National News

May The Fourth Be With You: 'Star Wars' Fans Celebrate A Faraway Galaxy

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 09:45

Yoda, Chewbacca and a phalanx of stormtroopers are all over the Internet today, as fans celebrate Star Wars Day — drawn from a pun on May 4. We've collected some of our favorite postings.

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Israel Braces For More Protests By Minority Ethiopian Community

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 09:27

Police and protesters clashed Sunday during rallies to protest police treatment of Ethiopian-Israelis. Security forces have been deployed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to try to prevent further violence.

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Police: Suspects In Muhammad Cartoon Contest Attack Came Out Shooting

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 08:43

The men, police said, fired assault rifles as soon as they came out of their vehicle. One police officer fired back and killed both suspects. Police say they have not ruled out terrorism.

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Concussions Are Most Likely During Practice In High School And College

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 08:18

Frequent football practices might account for the higher concussion risk in older players, a study says. But it should be easier to avoid concussions during practice compared to game day.

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5 Things To Know About The Organizers Of Mohammed Cartoon Contest

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 07:23

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is considered a hate group by some, but the group says it was only putting on an event celebrating free speech.

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McDonald's CEO Promises 'Modern, Progressive Burger Company'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 06:59

"The reality is, our recent performance has been poor," McDonald's President and CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a video released Monday.

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The rise, fall, and rise again of the Twinkie

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 06:53

Saving Hostess Brands was not an easy task, but billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos and Apollo Global’s Andy Jhawar may have successfully revived the company.

The business deal was closed in April 2013 — Metropoulos and Jhawar bought Hostess Brands for $410 million. The bakery company has a history of more than 150 years, but in late 2012, Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and Snowballs became extinct on store shelves.  

"The funny thing with Hostess and Twinkies was that the snack cake business, even when it was in bankruptcy, was still a billion dollar business a year," says Steven Bertoni, senior editor at Forbes.

Still, the money-making industry was not enough to prevent Hostess from experiencing two bankruptcies, five CEOs, and millions of dollars of debt.

Bertoni says, Hostess was very old-fashioned. While competitors modernized factories and switched to warehouse-based shipping, Hostess stuck to its old machines and delivery practices.

"They had an old direct-to-store route, which means basically they had 5,000 delivery trucks dropping goods off a couple of times a week, which is extremely inefficient," says Bertoni. "Delivery costs were about 36 percent of all revenue."

However, switching to the warehouse model meant food might have to sit in storage for weeks — something Hostess was not prepared to do.

"The old Twinkie only lasted 30 days and that wasn’t long enough for a distribution model with warehouses," says Bertoni.

The death of Hostess was short-lived. Under its new ownership, Hostess found a way to extend the longevity of the Twinkie to 65 days to allow warehouse-based shipping.

"Now, delivery costs are about 16 percent of total revenue," he says.

The entrepreneurial team behind the new Hostess is expected to make $2 billion in since their undertaking on Twinkies alone. It looks like Twinkies are here to stay.

New British Princess Is Given A Name

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 06:15

Born over the weekend, the baby girl weighed 8 lbs 3 oz and is the fourth in line for the British throne.

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Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina Announces She's Running For President

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 03:37

Fiorina joins a crowded field of Republicans already seeking the nomination. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced his campaign on Sunday.

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PODCAST: Obama announces a new non-profit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 03:00

Airing on Monday, May 4, 2015: Back in March, just 126-thousand jobs were added to payrolls. But what about April? For that we consult Drew Matus, senior US economist at UBS Securities. Next, President Obama is scheduled to announce not a new government agency but a new non-profit today. It's an extension of the "My Brother's Keeper Initiative" the President started last year to help minority young people stay in school, do well, and graduate readt for college. And the new organization might be a sign of what the president has planned for his future. The price of crude oil is up from its lows of the last year, but at $59 a barrel this morning, that still about half what it was 11 months ago. This is great for consumers of oil, drivers, businesses and beyond.  But it's a challenge for many who work in the oil industry, including what are called "landmen," people paid by oil companies to get rights to drill. We check in with one land person in Eddy County, New Mexico. 

 

U.S. Marines Arrive In Nepal To Aid Earthquake Victims

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:49

Western countries complained that Nepal's bureaucracy was keeping goods at warehouses. The Marines come with MV-22 Osprey aircraft, which should make reaching remote areas easier.

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Meet the woman leading the EU's case against Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

Google has its hands full in Europe, where antitrust regulators have accused it of abusing its power to, among other things, favor its business partners in search results.

Google denies wrongdoing.

The European Union Commissioner for Competition  Margrethe Vestager is leading the charge against the company. We talked with her about the case, another high-profile investigation and more. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

This EU complaint against Google comes after a five-year investigation, give me a sense of what you're concerned about.

It is pretty simple. The concern is that Google, which is a huge, successful company in Europe, is using its very dominant position in general search to favor its own services in related markets. You can't do that, due to European competition law.

So when I look up something on Google in Europe, it might turn up whatever the search finds, but it might sometimes favor some of the people it has business relationships with, and that would violate your rules?

Yes, because as a consumer you would expect to get the best answer to your query. And if, systematically, you get the Google service as the answer to your query, that may not be the best thing. Then other companies may wonder, "Should we invest in new and innovative products if we can never be found by Google?" And therefore the risk is, as a consumer, you get less choice and fewer innovative products to look at.

In an internal memo to Google's own employees, the company claimed it's competing on its merits, in Europe and elsewhere, offers good search service, and that competition to Google is really just a click away and that it hasn't actually harmed its competition. I know, Commissioner, that you use Google, and you think its a good service. Are you just trying to penalize a company for being very good at what it does?

Oh, no. On the contrary, I and others should congratulate any successful company, because this is great for jobs creation and for growth. But ... you need to compete on your merits. To a large extent, Google can just go and do their business and innovate and find new things, but when it comes to being very dominant — in many European countries almost 90 percent of all search is Google search — that requires you to not misuse this position.

Moving on from Google, you're also leading the effort to investigate the Russi's state-owned energy firm, Gazprom, for overcharging, especially in Eastern Europe. Are you worried that investigation is going to disrupt international relations at a tense time?

Well, it's strictly a law-enforcement effort. I'm being very careful, because we have no grudge or anything like that with the Russian state or with Gazprom as a company. Again, it's a certain conduct. What we see in our preliminary findings, is that Gazprom has enabled themselves to charge maybe 40 percent more for gas in five countries. For the consumer that makes the cost of heating the home, or cooking or any other use of electricity much more expensive than it maybe ought to be.

I have one last question that's a bit off-point but before we go: there is a Danish television series a bit like the show we know here as "The West Wing". It's called "Borgen." I keep seeing articles suggesting you are the inspiration for the main character, the party leader who becomes Prime Minister. When you watch "Borgen," do you see yourself in any way?

Of course, it's always hard to tell when it's fiction. But you know, she has more or less the same family relations (as me), her husband is also a teacher. The party is very much like the party I belong to, the Social Liberal Party. So there's a lot of things that look alike. And anyway, I'd recommend it if someone wants to see how Nordic politics work.

A conversation with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

Microsoft is having an interesting moment.

People are getting more excited about its hardware, and some recent moves by CEO Satya Nadella and others seem to be helping to grow its cloud computing business. Nadella joins us to talk about what the company is trying to do with businesses and information technology workers around the world, including employees of the city of Chicago.

“We worked with the city of Chicago to create this hub where they are not only bringing employees who work for the city to the cloud with Office 365, but they are also figuring out how to connect everything that makes up city of Chicago — every traffic light and piece of equipment they have in the city — and tackle some of the bigger challenges, like energy consumption.” Nadella says. 

When we ask him where Microsoft is now, he says "to me, Microsoft is about empowerment...we are the original democratizing force, putting a PC in every home and every desk." The core of the company remains "user software." But that doesn't exclude the company from having a success, "like the Xbox," he adds. 

Click on the multimedia player above to hear more and tune in tomorrow for our second installment of our conversation. 


Obama's plan to keep up with My Brother's Keeper

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

President Obama is scheduled to speak Monday at the launch of a new nonprofit organization — the My Brother's Keeper Alliance. 

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's a spinoff of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative launched by the President in 2014 as a White House program aimed at helping minority boys and young men stay in school and graduate prepared for college. 

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools and one of the Initiative's first partners, says, "The fact that he is setting this up now is important in signaling what a major priority this is for him personally."

Perhaps the President will continue to be involved after he leaves office in January 2017. Last week, he told a group of school children that he will "go back to doing the kinds of work I was doing before," leading some to speculate he may return to community organizing.

A conversation with the CEO of Microsoft

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

Last week we got some Microsoft news about new products from the company's BUILD conference for developers. This week in Chicago the company's Ignite conference gets under way. Microsoft is having an interesting moment. People are getting more excited about its hardware, and some recent moves by CEO Satya Nadella and others seem to be helping to grow its cloud computing business. Nadella joins us to talk about what the company is trying to do with businesses and information technology workers around the world, including employees of the city of Chicago.

“We worked with the city of Chicago to create this hub where they are not only bringing employees who work for the city to the cloud with Office 365, but they are also figuring out how to connect everything that makes up city of Chicago - every traffic light and piece of equipment they have in the city - and tackle some of the bigger challenges, like energy consumption.” Mr. Nadella says. 

When we asked him where Micrsoft is now, he said "to me, Microsoft is about empowerment...we are the original democratizing force, putting a PC in every home and every desk." The core the company, Mr. Nadella reiterated, remains "user software." But that doesn't exclude the company from having a success, "like the X Box," he adds. 

Click on the multimedia player above to hear more and tune in tomorrow for our second installment of our conversation. 


Goldman downsizes its commodities operations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

Goldman Sachs is reportedly in talks to sell a pair of coal mines in Columbia, as it downsizes its commodities operations and possibly exits this type of business. The Wall Street Journal cites people familiar with Goldman’s negotiations, saying Goldman would is trying to sell the mines, after environmental problems and labor strife have beset the open-pit coal-mining operations in Colombia.

Goldman bought its first Colombian coal mine in 2010. It then bought another mine and a railroad, for a total outlay of more than $550 million. Since then, coal prices have fallen. According to the Journal, Goldman is now trying to sell off its Colombian coal holdings at a loss. Goldman has also exited the aluminum-warehousing business and sold several power plants. Other investment banks—JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley—have been getting out of commodities, too, selling off metals-warehousing, oil-shipping and pipeline businesses.

Last November, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held hearings on investment banks’ role in commodities production and trading. Democratic Senator Carl Levin said the banks’ positions as commodity producers and warehousers could enable them to manipulate commodity supplies and prices. Republican Senator John McCain said these operations carry “dangers of toxic spills, deadly explosions and other disasters” which are not typically associated with banks. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is reviewing whether the biggest investment banks (deemed "systemically important") have set aside enough capital, and carry enough insurance, to cover catastrophic losses from events such as mine collapses, pollution or oil spills. 

 “Banks are the nexus of the financial system and the lifeblood of the economy,” says Cornelius Hurley, director of the Center for Finance, Law and Policy at Boston University. “We have a stake in them being safe and sound. And quite frankly, Lloyd Blankfein doesn’t know the coal business. Moreover, bank regulators don’t know the coal business. We don’t look to our banks to be volatile—we like our banks to be boring. And this is a highly volatile business.”

 Goldman Sachs has said its commodities businesses are adequately insulated from other parts of its banking business, and that it has too small a position in the overall global commodities market to influence supplies or prices.

Obama's plan to keep up with My Brother's Keeper

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

President Obama is scheduled to speak Monday at the launch of a new nonprofit organization — the My Brother's Keeper Alliance. 

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's a spinoff of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative launched by the President in 2014 as a White House program aimed at helping minority boys and young men stay in school and graduate prepared for college. 

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools and one of the Initiative's first partners, says "The fact that he is setting this up now is important in signaling what a major priority this is for him personally."

And perhaps the President will continue to be involved after he leaves office in January 2017. Last week, he told a group of school children that he will "go back to doing the kinds of work I was doing before," leading some to speculate he may return to community organizing.

Why "landmen" don't benefit from low gas prices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

The price of crude oil is up from its lows of the last year, but at $59 a barrel this morning, that still about half what it was 11 months ago. This is great for consumers of oil, drivers, businesses and beyond. But it's a challenge for many who work in the oil industry, including what are called "landmen," people paid by oil companies to get rights to drill. We visit one land person, in Eddy County, New Mexico.

Click on the multimedia player above to hear more. 

McDonald's wants to serve up a giant turnaround

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

McDonald's is sharing details of a major turnaround plan. The company recently said it plans to reassert itself as a "modern, progressive burger company." This at a time the fast-food giant's global sales were down 2.3 percent in the first quarter.

But can a fast-food chain with 36,000 restaurants worldwide adapt to changing consumer tastes without confusing people? McDonald's wants to be a place you can get a double cheeseburger for a dollar, or an artisanal antibiotic-free chicken sandwich. And for a company that big, it's not an easy switch.

"It's a little bit like the difference between trying to redirect a huge freighter with a barge or whatever, and a sailboat," University of Oregon marketing professor T. Bettina Cornwell says. "It's a large brand with a long history."

Because McDonald's is such a household name, she says it feels more pressure to offer healthier items.

Meantime, "you get company's like Shake Shack or Smashburger or Five Guys come along, and they just focus on those hamburgers and fries, Maverick Consulting founder John Knight says. He says healthier items also take longer to make. And with as much traffic as McDonald's has, every extra second costs money.

Obama's plan to keep up with My Brother's Keeper

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:00

President Obama is scheduled to speak Monday at the launch of a new nonprofit organization — the My Brother's Keeper Alliance. 

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's a spinoff of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative, launched by the President in 2014, as a White House program aimed at helping minority boys and young men stay in school and graduate prepared for college. 

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools and one of the Initiative's first partners, says "The fact that he is setting this up now is important in signalling what a major priority this is for him personally."

And perhaps the President will continue to be involved after he leaves office in January 2017. Last week, he told a group of school children that he will "go back to doing the kinds of work I was doing before," leading some to speculate he may return to community organizing.

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