National News

Is Your State Ready For The Next Infectious Outbreak? Probably Not

NPR News - 11 hours 41 min ago

Public health has a way of slipping off the radar when people aren't scared about Ebola or anthrax. But that doesn't mean the threats go away. And most states aren't prepared for the next one.

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2014 Saw Fewest Executions In 20 Years, Report Finds

NPR News - 11 hours 46 min ago

The Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, says executions dropped in part because some states had issues with their lethal injections.

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Putin: Sanctions, Falling Oil Prices Causing Ruble's Tumble

NPR News - 11 hours 53 min ago

In a year-end news conference, the Russian President said the worst-case scenario for his country's economy would involve two more years of unease.

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Worries About Unusual Botulinum Toxin Prove Unfounded

NPR News - 12 hours 24 min ago

A previously unknown form of botulinum toxin was thought to be resistant to standard treatment raised public health concerns. Subsequent research has allayed those fears.

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Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

NPR News - 12 hours 30 min ago

Just getting a measles vaccine to a child in Pakistan was once an impossible dream. Despite many obstacles, health workers have made great progress in stopping infectious diseases.

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The Many Rabbit Holes (Or Should We Say Labyrinths) Of 'Serial'

NPR News - 14 hours 16 min ago

The thing about Serial and its endless rabbit holes is that no matter how you view the podcast, there's an endless supply of avenues you can explore and different conversations you can have.

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New Era For Cuba? Voices From Miami And Havana

NPR News - 14 hours 43 min ago

In Miami, home of the largest Cuban diaspora, two generations faced off on the streets. In Havana, demonstrators spoke of hope.

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PODCAST: The Sony cancellation

Marketplace - American Public Media - 15 hours 11 min ago

The day after the guardians of interest rates at the Federal Reserve issued a statement that would get demerits for vagueness from any freshman English professor. And we could see more information from the U.S. government as early as today about who hacked the computers of Sony Pictures, leading to the mass release of internal company emaisl and, now, the cancellation of the release of the movie at the center of this. That movie, titlted The Interview, is a comedy about a plot against the North Korean leader. In the last 24 hours, a unnamed U.S. official has been suggesting the hack may have started in North Korea. Plus, when you think of negotiating for higher pay, the people who work hard picking apples and cherries aren't the first folks who come to mind with the clout to drive up compensation. Individual farmworkers don't control much about their work environment. But in Washington's Yakima Valley, growers and workers alike say the growing use of cell phones has shaken up the labor market.

Leading indicators released for the month

Marketplace - American Public Media - 16 hours 10 min ago

The Conference Board will release its monthly index of leading indicators Thursday: a collection of data from different pieces of the economy, including building permits, stock prices, consumer expectations, among others, all rolled into one tidy snapshot.

Chances are, the U.S. will look pretty as a picture, especially compared to other countries, says Bernie Baumohl, with the Economic Outlook Group. Europe and Japan are sluggish; China’s growth is slowing; and Russia’s in the midst of a currency crisis.

But so far, the U.S. is shrugging off the rest of the world’s economic woes, says Guy Berger, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities. 

Click the media player to hear more.

Cellphones bring new leverage for farm workers

Marketplace - American Public Media - 16 hours 11 min ago

When you think of “salary negotiations,” picking fruit isn’t the first job that comes to mind. Individual farmworkers don’t control much about their work environments, but Eduardo Cruz says there’s a big range in what you can get paid to pick apples. “This year, I picked Honeycrisp for $42 a bin,” he says. “At other farms, they paid $35 a bin, or 30.”

These differences in pay depend on a host of variables that determine how easy it is to fill a 1,000 pound bin of fruit: the size of the trees, the slope of the orchard, the quality standards imposed by the grower. In Washington’s Yakima Valley, growers and workers alike say cellphones have helped spread this information faster, tightening the labor market and spurring on competition for the best "piscadores," or harvesters. 

Farmworkers have always gotten together to trade tips. Still, they often had to drive to far-flung orchards to find out who was hiring and what they were paying. Nowadays, most of these conversations take place via cellphone. “I’ve got a lot of friends, and we talk,” Cruz explains with a smile.

You ask a few questions about the job, get the foreman’s number, and if it seems promising, make the trip out to the orchard. Cellphones have reduced the “transaction costs” of looking for farmwork.

Grower Charlie de la Chapelle says that’s made the workforce more willing to move around: “And that’s a good thing, because if in fact we are short of people, and we have a good price, they call their buddies and they bring ‘em.” The flip side is that “you don’t know who’s gonna show up tomorrow.”

On Chapelle’s farm, workers picking Fujis have to sort the apples as they go, and the ground is littered with discarded fruit. This extra work means they can’t fill bins as fast, which can hurt their pay.

Orchard manager Art Thompson says he’s worried his crew might start looking elsewhere. “We’ve got a pretty steady crew,” he says, “but believe me, if I let ‘em make this wage all day, the cellphones will start being picked up.” This means employers have to be ready to adjust wages.

It’s basic economics: free-flowing information leads to a freer market. Researchers have made similar observations about cellphones across the developing world. Agricultural economist Philip Martin recalls one study of fishermen in southern India.”If you’re out in your little boat, and you’ve got a bunch of fish, you have more power to know which port to take them to, by calling the various fish brokers, and saying, ‘what are you paying?’”

 For low wage workers without much clout, cellphones have brought a bit of leverage. 

Nike earnings: Wall Street and Sneakerheads weigh in

Marketplace - American Public Media - 16 hours 11 min ago

Nike Inc. looks great to John Kernan, an analyst at Cowen and Company. "The brand is on fire," he says, as the company prepares to release quarterly earnings.

Things look less rosy to David Rasool Robinson, a manager at Saint Alfred, Chicago's top sneaker boutique.  He says his customers see quality-control problems creeping into some of the company's offerings. 

So, Sneakerheads: outliers, or leading edge indicators?

Click the media player above for more.

Cell phones bring new leverage for farm workers

Marketplace - American Public Media - 16 hours 11 min ago

When you think of “salary negotiations,” picking fruit isn’t the first job that comes to mind. Individual farmworkers don’t control much about their work environments, but Eduardo Cruz says there’s a big range in what you can get paid to pick apples. “This year, I picked Honeycrisp for $42 a bin,” he says. “At other farms, they paid $35 a bin, or thirty.”

These differences in pay depend on a host of variables that determine how easy it is to fill a 1,000 pound bin of fruit: the size of the trees, the slope of the orchard, the quality standards imposed by the grower. In Washington’s Yakima valley, growers and workers alike say cell phones have helped to spread this information faster than ever, tightening the labor market and spurring on competition for the best piscadores. 

Farmworkers have always gotten together to trade tips. Still, they often had to drive out to far-flung orchards to find out who was hiring and what they were paying. Nowadays, most of these conversations take place via cell phone. “I’ve got a lot of friends, and we talk,” Cruz explains with a smile.

You ask a few questions about the job, get the foreman’s number, and if it seems promising, make the trip out to the orchard. Cell phones have reduced the “transaction costs” of looking for farmwork.

Grower Charlie de la Chapelle says that’s made the workforce more willing to move around: “And that’s a good thing, because if in fact we are short of people and we have a good price, they call their buddies and they bring ‘em.” The flip side is that “you don’t know who’s gonna show up tomorrow.”

On Chapelle’s farm, workers picking Fujis have to sort the fruit as they go, and the ground is littered with discarded apples. This extra work means they can’t fill bins as fast, which can hurt their pay.

Orchard manager Art Thompson says he’s worried his crew might start looking elsewhere. “We’ve got a pretty steady crew,” he says, “but believe me, if I let ‘em make this wage all day, the cell phones will start being picked up.” This means employers have to be ready to adjust wages.

It’s basic economics: free-flowing information leads to a freer market. Researchers have made similar observations about cell phones across the developing world. Agricultural economist Philip Martin recalls one study of fishermen in southern India.”If you’re out in your little boat, and you’ve got a bunch of fish, you have more power to know which port to take them to, by calling the various fish brokers, and saying, ‘what are you paying?’”

 For low wage workers without much clout, cell phones have brought a bit of leverage. 

Your move, Netflix

Marketplace - American Public Media - 16 hours 41 min ago
$90 million

That's how much Sony Pictures Entertainment will lose from the production and marketing of its now-cancelled film "The Interview," the Wrap reports. That doesn't include lost box office or home video revenue, or the long-term costs of the cyberattack that pushed Sony to cancel the movie in the first place. Meanwhile, one Texas theater is showing the 2004's "Team America: World Police," another comedy about fighting North Korea, in place of "The Interview." Quartz also makes a convincing case for releasing the movie on Netflix.

$4,000

There's lot of questions about how relations with Cuba will change with yesterday's announcement from President Barack Obama; from travel regulations, to how many Cuban cigars Americans can purchase. But over at Gizmodo, they're wondering if Cuba will now cash in the $4,000 rent checks sent every year by the U.S. government to pay for the use of Guantanamo Bay. Up until now, the country has refused to accept the payments.

$.89/minute

That's the most common cost of a phone call to or from prison in 2013, along with a $3.95 fee. Using that figure, Bloomberg estimates the calls reporter Sarah Koenig recorded for "Serial" — which wraps its first season Thursday — cost the podcast more than $2,500.

1 hour

That's the amount of time in which Amazon's Prime Now says it can deliver orders in Manhattan, as reported by the WSJ. Announced Thursday, Amazon says as many as 25,000 items are available through the service. We'll go ahead and wait until they launch a predictive delivery service called Prime Yesterday.

1 news site

The number of news sites tested by ProPublica that weren't censored in China Wednesday. The organization has been testing the sites behind China's firewall every day for several weeks, and another site has been at it all year. The results are collected in this interactive graphic.

With Sony Hack, Nation State Attacks Go From Quiet To Overt

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:45

U.S. intelligence officials claim that North Korea was centrally involved in the hack against Sony. That's major news in the world of cyberwarfare, where nation states typically make covert attacks.

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Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:36

Polar bears continue to take a hit in regions with the greatest loss of snow and ice, the latest report card on the Arctic shows. Meanwhile, plankton are thriving as the sea heats up.

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Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As Anyplace Else On Earth

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:36

Polar bears continue to take a hit in regions with the greatest loss of snow and ice, the latest report card on the Arctic shows. Meanwhile, plankton are thriving as the sea heats up.

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At An Isolated Camp, Iraqi Police Prep For A Showdown With ISIS

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:30

Iraqi security forces are training with the goal of reclaiming territory lost to the Islamic State. Police at a camp near the front line say such a battle would be personal.

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Boundary-Pushing Late Night Hosts Move On — Colbert Up, Ferguson Out

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:27

Both Stephen Colbert and Craig Ferguson end their late night TV shows this week. Colbert is getting a boatload of attention as he moves to succeed David Letterman, but Ferguson deserves some too.

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Supreme Court Refuses To Block Arizona Drivers Licenses For 'Dreamers'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:02

Arizona's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court failed to prevent the state from having to issue driving permits to undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children.

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S.C. Judge Says Boy, 14, Shouldn't Have Been Executed

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 17:11

In her ruling, Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen wrote that she found "fundamental, Constitutional violations of due process exist in the 1944 prosecution of George Stinney, Jr."

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