National News

Supreme Court To Decide Whether States Can Ban Same-Sex Marriage

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:26

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether states can ban same-sex marriage.

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Saudi Blogger's Flogging Postponed For Medical Reasons

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:26

A follow-up on a story we covered Thursday about Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger and democracy proponent who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam." His second public lashing, scheduled for Friday, was postponed. Melissa Block speaks with Badawi's spokesperson, Elham Manea.

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Obama, Cameron Promise To Cooperate On Cybersecurity

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:26

President Obama hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House on Friday.

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Concept Cars, Once Outlandish, Now Vital To Auto Industry's Future

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:26

Those futuristic prototypes that cost millions to produce have re-emerged at the Detroit auto show. It's a sign that the industry has regained confidence amid an accelerating economy, analysts say.

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Duke Backpedals On Allowing Muslim Call To Prayer In Bell Tower

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:26

Earlier this week, the university said Muslim students could use the chapel bell tower — but then backtracked after getting threats.

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Republican Lawmakers Retreat Great For Face Time, But Divisions Remain

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:26

House and Senate Republicans spoke of the opportunity to talk with members of the opposite chamber and hear their views. But they remain divided on issues like immigration.

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Free shipping a boon for Alaska's Amazon customers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:24

With online retail taking a bigger chunk out of brick-and-mortar businesses, shipping and fulfillment services are becoming a commodity in their own right. How fast can you get it to my doorstep?

One place you might not expect online retail to be turning into a way of life, though, is rural Alaska.

"We're good for a couple weeks,” said Betsy Brennan after opening up a box with a few dozen rolls of toilet paper. Brennan works at a radio station in Nome, three blocks from the Bering Sea, and hundreds of miles from Alaska’s road system. She has an auto-order set up through online retail giant Amazon’s Prime service so that office essentials like paper towels, printer cartridges, and coffee arrive regularly by mail.

Prime’s popularity is exploding across rural Alaska because of the free shipping that comes with the $99 annual subscription fee. Brennan set up her household account two years ago for things one could easily take for granted in places that are accessible by road. 

“Really heavy items like flour,” she explained. “All kinds of food items that we pay a lot more for locally. Or very similar.”

For thrifty shoppers with discretionary income, the most cost-effective way of running a household used to be loading up on supplies at wholesale stores in Anchorage, then mailing them back home, or packing them into checked bags on commercial flights.

For Brennan and others, the service is a huge time-saver, and that is a big part of the appeal for placing online orders. “It comes, many times, right to your doorstep.”

Prime also does not charge anything extra for heavy items, even if they may not be eligible for two-day delivery. “We had a friend that ordered a wood-splitter through Amazon Prime,” Brennan said matter-of-factly, “a fairly heavy item." She summarized a few other orders from around town: dozens of bags of potting soil, bird-seed, and a $1,200 grill. A local sled-dog racer had even started ordering pallets of dog food.

Amazon is not a shipper itself. Instead, it takes advantage of where the U.S. Postal Service and freight companies already go. In doing so, it is bringing eCommerce further into markets where it has not had much of a foothold. For example, Unalakleet, 145 miles from Nome (by air), with around 700 residents, including Jeff Erickson, who has been using Amazon more and more over the last six years.

Recently, he ordered a mattress. “Three days later I hear somebody struggling up my stairs, and it's the UPS boy who's dropping it off,” Erickson recounted, sitting near a window in the library of Unalakleet’s one school.

He was disappointed because the box was smaller than he had expected, and he figured there had been a mix up with the order. Luckily, Erickson hauled the package up to his bedroom before opening it. “I got my knife out, made a tiny split in it, and all the sudden I had an instant California King-sized mattress that exploded in my face,” he says.

Overall, Erickson estimates he gets about 30 percent more purchasing power for all shipping fees that are no longer an expense. Before finding out his mattress was eligible for Prime shipping, he was prepared to bite the bullet and pay six or seven hundred dollars in freight fees. At $99, Prime is a bargain for rural customers.

Both Erickson and Brennan think that if Amazon knew what a steal they were getting, the company would put an end to Prime. 

But others disagree.

"Amazon is incredibly data-savvy,” explained R.J. Hottovy, a senior eCommerce analyst for research firm Morningstar. “I am absolutely sure they see higher penetration rates in rural markets, and I think part of that is by design.” Hottovy thinks the company is trying to build customer loyalty, and has decided it is worth losing money right now on mattresses and wood-splitters if that means recruiting long-term users.

Plus, Prime entices customers with free shipping to get them to use ancillary services like music and video streaming. Although that is not the case in Unalakleet, where 3G service only became available last month. We just suffer with bandwidth and speed issues out here,” said Erickson. “We're using Amazon Prime for the free shipping."

For the bargain-hunters out there eager to get the most bang for your buck, I recommend buying the JET 20x80 Geared Head Engine Lathe. It may cost $23,999 and weigh 8,514 pounds, but the price for having it mailed to your doorstep if you're a Prime member? Zero.

Teens Who Skimp On Sleep Now Have More Drinking Problems Later

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:12

Missing out on sleep can lead to more than grumpiness. Teenagers who aren't getting enough sleep are also more apt to binge drink, a study finds, even years later.

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Chinese Spy Chief Latest Snared In Anti-Corruption Campaign

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 11:52

Ma Jian, vice-minister in the Ministry of State Security, has reportedly been detained, possibly for insider trading. He would be the highest-ranking official to be caught in the ongoing probe.

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Fun fact Friday: Millions #TBT to their MySpace days

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 11:47

Leigh Gallagher with Fortune Magazine, and Sudeep Reddy with the Wall Street Journal talk with David Gura about the week's top stories. 

What else did we learn this week?

Fun fact: 50.6 million people still visit MySpace each month.

Thanks, millennial nostalgia. MySpace's most trafficked day of the week is Thursday due to people trying to find their old pictures to post on Instagram for “Throwback Thursday” or #TBT. 

Marketplace Tech's Silicon Tally quiz discussed this fun fact and others, including one about a glitter delivery service.

Silicon Tally: Et tu, glitter? Fun fact: The $2 bill has a historically dirty reputation: It’s the standard bet at a racetrack, often the amount of a political bribe and used to be standard payment for a lady of the night.

Coming soon: An entire documentary about $2 bills.

Why are there so few $2 bills? Fun fact: Sylvester Stallone is the actor who has the most Golden Raspberry nominations, which recognize the year’s worst in film. He's gotten 30.

Apparently he’s not a fan of the awards show, but they’re not a fan of him either.

The Razzies: Lampooning Hollywood for 35 years Fun fact: 30 to 35 percent of water pumped through the pipelines of utilities worldwide is lost to leaks and bursts.

The leaks add up to about 8.6 trillion gallons of water lost worldwide each year.

'Smart' devices used to hunt for water leaks Fun fact: “Wake me up” by Avicii is the most Shazam’d song of all time with 15 million-plus Shazams and counting.

At least someone is benefiting from that incessant earworm.

Shazam CEO: Introducing visual 'Shazaming'

U.S. Supreme Court Will Rule On Gay Marriage This Term

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 11:46

The justices said today they will review restrictions on same-sex marriages in Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky. The case will be argued in April; a decision is expected by late June.

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Swiss move on franc catches currency brokers off guard

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 11:42

Fallout continues from the Swiss National Bank’s decision to stop pegging its currency to the euro. As the franc rapidly rose in value, many investors were caught off guard and suffered large loses.

In many cases, those trades were heavily leveraged, meaning customers might have to put down only a small percentage of the trade's value as a deposit. If they can’t pay their losses, their brokerage firms will be left holding the bag in some cases – and a handful are now raising zn alarm about their own financial health, says Boris Schlossberg of BK Asset Management.

Outside of brokerages and some financial institutions, don't expect the franc’s ripple effect to spread very far, says Nick Bennenbroek, head of foreign exchange strategy at Wells Fargo. However, in situations like this, uncertainty in one market can spread to others, and volatile exchange rates can be problematic for companies operating across multiple currencies, says Kevin Jacques, a professor at Baldwin Wallace University and former Treasury official.

 

Major health care player gets ready to retire

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 11:09

The most important person in health care you've never heard of said Friday she plans to retire next month. Marilyn Tavenner runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and oversees those two giant health care programs. What makes her job so important? To borrow a phrase from E.F. Hutton – when CMS talks, people listen. Why? 

The usual: money and power.

What DeSean Jackson Taught Us About Economic Mobility

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 11:08

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles cut their star player DeSean Jackson over concerns that he still had ties to violent gangs in the Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up. The incident highlighted the complicated connection between neighborhood, wealth, income, and the economic gaps that many people from poor neighborhoods can fall into when things go bad -- even after they've "made it." We revisit what the Jackson incident taught us, and talk to Jamelle Bouie of Slate, who writes about the connection between neighborhood, housing, race, and economic mobility.

Your Wallet: Leaps

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 10:52

We're exploring leaps in our economy, and in our lives. We want to know, did you ever collect yourself and go for it?

Maybe buy that house? Get married?

Or jump into a big new financial commitment ...

We want to hear the dramatic stories of your leap. How did you land?

 

Itinerant bees have an important role in economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 10:36

Most gaps, whether they're global or personal, are pretty easy to see, or visualize. But there's a major economic gap in agriculture that's invisible, for now. And that's because it's being filled. By bees. 

Without bees, we'd lose more than honey.... We'd lose billions of dollars from our economy – $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone and $100 billion globally.

And we might taste the gap, too: Without bees, our plates would be a lot less colorful. Bees are crucial to the farming of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, and meat (which relies on cattle fed on alfalfa, which depends on bees).

We spoke with Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of urban beekeeping business The Best Bees Company, about how to keep bees happy, healthy and productive in our economy.

He's trying to change the way most bees live now, which is a little bit like long-haul truckers.

About half of all honey bees in the United States live on flatbed trucks, in rest stops or on planes. They travel from crop to crop, pollinating flowers and collecting nectar for their own food throughout the year.

Bee travel is a function of monoculture crops: because there isn't enough food for bees in any one place, they move between agricultural hot spots. Bees pollinate almond blossoms in California, blueberries in Maine and then move on to cranberries, apples, oranges, lemons, traveling the country.

Wilson-Rich focuses on urban beekeeping as a way to keep bees healthy and stop all the travel. Bees, like most creatures, are healthier when they eat a varied diet. And recently, research has shown that bees produce more honey in urban settings than rural ones. 

Companies like The Best Bee Company integrate hives into cities, attaching them to homes, apartments, businesses and schools. 

As humans live more harmoniously alongside bees, Wilson-Rich says, the bee population will continue to increase, reaching levels that existed before colony collapse disorder depleted their number in 2006. 

To hear more about the bee economy, listen to the interview in the player above. 

Itinerant bees play an important role in economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 10:36

Most gaps, whether they're global or personal, are pretty easy to see, or visualize. But there's a major economic gap in agriculture that's invisible, for now. And that's because it's being filled. By bees. 

Without bees, we'd lose more than honey.... We'd lose billions of dollars from our economy – $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone and $100 billion globally.

And we might taste the gap, too: Without bees, our plates would be a lot less colorful. Bees are crucial to the farming of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, and meat (which relies on cattle fed on alfalfa, which depends on bees).

We spoke with Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of urban beekeeping business The Best Bees Company, about how to keep bees happy, healthy and productive in our economy.

He's trying to change the way most bees live now, which is a little bit like long-haul truckers.

About half of all honey bees in the United States live on flatbed trucks, in rest stops or on planes. They travel from crop to crop, pollinating flowers and collecting nectar for their own food throughout the year.

Bee travel is a function of monoculture crops: because there isn't enough food for bees in any one place, they move between agricultural hot spots. Bees pollinate almond blossoms in California, blueberries in Maine and then move on to cranberries, apples, oranges, lemons, traveling the country.

Wilson-Rich focuses on urban beekeeping as a way to keep bees healthy and stop all the travel. Bees, like most creatures, are healthier when they eat a varied diet. And recently, research has shown that bees produce more honey in urban settings than rural ones. 

Companies like The Best Bee Company integrate hives into cities, attaching them to homes, apartments, businesses and schools. 

As humans live more harmoniously alongside bees, Wilson-Rich says, the bee population will continue to increase, reaching levels that existed before colony collapse disorder depleted their number in 2006. 

To hear more about the bee economy, listen to the interview in the player above. 

The bee economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 10:36

Most gaps, whether they're global or personal, are pretty easy to see, or visualize. But there's a major economic gap in agriculture that's invisible, for now. And that's because it's being filled. By bees. 

 

Without bees, we'd lose more than honey.... We'd lose billions of dollars from our economy – $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone and $100 billion globally. 

 

And we might taste the gap, too: Without bees, our plates would be a lot less colorful. Bees are crucial to the farming of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, and meat (which relies on cattle fed on alfalfa, which depends on bees).

 

We spoke with Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of urban beekeeping business The Best Bees Company, about how to keep bees happy, healthy and productive in our economy. 

 

He's trying to change the way most bees live now, which is a little bit like long-haul truckers.

 

About half of all honey bees in the United States live on flatbed trucks, in rest stops or on planes. They travel from crop to crop, pollinating flowers and collecting nectar for their own food throughout the year. 

 

Bee travel is a function of monoculture crops: because there isn't enough food for bees in any one place, they move between agricultural hot spots. Bees pollinate almond blossoms in California, blueberries in Maine and then move on to cranberries, apples, oranges, lemons, traveling the country. 

 

Wilson-Rich focuses on urban beekeeping as a way to keep bees healthy and stop all the travel. Bees, like most creatures, are healthier when they eat a varied diet. And recently, research has shown that bees produce more honey in urban settings than rural ones. 

 

Companies like The Best Bee Company integrate hives into cities, attaching them to homes, apartments, businesses and schools. 

 

As humans live more harmoniously alongside bees, Wilson-Rich says, the bee population will continue to increase, reaching levels that existed before colony collapse disorder depleted their number in 2006. 

 

To hear more about the bee economy, listen to the interview in the player above. 

Fla. Police Department Used Black Mug Shots For Target Practice

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 10:35

The practice was discovered when a National Guard sergeant found that one of the mug shots was her brother's. The North Miami Beach police chief says pictures of whites and Hispanics are also used.

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What exists between desire and fulfillment?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 10:19

Instant gratification is the norm in today's economy. Online shopping, instant downloads, and increasingly-speedy delivery times all contribute to a want it now, get it now mentality that drives our spending and consumption. 

But what happens if you wait for something? According to Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, you might enjoy it more. 

A 2010 study in the Netherlands found that people surveyed before a vacation were happier than those surveyed right after a vacation, and even people on vacation. In that period of anticipation, waiting for the trip, people could imagine a perfect ideal, something that would likely not exist in reality. 

This kind of thinking inspires Pinterest boards of dream weddings, makes watching French TV shows and listening to Edith Piaf before a trip to Paris exciting. 

Dunn says that the period of anticipation while waiting for an experience is a form of free enjoyment -- a chance to maximize the time spent appreciating something you've already paid for. 

The same goes for smaller purchases -- new clothes, a visit to a restaurant -- and big financial hurdles. Dunn says that the same principles that allow people to enjoy the time before a vacation could be applied to a college savings account, or a retirement fund.

The key, Dunn says, is to make things more concrete: the details matter.  

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