National News

Car Sales Surged In December, Capping A Good Year For The Industry

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 13:07

Boosted by cheap gas and a recovering economy, automakers racked up strong sales gains in December.

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Same-Sex Marriages Start In Florida

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 13:02

Florida courts are making last-minute preparations as the state prepares on Tuesday to become the 36th in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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Self-Tracking Gadgets That Play Doctor Abound At CES

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:53

A new wave of self-monitoring devices and apps is hitting the Consumer Electronics Show — ones with explicit medical purposes. They promise to help diagnose everything from ear infections to diseases.

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India's Philanthropist/Surgeon Delivers Cardiac Care Henry Ford-Style

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:49

With an assembly line of operating theaters in India, Dr. Devi Shetty is determined to deliver affordable healthcare to anyone in need.

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Tsarnaev Defense Attorney Has Long History With High-Profile Cases

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:47

Melissa Block talks to criminal lawyer Jonathan Shapiro about Judy Clarke, one of the defense attorneys representing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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Yoga, Petting Puppies, Halloween: Banned By Malaysia's Muslim Clerics

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:31

The clerics are delivering a growing number of fatwas against what they see as insidious dangers. Liberal Muslims are annoyed by what they say is moral micromanaging.

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Potential Jurors Screened For Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:30

Potential jurors were screened on Monday to decide the fate of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He faces 30 federal counts of murder and terrorism.

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Big Data Not A Cure-All In Medicine

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

Big data is a trendy term for the ever-expanding cloud of information that's online and increasingly searchable. Some researchers say it could change the way medical research is done and the way individual doctors make medical decisions. Others say big data raises too many big questions — especially when it comes to medicine.

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Letters: Lie Detectors, No-Kill Shelters And Net Neutrality

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

Robert Siegel and Melissa Block read listen letters about the problem with so-called lie detectors, and no-kill shelters, and a correction about Amazon, Netflix and "net neutrality."

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Under Strain From Syrian Refugees, Lebanon Enacts Stricter Visa Policy

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

Already, an estimated 1.5 million Syrians have fled to Lebanon and Lebanese officials say they can't accommodate more refugees. Robert Siegel talks with Lama Fakih of Human Rights Watch.

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Republican Majorities Should Give Boehner More Breathing Room

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

We've heard a lot about how the new Republican majorities in Congress are historic in size. But just how big are they by historical standards and what difference does the size of the majority make?

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In The World's Rape Capital, Doctors Fight Violence With Science

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

A new research center in the Eastern Congo is giving doctors the resources to investigate the causes and impacts of rape — and to determine which interventions actually help women recover and thrive.

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How A Position Of Power Can Change Your Voice

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

Once you become the boss, it's likely that you'll start to speak quite differently. The pitch, resonance and intensity of your speech change in ways that listeners can detect as signs of power.

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From Foster Care To Freshman Year

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:22

Aging out of foster care and into college is a difficult transition that few make successfully. Now, a few states including Michigan are trying to change that.

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Crude Oil Dips Under $50 A Barrel, A Price Last Seen In 2009

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 12:13

In the U.S., the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline has fallen some $1.20 since June, according to AAA. The drop is linked to both OPEC's boosted production and a stronger dollar.

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Auto profits rebound, but wages don't follow

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 11:58

For generations of Americans, the manufacturing sector has been the gateway to the middle class. That idea persists today, even as that gate has been closing for years.

Take Ford Motor Company, for example. Like other car makers, Ford has been through some rough times, but is now riding high amid decreased costs, increased sales and a sexy new product with the new aluminum F-150 trucks.

All this should be good news for the middle class, but many auto-industry jobs still aren’t delivering on the wage front.

Darryl Steele takes his morning coffee in the midafternoon. That's the time he stops by a Tim Hortons restaurant before heading out for the night shift at Ford’s River Rouge assembly plant, in Dearborn, Michigan.

“I swing a hammer and a chisel, and I also carry a bar,” Steele says. He works as a body-shop fitter, attaching doors and hoods to the new Ford trucks.

“It’s the type of job where  you have to learn how to finesse that job, and sometimes you forget and so you feel it at the end of the day,” he says as he sips his coffee.

Since Steele has been with Ford since 2000, he’s what they call a “legacy employee,” exempt from wage and benefit cuts the United Auto Workers accepted following the 2010 auto crisis.

With an hourly wage north of $25 per hour, Steele says he and his co-workers are far from wealthy, and many haven’t seen a pay increase in over 10 years.

“Basically it’s a job where you make enough money to support a normal-sized family, maybe have a nice house, possibly save money – it's basically a middle-class job,” Steele says. 

Legacy employees are a shrinking majority in the auto industry. New hires making the so-called “tier two” wage are paid considerably less than previous generations, all while Ford is bringing in billions of dollars in profits.

But Ford says these profits are making it back into the pockets of workers. 

“You know, we've shared a lot of that profit growth with our employees,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas. “The last couple years our employees have had record profit-sharing checks, last year averaging $8,000 for all our UAW employees.” 

Hinrichs maintains that the tier-two wage is directly responsible for a hiring boom of 14,000 U.S. workers since 2011.

“A big portion of the new employees have been an insourcing of work, based on the competitiveness of the entry-level wage," he says. "So, we don't want to lose sight of the benefits collectively that the UAW and Ford have had from that."

Hinrichs says even at the lower starting wage, around $16 per hour, there is still a path forward for workers, including profit sharing and a 401(k) retirement plan.

“So, it's like 'Ride this merry-go-round long enough, and you'll get the golden ring,'” says Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research.

Dziczek agrees that without the UAW’s wage concessions, many of these new Ford jobs wouldn’t be there. But in the future, companies like Ford, GM and Chrysler will face much more competition for workers from other sectors.

“This was the cream of the crop of a blue-collar job, and now they're competing with suppliers, they may be competing with service sector jobs,” Dziczek says.

Even at the lower wage, many employees at Ford are simply glad to have a job, especially one with union representation and good benefits.

“There's not many jobs starting off at the $15 and change per hour that they have at Ford or across the big three,” says Jermaine Harris.

At 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, it’s as if Harris was born for a manufacturing job. In 2012, he started at Ford, where he runs a hoist dropping engines into Ford Focuses and the new C-Max cars. Like him, many of his co-workers came in on the lower tier-two wage.

“I work on a line that has 23 people on it,” says Harris. “Three of them are legacy workers, and 20 are entry level. Each one of them have families, a couple of them are single mothers, a couple people that are in their 50s that are starting over."

Growing up, Harris says he saw entire families that were supported by a job like the one he has now. He holds down another part-time job to make ends meet.

“I would love to just get by on the one job. I mean, basically I work every day. You know, I have a 2-year-old, I'd like to spend more time with him,” Harris says.

The UAW says improving the lot of workers like Harris will be a key part of next year’s contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. As UAW ranks swell with more tier-two workers, their votes will be increasingly necessary to ratify any new contract. While Harris says he's happy to have his job, he will vote against any contract that doesn’t do something for entry-level workers.

Auto profits rebound, but wages aren't following

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 11:58

For generations of Americans, the manufacturing sector has been the gateway to the middle class. That idea persists today, even as that gate has been closing for years now.

Take Ford Motor Company for example. Like other carmakers, Ford has been through some rough times, but is now riding high amid decreased costs, increased sales, and a sexy new product with the new aluminum F-150 trucks.

All this should be good news for the middle-class, but many auto industry jobs still aren’t delivering on the wages front.

Darryl Steele takes his morning coffee in the mid-afternoon. That’s the time he stops by this Tim Hortons before heading out for the night shift at Ford’s River Rouge Assembly Plant, in Dearborn, Michigan.

“I swing a hammer and a chisel and I also carry a bar,” Steele says. He works as a body-shop fitter, attaching doors and hoods to the new Ford trucks.

“It’s the type of job you have to finesse that job and sometimes you forget and then you feel it at the end of the day,” he says as he sips his coffee.

Steele has been with Ford since 2000, he’s what they call a “legacy employee.” Someone who is exempt from the wage and benefit cuts the UAW accepted following the 2010 auto crisis.

With an hourly wage north of $25 per hour, Steele says he and his co-workers are far from wealthy, and many haven’t seen a pay increase in over ten years.

“Basically it’s a job where you make enough money to support a normal-sized family, maybe have a nice house, possibly save money — it's basically a middle-class job,” says Steele. 

Legacy employees are a shrinking majority in the auto industry. New hires making the so-called “tier-two” wage are paid considerably less than previous generations, all while Ford is bring in billions of dollars in profits.

But Ford says these profits are making it back into the pockets of workers. 

“You know, we've shared a lot of that profit growth with our employees,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas. “The last couple years our employees have had record profit-sharing checks, last year averaging $8,000 for all our UAW employees.” 

Hinrichs maintains that the tier-two wage is directly responsible for a hiring boom of 14,000 U.S. workers since 2011.

“A big portion of these new employees have been an insourcing of work, based on the competitiveness of the entry-level wage," he says. "So, we don't want to lose sight of the benefits collectively that Ford and the UAW have had from that."

Hinrichs says even at the lower starting wage, around $16 per hour, there is still a path forward for workers, including profit sharing and a 401K retirement plan.

“So, it's like 'Ride this merry-go-round long enough and you'll get the golden ring,'” says Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research.

Dziczek agrees that without the UAW’s wage concessions, many of these new Ford jobs wouldn’t be there. But in the future, companies like Ford, GM and Chrysler, will face a lot more competition for workers from other sectors.

“This was the cream of the crop of a blue-collar job and now they're competing with suppliers, they may be competing with service sector jobs,” notes Dziczek.

But even at the lower wage, many employees at Ford are simply glad to have a job, especially one with union representation and good benefits.

“There's not many jobs starting off at the $15 and change per hour that they have at Ford or across the big three,” says Jermaine Harris.

At 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, it’s as if Harris was born for a manufacturing job. He started at Ford in 2012, where his job is to run a hoist dropping engines into Ford Focuses and the new C-Max cars. Like him, many of his co-workers came in on the lower tier-two wage.

“I work on a line that has 23 people on it,” says Harris, “Out of the 23 people, three of them are legacy workers and 20 are entry level. Each one of them have families, a couple of them are single mothers, a couple people that are in their 50's that are starting over."

Growing up he Harris says he saw entire families supported on the basis of one job like the one he has now. He holds down another part-time job to make ends meet.

“I would love to just get by on the one job. I mean, basically I work every day. You know, I have a two-year-old, I'd like to spend more time with him,” Harris says.

The UAW says improving the lot of guys like Harris will be a key part of next year’s contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. As UAW ranks swell with more tier 2 workers, their votes will be increasingly necessary to ratify any new contract, and while Harris says he happy to have his job he will vote against any contract that doesn’t do something for entry-level workers.

'Times' Reporter James Risen Questioned In CIA Leak Case

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 11:58

After first refusing to answer questions at a pretrial hearing, James Risen agreed to answer some queries posed by government lawyers. They want to know who leaked information to Risen for his book.

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Greece could be headed for eurozone exit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 11:53

The euro is not having a happy new year.

The currency crashed to a nine-year low against the U.S. dollar, partly due to a warning from Germany. The German government reportedly said that if Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party wins this month’s snap election, and reneges on some of the conditions of the country’s bailout, Greece could face default and be forced out of the euro.

Is that such a bad thing? Germans apparently believe that the eurozone could now cope with a Greek exit. Unlike at the height of the crisis three years ago, the European Central Bank will now buy unlimited amounts of the government bonds of a eurozone country that comes under speculative attack. That move should prevent the contagion spreading to other member states.

Some analysts are skeptical and point to the danger of political contagion. If, with International Monetary Fund help, Greece leaves the eurozone, throws off the shackles of austerity and starts to grow strongly again, would other heavily indebted and austerity-weary eurozone states be tempted follow suit?

A Restraining Order Can Be Just A Videoconference Away

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 11:36

A New Jersey hospital has partnered with local courts to protect injured victims of domestic violence. A videoconferencing system lets patients file for restraining orders from their hospital beds.

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