National News

Texas Hits The Books

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 12:22

For the first time in more than a decade, the Texas State Board of Education has adopted new social studies textbooks. But the process came with a few hiccups.

» E-Mail This

Last 'Angola 3' Inmate's Conviction Should Be Thrown Out, Court Says

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 12:09

Albert Woodfox has spent about 40 years in solitary for the 1972 murder of a prison guard. A federal appeals court's unanimous decision could set him free, if the state decides not to challenge it.

» E-Mail This

A Closer Look At Obama's Immigration Plan: What's In It, Who's Affected

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 12:05

The actions announced Thursday touch are complicated and will lead to many changes in immigration policy. Here we try to explain it plainly.

» E-Mail This

Thanksgiving, Frozen: A 6-Day Guide To What To Cook Ahead, And When

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:16

You don't have to leave all the cooking for Thursday. We offer tips for getting most of the meal ready in advance so you can sleep in a little later on the big day.

» E-Mail This

To Stay Energy Efficient As You Age, Keep On Running

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:13

People in their 60s who run for exercise use energy as efficiently as much younger people. That wasn't true for older people who walked instead.

» E-Mail This

Good at video games? That could land you a job.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:10

Workplace personality tests are a multi-million-dollar business for the companies that make them. Basically these are screening tools: online tests a candidate takes before they get to the interview stage.  They’re designed to find out what makes you tick. But as they’ve gotten more popular they’ve also come in for criticism – some candidates have even sued, saying the tests discriminate.  

Recently New Yorker Jorli Peña interviewed for a job at a startup out of state. Before the company flew her out to meet with them, she was asked to take a couple of short online tests.  The second test asked her to assess the way others saw her, and how she saw herself. She had to pick from a bunch of adjectives, and spent a few minutes on the task.

Soon the results came back. Peña was shocked.

“I started scanning it and I just thought…this isn’t me,” she says.

Peña, normally an outgoing marketing specialist, was described as ill-at-ease in social situations, formal and reserved. She was afraid she wouldn’t land an interview.  But maybe because she knew the company’s founder, she did. Others have fallen at that first hurdle.

These tests have been around a long time, says Barbara Marder with HR consulting firm Mercer. She says they may be adequate indicators for some jobs, but for others, it may be much more important to look at a candidate’s cognitive makeup.

One way to do that is through gaming. Marder says when someone plays a game, you can see his or her potential through studying what they do during play.

“You’re really figuring out how someone thinks,” she says, “how they make decisions, how they problem solve.”

Her company recently created a prototype 3-D video game for the oil and gas industry. In this game, the candidate has to simulate their role on an offshore oil rig. At one point, an alarm on the rig goes off and the candidate has to work out what caused the alarm and how to respond to the emergency. All the while, their potential employer is judging their performance.

Simulation is one route to an employee’s potential. But there are plenty of other ways games can reveal your strengths and weaknesses, as I found when I began to play a bunch of games designed by a startup called Pymetrics.

One game measures how well I read other people’s emotions just from looking at the expression in their eyes. I have to pick the word that best describes what they’re feeling. It was quite tricky but also fun.

MIT graduate Frida Polli is Pymetrics’ CEO. She says these games are aimed at millennials.  

“We’d like to be the Netflix of careers,” she says. "Where you play the 12 games, maybe at some point we add some additional data about you, and then we really give you a very tailored, very precise and very good set of recommendations for what you could be good at.”

Pymetrics works with candidates to compile profiles based on their play, and lets them know which companies are looking for people like them.  It then tells the companies, "Hey, check this person out – they have the kinds of qualities you’re looking for."

And Polli says these games can help companies diversify their workforce.

“There are a lot of companies in that realm," she says, "but they don’t know exactly how to solve that problem."

She says the algorithms behind the games can help, because they make the platform blind to race and gender.

But perhaps they’re not blind to an aging brain. Some of the games I play have me sweating as the clock ticks down. In one game I barely have time to register the direction of an on-screen arrow before it disappears.

If I’m being judged on this game, I fear for my employment prospects.

Polli says I shouldn’t worry.

“The main point of this is there is no right or wrong,” she insists.

She says I look skeptical, which I do, and assures me she’s totally serious.

Well, my test results did did tell me I was 70 percent skeptical, which I think is quite appropriate for a journalist.

Playing this hiring game may just take a bit of practice for some of us.

The economic impact of Obama's immigration reform

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

Stymied by a Congress that has been unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama issued a set of executive actions on Thursday.

Its centerpiece is a new program providing protection from deportation and a possible work permit for unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years who have children who are citizens or have green cards. 

Patrick Oakford at the Center for American Progress says this will impact all the sectors of the economy where unauthorized immigrants work, from construction to restaurants.

Economist Giovanni Peri says work permits will allow workers to apply for higher-wage jobs, and give employers a larger pool of workers.

The White House's Council of Economic Advisors says this could generate an increase in productivity that will boost GDP by 0.2% over the next decade. But that depends on employers and employees alike having confidence that the temporary status will be extended. Kristi Boswell at the American Farm Bureau Federation says it doesn't go far enough. 

Avoiding the 'regulatory capture' trap

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

Another day, another Senate hearing on the financial industry.

The man in the hot seat today: New York Fed President William Dudley. He was grilled about something called "regulatory capture," the idea that regulators can be "captured" or overly influenced by the people and companies they're supposed to oversee. Dudley said the banking system is safer now than six years ago, but separately, the Fed has announced a review of its bank supervision programs.

Sid Shapiro, a professor at Wake Forest University, cautions if regulators are too cozy with their charges, banks might get away with things they shouldn’t. Regulatory capture isn’t a problem unique to the Fed, says Dan Carpenter, who studies the regulatory agencies at Harvard. But its impact there can be especially dangerous. Lawrence Baxter,  a professor at Duke University School of Law, says the Fed should be more transparent and draw fewer of its employees from Wall Street. 

The logistics (and costs) of moving an NFL game

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

The Buffalo Bills were supposed to play a home game this weekend against the New York Jets, until a snowstorm blew through this week dumping more than six feet of snow.

The NFL has moved the game to Monday night in Detroit. And the Buffalo Bills were scrambling Friday with last-minute travel arrangements, before their departure from their snow-burried hometown earlier this afternoon. 

Next stop, Detroit! ✈️

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 21, 2014 The costs of the last-minute change are likely adding up for the Bills: from refunding tickets to short-notice hotel bookings.

In fact, the team is likely paying as much as a 30 percent premium on travel costs, says Kevin Green, director of football operations for the University of Kansas, where sports programs boast big budgets.  

Green says, when traveling, he typically has to account for anywhere from 100 to 170 people between players, coaches, staff and others. Typical travel arrangements are made well in advance, Green says: a year in advance for hotel reservations, several months in advance for flight charters, and a week advance for food preparation. 

And teams have very specific needs. Not just any hotel will do. And not just any food will do. 

“The hotel has to have conference space available for meetings, that typically limits those hotels to Hiltons, Marriotts, traditional business hotels,” Green says. "The food is very specific to individual players, positions. You’re looking for specific cuts of meat, proteins, carbs. That usually has to be ordered a week in advance.”

So, vendors are likely benefiting from the Bills’ sudden venue change. And if fans make sudden travel plans, too, the city of Detroit could see a windfall. 

“We foresee the direct spending to be around $3 million,” says Deanna Majchrzak of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That will benefit our local hotels, restaurants, bars and other retailers.”

The Bureau is basing that figure on an estimate that some 30,000 fans will visit Detroit for the game. In 2010, when Detroit was last host to an unscheduled game, some 46,000 fans showed up to see the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants play, Majchrzak says.

Professional cuddlers for hire in Portland

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

A woman in Portland, Oregon, named Samantha Hess has opened a new business called Cuddle Up to Me. It is, just like it sounds, a professional cuddling establishment.

For $60, Hess says you get "the level of human contact that we want or need in order to be our optimal selves," according to People magazine. The session includes an hour of spooning, hair strokes, hand-holding and an assortment of positions. Hess maintains that her shop is not "adult oriented."

Call it commentary on the lack of human contact in today's society. Call it a ludicrous endeavor.

I call it entrepreneurship. Hess told her local Fox affiliate she's gotten as many as 10,000 emails in the first week. 

Your Wallet: Giving versus getting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 09:54

The holidays are a season for giving. Many of you are buying gifts, donating to charity, helping someone, or someone is helping you.

How do you balance helping others with your personal financial needs?

We want to hear your stories.

Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Coming out at work, in context

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 09:11

This past week, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT rights organization, released its Corporate Equality Index which measures how Fortune 500 companies treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in the workplace.

Things have changed a lot over the 10-plus years the group has released its annual report. Same sex marriage is now legal in more than thirty states, there are more rights for LGBT people in the workplace, and many big businesses have increased their protections for employees, introducing non-discrimination clauses, and partner benefits. This year, 366 Fortune 500 companies got a perfect score on the index, up from only 13 in 2002. 

Deena Fidas, director of Workplace Equality for the HRC, says the change is based in societal shifts and finances. "So many businesses have come to the realization that being an LGBT inclusive employer isn't just the right thing to do, it's actually smart business," she says.

But despite new workplace protections and benefits, "still, a little over half of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers in this country remain closeted on the job," Fidas says, "and so quite literally people are getting married on the weekends and not talking about it come Monday morning." 

In 29 states, there are still no legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Legal issues definitely come into play in the decision to be out at work, Fidas says "but it's also the everyday environment." HRC survey responses indicated that LGBT people who aren't out at work feared that they'd make people uncomfortable. 

But staying closeted on the job may have some drawbacks, for LGBT and the companies they work for. Fidas says that people who aren't out at work may be less engaged with their jobs and their colleagues, and less likely to stay with one employer. Not being out at work could also mean fewer opportunities to make friends, or find valuable mentorship. 

Even millennials, typically known for their openness about sexuality, are aren't always out at work. "We find that actually, many of the youngest workers are out to their friends and family, they're out in their school environments, and yet they're going back in the closet when they get their first jobs," Fidas says.

For younger workers, the question to come out is a conundrum: they may feel they lack an established professional background, or be searching for a mentor, and want to keep their orientation private.

"Your mentor is somebody who you can confide in, you can talk about personal struggles," Fidas says, "and this is where we get into a bit of a Catch-22." The people who might most need guidance are often afraid to seek it out. One solution to this issue is something that many businesses are introducing: LGBT and allied affinity groups. "[They] provide a tremendously effective platform for young people to find a mentor," Fidas says. 

Some LGBT people are not just out at work, but out on their resumes. Fidas says that some people choose to come out in a resume because they want to highlight leadership experience that involves an LGBT affiliated group. Others choose to come out on a resume, subtly or explicitly, as a way to communicate their expectations to a potential employer that they are completely accepted at work. 

A recent study from Princeton University shows that things are changing for people who do choose to come out in their resume. While past research indicated that mentioning an LGBT group resulted in hiring and salary discrimination, the latest from Princeton shows that for white men, there's little to no impact, and for black men, coming out on a resume may actually result in more interviews and a higher starting salary. 

Still, there's no single, simple solution. "Bias happens," Fidas says, "whether it's conscious or unconscious."

A lot goes into the decision to come out and be out at work. Fidas says it isn't the right choice for everyone, particularly if their workplace doesn't have a nondiscrimination clause. "It's a conversation," she says.


Thai Martial Law Will Remain In Place 'Indefinitely,' Minister Says

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 08:43

The comments by the justice minister came in an interview to Reuters news agency nearly six months after the military overthrew the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

» E-Mail This

The Viagra Of The Himalayas Brings In Big Bucks And Big Problems

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 08:31

A fungus consumes a worm and sprouts out of its head. The resulting ... thing ... is deemed an aphrodisiac and sells for more than gold. How do you keep people from killing each other to harvest it?

» E-Mail This

In The Hospital, There's No Such Thing As A Lesbian Knee

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 08:06

People in the LGBT community often have a hard time getting appropriate health care. But the problems aren't unique to them. Doesn't everyone want to have a doctor call them by their preferred name?

» E-Mail This

The 3-Bird Turducken Has Nothing On This 17-Bird Royal Roast

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 07:45

The Frenchman who was the world's first restaurant critic launched the world's first serial food journal in 1803. To wow readers, he offered a recipe for for rôti sans pareil, the roast without equal.

» E-Mail This

Ex-News Of The World Editor Andy Coulson Freed From Prison

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 07:31

Coulson, who was found guilty of conspiracy to hack personal voicemails, was released today after serving less than five months of his 18-month sentence.

» E-Mail This

Republicans File Suit Against Obama Administration Over Health Law

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 06:54

House Republicans have been threatening to sue Obama over executive actions he's taken on the Affordable Care Act. Today, they pulled the trigger.

» E-Mail This

Speaker Boehner Says The House Will Act On Immigration

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-21 06:53

Republican Rep. John Boehner delivered a statement Friday in reaction to President Obama's immigration address, saying Obama is damaging the presidency.

» E-Mail This

What's with the addiction to subscription boxes?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-21 06:49

The DIY movement notwithstanding, many people are so desperate to shed chores they’ve started outsourcing even frivolous shopping. It’s a situation caused by and, in turn, fueling a big retail trend: subscription boxes.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of subscription boxes, you probably have. Years ago, we knew them as the fruit- or cheese-of-the month club. Now they’ve gone upscale, niche – and run amok. 

There are subscription boxes for vegans and carnivores, for the gluten-free and gluten loaders, for people who can’t get enough ostrich jerky or infinity scarves, for preschoolers who insist on sustainably sourced toys – maybe as many as 500.

At this point in the game – about four years since the launch of Birchbox, the beauty-sample site credited with starting the recent surge – almost any American, and her finicky pet, could survive on boxes alone.

Somehow, a nation that endlessly whines about household clutter, and is so prickly about presents that there’s a registry for every gift-giving event, has started paying strangers to pick out — excuse me, curate — random items and ship said items to their homes.

And on those glum days when the mailbox is empty, junkies can fill the void with box-centric YouTube videos, blogs, reviews and discussion boards.

One theory to explain the phenomenon is that we have too much choice – it’s a relief to let someone else paw through all of the junk for you.  Another is that exhausted working women want a gift every month – even if it’s one they’ve sent, and paid for, themselves. Even if they don’t actually like it.

 Oh, really, I shouldn’t have . . .

Subscribers take their deliveries so seriously that blogs warn of “spoilers” before discussing the contents of a particular box. It’s like learning the gender of your unborn baby, only the reveal involves small-batch pistachios.

Recently, I flirted with a fashion box but luckily the realization that I’d end up schlepping to return clothes I didn’t choose in the first place kicked in before I'd entered my credit card.

But there is one box I’d love: a subscription that takes a box of stuff from your house every month. Call it the disappearing box.