National News

My six weeks with Google Glass

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 01:53

Google Glass may be the product you've heard most about without ever having been able to try. It's certainly still a hot ticket item: the company is set to unveil new, limited edition frames for Google Glass from fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. But in terms of its actual functionality, not that many people can say they've gotten a chance to really ingrain the technology into their daily life.

That's why Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent for the BBC, has been rocking Google's frames for six weeks, and fielding questions about the device from curious strangers. The most common question: "What's it for?"

Cellan-Jones says it's great for taking pictures, but he found that the Glass's voice command feature - the easiest way to navigate through its interface - had trouble translating from "English English" to "American English": 

"I wanted to put a caption on a photo I took of my garden. And I wanted to say, 'Garden looking unusually tidy,' in a rather British way, and it came out as, 'Gordon looking for usual Thai tea.'

Unfortunately, translation issues aren't the only problem Cellan-Jones found with the smart frames. He says that because of its lack of functions, and its generally clunky feel, Google Glass is still a ways off from being the must-have item that everyone will rush to buy.

The man behind Fannie and Freddie

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 01:50

In the world of real estate, few people are more powerful than Mel Watt, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Together, the two mortgage giants guarantee about 60 percent of all new home loans. 

Watt hasn’t made a lot of public appearances since he was appointed head of the FHFA in January. In fact, his first major speech wasn't until May 13, at the Brookings Institution. 

“We’re balancing, in a number of instances, contradictory mandates,” he told the audience.

For example, the mandate to protect the taxpayers while trying to get banks to lend more but not make risky loans, which Fannie and Freddie would still have to guarantee. After the speech, Watt hung around outside Brookings and chatted for a while -- Maybe not what you’d expect, but perhaps a throwback to Watt’s previous job. He served in Congress for more than two decades, representing the banking hub of Charlotte, North Carolina. 

The Senate Banking Committee has passed legislation that would gradually wind down Fannie and Freddie, something Watt’s predecessor also tried to do, but without input from Capitol Hill.  

But Congress isn’t likely to act this year, leaving Watt in charge of Fannie and Freddie’s fate.  

“I think he’ll work cooperatively with Congress,” says David Stevens, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, who adds that he thinks Watt will let Congress decide what to do with the mortgage giants.

“He gets it.  Mel understands his role," Stevens says. "He understands the role of Congress.”

Watt’s role also involves dealing with a lot of money. Since Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government in 2008, their profits have gone to the U.S. Treasury.

“Even in this town, $25 billion a year is a lot of money,” says Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, a homeowner advocacy group.   

Sitting in Calhoun's Washington office, I ask him whether all that money led to pressure on Watt, maybe from people in the White House who don’t want to change Fannie and Freddie because they’re afraid of cutting off the spigot of cash. But Calhoun doesn't think that'll happen.

“They know he is going to be independent.  He’s in his mid 60s," Calhoun says. "He’s quite comfortable standing his ground.”

If we were to replace the Dow Jones?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 00:53

Okay, so this is going to be interesting. And by the end of it I may or may not still have a job. But here goes.

If you've been listening to Marketplace this week, you know we've been airing some stories and interviews from the debut of our new live stage show.

We premiered in Washington,D.C., with WAMU in late April – we're in a handful of cities around the country this summer and fall. (Complete tour information here.)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Numbers is just that: An exploration and explanation of the flood of numbers we're deluged with when talking about business and the economy. You know 'em as well as I do, so I won't belabor the point, other than to say this (which will, eventually, get me to my point): sometimes, the numbers aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Case in point: the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Now, I like the Dow as much as the next guy. I mean, we do it on the show every day.

(Little known Marketplace fact: the only segment that's appeared on each and every broadcast, going all the way back to Show No. 1? The Numbers.)

But really, a non-inflation adjusted, stock-price sensitive index made up of 30 lousy companies as a proxy for the entire $16 trillion American economy? C’mon.

There are plenty of reasons to still keep a daily eye on the Dow. And a whole bunch of reasons not to.

But if – and I'm just saying "if" here (thinking out loud, if you will, quite possibly at the risk of my job) -  if we were going to stop tracking the Dow, what's something better to replace it with?

The Wilshire 5000 and the Russell and all the rest we can come up with ourselves. Gimme your ideas. Hit me up in the comments below, or tweet us.

@Marketplace is the show, @kairyssdal is me.

Will A Triple Crown Win Save Horse Racing? Don't Bet On It

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 23:38

Many in the horse racing industry are looking to Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome to revive interest in the sport. He wants to believe it, but commentator Frank Deford says that's a fantasy.

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Into The Virtual Reality Lab With Pioneering Researchers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 23:37

Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR has raised hopes for a decades-old technology. Some researchers believe virtual reality has the potential to transform everything from medicine to teaching.

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As Banks Open In Schools, A Chance For Students To Learn To Save

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 23:36

The closest many kids once got to banking was handling colorful Monopoly money. Today, students across the country can go to — and work at — student-run bank branches inside their schools.

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As Myanmar Modernizes, Architectural Gems Are Endangered

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 23:25

Myanmar's biggest city Yangon has a distinct old-world feel: blocks of colonial buildings, untouched during decades of poverty and isolation. Now, development could bring them crashing down.

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Cochran, McDaniel Neck And Neck In Mississippi Senate Primary

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 19:23

Veteran GOP Sen. Thad Cochran is in danger of losing his bid for re-nomination to a seventh term against Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel.

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Website Linked To Stabbing Of 12-Year-Old Posts Disclaimer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 16:49

Two girls charged in the near-fatal assault tell investigators they were inspired by a fictional online character known as Slender Man.

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Lessons on dying, to be learned from doctors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 15:07

A New England pediatrician – writing under the pseudonym Russell Saunders – wrote an article in the Daily Beast today about a new study that confirms something we’ve known for years: Physicians do not want to prolong the end of their lives unnecessarily.

An overwhelming number of them (88 percent) said they would want an “advance directive that would stipulate ‘do not resuscitate’ (or DNR) status at the ends of their lives,” Saunders wrote, something I, too, learned as I wrote an article for Marketplace and the New York Times last fall:

“When it comes to dying, doctors, of course, are ultimately no different from the rest of us. And their emotional and physical struggles are surely every bit as wrenching. But they have a clear advantage over many of us. They have seen death up close. They understand their choices, and they have access to the best that medicine has to offer.” 

Examining the choices doctors make about their own final days can help the rest of us. While most people want to die at home, Medicare data shows that more than 50 percent of patients spend their final days in the hospital or a nursing home.

Part of the problem is most patients don’t know when the game is up. Simply, it’s hard for someone who lacks medical training to know whether there’s a chance to throw that Hail Mary and still win the game. Doctors know better.

The question is how to get our physicians to do a better job giving us the kind of information they have, thanks to their training and exposure to life-and-death situations. One obvious answer is to pay doctors to sit down and have these conversations with their patients.

It’s clear talking about death is difficult, sometimes near impossible. That’s true for some physicians, too. But as this new study suggests, doctors are arguably more thoughtful than the general public. And that gives doctors a chance to consider carefully whether the next procedure they order for their dying patient is a procedure they would order for themselves.

Move Over Benghazi; Here Comes Bergdahl

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 14:41

The controversy over the exchange of a U.S. soldier for five senior Taliban fighters at Guantanamo Bay could rival or even surpass Benghazi.

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Lessons on dying, to be learned from doctors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 14:10
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 18:07 Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times

Doctor Elizabeth (Lissa) McKinley is in the last few months of her life and is receiving hospice care at her home in Cleveland Heights. Lissa's sister Brent McKinley organizes her medication.

A New England pediatrician – writing under the pseudonym Russell Saunders – wrote an article in the Daily Beast today about a new study that confirms something we’ve known for years: Physicians do not want to prolong the end of their lives unnecessarily.

An overwhelming number of them (88 percent) said they would want an “advance directive that would stipulate ‘do not resuscitate’ (or DNR) status at the ends of their lives,” Saunders wrote, something I, too, learned as I wrote an article for Marketplace and the New York Times last fall:

“When it comes to dying, doctors, of course, are ultimately no different from the rest of us. And their emotional and physical struggles are surely every bit as wrenching. But they have a clear advantage over many of us. They have seen death up close. They understand their choices, and they have access to the best that medicine has to offer.” 

Examining the choices doctors make about their own final days can help the rest of us. While most people want to die at home, Medicare data shows that more than 50 percent of patients spend their final days in the hospital or a nursing home.

Part of the problem is most patients don’t know when the game is up. Simply, it’s hard for someone who lacks medical training to know whether there’s a chance to throw that Hail Mary and still win the game. Doctors know better.

The question is how to get our physicians to do a better job giving us the kind of information they have, thanks to their training and exposure to life-and-death situations. One obvious answer is to pay doctors to sit down and have these conversations with their patients.

It’s clear talking about death is difficult, sometimes near impossible. That’s true for some physicians, too. But as this new study suggests, doctors are arguably more thoughtful than the general public. And that gives doctors a chance to consider carefully whether the next procedure they order for their dying patient is a procedure they would order for themselves.

How doctors dieThe new math of healthcareby Dan GorensteinStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

Why Is It So Hard For A Horse To Win The Triple Crown?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 14:09

It's been 36 years since a horse won racing's ultimate trifecta. For California Chrome to break the drought Saturday, the colt must contend with challenges that have stymied a dozen horses before him.

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Norovirus: Far More Likely To Come From Restaurant Than Cruise Ship

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 14:04

Cruise ships account for only 1 percent of reported norovirus cases, while 25 percent come from contaminated food. Sick workers at restaurants and cafeterias often spread the virus.

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FBI: San Francisco Man Had Bomb Components 'To Maim Or Kill'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:48

Ryan Kelly Chamberlain, 42, was arrested on Monday after a three-day manhunt prompted by a search of his apartment. The FBI search turned up the device.

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The Secret Service wants sarcasm detection software

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:45

This final note on the way out, which I'm sure will work...

The Secret Service wants sombeody to invent a piece of software that'll, "detect sarcasm and false positives," according to the work order. So, if you're a teenager on Twitter and you threaten to blow up a plane because you're bored, this would in theory prevent the FBI from knocking on your door.

You got less than a week if you're up to the challenge because next Monday is the deadline.

What could possibly go wrong.

Sarcasm.

All of a sudden, everyone's buying new cars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:44

Car makers have reported their May sales figures, and the news is surprisingly good. Sales are at a seven year high.

Even high-end dealers are celebrating.

“Both BMW and Audi were up quite a bit this year verses last year,” says George Liang, president of DCH Auto Group.

Kelley Blue Book says car sales nationwide were up about 11 percent over May of last year, for all kinds of reasons. For one, dealers advertised big Memorial Day sales. With home-grown talent:

Car buyers were also lured into showrooms by easier credit.

“Lenders have opened up their books to those with less-than-perfect credit," says Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Alec Gutierrez.

There’s also a lot of pent up demand for cars. The average U.S. car is 11-years-old. Car-crazy consumers even flocked to GM showrooms, in spite of its recall troubles. 

GM sales were up 13 percent over May 2013, with most models selling well.

“Pickups and big sport utilities, but now it’s started to feed through to their car lines,” says George Magliano, a senior economist with IHS Automotive.

Even Mother Nature smiled on the auto industry. In some parts of the country, every weekend in May was sunny. Perfect car buying weather.

Can Civilian Health Care Help Fix The VA? Congress Weighs In

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:44

In response to the crisis in lengthy wait times for medical care, Congress and veterans groups again are debating the proper role of private sector solutions.

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If we were to replace the Dow Jones?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:43
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 03:53 EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

A news photographer takes a picture of an electronic board indicating the record-breaking Dow Jones Industrial (INDP) at the end of trade at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, March 5, 2013.

Okay, so this is going to be interesting. And by the end of it I may or may not still have a job. But here goes.

If you've been listening to Marketplace this week, you know we've been airing some stories and interviews from the debut of our new live stage show.

We premiered in Washington,D.C., with WAMU in late April – we're in a handful of cities around the country this summer and fall. (Complete tour information here.)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Numbers is just that: An exploration and explanation of the flood of numbers we're deluged with when talking about business and the economy. You know 'em as well as I do, so I won't belabor the point, other than to say this (which will, eventually, get me to my point): sometimes, the numbers aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Case in point: the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Now, I like the Dow as much as the next guy. I mean, we do it on the show every day.

(Little known Marketplace fact: the only segment that's appeared on each and every broadcast, going all the way back to Show No. 1? The Numbers.)

But really, a non-inflation adjusted, stock-price sensitive index made up of 30 lousy companies as a proxy for the entire $16 trillion American economy? C’mon.

There are plenty of reasons to still keep a daily eye on the Dow. And a whole bunch of reasons not to.

But if – and I'm just saying "if" here (thinking out loud, if you will, quite possibly at the risk of my job) -  if we were going to stop tracking the Dow, what's something better to replace it with?

The Wilshire 5000 and the Russell and all the rest we can come up with ourselves. Gimme your ideas. Hit me up in the comments below, or tweet us.

@Marketplace is the show, @kairyssdal is me.

by Kai RyssdalStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

Conde Nast gets into the education business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:42

Take New Yorker magazine, Architectural Digest,  Gourmet and Wired. Throw in a little Teen Vogue and Vanity Fair, and what do you have?

How about - an educational opportunity? The magazines are all published by Conde Nast, and the company is reportedly partnering with colleges and universities to create a new program that will use its magazines as a framework for higher education.

Conde Nast’s already operates the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design in London, which draws heavily on editors and writers from Vogue and other publications.

“The access we’ve got to lecturers, journalists would be very good, and to the fashion and decorating industry made it a very natural brand extension,” says Nicholas Coleridge, president of Conde Nast International, in a video on the college’s website.

This latest brand extension into education will be a partnership with University Ventures. “We are an investment from focused on building highly innovative high quality university programs,” says Daniel Pianko, managing director of University Ventures.

It’s too early to define exactly how the partnership will play out, says Pianko, “but we’ll take the best minds from top magazine and editorial talent and combine that with top tier universities.”

What will top magazine talent teach?  Maybe how to write a captivating profile of a golfer with Golf Digest senior editor Peter Finch? Or perhaps, a lecture on selling ads for chairs in Architectural Digest?

Whatever the class offerings may look like, David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, says the quality of any new program should be evaluated by an outside entity. “If the provider is also the evaluator, there’s really the potential of the fox in the henhouse. So I think you really need to have some capacity for external validation beyond the provider,” says Longanecker.  

Conde Nast and University Ventures hopes to launch its new program by the fall of 2015.

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