National News

Beyond Fat-Free And Frozen: The Myriad Ways The World Uses Yogurt

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 11:05

Across the globe, the culinary culture of yogurt is ancient, thriving and incredibly diverse. From camel's milk yogurt to yogurt vodka, fish marinades to baked goods, yogurt is a versatile superstar.

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NASA's New Pluto Images Point To Geologically Active World

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 10:46

The latest photos show ice plains that appear to be only 100 million years old and a hilly region that could be what is left when surrounding material is eroded away.

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Americans are taking fewer vacation days

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 10:34

Though summer can conjure images of vacations, resorts and road trips, fewer Americans are actually taking time off from their jobs to go on those vacations. 

Katie Denis is senior director at Project: Time Off, an organization that researches paid time off in the U.S and its effects. The company is powered by the U.S. Travel Organization, which represents many companies in the travel and tourism industry.

In a recent report, Project: Time Off found that the declining American vacation is actually a relatively new problem. "When you look at how much vacation we've taken historically, there's this idea of the storied American work ethic, and that's always been part of the fabric of our country. But we looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that starts back from the '70s to about 2000, we have this really static trend line of taking about 20.3 days vacation."

Courtesy of Project: Time Off

"And then we start to drop off. And the drop off has not slowed. In just the last 15 years, not even 15 years, we've managed to lose almost a full work week of vacation," Denis says. "Most people when we talk about this say, 'Well, you know, we're not going to be France.' No one says we have to be France. We can be the U.S. 15 years ago. It doesn't have to be a massive, massive overhaul of everything we can consider normal."

Denis mentions that the traditional thinking that as hours worked goes up, productivity must follow, is also an inhibitor to why we don't take time off.

"I was actually looking at the typical hours per week that [people in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries worked. Germany has one of the lowest hours-per-week-worked countries out there. And I think everyone really highly regards their economy— Greece in particular. They're highly productive, but they're on the lower end of hours. 

"I think that if you're overworked, your productivity drops off. There's tons of studies that show that. It's one of those things. I know I went through that when I had my first child. I put way more hours before, but day care does not care about your work life. My productivity, if anything, went way up."

Most people who eschew taking time off worry that work is going to pile up if they leave the office or that they don't want to be seen as replaceable. 

Denis, though, says this is the wrong mindset. "As much as we've talked to employees, we've also talked to company leadership, managers, [human resource] leaders, trying to get a sense of what they think about the issue. And what we're finding is they are overwhelmingly positive. They know all the benefits and taking time off. They know it's good for their employees, but they don't talk about it. When we ask employees, 'OK, what do you hear from company leadership, management, about this issue?' two-thirds say, 'I don't really hear anything.'"

The skydiving destination that sells adventure

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 10:33

In a small plane climbing quickly to 12,500 feet, 20 skydivers are packed like sardines, waiting to jump.

At Skydive Perris in Perris, California, this is one of many planes to take off today, packed with professional skydivers and first-timers looking for a thrill.

Divers line up to board a plane at Skydive Perris. (Bill Lancz/Marketplace)

Skydive Perris is a destination for skydivers: it's one of the largest skydiving facilities in the country, one of only two with a wind tunnel. The facility operates seven of its own planes, runs it own tiny airport and is home to a well-known skydiving school. On the ground, there is a pool, a restaurant and a bar (no drinks before jumping, only after). 

The Redbull is flowing freely, and Perris is full of skydivers wearing brightly colored flight suits and heavy parachute packs. Seasoned pros land at high speeds, chutes flapping behind them, and sprint in to swap packs and hop on the next plane. Behind them come first-time jumpers, legs still wobbling a little from fear or adrenaline, beaming and hardly able to speak. 

Even in the summer, Skydive Perris' low season, you might see 80 first-time jumpers on a weekend day. Full-time skydivers frequent the facility too, paying $26 per jump once they have their own equipment, a steep discount from a $199 first-time tandem jump.

"We are a recreational facility the same way a ski slope would be ... a tennis club, a golf course," Skydive Perris Manager Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld says. "There are people here from 18-85 years old, from every conceivable walk of life, every economic background, every different kind of job, every ethnicity — quite a wide range of people."

Brodsky-Chenfeld has seen whole families come in to jump and even hosted a man jumping for his 100th birthday who came back for his 101st. 

Keeping the busy facility running takes a lot of work. According to Brodsky-Chenfeld, "about 100 people earn their living at Skydive Perris." That includes instructors, pilots, parachute riggers and a full-time maintenance crew for the planes. The restaurant, bar and wind tunnel have full-time staffs, and freelancers travel to Perris to teach lessons. 

The business of adventure isn't always lucrative. "You're not necessarily going to buy a Mercedes or a mansion," says pro diver and instructor Lawrence de Laubadere, "but, you're going to be happy, and when you wake up, you're happy and you get to make people happy."

De Laubadere makes money teaching people to dive. He got hooked during college and has been with Perris for four years, ever since he left work at the United Nations for what was supposed to be a three-month skydiving vacation. 

Wingsuit skydivers hang out the window of the plane preparing to perform a trick jump. Two divers will fly together, one on the other's back, while a third diver films. (Bill Lancz/Marketplace)

Professional skydivers like de Laubadere make money doing demonstration dives, jumping into stadiums and for big events. They can also make money coaching, teaching new jumpers or, if they invest their own time and money, honing their skills to the point where they can instruct wingsuit skydivers and teach more skilled specialties. 

Most of the instructors at Skydive Perris make $40 to $50 per jump. Most of them say it's not really about the money — one wingsuit diver, a tourist from Iceland, says his goal is to make enough money teaching skydiving to support his own skydiving.

De Laubadere agrees. "The other day I jumped onto Santa Monica beach, and I got 200 bucks for it," de Laubadere says, "and frankly, I would have paid 500 bucks to make that jump, because it was awesome."

Repeat skydivers, whether or not they're making their living jumping from planes, seem to be chasing something other than a thrill. The real reason so many of them keep jumping? Flight, freedom and the sense of complete focus and calm they feel right when they exit the plane. 

Skydivers parachute down towards the landing strip at Skydive Perris. (Bill Lancz/Marketplace)

"People think that skydivers are just here for the adrenaline rush, but I've got over 26,000 jumps," Brodsky-Chenfeld says. "If I still had the same adrenaline rush as I did on my first jump, I'd have had a heart attack by now. It's not about that ... you learn to fly ... and it's that sensation that we're all in love with, and there's nothing like that feeling at all." 

Anders Breivik, Norwegian Mass Murderer, Admitted To Oslo University

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 10:12

The far-right gunman, who killed 77 people in 2011 and is serving a 21-year prison sentence, will study political science. The university's rector says Breivik met the admission requirements.

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Where do you find financial shelter?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 09:45

Next week on the Marketplace Weekend, we'll be looking at the places where we seek shelter in our cities, lives and in our wallets.

We want to hear from you! Where do you seek financial shelter? Tell us your story.  

Write to us! Reach out on Marketplace's Facebook page, send us an email or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND.

Ugandan To Aid Groups: Don't Tell Us What We Need — Ask Us!

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 08:29

Teddy Ruge believes that Western governments don't know what's best for African countries. "Just because you're doing something for the poor," he says, "doesn't mean you're doing it right."

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Now On The National Stage, Scott Walker Is Still A Guy From Delavan

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 07:44

As he seeks the presidency, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker can claim a connection to three different battleground states, but it's in Wisconsin where he got the political bug.

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Stop Picking On No Child Left Behind (Says One Of Its Parents)

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 07:33

The Senate may have voted to replace NCLB, but one of the old law's chief architects argues much of it should stay just the way it is.

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What Hats Tell Us About American Men

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 07:23

A brief and incomplete study of men's hats in American history — and what they reveal.

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Mocked And Maligned, Japan Spikes Plan For $2 Billion Olympic Stadium

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 07:22

Its cost had swollen; its design sparked an unflattering meme. And now Japan's prime minister is telling Tokyo organizers to start over with their plan for a centerpiece stadium.

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New monthly reports distill consumer beefs about banks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 07:04

This week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published its first monthly report highlighting trends in consumer complaints about financial services companies.

The agency was born out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and was launched in 2011. Handling consumer complaints related to issues like debt collections and banking services is a key part of its mission. The CFPB says in its four years of existence, it has handled 650,000 consumer complaints, and its enforcement work has resulted in more than $10 billion in relief for more than 17 million consumers. 

Consumer advocate Ed Mierzwinski with U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the CFPB's new monthly report provides a kind of dashboard summarizing complaints.

“So every month, the CFPB is going to say which are the worst companies, and then it's going to drill down into a specific kind of company, and finally it's going to look at geographical trends,” he says.

Rankings are based on volume of complaints. The credit reporting agencies Equifax and Experian had the most over a three-month period earlier this year. Bank of America came in third. 

“They're basically in the shaming of banks business by providing what I call a ‘David Letterman Top 10 List’ of complaints,” says Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association.

Hunt is dissatisfied with the CFPB's methods of substantiating consumers’ beefs. And he says the largest institutions will naturally rack up the most complaints.

“I could’ve saved the CFPB a lot of taxpayer money deducing that,” he says.

In written remarks yesterday, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the agency is assessing how it can "'normalize' complaint data for size and volume, among other things.'"

A Year After MH17 Shot Down, Kremlin Rebuffs Call For Tribunal

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 06:19

Russia's foreign minister says that a United Nations tribunal would only "ensure punishment of those Washington has decided are guilty."

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In Court, Your Face Could Determine Your Fate

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 04:33

How much can someone's face affect the sentence they receive in court? A lot, according to a study that asked people to rate the trustworthiness of convicted murderers based on their mugshots.

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German Lawmakers Back Greek Bailout Plan

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 04:29

The Bundestag voted overwhelmingly in favor of the $93.6 billion package aimed at keeping Athens in the eurozone.

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Shootings In Chattanooga: What We Know About The Alleged Gunman

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 03:25

Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, who authorities have signaled as the man who shot and killed four Marines, is described by friends as funny, charming and devout.

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PODCAST: The battle for branding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 03:00

After the week's turmoil in Europe, we'll check in on the U.S. economy. Plus, we'll talk to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the Senate's vote to revise No Child Left Behind. And we just got more details on the biggest apparel deal in college sports history: Nike is agreeing to pay the University of Michigan $169 million to be the school’s official athletic brand.  It’s a sign of the battle between Nike, Adidas and Under Armour to own college campuses.

The problem with Puerto Rico's debt

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 02:00

On Wednesday, one of Puerto Rico’s government agencies failed to transfer a debt payment of $93.7 million to a trustee. Failure to make an additional payment on August 1st could constitute a default. Now, if this same scenario were happening in a state, that agency would probably restructure what they owe — just look at the city of Detroit last year. But Puerto Rican agencies can’t do that.

"What's really weird about Puerto Rico is that the commonwealth has been excluded from the Chapter 9 provisions of the bankruptcy code," says John Pottow, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. "Now what's weird about Puerto Rico's omission from the bankruptcy code is that no one can really defend it. It appears to be a technical error. In fact, if you go back through the legislative history it looks like Congress tried to fix it and was unsuccessful. So, the clear text of the Federal Bankruptcy Code for mysterious reasons precludes Puerto Rico from letting its entities file for Chapter 9."

There's a bill in Congress that would allow Puerto Rican agencies to file for Chapter 9, but it has stalled. And Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that she thinks the Fed "can't and shouldn't" get involved in the commonwealth's debt crisis. The commonwealth itself even drafted legislation to try to restructure its debt. "It passed and then got struck down as unconstitutional for, ironically, violating Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, which they say preempts it," Pottow says. 

Steven Walt, a bankruptcy law specialist at the University of Virginia Law School, says even if Puerto Rican agencies continue to miss payments, bond holders aren't in a very powerful position because everyone will just have to wait and see what happens in Congress before creditors can go about collecting. "Realistically speaking, okay, so there's a default. What are the collectors going to do? Yes, they're entitled to payment and even to accelerate their debt but they're going to have a very hard time realizing on any assets in Puerto Rico."

Walt says the complicated, multi-faceted debt restructuring scenario for Puerto Rico puts them between a rock and a hard place. "They can't restructure, without unanimous agreement, and that's not forthcoming. At the same time they don't have entry into the bankruptcy code. They can't enter it directly as a municipality, obviously. And secondly, Chapter 9 somehow preempts them from enacting legislation that would allow for restructuring. So, it leaves them out in the cold, doesn't it?"

Iran wants new U.S. planes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 02:00

Iranians are flying around in airplanes that are at least 25 years old. There have been crashes, and many near-crashes.

“The plane is struggling, going up and down and side to side,” says Hooshang Amirahmadi, a Rutgers professor and President of the American Iranian Council, a nonprofit working to improve U.S.-Iranian relations, recalling a flight in Iran about a dozen years ago. “The plane almost crashed.”

That was an old Russian plane. But Iran can’t get new parts for its aging western-made planes because of sanctions. Western companies were briefly allowed to apply for licenses to export things like spare airplane parts to Iran. 

“This is a relatively small market,” says Joel Johnson, an aerospace trade analyst at the Teal Group. 

He says, for example, Boeing has a backlog of orders for new planes.

“There’s a limit to how much enthusiasm you bring to the table when you have a very strong backlog already,” he says.

Neko Case talks about her favorite guitar

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 02:00

As part of a series about music technology called "Noise Makers," we're talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device.

When asked about the most important gear she brings on tour, Neko Case immediately points to the 1960 Fender Jazzmaster. Previously, the guitar belonged to Case's favorite guitar player of all time, Pete Staples.

But more than its sentimental value, Case speaks of the guitar's lower register, which she says helps her with vocal tuning: "Low end is a really hard thing to capture at a live show sometimes, if you're singing. It's a vibration that's not that easy to make with your own body sometimes." 

Plus, she simply adores it. Short on superlatives, Case let her imagination run, describing it as "a sleek panther covered in maple syrup shaking in slow motion."

Click the media player above to hear Neko Case of the New Pornographers about her beloved 1960 Fender Jazzmaster.