National News

Don't buy beer or cigarettes for strangers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-24 10:25

Over 100 teenagers spent a recent Saturday outside liquor stores across the state of California, asking adults to buy them alcohol. An outbreak of teen drinking? Just the opposite. These kids were part of a statewide effort to keep alcohol away from the under-21 set. 

Volunteer Youth Decoys are recruited from high schools, sold on the idea that they can help "clean up the streets." The teens just need to complete a brief training, and get their parents to sign off on it. 

In a recent coordinated day-long effort with over 100 police and sheriffs departments across California, young decoys netted 544 arrests... and got a unique window into a possible career.  

I rode along in an unmarked car to watch the action. At one point, we were driving towards a startled man in a black Chevy. The sergeant jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran towards the suspect on foot, while out of sight officers in bulletproof vests swarmed in, cutting off the man’s escape routes.

His crime: buying a six pack of Coors Light for an undercover teen.

“I’m the decoy-- I’m the guy that messes up people’s days I guess," says 18-year-old Daniel Gardener. 

Gardener, who is plainclothes and not wearing a bulletproof vest, is undercover with the Alameda County Sheriffs. The officers just arrested a middle-aged man in a sweat suit. The violator, a guy named Fred, is the fourth person busted for buying alcohol for a minor at this location in the past hour and a half.

Fred has his reasons, as he explains to Gardener, “I’m gonna tell you why I did it. You’re the same height as my son… and you look kinda like him-- you're white, though. But you look kinda like him-- same build, you feel me?”

Even though Fred is facing a possible $1,000 fine and 24 hours of community service, he praises the Youth Decoy who set him up saying, “Hey thank you young man. You’re a good actor, dude.”

Let’s meet another cast member of this youth production. Lisset Araugio is 16, but is no stranger to the game. They call me, ‘the veteran’,” she says.

This is Araugio’s third year as a youth decoy, where she works on tobacco stings -- going into corner-stores and buying flavored cigars, called Swishers.

“I usually walk in the stores, I give them a smile and I say, ‘Oh, can I get a Swisher Sweet?’ And then I say, ‘Please.’ And if they give them to me, I say, ‘Thank you, and have a nice day.’ And I smile.”

That’s cold blooded. Evidently, being a youth decoy means putting duty before empathy.  

“This lady, she didn’t speak any English -- I was talking to her in Spanish,” recalls Araugio. “And then when she got the citation, she was like, ‘Can you please tell them that they’re going to kick me out of my job because I did this?’ And I was like, ‘I’m sorry, but next time you should be more careful.’  And she’s like, ‘Please help me!’ And she got so mad she started crying."

All that drama, plus a $200 to $1000 fine may seem like a severe penalty for selling tobacco to a minor. Back at the alcohol decoy operation, Sergeant Scheuller says these stings sometimes catch people engaged in worse crimes.

“A lot of times, what we find is the people that are willing to buy alcohol for a minor -- a lot of times they’ve been involved in other criminal activity,” says Scheuller.

According to the statewide agency that sponsored these operations, about 10 percent of people cuffed today actually went to jail on crimes ranging from drunk driving, illegal drug possession, to resisting arrest. Apart from sending people to jail, Sergeant Scheuller says the Youth Decoy program also brings some kids into the force. 

“So maybe you might wanna think of pursuing a career in law enforcement?" Sergeant Scheuller asks me with a nudge. "You could do this as your job. And get paid. It’s the best job in the world if you ask me.” 

Decoys like Daniel Gardener don’t need persuading. He intends to be a sheriff. He knows some kids who have gone from the decoy program straight into the police academy.  

For me, trapping somebody who thinks they’re doing me a favor is too much. It makes me feel callous and dishonest.

But Fred, the guy who bought the six pack, says a citation does get the message across: “Everybody makes mistakes in life, this was mine, you don’t have to worry about me ever doing this again."

Me neither. 

This story was produced by Youth Radio.

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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