National News

Your Wallet: Wedding bills are gonna chime

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:34

Next week we're talking renewal — a clean slate, a new beginning.

For many people, a new beginning might be a marriage, which usually means planning (and paying) for a wedding.

Whether it's your own, or someone else's, a lot of money changes hands.

We want to hear about your experiences with weddings — whether you're the one walking down the aisle, or just shelling out for plane tickets or plates from a registry. 

How much money are you spending? How are you resetting, financially? Write to us here, or tweet us, we're @MarketplaceWKND.

Your Wallet: Weddings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:34

Next week we're talking renewal -- a clean slate, a new beginning.

For many people, a new beginning might be a marriage, and a wedding

And whether it's your own, or someone else's...a lot of money changes hands.

We want to hear about your experiences with weddings, whether you're the one walking down the aisle, or just shelling out for plane tickets or plates from a registry. 

How much money are you spending? How are you resetting, financially?

Tell us. Write to us here, or tweet us,  we're @MarketplaceWKND

A year in commercial advertising

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:29

Ever noticed the flood of commercials for engagement rings and diamonds around November?  Or the spike in perfume commercials in early February? 

Are you overwhelmed by ads for allergy meds and home repair stores? 

You're not alone, and it's intentional -- there's a calendar for the cycle of advertising and marketing, and it exists because it works ... and that's because of our shopping habits. 

So how does it work? Therese Wilbur of USC's Marshall School of Business lays out the calendar for us. 

Listen using the player above.  

Building an equitable bike-share economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:22

Bike shares have become increasingly popular in recent years, shifting from a European novelty to common sight in about 40 U.S. cities 

What makes for a successful bike share?

Martha Roskowski is Vice President of Local Innovation at the national nonprofit People for Bikes. She says that bike share programs have become more innovative, accessible, and affordable, and with the right kind of developments, could become an integrated part of public transportation in cities all over the country. 

Listen to the full interview using the player above. 

 

You'll Get No Alcoholic Kick From Champagne-Flavored Jelly Beans

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:21

Some 16 billion jelly beans are consumed every year in the U.S. alone, and every year new flavors hit the market. But the origins of the popular confection are "lost in the mists of time."

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The NFL has appointed its first female referee

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:13

We still have a ways to go before the 2015 football season kicks off, but the Baltimore Sun broke some big news about the NFL today, seems the league has appointed its first ever female permanent game official.

Sarah Thomas is her name, and she's no stranger to breaking new ground when it comes to football. She was the first woman to officiate a major college game in 2007, two years later, she was also the first woman to officiate a bowl game.

The 2015 NFL season officially starts on September 10.

 

For U.S. Workers, The March Of Progress Slows Down

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 10:01

On Friday, economists were left scrambling to explain why last month's employment growth was just half as good as they expected. Many fingers pointed at the harsh weather, along with port disruptions.

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How a good night's sleep can help the economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:48

There are cycles everywhere in our financial lives. But there's one cycle to rule them all: Our sleep cycle.

How and when we sleep impacts our work, our finances and even the overall economy. Research says most people need at least seven hours to feel rested the next day. But what happens if you don't get that amount? 

We spoke to Monica Schrock, who works the late shift at a diner in Los Angeles and Ken Wright, a sleep expert at the University of Colorado Boulder, to find out what happens when work disrupts our sleep cycles.

Wright says that when people work while tired, they make more mistakes, have more accidents and are generally less productive. And sleepy, inefficient workers are costly. 

Tune in using the player above to hear the full interviews.

When Civilians Accuse Troops Of Rape, Military Courts Often Decide

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:34

Hundreds of times a year, civilians accuse military personnel of sexual assault. The cases can wind up in the military justice system, where many victims say they are at a big disadvantage.

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The World According To Xi Jinping (Or At Least His App)

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:27

The man sometimes describes as China's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong now has an app that lets you read about Xi's love of soccer and learn all about his "Four Comprehensives."

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What China Can Teach The World About Successful Health Care

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:12

From free, universal care to for-profit hospitals, China has tried out radically different health care systems in the past 60 years. So what works — and doesn't work — for 1.3 billion people?

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For Chinese Migrant Workers, It Is Possible To Go Home Again

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:03

In the past, rural Chinese seeking success left their families and found work on the coast. Now, high wages mean factories are shifting inland and migrants are delighted to be following them home.

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What it means to say Kraft manipulated the wheat market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:00

Regulators at the Commodities Futures Trading Commissions have accused the Kraft and Mondelez International – the renamed company that now owns what was Kraft's cookie and cracker businesses – of manipulating and excessively speculating on the price of wheat.

Commodities broker and analyst Jack Scoville says buyers typically avoid sudden price hikes in wheat, a key ingredient for crackers and cookies, by using futures contracts. But the CFTC alleges that in 2011, the maker of Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz Crackers purchased far more wheat futures than it needed.

"Reading the allegations in the complaint, it looks like a traditional corner or squeeze," says Craig Pirrong, finance professor at the University of Houston. That would mean the large order pushed up the price, allowing the company to then sell the excess for a profit.

But proving this in a court of law will be difficult, according to former CFTC lawyer Jerry Markham.

Both the CFTC and Mondelez declined to comment while litigation is pending.

 

As oil jobs falter, North Dakota feels the squeeze

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:00

One of the weak spots in the U.S. jobs report for March was mining, especially oil and gas extraction. Employers that provide services to that industry dumped 11,000 jobs last month.

A big reason? The massive drop in oil prices over the past few months. When oil trades low, companies do less drilling and, in a place like North Dakota, also less fracking. That's the process used there to draw the oil out of the shale rock.

The upshot in North Dakota is simply less work on the oil fields for people like Mike Waliezer. His company, Century Crane Services, provides equipment, including cranes, to the oil patch.  

Last year, Waliezer did about $20 million in sales. This year, he’s expecting about half as much.

“Right now it feels like the balloon has been deflated,” he says.

Waliezer says he's down about 25 positions — mostly through attrition so far — but harsher layoffs could come this summer.

Some other companies have already made big cuts. Or in many cases, they've slashed workers' hours and wages.

“Between the salary and the bonus scale, it was so far down that it was getting too expensive to live out there,” says Brandon Hartman, a former hydraulic fracking crew worker.

Hartman says he used to pull in more than $100,000, but in recent months his income fell by half. Meanwhile, he still had the same $1,750 monthly rent to cover and feared that the subsidy he was getting from his employer could disappear, as many other companies slashed housing subsidies.  Without the subsidy, he would pay $2850 per month.

Hartman quit his job and left the oil patch at the end of February, taking his wife and two youngest kids back to their native Minnesota.

“I couldn't even take it anymore,” he says. “I was so stressed out about whether I was going to make anything in the next week or was I even going to have a job?”

Companies are drilling and fracking far fewer new wells because oil prices are so low, but existing wells still need to be kept up.

That's good news for some workers, like Chad Perrault, who repairs wells.

At a bar in Sidney, Montana, on the western edge of the oil patch, Perrault says oil will have to drop a lot more before he loses work.

“Our job is pretty secure for the time being,” he says. “Unless it's a total bust.”

An Iran deal won't change oil market overnight

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:00

Oil prices were down about four percent on Friday following the tentative diplomatic deal reached between Iran and the United States.

At one point Iran was OPEC's second-largest oil exporter, leading many to assume that lifting sanctions would now drive prices down even further in a global market that is already awash in cheap crude. 

This would be particularly bad news for U.S. shale-oil producers. But Kate Dourian with the Middle East Economic Survey says barriers remain before Iran can re-emerge as a viable oil-exporting country.

"The timing is off,” Dourian says. “I think it’s going to be very difficult for Iran to come back into the Market because they've lost market share, they've lost customers, so, I think it’s not going to be a smooth ride for them."

In order to get production back up Iran needs a heavy infusion of technology and investment from outside companies, which is a gamble many international firms aren’t willing to take.

"It’s got to be a really good deal for them to go in,” Dourian notes. “I don't think they're going to go rushing in because if Iran doesn’t comply with deal, the sanctions could come right back in again."

All things being equal three to five years from now, if Iran lives up to its end of the nuclear bargain, Iranian exports could push oil prices down. But all things typically don’t remain equal.

You know, the oil market is a volatile beast, the world remains a dangerous place,” says Trevor Houser, a partner with the Rhodium Group. “I won't bet on oil remaining permanently cheap just because of the deal yesterday.” 

Houser says any number of potential market disruptions, could account for the 1.5 million barrels per day that Iran could potentially supply.

"That's about how much production we lost in Libya,” Houser says. “That's about how much production you could lose form a significant disruption in Nigeria or Venezuela." 

Even without outside investment, Houser says Iran could start exporting some of its current stockpiles by the end of the year, or early 2016.

For one Vegas sports book, it's anyone but Kentucky

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 09:00

It’s March Madness, in early April. The Final Four play their semifinal games on Saturday: Michigan State against Duke, which is favored to win; and Wisconsin versus Kentucky, also favored to win. Then the winners face off on Monday.

If Kentucky wins its last two games and takes the championship, it will have achieved an undefeated season at 40-0. It would be the first undefeated season in men's basketball since the Indiana Hoosiers went 32-0 and won the NCAA championship in 1976. And Kentucky’s victory would bring cheers, but not only from people who picked the school to win their bracket. It would also benefit some lucky bettors who wagered with Las Vegas sports book William Hill.

Spokesman Michael Grodsky says the firm was first approached last season for a "prop," or proposition bet, that Kentucky would go undefeated. The bet was offered at 400-1.

“It would have been quite a feat, because no team had gone undefeated since the ‘76 Hoosiers,” Grodsky says.

This year, with Kentucky an even stronger prospect going into the season, Grodsky says the firm offered the prop again in July 2014, starting at 50-1 odds. By the time the betting closed on March 15, 2015, the odds were 9-2.

“It’s the biggest liability of a prop we’ve had,” Grodsky says. “It’s a mid-six-figure decision for us, so we kind of have a mantra around the office now: 'Anyone but Kentucky.'”

Betting on sports and betting on stocks or other financial investments can seem similar. There is risk to financial bets — though less than with sports betting, if one invests in a diversified portfolio of well-established stocks or index funds. Companies may lose value, but their stock doesn't often become worthless. A bet on the losing team (or one that doesn’t cover the spread) is a flat loss; no chance to make it back by holding on or doubling down.

Venture capital investment might be more like sports betting, says Vivek Wadhwa, a serial technology entrepreneur, academic researcher and fellow at Stanford Law School.

“We pick the winners based on our emotional liking of the people we’re investing in,” says Wadhwa. “It's very similar to gambling on sports. You think you have all these formulas, all this data, and you take the risk. The difference here is, venture capital is played with someone else’s money. You’re more likely to risk it, than if it were your own personal money.”

Mixed Reaction To Changes In States 'Religious Freedom' Bills

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 08:47

Revisions to the measures in Indiana and Arkansas were prompted by a loud backlash from opponents who said the laws were meant to condone discrimination against gays and lesbians.

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Quiz: Race gaps in the Common Core

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 08:26

Opinions about the Common Core standards differ by race, according to a new NBC poll sponsored by Pearson.

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NFL Is Reportedly Hiring Its First Female Full-Time Official

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 08:18

Sarah Thomas has officiated football games in the NCAA and for the NFL's preseason and training camps; for the 2015 NFL season, she'll reportedly work full-time at the game's highest level.

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Vatican? More Like Vatican't! Eat Spaghetti, That Is

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 07:27

Pope Francis's doctors are telling him to lay off pasta and get more exercise. But Francis, who reportedly eats a plate of spaghetti every day, has not taken well to the suggestions.

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