National News

Becoming a YouTube star

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-30 01:00

Not many teenagers can claim self-made stardom. 18 year old YouTube star Bethany Mota has developed a devoted online following with her videos on makeup, clothes, and other teen-related topics. Her interest in making YouTube videos was a result of being bullied online. 

"I think because at the time I was experiencing the dark side of online media, I found this really positive community on youtube that I didn’t even know existed," says Mota. These days, she has a lot to be excited about - Mota has close to 6 million followers on her YouTube channel.

Check out her latest video here:

Training Men And Women On Campus To 'Speak Up' To Prevent Rape

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 23:31

Colleges are teaching students what's known as bystander intervention, based on the idea that both men and women can intervene to interrupt behaviors that could lead to sexual assault.

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An Afghan Village Of Drug Addicts, From Ages 10 to 60

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 23:31

Afghanistan is not just a world leader in producing drugs. It's also a leading consumer. Drug users addicted to heroin, and more recently crystal meth, are everywhere in the western city of Herat.

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Mysterious Kidney Disease Slays Farmworkers In Central America

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 23:30

One community has lost so many men that it's now called the Island of Widows. Researchers are struggling to figure out the cause of the disease. Some suspect a popular herbicide.

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Heartened By Sterling's Ban, Clippers Beat Warriors 113-103

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 21:40

The Los Angeles Clippers lead the Golden State Warriors 3-2 in the series. Owner Donald Sterling wasn't there. On Tuesday, the NBA banned him for life after he made racist comments.

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Lab Rats May Be Stressed By Men, Which May Skew Experiments

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 15:34

Scientists noticed the phenomenon when mice and rats did not react to pain in the presence of men. They ran an experiment and found it had to do with certain pheromones produced by men.

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The history of the marketing of Cinco de Mayo

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 15:23
Friday, May 2, 2014 - 04:05 Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Bud Light

Party goers enjoy the poolside Bud Light Lime 'Lime -A - Rita' Cinco de Mayo party on May 5, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Technically, Cinco de Mayo falls on a Monday this year. But beer companies want people to get an early start, celebrating over the weekend.

But celebrating what, exactly? What does Cinco de Mayo mean for marketers and consumers?

Many in Los Angeles celebrated Cinco de Mayo last weekend. Tens of thousands of Latinos attended a street fair that big corporations saw as a marketing opportunity, even if their message was a little fuzzy.

At the Ford booth, I spoke with Marie, a 'brand ambassador.' I asked her to make the connection between the car company and Cinco de Mayo.

"Ford, to me, is about the people. And people need to drive to get around this city and Ford is a great way to do that," said Marie.

She struggled to make the connection. But, to be fair, it is sort of a hazy holiday.

After all, May 5 commemorates an obscure battle where the Mexican underdogs defeated the French.

"In Mexico, we don't really do Cinco de Mayo," said Marie. "It's more of an American-ized holiday."

In this case, 'American-ized' meant commercialized. Festival goers moved from line to line, waiting for free samples and gift bags. A fiesta of freebies from McDonald's and Palmolive and Colgate.

"The consumer products companies have been the early-adopters of understanding that this is the market that is going to move the needle, and they've really fought hard to create brand recognition," said Xavier Gutierrez with Meruelo Group, one of the event's sponsors.

While some companies try to connect with Latinos, beer companies try to get everyone to party.

According to Nielsen, the market research company, Americans bought more than $600 million worth of beer last year for Cinco de Mayo. That's more beer than was sold for the Super Bowl or St. Patrick's Day.

"Beer companies have been largely responsible for the commodification of Cinco de Mayo. I mean, they spend millions and millions of dollar in Spanish-language advertising," said Jose Alamillo, a professor of Chicano studies at California State University Channel Islands.

Alamillo said the beer industry ignores alcohol related health issues that affect the Latino community.

He'd like to see Cinco de Mayo promoted as a history lesson, instead of -- as critics allege -- an excuse to sell booze.

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday May 2, 2014Story Byby Jeff Tyler and Shea HuffmanPodcast Title The history of the marketing of Cinco de Mayo Story Type FeatureSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellApp Respond No

Obamacare Enrollees Emboldened To Leave Jobs, Start Businesses

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:50

Some people who felt stuck in certain jobs, just because they needed the employment-based health insurance, say they are finding the Affordable Care Act liberating.

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Frontier Airlines will charge to use overhead bins

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:29

You've got your low cost airlines, and then you've got your ultra-low cost airlines.   Frontier has a new pricing structure. Base fares are going down. But if you want to use the overhead bin, it'l be $20 for frequent fliers who book online, and $50 for those who wait until they get to the gate.   That space at your feet under the seat in front of you: Still free... for now.  

In The City Of Love, There's No Love Lost For Tourists' Love Locks

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:42

Lovebirds write their names on a padlock, attach it to something and toss the key. Sweet, right? Non, say opponents in Paris who want to ban a practice they say is damaging architecture and more.

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In The City Of Love, There's No Love Lost For Tourists' Love Locks

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:42

Lovebirds write their names on a padlock, lock it to something and toss the key. Sweet, right? Non, say opponents in Paris who want to ban a practice they say is damaging architecture and more.

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Yahoo's making content of its own

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:41

Original online content is still in its infancy, but boy, is it a crowded crib.

Beyond the TV and the movie screen, there's YouTube, Netflix, HBO GO, Vimeo, Vice, Vevo and Hulu -- and now there's Yahoo, too. 

Courtesy of a new deal with Live Nation, Yahoo will air live concerts every day starting this summer. It'll also offer two new comedy series: "Other Space," a so-called galactic adventure set a hundred years from now, and "Sin City Saints," about a fictional pro basketball team. Yahoo is getting into this business because video ads command much higher prices than typical banners and popup ads, but it's a costly strategy.

Whether it pays off ultimately depends on how good the shows are, how much visibility they get and how well they're marketed to the public. Otherwise, they risk sinking without trace.  

A Texas-sized bankruptcy for giant Texas energy deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:39

Texas was dealt a blow by the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, via a ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency can order states to cut down on emissions if those emissions are drifting over to neighboring states.

Texas has the highest CO2 emissions of any state in the country. Texas also consumes the most energy, which brings us to the second major blow dealt to Texas: The state’s largest electricity provider, Energy Future Holdings Corp., filed for bankruptcy.

In 2007, Goldman Sachs and private equity firms acquired TXU for $45 billion, making it the biggest leveraged buyout ever. There were lots of reasons to believe that owning the largest provider of electricity in the largest state in the continental U.S. had lots of potential for growth, so private equity firms loaded the company -- renamed "Energy Future" -- with debt.

“The problems, of course, are when the business becomes less valuable, or there are meaningful hiccups,” says Peter Cowan, managing director of Clear Capital Advisors.

Those meaningful hiccups can be caused by a larger economic downturn, or from changes within the industry. In this case it was both. The 2008 recession caused an overall decline in energy use. And then came the fracking boom, which drove the price of natural gas down, along with the utility’s profits. When Energy Future filed for bankruptcy today, its total assets were $36.4 billion. Its debt was nearly $50 billion. 

Barbarians at the Gate and the other largest LBO that you might have heard of 

by Tobin Low

It was the largest buyout in U.S. history. At the time, the 2007 purchase of Energy Future Holdings for $45 billion was called that.

But credited with creating the LBO environment of the next 20 years, the 1989 purchase of Nabisco was both contentious and dramatic. The food company sold for $31.1 billion at the time, and when adjusted for inflation, the sale price is closer to $55.38 billion. With the adjusted price of Energy Future coming in at around $47.23 billion, Nabisco's sale wins by almost $7 billion.

Plus, as dramatic as Energy Future's end may be, Nabisco's LBO started out with a bidding war that has since been immortalized in book and on screen. F. Ross Johnson, then executive of the company, partnered with with a buyout firm to attempt an in-house purchase of the company. Enter Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company (also involved in Energy Future's purchase). KKR started a bidding war that continued to hike the price of Nabisco higher and higher. At the end of the day, Johnson lost out, and ultimately left the company. 

To this day, it is still considered to be "one of the most game-changing deal in American financial history."

How Donald Sterling won 'humanitarian' awards

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:37

Among the sanctions NBA Commissioner Adam Silver loaded on Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald T. Sterling today for what can charitably be described as Sterling's racist remarks, was a lifetime ban from the NBA, and a $2.5 million fine. The NBA will donate the money to organizations that "promote anti-discrimination and tolerance."

Those groups, though, have actually already gotten a fair amount of money from Sterling and his charitable foundations. This comes as no surprise if you live in Los Angeles and still read the newspaper. The Los Angeles Times periodically prints giant ads that Donald Sterling designs himself, promoting his donations to, and awards from, all sorts of community groups.

Just this weekend he took one out celebrating his pledge to UCLA to support kidney research. (Today, UCLA rejected that pledge.) Past ads have celebrated Sterling's honors from the Black Business Association, and his first lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.

Sterling has "contributed to a lot of minority charities, including the NAACP," Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles NAACP chapter, said at a press conference on Monday, explaining why his chapter had planned to give Sterling another life time achievement award next month—a move they thought better of this week.

Sterling has been accused of racist behavior several times over the course of his career. But that shouldn't make his donations to groups that promote tolerance, or their celebration of his donations, all that surprising, says Rob Reich, co-director of Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

"Philanthropy has too frequently been a form of 'reputation laundering,'" Reich says, adding that using charitable gifts to "wash" one's reputation has a long history. Think: an oil company that gives a university money for a clean energy research center.

In the case of Sterling, he's known for small donations to dozens of community groups—a strategy that has the benefit of maintaining your social status in the local circles where you do business, Reich says. "Because one stands in actual relationships with people in the local area, the philanthropic donations one makes goes to sustain ones local relationships."

Regardless of Sterling's motivations, or his racist comments, Augustin Pantoja, the financial manager at Jefferson High School in south Los Angeles, is glad for Sterling's local charity.

"He's helping our community," Pantoja told me when I reached him by phone at the school, which has a largely black and Latino student body. Pantoja says he won't refuse the annual $5,000 that Sterling gives to help Jefferson students go to college, many of whom "have the capacity to further their education, but because of lack of money they don't pursue that."

"I'm a minority," Pantoja tells me, cautioning that he doesn't want to wade too deeply into the controversy around Sterling's comments. But, he says of Sterling's charity, "at least he's doing something."

UPDATED: After One Botched Execution, Oklahoma Stays A Second

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:37

The state was set to use a new combination of drugs, but the execution of Clayton D. Lockett failed. He died after the execution was aborted. The new drugs have been the subject of controversy.

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The economics of Korean pop

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:17

When you hear the term K-Pop, chances are Gangnam Style by Psy pops in your head. (Editors' note: And we're sorry, because it will now probably stay there all day.)

But there is so much more to K-Pop than Psy, and chances are you’ll soon start hearing more proof.

South Korea is now the 11th biggest music market in the world. The most recent figures show the country raked in over $187 million in 2012, and the three big companies behind K-Pop are making a big international push.

Mark James Russell is a music journalist living in Seoul. His new book “K-Pop Now! The Korean Music Revolution” outlines the explosion of Korean pop music in the 1990s, and chronicles the acts that have kept it growing for the past three decades.

Our first question to Russell: What exactly is K-Pop, anyway?

“There’s usually upbeat dance music, it’s very loud, it’s very flashy," he said. "To use the old Spinal Tap reference, this one goes up to 11, in Korea, they start at 11 and they go up from there.”

Russell says “Gangnam Style” isn’t exactly the best song to represent K-Pop as a whole, but its success showed South Korea that its music was exportable. The video for the song is the most viewed YouTube video of all time, closing in on 2 billion views. To Russell, that represents a shift in the American public’s view toward Asian culture.

“Asia occupies a strange mental place with people in the West. Some people think it’s exotic or weird or goofy. Often they’re laughing at it. But when people enjoyed “Gangnam Style”, it felt like they were laughing with it.”

Boy bands and girl bands called "idol groups" similar to The Backstreet Boys or The Spice Girls are the biggest sellers in Seoul. And Russell says Korean pop stars and super groups are not only expanding their reach over borders, but are actually starting to compete with other music markets before songs are even recorded.

“K-Pop from very early on was looking to get out of Korea. It was looking to become more international. So they brought in songwriters from other places. They buy a lot of music from Scandinavia. Universal Music Europe sells a lot of stuff to Korea...I’ve talked several times to the head of A&R (Artists & Repertoire) there... he has taken away songs from American artists and given them to K-Pop artists because he feels the right combination could be more profitable in Korea.”

Russell says Korea’s embrace of K-Pop doesn’t just show an evolving taste in music, it represents a political and economic turnaround for a country that just a few decades ago looked drab and isolated.

“It’s been a whole series of changes that go back quite a ways. From the rise of democracy and the Olympics in ’88 (to) the country just opening up, it’s become a much more lifestyle-oriented country. For many years people worked very long hours six days a week. But now people have more money and more free time, and they want to fill that time with fun things.” 

If You Want Flextime But Are Afraid To Ask, Consider Moving

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:15

In Vermont and San Francisco, the right of employees to ask for flexible work schedules is now enshrined in law. That doesn't mean, however, that employers are compelled to grant them.

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Mom's Diet Right Before Pregnancy Can Alter Baby's Genes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:14

Vitamin deficiencies near the time of conception change which genes get turned on during early development, scientists find.

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Donor-advised funds: A controversial form of charity

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:27

Each year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy releases a list of the American charities that have raised the most money from private donors. United Way topped the most recent list; the Salvation Army took the third spot. At number two was Fidelity Charitable, named for the giant financial services corporation which sponsored the creation of the charity and still provides investment and technology services. 

Fidelity Charitable helps people set up donor-advised funds, which offer a twist on traditional charitable giving. For example, rather than writing a check to the Salvation Army, a donor would put that money into a Fidelity Charitable giving account. The money can then be invested or granted right away, explains Amy Danforth, president of Fidelity Charitable. 

"Granting is when they turn to the causes they care about, and log in to our website, or contact us by phone, and make a grant to the charity they care about: [their] alma mater, their church, the Red Cross, a food bank," Danforth said. 

Which sounds a lot like traditional charitable giving. So, why not just give the money directly to the food bank? Danforth says donor-advised funds work best for people who give to more than one charity a year.

"I would say if you are only giving to one charity, one time a year, that a donor-advised fund would not be the right solution," Danforth said. "Many people give to multiple charities, and multiple times in a given year." She says choosing  donor-advised funds can cut down on both paperworth and confusion. And they are not just for cash. You can donate assets -- like, say, property -- and Fidelity Charitable will help expedite what can be a complicated process. 

Compared to many other charities, donor-advised funds are booming.

"They are growing like gangbusters," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "The rest of the charity world is growing very slowly, but donor-advised funds are seeing giant increases."

The funds are seeing growth among all kinds of donors. 

"It's a mix of average people and very wealthy people," Palmer said. "You can put as little as $3,000 into one of these accounts, or you can put in many millions."

The benefit of the fund is that once the money is deposited, the donation can be written off on the donor's taxes. And that's why the funds are controversial, because even as the tax break is given, there's no deadline for when the money must be given away. 

"There is no time limit at all," said Ray Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School, "so the money can stay in the fund for a decade, a century, or many centuries."

Madoff says some donor-advised funds  are even marketed as family foundations, for people to pass the spirit of charitable giving on to kids and grandkids. 

"The problem is," said Madoff, "there's a difference between the spirit of charitable giving and real charitable giving." 

For its part, Fidelity Charitable does insist that donors give away some part of their fund within seven years. But as with any donor-advised fund, even a small fraction of the money can be granted, while the donor still recieves a tax deduction for the full amount. 

Why Would The NAACP Honor Donald Sterling Anyway?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:24

The LA Clippers' owner had a track record of discriminatory behavior. Though the NAACP rescinded a planned award for him after his racist rant, it has honored him in the past.

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