National News

Nike earnings: Wall Street and Sneakerheads weigh in

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 02:00

Nike Inc. looks great to John Kernan, an analyst at Cowen and Company. "The brand is on fire," he says, as the company prepares to release quarterly earnings.

Things look less rosy to David Rasool Robinson, a manager at Saint Alfred, Chicago's top sneaker boutique.  He says his customers see quality-control problems creeping into some of the company's offerings. 

So, Sneakerheads: outliers, or leading edge indicators?

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Cell phones bring new leverage for farm workers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 02:00

When you think of “salary negotiations,” picking fruit isn’t the first job that comes to mind. Individual farmworkers don’t control much about their work environments, but Eduardo Cruz says there’s a big range in what you can get paid to pick apples. “This year, I picked Honeycrisp for $42 a bin,” he says. “At other farms, they paid $35 a bin, or thirty.”

These differences in pay depend on a host of variables that determine how easy it is to fill a 1,000 pound bin of fruit: the size of the trees, the slope of the orchard, the quality standards imposed by the grower. In Washington’s Yakima valley, growers and workers alike say cell phones have helped to spread this information faster than ever, tightening the labor market and spurring on competition for the best piscadores. 

Farmworkers have always gotten together to trade tips. Still, they often had to drive out to far-flung orchards to find out who was hiring and what they were paying. Nowadays, most of these conversations take place via cell phone. “I’ve got a lot of friends, and we talk,” Cruz explains with a smile.

You ask a few questions about the job, get the foreman’s number, and if it seems promising, make the trip out to the orchard. Cell phones have reduced the “transaction costs” of looking for farmwork.

Grower Charlie de la Chapelle says that’s made the workforce more willing to move around: “And that’s a good thing, because if in fact we are short of people and we have a good price, they call their buddies and they bring ‘em.” The flip side is that “you don’t know who’s gonna show up tomorrow.”

On Chapelle’s farm, workers picking Fujis have to sort the fruit as they go, and the ground is littered with discarded apples. This extra work means they can’t fill bins as fast, which can hurt their pay.

Orchard manager Art Thompson says he’s worried his crew might start looking elsewhere. “We’ve got a pretty steady crew,” he says, “but believe me, if I let ‘em make this wage all day, the cell phones will start being picked up.” This means employers have to be ready to adjust wages.

It’s basic economics: free-flowing information leads to a freer market. Researchers have made similar observations about cell phones across the developing world. Agricultural economist Philip Martin recalls one study of fishermen in southern India.”If you’re out in your little boat, and you’ve got a bunch of fish, you have more power to know which port to take them to, by calling the various fish brokers, and saying, ‘what are you paying?’”

 For low wage workers without much clout, cell phones have brought a bit of leverage. 

Your move, Netflix

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 01:30
$90 million

That's how much Sony Pictures Entertainment will lose from the production and marketing of its now-cancelled film "The Interview," the Wrap reports. That doesn't include lost box office or home video revenue, or the long-term costs of the cyberattack that pushed Sony to cancel the movie in the first place. Meanwhile, one Texas theater is showing the 2004's "Team America: World Police," another comedy about fighting North Korea, in place of "The Interview." Quartz also makes a convincing case for releasing the movie on Netflix.


There's lot of questions about how relations with Cuba will change with yesterday's announcement from President Barack Obama; from travel regulations, to how many Cuban cigars Americans can purchase. But over at Gizmodo, they're wondering if Cuba will now cash in the $4,000 rent checks sent every year by the U.S. government to pay for the use of Guantanamo Bay. Up until now, the country has refused to accept the payments.


That's the most common cost of a phone call to or from prison in 2013, along with a $3.95 fee. Using that figure, Bloomberg estimates the calls reporter Sarah Koenig recorded for "Serial" — which wraps its first season Thursday — cost the podcast more than $2,500.

1 hour

That's the amount of time in which Amazon's Prime Now says it can deliver orders in Manhattan, as reported by the WSJ. Announced Thursday, Amazon says as many as 25,000 items are available through the service. We'll go ahead and wait until they launch a predictive delivery service called Prime Yesterday.

1 news site

The number of news sites tested by ProPublica that weren't censored in China Wednesday. The organization has been testing the sites behind China's firewall every day for several weeks, and another site has been at it all year. The results are collected in this interactive graphic.

With Sony Hack, Nation State Attacks Go From Quiet To Overt

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:45

U.S. intelligence officials claim that North Korea was centrally involved in the hack against Sony. That's major news in the world of cyberwarfare, where nation states typically make covert attacks.

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Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:36

Polar bears continue to take a hit in regions with the greatest loss of snow and ice, the latest report card on the Arctic shows. Meanwhile, plankton are thriving as the sea heats up.

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Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As Anyplace Else On Earth

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:36

Polar bears continue to take a hit in regions with the greatest loss of snow and ice, the latest report card on the Arctic shows. Meanwhile, plankton are thriving as the sea heats up.

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At An Isolated Camp, Iraqi Police Prep For A Showdown With ISIS

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:30

Iraqi security forces are training with the goal of reclaiming territory lost to the Islamic State. Police at a camp near the front line say such a battle would be personal.

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Boundary-Pushing Late Night Hosts Move On — Colbert Up, Ferguson Out

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:27

Both Stephen Colbert and Craig Ferguson end their late night TV shows this week. Colbert is getting a boatload of attention as he moves to succeed David Letterman, but Ferguson deserves some too.

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Supreme Court Refuses To Block Arizona Drivers Licenses For 'Dreamers'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 23:02

Arizona's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court failed to prevent the state from having to issue driving permits to undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children.

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S.C. Judge Says Boy, 14, Shouldn't Have Been Executed

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 17:11

In her ruling, Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen wrote that she found "fundamental, Constitutional violations of due process exist in the 1944 prosecution of George Stinney, Jr."

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U.S. Officials Believe North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 15:39

The recent attack on Sony Pictures' computer network that resulted in a flood of confidential data has its origins in North Korea, U.S. intelligence officials say.

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Satanist And Christian Holiday Displays To Go Up At Michigan Capitol

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 15:16

The situation has brought controversy — and energized Christians who realized that a planned Nativity scene was in danger of being canceled.

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Japan's Butter Shortage Whips Its Cake Makers Into A Frenzy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:53

For the Japanese, Christmastime means sponge cake. But a nationwide butter shortage has lead to mandatory butter rationing, forcing cake bakers to seek out substitutes.

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Sony cancels 'The Interview'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:51

Sony Pictures Entertainment scrapped its Christmas release of the "The Interview" Wednesday. The move comes after several major theater chains decided not to run the film in response to threats hackers who launched a major attack on the studio over the past month.

Just as Sony officially announced it wouldn't release "The Interview," several news organizations reported that North Korea was behind the hack, citing unnamed sources close to the U.S. investigation.

In a statement Tuesday coupled with another mass of leaked emails, the hackers referenced Sept. 11 and warned people to stay away from theaters showing "The Interview," which North Korea has previously condemned.

The comedy is about a TV host and producer recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Sony has been battered for weeks by continuous leaked emails, internal documents, financials, social security numbers and more.

The Seth Rogen and James Franco film, with a modest $45 million budget, is relatively small fare for Sony.

"It's not your typical 'X-Men'  type of blockbuster where there are endless commercial tie-ins," says Jennifer Holt, a professor of film and media studies at the University of California.

Holt says Sony will take a hit, but it was far riskier for the entire movie business if it was screened during Christmas.

"The Christmas season is a huge time for the movie business, and it's a time where they bring out all of their marquee films, so this is a very big revenue period," says Holt.

Eric Wold, analyst with B. Riley & Co., estimates movies will bring in about $2.5 billion in revenue during the last quarter of the year. "The Interview" potentially represented just 2 percent of that, Wold says, while representing an outsize threat to theater chains' bottom line.

"If moviegoers themselves are concerned that something could happen, even if they are not planning to see that movie, they may skip going to the theater altogether to see 'The Hobbit' or some other movie coming out," says Wold.

Theaters can easily replace Sony's film with one of the big Christmas movies being released next week, and likely avoid a financial hit, says Wold. For that reason, he says, it makes sense for exhibitors to pull out of screening "The Interview."

But Jason Squire, a film professor at USC and editor of "The Movie Business Book," says the implications go far beyond this one film.

"This is really going to have a negative impact on what is an artistic business venture," Squire says.

Because of the Sony hack, movie studios are likely to become more cautious about the content of their films in the future, he says.

Obama Issues 12 Pardons, Commutes 8 Sentences

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:34

President Obama commuted the prison sentences of eight people who were convicted of drug-related crimes Wednesday, in a move that also saw 12 presidential pardons issued.

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Alan Gross' Release: How It Went Down

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:31

American Alan Gross had spent more than five years in a Cuban prison where he suffered ill health. Then, on Tuesday, his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told him in a phone call that he was going home.

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We're Down To 5 Northern White Rhinos: Is It Too Late For Babies?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:11

With the death of a Northern White Rhino in San Diego's zoo this week, researchers are working to see if they can save the species. They'd better hurry — only five remain.

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In Gaza, The Specter Of ISIS Proves Useful To Both Sides

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:11

The Islamic State is not believed to be in the Gaza Strip. But a flyer in its name was recently sent around the territory. Both Israel and Hamas are trying to use it to their advantage.

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Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:09

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are revamping the Ebola suit. They've come up with a design that's safer, cooler and easier to take off than the space suits currently in use in West Africa.

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What Happens After You Get That Mammogram

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:47

What are the odds that you'll get a false positive when you get a mammogram? How likely is it that it will detect cancer? Here's one way to look at it.

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