National News

Aasif Mandvi's cross-cultural journey

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 09:53

Best known as a contributor to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Aasif Mandvi usually reports satirical news pertaining to the Middle East – under the title "senior Muslim correspondent" or even "senior foreign-looking correspondent."

Mandvi was born in Mumbai, moved to England a year later and then to Florida as a teenager. He's written a collection of personal essays called "No Land's Man" that explore his cross-cultural identity and acting career.

Mandvi describes the journey to his birthplace:

There’s this little children’s theater where I first discovered my bug and penchant and proclivity for performing and acting. I went back after all these years and the place had burned down. The book, you know, is called "No Land’s Man" and I keep searching for a home and ultimately realize that the metaphor of the open field is really the home that I've been searching for.  

On working for "The Daily Show":

"The Daily Show" has put me in front of millions of people. It has allowed me to speak into the zeitgeist in a way that very few other jobs could have. There’s very little downside to being on "The Daily Show." It’s been a great opportunity for me.

I don’t think of myself as a comedian. I think of myself as an actor who does comedy. Even on "The Daily Show," I feel like that person that I play is a character who happens to have my name but he also has a team of very funny Ivy League-educated Jewish comedy writers that go around with him wherever he goes. 

On using his cultural identity as a drive for creative work:

What is it to be a South Asian American man? That question is constantly in my work and will continue to be and actually becomes my source of power now.  

NBA Commissioner Thinks Gambling On Games Should Be Legal

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 09:53

Breaking with other major pro sports leagues, Adam Silver says the world is changing and that Congress should allow sports betting that is legal and regulated.

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5 ways to make a city more walkable

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 09:23

For about half a century, American cities and suburbs were built as car towns – with long stretches of road. And sometimes without sidewalks. But lately, things have been changing. Americans are seeking more intimate city spaces and putting a high premium on good public transportation. Millennials don't seem to want to buy cars, or drive much. In their quest for more walkable cities, they are teaming up with some unlikely allies: Retirees.

As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more of them want to remain at home – and remain independent. A whopping 63 percent of boomers don’t intend to move, according to a recent study from the Demand Institute, a nonprofit think-tank devoted to consumer issues. And the aging population is soaring – a joint project from Harvard University and the AARP predicts that by 2030, there will be 73 million adults over age 65 living in the U.S. 

Aging Americans increasingly ask for walkable cities. It's one of their top priorities, according to Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP. What the AARP wants, it frequently gets. The organization is the eighth-largest lobbying group in the U.S. – its members are consummate voters, and more importantly, LeaMond says, "tend to be participants in the community. They come to community meetings, they're very involved." 

The AARP and the World Health Organization have focused on building more livable communities for the aging population through their Age-Friendly Cities and Communities program. Cities can adopt elements of a WHO-approved checklist to make communities safe and engaging for people who are aging. Many places have come a long way toward addressing infrastructure issues and community engagement, according to Tori Goldhammer, a Washington, D.C., occupational therapist who specializes in aging-in-place and fall prevention.

Yet investing in more walkable cities can be relatively affordable.

"There are many places where there's a lot of construction underway, and they're already making changes to the physical environment, and ensuring that it's done in the right way often doesn't add very many costs," LeaMond says.

Even when modifications are pricier, the investment can pay off.

"The more walkable a community is, the more the value of the property is going to be higher, and so there is an incentive for communities to look at this in more than just safety and mobility of its residents," LeaMond says. 

To better understand the importance of walkable communities, Lizzie O'Leary took a walk in the Washington, D.C., Eastern Market neighborhood with Goldhammer and a very special guest: her dad, Buck O'Leary.

On their walk they found these five factors that help make a city walkable:  

1. Keep sidewalks well-maintained

Sidewalk cracks, uneven bricks and tree roots are tripping hazards, especially when they're wet or icy. That’s one reason personal-injury lawyers exist. Slips and trips happen all the time on uneven sidewalks, according to occupational therapist Goldhammer. “Anything greater than a one-quarter inch in change of height can present a trip risk for anybody,” she says. Updating sidewalks that have undergone ordinary wear and tear would prevent injuries and make it easier to get around. 

2. Provide lots of outdoor seating

When you’re out for a stroll, it’s nice to be able have a seat, take a break, relax. Many communities that are participating in the AARP and World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities initiative have made a lot of progress in this area. For instance, the New York City Department of Transportation says 1,500 benches will be installed by 2015 through its CityBench program. 

3. Allow enough time at crosswalks

The Beatles may cross the street with a bit of swagger, but for many people it’s not so easy. Crosswalks can become hazardous for people rushing across them and frustrating for drivers waiting for them to clear. “There might be six lanes of traffic and [it takes] 22 seconds to get across the street, and it’s really very difficult,” Goldhammer says. 

4. Turn on the lights

In addition to being a major crime deterrent, a lack of sufficient lighting (also known as darkness) makes it more difficult to see those cracks in the sidewalk. Once shrouded in darkness, potential hazards that aren’t a big deal during the day become exponentially riskier.

5. Build plenty of clearly marked bike paths

It's not always this adorable when someone gets side-swiped by a Huffy. Cyclists need their own lanes to ensure they have enough space to ride safely. And in the context of age-friendly cities, bike lanes also keep bikes off sidewalks, making both the roads and the walkways safer for everyone.

'Shirtstorm' Leads To Apology From European Space Scientist

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 08:46

As the Rosetta mission made history by putting a lander on a comet, one of its leading scientists drew wide criticism for wearing a shirt featuring lingerie-clad women.

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PODCAST: Phoneless phone tapping

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 08:41

Federal agents reportedly have the technology to spy on mobile phones without ever involving phone companies.  This revelation from the Wall Street Journal today involves the US Marshall's service using light airplanes with devices that trick cells phones into linking with the plane instead of the phone company's cell phone towers. We talked with  Devlin Barrett, the Wall Street Journal reporter with the scoop this morning.  Plus: Volkswagen is laying out a plan to recognize the United Auto Workers Union at its only U.S. plant--the one in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's not quite what the union was hoping for. WPLN's Blake Farmer reports. Finally: Augusta National sees itself as a very exclusive golf club, indeed. Two years ago, it refused admission to no less than Chief Executive Officer of International Business Machines. Ginni Rometty is female and until recently, Augusta National didn't admit women. Now there is a report the IBM CEO has been let in.

Drug-Maker In India's Sterilization Deaths Arrested

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 08:05

Thirteen women are dead and dozens sick after the Nov. 8 procedures at a state-run hospital in central India. The doctor who performed the procedures was arrested Wednesday.

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Climate Change To Make Lightning More Common, Study Says

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 07:13

Researchers writing in the journal Science say that if the rate of global warming goes unchecked, the frequency of lightning strikes will increase by 50 percent.

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Mormon Church Publishes Essay On Founder Joseph Smith's Polygamy

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 06:27

The Mormon church's founder was married to as many as 40 women in the years before his murder in 1844, the church acknowledged in an article posted on its website.

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Comet Lander Deploys Drill, But Could Lose Power Tonight

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 05:59

Fearing that Philae's batteries won't last past Friday, engineers look at possible ways to help it get more power from its solar panels. One ray of hope: its comet is heading toward the sun.

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Political Diversity Pioneers Win Medal Of Freedom

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 05:38

Trio of political leaders honored for fighting bias, breaking ceilings and leading the charge for equality for people of color.

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Political Diversity Pioneers Win Medal Of Freedom

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 05:38

Trio of political leaders honored for fighting bias, breaking ceilings and leading the charge for equality for people of color.

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Hagel To Announce Billions In Upgrades To Nuclear Deterrent

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 05:08

The defense secretary is expected to detail Pentagon reports that have pointed to "systemic problems" with the system that controls U.S. ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

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Judge Denies BP's Attempt To Avoid $18 Billion In Fines

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 04:02

Last month, the company asked the judge to reconsider a ruling that could trigger fines under the Clean Water Act; Thursday, he said no. The company says it will appeal.

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Obama Critiques Myanmar's Reforms Alongside Opposition Leader

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 03:12

President Obama split time between two leaders Friday, meeting separately with President Thein Sein, a former general, and opposition leader Ang San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner.

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A Botched Study Raises Bigger Questions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 03:03

Why one education research technique, coming into use by most states, is proving so controversial.

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Silicon Tally: Bounce with Me

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by David Banks, co-editor of the blog Cyborgology.

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Tallying the Secret Service's "comedy of errors"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

That's how many people have gotten over the White House fence since 1973, the Washington Post reports. An investigation found many layers of security failed on September 19, the report found, allowing a man to hop the fence, run through the White House lawn and into the East Room before he was detained. An agent with an attack dog was taking a personal call without a radio on him, for instance, and several others overestimated various barriers and didn't react in time as a result. One congressman called the incident "a comedy of errors."

2.9 percent

The annual increase this year for in-state students at public four-year colleges, falling under 3 percent for the first time since 1975, Vox reported. Growth is slowing down, but school is still more expensive than ever; the College Board found tuition at public four-year schools is three times higher than it was in the 1980s, when adjusting for inflation. A lot of those hikes happened during the recession. Meanwhile, family income has fallen or stayed flat.

1 percent

That's how many engineers at Facebook, Google and Twitter are black, and 3 percent are hispanic. The vast majority of employees of these and other companies in Silicon Valley are men. Bloomberg talked to dozens of women and people of color working in tech about their experiences. Employees talked about feeling isolated, with far more incentive to try to fit in with the status quo than to push for more diversity at work.


The Energy Department projects that the national average price per gallon of gas will continue to drop throughout the end of the year to $2.80 in December. That’s especially good news for low-income drivers, who generally have to commute much more to work.

2 bounces

Don’t be fooled by decoy answers on this week’s Silicon Tally—2 bounces is how many times the Phillae Space Probe bounced before landing safely on the surface of a comet. But you already knew that, so why not take our quiz to test your knowledge of the week in tech news?

50 Starbucks

That’s how many Starbucks exist in the Netherlands. Consider this as you’re sipping your Chestnut Praline latte: On Friday, the European Union authorities accused the Netherlands of cutting Starbucks a deal (i.e. tax breaks) when the green mermaid announced it would move its European headquarters to the UK.

The big economic impact of data about the weather

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, says it was the target of an Internet-based hacking attack “in recent weeks.”

The federal agency, which operates the National Weather Service, is being tight-lipped about the details of the attack and its subsequent decision to take down some of its websites in response.

The “impacts were temporary and all services have been fully restored,” NOAA said in a written statement. The agency also said the incident did not compromise its ability to offer forecasts to the public.

But, according to the Washington Post, there was a disruption of some weather data, including information provided to European weather forecasting counterparts. Such weather data is critical to a number of industries and government operations, all of which rely on raw data provided by the National Weather Service.

"Most airlines have their own weather prediction and monitoring operation,” but rely on NWS raw data, says Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot and aviation consultant. Cockpits inside more modern airplanes also have satellite weather images beamed in, Aimer says.

The outage, which reportedly occurred in October during the hurricane season, also exposes the reliance on government weather data for disaster planners.

“We see a storm coming ... and all the information you can have prompts decisions about when you evacuate, where do you move people to, what places will be safe and what places will be inundated,” says Gary Cecchine, a senior policy analyst at RAND Corporation.

In Chicago, for example, forecasts help determine when to open the water gates into Lake Michigan to prevent flooding. 

Falling gas prices are a big help for the low-income

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

In a surprising reversal from previous forecasts, the U.S. Energy Department is now predicting that the average price of gasoline will remain below $3.00 a gallon next year.

That’s a 44-cent drop from its previous outlook, and especially good news for the working poor since the vast majority of workers (both above and below the poverty line) commute to work by car.

With gas now selling for $2.85 a gallon at a gas station, just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jesse Foster says he’s paying $10 less to fill his tank than he was even a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of savings,” says Foster, “because I drive a Suburban. So it’s real good news.”

It’s particularly good news if you work for minimum wage. Since poorer commuters spend a greater percentage of their income on gas, any relief at the pump creates a ripple effect of benefits.

“Which might mean that you don’t run out of healthy foods,” says Margaret Simms, director of the Low-Income Working Families Project at the Urban Institute. “It also means that maybe you can pay a bill that you had to skip this month because you had to put gas in your car.”

Simms also points out that any data the government has on commuters treats both low and high-income drivers the same, which might present a false picture since many low-income workers drive less fuel-efficient cars.

The Energy Department projects that gas prices will continue dropping for the remainder of the year, with a national average of $2.80 a gallon expected for December.