National / International News

Shanghai new year crush 'kills 35'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:11
Crush at New Year's Eve celebrations in Shanghai kills 35 people and injures about 42 others, Chinese state media reports.

Man City extend loan of Lampard

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:10
Frank Lampard's loan with Manchester City is extended until the end of the season.

Palestinians Seek To Join International Criminal Court

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:57

Membership in the ICC could allow the Palestinians a means to pursue war crimes charges against Israel. But the move is likely to draw sharp response from Israel and the U.S.

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Oil prices end the year on a low note

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:49

Oil prices, perhaps fittingly, ended the year with another drop. The 1 percent decline came after news of (even) more supply than we expected and (even) weaker demand. For the year, oil prices are down by half.

"Let's say you bet on oil prices rising, you just got two more lumps of coal in your stocking as far as data," says Marketplace's Scott Tong.

Chinese factories appear to have slowed down, and they buy a lot of oil. And the amount of petroleum on the shelf in storage in the U.S. went up. The price of oil is at its lowest in five years. "And if we measure it in terms of gasoline, the last time it was $2.30 a gallon nationally was the summer of 2008," Tong says.

Last quarter, the U.S. economy grew 5 percent. So cheap crude can be seen as a good thing for those in the airline, travel and hotel industries. It also helps consumers who still carry cash in their pockets. "If we look globally, the emerging locomotives of China and India, they rely a lot more on energy to grow," says Tong. "This is a bigger boost for those countries than it is here."

But, there's also losers. Electric vehicles, alternative fuels and oil producing countries and companies are hurting right now.

Thousands join Hogmanay celebrations

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:46
Tens of thousands of party-goers are taking to the streets for Hogmanay celebrations across Scotland.

They put the digits in New Year's glasses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:43

When the clock strikes midnight, what will you be wearing? Those silly, disposable glasses that have the digits of the new year built into the frames? There’s a business story behind those glasses, involving intellectual property, overseas manufacturing and friendship.

Richard Sclafani and Peter Caruso came up with the concept for the glasses on a Friday night in January 1990. They were hanging out at Caruso’s house, drinking beers and doodling.

“And then suddenly, nobody knows why, Pete just drew the number 2000 on a piece of paper, and he drew two little eyeballs inside the zeroes,” Sclafani says.

An idea was born: Make frames out of the digits of the coming year. 1991 would be easy, with those big round nines.

Most people probably would have dropped their brilliant idea in the cold light of the following dawn. Instead, they did the opposite. They found a manufacturer near Seattle to make prototypes and started testing the market.

“I sent about 300 of 'em to my nephew back in New York, and he went down to Times Square and put those glasses on and started selling 'em,” Sclafani says. “And he sold the whole 300 in about an hour. So we really knew we had something then.”

It was a homespun operation. Sclafani and Caruso spent their own money building the business and hired about 100 neighbors to do seasonal work when it was time to ship the glasses.

Business grew each year, peaking in December 1999, with a half-million 2000-edition glasses sold.

After that, business fizzled. No one felt much like celebrating 2002, after the 9/11 terror attacks. And competitors started flooding the market with knockoffs made overseas. Sclafani and Caruso had a design patent, but they learned it doesn’t afford much protection.

The pair got out of the new year’s glasses business in 2008.

Did they at least get rich along the way?

“No not at all,” says Sclafani and adds: If you want to make novelties, you should do it because it’s fun. If the idea is popular, he says, “I can guarantee you will get ripped off.”

Tonight, Sclafani and Caruso will probably watch the party in Times Square on TV – and people wearing the style of glasses they invented.

New Year's glasses and the fickle market for novelties

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:43

When the clock strikes midnight, what will you be wearing? Well how about those silly, disposable glasses that have the digits of the new year built into the frames? It turns out there’s a business story behind those glasses, involving intellectual property, overseas manufacturing and friendship.

It was a Friday night in January 1990 that Richard Sclafani and Peter Caruso accidentally invented the glasses. They were hanging out at Peter’s house, drinking beers, and doodling.

“And then suddenly, nobody knows why, Pete just drew the number 2000 on a piece of paper and he drew two little eyeballs inside the zeroes,” Richard explained.

An idea was born: Make frames out of the digits of the coming year. 1991 would be easy, with those big round nines.

Now if Richard and Peter were most people, they probably would have dropped their brilliant idea in the cold light of the following dawn. Instead, they did the opposite. They found a manufacturer near Seattle to make prototypes and started testing the market.

“I sent about 300 of ‘em to my nephew back in New York, and he went down to Times Square and put those glasses on and started selling ‘em,” Richard said. “And he sold the whole 300 in about an hour. So we really knew we had something then.”

It was a homespun operation. Richard and Peter spent their own money building the business, and hired about 100 neighbors to do seasonal work when it was time to ship the glasses.

Business grew each year, peaking in December 1999, with a half-million 2000-edition glasses sold.

After that, business fizzled. No one felt much like celebrating 2002, after the 9/11 terror attacks. And competitors started flooding the market with their own knockoff glasses, made overseas. Richard and Peter had a design patent, but they learned it doesn’t afford much protection.

Peter Caruso and Richard Sclafani finally got out of the new year’s glasses business in 2008.

Did they at least get rich along the way?

“No not at all,” said Richard Sclafani, adding that you want to make novelties, you should do it because it’s fun. If the idea is popular, “I can guarantee you will get ripped off.”

Tonight, he and Peter will probably watch the party in Times Square on TV. Where people will be wearing the glasses they invented.

Fashion's new fairy godmother: Designer dress rental

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:41

Men may be used to renting a tuxedo for special occasions. But if you ask the average woman about renting a dress for a holiday party, she’ll probably find the idea a bit distasteful.

Not law school student Sarah Mannix. She sees nothing untoward about renting a dress. She graduated from college five years ago, and back then it was normal for her to go into one of her friends’ rooms and ask to borrow something.

“Borrowing someone else’s clothes to wear for one night has always been my 'go to' move for having a good wardrobe,” says Mannix.

Rental clothing companies are betting on that attitude. Some have niches such as plus-size or pregnancy clothing. Others offer aspirational customers like Mannix a little luxury. Shawn Grain Carter, who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says young consumers watch plenty of reality TV and read a lot about celebrities’ lives. They want to imitate that lifestyle.

“You might not be able to afford a yacht, a private plane or second home,” says Carter. “But you can afford an Hermes handbag, a Birkin bag, and then you can return it because you only need it for that weekend to impress your friends at a bar mitzvah.”

Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO of 5-year-old company Rent the Runway, says Spotify, Netflix and AirBnB are just part of the rental economy, and that fashion is an obvious next step.

“I fundamentally believe that within the next 10 years … every single woman will have a subscription to fashion,” she says. “Just like she has a subscription to music and entertainment. And a portion of what you wear will be things you rent.”

Of the companies that have sprung up during the last 10 years or so, Rent the Runway is the biggest and most ambitious. It specializes in leasing designer gowns and accessories for a few days at a time. Customers search for their garment and reserve it online. After they've worn it, they ship it back to the company’s warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. It’s dry cleaned, mended if necessary and shipped to the next customer – often on the same day. The company says it runs the largest dry-cleaning operation in the U.S.

I had never thought about renting a dress before, but I ended up trying one on in a Rent the Runway New York showroom. Briefly slipping into a deep plum, sleeveless gown made me feel a bit like Cinderella. I could rent the dress for $165. Sadly, my life isn’t glamorous enough for me to need it.

Mannix goes out a lot more than I do, and has spent about $800 at Rent the Runway over the last few years. She prefers to rent rather than buy because her goal is to look good at the particular event she’s attending.

“I’d prefer not to be wearing the same thing that I’ve been in Facebook pictures or on Instagram wearing six months ago,” she says.

She may not have to wear the same thing twice even when she starts work as a lawyer. Rent the Runway recently launched a subscription service. Customers can put together a queue of everyday clothing and accessories and receive a few new items a month. Mannix is on the waiting list.

Defense nominee's record as 'Buyer in Chief'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:17

The Defense Department's Office of the Undersecretary for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics is better known by a shorter name: Acquisitions.

It is in charge of buying everything from toilet paper to fighter jets, and Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter was in charge of it from 2009 to 2011. 

The hallmark of Carter’s two year tenure there was an initiative called “Better Buying Power” to cut down on this wasteful spending, says Bill Greenwalt, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. It was aimed at fighting the perception of waste at the Pentagon.

“If you look at any major weapons system program at the Department of Defense, it’s over budget, not on schedule, and at the end of the day, it performs under what was actually asked for," he says.

He says maintaining stated budget targets for new and existing weapons systems will be a goal of a Pentagon under Carter. “The next real difficult issue is to invest in the future and to actually drive the innovation,” Greenwalt says.

For decades, NASA and the Pentagon poured money into research and development and dominated the high-tech industry, but since the 1980s the private sector has spent more. That means anyone can buy the technology, including America’s enemies. Bringing Silicon Valley innovation to the Defense Department will also be a priority, says Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha.

“If you look at what’s going on in autonomous systems for example," he says, "the money that Google is putting into robotics, autonomous vehicles … Amazon playing around with drones, the Department of Defense is going to have to tap into that expertise.”

Skeptical that a superstar corporation will team up with the Pentagon? Well it’s happened before. During World War II, one of the government’s biggest defense contractors was General Motors.

Examining defense nominee's record as 'Buyer in Chief'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:17

The Defense Department's Office of the Undersecretary for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics is better known by a shorter name: Acquisitions.

It is in charge of buying everything from toilet paper to fighter jets, and Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter was in charge of it from 2009 to 2011. 

The hallmark of Carter’s two year tenure there was an initiative called “Better Buying Power” to cut down on this wasteful spending, says Bill Greenwalt, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. It was aimed at fighting the perception of waste at the Pentagon.

“If you look at any major weapons system program at the Department of Defense, it’s over budget, not on schedule, and at the end of the day, it performs under what was actually asked for," he says.

He says maintaining stated budget targets for new and existing weapons systems will be a goal of a Pentagon under Carter. “The next real difficult issue is to invest in the future and to actually drive the innovation,” Greenwalt says.

For decades, NASA and the Pentagon poured money into research and development and dominated the high-tech industry, but since the 1980s the private sector has spent more. That means anyone can buy the technology, including America’s enemies. Bringing Silicon Valley innovation to the Defense Department will also be a priority, says Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha.

“If you look at what’s going on in autonomous systems for example," he says, "the money that Google is putting into robotics, autonomous vehicles … Amazon playing around with drones, the Department of Defense is going to have to tap into that expertise.”

Skeptical that a superstar corporation will team up with the Pentagon? Well it’s happened before. During World War II, one of the government’s biggest defense contractors was General Motors.

If You're Toasting To Health, Reach For Beer, Not (Sparkling) Wine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:13

Though beer has been blamed for many a paunch, researchers say it's more nutritious than most other alcoholic drinks. Moderate consumption may also reduce the risk of heart disease.

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Why it's hard times for citrus growers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:13

Marketplace's David Gura checked in with citrus grower Mark Wheeler, CFO of Wheeler Farms in Lake Placid, Fla.

What difficulties are facing Wheeler's industry? For one, there's citrus greening, a deadly tree disease. "We're basically scouting aggressively for the little critters that spread the disease, the Asian citrus psyllid," Wheeler says. "We've got the research foundations desperately looking for a cure."

But it's not just tree diseases Wheeler has to deal with, competition in the beverage aisle also makes things difficult. "It's tough because a lot of times we're dealing with stuff that's, basically, colored sugar water that we've got to compete with," Wheeler says. "And the inputs into those products are much cheaper than what OJ is."

 

Sen. Rubio Says He Could Run For President Even If Jeb Bush Does

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:07

The Florida Republican tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that while he had not made a final decision on a run, "we're closer to a decision than we were a month ago."

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Lancaster plans talks with Hartley

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:01
England head coach Stuart Lancaster plans to speak to Northampton's Dylan Hartley about the hooker's discipline.

A New Year's Eve history lesson

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:00

People across the country will ring in the New Year watching television – and the ball drop in Times Square, a New York City tradition that dates to 1904, according to a story in Mental Floss magazine.

The first party was held at the behest of the New York Times publisher, who also picked up the tab for the event. There were fireworks and some 200,000 partygoers. But a few years later New York banned the fireworks, leading to perhaps the most famous New Year's tradition: the ball drop.

The first ball had 100 25-watt light bulbs. Tonight's light count totals 32,256.

 

Lean times for the weight-loss industry

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:00

Established weight-loss companies are facing competition from upstart businesses even as they lose customers to changing tastes. Industry watchers say 2015 will be the year that many diet companies ditch celebrity endorsements, and instead focus on the weight-loss struggles of ordinary people. Those seeking to lose weight are increasingly forgoing foods labeled "diet." Many are turning toward licensed professionals for counseling in behavior modification, a shift that some say is attributable to the Affordable Care Act, which requires most insurers to address obesity. 

Crowds gather to see in New Year

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 10:56
Crowds gather in central London for the first ticketed New Year's Eve fireworks display.

Marketplace's most popular stories in 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 10:49
2014 saw big stock market gains, a large drop in oil prices, and the lowest unemployment rate since the recession.

But, which stories did Marketplace readers visit the most?

1. What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live

Is cable dead?: Netflix continued its push toward original content, with "Marco Polo," "BoJack Horseman," and new seasons of "Orange Is the New Black" and "Arrested Development."

What happens inside of Netflix HQ when its first original series, "House of Cards," releases its anticipated second season at midnight?

2. You Hate My Job: Football referee (plus, a ref quiz!)

Pretty sure that's a penalty: Despite nearly two decades of experience, retired NFL referee Bill Carollo says the job was always nerve-wracking: “If you say that you’re not nervous, you’re probably kidding yourself – and you probably aren't really prepared."

Carollo recalls one controversial decision in a playoff game that ruled against Tampa Bay's football team. The call resulted in “200 calls [to] my house. I’m unlisted. 15 to 16 people were arrested for death threats. I had to pull my kids out of school. And that’s when [I made] the right call."

3. Why are sticks of butter long and skinny in the East, but short and fat in the West?

Butter cubed: Bonnie Robinson Beck from Larchmont, New York, has always wondered why butter cubes are long and skinny in the east, and short and squat in the west.

Until we fielded this question, we had no idea an unspoken butter battle drew a border between the two halves of America. But when we explored the answer, we found out there's pretty much an expert for everything.

4.How an HBCU with 35 students keeps its doors open

Almost a ghost college: If historically black colleges and universities are an endangered species, Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, could be closest to extinction. Most buildings on its campus are now boarded up and abandoned.

Before the school lost accreditation in 2003, a few thousand students were enrolled at Morris Brown. But almost overnight, most fled out of fear their degree would carry no weight. Today, only 35 students remain enrolled.

5. The British have solved unemployment, once and for all

The solution to all of our problems: Roll this one idea out into the economy and everyone who wants to have a job would get a job. If it works as promised, not just Britain but the rest of the developed world including the U.S., could have full employment.

Outsourcing of jobs to poorer parts of the world? No problem. Robots and algorithms taking away human jobs, not to worry. And what is this device that would solve what is one of the greatest and most persistent economic problems?

Well, it is not a device in the sense of an electronic contraption. But it is a mechanism, a policy mechanism that is being put forth by experts at the New Economics Foundation in London, among others.

Here's the idea: the 21-hour work week.

6. Silicon Valley has a dress code? You better believe it

Strictly casual: Silicon Valley is known for its 'casual' dress, which means T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. But don't be fooled, techies care a lot more about appearances than they let on. Put another way, there’s a lot of code in the Silicon Valley dress code.

7.Why women's pockets are useless: A history

The purse lobby is stronger than you could have ever imagined: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus descended upon society in 2014. Amid loving descriptions of its crisp camera, its intuitive operating system and the near-reverence for its sleek lines, one question (quite literally) looms large: Is the bigger iPhone 6 Plus a "pocketable" size?

There's one problem: Women's pockets have always had a history of being unable to hold a phone, or much else, for a long, long time.

8. Two obsessed guys and a radical motorcycle design

Zen and the art of motorcycle designing: Ten years ago, J.T. Nesbitt was one of the top motorcycle designers in the world. His picture graced the cover of magazines. Celebrities sought out his extravagantly expensive machines. But in 2005, while he was visiting a prince in the Middle East, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and destroyed Confederate Motorcycles, the company that built Nesbitt’s bikes.

Seven years later, his career hadn’t recovered. He was about to take a job waiting tables in the French Quarter, when a stranger showed up on his doorstep and turned his life upside down.

9.Why do gas prices end in 9/10 of a cent?

...and everything else you've ever wondered about gas stations.



Nine-tenths of the answer: To answer the most wondered-about question in the history of "I've Always Wondered" (seriously, like 15 people asked), we headed to Three Lakes, Wisconsin, to meet with Ed Jacobsen (known as "Jake, the Oil Guy"). Jacobsen worked for Esso and then bought a half-dozen gas stations he ran for decades. Now, he runs the Northwoods Petroleum Museum — a collection of at least 4,000 items, from drill bits to vintage gas pumps to antique oil company freebies.

"We have to go way back to when the oil companies were selling gas for, let’s say, 15 cents, and then the state and federal boards decided they wanted a piece of that to keep the roads going, so they added 3/10 of a cent. And the oil companies said, ‘Well, we’re not going to eat that,’ so they passed that on to the public." Raising prices a penny would have been disastrous when gas only cost $0.15. But why has it stick around?

10.Making it to the 1 percent is more common than you think

The 1 in 100: Back when the Occupy Wall Street movement chanted “We are the 99 percent,” author Mark Rank got curious about some of the assumptions buried in that chant. Who exactly is the 99 percent? And what’s their relationship to that remaining, increasingly notorious 1 percent?

VIDEO: Surabaya vigil for AirAsia victims

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 10:18
Hundreds of people have attended a vigil in the Indonesian city of Surabaya to remember those killed on flight AirAsia QZ8501.

New frog 'gives birth to tadpoles'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 10:18
A species found on an Indonesian island has become the first frog ever seen giving birth to tadpoles, rather than laying eggs.

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