National News

North Dakota's Gay-Marriage Ban Challenged In Federal Court

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 11:37

The state had been the only one to have its voter-approved same-sex prohibition go unchallenged in the courts. On Friday, seven couples filed suit to change that.

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R U Ready To Quit Smoking? Texting Can Help

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 11:18

For smokers hoping to quit, text messages with tips and reminders may be just as effective as phone counseling, a study finds. Texts doubled the success rate compared with people who didn't text.

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@CIA Tweets; Internet Explodes In Not-So-Covert Sarcasm

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 11:00

The agency has probably been on Twitter before, but its first public tweet was cloaked in tongue-in-cheek humor.

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The tip jar gets a digital makeover

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 10:30

The humble tip jar is getting an upgrade. Gone are the days when you could just slip in a dollar or two without the cashier noticing how much you think their job is worth.

Instead, welcome to the brave new world of electronic tipping, where life is more complicated, interactions are awkward and the pressure is high. Electronic tipping is now sweeping into coffee shops, bars, bakeries and delis across the country as mobile payment apps grow in popularity.

San Francisco-based reporter Rachel Levin recently wrote about the interaction between technology and tipping for Pacific Standard magazine.

"Maybe there's a tip jar next to the counter but increasingly you're seeing an iPad swivel towards you prompting your finger to press either 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent or sometimes, in cautionary bright yellow: 'No Tip'," she says, "which no one wants to press because you'll feel like a jerk."

Jerkiness aside, consumers are being asked to tip more and more frequently these days and not everyone is happy about it.

"People like baristas and bakers and sandwich makers are seeing an upside. They're getting more tips, which is great for them, but from the customer's perspective it's creating a stressful awkward moment up there at the counter."

Even as mobile payment systems like Square, Shopkeep and Revel are growing in popularity, some companies are bucking the trend and eliminating the need for the snap-judgement tip.

"People are silently appreciating the technology where it's used by, say, Uber taxi where you don't have to pay a tip. Tip is included, 20 percent automatically deducted from your account," Levin says.

"So you hop out of the Uber taxi without doing any mental math or figure out how much change to ask for and you just go on your way and say thank you."

But the 'automatic tip' scenario comes with its own set of problems since conventional wisdom is that tipping is supposed to be used as a reward for good service.

But Levin says that's not always the case.

"It turns out that our motivations for tipping are not for rewarding service necessarily," she says. "Economist Michael Lynn at Cornell says it's to win the approval of the server. So now when that server is standing before you, that creates the pressure for you to bestow a bigger tip."

Good jobs report? Bad jobs report? It all depends

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 10:24

The unemployment rate didn't budge from its 6.3 percent mark in May, and employers added fewer jobs than economists expected. 


Employers created a substantial number of new jobs for the fourth straight month and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent, the lowest rate in more than five years.

Those two sentences don't seem to be in complete agreement, and yet their conclusions were drawn from the same data. The government and business numbers that are reported every day, and especially the monthly jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department, all depend on context; the reaction to them is in the eye of the beholder.

If you're a glass half-full economist, a slow report can be cause of optimism. If you're a worrywart, a strong number can find a way to scare you.

Try our jobs number headline generator above and you can see what we mean. Pick whether you think the jobs report is happy, sad or mixed... and it'll spits out a headline to match you're thinking. 

WWII Vet, AWOL From Nursing Home, Found At Normandy Ceremonies

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 10:20

After Bernard Jordan's nursing home in Sussex couldn't sign him up for an organized trip, the 89-year-old put on his medals and headed out on his own. The nursing home reported him missing.

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Uber Car Service Company Is Now Valued At $17 Billion

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 09:50

Uber, the company whose app pairs drivers with passengers, hit it big in a new financing round, bringing in investments of $1.2 billion and sending its valuation skyward.

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Striking Train Workers Add To Brazil's World Cup Woes

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 09:20

There were scenes of chaos in Brazil Friday as striking workers and police clashed and commuters jammed onto overcrowded buses. The list of headaches is growing ahead of next week's World Cup kickoff.

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Early Exposure To Bacteria Protects Children From Asthma And Allergies

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 09:13

It was widely thought that the grunge in inner-city housing was causing high rates of asthma. But now it looks like being exposed to just the right kinds of bacteria and vermin actually helps.

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The numbers: They're boring, but they matter

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 09:06

This final note today, an observation or two about our through-line this week, riffing off the live show we're taking on tour this summer and fall, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Numbers.

There is, in fact, a whole lot to worry about with economic numbers. One, they can be really boring. Two, they can be cherry picked to suit one side or the other. And three, there are just so many of 'em that it can really make your head spin. 

But they matter. They matter a lot. 

So you kind of have to learn to love 'em.



NBA Finals: Did The Heat Take Down Miami?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:56

A faulty air conditioning system spiked temperatures during the first game of the NBA finals, and the San Antonio Spurs took the win. The Barbershop guys talk sports, politics and pop culture.

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World Cup Makes Brazilians Crazy, But Soccer's Not To Blame

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:55

While workers scramble to prepare stadiums and airports for visiting fans, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro says many Brazilians are angry and frustrated.

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Rabbi: American Jews Should Not Worry About Anti-Semitism

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:55

A new survey from the Anti-Defamation League estimates that nearly one in 10 Americans are prejudiced against Jews. But Rabbi Eric Yoffie says American anti-Semitism is not a real threat.

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Should Tweens Be Prosecuted As Adults?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:54

Two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin allegedly took their friend into the woods and stabbed her multiple times. They have been charged as adults. What does that mean and is it fair?

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Why people are moving

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:52

The U.S. Census Bureau released its survey detailing how many Americans moved from one residence to another, and for what reasons. The results showed that compared to the past, fewer Americans have been moving, and those that did were motivated to move mostly due to housing related reasons like wanting a better residence.

Some of the numbers aren't surprising, as one might expect fewer Americans to move amid the economic downturn, or for housing problems to force people to move.

However, a closer look at the numbers, which track 2012 to 2013, reveals some interesting trends, as the report highlights that moves related to jobs were not as frequent as housing or family-related moves, and that some demographics are more likely to move due to job-related reasons than others. Here are some points in the report that stood out:

Coutesy of the U.S. Census Bureau

Housing-related reasons for moving

Moves related to finding housing made up the largest portion of responses in the survey, coming in at 48 percent. In that group, 15 percent of people said they moved to find new or better residences, which decreased from 21 percent in 1999.

African American respondents were the most likely to move for housing-related reasons of any race

Over half of African American respondents said their main reason for moving was housing related. This was compared to white respondents, 46.8 percent of whom said housing was their motivation for moving.

Young people were the least likely to move for housing reasons

Respondents 18 to 24 and 25 to 29 years old had the most housing-related reasons for moving, but the two groups had the lowest percentages for reasons in that category compared to other age groups. Movers 18 to 24 years old instead said reasons like moving for college were big motivators for them, while respondents 25 to 29 years old had more job-related reasons for moving.

Family-related reasons for moving

This category included reasons like changes in marital status and wanting to establish one's own household. Family reasons were the second largest category at more than 30 percent.

Married people had the least family-related reasons to move

Respondents who split up with spouses had high family-related reasons for moving at 47 percent. For those who stayed married, family was not an issue for moving, with only 26.1 percent in that category. Married respondents instead moved more for job-related reasons, with 24 percent saying a change in employment status caused them to move.

Coutesy of the U.S. Census Bureau

Job-related reasons for moving

Moving for work came in around a little under 20 percent for all respondents, a rate that has remained pretty steady since 1999.

Men were more likely to move for work than women

According to the survey, while more women moved, 20.4 percent of men said they moved for job-related reasons, compared to 18.5 percent of women. The report did not mention whether this indicates men are more willing to move for work, or if there are differences in how men and women select jobs based on location.

More educated people are more likely to move for work

Again, while housing-related reasons dominated most responses, the survey found a split according to education level. The more education a respondent had, the more likely they were to move for a job, with 28.3 percent of bachelor degree holders saying they moved for job related purposes. People on the other end of the spectrum, such as associate degree holders, had much higher percentages for housing and family related reasons for moving, with high school dropouts having 54.2 percent of their responses in the housing category.

Mona Simpson on the economics behind 'Casebook'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:50

Success in publishing is about a lot of things. Sales, of course. Staying power. And the business of words.We've asked some of our favorite contemporary authors to share the numbers they think about as they write -- how they infuse the economic world around them into storytelling.

Listen to this installment from best-selling author Mona Simpson ("Anywhere But Here", "Off Keck Road") in the audio player above. She talks about how the economy for a fiction writer is more about time than money. She also talks about her new book, "Casebook." We've reprinted an excerpt below:

I was a snoop, but a peculiar kind. I only discovered what I most didn’t want to know.

The first time it happened, I was nine. I’d snaked underneath my parents’ bed when the room was empty to rig up a walkie-talkie. Then they strolled in and flopped down. So I was stuck. Under their bed. Until they got up.

I’d wanted to eavesdrop on her, not them. She decided my life. Just then, the moms were debating weeknight television. I needed, I believed I absolutely needed to understand Survivor. You had to, to talk to people at school. The moms yakked about it for hours in serious voices. The only thing I liked that my mother approved of that year was chess. And every other kid, every single other kid in fourth grade, owned a Game Boy. I thought maybe Charlie’s mom could talk sense to her. She listened to Charlie’s mom.

On top of the bed, my dad was saying that he didn’t think of her that way anymore either. What way? And why either? I could hardly breathe. The box spring made a gauzy opening to gray dust towers, in globular, fantastic formations. The sound of dribbling somewhere came in through open windows. My dad stood and locked the door from inside, shoving a chair up under the knob. Before, when he did that, I’d always been on the other side. Where I belonged. And it hurt not to move.

“Down,” my mother said. “Left.” Which meant he was rubbing her back.

All my life, I’d been aware of him wanting something from her. And of her going sideways in his spotlight, a deer at the sight of a human. The three of us, the originals, were together locked in a room.

My mom was nice enough looking, for a smart woman. “Pretty for a mathematician,” I’d heard her once say about herself, with an air of apology. Small, with glasses, she was the kind of person you didn’t notice. I’d seen pictures, though, of her holding me as a baby. Then, her hair fell over her cheek and she’d been pretty. My dad was always handsome. Simon’s mom, a jealous type, said that my mother had the best husband, the best job, the best everything. I thought she had the best everything, too. We did. But Simon’s mom never said my mother had the best son.

The bed went quiet and it seemed then that both my parents were falling asleep. My dad napped weekends.

NOOO, I begged telepathically, my left leg pinned and needled.

Plus I really had to pee.

But my mother, never one to let something go when she could pick it apart, asked if he was attracted to other people. He said he hadn’t ever been, but lately, for the first time, he felt aware of opportunities. He used that word.

“Like who?”

I bit the inside of my cheek. I knew my dad: he was about to blab and I couldn’t stop him. And sure enough, idiotically, he named a name. By second grade everyone I knew had understood never to name a name.

“Holland Emerson,” he said. What kind of name was that? Was she Dutch?

“Oh,” the Mims said. “You’ve always kind of liked her.”

“I guess so,” he said, as if he hadn’t thought of it until she told him.

Then the mattress dipped, like a whale, to squash me, and I scooched over to the other side as the undulation rolled.

“I didn’t do anything, Reen!”

She got up. Then I heard him follow her out of the room.

“I’m not going to do anything! You know me!”

But he’d started it. He’d said opportunities. He’d named a name. I bellied out, skidded to the bathroom, missing the toilet by a blurt. A framed picture of them taken after he’d proposed hung on the wall; her holding the four-inch diamond ring from the party-supply shop. On the silvery photograph, he’d written I promise to always make you unhappy.

I’d grown up with his jokes.

By the time I sluffed to the kitchen he sat eating a bowl of Special K. He lifted the box. “Want some?”

“Don’t fill up.” She stood next to the wall phone. “We’re having the Audreys for dinner.”

“Tonight?” he said. “Can we cancel? I think I’m coming down with something.”

“We canceled them twice already.”

The doorbell rang. It was the dork guy who came to run whenever she called him. He worked for the National Science Foundation and liked to run and talk about pattern formation.

Excerpted from Casebook by Mona Simpson. Copyright © 2014 by Mona Simpson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The resurgence of HELOCs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:45

Home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, were all the rage in the early 2000s.  People borrowed against their homes to fund all types of things: New cars, college educations, even second homes.

Now, HELOCs are making a slow return to the market after all but disappearing during the recession.  

The resurgence is slow because, as financial journalist Ilyce Glink says, "The idea of a home equity line of credit is, get this, you have home equity. You don't have home equity, which is a problem for most Americans, unless you were very lucky and bought in 2009-2012.”

For those who were able to secure a HELOC back in the day, Glink says that they may find themselves in a precarious and surprising financial situation as the bill comes due for these loans. “Many of the home equity lines of credit that were set up back in the early [2000s] were interest-only for the first ten years. And then they have a little clause in them that says either you pay them off or whatever the balance is converts to a 15-year rate loan,” Glink says.

Glink says that this means that millions of people who were only paying interest on their loans will essentially be hit with a 15-year mortgage that now includes billions of dollars in principal.  Some homeowners could see their payments triple.

Refinancing is a great option for people who find themselves in this situation, but Glick says that many people wouldn’t qualify for a refi in the current market.  

“Ten million people are still functionally underwater with their mortgages. That means if they tried to [refinance] today, they wouldn’t have enough equity in the house or they literally have zero or negative equity, and there’s no way for a regular lender to refinance them.”

For a few years, at least, Glink suspects that there will be a number of people who will not be able foot the bill and this could have a larger affect on the economy.

“From now through 2017 when the big bulk of these HELOCs start to convert and come due, we’re going to see an increased amount of people who can’t pay them. So there’s going to be increasing defaults and maybe an increase in the level of foreclosures due to HELOCs…,” Glink says.

Ilyce Glink is a financial journalist and the founder of

North Korea Says It Has Detained Another U.S. Tourist

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:39

State media reports that Jeffrey Edward Fowle acted "contrary to the purpose of tourism" and is being investigated. North Korea is known to be holding at least two other Americans.

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Friday the 13th and a full moon

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:30

Here's an extended look at the Marketplace Datebook for the week of June 9:

Let's begin with something musical. Musician, inventor, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Les Paul was born on June 9th, 1915.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reports on wholesale inventories and sales and the Labor Department issues its job openings and labor turnover survey for April.

June 10 is the 79th anniversary of Doctor Bob and Bill W founding Alcoholics Anonymous.

And remember that action film with the bus that would blow up if it didn't maintain 50 MPR on LA highways? "Speed" was released 20 years ago.

Mid-week we get a look at the nation's balance sheet. The Treasury Department is scheduled to release its monthly statement for May.

A House subcommittee on Communications and Technology holds a hearing on "Media Ownership in the 21st Century."

On Thursday the Commerce Department reports on retail sales for May.

It's a bird...It's a plane...It's the 36th annual Superman Celebration getting underway in Metropolis, Illinois.

And on Friday the Labor Department issues its Producer Price Index for May. That's Friday the 13th. Sounds like a movie rental opportunity.

Lastly, look up in the sky to see the Full Strawberry Moon. The name is related to strawberry harvesting season. Now picture a giant strawberry in the sky.

Can Farmed Fish Feed The World Without Destroying The Environment?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 08:27

Farmed fish production will have to more than double by 2050 to keep up with global demand, a report finds. And aquaculture can be far more sustainable than meat production, the researchers say.

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