National News

For Florists, Roses A Nerve-Racking Business Around Valentines Day

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

Valentines Day is this one day when one product — a red rose — is worth two or three times more than it is at any other time of the year. If a florist catches that window, he's golden. But the process of getting the roses to is fraught with risk, middlemen, crazy expense and bad weather.

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For U.S. Presidential Hopefuls, Campaigning In London Is A Tough Task

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

There's a new must-stop on the presidential primary tour: London. In recent weeks three potential Republican hopefuls have made the trip, and each made news in ways they hadn't hoped.

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Justices Ginsburg And Scalia: A Perfect Match Except For Their Views On The Law

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

The two justices — sometimes called the Odd Couple of the Supreme Court — have been friends for decades. They shared their disagreements and affection at an evening at George Washington University.

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Will Upcoming Ceasefire In Ukraine Hold?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

Rachel Martin talks to Associated Press reporter Peter Leonard about the situation on the ground in Ukraine ahead of Sunday's planned ceasefire.

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Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Facing More Legal Troubles

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

A federal judge in Arizona is planning a series of hearings to find out if Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio should be held in contempt of court for violating the court's orders. It's the latest twist in a lawsuit that found the sheriff's exuberant crackdown on illegal immigration racially profiled Latino drivers.

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Week In Politics: DHS Funding, ISIS, Same-Sex Marriage In Alabama

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

Rachel Martin reviews the week in politics with our regular commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times. They discuss the Department of Homeland Security funding debate, the authorization of force against the Islamic State and same-sex marriage in Alabama.

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This Valentine's Day, I'm Loving The Boyfriend I Built For Myself

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 12:21

Single and tired of being asked if you're dating? A new service offers the appearance of having a significant other who texts you and even leaves voice mails. NPR's Jasmine Garsd gave it a try.

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Let Us Review North Korea's Glorious New Slogans!

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 11:41

North Korea's official news agency released a list of more than 300 new propaganda slogans, commanding everything from more dutiful wives to more scientific cultivation of mushrooms.

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Amid Influence-Peddling Scandal, Oregon Governor Resigns

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 11:09

Gov. John Kitzhaber apologized to "all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year." Secretary of State Kate Brown will be interim governor.

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David Cross releases film on 'pay what you want' basis

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 10:47

Actor and comedian David Cross has entered the directorial game with an independent feature film called “Hits,” and he’s releasing it on a pay-what-you-want basis through BitTorrent.

Rather than follow the traditional route of independent film releases, Cross has decided to cut out sales agents and distributors in hopes of reaching a broader audience.

“The offers for this kind of movie, a low-budget indie with no real recognizable stars, were the very traditional idea of… 'You play for a week in LA and New York, and maybe three other cities,'" says Cross. "Then it’s straight to video on-demand and Apple iTunes. That wasn't appealing to me."

Instead, he teamed up with BitTorrent and the video-streaming site VHX to offer a bundle that will include interviews, videos and photographs.

BitTorrent has been closely associated with online piracy, but the file-sharing service has been making an effort to go legit. "Hits," a black comedy that satirizes millennial fame seekers, is the first feature film to be distributed through a BitTorrent Bundle. 

Cross is glad that his film is available online, but he also wants people to experience it in a theater. That's why he created a Kickstarter campaign that surpassed its $100,000 goal to fund the film's screening in 50 cities across the U.S. and Canada. These screenings will also be pay-what-you-want.

Watch the "Hits" trailer below.

 

A few rewards offered by Cross on the “Hits” Kickstarter page:

  • DAVID CROSS GODFATHER: David Cross will become a Godparent to your child.
  • STORY TIME WITH DAVID CROSS: David Cross will come to your house and read two chapters of your choosing of Fabio’s memoir … yes, someone pledged for this.
  • TWITTER COUNSEL: David Cross will run your Twitter handle for one week, and he hates social media.

Argentine President Is Accused In Cover Up Of 1994 Bombing

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 10:35

Cristina Fernández de Krishner and other top officials are accused of having tried to cut a deal for oil with Iran in exchange for not punishing two Iranians implicated in the bombing.

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Dinosaur departure prompts protests in the UK

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 10:19

Museums don’t often provoke strong emotions, but among the schoolkids and their teachers recently filing in to the Natural History Museum in London, there was shock, horror and dismay.

"Personally I feel really astonished. I just can’t believe it," said one.

"If you do this to the Natural History Museum, you take away its soul!" said another.

They were talking about the museum’s decision to ditch its most iconic exhibit: Dippy the Dinosaur. The 85-foot-long skeletal diplodocus has towered over the museum’s entrance hall for more than three decades.

“This space is due for a refresh,” says Sir Michael Dixon, the museum’s director. “ We want to do things differently. We want to tell a story as to why the museum is special. And it is special because we have this wonderful collection of real objects from the natural world.”

Notice he says “real” objects. Here’s the second bombshell. And it is worse than debunking Father Christmas: Dippy is fake.

“Dippy is a cast. It’s a replica of several different skeletons,” says the museum’s Richard Saybin. “Dippy is a life-size model of a diplodocus donated to Britain by the U.S. steel magnate Andrew Carnegie at the beginning of the 20th century. ”

The museum wants to replace Dippy with a genuine skeleton of a blue whale, the largest, existing animal on earth. The plan is to suspend whale from the ceiling of the entrance hall.

“The blue whale is a species that humans have taken to the edge of extinction through overexploitation. But then through careful management we’ve managed to pull that back. So it really does demonstrate what we  – as a museum – are trying to achieve through our research,” Sabin says.

Cynics suggest that the museum’s decision to eject Dippy has more to do with money. Like most public museums and art galleries in Britain, the Natural History Museum doesn’t charge an entrance fee. It survives on government funding and on the revenue it can raise, including by hosting corporate events. Getting rid of Dippy, and suspending his successor from the ceiling, will free up valuable floor space. Sabin concedes that could be a benefit but insists that was not the main reason for the move.

Dippy isn’t headed for extinction. After he leaves the museum, he is going on the road as part of a traveling exhibition.

When A School Gets A Bad Report Card

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 10:02

North Carolina doesn't just give its students grades. Joining several other states, it now grades its schools too, on the old A through F system.

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Game theory may come into play in Greek negotiations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 09:23

It was mostly calm Friday in Brussels, Belgium, where Greek debt negotiations are continuing.

Those talks have many layers to them, as the new Greek government doesn’t just want another bailout, but also to reverse some of the reforms Athens agreed to during its original bailout. The Greek finance minister is also a professor of game theory, which has prompted all kinds of game metaphors for the negotiations – from chess to poker to chicken, where neither side wants to change course.

“It’s this very fundamental, simple game theory here,” says Adam Lerrick, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. But he says Greece only has one card to play – threatening to leave the euro, which it believes would lead to disruption throughout the entire eurozone.

Nick Spiro of Spiro Sovereign Strategy says that card is a lot less valuable than it once was because Greece’s European partners are less worried about its problems spreading to other countries than they used to be.

While European leaders may not be using formal game theories in these negotiations, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a New York University politics professor who specializes in game theory, says they’re likely doing a more seat-of-the-pants version of it. He says we all do that, every day. 

Your Wallet: Tell us your dirty little (work) secrets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:57

The secrets you keep at work: a lie you got away with, shortcuts you take — maybe even backs you dream of stabbing.

Do you have a story about your hidden workplace self? Tell us! (We won't tell anyone else, we swear!)

Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter @MarketplaceWKND to give us the scoop.

Your Wallet: Secrets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:57

The secrets you keep at work... a lie you got away with, shortcuts you take, backs you dream of stabbing...

Do you have a story about your hidden workplace self ? Tell us! We won't tell anyone else!

Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Opening economic doors with early childhood education

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:56

When it comes to economic mobility, the traditional path to betterment is often education.

Education has, for many people, been the key to higher earnings and higher social status. These days, it seems quality education can't start early enough: parents jockey for spots for their toddlers in top schools and politicians debate the merits of universal pre-K.

But for all of the talk about early childhood education, not all that many kids are getting it.

Earlier this year, Education Week released its annual report card on the state of American education. When it comes to our youngest students, the country earned a D+. Less than half of 3- and 4-year-olds are currently enrolled in preschool.

Marketplace's education correspondent Amy Scott spoke with Marketplace Weekend about how early childhood education impacts future economic mobility. 

Listen to the full interview in the media player above.

Governor Puts Moratorium On Pennsylvania's Death Penalty

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:53

Gov. Tom Wolf has declared a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania, taking a stance he had embraced during his recent campaign. Wolf, a Democrat, was sworn in last month.

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Six Routes: How to make it in Germany

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:44

In this series, we're going around the world in 40 days, stopping at six countries in the middle of the new global economy: Nigeria, Brazil, China, India, Germany, and the U.S. We'll meet the people who've made it, those who are trying to make it, and the people making the big decisions in the world economy.

The first stop on this tour is Germany: The country boasts the world's fourth-largest economy and is the beating heart of the eurozone, the guardian of financial discipline. When it comes to money, what makes Germans tick?

DEBT AND GUILT

The election of Greece's left-wing government on a promise to reduce the country’s mountain of debt has created a standoff with Europe's economic powerhouse — and has thrown Germany's ultraconservative attitude to debt into sharp relief.

Marcel Fratzscher, who heads the prestigious German Economic Research Institute, says debt-aversion is even rooted in the German language.

The German word for debt, "schuld," is the same as the German word for "guilt." "To get into debt, you have done something bad and that describes the German people's attitude quite well," Fratzscher says.

The German way is to "save now, have later," rather than 'have now, pay later,' and it's not just older Germans. On the streets of Berlin, young Germans told us what they would do if they won 1 million euro. A new car, a holiday, a new outfit? "I would save it for when I need it" was the typical reply. That savings habit is the key to understanding another characteristic of Germans: fear of inflation.

Common wisdom says this is due to scars left by hyperinflation in the 1920s that saw the exchange rate go from 4 marks to the dollar to 4 trillion. There may be some residual echoes of that period, but Germans have moved on. The real reason is found in the German love of saving, and inflation is the enemy of savers.

For a nation full of them, the idea of lowering interest rates and printing money holds a double threat: It reduces the rate you get on savings and potentially causes inflation in the future, which means savings buy less. The good news for Germany is that inflation hasn't arrived and although interest rates are low, the related weakness of the euro has kept German exports like cars and machinery competitively priced.

That engineering and exporting success is the source of considerable German pride. They even have a name for it, “Wirtschaftswunder,” which translates to “economic miracle,” and refers to the decades after World War II in which the German economy rose from the rubble to become one of the strongest in the world.

But it wasn’t really a miracle that led to this resurgence. Economists attribute the "Wirtschaftswunder" to a set of basic interlocking economic principals — principals that you can see at work in the Menzel Electric Motor factory in Berlin.

INVEST IN YOUR WORKFORCE

Thomas Dobratz, a supervisor at the Menzel factory, has worked there for more than 30 years – since the company’s current owner, Mathis Menzel, was a young boy. Dobratz started as an apprentice at the factory, following in his family’s footsteps.

“My father was here, and my uncle was here, and my brother was here,” he says.

This kind of long family relationship between factory and worker is still common in German industry, Menzel says.

"It’s usual that people are working all their life in the same company,” Menzel say. “There's lots of skills developed and loyalty."

And the loyalty goes both ways. Good wages keep Menzel’s workers loyal to his company, and those workers' skills and experience keep Menzel loyal to them. Even though he could hire workers for less money in other countries, he's not tempted to outsource because it could compromise the quality of his products, he says. The kind of quality that helps explain why exports make up a whopping 50 percent of German gross domestic product.

LONG-TERM THINKING

Menzel’s decision not to outsource — as tempting as it might sound in the short-run but wouldn't pay off in the long run — is the kind of thinking that brings us to another reason that has helped Menzel's factory and the wider German economy. Menzel says because his company is relatively small and family-owned, a kind of company known as a “Mittelstand” company in Germany, he is not beholden to shareholder's short-term quarterly demands. He can think in terms of decades, not quarters. 

But it is not all roses for German workers. After reunification in 1989, Germany agreed to an exchange rate that swapped one East German Ostmark for one West German Deutsche.

Politically, it may have been the right thing to do, but almost overnight workers in East Germany's unproductive state-run factories became too expensive to employ. Their productivity lagged western peers, and plants lost contracts and were closed. This hampered growth, until German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder introduced huge cuts to wages, benefits and social services 10 years ago.

This saw the rise of the working poor whose pay doesn't cover their cost of living. This also helps explain German impatience with other European countries, most notably at the moment, Greece. Many feel they had to make painful economic sacrifices to meet their political goals, so why can't others?

Stefan Schneider, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, says: “We had to shoulder the cost of reunification, which was a big stress for the economy and we did it on our own, and I think this might explain why Germans have limited patience when they say other countries [are] dragging their feet on reform.”

But others would say German memories are short when it comes to debt forgiveness. The German postwar "miracle" might never have happened if Germany hadn't been let off half its postwar debts in 1953. This is not lost on Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister who recently said "no one understands the Greece position better than the Germans."

Quiz: Closing achievement gaps

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:22

In a study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, researchers look at how improving educational achievement of lower classes would boost the economy.

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