National News

GDP Posts Strong 3.5 Percent Growth Rate In 3rd Quarter

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 08:15

The economy performed better-than-expected in the July-September period, after making a 4.6 percent jump in the second quarter of the year.

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Apps Aim To Guide You On 'Sustainable Food' (Whatever That Means)

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 08:04

Consumers who care about how their food is produced have a growing number of apps they can turn to at the supermarket. The problem? Nailing down just what sustainability means when it comes to food.

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In North Dakota, the oil boom changes politics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 07:44

North Dakota has always been a friendly, easy place to vote. It is the only state in the country without voter registration, and precincts are small enough that poll volunteers often recognize the people who come through the door.

"It’s kind of like a reunion," said Bonnie Fix, who has worked elections since 2001. "Kind of like a family picnic."

Running for office in North Dakota has historically been equally low-key – and low budget, with winning candidates for state offices raising less than a few thousand dollars each. But the oil boom has changed all that. The 2014 election cycle looks like it will be the most expensive ever in state history, with over $17 million in campaign contributions.

"It’s gotten ugly," said Jim Fuglie, the former head of the Democratic Party in North Dakota and a political commentator. "We’ve never had an industry this big, with this much money, have this much influence on an election."

Fuglie believes the tone of politics has changed, too, and points to negative campaign ads like the one calling the Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, Ryan Taylor, a "tree-hugger."

The ad, which ran on commercial radio stations leading up to the election, was paid for by a local political action committee or PAC, funded by the national Republican State Leadership Committee. Some of its top donors are oil and gas companies like Devon Energy and ExxonMobil.

Between PACs, trade groups and corporations, the oil and gas industry has spent $1.3 million on the 2014 election in North Dakota, according to data from the North Dakota Secretary of State. Some races matter more to the industry than others - like the Agriculture Commissioner race.  While the title sounds irrelevant to oil and gas, as one of three officials who sit on the state's Industrial Commissin,  the agriculture commissioner has a lot of power to regulate the oil and gas industry.

So far, the oil and gas industry has kicked in $73,000 to support Republican Doug Goehring - about a quarter of all the money he's raised. They're worried that if Taylor, the Democratic challenger, wins, he’ll slow the pace of development.

"The oil and gas industry has been somewhat successful in characterizing any questioning of the speed as potentially threatening everything," said Nicholas Kusnetz, a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity who’s written extensively on the industry’s influence on politics in North Dakota.

Another issue, however, has attracted even more money, both from the oil and gas industry and others: The North Dakota Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment, also known as Measure 5. Measure 5 would create a constitutional amendment setting aside five percent of the oil extraction tax for conservation projects. Even though it doesn’t create new taxes, the oil and gas industry strongly opposes it.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said oil companies want to see as much money as possible go directly to the boomtowns, fixing roads and building schools and housing. "The more oil tax money going back to those communities helps to attract and retain workforce," he said.

The American Petroleum Institute has also weighed in, calling Measure 5 "a disservice to the state's economy and its residents." To help defeat it, API has spent over a million dollars on yard signs, magnets and a website. And it’s sponsoring phone calls. Carmen Miller is the director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, a conservation group backing Measure 5.  She knows about the anti-Measure 5 phone bank, because she received a call.

"If you’re calling the proponents of the measure, you must be calling just about every phone number in the state," she said.

But it's not just oil and gas companies that are spending heavily on this election. National conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy have kicked in a combined $4.8 million to support Measure 5. Miller wouldn't comment on whether proponents of Measure 5 had planned to spend that much initially, or if they had upped their spending in response to oil industry donations. But four days after American Petroleum Institute spent its million to defeat the measure, The Nature Conservancy chipped in $600,000.

Democrat Ryan Taylor has raised nearly $300,000 for his campaign to become Agriculture Commissioner -- about a quarter from out-of-state donors. That's more than twice as much as the winning candidate raised in 2006.

For Bob Harms, the chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, the  levels of spending are indicative of how much money is now flowing into state coffers. The state gets about $9 million every day in oil tax revenue.

"We have more money to fight over," he said, "and we have more money to fight with."

Quiz: They come to win - and graduate?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 07:27

Division I student-athletes who enrolled in 2007 graduated at a higher rate than previous classes, according to the NCAA.

What was the Graduation Success Rate of Division I student-athletes who enrolled in 2007?

The NCAA uses its own metric called the Graduation Success Rate, which tracks student-athletes over six years, but does not factor in those who transfer from a university in good academic standing. The Department of Education's graduation rate scores transfers as students who failed to graduate from their original institution.

The NCAA started using the GSR in 2003, and it is typically higher than federal graduation rates. Critics say the GSR can be manipulated.

Compared to the federal graduation rate, how much higher was the GSR for student-athletes who started in 2007?

The GSR for football players rose to nearly 75 percent, a record for the sport. Use the NCAA search tool to see GSR breakdowns for specific universities and teams.

Which sport had the highest GSR?

The NCAA released its upbeat survey just after an independent investigation of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that between 1993 and 2011 more than 3,100 students enrolled in classes that did not require attendance or course work. Almost half of those enrolled in the fake classes were student-athletes.

The majority of student-athletes who took fake classes at UNC Chapel Hill played which sport?

Apple's Tim Cook In Rare Company As Publicly Gay Chief Executive

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 07:23

In an essay for Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook comes out by saying he's proud to be gay and his silence was a matter of personal privacy. Two other publicly traded U.S. companies have publicly gay CEOs.

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Palestinians Condemn Closure Of Disputed Religious Site In Jerusalem

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 07:15

Israel closed the Temple Mount, holy to both Muslims and Jews, following an assassination attempt against a Jewish activist who wants Jews to be able to pray at the site. The site will be open Friday.

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Why It's OK To Worry About Ebola, And What's Truly Scary

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 06:58

Public health officials are telling us not to freak out about Ebola in the United States. But fear is what motivates people to protect themselves from danger. When should we worry?

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Maine's Gov. Threatens Legal Action To Force Nurse Into Quarantine

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 06:24

Kaci Hickox, who tested negative for Ebola and says she is asymptomatic, defied Gov. Paul LePage by setting off on a morning bike ride with her boyfriend.

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Moving Past The Password, But At What Cost?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 05:28

Apps working with a new Twitter service would simply ask for your phone number instead of a password. In exchange, the company would get some of the most valuable information about you.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Comes Out As Gay

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 05:04

The head of the world's most iconic technology company says that although his sexual orientation has been no secret among friends and colleagues, now is the time to publicly acknowledge it.

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New rules from the U.S. Department of Education

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 05:00

On Thursday, the U.S. Education Department issues new rules designed to address rising indebtedness and high default rates among graduates of for-profit vocational college programs. A new standard for graduates' loan-payments-to-income will penalize schools that fail to measure up, threatening them with exclusion from government student loan and grant programs, including Pell Grants for low-income students and education benefits under the GI bill.

The government provides $22 billion annually to support so-called ‘gainful employment’ post-secondary education programs, according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Kai Ryssdal will interview Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Listen to the show, or check back here for the podcast later this afternoon.

This includes training in culinary arts, truck-driving, IT, health care, auto repair and the like. Under the new rules to be issued Thursday, schools will risk being cut off from government student-assistance programs unless a typical graduate’s loan payment is less than 20 percent of their discretionary income, or 8 percent of their total earnings.

An earlier draft rule also would have set a standard for graduates’ student-loan default rates; default rates for graduates of for-profit colleges are considered excessively high by education advocates and the Obama Administration. Default rates will be tracked and publicly reported under the new rules, but won’t be a criterion for punishing schools and excluding them from government loan and grant programs.

In a statement emailed to Marketplace, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit higher-education providers, rejected the new regulations as a "bad-faith attempt to cut off access to education for millions of students who have been historically underserved by higher education," according to CEO Steve Gunderson.

"In this case, the Department favored public institutions that benefit from generous taxpayer operational subsidies, but have lower graduation rates and higher default rates, over programs at private sector institutions where graduates are achieving real earning gains and successfully repaying their loans," according to the statement.

The industry has been critical of the Education Department for allegedly favoring publicly-funded community colleges over for-profit colleges that specialize in career training.

Consumer advocates also criticized the revised regulations that the Education Department has settled on.

“The final gainful employment regulation does not do enough to stop the fleecing of students and taxpayers," said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of The Institute for College Access & Success, in an emailed statement. “In particular, the final regulation lets programs where most students borrow but few graduate keep using taxpayer dollars to bury students in debt they can’t repay, so long as they limit the debt of the few students who complete.”

Navajo Nation Presidential Candidate Suspends Campaign

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 04:36

After the latest in a flurry of decisions on whether his lack of fluency in the Navajo language disqualifies him from the presidential ballot, Chris Deschene's candidacy is now in limbo.

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VIDEO: You Don't Know Jack-O'-Lanterns

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 04:25

Explore the guts and glory of pumpkin science with Skunk Bear's latest video.

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Angry Mob Sets Fire To Parliament In Burkina Faso

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 03:41

Angered at an impending vote to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year-old rule, protesters also reportedly set fire to the ruling party's headquarters in the capital, Ouagadougou.

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Tunisia's Secularists Victorious In Parliamentary Vote

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 03:09

The Nidda Tounes (Tunisia Calls) party won just under 40 percent of the seats, beating out the ruling Islamist Ennahda party.

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PODCAST: Bring your own device

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 03:00

First, economic growth in America. GDP was quite solid as the summer wore on. More on that. And one of the most influential business tycoons in the world has come out publicly as gay: Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. We spoke with actor and social justice advocate George Takei about the importance of Cook's Op-ed. Plus, passengers increasingly bring their own entertainment with them aboard flights...on their mobile devices. Now, airlines are responding, possibly with a policy of BYOD: bring your own device.

What midterm election results could mean for budgets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 03:00

In five days, the polls will be open. And with gains for Republicans predicted but not assured, we turn to a person who tracks the future of the federal budget like a gearhead follows cars. 

Stan Collender contributes to Forbes, and once upon a time was a staffer for both the House and Senate Budget Committees. He joined host David Brancaccio to discuss what a Republican majority would mean for budget cuts in Washington.

Click the media player above to hear Stan Collender in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Quiz: Bonuses not quick to bounce back

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 02:30

Signing bonuses for new college grads nearly disappeared after the recession but are slowly becoming more common, according to a Michigan State University survey of employers.

What percentage of employers offer signing bonuses to new college graduates?

In-flight entertainment's future may be on your tablet

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 02:00

Airlines have noticed that people increasingly bring their own entertainment with them onboard, on their mobile devices. That means the nature of in-flight entertainment is changing, too.

In fact, the future of in-flight entertainment could be BYOD: bring your own device.

Airline consultant Jay Sorensen sees a lot of people doing that already.  

“Before they get on the airplane, they’re gonna load up their device,” says Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks Company. “They’ll get caught up on all the past episodes of House of Cards onboard the airplane.”

That’s why airlines like Delta and United have invested in systems that stream in-flight entertainment straight to your mobile device. They see economy class passengers bypassing their seat-back screens. And they’re not alone.

Doing away with seat-back screens altogether would be lighter and cheaper for airlines, which Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group says already pay a lot for content.

“The movies and TV shows and music that we watch and listen to aren’t provided free,” he says. “Airlines license that. And it can cost them several millions of dollars a year, per airline.”

If all this TV-watching threatens to drain your battery, don’t worry. Harteveldt says airlines are also installing more plugs. 

The high cost of principal turnover

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 02:00

Heather Wolpert-Gawron has been teaching for eleven years at Jefferson Middle School in San Gabriel, Calif. During that time, she says, the school has had about ten principals.

“We had many years where the morale was low,” she says. “We just kind of felt abandoned.”

Some of those principals left on their own. Some were removed. According to a new report from the nonprofit School Leaders Network, half of new principals quit in their third year on the job.

The group, which provides training and support to principals, says the job has become too complex and isolating. Principals put in long hours overseeing teachers, meeting with parents and implementing one reform after another.

“It’s very demanding and you’re being pulled in different directions, so it really makes it difficult for you to focus on being an instructional leader,” says Connie Rodriguez, who left her position as a junior high school principal in San Antonio, Texas, after three years.

It costs about $75,000 to recruit and train each replacement, says Mariah Cone, vice president of knowledge with the School Leaders Network. The cost to student achievement is higher, she says, with studies showing that both math and English test scores drop when a principal leaves.

“It takes up to three to five years for the next principal to really be able to show gains,” Cone says.

If the next principal lasts that long. Cone says ongoing mentoring and training might help more of them stay longer.

 

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