National News

Economics and the transgender community

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:24

In the past two years, both Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, transgender women, have been featured in prominent magazine covers. "Orange Is the New Black" and "Transparent" brought significant trans characters to TV. Media coverage is changing too, from the New York Times series "Transgender Today" to Time's 2014 article "The Transgender Tipping Point."

For the trans community at large, it doesn't always feel like popular culture — or nondiscrimination laws — are truly transforming the experience. Most people don't get a magazine cover, a hashtag and a documentary series when they come out.

There are still enormous obstacles to face: transgender people are about twice as likely to be unemployed and have less access to healthcare and housing. Transgender people still face high rates of violence and suicide. There have been some changes that protect trans people at work from discrimination. Fortune 100 and 500 companies are widely adopting policies that prevent against discrimination based on gender identity, but smaller employers are still catching up, often leaving someone in the midst of a transition out of a job. 

Drian Juarez is the program manager of the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Transgender Economic Empowerment Project. Part of her work involves helping trans people navigate the logistics of transitioning at work — finding trans-friendly employers, assisting with name changes, job interview coaching, resume tweaks and help with legal representation. Some of it involves working with employers to develop safe, more diverse work spaces. 

Juarez says the landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights was different when she transitioned about 20 years ago in her early 20s.

"Up until the point that I transitioned, I hadn't heard of transgender," Juarez says. "For me, the world felt very isolated. I didn't know I had a community. I felt very disempowered. I had no idea what my future was going to look like."

Juarez says many of the people she works with have lost everything during their transitions.

"They've lost their families, they've lost their jobs," she says. "Unfortunately their transition stories are not like what we see in the magazines."

That's why organizations like the Transgender Economic Empowerment Project work with employers to educate them on transgender rights and inclusiveness. Inclusive measures could range from a gender-neutral bathroom or private changing space, to a line in a job listing that makes reference to a company's gender identity nondiscrimination policy. Many businesses train managers and human resource representatives to sensitively handle trans issues to make things easier on an employee who is coming out at work.

Fostering work spaces that are safe and inclusive for people of all gender identities is not just crucial for transgender people, Juarez says, it's part of a company's future economic health.

"Especially when you look at the Fortune 500 and 100 companies, those employers are really investing in diversity," Juarez says. "Diversity is only growing, and employers who see the value of that are starting to make those changes."

When working with companies that are slower to adapt, Juarez gives them her business perspective.

"For employers who want to stay viable in the future, the community is changing, acceptance is growing, and those companies that are embracing diversity, and trans people are seeing greater success," Juarez says. "People want to support those kinds of employers, those kinds of businesses. It's a smart business choice to be inclusive."

Juarez says things are getting better for trans people at work with more nondiscrimination policies and more safe spaces. There's a long way to go, but Juarez says, "it's an amazing time to be trans."

Why Are Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:06

The Pentagon's ban on facial hair and religious headgear has long been an obstacle for Sikh men, who wear turbans and don't cut their hair. Sikhs are hoping a court ruling might lead to a rule change.

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Ferris Bueller's day off was 30 years ago

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:00

This is going to make listeners of a certain age feel, well, older.

A whole lot older.

Remember Ferris Bueller and his day off? Or more to the point, the movie of the same name? Turns out the actual day shown in the film was exactly 30 years ago today.

A couple of years ago the good people at the Baseball Prospectus figured out exactly which game in real life it was that Matthew Broderick and company went to to film those scenes. (A Cubs vs. Giants baseball game.) Thirty years ago today.

Anyone? Bueller. Bueller.

Anyone?

That scene was in an economics class, by the way. 

Weekly Wrap: Jobs report, Federal Reserve and Grexit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:00

Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news are Leigh Gallagher of Fortune and the Wall Street Journal's John Carney. The big topics this week: May's strong jobs report, the possibility of a raise in rates by the Federal Reserve and Greece's relationship with the eurozone. 

Who we're watching in 'Silicon Valley'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:00

Lots of people are trying to make it big in Silicon Valley — tech companies, startups, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. We talk about them quite a bit, but there’s one person in Silicon Valley we’re watching more closely than any other … a guy by the name of Richard Hendricks ... OK, so he’s not real.

Richard Hendricks is the lead character in HBO’s hit series "Silicon Valley," which is near the tail-end of its second season. It’s the story of a group of programmers that seem to be just on the brink of making the big deal. Thomas Middleditch plays Richard Hendricks. 

On his breakout role:

It’s great. It’s all very positive. People seem to be fans of the show, which is nice. There is that sort of feeling, I think, when someone comes into a bigger role, it sort of feels like to other people that you sort of came out of nowhere … like I just decided to start acting the day I got cast. But no, I’ve been at it for a while.

On his character Richard Hendricks:

He’s a very tunnel-vision, focused programmer, as a lot of those guys are. When they get in the zone and they start writing code, they could write for hours and hours and hours, potentially days on end. You know, spending a lot of time in your own world in front of your computer, some things suffer, and for him it’s a bit of social skills. So he’s a little bit of a Nervous Nelly and a little bit of an Awkward Arnold.

On being an actor right now:

There’s just so much opportunity and so much variety going on with a million different networks, and even internet networks. And they’re all trying to do their own thing. They’re all trying to make their own stamp, and a lot of these networks’ mandates are, “We want to be original. We want to move away from network formula.” Yeah, I would say it’s a great time to be an actor on TV.

Listen to Marketplace's previous interview with Middleditch below: 

Sweater snafus unravel J.Crew's quarterly earnings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:00

The slump isn’t over for fashion retailer J.Crew, which continues to struggle with disappointing sales. The company reported first quarter earnings yesterday. Sales were off by more than 5 percent from the previous period last year.

What's behind the drop in sales? 

Things started unraveling because of a sweater. As in the cardigan that customers complained didn’t fit well. And two other sweaters — one it bought too much of, one it ran out of. Now you might be thinking, “They’re sweaters. What gives?”

“To their customers, it’s a big deal, it’s a staple,” says Ken Morris, founder of Boston Retail Partners. Staples are what J.Crew built its success on, so the sweater fiasco turned into huge losses. 

“I think that J.Crew has had a lot of bad customer moments,” Morris says.

Like when it stopped selling its classic ballet flat, a favorite among shoppers. They’ve since brought it back. But it’s not clear those customers will come back. Dale Achabal, the executive director of the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University, says consumers have a lot of choice when it comes to shopping.

“They don’t have long-term loyalty, and that’s a big challenge,” Achabal says.

Another challenge has been some very un-J.Crew-like offerings. Case in point: the leopard print baseball cap. Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with the NPD Group, says consumers like change, but not too much, and that’s especially true of J.Crew customers.

“They’ll buy on impulse some of the new things, but they still have to find their tried-and-true product,” Cohen says.

The good news? He says customers will forgive a bad season or two. To get things started, J.Crew stores today offered 40 percent off items already on sale. And to sweeten the deal, they gave out free donuts this morning. It is, after all, National Donut Day.

Accountability at question in private policing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:00

It was a typical day. Until Peter Dixon, in his late forties, married with two kids, went jogging after work and passed the Acorn housing projects — part of his regular route.

It was December 2011, and Dixon, who works cleaning BART trains, says two unmarked cars cornered him.

“They surrounded me so quickly, I didn’t have nothing to do but stop,” he says.

Four men got out of the cars. Dixon says he thought he was about to be confronted by undercover police. They weren't in uniform and didn't have badges. Dixon says they accused him of having drugs.

"I’m a citizen," he says he told them. "And you got me mistaken with someone else.”

Though they didn't disclose the name of the company they were working for, the four men were private security guards with Personal Protective Services, a company hired to patrol the Acorn Projects. There was an altercation and Dixon says he knew he'd crossed into territory that was "real bad."

"The most thing I was trying to do now, is trying to get the people around me to look and watch."

Dixon was handcuffed, and in the process his wrist was broken. The police were called. Eventually Dixon says the private guards admitted a mistake had been made.

“I was like, 'Yeah, you did mess up. But I’m not leaving till you get the real police to come,' ” he said.  

Dixon ended up suing the Oakland Police and the Personal Protective Services. But it wasn’t like walking into a public police department to file a complaint. His lawyer, Michael Haddad with Haddad & Sherwin, a civil rights law firm in Oakland, says they had to hire an investigator just to find out the name of the company. Neither Personal Protective Services nor the company's law firm responded to a request for comment for this story. The case was settled, and Dixon was awarded $135,000.  

Robert Kane, the head of the Criminology and Justice Studies program at Drexel University, says the issue of public versus private police is a growing problem.

“The private police sector dwarfs the public police sector,” he says. 

Sometime in the last century the private security industry began to grow – fast. Now for every two police officers there’s an estimated three private officers. And, they’re often in places you used to see public cops: courthouses, college campuses, even housing projects like the one Dixon jogged past. Kane notes there’s a simple reason — money.

"Frankly, it’s just the economics of it," he says. “The government entities treat the private police organizations generally as private contractors. So as a result of that, it’s really a lot cheaper."

Most private guards don’t receive anywhere near the training regular police do, and the applicant pools for the two jobs can be very different, Kane says.

A government worker, like a police officer, is likely to receive retirement and health benefits, and often, a pension. But the earnings of private contractors are a lot slimmer. "The quality of employee tends to be less for security officers than for police officers," Kane says. If you want to be a police officer, there are background investigations and medical and psychological exams.

"If you look at the applicant pools for police departments, across the nation, frequently you’ll see 1 in 100 applicants actually gets the job,” he says. “Many people who apply for those police jobs do not get them.”

Kane says a lot of those who don’t make it as a public cop end up working private security. But because they get paid so much less, the turnover rate for the industry is high.

David Sklansky, a professor of criminal law and procedure at Stanford University, says there's another issue. When you try to privatize a responsibility normally shouldered by the government, it can complicate things.

“The police work for everyone," he says. "They don’t work for shop owners or wealthy home owners more than they work for anyone else."

But when an apartment complex hires a private security firm, the formula can change.

"They may be very accountable to the owners of the apartment building or their residents in a gated community, but they’re not as accountable to the people that they accost and ask for identification,” he says.

People like Charles Dixon. Sklansky says this is the crux of the issue. Public agencies are responsible to the public. Private companies are responsible to the people who pay them.

“The mission of a private security agency, like the mission of any private business, is to provide a service for the people who are paying for it in the hope of earning a profit.”

It's within the auspices of private companies that private police have the least regulation of all, says Stephen Rushin, a professor of criminal law at Alabama University School of Law who studies how states regulate the industry. 

“Those officers are the ones that most likely to execute an arrest, most likely to execute a search, most likely to interrogate the employees of a company," he says. "They’re also the ones who are not actually regulated by most states' law, as it currently stands.”

In 2011, Rushin published a study in the West Virginia Law Review identifying what he says is a problem: only six states regulate private police hired to work inside companies.

And even when private police have the best of training — for example, when an off-duty cops takes on extra work as private security — things can get worse quickly.
 
“Suddenly they’re no longer necessarily working for the public good," says Rushin. "They’re working to protect the economic interests of their now private employer.”
 
Without regulation by a police department, notes Rushin, cops taking on extra gigs can be a breeding ground for corruption.

Kane says police officers doing double duty can raise questions that seem impossible to answer.

“If they're a full-duty police officer but they're off duty and working for a private security firm, and they have to intervene in a situation, the question is, 'Whom are they working for?' ”
 
Are they working for the public or the company that hired them? Do they follow company rules or police rules? While moonlighting cops are common, notes Kane, a lot of departments won’t let their officers take outside security work. 

But at the same time, says Rushin, private police can be helpful. It means more individuals working to enforce the law. He says they exist because there’s a need for them in communities with shortages of police, like in Oakland, California.

Mark Lerner, president and CEO of Epic Security, a company offering guards in New York and New Jersey, says demand for private security is growing steadily. But he points out that while private guards are not as well trained as the regular police, "private security guards are not the same occupation as public police."

In New York and New Jersey, Lerner says, armed private officers need to complete about 70 hours of training in the first year. He knows there can be problems, he says, but the vast majority of incidents are handled properly. And he notes, there's no shortage of problems with regular police too. But if someone does have a problem, it’s easier to file a lawsuit against a private security company than against the public police, Lerner says.

“So people have a recourse to the government agencies that regulate private security, and they certainly have recourse to the courts if they feel they’re entitled to damages,” he says.

But for Sklansky, the issue isn’t who’s entitled to damages, it’s that everyone is entitled to a public police force.

At last count, there were about 700,000 public police officers across the country. There are an estimated 1 million private cops.

“When we allow private policing to displace public policing, we are retreating from a broad public commitment to ensure that everybody, no matter how rich or poor, is protected against crime or violence,” says Sklansky.

Data hacks beget more data hacks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 13:00

Federal investigators are reporting that the records of more than 4 million people have been hacked at the government’s human resources department, the Office of Personnel Management.

The government suspects Chinese hackers took names, addresses, financial information and possibly Social Security numbers. This latest hack follows a recent trend in cyber crime that targets medical records and personnel files.

“They're incredibly valuable when we want to steal identities or impersonate somebody to steal something else,” says John Kindervag, a security analyst with Forrester Research.

Kindervag says these kinds of personal data, such as a Social Security numbers or a mother’s maiden name, can be used to gain deeper access.

“So if you can take over somebody's identity, you can get unfettered access across big swaths of any network that they might have credentials for.”

The threat these kind of hacks pose is exacerbated by the fact that they expose not just the individual’s network, but those of their coworkers, customers or any company they have contact with, says Steve Manzuik, director of security research at Duo Security.

“If you have additional data, especially personal data on your target, you can now craft a very targeted phishing email that would be very convincing and hard for a regular user to determine if it's real or fake,” Manzuik says.

Even if this stolen data isn’t being used to rip us off now, there is no way of telling how it might be used in the future, says Steve Pao, general manager of security business at Barracuda Networks.

“One of the things we've learned is that these hackers are very patient. And so right now, people are on high alert. It could be five years from now or 10 years from now that the real financial impact could be realized," Pao says.

In addition to stealing things like intellectual property, Pao notes there is also a legitimate security threat of espionage from nation states or putting sensitive information in the hands of terrorists.

Who Are America's Suspected ISIS Followers?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 12:52

More than 60 U.S. citizens have been accused of joining or supporting the Islamic State in the past two years. NPR has documented their individual cases.

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Politics Rewind: Everyone Into The 2016 Pool!

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 12:31

At this point, the better question might be who in the Republican field isn't going to run for president.

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More Preventive Health Services Approved For No-Cost Coverage

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 12:02

The newest recommended services are hepatitis B screening for adolescents and adults at high risk for infection and low-dose aspirin for pregnant women who are at high risk for preeclampsia.

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Prosecutor Charges Minnesota Archdiocese With Turning 'Blind Eye' To Abuse

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 11:46

The six gross misdemeanor charges and a related civil complaint stem from abuse by former St. Paul priest Curtis Wehmeyer.

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Man Changes Name To 'Adam West' To Avoid Paying $336 Airline Fee

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 11:35

On Facebook, Adam Armstrong playfully used the name Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960s. But then his girlfriend's stepfather bought him a plane ticket in that name.

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Apple's Cook Takes Rivals To Task Over Data Privacy

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 11:35

Tim Cook didn't mention Google, Facebook or Twitter by name, but it's pretty clear those were the companies he meant. But is Apple faultless on privacy issues? It collects lots of data too.

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The economics of moving for a job

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 10:36

Next week on Marketplace Weekend, we're talking about migration. We want to know, what would it take for you to leave your current life and move for a job?

Is it money? Cost of living? Tell us your stories of moving for a job, did it work out? Let us know. Reach out on Marketplace's Facebook page, send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Teens Hoping For More Jobs, Higher Wages This Summer

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 10:30

Younger workers are likely to find more job opportunities and better wages. But still, it's tough out there. The May unemployment rate for teens was 17.9 percent, about triple the national average.

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2 Dead, More Than 100 Trapped By Avalanche On Mountain In Borneo

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 10:25

Many of the climbers, including an unknown number of foreign tourists, are said to have been descending Mt. Kinabalu after reaching the peak before sunrise.

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#NPRReads: Two Views Of Kids And Parents, And Clinton's 'Mook Mafia'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 10:16

Our list of the best reads highlights a gripping story of parents' grief, a take on Stephen Curry's bringing his daughter to a news conference, and more.

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Tech IRL: Online Communities

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-05 10:07

Ever heard of ASMR? It stands for audio sensory meridian response. First a few and then a lot of "vloggers," or video bloggers, create videos, like this one, to cater to the ASMR community:

Ilse, who goes by the name TheWaterwhispers, has had over 27 million views over the last three years, explains ASMR and her channel are "for people who enjoy calming voices (whispering, soft speaking), different sounds (tapping, scratching, crinkles ext), personal attention role plays (haircut, scalp massage ext), seeing some perform a simple task (doing the laundry cleaning different object ext) and much more!" 

These videos are pretty popular in some groups. How popular? Popular enough to make money doing it? Lizzie O'Leary poses this question to Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson, who explains the business behind YouTube stars. 

Giving 'Long-Shots' — Sanders and Others — A Fair Shot

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-05 10:03

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders worry that the media is writing off their candidate too soon.

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