NPR News

Deep in the heart of the arcane laws that give farmers a helping hand, there's something called "crop insurance." It's a huge program, costing taxpayers anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion each year.

It's called an insurance program, and it looks like insurance. Farmers buy policies from private companies and pay premiums (which are cheap because of government subsidies) to insure themselves against crop failures and falling prices. It's mainly used by corn, soybean, cotton and wheat farmers. Defenders of the program call it a safety net.

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

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Don't get pregnant.

That's the advice given to women by the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador in light of a possible link between the Zika virus, which is spreading in those countries, and a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small head and possible brain damage. Brazil has reported thousands of cases of microcephaly since the outbreak began there last spring; researchers are trying to determine whether the virus is the cause.

In the summer of 2014, a 23-year-old pregnant woman entered the military hospital at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan with a cut on her left cheek. The wound had been stitched up elsewhere, but she still wasn't quite right.

She said she'd been hit in the face by a ricochet back in her home village. What hit her exactly, she couldn't say for sure. She was upset, though, because the vision was bad in her left eye, even though there had been no apparent trauma to it.

For the Midwesterner who likes to eat local, this time of year is a challenge. Browse the produce shelves in middle America — or any place where snow falls in winter — and you'll find carrots from Mexico and peppers from Peru.

The push by Syrian government forces and their allies has put about 300,000 civilians in the northern city of Aleppo at risk of being placed under siege and cut off from food and humanitarian supplies, according to the U.N.

Since the start of last week, the offensive has displaced some 51,000 civilians from what was Syria's biggest city before the start of the war, the United Nations says.

When Ted Cruz took the stage at his primary night party in Hollis, N.H., he gave what sounded like a victory speech. And in some ways, he may have been an overlooked winner of the night.

"Washington insiders were convinced our wave of support would break in the Granite State," the Texas senator thundered. "The men and women of New Hampshire proved them wrong."

The TVs flanking him showed the results; he was edging out former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Cruz finished with just under 12 percent, good enough in the crowded field for third place.

A fire and a riot broke out in a prison in the city of Monterrey in northern Mexico on Wednesday night, killing at least 52 people and putting 12 in the hospital, says Jaime Rodriguez Calderón, the governor of Nuevo León state.

The riot at the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey began with a dispute between two groups around 11:30 p.m. local time, Rodriguez said at a Thursday morning news conference. The prison was brought back under control at 1:30 a.m., Nuevo León state officials said earlier today.

Morgan Stanley has reached a $3.2 billion settlement with state and federal authorities, the New York attorney general's office announced Thursday.

In the deal, the investment bank acknowledges that it misrepresented the risks of mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008 housing and financial crisis.

When 28-year-old Charis Hill discovered that the cost of medication to treat her degenerative arthritis had risen to $2,000 a month, she chose to be in pain instead.

"I felt like an invalid," said Hill, who lives in Sacramento and at the time had only catastrophic health coverage. She said the month without the medicine made it hard to get out of bed.

Paying for drugs isn't a problem for Hill now. She has a more robust Covered California health plan, and she gets assistance from a drug company.

Pages