National News

The GM hearings could be just for show

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 01:06

General Motors CEO Mary Barra has been getting a lot of heat from Congress for the troubles at GM. In a blog post yesterday, Barra promised "accountability" from senior leadership when it comes to dealing with future safety problems at the company.

We ask: just who is accountable? Marketplace regular Alan Sloan, senior editor-at-large at Fortune magazine has been watching Barra, who's only been in the job since January 15th,  try to weather the storm which originated years ago. Sloan says Congress is villanizing the wrong person.

Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Bleeding out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 01:00

Heartbleed continues to dominate the news and scare the daylights out of all of us. The massive data flaw has thrown a huge curveball to millions of companies and the collective fix is a big, expensive deal. 

"When you add up all these IT hours as well as physical costs, you know, buying additional software for security reasons for these companies. I have to believe that the cost will probably be in the billions," says tech consultant Tim Bajarin.

Another blow that's a bit harder to calculate: the PR cost

"You first need to fix the issue. Plug the hole and then secondly, you need to re-instill confidence in your user base so that Heartbleed doesn’t continue to drain you, even after the fact," says data consultant Will Riegel. He says many consumers have scaled back online shopping and other transactions and coaxing them back will require outreach.

Riegel says it will take months before we can start to assess the full economic impact of Heartbleed.

Neel Mehta, Bug Bounty Hunter

Heartbleed is going to cost a lot of people a lot of money. But even before IT departments everywhere kicked into overdrive to install patches, there were already big bucks at play courtesy of a bug bounty paid to the man who discovered Heartbleed, Google security researcher Neel Mehta. For his discovery, he received $15,000, which he charitably donated to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a group that was in the midst of crowd-funding for new encryption tools designed specifically for journalists. Though, some estimate that with the scope of security flaws like Heartbleed, future bounties could yield prizes closer to $100,000 - $500,000.

In the meantime, if you know an IT guy/gal burning the midnight oil, go ahead and buy them this shirt.

Voodoo Dolls Prove It: Hunger Makes Couples Turn On Each Other

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:25

To see if low blood sugar sours even good relationships, scientists used an unusual tool: voodoo dolls representing spouses. As hunger levels rose, so did the number of pins.

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The 7.5 Million Insured Through Obamacare Are Only Part Of The Story

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:24

Millions signed up for health insurance through state exchanges and HealthCare.gov. But another several million bypassed the exchanges and bought health coverage directly from insurers.

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A Small Tablet Company Brings High-Tech Hopes To Haiti

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:23

A tablet computer assembled in Port-au-Prince makes the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation the latest player on the high-tech stage. Economists hope such jobs help grow Haiti's middle class.

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Where's The Whole Grain In Most Of Our Wheat Bread?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:22

Not all whole grain breads are created equal. Choosing breads with fully intact grains (think nuggets of whole rye, wheat or millet) may help control blood sugar and stave off hunger.

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After 25 Years Of Amnesia, Remembering A Forgotten Tiananmen

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:22

The bloody 1989 crackdown in Beijing changed China, NPR's Louisa Lim explains in a new book. She also chronicles the brutal repression that took place in another city — and remained hidden until now.

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Social Security Chief: Women Live Longer, So They Should Save Early

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:21

For women, lower average career earnings translate into smaller Social Security payments. Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin says women shouldn't wait to start saving for retirement.

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Ukrainian Jews Celebrate Passover In Uncertain Times

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 14:03

The holiday has a powerful message this year for Jews in Ukraine, who have found liberation from what they saw as a corrupt government. But with violence in the East, their story is still unfolding.

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Ooops! US Airways Accidentally Includes Lewd Photo In Tweet

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:59

Airlines commonly use Twitter to address the concerns of customers. When US Airways did that Monday, its response included a graphic picture of a naked woman.

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Survey results: What's your type?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:55

The break-up of a graphic design duo has resulted in a lawsuit of $20 million – over fonts. Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler worked together for 15 years to create some of the most famous and ubiquitous fonts around– used by GQ, Martha Stewart, the New York Jets and Saturday Night Live. They won awards for their typefaces - before the relationship turned sour.

When this story broke, we found out one thing for sure: Wow, Marketplace fans care about fonts. Here are the results of our font survey:

You like...

Sally Herships/Marketplace

And you really, really don't like...

Sally Herships/Marketplace

Gene Linked To Alzheimer's Poses A Special Threat To Women

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:43

Scientists have figured out one reason women might be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's: A risk gene doubles women's chances of getting the disease but has minimal effect on men.

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Kraft hits refresh button on vintage brands

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:41

Maxwell House coffee gets a makeover today. The Kraft brand is unveiling a new logo, new packaging, and, bringing back its “good to the last drop” tagline – to remind consumers how good it is, it says. But is it a good idea to tinker with a classic brand’s identity?

An idea that might have seemed great a few decades ago-- we're talking about Quaker Oats’ old version of Aunt Jemima--might not seem so hot just a little bit later. But even when brands need to make big changes, they need to step carefully, says Dave Reibstein, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business.

“In general, what it is you want to do is to be very, very, very consistent with your brand,” Reibstein says, especially to avoid the worst case scenario. “I walk down the aisle and I don’t even see it."

Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at the Stern School of Business at New York University, cites Brawny paper towel's sucessful handling of an image problem the brand had with its illustrated spokeman.

“The Wall Street Journal described him as a 70s porn star," Meyvis says.

But, Meyvis notes, that brand handled its image right–by taking baby steps. It slowly shrank the problem mustache, and character, until they were replaced by one a little more up to date. But Matt Egan, senior director of strategy for Siegel+Gale, a brand consultancy based in New York, says even though Kraft says its coffee has a brand new campaign, relying on its old slogan, "Good to the last drop," may not do the trick.

"When a food company resorts to talking about goodness," he says, "that’s always a sign they don’t have much of a real story to tell."

Global warming: 15 years to change things...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:38

The latest U.N. climate change report says that if the world doesn't do some really tough, expensive things over the next 15 years, the costs of climate change may spiral out of control. Some of those things involve technology that isn't available yet, such as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Others involve things countries have done a terrible job of so far— like burning less coal, oil and gas. Scientists have been saying carbon-dioxide emissions have to be reduced for decades, but emissions actually went up in the early twenty-first century. Some people deny global warming is caused by human activitity, but what holds the rest of the world back? A lot. 

Robert Gifford, a psychologist at the University of Victoria, studies what he calls the “dragons of inaction” on climate change. So far, he says he’s counted more than 30. 

"Certainly one that would be in the top ten is 'lack of perceived behavioral control,'" he says. "Which in plain English is: What can I do about it? I’m only one person out of 7 and a half billion people?”

Another one is fatalism. "If people think the game is already over, then why should I do anything?" Gifford says. He thinks "apocalyptic" predictions by scientists can actually make that problem worse. 

"I’ve called this the policy problem from hell," says Anthony Leiserowitz, who runs the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.  "You almost couldn’t design a problem that in some ways is a worse fit for our psychology as well as our institutional decision making."

Psychologically, he says, it doesn’t help that carbon dioxide itself is invisible. It's hard to fight what you can’t see.

Climate change also seems too far away to focus on. "Even if they accept that climate change is real," he says, "many people still think it’s distant in time—that the impacts won’t be felt for a generation or more. Or distant in space -- that this is about polar bears."

Institutionally, he thinks politicians have more practical reasons for thinking short-term: The next election cycle. "Many of them aren't going to be around to see the ultimate effect of the decisions they make today," he says.  

"What makes this even harder is that countries need to coordinate," says David Victor, the author of Global Warming Gridlock, who helped put together the U.N. report's introductory chapter. "No big emitter is going to control its emissions aggressively and bear that cost unless it sees other major emitters in the world doing something similar."

The U.N. climate report outlines steps to hold global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Victor says he expects the world to “blow past” that target.

Global warming: 15 years to change things...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:38

The latest U.N. climate change report says that if the world doesn't do some really tough, expensive things over the next 15 years, the costs of climate change may spiral out of control. Some of those things involve technology that isn't available yet, such as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Others involve things countries have done a terrible job of so far— like burning less coal, oil and gas. Scientists have been saying carbon-dioxide emissions have to be reduced for decades, but emissions actually went up in the early twenty-first century. Some people deny global warming is caused by human activitity, but what holds the rest of the world back? A lot. 

Robert Gifford, a psychologist at the University of Victoria, studies what he calls the “dragons of inaction” on climate change. So far, he says he’s counted more than 30. 

"Certainly one that would be in the top ten is 'lack of perceived behavioral control,'" he says. "Which in plain English is: What can I do about it? I’m only one person out of 7 and a half billion people?”

Another one is fatalism. "If people think the game is already over, then why should I do anything?" Gifford says. He thinks "apocalyptic" predictions by scientists can actually make that problem worse. 

"I’ve called this the policy problem from hell," says Anthony Leiserowitz, who runs the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.  "You almost couldn’t design a problem that in some ways is a worse fit for our psychology as well as our institutional decision making."

Psychologically, he says, it doesn’t help that carbon dioxide itself is invisible. It's hard to fight what you can’t see.

Climate change also seems too far away to focus on. "Even if they accept that climate change is real," he says, "many people still think it’s distant in time—that the impacts won’t be felt for a generation or more. Or distant in space -- that this is about polar bears."

Institutionally, he thinks politicians have more practical reasons for thinking short-term: The next election cycle. "Many of them aren't going to be around to see the ultimate effect of the decisions they make today," he says.  

"What makes this even harder is that countries need to coordinate," says David Victor, the author of Global Warming Gridlock, who helped put together the U.N. report's introductory chapter. "No big emitter is going to control its emissions aggressively and bear that cost unless it sees other major emitters in the world doing something similar."

The U.N. climate report outlines steps to hold global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Victor says he expects the world to “blow past” that target.

Retail sales: What's driving demand?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:35

The Commerce Department reports retail sales in March rose 1.1 percent from the previous month, and 3.8 percent from one year ago. It’s the biggest gain since September 2012, and was led by auto sales—up 3.1 percent—and building materials and garden supplies—up 1.8 percent. Except for electronics stores, appliances stores and gas stations—which saw their sales fall—the retail rebound in March was across the board—clothing, bars and restaurants, health and personal care, books and music.

The rise in March came from improving weather, after a dismal winter with frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall across the East and Midwest, and drenching rain at times in the Pacific Northwest.

Deborah Trout-Kolb was heading into a Nordstrom department store in downtown Portland, Ore. She owns a fitness studio in New Haven, Conn., where she lives, and she said the ‘horrendous’ winter weather depressed her income.

“Obviously if people can’t come into a dance and fitness studio they don’t pay,” she said. “But I believe it’s getting better.” And that’s making her feel a bit more like shopping now. “You’ve got to do that retail therapy every once in a while,” she said.

Nationwide, people who didn’t shop for clothes or washing machines or cars in mid-winter, have come into stores with a vengeance. However, there are still headwinds at the bottom of the income ladder, said economist Chris Christopher at IHS Global Insight: “Extended unemployment benefits being phased out, in addition to food stamps being lowered.”

And for the middle-class, income and household wealth still haven’t caught up to pre-recession levels, said NYU economist Edward Wolff. He said a main driver of the improving store-sales figures is increased borrowing.

“Rising debt levels, consumer debt particularly, is helping to increase consumer spending [and] retail sales,” said Wolff.

Some of that consumer borrowing is driven by people feeling better-off—a so-called ‘wealth effect’—if their home or stock portfolio has risen in value. And some of it is the need for ‘retail therapy’ that the shopper heading into Nordstrom was talking about.

By Shea Huffman/Marketplace

NSA Coverage Garners Pulitzers For Post And Guardian

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:25

Winners of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday. The Washington Post and The Guardian were among the notable winners, commended for together breaking the news of NSA surveillance programs.

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A 'Roller Coaster' Year For Texas Town Rocked By Blast

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:21

Some lawmakers say a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West last year could be the state's best opportunity to pass needed safety measures. But it's going to be an uphill battle.

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Kentucky fried prom corsages

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:16

Prom season is almost upon us.   Sadly, any conceivable connection to reality ends there. A florist in Louisville, Kentucky is offering a Kentucky Fried Chicken corsage. $20 plus shipping. It has Baby's breath and the whole nine yards of a regular floral corsage, plus you get a $5 KFC gift certificate. You can customize it with Original Recipe or Extra Crispy.   There are only 100 available... so kids, act now.  

Kentucky fried prom corsages

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:16

Prom season is almost upon us.   Sadly, any conceivable connection to reality ends there. A florist in Louisville, Kentucky is offering a Kentucky Fried Chicken corsage. $20 plus shipping. It has Baby's breath and the whole nine yards of a regular floral corsage, plus you get a $5 KFC gift certificate. You can customize it with Original Recipe or Extra Crispy.   There are only 100 available... so kids, act now.  
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