National News

Who wins and loses as oil prices fall

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 11:00

As oil prices fall,the global economy has winners and losers. The losers include oil companies, and countries that rely on oil revenue. But the worst hit countries aren't necessarily the best-known or biggest producers. Trevor Houser, a partner at the Rhodium Group, has calculated the economic impact on every country if oil prices stay low. "It turns out the countries that are most vulnerable are oil producers we never hear about," Houser says. For instance, if oil prices stay low, the Republic of Congo will effectively see about 27 percent of its economy disappear.

The thinking behind the Fed's next move

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 11:00

Next week, Federal Reserve policymakers hold their last meeting of the calendar year, and many economists expect they may do something major.

Really major.

They may remove the two-word phrase, "considerable time," from the guidance they issue – the tea leaves economists and investors try to read to figure out what the policymakers are thinking.

Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke first used the phrase “considerable time” in September 2012: “The committee emphasized that it expects a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy to remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens,” the language read that day, and in the 17 Fed statements since.

Two words may not sound important, but according to Dana Saporta, an economist with Credit Suisse, that first mention was a turning point. “It was a time in which the Fed was moving away from calendar-based forward guidance” – that is, tying policy changes to certain dates– “to thresholds”—that is, tying policy changes to inflation or unemployment.

Throughout the economic recovery, the Fed has been trying to telegraph something, says Guy Berger, U.S. economist at RBS Securities: “Our policy is dictated by how the economy is evolving.” And maybe, now that Fed has wrapped up its multi-trillion-dollar bond-buying program, the economy has evolved enough for it to signal to investors higher rates are coming soon.

Why?

Well, take last week’s employment report. In November, the U.S. economy added 321,000 new jobs, and wages ticked up 0.4 percent. “When they look at domestic economic indicators, almost all of them have improved,” says Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. But, he notes, there is a lot more on the Fed’s radar.

“The plunge in oil prices has caught a lot of folks by surprise,” Vitner points out. “Right now the rest of the world is a bit of a drag on the U.S. economy, and it presents some downside risk.”

He says Fed policymakers are keeping an eye on the economies of China and Germany, both of which have slowed down, and that could affect the economy here in the future.

Greek election move rattles investors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 11:00

Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras spooked investors on Thursday. Greek lawmakers had been due to vote in a new president in February but Samaras moved the vote forward in an attempt to force parliament to back his candidate for the presidency and, in turn, his pro-austerity policies. It’s a big gamble: If Samaras loses that vote, it could trigger a general election, which he would likely lose. The victor – according to the opinion polls – could be the left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party. That outcome would raise fears about Greece repaying its debts. And it could once again re-ignite a wider crisis of confidence in the euro.

A Case Of Mistaken Identity Sends Healthy Boy To An Ebola Ward

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 10:20

An ambulance in Sierra Leone is sent out to pick up a suspected patient. But after two wrong turns and several stops for directions, it arrives at the home of a 14-year-old boy with no signs of Ebola.

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Argentina: Where Cash Is King And Robberies Are On The Rise

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 10:19

With spiraling inflation and a distrust in banks after the country's 2001 default, Argentines are keeping more cash on hand. And that means robbery rates are spiraling, too.

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NFL Quarterback Cam Newton Taken To Hospital After Car Crash

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 09:48

The player's truck flipped several times on a bridge close to his team's stadium in downtown Charlotte. His injuries are reportedly not life-threatening.

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Wellness At Work Often Comes With Strings Attached

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 09:43

A group of CEOs wants the Obama administration to backtrack on efforts to regulate workplace wellness. The programs have ballooned in popularity, but there's little evidence they work.

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'Ebola Must Go' — And So Must Prejudice Against Survivors

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 09:28

Liberia has started a campaign to get communities more involved in stopping Ebola. But even in the town handpicked to launch the campaign, a family of survivors has been ostracized.

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Senate Panel's Report On CIA Calls Harsh Tactics Ineffective

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 08:27

Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee released a report saying the CIA misled higher-ups and didn't accurately describe its post-Sept. 11 interrogation tactics. The CIA disputes the findings.

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Obama: CIA's 'Harsh Methods' Inconsistent With Values, National Security

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 07:34

Earlier, GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell and Saxby Chambliss said the release of the Senate's report on the CIA's interrogations practices "will present serious consequences for U.S. national security."

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'Obamacare' Expert Apologizes For Remarks On Law's Creation

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 07:13

MIT health care economist Jonathan Gruber had said the "stupidity of the American voter" was critical in getting the law passed. Critics say that displays the deceit that went into creating the law.

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'Botnets' are costing advertisers billions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 07:00

Want to watch Taylor Swift’s new music video? First, you’re supposed to sit through a video ad. How much advertisers pay for that ad depends on how many times it’s viewed.

However, almost a quarter of the impressions registered for online video ads are fraudulent, according to a new report from the Association of National Advertisers, which found hackers are faking views with networks of computers called “botnets” that make it seem like an ad’s been viewed by a person, when it was really just a computer.

That means advertisers are losing money on these fake views, says Bill Duggan of the Association of National Advertisers.

“While fraud hurts all of the players, publishers, advertisers, and agencies, it hurts the advertisers the most,” he says.

These phony views come up in nearly every conversation that Lauren Fisher, an analyst with eMarketer, has with brands and agencies.

“It’s even going so far as deterring some people from investing in buying video ads because they are so concerned about the level of fraud that they just don’t want to take the risk of losing money in that manner,” she says.

 Advertisers may lose $6.3 billion to this type of fraud next year, according to an advertisers association estimate.

An oversupply of oil isn't all good

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 07:00

There’s simply an oversupply of oil right now, and too much supply causes prices fall – They’re currently near five-year lows. And when prices fall, oil companies have to cut back.

ConocoPhillips says it plans to cut spending 20 percent next year, and will slow activity in U.S. shale oil and gas exploration. BP is expected to announce layoffs Wednesday.

The low prices have come as a shock to many in the industry, says Jeffrey Grossman, president of BRG Brokerage.

“They were hoping for a big next year or two,” he says. “Now suddenly it’s, ‘Uh oh, if this price doesn’t go up, I’m spending $75 to pull something up that I can only get $65.’ That’s not a trade you want to make.”

With prices this low, Torbjørn Kjus, chief oil analyst at Norway’s DNB Markets, says companies have a few options. He expects more companies will announce job cuts, slash spending and delay investments in new projects.

“Some of them will also probably borrow more money,” he says. “Some also might even touch the dividends, but that will be seen as very negative by the investors and the shareowners.”

Kjus says because dividend cuts often hurt companies’ stock price, oil executives often view them as a last resort. 

Robots are costing advertisers billions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 07:00

Want to watch Taylor Swift’s new music video? First, you’re supposed to sit a video ad. How much advertisers pay for that ad depends on how many times it’s viewed.

However, almost a quarter of the impressions registered for online video ads are fraudulent, according a new report from the Association of National Advertisers, which found hackers are faking views with networks of computers called “botnets” that make it seem like an ad’s been viewed by a person, when it was really just a computer.

That means advertisers are losing money on these fake views, says Bill Duggan, with Association of National Advertisers.

“While fraud hurts all of the players, publishers, advertisers, and agencies, it hurts the advertisers the most,” he says.

These phony views come up in nearly every conversation Lauren Fisher, an analyst with eMarketer, has with brands and agencies.

“It’s even going so far as deterring some people from investing in buying video ads because they are so concerned about the level of fraud that they just don’t want to take the risk of losing money in that manner,” she says.

The ANA estimates advertisers will lose $6.3 billion to this type of fraud next year.

World Food Program Resumes Food Aid For Syrian Refugees

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 06:11

The U.N. organization said that after it suspended a food-voucher program earlier this month, individuals, the private sector and governments stepped in to raise the money.

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The Kochs: Big brothers of personal data

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 05:57

The Koch brothers and their network of big-money players are investing millions into a data company that's developing detailed profiles on millions of Americans.

At this point, along with all the other in-house expertise the network has, the Koch’s political operation could be a privatized national party all on its own if they wanted it to be.

"When you have this outside money paying for the latest technology, you really have a very potent force," says Ken Vogel, a reporter for Politico. "That’s what the Koch brothers have, perhaps ever more so than the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee."

Quiz: How presidents at private colleges are paid

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 04:39

The median pay for a president at a private college was $392,000 in 2012, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Live Blog: Senate Expected To Release Long-Held CIA Torture Report

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-09 04:19

The report is the most comprehensive account of interrogation techniques used by the CIA after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The report's release has been controversial

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The Sony hack continues

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 04:00
2 executives

In the latest threat from the "Guardians of Peace" (the hackers behind the release of confidential documents from Sony), the group threatened to release the private information of two executives if the company did not "stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism", i.e. 'The Interview'

70 million

The number of users Napster claimed at its peak, in the early years of the new millennium. That's not even accounting for the many other file-sharing services that cropped up during that time. Napster is long dead, but a new Retro Report documentary looks back at the powerful paradigm shift it kickstarted, one the industry is still sorting out: that media online should be free.

300,000 beds

Airbnb currently has about 300,000 more than the number of beds of either Hilton and Marriott. But now the brand is having an identity crisis: when someone stays at an Airbnb rental, there's nothing that distinguishes the experience. It's why the lodging service is launching "Pineapple,"a magazine that will be sent to hosts and bookstores around the world.

56.1 percent

The portion of web ads that don't appear on screen for even a full second, if they appear at all, according to new data from Google. One contributor to this problem is virus-affected computers, Quartz reported, which request ads billions of times without actually displaying them.

$140,000

When the flu vaccine targets the wrong strain (like it did this year), it means more people will get sick. According to some estimates, businesses spent almost $140,000 more on flu-related costs per 100,000 workers the last time federal scientists made the wrong guess.

9 times

That's how much viewership on YouTube has increased since 2010. Online video hasn't just exploded, it's in the middle of a big bang and it's already produced a staggering number of largely independent and niche producers and channels whose viewership rivals television and movies, but attract young audiences that don't fit the conventional wisdom attached to those media. The New Yorker took a deep dive this week into the lives of YouTube and Vine "creators" and their uneasy relationship with an entertainment industry that sees dollar signs but doesn't know how to grab on to such a rapidly changing business.

PODCAST: Airbnb gets a makeover

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-09 03:00

First up, more on the tumbling Chinese stock. Then, the flu vaccine gets it wrong. Plus, Airbnb does some rebranding.

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