National News

Between 2 Two Police Standoffs, Tensions Flare In Paris

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-09 05:31

Vivienne Walt, a Time magazine reporter based in Paris, offers the latest on the events involving the suspects in Wednesday's shooting at the offices of satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

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The Shifting Conditions Confronting The French Hostage Negotiator

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-09 05:26

Steve Inskeep speaks with Robert McFadden, a senior vice president of the Soufan Group and a 30-year veteran of U.S. law enforcement, for details on the security situation in and around Paris.

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Quiz: How to turn kids into bookworms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 04:41

Kids who read for pleasure are more likely to have parents who do the same, according to a poll by Scholastic.

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Unemployment Dips To 5.6 Percent As Economy Adds 252K Jobs

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-09 04:37

December's job growth caps a 2014 that saw the most jobs added to the economy since 1999.

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PODCAST: Cellphones in schools

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 03:00

252,000 new jobs were added in December, according to the Labor Department. More on that. Plus, New York City is poised to lift a ban on cell phones at schools. We look at the impact - the ban created a mini industry around phone storage – at some schools, kids had to leave their phones in vans parked outside. What happens to those businesses now? And reporter Nova Safo has a wrap up of this year's consumer electronics show.

The Latest On Paris Attack: Police Appear To Close In On Two Suspects

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-09 02:40

Police were focused on an industrial zone northwest of Paris, where the suspects may be holed up. The men are believed to be involved in the shooting death of 12 people at a satirical magazine.

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The latest in virtual reality from CES 2015

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 02:00

Virtual reality is big at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, and Oculus VR is leading the way. So we gave their latest headset a spin and found it almost disarmingly immersive.

Click the media player above to hear more.

A year in jobs reports

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 02:00

With the last jobs report of 2014 now available to us, we can take a full long look back at the year.

For starters, 2014 ended with much stronger job growth than it began with. 
U.S. Jobs Added Per Month, 2014 |Create infographics
Year over year, 2014 grew the most jobs since 1999.
Annual U.S. Job Growth |Create infographics
In a stark move, the unemployment rate jumped down two tenths of a percent in December of 2014 to 5.6%, the lowest it’s been since 2007.  It’s down a full 1.1 percentage points compared to last year.
U.S. Unemployment Rate |Create infographics
In November’s jobs numbers, we saw hourly wages jump 0.4%. That was a big bump for one month, and in December those gains were erased. 2014 as a whole was pretty sad for wage growth ... and so was 2013 ... and so was 2012. As you can see in the chart below, wages have only barely crept up since 2010.

That’s the case for nominal wages, which are wages that don’t take inflation into account.  When you take inflation into account, real wages haven’t moved for decades.

Holding a cellphone for $1 a day

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 02:00

A ban on cell phones in New York City Schools that's been around for almost a decade is expected to end in March. The city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, made that announcement this week, arguing the prohibition makes it hard for schoolkids to contact their parents.

On top of that, he says it is unfair that the rule is enforced more strictly at lower-income schools where there are metal detectors.

But lifting the ban will do more than let phones back into the classroom — It will also kill a number of small businesses.

Click the media player above to hear more.

New York's most famous rat

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 02:00

It's a chilly day in midtown Manhattan, but union organizer Julian Tysh is undeterred. He's here representing Teamsters Local 814 to protest businesses that hire non-union movers. And he's not alone. 

Union organizer Julian Tysh (L) 

Tobin Low

After unfurling what looks like an inflatable mattress, he pulls the cord on a small engine, and a balloon begins to take shape: first the belly, then the claws, then the buck teeth, and finally the yellow eyes.

Julian Tysh props up the balloon as it inflates.

Tobin Low

Finally, at its full 12 feet in height, a giant rat stands on the sidewalk.

Meet Scabby, an icon of labor protests in union towns like New York and Chicago. As union president Jason Ide puts it, "The rat is like the bat signal for the labor movement in New York. When you put the rat up, everybody walking by knows that workers right here aren't being treated fairly." 

Both ugly and effective, Scabby makes regular appearances during labor disputes. He's even been taken to court, when an asbestos contractor argued that the rat qualified as "disruptive activity." (A New York district judge ruled that Scabby is protected under the First Amendment.)

But as much as he is an integral part of the metropolitan skyline, Scabby isn't so much a city slicker as a country mouse.

Just ask Peggy O'Connor. She and her husband Mike have owned and operated Big Sky Balloons and Searchlights in Plainfield, Illinois, for 33 years. Back in 1990, they got a call from a union steward in Chicago who wanted to make a statement at his next rally. So Mike, who designs the balloons for the company, made him a rat. Peggy says that in the original design, Scabby looked kind of friendly. The union steward wanted him uglier. 

Says Peggy, "Mike redesigned it with mean buck teeth, yellowish squinty eyes, big claws, festering nipples, belly art. And he sent that design back to the union steward, and the guy said 'Perfect!'"

After his big debut, orders started coming in from other unions in Chicago. New York, also a big union town, followed suit.

These days, Scabby is the O'Connors' trademarked best-seller. He comes in sizes ranging from 6 to 25 feet tall and costs between $2,000 and $8,000. You can even customize him with extras, like a union worker getting squeezed in his hand, or a money bag to represent corporate greed. 

Teamsters 814 in New York opted for a basic Scabby, though president Jason Ide says they also own others from Big Sky Balloons that they use at protests. 

"We also have an inflatable pig. Occasionally we’ve used an inflatable cat," says Ide. 

Scabby (L) and the Corporate Pig (R) are pictured in midtown Manhattan.

Tobin Low

But Scabby remains the star, even if he's not everyone's favorite. Ide tells a cautionary tale about a Scabby that was not so lucky: "A good friend of ours, a Chicago’s teamsters union, had a non-union contractor slash the rat with a knife and drive over it five or six times with his car." (The contractor was convicted of a felony and will serve jail time.)

As of yet, Ide says they haven't experienced any major run-ins. Mostly just tourists stopping to take pictures and say "cheese."


A D+ for early education

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-09 02:00

The newspaper Education Week is out with its annual report card on the state of American education.

Overall, the country gets a C for its performance on a range of measures, with Massachusetts finishing first among the states. When it comes to educating the youngest children, things look even worse. Less than half of three- and four-year olds are enrolled in preschool, with young children from low-income families even less likely to be in school.

What does it mean for our society and economy to be doing such a bad job of preparing kids for school?

Click the media player above to hear more.

French Police Close In On Suspects In Newspaper Shooting

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-09 00:58

Heavily armed brothers suspected in the deadly storming of a satirical weekly were cornered inside a printing house near Charles de Gaulle airport and appear to have taken a hostage, officials said.

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A 'Sizable Decrease' In Those Passing The GED

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 23:26

The new GED is more expensive, computer-based and tougher. As a result some states are embracing alternative tests, and the number of GEDs awarded last year fell.

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Obama In Tennessee To Promote Free Community College

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 23:25

President Obama is on the road as part of his effort to jump-start his 2015 agenda. Today he's in Tennessee, talking about higher education.

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Andrae Crouch, 'Father Of Modern Gospel,' Dies

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 18:19

Crouch wrote songs for Elvis Presley, sang backup on Michael Jackson tracks, led the choir for Madonna's "Like A Prayer," and was nominated for an Oscar after composing music for "The Color Purple."

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Details Emerge About Suspects In 'Charlie' Attack; Manhunt Continues

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 17:24

Thursday was a national day of mourning in France, even as a force some 88,000-strong provided sought two men suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical magazine's office in Paris.

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Honda Fined $70 Million For Underreporting Deaths And Injuries

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 15:56

The National Highway Safety Administration says the Japanese automaker failed to report over 1,700 death and injury claims over 11 years.

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Is North Korea really responsible for the Sony hack?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-08 14:50

FBI Director James Comey gave a speech yesterday and doubled down on the FBI's decision to name North Korea as the source of the late November cyber attack on Sony Pictures.

According to the FBI, the hackers made some sloppy mistakes. They often used a proxy system to hide their real location but in a few cases signed into a Sony server and posted online without concealing their location. The FBI says their IP address is known to be exclusively used by North Korea.

Kim Zetter, a reporter at Wired and author of "Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon," isn't convinced North Korea is to blame for the attack.

"We still don’t have all of the evidence and all of the information that’s backing his strong claim there," Zetter says.

A few things that give Zetter pause:

  • We don’t know what this IP address is or what it’s connected to.
  • The FBI is saying that this IP address is exclusively used by North Korea. How do we know that?
  • Initial communication from the hackers never mentioned the movie "The Interview." It appeared to be an extortion attempt to get money out of Sony.

The FBI has requested that the government  unclassify information related to the case, so that more can be publicly disclosed.

As for Sony? They’re still struggling and are working on replacing equipment.

Look Out: This Poker-Playing Computer Is Unbeatable

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 14:15

Forget chess. Poker may be even harder for a computer. But a software program has now "solved" a variant of Texas Hold'em, the bot's creators say. And nothing can keep it from winning.

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France Observes Official Day Of Mourning After Attack

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-08 14:08

Parisians responded to Wednesday's terrorist attack with a mixture of shock, fear and defiance.

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