National News

Supreme Court Blocks Obama Administration Plan On Power Plant Emissions

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 07:24

In a 5-4 ruling, the court says the Environmental Protection Agency should have taken into account the costs of complying with regulation.

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Supreme Court's Decision On Same-Sex Marriage Expected To Boost Health Coverage

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 07:16

Many companies are expected to expand coverage to same-sex spouses if they already offer benefits to opposite-sex spouses. But the recent Supreme Court decision doesn't require them to do so.

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Supreme Court Backs Arizona's Redistricting Commission Targeting Gridlock

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 06:47

Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission was formed 15 years ago, after voters took the power to redraw districts away from the state's Legislature.

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Supreme Court Says Use Of Lethal Injection Drug Is Legal

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 06:09

Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmates argued midazolam does not reliably induce a coma-like sleep, violating the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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Taiwan Water Park Fire Claims First Victim

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 05:10

A woman who suffered burns to 90 percent of her body was taken off the ventilator. Investigators are looking into what caused the powder sprayed from the stage during a performance to catch fire.

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Captured Convict David Sweat In Critical Condition

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 03:40

Sweat and his accomplice, Richard Matt, both convicted murderers, escaped June 6 from a prison in New York. Matt was shot and killed Friday. Sweat was captured Sunday.

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Global Markets Dive As Greek Exit From Eurozone Looms

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 03:05

There are fears a Greek exit from the bloc that uses the euro could have a broad impact on the world's financial system. Greek banks are closed today after the government imposed capital controls.

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Seven Solutions That Would Improve Graduation Rates

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 02:28

We got lots of feedback on our grad rates project. Here are some of the top suggestions.

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Puerto Rico faces debt deadline

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-29 02:24

Puerto Rico is staring down a deadline on July 1st when some of its $72.3 billion in public debt will come due. There’s the $630 million payment on general obligation bonds, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority owes money on its $9 billion debt.  

“They’re reaching the Rubicon now and have to decide how to proceed, debts are coming due, they don’t have the money in the bank to pay them,” says Peter Hakim, president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue. In an interview with the New York Times, Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro García Padilla openly admitted the island is not able to pay its debt. 

Moody’s has rated Puerto Rico’s debt at CAA2, one of the lowest ratings the agency can give — On a 21 level scale, CAA2 is third from the bottom and considered ‘junk’ status.

“It indicates a high risk of default and significant expected losses for bond holders,” says Ted Hampton, Vice President and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investor Service.

Moody’s downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt a month ago, driven by disclosures the commonwealth had made about its declining cash reserves and the potential that if it couldn’t sell more debt it would run out of cash this summer. 

“The house of representatives passed a measure that would suspend the practice of setting aside the money they need to pay future bond service,” says Hampton. "That’s an indicator of severe distress and lack of liquidity, even if that law is not enacted.”

Charles Blitzer, principal at Blitzer Consulting and a former IMF official, sees some potential for a turnaround. “I’ve seen many distressed sovereigns suffering from fiscal crises in my career and I would say this is the most stress for least fundamental reasons,” he says. “This can be solved without too much effort.”

The government raised the sales tax in May from 7 percent to 11.5 percent, though that won’t help with the July 1st deadline as revenues won’t come in until late in July. 

While most investors have abandoned the territory, Puerto Rico is negotiating right now with hedge funds for loans to keep its budget afloat.

Some proposals involve raising electricity bills, and one lawmaker has warned of massive furloughs of government workers. This has left Puerto Ricans swimming in uncertainty.

Christina Sumaza is an entrepreneur who moved back to the territory to pursue business interests and fight the exodus of talent from the island. “I try to look at the positive side of things and be solutions oriented, but a lot of people are very very frustrated and scared even. Can the government sustain itself economically for the next few months, you know what’s going to happen?”

Puerto Rico’s troubles have several origins. In 2006 a U.S. tax break  that incentivized manufacturers to produce in the territory expired. “At one time about half of all pharmaceuticals used in the U.S. were manufactured in Puerto Rico,” says Peter Hakem. “When Washington decided to phase out that tax free situation, by the end of it the companies were leaving Puerto Rico and unemployment jumped very high very quickly.”

Hakem says government leaders in Puerto Rico have not been held accountable for economic management because so much economic power and support derives from Washington.

The territory borrowed to finance current expenditures, and combined with the recession found itself having difficulty repaying those debts. 

Afghanistan increases opium production

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime says in a new report that global opium production has reached record levels not seen since the 1930s, mainly due to increased cultivation in Afghanistan.

Thomas Pietschmann, co-author of the UN report, says it is meant as a warning that the world is sitting on vast amounts of opium, not all of which has reached drug users.

That opium could make its way to the streets of Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia over the next few years and increase the number of deaths related to opium and heroin, which is also derived from the opium poppy plant.

The main reason for the increased opium yield is instability in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are pressuring farmers to grow the plant.

"Taliban has used it to fuel many of its activities. It's one of its main sources of revenue, says Michael Kugelman, senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

"Farmers in Afghanistan ... are pressured, intimidated and threatened by violence ... if they don't keep up with poppy production," Kugelman says.

With most foreign troops now out of Afghanistan, especially since the end of 2014, and instability growing, farmers are also increasingly planting opium poppies for their own economic survival. 

It is a practice they have employed for decades, despite $8 billion in efforts by the U.S. to reduce opium cultivation. Pietschmann says those efforts in Afghanistan worked, at first, by convincing farmers to plant other crops. Some farmers switched crops by being shown that they could still make money planting other crops. 

"It's a really market-driven approach, but at the same time, really helping and assisting the farmers to change their mindset," Pietschmann says.

But, he says, that approach needs stability, which is something Afghanistan currently lacks.

Video cameras spread to more workplaces

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.

Those tiny video cameras, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.

“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”

Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”

Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room.

“What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid, and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”

Lew Maltby at the National Workrights Institute says video monitoring shouldn’t be over used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work settings where they may be vulnerable. For instance, video cameras could be used to protect civilians from racially biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, and young kids from abusive teachers.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” Maltby says. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”

In a novel application, mounted video cameras are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).

Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches, so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port,” he says.

Pettinger says the cameras will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.

Video-cams spread to more and more workplaces

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days, as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.

Those tiny video-cams, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.

“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast-food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate, to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”

Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”

Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room. “What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”

Lew Maltby at the Workrights Institute says video-monitoring shouldn’t be over-used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work-settings where they may be vulnerable: for instance, to protect civilians from the racially-biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, young kids from abusive teachers.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” says Maltby. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”

In a novel application, mounted video-cams are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).

Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon, and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches,” says Pettinger, “so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port.”

Pettinger says the cams will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel, to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.

Video-cams spread to more and more workplaces

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days, as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.

Those tiny video-cams, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.

“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast-food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate, to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”

Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”

Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room. “What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”

Lew Maltby at the Workrights Institute says video-monitoring shouldn’t be over-used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work-settings where they may be vulnerable: for instance, to protect civilians from the racially-biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, young kids from abusive teachers.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” says Maltby. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”

In a novel application, mounted video-cams are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).

Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon, and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches,” says Pettinger, “so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port.”

Pettinger says the cams will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel, to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.

McDonald's on a McBike

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-29 01:54
$72.3 billion

That's the amount of debt facing Puerto Rico, with a deadline of July 1st to pay some of what is due. In an interview with the New York Times, Puerto Rico's Gov. Alejandro García Padilla openly admitted the island is not able to pay. Several factors have contributed to the current situation, including the expiration of a tax break in 2006 that caused many pharmaceutical companies to leave the country, increasing unemployment in its wake.

350

At least that many companies filed amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the Washington Post. That legal procedure might have more of an impact, but the real risk for businesses actually came Friday, when they publicly celebrated the ruling on Twitter. As Wonkblog notes, the fact that so many brands risked alienating customers opposed to same-sex marriages says a lot about how public opinion has changed. 

$8 billion

That's how much the U.S. has pumped into efforts to discourage opium growth in Afghanistan. Yet a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says global opium production is at an all time high, largely because of Afghan farmers increasingly relying on the crop for economic stability. Faced with pressure from the Taliban, who use much of the revenue, the farmers have planted more and more opium poppy plants to meet the demand.

780,000

That's about how many commercial janitor businesses there are in the U.S. Nearly all of them are just one person, but a few are huge multibillion dollar corporations. Janitors work alone through the night and are often hired under layers of subcontracting. A yearlong investigation from Reveal, Frontline, Univision, UC Berkley and KQED found the conditions are ripe for exploitation, harassment and sexual abuse from supervisors, and victims are unwilling or unable to speak out.

2

The number of markets McDonald's is testing new bike-friendly to-go packaging. The "McBike" is designed to hang from your handlebars and it holds a burger, fry and small drink. Looking for a #HotTake on this bid for young, environmentally conscious fast-food fans? The Verge has you covered.

6 Black Churches In 5 Southern States Burn, Investigators Probe

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 01:05

Authorities are investigating fires that have damaged or destroyed black churches in South Carolina and nearby states following the murder of nine people at Charleston's Emanuel A.M.E. Church.

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Cruz: Opposition To Same-Sex Marriage Will Be 'Front And Center' In 2016 Campaign

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 01:00

As a result of the Supreme Court's two landmark decisions last week, Cruz is calling for justices to be subject to elections and lose their lifetime appointments.

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Can Technology Ease The Burden Of Caring For People With Dementia?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-29 00:15

Things like activity trackers and sensors might make it easier to keep people with dementia safe and help caregivers. Researchers are going to test that idea in the real world.

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Vaccine Against Meningitis B Gets A Boost From CDC

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-28 23:28

A federal health advisory committee now says everyone aged 16 to 23 should talk to a doctor about whether they need to get immunized against a rare but dangerous strain of meningitis.

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Economic Crisis Looms For Puerto Rico, Report Says

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-28 19:18

A report obtained by NPR paints a bleak portrait of Puerto Rico's economic future, saying its deficit is much larger than previously thought.

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Bassist Chris Squires, Who Co-Founded Yes, Dies At 67

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-28 19:06

Chris Squire, the bassist and co-founder of the progressive rock band Yes who recently announced he had leukemia, has died, according to a statement from his band members on Sunday. He was 67.

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