National News

How do you make better life? And what does that mean?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:23

In a partnership with the BBC, in a series called Six Routes to Riches, Lizzie O'Leary has been exploring what happens when the global economy collides with real life.

How do you make a better life? And what does that mean? This week, O'Leary is joined by the BBC's Nkem Ifejika, who digs in to Nigeria's economy. Ifejika grew up in Nigeria, and has watched the economy change and shift.

In coming weeks, we'll also report from India, China, and the United States.

Next week, you'll hear O'Leary's own reporting from Brazil. O'Leary spent the past two weeks there, talking to the people at the top of the economic ladder.

Fun Fact Friday: Social media, still a thing making tons of money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

Catherine Rampell from The Washington Post and Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal wrap up the week in news. But, what else did we learn this week?

Fun fact: Instagram now has more than 300 million users worldwide.

Photo sharing, however, was not the initial intention for the app. Discover more fun facts about Instagram and its co-founder, Kevin Systrom here: 

How a humble stray dog helped launch Instagram

Fun fact: An acre-foot of farmland uses the equivalent to 326,000 gallons of water.

Since farming requires a lot of water, Farmers are adapting to the current drought conditions in California by switching to drip-irrrigating methods as opposed to flooding, and choosing to produce lucrative crops over low-value crops. 

Central Valley farms come at a cost for dry California

Fun fact: Snapchat is reportedly worth as much as $19 billion now.

With Snapchat's ads running for a rumored minimum price of $750,000 a day and its recent collaboration with news and entertainment channels, investors appear more than eager to raise the social media company's valuation.

Here's why Snapchat has doubled in value

Fun fact: Chinese companies invested more than $12 billion in projects in 2014.

Where the U.S. was once outsourcing, it now seems China is venturing into the U.S. A change in growth model has left Chinese companies seeking the kinds of skilled labor available in the United States, which is why many have began opening up shops from Texas to Indiana.

Chinese factories move to a new frontier: America

Remember CD's? Yeah, Starbucks is done selling those.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

Billboard reported this week that Starbucks is going to stop selling compact discs in its stores come March.

There was a time, Billboard says, when Starbucks was doing $65 million a year in CD sales.

But no more, because — and here comes the line of the day — they're gonna stop selling what no one listens to music on anymore anyway.


Sysco swallows up the second biggest food company

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

The Sysco truck is everywhere, unloading in front of restaurants, schools, hospitals and colleges. Packed inside are boxes of seafood, beef, chicken, baked goods and napkins. They are biggest distributor of foods in the U.S., and now, they're ready to merge with US Foods.

But, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit to stop the merger.

Before you consider whether Sysco’s proposed merger would violate antitrust laws, you have to understand what Sysco does. As a food distribution company, it is really good at logistics and their deliveries come with few hassles. Say you’re a mom-and-pop sandwich shop, you don’t want to think too much about how much the tomatoes in your BLT cost, or whether the tomatoes will arrive on time.

Then again, imagine you are a gourmet restaurant and want vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes to toss with your fair-trade arugula salad, you might find yourself looking elsewhere.

“Sysco is considered the Chevrolet of the industry," says Andrew Wolf, an analyst with BB&T. "And a lot of these chefs, especially the very high-end, they're looking for products closer to a Ferrari.”

So whether Sysco, in its merged form, would dominate the “broad line” food distribution market isn’t really up for debate. The question is: What’s a market, and who gets to decide?

As for this one, the courts will get the final say.



This oil rig count may no longer be relevant

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

Today brought another weekly installation of the most closely watched number in the oil patch: the rig count. That’s the measure of how many rigs are currently in operation. The count has fallen 37 percent over last year to 1019 rigs. With oil prices so volatile, Longbow Asset Management analyst Jake Dollarhide says even regular people now watch the rig count.

 But how good of a metric is this? How well does it predict future oil production? Eric Kuhle of Wood MacKenzie has detected a “strong disconnect” between the number of rigs and production. Analysts who see this decoupling says it’s a function of the modern era of extracting oil from shale rock. Kuhle says idled rigs tend to be the less productive ones, leaving the drilling superstars still in operation. Those who see a disconnect suggest the rig count plunge may overstate how bad things are.

Still, Steven Kopits of Princeton Energy Advisors says the rig count has fallen so steeply, production has to fall. It may be a question of how much.

Will Apple put the pedal to the metal?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

Is Apple about to enter the car business? Bloomberg reports the company is working on a plan to produce an electric car by 2020. If the rumors are true, Apple will face major barriers in the auto world. 

"The car industry is a particularly difficult one to break into," says J.P. Gownder of Forrester Research, who is skeptical of the reports. He says it is more likely Apple is trying to figure out technologies that would complement dashboard systems for entertainment and navigation. 

Gownder says one of the most significant barriers to entry for Apple would be distribution.  The company would either have to establish a dealership network, he says, which can be difficult and time-consuming, or it will have to sell cars directly, which not all states allow. 

"The non-auto manufacturers really underestimate what it takes to get product to market and to become profitable," says Dennis Virag, president of the Automotive Consulting Group. Just establishing a supply chain could take years, he says, adding that a typical car has more than 10,000 parts and more than 2,500 suppliers.

Making money would be another challenge. Virag says one of the keys to profitability is scale. The big car makers can achieve that. Newer entrants, like electric car-maker Tesla have not. 

Tesla produces only 35,000 vehicles a year, even though it has been on the road since 2008. It has had trouble opening up dealerships and the company's founder has said he is not expecting to be profitable until 2020.

So why would Apple even bother, considering all the hurdles?

Thilo Koslowski of Gartner research says the maker of iPhones and iPads knows that competing in the mobile space means being part of the most mobile device we own: our cars.

"The car is becoming a very fundamental piece of the puzzle that you need to own, if you indeed want to create experiences for your customers wherever they are," says Koslowski.

Apple may face competition from its neighbors. Google has already developed a self-driving car. Uber is funding research into a world without drivers at all. And not to be left out, several major car-makers have opened up research facilities in Silicon Valley. 


Life After Ebola: What It Takes For A Village To Be Resilient

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:16

Some think of resilience as a solo act. But the villagers of Barkedu are helping each other move forward in the wake of tragedy. Psychologist Jack Saul shares insights into "community resilience."

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How Photoshop changed the way we see everything

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:04

The Oxford English Dictionary added "photoshop" as a verb in 2006, but as the software turns 25 years old this week, the OED's definition seems incomplete. The word doesn't just mean to manipulate an image digitally, using software from Adobe Systems Inc., it's become shorthand for the way beauty industries present distorted and unrealistic images of women

Thomas Knoll, who created the software and still works for parent company Adobe, takes issue with that association.

"That manipulation was nothing new in the market," Knoll says. "What Photoshop did, was make it easier to do."

Possibly, the software's ubiquity — coupled with digital networks — also makes that manipulation easier to see through. Commercial photographer Jesse Rosten sees both sides. He created a parody video about how software helps promote false images of women.

But he thinks maybe the constant leaks of un-retouched photos celebrity photos — Beyonce and Cindy Crawford are two recent examples — increases our awareness that beauty icons don't really look like their iconic images either.

"Back in the day when people were airbrushing negatives, you wouldn't have seen the original negative," Rosten says.

Photoshop has also created whole industries that no one could have foreseen — like Ben Huh's online empire. He's CEO of Cheezburger, a network of blogs devoted to funny cat photos and the like. 

The blog I Can Has Cheezburger? is a leading purveyor of funny cat photos, and one of Photoshop's heirs.

Courtesy of Cheezburger

The proliferation of crowd-sourced images means that the OED's definition of "to photoshop" is out of date as well.

"The vast majority of photoshopping, quote-unquote, that people do today, is actually [on] Instagram," says Huh.

10 things you probably didn't know about the Oscars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 09:00

It’s that time of the year, the 87th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre this Sunday. Hollywood’s biggest stars will walk across 500 feet of red carpet in their designer suits and gowns to the industry’s biggest night, in hopes of winning an Oscar, perhaps the most recognized trophy in the world.

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke to Joseph Petree, the Design Director at R.S. Owens & Company, about manufacturing the golden statuette.

10 fun facts about the Oscars:

  1. The Oscar statuette was originally named the Academy Award of Merit. Although it is unclear where the nickname comes from, the most widely known myth is that the Academy’s librarian saw the statue and said it looked like her Uncle Oscar. The Academy officially adopted the nickname in 1939.
  2. The first Oscar was awarded in 1929 to Emil Jannings, named Best Actor for his performances in “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh.”
  3. About 270 people attended the first official Academy Awards at the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and tickets cost $5 each. 
  4. An Oscar statuette stands 13½ inches tall and weighs in at 8½ pounds.
  5. The Oscar statuette was designed by Cedric Gibbons, chief art director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and sculpted by Los Angeles artist George Stanley.
  6. The statuette is a figure of a knight holding a crusader's sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes signifying the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers.
  7. The first televised Academy Awards show was on March 19, 1953. 
  8. R. S. Owens & Company in Chicago has manufactured the Oscar statuette since 1983.
  9. Each Oscar takes about 8-10 hours to make. R.S. Owens & Company manufactures about 50-60 Oscar statuettes per year.
  10. The Oscar statuette has more real gold on it than any other trophy.

From A Mountain, Kurds Keep Watch On ISIS In Mosul

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 08:56

From a nearby mountain, Kurdish forces can see Mosul, a key strategic hub. An Iraqi-led assault on the city is planned in coming months. For now, the frustrated men hold their territory and train.

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Virginia's Former First Lady Maureen McDonnell Sentenced To 1 Year In Prison

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 08:27

Last fall, a federal jury found McDonnell and her husband guilty in a corruption trial that hinged on taking gifts and loans from a vitamin entrepreneur in exchange for favors.

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Why Some States Want To Legalize Raw Milk Sales

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 08:21

Selling unpasteurized milk across state lines is illegal because it poses a threat to public health. But raw milk sales are growing nonetheless. Legalization would let states regulate a risky market.

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Dutch Soccer Fans Vandalize Rome's La Barcaccia Fountain

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 07:51

Across Italy, newspaper headlines decry two days of "guerrilla warfare" in the heart of Rome and television news shows scenes of devastation.

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Administration Grants Tax Time Reprieve For Obamacare Procrastinators

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 07:39

There will be a special insurance enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for people to use if they discover they owe a penalty for not having coverage when filling out their taxes.

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Quiz: Snacking on standards

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-20 07:31

New federal school-nutrition rules took effect this year, but 43 states have their own snack rules, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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What Cease-Fire? Ukrainian Troops Retreat As Rebels Press Fight

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 07:29

Battles rage nearly a week after a cease-fire deal. Meanwhile, a British parliamentary committee accuses the EU of a "catastrophic misreading" of Russia's designs on Ukraine.

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Banned From The Ride-Share Business In Spain, Uber Turns to Food Delivery

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 06:53

The ride-share company Uber has decided to try its luck arranging rides for takeout food after it is prohibited in Spain from carrying passengers.

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Banned From The Ride-Share Business In Spain, Uber Turns to Food Delivery

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 06:53

The ride-share company Uber has decided to try its luck arranging rides for takeout food after it is prohibited in Spain from carrying passengers.

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Canadian Lawmaker Uses 'Tight Underwear' Excuse To Explain Absence

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 06:17

Blaming his absence during a vote on too-small underwear that makes him uncomfortable, a member of Canada's House of Commons earns applause from his colleagues.

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Thailand Moves To Outlaw Surrogate Services To Foreigners

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-20 06:12

The law comes after high-profile scandals have shed a negative light on the practice. In one case, an Australian couple refused to accept their Down Syndrome child born to a Thai surrogate mother.

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