National News

Why "landmen" don't benefit from low gas prices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

The price of crude oil is up from its lows of the last year, but at $59 a barrel this morning, that still about half what it was 11 months ago. This is great for consumers of oil, drivers, businesses and beyond. But it's a challenge for many who work in the oil industry, including what are called "landmen," people paid by oil companies to get rights to drill. We visit one land person, in Eddy County, New Mexico.

Click on the multimedia player above to hear more. 

McDonald's wants to serve up a giant turnaround

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

McDonald's is sharing details of a major turnaround plan. The company recently said it plans to reassert itself as a "modern, progressive burger company." This at a time the fast-food giant's global sales were down 2.3 percent in the first quarter.

But can a fast-food chain with 36,000 restaurants worldwide adapt to changing consumer tastes without confusing people? McDonald's wants to be a place you can get a double cheeseburger for a dollar, or an artisanal antibiotic-free chicken sandwich. And for a company that big, it's not an easy switch.

"It's a little bit like the difference between trying to redirect a huge freighter with a barge or whatever, and a sailboat," University of Oregon marketing professor T. Bettina Cornwell says. "It's a large brand with a long history."

Because McDonald's is such a household name, she says it feels more pressure to offer healthier items.

Meantime, "you get company's like Shake Shack or Smashburger or Five Guys come along, and they just focus on those hamburgers and fries, Maverick Consulting founder John Knight says. He says healthier items also take longer to make. And with as much traffic as McDonald's has, every extra second costs money.

Obama's plan to keep up with My Brother's Keeper

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

President Obama is scheduled to speak Monday at the launch of a new nonprofit organization — the My Brother's Keeper Alliance. 

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's a spinoff of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative, launched by the President in 2014, as a White House program aimed at helping minority boys and young men stay in school and graduate prepared for college. 

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools and one of the Initiative's first partners, says "The fact that he is setting this up now is important in signalling what a major priority this is for him personally."

And perhaps the President will continue to be involved after he leaves office in January 2017. Last week, he told a group of school children that he will "go back to doing the kinds of work I was doing before," leading some to speculate he may return to community organizing.

Meeting with the EU Commissioner for Competition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

The European Union Commissioner for Competition against Google,  Margrethe Vestager, joins us from her home country of Denmark. The high-profile official has taken on some high-profile companies since stepping in her role last year. The internet search and advertising giant Google has its hands full in Europe, where antitrust regulators have accused it of abusing its power to, among other things, favor its business partners in Google results. Google denies wrongdoing. Gazprom, the largest energy provider for eastern Europe, is also under investigation for overcharging in the regional market. 

Click the multimedia player above to hear more on Commissioner Vestager's take on Google, Gazprom, and her television portrayal.

 

The changing role of Advanced Placement classes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 01:36
Luis Romero has taken so many Advanced Placement courses, he can barely remember them all. AP Computer Science, Human Geography, U.S. Government, World History...

He may sound like a “typical” teenager in a “typical” high-achieving high school, but not that long ago, Romero would have stood out at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Maryland — a diverse school in a working-class suburb of Baltimore.

If annual growth rates hold true, during the next two weeks, more than two million high school students across the country are expected to take AP exams during the next few weeks. A passing score could mean earning college credit while still in high school. Research shows that students who take rigorous courses in high school are more likely to get into, and succeed, in college.

For a lot of students though, especially low-income and minority students, AP courses haven’t always been an option. North County principal Julie Cares says five years ago, only 10 percent of the school's 2,000 students took any Advanced Placement classes. Less than one-fourth of seniors planned to attend a four-year college.

“When I first came, there was a sense of, just low expectations,” she says. “A lot of kids not only didn’t believe it was possible, but it didn’t even occur to them that was something they might do."

Should all students be accepted into AP classes?

To build a college-going culture, the school added more AP courses, eliminated all of the requirements to get in and pushed every student to take at least one. In five years, the number of AP students has tripled, from about 200 to 600.

“We decided to open the gates, basically,” Cares says. “Then it just became something that we do here: when you come to North County, you take an AP class.”

There are more students in classes like AP English Language and Composition, where a class of juniors recently wrestled with concepts like “polysyndeton” and “metonomy.” In an assignment designed to help prepare them for the upcoming exam, students are asked to identify the rhetorical strategy in a passage from literature or popular music.

Student Tyler Beynard says he might not have considered taking a class this challenging before the shift.

“I didn't even know what AP was,” he says. “The middle school I went to, I feel like it didn’t really prepare me for high school, so AP classes was kind of a shock.”

The transition was sort of a shock for North County, too.

“The original intent was like, we’re going to help more kids, this is going to be awesome, bring us more kids,” says Jennifer Mermod, another AP English teacher. “And it did. But, then there were those kids that we thought, ‘Wow, this may not have been the best push for them.’”

Source: The College Board (Dan Hill for LearningCurve)

So, some gatekeeping has returned. Mermod says students who might do better in an honors-level class, typically used as the prerequisite for some AP courses, are encouraged to stay there and get a higher grade.

“I want them to get into college — that’s the point of the program, so I really don’t want a kid that’s going to come into the class and not at least get a C,” she says.

The high school also added more tutoring, and expanded a college prep program called AVID, which provides support for students taking AP courses. Students like Luis Romero, who will be the first in his family to attend college, also take a separate class where they learn note-taking and study skills.

“It gives me a time period where I can just focus on whatever I need to do, as well as give me a couple of tips that will help me do better in my classes and get to college,” he says. Romero has passed all but one of the many AP exams he’s taken.

North County High School senior Luis Romero gets support for college applications and AP classes from teacher Brian Whitley, through a program called AVID. (Mary Wiltenburg/Marketplace)

Teachers also have had to make adjustments. They no longer get just the brightest or most-motivated students. To keep classes challenging for those students, Mermod says she breaks her class into small groups. Sometimes the better-prepared students serve as leaders.

“Other times you cohort them up, so they can have their little, ‘You came prepared, you deserve to be rewarded with a better discussion,’” Mermod says.

But, as more high schools push less-prepared kids into AP, there is the risk the whole class might suffer, says Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, a project at Stanford University.

“You may have to water it down so much that it’s not going to be considered a college-level course,” she says.

The original purpose of AP courses was to give talented students a chance to earn college credit — aka advanced placement — by taking college-level work while still in high school.

Today, many school leaders see AP as, “the solution to having kids prepared for college,” says Kristin Klopfenstein, director of the University of Northern Colorado’s Education Innovation Institute.

Adding AP classes can boost a school’s standing, Klopfenstein says. She questions the value of putting students into those classes if they aren’t likely to pass the official — though most times optional — AP exams at the end of the year.

“The research is pretty clear that that confers no advantage to them in terms of their postsecondary enrollment and outcomes,” she says.

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At North County High, more than two-thirds of students generally do not pass the exams, meaning no college credit. Principal Cares says they’re working to improve that rate. Even without the college credit, she says students develop skills like writing and critical thinking that will serve them in college.

“They’re still learning those skills that are pushing them forward,” Cares says.

Junior Nevay Archuleta didn’t pass her first AP test last year in Government. But, she says taking the class still changed how she thinks about herself and her future. She’s taking two more AP classes this year.

“Before AP, I thought I was definitely like too average for college,” she says. “But I think now that they see that I’ve challenged myself, they’re going to be more impressed.”

AP by the numbers

$91 Total fee per AP exam

$53 Cost per exam for students with financial need*

13 Number of states where some students can take exams for free

$795,817,602 Total College Board — which distributes the AP — revenue 2012-13

$28,483,000 Amount of grants awarded by the Department of Education to states in August 2014, to defray the costs of taking Advanced Placement tests for low-income students

*The College Board provides a $29 fee reduction per exam for students with financial need. For each AP exam taken with a fee reduction, the school forgoes its $9 rebate, resulting in a cost of $53 per exam for the student. Many states use federal and state funding to further reduce the exam fee for these students.

Sepsis, A Wily Killer, Stymies Doctors' Efforts To Tame It

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 01:04

It's a deadly combination of infection and inflammation striking more than a million Americans every year. Doctors can treat the symptoms of sepsis, but they still can't treat the underlying problem.

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Beyond Quid Pro Quo: What Counts As Political Corruption?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 01:04

Under narrow definitions of corruption, candidates courting billionaires to fuel their White House bids doesn't qualify. But some activists, on the left and the right, argue that it should.

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A Town Divided Over The Next Chapter Of An Iconic Harper Lee Book

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 01:04

There's plenty of speculation about whether the octogenarian author really intended to release the manuscript, discovered by her lawyer last year.

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McDonald's happy plan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 01:00
$6.4 billion

This is how much fine Google would have to pay if it was found violating anti-trust laws in Europe. Today, we speak with the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager . The high-profile official is leading the probe into the tech giant. Google is accused of using its dominate position in Europe (90 percent of market share) to promote its own services in searches. Google denies any wrongdoing. 

65

That's the median expected retirement age. A new Gallup poll found 37 percent of people expected to retire after 65, a portion that has been growing for decades, especially after 2009. In contrast, about two thirds of retired people surveyed sad they stopped working before turning 65.

36,000

This is how many outlets McDonald's have around the world. A big turnaround plan is due today from the fast food giant. Representative says it will reassert itself in a quote "modern, progressive burger company." This comes at a time that the fast-food giant's global sales were down 2.3 percent in the first quarter.

87 percent

The portion of ads in iTune's top 100 podcasts that advertised for web-based services, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. We looked into the niche-but-growing business of podcast advertising, where giving a host that latitude to curse when talking about your product could lead to great return on investment.

81 percent

The portion of The Onion's revenue that comes from Onion Labs, the satirical news organization's sponsored content arm. The Atlantic notes, the satirical newspaper is in the pretty much the exact same predicament as the news organizations it mimics; The Onion hasn't actually been in print for years, instead it's building verticals and selling branded content as it tries to stay afloat, even profitable, online.

$14,800

This is reportedly how much Floyd Mayweather made per second over the weekend. The historic boxing match between Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Manny "Pac Man" Pacquiao brought in millions for the boxers and their sponsors. It also made the most expensive pay per view episode yet, at a hefty $99.99 for a single episode. 

 

McDonald's happy plan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 01:00
$6.4 billion

This is how much fine Google would have to pay if it was found guilty. Today, we spoke with the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager . The high-profile official is leading the probe into the tech giant. Google is accused of using its dominate position in Europe (90 percent of market share) to promote its own services in searches. Google denies any wrongdoing. 

65

That's the median expected retirement age. A new Gallup poll found 37 percent of people expected to retire after 65, a portion that has been growing for decades, especially after 2009. In contrast, about two thirds of retired people surveyed sad they stopped working before turning 65.

36,000

This is how many outlets McDonald's have around the world. A big turnaround plan is due today from the fast food giant. Representative says it will reassert itself a quote "modern, progressive burger company." This at a time the fast-food giant's global sales were down 2.3 percent in the first quarter.

87 percent

The portion of ads in iTune's top 100 podcasts that advertised for web-based services, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. We looked into the niche-but-growing business of podcast advertising, where giving a host that latitude to curse when talking about your product could lead to great return on investment.

81 percent

The portion of The Onion's revenue that comes from Onion Labs, the satirical news organization's sponsored content arm. The Atlantic notes, the satirical newspaper is in the pretty much the exact same predicament as the news organizations it mimics; The Onion hasn't actually been in print for years, instead it's building verticals and selling branded content as it tries to stay afloat, even profitable, online.

$14,800

This is reported how much Floyd Mayweather made per second over the weekend. The boxing match between Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Manny "Pac Man" Pacquiao brought in millions for the boxers. It also made the most expensive pay per view episode in history. 

 

Where Poor Kids Grow Up Makes A Huge Difference

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 00:34

Poor kids who moved to neighborhoods with less poverty did much better than those who didn't move.

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A Novel Dutch Lawsuit Demands Govt. Cut Carbon Emissions

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 23:23

An environmental group is behind the class-action suit that says the government is not doing enough to protect citizens. The case is being closely watched and a ruling is set for next month.

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A Landscape Of Abundance Becomes A Landscape Of Scarcity

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 23:21

Photographer Matt Black spends his days capturing images that illustrate the impact of the drought on people living in California's Central Valley.

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A Woman Uses Art To Come To Terms With Her Father's Death

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 23:03

Artist Jennifer Rodgers' father was hospitalized for seven months with sepsis before he died. She used the creative process to try to comprehend his suffering and her loss.

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Two Armed Men Killed After Shooting Outside Muhammad Cartoon Contest

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 19:25

The men opened fire on a security officer outside an anti-Islamist cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. They were subsequently shot and killed by police, authorities say.

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In Nepal, Efforts Underway To Salvage Ancient Sites Damaged By Quake

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 13:41

At least 70 ancient sites in the Kathmandu Valley were damaged or destroyed in last month's quake. Archaeologists and others are trying to protect and recover as much as they can, as fast as possible.

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A Poker Battle Against A Computer

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 13:23

On this day in 1997, Boris Kasparov, the world's top chess player, faced off against IBM's chess-playing supercomputer, Deep Blue — and lost. This week, professional poker players are trying something similar in Pittsburgh, and they're winning.

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In Syria, Signs That The Army Is Losing Ground To Rebel Groups

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 13:23

NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Anne Barnard, the New York Times Beirut bureau chief, about the state of the Syrian army. Might an end to four years of fighting be in sight?

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In Baltimore, The Curfew Ends And Residents Observe A Day Of Reflection

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 13:23

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted the citywide curfew and Maryland's governor declared Sunday a day of prayer and peace.

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5 Things You Should Know About Ben Carson

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-03 13:03

The pediatric neurosurgeon performed pioneering operations on conjoined twins and has never held public office before. Here's what else you might not know.

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