News and features from American Public Media and Public Radio International.

Ways to Connect

On July 26, 2016, a young girl stepped up to the mic at a meeting of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education

“Good evening. My name is Sohaila Gebaly,” she said. “I’m going to 6th grade. I love school and science.” 

Gebaly went on to tell board members that the year before, three boys in school started calling her names. When no one stopped them, they hit her, kicked her and pushed her. 

When Esther Hugenholtz stepped forward to give the final sermon at the B’nai Jacob synagogue in Ottumwa, Iowa, in May, she felt a rush of bittersweet emotions.

“It runs against every fiber of my being to sunset a synagogue,” says Hugenholtz, a 40-year-old rabbi in Iowa City. “I felt incredibly honored as a young rabbi to sit by the bedside of this community and pour my love into them, and bless them with this final blessing.”

Thousands of fans will gather in Otsu, Japan, on Monday to watch a sumo match, part of an annual summer tour. 

Normally, the mayor would give a welcome speech from inside the ring. But that can’t happen in Otsu because its mayor, Naomi Koshi, is a woman and women are forbidden from entering the sumo ring. 

“The Sumo Association is approved by the government, so it should follow the constitution, which says men and women should be treated equally,” said Koshi, who with another female mayor, has launched an effort to change the rules. 

The House version of the proposed federal farm bill would require parents with children over 6 years old to fulfill a 20-hour work or training requirement to receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. That means nationwide 3 million more people would suddenly need job training. The conundrum, said Russell Sykes of the American Public Human Services Association, is that the training needed to get that many people ready for jobs is expensive.

Shannon Starley and her team of case workers at Utah’s Division of Children and Family Services have a tough job. They help decide whether to remove kids from their parents’ custody. The agency investigated 21,093 cases last year. Many involved parents struggling with substance abuse.

“A lot of mental health issues,” Starley added.

She said she has seen parents lose their kids, get them back, then lose them again.

Mr. Conte goes to Washington

Jul 30, 2018

Today President Donald Trump will welcome Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to the White House.

When Conte and Trump met earlier this year at the G7 and NATO summits, they found common ground on Russia and on anti-immigration policy. But they see things differently when it comes to trade and military spending — two issues that are bound to come up in today’s chit-chat.

On trade

Utah tackles child poverty

Jul 30, 2018

(U.S. Edition) With the U.S. Senate planning to look into how platforms like Facebook are used to influence elections, we'll examine a new report from the U.K. that calls for media regulations. Afterwards, we'll discuss where Italy-U.S. relations currently stand ahead of Trump's meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and then we'll look at how Utah is using data to reduce its child poverty rate.

(Global Edition) From the BBC World Service … Less than a week after winning his election campaign — pledging to spend more on health care, education, and social safety – Pakistan’s soon-to-be prime minister may first look to the International Monetary Fund for his country’s biggest-ever bailout. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn decades-old legislation banning sports betting has paved the way for a deal between British betting brands and MGM Resorts. What does this mean for the future of what could become a multibillion-dollar U.S. market?

For many people, especially those under 40, paying a friend, or settling a restaurant bill, or squaring up after happy hour isn't done in cash. It's done by peer to peer app.

You've probably heard of PayPal and Venmo, which PayPal owns. Most Venmo users send their payments along with emojis or wacky descriptions. Now, there's some competition from Zelle, the big banks' answer to Venmo.

For many people, especially those under 40, paying a friend, or settling a restaurant bill, or squaring up after happy hour isn't done in cash. It's done by peer to peer app.  You've probably heard of PayPal and Venmo, which PayPal owns. Now, there's some competition from Zelle, the big banks' answer to Venmo. Rahul Chadha follows peer to peer mobile banking for the research organization eMarketer.  His firm says Zelle will overtake Venmo this year. One thing that helps?  Zelle comes pre-installed in the mobile apps of many big banks.

When author Jean Guerrero was just a child growing up in southern California, her Mexican father introduced her to the power of fantasy.

Their bond began to fray when he started to be overwhelmed by paranoid thoughts and suffered a breakdown. Guerrero, the Fronteras reporter for KPBS in San Diego, tries to untangle what happened to their relationship in "Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir." She spoke about her book with The World’s Marco Werman. 

Tariff exemption granted but confusion continues

Jul 27, 2018

There's a lot of tariff talk swirling around these days, but let's remember what began this trade war: President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Since those tariffs were announced in March, companies have filed more than 28,000 requests for exemptions from the Department of Commerce. As of this week, only 1,000 applications have been granted or denied. Max Daetwyler, a company that makes precision steel blades used in commercial printing, submitted a handful of them and was recently granted some exemptions.

This is why Amazon Web Services is growing so much

Jul 27, 2018

Amazon reported some blockbuster numbers this week, with quarterly profits of $2.5 billion — a nearly 1,200 percent increase over this time last year. When you think of Amazon, you probably think of its giant online store where you buy a year’s worth of paper towels or order groceries delivered to your house. But one of the biggest moneymakers for Amazon has nothing to do with its retail operations. It’s a segment of the business called Amazon Web Services.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. 

... They need some context. Yes, 4.1 percent quarterly GDP growth on an annualized basis is unambiguously good news. But a lot's happened in the economy this quarter that's worth mentioning as we take a wider view on how fast the economy is growing. We'll start today's show by doing the numbers. Then, we'll look at some big numbers, like 1,200 percent profit growth at Amazon. That's a huge leap, and it's especially notable because the company's biggest moneymaker isn't retail. Finally, public housing in NYC needs more than $32 billion in property repairs.

On the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, the American president had some warm words for North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. 

“I want to thank Chairman Kim for keeping his word,” President Donald Trump said Friday, praising Kim for relinquishing the suspected remains of 50 American servicemen. Trump also announced that Vice President Mike Pence would meet families of US soldiers killed in Korea when the remains arrive home

New York City has the largest public housing system in the country. A lot of that housing is decades old and not in good condition, to put it mildly. New York has a vast backlog of repairs it needs to make to its public housing, but the cost to get all its buildings up to snuff is steep — almost $32 billion over the next five years, according to a recent report from the city’s housing authority.

When Ehab al-Hurriaya fled to Lebanon from Syria four years ago, it wasn’t just the fighting he was fleeing, but the fear he would have to join it. He had just turned 18 and would be forced to serve in the Syrian army.

“If I stayed, I needed to go to the military,” Hurriaya says.

Men between 18 and 42 are required to serve in the military, according to Syria’s constitution. They face a difficult decision: They must be conscripted into the army, or leave the country.

Puerto Rico looks to private sector after insolvency

Jul 27, 2018

Puerto Rico is billions of dollars in debt. It declared a form of bankruptcy last year, and its finances are now overseen by a federal control board. And then there was Hurricane Maria last fall. Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover, and it’s looking to private investors for help. 

Why consumers are on a spending spree

Jul 27, 2018

(Markets Edition) Second-quarter GDP numbers are out, revealing that the economy grew 4.1 percent. A major driver of this: increased consumer spending. We'll take a look at some of factors that are fueling this behavior. Afterwards, we'll recap yesterday's testimony from Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative,  in front of Congress about major trade issues, and then we'll discuss how Puerto Rico is looking to private investors to help with its financial struggles.

Herberth Cortez Gaitan waited 16 years for his asylum application to be processed and rejected. It took nine more years for the courts to decide to deport him.

But, as it turned out, four months later, a US federal appeals court found that the government made a mistake.

This post was updated on July 27 at 8:13 a.m. CT.

The U.S. economy surged in the April-June quarter to an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent. That’s the fastest pace since 2014, driven by consumers who began spending their tax cuts and exporters who rushed to get their products delivered ahead of retaliatory tariffs.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the gross domestic product, the country’s total output of goods and services, posted its best showing since a 4.9 percent gain in the third quarter of 2014.

Even CEOs get nervous about their jobs

Jul 27, 2018

(U.S. Edition) It's GDP Day! Get ready, because the Commerce Department is going to tell us how fast the economy grew in the last quarter, and expectations are high. We'll talk about how consumer spending in particular is expected to show significant growth. Afterwards, we'll look at how the U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm and the Dutch-based company NXP have abandoned plans to merge, and then we'll discuss a recent survey that shows many CEOs feel they weren't fully prepared to take on the top job.

Trump has you to thank for those good GDP numbers

Jul 27, 2018

This post was updated on July 27 at 7:54 a.m. CT.

The Commerce Department has released second-quarter gross domestic product numbers this morning, showing that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent — the fastest pace since 2014. That figure was driven by exporters rushing to get products delivered ahead of retaliatory tariffs and an increase in consumer spending.

So why are consumers on such a spending spree these days?

European bourbon drinkers brace for tariff impact

Jul 27, 2018

(Global Edition) From the BBC World Service … Oil giant BP announced today it’s agreed to buy more than $10 billion in U.S. shale assets from British oil miner BHP. We’ll explore the motivation behind the revival of BP’s ambitions in America after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Then, as the tenth-annual BRICS Summit wraps up today, we look at how meaningful the alliance is amid widening economic disparities between its members.  Afterward, while the U.S. and EU agreed this week to negotiate toward ending tariffs, barriers, and subsidies, retaliatory tariffs on U.S.

Is there a right kind of screen time?

Jul 27, 2018

Let's talk about screen time. Every parent is struggling with the question: How much screen time is too much? But the debate is deeper than simple time limits. Is there a right and wrong kind of screen time? Even if we answer that question, there are still the apps designed to grab kids' attention, no matter what. Researchers still don’t know how all of this is affecting our children's brains.

What GDP tells us about the economy

Jul 26, 2018

Economist use Gross Domestic Product to measure how quickly the economy is growing, but it doesn’t tell us everything.

Trump's trade announcements barely ease treacherous path farmers face

Jul 26, 2018

The ice between the United States and the European Union on the trade front may be beginning to thaw. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump publicly announced an agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to work on negotiating away the tariffs he put in place. That came on the heels of Tuesday's announcement that $12 billion in aid would be given to farmers suffering from losses due to tariffs.

The federal government, on the verge of banning some uses of a carcinogenic industrial chemical at the close of the Obama administration, has delayed action under President Donald Trump and kept the chemical on the market.

In Erie, social services are a lifeline

Jul 26, 2018

It’s late morning in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania, and men, women and children are already lined up at the Erie City Mission waiting for lunch service to begin.

Roberta Lubman is a regular here. She receives about $200 a month in government food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. And with that money she buys basics like ramen noodles.

“I make my meals last, I cut them in two,” Lubman said.

(Markets Edition) Following Trump's meeting with the European Union yesterday, we're talking to one Congress member who's been critical of the president's trade policy: Sen. Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania. He joined us to discuss how he felt about their conversation and why he wants Congress to have  more power when it comes to tariffs. Afterwards, we'll speak with Diane Swonk, chief economist at the firm Grant Thornton, about one sector of the economy that's not looking so great: housing. Then, we'll take a look at where NAFTA negotiations currently stand.