National News

Will the Scottish referendum come down to 'Braveheart' or cool head ?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-17 13:25

Tomorrow, the people of Scotland vote on whether they want independence from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The economic case against going it alone seems compelling.

A string of major companies say they’ll pull their headquarters out of Scotland if it votes for separation, and big supermarket chains warn that they will have to push up their prices. Deutsche Bank claims the country could be plunged into another Great Depression.

And yet with each grim new warning of disaster, support for separation seems to grow. Is this a case of the heart ruling the head?

"I think it’s driven by a kind of collective madness," says Niall Ferguson, expat Scot and professor of history at Harvard.

"I live in the United States but still feel myself every inch a Scotsman. This will be a disaster. This is a bit like Colorado seeking its independence. This is just astonishing to behold," he says.

Other critics of Scottish independence say Scotland’s in the grip of "Braveheart"  fever, carried away on a wave of emotion by a fantasy of liberation.

But the calm, softly-spoken, supremely rational professor of economics - and supporter of independence – Mike Danson says, "that’s absolute nonsense."

“Nobody talks about 'Braveheart' in Scotland,” he says. “For very, very few people is that what independence is about. Some have said it will be the first case of a country trying to become independent on the back of economics, rather than on the back of heart, emotion and identity.”

More than 200 small and medium-sized Scottish businesses and a handful of large ones support independence. They say if the country separates, it will be much more prosperous and fair than it is today. Frances Barron, who owns a small cheesecake manufacturing firm in southwest Scotland, says she’ll definitely be voting yes… and using her head.

“I would say the majority of people voting yes will be voting with their head," says Frances as she stands in her factory, supervising the baking of another batch of toffee banana cookies. "People are getting their eyes opened, and their mouths hang open when they hear just how wealthy this country is, and how well positioned we are to move forward with independence."

Including its geographic share of North Sea oil, Scotland is per capita richer than the rest of the UK – and it raises more tax. With oil, whiskey and other products, it’s a champion exporter.

But the oil is declining, and most of its exports go to England. If it has to adopt a new currency – and the rest of the UK has made it clear it will not allow an independent Scotland to continue using the pound with the protection of the central bank – Scotland could find it has higher transaction costs selling to its biggest market.

Feelings are running high. The referendum campaign has grown increasingly emotional on both sides, with angry exchanges in the street. But David Bell – professor of economics at Stirling University thinks that when most people enter the polling booths tomorrow, the head will rule the heart.

"There are a lot of very passionate people involved in this, no question about this," says Bell. "But I’m not convinced that that’s what the average voter will be thinking about when they go into the booth. It’ll be cool , calm, economic calculation."

By Friday, we will learn whether Scotland will go it alone. It could be some time before we know for sure whether that means the heart or the head has prevailed.

House Passes Bill That Authorizes Arming Syrian Rebels

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 13:20

Even though it was backed by both party leaders, the vote split politicians within their own ranks. The final tally on the narrow military measure was 273 to 156.

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Can advertisers pressure the NFL?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-17 13:02

Football season had a rough start this year.

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on tape knocking out his fiance and Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse, putting a spotlight on how the NFL handles domestic violence. Many fans haven't liked what they've seen, and now they're joined by another group the league may have to listen to: its sponsors.

McDonald's, Visa, Campbell's Soup, CoverGirl: A growing list of NFL sponsors have come out with statements applying pressure to the league. Anheuser-Busch, which has a $1.2 billion, six-year contract with the NFL, used some of the harshest language, saying: "We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code."

"The NFL here is a multibillion-dollar business," says Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University. "If some of those billions start to get threatened, I think the NFL is going to stand up and take notice."

But so far, sponsors have stopped short of publicly threatening to tear up their contracts with the NFL. Radisson hotels ended its limited sponsorship with the Minnesota Vikings, but when it comes to individual teams and players, the stakes are lower. But the costs — like having the Radisson logo in the background at press conferences responding to child abuse allegations — are higher.

"There's a lot of sports properties but there's only one NFL," says Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative.

The sheer size and engagement of the NFL's audience may insulate it from criticism more than the NBA, which banned former Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life following racist remarks, but only after companies such as State Farm, CarMax and Virgin America withdrew their sponsorship from the Clippers.

"[The NFL is] a $10 billion-a-year industry. The next closest sports are $3 [billion], $4 billion behind. So it's astronomically larger, even though we don't think of it as such," says Shropshire.

He thinks major NFL advertisers are more likely to apply pressure behind the scenes than publicly break ties.

But there could still be looming financial implications for the sport. "I think if you were a sponsor right now contemplating an investment in NFL, you'd probably wait," says Kent Atherton of sports media firm Atherton Communications.

And if more damning details emerge, big money advertisers could do more than just talk.

Graphic by Gina Martinez/Marketplace

The Insights Of An Ebola Doctor Who Became A Patient

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 13:00

Dr. Kent Brantly, an American Ebola survivor, tells NPR what it was like to suffer from the deadly and "humiliating" disease.

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Diet Soda May Alter Our Gut Microbes And Raise The Risk Of Diabetes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 12:47

There's a new wrinkle to the old debate over diet soda: Artificial sweeteners may alter our microbiomes. And for some, this may raise blood sugar levels and set the stage for diabetes.

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Europe's Family Tree Gets A New Branch

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 12:47

Genetic evidence from ancient humans and modern people suggests that travelers from northern Eurasia moved south several thousand years ago. They stuck around to have kids with early European farmers.

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Fed Pledges To Keep Interest Rates Low For A While

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 12:08

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen took questions from reporters on Wednesday afternoon after the central bank's release of a new policy statement. The Fed said that its bond-buying stimulus program would end next month but it will still be a "considerable time" before short-term interest rates are increased.

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After A Long Wait, Syrian Rebels Hope The Weapons Will Now Flow

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 11:44

The "moderate" opposition has been losing ground on the battlefield and pleading for weapons from the U.S. for the past couple of years. They are hoping that their fortunes have finally changed.

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Dropping its NFL sponsorship pays off for Radisson

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-17 11:42

When was the last time you thought about Radisson Hotels? Probably about a day ago, when the company pulled its sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings.

What about before that? Hmm.

Turns out the hotel is already benefiting hugely from its decision, getting them more attention than they've had in a while.

According to research firm Amobee Brand Intelligence, Radisson got "enough social, Web and mobile impressions to account for 58 percent of its total online consumption (impressions plus mentions) for the last three months," Adweek reported.

That's a long time.

CORRECTION: The broadcast version of this story incorrectly identified “Amobee Brand Insights.” The company is called Amobee Brand Intelligence.

From Quebec To Kashmir, Separatists Watch Scotland Vote

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 11:19

Scotland's referendum on independence has implications beyond the borders of the United Kingdom. We take a look at several other regions with breakaway movements.

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Kids' Perception Of Parents' Favoritism Counts More Than Reality

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 11:13

Mom always liked you best. But is that enough of an excuse to start smoking dope? It depends on how teenagers perceive parental preference, a study finds. And also how warm the family is overall.

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3.7 Million Comments Later, Here's Where Net Neutrality Stands

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 11:12

A proposal about how to maintain unfettered access to Internet content drew a bigger public response than any single issue in the Federal Communication Commission's history. What's next?

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Iran's Foreign Minister: U.S. 'Not Serious' About Defeating Islamic State

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 09:47

In an interview with NPR, Mohammad Javad Zarif says the U.S. has been hesitant and contradictory in its approach to defeating the Islamist insurgency.

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Who's Giving What: Nonprofits Step Up Anti-Ebola Efforts

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 09:40

Nonprofits have an important role to play in fighting Ebola, Obama said yesterday. Indeed, they are now donating millions, dispatching doctors and sending over critical supplies.

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Obama Rules Out Another Ground War In Iraq

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 09:06

The president said U.S. airstrikes, combined with military expertise, would be more effective in defeating the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

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Colorado Tries Hard To Convince Teens That Pot Is Bad For You

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 09:01

Do you want to be a lab rat? That's what teenagers are doing when they smoke marijuana, the state of Colorado says. But since hard evidence of marijuana's harms is scanty, it may be a tough sell.

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Things have changed since Leonard Maltin started reviewing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-17 08:58

If there’s one guy who knows movies and television, it’s Leonard Maltin. Maltin says he has been reviewing films since the age of 15, and was hired to write the first volume of "Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide" when he was 17 -years-old.

"The book was aimed at people who watched old movies on local television," says Maltin. "And old movies filled the airwaves of local television, in those days."

From the 1950s through the late 1980s, the networks ABC, CBS and NBC dominated.  But, Maltin says, the biggest difference in television between now and then is that there is a lot more content today.

"Walt Disney was on one of the three big networks," says Maltin. "He used to command a weekly audience that was roughly equivalent to the Super Bowl audience in television today. If anybody was on the Ed Sullivan show, chances are something like a third or more of the country was watching. And that was a regular event, it was not special, it was a regular weekly event."

Films have changed over the years as well. Maltin says that although the film making industry has always been a business, the nature of it has changed. Movie studios weren’t always owned by large corporations, like Sony and Comcast. Some owned themselves, and others were owned by movie theaters.

"So now they’re dealing with reporting to people who don’t necessarily care about movies that much, know about movies that much and they are also reporting to shareholders. So there are a lot of people to satisfy," says Maltin.

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

Mistura Food Fest Gives Peruvian Cuisine A Chance To Shine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 08:20

Every September, top chefs from around the world gather to celebrate the diversity of Peruvian cuisine. But not everyone is convinced the food boom is the answer to the country's historic challenges.

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How Catholic Insurance Companies Outsource Contraceptive Coverage

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 08:02

For years Catholic health plans have been arranging for independent insurance firms to provide contraceptive coverage to their enrollees.

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For Scotland's 16-Year-Olds, The First Vote Will Be On Independence

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 07:55

Scotland has lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 for Thursday's referendum on independence. But it looks like the youngest voters won't be casting ballots in the way that many had initially expected.

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