National News

For Bakers And Restaurants, Egg Supply Is Getting Ugly

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 01:01

Commercial bakers and restaurants use liquid egg in dozens of foods, from cakes to mayonnaise. But the price has shot up 240 percent since May, as U.S. poultry farms reel from an avian flu outbreak.

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Businesses Are Hanging Up On Voice Mail To Dial In Productivity

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 01:00

It was a workplace necessity not long ago. Now voice mail is the latest mode of communication to be phased out by the digital age. Companies big and small are cutting it to save time and money.

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Giants Pitcher Chris Heston Throws First No-Hitter Of The Season

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 21:40

The San Francisco Giants are now the second team in major league history to toss no-hitters in four straight seasons. Pitcher Chris Heston helped the Giants in their 5-1 win over the New York Mets.

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Juan Felipe Herrera Named U.S. Poet Laureate

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 20:08

Already California's poet laureate, the prolific Chicano writer bears an enduring fascination for his native state — and a passion for teaching that's likely to shape his time in the new role.

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Cleveland Withstands Late Golden State Charge For 2-1 Lead In NBA Finals

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 19:53

As the playoffs began, the Warriors were viewed as nearly unstoppable, particularly against an inferior Eastern Conference team in the NBA finals. The Cavaliers dominated most of Tuesday's game.

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Sex Pistols Artwork To Be Featured On Virgin Money Credit Cards

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 19:00

You read that right. And yes, punk rock is dead.

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McKinney Police Officer Seen Pinning Black Girl To The Ground Resigns

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 15:39

Police were called to break up a fight at a neighborhood pool. One officer ended up forcing a girl to the ground and pulling his gun on two other unarmed teens.

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How Apple Hopes To Take A Bite Out Of The News Business

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 14:07

With its new News app Apple is doing something that has already been done, but it has an undeniably large built-in consumer base: hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users.

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NPR Red Cross Investigation Prompts Call For A Congressional Hearing

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:52

The joint NPR/ProPublica probe found the charity raised nearly half a billion dollars after 2010 Haiti earthquake, but has little to show for it.

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Costs Of Slipshod Research Methods May Be In The Billions

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:43

Up to half of all results from biomedical research laboratories these days can't be replicated by other science teams. Why not? Myriad flubs slow progress in the hunt for cures.

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'Headless Body In Topless Bar' Headline Writer Dies

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:28

Vincent Musetto, who wrote what some consider one of the best headlines of all time, died Tuesday at the age of 74.

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How bad are Chicago's debt problems, really?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

Chicago is in serious financial trouble, with hundreds of millions of dollars due on a pension debt of more than $20 billion. The city’s school district also faces a deficit of a billion dollars or more.

The troubles have prompted bond-rating agency Moody’s to downgrade the credit ratings for the city, the school district and the park district to junk status — giving Chicago the worst credit rating of any big city after Detroit.

In our third biggest city, how does that even happen?

As a Chicago native, I know it’s bad, but the idea that Chicago invites serious comparisons with Detroit is surprising. For an outsider’s perspective, I call Todd Ely, who teaches public finance at the University of Colorado.

“As an academic — and one who goes to conferences on exciting things like budgeting and financial management,” Ely says, “whenever the folks from Illinois stand up to talk, everybody kind of looks and says, ‘Soooo, tell us what’s happening now...’”

A local expert confirms Ely’s judgment that even in a moment when state and local finances seem under pressure everywhere, Chicago and Illinois look especially bad.

Ralph Martire, who runs the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a local policy group, responds with a sigh when I ask, "are we really the worst?"

“Yeah, kind of we are,” Martire says. “Our debt per capita is really some of the highest in the nation.”

The reason will sound familiar. We owe our pension plans, like a lot of other places, but more.  We skipped payments — a lot of them, more than most. We said we’d pay it back eventually, and, as Martire says, “This is eventually.”

Chicago faces an additional obstacle to digging itself out: the Illinois constitution. Ours, unlike most, explicitly forbids reneging on pension benefits. The state supreme court issued a stern reminder to that effect on May 8, in a ruling that put a damper on plans to address the problem by cutting benefits.

The ruling triggered the downgrade from Moody’s — the downgrade itself also threatens to be expensive for the city, triggering higher interest rates when we borrow money, and possibly some penalties.

“We really don’t know what the fiscal impact will be,” Martire says, “but it’s not going to be insignificant.”

The problem can’t be fixed simply by cutting wasteful spending, he says. Not that waste and abuse aren’t a problem here — they are — but overall spending isn’t lavish.

“You look at the city of Chicago, spending’s been cut,” Martire says. “You look at the state of Illinois, spending’s really been cut. We’re one of the lowest-spending states in the nation, across the board, despite having the fifth-largest population.”

To see what below-average spending looks like, I went to visit another set of local experts: Erika Wozniak, a fifth-grade teacher, and her students at Oriole Park Elementary School on Chicago’s Northwest Side. On the morning of my visit, the students discussed how a financial meltdown for Chicago’s public schools — called “CPS” by locals — would affect them.

“If CPS went bankrupted, the classrooms would be too small to fit the students,” said one student. “And if you ever had a question for the teacher, you wouldn’t be able to get to the question, because there’d be too many kids in the classroom.”

“And how many students do we have in our classroom?” Ms. Wozniak asked the class.

“Thirty-six.”

There are no desks in the classroom. Instead, the students crowd around tables, with a crate of books and supplies beside each child’s feet.

However, Ralph Martire has a proposal to sort this out. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “It’s something we call ‘math.’”

It also involves something politicians find distasteful: raising taxes. Economically, this is something Chicago could probably do.  

“Chicago is a regional, national, and global hub,” says William Glasgall, who watches state and local finance for the Volcker Alliance. “It’s an information-based economy. The financial-services industry in Chicago is large and powerful."

In other words, unlike other cities with big problems — say, Detroit — Chicago has a tax base. And compared to New York or California, taxes here are relatively low.

It is true that compared to neighboring states like Indiana or Kentucky, they’re on the high side. However, Glasgall says, taxes are not necessarily the only reason businesses choose locations. “Are all those financial services firms really going to move to Wisconsin?”

In terms of its tax base, Chicago might do itself more damage by failing to raise taxes, says Todd Ely, the public-finance scholar. He says he’s been wondering, "Would entrepreneurs choose Chicago as a place to start a business right now?"

“Personally I wouldn’t,” Ely says. “Even though I think it’s a great city.”

Not, he says, because taxes are too high. But because all the chaos — under-funded services, fiscal uncertainty — is bad for business.

“When do you start having businesses leave,” he asks, “that are concerned about the schools? That are worried about — I mean, uncertainty’s bad for business.”

At least one of the kids at Oriole Park has the same idea.

“If CPS goes bankrupt, then I'll end up going to a different CPS,” says one boy. “California public schools.”

So, that’s one family ready to vote with their feet … for higher taxes. 

How screwed is Chicago, really?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

Chicago is in serious financial trouble, with hundreds of millions of dollars due on a pension debt of more than $20 billion. The city’s school district also faces a deficit of a billion dollars or more.

The troubles have prompted bond-rating agency Moody’s to downgrade the credit ratings for the city, the school district and the park district to junk status — giving Chicago the worst credit rating of any big city after Detroit.

Is our third biggest city completely screwed? How does that even happen?

As a Chicago native, I know it’s bad, but the idea that Chicago invites serious comparisons with Detroit is surprising. For an outsider’s perspective, I call Todd Ely, who teaches public finance at the University of Colorado.

“As an academic — and one who goes to conferences on exciting things like budgeting and financial management,” Ely says, “whenever the folks from Illinois stand up to talk, everybody kind of looks and says, ‘Soooo, tell us what’s happening now...’”

A local expert confirms Ely’s judgment that even in a moment when state and local finances seem under pressure everywhere, Chicago and Illinois look especially bad.

Ralph Martire, who runs the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a local policy group, responds with a sigh when I ask, "are we really the worst?"

“Yeah, kind of we are,” Martire says. “Our debt per capita is really some of the highest in the nation.”

The reason will sound familiar. We owe our pension plans, like a lot of other places, but more.  We skipped payments — a lot of them, more than most. We said we’d pay it back eventually, and, as Martire says, “This is eventually.”

Chicago faces an additional obstacle to digging itself out: the Illinois constitution. Ours, unlike most, explicitly forbids reneging on pension benefits. The state supreme court issued a stern reminder to that effect on May 8, in a ruling that put a damper on plans to address the problem by cutting benefits.

The ruling triggered the downgrade from Moody’s — the downgrade itself also threatens to be expensive for the city, triggering higher interest rates when we borrow money, and possibly some penalties.

“We really don’t know what the fiscal impact will be,” Martire says, “but it’s not going to be insignificant.”

The problem can’t be fixed simply by cutting wasteful spending, he says. Not that waste and abuse aren’t a problem here — they are — but overall spending isn’t lavish.

“You look at the city of Chicago, spending’s been cut,” Martire says. “You look at the state of Illinois, spending’s really been cut. We’re one of the lowest-spending states in the nation, across the board, despite having the fifth-largest population.”

To see what below-average spending looks like, I went to visit another set of local experts: Erika Wozniak, a fifth-grade teacher, and her students at Oriole Park Elementary School on Chicago’s Northwest Side. On the morning of my visit, the students discussed how a financial meltdown for Chicago’s public schools — called “CPS” by locals — would affect them.

“If CPS went bankrupted, the classrooms would be too small to fit the students,” said one student. “And if you ever had a question for the teacher, you wouldn’t be able to get to the question, because there’d be too many kids in the classroom.”

“And how many students do we have in our classroom?” Ms. Wozniak asked the class.

“Thirty-six.”

There are no desks in the classroom. Instead, the students crowd around tables, with a crate of books and supplies beside each child’s feet.

However, Ralph Martire has a proposal to sort this out. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “It’s something we call ‘math.’”

It also involves something politicians find distasteful: raising taxes. Economically, this is something Chicago could probably do.  

“Chicago is a regional, national, and global hub,” says William Glasgall, who watches state and local finance for the Volcker Alliance. “It’s an information-based economy. The financial-services industry in Chicago is large and powerful."

In other words, unlike other cities with big problems — say, Detroit — Chicago has a tax base. And compared to New York or California, taxes here are relatively low.

It is true that compared to neighboring states like Indiana or Kentucky, they’re on the high side. However, Glasgall says, taxes are not necessarily the only reason businesses choose locations. “Are all those financial services firms really going to move to Wisconsin?”

In terms of its tax base, Chicago might do itself more damage by failing to raise taxes, says Todd Ely, the public-finance scholar. He says he’s been wondering, "Would entrepreneurs choose Chicago as a place to start a business right now?"

“Personally I wouldn’t,” Ely says. “Even though I think it’s a great city.”

Not, he says, because taxes are too high. But because all the chaos — under-funded services, fiscal uncertainty — is bad for business.

“When do you start having businesses leave,” he asks, “that are concerned about the schools? That are worried about — I mean, uncertainty’s bad for business.”

At least one of the kids at Oriole Park has the same idea.

“If CPS goes bankrupt, then I'll end up going to a different CPS,” says one boy. “California public schools.”

So, that’s one family ready to vote with their feet … for higher taxes. 

Why even small telecoms are merging

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

Merger mania has hit the telecommunications industry: Time Warner Cable and Charter, Dish and T-Mobile, AT&T and DirectTV — and Atlantic Broadband and Metrocast Communications of Connecticut. 

Yes, even small regional cable companies are growing through acquisition. Greg MacDonald, head of research at Macquarie Canada, says it's for some of the same reasons as the large ones: economies of scale, and maybe some bargaining muscle.

But SNL Kagan analyst Ian Olgeirson says the small fry don't get the same advantages as the mega-mergers when it comes to striking deals with the companies that sell programming. "What they're really looking for is, you don't need two accounting departments, you don't need two HR departments," he says. "Those kinds of fairly straightforward type of operating efficiencies."

But those smaller benefits don't necessarily come with a smaller per-customer price tag, which is one reason law professor Peter Carstensen says the urge to merge is often irrational. In fact, he says, most mergers fail.

How Ford is competing with Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

“Overall, when we step back, we are in a growth industry.”

That’s what Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields has to say about the car and truck business. He points to the fact that, globally, an increasing number of mega-cities are home to 10 million or more people, some of them in the middle class — and he says when people reach the middle class, they want to buy a car. 

Fields agrees it’s true that, in many urban areas, car ownership will decline as people decide to use alternate modes of transportation. But he sees Ford as more than just a car and truck company. According to Fields, as a "mobility company," Ford is experimenting with projects outside of the traditional powertrain. What are some of these experiments?

“It runs the gamut from ride sharing in London, to car-swapping in the U.S. to parking identification,” Fields says.  

Fields knows Ford will have competition as it continues to experiment with wrapping more and more technology into its business model. While he sees traditional car manufacturers as competition, Google, Uber and Apple are creeping onto the rivals list.

“The addressable market on the car business dwarfs smartphones, dwarfs wearables, you name it,” Fields says. “And there’s a lot of folks looking at the auto industry and that gives us a lot of motivation.”

Muppets make great substitute teachers, study says

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

Maybe we've been going about education all wrong. 

A new study shows that kids can learn as much, or more, from Sesame Street as they do from preschool.

The Washington Post reports that kids probably shouldn't just watch Sesame Street instead of going to preschool — but if they do, it's not a total disaster.

Not to mention, the New York Times reports this week that more and more kindergarten classes are getting back to the basics of sandboxes and dancing and painting time — you know, playing.

Proving what parents, good teachers and children everywhere understand: too much work just isn't good for you.

Brace yourselves; more branded news is coming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN, recently unveiled a "courageous" new plan for funding the news; they’ll let advertisers pay for stories about themselves. It’s a controversial business model that has been adopted by multiple news agencies in the wake of the recession.  

Soon, branded media will be available on multiple platforms: TV, the web and Snapchat. CNN is no stranger to branded content, but now production will be managed entirely in-house. 

Marketplace's Adriene Hill talks with Molly Wood about the potential impact that the recent announcement could have on the way you get the news. Click play above to hear their conversation.

Can you tell the difference between an ad and "real" news? Find out by taking our quiz below:  var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/", id: "what-is-it-ad-or-real-deal", placeholder: "pd_1386073690" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'https://polldaddy.com/survey.js':'http://i0.poll.fm/survey.js';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

One California drought winner? The local car wash.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-09 13:00

It's gotten a lot tougher for Californians to ignore the state’s drought. Mandatory water restrictions have kicked in, aiming to cut use by an average of 25 percent statewide. To meet those cuts, water utilities are imposing new rules about what Californians can and can’t do with water. Some industries are enjoying a boost in business as a result.

“I’m sure in summer we’ll see an influx in business, which is great,” says Jeff Wheeler of AJ Auto Detailing in San Jose, where his crew was pressure-washing a row of cars.

Just a month ago, the San Jose City Council passed drought rules that most car washing businesses could only dream of: if you live in San Jose, you’re no longer allowed to wash your car at home with potable water. Commercial car washes are okay, because most recycle water.

“A customer came in the other day and he brought his truck,” says Jeff’s brother, Jordan Wheeler. “He has a big yard and he has tractors and stuff, and he says he was washing off a couple of his tractors and a neighbor complained and called the police on him.”

Washing cars at home is still allowed by most California water agencies, if residents have a shutoff nozzle on their hose. But San Jose has banned it with or without a nozzle because the city is aiming to cut water use by 30 percent.

Jeff Wheeler says his carwash has an added selling point: it’s extra water efficient.

“How this all starts is, there’s multiple pumps,” Wheeler says, pointing to his water recycling system. Water flowing off the cars is recaptured, filtered and put into large tanks. Each gallon is reused four to five times, which saves a lot of water.

“We’re actually only using about 2 to 2.5 gallons per car and that’s less than a dishwasher uses,” Wheeler says.

That saves as much as 100 gallons over what a home car wash uses, but overall, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what lawns need — so why single out car washing?

“As agencies are trying to meet some of the restrictions, in some cases up to 36 percent, they’re going to have to cut a lot of things,” says Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute, a water think tank in Oakland. “And so every bit is going to help.”

On the other hand, water districts that have already cutback have been given lower conservation targets by the state, down to eight percent. In those areas, some drought rules are in place to simply get the public’s attention, like the one that prevents restaurants from serving water unless customers ask for it.

“It’s showing people that we are in a drought,” Cooley says. “That we need to be thinking about all the different ways we use water.”

By making everyday Californians feel the pain, he says, they’re more likely to step up and make lasting changes, like putting in drought-friendly landscaping.

“In every city, lawns are sort of standard when a new area is put in, when a street median is put in,” she says. “And so that has to change and this drought, I think, is really going to drive that change.”

More permanent changes will pay off by saving water during the next drought — which Cooley says are definitely in California’s future.

Watchdog Questions Whether TSA Can Do Its Job

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 12:58

Senators hear from Inspector General and whistleblowers about recent lapses.

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The Trouble That's Brewing In Burundi

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-09 12:43

Protesters are marching against the president's plan for a third term. Some 100,000 refugees have fled. The fear is that Burundi, one of the world's poorest countries, could slip back into civil war.

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