National News

Out Of The Classroom And Into The Woods

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:53

In this Vermont kindergarten, every Monday is "Forest Monday" a day that gets students out of the classroom and into nature.

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Hackers Stole Data From More Than 100,000 Taxpayers, IRS Says

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:48

The thieves used the data to file fraudulent tax returns. The IRS commissioner said less than $50 million had been successfully claimed from the agency.

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Sip It Slowly, And Other Lessons From The Oldest Tea Book In The World

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:40

Over 800 years before tea was known in the West, a Chinese master penned the The Classic of Tea. In it, he blends the practical with the spiritual and emphasizes rituals from cultivation to drinking.

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How Worried Should We Be About Lassa Fever?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:27

The tropical virus has killed a man who returned to New Jersey from Liberia this month. But chances that he could have spread the disease are remote.

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Texas floods have business owners singing the blues

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:17

Flooding has disrupted life for many in the Lone Star State. Kellie Moore was at her bakery in Austin yesterday when the water levels began to rise.

"It was crazy," Moore told Kai Ryssdal. "I looked in the back room and I noticed that water was coming through the building ... [I] was trying to sop it up, but then it started coming into the kitchen and into the front of our showroom, and there was no way to stop the water."

Press the play button above to hear more of Kellie's story. 

Chrome extension turns word 'millennials' into 'snake people'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:00

This story comes as, I guess you might say, a mea culpa for the aspersions I cast on millennials the other day.

Maybe this'll ring a bell: 

I'm sharing this so I can tell you about what I saw on Buzzfeed today.

There's an extension for Chrome that will replace the word "millennials," wherever it pops up on line, with the words "snake people."


There are 14,000 lobbying groups in Washington

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:00

To see just how ubiquitous lobbying has become in Washington, I make an appointment for lunch with Lee Drutman. He's a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of "The Business of America is Lobbying."

He’s waiting for me at the buffet, and we're about to zero in on the food business: loading up our plates, then dissecting them to see which foods have lobbyists at the table. 

Drutman pulls out a laptop with a list of lobbyists, and I tell him what’s on my plate, starting with beef.

“There’s 17 beef organizations here in Washington," Drutman says. "We’ve got the Center for Beef Excellence, U.S. Premium Beef, Beef Products Incorporated…”

You get the idea. Every single thing on our plates had somebody representing it on Capitol Hill. Sometimes lots of somebodies. For rice, seven associations. Ditto for shrimp.

Some of the trade associations are pretty obscure. Like the International Natural Sausage Casing Association, or the American Dehydrated Onion and Garlic Association.  

I reach for a bag of chips, which reminds me: I interviewed the CEO of the Snack Food Association, Tom Dempsey, because I was wondering – what are all these food folks lobbying for? Turns out it’s stuff like labeling on packages, and the federal government’s new dietary guidelines.

“What the association does is tries to stay out in front of issues that may not impact the industry tomorrow but will impact it down the line,” says Dempsey.

Other food lobbyists are focused on some proposed new trade deals. There’s one with Europe that’s gotten the attention of the International Dairy Foods Association — Europe wants to trademark the names of certain cheeses. But there are 35 dairy lobby groups. I ask Dave Carlin, the Association’s chief lobbyist why there are so many.

“We have to tell our story," he tells me. "Because if we don’t tell our story nobody else will.”

Nancy Marshall-Genzer & Tony Wagner/Marketplace

There’s an old saying in Washington: if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu, which brings me back to the buffet, with Lee Drutman. 

We’ve started talking money. He says there are 1,114  different food lobbying organizations in Washington, spending about $130 million a year.

Drutman says all the registered lobbyists in town spend about $3 billion a  year. I wondered when lobbying got to be such a big business. Drutman says the food folks started around the time of FDR’s  New Deal, when a lot of agricultural subsidies were born.

“It caused a lot of people in the agricultural industry to pay attention to politics,” he says.

Drutman says corporations started lobbying more in the '70s and '80s, in the wake of increased government regulation. And it’s just kept growing. Now, lobbying kind of feeds on itself.

“Once companies and associations set up shop in Washington they rarely leave because they’ve hired lobbyists who can keep them interested in all the issues," says Drutman. "So once you start lobbying, you tend to keep lobbying, and there’s a self-reinforcing stickiness.”

Because you certainly don’t want to be the one who’s not at the table.

Home prices and sales are up, but who's buying?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:00

Home values in 20 U.S. cities rose 5 percent for the year ending in March, according to the S&P Case-Shiller index out on Tuesday.

Five percent is better than economists expected and is pretty solid, especially when you throw in that the pace of new home sales sped up substantially to 6.8 percent in April, according to the Commerce Department. 

One of those new home sales was courtesy of Tara Ilsley Murillo, 28, and her husband in Durham North Carolina. 

“It was cheaper than renting,” she says. And she was able to find a home that was significantly below the national average of $297,300. “Yeah I’m young, it’s my first home, so it was very below the average.”  

Economists the country over are happy for Ilsley Murillo, whether they know it or not. Not simply because she is spending as new home owners do – “we started a garden, we’re putting up a fence for our crazy dog” – but because she is part of an elusive group. 

The 25-34 year olds who have not been as present in the housing market as they need to be in order to drive the housing market, and the economic growth tied to it, back to pre-recession levels.

“The percentage of 25-34 year olds with a job has increased,” says Steve Blitz, chief economist for ITG. “It’s recovered about two-thirds of the drop from the pre-recession high,” he says, “and leaving that one-third out is one of several reasons why the level of home sales has recovered but not to pre-recession levels." 

Blitz says the growth in home sales may just be things getting back to normal after this past winter, which proved sluggish for housing and gross domestic product growth as a whole. 

And it's very unlikely the rise in home prices is about young first time homeowners.

“I think it means there’s some places in the country like San Francisco, Denver, and Dallas where there’s not enough houses to buy right now,” says David Blitzer, director of the S&P Dow Jones Indices which releases the Case-Schiller Index.

The places where home prices are rising precipitously aren’t where the Tara Isley-Morillos  are buying, it’s where they can’t. 

“The low end is clearly not participating and that’s a lot of new homes and first time homebuyers,” says Blitzer. 

This situation has some cruel ironies to it. Those least able to buy are the ones who are paying the most, according to real estate data provider Zillow. Renters are on average paying double the percentage of income that owners do.

Home-price growth is outstripping income growth on the whole as well.

If, over the years, says Blitzer, “you continue to see home prices rise faster than wages and salary and income, unless something else gives like banks become more open-minded about giving everyone mortgages, it has to narrow the pool” of those who can afford to own a home.   

What 'New Charter' might mean for you

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 13:00

Remember last month when the cable behemoth Comcast scrapped its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable? And remember how Comcast was worried that the government wouldn't sign off on a deal that let Comcast rule the world ... metaphorically speaking, of course?

Well, here we are a month later, and instead of one cable and internet conglomerate, it looks like we're going to have two. Charter Communications announced this morning it's going to pay $55 billion for Time Warner Cable and another $10 billion for Bright House Networks, a different cable provider.

If the bid makes it past regulators, and the early betting is that it will, the new company will have nearly 24 million customers. 

But don't think that all of a sudden you are going to have a whole lot of choice when it comes to your cable company or that your bill will change that much.

Listen for more (and a pretty great nose picking analogy).

What Will The Next President Face On #Day1?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:35

This week, NPR looks at four seemingly intractable problems that await the 45th president: stagnant wages, violent extremism, cybersecurity and the federal debt.

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NYU Changes Its Policy On Reviewing Applicants' Criminal Background

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:27

NYU has announced that when looking at applications, it will initially overlook the criminal record of prospective students.

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Higher-Tech Fake Eggs Offer Better Clues To Wild Bird Behavior

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:23

Faux eggs made with 3-D printers are better than sculpted versions, researchers say, because it's easier to systematically vary their size, weight and other features. Next goal: 3-D fragile shells.

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Blind Waiters Give Diners A Taste Of 'Dinner In The Dark' In Kenya

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:22

It's a worldwide chain that lets "the blind become our eyes." But there's a difference in the new Nairobi branch. The servers themselves had never eaten in a restaurant before.

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Shhh ... we're talking about Fight Club

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:14

The first rule of Fight Club is … do not talk about Fight Club. We’re going to break that rule, because there is now a sequel and it’s written in a completely different style than the original. Author Chuck Palahniuk teamed up with artists David Mack and Cameron Stewart to release a 10-part comic book that brings back Tyler Durden.

The first issue of Fight Club 2 hits shelves on Wednesday. Earlier this month, Palahniuk released a collection of short stories called Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread.  

On why he chose to bring back Fight Club:

I finally had the time to learn a new storytelling skill. I had about a year off, because my story collection was done. I was invited, kind of ambushed, at a dinner party by a bunch of comic people, including Brian Bendis and Matt Fraction. They really hammered on me about creating Fight Club 2 as a graphic novel, so I had the time and I had the peer pressure so, what the hell?

On how to write a comic book:

There’s so many different parts of that skill. As you see the two pages, the reader scans them all (to get) a general idea of what’s going to happen. The only moment you can surprise or shock the reader is when they turn the page. It’s called the page-turn reveal. So you’ve got to have a set up at the bottom of the right hand page, and you have to have a payoff at the top of the left hand page as they turn that page every time. It drives you crazy to pace a story so artificially!

On what his life has been like the past 19 years since Fight Club came out:

You know the biggest change, if I can be honest, is that both of my parents died. My father was killed in ‘99 and my mother died in 2009. I had to come to terms with how much of my performance was based on pleasing them and getting their approval and I had to find a way to motivate myself now that they were both gone.

On the sense of loneliness that his characters have:

So many of us think that if we can get money enough, we can kind of isolate ourselves in the country or in the penthouse, then we will be happy because we won’t be dealing with Sartre’s “other people,” and then when we do achieve that isolation, we realize we’ve never been more unhappy.

On the marketing of Fight Club 2:

I’ve been really pulled into the whole creative, the whole enterprise. I had to answer the letter columns. I had to write 200 haikus as Tyler Durden so those could be tweeted out gradually. I had to come up with all these little extras whenever there was a blank page, and I had to design a lot of the marketing things because this is supposed to be my baby…and that’s exciting.

Will there be a new movie?

There’s been interest, there’s also been some television interest — so people are just kind of holding their breath right now.

Photographer Mary Ellen Mark Dies At 75

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:10

The influential photographer was known mostly for her humanist work.

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Prolific Fantasy And Science Fiction Writer Tanith Lee Has Died

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 12:00

Lee wrote dozens of books, including Don't Bite The Sun and Death's Master -- the latter of which was part of her popular Flat Earth series. She was 67.

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Despite An Economy On The Rise, American Paychecks Remain Stuck

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 11:53

NPR's "Day 1" series looks at major issues the next president will face in office. One issue is that Americans still aren't seeing big raises, even though the job market is slowly recovering.

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Federal Appeals Court Leaves Hold On Obama's Immigration Orders

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 11:12

The president has sought to give temporary protection from deportation to people who were brought to the U.S. as children, and to the parents of people who live in the U.S. legally.

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Oyler School struggles to make a community model work

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-26 11:08

On a spring morning at Oyler School, in Cincinnati, Ohio, an announcement comes over the PA system: "Would the following students please report to the cafeteria..." It sounds like someone's in trouble.

But, it's just the opposite. They're being summoned for a  donut breakfast — a reward for making the honor roll, or missing no more than two days of school during the quarter.

Step one in turning around a school like Oyler: getting kids to show up. Children living in poverty get sick more often. They have to take care of brothers and sisters. Families move a lot, or don’t have reliable transportation, and sometimes a little nudge helps.

“Come on up,” principal Amy Randolph tells the students gathered at tables in front of her. “You can have as many donuts as your stomach will allow.”

Jami Luggen (left), resource coordinator at Oyler School, and principal Amy Randolph talk with police officers in Lower Price Hill.

Mary Wiltenburg/Marketplace

The state of Ohio has a minimum attendance requirement, and last year Oyler didn't meet it. So out came incentives like the donuts, and raffles for gift cards to places like Chipotle and H&M.

“School wide, we have increased about 5 percent just in this past school year, so I think that that is an indicator that there’s a little more motivation,” Randolph says.

Can a school really transform a community? Marketplace spent a year following along after the $21 million renovation of Oyler School. Explore the stories and meet the people featured in "One Year, One School."


But it’s going to take a lot more than donuts and gift cards to transform Oyler, which is ranked among the lowest-performing schools in the state. It’s going to take higher scores on state tests. After several years of progress, Oyler has backslid in the last two years. And this year Ohio switched over to new, and by all accounts harder, tests aligned with the Common Core standards.

“Oh, it was a lot harder,” says eighth-grader Justin Justice.

Justin and his classmates spent this spring prepping for the second round of the new math tests. Justin says he did pretty well on the first round back in February.

Still, Rachel Tapp, his teacher, says test scores can’t capture everything Oyler has achieved.

“I agree that we need accountability, but I do wish we had a better way of showing the work that actually gets done around here, because it is amazing,” she says. "It does feel bad to fail over and over and over in the eyes of the state.”

A lot of the work Tapp is talking about happens outside the classroom. Oyler, which serves children from preschool through 12th grade, is built on the idea that before kids can learn, you have to meet their basic needs. In the last 10 years the school has brought in a health clinic and vision center. It has a tutoring program with hundreds of volunteers. Recent additions include a free clothing store and a dental clinic.

Oyler School student Bradley Daniels is treated at the Delta Dental Center, a recent addition to Oyler’s array of services.

Mary Wiltenburg/Marketplace

Tucked away in a former storage space, 11th grade student Bradley Daniels reclines in an exam chair, mouth wide open, getting his first teeth cleaning in years. His mom, Tabitha Gribbins, sits by his side.

“It’s exciting to watch him grow,” she says. “College is next, and I don’t know — moving out and moving on up in the world.”

Not enough kids are taking that step. Today Oyler’s high school graduates 40 to 50 kids every year, but Principal Randolph says only about half of students who start as ninth-graders finish in four years.

“We should be graduating 95 to 100 percent of the kids that start,” she says. “It’s a small high school. It’s designed for these students. So we’re working on figuring out, what can we do better to make sure we’re doing that?”

Randolph took over last year after the school’s long-time principal resigned. With all the services in place, she can focus more on the academics. This year the school got a three-year, $1 million federal School Improvement Grant. Randolph hired instructional coaches to help teachers and launched a literacy program for the elementary grades.

“There is a direct correlation with third-grade reading levels and high school dropout rates,” she says.

In the high school, kids are taking their first Advanced Placement classes, using new laptops they can bring home. With Oyler, the job doesn't stop inside the school. Part of its mission is to help revive a neighborhood plagued by drugs, prostitution and poverty.

Far left, Oyler School in Lower Price Hill in Cincinnati, as seen from the corner of Neave and Staebler Streets.

Stacy Doose/Marketplace

After school, Randolph takes a walk through streets full of kids and neighbors enjoying a warm spring day. It was a on a day like this last summer when a young man was shot here. In front of a small park, a tree is decorated with stuffed animals and flowers in his memory.

“It was real tragic because it was in the middle of a community cookout,” she says. A toddler witnessed the shooting. “It was pretty horrific.”

Still, there are signs of progress. There's a new pizza place and a community and art space run by a nonprofit ministry. One of the school’s latest partnerships brought free WiFi to the neighborhood. Oyler has started a new project, working with the city and local landlords and developers to create stable, affordable housing for its families.

That’s a lot for a school to take on. But it’s going to take a lot to create the kind of community where kids have little more to worry about than doing well in school.

“Until we build and we have what we need, we’re just going to keep working, keep chipping away," Randolph says.

The Oyler Glee Club performs the “Star-Spangled Banner” at a Cincinnati Cyclones game. From left, Brittney Campbell, Kurtis Moser, Precious Gary and Savannaha Stidham.

Mary Wiltenburg/Marketplace

Got A Voice For Radio? The Algorithm Speaks

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-26 10:50

In response to our call, nearly a thousand NPR listeners submitted voice samples. Now, the algorithm has rendered its judgment.

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