National News

55 Colleges, Universities Under Investigation For Abuse Claims

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 09:25

In an unprecedented move, the Department of Education has released a list that includes some Ivy League schools, state and private institutions.

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Funding an album in a jazz-improv kind of way

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 09:07

Over the years on Marketplace we've tried to cajole artists to talk business. It's not easy -- many are more comfortable talking about inspiration and passion than getting their hands dirty with money.

But if you want to bring a creative project to fruition, there are money choices to be made. For instance, jazz musician Lauren Kinhan decided to go online to crowdsource the money for her newly released solo album called "Circle in a Square."

Some people might use a spreadsheet to set their fundraising goal when crowdsourcing cash. Lauren Kinhan tells Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio that she did it in a more jazz-improv kind of a way. 

The changing face of the money transfer business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 09:00

Western Union, by far the biggest player in the money transfer business, has new competition from Walmart, which recently added a store-to-store money transfer service in the U.S. Both companies know that to grow in this industry, you have to keep adding new customers – which means the face of the money transfer business is changing a bit.

To understand how the sector is trying to attract customers one by one, meet two guys who recently sent money through Western Union. Customer No. 1 is Carlos Galvez.

“Well, I just sent $370 right now,” says Galvez, coming out of a small Western Union retail location in Washington.

You could call Galvez a traditional Western Union customer. He’s an immigrant who makes enough selling tamales to send money to cousins in El Salvador.

“We can’t send money every time,” says his son, Armando Menjivar, “but at least once a month, or when it comes to a big emergency.”

Now, meet Customer No. 2, who is not traditional.

Will Tjernlund, a self-described “third-generation Minnesotan. The 23-year-old buys and sells things on Amazon and eBay, and he used Western Union to send money to China.

But what’s actually different about Tjernlund’s story is where he sent the money from.

I googled Western Union to find the nearest location to me,” he says. “And the nearest location was inside a U.S. Bank.”

Over the last five years, the number of bank branches offering Western Union services has almost quadrupled, to more than 10,000 in the U.S. and Canada, according to the company. U.S. Bancorp, SunTrust Banks Inc., and Regions Financial Corp. are among its biggest partners.  

Analysts say banks used to resist this kind of partnership. Some didn’t want to advertise a branded service that wasn’t their own.

Plus: “Western Union traditionally served the underbanked and the underserved,” says analyst Wayne Johnson with Raymond James, which has investments in this sector.

But the majority of Western Union senders today are banked, according to Frank Lockridge, the vice president of strategic accounts for Western Union in the U.S. That means those customers have bank accounts, even if their relatives back home don’t.

“Some of our bank partners have realized that they’ve seen their customers getting the money out of the bank ATMs, getting the cash out of the branch, and walking next door to conduct that money transfer,” says Lockridge.

So now banks are trying both to retain their customers’ business, and draw new underserved clients into mainstream financial services.

Western Union won’t say how well the strategy of partnering with banks is paying off. But it does say people who transfer money from banks tend to send more than people in retail locations.

The bulk of the money Western Union sends is to and from foreign countries. But it does have a new domestic competitor: a service called Walmart-2-Walmart.

“It’s available at all 4,200 of Walmart branded locations,” says Daniel Eckert, Walmart U.S.’s senior vice president of services.

Eckert says simplified, inexpensive money transfer services are especially useful to people displaced from their families, like military personnel and shale oil workers.

“Even just in the first few days of Walmart-2-Walmart being up and running, our primary transaction stores were Williston, North Dakota, which is right out by the oil fields, and Killeen, Texas, which is just outside of an active duty army base,” he says.

And that’s how it goes in the money transfer business – adding customers bit by bit.

March to the beat of your own... tuba

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 08:48

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Friday, May 2:

In Washington, the Labor Department reports on the employment situation for April.

The Commerce Department reports on March factory orders.

Will it rain? Shine? Snow? Hurricane? The Weather Channel debuted on this date in 1982. How did we get dressed without it?

And in 1936 Sergei Prokofiev's symphony, "Peter and the Wolf," premiered at the Moscow Children's Musical Theater.

Sticking with our musical theme: it's International Tuba Day.

Despite strong jobs report, wages still flat

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 08:30
Friday, May 2, 2014 - 05:19 John Moore/Getty Images

A job applicant and a potential employer shake hands at the 'Denver Hires Job Fair' in Denver, Colorado.

[UPDATED: FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2014, 9:58am ET]: The April 2014 jobs report from the Department of Labor shows much stronger employment growth than economists expected, and a significantly lower unemployment rate. The unemployment rate fell 0.4 percent to 6.3 percent in April.

Nonfarm private- and public-sector payroll jobs rose by 288,000 in April. The consensus expectation was 215,000. Job gains came across the board, in white- and blue-collar jobs: Professional and business services (+75,000), temporary employment (+24,000), retail trade (+35,000) with car dealerships particularly strong. Bars and restaurants added 33,000 jobs and construction added 32,000 jobs, a welcome recovery for a housing sector that has seemed weak in recent months. Health care and mining also rose strongly. Manufacturing and government jobs were both essentially unchanged.

The unemployment rate decline appears very favorable on its face -- 6.3 percent is the lowest unemployment rate since September 2008, as the financial crisis was raging. It hit a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, before beginning its painstakingly slow, steady decline to April 2014’s level.

One force driving the unemployment rate down is a decline in the labor force participation rate -- to 62.8 percent in April. The number of people in the civilian labor force -- those either working, or unemployed and actively looking for work -- declined by 806,000, after increasing by 503,000 in March. Data from the household survey -- the source of labor force measures -- is considered more volatile than the job-creation numbers derived from the Establishment Survey, and it might be a few months before these trends settle out more clearly.

Job gains turn out to have been better than previously reported during the winter, when the economy slowed dramatically amid severe weather events. February’s figure was revised up from +197,000 to +222,000, and March was revised from +192,000 to +203,000. That puts the three-month average at 238,000. That could signal a moderate, but significant, acceleration of job-creation in the economy. At some point, faster wage growth could even follow.

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday May 2, 2014by Mitchell HartmanPodcast Title Finally, April was probably a 'pretty good' month for jobsStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellApp Respond No

Love That Gel Nail Polish, But Know It Doesn't Come Risk-Free

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 08:29

Popular gel nail polishes last for weeks, but the ultraviolet light used to cure them may cause premature skin aging and increase risk of cataracts, doctors say.

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PODCAST: LinkedIn's secret (no cat pictures!)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 08:28

The U.S. economy nearly stalled out from January through March. While that might be a snapshot of what was then, it is not what is now.

Twitter's stock hit a new low this week, and it seems that right now Wall Street doesn’t have much love for the social-media sector. Despite revenue growth, the sector is seeing a slowdown in users signing up and in advertising sales. Could LinkedIn weather the storm better than its competitors? 

Just a few months ago health care navigators wanted desperately to get young people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. There was an all-out advertising blitz aimed towards young people between the ages of 18 and 34 to get them to sign up for health insurance. But it seems like everybody forgot something. None of the famous people who made commercials for Obamacare mentioned the part of the law that lets young people who aged out of foster care sign up for extended Medicaid, and keep it until age 26. 

Longtime 'Mad' Magazine Editor Dies At 88

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 08:23

Al Feldstein, who edited the iconic satire magazine from 1956-1984, turned it into a must-read for baby boomer-era adolescents.

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Former FCC head Michael Powell talks future of cable

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 08:20

Big cable companies continue to just get bigger. In response to Comcast and Time Warner's merger earlier this year, AT&T and DirecTV are thinking of doing the same. Which got former FCC chairman Michael Powell thinking: Why are all these mergers happening?

"One of the things I think is a serious issue is that the economy has been strained," he said. "I think the model has to find a way to find more affordable, more accessible packages, given the strains of the economy."

A la carte, however, is not one of the ways to get around the strain.

"True a la carte...would actually cost consumers a lot more," he said. "If something like ESPN--which is sold to the cable system for a little over $5 a [subscription]--had to be sold a la carte, that product would be sold for $20 or $30."

One of the possible solutions, of course, might lie in the ubiquity of the internet. But Powell--now the CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association--says the so-called internet "fast lane" the FCC had considered is not the answer.

"[Netflix] can't afford to have jittery or interrupted bits," he said. "You want to watch a two hour movie that is uninterrupted, so making sure the network can handle that level of quality is what the buyer wants."

Powell, however, still likes to consume his programming on the big screen, via video on demand. True Detective in particular.

Hot, Sour, Sweet And Mobile: Loco Border Street Food

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 07:29

A team of NPR journalists traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border seeking stories of people and crossing. One discovery they couldn't quite swallow was a street snack called tostilocos.

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The State Department Is 'Deeply Concerned'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 07:13

Time and again, we hear that the U.S. State Department is "deeply concerned" about international affairs. How deep? And how concerned?

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New Virus Related To Smallpox Is Found In Republic Of Georgia

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 06:46

Two men have been infected with a virus newly discovered in dairy cattle, scientists say. The disease causes blisters on the hands and arms, and other symptoms similar to those caused by smallpox.

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'Heartbreaking' Video Of Final Moments Aboard Korean Ferry

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 06:42

The cellphone footage was shot by a 17-year-old victim of the ferry disaster, recording classmates as they realize that they probably will not escape.

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Rosie The Riveter's World War II-Era Plant Saved

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 06:23

Organizers of a campaign to save the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., say they've raised enough money to buy a part of the facility and turn it into a museum.

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Chancellor Merkel goes to Washington

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 06:16

German chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with President Obama on Friday to discuss possible economic sanctions against Russia. But Germany's business relationship with Russia complicates the situation.

"So far, Germany seems to have supported the latest EU sanctions, which are targeting far more political officials. But not, like the U.S. sanctions, targeting specific businesses," says Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University.

Germany depends on Russia for about a third of its energy needs. And Germany is also Russia's biggest trading partner in Europe.

"There are more than 6,000 German companies that are actually operating, producing in Russia," says Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "The German business community is very strongly opposed to sanctions against Russia."

AT&T reportedly pursuing acquisition of DirecTV

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 06:13

AT&T is reportedly discussing an acquisition of DirecTV, according to a story in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Comcast already has a $45 billion merger pending with Time Warner Cable -- it’s being scrutinized for anti-trust implications by the Federal Communications Commission. Comcast would end up with 30 million subscribers if the merger is approved. AT&T would reach approximately 26 million pay-TV subscribers with DirecTV, the biggest satellite TV provider, ahead of rival Dish Network. DirecTV could cost $40 billion to purchase, according to the Journal.

A merged Comcast-Time Warner Cable would become the nation’s biggest cable company (Comcast already has the largest number of subscribers), and would also be a dominant player in the broadband internet market. AT&T already has a mid-sized pay-TV business, as well as delivering video to its large mobile-phone subscriber base. If AT&T were to absorb DirecTV, it would have a bigger national footprint for delivering mobile television and video to smart-devices.

Regulators and lawmakers are scrutinizing the proposed Comcast-Time Warner deal. An AT&T-DirecTV deal, if it happened, would likely raise significant antitrust concerns as well.

On the plus side, AT&T could argue that a merger will enable the company to better compete with a new cable-broadband internet giant, Comcast-plus-Time-Warner. On the other hand, fewer pay-television providers nationwide would shrink the competitive playing field and leave consumers in many markets with few providers to choose among, says technology analyst Carl Howe, vice president at the Yankee Group.

“The FCC is faced with a very difficult choice,” says Howe. “They can try to prohibit such mergers, which leaves a lot of smaller companies that may not be terribly competitive in the market. Or, they can allow these mergers and end up with monopolies. Neither choice is necessarily great for consumers.”

Howe says we could end up with a big-three of internet-telephone-cable-TV companies in the end -- Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon -- just like there were once three over-the-air broadcast networks -- ABC, NBC and CBS -- that dominated media delivery to American households. The new media-telecom behemoths could bundle all their services together for one low -- or not so low -- price, says Howe.

Ukraine To Expel Russian Diplomat Reportedly Caught Taking Classified Info

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 05:40

Moscow's unnamed military attache was caught red-handed, according to officials in Kiev.

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Sinn Fein Leader Questioned In 40-Year-Old Murder Case

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-01 04:46

Gerry Adams, the political group's longtime president, says he rejects "malicious allegations" tying him to the kidnapping and killing of an alleged British spy in Northern Ireland in 1972.

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Google heads to Hacker School

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 04:44

There's an urban legend in the tech community that goes like this: The School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University used to keep track of how many of their undergraduates were men named Dave versus how many were women. And it was considered an accomplishment when they got the ratio down to one Dave for every woman. Here is the latest installment in our series about the tech industry's diversity challenges called “I am not a Dave”.

Hacker School is not as dangerous as it sounds. In fact, it is a 12 week program based in New York which takes 60 participants who want to learn how to be better programmers. Students work on everything from developing their own operating system, to designing apps, to understanding the tools that make complex integrated circuits. Rose Ames is one such student.

Ames is from a small, rural town in Ontario, Canada with a population of only about 700 people. She found a love of math and programming through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and eventually learned enough to apply and be accepted to Hacker School. Participants attend the program for free, but New York is not an inexpensive place to live. Ames, a mother of four, says she would not have been able to attend were it not for the $5,000 grants given to qualified female programmers by Google. It's part of an effort to address the notorious imbalance of men and women in the tech industry.

For her part, Ames does not think that getting the tech industry to hire more women would drastically change how things are done. To her, it just makes sense that if companies want to have the best programmers, they have to open the field to as many candidates as possible:

"I think you have to judge each person on their own merits. I don’t think you’re going to see a huge difference in tech by getting it to be 50 percent female, except of course overall you’re choosing from a bigger pool so you’re going to have more talent available to you."

Health care for foster youth, if they can find it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-01 04:32

Just a few months ago health care navigators wanted desperately to get young people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. There was an all-out advertising blitz aimed towards young people between the ages of 18 and 34 to get them to sign up for health insurance.

More than 6 hours of Obamacare commercials on YouTube? That smells like desperation. 

But it seems like everybody forgot something. Not LeBron James, not  Zak Galifianakas, and not JLo's mom or the other famous people who made commercials for Obamacare mentioned the part of the law that lets young people who aged out of foster care sign up for extended Medicaid, and keep it until age 26. 

Kimberly Waller researches the ACA and foster care. She says the provision came about as an issue of fairness. "Advocates started realizing hey, what happens when the state's your parent?" she says.

When the state is your parent, you should now be able to get on their plan -- that's Medicaid -- until age 26. But states don't have to do any outreach about the provision. Waller says many young people don’t know they’re eligible, and that, "a right is only empowering if you know about it."

Kamille Tynes aged out of foster care in Michigan. She’s 23 now and in college. She’s good at navigating the ins and outs of government programs. Even she found the process confusing.

"I initially applied through, what is it, the market health care something website," she remembers.

That would be the heathcare.gov. Every state is different, but in Michigan, kids who age out of foster care need to apply for healthcare through the agency that runs foster care. (It's not an intuitive process. If you need it, here are tips and a more detailed walk through the application).

For her part, Tynes just kept trying to apply. "I was told how you mention that you were in the foster care system and you aged out," she says. But, "I got denied."

She's not really sure why that happened, because she does qualify. Tynes just wants to go to the doctor and not rack up debt to do it. Former foster care youth like her have a lot more health care needs than others their age. But Tynes hasn't been to the doctor in over two years.

In Michigan, foster care advocates are working to draw attention to the glitches in the sign up process. Tynes did end up getting some help on her application from an advocate she knows.

It made a difference. Kamille Tynes sighs and says she's "finally!" insured. But she also laughs happily as she mimes holding her new health insurance card up high. She's already made her first doctor's appointment. 

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