National News

You can copyright music, so why not a food recipe?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 11:29

Entrepreneurs and business owners constantly face intense competition in attracting new customers and retaining old ones. They must stand out and be original. Which is why people register their original creations with the United States Copyright Office, to legally protect the logo, design, literary work, architecture, etc., that they have spent so much time and money on.  

But would you be able to do the same thing for, say, your homemade sugar cookies? Or any other food recipe for that matter?

Unfortunately, nope. Anyone can pass off your grandmother's recipe that's been passed through generations. "You can't copyright the ingredients or steps necessary to make the cookie," says Jane Ginsburg, professor at Columbia Law School.

After 522 Years, Spain Seeks To Make Amends For Expulsion Of Jews

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 08:11

Spain's monarchy decimated the Jewish population by expelling, killing or forcibly converting Jews in 1492. Now the country is offering their descendants Spanish citizenship.

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Sean Parker donates $24 million for allergy research

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 07:57

Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur who founded Napster and the first president of Facebook, donated $24 million to Stanford University to create a center for allergy research.

Parker suffered from severe food allergies all his life, and with his gift, joins a long line of philanthropists who have given large donations to cure or alleviate diseases that affect them personally.

Parker and other young tech entrepreneurs differ slightly from their predecessors in that they're likely to donate large sums directly to an academic or medical institution rather than starting a foundation of their own. 

Retailers hope for one last Christmas shopping push

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 07:53

Just like past years, stores will open early on December 26 to try to draw shoppers in with deep discounts. It’s a way for retailers to get one last revenue push before the new year, and to clear inventory that didn’t sell before Christmas. 

This year, the calendar is more favorable than usual for retailers because of the three-day weekend. Many workers will take off Friday — and hopefully shop. “Giving people more time to shop, giving them a little bit more room, and giving them a little bit more money in their pocket thanks to lower gas prices, could make a difference for retailers,” says Claes Bell, an analyst at

Economist Chris Christopher at IHS says consumers are heading into 2015 more optimistic about job prospects and personal finances than in previous years. He predicts retail sales for the 2014 holiday season will rise more than 4 percent, compared to the 3.1 percent increases in 2012 and 2013.

At a Christmas Eve open-air craft market called "Festival of the Last-Minute" in Portland, Oregon, shoppers were mixed on whether they wanted to go back out for more shopping on the post-Christmas weekend. “I have in the past, but I probably won’t now, I probably won’t brave the crowds,” says Britt Fredrickson, who has two young children. “I just don’t need any more stuff right now.”

But Jessica Martin-Weber, who has six daughters, said she’s looking forward to getting out. “My husband and I typically get the day after Christmas or the day after that, where we go catch a movie and we do some shopping.”

Sierra Leone Puts North On Lockdown Amid Ebola Spread

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 06:59

The country that has been hardest-hit by the ongoing outbreak of the deadly virus, has shut down shops, markets and most travel in the north.

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Peaceful Protests In Missouri After Latest Police Shooting

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 05:55

A few hundred gathered for a vigil and march for 18-year-old Antonio Martin, who was fatally shot by a police officer on Tuesday.

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Pope Francis: 'Many Tears This Christmas'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 04:46

In his annual Christmas Day blessing, the pontiff condemned killing in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan and the "brutal persecution" of religious and ethnic minorities.

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NYPD Sorts Out Threats, Plans Funerals For Liu And Ramos

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 04:10

Police in New York City are monitoring threats made against officers and are upping security at some stationhouses.

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'The Interview' Gets Nationwide Theatrical Release

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 03:36

Nearly 300 independent theaters are showing the comedy, which Sony Pictures had originally pulled following threats. The studio is also showing the movie on streaming services.

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Ebola Survivor: "You Feel Like ... Maybe ... A Ghost"

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 03:03

Outside St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in Liberia, Dr. Senga Omeonga muses over the weeks he spent at an Ebola ward — not as a doctor, but as a patient. He says the experience was life-changing.

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Would you like a cat with your cappuccino?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 02:30

It’s 10:00 AM and Sara Pritchard is at a cafe in Oakland. But instead of tapping at a computer or chatting with a friend, she’s stalking the room looking for the perfect cat to snuggle. She's at the new Cat Town Cafe, the first Cat Cafe in America.

There are cats sleeping under cat murals, cats pouncing on feather toys, there are even cats climbing on a miniature downtown Oakland. These coffee shops filled with cats are starting to open around the country. They’ve been a phenomenon in Japan, have spread across Europe, and have recently invaded Denver and Manhattan.

But if you think there will be a Siamese lounging on the biscotti, think again. The Cat Zone is separated from the coffee shop by a small hallway; an air lock, or as they call it, a “hairlock.” Staff from the food area can’t enter the Cat Zone during their shift and vice-versa. But patrons are welcome to bring their food in — that is the point after all.

But Cat Town is not a cafe that has cats, it’s an adoption center that lures in humans with its coffee shop.

“For me, this is cat rescue first and foremost. And the measure for me is how many cats are getting adopted,” says Cat Town Cafe founder Ann Dunn.

Cat Town makes it its mission to find homes for cats that aren’t doing well at the shelter. Dunn and her staff were at it for over three years before they opened the cafe. “This, hopefully, will become a model: cage free. Put them in an environment where they’ll thrive, and they’ll get adopted more quickly,” says Dunn.

It’s like the rebranding of cat adoption — and it’s working. A brown tabby named Anchor had been at the shelter for  four months, but once he arrived, Anchor found a home within 2 hours. Before the cafe opened, Cat Town adopted out about a dozen felines a month. After two months here, that number is up to 59.

Actually, make that 60.

“We're getting a cat!” Sarah Pritchard just made a friend: Guthrie. “There in the little bed right now, with the yellow eyes,” Pritchard says.

So the next time you grab a latte, you might leave with a new family member.

New minimum wage laws bring Walmart pay raises

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 02:00

Walmart is raising wages. The country’s largest private retailer says it’s doing so in order to stay in compliance with 21 states raising their minimum wages in the new year. But, while it might seem counter-intuitive, paying higher wages could mean a better bottom line, not just for workers, but also for Walmart.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Oil prices shoot sky-high. Olive oil, that is.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 02:00

Most olive oil comes from Europe — where producers have had one of the worst growing seasons in 20 years — for a number of reasons.

First, last year was a bumper crop, and apparently the trees tend to get tired the following year. More importantly, the weather was lousy for olives, and great for insects like the olive fly. It lays eggs inside the fruit, the maggots dig their way out, and ... yuck. There were other bugs too, and a fungus; they all had a great year. The International Olive Council projects that production will be down 27 percent worldwide. The world’s biggest producer is Spain, and production is down more than 50 percent there.

And while supplies are low, demand has grown in the past two decades. Global consumption is about 50 percent higher than in the early 1990s.

That means high prices, and a higher likelihood that more olive oil will be fake.

What gets sold as Italian extra-virgin olive oil often isn't. It may not be Italian, may not be extra-virgin, and may not be 100 percent olive oil. A lot of oil that’s bottled in Italy actually gets imported from elsewhere, and others have reported that some bottlers adulterate the product.

Tom Mueller — who wrote an exposé on the whole setup for the New Yorker, and then a book called “Extra Virginity” — told the L.A. Times recently that anything priced under 12 bucks a liter almost certainly wouldn't be extra-virgin Italian olive oil from this year’s harvest.

On the other hand, production doubled in Greece this year. And it almost tripled in Tunisia. So a bottle that says it came from one of those two countries is more likely to be the real thing.

Detroit real estate on the rise

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 02:00

After suffering through some of the very worst of the Great Recession and housing crisis, property values and rents in Detroit are headed back up again. Developer Richard Baron is the CEO of St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, which is building 400 new rental units.

“The market has firmed up very nicely, certainly for apartments in downtown, around the core, and we think that it will continue to grow,” says Baron.

Even the long-stalled market for single-family houses is beginning to approach pre-recession levels.  

“If anything, our biggest challenge is that I have way more buyers than I do quality houses that are move-in ready,” says Ryan Cooley, an agent for O’Connor Real Estate. Despite the good news for downtown, Cooley says many outlying neighborhoods are not seeing the same turnaround.

'Christmas Story' house a major award for Cleveland

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 02:00

Ten years ago, San Diego entrepreneur Brian Jones bought a ramshackle house in Cleveland. 

But don’t write this off as your standard fixer-upper yarn, as that rickety heap was used in the filming of the 1983 holiday classic, “A Christmas Story”.  You know, the one with little Ralphie wishing for a Red Ryder BB Gun, but forever warned he’ll “shoot his eye out.”

 Jones took a brave shot himself at saving the house, which he has turned into one of Cleveland's biggest tourist attractions. 

Coming in from the cold, the day’s first tour — about 20 people — squeeze into “A Christmas Story” House. They’re greeted by tour guide Jeff Woodard. 

“Come on in, welcome to Ralphie and Randy’s,” he smiles.

The visitors play with a Red Ryder BB gun or pose with the infamous leg lamp by the window. There are also elf hats and other novelty head wear, though the “pink nightmare” bunny pajamas are across the street in the gift shop.

Woodward explains how this house was used during the filming of “A Christmas Story” in 1983.

“Basic rule of thumb is, if you can see a shot through a window or through a doorway into outdoor ambient light, that shot was filmed in this house,” he says.

But after filming wrapped up, 3159 West 11th Street became just another address in hardscrabble Cleveland. Nature, via economic downturn, took its course.

Then in 2004, Brian Jones — a fan of the movie who had also launched a thriving leg lamp enterprise the year before — learned that the home was listed on eBay for $99,000.

“Never mind that the houses in this area are $25,000 and $30,000 homes,” says Woodward. “(Jones) doesn’t know that, he doesn’t care. He calls the two brothers who own the house, and he says, 'Make you a deal. You take this off of eBay today, I will write you a check for $150,000.'”

The visitors gasp.

Flash forward to today.  Jones, who lives in Florida now but drops in every now and then on business, reflects on the time and money spent restoring the house to its cinematic grandeur, inside and outside.

“You’re looking at about one and a half million dollars invested over the past decade,” says Jones.

The house now sees visitors from all over the world.

“There was guy from South Africa," says Jones. "He was crawling under the sink, just like Randy: "'Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.'"

And last year, Jones launched the Christmas Story House Foundation, which helps fix up other homes in the immediate neighborhood. Last year it raised $60,000. 

Rich Weiss was a beneficiary. He applied for funding and got approved this past year. “A completely painted house exterior, and a completely replaced porch, that isn’t inexpensive,” Weiss says.

While the operators of “A Christmas Story” House and Museum wouldn’t disclose annual revenues, it’s safe to say, with most of its 50,000 annual visitors paying the adult admission rate of ten dollars, that its profits are cozier than a set of pink bunny pajamas.  



PODCAST: Cat cafe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-25 01:45

As oil prices plummet, what is the effect on the alternative energy sector. We find out. Plus, a surge in jobs has brought people back to downtown Detroit, making apartments scarce and prompting a building boom. And Oakland cat-lovers Adam Myatt and Ana Dunn opened Cat Town Cafe - the country's first feline filled coffee shop - and they have been so busy that they are taking reservations. The main product isn’t the hip local coffee and bagels, it is the cats themselves.

Unexpected Life Found In The Ocean's Deepest Trench

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 23:34

An expedition to the Pacific's Mariana Trench has found evidence that life exists miles below the surface. But it's not life as we know it.

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Christmas Tree Farmers Invest Long-Term In The Holiday Spirit

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 23:29

Americans buy 25 million Christmas trees every year. They're slow-growing crops, but the trees can be a smart investment for small farmers like the Carroll family in Louisa, Va.

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The French Go Crazy For 'An American In Paris'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 23:28

The first-ever stage production of the 1951 Hollywood film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, with a Gershwin score, is getting rave reviews during its premiere in the city that inspired it.

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Inside The Indiana Megadairy Making Coca-Cola's New Milk

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 23:27

Coca-Cola got a lot of attention in November when it announced it was going into the milk business. In fact, its extra-nutritious milk product was invented by some dairy farmers in Indiana.

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