National News

As Overseas Costs Rise, More U.S. Companies Are 'Reshoring'

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:52

For decades, American companies have been sending their manufacturing work overseas. Extremely low wages in Asia and elsewhere reduced costs. But as costs overseas go up, a growing number of American companies are rethinking that business model.

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Emerging markets spook investors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:42

Emerging markets are starting off 2014 in the worst place they've been in 5 years. Investors are fleeing after recent financial tumult in places like Argentina, Turkey, and Thailand. But that's not the only reason the stock market has hit a stumbling block, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Shanghai.

"It's been a pretty gloomy start to 2014, and I guess to sum it up in a nutshell, two reasons: less Fed, and less China," he says. "I think in particular, it's the less China that we should focus on, and the real worry is that Chinese growth is slowing. And that's why many analysts believe we're seeing the sea of red across the trading boards."

To hear the story, click the audio player above.

Rep. Radel Resigns; Pleaded Guilty To Cocaine Possession

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:24

The freshman member of Congress, a Republican from Florida, was found guilty of buying about $260 worth of cocaine from an undercover agent. He has been under pressure from others in his party to step down.

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What happens when you put rich and poor students together in charter schools?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 05:33

Todd Dickson is trying something a bit unusual for a charter school founder. He’s recruiting students to Valor Collegiate Academy from working class neighborhoods, and Nashville’s wealthiest enclaves.

Dickson addresses a crowd of families with the means to pay private school tuition. But the parents in this room are prepared to give public schools a chance.

A father himself, Dickson also helped start Summit Prep in the San Francisco area. There are similar charters in places like Denver and New Orleans.

Their belief is these charter schools is that all income levels benefit from learning side-by-side, helping them understand multiple perspectives.

“It’s much more authentic and easy to learn to do that well if you are learning with kids who really have different experiences and different backgrounds than you do," say Dickson

The trick is getting everyone in the same classroom.

Jennifer Erickson worries her daughter is being raised in a bubble at her private school.

 “I mean to me, education isn’t just about books. It’s about being well rounded in all areas," says Erickson. "That is a very big piece that my daughter is not getting. Of course, there are negatives that come with that.”

Well-off families often question whether these charters can really push high performers while trying to get disadvantaged students doing double time.  It’s not uncommon for some to come into middle school reading at a second-grade level.

At a recruiting session in an immigrant community center, an interpreter translates in a whisper to a Hispanic mother.

These parents here aren’t so worried about raising kids in a bubble. They’re looking for opportunity.

Hafza Mohamed’s son attends a struggling school now.

“I want him to go forward, not backward," says Mohamed.

A few of these charters with integrated student bodies have been successful getting everyone prepared for college. But advocates say there’s a bigger benefit that doesn’t show up on a report card -- relationships that span the divide between rich and poor.

As Protests Spread In Ukraine, 'State Of Emergency' Possible

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 05:30

Now there are anti-government demonstrations in cities where the citizens have in the past shown support for the president. Meanwhile, the nation's justice minister has warned she may declare a "state of emergency" unless protesters leave her headquarters.

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Court ruling could clear up some Obamacare confusion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 05:24

The deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act -- or face penalties -- is a little more than two months away now: March 31. A survey out today says lots of people don’t know that, highlighting just how much confusion there still is about the health care law.

More than half of Americans don’t know when the deadline is to sign up for health insurance, according to a report from Bankrate.com.

Granted, many of those people already have insurance.

“But we do think our findings about young adults are somewhat worrisome,” says Bankrate insurance analyst Doug Whiteman.

Everyone is counting on the young and healthy to balance out the insurance pool, to keep costs down, says Whiteman.

“We found that young adults between 18 and 29, which is the age group least likely to have health insurance, also is the group that seems least informed about the deadline,” he says.

One thing that might be preventing better awareness: 17 states have passed laws limiting the work of the so-called "navigators" who are supposed to help people sign up on the federal exchange.

Last week a federal judge blocked Missouri’s restrictions on navigators.

“By preventing navigators from doing their jobs, states really undercut and undermine a fundamental purpose of the Affordable Care Act,” says attorney Jay Angoff, who represented groups suing the state and was involved in the initial implementation of the ACA at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Angoff says the Missouri ruling could help opponents fight similar laws restricting navigators in other states.

Coffee's cheap right now, and you should be worried

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 05:13

Attention latte lovers, Folgers fanatics and espresso enthusiasts, your favorite cold weather beverage is getting cheaper. Coffee prices are near historic lows. Great news, right? Turns out, it’s not. To learn why, I headed to a large waterfront warehouse in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood to talk with Ed Kaufmann, director of roasting for Joe, a chain of specialty coffee shops. 

He started me off by showing me his coffee roaster, which resembles a large, stainless steel washing machine. Through a small window, you can see cream-colored beans from Mexico being roasted to a deep brown.

"The beans we use are seasonal. We have coffees from Central America and Ethopia and now we’re transitioning into Papua New Guinea, Peru and Colombia, " he says.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil and the price of coffee beans has been on a wild ride: In 2011, coffee hit $3 dollars a pound, a 14 year high. Since then, the price has dropped to less than half that, near historic lows. But that doesn't mean coffee shops like Joe change the price of your morning macchiato every month. "We can’t really fluctuate our prices with the fluctuation of the market," says Kaufmann. "Coffee drinkers are very sensitive to increases in prices."

So, when prices rise, Joe tightens its belt, cutting travel and staffing. When coffee prices drop, staffing and travel get beefed up and Joe uses fancier beans.

But when the prices drop as much as they have recently, it only sets us up for another spike. "Coffee prices are now at such a low level that farmers are losing money," says Ross Colbert, a global beverage strategist at Rabobank. "The risk here is that farmers will replace coffee with other crops."

That could create a shortage of coffee and cause prices to rise. Add speculators and an increasingly global market to the mix and the price fluctuations for commodities like coffee become even more extreme. "The price of a crop rises,  so the farmers say, 'I want to plant more of that crop.'" says  Andrew Burns, economist at the World Bank. "Supply increases substantially and rather than the price falling to that equilibrium position, it actually falls way past it."

To cope with these wild swings, Joe’s Ed Kaufmann is working on drawing up contracts with growers. "We’re hopefully going to be able to lock in prices and work outside of the fluctuating market," he says. Kaufmann hopes the contracts will mean the price is right for him to get the quality beans he needs and for farmers to earn enough to keep our cups full.

Tunisia's economy still recovering, 3 years after Arab Spring

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 05:03

A little over three years ago, a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire and sparked the Arab Spring. A big part of the revolution had its root in economic instability. This weekend was a milestone for Tunisia. The North African country adopted a new constitution.

The lead-up to the new constitution was characterized by political instability that no doubt hurt the economy. Tourism, which makes up 12 percent of GDP, was especially hard hit. But the adoption of the new constitution could assure foreign investors and tourists that it's safe to come to Tunisia. "This is also going to reassure and give confidence to local companies and the local economy," says Riccardo Fabiana, the lead North Africa analyst with the Eurasia Group. "However", he adds, "this is probably not going to be enough."

One of Tunisia's biggest problems prior to the revolution was corruption and cronyism. The good news is that many of those corrupt officials have been removed from power. "Now these cronies are gone. But the barriers and the regulation are still there and are still somewhat of a structural problem for the private sector," says World Bank economist Jean-Luc Bernasconi. Bernasconi believes the new government will have to create policy reforms to solve these larger structural problems.

But Tunisia's slow economic growth is also the result of weak European economies, something the new government cannot control.

VIDEO: Grammy Highlights, Including A Bit Of Paul And Ringo

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 04:26

Yes, they did come together. The two surviving Beatles performed Sunday at the Grammys. They're due to be together again for a Feb. 9 CBS-TV special celebrating the Beatles' first appearance, 50 years ago, on The Ed Sullivan Show.

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Looking To Escape The Deep Freeze? Head To Alaska

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 03:45

Another wave of brutally cold air is sweeping down from the Arctic across much of the nation. Meanwhile, in many places in Alaska the temperature has been popping up above freezing. That pattern's likely to continue into February.

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As PC Sales Drop, Intel Delays A Plant Opening And Cuts Jobs

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 00:35

Intel planned to open a massive chip plant in Arizona, and President Obama even visited it and called it "an example of an America that's within our reach." But demand for PCs has slowed, and it's left the company rethinking its next moves.

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Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 00:35

Alarms are good and necessary things in hospital care — except when there are so many that caregivers miss signals of a patient in crisis. Trying to conquer "alarm fatigue," one hospital turned off the beeps — and found that patient care actually improved.

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Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 00:34

About 6 million years ago, a new mineral analysis suggests, a mighty river zigzagging across the Colorado plateau may have found its way into older gorges, greatly enlarging them to create the West's most spectacular canyon. Still, some geologists aren't sold.

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Legacy Of Forced March Still Haunts Navajo Nation

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 00:33

In a series of marches that began in 1864, the U.S. Army forced thousands of Navajo and Mescalero Apache people to walk 400 miles to an isolated reservation; more than a third died. Some say today's ills in Indian Country — severe poverty, suicide, addiction — have their roots in the "Long Walk."

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Bernanke's Fed Legacy: A Tenure Full Of Tough Decisions

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 00:32

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will preside over his last Fed policy-making meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. During his two terms as chairman, he faced a global financial crisis that threatened to become financial Armageddon, followed by a deep recession.

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How Parents And The Internet Transformed Clubfoot Treatment

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 00:32

Clubfoot is a common birth defect that can make walking difficult. It used to be treated with surgery, which could have serious side effects, but a simple nonsurgical solution is now the norm. It took years of pushing by parents for that treatment to become accepted.

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Daft Punk, Lorde And Macklemore Win Major Grammy Awards

NPR News - Sun, 2014-01-26 21:31

Daft Punk picked up trophies for album and record of the year, Lorde won two awards for "Royals," and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took home four, including Best New Artist.

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'Nothing Is Fixed': Recovery Is Slow In Typhoon-Hit Philippine City

NPR News - Sun, 2014-01-26 14:46

Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest storms ever recorded at landfall when it struck the Philippines late last year. More than 6,000 people were killed and millions more were displaced, and authorities are still struggling with clearing away debris, rebuilding houses and counting the dead.

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Tested At Last, Rape Kits Give Evidence To Victims' Stories

NPR News - Sun, 2014-01-26 14:36

Like many cities nationwide, Cleveland is sending thousands of decades-old rape kits for testing. Investigators expect to reopen as many overlooked rape cases, but for some, justice comes too late.

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The Tonight Show And The Business Of Late Night

NPR News - Sun, 2014-01-26 14:00

After hosting The Tonight Show for two decades, Jay Leno will pass the torch to Jimmy Fallon in February. NPR's Kelly McEvers tals with Matt Belloni, executive editor for The Hollywood Reporter, about the business of late-night talk shows.

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