National News

Senate Blocks Patriot Act Extension

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 21:15

The Senate struggled to prevent an interruption in critical government surveillance programs early Saturday, rejecting both a House-passed bill and a short-term extension of the USA Patriot Act.

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Fast-Track Trade Authority, A Step Toward Asia Deal, Passes Full Senate

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 17:11

The bill still must clear the House. The measure would clear the way for President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is unpopular with labor groups and some Democrats.

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Expats Find Brazil's Reputation For Race-Blindness Is Undone By Reality

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 16:32

Brazil is touted as one of the most racially harmonious places in the world, but people of color who move there say they are surprised at the degree of discrimination they face, based on skin color.

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TLC Pulls '19 Kids And Counting' Amid Reports Of Star's Sexual Misconduct As Minor

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 15:33

Reports say Josh Duggar, 27, molested five underage girls in 2002 and 2003. Duggar has apologized, and his family says they have been open about "one of the most difficult times of our lives."

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In New Jersey, A Beef Over Pork Roll Sparks Rival Festivals

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:42

What is pork roll? As one fan puts it, "It's like Spam meets bacon." And this Saturday, Trenton, N.J., will host not one, but two competing festivals devoted to this Garden State meat delicacy.

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Pre-Race Day, Indy 500 Struggles With Flying Cars

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:39

Leading up to the premier race is a series of unpredictable airborne crashes — and no one can explain why. Officials have mandated a lower driving speed, while engineers work to find some solution.

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Man Convicted Of Killing D.C. Intern Chandra Levy To Get New Trial

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:30

Prosecutors have agreed not to oppose a new trial for Ingmar Guandique, who was found guilty in 2010 of killing Levy in 2001.

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Decision On Gay Scout Leaders To Come By October, Group's Head Says

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:01

Robert Gates, the former CIA director and former defense secretary, tells NPR that the Boy Scouts of America needs to talk to its sponsoring institutions about the potential change.

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Why the CPI doesn't figure in the Fed's calculations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.1 percent last month, according to figures out Friday. You could think of it as one more piece of evidence in the "no inflation" pile.

The CPI is used for a variety of things, particularly in adjusting rent and wages, as well as "in private contracts to escalate values of money ... by the government ... to adjust social security, and so forth," says Steve Reed, an economist at the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics who works on the CPI.

But the CPI isn't what the Federal Reserve looks to when it tries to figure out whether the economy as a whole is experiencing inflation. The Fed prefers the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, or PCE.

Jeremy Siegel, a finance professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says both of the measures' "headline" numbers are inaccurate, "and the reason for that is when the price of one good goes up, we substitute it with other goods." For instance, if beef gets expensive, you'll probably just buy some chicken, and your quality of life will not suffer much (if at all).

That's why the Fed looks not at the headline PCE, but the core PCE, which is the PCE with the volatile prices of food and energy stripped out. Ben Friedman, an economics professor at Harvard, says the Fed is just trying to influence the economy where it can.

"They're letting the economy respond to movements up or down in oil prices rather than having monetary policy do that," he says.

The PCE and its core number — will be released on June 1.

States take back some economic incentives

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

The state of Missouri recently suspended its incentives program for IBM after the company reported layoffs at a new center it had opened in Columbia. The state said IBM didn't make good on its promise to maintain at least 500 jobs there. Other states are also taking a hard look at economic incentives they granted to businesses to relocate or open new facilities.

The U.S. is facing an egg-tastrophe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

You may not know it, but we have an egg-tastrophe on our hands. Thanks to bird flu, an estimated 31 million chickens have been killed — that’s 10 percent of the country’s egg-producing poultry.

Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg department at Urner Barry, a commodity market news reporting service, says prices for wholesale eggs have almost doubled, and it's the wholesale market that's going to feel the pinch of higher prices first.

Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst for companies like McDonald's, which relies heavily on eggs, notes that the shortage may be difficult.

“About 25 percent of McDonald’s sales rest in breakfast," he says.

And it’s not clear where companies like McDonald's can turn for cheaper eggs. Certainly not from neighbors such as Canada and Mexico — those countries were already buying eggs from the U.S. While there is talk of getting egg-sports from the EU, Pesciotta says there’s a problem. In the U.S., producers wash and refrigerate eggs to protect against salmonella. But the EU vaccinates its chickens and says washing can damage shells, making eggs more vulnerable to bacteria.

Pesciotta says that unless the U.S. and the EU can agree on egg-zactly what makes eggs safe, we may have an egg-pocolypse.

“They produce to their set of rules. We produce to our set of rules," he said, "they’re different.”

Egg-tastrophe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

You may not know it, but we have an egg-tastrophe on our hands. Thanks to bird flu, an estimated 31 million chickens have been killed — that’s 10 percent of the country’s egg-producing poultry.

Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg department at Urner Barry, a commodity market news reporting service, says prices for wholesale eggs have almost doubled, and it's the wholesale market that's going to feel the pinch of higher prices first.

Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst for companies like McDonald's, which relies heavily on eggs, notes that the shortage may be difficult.

“About 25 percent of McDonald’s sales rest in breakfast," he says.

And it’s not clear where companies like McDonald's can turn for cheaper eggs. Certainly not from neighbors such as Canada and Mexico — those countries were already buying eggs from the U.S. While there is talk of getting egg-sports from the EU, Pesciotta says there’s a problem. In the U.S., producers wash and refrigerate eggs to protect against salmonella. But the EU vaccinates its chickens and says washing can damage shells, making eggs more vulnerable to bacteria.

Pesciotta says that unless the U.S. and the EU can agree on egg-zactly what makes eggs safe, we may have an egg-pocolypse.

“They produce to their set of rules. We produce to our set of rules," he said, "they’re different.”

 

Why do companies offer free stuff at the same cost?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

One of the questions we received from listeners as part of our "I’ve Always Wondered" series is about why companies give you extra for free.

Eileen Lee wrote us to ask: "Why is it that, every once in a while, my favorite brand of shampoo, food or drink gives me an extra 20 percent free?  Why would a company do this?”

Lee is a statistician and demographer who is finishing up and publishing her master’s thesis. She’s a very careful shopper, dissecting special offers and deals. And she’s very particular. For example, her chicken nuggets have to be dinosaur shaped. Why?

“I like biting the heads off,” she says.

Eileen and I are on a virtual shopping date. I’m at my favorite store in Wheaton, Maryland, just outside Washington. She’s at a store near Los Angeles, where she’s from. We head to the shampoo aisle. Eileen spots a get-more-free deal right away.

“Yeah, Organix – they have some oil of Morocco shampoo and it’s 50 percent more free,” she says.

So will she buy it?

“No, I’ve used their stuff before," she says. "I don’t like it. It makes my hair feel weird.”

Eileen’s got a brand of shampoo she likes, and sticks with. Ditto for toilet paper and detergent. We go down aisle after aisle, looking for a get-more-for-less deal she likes. We don’t find any. Hence her question.

“What made me ask the question was that I never fall for that," she says. "If I see an extra 20 percent, and if it’s not the same brand I’ve been using or the same particular series of brands, then I wouldn’t even think of  choosing it.”

So Eileen never goes for those deals. But, turns out, lots of other people do. That’s part of the answer to Eileen’s question.  

“It gives you an effective discount that’s very tangible and enables you to differentiate your product from the others on the shelf," says Ira Kalb, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern Calfornia. "And it sways people to your brand.”

You want consumers to try it and get hooked on it. Pepsi was among the first companies to experiment with get-more-for-free in the 1930s.

“But they hit upon this idea that they would have a package twice the size but they’d sell it for the same price as the Coke, which was a nickel," says Robert Schindler, a professor of marketing at Rutgers University. 

Pepsi promoted the deal with this radio jingle:

 

Back in the grocery store, Eileen says I’ve answered her question. But she’s still not interested in the get-more-for-less deals. Now, manufacturer’s coupons? That’s different.

“Because then I can actually calculate if it’s actually cheaper," she says. "Whereas with the 20 percent free, I have to calculate, OK, what was the normal price and am I getting more product?”     

But that's an I’ve Always Wondered question for another day.

Cannes Film Festival disappoints critics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

Grantland writer Wesley Morris is at the Cannes Film Festival and fills us in on what’s going on.

On the vibe at Cannes:

The vibe is, “What happened to the movies?” We saw "Mad Max" on the first day, and we’ve been trying to see "Mad Max" ever since. It is amazing. It is the best movie, and very little that we’ve seen since then has been as great, especially in the main competition.

On the artistic direction of the movies being shown:

The financing for these movies has really compromised some of the artistic choices that a filmmaker can make ... You have money coming from all over the world, and it dictates certain things. Like, if you’re a Greek director and you’re getting Irish money, then you have to take Colin Farrell with the money you get, which happened. It happened at a movie this year!

On making movies in different languages:

There are a number of other directors, maybe like six other directors, making movies for the first time or maybe the second time, not in their native language. And the results are kind of mediocre. You wonder if that has something to do with it.

On people getting turned away for not wearing the right thing:

It’s not the scandal that people are making it out to be. It’s not happening every night, but everybody’s got a story about how it happened to them or someone in their party …where you were denied entry because you were not appropriately dressed. It has caused a great deal of consternation and a greater deal of comedy. It is one of the pleasures of coming to this festival. You need some ridiculous thing to happen if you can’t get a great movie.

China dominates beer sales

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

Quick: what's best selling beer in the world?

I'm just going to go ahead and assume you didn't guess Snow.

Bloomberg ranked the top 10 selling beers in the world by market share, and apparently Snow is all the rage in China these days — up just shy of 600 percent in the past decade. Number two, Tsingtao, is also based in China.

Both can be tricky to find here in the states, so you'll have to settle for number three or four, Bud Light and Budweiser.

Weekly Wrap: Inflation, the Federal Reserve and minimum wage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news are Leigh Gallagher from Fortune and the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. The big topics this week: the Consumer Price Index and inflation, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech in Rhode Island and Los Angeles increasing its minimum wage to $15.

A fashionable workout

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

In a fashion world trend known as “athleisure,” clothes that can work at the gym...can also make a fashion statement.

“Leggings and tank tops and sneakers are sort of taking over the style masses,” says Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes. “But you don’t actually have to work out in them. For a lot of people this is just sort of their everyday casual look.”

Popular brands such as Lululemon started making yoga pants outside-of-yoga-class stylish, and high-fashion brands put sneakers and sweatshirts on the runway.

“Suddenly all these different parts of the fashion food chain are participating in the same trend,” Holmes says. “So that’s sort of why we see this ‘peak athleisure' moment.”

Now this moment has become a big business — Bergdorf sells some leggings for more than $400.

“Women are justifying this purchase by saying 'Hey, this is not just something I’m going to sweat in, but it’s something I’m going to brunch in.'” Holmes says.

And it isn't just luxury brands; athletic brands like Under Armour and Adidas are capitalizing on athleisure.

“Every apparel brand out there sees a piece of this pie,” Holmes says. “So if you’re a performance-based company like Nike you can infuse a little more fashion and suddenly attract a broader customer base. Or if you’re a fashion brand, you think ‘Hey, I can make something in spandex!’"

What Archbishop Romero's Beatification Means For El Salvador Today

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 12:29

Saturday's ceremony ends a long battle for recognition of the staunch defender of the poor assassinated in 1980. But some say the violence-wracked country is no better off now than it was then.

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Obama: Camden, N.J. Police A Model For Improving Community Relations

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 12:26

"Wherever you walk around, there goes a cop," says one resident, who is happy with the changes in the city. But some critics still see evidence of old-school police tactics that they say don't work.

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How elite students get elite jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 12:08

When we think about the debate over inequality in this country, a central piece of American mythology comes to mind: anyone who works hard, regardless of social status, can get ahead.

But it's not that simple, and people from exclusive or affluent backgrounds often land the most prestigious jobs.

Lauren A. Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has been looking at investment banks, consulting firms and law firms for the last decade for her upcoming book "Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs."

Rivera spent nine months as an ethnographer in one of these top firms, observing every aspect of the hiring process. She points out the firms may be missing out on top talent.

"If you want the best and the brightest regardless of social background, if you're not systematically looking at over half the best and brightest because they don't qualify in terms of social background, that is not necessarily an equitable or open process," she says.

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