National News

What Somebody's Mummy Can Teach You About Heart Disease

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:12

Mummies from Ancient Egypt, Peru and the U.S. all show signs of hardened arteries. But why? Researchers say bad hygiene, open hearths and maybe some deeply ingrained genetic factors were to blame.

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With Congress Set To Adjourn, Border Crisis Remains Unresolved

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

Votes are set Thursday in both the GOP-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate on bills addressing the young migrants seeking refuge. But the competing bills have little chance of being reconciled.

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Water, Electricity And Other Needs In Short Supply In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

In Gaza, the price of drinking water has soared, there's little electricity — and another shortage is beginning: people displaced by the fighting are waiting in long lines to get food.

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Fighting Continues To Block Investigators From MH17 Wreckage

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

Financial Times reporter Guy Chazan tells Linda Wertheimer that while the world is focused on the crash site of MH17, civilians are dying in battles between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia rebels.

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Groundwater Is Drying Up Fast Under Western States, Study Finds

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

The Colorado River Basin, which supplies irrigation and groundwater for most of the West, is drying up faster than expected. Part of the problem is a drought-driven over-reliance on groundwater.

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As Volunteerism Explodes In Popularity, Who's It Helping Most?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

More young adults and teens are swapping sun tanning and sightseeing on vacations for working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English abroad.

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In Kansas City, Obama Brushes Off House GOP's Vote To Sue Him

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

Congress leaves some significant business unfinished as it goes on break. But the talk of Washington and beyond is Wednesday's vote by House republicans to authorize a lawsuit against President Obama.

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New Bill Aims To Hold Colleges Accountable For Campus Sex Crimes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

Under new bipartisan legislation, colleges and universities could face strong new penalties for mishandling cases of sexual assault on campus. Critics question whether they can be implemented.

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Argentina Is In Default. What Does That Actually Mean?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

Talks between Argentina and holdout bondholders collapsed Wednesday. With no additional talks scheduled, it appears Argentina has defaulted for the second time in about 12 years.

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Why Hamas Is A Bigger Challenge For Israel Now Than In The Past

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:07

Christian Science Monitor reporter Christa Case Bryant tells Renee Montagne why the Israeli army is finding Hamas a more formidable foe now than during the 2009 war.

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This headline was plagiarized, please don't Google it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-31 01:00

As the Public Editor of the New York Times says, journalistic plagiarism is in the news.

(I didn't steal that idea, I attributed it, which is a key difference between plagiarizing and not plagiarizing.)

Some of the people in the news for committing journalistic plagiarism have the same name as me. Don't get confused: I am not Benny Johnson.

I did not work for a paragon of modern journalism called The Blaze before being hired to cover politics in inventive ways at Buzzfeed in 2012. I did not plagiarize parts of 41 stories I wrote at Buzzfeed, before being admirably fired by Buzzfeed.

By the way, I do like Buzzfeed. A lot. Even when Buzzfeed doesn't like me. I just talked to one of the site's senior editors about why she stopped following people like me (read: dudes) on Twitter. 

But even though I go by Ben instead of Benny, I have been thinking a lot about plagiarism this week. It's one of the things journalists are most scared of, and for good reason. Even if it's a mistake, it's rarely an honest one. Unlike in the world of fiction, journalistic plagiarism is a scarlet letter -- a final judgement. Plagiarism is the thing you do that almost immediately undermines all of the other work you've ever done.

What's interesting is that media in the Internet age spins ever closer to regular idea theft. Rewriting or re-contextualizing the hard reporting work of others is its own kind of job, and hard-working people are doing it all the time. I was just talking with a Marketplace reporter yesterday who was excited about an idea -- an angle, really -- but was worried she was actually plagiarizing her own work from a few years back. She was Googling like mad to try and avoid it. 

That's what's also strange about the Internet age. It is at once easier than ever to plagiarize and easier than ever to catch plagiarizers. The number of sources you could steal from has increased tenfold, but the nature of how those sources are organized online makes it easy to catch people. Yet another problem solved by big data.

That's how Benny Johnson got caught. Ironically, he was shaming another website for plagiarizing his work. And then some bloggers took a closer look at his work. It soon became clear, as Slate's David Weigel noted: "Anyone with a working Google machine can compare Johnson's text, which typically consists of captions below photos or gifs, to existing content on Wikipedia or Yahoo -- the sleuthing has turned up more short phrases and sentences that look cloned."

Maybe some day writers of all kinds will work in software that is constantly Googling each sentence we write to see if it's been written elsewhere. And maybe that's good news. Today I'm just glad that on the searchable Internet, I go by Ben, not Benny. 

Peace Corps Evacuates Hundreds Of Volunteers Amid Ebola Outbreak

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-30 21:47

A State Department official said two volunteers were under isolation after having contact with a person who later died of the virus. Ebola has killed more than 670 people in West Africa.

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House Approves $16 Billion Plan To Improve Health Care For Vets

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-30 15:45

The Senate is expected to pass the measure this week. It would expand government programs and provide funds for vets who are unable to access VA services to see private doctors.

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House Votes To OK Lawsuit Against Obama

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-30 14:48

House Republicans say that the president has overstepped the bounds of his executive authority. President Obama dismissed the move as a "political stunt."

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Why Your 'Small-Batch' Whiskey Might Taste A Lot Like The Others

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-30 14:33

A food blogger says dozens of distilleries are buying rye whiskey from a factory in Indiana and using it in bottles labeled "artisan."

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Job Worries Linger, But The Economy Is Looking Good

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-30 13:54

Both the Commerce Department and the Federal Reserve gave the economy good marks after years of slack performance. The Fed still frets about jobs but generally is upbeat, predicting "moderate" growth.

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Amid Confusion, 17 Killed By Shelling At Market In Gaza

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-30 13:50

Israel's army declared a humanitarian cease-fire on Wednesday but said it did not apply to all areas. A market that Palestinians had thought was safe was hit, killing 17 and wounding dozens more.

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Film directors want to give Kodak another artsy moment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-30 13:45

Recent years have been tough for the Eastman Kodak Company. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 with a focus not on consumer products but on business consumers.

As film has gone digital, the company’s says its sales of motion picture film have declined by 96 percent over the last ten years.

But the company that gave us the “Kodak Moment” is getting some help from friends in Hollywood. Directors like Judd Apatow and Quentin Tarantino are pushing movie studios to commit to buying a certain amount of film from Kodak for the next several years.

The directors want to preserve the option to shoot film in the future, and Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke says in a statement that the company praises the “ingenuity in finding a way to extend the life of film.”

David Reibstein, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says having that option in the long-term will depend on what Kodak does with these sales.

“If you’re just getting more money to continue to do what it is that you were going that wasn’t working, that’s not going to be a successful strategy,” he says.  Reibstein notes that when General Motors invested in saving its ailing but iconic Cadillac brand, it undertook a major redesign and targeted a new demographic of customers.

Propping up a product in the short term can be like a finger in the dike, says Ken Doctor, a media analyst for Newsonomics. He sees a parallel between Kodak’s deal and one pushed by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to help ailing newspapers.

“He had the government fund one year subscriptions to… the students graduating from high school in France as a way to stem the tide,” he explains. “That was a short-lived program.”

But there is still value in Kodak’s brand, because now it has an "artisanal" quality to it, says Douglas Holt, president of the Cultural Strategy Group, a brand consultancy. He says Kodak used to be a symbol of mass culture; now the culture it recalls has become antiquated and cool.

“Pabst Blue Ribbon, Polaroid – a lot of these brands that were mass cultural brands of the [past decades], the '50s, '60s, '70s, have the same possibility to push back against the mass culture of today,” he says.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story failed to say Kodak had emerged from bankruptcy. Further, the story lacked sufficient context concerning the agreement the company and movie studios are pursuing, and it failed to include a comment from Kodak. The text has been amended.

Drones have a new celebrity spokesperson

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-30 13:45

The Motion Picture Association of America is a big fan of drones — or, officially, "unmanned aerial systems." The organization asked the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday to make it easier for directors to use drones in filming.

Another big fan of drones? Martha Stewart.

Drones are trending.

— Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart) July 30, 2014

She has written a piece for Time, called "Why I Love My Drone."

Someone gave her one last summer as a gift. And, we learn, her mind "started racing" as she "imagined all the different applications" for it.

Stewart and her staff have been taking drone pictures of her beach house in Maine and her farm in New York.

"An aerial shot of the vegetable garden looked very much like my Peter Rabbit marzipan embellished Easter cake," she writies. "Which was designed without the help of a drone."

How the McDonald's ruling impacts the franchise industry

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-30 13:45

The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has handed down a decision that could have implications for the millions of Americans who work for franchises.

After investigating claims that some McDonald's restaurants broke labor laws by firing or penalizing workers who took part in pro-labor activities, the NLRB's general counsel said if the owner of a McDonald's fast food franchise commits a labor violation, the McDonald's corporation can be held jointly liable for the franchisee's bad behavior.

For now, the decision affects only the McDonald's corporation and McDonald's franchises. There are 3,000 other brands with franchise operations in the U.S., employing 8.5 million people across a range of industries, according to the International Franchise Association (IFA).

The IFA's Matthew Haller says the decision could destroy the franchise industry. Franchises may bear the names of big companies, he said, but they are owned and run like small businesses. 

"They set the wages, they hire and fire the employees, determine the appropriate benefits for employees and are responsible for all decisions that take place at the employee level," Haller said. 

The NLRB's general counsel said the McDonald's Corporation exercises enough control over how franchises are run to make it a co-employer of the people who work for franchises.

"They do exercise quite a bit of control over their franchisees in order to protect their brand," said Wilma Liebman, a former chair of the NLRB who has been advising the SEIU, a union that is working to organize fast-food workers. 

What McDonald's Corp. controls and what it doesn't is laid out in the terms of its franchise agreement. So even though other franchisees in other industries are watching the decision closely, it's not yet clear how this will affect other companies. McDonald's said in a statement that it plans to contest the NLRB's decision.

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