National / International News

Scientists, Fishing Fleet Team Up To Save Cod — By Listening

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:36

Atlantic Cod have become scarce along the coast, though catch limits have been reduced by 80 percent. Researchers are now tracking the sound of mating cod, hoping to help fishing boats avoid them.

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Helping global trade's 'losers'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:31

The vote in the House of Representatives last Friday that effectively stalled President Obama’s push for a big Asia-Pacific trade deal has brought attention to a little-known worker assistance program called Trade Adjustment Assistance. That program’s been around since the 1960s to help Americans who lose their jobs because of global trade.  

Under the president’s trade bill, it would have been retooled and extended, but Democrats in the House torpedoed that idea as a way to put the brakes on the larger trade legislation. But far outside the beltway, in the other Washington – Washington state – workers who have benefited from the assistance program say it shouldn’t be allowed to die.

One town that’s felt the brunt of global trade is Aberdeen, Washington.

When you drive into Aberdeen, near the Pacific Coast, you see a welcome sign that says “Come As You Are” – a tribute to Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, who grew up here.

That grunge sound grew out of tough economic times here in the early 1990s, and if you look around Aberdeen today, it seems hard times are still here. There are boarded up storefronts downtown.

Brad Pierog is one of the people who lost his job because of the declining timber industry. On a recent day, he stood out in his yard describing everyone on his block who worked in the mills. Not many do anymore, including him.

On a January day in 2009, he was supposed to work the night shift at the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Aberdeen. In the afternoon, his buddy called and said, “Want to go fishing tomorrow?”

“And I said, `Well, we got to work tomorrow,’ and he says, `Well, no, we don’t. We got some time off,’ ” Pierog recalled. “And I said, `What, are we laid off or what?’ He said, `Nope, they just pulled the plug. The mill’s done.’ ”

He’d spent 25 years working there. His wife worked there. All his friends worked there.

“We weren’t able to compete with subsidized Canadian lumber,” Pierog says.

That’s not the only reason, but the U.S. Department of Labor agreed that imports were a factor. So Pierog and his coworkers qualified for Trade Adjustment Assistance. It was created in 1962 as a way to acknowledge that there are winners and losers when we trade and to help people who wind up on the losing end.

Pierog went to a meeting with union representatives and state officials to find out what kind of help he could get.

“And I said, 'Since I’ve already got an associate’s degree, can I go get a bachelor’s?’ And they said, `It has to be something you can actually get a job in.’ And I said, `Well, I want to get a bachelor’s in computer science.’ ”

Boom. It was like he said the magic words. They got him into a college within three weeks. And now, six years later, he’s a software developer for the state of Washington.

The person who helps make all that happen in Washington state is Bill Messenger of the Washington State Labor Council. Before this, Messenger spent more than 30 years working in a pulp mill himself and had never heard of Trade Adjustment Assistance until he got word his mill was closing down.

Many people haven’t heard of it, but Trade Adjustment Assistance offers benefits to about 100,000 people a year. Once he lost his pulp mill job, Messenger came to work for the state labor council to help workers apply for this program. He’s almost like a bereavement counselor, showing up at factories right after employees find out they’re losing their jobs.

“Up to 800 people, 900 people — all in one facility — looking at you like, 'What now?' ” Messenger says.

Messenger says he’s helped thousands of workers in Washington state get benefits.

Now that program may be in jeopardy. Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents a district north of Seattle, is upset about that.

“As a Democrat, I think I would call on my fellow Democratic colleagues to change their minds,” Larsen says. 

He supports the fast-track trade bill, but he’s concerned the Republicans have the votes to pass it without the worker-retraining legislation.

“That would be more than unfortunate,” Larsen says. “That would be devastating to folks who are thrown out of work.”

Jeffrey Schott, with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., says the program does have critics. Some say companies should provide this assistance — not the government.

“Others feel that the program is justified, but it hasn’t been well constructed, and that the current programs are inefficient,” Schott says.

Schott says in the end, though, it may organized labor — a group that traditionally supports the program — that brings down the president’s trade agenda.

“Big labor unions, for tactical reasons, have basically pulled the rug out from under him,” Schott says.

It’s unclear what’s going to happen next.

What is clear is that if the Trade Adjustment Assistance program doesn’t pass within the trade package, the original program could die. It needs to be reauthorized by the end of September.  

VIDEO: How common are US shark attacks?

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:20
Two teenagers have been badly injured in separate shark attacks at a popular seaside resort in the United States.

Bridging the edtech gap from Oyler School to home

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:12

Ray Nephew’s seventh-grade English class at Oyler School is about as high-tech as it gets. Every student has a laptop to use. On one wall, a device turns his whiteboard into an interactive touch screen. A 32-inch “coffee table” computer sits idle against another wall, covered with a cloth.

“That thing is malfunctioning,” Nephew says.

Nephew explains that it is a great tool — when the computer works. 

"It’s just another way for kids to be engaged," he says.

This is not your typical classroom at Oyler School, a high-poverty school in Cincinnati, Ohio, or in most places. It’s one of six “demonstration classrooms” in the district. Teachers from around the city visit to watch Nephew model the latest teaching techniques and technology.

On this day, students work on their laptops, preparing presentations about a novel they’ve just read. Student Edward Denham, sporting glasses and a mop of wavy brown hair, selects a font to use for his digital slideshow.

“I always choose neon green, because it’s awesome,” he says.

In Ray Nephew’s seventh-grade English class, every student has access to a laptop and other tech devices. (Mary Wiltenburg/Marketplace)
Ed is 12, and he loves computers. But when he goes home at the end of the day, he has to leave the laptop at school. In his small beige house a block from Oyler, Ed has an Xbox game console, but no computer anymore. His mom, Diane Gribbins, had a laptop years ago when she had a job at a bank.

“Like everything else, they wear out or tear up,” she says. “I just don't have the cash to replace something like that when it goes.”

The family of six can’t afford high-speed internet either. Like many kids at Oyler, Ed has a smart phone, but he says the connection is slow.

“If I had internet at home, the first thing I'm asking my mom for is a laptop,” he says. “You can use a laptop for so many things that I can't do on my phone.”

Like watch videos on YouTube, he says, and play better games.

“A lot of research and things you could be looking up for school, too,” his mom interjects. “You could do that.”

Oh yeah, school work. It’s not exactly easy to write a paper on a smart phone. Games aren’t just play for Edward, though. He wants to be a game designer.

There’s a name for Ed’s situation, says Jim Steyer, CEO of the advocacy group Common Sense Media. He calls it “the homework gap.” As schools bring high-speed internet and the latest devices into the classroom, he says nearly one-third of families still lack broadband access at home.

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“We see this situation in low-income schools across the country, where kids do not have access to the internet at home and literally can’t do homework assignments that their technology-enabled classrooms would require,” Steyer says.

Oyler is working to close that gap. The school has teamed up with a local telecom company to bring several free WiFi hotspots to the neighborhood. None of them reaches Ed’s house yet. Even kids who now have access don’t always have the right device, Nephew says.

“It's forced us to do more in class than we really want to eventually have to do,” he says. “We try to move towards that flipped classroom model, where the students can do a lot of the work outside of class via Blackboard or their Google account, but if you don't have a device at home, and all you have is a smart phone, it is more difficult.”

Technology has flipped the classroom in another way. Nephew is 52, and before this year had never even had a computer in his classroom.

“My 15-year-old daughter would make fun of me that I couldn't send a text message or know how to work the new TV remote,” he says.

Nephew often asks his students for help, and that’s been empowering for kids like Ed. At a recent tech fair, he and his classmates got to dress up in professional clothes and school the teachers on using their computers.

“It felt like they were actually learning something about it, and I was actually teaching them about it,” Ed says. “I was being helpful to them.”

Nephew still has plenty to teach Ed and his fellow digital natives. In his high-tech classroom, Nephew discovered a far more basic gap. Before the book they just finished reading, he says, most of his seventh graders had never read a novel.  

N.Y. Prison Break Update: Search Is Costing $1 Million A Day

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:04

A district attorney says the two inmates may have used power tools left behind by maintenance contractors at the Clinton Correctional Facility.

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Have stars lost touch with reality?

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:03
Are today’s trouble-seekers any worse than the wayward stars of yesteryear? Or are we just closer to them than ever before?

Why Target is selling its pharmacies to CVS

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 13:00

First it bailed on Canada. Then it shed its furniture business. Now Target’s dumping its unprofitable pharmacies and clinics, selling them to CVS Health Corp. for $1.9 billion.

The deal will put the CVS brand on Target’s roughly 1,700 pharmacies and 80 clinics.

“Only about 5 to 7 percent of Target's customers actually utilize the pharmacy business, and so Target was basically operating that business near break-even,” says Ken Perkins, an analyst with Morningstar.

The problem may have been a brand disconnect.

“A lot of consumers are reluctant to use a pharmacy at a mass merchant," says Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, a pharmaceutical management consultancy. "They don't think of the place where they get their DVDs, their TVs and their bed sheets as the place where they can also get their prescriptions.” 

But Fein expects that will change with pharmacy industry giant CVS taking over Target’s pharmacies and clinics. Fein says CVS will connect Target customers to more generic drugs and a program for managing prescriptions, and give them access to high-priced specialty drugs, like one for treating Hepatitis C.

“CVS is the largest dispenser of these specialty drugs and has a number of programs and services that Target just can't offer,” he says. “Target just doesn't have the scale and capabilities to play in this new world.”

Fein says if customers can get those drugs and services at a CVS within Target, they might stick around and stock up on other stuff.

China helps 'Jurassic World' devour the box office

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:58

"Jurassic World" roared to an international box office record this weekend — $524.1 million — propelled by a $100 million-plus opening in China.

"I think it's not such a surprise," says Aynne Kokas, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and a scholar at Baker Institute China Studies Program at Rice University.

Kokas expects China will keep box office records for American films. 

"At some point soon we’ll see the Chinese market becoming larger than the U.S. in every successive month," she says. By some estimates, the Chinese box office will overtake the U.S. box office by the end of the decade.

There’s a huge expansion in the number of theaters in China, Kokas says. There are a growing number of 3-D screens and digital screens. And there are more theaters in second- and third-tier markets in the country.

There's also a wealthier Chinese population that likes going to the movies.

"It’s the sort of thing that Hollywood studios salivate about," says Michael Curtin, a professor of film and media studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

But Hollywood saliva alone does not land a movie on Chinese screens. The Chinese government allows only 34 movies a year to be imported.

And how exactly a film gets on that list is a little murky, Curtain says. "I don’t think anyone in Hollywood can really tell you.  It has to do with relationships, it has to do with the nature of the film."

Curtain says these days studios work with Chinese censors in the earliest phases of planning a movie to try to get it on the list.

Hollywood is also working on co-productions with Chinese studios, which aren't subject to the quota. 

And, more broadly, everyone in the industry is thinking about the global audience.

Janet Yang,  a film producer and head of Janet Yang Productions, helped negotiate the distribution of U.S. films into China in the 1980s. She says in the past, studios tried to appeal to an international audience in a pretty rudimentary way: "Let's put in a Chinese character or two in a primarily Western production, or conversely, let's put a Western character or two into a Chinese production," she says.

Yang says that's changing. Now it’s about finding truly organic, international stories and bringing writers, directors, crew and actors together — from the West and China.

Welcome to the party, Jeb

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:58

Jeb Bush made it official today: he wants to be president.

There's a big rally down in Miami — campaign posters, the whole smash. 

Also, as it turns out, a little digital fun.

The New York Times' Jeremy Bowers noticed on now-candidate Bush's website that the JavaScript of the announcement includes a synopsis of the movie "Die Hard."

Seems like an odd thing to include in the JS of your presidential announcement page.

— Jeremy Bowers (@jeremybowers) June 15, 2015

Yeah, that "Die Hard."


No idea.

AIG bailout trial: a partial moral victory

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:55

The former chief of American International Group Inc. has been handed a victory of sorts.

In a class action lawsuit, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg argued that when the government bailed out insurance giant AIG in 2008 during the financial crisis, the terms of that $85 billion loan were unfair to shareholders. A federal judge in New York agreed Monday, finding that those terms were “unduly harsh” when compared to its treatment of other institutions.

However, while Greenberg may been vindicated by this decision, it was only a partial win, says Ernie Patrikis, a partner at White & Case who previously worked at both AIG and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

"A Pyrrhic victory is, you win the battle but you still lose the war,” he says. “Here, he won the battle of 'was it an unconstitutional taking?' but he lost the battle of 'does he get damages?' "

Greenberg had been seeking up to $40 billion in compensation, but the judge wrote in his decision that without the government’s intervention, AIG would have filed for bankruptcy and therefore didn’t award any damages, even as he agreed the government overstepped when it took 80 percent of AIG’s equity in exchange for the loan.

“Remember [the government was] making an $85 billion loan, an extraordinary loan to one financial institution that had seemingly been run in reckless fashion,” says John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. “They were buying a pig and a poke. They didn’t know just the full major liabilities they were going to encounter when they took over the company. They wanted complete control.”

The big question, in light of this decision, is what this means for how the next financial crisis is handled, if there is one. Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virgina, says the government could likely still make emergency loans, just not take equity, as it did with AIG.  

“It may be if this stands that Congress would have to revisit the authority of the federal government and try to expand it so that it does have the flexibility to move in financial crises,” he says.

But first, Tobias says this decision will almost certainly be appealed.

VIDEO: Matt Dillon on Rohingya refugees

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:52
Actor Matt Dillon and Refugees International president Michel Gabaudan discuss the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis

Zimbabwe To Street Vendors: Pack Up, Clean Up, Ship Out!

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:28

The government says thousands of vendors must pack up their wares, move off the streets and pay rent to sell from designated zones. The vendors say: How will we be able to earn a living?

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VIDEO: CCTV captures medieval bridge smash

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:12
The moment a tractor crashed into an ancient bridge in Bidford-on-Avon has been captured on CCTV footage.

Round-Up: A Few More Worthwhile Thoughts On Rachel Dolezal

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:09

On misogynoir, "lying about a lie," and what constitutes black identity in America.

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Jeb Bush Makes It Official: He's Running

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:07

The former Florida governor becomes the 11th major Republican candidate for the party's presidential nomination.

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The Pope's thoughts on climate change are leaked

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:06

Setting aside for the moment the issue of who inside the Vatican might leak a papal encyclical, it does appear that that's what has happened. The Italian magazine 'L'Espresso' leaked a draft of the document today... 192 pages about climate change and its effects on the poor. In the document, Pope Francis calls for “urgent action” against climate change and endorses biofuels. The official release date is Thursday, and Vatican authorities are saying the official text is still under embargo.

Scott Tong explains the effects of this leak. 

Supreme Court Denies N.C. Appeal On State's Ultrasound Abortion Law

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-15 12:02

The controversial 2011 law was previously struck down on the grounds that it reflected ideological, rather than medical, priorities.

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California Chrome major Ascot doubt

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 11:58
A foot abscess means star American horse California Chrome is "highly likely" to miss Royal Ascot.

VIDEO: Rotherham victim 'felt abandoned'

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 11:53
One of the victims of child sex abuse in Rotherham has spoken for the first time about how she was abandoned by the authorities.

Raonic fightback sees off GB's Ward

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-15 11:38
Milos Raonic recovers from a set down to beat Britain's James Ward in round one of the Aegon Championships.