National News

Sea World celebrates 50 years amid animal care concerns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 15:14

As SeaWorld celebrates its 50th anniversary today, concerns from animal rights activists about the care of marine animals have not appeared to hurt the company’s bottom line.

2013 was a good year for shareholders of SeaWorld Entertainment, which manages three SeaWorld Parks in the U.S. The company offered its initial public stock last April, and reported total 2013 revenues of $1.4 billion.  That’s a three percent increase over the prior year. While revenue is expected to grow again in 2014, it’s largely because of rising admission prices -- total park attendance at SeaWorld parks fell last year.

Blackfish raised concerns about animal care

While shareholders are likely satisfied with the way SeaWorld parks are run from a financial perspective, activists are calling for people to boycott the parks and engage in forcing changes to how animals are cared for.  This is partially a response to the 2013 documentary Blackfish. The film caused a stir when it criticized SeaWorld San Diego's orca whale shows.

Scott Sherman is a San Diego city council member who sees SeaWorld and its orca whales as icons.

“Even Southwest Airlines has planes painted like Shamu if that tells you, heh, how much people look forward to coming to SeaWorld when they come to San Diego," Sherman says.

The park pays San Diego about $14 million a year in rent, and employs thousands of  local workers. So the city's still backing SeaWorld, despite Blackfish. “If you look at the numbers,” Sherman says, “SeaWorld's tourism is up over the last quarter here, and things look like they're doing pretty well.”

Christie Marchese reminds us the film only hit TV screens in October. Her company Picture Motion looks at the impact of documentary films:

“I think it's still a bit early to measure the full impact of this film,” she says of Blackfish. If we measure the success of the film's message by SeaWorld ticket sales, she says, “It's asking people to stop planning expensive trips. And so I think it's going to take some time before we see a slow decrease in people going to SeaWorld.” - Christie Marchese, Picture Motion

And tickets sales won't be SeaWorld's only concern: legislators in New York and California have recently proposed bans on the captivity of orca whales.

Economic impact of marine parks

So let's imagine an extreme scenario.  What would happen if SeaWorld closed all of its parks in the U.S., due to fallout of a potential orca whale ban nationwide?

It’s difficult to estimate the total economic impact, but we can guess based on some average numbers provided by the industry and SeaWorld.

SeaWorld is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), an international industry trade group of zoos and aquariums which manage care for about 800,000 animals. AZA claims members “generate more than $16 billion in annual economic activity and supporting more than 142,000 jobs.”

That works out to be about $20,000 of generated cash flow activity for every animal in marine parks, globally – activity which includes all sorts of transactions related to the care and management of the animals and their man-made shelters. It’s important to note that this average is very rough because it assumed similarity between the value of different animals in marine parks and zoos.

Since SeaWorld charges admission that is not based on animal type, we can only guess which animals bring in the most revenue for SeaWorld. The company manages 67,000 different creatures, including 7,000 marine and terrestrial animals, and 60,000 fish.

At $20,000 a head, the best guess is that SeaWorld generates about $1.3 billion of economic activity in the United States annually, which pretty closely matches SWE’s reported 2013 revenue of $1.4 billion.

The flagship SeaWorld, according to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, has employed 93,000 people in the county over an unknown period of years. Based on very rough assumptions, that’s about 300,000 jobs generated across the United States from the currently-existing three SeaWorlds (again, over an unknown period of years). 

Based on the average numbers, SeaWorld might find its best argument for defending itself from pressure in how many people it employs, rather than what it pays in taxes or other generated revenue. But those people might also agree with animal rights activists at the end of the day. The final impact of Blackfish is far from over. 

NCAA bracketeers cried today

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 15:05
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 17:43 Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after losing to the Dayton Flyers 60-59 in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 20, 2014 in Buffalo, New York.

Much was made (here and elsewhere) of the billion dollar bracket challenge from Warren Buffett and the founder of Quicken .

Thanks to the wonders of, you know, actually playing the game, it looks like the billion dollars is safe.

No spoilers here, but after the second round of games, ESPN said just 5.7 percent of its 11 million brackets are still any good.

Marketplace for Thursday, March 20, 2014by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title: NCAA bracketeers cried todayStory Type: BlogSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

With Wind At Its Back, GOP Expands 2014 Senate Map

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 15:01

Between President Obama's weakened approval ratings, the Affordable Care Act and widespread economic worries, Democrats find themselves on the defensive in the battle for the Senate.

» E-Mail This

NCAA bracketeers cried today

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 14:43

Much was made (here and elsewhere) of the billion dollar bracket challenge from Warren Buffett and the founder of Quicken .

Thanks to the wonders of, you know, actually playing the game, it looks like the billion dollars is safe.

No spoilers here, but after the second round of games, ESPN said just 5.7 percent of its 11 million brackets are still any good.

Gallup: Americans Put The Environment Over Economic Growth Again

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 14:32

The recession had caused Americans to favor the economy over the environment, but that trend reversed itself in Gallup's latest survey.

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Lawrence Walsh: His Judgment Came Not From Confidence But From Insecurity

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:42

NPR's Nina Totenberg reflects on a man she met more than four decades ago. She learned to respect Walsh's judgement, even when it seemed a little wacky.

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4 questions about the U.S. sanctions on Russia

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:39
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 15:48 Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama announced he will 'impose additional costs' on Russia, including further sanctions on individuals and a bank.

Today, there was a big vote in the Russian parliament. Legislators in the State Duma, the lower house, voted 443-1 to annex Crimea. At the White House this morning, President Obama said the U.S. plans "to impose additional costs on Russia." He announced another round of economic statements, indicating more sanctions could follow.

Q. Who do these sanctions affect?

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned a handful of individuals, most of whom President Vladimir Putin counts as friends and political allies. It also sanctioned the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya.

President Obama also left the door open to sanctioning "key sectors of the Russian economy" in the future.

Q. That's it? This seems like a pretty short list…

Well, it is. Simeon Kriesberg, an expert on sanctions at the law firm Mayer Brown, says that while the sanctions on individuals are largely symbolic, the sanction on Bank Rossiya "is quite significant."

As a result, Kriesberg says, banks around the world may worry that a person or an institution with whom they do business could be a target in the near future.

"It has a chilling effect on commercial relationships that extend well beyond the specific targets that are announced," Kriesberg says.

Q. Still, couldn't the U.S. do more?

Yes, but so far, the U.S. government and its allies have decided that sanctions are the weapon they wish to wield. 

Victor Comras, an attorney and consultant who deals with issues related to sanctions, terrorism, and money laundering, says that the Obama administration is "walking a tightrope," because Russia economy is so important to the world economy.

"It's going to be hard to find that sector of the Russian economy that is not going to have an impact on its trading partners in Western Europe, in Asia, and around the world," he says.

Q. How did Russia react to the president's announcement?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation said that, "there should be no doubts – we will respond adequately to every hostile attack."

Nine Americans are no longer able to travel to Russia: Speaker of the House John Boehner; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Sen. Dan Coates; Caroline Atkinson, deputy national security adviser for international economics; Daniel Pfeiffer, one of President Obama's senior advisors; and Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication.

Sen. Menendez's reaction to their reaction: "if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard earned democracy, and sovereignty means I'm sanctioned by Putin, so be it."

Senators McCain and Landrieu agree:

I'm proud to be sanctioned by Putin - I'll never cease my efforts & dedication to freedom & independence of #Ukraine, which includes #Crimea

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2014

I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen http://t.co/TgwZneD4HY

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2014

Being sanctioned by President Putin is a badge of honor. #SanctionedByPutin

— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) March 20, 2014

Marketplace for Thursday, March 20, 2014by David GuraStory Type: InterviewSyndication: PMPApp Respond: No

President Obama makes the rounds stumping for ACA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:37

This month the Commander-in-Chief became the Promoter-in-Charge.

With less than two weeks before the deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama is making the rounds.

Today’s appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show is just the latest stop on the president’s barnstorming tour.

Now here’s the deal with these quick presidential cameos: In exchange for a few minutes to talk up health insurance, President Obama has to deal with questions about shopping trips to the Gap and exchanges with comedian Zach Galifianakis.

Here’s just one question from that Q and A:

Galifianakis:  I have to know, what’s it like to be the last black President?

President Obama: Seriously. What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a President?

The president has taken some heat for using pop culture to promote his ACA campaign -- but here’s the thing: Federal health officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid – the people overseeing the ACA rollout - are expected to spend $52 million promoting the new health law over the first three months of the year.

All these Ellen and Zach Galifianakis interviews don’t cost the federal government a dime.

Thrill-Seeking Teen Sneaks To Top Of 1 World Trade Center

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:23

Justin Casquejo, 16, scaled scaffolding, took the elevator and then crept past a sleeping guard before climbing a ladder all the way to the top of the antenna.

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Lawrence Walsh, Who Investigated Iran-Contra Scandal, Dies At 102

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:18

When appointed by President Reagan, everyone thought Walsh, a well-known Republican commodity, would conduct a pro forma investigation. It was anything but.

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Businesses take advantage of lax regulations on drones

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:10
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 14:07 AFP/Getty Images

A small drone hovers in the sky on February 1, 2014 during a meet-up of the DC Area Drone User Group. Drone enthusiasts from the Washington area, who come together regularly to fly their small machines.

The Washington Nationals baseball team got into a bit of trouble with the Federal Aviation Administration a couple of weeks ago. They were using a drone to take aerial pictures of spring training -- the kind of shots that are pretty much impossible for a human to capture.

The FAA said that nobody can do anything commercial with drones until it says so. The FAA has since lost a round in court on that issue, but while it works on new regulations, there are loopholes -- and business opportunities.

Josh Ziering runs a San Francisco-based company called QuiQui, which delivers pharmaceuticals via drone 24 hours a day. Ziering said he knows he has a battle on his hands.

“I would describe myself as a trouble maker,” said Ziering. “So we’re going to cause as much trouble as possible until they’re ready to create regulation and make this industry happen.”  

We asked Ziering what he would do if the regulations mapped out by the FAA prohibit him from running his business.

“We would love for the FAA to have regulations that allowed for drones,” said Ziering. “And if it unfortunately excluded us from those regulations that would be tragic. But at the same time, the FAA is only for America. So there is literally an entire world of people that we can deliver things to.”

Marketplace for Thursday, March 20, 2014Interview by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title: Businesses take advantage of lax regulations on dronesStory Type: InterviewSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond: No

It's Faction Against Faction In A Grim Future Chicago

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 13:00

With Divergent, Hollywood turns to another hit young-adult trilogy for inspiration. Shailene Woodley stars as a 16-year-old searching for her place in a divided dystopian society.

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What's the deal with presidents and comedy shows?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:48
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 15:11

President Barack Obama on FunnyorDie.com

President Barack Obama appeared on yet another television show on Thursday, this time talking all things healthcare on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Some (including media pundit Bill O'Reilly) may have been confused when they saw the President of the United States appear on the internet show Between Two Ferns with Zack Galifianakis only days prior, but it’s not as if presidents haven’t appeared in strange places before (anything to get a message to the people).

Richard Nixon was on Laugh In... 

... and George W. Bush guest-starred on Deal or No Deal:

 

But Obama has truly gone out of his way to poke fun at himself, appearing on more late-night talk shows than any other modern Commander-In-Chief, which, according to some calulations, makes him more likable to the public. A short list of President Obama appearances on comedy-related television shows: 

- Ordered General Odierno to shave Stephen Colbert’s head 

- Wore a Barack Obama mask on SNL during the 2008 campaign

Slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon

Helped say goodbye to Jay Leno

- Counted down a Top Ten list for David Letterman

To be fair, every politician tries to encourage media coverage of themselves and Obama is no exception... though he might be the first to get Five Guys with Brian Williams. But as omnipresent as Barack Obama has been on late night, First Lady Michelle Obama has him beat for off-the-beaten-path TV appearances. She’s been on iCarly, Sesame Street, and Iron Chef.

Marketplace for Thursday, March 20, 2014by Marc SollingerStory Type: BlogSyndication: PMPApp Respond: No

4 questions about the U.S. sanctions on Russia

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:48

Today, there was a big vote in the Russian parliament. Legislators in the State Duma, the lower house, voted 443-1 to annex Crimea. At the White House this morning, President Obama said the U.S. plans "to impose additional costs on Russia." He announced another round of economic statements, indicating more sanctions could follow.

Q. Who do these sanctions affect?

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned a handful of individuals, most of whom President Vladimir Putin counts as friends and political allies. It also sanctioned the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya.

President Obama also left the door open to sanctioning "key sectors of the Russian economy" in the future.

Q. That's it? This seems like a pretty short list…

Well, it is. Simeon Kriesberg, an expert on sanctions at the law firm Mayer Brown, says that while the sanctions on individuals are largely symbolic, the sanction on Bank Rossiya "is quite significant."

As a result, Kriesberg says, banks around the world may worry that a person or an institution with whom they do business could be a target in the near future.

"It has a chilling effect on commercial relationships that extend well beyond the specific targets that are announced," Kriesberg says.

Q. Still, couldn't the U.S. do more?

Yes, but so far, the U.S. government and its allies have decided that sanctions are the weapon they wish to wield. 

Victor Comras, an attorney and consultant who deals with issues related to sanctions, terrorism, and money laundering, says that the Obama administration is "walking a tightrope," because Russia economy is so important to the world economy.

"It's going to be hard to find that sector of the Russian economy that is not going to have an impact on its trading partners in Western Europe, in Asia, and around the world," he says.

Q. How did Russia react to the president's announcement?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation said that, "there should be no doubts – we will respond adequately to every hostile attack."

Nine Americans are no longer able to travel to Russia: Speaker of the House John Boehner; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Sen. Dan Coates; Caroline Atkinson, deputy national security adviser for international economics; Daniel Pfeiffer, one of President Obama's senior advisors; and Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication.

Sen. Menendez's reaction to their reaction: "if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard earned democracy, and sovereignty means I'm sanctioned by Putin, so be it."

Senators McCain and Landrieu agree:

I'm proud to be sanctioned by Putin - I'll never cease my efforts & dedication to freedom & independence of #Ukraine, which includes #Crimea

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2014

I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen http://t.co/TgwZneD4HY

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2014

Being sanctioned by President Putin is a badge of honor. #SanctionedByPutin

— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) March 20, 2014

Happy International Gary Oldman Day

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:46
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 13:30 Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Here's what's coming up on Friday, March 21, 2014:  

  • Actor Gary Oldman, known for roles in Sid and Nancy, The Dark Knight and Dracula, turns 56, so we should send up the bat signal and call for champagne. 
  • Jeweler Tiffany is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings.
  • The infamous Alcatraz penitentiary closed its doors in 1963. At any time, “The Rock” housed less than one percent of the total federal prison population, and more than one million tourists visit every year.

 

Marketplace for Thursday, March 20, 2014by Michelle PhilippePodcast Title: Happy International Gary Oldman DayStory Type: BlogSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

President Obama makes the rounds stumping for ACA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:40
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 16:37 Warner Brothers Inc.

President Barack Obama on the Ellen DeGeneres show, joking about selfies and stumping for the ACA.

This month the Commander-in-Chief became the Promoter-in-Charge.

With less than two weeks before the deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama is making the rounds.

Today’s appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show is just the latest stop on the president’s barnstorming tour.

Now here’s the deal with these quick presidential cameos: In exchange for a few minutes to talk up health insurance, President Obama has to deal with questions about shopping trips to the Gap and exchanges with comedian Zach Galifianakis.

Here’s just one question from that Q and A:

Galifianakis:  I have to know, what’s it like to be the last black President?

President Obama: Seriously. What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a President?

The president has taken some heat for using pop culture to promote his ACA campaign -- but here’s the thing: Federal health officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid – the people overseeing the ACA rollout - are expected to spend $52 million promoting the new health law over the first three months of the year.

All these Ellen and Zach Galifianakis interviews don’t cost the federal government a dime.

Marketplace for Thursday, March 20, 2014What's the deal with presidents and comedy shows?by Dan GorensteinStory Type: News StorySyndication: PMPApp Respond: No

Rural Appalachia Helps Some Women Save For Retirement

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:26

An experimental program is trying to teach self-employed women the importance of long-term financial security. "You take care of yourself because nobody else is going to," one recruiter says.

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Never Mind Eyesight, Your Nose Knows Much More

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:18

The human nose may be able to distinguish more than a trillion different odors and fragrances, research hints. If true, our noses are much more discerning with smells than our eyes are with color.

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What's the deal with presidents and comedy shows?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:11

President Barack Obama appeared on yet another television show on Thursday, this time talking all things healthcare on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Some (including media pundit Bill O'Reilly) may have been confused when they saw the President of the United States appear on the internet show Between Two Ferns with Zack Galifianakis only days prior, but it’s not as if presidents haven’t appeared in strange places before (anything to get a message to the people).

Richard Nixon was on Laugh In... 

... and George W. Bush guest-starred on Deal or No Deal:

 

But Obama has truly gone out of his way to poke fun at himself, appearing on more late-night talk shows than any other modern Commander-In-Chief, which, according to some calulations, makes him more likable to the public. A short list of President Obama appearances on comedy-related television shows: 

- Ordered General Odierno to shave Stephen Colbert’s head 

- Wore a Barack Obama mask on SNL during the 2008 campaign

Slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon

Helped say goodbye to Jay Leno

- Counted down a Top Ten list for David Letterman

To be fair, every politician tries to encourage media coverage of themselves and Obama is no exception... though he might be the first to get Five Guys with Brian Williams. But as omnipresent as Barack Obama has been on late night, First Lady Michelle Obama has him beat for off-the-beaten-path TV appearances. She’s been on iCarly, Sesame Street, and Iron Chef.

Fred Phelps, Head Of Westboro Baptist Church, Dies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 12:00

Fred Phelps, anti-gay activist and patriarch of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died at age 84. Frank Morris of KCUR reports on the interesting past of one of the most reviled men in America.

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