National News

On The Bedrock Of Fallen Towers, September 11 Museum Opens Doors

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 12:05

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum was officially dedicated Thursday in New York. President Obama and other elected officials joined survivors and victims' families in a poignant ceremony.

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Following the money in America's most expensive war

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 12:02

Afghanistan has been called the “graveyard of empires.”

It’s a phrase you hear a lot when people talk about our more than a decade of involvement in Afghanistan. And Anand Gopal thinks it’s a bad one.

“There is a sense that whatever happened in Afghanistan was inevitable,” says Gopal, author of the new book "No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes". But we had many opportunities to get this right.”

Gopal learned the Afghan language Pashto, and traveled the country by motorcycle to research his book. He says that the U.S. made a mistake in funding Afghan warlords to help fight the Taliban.

“A lot of these militia commanders and warlords are not that much better than the Taliban they replaced... That’s creating support for the insurgency and draining resources. Without us paying them, these guys are not going to continue  fighting.”

The Afghan economy relies almost entirely on the opium trade and foreign aid. But Gopal says all the U.S. money flowing into the country doesn’t guarantee the government’s survival.

“If you take billions upon billions of dollars and put it into a country that has very little capacity to absorb it, you create corruption on an unforeseen scale. If you talk to Afghans today they’ll say that the last 10 years have been more corrupt than anything they’ve seen in the previous 20 or 30 years of fighting.”

Coaching the Coach

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 12:02

Executives: They get the good offices, the good health plans, the good stock options AND they get to decide whether you keep your job.

But that doesn’t mean life’s easy. "There are actually CEO support groups that have popped up all over the country," says Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science at the Stanford Engineering School and co-author of "Scaling Up Excellence". Sutton says a lot of CEO’s end up suffering something akin to the Justin Bieber problem: No one around them will tell them if the company’s on the rocks or if all the employees despise them.

"It is exactly the Justin Bieber problem and actually in some ways it's worse," says Sutton. "Everybody around you has every incentive to tell you how wonderful you are and give you no bad news." Sutton says Executives Coaches often come in order to tell CEOs what people actually think of their management style.

Female executives often need help navigating a certain amount of non-acceptance.

"Women are just beginning to step into big roles, so the whole world is watching," says Nancy Koehn, a professor at the Harvard Business School. She says female CEOs often use executive coaches to help them deal with skepticism. "How do women get done what they know they have to get done, when they’re leading people that haven’t necessarily been responsive to a leader or guide who’s female?"

Whatever particular issues they face, CEOs are getting help in greater numbers. Last year, U.S. companies spent more than $1 billion on executive coaching.

The story behind red M&M's

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 12:00

Remember when red M&Ms weren't a thing?

It was all thanks to a little misunderstanding back in the day, and a little substance called Red Dye No. 2.

"It was a $10 billion dollar industry. It was used in everything from hot dogs to ice cream cones," says Zachary Crockett, writer at Pricenomics.com.

A Russian study found that this same dye caused tumors in lab rats. Cold War politics being what they were at the time, the FDA refused to acknowledge Russian research, and conducted their own study which, as Crockett puts it, ended up being "an absolute nightmare."

"The lead scientist left midway through, the rats were all mixed up in the lab, it was just wholly inconclusive," he said.

Not wanting to get tangled into the whole mess of Red Dye No. 2--which actually wasn't in red M&Ms in the first place--Mars, M&M's parent company, pulled the red M&Ms anyway to prevent customer confusion. Red was out, and orange was in.

Flickr

Nearly a decade later, just in time for Christmas 1985, red was back, thanks in large part to Paul Hethmon, a freshman at the University of Tennessee who started the "Society for the Restoration and the Preservation of the Red M&M."

"He kind of sparked a 'red-olution,' if you will," said Crockett. "All of these people who loved and adored the red M&M back in the '60s and '70s really came out of the woodwork and joined in this cause."

The animated spokescandy--who was once voiced by John Lovitz--has all those people to thank for thrusting him back into the spotlight.

Housing Is Perking Up, But Realtors Worry About Young Buyers

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:59

Homeownership rates are depressed for people under 35. Economists say nearly 3 million more young adults are living with their parents, compared with 2007.

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Medicare Backs Down On Denying Treatment For Hepatitis Patient

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:48

Two new drugs for hepatitis C can save lives. They are also wildly expensive, costing $66,000 to $84,000 per person. Insurers face paying billions for treatment, or explicitly rationing vital care.

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At A New Orleans High School, Marching Band Is A Lifeline For Kids

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:34

Reporter Keith O'Brien spent a year following the Edna Karr High School marching band. Being a member is more than just a way to be popular; the band offers students a pathway to college.

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Meet The High School Student Who Took Down A State Lawmaker

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:26

A week before graduating from high school, 17-year-old Saira Blair won the GOP primary in a conservative West Virginia district. Even the incumbent she defeated concedes she outworked him.

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The Turkish Mine Disaster: How Could It Happen?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:10

The accident that has claimed hundreds of lives appears to have causes that are all too familiar to mining experts in the U.S. and around the world.

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Oil booms have to be good for rural towns, right?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 11:03

New Mexico is the nation’s sixth largest oil producer. The industry is creating thousands of jobs in the southeast corner of the state. But all that activity is straining basic services. Housing is limited, classrooms are crowded and roads are more dangerous. Now cities are struggling to catch up.

At Puckett Elementary in Carlsbad, New Mexico a first grade class sang along with their teacher. They gather inside a portable classroom. Schools in Carlsbad are running out of space. Superintendent Gary Perkowski said in the last two years the district has enrolled 200 new students.

"All of a sudden it's going up and going up really quickly and very drastically," Perkowski said.

Carlsbad sits atop the fuel-rich Permian Basin. Dozens of new companies have come here to take advantage of high oil prices. That's attracted a bigger workforce. Crowded classrooms are not the only concern.   

"Last year we lost ten teachers that came to Carlsbad, signed contracts...and could not find housing," Perkowski said.

This town of 27,000 people is growing twice as fast as the rest of the state. Teachers are competing with other newcomers looking for a home.

"We had one guy that was trying to live with his family in a motel at a hundred and something dollars a night and that didn't last long," Perkowski said.

Because of the high demand, major hotel chains in Carlsbad charge rates comparable to New York City.  

At a popular Mexican restaurant Mayor Dale Janway digger into a plate of green enchiladas. He had just come from the oilfields himself where he works as a safety consultant.  

"This is one of the hot spots in the country right now and there are a lot of challenges," he said.

Janway said developers can't build fast enough. New apartments have waiting lists. Workers live in outlying RV parks. But it's not just the oil industry. This region is a major producer of potash, a component in fertilizer. A new mine should start construction this year. The U.S. Department of Energy also runs the country's only permanent nuclear waste facility just outside town.

"Anytime you have growth like we do you have more urgency calls, more fire calls, more police problems," Janway said.

Yet another issue is the traffic. It's especially busy along the 70 miles that separate Carlsbad from the neighboring town of Hobbs. Trucks hauling long cylinder tanks and heavy machinery are non-stop on weekdays mornings.

Ten people have died in traffic accidents this year, a high number in this mostly rural county. Carlsbad native Andrew Perez lost his brother in an accident two years ago.   

"My brother worked for an oilfield company, driving trucks and he worked very hard, long hours, didn't get sleep and ended up crashing his truck," Perez said.

His brother left a job in a corrections facility to become a trucker, Perez said. Before that he was Marine who served in Iraq.

"The day he died was the day that he found out he was going to be a father," Perez said.

An investigation by the Associated Press this year found that in some oil-rich states traffic fatalities have quadrupled in the past decade. In Southeast New Mexico, a coalition has formed a task force to address roadside deaths. A state representative is also pushing legislation that would fund highway improvements in oil-producing counties.

In Idaho, A Debate Like You've Never Seen Before

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 10:50

When two long-shots joined the top Republican candidates for governor at a debate Wednesday, they produced a night to remember.

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Chinese Nationals Flee Vietnam As Unrest Intensifies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 10:46

Vietnamese mobs are destroying foreign-owned property and hunting down Chinese nationals in an angry response to Beijing's push to place an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters.

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Medicine Needs More Research On Female Animals, NIH Says

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 10:05

A bias toward using male lab animals and tissue samples from males may be limiting the effectiveness of medical research, according to top officials at NIH. They'll roll out new guidelines this fall.

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Wildfires In San Diego County Continue To Rage Out Of Control

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 09:07

Conditions improved Thursday, with winds dying down and the promise of a cooling trend beginning this weekend. But the latest major fire, near Cal State, San Marcos, is only 5 percent contained.

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Congratulations, you're pregnant! Now buy stuff

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 09:05

Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that Shutterfly, an online photo printing service, sent out a mass email with the subject line: "Congratulations, you're pregnant!" -- even to people who were not, in fact, pregnant.

According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans will put an average of $241,080 into a child born in 2012 (incidentally, the average calf costs about $363.69). To mix animal metaphors, there's profit to be made off the nesting impulse. The global baby care market was worth $44.7 billion in 2011 and by some estimates, it could be as big as $66.8 billion by 2017.

Shutterstock.com

Shutterfly made the kind of honest mistake that keeps marketing departments up at night. The company's chief marketing officer has since sent an email with language like "Please accept our most sincere apologies... We know this is a sensitive issue."  

But the fact remains: Pregnant people (and their supportive counterparts) spend a lot of money. Why not wish for more of them? 

Companies do all sorts of marketing sommersaults to sell goods to expectant parents, despite the "sensitive" nature of species procreation.

A few strategies:

Pretend like you're selling luxury cars: Meet "The Leather Aston Martin James Bond Baby Stroller": It features "aluminum alloy wheels," is made of "fine leather and air-ride suspension," and costs $3,000. 

Go green, recycle: When a baby outgrows this $999.16 "pure wool felt" hanging tripod crib, the crib lives on organically: "grow something else, flowers or tomatoes.... A transparent hood, durable and lightweight, which turns it into a small winter plants shelter, in the garden or on the terrace."

Woodlyecodesign/Etsy.com

Use the words "all-in-one": Bonus points if you also include the phrase "multi-tasker," or "more than two hands." 

Take, for example, the Combi All In One Mobile Entertainer. It's not only a high chair, it's also a walker, noise-maker, and vintage car.

Toys'R'Us.com

Baby straight jackets: Aww.

Hulabye.com

Parents (or people who have had parents): If babies double as a money-making venture, what do you think it's important for companies to remember? What kinds of sales pitch works best?

Oldest National Park Ranger Shares 'What Gets Remembered'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 08:35

Betty Reid Soskin has seen World War II, the civil rights movement, and lived "lots and lots of lives." The 92-year-old shares what she's learned with guest host Celeste Headlee.

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Why This Octopus Isn't Stuck-Up

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 08:18

Some chemical in octopus skin acts as a repellent to the little suction cups on the arms, a surprise finding shows. Without it, the eight-armed creature would tie itself in knots.

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Solar-Powered Bike Lock Aims To Be The Airbnb Of Bike-Sharing

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 08:04

The Skylock can let you share your bike with others — and it'll send you a text if it thinks a thief has his hands on it.

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For Some Doctors, Almost All Medicare Patients Are Above Average

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 08:02

Recently released Medicare data show that 1,800 doctors and other health providers nearly always charge Medicare the highest rate for patient care. Experts challenge the legitimacy of the charges.

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PODCAST: The inflation-interest paradox

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:55

Today we're trying to resolve a paradox. Inflation is on the rise in America, yet interest rates are getting lower still. On the one hand, there's word this morning the Consumer Price Index went up three tenths percent in April, the most in 10 months.  Yet, look at benchmark interest rates. To look at this we turn to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

And, we been covering an ongoing swarm of protests by fast food workers looking for higher pay in the U.S. Now the protests are going global, involving fast food workers across more than 30 countries, from Argentina to New Zealand. Marketplace's Krissy Clark has some international comparisons.

Meanwhile, in Jersey City and other towns along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, small-scale entrepreneurs are taking aim at that urban ritual of waiting for the darned bus.  Private operators of mini-buses now ply the streets. Amid questions about safety and traffic, there are new regulations on the way. Marketplace's Dan Weissmann takes us to the "Wild West" of the Hudson.

 

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