National News

Mad Cow Research Hints At Ways To Halt Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 12:27

Corinne Lasmezas began her career studying a disease that destroys the brains of cattle. Now she's using what she learned to search for drugs that can stop human brain diseases.

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Saudi Arabia Ramps Up Training To Repel Homegrown Terrorists

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 12:06

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has recruited more than 2,000 young Saudi men. Some have already come back to carry out attacks on Saudi soil. The kingdom is preparing to confront the threat.

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Sandwich Monday: Pizza-Flavored Salad Dressing

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 12:04

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try Funagrette "Cheesy Pizza" flavored salad dressing. We never thought a salad could make us feel so bad about our eating habits.

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White House: Obama Traded Emails With Clinton, But Didn't Know Account Was Private

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 11:49

The president told CBS over the weekend that he learned about Clinton's use of a private email address while she was secretary of state through news reports like "everybody else."

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Do Parents Nurture Narcissists By Pouring On The Praise?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 11:41

Telling your kids that they're superfabulous encourages narcissistic thinking, researchers say. And that doesn't bode well for their future happiness. Better to recognize effort and say, "I love you."

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Supreme Court Sends Birth Control Case Back To Appeals Court

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 11:32

The court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a second look at Univeristy of Notre Dame's challenge to the birth control mandate in Obamacare, including opt-out rules for religious groups.

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The Lone Buffalo Cleared Unexploded Bombs And Boosted Needy Kids

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 10:48

That's the nickname for a Laotian man named Manophet. He died from a brain clot five years ago, but his spirit lives on. As one kid puts it, "I should learn, I should try. I love Lone Buffalo."

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Signs Right-To-Work Bill

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 10:42

His state is the 25th to adopt the measure, which critics say restricts collective bargaining and drives down wages. Walker said the law "sends a powerful message across the country."

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Solar-Powered Airplane Embarks On Attempt To Circle Planet

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 10:09

The trip began Monday morning in Abu Dhabi, with a 13-hour trip to Muscat, Oman. Tomorrow, the plane flies to India.

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To Head Off Trauma's Legacy, Start Young

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 09:38

Two Philadelphia medical clinics support parents to help break generational cycles of trauma and abuse. Attending to adversity, doctors say, gives kids a better chance to grow up healthy.

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Quiz: Gender gaps around the globe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 09:35

Girls score higher than boys in reading, but girls are less confident in science, according to international test results from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

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Big changes coming for credit reports

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 09:22

Experian, Equifax and Trans-Union are the three main agencies that track consumer credit. According to a settlement announced Monday by the New York Attorney General, these credit agencies have agreed to follow new guidelines to handle disputes on consumer credit reports.

Credit-reporting firms will now be required to use trained employees to respond when a consumer flags a mistake on their file and resolve the dispute.

"If you had a dispute before, basically, the only time a human would get involved is when they put like a 3-digit number or code on your dispute, and send it off to the lenders," says Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of, "Your Credit Score."

In addition, medical debts will not be put on consumers’ credit reports until after insurance payments have been taken into account. All medical debts will be removed from a consumer’s credit report after the debt is paid by insurance. 

#AppleWatchEvent: Follow NPR's Laura Sydell As Apple Unveils Its Smart Watch

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 09:22

NPR's Laura Sydell (@Sydell) is live-tweeting the Apple event where the company is expected to unveil its much-anticipated smart watch.

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Many Unaccompanied Minors No Longer Alone, But Still In Limbo

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 09:04

Many of the thousands of youths who arrived in the U.S. in 2014 now live with family, awaiting hearings on whether they can stay. But finding legal and mental health assistance remains a challenge.

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Math Love, Game-Based Learning, And More From NPR Ed At #SXSWEdu

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 09:03

We'll be among the teachers, edupreneurs and innovators in Austin.

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It's getting harder to sell sales jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:46

Sales jobs once were ideal for new college graduates trying to get a foot in the door, or even for young people without a degree. But according to a Harvard Business Review report, sales jobs — especially those in the tech sector — are becoming harder to fill. With 1.9 million job postings, sales was the single largest occupation group in terms of job postings in 2013.

That’s bad news for companies, where no sales means no revenue.   

Talent acquisition specialist Beth Wolfe is recruiting for two sales jobs at software company Daxco in Birmingham, Alabama. At her desk, she pulls out a small stack of resumes with notes scribbled all over them. Filling these positions is very much on the front burner, Wolfe says.

“We consider our sales and our tech roles right now to be our highest priority in terms of like filling, because obviously without those sales, we’re not going to stay afloat,” she says. 

The challenge: You’ve got your sales people and your tech people. But finding that person who’s both? “I mean, there are fantastic sales people out there who just have a hard time picking up on the tech,” Wolfe says. 

Brent Thomson, managing partner with Peak Sales Recruiting, says the tech sector is especially hungry for top talent. Part of that’s because technology is constantly changing, but sales isn’t what it used to be, either.  

“There’s still some people who think it’s somebody who tells cheesy jokes, and walks in with coffee and donuts, but I think the world has evolved,” Thomson says. 

Now, he says buyers are a lot more educated, and they want more substance, less dog-and-pony show. But stereotypes die hard, and that’s keeping a lot of would-be salespeople out of the profession. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Sales Leadership is where students learn to sell. John Hansen, director of the program, tells students how to handle rejection, what to do when a buyer says, “I don’t have time to think about it right now,” and how to move in for the close without seeming … pushy. The students laugh because "pushy" is exactly what comes to mind when they think about sales people.

But also, Hansen says, a lot of students see sales jobs as way too much pressure. 

“The majority of students we have in the program, even though they’ve chosen sales, they’re still a bit nervous about the fact that a large percentage of their compensation may be tied to how they perform,” Hansen says. 

Jeremy Barnes, a senior at UAB, is majoring in industrial distribution with a minor in mechanical engineering. He used to sell home security products, but says it wasn’t for him. 

“Even though I believe I’d be great at it, the pressure of it, and I think there’s other skills I think that can help me in other ways,” Barnes says. 

For one thing, he says he didn’t like pushing people into buying stuff so he could have more money in his pocket. And, he says, these jobs — especially the entry-level ones —seem like revolving doors. 

“I’m more looking for security, I really am. Long-term security,” Barnes says.

It's getting harder to sell sales jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:46

Sales jobs once were ideal for new college graduates trying to get a foot in the door, or even for young people without a degree. But according to a Harvard Business Review report, sales jobs — especially those in the tech sector — are becoming harder to fill. With 1.9 million job postings, sales was the single largest occupation group in terms of job postings in 2013.

That’s bad news for companies, where no sales means no revenue.   

Talent acquisition specialist Beth Wolfe is recruiting for two sales jobs at software company Daxco in Birmingham, Alabama. At her desk, she pulls out a small stack of resumes with notes scribbled all over them. Filling these positions is very much on the front burner, Wolfe says.

“We consider our sales and our tech roles right now to be our highest priority in terms of like filling, because obviously without those sales, we’re not going to stay afloat,” she says. 

The challenge: You’ve got your sales people and your tech people. But finding that person who’s both? “I mean, there are fantastic sales people out there who just have a hard time picking up on the tech,” Wolfe says. 

Brent Thomson, managing partner with Peak Sales Recruiting, says the tech sector is especially hungry for top talent. Part of that’s because technology is constantly changing, but sales isn’t what it used to be, either.  

“There’s still some people who think it’s somebody who tells cheesy jokes, and walks in with coffee and donuts, but I think the world has evolved,” Thomson says. 

Now, he says buyers are a lot more educated, and they want more substance, less dog-and-pony show. But stereotypes die hard, and that’s keeping a lot of would-be salespeople out of the profession. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Sales Leadership is where students learn to sell. John Hansen, director of the program, tells students how to handle rejection, what to do when a buyer says, “I don’t have time to think about it right now,” and how to move in for the close without seeming … pushy. The students laugh because "pushy" is exactly what comes to mind when they think about sales people.

But also, Hansen says, a lot of students see sales jobs as way too much pressure. 

“The majority of students we have in the program, even though they’ve chosen sales, they’re still a bit nervous about the fact that a large percentage of their compensation may be tied to how they perform,” Hansen says. 

Jeremy Barnes, a senior at UAB, is majoring in industrial distribution with a minor in mechanical engineering. He used to sell home security products, but says it wasn’t for him. 

“Even though I believe I’d be great at it, the pressure of it, and I think there’s other skills I think that can help me in other ways,” Barnes says. 

For one thing, he says he didn’t like pushing people into buying stuff so he could have more money in his pocket. And, he says, these jobs — especially the entry-level ones —seem like revolving doors. 

“I’m more looking for security, I really am. Long-term security,” Barnes says.

Obama Imposes Sanctions On Venezuela, Invoking Emergency Powers

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:46

Citing an "erosion of human rights guarantees," President Obama issues an executive order imposing sanctions on members of Venezuela's military and intelligence services.

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Is the Uber economy bad for workers?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:00

You don’t have to look very hard these days to find an app billing itself as “The Uber of ….A, B, or C”.  Case in point: Waffle House, the national chain of all-night eateries, has joined forces with Roadie, an app that connects drivers with people who want something shipped.

There are also apps to do your grocery shopping, wash your clothes, even clean out your garage.  The thing that all these businesses have in common is they use smartphones to connect people who want a job done with those who need the work.

But, the economy is already awash with temp workers and this “Uberification” of the job force might actually do more harm than good.

Three years ago AJ Brustein was a brand manager for Coca-Cola.  At the time and he noticed one problem that Cokes merchandizers, the companies who keep Coke stocked on store shelves, constantly struggled with.

“They’d get a call from a store manager somewhere saying, ‘Hey Coke Zero is out of stock you need to come back and restock it, or ‘Hey you need to build this display today instead of tomorrow or Pepsi is going to build it.”

Brustein says these kids of unplanned stops meant delays, and diverting staff from other jobs, which all added up lost sales and increased costs.

“Paying overtime, extra transportation costs, consumers are buying Pepsi instead of coke,” notes Brustein. So, he and his co-founder Yong Kim, pitched Coke on an idea for an app they call Wonolo, which stands for “Work. Now. Locally.”

The app allowed companies to post these extra, unexpected jobs on Wonolo, where they could find vetted temps to do the work.  Just like say, using TaskRabbit to find someone to clean your garage.

Wonolo has since spun off from Coke.  But haven’t we always had temp workers in our economy? Has anything really changed?  The answer is yes, and the reason is smartphones and GPS.

“The ability to create a marketplace really depends on being able to match buyers and sellers,” notes Stewart Thornhill.  Thornhill is the Executive Director, Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University Of Michigan Ross School Of Business. 

Thanks to the smartphone most of us carry in our pocket, the ease of finding people ready to take on a little extra work has made it frighteningly easy for companies to offload jobs that would otherwise go to full-time staff. 

“This is really digitizing that worker in the Walmart parking lot,” says Thornhill. “If I were a labor organizer or on the workforce side, I’d find that a very concerning trend.  If I were on the corporate employment side I would see that as a cost-cutting measure.”

But part of the appeal of many of these gig-economy jobs is specifically because they are not full time.

Joe Franco works as a personal shopper for Instacart in Washington DC. Instacart is an app allowing people to order for groceries, and have them delivered directly to their house. There's no fleet of trucks, no inventory, just software.

As a senior at the University of Maryland, Franco says Instacart's flexibility is key.

“So, I take classes in the morning and I'm done by around noon time. So, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I'll typically work from around 2:00 to 9:00pm,” says Franco.

Franco has worked for Instacart for about a year.  He’s paid by commission based on the quantity of groceries he picks up and how many deliveries he makes.

"Typically shoppers earn between $12-$20 per hour. I've certainly had times when it's been more lucrative than that," he says.

Still, at some point many of us hope to have a real job. The kind covered by basic labor laws, like overtime, unemployment insurance, social security, or even the occasional sick day—all benefits companies like Instacart, Uber, or Wonolo, don’t have to offer because workers are technically “independent contractors.”

It's a loophole of labor regulations that some feel is creating a speedy race to the bottom.

“If people are willing to work two or three hours helping set up a display at a store, or mowing someone’s lawn, they’re not doing that simply because you have this app on the web,” says Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “They’re doing it because of a larger set of policies that deprive them of alternatives.”

By acting as middlemen in the market for temp work Baker says these gig companies are able to skirt labor laws, while putting pressure on other industries to do the same.

“Well, that’s simply bad for the economy, we should have the same set of regulations everywhere, and it really doesn’t matter if they order you over the web, it should be the same.

Baker says there is a key distinction between creating work and creating jobs.  He points to Uber which has 850 permanent employees and over 160,000 drivers.

Jordan Metzer is the CEO of Washio, a mobile app for laundry washing.  Maybe laws do need to change, he says, but people are going to use new technology, and he feels most people are savvy enough to seek out work that suits them.

“You know, a lot of our drivers are either music instructors, or Yoga teachers, or students, or professionals getting a new degree and it’s an awesome opportunity to make additional capital,” Metzer says.

At the end of the day, Metzer says the sharing economy is about creating systems that work for the customer first, and the company second.

“If you think of a taxi service, you still have to call a central line and speak to an operator and wait to get a car dispatched and all of that was convenience for the service provider, for the taxi in this case.  And if you look at what Uber does, it cuts out all of these steps that make it convenient for the consumer,” says Metzer

According to the Department of labor the U.S has around 2.8 million temp workers, which is a record.  But those numbers only count people employed by “temp agencies”, and don’t include a single person working in the gig economy.

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