National News

Digital comics: Violent sci-fi meets Joan Didion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:29

This week Amazon announced it has bought ComiXology, a popular online store and digital reader for comic books, graphic novels and the like. 

Now, there is a select group of you, i.e., comics nerds  fans, to whom this will mean quite a bit more than it means to say, me. I am not a comics fan. Or at least — I haven’t been one. 

Then I called up Douglas Wolk, a man who writes about comic books, as well as writes comic books, and I started to get pretty excited about comics and the economics behind them. 

Wolk is currently working on a series called "Judge Dredd Mega City Two," which he describes as "probably the closest that incredibly violent sci-fi gets to a tribute to Joan Didion." I am intrigued. 

Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, the five-issue mini-series by Douglas Wolk and drawn by Ulises Farinas.

Ulises Farinas

Wolk says, part of why he can write crazy mash-ups like this is because of the weird way the comic books business has worked for many years.

"Comics have the strangest economics of just about any medium I can think of," he said. 

Unlike regular books, where a store can return unsold copies, with comic books, a store buys a certain number from a publisher on a non-refundable basis. That means publishers of comics can gauge ahead of time how many copies will be profitable to print, so it's easier to take risks on books that might only appeal to niche markets. 

And tapping into those niche markets has become even easier with the rise of digital comics, according to Calvin Reid, a lifelong comic book fan and senior news editor at Publishers Weekly.  And that’s a good thing for comic book sales, since sales for physical comic books have reached a plateau in recent years. 

"Even in the early nineties there were comics that hit real mass market numbers, a million or so," Reid said. "But now, you sell 100,000 copies, and everyone pays attention."

Even so, physical comics that you can hold in your hand are still a more than $600 million industry.  There's just something addictive about flipping through the pages, says Jeff Ayers, a manager at Forbidden Planet, a revered comic book store in Manhattan that still does brisk business. It's great to be able to read a comic on your phone, Ayers told me. 

"But I'm not inclined to bring phone in to the bath tub, where I would be a comic book," he says.

Reading a comic book tribute to Joan Didion….in the bath tub?  I might try that.

'If you can run the OMB, you can run anything.'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:29

President Obama has nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The OMB is something of a proving ground. 

Past budget directors have gone on to become White House chiefs of staff and cabinet secretaries. 

"It isn't such a big agency, but the subject matter covers everything that the government does," says Alice Rivlin, who led the OMB when Bill Clinton was president. "If you can run the OMB," she adds, "you can run anything."

And it seems to be true, given the resumes of recent OMB directors:

Jacob Lew: Director, OMB (twice) then White House Chief of Staff then Secretary of the Treasury

Rob Portman: Director, OMB then U.S. Senator

Joshua Bolten: Director, OMB then White House Chief of Staff

Mitch Daniels: Director, OMB then Governor of Indiana then president of Purdue University

Alice Rivlin: Director, OMB then Federal Reserve vice chair

Leon Panetta: Director, OMB then White House Chief of Staff then CIA Director then Secretary of Defense

5 Takeaways From The Equal Pay Debate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:06

While Republicans launched some effective counterattacks on the equal pay issue, keep in mind the White House is making a political case to voters — not a statistical argument to economists.

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In which the government acknowledges Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:54
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 13:43 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google

And finally, it seems Congress has discovered the amazing powers of the internet. No joke.

From the Congressional Record, Senate Bill 2206 was introduced just last week, and which the legislative language tells us can be cited as the Let Me Google That For You Act.

S.B. 2206 would abolish the National Technical Information Service, collector and disseminator of almost 3 million government scientific, technical, engineering, and business reports, because, yes, you can just Google 'em for free.

Marketplace for Friday April 11, 2014by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title In which the government acknowledges GoogleStory Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

NSA Denies It Knew About Heartbleed Bug Before It Was Made Public

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:54

Bloomberg reported that the spy agency knew about the critical Internet vulnerability for two years and used it to gather intelligence.

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How digital media is reinventing comics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:40
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 18:00 https://www.comixology.com/about

Comixology is an online platform that allows you to digitally buy, read, and discover comics.

For the uninitiated, the term "digital comic" might sound like someone simply scanned a paper copy of their favorite issues of Batman into their computer. The scope of the digital comic world is actually pretty wide, with artists and writers taking advantage of the medium to play around with what a comic can be, and how to distribute content.

Here's an excellent debrief on the world of digital comics. Plus, check out these examples of digital comics that capitalize on the possibilities of the medium.

News Comics

Among the freedoms of publishing a digital comic is the ability to stretch what a comic can be. The team behind Symbolia, for example, use the medium to tell news stories with sound, links, animations, and interactive charts. 

You can check out more about Symbolia here.

Self-Published

Digital comics also allow artists to self-publish and sell their own comics. Artist Dean Trippe's Something Terrible is an autobiographical work about how his interest in Batman helped him cope with being the victim of rape at a young age.

You can read more about Trippe's story here.

Free download of first issue

Not unlike the mobile game model known as "freemium," publishers of digital comics will sometimes offer a first issue for free in the hopes that readers will be hooked enough to purchase subsequent issues.

The critically-acclaimed "Saga" series, for example, offers its first issue free for download here.

Subscription Series

There's also the option of subscribing to a series, which is not unlike subscribing to a newspaper's phone or tablet app. In addition to regularly receiving new issues, subscribers often have access to classic comics that have been uploaded by the publisher. Access to Marvel's annual subscription costs $99.

You can check out more about Marvel Unlimited here.

by Tobin LowStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

How 'Choose Your Own Adventure' was born

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:14
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 14:51 Sushiesque/Flickr/Creative Commons

A party for choose your own adventure.

Ed Packard was a lawyer for RCA records. But it wasn't his true calling. Ed wanted to be a writer, and one fateful night back in 1969 he was telling his daughters Caroline and Andrea a bedtime story about a character named Pete marooned on a desert island.

"I was tired from a long day at work, and I couldn't think of what should happen next in the story. So I asked them. I got two different answers. I could sense that this was an unusual approach. They could not just identify with the main character. They could be the main character." 

Ed penned his first book on the train from his home in Connecticut to his law office in New York. He got an agent at William Morris who told him his first book "The Adventures of You on Sugar Cane Island" would be a big hit. But after countless doors were slammed in his face by children's book publishers who told him his work was more like a game than a book, Ed gave up.

He put his manuscript in his desk drawer and left it there to collect dust.

It was only after he met a young literary agent named Amy Berkower through an old college buddy that the books finally got a good, hard second look a decade later. And with the help of another upstart in the publishing business, Joelle Delbourgo at Bantam, "Choose Your Own Adventure" exploded into a phenomenon that rewrote the book on children's literature.

This story is part of Marketplace's new collaborative series with Mental Floss Magazine. For the full story, follow the link here.

As fans of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books ourselves, we here at Marketplace decided to build a choose your own adventure story to navigate and re-live the week's business news. Try it out:

Marketplace for Friday April 11, 2014

In partnership with Mental Floss.

by Tommy Andres and Ariana TobinPodcast Title How "Choose Your Own Adventure" was bornStory Type FeatureSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Total Eclipse Of The Moon Next Week Throughout North America

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:11

The lunar eclipse peaks late Monday or early Tuesday, depending on your time zone. It begins a so-called tetrad of four eclipses occurring roughly six months apart.

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William Burns, Diplomat Who Led Negotiations With Iran, Will Retire

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:06

President Obama said he has relied on Burns for "candid advice and sensitive diplomatic missions." Burns' back-channel talks with Iran are credited for jumpstarting nuclear negotiations.

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Can't Ask That? Some Job Interviewers Go To Social Media Instead

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:06

In the hiring process, employers aren't allowed to ask certain things, like if you go to church or intend to have children. But is it OK for employers to check social media sites for this information?

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The Latest Wacky Food Adventure: A Year Without Sugar

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:01

Is banning sugar from your home to chronicle the effects on your family a gimmick veiled in a health halo? Actually, there's a lot to learn from a memoir of obsessive label-reading and weird baking.

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Bus Accident Leaves 10 Dead On Trip To College

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:00

Federal and state authorities are investigating a deadly bus crash in California. A bus full of prospective students headed to Humbolt State University was hit by a truck that veered across the freeway median.

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The Ukrainian Prime Minister's Visit, As Seen From Behind Barricades

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:00

Ukraine's interim prime minister visited Donetsk Friday in an effort to reduce tensions in the east of the country. Pro-Moscow militants among the area's largely Russian-speaking population have seized two government buildings in the region and are demanding referendums on the area's future. NPR's Ari Shapiro has been behind the barricades at one of the occupations.

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Onlookers Show No Worry Over Market's Week In Tumult

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:00

The stock market endured a volatile week as investors sold off technology stocks. Weak bank earnings added to the sour mix. But the selloff hasn't triggered alarm, and indicators for the broader economy are mostly positive.

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As Sebelius Steps Down, Obama Taps Budget Director To Replace Her

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:00

President Obama bid farewell Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose lengthy tenure was marred by the botched rollout of the government's health insurance website. Obama wants his budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to replace Sebelius.

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Ebola Drug Could Be Ready For Human Testing Next Year

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:00

There's no treatment yet for the deadly viral disease, but several approaches are in the works. At least one experimental drug seems effective in monkeys. Next step: safety tests in people.

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How 'Choose Your Own Adventure' was born

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 11:51

Ed Packard was a lawyer for RCA records. But it wasn't his true calling. Ed wanted to be a writer, and one fateful night back in 1969 he was telling his daughters Caroline and Andrea a bedtime story about a character named Pete marooned on a desert island.

"I was tired from a long day at work, and I couldn't think of what should happen next in the story. So I asked them. I got two different answers. I could sense that this was an unusual approach. They could not just identify with the main character. They could be the main character." 

Ed penned his first book on the train from his home in Connecticut to his law office in New York. He got an agent at William Morris who told him his first book "The Adventures of You on Sugar Cane Island" would be a big hit. But after countless doors were slammed in his face by children's book publishers who told him his work was more like a game than a book, Ed gave up.

He put his manuscript in his desk drawer and left it there to collect dust.

It was only after he met a young literary agent named Amy Berkower through an old college buddy that the books finally got a good, hard second look a decade later. And with the help of another upstart in the publishing business, Joelle Delbourgo at Bantam, "Choose Your Own Adventure" exploded into a phenomenon that rewrote the book on children's literature.

This story is part of Marketplace's new collaborative series with Mental Floss Magazine. For the full story, follow the link here.

What if you could kill your stolen phone?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 11:11
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 11:59 Geoff Holland/Flickr/Creative Commons

A London sign that read: "Beware, mobile phone thieves operating in this area."

 Thieves want your smartphone. They really, really want it. Consumer Reports estimates 1.6 million smart phones were stolen in 2012.

"In some cities, a majority of the reported thefts are for smart phones and other mobile computing devices," said Rob D'Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University.  

He thinks a kill switch, which would allow you to disable your phone remotely, could make a lot of sense. A stolen phone that doesn't work isn't worth much. But the ability to kill a phone could be worth a lot to its owner.

"People who formerly had their phones stolen, they won't have that happen anymore so they won't have to go out and buy a new phone," said William Duckworth, a statistician at Creighton University.

And if there's a lot less theft, he said, insurance for phones wouldn't cost as much. All together, he estimated, kill switches could save consumers $2.6 billion a year. That doesn't include the time that police officers spend on smart phone thefts.

"When you look at the rate of thefts of smartphones in major metropolitian areas in the United States," D'Ovidio said, "it's just taxing law enforcement resources.

He thinks it's just a matter of time before all phones come with kill switches. Apple's newest operating system allows users to shut down a phone remotely. And according to Duckworth's research, that's something 99 percent of smart phone owners want.

Marketplace for Friday April 11, 2014by Adriene HillPodcast Title What if you could kill your stolen phone?Story Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Pass The Chipotle-Marrow Matzo Balls, It's Mexican Passover

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 11:01

When tequila meets Manischewitz in the same glass, Passover will never be the same. At Rosa Mexicano restaurants, the Passover menu is inspired by the cuisine of Mexico's nearly 40,000 Jews.

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In which the government acknowledges Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 10:43

And finally, it seems Congress has discovered the amazing powers of the internet. No joke.

From the Congressional Record, Senate Bill 2206 was introduced just last week, and which the legislative language tells us can be cited as the Let Me Google That For You Act.

S.B. 2206 would abolish the National Technical Information Service, collector and disseminator of almost 3 million government scientific, technical, engineering, and business reports, because, yes, you can just Google 'em for free.

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