National News

Rather Than Joking About Justin Bieber, Watch This Video

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 10:10

On a day when the pop star is in the news for being arrested, watch what CBS-TV's Craig Ferguson said about why some celebrities need help, not ridicule. An alcoholic himself, Ferguson made the case that "we shouldn't be attacking the vulnerable people," especially those who are very young.

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Turns Out The Ancient Greeks Were Quite The Grill Masters

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 09:32

For a long time, archaeologists weren't sure what to make of the cookware excavated at ancient Mycenaean ruins in Greece. That is, until one researcher built replicas of the vessels to try to cook just like the Mycenaeans did.

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PODCAST: Are black people treated differently on Airbnb?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 09:10

The American economy in January could get frost bite. Economists often argue that the cold typically defers activity rather than destroys it, but not always.

A high-profile activist investor’s latest use of the megaphone is to call for an iconic tech firm to split up. Carl Icahn wants eBay to spin off PayPal, separating the online auction site from the digital payment service. eBay’s CEO wants to hang onto PayPal. He says keeping it provides that enduring corporate buzzword: synergy.

For many people, the rise and expansion of the “sharing economy” or “peer economy,” has made life cheaper and easier. The companies that facilitate this economy have allowed us to rent everything from apartments, to cars, to designer handbags. Proponents of the shared economy argue that it is both democratic and democratizing, but some companies may be replicating problems that exist in the traditional economy, according to research from two Harvard Business School professors who looked into Airbnb, a company that connects people looking to rent out a room, apartment or house, with those looking for a place to stay. 

Tech worker-SF resident class war comes to Google engineer's front doorstep

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 08:41

Along with the long pattern of tech industry growth in Silicon Valley, there have been slow burning tensions in the San Francisco Bay Area. They're related to class, public services, and the idea of good and bad disruption. Private busing for tech workers in San Francisco has raised hackles of local residents for using public bus stops. And this week a bunch of protesters showed up outside the house of a Google engineer responsible for the self-driving car program. Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica has been reporting on the story for Ars Technica, and tells Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson the latest. Click the audio player above to listen to the interview.

FBI Arrests Reputed Mobsters Linked To 1978 'GoodFellas' Heist

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 08:38

In a series of predawn raids, agents arrested five alleged mobsters in connection with the decades-old robbery of $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels from a Lufthansa cargo building at JFK International airport.

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Hacking OKCupid to find true love

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 08:12

Online dating websites use all kinds of technology and calculations to help you find a mate. It could be as simple as giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to a photo, or as complicated as a long list of questions asked, points scored, and intense mathematical algorithms that play digital matchmaker. Mathematician Chris McKinlay was working on his doctorate and his love life at the same time, and found that he was unsatisfied with the calculations made. So he hacked an answer and in the process wrote "Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid." 

McKinlay says the problem with OKCupid is that it doesn’t tell you exactly what to do. “They just say hey, here’s a bunch of questions, and you don’t have any idea what questions necessarily the people you’re interested in might find important.” 

“One way to get the site to actually match you with people you are compatible with is to confine yourself to only answering divisive questions,” McKinlay said. “If say like, tattoo culture or motorcycles is important to you, answering a yes-no question about that and marking it mandatory is far more divisive -- guys who aren’t into that stuff aren’t going to score points with you.”

It took McKinlay 88 dates to finally meet the love of his life, and now he is engaged. He has his own operator’s manual to thank.

“All I did was write software that logged into the site as a profile, and then took all the data and came back to me.”

To hear more about how McKinlay used technology to maximize his chances of finding “the one,” click on the audio above. 

Weekly Innovation: A Radiation Detector In Your Smartphone

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

Scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory created and tested an Android app that could allow your smartphone to detect gamma radiation. They say the technology could be used as radiation detectors by first responders.

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An Innovative Plan To Reel In Sport Fishermen To Feed The Hungry

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:55

Fish is an important part of a healthful diet, but it can be hard to come by for groups that feed the hungry. A brand-new scheme being launched this week in Maine aims to change that, by getting the state's many sport fishermen to donate catch that would otherwise be discarded.

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An Innovative Plan To Reel In Sport Fishermen To Feed The Hungry

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:55

Fish is an important part of a healthful diet, but it can be hard to come by for groups that feed the hungry. A brand new scheme being launched this week in Maine aims to change that, by getting the state's many sport fishermen to donate catch that would otherwise be discarded.

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Icahn wants eBay to set PayPal free

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:44

A high-profile activist investor’s latest use of the megaphone is to call for an iconic tech firm to split up. Carl Icahn wants eBay to spin off PayPal, separating the online auction site from the digital payment service. eBay’s CEO wants to hang onto PayPal. He says keeping it provides that enduring corporate buzzword: synergy.

“It’s a seamless integration for the users of eBay,” says University of North Carolina business strategy professor Arvind Malhotra. “That’s always been a big advantage, to have such a dominant payment system be part of your company.”

Malhotra can also lay out the opposite argument about PayPal. Separating it from eBay would potentially make it a more attractive option for eBay’s competitors. That might enable a fast-growing service to grow even faster.

Carl Icahn believes setting PayPal free will boost the stock, pointing out that eBay has higher growth rates than other eBay lines of business.

He’s also calling for change at Apple. And many other tech firms have found themselves in the crosshairs of activists. Market watchers expect continued interest from activists in technology companies.

“They’re not young anymore,” says Northeastern University finance professor Don Margotta. “Now people are looking at them no longer as constant growth engines, but as maturing companies.”

Even an aging company can still make enough money to be fresh meat for activist investors.

Mark Garrison: eBay’s CEO wants to hang onto PayPal. He says keeping it provides that enduring corporate buzzword: synergy.

Arvind Malhotra: It’s a seamless integration for the users of eBay. So that’s always been a big advantage, to have such a dominant payment system be part of your company.

That’s University of North Carolina business professor Arvind Malhotra, who can also lay out the opposite argument about PayPal.

Malhotra: Since it’s part of eBay, it’s not seen as a neutral platform. But if it existed as a separate entity, its adoption rate could be even higher.

Carl Icahn believes setting PayPal free will boost the stock. He’s also calling for change at Apple. Northeastern University finance professor Don Margotta expects to see more folks like Icahn targeting tech firms.

Don Margotta: They’re not young anymore and now people are looking at them no longer as constant growth engines, but as maturing companies.

Aging, yes, but they’re still making enough money to be fresh meat for activist investors. In New York, I’m Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Pentagon Relaxes Uniform Rules To Allow Religious Headgear

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:39

The new regulations would grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis for the wearing of turbans or yarmulkes, as well as beards or tattoos with religious significance.

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Vigilante groups on the offensive in Michoacan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:17

Over the last few days, people in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan took matters into their own hands and pushed out members of a powerful drug cartel from their community. The situation is still evolving, and it involves a kind of vigilante movement that is happening in the state.

"It's basically a micro-civil war in Michoacan," says Leon Krauze, Univision anchor and host of Open Source on Fusion TV. " The cartels have become sort of a parallel state within the state, and that's just intolerable for for any government."

To hear more about the situation in Michoacan, click the audio player above.

 

Twin Toilets In Sochi: Some Wonder Why That's A Big Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:14

It's a picture that's been swirling around the Web: side-by-side toilets in the men's room at one of the Winter Olympics sites in Russia. Should overly sensitive sorts just calm down? Or is this a symbol of an Olympics where much of the money has been figuratively flushed?

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The promise and pitfalls of expanded Medicaid

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 07:08

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is meeting this week in Washington, and among the many things on the agenda is the rollout of Obamacare.

Under the Affordable Care Act, many states have made it easier to get Medicaid, a move that will affect cities, experts say.

“It kind of casts a wider net of eligibility,” says Tom Carroll, a healthcare services analyst with Stifel Nicolaus. And that has boosted enrollment. One in five Americans is enrolled in Medicaid.

“It’s gone up by a significant amount already, and it’s just going to keep going up with each month that goes by,” says Mark Duggan, a professor of health care management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

According to Michael Sparer, chair of the health policy and management program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, this could have an effect on the economics of health care at the local level. Cities and local governments provide health care to the uninsured, “and they do this through public hospitals, public health clinics, and other safety net provider offices,” he says.

It will help cities and local governments, the more eligible Americans enroll in Medicaid.

“Either because they get additional reimbursement, as the uninsured become insured, or because their burden is reduced because perhaps formerly uninsured folks start to go to private sector providers,” Sparer explains.

But, it’s not all good news. There will still be Americans who aren’t insured, and because of other changes to Medicaid and Medicare, reimbursements are getting smaller.

In sickness and in wealth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 06:31

Let's face it, dating is hard. Everyone has their own criteria for who would make a good partner.  

A sense of humor, razor-sharp wit, a great face and for some … an excellent credit score.  

That's right, for some folks you'd better have a spotless credit history if you want a chance at romance. At least, that's what a survey from FreeCreditScore.com suggests. According to the survey, 75 percent of women and 57 percent of men consider a person's credit rating when searching for a potential mate, and a small number even said they ask about credit scores on the very first date.

There are websites that cater to those who are looking for credit perfection. The site CreditScoreDating.com allows members to screen dates based on age, height, location and yes, credit score.  The numbers are self-reported and unverifiable — unless you're willing to ask for a hard copy of credit reports on the first date. 

Although she doesn’t advocate asking about credit history on a first date, relationship and dating expert Andrea Syrtash says we shouldn't be surprised that sites like this exist.

"[Money problems are] one of the top reasons, we know, that couples split up, so of course credit scores are really important to know when going into a long-term partnership," Syrtash says. According to Syrtash, you shouldn't necessarily go into your financial history on a first or second date, but once you are committed the subject of money should no longer be taboo.

"You have to know if you're aligned on all kinds of values, money is certainly one of those values," she says.

Yet, even when money is considered to be important, not everyone feels comfortable raising the issue. "When communications breaks down, relationships break up. And money talk is part of that," Syrtash says.  

Whether you think asking for a W-2, two recent paycheck stubs, and a credit report while meeting for cocktails is prudent or just plain tacky, Syrtash has some simple dating advice: "Date the person, not the potential. You have to look at what the person is offering you now."

DOJ Alleges Fraudulent Security Checks By Firm That Vetted Snowden

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 06:31

Justice says U.S. Investigations Services, the company that cleared both the NSA leaker and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, expedited hundreds of thousands of cases that weren't properly reviewed.

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Arrivederci, Milan! Fiat-Chrysler coming to the NYSE?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 06:20

Right now, the place to buy stock in Fiat-Chrysler is in Milan, Italy. But Bloomberg is reporting that Fiat's boss is about to ask his board to move its primary stock business to the New York Stock Exchange. The BBC's Caroline Hepker covers Fiat-Chrysler, and tells Marketplace Morning Report about the potential move. Click the audio player above to learn more.

Sales Of Existing Homes Hit 7-Year High In 2013

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 06:00

There's more evidence that the housing sector has come out of its deep slump. The day's other key economic indicator: The number of people who applied for unemployment insurance barely changed last week. The pace remained near where it was before the economy slipped into its 2007-2009 recession.

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American and US Airways start code-sharing as a step toward unifying operations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:55

American Airlines and US Airways are taking another step towards merging into a single airline. Each has started selling tickets on select flights operated by the other carrier, for travel starting today. It’s a practice called codesharing, which makes your partner’s flights look like your own. It’s just one step in a very long engagement.

Airline consultant Jay Sorensen says merging ownership was just the beginning of that engagement, "and at some point down the road, the engagement will come to an end and there will be the actual marriage.” 

But there’s a lot to do before the two airlines become one. Like codesharing. Sorensen says it should boost revenue, by increasing sales of connecting flights. People prefer not to change airlines mid-trip he says, “whereas a connection on the same airline is one step below a non-stop flight.” 

Continental and United waited until they were hitched to roll out certain benefits. But travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt likes that American and US Airways are breaking the process into manageable pieces.

“Like letting us use one another’s lounges,” Harteveldt says. “Then, a little bit of codesharing on certain flights between hubs. Then expand that. Then start selling flights on one another’s websites.” 

Soon you’re standardizing meals and all we all know what that means.

In the end, the new airline will take American’s name. All flights will be coded AA.

African-American hosts on Airbnb may make less on listings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:30

For many people, the rise and expansion of the “sharing economy” or “peer economy,” has made life cheaper and easier. The companies that facilitate this economy have allowed us to rent everything from apartments, to cars, to designer handbags. Proponents of the shared economy argue that it is both democratic and democratizing, but some companies may be replicating problems that exist in the traditional economy, according to research from two Harvard Business School professors who looked into Airbnb, a company that connects people looking to rent out a room, apartment or house, with those looking for a place to stay. 

Airbnb is popular for a number of reasons. In large cities, it’s often cheaper to rent a room in someone’s apartment than to stay in a hotel room. And for people who are turned off by spartan, cookie-cutter hotels and motels, staying in a real “home” is a plus. Renting from a stranger can be scary, but on Airbnb.com, a user profile comes with pictures of the property that’s open for rent, and often, plenty of detailed user reviews. Host profiles also come with a picture, and Airbnb requests that photo clearly shows the host's face.  

Ben Edelman, who co-authored a working paper entitled Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb.com, wondered if the profile photo might open the door to discrimination, and wanted to examine, “the possibility that certain disfavored minorities, for example, African-Americans, might find it hard to rent their properties on Airbnb. If you’re a black person, you might find that you can’t get as good a price as [on] a similar property rented by another user.” 

Edelman and his co-author compared Airbnb listings in New York City, focusing on apartments of the same size, in the same neighborhood, that had similar reviews. They found that African-American hosts were asking for about sixteen dollars less per listing. 

Airbnb declined an interview with Marketplace, but issued the following statment: "We are committed to making Airbnb the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent community in the world and our Terms of Service prohibit content that discriminates. The data in this report is nearly two years old and is from only one of the more than 35,000 cities where Airbnb hosts welcome guests into their homes. Additionally, the authors made a number of subjective or inaccurate determinations when compiling their findings." 

Edelman isn’t accusing Airbnb of discrimination but wonders if the host photos have to be so prominent. 

“When you make a reservation to stay at the Marriott, you don’t have to attach a picture of yourself,” Edelman said. 

Tony Greenwald, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington who studies bias said African-American Airbnb hosts may be lower their asking price believing or knowing that their racial identity is a liability. Greenwald points out that African-Americans face bias in housing, employment, police profiling and other areas. 

Toni Blackman, an Airbnb host who rents out her two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn admits that she thinks she’s likely to earn less than a counterpart who is not Black.

“I’m also a dark-skinned African-American who is an artist,” Blackman said. “I’m combatting those two stereotypes.”

When asked if it works both ways, if she sometimes chooses from potential renters based on their photos, Blackman laughed.

“That’s a very real question,” she said. “Some friends of mine were joking about it. We all do Airbnb. I have a couple Black American girlfriends, White girlfriends, a Jewish girlfriend. We were all sitting there laughing, because we do.”

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