National News

WATCH: Carney, McCain Spar On CNN Over ISIS Strategy

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 06:50

The former White House press secretary went toe to toe with the Republican senator after President Obama's address to the nation about the Islamic State.

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A Happy Marriage, A Terrible Secret, A Healthy Baby

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 06:42

They were married in South Africa. The next day, he told his bride he was HIV positive. Soon after, she tested positive. And she thought nothing in her life would ever go right.

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UNESCO Director Concerned About New School Year In Iraq

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 06:38

Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO in Paris, calls for international help to protect Iraq's schoolchildren as they return to school.

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Ozone Levels Bounce Back, Showing First Increase In 35 Years

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 06:37

NASA says that a ban on CFCs enacted in the 1980s has contributed to a 4 percent rebound since 2000 in atmospheric ozone in mid-northern latitudes.

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FDA approves new weight-loss drug

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 06:00

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new weight-loss drug therapy. The drug, Contrave, is a combination of drugs used to treat depression (bupropion) and addiction (naltrexone). 

It’s approved for adults with a body mass index of 30 or higher (considered the threshold for obesity) and adults who are overweight (BMI of 27) but who also have a weight-related health condition.

In one trial cited by the FDA, 42 percent of patients treated with Contrave lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, while 17 percent of patients treated with a placebo did.

It has taken two attempts, four years, and several delays to get Contrave approved. In 2011, an FDA panel voted to approve the drug, but the agency declined and asked Orexigen, the drug’s maker, to pursue longer-term cardiovascular studies. When those studies were completed, the agency delayed approval again as it reviewed labeling and marketing requirements. 

“I don’t know what’s tougher, losing weight or getting an anti-obesity drug passed by the FDA,” says Robert Goldberg with the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. Goldberg says obesity is linked to the central nervous system, and so are the drugs that treat it, so the FDA is extra-cautious. “The FDA is also worried that people will take these medicines and use them just to get an eight pack after their insanity workout,” when they are otherwise healthy. “Does it have a different bar? Absolutely.”

And yet, despite concerns about widespread use or abuse, sales of existing drugs on the market have proven disappointing. 

“The weight-loss drugs are not completely accepted as standard therapy, even for patients who are obese,” says Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health. He says getting doctors and patients comfortable with these drugs has proven difficult.

Another challenge for any weight-loss drug is how and whether insurance companies cover it. 

“If a drug is approved and not widely covered, it’s not gonna get adopted,” says Mendelson.

There are at least three more weight-loss drugs under development. 

 

Nation Remembers 9/11 On 13th Anniversary Of Attacks

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 05:13

President Obama, the first lady and vice president gathered for a moment of silence at the White House. Other ceremonies are scheduled at the Pentagon, in New York and in Shanksville, Pa.

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Sagging Pants And The Long History Of 'Dangerous' Street Fashion

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 04:18

For adults, "sagging" has long been a marker of slovenliness or something more sinister. But the style might just be the latest iteration of fashion freighted with some old anxieties.

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Playgrounds For All Children: Here's How To Find One

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 04:03

For kids with disabilities, a simple activity like going down a slide can be a challenge. An NPR crowdsourcing project maps inclusive playgrounds — fun and safe for all — across the country.

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Judge In Pistorius Trial Rules Out Murder

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 03:50

South African Judge Thokozile Masipa, who has yet to render her final verdict in the jury-less trial, says the prosecution failed to prove premeditated murder.

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Opinion Pages Offer Support On Plan To Combat Islamic State

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 03:22

Editorials in major U.S. dailies signaled cautious backing of President Obama's plan to broaden an American-led offensive against the insurgency.

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PODCAST: Kroger is hiring

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 03:00

Let's start with a sign of weakness in the job market that may have an acute cause; we'll consult Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago. Plus, one of the oldest of America's supermarket chains has figured out how to stay ahead of the fresh-faced competition. Kroger of Cincinnati reported today that its profits went up 9 percent last quarter and its stock is up about 1 percent. Kroger recently bought Harris Teeter and already owned Ralphs and Food 4 Less. The company's also doing a lot of hiring. And by one projection, the United States needs about a million new teachers in the next five years or so, as more Baby Boomer–aged instructors retire. A national recruiting campaign is underway, but holding on to those budding teachers may be tough.

The teaching profession gets a makeover

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 02:30

Outside the Newseum in Washington, D.C., high school students and their teachers check out a bright green RV parked on the sidewalk.

“What do you do, you just kind of bring your knees up?” one woman comments, eyeing a small bunk where passengers sleep.

Three aspiring teachers have spent the last four weeks in these close quarters, traveling cross-country. Along the way they talked to educators, policymakers and entrepreneurs to learn about the many forms a career in education can take.

“I’m being educated right now and I hope that we can educate other people and really change the perspective of what being an educator means,” says Nadia Bercovich, a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts and one of the road-trippers.

The road trip is part of a national campaign to elevate the status of teaching. A study a few years ago by consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that most top college students simply aren’t interested in teaching, because of the lack of prestige and low pay. High school teachers make, on average, about $55,000 a year.

In a panel with the road-trippers, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged high school and college students to consider the other rewards.

“If you want to have real impact, if you want to have meaning in your life, I can’t think of a better place to do it than in a classroom,” he said.

But even those who choose teaching often don’t stay. Nearly half of new teachers leave the profession within five years, says Liam Goldrick, policy director of the nonprofit New Teacher Center. He says many don’t feel respected or supported at work. Tenure is under attack and performance standards keep changing.

“I think some folks want to make it a lot about compensation, and while that certainly is an issue and a concern, if you listen to what the teachers are saying, it’s these other factors,” says Goldrick.

Rafael Silva, a 21-year-old UCLA student, ended the road trip certain he wants to start out in teaching, but he’s not sure for how long.

“It hasn’t confirmed — and I don't think this road trip was meant to do this — that it would be something that I would do for the rest of my life,” he says. “Obviously that’s not something that people really do anymore with careers.”

If he’s right, raising the status of teaching won’t be enough to keep teachers in the classroom.  

Anxieties of flying have waned... for the most part

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 02:00

Thirteen years ago Thursday, the world was rocked by the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. While none of us will ever forget that day, for one industry the anniversary casts a shadow on the bottom line: the airlines.  

“In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, air travel dropped dramatically, and that’s not surprising,” says David Clark, a professor of economics at Marquette University who studied the economic impact of the attacks on U.S. airlines. According to his model, domestic air travel in September 2001 was down by more than half.

As the months passed, fear of another attack faded and people began to return to the air. “But as you got closer to the one-year anniversary there was a rather substantial decline,” says Clark. According to his model, 24.4 percent fewer people were flying than expected.

This kind of anniversary effect appears to have dissipated. Airlines for America, the trade association of the largest U.S. airlines, says it doesn’t see any particular 9/11-related changes in flights this year.

“I figure it’s probably the safest day to fly now,” says Bianca Cribbs, who is flying from Toronto to New York on September 11. The main reason she thought about the date was a line on her receipt: “The September 11th U.S. Security Tax which is $5.44.”

That’s the tax that helps pay for the biggest post-9/11 change to air travel: the Transportation Security Administration, which screens and scans the millions of passengers and bags that fly each day.

Spokesman Ross Feinstein says that from the TSA’s perspective, “The 13th anniversary is no different than any other day.” 

You'll be amazed at how big Kroger is

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 02:00

Cincinnati-based Kroger, the world’s fourth-largest retailer, is firing on all cylinders these days.

The stock price is way up, and so are sales. Last year, Kroger pulled in $98 billion in sales. That’s almost double the business it was doing in the early 2000s.

Business is so good the supermarket chain is hiring 20,000 more workers.

Jim Hertel, managing partner at Willard Bishop, says that’s quite a feat, considering the fierce competition in the grocery business.

“They are surviving better than any of the traditional supermarket competitors relative to Wal-Mart,” says Hertel.

Kroger owns a number of grocery chains, like high-end Harris Teeter stores in the Southeast. It also has no-frills outfits like Food 4 Less.

The company has kept pace with the competition by cutting prices on grocery staples, building its own private brand “Simple Truth” into a near $1 billion business and boosting customer loyalty with personalized coupons, thanks to its sophisticated data analytics.

Kroger’s chairman, Dave Dillon, has even called data analytics the company’s “secret weapon.”

Is Amazon's Failed Phone A Cautionary Tale?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 23:24

While Apple unveils a futuristic new smart watch, Amazon slashes prices on its smartphone for shoppers. Both companies are searching for the innovation sweet spot in mobile.

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Fast-Moving Ebola Slows Down Liberia's Economy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 23:23

Farmers are too frightened to tend their fields. Customers have stopped going to restaurants, bars and other shops. So now people in Liberia's "breadbasket" region are depending on food donations.

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Child Migrants Settle Uneasily In The Big Easy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 23:23

U.S. immigration officials have allowed tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America to join family members or other guardians in the U.S. Nearly 1,000 are in New Orleans, for now.

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The Alibaba Effect: How China's eBay Transformed Village Economics

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 23:21

At first, Sun Han made a staggering 100 percent profit margin on his furniture. Soon everyone in his village was opening a furniture factory — and didn't need to raise pigs anymore.

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As Visible Villain, Islamic State Alters U.S. Political Calculus

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-10 19:43

For the first time since the killing of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. president has a symbolic figure to rail against — one potent enough to rally the country around.

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