National News

How social media can divert you around travel hassles

According to Brian Kelly, a  little travel tweeting could help you get home on time.  

“A lot of people just don’t know that social media can be such a great tool,” he says.

Kelly is a frequent flier mile ninja and founder of the travel website The Points Guy. He says people can turn to twitter to upgrade seating, find lost luggage or rebook flights.

“I know people don’t want to join Twitter and share everything, but you don’t even need to be an active tweeter to get help on Twitter,” he says.

When Kelly was traveling from Philadelphia to Costa Rica last New Year’s Eve, the American Airlines flight had a mechanical delay and he re-booked via twitter while still in his seat.

“While passengers were running off the plane to get re-accommodated,” he says. “I was able to snag the last seat on the next flight and save a day of my vacation.”

These days, most U.S. airlines have teams dedicated to helping customers via social media.

“It’s critical for travelers to take advantage of social media,” Kelly says. “No app is going to do the work for you.”

Scott Sorenson works in Southwest’s “Listening Center” in Dallas Love Field airport. Along with a team of “social care specialists” he spends his day responding to customers who reach out on Twitter and Facebook.

The most common questions, he says, are about delays.

“So, hey my flight is delayed leaving this city am I going to make a connection in my next my next city?”

Sorenson can reach out directly to dispatchers and often get back via direct message to the customer. Sometimes in a matter of minutes.

So, if you’re looking for a fast response, Sorenson and Kelly say, start by looking up the Twitter handle for your airline.

Here are a few top U.S. airlines' Twitter handles to get you started:

Video Of Woman Dancing On Tehran's Subway Goes Viral

NPR News - 1 hour 30 min ago

The video was posted to a Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom showing Iranian women defying the country's strict laws on female dress.

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Quiz: Prepping for college in middle school

Research by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research suggests how kids performance in early grades shapes their paths to college.

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Experts Predict Low Oil Prices Through Next Year

NPR News - 2 hours 47 min ago

Following a decision by OPEC ministers not to cut production, crude prices have fallen to a four-year-low before rebounding slightly.

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Eyeing That BB Gun For Christmas? Don't Go There, Doctors Say

NPR News - 2 hours 51 min ago

Sure as the season, some toys that turn up on the most-popular lists are also considered a safety hazard. So best to skip the LED crossbow, eye doctors say.

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Test Your Medical Smarts: Does This Patient Have Ebola?

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Patient X arrives. She ran a fever. Now it's gone. But she has diarrhea. Should you test for the virus or not? That's the kind of case history presented to health workers heading to West Africa.

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Talking (Very Frankly) About Sex On Campus

NPR News - 4 hours 51 min ago

Sex Week events are designed to foster an open, healthy discussion about sex.

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Connecting your online self to your offline self

Retailers have long tracked when we visit and what we purchased in stores. Then, they came up with ways to monitor what we did on their websites. Now, they're using mobile devices to connect that offline and online activity into data-rich customer profiles. 

Monica Ho heads marketing at xAd. It has a map of America that shows real people visiting stores in real-time. On it, each individual person is a blinking yellow light. At ten o'clock in the morning, the map is lit up like a Christmas tree. In two minutes, you can watch over a million people shop.

XAd creates this map with GPS data transmitted by the apps on people's phones. The company buys most of the data from free apps that sell user information to make some revenue. XAd uses the data to help retailers tell if an ad they sent to your mobile phone actually led you into a store, an important metric to track offline conversions that begin with online advertising.

Matt DePratter is a VP of digital marketing at Catapult. He says if we use a retailer's app, that company knows even more about you-like where you are in a store, what you browsed online, if you bought anything, or if you looked up an item on a competitor's website. That can help stores target you with products, discounts, and personally-tailored commnication.

Depratter says companies like Walmart and Target are trying to get people to use their apps, even in stores. He says Target "actually has little signs directing you to interact with your mobile device in some sort of way." The company offers customers a coupon if they send it a text, thereby initiating contact between the store and the person's phone.

Connecting to your mobile phone is key to integrating your offline and online data, which, in the end, will help retailers sell you more stuff.

Viral Videos Show Kenyan Women Assaulted For Wearing Miniskirts

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Nearly every day for the past two weeks, a woman in Kenya has been publicly stripped and molested for wearing a miniskirt. Cell phone video has galvanized an unprecedented show of condemnation.

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How Dogs Understand What We Say

NPR News - 7 hours 48 min ago

Dogs pay close attention to the emotion in our voices, but what about the meaning of words? A clever experiment with 250 canines shows that dogs understand more of our speech than previously thought.

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Pentagon Expected To Release More Detainees From Guantanamo

NPR News - 7 hours 50 min ago

Since the midterm elections, there has been a new batch of transfers from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and more releases are in the works. But a new GOP Congress could stall the drive to empty Guantanamo.

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Gold-Plated Gowns And 8-inch Pumps: The Stuff That Made Starlets Shimmer

NPR News - 7 hours 53 min ago

Actress Mae West was petite, but on screen — thanks to a pair of platform shoes — she looked larger than life. A show in Boston examines the fashion and jewelry of Hollywood's golden age.

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AFL-CIO Supports Black Friday Strikes Against Walmart

NPR News - Thu, 2014-11-27 23:55

Since 2012, Our Walmart, an employee labor group, has been staging strikes on the day after Thanksgiving. The group wants workers to get more full-time jobs and make a living wage of $15 an hour.

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Thailand Blocks Access To Damaging Human Rights Report

NPR News - Thu, 2014-11-27 12:43

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said this week that six months after a coup toppled the country's elected government, the regime arrests its opponents and censors the media.

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In A Land Of Few Christians, Pope Will Reach Out To Muslims In Turkey

NPR News - Thu, 2014-11-27 12:18

Pope Francis will meet with Turkey's Muslim leaders and the head of the Orthodox Church in what may be the most challenging trip of his young papacy.

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WTO Members Approve Historic Trade Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2014-11-27 11:51

The World Trade Organization's 160 members unanimously approved a first-ever multilateral trade deal which the group believes will boost global commerce by $1 trillion annually.

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Sun, Sand And Offshore Drilling In Spain's Famed Canary Islands

NPR News - Thu, 2014-11-27 11:45

Highly reliant on oil imports, Spain's government is encouraging oil exploration off the coast of the Canary Islands. But locals say the drilling threatens the natural attractions that draw tourists.

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The annual Turkey pardon, demystified

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-11-27 10:54

Every year at this time, the president of the United States, leader of the free world, participates in a truly bizarre political ritual: the pardon of a turkey. President Obama stood before a 50-pound bird Wednesday, made the sign of the cross over him and pardoned him for what, exactly? Comedian John Oliver has a theory: "Every single turkey is guilty, specifically, guilty of having delicious bird parts that should be serving time in the prison of my mouth,” he said in a recent YouTube video.

Mac and Cheese, this year’s turkeys, were born in July on a farm in Ohio. Cheese received the official pardon, but there are always two birds selected – just in case.

“Miss America has a runner up, the president has a vice president, an actor has an understudy,” says Keith Williams with the National Turkey Federation, the official supplier of the pardoned birds.

Williams says Mac and Cheese were chosen for their white fluffy feathering and charming personalities.

“[We] look for is a bird that will be easily handled, in that it can be picked up and put on that little table there where the president can see it,” he says.

The origin of this “treasured” tradition is a bit murky, though the National Turkey Federation, a lobbying group, has given a bird to the White House since the 1940s. Abraham Lincoln spared a turkey after his son Tad argued the bird “had as good a right to live as anybody;” President Harry Truman pardoned a turkey in 1947. But George H. W. Bush was the first president to make it a formal pardon.

“Even though this isn’t a big thing, there is something to note that a lobbying group is even behind this,” says Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “That is Washington in a nutshell these days.”

But while turkey pardon may feel silly, Zelizer says politicians see value in it. “We are in an age where the character of the president matters very much,” he says. “People care about who someone is, not just what policies they’re going to fight for. These kinds of rituals are part of how presidential handlers try to package a person.”

But what happens to these turkeys after the cameras are gone?

Well, past birds have gone to Disneyland and George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. Mac and Cheese are now headed to a newly renovated roost at Morven Park in Virginia, joining last year’s birds, Popcorn and Caramel. Well, actually just Caramel. “Popcorn’s not there,” explains Keith Williams. “Popcorn, you know -- turkeys do not live a long time. They are bred for Thanksgiving.” 

Over the last twenty years or so, turkeys have be bred to grow bigger, faster, and with more white meat, says Michael Hulet, a professor at Penn State, focusing on meat bird production. That’s, in part, a reflection of American appetites.

“Part of the selection for larger birds and more breast meat puts a lot more demand on the supply organs of the bird, such as the heart, and the liver, lungs,” says Hulet.

Therefore, in the end, the presidential pardon is maybe more like a temporary stay. Popcorn died during a heat wave last summer.

Indian Investigators Deny Village Girls Were Raped, Murdered

NPR News - Thu, 2014-11-27 10:47

Villagers said the two "untouchable" caste girls were gang-raped and then hanged from a tree in May, but the country's equivalent of the FBI now says there was no rape and that they hanged themselves.

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The underdog of contrived shopping holidays

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-11-27 09:38

Thanksgiving is, of course, a holiday about family and food and being thankful for what you have. It is also, however, a holiday that is increasingly about commerce, retail commerce especially. 

This year more than any shoppers are going out on Thanksgiving itself, online and even in person. Then there is tomorrow, Black Friday, followed by a lesser known shopping holiday, Small Business Saturday. 

Kyle Huntoon* is a fourth-generation woodworker from Jackson, Michigan. He moved from his hometown to Detroit open his woodworking business Hunt & Noyer. “I guess I have the underdog spirit in me," says Huntoon. “I’ve always thought of Michigan as kind of an underdog state, and I like that aspect of living in Detroit.”

This weekend, Huntoon will participate in what’s known nationally as Small Business Saturday, which hopes to lure shoppers away from big box retailers. It’s sort of the underdog of contrived shopping holidays.

“I think it’s in its maybe first three years,” says Huntoon who first found out about Small Business Saturdays about a year ago on social media. You may have seen the hashtag #shopsmall or come across this this commercial.

The irony here, is that this commercial was made by a giant company, American Express. That is not lost on analyst Marshal Cohen.

“Without a national sponsor it was kind of floundering around out there, says Cohen. “It really wasn’t gaining any traction.”

This year, Cohen expects Small Business Saturday to gain some traction. So on this Thanksgiving day, as the whole family of fake shopping holidays gather for dinner, this could be the first year that Small Business Saturdays is not seated at the kids table, though it may have to sit next to Uncle Cyber Monday, who always smells like spam.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Kyle Huntoon. The text has been corrected.

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