National News

Quiz: Complaints about private student loans on the rise

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 12:42

The number of complaints about private student loans filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau climbed 38 percent in the past year, according to a new CFPB report.

Most private student loan complaints sent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau relate to which of the following?

Venezuela, A Diplomatic Rival For U.S., Wins Seat On U.N. Security Council

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 12:41

The last time Venezuela tried for a seat in 2006, the United States successfully lobbied against it. The U.S. expressed disappointment about Venezuela's inclusion.

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Airbnb, New York State Spar Over Legality Of Rentals

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 12:25

The state's attorney general says nearly three-quarters of Airbnb's listings in New York City are illegal. The company says local laws should be changed to accommodate the sharing economy.

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Reality Check: To Burn Off A Soda, You'll Have To Run 50 Minutes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 12:25

What might make us pay attention to calorie information on menus? Researchers think that including how many miles of walking or minutes of running it takes to burn off the calories ordered would help.

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Do We Need A New 'Environmental Impact' Label For Beef?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 12:04

Labels like "organic" and "grass-fed" don't capture the beef industry's true environmental impact, researchers say. Why not have a label that assesses water use, land use and greenhouse gas emissions?

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Chris Hadfield can show you your hometown from space

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 11:56

Commander Chris Hadfield is arguably the most famous astronaut of the modern era, not just because of his trips to space. He won a massive following using Twitter and Instagram, and even singing David Bowie covers on YouTube.

Now, he's gathered thousands of photographs he took from space, and whittled them down into a book called "You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes."

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

You’ve got more than 1 million Twitter followers. They seem to love what you do. Why do you think that is?

Such a tiny little group of people have had a chance, not just to leave the Earth, but to spend half a year off the Earth. Using the capability of social media, with all those followers, [I was able to say], “Hey, if you’re interested, look what we can see from here. Look how you look. You are here.”

At one point, my son sent a note, he said, “Hey, why don’t you ask everybody what they want to see?”

Everybody said, “I want a picture of my home town.” Which made me laugh, because it’s kind of like narcissistic. But then I thought about it. People are proud of where they’re from but also want to see where I’m from a perspective and in proportion to everyone else. I want to see how I fit in.

Into the void: spacewalk today! Reid & Butch going out to fix a broken shunt. Watch here: http://t.co/UbpGnfUL4E pic.twitter.com/eYp0tv83CT

— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) October 15, 2014

What’s next for you? Will we see you piloting a commercial space mission?
I know several of the guys flying… Virgin Galactic. It’s a very interesting commercial first step. It goes straight up and falls straight back down, so it really is just the first step. Sir Richard admits that. But he’s looking for ways to apply it. Maybe it can go straight up and land somewhere else. Maybe we could get from New York to LA in 30 minutes or something.

I don’t think I’m going to be the pilot of it. I’ve been a pilot my whole life and I’ve had such a richness of experience. I flew in space three times, and helped build two space stations, and commanded this one that’s up there.

A little taste of a ride like that would be like a Formula 1 driver going for a quick ride in somebody else’s car, but if someone gives me the opportunity, I”ll go for sure. But I don’t think I’m going to be the pilot.

What’s your favorite space movie?
I really like Galaxy Quest. But I also like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Those are my two favorites.

Holiday hiring is a path to permanent jobs, for a few

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 11:29

This year’s holiday shopping spree will be preceded by a strong holiday hiring spree.

As big-box and online warehouse retailers announce their seasonal employment plans, economists are predicting 2014 will be the best year for holiday jobs since 1999, with more than 800,000 temporary hires in the final three months of the year. Retailers hired 786,200 seasonal workers in 2013, according to the annual forecast published by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Individual companies that serve the holiday trade have more robust hiring plans than last year. UPS has announced it will double its seasonal employment boost to 95,000. Amazon announced Thursday it will add 80,000 temps at fulfillment and sortation centers across the country, as it staffs up an expanding nationwide delivery network.

“Last year, Amazon converted thousands of seasonal employees into regular full-time roles after the holidays,” Amazon spokesperson Nina Lindsey says. “And we’re really excited to be expecting to do the same this year.” Last year, about 15 percent of temps who got holiday work were brought on for full-time, permanent jobs, according to the company’s press release.

Lindsey would not provide an average wage. According to one staffing agency, these jobs appear to offer above the minimum wage, in the $11 to $15 per hour range.

“In this kind of economy, with this lack of safety net, any job is often better than no job,” says Stephanie Luce, professor of labor studies at the City University of New York. But she also pointed out that many job-seekers are underemployed in this economy — working temporary or part-time jobs and wanting full-time permanent work.

“You’re taking this job — it might even be your second job or third job — but you’re just trying to patch together many temp jobs, seasonal jobs, part-time jobs to make a living,” Luce says. “And it’s not really not a sustainable model.”

Georgetown University public policy professor Harry Holzer, who served as chief economist in the Labor Department during the Clinton Administration, said many of these jobs don’t deliver a significant long-term benefit to job-seekers.

“If the job is really short-term, I doubt that anyone’s going to be impressed by it when they look at someone’s work experience,” said Holzer. “If it’s a little longer, and if you can argue that you picked up a skill on the job, then potentially it could have a positive effect.”

Holzer said that during the 1990s, when the U.S. had full employment, most people taking temporary seasonal jobs for the holidays probably wanted to work short-term to make extra money—either because they were semi-retired, or simply didn't want year-round work. Now, he said, temporary seasonal workers are more likely to be people struggling with unemployment or underemployment.

Bono apologizes for free iTunes album

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 11:28

Bono has apologized for a recent self-promotion stint, albeit in a video promoting his new album release on CD and vinyl.

The U2 frontman apologized to everyone who was annoyed after the band's new album "Songs of Innocence" just showed up in their iTunes accounts last month.  All 500 million iTunes users received the free download.

In a Facebook video posted Oct. 14, Bono said he got carried away with the "beautiful idea" of the auto-download, but artists are "prone to a drop of megalomania" and he feared the album wouldn't be heard.

The download was announced Sept. 9 at the Apple event unveiling the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Apple automatically sent the album for free to active iTunes accounts, and for some people with certain settings, that meant an automatic download too.

Billboard reported last week the album had been downloaded 26 million times, and 81 million people had listened to at least one song — it's not clear how many actually meant to.

Why the Ebola patients were transferred

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 11:21

Health officials transferred Dallas nurse Nina Pham to the National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland Thursday.

Now both Dallas nurses infected by a patient with the disease have been sent to specialty hospitals with biocontainment units. There are four such hospitals in the U.S., with sites in Maryland, Georgia, Nebraska and Montana.

Given mistakes in Dallas, health officials are talking about whether certain hospitals should be designated to treat Ebola cases. But there really aren’t any Ebola experts, no super doctors who have special tricks. Doctors say treating Ebola is actually pretty straightforward business.

“Most of the treatment issues really are the generic treatment of very, very sick people with multiple organs that are failing, and most reasonable-sized hospitals can do that competently,” says Dr. Bob Wachter of University of California-San Francisco.

Wachter says with Ebola, what matters more than medical brilliance is organizational acumen, where everyone from the hospital CEO to the top nurse to the waste hauler knows how to handle something this infectious.

“That’s really, really hard, and I don’t think every single hospital will be able to sort that out,” he says.

The events over the past week in Dallas drive that home, but what’s happened there shouldn’t come as a shock. Remember, estimates suggest nearly 100,000 people die from hospital acquired infections every year. Mistakes in hospitals happen; they’re expected. With the danger of Ebola there’s increasing talk in the healthcare world that these cases should go top hospitals.

But Dr. Ricardo Martinez, who oversaw EMS efforts for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says every hospital needs to be better prepared.

“There are other diseases coming, so we should be able to provide some level of protection that not only care for the patient but contain the spread,” he says.

Martinez says if Doctors without Borders can protect many of its workers in field-like settings, U.S. hospitals should be able to do the same.

How stock market volatility could impact the economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 11:13

The stock market jitters of the last week have numerous causes: ebola panic, Europe's economic slump, the settling in of weak economic growth and the imminent end of the Fed's bond-buying program. 

The effects, beyond temporary shifts in stock prices, are less evident. But stock market volatility can have a real-world impact.

"In research I've looked at 19 previous stock market jitters in the U.S.," says Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University. "These are normally followed by nasty contractions.  And the reason is reasonably easy to see."

Bloom says that volatility can lead to uncertainty, and when  individuals and businesses are uncertain about the future, they put off big purchases.

"So, for example, firm investment tends to drop very heavily. If you look at consumers you see it’s consumer durables that drops a lot. So things like new cars, furniture, clothing," he says.

And a lack of investment, whether it's by companies or consumers, has a real effect on the economy.  But before you lock up your credit cards, Bloom says the volatility we’ve seen this week is all smoke and no fire--so far. 

First, consider stock prices.

"I think at this point, if, say, we were lucky and things stopped today, didn’t get any worse, probably not too big of an impact," says Russ Kinnel, director of mutual fund research for Morningstar. 

 Kinnel says shares have lost--at most--the gains from one year of a five year rally.

 Then consider the stock volatility. One common measurement is the VIX.

"It’s risen by about 50 percent over the last week," says Bloom. "Historically big jumps that I’ve examined have a VIX increase of more than 100 percent.  They also lasted around a month."

In other words, if the current volatility doesn't last, its effects shouldn't linger either.

"After it’s out of the news, you know, people’s perceptions and sentiment tend to shift back," says Gary Thayer, macro strategist at Wells Fargo. "And that’s I think what we’re likely to see here."

 

 

Advertisers can now tell if we're paying attention

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 11:12

Online advertising has long been dominated by the click and impression — how much an ad is shown to users. Now the industry is establishing a new metric: our attention.

People click on the average Internet display ad about .1 percent of the time. It's a dismal fraction for advertisers, and it doesn't tell the full story. Ads can have a large branding impact on us even if we don't click on them. That's why advertisers need metrics that deliver a more nuanced picture, says Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile.

His company is the first to have its techniques for quantifying attention certified by the Media Ratings Council, an organization that determines if an audience measurement tool is “valid, reliable, and effective.”  For years, Chartbeat has been measuring attention for web content — trying to determine if we are really engaging with websites, or just happen to have the tab open while watching a cat video elsewhere. The company is now taking the tools it built for content and applying them to advertising.

To analyze our engagement, Chartbeat measures things like how we move the mouse, scroll, and tap on our keyboards. “All of those signals effectively allow us to get a picture of behavior,” Haile says, “it gives us a sense of when attention is happening or when someone is distracted.”

Chartbeat's content analytics have been especially popular with news organizations. They use it and other services to see what articles engage readers. You might recognize a few of Chartbeat's clients: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN. Now, some are starting to use it for ads as well.

Jon Slade directs digital advertising for the Financial Times. With attention metrics, he says, “I'm able to value engagement and commercialize it.” That helps the site compete against websites with a larger volume of content that people interact with more superficially.  The metrics are changing how the Financial Timessells ads. Advertisers can now pay for how long people will see and engage with an ad instead of how many times it will be shown and clicked on. It's quality over quantity, Slade says — a huge shift for online advertising, and a better business model for those who create content.

This shift in the advertising industry could be a big boost for news sites. In the words of Trevor Fellows, “the recognition that not all impressions are equal is huge.”

Fellows is the chief revenue officer for The Wall Street Journal. He says attention metrics will show advertisers it's worth paying to have ads displayed next to engaging content. It's a way for news sites to stand out from the soup that is the Internet.

Fellows predicts it will be a while before engagement becomes a standard measurement in the advertising industry. “A change of this magnitude is going to be a long time in becoming commonplace,” he says.  Advertisers still quibble over the old metrics—how to determine whether an ad has actually been viewed and intentionally clicked.When it comes to human attention there's more going on than just the push of a button.

Your Car Won't Start. Did You Make The Loan Payment?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 10:21

Growing numbers of lenders are getting tech savvy, remotely disabling debtors' cars and tracking customer data to ensure timely payment of subprime auto loans.

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WATCH: Florida's Gubernatorial Debate Gets Off To A Bizarre Start

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 10:18

The debate began not with discussions about the economy or even about Obamacare, but about whether candidate Charlie Crist should be allowed to have a small fan to keep him cool.

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Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 10:04

More than half of Americans polled said they were concerned about an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. within a year. When asked the same question in August, 39 percent of people expressed the same concern.

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A Balanced Diet For World Food Day: Bugs, Groundnuts And Grains

NPR News - Thu, 2014-10-16 09:41

Termites and mung beans are among the ingredients that can bring better nutrition to the 800 million undernourished people in the lower-income world.

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The numbers for October 16, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 07:05

Apple unveiled the iPad Mini 3 and the iPad Air 2 at a big media event Thursday, though the basics of the new tablets were already leaked by Apple itself. IPad sales have been falling or staying flat for the past several quarters, as the market gets more crowded and iPhones get more popular (and larger).

Quartz has a good look at Apple's iPad conundrum and some suggestions for giving the device a more distinct place in their product line.

Here's what we're reading — and some numbers we're watching — Thursday.

1 in 4

The portion of millennials who have cut the cord or never had a cable subscription at all, TechHive reported. That's especially important as HBO and now CBS have announced they'll uncouple streaming from pay TV packages, and offering their online-only services.

300

The number of companies that signed a pledge earlier this year to reduce hiring barriers for the 3 million job seekers who have been unemployed 27 weeks or longer. It's why some companies are exploring with getting rid of resumes, and opting instead for video applications.

72 percent

That's how many Airbnb listings in New York violate zoning or other laws, according to a new report from the city's attorney general. The start-up, valued at $10 billion, blamed a lack of clear laws for home sharing,  the New York Times reported. Nearly all of the rentals are in Manhattan, and many are from individual hosts with a high number of listings: Six percent of renters take in 37 percent of Airbnb revenue in the city, which amounts to about $168 million.

PODCAST: Here's my video resume

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 03:00

First up, the Fed released new data on industrial production this morning. How will the markets react? Plus, Americans who've been out of work for months face an uphill battle getting hired. That's why 300 companies signed a White House pledge earlier this year to bring down some of the barriers faced by the long-term unemployed in this country. One company's approach is to forget resumes and turn to videos. And Mexico's been trying to attract foreign investment to help boost its economy, but the country's facing challenges. Corruption is big one. Violence is another. More on that.

A push to hire the long-term unemployed

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 02:00

People who’ve been out of work for months often face an uphill battle getting hired. That’s why some 300 companies signed a White House pledge earlier this year to reduce hiring barriers for the three million job seekers who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or longer.

One company’s approach: Forget resumes; turn to videos.

Frontier Communications Corp. sells things like high speed internet and phone service. The company realized that resumes can’t always predict who’ll be good at selling its triple play packages. Jim Oddo was looking for soft skills.

Like the ability to delight the customer,” says Oddo, senior vice president of human resources. “How do you read that on a resume?”

So this year, Frontier has been moving from a resume-first hiring model to a video-first model. To do so, the company teamed up with a group called HireVue. As the system rolled out, applicants started answering a few questions on videos they could submit from their smartphones.

“So the very first evaluation that we would have of someone is how they communicated," Oddo says. "And then we would look at their resume."

Frontier’s needs dovetailed with the Obama Administration’s push to decrease employment barriers for the long-term unemployed. Oddo says Frontier hired more unemployed people this year, half of whom were long-term unemployed.

The White House is touting this strategy and others.

Mitchell Hirsch with the National Employment Law Project says otherwise qualified jobless applicants are sometimes rejected by automatic filters.

“So they’re being unfairly screened out,” he says. “Often without the direct knowledge of the hiring managers themselves.”

A new guide to hiring the long-term unemployed recommends removing those filters. 

For homebuilders, things are looking up...just a bit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 02:00

The latest figures on builder confidence are out today. Tomorrow, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report on housing starts and permits for September 2014 will be released. The consensus among economists is for a rise in both measures of homebuilding, compared to August figures.

Confidence among homebuilders is gradually improving, as unemployment falls and job creation has strengthened since the end of the recession, says David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. Still, housing starts have only recovered to about half the level of the mid-2000s, before the housing crash.

From 2004 through early 2006, housing starts consistently numbered 2 million annually. So far in 2014, Crowe says, housing starts have bounced back and forth around the 1 million mark. Nonetheless, that’s a major improvement on construction levels at the depths of the recession, when housing starts fell below the 500,000 annual level.

“It’s pretty good now, from where we’ve been,” says Crowe of the current state of homebuilding.

Crowe points to several factors that are still holding back home construction. He points out that builders—those who are left in business after a severe winnowing of the industry following the housing crash—have a hard time securing financing, due to tight lending standards. They are also having trouble finding skilled construction workers, since so many left the field during the recession. Finally, land that has been prepared for development is scarce in many markets around the country.

Economist Stephanie Karol at IHS points out that the real estate market is still digesting a decade-old oversupply of new homes. “We saw a lot of overbuilding leading up to the crash,” says Karol. “There’s less of an incentive to add to the housing stock, especially when household formation is below expectations.” Young people have been delaying marriage, and eschewing major financial commitments, like getting a mortgage, since the recession hit. Many also face high levels of student loan debt.

David Crowe says the hottest sectors of the residential construction market right now are ‘move-up’ homes (in the $300,000-plus range) for those who already own, as well as multi-family housing, which has fully rebounded since the recession.

First-time homebuyers looking for new homes in the $125,000-$150,000 price range are having a harder time, he says.

“We have very tough lending standards,” says Crowe. “So even for people ready to buy, if they have the least ding on their credit, it gets more difficult.”

The value of voicemail

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-10-16 02:00

Text messages, e-mails, missed phone calls, "Yo's — it's easier than ever to let someone know you want to get a hold of them. In many ways, the voicemail is a relic in the eyes of millennials and those younger, but a staple of etiquette for Gen X'ers and older.

This was the precise problem that Leslie Horn ran into with her mother. She just wouldn't stop leaving voicemails.

But then something happened that made her change the way she viewed the end of unanswered phone calls forever: her father passed away.

Upon the passing of her father, Horn's phone rang for months. Many of them ended at the machine.

It was here that she realized a few things about these messages. People often ended up saying more than they do in an actual conversation (in an endearing way), it's nice to hear a voice other than your own sometimes, and that there was a special place reserved for all the messages people left her throughout the years waiting in storage.

Old friends with stories, the occasional ramblings of a drunk dial, and one very special message for her birthday last year: A voicemail from her dad.

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