National News

What has changed one year after Rana Plaza

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 10:01

On April 24, 2013 an eight-story factory building collapsed in Bangladesh, in a complex called "Rana Plaza."

1,129 workers died. More than 2,500 were injured, many seriously so.

The factory made clothing for companies all over the world, from Walmart to Benetton.

The BBC's Akbar Hossain covered the collapse and the aftermath. In the year since, he's spoken with workers and factory owners. He told Marketplace's David Gura about the past year in Bangladesh's garment industry:

Q: What sort of tangible changes have you seen to these factories in Bangladesh? Do they look different?

To be very honest, the situation and the physical infrastructure [of most factories] has not changed yet. Workers [still] are alleging that they're working in very dangerous conditions. 

There are factories in Bangladesh that are very compliant...they meet all the standards of international buyers. But there are many factories which don't even comply with the minimum standards in Bangladesh. And thousands of workers are working there -- there's a problem.

Q: This is an issue that attracted so much attention globally. There was a compensation fund that was intended to raise at least $40 million for victims. This hasn't happened yet. Why?

Bangladeshi garment owners are saying they couldn't insure the factories safety and standards because internatioanl buyers always want cheaper garments from Bangladesh. So they have to maintain the factories in cheaper ways. 

Bangladesh's garment industry is a huge industry for Bangladesh. It earns $20 billion every year. More than 5 million people are directly employed in the garment industry, and there are [many] other people who have links. 

Q: Rana Plaza did contract work for some big western companies, like Mango and Benetton. Have you seen these businesses travelling more to Bangladesh? Taking a closer look since this happened?

The Rana Plaza disaster was a wake up call for the Bangladeshi garment indsustry, and it was a wake up call for international garments and brands also. They are coming to Bangladesh. I've talked to Trade Union Leaders, and they are telling me, yes, international buyers are now more serious. They're trying to maximize they're profit, but now they're focusing on the safety issues. They're actually pressing garment factory owners to insure a safer workplace.

So things are changing, things have worked, but things are going very slow.

Pope OKs Communion For The Divorced? Not So Fast, Vatican Says

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 09:51

Word about what the pope reportedly said when he called a woman in Argentina set off speculation that he wants to reverse church teachings. His spokesman says that's reading too much into the story.

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A Measles Outbreak In The Philippines Travels To The U.S.

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 09:48

International travel is one reason why the number of measles cases in the U.S. has spiked this year. But the number of people who refuse to get their children vaccinated is a factor, too.

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American Journalist Freed By Kidnappers In Eastern Ukraine

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 09:14

Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter for Vice News, was seized at gunpoint by masked men in the city of Slovyansk earlier this week. Vice says he is now safe and in good health.

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Bracing For A Battle, Vermont Passes GMO Labeling Bill

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 09:04

The Green Mountain State is poised to become the first to require GMO labeling. But a federal lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would outlaw state rules like Vermont's.

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Long-Lost Wreck Off San Francisco Recalls Anti-Chinese History

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 08:34

The City of Chester, which sank in 1888 after colliding with the liner Oceanic, has been found. At the time, false reports that the other ship's Chinese crew failed to assist stoked racial hatred.

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Israel Halts Peace Talks After Palestinian Unity Move

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 07:54

The Israeli Cabinet on Thursday endorsed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to suspend talks because the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas are moving to form a unity government.

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PODCAST: The secrets behind college wait lists

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 07:45

This morning brought a bit of a reversal fortune for tech companies that have been getting pummeled in recent weeks.

The Federal Communication Commission is expected to introduce new rules today that will allow broadband providers to charge companies for faster internet service.

College admissions rates across the country hit some all-time lows this year. Stanford University, for instance, took only around five percent of applicants. In response to the crazy numbers game of college admissions, schools are growing their wait lists and using them in some surprising ways.

Is the FCC neutering Net Neutrality?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 07:24

The Federal Communication Commission is expected to introduce new rules today that will allow broadband providers to charge companies for faster internet service.

Net neutrality proponents see this as a blow to the principle that broadband providers can’t give preferential treatment to websites or Internet companies. Broadband providers welcome the proposed rules saying it’ll allow them to deliver better services to consumers, said John Butler, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries. He says, think of your Internet connection as a big highway.  

“And to the extent that you get certain clients that are using too much of the highway if you will and really affecting the quality of service for others on the network, in their view that’s not fair game,” Butler said.

Providers say streaming video companies like Netflix, which use a lot of lanes on the road, should pay more. They say the proposed rules will simply allow them open faster Internet lanes and charge companies for them.

Todd O’Boyle with Common Cause, which advocates for Net Neutrality, says, the new rules allow for paid discrimination. He adds, it will also handicap smaller tech companies.

“By slowing down its rivals its harmful to innovation it’s harmful to end consumers,” O’Boyle said. He says that’s because consumers will end up paying for it in the end.

 

Tweet Suits: Social Media And The Law

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 07:13

In this age of social media, is every negative experience a possible class action?

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Lawyers Use High Court Petition To Highlight Prosecutorial Misconduct

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 07:05

A computer support technician convicted of possessing ricin to use as a weapon wants the Supreme Court to hear his appeal. He says prosecutors denied him due process by failing to disclose evidence.

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Obama: Japan's Administration Of Disputed Islands Shouldn't Change

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 06:50

A standoff over sovereignty of an island chain that Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu has been a source of deep tension between the two countries in recent years.

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Snoopy, Garfield And Friends Go Bald For Kids With Cancer

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 06:31

Kids don't want to look different, especially if the reason they look different is because they've lost their hair to chemotherapy. If Hello Kitty's gone bald, too, maybe it won't feel so bad.

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Saddened Students Return To Ferry Disaster Victims' School

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 06:11

More bodies were recovered Thursday from the ship, which sank last week. So far, at least 171 deaths have been confirmed. Another 131 people, many of them students from one school, remain missing.

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British Men Win Equal-Pay Claim Against University

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 05:53

At issue was how much money the 18 men – carpenters, plumbers and caretakers – employed by the University of Wales, Trinity St. David, made compared with female workers on the same pay scale.

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More work study, less financial aid?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 05:09

What would happen if the government moved away from financial aid for college students and more towards work study? Marketplace economics contributor Chris Farrell joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to make his case for growing work study. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Jobless Claims Bounce Up From Earlier Weeks' Low Levels

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 05:03

The 329,000 applications filed last week for unemployment insurance were more than economists expected. One theory: Easter's relatively late date may have skewed the numbers.

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The post-recall GM: What's it look like?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 04:56

[UPDATED: 8:13AM EDT] General Motors  said this morning that its profit fell 86 percent, its worst quarter since came out of bankruptcy in 2009.  A series of recalls hurt the auto giant, but excluding these one-time items, profits radically beat expectations.

GM is suffering not just from bad weather during the winter months -- but also from bad PR over its handling of faulty ignition switches going back ten years.

The problem has caused at least 13 deaths, and the belated recall -- in February 2014 -- could cost the company $1.3 billion. GM faces ongoing inquiries into its knowledge and handling of the defect, as well as lawsuits from consumers.

Since emerging from bankruptcy at the end of the recession in June 2009, GM has gone from a message of redemption to an acknowledgment of mistakes.

"We will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future," new CEO Mary Barra told a Congressional hearing earlier this month about the ignition-switch recall. "Today's GM will do the right thing."

That appears to include heads moving and rolling. Several top executives, in HR, communications and engineering, are out, says Paul Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau, an auto-industry news service.

"Since the recall we have been seeing more and more changes in mid- to upper-management," says Eisenstein, and he adds that company executives have signaled to expect more of the same.

Meanwhile, GM plans to staff up two new engineering divisions -- one specifically to deal with safety and quality problems.

"The image of the company as a huge lumbering company where management holds back on innovation and change is an image that the company’s going to have to rid itself of very quickly," says Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University who studies the auto industry. And he says HR shuffles alone aren’t likely to accomplish that goal.

Stowaway Teen's Father Was Shocked To Hear Son Was In Hawaii

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-24 04:39

The 15-year-old boy hid in the wheel well of a jet that flew Sunday from San Jose, Calif., to Maui. Though temperatures plunged and oxygen was scant, he survived. The father says Allah "saved him."

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Climate change: how to talk about bad news

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 04:16

It’s been almost eight years since "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore’s call-to-action on climate change. Now the televison channel Showtime is taking up the challenge with its nine-part docu-series "Years of Living Dangerously." In between these two films, advocates have learned a lot about communicating climate change. No. 1, it’s harder than anybody thought.

After years of dire warnings, a little over half of Americans worry about climate change “only a little,” if at all, according to a Gallup poll. 

“At first the attitude was, the truth speaks for itself,” says Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School and a member of the Cultural Cognition Project. “Show them the valid science and the people will understand. That’s clearly wrong.”

Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, says there are at least three things “we know that you shouldn’t do,” when communicating the science: don't use language people don’t understand, don't use too many numbers, and don't talk about “plants, penguins and polar bears” instead of people. Maibach says another error is talking about the threat of climate change without giving people solutions.

Elke Webber, a business and psychology professor Columbia University’s Earth Institute, takes that one step further. She believes that instead of “scare campaigns” and “visions of apocalyptic futures,” climate advocates need to present visions of what a world less dependent on fossil fuels would look like.

“Focus on the benefits,” Webber says. “Scare campaigns work extremely well when there’s a simple thing you can do to remove the danger. But if it takes protracted action, over time, nobody wants to feel bad for that length of time. People just tune out.”

The real challenge, however, may be to talk about climate change in ways that don’t push people’s cultural and political buttons. Dan Kahan’s research shows that the way people view climate change is closely tied to their values.

People “aggressively filter” information that doesn’t conform to their worldview.

“And remarkably the more proficient somebody is at making sense of empirical data," he says, "the more pronounced this tendency is going to.”

Robert Lalasz, director of science communications at the Nature Conservancy, is convinced that real progress will come at the local level, where people are already confronting drought and rising seas and looking to community leaders for solutions. 

“We need to show people that the people they respect and trust are paying attention to climate science and using it to make decisions about issues they’re dealing with right now and issues in the future,” Lalasz says. Those conversations, however, tend to be about adaptiing to the effects of climate change. The question is whether they can help move the needle on mitigating it, before it's too late.

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