National News

This Year's Flu Vaccine Is Pretty Wimpy, But Can Still Help

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 09:42

The vaccine is only about 23 percent effective against the dominant flu strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's because the strain mutated slightly.

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Why I Left The ER To Run Baltimore's Health Department

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 09:22

Dr. Leana Wen decided to leave frontline medical care to tend to the city of Baltimore's health needs. Geography and circumstance shouldn't determine someone's health destiny, she says.

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Hawaii As 'Racial Paradise'? Bid For Obama Library Invokes A Complex Past

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 08:30

Professor Ellen Wu writes about how the mythology — and the history — of Hawaii as a multicultural melting pot may affect its chances of hosting the Obama Presidential Library.

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Mojito Diplomacy: Chefs Plan Culinary Tours To Cuba

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 07:53

Several Miami-area chefs are leading tours for Americans to experience the tastes — and farm scene — of the communist island nation. They hope to foster cross-cultural dialogue through food and drink.

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Army OKs Female Soldiers For Ranger Training Program

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 07:44

For the first time ever, 60 women will participate in the grueling program. It's part of an effort by Pentagon officials to determine whether women can be assigned to ground combat units.

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Prediction: All Predictions About Ebola Are Unpredictable

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 06:55

A million cases by the end of 2014. On the wane in Guinea in August. Coming soon to every major U.S. city. Predictions about Ebola frequently don't come true — and there's a reason for that.

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Will work – if they can find child care

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-15 06:53

Adrienne Caldwell's child care situation just got a little trickier. She's a doula and massage therapist who also teaches her craft at a college in Minneapolis. When she would get in a child care bind, she used to bring her young children with her to night class. But after her 3-year-old got a little too chatty with students, she decided she shouldn't do that again.

“He just climbed up on one of the older ladies' laps and said, 'I like pirates. Do you like pirates?’ '’ Caldwell says. "It's cute but not very productive."

Her husband also pulls evening shifts as a musician and retail salesman. Few day cares in their area can accommodate their schedules, so they often struggle to line up help from babysitters, family and friends, she says.

Research out of the University of Maryland suggests about one-fifth of the American workforce does most of its work outside the traditional 9-to-5 hours. And it can can be a struggle for day care centers to accommodate them.

"As soon as you start to expand out the hours of operation, it becomes even harder to make the ends meet and to make it a profitable venture,” says Heidi Hagel-Braid, a regional director at First Children's Finance, which offers loans and consulting help to daycare businesses in four Midwestern states.

Round-the-clock day care staffing can be expensive. Many in-home day care providers have their own families, making it difficult for them to operate 24/7, Hagel-Braid says.

Demand for 24-hour daycare also might only exist in pockets of the economy, so some of the most successful round-the-clock day cares target those pockets, she says.

“Maybe there is a large Latino population working at a processing plant,” she says. “Or there is a Somali community employed in the same type of work that is shift work or extended hours for employment.”

Nonprofits also stand a better chance of operating  24/7 because they can tap outside funding sources, like grants, to survive.

The nonprofit Legacy Family Center plans to open round-the-clock daycare in a Minneapolis suburb later this year. Board member Victoria Karpeh, a social worker, has a personal reason for trying to help families find reliable care. When her boys were younger, she often worked the graveyard shift and struggled to find day care when her husband's work schedule would change unexpectedly.

As many as 40 percent of young, hourly employees receive their work schedules a week or less in advance, according to Julia Henly, an associate professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She points out that parents’ overnight or unpredictable work schedules are hard for day care businesses to plan staffing around.

“They need to make sure that their child/teacher ratio stays within what is healthy and safe and good for kids,” she says.

That means some workers, like Caldwell, may never find a day care that fully meets their needs. As a doula, she never knows when she'll get a call from an expectant mother and have to scramble yet again to find someone to watch her own kids while she guides new ones into the world.

4 Guantanamo Detainees Transferred To Oman, 1 To Estonia

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 06:23

The transfers, announced late Wednesday, bring to 122 the number of detainees who remain at Guantanamo Bay. The move comes amid GOP opposition, citing security, to freeing prisoners from the facility.

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U.S. Eases Travel, Financial Restrictions On Cuba

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 05:32

The regulations have been in place for decades. The new regulations, which let some Americans travel to the island without a license, go into effect Friday.

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At The Oscar Nominations, It's A Good Year To Be An Idiosyncratic Man

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 05:20

It was a good day for complicated male leads and the movies that feature them and a rough day for just about everybody else at the Oscar nominations.

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Satellite Images Show Vast Destruction Of Boko Haram Attack In Nigeria

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 05:14

The government has downplayed the severity of the attack, but Amnesty International, which released the images, say they prove the attack was on a "horrific scale."

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Health Insurance Prices: Highest In Alaska, Lowest In Sun Belt

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 05:09

A look at the 10 least and 10 most expensive places for health insurance shows a wide gap in prices for the same level of coverage.

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'Birdman,' 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Lead Oscar Nominations With 9 Each

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 05:07

They were followed by The Imitation Game with eight Oscar nominations and American Sniper and Boyhood, with six each.

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Quiz: Who needs original ideas?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-15 04:45

President Obama made a splash with a proposal for free community college. But he wasn’t the first.

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Hint: we went there last year.

Tens Of Thousands Welcome Pope Francis In The Philippines

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 04:01

Security for the visit is intense, because the last two pontiffs to tour the country were targeted for assassination.

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PODCAST: The Franc and the Euro

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-15 03:00

The giant retailer Target of Minneapolis said today it's closing down operations in Canada and has filed for bankruptcy protection to cover its North of the border operations. More on a move that could put more than 17,000 Canadians out of work. Plus, another major cross-border story developing today: Switzerland's currency surged 17 percent today, causing headaches for all sorts of Swiss exporters from wristwatches to cuckoo clocks. This after the Swiss Central Bank without warning gave up on trying to keep the euro-linked closer to the Swiss Franc. And at the big car and truck show going on in Detroit, the top honor in the car category went to Volkswagen's Golf, which comes in all sorts of flavors, from electric to diesel to muscle. But don't let that small car fool you.

Target to close its stores in Canada

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-15 03:00

Target Corp said on Thursday that it will cease operations in Canada and has filed for bankruptcy protection for its Canadian subsidiary.

Target has really struggled since its launch in Canada just a few years ago in 2013. The company said last November that it would review the future of its Canadian business after the holiday season.

Huge supply chain problems left Canadian stores thinly stocked, disappointing shoppers who had anticipated Target’s move into Canada where the discount retail space has been dominated by Walmart.

Target currently has 133 stores in Canada, employing 17,600 workers. 

According to a Target press release, if a court approves it, the company would create a trust fund of $59 million for its employees, giving them a minimum of 16 weeks of compensation. The company says its Canadian stores would remain open during liquidation.

In the U.S., Target is actually performing better than expected. The company said Thursday same-store sales at its U.S. locations increase by 3 percent in the fourth quarter, thanks to more online purchases and store visits than predicted.   

Belgium Arrests Man Suspected Of Selling Weapons To Paris Gunman

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-15 02:54

The man is now charged with arms trafficking. Local reports say the man sold one of the Paris suspects ammunition for his weapon.

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President Obama aims to pass the Healthy Families Act

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-15 02:00

President Barack Obama will outline a broad plan on Thursday to help states establish paid leave programs and to fund Labor Department feasibility studies on paid leave.

Obama is calling on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is a family issue and an economic issue,” says White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.  Jarrett announced the President’s intent on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Currently, workers are granted up to 12 weeks leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.  However, Jarrett says most employers make that leave unpaid.  Meaning that many workers can’t afford to take leave when they need it.

“It means that more sick children are in school because no-one can afford to stay home with them, and it means that fewer parents are taking the necessary time to bond with new babies or care for their aging parents," says Jarrett.

Jarrett says the President will also ask Congress for a $2 billion incentive fund to help states to create their own paid leave programs.

But, James Sherk, a Senior Policy Analyst with the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation says the President’s proposal would effectively cut workers’ pay.

“The way businesses respond when the government requires them to provide a benefit is, first they provide the benefit, but secondly they take the cost of that benefit out of workers’ pay.”

The President also plans to take executive action giving federal employees up to 6 weeks of paid leave for the birth, or adoption, of a child.  

Foreclosure crisis just about finished

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-15 02:00

RealtyTrac reports that the rate of foreclosure filings was down 18 percent in 2014 from the previous year, and are approaching the same level as in 2006, before the housing crisis hit.

RealtyTrac/Mitchell Hartman

Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac, said: “About 1 percent of all loans is the historic average that go into foreclosure, and I think we’ll probably end up below that for the next decade, as a reaction to what we’ve been through.”

Blomquist predicts fewer foreclosures than average because home prices have come down, homebuyers need very good credit to get a mortgage due to tighter underwriting standards, and many buyers are hedge funds and other investors with deep pockets.

RealtyTrac/Mitchell Hartman