National News

In upstate S.C., BMW jobs replace textile mills

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:52

Upstate South Carolina, and the cities of Greenville, Greer, and Spartanburg, traditionally rose and fell with the textile industry.

And, boy, did the region feel it when the textile business got hammered economically in the 1970s. But the area has now repositioned itself as a global manufacturing hub, with BMW setting up its only North American manufacturing center here.

The BMW plant is reminiscent, The Atlantic's James Fallows says, of the original stop in our American Futures project. Sioux Falls, S.D., was an agri-business capital that's had to adapt to a global economy. Also like Sioux Falls, this part of South Carolina seems to have positioned itself as regional trading/transportation center.

Visually, the region is stunning. Fallows says, "it really is beautiful to fly down the inland valleys of Virginia and North Carolina, with the mountains to your west all the way along." The route Fallows, and his wife Deb, flew was more-or-less parallel to the "Fall Line" -- the border between the mountains, which rise in quite a steep escarpment west of Greenville, and the rolling piedmont ("foot of mountain") plateau which leads to the "low country" and the sea. The fall line is so named because that is where the water is falling out of the mountains, in rapids and waterfalls. And that is where the early mills set up their waterwheels to power their work.

The heritage from those days led, in fits-and-starts, to today's Michelin and BMW factories, according to James Fallows:

"There's one relatively well-known tale about this part of the country. People have heard in the past 20 years that BMW has set up its only North American plant here, outside Greenville. Michelin is here. GE is here. This is a perfect test case of a place that was built for one industrial era, this was all textiles and even 20 or 30 years ago this was the textile capital of the world. Textiles are just gone now and the way that certain part of this area have recovered -- and others have struggled -- is what we're looking at." View Survey

Analysts: Credit Card Hacking Goes Much Further Than Target

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:38

Retail analysts say more data breaches like the hits on Target and Neiman Marcus are coming. A new report details how hackers "with ties to the former Soviet Union" stay ahead with "innovation and a high degree of skill."

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15 cities that really need earthquake insurance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:32

Twenty years after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook Northridge, Calif.,  scientists have gathered in Los Angeles to talk strategy. Los Angeles is the largest U.S. metropolitan area on an active fault line, and the question at hand isn't whether another quake will strike, but where, when, and who will be within range. Plus, on top of all that, how much will it cost?

U.S. Geological Survey scientists say earthquakes are the most expensive natural disasters, in terms of human and monetary risk. For instance, the 1994 Northridge quake cost $15.3 billion (adjusted for inflation, that's $24 billion in 2013 -- a price tag eclipsed only by Hurricane Katrina.)

Today, seismologists worry future earthquakes will be more expensive than any before -- not because there will be more movement of tectonic plates (that stays constant), but because population growth has put more people and metropolises on top of active zones. According to U.S. Geological Survey scientist Bill Leith, "It depends on where it hits. What earthquakes do is generate a lot of energy, and if that energy is directed at a major metropolitan area, it does a major amount of damage." 

So which cities should worry about becoming the next Northridge? 

University of Colorado professor Roger Bilham has researched the cities most at risk of a "big one." In terms of population growth vs. seismic history, residents of these cities should be on guard for lots of possible shaking, and lots of possible financial fallout:

  1. Tokyo
  2. Mexico City
  3. Dacca, Bangladesh
  4. Jakarta, Indonesia
  5. Karachi, Pakistan
  6. Manila, Philippines
  7. Delhi, India
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Cairo, Egypt
  10. Teheran, Iran
  11. Istanbul, Turkey
  12. Osaka, Japan
  13. Lima, Peru
  14. Lahore, Pakistan
  15. Bogotá, Colombia 

 

Diet Soda: Fewer Calories In The Glass May Mean More On The Plate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:32

The latest evidence that artificially sweetened drinks may be making us hungrier? Heavier-set people who choose diet beverages are making up the calorie gap at meals and through snacks — especially sweet ones, researchers report.

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Water's Back On For Just About Everyone In West Virginia

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:24

Eight days after a chemical spill led authorities to warn 300,000 people not to use the water coming from their taps, the all-clear has been given. Only those in a few small towns are still being cautioned.

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Could the old rules of retirement no longer apply?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:23

We all dream of a nice nest egg for retirement, but how do you make your savings stretch once you are there?

We've been told that there are some simple rules to follow in the golden years. But in the "new normal," do those rules still apply? David Blanchett, head of investment research at Morningstar Investment Management, says the first rule you should question is the 4 percent rule. That is, the idea that when you retire, withdraw 4 percent from your 401k every year … and then increase that by inflation.

So does it still apply? "The problem is the four percent rule is kinda based on a couple both aged 65 and it doesn’t really apply to someone who is single and age 65 and married couple who is 75."

"It’s a good starting point, but it’s not very realistic for every type of retiree."

What about income?

Things like the four percent rule provide a better insight on how much you need to save for retirement, not how much you withdraw, for instance.

“Whatever income need you have to create that’s not covered by things like a pension or social security, you need about 20 to 25 times that income amount when you actually retire.”

But even that, it comes down to your spending.  A 65-year old might not spend like an 80-year old.

What's in a nickel (hint: not just nickel)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:09

When a nickel is worth five cents, but costs ten cents to make, the U.S. Mint has to consider an update.  As extracting, transporting and engineering metals like copper and nickel gets more expensive, the Mint is weighing changes to composition of coins. 

"It's the same way that we absorb in music," said Garrett Burke, a coin enthusiast who designed the concept for the California state coin. "It used to be vinyl, then it went to digital, now we do downloads.  We can't expect the composition of the coin to remain the same, particularly when the costs go up."

For business owners who make their trade in change, some of these proposals are nervewracking. 

Roni Moore is vice president of marketing for the National Automatic Merchandising Association, which represents vending machine operators.

"We need the mint to understand that a redesign of currency would change the alloy content of coins, likely in a way that would force our vending companies to upgrade or replace coin acceptors," Moore says.

According to Moore's calculations, the process could cost between one hundred and five hundred dollars per machine, a formidable cost to small business owners.

California's governor can't make it rain. Which is why the price of your salad is likely to go up.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:09

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in California’s Central Valley. Up and down the West Coast, it's been sunny for weeks. Anyone who got caught in the recent polar vortex might call that a fantasy.  

But this morning, in an official statement, the governor of this agricultural state gave it a different name. 

"Today, I am declaring a drought emergency," Gov. Jerry Brown said. "We're facing perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago."

Brown has been under pressure to make such a declaration for weeks from farmers, farm workers, and the various people who represent them. But as he has said, the governor "can’t make it rain," official declaration or no. What water there is gets moved around the state, and Brown’s statement does open the door for farmers to ask for a bigger share.

Gayle Holman is with the Westlands Water District, which distributes water to farmers in the state’s Central Valley region.  The drought obviously affects jobs for workers and money for farmers there, but the region has major reach.

"Anything that you are consuming for dinner tonight," she says, "I imagine originated right here in the Central Valley."

Especially if you’re thinking about a salad:  Tomatoes, lettuce, almonds. Glass of wine? That’s nearby, too. Holman says that right now, farmers are holding back from planting about a third of the Central Valley’s 600,000 acres.

Nor is the problem limited to California. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared parts of 11 western states official disaster areas. Including all of Oregon, home to a region that produces much of the country's yellow onion crop.

The effects will be visible in grocery baskets nationwide, says Phil Lembert, who runs Supermarket Guru

"It means that foods are going to be more expensive," he says. "Matter of fact, this is not a surprise. We’ve been hearing from the USDA and from the weather folks that we’re going to have more weather problems for probably the next 15 to 20 years."

Yes, he means climate change. "We're really seeing the effects of what's gone on with the climate for the last 50 years," he says. "There's no question that the price of our foods will rise because of this."

 

Which spies scare you more?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:09

 Today, President Obama spoke at the Department of Justice about the National Security Agency, and the massive amounts of data the government has been collecting about us.Obama announced some changes that would restrict the ability of the government to access our data. Ultimately, he says he will move the data that has been collected out of the hands of the government.

And if that’s not enough to keep you awake at night, the data breach at retailer Target seems to keep getting bigger: Investigators announced that the breach appears to be part of a huge, very sophisticated international attack against many retailers.

So: Which is worse? The government collecting our data on an unprecedented scale, or cyber criminals attacking us every time we swipe our card? 

"The criminals are a bigger and more immediate threat," says Stephen Cobb, security researcher at ESET North America. He says data breaches make us vulnerable to identity theft, which can destroy people’s credit and take years to sort out. "One of the big drivers of our economy is improved use of electronic communications. If people are spooked into not using that, that has an impact on the economy."

Others are more worried about the government collecting our data: "I want to be able to shop and not worry about losing my credit card information," says Barrett Lyon, CEO of defense.net. "But I also want to be able to chat with my wife online, and not worry about somebody deciding to use that against me in the future."

It’s not the data the government is collecting that worries Aram Sinnreich, author of The Piracy Crusade, it’s the data about the data. "The NSA is able to infer things like what your sexual orientation is, what your religion is, what your income is,  simply by looking at what’s known as the metadata, the information about the information that you transact. We cannot trust anybody to hold that kind of power without misusing it at some point."

Sinnreich says Target and the NSA are two sides of the same coin: Our data is being collected and used in ways we can’t control and that can mean an evil government trying to crush you or just some guy trying to charge a steak dinner to your AmEx card.

Which spies scare you more?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 10:09

 Today, President Obama spoke at the Department of Justice about the National Security Agency, and the massive amounts of data the government has been collecting about us.Obama announced some changes that would restrict the ability of the government to access our data. Ultimately, he says he will move the data that has been collected out of the hands of the government.

And if that’s not enough to keep you awake at night, the data breach at retailer Target seems to keep getting bigger: Investigators announced that the breach appears to be part of a huge, very sophisticated international attack against many retailers.

So: Which is worse? The government collecting our data on an unprecedented scale, or cyber criminals attacking us every time we swipe our card? 

"The criminals are a bigger and more immediate threat," says Stephen Cobb, security researcher at ESET North America. He says data breaches make us vulnerable to identity theft, which can destroy people’s credit and take years to sort out. "One of the big drivers of our economy is improved use of electronic communications. If people are spooked into not using that, that has an impact on the economy."

Others are more worried about the government collecting our data: "I want to be able to shop and not worry about losing my credit card information," says Barrett Lyon, CEO of defense.net. "But I also want to be able to chat with my wife online, and not worry about somebody deciding to use that against me in the future."

It’s not the data the government is collecting that worries Aram Sinnreich, author of The Piracy Crusade, it’s the data about the data. "The NSA is able to infer things like what your sexual orientation is, what your religion is, what your income is,  simply by looking at what’s known as the metadata, the information about the information that you transact. We cannot trust anybody to hold that kind of power without misusing it at some point."

Sinnreich says Target and the NSA are two sides of the same coin: Our data is being collected and used in ways we can’t control and that can mean an evil government trying to crush you or just some guy trying to charge a steak dinner to your AmEx card.

Do You Have What It Takes To Get A Chinese Driver's License?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 09:48

Everyone who applies for a driver's license in China must take a written test; 90 percent is considered passing. The test consists of 100 questions drawn from a pool of nearly 1,000. The test is particularly tough for foreigners — due to the volume of memorization and often sketchy translations.

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How I Flunked China's Driving Test ... Three Times

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 09:43

NPR's Frank Langfitt recently decided to apply for a driver's license in China. Since he already has a U.S. license, the main requirement was passing a computerized test on Chinese rules of the road. He's been driving for decades, and figured it would be a breeze. He was wrong.

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One Downside Of Home Wart Treatments: Bursting Into Flames

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 09:09

Home wart-freezing devices can spark fires, the Food and Drug Administration warns, and people have been burned. People also can be injured by using these frostbite-inducing tools too enthusiastically, dermatologists say, damaging skin as a result.

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India Unveils Handgun For Women After Much-Publicized Rapes

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 09:05

The .32-caliber weapon comes amid a spate of reports about rapes in the country. The gun is named for the victim of a 2012 gang rape and murder in New Delhi. But reaction to the Nirbheek has been mixed.

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Researchers Are Totes Studying How Ppl Shorten Words On Twitter

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 08:20

The team at Dartmouth College mined 180 million tweets from 900,000 users to understand word clippings — like "awks" as "awkward." The researchers want to understand how such words originate and how they spread.

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News Match Game: Leaders And Tweeters

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 08:11

Politicians of the world have caught on to the fact that Twitter can help get out the party line.

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Obama Calls For Limits On NSA's Collection Of Phone Data

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 07:57

The president said intelligence agencies would now need court approval before accessing phone data of hundreds of millions of Americans. He also directed the agencies to stop spying on the leaders of friendly nations. The changes come amid criticism directed at the NSA.

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Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Struck Down

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 06:49

The state's controversial law threatens the rights of hundreds of thousands of potential voters, a judge has ruled. His decision is almost sure to be appealed. Republicans champion the law, saying it's common sense to require such identification. Democrats say it targets minorities.

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PODCAST: Surprise! Smoking is a lot worse than we all thought

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 06:30

A new report out by the Surgeon General says smoking is a lot worse than we thought.

A new initiative calls for more than doubling the number of U.S. students who study abroad in Latin America and the Caribbean, and vice versa. Foreign students and their families contributed $24 billion to the U.S. economy last year.

 Austin has banned watering lawns and raised rates for city water. So affluent residents are drilling private wells.

President Obama scales back NSA surveillance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 05:31

President Obama delivered a speech Friday morning about changes to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. He laid out a blueprint for change, including a new way of handling phone metadata and how that information is accessed. The sweeping nature of those programs and the secrecy around them have drawn fire from civil liberties groups

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer joins host Mark Garrison for details.

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