National / International News
Susan Nagel from the University of Missouri studies the health impacts of chemicals used in fracking. Last year, Nagel found remnants of fracking chemicals in Colorado streams near locations of previous fracking spills.
“This was an initial study, and we found this kind of strong association,” Nagel says. But she wanted to go farther and confirm her results with more testing.
Her grant application with the National Institutes of Health, however, sat in limbo for months, so she turned to crowdfunding. Nagel set up a project page on the site experiment.com.
“We spent a lot of time on the actual site, developing a video, developing the content to be short but explicit, to be understandable to a broad audience,” Nagel says.
Nagel raised $25,000 for a follow-up study. Research like hers is the latest destination for online donors looking to back projects they like. Brian Meece of the crowdfunder RocketHub says science that strikes an emotional chord does better on his site. “Research for animals, research for the environment ... things that are curious, things that are quirky, things that are fun” all do well, Meece says.
It helps if your page has captivating pictures of sharks or jaguars on it, or if the research is about a topic donors care about. With federal funding for science flat or falling behind inflation in recent years, more scientists are trying out crowdfunding.
The crowd has launched hundreds of small-scale science projects, but there are potential problems. When the federal government decides whether to fund a grant, panels of experts peer-review each application. The National Science Foundation’s Kevin Crowston says it’s not like that when the crowd is the judge.
“You really need an expert to be able to look at that and say 'well, this really is new and interesting' or 'in fact, this is like something that’s already been done,'” Crowston says.
Jai Ranganathan, a co-founder of the crowdfunding web site scifundchallenge.org, says his site vets projects to ensure the people behind them aren't, well, totally crazy. “Basically we’re trying to screen out cranks – that you’re not writing in crayon,” Ranganathan says.
Crowdfunding can fill in some gaps in federal funding, Ranganathan says. But in the end, it’s no match for the biggest crowd of all – taxpayers.
For millions of workers around the country, the new year will mean a bigger paycheck. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia are raising their minimum wages in 2015.
In Florida, the increase is modest at just 12 cents an hour. In South Dakota, workers will earn an additional $1.25 per hour. What will that mean for the economy?
“I really don’t think it’s going to make a difference,” says Kedra Jackson, who works part-time at a McDonald’s in Baltimore, where minimum-wage workers will see a 75 cent raise. “A lot of employers are going to cut hours.”
But economists like Elise Gould say far more workers will benefit than lose out. “Families at the bottom really need to spend their money,” she says. “When they spend their money, it increases demand for goods and services, and that really stimulates the economy.”
Hangovers have existed as long as overconsumption of alcohol (that is to say, as long as alcohol has existed). But even though a new magical concoction, technique or pill comes along every few years to offer a cure, the task may be futile.
Etsy is great for the small-time crafts-person to reach new audiences. But there one problem: If you're among the millions of artisans around the world with limited reading and writing ability, it won't help much.
Anou, a new website launched in Morocco, helps rural artisans cut out middlemen. And you don't have to read or write to use it.
Morocco is famous for its artisan crafts, like rugs, lamps, jewelry and mosaics.
A few years ago, Anou founder Dan Driscoll and some colleagues were working as Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco and noticed that many artisans were living in poverty. Some make only around $100 a month. The Anou site addresses the technological hurdle of posting to the web — but that's just the first step in a much bigger process of becoming actual business owners.
In 2000, the Central Intelligence Agency released a 70-page report predicting what the world would be like in 2015.
A few of the predictions:
- The world population will grow by more than 1 billion, to 7.2 billion.
That's right on the nose.
- Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the U.S. as a shaper of the global economic system.
Man, was that prescient as the Euro Zone faces slow growth, and another recession.
- Populations in many African countries will fall because of aids, famine and continuing economy and political turmoil.
They didn't get everything right. The continent's population has grown by about 300 million.
You can find a more complete list of the predictions on Business Insider's website.
Real-estate analysts predict 2015 will be better for the housing market than 2014. How much better?
A 10 percent increase in home sales would be a "realistic expectation," according to Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. "Frankly, if we just continued what we saw in the second half of 2014, we’d be up 10 percent." But, that's only if interest rates don’t shoot up too much, and unemployment continues to decline.
How about prices? What’ll happen to them in 2015?
“We are predicting that the price of the average existing single family home will come in around 2.8 percent year-on-year for 2015, ” says Stephanie Karol, a U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight. In other words, prices will increase around 2.8 percent this year, compared to more than 3 percent in 2014.
So, it’s all sweetness and light for the housing market in the coming year?
Not quite. A housing Grinch looms in the background. “Just put a green face on me,” says Anthony Sanders teaches real estate finance at George Mason University. He says a big shadow is looming over the 2015 housing market: wage growth. Wages have only increased by around 2 percent, but Sanders says we need 5 or 6 percent wage growth for people to have enough money to buy a house.
The jobs being created in this economic recovery don’t pay enough to support buying a home, he says. “Mostly service industry.... You know, wait staff. And those are not people that are traditional homeowners.”
Until wages pick up, Sanders says, we’ll have to rely on foreign investors who still see U.S. housing as a bargain.
McDonald's has hit hard times. Its earnings report in 2014 was the lowest in over a decade.
But the company announced a big change that may help spur sales: It's rolling out custom burgers across the country.
The move towards customization is part of a growing trend in the food industry. Sales for fast food, or quick-service restaurants as they're officially known, have been flat, but fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera have seen surging growth.
So McDonald's is trying a few new tricks. Last week, the company opened a test kitchen restaurant in Sydney, Australia, called The Corner with fancier fare than the usual burgers and fries. And more upscale options could soon follow stateside.
The interview was wide-ranging and nuanced. Obama touched on topics ranging from Iran to his view of race relations in the country to the new political reality of a Legislature controlled by the GOP.