National News

Drop In Unemployment Raises Debate On Optimal Rate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 12:04

Now that unemployment has slipped below 6 percent, there's renewed interest in what the Federal Reserve's target for joblessness should be. Some economists worry that inflation will resurface.

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Tech IRL: What meerkats have to do with the future of the internet

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 12:01

Thanks to white broadcast spaces, you can stream meerkats at the London Zoo:



Or, otters:



Or, even Galapagos tortoises:



White spaces basically consist of the channels not being used by traditional TV, and, like the partnership between Google and the London Zoo illustrates, can be used to transmit other types of information.

What's interesting about white space waves is that they travel extremely far; the wi-fi in your office starts to slow down when you're too far from an internet router, but white space waves can travel 6 miles without suffering. It could be used to deliver Internet broadband on the open ocean, or for networks of sensors that can protect cities from natural disasters.

But, the future of white space depends on what the FCC and other regulators decide to do, and whether some of these tests, like the meerkat cameras, prove we can use white spaces without interfering with channels that are already being used. 

Egality N'est Pas La Réalité: French Women Wage Online War On Sexism

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 11:39

When a company told one French feminist it was "sorry" she found its ad sexist, she decided to fight back. She's launched a website where users target sexist companies and people on social media.

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Weekly Wrap: Volatility, always

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 11:00

John Carney with the Wall Street Journal and Linette Lopez from Business Insider join Kai to discuss the week in review.

How to stop your people from freaking out about Ebola

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 11:00

The President has tapped White House veteran Ron Klain to be the nation’s Ebola Czar.

The appointment comes as fears of the virus spread with a poll this week showing nearly half Americans are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” they will contract Ebola.

So how do companies deal with this? How do they keep workers safe and operations running smoothly? The first thing some businesses did this week was call Arun Sharma.

“A lot of the questions we are getting is how do we control the fear and anxiety in the workplace,” he says.

Sharma works for Control Risks, an international firm that helps Fortune 500 companies around the globe manage risk. Especially for those clients with operations in Ebola hot spots, Sharma says the essential word is "communicate."

“If you have an operation that’s based in Africa and you want to give employees an opportunity to ask question, have a town hall meeting, bring a medical advisor in that can answer those medical related questions,” she says.

Certainly multinational corporations must start learning about Ebola and its risks, but at a time when flight attendants reportedly locked a passenger in a plane lavatory after she threw up; it's clear employers here in the U.S. have their work cut out for them too. That could mean executives dusting off a report already many have on their shelves.

Years ago, the CDC designed pandemic preparation guidelines. Dr. Robert Quigley, with the medical assistance company International SOS, says there’d be a lot less fear if companies routinely practiced using this tool they already have.

“And companies are definitely not doing that. And as a result they are all kind of caught now in a panic mode, and there’s some scrambling going on,” he says.

One way to cut down on the corporate chaos, Quigley says, is for companies to focus on their business and develop what he calls a continuity plan.

“They need to have trigger points that indicate when they need to pull people out of harm’s way, whether or not travel really needs to take place, and whether that’s going to negatively impact their bottom line,” he says.

Sorting that bit out should help sober up the room says Quigley. The doctor says remember the more afraid you and your staff are, the more likely operations will be interrupted.

The antidote: education and preparation.

Free Starbucks for life?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 11:00

In caffeine-related news, Starbucks announced today it's going to be running a sweepstakes this coming holiday season. If you use a Starbucks card between December 2 and Christmas you're entered for a chance to win Starbucks for life.

Which, if you read the fine print, the company defines as 30 years.

Not exactly what they're advertising, but still... not bad.

Google's PAC spends in search of political influence

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 11:00

The latest figures from the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington show that Google’s Political Action Committee has just barely overtaken the PAC at Goldman Sachs in campaign spending this election cycle.

Goldman Sachs’ PAC, which has helped the company to wield its impressive lobbying power in Washington, had spent $1.39 million on the 2014 election cycle, as of the end of August. Google’s PAC, named NetPAC, had spent $1.43 million. Company PACs bundle contributions from employees, but don’t include money from the corporation itself.

Google’s political money-play has increased massively in recent election cycles. In 2006, Google’s PAC spent $37,000. By this year, the spending had increased forty-fold.

As an industry, Wall Street still packs a much bigger political warchest than Silicon Valley to support candidates and parties. Investment-industry-related contributors and PACS have spent more than $125 million this year; the computer and internet industry has spent just under $24 million.

Bill Allison, at the campaign finance watchdog group The Sunlight Foundation, says the banking industry may need to spend more to have an impact inside the Beltway on legislation and regulation, because big banks are now disliked and distrusted by many voters. For the most part, he says, that’s not true of big tech companies.

“For Google and Facebook, they have this hip young image,” says Allison.

The big internet players also have a lot of people’s ears and eyeballs, says Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They use that to leverage their lobbying on Capitol Hill—especially about issues that resonate with the public, like online privacy. “Google and Twitter have massive followings,” said Jaycox, “and they use these outlets and social media to push for email privacy laws and NSA surveillance reform.”

Some of the tech industry’s key legislative priorities, though, aren’t so widely popular, or even well-known to the general public. Those issues include raising the number of visas available for skilled foreign technology workers, said Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer.

“They’re fighting for everything from immigration reform to tax credits, and soon I’m sure, monopoly issues,” said Zelizer. “So they’re going to give a lot of money all over, to both parties.”

Still, Silicon Valley’s general reputation for leaning left comes through in some of the Center for Responsive Politics' data. The industry’s cumulative political contributions this year have split 60-40 — for Democrats.

Have you got what it takes to be a government 'Czar'?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 10:43

Our vision of a help-wanted ad for a government czar: 

Requirements:

  • Level-headed, task-driven communicator.  Able to interface with a variety of stakeholders. Must be comfortable translating and explaining government action (or inaction) to the public.  
  • Willing to be a symbol of governmental concern about a specific crisis.  Good at making everyone feel better. Willing  to appear before the press as required.
  • Must be a model of  seriousness, calm and control.
  • Must be comfortable operating behind the scenes and juggling the demands of multiple high-level, ego-driven officials inside government.
  • Comfortable working in a culture of feedback - knows how to take a punch.
  • Willingness to sacrifice sleep and home life.
  • Proven record working with "big personalities" a must.
  • Ability to cut through red tape also a plus. 

 

Citing Previous Rulings, Federal Judge Throws Out Arizona Gay-Marriage Ban

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 10:35

The decision was only four pages long and said the appeals court and the Supreme Court have given clear guidance that bans of this type are unconstitutional.

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Citrus greening is hurting orange growers in Florida

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 10:19

Citrus greening was first reported in Asia during the late 1800s, and it has no cure. It isn't a threat to humans or animals, but it has ruined many acres of citrus crops throughout the world, including the United States.

"It’s been problematic and it’s pretty much spread throughout the entire industry now," says Mark Wheeler, a third-generation orange grower and CFO of Wheeler Farms in Lake Placid, Florida.

Wheeler says that although they're seeing elevated fruit prices, the production has been diminished per acre because of the disease.

"It’s all a grower by grower situation and how impacted they are by the disease," says Wheeler. "A grower who is producing 300 to 400 boxes per acre is doing well, but a grower who is producing 200 boxes per acre is struggling to stay in business."

Spike In ER, Hospital Use Short-Lived After Calif. Medicaid Expansion

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 10:02

Previous research found that going on Medicaid increased a poor person's use of costly emergency room visits. Now an analysis suggests that initial spike in ER visits quickly tapers off.

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In Context: The big business of high school sports

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-17 10:01

Illinois based-Paragon Marketing Group is working on a deal to bring high school football to a national audience. The group – which brought LeBron James’s high school basketball games to TV – is currently in negotiations with several states and ESPN to bring some type of high school football playoff to television. ESPN wouldn’t comment on the negotiations, with Paragon saying the talks are ongoing and private.

Yet, at least one contract between Paragon and one of the states it’s working with has been made public: Florida officials have agreed to let two state high schools participate in such a playoff each year.

Paragon Marketing Group will pay the Florida High School Athletic Association $10,000 each year for allowing the state’s schools to participate in a national playoff or bowl series. If two or more teams from Florida are picked to participate by Paragon, the Florida High School Athletic Association would receive $40,000.

Meanwhile, Florida high schools participating in a playoff will receive $12,500 for appearing in the game, and another $25,000 in merchandising fees. Paragon Marketing, the group organizing the event has until October 31st to cancel a playoff or high school bowl series this year, according to the contract the team signed with Florida.

“For the next frontier to be high school football is not a surprise,” says Sports Business Analyst Keith Reed. “You’ve already seen some media properties develop to cover high school football…people pay attention to this.”

Meanwhile, officials in Georgia and Texas have declined to participate – for now. Officials in California have suggested the playoff is a non-starter, citing rules that prohibit high school teams to participate in games after their final state playoff games.

The concern among many officials is that high school players may be exploited at a crucial time in their development.

“They’re at a very integral part of their lives, they’re starting to develop who they really are…who their personalities are, what their identity will be for the rest of their lives,” says St. Francis High School Head Football Coach Rich Carroll of Queens, New York.

Still, Carroll says more money for high school football teams through televised games would be beneficial to programs like his.

“Even though there’s a lot of negative press, the fact that it’s so enjoyable to watch…I think it’s promoting activity,” Carroll says.  “The bottom line is football’s fun.”

 

 

At London's Tincan, Eating Canned Fish Is The Height Of Luxury

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 09:44

One of the city's newest restaurants aims to elevate canned fish to an object of desire. There's no kitchen and no chef. The owners argue that tinned goods can be a greener gourmet choice.

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The New Vocabulary Of Urban Education

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 09:32

The names that many big-city schools, teachers and students use to describe themselves are changing. Exhibit A: New Orleans.

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Florida 'Loud Music' Shooter Michael Dunn Gets Life In Prison

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 09:10

Dunn was convicted earlier this month in a second trial for the fatal shooting of black teenager Jordan Davis in 2012.

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3-Year-Old Ebola Survivor Proposes To Nurse

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 08:08

And she says yes! Ibrahim is one of three brothers who lost their mother to Ebola — but survived. While waiting to be reunited with his dad, the little boy fell in love.

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Nigerian Truce With Boko Haram Raises Hopes For Schoolgirls' Release

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 07:47

The deal, announced by the country's defense chief, included negotiations for the release of more than 200 girls who were abducted by the extremist group in April.

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Take Your Medicine, Tap Your Phone And Collect A Prize

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-17 07:37

Apps offer games and rewards to keep you taking your prescription medicine. While rewards may not be for everyone, they could give some people a helpful motivational boost.

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