National News

Could personal coaches help low-income students graduate?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:52

On Thursday at the White House, more than one hundred college presidents will meet with President Obama to discuss ways they can enroll more low-income minority students.  The plan is to help those students graduate on time, without massive debt loads. 

One proposal on the table is to provide more personal and financial coaches.  

At the Hyde Square Task Force in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, mentor Mariah Baril-Dore helps high school senior Yoleiris Gonzalez submit her very first college application.

"Without her, I’d probably still be trying to figure out what I would be doing," says Gonzalez.  "She texts me and she’s like, 'Do this, do that. Have you talked to this person? Have you talked to that person?' She’s on me, so it's very good.”

"Just showing up here every week is the least that I can do," says Baril-Dore.

And if more volunteers show up, more nontraditional students could attend college. It’s one of many ideas expected to come up at the White House today.

But some educators are skeptical about President Obama’s plan, which would tie federal financial aid for colleges to outcomes like graduation rates.

"It is very hard for us to imagine that there would be a handful of metrics that could then be used to rank institutions, given the rich diversity of American institutions of higher education," says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.

Still, Broad says Thursday’s meeting is not just a dog and pony show. After all, college presidents will spend the entire day at the White House discussing how to get more low-income students to graduation day.   

Listen to Kirk's extended interview with Molly Corbett Broad here: 

Nets, Hawks game underscores NBA's European hopes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:37

Tonight the Atlanta Hawks are set to face the Brooklyn Nets in London, the second of two international games scheduled this season.

That's on top of eight pre-season games in seven countries last fall.

League officials have made it clear; they want to expand the brand.

University of Pennsylvania Business Professor Scott Rosner says it’s easy to understand why the NBA wants to go international.

"There's a lot of money to be made," he says.

Thanks to the Olympics and international players like Yao Ming, Luol Deng and Tony Parker, the sport has carved out a loyal following around the globe.

Today the NBA brings in about $5 billion a year in revenue.

Rosner says establishing a handful of European teams could grow that pie.

"Just do the math on it, if you figure 5 franchises, $200 million dollars a year in revenue, yeah, that's a billion dollar proposition," says Rosner.

Charles Grantham, former Executive Director of the NBA Player's Union says a roster of international teams is "a long way off."

Grantham says to expand, the league has to figure out how to minimize the wear and tear on athletes from so much travel.

And maybe more important, determine whether foreign cities can support an NBA team.

"You know you are talking about considerable investment of time and money. 8 to 10 investors, developing arenas, marketing, etc, etc, etc," he says.

Even with its deep pockets, Grantham says the NBA can't afford to launch a European division of teams only to see it fold.

Detroit Touts Clean, Efficient Diesels, But America Isn't Sold

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:29

Hybrids and battery-powered cars are all the rage, but some car companies are investing in an older technology: diesel. The newest vehicles are cleaner and more powerful, and some drivers report getting up to 50 mpg. So what's keeping U.S. customers from switching pumps?

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Sometimes A Perfect Stranger Is The Best Dinner Host

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:28

A new food trend gaining popularity in New York and other cities allows diners to enjoy fine meals inside someone else's home. But the food is often just an excuse for what can essentially be a really great party with a bunch of people you've never met.

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An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Body-Builder

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:28

An aging tree's girth is good for the planet, scientists say, because it helps it suck more carbon dioxide out of the air. "It's as if, on your favorite sports team, you find out the star players are a bunch of 90-year-olds," one ecologist says.

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Jobs Pitchman Takes Labor Department's Show On the Road

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:27

Raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits and attacking income inequality are all on the Obama administration's domestic agenda. And they all fall under the purview of Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has only been on the job since July.

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Florida Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana For Child Seizures

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:26

This variety of the drug has very little of the primary component that produces the high. Families have been moving to Colorado to get access to the therapy.

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For A Better Bobsled, Team USA Turns To Race Cars

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 00:25

It's been 78 years since the U.S. brought home Olympic gold in the two-man bobsled event. Other countries routinely work with race car companies to improve their sleds, so the Americans decided to follow suit by teaming up with designers at BMW.

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Scandal-Struck Christie To Meet With Sandy Victims

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 23:25

Gov. Chris Christie, eager to get on with business amid a scandal over traffic jams that appear to have been manufactured by his aides, is meeting with homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy. At the same time, the Legislature prepares to issue new subpoenas as part of its investigation.

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Extreme Heat Brings Australian Open To A Halt

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 23:19

The scorching weather finally brought play to a halt on the fourth day of the Australian Open when the temperature topped 109F. Some players had criticized officials for not stopping matches earlier.

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New Nuke Scandal: 34 Officers Accused Of Cheating

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 23:14

The Air Force has disclosed that 34 officers entrusted with the world's deadliest weapons have been removed from launch duty for allegedly cheating — or tolerating cheating by others — on routine proficiency tests.

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Pregnant Women Warned Against Drinking Water In W.Va. Area

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 17:58

The CDC says pregnant women should stick to bottled water until all traces of a coal-treatment chemical are gone from the local water supply.

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Rental Car Surprise: Comes With An AR-15 In The Back

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 17:09

A Florida vacation got off to an odd start for Judith Fleissig, 58, of Rochester, N.Y., when she and her daughter realized the car they'd rented had an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. More oddness followed: The gun was left there by the wife of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, police say.

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Obama Nominates Maria Contreras-Sweet To Head SBA

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 15:21

Born in Mexico, Contreras-Sweet was the first Latina to serve as a cabinet secretary in California when she led its Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999-2003.

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Months After 'Blackfish' Release, Controversy Over SeaWorld Grows

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 14:54

An anti-SeaWorld movement has unfolded online and on social media in the wake of the documentary about the death of an orca trainer at the park. Musical acts and schoolchildren have boycotted the theme park — but it's still drawing big crowds.

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IMF's Lagarde: Any U.S. Budget Deal Is Better Than None

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 14:28

"We are all very pleased to see an orderly budget process is back," the head of the International Monetary Fund says, as Congress works on spending legislation.

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Bourbon or scotch? You may be surprised by who owns your favorite whiskey

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 13:53

Do you prefer Maker's Mark bourbon to Jim Beam? Laphroig scotch to Bowmore? Basil Hayden's to Knob Creek?

All are different distilleries, to be sure, but now they're all owned by the same company. Japan's Suntory is buying Beam Inc. -- as in Jim Beam -- for $13.6 billion. The deal will make Suntory one of the largest alcohol producers in the world.

Curious if your favorite whiskey is one of Suntory's brands -- or another of the big distilleries?

Here's a breakdown of which company owns which whiskey brand:


The NSA has new ways to see inside your computer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 13:28

What is the National Security Agency monitoring now? Think: nearly 100,000 computers around the world – whether they’re connected to the internet or not.

"There is a good subset of computers that are walled off from the internet, completely isolated. And those are usually the computers that the NSA wants to get into most," says David Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times, explaining his report in the Times today.

German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently published a catalog of tools developed by an NSA division called ANT. Among other strategies, ANT uses small radio transceivers to monitor and even control personal computers. The transceivers are either installed into the computer – usually during transit from the factory –  or through thumb drives. Once the software has been installed, the NSA is able to see inside the computer. Some believe they have used the tcomputers in to cyber weapons or to turn the computer into a cyber-weapon. The Stuxnet attack on the Iranian nuclear enrichment site is believed to have been carried out through such means.

Sanger reports the NSA has used the technology for at least the last five years, on allies and enemies alike. Tech companies in the U.S. fear overseas buyers will be wary of buying American products.   

“I think as the year goes on, you’re going to see more and more pressure from Silicon Valley to both trim back these programs and efforts from Silicon Valley to design systems that the NSA can’t penetrate,” he says.

The NSA uses these programs in the name of national security. There is no evidence that the United States is using the ANT technology to steal intellectual property.

“If they had, they probably wouldn’t know which company to give it to. The Chinese know who they’re going to give it to, they’re going to give it to their state owned firms.”

President Obama is expected to address the issue on Friday.

German Farmers Fear For Europe's Bacon With U.S. Trade Deal

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 13:19

German farmers protested Wednesday against a free trade deal with the U.S. that could lift restrictions on American meat sold in Europe. The farmers say they are worried not just about poor quality meat but about unfair competition.

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House Republicans Join In Passing $1 Trillion Spending Bill

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 13:16

In a bipartisan compromise, lawmakers approved the 1,582-page spending bill. The Senate is expected to follow suit later this week.

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