National News

Auction Marks An End To A History Of Scandal At Tea Pot Dome

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 12:03

Nearly a century since a national scandal, the U.S. government's involvement with Teapot Dome is finally ending. Wyoming Public Radio's Stephanie Joyce says that the whole site is being auctioned off.

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Is This Save The Children Ad Too Sexy For The Cause?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 12:03

Save the Children hopes sex will sell its message: that the world's mothers and young children die from diseases and conditions that could be prevented. But it's unclear if the public will buy in.

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Why books always seem to have a discounted price

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 12:01

If you want to get a sense of just how dramatic online book pricing can be, it helps to go to a local bookstore. Like Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Carol Chittenden is the owner there. She lets me play price-check. Her price for Michael Lewis's "Flash Boys"? $22.36. And Amazon's price that day? $16.77.

“I think that's a little less than we could buy it for from the publisher,” Chittenden says.

We look another bestseller. "The Goldfinch". Eight Cousins sells it for $24. Amazon sells it for $17. So far, online's looking like the way better deal.

We move onto notebooks. And that's when things get interesting. The store's notebooks are pretty much the same price as Amazon's. Same with the store's totebags. In fact, it turns out just about everything Eight Cousins Books sells that isn't a book is pretty much the same price as on Amazon.

Online has way cheaper book prices . But compare other products, and that price difference goes away.  So what is it about books as products that leads to these steep price cuts by discounters?

Oren Teicher's CEO of the American Booksellers Association says "Books are the one significant product left in the marketplace today in which the manufacturer actually prints the suggested retail price on the product.”

This means book markdowns are extremely visible. Sellers can tout their low prices compared to what's on the back of book covers, the price publishers want to sell it for. And that can be a convenient psychological device -- especially if you're a big retailer with lots of other stuff to sell.

“When the customer sees a book at 40, 50 percent off,” Teicher says, “the presumption is that everything else that that retailer is selling is also equally inexpensive.”

And books bring in some pretty attractive consumers.

“Book buyers are good customers,” Teicher adds. “They tend to be slightly more affluent, they tend to be consumers who shop and therefore are always in the marketplace for other products.”

But Dennis Johnson, the founder of the Brooklyn publisher Melville House, says books are getting used as a vehicle here.

“It really devalues the whole concept of the book,” he says. “And the book is very important to our culture.”

Johnson is worried about these discounts in the book industry. But he's not about to stop selling his books to Amazon.

“That would be very stupid business,” he explains. “They're the biggest part of our sales, and my core job as a publisher is to sell books.”

Hardcover sales are actually on the rise, they're growing faster than ebooks. And despite all the online discounts, Oren Teicher at the American Booksellers Association says sales at independent bookstores are growing too. He explains that the localism trend – shopping at local farmers markets, drinking local microbrews – has also driven sales at independent booksellers.

“I feel that booksellers are very powerful in fact,” says Carol Chittenden at Eight Cousins Books, "because we're very involved in our communities, and our customers are so loyal.”

A short history of the billionaire

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 11:51

The following is part of a collection of essays in "But Enough About You."

Cassius Binocularius Anthrax
Residence: Capri, 3 B.C.
Net Worth: 90 million aureii.  
Source of Wealth: Off-circus betting, slave trading.

Nickname "Buddy" bestowed on him by the emperor Tiberius during a three day Lupercal drinking binge.

Said to have fixed the 1 B.C. chariot race at the Circus Maximus between Ben Hur and his rival Messala. Pocketed enormous winnings after Messala (favored 50-1) was trampled under Ben Hur's chariot.

Parlayed windfall into franchise betting operations in Parthia, Dacia, Iberia and Germania, using a highly controversial system of reporting Roman chariot race results.

Forced to shut down Germania operations after tribes torched his betting shops (with the concessionaires inside) following years of consistent losing.

Bounced back; established a slave-trading network (Jeevus Dottus Commus) that kept patrician homes from Rome to the Amalfi Coast supplied with prized Britannic butlers.

Gilead (Sam) Starbuck
Residence: Boston, 1775.
Net Worth:140,000 dollars to 160,000 dollars (silver)
Source of Wealth: Tea

In December 1773 Starbuck was purser on the New Bedford whaleship Incontinent when it put into Boston Harbor to offload. Observing a crowd of Bostonians oddly dressed as Native Americans and hurling bricks of valuable English tea into the harbor, he lowered one of Incontinent's whaleboats and rescued some of the 45 tons of jettisoned tea.

Opened his first tea shop in Braintree several days later, serving a beverage called "Sal-Tea." When Sal-Tea failed to catch on, he rebranded it "Patrio-Tea," which did eventually find acceptance with Boston's tea-starved public.

Subsequently struck a deal with the East India Company to supply (that is, smuggle) non-salty tea to Massachusetts.

His string of tea shops prospered, but scholars argue that Starbuck made a mistake calling them "Gileads" instead of some other catchier name.

Why the Beverly Hills Hotel boycott could backfire

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 11:40

Hollywood's concerns over the enactment of strict Islamic law in Brunei may fall on deaf ears.

Demonstrators gathered across the street from the historic Beverly Hills Hotel to protest against Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, who announced strict sharia law in his country would go into effect on May 1. Reports indicate the penal code provides for the imprisonment of those who miss Friday prayer, amputation of the limbs of robbers, and stoning to death of homosexuals.

The sultan owns the Dorchester Collection, a British company that runs--along with other hotels across Europe--the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air.

The Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, owned by the Dorchester Collection.

David McNew/Getty Images

"When this law became known, it started to spread on social media and within the celebrity community," says Sharon Waxman, founder of The Wrap. "What has happened is that this has boomeranged against the hotel."

Celebrity protestors include Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson, and Jay Leno. But despite all this star power backing the cause, the CEO of the Dorchester Group, Christopher Cowdray, released a statement saying that this boycott is misguided.

"He's trying to defend the interests of his hotel and his employees, which has nothing to do with the policy and laws being passed in Brunei," Waxman said. "And he has no power over that. That's his boss, that's his owner."

But the economic plea on Cowdray's part appears to have had no effect on the efforts of the boycott. As for the sultan himself, he has said nothing so far.

"He's in the economic position where he can say, 'I don't care,'" Waxman said.

Anti-Aging Hormone Could Make You Smarter

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 11:37

Scientists have found that a hormone associated with long life also seems to make people smarter. The gene strengthens the connections between brain cells, a process that's essential for learning.

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Congress Votes To Subpoena VA Chief Shinseki

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 11:29

The Veterans Affairs secretary would be called to testify over allegations that delays at VA hospitals have caused as many as 40 patients to die awaiting care.

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Rice Theory: Why Eastern Cultures Are More Cooperative

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 11:22

Westerners tend to be more individualistic than Easterners. Did our ancestors plant these cultural differences hundreds of years when they chose which grains to grow?

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Double charged: The true cost of juvenile justice

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:50

Double Charged is a special investigation into the U.S. Juvenile Justice system, produced by Youth Radio. This is part one of a two-part series:

Standing in the hallway outside a hearing room at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, you see benches filled with teenagers and their families--waiting to appear in court-- many dressed up in button down shirts and ties, looking their Sunday best. There are a lot of moms, too, and little brothers and sisters who’d clearly rather be elsewhere.

Families and youth wait in the hallway outside juvenile courtrooms, San Leandro, California. 

Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Many teens are here for trials and probation hearings, but on any given day, others are trying to negotiate fines and fees.

The bill starts adding up as soon as you're arrested, before anyone reaches the courtroom. Even if you’re innocent, in Alameda County, the investigation alone will cost you $250.

“You get fined for the public defender,” said Debra Mendoza, probation officer-turned-advocate, who can list fees off the top of her head. “You get charged for incarceration. There’s a fee for being in juvenile hall. There’s a daily fee if you’re on GPS.”

Add the fees together for a juvenile who’s been incarcerated for an average amount of time in this county, and the total bill will be close to $2,000. 

It’s parents who are responsible for the bill. And that’s the trend across states. 

“There are more and more criminal justice fees that are added every year in this country,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, legal scholar at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice. “In recent years, about 20 state legislatures passed laws holding parents responsible for their children’s crimes,” said Eisen. 

In California, parents have the right to negotiate fees, but it’s not easy. If they don’t pay, officials can garnish parents’ wages, take their tax refunds or place liens against property. In Alameda County, one of the poorest counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, half of the fees charged to parents remain unpaid. That’s according to the county’s own data, based on a recent five-year period.

“And sometimes it is more expensive administratively to collect these fees than the money you are actually receiving in revenue.” said Eisen. “That’s the great irony of the situation.”

At the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro, California, Joshua Hopkins is sitting on a bench waiting to be called into a hearing. Hopkins is 13, but he looks a lot older.

“People mess with me and then they get me frustrated, and then they just like to push my buttons. And when they push my buttons, I get very upset and I fight,” Hopkins said .

The fighting has led to time in juvenile detention. And that adds up to a lot of fees, according to his mom, LaPorscha John.

“So basically this is my statement of account. So I owe a total of $736,” she said.

Because of a mental health issue, Joshua lives in a private group home. But his mom is still responsible for the court fees when he messes up. So LaPorscha John owes the money, even though her son is not in her care.

“He is my son… But I’m getting hurt, because it’s financially creating hardship,” she said.

Terry Wiley, Assistant District Attorney for Alameda County’s Juvenile Division, said, “That’s part of being a parent. You’re responsible for your kids and their actions.”

If young people and their families have a problem paying, Wiley said there’s a straightforward solution: “Don’t be committing crimes and you won’t owe any money. Very simple.”

For Zoe Mathews, it’s not simple at all.

In 2010, her son DeShawn Morris was incarcerated for the better part of a year. Months after being released from jail, he was shot and killed. Her son was dead, but the debt lived on, including ongoing calls from county collections.

“It's a constant reminder that, no -- he's not here anymore,” she said.

Mathews’ son was locked up for 208 days at a cost of almost $30 per day.

Zoe Mathews (right) and her mother Jackie stand in front of a wall of family photos, including childhood pictures of Zoe's son DeShawn Morris. DeShawn was killed several months after being released from Juvenile Hall and years later, his mother is still paying the fees for his incarceration.

Teresa Chin/Youth Radio

“By being incarcerated, you're paying your debt back to society. So then they're going to charge you an additional per-night stay as if there were some options?” said Mathews. “The bills are additional stress to already a very painful situation that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life.”

Mathews said the county has agreed to reduce her monthly payment, but won’t reduce the total bill: More than $7,500 for her deceased son’s fees.

Infographics by: Teresa Chin and Jenny Lei Bolario of Youth Radio.

Snapchat Settles With FTC Over Privacy Breach

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:37

The messaging service promised users that their photos and video would "disappear forever" after being sent, but the FTC says the company saved email addresses and phone numbers.

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Accusations Of Embezzlement, Sex Roil Old Kentucky Monastery

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:18

A former accountant for the Abbey of Gethsemani is accused of stealing more than $1 million. But he says he was targeted for revealing details of what he says were sexual affairs inside the monastery.

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Everything else you wanted to know about olives

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:04

Turns out a lot of people had always wondered why black olives come in cans, but green olives come in jars. Since, of course, one wondering leads to another, our Facebook and Twitter have been alight with questions...

The science: What made black olives in jars so good for botulism?  Why don’t green olives have the same problem?

 Yes, we skipped this part. Here’s the basic deal: Acid and salt retard botulism’s growth. California Ripe Olives are lower in acid than other olives, and the brine isn’t as salty.

 That, plus the low-oxygen environment, makes a black olive in a sealed-up jar so good for botulism. Unless you kill the bacteria with high heat.

 Hey, wait a minute! You can heat up a glass jar to 240 degrees. Home canners do it all the time.

 True! Thanks for pointing that out. I bet I know what you’re asking next…   

 So, why don't the black olives come in jars?

 Turns out, we may owe Mort Rosenblum an apology. He guessed that it was because green olives are prettier. He was half-right.

 We turned here to Kristin Daley, vice president for corporate development at the Musco Family Olive Co.-- one of the two big olive canneries in California.

 Daley says black olives are darn cute. Their brine, not so much.

 “The brine is so dark that it’s barely translucent,” she says. “It’s not very attractive. So there’s not a huge benefit to putting the product into a glass jar.”

And, she says, there are costs: Jars are heavier, so shipping them is more expensive. And there’s more waste from breakage.

At this point, you may be wondering: Why is the brine so dark?

Because the olives got cooked in it, says Eric A. Johnson, a bacteriologist at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in botulism — or, as he calls it for short, “bot.”

“The heat treatment for bot spores is gonna decay some of the tissue,” he says.  

Calif. City Wants To Make It A Crime To Bully Those Younger Than 26

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:44

"We are going to protect not only the kid that is bothered in school, but when you leave school and go home, we're going to protect you as a city," says the sponsor of a bill in Carson, Calif.

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The Nation That Elects The Most Women Is ...

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:43

In Rwanda, nearly two-thirds of Parliament consists of women, a trend that developed after the country's genocide. Cuba is third, with women making up 50 percent of its legislators. The U.S. is 99th.

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Injuries On The Farm Happen Much More Often Than We're Told

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:29

The health problems of agricultural workers are the most under-counted of any industry in the U.S., researchers say in a new study. Federal agencies fail to report 77 percent of those injuries.

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Mother's Day turns 100 (not-so-subtle reminder)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:06

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Friday, May 9:

In Washington, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology holds a hearing titled, "Space Traffic Management: How to Prevent a Real Life 'Gravity'."

The Labor Department releases its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for March.

The Commerce Department reports on wholesale inventories and sales for March.

On this date in 1961, then FCC chairman Newton Minow referred to television as a vast wasteland. Today you can watch TV on your Smartphone.

Here's an opportunity to thank those married to the nation's men and women in uniform. It's Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Always the Friday before Mother's Day.

And Mother's Day was declared a national observance 100 years ago by President Woodrow Wilson. Make those brunch reservations.

The Arab Activists Who Refuse To Bow To The Giant

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:57

A new film We Are The Giant follows six people during the Arab Spring. Tell Me More's Celeste Headlee speaks to co-producer Razan Ghalayini and activist Maryam Al Khawaja.

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Rat Pack's Sammy Davis Jr. Lives On Through Daughter's Stories

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:57

Many people considered Sammy Davis Junior the greatest entertainer of his era. His daughter Tracey Davis shares stories from her book Sammy Davis Jr.: A Personal Journey with My Father.

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If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:36

Baby polar bears slurp milk that's 27 percent fat, and adults dine on seal blubber. Scientists think bears' adaptation to a high-fat diet might lead to better ways to treat human obesity.

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Tsarnaev's Attorneys Say FBI Questions Violated His Rights

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:22

The agents said they needed to be sure the threat to public safety was over; the filing says they went too far, in an attempt to "extract as much incriminating information as possible."

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