National News

PODCAST: ECB bond buying

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 03:00

The European Central Bank begins another round of bond buying. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about the Department of Justice's report on the Ferguson Police Department, and how the city has been maximizing profit from ticket revenue. And with U.S. fourth quarter productivity numbers out tomorrow, an explainer on the relationship between an improving labor market and productivity – when jobs are the uptick, productivity can go down.  

A fight over how quickly workers can unionize

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 02:00

There’s tons of emotional rhetoric on a new rule from the National Labor Relations Board to govern unionization votes.

The rule addresses a seemingly simple issue: How much time should there be between a union’s request to represent workers, and the workers’ vote on unionization?

Under the new rule, elections could be held as soon as 11 days after the union request. Employers say that’s too quick. 

“It simply ambushes the employer and doesn’t give them the amount of time that we need for a rational discussion,” says Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Brewer says employers need more time to discuss the impact of unionization on things like worker training, and flexibility on what roles workers can fill. But unions say employers drag out the process for months, with what they call frivolous lawsuits. 

“This frivolous litigation is brought by employers in the hope that workers in the meantime will give up and actually never get to vote on whether or not they want a union,” says Nicole Berner, deputy general counsel of the Service Employees International Union.  

The rule is set to go into effect April 14. The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to rescind it, and that measure is now in the House's hands; President Obama has promised a veto.

Building a private email server

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 02:00

The questions about why Hillary Clinton used a home email server system instead of her government account while she was Secretary of State have multiplied. But here's a different kind of question: How easy is it to build an at-home email server?

Meet Lee Hutchinson, Senior Reviews Editor for Ars Technica, who did just that

He says the question of even attempting to create a server is a complicated one. “Stop and reassess if you want to really go down this road because it’s not easy,” he says. Disheartening as that sounds, he’s right.

For one, it’s a long process. Hutchinson says he researched for months to set up his own server. Then there’s the logistics. First you need a computer if you want to host it on your house.

“Not the best option,” says Hutchinson. “It’s so easy for people ‘s home computers to get co-opted into malware and turned into spam spewing.” In fact, because of this problem, most big companies try to prevent users from doing just that.

“Generally, it’s a terms of service violation, and they try to make it as technically difficult as possible,” says Hutchinson.

Most of all, the process takes a lot of time, not just to set it up, but also to maintain it. “If gmail goes down at 3 AM, it’s not your problem, says Hutchinson. But if it’s your email server that goes down at 3 AM? Then it is your problem, especially if you're working on something important and or you’re on a deadline.

But if difficulty is no barrier, Hutchinson says the main advantage to setting up a private email server would be “to skirt discoverability requirements that would be placed on actual government emails sent through actual government systems."

House of Drones

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 01:30
$1.93 billion

Etsy's gross merchandise sales last year, as reported by Venture Beat. The online marketplace for crafty, artisan goods has yet to make a profit, but it filed paperwork to go public Wednesday.

14,000 restaurants

That's approximately how many McDonald's restaurants will phase out purchasing chickens injected with human antibiotics, as reported by Reuters. That number represents all of the franchise's U.S. locations, but not its international stores. Some are concerned that using antibiotics to treat chickens decreases their effectiveness in humans by eliminating weaker strains of bacteria while allowing the strong to survive.


That's how many people work at Berkshire Hathaway HQ in Omaha, Nebraska, largely leaving the companies in the empire to govern themselves. That decentralization and lean management, the Upshot notes, are part of the reason Warren Buffet's conglomerate has flown in the face of conventional wisdom and become the fourth most-valuable company in the U.S.

1 rule

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mark Zuckerberg said he has just one rule for hiring employees to work for him: “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person." The Telegraph has more on the Facebook founder's remarks, including his praise of Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer.

100 percent

The portion of 2013 film executives who were male, and 94 percent of them were white that year, according to new data published by the Hollywood Reporter, which has a great breakdown of how deep the industry's representation problem is.

150,000 jobs

The House of Lords EU Committee has issued a report recommending a registry for drones used by businesses and professionals, as reported by the BBC. They also said, however, that placing too many rules on drone expansion would hinder the estimated 150,000 jobs the industry would create across Europe by the year 2050.

Federal Regulators Link Workers' Comp Failures To Income Inequality

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 00:03

Changes to workers' compensation laws mean families and government bear more of the costs that result from injuries on the job.

» E-Mail This

In Berlin, Grassroots Efforts Work To Integrate Inner-City Schools

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 23:57

In parts of the city, racial segregation in schools is often a reality. But small parent-led initiatives — one immigrant-led, one native-led — have been working to change perceptions and enrollment.

» E-Mail This

Jaw Fossil In Ethiopia Likely Oldest Ever Found In Human Line

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 23:45

The 2.8 million-year-old bone may mark the first human branch in the primate family tree. It wasn't just a bigger brain that marked the shift, scientists say. It was also big changes in the mouth.

» E-Mail This

Boris Nemtsov: 'He Directed His Words Against Putin Himself'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 23:44

Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, who followed Boris Nemtsov's career for 27 years, says he was one of the few Russian political figures willing to directly criticize President Vladimir Putin.

» E-Mail This

Toronto Infertility Clinic Offers Controversial Treatment

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 23:43

The technique claims to "recharge the batteries" in a woman's eggs using mitochondria from other cells extracted from her ovaries. The clinic's first births are due soon, though other doctors worry.

» E-Mail This

House Approves Amtrak Funding, Rewrites Rules To Allow Furry Riders

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 19:08

The bill freezes funding at current levels for four years, and lets some pets ride the rails with their owners. It also separates the high-ridership Northeast Corridor from the rest of the system.

» E-Mail This

Justices Roberts and Kennedy The Key Votes In Health Law Case

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 15:40

No telling yet which side will win. But did Justice Kennedy's mixed signals Wednesday hint that he was leaning toward the administration's view of federal subsidies for health insurance?

» E-Mail This

For Many French Muslims, A Life Of Integration, Not Separation

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 15:37

Despite a minority suspected of holding extremist views, the vast majority of French Muslims say they feel fully integrated into society. France has the largest number of Muslims in Western Europe.

» E-Mail This

American Ambassador Attacked In South Korea

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 14:30

State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said they do no know yet what the motivation for the apparent attack on Mark Lippert.

» E-Mail This

House Benghazi Committee Issues Subpoena For Clinton Emails

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 14:18

This week, news emerged that Hillary Clinton used a personal email address during her time as secretary of state. The committee has also directed Internet firms to protect documents.

» E-Mail This

Is Fighting Racism In Soccer 'A Lost Cause'? FIFA President Says No.

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 14:11

Racism in soccer has been making headlines again, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter is now talking about relegating teams.

» E-Mail This

Dump The Lumps: The World Health Organization Says Eat Less Sugar

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 13:54

WHO says there's strong evidence that excessive sugar is bad for us. So it's recommending that we cut back significantly.

» E-Mail This

How To Help Children Orphaned By Ebola

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 13:36

More than 16,000 children have lost a parent to Ebola. Almost all of these children have found a home with a relative, but they still lack basic needs, such as food and clothes for school.

» E-Mail This

Why more than half of farmers have a second job

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-04 13:30

The Lilienthal farm is tucked into a corner of eastern Iowa, about a half hour’s drive from the Mississippi River and Illinois border. It’s 400 acres of flat, fertile farmland. The farm has been in the family for about 150 years.

I pull up to a trim, white farmhouse. The Lilienthals are gracious, and hardy. So they agree to give me a quick tour of the farm, even though it’s seven degrees outside.  

Dale Lilienthal is the family patriarch. He points to a shed.

"Dad built this machine shed," he says. "So he says, 'I’m going to build this so the doors are high enough and wide enough.' Now they’re not high enough or wide enough.”

Dale Lilienthal is the family patriarch.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer

That’s because the equipment Dale’s son uses today dwarfs his father’s. Bob Lilienthal is in the process of taking over the family farm. He rents the farmland and hundreds more acres around it. He had to build a shed the size of a warehouse for his machines. 

Bob Lilienthal built an immense new hog barn, too. Bob raises more than a thousand pigs at a time, while his father used to have a couple hundred. 

But with everything bigger and better, Bob Lilienthal struggles to match his father’s standard of living, even though he has side businesses. 

I’ve come here to find out why. But first we have to get warm after our tour. We hustle into the cozy farmhouse kitchen. On the table – cookies and hot chocolate. This was going to be a good interview.

I get things going, with this question for the young farmers at the table: “Do you ever think to yourself – my goodness – you could just farm in the old days and now you have to have all these separate things?”

Bob Lilienthal’s business partner, Chad Rockow, pipes up.

Chad Rockow is Bob Lilienthal's business partner.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer

“The bar has been raised,” he says.

Rockow says it costs more to farm now, even after you factor in inflation. 

Everything is more expensive. Fertilizer, equipment. And the prices the Lilienthals get for their corn, soy beans and livestock haven’t kept up. 

Rockow says their profit margins are thinner than Dale Lilienthal’s were. So they have to farm more land, raise more pigs, and do lots of other stuff.

“It’s more like what don’t we do," he says, laughing. "There might be eight or 10 different businesses.”

They even have a foam insulation business, totally unrelated to the farm. They do some contract farming, plowing other people’s fields. They raise pigs for the giant Cargill corporation (they’re paid to raise Cargill pigs in their barn). 

But Bob Lilienthal says big corporations are one reason it’s hard to be a small farmer now.

“There’s all these big companies – Cargill, Tyson’s," he says. "They all own sows, they all own pigs. And they own the packing plant. So they’re very hard to compete against.”

Bob Lilienthal says it's hard to compete with big corporations.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer

There were no Cargills or Tyson’s when Bob’s father, Dale Lilienthal, was farming.

And here’s another thing. The price of farmland has skyrocketed. Dale Lilienthal remembers when he bought a chunk of land back in 1962. “When we first got married I bought ground for $400 an acre," he says. "Now that same ground is worth, what? $10-12,000."

The farm across from the Lilienthals sold for $12,000 an acre a few years ago. 

All this stuff – the soaring land prices, rising costs, competition – it’s happening across the country.

“Part-time farming is pervasive and it appears to me to be permanent, and I think there’ll even be more reliance on off-farm income,” says Paul Lasley, a professor of sociology at Iowa State University, who studies farm communities. 

Dale Lilienthal says today's farmers have to be good business people.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer

Lasley says 50 to 60 percent of farmers in the U.S. have some kind of second job – off the farm. Maybe they drive a school bus, or sell insulation like Bob Lilienthal. 

Back at his kitchen table, Dale Lilienthal can only shake his head and marvel at the innovation of today’s farmers.

“You gotta be a lot sharper to be a farmer now than when I started," he says. "When I started, if you were strong and did things on time you were successful.” Now, he says, you have to be a good business person, too.

So why do they do it? Well, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. They feel the pull of the land, like previous generations did. They like to watch things grow, be their own boss. Even if that means working harder to stay in place.

Northwest Oil Terminal Plan Would Mean Jobs — And More Oil Trains

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 13:28

Oil companies hope to build the nation's largest oil-by-rail terminal on the Columbia River in Washington. Proponents say it will bring economic growth, but others fear it could mean fiery accidents.

» E-Mail This

McDonald's Says It Won't Be Serving Chicken Raised On Antibiotics

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-04 12:38

Over the next two years, McDonald's will transition its U.S. restaurants to a new antibiotics policy. Several of the chain's competitors have also committed to curb antibiotics in their supply chain.

» E-Mail This