National News

Etsy's CEO wore all Etsy for the first day of trading

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

File this story under "practicing what you preach."

Etsy — the crafty-sales-retail-homemade items site — started trading this morning, and did really well. Shares popped 88 percent, $30 apiece at the close.

More to the point though: Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson told Business Insider that everything he was wearing to celebrate the IPO — all the way down to his socks — was bought on the site.

When we had Dickerson on the show about a year ago, he told us his favorite thing he bought on the site: a computer bag made from a French army tent, a leather bomber jacket and a Navy kit bag.

Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce

 

Bankruptcy shields GM from some liability cases

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that General Motors is shielded from potential liability related to defective ignition switches that occurred before the company's 2009 bankruptcy.

The ruling, from Judge Robert Gerber, is a huge victory for GM as it walks a fine line between accepting responsibility for a safety crisis that has been linked to the deaths of 84 people, and trying to position the post-bankruptcy organization for success going forward.

John Pottow is a law professor at the University of Michigan. He says the ruling is great for GM.

“It’s a big deal because what they were trying to do is bulletproof their bankruptcy reorganization plan,” Pottow says.

The ruling establishes a clear legal separation between the “Old GM”, and the new post-bankruptcy GM. 

Still, the legal cases in this matter are far from resolved. Pottow said the fact that the “New GM” knew about the defective switches, but did not bring up the issue during bankruptcy, could end up helping the plaintiffs.

"The law takes notice incredibly seriously and if someone figures out they did something wrong they have to send out notice right away, particularly if they've discharged something in bankruptcy,” Pottow said.

“So, that could be another hook they're trying to grab on to, to say we still have a second bite at the apple."

Steve Berman, a partner with Seattle-based Hagens-Berman, is co-counsel in the suit against General Motors.  He said they will appeal Judge Gerber’s ruling.

Even factoring out the cars that are shielded from liability, GM could still be on the hook for economic losses for people who bought cars after the bankruptcy.

“Let’s just say conservatively there's still 10 million cars left and the average value of diminution was $700—that's $7 Billion,” Berman said.

In addition to ongoing lawsuits for economic loses, the company also faces legal action from people who were insured in crashes.

In a statement, GM praised the decision and stated that any future claims not barred by the ruling must still be proven in court.

L.A. Schools To Apple: You Owe Us

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 12:37

The Los Angeles Unified School District wants Apple to pay up for poorly performing software on its iPads.

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They Speak Hebrew And Keep Kosher: The Left-Behind Ethiopian Jews

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 12:17

Two years ago, Israel ended with great fanfare a program that brought tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. But many are in limbo, separated from family, the result of stricter religious law.

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New Asian Development Bank Seen As Sign Of China's Growing Influence

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 12:17

China says 57 countries have signed on as members of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but the U.S. is not among them. Some analysts say the bank is a sign of diminished U.S. power.

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In Or Out In Congress? Gyrocopters, Tweets To Iran, Downton Abbey

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 11:55

In Congress, just like at any storied American institution — McDonald's, New York Fashion Week, the Bush and Clinton families — trends come and go.

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Adrian Peterson To Be Reinstated By NFL

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 11:37

The Minnesota Vikings running back was suspended by the league last fall amid allegations of child abuse involving his 4-year-old son.

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Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 11:02

[Ed note: In honor of Etsy's IPO, our December 2013 interview with Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson]

When you think about the really big names in online retailing just a couple of companies probably come to mind: Amazon, eBay, maybe Apple. But there's another name that can arguably be added to that list. Just 8 years after it started, Etsy does almost a billion dollars a year in annual transactions. Chad Dickerson is the guy who's been running Etsy for the past five years, and we popped into the company's corporate headquarters in Brooklyn to pay him a visit. Etsy's business has doubled under Dickerson's lead, and he says as Etsy grows, so goes its sellers.


"One of our sellers who was doing Etsy as an escape from nursing school, she started to achieve success and some exposure. Fast-forwarding she was noticed buy Nordstrom and did a deal with Nordstrom and now not only has she quit her job but her husband quit his finance job to help her. In this particular case this is literally a mom and pop. Etsy is really about making a life not just a living so we're just giving them the ability to grow and really change their lives."

Dickerson says the growth is just the start of the mark Etsy strives to make. He says the company hopes it won't just give other online retailers a run for the money,  they'll change the whole marketplace.  

"What I see Etsy doing is changing the way things are made. I think the ethos of Etsy, this idea that buying and selling should be all about people will start extending into areas like manufacturing and distribution and all of these things. When I think about what Etsy can do over the next 10 or 20 years it's really humanizing the whole supply chain."

 

Yoda? Is It Thou? Figure In 14th-Century Manuscript Looks Familiar

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 10:55

A long time ago, in a place far away, a manuscript was created with an enigmatic figure who looks a great deal like a certain little — and yet powerful — green guy from the Star Wars films.

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Scientists Probe Puppy Love

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 10:45

Research shows the mutual gazing between pooches and people spurs release of a "trust hormone" in both. The results suggest dogs really may love us back.

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The Chinese-Mexican Cuisine Born Of U.S. Prejudice

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 10:31

Fried yellow chilis. Baja-style fish. Not the typical Chinese restaurant fare, unless you're near the U.S.-Mexico border. The reasons why go back to an 1882 law enacted to keep Chinese out of the U.S.

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The Fences Where Spain And Africa Meet

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:54

Spain has two tiny enclaves in North Africa, separated from Morocco by fences. Both of them are hugely tempting targets for migrants from across Africa who are desperate to reach Europe.

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In Posthumous Riposte, Editor Of 'Charlie Hebdo' Targets 'Islamophobia'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:44

Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed in the Jan. 7 attack on the French satirical magazine, says the term Islamophobia protects Islam more than it does Muslims — and plays into the hands of racists.

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Study: Insurers Fail To Cover All Prescribed Contraceptives

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:38

An analysis of health plans in five states found limited or no coverage for some forms of contraception. Insurers sometimes imposed copays or required women to pay the full cost of the contraceptives.

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Men Strive To Give More To Charity When The Fundraiser Is Cute

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:00

If you're wondering how to get more people to contribute to your online charity drive, consider a photo of you smiling. Even better if you're an attractive woman. Biology is to blame, researchers say.

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Homeless Shelter Opts To Close Instead Of Accepting People On Drugs, Alcohol

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 08:43

A group that runs a homeless shelter in Manchester, Conn., will close its 40-bed facility rather than change its rules to comply with a state funding order.

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Putin Defends Missile Deal With Iran, Says No Russian Troops In Ukraine

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 08:20

The Russian president's comments were part of a four-hour-long call-in TV show that has become an annual tradition. He also criticized the West for its treatment of Moscow.

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What makes a land of opportunity

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 08:18

Whether it's going from the proverbial rags to the proverbial riches, or just doing a little better than your parents, stories of upward mobility have long been a part of how we define the American dream. But how possible is that dream today? A group of economists at Harvard and UC Berkeley have been looking in to that question recently. It turns out the answer varies widely depending on geography.

Part of the researchers’ theory is that by looking at places with especially bad rates of upward mobility, to see what those places have in common and what they’re missing, we can learn something about how to optimize chances for upward mobility everywhere.

Which is what brought me to Dayton, Ohio, recently. The Dayton metro area has one of the worst rates of economic mobility in the country. Other areas with poor rates include Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

In Dayton, 40 percent of children born poor, stay poor.  Just five percent make it to the top fifth of earners by the time they're adults. Before we get to some of the things that may drive those statistics, it's worth pointing out that Dayton used to have a very different reputation.

For much of the early 20th century, Dayton was known for innovation, opportunity and upward mobility. The area was full of people from humble backgrounds who “made it.” The story of the Wright Brothers and their airplane is one of the best known. But there is also the story of their high school classmate, the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Dunbar was born in Dayton, in 1872, to parents who'd been born in to slavery. After graduating high school, he was too poor to afford college. He worked as an elevator operator. To support his writing, he sold copies of his poems for a dollar to people who rode on his elevator.

A decade later, Dunbar had catapulted himself in to a different life. He was the first African American poet to become internationally famous. He met the Queen of England and Teddy Roosevelt. He was a major inspiration for poets in the Harlem Renaissance and throughout the twentieth century, including Maya Angelou. Her poem "Caged Bird" is a direct reference to Dunbar’s poem "Sympathy.”

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

In early twentieth century Dayton, Dunbar could turn his literary success in to economic success. That fact is still evident today on what is now called Paul Laurence Dunbar Street, where a stately Italianate-style two-story home stands. Dunbar bought the building in 1904 at the height of his fame.

“He really wanted to purchase the finest home that he could afford,” says Alex Heckman, who gives tours of the home for the group Dayton History. “It was a lovely middle class neighborhood when he was living here.”

But the neighborhood has changed since Dunbar's time. Dilapidated and boarded up homes now surround the Dunbar House. Heckman says he worries about bringing visitors here. In just the last few years, three violent felonies have taken place on the property, or right next to it.

“There was a homicide victim whose body was dumped and set on fire literally feet from the visitor's center entrance. There was a prostitute shot in the alley behind this historic barn. And a few doors down, a young man was shot,” Heckman says. “The last half century of disinvestment in neighborhoods like this one... it’s tragic.”

The Paul Laurence Dunbar Home is now a stately historic landmark, in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood.

Krissy Clark/Marketplace

How does a place that celebrates a man who so famously achieved the proverbial American dream become a place full of such nightmares?

That is of course not something the handful of paragraphs that make up this article can fully answer. But the fact that Dunbar’s former neighborhood and many others like it in cities across the country, have become so disinvested and so economically isolated — that fact in itself has become a key focal point of economic research on upward mobility.

“Areas where there's more concentrated poverty — more economic segregation — tend to have lower rates of upward mobility,” says Harvard economist Nathan Hendren.

Hendren is part of a team of researchers at Harvard and UC Berkeley who have combed through decades of Internal Revenue Service data to track the earnings of children born into poor families as they reach adulthood. The team wanted to figure out which places have the best rates of upward mobility, which have the worst, and why.

They have looked at all kinds of possible factors that might be at play: the health of a region’s overall labor market, its median income, tax policies, percentage of immigrants, even the number of bowling alleys per capita (the theory is bowling alleys might be a sign of broader community engagement).

Among all the factors the team analyzed, a few patterns rose to the top. Areas with the worst rates of economic mobility tend to have worse schools and less stable families, which isn’t all that surprising. Perhaps less obvious was the fact that areas with poor economic mobility also tended to have more income inequality and economic segregation.

A map of Dayton, Ohio census data from 2010 color-coded by race. Blue dots represent white residents, green dots represent black residents. Click for a zoom-able, interactive version.

Courtesy: Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

“It’s really about the extent to which the poor at the bottom of the income distribution are geographically segregated from the middle class and the upper class,” Hendren says. “Are people from disadvantaged backgrounds economically integrated in to the local area?”

In other words, a crucial part of economic mobility seems to be whether rich and poor and middle class people are bumping in to each other, and interacting on a daily basis.

For Kathleen Somerset-Fields, who grew up in Dayton in the 1990s and 2000s, the answer to that question was a distinct “No.”

As a child, Somerset-Fields lived in a public housing project not far from Paul Laurence Dunbar's home, but long after he died, once the area was known for concentrated poverty and extreme racial segregation. It’s a part of Dayton known the "West Side.” Somerset-Fields says stereotypes about West Dayton are so ingrained that she tries to avoid saying that's where she grew up during job interviews. 

“When you put that down in your resume, it's like ‘Oh, the West Side of Dayton, here we go,’” she says. “I don't want to be looked at like that. I'm not the West.”

Growing up, Somerset-Fields faced an overwhelming tangle of struggles. Her mom and step-father battled with drug addiction. Somerset-Fields and her siblings were moved in to foster care for a time. At 13, she had her first child and was basically the mother to her six younger siblings—paying bills, and managing the food stamps and government assistance they survived on.

“It was hard — but I'm grateful for it,” she says, her voice getting lower. “I would say it empowered me. It really did. To strive for better. To want better. To do better.”

And somehow, Somerset-Fields seems to be beating the odds working against those born in to poor families in Dayton and places like it. Today, she is the assistant manager of a youth program at a community center in Dayton. She says she is definitely not rich, but she is not poor either.

“I consider myself surviving.  Is that a category?” she laughs. “Surviving on the good end.”

Of course, it's impossible to say exactly why Somerset-Fields found a way to climb out of poverty when forty percent of her peers in Dayton have not. But when I ask her what she thinks, she immediately points to one relationship in her life, with a teacher she met in a GED class when she was 16 named Diane Brogan-Adams.

On Friday, we look at the two women's relationship and the support it provided, which researchers think may be a key ingredient for economic mobility.

Pro-Russian Journalist Shot Dead In Ukraine

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 07:31

Oles Buzyna was gunned down in broad daylight in Kiev, one day after a former pro-Russian lawmaker was found dead there. The Ukrainian government is calling for a quick and transparent investigation.

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'To My Brave Sisters': Malala Speaks To Missing Nigerian Girls

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 06:58

Like the kidnapped girls, Malala Yousafzai was targeted by militant extremists for wanting an education. The activist wrote a heartrending letter to the girls on the anniversary of their abduction.

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