National News

More schools offer free lunches, but who's paying?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-22 02:00

The Community Eligibility Provision, part of the National School Lunch Program, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010. It enables school districts in which 40 percent of children or more are eligible for free lunches to skip paperwork requirements and offer free meals to all students, regardless of their household income. Some educators say the provision could lower stress levels for low-income kids and help them focus on learning.

"Sometimes they worry about not having enough money to pay for their meal," says Dora Rivas, Executive Director of the Food and Child Nutrition Program for the Dallas Independent School District. "I think this is going to be a great benefit to them."

Rivas adds that paying for meals for all students in the district means officials will no longer have to spend time and money processing papers for families applying for the lunch benefits.

"Our funds are going to producing the meal instead of all the paperwork," she says.

The National School Lunch Program costs the government nearly $12 billion a year, a reflection of a troubled economy in which many working parents are unable to make ends meet.

"Most of the kids in the free and reduced price meals program are kids whose parents are working, working full time at very low wages, or working part time," says Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. On an average school day, Weill says, some 21.5 million kids eat a free or reduced-price lunch.

Long-term unemployed suffer shaky re-employment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-22 01:00

Even though the economy is improving, there are still about 3 million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more. Plus, research indicates that the longer they are out, the tougher it will be for them to get back into the workforce. Making matters worse: when they do find work, it often doesn't last.

Lori Barkley Struckman knows what that's like. At the end of 2011, she lost her job as an office administrator. For the next two years, she bounced around jobs that were temporary or part-time.

"I had five different jobs. But nothing full-time," she says.

Struckman finally landed a full-time position as an office administrator at a Twin Cities law firm earlier this year. Her rocky road to recovery would not surprise researchers like Alan Krueger, a professor of economics at Princeton University and former White House chief economist.

"The long-term unemployed, when they do find work, it's often inconsistent, it's often part-time, they often find a job that doesn't last very long," says Krueger.

Krueger and fellow researchers looked at government surveys of Americans who said they'd been out of work for six months or longer at some point between 2008 and 2012. When those individuals were surveyed again more than a year later, only 36 percent had landed work. Of that group, only 11 percent had steady, full-time jobs.

Krueger says a lot of these folks end up suffering the same setbacks, and unsteady employment, as new workers.

"If you look at workers just starting out, a lot of the jobs they find don't work out, they're transitory, it's a mismatch," he says. "They don't get along with the employer or their skills aren't right for the job."

And sometimes the stress of  having been out of the workforce for a long time persists, making it hard to hold onto a new job. 

"There's a lot of spiralling of all sorts of things, trouble with the children, trouble with finances, which affects every piece of your life. Do you still have health insurance? Were you able to keep your house? All those things are so stressful; you're just treading water," says Mary White, a job counselor with a nonprofit called HIRED in St. Paul.

Lori Barkley Struckman is familiar with some of those stresses. A layoff she suffered a decade ago, well before her more recent jobless spell, coincided with her divorce. When she returned to work back then, she was easily distracted.

"You're still thinking about all the other turmoil that's going on in your life. It's hard for you to concentrate. So that is a real task to just make yourself go, 'Okay you're here to work. Give it up,'" she says.

Faced with poor job prospects or additional layoffs, many long-term unemployed give up looking for work. Krueger's collaborator, Judd Cramer, a doctoral student in economics at Princeton University, says the expiration of extended unemployment benefits has contributed to that trend.

"We've seen the rate at which the long-term unemployed have exited the labor market has risen," Cramer says. 

Kerry's Aim In Egypt: First, Get Israel And Hamas To Cease Fire

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo trying to help forge a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

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Energy Concerns Complicate Potential EU Action Against Russia

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Renee Montagne talks to Anton La Guardia, who covers the European Union for The Economist, about the possibility of deep EU sanctions against Russia at Tuesday's foreign ministers meeting.

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Other Cities Poach Police From Detroit's Low-Wage Force

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

From Toledo to Houston, cities are courting Detroit cops, who are seen as battle-tested from routinely dealing with high crime rates — and fed up from years of low pay and cuts in benefits.

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Some Food Companies Are Quietly Dumping GMO Ingredients

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Many mainstream companies are creating GMO-free foods, but they're not publicizing the changes. Meanwhile, some are also fighting state initiatives that would require them to label GMOs ingredients.

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Violence Flares In Libya, Leaving Main Airport In Ruins

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Militias in Libya spent the past week battling for control of the main airport in Tripoli, leaving much of it in ruins and dozens dead. Steve Inskeep gets the latest from The Guardian's Chris Stephen.

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Despite Growing Anger, EU Nations May Balk At Russian Sanctions

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Foreign ministers meeting Tuesday in Brussels are threatening deep sanctions against Russia over the Malaysia Airlines crash. But some nations might hesitate because of their economic ties to Russia.

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Rubio: U.S. Cannot Admit All Children Seeking Asylum

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tells NPR the nation can't "absorb" all migrants fleeing violence and must secure its own border first. He dismissed potential 2016 rival Hillary Clinton as old news.

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Before Snowden: The Whistleblowers Who Tried To Lift The Veil

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

Unless you have documents, nobody listens. It's a bitter lesson learned by former NSA officials who tried to work within the system to expose what they considered unconstitutional programs.

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Ebola Is A Deadly Virus — But Doctors Say It Can Be Beaten

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

There is no cure for Ebola. But doctors are able to treat the virus successfully, raising hope that the outbreak that began in West Africa in March will eventually be brought under control.

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Teens Say Looks Can Be Liberating Despite Fashion Police

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:44

An NPR poll finds that stressed-out American adults commonly feel that their appearance contributes to their anxiety. But how do teens experience stress over their appearance?

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North Korea Is Not Pleased: Dance Video Features Kim Jong Un

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 17:04

Citing a threat to the leader's dignity, North Korea reportedly asks China to block a video that inserts Kim Jong Un's image into bizarre situations, all set to a bouncy dance track.

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Net Neutrality, Shall I Compare Thee To A Highway? A Showerhead?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 14:31

Net neutrality can be an issue that's difficult to understand and difficult to explain, so the metaphor that's used to describe it is kind of important. See what neutrality is being compared to.

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Sandwich Monday: The Menage A Trois

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 14:01

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try the Menage A Trois sandwich from Ike's Place in San Francisco. It features chicken with three sauces and three cheeses.

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Hospital Settles Lawsuit By Thousands Of Women Over Exam Photos

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 13:51

The Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Health System will pay $190 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that includes more than 7,000 women.

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Breaking down the fees and taxes in a plane ticket

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 13:29

The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the fees it assesses travelers to $5.60 per leg of your flight.

What's that mean? If a layover is more than four hours, then the TSA considers that to be two trips and assesses the fee again.  So, that could mean about $22 extra on your layover flight. That made us wonder what are we paying for air travel these days.... besides the actual airfare, that is.

Let’s say you’ve got a $500 round trip ticket from New York City to Los Angeles with a long layover in each direction, here's what you'll be paying.

(Numbers courtesy of Airlines for America.)

Fare: $500

TSA 9/11 Fee: $5.6 per segment x 4 = $22.40 

Federal Aviation Excise Tax: 7.5% = $37.50

Flight Segment Tax: $4 per segment x 4 = $16.00

Airport passenger facilty charge: $4.50 per segment x 4 = $18.00

Effective Tax Rate: 18%.  This can vary depending on how many layovers and how expensive your fare is.  If this example fare were for a direct flight, for example, it would be taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent. 

Flying international? International flights have a whole additional set of fees depending on the country and the airport, and these fees can range into the hundreds of dollars. 

And let us not forget the fees for some kind of basic rudimentary comfort, says airline analyst Robert Mann, Jr:

Want to pick your own seat? $0 to $25

What about a seat with legroom? $25 up to hundreds of dollars

Check a bag? $0 to $80

Oh, you want to carry on that bag? $0 to $100

Hungry?  How does $5 for a snack and $15 for a sandwich sound?

The TSA has said historically, it spends significantly more money on aviation safety than it receives from airlines or passengers.  However, the revenues raised from government fees and excise taxes do not directly go to their supposed purpose, says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchDog.com.

“A lot of the money actually ends up in the general fund to reduce the deficit and never sees its way as was intended to improve air travel.”

Breaking down the fees and taxes in a plane ticket

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 13:29

The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the fees it assesses travelers to $5.60 per leg of your flight.

What's that mean? If a layover is more than four hours, then the TSA considers that to be two trips and assesses the fee again.  So, that could mean about $22 extra on your layover flight. That made us wonder what are we paying for air travel these days.... besides the actual airfare, that is.

Let’s say you’ve got a $500 round trip ticket from New York City to Los Angeles with a long layover in each direction, here's what you'll be paying.

(Numbers courtesy of Airlines for America.)

Fare: $500

TSA 9/11 Fee: $5.6 per segment x 4 = $22.40 

Federal Aviation Excise Tax: 7.5% = $37.50

Flight Segment Tax: $4 per segment x 4 = $16.00

Airport passenger facilty charge: $4.50 per segment x 4 = $18.00

Effective Tax Rate: 18%.  This can vary depending on how many layovers and how expensive your fare is.  If this example fare were for a direct flight, for example, it would be taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent. 

Flying international? International flights have a whole additional set of fees depending on the country and the airport, and these fees can range into the hundreds of dollars. 

And let us not forget the fees for some kind of basic rudimentary comfort, says airline analyst Robert Mann, Jr:

Want to pick your own seat? $0 to $25

What about a seat with legroom? $25 up to hundreds of dollars

Check a bag? $0 to $80

Oh, you want to carry on that bag? $0 to $100

Hungry?  How does $5 for a snack and $15 for a sandwich sound?

The TSA has said historically, it spends significantly more money on aviation safety than it receives from airlines or passengers.  However, the revenues raised from government fees and excise taxes do not directly go to their supposed purpose, says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchDog.com.

“A lot of the money actually ends up in the general fund to reduce the deficit and never sees its way as was intended to improve air travel.”

Orange really is the new black (and white)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 13:29

The quarterly earnings report from Netflix came out this afternoon and Netflix did just fine, making just about as much money as everybody expected.

But that's not really the point. The biggest takeaway?

Netflix's comedy-drama series "Orange Is The New Black" was the most watched show on Neflix So many people watched world-wide, the orange jumpsuits in the series have apparently become chic enough to irritate the sheriff in Saginaw County, Michigan.

"You see people wearing all-orange jumpsuits at the mall," he said.

The local sheriff has become so fed up that he's started ordering the old-style black and white striped uniforms for his inmates.

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