National News

PODCAST: Radio Shack bonuses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 03:00

If you're going to demand a raise, are you going to do it when the economy is down, or are you going to do it now? Why striking when the going is good can be a smart move. Plus, Radio Shack wants to pay big bucks in retention bonuses to some key executives and high level staff. How is the bankrupt electronics device retailer justifying this expense and how likely is it that the bankruptcy court will allow it? We'll also talk about technology that is helping to elongate careers and kick-start second careers as workers age.

Workers strike while the economy is hot

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 03:00

Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach will stop loading and unloading ships today and over the long weekend. The terminal operators and shippers say the union is orchestrating a work slowdown during labor talks. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union denies this.

Meanwhile, there are strikes at nine U.S. oil refineries. They started after contract negotiations expired. Why strike now?

“Workers tend to strike more frequently when the economy’s doing better and less frequently when the economy’s not doing well,” says Harry Katz, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University.

Katz says this trend goes back to the late 1800s. Workers are in a stronger bargaining position during good economic times.  

“Workers feel, accurately, that firms generally are earning more profits and have more to lose," he says. "So workers feel they have greater likelihood of success if they strike during good times.”

And they’re right, he says. Workers get better strike settlements when the economy’s strong. With higher wages, and better benefits, work rules and job security.

 

 

 

Ukraine Cease-Fire Is Reached, Along With $40 Billion Aid Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-12 02:50

A new cease-fire is set to begin on Feb. 15 in eastern Ukraine, in a deal after 16 hours of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The deal calls for the removal of heavy weapons.

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Q&A: Blocks, Play, Screen Time And The Infant Mind

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-12 02:40

Studies with wooden blocks show "that children who play with blocks learn language better and have better cognition."

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Mercedes rolls into Atlanta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

Mercedes-Benz USA is leaving New Jersey, where it has been headquartered since the early 70's, for the Atlanta metro region. People in Atlanta like to say that good, old-fashioned southern hospitality lured Mercedes to the city of Sandy Springs, where the automaker will set up shop in 2017.

Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Stephen Cannon said the move also made financial sense. Atlanta’s low cost of living and low taxes appeal to Mercedes’ employees, and those the company hopes to recruit. Georgia’s business friendly policies including low taxes and low wages for entry-level workers, have helped the state lure an impressive number of large companies over the past several years.

Georgia, however, is still contending with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And despite the presence of new corporate players, many of the jobs being created are low-wage jobs.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Back to the Future's self-drying coat? Not yet.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

This week’s piece of "Back to the Future" technology we're exploring appears after one of those classic 80's movie stunts that is not even remotely believable. Even if you put aside all of the futuristic technology surrounding Marty McFly as he jumps off his hoverboard and into a pond to avoid the group of hoodlums bearing down on him with implements of destruction, the fact that all he has to do is take a dive to completely get out of trouble and alter the future feels out of date. Back then it was in good company—"The Goonies," "Adventures in Babysitting," and "Gremlins," all required such suspension of disbelief. 

The self-drying jacket though? Back in 1989, you might be convinced that would be a thing by now. In the 1980's, scientists were coming up with the theory of the multiverse, and synthetic fabrics like polyester and spandex were in fashion. Why not a jacket with a computer voice that dried itself whenever you got soggy? Seemed legit. Fast forward to present day, where our ideas about wearable technology are much more complex, while our solutions to staying dry are a little more straight forward. At least that's the impression you'll get when you talk to Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, a designer and fabric technology expert at Pratt Institute. 

"The self-drying jacket doesn't really exist at this moment," says Pailes-Friedman, who has worked on wearable technology for NASA and is a fellow at the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator. "I think that there are really exciting technologies that are happening—technologies where water will just be repelled by the fabric and never really absorbed, so the jacket will never actually get wet." 

Pailes-Friedman says some of the most exciting things happening with fabric in the real 2015 have to do with making garments that actually conduct electricity. Think about having some extra integrated circuits in your shirt that add computing memory or even give a charge to your mobile device. Another big area is of course health-monitoring garments that do a lot of the things your Fitbit or your smart watch would do, but in a less visible way.

Marty's jacket also shrinks a few sizes so that it fits him better. Any chance of that happening any time soon? Pailes-Friedman is skeptical, but she says there are garments that can change the way they fit—inflating a jacket with air for insulation, or a hood squeezing closer to your face to create an air-tight space around your head, for instance. She likes to think of garments and clothing as much more than fashion statements.

"Your garment is a tool that you wear," she says. "It has a lot of functions. It can be aesthetic. It can regulate your body temperature. It can be no-wash, so it never has to be washed. There are so many things that fabrics can do."

Just not blow-dry themselves or go from an XL to an L. Yet. 

RadioShack's $3 million in executive retention bonuses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

Electronics chain Radio Shack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. Now, as the shuttering and/or sell-off of thousands of Radio Shack stores to new owners proceeds, the company has asked permission from the bankruptcy court to pay $3 million dollars in retention bonuses to eight top executives and another thirty senior managers.

Salesman Jacob Wolley, at one of the stores to be closed in Portland, Oregon, is not too upset about the proposed bonuses.

“Of course, the first person to keep money is the top guy,” he says. “I’m just hoping that I get my paid vacation and everything that’s owed to me and I won’t feel sore.”

Finance professor Jarrad Harford at the University of Washington says companies going through bankruptcy, as well as their creditors, want knowledgeable, skilled managers to stick around through the bankruptcy, instead of jumping ship for new jobs. Although he readily admits: “The optics are never good when you’re asking to set aside extra money to pay the managers.”

Steve Odland, former CEO of Home Depot and now president of The Committee for Economic Development, a Washington think-tank, predicts the bankruptcy judge will go along with the bonus plan.

“This is the group that needs to deal with the liquidation and repositioning of the company,” says Odland. “It’s a very standard process, and this is not a big amount.”

Odland says the hope is these managers will maximize value for creditors and shareholders through the bankruptcy, and keep some stores open for Radio Shack workers.

Asking fans to help build a stadium

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

For people from Detroit, the corner of Michigan and Trumbull is about as iconic as it gets. Professional baseball has been played there dating back to 1896, and was home to the Detroit Tigers for decades.

The stadium was torn down a few years ago, but now a developer is hoping to pull off a grand real estate experiment by asking the public to invest in more than just the next mixed-use downtown project.

Click the media player above to hear more.

'You've got mail' (and a spunky dial-up business)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 01:30
$19.2 million

How much Wisconsin governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker raised from outside his state amid a recall election in 2012. The New York Times' Upshot reports that number, and the recall election he won, as key to his chances looking toward the Republican primary. Walker's donors tend to be more conservative than those of key rival Jeb Bush. Plus Walker has attracted plenty of small donors, which were important to President Obama's 2012 campaign.

2 hours

How long the third season of "House of Cards" was available Wednesday on Netflix's site before being taken down. Not due to be released on Netflix until Feb. 27, the series was mistakenly put on the site due to a bug

8 percent

The vacancy rate at American malls last year, up from 5.4 percent in 2006. Bloomberg has analyzed hundreds of malls and thousands of stores, compiling their findings into six graphs, showing the state of the slowly-dying behemoths, and the people who shop at them.

 

6 out of 12

In an investigation by Wired Magazine, six out of 12 surveyed day-care facilities affiliated with tech companies had below-average vaccination rates, and therefore do not have enough vaccinated children to realize "herd immunity." Pixar had the lowest immunization numbers, with less than 50 percent of employees' children receiving vaccinations.

$602.5 million

How much AOL made last year from its old but still active dial-up Internet business, which still boasts 2.2 million subscribers. Quartz reports AOL has done an excellent job retaining that business, while making more on a per-subscriber basis each year.

2.5 million

Average nightly viewers of "The Daily Show" in 2012, a ratings peak over the past six years. The show was at its most popular during election season, the Washington Post points out, which will likely turn Jon Stewart's departure just ahead of 2016 into a headache for Comedy Central.

You've Got Mail (and a spunky dialup business)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-12 01:30
$19.2 million

That's how much Wisconsin Governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker raised from outside his state amid a recall election in 2012. The New York Times' Upshot reports that number, and the recall election he won are key to his chances looking toward the Republican primary. Walker's donors tend to be more conservative than those of key rival Jeb Bush. Plus Walker has attracted plenty of small donors, which were key to President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.

2 hours

That's how long the third season of House of Cards was available on Netflix's site on Wednesday before being taken down. Not due out until February 27th, the series was mistakenly put on the site due to a bug

8 percent

The vacancy rate at American malls last year, up from 5.4 percent in 2006. Bloomberg has analyzed hundreds of malls and thousands of stores, compiling their findings into six graphs, showing the state of the slowly-dying behemoths, and the people who shop at them.

 

6 out of 12

In an investigation by Wired Magazine, 6 out of 12 surveyed day care facilities affiliated with tech companies had below-average vaccination rates, and therefore do not have enough vaccinated children to effect "herd immunity." Pixar had the lowest immunization numbers, with less than 50 percent of employees' children receiving vaccinations.

$602.5 million

That's how much AOL made last year from its old but still active dial-up Internet business, which still boasts 2.2 million subscribers. Quartz reports AOL has done an excellent job retaining that business, while making more on a per-subscriber basis each year.

2.5 million

The average nightly viewers of "The Daily Show" in 2012, a ratings peak over the past six years. The show was at its most popular during election season, the Washington Post points out, which will likely make Jon Stewart's departure just ahead of 2016 a headache for Comedy Central.

Putin: Leaders Agree To Ukraine Cease-Fire Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-12 00:57

Russian President Putin on Thursday emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal. Questions remain whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms.

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Smoking's Death Toll May Be Higher Than Anyone Knew

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 23:42

Tobacco's link to lung cancer, stroke and heart attack is well known. But smokers are also more likely to die from kidney failure, infections, and breast cancer, a revised tally suggests.

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The Ebola Diaries: Trying To Heal Patients You Can't Touch

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 23:40

Starting last October, an American doctor wrote almost every day, for six weeks, while she treated Ebola patients. Her eloquent writings offer a rare look into a world we've only had glimpses of.

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South Korea Sentences 'Nut Rage' Executive To 1 Year In Prison

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 23:36

Cho Hyun-ah was found guilty of forcing a flight to change its route. She was angered she had been offered macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a dish and had a confrontation with the cabin crew.

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Bob Simon, '60 Minutes' Correspondent, Killed In NYC Car Crash

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 20:50

Bob Simon was among a handful of elite journalists to cover most major overseas conflicts and news stories since the late 1960s, CBS said. Simon was 73.

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After Plenty Of Starts And Stops, Satellite DSCOVR Starts Its Million-Mile Journey

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 15:02

The satellite is expected to stream back images of Earth on a daily basis. The idea was first proposed by Al Gore back in 1998.

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Human Rights Watch Documents Mass Rapes In Darfur

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 14:19

In one town, the organization found, Sudanese army forces raped more than 200 women and girls. The government of Sudan has denied that its forces are raping civilians.

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Wisconsin Sculptor Rebuilds After 60-Foot Ice Sculpture Collapses

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 14:00

On the shores of Lake Superior, a man built an unusual ice sculpture using a unique robotic sprayer system. But after warm weather caused its collapse, the sculptor is determined to rebuild.

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DNA Evidence Frees Illinois Man Convicted Of Rape, Murder In 1984

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 13:42

A Cook County judge agreed to vacate Christopher Abernathy's 1987 conviction following a request from the prosecutor. Abernathy, now 48, was freed today after spending nearly 30 years in prison.

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Sneak Peek At The Ebola Diaries: A Doctor Opens Her Heart, Journal

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 13:32

For six weeks, American doctor blogged almost every day while volunteering at an Ebola treatment center. Her writings offer a rare look into a world we've only gotten glimpses of.

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