National / International News

Yemen aid effort begins after truce

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 03:08
Humanitarian organisations attempt to get aid into Yemen as a five-day truce takes hold after weeks of Saudi-led air strikes against Houthi rebels.

PODCAST: Uber loans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 03:00

On top of Macy's reporting disappointing profits Wednesday, there's news that retail sales last month were flat. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about Facebook luring publishing companies into putting their content directly onto the social media site. And Uber has a finance program for potential drivers with bad credit. Getting more drivers on the road means more money for Uber. But those loans can have high interest rates and some drivers are struggling to make the payments. 

Who are AOL's two million dial-up users?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:59

Verizon's purchase of AOL will include not just AOL's digital content properties and online advertising business, but also about two million dial-up subscribers. 

They are among as many as nine million Americans who still use dial-up for a variety of reasons, including cost and geographic availability of broadband, says Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Center, who looked into dial-up users.

"They're a little bit older," Smith says. "42 percent of dial-up users are over the age of 55. They're also a little bit different in their socio-economic makeup. About half of dial-up users have a high school diploma or less."

Smith says most dial-up users would switch to broadband if it was cheaper or easier to get. But he says a fifth of dial-up users are happy with the service, and just aren't interested in broadband.

So should Verizon make an effort to convert dial-up die-hards?

"The best [Verizon] can do is nothing," says telecom analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. "There is a segment of the population that just wants to have occasional access to the Internet and only pay 10 dollars for it."

Entner says everyone who wants to convert to broadband probably already has. Except, he says, in the most remote and rural parts of the U.S., where a copper telephone line and a dial-up modem may still be the best way to get online. 

Who's the dial-up user?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:59

Verizon's purchase of AOL will include not just AOL's digital content properties and online advertising business, but also about two million dial-up subscribers. 

They are among as many as nine million Americans who still use dial-up for a variety of reasons, including cost and geographic availability of broadband, says Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Center, who looked into dial-up users.

"They're a little bit older," Smith says. "42 percent of dial-up users are over the age of 55. They're also a little bit different in their socio-economic makeup. About half of dial-up users have a high school diploma or less."

Smith says most dial-up users would switch to broadband if it was cheaper or easier to get. But he says a fifth of dial-up users are happy with the service, and just aren't interested in broadband.

So should Verizon make an effort to convert dial-up die-hards?

"The best [Verizon] can do is nothing," says telecom analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. "There is a segment of the population that just wants to have occasional access to the Internet and only pay 10 dollars for it."

Entner says everyone who wants to convert to broadband probably already has. Except, he says, in the most remote and rural parts of the U.S., where a copper telephone line and a dial-up modem may still be the best way to get online. 

BBC Global iPlayer to close in June

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:57
BBC Worldwide says the international subscription-fee version of the iPlayer service will close on 26 June.

Many feared dead in Philippine fire

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:52
Dozens of people are feared dead after a fire sweeps through a slipper factory in the Philippine capital Manila.

Teenager who raped woman, 91, jailed

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:43
A teenager who admitted raping a 91-year-old woman at her North Lanarkshire home is jailed for 12 years.

A Key Researcher Says 'Grit' Isn't Ready For High-Stakes Measures

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:43

Angela Duckworth worries that when it comes to measuring students' resilience, education policy may be getting ahead of science.

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Myanmar migrants 'trapped on boat'

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:41
A group of 350 migrants from Myanmar have told an activist by phone that they have been trapped on a boat without food or water for four days.

Copenhagen's traffic warden makeover

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:40
Copenhagen traffic wardens turn tour guides

England coach applicants 'crazy'

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:39
Anyone applying for the England cricket coach's job would be "crazy" after the Kevin Pietersen saga, says Matthew Hayden.

VIDEO: Live: Migration crisis plans briefing

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:35
New proposals for dealing with the Mediterranean migration crisis are being discussed by the European Commission.

NTSB Team On Its Way To Investigate Amtrak Derailment

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:34

The derailment, which happened just north of Philadelphia, left five people dead and dozens injured. Amtrak cancelled service between New York and Philadelphia.

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Cannes Film Festival gets under way

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:24
The Cannes Film Festival is getting under way in the south of France, with Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman among the notables due to attend.

Woods writes letter to bullied fan

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:10
Former world number one Tiger Woods writes to a young fan who was being bullied because of his stutter.

US trade pacts suffer Senate setback

BBC - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:05
Efforts to introduce US trade deals with Europe and Asia have been dealt a blow after a vote in the Senate.

A look at Macy's bottom line ahead of a new strategy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:00

Macy's, which reports its earnings Wednesday morning, is trying out a new growth strategy. This fall, it will open four discount stores in New York City called Macy’s Offstage.

Other big retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have already established themselves in the discount game and are seeing good results from it.

“What is the hottest sector in apparel retailing in America? Off-price,” says retail consultant Howard Davidowitz. Davidowitz says with the middle class shrinking, it's no wonder Macy's now wants to open off-price stores. He thinks it's slow to make the move, but has the chance to stand out against less upscale competitors.

“You can sell off-price, and it doesn't have to be ugly,” he says.

But retail analyst Paul Swinand at Morningstar says discount apparel may already be saturated.

“In my opinion, it's sort of skating to where the puck was,” he says. “I'm not so sure that off-price is going to continue its growth forever.”

Swinand says Macy's should maybe lean harder on online sales, where it's had a lot of success already.

Why Facebook is now a news publisher

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:00

On Wednesday morning, Facebook began its long-awaited foray into publishing, with so-called "Instant Articles" from publishers including the New York Times, Buzzfeed and National Geographic appearing natively in the latest version of Facebook's iPhone app, instead of linking out to their websites.

The social networking site touted the faster load times for these articles in a promotional video.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Introducing Instant Articles, a new tool for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.

Posted by Facebook Media on Tuesday, May 12, 2015

But that's hardly the whole story.

"It is true that it will load and create a better experience for users, but it's also true that Facebook will get more data and also enable them to sell more ads," says Ben Schachter, Internet analyst at Macquarie Securities. Media partners can choose to sell their own ads and retain 100 percent of the revenue, but they can also rely on Facebook's ad network, and let Facebook take a cut of 30 percent.

Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab, thinks this deal may work out in the short-term for the nine publishers involved today's launch, but he worries about what will happen further into the future.

"Down the road, I think the dystopian vision is that this is another step toward Facebook becoming the Internet," he says.

Uber drivers struggle to pay subprime auto loans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:00

Richard Brunelle feels trapped. The 58-year-old says he has to drive for Uber.

Brunelle got a car through Uber's low-credit finance program and needs to make money for the loan. His payments are about $1000 dollars a month, and the loan has a 22.75 percent interest rate. That means by the time Brunelle finishes the loan, he will have paid twice the price for his Kia Optima.

At first, Brunelle thought he could cover the payments and still make a profit. Uber has since cut income to drivers. Now, Brunelle says he's working just to break even.

“It's like a ball and chain,” Brunelle says. “It's ridiculous.”

Brunelle says he has already fallen behind a few payments on the car, and that if he doesn't make a payment it could get repossessed. “I'm just trying to get by,” he says.

Here is how the financing program works: Uber connects low-credit drivers to dealers and lenders. Then it is up to the driver to negotiate the terms of the loan. Uber deducts loan payments directly from the drivers' earnings.

Uber says thousands have used the program. It had me talk with driver Jon Hutcherson, who says he's happy with the loan. Hutcherson says, “The thing about it being no hassle financing is really what attracted me.”

Hutcheron says working with Uber was easier than going to a dealer by himself because his credit isn't so great. Uber spokesperson Kristin Carvell says that's the point of the financing program. It helps people like Hutchinson get cars. And to boot, drivers get a little discount on the cost of the vehicle.

But if you don't drive, you still have to make the payments. Hutcherson says he had to dip into his savings when he stopped driving because of two accidents. He says, “When you aren't working for Uber, you make payments out of your own pocket like you do for a traditional loan.”

Another troubling aspect of the program is who Uber partners with. It's working with subprime lenders like Santander Consumer USA.

William Black is an economist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a former bank regulator. Black says Santander “is one of the most notorious sub-prime auto lenders in the United States.”

Black says Santander is known for predatory practices like sky high interest rates and hefty fees. Uber works with multiple lenders says spokesperson Carvell, and they provide loans for people with all kinds of credit.

Richard Brunelle isn't impressed. He feels like Uber would deal with anyone to get more drivers on the road. Brunelle says, “I feel like Uber not only tossed us to these wolves, but they intentionally did it and they are making bank it.”

Brunelle says he's stuck—it's either drive or meet the repo man. Now he is going online to tell others not to take the financing and get trapped like him.

Art auction at Christie's sets record for expensive art

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-13 02:00

This week, the art world saw two record breaking sales in the same auction. At Christie’s sale entitled “Looking Forward to the Past," Pablo Picasso's “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” sold for $179.4 million (with fees), shattering the previous record of $142.4 million for most expensive painting sold at auction. 

Alberto Giacometti's "Pointing Man" sculpture followed suit, eventually fetching a sale price of $141.3 million — the most paid for a sculpture at auction.

Given its origins in a well-regarded moment in Picasso's career, not to mention its size, “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” was considered by many art dealers to be an important sale, and a rare opportunity.

But don't count art critic Blake Gopnik among those who laud the painting as a work worth $179.4 million.

"One of the thing's about this picture is it's kind of a pastiche of earlier Picassos. It's like Picasso doing Picasso...And what do rich people want? They want Picasso-y looking pictures," Gopnik says.

Click the media player above to hear art critic Blake Gopnik's argument.

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