National / International News

Arne Duncan: 'Education beyond high school is absolutely necessary'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 12:40

In an interview with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said new rules targeting vocational college programs that leave students with too much debt and too few job prospects were designed with "outcomes, not inputs" in mind.

"The worst-case scenario is when you go to college, accumulate debt, and then don't graduate," Duncan said. 

When asked if he thought everyone should go to college, Duncan said he believed everyone needed additional education beyond high school: "If young people drop out of high school today, they are basically condemned to poverty and social failure. There are no good jobs out there... the economy has changed." 

Duncan said the so-called "gainful employment rules" target middling-to-failing vocational education programs–most of which are offered by for-profit universities and community colleges–in order to provide meaningful post-secondary education across economic classes. 

The final draft of the rules released on Thursday relaxed some earlier provisions, drawing criticism from some education groups and for-profit education providers, who say their programs may be the only option for thousands of low-income students. Duncan said no programs will be shut down without "time to improve."

"We invest $22 billion each year in these programs,"  Duncan said referring to the federal financial aid that pays tuition for most students in for-profit programs. "We want to see strong programs grow, and expand and serve more students. And we want to see programs that aren't doing a good job either improve or cease to exist... Shutting them down is not our goal, but we will have that ability. It's when training is leading to jobs that don't exist, or where debt is unmanageable... that's what we're pushing back against."

The debt-load requirements in the new rules target only vocational training programs and schools. Duncan says the Obama administration has expanded investment in Pell Grants, pushed for broader state-led initiatives and encouraged universities themselves to fight higher tuition overall.  He - along with his boss - has also discussed a "more transparent" rating system, which, as one education official told the New York Times, should be a straightforward process, "like rating a blender." 

"I don't know whether that's the right analogy or not, but let me say this: We as taxpayers... we invest $150 billion in grants and loans each year to make grants and loans accessible. That's the right thing to do, if we are focused on outcomes.

You can listen to the interview on this evening's Marketplace, or on the audio player at the top of the page.

Nurse Kaci Hickox Takes A Bike Ride, Defying Maine's Quarantine

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 12:40

Hickox, who returned to the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, tested negative for Ebola upon her return, and she has no symptoms — so she says she poses no threat to the public.

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Obamas Head To Connecticut As Tight Governor's Race Nears Close

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 12:40

Incumbent Dannel Malloy and Republican rival Tom Foley are neck and neck; the race is so close that both the president and first lady will visit the state in the next few days. NPR's Melissa Block talks to Hartford Courant political reporter Daniela Altimari about the race.

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The Campaign That Seems More Crime Drama Than Congressional Race

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 12:35

When he was an undercover FBI agent, Michael Grimm adopted the persona of "Mikey Suits" to catch alleged mobsters. Now a congressman from Staten Island, Grimm is the target of tax evasion charges.

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Watchdog Says Feds Shouldn't Have Let Man Take Grenade Parts To Mexico

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 12:34

The case, in which agents watched a man to go through with potentially illegal, is reminiscent of the gun-walking scandal that plagued the ATF for years.

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Ebola aid ship docks in Sierra Leone

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 12:25
UK ship RFA Argus, which is carrying medical supplies, equipment and vehicles, arrives in Sierra Leone to help deal with the Ebola outbreak.

Medicare Concedes, Agrees To Pay For Woman's Home Health Care

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:38

A 78-year-old Vermont woman has won the latest skirmish in her long-running battle with Medicare. The agency agreed to pay for home health care coverage even though she remains disabled.

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Long-serving Boston mayor dies

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:30
Thomas Menino, who served as mayor of Boston for more than 20 years, has died after a battle with cancer.

The Place Where Rutherford B. Hayes Is A Really Big Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:27

The 19th U.S. president didn't leave much of a legacy at home. But in Paraguay, he's a hero, credited with helping save the nation after a disastrous war with its South American neighbors.

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VIDEO: Tower poppies artist hails volunteers

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:09
The artist behind a project to place almost 900,000 ceramic poppies around the Tower of London says he is surprised and happy that so many people have "taken it to heart".

VIDEO: On the buses with Prince Harry

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:01
Prince Harry meets supporters of the British Legion's London Poppy Day Appeal at Buckingham Palace.

The World Series MVP got a recently recalled truck

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:00

 In a classic "good news, bad news, good news" situation, the San Francisco Giants won the 2014 World Series, and pitcher Madison Bumgarner won the MVP award.

His prize was a 2015 Chevy Colorado truck, which was recalled a couple of weeks ago by GM for faulty airbags. GM caught most of them before they left the assembly plant.

So good news: Bumgarner is going to be fine.

Tim Cook and the diversity problem in the C-suite

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:00

Apple CEO Tim Cook became on Thursday the first Fortune 500 CEO to be out, in public, as gay.

"I'm proud to be gay," he wrote in a Bloomberg Businessweek op-ed, "and I consider being gay one of the greatest gifts God has given me."

"Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender,” he continued. 

But while we can see signs of that progress all around us, there's still a long way to go — especially when it comes to the C-suites of companies like Apple. 

Tim Cook is, after all, a white man — like more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and less than 35 percent of all Americans. 

"It does not reflect at all the population," says Vanessa Cárdenas, who focuses on changing demographics at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

By 2050, according to her projections, the majority of Americans will be people of color and the majority of the workforce will be women. Why don't we see that diversity among our corporate leadership? 

"We’d all like to know that answer," says Donna Dabney, executive director of the Governance Center at the Conference Board.  "I think we need to focus on what happens at the middle level: the middle management level."

Dabney says women make up 40 percent of the workforce, but only 15 percent of C-suite executives. One problem: "Men tend to get sponsored, and women get mentored," Dabney says. 

Advice is nice, but having someone actively advocate for you is more critical for advancement. 

Another problem is just getting on the ladder in the first place.

"We know that Fortune 500 companies often target their recruiting at elite colleges," says Alexandria Walton Radford, who directs the Transition to College program at RTI International. "And because we know that lower-income students are underrepresented at elite colleges as are Hispanic and African-American students, that just affects this pipeline."

The overriding theme is that altering the diversity picture requires stepping outside your comfort zone. 

"What really plays into this whole equation, and why I think we have such a huge gap, is because of unconscious bias," says Dr. Shirley Davis, president of SDS Global Enterprises. 

Even where explicit racism is absent, people tend to pick people like them--to hire and to help them advance. The vicious cycle has helped the top levels of corporations remain much less diverse than the country as a whole. 

"The typical profile of a corporate executive, CEO or board of director is a white male in his late 40s or 50s that’s straight," says Davis.

On that last score, at least, Tim Cook just shifted the needle.

The biggest smartphone maker you've never heard of

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 11:00

When it comes to the global smartphone market, everybody knows about Samsung and Apple. But do you know who number three is?

Xiaomi, an upstart Chinese company you’ve probably never heard of, has taken the smartphone bronze, based on sales this summer. It edged past players like LG on the way.

“So far, Samsung still remains number one. Number two is Apple. But now Xiaomi is number three,” says Linda Sui with the research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics.

Analysts say this growth is incredible, given that Xiaomi only sold its first phone three years ago. The Chinese company has passed Samsung and Apple in China, and sold between 17 and 18 million phones in Asia last quarter.

“Because it’s only within Asia, that’s a huge number,” says Ramon Llamas with IDC.

He adds that these phones are “feature-packed, easy to use and rather inexpensive. And that really appeals to millions and millions of users. And here’s the scary thing: It’s just getting started.”

Xiaomi is expanding in India, with an eye on Brazil, Mexico and more countries in Southeast Asia. But not the U.S. — yet.

“You cannot jump from the Chinese market straight to the U.S. markets,” says Boris Metodiev, a research manager with 451 Research.

Customers in emerging markets prioritize cost and value, he says, while customers in the U.S. tend to stay loyal to brands like Apple.

So Xiaomi has to keep growing.

“Conquering step by step the developing markets,” Metodiev says. “And once their name becomes more and more popular, then they will eventually move to the U.S. markets, to the West European markets, and so on and so forth.”

Even if Xiaomi continues to expand, it might not hold onto the number three spot. That’s because its competition just grew. Lenovo announced today it has completed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility.




Iraqi Kurd fighters 'enter Kobane'

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 10:59
An advance party of 10 Iraqi Kurd fighters have entered the Syrian border town of Kobane to join the battle against Islamic State militants, activists say.

BARDA: The venture capital firm buried in the U.S. government

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 10:43

For five years, John Eldridge and his team at Profectus Bioscience have developed and tested their Ebola vaccine. First it was on guinea pigs, then monkeys. 

At that point, Eldridge realized monkeys weren't getting sick.

“When I saw those results, I realized that we had a real vaccine candidate which had the potential to make a real difference for mankind,” he says.

But before it can go to market, the vaccine must be tested on humans, a timely and expensive proposition for tiny start-ups like Profectus. And this is where things get tricky. Despite this year’s outbreak, there is virtually no commercial market for Eldridge’s vaccine. In other words, it’s financially difficult for a drug maker of any size to justify the expense of development and production with little payout in return.

That’s why the little agency no one has ever heard of  – the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – is so important.

“They are investing in things that would die if they didn’t have additional funding,” says Boston University’s Kevin Outterson

Outterson says getting any product from the lab to the market is called "crossing the valley of death." For products like Eldridge’s, which has little financial appeal but huge public health upside, that valley is deeper and longer.

“You can think of BARDA almost like a venture capital firm buried in the U.S. government,” he says.

To find an Ebola treatment, BARDA is investing in the most promising drugs and vaccines. That money, about $30 million just for vaccines so far, changes the equation so it makes better business sense for companies big and small to bring drugs to market. Unlike venture capitalists, BARDA won’t take a cut; in fact, more money may be on the way, with the President expected to seek additional funding from Congress.

“When we decided to put our pedal to the metal, everybody could accelerate and get to a finish line we are aiming for,” says Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, who oversees BARDA.

She says vaccine development would usually take up to 10 years. “We are moving forward in unprecedented speed.”

With this Ebola crisis, Lurie says Washington and industry are hand-in-glove. Lurie’s hoping to avoid mistakes from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, when nearly 61 million Americans got sick and the virus killed more than 12,000 – all while the government, working with drug makers, couldn’t get enough flu vaccine manufactured.

“We learned that we needed much stronger relationships with our industry partners,” says Lurie.

She sees signs of a massive Ebola manufacturing mobilization, from giants like GlaxoSmithKline to the little guys like Profectus and John Eldridge, who says he’s actually been given enough money to do the work this time.

“We negotiated the contract. They came to us multiple times and said, ‘we need to supply you with adequate funding that you can move as rapidly as possible,’” he says.

Eldridge still doesn’t know if his vaccine works. But thanks to the tiny office no one has ever heard of, there’s a chance.

Neiman Marcus' CEO on adapting to new consumer habits

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-30 10:30

It has been a big year for the luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus.

The Dallas-based retailer announced earlier this year that they are building their first Neiman Marcus store in Manhattan, with doors set to open in 2018, joining Bergdorf Goodman the company’s only New York City outlet to date. They also launched a shopping app earlier this week called “Slyce," which lets users take pictures of any item they want to buy, and suggests something similar available at Neiman Marcus – the latest in a long line of technological experiments Neiman Marcus Group CEO, Karen Katz, has brought to the company.

Katz describes the company's customers: “She is very deliberate in how she is spending her money. There has to be a real value... pre-recession, I like to say, she was shopping with abandonment. She wasn’t looking at prices. If she liked something, she bought two of them... I think the world has changed post-recession. We’re much more in tune with how she wants to think about things.”

You can hear the full conversation on the Oct. 30 episode of Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal, or listen using the audio player at the top of the page. Here are some excepts from their conversation: 

Impact of digital interaction: 24 percent of business at Neiman Marcus is now done online, and 70 percent of customers go to the website to research by category before going into the store.

On the risks of working in retail: Katz says, “That’s somewhat the thrill of the business.”

The Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog item at the top of Kai’s wishlist? That would be the 100th anniversary Neiman Marcus limited edition Maserati Ghibli S Q4.

An earlier version of this story misspelled "Neiman Marcus." The text has been corrected.

Cows to keep Kenyan girls in school

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 10:18
Nine cows will be offered to fathers in areas of northern Kenya to ensure their daughters finish their education, a county governor says.

Children's social work faces change

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 10:15
The government has announced changes to children's social work, aiming to restore confidence in the service.

Airport boss aims to 'add airlines'

BBC - Thu, 2014-10-30 10:13
The new managing director of Cardiff Airport says she is determined to reverse the decline in passenger numbers by attracting more airlines.