National News

Video Of Volcano Erupting In Chile Is Amazing In Time-Lapse

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 05:03

It's been more than 40 years since the Calbuco volcano erupted. But now it's done it twice — generating striking images and concerns over the effects of both the lava and a mammoth cloud of ash.

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To Get More Students Through College, Give Them Fewer Choices

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 04:03

A new book recommends simplifying community college pathways to help more students graduate.

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Gen. David Petraeus Will Be Sentenced Thursday Over Secret Notebooks

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 03:31

Under the terms of a plea deal, the former CIA director will avoid jail time. Petraeus, 62, admits to having retained notebooks full of classified information and showing them to his biographer.

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Saudi Airstrikes Target Houthi Forces In Yemen, Despite Talks Of Peace

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 03:04

It's now very unclear when peace talks that were mentioned earlier this week might occur. Warplanes have been hitting areas under Houthi control Thursday.

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PODCAST: A huge quarterly loss for Brazilian oil company

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-23 03:00

Gas is cheap, but what about the cost of putting a roof over your head? We look at the trend towards skyrocketing rent. Plus, Petrobras, the government-run oil company in Brazil today posted the worse quarterly loss in its history. We'll talk to the BBC's South America business correspondent Daniel Gallas from Sao Paolo, Brazil, to find out why. And by one estimate, the buying power of U.S. Latinos is three times what it was in the year 2000: that's $1.5 trillion. Big retailers are trying to keep pace. Target says Hispanic millennials are now their core demographic. And now, they've got an ad campaign to go with the shift.

 

Michael Brown's Family Will Sue Ferguson Over Police Shooting Death

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 02:38

The lawsuit will be filed at the St. Louis County Courthouse Thursday morning. It's not yet known whether it will include Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, 18.

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In a sharing economy, labor laws fall short

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-23 02:01

When it comes to the future of the growing “sharing economy,” things are far from clear. Two California juries are set to decide cases that could have wide-ranging implications on the industry that has grown up around Uber, Lyft, and other car-hire services.

Plaintiffs allege that the companies treat drivers as independent contractors even though they should be considered full employees, which would require Uber to provide sick days, health insurance and other benefits. Judge Vince Chhabria, who is presiding over the Lyft case, wrote that the jurors “will be handed a square peg and asked to choose between two round holes.”

Chhabria wrote that because he believes the labor laws, which employ legal tests to determine whether a worker is a contractor or an employee, are outdated.

For some workers, it’s clear.

Drew Bathe drives for Uber in Richmond, Virginia. He’s an EMT, and he’s usually in his car. “Uber was just a perfect opportunity to continue to use my car,” Bathe says. He says he can “sign on when I want and sign off when I want.”

He usually drives around during periods of high demand, in what's known as “surge pricing.” Bathe says he can make about $40 an hour. But other workers use Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk much more frequently, and they more closely resemble full time workers.

Wilma Liebman, former chair of the National Labor Relations Board, says that’s because “we now have work opportunities that no one would have thought of a few years ago.”

“Back when the labor laws were enacted,” Liebman says, “what we generally saw were large, vertically integrated corporations that did all aspects of the work.” Think Standard Oil and U.S. Steel.

Applying the employee/contractor test back then would yield clear results. The person who paints your house is an independent contractor. They have control over the tools, the means to do the job, how the complete the job. Employees are subject to employer-imposed restriction dress, appearance, tools and so on.

In recent years, some corporations have been accused of deliberately miscategorizing their workers as independent contractors in order to avoid the costs of hiring an employee, such as social security and payroll taxes, as well as health benefits. Fedex is appealing a Kansas supreme court ruling that said its drivers are actually employees.

Robert Reich, who was Labor Secretary during the Clinton Administration, says it’s a trend that's been going on for years.

“As I looked on a case-by-case basis, it was clear to me that some employers were doing it purely to save money and they were doing it as a way of circumventing all of these labor laws,” Reich says.

But what’s going on with sharing economy companies is a bit different, according to Elizabeth Kennedy, a professor of law at Loyola University Maryland.

She agrees with the statement by Judge Edward M. Chen, who is presiding over the Uber case, that it “strains credulity” for Uber to argue it is a tech company and not a car company. But, Kennedy says, it’s important to remember that apps like Uber started out small.

“How do we find this middle ground that recognizes the economic reality of the worker performing the service and also recognizes these businesses can scale up and reach a point where that relationship perhaps changes over time,” she says.

But there might be another way. Back in 2005, Kennedy wrote about how other countries had dealt with this pool of workers who fall between clear-cut employees and independent contractors: a third way, called “dependent contractor.”

 

In a sharing economy, labor laws fall short

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-23 02:01

When it comes to the future of the growing “sharing economy,” things are far from clear. Two California juries are set to decide cases that could have wide-ranging implications on the industry that has grown up around Uber, Lyft, and other car-hire services.

Plaintiffs allege that the companies treat drivers as independent contractors even though they should be considered full employees, which would require Uber to provide sick days, health insurance and other benefits. Judge Vince Chhabria, who is presiding over the Lyft case, wrote that the jurors “will be handed a square peg and asked to choose between two round holes.”

Chhabria wrote that because he believes the labor laws, which employ legal tests to determine whether a worker is a contractor or an employee, are outdated.

For some workers, it’s clear.

Drew Bathe drives for Uber in Richmond, Virginia. He’s an EMT, and he’s usually in his car. “Uber was just a perfect opportunity to continue to use my car,” Bathe says. He says he can “sign on when I want and sign off when I want.”

He usually drives around during periods of high demand, in what's known as “surge pricing.” Bathe says he can make about $40 an hour. But other workers use Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk much more frequently, and they more closely resemble full time workers.

Wilma Liebman, former chair of the National Labor Relations Board, says that’s because “we now have work opportunities that no one would have thought of a few years ago.”

“Back when the labor laws were enacted,” Liebman says, “what we generally saw were large, vertically integrated corporations that did all aspects of the work.” Think Standard Oil and U.S. Steel.

Applying the employee/contractor test back then would yield clear results. The person who paints your house is an independent contractor. They have control over the tools, the means to do the job, how the complete the job. Employees are subject to employer-imposed restriction dress, appearance, tools and so on.

In recent years, some corporations have been accused of deliberately miscategorizing their workers as independent contractors in order to avoid the costs of hiring an employee, such as social security and payroll taxes, as well as health benefits. Fedex is appealing a Kansas supreme court ruling that said its drivers are actually employees.

Robert Reich, who was Labor Secretary during the Clinton Administration, says it’s a trend that's been going on for years.

“As I looked on a case-by-case basis, it was clear to me that some employers were doing it purely to save money and they were doing it as a way of circumventing all of these labor laws,” Reich says.

But what’s going on with sharing economy companies is a bit different, according to Elizabeth Kennedy, a professor of law at Loyola University Maryland.

She agrees with the statement by Judge Edward M. Chen, who is presiding over the Uber case, that it “strains credulity” for Uber to argue it is a tech company and not a car company. But, Kennedy says, it’s important to remember that apps like Uber started out small.

“How do we find this middle ground that recognizes the economic reality of the worker performing the service and also recognizes these businesses can scale up and reach a point where that relationship perhaps changes over time,” she says.

But there might be another way. Back in 2005, Kennedy wrote about how other countries had dealt with this pool of workers who fall between clear-cut employees and independent contractors: a third way, called “dependent contractor.”

 

Coke and Pepsi face headwinds

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-23 02:00

Despite the fact that consumers are consuming sodas less frequently after lots of headlines about sugary drinks and the obesity epidemic, Coca-Cola managed to post better-than-expected earnings on Wednesday. 

But the celebration may be short-lived if Coke and its main rival Pepsi focus heavily on promoting their namesake soda brands. 

Consumer analyst Nik Modi of RBC Capital Markets says soda sales have been declining industry-wide, and among the reasons why is "the mom veto."

"Mothers are not buying these products for their kids, like the prior generation," says Modi, adding that consumers are not only paying more attention to the number of calories in the products they consume, but also to the number of ingredients and kinds of ingredients. 

He says one way Coca-Cola has combated this trend is by selling smaller cans of its sodas. "If you give a child an 8-ounce can of coke, that's much more tolerable than a 12-ounce can or a 20-ounce can," says Modi.

Coke has also raised prices and cut costs by doing things like laying off 1,800 employees. But industry consultant Tom Pirko is pessimistic about the future for both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, because the majority of sales for both companies come from foreign countries.

"Brazil, the rest of Latin America, Europe, Russia: the economies are in trouble and this is all directly affecting Coca-Cola," says Pirko, adding that both Coke and Pepsi should focus more on promoting and selling their non-soda brands.

Coca-Cola recently even got into the milk business.

Target takes aim at new 'core' customer: young Latinos

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-23 02:00

“There will always be a part of you that simply doesn’t translate.” That’s the slogan Target is using in a social media campaign with the hashtag #SinTraduccion, or “untranslateable.”

The campaign is aimed at Hispanic millennials, a demographic Target now counts as its core customer group. By one estimate, the buying power of U.S. Latinos overall is three times what it was in the year 2000: $1.5 trillion and counting.

Target spokesperson Luz Varela says the #SinTraduccion campaign hinges on words like 'arrullo,' which is often translated as ‘lullaby.’ That’s one meaning, Varela says, “But it’s also used to describe the entire setting and ambience of putting your baby to sleep.

Varela says Target’s goal here is to deepen the brand’s connection with people like Linda Hernandez, a 29-year-old mother of two at shopping at the Target in Yakima, Washington.

I’ve been here every day for the past two weeks,” Hernandez says. She even shows me a picture of her shopping cart posted on Instagram, featuring a pile of her favorite stationery, pens, and pencils.

According to marketing researcher Isabel Valdes, Hernandez is in retailers’ sweet spot.

“Latino millennial is the segment to target: if you’re not there, you’re losing,” she says. “That’s where the growth opportunity is—the new family formations, the new people buying cars.”

SinTraduccion is Target’s first campaign designed solely with Latino shoppers in mind. It uses Spanish songs that touch themes like childcare and family meals.

Roberto Siewczynski says that makes perfect sense. Even young Latinos who prefer English, “think of Spanish as the language of the heart,” he says.

Siewczynski manages Hispanic marketing for the firm Catapultvista.

“You have a very large company here that is not only telling Hispanics, ‘Hey, we’ve got great stuff for you to do,’ but it’s telling them, ‘It’s great to be Hispanic,’” he says.

Siewczynski says a second language is like a second path into a consumer’s mind. Will Target get there? Keep an eye out for the hashtag #SinTraduccion.

 

Rents are rising, and fast

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-23 02:00

The average rent in San Francisco is more than $3000 a month. In New York, you’re paying $2,355.  

According to the real estate tracking firm Zillow, rents are up 3.7 percent, nationwide.

“More and more Americans are renting now than they did before the great recession,” says Zillow senior economist Skylar Olsen.  

Olsen says there just isn’t enough rental housing to go around.  She says the renters are former home owners who were foreclosed upon, or newly employed millennials.

“They’re able to you know, imagine a world where they move out from their parents' basements," she says. "And when they do that they turn to the rental market.”

They can’t afford to buy a house because, even though they have a job, wages are still stagnant.

“Brad Pitt’s making millions of dollars but the average person in Keokuk, Iowa is not making a lot of money in terms of wage growth,” says Anthony Sanders, distinguished professor of finance at George Mason University.

And Sanders says, even if they do have a nest egg, they’re too nervous to buy in the wake of the housing crisis. 

More Whistleblowers Say Health Plans Are Gouging Medicare

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 01:08

Federal authorities are investigating claims that some Medicare Advantage health plans have overcharged the government for years by claiming that patients are sicker than they are.

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Critics Lash Out At Chinese Scientists Who Edited DNA In Human Embryos

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 01:06

By editing the genes in embryos in the lab, Chinese scientists showed that it's possible to change hereditary traits that cause a blood disorder. But the work also created unintended mutations.

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A Black Eye, Flipping The Bird, And Other Tales From A White House Press Secretary

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 01:01

Former Press Secretary Dana Perino's new book And the Good News Is... details her time at the White House, including heated moments in the press briefing room.

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Oklahomans Feel Way More Earthquakes Than Californians; Now They Know Why

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 00:25

Today the USGS will issue a report on earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling, but Oklahoma has acknowledged that the industry's wastewater disposal is the cause. What isn't known is how to fix it.

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Some Companies Fight Pay Gap By Eliminating Salary Negotiations

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 00:22

Women are often less assertive when it comes to negotiating salaries and raises. Some firms are trying to neutralize the disparity by refusing to negotiate salaries. But will that hurt recruitment?

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Fruit Growers Try Tricking Mother Nature To Prevent Crop Damage

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-23 00:22

In Michigan's orchard country, extreme heat and cold can mean disaster for fruit growers. Now some are using a new twist on old technology to fool trees when sudden, unexpected weather changes occur.

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LOOK! Stunning Picture Of Calbuco Volcano Erupting In Chile

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 16:54

The volcano erupted, spewing a huge cloud of ash over a sparsely populated area in Chile. Authorities, however, issued evacuation orders to about 1,500 people.

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Defense Presents Full Video Of Tsarnaev Giving Camera The Middle Finger

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 16:36

The defense was trying to blunt the prosecution's claim that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had one more message to send.

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Visiting The Everglades, Obama Takes Swipe At Climate Change Deniers

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 14:51

"Climate change can no longer be denied," Obama said. "It can't be edited out. It can't be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed."

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