National News

Egypt's Former Army Chief Wins Presidential Election In Landslide

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 09:38

The country's election commission confirms preliminary results announced last week showing that Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi secured nearly 97 percent of the vote.

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The Health Data Revolution Enters An Awkward Adolescence

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 09:23

Huge amounts of information about your health, your doctor and your hospital lurk in private and public databases. But putting that information to work to improve health care remains a challenge.

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Could A 6-Cent Tax Sour Us On Soda And Sugary Drinks?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 09:23

A new study argues that taxing sodas and sugary drinks by the calorie would spur consumers to cut back. A 6-cent tax per 12-ounce can would lead to 5,800 fewer calories consumed per year, it found.

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Complying with the EPA, state by state

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:58
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 05:54 Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Cows graze in the shadow of the coal fired Chalk Point Generating Station, on May 29, 2014 in Benedict, Maryland.  

The EPA’s plan to curb carbon-dioxide emissions lets each state figure out how its going to reach its goal. 

There are already big differences among states in one area: the cost of electricity for their residents.

In March, folks in Wyoming were paying ten cents per kilowatt hour, but people in Massachusetts paid nearly double.

“The biggest factor here is that there’s just a lot of different generation mixes across the states," said Harrison Fell, a professor with the Colorado School of Mines.

Wyoming gets almost all of its energy from coal, while in Massachusetts it’s mostly natural gas, according to the Georgetown Climate Center.

 “The more coal intensive you are, the bigger impact the rules will be,” said Andrew Kleit is a professor of energy and environmental economics at Penn State.

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday June 4, 2014by Conrad WilsonPodcast Title Complying with the EPA, state by stateStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

The Secret Service wants sarcasm detection software

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:46
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 16:45 www.dizkover.com

A teen from the Netherlands was arrested back in April for sending a threatening tweet to American Airlines while claiming to be part of the terrorist organization Al-Qaida.

This final note on the way out, which I'm sure will work...

The Secret Service wants sombeody to invent a piece of software that'll, "detect sarcasm and false positives," according to the work order. So, if you're a teenager on Twitter and you threaten to blow up a plane because you're bored, this would in theory prevent the FBI from knocking on your door.

You got less than a week if you're up to the challenge because next Monday is the deadline.

What could possibly go wrong.

Sarcasm.

Marketplace for Tuesday June 3, 2014by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title The Secret Service wants sarcasm detection softwareStory Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

All of a sudden, everyone's buying new cars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:45
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 16:44 Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Anthony Gordon looks at a Ford Mustang on the showroom floor at a Ford AutoNation car dealership on September 4, 2013 in North Miami, Florida.

Car makers have reported their May sales figures, and the news is surprisingly good. Sales are at a seven year high.

Even high-end dealers are celebrating.

“Both BMW and Audi were up quite a bit this year verses last year,” says George Liang, president of DCH Auto Group.

Kelley Blue Book says car sales nationwide were up about 11 percent over May of last year, for all kinds of reasons. For one, dealers advertised big Memorial Day sales. With home-grown talent:

Car buyers were also lured into showrooms by easier credit.

“Lenders have opened up their books to those with less-than-perfect credit," says Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Alec Gutierrez.

There’s also a lot of pent up demand for cars. The average U.S. car is 11-years-old. Car-crazy consumers even flocked to GM showrooms, in spite of its recall troubles. 

GM sales were up 13 percent over May 2013, with most models selling well.

“Pickups and big sport utilities, but now it’s started to feed through to their car lines,” says George Magliano, a senior economist with IHS Automotive.

Even Mother Nature smiled on the auto industry. In some parts of the country, every weekend in May was sunny. Perfect car buying weather.

Marketplace for Tuesday June 3, 2014by Nancy Marshall-GenzerPodcast Title All of a sudden, everyone's buying new carsStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Khaled Hosseini on the economics behind 'And the Mountains Echoed'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:44

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 Khaled Hosseini ("The Kite Runner", "A Thousand Splendid Suns") in the audio player above. He talks about the very real, very human economics in his new book, "And the Mountains Echoed". We've reprinted the first chapter here:

Back home, in Shadbagh, Pari kept underneath her pillow an old tin tea box Abdullah had given her. It had a rusty latch, and on the lid was a bearded Indian man, wearing a turban and a long red tunic, holding up a steaming cup of tea with both hands. Inside the box were all of the feathers that Pari collected. They were her most cherished belongings. Deep green and dense burgundy rooster feathers; a white tail feather from a dove; a sparrow feather,dust brown, dotted with dark blotches; and the one of which Pari was proudest, an iridescent green peacock feather with a beautiful large eye at the tip.

This last was a gift Abdullah had given her two months earlier. He had heard of a boy from another village whose family owned a peacock. One day when Father was away digging ditches in a town south of Shadbagh, Abdullah walked to this other village, found the boy, and asked him for a feather from the bird. Negotiation ensued, at the end of which Abdullah agreed to trade his shoes for the feather. By the time he returned to Shadbagh, peacock feather tucked in the waist of his trousers beneath his shirt, his heels had split open and left bloody smudges on the ground. Thorns and splinters had burrowed into the skin of his soles. Every step sent barbs of pain shooting through his feet.

When he arrived home, he found his stepmother, Parwana, outside the hut, hunched before the tandoor, making the daily naan. He quickly ducked behind the giant oak tree near their home and waited for her to finish. Peeking around the trunk, he watched her work, a thick-shouldered woman with long arms, rough-skinned hands, and stubby fingers; a woman with a puffed, rounded face who possessed none of the grace of the butterfly she’d been named after.

Abdullah wished he could love her as he had his own mother. Mother, who had bled to death giving birth to Pari three and a

half years earlier when Abdullah was seven. Mother, whose face was all but lost to him now. Mother, who cupped his head in both palms and held it to her chest and stroked his cheek every night before sleep and sang him a lullaby:

I found a sad little fairy

Beneath the shade of a paper tree.

I know a sad little fairy

Who was blown away by the wind one night.

He wished he could love his new mother in the same way. And perhaps Parwana, he thought, secretly wished the same, that she could love him

Reprinted from And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,  Copyright © 2014 by Khaled Hosseini.

Diverse Summer Reading Picks For Kids

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:11

School is ending, so what can parents do to keep their kids reading this summer? Our parenting guests share book recommendations for young readers, with a focus on Latino writers and characters.

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'Wait To Worry' About Challenges

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:08

When his cancer went into remission, columnist Steven Petrow was overwhelmed by the fear that it would return. But it taught him a philosophy that helped him cope: wait to worry.

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Layoff 101: Don't Blame Yourself

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 08:06

Being laid off can affect your finances as well as your health. Professor Sandra Sucher of the Harvard Business School explains how to survive, and even thrive, after a layoff.

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New Orleans District Moves To All-Charter School System

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

New Orleans' Recovery School District will soon have the nation's first all-charter school system. Michel Martin explores whether that will boost achievement, or leave the most vulnerable kids behind.

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John Oliver Helps Rally 45,000 Net Neutrality Comments To FCC

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 07:56

The comedian used 13 minutes of his Sunday program to convince viewers to reach out to the Federal Communications Commission about open Internet rules. They responded and crashed the FCC servers.

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Leggo My Legos! Australian Toy Stores Hit By Series Of Thefts

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 07:35

According to a detective, the crimes sound like the work of an "organized syndicate" that might be specifically targeting the interlocking toys.

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Israel Criticizes U.S. Decision To Deal With Palestinian Government

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 07:19

The new Palestinian unity government includes the militant group Hamas, which Israel and the U.S. view as a terrorist organization.

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Alexander Shulgin, The 'Godfather Of Ecstasy,' Dies At 88

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 06:34

Shulgin's contribution to research into psychedelic compounds is immense. By his own count, he created nearly 200 psychedelic compounds, often testing them on himself.

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Why it's so hard to serve healthy food in schools

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 06:29

The White House waded into in the middle of a Congressional food fight over how to regulate school lunch. 

The debate stems from the Health Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which put in place new rules aimed at getting kids to eat healthier by requiring schools to serve whole grains and more fruits and vegetables.

But now many school districts argue the new rules are too expensive.

The federal government reimburses schools $3.01 for a lunch, which is supposed to cover everything: the food, the labor and things like new kitchen equipment or repairs.

But to get the money, schools need to follow the rules.

Gitta Grether-Sweeney runs the nutrition program for Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon, where every day the district serves about 20,000 kids lunch.

“The rules went into effect last year where you had to serve more fruits and vegetables,” she said --  half cup of either with every meal.

Starting in July, the guidelines get stricter. Nationwide, schools have to serve more whole grains and less sodium.

Now Congress is debating whether to relax some of those rules -- a move First Lady Michelle Obama and her supporters vowed to fight.

“What we still believe is a big fight is holding steady on the sodium requirements and the whole grain requirements for school lunches,” said Claire Benjamin, managing director of Food Policy Action, a Washington DC-based group that scores lawmakers votes on food and farming policy. “When we did these rules we knew that some of these changes were going to be hard and it was going to take some time to implement.”

To help school districts out, the feds offered to pay six cents more per lunch.

But Grether-Sweeney said to meet the new federal requirements Portland Public Schools had to order more fruits and vegetables last year -- a lot more.

“I spent over $200,000 more in produce. But that six cents only covered about 60 percent of that,” she said.

Along with the requirement to serve healthier lunches came an unfortunate consequence, Grether-Sweeney said. 

The district saw a dramatic increase in trash from students dumping the unwanted produce. One small school threw away 55 gallons of fruits and veggies every week.

“In a number of our schools, we started composting because of this,” Grether-Sweeney said. 

She argued that the current mandates aren’t working and that kids should be able to choose which healthy foods they want.

“They’re not going to eat it necessarily just because you put it on their plate,” she said.

Before the new rules, the number of kids eating lunch in the Portland Public School District had been steadily increasing.

Now Grether-Sweeney said the district is serving three percent fewer students school lunch compared to last year. Nationally, nearly one million fewer kids are eating school lunch this year, according to USDA data.

Parke Wilde, a food economist at Tufts University, said it’s hard to know if schools are just having a difficult time transitioning to the new rules or -- more troubling -- that kids today are more reluctant to eat healthy foods.

“Everybody can sympathize with what it’s like to be a school food service director, reading all the small print on the new school meals requirements and thinking to him or herself, ‘How am I going to do this?'" Wilde said.

But on the other hand, he said, without rules there would probably be districts that don’t serve healthy meals.

Congress is still debating what will happen with the school lunch program, but as of right now schools will be serving even healthier -- and more expensive meals -- next fall.

Girls who game could turn into girls who code

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 06:28

It has been well established that there is a large and problematic gender gap in the tech industry. Last week's unprecedented report from Google on the company's diversity was just one of the latest headlines. A lot of people tend to think that, like many things, the problem starts in our education system -- Girls don't get the encouragement they need to get into tech areas like coding.

It's an issue that Nitasha Tiku*, co-editor of tech news site ValleyWag, has been thinking a lot about. In an op-ed piece for the New York Times this week, Tiku posits that the easiest way to get girls into coding might be to look at what already interests them: gaming.

Games like Minecraft, which has a "creative" mode where gamers can use Java to build their own worlds, are introducing players to coding without them realizing that they are developing a skill. It's these kinds of covert methods of getting a diverse group of people interested in programming that Tiku thinks will ultimately be more effective. 

Certainly groups like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are doing their part as well. Tiku says these programs are important for thinking about how to get more girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields:

"These after school programs...their goal is to be incorporated into the classroom. They think of themselves as a sandbox where you can sort of experiment with different languages."

*CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, ValleyWag co-editor Nitasha Tiku was misidentified. The text has been corrected.

2/27/07, 416, 546 and the day the market broke

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 06:18

Stephen Millbrook jumped up from his desk, dashed across the trading floor and looked out the window. The Empire State Building was still there.

On the streets, people were walking calmly through midtown Manhattan, dressed in thick coats and covered with scarves to fend off the near freezing February air. No one looked panicked. There were no signs of another attack.

The evidence for an attack was confined to Millbrook's trading screens. In a matter of minutes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 200 points. That was on top of a 346 point decline that the market had already registered. A 546 point drop meant something had gone seriously wrong. We're talking 9/11 wrong. On the first day of trading following the 2001 attacks, the Dow dropped 684 points.

Shares of Goldman Sachs had cratered. Goldman Sachs! Millbrook dialed a friend's number at Goldman just to see if Goldman was still there. The guy on the other end of the phone — Thank God there was a guy on the other end of the phone! — asked him if everything was alright in midtown. Goldman traders located at the southern tip of Manhattan were wondering if someone had attacked Times Square.

Later Millbrook would learn that the sudden drop was due to a "glitch." Something had gone wrong with the computer systems of the New York Stock Exchange, triggering a flash crash. This was on February 27, 2007, however, and no one had invented the term "flash crash" yet.

Traders on the floor of the NYSE would wind up having to keep their books open past the official closing bell as the exchange struggled to put things in order. None of the traders had ever been called upon to keep trading open after the bell. One trader told me over drinks that night that this marked "the death of the God of the closing bell."

In the end the Dow closed for a decline of 416.02 points. That was the still the biggest point drop in the market since it had reopened after the September 11, 2001 attacks. It was the seventh ever biggest one-day decline.

Earlier in the day, trying to limit the declines following a 200 point drop, the NYSE had imposed trading curbs. The effect, however, was to give traders more time to worry.

The talking heads on television blamed the crash on Chinese economic data and comments about a possible recession from Alan Greenspan. Most ignored something that was arguably far more important — the announcement by Freddie Mac that it would stop buying subprime loans.

The housing boom had ended two years earlier. Freddie's subprime exit indicated that the mortgage bust was upon us. Within a few months, subprime lender New Century and a pair of Bear Stearns hedge funds focused on investing in subprime would go down. Over the summer, highly unusual market movements would trigger massive losses by quant hedge funds over the course of weeks that became known as "the quant bloodbath." The housing bust was quickly transforming into a financial crisis.

The numbers 416 and 546 were indicators that something was seriously wrong. Millbrook (obviously not his real name) was right to panic. But few of us understood this on that cold day in February.

Small businesses create new jobs for autistic adults

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 06:06

It is high school graduation season across the country and most young adults are preparing for life in college or in the workforce.  Landing a job in this economy continues to be hard for millions of people. But what if you have autism?  

The good news is there are communities popping up across the country that have come up with several small business models that ease young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) into the adult world of work and self-sufficiency. 

Lori Ireland and several of her friends in Chapel Hill, North Carolina have children with autism.  They have become very familiar with a term known in autism circles as “The Cliff.”

“As they aged, we saw the handwriting on the wall, so to speak,” said Ireland.  “The level of services really fall off.”   

“The Cliff” becomes especially visible when a young person with autism reaches his or her early 20s and is no longer able to attend high school. 

Laura Klinger is a leading autism researcher at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.  She is also Director of the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children (TEACCH).  

“After graduation, about 35 percent of people with autism sit home and do nothing: not college, not employment, not vocational training,” said Klinger.

That’s why the Ireland Family and friends decided to find jobs for their autistic children, even if they had to create the jobs themselves.

 “We measure ourselves a little differently,” said Gregg Ireland*.  “For us, if we give someone a meaningful hour of employment, that’s our goal.”

So the business model they came up with is EV, which stands for Extraordinary Ventures.  EV is responsible for several small businesses, including a successful laundry service. 

At 22-years old, Patrick Eden has worked for EV Laundry for more than a year.  Eden is very particular about how he sorts, washes and folds the clothes they collect.  He was recently promoted to assistant manager.

 “I like the people and I like giving quality work,” said Eden.

And a growing number of small businesses are employing workers with autism.  Thomas D’Eri and his family opened Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida to provide meaningful work for his autistic brother.

 “When car washes are run really well, they are very structured, lots of really well-defined processes,” said D’Eri.  “And those are situations that people with autism really excel in.”

Experts studying autism hope the jobs keep coming, especially considering that about 50,000 children on the autism spectrum turn 18 every year in the U.S.

 

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Gregg Ireland. The text has been corrected.

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