National News

6 Things You Should Know About Cuban Cigars

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:42

If you plan on traveling to Cuba to pick up some cigars, here are some facts you should know.

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Boko Haram Suspected In New Round Of Killing And Kidnapping

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:15

The latest killing and kidnapping occurred just 20 miles from where the Islamist extremist group kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in April.

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Tourtiere: A French-Canadian Twist On Christmas Pie

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:09

On Christmas Eve, many French-Canadians will gather after midnight Mass for reveillon, a lavish dinner party that lasts into the wee hours. The traditional centerpiece is a savory, spiced meat pie.

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Pakistani Court Grants Bail To Suspect In Mumbai Attack

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 08:35

Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi is one of seven men charged with planning and helping to carry out the 2008 attack that killed more than 160 people. Federal prosecutors had opposed the bail plea.

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Death Comes In Many Different Ways. And Some Are A Bit Surprising

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:50

A new report looks at the top causes of death in 188 countries. Infectious diseases are less of a threat than in 1990 but please, look both ways before you cross the street.

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California Whooping Cough Infections Run High Among Latino Babies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:49

Public health officials in California are trying to understand why Latino babies are contracting whooping cough at much higher rates than other babies.

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India Tests Crew Capsule, New Heavy-Lift Rocket

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:41

An improved version of India's largest space-launch vehicle carried an unmanned crew capsule that was recovered after splashdown in the Andaman Sea.

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Montana Man Found Guilty Of Killing German Exchange Student

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:27

Markus Kaarma shot 17-year-old Diren Dede, who had entered his garage, over the summer. The case was a test of the state's "castle doctrine," which says a man's home can be defended like his castle.

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Quiz: The art of the academic turnaround

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:18

Low-performing schools reported how they are trying to improve in an Education Department survey of administrators whose schools are eligible for School Improvement Grants funds.

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FIFA Begins Meeting After American Lawyer's Angry Resignation

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 06:55

Soccer's governing body will, among other things, discuss preparations for the 2018 World Cup. But it's the resignation of Michael Garcia over his corruption report that is likely to draw attention.

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Is Your State Ready For The Next Infectious Outbreak? Probably Not

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 06:30

Public health has a way of slipping off the radar when people aren't scared about Ebola or anthrax. But that doesn't mean the threats go away. And most states aren't prepared for the next one.

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2014 Saw Fewest Executions In 20 Years, Report Finds

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 06:25

The Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, says executions dropped in part because some states had issues with their lethal injections.

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Putin: Sanctions, Falling Oil Prices Causing Ruble's Tumble

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 06:17

In a year-end news conference, the Russian President said the worst-case scenario for his country's economy would involve two more years of unease.

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Worries About Unusual Botulinum Toxin Prove Unfounded

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 05:47

A previously unknown form of botulinum toxin was thought to be resistant to standard treatment raised public health concerns. Subsequent research has allayed those fears.

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Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 05:40

Just getting a measles vaccine to a child in Pakistan was once an impossible dream. Despite many obstacles, health workers have made great progress in stopping infectious diseases.

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The Many Rabbit Holes (Or Should We Say Labyrinths) Of 'Serial'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 03:54

The thing about Serial and its endless rabbit holes is that no matter how you view the podcast, there's an endless supply of avenues you can explore and different conversations you can have.

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New Era For Cuba? Voices From Miami And Havana

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 03:28

In Miami, home of the largest Cuban diaspora, two generations faced off on the streets. In Havana, demonstrators spoke of hope.

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PODCAST: The Sony cancellation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 03:00

The day after the guardians of interest rates at the Federal Reserve issued a statement that would get demerits for vagueness from any freshman English professor. And we could see more information from the U.S. government as early as today about who hacked the computers of Sony Pictures, leading to the mass release of internal company emaisl and, now, the cancellation of the release of the movie at the center of this. That movie, titlted The Interview, is a comedy about a plot against the North Korean leader. In the last 24 hours, a unnamed U.S. official has been suggesting the hack may have started in North Korea. Plus, when you think of negotiating for higher pay, the people who work hard picking apples and cherries aren't the first folks who come to mind with the clout to drive up compensation. Individual farmworkers don't control much about their work environment. But in Washington's Yakima Valley, growers and workers alike say the growing use of cell phones has shaken up the labor market.

Leading indicators released for the month

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 02:00

The Conference Board will release its monthly index of leading indicators Thursday: a collection of data from different pieces of the economy, including building permits, stock prices, consumer expectations, among others, all rolled into one tidy snapshot.

Chances are, the U.S. will look pretty as a picture, especially compared to other countries, says Bernie Baumohl, with the Economic Outlook Group. Europe and Japan are sluggish; China’s growth is slowing; and Russia’s in the midst of a currency crisis.

But so far, the U.S. is shrugging off the rest of the world’s economic woes, says Guy Berger, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities. 

Click the media player to hear more.

Cellphones bring new leverage for farm workers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 02:00

When you think of “salary negotiations,” picking fruit isn’t the first job that comes to mind. Individual farmworkers don’t control much about their work environments, but Eduardo Cruz says there’s a big range in what you can get paid to pick apples. “This year, I picked Honeycrisp for $42 a bin,” he says. “At other farms, they paid $35 a bin, or 30.”

These differences in pay depend on a host of variables that determine how easy it is to fill a 1,000 pound bin of fruit: the size of the trees, the slope of the orchard, the quality standards imposed by the grower. In Washington’s Yakima Valley, growers and workers alike say cellphones have helped spread this information faster, tightening the labor market and spurring on competition for the best "piscadores," or harvesters. 

Farmworkers have always gotten together to trade tips. Still, they often had to drive to far-flung orchards to find out who was hiring and what they were paying. Nowadays, most of these conversations take place via cellphone. “I’ve got a lot of friends, and we talk,” Cruz explains with a smile.

You ask a few questions about the job, get the foreman’s number, and if it seems promising, make the trip out to the orchard. Cellphones have reduced the “transaction costs” of looking for farmwork.

Grower Charlie de la Chapelle says that’s made the workforce more willing to move around: “And that’s a good thing, because if in fact we are short of people, and we have a good price, they call their buddies and they bring ‘em.” The flip side is that “you don’t know who’s gonna show up tomorrow.”

On Chapelle’s farm, workers picking Fujis have to sort the apples as they go, and the ground is littered with discarded fruit. This extra work means they can’t fill bins as fast, which can hurt their pay.

Orchard manager Art Thompson says he’s worried his crew might start looking elsewhere. “We’ve got a pretty steady crew,” he says, “but believe me, if I let ‘em make this wage all day, the cellphones will start being picked up.” This means employers have to be ready to adjust wages.

It’s basic economics: free-flowing information leads to a freer market. Researchers have made similar observations about cellphones across the developing world. Agricultural economist Philip Martin recalls one study of fishermen in southern India.”If you’re out in your little boat, and you’ve got a bunch of fish, you have more power to know which port to take them to, by calling the various fish brokers, and saying, ‘what are you paying?’”

 For low wage workers without much clout, cellphones have brought a bit of leverage.