National News

Russia ramps up response as ruble plummets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:00

The Russian Central Bank hopes raising interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent will give people an incentive to hold onto the ruble and not bail into say, the euro, or the dollar

“The falling  price of oil and economic sanctions are having a very dramatic impact in terms of isolating Russian entities from the international capital markets,” says Charles Movit, chief Russia economist at IHS Global Insight.  Oil accounts for two-thirds of Russia’s export revenue.  Raising interest rates is likely the first of many painful steps for the Russians.

“I think they're going to have to end up doing even more radical measures, like simply stop people from taking money out of the country as best they can,” says Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard University economist. “The banking sector can't take this for very long. The banks can't afford to pay these kinds of interest rates when they've made a lot of loans, they can’t afford to pay this to depositors."

Pulling out of Ukraine and thereby escaping sanctions is one possible fix for Russia’s currency problem, Rogoff says. Another more likely solution would be a gradual rebounding of oil prices this coming spring.

Where is your extra gas money going?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:00

What you and I and all the other drivers in the country aren't spending on gas could add up to hundreds of billions of dollars in savings. The savings will act as an economic stimulus, says Geoffrey Heal , professor at Columbia University's business school. “It will. Definitely," he says. "We’re giving consumers significantly more spending power.” (function(){var qs,js,q,s,d=document,gi=d.getElementById,ce=d.createElement,gt=d.getElementsByTagName,id='typef_orm',b='https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/share.typeform.com/';if(!gi.call(d,id)){js=ce.call(d,'script');js.id=id;js.src=b+'widget.js';q=gt.call(d,'script')[0];q.parentNode.insertBefore(js,q)}})()

“They have a little bit more money, but at the same time their investment are doing a little less well," he says, "so they don’t necessarily feel that much richer.

Low gas prices could have a negative impact on the stock market. Shares of oil producing companies might go down, so would our retirement funds which puts us in the mood to save, not spend.

Scott Wren, a senior equity strategist with Wells Fargo Advisors, says we have seen low gas prices act as an economic stimulus in the past. But that was then, and this is a recovering economy.

“In the past people were more prone to increase their spending. They were more prone to borrow money as well, do things like home equity loans," she says. "And I think right now the mentality is a little different."

At least we still like a deal. 

With a Starbucks on every corner, chain pivots

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:00

Forget that grande skim no-foam latte. What used to be "fancy coffee" has become average. That's pushed Starbucks to open the “Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room” in Seattle, the first of about 100 premium stores the chain has in the works.

Starbucks is trying to hit the reset button and make their ubiquitous coffees feel special again, says Tom Pirko, president of the food and beverage consulting company BevMark. The company is also trying to keep up with an ever-growing number of premium small roasters and cafes.

That increased demand, as well as new interest in coffee from Asian consumers, is pushing up prices for high-end beans, says Jack Scoville, a coffee broker with Price Futures Group.

Elvis Lieban, the co-founder and coffee buyer for Bay Area roaster Artís, says the price of his high-end beans has increased 20 to 25 percent this year, but customers don’t tend to be very price sensitive. 

Gourmet coffee is on the up, prices too

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:00

Forget that grande skim no-foam latte. What used to be "fancy coffee" has become average. That's pushed Starbucks to open the “Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room” in Seattle, the first of about 100 premium stores the chain has in the works.

Starbucks is trying to hit the reset button and make their ubiquitous coffees feel special again, says Tom Pirko, president of the food and beverage consulting company BevMark. The company is also trying to keep up with an ever-growing number of premium small roasters and cafes.

That increased demand, as well as new interest in coffee from Asian consumers, is pushing up prices for high-end beans, says Jack Scoville, a coffee broker with Price Futures Group.

Elvis Lieban, the co-founder and coffee buyer for Bay Area roaster Artís, says the price of his high-end beans has increased 20 to 25 percent this year, but customers don’t tend to be very price sensitive. 

Suspect In Shooting Spree Near Philadelphia Has Been Found Dead

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 10:57

Police have found the body of Bradley Stone, who they say went on a shooting rampage that killed his ex-wife and five of her relatives in Montgomery County, Pa., Monday.

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A Game Of Ludo Helps Liberians Catch A Break From Ebola

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 10:52

The fast-paced board game — it's a lot like Parcheesi — offers a way to escape the stress of life in the Ebola zone.

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'Torture Report': A Closer Look At When And What President Bush Knew

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 09:58

A Senate investigation says President George W. Bush was not briefed on the specifics of how the CIA interrogated terrorism suspects until four years into the program. Bush denies that.

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Amid Strains, Syrian Refugees Are Facing Curfews In Lebanon

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 09:47

The fragile country now hosts some 1 million Syrian refugees. Some towns have set up civilian volunteers to enforce curfews on the refugees, leading to rising tensions and some cases of abuse.

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Apple Wins $1B iPod Antitrust Lawsuit

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 09:40

A California jury has found that Apple's iTunes 7.0 did not violate antitrust laws when it restricted files bought on other music services.

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Economists: Congress Gets A Hat Tip (Barely) For Its Efforts

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 09:23

Congress passed no laws addressing the minimum wage, tax reform, trade or immigration this year. But judged by the low recent standards, lawmakers got light applause from economists.

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Scientists Debate If It's OK To Make Viruses More Dangerous In The Lab

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 09:19

Researchers are struggling with how to balance the benefits and risks of genetic experiments that can give viruses new talents for causing infections.

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Deggans: 'Fargo,' 'True Detective,' 'Transparent' Top Best TV of 2014

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 08:53

At a time when there is so much good TV around, NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans says any Top Ten list says as much about the critic as the shows they are picking.

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Has Vladimir Putin Just Overplayed His Hand?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 08:15

The Russia leader was riding high at home this year with the successful Winter Olympics and his annexation of Crimea. Now he's staring at a recession and has alienated Western nations that could help.

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Hunt For Dengue Vaccine Gets Closer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 08:12

Dengue sickens millions of people each year, and there's no cure. Now scientists have found powerful antibodies that stop the virus. Their discovery offers a road map to develop a simple vaccine.

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FIFA Dismisses U.S. Lawyer's Appeal On Handling Of World Cup Report

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 07:41

Michael Garcia had filed an appeal against how his report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cup was handled. FIFA said his appeal is inadmissible.

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Jeb Bush Announces He Will 'Actively Explore' Presidential Run

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 06:34

Bush, a GOP favorite, said he would establish a political action committee in January to "facilitate conversations with citizens across America."

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Book News: James Patterson Makes Good On $1M Promise To Indies

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 06:26

With a final $437,000 push, his plan to donate $1 million of his own money to support independent booksellers is complete. Also: Judy Blume is set to publish her first adult novel in 15 years.

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Thousands Lay Flowers At The Site Hostage Siege In Sydney

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 05:24

A day after two people, plus a gunman were killed in a hostage siege, thousands of Australians left bouquets of flowers. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife visited and signed a condolence book.

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Quiz: Studying social networks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 04:46

The most discussed academic paper on the web in 2014 involved manipulating social media users, according to Altmetric rankings of online research.

We talked about the study back in July.

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Few Employers Cover Egg Freezing For Women With Cancer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 04:22

Although egg freezing is the perk of the moment at some high-profile companies, the option isn't often available, even for women with serious illnesses that could affect their fertility.

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