National News

Training Could Avert Another Fertilizer Plant Disaster

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 04:12

A year ago, a fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas, killed 15 people and wounded 160. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reflects on how to avoid a future catastrophe.

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Captain, 2 Crew Members Arrested In S. Korea Ferry Sinking

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 04:12

The search continues for hundreds of people, mostly students, who were on board a South Korean ferry when it sank this week. Correspondent Anthony Kuhn shares the latest with NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

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Polio Threatens To Spread Through Central Africa

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 04:12

A polio outbreak in Cameroon has spread to Equatorial Guinea and threatens to move throughout Central Africa. Before the outbreak, Equatorial Guinea had been free of polio for nearly 15 years.

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Obama Adds Malaysia To His Asia Itinerary

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 04:12

Obama travels to Malaysia next week, where the government is under fire for the handling of a missing airliner. NPR's Wade Goodwyn talks to Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 04:12

Immigrant workers in the Silicon Valley attend Toastmasters meetings to improve their public speaking. Organizers say those skills often lead to increased confidence at work and even job promotions.

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Mental And Physical Toll Of Bullying Persists For Decades

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 03:03

From increased depression and suicidal thoughts to social isolation and lower socioeconomic status, the negative consequences of being bullied can last well into middle age a large study suggests.

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Captain Of Sunken S. Korean Ferry, 2 Crew Arrested

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 02:03

Captain of sunken SKorean ferry, 2 crew arrested

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Prince Fans, Prepare For The Deluge

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 01:17

Prince has re-signed with Warner Bros. Records 18 years after an acrimonious split, and will release an expanded edition of Purple Rain in time for its 30th anniversary.

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Tech Week: Earnings, A Heartbleed Arrest And Digital Distraction

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 01:08

Fears of a bubble continue as tech titans reported their quarterly earnings; the culture of digital distraction finds more critics; and fallout from the Heartbleed bug raises questions for government.

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Can Wal-Mart Really Make Organic Food Cheap For Everyone?

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 01:07

The giant retailer says it's adding a new line of organic food that's at least 25 percent cheaper. But a large-scale production and supply of organic food likely can't be achieved overnight.

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Can Wal-Mart Really Make Organic Food Cheap For Everyone?

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 01:07

The giant retailer says it's adding a new line of organic food that's at least 25 percent cheaper. But a large-scale production and supply of organic food likely can't be achieved overnight.

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Captain Of Sunken S. Korean Ferry, 2 Crew Arrested

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-19 00:03

Captain of sunken S. Korean ferry, 2 crew arrested

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A Journey Of Pain And Beauty: On Becoming Transgender In India

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 15:12

Abhina Aher is a member of the country's storied, yet marginalized, transgender community. Last week, the India's highest court legally recognized the group as a new gender — neither male nor female.

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Are Democrats Trying To Energize The Base With The Race Card?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 14:31

Top Democrats have said recently that some GOP opposition to President Obama and his agenda is based on race. It's an explosive message that might drive Democratic voters to the polls.

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Mobile broadband's latest bidding war

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 14:08
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 04:33 Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Barack Obama announces the nominator of Tom Wheeler to be chairman of the FCC at the White House on May 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.

As Americans buy more mobile devices, the airwaves become even more crowded with signals trying to reach their destination as fast as possible. Those airwaves carrying transmissions back and forth are referred to as "spectrum," and mobile providers like AT&T and Verizon can't get enough of them.

That's why the FCC is planning on purchasing spectrum from TV broadcasters and selling it to mobile broadband providers. It sounds like an easy solution to a big problem.

As chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler said when he appeared on Marketplace Tech back in November:

"That, hopefully, will be a marketplace means of determining what the highest and best use of the spectrum is, and then we will take that spectrum -- which we have bought back -- and resell it to the wireless carriers to be able to meet the climbing demand for wireless services."

However, Brian Fung, a technology reporter for the Washington Post, says it's not that simple. According to Fung:

"There are two big wireless companies: Verizon and AT&T, and they want to buy up as much spectrum as they can get. On the other side you have smaller companies like Sprint and T-Mobile who say that they’re going to be shut out of the bidding opportunities if AT&T and Verizon are allowed to buy up as much as they want."

 Even more troubling is the possibility that companies like AT&T and Verizon could buy up a bunch of spectrum, and then simply not use it -- instead opting to hold onto it so that other companies don't have access to more spectrum.

Still, that won't stop the larger companies from participating. AT&T has threatened to pull out of the auction if it doesn't get its way, and that would be bad news for the Government. The FCC needs larger companies to participate in order to make the auction profitable.

Marketplace Tech for Monday, April 21, 2014by Ben JohnsonPodcast Title Mobile broadband's latest bidding warStory Type InterviewSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Solar grows, with government help

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:55

The White House announced new initiatives to support more solar development this week. But the Department of Energy’s inspector general cast a cloud, with a report slamming a $68 million loan guarantee gone wrong—shades of the Solyndra failure.  

However, solar has actually been growing by leaps and bounds. It provides a little less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity— enough to light more than two million households. Other numbers sound even more impressive.

"More solar has been installed in 18 months than in the previous 30 years combined," says Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association.  "The cost of installed solar systems have dropped 50 percent since 2010."

"Over the last five years, costs have come way down, particularly for large-scale solar installations," says Severin Borenstein of the University of California's Haas School of Business.  "They are almost competitive in some areas now with regular fossil fuel power."

Home installations, he says, are more qualified.

"Some people can save money by putting in solar on their house," he says. "Most people still won't save money."

Solar is competitive only because of government subsidies— many in the form of tax breaks. Borenstein says the calculations are complicated, but federal tax breaks alone can give back almost 45 percent.

That investment is paying off, says Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research at Greentech Media. "It's created a market that has driven costs down year over year," he says. "And why the drop in price accelerates is because there's learning that is done from all these installations. There are economies of scale. 

"There's been a huge storyline about panel prices falling," he says. "Actually, in 2013, the price of panels rose a little bit, and despite that, system prices fell. And that’s where learning from increased deployments makes a huge difference."  

Marketing to men with razors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:52

When it comes to marketing products to men, it helps to play up how technologically advanced they are, says Jean-Pierre Dubé, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

"Men love inscrutable jargon," he says.

And Gillette seems ready to take a page out of Dube’s playbook, with the ProGlide FlexBall, which features “a swiveling ball-hinge that allows the blade to pivot and comes with a high-end price,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The razor, which is expected to debut around Father’s Day, “cuts hairs 23 microns shorter.”

It’s just the latest innovation in high-end men’s shaving:

By Shea Huffman

The shaving arms race really kicked off with Gillette's MACH3 razor, marketed for its three blades that promised a closer shave.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Not to be outdone, competitor Schick decided to one-up Gillette with its quaduple-bladed razor, the Quattro.

Courtesy of Quattro.

It was at this point that people started to question the wisdom of simply adding more and more blades to razors. At least one noteable outlet asked, "What's next, five blades?"

As it turns out, that's precisely what was next. Gillette's Fusion ProGlide boasted a quintuple-bladed head.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Schick quickly came out with its own five-blade razor in response, the Hydro 5.

Courtesy of Schick.

With five blades in the razor already, what more could you do to impress the discerning man looking for a close shave? Of course! You attach a tiny battery-operated motor to the blades to make them vibrate. Thus the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razer was born.

Courtesy of Gillette

With the disposable razor companies now venturing into the motorized trimmer business, it was only a matter of time before they just stuck an entire electric razor into mix. For your consideration, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler 3-in-1 Men's Body Groomer with Beard Trimmer.

Courtesy of Gillette.

With a rotating-on-a-ball-hinge blade forthcoming from Gillette, what more could a man possibly want out of his shaving tools?

Razor companies will surely let them know.

And ladies, don't think you're immune to the razor marketing madness:

Courtesy of Gillette.

It's cheaper to buy than rent, but the gap is closing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:49

If you live in parts of California, or New York, or Hawaii. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

But, it is true.

In most parts of the country, it can be a whole lot cheaper to pay a mortgage than to pay rent.

“Home values are still down about 13 percent from where they were at peak values in 2007,” said Stan Humphries, Chief Economist at Zillow, “pair that with historically low mortgage rates, and you have a real situation of affordability in the U.S.”

The situation for renters, on the other hand, is pretty awful.  Rents are way up. “We’re at the worse place we’ve ever been in terms of rental affordability,” said Chris Herbert, Research Director at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Demand for rentals has jumped since the recession. Herbert says today half of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on accommodation.

Which might have you wondering—if it’s REALLY cheaper ... why don’t people just buy?

“For one thing, if you don’t have savings, you’re going to have a hard time making down payment constraints,” said Herbert, “and if you’re spending a lot of your income now for rent, it's going to be very hard to get that savings together.”

Also, since the housing crisis, it’s a whole lot harder to get a loan.

Right now, the difference between buying and renting is narrowing ever so slightly.

“Over the past year, rents have risen nationally almost four percent year-over-year” said Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Trulia, “but home prices have risen faster, home prices are up about ten percent nationally year-over-year.

The price gap between buyers and renters is shrinking. But housing is getting less affordable for everyone.

Will Netflix numbers confirm cable cutting?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:47
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 04:44 Netflix

A screenshot of Netflix's new design.

 Two things Netflix-related happened last week. One, Netflix released a trailer for the new season of Orange is the New Black. Two, we got more evidence that Netflix is the new cable. 

“People who use Netflix or Hulu are actually almost three times more likely to be in that cord cutter segment,” says John Fetto, senior analyst at Experian Marketing Services. Its data in a new report show nearly 1 in 5 homes with a Netflix or Hulu subscription has no cable. 

Until now, he says, those cord cutters were more hype than reality. “We had never actually seen a real uptick in our data. It was always within the margin of error,” Fetto says. 

But now, he says about six and a half percent of households have only internet service—that’s two and a half million more than in 2010. Not everyone is swayed, though. Live TV still has its perks. 

“Consumers want local news. They want live sports,” says Brett Sappington, director of research at Parks Associates. He says some TV viewers are downgrading instead of cutting their cable when they sign up for Netflix.

And, of course, Netflix wins either way.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday, April 21, 2014Marketplace Tech for Monday, April 21, 2014by Dan BobkoffPodcast Title Will Netflix numbers confirm cable cutting?Story Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

In The Land Of Razor Clams, Dinner Hides Deep Within The Sand

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:31

Clam digging satisfies that primeval urge to go out into nature and find free food. And inveterate Washington state clam diggers admit they compete to get their daily limit of 15 clams.

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