National News

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.

Silicon Tally: Amazon's tupperware party

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

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? 

This week, we're joined by Alex Fitzpatrick, Deputy Tech Editor at Time.

Click the media player above to play along.

Senate votes to revise No Child Left Behind

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

The Senate passed an overhaul of the federal No Child Left Behind act on Thursday. Annual testing will still be required in most grades, but the federal government will have less of a role in how those tests are used to hold schools accountable.

Unlike the version passed in the House earlier this month, the bill passed in the Senate had strong bi-partisan support. Now, negotiators will try to reconcile the two.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says part of the focus of reform should be eliminating redundancies in test-taking for students. Says Duncan, "I always remind people that when I led the Chicago public schools, we were taking the Illinois state test — which made sense — but for some reason, our students were also taking the Iowa tests, which didn't make sense to me."

He says flaws in No Child Left Behind had to do with where it placed its priorities: "What it got fundamentally wrong is it was very, very loose on goals — so you had 50 different states, 50 different standards — but very prescriptive on how you get there."

Click the media player above to hear Marketplace's Amy Scott in conversation with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

 

Just sponsor it

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

We got details this week on the biggest apparel deal in college sports history: Nike will pay the University of Michigan $169 million to be the school's official athletic brand.

And if that sounds like a lot of money just to put the iconic swoosh on Wolverine jerseys, then you have to understand the battle that brands are waging right now to own college campuses.

For fans, this stuff matters. 

When Michigan fans found out the school would be leaving Adidas — which it partnered with in another major apparel contract back in 2007 — and going back to Nike, the reaction was big.

There was mass celebration on fan blogs. Athletes rejoiced on Twitter. Interim Athletic Director, Jim Hackett, even told reporters that beloved Coach Jim Harbaugh had voiced his desire to go with Nike just two days after taking the job at Michigan.

There were rumors and hints that Michigan had actually left even more lucrative offers from Under Armor or Adidas on the table.

At the Coach and Four Barbershop in downtown Ann Arbor, rising junior Brian Cook laughed at how much this all meant to him and other fans: “We have such, like, a big feeling about this stuff!”

Now sports fanatics, and maybe college fans especially, are known for sweating the small stuff: the details and stats and minutiae that totally escapes the less devoted. But this felt different. This didn’t just feel like navel gazing about jerseys and cleats and helmet design. Because on campuses in recent years, the emotion about whether your school is Nike or Adidas or Under Armor – it’s real. 

"It's less about money and more about keeping up with the rest of college football, really,” says barber James Price.  

“When you see Nike, you know they're going to do what they have to do promote the school, and put the school on that pedestal."

“The battleground for American universities”

And that belief that Price just voiced? That’s obviously priceless to brands like Nike.

That’s why Nike is in a kind of arms race with Under Armor and Adidas to throw more and more money at apparel contracts with big sports schools.

Because they're not just trying to sell shoes — although, yeah, they want to sell shoes.

They're also trying to BE college football and basketball, at least in the fan's mind - the biggest, fastest, sexiest parts of college ball.

Take Nike’s ad for its football camp, The Opening, for top high school players, where a gravel-voiced coach shouts at a bunch of teenagers that “every year, 163 of the strongest and bad-est will come to play, with another thousand KILLING themselves to get here!”

The Opening may not be the kind of industry staple that Nike would like it to be – at least not yet.

But it’s one of the way that brands are trying to drive and even create content, not just apparel, when it comes to college sports.

And it’s smart. Because right now, in these slow July days, there just isn’t a lot of football happening. So reporters and blogs write about — and then fans endlessly dissect — what’s happening at camps like this one. Clips from great plays go viral. It makes “news.”

Then, hey, look at that: Nike also conveniently allows you to purchase every $200 pair of cleats and $50 camo tights that players at the Opening are wearing. So thoughtful of them.

Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand, who focuses on sporting and luxury goods, says this is all part of a new national approach.

“The battleground for American universities is part of the strategy to get the consumer early to lock in their emotional ties to the brand,” Swinand says. "That's made it imperative to get the biggest, and the needle-moving schools in your camp. So I don't want to say that they're ready to write blank checks to universities. But they're competing much harder and willing to spend more. That's driving the price up."

Plus, as audiences becomes increasingly fragmented between all the competing offerings on TV, web, and mobile, live sports is one of the few ways brands can get national attention.

And teams with deep, rabidly loyal fan bases like Michigan’s? Those are worth more than ever.

'When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors' To Best Avoid Lightning's Pain

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 01:35

Deaths in the U.S. from lightning strikes are up in 2015, compared to recent years. A convertible won't save you. Get inside at the first rumble of thunder, and stay away from plugged-in appliances.

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Welcome to the (very expensive) dollhouse

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-07-17 01:27
1 million

That's how many flight miles two hackers were given apiece for finding a hole in an United Airlines' website. As the BBC reports, the reward came as part of a bug bounty program offered by many companies to locate flaws in security before hackers with malicious intent can find them. 

$169 million

That's how much Nike will pay to be the University of Michigan's official brand. The Wolverines leave behind a previous deal with Adidas and a reported offer from Under Armour. With price tags for major college sport sponsorship ever rising, it seems the real competition is between brands.

$30,000

That was the starting price for a luxury doll house once sold by F.A.O. Schwarz — customization and details added to the price from there. But the dollhouse was just one of several luxury toys that created the store's brand of exclusivity, a distinction that faded when it was bought out by Toys "R" Us in 2009. Head over to the Atlantic for a debriefer of some of the other impossibly expensive fare once offered by the iconic toy store. While you're there, pour one out for the Richie Rich's of the world: the store closed up its New York flagship this week.

$93.7 million

That's the size of the debt payment Puerto Rico failed to make on Wednesday. Even more difficult? The commonwealth is excluded from Chapter 9 provision of the bankruptcy code. That's gotten in the way of Puerto Rico being able to restructure its debt.

Science Confirms 2014 Was Hottest Yet Recorded, On Land And Sea

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 01:09

The international report card's out and confirms the hottest average on record — for a third time in 15 years. More than 400 scientists contributed data, finding a spike in sea and air temperatures.

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Sugar Hooked Us On Yogurt. Could Savory Be The New Sweet?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 01:09

Americans embraced yogurt only after manufacturers upped the sweet factor. Now new startups aim to wean us from the sugar habit. Think yogurt with a kick of jalapeño or a drizzle of olive oil.

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Reduce, Reuse, Remove The Cellophane: Recycling Demystified

NPR News - Fri, 2015-07-17 01:09

Are plastic bags recyclable? Why are Christmas lights a no-go? A recycling plant operations manager takes readers' questions about the process.

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