National News

Justice Department Supports Native Americans In Child Welfare Case

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 12:07

For the first time, the department wades into a federal district court case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law meant to keep Native American families together.

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The Co-Discoverer Of Ebola Never Imagined An Outbreak Like This

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 11:30

In 1976, scientist Peter Piot was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus. The epidemic today in West Africa, he says, is "absolutely unexpected and unprecedented."

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Holiday Gas Prices Lowest In Four Years

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 11:29

The national average for regular is $3.45 per gallon, down from an all-time high of $3.83 per gallon over the Labor Day 2012 holiday.

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An App Can Reveal When Withdrawal Tremors Are Real

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 11:20

You probably haven't thought about whether your phone could help diagnose alcohol withdrawal. Well, it can. An app for doctors measures tremors and may help tell if someone's faking it to get drugs.

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Study: Kids In Orphanages Can Do As Well As Those In Foster Care

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 11:13

Policymakers worldwide have been calling for countries to get rid of institutions for orphans and abandoned children. A study out of Duke University offers a different perspective.

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Real Vanilla Isn't Plain. It Depends On (Dare We Say It) Terroir

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 11:02

There's no such thing as plain vanilla — at least if you're talking about beans from the vanilla orchid. Whether it's from Tahiti or Madagascar, vanilla can be creamy, spicy or even floral.

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Anti-Bloomberg ad signals new political trend

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:58

Experts expect between $6 and 7 billion will be spent on messaging during the 2016 campaign season and its run-up. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision opened the door to more outside spending on advertising, and that has changed a lot of things – including who gets attacked by attack ads.  

Last week, the National Rifle Association kicked off a multi-million dollar ad campaign with a 30-second spot.

“Liberals call this flyover country,” it begins. “It’s an insult.  But nobody insults your life like this guy: Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, elitist, hypocrite.”

The NRA says Bloomberg “has declared war” on the organization and its five million members. The former mayor of New York City has pledged to spend at least $50 million pushing for more background checks on gun buyers.

But Bloomberg is out of office.  He is not running for anything – at least right now.  And according to Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, that is what makes the NRA’s campaign so novel.

“To see him be the target of the ad is, in many ways, something we have never seen before,” he says.

In the past, attack ads have tied politicians to other politicians and donors to their campaigns. Franz believes this is the first advertisement not tied to a candidate or a campaign.

“This is the post-'Citizens United' world that we live in,” he says.

Franz and others say it is hard to overstate how much the landscape has changed over the last few years.

“The way we’ve organized now, since ‘Citizens United,’ essentially everything is on the table,” says Danilo Yanich, a professor of public policy at the University of Delaware. Everything and everyone.

Ken Goldstein, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco, says Michael Bloomberg and other big donors are being cast as outsiders.

"The message here is that there is something improper about these people being involved in politics," he says. "That their money is trying to fool you."

This is an update, Goldstein says, of a technique campaign operatives have used for a long time.

“One of the first things one does in opposition research is see if they can tie the other side to someone who is unsavory or unpopular."

What the NRA is hoping, Goldstein says, is that this ad — and others it plans to run nationwide — will affect how Americans see Michael Bloomberg and the cause he backs.

Texas Voter ID Law Goes To Trial

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:46

A federal court will hear a challenge to the controversial law next week. It's an important and closely watched voting rights case that could end up before the Supreme Court.

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The business of preventing sexual assault on campus

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:09

The federal government is cracking down on college sexual assaults by putting more than 70 schools under investigation for their handling of such cases - and entrepreneurs and consultants are finding business opportunities. 

They’re creating smartphone apps to let students easily notify friends or campus police if they get into a scary situation, and developing training programs for campus-led sexual assault investigations.

“With a heavily-regulated industry, you're going to see a lot of products and services offered,” says Peter Lake, a campus safety expert at Stetson University College of Law.

Stetson says many schools aren't set up to deal with new rules governing sexual assault prevention and reporting. They need the extra help.

“A lot of us were using coconuts and Dixie cups with string to communicate, and now we have complicated software programs that actually work to get data in real time,” he says.

One app, called LiveSafe, lets students give campus security anonymous tips about crimes or potentially dangerous situations in real time. Schools pay a few bucks per student on up for the services. 

By some estimates, as many as 80 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. LiveSafe chief executive Jenny Abramson thinks apps like hers can help change that.

“We find that in a number of places we're in, they're getting twice as many - or even ten times as many - tips from a student to the safety official, around things they ordinarily wouldn't share by calling or other more traditional means,” she says.

In addition to entrepreneurs like Abramson, lots of consultants and lawyers are marketing videos and training programs around sexual assaults. They're betting schools would rather pay their fees than face much stiffer penalties from the government. Without the proper programs in place, colleges can jeopardize federal funding and get fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Dana Bolger is skeptical about some of the products getting marketed as a means to reduce sexual assaults, such as a nail polish that can detect date rape drugs when you dip your fingers into a drink.  Bolger was a rape victim in college and is now an activist and co-founder of the organization Know Your IX. She's worried the technology may be more dazzling than effective.

“These products, while often well-intentioned, try to lull us into a false sense of security,” she says, “as though we can just innovate our way out of systemic violence against women.”

Abercrombie abandons logos to keep up with the trends

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 09:40

Abercrombie & Fitch, the retailer that's known for its hunky models and clothes that scream "Abercrombie" says it's ditching its logo. From now on, the retailer says its clothes will be logo-free, at least in North America.

It’s an odd twist considering Abercrombie helped create the demand for teen clothing with big logos.

Well, no surprise, teens are fickle, said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at Wharton.  

“In general, I think there is a trend that kids are not into logos as they once were because there’s more of an emphasis on showing your own individuality,” Kahn said, adding that it also depends on the logo - and right now Abercrombie’s is out of fashion.

Ronnie Moas, an analyst at Standpoint Research, says the the fast-fashion trend has created a big shift in the teen clothing industry and knocked Abercrombie off its perch. He downgraded the stock in early July. Moas said retailers like Forever 21 and H&M are putting out the newest fashions quickly and cheaply.

“At Abercrombie you’re paying $50-$60-$70 for a dress and at H&M it’s $20,” Moas said.

There’s no logo, so teens can mix-and-match and feel like they’re creating their own, individual style. While this is good news for young shoppers, it’s bad news for retailers, said Simeon Siegel, an analyst at Nomura.

“Leaving the brand premium means your pricing power probably erodes,” Siegel said.

Siegel said it’s not just Abercrombie that's having problems, but all teen retailers that have relied on brands in the past.

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