National News

Obama To Raise Minimum Wage For Federal Contracts

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 05:00

The president will announce in his State of the Union address that he's signing an executive order to lift the pay in new federal contracts. A top adviser tells NPR that Obama has "warmed up to" the idea of using executive orders to move his agenda ahead.

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The president's options, without Congressional help

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-28 04:58

Tonight, President Obama delivers his State of the Union address. Income inequality is something the president has said he wants to tackle this year, but he has also acknowledged it is unlikely he is going to get much support from congress on anything.  So, what are President Obama’s options?

He couldn’t raise the minimum wage on his own, but Heather McGhee, who runs a liberal think tank called Demos, says the president is not powerless.

“He is, right, now, as the chief executive, the biggest boss of low-wage workers in the country,” McGhee explains. She is talking about federal contractors, and McGhee says President Obama could use an executive order to improve their pay.

Researchers like David Grusky, the director of Stanford University’s Center on Policy and Inequality, argue education is a way to level the playing field. He says the president wouldn’t need Congress to create a new scholarship program, “simply identifying these poor kids who have tremendous capacity and talent.”

Jared Bernstein, with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says the president would make greater strides with congress, but “with zero cooperation, it is much harder.”

He says another suggestion is “a rule change that the president could implement without congress that would significantly increase the number of people eligible for overtime pay.”

That would affect low-and-middle income workers who make a salary but aren’t automatically eligible for overtime.

5 Things To Expect In Obama's State Of The Union Address

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 04:50

The populist issue of income inequality will get a full airing in President Obama's fifth State of the Union speech. But immigration could run a close second in a speech designed to advance the president's second term agenda.

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Pete Seeger, Folk Music Icon And Activist, Dies At 94

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 03:45

Seeger had been a mentor and an influence on younger musicians for decades. He will be remembered for his music and his social activism.

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Folk Activist Pete Seeger, Icon Of Passion And Ideals, Dies At 94

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 02:00

A tireless campaigner for his own vision of a utopia marked by peace and togetherness, Pete Seeger's tools were his songs, his voice, his enthusiasm and his musical instruments.

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Brothers Levin Near The End Of A 32-Year Congressional Partnership

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 00:43

Last March, Sen. Carl Levin announced his final term. But his brother, Rep. Sandy Levin, will run for re-election next year. "It's difficult for me to imagine Carl's not being a partner and my closest friend," Sandy says. Tuesday's State of the Union speech will be the last where they sit, as they always have, side by side.

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Pete Seeger, Troubadour And Activist, Dies At 94

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 23:48

Banjo-picking Pete Seeger, who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents, died Monday night in New York City. His career introduced generations of Americans to folk music.

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Inspector General: Literacy Training Of Afghan Forces Has Limited Success

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 21:02

Three years after a $200 million program was started, 50 percent of recruits are illiterate. Teaching all 352,000 recruits to read and write at a first-grade level, said some officials, may be "unrealistic."

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Tech Leader Quasi-Apologizes For His Nazi Rampage Analogy

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 18:17

After comparing the outrage over the richest one percent to Kristallnacht, venture capitalist Tom Perkins quasi-apologized Monday night. "The use of the word ... was a terrible misjudgment," he said, before noting "I don't regret the message."

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New Bipartisan Farm Bill Emerges From Long Debate In Congress

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 17:04

A five-year farm bill will end months of uncertainty for farmers and agriculture workers, its backers say. The Agricultural Act of 2014 would also end a long-criticized farm subsidy program.

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The NSA loves Angry Birds

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 16:51

Courtesy of the New York Times, the Guardian, and, of course, Edward Snowden, we learned today that the National Security Agency really loves smart phones. There's a huge amount of personal data in some of them -- Google maps, for instance, which tells them about travel, location all of that.

But also on the list of apps they are interested in: Angry Birds.

What do they learn from Angry Birds? Seriously, somebody write and tell me.

If adults use their phones more than teens, then who's "addicted"?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 16:30

According to the Pew Research Center on Technology and American Life, 91 percent of adults report owning a mobile phone compared to just 78 percent of teens. Not only that, the cell phones warming the pockets of adults are smarter and more high tech than the ones owned by teenagers like me.

What does it mean for all these mature people flush with technology? Well, according to a lot of young people I spoke with, teens are no longer the most “phone addicted” people in the house. Parents are.

When I interviewed my father, Jose Escobar, for this story, we were just seconds into the conversation when his cell phone vibrated with a message. So does he think he’s addicted?

I asked.

 “No,” he answered without pause.

But, when I ask him if he thinks I’m addicted: “Yeah, definitely,” he shot back. “You need to text less and you’re constantly reading what’s on Facebook. You need to take a break.

I think he needs to take a break.

Scott Campbell is a communications professor at the University of Michigan. He studies the way mobile devices affect people. Habit, says Campbell, is not about how much a person uses their cell phone, it’s about intentionality.

“Habit means that you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. That it’s an automatic kind of reaction. I think people use mobile technology in a more reflexive way, and I think this is still one of the reasons why people are still texting and driving when they know it is so dangerous,” Campbell said.

 Texting while driving. That’s what teens do right? Well, a 2012 survey found that adults admit to texting and driving even more than teens.

Jayme Burke is the parent of two boys. When Burke was a kid, she used to argue with her dad to get him to quit smoking, but now Burke says that her kids are on her to give up a different bad habit.

“My younger son will actually say to me, ‘Mom I don’t want you to end up dead,’ because he sees all the ads where they’ll show their very last text and then they’ll show the car crunched and the person dead,” said Burke. 

She says her son’s pleas make her think about how and when she uses her cell phone, but that sometimes, the gravitational pull of her device gets the best of her. Work emails are big part of Burke’s usage. Texting too. Sometimes, she admits, her kids compete for her attention.

“They’ll say look at me in the eye,” said Burke. “Then sometimes I’ll try to text and look at them, or text and take a break and look at them while I’m texting. It’s really awful, actually.”

The only way I could think to convince my own father that he uses the phone more than he thinks he does was to sit him down and take a cold, hard look at the numbers. To find out who was really addicted, I took the average from three months of phone records. It turns out my dad talks twice as much as I do, but I text way more.

The tiebreaker? Data. He used more than me. When I confronted him about the fact that he was on his phone more than me, he was surprised.

“Wow, I wonder why,” he said. Then he got it.

“Oh yeah, because I was watching boxing. Boxing on my phone. That’s probably why I used more.”

And with that, I became the undisputed champion of cellphone self-control.

X Games Show The Olympics What The Kids Want

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 16:11

The X Games have changed the lineup and atmosphere of the Winter Olympics with the introduction of snowboarding, half-pipe and now slopestyle. But when a youth-lifestyle, punk-rock sport makes it to the Olympics, some things inevitably change.

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'Crazy' And 'Surreal': Figure Skater Jason Brown's Road To Sochi

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 15:10

Weeks after he turned 19, Jason Brown placed second at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships with an electrifying performance that became a YouTube sensation. "I'm so blown away and so shocked — beyond shocked. It's so surreal to me," he says.

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U.S. Agencies, Tech Firms Agree To Rules On Surveillance Info

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 14:31

While the agreement gives tech companies more options in publishing data about government requests for information, it also includes several limitations. It's part of President Obama's plan to change how U.S. intelligence agencies handle personal data.

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Key Senate Republicans Offer Their Plan To Replace Obamacare

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 14:25

"Obamacare just isn't working," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. So he and two of his more influential Republican colleagues have proposed yet another plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act.

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Worries About Bird Flu Curtail Chinese New Year Feasts

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 14:00

Serving chicken, pigeon or duck for the holiday may be harder this year for some families in China and Hong Kong. As the deadly H7N9 virus continues to spread, officials in China have closed many live poultry markets, while agricultural workers in Hong Kong plan to cull thousands of chickens this week.

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A high-tech shopping spree: Is Google trying to take over the world?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 13:55

Jan. 26, 2014: Google purchases artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies for (the rumored price of) $625 million. There’s not much information on what DeepMind is making, but according to The Guardian: "[their] technology would be built into Google's search systems, rather than becoming part of its fast-expanding robotics division. Google has bought eight robotics companies, including Bot & Dolly which made the computer-controlled cameras used in the film 'Gravity.'"

Jan. 13, 2014: Google buys Nest Labs, creators of internet-enabled thermostats and smoke alarms, for $3.2 billion. Though the two companies will remain separate, VentureBeat thinks Google wants to get involved in the "connected home, the notion that all of our appliances and gadgets will soon communicate with one another."

Dec. 10, 2013: Google buys robotics company Boston Dynamics to protect humankind from the inevitable robot uprising, or to help ship packages. You be the judge:

June 11, 2013: Google acquires Waze, a crowdsourced navigation app for smartphones, for $966 million. If you’ve noticed Google Maps better equipped to find a new route because the 405 freeway (or I-95, or the Beltway, or ...) is closed, again, you can thank Waze’s accident and construction reports.

June 4, 2012: Google buys Meebo, an instant messenger service, for $100 million. The service is now closed, and Meebo employees now focus on Google+.

Sep. 8, 2011: Google buys restaurant review company Zagat, for $125 million. The restaurant’s reviews and ratings are now embedded into Google’s search results, Google Maps and Google+ for free.

Aug. 15, 2011: Google purchases cell company Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The purchase includes Motorola’s portfolio of patents and phone manufacturing, but Motorola remains an independent company from Google and even pits their own Android smartphone against Google’s phones.

Unrest overseas ripples into U.S. economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 13:49

The bottom fell out of the emerging currency market – relatively speaking. Argentina made headlines, and other countries also had problems including Ukraine and Turkey.

“A lot of economies around the world, countries that were doing pretty good…have been running into some troubles in the last six months to a year,” says Tim Fernholz, a business reporter at Quartz. He says those problems all came to a head late last week.  

In some ways we--or rather, the Federal Reserve-- are to blame. As interest rates here rise, some expect that more and more money will come back to the United States, and to other developed economies. 

“People are worried.. that we're leaving these emerging economies outside without a coat,” Fernholz says.

Fernholz says we’re feeling a ripple effect because some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. – including those on the S&P 500 Stock Index – make half of their revenue from outside U.S. borders: “And if economic problems are happening overseas, their bottom line isn’t’ going to look so good. Their stock numbers are not going to look so good.”

Which is what we saw on Friday.  That tumbling stock market in turn means that things tied to the stock market, like your retirement account, probably also took a fall. 

You've Got Mail, And It Smells Like 18th Century Paris

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 13:36

The oPhone device (the "o" is for olfactory) will be able to send and receive whiffs of preprogrammed aromas remotely. Created by a Harvard professor, it's intended to add the sense of smell to the way we communicate.

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