National News

The U.S. Helped Beat Back Ebola — Only Not In The Way You Might Think

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 12:25

The deployment of troops to build treatment centers and train health workers didn't pan out as planned. But as most of the troops are being withdrawn, it is clear the U.S. still made a difference.

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Is that Greek's finance minister or an action film star?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 12:18

Greece’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has bounded onto the political stage not like a finance minister at all.  He's more like an action movie star.

With his bald head, athletic build and feisty manner, Varoufakis reminds some of the Bruce Willis of "Die Hard" fame. One German newspaper called Varoufakis “a sex icon, roaring around Athens in his motorbike leathers, radiating the sort of classical masculinity you usually find only in Greek statues.”

Varoufakis may not relish this kind of press. He is a serious academic economist who has held senior university teaching posts in Greece, the United States, the U.K. and Australia. Long before his election last month, he fought a passionate campaign against the deep cuts in public spending that Germany and other European creditor nations imposed on Greece as a condition of the country’s $280 billion bailouts.

As a left-winger, Varoufakis believes in big government. Indeed, he describes himself as a Marxist. But Professor Monojit Chatterji, his doctoral supervisor at the UK’s University of Essex, says we should take that description with a pinch of salt.

“People are scared of him because of this Marxist label that he bandies around,” says Chatterji. “It’s almost done deliberately, in order to say to people: ‘Look here, I am a Marxist but you know I’m really a cuddly toy.’”

In spite of his seriousness, Varoufakis seems not to be averse to game playing. Hardly surprising, his academic specialty is game theory, the study of strategic decision-making. Computer games giant Valve Corp. hired him for his game-theory expertise.

That could now stand him in good stead.

“It’s not a bad background to have when you’re entering a period of intense negotiation,” says James K. Galbraith, a University of Austin professor who is a friend and former colleague.

But Galbraith rejects the claim that Varoufakis is playing the so-called “madman strategy,” making crazy demands and threatening to bring down the euro to extract greater concessions from Greece’s creditors.

“That’s not true," Galbraith says. "There’s absolutely nothing mad or for that matter opaque about the position taken at this stage by the Greek government.”

Galbraith describes Varoufakis as one of the most interesting intellectuals on the planet who has energy, charm, intelligence and magnetism in abundance. Will these qualities be enough to win over Varoufakis’ key adversary in the debt negotiations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Professor Chatterji recalls one of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s favorite phrases: “Thatcher used to say: ‘The lady is not for turning.' I think about Merkel one might say: ‘This lady is not for charming.’”

Obama: War Powers Resolution Does Not Signal New Ground War For U.S.

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 11:50

President Obama defended a limited three-year resolution saying the country is not benefited "by being on a perpetual war footing."

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What Matters More To America: The Brian Williams Debacle, Or Jon Stewart's Departure?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 11:11

A new online survey shows only 27 percent of Americans can identify the NBC Nightly News anchor from his photograph.

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5 Things Jon Stewart Reminded Us About Politics

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 11:10

When comedian Jon Stewart announced he was leaving The Daily Show that sound you heard was 2016 hopefuls breathing a collective sigh of relief.

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Why Hot Chocolate Might Be More American Than Apple Pie

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 10:43

George Washington drank hot chocolate for breakfast, according to historians. His version was flavored with chili powder, vanilla and allspice and contained less sugar than the cocoa of today.

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Costa Concordia Captain Found Guilty Of Manslaughter

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 10:33

Captain Francesco Schettino was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the disaster in which the Italian cruise ship hit rocks in 2012 and sank, killing 32 people.

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Dietary update: Cholesterol-rich foods aren't so bad

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 09:42

The government is set to withdraw warnings about cholesterol. According to the Washington Post, those dietary guidelines that we all know and love, the ones that provide rules for school lunches and nutrition advice and the same guidelines that tell us to limit our cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams a day are about to see a big change that could whip up business for the egg industry.

If we were writing a blockbuster movie about the egg industry – just bear with me – the villain would be cholesterol.

“It certainly has been an issue that has been on every single agenda, topic for every single meeting we’ve had in egg industry over the last 30 years,” says Kevin Burkum, a senior vice president of the American Egg Board. “Cholesterol is really the reason the American Egg Board was invented," he says.

In 1976, there was an egg crisis. American’s consumption of eggs had plunged from around 400 eggs a year in the 1940s to about half that a few decades later, and egg producers were concerned.

Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarketguru.com, says the industry still hasn't completely recovered: “Fast forward to 2012, and it’s down to 250 eggs.”

After years of mixed messages about nutrition, even if the government does publish new guidelines extolling the virtues of eggs, it could be tough to persuade consumers that the product is actually considered healthy again, Lempert says.

“Because what we’ve seen before – whether it’s about obesity, or heart disease, or cholesterol, or sodium or sugar – is lots of confusion. This message has to be really clear," he says.

And heard, says Mark Cotter, CEO of the Food Group, a food marketing firm. If the government publishes new dietary guidelines they probably won’t have much affect on their own, he says.

“To be quite frank, the understanding of the dietary guidelines, in terms of awareness, is under 10 percent – in the country,” he says.

It’s up to the egg industry, says Cotter, to sell itself. Last year, egg sales increased by half a billion dollars, according to Burkum.  Consumers, he says, are already embracing the egg.

“The incredible edible egg – even more incredible,” he says.

What it takes to get a soldier's boots on the ground

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 09:42

President Obama wants Congress to authorize a U.S. military-led operation against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The president says he's not committing the country to another drawn-out, costly war. But getting just one pair of boots on the ground costs a lot of money.

It's not just bombs and bullets: It's all the civilian support required to sustain a deployment of any size for any period of time. In this case, the main weapon used may be airpower, and the footprint may not be as large as it was in Afghanistan or Iraq at the height of the war. But there will be plenty of work for civilian contractors.

For the full story, click the audio player above.

Falling asleep and other things you do during meetings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 09:42

This final note comes with this personal observation: I once had a boss in the Navy who only held meetings standing up — helped keep 'em short and on target, he said.

That wasn't a bad way to go, because a report from Atlassian had this to say about the average workplace meeting attendee:

- 39 percent slept during meetings.
- 45 percent felt overwhelmed by the number of meetings they have to go to.
- 73 percent said they did other work during those meetings.  

 

The Fall And Rise Of U.S. Inequality, In 2 Graphs

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 09:05

Since World War II, inequality in the U.S. has gone through two, dramatically different phases.

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Australia To Compete In The 2015 Eurovision Song Contest

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 08:53

This is the first time an Australian will compete in the song competition that brings in nearly 200 million viewers. The big question is: who will represent Australia at the event in May?

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PHOTO: Rosetta Sends 'An Impressive New Perspective' On Comet

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 08:42

The European Space Agency probe has sent a new image of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from about 77 miles away.

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'The Shark' Has Died: Coach Jerry Tarkanian Was 84

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 08:39

Famous for his ever-present white towel and what seemed to be a perpetually worried expression, former college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian has died.

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Quiz: College completion gap widens

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 08:25

According to The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, college completion rates for Americans with the highest family incomes have been rising, but the rates for lower families incomes have not changed.

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One Of The Chapel Hill Victims Was Raising Funds To Help Syrian Refugees

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 08:01

Following the shooting at Chapel Hill that left three young Muslims dead, a donation fund created by one of the victims is receiving a flood of contributions.

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Panel Says Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is A Disease, And Renames It

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:41

"Systemic exertion intolerance disorder" might not fall trippingly off the tongue, but an Institute of Medicine panel says it better matches the symptoms. The disease, they say, is real.

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Boston's massive snowfall brings in business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:34

Boston is getting pummeled by snow. More than 78 inches have fallen on the city this winter, making it one of the snowiest winters in the city's history.

But it's not over yet. The city is bracing for more snowfall Thursday night.

The winter weather has turned out to be a blessing for entrepreneurs in the snow-clearing business.

Frank Ippolito, who owns Ippolito Snow Services in Boston, offers "flake-to-flake" services for some lucky customers.

"The first flake falls, we have a team there, in front of a retail store or a high-end residence where we're there for the entire storm," he says. "Just pushing snow to the curb, and keeping them clean for the whole time so it doesn't build up."

Ippolito says his company is fielding up to 70 calls a day. But it'll cost to hire him. Ippolito charges around $4,000 to clear a small parking lot.

From The Cold Depths Of Space, A Smile Emerges

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:17

In the Hubble image of a galaxy cluster, two bright galaxies resemble eyes, NASA says, "and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing."

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Kayla Mueller's Death Underscores Risks For Aid Workers Abroad

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:15

Humanitarian groups say the world's more dangerous than 15 years ago. How can they keep their staff safe in places of turmoil?

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