National News

New Jersey Lassa Fever Death Reveals Holes In Ebola Monitoring System

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 23:46

Back from a Liberia trip, the patient developed Ebola-like symptoms. One hospital sent him home. A few days later he ended up in an Ebola isolation ward and died. What went wrong?

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A Year Later, #WeNeedDiverseBooks Has Left Its Mark On BookCon

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 23:43

The Twitter campaign was born out of the controversy around the lack of diverse voices in the event's panels. This year, one organizer says, the first panel they booked was with that campaign.

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On The California Shore, Sizing Up Female Marines' Combat Readiness

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 23:42

The Marines are conducting a yearlong experiment aimed at settling whether women can handle the punishing world of ground combat. The goal is to create gender-neutral physical standards.

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It All Came Down To 'Nunatak'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 23:22

The Scripps National Spelling Bee had drama, excitement and a lot of really hard words.

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National Spelling Bee Crowns Co-Champs For Second Straight Year

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 18:31

Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar went back and forth so long the judges were running out of words. Told he needed one more correct spelling to forge a tie, Gokul needed nothing but the word.

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To Avoid Muhammad Ads, D.C. Subway System Forgoes Millions In Revenue

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 15:53

After activist Pamela Geller attempted to show ads depicting Muhammad in Washington trains and subway stations, the transit agency decided not to accept any issue-based ad for the rest of the year.

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Cholera Surges In Haiti As Rain Arrives Early

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 14:39

Cholera has been spreading in Haiti for over four years. But this year looks especially bleak. In the first four months, there were nearly four times the number of cases as in the same period in 2014.

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Cod Comeback: How The North Sea Fishery Bounced Back From The Brink

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 14:10

A decade ago, fishermen trying to catch North Sea cod were coming up empty. Now, thanks to strict fishing rules put in place to halt the decline, this fish tale looks headed for a happy ending.

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Former House Speaker Hastert Indicted In Probe Into $3.5M In Withdrawals

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:54

The Illinois Republican is accused of taking the money out in chunks of less than $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, and of lying to the FBI about it.

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For Juvenile Sex Offenders, State Registries Create Lifetime Of Problems

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:49

Federal laws require states to keep lists of convicted sex offenders, including juveniles. But recently, the practice of registering minors has come under scrutiny.

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Something's Spawning On Appalachia's Forest Farms

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:44

Agriculture experts say the forests of West Virginia are perfect for cultivating mushrooms. They're urging more people to farm shiitakes to meet demand at specialty food stores and restaurants.

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CDC Investigates Live Anthrax Shipments

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:32

The chief disease agency in the U.S. is looking into why the spores shipped to laboratories in nine states and a military base in South Korea hadn't been properly neutralized. So far no one is sick.

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Blind Auditions Could Give Employers A Better Hiring Sense

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:23

It works for singing competitions. What about landing a job? To beat hiring bias, some applicants could first complete an online challenge with companies that are in the dark about their background.

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FCC Chairman Wants To Help Low Income Americans Afford Broadband

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:18

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposes to reboot the Lifeline phone-access program. The plan recognizes that everyone needs to study, apply for jobs and make social connections online.

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Drunken email wins over Anthony Bourdain

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

Here's a lesson in how not to pitch your business to investors.

Or, maybe, exactly how to pitch your business to investors.

Anthony Bourdain — of all those travel and eating shows that aren't really about eating at all — has invested in food and travel website Roads & Kingdoms.

How, you might fairly ask, did someone as busy as Bourdain come to be an investor? Because one of the founders emailed him after drinking many glasses of sake.

Kids, don't try this at home.

In Los Angeles, homeless camps are suddenly everywhere

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

A recent count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County rose 12 percent in the past two years.  That brings the total homeless population to about 44,000. More striking, the number of people living without shelter — out in the open — doubled.

Traditionally, Los Angeles has concentrated the homeless in a downtown Skid Row area, by grouping homeless services there. But increasingly, tents and even tent cities are popping up in different parts of the city, along freeways, below underpasses, in parks, where they are visible to everyone.

A new encampment along the side of the 101 freeway in Hollywood is an example. Recently, outreach workers tried to engage with people living in tents on the hillside overlooking the traffic, offering them sandwiches.

Forty-two-year-old Danny Andrino says he's homeless because he can't afford housing in Los Angeles. With rent for an apartment running around $1,000, he says, "minimum wage is not covering that."

"We are seeing them in places they didn't used to have encampments," says Courtney Kanagi, director of street outreach at People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH. "We're seeing them under underpasses, sides of freeways. We're also seeing them come down into neighborhoods and be more on the streets."

Some of the increased visibility is the result of lawsuits. Until the city can supply more affordable housing, the homeless can legally camp on sidewalks from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.

The police are also restricted in the way they deal with people's possessions.

"If they take somebody into custody, then law enforcement needs to take all of their property," Kanagi says. "They need to input it. They need to store it."

Itemizing all that stuff can take hours. It's not just tents, but piles of belongings. Some of it's essentially trash, and the cops don't have a place to store it. For police, those are big incentives to look the other way.

And many of the new encampments around Los Angeles are on state property adjacent to, or beneath, freeways. That puts them outside the jurisdiction of the city police. It becomes the responsibility of the Highway Patrol or the California Department of Transportation.

Why are so many more people living in encampments? The causes of homelessness are as varied as human beings. Some struggle with mental health issues. Steven Taylor, 50, sleeps in a tent beneath the 10 freeway in an encampment just south of downtown. He's assembled a crude drum set and plays for donations from motorists stopped at the traffic light.

He's quick to smile and laugh, but he admits that he will sometimes "pop off. I get angry. I have a problem with reaction. They say I have bipolar. I have the medication. I've had it for about three months. I'm scared to take it, though."

Homeless encampments are spreading throughout Los Angeles County, in part because newly homeless people try to avoid Skid Row, the downtown district where services are concentrated. Steven Taylor, one man who has left downtown, plays drums under Interstate 10.

Jeff Tyler/Marketplace

Others are homeless as a result of a transition — like veterans leaving military service, or young adults aging-out of the foster care system.

On the west side of downtown, overlooking the 110 freeway, Thomas New says he's trying to put his past as a bank robber behind him.

"I'm 58 years old and I just got done doing 23 years in prison," New says. "Right now, I'm just kind of stuck. But just until the first of the month. Then things are going to start happening for me."

At the beginning of the month, New will move into low-income housing.

With so many new encampments right out in the open, it may seem like the situation has never been worse. But, in fact, the amount of services and the coordination between service-providers has never been better.

"The county is working together with the cities," says PATH CEO Joel John Roberts, . "The state and the federal government is funding more programs, and the agencies are working together much better than even 10 years ago."

Over the last couple years, Roberts says the community has housed 17,000 people. There's been an increased emphasis on providing permanent housing.

But that shift has cut into funding for beds in temporary shelters.

"I think homelessness is not just a social problem," Roberts said. "It's a poverty problem. And until this country addresses poverty, we're always going to have homelessness."

Increasingly, the face of poverty includes the recently middle-class. Alfred Sierra, 53, camps on the bank of the Arroyo Seco riverbed between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. He's sort of an unofficial welcome wagon at the encampment. He advises new arrivals on how to get water and how to protect against thieves. Sierra is seeing more and more economic casualties.

"(The) economy went bad, and they lost their job," Sierra says. "Now, if the economy comes up, nobody is going to hire them. They're going to get young guys who work for less; leaves the people between 45 and 60 out in the street."

Outreach professionals, too, report seeing an increase in homeless people between the ages of 40 and early 60s. Some have been sidelined by losing a job or by a health problem. They are part of a gap population – stuck living in tents until they're old enough to qualify for Social Security.

After 11 years, 'World of Warcrack' is less addictive

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

Jacob McLaughlin, a regular at Black Wolf Gamers Club in Spokane Valley, Washington, has been playing "World of Warcraft" for 10 years. He's only 14. He says his cousin and my grandpa got him interested in the game.

For more than a decade, "World of Warcraft" has been the undeniable champion in its genre; an unrivaled juggernaut among massively-multiplayer online games. Players do battle and complete quests in a vast fantasy world. Yet, some news this month has led to speculation that maybe "Warcraft" is showing its age. The game — affectionately known as “World of Warcrack” for its addictive quality — lost three million subscribers in three months.

Video game industry consultant Wanda Meloni says that’s a big drop. Some ups and downs are normal, especially after a publisher releases new content. (Blizzard Entertainment just released the fifth expansion pack, "Warlords of Draenor," late last year.) But Meloni says there's a bigger trend here.

“[World of Warcraft] has been declining since 2010, when they were at their peak of about 12.5 million,” Meloni says. “And it is an interesting correlation that that was pretty much when mobile started to enter the market.”

As in, those addictive little games on your phone that are taking larger and larger bites out of the video game industry pie. Plus, how long can an 11-year-old game stay at the top of the heap? The world of gnomes, goblins, elves and orcs it inhabited was hardly new When World of Warcraft launched in 2004, but the level of immersion was.

“It really does draw you in,” says James Reuss, a player in Billings, Montana.

It had intuitive controls. It offered enough different character options and styles of playing to appeal to a wide array of gamers. And it immediately appealed to more than just stalwart fans of the fantasy genre.

The game is also incredibly social. Reuss, for example, has standing appointments on Wednesdays and Sundays to go on raids – huge team efforts that require players to virtually coordinate, yelling out instructions to each other over the web as they try to defeat enemies.

Since 2004, the game’s publisher, Blizzard Entertainment, has released five expansion packs, introducing increasingly visually stunning locations, new quests, bigger, tougher creatures, and at one point – in a shrewd nod to the significant Asian gaming market – pandas.

Other games have tried to knock "World of Warcraft" off its throne, including a "Star Wars" subscription game. And you'd think the "galaxy far, far away" would have a fighting chance.

“That’s what everyone was really excited about," Reuss says, that "Star Wars" would pull ahead of "Warcraft." “And that didn’t happen, obviously.”

But recently, a few words on a conference call made the gaming world sit up and take notice. "Warcraft" parent company Activision Blizzard held an investor call earlier this month. It was largely upbeat. But CFO Dennis Durkin noted: “We saw a decline in World of Warcraft subscribers. Subscribers ended the quarter at 7.1 million.” Down three million subscribers: World of Warcraft had seen drops before, but not that many that fast.

Some longtime "Warcraft" players say they're not surprised. The trick for any game is to keep players interested once they've reached the top level. And some "World of Warcraft" players say they say they’ve run out of challenges. The game requires too many tedious tasks. Plus, the gamers themselves are aging too, and moving on.

“I decided I was wasting my life away on this and I would rather be winning items and completing quests in real life,” says Colleen Graves, a former player in Los Angeles.

Still, Activision Blizzard says the game's revenue has remained steady, thanks in part to the strength of the Chinese market. Blizzard Entertainment plans to release more new content for World of Warcraft this year.

At the same time, Blizzard has “expanded their portfolio.” Part of that expansion: a "World of Warcraft" spin-off computer card game called "Hearthstone." Mobile versions of the spin-off came out last month. And its player count? More than 30 million. Also, it’s free. No subscription required.

The move to mobile is expected to grow even more in the coming years among other publishers. Nintendo recently announced that it too will start releasing games for mobile.

To be clear: World of Warcraft isn't going away anytime soon, with its seven million players.

But remember Jacob McLaughlin, who's been playing since he was four?

He just stopped his subscription, too. He says one of the things that made "World of Warcraft" so addictive was the group of friends he played with. And a lot of those friends have moved on to other games.

FCC eyes subsidies for low-income Americans' broadband

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, is floating a plan that could help narrow the digital divide. Some Americans are falling behind in the economy due to lack of internet access.

The proposal, still in its embryonic stages, would retool a $1.6 billion program called Lifeline, which offers low-income people a monthly $9.25 discount on their phone bills. The program expansion would let them choose to direct the subsidy towards a monthly internet bill instead.

"Broadband is the indispensable infrastructure of the 21st century,” says Bernadine Joselyn, a director with the Blandin Foundation, a philanthropy focused on rural Minnesota. “You can't even apply for a job these days without using the internet, even jobs where you don't have to use the internet on the job.”

Joselyn says she welcomes the FCC's plans to update Lifeline for the 21st century.

Funding for Lifeline comes from other users of telecommunications services, namely, the rest of us. Our phone bills include a "universal access" charge. It pays for a few other programs, too.

“Where we're getting the resources for this funding comes from ratepayers, rich and poor, throughout America today,” says Michael O'Rielly, a Republican FCC commissioner.

O'Rielly says Lifeline has been plagued with fraud. He thinks the FCC has taken important steps to address key problems, such as households claiming more than one subsidy. But he says academic research suggests many Lifeline users would figure out how to pay their phone bills without the program. O’Rielly suspects that would hold true if Lifeline expanded to subsidize broadband.

And the expanded program won’t improve digital literacy, a key factor in the digital divide, according to Blair Levin, a former FCC chief of staff who's now at the Brookings Institution. Nevertheless, Levin believes the Lifeline reboot is essential.

“This is a very important step. It's the most important step,” he says. “But it's not the last step.”

Why A Journalist Scammed The Media Into Spreading Bad Chocolate Science

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-28 12:57

A lot of bad nutrition science makes headlines. To teach his news colleagues a lesson, a science journalist conducted a flawed study, sent out press releases and watched who bit. Did he go too far?

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Heat wave death toll passes 1,000 in India

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-28 12:36

Some reports are saying that as many as 1,400 people have died in India due to the country's latest severe heat wave, where temperatures are reaching well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Several news organizations are posting photos of melting asphalt in New Delhi streets.

Indians are hoping for monsoon season rains to come soon and provide some relief from the sweltering temperatures.

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal reached BBC Correspondent Justin Rowlatt in Delhi.

“Everybody here is being warned, take things easy. Don’t push it in this terrible heat,” says Rowlatt.  

But many of India’s poorest residents don’t have the luxury of taking a few days off work.

“They’re desperate for the work, so they go out and continue to work hard (in the heat),” Rowlatt says.  “What people are waiting for is the great release of the monsoon, which cools temperatures down.”