National News

USA's 'Mr. Robot' HBO's 'Ballers' Among Picks For Best Summer TV Series

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 01:45

As a flood of at least 120 new and returning series come to TV this summer, NPR's TV Critic picks four shows most worth binge watching by the pool.

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As Panama's Economy Booms, So Do Concerns Over Debt And The Environment

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 01:18

Panama's economy, while cooling in recent years, is still growing at astonishing rates compared to its neighbors. But environmental damage and huge government debt are part of the package.

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As Panama's Economy Booms So Do Concerns Over Debt And The Environment

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 01:18

Panama's economy, while cooling in recent years, is still growing at astonishing rates compared to its neighbors. But environmental damage and huge government debt are part of the package.

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A Father In California, Kids In El Salvador, And New Hope To Reunite

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 01:07

Unaccompanied minors surged across the U.S. southern border last year, fleeing violence in Central America. This year the Obama administration hopes to forestall a new wave with a quiet new program.

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Historic Vote May Determine Whether Greece Remains In The Eurozone

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 01:02

Greek voters on Sunday face a referendum on further austerity measures in exchange for bailouts. But the unstated question is whether Greece should give up the euro — the European currency.

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Buy A Meth House Unawares And Pay The Health Consequences

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 00:42

The residue from meth labs can cause health problems, but people aren't always told that the house they're buying is contaminated. An Indiana law requires disclosure but not mandatory testing.

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Benefits Of Sports To A Child's Mind And Heart All Part Of The Game

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 00:40

In NPR's most recent poll a majority of American adults say they played sports in their youth. Many say they encourage their kids to play, too, and see health benefits as well as life-long lessons.

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A Phys Ed Teacher Battles Tight Budgets And Childhood Obesity

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-01 00:39

Mindy Przeor founded an after-school program in Mesa, Ariz. to get elementary school kids up and running.

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Donald Trump Sues Univision For $500 Million

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 16:36

In the suit, Trump claims Univision is attempting to suppress his freedom of speech by dropping coverage of the Miss Universe Pageant, which Trump co-owns.

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Border Patrol Urged To Crack Down On Corruption In Its Own Ranks

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 15:49

The draft report by outside law enforcement experts says the agency needs more internal affairs investigators. It also calls for more transparency in investigations, especially shootings by agents.

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Jeb Bush's Wealth Skyrocketed After Leaving Governor's Office

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 14:53

Thirty-three years of tax returns — the most ever for a presidential candidate — show Bush earned $29 million since leaving office. He also paid an average tax rate of 36 percent over three decades.

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Peru's Pitmasters Bury Their Meat In The Earth, Inca-Style

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 14:39

Step up your summer grilling game by recreating the ancient Peruvian way of cooking meat underground in your own backyard. It's called pachamanca, and it yields incredibly moist and smoky morsels.

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U.S. And Cuba Will Formally Re-Establish Diplomatic Relations

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 14:29

The Obama administration will announce on Wednesday when they will open embassies.

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Communities Get A Lift As Local Food Sales Surge To $11 Billion A Year

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:42

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says local food is growing quickly from a niche market into something that's generating significant income for communities across the country.

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The secret work life of bees

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:37

The USDA estimates that honey bees are worth $15 billion a year in agricultural value. The bee is responsible for as much as one in every three mouthfuls of food that we eat.

Because of the honey bee’s importance, many agriculture officials and farmers are alarmed by something called colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon where bee colonies suddenly die off in huge numbers. In a new issue of New York Magazine, David Wallace-Wells explains why bees are dying off en masse.

“It’s a tough life,” Wallace-Wells says. “Imagine being transported around the country all year on a truck, never being able to eat a balanced diet, and being sprayed with chemicals all the time that are designed to kill you.”

Up to 90 percent of honey bee colonies are transported in trucks, as he describes, from one industrial farm to the next. Once they arrive, they’re let out of their cages so they can pollinate the local crops. Once they’ve done their jobs, they’re scooped up and sent to the next farm.

“They’re not well suited to this life. This is not what they were evolved to do,” Wallace-Wells says. “So all of these strange conditions that they’ve been put in sort of freak them out. Some scientists have found they respond to the stress by foraging earlier and earlier, which they’re really bad at. Then when they come back without much food, (and) the whole colony sort of freaks out and collapses.”

A Dozen Officials Suspended As Probe Into N.Y. Prison Break Widens

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:29

The house-cleaning of top administrators and guards at the prison where two inmates escaped comes as the FBI begins its own investigation into possible corruption and drug dealing at the facility.

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Ebola Returns To Liberia With A Mysterious Case Near Monrovia

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:27

A teenage boy tested positive for Ebola in a town outside the capital city. It's unknown where he caught the virus, and health officials are concerned the case could spark another outbreak.

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Debate Begins: New OT Rules Will Raise Wages — Or Kill Jobs

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:18

The Labor Department plans to change a rule so that 5 million more Americans will be able to collect overtime pay. Business groups say the change will hurt hiring, but labor groups are applauding.

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Greece misses debt repayment deadline

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:08

The Greek love of drama was on full display today. As the minutes ticked down to a deadline for the repayment of a massive loan to the International  Monetary Fund, the Greek government sent a startling new message to its creditors: can we have another bailout, please? 

The creditors refused and Greece became the first developed country to fail to repay an IMF loan on schedule. This is not a default — at least not immediately — so Greece is not yet officially bankrupt. But its crisis is intensifying; its banks are shuttered, ATM cash withdrawals are severely restricted, more multi-billion euro debt repayments are looming and agreement between the country and its creditors seems as elusive as ever. 

Officer training for mental health in short supply

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-30 13:00

It’s no coincidence the newly appointed head of the Cook County Jail is a clinical psychologist. Like other jails around the country, Chicago has a large number of inmates who have a serious mental illness, so corrections officers end up dealing with a lot of mental health crises.

To Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, keeping people with mental illness in jail is like sending preschoolers to a college calculus class: they just don’t belong there.

“As opposed to running mental health hospitals, as opposed to having community resources,” he says, “we’re going to take this group of people [and say] — 'Let’s see, where shall we put them? Let’s put them all in jails.'”

As sheriff, the jail is ultimately his responsibility. Jails are designed to hold people for short stretches, Dart points out, after they’ve been charged with a crime but before they’ve been convicted.

“It presents obvious challenges to all of us to take a population that wasn’t meant to be in this environment,” he says.

Cook County Corrections Academy cadets

Alisa Roth

I visited the Cook County corrections academy recently, on one of the last days of the cadets’ training. After a short review of concepts like different kinds of mental illness, and how to reassure inmates that officers are there to help them through their crises, the cadets get to practice what they’ve been learning. Dart is one of loudest voices in what’s become a national conversation about mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

He points out that Chicago closed half of its public mental health clinics in 2012. And he regularly tallies the number of mentally ill inmates in Cook County on his Twitter feed. (On June 4, for example, he tweeted that at booking, 39 percent of inmates self-reported having a mental illness.) It’s because the jail is now a de facto psychiatric hospital that Dart thinks all corrections officers need to be trained on how to deal with mental illness.

Sherie Yarbrough, a corrections officer who has been working with mentally ill inmates since she started with the department in 2000, is teaching one of the sessions. She explains the scene to a team of three cadets, two men and a woman.

“I’m having a problem with the detainee, his name is Bruno,” she says. “Bruno is about to jump. I don’t know. I called the CIT [Crisis Intervention Team] unit in because I can’t talk him down. So hopefully you can. Alright? If you don’t, he going to fall and break his neck.”

Another corrections officer, Angel Garcia, is playing Bruno. He has a big bushy beard, and he’s wearing a black ski cap. Standing on a chair in the corner of the classroom, Garcia/Bruno starts to shout at the officers. 

Officer Angel Garcia

Alisa Roth

“Stay right there,” he says. “Don’t come up these stairs!”

He’s a pretty good actor, and he actually manages to look a little wild-eyed as the cadets approach him.

“What’s going on, man? What’s going down?” says one of the cadets. “My name is Officer Downs. I’m here with Officer Salas.”

Before Downs can introduce the third cadet, though, Garcia/Bruno interrupts.

“Well, Officer Downs, well guess what?” Garcia/Bruno shouts. “It’s about to go downs. I’m serious, man. I’m about to go downs this cliff right here. I’m gonna jump…”

This goes on for a while. Downs keeps trying to calm him down, and Garcia—as Bruno—gets more and more upset. Finally, the woman cadet, Salas, starts talking, and Garcia/Bruno starts to settle down a little. When it’s all over, Yarbrough, the veteran officer, debriefs the cadets, talking them through what they did right and what they did wrong.

“We have to use everything that’s in our arsenals,” she says. “Sometimes male detainees respond to female officers differently. When she started talking to him, he calmed down a little bit.”

When Yarbrough started working in the jail more than a decade ago she said there was no special training on how to deal with mentally ill inmates. And it was terrifying.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she remembers. “I was scared of the inmates, I was scared I might lose my job. I was…I didn’t want to make any bad decisions, didn’t want to tell anybody to do something wrong.”

The training she helped with today is supposed to help these new cadets be better prepared than she was. Ultimately, the idea is to improve outcomes for inmates with mental illness by stopping a suicide attempt or by having officers use force less frequently.

Officer Sherie Yarbrough 

Alisa Roth

Carl Alaimo is a psychologist who’s in charge of mental health training at the academy; he used to run the jail’s mental health services. He says educating officers makes a huge difference in how they respond to mentally ill inmates. Take an inmate who refuses to get out of bed, say, or leave his cell.

“Normally that’s considered disobedience,” he says. “‘You’re not listening to me.’ But in the case of a trained officer, they’re going wait a minute, maybe something else is going on here."

A handful of states, including Indiana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, have opted to provide mental health training for correctional officers. And more and more counties and states are beginning to follow their lead.   

“It’s not as widespread as we would like it to be. It’s fairly sporadic,” says Ron Honberg, of the advocacy organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI. The training represents a real about-face for corrections officers, he says. “It really sort of flies in the face of their traditional training. They’re taught to keep their distance, they’re taught to speak in a way that calms the person down, they’re taught to reassure the individual and it becomes a win-win proposition.”

A win-win proposition for both the inmates and the officers, since an appropriate response by the officer can keep volatile situations from escalating. And, sometimes an officer who is reassuring instead of threatening can convince an inmate to get treatment. Better outcomes that can mean less time in jail or prison, less violence, and—for the correctional facilities—fewer lawsuits. 

Roth's reporting on mental illness and the criminal justice system was supported by a Soros Justice Fellowship

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