National News

Google News Is Taken Offline In Spain, After A Call For Payments

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 12:31

In Spain, Google and other news aggregators would face steep fines if they publish headlines and abstracts without paying.

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A different kind of higher education

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 12:19

What’s a university to do when it’s trying to burnish its reputation for sober academics, but it’s surrounded by stores selling Moonwalk, Lemon Diesel and Trainwreck strains of legal pot?  

This is the situation the University of Colorado Boulder is in. It’s ranked fourth for prevalence of marijuana use in student surveys, according to Princeton Review.

“CU Boulder, an exceptional school academically, has been in the top five or six schools on that 'Reefer Madness' list for a long time,” says Princeton Review publisher Rob Franek. 

But since the beginning of 2014, with implementation of voter-approved legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana, stores and dispensaries have proliferated in and around Boulder.   

And that development happened in the same year that the school experienced a 28 percent jump in undergraduate applications. 

“We see no correlation between our rise in applications and the legalization of marijuana,” says university spokesman Ryan Huff. “It’s really a coincidence of timing.”

Kevin MacLennan, Boulder's director of admissions, explains that coincidence: the same year that recreational marijuana legalization took effect in Colorado, the university adopted the Common Application. The common app, is it’s known, makes it much easier for students to apply to multiple colleges. Schools typically see a double-digit jump in applicants when they begin using it.

Applications are up again this fall by 12 percent as of late November, according to MacLennan. He attributes the rise to increased recruitment. Similarly, Colorado College in Colorado Springs – No. 13 on the Reefer Madness list — has also seen applicant numbers jump by double-digits since 2012. The college partly attributes to joining a new college consortium that has expanded the applicant pool.

It could also be that some of these students want to come to Colorado because of the legal recreational pot. But, says “that’s something that’s fairly hard to track on an admissions application," MacLennan says.

On an official tour of the 30,000-student campus, there wasn’t much discussion of the issue among prospective students and their parents. But the issue was on their minds. 

“Of course as a parent I would be concerned that an addictive substance is legal,” said Charles Stevens, visiting from Chicago with his son. “But alcohol is legal. I don’t know a whole lot about cannabis, but I’m certainly going to learn more about it.”

His son, Alex, said Boulder is his first choice because of the skiing, not the liberal marijuana laws.

Suzanne Baker, who lives in Denver, was visiting with her granddaughter from Hawaii. Baker is pro-legalization so the issue “doesn’t concern me,” she says. “If my granddaughter is going to get into something, she can get into alcohol or anything else, so I think it’s a personal decision.”

For years, university administrators have been trying to downplay their party-school image, talking up Boulder’s academic reputation, cutting-edge research, especially in science and aerospace, and touting the number (five) of faculty members who are Nobel laureates.

During freshman orientation and in programs run by the school’s health services, students (and their parents) are warned early and often that pot is still banned on campus, and that it’s illegal for anyone under 21. And reminded that heavy use can get in the way of academic success.

Several years ago, the administration cracked down on the local 4/20 "smoke-out," where thousands gathered on campus to openly get high. 

“That was a huge disruption to our academic pursuits here on campus, so we have effectively shut that down,” says Huff. “I think when you take steps like that, when you take greater education to your students, you’re going to see the use drop.” 

Students are noticing the new PR push. “There has definitely been a concerted effort to rebrand CU not as a party school, but as an academically serious institution,” says Lauren Thurman, a junior who is opinion editor of the student newspaper, the CU Independent

“You’ll see these little banners all over campus where it’s like, ‘Be Ambitious, Be Generous, Be Bolder.’”

Thurman says plenty of students, including her close friends, are serious about their studies and don't smoke much pot. Still, she says, it's ubiquitous.

“Definitely on a daily basis you’d get a whiff of it somewhere," Thurman says. "So in the dorms you wouldn’t smell marijuana so much as you would smell burning popcorn, which was sort of the universal sign that someone was trying to cover up smoking.”

College students will probably be covering up their smoking less – and using pot more, in coming years – as legalization spreads to other states and the social stigma falls away. This is a generation raised thinking of marijuana as safe, even salutary, for human health.

“Most of the highest-achieving, most brilliant students I know are really heavy smokers,” says Anna Squires, a sophomore at Colorado College. “I don’t know that that’s a good thing, but I think they exist on a more philosophical plane, and they’re just thinking really deeply about what they’re learning.”

Marvel At 75: Still Slinging Webs And Guarding Galaxies

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

What became Marvel Comics got its start in 1939 as Timely Publications. It went through many changes — but one constant has been writer Stanley Lieber, better known as Stan Lee.

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When You Burn Off That Fat, Where Does It Go?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:58

Lipid metabolism may not sound sexy, but it's how you fit into that smaller pair of jeans. And when the fat says farewell, it has to go somewhere. Only some of it winds up in New Jersey.

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Skating Out Classroom Stress As A 'Derby Dame'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:46

English teacher and roller derby queen Elle L. Cool Jam, aka Nina Park, plays offense and defense on the track and in her classroom.

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Brothers On C-Span Divided By Politics, United In Mortification By Mom's Call

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:19

Brad Woodhouse is a Democrat. His brother, Dallas Woodhouse, is Republican. They were arguing on C-Span when their mother called in. Watch their exchange.

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The Sony hack, dissected

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

The Sony hack saga continues, and the hackers are getting more serious. They warned of 9/11-like attacks on movie theaters if the movie "The Interview" opens as scheduled on Christmas Day, and also promised a "Christmas gift" of files. 

Kai sat down with Marketplace Tech host, Ben Johnson, to talk about the lingering questions, including what happens when email systems get hacked. 

Hacking Sony's emails

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

The Sony hack saga continues, and the hackers are getting more serious. They warned of 9/11-like attacks on movie theaters if the movie "The Interview" opens as scheduled on Christmas Day, and also promised a "Christmas gift" of files. 

Kai sat down with Marketplace Tech host, Ben Johnson, to talk about the lingering questions, including what happens when email systems get hacked. 

December shores up 'mom and pop’ toy shops, for now

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

The Big Fun Toy Store in Cleveland just celebrated its 24th year in business. And although the store has had ups and downs, owner Steve Presser says he has reason to smile this time of year. The holiday season accounts for a big chunk of the toy store’s sales.

"Depending on how the calendar treats us, five or six weeks, for most businesses like myself, it’s 25 to 35 percent of our business," says Presser. "December has been really strong."

Still, Presser worries about the future of mom-and-pop shops.

"In the last six to nine months, I’ve seen just a dramatic turn towards [online] shopping by customers," Presser says. "The public has gotten very lackadaisical and it’s easy just to order at home."

Coffee engineered to put you to sleep. Seriously.

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

There's a coffee company based in Vancouver that is, in my opinion, completely missing the point.

New Counting Sheep Coffee helps put you to sleep. Seriously. The coffee is blended with organic valerian root, which is an herbal sedative. 

It comes in two varieties, Bedtime Blend/40 Winks and Lights Out. The founders of the coffee company pitched their product on the Canadian television series "Dragon's Den."

Should you be interested, the coffee is available on Amazon.

 

Subscription services stage a comeback

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

AMC Theatres is experimenting with a new subscription service: Pay a monthly fee and see an unlimited number of movies.

This is the latest in what might be called a "subscription boom." Food, clothing, personal hygiene products, are all being offered through subscriptions. Stacy Spikes, CEO of Movie Pass, the theatrical subscription service partnering with AMC, says people increased their moviegoing by 60 to 70 percent after signing up for a subscription. And most of those people are from that most coveted of demographics: millennials.

Predictable income from young consumers has spawned new businesses like Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron and Trunk Club. Their investors subscribe to the belief that the future of commerce looks a lot like the old-school business model of media companies.

Subscriptions make a comeback

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

AMC Theatres is experimenting with a new subscription service: pay a monthly fee and see an unlimited number of movies.

This is the latest in what might be called a "subscription boom." Food, clothing, personal hygiene products, are all being offered through subscriptions. Stacy Spikes, the CEO of Movie Pass, the theatrical subscription service partnering with AMC, says people increased their movie going by 60 to 70 after signing up for a subscription. And most of those people are from that most coveted of demographics: millennials.

Predictable income from young consumers has spawned new businesses like Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron and Trunk Club. Their investors subscribe to the belief that the future of commerce looks a lot like the old-school business model of media companies.

When the ruble falls, who hears it?

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

The ruble is worth half – half – of what it was worth in July.  The simple reason, of course, is that people don’t want the ruble.

“People aren’t investing in Russia,” says Alexander Kliment at the Eurasia Group. “That was the problem before the Ukraine crisis and it’s been exacerbated by the sanctions and what’s followed."

It is also the reason the ruble’s fall isn’t expected to cause major economic havoc outside Russia. 

Jeff Mankoff, deputy director of  the Russia and Eurasia Program at the center for Strategic and International Studies, says while Russia’s economy is larger and more interconnected, “because of the sanctions there’s been an effort on the part of a lot of those companies in neighboring countries and Europe to reduce their exposure in Russia.”

Inside Russia, of course is a different story.  Russia’s imports are now twice as expensive as they were in July.

“Not only is Russia’s economy contracting, it’s also experiencing inflation,” says Marc Chandler, Global Head of Currency Strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. “This is a horrible mix – if you stimulate the economy you fuel inflation.”

Russia’s foreign debts are also more burdensome.

“Russia has about 680 billion dollars of borrowing it did overseas,” Chandler says. “about two thirds of it is denominated in U.S. dollars,” which are now more expensive.

Analysts including Kliment say they don’t see widespread default, yet.

“A lot of that corporate debt is held by state companies ...so if they were to get into trouble the state would probably bail them out.”

While the consequences of Russia’s currency route inside the country are economic, outside they are geopolitical. 

“The economic pressure that Russia is experiencing right now is being framed in Russia as part of a western campaign to weaken Russia,” says Kliment. President Putin’s popularity – which is around 90 percnet – isn’t counted in dollars or rubles. “It’s based almost entirely on a very nationalistic tough guy image.”

So how will that tough guy respond when economically cornered?

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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