National News

Philadelphia Judge Denies Former Nazi Guard Bail

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 10:31

Johann "Hans" Breyer, 89, is awaiting extradition to Germany. His defense lawyers argued he is in poor health. A hearing to extradite him to Germany is scheduled for Aug. 21.

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He Never Really Liked Soccer Until He Made A Movie About It

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 10:23

Juan Rendon was not a fan. Then he co-directed This Is Not a Ball, a documentary that took him to the slums of Brazil and to an amputee league in Sierra Leone.

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Dress Codes Are Open To Interpretation — And A Lot Of Contention

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 10:17

Recent incidents of customers being denied access to nightspots in Minneapolis and Austin have sparked conversation anew about the meaning and intent behind dress codes.

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Why We Published A Photo Of A 16-Year-Old In A Diaper

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 09:44

Readers responded strongly to our series about caregiving, especially one photo of a father caring for his son with cerebral palsy. Some said it was demeaning. Others said it revealed great love.

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Jeans 'Designed' By Lions And Tigers To Benefit Japanese Zoo

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 09:43

Three pairs of jeans "distressed" by lions and tigers are up on the block at an online auction to benefit the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi City.

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Wham! McIlroy Tees Off, Reaches Green On 436-Yard Hole

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 09:43

On the first day of the Scottish Open, Rory McIlroy sets a course record at Royal Aberdeen, with the help of an epic drive.

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What happens when you try to become an NYC Lyft driver

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 09:28

Among the more befuddling facial hair choices to show up in Brooklyn lately (and, believe me, there are quite a few out there) is a new one -- the pink mustache. But these peculiarities won't be worn by tattooed graphic designers riding their fixed gear bicycles to the artisanal mayonnaise store. Starting Friday, they'll start adorning the fronts of cars throughout the borough and neighboring Queens as Lyft begins offering limited service in New York.

Lyft is one of a number of startups disrupting -- and upsetting -- the taxi industry. 

This week in New York, that disruption was on full display as the city’s Taxi and License Commission declared the ride-sharing service “unauthorized” and Lyft reportedly said it would start up in Brooklyn and Queens anyway.

Unlike Uber, which mostly focuses on connecting you with a professional driver, Lyft bills itself as more of a peer-to-peer ride-sharing program that connects regular people who are just trying to make some extra money. Lyft is often compared to Airbnb, the peer-to-peer home rental service. But there's one crucial difference. Unlike Airbnb, Lyft vets its drivers by running extensive background checks to avoid, say, scenarios where Lyft passengers get driven to all-night orgies.

So what’s it take to sign up? It’s remarkably easy. So easy, in fact, it seemed like just the sort of stunt that could turn into a Marketplace web story. And why shouldn’t I sign up? As a 28-year-old freelance public radio producer living in Brooklyn, I should fit right in with Lyft’s Just Folks Looking For Extra Cash fleet of drivers.

After entering my name, email address, and telephone number, Lyft texted me a confirmation code that brought me to the next step online. Here, I was asked for information about my car. Right, about my car… 

Like most people my age in Brooklyn who have never made enough money in a year to owe taxes, I don’t own a car and never have. But why should that stop me? This is the internet, the place for lies and misrepresentation. I entered in that I was the owner of a 2010 4-door Honda Accord. (Lyft vehicles must be fours doors and model year 2000 or newer.) That seemed to me to be a “realistic” choice for someone like me. I could really see it, too. The side mirror would be held on with duct tape, and the inside would be strewn with garbage. It would probably be navy blue, not because I like that color, but because that seems to be the color of most 2010 Accords. Why not choose a less modest option, like say a new Audi? Don’t ask me, but I’m sure my therapist would have a lot to say about it.

Unfortunately, this is where my ride share fantasy crashed into the concrete wall of reality, resulting in fatality. Lyft drivers are are required to at least 21 years old, have a valid license, personal insurance that meets or exceeds state minimums, and a clean driving record. As someone who doesn’t own a car, only three of those four things are true of me. So I called up Lyft to get some more information.

It can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for Lyft drivers to get that pink mustache. During that time, their cars are put through a 19-point inspection test while Lyft runs a background check. Prior convictions for things like felonies, theft, violent crimes, sexual offenses, drug-related offenses, DUIs, or extreme driving infractions get you automatically taken out of consideration. (For the record, I totally would have passed this background check. I swear.)

Beyond that, Lyft has other ways of ensuring that its drivers aren't crazy.

"Any passenger should feel very safe getting into a Lyft knowing that not only has Lyft conducted extensive background and safety checks on the driver and his or her vehicle, but that the driver has maintained high ratings from other passenger community members after every ride," says Katie Dally from Lyft's communications department. "Because all rides are matched through the app -- street hails are not allowed on the Lyft platform -- trips are GPS-tracked."

Drivers are paid "donations" in some markets. Lyft says drivers keep 80 percent of those donations, plus 100 percent of any tips on top of that. Making the service donation-based also conveniently helps Lyft avoid local taxes, laws, and regulations in some instances.

Ranking the drivers helps Lyft root out any issues with drivers or their cars. Dally told me that the company always contacts drivers in instances of low ratings or donations. I suppose it's good to know the company is willing to hear your side of the story, especially when you're a driver who is encouraged to greet passengers with a fist bump and invite them to sit in the front seat to have a conversation. (What possibly could go wrong in that situation?)

But back to that pink mustache, officially known as the "Carstache" at Lyft. I couldn't help but wonder, whose responsibility is it to keep it groomed? Leave it to a tech company to have a high-tech solution to something that looks like a skinned Muppet strapped to the grill of your car. Dally said the current iteration of the Carstache, the Carstache 2.0, is made of something Lyft has dubbed "superfur" that is "resistant to sun fading, snow, rain, and other materials that might cross its path." Including, if the below video is to be believed, ranch dressing.

Ebola 101: The Facts Behind A Frightening Virus

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 09:22

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest and deadliest on record. But many may not understand how the virus works, how painful the symptoms are, and why some victims are able to recover.

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Samsung Faces Allegation That A Chinese Supplier Used Child Labor

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 09:10

But the South Korean electronics company's own recent report on conditions at about 100 Chinese suppliers' factories found no child labor, though it did find other violations.

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Twitter Turns World Cup Into A 'Global Sports Bar'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 08:39

The Brazil vs. Germany World Cup semifinal created more activity on Twitter than any other sporting event had. Host Michel Martin learns about how social media has changed the tournament experience.

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Nigeria Schoolgirls Still Missing, President Seems Detached

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 08:39

More than 60 women and girls escaped Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria this week. Host Michel Martin catches up on the latest news from the country with the BBC's Tomi Oladipo.

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In Central America, Attempts To Cross U.S. Border Like 'Feeding Frenzy'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 08:39

Thousands of Central American children are crossing the border and ending up in detention facilities. Host Michel Martin learns more about why so many children are fleeing Central America.

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A Snapshot Of Indonesia: The Country Behind The Election

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 08:29

In the wake of the highly contested presidential election in Indonesia, we look at the country's health and development profile.

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Number Of Registered Democrats In W.Va. Drops To Historic Low

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 08:27

Republicans still trail by a wide margin in party registration, but the percentage of Democrats in West Virginia is lower than 50 percent for the first time in more than 80 years.

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HBO And 'Game Of Thrones' Haul In The Most Emmy Nominations

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 07:35

HBO got 99 nominations for the 2014 Emmy Awards, the most of any network. HBO's Game of Thrones got 19 nominations, one ahead of FX's miniseries Fargo.

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Germany Asks Top U.S. Spy In Country To Leave

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 07:31

The move comes in the wake of two cases of espionage allegedly involving the U.S. and amid the fallout from the mass surveillance of Germans by the National Security Agency.

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The difference a half second makes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 07:00

A new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago calls for change in the world of high-frequency trading, where firms use superfast computers and connections to buy and sell. Fed senior policy adviser John McPartland is only the latest to weigh in on a debate about the pros and cons of high-frequency trading that has drawn in Wall Street, Congress, and regulators. The fight got the attention of a wider audience after the publication of the best-selling Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys.”

The debate may sound like fodder for Wall Street alone, but it has broad implications for all Americans. Few trade stocks on a regular basis, but many are counting on a pension or 401(k) to be there for them later in life. The companies that manage America’s retirement money deal with the speed trading issue daily, and they disagree whether it’s good or bad overall. Supporters credit high-speed technology with enabling cheaper trading for large and small investors alike. Critics say that same technology is now being used to take advantage of investors.

Among the changes the Chicago Fed paper proposes is to divide trading sessions into half second periods. That’s fast for humans, but a relative lifetime for powerful computers. The hope is that a move like this could end the growing arms race between companies to create ever faster computers and data connections. Variations on this idea have been proposed before, including a 2013 paper from researchers at University of Chicago and University of Maryland recommending a similar policy, with a few key differences.

“That enormously simplifies the market because the incentive to race is gone,” says Peter Cramton, University of Maryland economics professor and a co-author of the earlier study.

Slower and simpler would seem to go hand in hand. But some question whether such a system is feasible in the contemporary financial markets, where trading happens across a myriad of different public and private venues.

“There are some definite advantages to it,” says University of Houston finance professor Craig Pirrong. “My concern is when you have multiple exchanges operating the same way, it’s a very complex interaction.”

High-frequency trading is a deeply complex and polarizing topic, with some of the loudest voices dug into hardened positions, each side waving fistfuls of data and academic studies at the other. Today’s discussion is far from the last word.

Mark Garrison: This debate matters to you. Even if you don’t trade stocks for a living, you’ve probably got a pension or 401(k). Companies managing your retirement money deal with the speed trading issue daily, and they disagree whether it’s good or bad overall. One side points to cheaper trading enabled by high-speed technology. Critics say that same technology is now being used to take advantage of investors. In this new paper, a Fed senior policy adviser calls for trading in half second periods. That’s fast for humans, but a lifetime for computers.

Craig Pirrong: The idea is that there’s too much racing going on, that there’s too much need for speed and this will cut down on that.

University of Houston finance professor Craig Pirrong says a move like this could be positive, but making it work everywhere trading happens would be tricky. Today’s call from the Fed is the latest in a long and sometimes nasty debate, made more prominent following the best-selling Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys.” But it won’t be the last word. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Singapore Anti-Gambling Council Loses Big On World Cup Ad

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 06:43

The country's National Council on Problem Gambling has been airing a cautionary spot featuring a boy whose father wagers his son's savings on Germany.

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Israel's Netanyahu Says No Cease-Fire In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 06:28

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a cease-fire with Hamas is "not even on the agenda," as the U.N. Security Council prepared for a special session on the renewed violence.

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