National / International News

U.K. Warns Scotland: Vote To Secede, Lose Common Currency

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:03

Scots vote in a referendum on independence from the U.K. in September, and the pro-independence leader had previously said the new country would retain the pound as its currency. The message from London on Thursday: Not so fast.

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What's in a name for

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:01

Nothing stimulates the economy like a holiday. And when it comes to Valentine's Day, spending on chocolates, cards and trinkets makes for a busy time in the American economy.

This is especially true for flowers -- and 1-800-

Yes, that actually is the name of the company.

"In the 1980s, it was the hot new technology," says CEO Jim McCann of the "1-800" calling services. "Then in the mid to early nineties, we decided to add this dot-com thing onto the back of it."

McCann says uses a network of more than 7,000 local flower shops across the country to help grow and deliver their product. This includes Miami, which for the holiday has clocked-in 6,000 employees to prep and ship flowers for delivery.

"Valentine's Day is a crazy holiday in the middle of what is otherwise a quiet quarter," says McCann, whose competition now includes delivery services like Fed-Ex and online stores like Amazon.

"If we're not good enough to beat someone who sells everything at a commodity form, then shame on us," he says. "We have to sharpen our game all the time."

Afghan Prisoner Release Promises To Inflame Tensions

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Strained relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. and NATO may only get worse this week. The Afghan government is releasing 65 prisoners, many of whom have been accused by the West of plotting and participating in terrorist activities. Robert Siegel speaks with Nathan Hodge of The Wall Street Journal to learn more about the rationale behind this release and what it might mean for Afghan security and diplomacy.

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Tech Innovator And Master Of Maps Dies At 80

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Roger Tomlinson, the man widely regarded as the father of GIS — Geographic Information Systems — has died at age 80. Tomlinson's 1960s innovation, using computer software to overlay different types of maps on top of one another, revolutionized industry and government.

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Consumer Advocates Alarmed By $45 Billion Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, is set to become even bigger. The Philadelphia-based company has reached an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider, in an all-stock deal valued at roughly $45 billion. Consumer groups oppose the deal on the grounds that it will hurt competition and raise prices. But the companies claim competition won't be harmed at all.

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Between U.S. And Russian Hockey, A Different Kind Of Cold War

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

The U.S. and Russian men's hockey teams played at the same time on Thursday. The teams will meet on the ice Saturday, when they will renew a storied rivalry that includes such historic games as the Miracle on Ice.

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With A Citizen In The Crosshairs, Where's The Line Drawn For Drones?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

The Obama administration is considering targeting an American citizen who is suspected of plotting a terrorist attack. The possibility again raises questions about U.S. drone policy and whether an American's citizenship rights are lost once that person joins a terrorist organization.

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Grounded And Confounded, Airlines Wait For Storms To Pass

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

The snow and ice storms sweeping the East Coast have been felt not only on the ground but in the air, as well. Airlines are cancelling thousands of flights, and both the companies and their passengers have had to deal with the fallout.

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Charlotte Hosts A Rare And Rowdy Visitor — Snow

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Another spate of harsh winter weather has hit the East Coast, wreaking havoc with power lines and airline itineraries along the way. Cities unused to the snow and ice are having the toughest time coping with the storms. Ron Carlee, the city manager of Charlotte, N.C., joins us to discuss the ways his city is dealing with the weather.

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Cliff 'honoured' to join Morrissey

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:56
Sir Cliff Richard says it was a "great honour" to be asked by former Smiths frontman Morrissey to support him at a concert in New York.

More rain and high winds forecast

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:53
A new band of heavy rain is expected to hit the UK on Friday, as engineers work to reconnect power supplies cut off by Wednesday's storm.

No-Confidence Vote Ushers In Italy's Youngest-Ever Premier

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:50

Enrico Letta's 10-month-old government failed to stimulate growth amid the country's worst post-war recession. One of his harshest critics, 39-year-old Matteo Renzi, is next in line.

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Life for boy's 'sadistic' murderer

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:45
A former soldier who murdered a four-year-old boy as his victim slept is told he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Trading tweets for designer perfume at Fashion Week

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:25

If you want to get your hands on Marc Jacobs' Daisy perfume, the Daisy Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop is the place to be at New York's Fashion Week. Customers line up out the door. But they they're not paying with cash or card. They're posting a Twitter hashtag to earn the product.

"Basically there's no money that changes hands here," says Lori Singer, VP of global marketing for Marc Jacobs fragrances. "It's all about social media equaling social currency."

But Singer doesn't feel like her store is just giving stuff away.

"How it works," she says, "is that consumers are purchasing various products with social media."

Singer shows me a photo backdrop in the corner. Customers can take pictures, and share them using the Daisy hashtag. They show a salesperson their posts, and they get a pocket-sized perfume bottle in return.

Chaya Markovits and Chaya Bluming just finished at the photo booth. They take their Instagram pictures to show the saleswoman.

"Well, we obviously hashtagged MJ Daisy Chain," says Markovits.

"It's a few pictures of me going crazy," says Bluming.

"Ohhh," says the saleswoman, "that's really cool." She shows them the various perfume products they can chose to take home.

This idea of"paying" with a hashtag post might seem kind of gimmicky. Like just some PR stunt, rather than an actual source of income for Marc Jacobs. But it turns out a customer's simple Instagram post or Tweet is worth something to a big brand.

Dane Atkinson has crunched those numbers. He's CEO of SumAll, a New York startup that does marketing analytics. They looked at data from about 30,000 companies. SumAll connected tweets to web traffic and sales. They found that each time a customer tweets, it brings a company a pretty significant sales boost.

"From our math," Atkinson says, "it was about twenty bucks."

That's twenty bucks extra sales, on average, every time a customer mentions a company on social media.

"A customer that's tweeting on your behalf,” Atkinson explains, “creates more capital value for you, for sure. So you always want to find ways to get your communities to promote your product."

The trick is to get as many social media users as possible to mention your company. Users like Diana Adams, a self-confessed "Twitter addict."

Adams is a tech entrepreneur in Atlanta, and she's pretty much the dream customer Tweeter. She's got over 112,000 Twitter followers. That's a lot of eyeballs taking notice when she promotes a company. 

She says there are two ways companies try to get her to mention them. They can offer products -- what you'll find at the Daisy Marc Jacobs shop -- or companies can straight up pay Adams for her tweets.

"I have done that," Adams says. "I don't think those are as effective, and the reason why is because on Twitter, the most effective tweets are the ones that are genuine. And so when you send out something that everybodyknows is an ad, people don't want to click on that link, they're just like, 'Ugh, that's an ad.'"

"That's why she prefers companies that offer products in exchange for Tweets. She says this kind of exchange feels more authentic to Twitter users – they're genuinely excited about getting the companies' stuff. Past customer tweets have earned food from Burger King and Kellogg's, and gift cards from American Express.

But remember, each of those customer tweets equates to about $20 in extra sales. So it's the company that's getting the good deal.

How The Big Cable Deal Could Actually Boost Open-Internet Rules

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:24

Comcast's proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner might strengthen provisions intended to make sure Internet providers are treating all online traffic equally by extending so-called net neutrality to millions more users. But public-interest advocates worry the deal will hurt competition.

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Cardiff blame Mackay for transfer loss

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:22
Cardiff City criticise the transfer policy of Malky Mackay, but the LMA says he reported to chief executive Simon Lim.

A graphical history of cable consolidation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:20

This final note is actually a chart, tracking the consolidation of the cable industry.

Just follow this one route from Comcast to Adelphia, ATT Broadband, Philadelphia Cablevision, Prime Communications, Maclean Hunter, EW Scripps, Jones Intercable, Lensfest Communications, Susquehanna Communications, and Patriot Media.

And now, possibly, Time Warner, of course. (This is all thanks to the fabulous team at the Wall Street Journal):

Health board rejects NHS shake-up

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:13
Plans to centralise key services into five south Wales hospitals face uncertainty after a recommendation for it is rejected by one health board.

What seasonally adjusted data does and doesn't mean

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:11

Most of the time, when we’re talking about some hot-off-the-press-economic-indicator, we’re talking about a 'seasonally adjusted' number.  It’s basically a number that takes into account what’s normal and expected. “There are patterns that occur in economic data regularly at the same time every year,” says Jonathan Wright, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University. "Some have to do with the weather, some of them have to do with holidays.”

Economists smooth the patterns out, adjusting the numbers up or down. Take for instance jobs numbers. When Kai Ryssdal says, “the economy added 113,000 jobs last month,” on Marketplace, he’s right ... if you’re taking into account the seasonal adjustment.

But if you look at the raw data, the economy dumped nearly 3 million jobs between December and January. 

“Seasonal adjustment is this absolutely enormous factor that is taking a minus 3 million number and turning it into a small positive,” says Wright.

There’s a reason economists do this.  We expect the economy will lose jobs in January—as stores get rid of their holiday staff. Seasonally adjusted numbers help us spot trends that are out of the ordinary. “What the seasonally adjustment process does is remove from the data variations from normal weather patterns,”says Ben Herzon, an economist at Macroeconomic Advisors. 

The key word here is normal.

“When winter weather is abnormally harsh,” says Herzon, “even after seasonal adjustment, the data looks weak.”

Which means all this lousy weather will show up in the “seasonally” adjusted data, making it harder to sniff out what’s really going on in the economy.

Taj Mahal comes to your living room

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 11:52
Delivering the wonders of the world to your home

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