National News

PODCAST: Powerful and profitable art

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-11-11 03:00

First up, in China, what's called "Single's Day" is drawing to a close. It's a new-ish celebration that is to single people what Mother's Day is to mother's. But it's now morphed into the day people go online to buy things, often with their office computer. China's Alibaba said sales broke through $8 billion so far today in an orgy of commerce that, if you do the math, dwarfs America's so-called Black Friday. And tech products could soon travel across borders with less baggage as a result of the first major cut in international tariffs in 17 years, and it affects a range of technology products from MRI medical scanners to video games. More on that. Plus, it's Veterans Day in the U.S. and this summer marked 100 years since the outbreak of hostilities that became what was then called The Great War. To commemorate Britain's lost lives, an artist has staged a powerful installation at the Tower of London. It's really popular, and lucrative for veterans' charities.

South Korean Ferry Captain Sentenced To 36 Years

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 02:59

The punishment for the April calamity drew shouts and sharp criticism from victims' family members in the courtroom; many had urged a death sentence.

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Garth Brooks album is online, but not for streaming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-11-11 02:00

Garth Brooks is following Taylor Swift’s lead, away from streaming music services. Not even a month after Swift pulled her catalog from Spotify, Brooks is releasing a new album that you can download, but not stream, for free. 

The album is called "Man Against Machine," but it may as well be called "Man Against Streaming Machine."

Garth Brooks is releasing the album on a new website he helped create, called GhostTunes. The site only allows you to buy music from Brooks and many others.

“It’s a sale, not a stream," says Stephanie Kellar, the lead marketing professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She says Brooks faces a huge challenge: “How does he get people to go to his site and purchase music there?”

But GhostTunes says it's not trying to be Spotify.

“There’s no question that we’re the smallest ant on this molehill,” says Randy Bernard, CEO of GhostTunes. 

Bernard says they’re aiming for a niche market, appealing to Garth Brooks fans, and offering extras.

“When you go on the site, you’ll be able to purchase merchandise or tickets from Ticketmaster," he says. "We offer a one-stop shop."

And, unlike Spotify, the site also offers Taylor Swift’s music.

London’s poppies prove the value of public art

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-11-11 02:00

London has gone poppy mad. Many people, throughout the UK and Ireland, wear poppies at this time of year to show their support for veterans and their families. So it’s not uncommon to see glimpses of scarlet everywhere; on business suits, overcoats, sweaters and even T-shirts. This year, though, the poppies that are really attracting attention are on the ground, filling the moat of the Tower of London, in a display of 888,246 ceramic flowers, one for each colonial or military fatality of the first world war.

The display, called "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red," has been a money-spinner for charities, which will raise as much as GBP15 million from the sale of the two-foot tall poppies. The drive to raise money around the event knocked even the most successful Kickstarter campaign into a cocked hat, raising GBP2.5 million in just six days.  

The poppies have also been good for London. Again, estimates vary, but news reports from the capital said as many as four million people, mostly from other parts of the UK and Ireland, have visited the Tower to see the display. The poppies have been such a resounding success that the exhibit is to go on tour: 10,000 poppies will be displayed around the country before they become housed by the Imperial War Museum.

The enormous display didn’t cost the UK government or the City of London a penny. The thousands of volunteers who hammered the flowers into the moat were volunteers. The flowers sold for GBP25, 10 percent of which will go to six service charities: Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help For Heroes, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and the Confederation of Service Charities. All net proceeds from the sale will also go to those charities, and the government said recently it will waive the tax bill resulting from the sale of the poppies. UK Chancellor George Osborne said the government will make up some of the cost with GBP500,000 in LIBOR fixing fines collected from banks.

Best of all, the installation has been good for art. It has shown that great works of art don’t have to be static or permanent; they can be broken up and bought by the public; they can be successfully sponsored, and they can be of enormous benefit to society. How many other works of art in London get four million visitors in a quarter? And how many have the kind of impact that Blood-swept Lands and Seas of Red has had on those who’ve visited it? Millions of children have learned something about the history of their country, and probably their family, that they might never have otherwise known. The fact that they learned it for free is a bonus for the government. And it’s a lesson, too: art can be a good investment, not just socially, but financially. Which is why governments should work hard to fund and promote their countries’ artworks whenever possible.

Economic recovery drives growth in low-paid jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-11-11 02:00

The October 2014 employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the U.S. economy is continuing to deliver steady job growth and lower unemployment, even as consumer demand and business activity remain lackluster compared to previous recoveries.

And signs increasingly point to a solid finish to the year. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that retailers and shippers—including both brick-and-mortar and online operations—added 180,600 jobs in October, more than any previous October on record. That’s an increase of 13 percent from 2013.

Employment in the transportation sector has been going up all year in tandem with the recovery of consumer spending.

“We’re seeing a huge demand for truck drivers,” said Michael Gritton of Kentuckiana Works, the regional workforce development agency in Louisville, Kentucky, which has become a logistics hub for the Midwest.

Nationwide, the U.S. economy has added more than 35,000 truck drivers since October 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Gritton points out that the cost of commercial-driver training is high—as much as $5,000—and it's not easy to find government funding or student loans to cover the cost. But a typical course only takes four to six weeks. Starting pay is typically in the $15/hour range (though it can rise to nearly double that with experience).

Other service sectors in which jobs are now consistently growing are also low-pay, explains economist Paul Edelstein at IHS.

“We’re seeing a big shift towards the leisure and hospitality sector, restaurants and bars, where the wages aren’t very good,” said Edelstein. Employment in leisure and hospitality has increased by 380,000 in the past year.

Daycare is another low-paid occupation that is now adding jobs consistently (nearly 19,000 since October 2013), driven by the overall expansion of the economy. As more parents become two-income households again, they need to pay someone else to watch the kids.

Top U.S. General In Afghanistan: The Afghan Army Can Hold Its Own

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 01:24

Gen. John Campbell leads the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. On Veterans Day, he offers his assessment of the war as the U.S. winds down its presence and hands over responsibility to the Afghans.

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Tech Star Wants To Make Diversity Plug-And-Play For Silicon Valley

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:36

Tristan Walker, founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands, and J.J. McCorvey, a writer at Fast Company, discuss the tech industry's diversity problem.

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Veterans Voices Multitracked, Overdubbed, Amplified Through An Actor

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:35

A new multimedia stage production, led by a Juilliard composer and an Iraq veteran who took up acting, hopes to help struggling soldiers battle their post-traumatic stress.

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Medical Experts Look For New Ways To Test Ebola Drugs

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:35

Can you run a clinical trial without a placebo group? That's one of the questions facing researchers in West Africa.

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43 On 41: A President Traces The Life Of His Father

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:33

Former President George W. Bush sits down with host David Greene to discuss his new book, "41," a biography of his father and fellow former President George H.W. Bush.

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A Marine's Parents' Story: Their Memories That You Should Hear

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:32

Sylvia and Ron McHone of Crystal Lake, Ill., knew the news was not good when Marines came to their door after 10 o'clock at night in 2012. This is their story.

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These Bookish Millennials Make Memes Worth Reading Into

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:32

From a spoof of Kanye West's "Bound 2" (called "Hardcover Bound 2") to click-bait classic novel titles, millennials are proving that smart content and Internet frippery aren't mutually exclusive.

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Researchers To Attempt Robotic Landing On Comet's Surface

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-10 23:30

Putting a probe on a comet's surface would be a first for mankind. But it doesn't look like it will be easy.

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