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Silicon Tally: Death, Sext, and Digital Money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-10 02:00

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

This week, we're joined by Anna Sale, host of WNYC's "Death, Sex & Money," a podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.

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How companies help workers with their mental health

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-10 02:00

It’s World Mental Health Day, a good opportunity to check in on mental health in the workplace. The CDC estimates that depression alone can cause 200 million lost workdays annually, costing companies as much as $44 billion every year.

Does that motivate employers to offer more mental health benefits? A 2014 survey from the American Psychological Association found just 45 percent of employees say they get help from employers to meet their mental health needs. But the APA’s Dr. David Ballard—who works with businesses closely—says company attitudes are changing.

“I think we’ve shifted from a lack of awareness and a lack of understanding to a desire to address it, but not always knowing how to do that,” he says

Case in point, Ballard points to the small Wooster, Ohio, company Certified Angus Beef, which may be on the cutting edge of mental health wellness.

Once a month, the firm brings in a clinical psychologist that staff can see on company time. On top of that, Certified Angus Beef offers employees and their family members up to three free visits a year.

“When we really looked at what people struggle with is all the stress, all the life stress,” says the company's director of human resources, Pam Cottrell. She says in three years, utilization of services has tripled.

Ballard says what he likes about the Certified Angus Beef’s approach is that it’s easy, and affordable. The company spends less than $10,000 a year on the benefit.

A new designation for the San Gabriel Mountains

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-10 02:00

On Friday, President Barack Obama will declare 346,000 acres of forestland just north of Los Angeles as a national monument. 

Supporters hope the move will free up both federal and private money that they say is needed to take better care of the San Gabriel Mountains forest area, a popular recreation destination with millions of visitors a year.

"This national forest is one of the most visited places in the country,” says Daniel Rossman, who as chair of the group San Gabriel Mountains Forever has been working for more than a decade to get more resources for the forestland. 

Some who live near the forest have not wanted a monument designation, because they are concerned that it will come with restrictions, such as limits on land use. 

But Rossman says the designation is necessary, because the Forest Service has had trouble keeping up with all the trash and pollution that comes with so many visitors. 

"I’ve personally done clean-ups, picking up dirty diapers and old pieces of clothing,” Rossman says, adding that the mountains are responsible for 30 percent of the Los Angeles region’s water supply. 

California Congresswoman Judy Chu says the president’s executive action will circumvent the current gridlock in Congress.

The monument designation will not only bring more personnel and federal money to the forest, it will also allow for private fundraising, says Chu. 

“You can have a private-public partnership. And already we have non-profit and private donations that have been pledged,” Chu says. 

The Forest Service will be able to set the privately-raised money aside for the San Gabriel Mountains monument; Something it couldn’t do for a national forest. 

 

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Judy Chu had been working on Congressional legislation for more than 10 years. Though she supports the change, she has not been advocating for it for that long.

 

Supreme Court Halts Wisconsin Voter ID Law; Texas Law Overturned

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 19:15

After an appeals court put Wisconsin's law back into effect, the Supreme Court's liberal wing, plus Justices Kennedy and Roberts, voted put the law on hold while they decide whether to take the case.

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Microsoft CEO Backtracks On Suggestion That Women Shouldn't Ask For Raises

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 16:52

During a talk at a conference about women in technology, Satya Nadella said those women who don't ask for raises would be compensated by "karma."

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Jan Hooks, Best Known For Her Roles On SNL, Dies At Age 57

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 16:16

Hooks was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1991, playing key characters like Hillary Clinton and Sinead O'Connor.

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Report: Amazon To Open Brick-And-Mortar Store

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 14:46

The Wall Street Journal reports the online retailer's store will also serve as a mini-warehouse that could provide same-day delivery the New York region.

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Ebola: Does The Risk Justify The Intensity Of Coverage?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 13:55

A series of developments over the past 24 hours have made one Ebola case feel like an epidemic. But the truth is the risk of Ebola spreading in the United States is the same it's been for months.

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Millennials Are Blue Now, But Party Allegiance Could Be Up For Grabs

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 13:25

They're not the Obama-adoring college students of 2008 anymore. They're the generation hard-hit by the economy.

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Three Forlorn Presidents Bring Ebola Wish List To The World Bank

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 13:16

The leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone pleaded for help at the annual World Bank-IMF meeting: "This slower-than-the-virus response needs to change."

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Export-Import Bank reports $675 million earnings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-09 12:38

The Export-Import Bank, also known as the Ex-Im Bank, announced today that it returned $675 million to the Treasury Department. Because it's a government agency, it's technically not a profit. 

So what is this government-run bank, exactly?

"We exist solely to help support U.S. jobs when U.S. companies are selling overseas," said Ex-Im chair Fred Hochberg in an interview with Kai Ryssdal.

That support comes in the form of loans to businesses large and small, which drew Congressional scrutiny this year. Republicans called Ex-Im Bank loans a subsidy on outsourcing U.S. jobs. Plus, they said, the bank is unnecessary in light of private sector funds for exporters.

While 98 percent of exporters seek private financing, Hochberg insists that the Ex-Im Bank has a role to play for those that remain. 

"We're Plan B," Hochberg said, adding, "We fill a gap when private sector is unable, unwilling, or market conditions are just too risky for them."

Even Boeing uses the Ex-Im Bank. Supporters say this is to keep up with similar export banks in other countries that would otherwise have a big competitive advantage. So while Boeing could easily survive without the Ex-Im, it makes keeping up with the Joneses (in this case, Airbus), that much easier. 

As for how much it can spend on loans, Congress sets a budget for the bank, but doesn't allocate extra money for its operation. The bank is self-supported, from a portion of its earnings, like those announced today. Hochberg stressed this was another reason why the bank should be seen in an apolitical light.

"There are no Democratic jobs, there are no Republican jobs. There are jobs in every state that are dependent on exports." 

 

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

Gangs Can't Stop Colombia's Butterflies From Rescuing Women In Need

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 12:24

By bus, by bike and by foot, they come to the aid of abused and displaced women in Colombia. And they've just won a $100,000 humanitarian prize for their efforts.

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Identity Politics Center Stage In California's Central Valley Campaign

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 12:14

The race for the 21st Congressional District seat pits two relatively young, up-and-coming politicians against one another. And the politics of identity and immigration aren't as simple as they seem.

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A Surprising Tie That Binds Hong Kong's Protest Leaders: Faith

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 12:14

Many older activists were educated at missionary schools, which informs their sense of social and political justice. It's sure to be noticed by Beijing, which sees religion as a threat to its rule.

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FEC Greenlights More Convention Cash For Political Parties

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 12:13

The Federal Election Commission approved a request from the Democratic and Republican parties to replace lost public funding with more donations from individuals — up to $32,400 per person per year.

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Who Needs Algebra? New Approach To College Math Helps More Pass.

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-09 12:03

The subject long been considered essential to a well-rounded education, but it's also been a subject that keeps millions of people from getting a degree.

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The Weather Channel branches into 'weather adjacent' content

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-09 11:58

Sure, the Weather Channel still covers the traditional three to five day forecasts. But now, the company that has been on air since 1982 they also include anything that is “weather adjacent” to their content, says Claire Suddath, who wrote a piece about it called "The Weather Channel's Secret: Less Weather, More Clickbait" for Bloomberg Businessweek. 

"They refer to anything as nature, the outdoors, and climate – anything where you might be outside – that is part of what they consider weather now and they cover it," says Suddath."People are already coming to weather.com and using their app, but they need to get them to stay," says Suddath.

In an interview with Kai Ryssdal, Suddath says it's working. The Weather Channel app is popular with its users, and people no longer check the weather just in the morning - in fact, some of us are checking the weather up to 40 times a day.

"That means that what we’re looking for out of the forecast has changed," says Suddath. "Instead of the three day, five day outlook – which we do still use – we’re really looking for what are the next 15 minutes like, or the next few hours."

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

Why women lag in winning federal contracts

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-09 11:49

It has been 20 years since the government set a goal of awarding five percent of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses – and not once has it met that goal.  

A third of businesses are now owned by women, and being a federal contractor can give business a significant boost. Having that relationship with a federal agency can open a lot of doors. Your business grows faster than other businesses. 

Still, Denise Barreto had another reason for signing up: "What motivated me to become a contractor on all levels for the government was the second I set foot inside of it and saw how it was run," she says.

Let’s just say she knew the government could benefit from her business sense and efficiency. Barreto got her first close-up look at local government when she was elected to her village board in Illinois several years ago. Her company is called Relationships Matter Now and it does strategic planning. It has landed some government work, but a federal contract has proved elusive.  Barreto says she has been in the federal system since 2012, and she has bid on eight contracts. She hasn’t won any.

It takes most people a while to get their first contract. An American Express OPEN study shows that in 2013 it took both men and women about two years and at least four bids before they succeeded.  Lynne Beaman is CEO of North Carolina company Highlands Environmental Solutions. She bid for the first time this summer, and recently found out she didn’t get the job.  Beaman says the whole process of certification and putting in a bid was byzantine. She thinks a lot of women prefer to take care of the business they already have rather than jump through a series of federal hoops to expand.  But she plowed on.

“We also have three children, two biological and one adopted from Russia,” she says. “So I feel if I could handle all the paperwork to get a foreign born orphan out of another country, then I can probably figure my way around this maze.”

She’s not discouraged by her rejection, and has other bids out right now.

Julie Weeks runs Womenable, an organization that supports female entrepreneurship. She says many government agencies are meeting their goal of giving five percent of contracts to women’s businesses, but the Department of Defense is missing the target. That matters because, Weeks says, “about two-thirds of federal spending is done by the Department of Defense.” So if the DOD misses its goal, the overall government goal won’t be met.

Weeks says it’s not that women-owned businesses don’t meet the DOD’s needs. Many make uniforms or do catering. I spoke to one woman who owns a company that bomb-proofs buildings. But Weeks says the DOD is a huge, complicated beast, and moving the needle is tough.

Denise Barreto says one reason few women get these government opportunities is they don’t know enough about them. She says government outreach needs improvement.  “I think having a real sexy website is good," she says, and "having an easy website that somebody can maneuver and understand is better. But nothing beats the opportunity for people to have face to face interactions with these decision makers."

She says women need more chances to meet representatives from Washington in the flesh, at events around the country. That’s what finally landed Barreto her first small federal contract. Her path was unusual, but direct: she didn’t even have to put through another bid. Someone at a federal agency heard her speak at an event, introduced herself, and Barreto ended up with her first opportunity to streamline the government.

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