National News

Reports: Cantor Will Step Down As Majority Leader Next Month

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:58

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Rep. Eric Cantor has decided to resign from his post as House Majority Leader, one day after a stunning GOP primary upset in his Virginia district.

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What elite universities can learn from high fashion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:42

Harvard Business School is launching an online program today. And , no, you’re not going to be able to get your MBA for free.

The school is rolling out something it calls HBX Core. For $1,500, students take three basic business classes. The program is being billed as a pre-MBA.

And it's the latest attempt by an elite university to open up classes to more people—without diluting its brand. It’s a trick the fashion industry has gotten very good at over the years. 

You may not remember French designer Pierre Cardin. But in the '60s and '70s, his name was synonymous with very high fashion. Models in Vogue posed in his futuristic dresses. He dressed The Beatles.

These days, you can walk into Sears and find Pierre Cardin men’s shirts stacked on a table. Poly-cotton blends; marked down to $17.99.

You see, Cardin's haute- couture was not his only claim to fame. He was also the first high-end designer to expand his brand to the masses. Over the years, he put his name on everything, from baseball caps to toilet-seat covers.

“He took a very powerful, designer, marquee brand and diluted it to the point it had no value and no meaning,” said Mark Cohen, a professor of retail marketing at Columbia Business School.

This is the stuff of nightmares for elite universities. The fate they want to avoid: Becoming the Pierre Cardin of colleges.

Turns out, the challenges in fashion and education are similar. How to expand without losing what makes Versace, Versace, Gucci, Gucci and Harvard, Harvard?

“The parallels hold up,” said Cohen, “They have to retain their exclusivity and retain the basis through which they are held to be elite.”

“There are colleges that are very concerned about diluting their brand,” said Ben Wildavsky, director of Higher Ed studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York. 

It’s not only going online that has schools nervous. “Just the idea of setting up a campus in a different country where you give degrees is something that places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton worry about a lot,” Wildavsky said.

Part of the value of top-tier degrees is that they’re exclusive. They’re expensive.

Elite schools can’t afford to hurt their relationships with past and future students by becoming common.

But, schools like Harvard also need to grow.

“Our mission at Harvard Business School is to train and educate leaders who make a difference in the world,” said Bharat Anand, a professor the B-School and faculty chair of the new HBX program, “It would be a perfect coincidence if there were only 900 individuals every year who fell into this category and could come to our physical campus.”

He says there are a ton of talented students out there whom Harvard’s not reaching.

Enter: the new pre-MBA. Online.

Just as Donna Karan has DKNY, Michael Kors has MICHAEL, and Marc Jacobs has Marc by Marc Jacobs, Harvard has HBX. 

Yes, HBX, is more accessible than a Harvard MBA.

But it's not free like many other online offerings. The tab for three courses is $1,500. And the payoff is a certificate, not Harvard course-credit.

 It’s a little like a silver necklace from Tiffany. No diamond ring, but it still comes in the blue box.

“We’re not offering any of our MBA courses online,” said Anand, “This is an entirely new program to an entirely new group of participants.”

The plan is for HBX to expand beyond intro business classes. But, as it does, it runs another risk familiar to retail. That customers will trade down. That the new product will cannibalize the older brand -- a problem Dolce & Gabanna, for instance, ran into with its D&G line. 

For business schools, this could mean students abandoning another huge profit center: executive education.

The stakes for schools to get this right are high. “Hundreds of millions of dollars for each elite business school,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, a professor at Wharton. “In particular there are tens of millions of dollars in the executive education and continuing education space, and I think that’s what people fear first.” 

He says about a fifth of Wharton’s revenue comes from executive education programs. It makes up a quarter of Harvard Business School’s revenue.

The fear is that companies will tell their execs “to go online instead.”

So far, Emanuel said, that’s not happening at Wharton. People are choosing traditional schools over online classes. “Obviously there will be some challenge going forward differentiating them and making the value of each clear to people.”

It’s a tightrope luxury retail has been walking for a long time.

The goal for elite colleges is not to wind-up with their brand-name products wadded in the sale bin.

Brazil Furious Over Ad Showing Christ The Redeemer In An Italian Jersey

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:26

Brazil's Catholic Church has threatened a lawsuit against Italian state broadcaster RAI, which has since withdrawn the ad with the famous statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro dressed in "Azzurri" blue.

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Bill To Allow Refinancing Of Student Loans Dies In Senate

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:10

The bill was shot down days after President Obama urged Congress to help ease the burden of student loan debt. It would have required a higher tax on the wealthy.

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A surprise winner in Virginia: Randolph-Macon College

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:58

Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. Ever heard of it?

If you hadn't before, it's likely you did on Wednesday. David Brat, an economics professor who just big-footed Eric Cantor and his Democratic challenger, Jack Trammell, are both on the faculty of this one small school outside of Richmond.

"While this may be short-lived, I think if you were to look at the placement of the 'Randolph Macon College' name in the media it would be a very high number," says Dan Hurley, Associate Vice President for government relations and state policy with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He says this kind of marketing is worth millions.

Typically a school would have to have a winning football or basketball team to get this kind of press.  Like a few years ago, when Butler University in Indiana, made it to the NCAA Final Four.

"That impacted them in terms of inquiries, applicants and enrollments, for a number of years," says  Jim Paskill, president of Paskill, Stapleton & Lord, a higher education marketing firm. Paskill says he agrees having two congressional candidates come out of one college sure can make a school look good, but he says he’s a wary. An eight-month campaign season can be a long time under the microscope.

“You know, if this becomes a very divisive campaign and it’s seen as a mud-slinging between two candidates, I don’t think it’s going to reflect very positively on the college,” he says.

No chance of that, says Randolph Macon’s president Robert Lindgren.

“These are two very principled honest,  folks who will debate the issues and not do, some of the typically political things that you might in a congressional campaign," he says.

We’ll find out if his prediction holds up in November. 

How To Survive, And Thrive, After 5 Years As A Hostage

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:55

Joe Cicippio belongs to a very small club of Americans who were held by Islamic radicals for years and lived to tell about it. Here's how he coped as a hostage in Beirut and then rebuilt his life.

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Do You Want The Truth, Or Do You Just Like Your Story Better?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

In her "Can I Just Tell You" essay, host Michel Martin warns against letting an assumed narrative overtake the facts of a story.

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Could Detroit's Automakers Save Its Art Treasures?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

Chrysler, General Motors and Ford offered up a multi-million dollar deal to help the bankrupt city of Detroit. But are there any strings attached to the cash and will it be enough to save the city?

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'Washington Post' Op-Ed Tone Deaf On View Of Sexual Assault?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

The Beauty Shop ladies continue their discussion of this week's hot news by debating George Will's controversial opinion piece that questions the validity of sexual assault claims on campus.

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What Does Cantor's Loss Say About The Republicans' Future?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

In a surprising defeat, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat to Tea Party challenger David Brat. But what does this mean for Republicans going forward? The Beauty Shop ladies weigh in.

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The Difficulty And Drama Of Building A Top Black Magazine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

Essence might be the longest-running magazine for black women, but the authors of a new book, The Man From Essence, admit that it was a long road to build the brand.

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5 TV Shows That Deserve Another Chance

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 07:13

With the success of the Kickstarter campaign for the erstwhile TV show Reading Rainbow, we draw up a short list of other shows worthy of another whirl.

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The Cooter Effect: Did Ben Jones Help Unseat Eric Cantor?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 06:16

Dukes of Hazzard alumnus and former Rep. Ben Jones urged Democrats, independents and libertarians to use the open Republican primary to oust Rep. Eric Cantor. He mentioned his 2002 loss to Cantor.

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Bergdahl Swap Was 'Extraordinary Situation,' Hagel Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 06:01

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told skeptical lawmakers that a "unique set of dynamics" prevented the White House from telling Congress about the deal to swap Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban prisoners.

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More Young Adults Get Inpatient Psychiatric Care After Health Law

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 05:47

Greater hospital use by the newly insured might be caused by inadequate outpatient resources to treat mental health patients earlier and less expensively.

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iPads Allow Kids With Challenges To Play In High School Band

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 05:10

On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences.

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500,000 People Reportedly Flee Mosul After Iraqi City Falls

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 05:01

A surprising takeover by extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has forced thousands of residents of Mosul to seek refuge.

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'Stunning': Reactions To Eric Cantor's Election Loss In Virginia

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 03:56

"Dollars don't vote — you do." With those words to his supporters, college professor Dave Brat ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in their primary battle Tuesday night.

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Big business may try to downplay Eric Cantor's defeat

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 03:00

Dave Bratt, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, has defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary in Virginia’s seventh congressional district.

A defining issue in that campaign was immigration. Bratt accused Cantor of being “soft” on the issue, noting Cantor had voiced support for immigration reform.

Members of the business community, which have backed reform, reacted to the election results in the same way many Americans did. Bill Miller, with the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs in Washington, said the outcome was “pretty shocking.”

“Nobody really saw this coming,” he added.

Miller cautions against Monday-morning quarterbacking, saying it is too early to know what Cantor’s primary defeat will mean for immigration reform. His group’s goal, he says, remains the same: “It’s important to fix this system.”

Miller argues the U.S. needs more visas for high-tech workers a better guest worker program, among other things.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says he expects big business will try to downplay what happened yesterday; instead, they will point to primary victories by pro-reform Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Rep. Renee Elmers from North Carolina.

“They are still pushing very hard for action, but I think they have to be discouraged by this,” Alden says.

There are several new pro-reform groups in Washington backed by business leaders, including FWD.us, which was started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Ali Noorani, who leads the National Immigration Forum, is optimistic the House will tackle immigration legislation this summer.

“Until John Boehner burns down the windmill of immigration reform, we’re still in play,” he says.

How We Learned That Frogs Fly

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 02:03

Two Harvard professors. One on a rooftop with a bucket of frogs. The other in the front yard, down below. Ready? Get set. Throw!

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