National News

When the 'sharing economy' doesn't really play fair

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 03:00

A "sharing economy" can be as simple as a neighborhood with a shared lawnmower, but companies with big cash flow – think ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, as well as room rental places like Airbnb – are increasingly considered part of this model.

Oakland, California-based reporter Susie Cagle writes of her experience attending "Share," a conference on the sharing economy sponsored by Airbnb, Lyft, and eBay. She left the conference thinking the word "sharing" is getting stretched completely out of shape.

In her article, "The Case Against Sharing: On access, scarcity, and trust," Cagle recognizes the opportunity in these peer-to-peer economies, but thinks larger businesses like Airbnb and Lyft should be treated as just that: a business.

Click the media player above to hear reporter Susie Cagle in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

IBM's Watson Is Out With Its Own Barbecue Sauce

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:55

The supercomputer first showed off its intellectual prowess on Jeopardy. Now after analyzing a massive number of recipes, Watson has come up with its own sauce.

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Facebook's psychology study under scrutiny

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:00

Facebook has been at the center of controversy in the tech world after it was revealed that the social network manipulated the feeds of its users to examine how they react to changes in the tone of their friends' posts. 

The main finding of the study, according to Karen North, professor of social media and psychology at USC, is that Human beings are social animals — People saw that their friends were posting positive or negative things, and leaned towards doing what their friends were doing. 

As for the motivations behind the study, improving Facebook's core business was likely the key. 

“This is probably a combination of how to get people to buy things but also how to drive up engagement with Facebook,” says North. 

She also noted that the mining of consumer data in such a manner is fairly common. The reaction here, she argues, might speak to the nature of the business Facebook is in. 

She adds, "This is nothing new, it's just that it feels a little more invasive here because it feels like it is infiltrating our private conversations."

The most popular crowd at the public library?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:00
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/library-users">View Survey</a>

Green cards pay for new hotels

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:00

A new hotel just opened in downtown Los Angeles, with most of the money to pay for it originating outside the country – 95 percent of the financing came from 320 immigrant investors from 14 countries.

The sleek, modern lobby is unusual because it serves two hotels in one building: a Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn.

General manager Erik Palmer says the two-in-one model appeals to investors.

“From an owners’ lens, it makes the hotel a lot more efficient. We have one front desk team, one housekeeping team and one engineering team," he says.

Almost all the financing came through what are called EB-5 visas, otherwise known as investor visas. In return for a $500,000 investment that creates at least ten jobs, foreigners get a green card.

One hotel investor – William Jeffcock – is a British citizen by way of Monaco.

“Because my home and residence was Monaco, there were very few paths which I would have qualified for. So the EB-5 really was the only way for me to come,” says Jeffcock.

He says his hotel investment was not primarily to buy a green card for the U.S.

“I hope to make money on this,” says Jeffcock. “I believe in the next two or three years I’ll be making 2 to 6 percent on my money.”

But other businesses using EB-5 money don’t always deliver what’s promised. In several states, the visa program has been used to defraud investors. Some observers dispute the number of jobs created.

Plus, there’s the issue of who collects the money. Even though the U.S. government is giving away the green cards, it’s the private sector that collects the half-million dollar payment.

“If you really want to create jobs, why not do it directly, by having the money come to the government? And then the government can decide how to allocate that to create jobs,” says John Vogel, who teaches at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Vogel says the government could use money from investment visas for hiring workers to repair our infrastructure or expand internet access; the kind of economic development that benefits more of society than new hotels.

Need protection? Consider a collar!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 00:00

If you've been following the stock market closely, you've probably read or listened to news stories where pundits and reporters describe the market as "frothy," "toppy," and "overheated."  Translation: we could be in for a big correction. 

Note use of the words "could be." The fact is, the stock market could continue on a tear. Or it could keep going up, up, up. No-one really knows.

It's not the upside you're worried about right now - it's the downside. You're probably not worried about what you might make in the future: you're looking back at the huge gains we've made in the market, and that's getting you worried about what you might lose.

You need protection. You need insurance against loss. But just like insurance against the loss of your car or your house or your life, insurance isn't free, and it can be very expensive.

In the stock trading world, insurance against loss is called a "put." In a put, you pay another investor a certain amount of money per share to sell your shares to her at a certain price.

Say you own 100 shares in Cadbottom Inc. Right now, the shares have risen to $2,005 a share, but you're worried they're going to fall. You purchase a put from your friend Helen, so that if the shares fall below $2,000 a share — called the strike price — she will buy them all from you for $2,000 each.

This put costs you $10 per share, or a total of $1,000. But there is a way to get your insurance for free.

You do this by selling a "call." A call is the right to buy shares at a certain price. You have another friend, Joan, who is prepared to pay you $10 per share for the right to buy your stock in Cadbottom if it rises above $2,010 per share.

Place a put and a call together, and you've got a collar.

Well done! You have now protected your investment from losing more than $2000 a share, and you did it for free! The only downside is that if the market in Cadbottom does really well, and the shares rise above $2010 each, you won't benefit, because you'll have to sell them to Joan. Doubtless, she'll be jeering at you, but you'll have a sack full of cash, and she'll be the one worrying about insurance. 

Hamas Member Killed In Israeli Raid After 3 Teens Found Dead

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 23:54

A Palestinian was shot dead when he threw a grenade at forces carrying out an arrest raid hours after the discovery of the bodies of 3 Israeli teenagers who had been abducted, Israel's military said.

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Supreme Court Deals A Blow To Public Employee Unions

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:09

The justices ruled 5-4 to allow workers who don't join the union and don't pay any fees to get the same benefits as those who do pay union dues.

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Ukraine's President Ends Ceasefire, Vows To 'Free Our Lands'

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 16:23

The truce lasted for 10 days, even though Ukrainian authorities said the ceasefire had been violated many times by pro-Russian separatists and 27 Ukrainian troops had been killed.

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Obama Orders 200 More Troops To Iraq

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 15:09

The president had previously deployed about 300 military advisers to assist Iraqi security forces and he sent 275 troops to guard the embassy.

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Obama's No-Win Immigration Predicament

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 15:07

The president's announcement that he would shift immigration enforcement resources to the Southern border failed to placate anyone.

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Skip The Stirrups: Doctors Rethink Yearly Pelvic Exams

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 14:34

The American College of Physicians says annual pelvic exams aren't necessary for healthy women and could be harmful. But not all doctors agree, and the new recommendation is stirring up debate.

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How Many Companies Will Be Touched By Court's Contraception Ruling?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 14:23

The Supreme Court says owners of closely held corporations may exercise their religious beliefs. That covers a majority of firms, but experts question how many would want to assert religious views.

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BNP Paribas Agrees To Nearly $9 Billion Fine And Admission Of Guilt

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 14:20

The French banking giant BNP Paribas will pay a penalty of nearly $9 billion and plead guilty to criminal charges for doing business with countries sanctioned by the U.S.

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Why Bob McDonald is a big departure for the VA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-30 13:40

Today, one month to the day after Eric Shinseki resigned as the Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs, President Obama announced his pick to replace him: Bob McDonald, former president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company.

In the past, the VA has been led by generals, a colonel, and a congressman, in addition to lobbyists and lawyers. Alan Simpson, who used to chair the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, praises the president for picking someone who hasn’t spent his career in the military or government service: “Oh, that’s big,” he says. “It’s huge and it’s critical.”

It's definitely different -- check out this list of McDonald's forbears: 

Ed Derwinski attended Loyola University, a private university in Chicago, and graduated in 1951. Before he became a Republican congressman, he served in the U.S. Army.

Anthony Principi, a Naval Academy graduate, served in Vietnam before attending law school at Seton Hall. He was a Navy JAG and a lawyer for the Department of the Navy before he became deputy secretary of the VA.

Jesse Brown graduated from City College of Illinois, then served as a marine in the Vietnam War. From 1973 until 1983, Brown was the supervisor of the National Service Office, National Appeals Office, Chief of Claims, National Service and Legislative Headquarters, and Deputy National Service Director.

Hershel Gober served in Vietnam, before he became the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Togo West went to Howard University for college and law school, before he became a U.S. Army JAG. He went on to become a corporate lawyer, then the Defense Department’s general counsel.

Jim Nicholson, a West Point graduate, received a master’s in public policy from Columbia University, and a law degree from the University of Denver School of Law.

Gordon Mansfield, a Villanova University graduate, served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Injured by an enemy solider, he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

James Peake went to West Point. After he served in the Army, he became the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Project Hope; then, QTC’s chief medical officer and CEO.

Eric Shinseki, who went to West Point, received a master’s degree in English literature from Duke Uiversity. He received a purple heart for his service in Vietnam, and was the director of several major corporations.

Sloan Gibson, another West Point grad, led the USO. He was an Army Ranger.

'Family-like' Hobby Lobby has religion, Court rules

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-30 13:33

Corporations have religious beliefs -- or, at least some corporations do. That’s one takeaway from the 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court today in the "Hobby Lobby" case.

The victory for the Oklahoma City-based crafts store Hobby Lobby and dozens of other businesses who filed suit means “closely held” companies can deny contraception coverage to their employees. The question in front of the Supreme Court was fairly straightforward: Can Hobby Lobby be forced to offer contraception coverage as part of its health insurance, if that contraception violates its religious beliefs?

Specifically, the company opposed covering certain forms of contraception, such as some intrauterine devices and products like Plan B One-Step, because it believes they amount to abortion.

In writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito went out of his way to focus on certain businesses, says Duke Law professor James Cox.

“The Justice was fairly clear in saying he’s talking about a closely held, family-dominated corporation with no outside owners and no diversity of opinion,” Cox says.

It’s not clear how many businesses meet that definition. Some 9 out of 10 corporations are “closely held.” That includes everything from mom and pop shops to giants like Koch Industries and Cargill, which employ hundreds of thousands.

The bright line the court draws is about religious intent.

George Washington law professor Robert Tuttle says you can imagine how two or three owners (who may be related) share religious views. Publicly traded companies like Apple and IBM and their armies of shareholders are a different animal.

“It’s just really hard to see how they can have a sincere religious objection to anything,” says Tuttle.

While this verdict is aimed at a class of corporation, Boston College’s Kent Greenfield – who filed an amicus brief in the case – expects companies of all shapes and sizes to try to squeeze through this new opening.

“This opinion gives companies the opportunity to ask for a waiver for regulation, and usually regulation costs money, he says. "And if they can avoid those costs by asserting a religious waiver, then they will.”

Greenfield says this decision could give certain companies a competitive advantage on the basis of religion.

BNP Paribas Agrees To Pay $8.83 Billion In Sanctions Probe

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 13:13

The U.S. alleges that the French bank violated U.S. sanctions laws by facilitating transactions involving Sudan, Cuba and Iran.

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New York City extends paid sick days to more workers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-30 13:05

Workers of New York, July 30 is the first day you can use your earned sick days under New York City’s new paid sick day law.

How are you feeling - can you make it?

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work,  a network of coalitions in 21 states that work for policies like paid sick days, says come the end of the month, don’t expect to see a sick day bubble where workers all over the city call in with hives.

“No, what we’re going to see is fewer people going to work sick and making co-workers and customers sick," she says. "Fewer people losing jobs and paychecks.”

On average, Bravo notes, workers use fewer sick days than they earn.

Sherry Leiwant, co-president and cofounder of A Better Balance, a legal advocacy organization based in New York that does advocacy around paid sick days, says more often than not, workers treat sick days like insurance.

"They save them because they know they’re going to maybe need them to take care of their kids, or take care of themselves if they get sick, so don’t want to waste them," she says.

New York City estimates there are about half a million employees who had no paid sick time before the new law. Leiwant notes the lack of sick leave cuts across sectors, so the list of industries where workers are currently without sick time includes retail, child and health care, leisure, hospitality and dining.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the *New York City Hospitality Alliance, and a personal recipient of sick day leave, says restaurant owners understand that people get sick and they want to take care of their teams, but that the new policy does present challenges for business owners in the dining industry. 

“A lot of business owners believe it’s going to be expensive, it’s also going to be tricky, especially in restaurant industry or nightlife industry if an employee calls in sick, you need to replace them," he says. "There are some office jobs, where if someone comes in sick, they’ll come in the following day and their work will be there on their desk. But if you’re working in a restaurant and you’re short a line cook, you need to bring in an additional line cook.”

Ellen Bravo notes that paying employees for a handful of sick days a year is much cheaper than spending the thousands of dollars it costs to replace even low wage workers. While it would be more convenient if no one got sick, she says, from a business perspective sick days make sense.

"You certainly don’t want to be the restaurant that gets in the headlines for having a norovirus, as a number of them had, because the worker felt obliged to come in for fear of losing their job, or simply because they couldn’t afford the time."

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified the affiliation of Andrew Rigie, a hospitality executive. He is executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. The article has been corrected.

Nominating New VA Chief, Obama Says 'We Have To Do Better' For Vets

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 13:03

President Obama nominated the former chief of Procter & Gamble to take over the Department of Veterans Affairs. Robert McDonald said he wanted to make the system more efficient and effective.

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Lead Exposure May Cause Depression In Chinese Children

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-30 12:51

Lead exposure lowers children's IQ and causes aggression. But children exposed to low levels of lead show different symptoms, including more depression and anxiety, a study of preschoolers finds.

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