National News

Smartphone: nuisance or teaching tool?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:53

Teachers are kind of  like parents, sometimes. You push them long enough and they come around. Or sometimes, they just get tired of fighting.

Project Tomorrow, a non-profit education group, surveyed thousands of teachers, librarians and district officials in 2010, to gauge their attitudes about mobile devices in the classroom.  Sixty-three percent said they weren’t likely to allow students to use them anytime soon; 22 percent said it was likely they would allow mobile devices in class soon, and three percent said their students were already using them in the classroom.

Fast forward to 2013. Fifty-one percent said either they were already allowing mobile devices, or would likely be allowing them in the classroom.  That compares to 32 percent, who said it was unlikely they would allow phones, tablets and the rest into classrooms.

Our own unscientific survey of classroom-tech policies,  found that teachers have lots concerns about mobile devices, particularly smartphones.  Teachers worried about students being distracted, cheating on tests and more.  Even teachers who use laptops or tablets in class said smart phone use is a big problem.  

Tom Odendahl, an economics and history teacher at a Minneapolis high school, wrote that he has agreed to let some students use laptops and tablets, but can't imagine how a smartphone could be put to good use:

As I write I can envision ways to use devices, but I keep coming up against the reality of how my students use cell phones, and it is not for clarifying questions, or fact-checking my often absurd pronouncements. One popular service I have witnessed during class is shopping for prom dresses.

At the same time,  quite a few teachers said they have have started to allow smart phone use in the class.  Paul Isom is a professor at North Carolina University.

I find students generally use them appropriately, rarely perusing facebook, instagram, etc (except during breaks), and often using them to find answers to questions that come up in class. In more than one case, they've proven very helpful when a question arises. Anyway, to fight the students over laptops/phones/tablets would be tilting at windmills.

 Pam Pailes, the Dean of Students at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, is among those who will make the transition iin the fall.  Her school will switch to a "BYOD" (bring-your-own-device) policy.  Pailes says there’s more upside than downside:

In a traditional classroom, we are asking them to learn in a way that seems stodgy and boring to many young people. In their minds, they can learn so much more if they could just "find it on the internet." Allowing laptops, tablets, phones, etc., into the classroom allows us to educate students to be better cyber-citizens and helps us teach them to use the information available on the web in a balanced and appropriately skeptical.

AT & T and Udacity partner up on a degree

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:51
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Michigan's High Court Limits The Fees Billed To Defendants

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:32

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that local courts cannot charge indiscriminate fees to defendants.

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Amazon Raises The Curtain On A Fire Of Its Own

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:26

At an unveiling in Seattle, online retail giant Amazon announced its entry into the smartphone market with a new device called "Fire."

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Eating Broccoli May Give Harmful Chemicals The Boot

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:20

A study found that people who consumed broccoli sprouts excreted two air pollutants faster than usual. So does that mean there's something to detoxing with cruciferous veggies? Scientists say maybe.

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Defending Champ Spain Knocked Out Of World Cup

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:16

Spain, a tournament favorite, lost 2-0 to outsiders Chile in group play of the soccer tournament Wednesday. Chile now advances to the next stage, along with the Netherlands, who beat Australia 3-2.

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Michigan's vineyards: Wine that survives the winter?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:09

Places like California are known for growing grapes that have been around for more than a century. But there are new types of grapes that have only been around for decade or two and are allowing wine to be made in places never imagined before -- like colder Midwest states.

One winemaker who’s joining the northern wine region is Dave Anthony. He and his wife, own and run a four and a half-acre vineyard and winery in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near the northern Lake Michigan shore.

Anthony says people were pretty surprised when he said he wanted to start a winery so far north 15 years ago.

“I think there’s some shock out there, that it actually works,” Anthony says. “The first reaction was beyond 'are you crazy?': 'It’s just stupidity, total stupidity.'”

Because the winters are cold here. This winter, temperatures in January and February were often well below zero.

But Anthony is growing what is called "cold hardy" wine grapes, and they can withstand 25 below zero temperatures. Many of these wine grapes were created by the University of Minnesota. It released its first cold hardy grape in 1996. Since then, Minnesota tripled the number of wineries in the state to 30. Iowa more than tripled the amount of grapes it’s growing.

But Anthony says the biggest challenge is the lack of name recognition for his wines.

“Who's ever heard of Marquette or La Cresent?” Anthony says.

But there already is a developed wine region in Michigan, it’s farther south near Lake Michigan, around Traverse City. It's a bit warmer there so the vineyards can grow the European varieties like Merlot and Pinot Grigio.

Charlie Edson is the owner and winemaker at Bel Lago winery near Traverse City.

He grows 100 varieties of grapes on his vineyard, including some cold hardy grapes. But he says customers like to buy wines with names that they know.

“I think it is marketable in certain circumstances. In our circumstances I probably wouldn’t go that route because consumers don’t know what those varieties are,” Edson says.

Edson says the biggest criticism of these new grapes - at least in terms of taste - is that they don’t have the same structure and character as the centuries old wines, like cabernet.

But Edson says cold hardy grapes are a type of crop insurance, considering how cold this winter was.

“There is winter injury in the vineyards right now, in most vineyards, and I can tell you the cold hardy varieties -- they laughed in the face of this winter, so we will have full crops of cold hardy varieties which is terrific,” Edson says.

That is not the case for most of the European varieties this year.

But back on the northern side of Lake Michigan, Anthony thinks this might be a wakeup call for grape growers, which might allow cold hardy grapes to expand and grow even further in the future.

Yo, $1 million. Yo.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-18 13:03


That's it.

Just Yo.

Capital Y; lower case O.

It's a new messaging app with a twist, I guess you could say. You can text somebody else with the Yo app. But all you can say is...Yo.

Here's the yo-crazy part: The guy who built it has moved from Israel to San Francisco. He's opened an office and hired staff. He's looking for "strategic partners."

And he's raised a million dollars from investors.


C'mon...tell me we're not in a tech bubble.

Go ahead.

I dare you.


Afghan Presidential Candidate Alleges Vote Fraud

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:32

Abdullah Abdullah has accused election officials of allowing ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities in the June 14 poll.

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GM Chief Makes A Return Trip To The Hill, Where A Grilling Awaits

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

General Motors CEO Mary Barra faced another grueling hearing on Capitol Hill, two weeks after a critical internal report blasted the company's handling of defective ignition switches as incompetent. GM has recalled 20 million vehicles already this year and has set aside $700 million to cover repairs related to the recall.

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From Ukraine's President, A Promise Of Truce — With Conditions

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

Ukraine's new president says he will declare a unilateral cease-fire in eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes after months of fighting between government troops and pro-Moscow separatists.

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How ISIS, Endowed By Conquest, Stocks Its War Chest

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

The militant group ISIS has managed to fund a full-scale offensive using a financial system that's very similar to the Mafia's. For more on the means the group uses to finance its operations, Robert Siegel speaks with Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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ISIS Presses Its Advance, Attacking Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

While ISIS militants assault Iraq's largest oil refinery, the country's prime minister is vowing that his forces will turning back the insurgency.

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The Specter Of Iraq Haunts The Political Life Of Barack Obama

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

From his time as an Illinois state senator to his role as U.S. commander in chief, President Obama's political life has been defined by the issue of Iraq — and not necessarily because he wanted it to.

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Ruling On Redskins' Trademarks Carries Symbolic Weight

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled trademark registrations by the Washington Redskins football team, ruling that the team's name is "disparaging" to Native Americans.

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Sluggish Housing Market A Product Of Millions Of 'Missing Households'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:22

Economists say there are more than 2 million "missing households" in the U.S. — young people who bunk with family or friends rather than buying their own home. New data suggest this trend continues.

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Jazz Pianist, Composer Horace Silver Dies At 85

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-18 12:11

He created a rhythmic style that combined R&B, gospel and jazz that became known as "hard bop," and performed with such jazz greats as Stan Getz and Miles Davis.

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San Francisco losing black residents, black businesses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-18 11:58

During World War II, the Navy hired thousands of workers for its San Francisco Bay Area shipyards. Many were black migrants from the South who settled in the city's Fillmore District -- a neighborhood left with vacancies because of the internment of Japanese-Americans.

A vibrant black community flourished, and music venues opened up on nearly every block, hosting jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. The Fillmore District was nicknamed the Harlem of the West.

In those years, if you were a black visitor to San Francisco, you most likely made a pilgrimage to Marcus Books. In 1956, the NAACP convention came to town, and Reverend Amos Brown -- then just 15-years-old -- was a delegate from Mississippi traveling with his mentor, civil rights hero Medger Evers. It was the first time Brown met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and the first time he visited Marcus Books.

It was an iconic institution of culture, information, sociopolitical empowerment,” Brown reminisced. “Many international scholars and thinkers and civil rights leaders appeared at Marcus bookstore.”

The store began as a publishing company, printing hard-to-find texts from black leaders like Marcus Garvey, whom the bookstore was named after.

San Francisco poet Devorah Major says her father first brought her to Marcus Books when she was two years old. Later, the store was crucial to her career as a writer.

“I did readings when my first novel went out at Barnes & Noble, and they didn’t care -- I’d have five, or six, or ten people there,” she said. “I went to Marcus, and it was standing room only. It also is a measure of support, and those turn into sales.”

Marcus Books got into financial trouble last year, and the owners couldn’t afford to keep the store open. They tried a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money to buy back the property, and their supporters rallied on the steps of City Hall. But Reverend Amos Brown says the store’s problems started long before this. Business took a hit as San Francisco’s black residents moved out.

“We’ve lost over 50,000 since 1970, and that’s tragic,” Brown said recently when I talked to him in his office at San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church, where he arrived as pastor in 1976.  In the 1960s and '70s, city redevelopment policies displaced thousands of African Americans, and segregation often made it difficult to find new housing.

Brown is now the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP. The city, he says, is not as liberal and friendly towards African-Americans as its reputation might suggest.

“When it comes to employment, education, and housing opportunities, it’s not the ideal place to be in. If there is not a positive effort made to work with the African-American community to stop this hemorrhaging, I predict that in the next 5 to 10 years, there will not be 20,000 blacks left in this city.”

Black residents began leaving long before the current tech boom in the city, which has only made housing rentals even more difficult to secure. Mayor Ed Lee has committed to building 30,000 new affordable housing units in by 2020. Today, most of San Francisco’s black residents are low income renters.

Theodore Miller is director of San Francisco’s Out-Migration Initiative, the government’s latest attempt to retain black residents. One of Miller’s priorities is attracting young, college educated African-Americans to the city.

“We know the city of San Francisco is experiencing record growth across industries, and we need to make sure that African-Americans throughout the country think about San Francisco as a place to live and grow and raise their families,” he said.

But even if a new wave of black residents settles here, they’ll arrive in a city without many black-owned businesses. And Marcus Books in San Francisco won't be one of them -- it's gone for good.

This story was produced by, a project of Youth Radio.

Forget your wallet, text messaging is the way to go.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-18 11:24

Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Charles Graeber spent 10 days in Kenya with only one requirement: to not use his wallet -- and to pay for everything by phone.

"I've never gone to Africa and I've never paid for anything with my phone," he said. So, intrigued by Kenya's M-pesa system ("M" stands for mobile and "pesa" means payment in Swahili). The system allows users to transfer money from phone-to-phone through text messages. Once Graeber landed in Kenya, it took him fifteen minutes to get set up with a phone, SIM card and become a client of the country’s largest mobile provider, Safaricom.

Charles was able to use his phone to pay for his taxi, book his hotel and even haggle down meat prices from the local market. This use of payment has become widely popular since its launch in 2007.

"Something like 93 percent of Kenyans with mobile phones have this... The truth is it's an alternative to banking... it is quickly becoming people's bank accounts. In fact, some people will keep their money on a SIM card, and then take that SIM card out and keep it in a cookie jar, sort of as a virtual savings account."

While the majority of Kenyans are using this method of payment, the U.S. has yet to adopt a system like this. It’s a shame, at least for Charles, who says he’s already missing it.

"You walk out the door only needing your phone… and your wallet is one less thing to forget."


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