National News

'Completely Unique': Cave-Dwelling Female Insects Have Penises

NPR News - 2 hours 38 min ago

A team of international scientists have found four species of insects with reversed sex organs. The females' anatomy may have to do with their need for nutrients that only males produce.

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Even Chimps Know That A Firm Bed Makes For Quality Sleep

NPR News - 4 hours 41 min ago

A new study looking at the nests made by chimpanzees in Uganda found that they prefer a type of tree that gives them a firm and secure sleeping platform.

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Tabasco And Beer-Flavored: Not Your Easter Bunny's Jelly Beans

NPR News - 4 hours 51 min ago

On the eve of Easter and National Jelly Bean Day, let us probe the mysterious origins and unexpected ascendency of the humble candy. And to celebrate, we've sampled Jelly Belly's newest flavors.

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Obama's Favorite County — At Least When It Comes To Giving Speeches

NPR News - 5 hours 10 min ago

The president has visited Prince George's County, Md., four times this year. It is the most affluent county with an African-American majority. It also happens to be very close to the White House.

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Digging into the 8 million ACA signups

Eight million Americans have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said at a White House briefing Thursday, a figure that surpassed the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's initial projection of 7 million.

Over the past six weeks some 3.7 million people signed up for insurance, according to the White House, and 28 percent of those who got insurance via the federal exchange were in the 18-34 age range, a figure of great interest to the insurance industry. Conventional wisdom is that younger people tend to be healthier (and cheaper to insurer) than older adults. The corollary is the healthier the risk pool in 2014, the less premium prices rise in 2015.

Obama said "we have a strong, good story to tell" and then went on the offensive , adding that 5.7 million Americans have been locked out of the run on insurance through Medicaid expansion because 24 states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs.

A more complete report on enrollment numbers is expected next week. It's important to note that not all of consumers who sign up for insurance will actually purchase insurance, so it's likely the 8 million number will drop. What was interesting – and perhaps surprising – was that millions of Americans flocked to the federal and state exchanges at the 11th hour. It suggests that there is a healthy interest in having health insurance. That interest is only expected to grow.

In fast food burgers, geography is key

Sonic is America’s fourth biggest burger chain, a fact that might surprise you if you live outside of the South. Sonic’s are located mostly around Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi.

There are about 3,500 Sonic locations. But the company plans on opening 1,000 more locations over the next decade. “With this move, we see Sonic entering that arena of largest national players and leaving behind those regional players,” says Patrick Lenow, a spokesperson for Sonic, which is known for reviving the classic American drive-in. Food is ordered through an intercom and delivered to your car, often by servers on roller skates.

A graphic created by Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed shows the concentration of fast-food burger chains around the country. (Courtesy of Stephen Von Worley/Data Pointed)

“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” says Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”

That may explain why it’s focusing much of its expansion in California. “When I think of one of the most successful burger chains in America, I think of In-N-Out Burger, which originated in California as a drive-in,” says Darren Tristano, a foodservice concept & menu expert with Technomic.

Another way Sonic differentiates itself from its competitors is by emphasizing its non-burger menu items, like the more than a million different soda flavors it offers. “They also sell hot dogs that are very regionalized in terms of flavor and have items like tater-tots on the menu,” Tristano says.

So, if you don’t live in the South, and you get a late night craving for chocolate-pineapple soda and tater tots delivered on roller skates, you may soon be able to satisfy it.

By Shea Huffman and Gina Martinez /Marketplace

The data for the graphic above was provided by a Marketforce Information survey on American's favorite burger chain by region:

Courtesy of Marketforce Information

Chelsea Clinton Says She's Pregnant

NPR News - 6 hours 5 min ago

The 34-year-old daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are "very excited."

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'Consent is a fiction' in consumer contracts

After Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Professor Imre Szalai's wife gave birth, the Szalais were asked to sign an arbitration clause in the delivery room. That clause stipulated that they would have to settle any disputes with the hospital through arbitration, not in court. 

Because of his professional training, and because he has written a book on the history of arbitration, "Outsourcing Justice: The Rise of Modern Arbitration Laws in America," Szalai had his wife sign the form – his thinking being that, because she’d just gone through labor, a judge evaluating the agreement later would probably find that she was not in a clear state of mind at that time.

Arbitration started out as a business-to-business thing. During prohibition, courts were swamped, and it was a way to clear cases. Since a 2011 Supreme Court decision, arbitration has gained traction as a way for businesses to avoid lawsuits, as The New York Times noted Thursday. And when it comes to how companies are protecting themselves now, "You have to admit that, when it comes to consumer contracts, consent is a fiction," says Brian Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt. 

To wit:

  • From the terms of use at Netflix: “If you are a Netflix member in the United States (including its possessions and territories), you and Netflix agree that any dispute, claim or controversy arising out of or relating in any way to the Netflix service, these Terms of Use and this Arbitration Agreement, shall be determined by binding arbitration or in small claims court.” And, in all caps: “YOU AND NETFLIX AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN YOUR OR ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING.”
  • Amazon.com's agreement, which says “Any dispute or claim relating in any way to your use of any Amazon Service, or to any products or services sold or distributed by Amazon or through Amazon.com will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court.” And, RE: class actions: “We each agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class, consolidated or representative action.”
  • There's Electronic Arts ("By accepting these terms, you and EA expressly waive the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action.”) and StubHub: "You and StubHub each agree that any and all disputes or claims that have arisen or may arise between you and StubHub relating in any way to or arising out of this or previous versions of the User Agreement, your use of or access to StubHub's Site or Services, or any tickets or related passes sold or purchased through StubHub's Site or Services shall be resolved exclusively through final and binding arbitration, rather than in court, except that you may assert claims in small claims court, if your claims qualify."

For more examples, you can visit the “Forced Arbitration Rogues Gallery,” which the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has created.  

The market's great expectations

Goldman Sachs on Thursday told the world its profits fell 11 percent. Yet the bank's stock rose on the news. It may sound odd, but it's perfectly logical on Wall Street. The markets expected Goldman to do even worse, so when the news wasn't as bad as predicted, the stock moved up.

Fine tuning market expectations is important for public companies. It's a lot like a kid who blows a test. It's better to tell mom and dad before the report card comes. If your parents are both accounting professors, they would call that giving guidance.

"If my daughter has a test that's particularly difficult, we hear about it beforehand," says James Myers.

He and his wife Linda Myers study these issues at University of Arkansas. They have two kids and are both quick to say both are good students. But if they ever hit a bump, they say it's wise to dial down their expectations before the report card arrives.

Companies can do the same thing ahead of their own report cards, the quarterly earnings reports. Providing guidance about good or bad times at the company can help keep the stock price under control when the final news comes.

Or, another example, by way of Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch and his Whiteboard:

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Mark Garrison: It’s actually pretty simple, just an expectations game. Amy Hutton is a professor at Boston College’s business school.

Amy Hutton: When Goldman announces their earnings, even if they’re down from last quarter or last year, if they’re higher than the expectation built into the stock price, the stock price is gonna go up.

Bad news can be perversely good, as long as Wall Street expected worse. So it’s important for companies to fine tune those investor expectations. It’s a lot like a kid who blows a test. It’s better to tell the parents before the report card comes. If your parents are both accounting professors, they call that giving guidance.

James Myers: If my daughter has a test that’s particularly difficult, we hear about it beforehand.

James Myers and his wife Linda study these investment issues at University of Arkansas. They say their kids make good grades and rarely need to, but sometimes a warning is wise.

Linda Myers: Because our expectations are a little bit lower, then we wouldn’t be as concerned about the low grade and I think it’s a pretty good analogy of what managers might do.

University of Michigan accounting professor Greg Miller says company guidance can work the same way. Just like parents, investors don’t like surprises.

Greg Miller: If you surprise people, they get madder. And so if there’s something coming that people are gonna be unhappy about, I’d rather own up to it now and let them know because they’re gonna be mad at me either way about the bad news.

Companies try to manage Wall Street’s expectations, to make sure a bad earnings report doesn’t torpedo the stock price. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

When Being Pregnant Also Means Being Out Of A Job

NPR News - 6 hours 9 min ago

Thirty-six years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers still have very different interpretations of what they're required to do to accommodate expectant mothers.

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What kind of jewelry goes with a tattoo?

It's a Thursday evening in Beverly Hills and the Gagosian Gallery is hosting a rooftop reception. Price tags on the artwork here go up to several million dollars, but if you're imagining an older crowd filling the space, you'd be wrong. These art lovers are young.

"We don't want to get stale," says Deborah McCloud, director of the gallery. "This is an upwardly mobile group. These people are lighting Silicon Valley on fire. They come into the gallery in tennis shoes and they're still living in their two bedroom apartment, but they've made a mountain of money and they're the idea generation. We want them in the gallery."

McCloud says the Gagosian wants to reach a young demographic – specifically Millennials, thus the cocktail reception for the Orange County Museum of Art Contemporaries, a group for art aficionados under forty.

The Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2004, are growing up. And marketers are starting to pay attention. The generation is enormous, 97 million in the U.S., and with adulthood comes money, and, the power to make big purchases -- homes, cars and expensive products. But only one millennial was in attendance at the Gagosian. Everyone else was a few years older, bleeding into Generation X. Marketers, it seems, are just beginning to figure out how to reach this age group at it moves into adulthood.

Across the country, in midtown Manhattan, Pam Danziger, a luxury marketing consultant, is on stage at the fourth annual Gold Conference. Her Powerpoint presentation is titled "The Allure of Gold, Marketing Luxury to Millennials."

"If you believe that the Millennials are going to respond the same as all other generations have done. If you think that the same, the same answers, the same solutions, the same branding propositions are going to work for them, you're sadly mistaken," she says to an audience of jewelers.

Danziger says this group does not want its grandparent's luxury.

"I think we have to start thinking about - what kind of jewelry goes with a yoga pant? And even more importantly for this generation, what kind of jewelry goes with tattoos?"

A few blocks south is the studio of jewelry designer Pamela Love. Love is 32 and she, and all 18 of her employees, except one, are Millennials. What do Millennials really want?

"I don't think Millennials want to see anything," says Love. "I think we want to discover it on our own and I think we really want to be treated with the respect of being given the information that we want without being pandered to."

And if you think that makes Millennials difficult to market to, Love notes that financially "it's very easy to deal with."

Less, she says, accomplished by a marketer, is more. Personally, says Love, she hates being bombarded with emails from a brand. So her company has a light touch. Her new campaign for Barneys hangs posters on the sides of buildings and construction sites so consumers can discover them on their own. Which she says is a lot cheaper than taking out ads in a magazine. There's just one catch.

"It's illegal but the only thing that really happens is the guy putting them up could potentially get arrested."

Has that happened?

No, she says, "Not to us."

Love's newest poster is an illustration of a woman standing in front of a map which has jewelry pinned to it. The poster, she hopes, tells a story.

MaryLeigh Bliss, a trends editor and strategic consultant with Ypulse, a youth marketing and research firm, says for Millennials, story is key.

"Making it more than just a product, you know it gives it a background that you can connect with emotionally rather than it just being a thing," she says.

Bliss plays an ad on Youtube with 15 million views. It's a story about a poor boy who steals medicine for his sick mom. It's not in English, but it doesn't need to be.

"It's a tear jerker," says Bliss. "We call it tissue box marketing because it really is about evoking that reaction. And, it's so intense, but as you watch it, you don't see a brand."

Bliss says Millennials likes to share experiences. They don't like to show off. So her advice to marketers –stop trying to promote your brand, and instead, focus on emotion.

From your generation to hers, says Pamela Love, "there's just more, more of everything. Especially with the internet. You can find anything you want and you can find 50 options of it."

So Love notes, when she picks something, she picks the one with the story she identifies with. Like the new litter box she recently spent a couple of hours picking out for her cat.

"I ended up picking the one that had a really good video that explained why they designed the litter box the way they did and their philosophies on aesthetics, and I cared, ultimately about the people making the damn litter box. So I bought that one."

Nobel Prize-Winning Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dies At 87

NPR News - 6 hours 25 min ago

The Colombian-born author of One Hundred Years of Solitude had been in failing health for some time.

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On Russian Call-in Show, Putin Maintains Hard Line Against West

NPR News - 7 hours 19 sec ago

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes he won't have to move troops into Ukraine to protect the local Russian-speaking population, but he reserves the right to do so.

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Search Continues For Nearly 300 Missing In South Korea Ferry Accident

NPR News - 7 hours 7 min ago

The search continues for survivors and answers in the South Korean ferry disaster. NPR's Anthony Kuhn offers details on the latest developments.

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Opposing Protests Pull Eastern Ukraine In Two Directions

NPR News - 7 hours 7 min ago

In eastern Ukraine, demonstrators supporting a unified Ukraine are rallying just blocks from where pro-Russian militants are occupying a government building.

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Out Of A Tough Day Of Diplomacy, A Surprising Deal On Ukraine

NPR News - 7 hours 7 min ago

Diplomats from the United States and Europe gathered in Geneva Thursday to discuss how to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union spoke for more than five hours on the issue.

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Following Enrollment Deadline, Health Care Focus Turns To States

NPR News - 7 hours 7 min ago

President Obama met Thursday with insurance company executives and a separate group of insurance regulators from the states, discussing their mutual interest in administering the new health care law.

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Unlikely Partnerships Spring From California Water Crisis

NPR News - 7 hours 8 min ago

Farmers in the parched Central Valley are joining forces with farmworkers and a broad cross section of politicians to pressure the federal government to offer relief.

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Obama: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Hits 8 Million

NPR News - 7 hours 13 min ago

At a White House briefing, the president referred to the Affordable Care Act, saying "this thing is working," and urged Republicans to stop trying to repeal the law.

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Hillary Clinton's Presidential Chess Board

NPR News - 7 hours 23 min ago

Much of what will happen in the 2016 presidential race — in both political parties — hinges on whether Clinton decides to run. She has said she'll announce by the end of the year.

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