National News

Could Ebola Become As Contagious As The Flu?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 12:42

Currently, Ebola is known to spread only through contact with body fluids. Some people have worried that Ebola could start spreading through the air. But scientists say that's not likely.

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Alain Locke, Whose Ashes Were Found In University Archives, Is Buried

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 12:38

The author and philosopher is widely known as the father of the Harlem Renaissance. But it is not widely known that Locke, who died 60 years ago, was never buried.

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Key Brain Connection Slow To Develop In Kids With ADHD

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 12:36

A network in the brain that helps control daydreaming seem to be slower to develop in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Scotland's Really Big Vote: Can Women Join St. Andrews Golf Club?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 12:24

Scotland's independence referendum is set for Thursday. On the same day, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews will announce whether women can join.

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Smartphones Are Used To Stalk, Control Domestic Abuse Victims

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 12:22

Cyberstalking has transformed domestic abuse in the U.S. Tracking tools called spyware make it cheap and easy for someone to monitor a partner secretly, 24 hours a day.

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Minnesota Vikings Reinstate Peterson, Who Says He's Not A Child Abuser

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 11:52

Days after he was arrested and benched over charges that he abused his 4-year-old son by punishing him with a wooden switch, NFL star running back Adrian Peterson has been reinstated.

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Questions over highway oversight

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 11:35

The New York Times published an investigative piece yesterday on the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and poorly-handled automobile safety defects. The Times found that the agency "frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies."

Rebecca Ruiz shared the byline on the story. She says the last time the NHTSA ordered a recall was 35 years ago. Not even the 2,000 complaints that the agency had logged about General Motors' ignition defects triggered a recall.

"The agency received complaints as early as 1997," says Ruiz. "Up until the very month that the recalls began in February, NHTSA was responding to drivers who were writing in saying, 'unfortunately there is not enough evidence for us to open an investigation, but thank you for writing.'"

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Cameron And The Queen Speak Out On Scotland's Independence Vote

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 11:20

Prime Minister David Cameron told Scots not to vote out of frustration, saying, "If you don't like me, I won't be here forever."

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When the going gets rough, some sell poems

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 10:26

As D.C. commuters head to their offices, jazz drummer Glenn Ragland stands outside Metro stations. He's not hawking newspapers, or music. He's selling poems.

These days, Ragland has been finding it near impossible to make money in the music industry.

"I'm not making no money," he said. "The band business is gone. There's no big bands. The few night clubs, they don't want to pay musicians anything."

So for the past seven months, he's been standing at any of a number of the corners in the nation's capital — 13th and G Street, Connecticut and K Street, Connecticut and L Street or Connecticut and I Street, from about 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., trying to sell love poems.

He says he'll write about anything, though his sign advertises: "Poetry for love and romance $5 a poem." At first, he simply wanted a sign that said "poetry for $5," but he said his friend who printed the sign added romance to the mix.

"I just wanted to put 'poems' and 'jazz' in there, and he put that word 'romance' in there. And that changed the whole thing," he said. "It changed the mood of selling poems."

After he gets a request, he says he might work on a poem for a day or a week. He then finds the buyer later at the same Metro station.

Ragland isn't new to writing. He started writing poetry in Paris when he was 26 and in a band. He also penned "Jazz Profiles in Paris," a 1995 book that didn't make him much money. He sometimes manages to sell six or seven poems a day for $120 total.

He's working on another book, this time full of poems about passion and intimacy. He calls it "almost too intimate to publish."

If he's not trying to sell poems on the street or teaching drum lessons, Ragland can probably be found at Washington's well-known eatery and poetry hangout Busboys and Poets. He likes surrounding himself with writers and artistically-inclined people.

"I like to meet people that write because your imagination is more extensive," he said. “Sometimes at 11:30 at night, 1 o’clock in the morning, an idea comes to me. I get up and get a pen and paper and sometimes I continue working on a poem the next day. And sometimes I forget about it.”

A day in the life of a data mined kid

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 10:20

Education, like pretty much everything else in our lives these days, is driven by data.

Our childrens’ data. A whole lot of it.

Nearly everything they do at school can be — and often is — recorded and tracked, and parents don't always know what information is being collected, where it’s going, or how it's being used.

The story begins at the bus stop.

Your child swipes his ID card and climbs on the bus. The card may contain an RFID or  radio frequency identification chip, which lets the school know when he gets on and off the bus. In some school districts, parents will get text alerts, letting them know their child arrived safely to school. The bus technology is presented as a way to keep children safer.

“The data collection begins even before he steps into the school,” says Khaliah Barnes, director of the Student Privacy Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

And, says Barnes, in some schools it just keeps on going. RFID chips let schools track kids on school grounds. Administrators could know if a child leaves the building, or if he visits the school counselor.

“The issue is that this reveals specifically sensitive information,” says Barnes.

Location information is just one small part of a child’s data file.

In the classroom, teachers gather data on routine things like attendance, tardiness, test scores and grades. The kinds of records that used to be kept on paper.

See what a day in the life of a data mined student looks like with our Quantified Student infographic

In most states, the data are fed into a giant database, known as a “statewide longitudinal data system.” Different states collect different elements of personal student data. (You can look up your state here.)

In the last decade, the federal government has handed states more than $600 million to help them create these databases. The idea, says Stephen Balkam, head of the Family Online Safety Institute, is that “if we could keep track of our kids from kindergarten to 12th grade we'd have a much greater handle on what's working, what's not working, what needs to be added to the curriculum.”

The government isn’t the only one trying to figure out what’s working by investing in and gobbling up data about your kid.

Sales of educational technology software for kids in kindergarten through high school reached nearly $8 billion last year, according to the Software and Information Industry Association.

One of the biggest players is the field is Knewton. It analyzes student data that it collects by keeping track of nearly every click and keystroke your child makes during digital lessons.

Jose Ferreira is Knewton’s CEO.  In a video posted by the Department of Education, he says “We literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything.”

Knewton claims to gather millions of data points on millions of children each day. Ferreira calls education “the world’s most data-mineable industry by far.”

“We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has,” he says in the video.  “We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.”

Five orders of magnitude more data than Google is a whole lot of data.

The promise is that all that data can be used to tailor lessons to individual kids, to their strengths and weaknesses. They will become better learners, and that will lead to higher grades and better graduation rates.

Ferreira imagines a day when “you tell us what you had for breakfast every morning at the beginning of the semester, by the end of the semester, we should be able to tell you what you had for breakfast. Because you always did better on the days you had scrambled eggs.”

If the right breakfast makes for a better behaved child, that will be measured, too.

Teachers are increasingly relying on behavior monitoring software not only to keep kids on track, but to track them, too.

With the help of an iPad, the teacher record’s whether or not your child is being helpful and attentive or talking out of turn. The child is rewarded, often with points, for good behavior. Points are taken away when behavior is not so good.

All this data is stored online. Parents can check it daily. It can be turned into reports for teachers and administrators.

“We live in a 24/7 data mining universe today,” says Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.  “And I think most of us parents and teachers and kids don't realize how much of our data is out there and used by other people.”

Steyer is also a parent. He says what worries him most is that “information that's very personal to me and my family, for example my kids disciplinary record or health record or something like that, is made available to somebody who it's no business to have that.”

There are federal laws in place that limit what type of information can be gathered on kids and how educational records can be shared. But many of these laws were written for an age of paper records.

Though states have started writing tougher student data privacy protections into their laws, privacy experts think there are still big holes.

A study released last year by Fordham Law professor Joel Reidenberg found that very few school districts explicitly restrict the sale or marketing of student information in contracts with service providers.

There are also privacy issues with third-party educational apps, often brought into the classroom by teachers. Those apps may have weak privacy policies, or, in some cases, none at all.

Experts say the growth of technology in schools is happening faster than we can keep up with it.

At lunch, a child may use her ID to pay for her mini-cheeseburgers. When she does, her allergies and account balance may be displayed. It’s possible that her family’s financial information will also be linked in the software to her name and ID number.

Cafeteria software might also track exactly what she eats and whether she picks up chocolate or regular milk. In some schools, vending-machine purchases are recorded. Parents can log in at the end of the day and get a list of it all.

Should that child get in trouble, the principal may rely on discipline software to dole out her punishment. Some software advertises that it can save time by automating discipline consequences.

In gym class, some kids strap on heart-rate monitors, which record how hard they are working out. Some schools project this data up on the wall. Others base student P.E. grades on heart-rate measurements.

Other kids are asked to wear Fitbit-style wrist bands that record their activities at school, on the playground and at home — where the data grab continues.

Many schools have installed tracking technology on school-owned computers as a security measure. The technology allows schools to see where a kid is logging in from, via an IP address.

“At the beginning you would think there is no risk, that this is completely benign,” says Cameron Evans, chief technology officer for Microsoft Education.

But, if you start combining that data with other data sets, like addresses and phone numbers, you start getting into trickier territory. Especially if the tracking data doesn’t match the data on record.

Imagine, says Evans that “over a period of time the IP address where that computer connects to the Internet is not where near the address on file for them. In fact, it's not even in the same school district."

A school could investigate. And maybe find out the child doesn’t live in the district or that the reason he’s going to another part of town is because his parents have divorced. That may be enough to have that child labeled as  "at risk."

It's a label, says Evans, that could follow a kid through school.

“In the past, (schools) would have never had this data, but now that it's electronic, we can correlate data in a way that we never ever had the opportunity to do before."

The larger concern, he says, is that connecting all those dots can create a profile of a student that can follow him from kindergarten through college. Maybe even into the workforce.

It’s the prospect of that permanent data trail, say privacy advocates, that makes it so important that schools, teachers and parent wrestle with student data issues now.

A day in the life of a data mined kid

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 10:20

Education, like pretty much everything else in our lives these days, is driven by data.

Our childrens’ data. A whole lot of it.

Nearly everything they do at school can be — and often is — recorded and tracked, and parents don't always know what information is being collected, where it’s going, or how it's being used.

The story begins at the bus stop.

Your child swipes his ID card and climbs on the bus. The card may contain an RFID or  radio frequency identification chip, which lets the school know when he gets on and off the bus. In some school districts, parents will get text alerts, letting them know their child arrived safely to school. The bus technology is presented as a way to keep children safer.

“The data collection begins even before he steps into the school,” says Khaliah Barnes, director of the Student Privacy Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

And, says Barnes, in some schools it just keeps on going. RFID chips let schools track kids on school grounds. Administrators could know if a child leaves the building, or if he visits the school counselor.

“The issue is that this reveals specifically sensitive information,” says Barnes.

Location information is just one small part of a child’s data file.

In the classroom, teachers gather data on routine things like attendance, tardiness, test scores and grades. The kinds of records that used to be kept on paper.

In most states, the data are fed into a giant database, known as a “statewide longitudinal data system.” Different states collect different elements of personal student data. (You can look up your state here.)

In the last decade, the federal government has handed states more than $600 million to help them create these databases. The idea, says Stephen Balkam, head of the Family Online Safety Institute, is that “if we could keep track of our kids from kindergarten to 12th grade we'd have a much greater handle on what's working, what's not working, what needs to be added to the curriculum.”

The government isn’t the only one trying to figure out what’s working by investing in and gobbling up data about your kid.

Sales of educational technology software for kids in kindergarten through high school reached nearly $8 billion last year, according to the Software and Information Industry Association.

One of the biggest players is the field is Knewton. It analyzes student data that it collects by keeping track of nearly every click and keystroke your child makes during digital lessons.

Jose Ferreira is Knewton’s CEO.  In a video posted by the Department of Education, he says “We literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything.”

Knewton claims to gather millions of data points on millions of children each day. Ferreira calls education “the world’s most data-mineable industry by far.”

“We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has,” he says in the video.  “We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.”

Five orders of magnitude more data than Google is a whole lot of data.

The promise is that all that data can be used to tailor lessons to individual kids, to their strengths and weaknesses. They will become better learners, and that will lead to higher grades and better graduation rates.

Ferreira imagines a day when “you tell us what you had for breakfast every morning at the beginning of the semester, by the end of the semester, we should be able to tell you what you had for breakfast. Because you always did better on the days you had scrambled eggs.”

If the right breakfast makes for a better behaved child, that will be measured, too.

Teachers are increasingly relying on behavior monitoring software not only to keep kids on track, but to track them, too.

With the help of an iPad, the teacher record’s whether or not your child is being helpful and attentive or talking out of turn. The child is rewarded, often with points, for good behavior. Points are taken away when behavior is not so good.

All this data is stored online. Parents can check it daily. It can be turned into reports for teachers and administrators.

“We live in a 24/7 data mining universe today,” says Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.  “And I think most of us parents and teachers and kids don't realize how much of our data is out there and used by other people.”

Steyer is also a parent. He says what worries him most is that “information that's very personal to me and my family, for example my kids disciplinary record or health record or something like that, is made available to somebody who it's no business to have that.”

There are federal laws in place that limit what type of information can be gathered on kids and how educational records can be shared. But many of these laws were written for an age of paper records.

Though states have started writing tougher student data privacy protections into their laws, privacy experts think there are still big holes.

A study released last year by Fordham Law professor Joel Reidenberg found that very few school districts explicitly restrict the sale or marketing of student information in contracts with service providers.

There are also privacy issues with third-party educational apps, often brought into the classroom by teachers. Those apps may have weak privacy policies, or, in some cases, none at all.

Experts say the growth of technology in schools is happening faster than we can keep up with it.

At lunch, a child may use her ID to pay for her mini-cheeseburgers. When she does, her allergies and account balance may be displayed. It’s possible that her family’s financial information will also be linked in the software to her name and ID number.

Cafeteria software might also track exactly what she eats and whether she picks up chocolate or regular milk. In some schools, vending-machine purchases are recorded. Parents can log in at the end of the day and get a list of it all.

Should that child get in trouble, the principal may rely on discipline software to dole out her punishment. Some software advertises that it can save time by automating discipline consequences.

In gym class, some kids strap on heart-rate monitors, which record how hard they are working out. Some schools project this data up on the wall. Others base student P.E. grades on heart-rate measurements.

Other kids are asked to wear Fitbit-style wrist bands that record their activities at school, on the playground and at home — where the data grab continues.

Many schools have installed tracking technology on school-owned computers as a security measure. The technology allows schools to see where a kid is logging in from, via an IP address.

“At the beginning you would think there is no risk, that this is completely benign,” says Cameron Evans, chief technology officer for Microsoft Education.

But, if you start combining that data with other data sets, like addresses and phone numbers, you start getting into trickier territory. Especially if the tracking data doesn’t match the data on record.

Imagine, says Evans that “over a period of time the IP address where that computer connects to the Internet is not where near the address on file for them. In fact, it's not even in the same school district."

A school could investigate. And maybe find out the child doesn’t live in the district or that the reason he’s going to another part of town is because his parents have divorced. That may be enough to have that child labeled as  "at risk."

It's a label, says Evans, that could follow a kid through school.

“In the past, (schools) would have never had this data, but now that it's electronic, we can correlate data in a way that we never ever had the opportunity to do before."

The larger concern, he says, is that connecting all those dots can create a profile of a student that can follow him from kindergarten through college. Maybe even into the workforce.

It’s the prospect of that permanent data trail, say privacy advocates, that makes it so important that schools, teachers and parent wrestle with student data issues now.

Your Wallet: Is home-buying rebounding?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 09:50

Is the housing market is making a comeback?

Wall Street Journal

Sales of existing homes increased 2.4% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday ... July was the fourth consecutive month sales rose from the prior month.

Not only were sales last month at their highest level since last September, but fewer transactions came from short sales of underwater homes and foreclosures. Distressed sales accounted for 9% of all sales in July, the lowest level since the trade group's tally began in October 2008 at the peak of the financial crisis. More than a third of all sales in 2009 were distressed.

We want to know if you're putting your toes in the water. 

How's the inventory? Can you get a loan? Are homes affordable? Tell us your experiences in the new normal. Email us or let us know on Twitter, we want to hear your story.

The 3 things that made 'Pretty Little Liars' a smash

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 09:44


The original log line for "Pretty Little Liars" was "Never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret," and executive producer, showrunner and mystery-keeper Marlene King says the show has kept that spirit. The show, adapted from a series of young adult novels, focuses on several high school girls and their friends as more their dark secrets and lies are unraveled — and some disappear without a trace.

"[They have] well-intentioned ideas but continue to, I'd say, go down the rabbit hole and find a lot of trouble every season," King says.

The show has been such a smash for ABC Family that they ordered two more seasons before its fifth even began airing this summer. King calls the show "magic in a bottle," but says its possible to replicate its success. Here are the the three factors that make "Pretty Little Liars" not only a traditional ratings smash, but a great example of modern TV popularity.

It's been on social media since the beginning

People were still talking about TV on Twitter in 2010, but not nearly as much as they do now. But King says fans were tweeting about "Pretty Little Liars" before the pilot even aired. 

Social media has only become more important for the show. It has a very active Twitter presence, attracting over 2.4 million followers to the official account, and King says online discussion and ratings go hand-in-hand.

"Everything is changing now that we’re being credited for even our Twitter ratings," King says. "That seems to be as important as how many people are watching the show live, plus DVR. So that keeps us so relevant."

Now, Twitter is so integral to the show that if "Pretty Little Liars" stopped generating so much online discussion, that would be her cue to wrap things up.

Its young audience still watches live

Conventional wisdom says young people are the biggest time-shifters, more likely to binge-watch or even pirate their favorite shows long after they air. Not so for "Pretty Little Liars." The Internet isn't pulling viewers away; the very active online discussion is pushing them to keep up each week.

"I think we are one of the very few shows that has such a young demographic that still has a live following," says King. "Teen girls don’t watch shows on television very much anymore, but they are watching this show live because it is a mystery, we do have these big 'WTF' and 'OMG' moments and we do have this huge social media presence so if you don’t watch it live, somebody is going to spoil it for you online, so I think that helps us."

It has a very passionate and proactive audience

King says when she's asked if its possible to replicate the show's almost-cyclical success, bringing that kind of online following to new projects, she says yes.

Young women under 30 — the main audience of "Pretty Little Liars" — are so passionate, King says. The discussions that often start online spill over into groups and even conventions independent from anything organized by the people behind the show.

"People talk all the time about how social media and the Internet keep us separated but we see the opposite," King says. "It actually gives me goosebumps."

500 Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Sinks In Mediterranean

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 09:33

The International Organization for Migration says the incident took place last week when people smugglers rammed a vessel carrying hundreds of refugees hoping to reach European waters.

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'Nude' Or Not, Women's Cycling Team Uniform Makes Waves

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 09:12

Some observers called the outfits — which in photos seem to feature a swatch of flesh-tone-colored fabric in their lower region — "rude," "wrong" and a "disaster."

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The numbers for September 15, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 07:41

Nineteen of the 125 death claims filed with General Motors since August 1 were in fact caused by the faulty ignition switches that have prompted many, many recalls, says the automaker's legal team. As the New York Times reported, the company also found eight other claims of serious injury to be eligible for damages. These are nowhere near the final numbers though – GM will accept claims through the end of the year, and plenty of existing claims are still under review.

Here are some other numbers we're watching Monday:

$70

That's the new expected share price for Alibaba's initial public offering, Bloomberg reported, up from about $66. The Chinese e-commerce company is expected to make an announcement later today. This new price could make Alibaba the biggest IPO ever.

$7.9 billion

The total in sales for education technology software in the U.S. last year, pre-K-high school.  Now, California is set to enact sweeping legislation to protect student data collected by all this software. We're exploring student data collection in our series "The Quantified Student" all week.

$122 billion

That's about how much financing Anheuser-Busch InBev would need to acquire its closest rival, SABMiller, the Wall Street Journal reported, in a deal that would unite the two biggest brewers in the world. Renewed talk of a merger comes just after Heineken, the world's third-largest brewer, rejected an offer from SABMiller this weekend.

Antibiotics Prescribed For Children Twice As Often As Needed

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 07:40

About 27 percent of respiratory tract infections in children are caused by bacteria, a study finds. But doctors prescribe antibiotics for 57 percent, leading to 11 million unneeded prescriptions.

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European Scientists Choose Site For Rosetta's Comet Touchdown

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 07:35

After a decade-long journey to reach Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the ESA says it has found the best spot for a planned November landing.

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The Perfect Summer Peach Wasn't Always So Rosy

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-15 07:29

The peaches we eat today look very little like the first peaches planted. We can thank the Chinese farmers who first domesticated the fruit for kicking off millennia of breeding for perfection.

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Do you tip hotel housekeepers?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-15 06:59

Checking out of a Marriott hotel this week? For the first time, you might see an envelope inviting you to leave a tip for the housekeeper. The company is adding the envelopes to 160,000 rooms in the U.S. and Canada to remind guests that even though they might not see the person who cleans their room, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t tip. 

“I think they want someone to know that the room isn’t cleaned by Rosie the robot,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of the travel research company Atmosphere Research Group. “There is a human who is working there.”

The program, called "The Envelope Please," launched in partnership with the nonprofit "A Woman's Nation," run by Maria Shriver, a journalist and the former first lady of California.

Hartevelt says some hotels already encourage tipping with a small sign in the room or include it as a fee on the bill.

“It’s a more widespread practice outside the United States, akin to how restaurants, for example, will include a service charge of 10 percent or more on the bill when you dine there,” he explains.

“Particularly for domestic travelers, that idea that you should leave some sort of a tip is something not many people consider,” says Doug Stallings, a senior editor at Fodor’s Travel.

Stallings recommends leaving a few dollars on the pillow each morning, since the same person may not clean the room during the entire length of a stay. He’s in favor of Marriott’s move, provided the hotel doesn’t base future wage rates on the fact that workers will be earning tips.

Typically, housekeepers and maids in this industry make about $9.20 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, critics argue that if Marriott was really concerned about how much their housekeepers are making, it could simply give them a raise.

“It’s [Marriott’s] responsibility to pay their workers enough so that tips aren't necessary,” Barbara Ehrenreich told the Associated Press. She worked in various low-paying jobs for her book called “Nickel and Dimed."

 

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