National News

Let's inflate like it's 1989

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-12 01:30

As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the weird, delightful and destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century.

For instance, I noticed that the real price of electricity is essentially the same as it was in 1989, adjusted for inflation. In fact, electricity costs the same as it did in 1960, when I was born, adjusting for inflation. Prescription drugs, however, are a different story. The examples we're looking at for the Marketplace Inflation Calculator all have a unique story about how prices have changed since our show got started 25 years ago.

But before our series gets to those, let's get a snapshot on what inflation is, exactly.

Greg Mankiw is chairman of the economics department at Harvard, and if his name sounds familiar it might be because it's on the front of your macroeconomics textbook from college. 

Click the media player above to hear Dr. Greg Mankiw in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

 

Judge: Pistorius Guilty Of Culpable Homicide In Girlfriend's Death

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-12 00:44

A judge in South Africa has found Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, or negligent killing, in the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

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ISIS, ISIL Or Islamic State: What's In A Name?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 23:36

The disparities in naming are partly because of translation difficulties, and partly a sign of a propaganda war. The group calls itself the Islamic State; the Obama administration goes with ISIL.

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Expanding ISIS Fight Scrambles GOP Plan To Extend Budget And Get Out

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 23:34

House Republicans were hoping for a smooth two weeks before hitting the campaign trial, but a request to arm Syrian rebels has muddled that, as well as the one bill that must pass before they leave.

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20 Years Later, Parts Of Major Crime Bill Viewed As Terrible Mistake

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 23:32

In 1994, Congress passed the most significant crime-fighting legislation in a generation. Now, policymakers are dialing back Clinton's tough-on-crime policies.

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Changing Tack, GOP Candidates Support Better Access To Birth Control

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 23:30

A string of Republican Senate candidates are getting behind over-the-counter birth control, a move that could draw women voters.

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Changing Tack, GOP Candidates Support Better Access To Birth Control

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 23:30

A string of Republican Senate candidates are getting behind over-the-counter birth control, a move that could draw women voters.

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A Dozen Puffins Will Get You 800 Mackerel: Inside The Weird Economy Of Zoos

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 23:29

Zoos and aquariums almost never buy or sell animals. But trade is thriving.

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Convicted School Shooter Apprehended After Ohio Prison Break

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 22:06

T.J. Lane escaped Thursday night with two other inmates from the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima. Lane was convicted of killing 3 students at a suburban Cleveland High School in 2012.

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CIA Doubles Its Estimate Of Islamic State Fighters In Iraq And Syria

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 17:22

The Central Intelligence Agency says the Sunni militant group can "muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters." Earlier, the agency had estimated ISIS had at least 10,000 fighters.

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Court Documents Show How NSA Leaned On Yahoo, How Yahoo Fought Back

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 16:53

Newly released court documents reveal details of a battle between Yahoo and the Obama administration. The government pressured Yahoo to disclose some users' data for a secret NSA surveillance program.

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U.S. Threatened To Fine Yahoo $250K A Day If It Didn't Release User Data

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 16:24

The company says it fought the order in a secret court and lost. Today, that same court finally unsealed documents of a pivotal decision that allowed the U.S. to spy on Internet users.

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U.S. Threatened To Fine Yahoo $25K A Day If It Didn't Release User Data

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 16:24

The company says it fought the order in a secret court and lost. Today, that same court finally unsealed documents of a pivotal decision that allowed the U.S. to spy on Internet users.

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American Fighting Ebola Receives Blood Transfusion From Survivor

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 15:55

Last Friday Dr. Rick Sacra was flown from Liberia to Nebraska in a special medevac plane to be treated for Ebola. After receiving two experimental therapies, Sacra's condition has improved.

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Crocodile Meets Godzilla — A Swimming Dino Bigger Than T. Rex

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 15:31

It roamed land and sea and snacked on giant fish. The first few spinosaurus bones were discovered a century ago, but destroyed in WWII. A more complete, second specimen reveals a terrifying predator.

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SeaWorld Hopes New Orca Habitats Will Stem A Tide Of Criticism

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 14:27

The theme park says a 2013 documentary critical of its captive orca attraction has hurt its bottom line. Now, it's pushing back with a social media campaign and plans for new habitats for its whales.

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Parkour May Run, Flip, Dive And Slide Its Way Into Olympics

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-11 13:48

Some leaders of this extreme city sport where people run, jump and slide on streets and over buildings, hope to slip into the games by courting the International Olympic Committee.

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Twitter taps the bond market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

This week, Twitter announced its plan to raise at least $1.3 billion by issuing convertible bonds. Unlike some companies that turn to the debt markets, the company doesn’t appear to be in dire need of cash. So what is their grand strategy?

“I don’t think it’s so much ‘What is the big strategy?’ I think the question many people will be asking is: ‘Is there a really meaningful strategy?’” says Nate Elliott, vice president at Forrester Research. He points out that Twitter’s user base, while large, is still closer to Google+ than Facebook, and the company is not yet profitable.

“If Twitter’s revenues matched its notoriety, it’d be doing just fine,” Elliott says.

But bond market investors are not in a skeptical mood, says David Krause, finance professor at Marquette University. “Companies are raising record amounts of debt right now.” 

The primary reason: With near-zero interest rates, other options are slim pickings — a rather unhappy economic indicator. “It’s the result of an economy that is still struggling, and it’s also due to what we’re seeing globally,” says Brian Rehling, chief fixed income strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. “We’re seeing very weak if not negative growth over in Europe."

On the positive side, the drive to issue debt now may be motivated by a belief that the macroeconomic picture is going to change. “I think there is a sense from some that this is not going to last,” says Rehling.

“It’s a very opportune time for companies that may not be investment grade to be able to go out and lock in some long-term money at some very attractive rates,” says Krause.

Krause thinks Twitter’s offering will be very attractive to investors.

Even if all it buys Twitter in the short term is more time.

Goodbye, handshake. Hello, fist bump!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

You know how people have started sneezing and coughing into their elbows instead of their hands, because public health people convinced us that would reduce the spread of germs?

im loving how its finally cold BUT I DON'T LIKE HOW EVERYONE IS SPREADING THEIR GERMS. LIKE ITS NOT HARD TO SNEEZE INTO YOUR ELBOW.

— Kate Eslit (@kate_eslit) September 11, 2014

Well, turns out elbows aren't helping all that much. A study in the American Journal of Infection Control compared handshakes to fist bumps to high fives as transmission mechanisms: Turns out we'd all be a lot healthier if there was more fist-bumping.

Why the SEC is all about 'broken windows'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Wednesday that it had charged 34 people and companies for failing to file timely disclosures about their dealings in company stock.

Nearly all the cases settled for fines of up to $150,000.

While the SEC says these charges represent important violations on their own, they’re also part of a larger "broken windows" strategy of enforcement, modeled after a policing theory first coined in the 1980s. The idea is that if you clamp down on little infractions, you're more likely to deter big-time crime.

“Focusing on these violations does keep people on notice that we are going to bring action in connection with violations big and small,” says Andrew Ceresney, the director of enforcement at the SEC. “It does create heightened focus and attention to compliance more generally."

He says the SEC has developed digital tools to allow it to go after these smaller cases without distracting it from bigger ones.  

“It’s an interesting experiment,” says John Coffee, a professor and director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia University Law School.

By enforcing filing deadlines Coffee believes the SEC might head off larger problems, where company officials trade on stock before releasing good or bad company news.

“By forcing stricter disclosure, I think, in turn, you’re going to reduce the prospect of insiders exploiting material nonpublic information,” he explains.

The strategy is part of a wider effort to rehabilitate the SEC's reputation. Tom Gorman, a partner with the law firm Dorsey & Whitney, says the agency was once highly respected for its enforcement abilities. But its image has suffered due to its failure to prevent the Madoff and Stanford Ponzi schemes, and because of the public’s perception that the agency hasn’t netted a big fish in the wake of the financial crisis.

“It’s started to come back, but it still has a long way to go to get back to the days when it was really the most respected enforcement program in town,” says Gorman. “They haven’t really brought, recently, a huge financial fraud case, but they’ve brought some. It’s those kind of cases that are going to build their reputation to what they want it to be.”

Wednesday’s settlements might cause some companies to look at their compliance policies, says Michael Rivera, the chair of the Securities Enforcement and Compliance Practice at Venable LLP. But he doubts they will deter bigger criminals.

“The individuals that are going to engage in massive frauds, I don’t think, are too worried about these smaller cases,” he says. “The real way for the SEC to deter major frauds like that is to go after those major frauds.”

He also notes that these small wins will help the agency report higher numbers of successful actions.

However, the SEC stresses it’s important for the agency to feel omnipresent. Announcing the broken windows approach last October, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said, “Investors in our markets want to know that there is a strong cop on the beat — not just someone sitting in the station house waiting for a call, but patrolling the streets and checking on things.”

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