National News

The Many, Many Secret Lives Of Teachers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:53

What do teachers do outside the classroom? We've gotten hundreds of responses to that question. To list a few: They officiate at weddings, run nonprofits and Jazzercise.

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Insurers May Cover Costly Hepatitis C Drugs Only For The Very Ill

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:20

Many insurers are restricting access to new drugs that are easier to take and that promise higher cure rates because the price tags can run $95,000 or more.

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Pope Says God Not 'A Magician, With A Magic Wand'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:18

Speaking at an assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Francis also affirmed that evolution and the Big Bang are consistent with a creator.

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Australia Blocks New Visas From West Africa Over Ebola Outbreak

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:09

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says Australia's steps to keep Ebola from crossing its borders include "temporarily suspending our immigration program, including our humanitarian program."

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The 21-year-old who owns a factory in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:02

Alex Shlaferman was 11 years old when he made $10,000 by selling DVDs that taught viewers how to levitate. At the age of 16, he founded his company, Vante Toys. His venture has been so successful that he now owns his own manufacturing company in China.

Vante Toys is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

"I create products for the mass market," says Shlaferman. "My specialty is products that are under like 20 bucks, that’s what I’m good at. I don’t understand luxury goods or high-end fashion; I understand products that sell for like ten, twenty bucks."

Friend Of Accused Boston Bomber Found Guilty Of Lying To Police

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 06:46

Prosecutors said Robel Phillipos lied to the FBI agents investigating the April 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

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A holiday rush at ports piles up cargo

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 06:18

There’s a traffic jam in Los Angeles, but this one’s not on the freeways. The port complex  of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest, is so backed up right now that some importers are avoiding the port altogether. Problems there are delaying some shipments for two weeks or more. The bottleneck is giving southern California’s ports “a black eye,” says Jock O’Connell, international trade adviser at Beacon Economics.

There’s congestion at many ports right now, but the Los Angeles-Long Beach complex handles 40 percent of U.S. imports, so the ripple effects are long and wide.  If retailers are "planning on having it stocked for the Christmas holiday, it needs to be in the port now, it needs to be moving through,” says Frank Layo, a partner with Kurt Salmon Associates. “So any delays now are kind of critical. We’re running out of runway.”

Port officials say the delays at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are rooted in a shortage of trailer chassis, to load the containers onto. But that problem has been exacerbated by an unexpected surge in imports this year, along with the sudden rise of “mega-ships.” They can carry three times as many containers as older ships and they’re straining port capacity. Others say unresolved labor negotiations at the port are crimping efforts to ease the port’s traffic jam as well.

Some retailers are diverting shipments to other ports and a few are even flying merchandise into the U.S.  But Noel Hacegaba, chief commercial officer at the Port of Long Beach, says they’re working hard to ease congestion. “At the end of the day our reputation is at stake,” says Hacegaba. “Beneficial cargo owners have choices. And we are doing everything that we can to make sure that we continue to be the gateway of choice.”

China May Drop 9 Crimes From List Of Death Penalty Offenses

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 06:01

The move appears to be part of a trend to reduce the use of the death penalty in a country that still executes more people than any other.

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With Obamacare, More Millennials Are Going To The Doctor, Sort Of

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 05:55

Once young adults started getting coverage through their parents, they started getting checkups more often, a study finds. But they still may need help filling a prescription.

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Nurse Amber Vinson Discharged After Testing 'Ebola-Free'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 04:49

The 29-year-old nurse, one of two who became infected while treating Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, is being released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

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Planned Vote In Ukraine's Separatist East Gets Moscow's Blessing

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 04:01

Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been under a shaky truce since early September, would participate in the vote, which Russia's foreign minister has said is "important to legitimize authorities there."

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Hawaii Lava Flow Less Than 100 Yards From Homes In Pahoa Village

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 03:18

The flow, which began at Mount Kilauea in June, threatens to take out dozens of homes on the Big Island.

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PODCAST: The NBA banks major net gains

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 03:00

We might be on the cusp of a change in the business-evolution of online video. Hint: it involves YouTube, which is owned by Google, and paid subscription service. And the NBA season starts tonight with three games, and the promise of a lot of money. This month the basketball league announced a 9-year, $24 billion deal with TV networks; nearly tripling the cash it gets from broadcasting. But the trickle-down started before the deal was even signed. Plus, since the landmark "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision in 2010, money from outside groups has poured into elections. In Iowa, what's unusual this year is that in addition to a blizzard of TV ads, members of outside groups are also out knocking doors

Outside groups launch ground game in Iowa

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 02:00

Since the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision in 2010, there’s been more and more participation in electoral politics by groups not coordinated with campaigns or parties. In Iowa, what’s unusual this year is — in addition to a blizzard of TV ads — outside groups are out knocking on doors. 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, roughly $50 Million dollars of outside money has been spent on Iowa’s close open Senate race. A fraction of that money was spent to put Denise Bubeck on this Des Moines voter’s doorstep.

“I’m letting people know the policies of Bruce Braley that we don’t agree with. You know, the healthcare law,” Denise Bubeck says to a voter on his doorstep.

Bubeck won’t tell you who to vote for, but it’s evident she’s not a fan of the Democrat in the race: Four-term Congressman Bruce Braley.

“The bailouts, the stimulus package, the spending. And so we’ve been encouraging people to vote,” says Bubeck. 

“Oh, I hear ya. I’m on the same page,” the voter responds.

Bubeck never mentions Iowa state senator Joni Ernst, the Republican in the race. That’s because Bubeck is a paid staffer with Americans for Prosperity. It’s a social welfare organization that’s limited in how it can engage in electoral politics. It also doesn’t have to reveal its donors. AFP was started by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, a conservative group often demonized by Democrats.

“It’s a lot easier to raise some money and throw some ads on TV,” says Drew Klein, the deputy director of AFP’s Iowa chapter. He says knocking doors is a more effective way to connect with voters.

“Looking back at 2008 and 2012, that’s really where the left dominated both the size of the presence and the effectiveness of their presence,” Klein says. “I think it has been kind of a learning curve for us.”

Both liberal and conservative groups are pounding Iowa pavement. The increasing participation by outside groups has become an issue in itself in this race that could determine what party holds the majority in the senate. That’s a problem, says Drake Political Science Professor Dennis Goldford. 

“So the campaigns become not about issues that matter to voters,” Goldford says. “The campaigns become campaigns about campaigns themselves.”

Goldford says outside money is nothing new in Iowa; it’s just the unprecedented volume and intensity in this midterm. He says with all this outside money sloshing around, Iowans shouldn’t be surprised if it sticks around long after November 4th.  After all, once the polls of the midterm close, it’s 2016 Iowa caucus season.

 

How the NBA TV deal is already having an effect

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 02:00

The NBA season starts Tuesday night with a lot of hope toward the future. Earlier this month, the basketball league announced a $24 billion deal to allow TV networks to carry its games, nearly tripling the league's broadcast revenues compared to its previous deal.

But the trickle-down effect of the cash infusion started even before the deal — scheduled to start in 2016 and last until 2025 — was even signed. That’s because NBA watchers and insiders had been expecting a more lucrative TV contract, although best guesses had assumed a doubling of fees, not a near tripling.

Nevertheless, that anticipation of a cash infusion had already had an effect, says Victor Matheson, who specializes in sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross.

“Just a couple years ago, we thought that a team like the Clippers may be worth $500 million, maybe a billion. And all of a sudden the Clippers are selling for $2 billion,” Matheson says.

Valuations are forecast to go up for the other 29 teams as well. And players have also been factoring in the expected TV cash, too, says Raymond Sauer, who teaches sports economics at Clemson University.

"LeBron James signed a short-term contract, so he’s positioned to re-up, as it where, with the new revenue streams,” says Sauer.

And for those players who don’t have contract renewals coming up, the NBA and the players’ union are now looking into how to best spread the wealth. One of the options that may be considered is a combination of a raise of the current salary cap — set at 51 percent of revenues — and a payment to the union, which then would distribute money among players.

The NBA, by the numbers:

$24 billion

The deal the league struck to allow TV networks to carry its games, nearly tripling their broadcast revenues.

11.7 million

The number of followers for the NBA’s official Twitter handle. That’s the highest of the four major American sports leagues, by far. (NFL = 7.68 million, MLB = 3.93 million, NHL = 2.8 million.)

6

The number of NBA teams with at least one million followers on Twitter. The Los Angeles Lakers lead all teams with 4.02 million. The other five teams are the Miami Heat (2.78 million), the Chicago Bulls (1.76 million), the Boston Celtics (1.54 million), the Orlando Magic (1.2 million), and the New York Knicks (1.04 million).

3

The number of years the NBA has presented "Social Media Awards." The awards were slightly expanded in 2014 with more categories.

$2 billion

 The record-breaking price Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this year.

29 teams

 Besides the Clippers who hope the league's coffers keep flowing.

Old old old MacDonald had a farm

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 02:00

Wave Williams, a 4th-generation farmer at Gardeners Gourmet in Westminster, Maryland, knows first-hand that getting into farming is difficult.

“A lot of the people that are farming are the sons, the daughters, the grandkids of the farmers,” Williams said as he sold vegetables at Washington DC’s Eastern Market. “Even if you want to start farming, it’s really hard because to get the land, it’s expensive. So the only people that are actually going to have the land are the people it got passed from the generations, like our family, for instance.”

At 26, Williams stands out in the agricultural industry. American farmers are older than they ever have been. In 2012, the average farmer was 58, compared to 50 in 1982, according to the Census of Agriculture. It’s a 30-year trend.

And while farmers are aging, fewer young people are entering the industry.

Creating an even farming field

The biggest obstacles beginning farmers face are access to capital and land, according to a 2011 survey by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC).

It costs a couple million dollars to get the land, equipment, machines, seeds and more to start a small farm, according to David Fowler of Sunnyside Farm in Mechanicsville, Maryland, who’s been farming for 50 years.

“There’s no guaranteed retirement, there’s no guaranteed income,” he said. “What you make today is spent yesterday. You don’t have any money until you die because all your assets is tied up in your equipment and your land.”

This is why young people aren’t going into farming. “Besides that, they don’t like to work,” Fowler said. “Farming’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job with no time off. And young people just are not going to do that anymore.”

That’s where organizations like the National FFA Organization (FFA) and NYFC come in.

FFA tries to eliminate obstacles that keep young people from entering agricultural fields by offering students Supervised Agricultural Experience grants, scholarships, proficiency awards, internships and other resources, according to Dwight Armstrong, CEO of the National FFA Organization and National FFA Foundation.

FFA offers mentorships and other opportunities for middle and high school students to learn agricultural methods. Armstrong encourages those in agricultural fields and older generations of farmers to get involved with FFA, 4-H or similar groups.

NYFC, founded in 2010, uses a different approach to encourage young people into farming. The group of young farmers, with 24 chapters in 22 states, pushes for policy shifts.

They’ve been talking to Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) about introducing a bill that would add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which currently offers loan forgiveness for teachers, physicians, not-for-profit and government employees. Student loan debt makes it difficult for beginning farmers to get a mortgage, credit, land and equipment, according to Lindsey Shute, the Executive Director of NYFC.

“What we’re asking is the U.S. government put farming in the category of public service, which it really is,” Shute said. “There is a group of young people that want to farm. But to enable them to make a career of farming, there has to be structural change.”

Changes taking hold

FFA is seeing record-high membership with 610,000 members and 7,570 chapters across the country. And new chapters are starting in urban areas like Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia. Two-thirds of FFA members live in suburban or urban locations. Brian Walsh, 21, the president of FFA, believes the organization is effectively helping more young people get into agriculture.

Walsh said FFA is reaching members who might not be traditionally interested in agriculture because the industry is diversifying.

“Agriculture is interesting,” he said. “We see it all over the news, we see it everywhere. People want to know where their food comes from. It’s no longer just large conventional farming. There’s organic farming, there’s locally grown foods.”

There is constant innovation in the agricultural industry, Walsh said.

He’s witnessed this innovation and various pathways to agriculture while traveling across the country since 2013. In his travels, Walsh has seen ag-science programs and greenhouses at schools. He’s spreading the message to FFA chapters that agriculture needs young people to survive.

“Farmers are arguably one of the most important professions in the U.S.,” said Shute, who runs Hearty Roots Community Farm with her husband in Germantown, N.Y. “They’re taking soil, water, sunshine, seeds and turning that into value and feeding local people and creating very vibrant economies. So this issue of farmers aging is so vital to the future of our country.”

Fed set to end its bond buying

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 02:00

The Federal Open Market Committee could call it quits on QE3 after meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. The Fed has bought more than $4 trillion worth of Treasuries and Mortgage bonds in its extraordinary effort to stimulate the economy.

For six years, the Fed has used some form of the unconventional monetary policy known as quantitative easing. When that ends, the Fed still has its conventional tools.

“So the Fed still can influence short-term rates, thirty-day rates, overnight rates,” says Rutgers University’s Morris Davis, who was once an economist with the Federal Reserve Board. “It just has decided it will not try to influence longer term rates like the ten-year Treasury or mortgage-backed securities.”

But even if the Fed stops its bond buying program, it won’t stop buying bonds. Interest-rate strategist Ian Lyngen with CRT Capital Group says the Fed plans to replace all those securities it owns as they mature. He says the Fed wants to maintain the size of its balance sheet for now, with those trillions injected in the economy.

He describes the thinking like this:

“We’ve put that much more money into the system, and we’ve provided that much more stimulus. And as long as we’re not shrinking the size of our balance sheet, then we’re continuing to keep our foot on the pedal.”

We’re just not accelerating more.

Change to PLUS loan program hits HBCUs hard

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 02:00

Several U.S. colleges have seen declining enrollment since the recession began. But changes to a federal loan program in 2011 have hit some historically black colleges and universities especially hard.

Clark Atlanta sophomore Jasmine Johnson says waiting for a federal Parent PLUS loan to be approved can be stressful.

“My freshman year when I got here, I didn’t have enough money because my Parent PLUS hadn’t been approved yet. They didn’t let me move in my dorm, and I was like, ‘Where am I supposed to go?’” Johnson says. “’I have no family in Atlanta,’ and they just were like, ‘Well, you can’t move in.’”

The new PLUS loan requirements mean fewer HBCU students now qualify. In a two-year period, Clark Atlanta’s enrollment dropped about 13 percent.

“It’s not like they’re Ohio State, with over 100,000 students,” says University of Pennsylvania professor and HBCU expert Marybeth Gasman. “An institution like Prairie View, for example, in Prairie View, Texas, has about 8,000 students. If they lose 100, 200, 300 students, they’re going to feel an impact.”

Gasman says federal officials didn't warn schools about the changes. She says HBCUs really felt the squeeze because they serve a higher number of low-income students who need to apply for loans.

The changes initially caused a 6 percent enrollment drop at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The school lost about $17 million in revenue, resulting in Moody’s downgrading its credit rating.

Lenora Jackson is the director of financial aid at Atlanta’s Spelman College. She says the changes initially impacted about 200 of the school’s 2,000 students.

“Two hundred students not coming back does affect the bottom line of our budget,” Jackson says. “So, we had to come up with some very strategic ways of getting those students back in school.”

Jackson says Spelman was proactive. The school offered students scholarships to make up the gap and coached parents on how to seek an appeal.

Atlanta’s Morehouse College, on the other hand, had to cut $2.5 million from its budget. That meant laying off 50 employees.

Gasman says it’s not a crisis yet. Enrollment is up at some HBCUs. But, she says, if schools like Morehouse and Spelman can’t recover, the effects could be widespread.

“If we did not have these institutions, we would have a huge drop in the number of these students becoming doctors, becoming pharmacists, becoming scientists,” she says.

Federal officials have proposed changes to the PLUS loan. The new standards would relax some of the loan’s credit requirements starting in the fall of 2015. 

The $128 million dollar supercomputer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 02:00

Cray, a Seattle based supercomputer company, just announced that they will be supplying the UK's Met Office, their version of the national weather service, with its next generation supercomputer worth over $128 million.

The machine itself looks like a bunch of refrigerators, known as racks, lined up next to one another.

Barry Boulding, Vice President of Business Development for Cray, says, "Weather forecasting today is more than just the morning news. It's really about providing a set of products to financial markets and the defense industry. What the Met Office just purchased will give them the ability to deliver 13 times more to their customers than they were able to deliver in their previous business."

Technology and the level of computing power continues to improve, and with it, the accuracy of forecasts. But along with more capability comes more complex questions. 

Click the media player above to hear Barry Boulding in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

Bear-Baiting And Big Races Drown Portland, Maine, In Campaign Ads

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 00:39

A combination of candidates, a controversial ballot measure and cheap ad rates have made Portland very popular. There are even ads running for a neighboring state's U.S. Senate race.

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