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New Name For Asperger’s, Same Challenges For Sufferers

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INTRO: The new handbook for mental illnesses is coming out later this month — and with it comes changes to the understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s a disorder on the Autism spectrum. And has been recognized that way by American doctors since 1994. But new terminology in the manual will eliminate Asperger’s as its own disorder. Jeff Tyson reports that it doesn’t change the experience for those who have it.

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News at the Half-Hour

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For Columbia Radio News in New York, I’m Matthew Vann.

The U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs in April, dropping the unemployment rate to  a four year low of 7.5%. The US Department of Labor in its monthly report today says the  economy created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April.

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U.S. factory orders dropped by 4 percent in March, reflecting a big decline in the category of commerical aircraft. Orders were up by 1.9 percent in February.

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President Obama is in Mexico today, where he’s emphasizing the relationship between the two countries. Jessica Gould reports.

GOULD: Speaking at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, President Obama said the two nations should work together to avoid stereotypes. Too often, he said, Americans associate Mexico with drug violence. So he pledged to increase law enforcement, education and treatment to reduce the American market for illegal drugs. And he urged Mexicans to resist views of their neighbor as isolationist and disrespectful.

OBAMA: I’ve reaffirmed with President Pena Nieto that the great partnership between our two countries will not only continue. It’s going to get stronger and go broader

GOULD: Obama also promised to keep pushing for immigration reform and continue supporting trade policies that would benefit both nations.

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And the next stop for President Obama is Costa Rica. While there, the president will hold bilateral talks with President Laura Chinchilla and expanded talks with other Central American leaders.

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An American military refueling plane crashed today in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The plane was carrying three crew members. The United States operates a key air base in the country which it has used for the war in Afghanistan.

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The administrator of a fund created to help people injured in the Boston marathon bombings will begin meeting with victims next week. Kenneth Feinberg is overseeing The One Fund Boston program which as of today has taken in more than 28 million dollars. The fund hopes to begin cutting the first checks by the end of June.

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Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans rose sharply over the past decade. More people now die of suicide than car accidents, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control. The greatest increase has been for men in their 50s.

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The National Rifle Association kicked off its annual convention this morning with a warning from its incoming president James Porter. He says that the fight for gun control will stretch into the 2014 elections. More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the convention, which comes after the defeat of a major gun control bill in the United States Senate.

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It’s a sunny and clear 63 degrees here in New York City.  Temperatures are expected to drop to 50 this evening.

For Columbia Radio News, I’m Matthew Vann.

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New York Program Helps Autistic Adults Lead Healthy Lives

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HOST INTRO: Half a million children with autism will reach adulthood in the next 10 years. And as they grow up, a new network of support is growing up alongside them. Jessica Gould looks at one New York City program working to combat isolation among autistic adults by proscribing a healthy dose of chitchat …

—-

Anton has a lot to say. Get him started on one of his favorite subjects …

ANTON: I collect videos of game shows and I also look on the Internet for other people who also tape game shows.

… and he’ll talk your ear off.

ANTON: I really like British game shows. A lot of the game shows in the U.S. aren’t very good.

In fact, when it comes to his passions – game shows, musicals, or pre-Elmo Sesame Street — it’s hard for Anton to know when to stop talking.

ANTON: (Fade under and out) They’re all show and not enough game. They’re too dumbed down.  

Anton has Aspergers, and like many people on the autism spectrum, he has trouble reading social cues. So he often speaks in monologues, talking at people instead of with them. This type of social awkwardness has been a problem for as long as he can remember.

ANTON: Back in the 8th grade I was the target of bullies. … They said I didn’t have people skills. And I’m thinking the boys who abuse me for fun are just kids being kids?

Now 27, Anton says he’s still struggling. His last job was almost three years ago, working on the 2010 census and he lives with his parents.

ANTON: But they won’t need me again for another 10 years.

And he continues to have a lot of trouble making and keeping friends. He thought he had found his soul-mates with some other theater types. Then they told him they didn’t want him hanging around anymore.

ANTON: It was really upsetting last year being rejected a lot, being persona non grata with the kind of people I thought would be accepting of me. So I asked other people where they would go if they wanted to fit in.

That’s when Anton heard about the Adaptations program at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan on the Upper West Side. Adaptations helps young adults with special needs make friends and find jobs. For Anton and other individuals with Aspergers, a big part of that is learning to make small talk.

MERCER-WHITE: I can’t help but noticing you have a gymnastics t-shirt on.

Rebecca Mercer-White teaches the social skills class at Adaptations. And this isn’t just idle talk. It’s part of Anton’s new education.

ANTON: My uncles own a gymnastics school in Charlotte, North Carolina.

MERCER-WHITE: And Are you from North Carolina?

ANTON: My mom’s is from North Carolina. But I’m not. I grew up in New York City.

Every Tuesday evening, a small group of men and women in their 20s and 30s gather in a JCC classroom to work on the finer points of everyday conversation. Grown men and women — some coming straight from work and still wearing their business suits — stand in a circle and toss around rubber balls.

MERCER-WHITE: Good, good.

Mercer-White says playing catch is an ice breaker, a way to get her students to relax their bodies and loosen their tongues. But it’s also a metaphor – tossing the balls back and forth mimics the rhythm of conversation and the importance of give and take. She doesn’t want any monologues here.

MERCER-WHITE: So even when you’re throwing it, another could be coming at you. Like talking with a bunch of friends in a crowd.

Next on the agenda: workplace banter. A woman in her early 30s named Paulette says she has trouble making conversation with people in her office elevator.

PAULETTE: Why is it sometimes easy and sometimes it’s awkward?  

One of the other attendees – a man named Richard – chimes in to offer what works for him.

RICHARD: So far my answer to that is a combination of body language and attitude. When somebody comes into an elevator, and they’re looking down, or not making eye contact, they have a glower on their face, I feel that’s somebody who wants to be left alone. When somebody comes in, smiling they’re very friendly.

It all seems simple enough. But experts say the inability to perform these basic communication skills can prevent individuals with Asperger’s from getting and keeping jobs, forming friendships, falling in love and living on their own.   Michelle Gorenstein-Holtzman is a psychologist who specializes in treating people on the autism spectrum.

GORENSTEIN-HOLTZMAN: We do see increased levels of depression and anxiety in the population. So allowing a place for these individuals where they can go and socialize and teach these skills is really important for their quality of life.

And yet, as concrete as these classes at Adaptations are, Gorenstein-Holtzman says studies of children with Aspergers found that it’s tough for them to use the skills they learn in workshops back in their regular lives.

GORENSTEIN-HOLTZMAN: The biggest downfall in all social skills research has been the generalization aspect. So if a child is learning a social skill in a clinic room and they are doing really well … they might not use that skill on the playground.

For his part, Anton – the 27 year old who just wants to talk about game shows – simply wants to keep the conversation going.

Jessica Gould, Columbia Radio News


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New York Security Under Alert Following Boston Manhunt

Uptown Radio is continuing to follow developments related to last night’s manhunt in Boston. We’ll keep you posted.

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Pet Food Stamps Now Available For Low-Income Families

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HOST INTRO

The costs of keeping a pet can really add up. And for those who are struggling to pay the bills, feeding a pet can be too much. Stephanie Kuo reports on a new, national, non-profit organization that’s helping owners provide for their animals. The method? Pet food stamps.

REPORTER

It’s 3 p.m. Thursday and Marc Okon is delivering a bag of dog food to Norma Feliciano’s Lower East Side apartment. Feliciano is a small, portly woman with shoulder-length grey hair. She’s 59 years old, unemployed and on food stamps. Her 13-year-old Pomeranian, Foxy, is darting back and forth from under a dining table. He’s a small dog, just barely the size of a shoe box, but Feliciano says he can eat 12 full cans of dog food every two weeks.

NORMA FELICIANO (0:02)

He’s a very hungry dog.

She says each can costs $2. That’s nearly $50 a month – more than someone like Feliciano can afford out of pocket. It’s hard, but to her, Foxy isn’t a luxury.

NORMA FELICIANO (0:07)

I don’t want to give him up. I’ve had him for so many years, you know. I would feel very sad. He’s my companion.

Poverty doesn’t just strike people. It affects pets too. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about 350,000 of them end up in shelters each year because their owners can’t afford to care for them anymore. So to fill the void that neglects pets in public assistance, Okon started Pet Food Stamps in February. The organization gives free pet food to those who need it.

MARC OKON (0:08)

The food is 100 percent free, the delivery is 100 percent free. And there is no cost whatsoever to the member to receive their food.

Don’t let the name fool you. Pet Food Stamps has no connections to the federal government’s actual food stamp program. It’s entirely supported by private donations – enough to address the 150,000 applications he’s already received in the past two months. Okon started this program after an old friend told him she regularly fed her cat instead of herself because she couldn’t afford to do both.

MARC OKON (0:15)

To not be able to feed your pet and to have to surrender it is a heartbreaking decision, so people in that position who are already having financial difficulties have that extra strain of having to purchase pet food. This program was designed to prevent those choices having to be made.

Pet Food Stamps works together with online pet food retailer PetFlow.com to deliver the food. People approved for the program get a month’s worth of kibble delivered to their door every month, for six months. Then they can reapply. Owners must already be receiving food stamps (the human kind) or be living at or below the federal poverty level.

ANNE-MARIE KARASH (0:07)

The phrase “unconditional love” is pretty trite because it’s always said, but it truly, truly is unconditional.

That’s Anne-Marie Karash. She’s the associate director of the Humane Society of New York. When it comes to pet owners living in poverty, the Humane Society offers people permanent shelter for their pets. Karash is really excited about Pet Food Stamps and says it could go a long way in keeping pets with their owners. But she says keeping a pet is really more than just feeding it.

ANNE-MARIE KARASH

Nutrition is a part of anyone’s life, a very vital part, but you have to pair that with the necessary medical treatment  otherwise, it’s like having pneumonia and eating an apple.

Pet Food Stamps plans to provide things like tick collars and pay for spaying and neutering by the end of the year. Though vet visits and vaccines haven’t been budgeted yet. But the point is, any bit helps.

Norma Feliciano and Foxy can expect another shipment next month.

Stephanie Kuo, Columbia Radio News.

 

 

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Visa Showdown Hits As International Workers Look For Jobs

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HOST INTRO

For many university students, graduation is fast approaching. But for international students who want to stay in the United States, getting a visa is harder than ever. Sonia Paul reports.

There’s an alphabet soup of visa options for international students who want to work here. Some skilled workers go through employer sponsored H-1B visas. Others in academia get J-1 visas. It can be really confusing.

[BRING IN AMBI OF VALIA]

Valia Mitsou is Greek. She and her fiance met as students in Athens. Both computer scientists, they came to New York five years ago to get their PhDs.

MITSOU

It was basically a common decision to come to the U.S., and CUNY was an institution that accepted us both, so that’s why we ended up here.

(0:10)

Their field is theoretical computer science. That means they design the ideas and procedures other computer scientists use to solve problems.

Mitsou has one more year until she gets her PhD. Her fiance finished his early. But when he started looking around for a university job here, he couldn’t find one.

MITSOU

So he decided to go to Europe, to Sweden. Because the situation, finding work in Sweden, is much easier than in the U.S.

(0:11)

Competition for visas is fierce in the United States. Each year, 85,000 H1-B visas are reserved for foreign nationals. Employers must apply to sponsor these potential employees for visas. The application process just started this past Monday, April 1st.

Eleanor Pelta is an immigration attorney based in Washington, D.C. She says demand for these visas has increased sharply in the past few years.

PELTA

Three years ago, when the quota opened up for applications on April 1st, it wasn’t exhausted until January of the following year.

Then two years ago, it was exhausted in November. Then last year, it was exhausted in June.

And this year?

PELTA

It looking like it’s going to be exhausted in the very first week of filing.

(0:05)

That’s this coming Monday, April 7th. As the U.S. economy recovers, more companies   want to hire these high-skilled workers.

And H1-B visas aren’t the only ones in demand. For Mitsou to stay in the United States to do post-doctoral work, she needs a J-1 visa. It’s not subject to the quota system like H1-B. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get – and the whole process is hard to understand.

[HAVE AMBI OF CUNY GRADUATE CENTER COMING UP HERE]

At CUNY’s International Students Office, Mitsou runs into another student, Wen Ju from Taiwan. They soon start talking about their work plans. They even discuss the longest of longshots — getting a green card through the annual lottery.

WEN JU

I enter every year.

VALIA MITSOU: Michael applied every year too. Well I didn’t apply this year. I feel it’s worthless…It’s like the game of the chicken and the egg, I guess. If you want to get a job, you need to have the proper job status. And if you want to get the proper job status, then you need to get the job! (laughing). So it’s easier if you can get a green card.

(0:29)

U.S. companies and universities need people like Mitsou and Wen Ju to stimulate economic development. That’s according to Jeremy Robbins. He leads Mayor Bloomberg’s national coalition for immigration reform.

ROBBINS

The question is not should this job go to an American, or should it go to someone who is foreign-born. The question is, how do we get the right worker to make a company more competitive, so that it can grow and create more jobs.

(0:10)

Robbins says it’s especially important to retain students in the most sought after areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — also known as STEM.

ROBBINS

STEM jobs grew three times faster than the rest of the economy in the last ten years. But the problem is that not enough Americans are studying STEM.

(0:07)

Mitsou is a prime example of the type of person Robbins is advocating to stay. As an aspiring professor, she’d likely teach STEM classes. But she has to do her post-doctoral work before she can become a professor. And she has the additional problem of trying to find positions for herself and her fiance.

MITSOU

I think that the most important for me and Michael right now is to get a position in some place in the world, anywhere — literally (chuckles).

With this year’s expected record number of people applying for H-1B visas, the fate of the high-skilled foreign worker may boil down to old-fashioned luck. Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

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New Bill Protects Genetically Modified Food Companies From Lawsuits

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HOST INTRO

President Obama signed a continuing spending bill this week. One of the provisions protects companies that produce genetically modified seeds from being sued, even if they become a public health risk in the future. Amber Binion reports.

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants that have been altered genetically to resist herbicides and pests. They also can be fortified to include nutrients like iron and vitamin A. It produces more sustainable food with fewer resources. More resistant plants allow farmers’ to do less work and harvest more crops. Alan McHughen, a plant biotechnologist at the University of California, Riverside. He says the law is designed to let big and small biotech companies recoup their investments. He is explains why the provision is beneficial.

ALAN MCHUGHEN

Farmers are business people. They have to make business decisions about what kind of crops they’re going to grow. And one of the factors that come into that decision making process is whether the seeds they buy will produce a harvest of seeds they can sell. There’s some anxiety in the farming community that lawsuits against certain crop varieties may interfere with their ability to harvest and sell the crop.

Supporters call it the Farmers Assurance Provision. It bars the federal court from stopping the sale of genetically modified crops and allows agriculture companies to sell what they’ve made. The most common GMOs on American farms are corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola. In other words, these are the most profitable crops. That means there’s a lot of money at stake. Opponents say it’s large companies that are more likely to benefit from the law, specifically bio-tech giant Monsanto. At a farmers market on the Upper Westside, anti-GMO advocates call it the Monsanto Protection Act.

MARGARET HOUGHMAN

Why should the largest company, food-processing company, in the world be protected by the government? The small farmers and the individuals need to be protected by the government.

Houghman is the regional coordinator for Greenmarket in northern Manhattan. She sells locally grown and GMO-free vegetables. She thinks there isn’t enough scientific research on the long-term effects of genetically modified food.

 MARGARET HOUGHMAN

Well, we just don’t know. It might not be anything real serious. It might be something that shows up in a generation maybe, 2 generations. We just don’t know. And the potential for it to get out of control is huge.

Michael Lapone, a farmer’s market vendor for Hawthorne Valley Farm is just plain uncomfortable with the idea of GMOs.

MICHAEL LAPONE

Children should not play with fire. And playing with genetic engineering is playing with fire and they don’t know the outcomes. They haven’t done the research.

But they have done the research says the plant biotechnologist, Alan McHughen

ALAN MCHUGHEN

Some people who don’t have any scientific background are suggesting that there are harms. But the US National Academy of Sciences has conducted numerous safety tests on these genetically modified crops and foods over the years and every time they say there are just as safe as conventionally produced foods and crops.

One thing both anti-GMO and pro-GMO advocates can agree on is the proper labeling of food products. McHughen says all foods need to have labels based on their content, for nutritional reasons. Food advocate groups are now petitioning for the government to label genetically modified food for consumers. Amber Binion, Columbia Radio News.

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U.S. Soccer Centennial Takes Manhattan

U.S. Soccer Centennial Takes Manhattan

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati poses with coaches, players, and former players in the lobby of the Empire State building to celebrate the 100th anniversary of U.Ss Soccer, Apr. 5, 2013. (Jeff Tyson/Uptown Radio)

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One hundred years ago today, soccer became an official U.S. sport. The U.S. soccer Federation is marking the centennial with a week of activities in lower Manhattan. As Jeff Tyson reports.

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Lost? Swipe Your Way to Your Destination

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HOST INTRO

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is going digital. A new, touch screen, interactive subway map has started appearing in some of the busiest subway stations. Katherine Jacobsen reports.

REPORTER

The first of these two maps appeared at Grand Central Terminal and the Bedford Park stop in Brooklyn.  At Grand Central, the well-lit, 47-inch computer screen sits on a corner across from a clothing chain and a cluster of MTA ticket kiosks.  It looks like a giant smartphone screen with the weather and time displayed on the header of a larger screen.

Dwight Olson stops to check the Metro North schedule to New Haven.

DWIGHT OLSON

I hope that this terminal here is going to be helpful and it looks like it is, now that I’ve pressed the Metro North button.

Olson touches the Metro North from a menu at the bottom of the computer screen.  He scrolls through the menu options at the bottom of the screen, looking for his schedule.  Destination options appear and then with a few clicks, Olson has a timetable for his mid-morning trip.

DWIGHT OLSON

Looks like I can tell what I want to get on and when it’s gonna go, I just hope that we can get tickets by then.

A few minutes after Olson leaves, and Joel Thomas walks past the giant computer screen and does a double take.  It’s the first time that Thomas has seen one of these new, 15,000 dollar touch screen maps.

JOEL THOMAS

I was actually looking for the bathroom to be honest with you.  But uh, it’s pretty convenient… I can see the train I need to catch right here.

And did you also find a map of the station as well?

Ah, honestly, I didn’t do the map yet. I just saw the time departing and I think it works pretty good.

But some of the regular commuters don’t need the new screen.

PAUL KIPELI

Everytime I come to it, it’s showing me a useless map or something I don’t need.  I simply want it to display what it used to display.

Paul Kipelli points to the kiosk, now lit up with a giant subway map where there used to be a train schedule.

PAUL KIPELI

Look what is has, do you need that map?  I don’t.

Kipeli then goes running off, briefcase in hand.  He’s late for his train.

The new map may have the biggest impact on MTA employees like Audrey Gordon.  Her job is to give directions at the terminal.

AUDREY GORDON

Yes, you need something?

We just wanted to check something…

What would you like to check?

Gordon doesn’t feel threatened by the new touch screen maps.  She still has one up on them, she says.  Even though the maps might be getting bigger, it doesn’t mean that they’re smarter than her.

AUDREY GORDON

The map is only as good as the information that is programmed in it.  I go way beyond that.

Police Officer Chris Jones is on duty right across from the new kiosk.  He hasn’t seen a lot of people using it, he says.

OFFICER JONES

They’re futuristic, they look like they could be helpful, but I see ppl more likely asking other ppl for help, officers, stuff like that.

Do you get asked a lot for help when ppl need to find the bathroom or something?  Every two minutes.

The MTA will add another 77 interactive maps in an additional 16 stations.

Katherine Jacobsen, Columbia Radio News.

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Wanted: Space Telescope to Hunt For Asteroids

Wanted: Space Telescope to Hunt For Asteroids

CEO Ed Lu of B612 Foundation holds a model of the Sentinel telescope, now under construction, June 28, 2012. B612 aspires to launch the first privately-funded deep space mission with this telescope. It would map 90 percent of so called “city killer” near Earth asteroids. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

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HOST INTRO:

In February, a 60-foot wide asteroid exploded over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. Scientists and astronomers are calling for a space telescope that would look out for other dangerous asteroids before they crash to Earth. But it won’t be cheap. Alexandra Hall reports.

ALEXANDRA HALL: Nobody saw it coming until it was too late.

CUE AMBI (sound of asteroid explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February)

HALL: The meteor’s blast shattered windows and caused 1,000 injuries. The explosion released energy equivalent to 300,000 tons of TNT. That’s 20 times the force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Even though no one died from the explosion in February, the Earth’s history is a warning that the next time could be worse.

An icy meteoroid that hit Siberia in 1908 flattened an expanse of forest the size of the San Francisco bay area.  Its explosion was 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Even larger asteroids could wipe out all life on the planet.

For two years now, NASA’s near Earth object program has tracked nearly all asteroids at least one kilometer in diameter that could end civilization. These big, bright asteroids are easy to detect with Earth bound telescopes. In 2005, congress ordered NASA to track 90% of objects smaller than one kilometer, but larger than 140 meters in diameter. On the low end that’s a rock the width of about one and a half football fields. Still- they’re difficult to see from telescopes on Earth.

As of now, out of the tens of thousands of objects that could wipe out a large city, NASA has only detected 10%. Ed Lu is a veteran NASA astronaut and CEO of the privately funded non-profit B612 Foundation. Last month He told a senate subcommittee that the odds aren’t in planet Earth’s favor.

ED LU: “There’s a thirty percent chance that there’s a five megaton or so impact that’s going to happen in a random location on this planet, this century. So this is not hypothetical.”

HALL: B612 Foundation is a privately funded non-profit that wants to launch an infrared telescope into space that would look out for these so-called “city killers”. Founders named B612 after the house-sized asteroid in the children’s book, The Little Prince. The foundation’s Sentinel telescope would look outwards across the Solar System with its back to the sun, and scan for objects that could slam into the Earth. Tim Spahr is Director of the Minor Planet Center- the organization that professional and amateur astronomers alert with observational data on near Earth asteroids. He says that only space-based infrared telescopes will be able to spot dangerous objects.

TIM SPAHR: “For the smallest objects, quite often there will be no warning for them unless we have an extremely expensive, sophisticated telescope system.”

HALL: NASA has been working on this, too, but funds are low.  A team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has proposed the NEOCam mission- another infrared telescope that like B612’s Sentinel, would map 90% of the so-called “city killer” asteroids. These missions are essentially the same, except that NEOCam would revolve in an orbit closer to the Earth and would rely on government funding. But that funding hasn’t materialized.

RUSTY SCHWEICKART: “NASA has many, many other priorities that they have to satisfy. And that’s part of the problem.”

HALL: Rusty Schweickart (shwike-art) is Chairman emeritus of B612 and is a former astronaut on the 1969 Apollo 9 mission. Although NASA’s near Earth object budget has increased five-fold since 2009- from 4 million, to 20 million dollars, he says that an infrared telescope will cost billions. So B612 decided to act on its own.

SCHWEICKART: “Rather than it being an iffy situation, we have just decided to go ahead and do it. 20 million dollars is less than one tenth of one percent of NASA’s budget. It is not a major program in NASA by any means.”

HALL: NASA has already made an agreement to provide communications, personnel, and data processing to B612. But not everyone in Washington is ready to leave the project to the foundation science. Texas Republican Lamar Smith is Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. At a hearing last month, he urged his colleagues to make it work for NASA, despite the budget sequester

LAMAR SMITH: “I do not believe that NASA is somehow going to defy budget gravity and get an increase when everyone else is getting cuts. But we need to find a way to prioritize NASA’s projects and squeeze as much productivity as we can out of the funds we have.”

HALL: Detecting an incoming asteroid is only the first step. In the event that Sentinel or NEOCam did detect a near Earth object on a path to crash into the Earth, scientists say they would need a good 10-year lead to be able to deflect it. And that project would cost billions more. Alexandra Hall, Columbia Radio News.

(TIME 4:40)

 

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Full Broadcast – March 8, 2013

Click here to listen to our full broadcast from Friday, March 8, 2013:

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How to Save New York’s Shrinking Middle Class

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Helping the middle class is always a popular item on the political agenda, and nowhere more so than in New York. The city has seen much of its middle class leave for the suburbs over the past few decades. Tony Maglio spoke to David Giles of the Center for Urban Studies to find out how New York can bring those middle class citizens back.

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Staying Private Gets Tougher With New Facebook App

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Facebook lets users publish as much or as little of their personal information as they want. You can snap a picture, or check into a location, and then go offline.

But a new Facebook service would allow the company to keep track of you even after the application is closed. Katherine Jacobsen reports:

The new service is an app that you can download. It allows you to send your location to all of your Facebook friends, all the time, even when you’re not on Facebook.

Douglas MacMillan is a reporter from Bloomberg Businessweek. He’s seen the new app and says its more invasive than the current “check-in” feature.

“The big difference would be, you know, having essentially a breadcrumb of you following you around everywhere you go, as opposed to these little snapshots of where you are,” he said.

The little breadcrumbs use the same kind of GPS technology already built into your phone that helps you find a nearby restaurant or the closest subway station.

MacMillan says that these kinds of applications could be really practical. Say you get separated from your friend downtown. With this app, you can automatically locate him or her just by logging into Facebook.

“Even when their app is closed, and even when the phone is put away in your pocket, you’re going to be reading GPS coordinates of your friends as they move about the city or a music concert or festival,” he said.

The app would also let companies see how effective their advertisements are. Say you see a Foot Locker add on Facebook and then you go to a Foot Locker.

“Well, wouldn’t it be nice if facebook could connect those dots and realize that instead of clicking on that ad, you were inspired by that ad to go walk into Foot Locker,” MacMillan said.

“It is increasingly trivial to collect and analyze that sort of data in a very short period of time.”

That’s Emily Bell from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. She says if Facebook could sell this kind of connection to advertisers, it could mean big bucks. Since the company went public last year, it needs to prove it can make money.

“Free services of Facebook have to be paid for somehow, and they tend to pay with your data,” Bell said.

Most Facebook users have gotten used to the idea that the site pools their data for advertising. Bell points out that cell phone companies already have access to users’ locations. If Facebook doesn’t make this data public, someone else will.

Sarah Downey is a senior privacy strategist at Abine,  a company that makes apps to prevent people from getting tracked.

“This is just one more point in an ongoing trend where facebook erodes everybody’s privacy,” she said.

But even Downey says it’s unlikely that people are going to start deleting their Facebook accounts.

“Facebook’s like the party that you don’t really want to go to. But you know that everybody you know will be there, so you keep going,” she said.

A party of over one billion users. Downey advises people on Facebook to keep on the look-out for changes to privacy settings in the coming month.

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Stay Vigilant, Says Social Media Expert

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How wary should Facebook users be of the site’s new app? Sree Sreenivasan, the Chief Digital Officer of Columbia University, told Stephanie Kuo about what to watch for when using social media sites that are increasingly invasive.

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City Recieves Nearly $300 Million in Sandy Relief

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President Obama signed the Hurricane Sandy relief bill into law a few weeks ago and now the relief is showing its initial benefits. Now, nearly $300 dollars worth of funding from the Department of Transportation is on its way.

Lance Dixon has the story:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Senator Chuck Schumer gave a press conference today at the Downtown Heliport only a few feet away from the Brooklyn Battery tunnel—one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. $250 million is coming to New York and Schumer says it is right on time.

“The quick federal aid means that taxpayers will not bear the burden, many of the dollars that the city and the counties of Nassau and Suffolk had to lay out, they’re now getting reimbursed for,” he said.

The counties are now better positioned to continue the long process of recovery and planning for future usage.

“Now that they’ve been reimbursed, they can use those dollars to start doing other repairs that are needed,” Schumer said.

The repairs include repairing the infrastructure of all transit-related groups such as subways, bus terminals and other hubs that continue to reel from the damage of Superstorm Sandy. LaHood says this initial aid is part of $2 billion that the DOT has at its disposal to aid the city on a rolling basis. The two agree that this aid is arriving at a much quicker pace than it did after Hurricane Katrina because of federal emphasis.

“The President said get the money out there. Get the job done. Get people to work. And let’s rebuild, it’s really the President pushing this. It is, no question,” LaHood said.

The $60 billion Sandy bill will eventually disperse funds related to relieving homeowners, small businesses and hospitals. And in May, a city report will be released determining the most effective plans for future funds and rebuilding efforts.

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Mixed Feelings About Cardinal Dolan’s Papal Candidacy

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In less then two weeks, Pope Benedict XVI will resign from the Papacy. The Vatican is now preparing for a March conclave to choose a new Pope. And on this first Friday of Lent, New York Catholics wonder if their own Archbishop might become the first American to hold the Papacy.

Jeff Tyson reports from Blessed Sacrament Church: 

Fasting was the topic of this early morning Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church on West 71st St. But for Catholics at this parish, Lent is not the only thing worth talking about. The charismatic Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is among the names being mentioned as potential candidates for the Papacy. Father John Duffell is a pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church. He has worked with Dolan, and feels he would make a good Pope.

“He’s personable, he’s interesting and exciting in certain ways, and he can attract attention. He’s charismatic, and that would be helpful. He’d give an interesting character or face to the Church. But there are many other candidates, I mean, he’s one of a number of candidates. And there’s always that statement that Rome or the cardinals would never elect an American, a world power, or a person from a world power to take that office, but who knows? It’s all in God’s hands,” Father Duffell says.

Historically, the Vatican has decided that electing an American as Pope would be yielding to a world power. And today, Catholicism is growing most rapidly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, not the U.S. So Dolan’s chances are slim. Many parishioners wouldn’t even entertain the thought that Dolan might become the face of the Church. One with that view was John Simpson.

“I don’t think he will become the Pope, I think he’s too new at being cardinal. I don’t think he’s made the necessary friendships or been involved with the other cardinals for long enough. So I don’t think he has any chance,” he says.

And Tom Lynch, another early morning churchgoer, feels Dolan isn’t fit for the job. He says that as Archbishop, Dolan hasn’t made the right decisions for Blessed Sacrament.

“At this moment, this parish is in conflict. I don’t think he would be a good Pope. I don’t think he has the brains for it,” he says.

But regardless of who succeeds Benedict, Father Duffell feels Benedict’s resignation was a significant milestone for the Church.

‘The resignation of the Pope, I mean, in one sense changes the image of the papacy, because the Pope is saying that this is really a job that I have, and I can’t do this job. It doesn’t take anything awaya from me as a person or a member of the church, but I really feel that to exercise this particular ministry, someone has to be a bit younger and stronger than I happen to be at this particular time,” he says.

On Ash Wednesday, Archbishop Dolan told reporters that Benedict’s resignation was an “act of extraordinary humility.” He wouldn’t comment on his prospects for the papacy.

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Newscast – Top of the Hour

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Full Broadcast – April 20, 2012

Click here to listen to our full broadcast from Friday, April 20, 2012:

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