curtail the scope of the investigation.”

“A similar bill was introduced last year in the House by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss,” Elliott notes.

You can read more about the newly proposed legislation over at ProPublica, and catch up on NPR and ProPublica’s investigation into the Red Cross here.

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U.S. Imposes New Human Rights Sanctions On North Korea

The U.S. is imposing a new round of sanctions on North Korea — this time for human rights abuses. The sanctions target senior officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, and are part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. to isolate the government. This is the first time that Kim has been directly targeted with sanctions.

The Obama administration says human rights abuses in North Korea are among the worst in the world.

“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” said Adam J. Szubin, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in charge of designating sanctions, named Kim for “having engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for an abuse or violation of human rights by the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Five entities and 10 other individuals are also named in this latest round of sanctions. That includes officials involved with hunting down North Korean defectors, and running labor and political prison camps that hold as many as 120,000 people.

The sanctions are meant to financially cripple anyone on the list. OFAC says any property or other assets held within U.S. jurisdiction by those named on the list are frozen. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons involving the designated persons are generally prohibited.

U.S. officials say there’s been an effort to draw attention to the human rights abuses in North Korea for some time. It was helped along in 2014 by the release of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry report that highlighted the problem, particularly the system of labor camps. OFAC’s announcement Wednesday coincides with the release of a State Department “Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea.”

Still, there’s debate over how effective sanctions are. The U.S. has been using them for years as a way to get North Korea to stop testing nuclear and missile technology and return to negotiations, with little luck.

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US Imposes New Human Rights Sanctions On North Korea

The US is imposing a new round of sanctions on North Korea – this time for human rights abuses. The sanctions target senior officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, and are part of an ongoing effort by the US to isolate the government of North Korea. This is the first time that Kim has been directly targeted with sanctions.

The Obama administration says human rights abuses in North Korea are among the worst in the world.

“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” said Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in charge of designating sanctions, named Kim for “having engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for an abuse or violation of human rights by the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Five entities and ten other individuals are also named in this latest round of sanctions. That includes officials involved with hunting down North Korean defectors, and running labor and political prison camps that hold as many as 120,000 people.

The sanctions are meant to financially cripple anyone on the list. OFAC says any property or other assets held within U.S. jurisdiction by those named on the list is frozen. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons involving the designated persons are generally prohibited.

US officials say there’s been an effort to draw attention to the human rights abuses in North Korea for some time. It was helped along in 2014 by the release of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry report which highlighted the problem, particularly the system of labor camps. OFAC’s announcement today coincides with the release of a State Department “Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea”.

Still, there’s debate over how effective sanctions are. The US has been using them for years as a way to get North Korea to stop testing nuclear and missile technology and return to negotiations, with little luck.

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