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Jul 19, 2018 BY Sara Kiley Watson

Who Knew The World Bank And The U.N. Are Emoji Lovers?

Leif Parsons for NPR
Leif Parsons for NPR

Did you notice the emoji explosion on social media this week?

Tuesday was World Emoji Day, and a lot of brands and celebrities weighed in. Dolly Parton shared this emoji-inspired tweet using the butterfly and music notes emoji. Ellen DeGeneres shared a recipe for a pride heart emoji-shaped cookie. And Apple released a preview of 70 new offerings — including a peacock.

But there was a serious side as well. Groups that tackle global issues, from health to poverty, joined in. Yes, the U.N. and the World Bank used emojis to talk about their concerns.

Is that a little ... silly? Or just a different way to send out their message?

An emoji can be "a fun and playful" way to address global issues and transcend language barriers, explains Hope Randall, a communications officer at Defeat DD, an initiative to raise awareness about diarrheal disease in low-income countries. The group often uses the "poo" emoji in its social media.

In 2017, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation lobbied for a mosquito emoji to raise awareness about malaria. (The foundation is a funder of NPR and this blog.) The skeeter was turned into an emoji in February.

Another group, Plan International, is pushing for a menstruation emoji (in the shape of a blood drop) to help break taboos around periods.

For this year's #WorldEmojiDay, groups in the global development sector stuck them in quiz questions, created rebuses and shaped them into words (see the World Food Programme's offering below). Here's a sampling.

UNICEF looked for emoji that resemble faces from its archival photos.

Amnesty ran a name-that-tune contest. Check the tweet replies for hints.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Steven Findlay

Can A Community Hospital Stick To Its Mission When It Goes For-Profit?

Proponents of hospital mergers say the change can help struggling nonprofit hospitals "thrive," with an infusion of cash to invest in updated technology and top clinical staff. But research shows the price of care, especially for low-income patients, usually rises when a hospital joins a for-profit corporation.
Proponents of hospital mergers say the change can help struggling nonprofit hospitals "thrive," with an infusion of cash to invest in updated technology and top clinical staff. But research shows the price of care, especially for low-income patients, usually rises when a hospital joins a for-profit corporation.

Mission Health, the largest hospital system in western North Carolina, provided $100 million in free charity care last year. This year, it has partnered with 17 civic organizations to deliver care for substance abuse by people who are low-income.

Based in bucolic Asheville, the six-hospital system also screens residents for food insecurity; provides free dental care to children in rural areas via the "ToothBus" mobile clinic; helps the homeless find permanent housing and encourages its 12,000 employees to volunteer at schools, churches and nonprofit groups.

Asheville residents say the hospital is an essential resource.

"Mission Health helped saved my life," says Susan ReMine, a 68-year-old Asheville resident for 30 years who now lives in nearby Fletcher, N.C. She was in Mission Health's main hospital in Asheville for three weeks last fall with kidney failure. And, from 2006 to 2008, a Mission Health-supported program called Project Access provided ReMine with free care after she lost her job because of illness.

After 130 years as a nonprofit with deep roots in the community, Mission Health announced in March that it was seeking to be bought by HCA Healthcare, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain. HCA owns 178 hospitals in 20 states and the United Kingdom.

The pending sale reflects a controversial national trend in the U.S. as hospitals consolidate at an accelerating pace and the cost of health care continues to rise.

"We understand the business reasons [for the deal], but our overwhelming concern is the price of health care," says Ron Freeman, chief financial officer at Ingles Markets, a supermarket chain headquartered in Asheville with 200 stores in six states.

"Will HCA after a few years start to press the hospital to make more profit by raising prices? We don't know," Freeman says.

And the local newspaper, the Citizen Times, editorialized in March: "How does it help to join a corporation where nearly $3 billion that could have gone to health care instead was recorded as profit? ... We would feel better were Western North Carolina's leading health-care provider to remain master of its own fate."

Across the U.S., the acquisition of nonprofit hospitals by corporations is raising concern among some advocates for patients and communities.

"The main motivation of for-profit companies is to grow so they can cut costs, get paid more and maximize profits," says Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of the Catalyst for Payment Reform, an employer-led health care think tank and advocacy group. "They are not as focused on improving access to care or the community's overall health."

Merger mania across the U.S.

From 2013 to 2017, nearly 1 in 5 of the nation's 5,500-plus hospitals were acquired or merged with another hospital, according to Irving Levin Associates, a health care analytics firm in Norwalk, Conn. Industry analysts say for-profit hospital companies are poised to grow more rapidly as they buy up both for-profits and nonprofits — potentially altering the character and role of public health-oriented nonprofits.

Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from state and local taxes. In return, they must provide community services and care to poor and uninsured patients — a commitment that is honored to varying degrees nationwide.

Of the nation's 4,840 general hospitals that aren't run by the federal government, 2,849 are nonprofit, 1,035 are for-profit and 956 are owned by state or local governments, according to the American Hospital Association.

In 2017, 29 for-profit companies bought 18 for-profit hospitals and 11 not-for-profits, according to an analysis for Kaiser Health News by Irving Levin Associates.

Sales can go the other way, too: 53 nonprofit hospital companies bought 18 for-profits as well as 35 nonprofits in 2017.

A recent report by Moody's Investors Service predicted stable growth for for-profit hospital companies, saying they are well-positioned to demand higher rates from insurers and have less exposure to the lower rates paid by government insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. In contrast, a second Moody's report downgraded — from stable to negative — its 2018 forecast for the not-for-profit hospital sector.

'We wanted to thrive, and not just survive'

Ron Paulus, Mission Health's president and CEO, says he and the hospital's 19-member board concluded last year that the future of Mission Health was iffy at best without a merger.

HCA declined to make anyone available for an interview but provided this written statement: "We are excited about the prospect of a transaction that would allow us to support the caliber of care they [Mission Health hospitals] have been providing."

Driving Mission Health's decision, Paulus says, were strained finances and the board's strong feeling that the hospital needed to invest in new technology, modern data management tools and top clinical talent.

"We wanted to thrive and not just survive," he says. "I had a healthy dose of skepticism about HCA at first. But I think we made the right decision."

During the past four years, Paulus says, the company has had to cut costs — from between $50 million and $80 million a year — to preserve an "acceptable operating margin." The forecast for 2019 and 2020, he says, saw the gap between revenue and expenses rising to $150 million a year.

Miriam Schwarz, executive director of the Western Carolina Medical Society, says many physicians in the area were surprised by the move and "are trying to grapple with the shift."

"There's concern about the community benefits, but also job loss," Schwarz says. Still, she adds, the doctors in her region "do recognize that the hospital must become more financially secure."

Weighed against community concerns is the prospect of a large nonprofit foundation created by the deal. Depending on the final price, the foundation could have close to $2 billion in assets.

Creation of such foundations is common when for-profit companies buy nonprofit hospitals or insurance companies. Paulus says the foundation created from Mission Health could generate $50 million or more a year to — among other initiatives — "test new care models such as home-based care ... and address the causes of poor health in the community in the first place."

In addition, HCA will have to pay upward of $10 million in state and local taxes.

Mixed results

Industry analysts say the hospital merger and consolidation trend nationwide is inevitable given the powerful forces afoot in health care.

That includes pressure to lower prices and costs and improve quality, safety and efficiency; to modernize information technology systems and equipment; and to do more to improve overall health.

But academics and consumer advocates say hospital consolidation yields mixed results. While mergers — especially purchases by for-profit companies — provide much-needed capital and financial stability, competition is stifled, and that's often led to higher prices.

Martin Gaynor, a professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and colleagues examined 366 hospital mergers from 2007 to 2011 and found that prices were, on average, 12 percent higher in areas where one hospital dominated the market versus areas with at least four rivals. Another recent study found that 90 percent of U.S. cities today have a "highly concentrated" hospital market. Asheville is one, and Mission Health is dominant there.

"The evidence is overwhelming at this point," Gaynor says. "Mergers solve some problems for hospitals, but they don't make health care less expensive or better. In fact, prices usually go up."

Mission Health CEO Paulus says he believes HCA is committed to restraining price increases and the growth in costs.

If no obstacles arise, Paulus says, HCA's purchase of Mission Health would be formalized in August and finalized in November or December, pending state regulatory approval.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service, is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, and not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Copyright 2018 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit Kaiser Health News.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Maureen Pao

Photographer Captures The Contradictions Of Otherworldly Antarctica

The texture and shapes of icebergs are caused by many different forces, such as the movement of water and air around and through the ice.
The texture and shapes of icebergs are caused by many different forces, such as the movement of water and air around and through the ice.

When WAMU photographer Tyrone Turner got the opportunity to travel to Antarctica, he thought he would be fascinated with the continent's wildlife.

But instead, it was the ice — in its myriad shapes and textures, "bathed in polar light that morphed from powerfully sharp and blue, to gentle and pink" — that Turner says mesmerized him.

"Antarctica just seemed to me absolutely 'the other world,'" Turner says. "There is no other landscape like it."

Turner's trip to Antarctica last November began in the Falkland Islands, where he boarded the National Geographic Explorer for a three-week journey.

In the interview below, he shares more observations about the trip with NPR and how Antarctica defied his expectations.

Was there a moment when you knew Antarctica was going to be unlike any other place you'd been before?

We're photographing as the light goes down. The light went down at 10:15 a.m. It doesn't get completely dark at this point, and the sunrise is at 3:15 a.m., so I'm out on the deck until about 11 p.m. And I go back, get a couple hours of sleep, and I'm back on the deck at 2 a.m. Because as that light's starting to come up crystal clear, you have the pinks and the oranges and the blues of the predawn light with these icebergs that we're passing, and I fell in love.

I was totally captivated by that light and by these massive structures. I stopped sleeping at that point, because I just wanted to see that light every time.

What defied your expectations?

There is a power in the form and the massiveness of the ice. There's just a power in being near it. It really surprised me how I felt in the presence of these icebergs and the ice down there. You just really were at once excited and a little afraid.

The textures and the forms it comes in, was really unexpected. And I did not expect to be as affected as I was by being in Antarctica. I actually thought I would be really into the wildlife — and I was, I really loved that — but I think the ice moved me more.

But you did photograph wildlife, such as gentoo and king penguins. What was it like?

Penguins don't have very good eyesight, and they're very curious. So, if you just sit down, or lay down, they will come over and investigate. And in one picture, I was lying down — my camera gear's right here — here's this lichen-type covering — you're laying in feathers and penguin poop and stuff like that — and you just lay down and they come over to you. These penguins were really close to me and in fact were pecking at my camera bag.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Bill Chappell

Whale Of A Plane: Airbus BelugaXL Makes Maiden Flight

The Airbus BelugaXL, built to transport large aircraft pieces, took off on its maiden flight Thursday from France's Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
The Airbus BelugaXL, built to transport large aircraft pieces, took off on its maiden flight Thursday from France's Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.

It's built for oversize cargo — but it also sports a smile: The Airbus BelugaXL took off on its maiden flight on Thursday, creating a unique sight as the jet with the bulbous upper half rolled down the runway.

The BelugaXL's paint job "features beluga whale-inspired eyes and an enthusiastic grin," the aircraft company says. That whale flew over southern France, soaring over the coast and mountainside.

The jet is the first of a handful that Airbus will use to shuttle large aircraft components between its manufacturing facilities in Europe. Crucially, its expansive cargo area — the fuselage is nearly 30 feet in diameter — can carry two wings for the Airbus A350 jetliner.

Based on an A330 cargo plane, the BelugaXL features an oversized tail section, with a large horizontal stabilizer and fins.

To accept cargo, the plane's "forehead" (in keeping with the whale metaphor) hinges open, revealing a cavernous opening above the cockpit — which sits below the cargo floor.

The jet is capable of taking off with a total weight of 227 tons. Carrying a full load of more than 50 tons, the lumbering plane's maximum range is 4,000 kilometers (about 2,485 miles).

On its maiden flight of some four hours, the plane took off from France's Toulouse-Blagnac Airport and returned to the same spot, performing a low pass and tilting its wings "hello" on its way back to the runway.

The BelugaXL is slated to enter regular service in 2019.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Alexis Arnold

iTeach: A Guide To The Most Useful Apps For The Classroom

Teacher apps
Teacher apps

Smartphones and tablets have quickly become a permanent part of students' daily lives. Kids up to 8 years old spent almost an hour a day on mobile devices, Common Sense Media reported last year.

And the amount of time kids spend with screens only increases as they get older. On average, 13- to 18-year-olds spend about nine hours a day on entertainment media, much of which is on tablets and smart phones.

But mobile devices don't have to be a distraction. When they are used for project-based learning, research has shown they can improve classroom engagement and student learning across grade levels.

"What you have is an increasing number of schools that are requiring their teachers to receive professional development in technology integration," says Dee Lanier, a program coordinator for EdTechTeam, an international company that trains educators on how to use technology in the classroom.

When teachers ask Lanier what they should look for in an app, he tells them to keep four values in mind: cost-effective, cross-platform, cloud-based and collaborative. Much like the "four C's of credit," he writes, there are "four C's of app selection."

Cost-effective means an app should be affordable for students and their families, Lanier says. He encourages teachers and schools to choose free apps that are accessible to everyone.

Even in schools where every student is given a device or can bring their own, not every student has the same access to apps and programs. Because of that, an app should also be "cloud-based" or "cross-platform." Both phrases mean that an app works on a variety of devices. Cloud-based, or web-based, programs work on desktops and laptops, while cross-platform apps function on mobile devices.

Finally, he says, collaborative apps allow more than one person to interact with an application at the same time. Collaborative apps let students to work together and respond to one another.

Educators use mobile apps for everything from grading homework to communicating with parents. Here are five that our readers say they love.

Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a quiz game app. It's like a customized round of Jeopardy that the whole class can play. Teachers and students make quizzes (called kahoots) which can be used to review material or assigned as homework, but the game is best when played together.

Questions are displayed on a shared screen, like a smart board, so everyone can join in. Each student can answer questions from their own device and they each earn points based on who answers the fastest and most correctly. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

"The students like it because it is interactive, fun, fast-paced, and a bit competitive," says Alyson Solomon, a high school biology teacher in Pennsylvania.

There are other popular quiz apps, such as Quizizz or Quizlet, but with over 70 million users, Kahoot! is one of the most popular. It hits all four C's and "is great from a review standpoint," Lanier says.

Remind

Another popular app is Remind, a program specifically for school communication. With it, teachers can send messages to an entire class and their parents without exchanging personal information. Users can also send documents and photos, set automatic reminders and create groups.

Remind has been a staple in many classrooms since it came out in 2011, and can now to communicate within an entire school or district.

Liz White, a library media specialist in Tennessee says most of the teachers and staff at her high school use Remind — to talk to each other and to talk to students. The principal uses it as a substitute for intercom announcements, teachers, like White, use it to answer students' questions, and the college advisers use it to send reminders about FAFSA and college applications.

"Not everyone checks their email on a regular basis but most teachers have their phones nearby and can reply instantly," she explains. Plus, she says, teachers can talk with parents and students without giving out their personal phone numbers.

G Suite Apps

Formerly known as Google Apps for Education, the G Suite apps are a service many people know well: Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. — all of the programs that make up your Google Drive account.

G Suite for Education comes with the addition of Google Classroom. It allows teachers to distribute, collect and grade assignments online.

Mike Pauldine, a seventh grade math teacher in upstate New York, likes using Google Classroom because it is flexible and accessible, making it easy to integrate technology into his lessons.

He uses it to create quizzes, give feedback, and collaborate with other teachers. Other programs require his students to remember a different password for each class, but Google Classroom creates a central place for their work that can be accessed anywhere, Pauldine says.

Lanier at EdTechTeam is a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator — so he's well-versed in the G Suite applications. He recommends using Google Slides instead of Google Drawings for accessibility reasons. They have very similar functions, he says, but Slides has a mobile app while Drawings does not.

Padlet

Think of Padlet as a collaborative, virtual bulletin board. With it, teachers can make a "wall" where students post their responses to a question or assignment. The responses can be text, a drawing, or a video. "That's why Padlet is beautiful," Lanier says. "It gives students agency in how they do their work."

The background, layout and privacy of the board can all be set by the person who creates it. Students can work with people in the same class or from across the world.

Padlet fit all four of Lanier's criteria for app selection until a paid version was released in April.

Now, Padlet users can have only three free "walls" — if they want any more, they have to pay for them. This can be problematic for middle and high school teachers who teach more than three classes.

Despite hearing mixed reviews from colleagues, Lanier still likes the app.

For teachers looking for an unlimited option without a subscription fee, he recommends Flipgrid. "It's 100 percent free and you have unlimited grids that you can use, but it's going to be limited to video responses," he says.

Seesaw

Seesaw creates a digital journal for every student. They can add pictures, text or video to their profiles. Parents are notified every time a teacher approves a child's post, and they can see a personalized record of all of their child's work.

"Seesaw was really early at giving students the ability to give direct responses to assignments," Lanier says.

While Seesaw is similar to Padlet because it allows for a variety of responses, it doesn't have the same open collaboration that learners at higher levels need. But Lanier says the app comes highly recommended for younger learners.

Madeline Mendon, a second grade teacher in Oregon, says her class uses Seesaw to make learning more visual. For example, her students record their own math tutorials to show understanding of a skill they learned. Students can see each other's creations and choose which are posted to their class blog.

What's the next big thing going to be in this age of rapidly changing technology? Lanier suggests educators keep their eyes on Augmented and Virual Reality (AR/VR).

Many of the apps teachers use serve as digital substitutes for things that used to be done by hand, but AR/VR prompts teachers to think about technology in a whole new way, he says. "What kind of experiences will students be able to have that they never could even imagine?"

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Danielle Kurtzleben

Getting To Know The DSA

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018

What Trump Voters Think Of Trump's Russia Comments

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Scott Neuman

British Police Reportedly Identify Russian Suspects In Nerve Agent Attack On Skripals

A police officer at a cordon in Salisbury, England, in March near to where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a bench after they were attacked with a nerve agent.
A police officer at a cordon in Salisbury, England, in March near to where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a bench after they were attacked with a nerve agent.

British police examining CCTV footage have reportedly identified multiple Russian suspects believed to have carried out the March nerve-agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The Skripals were found slumped on a bench at a shopping center in Salisbury, in southern England, on March 4. Subsequent investigation indicated they were poisoned by a nerve agent of the type Novichok, a group of deadly chemicals developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s.

Britain's Press Association, citing a source close to the investigation, reports, "Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time. They (the investigators) are sure they (the suspects) are Russian."

Sergei Skripal was a double agent during the 1990s and early 2000s but was arrested in Russia in 2006. He reportedly passed secrets to British intelligence even as he worked for the GRU, Russia's military intelligence branch. Following a high-profile prisoner swap with Russia, Skripal came to the U.K.

Yulia was released from a Salisbury hospital in April, followed by her father about a month later.

The U.K. has blamed Russia for the attack, a charge that the Kremlin has strongly denied. Instead, Moscow has suggested that the poisonings are a British-led attempt to discredit Russia.

Meanwhile, an inquest begins Thursday into the death of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess, who was also poisoned with Novichok last month, along with her partner Charlie Crowley, not far from where the Skripals were found. Sturgess died earlier this month and Crowley reportedly remains in critical condition.

The PA reports that investigators believe Sturgess was exposed to 10 times the amount of Novichok as the Skripals.

According to The Guardian newspaper:

"Investigators are working on the theory that the substance was in a discarded perfume bottle found by the couple in a park or elsewhere in Salisbury city centre and Sturgess sprayed novichok straight on to her skin, the [PA] source said.

Police found the bottle at Rowley's home in Amesbury. It is not known if it is the poisoning of Rowley and Sturgess and the discovery of the bottle that has provided the vital breakthrough."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Anya Kamenetz

Behind The Campaign To Get Teachers To Leave Their Unions

A teacher weighs the cost of staying in a union.
A teacher weighs the cost of staying in a union.

Rachael McRae, a fifth-grade teacher in central Illinois, was sitting on the couch the other day with her four-month-old when she saw the email.

"He was having a fussy day," she says, "so I was bouncing him in one arm, and started going through my emails on my phone, just to feel like I was getting something done." In her spam folder, she found an email from an organization called My Pay, My Say, urging her to drop her union membership.

Last month, the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFCSME dealt a major blow to public sector unions. The court ruled that these unions cannot collect money, known as agency fees, from nonmembers who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Organizations on both sides across the country sprung into action.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, based in Michigan, is running My Pay, My Say as a national campaign. The Freedom Foundation, headquartered in Washington state, is targeting teachers in Oregon, Washington and California with the slogan, Opt Out Today.

Other groups targeting teachers and public employees in specific states include: the Commonwealth Foundation, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, the Center of the American Experiment, the Center for Union Facts and Americans for Prosperity.

The outreach tactics include paper mail, phone calls, emails, hotlines, Facebook ads, billboards, TV advertising and even door-to-door canvassing. Organizations are using publicly available email addresses to reach their targets, as well as purchasing mailing lists.

"The day after the decision was out," says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, groups were already "spamming our members and trying to get them to opt out."

Her union just wrapped up its national convention, vowing to redouble its commitment to organizing and member outreach, with a pledge to "celebrate the activism and be somber about the challenges ahead." For the unions, the stakes are clear: Experts told NPR the decision could lead to a huge drop in membership and revenue in the 22 states where these fees had been allowed.

The groups behind the opt-out campaign, which describe themselves as conservative, libertarian or free-market, share many donors in common, such as the State Policy Network, the Donors' Fund and DonorsTrust. Many of these groups have long opposed not only agency fees, but teachers' unions in general, on the grounds that they inhibit education reforms such as vouchers and charter schools.

According to an analysis of tax filings by the web site Conservative Transparency, the top contributors to the Mackinac Center specifically include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, and the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (formerly the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation). These are the family foundations of the U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and her husband's parents.

DeVos reported resigning her position on the board of directors of her family foundation as of December 2016, before her confirmation as education secretary.

Greg McNeilly, a spokesman for DeVos in her non-governmental capacity, says the DeVos family supports the Mackinac Center and similar organizations "because of their mainstream common commitment to freedom, the most universal civil liberty." The Mackinac Center did not return calls and emails requesting comment.

In a series of Supreme Court cases, ending with Janus, litigants backed by conservative groups argued that their First Amendment rights were infringed by unions' political activities.

"We know there are tens of thousands of educators who chafe under the left-leaning leadership of these unions," says Jami Lund, a senior policy analyst for the Freedom Foundation. "Making sure they know they now have an option will certainly have its effect."

Lund says the pitch to teachers is practical, not political: You can save money, perhaps $1,000 a year. "Our main promotional point is: Opt out today."

Their Opt Out Today website, like My Pay, My Say, includes a sample form that people can fill out to create an opt-out letter to then send directly to their union. The group says it is also deploying 80 door-to-door canvassers.

These groups are casting a wide net, even though a small percentage of people covered by union contracts currently choose to pay agency fees.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association, told NPR these fees were just 3 percent of about a $370 million budget. The NEA is the nation's largest teachers union, with around 3 million members.

Lund says his organization estimates that agency fee payers amount to less than 2,000 teachers in Washington state, out of a workforce of more than 60,000.

It makes sense: Before the Janus decision, teachers and other public employees had the choice of paying perhaps $1,000 in union dues, or $650 in agency fees (the exact amount varies from state to state, but the ratio is similar in most places). So many teachers chose to pay a little more to get the benefits of full union membership.

Now, however, those same people, who may be facing stagnating wages, have the option to pay nothing at all, while still being covered by the union bargaining contract.

Lund and others are betting that they will choose to save that money.

One of the Mackinac Center emails sent to Rachael McRae in Illinois reads, in part: "The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that all government workers – teachers, state workers, local public employees, police, firefighters and more – now have a real choice when it comes to their unions ...

"Whether it's disagreements about politics, concerns about a lack of local representation, problems with union spending, or something else – you now have the right to stop paying for activities you don't support."

NPR Ed put a call out on Twitter, and we heard from McRae as well as teachers in Putnam County, N.Y., and Portland, Ore., who received a similar email and a postcard in the mail. None of the three said that they were dropping their membership.

Lund says a few thousand people filled out the opt-out form on the organization's web site within the first few weeks.

But Weingarten, the head of the 1.7-million-member AFT, says union leaders from New York to Los Angeles are reporting that just a handful of people are actually dropping their membership so far. "What we're seeing is that members are sticking with the union and in fact getting more active and really pissed off," she says.

For her part, McRae thinks of her union as "like health insurance or car insurance ... like an extra safety net."

She says that she can see some people opting out, especially if they disagree with the union on political grounds.

McRae, a mother of three, says she pays union dues of $676 per year. She earns $38,000 as a veteran fifth-grade teacher with 10 years experience. "We don't get paid very much."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018 BY Scott Neuman

Israel Passes Controversial Law Reserving National Self-Determination For Jews

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 15.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 15.

Israel's parliament has passed a controversial bill defining the country as the homeland of the Jews — asserting Jerusalem as the capital, Hebrew as the official language and that the right of national self-determination is "unique to the Jewish people."

The government says the bill only enshrines into law what had long been integral to Israel's existing character, but the country's minority Arabs, which make up about 20 percent of the country's 9 million people, see the change as akin to establishing apartheid.

"This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, addressing the Knesset after the vote.

The measure passed by 62 to 55, with two lawmakers abstaining, according to Haaretz.

Israel's Arab members of parliament, such as Ahmed Tibi, condemned the bill. Tibi told reporters that its passage represents the "death of democracy" in Israel.

According to the Haaretz, "The [nation-state] law also includes clauses stating that a 'united Jerusalem' is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language. Another says that 'the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.'"

The law further rescinds Arabic as an official language, downgrading it to a "special status."

Reuters notes, "Early drafts of the legislation went further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination toward Israel's Arabs, who have long said they are treated as second-class citizens."

The news agency says, "Clauses that were dropped in last-minute political wrangling - and after objections by Israel's president and attorney-general - would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents."

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List, said in a statement quoted by The Associated Press following the vote: "Today, I will have to tell my children, along with all the children of Palestinian Arab towns in the country, that the state has declared that it does not want us here."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018

Vienna's Subway Got Hot, So They Gave Out Deodorant

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jul 19, 2018

Giant Jeff Goldblum Spotted In London

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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