National News

Only half of us will accept robot domination

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-18 13:51

A study at the Human Computer Interaction lab in Manitoba, Canada shows people would perform a task they didn't want to do about half the time if a robot asked them to do it.

In other words, to take it to its logical conclusion, about half of us will be sold into human slavery when the robots eventually rise up, and about half of us will lead the resistance.

Study: The Chicken Didn't Cross The Pacific To South America

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 13:42

An analysis of DNA from ancient and modern chicken bones from the Pacific islands shows they are genetically distinct from South American birds.

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Frozen foods: not your dad's Hungryman

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-18 13:28

Self Magazine tells readers what foods to eat and what recipes to follow. Now it’s also doing the cooking. The Conde Nast title has launched its own line of frozen foods.

At its icy core frozen food has always been about convenience, but technology has changed and so have consumers -- we demand a lot more taste from four minutes on high in the microwave.

And the frozen food industry has delivered. According to Euromonitor International, it’s now worth $37 billion a year in U.S. sales. But companies like Con Agra, which produces everything from Slim Jims to fancier brands like Alexia French Fries, have to do some pretty cool marketing to keep their profiles hot on the frozen food aisle.

An Imaginary Town Becomes Real, Then Not. True Story

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:43

Two mapmakers made the place up. It wasn't real. Then, oddly, it popped into being. I am not making this up. It happened. Then it un-happened.

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Teens Say They Don't Text Or Drink While Driving, Kinda

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:32

Teenagers know they're not supposed to be indulging in risky behaviors behind the wheel, a survey finds, but they're finding it awfully hard to say no. Kind of like adults.

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Steve Jobs 'Wouldn't want Tim Cook to do better than he did'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:30

Journalist Yukari Iwatani Kane covered Apple for the Wall Street Journal for five years, a time that saw the death of the company's founder Steve Jobs and the passing of the torch to current CEO Tim Cook. In her new book "Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs", Kane says Apple's best days are over, and she's not afraid to point fingers.

It’s pretty clear you believe that Tim Cook failed in the promise he made to Apple employees when he took over as CEO. He said, ‘I want you to be confident Apple will not change.’ Why do you think he has failed?

“I think that was an impossible promise, because Steve Jobs not being there changes everything. This is a company that was synonymous with Steve Jobs for so long and he’s no longer around. So of course Apple has to change.”

But Apple is still making money hand over fist, and it’s got some of the most successful devices out there. It is by most conventional methods still a really, really, really successful company.

“If you’re talking about a traditional scale, Apple is making a lot of money still, and they could be successful for a long time to come. But if your definition of success is Apple’s definition of success, which is to make insanely great products that change the world, well, then you’ve got a different problem.”

Steve Jobs was a man of no small ego. What do you think he would have thought of the troubles that Tim Cook is having now and the situation Apple finds itself in?

“I have talked to people who knew Steve who speculate that part of the reason he chose Tim Cook was that he knew Tim Cook would do a good job leading Apple and running the business, but that he knew that he also wasn’t going to exceed Steve Jobs at being Steve Jobs. His legacy wouldn’t be complete until Apple was seen to fade a little bit.”

 Do you think Steve Jobs would be taking a little pleasure in Tim Cook’s struggle?

“The first time it was announced that Steve Jobs had cancer the stock fell only 2 percent. And Steve’s reaction was, ‘That’s it?’ He was very disappointed. So he wouldn’t want Tim Cook to do better than he did.” 

Why Wal-Mart will buy your used video game

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:19

The market for used video games is in the neighborhood of $2 billion. It's way beyond folks selling on Craigslist. Big global retailers, like GameStop, make massive profits selling used games. The gaming retailer's profit margin on used products is nearly 50 percent, far more than it makes selling new games and consoles.

Now the largest retailer of all, Wal-Mart, is getting into the market. It's offering store credit for old games, which it'll eventually refurbish and sell.

Other big retailers have tried and failed to shake GameStop’s hold on the lucrative used gaming market. Wal-Mart brings substantial market power and a formidable advertising budget to the table. But even if it doesn't beat GameStop, offering trade-ins will get more people inside Wal-Mart. The retailer is betting gamers will buy other things after they trade in their used games.

Selling used video games may be great for some retailers, but game makers are left out of the profits on the secondary market. Some have made moves to try to stifle the used game market or at least elbow in on the profits. But gaming companies have consistently backed down when gamers have pushed back.

Fed stops targeting 6.5% unemployment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:01

UPDATED 3/19/2014, 2:15 p.m. ET: The Federal Reserve on Wednesday removed the unemployment rate as its key gauge of the economic strength of the country. Officials see it as too limiting a measure in making decisions on interest rates. In a statement the Fed said it would "assess progress…toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation."

“The slightly more rapid improvement in the unemployment picture might help explain an upward shift in [economic recovery outlook data," said Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen. "I would simply warn you that these dots [data points] are going to move up and down over time… the end of 2016 is a long way out.”

Back in 2012, the Fed set an unemployment target of 6.5 percent, in an effort to send a signal that interest rates would stay low. Really low. For a long, long time.

David Wessel, head of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, says if you imagine you are the Fed, “You tell them, look, we are going to keep rates near zero until unemployment gets to 6.5 percent, and that seems to be an eternity away.”

“Well, now it’s March 2014,” Wessel says, “and unemployment is almost at this 6.5 percent threshold.” 

The unemployment rate is currently 6.7 percent. But the Fed isn’t ready to bail on those low interest rates.

That 6.5 percent unemployment rate doesn’t represent the economic promised land it once did.

“We have to be a little bit careful about what goes into calculating that rate,” says Victor Li, an economics professor at Villanova University. The unemployment rate doesn’t fall just because a whole lot of people have found new jobs. “It can also go down because of people who are dropping out of the labor force,” Li says, “people who have become discouraged.” 

And that’s been happening.  


Paul Brent/Marketplace

“It’s hard to find one number that really describes the unemployment rate,” Wessel, from Brookings, says, “and the labor market, and what’s happening to people dropping out of the job market.”

Perhaps the Fed this will describe its economic goals, instead of any specific number.

With Less Financial Security, Older Workers Stay On The Job

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

Barely half of Americans say they're confident they'll be able to retire comfortably. Now, many are staying in the workforce longer — and some companies are using that trend to their advantage.

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Report: Emergency Response Inadequate In Airport Shooting

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

A report on the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last year was released Tuesday. It criticizes the response of public safety agencies, citing poor coordination and faulty technology.

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After A Long Wait, 24 Models In Heroism Get Their Due

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

President Obama is presenting the Medal of Honor to 24 soldiers who were long overlooked, in some cases because of discrimination. Many are Jewish or Hispanic. Only three are still alive.

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As Common Core Tests Approach, So Does A Sea Change In Schools

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

A new experiment in education begins Tuesday. Early assessments based on the Common Core State Standards will be rolled out and tested in the coming months. Some 3 million students will participate.

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Deadly Violence Breaks Out At Crimean Military Base

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

Several Ukrainian soldiers were shot, one fatally, when masked soldiers stormed a Ukrainian military base outside the Crimean capital, Simferopol.

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Russia Votes To Annex Crimea, As The West Looks On

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty to annex Crimea and delivered a rousing speech to mark the occasion. The U.S. denounced the action as illegal but has few tools to change his mind.

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Politics And Power Complicate The Airliner Search

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

Malaysia's government, which is leading the search for the missing airliner, has come under fire from critics who are accusing it of mismanagement and partisan politicking.

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Q&A: A Crash Course On Common Core

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

The new benchmarks in reading and math have been adopted in 45 states and Washington, D.C. But there's still plenty of confusion about what exactly the standards are, and what they mean for students.

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Young People Are Falling Into A Health Insurance Subsidy Gap

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:00

Young people on the upper range of income eligible for subsidies are finding that they don't always qualify. That could influence the number of young adults who enroll.

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A Cold One For Everyone: Craft Beer Sales Surge In 2013

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 11:41

If craft beers seem to be everywhere these days, there's good reason: Sales jumped 20 percent in 2013. To stand out in an increasingly crowded field, many brewers are pushing the flavor frontiers.

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American businesses wary of sanctions in Russia

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-18 11:12

Large American companies like GE, Boeing and Pepsico do billions of dollars worth of business in Russia, and, in some cases, have spent the past 20 years building infrastructure and relationships with Moscow. They fear that if the U.S. imposes sanctions that are too tough, competitors in Europe and Asia could take advantage and step in. Meanwhile, U.S. businesses with operations in Crimea are facing a quandary of their own: whether to accomodate to Russia's absorption of Crimea or to sell, likely at a loss, and get out. 

Report: NSA Can Record, Store Phone Conversations Of Whole Countries

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-18 11:11

Based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Washington Post reports the U.S. has the capability to record "100 percent" of a country's phone calls.

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