National / International News
Noting deadly attacks by Russian-backed separatists who have renewed a push near the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine says it can't withdraw heavy weapons from the front lines.
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday about whether a teenager was discriminated against by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch seven years ago, when a local store manager in Tulsa, Oklahoma did not hire the teen for a job after she showed up to her interview wearing a head dress.
Abercrombie never asked about the then-17-year-old girl's religious affiliation. She is Muslim. The teen did not discuss her religion, either, but also never asked the company to accommodate her wearing a head dress should she be hired.
At the time, Abercrombie had a policy of banning its retail workers from wearing any head coverings, namely hats. Since then, the company has altered its policy to allow for religious exemptions.
When the hiring manager informed a supervisor of the applicant's head dress, and said she guessed that it was worn for religious reasons, the supervisor cited the head covering ban and the teen was not hired.
"The applicant never said, I need a religious accommodation," says Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris, where he specializes in employment law, among other areas.
When Abercrombie didn't hire the applicant, it was relying on established practice that someone has to volunteer their religious affiliation first and ask a company to accommodate them, says Segal.
"The key is whether the applicant needs to say it, or whether the employer has constructive knowledge," says Segal, clarifying that constructive knowledge means whether Abercrombie should have known that the applicant's head scarf was for religious purposes - just as a yarmulke is often worn by those of the Jewish faith.
Michael Delikat, who heads the labor law practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, says that notion complicates the job interview process.
"If Abercrombie is to lose, it definitely puts employers in a more perilous position," says Delikat, because employers will have to walk a fine line: avoid asking employees about religion but also shouldering a greater burden to avoid any potential discrimination that may occur from observable characteristics.
First up, we'll talk about a case going before the Supreme Court regarding a Muslim woman who applied to work at Abercrombie & Fitch, and was denied because of her head scarf. Plus, we'll also talk about YouTube's newest app that targets content to kids. And as Chicago gears up for its mayoral elections, we take a look at the disparity between candidates when it comes to funding for election campaigns.
Every year, the federal government spends more than $180 million to educate neglected and delinquent kids. A big chunk of that money goes to residential juvenile facilities. Tens of thousands of kids pass through these facilities each year — some for just a few months, others for much longer.
Historically, the juvenile justice system has not done a very good job of educating these kids. The challenges are well established: too few teachers, too few resources and a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation.
Many juveniles enter the system already failing in school or far behind. Many also suffer from emotional problems, learning disabilities and language barriers.
Research shows that rather than making up lost ground, many juveniles lose ground while inside. Many never return to high school once they are released, or drop out once they do.
In December 2014, the Department of Education and Department of Justice issued new guidance urging states to make education a top priority in the juvenile justice system.
Among the recommendations: improve funding; focus on hiring and retain high-quality teachers; and provide students the type of education technology that is more common in public schools.
To hear more, listen to the full story in the audio player above.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces four opponents in the city’s February 24 election. He started election season with low approval ratings but has a sizeable lead in fund-raising. With some $19 million dollars in contributions, according to figures compiled by WBEZ in Chicago, Mayor Emanuel has raised more than four times as much as all of his opponents, combined.
Bob Fioretti is a member of Chicago’s city council, running for Mayor. Which means dialing for dollars, even during an interview.
With a reporter in the room, he gets lucky. Somebody actually picks up, and commits to a $5,000 donation.
After hanging up, Fioretti says, "I should have you in the room all the time."
Fioretti is rarely this successful, and he is way, way behind. This interview takes place less than a week before election day, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has almost 17 times as much money as he does.
In a recent poll from the Chicago Tribune, a fifth of voters didn’t know who Fioretti was.
"If you can’t raise money, you’re not a player," says Paul Green, a Roosevelt University professor who has been watching Chicago politics for generations.
"Let’s face it," he says. "If you want to raise money, it’s better to know rich people than poor people."
It's a strategy that has been working for Mayor Emanuel. Last summer, his approval rating was below 30 percent. But, with the help of six-figure donations, he’s advertising on TV, and he’s been climbing in the polls.
More than half of Mayor Emanuel’s donations come from outside the city limits, and about half of those come from outside of the state of Illinois.
Paul Green thinks this isn’t really an upgrade from the old, infamously-corrupt Chicago political machine. "They were really more honest than the way we raise money now," he says. "They would go door-to-door and talk to you."
Emanuel’s profile is consistent with that of members of Congress with national reputations, according to David Levinthal, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, which tracks political money nationwide.
Those politicians share a consistent trait, he says. "They get the lion’s share of the money, not from their home state, or their home district, but from everywhere else."
For incumbent politicians, Levinthal says, the rules are simple.
Second: "Raise a whole lot of money," Levinthal says. "If you do those things, that is a recipe for success."
Emanuel's success is not a sure thing. A week before election day, polls showed 45 percent of voters supporting him. But in Chicago’s non-partisan election, he needs 50 percent — plus one vote — to avoid a runoff.
For some of us, the recent run of freezing temperatures and snowstorms has made getting to work rough, a frustration, and certainly an inconvenience. The lucky ones can work from home for a day or two, distracting cooped up kids with screen time.
Some of us aren’t so lucky, even when public transportation has shut down and all the cabbies stay home.
New Jersey-based wood worker Kelly Conklin says when the weather turns nasty, he tells it to his 13 employees straight.
“Use common sense. Our general policy is we are not asking anyone to risk their lives for this,” he says.
Productivity suffers a bit, says Conklin.
But after 30 plus years running his business he says he’s learned a simple lesson: The day after the storm, without any prompting from him, everybody puts in a little extra for a boss who is reasonable.
Click the media player above to hear more.
YouTube launches a kids app on Monday. It comes with a filter for content, kid friendly design, and a parental timer for how long kids can play. It’s just one of several new media platforms targeting kids. Targeting kids is, of course, not new. There is a long and storied history going from SpongeBob back to Sesame Street and before.
What's new is how children and teens can and do consume content.
"They are massively nonlinear," says John Rose, a partner at Boston Consulting Group. "They watch and play what they want, when they want." Children grow up migrating from phone to PC to tablet, with on demand content as the norm. The idea of the TV as a the only source of content or even the first source of content doesn't really make sense to them.
YouTube's numbers appear to prove it: viewing of family-friendly entertainment channels is reportedly growing four times faster than for the rest of YouTube. Netflix has begun creating children-oriented original content, and Rose says he wouldn't be surprised if others joined in.
"What we're seeing now is the emergence of a new set of players," he says. "A rededication to find new audiences based on the mobile tablet and digital online pathways." Faster connection speeds and more ubiquitous wireless all help.
James Steyer is CEO of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that rates content for child and family friendliness. The group also reviewed YouTube's app.
"This is clearly a business decision," he says, referring to the general pivot among new media firms toward children. "Parents and educators out there need to be aware that the reason companies are targeting kids is in order to make money."
The fact that ads may accompany or derive from a child's viewing experience means parents should watch both for content and ads. "We have to be extra vigilant that those ads when allowed are appropriate and that parents talk to their kids about the consumeristic messages kids are going to get along with the content," says Steyer. Common Sense Media reviewed YouTube's Kids App.
Focusing on kids content has been a market strategy for decades, and every new technology or platform has found its own way of getting in on it. Youtube and Netflix are the latest newcomers.
Snapchat just might become the world’s third most highly valued start-up, coming up behind Xiaomi and Uber. News broke last week that the instant messaging service, whose content disappears within seconds, is seeking a valuation that could go up to $19 billion.
What makes Snapchat worth that much money? For one, it just launched a new feature called Discover. It’s made up of several channels, via which Vice, CNN, National Geographic and others will broadcast content according to deals they signed with Snaphat.
“They all want to reach Snapchat users who are young, they are millennials, they are the cool kids,” says Will Oremus, a senior tech writer at Slate, who has written about how the app often confuses him.
“We are confounded by snapchat, the little buttons don't make any sense,” he says.
A self-proclaimed “oldster,” Oremus, 32, says he is 148 in “Snapchat years.” And this, he thinks, is at the heart of Snapchat’s success. It appeals to teenagers and millennials because older people don’t use it. And they don’t use it because it’s confusing, according to Oremus.
Take Facebook, for instance. When it first launched, Oremus says, it was popular among college-going kids because it took some time to figure out and it was largely used by youngsters. Using Facebook effortlessly, and constantly sharing on it, was part of a secret knowledge they shared. But soon people of all ages started using Facebook. Today, Facebook, according to Oremus, is for “the uncool kids and, more than that, for the uncool parents.”
Oremus says this is similar to a theory put forward by venture capitalist Andrew Parker in his blog. In that post, Parker talks about “the secret knowledge culture of gaming,” and how each game came with its own set of cheat codes, passwords and “hidden artifacts.” He writes that this turned the “secret knowledge” into a “shared experience.”
“Snapchat, in its way, is about secret knowledge, too,” says Oremus. “It’s cool because the parents can’t figure it out. The way the kids figure out is they show each other. That’s what makes it fun.”