National News

Up Close And Personal With A 40-Story Oil Rig In The Gulf

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 12:00

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for more than 20 percent of U.S. domestic oil production. But few see these operations far offshore.

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Walgreens Drops Plan To Move Headquarters — And Profits — Overseas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 11:10

The pharmacy giant will conclude its merger with British retailer Allliance Boots in a $15 billion deal. But the company decided to drop plans to move its headquarters abroad for tax purposes.

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Brief Counseling May Not Help With Most Drug Problems

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 11:02

Studies show that a chat with a doctor during a routine checkup can sometimes be enough to curb problem drinking. But the model doesn't work as well with problem drug use.

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Malaysia Flight Wreckage Was 'Like The End Of The World'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 10:42

The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise was among the first to arrive at the site of the downed flight in Ukraine in late July. She says it's hard to get the faces of the dead out of her mind.

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Nearly 50 Killed By Car Bombs In Baghdad Markets

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 10:41

Violence in primarily Shiite neighborhoods has been extreme in recent weeks. On Wednesday, three car bombs were detonated in crowded market areas.

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Ask Me Anything: Correspondent Emily Harris Discusses Gaza

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 10:34

For the past month, Harris has been covering the Israeli-Hamas battles in the Gaza Strip. She's answering questions Wednesday in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

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Dutch Call Off Search For Additional Remains In Ukraine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 10:18

The Dutch prime minister said continuing the search at the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight is too dangerous. Russia has stationed tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine.

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The NCAA's top conferences break out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-06 10:13

A new proposal that grants the country’s top college athletics programs more money for their athletes and loosens NCAA restrictions is expected to be approved Thursday.

"The move comes amid vigorous public debate about the proper role of sports in higher education, and whether college athletes should be compensated for the billions of dollars they help generate," says Marc Tracy, college sports reporter for The New York Times.

This proposal will make the Big 5 conferences' first-class status official, but it might not be good news for the smaller programs. Non-Big 5 athletic programs could possibly lose their funding or be shut down.

"If you’re a non-Big 5 school that nonetheless feels it needs to compete with Big 5 schools and offer more to students, say in football, then you might need to cut costs elsewhere," says Tracy. "Will that actually be something that happens? I don’t know, but it’s certainly possible."

Following Western Sanctions, Russia Orders Ban On Some Imports

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 09:56

The Kremlin did not name names, but asked his agencies to come up with a list but also make sure that the ban prevents the "rapid growth of prices of agricultural and food products."

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Yelp's CEO on the end of the professional critic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-06 09:43

Ten years ago PayPal alums Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons had an idea for a website that would allow users to review restaurants and other local businesses. The pair took $1 million in seed capital and turned it into Yelp.

“If you think about the world prior to Yelp, it was the world of the professional critic,” says Stoppelman. “And so that meant lots of businesses didn’t get any exposure at all and the ones that did had kind of a one-shot deal.”

Simmons has since left the company but Stoppelman remains CEO 10 years on. This year is significant for another reason too – in the last quarter, Yelp posted a profit for the first time.

Though it’s free for users to post reviews, Yelp makes money by selling advertisements to small businesses. That concept brought Google knocking in 2009 with an offer to buy the company. Stoppelman remembers the day Steve Jobs called, urging him not to sell. "Fortunately, we chose the independent path,"  Stoppelman says, "and I think the company is much more successful as a result."

As for how he and Simmons came up with the name for their now-ubiquitous company, they credit their early days at a business incubator.

“There was a guy we were working with, David, and he just came up with the name. He said it was like Help/Yelp or Yelp/Yellow Pages,"  Stoppelman says. "And both my and Russ’s initial response was 'Oh, that’s kind of a negative word.' But we slept on it and the next day, it was kind of history."

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated that the call from Steve Jobs to Jeremy Stoppelman was about selling. It was urging him not to sell. The text has been corrected.

Yelp CEO on the end of the professional critic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-06 09:43

Ten years ago PayPal alums Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons had an idea for a website that would allow users to review restaurants and other local businesses. The pair took $1 million in seed capital and turned it into Yelp.

“If you think about the world prior to Yelp, it was the world of the professional critic,” says Stoppelman. “And so that meant lots of businesses didn’t get any exposure at all and the ones that did had kind of a one-shot deal.”

Simmons has since left the company but Stoppelman remains CEO ten years on. This year is significant for another reason too – in the last quarter, Yelp posted a profit for the first time.

Though it’s free for users to post reviews, Yelp makes money by selling advertisements to small businesses. That concept brought Google knocking in 2009 with an offer to buy the company. Stoppelman remembers the day Steve Jobs called, urging him to sell. "Fortunately, we chose the independent path"  Stoppelman says, "and I think the company is much more successful as a result."

As for how he and Simmons came up with the name for their now-ubiquitous company, they credit their early days at a business incubator.

“There was a guy we were working with, David, and he just came up with the name. He said it was like Help/Yelp or Yelp/Yellow Pages,"  Stoppelman says. "And both my and Russ’s initial response was 'Oh, that’s kind of a negative word.' But we slept on it and the next day, it was kind of history."

Sprint Names New CEO, As T-Mobile Bid Is Said To Crumble

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 08:07

The proposed merger was supposed to create a new company to challenge the behemoths Verizon and AT&T. The new CEO intimated that Sprint is prepared to go it alone.

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A State Court Says Rap Lyrics Can't Be Used As Evidence In A Criminal Trial

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 08:02

Code Switch recently wrote about the practice of using violent hip-hop lyrics as evidence in criminal cases. Now a New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled on that very issue.

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Hearts, Minds, Tweets: Battling Terrorism Online

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 07:21

A new U.S. initiative is hoping a social media campaign will turn people away from terrorism.

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Hearts, Minds, Tweets: Battling Terrorism Online

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 07:11

A new U.S. initiative is hoping a social media campaign will turn people away from terrorism.

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Meet the woman behind Ikea's living wage calculator

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-06 06:48

Scandinavian furniture store Ikea recently announced it will adopt a new, higher wage structure at its U.S. stores in 2015. The company says its average hourly minimum wage in will go up to $10.76, an increase of 17 percent. That's big news, but there was a footnote to that announcement that's worth pausing on.

In this new wage structure, Ikea's lowest wages will be based on something called the MIT Living Wage Calculator. How did one MIT professor's research project become a tool that will affect the wages of thousands of American workers?

The story begins with Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography and regional planning at MIT. Glasmeier is the kind of person who, when she goes on a trip somewhere, is less likely to head to the tourist attractions and more likely to drive to a grocery store where she can squint at price tags to figure out what it costs to live there. Checking out local listings for apartments is also a favorite pastime.

These travel hobbies of hers have to do with one question: Why do certain places have such high poverty rates when others do not?

In her travels and her research, Glasmeier has found that places with higher poverty are often ones where lots of the available jobs pay minimum wage, a wage that she says "absolutely was not paying people enough to live on."

How the Living Wage Calculator works

So what would be enough to live on? That would of course depend on where someone lived, and how much that place costs. And so Glasmeier rounded up some of her best graduate students to create, basically, a giant spreadsheet. They loaded it up with the best regional data available, from government and industry surveys, on costs for housing, food, child care, medical expenses, and transportation. (Plus a category called "other," which includes a modest budget for things like clothes, cleaning supplies and toiletries.)

The spreadsheet adds all these costs up, divides by the number of hours a person typically works in a year, and spits out the hourly rate that, according to all these calculations, an individual must earn to support him or herself (and a family—the wages are adjusted by household size), working full-time.

The "living wages" the calculator produces are not "middle class" wages, cautions Glasmeier. They wouldn't cover a trip to Hawaii once a year or saving for retirement. The living wage is, as she defines it, just enough to pay bills for the necessities of life and not fall behind.

No longer an obscure tool

Since Glasmeier created her calculator, it has had its fans, from policy wonks to unions to the occasional small-business owner. But it was still a relatively obscure tool until one day a few weeks ago, when Glasmeier got a phone call from a reporter, informing her that Ikea was planning to use it to set its own internal minimum wage.

"We truly do see this as the right thing to do for taking care of our co-workers," says Rob Olson, the acting president for Ikea U.S. "An opportunity to increase coworker loyalty, decrease turnover, as well as being able to attract more and more qualified applicants."

Olson says it would be too complicated to pay people different wages based on household size, so Ikea's going to stick with what the Living Wage Calculator comes up with for a single person with no children. (In other words, the lowest wage the calculator offers). Still, starting in January, the minimum hourly pay for an Ikea worker in an expensive suburb of Washington, D.C. will be $13.22 an hour. Over in Pittsburgh, where cost of living is much lower, Ikea's minimum hourly rate will be lower too — $8.29 an hour. But even that is still a dollar more than the federal minimum wage.

Olson says Ikea found out about the MIT Living Wage Calculator through consultants and he didn't know much about who was behind the actual tool.

That's just fine with Glasmeier. With all the political debates over where to set the minimum wage right now, she thinks the anonymity of the tool in some funny way actually makes people feel better.

"As if it was just an MIT robot, somewhere in a closet, crunching the numbers on a daily basis," she says.

Of course, The MIT Living Wage Calculator is not a number-crunching robot in a closet. But you can see why the objectivity the name suggests could make it more attractive to businesses large and small.

Not long ago the calculator caught the attention of Artillery Riewaldt, who owns two Jimmy John's sandwich shops in rural Illinois. Riewaldt says he used to pay all his employees minimum wage. Then, one day, a few years ago, a worker mentioned he was looking for a second job because he couldn't make ends meet.

"It's very difficult knowing that you have a good living for yourself, working right next to someone every day who's trying very hard and helping you grow that business, and knowing that they can't survive the bumps that come up in life," he says. "An employer always needs to make the decision: how much is too much for me at the expense of them?"

Riewaldt says when he found the Living Wage Calculator one night doing research on Google, it felt like a relief. "It's as far as I can tell political-free — it is actual data trying to decide what is that line that has to be met in order to live and be OK."

As politics-free and data-driven as the calculator may be, it is still made by humans, who have to choose the data and update it. On a professor's research budget that can only happen so often, says Glasmeier. Her calculator is currently based on data from 2010, inflated to 2012. Meaning it doesn't reflect more recent rises in cost of living.

In fact, after Ikea announced it was going to be using the MIT Living Wage Calculator, Professor Glasmeier emailed the company.

First, she thanked Ikea for raising wages. "But then I also told them that we were going to have an update," she says. "And the update was going to have a wage that was going to be higher than the one they were using."

She says the update will be published in September.

For now, Ikea says it will stick with the older, lower calculations, but that it will reevaluate annually.

Suspicious Use Of AIDS Drugs Costs Medicare $30 Million

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 06:02

Medicare is paying for HIV drugs for hundreds of patients who may not have the disease, an inspector general's investigation finds. A 77-year-old woman with no record of HIV got $33,500 of medication.

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Suspicious Use Of AIDS Drugs Costs Medicare $30 Million

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 06:02

Medicare is paying for HIV drugs for hundreds of patients who may not have the disease, an inspector general's investigation finds. A 77-year-old woman with no record of HIV got $33,500 of medication.

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Hawaii, Which Almost Never Has Hurricanes, Is Getting Ready For 2

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 05:18

Hurricanes Iselle and Julio are both expected to weaken into tropical storms before approaching the islands later this week, but residents are being urged to stock up on supplies.

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Hawaii, Which Almost Never Has Hurricanes, Is Getting Ready For 2

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-06 05:18

Hurricanes Iselle and Julio are both expected to weaken into tropical storms before approaching the islands later this week, but residents are being urged to stock up on supplies.

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