ON AIR
00:00:00 | 3:02:50

DONATE!

close

All Things Considered

Jan 23, 2018 BY Richard Gonzales

Senate Confirms Jerome Powell As New Federal Reserve Chair

Jerome Powell, President Trump's pick for chairman of the Federal Reserve, testifying before a Senate committee in November 2017. He was confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday.
Jerome Powell, President Trump's pick for chairman of the Federal Reserve, testifying before a Senate committee in November 2017. He was confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate approved President Trump's nominee, current Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell, as the new head of the nation's central bank on Tuesday.

The confirmation came in a vote of 84-13, an unsurprising action given Powell's support among Republicans and Democrats alike who expect that he will follow the policies of the outgoing Chair Janet Yellen.

Yellen was the first woman to head the Fed. Trump had the option of appointing her to a second term, but instead chose the 64-year-old, Princeton-trained former investment banker who was originally appointed to the Fed board 5 ½ years ago by then-President Barack Obama.

As NPR's John Ydstie reported last November when Trump tapped Powell, it was "the first time in decades that a president hasn't reappointed a chief of the central bank for a second term."

Ydstie added:

"As a Fed governor, Powell has supported the policies of the Yellen Fed, which has only gradually raised official interest rates after leaving them near zero for seven years after the financial crisis.

"'If the economy performs about as expected, I would view it as appropriate to continue to gradually raise rates,' Powell said in a speech before the Economic Club of New York earlier this year. Most analysts expect him to move rates higher at about the same pace as Yellen.

"On the bank regulatory front, Powell has been supportive of the Dodd-Frank reforms, though in recent remarks he has suggested there may be room for some streamlining. 'Powell favors less regulatory burdens on banks' than Yellen, economist Mickey Levy of Berenberg Capital Markets says."

As the Associated Press reports, Powell, a Republican, is viewed in Congress as a centrist. He was a partner at the Washington-based private equity firm The Carlyle Group and he will be the first Fed chair in 40 years without an advanced degree in economics.

Here's how the AP described his confirmation vote:

"The 13 senators who voted against Powell's nomination included four Republicans, eight Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with the Democrats. The vote total was initially announced as 85-12. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, received permission to change her vote to no after the initial count had been announced.

"One of the dissenters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said she was concerned that Powell 'will roll back critical rules that help guard against another financial crisis.'

"But Sen. Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, praised Powell's tenure on the Fed board.

"'His track record over the past six years shows he is a thoughtful policymaker,' Brown said."

Powell was an undersecretary of the Treasury under former President George H.W. Bush.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Matt Sepic

MPR Investigation Finds History Of Behavior By Former Radio Host Garrison Keillor

Minnesota Public Radio released new details on Tuesday about its decision to cut off business ties with former A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. A woman who worked on Keillor's staff told company officials about dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents, including unwanted touching.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Richard Gonzales

Motel 6 Sued For Identifying Latino Guests For Immigration Agents

A Motel 6 motel in SeaTac, Wash. The company faces a new lawsuit accusing it of illegally disclosing the personal information of guests to immigration agents.
A Motel 6 motel in SeaTac, Wash. The company faces a new lawsuit accusing it of illegally disclosing the personal information of guests to immigration agents.

The hospitality chain Motel 6 is facing another lawsuit alleging that it violated the civil rights of Latino immigrants by voluntarily giving guests' personal information to federal immigration authorities.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the guests in federal court in Arizona by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund or MALDEF, says that this past summer Motel 6 employees gave Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents personal information about hotel guests in violation of federal and state laws barring discrimination based on national origin, and protecting against unreasonable searches.

Earlier this month, Washington state officials also sued the company alleging violations of state consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws by employees in six Motel 6 locations. As reported in Two-Way:

"[Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson] told reporters that employees of the national budget chain divulged the names, birthdates, driver's license numbers, license-plate numbers and room numbers of more than 9,000 guests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The agents did not have warrants."

At least six people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally were detained in Washington.

In the Arizona case, the MALDEF suit identifies eight Latino plaintiffs who were detained and one who was deported.

In one case, a mother of four U.S.-citizen children checked into the Motel 6 Black Canyon in late June 2017 in order to escape the Arizona heat at their home. Before dawn, three ICE agents banged on her door identifying themselves as "police." According to the suit, the agents initially threatened to separate her from her children, and then told her to report to an ICE field office within days. The suit says she was later placed in deportation proceedings.

Motel 6 released a statement Tuesday identical to the one it issued in early January:

"In September, Motel 6 issued a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations, making it clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While we cannot comment on specific pending litigation, we take this issue and the privacy of our guests very seriously."

ICE is not named as defendant in the lawsuit.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Petra Mayer

Prolific Science Fiction And Fantasy Author Ursula K. Le Guin Dies At 88

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Kelly McEvers

25 Years After The Tanks, Tear Gas And Flames, 'Waco' Returns To TV

Mount Carmel burns to the ground at the end of a 51 day standoff between David Koresh, the Branch Davidians and the FBI in Waco.
Mount Carmel burns to the ground at the end of a 51 day standoff between David Koresh, the Branch Davidians and the FBI in Waco.

Twenty-five years ago, all eyes were on Waco, Texas — where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was attempting to raid a compound owned by a fringe Christian group called the Branch Davidians, just outside of the city. ATF agents suspected the group was illegally stockpiling weapons.

Four agents and six Branch Davidians died in the initial raid, and for the next 51 days, we watched a siege play out on TV. But eventually, it all ended with tanks, tear gas, and flames.

The story is back on our television screens now, this time as a six-part miniseries called Waco. It's largely based on the accounts of two men who were there: Gary Noesner, a retired FBI chief hostage negotiator, and David Thibodeau, one of the few people who survived the siege.

Branch Davidian leader David Koresh had a surprising sideline as a rock musician, and Thibodeau says that's what drew him into the group.


Interview Highlights

On how Thibodeau got involved with The Branch Davidians

Thibodeau: Over the course of six months, I got to know the guys, you know, we'd jam a little bit and then sometimes they would come over and give studies. They made it very clear that a big part of their music is about scripture. One of the things that impressed me most was one of the first times I had to study with Steve Schneider, he opened the Scripture. He had one of those quarter inch margin bibles, and every single page was color-coded. The notes were just studious, it was like like an intellectual thing more than just proselytizing to someone, and that really interested me. That's kind of — I always listen to the TV preachers on television and you just see right through them. David wasn't that easy to see through.

On negotiating with Koresh during the siege

Noesner: We got 35 people out through the negotiation process, including 21 children. I feel confident that [if] we had done things a bit differently, we could have secured the safe release of a good many more, perhaps everyone.

What I like about this TV series so much is they do look at this very complex incident from two perspectives — from inside looking out [and] outside looking in. We always knew that everyone in there was legitimately enthralled and believed in David Koresh's message, and that's why we're there. And it's also one of the reasons that complicated our resolution efforts because David's religious philosophy was that the end times are coming and the forces of evil will come against us. And in essence, the ATF raid validated that prophecy.

Thibodeau: But even more so than that ... I believe the negotiators were really trying, there's no doubt about that, is the fact that the tactical commanders would come in and override things that the negotiators would say to us. I won't even say promise, but during the course of conversation, certain things would be said and certain alliances or rapport built. And then the commanders would come in and just destroy all that work that they had done, and made us so much more mistrustful and so much more into, "There's no way out of this. The world is fighting against the last message." And it just — it made it so much truer.

On meeting each other for the first time on the set of Waco

Noesner: A bit of a funny story is when we were on set, [had] been there a few days, and we were having lunch, and we ended up being at a table together by ourselves, and David's back was to everyone, so I don't think he saw them, but through my peripheral vision, I'm seeing literally everybody in the crew is transfixed to say, "Are these guys gonna break out in a fist fight or yell at each other?" And we got along fine. There's clearly some areas where we have different perceptions about events.

Thibodeau: This is the kind of dialogue that needs to happen more often with American citizens. Everyone should be talking to each other to find out why they have the views that they do instead of just getting on Facebook and yelling at each other. Nobody really, really talks. They don't listen.

On what they wish people understood about Waco

Thibodeau: I mean, I really just want the people to be humanized in a way. They've honestly just been demonized through the press. There are real children, real mothers, real dynamics going on. It is very complex when there's that many people, and that many people that are focused in the same direction. Honestly it's about them and I want them to be, you know, honored. You know, no matter what you think of David Koresh or the people that died there, they died for what they believed in. And that's more than I can say for a lot of people.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Shankar Vedantam, Jennifer Schmidt, Chris Benderev, Tara Boyle, Maggie Penman

The Power Hour

Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump exemplify our contradictory feelings about the rich and famous. As Hidden Brain explores this week, we idolize the powerful, but also relish their downfall.
Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump exemplify our contradictory feelings about the rich and famous. As Hidden Brain explores this week, we idolize the powerful, but also relish their downfall.

If you've ever visited the palm-lined neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, you've probably noticed that the rich and famous aren't the only ones drawn there.

Stargazers also flock to this exclusive enclave, seeking a chance to peer into — and fantasize about — the lives of movie stars and film directors.

Call it adulation, adoration, idolization: we humans are fascinated by glamour and power.

But this turns out to be only one side of our psychology.

We also feel envious — even resentful of the rich and powerful — and that ambivalence is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history.

This week on Hidden Brain, we're looking at power from different sides: Why we adore the rich, and why we are equally thrilled to watch their marriages crumble in the tabloids. In the second half of our show, we look at how we gain influence, and what happens to us once we have it.

"Power is part of every moment of our social lives," researcher Dacher Keltner says. "We've got to be aware of it. It can lead us to do foolish things, and we should try to do the things that make it a force for good."

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Tara Boyle, Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Renee Klahr, Parth Shah, and Rhaina Cohen. Chris Benderev also contributed to this week's show. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories every week on your local public radio station.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Scott Horsley

Trump Aims To Play Salesman During Davos Economic Forum

President Trump will arrive at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday morning.
President Trump will arrive at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday morning.

President Trump will have some shoveling to do as he heads to snowy Switzerland this week.

He's trying to sell his "America First" brand of economic nationalism in the mecca of globalization — the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. The president will also be meeting with the head of the African Union, two weeks after he reportedly dismissed African nations in crude and vulgar terms.

"The president believes we can have truly win-win agreements. America First is not America alone," said Gary Cohn, director of Trump's National Economic Council. "He's going to talk to world leaders about making sure we all respect each other."

Trump will deliver a speech to the gathered leaders on Friday in which he is expected to tout his economic agenda of tax cuts and deregulation.

"The president's appearance is there to sell his accomplishments, to remind the world that we're open for business, that we're a competitive country," Cohn said.

Trump is the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Davos summit since Bill Clinton went in 2000.

Other leaders in attendance include French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau used the summit to announce that Canada and 10 other countries have reached agreement on a trade pact. The deal is a successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in one of his first acts as president.

While other countries are working to lower trade barriers, the Trump administration on Monday announced new tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels. But Cohn insists America is not giving up its place at the global economic table.

"The U.S. is pulling back from nothing," Cohn said.

Trump is set to arrive in Davos on Thursday morning and will meet that day with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Earlier this month, the president canceled plans to attend the opening of a new U.S. Embassy in London.

"I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for 'peanuts,' only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars," Trump tweeted. "Bad deal." (The announcement of the move was actually made in the final weeks of President George W. Bush's administration.)

The White House said there are no hard feelings.

"The president is prioritizing his meeting with Prime Minister May because we do have a special relationship" with the U.K., said Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

Trump will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Swiss President Alain Berset, whose country is hosting the summit.

Friday's meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is chairman of the African Union, takes on extra significance after Trump reportedly used a vulgar slur to describe African countries during an Oval Office meeting on immigration.

McMaster said Trump is eager to talk about ways to boost security and prosperity in Africa.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Colin Dwyer

Ursula K. Le Guin, Whose Novels Plucked Truth From High Fantasy, Dies At 88

Ursula K. Le Guin speaks at the 2014 National Book Awards, where she was presented with lifetime achievement honors.
Ursula K. Le Guin speaks at the 2014 National Book Awards, where she was presented with lifetime achievement honors.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

Ursula K. Le Guin, a prolific novelist best known for the Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness, died Monday at the age of 88. Across more than 20 novels and scores of short stories, Le Guin crafted fantastic worlds to grapple with profoundly difficult questions here on Earth, from class divisions to feminist theory.

Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed to NPR that she died at her home in Portland, Ore., where she lived with her husband of more than six decades.

"She was a peaceful warrior," he said Tuesday, "but for us as family, her legacy as a wife and mother is just as extraordinary."

Across the decades-long span of her career — from her first short story submission at the age of 11 to her work well into her 80s — Le Guin stood as a towering figure in science fiction and fantasy. Indeed, she completed a triple crown of the genres' biggest prizes, earning the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards several times over.

Still, while Le Guin deployed alien planets and impossible societies in her novels, fellow Hugo winner Mary Robinette Kowal told NPR's Petra Mayer that Le Guin's work could not be confined to a simple label found atop bookstore shelves.

"Throughout her life she embraced new forms of technology; she was constantly pushing boundaries and barriers. That is inspiring to me," Kowal said.

A child of anthropologists, Le Guin approached her worlds with the investigative eye of one encountering a culture for the first time.

In The Left Hand of Darkness, released in 1969, interplanetary visitor Genly Ai struggles to make sense of a world in which gender is fluid — when it's not altogether absent in the androgynous natives. And in the different societies of The Dispossessed, published in 1974, Le Guin explores the frictions born of vastly different ideologies scraping up against each other.

And, as her characters often grappled with new worlds, Le Guin herself blazed a trail rarely trod by female writers before her.

"She was one of the first really big voices in science fiction and fantasy who was a woman," Kowal added. "And I think she did a lot for science fiction and fantasy — not just for women and women's roles because of her feminism but also legitimizing us as an art form. There are a lot of people who will read an Ursula Le Guin book and go, 'Well, this isn't science fiction, it's literature.' But of course, it is science fiction. A lot of times, she can be a gateway drug for people."

For evidence of this mainstream respect, a reader need look no further than the lifetime achievement honors bestowed on her at the 2014 National Book Awards — where she also delivered a fiery defense of the practice of literature as a whole.

"Hard times are coming," she warned, "when we'll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We'll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality."

Many of those writers mourned her death on Tuesday.

"Her words are always with us. Some of them are written on my soul," tweeted Neil Gaiman, who presented that 2014 National Book Award to her. "I miss her as a glorious funny prickly person, & I miss her as the deepest and smartest of the writers, too."

Her words will live beyond her death Monday, ringing still in the worlds she opened in her fiction, poetry and essays.

"Writing is a kind of way of speaking, and I hear it," Le Guin told Weekend Edition in 2015. "And I think a lot of readers hear it, too. Even if they hear it in silence."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Peter Kenyon

Why Are U.S. Allies Killing Each Other In Syria?

Turkish army tanks head to Afrin, an enclave in northern Syria controlled by U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, on Monday.
Turkish army tanks head to Afrin, an enclave in northern Syria controlled by U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, on Monday.

Turkey's military offensive in northwest Syria, dubbed "Operation Olive Branch," has alarmed several countries and led to an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council. It pits U.S. ally and NATO member Turkey against a Kurdish fighting force armed and trained by the United States as part of the fight to defeat ISIS in Syria.

The fighting has thrown a spotlight on the confusing and at times conflicting alliances and goals in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

It could be a bloody battle. On Tuesday, Turkey said it has killed at least 260 Syrian Kurdish fighters in four days in the Afrin region. The United Nations says the risk to the area's 324,000 civilians is high.

Here's a guide to help sort out who's on what side:

Who are the Syrian Kurdish forces, and why is Turkey trying to kill them?

The People's Protection Units, better known by the initials YPG. They make up the military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. Multiple Kurdish groups have for years effectively controlled pockets of territory in northern Syria, with the tacit acceptance of the regime in Damascus.

The why is a little more complicated.

There are minority populations of ethnic Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Many dream of living in an independent Kurdistan some day — a prospect that displeases the governments of all four states. A smaller number of militant Kurds, such as the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, which operates out of southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, has taken up arms to achieve its goals.

Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union have all designated the PKK as a terrorist group. Turkey also brands the Kurdish fighters in neighboring Syria as terrorists, citing their links to Kurdish militants on Turkey's side of the border. Both Kurdish groups hail the same leader, the jailed PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan, and PKK flags have been photographed at Kurdish political rallies in Syria.

The U.S. and EU do not, however, label the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists.

Ankara argues the U.S. has no business arming and training a group that its ally Turkey considers a terror organization and an enemy. Turkey warns that U.S. weapons given to the YPG could be transferred across Syria's border to the PKK and end up being used against Turkish security forces. Thus far Ankara has not produced any evidence of this.

Why does America support the YPG over Turkey's objections?

At one level, it boils down to necessity. The U.S. military sees the YPG as seasoned fighters, well able to take territory from ISIS and hold it. The U.S. considers other Syrian rebel fighting units less reliable.

Washington is sensitive to Turkey's concerns about the YPG but doesn't believe it can carry out the anti-ISIS fight nearly as well without the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

What does Turkey hope to accomplish with this operation?

Turkish officials say they're aiming to create a 19-mile-deep "safety zone" inside Syria, with no Kurdish fighters in that area stretching from the Turkish border. Beyond that, Ankara says it's seeking to prevent Syria's Kurds from joining up their pockets of control into a single, contiguous area of Kurdish authority.

Ultimately, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says, Turkey aims to stabilize northern Syria to the extent that millions of Syrian refugees who have lived for years in Turkey can go home.

How is the world responding?

A number of countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have called for a swift end to the Turkish incursion, worrying about its potential for further destabilizing an already volatile situation in Syria. The White House urged Turkey to "exercise restraint" in the operation.

Russia, however, is choosing to blame the U.S. for what it calls "unilateral actions" in Syria that infuriated Turkey. Moscow is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally. A number of analysts say Russia has been engaged for some time in trying to draw Turkey out of the U.S. orbit of influence.

Officially, Washington says its alliance with Ankara remains strong and necessary, and it's working with Turkey to address legitimate security concerns and return the focus to defeating ISIS. In some conservative U.S. circles, however, questions are growing about Turkey's commitment to NATO and the West.

The U.S. relies on Turkey in a number of areas. One of the most prominent is the use of Turkish air bases for launching U.S. and coalition airstrikes against ISIS. The EU also depends on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe.

But with the battle against ISIS apparently winding down in Syria, the YPG finds itself with waning political capital in Washington and facing a Turkish government that's determined to keep Kurdish influence in northern Syria fragmented and nonthreatening.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Laura Yuen, Matt Sepic, Euan Kerr

Investigation Finds Pattern Of Behavior By Former Public Radio Host Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, creator and host of "A Prairie Home Companion," in 2015.
Garrison Keillor, creator and host of "A Prairie Home Companion," in 2015.

Copyright 2018 MPR News. To see more, visit MPR News.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Uri Berliner

The Mystery Of Contract Work: Why So Many Guys?

Alex Belfiori, 28, is a contract worker at Dick's Sporting Goods near Pittsburgh. An NPR/Marist poll shows 65 percent of contract workers are men and 62 percent of such workers are under 45.
Alex Belfiori, 28, is a contract worker at Dick's Sporting Goods near Pittsburgh. An NPR/Marist poll shows 65 percent of contract workers are men and 62 percent of such workers are under 45.

A new NPR/Marist poll finds that 1 in 5 jobs in America is held by a worker under contract. Within a decade, contractors and freelancers could make up half of the American workforce. In a weeklong series, NPR explores many aspects of this change.

Alex Belfiori has a big day coming up later this week. He'll sit down with his boss in a conference room at the Dick's Sporting Goods headquarters near Pittsburgh. The topic: his future with the company.

"I was told ... there were no guarantees for me getting hired full time," says the 28-year-old Belfiori.

For the past eight months, he has been a contract worker at the company, taking care of its tech needs. He likes his job. It's hands-on and involves making sure that projectors, TVs, computers and audio equipment are all working properly. The pay is decent — about $20 an hour — but not great. So he hopes that when he sits down with his boss, he will nail a job that's more challenging and financially rewarding.

"I am nervous about it," Belfiori says. "But ... there are a lot of tech jobs in Pittsburgh. So I'm not afraid."

Belfiori is part of America's emerging free agent workforce. According to an NPR/Marist poll released this week, 65 percent of such workers, like Belfiori, are men. And 62 percent of them are under 45.

Young contract workers, and not just men, start their careers in a very different place than their parents did — one that's more flexible but a lot more unpredictable. Since graduating from college, Belfiori has already had five jobs.

He earns enough to pay the rent, make his car and student loan payments and put up to $50 a month into a retirement account. His experience mirrors what other contract workers told us in the NPR/Marist poll: There's plenty of work available. But careers with a solid future — something to build a life around — are much more elusive.

"It is the way of the world now," says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

"Everybody — the employers and the workers — have to be more selfish in this economy. If you're an employer, you don't want responsibility for people. You want contract employees so that when business is good and production is up, you use those people."

When production goes down, Carnevale says, contract workers are shown the door.

"They live in a world in which when times are good they do very well as contractors," he says, "in fact, do better than line workers and have more independence and more entrepreneurial opportunities. But when business goes down, they're the first fired."

This is a volatile new world and it mostly affects men. Just why males make up such a large proportion of the contract workforce is something of a mystery. One reason seems to be that contract jobs are more common in male-dominated fields — like construction, finance and IT.

Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton, says discrimination against women may also play a role.

"Traditional workers are covered by the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex and other factors. Independent contractors are not covered by the Civil Rights Act," he says.

That's just one of many areas where contractors don't enjoy the same protections or benefits as people in traditional jobs. Contract workers don't get unemployment pay or workers' comp if they're hurt on the job.

If they do get benefits like health care or a retirement plan, they're skimpy. The NPR/Marist poll found that over half of contract workers don't have any benefits through their jobs.

Georgetown's Carnevale says contract workers have to build their own safety net.

"You are on your own," he says. "The convenient and tempting assumption to believe that your employer, that the boss will take care of you, is not something the boss has the power to do even if he or she wants to."

Carnevale says powerful and relentless economic forces such as global competition and automation have upended the dynamic between employer and worker, making the contract model irresistible and the way of the future. Already, it accounts for 20 percent of jobs in America, according to the NPR/Marist poll. If you add the millions of on-call workers and temp agency workers the numbers are even more striking.

For more than a decade, companies have been reluctant to add staff positions, even after the recession ended and they needed workers. "About 95 percent of the net job growth from 2005 to early 2015 was in the alternative work [nontraditional] segment," Krueger says. That startling figure comes from field research he did with Harvard economist Lawrence Katz.

In this new world of work, Carnevale says, the only sense of loyalty people ought to have is to themselves and their skills — not to any company. Getting ahead, he says, won't come from moving up the corporate ranks.

"The way you get raises in America is you change jobs," Carnevale says. "It's not about doing a good job where you are. It's about getting the next job."

Meanwhile, Belfiori, the contract worker at Dick's Sporting Goods, is taking a couple of steps to build some financial security. One is very practical; the other is riskier and more adventurous.

"I help fix computers on the side, and I'm also invested in cryptocurrency," he says.

That's cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. In June, he took the plunge. "I was looking at that and decided to put a couple of thousands into it from my savings," he says.

Since then, cryptocurrency prices have bounced around a lot. Belfiori is still ahead on his investment, but he is not counting on cryptocurrency to achieve the American dream — or fund his retirement. Maybe it'll pay for a nice vacation.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Jan 23, 2018 BY Greg Myre

CIA Director Offers A Window Into Trump's Morning Routine

CIA Director Mike Pompeo spoke Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute about the daily briefing he provides to President Trump most mornings at the White House. He pushed back against reports that Trump is not engaged.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo spoke Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute about the daily briefing he provides to President Trump most mornings at the White House. He pushed back against reports that Trump is not engaged.

Americans often see provocative presidential tweets, like this one comparing the size of the nuclear buttons in the United States and North Korea:

What the public doesn't see is the face-to-face briefing that CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivers most days to President Trump. In a relatively rare speech, Pompeo on Tuesday offered a window into the president's daily briefing and pushed back against reports that Trump is not engaged.

"Nearly every day, I get up, get ready, read the material that's been presented early in the morning and then trundle down from Langley [CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia] to the White House," Pompeo said at the American Enterprise Institute.

Critics say the president sometimes seems less than fully informed on international matters, tweeting first and asking questions later.

Trump is an avid watcher of Fox News' Fox and Friends program in the morning, and his early tweets sometimes track topics discussed on the show.

The Washington Post last month published a lengthy story describing the president as skeptical of intelligence he receives, particularly when it's related to Russia. The report also said that information was presented in ways designed to not upset the president.

However, Pompeo offered a very different take.

"The president asks hard questions; he's deeply engaged; we'll have rambunctious back and forth," Pompeo said of the 30- to 40-minute meetings that regularly include national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

The CIA director said the material presented to Trump is often placed in "three buckets."

The first involves the most pressing developments.

"Each day we try to talk about something that's of the moment, something that happened overnight," said Pompeo.

He spoke just hours after he gave the Tuesday morning briefing, noting "you can imagine we would have talked about" Turkey's military incursion in northern Syria, directed against the Kurdish militia there.

The Kurds are allied with the U.S., which has called on Turkey to exercise restraint.

The second bucket includes items on the horizon, like Trump's planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or an upcoming meeting with a foreign leader, the CIA director said.

In the third bucket, "we create some space to do knowledge building for the team," Pompeo said. "Strategic items that won't be in the news tonight or next week, but that we know are central to having a shared, fact-based understanding."

Each president has had his own preferences for the daily briefing.

Barack Obama preferred to receive a written copy that he read privately. Other presidents have received oral briefings by a CIA officer, though not usually by the director himself.

By all accounts, Pompeo has a good rapport with Trump that appears to have grown stronger through their morning meetings. Pompeo shares the president's positions on confronting rivals such as North Korea and Iran and is blunt about his vision for the CIA.

"We ask our officers to risk their lives to steal secrets to protect America," Pompeo said. "It's our fundamental mission. We will never shy away from it. And we do so aggressively and without any apology."

The CIA director said the president sometimes asks the agency to go back and get additional details.

He cited the humanitarian crisis in Yemen's civil war, where the president asked about "the risk of cholera and the starvation that was taking place," Pompeo said.

"He pushed us for a couple, three days, until we were able to deliver him a satisfactory picture where he then could ... make a decision about which of our friends to call to try and make sure that that problem was diminished or at least mitigated," the CIA director said.

This month, the United Nations World Food Programme has received four cranes, paid for by the U.S., in the port of Hodeidah, Yemen. They are intended to improve the delivery of aid shipped to the ravaged country.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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

Latest From KCRW

View Schedule

Events

View All Events

iTUNES SPOTIFY
AMAZON RDIO
FACEBOOK TWITTER

Player Embed Code

COPY EMBED