National / International News
The giant, metal, hot-water urns are at the center of Russian tea culture — and national identity. How that came to be may have as much to do with Russian literature as common usage.
What if microbes could ferment sugar into narcotics, like the way yeasts make beer? That day is quickly approaching. This week scientists report all the steps needed to make morphine in yeast.
About half of the financial professionals surveyed say their competitors have behaved unethically or illegally to gain an advantage. And many say compensation and bonuses can create bad incentives.
With a victory in Ramadi, the Islamic State controls a city just 70 miles from Baghdad. Many civilians are on the move, and Iraq's armed forces are again looking weak.
Clinton ended a nearly month-long avoidance of press questions, and addressed the release of her e-mails, foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, the state of Iraq and more.
As the number of religious young people declines, Hillel International is trying to build a "big tent" Judaism for secular and religious students alike. But some say that tent may not be big enough.
By law, all California almonds must be pasteurized or treated with a fumigant — processes aimed at preventing foodborne illness. But critics say the treatments taint flavor and mislead consumers.
Donations to four charities allegedly went toward officials' personal travel, jet ski outings and tuition payments.
America's infrastructure has fallen behind other nations. Highways are congested. Bridges are crumbling. Flights are delayed. Clearly, we need a solution. Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter identifies the hallmarks of successful transportation systems and explains the work being done to address these issues in her new book "Move: Putting America's Infrastructure Back in the Lead."
What’s the solution?
We need a new vision that puts mobility at the center of so many things. I think that if we can rally the public and rally leaders, state and local, who do press on Washington to say this is a critical national priority for our future, this is the only way to grow the economy, this is the only way to end poverty. I mean, poor people are living in areas where they don’t have access to cars or public transportation. This is important to health, traffic fatalities, the air we breathe. State and local (governments) get it. Mayors and governors get it and we need their voices.
On federal vs. local leadership:
Federal, it’s so partisan, it’s so hard to get anything to happen. But mayors, for example, are very pragmatic. They have to run their city and often it’s all about operations and transportation. Governors often have a vision about what will build their economy.
On the word “infrastructure” not being appealing:
I thought when I started talking about the fact that I was writing this book, that I would say “infrastructure” and people would go to sleep. Instead, they want to tell me their story…they want to talk about their traffic jam, their late flight, their potholes, their awful neighborhood construction problems.
Interesting facts about infrastructure in the United States:
- The average American commuter wastes a total of 38 hours in traffic each year. That’s 5.5 billion hours in lost US productivity annually and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel. Traffic congestion alone costs about $70 billion per year in time wasted.
- Nearly 20 million Americans work in transportation, transportation infrastructure, and related industries.
- The average household spends between 11-19 percent of its budget on getting around.
- Between 1989-2013, the US had nearly 600 bridge failures. Some of those collapses have led to deaths and hundreds of injuries.
- In 2012, a quarter of all US bridges were deemed by the Federal Highway Administration to be structurally deficient. By 2023, a quarter of US bridges will be over 65 years old (and structurally deficient).
- Delayed or canceled flights cost the economy about $30-40 billion a year.
- The cost of traffic accidents is about $871 billion per year.
This whole "Ooh-milliennials! Gotta-cater-to-the-millennials!" thing pretty much jumps the shark.
Bloomberg reports today that Tic Tac is coming out with a new product: varieties that change flavor as you suck on them.
The company has apparently spent 18 months studying—yes, Tic Tacs—to make sure that Tic Tacs are "appealing to those younger consumers."
There are, it seems, three reasons people buy Tic Tacs.
To freshen their breath. Fine.
To have a "sweet fruity moment." Fine.
But also, the company says, for emotional rescue.
Although hip hop culture has made its way through much of the world, there are still some places where you wouldn't expect hip hop music to flourish, and countries like Colombia, Yemen, Cambodia and Uganda, might not come to mind when discussing the art of breakdance.
But those places are where journalist-turned-filmmaker Adam Sjöberg found some very talented young dancers. He made a documentary called Shake the Dust that chronicles the influence of hip hop music and breakdancing in slums and ghettos all around the world.
A dancer from "Shake the Dust" in Yemen. (Courtesy of Bond/360)
“It’s interesting because hip hop, as a genre, as a culture, I found often really connected with people in these poor communities,” says Sjöberg. “Not necessarily in urban communities, but really all over the globe and even in some very remote rural areas that I went to. Hip hop connected with these people because I think it (especially breakdancing) gave them a feeling that they can transcend their circumstances, that they had a language to talk about what they had been through.”
The documentary is executive produced by rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones.
A dancer from "Shake the Dust" in Uganda. (Courtesy of Bond/360)
“He got on board a couple of years into this project because we were able to get a trailer in front of him and he saw that we were trying to tell a side of this history, to continue telling the oral tradition history of this genre which is unfolding before our eyes,” says Sjöberg.
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says our rough winter weather skewed the data on gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first quarter. GDP grew at just two-tenths of a percent at the beginning of the year.
Was it really that bad? Or were the numbers just not crunched enough?
“Of course, it’s always hard to separate the wheat from the chaff,” says Glenn Rudebusch, director of research at the San Francisco Fed.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) calculates GDP growth, and Rudebusch says the BEA makes seasonal adjustments as it gathers each piece of data. But he thinks there should be another seasonal adjustment at the end of that process.
Rudebusch compares it to making gravy.
“There’s a lot of things in there that maybe you don’t want in your final dish, so you want to reduce it down and get the real essence of flavor,” he says.
In economics, you’re trying to get rid of all the extraneous noise, so you can see underlying economic trends.
“I think they’re onto something,” says Ken Kuttner, a former Fed economist who now teaches economics at Williams College. “And what the San Francisco Fed has uncovered is, well, maybe there’s a slightly better way to do it.”
How much do these GDP numbers matter? Well, the Fed uses them to decide whether it’s time to raise interest rates. But it also looks at other things.
“The most important data is the unemployment rate. It’s the single best indicator of labor market conditions," says Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank.
But, lately the unemployment rate and GDP numbers haven’t jived. The unemployment rate is getting steadily better, as GDP fluctuates. The San Francisco Fed says its number crunching formula could smooth out those differences, too.
St. Louis Federal Reserve