National News

Outrage Over Government's Animal Experiments Leads To USDA Review

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 08:07

Lawmakers also introduced a bill to strengthen laws protecting farm animals used in research. Both moves come out of a New York Times investigation of animal suffering at a federal research center.

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Donations Roll In For Detroit Man Who Walks 21 Miles To Work

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 08:06

More than $300,000 has been raised in less than a week for James Robertson, who had to commute to his factory job by foot.

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Tech IRL: When hacking does good at Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 08:06

The word "cheating" typically carries a negative connotation, but there is a such thing as "good" cheating. Guest host Lisa Desjardins speaks with Parisa Tabriz, hacker and security manager for Google, about hacking to do good.

Listen to the full interview in the player above.

Tech IRL: When hacking does good

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 08:06

The word cheating typically carries a negative connotation, but there is a such thing as good cheating. Lisa Desjardins talked to Parisa Tabriz, hacker and security manager for Google, about hacking to do good.

Listen to the full interview in the player above.

2 nods, 1 category: Alexandre Desplat on scoring big

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 08:00

Saying Alexandre Desplat is a busy man is one heck of an understatement.

The French composer has 158 film scoring credits to his name, and he has become Hollywood's go-go guy for soundtracks. Last year alone he composed scores for “Godzilla,” “The Monuments Men,” “Unbroken,” “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Those last two earned Desplat his seventh and eighth Oscar nominations.

Desplat’s success is not due to talent alone. He also has a reputation as someone who can deliver on tight deadlines, often scoring a film in less than three weeks. He says the ticking clock can make for some sleepless nights and nervous mornings.

Our work is really related to a deadline, always, because there is a release date and you can’t deliver the music too late. So every morning you think, ‘Hmm, will I find what I’m seeking this morning?’ And it takes a few years before you’re strong enough to be able to get over this fear. But after a while your brain is used to pressure. You have to write some music every day, and that’s become a discipline. You throw a bucket in the well and you bring the water out. There’s no other way. You have to do it.

Desplat has worked with many directors — Wes Anderson, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Stephen Frears, Kathryn Bigelow and Nora Ephron, to name a few — and says even though his name is on the scores of the films he works on, the process is a truly collaborative one.

I sit down with the director in my studio, I play piano, I make little electronic demos with the orchestration already laid out, and we discuss. We try to picture what the movie is calling for and what the director is aiming for. I’m here to collaborate. I’m not here to create my own piece of music.

Desplat has yet to win an Oscar. With double the chances, will this be his year or is he destined to be the Susan Lucci of the scoring world? Desplat doesn’t seem too hung up on it one way or the other.

 You do movies because you love movies and you write music because you love writing music, and sometimes there’s this magic combination. The vibration of the music is so strong that when people hear it and they watch the film, they want to nominate you. But there’s no guarantee and that shouldn’t be the goal ever. The goal is to make a great piece of music that will serve the movie and can stand alone at the same time. That’s the only way I can think about it.

More Questions Emerge About Brian Williams' Comments

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 07:57

A pilot who partly backed the NBC anchor's account of being on a chopper that took fire is revising his story. Also, a newspaper is questioning what Williams said he saw during Hurricane Katrina.

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Thailand's Military Moves Closer To China

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 07:45

An agreement for stronger ties with Beijing comes after last year's coup in Thailand soured relations between Bangkok and Washington.

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Oil Industry Sees Layoffs, Even As Jobs Numbers Rise Elsewhere

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 07:07

The energy sector is laying off workers, as falling oil prices have slowed drilling. Analysts are sifting through the January employment report, which showed American employers added 257,000 jobs.

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Canadians Have A Right To Assisted Suicide, High Court Says

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 06:53

The court said the existing ban denies people the right "to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care" and leaves them "to endure intolerable suffering."

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Yemen's Houthi Rebels Dissolve Parliament, Seize Power

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 06:53

A televised statement said the group was forming a presidential council that would run the country. It called the takeover "a new era that will take Yemen to safe shores."

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Measles Vaccination Rates: Tanzania Does Better Than U.S.

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 06:34

A map from the World Health Organization reveals show something interesting: Many poor countries have higher vaccination rates than rich ones.

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Kansas Will Cut Education Funding To Help Close Budget Gap

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 06:25

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, whose aggressive tax cutting measures helped trigger the financial crisis, said the schools' funding levels are unsustainable.

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Officials Predict More Measles Cases After 5 Babies Are Diagnosed In Illinois

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 04:54

Because the Chicago-area patients are all under a year old, they can't be vaccinated. Saying that more cases are likely, a Cook County health official warns, "The cat is out of the bag."

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Economy Adds 257,000 New Jobs; Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 04:38

The jobless rate ticked up to 5.7 percent despite robust job growth that exceeded economists' expectations.

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Pilots Of Doomed Taipei Flight Faced Problems With Both Engines

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 03:46

Investigators say the turboprop plane's right engine lost thrust 37 seconds into the flight, and that the left one failed to restart not long afterwards.

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PODCAST: A strong three months for jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 03:00

The last three months taken together have been very strong for American jobs. More on the jobs report for January from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plus, in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, there is a push to bring technology start ups as a way to revitalize the area and bring new jobs in.

Jordan Strikes At ISIS; Obama Said To Be Preparing To Request War Powers

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:50

Repeated air strikes on the self-described Islamic State are "the beginning of our retaliation" for the extremist group's brutal killing of a captured pilot, Jordan's foreign minister says.

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App sales plateau in the age of 'freemium'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:00

App sales are today a multibillion dollar industry, but a new forecast from eMarketer says that sales of apps have plateaued.

Part of the reason is the growth of so-called "freemium" apps, which are free to download but have items for sale inside the app. The freemium business model is tantalizing for developers.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Tech heads to the Bronx

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:00

Hoping to take advantage of a growing trend to bring IT jobs back to the U.S., a technology consulting firm is setting up shop in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, hoping to create a viable business and serve a philanthropic purpose at the same time.

That neighborhood is the South Bronx of New York, where within a two-mile radius there are five large housing projects and where 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the 2010 Census. It is the poorest congressional district in America.

The company trying to inject tech jobs and spending power into the neighborhood is Doran Jones. Keith Klain is the company's co-CEO. Klain spent more than 20 years setting up IT operations overseas. Now, he's trying to bring some of those jobs back to the U.S. and into the South Bronx.

He joined Doran Jones from Barclays, where, until February of 2014, he ran their Global Testing Center. Now, he's building a 45,000 sq. ft. facility in a nondescript building just across the river from Manhattan — the U.S. financial capital where a wealth of finance firms and other businesses are potential clients for the IT quality testing business he is starting up.

"This is a viable business. We'll transform this neighborhood with real tech jobs," says Klain.

The most important element of his plan, and what sets it apart from some of the other tech start-ups and incubators who have moved into the Bronx area to take advantage of one of the few areas of New York with relatively cheap rent, is a partnership with Per Scholas.

Per Scholas is a non-profit workforce training center. Klain set up a courses at the center specifically tailored to teach the kinds of skills he needs from entry-level workers. He has an agreement in which Doran Jones funds the free courses, and promises to staff 80 percent of its workforce with Per Scholas graduates.

Per Scholas also gets 25 percent of future Doran Jones profits. They even share a building.

Angie Kamath, executive director of Per Scholas, says the unique arrangement is an opportunity to change the dynamic in the South Bronx neighborhood.

"It's going to, I believe, really kickstart and show other firms that they can, too, locate in what are traditionally underserved areas," Kamath says.

"Part of this program is to give people an entry into a career that they wouldn't ordinarily have gotten," says Klain, "There is an overlooked population here that is a very rich source of tech talent."

One of Klain's most recent hires is Cochrane Williams, 37, who used to be a photographer with sporadic income. "I needed a career change. I needed something stable. I have a daughter. So I needed to also think about that," Williams says.

Just as other entry-level workers who will be hired by Doran Jones through its partnership with Per Scholas, Williams' starting salary is $35,000 with benefits. While that income does not go far in one of the most expensive cities in the country, entry-level Doran Jones employees will get an automatic raise to $45,000 in a year, and to $55,000 in two years.

"For a lot of our folks who are coming in and their last wages were $15,000, this is pretty life changing," says Kamath. Many in the neighborhood hold minimum wage, or close to minimum wage jobs, she says, such as security guards or retail workers.

Williams says his starting salary was not his only consideration in deciding to join Doran Jones. He sees it as an investment in his future. "This is basically getting in on the ground floor. And you get to grow with the company. There is nothing more solid than that, in terms of trying to establish a career," says Williams.

Doran Jones and Per Scholas are also hoping to get in on the ground floor. For them, that ground floor is a growing movement to bring IT jobs back to the U.S.

A number of firms have sprung up across the country to lure lucrative IT contracts away from foreign firms. Their pitch: that for certain IT jobs, being located near a business's time zone, for instance, could be beneficial. They also can point to inefficiencies in the current outsourcing model: the need for lots of travel, or the hiring and relocation of middle managers to supervise far away employees.

Ron Hira has been studying the trend of IT 'onshoring." He is a professor of public policy at Howard Unviersity and author of the book Outsourcing America. There are a number of small companies around the country, most with a few hundred workers, he says, that are trying to win away IT contracts from foreign firms (which can have workforces in the hundreds of thousands).

"I'd say this is a small blip right now. But it has the opportunity to become a serious market niche, as much as 15 to 20 percent at some point," Hira says.

The key will be for U.S. companies to grow beyond employing hundreds, says Hira. That goal faces hurdles such as tax incentives that unintentionally favor 'offshoring' by allowing companies to retain their profits untaxed overseas, he says.

"I've been approached by multiple other cities in the country that are looking at this as a kind of a case study: can this be done?," says Klain.

Klain will open the doors of his new Bronx technology center in March. He has 15 clients lined up, and hopes to initially hire 150 people — and eventually, 450. Also, he says start-ups have already approached him about leasing space in his new center. A small sign that his hoped-for urban renewal of the South Bronx just might come to fruition.

Kraft aims at discount shoppers with Velveeta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:00

The food business is in transition, with mega-brands such as Kraft, General Mills, and Campbell Soup struggling to hold on to market share at mainstream grocery stores. Shoppers are increasingly gravitating up-market to gourmet 'fresh-format' stores, and down-market to booming discount chains such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

It’s in the latter category that these companies see the most potential for growth as low-income, immigrant and young shoppers look for deep bargains in the post-recession economy.

For instance, Kraft’s Velveeta individual cheese-sauce servings haven't been selling well in traditional groceries. But the company decided not to pull them from the market because they do extremely well in discount dollar-stores because of their low price-point.

“The growth in the industry is really in dollar- and limited-assortment stores,” says Jim Hertel at grocery consultancy Willard Bishop. "And it's in more upscale types of food retailers, like Whole Foods."

Kraft's flagship brands—like Oscar Mayer, Kool Aid, Maxwell House, and Velveeta—aren't likely to be taken up by upscale consumers. But Michael Stern, co-author of the Roadfood.com books about American vernacular cuisine, who also appears as a regular commentator on public radio's ‘The Splendid Table,” says Velveeta is perfect for penetrating the discount food market.

“It’s cheap, and it’s very easy," Stern says. "I always have Velveeta in my refrigerator. A cheeseburger is not a cheeseburger without Velveeta. It’s so glossy, so smooth."

'Cheap’ and ‘easy’ are two attributes that Jim Hertel says consumers put at a premium when filling their shopping carts at discount stores.

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