Marketplace - American Public Media

Drunken email wins over Anthony Bourdain

Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

Here's a lesson in how not to pitch your business to investors.

Or, maybe, exactly how to pitch your business to investors.

Anthony Bourdain — of all those travel and eating shows that aren't really about eating at all — has invested in food and travel website Roads & Kingdoms.

How, you might fairly ask, did someone as busy as Bourdain come to be an investor? Because one of the founders emailed him after drinking many glasses of sake.

Kids, don't try this at home.

In Los Angeles, homeless camps are suddenly everywhere

Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

A recent count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County rose 12 percent in the past two years.  That brings the total homeless population to about 44,000. More striking, the number of people living without shelter — out in the open — doubled.

Traditionally, Los Angeles has concentrated the homeless in a downtown Skid Row area, by grouping homeless services there. But increasingly, tents and even tent cities are popping up in different parts of the city, along freeways, below underpasses, in parks, where they are visible to everyone.

A new encampment along the side of the 101 freeway in Hollywood is an example. Recently, outreach workers tried to engage with people living in tents on the hillside overlooking the traffic, offering them sandwiches.

Forty-two-year-old Danny Andrino says he's homeless because he can't afford housing in Los Angeles. With rent for an apartment running around $1,000, he says, "minimum wage is not covering that."

"We are seeing them in places they didn't used to have encampments," says Courtney Kanagi, director of street outreach at People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH. "We're seeing them under underpasses, sides of freeways. We're also seeing them come down into neighborhoods and be more on the streets."

Some of the increased visibility is the result of lawsuits. Until the city can supply more affordable housing, the homeless can legally camp on sidewalks from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.

The police are also restricted in the way they deal with people's possessions.

"If they take somebody into custody, then law enforcement needs to take all of their property," Kanagi says. "They need to input it. They need to store it."

Itemizing all that stuff can take hours. It's not just tents, but piles of belongings. Some of it's essentially trash, and the cops don't have a place to store it. For police, those are big incentives to look the other way.

And many of the new encampments around Los Angeles are on state property adjacent to, or beneath, freeways. That puts them outside the jurisdiction of the city police. It becomes the responsibility of the Highway Patrol or the California Department of Transportation.

Why are so many more people living in encampments? The causes of homelessness are as varied as human beings. Some struggle with mental health issues. Steven Taylor, 50, sleeps in a tent beneath the 10 freeway in an encampment just south of downtown. He's assembled a crude drum set and plays for donations from motorists stopped at the traffic light.

He's quick to smile and laugh, but he admits that he will sometimes "pop off. I get angry. I have a problem with reaction. They say I have bipolar. I have the medication. I've had it for about three months. I'm scared to take it, though."

Homeless encampments are spreading throughout Los Angeles County, in part because newly homeless people try to avoid Skid Row, the downtown district where services are concentrated. Steven Taylor, one man who has left downtown, plays drums under Interstate 10.

Jeff Tyler/Marketplace

Others are homeless as a result of a transition — like veterans leaving military service, or young adults aging-out of the foster care system.

On the west side of downtown, overlooking the 110 freeway, Thomas New says he's trying to put his past as a bank robber behind him.

"I'm 58 years old and I just got done doing 23 years in prison," New says. "Right now, I'm just kind of stuck. But just until the first of the month. Then things are going to start happening for me."

At the beginning of the month, New will move into low-income housing.

With so many new encampments right out in the open, it may seem like the situation has never been worse. But, in fact, the amount of services and the coordination between service-providers has never been better.

"The county is working together with the cities," says PATH CEO Joel John Roberts, . "The state and the federal government is funding more programs, and the agencies are working together much better than even 10 years ago."

Over the last couple years, Roberts says the community has housed 17,000 people. There's been an increased emphasis on providing permanent housing.

But that shift has cut into funding for beds in temporary shelters.

"I think homelessness is not just a social problem," Roberts said. "It's a poverty problem. And until this country addresses poverty, we're always going to have homelessness."

Increasingly, the face of poverty includes the recently middle-class. Alfred Sierra, 53, camps on the bank of the Arroyo Seco riverbed between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. He's sort of an unofficial welcome wagon at the encampment. He advises new arrivals on how to get water and how to protect against thieves. Sierra is seeing more and more economic casualties.

"(The) economy went bad, and they lost their job," Sierra says. "Now, if the economy comes up, nobody is going to hire them. They're going to get young guys who work for less; leaves the people between 45 and 60 out in the street."

Outreach professionals, too, report seeing an increase in homeless people between the ages of 40 and early 60s. Some have been sidelined by losing a job or by a health problem. They are part of a gap population – stuck living in tents until they're old enough to qualify for Social Security.

After 11 years, 'World of Warcrack' is less addictive

Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

Jacob McLaughlin, a regular at Black Wolf Gamers Club in Spokane Valley, Washington, has been playing "World of Warcraft" for 10 years. He's only 14. He says his cousin and my grandpa got him interested in the game.

For more than a decade, "World of Warcraft" has been the undeniable champion in its genre; an unrivaled juggernaut among massively-multiplayer online games. Players do battle and complete quests in a vast fantasy world. Yet, some news this month has led to speculation that maybe "Warcraft" is showing its age. The game — affectionately known as “World of Warcrack” for its addictive quality — lost three million subscribers in three months.

Video game industry consultant Wanda Meloni says that’s a big drop. Some ups and downs are normal, especially after a publisher releases new content. (Blizzard Entertainment just released the fifth expansion pack, "Warlords of Draenor," late last year.) But Meloni says there's a bigger trend here.

“[World of Warcraft] has been declining since 2010, when they were at their peak of about 12.5 million,” Meloni says. “And it is an interesting correlation that that was pretty much when mobile started to enter the market.”

As in, those addictive little games on your phone that are taking larger and larger bites out of the video game industry pie. Plus, how long can an 11-year-old game stay at the top of the heap? The world of gnomes, goblins, elves and orcs it inhabited was hardly new When World of Warcraft launched in 2004, but the level of immersion was.

“It really does draw you in,” says James Reuss, a player in Billings, Montana.

It had intuitive controls. It offered enough different character options and styles of playing to appeal to a wide array of gamers. And it immediately appealed to more than just stalwart fans of the fantasy genre.

The game is also incredibly social. Reuss, for example, has standing appointments on Wednesdays and Sundays to go on raids – huge team efforts that require players to virtually coordinate, yelling out instructions to each other over the web as they try to defeat enemies.

Since 2004, the game’s publisher, Blizzard Entertainment, has released five expansion packs, introducing increasingly visually stunning locations, new quests, bigger, tougher creatures, and at one point – in a shrewd nod to the significant Asian gaming market – pandas.

Other games have tried to knock "World of Warcraft" off its throne, including a "Star Wars" subscription game. And you'd think the "galaxy far, far away" would have a fighting chance.

“That’s what everyone was really excited about," Reuss says, that "Star Wars" would pull ahead of "Warcraft." “And that didn’t happen, obviously.”

But recently, a few words on a conference call made the gaming world sit up and take notice. "Warcraft" parent company Activision Blizzard held an investor call earlier this month. It was largely upbeat. But CFO Dennis Durkin noted: “We saw a decline in World of Warcraft subscribers. Subscribers ended the quarter at 7.1 million.” Down three million subscribers: World of Warcraft had seen drops before, but not that many that fast.

Some longtime "Warcraft" players say they're not surprised. The trick for any game is to keep players interested once they've reached the top level. And some "World of Warcraft" players say they say they’ve run out of challenges. The game requires too many tedious tasks. Plus, the gamers themselves are aging too, and moving on.

“I decided I was wasting my life away on this and I would rather be winning items and completing quests in real life,” says Colleen Graves, a former player in Los Angeles.

Still, Activision Blizzard says the game's revenue has remained steady, thanks in part to the strength of the Chinese market. Blizzard Entertainment plans to release more new content for World of Warcraft this year.

At the same time, Blizzard has “expanded their portfolio.” Part of that expansion: a "World of Warcraft" spin-off computer card game called "Hearthstone." Mobile versions of the spin-off came out last month. And its player count? More than 30 million. Also, it’s free. No subscription required.

The move to mobile is expected to grow even more in the coming years among other publishers. Nintendo recently announced that it too will start releasing games for mobile.

To be clear: World of Warcraft isn't going away anytime soon, with its seven million players.

But remember Jacob McLaughlin, who's been playing since he was four?

He just stopped his subscription, too. He says one of the things that made "World of Warcraft" so addictive was the group of friends he played with. And a lot of those friends have moved on to other games.

FCC eyes subsidies for low-income Americans' broadband

Thu, 2015-05-28 13:00

The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, is floating a plan that could help narrow the digital divide. Some Americans are falling behind in the economy due to lack of internet access.

The proposal, still in its embryonic stages, would retool a $1.6 billion program called Lifeline, which offers low-income people a monthly $9.25 discount on their phone bills. The program expansion would let them choose to direct the subsidy towards a monthly internet bill instead.

"Broadband is the indispensable infrastructure of the 21st century,” says Bernadine Joselyn, a director with the Blandin Foundation, a philanthropy focused on rural Minnesota. “You can't even apply for a job these days without using the internet, even jobs where you don't have to use the internet on the job.”

Joselyn says she welcomes the FCC's plans to update Lifeline for the 21st century.

Funding for Lifeline comes from other users of telecommunications services, namely, the rest of us. Our phone bills include a "universal access" charge. It pays for a few other programs, too.

“Where we're getting the resources for this funding comes from ratepayers, rich and poor, throughout America today,” says Michael O'Rielly, a Republican FCC commissioner.

O'Rielly says Lifeline has been plagued with fraud. He thinks the FCC has taken important steps to address key problems, such as households claiming more than one subsidy. But he says academic research suggests many Lifeline users would figure out how to pay their phone bills without the program. O’Rielly suspects that would hold true if Lifeline expanded to subsidize broadband.

And the expanded program won’t improve digital literacy, a key factor in the digital divide, according to Blair Levin, a former FCC chief of staff who's now at the Brookings Institution. Nevertheless, Levin believes the Lifeline reboot is essential.

“This is a very important step. It's the most important step,” he says. “But it's not the last step.”

Heat wave death toll passes 1,000 in India

Thu, 2015-05-28 12:36

Some reports are saying that as many as 1,400 people have died in India due to the country's latest severe heat wave, where temperatures are reaching well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Several news organizations are posting photos of melting asphalt in New Delhi streets.

Indians are hoping for monsoon season rains to come soon and provide some relief from the sweltering temperatures.

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal reached BBC Correspondent Justin Rowlatt in Delhi.

“Everybody here is being warned, take things easy. Don’t push it in this terrible heat,” says Rowlatt.  

But many of India’s poorest residents don’t have the luxury of taking a few days off work.

“They’re desperate for the work, so they go out and continue to work hard (in the heat),” Rowlatt says.  “What people are waiting for is the great release of the monsoon, which cools temperatures down.”

Video: Homeless in LA

Thu, 2015-05-28 12:29

Mark Aranguri, trained firefighter and father of four, tells his story about being homeless in Los Angeles.

Produced by Preditorial | www.preditorial.tv
Director: Rick Kent
Cinematographer and editor: Anton Seim

Who's controlling Sumner Redstone's media empire?

Thu, 2015-05-28 11:00

If you were to ask Sumner Redstone about what happens to his media empire when he’s no longer with us, his answer would be simple: he doesn’t plan on leaving. Sumner Redstone intends to live forever.

The story of how Redstone came to take the helm of two media giants, Viacom and CBS, is about as unfathomable as the man himself; he took his father’s movie business and turned it into one of the largest chains in the country. He bought CBS, and then turned around and bought Viacom as well. Now, at 92 years old, Redstone seems to be slowing down.

“Sumner is the chairman of both companies,” says Vanity Fair contributor Bill Cohen, who penned the story “Endless Sumner," about Redstone's succession plan. “I think you’re starting to see signs of real and material deterioration."

He says that rumors abound that Redstone may soon be headed for that great boardroom in the sky. Redstone's staff at Viacom, meanwhile, say he’s still “sharp as a tack.” So what becomes of CBS and Viacom without Redstone? Cohen says this about Redstone's plans: “[He] has put his ownership stakes at both Viacom and CBS into an irrevocable trust that kicks in when he dies… I think it is probably a good bet that Shari [Redstone] is likely to become the chairman of both Viacom and CBS.” 

Listen to Kai Ryssdal's interview with Redstone from 2006 below:

One thing you can't accuse Google of: thinking small

Thu, 2015-05-28 10:35

One thing you can't accuse Google of: thinking small.

Its Google I/O developers conference keynote today featured at least a thousand attendees by my casual count, ran well over two hours, and was held in a room encased in giant wraparound screens. At one point, a giant animated whale "swam" through the room complete with whale song. 

Molly Wood/Marketplace

The keynote itself touched on everything from mobile phones to wearables to the developing world, virtual reality classrooms, photo storage, the Internet of Things family-friendly app searches, driverless cars, floating Internet balloons and some truly amazing contextual technology that will let your phone use all the stuff it knows about you to predict anything you'll want to do, at any time or place. 

You know, no big deal.

The biggest tech headline is that contextual stuff. Maybe you're familiar with Google Now, which is Google's current contextual assistant. If you turn it on on your Android phone, it can learn, say, your commute to work and start telling you every day how traffic is along that route. It can learn the sports scores you look up most often and deliver them without you asking. And it uses your location and the phone's GPS to tell you where you parked your car. 

Google Now on Tap is a new element of Google Now that'll be available only in the next version of Android (currently called Android M). It brings Google Now predictions and language recognition to apps. So if you're listening to a song, you can tap (get it?) the Google Now button and ask a question about the song or the artist. Google knows what app you're using and what you're listening to -- the context -- so you should be able to say something like, "What's his real name?," and Google will know just what you mean to search for. 

Another demo showed a forgetful husband (those guys always get such a bad rap) confessing he forgot to pick up dry cleaning. Now on Tap will actually create a reminder for you to pick up the dry cleaning, after "reading" your messages. 

Walking close to the creepy line? Maybe. Contextual and predictive apps rely on a LOT of personal information but if you're willing to give in to the sharing, they can be pretty helpful — and Now on Tap looks amazing, technologically speaking.

Google announced a host of other improvements to the new version of Android, like an Android Pay feature that looks and acts almost exactly like Apple Pay, some improved app permission controls (like telling a random app that it can't access your phone's camera or location data), and better battery life. But it's worth noting that Android M won't be out until at least August, according to rumors, and many Android phones haven't even gotten the last update--Lollipop. 

Other headlines of note: 

* Google announced a new service called Google Photos, available today on Android, iOS and Web that uploads and automatically categorizes all your photos. It includes unlimited storage of photos up to a certain size (16MB ) and videos. 

* Family-friendly searching and labeling is coming to apps on Google Play. A star system will let you know if an app is approved for kids, and you can even search by age. 

* Google hopes to build an operating system for the Internet of Things and announced a new communication language called Weave that it hopes will be a universal way for connected devices to communicate. 

* The company updated its Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer to support iPhones, and also announced a program to use Cardboard and phones in schools to provide virtual field trips called Expeditions. It also announced a new virtual reality content creation program that includes all-new 360-degree cameras, software to make 360-degree footage into realistic images, and virtual reality video on YouTube. 

PODCAST: Combating algae blooms

Thu, 2015-05-28 03:00

The Government latest assessment of economic growth is due tomorrow morning. More on what we might expect from that report. Plus, the EPA issued new rules this week clarifying which streams and smaller waterways fall under federal protection. Among other things, the new rules will address fertilizer runoff which contributes to algae blooms. Lake Erie has been especially hard hit and NOAA is issuing experimental early season forecasts of blooms in that region. Plus, in California, tobacco taxes are used to pay for preschool and other early childhood services. But that funding is drying up as people quit smoking. Which poses the question: what will replace it?

Predicting algae levels on Lake Erie

Thu, 2015-05-28 02:00

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are hoping to arm communities with resources in the event of another water crisis on Lake Erie this summer. 

Algae blooms, caused by excessive phosphorus from pollutants like farm fertilizers, made water in the Toledo area undrinkable last summer. When the algae die, they produce a toxin, which can make water unsafe to drink. 

“These blooms, cynobacteria, they like it hot. They don't grow very well when it's cold,” says Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer. 

Stumpf is part of an effort to create a forecast of algae blooms for this summer, based on phosophorus levels in Lake Erie in the spring months. 

“The spring phosphorus load is what drives the summer bloom,” he says. 

Stumpf says armed with the forecast, communities can at least do things like order more supplies such as charcoal filters, which eliminate the toxins and make the water drinkable.

New rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency this week were expected to protect waterways in such a way as to limit runoff of farm fertilizer.

But, William Buzbee, a law professor at Georgetown University, says the new rules largely limit deliberate pollution, not runoff.

“That remains a thorny challenge we haven't addressed effectively in the United States,” he said.

The long arms of the right to be forgotten

Thu, 2015-05-28 02:00

A year ago, a European Court said people had a right to demand Google take down certain search results about them. The right to be forgotten was born.

“That idea is spreading in some areas,” says Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties for the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

Most recently, Google is challenging a ruling by Mexican authorities that Google Mexico must remove embarrassing—but true—search results about a prominent businessman there.

Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea are also considering questions involving the right to be forgotten. Post dictator democracies in Latin America, says Granick, have resisted the notion.

“The real question,” she says, “is as nations adopt a right to be forgotten in their countries how will that affect the internet and search engines as a whole?”

European regulators want Google to take down search results on all versions of Google, not just the European ones. Google has balked at this for now, but it isn’t inconceivable that Europe’s views could reach beyond its borders.

“It surely could,” says Jonathan Zittrain, director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “Right now, when something is taken down because its alleged to be copyright infringing, Google doesn’t take it down when an American complains under American law from Google.com it takes it down from all Google portals.”

He says Google might try to restructure to get out from certain jurisdictions, “or you might even see the American legislature adopt a law telling google not to obey certain orders of a certain kind coming from overseas.”

Google has said it’s received a quarter of a million requests for removal in Europe, from victims of crimes trying to protect their personal information, to politicians trying to cover up misdeeds. Google has rejected 60 percent of those requests.

How tobacco tax revenues affect free preschool

Thu, 2015-05-28 02:00

Tobacco tax revenues that pay for California preschool and other early childhood services are steadily declining as users give up smoking, and a scramble is on to find another source of funding.

The tale of the shrinking funding source — now down to $350 million this year from $650 million in 1998 — starts at tobacco shops like Drive Thru Cigarettes. Tucked inside a strip mall on Huntington Drive in Duarte, the business and other nearby shops have seen sales drop to a trickle. 

Customer Eduardo Hernandez said he used to smoke a lot, but he’s down to a pack a day and looks forward to quitting — and relishing the money he could save from his Little Cesar’s Pizza server salary.

Customer of Drive Thru Cigarettes Eduardo Hernandez said one day he will quit smoking. Declining tobacco tax revenues is leading to less money for early childhood programs. (DEEPA FERNANDES /KPCC) 

“I know smoking is bad,” he said.

But for now, Hernandez’s habit is helping fund free preschool for disadvantaged families and other early childhood programs. 80 percent of tobacco taxes go directly to fund programs for children under five.

For the full story, go to KPCC.org

How tobacco tax revenues affect free preschool

Thu, 2015-05-28 02:00

Tobacco tax revenues that pay for California preschool and other early childhood services are steadily declining as users give up smoking, and a scramble is on to find another source of funding.

The tale of the shrinking funding source — now down to $350 million this year from $650 million in 1998 — starts at tobacco shops like Drive Thru Cigarettes. Tucked inside a strip mall on Huntington Drive in Duarte, the business and other nearby shops have seen sales drop to a trickle. 

Customer Eduardo Hernandez said he used to smoke a lot, but he’s down to a pack a day and looks forward to quitting — and relishing the money he could save from his Little Cesar’s Pizza server salary.

Customer of Drive Thru Cigarettes Eduardo Hernandez said one day he will quit smoking. Declining tobacco tax revenues is leading to less money for early childhood programs. (DEEPA FERNANDES /KPCC) 

“I know smoking is bad,” he said.

But for now, Hernandez’s habit is helping fund free preschool for disadvantaged families and other early childhood programs. 80 percent of tobacco taxes go directly to fund programs for children under five.

For the full story, go to KPCC.org

The risks and rewards of selling dinner reservations

Thu, 2015-05-28 02:00

The Eddy, in New York’s East Village, is the kind of place that manages to make tater tots feel fancy — they're made with bacon and topped with an English pea puree. The décor is modern, but also a bit rustic, and since its dining room only has 30 seats, reservations tend to book up.

Nearly every week, owner Jason Soloway says he gets an inquiry from some startup hoping to help The Eddy solve problems, both real and imagined. The restaurant industry, like many others, is in the midst of a tech makeover. Tablets are replacing waiters at some restaurants, startups want to streamline tasks from hiring staff or ordering food. Restaurant goers have long been able to book reservations online, but a handful of apps and services now offer up often difficult reservations for a price.

The Eddy has partnered with Resy, an app that sells reservations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington D.C. Soloway sets aside a table or two at peak hours for the app to sell for $5 per person, a fee he splits with Resy. On a $10 reservation, after the Resy’s cut and fees, Soloway estimates he’ll take home $4 or $5. That additional revenue is part of the appeal, as is the marketing and promotion he gets from being on the app.

“The risk is we have to hold that table for [Resy] up until usually 6 o’clock the day of the reservation,” Soloway says.

If the reservation doesn’t sell, he then scrambles to fill the table or lose money.

But Resy’s not the only app selling reservations at The Eddy. Unbeknowst to Soloway, tables at The Eddy are also listed for sale on Shout, a marketplace for many of different things, including restaurant reservations in New York City, in-demand sneakers, and event tickets.

Unlike Resy, Shout doesn’t work directly with restaurants. Rather, an individual user makes a reservation they then sell to other users on the app. Shout runs basic background checks on its users, processes payments and holds their funds in escrow until after the time of the reservation to ensure their legitimacy.

“It’s entirely peer-to-peer,” says Zachariah Reitano, one of Shout’s founders. Some users are just looking to sell a reservation they made and now can’t use, while others, “the power sellers, sort of see themselves as personal concierges.”

The same way powerful executives might have their assistants book reservations for them, Reitano says, for a small fee, other people can get a similar service. If restaurants don’t want to be on the platform, Shout won’t remove them, but it’ll let users know they’re going against the restaurant’s wishes. They also ban buyers who no-show.

“We really don’t want facilitate new types of exchange that hurt other people’s business,” Reitano says, adding that there is a market here; people are willing to pay for these reservations.

Growing up Zuckerberg

Thu, 2015-05-28 01:55
12

That's how old Florida teen Rachel Zietz was when she started her company Gladiator Lacrosse, which she says will likely reach $1 million in sales next year. Zietz is following the example of her father, an entrepreneur himself. The New York Times followed the Zietz family and others who are raising young business people, enrolling them in after-school programs and occasionally binge-watching "Shark Tank."

$22

Need a last minute reservation at a popular restaurant? No problem... but it will cost you. At a notable places like Scarpetta in New York City, a table for two at 7:30 p.m. will set you back $22 via a new app called Resy. Restaurants that partner with Resy save one or two tables during the busiest service hours. Resy sells those tables to diners looking for a last minute spot, with the restaurant receiving some of those funds.

1,200

That's how many migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country was selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to estimates from the International Trade Union Confederation. Exact numbers are difficult to parse out, and many of those deaths may be unrelated to the Cup, but the Washington Post points out that even conservative estimates would be far higher than the worker death toll around recent Olympics and World Cups.

12

Speaking of FIFA, that's how many women's national teams will be available on the next iteration of the popular FIFA video game franchise. Set for release in September, FIFA 16 will mark the first time women have been included in the game.

680

That's how many students there are at VIDA Middle School in Vista, California, and all of them were recently issued iPads with 4G connections. That's a lot of expensive hardware, and more tech than many kids have had access to before. VIDA is integrating the devices throughout the day. But the initiative comes with plenty of practical challenges.

Justice department moves on FIFA corruption

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Early this morning Zurich time, Swiss police arrested seven top officials from FIFA, the international organization governing soccer. What’s more, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice will indict some FIFA executives, including former Vice President Jack Warner.   

“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves,” Lynch said in a statement. The U.S. charges include racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

In all, 14 people have been indicted, but not the man at the top, longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

“He’s basically said to have been running sort of a corrupt organization for the better part of two decades,” says Edward Derse, a senior vice president at Universal Sports Network.

Blatter and other FIFA executives are known for their luxurious lifestyles, too.

“Blatter has a huge expense budget. He lives very well,” Derse says.

But even though it looks as if he might soon be elected to another term as FIFA president, Blatter will undoubtedly have a lot of questions to answer as part of the DOJ’s investigation.  

“I think it’s going to change things a lot for FIFA," Derse says. "I mean, clearly, you know, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that this is not going to stop here."  

U.S. Attorney General Lynch moves on FIFA corruption

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Early this morning Zurich time, Swiss police arrested seven top officials from FIFA, the international organization governing soccer. What’s more, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice will indict some FIFA executives, including former Vice President Jack Warner.   

“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves,” Lynch said in a statement. The U.S. charges include racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

In all, 14 people have been indicted, but not the man at the top, longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

“He’s basically said to have been running sort of a corrupt organization for the better part of two decades,” says Edward Derse, a senior vice president at Universal Sports Network.

Blatter and other FIFA executives are known for their luxurious lifestyles, too.

“Blatter has a huge expense budget. He lives very well,” Derse says.

But even though it looks as if he might soon be elected to another term as FIFA president, Blatter will undoubtedly have a lot of questions to answer as part of the DOJ’s investigation.  

“I think it’s going to change things a lot for FIFA," Derse says. "I mean, clearly, you know, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that this is not going to stop here."  

After purchase, Re/code gets Vox's secret weapon

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

In purchasing the tech news site Re/code, Vox Media is adding to its portfolio of news sites — and giving Re/code access to its "secret weapon."

Much has been made of Vox's content management system, Chorus. Most online news outfits have systems that are chaotic behind the scenes thanks to decades of updates and adjustments, says newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor.

"Endless meetings, endless investments and endless years go by in trying to transform legacy companies to being what are essentially digital-first companies" to limited success, Doctor says.

Vox basically skipped all of this. It was born digital, and it built its Chorus publishing system for the digital age. The system allows for an integrated publishing of photos, text, tweets, links and other elements all processed quickly and seamlessly. It is all aimed at creating in-depth stories quickly and getting them online.

"Chorus is a killer technology," Doctor says. "It is that understanding that technology is the core of the new business."

"It's a kind of leap ahead of where a great many organizations, especially legacy organizations, are," says Rick Edmunds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.

Vox has also adapted that same technology to make it easier to target ads. And that's an area where the news industry lags.

"The print advertising dollar has continued to decline," says Amy Mitchell, head of journalism research at the Pew Center. "Digital has grown a bit, but it's not been able to keep up with the decline that's being seen in print."

Doctor says that's where Vox's Chorus technology could teach news organizations how to sing a new tune.

Mixed feelings for landfill run deep in Alabama

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Back in 2008, an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash was released into the Emory River in Tennessee when a dam breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant. It was the biggest coal ash spill in the nation. Much of that coal ash was hauled to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Residents of the poor, mostly African-American county have filed a lawsuit saying they're suffering as a result of the coal ash. But the landfill is also a vital part of the local economy.

William Gipson lives across the street from the Arrowhead landfill, just off a two-way country road in Perry County, Alabama, about 30 minutes outside of Selma. Sometimes, he says, it smells like rotten eggs. Garbage is one thing, he says. "I'm fine with that. But why would they put a contaminated landfill here in this neighborhood, right here at my front door?

The contamination Gipson is referring to arrived six years ago: 4 million tons of coal ash, hauled in after the dam breach in Tennessee. Several residents have filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the landfill is lowering property values, causing illness and letting toxic chemicals flow into nearby creeks.

Gipson says runoff from the landfill heads into a ditch and ultimately trickles into a creek.

"It just comes under the road and runs right through there."

He says water at his house used to run clear from the tap. Now, he says, there's a white film around his pots and pans. He says he just can't tell what's in the water, and he's worried.

Perry County Commissioner Tim Sanderson says he doesn't buy any claims that he landfill is unsafe. "I've always been a firm believer in 'show me some proof',' " he says. "You can make allegations all day long."

Fact is, Perry County needs this landfill. People have been leaving in droves; the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Schools are closing. So are restaurants and shops.

"Jobs are not here," Sanderson says. "So people are going where the jobs are because of gas prices and other reasons."

Perry County's median household income is $28,000. For every ton of waste collected at Arrowhead, the county gets a dollar. Four million tons of coal ash meant $4 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and savings on the county's own dumping fees.

Sanderson says people who complain about a landfill in Perry County aren't being realistic.

"Everybody was saying, 'Oh we're killing the kids, we're causing all these problems,' " he says. " 'Let's carry it to Mississippi and kill all their kids and cause problems over there.' That's not the good Christian way."

Mike Smith, attorney for Green Group Holdings, which owns the landfill, says an elaborate liner system protects the groundwater, and he says the water is tested regularly.

"It's not nearly as bad a water as you would think it would [be], or as other people have led the residents to believe it is," he says.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead and boron, and environmentalists fear these chemicals can cause health problems.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected the landfill for drainage problems last month. The results: certain areas need to be "stabilized" with vegetation, and inspectors noted cloudy water leaving the landfill property where it shouldn't be.

Smith acknowledges some of the issues noted in the report, and he says they'll be addressed. He also points out that the $4 million the coal ash deal brought Perry County was a windfall, some of which went to the schools.

"But for that," Smith says, "they would've had a severe cutback in their services."

Arrowhead has also tried to win over residents by cleaning up parks and buying the high school a new PA system. But this month Arrowhead started aggressively marketing itself as the place to dump coal ash. New EPA regulations require utilities to comply with strict standards, and as a landfill, Arrowhead isn't subject to the new EPA rules.

"Now we're getting to the area now where our partial closure's been conducted," Smith says, "and that's the area where the coal ash has been....

Smith points out the area where the last load of ash is buried.

"It is safely stored away," he says.

If Arrowhead gets its wish, there will be lots more coal ash coming to Perry County.

Correction: A previous headline misidentified the state where the Arrowhead landfill is located. The text has been corrected. 

Mixed feelings for landfill run deep in Tennessee

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Back in 2008, an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash was released into the Emory River in Tennessee when a dam breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant. It was the biggest coal ash spill in the nation. Much of that coal ash was hauled to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Residents of the poor, mostly African-American county have filed a lawsuit saying they're suffering as a result of the coal ash. But the landfill is also a vital part of the local economy.

William Gipson lives across the street from the Arrowhead landfill, just off a two-way country road in Perry County, Alabama, about 30 minutes outside of Selma. Sometimes, he says, it smells like rotten eggs. Garbage is one thing, he says. "I'm fine with that. But why would they put a contaminated landfill here in this neighborhood, right here at my front door?

The contamination Gipson is referring to arrived six years ago: 4 million tons of coal ash, hauled in after the dam breach in Tennessee. Several residents have filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the landfill is lowering property values, causing illness and letting toxic chemicals flow into nearby creeks.

Gipson says runoff from the landfill heads into a ditch and ultimately trickles into a creek.

"It just comes under the road and runs right through there."

He says water at his house used to run clear from the tap. Now, he says, there's a white film around his pots and pans. He says he just can't tell what's in the water, and he's worried.

Perry County Commissioner Tim Sanderson says he doesn't buy any claims that he landfill is unsafe. "I've always been a firm believer in 'show me some proof',' " he says. "You can make allegations all day long."

Fact is, Perry County needs this landfill. People have been leaving in droves; the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Schools are closing. So are restaurants and shops.

"Jobs are not here," Sanderson says. "So people are going where the jobs are because of gas prices and other reasons."

Perry County's median household income is $28,000. For every ton of waste collected at Arrowhead, the county gets a dollar. Four million tons of coal ash meant $4 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and savings on the county's own dumping fees.

Sanderson says people who complain about a landfill in Perry County aren't being realistic.

"Everybody was saying, 'Oh we're killing the kids, we're causing all these problems,' " he says. " 'Let's carry it to Mississippi and kill all their kids and cause problems over there.' That's not the good Christian way."

Mike Smith, attorney for Green Group Holdings, which owns the landfill, says an elaborate liner system protects the groundwater, and he says the water is tested regularly.

"It's not nearly as bad a water as you would think it would [be], or as other people have led the residents to believe it is," he says.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead and boron, and environmentalists fear these chemicals can cause health problems.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected the landfill for drainage problems last month. The results: certain areas need to be "stabilized" with vegetation, and inspectors noted cloudy water leaving the landfill property where it shouldn't be.

Smith acknowledges some of the issues noted in the report, and he says they'll be addressed. He also points out that the $4 million the coal ash deal brought Perry County was a windfall, some of which went to the schools.

"But for that," Smith says, "they would've had a severe cutback in their services."

Arrowhead has also tried to win over residents by cleaning up parks and buying the high school a new PA system. But this month Arrowhead started aggressively marketing itself as the place to dump coal ash. New EPA regulations require utilities to comply with strict standards, and as a landfill, Arrowhead isn't subject to the new EPA rules.

"Now we're getting to the area now where our partial closure's been conducted," Smith says, "and that's the area where the coal ash has been....

Smith points out the area where the last load of ash is buried.

"It is safely stored away," he says.

If Arrowhead gets its wish, there will be lots more coal ash coming to Perry County.

 

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