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Construction workers building a commercial complex Thursday in Springfield, Ill., earlier this month. The sector has been on a gradual rebound following a devastating hit during the housing collapse in 2008. (AP)

Unemployment Ticks Up To 6.2 Percent; 209,000 Jobs Added

Aug 1, 2014

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The nation's unemployment rate moved up a bit in the month of July, to 6.2 percent, as more Americans who'd been sitting on the sidelines started looking for work, according to the latest monthly report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 209,000 jobs, a bit less than economists had expected.

Even so, according to Reuters, it marks "the sixth straight month that employment has expanded by more than 200,000 jobs, a stretch last seen in 1997." And The Associated Press says it represents "solid U.S. hiring."

AP says that while not everyone looking found a job, "the increase suggests that they are more optimistic about their prospects. The jobless aren't counted as unemployed unless they are actively seeking employment."

The BLS says the civilian labor force participation rate was at 62.9 percent, little changed from the previous month. The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons was also unchanged, at 7.5 million.

The Bureau says that the manufacturing sector added 28,000 jobs in July, mostly in motor vehicles and parts, and that retail was up 27,000 jobs. The construction sector added 22,000 jobs.

A relatively strong jobs report would seem at first glance to buoy the markets after Thursday's sell-off, but according to CNBC, it could have the opposite effect: "Already markets are beginning to find dark clouds in what were once silver linings. Stocks fell sharply Thursday in part on the idea that an improving economy and pickup in inflation could push the Fed to raise interest rates more rapidly than expected."

And, as Forbes notes: "While the number of people out of work for more than six months has slowly chipped downward, long-term unemployment remains high. In addition, the number of Americans employed part time for economic reasons, either because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work, increased by 275,000 in June to 7.5 million. This may be better than prolonged joblessness, but it's not a path to sufficiency, let alone prosperity."

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Members of Uganda's gay community and gay rights activists react after the constitutional court overturned an anti-gay law. (AFP/Getty Images)

Court In Uganda Throws Out Anti-Gay Law

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 1, 2014

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A court in Uganda has thrown out a controversial law that punished acts of homosexuality harshly, including with life in prison.

The AP reports the decision was a technical one. The court ruled that there was no quorum when Parliament met to pass the law.

The AP adds:

"'The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum,' the court said in its ruling. 'We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.'

"The ruling was made before a courtroom packed with Ugandans opposing or supporting the measure. Activists erupted in loud cheers after the court ruled the law is now "null and void."

"Ugandan lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, an attorney for the activists, said the ruling 'upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda.'"

As NPR's Gregory Warner reported back in December, the law was criticized by western leaders, including President Obama.

As we reported, some European countries suspended assistance to Uganda over the law.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill made it a crime to "promote" homosexuality, which could have meant offering HIV counseling.

Reuters reports the judge's ruling "can be challenged through an appeals process."

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Peter Kennaugh of SKY Procycling enjoys an espresso ahead of first stage of the Tour de France 2013, in Corsica. (teamsky.com via Getty Images)

Caffeine Gives Athletes An Edge, But Don't Overdo It

by Katherine Hobson
Aug 1, 2014

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After winning the Tour de France last Sunday, Vincenzo Nibali was tested for a bunch of performance-enhancing substances. But Nibali and his fellow competitors were welcome to have several cups of coffee (or cans of Red Bull), before their ride into Paris; caffeine is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list.

Still, the drug is definitely a performance booster. Just in the past few months, studies have shown that caffeine helps female volleyball players hit the ball harder and jump higher, rowers go farther, and cyclists go faster in a 20K time trial.

A large body of research shows caffeine helps in "pretty much every kind of endurance exercise," giving a performance advantage of 1.5 percent to 5 percent, says Mark Glaister, an exercise physiologist at St. Mary's University in Twickenham, U.K., and an author of the recent cycling study.

"Of all the legal supplements an athlete could take, it has the biggest effect on performance," he says. It's not clear why, but the suspicion is that caffeine increases the frequency or size of neural transmissions and suppresses pain, he says. It's not clear that it speeds very short sprints — Glaister is studying that — but it can help in any burst of activity that lasts longer than about a minute, he says.

Athletes see a benefit with a dose of between 3 to 6 mg. per kg. of body weight, which means that if a 140 pound cyclist were drinking an average cup of coffee, he'd get a lift after drinking about two to four cups. (Many brands of coffee have a lot more caffeine than the average of about 100 mg per cup, though.) It takes 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine levels to peak in the body and provide the biggest benefit, Glaister says.

But if just enough caffeine might make you pick up the pace a bit, too much is a really, really bad idea. Ingesting more than the recommended amount doesn't bring further improvements in performance, Glaister says, and even non-dangerous doses can cause anxiety, sleeplessness and restlessness in some people. Worse, large amounts of the drug can be dangerous and even deadly. It's pretty hard to unintentionally get to a toxic dose by drinking coffee, soda or even taking caffeine pills, but it's easy to run into trouble with the powdered pure caffeine that's sold online.

Following the May overdose death of a teenager in Ohio, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about powdered caffeine, saying it's impossible to accurately measure it with your standard kitchen equipment; 1 teaspoon is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. Too much caffeine can speed the heart and cause seizures and death, the FDA says.

The NCAA has a cap on acceptable caffeine levels in athletes, but the World Anti-Doping Agency removed caffeine from its banned list in 2004. (The agency still monitors levels in athletes to track general usage patterns.) Researchers say the drug is metabolized at different rates by different people, making it tough to rely on a pee test to determine exactly how much an athlete has consumed. And given caffeine's presence in so many products, it's just too difficult for athletes to avoid the drug in the real world, even if they aren't trying to cheat. "It's ubiquitous," says Glaister.

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From Alt.Latino, Five Conversations With Latin Music's Finest

Aug 1, 2014

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From the beginning, Alt.Latino has been an experiment. We've tried many ways to present music as a window into Latin culture and experiences, and this week we come at our subject from another angle: a collection of interviews with artists whose recent albums offer distinct takes on Latin music.

New Yorker Rene Lopez comes from Fania stock: His dad was a key session man for many classic recordings. Lopez's new album Paint the Moon Gold shows another example of how he's absorbed that influence into his own palette of rock, soul and jazz.

The new SoCal trio Viento Callejero edges its way into the crowded cumbia landscape with its first album. The resulting sonic and rhythmic experimentation feels like a cool street breeze on a hot summer day.

Jasmine Garsd and I have been following the rap duo Los Rakas for a few years now, and its members were eager to explain how they combined what was essentially two solo albums into one new duo record that marks an ambitious step forward in their career.

Jorge Drexler and David Lindes come from two different parts of Latin America, but you'll hear how their stories connect through language and an affection for artfully crafted lyrics.

We've heard from the artists, and now we'd like to hear from you. Reach out through Facebook and Twitter to let us know what you thought about the interview format here. If you like it, we'll be sure to turn our mics toward other artists more often.

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Guest Quizmaster Matt Sokol is the drummer for the Connecticut-based rock band Spillway. (Courtesy of the artist)

Drum Fill Friday, From Guest Quizmaster Matt Sokol Of Spillway

Aug 1, 2014

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The drum fills and intros for this week's puzzler have something in common. In addition to being selected by Spillway drummer Matt Sokol, they're all performed by open-handed drummers. This means they play the ride cymbal with their left hand, while their right hand plays the snare. (Most drummers cross their right hand over their left to play the ride). If you're up on your open-handed drummers (Matt Sokol is an open-handed drummer himself), this week's puzzler will be a breeze! If not, well ... you might find some of these to be pretty challenging. Good luck, fellow fillers!

Spillway's latest EP, out this week, is As Astronauts Or Atoms. As always, if you know a fill (or intro) or drummer you'd love to see featured in this game, let us know in the comments section, or via Twitter @allsongs, #drumfillfriday.

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