National News

Everything else you wanted to know about olives

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 10:04

Turns out a lot of people had always wondered why black olives come in cans, but green olives come in jars. Since, of course, one wondering leads to another, our Facebook and Twitter have been alight with questions...

The science: What made black olives in jars so good for botulism?  Why don’t green olives have the same problem?

 Yes, we skipped this part. Here’s the basic deal: Acid and salt retard botulism’s growth. California Ripe Olives are lower in acid than other olives, and the brine isn’t as salty.

 That, plus the low-oxygen environment, makes a black olive in a sealed-up jar so good for botulism. Unless you kill the bacteria with high heat.

 Hey, wait a minute! You can heat up a glass jar to 240 degrees. Home canners do it all the time.

 True! Thanks for pointing that out. I bet I know what you’re asking next…   

 So, why don't the black olives come in jars?

 Turns out, we may owe Mort Rosenblum an apology. He guessed that it was because green olives are prettier. He was half-right.

 We turned here to Kristin Daley, vice president for corporate development at the Musco Family Olive Co.-- one of the two big olive canneries in California.

 Daley says black olives are darn cute. Their brine, not so much.

 “The brine is so dark that it’s barely translucent,” she says. “It’s not very attractive. So there’s not a huge benefit to putting the product into a glass jar.”

And, she says, there are costs: Jars are heavier, so shipping them is more expensive. And there’s more waste from breakage.

At this point, you may be wondering: Why is the brine so dark?

Because the olives got cooked in it, says Eric A. Johnson, a bacteriologist at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in botulism — or, as he calls it for short, “bot.”

“The heat treatment for bot spores is gonna decay some of the tissue,” he says.  

Calif. City Wants To Make It A Crime To Bully Those Younger Than 26

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:44

"We are going to protect not only the kid that is bothered in school, but when you leave school and go home, we're going to protect you as a city," says the sponsor of a bill in Carson, Calif.

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The Nation That Elects The Most Women Is ...

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:43

In Rwanda, nearly two-thirds of Parliament consists of women, a trend that developed after the country's genocide. Cuba is third, with women making up 50 percent of its legislators. The U.S. is 99th.

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Injuries On The Farm Happen Much More Often Than We're Told

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:29

The health problems of agricultural workers are the most under-counted of any industry in the U.S., researchers say in a new study. Federal agencies fail to report 77 percent of those injuries.

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Mother's Day turns 100 (not-so-subtle reminder)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 09:06

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Friday, May 9:

In Washington, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology holds a hearing titled, "Space Traffic Management: How to Prevent a Real Life 'Gravity'."

The Labor Department releases its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for March.

The Commerce Department reports on wholesale inventories and sales for March.

On this date in 1961, then FCC chairman Newton Minow referred to television as a vast wasteland. Today you can watch TV on your Smartphone.

Here's an opportunity to thank those married to the nation's men and women in uniform. It's Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Always the Friday before Mother's Day.

And Mother's Day was declared a national observance 100 years ago by President Woodrow Wilson. Make those brunch reservations.

The Arab Activists Who Refuse To Bow To The Giant

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:57

A new film We Are The Giant follows six people during the Arab Spring. Tell Me More's Celeste Headlee speaks to co-producer Razan Ghalayini and activist Maryam Al Khawaja.

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Rat Pack's Sammy Davis Jr. Lives On Through Daughter's Stories

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:57

Many people considered Sammy Davis Junior the greatest entertainer of his era. His daughter Tracey Davis shares stories from her book Sammy Davis Jr.: A Personal Journey with My Father.

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If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:36

Baby polar bears slurp milk that's 27 percent fat, and adults dine on seal blubber. Scientists think bears' adaptation to a high-fat diet might lead to better ways to treat human obesity.

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Tsarnaev's Attorneys Say FBI Questions Violated His Rights

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:22

The agents said they needed to be sure the threat to public safety was over; the filing says they went too far, in an attempt to "extract as much incriminating information as possible."

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HealthCare.Gov Looks Like A Bargain Compared With State Exchanges

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:18

As rocky as the rollout of HealthCare.gov was, the federal exchange was relativiely efficient in signing up enrollees. Each one cost an average of $647 in federal tax dollars.

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Double Charged: Teens on house arrest on GPS

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 08:00

Double Charged is a special investigation into the U.S. Juvenile Justice system, produced by Youth Radio. This is part two of a two-part series:

Seventeen-year-old Elisa Morris-Jackson is sitting on the couch in sweatpants and a hoodie. It’s 7 p.m. and she’s watching the TV show “Dancing With The Stars”. Each evening, 7 is also the time when about 130 other juvenile offenders in Alameda County, California are required to plug in and sit down for their mandatory two-hour battery charge.

“I’m going to be so excited to get this thing off of me,” she said.

Jackson has a GPS monitor fastened around her ankle with a rubber strap. It’s part of her probation. The GPS unit is black and plastic -- about the size and shape of a computer mouse -- with three LED lights and a big button. Its purpose: to track her every movement.

17-year-old Elisa Morris-Jackson showing her GPS ankle monitor.

Youth Radio

Where does that information end up? At the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro, California. A probation officer named Chris showed me how GPS monitors work.

“We use Google Maps, and it shows real time. So this kid we released today...this shows us that he was here at the Juvenile Justice Center,” he said, pointing at the computer screen.

We are looking at the digital breadcrumbs of one teenager’s movements since he was released from juvenile hall, just an hour or two ago, and fitted with a GPS monitor.

The map shows the teen’s path out of the building to the parking lot. Then, down the hill to the freeway.

“It’s very high tech,” said Chris. The officers can even tell if a teenager is in the front yard or backyard of their home.

The probation officer drags a green circle over the kid’s home. On the screen, it’s about two inches, but in real life it represents a radius of 150 feet – the zone the kid is restricted to. Outside of that, it would be a GPS violation and a judge could send him back to juvenile hall or lengthen probation.

Teens on GPS monitoring have to call their probation officer before they leave for school in the morning. And anything outside of school and home – like a job – requires special permission at least 48 hours in advance. So, it’s basically house arrest.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley says GPS monitoring saves money because it costs a lot less than incarceration. In fact, locking a kid up in juvenile hall costs about $429 per day. GPS costs only $85. O’Malley credits the surveillance technology for helping to keep young people at home with their families and out of incarceration.

“When they were originally building a juvenile justice center, the original idea was that it was going to be more than 500 beds,” said O’Malley. “And I think that on any given day now, there are less than 200.”

While incarceration is down, use of electronic monitoring like GPS has increased, more than tripling in the last ten years. And the devices cost families up to $15 a day.

Dominique Pinkney is a juvenile public defender in Alameda County. He’s glad to have more kids out of jail, but he has big problems with GPS: “It’s absolutely overused,” he said. Pinkney argues that judges assign it almost reflexively, even to teens who never would have been sent to juvenile hall. Not only that, Pinkney says it’s too restrictive and teens get in trouble for silly reasons, like not keeping their device properly charged or hanging out with friends.

The consequence of these violations? Lengthening teens’ probation, or even sending them back to juvenile hall.

“When you extend the consequence beyond some rational period, it becomes abusive. It makes kids angry. It actually has the opposite effect,” said Pinkney. “So you engage in a battle instead of sending a corrective signal.”

Nearly half of the young people who are electronically monitored end up violating the terms, according to a study cited by the American Bar Association. A quarter cut the device off entirely.

Sixteen-year-old Manny Velazquez is waiting outside of a courtroom. Besides his towering spiked hair, the most noticeable thing about him is the GPS monitor strapped around his
ankle.

Manny Velazquez, 16, after a court appearance in the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro, California. 

Brett Myers/Youth Radio

“I am ashamed of it. But that’s not stopping me from…being myself, of the way I dress,” he said.

Velazquez has been on GPS for more than two months. He says the worst part is the isolation.

“It’s just the same routine over and over,” he said. “Go to school. Come home. Sometimes I do get frustrated because I feel like I’m trapped in my own house. Just last night, I felt like the walls were closing in on me.”

One courtroom away, 15-year-old Cameron Lopes had just met with a judge. He was caught carrying a pocketknife in school and spent five days in juvenile hall. Then he was strapped with a GPS unit for 30 days, after missing a court date. Today he and his dad, Jamie, were hoping they could get the device taken off.

Jamie walked out of the courtroom as the heavy wooden doors thumped shut behind him and his son. “He didn’t get his GPS off today,” he said.

Cameron was angry: “I’ve been trying real hard and they just throw all the bad stuff in there and never the good stuff.”

Jamie added, “It’s just little stuff that happened at school. If he got mad at school, they brought it up. If he yelled at somebody, they brought it up. They didn’t bring up that he was on the honor roll... It’s just a lot of negative stuff. So, another 30 days.”

Judges, DAs and public defenders are in rare agreement about GPS tracking as a good alternative to incarcerating teenagers. And it does save money.

But for the young people being monitored, the technology may be solving one problem and creating others, like extending their time in the criminal justice system.

Velazquez says he's ashamed of his GPS ankle monitor.

Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Read Part 1: The true cost of juvenile justice.

Photos and infographics by Youth Radio.

PODCAST: Size does matter for FedEx

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 07:31

The great mover of packages known as FedEx is shifting to what it calls "dimensional weight pricing." It's about size as well as heft and more money for FedEx. A FedEx spokesman gave this quote to Bloomberg News: "We felt like we weren't receiving the correct compensation for the services we were providing." Marketplace's David Weinberg explains.

President Barack Obama's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services appears before the U.S. Senate on Thursday. Sylvia Burwell's nomination will be considered by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. There will be plenty of political questions about the future of Obamacare. But what questions would healthcare executives and policy wonks want to ask? We got in touch with a few to find out.

Meanwhile: Google. Amazon. Walmart.com—These aren’t the first places that people think of when planning a funeral service. But more people are shopping online for cremation urns.

PODCAST: Size does matter for FedEx

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 07:31

The great mover of packages known as FedEx is shifting to what it calls "dimensional weight pricing." It's about size as well as heft and more money for FedEx. A FedEx spokesman gave this quote to Bloomberg News: "We felt like we weren't receiving the correct compensation for the services we were providing." Marketplace's David Weinberg explains.

President Barack Obama's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services appears before the U.S. Senate on Thursday. Sylvia Burwell's nomination will be considered by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. There will be plenty of political questions about the future of Obamacare. But what questions would healthcare executives and policy wonks want to ask? We got in touch with a few to find out.

Meanwhile: Google. Amazon. Walmart.com—These aren’t the first places that people think of when planning a funeral service. But more people are shopping online for cremation urns.

The Interesting Bits From Monica Lewinsky's 'Vanity Fair' Article

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 07:17

The former White House intern whose affair with President Clinton eventually led to his impeachment writes about her life after the scandal, and shares her thoughts on Hillary Clinton and others.

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Former U.S. General In Africa: 'I Think We Can' Help Find Nigerian Girls

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 06:03

Carter Ham's former command will be part of the U.S. effort to hunt for schoolgirls who were kidnapped three weeks ago by an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria.

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How long will your retirement savings live?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 04:39

What's scarier than dying young? Well, for some, it's living longer without having enough money saved to ensure a good quality of life during retirement. 

Marketplace economics contributor Chris Farrell joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio with tips about how to make sure your savings live as long as you do. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Advocates Back Paid Sick Leave, But Opponents Won't Cough It Up

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 04:32

Top earners are usually paid when they stay home sick, but low-income workers are not. That has triggered a debate about fairness and risks to public health when incentives force sick people to work.

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Brutal Attack On Nigerian Village Kills More Than 125

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 03:28

The violence is suspected to be the work of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has also claimed responsibility for abducting more than 250 girls from a school last month.

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What would you ask about Obamacare?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 02:54

President Barack Obama's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services appears before the U.S. Senate on Thursday. Sylvia Burwell's nomination will be considered by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

There will be plenty of political questions about the future of Obamacare. But what questions would healthcare executives and policy wonks want to ask? We got in touch with a few to find out.

Sonya Schwartz, Georgetown Center for Children and Families Research Fellow:

Q. You are known to be a management superstar, do you have ideas about how to improve HHS's work with contractors so that healthcare.gov does not inspire the film "Frozen II?"

Q. Verifying identity online continues to be a major roadblock for people applying for coverage on healthcare.gov – particularly for people with low incomes and limited credit history. How would you tackle this problem?

Q. HHS has been working on greater transparency and data sharing. Can you discuss points in your career where you made information more transparent even though you risked alienating some important stakeholders?

Q. Last year’s coverage goal was 7 million and HHS exceeded that mark, do you have a number in mind for 2014-2015?

Dr. Robert Wachter, University of California, San Francisco:

Q. Hospitals and physicians are reeling from the profusion of quality, safety, and efficiency measures they’re being asked to submit – and some experts have begun to call for a moratorium on new measures. Do you feel like we need to slow down the process of promulgating new measures until we have sorted this out?

Q. Now that HITECH has succeeded in wiring the American healthcare system — what do you see as the things that HHS can do that it couldn't before. And where do you see new potential hazards that we need to be mindful of?

Health economist Amitabh Chandra, Harvard: 

"I want to know a lot more about how she will get the exchanges to work better. The exchanges are central to reform. Right now, when we think of an exchange working, we often think of it working in the narrow IT sense. But what we really need to be thinking about, however, is whether price competition on the exchanges is able to reduce health insurance premiums. If it's not able to do this, the fact that they work in the IT sense is no good."

Q. Central to getting price competition to work in the exchanges is taking out a bunch of lard that is in the current exchange plans; a lot of what we call 'essential health benefits' aren't essential at all. As long as junk like this is being covered, the exchange plans will be expensive. What are [your] proposals to increase price competition on the exchanges and second, make the exchange plans leaner?

Robert Restuccia, Executive Director Community Catalyst:

Q. The first open enrollment period surpassed expectations in terms of the number of people enrolled. These numbers are due in large part to in-person assisters who helped consumers navigate healthcare.gov and make the best health care enrollment choice for their needs.  Funding from HHS was critical in providing this type of assistance.  What are your plans for supporting in-person assistance?

Q. With so many new enrollees, many of whom have never had insurance or haven’t had it for a long time, consumer assistance will be very important, but federal support for Consumer Assistance Programs (CAPs) has lapsed.  What are your plans to support people so that they can make effective use of their new coverage?

Q. The ACA has moved us forward by expanding coverage, but consumers are still grappling with costs- higher copays and deductibles. There are also still many cracks in the system. Consumers aren’t sure about the quality of the care they are getting. How would you push hospitals, doctors and insurers to provide better care at lower costs?

Finally, what about you? Tell us what questions you have on Twitter, on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

Rich and looking to invest? Don't buy a mansion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 02:52

The highest end of the high end real estate market is buzzing. Already this year three homes in the U.S. have sold for more than $100 million. 

Just last week, a property in the Hamptons (outside New York) sold for $147 million -- the most ever paid for a single-family house in the U.S. Still, UCLA's Eric Sussman says real estate that gets this kind of attention is full of risk.

"I don't think any economist, any real estate expert ... would say that buying a $100 million home is a safe place to put your money. Because let's face it you're talking about a very scarce asset with very few potential buyers," says Sussman.

Below is a list of the top real estates sales in the U.S.: 

Address City State Price paid Date of sale 60 Further Lane East Hampton N.Y. $147,000,000 May 2014 Blossom Estate Palm Beach Fla. $140,000,000 Dec 2012 Broken O Ranch Augusta Mont. $132,500,000 2012 Copper Beech Farm Greenwich Conn. $120,000,000 April 2014 360 Mountain Home Road San Francisco Calif. $117,500,000 January 2013 Further Lane Hamptons N.Y. $103,000,000 2007 The Fleur de Lys Los Angles Calif. $102,000,000 2014

Credit/Compiled by: Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers

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