National News

Shanghai Tower: A Crown For The City's Futuristic Skyline

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 12:05

The 2,073-foot-tall Shanghai Tower will be the world's second-tallest building when it opens this year. More than just a skyscraper, it's a symbol of Shanghai's — and China's — soaring ambitions.

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George Zimmerman Injured After Gun Is Reportedly Fired At His Car

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 12:01

George Zimmerman reportedly suffered minor injuries from shattered glass from his car's passenger window. Police say the incident involves a man who previously accused Zimmerman of making threats.

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Jury: Starbucks' Free Coffee Not At Fault In Police Officer's Burn Claims

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:06

A North Carolina jury has rejected a $750,000 civil lawsuit filed by a police officer who said that a Starbucks store had given him a large cup of hot coffee with an insecure lid.

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New York Governor Pledges Action After Revelations Of Nail Salon Work Conditions

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 10:51

After The New York Times published a series on exploitative work conditions at nail salons, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a task force to confront the issue.

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The First Place In East Asia To Welcome Same-Sex Marriage

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 10:21

Tokyo's trendy Shibuya district has become the first place in Japan – and all of East Asia — to recognize same-sex partnerships. It raises the possibility other parts of Japan will follow.

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No One's Talking About What The Pacific Trade Deal Means For Diets

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 10:11

Trade deals like NAFTA can have vast long-term impacts on diet and health. Experts say they're concerned that the U.S. isn't talking about these implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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What can a board member do for a high-value startup?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-11 09:41

When the anonymous sharing app Secret shut down recently after taking around $35 million in investment in its first year, it sparked an open conversation that touched on current frothy conditions in Silicon Valley, where high financing rounds and valuations have been getting more attention of late.  (Secret's valuation rose $60 million over just four months last year, but this pales in comparison to Uber, which is growing so rapidly that it might be on its way to a $50 billion valuation). A Google Ventures investor was quoted saying Secret raised too much, too soon. He later wrote that it's inadvisable for companies to sell stock too early

In an unrelated series of tweets, the president of the influential startup incubator Y Combinator presented a different view on today's startup financing scene, but one that also began on a cautionary note: "I am deeply uncomfortable by the continued phenomenon of startups raising multi-million dollar seed/Series A rounds with no board member." 

We wanted to know more, so we asked Y Combinator's Sam Altman for some details: 

What's the purpose of investors also serving as board members for the startups they inject money into?

An outside board member provides discipline and rigor.  If the company knows they have to present to the board once a month, everyone is focused on making sure things are moving in the right direction.  If there is no board meeting to act as a forcing function, there is less urgency.

Also, board members can often talk the founders out of their own (often healthy) delusions.  Delusions are good in some cases but not when a company is getting close to running out of money.  The board provides an important guardrail in cases like these.

 When did you start to see a shift away from that arrangement becoming the norm?  

I started to see the shift about four years ago.  It started with the start of party rounds (lots of investors writing small checks and no one single investor taking a board seat).  Then it got worse when VC firms started doing large seed rounds; they stopped taking board seats too.  It's a case of being very aggressive and trying to participate in more companies than they have bandwidth to help.

What can potential investors do in this environment to balance out responsibility for a startup's performance?

 I think that this is an easy problem for investors to fix — they can just return to their previous practice of rolling up their sleeves and helping companies. 

EU Proposes A Plan To Address The Mediterranean Migrant Crisis

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 09:14

The European Union presented a proposal to the UN Monday morning, hoping to activate a plan for handling the flood of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Europe.

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The 'State of Preschool' really depends on your state

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-11 08:15

Providing all kids in the U.S. with high-quality, publicly-funded preschool would take a concentrated overhaul to strengthen and build up existing state programs.

At the current progress rate, preschool for all children would take 300 years to achieve, according to Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, which issued the State of Preschool 2014 report Monday.

The 2013-14 school year saw state funding for pre-K increase by more than $116 million nationwide, or 1 percent, adjusted for inflation. About half of that spending was in just one state — Michigan.

Barnett says since spending varies widely state to state, the country is still struggling to make gains in enrollment, funding and quality; ten states don't provide state-funded pre-K programs at all.

"When the average doesn't budge, but some places are moving rapidly ahead, that just tells you other places are dropping behind,” he says.

In five states in 2013-14, state funding per child for pre-K fell by 10 percent or more from the previous year, while in five different states, per-child spending increased by the same margin.

NIEERBarnett says the country spends about $1,000 less per pupil — adjusted for inflation — on pre-K now than a decade ago.

“Preschools are turning the corner, but they are turning so slowly," he says. "If we moved at the same rate as last year it would be 75 years before we enrolled half of the kids."

That's no exaggeration. From 2006 to 2010, enrollment increased every year at a steady pace. Barnett says that rate would have put half of the kids in the country in preschool in just 10 years. But from 2010 to 2014, there was effectively no progress made.

The report also reveals stark regional differences, with more students served in the east and south, compared to the west.

"It matters tremendously where you live," Barnett says. "Last time we measured quality, we saw the same disparities. There's no sense of urgency in many states."

He says more than half a million children — 40 percent of nationwide enrollment — were in programs that met less than half of the NIEER quality standards benchmarks.

"The vast majority of children served in state-funded pre-K are in programs where funding per child may be inadequate to provide a quality education."
—State of Preschool 2014

Barnett says investing in preschool yields a high return, but only if states also invest in high-quality education standards.

2 Inmates Are Dead After Riot At Nebraska Prison

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 07:13

It took authorities hours to control a riot at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, where inmates started fires and destroyed properties.

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