National News

PODCAST: The spinning wheel of death

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-10 02:00

First up, after the Dow fell 97 points yesterday, what accounts for the cautious stance of some market participants in recent days? And when you click on a website today, you might have to endure a spinning worm of waiting. It may not be your internet connection to blame. Today, some big companies are deliberately slowing down their systems in an organized protest against ending what's called Network Neutrality. Plus, Saying the word "Minecraft" to many people produces a similar delighted glow about the eyes as produced by saying the word "Lego." It may have something to do with the videogame's low-fi graphics or open-ended invitation to creativity. Well, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times are reporting that Microsoft is in talks to buy Mojang-- the Swedish maker of Minecraft--for perhaps $2 billion.

Rhode Island Sets November Match Up For Governor

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 20:35

State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who won the Democratic nomination, will face Cranston GOP Mayor Allan Fung in a heavily Democratic state with a history of electing GOP governors.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Fends Off Democratic Primary Challenge

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 19:40

The Democratic incumbent won his party's nod for a second term, but not without getting bruised by Zephyr Teachout, a little-known foe running to his left.

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Scott Brown Captures N.H. Republican Senate Nomination

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 19:06

The former Republican senator from Massachusetts will face Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen in November. If Brown wins, he would become only the third U.S. senator to represent more than one state.

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NFL Commissioner: 'We Have Been Very Open And Honest'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 16:51

In an interview with CBS, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would not rule out the possibility of Ray Rice playing again.

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Are we producing more grads than jobs?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-09 15:09

Many jobs that used to require a high school diploma or a certificate now demand a four-year college degree, from executive assistants to registered nurses to construction supervisors. 

That is the finding of a new study from labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, which sorted through millions of online job postings. Some of those jobs — like nursing or drafting — are more complex than they used to be, says Burning Glass Technologies CEO Matt Sigelman.

“At the same time, we also saw lots and lots of jobs where the jobs haven’t changed,” he says.

For example, about half of IT help desk jobs now require a bachelor’s degree, even though the demands of the job are the same as in positions that don’t ask for a degree, the study found. When it comes to executive secretaries and assistants, 65 percent of listings require a B.A., yet only 19 percent of people in those jobs now have one.

A degree has become a convenient way for employers to sort through hundreds of applicants, Sigelman says. “The problem there is that doesn’t necessarily correspond with what makes people successful in the job,” he says.

And it’s made it harder for the nearly two-thirds of American workers without bachelor’s degrees to find work that pays well. For people with degrees, though, employers are willing to pay more.

“You might think that employers are just hiring degrees because they’re there and they can get them cheap,” says economist Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “But what the data also shows is that they’re paying for the degrees.”

Even for those with degrees there’s a downside, says Sigelman.

“The bad news is that a lot of the demand is for jobs that you probably didn’t go to college to do,” he says. “If you take on a lot of debt to get a college degree and you wind up working at a job that your parents were able to get without one, then you haven’t really gotten anywhere.”

Are we producing more grads than jobs?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-09 15:09

Many jobs that used to require a high school diploma or a certificate now demand a four-year college degree, from executive assistants to registered nurses to construction supervisors. 

 

That is the finding of a new study from labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, which sorted through millions of online job postings. Some of those jobs — like nursing or drafting — are more complex than they used to be, says Burning Glass Technologies CEO Matt Sigelman.

 

“At the same time, we also saw lots and lots of jobs where the jobs haven’t changed,” he says.

 

For example, about half of IT help desk jobs now require a bachelor’s degree, even though the demands of the job are the same as in positions that don’t ask for a degree, the study found. When it comes to executive secretaries and assistants, 65 percent of listings require a B.A., yet only 19 percent of people in those jobs now have one.

 

A degree has become a convenient way for employers to sort through hundreds of applicants, Sigelman says. “The problem there is that doesn’t necessarily correspond with what makes people successful in the job,” he says.

 

And it’s made it harder for the nearly two-thirds of American workers without bachelor’s degrees to find work that pays well. For people with degrees, though, employers are willing to pay more.

 

“You might think that employers are just hiring degrees because they’re there and they can get them cheap,” says economist Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “But what the data also shows is that they’re paying for the degrees.”

 

Even for those with degrees there’s a downside, says Sigelman.

 

“The bad news is that a lot of the demand is for jobs that you probably didn’t go to college to do,” he says. “If you take on a lot of debt to get a college degree and you wind up working at a job that your parents were able to get without one, then you haven’t really gotten anywhere.”

 

 

Obama Tells Lawmakers He Has Authority He Needs For Islamic State Fight

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 14:27

The implication is that President Obama will not seek Congressional approval for any military action against the militant Sunni group.

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Tax Breaks May Turn San Francisco's Vacant Lots Into Urban Farms

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 14:00

San Francisco is one of many U.S. cities rolling out incentives to grow food on unused land. But some San Franciscans argue that land should be used to address the acute affordable housing shortage.

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Love And Sex In The Time Of Viagra — 16 Years On

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 14:00

Longer lives means more decades of intimacy. Drugs that help male physiology match desire have affected more than just the body, men who take these pills say.

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What can retailers do after the Home Depot hack?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-09 13:09

Retailers are increasingly seen as vulnerable to hackers. The cyberattack on Home Depot may be the largest data breach in history, and attacks have been made on Neiman Marcus, Target and Goodwill stores, just to name a few.

Remember back in the day when online shopping gave people the jitters? Those days, says Matthew Prince of CloudFlare, are over.

“I feel more safe in putting my credit card into an online form than I do handing it to a waiter at a restaurant,” he says.

Many of us don’t understand, Prince says, that the cash register is more than a point-of-sale device where we swipe our credit card. It is actually a computer.

In this Home Depot attack, and other similar ones, hackers are breaking in to that software system and stealing our credit and debit card information.

Lillian Ablon, a researcher with Rand, says, right now, the attackers are at least one step in front of the merchants.

“We’re in the golden age of cyber where there are still a lot of holes, still a lot of gaps,” she says.

One of the gaping gaps? Our sale information.

Forrester Research analyst John Kindervag says it’s too easy to grab that information when it enters the store computers. There’s a simple fix, though — encryption.

“That technology actually exists off the shelf. It just has to be purchased,” he says.

Of course, the magic word is "purchased."

“Retail is a low-margin, cheap business. So any time they have to spend money, they don’t want to do it,” says Kindervag.

In many cases, stores would need to upgrade hardware and software; for the largest companies, we are talking millions of dollars in equipment investments. 

Kindervag says the other issue is encrypting this data could stifle other lines of business for retailers.

“It will potentially mean they have to do business intelligence and marketing intelligence in totally different ways, and that will be a disruption of their decades-old business model,” he says.

Kindervag predicts retailers would shape up if consumers started shopping with competitors who take data breaches seriously.

More people own cats than stock these days

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-09 13:09

Some news at the tail end of the day for you:

According to CNN Money, more people own cats than individual stocks, which exclude mutual funds and all that good stuff.

New numbers out from the Federal Reserve show that just under 14 percent of Americans own individual stocks right now. That's down from a high of 18 percent before the recession.

Meanwhile, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 30 percent of households own at least one cat.

One Month Later: Michael Brown's Family Calls For Arrest

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 13:02

The family held a news conference in Ferguson, Mo., where Officer Darren Wilson had a fatal confrontation with the unarmed Brown, 18, one month ago today.

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In An Era Of Gridlock, Does Controlling The Senate Really Matter?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 12:58

As the midterm elections near, Republicans are increasingly confident they will control both houses of Congress. But even if they do, the clashes will likely continue.

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Does 'something rented' count as 'something borrowed'?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-09 12:41

Americans buy a lot of stuff on the Internet — more than $262 billion worth last year, according to the Commerce Department. These days consumers can order pretty much anything online, including what they wear on their wedding day.

Dan Stover and his wife, Megan, got married a year ago this month. In the photos, the groom and his groomsmen are sporting seersucker bow ties, yellow boutonnieres and slim gray suits. “You can see it’s quality fabric,” says Stover. “It’s not like it’s polyester or something.” 

The suits were rentals, but not from a strip mall chain store. They came in the mail a week before the wedding, from TheBlackTux.com.  

“First thing I did was rip that thing open and I tried it on,” Stover says. “I wanted to see if this was a total disaster or a home run, and the fit was perfect. For our wedding, maybe it was a little bit of a leap of faith.”

The Black Tux is a web-only retailer, so Stover couldn’t try his suit on in advance. But the site lets customers enter their body type and measurements, then runs the information through an algorithm to fine-tune the fit before shipping. Stover says the customer reviews were good, and as a busy medical fellow, he was used to buying clothes online to save time. He says he also saved his five best friends a lot of money.

“It was like $100 and change. That’s less than renting a standard tux, and far less than buying a suit.”  

Without the cost of running retail stores, web-only companies can invest more in their products and sell them for less. The Black Tux launched last year and just wrapped its first full wedding season, with inventory fully booked as much as two months in advance.  

“I think absolutely that signals a huge consumer shift,” says Andrew Blackmon, co-founder of The Black Tux. “If people are able to trust us with the tuxedo rentals for arguably the most important day of their lives, I think that shows that people are adopting e-commerce at a level that they probably weren’t in the last five years.”

The top 200 web-only retailers (excluding Amazon) racked up almost $38 billion in sales last year — up 22 percent from the year before, according to InternetRetailer.com.  

“There’s another trend that’s underlying this as well, which is our willingness, maybe even preference to rent things instead of buying them outright,” says David Bell, professor of marketing and e-commerce at the University of Pennsylvania. His case in point: Rent the Runway. The website launched for women in 2009, renting designer dresses for as little as $30. The company now has more than 5 million members and just added a monthly rental program. It has been called a "Netflix for clothes."

“Firms have [gotten] better about giving us pre-information through better technology, better pictures, free returns and so on,” Bell says. “So I think we’ve gradually been trained to buying almost anything online.”

A new report from Business Insider shows 18- to-34-year-olds still spend more money online than any other age group, and in that demographic, 40 percent of guys and a third of women say they would “ideally buy everything online.”

Dan Stover says he’d recommend renting a wedding suit from the web to almost anyone. 

His wife, Megan, approves, too. “I think he looked quite handsome, and I thought the suits looked amazing,” she says.  

As for her wedding dress, she felt more comfortable getting it the old-fashioned way — from a store.  

The Video, The Tabloid Site And The NFL's Unwanted Reckoning

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 12:38

The assault by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on his then-fiancee was public knowledge. But new video released by TMZ on Monday defined the story, says NPR's David Folkenflik.

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3 things you probably didn't know about Richard Branson

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-09 12:37

Richard Branson is no stranger to the spotlight. He has built an enormous conglomerate by keeping himself and his brand — Virgin — front and center.

Virgin is airlines, music, space travel and 300 or more other companies. Branson has put down his thoughts on how to run such an enterprise in a new book called "The Virgin Way."

Three snippets of information we learned about Branson from our interview:

1. He doesn't sit on boards of any of the companies within the Virgin Group. 

"I've never thought of myself as a businessman," Branson said. "From a very young age, I decided I did not want to be a director of any of the Virgin companies. I wanted other people to do the business aspect so I could be freed up to be more of a creator." 

2. Branson seems fond of SpaceX's Elon Musk. 

They're both high-profile entrepreneurs in the private space flight industry, but Branson is friends with the competitor to his Virgin Galactic tourism enterprise.

"In fact, we're about to share a home next to each other on an island in the Virgin Islands. So, we're close friends," Branson said. "It's been tough for both of us. If it was easy, there'd be lots of private spaceship companies. I think we're both going to pull it off." 

3. He sees a future for Virgin without him, and has a succession plan in place. 

"I've spent a lifetime building the Virgin brand, and it can live on after me," Branson said. "I'm fortunate, I have two great kids, Holly and Sam, so there is a family succession plan in place... They can continue to be the face of Virgin once I've stepped down."

And, he notes, his delegation of the business over the years has made the brand stronger on its own: "Virgin runs really well."

You can listen to Kai Ryssdal's full conversation with Richard Branson in the audio player above.

U.S. Gets Middling Marks On 2014 'State Of Birds' Report Card

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 12:27

Domestic cats, high-rises and vanishing habitat are taking a toll on more than 33 species of American birds, a comprehensive update reports. Still, wetland and coastal birds are faring better.

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When Scientists Give Up

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 12:27

They were talented, idealistic risk takers, on the road to what they thought would be important medical discoveries. But when the funding for risk takers dried up, these two academics called it quits.

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In Liberia's Hard-Hit Lofa County, Ebola Continues To Take A Toll

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-09 11:59

The farming town of Barkedu accounts for a fifth of Liberia's Ebola deaths. Residents have revved up anti-Ebola efforts. But the virus has swept away entire families, and there's no end in sight.

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