National News

Boston Bombing Survivors Will Be Guests At State Of The Union

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 08:39

The first lady also invited former NBA center Jason Collins, the first active player in the four major American team sports to come out.

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PODCAST: Emerging market jitters

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 08:14

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.

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.

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.

Google and Samsung make deal to share patents

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 08:04

Google and Samsung have announced a new licensing deal to share current and future patents over the next decade. The move is seen as a way to bolster both companies as they continue competing with chief rival, Apple.

To Florian Mueller, patent consultant and blogs at Foss Patents, the new deal isn’t much of a surprise. “It’s a peace treaty among friends, not a peace treaty among enemies,” he says.

He says after being ordered to pay Apple nearly $1 billion dollars for patent infringement last year, the deal won’t give Samsung any new legal protection. But it is good PR, especially right before a new trial is set to kick off against Apple in March?

“Samsung just wants to avoid, really strives to avoid the image and the reputation of an infringer who disrespects patent rights,” he says.

But Laurence Balter with Oracle Investment Research says this new deal is Samsung -- yet again -- borrowing from Apple’s, specifically the idea to connect all of its devices. 

“When you take a picture at your kid’s birthday party and it automatically synchs up to all your other devices, that’s the ecosystem. What Google and Samsung are trying to do is emulate that,” he says.

Balter says Samsung’s on-going litigation with Apple has pushed the Korean company to diversify.

He calls the deal with Google a no-brainer. 

How data is changing the game of basketball

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 07:28

Today, Marketplace Tech kicks off a new series about sports and technology. We're calling it “Gaming the System." We'll be talking Olympics, World Cup, and yes, this Sunday's Super Bowl. But first let's talk about how some people are using numbers and data tracking to try and change the way basketball is played.

Tonight, when the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Phoenix Suns, the players will each be affixed with a tiny GPS unit from a company called Catapult Technology.

"They're basically the size of, like, an apple core, and you wear them under your jersey," says 76ers superfan and blogger at Hoop76, Tom Sunnergren. "What the team can then do is get a baseline measure of how a player's optimal performance is during a practice, and then, you know, make comparisons over the course of the season.

To hear more about the 76ers' GPS units and what the team hopes to do with the data culled from them, click the audio player above.

 

The economics behind Ukraine's unrest

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:59

There's potential for a state of emergency in Ukraine this morning, where protesters are taking over government buildings. The protests began after President Viktor Yanukovych decided to align Ukraine's trade relationship with Russia, instead of the European Union. Ukraine also owes Russia billions of dollars for natural gas. Click the audio player above to hear the BBC's David Stern tell Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary about the economic underpinning of the civil unrest in Ukraine.

Egypt's El-Sissi Promoted, Military Says He Should Run For President

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:57

Shortly after Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was made a field marshal, the military said he should "answer the call of the people" and run for president. Elections are set for April.

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British Satire: Still Current After 170 Years

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:56

Britain is going through a debate on government spending, and NPR's London correspondent, Ari Shapiro, found a magazine cartoon that captures the moment. It's from 1844.

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

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

For decades, American companies have sent 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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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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