National News

What has changed one year after Rana Plaza

On April 24, 2013 an eight-story factory building collapsed in Bangladesh, in a complex called "Rana Plaza."

1,129 workers died. More than 2,500 were injured, many seriously so.

The factory made clothing for companies all over the world, from Walmart to Benetton.

The BBC's Akbar Hossain covered the collapse and the aftermath. In the year since, he's spoken with workers and factory owners. He told Marketplace's David Gura about the past year in Bangladesh's garment industry:

Q: What sort of tangible changes have you seen to these factories in Bangladesh? Do they look different?

To be very honest, the situation and the physical infrastructure [of most factories] has not changed yet. Workers [still] are alleging that they're working in very dangerous conditions. 

There are factories in Bangladesh that are very compliant...they meet all the standards of international buyers. But there are many factories which don't even comply with the minimum standards in Bangladesh. And thousands of workers are working there -- there's a problem.

Q: This is an issue that attracted so much attention globally. There was a compensation fund that was intended to raise at least $40 million for victims. This hasn't happened yet. Why?

Bangladeshi garment owners are saying they couldn't insure the factories safety and standards because internatioanl buyers always want cheaper garments from Bangladesh. So they have to maintain the factories in cheaper ways. 

Bangladesh's garment industry is a huge industry for Bangladesh. It earns $20 billion every year. More than 5 million people are directly employed in the garment industry, and there are [many] other people who have links. 

Q: Rana Plaza did contract work for some big western companies, like Mango and Benetton. Have you seen these businesses travelling more to Bangladesh? Taking a closer look since this happened?

The Rana Plaza disaster was a wake up call for the Bangladeshi garment indsustry, and it was a wake up call for international garments and brands also. They are coming to Bangladesh. I've talked to Trade Union Leaders, and they are telling me, yes, international buyers are now more serious. They're trying to maximize they're profit, but now they're focusing on the safety issues. They're actually pressing garment factory owners to insure a safer workplace.

So things are changing, things have worked, but things are going very slow.

Pope OKs Communion For The Divorced? Not So Fast, Vatican Says

NPR News - 4 hours 35 min ago

Word about what the pope reportedly said when he called a woman in Argentina set off speculation that he wants to reverse church teachings. His spokesman says that's reading too much into the story.

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A Measles Outbreak In The Philippines Travels To The U.S.

NPR News - 4 hours 37 min ago

International travel is one reason why the number of measles cases in the U.S. has spiked this year. But the number of people who refuse to get their children vaccinated is a factor, too.

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American Journalist Freed By Kidnappers In Eastern Ukraine

NPR News - 5 hours 12 min ago

Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter for Vice News, was seized at gunpoint by masked men in the city of Slovyansk earlier this week. Vice says he is now safe and in good health.

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Bracing For A Battle, Vermont Passes GMO Labeling Bill

NPR News - 5 hours 22 min ago

The Green Mountain State is poised to become the first to require GMO labeling. But a federal lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would outlaw state rules like Vermont's.

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Long-Lost Wreck Off San Francisco Recalls Anti-Chinese History

NPR News - 5 hours 52 min ago

The City of Chester, which sank in 1888 after colliding with the liner Oceanic, has been found. At the time, false reports that the other ship's Chinese crew failed to assist stoked racial hatred.

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Israel Halts Peace Talks After Palestinian Unity Move

NPR News - 6 hours 32 min ago

The Israeli Cabinet on Thursday endorsed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to suspend talks because the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas are moving to form a unity government.

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PODCAST: The secrets behind college wait lists

This morning brought a bit of a reversal fortune for tech companies that have been getting pummeled in recent weeks.

The Federal Communication Commission is expected to introduce new rules today that will allow broadband providers to charge companies for faster internet service.

College admissions rates across the country hit some all-time lows this year. Stanford University, for instance, took only around five percent of applicants. In response to the crazy numbers game of college admissions, schools are growing their wait lists and using them in some surprising ways.

Is the FCC neutering Net Neutrality?

The Federal Communication Commission is expected to introduce new rules today that will allow broadband providers to charge companies for faster internet service.

Net neutrality proponents see this as a blow to the principle that broadband providers can’t give preferential treatment to websites or Internet companies. Broadband providers welcome the proposed rules saying it’ll allow them to deliver better services to consumers, said John Butler, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries. He says, think of your Internet connection as a big highway.  

“And to the extent that you get certain clients that are using too much of the highway if you will and really affecting the quality of service for others on the network, in their view that’s not fair game,” Butler said.

Providers say streaming video companies like Netflix, which use a lot of lanes on the road, should pay more. They say the proposed rules will simply allow them open faster Internet lanes and charge companies for them.

Todd O’Boyle with Common Cause, which advocates for Net Neutrality, says, the new rules allow for paid discrimination. He adds, it will also handicap smaller tech companies.

“By slowing down its rivals its harmful to innovation it’s harmful to end consumers,” O’Boyle said. He says that’s because consumers will end up paying for it in the end.

 

Tweet Suits: Social Media And The Law

NPR News - 7 hours 13 min ago

In this age of social media, is every negative experience a possible class action?

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Lawyers Use High Court Petition To Highlight Prosecutorial Misconduct

NPR News - 7 hours 21 min ago

A computer support technician convicted of possessing ricin to use as a weapon wants the Supreme Court to hear his appeal. He says prosecutors denied him due process by failing to disclose evidence.

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Obama: Japan's Administration Of Disputed Islands Shouldn't Change

NPR News - 7 hours 36 min ago

A standoff over sovereignty of an island chain that Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu has been a source of deep tension between the two countries in recent years.

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Snoopy, Garfield And Friends Go Bald For Kids With Cancer

NPR News - 7 hours 55 min ago

Kids don't want to look different, especially if the reason they look different is because they've lost their hair to chemotherapy. If Hello Kitty's gone bald, too, maybe it won't feel so bad.

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Saddened Students Return To Ferry Disaster Victims' School

NPR News - 8 hours 15 min ago

More bodies were recovered Thursday from the ship, which sank last week. So far, at least 171 deaths have been confirmed. Another 131 people, many of them students from one school, remain missing.

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British Men Win Equal-Pay Claim Against University

NPR News - 8 hours 33 min ago

At issue was how much money the 18 men – carpenters, plumbers and caretakers – employed by the University of Wales, Trinity St. David, made compared with female workers on the same pay scale.

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More work study, less financial aid?

What would happen if the government moved away from financial aid for college students and more towards work study? Marketplace economics contributor Chris Farrell joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to make his case for growing work study. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Jobless Claims Bounce Up From Earlier Weeks' Low Levels

NPR News - 9 hours 23 min ago

The 329,000 applications filed last week for unemployment insurance were more than economists expected. One theory: Easter's relatively late date may have skewed the numbers.

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The post-recall GM: What's it look like?

[UPDATED: 8:13AM EDT] General Motors  said this morning that its profit fell 86 percent, its worst quarter since came out of bankruptcy in 2009.  A series of recalls hurt the auto giant, but excluding these one-time items, profits radically beat expectations.

GM is suffering not just from bad weather during the winter months -- but also from bad PR over its handling of faulty ignition switches going back ten years.

The problem has caused at least 13 deaths, and the belated recall -- in February 2014 -- could cost the company $1.3 billion. GM faces ongoing inquiries into its knowledge and handling of the defect, as well as lawsuits from consumers.

Since emerging from bankruptcy at the end of the recession in June 2009, GM has gone from a message of redemption to an acknowledgment of mistakes.

"We will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future," new CEO Mary Barra told a Congressional hearing earlier this month about the ignition-switch recall. "Today's GM will do the right thing."

That appears to include heads moving and rolling. Several top executives, in HR, communications and engineering, are out, says Paul Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau, an auto-industry news service.

"Since the recall we have been seeing more and more changes in mid- to upper-management," says Eisenstein, and he adds that company executives have signaled to expect more of the same.

Meanwhile, GM plans to staff up two new engineering divisions -- one specifically to deal with safety and quality problems.

"The image of the company as a huge lumbering company where management holds back on innovation and change is an image that the company’s going to have to rid itself of very quickly," says Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University who studies the auto industry. And he says HR shuffles alone aren’t likely to accomplish that goal.

Stowaway Teen's Father Was Shocked To Hear Son Was In Hawaii

NPR News - 9 hours 47 min ago

The 15-year-old boy hid in the wheel well of a jet that flew Sunday from San Jose, Calif., to Maui. Though temperatures plunged and oxygen was scant, he survived. The father says Allah "saved him."

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The business of tourist traps

Marketplace - American Public Media - 10 hours 34 min ago

The iconic New York restaurant Tavern on the Green is reopening Thursday under new ownership after being shut down for years. It has a storied history, but suffered in recent years from a reputation as a tourist trap with dreadful food. The new owners vow to restore it to its old glory and have invested millions in revitalizing the space and the menu.

By Shea Huffman

In light of Tavern on the Green's return, we decided to look at some of the most well-known, or infamous "tourist trap" restaurants around the country. These restaurants may have originally gained noteriety for good food or intriguing historical origins, but have since become better known for their tourist draw.

Top of the World Restaurant - Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas

One could argue Las Vegas itself is one big tourist trap, but to pick one restaurant out of all of them, you have to go with the rotating restaurant atop the Stratosphere Hotel, the Top of the World. Like most touristy places to eat, this one banks mostly on the view it offers customers, but doesn't offer the high quality food to match its high price range (it costs $18 just for admission).

Zehnder's of Frankenmuth - Frankenmuth, Michigan

This all-you-can-eat chicken restaurant is somewhat of a landmark in Michigan, known for its massive 1,500 person seating area, making it one of the largest restaurants in the U.S. Zehnder's staff all wear traditional German-style uniforms to match the general style of the restaurant, though the food is decidedly American.

Fisherman's Warf - San Francisco

This is probably one of the most well known tourist traps in the world, and it would be unfair to single out just one of the restaurants that inhabit it for being unremarkable beyond the fact that they are in Fisherman's Warf.

The Billy Goat Taven - Chicago

"Cheezborger! Cheezborger!" The famous line from the Olympia Restaurant skit in Saturday Night Live was inspired by the Greek immigrant owners of the Billy Goat Taven in Chicago. To this day the restaurant is graced with long lines of patrons waiting to hear the staff recite the words, but the general consensus is that it's just typical diner food.

Times Square - New York

Another famous tourist trap whose restaurants we just couldn't single out. If we had to pick one though, it would probably be Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, the restaurant belonging to celebrity chef Guy Fieri, if only for its brilliantly scathing review in the New York Times.

P.O.V. Rooftop Bar at the W Hotel - Washington, D.C.

This lounge, sitting atop the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., offers patrons a great view of the White House and a number of the city's historic monuments, as well as a chance to rub elbows with a few classy politicos. But that might be all it has to offer, as reviewers contend the drinks are overpriced and the food isn't that good.

The Ivy - Los Angeles

Adorned with flowery cottage-style decor, this nouvelle American restaurant sits not far from the talent agency International Creative Management, which has prompted a number of visits from celebrities and pursuing paparazzi. The chance to spot their favorite movie stars drives many tourists to The Ivy, and they pay for it.

The Varsity - Atlanta

The main branch of this burger chain in Atlanta is the largest fast food drive-in in the world, and has become an iconic fixture in the city's culture. The unofficial catchphrase, "What'll ya have?" has become ingrained in Atlanta's folklore, and the restaurant has even been graced with visits from presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But pretty much everyone who goes there agrees, the food is just "meh."

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