National News

China Signals Heavier Hand On Dissent In Hong Kong

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 11:43

A Beijing policy paper makes it clear that autonomy in the former British colony only goes so far, saying "many wrong views" are held by Hong Kong residents.

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Target credit card breach still hurts small businesses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 11:23

After the Target breach, banks gave millions of customers new credit cards.  That's a big problem for businesses that rely on subscriptions and monthly memberships. Some are losing significant revenue while scrambling to update customer information.

Rocky Arbitell hates the sound of his gym's scanner rejecting a membership card.  Unfortunately, it's what greets about 30 percent of people coming to work out at his Orlando, Florida business, The Gym Downtown.  Many just haven't updated their credit card numbers on file.

In his office, Arbitell points to a computer screen.  "That is the decline list," he says.  "That's all the credit cards that were dishonored, declined and invalid since January, and it's $57,000 worth of cards."

Arbitell's income hit is double that for the past year.  He says if his business hadn't been stable before this, it might not have survived.

A solution already exists

At an eCommerce expo across town, payment experts focus on what made customers change credit cards in the first place: fraud.  They discuss preventing it – and dealing with it when it happens.  

Dan Burkhart is CEO of Recurly, a subscription processor.  He says when customers get new credit cards, they can sign up to automatically give those numbers to any businesses they use.  Banks and credit card companies just put the information in a database, and merchants check it. 

"And, for any match that occurs, this service will provide the replacement card and then transaction is processed with the new replacement card," Burkhart says.  "The end customer isn't bothered.  They don't know nor care that their card has been updated."

Here's the catch: To use the database, businesses have to pay to work with specific credit card processors.  Some big companies don't do that, let alone the corner gym.  

Competitive cooperation

Steven Casco says limiting access slows innovation for everybody.  He's CEO of Cardnotpresent.com, the company that set up the e-commerce expo.  His solution to the subscription problem is competitive cooperation.  

"We, in America, invented the very idea of e-commerce," says Casco. "So, I would say, do we have problems with what's going on right now? Absolutely. Are we best suited to solve it and have the rest of the world look to us as the model? You better believe it."

Beyond Credit Cards

Casco says it's even time to look beyond credit cards themselves.  He flips through the expo schedule – and points to a name of someone doing just that.  Shaunt Sarkissian is the founder and CEO of Cortex MCP, a company that offers a "mobile wallet." 

Here's how it works: people put a specific amount of money on their phones. From there, Sarkissian demonstrates on his own mobile: "When I'm ready to make a payment, I just go in. I select the one I want to use, click 'use now,' enter my pin, hit 'pay,' and I can either show that QR code.  Boop, merchant scans it, and that's it.  Or, I can activate NFC, and I just tap my phone."  

A thief can steal only that amount – not drain an entire account.  

Other ideas include Bitcoin, biometric identification, and chip and pin machines.  In the end, Casco says, merchants from the cable company to the corner gym will have to try something.  

After all, he says, "Actually getting paid is the core of that business.  So, there's no way around it, you have to become educated."

And, this subscription problem isn't over yet.  The largest banks have replaced about 21.8 million cards since the Target security breach.  That's only about half the cards affected.

Please leave your Kryptonite jewelry at home

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 11:17

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, June 12:

In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on retail sales for May.

The House Veterans' Affairs Committee discusses bureaucratic barriers to care for veterans.

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee holds a hearing titled, "A National Priority: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs to our Nation's Health, Economy and National Security."

The 41st President of the U.S., George H.W. Bush, will be 90.

It's a bird...It's a plane...It's the 36th annual Superman Celebration getting underway in Metropolis, Illinois.

And in Cooperstown, New York, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates its 75th anniversary.

A new landscape in the House after Cantor falls

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 11:11

Eric Cantor's surprise loss to fellow Republican David Brat in the Virginia primary elections Tuesday will reshape the leadership in the House, and it will have effects that reverberate into upcoming legislative fights. Here are three takeaways:

Money is something in politics, but it isn't the only thing. Cantor raised more than $5 million, compared to about $200,000 for Brat. Consider this idea: having so little money may have helped Brat. He didn't have the money to do major televsion advertising, so he didn't get the scrutiny that comes with that.

The coming fight over the debt limit has taken on a new element. The U.S. has the borrowing authority to keep paying its bills, but only until March 2015. Cantor's loss may make some Republicans less willing to support an increase in the debt ceiling. As lobbyist Steve Ryan put it, "It unsettles the firmament. There is a ripple in The Force, as we would say. And it's just totally unpredictable now what's going to happen out of that."

It's a new environment for businesses and lobbyists. One of the things that made Cantor so effective in the House was that Tea Party Republicans trusted him, and so did Wall Street. He was accessible to lobbyists, and he was seen as a good fundraiser for his party. 

Graphic by Shea Huffman/Marketplace

Data courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Oregon School Shooter Was 15-Year-Old Student, Police Say

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 10:58

Authorities say Jared Michael Padgett stole an "AR-15-type" rifle that was locked up in his home, as well as a semi-automatic handgun and nine magazines of ammunition.

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Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Gains Fans, But Remains Unproven

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 10:50

Pro athletes and duffers alike are trying injections of platelet-rich plasma to treat chronic injuries like tennis elbow. But despite thousands of studies, it's not clear that the treatment works.

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Is Bergdahl Exchange Really Unprecedented?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 10:32

The Pentagon's lawyer said the deal to swap the Army sergeant for Taliban prisoners wasn't a first, citing the release of an Army pilot in Somalia. But the man who engineered that release disagrees.

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Across Europe, Anti-Uber Protests Clog City Streets

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 10:27

Cabbies from London to Berlin are protesting the smartphone-based, on-demand car service Uber. They say Uber should be subject to the same rules as taxis; many fear they'll be driven out of business.

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Top schools are online, but don't expect a discount

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:58

It has been just over a year since Georgia Tech grabbed national headlines by annoucing it would offer an online Master's degree in computer science for less than $7,000.

Many prestigious universities are starting to offer graduate programs online.  The difference between Georgia Tech and many of the others is price. In many cases, learning online does not come with a discount. 

Online programs can also present challenges of a different kind to top schools. In our piece on Harvard's new online pre-MBA courses, we explore how elite schools are struggling to expand without damaging their luxury brands.

 

Reports: Cantor Will Step Down As Majority Leader Next Month

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:58

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Rep. Eric Cantor has decided to resign from his post as House Majority Leader, one day after a stunning GOP primary upset in his Virginia district.

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What elite universities can learn from high fashion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:42

Harvard Business School is launching an online program today. And , no, you’re not going to be able to get your MBA for free.

The school is rolling out something it calls HBX Core. For $1,500, students take three basic business classes. The program is being billed as a pre-MBA.

And it's the latest attempt by an elite university to open up classes to more people—without diluting its brand. It’s a trick the fashion industry has gotten very good at over the years. 

You may not remember French designer Pierre Cardin. But in the '60s and '70s, his name was synonymous with very high fashion. Models in Vogue posed in his futuristic dresses. He dressed The Beatles.

These days, you can walk into Sears and find Pierre Cardin men’s shirts stacked on a table. Poly-cotton blends; marked down to $17.99.

You see, Cardin's haute- couture was not his only claim to fame. He was also the first high-end designer to expand his brand to the masses. Over the years, he put his name on everything, from baseball caps to toilet-seat covers.

“He took a very powerful, designer, marquee brand and diluted it to the point it had no value and no meaning,” said Mark Cohen, a professor of retail marketing at Columbia Business School.

This is the stuff of nightmares for elite universities. The fate they want to avoid: Becoming the Pierre Cardin of colleges.

Turns out, the challenges in fashion and education are similar. How to expand without losing what makes Versace, Versace, Gucci, Gucci and Harvard, Harvard?

“The parallels hold up,” said Cohen, “They have to retain their exclusivity and retain the basis through which they are held to be elite.”

“There are colleges that are very concerned about diluting their brand,” said Ben Wildavsky, director of Higher Ed studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York. 

It’s not only going online that has schools nervous. “Just the idea of setting up a campus in a different country where you give degrees is something that places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton worry about a lot,” Wildavsky said.

Part of the value of top-tier degrees is that they’re exclusive. They’re expensive.

Elite schools can’t afford to hurt their relationships with past and future students by becoming common.

But, schools like Harvard also need to grow.

“Our mission at Harvard Business School is to train and educate leaders who make a difference in the world,” said Bharat Anand, a professor the B-School and faculty chair of the new HBX program, “It would be a perfect coincidence if there were only 900 individuals every year who fell into this category and could come to our physical campus.”

He says there are a ton of talented students out there whom Harvard’s not reaching.

Enter: the new pre-MBA. Online.

Just as Donna Karan has DKNY, Michael Kors has MICHAEL, and Marc Jacobs has Marc by Marc Jacobs, Harvard has HBX. 

Yes, HBX, is more accessible than a Harvard MBA.

But it's not free like many other online offerings. The tab for three courses is $1,500. And the payoff is a certificate, not Harvard course-credit.

 It’s a little like a silver necklace from Tiffany. No diamond ring, but it still comes in the blue box.

“We’re not offering any of our MBA courses online,” said Anand, “This is an entirely new program to an entirely new group of participants.”

The plan is for HBX to expand beyond intro business classes. But, as it does, it runs another risk familiar to retail. That customers will trade down. That the new product will cannibalize the older brand -- a problem Dolce & Gabanna, for instance, ran into with its D&G line. 

For business schools, this could mean students abandoning another huge profit center: executive education.

The stakes for schools to get this right are high. “Hundreds of millions of dollars for each elite business school,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, a professor at Wharton. “In particular there are tens of millions of dollars in the executive education and continuing education space, and I think that’s what people fear first.” 

He says about a fifth of Wharton’s revenue comes from executive education programs. It makes up a quarter of Harvard Business School’s revenue.

The fear is that companies will tell their execs “to go online instead.”

So far, Emanuel said, that’s not happening at Wharton. People are choosing traditional schools over online classes. “Obviously there will be some challenge going forward differentiating them and making the value of each clear to people.”

It’s a tightrope luxury retail has been walking for a long time.

The goal for elite colleges is not to wind-up with their brand-name products wadded in the sale bin.

Brazil Furious Over Ad Showing Christ The Redeemer In An Italian Jersey

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:26

Brazil's Catholic Church has threatened a lawsuit against Italian state broadcaster RAI, which has since withdrawn the ad with the famous statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro dressed in "Azzurri" blue.

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Bill To Allow Refinancing Of Student Loans Dies In Senate

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 09:10

The bill was shot down days after President Obama urged Congress to help ease the burden of student loan debt. It would have required a higher tax on the wealthy.

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A surprise winner in Virginia: Randolph-Macon College

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:58

Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. Ever heard of it?

If you hadn't before, it's likely you did on Wednesday. David Brat, an economics professor who just big-footed Eric Cantor and his Democratic challenger, Jack Trammell, are both on the faculty of this one small school outside of Richmond.

"While this may be short-lived, I think if you were to look at the placement of the 'Randolph Macon College' name in the media it would be a very high number," says Dan Hurley, Associate Vice President for government relations and state policy with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He says this kind of marketing is worth millions.

Typically a school would have to have a winning football or basketball team to get this kind of press.  Like a few years ago, when Butler University in Indiana, made it to the NCAA Final Four.

"That impacted them in terms of inquiries, applicants and enrollments, for a number of years," says  Jim Paskill, president of Paskill, Stapleton & Lord, a higher education marketing firm. Paskill says he agrees having two congressional candidates come out of one college sure can make a school look good, but he says he’s a wary. An eight-month campaign season can be a long time under the microscope.

“You know, if this becomes a very divisive campaign and it’s seen as a mud-slinging between two candidates, I don’t think it’s going to reflect very positively on the college,” he says.

No chance of that, says Randolph Macon’s president Robert Lindgren.

“These are two very principled honest,  folks who will debate the issues and not do, some of the typically political things that you might in a congressional campaign," he says.

We’ll find out if his prediction holds up in November. 

How To Survive, And Thrive, After 5 Years As A Hostage

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:55

Joe Cicippio belongs to a very small club of Americans who were held by Islamic radicals for years and lived to tell about it. Here's how he coped as a hostage in Beirut and then rebuilt his life.

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Do You Want The Truth, Or Do You Just Like Your Story Better?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

In her "Can I Just Tell You" essay, host Michel Martin warns against letting an assumed narrative overtake the facts of a story.

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Could Detroit's Automakers Save Its Art Treasures?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

Chrysler, General Motors and Ford offered up a multi-million dollar deal to help the bankrupt city of Detroit. But are there any strings attached to the cash and will it be enough to save the city?

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'Washington Post' Op-Ed Tone Deaf On View Of Sexual Assault?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

The Beauty Shop ladies continue their discussion of this week's hot news by debating George Will's controversial opinion piece that questions the validity of sexual assault claims on campus.

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What Does Cantor's Loss Say About The Republicans' Future?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

In a surprising defeat, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat to Tea Party challenger David Brat. But what does this mean for Republicans going forward? The Beauty Shop ladies weigh in.

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The Difficulty And Drama Of Building A Top Black Magazine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-11 08:24

Essence might be the longest-running magazine for black women, but the authors of a new book, The Man From Essence, admit that it was a long road to build the brand.

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