National News

Job Outlook Brightens For Graduates, Though Problems Linger

NPR News - Sat, 2014-06-07 01:46

The Class of 2014 is coming into a labor market that now offers a record number of jobs. But May's employment report also shows 9.8 million people remain out of work, and the jobless rate is stuck.

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Armed Man Killed In Attack On Atlanta Courthouse

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 15:26

The man, who was scheduled to plead guilty to drug-related charges later Friday, was armed with an assault rifle, grenades, smoke bombs and tear gas.

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American Detained In Honduras: 'We Came With An Open Heart'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 15:18

Six Americans remain in a rural Honduran prison after being arrested last month on suspicion of smuggling weapons into the country.

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Why Restoration Hardware sends 15-pound catalogs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 14:10

When the upscale home furnishings retailer Restoration Hardware sent out its annual catalog in 2011, it was 616 pages long. The company was criticized by environmentalists for the move. In the face of that criticism, Restoration Hardware increased the size of its annual tome. In fact, this year’s edition is actually 11 individual catalogs, bounded together in plastic, at a grand total of 3,000+ pages. 

To call it a "catalog" is a bit of an understatement.  In fact, the company has come up with many other names for it, including "Magalog," "Source book" and "Inspiration file".  We wanted to know why it was so big (and, in the meantime, we came up with some uses for it as well...)

We were wrong: The once-a-year Mega-gantalog is actually part of the company’s strategy to reduce waste.

Brian McGough, a managing director of retail at Hedgeye, says most retailers put out catalogs quarterly or monthly. But because Restoration Hardware puts out its Gargantalog once a year, it actually produces less paper than many of its competitors.

“Williams-Sonoma, who no one ever talks about them and their catalogs, they print three times as many pages annually,” says McGough.

Restoration Hardware previously shipped smaller catalogs 10 times per year. But by moving to the one Megalog, the company’s gotten higher sales for fewer pages “and additionally,” says CEO Gary Friedman, “we ship all our Source books bundled together vs. separately, which is also significantly more efficient.”   

Friedman says his company is applying the same strategy to its stores, closing many of them and moving to fewer but larger locations.

Restoration Hardware takes its design cues from antiques, says Kit Yarrow, a professor of business at Golden State University.“They are really trying to create this sense of faux authenticity, if that makes any sense.”

The company produces so many products that only about 20 percent can fit in a store. The only place big enough to show them all is its catalog/source book/Magalog and website, which accounts for nearly half of all sales. 

Hopefully, the incredibly versatile Ginormolog doesn't become a stand in for Restoration Hardware's home furnishings. Though we're actually finding it pretty useful:

 

 

GM Recalls 105,000 More Vehicles

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 14:01

The latest recall comes a day after General Motors admitted that it had failed customers who owned cars with potentially deadly ignition switch problems.

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Doughnut Day Downer: Palm Oil In Pastries Drives Deforestation

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 13:31

An environmental group is blasting Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme for buying palm oil from suppliers who destroy rain forest and peatlands. The group says sustainable palm oil should be used instead.

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Clinton Aides Weighed Fallout Of Calling Rwanda Killing 'Genocide'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 13:13

A legal adviser to President Clinton wrote in 1994 that concluding that the situation in the central African country amounted to genocide "does not create a legal obligation ... to stop it."

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Prison Rape Law A Decade Old, But Most States Not In Compliance

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 13:11

A law to educate inmates about their rights and how to report sexual violence crimes went into effect in 2003. But most states are still not in full compliance. Others are protesting the rules.

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Why the U.S. economy is like a donut

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 13:06

Happy National Donut Day! That’s what the first Friday in June has been since 1938, when the Salvation Army first declared it so, as part of a donut-themed fundraising event for low-income mothers during the Great Depression.

That bit of trivia is just one of many economic stories baked in to those little toroidal treats we call donuts.

A toroid, in case you’re wondering, is the fancy name for the shape of a donut: full on the outside edges and hollow in the middle. And that’s just about what our economy looks like these days — middle class jobs are hollowing out, but there's plenty of growth at the low and high ends of the income spectrum. And in fact, the donut shop economy seems to be following suit.

In Los Angeles, you can go to Donut Friend, a vegan-friendly, custom-made (I’m boycotting the word artisanal) donut shop that opened up recently in the once-blue-collar-but-rapidly-changing neighborhood of Highland Park. There, along sparkly white subway-tiled walls you can order donuts priced between $2 and $6.

Though, since you buy extra toppings like goat cheese, cherry compote and kosher sea salt, “you could go up to like a million dollars” for a single donut, says Devin Mireles, the shift-manager working behind the counter. “If you wanted everything.”

Jannah Maresh, who works at a local university, has come by to pick up some donuts for her office-mates. She spent more than $35 on a dozen. But the total didn’t seem to phase her. “I mean there's one where there's a crown of bacon and that's totally worth it,” she says. “My team will be very happy today.”

Mireles, the guy behind the counter, is aware of the make-fun-ability of these prices. In fact he and his coworkers sometimes make fun of them too. “In the most appropriate way possible,” he adds. “Without getting fired.”

But Mireles says, most people buy them without a wince, and that means he’s got a job.  Up in Portland, where he used to live, employment is hard to come by. “I couldn’t even get a job like this there because they would be like ‘what’s your donut experience?’” he says.

Donuts have of course long been associated with working and middle class jobs — the most famous being the donut-happy the police man. That’s partly because when police car patrols became common in the 1940s and 50s, one of the few places open during the graveyard shift was the donut shop, says Michael Krondl, author of “The Donut: History, Recipes and Lore from Boston to Berlin.”

One of the earliest donut-memories for Tracy Mikuriya, another customer waiting in line at Donut Friend, was courtesy of her dad, a rail-road worker. “My dad used to work nights, and I would wake up in the morning hoping to see the pink box on top of the refrigerator.”

But, like cupcakes a few years ago (and lately, toast) donuts have made the move from convenient middle class treat to upscale food trend.

“Pastry is an incredibly flexible medium,” says Paul Mullins, an anthropologist at Indiana University and author of "Glazed America: A history of the doughnut.”

“You know I don’t know whether I want to spend $7 on a donut, or whether my donut needs a philosophy,” Mullins says. “But there's clearly a place in the market for these kinds of gourmet foods.”

There's clearly still a place for the un-gourmet, but very delicious, kind of donut too, though, according to the line out the door of Monterey Donuts, a cash only, lottery-ticket-selling donut shop a few miles from Donut Friend.

On National Donut Day, Le Phay, originally from Cambodia, is selling a glazed donut to a construction worker. “Gracias amigo,” she tells him. She learned Spanish and English from twenty years of serving her customers she says.  “They are my school.”

The cost of the average donut here: 75 cents.

Editor's note: If you're an ardent grammarian, you'll likely be aware of the heated debate about the correct spelling of the word "donut." We've cited two books about this deep-fried treat, each of which uses different spelling. The Salvation Army and the Associated Press both spell the word "doughnut," but the vast majority of stores in the Los Angeles area, where this story was reported, use "donut." We gave this a lot of thought, and in the end went with the truncated version. Why? 'cause it's quicker. And if we'd debated much longer, there'd have been no donuts left for us!

Tesla: we're not car dealerships

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 13:06

If you call a Tesla showroom in New Jersey, they’ll call it a “gallery.” You can look, but you can’t buy. For the last six weeks or so, sales have been banned there because Tesla was selling the cars directly, and a state law requires vehicles be sold through dealer franchises. A bill is advancing in the state legislature that would allow companies that sell only electric cars to open their own stores.

One rationale the company is pushing: its cars don’t need much service. 

That’s one thing that attracted Yina Moore of Princeton to the Tesla nine months ago. She used to drive BMWs and Porches. But she likes that the all-electric Model S needs no oil changes or spark plugs.  

“It has few moving parts in which to have failure,” she says. 

That’s a problem for the dealer franchise model, because most car dealers make very little profit on new cars, from a few bucks to maybe one or two percent of the price. The National Automobile Dealers Association says more than half of dealers’ profits come from service, parts, and used cars. 

Tesla says its cars don’t need much service, so it wants to make its profits on the sales.  

“What we have done in New Jersey is make it illegal for them to use their business model to sell cars,” says Tim Eustace, a New Jersey assemblyman who co-sponsored the bill to allow electric car companies to sell directly.

Tesla wouldn’t comment on tape, but the company has called dealers “middlemen.” Dealers, of course, see it differently.  

“The Tesla business model is designed specifically to eliminate price competition,” says Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. 

He argues that dealers are an important buffer between manufacturers and customers, and are more aligned with consumer’s interests. They compete on price. 

And, he says most new cars don’t need much maintenance anyway. “Tesla may know a lot about electric cars, but apparently they don’t know much about internal combustion cars anymore,” he says. 

 And, for all its talk about not needing to go to the shop often, Tesla does offer service plans. Prepaying $1,900 gets you four years of service. 

Tesla: we're not car dealerships

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-06 13:06

If you call a Tesla showroom in New Jersey, they’ll call it a “gallery.” You can look, but you can’t buy. For the last six weeks or so, sales have been banned there because Tesla was selling the cars directly, and a state law requires vehicles be sold through dealer franchises. A bill is advancing in the state legislature that would allow companies that sell only electric cars to open their own stores.

One rationale the company is pushing: its cars don’t need much service. 

That’s one thing that attracted Yina Moore of Princeton to the Tesla nine months ago. She used to drive BMWs and Porches. But she likes that the all-electric Model S needs no oil changes or spark plugs.  

“It has few moving parts in which to have failure,” she says. 

That’s a problem for the dealer franchise model, because most car dealers make very little profit on new cars, from a few bucks to maybe one or two percent of the price. The National Automobile Dealers Association says more than half of dealers’ profits come from service, parts, and used cars. 

Tesla says its cars don’t need much service, so it wants to make its profits on the sales.  

“What we have done in New Jersey is make it illegal for them to use their business model to sell cars,” says Tim Eustace, a New Jersey assemblyman who co-sponsored the bill to allow electric car companies to sell directly.

Tesla wouldn’t comment on tape, but the company has called dealers “middlemen.” Dealers, of course, see it differently.  

“The Tesla business model is designed specifically to eliminate price competition,” says Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. 

He argues that dealers are an important buffer between manufacturers and customers, and are more aligned with consumer’s interests. They compete on price. 

And, he says most new cars don’t need much maintenance anyway. “Tesla may know a lot about electric cars, but apparently they don’t know much about internal combustion cars anymore,” he says. 

 And, for all its talk about not needing to go to the shop often, Tesla does offer service plans. Prepaying $1,900 gets you four years of service. 

Despite Va. Order, Car Services Uber, Lyft Refuse To Pull Over

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:33

The smartphone-linked services have run afoul of taxi drivers who accuse them of having lax insurance and background checks.

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Will Rick Perry Take Another Swing At The Presidency?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:31

The long-serving Texas governor may be stepping down, but that doesn't mean his political career is over. There's still "tread left in our tires," says his wife.

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President Obama's Globe-Trotting, By The Numbers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:25

Which countries has President Obama visited the most during his presidency? France and Mexico. His current visit to France is his fifth as president.

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Former Boxer Steps Up As Kiev Mayor, Spars With Remaining Activists

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:13

Former world heavyweight boxing champ Vitaly Klitchko is now set to become mayor of Kiev. In his first major move, Klitchko is asking activists in Independence Square to pack up their tents and allow the square to return to normal. Some activists are resisting, warning that one presidential election doesn't guarantee the success of their revolution — or do justice to the martyrs who were killed there.

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On A Day Of Looking Back, Talks Move Forward On Ukraine

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:13

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met during a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day. On the same day, Putin met with new Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko.

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In May Jobs Report, A Milestone: A Return To Pre-Recession Levels

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:13

The May jobs report showed steady job creation. Payrolls expanded by 217,000, and unemployment held steady at 6.3%. And there was a milestone: The U.S. economy now has slightly more jobs than it did in December 2007, when the last recession began.

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Allies Land Again In Normandy, This Time To Honor D-Day Vets

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:13

On the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, President Obama joined with other allied leaders in commemorating veterans and those who lost their lives in the pivotal battle there.

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An Open, Dark Secret: Ireland Reacts To Mass Grave Of Children

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:13

The bodies of hundreds of children were recently discovered in the Irish town of Tuam, left behind a former home for unmarried mothers. Alison O'Reilly of The Irish Mail broke the story, and she speaks with Robert Siegel about the mass grave and reactions to the news.

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Who Shot Pakistan's Star News Anchor? Some Point To Spy Agency

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-06 12:13

Pakistan's biggest media house and the country's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, have been embroiled in conflict recently. Geo TV alleged that ISI tried to kill the network's anchor, who was shot and badly injured in April. Now, government regulators have intervened, banning Geo for two weeks.

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