National News

Coffee Art: When A Spill Turns Into A Masterpiece

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 10:39

Ever splashed yourself with coffee? Then you know its staining powers. But where some see a ruined shirt, others have found a canvas.

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Scientists Urge Ban On Salamander Imports To U.S. To Keep Fungus At Bay

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 10:03

The chytrid fungus has wiped out populations of amphibians around the world. A type of the fungus infects only salamanders, and researchers have identified vulnerable areas in North America.

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For Young Voters, Crushing Student Debt Is Front And Center

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 09:58

Megan Brabec, 24, works three part time jobs with no benefits. "It does really frustrate me when I hear candidates talk about, 'Oh, well, you should have majored in something else," she said.

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Randy Garutti on Shake Shack's 'accidental' start

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-30 09:06

Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti hops in line with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal at the restaurant’s original location in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park to talk about how the company evolved from a hot dog cart into a publicly traded international company with more than 70 locations.

Obama Orders Development Of Supercomputer To Rival China's 'Milky Way'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 08:18

It is hoped that the new supercomputer, expected to go online by 2025, would be the first to "exascale" machine — some 20 times faster than today's fastest machine.

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Justice Dept. Hires Compliance Expert In Fight Against Corporate Crime

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 08:16

The department says the new expert will play a big role in determining whether businesses targeted for prosecution have engaged in systemic misconduct or whether the criminal activity is limited.

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3 U.Va. Graduates Sue 'Rolling Stone,' Reporter Over Rape Article

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 08:03

News of the lawsuit by former Phi Kappa Psi members comes along with word that Rolling Stone's managing editor, Will Dana, has resigned.

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How A Beauty Queen With Diabetes Found Her 'Sugar Linings'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 08:02

She didn't know that sporting an insulin pump on her bikini at a beauty pageant would make her an Internet sensation. Sierra Sandison is trying to use that to help others with Type 1 diabetes.

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How To Convince Teen Girls To Stay Away From Sugar Daddies

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 07:09

In Botswana, girls often think an older guy is a great boyfriend. They believe he's less likely to have HIV than a teenager. Plus, he's flush with cash. 'Sugar-daddy classes' are changing their minds.

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Taliban Acknowledge Death Of Leader, Select Successor

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 06:30

Sources within the extremist organization confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who reportedly died in 2013. A gathering of the group's leaders has chosen Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as his successor.

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University Of Cincinnati Officer Pleads Not Guilty To Murder Charge

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 06:17

A judge said because Ray Tensing faces a potential life-in-prison sentence, she was setting his bail at $1 million.

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'Top Gear' Team Signs Deal With Amazon; New Car Show Set For 2016

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 06:02

The trio left the BBC under a cloud, after Jeremy Clarkson's contract was not renewed because of a physical and verbal attack on a show producer.

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Testing By AP Finds Water At 2016 Olympic Sites 'Rife With Human Sewage'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 03:43

The AP commissioned tests over a five month period. Experts who reviewed the results found that not a single venue is fit for swimming or even boating.

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You Say Striped Bass, I Say Rockfish. What's In A Fish Name?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 03:03

Legally, a single fish species can go by many names from sea to plate, and different fish can go by the same name. An environmental group says that hampers efforts to combat illegal fishing and fraud.

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Egypt Postpones Verdict In Trial Of Al Jazeera Journalists

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-30 03:00

The network said it was "outraged" that the court had been adjourned. The three journalists had been jailed for allegedly aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Facebook wants to teach you about diversity

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-30 03:00

Watching Facebook's hourlong presentation on unconscious bias, it's pretty clear that the company execs believe the best solution is asking employees to monitor their own prejudices and to take responsibility for keeping them in check.

“Managing bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive companies — and drive better business results,” writes Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook. In a memo published Tuesday, Sandberg outlines the reasoning behind releasing the company’s bias training videos to the public.

The release of Facebook’s videos is part of a public reckoning and an attempt to show that steps are being taken to improve some of the statistics.

Says Sandberg, “Many people have asked if we’d be willing to share our training outside of Facebook, so today we’re making the presentation part of the course available to anyone.” But as the Wall Street Journal points out, given Facebook’s own challenges with diversity, the company is perhaps not in the best situation to lead by example.

A recent report showed that more than half of the social media network’s staff is white. And as the Guardian writes, of the 1,231 new hires made in 2013, only seven were black. Gender bias also remains an issue — the percentage of male employees actually increased by 1 percent to 68 percent.

It’s part of a larger conversation the tech industry is having about bias in the workplace — a topic that came to a head at this year’s SXSW when Google CEO Eric Schmidt was called out during the audience Q & A for interrupting Megan Smith during their panel on innovation — the audience member who pointed out Schmidt’s unconscious bias was, in fact, Judith Williams, Google's global diversity and talent programs manager.

In one of the training videos, Facebook’s own global director of diversity, Maxine Williams, talks about how a fear of prejudice can result in self-censorship, citing the example of Latina women being stereotyped as hot-headed: “When Sheryl Sandberg teaches this course, she talks about the fact that she cries at work. And she admits that. But she says, ‘You know, if I were Latina, I might not be so prepared to admit that because it’d be playing into the stereotype.’”

Other activities include asking audience members to identify who they would most likely hire based on five short video clips of various people introducing themselves, as well as inviting employee input on how certain biases can be combated in the workplace. Many of the suggestions are on a small scale — divide basic office work duties like note-taking during meetings between men and women, for example.

In her note, Sandberg briefly says that Facebook has a long way to go in terms of diversity, but she concludes, “by helping people recognize and correct for bias, we can take a step towards equality – at work, at home and in everyday life.”

At 50, Medicare spending more on hospice

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-30 02:00

50 years into the Medicare program, the federal health insurance program for Americans 65 and older, one feature of the program has been fairly constant: about 25 percent of spending goes to care in the last year of life. 

“This is actually a statistic that has been remarkably stable from year to year. It hasn't changed very much,” says Tricia Neuman, director of the Medicare Policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Neuman says a small share of Medicare dollars go to hospice care, where sick people choose to forego major medical interventions, instead getting palliative care from a team of caregivers as they near the end of life. 

But she says spending on hospice is on the rise. Neuman says of all the Medicare beneficiaries who died in 2013, half used hospice services.

“And that is a rate that's doubled since the year 2000,” she says.

The savings from hospice are unclear, according to Mike Plotzke, a health economist with ABT Associates. He and other economists studied hospice use among nursing home residents. Their findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, argue that those hospice users actually had higher end of life costs because of lengthy hospice care. 

“These findings give some pause about whether or not hospice is going to save Medicare money or not,” says Plotzke.

Plotzke says given the rapid expansion of the hospice care industry, the costs warrant further study.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are launching a pilot program that would allow Medicare recipients to stay in hospice but still get medical treatments like chemotherapy, which hospice patients otherwise forego.

Angry Birds is back with a vengeance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-30 02:00

Since its release in 2009, the Finnish gaming company Rovio has built an Angry Birds theme park, capitalized on Angry Birds merchandise, and created numerous spin off games like Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Space. 

With its bird slingshot and beef with pigs, Angry Birds blew up the mobile gaming structure and expanded into a cultural phenomenon. Farhad Manjoo, tech columnist at the New York Times, explains its success was because "they got the game mechanics, right and it was addictive and it was fun. It hooked you, so you kept playing because every free moment was an opportunity to play.”

It remains to be seen if Angry Birds can continue that excitement in the current mobile market, which Manjoo maintains is not only "a lot more crowded in the game space. But it’s just also more crowded in apps. There’s many, many more apps. There’s more stuff to do on your phone that you can goof off with.”

While Manjoo believes it has a huge marketing advantage because of its cultural influence, there is still uncertainty surrounding the release of Angry Birds 2 due to the nature of sequels — a follow up to a blockbuster film won't necessarily repeat the same success. 

Plus, with Rovio aggressively pushing Angry Birds outside the mobile market in merchandise, movies and Disney-like experiences, the question remains if Angry Birds 2 is an attempt to continue the excitement around the franchise or if it's just trying to kill two pigs with one bird. 



Facebook earnings have Wall Street optimistic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-30 02:00

Could the stock market be headed for trouble?

New reports suggest just half a dozen companies are fueling much of the gains on the Nasdaq and so far falling stocks outpace rising stocks which has been a precursor to previous downturns.

But while analysts and investors are raising concerns about the larger market, Facebook — one of the few companies driving gains — has them feeling optimistic after this week’s earnings report. The numbers certainly impress Wall Street.

Facebook’s margins are high, people are spending more time hanging out on the site, and boasts 1.4  billion users on average a  month.

RBC analyst Mark Mahaney says that’s jaw-dropping. “For context, there are more people on Facebook on a monthly basis than live in China. It’s a massive platform,” he says.

The future appears bright for a company valued at more than $250 billion dollars, which helps explain why it’s one of Wall Street’s sparkplugs.

Another growth area for the company is advertising. Facebook hauled in $3.8 billion, three-quarters coming from mobile.

Brian Blau is Research Director at Gartner. “Advertisers want to put their ads in front of Facebook users. And I think that we continue to see that as Facebook presses down and attracts more advertisers in local communities,” he says.

Blau says Facebook’s may have maxed out growth here in the U.S. and much of Europe.

One way to keep humming along is to find a way to make more off advertising that doesn’t turn users off.

PODCAST: Revising economic growth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-30 02:00

The news this morning is that the U.S. economy didn't shrink during the winter as statisticians initially told us. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about Egyptian government's efforts to prop up the handicraft manufacturing industry that has been largely taken over by goods made in China.