National News

Quit your job! It proves the economy's getting better

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:49

At this stage in the recovery —f ive years after the U.S. officially emerged from recession, labor economists would like to see the “quits rate” rise. It’s a measure of the percentage of people voluntarily leaving their employment — rather than being laid off or having a contract end. Workers might leave a job if they’ve been recruited for another one, or even to look for another job without having one already lined up. Or, they might quit to go back to school, or retire, or take a break from work altogether.

“When the economy is strong, people are more likely to be able to quit the job they’re in,” says labor economist Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute, “to take another job that has better opportunities for wage growth and advancement, perhaps it better matches their skills and interests.”

Since plummeting at the start of the Great Recession, the quits rate has been gradually rising. But (at 1.8 percent in April 2014, the most recent month for Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting), the quits rate is still nearly 20 percent below its pre-recession level, says Shierholz, and nowhere near what would be expected in a robust economy with plenty of job opportunities.

And Dan Finnigan at Jobvite thinks that for a long time to come, most American workers are going to be hesitant to take the risk of quitting. “The last recession actually frightened the workforce,” says Finnigan. “And most companies now have a difficult time convincing prospective employees that they’re going to be able to stick with them for a long career.” 

Executive coach Jean Erickson Walker in Portland, Oregon, leads career-building sessions for middle-aged managers and she urges people to consider leaving a current job if it’s not satisfying, or not providing opportunities for advancement. She says many workers have felt stuck for years in bad jobs, too fearful of unemployment and financial hardship to move on. 

“There's a restlessness that people have identified in their lives,” says Erickson Walker. “It's —‘I want to do something new, I want relief.’ This not the time yet, but I think it will be in the months to come, when you should feel comfortable leaving to look for something else.”

Indeed, quitting a decent job in this economy — without something as good or better already lined up — might sounds crazy in this economy.

But it’s exactly what Jean MacDonald, 53, did last year. She left a very successful software firm, which she had helped grow over a decade, to found App Camp for Girls in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. And raised $100,000 through crowdfunding to get the nonprofit off the ground.

The impetus to start a free summer program to teach teenage girls how to code came at a developers conference she attended in her previous job.

“I looked around the room, and I didn’t see any other women,” says MacDonald. “At that moment it hit me: ‘This just does not make sense.’” 

App Camp for Girls lasts one week and enrolls up to a dozen girls per session. (See the girls pitching their Apps at the end of last summer's session in Portland here.)

Now in its second season, it's expanded to Seattle, and MacDonald is recruiting volunteers to launch the program to other cities around the country.

For MacDonald, it’s a 60-hour-per-week job, and unpaid — at least so far.

“I really had a burning desire to do this,” she says. “Maybe I’m a masochist but I thought: 'Wow, I get to try all these things that I don’t know how to do.'”

MacDonald says if she can’t make. App Camp for Girls a paying gig eventually, she’ll go back to high tech. She's confident about that, too — she says firms are always looking for experienced, talented workers.

Quit your job! It proves the economy's getting better

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:49

At this stage in the recovery —f ive years after the U.S. officially emerged from recession, labor economists would like to see the “quits rate” rise. It’s a measure of the percentage of people voluntarily leaving their employment — rather than being laid off or having a contract end. Workers might leave a job if they’ve been recruited for another one, or even to look for another job without having one already lined up. Or, they might quit to go back to school, or retire, or take a break from work altogether.

“When the economy is strong, people are more likely to be able to quit the job they’re in,” says labor economist Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute, “to take another job that has better opportunities for wage growth and advancement, perhaps it better matches their skills and interests.”

Since plummeting at the start of the Great Recession, the quits rate has been gradually rising. But (at 1.8 percent in April 2014, the most recent month for Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting), the quits rate is still nearly 20 percent below its pre-recession level, says Shierholz, and nowhere near what would be expected in a robust economy with plenty of job opportunities.

And Dan Finnigan at Jobvite thinks that for a long time to come, most American workers are going to be hesitant to take the risk of quitting. “The last recession actually frightened the workforce,” says Finnigan. “And most companies now have a difficult time convincing prospective employees that they’re going to be able to stick with them for a long career.” 

Executive coach Jean Erickson Walker in Portland, Oregon, leads career-building sessions for middle-aged managers and she urges people to consider leaving a current job if it’s not satisfying, or not providing opportunities for advancement. She says many workers have felt stuck for years in bad jobs, too fearful of unemployment and financial hardship to move on. 

“There's a restlessness that people have identified in their lives,” says Erickson Walker. “It's —‘I want to do something new, I want relief.’ This not the time yet, but I think it will be in the months to come, when you should feel comfortable leaving to look for something else.”

Indeed, quitting a decent job in this economy — without something as good or better already lined up — might sounds crazy in this economy.

But it’s exactly what Jean MacDonald, 53, did last year. She left a very successful software firm, which she had helped grow over a decade, to found App Camp for Girls in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. And raised $100,000 through crowdfunding to get the nonprofit off the ground.

The impetus to start a free summer program to teach teenage girls how to code came at a developers conference she attended in her previous job.

“I looked around the room, and I didn’t see any other women,” says MacDonald. “At that moment it hit me: ‘This just does not make sense.’” 

App Camp for Girls lasts one week and enrolls up to a dozen girls per session. (See the girls pitching their Apps at the end of last summer's session in Portland here.)

Now in its second season, it's expanded to Seattle, and MacDonald is recruiting volunteers to launch the program to other cities around the country.

For MacDonald, it’s a 60-hour-per-week job, and unpaid — at least so far.

“I really had a burning desire to do this,” she says. “Maybe I’m a masochist but I thought: 'Wow, I get to try all these things that I don’t know how to do.'”

MacDonald says if she can’t make. App Camp for Girls a paying gig eventually, she’ll go back to high tech. She's confident about that, too — she says firms are always looking for experienced, talented workers.

Dan Washburn's new book on golf course ban in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:30

China is in the middle of a golf boom. In the past few years, the country has had about 4oo new golf courses built... and most of them are deemed illegal by the Chinese government. 

In Dan Washburn's new book, "The Forbidden Game," he follows three people who are involved with the golf industry in China. The new trend is seen as a bizarre activity through the friends and family members of Zhou Xunshu, one of the main characters in the book. Xunshu is from a small and poor village in China and it was when he got a job as a security guard in one of the main providences when he was introduced to the game. The only problem was that he was the only one in his village who knew about golf according to Washburn.

“The rest of his family has no idea what golf is… doesn’t understand it, doesn’t really care. I mean, they all wanted him to be a police man. Nobody in the family has been a police man before... so when he comes back, even if he’s ranked in the top 20 in China in golf, to many he’s still the son that never became a police.” 

The game of golf is for the rich and elite of China. While not a lot of people play or can afford the sport, Washburn says the activity is growing in popularity. 

“You can still say that statistically zero percent of the population plays golf. But the thing about China – statistically zero percent of one point four billion could still be… you know, a decent number.” 

Yet in the midst of its popularity, the Chinese government has been cracking down on the rapid construction of golf courses across the nation. The majority of land used to build golf courses are meant for agricultural purposes. Yet even if China tried to remove these golf courses, there's too many developing to start. 

“China is where all of the new golf courses are getting built. Some say, ‘if you’re not working in China in this industry, you may not be working at all. “   

Dan Washburn's new book on golf course ban in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:30

China is in the middle of a golf boom. In the past few years, the country has had about 4oo new golf courses built... and most of them are deemed illegal by the Chinese government. 

In Dan Washburn's new book, "The Forbidden Game," he follows three people who are involved with the golf industry in China. The new trend is seen as a bizarre activity through the friends and family members of Zhou Xunshu, one of the main characters in the book. Xunshu is from a small and poor village in China and it was when he got a job as a security guard in one of the main providences when he was introduced to the game. The only problem was that he was the only one in his village who knew about golf according to Washburn.

“The rest of his family has no idea what golf is… doesn’t understand it, doesn’t really care. I mean, they all wanted him to be a police man. Nobody in the family has been a police man before... so when he comes back, even if he’s ranked in the top 20 in China in golf, to many he’s still the son that never became a police.” 

The game of golf is for the rich and elite of China. While not a lot of people play or can afford the sport, Washburn says the activity is growing in popularity. 

“You can still say that statistically zero percent of the population plays golf. But the thing about China – statistically zero percent of one point four billion could still be… you know, a decent number.” 

Yet in the midst of its popularity, the Chinese government has been cracking down on the rapid construction of golf courses across the nation. The majority of land used to build golf courses are meant for agricultural purposes. Yet even if China tried to remove these golf courses, there's too many developing to start. 

“China is where all of the new golf courses are getting built. Some say, ‘if you’re not working in China in this industry, you may not be working at all. “   

Lone Passenger Pigeon Escapes Pie Pan, Lands In Smithsonian

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:25

Passenger pigeons used to be the most abundant bird in North America. But hunters drove them to extinction, and by 1914, only one was left. A century later, that pigeon, named Martha, is on exhibit.

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Wave Of Guatemalan Migrant Children Presents Unique Challenges

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:23

Many indigenous Guatemalan children entering the U.S. alone speak little or no Spanish. This language barrier contributes to the complexity of the unfolding humanitarian crisis at the border.

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For Iraqi Christians, Return To Captured City Is A Fraught Mandate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

Archbishop Emil Nona, the head of the Chaldean church in Mosul, Iraq, was out of town when ISIS captured his city. Now, he is going back to Mosul, as are some 50 Christian families. He knows the dangers, but he says he must tend his flock.

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Insurgents Draw Westerners To Battle In Iraq And Syria

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

Thousands of foreign fighters are joining the fighting in Iraq and Syria. According to U.S. intelligence officials, the flow of foreign fighters includes a hefty contingent from the West. Why are so many Westerners are going, and will they bring the violence they learned abroad back home?

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Ukraine's Latest Turn Toward EU Has Moscow Glowering

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

Ukraine's president has signed a historic trade and economic pact with the European Union, a move his predecessor rejected. The conflict that the first rejection sparked still simmers, with violence continuing in the country's east despite a shaky cease-fire.

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Hot dog, it's a holiday week

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

From the Marketplace Datebook here's an extended look at events coming up the week of June 30:

What's happening in the housing market? On Monday the National Association of Realtors issues its monthly pending home sales index for May.

It's a holiday week for Congress leading up to Independence Day.

The National Organization for Women was established on June 30, 1966.

And remember Scarlett O'Hara's famous line? "After all...tomorrow is another day." We at Datebook headquarters love that sentiment. Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone with the Wind" was published on June 30, 1936 according to history.com. It won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reports on construction spending for May.

Wanna take a ride? Wednesday is World UFO Day. Maybe you'll get lucky.

On Thursday the Labor Department releases its June jobs report.

And crank the A/C. We enter the dog days of summer.

U.S. markets are closed on Friday for Independence Day.

Exercising your independence with trip? You have some solid company. According to AAA 41 million Americans are rocketing out of town for the holiday.

And finally, July is National Hot Dog Month. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Los Angeles beats all other cities for hot dog consumption. I am filled with pride.

Hot dog, it's a holiday week

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

From the Marketplace Datebook here's an extended look at events coming up the week of June 30:

What's happening in the housing market? On Monday the National Association of Realtors issues its monthly pending home sales index for May.

It's a holiday week for Congress leading up to Independence Day.

The National Organization for Women was established on June 30, 1966.

And remember Scarlett O'Hara's famous line? "After all...tomorrow is another day." We at Datebook headquarters love that sentiment. Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone with the Wind" was published on June 30, 1936 according to history.com. It won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reports on construction spending for May.

Wanna take a ride? Wednesday is World UFO Day. Maybe you'll get lucky.

On Thursday the Labor Department releases its June jobs report.

And crank the A/C. We enter the dog days of summer.

U.S. markets are closed on Friday for Independence Day.

Exercising your independence with trip? You have some solid company. According to AAA 41 million Americans are rocketing out of town for the holiday.

And finally, July is National Hot Dog Month. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Los Angeles beats all other cities for hot dog consumption. I am filled with pride.

Bathrobes And Baby Carriers: The Stuff Of Manliness?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

For All Things Considered's series on men in America, NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji asked some guys about the objects that make them feel manly. We want to hear from you, too.

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The Shifting Legacy Of The Man Who Shot Franz Ferdinand

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 11:52

Gavrilo Princip helped spark World War I when he assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne a hundred years ago. In death, he's been a more potent symbol than he ever was in life.

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Space tourism: Still for the future, New Mexico learns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 11:27

Money's everywhere. And then sometimes… suddenly… it's not.

Down in the Southern New Mexico desert four years ago, there was a kind of birthday.

Richard Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, christened Virgin Galactic and promised tourists a two and a half hour flight to space for $250,000 per trip.

The operation set up shop outside Las Cruces at a place called Spaceport America.

Josh Wheeler wrote about it for Buzzfeed. "It rises up in the middle of the desert, almost from ground level, on the south side, then opens up with this giant three story glass wall with this giant runway, coming out of it on the other side. It's really sort of a beautiful building to find out in the middle of the desert."

Fred Martino, Director of Content at the public radio station KRWG in Las Cruces,  lives near the facility.

"When people heard about this idea, they really were excited about it. And not just from an economic development standpoint," Martino says. "The idea that they would live in the place where space travel would be possible, that was really an exciting idea. So was what the Spaceport could bring with it, in a state where 30 percent of children live in poverty. New Mexico would front the money for the Spaceport. And Virgin would pay rent, and bring big spending space tourists, money and jobs. Plus, a chance to be a part of something kind of magical."

Except, it hasn't happened yet. There have been no Virgin Galactic space flights in 2012. Or 2013. There were construction delays. Haggles with regulators. Insurance problems. Political fights .

"There was some concern at one point about Virgin Galactic's future in New Mexico," Martino says. "And it had to do with the legislation that was being proposed at the state level to give liability protection for the folks who do the launches, build the equipment for the spaceport. And the Spaceport came with a big price tag. More than $200 million… money from the state, the local counties, and their taxpayers. For now, the action at the Spaceport is mostly from Elon Musk's company Space X. And NASA."

Josh Wheeler rode the one bus on the one road that drives to it. "The couple times I visited nothing was happening out there."

Virgin Galactic has said it will stay at Spaceport America. But state officials are no longer counting on those space tourists to make the money back. "They were no longer going to get the economic development that comes from the being cradle of a nascent industry, they had to rely on the promise of a tourist boom," Wheeler says.

For now, those are the people New Mexico is relying on to recoup its money: what they call "terrestrial space tourists," who will ride a bus out to the desert to see the Spaceport, and never get off the ground.

"It's very ironic, that on the one hand you have people that can afford a $250,000 ticket going up into sub-orbital space, and getting those amazing views. And on the other hand, you'll have people that can't afford those tickets, who are expected to just come and watch those people who do have that money, go and have this potentially life changing experience," Wheeler says.

What happens next here? What Virgin Galactic does next will dictate that. Richard Branson told Fusion that he's "90 percent certain" they will launch this year.

We reached out to both Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America, but as of now, we haven't heard back.

Space tourism: Still for the future, New Mexico learns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 11:27

Money's everywhere. And then sometimes… suddenly… it's not.

Down in the Southern New Mexico desert four years ago, there was a kind of birthday.

Richard Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, christened Virgin Galactic and promised tourists a two and a half hour flight to space for $250,000 per trip.

The operation set up shop outside Las Cruces at a place called Spaceport America.

Josh Wheeler wrote about it for Buzzfeed. "It rises up in the middle of the desert, almost from ground level, on the south side, then opens up with this giant three story glass wall with this giant runway, coming out of it on the other side. It's really sort of a beautiful building to find out in the middle of the desert."

Fred Martino, Director of Content at the public radio station KRWG in Las Cruces,  lives near the facility.

"When people heard about this idea, they really were excited about it. And not just from an economic development standpoint," Martino says. "The idea that they would live in the place where space travel would be possible, that was really an exciting idea. So was what the Spaceport could bring with it, in a state where 30 percent of children live in poverty. New Mexico would front the money for the Spaceport. And Virgin would pay rent, and bring big spending space tourists, money and jobs. Plus, a chance to be a part of something kind of magical."

Except, it hasn't happened yet. There have been no Virgin Galactic space flights in 2012. Or 2013. There were construction delays. Haggles with regulators. Insurance problems. Political fights .

"There was some concern at one point about Virgin Galactic's future in New Mexico," Martino says. "And it had to do with the legislation that was being proposed at the state level to give liability protection for the folks who do the launches, build the equipment for the spaceport. And the Spaceport came with a big price tag. More than $200 million… money from the state, the local counties, and their taxpayers. For now, the action at the Spaceport is mostly from Elon Musk's company Space X. And NASA."

Josh Wheeler rode the one bus on the one road that drives to it. "The couple times I visited nothing was happening out there."

Virgin Galactic has said it will stay at Spaceport America. But state officials are no longer counting on those space tourists to make the money back. "They were no longer going to get the economic development that comes from the being cradle of a nascent industry, they had to rely on the promise of a tourist boom," Wheeler says.

For now, those are the people New Mexico is relying on to recoup its money: what they call "terrestrial space tourists," who will ride a bus out to the desert to see the Spaceport, and never get off the ground.

"It's very ironic, that on the one hand you have people that can afford a $250,000 ticket going up into sub-orbital space, and getting those amazing views. And on the other hand, you'll have people that can't afford those tickets, who are expected to just come and watch those people who do have that money, go and have this potentially life changing experience," Wheeler says.

What happens next here? What Virgin Galactic does next will dictate that. Richard Branson told Fusion that he's "90 percent certain" they will launch this year.

We reached out to both Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America, but as of now, we haven't heard back.

Tech IRL: A second life for pay phones

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 11:21

Ever walk down the street and see a phone booth? Do you even notice it anymore?

There are some city planners and internet companies out there that do.

Cities in the United States and around the world are working on turning those neglected telephones into wi-fi hotspots. Among them: New York City.

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson joins Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary to explore tech in real life.

Tech IRL: A second life for pay phones

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 11:21

Ever walk down the street and see a phone booth? Do you even notice it anymore?

There are some city planners and internet companies out there that do.

Cities in the United States and around the world are working on turning those neglected telephones into wi-fi hotspots. Among them: New York City.

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson joins Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary to explore tech in real life.

Federal Panel Backs FluMist For Kids, But The Shot Isn't Dead Yet

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-27 11:07

The live vaccine nose spray protects children better, a federal panel says, but pediatricians aren't sold. They say it's too risky for the many children with asthma or compromised immunity.

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What can art tell us about the economy?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 10:53

It's a busy time of year for art collectors. Art Basel, one of the world’s biggest art shows in Switzerland, wrapped up a week ago. Now, London is in the middle of a few big art sales.

Auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's are selling impressionist and modern art one week, post-war and contemporary art the next. But no matter what era the art is from, people from all over the world are paying a whole lot of money for these pieces.

"By looking at what types of artists are selling well in any particular part of the world, you actually glean a lot of helpful information about how successful those parts of the world feel," says Kelly Crow, reporter for The Wall Street Journal. "When they feel successful they buy art. It’s a tried and true thing we’ve seen, especially in the last ten years."

Many of these London art bidders are participating by phone. And a lot of those calls are coming from Asia.

"When China wants to spend some serious money, they have it," says Crow. "And they certainly are interested in art more than they were a few years ago."

What can art tell us about the economy?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-27 10:53

It's a busy time of year for art collectors. Art Basel, one of the world’s biggest art shows in Switzerland, wrapped up a week ago. Now, London is in the middle of a few big art sales.

Auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's are selling impressionist and modern art one week, post-war and contemporary art the next. But no matter what era the art is from, people from all over the world are paying a whole lot of money for these pieces.

"By looking at what types of artists are selling well in any particular part of the world, you actually glean a lot of helpful information about how successful those parts of the world feel," says Kelly Crow, reporter for The Wall Street Journal. "When they feel successful they buy art. It’s a tried and true thing we’ve seen, especially in the last ten years."

Many of these London art bidders are participating by phone. And a lot of those calls are coming from Asia.

"When China wants to spend some serious money, they have it," says Crow. "And they certainly are interested in art more than they were a few years ago."

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