¿Quien Soy?

Brenda4

I’m Brenda Patricia Salinas Paéz.  I’m a Mexicana-Tejana public radio producer who is passionate about incorporating social media into my reporting. I have worked as a producer for the Texas Standard, a daily news magazine show that broadcasts state-wide. I have also been an associate producer with NPR’s Latino USA, and I was awarded the highly competitive Kroc Fellowship at NPR in 2012. I have reported pieces for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Weekends on All Things Considered and for KUHF Houston Public Radio. In college, I started my campus’ only student run foreign-language publication, Nuestras Voces. I have a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University. I’m a native speaker of Spanish and French was always my favorite class in school.

Want to know more? Follow me on Twitter or shoot me an email at brendapsalinas@gmail.com. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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60dB Stories

Brenda Salinas at 60dB

All the stories Brenda Salinas made for 60dB.

September 16, 2017

Reporter Brenda Salinas wanted to understand how detaining immigrants can be such a profitable business for private prison companies.

September 15, 2017

A Stanford computer science major developed a free tool to help Americans take Equifax to small claims court.

August 29, 2017

60dB reporter Brenda Salinas is in her hometown of Houston during Tropical Storm Harvey.

August 29, 2017

60dB’s Brenda Salinas talks to Jeff Masters, he’s the co-founder of Weather Underground, a web site that meteorologists go to get inside information about severe weather.

August 29, 2017

Geopolitics reporter Max de Haldevang says this is a serious blow to American soft power.

August 25, 2017

After Tropical Storm Allison devastated the Houston Medical Center in 2001, the area’s 21 hospitals banded together to make sure it never happens again.

August 24, 2017

Axios’ Alexi McCammond says Chief of Staff John Kelly can only do so much to keep President Donald Trump in line.

August 22, 2017

Axios’ Deputy News Desk Editor Dave Lawler gives us the debrief on Trump’s prime-time Presidential address.

August 18, 2017

Axios’ Alayna Treene explains what Trump could be thinking.

August 17, 2017

Reverend Ann Willet of First United Methodist Church in Dallas Texas had a sermon go viral.

August 16, 2017

Laura Smith writes women have been an integral part of white supremacist movements throughout history.

August 11, 2017

Axios’ Dan Primack has the scoop: Benchmark Capital is suing Uber Founder Travis Kalanick for fraud.

August 10, 2017

Axios’ Mike Allen says the culture wars have finally come to Silicon Valley.

July 31, 2017

Quartz’ special projects editor Lauren Brown brings us three bite-sized business stories from Quartz Index.

July 27, 2017

How can blue cities fight back against red states? Molly Cohen, associate counsel with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. has four lines of defense.

Reporter Robbie Gramer unpacks rumors of a so-called “Rexit” at the State Department.

July 25, 2017

Brenda Salinas met Joshua Browder, a Stanford computer science major who is automating legal aid and talked to Renee Knake, a legal ethicist, about what it means for the legal professor.

July 21, 2017

Quartz’ Mike Murphy and Jacob Templin talk about the robotics companies that are hiring Pixar engineers to design their robots.

July 20, 2017

Politico’s Dan Diamond reports that after fending off challenges to their tax-exempt status, the biggest hospitals boosted revenue while cutting charity care.

July 19, 2017

A study found adults see black girls as ‘less innocent,’ Jonita Davis says that’s shocking everyone but black moms

July 18, 2017

Ashley Rodriguez says the real fight in the TV streaming wars is not over you. It’s over your kids.

July 15, 2017

The Atlantic’s Adrienne Lafrance tells us about the technology that makes it difficult to discern between videos of real people and avatars who can be programmed to say anything.

July 13, 2017

Journalist Nathan Kohrman argues that medical schools should do more to accommodate students with disabilities, and we talk to one such student, Molly Fausone.

July 11, 2017

The Atlantic’s David Graham breaks down the latest development in the Trump camp Russian collusion saga.

July 11, 2017

Racked’ Eliza Brooke explores why American women are so obsessed with French lifestyle brands. Illustration by Rebecca Clarke.

July 10, 2017

The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan reports dentists are surprisingly well organized, and they have a political tool unlike any other.

July 6, 2017

Quartz’ Nikhil Sonnad found surprising similarities in the products on Goop’s and Infowars’ online stores.

July 3, 2017

Writing for Vox, Allison Yarrow writes the U.S. is one of the most dangerous places to have a baby.

June 30, 2017

ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum thinks TMZ has playing the access journalism game and winning. Or are they losing?

June 29, 2017

Wired’s Issie Lapowski went to her old middle school to check in on kids going through a News Literacy Project curriculum.

June 26, 2017

Writing for The Atlantic, Helaine Olen explored all the ways people try to raise money to pay for their medical bills.

June 23, 2017

In an investigation for Bloomberg, Cam Simpson found that American chip manufacturers outsourced their toxic chipmaking processes to South Korea.

June 22, 2017

60dB’s Brenda Salinas and Vice’s Ankita Rao have a frank discussion about their first-hand frustrations with movies about eating disorders.

June 21, 2017

The Washington Post’s William Wan explores why Big Tobacco targets rural Americans.

June 20, 2017

T.R. Reid says we could save a huge amount of money if we accepted that we’re all going to die.

June 19, 2017

Vice’s tech editor Noah Kulwin says Spotify is in a pickle.

June 16, 2017

We can all agree the shooting in Virginia was a tragedy. Let it also be an opportunity for substantive conversation.

June 15, 2017

Concealed Carry Magazine’s Kevin Michalowski says the Congressional shooting is an example of why more people should legally carry guns.

The Week’s Anthony Fisher writes a plea for sympathy and restraint after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise on Wednesday morning.

June 14, 2017

Political Scientist Robert Spitzer analyzes why pro-gun groups typically don’t make public statements about mass shootings.

June 14, 2017

Writing for the Atlantic, Michael Frank explains how farms in upstate New York are dealing with the fear of worker deportation.

June 12, 2017

Quartz’ Special Projects Editor Lauren Brown gives us 3 bite-sized business stories.

June 9, 2017

The Guardian’s Oliver Laughland takes us behind a new immigration court in Louisiana.

June 8, 2017

Writing for Buzzfeed, Doug Bock Clark explains why the U.S. is trying to remake the world’s prisons.

June 7, 2017

The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger explains this mismatch strikes right at the heart of a lot of concerns about the Trump family’s business interests.

June 6, 2017

Quartz’ fashion correspondent Marc Bain takes a closer look at organic fashion.

June 5, 2017

The Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports that with the state budget in crisis, nearly a fifth of Oklahoma school districts are holding school just four days a week.

June 2, 2017

The Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell reports this isn’t the first time Jared Kushner has been in a crisis.

June 1, 2017

Iowa native Aaron Calvin says the housing crisis in Des Moines is worse than Brooklyn.

May 31, 2017

Wired’s Nick Stockton loves drama, and this is a big ethical conundrum.

May 30, 2017

HuffPost’ Roque Planas explains the Trump administration doesn’t really need Congress to act on its immigration initiatives.

May 26, 2017

Writing for The Cut, Hayley Phelan puts a name to a phenomenon you’ve probably experienced.

May 25, 2017

Daniel Cox says atheists are undercounted because of social stigma.

May 24, 2017

City Lab Latino’s Juan Pablo Garnham explains the real story behind the alarming headlines.

May 23, 2017

Russian-American journalist Alyona Minkovski explains the uncomfortable feeling of wanting to express pride in her heritage and culture colliding with the media’s recent demonization of all things Russian.

May 22, 2017

May 18, 2017

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump gives us a timeline of how this might go down.

May 18, 2017

The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan says American’s teeth are a symbol of the divide between rich and poor.

May 17, 2017

Paul Roberts writes for Mother Jones that rich Chinese buyers have created a Canadian housing bubble.

May 16, 2017

In the months following the Indianapolis’ Star investigation, 80 gymnasts have come forward to allege USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted them.

May 13, 2017

University of Chicago economist Greg Kaplan analyzed American’s lifetime incomes for the National Bureau of Economic Research

May 11, 2017

Freelance writer Dan Solomon wrote a piece for Wired about how Uber and Lyft are lobbying the state legislature to overturn a local city ordinance.

May 10, 2017

The Development Set’s Kristance Harlow writes across the United States, emergency dispatch services are consolidating, and in many cases, run privately. In rural areas, it could mean the difference between life and death.

May 9, 2017

The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse talks about why the Handmaid’s Tale is resonating with so many young women.

May 5, 2017

Writing for The Financial Time, Ian Leslie argues the Golden Age of Tv is about to end.

May 4, 2017

Slate’s Mark Stern says the Tar Heel State is giving us a glimpse of America under four years of Trump.

May 2, 2017

The Guardian’s Ben Tarnoff says being busy is like a luxury good.

April 28, 2017

Buzzfeed’s Nitasha Tiku definitely thinks the Facebook CEO isn’t running for president — so why is he acting like a politician?

April 27, 2017

When I was 18, I took an oath to become an American citizen. This is my story, and this is why the issue of immigration is so important to me.

Trump might not fully appreciate how his antagonistic tone towards Mexico is harming one of the single most important relationships that the U.S. has. But Mexico doesn’t seem like it’s going to take that without a fight — maybe even installing its own Trump equivalent.

April 26, 2017

The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips explains Trump might not be able to get his border wall funded by Congress, but his isolationist immigration agenda is more likely to get funded.

April 25, 2017

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says border apprehensions are down by 30% year to year. So why is the Trump administration building a new detention center in Texas? 60db’s Brenda Salinas reports.

April 24, 2017

Axios’ Steve Levine says retail workers could organize and become a political force, like coal miners.

April 21, 2017

Michael Luca found that bad yelp reviews make it more likely that a restaurant will go out of business after a minimum wage hike, no matter if it’s $ or $$$$.

April 18, 2017

Politico’s Michael Grunwald explains the Congressional Review Act and why it matters.

April 15, 2017

The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson breaks down the fiscal policies Trump appears to be changing his mind on.

April 14, 2017

The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey explains how Pope Francis is advocating for the rights of migrants.

April 13, 2017

Civil Rights attorney Dan Canon couldn’t even find the man he was supposed to represent in immigration court.

April 12, 2017

Quartz’ Special Project editor Lauren Brown gives us an introduction to Index, a site for short little stories about finance and economics you can swipe through on your phone.

April 11, 2017

The Washington Post’s John Wagner says the case boils down to who owns the White House Visitor logs — the Trump administration or the Secret Service?

April 7, 2017

Wired’s Megan Moltani breaks wellness apps into three different categories, and one of them is grey.

April 6, 2017

When the leaders of the two largest economies in the world meet, you’d expect them to talk about the biggest threat to their labor forces — automation

April 5, 2017

From CityLab, Laura Bliss found some shocking findings by cross-referencing two health data sets.

April 4, 2017

The Atlantic’s Megan Garber says brands are making claims not just about what people should buy, but about what people should be.

April 2, 2017

Quartz’s Mike Murphy says imitation is the most profitable form of flattery.

March 31, 2017

Wired’s Emily Dreyfus wrote a controversial piece about why Silicon Valley Titans are obsessed with transhumanism.

March 30, 2017

The Atlantic’s David Graham thinks the failure of the AHCA might be Trump’s best day in office.

March 29, 2017

Axios’ Political Reporter Jonathan Swan says to do both, Trump will have to win over Democrats.

March 28, 2017

Gizmodo’s Ryan Mandelbaum reports on science sting to take down fraudulent academic journals.

March 27, 2017

Wired’s Garrett M. Graff chronicles the FBI’s hunt for America’s most wanted hacker.

March 24, 2017

In The Atlantic’s April cover story, Liza Mundy wonders why a new industry isn’t more innovative when it comes to gender diversity.

March 23, 2017

Quartz’s Sarah Kessler says IBM was a pioneer of letting employees work remotely, but now they changed their mind.

March 22, 2017

Axios’ Jonathan Swan says the bill’s authors are struggling to please both Republican moderates and the far-right.

March 21, 2017

The Atlantic’s Clare Foran gives a recap of Day 1 of the confirmation hearing and a look ahead to day 2.

March 20, 2017

Neil Harbisson has a surgically-implanted antenna that helps him hear color.

March 17, 2017

When it comes to cyber attacks, we don’t really have any red lines.

March 15, 2017

60dB reporters Daisy Rosario and Brenda Salinas give you a rundown of all the new technology they saw at SXSW.

March 13, 2017

Quartz’ Leah Fessler shows you how to look for visual clues that employees might not be happy.

March 10, 2017

The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins dug into Trump’s history.

March 8, 2017

Quartz’ Ana Campoy says Trump, yes Trump, might be the president that finally achieves comprehensive immigration reform.

March 7, 2017

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin says conservative politicians are doing some risky calculus.

March 6, 2017

Photographer Sima Diab spent time on a refugee rescue ship off the coast of Libya

March 3, 2017

Politico’s Josh Meyer points out the parallels and the differences.

March 2, 2017

Fusion’s Rafael Fernandez de Castro and Tim Rodgers discuss how Mexico could hit back at the Trump administration

March 1, 2017

Politico’s Ben Schreckinger thought he was in shape, until he tried RBG’s workout.

February 28, 2017

The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis gives us a preview of what Trump might say tonight.

February 27, 2017

Quartz’ Leah Fessler spent last week saying some pretty nasty things to robots — for science.

February 23, 2017

The Atlantic’s Supreme Court correspondent Garrett Epps weighs in on Hernandez v Mesa

February 23, 2017

Quartz’ Steve Levine says for the American press, Trump is just a drill.

February 22, 2017

Vox’s Dara Lind gives us the lowdown on Secretary Kelly’s memos to the Department of Homeland Security

February 21, 2017

The Atlantic’s David Frum outlines what an effective protest movement would look like.

February 20, 2017

Research shows immigrants actually decrease an area’s crime rate.

February 17, 2017

Wired writer Emily Dreyfuss explains the Illusory Truth Effect

February 16, 2017

Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker asks if VP Mike Pence is outside of President Trump’s inner circle.

February 15, 2017

Fusion’s Jorge Rivas talks about the nationwide ICE operation that detained over 680 immigrants over 5 days.

February 13, 2017

The Atlantic’s David Graham wonders if Trump might vote one of his advisors off the island.

February 9, 2017

The Washington Post’s Andrew Blake thinks we could be heading towards a constitutional crisis.

February 9, 2017

Quartz’ David Yanofsky breaks down his interactive graph documenting the breath of Mexican imports.

February 8, 2017

Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford unpacks what Trump’s chief policy advisor wants to accomplish.

February 7, 2017

The Washington Post’s Renae Merle discusses Trump’s evolving relationship with Wall St.

February 4, 2017

Football player Zac Easter suffered from CTE — but he never played past high school. Reid Forgrave, as well as Zac himself, tells the story of Zac’s football-induced descent into darkness.

February 2, 2017

What are the mass-surveillance implications of drug-testing sewage?

February 1, 2017

The Washington Post’s Darla Cameron talks about President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

January 31, 2017

Victoria Advocate Editor Chris Cobler talks about the fire that ravaged a Muslim community in Texas

January 31, 2017

Wired’s Klint Finley talks about why all the apps to contact your representatives might have unintended consequences.

January 30, 2017

Brendan Koerner talks to Brenda Salinas about a controversial program in Minneapolis that tries to rehabilitate wannabe terrorists.

January 28, 2017

Buzzfeed writer Doree Shafrir talks about NBC’s runaway hit, This is US

January 28, 2017

Foreign Policy’s Molly O’Toole explains what Trump’s actions on refugees and Arab immigrants really mean.

January 27, 2017

What if you could shrink the government and keep all the good stuff?

January 26, 2017

President Donald Trump is making good on his campaign promises.

January 25, 2017

Secretary of Health and Human Services had a second confirmation hearing yesterday.

January 24, 2017

Trump’s executive pen got a workout.

January 23, 2017

Philanthropists, governments and vaccine makers are investing 500 million dollars to save the world.

January 22, 2017

For the Trump administration, counting crowds is a political act.

January 20, 2017

Democrats are unprepared for the age of President Donald Trump.

January 19, 2017

President Obama’s last minute pardons don’t alter his legacy of attacking whistleblowers.

January 19, 2017

Trump’s transition stumbles into office with key vacancies and a fundamental disagreement on Russia.

January 18, 2017

President-Elect Trump just threatened to dismantle the American-European Alliance as we know it.

January 17, 2017

There are lots of people staring gofundme campaigns to cover medical bills

January 13, 2017

We haven’t had a billionaire president, but we have had a billionaire mayor — Michael Bloomberg

January 12, 2017

It’s not just blue collar workers who should be concerned.

January 10, 2017

Today is going to be a crazy day in politics.

January 9, 2017

How do women deal with unwanted pregnancies when legal abortion isn’t accessible?

December 23, 2016

A new study says the U.S. looses billions of dollars by not legalizing unauthorized workers.

December 22, 2016

2,500 business have popped up in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

December 21, 2016

Will women have to compete with submissive robots?

December 19, 2016

For something she did during her time as France’s Chief Finance Minister.

December 19, 2016

Conservative Christian Mark Baurlein makes the case for Donald Trump.

December 16, 2016

Two scientists are making big waves in the physics community with their new theoretical research.

December 15, 2016

Is the Fed acting out of political partisanship like Donald Trump says?

December 14, 2016

When Sameer Siddiqi was in junior high, 2 FBI agents knocked on his family’s door.

December 13, 2016

Why is President-Elect Donald Trump forming such a brass-heavy cabinet?

December 12, 2016

Trump’s Carrier deal has nothing on Enrique Peña Nieto’s Walmart score.

December 9, 2016

After a tragedy, Oakland must reckon with its affordability crisis

December 8, 2016

Kimberly Lyle thinks African-Americans should stop lionizing Castro as champion of black liberation

Analysts say the “Tough Love” industry is worth 1.2 billion dollars.

December 6, 2016

The economy is changing, but there are still good middle class jobs out there.

December 5, 2016

The hash tage #AirbnbWhileBlack highlights just how easily discrimination can reshape the sharing economy. But online marketplaces didn’t always work this way. And if they are well designed they don’t have to. The first generation of online marketplaces, including eBay, Amazon, and Priceline, made it hard for sellers to discriminate. Transactions were conducted with relative anonymity.

December 1, 2016

Fake news isn’t a recent problem in the US — it almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln

Donald Trump has called for a national awakening in the U.S. — but really he is sparking one in Mexico.

November 29, 2016

Can a fringe group like the Alt-Right really affect our politics?

November 23, 2016

Trump’s plan focuses on trade, deregulation, tax cuts and spending.

November 22, 2016

What can you do if a kid you know is experiencing racial bullying?

November 21, 2016

What does the way Vice President-Elect Mike Pence reacted to an HIV outbreak as governor in Indiana tell us about his relationship with science?

November 17, 2016

There are signs of chaos in Trump’s transition team.

November 17, 2016

Caitlin Leach was surprised at her classmates’ reaction to Trump’s election.

November 16, 2016

President Elect Donald Trump has promised to punish so-called “sanctuary cities”.

November 14, 2016

Young undocumented immigrants who obtained protected status through President Obama’s executive action face an uncertain future under a Trump administration.

November 11, 2016

Yes, it is possible for Trump and Clinton supporters to have productive (and calm) conversations.

November 9, 2016

Trump’s victory astounded pollsters and was likely driven by high turnout amongst unlikely voters.

November 8, 2016

If you want to help voters stuck in long lines, send them a pizza!

The Latino vote is shaping up to be decisive in 2016. What happens next?

November 8, 2016

It turns out pockets are a political construct.

November 7, 2016

Some experts say it’s the legal way to steal an election.

November 4, 2016

New documents show that AT&T is spying on Americans for profit.

November 3, 2016

Walmart raised it’s base wage and sales actually went up, does that mean we should raise the federal minimum wage?

Why is Facebook promoting bogus news stories?

November 1, 2016

So what would happen if non-Koreans attempted to break into the scene and channel that same pop aesthetic? Well, we’re about to find out.

November 1, 2016

It’s 11 times bigger than the White House, and it’s a lot more interesting.

One school in St. Louis found an unlikely cause of absenteeism and it did something about it.

October 31, 2016

Want to get more women with kids to work full time?

October 28, 2016

Trump’s vague and reckless calls for supporters to “monitor” elections is voter intimidation, and it may be illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

October 28, 2016

If you want to save the birds, you may have to kill the cats.

October 26, 2016

Executive powers have expanded over the last few terms

October 25, 2016

Analysis suggests people will never live much beyond 115 but some scientists say that it’s too soon to assume a fixed shelf-life.

October 21, 2016

The battle to retake a city from ISIS is being live-streamed

October 18, 2016

A new federal program signed up hordes of eager students — just as the industry went bust.

October 18, 2016

It’s more than a victory lap, the Clinton campaign is spending money in traditionally red states.

October 17, 2016

Data-driven software promises to eliminate long waits

Think you can tell when your kid is lying? Think again

October 14, 2016

Many men, in fact, see Trump as the candidate who can restore men’s status in society. According to several recent analyses, about half of men feel American culture has become too soft and feminine, and they feel men are suffering as a result.

October 14, 2016

Several recent studies show that when men feel persecuted, they turn to Donald Trump for affirmation.

Several recent studies show that when men feel persecuted, they turn to Donald Trump for affirmation.

The story might sound familiar.

October 13, 2016

Sexual assault on planes maybe more common than you think.

October 11, 2016

Making your tweet go viral is no accident.

October 10, 2016

Brenda Salinas interviews Jared Lindzon about new research on the ways people quit their jobs and what employers can learn from losing an employee.

October 10, 2016

The way someone chooses to leave their job can serve as a “diagnostic tool” for the company.

October 7, 2016

Try real-life dating is hard? Try seducing a fictional character

October 6, 2016

Shirley Jackson became a literary icon in 1948 while raising 4 kids

October 5, 2016

The great veep debate of 2016.

October 4, 2016

What is the moral cost of subscription meal boxes?

October 3, 2016

Meet the guy biohacking puppies to make them glow in the dark.

September 30, 2016

Who run the world? Kids who scored high on the SAT at age 12

September 29, 2016

Have you ever thought about what will happen to your social media posts when you die?

September 28, 2016

Do you know where your old electronics are?

September 27, 2016

One a girl goes to juvenile court, it can be hard to escape the system.

September 23, 2016

Despite recent events in Tulsa if Police want to cut down on the shootings of unarmed citizens they should hire more women.

September 23, 2016

Chris Christie was on the baseball team in high school. David Wildstein was the team statistician. He’s been a sidekick ever since — but soon he might take the Governor down.

September 22, 2016

Research shows adding more women to the force helps reduce police brutality.

September 21, 2016

Expensive American cities need to embrace group living. A messy fight in Colorado shows how hard that can be.

September 20, 2016

The best thing our society could do to stop police brutality might be treat PTSD among cops.

September 20, 2016

To win the election, Hillary Clinton needs to get millennials of color to turn out the vote.

September 19, 2016

The first think piece about Millennials that won’t make you want to puke

September 15, 2016

Kentucky’s 2016 teacher of the year says all kids need time for exploration and play.

September 14, 2016

Jerry Hayes was beloved by beekeepers all over American. Then he did the unthinkable, he took a job at Monsanto.

September 13, 2016

Richmond was once the epicenter of black finance. What happened there explains the decline of black-owned banks across the country.

September 9, 2016

Airlines are surprisingly ill-equipped to handle accusations of sexual assault on their planes.

September 8, 2016

WhatsApp has become a virtual lifeline for the only “doctors” remaining in small town in Syria.

September 7, 2016

Digital learning systems now charge students for access codes needed to complete coursework, take quizzes, and turn in homework.

Brenda Salinas at 60dB

All the stories Brenda Salinas made for 60dB.

September 16, 2017

Reporter Brenda Salinas wanted to understand how detaining immigrants can be such a profitable business for private prison companies.

September 15, 2017

A Stanford computer science major developed a free tool to help Americans take Equifax to small claims court.

August 29, 2017

60dB reporter Brenda Salinas is in her hometown of Houston during Tropical Storm Harvey.

August 29, 2017

60dB’s Brenda Salinas talks to Jeff Masters, he’s the co-founder of Weather Underground, a web site that meteorologists go to get inside information about severe weather.

August 29, 2017

Geopolitics reporter Max de Haldevang says this is a serious blow to American soft power.

August 25, 2017

After Tropical Storm Allison devastated the Houston Medical Center in 2001, the area’s 21 hospitals banded together to make sure it never happens again.

August 24, 2017

Axios’ Alexi McCammond says Chief of Staff John Kelly can only do so much to keep President Donald Trump in line.

August 22, 2017

Axios’ Deputy News Desk Editor Dave Lawler gives us the debrief on Trump’s prime-time Presidential address.

August 18, 2017

Axios’ Alayna Treene explains what Trump could be thinking.

August 17, 2017

Reverend Ann Willet of First United Methodist Church in Dallas Texas had a sermon go viral.

August 16, 2017

Laura Smith writes women have been an integral part of white supremacist movements throughout history.

August 11, 2017

Axios’ Dan Primack has the scoop: Benchmark Capital is suing Uber Founder Travis Kalanick for fraud.

August 10, 2017

Axios’ Mike Allen says the culture wars have finally come to Silicon Valley.

July 31, 2017

Quartz’ special projects editor Lauren Brown brings us three bite-sized business stories from Quartz Index.

July 27, 2017

How can blue cities fight back against red states? Molly Cohen, associate counsel with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. has four lines of defense.

Reporter Robbie Gramer unpacks rumors of a so-called “Rexit” at the State Department.

July 25, 2017

Brenda Salinas met Joshua Browder, a Stanford computer science major who is automating legal aid and talked to Renee Knake, a legal ethicist, about what it means for the legal professor.

July 21, 2017

Quartz’ Mike Murphy and Jacob Templin talk about the robotics companies that are hiring Pixar engineers to design their robots.

July 20, 2017

Politico’s Dan Diamond reports that after fending off challenges to their tax-exempt status, the biggest hospitals boosted revenue while cutting charity care.

July 19, 2017

A study found adults see black girls as ‘less innocent,’ Jonita Davis says that’s shocking everyone but black moms

July 18, 2017

Ashley Rodriguez says the real fight in the TV streaming wars is not over you. It’s over your kids.

July 15, 2017

The Atlantic’s Adrienne Lafrance tells us about the technology that makes it difficult to discern between videos of real people and avatars who can be programmed to say anything.

July 13, 2017

Journalist Nathan Kohrman argues that medical schools should do more to accommodate students with disabilities, and we talk to one such student, Molly Fausone.

July 11, 2017

The Atlantic’s David Graham breaks down the latest development in the Trump camp Russian collusion saga.

July 11, 2017

Racked’ Eliza Brooke explores why American women are so obsessed with French lifestyle brands. Illustration by Rebecca Clarke.

July 10, 2017

The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan reports dentists are surprisingly well organized, and they have a political tool unlike any other.

July 6, 2017

Quartz’ Nikhil Sonnad found surprising similarities in the products on Goop’s and Infowars’ online stores.

July 3, 2017

Writing for Vox, Allison Yarrow writes the U.S. is one of the most dangerous places to have a baby.

June 30, 2017

ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum thinks TMZ has playing the access journalism game and winning. Or are they losing?

June 29, 2017

Wired’s Issie Lapowski went to her old middle school to check in on kids going through a News Literacy Project curriculum.

June 26, 2017

Writing for The Atlantic, Helaine Olen explored all the ways people try to raise money to pay for their medical bills.

June 23, 2017

In an investigation for Bloomberg, Cam Simpson found that American chip manufacturers outsourced their toxic chipmaking processes to South Korea.

June 22, 2017

60dB’s Brenda Salinas and Vice’s Ankita Rao have a frank discussion about their first-hand frustrations with movies about eating disorders.

June 21, 2017

The Washington Post’s William Wan explores why Big Tobacco targets rural Americans.

June 20, 2017

T.R. Reid says we could save a huge amount of money if we accepted that we’re all going to die.

June 19, 2017

Vice’s tech editor Noah Kulwin says Spotify is in a pickle.

June 16, 2017

We can all agree the shooting in Virginia was a tragedy. Let it also be an opportunity for substantive conversation.

June 15, 2017

Concealed Carry Magazine’s Kevin Michalowski says the Congressional shooting is an example of why more people should legally carry guns.

The Week’s Anthony Fisher writes a plea for sympathy and restraint after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise on Wednesday morning.

June 14, 2017

Political Scientist Robert Spitzer analyzes why pro-gun groups typically don’t make public statements about mass shootings.

June 14, 2017

Writing for the Atlantic, Michael Frank explains how farms in upstate New York are dealing with the fear of worker deportation.

June 12, 2017

Quartz’ Special Projects Editor Lauren Brown gives us 3 bite-sized business stories.

June 9, 2017

The Guardian’s Oliver Laughland takes us behind a new immigration court in Louisiana.

June 8, 2017

Writing for Buzzfeed, Doug Bock Clark explains why the U.S. is trying to remake the world’s prisons.

June 7, 2017

The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger explains this mismatch strikes right at the heart of a lot of concerns about the Trump family’s business interests.

June 6, 2017

Quartz’ fashion correspondent Marc Bain takes a closer look at organic fashion.

June 5, 2017

The Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports that with the state budget in crisis, nearly a fifth of Oklahoma school districts are holding school just four days a week.

June 2, 2017

The University of Chicago sent a welcome letter to all new students warning that the University won’t censor controversial speech or offer trigger warnings in class.

September 2, 2016

Black students at an elite South African school are protesting for their right to wear natural hair

September 1, 2016

Does showing pictures of terrorist create empathy for terrorists?

August 31, 2016

When young, upwardly mobile Latinos move back to their old neighborhoods, some residents are wary of the changes they bring.

August 29, 2016

Researchers are using artificial intelligence to identify speech patterns associated with the early stages of schizophrenia.

August 29, 2016

This catchy vocal fluctuation is showing up all over pop music.

August 25, 2016

Epi Pen’s profits are up 600%

August 25, 2016

Private prisons are unlikely to disappear, despite the Obama administration’s decision to stop using them within the federal prison system.

August 24, 2016

Ryan Lochte and Donald Trump gave seemingly insincere apologies to the press, is it a sign of the times?

No way is Trump going to lose Texas, so why is hold a rally in proud-to-be-blue Austin?

August 23, 2016

Chicago uses predictive algorithms to get ahead of likely crime — but instead of using these tools to deliver help victims they may have become a cyber drag net.

August 22, 2016

Is a feminist icon responsible for the misogynist statements her employees make?

August 17, 2016

Bloomberg reporter Esmé E. Deprez took a 3000 mile bus trip across the United States to speak with voters

August 17, 2016

A new Pew Research Center study shows that segregation is alive and well on social media

We are living in a segregated social media world.

August 16, 2016

Woodpeckers constantly bang their heads against trees, and you don’t see them wearing little bird helmets.

August 15, 2016

A Christian football coach is suing his school district for not letting him lead a prayer on the field, and that’s where the Satanists come in.

August 12, 2016

How the Philippines’ new leader is letting people get away with murder

It’s not the Olympics, but there are still blood, sweat and tears at the Microsoft Office World Championships

August 11, 2016

The Media’s Olympic coverage reminds us how taxing it is to be a female athlete

August 10, 2016

Are license plate readers that were installed to fight terrorism being used to fine and ticket low income communities?

Chinese women are paying $60,000 for a professional to befriend the ‘other woman’ and break up their husband’s affair.

August 8, 2016

An Indy Star investigation revealed that USA Gymnastics repeatedly failed to investigate charges of sex abuse

August 4, 2016

Ticket bot software helps tech-savvy scalpers make millions off Broadway hit ‘Hamilton’

August 3, 2016

This year a team of refugees will compete at the Olympic games

August 3, 2016

Molly O’Toole takes us on a trip to Tripoli and explains what’s up with the recent US bombing.

August 2, 2016

Heated rhetoric on immigration has Latino voters riled up and ready for November.

August 2, 2016

Immigration rhetoric has Latino voters riled up.

July 28, 2016

Donald Trump is seeking to hire more foreign guest workers for his companies

July 27, 2016

After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Police have been increasing their presence in gay spaces, but not everyone feels safer.

July 25, 2016

Tim Kaine speaks Spanish. Latinos need more than that to be impressed.

July 23, 2016

Russia is facing a likely ban from the Olympics in Rio. Emily Tamkin outlines what is know about the Russian doping program.

July 22, 2016

What’s said inside an Uber at the RNC.

July 20, 2016

Square is guilting us into tipping basically everyone.

July 20, 2016

There is a billion dollar battle over a new gene splicing technique called Crispr

July 20, 2016

A federal appeals court rules the Texas Voter ID law is discriminatory

July 20, 2016

Its official, Trump is the nominee. Christie Attacks. Tiffany Charms

July 19, 2016

Is it cool to use Black Lives Matter as your Starbucks name?

July 19, 2016

Protesters have been told not to bring soap boxes or pillow to the RNC…but guns, guns are ok.

Yelp ratings may be predictor of how restaurants fare after a minimum wage increase

Get the full story on Marketplace.

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Some restaurants owners have argued that raising the minimum wage may force them to close, or cut staff. Now a new study suggests that this only really happens to restaurants with lower customer satisfaction ratings as measured by Yelp.

In January the minimum wage in Palo Alto, California, increased from  $11 an hour to $12 an hour. “When the increase happened everybody was a little bit happy,” said Edita Buran, a waitress at local restaurant Calafia Cafe.

But Buran has noticed that the restaurant has cut back on staffing for each shift. “It’s increasing the load on each person drastically,” said Buran.

Buran works at a restaurant with three and half stars on Yelp. Restaurants in that category are 14 percent more likely to go out of business after a $1 minimum wage increase, said Michael Luca, professor of business at Harvard University and one of the authors of the study.

“Basically the five and four and a half star restaurants are completely insulated from changes to the minimum wage,” Luca said. “What we see though, is that two star and three star restaurant are heavily affected by changes in the minimum wage.”

Luca got raw data from Yelp about all the restaurants in the Bay Area where there have been a lot of city-level minimum wage increases. His theory is that restaurants with higher levels of customer satisfaction are able to pass on higher labor costs to their customers. Restaurants with lower ratings can’t do that.

“We’re on that cusp point,” said Pedro Castaneda, Buran’s  manager at Calafia Cafe.

Paychecks have gotten fatter since the wage hike, but Castaneda said there are other factors contributing to the slowdown, like summer vacation.  He said the restaurant is holding on. “I think if it goes any higher we will definitely feel it,” Castaneda said.

But Castaneda doesn’t think the restaurant would actually close. “What would probably end up happening is we would have to either get someone who could do multiple jobs or rely on technology a little more to cut back our staff,” he said.

Luca said he’s heard that one before. “I think it’s rare to find a business that thinks it’s going to close,” said Luca. But, he adds, if the restaurant has managed to stay open this long after the minimum wage increase, all signs are good.

 

Press: 60db

I am thrilled to be a part of this incredible team. We are finally ready to share a little bit more about what we’re cooking up.

Check out the full write-up on Nieman Lab.

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A new audio startup focuses on tailoring a playlist of short form stories that fit into a listener’s day

60dB, named for the volume at which a human speaks and founded by a former Planet Money reporter and two others with backgrounds at Netflix, is being teased as a “service for high-quality, short-form stories.”
Give the people what they want, when they want it, where they want it. It’s the mandate of streaming services like Spotify or Netflix, but the thinking around on-demand, personalized content has fully permeated the world of audio storytelling. (Seriously, search “Netflix of podcasting.” Every shiny new audio service has gotten the aspirational label, from Audible’s Channels to NPR One to Howl to Gimlet).

Now there’s one more new audio service on the horizon, co-founded by former NPR Planet Money reporter Steve Henn along withJohn Ciancutti and Steve McLendon, both with long histories at — wait for it — Netflix. 60dB, named for the volume at which a (calm) human speaks, is being teased as a “service for high-quality, short-form stories,” though the co-founders were more reticent about sharing too many details of its inner workings when I spoke to them prior to the announcement of the service Thursday morning (Ciancutti, Henn, and McLendon’s company is called Tiny Garage Labs).

60dB will start off as an iOS app, and then move into a broader universe of devices. A working version of the product exists and has been tested within a tiny group, but isn’t being released to the broader public just yet, though you can sign up to get notified when it is available. (I haven’t played with it either, and the team isn’t releasing screenshots or other materials at the moment).But in broad strokes: Users open the app, and it take signals from what subjects and types of stories and even people they’ve indicated they like, and 60dB will refine that feed of stories over time. The stories available on the platform will be easily searchable and contain familiar content aggregated from elsewhere, but also plenty of shortform content is new for the platform — emphasis on short.

There are “incredible stories people aren’t getting to hear,” Henn told me, whether because the length of many of the available podcasts “don’t fit into people’s lives,” or because it’s too difficult to discover shorter programming in single place.

I left @planetmoney to build this: @the60dB. If you tell stories I think we have something you will want to try.https://medium.com/@HennsEggs/tell-the-stories-you-want-to-tell-4527a57f50b8#.3n8yfcpyh 

Photo published for Tell the stories you want to tell.

Tell the stories you want to tell.

Find an audience around the world.

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I immediately thought of Acast’sattempts to emphasize diverse creators and niche interests, and of the constantly personalizing feed that NPR One offers. Henn and Ciancutti said that NPR One was a reasonable comparison: “But we wouldn’t be building this if we didn’t genuinely believe there wasn’t a good option already out there.” (I also immediately jumped to other conclusions, but 60dB isapparently not where NPR One lead Sara Sarasohn, who is leaving NPR, is headed)60dB also intends to offer data to the people creating for the platform, and not just barebones metrics. One of Henn’s last stories for Planet Money was about A/B testing, for which the team actually tested the effectiveness of the Planet Money episode lede on NPR One.

“One of the things we realized when we can see this type of data is that people can tune out of a story skip or tune out very early, first few seconds, first minute or two of a longer podcast. If you’re going to lose a chunk of your audience, that’s the point at which you lose them,” Henn said. “So just knowing that allows you to think really carefully about what’s the best way to reduce this. That’s tremendously powerful. This is something I really want to share this with everyone else who might be doing this for a living. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. This is late in my career, and now I’m going ‘ah ha!’”

The team declined to say more when I asked about who was paying for Tiny Garage Labs’ work and what the revenue model going forward would be, but Ciancutti dropped a small hint at the direction the team might prefer to go.

“We are not telling our funding story right now. We’ve got plenty of thoughts on monetization, but no one point of view on that at this point,” he said. “But you can see there’s three co-founders, and two of us spent twelve years at Netflix. Looking at our backgrounds you could imagine some of the biases that we have.”

“Netflix was a powerful example of how you can build a company to change consumer behavior in an industry like television, but also create a business model that really has lead to a golden age for high quality television,” Henn added. “The way the industry works now supports more great stuff than ever before. And that’s not a given when a media institution makes the transition into the digital world. That’s what I left Planet Money to work on.”

In Mariachi Music, A Distinctive Yell Speaks To The Soul

 

A screen displays the concert of Mexican folk singer Vicente Fernández in Guadalajara, Mexico, in April, when Fernández announced his retirement.

 

 

Do you know that feeling when a song moves you so much, you just feel like you have to add your own voice? Mexican culture has an answer to that: a cathartic, joyous yell called a grito.

Growing Up Hearing Gritos

Like lots of Mexican-American kids, Contreras and I grew up hearing the adults in our lives performing gritos when they listened to mariachi music at family barbecues, or cheering on friends and family at graduation.

“In my family, my mother and my grandfather, her step-dad, when we would be at family parties like Christmas or something like that, we’d be in the other room playing, we’d hear a really loud grito, we knew the party was on, it just took it to a different level,” Contreras says. “It was the ultimate expression that we were really having a good time.”

I am pretty sure I could identify my tíos and tías by their gritos, and many Mexican-American children begin finding their own grito voice early.

 

Like many schools in Texas, students at Perez Elementary school in Austin have the opportunity to learn and perform mariachi music. Their teacher, Angela Machado, is too busy teaching them chords and song lyrics to teach them gritos. “It is not part of the curriculum necessarily but I know a lot of them do already know how,” she says.

Third graders Leo Garcia, Jose Jaimes, Mario Flores and Angelita Alivter Cardenas show me their gritos. They sound like lion cubs learning how to roar.

If they want to keep working on their gritos, these kids may have a chance in college. Ezekiel Castro is a lecturer at the University of Texas Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music. He is also director of the school’s mariachi ensemble and teaches about mariachi culture. The grito is an important part of that.

“The Mexicans are very emotional people,” says Castro. “When they hear mariachi music, whether it’s because of sorrow or because of joy, they do these gritos, these yells.” Castro says his students do a much better grito than he does. “Some people are just exquisite with it. Others, you know, we just do the best we can.”

Gritos aren’t just emotional; they’re political. One of Mexico’s founding fathers uttered the first documented grito in history when he declared the war for Mexican independence. The president of Mexico does a more formal grito every year on that anniversary, as Enrique Peña Nieto did in 2015.

Grito 101

Laura Gutierrez teaches Mexican performance studies at the University of Texas. She says gritos are complex expressions. “They’re like small narrative capsules, without the narrative that are full of layers of emotion,” Gutierrez says. And belting out a greatgrito feels really good. “When you finally release the last gasp of air, there’s relief,” Gutierrez says.

Video producer Kathryn Gonzalez rediscovered the grito at a 2014 Day of the Dead party in west Texas. “I was the only brown person at the whole party,” Gonzalez says. “There was a little conjunto band and I was so moved, I don’t even really honestly remember the song, but I was compelled to do a grito.”

But there were two things stopping her. “I thought well, A, I don’t know if anyone here would know what that was and why I was doing it,” Gonzalez says. “And B, I thought I don’t really know if I know how to do a good grito, like I’m not sure that I could pull it off.”

So Gonzalez teamed up with a developer friend and created the Grito App.

“You scroll through the different sounds, each sound has its own screen. You can learn a little more about the grito, you can share the grito, you can save it to your videos and just kind of text it or email it around,” Gonzalez says.

Since mariachi music is less popular among newer generations, not that many young people know how to do a good grito. Castro says that’s no reason not to try. “Everybody has their own individual way of doing gritos,” he says. “It’s a great expression.”

Growing Into Gritos

Felix Contreras tried to do a grito when he was a college student at Cal State University Fresno in the late ’70s. His friends would have grito contests after a long night. “It was pathetic. I thought, ‘Ugh, I definitely won’t be doing that again.'”

And even though his alt.latino co-host Jasmine Garsd has been trying to get him to do a grito on-air, Contreras says he won’t do it. “You have to not be afraid to be the subject of attention in a small world,” Contreras says. “You have to use the front of the diaphragm, full of gusto, and release anguish and joy from your soul to do a successfulgrito.”

Contreras has found himself listening to more mariachi music over the years. “It’s an acquired taste as you get older, you experience life’s heartbreaks and joys, the lyrics and the recitations and the performance resonates in a different way,” Contreras says. “It has all the secrets to life in the lyrics. You don’t know that when you’re in your twenties.”

“By the time you hit your forties, Chente knew what he was talking about,” Contreras says. And you might feel inspired to try out your own grito.

Wanna have a tantrum and smash something? Be her guest

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Check out the full story on Marketplace.

 

It’s a tough time to be in Houston right now. Ninety-degree weather, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the oil and gas sector has been stagnating for the last 18 months. Eighty thousand people have gotten laid off, including Shawn Baker.

“I didn’t see it coming at all, not one bit, and I was very devastated, and I’m still very bitter about it, very bitter,” Baker said.

She took that frustration and decided after 25 years in the oil industry to finally become her own boss. She started a company called Tantrums LLC.

She bought a warehouse and converted it into five small rooms she fills with defunct electronics, glass bottles and anything that will break. For close to $3 a minute, she’ll help you pick out a tool, like a sledgehammer, a baseball bat or a lead pipe, and let you destroy everything in the room.

Television sets are available for trashing.

Television sets are available for trashing.

“Everybody’s had enough at some point of their day or their life or whatever, and so when you come in here, you can be as aggressive as you want in the privacy of your own room. You can let it out or whatever it is you’re in here for, and you don’t have to clean up,” Baker said.

Baker got the idea for the business a few years ago when she saw a few guys beating up some furniture behind a bar.

“I just thought it was genius,” Baker said. “I could see me doing it.”

There’s not much Baker can do about the downturn in oil and gas, but she feels she can help people cope.

“There’s a lot of stress in this city because we’re the energy capital, and there are lot of layoffs happening,” Baker said.

One of her customers, Lance Nolan, is a mid-level manager at a drilling chemical company outside of Houston. Work’s been tough lately.

“We actually had a fracking division and we had to shut it down, had to lay off 35 people the other day,” Nolan said.

That’s why Nolan’s wife, Holly McClellan, decided to bring him to Tantrums LLC as a surprise. They both work in oil and gas, and they care for Porter, their 10-month-old daughter.

Before Nolan starts smashing his room, Baker leads him to the safety equipment.

“The face masks are optional, but you have to wear safety glasses and you have to protect your hands, and [wear] closed-toe shoes and long pants,” Baker said.

Lance Nolan smashes into a TV. When he’s not pulverizing electronics with a sledgehammer, Lance Nolan is a mid-level manager at a drilling chemical company.

Lance Nolan smashes into a TV. When he’s not pulverizing electronics with a sledgehammer, Lance Nolan is a mid-level manager at a drilling chemical company.

Pulverizing electronics and glass objects is relatively safe, Baker said. Every so often customers walk out with cuts and scrapes, which they wear as badges of honor.

Entire offices, as well as couples and friends, come in here for team-bonding activities. If you give her some advance notice, Baker will even set up a themed room for you. A few weeks ago she had a teacher who wanted a replica of his classroom. When he walked out, Baker was surprised to find the room intact.

It turns out the teacher just wanted to scream.

Sledgehammer in hand, Lance Nolan has 15 minutes to smash a room full of glass bottles, an orange schoolroom chair, a bunch of porcelain knick-knacks and a giant TV.

When his session is over,  Nolan comes out drenched in sweat, with a big smile on his face.  He’s out of breath, but he feels good.

His wife tells him next time, it’s his turn to watch the baby. She wants a turn with the sledgehammer.

Mexican American Textbook Wars in Texas

Textbook

Get the full story on NPR’s Latino USA.

In Texas, where half of all public school students are Latino, the State Board of Education (SBOE) is in the process of approving a new Mexican American studies textbook. The proposal for the textbook was approved two years ago after a petition for a separate curriculum for Mexican American studies was denied in 2010.

“The official curriculum in the state of Texas underrepresents and misrepresents the historical presence of Mexican origin people in this country as well as women and African Americans,” said Emilio Zamora, a professor of Mexican American history at the University of Texas at Austin.

That’s important, because Latino students who learn about their cultural history are more likely to graduate from high school, according to a University of Arizona study in 2015. In the United States, the dropout rate for Latinos is almost three times higher than it is for non-Latino whites.

Only one textbook has since been submitted for review, but it has attracted scrutiny for its contentious handling of Mexican American history. Zamora fears that it will cause more harm than good.

“It was very offensive that they would select people that are not trained or professional historians in the field of Mexican American history,” he said.

The textbook has been submitted by a new company called Momentum Instruction.

Cynthia Dunbar, a member of Momentum Instruction who also served on the SBOE in 2010, says her company hired authors who could review the history fairly.

“They did not want a biased or a skewed viewpoint, they did not want liberally biased, but neither did they want conservatively biased. They wanted people who were willing to just go out and exhaustively review every side of the issue,” she said.

Texans have until November to submit comments about the book, at which point a committee will review them and make recommendations to the SBOE. If recent history is any indication, it’s going to be a big fight.

Unemployed Oil Workers Find New Home in Solar Industry

Eighty thousand workers have been laid off across the country as the price of oil has plummeted. In Texas, some out-of-work rig hands, pipe fitters and engineers are finding employment in solar energy.

David Webster has been managing the Mission Solar warehouse in San Antonio since February. Before finding work in the solar sector, Webster spent 10 years shipping oil out of rigs all over the world. Now, he makes sure that the solar panels are packaged and distributed to customers across the U.S.

Transitioning to solar energy was an adjustment.

“Learning about the different types of [panels], learning how the whole process works, that was a learning curve,” Webster said. “The warehouse portion and the management people, not so much.”

Something else that’s different about his new job — the money. “Over a year’s period of time, it’s about half,” Webster said.

Mariela Cruz, a hiring manager at OCI Power, said that a 50 percent pay cut is pretty typical for people transitioning from oil and gas to solar energy.

“Not to say that we don’t pay well or anything like that, but definitely we know that there is a pay differential for those employees,” Cruz said.

An entry level job in solar pays about $50,000 a year. At the peak of the oil boom, rig hands could be making six figures. But warehouse manager David Webster said it was a hard life. Spending 28 days on the rig and 28 days off took a toll on him. The recent uncertainty in the oil market convinced him to take a pay cut.

“The stress of not knowing if you were going to get laid off, that was worse,” Webster said. “I don’t have any stress here.”

The recent downturn in the oil market has made solar energy jobs more attractive. When Mariela Cruz posts an opening for a solar technician, for example, she gets about 100 candidates, of which 25 percent come from oil and gas. Her challenge is to weed out those who will leave once oil prices go up again.

“You can generally tell that they’re trying to make a different transition, that they maybe are tired of the ups and the downs,” Cruz said. But she says some people are less genuine.  “There are some that will actually candidly tell you, well, I’m only looking for something until the market changes, and you’re like okay, thank you.”

The Solar Foundation says Texas will add 900 solar jobs this year. That’s about one percent of the people who recently got pink slips in oil and gas. John Tintera is with the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. He says there’s no way this new industry can absorb all of those displaced workers.

“We’re simply not seeing solar having that level of employment,” Tintera said. “If solar continues to grow then I think at least a 20 percent coverage would be something that would not surprise me if I saw that figure in the future.”

But for now, hiring manager Mariela Cruz says getting a job in solar energy is more competitive than ever. She has one bit of advice for oil and gas workers wanting to make the transition: don’t pretend to be a tree hugger and all about renewable energy after a whole career on oilfields.

“After you’ve done [oil and gas] for 20 years it’s kind of hard to say,” Cruz said. “Can I really take that with a grain of salt or not?”

Cruz hopes that the people she hired this year will stay on board, even when oil prices go back up.

Are Gap Years Just For Rich Kids?

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Check out this story that I reported for Hobsons, a monthly education podcast.

For many students, taking a year off between high school and college to travel the world is considered a rite of passage. In the UK, 5 percent of students deferred college admission for a year. But in the U.S, gap years are still the exception. Just one percent of the more than 2 million high school seniors destined for college, decide to take a break. But this may be changing. Malia Obama’s decision to take a gap year before heading off to Harvard shows that idea finally seems to be catching on stateside. The reason? The benefits it can have on a future college experience.

Latinitas Gets Girls into Tech

Latinitas

Get the full story on NPR’s Latino USA.

Out of all the people earning bachelor’s degrees in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), just eight percent are Latinos. That number shrinks even more when you look at the number of Latinas (female students).

Alma Benitez was one of those Latinas trying to break into the STEM field, but she faced more obstacles than the prejudice she faced being a Latina: her family hid her college acceptance letters because they didn’t want her to leave home for college. With pressure from inside and outside the home, Alma found support in Latinitas, an after school club for Latinas in Texas that encourages young Latinas to get excited for science, with the hopes that they’ll grow up and pursue a career in STEM.

Reporter Brenda Salinas gives us a glimpse at the particular struggle Latinas face in the world of STEM. She speaks with Alma about her struggle to pursue her dreams, and with Laura Donnelly, the founder of Latinitas, who’s also a Latina computer scientist.

 

Oil bust forces Texas H-1B visa holders to exit country

Check out the full story on Marketplace.

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Twenty thousand workers have been laid off this year in the oil and gas industry across the country as the price of oil has slumped. The cutbacks are especially hard for foreign workers here on what are known as H-1B visas. For them, getting laid off doesn’t just mean leaving the office, it means leaving the country.

Scottish-born Graeme Slaven loves living in Katy, Texas.

“We like the fact that it’s easy to make friends here, we like the fact that the education system is fantastic,” Slaven said. “We enjoy being able to live in a house that for the same price back in the U.K. would be about a third or a quarter of the size.”

Slaven had survived several rounds of layoffs at the oil and gas security company where he worked for seven years. When his bosses called him into their office a few weeks ago, he wasn’t surprised. “I wasn’t in shock then, I could read the situation,” he said.

 The same thing had happened to a lot of the friends he met at his local golf club. In just a few months, he saw his entire expat community shrink.

“I actually got to the point where I couldn’t face going to any more going-away parties,” Slaven said. “They were happening with increasing regularity.”

Before getting a pink slip, Slaven was in line to get a green card. He owns a home, his sons play on local soccer teams. His youngest, Niall, who’s 9, has lived here since he was a toddler. “There are only, like, two people that I know in Scotland,” he said.

Slaven and his expat friends used to play golf at the Willow Fork Country Club.

“Every Friday during Lent we had fish and chips, and we had a big crowd that showed up for that,” club manager Richard Rowell said. “You know, if an Englishman tells you the fish and chips are pretty good, you have a thumbs up.”

The exodus of foreign oil workers has hit the club pretty hard in the last few months.

“Eighty to 100 families have relocated to their home country primarily because of job changes and changes in the economy,” Rowell said.

Graeme Slaven has a type of visa called an H-1B. Eighty-five thousand of them are allotted every year to professional workers through quotas to different countries.

Immigration attorney Ken Harder said once a foreign worker is laid off, they have few legal options.

“Much like Capt. Kirk might be beamed up by Scotty, in theory, when an H-1B worker is terminated from employment, he should vaporize and disappear,” Harder said.

Harder’s firm has seen the impact of low oil and gas prices directly.

“I would say since 8 a.m. on January 4th, the first business day this year, we’ve been furiously busy dealing with inquiries both from companies that need to downsize, as well as individuals who have been or are about to be downsized, so it’s been a real profound issue given the local economy here in Houston these last few months,” Harder said.

Slaven has a slim margin of hope. If he can find another employer willing to sponsor him, he can stay — but he knows that’s unlikely.

“The best-case scenario is a miracle,” Slaven said, “that somebody else is interested in employing me. The chances of that at this point in time are slim.”

A quick search on a job board turns up just a few companies willing to sponsor H-1B visas. Most of those companies are in IT, which is not a field Slaven has experience in.

Right now he’s trying to figure out a way to stay in the U.S. until the end of the school year, before he moves his family back to Scotland — a move he’s trying desperately to avoid.