National News

Oscar Nods Go To 'American Hustle,' 'Gravity,' '12 Years A Slave'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 12:07

Nominations for the 86th annual Academy Awards were announced Thursday. American Hustle and Gravity got 10 nominations each, including nods for best picture, best director and best actress.

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In London, The Case Of The Purloined Water Lily

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:44

An exceptionally rare flower that is virtually extinct has been stolen from London's Kew Gardens, in a crime experts say could be the work of an obsessed collector. aA British newspaper says that stealing the precious water lily "is like an old master theft."

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5 facts you'd never guess about Chuck E. Cheese

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:38

At first glance, $1.3 billion seems like a lot to pay for a kiddie-birthday-party giant that has seen better days. So what will private-equity firm Apollo Global Management, which announced the merger this morning, do to recoup that kind of investment?

Here’s a possible answer: Send Chuck to Russia. And other former Soviet-block countries. At least, that's one scenario that occurs to Chris Christopher, who follows consumer behavior for IHS Global Insight.

"Those countries didn’t have very good restaurants, until the Berlin Wall fell down," he says. "And now that things are very open, and people have a little more spending money, they do dine out."

A private equity company could have the deep pockets and the flexibility to let Chuck try his luck abroad. And to anyone shopping for a U.S. restaurant brand to export, Chuck E. Cheese is a relative bargain.

Back at home, the company has seen its same-store sales fall in the last few years, even as the company has tried various updates. The trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News keeps a “top 100” list. In its most-recent rankings, Chuck E. Cheese fell from 91 to 99.

Editor Ron Ruggles, who has been reporting on the chain for 20 years, points out that the entertainment side of the enterprise— the giant mouse, the video games, that kind of stuff— has seen the competition get much tougher in recent years.

"So much entertainment is coming into the home now," he says. "It is difficult to offer something that’s different from what people can get."

So what distinguishes this pizza-slinging mouse from his competition? If nothing else, a storied past. What we learned about Chuck E. Cheese today:

1. He was buddies with Steve Jobs. Before venturing into the pizza-theater business, CEO Nolan Bushnell founded the video game company Atari. There, he was Steve Jobs' boss when Jobs worked for Atari as a technician. In Bushnell's latest book, "Finding The Next Steve Jobs," he advises entrepreneurs to think outside of the box when hiring, with interview questions such as: "What is the opposite of a table?" (Correct answer: "Nothing, as far as I know. Certainly not a chair.")   

2. Perhaps "a kid can be a kid," but a rat can't be a rat. In his early days, Chuck E. Cheese was a New Jersey rat who smoked cigars. According to the New York Daily News, executives considered naming him "Rick the Rat," but changed course when a PR firm suggested customers might be put off from their pizza. In 2012, Chuck E. was officially made over into mouse...

3. ...a pop-punk mouse. He was most recently voiced by Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band Bowling for Soup.

4. He's spinning off into store-bought shredded cheese. For customers who really like the pizza. 

5. He hasn't always had run of the anthropomorphic-animal-with-a-pizza-arcade market. From the July 1982 edition of Fortune Magazine: Billy Bob Brockali, a "quizzical" bear, headlined at competing ShowBiz Pizza Place through the early 1980s. But Billy Bob and his parent company couldn't keep up. They declared bankruptcy in 1984, and merged with the mice in 1989.

New Drug Combination Takes 24 Minutes To Execute Ohio Killer

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:29

The state has run out of the drug used in past executions. The drugs administered to killer and rapist Dennis McGuire had not been used in Ohio before. He was treated "far more humanely" than the woman he killed, her family said Thursday.

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What tech companies want from Obama's NSA proposal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:28

President Obama is expected to suggest reforms to the NSA surveillance program tomorrow. And considering that data collection is also the capital of the tech business today, it’s no surprise that the industry has been lobbying for change.

“The first thing, is stop the bulk collection not just of phone data but internet data,” said Brough Turner, the founder and CTO at netBlazr, an internet service provider in Watertown, Mass.

While a lot of attention has been paid to phone data, tech companies point out that the FISA Act also allows for the bulk collection of Internet data. Turner’s developing wireless products, and a few months ago he was shopping it around in Europe.

“I was in Germany in October, and it was pretty clear that American services are completely, suspicious and American products are somewhat suspicious,” Turner said. “That was three months ago. At this point, the situation is much more negative.”

Turner says that Obama can start putting some of these concerns at ease if he proposes a policy to protect the privacy of foreign internet users.

The NSA revelations are also calling into question the security of cloud computing, said Matt Simons, the director of social and economic justice at ThoughtWorks, which builds custom software for business around the world. He says moving software to the cloud has, in part, fueled this tech boom

But “people are seeking to build their own clouds, people are seeking to use clouds that are not storing their data inside the United States,” Simons said.

He added that the NSA revelations appear to be having a bigger impact on small and medium sized businesses. While there are few alternatives to Google, Facebook and Amazon, the global competition for smaller scale products is fierce.

One thing that’s hitting all tech companies is the news that the NSA has built back doors into security software, said Stephen Cobb, a researcher at ESET, a cyber-security firm that protects company servers.

“It really sent a shiver through the security community because we know if you weaken it for the intelligence community, than the bad guys will exploit it, too,” Cobb said.

Cobbs says before the Snowden revelations, the cyber-security industry shared information with the government. Now, that relationship has chilled.

Why the demise of brick and mortar stores may not be such a big deal for the economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:25

Big box retailer Best Buy released some truly dismal holiday sales results today. Sales fell nearly 1 percent during the holiday shopping season. Sears and Costco saw disappointing sales too, and JC Penney announced it is closing 33 stores and eliminating 2,000 jobs. 

A decade ago, big box stores were the titans of retail; small businesses were shutting their doors left and right because they couldn’t compete with the likes of Costco, Best Buy and Target on price and selection. Now the big boys are "struggling to find their customers," says Laura Kennedy, principle analyst at Kantar Retail. "I think Seth Meyers made a joke on Saturday Night Live that 'Toys R Us announced its stores would remain open for 87 straight hours leading up to Christmas... meanwhile, the Internet announced that it will be open all the time, always, forever.'"

E-commerce accounts for roughly 6 percent of the retail economy. That number is growing fast, but if retail titans like Best Buy go down the tubes, we could have a problem. "They do $45 billion in revenue, so it is a big deal," says Brian Yarbrough, a consumer analyst at Edward Jones. "Retailers realize they probably over-expanded and made the box too big over the years, and when they close, it’s not good for the economy."

The biggest issue? Jobs. Yarbrough points out big box stores employ thousands of people, from sales clerks to store managers. Still, he says, many of those jobs will migrate along with our shopping habits. "You might lose a few people in the stores, but a lot of these retailers are ramping up hiring around systems and software and distribution centers. And I think that there’s not a ton of job losses."

Adding to that, big box stores are becoming economic small potatoes. "They’re becoming less part of even the retail space," says Chris Christopher, a consumer economist at IHS Global Insight. "So they are becoming less important and they also are struggling. Just because a lot of consumers are sort of saying, ‘Hey, I don’t need that extra item.’"

Christopher points out the economy has improved, but the average household has about 8 percent less income than it did before the recession. That gives another edge to online retailers, which can charge less for items because they don’t have to pay for the big overhead of a big box store.

Doctors Say Reid Request For Bowel Research Money No Joke

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:29

In his new book, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates jabs Sen. Harry Reid for urging Defense Department research on irritable bowel syndrome. But the illness has been a plague on many Gulf War veterans.

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Obama's NSA Speech: Just What Eisenhower Warned About?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 09:43

VIDEO: On Jan. 17, 1961, Ike spoke to the nation about a military-industrial complex. He said "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" must help safeguard security and liberty. Friday, exactly 53 years later, Obama will speak about surveillance programs that critics say threaten civil liberties.

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"We're sorry you got hacked": Target's letter to unlucky shoppers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 09:34

A Marketplace staffer / Target "guest" received this email from the beleagured chain this morning. They're offering victims a year of credit monitoring, deep regrets, and some (all-too-useful?) advice: 

Dear Target Guest,
As you may have heard or read, Target learned in mid-December that criminals forced their way into our systems and took guest information, including debit and credit card data. Late last week, as part of our ongoing investigation, we learned that additional information, including name, mailing address, phone number or email address, was also taken.I am writing to make you aware that your name, mailing address, phone number or email address may have been taken during the intrusion.

I am truly sorry this incident occurred and sincerely regret any inconvenience it may cause you. Because we value you as a guest and your trust is important to us, Target is offering one year of free credit monitoring to all Target guests who shopped in U.S. stores, through Experian's® ProtectMyID® product which includes identity theft insurance where available. To receive your unique activation code for this service, please go to creditmonitoring.target.com and register before April 23, 2014. Activation codes must be redeemed by April 30, 2014.
In addition, to guard against possible scams, always be cautious about sharing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, user IDs and financial account information. Here are some tips that will help protect you:

• Never share information with anyone over the phone, email or text, even if they claim to be someone you know or do business with. Instead, ask for a call-back number.
• Delete texts immediately from numbers or names you don't recognize.
• Be wary of emails that ask for money or send you to suspicious websites. Don't click links within emails you don't recognize.
Target's email communication regarding this incident will never ask you to provide personal or sensitive information.
Thank you for your patience and loyalty to Target. You can find additional information and FAQs about this incident at our Target.com/databreach website. If you have further questions, you may call us at 866-852-8680.
Gregg Steinhafel

Chairman, President and CEO

Want to go shopping, anyone?

Trial Starts For Suspects In Ex-Lebanese Leader's Slaying

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 09:28

The four Hezbollah members accused of killing former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 are being tried in absentia. Prosecutors in Leidschendam, Netherlands, said Thursday they have pieced together mobile phone data allegedly used by the plotters. Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing.

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Fox News and Roger Ailes 'reversed the economics of TV news'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 09:20

Fox News and Roger Ailes aren't uncontroversial things to talk about. And we know you'll have some feedback on this interview. Click the button to right and give us your opinion -- in your own voice:

var audioboo={stream_id:'1816105'};

As one surveys the American corporate landscape, there are few CEOs out there as successful, influential, or powerful as Roger Ailes, the founder and president of Fox News.

He started in daytime television with Mike Douglas, back in the 1960s, got into politics with then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and since starting Fox News in 1996, has built it into a multi-billion dollar business and a huge political force.

Gabriel Sherman covers the media for New York magazine and is the author of "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country." Sherman says he interviewed 600 sources for his book, but Ailes was not one of them.

"He has reversed the economics of the TV business by revolutionizing how TV is packaged. By using politics he's figured out a business model that has allowed his network to generate twice the ratings of his competitors, CNN and MSNBC. His profits exceed all of cable news and the broadcast evening news networks combined, so as a business story it is an unparalleled success."

Fox News: 'Recreated in Roger Ailes' image'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 09:20

var audioboo={stream_id:'1816105'};

As one surveys the American corporate landscape, there are few CEOs out there as successful, influential, or powerful as Roger Ailes, the founder and president of Fox News.

He started in daytime television with Mike Douglas, back in the 1960s, got into politics with then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and since starting Fox News in 1996, has built it into a multi-billion dollar business and a huge political force.

Gabriel Sherman covers the media for New York magazine and is the author of "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country."

Egyptian Voters Said To Overwhelmingly Back New Constitution

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 08:09

Unofficial results say more than 95 percent of voters approved the document. The results are seen as a boost to the military government and Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is widely expected to seek Egypt's presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted this week's vote.

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FDA Asks Doctors To Stop Prescribing High-Dose Acetaminophen

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 07:55

Acetaminophen overdoses, many of which are inadvertent, are a leading cause of acute liver failure. People taking several kinds of drugs may not realize that more than one of them can contain acetaminophen.

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Photos May Show Marines Burning Iraqis' Bodies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 07:48

The Marine Corps is looking into images obtained by the entertainment website TMZ. They appear to show U.S. Marines burning the corpses of Iraqi fighters during the 2004 battles in Fallujah.

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Why Sugar Makes Us Feel So Good

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 06:59

Why does sugar leave our brains crying, "More! More! More!"? A neuroscientist and research psychologist who studies sugar addiction breaks it down for us in a clever new TED-Ed video.

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Why Sugar Makes Us Feel So Good

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 06:59

Why does sugar leave our brains crying, "More! More! More!"? A neuroscientist and research psychologist who studies sugar addiction breaks it down for us in a clever new TED-Ed video.

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Why is Congress focusing on poverty?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 06:53

Income inequality is at levels we haven’t seen since the 1920s, according to Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution. But Burtless says there’s a key difference between then and now -- government safety net programs like unemployment benefits and food stamps. But Burtless says the fruits of the current economic recovery aren’t being distributed equally.

"The stock market has hit new record highs and there has been a very sharp recovery in the income position and the wealth position of people who were very affluent," he says. 

Wages for lower income Americans haven’t improved much since 2007.  And, Burtless says, the high unemployment rate certainly doesn’t help.

“If there are three people looking for a job for every vacancy then workers are in a very weak bargaining position," he explains.

And those workers are spread out. In Republican, and Democratic congressional districts. Which is one reason why both parties are paying attention to inequality. 

Vatican Comes Under U.N. Scrutiny Over Priest Abuse Scandal

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 06:35

The Committee on the Rights of the Child takes church officials to task for their handling of sex abuse allegations, saying the Holy See must "take all appropriate measures" to keep children safe.

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Weekly Jobless Claims Hold Steady At Pre-Recession Level

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 06:26

The good news is that it appears layoffs are not piling up too rapidly. The bad news is that new jobs aren't either.

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