National News

Internet in the U.S: High cost, slow service

There’s a new study out by the New America Foundation that ranks 24 cities around the world for their broadband offerings. That is, how much bang do we get from our buck?  

The study ranks Internet service providers in a few ways, says Nick Russo, a policy analyst at the Foundation. But the most interesting for consumers is the speed you can get for $40 in the cities.

“Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo rank in the top three,” Russo says.

San Francisco is number six but LA, New York and Washington are at the bottom of the list. That means a lot of Americans are basically paying more money for slower service. Why is that?

Christopher Yoo, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School, says it’s simple.

“Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo are all the result of massive government subsidies,” he says.

Those countries have invested about $300 million for that fast, affordable service, Yoo says. But that’s not going to happen in the U.S., where Congress is looking to makes cuts in the budget for internet services

Al Hammond, a professor at Santa Clara University’s School of Law, says there’s another force at play.

“I think it’s the lack of competition,” he says.  

Hammond says, unlike other countries, the big Internet service providers in the U.S. aren’t required to rent out their broadband pipes to smaller ISPs. That means people in some cities are limited to one or two choices for internet service. And Hammond says some smaller cities are trying to provide cheaper, faster service to their citizens but the big ISPs are fighting that effort.

Soon you will be able to get Starbucks delivered

If you're craving a pumpkin spice latte but are tired of waiting in line to get one, you're in luck.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, said world's biggest coffee company is going to roll out a delivery service. The service will be available through the Starbucks mobile app starting in the fall of 2015.

"Imagine the ability to create a standing order that Starbucks delivered hot or iced to your desk daily," Schultz said.

We are, Mr. Schultz. We are.

Weekly Wrap: Elections, inflation and GDP

Leigh Gallagher, an Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, and Cardiff Garcia, from the blog FT Alphaville join Kai to talk about the week in review.

Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.

The music of politics

Just days away from midterm elections, depending on where you live, you might be getting bombarded by political ads on TV and radio. Meet one of the people behind the curtain.

Jeff Trueman runs a company called High Gravity Sounds. He works with producers and post production houses to create custom sound design. This time of year, he's busy producing music for campaign ads.

Listen to the full story in the audio player above.

Why inflation is a central banker's goal

It used to be that if you really wanted to scare economists and the public, you need only mention one terrifying word: inflation. But really, inflation is a lot like candy. A little bit here and there makes your life so much better, and — as millions of kids are bound to find out this weekend — too much leads to ruin.

One of the goals of Quantitative Easings I through III was to stimulate inflation up to a point; 2 percent was the Federal Reserve's stated goal.  And even though inflation never quite reached that target, QE is ending.

Now Japan is picking up the torch. For decades, the once booming economic powerhouse has been suffering from stagnation, or to put it another way, a lack of inflation.

“Japan wants inflation,” says economist Justin Wolfers.  “Last night they announced that they were going to buy even more bonds because they aren’t getting as much inflation as they wanted.”

So why do Japan, the U.S. and Europe want to stimulate inflation? Because inflation, in the right amount, is a sign of economic growth. In a healthy economy, wages increase steadily. In turn, businesses raise prices and that leads to inflation.

At the moment, wages in the U.S. and Japan are down when adjusted for inflation and lots of people are still looking for work. “Those of us that have jobs probably don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise, and all those people looking for work are willing to accept work at fairly low wages,” says Wolfers. “So all of that puts downward pressure on wages.”

Typically the first thing a government can do to boost the economy, cut unemployment and raise inflation is lower interest rates. But, says economist Josh Bivens, “the short term interest rates that the Fed controls directly, have been stuck at zero since about 2008 and interest rates can’t go below zero.”

Which is why the Federal Reserve and now Japan have turned to the more unconventional tool, buying trillions of dollars in bonds. 

But these tools don’t get used in a political vacuum. People disagree about how much stimulus to inject into the economy.  That makes finding the right amount of stimulus harder than getting a kid to sit still after eating a bag of candy.

With Reports Of Doping, World Marathon Majors Postpones Awards Ceremony

NPR News - 10 hours 25 min ago

Rita Jeptoo, the accomplished marathoner who holds the course record at Boston, has reportedly tested positive for a banned substance. The Majors said it's awaiting a decision by the governing body.

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The numbers for October 31, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - 10 hours 49 min ago

It's Halloween, and at "Marketplace" we're getting in the spirit. Marketplace Morning Report Producer Katie Long has been working on her costume:

We're helping @Marketplace producers brainstorm costumes for #halloween2014 https://t.co/GZHZ4SbY0p

— Ariana Tobin (@Ariana_Tobin) October 31, 2014

There are plenty of stories to read and numbers to watch today — Japan's stimulus, the ongoing legal drama surrounding Ebola quarantines, the impending midterm elections — but since it's a holiday and a Friday, we're going to stick to only the spookiest numbers today.

To get us started, Quartz is featuring the ten scariest economic charts out there. From European unemployment to student debt, keep repeating to yourself "it's only a chart, it's only a chart..."

Here are some other spine-chilling stories we're reading today.

2

That's how many people have died from accidentally eating THC-infused edibles since Colorado legalized medical marijuana use. Denver police have put out a PSA warning parents about the varieties of edibles that look like typical Halloween candy, the New York Times reported. There haven't been any reported cases of people passing out edibles, and some Marijuana advocates say the claims are alarmist. Others are pushing for tighter regulation of the treats.

94103

One of the best trick-or-treating neighborhoods in the nation — Noe Valley, San Francisco — according to a study by Zillow. In last week's "Dear Prudence" column over at Slate, Prudie ripped into a self-professed one-percenter for griping about children from outside the area coming over to trick-or-treat. It's a well-known phenomenon, also explored in a Washington Post column Thursday. The conclusion: don't spend Halloween dressed up like Scrooge. 

$3

The price of Starbuck's "secret" Halloween treat, a "Franken Frappuccino." The unholy concoction is a green tea Frappuccino with three pumps of white mocha sauce, three pumps of peppermint syrup and mocha java chips, the LA Times reports. [Shudder]

The economy as seen through political ads

Marketplace - American Public Media - 11 hours 22 min ago

If you live in a swing state, chances are you’ve seen a political ad or two in the run-up to this year’s midterm elections.  And there’s also a pretty good chance that ad talked about the economy.  

Which brings us to this question:  If those ads were your only source of information, what would you think about the state of the economy?  What kind of picture are the ads painting?  It’s not always what you’d expect.

Check out these two ads, for gubernatorial races.

In his ad, the Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, says we’re on the road to recovery. 

And the Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin, Mary Burke, talks about bleak job prospects and layoffs.

“We would expect Democratic candidates to trumpet the success of the economy and for Republicans to be on the attack," says Vincent Hutchings, political science professor at the University of Michigan. "But at the state level, especially if we’re talking about gubernatorial contests, that logic gets turned on its head.”

Hutchings says incumbents, whatever their political stripe, have to defend their handling of the local economy. Challengers blame economic problems on the incumbent. But in national, congressional races, political ads focusing on the economy are more predictable.

For Republicans, “it’s all doom and gloom,” says Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project

Listen to ads from Republican congressional candidates, she says, and you think the economy will never pick up.

“So, a lot of ads will make references to the squeeze on the middle class in particular," she explains. "I’ve seen ads on recent college graduates and frustration over spending a lot of money on a college education and not being able to find a job.”

Franklin Fowler says, for congressional Democrats, it’s morning in America -- or it would be if it weren’t for the Republicans.     

“Democrats will often go after Republican incumbents and/or wealthy challengers who own businesses for shipping jobs overseas or for job losses,” she says.

In fact, Franklin Fowler says, about 20 percent of ads for all Senate candidates mention jobs, with very different takes on the jobs picture. So who’s right? I turned to Richard DeKaser, a corporate economist at Wells Fargo.

“I’d give the economy a B-minus,” he says.

DeKaser says we’re creating about 250,000 jobs a month, and GDP is growing at about three percent. That’s pretty good. 

But it’s an uneven recovery.  Not everyone is benefiting.  

So politicians can cherry pick economic data, to make a point.

“You can pick and choose from the data and tell pretty much any story you’d like," DeKaser says. "And more often than not, that’s the case.  It’s just a matter of biased presentation rather than dishonest presentation. Though there is some dishonesty as well.”

And when the economic picture is a bit ambiguous like it is now, it’s that much easier to manipulate. 

Seeing Red During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

NPR News - 12 hours 15 min ago

Decades of effort to raise awareness of breast cancer hasn't helped to reduce the death toll once it spreads. One woman living with metastatic breast cancer says it's way past time for a change.

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Why My Grandma Never Had A Pap Smear

NPR News - 12 hours 55 min ago

Women in the developing world may never be tested for cervical cancer. Clinics are far away, cultural biases may keep them away. Now an inexpensive test lets them do it themselves.

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Maine Judge Rejects State's Bid To Restrict Nurse's Movements

NPR News - 13 hours 31 min ago

The request by state officials would have compelled Kaci Hickox, who shows no symptoms of Ebola, to isolate herself until Nov. 10.

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No Joke: French Town Cracks Down On Clown Costumes After Attacks

NPR News - 13 hours 32 min ago

The French town of Vendargues has banned people from dressing up as clowns for a month starting today. The move follows violent incidents across the country involving teens dressed as clowns.

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The Creepiest Ghost And Monster Stories From Around The World

NPR News - 13 hours 35 min ago

Did you know about the bat-demon of Tanzania? Or the Japanese girl who haunts school bathrooms? We've rounded up some spooky stories that come from different cultural contexts. The chills translate.

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The Creepiest Ghost And Monster Stories From Around The World

NPR News - 14 hours 33 min ago

Did you know about the bat-demon of Tanzania? Or the Japanese girl who haunts school bathrooms? We've rounded up some spooky stories that come from different cultural contexts. The chills translate.

» E-Mail This

Israel Reopens Disputed Religious Site In Jerusalem To Worshippers

NPR News - 14 hours 36 min ago

The Temple Mount, sacred to both Muslims and Jews, was closed Thursday following the attempted assassination of a right-wing Jewish activist. More than 1,000 security personnel have been deployed.

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Burkina Faso's Military Takes Power After President Resigns

NPR News - 15 hours 33 min ago

Blaise Compaore, who ruled the West African country for 27 years after he seized power in a coup, agreed to resign after riots in the capital demanding his ouster.

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Lava Flow In Hawaii Spares Homes, But Threatens To Cut Off Community

NPR News - 16 hours 48 min ago

The state has sent National Guard troops to the town of Pahoa to assist with a road block and security.

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50 Great Teachers: A Celebration Of Great Teaching

NPR News - 17 hours 32 min ago

Our new series will tell the stories of great teachers, and explore some big questions: What is great teaching? Can it be taught? How do good teachers become great ones?

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Alleged Cop-Killer Arraigned After Arrest Ends Extensive Manhunt

NPR News - 17 hours 34 min ago

Eric Frein, who investigators say fatally shot a police officer and wounded another, was arrested on Thursday after eluding authorities for 48 days.

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PODCAST: Let's go to the movies

Marketplace - American Public Media - 17 hours 35 min ago

Like a Halloween ghoul jumping out of nowhere with a pile of candy, Japan's central bank today announced its radically increasing its economic stimulus program. It's an effort to stop deflation and to counter act a hike in the sales tax that depressed consumers in Japan. Up went Japan's Nikkei stock index by 4 point eight percent—That's the like the Dow jumping 825 points. And there were other consequences. More on that. Plus, the two biggest cinema chains in the U.S. reported dismal summer profits this week, even though summer is supposed to be prime movie-going season. We look into the flailing movie theater industry. Plus, we've been calling our sources to see what might next Tuesday's mid-term elections mean for the economy, jobs and businesses.

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