National / International News

One More Reason To Reach For A Paper Book Before Bed

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 12:26

Using an E-Reader before trying to nod off may disrupt sleep more than reading a paper book, a study suggests. Scientists suspect the screen's blue light is messing with a sleep-inducing hormone.

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Doubts Persist On U.S. Claims On North Korean Role In Sony Hack

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 12:26

Some cybersecurity researchers continue to voice skepticism about the FBI's claim that North Korea was behind the attack on Sony Pictures. That's not unusual in a crime that often uses misdirection.

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Businesses Buzz With Anticipation In Wake Of U.S.-Cuba Thaw

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 12:26

The U.S. economic embargo on Cuba is still solidly in place. But the president's executive action opening relations with the island has set off a frenzy of speculation about a new era of U.S.-Cuba commerce.

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Already Bleak Conditions Under ISIS Deteriorating Rapidly

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 12:26

Liz Sly of The Washington Post speaks with Audie Cornish about how the so-called Islamic State's attempt to govern and administer services like a state is breaking down, with food and power shortages.

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Doubts Grow Over U.S. Claims On North Korean Role In Sony Hack

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 12:26

Some cybersecurity researchers have begun to voice skepticism about the U.S. government's claim that North Korea was behind the recent attack on Sony Pictures.

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Pakistan orders arrest of cleric

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-26 12:25
A judge in Pakistan issues an arrest warrant for a radical imam who refused to condemn the Peshawar school massacre.

King's Cross trains cancelled for day

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-26 11:49
All trains to and from London King's Cross have been cancelled on Saturday because of overrunning engineering work, Network Rail says.

Christmas baby born on US train

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-26 11:39
A baby has been born on a Philadelphia subway train after his mother suddenly went into labour on Christmas Day.

Addicted to TV Obsessions: Erin Mallory Long

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 11:37

This is the time of year that holiday-themed movies... even ones you seen dozens of times before, can feel like they're on an endless loop on TV.

For author Erin Mallory Long, The Muppet Christmas Carol is one story among many that she watched, indulged in, and maybe was obsessed with, time and again.

Erin is a regular contributor to Hello Giggles and has had work appear on CrackedxoJanetheKnowThe Toast,Thought Catalog and her own blog.

VIDEO: McIlroy laughs off Sweet Caroline tune

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-26 11:23
World number one golfer Rory McIlroy sees the funny side as Sweet Caroline is played as he is interviewed at an Ulster rugby game.

Mourinho hails evergreen Terry

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-26 11:21
Jose Mourinho says John Terry is the same player who led Chelsea to the title a decade ago after their Boxing Day win over West Ham.

US city sues Petrobras for corruption

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:54
A US city government is suing the Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras over investor losses due to a corruption scandal.

Your Wallet: New Year, New Job

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:34

At the beginning of the new year we tend to reflect on our career. Are you planning to jump start your job search?

We want to hear your story. How do you plan to stand out to potential employers in 2015?

Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

 

Wake Held For Slain NYPD Officer

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:21

The ceremony for officer Rafael Ramos comes nearly a week after he and partner Wenjian Liu were shot and killed in their patrol car by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley.

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The science and art of stocking holiday shelves

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:07

Just a few days before Christmas, the once fresh-looking holiday aisles at a Target store in Portland, Oregon, were already picked over, complete with clearance signs.

So how did Target decide on these exact toys and holiday decorations? Not to mention how many of them the store should carry?

“It is to a large extent a science combined with an art," says Akshay Rao, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota. Every year, retailers face this classic problem where they try to determine how much to order without fully knowing the demand, he says.

“You look at historical data, you look at trends, you look at stated preference in the marketplace through some sort of market research, and you come up with an estimate of what’s going to be hot,” he says.

For many retailers, Rao says, that’s just the first step.

“The other side of that equation is attempting to influence that demand," he says.

Retailers use tools like social media to steer customers toward certain products. They also use discounts or emphasize features, like a phone with a fancy new camera, to entice customers to buy, he says.

At the end of the day there’s still plenty of guesswork involved.

“And people who guess right are considered geniuses and are often lucky, and people who guess wrong are left holding a fair amount of inventory that then goes on sale the day after Christmas," Rao says.

But stores have a new challenge, says David Raffo, a business professor at Portland State University. Consumers are waiting longer to make decisions about what to purchase. And that’s making it harder to predict holiday sales.

“The way it use to be is that people would get signals, like Black Friday, what’s hot, what’s not, and then they’d try and get it on their shelves, more of it or whatever, as fast as possible," he says. "What are the sizes? What are the colors? What are the toys that people are wanting?”

But it’s better for retailers to have too much inventory than not enough, Raffo says.

“The cost of not having the product is lost sales," he says. "It’s not just the sale of that product, but if a retailer doesn’t have what you want, you may go to another store and do all your other shopping at that other store.”

And besides, without that extra stuff, how else would retailers be able to offer those great after-Christmas deals?

The science and art of stocking holiday shelves

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:07

Just a few days before Christmas, the once fresh-looking holiday aisles at a Target store in Portland, Oregon, were already picked over, complete with clearance signs.

So how did Target decide on these exact toys and holiday decorations? Not to mention how many of them the store should carry?

“It is to a large extent a science combined with an art," says Akshay Rao, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota. Every year, retailers face this classic problem where they try to determine how much to order without fully knowing the demand, he says.

“You look at historical data, you look at trends, you look at stated preference in the marketplace through some sort of market research, and you come up with an estimate of what’s going to be hot,” he says.

For many retailers, Rao says, that’s just the first step.

“The other side of that equation is attempting to influence that demand," he says.

Retailers use tools like social media to steer customers toward certain products. They also use discounts or emphasize features, like a phone with a fancy new camera, to entice customers to buy, he says.

At the end of the day there’s still plenty of guesswork involved.

“And people who guess right are considered geniuses and are often lucky, and people who guess wrong are left holding a fair amount of inventory that then goes on sale the day after Christmas," Rao says.

But stores have a new challenge, says David Raffo, a business professor at Portland State University. Consumers are waiting longer to make decisions about what to purchase. And that’s making it harder to predict holiday sales.

“The way it use to be is that people would get signals, like Black Friday, what’s hot, what’s not, and then they’d try and get it on their shelves, more of it or whatever, as fast as possible," he says. "What are the sizes? What are the colors? What are the toys that people are wanting?”

But it’s better for retailers to have too much inventory than not enough, Raffo says.

“The cost of not having the product is lost sales," he says. "It’s not just the sale of that product, but if a retailer doesn’t have what you want, you may go to another store and do all your other shopping at that other store.”

And besides, without that extra stuff, how else would retailers be able to offer those great after-Christmas deals?

With 'Into the Woods,' Disney goes dark

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:01

Among the many holiday movies currently in theaters is an adaptation of the Broadway musical "Into the Woods." It’s about infidelity, sexual awakening, death and untidy endings — and now it’s a Disney movie.

Fans of the original Stephen Sondheim fairy tale mash-up worried that the Disney treatment would water down many of the dark themes that made it a departure from the typical blockbuster fairy tale. But the success of films like "The Hunger Games" has pushed studios to develop movies with more adult themes.

And so far, the move has paid off for Disney. According to early estimates, the film has brought in over $13 million since being released on Christmas Day.

New market for hack-attack insurance takes root

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 10:00

For the second day, the digital Grinch has stolen Christmas for gamers around the globe. Networks went dark for Microsoft's Xbox and Sony Playstation users, with a group of hackers calling themselves Lizard Squad taking responsibility.

It’s unclear if Sony or Microsoft had hacker insurance; we tried to reach them. But we do know breaches of web-based game systems come at great economic damage. And as it turns out, there is a growing world of insurance to provide protection against cyber attacks.

“The policies will typically cover the cost of notifying the affected persons, the customers, that there was a breach,” says Richard Betterley of Betterley Risk Consultants. "The cost of providing credit monitoring, legal counsel related to the breach and sometimes crisis management ... public relations campaigns, in other words.”

Like traditional insurance, if something goes wrong, the policyholder files a claim and hopes for a check.

Plenty of costs aren’t covered, like stolen ideas, stock losses and customer credit card losses. But with Xbox and Playstation joining a hacked wall of shame alongside Home Depot, JP Morgan and Target, more firms are buying peace of mind — and insurance firms are racing to provide it.

“Lots of organizations were just dabbling in this area of insurance a couple years ago,” says Larry Poneman of Poneman Institute R. “But with all of these data breaches, more and more insurance companies see huge amounts of profits to be made.”

Insurers face their own danger, though. They can’t predict hacking losses the way they can losses from tornadoes or fires.

“They are very much aware of their lack of actuarial data that underline how these policies are underwritten,” says Ted Julian of data protection firm CO3 Systems. “They could lose quite a bit of money quickly, if they’re not careful.”

Rebounding economy could mean more pay raises

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 09:59

For years, Americans expected an annual raise of anywhere from 2.5 to 3 percent. The recession brought that number down to 0.2 percent by June 2009, and inflation wiped out most wage gains that have occurred since. But recently, people have become more optimistic.

In December, Americans said they expect a raise of about 1.7 percent – a smidge above inflation, which seems to be running at around 1.3 percent.  

Will we actually get that raise? Hard to say.  

In December, average hourly wages jumped a fraction, around 0.4%. A promising figure, but one month of data does not make a trend. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have all raised the minimum wage, which will boost incomes at the bottom end of the spectrum.  

For the rest of wage earners, it's a question of how much slack there is in the labor market and the economy. If the unemployment rate continues to fall, workers may have the confidence to push for pay increases without having to worry about the line of people outside willing to work for less.

 

What health care in 2015 will look like

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 09:49

Marketplace’s Adriene Hill and Dan Gorenstein discuss how healthcare may change in 2015.

Hospital consolidations can mean a few things. On one hand, there will be potential for better convenience. Integrated medical records means you won’t have to fill out the same forms multiple times or take the same tests twice. Tom Main, a partner with Oliver Wyman's Health and Life Sciences Practice, says “I think we’re sitting at this incredible opportunity for the more connected, way more accessible, way more personalized, way more real time.”

However, if there’s been a merger in your area, it's easy to get lost in the system and you can expect higher prices. Since 1994, there have been 1,200 hospital mergers, and in certain markets, there have been 20 to 50% price increases. Carnegie Mellon economist Martin Gaynor says, “Actually those increases just get passed on to workers dollar for dollar so it actually comes home to roost directly on the backs of American workers.”

Gorenstein explains why some hospitals want to be bigger: "More and more hospitals and doctors are getting paid differently – they’re penalized for things like readmission, their requirements to have electronic health records. That stuff is expensive. Doing this stuff is new and it’s different. People are a little lost and that leaves people feeling anxious a bit, nervous a bit. Some people really believe the best way to weather this new era in healthcare is to be bigger. Bigger is better. They’ll have more money on hand and they’ll be able to do whatever they need to do to move. Others though, especially when it comes to the hospital mergers, believe the bigger they are, the more leverage they’ll have when negotiating with health insurers."

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