National News

Why Apple is replacing AT&T in the Dow

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:56

After the market closes on March 18, 2015, Apple will replace AT&T as one of the 30 blue-chip stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It will not make waves in the financial markets, because relatively little money is actually invested in funds pegged to this index. But it's nonetheless a sign of a sea change in the American economy. 

The composition of the Dow is decided by a committee of five, led by committee chair David Blitzer. He says the decision to change the index started not with Apple or AT&T but with Visa. The company split its stock, reducing its share price, and because the Dow is simply an average of companies' share prices, this unbalanced the portfolio. To rebalance it, since Visa is classified as a tech company, Blitzer says they had to ad another tech company.

"Apple is everybody's obvious choice," Blitzer says. "Nobody even thought about arguing against Apple." 

Adding Apple required removing another company, and Blitzer says he and his partners picked AT&T because they needed to reduce the index's share of telecommunications companies, and the index also includes Verizon.

But Jim Angel, associate professor of finance at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, says it's also a sign of AT&T's declining significance, and the rise of the "iCompany."

Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, adds that Apple, unlike Google or Facebook, has a long track record of making and selling tangible products.

Another oil train derails, as new rules approach

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:56

For the third time in three weeks, a train carrying crude oil derailed. This time, 21 cars derailed in western Illinois. No injuries or water pollution have been reported, but the incidents are turning up the pressure on federal regulators to craft new rules that accommodate both the petroleum boom and public safety.

Federal rules are due in May. A chief area of debate is tank cars. Industry prefers a revamped version of an existing model, known as CPC-1232. But that type of rail car, specifically one without a safety "jacket," leaked the last two incidents.

"The unjacketed 1232's seem increasingly likely to be part of the phase-out based on the recent events," says analyst Kevin Book of Clear View Energy Partners.

Book expects stricter rules in general, ones that go farther than industry would like. Yet the regulatory conversation does not go far enough for Sean Dixon of the New York nonprofit Riverkeeper. He cites oil train speed limits. The currently acceptable limit is 40 miles per hour.

"We've seen seen accident after accident happen below 40 miles an hour," Dixon says. "Below 20 miles per hour in many cases."

Also not on the regulatory table, critics say: track standards, bridge safety, and oil train accident insurance. Right now, a giant accident would not be fully covered by insurance, so the public would hold the financial bag.


Quiz: No test, no excuse, no problem

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:52

According to the Education Commission of the States, two states have laws that explicitly allow students to opt out of upcoming standardized tests.

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Google Thinks We're Clueless About Cocktails, And It Wants To Help

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:49

The world has been Googling up a storm on how to make cocktails like the Moscow Mule, Mojito and Whiskey Sour, according to the tech giant. So it's created a new feature to bring you that info faster.

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Federal Rule To Extend Medical Leave To Same-Sex Spouses In All States

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:40

The Labor Department rule guarantees legally married same-sex spouses can take unpaid time off to care for one another or sick relative, even in states thatdon't recognize the marriage.

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Your Wallet: Where are the products that you buy made?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:31

Next week on Marketplace Weekend, we have our fourth installment in special series with the BBC - Six Routes to Riches: A look at the challenges and opportunities people face as they make a living around the world. Next week we will be in China, the world's second largest economy. 

That got us thinking, where are the products that you buy made? Is it important to you?

We want to hear your story. Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

For India's Widows, A Riot Of Color, An Act Of Liberation

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:14

In India, many widows largely vanish from mainstream society as dictated by tradition. But when it comes to Holi, the spring festival of colors, some widows come out to join the celebration.

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Germans Open Their Homes To Refugee Roommates

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:09

A flood of refugees in Germany has strained resources, particularly housing. A website has signed up hundreds of Germans willing to have the newcomers come and live with them.

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Volunteer Recap: Connecting Moms To Midwives In Timor-Leste

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 08:05

A global health student from Seattle went to the tiny country to study maternal health. But she also learned how to be more friendly to her neighbors.

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The Fascinating Story Of New Orleans' Two Lost Chinatowns

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 07:58

Let's rewind the clock 150 years to the end of the Civil War, when Southern planters had to find new laborers.

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Pot Can Trigger Psychotic Symptoms For Some, But Do The Effects Last?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 07:54

Scientists are sharply divided on whether the disordered thinking and paranoia sometimes caused by marijuana is just a temporary thing or the start of long-term disorders like schizophrenia.

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Beautiful Photos Of Everyday Life In 20th-Century Iran

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 07:28

The Smithsonian is giving Iranian-Americans a chance to look back on a world many had to leave years ago.

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Tajik Opposition Leader Shot Dead In Istanbul

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 07:07

Umarali Kuvatov, who was a harsh critic of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, was shot on a street in the city in Turkey, where he had been living in exile.

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The School Where Everyone Fills Out The FAFSA

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 06:06

At a Chicago high school, 100 percent completion isn't the goal. It's expected.

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Apple To Replace AT&T In Dow Jones Industrial Average

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 05:29

The tech giant will replace the telecoms giant after the close of trading March 18. The change, effective March 19, was prompted by stock splits announced by Apple and Visa.

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Nearly 300K New Jobs In February; Unemployment Dips To 5.5 Percent

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 04:36

The Labor Department's latest report comes on the heels of an especially robust survey for January that showed a gain of about 240,000 jobs.

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PODCAST: The jobs report for February

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 03:00

First up on today's show, we'll talk about the strong jobs report for February. Plus, we'll talk about the marriage of personal values and investment portfolios when it comes to both index funds and other types of investments.

The Micky-D ripple effect

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 02:00

Joining the ranks of Chik-filet and Chipotle, fast-food giant McDonald’s is promising us antibiotic free chicken by 2017 in its 14,000 U.S. locations. 

Right now, farmers use antibiotics to keep flocks healthy and grow faster. McDonald's said more health conscious consumers drove their decision to start using chickens that are not given the same antibiotics that are used to treat people. The CDC says ‘superbugs’ lead to 23,000 deaths a year and 2 million illnesses.   

The Pew Charitable Trust's Gail Hansen says, "When you consider in the United States we raise 9 billion chickens a year. Every time you give an antibiotic into a bird, you potentially can get antibiotic resistance." Hansen calls McDonald's shift in policy a game changer. As another source said, when Chik-filet and McDonald’s do something, it’s not some Berkeley, California thing … it's mainstream.

So how much more money will consumers have to fork over to pay for this trend? Raising antibiotic-free chickens is more expensive says University of Georgia Veterinarian Chuck Hofacre: "It’ll take more corn and soybean to be fed to the chickens to get the same amount of chicken meat." The National Chicken Council says that translates into 5 to 7 cents a pound. In other words, if the price of corn goes up, so will your Chicken McNugget.



A bigger iPad on the way?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 02:00

Apple is reportedly planning to start producing a bigger iPad with a 13-inch screen, and possibly with USB ports, by the second half of 2015.

The move would be aimed at business customers, says Eric Smith of Strategy Analytics, mirroring a strategy that a number of other companies are already employing — including Microsoft and Google's Android.

HP has a line of rugged Android and Windows tablets specialized for in-the-field applications, and anti-microbial surface models for health care use, says Smith. "Other vendors like Lenovo and Dell are also addressing this market." he says.

Microsoft has been selling its Surface Pro 3 tablet as a laptop alternative for both work and leisure use, and plans to release its new Windows operating system that can work on mobile and traditional PCs.

The question is "who can win over the CIOs in reliability, in security, in interoperability," says Smith.

The battle is important because growth in the multi-billion-dollar tablet market is slowing down on the consumer side, says JP Bouchard of the market research firm IDC, but adoption of tablets in business is still nascent and has the potential for more growth.

"People are not replacing tablets every two years or even every three years. So that market is a bit saturated on the consumer space," Bouchard says.