National News

Shark Encounter Wasn't 'Jaws,' Exactly — But It Was Still Jarring

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-04 12:14

Two Massachusetts girls were knocked into the water by a shark while kayaking near Plymouth. After half an hour in the ocean, they were finally picked up by the harbor master.

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Guilty Verdicts For Former Gov. McDonnell And Wife In Corruption Trial

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-04 12:14

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has been found guilty on all 11 public corruption charges that he faced. His wife, Maureen, was convicted of eight of those same charges, as well as one additional charge of obstructing the grand jury investigation.

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Report: Violence Against Children Runs Rampant In Nigeria's Northeast

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-04 12:14

A group that tracks violence against children is reporting "grave violations" in Nigeria's fragile northeast. Violence there is getting worse, the group says, despite a state of emergency in some states and the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign that raised awareness of the children kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram.

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Response In Ukraine Could Prove A Crucible For NATO's Future

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-04 12:14

To learn more about the NATO summit in Wales this week, Melissa Block speaks with Admiral James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and former supreme allied commander at NATO.

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World Leaders Descend On Wales To Help Decide NATO's Way Forward

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-04 12:14

President Obama is attending the NATO summit in Wales, which some people are calling the most important in decades. On the agenda are Russia's intentions in Ukraine and the threats posed by the Islamic State.

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Remembering Shacki: Liberia's Accidental Ebola Victim

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-04 12:03

Shacki Kamara went out to buy his aunt some tea. Then she heard from the neighborhood kids: "They shot Shacki." He died the next day. Eva Nah is still asking why.

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How to blow off steam – and the driver next to you

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 08:37

Tens of thousands of workers have flooded into rural North Dakota to take jobs created by the state's oil boom. Now, there's a shortage of housing and there's a shortage of restaurants. There's a shortage of workers for non-oil businesses. And at the end of the day, there's not a whole lot to do.

Some guys, though, have brought one hobby with them: tinkering with their pickups and showing them off. Todd Melby talked to a customizer shop about one distinct way to show off.

Listen to his story in the audio player above.

Diesel engines can be tuned so they pour out black smoke. In Williston, North Dakota diesel pickup truck owners turn to Mark Pyatt at Killer Diesel Performance.

Todd Melby

Todd's series "Black Gold Boom" is an initiative of Prairie Public and the Association for Independents in Radio.

As fast-food workers strike, unions get redefined

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 07:00

Fast-food workers in more than 100 cities plan to walk off the job Thursday. The goal is a higher wage: $15 an hour. The Service Employees International Union, the SEIU, is backing the workers.

“They are not giving up until they are heard, and $15 and a union becomes a standard of practice in all fast-food restaurants in the United States,” says Mary Kay Henry, the union’s president. Corporations argue that would be bad for business.

The SEIU has spent millions of dollars getting the word out, but it has also asked home-care workers, a group it recently unionized, to strike in solidarity with the fast-food workers.

“I think it is part of the redefinition of what a union really is and how unions operate,” says Thomas Kochan, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

According to Ruth Milkman, a sociologist at The Graduate Center, CUNY, this push for a higher minimum wage is part of “a comprehensive campaign with lots of different pieces” born out of necessity.

“The traditional approach to unionization that SEIU and other unions have used isn’t really working too well these days, and they recognize that, and they are interested in experimenting with new approaches and new methods,” she says, noting that less than 7 percent of private-sector employees are unionized.

The real question, argues Harry Holzer, a labor economist at Georgetown University, is: “Is there really pressure on employers to raise wages?” Sure, a daylong strike affects the bottom line, but, he points out, that is nothing compared to what it would cost them to raise wages and offer better benefits.

European Central Bank cuts interest rates

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 07:00

Very few were predicting the European Central Bank would cut interest rates today, but cut they did. The benchmark rate went from a super-low 0.15 percent to just 0.05 percent. 

Brenda Kelly, Chief Market Strategist at London-based IG Group, joined us to offer some context on the surprising move.

Click the media player above to hear Brenda Kelly in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

PODCAST: Fast-food strike

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 03:00

First up, more on the surprise move from European Central Bank, which cut key interest rates from pretty low to really, really low. And fast-food workers in more than a hundred cities plan to walk off the job today. The goal: the desire to get paid $15 an hour. Plus, an example of the consumer becoming the advertiser. In India, there's a trend that goes way beyond, say, wearing a hat with the logo of some brand you like. 

Americans face food insecurity despite economic growth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 02:00

The number of American households suffering from food insecurity is down from its peak in 2011, the USDA said in a report released this week.

The decline was a modest 2.7 percent — bringing the number down to 17.5 million households where access to enough food for healthy and active living (how the USDA defines food security) was inconsistent or not dependable.

The report also said the number of households with severe food insecurity, including one member of the household who is going hungry, remained unchanged at almost 7 million. One out of five of these homes include children.

While researchers report that parents often shield their children from hunger, in 360,000 households, food availability was so poor that children were also affected.

“In these households, with very low food security among children, parents reported that children were hungry, but they just didn’t have enough money for food or that children were skipping meals, and in the most extreme situations going the whole day without eating,” says Alisha Coleman-Jensen, co-author of the USDA study.

Nevertheless, the number of extreme food instability households dropped from 1.2 to 0.9 percent.

Households with food instability are not evenly spread out around the country. There are more of them in urban and rural areas, and fewer in the suburbs. Southern states are hit hardest, while North Dakota, which is in the middle of an oil boom, has the lowest rate at 8.7 percent.

The nationwide numbers are grim, despite the fact that the economy has been improving, albeit modestly, and unemployment is decreasing. Coleman-Jensen says when researchers took into account employment, income and other factors, the most significant barrier for improved food security in the U.S. appeared to be inflation in food costs.

Graphic courtesy of USDA Economic Research Service.

“In certain categories, like proteins and dairy, they’ve been incurring double-digit inflation. You also have increasing demand for select commodities around the world, and that’s likely to keep an overall upward pressure on costs,” says Erin Lash, a consumer products analyst with the Chicago-based research firm MorningStar.

Lash says droughts are also partly to blame for higher food prices in certain categories. For example, beef prices rose 10 percent last year, and pork prices rose as much as 7.5 percent. Both meats will likely see price increases this year as well, as consumers feel the effects of a drought in Texas and Oklahoma, and a Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus that killed 7 million piglets last year.

In 2015, the USDA predicts food prices overall will see more normal levels of inflation, around 2 to 3 percent. But USDA co-author Coleman-Jensen says it is too early to predict whether that will significantly improve America’s household food security problem.

The jobs report: strong, steady job growth takes hold

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 02:00

The U.S. Labor Department's monthly employment report for August is expected to show some improvement in the job market from July. The consensus among economists is for 230,000 jobs to have been added to private and public-sector payrolls, and for the unemployment rate to have declined 0.1 percent to 6.1 percent.

The trend is now stable and well-established after five years of labor-market improvement that only came in fits and starts, says economist Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution.

Burtless points out that private businesses have been adding more than 200,000 jobs per month.

“In the last six months, the government has joined the party,” Burtless said. “Public employment is now rising again, although very slowly. As long as these jobs reports continue, I think everyone should be heartened.”

Burtless and other economists are discouraged by anemic wage growth, though. In the years since the recession ended, paychecks for most Americans have just barely kept pace with inflation.

Economist Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute says that shows there’s still significant slack in the labor market. Employers don’t have to offer higher pay to attract and retain workers, and workers don’t have much bargaining power.

“Workers are really not seeing the growing productivity, the growing economy, in higher wages,” Gould said.

How reading on screens is rewiring our brains

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-04 02:00

Dr. Maryanne Wolf says that reading isn't something we're born to do — it's something we train our brain to do.

Wolf is the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, and the author of "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain." She says we rewire parts of our brain and build new circuits as we learn to read.

But something interesting is happening as we use new technology for the process of reading: The circuits we're building in our brain are different than those we build when we read books. And some of the implications are worrisome for our ability for deep thought.

Following other discussions for this week's series on technology and reading education, Wolf joins us to talk about reading, new tech and their impact on the brain.

Click the media player above to hear Dr. Maryanne Wolf in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

Ferguson Police Tactics Draw Justice Department Investigation

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 17:41

The department will launch an inquiry into the city's police force, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, with a focus on looking for a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.

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Bloomberg Will Return To Running His Media Company In Surprise Move

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 16:55

The former New York mayor replaces his former city hall deputy Daniel L. Doctoroff, who chose to leave after Bloomberg re-engaged at the firm and began once again adding input on day-to-day decision.

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State governments experiment with cloud computing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 15:15

From the outside, Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Green House Data center looks fairly nondescript, just another boring building in a corporate office park.

But get past security and it feels like something out of "The Matrix" — a long white hallway leads to row after row of blinking servers. They’re extremely well protected, says staff engineer Courtney Thompson:

"Laser grid-based systems on penetrations on the outside of our walls. Kevlar bullet-proofing anywhere there is a window. We like to show people we go to the nth degree to make sure our clients' data is secure.”

The clients that use Green House Data’s cloud hosting services include New Belgium Brewing Company, the National Outdoor Leadership School, and now, the state of Wyoming.

“We are getting higher quality servers, higher quality data protection,” says Wyoming Chief Information Officer Flint Waters. “So it’s more economical for us, but it’s also far more bang for the buck.”

Waters is leading the transition of most of the state’s data from state-owned servers to the cloud — space on the Internet rented from big data companies, like a giant version of Dropbox or Google Drive. Pennsylvania is also moving government data to the cloud.

Waters says there are lots of benefits: He gets access to the very best IT professionals, and the state only has to pay for the storage it needs. He says there’s no way Wyoming can compete with companies that manage data for a living.

“When it comes time to put together a bunch of new trucks for our fleet, we don’t say, ‘Let’s put together a factory and assemble trucks.’ We look at GM, Ford, Chrysler. And this is a very similar paradigm,” Waters says.

While many states are looking into the cloud, a nationwide survey last year found that most are worried it could violate privacy laws. Waters says he understands the concern, but it is silly to think that government-owned servers are any safer.

“Folks say, 'It’s more secure because I control the server.' Well, yeah, but I can pick it up and walk out to my car with it. And that citizen data isn’t secure anymore.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Lee Tien isn’t convinced. “If you are controlling your own data center, you have the control that matches your responsibility,” he says. “When you move into the cloud, something could go wrong.”

Tien points to an example out of California as a reason to worry. School kids in that state use a cloud service called Google Apps for Education. But last spring, it came out that Google had been clandestinely mining their emails for ad research.

Tien says governments need to be good stewards of their citizens’ data. "There is a tendency for there not to be whole lot of public oversight over these kinds of decisions, even when they can be quite fateful for everyone involved.”

For small governments, navigating the world of cloud computing can be confusing. Thankfully, there is Australia.

“Australia has always been a country where the citizens have valued their privacy," says John Sheridan, Australia’s information minister.

The Australian government is moving a lot of information onto the cloud, too, and last year it came out with one of the most extensive guides to data privacy out there.

Sheridan says government cloud computing contracts need to be able to hold private companies accountable. “We need to look at their security. So we don’t want someone hacking our websites or doing those sorts of things.”

And, Sheridan says, if there is a hack, governments need to be sure they know about it, and know how it’ll be fixed.

In Cheyenne, Courtney Thompson would be one of those fixers if something went wrong. Pointing at the banks of humming servers, he says Wyoming is just the beginning for states heading to the cloud.

“Massive data centers like this, they’re the future of computing."

'We Will Emerge From This Ordeal,' Slain Journalist's Family Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 14:04

The remarks by Steven Sotloff's family come a day after the Islamic State group released a video that showed a militant beheading the freelance journalist.

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Perdue Says Its Hatching Chicks Are Off Antibiotics

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 13:40

Perdue Farms, one of the country's largest suppliers of chicken meat, says its hatcheries are working better now without antibiotics. Public health advocates call it "a big step" forward.

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Colorful snippets from the Fed's 'Beige Book'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 13:27

I actually enjoy reading about "The Beige Book," the Federal Reserve's regular look at regional slices of the American economy.

I know this makes me sound incredibly dull, but bear with me.

The latest installment came out today, and so we know (thanks to The Wall Street Journal):

-  Theme-park attendance in and around the Atlanta region was soft, because family vacations were delayed due to snow-day makeups at the end of the school year.

- Aerospace manufacturers near San Francisco are worried about titanium supplies, because of sanctions on Russia.

- A mildew outbreak in North Dakota may reduce sunflower yields. My personal favorite.

C'mon... fascinating, right?

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