National News

The Transaction: Hawaii condo

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:50

Marketplace listener Tracy Cambre Morales planned a Hawaii vacation for her 50th birthday.

After meticulously planning the trip for almost a year, the Morales family was excited. The plane tickets were purchased, the condo and car rental were secured, the family was set. Right before the family was supposed to depart, Tracy's mother-in-law got sick, and the doctor gave her two months to live.

The Hawaii trip to was postponed indefinitely. After canceling the plane tickets and the rental car, Tracy was faced with canceling the rented condo, which was not refundable. To her surprise, the condo owner had different plans.

Listen to the Morales' story in the audio player above.

Making food more selfie-friendly

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

That’s how many people follow Chili’s on Instagram, as of Friday morning, and the chain is sprucing up their dishes to try and attract more. They've started serving fries in stainless steel containers and using burger buns with more visual appeal, Bloomberg reported.


That’s how many Pedialyte sales are attributed to adult consumers. Yep, the electrolyte-filled drink used to re-hydrate kids with stomach flu is being used frequently by adults to cure hangovers and the like.

71 percent

That’s how many parents are saying technology has improved the “overall quality of education” for their child. The data comes from a new Marketplace survey of about 1,000 parents of kids in grades 3 through 12.

3.4 million

That’s how many rural-area addresses Google plans to capture using drones for their Google Maps. Or is it? Take our Silicon Tally quiz to test your tech news savvy. 

$2 billion

That’s how much money the military spent on “urgent humanitarian” needs in Afghanistan. The money was used to “gain support from the locals for both the U.S. military and the nascent Afghan government,” Pro Publica reported. The items include sweaters, prayer beads for Ramadan and healthcare supplies, among other efforts like community radio and a poetry competition.

Sotheby's courts new buyers with an assist from Drake

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

A Jean-Michel Basquiat painting hangs on a wall in Sotheby’s S2 gallery in New York — two black and red faces in profile on a gray background. On a stand in front of it, an iPad with a pair of Beats by Dre headphones plays a song by ILoveMakonnen.

The pairing is part of a recent show, “I Like It Like This.” While Sotheby’s is best known for its high-end auctions, it sells through gallery exhibitions as well. For this one, curators tapped an unexpected partner: Drake, the Canadian TV actor turned Grammy-winning musician. He selected songs to go with roughly 20 works of art in the show.

The idea is to look at the dialogue between black American art and music, says S2 Director Jackie Wachter.

“You have [Takashi] Murakami doing Kanye West albums, you have Jay Z rapping about Picasso,” Watcher says. “There obviously is this intersection and overlap between the two art forms.”

So what is the dialogue? What do the pairings say? Wachter says they’re just Drake’s interpretations; she didn't ask for explanations, and he didn't say.  

“I sort of think it’ll come out organically here and there,” she says.

To accompany this 2014 painting by artist Kehinde Wiley, “Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Henri, D’Orléans,” Drake chose the song “Multiply” by A$AP Rocky.

Tracey Samuelson/Marketplace

But Wachter is very clear on why Drake makes sense for Sotheby’s: The company is hoping its association with Drake might bring new, younger people in the door.

“We’re just a business that’s trying to grow,” Watcher says. “It’s interesting to look at our numbers and see 'Wow, we really have the same clients every single year.' ”

Plus, Sotheby’s is eager to be seen as cool, says Ben Davis, the national art critic for ArtNet News.

“I really view this as an experiment,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a freakish experiment, like throwing stuff at the wall at seeing what sticks. In this case, like literally just throwing up iPads with music on them and seeing if that amuses people.”

Price tags for the show range from $10,000 to $10 million — songs not included.

Jury Reaches Verdict In Boston Marathon Bomber Trial

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

The verdict on whether convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will receive the death penalty will be read at 3 p.m. ET. The 2013 bombing killed three people and left 264 others wounded.

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Why No One Wants The Rohingyas

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:39

As thousands of members of the persecuted minority flee Myanmar and Bangladesh on rickety boats, the rest of Southeast Asia is showing a distinct reluctance to take them in.

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Bistro In Vitro: A Virtual Playground To Ponder The Future Of Meat

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 09:56

Dutch artist Koert van Mensvoort has created a virtual restaurant to help us imagine a future when alluring beef, poultry and fish dishes can be concocted with in vitro techniques.

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Luxembourg Prime Minister Becomes First EU Leader To Marry Same-Sex Partner

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 09:53

Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir married her partner five years ago, but Xavier Bettel is the first leader to do so in the European Union.

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Why We Can Depend On The Kindness Of Strangers

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 09:24

Our ability to get along with folks who aren't relatives could be a legacy of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. And it's rooted in the fact that those societies had gender equity.

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'Candidates' Driving Cash-Filled Trucks Through Campaign-Finance Loopholes

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 08:45

Candidates, people likely to become them, and their supporters on both the left and right — from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush — are exploiting holes in campaign-finance law loopholes. Here's how.

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Looted By The Nazis, Matisse's 'Seated Woman' Finally Finds Her Way Home

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 08:45

The painting belonged to renowned art dealer Paul Rosenberg, who fled the Nazis in 1940. The story of its recovery reads like a historical crime novel.

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U.N. Appeals To Syria's Warring Groups To Spare Ancient City Of Palmyra

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 08:02

The city is on UNESCO's World Heritage list and has been badly affected by the four-year civil war. The latest threat to Palmyra is posed by fighting between government troops and ISIS.

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Mitt Romney To Fight Evander Holyfield. You Read That Right.

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 07:06

Former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is picking another fight — with Evander Holyfield, the former heavyweight champion of the world. It's all for a good cause.

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Feds Tell Insurers To Pay For Anesthesia During Screening Colonoscopies

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 06:33

Most people are anesthetized during colonoscopy. Federal law mandates that the cancer test itself must be fully covered by insurers, but quite a few of them didn't pay for anesthesia.

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Coup Leaders Arrested In Burundi As Uprising Is Quashed

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 04:48

The alleged mastermind of the putsch, Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, is reportedly still at large as President Pierre Nkurunziza reasserts his authority after returning from neighboring Tanzania.

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Actor Johnny Depp's Dogs Are Flown Out Of Australia After Threat Of Destruction

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 04:21

Australia's agriculture minister said Depp sidestepped the country's laws because his dogs did not spend the required 10 days in quarantine. The minister threatened to destroy the dogs.

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PODCAST: Rethinking flood protection

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 03:00

First up, Netflix is in talks with a Chinese media company about a potential partnership in China. More on that. Plus, how much are your feelings worth? We look at how much is paid for detailed information regarding consumer sentiment. Plus, AquaFence is essentially a removable, reusable temporary wall that hooks into the ground and keeps out water. Since Superstorm Sandy, the number of AquaFences in Manhattan and Brooklyn has gone from zero to 40. Several Boston companies are now investing in the system too. They say it's the answer to East Coast flooding problems that are becoming more frequent because of climate change.

Missing Marine Helicopter Is Found In Nepal

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 02:37

There is still no official word on the fate of the eight crew members on board. The helicopter was flying earthquake relief missions in Nepal.

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Exclusive survey: Parents weigh in on the digital classroom

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 02:15

For the last year, our LearningCurve team has been looking at the impact of technology on education. We've talked to students, teachers and ed-tech companies about the digital revolution taking hold in classrooms across the country.

We've explored the promise of individualized learning and the peril of student data-mining. We've delved into the economics of the corporate arms race to outfit the nation’s classrooms, and student interactions with devices and software in lockup.

Now we turn our attention to parents, many of whom have spent the last year exploring the ins-and-outs of educational technology themselves, alongside their children. We wanted to get parents' views of the shift, as their children do more school work on laptops and tablets, and become accustomed to emailing teachers and checking grades online.

In a national, online survey of 1,002 parents of kids in grades 3 through 12 conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide, "Parents' Attitudes Toward Educational Technology," we found parents feel good about the growing use of technology in education, and most think it is improving the quality of education for their children.

Share the survey results using our infographic

Parents also think tech can be especially effective for courses in STEM — subjects like math and science. Most parents also think technology can help level the playing field between rich and poor children, with Hispanic parents especially apt to feel this way. But parents across all income levels and races still have concerns about issues like screen time and technology’s impact on critical thinking.

  • 90 percent of children in grades 3 through 12 have access to use a computer for school work, with most using their own household computer.  
  • 98 percent of children use technology for their school work, including smartphones.

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 

Most parents — 51 percent — think schools are spending the right amount of money on technology in the classroom. About four out of 10 parents would like to see schools spend more.

Parents are also comfortable with the amount of money they spend on educational technology for their own child. Seventy percent say they are spending the right amount on technology for their kid’s school work.

  • 83 percent of parents say their child's school requires students to conduct research online.   
  • 68 percent say technology has increased their ability to help their children with school work. 

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 11

Students from low-income households are required to do fewer educational tasks digitally than their high-income counterparts. For example, 70 percent of high-income students have been asked to turn in assignments online, while only 41 percent of low-income students have submitted work digitally.

Parents name teacher quality and class size as the education issues most important to them — student use of technology for school ranked third. They are also concerned about the amount of standardized testing.

  • 80 percent of parents say tech has made it easier for them to be involved with their child's education.  
  • 78 percent of parents use technology to monitor their child's grades.

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 27

Parents also worry about their child's private information. Seventy-nine percent say they are at least somewhat, very or extremely concerned about the security and privacy of their child’s data. About three-fourths of parents worry about advertisers' access to their children, and the same amount — 72 percent — are concerned their child will find inappropriate content online.

In spite of these worries, parents remain very positive about the potential of the digital classroom. More than 71 percent of parents report technology has improved the “overall quality of education” for their child.

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 23

How much are our feelings worth?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

“It’s not an exaggeration to say as goes the consumer, so goes the economy,” says Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman Private Banking. That’s why consumer confidence is one of the leading economic indicators, it tells us how consumers feel about the economy and what their expectations are, which are clues on how the economy is doing and where it’s going.

But that consumer survey data isn’t free. At least, not all of it.

“The top line data we release publicly, for anyone to avail themselves of,” says Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, the source of one the Consumer Confidence Index – one of the two most widely known consumer surveys.

While the top line, or general data, is free, if you want to know more it’ll cost you. “What folks are subscribing to then is the more detailed information,” says Franco.

The Conference Board’s subscriptions to its in depth data start at $629 a month. 

That pales in comparison to what the other major source of data charged recently. The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, which creates its Surveys of Consumers, charged Thomson Reuters more than $1 million a year up through 2014. 

That, however, was for exclusive rights to the data. Thomson Reuters with the cooperation of the University supplied the data early to investors who paid extra – on the order of $5000 per month. These subscribers got only a 2 second head start – but that was plenty of time for electronic traders.

Since January of 2015, the University sells its detailed data to Bloomberg, and offers its general data for free simultaneously on its website. While the contract with Bloomberg is not exclusive, Bloomberg is the only one buying the data. The firm ended the practice of selling early access.

Who uses consumer confidence data? 

“It ranges from economists to government agencies to retailers,” says Franco.

Economists such as Kristin Reynolds with consulting firm HIS uses the data in conjunction with troves of other data points in forecasting. “We try to look at a trend and look for changes in the direction of the economy,” she says. 

That’s gold for just about any industry – all from our feelings! 

After Hurricane Sandy, a redesign of flood protection

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

People like to say Superstorm Sandy was a wakeup call. As it approached New York City in October 2012, businesses there had no choice but to rely on an age-old technique.

"Sandbags!,” says Bryan Koop. He's a vice president of Boston Properties, one of the country’s largest owners and developers of office buildings. “I'm pretty sure those were around when the Romans were building buildings."

In the aftermath of Sandy, East Coast companies like Koop’s went in search of new ways to protect themselves from flooding. Since then many have made hefty investments in one particular product: the AquaFence. Boston Properties sustainability Manager, Ben Myers, says it’s the only good option out there.

"We did look at one inflatable solution that wasn't as easily deployed and was inflatable, so it could puncture and – not work,” Myers laughs.

Boston Properties installed an AquaFence system around its signature property, Atlantic Wharf, which sits adjacent to the Boston Harbor. There’s no sign of anything different with the building until a storm approaches. When one does, a few workers pull out the AquaFence’s Ikea-like interchangeable parts from where they’re stored under the building’s parking lot.

"I've heard stories that when Sandy hit New York, there were trucks were stopped, material supplies were commandeered for the emergency response," Myers says. "This is here, it's secure, we're not waiting for sand or supplies to be shipped in from an outside point."

The team anchors each part of the fence to small hooks usually hidden under bricks surrounding the structure. When they’re done, the AquaFence turns the building into a walled city, with one difference: the side of the wall facing out—toward the encroaching storm water—is connected to a series of panels that lie on the ground. Floodwater is supposed to cover those panels on the ground, weighing them down and strengthening the whole AquaFence.

"We can keep this up piecemeal. We can keep our entrances open, we can keep our parking garage open, right until the last minute,” Atlantic Wharf property manager Barrett Cooke says. “We actually have portable staircases that would be strategically placed near our entrance points that are means for people to easily walk across it."

Forty AquaFences have been installed around buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn since Sandy. At a couple hundred thousand dollars each, it’s not a small investment. But the AquaFence’s big selling point is that you can put it up when you need it, fast.

“Eight hundred linear feet of fence—going up in a matter of a couple hours,” Koop marvels.

And it’s all reusable. Adam Goldberg, director of the New Jersey-based AquaFence company, says several AquaFences have been through floods multiple times successfully.

“There’s a grain facility in Hungary that has used the panels four times in four years,” he says.

Goldberg says the product is spreading fast—there are more than 50 in the US and another 20 in other countries.

“We had sales increases of about 200 percent, year over year, for the last three years in the US,” he says. “Last year alone we had over 40 projects.”