National News

Debate: Should We Genetically Modify Food?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 12:56

Many crops we eat today are the product of genetic modifications that happen in a lab, not in nature. Scientists and consumers are divided how cautious we need to be about these foods.

» E-Mail This

Making The Human Condition Computable

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 12:56

Technological advances are make it easier for you and your doctor to track your health and to find treatments for complex diseases. But the technology may prove costly and there are privacy pitfalls.

» E-Mail This

Nick Denton Steps Down As Gawker's President

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 11:52

But he will remain CEO of the media company that he built, and be part of a seven-member managing partnership. He said he wanted to spend more time blogging.

» E-Mail This

At climate change meeting, poor countries step forward

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-10 11:01

A two-week U.N. conference on climate change is nearing its end in Lima, Peru. The summit tees up a big theme for further negotiations in Paris next year: Make an offer.

Countries will likely make individual pledges to take action, instead of negotiating a global treaty with requirements. In a big change from prior negotiations, historically poor nations have started offering pledges of their own. The trend started with China's agreement with the United States, announced last month.

"The way the paradigm has been laid out for the last 20 years, developing countries – China included – really don't have to take actions or make commitments," said Ray Kopp, a senior fellow at the think tank Resources for the Future, from Lima. Now poorer countries are seeing evidence that they should participate, too.

 

BMW sponsors a series of articles about ... BMWs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-10 11:00

BMW has partnered with the website Medium for a series of sponsored posts explaining how the car company's design process works.

One article focuses on the acoustics of the door closing on the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. The person at BMW responsible for perfecting the new door-closing sound profile, Florian Frank, has an actual title: "Specialist for noise, vibration and harshness."

Click the audio player above to hear what the door sounds like before and after the acoustic engineers got their hands on it.

I couldn't tell the difference either.

All-Christmas music stations make money. Lots of it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-10 11:00

Even before Thanksgiving, more than 100 radio stations across the country have switched to an increasingly popular format: all Christmas music, all the time. 

And that switch to 24/7 Christmas music is coming increasingly earlier in the season, even as early as before Halloween for a handful  of stations, including WVEZ in Louisville, Kentucky. 

"It’s actually a strategic move, in terms of how our radio stations are rated,” says Shane Collins, program director at WVEZ. “We gain tremendous amount of total audience. There are occasions where the audience will increase as much as 40 to 50 percent.”

Across the country, in the top 50 media markets, the combined audience for radio stations playing Christmas music more than doubles during the listening season, according to Nielsen Audio, which provides ratings for radio stations. Last year on Thanksgiving, the stations had a combined daily audience of 12.3 million listeners. By Christmas Eve, the audience peaked at 28.6 million. 

By playing Christmas music starting in October, instead of December, Collins hugely expands his listening audience for two extra months, he says. That means he can charge higher rates for advertising on his station. 

Little wonder then that stations across the country are elbowing each other to be known as the Christmas music station in their cities. Jon Miller of Nielsen Audio says that’s why stations are switching earlier in the season every year, as they try to become the Christmas music leader. 

“That’s kind of a cat and mouse game of who’s going to go first,” Miller says. “There’s not room for four or five stations to do it in every market … and get really big ratings…. Whoever owns the position tends to benefit the most.” 

By the end of the year, some 500 stations will have made the switch, according to Nielsen. Radio industry consultant Jim Richards says the phenomenon picked up steam only in the last 10 years or so. And at first, he says, stations were cautious. 

“We started doing it ... over Thanksgiving holidays … certainly the start of the Christmas shopping season happens there, and ... we weren’t interrupting our normal listening habits,” Richards says. 

Stations were worried that unhappy listeners might abandon their station forever, says Richards. But that’s not what’s happened over the years. 

“The phenomenon of this whole thing is that for the most part, come the second week of January of the third week of January, the listener's patterns of radio usage pretty much return to normal,” Richards says.

That all-Christmas music station makes money. Lots of it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-10 11:00

Even before Thanksgiving, more than 100 radio stations across the country have switched to an increasingly popular format: all Christmas music, all the time. 

And that switch to 24/7 Christmas music is coming increasingly earlier in the season, even as early as before Halloween for a handful  of stations, including WVEZ in Louisville, Kentucky. 

"It’s actually a strategic move, in terms of how our radio stations are rated,” says Shane Collins, program director at WVEZ. “We gain tremendous amount of total audience. There are occasions where the audience will increase as much as 40 to 50 percent.”

Across the country, in the top 50 media markets, the combined audience for radio stations playing Christmas music more than doubles during the listening season, according to Nielsen Audio, which provides ratings for radio stations. Last year on Thanksgiving, the stations had a combined daily audience of 12.3 million listeners. By Christmas Eve, the audience peaked at 28.6 million. 

By playing Christmas music starting in October, instead of December, Collins hugely expands his listening audience for two extra months, he says. That means he can charge higher rates for advertising on his station. 

Little wonder then that stations across the country are elbowing each other to be known as the Christmas music station in their cities. Jon Miller of Nielsen Audio says that’s why stations are switching earlier in the season every year, as they try to become the Christmas music leader. 

“That’s kind of a cat and mouse game of who’s going to go first,” Miller says. “There’s not room for four or five stations to do it in every market … and get really big ratings…. Whoever owns the position tends to benefit the most.” 

By the end of the year, some 500 stations will have made the switch, according to Nielsen. Radio industry consultant Jim Richards says the phenomenon picked up steam only in the last 10 years or so. And at first, he says, stations were cautious. 

“We started doing it ... over Thanksgiving holidays … certainly the start of the Christmas shopping season happens there, and ... we weren’t interrupting our normal listening habits,” Richards says. 

Stations were worried that unhappy listeners might abandon their station forever, says Richards. But that’s not what’s happened over the years. 

“The phenomenon of this whole thing is that for the most part, come the second week of January of the third week of January, the listener's patterns of radio usage pretty much return to normal,” Richards says.

Uber needs to say more than 'I'm sorry'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-10 11:00

Funny how the tables can turn. Uber was once tracking customers to see how many were doing the walk of shame. But now it’s the one looking like a hot mess.  

“When you think about brands, really people judge them the exact same way that you judge people,"says Alyson Schonholz, group director of strategy and insights at strategic branding firm Siegel+Gale. Uber could start cleaning up its reputation by admitting its mistakes, she says, but what it really needs to do is change its business practices so the same problems don’t happen again.

Consider the case of gas and oil giant BP, when it faced a PR crisis a few years ago. 

“They decided to shift their brand from British Petroleum to BP and they launched a new logo that was much more friendly and in tune with environment. But that just became lipstick on pig," said Schonholz.  "There were no real actions behind it that showed people that they were a different kind of company. And people are smarter than that. And they expect more from their brands. So to just apologize alone isn’t going to be enough for Uber."

In some ways Uber is like a little kid sitting at the adult’s table for the first time. But no one’s taught it table manners yet — which fork to use or trained company executives to deal with the media or with a crisis. “What is obvious about Uber is that they don’t have a crisis-management strategy in place — at all,” said Brad Hecht, chief research officer at Reputation Institute. 

"You have to respond immediately. You have to be transparent," he said. You have to apologize and be accountable and you have to have a plan for how you’re looking to resolve it.”

When it comes to reputation, it's not really about the problem, it’s about how a company reacts.

Just look at Home Depot and Target. In the past year, both companies found they'd been the victims of data breaches. Target executives had a delayed response, didn’t fully admit to what the problem was or offer a plan to resolve it, Hecht says. But Home Depot immediately apologized and put a plan in place to provide a fix. The result were visible — in both company's stock prices.

"Really Home Depot just ended up having small blip, while Target’s dropped significantly," Hecht says.

In a blog post, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick says the company's growth has come with growing pains. And acknowledging its mistakes are the first steps toward fixing them. 

"Done right, it will lead to a smarter and more humble company that sets new standards in data privacy, gives back more to the cities we serve and defines and refines our company culture effectively," Kalanick wrote.

Peter Himler, founder of PR firm Flatiron Communications, says Uber needs help.

"I’m not sure that Uber has been as contrite and earnest as they could be," he said.  But he says, luckily for the company, it has some powerful backers in its corner who stood up for Uber during some of its its recent problems. For instance, investors Ashton Kutcher and Jason Calacanis both have huge social media following and have expressed support for Uber, Himler says.

And while Uber may be feeling growing pains, the company is continuing to grow.

Uber's valutation is in the multibillions and the company has a firm grip globally, Himler says.

"They're making billions, I believe, around the world," he said. "So, there’s no stopping them at this point — even with these gaffes they’re going to prevail."

Why The President Wants To Give Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars To Toddlers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 10:56

Today's White House summit on early education highlights public and philanthropic partnerships to support high-quality learning opportunities for young children.

» E-Mail This

For Yazidi Women, Escaping ISIS Doesn't Mean The Ordeal Is Over

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 10:43

Many of the 5,000 Yazidi hostages in Iraq are women who are being raped. Those who return to their deeply conservative community face new trauma: shame, invasive "virginity tests," possible pregnancy.

» E-Mail This

Alan Rusbridger, Editor Of 'Guardian,' To Step Down

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 10:39

He is best known in the U.S. for shepherding the newspaper through its coverage of Edward Snowden's leaks of classified material. He will become the chair of the trust that runs the Guardian.

» E-Mail This

The NFL's Owners Approve New Off-Field Conduct Policy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 10:31

The changes include a "baseline" suspension of six games without pay for a first violation in domestic abuse and sexual assault cases.

» E-Mail This

Alleged Rape Of Passenger Raises Concerns About How Uber Runs Abroad

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 09:51

A passenger in an Uber car in New Delhi reported that the driver raped her. As the company expands into the developing world, questions about the screening of its drivers are being raised.

» E-Mail This

Detroit's Bankruptcy Is Over, Michigan's Governor Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 08:49

The city's bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, will end at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder said. The city filed for bankruptcy on July 18, 2013.

» E-Mail This

S. African Prosecutors To Seek Murder Conviction Against Pistorius

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 07:36

The double amputee Olympian was convicted earlier this year of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, in the shooting death of his girlfriend. He is serving a five-year prison sentence.

» E-Mail This

Doctors Slow To Adopt Cheaper, Faster Radiation For Breast Cancer

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 07:31

Three weeks of radiation works just as well as six weeks for most women with early stage breast cancer. But doctors have been slow to make that switch. Money may be one big reason why, a study says.

» E-Mail This

Begun The Christmas Tree War Has

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 07:11

When it comes to Christmas trees — like just about everything else — America is split.

» E-Mail This

Palestinian Minister Dies In West Bank Protest Against Israel

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 06:55

The circumstances surrounding Ziad Abu Ein's death are unclear. Medics say he died from exposure to tear gas. Israel said it will examine his body jointly with Jordanian and Palestinian pathologists.

» E-Mail This

After Raid On Its Servers In Sweden, Pirate Bay Goes Offline

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 05:58

Pirate Bay is one of the world's largest file-sharing sites. In the past, it has been targeted by authorities around the world.

» E-Mail This

A Crowd Of Scientists Finds A Better Way To Predict Seizures

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 05:21

The winners of an online competition identified electrical patterns in the brain that often precede a seizure. The victors included a mathematician and an engineer, but no neuroscientists or doctors.

» E-Mail This

Pages