National News

Google 'Courageous' For Admitting Diversity Problem, So What Now?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:48

Tech giant Google recently owned up to a lack of gender and ethnic diversity amongst its staff. Host Michel Martin is joined by two members of the industry to discuss what it means for the tech world.

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Should Getting High Stop You From Getting Hired?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:48

FBI director James Comey recently quipped that current marijuana policies make it hard to hire good people. Is this a sign of changing attitudes towards hiring and pot?

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EPA gives states flexibility in cutting carbon emissions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:36

The Obama Administration unveiled the first-ever regulation aimed at cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants. The president is using his executive powers to go after the country’s biggest source of carbon pollution.

The draft rule aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants 30% from 2005 levels by the year 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the rule under the auspices of the Clean Air Act. The proposal also gives states flexibility in how they achieve their cuts.

“It doesn’t tell power plants exactly how to go about reducing emissions. It tells states to figure that sort of thing out,” says Jerry Taylor, who heads the libertarian Niskanen Center in Washington. “So it’s less command and control than one could imagine, but it’s more command and control than most economists would want to see in place.”

To meet their specific goals, the EPA is proposing that states could create compliance plans in which fossil-fuel burning power plants don’t bear sole responsibility for reducing emissions. In other words, states could reduce emissions by creating their own allowance trading programs, partnering with other states, increasing energy efficiency, or using more renewable energy.

The EPA projects that, in 2030, the rule “would result in net climate and health benefits” of up to $82 billion.

Durwood Zaelke of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development says the rule won’t solve the climate change problem, but it should spur innovation.

“This is also the best way to get experimentation. It may be that the state of New York, the state of Michigan, the state of California, finds the best way forward faster than another state,” he says.

That innovation, he says, will be crucial to combat climate change in the decades ahead. 

'Times' Reporter Must Testify About Source, Court Decides

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:27

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. Media outlets had hoped the court would grant greater protection to journalists.

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L.A. Kings Earn Shot At Stanley Cup With Win Over Chicago Blackhawks

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 07:15

The Blackhawks started off Game 7 with a 2-0 lead, but the Kings won it in a 5-4 thriller in overtime. Los Angeles will host the New York Rangers for Game 1 in the Stanley Cup Final this Wednesday.

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Chemical Weapons Law Doesn't Apply To Jilted Lover, Supreme Court Rules

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 06:48

Federal laws that were meant to prevent the international use of chemical weapons can't be applied to a woman who tried to poison her husband's mistress, the Supreme Court says.

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A personal look back at WBOE

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 06:40

WBOE was on the air for 40 years, from 1938 until 1978.  It got its start producing and broadcasting instructional programming for the Cleveland Public Schools. Back then, its broadcast day would mirror the school day, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. In 1976, the year I began working there, the station was in the process of becoming a National Public Radio affiliate.  

Much of WBOE’s rich history has been preserved, including many 16-inch electrical transcription (E.T.) discs, which were used to record programs before reel-to-reel tape.  These large discs help 15 minutes of audio on each side, and would spin at 33&1/3 rpm.  The programs recorded in the WBOE studios were known as “soft recordings” because they needed to be played back with a tone arm that was significantly lighter than the one used on regular 78 rpm record players of the time. 

Public schools in the district were given special radios that picked up only WBOE’s broadcasts. There were programs for every grade and for every curriculum area.  

Cleveland school teachers, administrators and students were involved in the production of the programs,  most of which were read from scripts.  Some programs were broadcast live and recorded simultaneously for repeat later.  Others were pre-recorded.  Additionally, WBOE used the resources of other radio stations to access educational programming from the major radio networks. 

Imagine sitting in a classroom in, let’s say, 1949, with a film strip or Lantern slide projector projecting pictures on a screen while the narration is heard from the WBOE radio sitting on a table in the front of the classroom. Often a student would be asked to run the projector and advance to the next slide. 

I’ve worked to preserve WBOE’s history for decades, by keeping representative samples of programming and by transferring the 16-inch discs and reel-to-reel tapes to CDs. I have also offered to upload the discs onto the “Historical Archive” site of the CMSD website.  As I’ve listened to what I’m preserving, I’ve found numerous fascinating items, from lessons in the 1940s on dating etiquette to current events lessons covering World War II and more.

Russia's Smokers Must Take It Outside, As Ban Begins

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 06:00

Russian officials say the ban could save 200,000 lives a year in a country known for its heavy smokers. In 2009, the Russian Federation consumed 2,786 cigarettes per capita, a study found.

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EPA Unveils New Proposal Targeting Greenhouse Gases

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 05:16

The draft proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency has sparked opposition from industry groups who say the changes would be prohibitively expensive.

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Spain's King Juan Carlos Will Abdicate In Favor Of Son

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 03:31

At a hastily called news conference Monday, it was announced that the 76-year-old king will step down. His 46-year-old son, Crown Prince Felipe, is expected to become king.

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As home prices recover, banks resume offering HELOCs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 02:49

Back before the housing market imploded, there was a beast that roamed the streets of suburban America. Its name was HELOC: the home equity line of credit.

When lenders thought home prices would never stop rising, they let homeowners take equity out of their home through a line of credit, which they could use it for all kinds of purchases. But since the crisis, HELOCs -- a form of second mortgage -- have been deep in hibernation. Now, they are slowly waking. And they're hungry.

HELOCs aren't anywhere near as prevalent as they were pre-crisis. But they were up 8 percent in the first quarter over last year, in part because banks are marketing HELOCs to homeowners again.

Home prices are rebounding and the credit market is loosening, but inventories are still low, says Steve Cook, the editor of Real Estate Economy Watch: "So I think one of the things we are seeing now is a lot of homeowners deciding to remodel because now they can."

Andrew Pizor is a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. He says after the financial crisis, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) changed regulation and disclosure rules for traditional mortgages, but not for HELOCs.

"The CFPB said they are going to be working on that down the road, but they haven't gotten to it yet," says Pizor.

Pizor doesn't recommend HELOCs for large one-time purchases, but he says they can be a good option for establishing a long-term line of credit, as long you understand the terms of the loan.

Businesses in Seattle advocate for higher minimum wage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 02:45

The Seattle city council is expected to approve a proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. That would be the highest rate for any large U.S. city, and would tie for the highest in the nation.

Surprisingly, the hike in pay has some unusual backers: leaders in the business community.

“The business community and the Chamber did not come out of the box saying, ‘Hell no. Let’s defeat this,’” says Howard Wright, CEO of the Seattle Hospitality Group. He also represented employers as co-chair of the committee.

Wright and other business-types want to avoid what happened in the nearby town of Sea Tac. When Sea Tac raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, businesses didn’t have enough time to prepare. In order to afford the new wage law, employers cut benefits and laid off workers.

In Seattle, companies would have more time to get ready -- Small businesses would have up to seven years to implement the higher minimum wage.

Mayors in other cities like Chicago are also talking about adopting a higher minimum wage.

Brookings Institution senior fellow Alan Berube studies income inequality. According to Berube, “Seattle is out front of what is quickly becoming a national trend of big cities looking at local minimum wages as a way of addressing income inequality and keeping their cities affordable for low and moderate income citizens.”

The South is more likely to hand out corporate subsidies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 02:01

The ink is drying on contracts that will commit upwards of $400 million taxpayer dollars to a new stadium for the Atlanta Braves. The baseball team is supposed to pay some of that back in rent, but last week’s deal looks to many critics like an enormous public subsidy for a profitable business.

If you feel like this kind of thing happens more often in the American South, you might be right.

Take this year’s race for governor in Georgia, for example, where the Republican incumbent’s first TV ad is running.

“Governor Nathan Deal lowered taxes on job creators,” the hushed narrator intones. “Now, for the first time in history, Georgia is the number one place to do business.”

Number one according to whom? Site Selection magazine, a publication dedicated to "corporate real estate strategy and area economic development." 

Just in case they don’t have that one in your dentist’s waiting room, the magazine praises Georgia for its generous incentives – like a 30 percent state tax credit for filmmakers. Local governments also spend millions on infrastructure to lure factories and the like.

Funneling taxes to private enterprise is an old habit in the South, says James Cobb, a historian at the University of Georgia.

“After the agricultural economy was pretty much rend asunder by the Civil War, the southern states began to provide incentives and sweeten the deals to attract outside capital that was supposedly going to bring the South back to prosperity by urbanization and industrialization,” Cobb says.

The freebies were meant as a temporary kickstart, he says. But by the 1950s, northern governments started using the same tricks.

“And then, in the last generation, the global labor market has become so competitive that it’s been very hard to sort of ditch the subsidy approach,” Cobb says.

That’s despite the fact that handouts to business are incredibly unpopular with southern voters. That includes Cobb County, the Atlanta suburb that’s trying to lure the Braves. Last week, opponents had to be dragged out of a public hearing on the stadium deal.

Local politicians say any other community would bend over backwards to land such a big catch.

But, Cobb says, there comes a point where you become so business-friendly, there are no goodies left for everybody else: "You throw over so much in public expenditures in various things, including education, to keep taxes down, that you reach a point of it being self-defeating.”

It's worth noting that back in the 1990s, Site Selection magazine was calling Mississippi the best state for business. Twenty years later, that state isn't exactly an economic powerhouse.

Sgt. Bergdahl's Hometown Rejoices At His Long-Awaited Release

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 01:12

Bowe Bergdahl spent five years in Taliban captivity; he was released Saturday. He is still weeks away from returning to his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, where residents are celebrating his freedom.

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Inducing hypothermia to save lives

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 01:00

Starting in April of this year, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC began a study to see if cooling the body of patients with massive bleeding to 50 degrees below normal body temperature could improve the treatment of traumatic injuries. By the conclusion of the trial, 10 patients with gun shot or knife wounds will have had a large tuble placed in their aorta, which will then pump a cooling saline solution through their bodies as it puts them in a kind of suspended animation, hopefully buying doctors enough time to treat the source of the bleeding.

Though, because there will not be time to receive consent from family members, the team behind the research must go through a "exception-from-informed consent process," in which the public is informed of the trial and has the option to preemptively opt out.

First tested on pigs in 2000, the method showed huge success rates. This will be the first instance of testing the procedure on human beings. 

Spain's King Juan Carlos Plans To Abdicate

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 01:00

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says King Juan Carlos plans to abdicate and pave the way for his son, Crown Prince Felipe, to become the country's next king.

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A question of numbers and geography

Marketplace - American Public Media - Sun, 2014-06-01 23:50

Let me come right out and say it: I am a trafficker in Gross Domestic Product data and I'm not proud.

With every GDP estimate, first and second revisions of this key indicator of the state of the U.S. economy, there I am in the morning on the radio dutifully sharing this number, like a co-pilot calling out the airspeed during the takeoff roll so the pilot can decide the precise moment to lift the nose of the plane.

Despite my disclaimers, people hear GDP and conclude from that number that the economy is fabulous, good, indifferent, bad, or terrible.

The thing is, GDP measures money changing hands. It doesn't tell you if the money changing hands is for good or for evil. If a pandemic of athlete's foot ever swept across America, GDP would go up, because we would still hobble into work, but we would spend more on doctor's visits and anti-fungals, contributing extra to GDP.

So GDP going up isn't always "good."

Furthermore, the inventor of the Gross Domestic Product, the American economist and demographer Simon Kuznetz, never intended it to be used as a scorecard in this way when he developed the calculation 80 years ago.

As I like to say, determining if the economy is good or bad by counting the dollars that are exchanged is like determining if a piece of music is good or bad by counting the number of notes.

Because, ultimately, do we really care how "the economy" is doing? We care about how well we, our families, our communities are prospering. How are we doing? -- That's the real question we all want answered.

If not GDP, then what numbers might yield a better readout about how we are doing?

Economists, statisticians, and economists are applying a variety of creative approaches to getting a better reading on our well-being. On Marketplace, we have vowed to cover these alternative measures early and often. Let me just highlight one here, a project devised by a researcher at the London School of Economics.

Some researchers are trying to see if there is a correlation between how happy you are and exactly where you are.

So many of us carry around precise tracking devices at all times. They are called "smartphones" and there's an app called "Mappiness."

Map + happiness = Mappiness, geddit?

If you download the app and opt in, the thing will buzz you at random times (you can make it leave you alone at night, in case you are wondering). When the app beeps, you let it know how happy or sad you are at that moment. Here is the interesting part: When you record your level of bliss vs misery scale, your phone knows where you are. Researchers are building a big database of these readings to see if patterns emerge, focusing first on Britain.

Are we happiest in the woods, in a park or in a shopping mall? How bummed out are we at work compared to at home?

Among the results so far: People seem to be more content when they are near the ocean. Coming in second, behind the coast, is the mountains. The middle of the city was, statistically, the least happy place, as least as measured in the British data.

If enough people have the app installed, the system might eventually be able to correlate not just where we are the happiest but with whom we are the happiest. You don't need an app to tell you who fills you with rapture or annoys the heck out of you.

But researchers would be very interested in the role relationships play in our well-being. That may play a greater role that that GDP number the guy on the radio is always yammering on about.

For One Soldier At Tiananmen, A Day 'Never Forgotten'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-06-01 23:36

Chen Guang is now an artist, and since early May, he has been held in police detention after staging a performance that was a comment on attempts to expunge the Tiananmen Square massacre from history.

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Pregnancy Hormone May Reduce Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

NPR News - Sun, 2014-06-01 23:33

Women with multiple sclerosis often find that they have fewer problems when they are expecting. That led researchers to develop an experimental drug based on a hormone associated with pregnancy.

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Tiny Magnetic Beads Help Tame Severe Reflux For Some People

NPR News - Sun, 2014-06-01 23:32

Lots of people have heartburn or gastric reflux, and not all of them are helped by medications. A surgical device may help people with severe symptoms, but it hasn't been tested long term.

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