National News

Just how strong are those fundamentals?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 13:00

During this week’s wild ride for stocks, analysts have been telling people not to freak out because, essentially, the stock market is not the economy and vice versa. Kai Ryssdal says that on Marketplace so often that a fan built that phrase into a drinking game. (Which, by the way, is not to be played while driving!)

There’s a phrase politicians like to use: “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” As for economists, they answer questions about economic fundamentals by looking at an array of numbers.

There’s the gross domestic product, of course, which we learned Thursday grew at a 3.7 percent rate last quarter. Beyond that, analysts watch a mix of data including a range of employment and inflation numbers. Housing and industrial production data help too. Context is vital.

“There’s been a lot of talk about wages simply rising at around 2 percent,” says Bernie Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group. “But that only tells half the story. You have to look at the rise in income relative to inflation.”

And with inflation currently low, 2 percent wage growth isn’t quite so disappointing.

It’s also important to look beyond the headlines, such as when the big employment report comes out a week from Friday.

“Certainly the overall unemployment rate is a number that a lot of people focus on,” says former Fed economist Ann Owen, now a professor at Hamilton College. “But I think when we wanna think about the health of the labor market right now, there are some really key numbers.”

She carefully watches the portion of Americans currently working or job hunting, a number that’s now stuck at 62.6 percent.

Add all this up, and many economists see a mixed bag.

“We’re not looking at growth in incomes or output that would make you, you know, wave your fist in the air and cheer,” says Michael Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute. “But we’re also not looking at a situation that you would describe as terrible.”

Mark Garrison: Asking economists to only pick three numbers is like asking kids at a birthday party to only take three bites of cake. No chance.

Michael Strain: I think it takes more than three.

Ann Owen: I wouldn’t always have the same top three.

That’s Michael Strain at the American Enterprise Institute and Ann Owen, a Hamilton College professor formerly at the Fed. But we can at least narrow it down to some key categories. There’s GDP of course, which we learned today grew at a 3-point-7 percent rate last quarter. Beyond that, they watch a mix of data including a range of employment and inflation numbers. Housing and industrial production data help too. Context is vital, says Bernie Baumohl of The Economic Outlook Group.

Bernie Baumohl: There’s been a lot of talk about wages simply rising at around two percent. But that only tells half the story. You have to look at the rise in income relative to inflation.

And with low inflation, two percent isn’t quite so disappointing. You also have to look beyond the headlines. That’s what Owen will do when the big employment report comes out a week from tomorrow.

Ann Owen: Certainly the overall unemployment rate is a number that a lot of people focus on, but I think when we wanna think about the health of the labor market right now, there are some really key numbers for people to be thinking about.

Like the percent of people working or job hunting, currently stuck under 63 percent. When Strain looks at all this and more, he sees a mixed bag.

Michael Strain: We’re not looking at growth in incomes or output that would make you, you know, wave your fist in the air and cheer, but we’re also not looking at a situation that you would describe as terrible.

So the fundamentals are Ok. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

China's Wanda buys Ironman race series

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 13:00

The Ironman triathlon competition has just been swallowed up by the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.

The company announced today it bought Florida-based World Triathlon Corporation for $650 million. Wanda already owns the AMC movie theater chain in the U.S. It recently bought a Swiss sports marketing firm and a portion of a Spanish soccer team. It calls the Ironman purchase part of its “comprehensive sports strategy.”

“There’s a possibility that they see this as an opportunity for vertical integration in a completely different area of sports entertainment,” says Karl Gerth, who studies China at the University of California, San Diego.

He says the company wants internationally well-known brands like Ironman to draw attention — and people — to the hotels and other properties it already owns.

Wanda says triathlons are “on the cusp of explosion” in China, but Jeff Wasserstrom at University of California, Irvine is skeptical.

“Well, we’ve heard stories about skiing being poised to explode, we’ve been hearing about other things," he says. "But they are real niche things, and there is a bit of oversell.”

But he does agree with the company’s assessment that China’s middle class is ready to move away from watching popular sports to joining in.

David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University, says what makes triathlons appealing is that it’s not just for the most elite of athletes.

“Well, what we’re seeing as economies grow around the world," he says, "and incomes go up around the world, there’s more and more interest in all sorts of sports. One could argue this is a sport that lots of different people can participate in.”

And they need gear, hotels, training space and air time, which Wanda is happy to provide.

Boeing Case Is Latest Targeting 401(k) Plans With Excessive Fees

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:38

The aerospace giant is moving to settle a suit accusing it of mishandling its plan. The case is part of a legal assault by an attorney to stop firms from offering workers high-cost retirement plans.

» E-Mail This

Darryl Dawkins, The NBA's 'Chocolate Thunder,' Has Died

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:29

Dawkins played 13 seasons in the NBA after being drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia 76ers. At 6 feet, 11 inches and more than 250 pounds, he broke two glass backboards in one month.

» E-Mail This

National Portrait Gallery Won't Remove Bust Of Planned Parenthood Founder

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:23

Conservative groups want the gallery to take down the bust of Margaret Sanger, who they say was racist because of her support for eugenics.

» E-Mail This

Tropical Storm Erika Causes Massive Flooding, Landslides In Caribbean

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:09

There were scenes of fast-moving water in the streets on the island of Dominica after the storm dumped 9 inches of rain in a few hours. It could hit Florida as a Category 1 hurricane next week.

» E-Mail This

Can You Use That In A Sentence?: Dictionary Adds New Words

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:08

The Oxford English Dictionary was updated with a number of new words today, so, naturally, we held a contest to see who could use the most in a single sentence.

» E-Mail This

His Drum Talked And Everyone Listened: Remembering A 'Human Treasure'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 11:27

Senegalese percussionist Doudou N'Diaye Rose has died at age 85. He mastered his local drum language and brought it to the world, creating rhythms for the likes of Miles Davis and the Rolling Stones.

» E-Mail This

A Man Shed Live Polio Virus In His Stool For 28 Years

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:58

That's the longest span for one individual to excrete the live virus in history. It's not the norm, that's for certain. But how much of a concern is it in the war to wipe out polio?

» E-Mail This

Swept Up In The Storm: Hurricane Katrina's Key Players, Then And Now

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:46

The natural disaster of Katrina and the man-made tragedy that followed catapulted local figures and obscure federal officials into the spotlight.

» E-Mail This

Singing the 'Happy Birthday' blues

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:43
$100,000

That's how much a major motion picture is likely to be charged by Warner/Chappell Music for using the "Happy Birthday" song, says attorney Mark Rifkin, who is suing the company, claiming the copyright is invalid. That's right, it's copyrighted, and Warner/Chappell is the owner. So movies and restaurants go to creative lengths to use other songs. It could be worse; in Tajikistan, a man was fined about $634 for simply celebrating his birthday in public, according to the BBC. Turns out you violate more than a copyright in the Asian republic — public birthday parties are against the law.

$750,000

That's the amount twins Durland and Darvin Miller say they've been offered for the registered domain Twins.com, as told to Grantland's Ben Lindbergh. The San Jose, California, men registered the site in 1995, envisioning twin-related news. Fast forward to present. The twins aren't using the site, and Major League Baseball all but three team sites — one of them Twins.com. The Millers, who really are Twins fans, by the way (their dad is from Minnesota), say they were unsuccessful in contacting the team about a deal. Twins President Dave St. Peter says the team hasn't reached out because buy a URL is MLB Advanced Media's domain, so to speak. If it never works out, that's OK too. The Millers are happy to keep Twins.com in the family.

$1.76 billion

That's GameStop's second-quarter revenue, released Thursday, and it's better than analysts expected. But the brick-and-mortar store is struggling to remain relevant in the age of downloadable games, Sally Herships reports. People are still buying games boxes, and one way to increase those sales is stuffing them with collectible goodies — like figurines or accessories for the digital characters themselves. "These are the kinds of things that hardcore fans get all excited about," says Evan Narcisse, reporter with video game website Kotaku.

Flores-Roux is a nose ahead in the perfume business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:30

Rodrigo Flores-Roux, head perfumer at Givaudan perfumes, says that “a perfumer’s life is a little bit busy.” That explains why his office is covered in perfume bottles — some professionally packaged, others in clinical bottles titled with a label maker. Magazines, postcards and photos fill up the rest of the space.

It’s all inspiration for when Flores-Roux sits down to create a scent. The first step usually involves a computer and a process that he says resembles creating a recipe.

You think about a certain mixture of things. For example, I am going to do something that has to be very fresh and masculine. So I think about something that is going to be a little bit citrusy, but I want it to have tons of lavender, because lavender is going to be my theme. So you choose one or two, you mix them in different amounts, etc., in order to create something that will be pleasing, will have signature, memorability and hopefully not only make millions of dollars, but it will also become signature and innovative.

The “recipe” is sent to a lab around the corner from Flores-Roux’s office. It’s “literally where the magic happens” he says.

The lab is filled with technicians — junior perfumers — in white lab coats, working with bottles that are neatly stacked on shelves at each work station. The air is heavily perfumed. Flores-Roux stresses a good perfume isn’t made up entirely of “good” smells.

“You can use horrifically stinky scents, but in the right amount, they add something.”

Outside of the lab, the business of perfume is cutthroat.

“We are sharks." Flores-Roux says. "We are Godzillas, and we want to crush the competition, and actually sometimes we get crushed,” he says.

Much of the work a perfumer does is on spec — a company decides to create a signature scent, and they approach several perfume houses like Givaudan at once.

“We are briefed at the same time in a competitive way,” says Flores-Roux. All the candidates create a scent they hope will be chosen by the client. But “only one wins. I do have to say, it’s very, very sad, because you put your life there, and then you’re not chosen. And guess what? You do not get paid. It’s a business model that is very strange and a little sadomasochistic, but that’s the way it is.”

Flores-Roux says he doesn’t wear perfume at work — no one does at Givaudan — but when he goes out, he’ll “empty the bottle.” Spritzing a perfume cloud and walking through it? He does not approve.

“That’s nonsense, and that’s a waste of money. I want people to wear perfume and to own it and to express themselves with perfume. Putting it in the air is a waste of money. You might as well not wear it,” he explains.

For Kai, Flores-Roux recommends a scent he created for John Varvatos called “Artisan.” Get a virtual whiff with some of the Marketplace staff below.

Flores-Roux is a nose ahead in the perfume business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:30

Rodrigo Flores-Roux, head perfumer at Givaudan perfumes, says that “a perfumer’s life is a little bit busy.” That explains why his office is covered in perfume bottles — some professionally packaged, others in clinical bottles titled with a label maker. Magazines, postcards and photos fill up the rest of the space.

It’s all inspiration for when Flores-Roux sits down to create a scent. The first step usually involves a computer and a process that he says resembles creating a recipe.

You think about a certain mixture of things. For example, I am going to do something that has to be very fresh and masculine. So I think about something that is going to be a little bit citrusy, but I want it to have tons of lavender, because lavender is going to be my theme. So you choose one or two, you mix them in different amounts, etc., in order to create something that will be pleasing, will have signature, memorability and hopefully not only make millions of dollars, but it will also become signature and innovative.

The “recipe” is sent to a lab around the corner from Flores-Roux’s office. It’s “literally where the magic happens” he says.

The lab is filled with technicians — junior perfumers — in white lab coats, working with bottles that are neatly stacked on shelves at each work station. The air is heavily perfumed. Flores-Roux stresses a good perfume isn’t made up entirely of “good” smells.

“You can use horrifically stinky scents, but in the right amount, they add something.”

Outside of the lab, the business of perfume is cutthroat.

“We are sharks." Flores-Roux says. "We are Godzillas, and we want to crush the competition, and actually sometimes we get crushed,” he says.

Much of the work a perfumer does is on spec — a company decides to create a signature scent, and they approach several perfume houses like Givaudan at once.

“We are briefed at the same time in a competitive way,” says Flores-Roux. All the candidates create a scent they hope will be chosen by the client. But “only one wins. I do have to say, it’s very, very sad, because you put your life there, and then you’re not chosen. And guess what? You do not get paid. It’s a business model that is very strange and a little sadomasochistic, but that’s the way it is.”

Flores-Roux says he doesn’t wear perfume at work — no one does at Givaudan — but when he goes out, he’ll “empty the bottle.” Spritzing a perfume cloud and walking through it? He does not approve.

“That’s nonsense, and that’s a waste of money. I want people to wear perfume and to own it and to express themselves with perfume. Putting it in the air is a waste of money. You might as well not wear it,” he explains.

For Kai, Flores-Roux recommends a scent he created for John Varvatos called “Artisan.” Get a virtual whiff below and stay tuned to see what others in the office thought.

FDA Warns Tobacco Companies Advertising 'Natural' Cigarettes

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:20

Unless a cigarette is safer than others it can't be labeled "natural" or "additive-free", the Food and Drug Administration told three manufacturers.

» E-Mail This

Hispanic Or Latino? A Guide For The U.S. Presidential Campaign

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:18

Donald Trump has put immigration front and center in his campaign. This has placed renewed focus on the confusing question of how to refer to people from Latin America, including those now in the U.S.

» E-Mail This

Help Wanted: Last Pediatrician On Mendocino Coast Retires

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 09:23

For 35 years, Dr. Bill Mahon has tended newborns and broken bones, given kids checkups and spinal taps. But luring new doctors with big debt and urban dreams to the redwoods is harder than it sounds.

» E-Mail This

Usain Bolt Is Knocked Over By Segway-Riding Cameraman After Winning Gold

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 09:22

The incident happened at the World Athletics Championships, where a highly anticipated match-up had pitted the Jamaican against America's Justin Gatlin.

» E-Mail This

Planned Parenthood Fights Back

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 09:08

In a new report sent to Congress, the organization says controversial videos alleging the sale of fetal tissue are "heavily edited" to "significantly distort" actual events and conversations.

» E-Mail This

Brian Chesky of Airbnb on "the worst idea ever"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 09:00

The first step in starting a successful business is having a good idea, but sometimes even a bad one can work. Brian Chesky started Airbnb on the risky premise that people would agree to open their homes to strangers, and it worked. He didn’t just build a $10 billion company, he changed culture as we know it, helping to usher in the sharing economy.



Kentucky Clerk's Office Continues To Refuse Marriage Licenses

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 08:40

A same-sex couple was denied a license Thursday morning, even after a federal appeals court denied Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' bid to refuse to issue marriage licenses for religious reasons.

» E-Mail This

Pages