National / International News

How will Puerto Rico's poor economy affect you?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-25 16:51

For the first time in more than a decade, lawmakers in Puerto Rico balanced their budget. And during the past ten years, the US territory has had a rough economic go: A major recession hampered state revenues, while a major crackdown on the drug trade along the U.S. border pushed much of the trafficking (and violence) into Puerto Rico. The combination of a lingering recession and an influx of drugs has led to the highest murder rate in the U.S. – almost six times higher than the national average.

It’s also led some analysts to call Puerto Rico “the New Detroit.”

That got us wondering if the balanced budget is an indicator of brighter days ahead for the Puerto Rico. And if you’re thinking at this point, “who cares about some small, tropical island?” we’ll ask you: “Do you have mutual funds?”

Puerto Rico is one of the largest issuers of bonds in the U.S. And because of a preferred tax status granted to the commonwealth, Puerto Rico’s bonds end up in many portfolios. We wanted to find out whether Puerto Rico is, indeed, the new Detroit, so we spoke with the President of Maglan Capital,

An app that combats texting while driving accidents

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-25 16:46

Kids, you gotta start looking up. It’s never been a more dangerous time to be a pedestrian, in large part, because people are no longer looking where they’re walking. Instead, they keep their eyes fixed on their mobile phones, because a broken leg or a shattered clavicle is totally worth keeping up to the minute tabs on what your FB friends are eating, drinking, or how they’re dressing their pets.

In this installment of Tech IRL, Lizzie and Marketplace’s Tech Ben Johnson walk around Manhattan to spotlight new technology that is supposed to help mobile-phone caused pedestrian and motorist accidents.

Authors and actors revive cricket rivalry

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 16:32
Are authors or actors better at cricket?

The tragic coffin prank

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 16:30
Author Jeremy Clay tells the singular story of the girl who was frightened to death by a coffin.

'New virus' discovered in human gut

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 16:14
Scientists say they have stumbled upon a common virus that has never been described before.

12-Hour Cease-Fire Begins In Gaza

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:51

The truce will allow Palestinian civilians to get food and aid where it's needed, officials say.

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The man serving life for marijuana

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:39
The man serving a life sentence for marijuana

Scotland pool party but where's the star guest?

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:34
Scotland win three swimming golds at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but what happened to poster boy Michael Jamieson?

Brains, beauty and brawn: Meet England's power couple

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:29
How weightlifting brought together a lover of ancient Greek myths and a Latin-dancing beauty queen.

The most important battle you've probably never heard of

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:21
The most important battle you have probably never heard of

Peru to auction Montesinos jewels

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:18
The Peruvian government is to sell dozens of gold watches and diamond-encrusted cufflinks seized from disgraced ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

Legend's first race car up for sale

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:16
Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart's first ever race car is being put up for auction, with an estimate of £35,000-£50,000.

'I Love Your Country,' New House Member Tells U.S. Officials

NPR News - Fri, 2014-07-25 14:32

Rep. Curt Clawson, a Republican from Florida, tells subcommittee witnesses from two U.S. agencies, "I'm familiar with your country; I love your country."

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Have red light cameras reached the end of the road?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:56

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced at least 9,000 drivers will get a second chance to appeal $100 tickets issued by red light cameras. The Mayor’s decision follows a Chicago Tribune report documenting periods where some cameras generated huge, sudden and completely inexplicable spikes in tickets.

For years, red light camera hatred grew almost as fast as the number of cities using them. Until around 2012, when the number of programs actually started to drop, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The initial promise — safer streets and more city revenue — no longer seemed so promising.

Jeff Brandes, a Republican state senator from Florida, proposed a bill that would have put some limits on red light cameras there. Among other things, he was alarmed by media reports showing that after some local governments put in red light cameras, they also shortened the time for yellow lights

“Well, reducing yellow light timing has never been shown to be safer,” he says. “But it has been shown to generate a lot more red light camera revenue.”  

A state report he requested did show revenue going up year-by-year. His poster child was a mom who just missed a yellow light on a rainy day. He says no cop would’ve written her a ticket.

“You know, there’s a human factor to law enforcement,” says Brandes. “And we’re taking that out.”

Of course drivers hate the gotcha-every-time factor, says Joseph Schofer, a professor of civil and environmental engineering professor at Northwestern University. “From the perspective of the driver, you’ve really taken away my margin,” he says.  “I can’t push it a little bit and get away with it.”

Schofer also thinks there’s an upside, if cities want people to run fewer red lights, but he recognizes that the money creates a conflict of interest.

“If you’re doing this to make money, set up a tollbooth,” he says. “Then it becomes more transparent.  We know what you’re doing.”

There’s also a question about how well the cameras work. Some studies have shown that when red light cameras go in, rear-end crashes go up.

However, researchers who favor red light cameras have an answer for that one. Anne McCartt is Senior Vice President for Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She cites a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

“While rear-end crashes went up, the more serious right-angle crashes went down by a greater extent,” she says. “So there was an overall net safety benefit.”

The Florida study that Jeff Brandes requested showed the same thing. And fewer T-bone crashes generally means fewer deaths.

Amazon makes a lot of money. But it still loses more.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:49

Amazon has developed a kind of parlor trick of not making a profit, despite the fact that it has gobs of revenue coming in.

The online retailing giant announced Thursday that its revenues soared to $20 billion in the second quarter. But high costs pushed it into the red. It lost $126 million.

"That in and of itself is quite a feat - to be able to crank up the spending machine to that degree," says Colin Gillis, senior technology analyst with BGC Financial.

Gillis says Amazon invests aggressively in many areas: E-commerce, its own smartphone, TV shows and web services like document sharing.

But Gillis and others wonder when Amazon, which has snubbed short-term profitability as a longer-term business strategy, is going to shift gears.

"If they shouldn't be valued based on profitability, what should they be valued based on?" asks Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research.

Mulpuru points out that other tech giants like Google and Facebook do turn in big profits even as they spend on innovation. Just yesterday, Facebook announced a second quarter profit of $800 million.

Mulpuru says Amazon is frittering money away with steep subsidies of shipping costs for stuff customers buy from its website.

But RJ Hottovy, an e-commerce analyst with Morningstar, says Amazon is building a lot of brand loyalty along the way.

"Really it's important to lock in those consumers and give them less of a reason to shop elsewhere," he notes.

Hottovy thinks Amazon's strategy will eventually pay off. But for now, the company is projecting up to $800 million in operating losses for the current quarter.

Israel rejects truce 'as it stands'

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:47
Israel's security cabinet rejects a week-long Gaza ceasefire proposal by John Kerry "as it stands" while its defence minister warns operations may be expanded.

Train delays after lightning strikes

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:26
Lightning strikes cause "major disruption" to rail services in England and south Wales.

Buyers' peril from rising house prices

BBC - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:19
'Rising house prices left me high and dry - twice!'

Want to shop like a pro? Buy generic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:10

A new study from the University of Chicago and a university in the Netherlands asked who's more likely to spend a little extra for name brands. The conclusion? Professionals don't seem to care if what they're using is generic.

"More informed consumers are less likely to pay extra to buy national brands," the study says.

For example, pharmacists buy generic asprin 90 percent of the time.

The same's true with salt and sugar. It turns out chefs like to go generic too; they devote 12 percent less of their purchases to national brands than demographically similar non-chefs.

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