National News

Facebook At 10: Amid Doubters, Company Eyes Next Growth Phase

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-04 00:44

Facebook's big birthday comes amid tales of trouble — that its youngest users don't find it cool anymore. But Facebook doesn't seem fazed. It is, after all, a company that serves almost one-fifth of the world's population and took in more than $7 billion last year.

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A Tiny Town Steeped In Skiing Tradition Has Its First Olympian

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-04 00:43

Russell Currier, a native of Stockholm, Maine, earned a spot on the Olympic biathlon team, and that has his hometown abuzz. It's a reward for a region that's spent more than a decade rekindling its Nordic skiing roots.

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The Deficit: The Talk Is Big, But The Number Is Shrinking

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-04 00:42

The federal budget deficit is falling sharply, but you wouldn't know it from some of the rhetoric in Washington. But Republicans caution that the downward trend line will reverse itself soon enough.

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How American Food Companies Go GMO-Free In A GMO World

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-04 00:41

Many American food companies, responding to consumer demands, are looking for grain that's not genetically modified. It turns out that non-GMO corn and soybeans aren't hard to find. Years ago, grain traders set up a supply chain to deliver non-GMO grain from U.S. farmers to customers in Japan.

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Istanbul's Mega-Projects: Bigger Is Better Or A 'Crazy Canal'?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-04 00:03

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing hard for the grandiose projects that include a new bridge across the Bosphorus, a massive airport and an ambitious canal. Some Turks are cheering him on, but others worry about how they might change the city.

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Joan Mondale, Ex-Vice President's Wife, Art Advocate, Dies At 83

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 22:51

Joan Mondale was so passionate that she earned the nickname "Joan of Art" and, in the process of pushing her cause, transformed the role of the second lady. Even when her husband was campaigning as Jimmy Carter's vice president, she tried to keep up with regular ceramics classes.

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What it's like to be (well, voice) a Disney Princess

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-02-03 17:06

The Disney hit "Frozen" continues to rake in millions in ticket sales, this weekend coming back to the No. 2 spot in the box office rankings -- and not just in the U.S. 

The film's success has reached Taiwan*, where moviegoers can see the movie dubbed over in Mandarin. In the U.S., Kristen Bell plays the charming protaganist Princess Anna -- but in Taiwan, instead you'll hear the slightly accented voice of an American TV host named Janet Hsieh.

She's not a professional voiceover artist -- and she says this job was a special treat.

"Somebody from Disney called and said that they would love for us to be the voice of Anna," she says. "They thought that my personality was very similar to her. Our first reaction was, 'Are you sure you want me to do this in Chinese?'"

Hsieh is from Houston, and she laughs as she remembers worrying about her accent. She wrote out the entire script in romanization (pinyin) and worked with a voice coach, perfecting her pronunciation and timing her read to the animation on the screen.

The work was much different than hosting a TV show.

"Physically, you're just in the studio, and you're not speaking with anybody else," she says. "So you're acting with yourself and the microphone."

After the film came out, she was curious to know if her voice was recognizable, so she asked her Facebook friends. "They don't hear the accent. Once you get into the character, you don't hear Janet, per se. You see Princess Anna, and you think this is just a Mandarin-speaking Princess Anna."

Beyond her performance, "Frozen" might have an extra reason to be glad they cast Hsieh: Video sales.

"I'm seriously going to buy an entire truckful of Frozen DVDs to pass out to everybody and anybody who wants one."

*CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to a location where "Frozen" has had success. The movie has done well in Taiwan. The text and audio have been corrected.

What it's like to be (well, voice) a Disney Princess

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-02-03 17:06

The Disney hit "Frozen" continues to rake in millions in ticket sales, this weekend coming back to the No. 2 spot in the box office rankings -- and not just in the U.S. 

The film's success has reached Taiwan, where moviegoers can see the movie dubbed over in Mandarin. In the U.S., Kristen Bell plays the charming protaganist Princess Anna -- but in Taiwan, instead you'll hear the slightly accented voice of an American TV host named Janet Hsieh.

She's not a professional voiceover artist -- and she says this job was a special treat.

"Somebody from Disney called and said that they would love for us to be the voice of Anna," she says. "They thought that my personality was very similar to her. Our first reaction was, 'Are you sure you want me to do this in Chinese?'"

Hsieh is from Houston, and she laughs as she remembers worrying about her accent. She wrote out the entire script in romanization (pinyin) and worked with a voice coach, perfecting her pronunciation and timing her read to the animation on the screen.

The work was much different than hosting a TV show.

"Physically, you're just in the studio, and you're not speaking with anybody else," she says. "So you're acting with yourself and the microphone."

After the film came out, she was curious to know if her voice was recognizable, so she asked her Facebook friends. "They don't hear the accent. Once you get into the character, you don't hear Janet, per se. You see Princess Anna, and you think this is just a Mandarin-speaking Princess Anna."

Beyond her performance, "Frozen" might have an extra reason to be glad they cast Hsieh: Video sales.

"I'm seriously going to buy an entire truckful of Frozen DVDs to pass out to everybody and anybody who wants one."

Guacamole wins!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-02-03 16:52

It turns out Americans spend more than $1 billion dollars a year on Super Bowl snacks alone. Our friends over at Deadspin put together a March Madness style bracket to determine the best Super Bowl dip.

32 dips got voted down to a championship match of classic salsa vs. guacamole.

Congratulations to the winner, guacamole.

Remember that when you're shopping for your billion dollar spread next year, America.

 

 

Christie On Bridge Closure: 'The Answer Is Still The Same'

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 15:43

The comments are Christie's first since the Jan. 9 news conference in which said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" that his aides punished the mayor of Fort Lee by closing lanes that lead to the George Washington Bridge. Christie reiterated that he knew nothing about the lane closures.

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Tech Companies Release Details On Surveillance Data

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 15:35

Google, Yahoo and others said they received thousands of secret-court-approved government requests for their users' content. The companies said only a small percentage of their users were affected by the requests.

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Do businesses profit from inequality?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-02-03 14:51

How do businesses cope with the ever-expanding gap between rich and poor?

In today's New York Times, Nelson Schwartz writes that companies are finding more success catering either to the upper or lower ends of the market -- in what he calls a stark contrast to national debate on the subject.

"I feel like whenever the topic of inequality comes up, it's so heated politically and ideologically between left and right," he says. "But when you talk to business people, they're not really interested in the politics. They're interested in making money and growing their business... and they see close up what a lot of the politicians and pundits are still arguing about."

As an example, he points to Darden, a Florida company that owns several well-known restaurant chains. Some are on the cheaper end, like Olive Garden and Red Lobster. On the swanky side, Darden owns Capitol Grille, where people spend on average five times as much as they do at Olive Garden. In other industries -- hotels, gambling, you name it -- he found the same thing: The Dollar Trees of the world are doing great; the JC Penneys, on the other hand, are not.

Why is this the case? Schwartz explains that since the recovery began, the growth in spending has been concentrated in the wealthiest 20 percent of the country -- especially the top 5 percent overall.

"So let's say you're a business, and you want to gain new customers," he says. "You're gonna appeal to the people who are spending more. I mean, it's as simple as that."

Schwartz says that spells short-term gains for those companies -- but long-term it's a bad formula for the economy as a whole. Lower- and middle-class consumers tend to spend much more of their income.

"It's not even a question of fairness or left or right. Put that aside. We want the economy to grow."

Outdoor Show Reopens Under New Management: The NRA

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 14:48

The show was canceled last year in the wake of the killings in Newtown, Conn. Now, the Great American Outdoor Show is back on in Pennsylvania this week, and it's bigger than ever.

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Coffee prices are down, but your latte's still expensive. Here's why.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-02-03 14:43

I get coffee pretty much every morning on the way to work. This morning ritual costs around $4.

The price of coffee is near record lows right now, less than half of what it cost two years ago. Two years ago when my latte cost… about $4.

This got me wondering. It seems like when a commodity like coffee or chocolate or bread gets more expensive, the price at the store goes up (like when Starbucks jacked prices up a couple years ago) but when commodities get cheaper, the retail price never seems to go down. It feels a little like Murphy’s law of economics.

"I’m not sure that it’s necessarily Murphy’s law," counters Andrew Burns, economist at the World Bank. "In a country like the U.S., when you go to the store and you buy a loaf of bread, the cost of the wheat in that bread is relatively small."

Burns says that's because workers get paid a lot here (relatively), and rent is expensive. Burns says in countries where labor and rent are cheaper, the price of the commodity makes up a much bigger percentage of the price at the store. 

"In developing countries, when commodity prices are fluctuating, it’s felt much more directly in the pocket book of individuals," Burns says.

Here in the U.S., the coffee beans in a latte, for example, only account for about 10 percent of the price--40 cents of the $4--the rest of what I’m paying for is rent and labor.

Still, 10 percent of a company’s cost isn’t nothing, so shouldn’t I see at least a little savings?

Turns out, that depends on which kind of coffee we’re talking about

"This is Wall Street Dark Roast. One of our favorites."

At his office in Midtown Manhattan, HiLine Coffee CEO Gene Kakaulin samples one of his roasts. HiLine makes single serve coffee pods and the beans he uses are high quality beans.

"The interesting thing about the coffee market is that the commodity coffee market and the specialty coffee market have a significant disparity in price," says Kakaulin. "What you see on the exchange, the commodity price, is significantly lower than what we pay for coffee."

The beans Kakaulin uses and the beans in my latte are specialty beans. The beans sold by the ton on commodities exchanges are used to make the coffee you might get at diner or at the grocery store. Prices have gone down a little there.

But it turns out, in the specialty coffee market, there is something of a Murphy's law situation going on. 

Matt Banbury is a roaster and manager for Joe Coffee—a chain of cafes.

"The level of quality that we’re buying... floats in its own sort of category. Though, if the commodity price rises too high and there’s a scarcity in commodity coffee, they will dip into specialty coffee. Which makes things more expensive."

In other words, when commodity grade beans get cheaper, the price of specialty beans won’t necessarily drop, but when commodity beans get more expensive, all beans get more expensive...

And my latte gets more expensive.

Or maybe not. Cafes can’t crank up the cost of a latte every week, even if bean prices are rising. Consumers are very sensitive to price hikes.

Especially before they’ve had their coffee.

 

Stocks Head Lower; Investors Wonder What's Next

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 14:21

The Dow had its seventh triple-digit drop so far this year. Is it a short term pullback, or a sign of a tough year to come?

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Glacier Blamed For Berg That Sank Titanic Is Pushing More Ice Into Ocean

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 14:03

According to a study, Jakobshavn is now by far the fastest moving major glacier in the world, surging forward at the rate of 150 feet per day.

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HPV Vaccine Doesn't Promote Riskier Sexual Behavior In Teens

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 13:27

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys when they are 11 or 12. The idea is to get preteens vaccinated so that if they do become sexually active as teens, they will be protected against a virus that can cause cervical cancer.

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Senators Say John Kerry Admits Obama's Syria Policy Is Failing

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 13:24

The al-Qaida problem is growing and the removal of chemical weapons is being slow-rolled, the senators said the secretary of state told them.

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Keystone XL Pipeline Report Creates Political Headache For Obama

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 13:12

A new State Department report that concludes the proposed 1,179-mile oil pipeline would not worsen global warming has alarmed environmentalists and increased the volume of Republican calls for its approval.

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The Dow Drops Again, But What's Driving The Sell-Off?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-02-03 13:00

It was another bad day for the stock market. The Dow Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both suffered declines of about 2 percent. For the Dow, that translates to a nearly 300-point loss.

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