National News

Weekly Wrap: Taper the taper?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:34

The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy and Bloomberg Government's Nela Richardson join Kai to talk about the new jobs report -- and it's making Reddy sad:

"We've seen so much excitement about what could have been a stronger recovery in 2104. We had all of these expectations of stronger economic growth, consumers going out and spending more, busiensses finally putting all that cash to good use. And what we're seeing is the labor market that we've had for the last 3 or 4 years, and perhaps even worse than what we've had for the last 3 or 4 years. And it's possible that this could just be a blip, but it doesn't give us that upturn, that big, excitnig move forward that we've all been waiting for. " Sudeep Reddy 

To the question, "Is it just a blip?" Richardson says:

"I have to answer that with a question: What is it called when you keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result? I think that's what this economy is doing."

And later -- 

"If the second half of 2014 was more of a fluke than real, there is a possibility Janet Yellen could do something come March."

Disappointing Jobs Data May Point To A Tougher 2014

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:19

After consistent improvements in 2013, employment growth has downshifted over the past two months. Economists fear that could be pointing to slower growth in 2014.

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After A Stroke, Women's Lives Are Worse Than Men's

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:12

Women's reduced ability to recover physically after a stroke may have big effects on their quality of life. Researchers don't know why women don't fare as well as men after strokes, but they say it's a topic in need of attention.

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Iran's President Rouhani Gets The Benefit Of The Doubt, For Now

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

Iran is preparing for a national holiday celebrating the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago, and NPR's Peter Kenyon is among the few foreign journalists in Tehran for the event. He's found that the optimism that greeted President Hassan Rouhani's election last year has moderated — but not vanished.

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In The Wake Of Tragedy, The Possibility of Understanding

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

Emily Bazelon recommends a memoir about facing the danger and squalor of addiction and eventually overcoming it, while Abigail Deutsche ponders the love story at the heart of Edward St. Aubyn's novel Bad News: The one between a man and his drugs.

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Muslims Flee CAR Capital, Chased By Christian Jeers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

A convoy of nearly 500 vehicles full of Muslim families filed out of the capital of Central African Republic on Friday, watched closely by crowds of cheering Christians. Two months of sectarian violence preceded the exodus, which Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay witnessed firsthand. Melissa Block speaks to Delay about the situation.

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Beneath The Bunting, Afghan Shadow Campaign Kicks Off

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

The Afghan presidential campaign is under way, and on the surface it looks like what you'd see in any other democracy. But underneath the decorations and sloganeering lies the shadowy practice of wooing tribal elders, warlords and other influential Afghans who can "deliver" votes or, in some cases, prevent opponents' voters from making it to the polls.

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Pakistan And Taliban Come To The Negotiating Table

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

Pakistan's government and the Pakistani Taliban are holding a first round of peace talks in Islamabad. Expectations are low for any substantial progress toward ending what has been a particularly bloody insurgency. Some analysts believe that the Pakistani military will soon launch a major offensive against the militants in their strongholds along the border with Afghanistan.

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Glory And Glitches At Sochi Opening Ceremonies

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

The 2014 Winter Olympics officially opened Friday with a ceremony celebrating Russian culture and introducing Olympic athletes from around the world. NPR's Robert Smith was at the ceremony in Sochi and joins us to recount the pomp and pitfalls on display.

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Job Growth Runs Cold In January

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

The U.S. Labor Department reported disappointing hiring numbers on Friday. In January, employers added just 113,000 jobs, though the unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.6 percent.

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Allegations Reconvene Woody Allen's Trial By Media

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 13:00

Actress Mia Farrow and two of her children have revived allegations that the film director sexually abused his adopted daughter more than 20 years ago. The charges and counter-charges are playing out not in the legal system but in social media, on blogs and in big-name publications.

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Virginia Textbooks To Recognize S. Korea's 'East Sea' Claim

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 12:52

State lawmakers heard from Korean Americans and Japanese lobbyists before deciding to have the Sea of Japan designated also as the East Sea, the term Seoul prefers.

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'Did you know there's a pimp in your wallet?'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 12:11

There are reasons aplenty to wean oneself off the credit card merry-go-round.  Whether you'd like to avoid debt, want to keep to a stricter budget, or have been frightened by the recent spate of credit breaches, you may be thinking of going on an all-cash diet.  

And while your debit card usually won't let you spend what you don't have, small business owners know that a debit card is not as good as cash. One small business owner, specifically.

Renee Quarles is the owner of Shades of Afrika, in Long Beach, Calif., a store that offers books, art, and health, and beauty products all with the purpose of enhancing "the understanding of the Afrikan diaspora." In 2010, as part of what she considered a challenge from President Obama to create new jobs, Quarles opened a neighboring salon, Natural Kinx and Waves which created 3 new jobs. 

Quarles is a pleasant woman who knows her store inside and out,  and she is just as comfortable talking about her customer's home lives as she is world politics.

But she doesn't mince words when it comes to topics she's passionate about. Just try to buy something with a debit card. 

"You'd like to pay with a card? Did you know that there's a pimp in your wallet?” she says. That’s right. With a very kind and nurturing tone she continues, “There’s a pimp in all of our wallets, dear.”

The pimp she is referring to are banks. As a small business owner, Quarles says that she has been forced to charge more to take debit and credit cards. To avoid passing the costs on to all customers, she charges a fee to those who wish to use a card.

“My cash register has the $1.00 processing fee [posted].  We merchants can’t keep carrying the weight of these fees,” Quarles says.

She is baffled as to why anyone would prefer to use a card over greenbacks.

“Whenever I can only make a quarter of a penny in keeping my money, and a man I can’t see makes 2.79 to 3.29 percent, who are you and how did you get in my wallet," she says.

Quarles says she wants to empower everyone to take charge of their finances, and that denying the banks access to your full purchase history is one big step. That by using cash, you keep the man out of your wallet, and you avoid paying fees like the one she is compelled to charge.

As to why she doesn’t just transition to an all-cash business, she says, “I tried that when I first started.  When I tried to take [the card reader] out, the convenience factors were overwhelming me.  Everyone with a job had these cards.  I couldn’t say no,” she stresses. “If I didn’t have [the card reader], I wouldn’t have sold anything because people weren’t going to go and come back to me with cash.”

Longtime customer Janae Tucker says that she and her partner, Darren Turner, often hear Quarles’ “pimp in your wallet” spiel.

“We always get lectured,” Tucker says.  Darren Turner jumps into say that he doesn’t see it as a lecture, but as a lesson.

Quarles is happy that her words are taken as a lesson and haven’t fallen on deaf ears.  She says that getting the pimp out of peoples’ wallets is a battle she will continue to fight.

“We are in a serious crisis when people believe that the card in our hand is going to suffice better than the cash in our wallets.  The cash in your wallet allows you to pay your children an allowance to teach them how to manage their own saving.”

And with a smile, she slides the debit card, hands over the merchandise and says, “Take your power back.”

'There's a pimp in your wallet'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 12:11

There are reasons aplenty to wean oneself off the credit card merry-go-round.  Whether you'd like to avoid debt, want to keep to a stricter budget, or have been frightened by the recent spate of credit breaches, you may be thinking of going on an all-cash diet.  

And while your debit card usually won't let you spend what you don't have, small business owners know that debt is not as good as cash. One small business owner, specifically.

Renee Quarles is the owner of Shades of Afrika, in Long Beach, Calif., a store that offers books, art, and health, and beauty products all with the purpose of enhancing "the understanding of the Afrikan diaspora." In 2010, as part of what she considered a challenge from President Obama to create new jobs, Quarles opened a neighboring salon, Natural Kinx and Waves which created 3 new jobs. 

Quarles is a pleasant woman who knows her store inside and out,  and she is just as comfortable talking about her customer's home lives as she is world politics.

But she doesn't mince words when it comes to topics she's passionate about. Just try to buy something with a debit card. 

"You'd like to pay with a card? Did you know that there's a pimp in your wallet?” she says. That’s right. With a very kind and nurturing tone she continues, “There’s a pimp in all of our wallets, dear.”

The pimp she is referring to are banks. As a small business owner, Quarles says that she has been forced to charge more to take debit and credit cards. To avoid passing the costs on to all customers, she charges a fee to those who wish to use a card.

“My cash register has the $1.00 processing fee [posted].  We merchants can’t keep carrying the weight of these fees,” Quarles says.

She is baffled as to why anyone would prefer to use a card over greenbacks.

“Whenever I can only make a quarter of a penny in keeping my money, and a man I can’t see makes 2.79 to 3.29 percent, who are you and how did you get in my wallet," she says.

Quarles says she wants to empower everyone to take charge of their finances, and that denying the banks access to your full purchase history is one big step. That by using cash, you keep the man out of your wallet, and you avoid paying fees like the one she is compelled to charge.

As to why she doesn’t just transition to an all-cash business, she says, “I tried that when I first started.  When I tried to take [the card reader] out, the convenience factors were overwhelming me.  Everyone with a job had these cards.  I couldn’t say no,” she stresses. “If I didn’t have [the card reader], I wouldn’t have sold anything because people weren’t going to go and come back to me with cash.”

Longtime customer Janae Tucker says that she and her partner, Darren Turner, often hear Quarles’ “pimp in your wallet” spiel.

“We always get lectured,” Tucker says.  Darren Turner jumps into say that he doesn’t see it as a lecture, but as a lesson.

Quarles is happy that her words are taken as a lesson and haven’t fallen on deaf ears.  She says that getting the pimp out of peoples’ wallets is a battle she will continue to fight.

“We are in a serious crisis when people believe that the card in our hand is going to suffice better than the cash in our wallets.  The cash in your wallet allows you to pay your children an allowance to teach them how to manage their own saving.”

And with a smile, she slides the debit card, hands over the merchandise and says, “Take your power back.”

WARNING: Valentine's Day is approaching

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 12:09

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s an extended look at what’s coming up next week. Yep, a whole week. So grab a seat:

  • The first singing telegram is believed to have been delivered on February 10, 1933. Oh, how thoughtful.
  • Every dog has its day. Or in this case, two days at the top of the week. The annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show takes place in New York City.
  •  It was sixty-five years ago that we met the character Willy Loman when "Death of a Salesman" premiered on Broadway. In a recent revival the role was played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Miss him already.
  • On Tuesday some people observe Get Out your Guitar Day. I don’t. and I’m so glad my neighbors don’t either.
  • On hump day…a look at the nation’s balance sheet. The Treasury department issues its monthly statement for January.
  • February 14th is Valentines’ Day. If you haven’t bought a card yet do it now or you’ll end up with something less-than-fantastic because those guys who thought ahead have already cleaned out the cool cards with nice sentiments. Go. Go now.
  • And we started with dogs, this is for the birds. To benefit our feathered friends, the annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins on Friday. Creating a record of where the birds are. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Ambassador To Argentina Nominee Has Never Been To the Country

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 12:09

Noah Bryson Mamet's admission follows other embarrassing Obama nominee performances in the Senate.

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A tale of two jobs surveys

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 12:00

You might call the January jobs reports released this morning A Tale of Two Surveys. First, there’s what's called the establishment survey, where businesses are asked how many jobs they created. Last month? Just 113,000 of 'em.

Not so good.

And then there's the household survey, where households are asked how many people are working. That one showed more than 600,000 new jobs last month, and helped kick the unemployment rate down to 6.6 percent. So which to believe?

Well, if conflicting employment reports stress you out, close your eyes and imagine the beach.

Doug Handler is chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. He says the survey where tens of thousands of households reported that nice bump in employment is less precise than the payroll data.

"It’s like trying to predict the amount of water in the ocean by looking at the waves here,” he says. “You can broadly get a number, but from minute to minute or from month to month it’s tough to predict."

Plus, the household survey and the payroll tabulation measure slightly different things. Harry Holzer is an economist and public policy professor at Georgetown University.

"The self-employed in the household survey will say that they are employed, and there’s no such category in the payroll numbers, cause it’s only for employees," he says.

While many economists prefer the payroll survey, they say there’s something to the optimism in the household survey. That it should temper the gloom of the last two payroll reports. (December’s weak report was revised upwards to just 75,000 new jobs.)

Mark Vitner is managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo. He knows folks were disappointed when they first saw today’s numbers.

"They said, well, the unemployment rate’s been declining but it’s been declining and it’s all because of a drop in the labor force,” he says. “Well, the labor force didn’t decline, it actually increased."

He says low job gains in December and January may have been caused by weather. And he says those disappointing payroll numbers may not look so disappointing if you see where the growth took place. Construction and manufacturing jobs are actually picking up, which he thinks is pulling people back into the labor force.

Sochi 2014 #NBCFail? Or is the network an Olympic winner?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 11:37

The Olympics has issues, ranging from construction problems to gay rights to the threat of terrorism.

But on Twitter and Internet message boards, the big complaint is against NBC for not broadcasting the games live.

During the last summer Olympics, media expert Jeff Jarvis was one of the folks complaining about the lack of live Olympics programming.

"This time, it doesn’t make much difference to me," says Jarvis.

For one thing, he can access lots more live games this year being streamed over the Internet. He would like to see more live sports televised, which Jarvis argues wouldn’t be bad for NBC’s business.

"As it turns out, when we knew what the results were from some events in the summer, it even drove more audience to watching the event. So I don’t think that having it on live necessarily takes away from also having it tape delayed in prime time," says Jarvis.

From a marketing standpoint, Jarvis can appreciate what the tape delay means for NBC.

"The advantage, additionally, of having tape delayed coverage is they can edit the heck out of it, and make sure they never run long so that you keep watching when they put in their favorite new sitcom."

Or, NBC’s reboot of the Tonight Show. During the Olympics, NBC will be promoting it non-stop

"I think we’ll see a lot of promos for Jimmy Fallon. I think it’s very smart that NBC is premiering the show February 17, while the Olympics is still going on," says Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for the ad buying firm, Horizon Media.

Other advertisers are eager to get their message on during the games too.

Compared to the demand from advertisers during the last winter games, Adgate says advertiser demand this year is "certainly a lot stronger this year than... in the Vancouver games of 2010."

NBC reportedly paid a little less than $900 million to produce and broadcast the Olympics coverage.

The network reports selling more than $800 million worth of ads so far. That’s a record for the winter games.

Why Apple is taking a page from self-help books

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-07 11:37

What better way to get through a difficult time than by investing in yourself?

If you’re a person, that can mean meditation, self-help books, eating right, and exercise. If you’re a company, that means buying your own stock. It’s called a stock buyback, and Apple just did it in grand style: The company has purchased $14 billion of its own shares in the two weeks since reporting lackluster financial results, and watching its stock price tumble.

"The reason the company’s doing this is that they’re trying to send a message to the market that they have confidence in the company’s outlook," says Bill Kreher, senior technology analyst for Edward Jones. "They believe the market misunderstands their story and is undervaluing their future prospects."

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people, buy me!

But valuing itself isn't the only reason Apple is buying its own shares.

"It’s kind of like hush money," says Paul Kedrosky, parter with investment bank Garibaldi Capital. Kedrosky says Apple investors are frustrated their shares are losing value and, meanwhile, Apple’s sitting on $160 billion in cash reserves, and doesn’t appear to be investing in new research or buying up other companies.

"You don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to hang onto it, not buy anything, not spend more money on R&D and say, 'By the way, you investors can’t have it.' You don’t get to do that. You’re a public company and you have obligations. They created this trap for themselves and now they’re stuck."

Investors like stock buybacks, because they usually increase the value of their stock. "The cool thing is, if you’re a shareholder you discover that suddenly, you own a bigger fraction of the company,"  says James Angel, finance professor at Georgetown University. There are fewer shares for sale, so those shares are worth more.

That’s a lot of self love.

All told, Apple has said it plans to spend about $60 billion dollars on stock buybacks.

Ex-State Dept. Contractor Will Plead Guilty For Leaks To Fox News

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-07 11:25

Stephen Kim, who was indicted in 2010 for allegedly revealing top-secret information relating to North Korea, will reportedly serve 13 months in prison as part of the plea deal.

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