National / International News

VIDEO: Final four designs for new NZ flag

BBC - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:56
The four finalists in New Zealand's public competition to design what could be the country's new national flag are revealed.

Huge Fish Farm Planned Near San Diego Aims To Fix Seafood Imbalance

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:50

The aquaculture project would be the same size as New York's Central Park and produce 11 million pounds of yellowtail and sea bass each year. But some people see it as an aquatic "factory farm."

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"Mob" Museum Unveils FIFA Corruption Exhibit

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:44

A new exhibit about FIFA's recent corruption is on display at the Las Vegas museum of contemporary organized crime.

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VIDEO: Obama buys cinnamon buns for reporters

BBC - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:28
US President Barack Obama has treated a crowd of people to cinnamon buns during a visit to a coffee shop in Alaska.

Lights, camera, helicopter, open house!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:13

It used to be when you wanted to sell a house, you put up a sign in the yard and hosted a couple open houses. Not anymore, at least for the especially high-end stuff.

When a couple from Argentina visited Southern California recently, they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to live in Malibu or Beverly Hills, so a company called Heli-Realtors took them on aerial tour of homes in both well-to-do areas.

Of course, you could drive to the properties, but who’s in a mood to shell out tens of millions when they’ve just been crawling along Los Angeles freeways?

“You cut out the traffic,” says Matthew Gaskill, who sells luxury real estate for Sotheby’s. “You don’t spend two hours in the car just commuting from home to home.”

He says time is of the essence, because many buyers of the priciest properties these days are foreign — usually from Asia or Europe. They’re looking for a good investment in a market they see as more stable than home — plus a vacation pad.

“They may come to town for a few days to shop for a house,” Gaskill says.

Or, he adds, buyers may not come to town at all, preferring to browse listings from the comfort of an internet connection. As a result, Gaskill says real estate agents have to devote time and money to digital marketing. 

“We don’t put out any of our homes on the market these days without a video,” he says.

When Gaskill and his partner, Alisa Peterson, were selling a celebrity home, they commissioned a video showing what the estate looks like at sunset.

“It’s a Hollywood production,” Peterson says. “It’s actors. It’s a full day shooting. It’s large production teams.”

Peterson says the idea is not only to sell a house, but a lifestyle.

When a $35 million Malibu mansion went on the market, the seller hired a Hollywood director to make an elaborately short. “The Spider and the Fly,” as it was titled, was delivered to a few perspective buyers on gift-wrapped iPads.

But Peterson says bigger budgets are not always better. Glitz and glamour can work for modern mansions.

“Other homes you want to have more of a home feel,” Peterson says. “You want soft lighting. You don’t want a model rolling up in a Ferrari.”

Funding these movies and helicopter tours can take a substantial bite out of an agent’s commission; Peterson could shell out thousands and get nothing if a prospective buyer decides that Los Angeles is not for him.

“It is the cost of doing business, and you have to have an attitude where [you think],  "If I don’t get them on this one, I can get it on the next one,” Peterson says. 

Peterson just has to remember the next sale could bring a million-dollar payday.

Tokyo 2020 Pulls Olympic Logo, Stung By Plagiarism Charges

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:08

Belgian designer Olivier Debie first complained about the logo soon after it was unveiled in July, saying it was too similar to one he created for a theater in 2011.

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Texas Strives To Lure Mental Health Providers To Rural Counties

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:07

About 3 million people in Texas don't have a mental health provider in their county. A new loan repayment program may not be enough to lure them to the state's rural areas.

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Why buy water when you can have it for free?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:00

Despite having some of the best and safest tap water in the entire world, most of us are buying bottled water in droves.  Our love for drinking water out of little plastic bottles is creating an environmental disaster, and we're spending money to buy water that we could be drinking for free. Roberto Ferdman wrote about how bottled water is becoming the drink of choice in American households for the Washington Post.

“If you go back to about the 1970s or so, bottled water was unheard of. What’s happened is…there’s been a marked campaign to get people to want to drink it,” says Ferdman.

This is through a villainization of tap water and the presentation of bottled water as a healthy alternative to soda. Bottled water brands also try to sell a lifestyle associated with them, and these campaigns are working. The average American drinks about 35 gallons of bottled water per year, which comes out to about 270 bottles. This number continues to increase, and by 2017 bottled water is projected to become the most popular packaged beverage in the United States, beating out soda, which has been in the lead for several decades.

While most water bottles are recyclable, only about one third of bottles get recycled. The rest end up in landfills. Producing these bottles also raises environmental concerns, as it takes about three or four liters of water to produce a bottle that will hold one liter of water.

A snapshot of Polaroid’s turnaround

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:00

Polaroid is back in the camera game with the Cube, a tiny action camera, as well as an instant snapshot printer. As a brand, it's name is on televisions and even a line of low-cost Android phones mainly sold in Mexico.

The company has also been raising its profile at big consumer electronics events, like IFA, happening this week in Berlin.

Since becoming CEO of Polaroid, Scott Hardy has helped put the company on a successful track.

“We feel like that Polaroid as a brand is going through a tremendous resurgence right now,” he says. It’s the company’s history that was enticing to Hardy.

“To me, it was all about being able to get involved in something that had an iconic brand. You know, Polaroid is a brand that has 100 percent awareness around the world. It’s one of the few trademarks in the world that is classified by the different international trademark offices as being a famous mark,” Hardy explains. Plus, there was the "retro cool factor."

To stage this comeback, Hardy says the company had to expand beyond what it had always done. He says, “I also saw an opportunity to make Polaroid more than just what it historically had been.

"The brand has such power and interest and relevance with the consumer that we really just had to change our business strategy.” He notes that changing the strategy helped “effectuate a pretty successful turnaround.”

When it comes to competitors, Polaroid is up against varied international companies. He explains, “we’re really a global company. So every market around the world has different competitors. We sell in 100 markets around the world right now, and depending on the region, depending on the territory, you know, you can have local competitors,” in addition to bigger ones.

But, like so many things in the tech world, “everybody looks at Apple.” Hardy says, “Steve Jobs idolized Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid … and what [he] loved about Edwin Land was that Polaroid was always about the intersection between art and technology. And so we’re always saying, ‘How can we take design and infuse that into our products better?’”

So the hard part then is to find this intersection in an overly saturated tech market. Hardy says that all of Polaroid’s new products “were designed to invoke emotion and be inviting for consumers to want to actually hold them and experience them.”

Plus, they’ve got one other unique thing going for them: “They have our brand DNA infused into them.”

Migrant crisis challenging EU identity

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:00

The European Union is threatening legal action against several of its member states. The branch of that economic bloc which deals with migration says at least 10 countries — they won’t say which ones — are being served a final warning. Why? The EU says these countries are not properly following procedures for dealing with asylum seekers.

More than 2,600 migrants and refugees have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. An unknown number of others have died as they make their way across land, often at the mercy of smugglers.

The hundreds of thousands of people who’ve survived — flooding into Europe fleeing wars and poverty — are straining the ties of the European Union, a grand economic experiment that was supposed to unify the continent. A big part of that was the open-border policy, which is now being challenged.

“It has prompted Europeans to do a lot of soul-searching,” says Kostas Kourtikakis,  a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign.

He says Europeans have been able to move around Europe to live and to work “with very few restrictions for the last 20 or 30 years. So I think this principal is so much deeply enshrined, if you like, in European Union consciousness.”

Kourtikakis worries the migrant and refugee crisis is making many countries want to limit that movement.

Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says Germany is warning it might reinstate border control if the EU doesn’t act as a whole to deal with the problem. He says there's a disconnect in Europe “because you have these supranational open borders inside the Euro area that allows people to physically move around freely, but then you have national rules for asylum.”

Heather Conley, the director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says people who land in Greece might prefer Germany, which has more generous asylum policies.

“Because the external borders have not been able to be secured," she says, "what’s happening is that the problem is being passed along — country by country.”

And those countries are struggling to find a unified response to the growing problem, she says.

When markets are turbulent, it's time for Rule 48

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:00

Many of the recent wild openings of the stock market came with a footnote: the New York Stock Exchange invoked Rule 48. Tuesday was one of those days. Normally an obscure rule in a rulebook full of them, Rule 48 is currently having a star turn because of recent volatile trading.

Rule 48 is long and complicated. But to keep it simple, think of Rule 48 as letting the NYSE floor staff get straight to opening the market.

It’s unique to NYSE, because real people manage the exchange’s opening. The folks in blue jackets you see on TV in front of computer screens are called designated market makers, or DMMs.

A look at how market makers work:

On a volatile morning, determining a stock’s opening price can take more time. Stocks don’t open at the same price where they closed the day before because stuff happens overnight that affects companies. If crazy stuff happens to a company, the DMM may have to give out additional information, which can delay the stock’s opening.

But if the whole market is volatile, that could mean a widespread NYSE opening delay. Rule 48 is designed to avoid delaying the opening and the market anxiety a delay could create. Even if it’s a rocky day on the floor, Wall Street still wants to know the numbers.

StubHub gets snubbed after publishing full prices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 13:00

So much for that approach: StubHub, the online ticket reseller, has bagged its all-inclusive pricing model. Seems ticket buyers don't really like the full truth, even if they ask for it.  

The plan, first instituted in January of 2014,  factored all fees into the stated price of a ticket. StubHub's research showed that buyers want transparency. 

 But the move cost StubHub, the industry leader, market share.  Some ticket brokers said their StubHub business dropped by as much as half.

The problem was that few of StubHub's competitors matched its new pricing model, so StubHubs tickets looking pricier by comparison, says Curtis Cheng, CEO of DTI Management. Cheng operates Dreamtix, a service that facilitates the sale of tickets to live events across multiple marketplaces.

"When consumers search on Google and they see that StubHub is $100 with the fees,  and everybody else is around $90 or $80," that can cause ticket purchasers to go elsewhere, says Cheng.

John Gourville, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, says consumers don't want to think too hard about prices. "A simple shortcut is just to do what you think of as an apples-to-apples comparison, and choose the least expensive one"  Gourville says. 

Companies know consumers think this way, and take advantage of it, by creating what look like apples-to-apples comparisons, when they are actually apples and oranges. Gourville points to an example of one brand of yogurt  charging slightly less than a competitor, but also offering a slightly smaller amount. 

E-commerce analyst Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester Research says those types of pricing practices have left consumers skeptical, and even when a company like StubHub tries to be transparent, it doesn't work. .

"There's a psychology of not trusting anyone anyway," Mulpuru says. "There's never that level of transparency anywhere really in American retail."

Helping low-income college students feel at home

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-09-01 12:56

Gabriel Ramos remembers the first time he felt out of place at Vassar College. He was in his dorm, talking to a fellow student about high school. When the student had been assigned a project about the Holocaust, his family flew to Europe to visit Holocaust museums.

“I was like, ‘okay, you are very different from me,” Gabe recalls thinking.

Gabe did not grow up in the kind of family that could just jet off to Europe to do field research. His mom worked as a bus driver. His dad moved from job to job. Neither parent went to college.

Gabriel Ramos, a junior, is now a peer mentor in the Transitions program. (Amy Scott/Marketplace)

There are a lot more students with backgrounds like Gabe's than there used to be at Vassar. Over the past eight years, the school's  financial aid budget has doubled. Sixty percent of students now receive aid. But that means 40  percent come from families that can afford to pay full price — more than $63,000 a year.

At the beginning, the divide was stark.

“What our students were telling us is that they felt that they didn't belong,” says Benjamin Lotto, Dean of Studies at Vassar. “They were great students. They graduated. They did good work. They got good grades, but they weren't happy here. They felt like the school was for someone else.”

Those students pushed the college to make changes, and the Transitions program was born.

Now in its sixth year, Transitions is a pre-orientation program for low-income, first-generation and veteran students. Students arrive on campus several days before the rest of the freshman class — almost two weeks before classes start.

At the welcome dinner for students and their families, they’re told over and over that they belong here.

“This is your Vassar,” Luis Inoa, head of residential life, tells them. “This institution is not a gift to you. You are a gift to us.”

Students learn about all the different support services on campus. There are workshops on financial aid, career development and tutoring, and lots of opportunities for students to bond with each other. They tour the city of Poughkeepsie and go bowling together.

The Transitions program includes a session on financial aid. (Amy Scott/Marketplace)

“I liken it to a little bit of Miracle-Gro,” says Inoa, who was the first in his Dominican family to go to a four-year college. “Transitions is just important to kind of give them a head start with some of those necessary relationships.”

Selective colleges have been under pressure to do a better job of serving high-achieving, low-income students. Where those students go to college, and whether they graduate, can make a big difference in their economic lives. Vassar’s efforts have won the college accolades. Last spring it received a $1 million award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for its success in attracting and graduating low-income students. Vassar’s president, Catharine Bond Hill, has spent much of her career studying college access and affordability as an economist.

Low-income students at the college are graduating at the same rate as students overall, “which is, I think, a very important measure of success, because the advantages of going on to higher education come from actually getting the degree,” Hill says

For this new crop of Transitions students, though, graduation is still a long way off, and things could get rocky along the way. In a session called “Counseling and Self-Care,” students are encouraged to take advantage of the college’s mental health services.

“The first thing we want you to remember (about) the counseling service is that we are free,” Wendy Freedman, director of the counseling service, tells them. “Free. Number one.”

Money is out in the open in these sessions. Part of helping low-income students fit it is recognizing that they can’t afford a lot of the extras other students take for granted. Junior Gabriel Ramos, the student who told the Holocaust museum story, says that can make for some awkward situations. When some of his friends went to Mexico for spring break last year, he stayed on campus.

When classmates go out for dinner, “I’m like ‘uh-uh, I’ve got to pay my phone bill,’” he says. “So yeah, those moments do happen.”

Then there are deeper insecurities. Incoming freshman Catherine Hernandez was a top student at her vocational high school in Las Vegas. Even so, “my biggest fear is not meeting up to the rest of the intellectual expectations,” she says. “Sometimes I’m afraid just that because I don’t have the natural aptitude to do things that I’m not going measure up.”

That’s a pretty common feeling among first-generation college students. It’s known as imposter syndrome. To build confidence, students get a dry run in the classroom. They spend a few days taking mini classes, taught by professors who were first-generation college students themselves.

Along with the reading assignments and homework, sociology professor Eréndira Rueda takes her students through an exercise called Common Ground. They stand in a circle and students step to the center if they share something in common.

“Common Ground if you grew up translating for your family,” she says.

Several students step forward. They talk about helping their parents file tax returns or explaining water bills. Freshman D’Angelo Mori was among them.

Vassar freshman D’Angelo Mori (Amy Scott/Marketplace)

He grew up in Gaffney, SC, one of just a handful of Hispanic kids in his mostly white high school. It wasn’t until he arrived at this elite campus in the Husdon Valley that he felt he finally fit in.

“I’m pretty excited,” he says afterward. “I'm very surprised to see that there are other people like me, because all my life I felt very alone in my situation.”

Premier League spending sets record

BBC - Tue, 2015-09-01 12:48
Premier League football clubs break the summer transfer window spending record, according to analysis from Deloitte.

California Prisons To Limit Number Of Inmates In Solitary Confinement

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 12:47

Under a new settlement, state authorities will only send inmates to isolation if they commit new and serious crimes in prison, like murders or violent assaults. The move could have wide effects.

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How Startups Are Using Tech To Mitigate Workplace Bias

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 12:29

The idea that everyone makes automatic, subconscious associations about people is not new. But now some companies are trying to reduce the impact of such biases in the workplace.

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What next for Manchester United?

BBC - Tue, 2015-09-01 12:23
What next for Manchester United after a whirlwind transfer deadline?

Favourite Agatha Christie book named

BBC - Tue, 2015-09-01 12:10
And Then There Were None is named the world's favourite Agatha Christie novel in a poll to mark the 125th anniversary of the author's birth.

Taylor Swift Is Dreaming Of A Very White Africa

NPR News - Tue, 2015-09-01 11:43

The video for her new song, "Wildest Dreams," conjures up a colonial-era Africa of magnificent landscapes, beautiful animals — and virtually no black Africans.

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Enigma of the trees that resist wildfires

BBC - Tue, 2015-09-01 11:40
Scientists reveal the secrets behind the trees that can resist wildfires.