National News

In Libya, Gadhafi's Son, Saif Al-Islam, Is Sentenced To Death In Absentia

NPR News - Tue, 2015-07-28 03:02

The sentence was handed down in connection to killings during the 2011 uprising that overthrew his father Moammar Gadhafi. Saif Al-Islam, however, is being held by a militia in the west.

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PODCAST: Emergency Grexit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 03:00

How far did Greece go in planning to possibly give up the euro? More on that. Plus, we talk to Lorena Ascencios, head wine-buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits, about corkscrews for our on-going Pro Tool series.

Why simple is best when it comes to corkscrews

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 03:00

Lorena Ascencios

Justin Ho/Marketplace

As part of our series called Pro Tool: Tools of the Professional, we're looking for those must-have devices in the possession of anyone in the workforce, be they a hair dresser, dancer or writer.

The fourth item in our series? A bottle opener. 

Professional: Lorena Ascencios, wine buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits in Manhattan. 

Pro Tool: Waiter's corkscrew

Why it's a Pro Tool: "It kind of looks like a pocket knife, you can fit it in your pocket. It's discreet and it's small and it fits just about anywhere ... But ultimately the most important aspect of this is the wine in and of itself. "

Click on the audio player below to hear Ascencios explain how to open a bottle of wine with the waiter's corkscrew — and why you may not want to pop the cork. 


Will Twitter's midlife crisis bring a fancy new CEO?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 02:00

The pressure is on Twitter's interim CEO, Jack Dorsey ahead of the company's earning reports. Many are wondering whether Dorsey's is fully committed to his role after his other company, Square, reportedly filed for an IPO confidentially. We talk with Will Oremus, Senior Tech Writer at Slate, about Jack Dorsey and the once and future challenges of the company. 

Click the media player above to hear host Ben Johnson in conversation with Will Oremus.

"I think this is a rare case where a new CEO might actually have a chance to make a difference," says Oremus, due to the fact that the company is in a transitional period. "In startup years, Twitter's kind of having a midlife crisis. It went through the big early boom years. It started to mature and make money, but now it really has to grow into something much bigger if it's going to satisfy investors."

The dual challenges facing Twitter are to grow advertising and users, says Oremus — Falling short of expectations after its IPO that Twitter would be the next Facebook, the company is now wanting to focus more on reach than number of active tweeters. 

In light of this shift, Oremus points to Twitter's new initiative, Project Lightening, as a potential opportunity to pivot Twitter from a ubiquitous social media site to more of a media platform. Project Lightening allows users to "to follow events and then you'll see tweets curated by human editors with the help of software so you won't have to be a pro Twitter user to log in and see what's going on."

With anxious investors, a revolving door of CEOs, and a need to re-think Twitter's role in the digital media sphere, Oremus says, "the Twitter board really wants someone who can put his whole life into this role." 

While Oremus says the challenge of ousting Dorsey is that he is such a popular figure within the company, Twitter has to do some serious soul searching to overcome the ghosts of Twitter past and re-position itself for a new Twitter future. 





For gay rights groups, victory could come at a price

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 02:00

Since the Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling a month ago, gay rights advocates have been shifting the conversation to discrimination. A new bill in congress, introduced late last week, would ban discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity.

At the same time, same-sex marriage opponents have been talking about religious accommodations for those who don't want to participate in same-sex marriages, such as bakers who do not want to make wedding cakes for gay couples.

These developments come at a critical moment for gay rights advocates. There are concerns that they might have trouble fundraising, now that their biggest battle is over.

"Marriage equality is such a galvanizing issue, and people came to us and said 'I want to be a part of that movement,'" says Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

Since the Illinois state legislature legalized same-sex marriage two years ago, Cherkasov says fundraising has gotten tougher. "We have to work harder right now for every single dollar that we raise," he says.

"There's palpable fear across the LGBT movement that people are going to think ... that somehow the fight is over," says Matt Foreman, program director at the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund. The San Francisco-based foundation is one of the top donors to the LGBT movement.

Foreman expects fundraising will drop after the marriage victory. The question is by how much.

"There's a lot of work going on ... to try to figure out how to sustain our movement," Foreman says. "One is research into what motivates both current and prospective donors."

The Washington D.C.-based Freedom To Marry is one of the groups to which Foreman's foundation gives money. A few weeks after the same-sex marriage ruling, the group's founder, Evan Wolfson, announced that he is shutting down the organization, which, by its own estimate, had raised almost $60 million during its existence to campaign for same-sex marriage.

"There's been some admiration for the idea of an organization being able to say: 'We achieved our goal. We're going to shut down. We're not just going to muddle around and try to figure out what else we can do,'" Wolfson says.

But he is quick to say that while shutting down is the right move for his group, because its one goal was same-sex marriage, other gay rights groups should continue to address other areas of discrimination and to be sure they are getting their message out.

The day of the same-sex marriage ruling, many gay rights advocates not only celebrated the ruling, but pointed to other discrimination as their next battle front. Cherkasov, of Equality Illinois, has a similar message.

"In the majority of the country, it's legal to fire a gay person the morning after he gets married and brings a picture of his husband to his desk," Cherkasov says.

Whatever the cause, pivoting to other battles is important if a movement and the organizations connected to it are to survive, says Douglas McAdam, a professor of sociology at Stanford University, who has spent decades studying political and social movements.

"The standard thing is for an advocacy organization that achieves its goal to kind of rebrand itself," McAdam says, adding that there are plenty of cautionary examples throughout history of organizations that don't.

For example, the main goal of the women's suffrage movement of the early 1900s was the right to vote. Once that was achieved, "the movement did not identify new goals to continue to mobilize people and motivate fundraising," McAdam says. It took decades more before women's rights were being talked about again, in terms of equal pay and other discrimination, he says.

Evan Wolfson is optimistic about the gay rights movement's future. He says the good news is that gay advocacy groups are now in a better position for the battles ahead than when he started Freedom to Marry in 2001.

"The marriage conversation has brought many more people into our work, and into our movement, and into the discussion. So there are even more people to reach out to and help them understand why we need to keep going and do the next step and the next step," Wolfson says.

Those new people, he says, can be the source of new fundraising.

Homes and trucks: friends forever?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 02:00

Tuesday morning brings Ford’s quarterly earnings report, as well as the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. The two events have a stronger economic link than one might think, because home building affects the Big Three automakers’ big time moneymakers, pickup trucks.

If builders are busy, they’re also confident enough about the future to upgrade to pickup trucks like the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram that haul lumber and supplies. And with home building on a post-crisis upswing, it looks like beat-up trucks are getting traded in.

“Pickup trucks got older and now for people who are users and put a lot of wear and tear on the trucks and a lot of mileage on the trucks, there’s a replacement cycle,” says auto analyst Maryann Keller.

There could be room for more growth in home construction too. According to housing economist Michael Carliner, there could be a 20 percent jump in single-family home construction from this year to next.

“We’re still building at a rate that’s well below what the underlying fundamentals would dictate,” he explains.

A further uptick in housing starts could put money not just in pockets of construction workers, but ultimately auto workers too.

Sports broadcaster takes note of the Special Olympics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 02:00

First Lady Michelle Obama was in Los Angeles this weekend to speak at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games. Boasting more than 6,500 athletes, it’s the biggest sporting event in the city since the 1984 Olympics. And officials say it’ll pump more than $100 million into LA's economy. And it could be an economic boost for others, too.

I went down there to check it out and found that the Uytengsu aquatic center was almost at capacity when I got down to the USC campus. Australian swimmer, Kieran Corry, had just gotten out of the pool after helping his 4x100 relay team win its heat. He's from Salamander Bay in New South Wales, Australia. He's been swimming since he was five and started competing a while ago.

“It’s a lot different from what it was like when I was about nine or ten," he tells me. "We're a long way from home but we've been here for a little while and it just feels great to be competing."

Corry is 23 now, and says the games have grown up with him. "I remember the last ten years of competition and Special Olympics has become a lot more recognized," he says. "A lot more people are aware of what we are and what we do. Lots more than what it was when I started out." 

He also tells me it wasn’t cheap to get his team over here. And it’s not like sponsors were knocking down doors. "We did a lot of fundraisers back home and got some funding from some local businesses in Australia," he explains. "It was enough to get us over here.”

Athletes from 177 countries will compete in events this week. And ESPN took note. The sports broadcasting body has a studio on site and produces a daily highlight segment.

Vicki Michaelis, a professor of sports media at the University of Georgia, says ESPN might be trying to get a foothold on any part of the Olympic market — one that’s been dominated by NBC. Michaelis knows a thing or two about that Olympic market. She was the lead Olympics reporter at USA TODAY for 12 years.

“When you see some of the athletes that are front and center — Michael Phelps, Abby Wambach, Michelle Kwan — these are Olympic athletes that are very marketable, and I think this is a way for ESPN to grab some of that share, as well," she says.

"I think what they're seeing is that there is an untapped market," she tells me. "And I think that across sports we're seeing that this message of acceptance and inclusion is something that everyone in sports needs to embrace and realize that this is where the audience wants sports to go." 

Michaelis says at the end of the day, disabled or not, these athletes are just competing. "These are athletes and they have compelling stories, and that is what audiences love about sports," she explains. "When you look at the Olympics, it's all about the stories and how those athletes and teams got there. Those are the things that fans remember from the Olympics."

ESPN isn’t alone in entering the Special Olympics World Games marketplace. There’s a lot of corporate good will to be had here. Toyota, Coca-Cola and Disney are out in full force, too.

The games wrap up on Sunday, August 2nd. 

It's wicked expensive to host the Olympics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-07-28 01:59
$6.27 billion

That's how much in losses for the second quarter was reported by BP on Tuesday morning. The company has been dealing not only with falling oil prices, but also the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, which has already cost $55 billion in pre-tax charges. And as the Wall Street Journal writes, Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary says the company is preparing for oil prices to stay low for much longer, given that the nuclear deal with Iran may open up new resources in the market.

177 countries

That's how many will compete in the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles — officials expect $100 million will be pumped into the city's economy as a result. The games have been gaining a higher profile lately, and at least one big sports broadcaster has taken notice. ESPN is producing daily segments from the games, and is also maintaining a studio on site. 

$8.6 billion

Speaking of the Olympics, that's how much a Boston Olympic Games was forecasted to cost. That is, until the city's bid was rescinded. As Reuters reports, the Olympic committee withdrew its bid to host the 2024 games after Boston's mayor Marty Walsh said tax payers couldn't afford the price tag of such an event.

$60 million

That's how much "Freedom to Marry," a group advocating for same-sex marriage, raised during its existence. But following the Supreme Court Decision to extend the rights of marriage to same-sex couples, "Freedom to Marry" founder Evan Wolfson announced the organization would shut down, as its main goal had been achieved. With such a huge victory for LGBT advocates, many organizations find themselves bracing for a drop in donations as some donors assume the biggest battle is over.


That's how much a New Jersey man drove off with after two ATM workers left a bag of cash unattended. After replenishing machines in Mahwah, NJ, the workers accidentally left a white bag of cash on a nearby lawn and drove away. As the AP writes, a passenger in a white van was filmed picking up the stash later on, as evidenced by surveillance footage.

The Struggle To Breathe Life Back Into Empty Schools

NPR News - Tue, 2015-07-28 01:06

As urban schools across the country continue to lose students, the question districts like St. Louis face is: What to do with all of those empty buildings?

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Squeezed By Drought, California Farmers Switch To Less Thirsty Crops

NPR News - Tue, 2015-07-28 01:05

Water scarcity is leading farmers away from planting staples and towards planting higher-value, lower-water specialty crops. Think wine grapes and pomegranates instead of citrus and avocados.

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The Demise Of Old-Style Demolition Derby

NPR News - Tue, 2015-07-28 01:03

Demo derby used to be a low-budget hobby for guys who bought jalopies for one last romp before the scrap heap. But the evemt has changed — and some fear it may be running out of gas.

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How Finns Make Sports Part Of Everyday Life

NPR News - Tue, 2015-07-28 01:00

In Finland, 90 percent of adults take part in sports or exercise at least twice a week. The Nordic nation far outpaces the U.S. in adult sports participation. Free and easy access to facilities helps.

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The 'Swim Whisperer' Teaches Kids To Be Water-Safe

NPR News - Tue, 2015-07-28 00:57

For 20 years, Conrad Cooper has been making children in LA water-safe by earning his young students' unwavering trust.

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Tired Of The Big City? Consider Telecommuting From Montana

NPR News - Mon, 2015-07-27 23:33

Greg Gianforte, a successful high-tech entrepreneur, is recruiting — not for his company, but for telecommuters to move to rural Montana and bring their high-paying jobs with them.

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Boy Scouts Of America End Blanket Ban On Gay Leaders

NPR News - Mon, 2015-07-27 16:14

The Boy Scouts National Executive Board approved a resolution that would allow "openly gay adult leaders and employees." But local units will still be able to bar gay leaders.

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California Health Insurance Exchange Keeps Rate Hikes Low — Again

NPR News - Mon, 2015-07-27 15:14

Monthly premiums for health insurance plans in the Covered California marketplace will increase by an average of 4 percent for 2016. The price for some plans will drop.

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With Religious Services, Immigrant Detainees Find 'Calmness'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-07-27 14:05

In-house chaplains have helped detainees cope with daily frustration, even reducing violence in detention centers. But meeting the spiritual needs of people from all over the world is a challenge.

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The 'Shock of Confinement': The Grim Reality Of Suicide In Jail

NPR News - Mon, 2015-07-27 13:59

About 1,000 people die in American jails every year and about a third of those are suicides. Jails often house people who've never been in legal trouble before, and it can have a traumatic effect.

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Sports channels tap fantasy games for new content

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-07-27 13:34

The website DraftKings just secured $300 million in funding, with investors including Fox Sports, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. The site allows people to play and bet on daily fantasy games in several different sports. Earlier this month, FanDuel, another daily fantasy site, raised $275 million.

Fox Sports was the lead investor, and the deal includes a commitment by DraftKings to spend $250 million advertising on Fox over the next three years.

“Sports networks, they see this as all additive to their core business," says Eric Fisher,  a staff writer for the SportsBusiness Journal.  "[The] fantasy player has been proven over and over again as a more engaged consumer of the games themselves either in person or on TV.”

Players like Adrian Sharoyan in Queens, New York, who’s been playing fantasy sports for 15 years.

“When I first started playing fantasy sports, I [only watched] my favorite team, which is the Yankees," he says. "And once I started playing fantasy sports, I became instantly more interested in every game that was going on.”

Sharoyan’s been betting on DraftKings for the last two years. He likes that he can make a new roster every day.

Sports networks need consumers like him, says Jimmy Lynn, a special adviser for Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management graduate program.

“The networks are always looking for content to bring eyeballs, and they make their money through the subscription fees and the advertising,” he says.

Lynn says the networks are also looking for new content, like TV shows focused exclusively on fantasy sports, especially because most of the major sports leagues are already locked into long-term contracts. And, since fantasy sports is one venue where it’s legal to place bets, more and more people are getting in the game.