National News

Breast-Feeding Boosts Chances Of Success, Study In Brazil Finds

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 14:34

A study with more than 3,000 babies found those who were breast-fed had slighter higher IQ test scores, stayed in school longer and earned more money as adults.

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U.S. Loses Control Of Drone Over Syria

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 14:25

The Syrian government said it shot down the drone. A Pentagon official said though it wasn't clear that had happened, the claim was being investigated.

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Snapchat worth as much as Campbell's Soup?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-17 14:03

Pinterest is the latest company to get a multi-billion dollar valuation. But how do investors and the startup founders decide what a company is worth in the first place?

Marketplace host David Gura spoke with Sarah Frier of Bloomberg Business to find out.

“The founder will go out and take meetings with venture capitalists, sovereign wealth funds, institutional investors like the big banks who are trying to get in on these big deals and they’ll negotiate,” Frier says. 

Take Snapchat, for example. The company is valued at almost $15 billion — which might be proof that a messaging app is worth about as much as Campbell’s Soup, a company that actually makes food.

“What you don’t hear is the steps that it took to get there,” Frier says.

Companies are realizing how easy it is to get funded by venture capitalists. And investors are eager to provide that cash.

“It’s easy to go to investors who have fear of missing out on the next Google or Facebook. They want to get in your company early,” Frier says. 

Tea Tuesdays: South America Runs On Yerba Mate

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 13:31

Legend has it the moon gifted this drink to the Guaraní people of South America. It was banned by the colonial government. The Jesuits made it their most profitable crop. Oh, and the pope drinks it.

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European Allies Defy U.S. In Joining China-Led Development Bank

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 13:22

Germany, Italy, and France have become members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, one week after the U.K. joined. The U.S. says there's no need for another international lending institution.

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Can New York Police Build Trust Among Public Housing Residents?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 13:21

Many New York public housing residents once trusted the police who patrolled their communities. Since an officer killed an unarmed man in public housing, some are pressing to change police tactics.

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Your Drinking Habits May Be Influenced By How Much You Make

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 13:13

Genetic differences explain more of the wide variation in drinking habits among people with low incomes, while higher-income people tended to drink alike.

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Sex Discrimination Trial Puts Silicon Valley Under The Microscope

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 12:52

Ellen Pao was vying to be one of the few women at the top of the venture capital world. Then she was fired. Now she's suing, in an industry where women often say they are sidelined and passed over.

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Much ado about rusting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-17 12:33

Every year, the U.S. military spends more than $20 billion combatting the effects of rust. Rust takes ships out of commission and even grounds warplanes. In the civilian world, rust damages vital infrastructure such as bridges, the neglect of which can wind up costing money … and lives.

“We associate it somewhere between cholesterol and hemorrhoids,” says Jonathan Waldman, author of the book, “Rust: The Longest War.” “There’s a database where you can look up all of the State of The Union addresses, and if you look up the word ‘rust,’ you’ll find mention of the word ‘thrust,’ and ‘trust,’ but you won’t find the word, ‘rust.’”

It’s not like President Obama hasn’t had to deal with the problem, there's even an office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, headed by Daniel Dunmire -- the “Rust Czar,” if you will.

“For what it’s worth, his boss’s boss reports to the President,” Waldman says.

Waldman contends that if we don’t rethink rust, corrosion will continue to cost us billions annually. And he says simply painting over the problem isn’t enough.

“I think the solution going forward is one of addressing maintenance and thinking about the long term livelihood of what we build, and not necessarily some new fancy alloy that nobody can afford that is hard to manufacture in the first place.”

An excerpt from “Rust: The Longest War”

They say a lot of things about boats. They say a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into. They say boat stands for “bring out another thousand.” They say that  the pleasures of owning and sailing a boat are comparable to standing, fully clothed, in a cold shower while tearing up twenty-dollar  bills. Consequently, they say that  the best day of a sailor’s life, aside from the day he buys a boat, is the day he sells it.

Ignoring all of this wisdom, I bought a forty-foot sailboat. This was at the end of 2007. She was in San Carlos, Mexico, at a pretty marina on the Sea of Cortés. There were palm trees and haciendas, with deep sparkling water to the west, a rugged volcanic tower to the east, and an immaculate Sonoran sky overhead. With  two friends, we split her three ways. I’d thought  she was a bargain, but the marina was more bonita than our new boat.

Our sloop was thirty years old, and showed her age. There were little rust rings around every screw on the deck, rust stains on the stanchions, bow pulpit, and pushpit, streaks of rust down the topsides. A white powder surrounded the rivets in the mast. The jib car tracks had corroded so badly that  there was a layer of goop beneath  them. Some of the bronze through-hulls  had turned a frightening green, while a few of the seacocks were so corroded that they wouldn’t budge. The stainless steel water tanks had rusted, too, and they leaked. Her appearance was at first so grim that I wished we had named her the Unshine, which would have been a very easy change from Sunshine. Instead we chose an obscure Greek word that nobody could pronounce or define.

But if Syzygy had cosmetic defects, we didn’t care. Then we took her sailing. The diesel engine overheated on the way out of the marina, because the heat exchanger was caked up with rust. The reef hook had rusted so badly that  it snapped the  first time we furled the  mainsail. Blocks had seized up, and the winches were so tight they offered little mechanical advantage. The wind vane almost fell off. Instruments  didn’t work, because the copper wires winding through  the bilge had corroded so thoroughly that  they no  longer conducted  electrical current. Shackles, turnbuckles, clevis pins, chain plates, backing plates, furler bearings, engine parts, the windlass axle—everything that could rust had rusted. Water, salt, air, and time had taken their  standard  toll, and corroded my bank account, too. That’s how rust ate into my life...

Rust has knocked  down  bridges, killing dozens. It’s  killed at least a handful of people at nuclear power plants, nearly caused reactor meltdowns, and challenged those storing nuclear waste. At the height of the Cold War, it turned our most powerful nukes into duds. Dealing with it has shut down the nation’s largest oil pipeline, bringing about negotiations with OPEC. It’s rendered military jets and ships unfit for service, caused the crash of an F-16 and a Huey, and torn apart the fuselage of a commercial plane midflight. In the 1970s, it was implicated in a number of house fires, when, as copper prices shot  up, electricians resorted  to aluminum wires. More recently, in the “typhoid Mary of corrosion,” furnaces in Virginia houses failed as a result of Chinese drywall that contained strontium sulfide. They rusted out in two years. One hundred fifty years after massive ten-inch  cast iron  guns attacked  Fort  Sumter,  rust  is counterattacking. Union forces have mobilized with marine-grade epoxy and humidity sensors. Rust slows down container ships before stopping  them  entirely by aiding in the untimely removal of their propellers. It causes hundreds  of explosions in manholes, blows up washing machines, and launches water heaters through  the roof, sky high. It clogs the nozzles of fire sprinkler heads: a double whammy for oxidation. It damages fuel tanks and then

engines. It seizes up  weapons, manhandles  mufflers, destroys highway guardrails, and spreads like a cancer in concrete. It’s opened up crypts.

Twenty-five miles northeast of San Francisco, one of the country’s largest rust headaches bobs at anchor in Suisun Bay, and puts Syzygy to shame. Fittingly, the National Defense Reserve Fleet belongs to the US Department of Transportation, an agency that nearly plays God in its attempt to placate the needs of man and machine. Scores of people inspect on a daily basis as many old merchant  ships that, in earlier extralegal times, would have been scuttled offshore. Now, the ships are too fragile to be hauled out and repainted, and not worth towing to Texas to be scrapped. Lacking other options, to Texas they’ve gone. Confounding  matters, the US Coast Guard  insisted in 2006 that the hulls of the ships be cleaned of invasive mussels before being moved, while the  California  Water  Quality  Control Board demanded  that  the bay not be polluted during said cleaning, and threatened  to fine the Maritime  Administration  $25,000 a day until it came up with a plan. Environmental  groups sued, demanding  studies. While  ten biologists, ecologists, toxicologists, statisticians, modelers, and mapping experts collected clams and mussels and took hundreds of sediment samples, the ships went on rusting. Big surprise: they contaminated the bay. At least twenty-one tons of lead, zinc, barium, copper, and other toxic metals have fallen off of the ships. What  to do about the Reserve Fleet conundrum is such a touchy question that Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has a position on every environmental issue in California, officially has no position on the matter.

On the other coast, two dozen flip-flop-wearing employees of the US Naval  Research  Lab  fill their  time  studying  corrosion-resisting  paints under palm trees at Naval Air Station  Key West. Long before the place was an air station, in 1883, the Naval Advisory Board tested anticorrosive concoctions there, because rust was plaguing the navy. Today’s paints self-heal, or can be applied underwater, or change color when exposed to rust—and still, rust plagues the navy. Rust, in fact, poses the number one threat to the most powerful navy on earth. By many measures, and according to many admirals (who sound as if they’re employed by the DOT), the most powerful navy on earth is losing the fight. The name of one of the department’s annual maintenance  conferences: Mega Rust. The motto  of that Florida lab: “In rust we trust.”

Workplace Suicide Rates Rise Sharply

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 11:51

Overall, men were more likely to take their lives than women on the job. And workers between the ages of 65 and 74 were more likely to commit suicide at work than their younger counterparts.

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U.S. Air Force Veteran Charged With Trying To Aid ISIS

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 11:46

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh faces charges of attempting to join the self-described Islamic State and obstruction of justice. He is expected to plead not guilty.

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If These Two Teenagers Ran The World, We'd All Jump For Joy

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 11:27

Memory from Malawi and Achie from Ethiopia met at the U.N. last week. They're now best friends in real life and on Facebook, bound by their determination to build a better world for girls.

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Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock Resigns Amid Spending Questions

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 11:00

The 33-year-old Republican had come under heavy scrutiny. In a statement, he said that "the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction."

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Fewer homeowners are now 'underwater'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-17 10:19

From 2009 to 2011 — after home prices had crashed in the wake of the housing crisis — more than 25 percent of American homeowners were underwater. CoreLogic now reports that as of the end of 2014, 10.7 percent of homeowners were underwater: A situation also known as negative-equity, in which a homeowner owes more on their mortgage(s) than the house is currently worth.

Percentage of U.S. homeowners who are 'underwater' and have negative-equity in their property, i.e., they owe more on their mortgage (or multiple mortgages) than the mortgaged property is currently worth.  

CoreLogic

CoreLogic senior economist Frank Nothaft says some of the decline in negative equity in recent years is due to underwater homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure, or eliminating their mortgage through a short-sale. But he says most of the improvement has resulted from the gradual rise in home prices. Nothaft anticipates that the improvement will continue, with home prices rising 5 percent in 2015.  

CoreLogic reports that some states still have very high rates of negative equity: Nevada (24 percent), Florida (23 percent), Arizona (19 percent), Mississippi (17 percent), Illinois (16 percent), Rhode Island (16 percent), and Ohio (15 percent). Those rates have also fallen; as many as 50 to 75 percent of homeowners were underwater in some of these states during 2009-11.

CoreLogic

The current nationwide negative-equity rate of 10.7 percent is still extremely high by historic standards, says Nothaft. “We still have about 5 million homeowners underwater, but continuing to be current on their mortgages and making their monthly payments,” he says.

Such a homeowner may not face foreclosure or bankruptcy, but they’ll find it difficult to sell — to upsize or downsize as their lifestyle or family-composition changes — or to relocate to a different region for better job opportunities or retirement.

“I think of it as freezing people in place,” says Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy. Domestic migration fell dramatically during and after the recession, he says, with people’s mobility limited by “houses they couldn’t sell and fear of changing jobs.”

Now, domestic migration is picking up again. Johnson says a direct causal link to the improving job and housing market is hard to prove, but he believes that’s part of what’s driving the change.

“One of those places where we're seeing growth pick up is in amenity and retirement areas, places with lots of golf courses and things like that,” says Johnson. Florida, for instance, is again gaining population — likely driven in part by retirees selling their homes in northern climes.

Also, employers are now competing more aggressively for qualified workers, says economist John Canally at LPL Financial. So a potential employee who is locked in by negative equity might now be able to move, care of their new employer. “Companies today might be a little more willing to help someone who’s relocating,” says Canally, “to buy that person's home in Miami and help them relocate in Dallas, where four or five years ago they were not.”

Fewer homeowners are now 'under water'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-17 10:19

From 2009 to 2011 — after home prices had crashed in the wake of the housing crisis — more than 25 percent of American homeowners were underwater. CoreLogic now reports that as of the end of 2014, 10.7 percent of homeowners were underwater: A situation also known as negative-equity, in which a homeowner owes more on their mortgage(s) than the house is currently worth.

Percentage of U.S. homeowners who are 'underwater' and have negative-equity in their property, i.e., they owe more on their mortgage (or multiple mortgages) than the mortgaged property is currently worth.  

CoreLogic

CoreLogic senior economist Frank Nothaft says some of the decline in negative equity in recent years is due to underwater homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure, or eliminating their mortgage through a short-sale. But he says most of the improvement has resulted from the gradual rise in home prices. Nothaft anticipates that the improvement will continue, with home prices rising 5 percent in 2015. 

CoreLogic reports that some states still have very high rates of negative equity: Nevada (24 percent), Florida (23 percent), Arizona (19 percent), Mississippi (17 percent), Illinois (16 percent), Rhode Island (16 percent), and Ohio (15 percent). Those rates have also fallen; as many as 50 to 75 percent of homeowners were underwater in some of these states during 2009-11.

CoreLogic

The current nationwide negative-equity rate of 10.7 percent is still extremely high by historic standards, says Nothaft. “We still have about 5 million homeowners underwater, but continuing to be current on their mortgages and making their monthly payments,” he says.

Such a homeowner may not face foreclosure or bankruptcy, but they’ll find it difficult to sell — to upsize or downsize as their lifestyle or family-composition changes — or to relocate to a different region for better job opportunities or retirement.

“I think of it as freezing people in place,” says Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy. Domestic migration fell dramatically during and after the recession, he says, with people’s mobility limited by “houses they couldn’t sell and fear of changing jobs.”

Now, domestic migration is picking up again. Johnson says a direct causal link to the improving job and housing market is hard to prove, but he believes that’s part of what’s driving the change.

“One of those places where we're seeing growth pick up is in amenity and retirement areas, places with lots of golf courses and things like that,” says Johnson. Florida, for instance, is again gaining population — likely driven in part by retirees selling their homes in northern climes.

Also, employers are now competing more aggressively for qualified workers, says economist John Canally at LPL Financial. So a potential employee who is locked in by negative equity might now be able to move, care of their new employer. “Companies today might be a little more willing to help someone who’s relocating,” says Canally, “to buy that person's home in Miami and help them relocate in Dallas, where four or five years ago they were not.”

Here's What People Are Saying About Starbucks' 'Race Together' Campaign

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 10:17

Starbucks doesn't shy from controversy, however its attempt to talk about race relations has been met with some blunt opposition— and snark.

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To Eat Authentically Irish This St. Patrick's Day, Go For The Butter

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 09:47

From 3,000-year-old peat bogs to 19th-century Brazil to modern foodies, the love of Irish butter has spread far. The secret to Ireland's deliciously rich, creamy butter is in its rolling green hills.

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Thailand Cautions Women Against 'Underboob Selfies'

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 09:47

Citing both potential harm to society and a 2007 law, Thailand's Culture Ministry warns women to resist a trend of taking photos that focus on the midriff and the lower portion of their breasts.

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Talking About Great Teachers At SXSWedu

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 09:33

Education thinkers at SXSW gave us the details on the teachers who inspired them.

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House GOP Budget Sets Stage For Showdown With The President

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 09:25

House Republicans unveiled a draft budget Tuesday, aimed at balancing spending with revenues over the next decade without raising taxes.

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