National News

PODCAST: Revising economic growth

The news this morning is that the U.S. economy didn't shrink during the winter as statisticians initially told us. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about Egyptian government's efforts to prop up the handicraft manufacturing industry that has been largely taken over by goods made in China.

Facebook earnings have Wallstreet optimistic

Could the stock market be headed for trouble?

New reports suggest just half a dozen companies are fueling much of the gains on the Nasdaq and so far falling stocks outpace rising stocks which has been a precursor to previous downturns.

But while analysts and investors are raising concerns about the larger market, Facebook — one of the few companies driving gains — has them feeling optimistic after this week’s earnings report. The numbers certainly impress Wall St.

Facebook’s margins are high, people are spending more time hanging out on the site, and boasts 1.4  billion users on average a  month.

RBC analyst Mark Mahaney says that’s jaw-dropping. “For context, there are more people on Facebook on a monthly basis than live in China. It’s a massive platform,” he says.

The future appears bright for a company valued at more than $250 billion dollars, which helps explain why it’s one of Wall St.’s sparkplugs.

Another growth area for the company is advertising. Facebook hauled in $3.8 billion, three-quarters coming from mobile.

Brian Blau is Research Director at Gartner. “Advertisers want to put their ads in front of Facebook users. And I think that we continue to see that as Facebook presses down and attracts more advertisers in local communities,” he says.

Blau says Facebook’s may have maxed out growth here in the U.S. and much of Europe.

One way to keep humming along is to find a way to make more off advertising that doesn’t turn users off.

The housing market is back — except where it's not

Homes that are underwater — mortgaged for more than they’re worth — represent a much smaller fraction of the housing market than they did a few years ago, according to a new report from RealtyTrac, a real-estate data company. However, some parts of the country are doing much better than others.

The national average, at 13.3 percent, isn’t all the way back to normal, but it would sound awfully good to places like Tampa, Cleveland, Las Vegas — or Chicago, where almost a quarter of mortgages are still underwater.

Ironically, one culprit may be state and local homeowner protections that make it harder for banks to foreclose, according to Daren Blomquist, vice president for Realty Trac.

"You have many properties that are kind of sitting in foreclosure limbo," he says. "And not only are those properties likely underwater, they’re likely dragging down the values of surrounding homes."

In Chicago and elsewhere, underwater homes tend to be in the poorest neighborhoods. 

"What’s happening on the Gold Coast in Chicago — which is very expensive — has very little to do with what’s happening in traditionally disadvantaged areas on the South or the West Side of the city," says Spencer Cowan, senior vice president for research at the Woodstock Institute, a local think-tank focused on economic equity.

Eight ZIP codes on Chicago’s South and West Sides have underwater rates above fifty percent — more than three times the rate for the Gold Coast area.

Egypt bans some "Made in China" souvenirs

In any place highly dependent on tourism, there’s money to be made in selling souvenirs. But when the tourists stop coming, those businesses and manufacturers are out of luck.

That’s what happened in Egypt following the 2011 revolution. Now that some of those tourists are coming back, the government there is trying to prop up the handicraft manufacturers that remain.

41-year-old Mohamed el-Yamaami’s hands are stained black from decades of polishing intricately cast bronze lamps and grills in the back alleys of Cairo's Khan el-Khalili bazaar. He blames Chinese imports for undercutting the prices of handmade goods like his.

“The majority of them used to be made in workshops [around here]," he says. "It provided the livelihood to many people. Now China makes them, for cheaper.”

Many manufacturers went out of business after the revolution, and those that remained suddenly found their prices undercut by Chinese goods. So, in April, the Egyptian government banned imports of traditional tourist items like miniature pyramids, "papyrus", and special lanterns. The move was welcomed by Egyptians, even those who sell the imports, like shopkeeper Omar Azzouz.

“As long as imports are allowed," he says, "I would never manufacture. Something imported is cheaper. Why would I buy local, more expensive products?” Azzouz says about half of the statues of pharaohs, tea sets, and other knickknacks in his shop are Chinese. Locals estimate suppliers still have enough in stock to keep markets flooded with “Made in China” tourist items for quite some time, but Azzouz says he looks forward to when those run out.

“You would be forced to buy an Egyptian product," he says. "Tourists will buy it, even if it is more expensive.”

Neither the Chinese-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce nor the Chinese Embassy in Cairo were available to comment. But, information from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce shows exports to Egypt decreased 15 percent the month the ban was announced, although there’s no explanation listed for the drop.

Back in his cramped Khan el-Khalili workshop, Mohamed el-Yamaani looks forward to the day his products will only be competing on quality, not massive price differences.

“Our work has a special style," he boasts. "If China makes this, I swear it won’t be sold."

Kentucky fried photo printer

Marketplace - American Public Media - 17 hours 14 min ago
15 percent


That's how much imported goods from China to Egypt dropped in April, the month Egypt announced a ban on imported traditional tourist items. In the wake of the revolution in 2011, many local manufacturers closed down as tourism dwindled. But as visitors returned, imported goods from China filled the need for miniature pyramids and special lanterns.


25 percent


That's the percentage of Medicare spending that consistently pays for end-of-life care. Costs related to hospice services continue to rise; half of Medicare patients who died in 2013 were in hospice care. That's double what it was in 2000.


60 years


That's how long KFC has been around in Canada. And to celebrate, the company is releasing a high-tech chicken bucket that doubles as a photo printer. As Slate reports, the bucket connects to your phone via Bluetooth. No word yet on whether or not the bucket is, indeed, finger lickin' good.


13.3 percent


That's the national average percentage of homes on the market that are underwater, meaning they were mortgaged for more than they're worth. But that's only part of the story. In cities like Chicago, that percentage spikes in poorer neighborhoods, where as much as 25 percent of homes on the market are deemed underwater.

#TheEmptyChair Amplifies Conversation About Sexual Assault

NPR News - 17 hours 59 min ago

A provocative New York magazine cover featuring a photo of 35 women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault is the latest in a growing movement of survivors publicly sharing their stories.

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In The West Bank, A Rough Start Doesn't Deter New Arab TV Channel

NPR News - 18 hours 8 min ago

Worried about West Bank Palestinian influence on Arab citizens of Israel, the Israeli government has shut down an Arab TV station that bridges the two groups.

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Through Doubt And Dark Times, Joss Stone Lets Her Voice Light The Way

NPR News - 18 hours 11 min ago

The British soul singer, whose new album Water for Your Soul is out July 31, is known for her big voice. But since she began performing at age 14, she's also learned a thing or two about perseverance.

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Close Listening: How Sound Reveals The Invisible

NPR News - 18 hours 19 min ago

The stethoscope seems so simple — a 19th century tool for listening more closely to the human heart or lungs. It also sparked a culture of listening that is transforming the way scientists learn.

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At One Juvenile Hall, Too Few Staff Has A Big Impact

NPR News - 18 hours 22 min ago

A juvenile hall in San Leandro, Calif., is a so-called model facility, but it faces major challenges. A staffing shortage means, says a supervisor, "kids don't always get the services they should."

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Pell Grants For Prisoners: An Old Argument Revisited

NPR News - 18 hours 30 min ago

The Obama administration is expected to announce a new program Friday that would once again allow some prisoners access to federal Pell grants.

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Some Google Street View Cars Now Track Pollution Levels

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 17:28

Google's already tested three of the pollution-sensor equipped cars in Denver, and is currently trying them out in the Bay Area.

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Debris In The Indian Ocean May Have Come From Vanished Airliner

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 16:14

A source tells NPR a piece of wing found on an island appears to be from a large passenger plane. Other media say sources link it to a Boeing 777 like the Malaysian jet that disappeared last year.

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Michel Platini Is Running For President Of Scandal-Plagued FIFA

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 15:40

Currently the president of European soccer's governing body and a FIFA vice president, he is considered a heavy favorite. The presidential contest follows a major corruption scandal.

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Trade negotiations continue in Hawaii

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-29 14:37

In Maui, Hawaii, negotiators from 12 Pacific Rim countries are in the last stages of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The White House has been working on the deal for years, and with Congress' passage of a fast track bill, negotiations are reaching an end — the deadline is Friday. In Maui, trade negotiations are going on in hotel conferences rooms. Lobbyists, media and advisers are taking over the usually tourist-filled area to work out the kinks: Canadian milk trade, drug patents and labor law are among the last sticking points.

There's huge pressure to wrap up negotiations this week; the longer they last, the more likely they are to impact the upcoming election cycle and fall apart. 

Tracey Samuelson reports from Maui on how the trade negotiations are progressing and what's left to work out. 

Click on the media player above to hear more.

Tom Cruise embarks on another Mission Impossible

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-29 14:23

The fifth installment of the "Mission Impossible" franchise, "Rogue Nation," opens Friday.

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in a role that's been a consistent win for the aging action hero. Even amidst a rocky decade, this iteration of the franchise was a strong point for Cruise.

Wesley Morris, who writes on film for Grantland, says that Cruise "is a man who would honestly die for you," and it comes across in the "Mission Impossible" films. Cruise, who does his own stunts, is hanging from planes and holding his breath again in "Rogue Nation." 

Morris says the latest movie holds up — it's fun without poking fun at a dedicated audience.

"People like Cruise in this part," Morris says, even if the role has become a way for him to prove himself as a still-capable action hero. 

Morris has faith in Cruise and his latest film. "It does not feel like a cash grab the way that another 'Star Wars' saga feels like a cash grab," he says.

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SpaceShipTwo 'Pilot Was Thrown From The Vehicle' High In Atmosphere

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:24

SpaceShipTwo broke apart soon after it reached supersonic speeds and an altitude of around 50,000 feet. Its pilot says his parachute opened in a "gentlemanly" fashion, after he had fallen for a while.

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Europe's Taste For Caviar Is Putting Pressure On A Great Lakes Fish

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:12

Scientists say lake herring, a key fish in Lake Superior's food web, is suffering because of mild winters and Europe's appetite for roe. Some say the species may be at risk of "collapse."

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From The Silents To Millennials, Debt Burdens Span The Generations

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:10

The silent generation is still paying off mortgages and baby boomers aren't done with student loans. A new study by The Pew Charitable Trusts also shows fewer millennials are taking on mortgages.

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Migrants risk all to get into Britain

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:00

A man died in the French port of Calais as hundreds of migrants tried to enter the Chanel Tunnel to cross illegally into the United Kingdom. The 20-year-old from Sudan was thought to have been crushed by a truck. He’s the ninth person to die attempting the crossing this summer. Several thousand migrants are camped out in Calais, and every night some of them try to jump on a truck or train and smuggle themselves through the tunnel into Britain.

This so-called “migrant activity" has caused massive disruption in trade and traffic between Britain and Europe, and it’s raised big questions about migration and asylum.

Why are so many migrants desperate to settle in Britain? Why – if they are genuine refugees – do they not claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, like Germany or France?   And why have the French not done more to contain the crisis in Calais? 

Click on the media player above to hear more.