National News

Thousands Reportedly Flee Battle For Tikrit

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 12:01

Iraqi army forces, Shiite militias and Kurdish peshmerga are battling to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown from Islamic State extremists.

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A 'Black Tax' At Charlotte's Ritz-Carlton?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 11:56

Everyone knows people who attend the CIAA basketball tournament have cash to burn. So why did a Charlotte hotel go out of its way to make sure they spent it?

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Why Is The VP Of Sierra Leone Running The Country By Laptop?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 11:27

He quarantined himself because his bodyguard died of Ebola. The virus is still taking a toll, with 81 new cases last week. Maybe it's because people are no longer being careful.

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'Respect The Robot': Giant Robots Oversee Traffic In Kinshasa

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 11:22

Two giant robots have directed traffic in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2013. This week three others joined them.

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Dollar signs on the doilies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 11:03

Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade products, filed for a $100 million IPO on Wednesday. The Brooklyn-based company reported revenue of $195 million last year, up from $125 million in 2013.
  High-profile online retailers like Zulily and Wayfair had solid debuts with their IPO’s in 2014. The timing is right for Etsy, says Mark Brohan, vice president of research for Internet Retailer Magazine.    William Sahlman, professor at Harvard Business School, says Etsy fulfills customers’ craving for something different. Etsy’s mission has been to change the way things are made and sold, and Sahlman says companies can retain that socially-minded philosophy — just look at Ben & Jerry’s.   “They were able to go public and still maintain a sense with their customers that they were different,” Sahlman says.    Steve Kaplan, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, says there might be some initial rumblings of discontent when the company goes public. But at the end of the day, “If you deliver something that your customers really like, you have created a huge amount of social value,” he says.  

Inspired by Etsy's crafty culture, this handmade world cloud shows some of the more unique words from the company's IPO filing.

Kelsey Fowler/Marketplace

Mass-Market Stocks In Hand-Crafted Goods: Etsy Preps To Go Public

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 10:38

The e-commerce site, which focuses on quirky, handmade goods, has filed for an IPO. The paperwork reveals a plan to focus more on manufacturing and marketing — but not much suggestion of big profits.

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Young tech workers sought in tightening labor market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 10:36

The job market is looking up, especially for skilled IT workers.

It can take more than one year to hire for some positions, like software engineer, in the hottest tech markets these days. People with skills developing mobile-apps and managing network and cloud-computing infrastructure are especially in demand right now, according to recruiters. Starting salaries this year for engineering graduates will average $63,000. Meanwhile, petroleum engineers will average $80,600, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Salaries can easily reach six figures by mid-career. 

One of these workers, James Jones, arrived in Portland, Oregon, recently on a late-night flight from Chicago, where he lives. Jones was in Portland for meetings and training at Puppet Labs, the fast-growing technology company that hired him several months ago as a technical solutions engineer. Jones travels throughout the Midwest explaining, deploying and troubleshooting Puppet’s open-source-based automation software that helps manage huge data centers.

Jones is 27 years old, married with no children. He graduated from Northwestern University in 2009 with a degree in psychology and computer science and faced the Great Recession. “Definitely the economy had taken a downturn,” says Jones, “and it was a little bit rough to find jobs. It was scary there for a bit.”

But that only lasted several months. Then he landed at job at Hewlett-Packard, paying around $50,000 per year. His new job at Puppet Labs pays significantly better — though he wouldn’t say precisely how much, nor would the company. Salaries in the field average in the high-five to low-six figures.

“I was very satisfied” with the offer from Puppet Labs, Jones says. “They were willing to work with me and make sure I was happy. Because I’m kind of a hobbyist--I actually like managing servers and getting at little nerdy at home--working in the field I love, for a company I respect, was the bigger focus for me than money alone.”

Puppet Labs’ senior recruiter Art Amela says the 330-employee company – up from just 30 employees about five years ago – continues to expand aggressively at several U.S. locations, as well as in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic. Amela says pay and benefits have to stay competitive with other fast-growing technology companies; stock options are a standard part of the compensation package, as well as a host of lifestyle amenities: a well-stocked cafeteria and coffee bar; board-games and old-style video-game consoles in the common area; and a room for employees to repair their bicycles.

And Amela says for top engineers with several years’ experience, poaching is now common. “We know they’re being contacted all the time,” he says, “and casually I’ll check with them about how many have contacted them this week. But if we keep our employees happy — and they are happy — it’s not going to be a threat.”

Still, says Dan Finnigan, CEO of the online recruitment website JobVite, employers large and small have to be prepared these days for a lot of turnover in their workforce.

“If you’re now in your twenties and college-educated, you’re likely to change jobs every three to four years," says Finnigan. "People are always looking. They're looking at work, using their smartphones. Companies need to be prepared to do whatever they can to minimize churn. But they need to assume that their business is like a college. They’re bringing in classes of people who will one day graduate and move on, and they need to continue to recruit new classes.”

Study: At 'Rate My Professor,' A Foreign Accent Can Hurt A Teacher's Score

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 10:24

A recent study found that teachers with Asian-sounding names were given poorer marks, and their accents were the main reason.

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Oil, futures and 'super contango.' What's it all mean?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 10:03

Crude oil is currently in contango. That's when the price today for buying a commodity in the near future (like, later today) is cheaper than for the more distant future (like, in three months). That happens occasionally. But Credit Suisse in a note to investors suggests that something even stranger could be around the corner: 'super contango.'

"When you have a 'contango' it means that there's too much oil around," says one of the authors of that research note, Credit Suisse global energy economist Jan Stuart. "When you have a 'super contango,' it means there's just, like a freakish amount of oil."  

Mike Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, explains this "freakish" behavior by comparing oil to tomatoes. If there are too many tomatoes today, producers can freeze them and sell them later.  But this only works if there is room in the freezer. As storage becomes more scarce, it becomes more expensive -- sending futures prices (the cost of commodity, plus the cost of storage, plus a small profit) through the roof. 

The crude-oil equivalent would be of crude-oil inventories hitting the "tank tops" -- filling the available storage. But Bruce Heine, spokesperson for Magellan Midstream Partners, says none of their crude-oil storage customers have yet asked them to build more tanks at their Cushing, Oklahoma tank farm.  

Credit Suisse's Jan Stuart believes that a "super-contango" situation in the crude oil market is still a ways off.  To get there, we'll need another 11 or 12 more weeks  like the last few.

What a 7 percent growth rate could look like

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 10:03

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced a new growth target of 7 percent for the world's second-largest economy in a speech to the National People's Congress in Beijing on Thursday. That would be the lowest growth rate there since a brief dip back in 1989-90.

Compare that to the United States, where growth last year was 2.4 percent.

Just for fun, we looked at whether 7 percent growth is even possible here in the United States. How would we start?

“We could all go out and have lots of babies,” says Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

More babies would mean, eventually, more workers earning and spending money. “But that’s just not going to happen,” he says.

A surge in productivity would also boost growth, but productivity growth was actually negative last year. 

The last time the United States economy grew at a clip of 7 percent or more was 1983, after emerging from two severe back-to-back recessions.  

Snow Is Delicious. But Is It Dangerous To Eat?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 09:58

Some winter lovers see snow as a local and seasonal specialty that goes well with cream and sugar. But is it more like an adventure in extreme eating? As with many wild foods, it's a bit of both.

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It's World Book Day: Time For Reading Lists And Dress-Up

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 09:43

Put down that screen: Today's the day to celebrate holding a bound book in your hands. For World Book Day, we bring you a roundup of stories and reading lists.

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Florida Man's Facebook Post Against Employer In Emirates Leads To Jail

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 09:42

While on vacation in the U.S., Ryan Pate called Abu Dhabi-based Global Aerospace Logistics "backstabbers" and described Arabs as "filthy." He was arrested upon his return. He faces 5 years in prison.

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Ringling Bros. Says No More Circus Elephants By 2018

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 09:24

The "Greatest Show on Earth" has been under pressure for years from animal rights advocates over its use of Asian elephants in its 5,000 annual shows.

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U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Gag Order In Mine Disaster Case

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 08:55

Dozens of news organizations, including NPR, appealed after a judge issued the gag order in a criminal case involving ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

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State Lawmakers Keep Busy While Supreme Court Weighs Obamacare

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 08:54

Bills concerning health care exchanges are pending in at least 16 states. The measures are split pretty evenly between ones that seek to bolster the exchanges and those that would impede or bar them.

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Plane Skids Off Runway At New York's LaGuardia

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 07:58

The Delta Air Lines flight inbound from Atlanta slid off the runway and into a fence on the side of the tarmac. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

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Michael Brown's Family Will File Civil Suit Over His Death

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 07:55

The news comes one day after the Justice Department cleared Wilson in a civil rights probe — and delivered a scathing appraisal of the Ferguson Police Department.

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Quiz: Rise of the uber donor

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-05 07:43

Colleges and universities received a record 43 “mega gifts” over $50 million in 2014, according to consulting firm Marts & Lundy.

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India Threatens BBC Over Decision To Air Rape Documentary In U.K.

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-05 07:38

The government, which has banned the Indian media from broadcasting India's Daughter or even showing clips from it pending an investigation, also ordered YouTube to take down the documentary.

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