National News

New Rules Could Create A New Class Of Overtime Workers

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 13:24

The president's proposal would make 5 million more Americans eligible for overtime pay. But the changes don't mean that employers will pay more.

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Richard Nixon 'wanted to be a good prince'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:56

Nobody includes Richard Nixon on their list of the country’s best presidents, but Nixon had a lasting impact both politically and economically. Author Evan Thomas looks at the psyche of this anxious introvert and takes readers deep into Nixon’s mind in his latest book "Being Nixon: A Man Divided."

“Nixon's become kind of a cartoon to us. We think he's wicked and evil. I just didn't believe that,” says Thomas. “He wanted to be a good person. Late at night, he would take his yellow pad — his aides called his yellow pad his best friend, because he liked being alone with his yellow pad — and he would write notes to himself about who he wanted to be.”

Nixon aimed to be compassionate, joyful, generous … all of which he was not, or at least not often.

“Nixon was an intellectual, he really was. He read deeply and widely, but mostly about international affairs," he says. “For some reason, he neglected economics to his grief, and actually to the grief of all of us, because the stupidest thing he did was wage and price controls, which had a real cost.”

Nixon may have failed as a president in many ways, especially for breaking the Constitution, Thomas says, but he did make a lasting impact in other regards, such as opening up China, expanding Social Security benefits for the disabled, the Clean Air Act, arms control of the Soviets. Nixon was an activist … clever and Machiavellian.

“Machiavelli wanted to be a good prince. Nixon wanted to be a good prince. He wasn’t always a good prince, but he wanted to be.”

Read an excerpt from "Being Nixon":

 

Black-owned banks are dying. Here's why it matters.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:54

Just three years ago, Chicago had four black-owned banks. Now there are two, and regulators have told one of them — Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan— to raise more capital or risk a shutdown. The decline is part of a national trend. Unlike the more-segregated days when these banks were founded, African-American customers can now take their business elsewhere.

However, black-owned banks provide a link to a proud history— and, research says, they may do something a lot more important.

At its height, in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, the South Side’s Bronzeville neighborhood was Chicago’s version of Harlem.

“Bronzeville used to be known as the Black Metropolis,” says chef and entrepreneur Clifford Rome at his new restaurant, Peach’s, across the street from Illinois Service.

“You had all these pioneers who put their businesses on the South Side of Chicago. So you could go to the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, right?” he says. “You had these great banks, you had all these entertainers.”

For example, pianist Earl Hines — who started playing in Bronzeville with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s —  spent the '30s playing national broadcasts from 39th Street. By the middle of that decade, a local teenager named Nat Cole — later nicknamed “King” — started getting some notice.

“Having all that meant you didn’t have to go anywhere else,” Rome says.

Nor did Bronzeville residents have the opportunity to go anywhere else. Segregation was in full force, and white-owned banks did not cross the color line to make loans.

That’s where Illinois Service Federal came in. As the bank’s CEO, Norman Williams, tells the story: “We were started in 1934 by 13 African-American men with $7,000.”

One of those 13 founders was his father.

“The bank grew very slowly,” Williams says. “Its mission was simply to provide home loans and help people open savings accounts.”

Today, with around $110 million in assets, the bank still has deeply loyal customers— like Clifford Rome. In addition to Peach’s, he runs a catering business, an art gallery and another restaurant on King Drive — and Rome says he has kept multiple accounts with Illinois Service for years.

He recalls his first visit to the bank. “Once I walked in the doors, it’s like a throwback,” he says, laughing. The bank’s current headquarters looked ultra-modern when it was built almost 50 years ago. “But it has this unique quality. It feels community.”

Rome says he banks with Illinois Service for the same reason he uses the dry cleaner next door and the bakery down the street: to support neighborhood institutions.

“You need a community bank — you do,” he says. “Even if that community bank doesn’t have the bandwidth to do everything larger banks do. It’s here.”

However, the financial crisis and the recession hit banks like Illinois Service especially hard. African-Americans, like Norman Williams’s borrowers, were more likely than others to lose their jobs. And miss mortgage payments.

“People didn’t abandon their home — they just got behind,” he says. “Good, decent people, but…” thanks in part to new banking regulations, their problems became Illinois Service’s problems. And that’s why regulators have the bank in their sights.

John Taylor, who runs the Community Reinvestment Coalition, sees community banks like Illinois Service disappearing all over the country.

“That’s really the challenge,” he says. “Disappearing with them is the personal commitment of boards of directors to make sure that those communities, those neighborhoods, prosper."

Taylor believes the issue here is not losing black banks but losing community banks. “The local is more key than the race of the bank president,” he says.

However, research shows that race plays a role too.

For a study published last year in a journal from Oxford University Press, a team of researchers from Rutgers, Brigham Young and Utah State universities sent “mystery shoppers” into about 80 banks. They posed as small business owners looking for a loan. They all had the same story and the same outfit — and were even selected to be equally tall and good looking — but some were black, some were white and some were Latino.

As one of the researchers, Rutgers business professor Jerome Williams, puts it: “We found significant differences.”

The study found bank officers asked tougher questions of minority applicants. For instance, they wanted to see more years of financial records.

The mystery shoppers also used hidden cameras.  According to the study, everybody who saw the tapes agreed: bank officers were just nicer to white applicants.

With white applicants, Williams says, “There was a lot of bantering, interaction, jokes — being very, very friendly.”

With the black and Latino mystery shoppers, not so much.

It led to a simple conclusion. For black and Latino entrepreneurs looking for a bank loan, “The playing field is not level,” Williams says. “There’s already a mark against you in terms of your background in applying for a loan.”

In that context, banks like Illinois Service seem even more important.

CEO Norman Williams says he is looking for community-minded investors, and thinks he’ll make it. “But it’s certainly something that does keep me up at night,” he says. “I do think how much good we could do, how much work needs to be done on the South Side of Chicago.”

Right now, he needs about $7 million in new capital to keep Illinois Service doing that work.

Univision plans its IPO

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:47

We direct your attention now to Securities and Exchange Commission form S-1, officially titled a Registration Statement Under the Securities Act of 1933, filed today by Univision Holdings. The country's biggest Spanish-language broadcaster is going public. No word yet on how many shares it'll offer or what those shares might cost.

But experts say Univision is at the top of its game. It's often beating the big networks during prime time among the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic. It's got local television stations at the top of their markets.

"Their numbers are up, their advertising rates are up, they're just doing a great job with the Latino community," says Alex Nogales, CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

And the Latino community is a community that advertisers want. Moody's analyst Carl Salas says Univision viewers are in "the perfect demographic." It's a demographic that's growing, that's young. And, Salas says, "the consumer spending represented by Hispanics is only increasing over time."

By some estimates, the spending power of the Latino community in the United States is around $1.5 trillion.

Angeline Close Scheinbaum, at marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks the very public fight between Donald Trump and Univision could be an important part of the IPO story. 

The decision by Univision to sever ties with Trump after he insulted Mexican immigrants, Scheinbaum says, allowed Univision to show potential investors its values. "From a consumer psychology lens, I think this couldn't have been better."

It's the sort of brand awareness that would be tough to buy.

Jobs report in 4 charts: who's working, who's not

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:46

The economy added a couple hundred thousand jobs in June — 223,000 if you’re counting — and the employment rate dropped slightly, to 5.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even so, “disappointing” was the word of the day, in part because the labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age people who have a job or are looking for one, fell to its lowest level since the late 1970s.

Teens looking for a summer job may have a slightly better outlook than last year, but there are a lot of “missing workers” in prime-age range of 25 to 54, says Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. She says these are potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities, are neither employed nor seeking a job.

Gould believes the fact that over two-thirds of missing workers are prime age is a “sign that economy is not that strong, and they don’t see a place for themselves in it right now.”

Turning to baby boomers: even though it’s well documented that many older workers are staying on the job longer than before, Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution, says it’s not enough to make up for the large number of boomers who are retiring.

“At age 65, more and more people are participants, and more and more of them are employed," he says. "Well, that might be a surprise, but nonetheless, it’s a small offset.”

Moving from age to gender: men left the labor force in June in big numbers, the continuation of a multidecade trend.

But after steady increases in the participation rate of women toward the end of the last century, they’ve also fallen off in recent years, says John Silvia, the chief economist at Wells Fargo.

"It may be that oftentimes the female is the second bread winner,” he says. “And the cost of her going to work, taking care of the kids, the marginal tax rates just don’t provide the incentives for the second bread winner, whether male or female, to go out there and get the job.”

Bubble wrap abandoning its signature pop

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:45

Take a moment to mourn the simplest of childhood pleasures: popping bubble wrap.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there's a new version set to hit the market.

It's called — for some completely indecipherable reason — iBubble Wrap.

And sadly, it won't pop.

 

So Far, So Good For The Economy. But What About The Second Half?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:45

The Labor Department's June report showed decent job growth, with unemployment dipping to 5.3 percent. In fact, 2015's first half was fairly good. But economists see dangers lurking in the back half.

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In Data Breach, Reluctance To Point The Finger At China

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:43

Personal data of at least 18 million federal workers may have been accessed via the OPM computer system. Some officials quietly blame China; others want to avoid upsetting this major trade partner.

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5 Things You Should Know About Jim Webb

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:34

The former senator, the fifth Democrat to enter the presidential race, has a colorful background as a veteran, author, reporter and defender of the confederacy.

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Coping While Black: A Season Of Traumatic News Takes A Psychological Toll

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:30

Research on the psychological effects of racism, especially on people of color, is still in the early stages. But psychologists warn that events like the Charleston shooting can cause serious stress.

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In Secular French Schools, One Group Wants To Talk Religion

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:26

French public schools discourage any display of religious identity. But after an Islamist terror attack this year, a religious co-existence group has found a huge demand for its services.

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Checking DNA Against Elephants Hints At How Mammoths Got Woolly

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 12:13

A clump of a mammoth's fur bought on eBay led scientists to a long list of ways the extinct species was special. One specific gene likely played a role in helping mammoths thrive in icy weather.

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BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement over 2010 spill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:59

The final tab for BP — five years after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history — just got a whole lot more clear. The company settled with the federal government and five Gulf Coast states for $18.7 billion dollars on Thursday. That money will go towards environmental damage, legal penalties and state economic claims.

In all, BP’s total liability will exceed $40 billion dollars. So the question is, is the oil industry safer today?

"In a lot of ways, yes," says Marketplace’s Scott Tong. "The rules have changed. There are more audits of safety protocols than existed before. There is now a federal agency that exclusively does offshore oil safety, which did not exist before."

Click on the media player above to hear more.

ISIS Reportedly Destroys Ancient Statue In Captured City Of Palmyra

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:59

Photos released by the Islamist extremist group show a 2,000-year-old stone sculpture of a lion being smashed with sledgehammers.

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Coding boot camp? There may be a Pell Grant for that

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:49

Coding boot camp students may want to get in the financial aid line. The Department of Education is considering making Pell Grants available to them.

The experimental program, which is still in the planning stages, would enable accredited colleges to “contract out entire programs” to coding boot camps that teach programming skills, allowing their students to receive the need-based grants.

Ben Miller, a senior director at the Center for American Progress, says he thinks the Department of Education’s plans stems from frustration about the cost of higher education.

“This is a chance to test out whether new actors can do as well or better than established colleges for potentially less money,” he says. 

How funds will be doled out, along with other details, have yet to be announced.

Accredited universities and colleges must adhere to Title IV requirements for their students to receive federal funding, Miller says. If a student drops out early in a program, the money must be returned.

“The thing that complicates it a little bit is this experiment authority they have allows them to waive some of those [stipulations],” Miller says. “So we just don’t know ... they might not have to deal with it.”

The Pell Grants could help coding programs attract a broader audience, he says.

Miller also says that the funding experiment should proceed carefully.

 “It’s important to conduct this as a true experiment, to measure quality and make sure it makes sense, and expand cautiously,” Miller says. “[It’s] making sure that you ... don’t expand eligibility so far that you’re letting in a bunch of providers who just aren’t as good." 

Why do some movies open early?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:41

We're smack in the middle of summer movie season. Superheroes, dinosaurs and potty-mouthed teddy bears are duking it out at the box office, while rock monsters, secret agents and a vogue-ing Channing Tatum wait in the wings.

Heading into the holiday weekend, listener Erich Arabejo wrote in with this question:

"I've always wondered why movie studios release their movies on Fridays but start them on Thursdays or Wednesdays if it's a potential blockbuster hit."

Those types of debuts, at midnight or earlier, ahead of wide release, are usually geared toward the most dedicated fans.

"When I get into a movie, I want to find the way to see it as soon as I can," says Austin, Texas filmmaker Lex Lybrand. He and his wife regularly go to early screenings and midnight premieres. "If that's the soonest we can see it, that's what we're buying a ticket for."

In 2008, they didn't just buy tickets for the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight," they went to two shows in a row and then saw the Batman movie twice more over opening weekend.

Letting those types of super-fans see the movie first is key, film analyst Vincent Bruzzese says. They don't add much to the opening gross — they'd have likely gone opening weekend no matter what — but they help market the movie.

"The theory is if you get the diehard fans out first to see the movie on a Wednesday or Thursday, they're also the ones who are going to be most likely to spread positive word-of-mouth," Bruzzese says. 

Plus, the novelty of these special screenings — staying up all night or sitting through a huge marathon to be the first at a big blockbuster — generates a lot of coverage like this:

"If you're the film that gets in before the weekend, you begin to build buzz," says New York University professor Al Lieberman, a former film and television marketer. "It's out in the press immediately and on social media right away."

The "Harry Potter" movies hit a sweet spot, Lieberman says. They were popular with a broad audience, and many of those fans had the time over summer vacation to stay out late. The enthusiasm compounded over eight movies, and the series had some of the biggest midnight openings ever.

That's part of the reason the early release is a de-facto requirement for summer tentpoles. It's also why those debuts are happening earlier, sometimes starting at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday or earlier.  A super-early opening is usually reserved for the biggest of the big blockbusters, Bruzzese says, or an extremely competitive weekend.

The fervor around opening weekend dates back decades, Bruzzese says, to deals struck between film studios and movie theaters.

"[Studios] decided ... 'Since we get more of the box office receipts earlier in the run of the movie than later, we're going to try and front-load it,' " he says. "And that's sort of where opening weekend was born."

This arrangement is worth it for theaters if they know they can sell out the early shows, Bruzzese says, because that means by adding just a few more staff, they can move way more high-margin concessions than they normally would on a Thursday night. Opening early gives people more opportunities to get to the theater, and maybe even see a movies multiple times, like Lybrand and his wife did.

There are some risks of opening early. People are even more likely to spread the word about a movie they didn't like, Lieberman says, especially if they're a diehard fan who has stayed up until the wee hours to see it. Sometimes early word-of-mouth is exactly what studios don't want Bruzzese says, and they'll skip the early openings to avoid more bad buzz.

"When you're front-loaded so heavily with the super-fans and it doesn't knock it out of the park, I think you definitely do see a big falloff," Lybrand says. "You've got the guy who you know it going to love it in the office, and you ask him what he thought, and he says, 'Meh, it was OK.' "

What do you buy for an anniversary?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:17

We asked people on the streets of downtown Los Angeles about the last anniversaries they celebrated. What do you buy for an anniversary? Who's influencing that? And who is making money off our emotions?  We asked Cassie Mogilner, an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to find out about the business behind anniversaries. 

 

Don't Get Your Kids' Genes Sequenced Just To Keep Up

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:09

Just because you can get your children's genome sequenced doesn't mean it's going to do their health any good, a report finds. Most benefits from genetic medicine come from a tight focus.

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Do Organic Farmers Need Special Seeds And Money To Breed Them?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 11:03

Organic farmers say they need crop varieties that were bred specifically for conditions on their farms. Clif Bar & Company decided to back their cause with up to $10 million in grants.

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Former Senator Jim Webb Announces Run For Democratic Nomination

NPR News - Thu, 2015-07-02 10:48

Webb, 69, represented Virginia for a single term beginning in 2007. He says the country "needs a fresh approach to solving problems."

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