National News

New York is first state to ban fracking

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

The fracking wars continue, this time in the Big Apple. The controversial drilling practice has been banned in local town and cities, but today New York became the first state to enact a ban.

Kai talks to Scott Tong, who has been covering fracking and the oil industry for Marketplace.

Why law school enrollment is way down

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

Law schools enrolled about 120,000 students in 2014, a decrease of almost 7 percent from last year. It was the smallest number admitted since 1987.

While law school was once seen as a golden ticket to a financially stable future, the profession is becoming less popular. New technology is helping lawyers work more efficiently, allowing them to handle a bigger workload. But it also cuts down on a firm's need to hire more lawyers, which means fewer graduates nab full-time permanent jobs.

As recently as 2000, "almost every school was reporting employment outcomes with 90 percent or more of their graduates employed," says Jerry Organ, who teaches at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Back then, schools didn't have to report what kinds of jobs their alumni were getting, but now they do, he says. Numbers over the last few years have reflected this reporting change, with only about half of  students getting full-time, long-term jobs as lawyers.

Now that’s an unexpected energy boost. (Thanks, Cuba)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

Cuba and the United States are taking steps to normalize their long-troubled relationship in both politics and economics.

In response, tons of investors bought stock in the Cuba Beverage Company. Shares were up nearly 140 percent at one point, according to the Wall Street Journal. The thing is, the Cuba Beverage Company is an energy drink firm out of San Diego. No relation to Cuba, the country, at all.

It's not a big energy drink company. The shares only rose to 4 cents apiece. Caveat emptor, nonetheless.

Alan Gross, U.S. Contractor Freed By Cuba, Says 'It's Good To Be Home'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:38

Havana freed Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison, as a humanitarian gesture. The former USAID contractor said he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

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PHOTO: The Meaning in a Phone Call

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:29

A conversation between Presidents Obama and Castro preceded a plan to normalize diplomatic relations between historical foes.

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The U.S. And Cuba: A Brief History Of A Tortured Relationship

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:09

The stalemate has outlasted 10 U.S. presidents, a failed invasion, a nuclear crisis and countless boatloads of Cuban asylum seekers. All that changed on Wednesday.

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Prisoner Exchange With Cuba Led To Freedom For Top U.S. Intelligence Agent

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:31

President Obama called the unnamed man "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba." The agent spent nearly two decades in a Cuban prison.

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Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:30

Though blacks still lag whites nationwide in health, disparities have been largely eliminated in the western states, a study finds. Kaiser Permanente's Medicare HMOs did best on that.

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New Cuba Policy Is Met With Cheers And Jeers On Both Sides Of The Aisle

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:26

Sen. Marco Rubio and other prominent Cuban-American lawmakers issued blistering rebukes of plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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A Holy Land Christmas Porridge Honors A Damsel In Distress

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:10

Some Christians in Israel and the West Bank celebrate Eid el-Burbara on Dec. 17. The feast honors St. Barbara, an early convert to Christianity whose story is echoed in the Rapunzel tale.

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Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:06

Inside the lab, a lone technician sorts through new samples, snipping off swab heads intentionally fouled with fecal material. One head goes to cold storage and the other is processed for sequencing.

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Risks Have Never Been Greater For Medical Workers In Conflict Zones

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:55

They've always been caught in the crossfire. But now they're being directly targeted. And no place is more dangerous than Syria.

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Secrets of the Christmas tree lot

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:44

Americans bought 33 million Christmas trees last year by one count, making it a billion-dollar industry in this country alone. Perhaps nowhere are Christmas tree sales more visible than on the streets of New York City. 

Supriya and Vijay Laknidhi walk through a narrow evergreen forest on a sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights. They stop in front of a 7-foot Fraser fir.

“It’s pretty full, you know so even if you don’t have that many ornaments on there it still looks like a really healthy tree,” Supriya says.  Vijay adds, “we just had our first kid, so it’s a tree with an occasion now.

The Laknidhis are purchasing their family’s tree from another family tree. Ellie Bishop’s family started selling trees in 1988 when she was little more than a year old.  Now, she has her baby at the stand, alongside her mother and brother. These three generations of tree sellers manage a stable in Vermont the rest of the year. But that’s not necessarily where the trees come from.

“Well it kinda works like this: A bunch of tree sellers all throughout the city get together. We buy from big tree farms in different parts of the country,” Bishop says. “These ones come from North Carolina, sometimes [they come] all the way from Oregon. It just depends where they’re ordered from, where we get the best deal.”

Bishop’s supplier buys evergreens from wherever the trees grow the fastest. The vendors come from wherever work during the winter is slow.

“Selling trees really helps people get through January, February till they can get back to work in March,” Bishop says. 

Last year Ellie’s family sold about 300 trees, mostly priced between $55 and $140. It’s not easy work staying out on the street, in freezing temperatures, all day for most of December.  Still, it’s enough to lure seasonal workers like Melany Westerloppe, who's from Quebec.  She runs a stand in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  High end trees here go for $400 – last year she sold to Robert De Niro. It’s the adventure as well as the money that lures hundreds of French-Canadians like her to the city. 

Westerloppe estimates,  “our company it’s about 300 stands in all the city because we are two or three people by stand.”  

The company, Forever Evergreen, is incorporated in Florida. It supplies to every stand I came across and owns hundreds of its own. The company is secretive, running a cash business that’s largely unregulated – and staffed by a migrant work force.

Simon Durind also sells trees in Manhattan. I asked him why a Florida-based company, buying trees from North Carolina, wants French Canadians to sell Christmas trees in New York City?

“They like Quebecois with an accent on the streets selling trees, looking like a North Viking. That’s what they like and it works,” exclaims Durind, a carpenter in Quebec who says he doesn’t mind living out of a van for a month. He estimates he makes $17 an hour for the season.  But there are other perks for these French-speaking, pine-scented gentlemen.

"The women of New  York are very beautiful," Durind says. "You know you don’t often see people like us, cutting trees with a saw and sometimes it looks like it impresses some people.” 

Mistletoe sold separately.

Christmas tree sales lure migrant workers to New York

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:44

Americans bought 33 million Christmas trees last year by one count, making it a billion-dollar industry in this country alone.  Perhaps nowhere are Christmas tree sales more visible than on the streets of New York City. 

Supriya and Vijay Laknidhi walk through a narrow evergreen forest on a sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights. They stop in front of a 7-foot Fraser Fir.

“It’s pretty full, you know so even if you don’t have that many ornaments on there it still looks like a really healthy tree,” Supriya says.  Vijay adds, “we just had our first kid so it’s a tree with an occasion now.

The Laknidhis are purchasing their family’s tree from another family tree.  Ellie Bishop’s family started selling trees in 1988 when she was little more than a year old.  Now, she has her baby at the stand, alongside her mother and brother.  These three generations of tree sellers manage a stable in Vermont the rest of the year. But that’s not necessarily where the trees come from.

“Well it kinda works like this: A bunch of tree sellers all throughout the city get together. We buy from big tree farms in different parts of the country,” Bishop says. “These ones come from North Carolina, sometimes [they come] all the way from Oregon. It just depends where they’re ordered from, where we get the best deal.”

Ellie’s supplier buys evergreens from wherever the trees grow the fastest.  The vendors come from wherever work during the winter is slow.

“Selling trees really helps people get through January, February till they can get back to work in March,” says Bishop. 

Last year Ellie’s family sold about 300 trees, mostly priced between $55 and $140.   It’s not easy work staying out on the street, in freezing temperatures, all day for most of December.  Still, it’s enough to lure seasonal workers like Melany Westerloppe, who's from Quebec.  She runs a stand in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  High end trees here go for $400-- last year she sold to Robert De Niro. It’s the adventure as well as the money that lures hundreds of French-Canadians like her to the city. 

Westerloppe estimates,  “our company it’s about 300 stands in all the city because we are 2 or 3 people by stand.”  

The company, called Forever Evergreen, is incorporated in Florida.  It supplies to all of the stands I came across and owns hundreds of its own.  The company is pretty secretive. It runs a cash business that’s largely unregulated, and staffed by a migrant work force.

Simon Durind also sells trees in Manhattan.  I asked him why a Florida-based Company, buying trees from North Carolina, wants French Canadians to sell Christmas trees in New York City?

“They like Quebecois with an accent on the streets selling trees, looking like a North Viking. That’s what they like and it works,” exclaims Durin.

Durind, who’s a carpenter in Quebec, doesn’t mind living out of a van for a month. He estimates he makes $17 an hour for the season.  But there are other perks for these French-speaking, pine-scented gentlemen.

"The women of New  York are very beautiful," Durind says. "You know you don’t often see people like us, cutting trees with a saw and sometimes it looks like it impresses some people.” 

Mistletoe sold separately.

Way Beyond Brownies: Vice Launches A Marijuana Cooking Show

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:31

"Nonna Marijuana's Italian Feast" is the first episode of a Web series exploring pot cuisine. It features a charming 91-year-old grandmother who cooks cannabis Italian food infused with love.

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A Tweet On Women's Veils, Followed By Raging Debate In Saudi Arabia

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:11

A prominent ultra-conservative figure says that face veils for women are not mandatory. Now everyone is weighing in on the hottest topic in the kingdom.

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Cuba, U.S. Agree To Prisoner Release Including American Alan Gross

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 06:50

Signaling what could be a major shift in U.S. relations with Cuba, Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba for five years, will be released, while the U.S. will release three Cubans.

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Polls Show Cuban-American View On U.S.-Cuba Relations Is Nuanced

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 06:50

For years, Cuban-Americans in Miami supported punitive policies against Cuba. But, after Obama's election, that view has moderated.

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Church Of England Names Its First Female Bishop

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 05:56

Rev. Libby Lane has been a parish priest for 20 years. She will be consecrated on Jan. 26, becoming the first female bishop since the church was founded five centuries ago.

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Cuba Frees American Contractor Alan Gross

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 05:04

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, spent five years in Cuban detention. He had been serving a 15-year sentence for crimes against the Cuban state.

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