National News

A preview of the North American International Auto Show

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 02:00

The North American International Auto Show kicks off in Detroit this week. This year’s show is going to be all about showing off hardware after a year of booming sales, falling gas prices and growing consumer confidence. Trucks sales are expected to strong in 2015, especially small and mid-size models.

“Pickup trucks in particular, from parts of the market that have not been well represented until now,” says Edmunds.com editor Bill Visnic. 

While cheap gas may be driving sales of trucks and SUVS for now, automakers are doubling-down on fuel-efficiency.

“We’re living in this new trend where everything is going to be kind of environmentally responsible too,” notes Jake Fisher, Director of Auto Testing at Consumer Reports. “So, those high performance vehicles and sports cars, they’re going to be hybrids, they’re going to be plug-in hybrids, they’re going to be electric.”

General Motors also hopes to make a splash with plug-in electric cars. GM has rolled out an upgrade to its hybrid-electric Volt, as well as new Bolt concept car—that’s Bolt with a “B”. With a range of 200 miles and a cost around $30,000 (including state and federal rebates), the Bolt would be a cheaper alternative to rival Tesla.

“We don't make $100,000 cars, this is what the [Chevy] brand is about,” says Stuart Norris, Director of Advanced Vehicle Design at GM. As with other automakers, GM is banking on a return to higher gas prices.

“This is a long term vision. We can't have our electrification strategy being driven by local gas-price fluctuations," he says.

The Bolt is scheduled to hit the market in 2017.

Why the College Football Playoff has a generic name

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 02:00

For a major sporting event, the College Football Playoff National Championship, which debuts January 9, has an extremely generic name. We asked some specialists to chime in with other ideas. 

Alexandra Watkins — who runs the brand-naming consultancy Eat My Words and wrote the book “Hello My name is Awesome”— started brainstorming right away.

"How about Goldfish Bowl?" she asks. "Is that taken? And Mixing Bowl? I also like Punch Bowl, because it’s kind of aggressive."

I hate to tell her that they had two years to settle on College Football Playoff. 

"No!" she says. "Please tell me nobody paid for that name. Are you kidding me?" She thinks all the good ideas must have been shot down in meetings.

In fairness, starting with a generic name has worked before. The first Super Bowl was officially just the AFL-NFL Championship Game, recalls Michael Oriard, a retired English professor, former NFL player, and author of the book “Brand NFL.”  

Also, the tournament now called “March Madness” was simply the Men's Division I Basketball Championship when the National Collegiate Athletic Association first introduced it.

"The NCAA couldn’t invent March Madness," says Oriard. "It had to emerge over time. So my guess is the College Football Playoff will acquire some jazzier, sexier title at some point."

A dissenting view comes from David Placek, arguably the biggest name in brand names. He is president of the brand-naming company Lexicon, which claims successes like Procter & Gamble's Febreze and Swiffer cleaning products, Coca-Cola's Dasani water, and Research in Motion's BlackBerry phone.

"Why give someone else the power to name something that you’ve created?" says Placek. "I would want to take the responsibility and keep the power in my own organization, and start off with something that provokes people more."

His first thought: Platinum Bowl. 

We asked you to come up with a better (or at least more interesting) name for the game on Twitter, and here are the results:

Some thought the huge price tag of collegiate sports should be highlighted:

@Marketplace The Money Grab Bowl

— Boulder Cycle Sport (@bldrcyclesport) January 11, 2015

@Marketplace the National college “championship”? The Cash Cow. Putting higher education down the bowl…

— Brian Ross (@theclevertwit) January 12, 2015

Others pointed to the pro-football feel of the game:

@Marketplace, how about the Who's Leaving for the NFL Bowl?

— Jeff Newberry (@NewberryJeff) January 11, 2015

@Marketplace i think the name should be jr. Super bowl.

— Brianna Jones (@godsgirl13jones) January 12, 2015

Some thought the name should capitalize on marketing possibilities:

@Marketplace Naming the College Football Championship: FootBowl. Athletic shoe companies will line up for sponsorship. #kiss

— Dennis Kmiec (@DennisKmiec) January 12, 2015

@Marketplace Highest Bidder Bowl

— Billy Easton (@BEastonNY) January 12, 2015

...And then there's these:

@marketplace We should call the college football playoff the American Standard Toilets Bowl

— FeaR Harry (@HarryH987) January 12, 2015

@Marketplace Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money

— Dylan Wilbur (@Dwilbur003) January 11, 2015

Alcoa results expected to please

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 02:00

Alcoa (AA) unofficially kicks off the earnings season for the last quarter of 2014, reporting earnings on Monday after the market closes. 

The name ‘Alcoa’ still conjures up an image of aluminum smelters and smokestacks for many, says Morningstar analyst Andrew Lane. But actually, the company’s products are more diverse, value-added and cutting-edge than basic aluminum sent on to other manufacturers to be made into consumer goods and industrial equipment. 

For instance, Alcoa aluminum goes into the new, all-aluminum Ford F-150 pickup truck, as well as lightweight heat-tolerant aerospace components. 

“We have a very positive outlook for Alcoa’s earnings for the past quarter and over the next couple years,” says Lane. He adds that Alcoa has expanded into global markets and multiple industrial sectors in recent years through major strategic acquisitions. 

Lane points out that low oil prices are helping Alcoa, because the aluminum-fabrication is so energy-intensive. But low gas prices for consumers may be a counterweight: “The use of aluminum materially improves fuel efficiency. But given the steep decline in oil prices for the consumer at the pump, an all-aluminum vehicle is obviously going to have a less attractive value proposition.” 

 

 

 

Would you like an online class with your book?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 01:30
$5.2 billion

On Monday, Irish-based Shire, a pharmaceutical company, announced plans to purchase NPS pharmaceuticals Inc. for $5.2 billion. As reported by Bloomberg, the move follows a failed attempt by the company to purchase AbbVie Inc. 

23 percent

The difference between the actual portion of French people who are Muslim and the average guess from survey respondents, according to the Guardian. It turns out most people vastly over- or underestimate the number of Muslim, unemployed, voting, Christian, and non-native people in their home country.

$25 to $85

These days, authors have to do a whole lot more than just write books. In fact, Simon & Schuster announced that some of their most popular authors will host online courses for $25 to $85. As reported by the New York Times, the courses will include workbooks and access to live question-and-answer sessions.

$5 million

The amount IFC paid to bankroll the 12-year making of "Boyhood," which took home top honors at the Golden Globes Sunday. The film represented an unusual and risky investment for both the studio and director Richard Linklater, CNN reported. The former had to wait more than a decade for any return on investment and the latter had to hope IFC's leadership would remain consistent over an eternity in Hollywood.

71 percent

The portion of online adults who use Facebook, according to a wealth of new survey data released from Pew. Facebook is still the dominant social network a couple times over, but its share has not grown, while younger sites are expanding rapidly. Two more key stats: more than half of online seniors use Facebook, while a whooping half of young people are on Instagram.

Would you like a MOOC with your book?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 01:30
$5.2 billion

On Monday, Irish-based Shire, a pharmaceutical company, announced plans to purchase NPS pharmaceuticals Inc. for $5.2 billion. As reported by Bloomberg, the move follows a failed attempt by the company to purchase AbbVie Inc. 

23 percent

The difference between the actual portion of French people who are Muslim and the average guess from survey respondents, according to the Guardian. It turns out most people vastly over- or underestimate the number of Muslim, unemployed, voting, Christian, and non-native people in their home country.

$25 to $85

These days, authors have to do a whole lot more than just write books. In fact, Simon & Schuster announced that some of their most popular authors will host online courses for $25 to $85. As reported by the New York Times, the courses will include workbooks and access to live question-and-answer sessions.

$5 million

The amount IFC paid to bankroll the 12-year making of "Boyhood," which took home top honors at the Golden Globes Sunday. The film represented an unusual and risky investment for both the studio and director Richard Linklater, CNN reported. The former had to wait more than a decade for any return on investment and the latter had to hope IFC's leadership would remain consistent over an eternity in Hollywood.

71 percent

The portion of online adults who use Facebook, according to a wealth of new survey data released from Pew. Facebook is still the dominant social network a couple times over, but its share has not grown, while younger sites are expanding rapidly. Two more key stats: more than half of online seniors use Facebook, while a whooping half of young people are on Instagram.

Regulators Take Action Against Delinquent Mines

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 00:59

In reaction to an NPR/MSHN investigation, federal regulators, a member of Congress and others are considering ways to crack down on mining companies that fail to pay delinquent mine safety penalties.

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In Haiti, Politics And An Earthquake Anniversary Collide

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 00:59

It's been five years since an earthquake devastated Haiti. Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers are blocking a compromise that would avert the dissolution of parliament and the president ruling by decree.

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In Haiti, Politics And An Earthquake Anniversary Collide

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 00:59

It's been five years since an earthquake devastated Haiti. Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers are blocking a compromise that would avert the dissolution of parliament and the president ruling by decree.

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Iowa's Largest City Sues Over Farm Fertilizer Runoff In Rivers

NPR News - Sun, 2015-01-11 23:26

Fertilizer runoff has provoked a confrontation between Des Moines, Iowa, and the farms that surround it. The city's water utility wants to sue neighboring counties for nitrate in the Raccoon River.

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Supreme Court Sees The Signs — But Can They Stay?

NPR News - Sun, 2015-01-11 23:26

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case that looks at how municipal governments may regulate where and when signs are posted.

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The Doctor Who Championed Hand Washing And Briefly Saved Lives

NPR News - Sun, 2015-01-11 23:22

One of the most important medical advances may also be the simplest — hand washing. It's the best defense against spreading disease. And its power was discovered long before anyone knew about germs.

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Novelist Robert Stone, Known For 'Dog Soldiers,' Dies At 77

NPR News - Sun, 2015-01-11 21:43

Robert Stone, the award-winning novelist who spun out tales worldwide of seekers, frauds and other misbegotten American dreamers in such works as A Flag for Sunrise and Dog Soldiers, died on Saturday.

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