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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

15 minutes ago
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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Edit note: This report contains accounts of rape, violence and other disturbing events.

Sex trafficking wasn't a major concern in the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. If you were a prostitute, the thinking went, it was your choice.

Jacobs thought that too, right up until she came to on the lot of a dark truck stop one night. She says she had asked a friendly-seeming man for a ride home that afternoon.

Jacobs says he gave her something in an old McDonald's cup — a drug — and as she was waking up the man announced that he was a pimp. Her pimp.

The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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In One Key Way, The Housing Crisis Is Still Going Strong

Mar 11, 2013

The housing market is recovering. Prices are rising, the number of foreclosures is falling, and construction crews are finally starting to build again. But in one key way, housing remains in crisis mode: The U.S. housing market is still a ward of the state.

The vast majority of new mortgages — $1.6 trillion out of a total of $1.9 trillion last year alone— are guaranteed by the federal government. If a borrower defaults on a guaranteed loan, taxpayers are on the hook.

This is one of those semi-hidden subsidies that distort the economy and can leave taxpayers with a huge bill if there's another big downturn. It was supposed to be temporary, something that would be unwound once the crisis ended. But more than four years since crisis peaked, there's no clear plan to get the government out of the business of guaranteeing America's mortgages.

The government has always backed some mortgages to make it easier for people like veterans and low-income, first-time home buyers to get into the housing market. But during the crisis, the government's role exploded.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, private companies that guarantee mortgages, collapsed and were taken over by the government. Then, as private lenders pulled out and the market collapsed, the government increased the size of the loans guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie and other government programs. As a result, the government now guarantees almost the entire mortgage market.

Last week, the agency that oversees Fannie and Freddie said certain operations of the two firms would be consolidaded. This apparently boring, technical announcement got a fair bit of news coverage, which made me wonder if I was missing something. I called Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, to ask if this was a bigger deal than it seemed. It wasn't.

"It's just that there hasn't been anything concrete in the last five years of discussing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the housing market," he told me. "So we get excited about something as small as this."

Cecala said the housing market is healthy enough to support more substantive steps, including lowering the cap on loans guaranteed by the government. The government currently guarantees some mortgages over $700,000, which, at 14 times the median household income, is far more than most middle class families can afford.

"There's plenty of private capital to come in now and pick up the slack," Cecala said. But, as always, legislators are wary of doing anything that threatens home prices. "No one wants to be accused of killing the recovery in the housing market," he said.

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