National News

UNICEF Report On Female Genital Mutilation Holds Hope And Woe

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 13:43

The practice is on the decline in many countries. But the population boom in Africa and the Middle East will put millions of girls at risk unless more progress is made.

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The Weird, Underappreciated World Of Plastic Packaging

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 13:26

So much of the food we eat these days is encased in plastic. And behind it is a whole lot of research and innovation. We dive into some of the materials that keep food fresh and portable.

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No deluge of campaign cash after limits end

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:57

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in a big campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The justices voted 5-4 to overturn certain limits on how much money Americans can give to candidates and committees.

The reaction was swift. There was concern, among the dissenting justices and campaign finance reform advocates, that the decision would open the floodgates, allowing more Americans to give more money. But so far, it seems the decision has only affected a small group.

Gone are what are called “aggregate limits” on political donations. That is, according to Emory University School of Law Professor Michael Kang, “the total amount an individual could give to candidates, parties and other PACs.”

In the past, a donor could give a maximum of $74,600 to party committees every two years, and $48,600 to federal candidates. A Republican donor named Shaun McCutcheon challenged those, and the court’s majority ruled they were unconstitutional. But, Kang says, here’s the thing: “The court striking down the aggregate limit probably won’t affect that many givers going forward.”

That’s because most Americans weren’t already affected by them.

“There really weren’t a lot of people bumping up against these aggregate limits. So, in 2012, I think the number is roughly 650 maxed out,” says Heather Gerken, a professor at Yale Law School. To “max out” means you gave as much as you could to candidates and committees – tens of thousands of dollars.

During oral arguments, the justices debated a hypothetical: With no aggregate limits, a donor could, in theory, funnel millions of dollars to a single candidate through committees. Gerken acknowledges that is plausible, but she says she doesn’t expect it will happen too often.

“If you have enough money to give $3.5 million in one check, you probably have enough money to fund your own super PAC,” she says, noting that is something many big donors have done. If you have your own super PAC, you have a lot more say over how your money gets spent.

So who has been affected most directly by the Supreme Court’s decision? Lobbyists.

Kelly Bingel is one of them. She is a big supporter of Democratic candidates.

“I think, as soon as the decision came out, every lobbyist in Washington, DC was looking at their checkbook, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what does this mean for me?’”

A lobbyist’s checkbook gets a lot of use. Part of her job, Bingel says, is to give money to politicians. She plans for it every year.

“This was a part of my family’s budget,” she allows.

Bingel pays out of pocket to go to political fundraisers, and there are a lot of them.

“We could spend breakfast, lunch and dinner with folks,” Bingel says. “My personal preference is to have breakfast and dinner with my family.”

Bingel estimates she gets around a hundred solicitations a day, mostly by email. In the past, those aggregate limits the Supreme Court overturned gave her an easy out:

“I mean, it used to be you could say, ‘I’m sorry. I’ve hit the max.’ Now, you have to say, ‘I’m sorry. I just can’t…’”

Lobbyist Kenneth J. Kies, managing director of the Federal Policy Group, used that line.

“In my case, it was actually true,” he says.

Kies bumped up against those caps many times. He has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and Republican Party committees. 

Kies also worried about the effect of the McCutcheon decision, joking, “I was going to get rid of my email address and delist my phone number.”

One limit is still in place, a cap on how much a donor can give to a single candidate: $2,600.

“I think from the standpoint of campaign finance reformers, they feel like they dodged a bullet here,” says Kang, noting that “base limit” is something the justices could address in the future.

“I don’t think it’s too sweeping to say that the court really is on a path toward something approaching total deregulation of campaign finance,” he says.

If that limit on individual donations were to disappear, that would affect many more Americans.

DOJ Reaches Agreement For Oversight Of Albuquerque PD

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:29

The deal follows a Justice Department report released in April that showed the city's police used excessive force in dealing with many suspects.

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Who Are The Kids Of The Migrant Crisis?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:21

Many kids and teenagers leave Central America to avoid climbing levels of gang violence, extortion and drug trafficking. Sometimes, it's to find their families.

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5 Things I Learned About TV's Future From The Critics Press Tour

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:19

From being mistaken for Randy Jackson to confronting network executives about diversity issues, TV critic Eric Deggans runs down highlights of the two-week blizzard of parties and press conferences.

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The Death Clerk, And Other Details Of Last-Minute Execution Appeals

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

An hour into Wednesday's botched execution in Arizona, an attorney for the inmate reached out to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy seeking his intervention. How do such appeals work? And how often do they happen?

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Botched Ariz. Execution Renews Unease Over Lethal Injections

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

Activists against the death penalty are seizing on a botched execution in Arizona Wednesday. Witnesses say that death row inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood gasped for air, taking nearly two hours to die by lethal injection.

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Central American Leaders: Immigrant Children Are A Shared Problem

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are offering their take on the mounting numbers of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. from Central America. They're talking to reporters on the day before a meeting with President Obama.

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Sen. Ryan Unveils His Anti-Poverty Plan, A Rebuke To LBJ Programs

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

The Wisconsin Republican is rolling out a plan that he says will fight poverty more effectively than the programs launched by former President Johnson's War on Poverty, but progressives are skeptical.

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Missing Air Algerie Flight Appears To Have Crashed In Mali

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

According to Air Algerie, one of the airline's flights has likely crashed in the African country of Mali. The plane, which carried 116 passengers and crew, lost contact with authorities an hour after it took off.

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Palestinian Authority Faces A Fraught Path To Peace In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

The war in Gaza is unfolding between Israel and Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, is also involved in efforts to end the fighting. The Palestine Liberation Organization's diplomatic representative to the U.S., Maen Areikat, speaks with Robert Siegel about the causes of the conflict and the possible consequences of a cease-fire.

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Attack On U.N. School Kills Over A Dozen Civilians In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

A United Nations school, which was being used to shelter displaced Gazans awaiting evacuation, came under fire from a missile or shelling. The attack reportedly killed 15 people. Palestinian officials blame Israeli shelling; Israel says it may have been Hamas rockets that fell short of their target.

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For Better Treatment, Doctors And Patients Share The Decisions

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:12

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital are working on ways to help patients better understand their chances of suffering heart attacks and surgical complications.

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U.S. Teens Still Lag In Getting Vaccinated Against HPV

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 12:02

Eight years after the FDA approved the first vaccine against HPV, only 57 percent of female teens and 35 percent of male teens have been inoculated, the CDC says. Are doctors partly to blame?

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4 Theories About Why Wal-Mart Changed Its U.S. Chief

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 11:33

Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest company, affects the lives of millions of workers and shoppers. So its U.S. leadership change is attracting lots of interest. Here are some theories about what happened.

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Brogrammers give up some ground in comp-sci classes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:58

Computer science is still a brogrammer’s world. But efforts to bring more girls and minorities into the field may finally be paying off.

According to the College Board, which administers Advanced Placement tests to high schoolers, the number of girls taking the AP computer science test in 2014 increased by 35.5 percent over last year. For boys, the increase was 24.5 percent.  While the participation for white students grew by 21.6 percent from 2013, the  rates of increase were even larger in other racial categories, including for non-Mexican Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and those who described their race as “other.”

Students who do well enough on the exam earn college credit for the course.

The College Board itself may be partly responsible for the increase. In collaboration with Google, it brought roughly 500 new AP math and science courses to schools with populations that are underrepresented in the STEM fields. One College Board official called the AP results the “first real indication of progress” for girls and minorities in years.

How can tech companies diversify their workforces?

The exam is still dominated by boys, specifically white and Asian ones.  And while the percentage of male test-takers dropped to its lowest level in five years in 2014, overall they still accounted for 80 percent of all students taking the test.

Similarly, while the percentage of white students who took the test dropped to its lowest rate in the last five years, white students still make up 50.4 percent of all test-takers.

The numbers are preliminary; the results of some make-up tests have not yet been recorded, according to Trevor Packer, who runs the AP program at the College Board.

The charts below show  the number of boys and girls who took the test from 2010 to 2014, as well as the increased participation rates by race.  




This Suit Keeps Ebola Out — So How Can A Health Worker Catch It?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:58

The head-to-toe protective gear is designed to prevent Ebola from infecting health care workers, yet some do contract the disease. It's not the suit's fault. It's likely a case of human error.

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U.S.: Russia-Based Artillery Targeting Ukrainian Troops

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:46

The State Department says it has evidence that Moscow is lobbing artillery across its border at Ukrainian government forces, and that the Kremlin plans to ship rocket artillery to the rebels.

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Central American Presidents Say U.S. Shares Responsibility For Migration Crisis

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:38

The presidents of Honduras and Guatemala also called for more aggressive cooperation with the U.S. to curb the violence and poverty they say is driving child migrants to the U.S.

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