National News

Starbucks, potential tech juggernaut?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 12:08

If you’ve been to a Starbucks lately, you might’ve used your smartphone or noticed other customers using theirs to pay for their lattes.

Now Starbucks is taking another technological step forward by rolling out a fleet of Powermat wireless phone chargers in its stores.

They may help curb arguments with power-outlet hoarders, but the chargers serve a larger purpose – to burnish the Starbucks brand. The company's adoption of new technology is just as important to its image as the quality of its coffee beans, says Jonah Berger, a University of Pennsylvania marketing professor and author of the 2013 book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.” 

“Starbucks is an older brand, you know, it's not the new kid on the block,” Berger says, “So, seeming like they're technology-forward, like they know what's going on ... will move [them] from [looking like] sort of a fuddy-duddy company to somebody that's on the cutting edge.”

But this strategy comes with risks, Berger says. If customers don't like the chargers, the technology could come off as gimmicky.

All sorts of restaurants are looking to technology to appeal to younger customers

“McDonald’s, the Coffee Bean, Madison Square Garden also use the Powermat. Starbucks is not the only one out there,” says Betsy Sigman, a Georgetown University business professor. 

When done right, Sigman says, access to new technology gives customers another reason to go to the restaurant and spend more.

Starbucks wants to do more than sell more coffee to young people, Berger says. It also wants to influence the way technology is adopted.

If Starbucks can become "the market-maker" for this technology – and Berger notes that it's a big "if" – the company could become a bigger player in the tech industry.

 

Sandwich Monday: Doritos Loaded

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 12:00

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try 7-Eleven's latest creation, Doritos Loaded. They're a vaguely Doritos-shaped fried thing stuffed with cheese.

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Jeff Bezos on the best gift he's ever recieved

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 12:00

Ten years ago, we started calling up big names in business and culture and asking them, "What was the best gift you've received?"

In honor of Marketplace's 25th anniversary and the holiday season, we've pulled the "Best Gift Ever" series out of our archives. Here's the answer we got from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which originally aired in December 2004:

The best gift I ever received was all the construction toys that my grandfather gave me over the years when I was a little kid. You know, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos. 

Every year I'd get a new construction toy of some kind. And then building things is something that has served me well all throughout the years. 

In fact, I love construction toys to this day, and I love them so much that for my fifth wedding anniversary, my wife gave me a huge, 5-foot-tall tool chest filled to the brim with Legos.

 

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Here's how the story originally played when it aired in 2004:

LISA NAPOLI: Time now for our Holiday feature, the Best Gift Ever.

JEFF BEZOS: My name is Jeff Bezos and I'm the founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

The best gift I ever received was all the construction toys that my grandfather gave me over the years when I was a little kid. You know, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos.

Every year I'd get a new construction toy of some kind. And then building things is something that has served me well all throughout the years.

In fact, I love construction toys to this day, and I love them so much that for my fifth wedding anniversary, my wife gave me a huge five-foot-tall tool chest filled to the brim with Legos.

NAPOLI: Jeff Bezos is CEO of Amazon.com

BEZOS OUTTAKE: What really turned into the best gift was I then got to spend all of my summers working with him on his ranch. Ranchers build everything so I got to do the construction toys for real. We would arc weld gates and build fences and lay pipelines.

 

U.K. Lawmaker Apologizes For Playing 'Candy Crush Saga' At Hearing

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 12:00

Nigel Mills said his actions "fell short of what is expected of a member of Parliament." But a colleague defended him, saying hearings were "boring" and he himself had had trouble staying awake.

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Ebola Cases Are Down, So Should Liberians Stop Worrying?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 11:11

The country is now reporting fewer than 100 new cases each week. But the CDC's chief there says Liberia must stay alert and not allow the presence of Ebola to become a new norm.

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Santa Claus' estimated salary for 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

According to insure.com, Santa Claus would make $139,924 this year. This is up 1.5 percent from last year.

The insurance website used Labor Department wage and hour data to calculate its estimate. Most of Santa's salary comes from managing the North Pole toy factory and piloting the sleigh, which the survey determined would earn him the salaries of an industrial engineer and a pilot, respectively.

They also commissioned a survey to see how much people think Santa should make. A total of 29 percent say $1.8 billion, or $1 for each child on the planet under the age of 15. Another 29 percent said he should work for free, and the rest split the difference.

The survey polled 895 adults who said Santa visits their homes.

Here's Santa Claus' estimated salary this year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

According to insure.com, Santa Claus would make $139,924 this year. This is up 1.5 percent from last year.

The insurance website used Labor Department wage and hour data to calculate its estimate. Most of Santa's salary comes from managing the North Pole toy factory and piloting the sleigh, which the survey determined would earn him the salaries of an industrial engineer and a pilot, respectively.

They also commissioned a survey to see how much people think Santa should make. A total of 29 percent say $1.8 billion, or $1 for each child on the planet under the age of 15. Another 29 percent said he should work for free, and the rest split the difference.

The survey polled 895 adults who said Santa visits their homes.

Merck invests in new antibiotics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

Pharmaceutical giant Merck is acquiring antibiotics maker Cubist for more than $8 billion. The deal upends conventional thinking in the market: Some 23,000 Americans die each year from infections resistant to drugs, and overprescribing worsens the problem. Yet big drug companies have been exiting the space since it’s not lucrative.

Analysts say the Merck deal may make sense for a few reasons. Drug companies are focusing more on targeted products than blockbusters. Those new antibiotics can shorten hospital stays and persuade insurance companies to pay for them. Federal grants also help companies develop new antibiotics, and more may be on the way. Finally, the scarcity of next-generation antibiotics may help drug makers raise prices.

Click below to hear an interview on the subject with Michael Kinch, director of Washington University's Center for Research Innovation in Business.

 

Click below for a longer interview with Jeff Wager, co-founder and CEO of Enbiotix.

 

 

 

 

Why a strong dollar's a dud for indebted foreign firms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

The dollar is super strong right now.  It's up 11 percent against the euro, and 16 percent versus the yen.

That's good news for Americans who want to spend their money abroad. It's even better news for foreign companies who want to sell their stuff to us. Except for the ones that borrowed money in dollars – which is a lot of companies over the last few years.

Those companies have to pay interest in dollars on those loans, but they get paid locally in their own currency. So, as the dollar rises, they have to pay more local currency to buy the dollars to service their debts. There's a big risk here, if companies start to default on those loans, or, worse go bankrupt. It could present a threat to their host countries, and maybe to the entire economy.

Cosmo and CoverGirl team up on New Year's Eve

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

Cosmopolitan magazine has teamed up with one of their biggest advertisers, Cover Girl makeup, to ring in the New Year together.

 

The two companies agreed to a joint sponsorship of the New Year’s Eve ball at Times Square in New York City. 

 

The event has lots of marketing potential, according to Jessica L’Esperance, a Vice President of User Experience at Huge Inc. She says experiential advertising is preferable to stagnant, traditional methods. For Cover Girl, the event means people in Times Square will be able to try their products in an environment that they associate with a fun celebration.

 

"There is no print ad or TV commercial that's really going to help you see it on your own face," says L’Esperance.

 

From Cosmo’s perspective, getting one of your advertisers like to help foot your marketing bill is a pretty savvy strategy too, according to Cathy McPhillips of the Content Marketing Institute. Cosmo and Cover Girl has very similar audiences and they're not competitors.

 

But McPhillips says getting into bed with just one advertiser could backfire for Cosmo. They run the risk of losing advertising dollars from some of their other clients. 

How Afghanistan Vets Are Trying To Cultivate Peace Through Saffron

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 10:57

Afghanistan has an ideal climate for growing saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. But little is exported. Rumi Spice is working with small farmers there to build the U.S. market for it.

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U.S. Boosts Security At Facilities Ahead Of Torture Report's Release

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 10:54

The White House says the report "could lead to a greater risk" to U.S. facilities and individuals around the world, but that the president supported the Senate's release scheduled for Tuesday.

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2014 A Year Of 'Unspeakable Brutality' For Children In Conflict Zones

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 10:19

The United Nations Children's Fund says that an estimated 230 million children around the world live in countries where there are armed conflicts.

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End Fraternities' Suspension, UVa Urged, Amid 'Rolling Stone' Fallout

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 10:00

The call by national organizations representing fraternities and sororities comes after the magazine acknowledged "discrepancies" in its story on gang rape. The story had prompted the suspensions.

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Despite Decline, Elective Early Births Remain A Medicaid Problem

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 09:47

The rate for early elective delivery for women covered by Medicaid has fallen since 2007. Still, the early births remain common and are a potential source of health trouble for mothers and babies.

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Going on a therapeutic shopping spree

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-12-08 09:43

The end of the year means plenty of deadlines, and here's one that maybe you forgot about: spending down all the tax-free money socked away in a healthcare flexible spending account, or FSA.

When that happens, a lot of us go shopping, says Kate Goughary, who manages Modern Eye in West Philadelphia.

Our buzz months are usually in June and December,” she says. June because its the end of many firms’ fiscal years, and December because of FSAs.

I always just say, 'Don't panic,’” she says. “We're here to help, and I have something in this store for every budget and every face.”

People get so worked up because, historically, flexible spending accounts have been use-it-or-lose-it. That changed last fall, and now you can set aside up to $2,550 and roll over as much as $500 to the next year.

So there won't be as much of a rush at the end of the year for employees to spend money on things that they don't really need,” says Bruce Elliott with the Society for Human Resource Management.

The new rule came out so late in 2013 most employers didn't shift their policies, but Elliott expects that to change for 2015.

So if you have dollars left to spend, You can use it for just about any medical, dental or vision expense," Elliott says, "as long as it's not cosmetic and as long as it's therapeutic.”

Ebola, Schmebola — You Still Have To Look Good!

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 09:13

Liberians aren't letting a brutal epidemic put a crimp in their amazing sense of fashion. The streets are still full of stylish folks, because as the local saying goes, "Looking good is business."

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Fringe No More: 'Ancient Grains' Will Soon Be A Cheerios Variety

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 09:05

General Mills helped define the industrial era of American breakfasting with its ringlets of processed oats. Soon, it'll put out a version with "ancient grains," which aren't, actually, very ancient.

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Supreme Court Rejects BP's Challenge To Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 08:51

The oil giant had hoped to limit how much it will pay under a 2012 settlement with people and businesses on the Gulf Coast. BP originally estimated it would pay $7.8 billion to settle claims.

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When A Stray Dog's In Trouble, Katmandu's Canine Rescuers Jump To It

NPR News - Mon, 2014-12-08 07:43

The city is home to some 20,000 strays. They roam the streets, they beg for food, they howl and fight at night and they often need medical help.

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