National News

AG Nominee Lynch Says She Differs From Obama On Marijuana

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 14:47

The moment contrasted with other exchanges between Lynch and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, such as when she defended Obama's right to take executive action on immigration rules.

» E-Mail This

Coffee Horror: Parody Pokes At Environmental Absurdity Of K-Cups

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 14:21

The market for single-serving coffee pods is dominated by Keurig's K-Cups. But they aren't recyclable, and critics say that's making a monster of an environmental mess. Meet the K-Cup Godzilla.

» E-Mail This

Beefed-Up Border Security Proposal Unsettles Texas Business Leaders

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 14:11

A bill proposing tighter security on the Southern border has provoked a backlash from some South Texas leaders. They say the measures may hurt trade with Mexico, the state's largest trading partner.

» E-Mail This

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson Steps Down

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 14:10

He is being replaced by company executive Steve Easterbrook. Today's announcement comes just days after the world's largest fast-food chain warned of weak results in the first half of 2015.

» E-Mail This

'Maker Space' Allows Kids To Innovate, Learn In The Hospital

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 14:00

At a children's hospital in Nashville, Tenn., a mobile maker space allows patients to share materials and tools to build new things, while also teaching them about math and science.

» E-Mail This

Back From The Dead: A Cat Returns Home 5 Days After His Burial

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:55

Bart returned home with a broken jaw, open wounds on his face and a ruptured eye. He is being treated by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Fla., and will return to his owner after he has recovered.

» E-Mail This

Amid Fighting In Donetsk, On Edge And Seeking Safety Underground

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:48

The eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk has been under siege and subject to artillery and rocket attacks for months — residents are living in stressful conditions and the separatist militia are jumpy.

» E-Mail This

A move to simplify the FAFSA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:42

A huge chart outside of Terri Williams’ office at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy tracks where all 90 seniors at the Baltimore high school are in the college application process. “Have they gone on any college tours, how many applications have they done, have they completed their FAFSA?” says Williams, a college access specialist with the CollegeBound Foundation.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is used by the federal government, states and colleges to figure out who gets aid, and how much. Most of Williams’ students don’t have a shot at affording college without help, so she sends out letters and text messages – even intercepts students on their way to the bathroom – to make sure they complete the form on time.

The FAFSA goes live each year on Jan.1 and is due March 1 in most states. “I don’t care where they are,” she says. “I’m going to stop you so we can get it taken care of.”

Taking care of it means answering up to 108 questions. Questions like: Have you had a drug conviction? How much do your parents make? Is either a “dislocated worker?”

For many students, just tracking down some of that information can be a challenge. “They feel like ‘This is too much, I can't do it, and I’m not going to get anything anyway,’” Williams says. In reality, most of her students would be eligible for the maximum Pell grant, which is $5,730 this year. Because more than 1 million high school seniors don't bother to fill out the FAFSA each year, they fail to claim millions of dollars in financial aid.

The government is trying to make things easier. The Obama Administration proposed eliminating 27 questions. A bipartisan bill in Congress would replace the FAFSA with a postcard asking just two questions about household size and income. For most families, those two questions tell the government everything it needs to know, says Carrie Warick of the National College Access Network. “Most of those additional questions are really targeted at families with much more complicated financial situations,” Warick says, like wealthier families with assets and investments.

 The FAFSA does have some defenders. The vast majority of students now fill it out online, says Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “Skip logic” technology lets them bypass questions that don’t apply. “The average student today can complete the entire FAFSA, start to finish, in 20 minutes,” Draeger says.

But that doesn’t count the time it may take to dig up and sort through tax files and bank records. Draeger is all for getting rid of questions that don’t have anything to do with a student’s financial need, like the one about drug convictions.

Still, Draeger says, colleges rank students according to their relative need when they distribute their own grants and scholarships, and they need a lot of details to do that fairly. “If we make the application too simple, that ultimately means that more colleges will introduce their own applications,” Draeger says. “The net result for students is nothing. Nothing’s changed.”

There is one change pretty much everyone agrees on: The current FAFSA asks for data from the most recent tax year, but if you’re applying for aid right now, that would be 2014. Most people haven’t filed their taxes yet. 

If families could use their returns from one year earlier, they could import their tax information directly from the IRS, says Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. They could also apply for aid earlier. “If you can file the FAFSA more easily and earlier, you’re much more likely to benefit from all the available aid that can help you pay for college and get to graduation,” she says.

In many states, grant money is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis — until it’s gone. A recent report from Edvisors, a publisher of student aid information, says students who file their FAFSA in the first three months of the year get more than twice as much grant aid, on average, as those who wait longer.

A move to simplify the dreaded FAFSA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:42

A huge chart outside of Terri Williams’ office at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy tracks where all 90 seniors at the Baltimore high school are in the college application process. “Have they gone on any college tours, how many applications have they done, have they completed their FAFSA?” says Williams, a college access specialist with the CollegeBound Foundation.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is used by the federal government, states and colleges to figure out who gets aid, and how much. Most of Williams’ students don’t have a shot at affording college without help, so she sends out letters and text messages – even intercepts students on their way to the bathroom – to make sure they complete the form on time.

The FAFSA goes live each year on Jan.1 and is due March 1 in most states. “I don’t care where they are,” she says. “I’m going to stop you so we can get it taken care of.”

Taking care of it means answering up to 108 questions. Questions like: Have you had a drug conviction? How much do your parents make? Is either a “dislocated worker?”

For many students, just tracking down some of that information can be a challenge. “They feel like ‘This is too much, I can't do it, and I’m not going to get anything anyway,’” Williams says. In reality, most of her students would be eligible for the maximum Pell grant, which is $5,730 this year. Because more than 1 million high school seniors don't bother to fill out the FAFSA each year, they fail to claim millions of dollars in financial aid.

The government is trying to make things easier. The Obama Administration proposed eliminating 27 questions. A bipartisan bill in Congress would replace the FAFSA with a postcard asking just two questions about household size and income. For most families, those two questions tell the government everything it needs to know, says Carrie Warick of the National College Access Network. “Most of those additional questions are really targeted at families with much more complicated financial situations,” Warick says, like wealthier families with assets and investments.

 The FAFSA does have some defenders. The vast majority of students now fill it out online, says Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “Skip logic” technology lets them bypass questions that don’t apply. “The average student today can complete the entire FAFSA, start to finish, in 20 minutes,” Draeger says.

But that doesn’t count the time it may take to dig up and sort through tax files and bank records. Draeger is all for getting rid of questions that don’t have anything to do with a student’s financial need, like the one about drug convictions.

Still, Draeger says, colleges rank students according to their relative need when they distribute their own grants and scholarships, and they need a lot of details to do that fairly. “If we make the application too simple, that ultimately means that more colleges will introduce their own applications,” Draeger says. “The net result for students is nothing. Nothing’s changed.”

There is one change pretty much everyone agrees on: The current FAFSA asks for data from the most recent tax year, but if you’re applying for aid right now, that would be 2014. Most people haven’t filed their taxes yet. 

If families could use their returns from one year earlier, they could import their tax information directly from the IRS, says Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. They could also apply for aid earlier. “If you can file the FAFSA more easily and earlier, you’re much more likely to benefit from all the available aid that can help you pay for college and get to graduation,” she says.

In many states, grant money is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis — until it’s gone. A recent report from Edvisors, a publisher of student aid information, says students who file their FAFSA in the first three months of the year get more than twice as much grant aid, on average, as those who wait longer.

Taylor Swift, trademark diva

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:32

Taylor Swift is the very model of a shrewd entrepreneur.

She has secured trademarks for a whole mess of lyrics from her most recent zillion-selling album, "1989," including "Party Like It's 1989," "This Sick Beat," and "Nice to Meet You. Where You Been?"

She owns them for "public appearances," "clothing" and "ornaments" among other goods and services, according to the trademark.

As the website Vox points out, singers make an increasing slice of their income not from actual singing, but from all of the related stuff. 

 

Florida Health Officials Hope To Test GMO Mosquitoes This Spring

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:28

The British firm that developed the strain of mosquito says it has already tested the insect in tropical countries, and found it can reduce populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes by 90 percent.

» E-Mail This

In 'The Americans,' Art Imitates Real Life Lies

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:26

Robert Siegel talks to Joe Weisberg, creator of the FX television series, The Americans, about the similarities between his show and recent real-life spy-related events in New York and Argentina.

» E-Mail This

Super Bowl Coaches More Alike Than You Might Think

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:17

Bob Ryan former, long-time columnist for the Boston Globe joins Robert Siegel to talk about the two very different men, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.

» E-Mail This

Israeli Soldiers Killed In Renewed Fighting With Hezbollah

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:15

Two Israeli soldiers and an UN peacekeeper were killed in border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah on Wednesday — prompted by a Hezbollah revenge attack.

» E-Mail This

Yes, Your Toilet Paper Squares And Rolls Are Shrinking

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:06

Robert Siegel talks to Steven Chercover, a research analyst who studies the paper and forest industries, about the trend of shrinking toilet paper rolls.

» E-Mail This

Jordan Tests Coalition Against ISIS With Offer To Negotiate

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:02

Robert Siegel talks to Rula Al Hroob, member of the Jordanian Parliament, about how people in Jordan feel about a prisoner exchange for a pilot captured by ISIS in Syria.

» E-Mail This

Ad Fumble: GoDaddy Pulls Super Bowl Puppy Commercial Amid Outrage

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:01

In the ad, the lost puppy returns home only to find that his owners have sold him using a website made with GoDaddy. Its an apparent parody of the latest Budweiser Super Bowl commercial.

» E-Mail This

Remaking The U.S. Government's Online Image, One Website At A Time

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:52

A team called 18F aims to bring a Silicon Valley approach to government IT — one aimed at the users of websites rather than the agencies behind them.

» E-Mail This

Jordan Considers Handing Over Prisoner For Hostage Pilot

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:34

The Jordanian government says it might trade a notorious attempted suicide bomber for a pilot being held by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

» E-Mail This

At 100, Dartmouth Grad Still Writing His Class Notes

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:29

Edward Gerson is a 100-year-old alumnus of Dartmouth's class of 1935. He's turned his class notes into a column.

» E-Mail This

Pages