National News

A Brief, Weird History Of Squashed Asian-American TV Shows

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 09:17

With Fresh Off The Boat making waves, we look back at a colorful crop of shows with Asian-American leads that most of us have forgotten.

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Europe resists Greece's charm offensive

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-05 09:12

This may not rank as one of the world’s most successful charm offensives.

Earlier this week Yannis Varoufakis, Greek's finance minister, embarked on a tour of European capitals in an attempt to win support for his government’s anti-austerity policies. He also wants Greece to be allowed to renegotiate the terms of its multibillion-dollar bailout and cut its crippling debt.

The trip has not gone as smoothly as Varoufakis might have hoped. His meeting in Berlin with the German finance minister ended without agreement; they even disagreed over whether they had agreed to disagree. And after Varoufakis met the head of the European Central Bank, the bank announced that it was cutting off cheap funding to Greece’s commercial banks.

Amy Pascal Out As Sony Pictures Chairman

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 08:40

The studio said she will launch a new production venture within Sony. Her departure comes shortly after the studio was hit by a cyberattack — one that exposed employee data and Pascal's emails.

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Pope Francis To Address Congress During U.S. Trip, Boehner Says

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 08:29

House Speaker John Boehner says Francis will address lawmakers on Sept. 24 during his first papal visit to the United States.

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Rocker Gary Glitter Convicted Of Sex Abuse

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 08:08

The jury of seven women and five men convicted the 70-year-old of six offences, including attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one of having sex with a girl under the age of 13.

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Quiz: Higher ed in the halls of Congress

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-05 07:29

The education industry spent more than $79 million lobbying the federal government last year, according to

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Pilot In Deadly Taiwan Crash Hailed As A Hero

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 07:19

The TransAsia Flight 235 crashed into a shallow river on Wednesday, killing at least 31 people. Taipei's mayor said the pilot had narrowly avoided buildings and likely more casualties.

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Jordan's Military Conducts Airstrikes Against Islamic State Targets

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 06:16

King Abdullah has vowed to wage a "harsh" war against the group after it released a video this week that showed a Jordanian pilot being burned alive.

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Argentina's President Will Write To Mia Farrow And Martina Navratilova About Scandal

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 06:14

Argentina's Secretary General of the Presidency Aníbal Fernandez says Mia Farrrow's statement about a controversial case is a "consequence of either misinformation .. or lack of it."

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5 Things The Vaccine Debacle Reveal About The 2016 Presidential Field

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 06:05

There are some some deep political lessons in how the 2016 hopefuls fumbled the political hot potato.

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Counting gallons: How much water do you use?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-05 06:03

Try to imagine a ticker, or counter, that tallies all your water use: every cup of coffee, every shower, every flush. That’s what I did for this story. I went out and checked my water meter (OK, first it required … locating the water meter), outside near the front curb.

Scott Tong/Marketplace

To show how ignorant we can be about our water footprint, I started by making a guess: 500 gallons a day for five Tongs. Then, I asked moms and dads at the bus stop to place their bets.

And I solicited estimates via Twitter and Facebook. Here’s how they guessed:

The median guess: 225 gallons a day. Low: 30. High: 5,000.

For context: The United Nation's estimate for the bare minimum a person needs to drink, bathe and clean is 13 gallons a day. My family of five lives in Arlington, Virginia, in an old brick house. Midmorning check: 60 gallons. That’s after one bath, two shampoos, five toothbrushings, one overnight load of the dishwasher and … roughly eight flushes.

The Tong kids brush their teeth.

Scott Tong/Marketplace

How much does 60 gallons cost? Under the rate charged by my county, a mere 25 cents. Yeah. A bargain. Consider how U.S. drinking water rates compare with other countries:

Many, including Stanford University’s Newsha Ajami, consider American water underpriced.

Water scarcity – a problem in many parts of the country – is not baked into the price, as scarcity is with other products, say strawberries in winter, diamonds or Picassos. My bill just charges me for treating and delivery of water. The actual water costs zero.

In many cases, what we pay does not cover the utilities' full costs of sending water, replacing century-old pipes and adhering to Clean Water Act mandates.

Early afternoon check: 200 gallons. Yikes. The culprit, as best I can tell, is two loads of semi-dirty, semi-full laundry. It turns out a single load in an, um, legacy model like ours can drink 40 gallons.

My early-afternoon shower, lasting nine minutes, uses about 18 gallons. Which seemed like a good time to ask: How clean is this water?

“Quite stunning” is how Duke law professor Jim Salzman puts it. He wrote "Drinking Water: A History," and speaks of what’s known as the Great Sanitation Awakening.

“100 years ago it was commonplace to die of typhoid and cholera. Wilbur Wright, the famed aviator ...  died of typhoid. It’s said [German field marshal] Rommel lost more men to dysentery than the Allies."

Back then, people figured they got sick from bad air, not bad water. The 19th century awakening brought us sewer systems and the biggie: chlorination. Consider: In 1900 America, your chance of dying from waterborne disease was 1 in 200. It’s now 1 in 2 million.

That does reframe the question: How appropriate is it to use this ultraclean drinking water for flushing? Or putting through our garden hose? It doesn’t happen everywhere.

“If I told a Dutch person he should go outside and water his lawn with his drinking water, he would look at you like you were crazy,” says economist David Zetland, author of "Living with Water Scarcity." He’s from California but teaches in the Netherlands. “Because it’s money. And Dutch people don’t like spending money. If they do have gardens usually those gardens are rain-fed."

 There are cultural differences around the world. But Zetland says when something is underpriced, we tend to overuse it – around the world.

Let’s return to this global chart, a slight variation on the previous one (adjusted for income). Note the inverse price/usage relationship:

Stanford University

Here’s another way to think about overuse: We pay for water way after we use it, in my case quarterly.

To behavioral economist Dan Ariely of Duke University, the timing is crucial. He’s the author of several books, including "Predictably Irrational."

Ariely explains a concept called "pain of paying." If you pay as you go, he found, you tend to buy less of something. It hurts.

“I charge the students 25 cents per bite. And you know what, they eat such big bites that they suffer from the whole thing. Because you sit there with the pizza and you say, ‘If can only push a little bit more in, I will get more value for my money.’ But you are really decreasing your joy.”

By contrast, what happens if you pay after the fact, the way I do with water? Ariely tested that. “People consumed five times more,” he says.

Final check: 9:30 p.m. Verdict: 310 gallons. Here it is on the scatter chart.

That’s much less than my guess of 500, which many experts say is about the national average – 100 gallons per person daily. The winning guess of 300 gallons came from 10-year-old Willem Desimone of Washington D.C. (Lorna Baldwin, Karin Rotchford and Marketplace’s David Weinberg also guessed 300, but they’re not 10). I should note that our own correspondent, Amy Scott, talked a bit of trash early on. She let us know she is past champion of a seventh-grade count-the-gumballs contest. Amy’s guess: 425 gallons.

310 gallons. It’s not bad for an American family of five. But it’s a ton of water (1.15 tons, to be precise). And that one ton for one day costs $1.30.

Put another way: It’s about the price of one bottle of water.


FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg Reportedly Will Step Down

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 04:39

The head of the Food and Drug Administration has been on the job for six years and presided over such controversial decisions as relaxing age restrictions on the Plan B contraceptive.

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Dude, Why Is There A Cow In The Back Of Your Cab?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 04:22

Author Chris Guillebeau has visited every U.N.-recognized country in the world. He's seen taxi-riding cows, a Mongolian version of Uber and a strong entrepreneurial spirit in the poorest of places.

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Al-Qaida in Yemen Says U.S. Drone Strike Killed Senior Cleric

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 04:11

A prominent presence in the Al-Qaida in Yemen organization, Sheik Harith al-Nadhari was among those who praised the recent attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

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These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Teachers

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 04:03

In our 50 Great Teachers project, we're telling stories of great teachers. Here are some from our own lives.

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U.S. And NATO Seek New Ways To Help Secure Ukraine's Border

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-05 03:22

"Clearly what we see is that conditions in eastern Ukraine have to change," NATO Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove tells NPR's Renee Montagne.

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PODCAST: Ordainment is just a click away

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

The European Central Bank last night applied new financial restrictions on Greece, with analysts seeing this as a move to remind Greece who holds the purse-strings. At stake is Greece's membership in the Euro-zone, and more widely, the stability of the global financial system. More on that. And anyone who uses the internet should pay attention to what at first blush may seem like a minor bureaucratic shift in Washington. The FCC chairman today will circulate a proposal to reclassify internet providers. Regulators regard them as "information services," but FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wants to call them "telecommunications" companies. Those little words have weight in the debate over network neutrality. Plus, some will see the next story as a charming development. For others, it's a new sign society is going to hades in a handbasket. People going online to get ordained so they can officiate at a wedding. 

College graduation rates skewed by income

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

More and more students are pursuing higher education, either by attending a two- or four-year college. But the growth in the demand for college diplomas has affected the wealthy different than the poor. A new study found that only a fifth of the students from the poorest families finished college by age 24, while nearly all of the richest students did.

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Lack of paid sick leave endangers healthy workers

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

This year’s flu season is relatively severe, with the annual flu vaccine only about 25 percent effective against the main flu strains that are circulating, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are outbreaks of measles and meningitis around the country, not to mention the common cold.

And in workplaces across the country, millions of people continue to show up sick, infecting coworkers and customers. A survey by AARP published in December 2013 found that 52 percent of adults go to work or school 'most of the time' when they are sick; another 20 percent go 'sometimes.'

The Obama Administration is pushing hard for Congress to pass legislation—the Healthy Families Act—that would guarantee workers could earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. Some cities and states already mandate that paid sick leave be provided by some or all employers—to be used by a sick employee, and sometimes also to care for a sick family member, such as a child or elderly relative. But Republican lawmakers are unlikely to pass any such new labor mandates on employers in this Congress.

Health-policy advocates point out that Americans often have close direct contact with those sick workers who are least likely to get paid sick leave. For instance, says Alina Salganicoff, head of Women's Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, “people who work in the restaurant industry have very low rates of paid sick leave”—the rate is 24 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just 47 percent of retail workers get paid sick leave.

Salganicoff says if these workers do call in sick, they lose a day or more in wages, and risk being fired.

Showing up sick and underperforming at work, or even damaging equipment or products because of diminished capacity or the effects of medication, is known as ‘presenteeism’ in HR-parlance. The Centers for Disease Control reports lost productivity from illness costs employers $225 billion annually; and it cites data from the Harvard Business Review that the cost of presenteeism is $150 billion or higher.

Workers at the top of the income scale—especially managers and other professionals—are most likely to get paid sick leave. The rate is 84 percent among the top quartile (top 25 percent) of income-earners. The rate of paid sick leave is 30 percent for those in the bottom quartile of earners.

How online minister ordination mills work (or don't)

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

Kate Black is getting married and wants her brother-in-law, Matthew Carrigan, to officiate. So the two of them are perched on a small couch in a slightly cheesy Manhattan hotel, searching the Internet for a church.

"So we have universal life church,," Black reads from the Google search results. 

They settle on the Universal Life Church Monastery—a website that has ordained everyone from Conan O'Brien to Joan Rivers. 

There are no questions about your beliefs. The only real limitation is age. 

"Are you over 13?" asks Black. "I am," says Carrigan. 

The entire process takes less than two minutes. 

"Welcome Matthew Charles Carrigan to the worldwide congregation of the Universal Life Church ministers!" Black reads from the laptop screen. 

"Almost everything we do is by Internet," says ULC Monastery's founder George Freeman. He says more than a thousand people of all faiths—atheists included—are ordained through their website each day, and hundreds also order "church supplies," which are mailed out of the Monastery's offices in a squat office building in a Seattle warehouse district. 

This is how the nonprofit pays for what Freeman says is a one- or two- million dollar operating budget: selling wallet credentials, certificates, letters of good standing and other goods. Some are souvenirs, but many are also supposed to function as documentation to convince higher legal powers of the church's legitimacy. A "marriage laws" section of the website gives recommendations for each state. For example: "Certification of ordination may be required in the form of certificate, wallet card, or letter of good standing.”

But this is where the quick and easy process becomes more difficult. "It should be a simple process," says Freeman. "But unfortunately the state has its requirements, and they're all different."

"Some of these websites, they lead people to believe they can perform weddings in all states," says Bob Rains, emeritus professor at the Dickinson School of Law at the Pennsylvania State University. "And that's just not true." 

The question of who is allowed to solemnize a marriage is primarily a matter of state law, according to Rains, and the state laws are an odd patchwork. In Alaska, an officer of the Salvation Army is allowed, as Rains noted in a 2010 law journal article, "Marriage in the Time of Internet Ministers: I Now Pronounce You Married, But Who Am I To Do So?" While states typically have a provision that allows ministers to perform marriages, both the language of the law and its interpretation, varies. Both Rains and the Universal Life Church monastery direct prospective couples to speak with their county clerk, because the requirements can differ not just by state, but by county. 

But the bigger problem, according to Rains, isn't what counties may require in order to grant a marriage license, but what could happen years later. "Typically, just like a divorce, this is going to come up when a marriage has hit the skids," says Rains. When there is a dispute—over property or alimony, for instance—one member of an ostensibly-married couple may call the validity of their marriage into question, and the findings may not conform to that of the county official who granted the original license. 

For this reason, Rains has two simple pieces of advice for anyone considering being married by a minister ordained online: 

"Number one: You should not take legal advice off the Internet," he says. 

And second, if you have any doubts about whether the way you intend to get married is legal, the time to figure that out is now—before you get married.