National News

Legal Battle Looms Over Florida Congressional Districts

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:15

A judge ruled that maps for two congressional districts were drawn in a way that violates the state constitution. But can maps be redrawn in time for the midterm election three months away?

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In Asheville, N.C., Summer Vacation Lasts Just A Few Weeks

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:15

Can year-round school spell the end of the "summer slide" for disadvantaged kids?

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Rubio: Small Government Can Help Fix Economic Inequality

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:15

The Florida Republican, with one eye on the White House, tells NPR's Morning Edition that there's a role for government to play in opening access to higher education and job training.

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Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:15

It's been tough to identify the problems that only turn up after medicines are on the market. An experimental project is now combing through data to get earlier, more accurate warnings.

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The Youth Unemployment Crisis Hits African-Americans Hardest

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:15

Hidden economic forces like job-specific segregation are keeping young minorities out of the job market.

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Next To Silicon Valley, Nonprofits Draw Youth Of Color Into Tech

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:15

Programs like Hack the Hood try to help young people in Oakland, Calif., find a gateway into the high-tech industry — and out of "dead-end" jobs.

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Jobs, like water, always seem to run downhill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 01:00

Did you hear the one about the American furniture factory that was able keep jobs in America despite intense competition from low-wage China?

I was just talking to newspaper reporter Beth Macy about her new book “Factory Man,” the story of a fierce American furniture tycoon named John Bassett III who went on a mission to China to see where all his furniture jobs were going.

His detective work paid off: In China, he learned a piece of information that turned out to be a powerful tool that kept his factory in Virginia open, his people employed, and an Appalachian town thriving. Macy reveals Bassett’s weapon of choice in this battle against offshoring and I’d hate to spoil it here.

That said, moving jobs to spots where labor is cheaper and unions are weaker is a process that has endured in the US labor market throughout the last quarter century. Talking to Macy, I was struck by the sense that outsourcing never seems to come to rest. Jobs move, then move away again.

Staying with the furniture business for a moment, let’s consider New England (something I like to do as a New Englander). As Macy points out, New England used to be a major hub for furniture manufacturing. A lot those jobs went to the Midwest, but only for a while.

John Bassett’s grandfather and grandmother came along early last century, looked carefully at those Michigan furniture factories and figured out a way to move the work south, to North Carolina and Virginia. They brought manufacturing efficiencies that helped ensure the success of the new factories. What also helped was the tendency of people in Appalachia to work cheaper. 

Then, when China got most-favored nation trade status and joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the jobs moved to China, Mr. Bassett’s heroic efforts became an exception to a rule.  

Yet the jobs are not staying in China, Macy points out. Many companies have moved on to the current center of the furniture universe: Indonesia, where wood is available and labor is cheaper still.

Late in the book, Macy writes about flying to Indonesia and talking with a local furniture sample engineer. Macy asks him if he ever spared a thought for the Appalachian furniture makers his Indonesian operation replaced (no, he doesn’t). But then the engineer volunteers something he does worry about: the future of his own factory. 

“I worry about someone somewhere else, somewhere cheaper will start to make furniture, and that will be that for us,” Macy quotes him as saying.

Where could furniture companies find labor cheaper than in Indonesia? Maybe sub-Saharan Africa some day, then offshore further still to the island of Madagascar, for instance. Regardless, at some point the whole world will be globalized and companies will not find a cheaper place to find workers to build furniture, or where a worker could feel secure.

Yet I wonder if that is not the final fate of offshoring at all. Once the world economy runs out of cheaper and cheaper labor, you know who will get the work? Not humans, but machines. There will be robots to do the work of building furniture. Technology, not geography, is probably what lies at the very end of the offshoring food chain. 

Appreciating James Garner: TV's Best Unhero

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 12:41

James Garner, star of classic TV shows Maverick and The Rockford Files, died Saturday at age 86. TV critic Eric Deggans says he pioneered playing a new character: the "unhero."

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When Defending Your Writing Becomes Defending Yourself

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 11:33

When the subject of race comes up in his MFA writing workshop, author Matthew Salesses says, it usually feels traumatic — a burden personal to writers of color.

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45 Years Ago, Armstrong Took His 'One Small Step'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 08:40

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11's Lunar Module, Eagle, touched down in the moon's Sea of Tranquility, marking humankind's first journey to another world.

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Kicking The Can Down The Road: A Habit That's Hard To Kick

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 07:47

Congress can't come up with an agreement to pay for road repairs and construction over the long haul, but like a road crew filling a pothole, they do seem to have a patch at hand.

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Kicking The Can Down The Road: A Habit That's Hard To Kick

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 07:47

Congress can't come up with an agreement to pay for road repairs and construction over the long haul, but like a road crew filling a pothole, they do seem to have a patch at hand.

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James Garner Of 'Rockford Files' And 'Maverick' Dies At 86

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:48

Garner was known for wise-cracking, tough-guy characters who were not afraid to bend the rules. NPR's Arun Rath talks with biographer Jon Winokur about the actor's prolific career.

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R.J. Reynolds Vows Appeal Of $23 Billion Cancer-Death Verdict

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:21

The nation's No. 2 tobacco manufacturer was slapped with the whopping punitive damages award in the death of a 36-year-old man of lung cancer in 1996.

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As Polar Icebox Shrinks, Infectious Pathogens Move North

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:14

Science writer Chris Solomon tells NPR's Arun Rath that global warming has caused an influx of new diseases in animals that could eventually spread to humans.

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Should NATO Respond To Downing Of Malaysia Flight 17?

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:14

Former Navy Adm. James Stavridis tells NPR's Arun Rath what steps the alliance might take in response to the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.

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Putin May Be Key To Malaysian Plane Crash Inspection

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:14

NPR's Arun Rath talks to Wall Street Journal reporter James Marson about Vladimir Putin's response to mounting international anger at Russia following the downing of a civilian plane over Ukraine.

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'Transformers' Inspires Chinese Farmer-Artists

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:14

Some Chinese farmers have left their plows and taken to welding giant robot replicas in public spaces. The craze follows release of the new Transformers movie, China's biggest-ever box office hit.

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Facility Sets Up Extreme Precautions To Treat Ebola Patients

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:14

Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is killing dozens by the week. Medical workers have responded by expanding a field hospital, taking extraordinary measures to contain infection.

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Gaza Evacuees Crowd Into Schools Remade As Shelters

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-20 06:14

While Israelis seek refuge from Hamas rockets in ubiquitous shelters, Palestinians crowd into schools to escape Israeli airstrikes. Conditions there grow dire as the conflict drags on.

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