National News

At Times All A President Can Say After Disaster Is, 'We're Here'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 23:04

President Obama visited Arkansas on Wednesday, where he surveyed the damage of last month's tornado and met with residents. It's a task he and many presidents before him have had to do far too often.

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Less Nutritious Grains May Be In Our Future

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 23:04

When crops are surrounded by high levels of carbon dioxide, they're more productive. But they may have lower concentrations of some crucial nutrients, which could increase malnutrition in the future.

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Civil War Invades An Elephant Sanctuary: One Researcher's Escape

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 23:02

Andrea Turkalo spent 22 years in central Africa, studying rare forest elephants. Then civil war forced her to flee — and poachers killed many of the elephants she'd shared a life with.

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Legendary D.C. Law Firm To Pay Chevron In Ecuador Pollution Case

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 22:15

Rain forest residents had sued the oil giant, and Washington law firm Patton Boggs tried to make the company pay up. But Chevron sued the law firm for fraud — and is now due $15 million.

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More Americans going online to find cremation urns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 22:00

Google. Amazon. Walmart.com—These aren’t the first places that people think of when planning a funeral service. But more people are shopping online for cremation urns. 

David Thompson lives in Carson City, Nevada, and he buys a lot of stuff on Amazon. Recently, he bought an urn a few days before his wife passed away. He was looking for a wider selection than what the funeral home offered.

“To be honest, I was really glad to be home, near my wife, while I was going through this process of finding her cremation urn,” he says. “The one that I chose just jumped off the computer screen and told me essentially that, ‘This is the right thing. This matches your wife’s personality'."

Cremation has become commonplace. Two years ago, 43 percent of Americans were cremated. By 2017, it’s expected, there will be more cremations than burials. 

In Traverse City, Michigan, Stardust Memorials has built its entire business around selling cremation urns online. Owner Jordan Lindberg started the company four years ago, after his father got sticker shock while looking for an urn for his grandmother. 

“I wasn’t interested in selling any kind of normal product, anything that you’re likely to find when you go into Target,” he says. 

Potter Phil Wilson is molding clay into an urn on the wheel. He and Gretchen Palmer of Spinner Ceramics are creating a line of ceramic urns for Stardust Memorials. 

Palmer says the handmade aspect offers a personal touch. “These are not made by a machine. They're all made by hand by Phil, with glazes that he mixed and he designed,” she says. Neither potter said they would purchase a cremation urn online. But the new work has made family members think about their final wishes. 

“When I told my mom and her husband what I was doing, they were like, ‘Oh, I wonder what color urn I would like.’ I was like, ‘Mom, seriously?'," she says.

Stardust Memorials did $1 million in sales last year, and expects to double that this year.

Colorado Approves Financial System For Marijuana Industry

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 16:27

After setting aside a plan less than a week ago, the state's legislature approved a bill to give pot businesses access to banking services.

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Syrian Rebels Leave Homs In Cease-Fire Deal

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 15:57

The rebels surrendered the city to President Bashar Assad's forces as part of an agreement that gave them safe passage.

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Congress Holds Former IRS Official Lois Lerner In Contempt

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 15:19

On a largely party-line vote, Republicans approved the resolution that stems from the alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

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After 6 Decades, 'Jet' Magazine Decides To Go All-Digital

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 14:50

The digest of black life is ending its print offerings after more than 60 years. The once-influential publication was an oddity: both ubiquitous and easily overlooked.

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Coca-Cola cancels its 'You're on. Diet Coke.' campaign

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 14:40

In a Diet Coke ad released recently, a series of young people face nervy challenges — giving a speech, making a presentation, doing the best man’s toast at a wedding. Each has a cool, fresh pick-me-up — a Diet Coke — at their side.

Then, singer Taylor Swift is seen backstage before a concert. The stage manager steps into her dressing room and says “You’re on.” Which then echoes the tagline of the campaign: “Diet Coke. You’re On.”

But there’s a hitch. In print ads — on billboards and bus shelters — the campaign also tells short tales of young people taking risks — like moving to New York to become a DJ. Only in some of those ads, the tagline is reversed: “You’re on. Diet Coke.” And the word “Diet” appears off-baseline, in smaller red script, superimposed over a shadow from a soda can.

 

http://www.duckandcoveronline.com/

The result? That tagline can easily be seen as “You’re on Coke.” Which is exactly what some people pointed out and roundly made fun of. Which led to a series of parody print ads and flying tweets that adapt the drug-addled tagline to any number of dark-and-twisted up-your-nose scenarios.

“Whenever a brand puts its message out there,” says advertising professor Tony Kelso at Iona College, “if it’s open to interpretation, then they’re just asking for people to have fun with it. We’re in the age where we’re not just receiving advertising. Everybody is participating.”

Jack Myers is a media ecologist and author of the book Hooked Up: A New Generation’s Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World. He says this generation of consumers “are digital activists who see content as a creative opportunity to express themselves and to fundamentally change the nature of the intended communication."

Myers says there’s an irony here: companies desperately want consumers to respond to, and interact with, advertising. They want them to contribute their own words and experiences about the companies' brands. They also want consumers to share — endorsements, ‘likes,’ links to ads — with friends and family. Yet, says Myers, some of those same brands are still trying to control what happens to their messaging after it’s released into the marketplace.

But he thinks that’s misguided and ultimately futile. “Advertisers just have to be comfortable being less careful,” says Meyers, “and letting the market take their messages and hack at will, and take the response with a grain of salt.”

Animal New York

According to the New York Times, Coca-Cola has pulled its “You’re On” campaign. The company didn’t respond to Marketplace’s request for comment by our deadline.

All the buzz and attention that Diet Coke is getting — even if some of it is negative — might be a positive for the brand. Diet Coke and the carbonated soft drink category in general need more young consumers. Those consumers are grabbing bottled water, vitamin-fortified water, juice drinks and especially energy drinks, instead of soft drinks. According to Beverage Digest, Diet Coke’s volume fell nearly 7 percent in 2013 from the year before; Diet Pepsi fell about the same amount. Diet Mountain Dew and Coke Zero have also slipped.

Snip Decision: Africa's Campaign To Circumcise Its Men

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 14:20

A campaign in Africa to prevent HIV has persuaded 6 million teens and men to get circumcised and aims to sign up 14 million more. To do so, health officials must appeal to male vanity.

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When Colleges Ditch Coal Investments, It's Barely A Drop In The Bucket

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 14:04

Stanford will stop investing in coal companies, but coal is still in demand worldwide and probably will be for many years. As long as that's true, coal companies are likely to find willing buyers.

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Stanford will divest stakes in coal. Will it matter?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 13:38

Stanford will be the first major university to divest itself of carbon-producing fossil-fuel investments - but only coal producers. So how easy will it be for Stanford to cancel out coal-related investments? After all, coal is used widely by utilities and still generates nearly 40 percent of U.S. electricity. 

Kristoffer Inton, an equity analyst with Morningstar, says not investing in coal is as easy as "If you don’t want it -- don't buy it... Clearly if you don't want to invest in coal, you can not invest in the coal miners,” he says.

Companies that mine coal, like Peabody and Consol Energy, are listed individually on the S&P 500 so they’re easy to target, says Inton. But avoiding the energy source gets more complicated if you try to become a coal vegan, even avoiding companies that burn it – like steel manufacturers and utilities.

Inton notes that for investors, institutional or otherwise, not buying coal investments right now is not a hardship. Prices are down.

“Any time there’s been press on potential EPA regulations or anything like that, we’ve always seen a direct impact on coal miners’ stocks,” he says.

But even if more institutions like Stanford stop investing in coal, it’s not likely to have much impact on sellers. David Beard, managing director of energy equity research at Iberia Capital Partners, says look no farther than conscience investing campaigns of the past.

“I don’t see any real economic impact just given how the stock of Coke and Pepsi and Philip Morris have performed over time," he says. "And just because you sell a stock, it really doesn’t affect how much money a company has in their bank account to invest in their business.”

Beard says the bigger risk for energy companies would be a global carbon tax, which would raise the cost of electricity. But in the meantime, he notes, for coal producers, it's business as usual.

“It’s supply and demand, if the price is higher than the cost, people will mine it.”

Stock exchanges want Alibaba, bad

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 13:35

Alibaba is huge. We know that. It received $5.6 billion in revenue in 2013 with $1.6 billion in income, and has a nearly unheard of profit margin of 48 percent. 

You would imagine any stock exchange would be dying for Alibaba to decide to list with it. They do want Alibaba, bad. But not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

It’s not totally about the money. Yes, the stock exchange that hosts Alibaba will receive annual fees for being listed. And an exchange will also receive fees every time a stock is traded. 

But as far as stocks go, those fees are minimal. Listing fees top out at around $500,000 a year, for the largest of companies, and trading fees are on the order of hundredths of a cent per trade.

So why do exchanges care about listing Alibaba? Prestige. The flip side of prestige is advertising. If a huge flashy tech company like Alibaba lists with a certain exchange, that might attract other huge flashy tech companies to do the same.

Alibaba & the exchange windfall

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 13:35

Alibaba is huge. We know that.  It received $5.6 billion in revenue in 2013 with $1.6 billion in income, and has a nearly unheard of profit margin of 48%. 

You would imagine any stock exchange would be dying for Alibaba to decide to list with it.  They do want Alibaba, bad.  But not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

It’s not totally about the money.  Yes, the stock exchange which hosts Alibaba will receive annual fees for being listed. An exchange will also receive fees every time a stock is traded. 

But as far as stocks go, those fees are minimal.  Listing fees top out at around $500k a year, for the largest of companies, and trading fees are on the order of hundredths of a cent per trade.

So why do exchanges care about listing Alibaba?  Prestige.  The flip side of prestige is advertising.  If a huge flashy tech company like Alibaba lists with a certain exchange, that might attract other huge flashy tech companies to do the same.

China, Vietnam Spar Over Oil Rig In South China Sea

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 13:33

Hanoi says two of its vessels were rammed by Chinese ships deploying an oil rig in disputed waters. It comes as the Philippines has seized Chinese fisherman for alleged poaching of sea turtles.

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Stanford Dumps Its Holdings In Coal, With Climate In Mind

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 13:08

Stanford says it will its divest holdings in coal companies over climate change concerns. It's the most prominent of the roughly one dozen colleges that have decided to sell off fossil fuel holdings.

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U.S. Offers Aid In Search For Nigerian Girls, But Is It Too Late?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 12:50

The U.S. is sending a team of experts to help find the nearly 300 abducted schoolgirls. But the nearly three-week delay means that the girls are likely scattered, making the search that much tougher.

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Telepsychiatry Brings Emergency Mental Health Care To Rural Areas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 12:48

Many North Carolina counties have no psychiatrists, so emergency rooms are experimenting with beaming in the doctor on video. The hospital can then provide needed treatment.

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Vermont's GMO Bill Expected To Face Major Legal Challenges

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-07 12:43

Vermont gets ready to become the first state to require food producers to label products that are genetically modified, but not without preparing for major legal battles with companies like Monsanto.

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