National News

Bill To Allow Refinancing Of Student Loans Dies In Senate

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:10

The bill was shot down days after President Obama urged Congress to help ease the burden of student loan debt. It would have required a higher tax on the wealthy.

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A surprise winner in Virginia: Randolph-Macon College

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:58

Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. Ever heard of it?

If you hadn't before, it's likely you did on Wednesday. David Brat, an economics professor who just big-footed Eric Cantor and his Democratic challenger, Jack Trammell, are both on the faculty of this one small school outside of Richmond.

"While this may be short-lived, I think if you were to look at the placement of the 'Randolph Macon College' name in the media it would be a very high number," says Dan Hurley, Associate Vice President for government relations and state policy with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He says this kind of marketing is worth millions.

Typically a school would have to have a winning football or basketball team to get this kind of press.  Like a few years ago, when Butler University in Indiana, made it to the NCAA Final Four.

"That impacted them in terms of inquiries, applicants and enrollments, for a number of years," says  Jim Paskill, president of Paskill, Stapleton & Lord, a higher education marketing firm. Paskill says he agrees having two congressional candidates come out of one college sure can make a school look good, but he says he’s a wary. An eight-month campaign season can be a long time under the microscope.

“You know, if this becomes a very divisive campaign and it’s seen as a mud-slinging between two candidates, I don’t think it’s going to reflect very positively on the college,” he says.

No chance of that, says Randolph Macon’s president Robert Lindgren.

“These are two very principled honest,  folks who will debate the issues and not do, some of the typically political things that you might in a congressional campaign," he says.

We’ll find out if his prediction holds up in November. 

How To Survive, And Thrive, After 5 Years As A Hostage

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:55

Joe Cicippio belongs to a very small club of Americans who were held by Islamic radicals for years and lived to tell about it. Here's how he coped as a hostage in Beirut and then rebuilt his life.

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Do You Want The Truth, Or Do You Just Like Your Story Better?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

In her "Can I Just Tell You" essay, host Michel Martin warns against letting an assumed narrative overtake the facts of a story.

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Could Detroit's Automakers Save Its Art Treasures?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

Chrysler, General Motors and Ford offered up a multi-million dollar deal to help the bankrupt city of Detroit. But are there any strings attached to the cash and will it be enough to save the city?

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'Washington Post' Op-Ed Tone Deaf On View Of Sexual Assault?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

The Beauty Shop ladies continue their discussion of this week's hot news by debating George Will's controversial opinion piece that questions the validity of sexual assault claims on campus.

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What Does Cantor's Loss Say About The Republicans' Future?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

In a surprising defeat, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat to Tea Party challenger David Brat. But what does this mean for Republicans going forward? The Beauty Shop ladies weigh in.

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The Difficulty And Drama Of Building A Top Black Magazine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

Essence might be the longest-running magazine for black women, but the authors of a new book, The Man From Essence, admit that it was a long road to build the brand.

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5 TV Shows That Deserve Another Chance

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 07:13

With the success of the Kickstarter campaign for the erstwhile TV show Reading Rainbow, we draw up a short list of other shows worthy of another whirl.

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The Cooter Effect: Did Ben Jones Help Unseat Eric Cantor?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 06:16

Dukes of Hazzard alumnus and former Rep. Ben Jones urged Democrats, independents and libertarians to use the open Republican primary to oust Rep. Eric Cantor. He mentioned his 2002 loss to Cantor.

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Bergdahl Swap Was 'Extraordinary Situation,' Hagel Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 06:01

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told skeptical lawmakers that a "unique set of dynamics" prevented the White House from telling Congress about the deal to swap Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban prisoners.

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More Young Adults Get Inpatient Psychiatric Care After Health Law

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 05:47

Greater hospital use by the newly insured might be caused by inadequate outpatient resources to treat mental health patients earlier and less expensively.

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iPads Allow Kids With Challenges To Play In High School Band

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 05:10

On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences.

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500,000 People Reportedly Flee Mosul After Iraqi City Falls

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 05:01

A surprising takeover by extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has forced thousands of residents of Mosul to seek refuge.

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'Stunning': Reactions To Eric Cantor's Election Loss In Virginia

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 03:56

"Dollars don't vote — you do." With those words to his supporters, college professor Dave Brat ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in their primary battle Tuesday night.

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Big business may try to downplay Eric Cantor's defeat

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 03:00

Dave Bratt, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, has defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary in Virginia’s seventh congressional district.

A defining issue in that campaign was immigration. Bratt accused Cantor of being “soft” on the issue, noting Cantor had voiced support for immigration reform.

Members of the business community, which have backed reform, reacted to the election results in the same way many Americans did. Bill Miller, with the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs in Washington, said the outcome was “pretty shocking.”

“Nobody really saw this coming,” he added.

Miller cautions against Monday-morning quarterbacking, saying it is too early to know what Cantor’s primary defeat will mean for immigration reform. His group’s goal, he says, remains the same: “It’s important to fix this system.”

Miller argues the U.S. needs more visas for high-tech workers a better guest worker program, among other things.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says he expects big business will try to downplay what happened yesterday; instead, they will point to primary victories by pro-reform Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Rep. Renee Elmers from North Carolina.

“They are still pushing very hard for action, but I think they have to be discouraged by this,” Alden says.

There are several new pro-reform groups in Washington backed by business leaders, including FWD.us, which was started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Ali Noorani, who leads the National Immigration Forum, is optimistic the House will tackle immigration legislation this summer.

“Until John Boehner burns down the windmill of immigration reform, we’re still in play,” he says.

How We Learned That Frogs Fly

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 02:03

Two Harvard professors. One on a rooftop with a bucket of frogs. The other in the front yard, down below. Ready? Get set. Throw!

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Plugging in battery makers and battery innovators

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

If you were to make a list of the top five products that will play a prominent role in our future, the battery would definitely be at the top. Batteries power our devices, our cars will increasingly rely on them, and they are a fundamental component in renewable energy grids.

In Berkley, California, scientists are experimenting with new ways to make safer, more efficient batteries. At the same time, angel investors are experimenting with new ways of connecting those scientists with companies that can get those batteries into the market.

About 10 years ago, when scientists were trying to invent new kinds of batteries, they often used a method called "cook and look." 

“So you go cook a material up, take a bunch of compounds, heat it up to very high temperature, and you will then go make a battery with it and you’ll go look  and see if that battery worked the way you would expect it to work,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Srinivasan says today his lab uses computers to identify new materials. As a result he can produce quicker results. But turning those results into tangible products is a slow process.  “Going from the lab to the market can take as much as 10 years in the battery space," he says. "And that bottleneck in going from lab to market is what we are trying to solve with CalCharge.

CalCharge is a consortium of companies, universities, laboratories and unions. It was created by CalCEF, the California Clean Energy Angel Fund, which provides seed money to startups in the clean energy field.

CalCEF spent two years studying the process of innovation in the battery industry and found multiple bottlenecks. Labs need more trained scientists. Additional skilled workers are needed to install new technologies when they do get to market and, although the national labs are mandated by Congress to produce practical technology for the private sector, they are burdened by complex regulations.

“For an individual company that wanted to work with a national lab to do cooperative research, it could take between six and nine months easily for a company to negotiate a single project, and that’s just untenable for most companies,” said CalCEF managing director Jeff Anderson.

CalCharge was created to help streamline that process. It connects energy storage companies with the national labs. It also worked with San Jose State University to create a Master of Science program that focuses on battery technologies.

CalCharge gets its base funding from companies that pay annual dues to join the consortium. In the eight weeks since CalCharge officially launched, several companies including Duracel, Volkswagen and LG, have signed on as members.

PODCAST: NASA's flying saucer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

With Eric Cantor's stunning defeat, a look at how the business community is reacting to the turn of events, and what it means for immigration reform. Plus, with the world cup on the international stage, we take a closer look at the state of Brazil's economy. Also, NASA is launching a flying saucer like space craft bound for Mars. It will serve as a test for new landing gear meant to slow down the craft's 3,000 MPH traveling speed.

GDP: Oil Patch Booms While Northeast Lags

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis's data on state-by-state GDP for 2013 lags GDP figures already released for the entire U.S. In March, the bureau reported that GDP nationwide rose by 1.9 percent in 2013. That compared to 2.8 percent growth in 2012.

 

But drill down, and economic growth varies widely between the states, says Alan Berube, who helps compile the Metro Monitor at the Brookings Institution.

“The picture is still one of a multi-speed recovery,” says Berube.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts that the states that grew fastest in 2013 — and likely have continued to grow strongly in 2014 — are on the West Coast (California, Oregon and Washington), where home prices have strongly rebounded and high-tech barely faltered in the recession. Other bright spots: states in the South and High Plains where oil and natural gas are booming.

“North Dakota will continue to look really good,” says Zandi. “Texas — the strongest big economy in the country throughout the recession and recovery — that will continue. I think we’ll see some states that got nailed in the housing bust turning more definitively up — Nevada, Arizona and Florida — where the leisure and hospitality industry has also come back.”

While growth rates now look reasonably strong in the upper Midwest, where manufacturing is still a major economic force, “it’s like a rubber ball,” says Alan Berube. “They just bounced back because they crashed so hard. Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo — they’ve been in a long-term recession with job losses dating back to the early 2000's. So they’re doing better than they were two or three years ago — a lot better. But they’re still not quite as well off as they were a decade or two ago.”

Economic growth has lagged in recent years in New England (outside the Boston Metro area, which is a hub for finance, high-tech and higher education), and also in the Mid-Atlantic states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

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