National News

Charting Japan's road to recession

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-11-17 02:00
1.6 percent

That's how much Japan's gross domestic product shrunk on an annualized basis in the third quarter, pushing the country into a recession. Many are blaming a second-quarter sales tax hike, which raised taxes to 8 percent. A second increase to 10 percent was scheduled for next fall, but will likely be delayed, Bloomberg reported. Consumers weren't spending after the first tax increase, the Wall Street Journal noted. Businesses weren't stocking near as much, making the GDP contract further.

1.6 cents

That's what it costs the U.S. to make a penny because zinc prices are on the rise. The logistics of minting coins are just one of many challenges ahead of the militant group ISIS as it looks to establish its own currency. Quartz lays them out in a handy three-step guide to creating and distributing legal tender. Step one? "Establish authority."

$1.2 million

The price nonprofit Organizing for America is paying each year for access to President Barack Obama's campaign email list, which the Wall Street Journal notes could be the largest of its kind, at over 30 million subscribers when Obama was reelected. All those emails and data will be useful to OFA, an Obama campaign offshoot, as it begins fundraising for 2016.

$34.6 billion

That's how much Halliburton will pay for Baker Hughes, as announced on Monday. As the New York Times reports, the deal prevents what could have been a hostile takeover.

$38 million

"Dumb and Dumber To" pulled in $38 million over the weekend, claiming the top spot at the box office. This in spite of its 27% on RottenTomatoes.com. Not so dumb after all.

Hong Kong and Shangai exchanges link up in big reform

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-11-17 02:00

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect opens for business Monday. For the first time, investors from each market will have access to the other. It also means it will now be a lot easier for international investors to invest in mainland China.

"China’s markets are [currently] somewhat protected," says Peter Marber, head of emerging markets at Loomis, Sayles & Company. "They’ve got some stocks that list themselves on the New York Stock Exchange and around the world, but it’s only a small percentage of, really, what’s listed in China. This will allow us to invest in companies that we’ve just never had access to in the past."

While the linking of exchanges is important on its own, it’s also symbolic of a larger journey of financial reforms in the country.

"This is a historic development," says Nicholas Consonery, director of the Eurasia Group's Asia practice. "The second biggest economy in the world has a closed capital account, a very restricted stock market, and as it opens, I don’t even think we can even fully appreciate what a cataclysmic event this is going to be for the global capital markets."

Consonery thinks Chinese officials are committed, but still cautious about these larger reforms, so they’ll be watching the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect very closely before pursuing others. 

Both Consonery and Marber say investors should proceed with caution. The rules that govern companies in Shanghai can be very different than Hong Kong and around the world. 

"We’ve had a recent IPO for Alibaba, there’s been some questions about enforceability of certain kinds of commercial rights," Marber says. "But I would hope that most investors would have such a diversified exposure to the country that they wouldn't put all their eggs just a few baskets."

 

The top financial concern: just paying the bills

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-11-17 02:00

 A survey out today shows the overall financial picture for Americans improving, but that still hasn’t translated into actual prosperity.

According to the November Financial Security Index, compiled by Bankrate.com, the number one financial concern among Americans isn’t job security, or the housing market—it’s pocketbook issues like just being able to pay bills.

“And it has been to an increasing extent each year,” says Brian McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

“This year, 41 percent of Americans cited that as their top priority. That’s up from 36 percent last year and 32 percent in 2012.”

One explanation for the concern about paying bills is that even as economic indicators like unemployment improve, incomes remain largely flat.

“People have jobs, but both the hours and the wages are not what they might hope for,” notes Steve Fazzari, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis.

On the positive side, the Bankrate survey showed that American’s feelings about job security and net worth are both improving.

Is Beauty In The Eye(Lid) Of The Beholder?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-17 01:15

Half of people of Asian descent have double eyelids — folds above the lash line — and the other don't. There's a controversial surgery some people get to give themselves that crease.

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Tweet In The Holiday With Recipes On Twitter

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-17 01:11

Test your ability to tweet a recipe in 140 characters or less. Amateur cook and writer Maureen Evans tells us how she manages to do that, and breaks down her code in her Twitter cookbook, Eat Tweet.

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In A Dutch Town, A Glowing Bike Path Inspired By Van Gogh

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 23:50

A modern artist has installed a high-tech bick path that glows in the starry night, a homage to one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings.

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Top Spenders On Capitol Hill Pay Billions, Receive Trillions

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 23:48

A new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation examines corporations that expend the most money in Washington on campaign contributions and lobbying. Defense contractors and finance giants lead the pack.

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To End Food Waste, Change Needs To Begin At Home

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 23:47

The U.S. throws out 35 million tons of food each year. While many restaurants, supermarkets and food firms are taking responsibility, many consumers are not. A pilot EPA program aims to change that.

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Six Words: 'With Kids, I'm Dad. Alone, Thug'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 23:44

With his brown skin and long dreadlocks, Marc Quarles stands out in his predominantly white neighborhood. He's particularly aware of that, he says, when his biracial children aren't with him.

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The Power Of Suggestion Could Trigger Asthma — Or Treat It

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 23:41

Strong odors can be a problem for people with asthma. Even anticipating smells like chemicals or heavy perfumes can lead to an asthma attack. Some scientists think this may lead to new treatments.

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DEA Agents Surprise At Least 3 NFL Teams' Medical Staffs

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 21:29

The agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least three visiting NFL teams' medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players' claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs.

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HealthCare.gov Has Improved, But Obamacare Still Faces Problems

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 15:08

The second open enrollment period at HealthCare.gov began Saturday. The website is better than last year's version, but approval of the Affordable Care Act remains low.

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Criminal Law Says Minors Can't Consent — But Some Civil Courts Disagree

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 14:22

No state has an age of consent lower than 16. But in some civil cases, attorneys argue that children can make decisions about whom they have sex with — and, in some courtrooms, those attorneys win.

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Google's Lollipop Wants To Change The Way We Use Our Phones

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 13:18

The latest update to Google's Android operating system is more than just a facelift. It's an introduction to the future of Google's Web.

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In Oman, The Man Who Has Defined The Country Is Now Rarely Seen

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 13:15

Sultan Qaboos has dominated Oman for 44 years and managed to maintain good relations with everyone from the U.S. to Iran. But now he's ailing and it's not clear who would succeed him.

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For Wearable Tech, One Size Does Not Fit All

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 13:11

One big criticism of wearable technology: the teams behind these devices are not diverse enough. Some industry watchers say that can result in products designed only with men in mind.

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Producer Of 'Knight Rider' And 'Battlestar Galactica' Dies At 77

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 10:40

Glen A. Larson, who was responsible for some of the most iconic television shows of the 70s and 80s, succumbed Friday to complications related to cancer, his son says.

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Google Asks Users To Help Fight Ebola — And They Answer With Cash

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 07:44

For the first time ever, Google reached out to users in a matching campaign to help fund Ebola treatment and prevention. The company's philanthropic director explains why.

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Clearing Of MH17 Debris Begins In Eastern Ukraine

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 07:17

The Boeing 777 that crashed over the area on July 17, killing nearly 289 aboard, is widely believed to have been downed by a Russian-built, rebel-operated surface-to-air missile battery.

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Nigerian Army Retakes Chibok, Home Of Kidnapped Schoolgirls

NPR News - Sun, 2014-11-16 05:56

A day after reports that Boko Haram militants had captured the town where they abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in April, the government says it has regained control of the northeastern city.

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