National News

Alabama Chief Justice: Federal Courts Don't Hold Sway On Marriage

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:33

Chief Justice Roy Moore says a ruling by a U.S. district judge "raised serious, legitimate concerns about the propriety of federal court jurisdiction over the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment."

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What Will New King Mean For Women In Saudi Arabia?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:33

Melissa Block speaks with Rajaa Al Sanea, a dentist and Saudi writer best known for her novel, Girls of Riyadh. She talks about how women's rights changed and expectations for the new king.

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Even At $30 A Barrel, Saudis Are Still Making Money On Oil

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:28

Robert Siegel talks to Amy Myers Jaffe of the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management about how falling oil prices impact production.

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The Mysterious Life Of India's First Lady

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:24

This week President Obama traveled to India with his wife Michelle to meet with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. But Mr. Modi's wife was nowhere to be seen.

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Watch 'Bob's Burgers'? Now You Can Eat Them, Too

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:23

What happens when you try to make a burger out of a pun? One blog, two years, and dozens of recipes later, millions of fans can now cook up their very own Bob's burgers.

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Public Inquiry Into Death Of Former KGB Agent Litvinenko Starts

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:19

Tuesday is the first day of a public inquiry into the death of former KGB agent and whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko. He was poisoned in London in 2006 with Polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope.

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Football As A Tool In The Hands Of A Master Craftsman

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:19

Our 50 Great Teachers series profiles a football coach who's made academics ... and a sense of family ... part of his winning strategy.

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Orange County Fights To Contain Measles Outbreak

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:14

Melissa Block talks with Dr. Eric G. Handler, health officer for Orange County, Calif. The biggest number of measles cases have been reported in his county, a dozen of which are linked to Disneyland.

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On Holocaust Day, Argentina's Jews Despair Over Deaths, Old And New

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:13

On a day usually filled with quiet reflection, the Jewish community spoke out forcefully against the president for her handling of a 20-year-old bombing case that remains unsolved.

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In Phoenix, Super Bowl Madness In Full Swing

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

Super Bowl madness is in full swing in Phoenix, where the majority of fans have flocked for Sunday's championship. Budget hotels have suddenly turned pricey, buildings have been covered in sponsors' colors — and there's even some references to the two teams competing in the game.

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After India, Obama Takes Saudi Arabia Detour

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

Leaving India, President Obama detoured to Saudi Arabia — a key ally in a volatile region, which is itself a country in transition.

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Winter Storm Snarls Air Traffic Throughout Northeast

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

Thousands of flights have been cancelled as a result of Monday's blizzard in the Northeast. By Tuesday morning, as many as 15,000 flights had been delayed and airport officials say travelers won't start see schedules normalizing before Wednesday. Some travelers determined to get to their destination opted for the railways and roads instead.

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Obama Makes Guest Appearance On Modi's Radio Show

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosts a radio show and this week his guest was President Barack Obama. They answered questions from a curious Indian public.

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Koch Brothers Rival GOP With Plans To Spend $900 Million In 2016

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

The billionaire industrialist Koch brothers have announced their fundraising goal for the 2016 election: nearly $900 million, which puts the assorted secret-money groups in the same league as the national Republican Party.

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How A Single Town In Syria Became A Symbol Of The War Against ISIS

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

Now that Kurdish fighters have retaken the Syrian border town of Kobani from ISIS, the Obama administration is assessing the significance of the development. For months, officials suggested the town was of little strategic significance even as warplanes bombed targets day after day.

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Doing the numbers on the Northeast's snowstorm

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:03

As New England digs itself out from two and a half feet of snow, New Yorkers are taking stock of the Snowpocalypse that wasn't.

But the forecasts, the hype and the precautions have real economic cost, says Scott Bernhardt, president of the weather economics analysis firm Planalytics.

"The economic impact of today is going to happen whether it was eight inches or 18 inches in Central Park.," Bernhardt says.

Widespread travel bans, school closures, flight cancellations, extra city workers and the like all come with serious cost. Locally, hardware, grocery and convenience stores enjoyed a spike in sales while sit-down restaurants lose revenue they can't make up. Meanwhile, some states are still getting hammered. 

"Tomorrow it'll be like it never happened in Philadelphia, probably New York as well," Bernhardt says. "When you get into Boston? Not so much. Hartford? Not so much."

The total economic cost remains to be seen. Let's do the numbers on the storm so far:

30 inches

The peak snowfall in Massachusetts, CNN reported, with drifts reaching up to six feet. As of Tuesday afternoon, parts of Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were under blizzard and winter storm warnings. New York City got off easy in comparison, with a paltry 7.9 inches falling in Central Park.

26.9 inches

New York City's record snowfall, recorded in February 2006 in Central Park. At that time, the city deployed 2,500 workers to help with cleanup, flights were grounded and trains were delayed, but the subway didn't shut down as it did Monday night.

4,727

That's how many domestic and international flights were cancelled Tuesday in anticipation of a historic nor'easter, with another 2,290 delayed. On Monday airlines cancelled 2,866 flights.

$160 million

The cost of lost labor if 10 percent of New York City's workforce stays home, The New York Times' Upshot reported. That might be a conservative estimate, since the majority of workers take the subway, which shut down for the first time in more than a century. Or it could be overstated, since so many people are wired to work from home.

$500 million

The estimated cost of the storm, a senior VP for Planalytics told CNBC Tuesday morning. That's far from the GDP-shrinking impact some analysts talked about Monday. In the case of New York City,  one economist told Bloomberg any lost output should be made up by the end of the week.

Obama Administration Proposes Opening Up Atlantic To Drilling

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:51

At the same time, a new Interior Department plan designated nearly 10 million acres in Alaska as off-limits to any future oil and gas leasing. Reaction has been mixed to the draft plan.

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A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Auschwitz At The Last Second

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:40

The line on the left went to the gas chambers, but an SS guard shoved Jack Mandelbaum to the right. Thus began a three-year nightmare in seven camps for a Jewish teenager who refused to give up hope.

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Hate performance reviews? So does human resources

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:15

The Society for Human Resource Management says about 90 percent of companies give employees performance appraisals during the year. But only a small share of people who work in HR give their appraisal process high marks.

A few big companies like Microsoft and Kelly Services have acknowledged flaws in the traditional appraisal process and have retooled some major parts of it. So has software giant Adobe.

“For too long we've appeared as the police people, if you will, the regulators of processes that weren't necessarily valued by the intended audiences, whether it be by managers or employees,” says Donna Morris, senior vice president of People and Places at Adobe.

A few years ago, Adobe spiked the traditional annual review.  Managers and workers now do regular, verbal check-ins every couple months. There's no paperwork. Employees get clarity on their goals and can ask for support to help get their jobs done.

“People just really want to have an ongoing dialogue. They want to know that there's no surprise in terms of how they're performing, how they can make a difference in the organization,” Morris says.

Adobe’s part of what some experts say is a burgeoning trend of companies dumping the traditional performance review. Experts say the performance review can turn adversarial when talk of rankings and raises gets mixed into a conversation about an employee's growth and development. And if the conversation only happens once a year, that creates all the more pressure. 

But Sam Culbert, a management expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, says the trend to scrap the annual review needs to move faster. He's an outspoken critic of the traditional review, as the title of his book suggests: "Get Rid of the Performance Review: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on the Results That Really Matter."

“The metrics [of reviews] are baloney. One manager's team player is another manager's conflict avoider. There's no consistency,” Culbert says.

The annual employee review took off in the postwar era as companies tried out new management techniques. In the 1980s, Jack Welch, a chief executive at General Electric, popularized a way of ranking workers as a part of performance management, Culbert says.

“So you could give 20 percent ‘excellent’ and then you had to give 10 percent either 'improve’ or ‘get fired,’” Culbert says. “And the rest of the 70 percent were some form of average.”

Adobe's system may not put to rest the fear of getting fired that many workers associate with performance conversations. The company says it’s retaining more of its top workers under its new approach, it's also letting go of weaker employees at a higher rate.

Telecommuting is killing the snow day

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 10:40

As parts of the Northeast dig out from Tuesday's snowstorm, many workers will still be dealing with emails, presentations and phone calls that they've usually handled in the office.

One reason the storm's economic impact will be a relatively low $500 million is the rise of telecommuting, according to estimates by Planalytics, a firm that helps businesses plan for weather-driven changes.

The 2010 census figures show that 2.4 percent of workers telecommute full-time, an increase from 1.4 percent in 2000, says Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor. When Bloom studied telecommuting, he discovered workers can be 13 percent more productive and prefer working from home one or two days a week.

A snowstorm is the perfect time for companies to experiment with letting workers telecommute, he says, because they can see if it works for them. Telecommuting seems to be increasing among workers with lower-level jobs (such as IT call center assistants) and upper-level management positions, according to Bloom.

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