National News

U.N. Report: All Sides Committing Atrocities In Syria

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

U.N. investigators are gathering the names of people they suspect of war crimes in Syria. In their latest report, they say all sides in the conflict are committing atrocities against civilians. We hear from Karen Abuzayd, who is with the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

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Obama Heads To The Hague For Nuclear Summit

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

President Obama goes to The Hague for a nuclear security summit Monday. Although the crisis in Ukraine is overshadowing the event, there is a packed agenda independent of the tensions with Russia. This is the third time world leaders have met to discuss how to keep nuclear materials out of terrorists' hands.

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When Robots Can Kill, It's Unclear Who Will Be To Blame

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

The Pentagon's Defense Department Research Agency — DARPA — is pushing to build a semi-autonomous search and rescue robot. But scientists see obvious dual uses, for war.

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Everyone’s first tweets are boring

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

The tech world is full of big birthdays it wants you to celebrate in 2014: The World Wide Web turned 25, Facebook turned 10, and to celebrate its 8th birthday, Twitter wants you to find your first tweet.

Unlike Facebook's Look Back videos, a 62-second "life story" pulled from your account pictures, likes, friend posts, and status updates set to the most optimistic elevator music you've ever heard, Twitter is inviting tweeters to find and collect their own content. All of it to encourage users to take a deep sigh and nostalgically ask, "remember when?"

But 25, 10, and 8-years-old? It's just not that old in the scheme of things, and a look back tool for a short period of time has limited value. Twitter’s first tweet tool turns up mostly painfully boring results across the board. Even top executives, business leaders, and entrepreneurs didn’t have their social media strategy together when they first joined.

A review of these first tweets shows most top executives joined to express their pride about the very act of using Twitter, and less about the self-promotional aspects the network is well-known for today: 

Jack Dorsey, co-founder, Twitter:

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, Facebook:

Steve Case, former chief executive officer and chairman, America Online:

Martha Stewart, businesswoman, entrepreneur, and television personality:

Although, it appears some caught on quickly....

Donald Trump, businessman, television personality:

Twitter has seen an extraordinary rise tied to its exponential user growth of 140 percent over the last three years. While that growth has slowed down recently, not many companies can boast having 241 million potential clients at the tender age of eight. 

Rat Poison Kills 2, Sickens Dozens At Chinese Kindergarten

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 21:44

Investigators did not yet know how the children ingested the poison at the school in Yunnan province. It also wasn't clear whether the poisoning was intentional or an accident.

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Taliban Militants Attack Kabul Hotel, Killing 9

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 21:20

The gunmen apparently entered the Serena hotel and made it through security with pistols in their socks. They were killed in a standoff.

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With New Inquiry, Harry Reid Raises Stakes In Senate-CIA Clash

NPR News - Thu, 2014-03-20 15:44

The majority leader informed the CIA director that the Senate's chief law enforcement officer would be conducting a "forensic examination" to get answers in the unprecedented dispute.

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Top students turning down Wall Street life

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-03-20 15:24

Wall Street is starting to lose a war it has long dominated: The battle for talent. Elite schools that once sent hordes of brainy undergrads to big banks aren’t sending quite so many these days. A growing number of America’s top students are joining tech companies to seek their fortunes, or choosing to improve others’ fortunes in the non-profit world.

There’s a snapshot of what’s happening nationally at Princeton University, one of Wall Street’s favorite hunting grounds. As one of the America’s most selective schools, the university has already done some of recruiters’ work for them by bringing the nation’s brightest to campus. Year after year, banks and consulting firms arrive on campus to make their pitch. Students don ties and pantsuits for interviews, and not just economics majors. The banks pull from across campus.

Any bank recruiter would love to snag senior Malik Jackson. Wall Street prizes Ivy League athletes and Jackson plays quarterback. That means there’s a front row seat reserved for him on the train that has long carried Princeton grads to banking.

But he’s not taking it.

He’s going back to his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida to teach middle school social studies via Teach For America.

“As a student body, we all have such distinct interests,” Jackson explains. “It would be a disservice if all those interests were only focused on one field.”

He’s one of a growing number of students resisting the lure of finance and choosing to work in the non-profit sector, a big change from years past.

“I saw just about everyone headed to banks and consulting firms,” says Wendy Kopp, who graduated from Princeton in 1989.

Seeing so many of her classmates students sucked into finance frustrated her. She felt their talents could be put to better use elsewhere. That led her to starting Teach For America, the non-profit which steers talented undergrads to teach in needy classrooms. The program has grown rapidly, drawing heavily from Princeton and other selective schools. Kopp is now CEO of Teach For All, a global network of educational non-profits.

Non-profits got a big assist from Wall Street during the financial crisis. Banks blew up, cut jobs, and students questioned working for the firms that wrecked the world’s economy. Occupy Wall Street grew popular on campuses. When JPMorgan’s recruiters came to Princeton in 2011, a group of Occupy protesters disrupted the meeting. It wouldn’t be the only such protest.

“When I was a freshman, a lot of my upperclassmen friends would tell me about how their friends were going into finance and consulting,” says junior Damaris Miller, one of the Occupy protesters disrupting that recruiting session. “I find that a lot of my friends are not.”

Among Princeton’s 2006 graduates, 45 percent with full-time jobs worked in finance, according the Princeton University Office of Career Services, which surveys where students land a few months after graduation. That number nosedived after the financial crash. By the time the class of 2013 had entered the world, only 24 percent of those with full-time jobs were in finance. (The University’s data include finance and insurance in one category.)

[Note: For the Classes of 2006-2010 there was a 3-month survey follow-up period following graduation. In 2011, the follow-up period was changed to 6-months after graduation.]

Figuring out what students want and how to get them there is the challenge for Pulin Sanghvi, who runs Princeton’s career services office. A veteran of both Morgan Stanley and McKinsey, he understands that today’s students aren’t as easily swayed by the giants of banking and consulting that have traditionally had dibs on elite graduates.

He says today’s students want jobs that have meaning to them. That can mean non-profits, but not necessarily. The day Sanghvi showed me around his offices, Kayak was there interviewing students. Tech companies and startups are scooping up many who might have gone to Wall Street. The percentage of grads finding work at tech companies is soaring as the numbers for finance sag.

“Many [students] are getting excited by the opportunity to disrupt industries, and create new enterprises, and build organizations that may create thousands of jobs,” Sanghvi says.

Part of the reason banks had such a tight grip on elite schools for so long was their hefty recruiting budgets. Many students who weren’t sure what to do just defaulted into finance. Now, they’re going elsewhere.

Plenty still go to Wall Street, of course. Those who are most certain about it gathered recently for an evening meeting of the Princeton Corporate Finance Club. Sophomore economics major Darwin Li is president. Though most undergrads do just one finance internship after junior year, he did his first straight out of high school. He’s now looking ahead to his third, and says he already has a summer offer from a hedge fund.

Li doesn’t come across as careerist or greedy, just genuinely passionate about finance. Someone who should be a banker.

“Growing up I’ve been very numbers oriented, competing in math competitions. I’ve had a very quantitative mindset. I played chess,” he says. “The thought process to accomplish those things is pretty much the same thought process used in a lot of financial fields.”

The campus doesn’t give the impression of disdain for students who go to work for banks. It’s more of a suspicion of those who seem to be doing it for the wrong reasons.

“I wouldn’t say that people are very antagonistic toward people who are pursuing careers in finance, but are more antagonistic to people who originally give the impression that they wanted to work for a non-profit and then switch over,” explains Prianka Misra, an associate editor of the student paper’s opinion section. “It seems like their intentions are entirely at odds with each other.”

Soon-to-be teacher Malik Jackson has no problem with friends going into finance, tech, non-profits or whatever, as long as they’re following a passion, not just a routine.

“You could be a company man and that is totally cool,” he says. “Or you could maybe start your own company. Or you could maybe just try to make the world better. There are so many ways to do it.”

Wall Street is freaked out about elite students passing it by. Banks are changing their recruiting pitch and work environments to compete. But it may be the students they can easily get are the ones who really want to do banking. That could be good for the banks. It certainly seems good for the students.

'We'll Eradicate Twitter,' Turkey's Prime Minister Vows

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

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in a bitter election battle and launched a verbal assault on social media after recordings surfaced that allegedly tie him to corruption.

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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.

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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

— 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

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