National News

Supreme Court Clears Way For Same-Sex Marriages In Florida

NPR News - 6 hours 24 min ago

The Supreme Court declined to extend a stay on a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, who said in August that Florida's 2008 ban is unconstitutional. The stay expires in January.

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'Rum, Rumba, And Romance': A Book On Cuba's Enduring Mystique

NPR News - 7 hours 41 min ago

This week, President Obama announced that he will begin to normalize relations with Cuba. Cuban-American writer Richard Blanco recommends a book about Cuba's imprint on the American imagination.

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Pilot shortage grounds flights at regional airports

At 7:30 in the morning, the terminal inside Cheyenne, Wyoming’s regional airport looks like a weary traveler’s dream. It’s quiet, there are no lines and there's even free parking. But Susan Mark is still tense.

“I’m just hoping there is a plane and a pilot,” she says. “Because I have had both not show up before.”

Fellow passenger Julia Tipsword says more than half the time her flight out of Cheyenne is canceled. She says the airline does accommodate her though — it puts her on a bus to the Denver airport.

These sorts of experiences may explain why its so empty here: Today’s morning flight to Denver has seven people on it.

Jim Schell is the Aviation Manager at Cheyenne Regional. He isn't surprised the flight is so empty. The number of daily flights out of Cheyenne has been cut in half in the last year, and cancellations have skyrocketed. Small airports need to have 10,000 people get on and off planes each year to qualify for the full amount of FAA infrastructure funding. For Cheyenne that’s $1 million annually. Schell says this year they won’t even get to half that many passengers, and as a result their federal funding is going to drop by about $800,000.

“[That money] is being able to reconstruct portions of our runaway when we need it,” Schell says. It definitely is a big deal, and it is not going to go away.”

Lots of small airports are on track to lose FAA funding this year, and that is going to hurt. In Wyoming alone, regional airports generate $1.4 billion in annual economic activity. The regional airports may be suffering but it is not their fault.

The problem is a lack of pilots.

A few blocks from Cheyenne Regional is Wings of Wyoming, a local flight school that used to train a lot of pilots that would fly for the local airline. But last year Congress raised the minimum number of flight hours needed for a commercial pilot license from 250 to 1500. Members were reacting to a deadly crash cause by an inexperienced pilot.  But that change has had a big effect on the airline industry. Building a few hundred hours to get hired at a regional airline was doable, says flight instructor Ron Burnett.

“But to get 1500 hours, that takes a long time. That could take a couple years,” he says.

Traditionally, young pilots joined regional airlines because they were a feeder system for national carriers. But Burnett says the new flight hour standards have upset that system by making it extremely difficult for young pilots to even qualify for a regional job.

Roger Cohen is head of the Regional Airline Association. He says regional airlines and airports are hurting now, but bigger cities are next. Cohen says about a quarter of the pilots at major airlines are set to retire in the next six years or so, and they're going to need to be replaced.

“And where are those pilots going to come from? The pipeline has not only been shrunk, the pipeline has been severed.”

There is some hope for small airports like Cheyenne regional: A House Republican has proposed a law that would require the FAA to keep them fully funded. That would help in the short term, but without a fresh crop of pilots, these airports won’t be bustling anytime soon.

CEO Says Sony Pictures 'Did Not Capitulate,' Is Exploring Options

NPR News - 8 hours 11 min ago

Melissa Block talks to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton about the cyber attack against his company and the cancellation of the Christmas Day release of The Interview.

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Troubled By Grand Jury Verdicts, Students Request More Time For Exams

NPR News - 8 hours 16 min ago

Students at several law schools say events in Ferguson and New York have left them too upset to study. Others are more concerned about how the extra study time will affect the grading curve.

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Obama Says 'James Flacco.' The Internet Says, Thank You.

NPR News - 8 hours 53 min ago

It was an honest mistake. But when President Obama said "James Flacco" when referring to James Franco – on a Friday before the holidays, no less – the slip was eagerly received online.

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The Fate Of The Administration's College Ratings

NPR News - 9 hours 10 min ago

Some say a vaunted attempt to improve the quality of colleges is dead on arrival. Let's find out why.

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New EPA Standards Label Toxic Coal Ash Non-Hazardous

NPR News - 9 hours 24 min ago

Environmental groups had sought to have coal ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants, regulated as hazardous waste.

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With A Presidential Vote, Tunisia Seeks A Peaceful Transition

NPR News - 10 hours 2 min ago

Tunisia launched the Arab uprisings four years ago when it ousted a dictator. Sunday's presidential election heralds the country's steady-but-not-yet-guaranteed progress.

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St. Louis Grand Jury Heard Witnesses Who Lied, Prosecutor Says

NPR News - 10 hours 21 min ago

Weeks after he announced a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in Michael Brown's death, prosecutor Robert McCulloch explains some of his own decisions in the case.

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Your Wallet: Cheap travel for the holidays

Marketplace - American Public Media - 10 hours 33 min ago

We're talking about algorithms. Some of the algorithms that affect our lives the most are the ones airlines use to determine flight prices and the best days for ticket sales.

We asked you- how do you make it work for you financially, and how do you work the system? 

Lizzie O'Leary spoke to Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at hopper.com, to find out when to fly and when to buy on a budget.

Apple Responds To BBC On Conditions At Asian iPhone Suppliers

NPR News - 10 hours 51 min ago

Jeff Williams, the tech giant's vice president for operations, told British-based employees that Apple has done more than any other company to ensure fair and safe working conditions.

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In Context: Algorithms in business

Marketplace - American Public Media - 10 hours 53 min ago

This week's show on algorithms beings with a story about rain.

In New York City, when it rains, something interesting happens. The commuters who are prepared pop open their umbrellas. The others, who are damp and cold, see an instant market appear in front of them.

You may have seen this happen where you live. It starts to rain, people need umbrellas, and BOOM, vendors react.

And New York shop owner Randy Thomas makes the decision to move them to the front of his store. This is a pretty straightforward market phenomenon - you increase supply to meet demand.

But it also includes the element of timing. That's when it becomes a little more sophisticated. As simple as it seems, the umbrella market is driven by an algorithm of sorts, calculated in real time. A series of decisions based on changing variables.

And some vendors ... Randy says he's not one of them .. Will even use a moment like this ... To jack up the prices.

Decisions about supply, demand, external variables, timing, and price. All made by a human. In one small store.

But that decision tree ... That's basically what a company like Amazon or Orbitz, does ... Just on a huge scale. Mountains of data, thousands of servers.

And that model helps determine what you buy, for how much, and when. Algorithms can feel like the secret sauce for online commerce ... But they were once used primarily by massive corporations.

Guru Harihan, who used to work at Amazon, now runs a company that makes algorithms accessible to lots of businesses. It's called Boomerang Commerce, and he spoke with Lizzie O'Leary to explain how it helps his clients sell products, increase their profits and compete.

Cuba to expand its internet access

Marketplace - American Public Media - 10 hours 56 min ago

In Cuba internet access is heavily restricted to only a few people on the island. What most people see online is very much government controlled. This of course is very different to what American's have access to on a daily basis. But that my soon change, now that President Obama and Cuba are on the path to normalizing relations. This new policy will help Cuban's have more access to the internet. Nancy Scola, a reporter covering Tech Policy for The Washington Post joins Lizzie O'Leary to talk about Cuba's connectivity.

TTYL: Retailers hope to connect over online chat

If you’ve been online looking for presents over the holiday season, you might have noticed more and more chat boxes popping up, asking if you need some help. 

Online customer service reps do everything from track down an out-of-stock pair of earnings, to reroute a package, to help pick the perfect red lipstick. Retailers are hoping the reps can help reach customers ... anywhere and everywhere. 

Marketplace’s Adriene Hill spent a day in the Nordstrom customer service center in Seattle, Washington, to find out who, exactly, is writing back. The center estimates its reps talk to about 15,000 customers in one day. And though most people still prefer a phone call to talk to customer service, about 20 percent of customers use online chat.

Click play above to hear this story

Notable customer service stories from 2014:

Wall Street Journal: Lowe’s Introduces Robotic Shopping Assistants

Slate: Listen as a Desperate Comcast Rep Refuses to Cancel a Customer’s Service

Business Insider: Why Richard Branson Once Prank-Called His Own Company Demanding to Speak To Richard Branson

 

 

 

 

Michael Phelps Pleads Guilty To DUI

NPR News - 11 hours 12 min ago

The Olympic gold medal winner gets no jail time for second conviction for drunk driving. He'll be able to train for Rio with his 18-month supervised probation.

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Concept for federal college-ratings system is unveiled

Marketplace - American Public Media - 11 hours 14 min ago

The Obama Administration unveiled what it’s calling a draft “framework” for its long-awaited college ratings system. Colleges have been bracing for details for more than a year now for what could amount to a sort of Consumer Reports for higher education.

The goal is to rate colleges on things like how affordable they are, how well they serve low-income students and how their graduates fare in the job market.

“I think this is a supremely challenging task,” says Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education.

Part of the challenge, Broad says, is that the department doesn’t have all the data it needs to judge how colleges are really doing. Official graduation rates, for example, don’t count students who switch colleges or go part-time, though the Department is working on a new measure to include those students.

The numbers also don’t take students’ intentions into account, says Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York. Not all students want to finish “on time.”

“Some are intentionally on the six-year plan,” Zimpher says. “They want three majors, they want study abroad, they really want internships and co-op experiences, and it’s hard to push that into four years.”

That’s why today we have a framework, not a plan. Officials are asking for feedback by mid-February on which data to use and how to fairly compare some 4,000 colleges with different missions and different students.

Ted Mitchell, U.S. Undersecretary of Education, says, “We’re not going to be perfect in version 1.0, but we do hope that we’ll be able to build on it in successive years.” 

That means working out the kinks by 2018, when schools that are rated “low-performing” could face financial penalties.

These 6 charts show our love affair with cars could be over

Marketplace - American Public Media - 11 hours 14 min ago

Just when you thought the guzzlers and Hummers were gone for good, gas prices fell again. The numbers show we’re tilting toward bigger cars and away from fuel-sippers. But not driving more.

(Edmunds.com)

In 2007, Americans collectively drove enough to circle the planet 120,000 times. Our total vehicle miles driven tallied 3 trillion miles.

We haven’t hit that number since. Many think North American society, and perhaps advanced economies in general, have passed an inflection point. Call it Peak Car, or Peak Driving.

“What we’ve seen over the past decade has been a decline in per capita driving,” says Tony Dutzik of the Frontier Group, a self-described public-interest think tank based in Boston. Society has moved past a postwar era of more car and more driving, he says.

Vehicle miles traveled.

(State Smart Transportation Initiative)

“We were suburbanizing, women were entering the workforce,” Dutzik says. “Cars went from being a luxury to being a near necessity in most of the country. And all of those changes were leading people to drive more.”

All that has largely played out. Cheaper gasoline will spur some increased demand, but Dutzik argues it will be outweighed by longer-term structural factors. Insurance is soaring, fewer young adults are applying for driver licenses, they drive less, owning a car costs too much and alternatives exist. 

Millenials drive less, walk & bike more

(Frontier Group)

There’s even evidence some would rather be online than on the road.

I'd rather be online

(Frontier Group)

And one more thing: Most of us are moving back to cities, where it can be easier to get around without a car.

“So popularity of cities and the more livable nature of them in terms of crime and other factors, too, have led to folks being able to lead a car-light lifestyle, which was really hard before,” says Eric Sundquist at the University of Wisconsin’s State Smart Transportation Initiative.

Many economists suggest it’s not just driving, but that overall U.S. oil demand has peaked, forever. Which brings up a familiar, haunting question: Is it really different this time?

“Whenever I hear ‘We’re absolutely never going to see these gas prices again, we’re never going to see these annual sales again, we’re never going to see more miles per person being driven again,’ I always say ‘Yeah, uh-huh,’”  says Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer.

Brauer says you never know what a prolonged stretch of cheap oil and economic boom can bring. As it turns out, more than one set of prognosticators has projected out three scenarios: driving goes back up, or sideways, or down. It's a nice guarantee they'll be right.

Where do we go from here?

(Frontier Group)

(International Transport Forum)

America's love affair with cars, driving may be over

Marketplace - American Public Media - 11 hours 14 min ago

Just when you thought the guzzlers and Hummers were gone for good, gas prices fell again. The numbers show we’re tilting toward bigger cars and away from fuel-sippers. But not driving more.

(Edmunds.com)

In 2007, Americans collectively drove enough to circle the planet 120,000 times. Our total vehicle miles driven tallied 3 trillion miles.

We haven’t hit that number since. Many think North American society, and perhaps advanced economies in general, have passed an inflection point. Call it Peak Car, or Peak Driving.

“What we’ve seen over the past decade has been a decline in per capita driving,” says Tony Dutzik of the Frontier Group, a self-described public-interest think tank based in Boston. Society has moved past a postwar era of more car and more driving, he says.

Vehicle miles traveled.

(State Smart Transportation Initiative)

“We were suburbanizing, women were entering the workforce,” Dutzik says. “Cars went from being a luxury to being a near necessity in most of the country. And all of those changes were leading people to drive more.”

All that has largely played out. Cheaper gasoline will spur some increased demand, but Dutzik argues it will be outweighed by longer-term structural factors. Insurance is soaring, fewer young adults are applying for driver licenses, they drive less, owning a car costs too much and alternatives exist. 

Millenials drive less, walk & bike more

(Frontier Group)

There’s even evidence some would rather be online than on the road.

I'd rather be online

(Frontier Group)

And one more thing: Most of us are moving back to cities, where it can be easier to get around without a car.

“So popularity of cities and the more livable nature of them in terms of crime and other factors, too, have led to folks being able to lead a car-light lifestyle, which was really hard before,” says Eric Sundquist at the University of Wisconsin’s State Smart Transportation Initiative.

Many economists suggest it’s not just driving, but that overall U.S. oil demand has peaked, forever. Which brings up a familiar, haunting question: Is it really different this time?

“Whenever I hear ‘We’re absolutely never going to see these gas prices again, we’re never going to see these annual sales again, we’re never going to see more miles per person being driven again,’ I always say ‘Yeah, uh-huh,’”  says Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer.

Brauer says you never know what a prolonged stretch of cheap oil and economic boom can bring. As it turns out, more than one set of prognosticators has projected out three scenarios: driving goes back up, or sideways, or down. It's a nice guarantee they'll be right.

Where do we go from here?

(Frontier Group)

(International Transport Forum)

These 6 charts show we may have hit peak driving

Marketplace - American Public Media - 11 hours 14 min ago

Just when you thought the guzzlers and Hummers were gone for good, gas prices fell again. Already, numbers show we’re tilting toward bigger cars and away from fuel-sippers. But not driving more.

(Edmunds.com)

In 2007, Americans collectively drove enough to circle the planet 120,000 times. Our total vehicle miles driven tallied 3 trillion miles.

We haven’t hit that number since. Many think North American society, and perhaps advanced economies in general, have passed an inflection point. Call it Peak Car, or Peak Driving.

“What we’ve seen over the past decade has been a decline in per capita driving,” says Tony Dutzik of the Frontier Group, a self-described public-interest think tank based in Boston. Society has moved past a postwar era of more car and more driving, he says.

Vehicle miles traveled.

(State Smart Transportation Initiative)

“We were suburbanizing, women were entering the workforce,” Dutzik says. “Cars went from being a luxury to being a near necessity in most of the country. And all of those changes were leading people to drive more.”

All that has largely played out. Cheaper gasoline will spur some increased demand, but Dutzik argues it will be outweighed by longer-term structural factors. Insurance is soaring, fewer young adults are applying for driver licenses, they drive less, owning a car costs too much and alternatives exist. 

Millenials drive less, walk & bike more

(Frontier Group)

There’s even evidence some would rather be online than on the road.

I'd rather be online

(Frontier Group)

And one more thing: Most of us are moving back to cities, where it can be easier to get around without a car.

“So popularity of cities and the more livable nature of them in terms of crime and other factors, too, have led to folks being able to lead a car-light lifestyle, which was really hard before,” says Eric Sundquist at the University of Wisconsin’s State Smart Transportation Initiative.

Many economists suggest it’s not just driving, but that overall U.S. oil demand has peaked, forever. Which brings up a familiar, haunting question: Is it really different this time?

“Whenever I hear ‘We’re absolutely never going to see these gas prices again, we’re never going to see these annual sales again, we’re never going to see more miles per person being driven again,’ I always say ‘Yeah, uh-huh,’”  says Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer.

Brauer says you never know what a prolonged stretch of cheap oil and economic boom can bring. As it turns out, more than one set of prognosticators has projected out three scenarios: driving goes back up, or sideways, or down. It's a nice guarantee they'll be right.

Where do we go from here?

(Frontier Group)

(International Transport Forum)

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