National News

Falling oil won't mean huge savings on home heating

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-11-20 02:30

Temperatures plunged to the freezing point or below in all 50 states this week, and home heating costs are expected to be somewhat lower this year, thanks to cheaper oil prices. But don’t look for a windfall of savings just yet.

The unseasonably cold weather has raised the specter of last year’s polar vortex, when a surge in demand for heating oil and propane upset household budgets and kept consumers out of restaurants and stores.

“It’s a little unnerving when you have 15-degree weather in mid-November,” says Mark Griffin, President of the Michigan Petroleum Association. Despite the temperatures outside, Griffin says it’s still too early to call this a vortex 2.0.

“Our fingers are crossed that we’ve done everything we can to meet the needs of the marketplace, and there won’t be any supply disruptions going forward," he says.

The cheaper price of crude oil (currently about $75/barrel) is expected to put some downward pressure on energy costs, but Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics for forecaster IHS Global Insight, notes that oil isn’t necessarily the primary driver of heating costs.

“What we should expect is relatively the same type of costs, maybe a bit lower, and they have been lowering, but it all depends on demand,” says Christopher.

In terms of consumer psychology, Christopher says the cost of gasoline at the pump plays a much bigger role in juicing the economy.

Predicting Apple's next big move

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-11-20 02:00
870 miles

That's how many miles of railway China has agreed to build along the coast of Nigeria. Not for nothing, though. The two countries signed a deal worth $11.97 billion.

1.51 percent

That's Visa's credit card processing fee, charged to merchants with every purchase. It's a key number in the surprise rivalry brewing between Apple Pay and mobile payment system CurrentC. The latter is backed by a consortium of retailers including Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid Target and CVS, which all shut down Apple's system in their stores on launch day. Venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gassée breaks down both sides in his Quartz column, cutting through the PR to conclude CurrentC is all about saving merchants the card processing fee, while Apple Pay is more user-focused.

110,000

That's how many people subscribe to the Beats Music streaming, but that could change with Apple's recent acquisition. The Financial Times reported Apple will bundle Beats Music on all iOS devices early next year, possibly with the launch of Apple Watch. Insiders said the details are still being hammered out, but insiders told the New York Times a subscription would cost $5 to $10. The plans are likely to make Spotify sweat; as we learned during the U2 debacle, Apple has 800 million iTunes accounts.

50 states

All 50 U.S. states experienced freezing or below temperatures on Tuesday. Good news: cheaper oil prices mean home heating costs are expected to be lower. Bad news: don't expect a windfall of savings any time soon.

$11.9 billion

That's how much in outstanding student loans is currently held by Wells Fargo & Co. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the lender announced that this month, for the first time, it will lower interest rates for eligible borrowers. 

$4 billion

That's how much the Disney Princess line makes on merchandising in a year, which doesn't include the mind-boggling numbers "Frozen" has made on licensing. A recent New York Times column looks at last year's surprise mega-hit as a case study for children's movie licensing as a whole. Turns out spending on "Frozen"-branded toothpaste, food, dresses, toys, etc. bucks trends in most other industries. This might be because one party (parents) are almost always buying for someone else (children), making the business of Elsa dresses surprisingly similar to the pharmaceutical industry. 

With low gas prices, Thanksgiving travel hits the road

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-11-20 02:00

AAA releases its holiday travel forecast on Thursday. The big takeaway: lots more people will be hitting the road this Thanksgiving, due in no small part to plummeting gas prices. Drivers aren't alone with their lower fuel expenses—The airline industry saved $1.6 billion in fuel costs this past year; meanwhile, airfares have gone up. 

During the holiday season, the vast majority of people will travel by car. "Usually accounting for about 85 to 90 percent of all travelers," says AAA spokesperson Heather Hunter.

For people taking incredibly long trips, or very short trips, the choice to fly or drive is clear. "But it is the medium length trips, say between 200 and 1,000 miles, where it gets more complicated," says Jon Lal is the CEO of befrugal.com and the creator of Fly or Drive calculator, which takes into account lots of factors. For example: Will you need a rental car if you fly? Are you checking bags? What are current gas prices and how much wear and tear will the trip put on your car?

Dan Sniadoski lives in Seattle. He’s been invited to Thanksgiving dinners at his mom’s place in Montana and at a friend’s house in Portland. "And I still haven't made up my mind if I’m going to travel, and if I do, where am I going to go," he says. Flying is out of the question; he can’t afford last minute airfare. So at this point, his decision comes down to whether to spend the holidays with friends or family. 

 

Despite Low Employment, Millennials Hold Key To Reviving South Texas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 23:55

The McAllen metro area in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas has one of the country's lowest employment rates for millennials. Economists say they will be critical to bringing the area out of poverty.

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Despite A Massacre By ISIS, An Iraqi Tribe Vows To Fight Back

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 23:52

The Albu Nimr tribe recently had some 600 members slaughtered by ISIS in western Iraq. The Sunni tribesmen says they will back, but need help, which the U.S. has now pledged.

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Officer's Death Raises Safety Concerns For Alaska's Unarmed Cops

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 23:48

Remote Alaskan villages are some of the last places in America patrolled by unarmed law enforcement officers. But an officer's death last year has challenged ideas about policing on the last frontier.

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Are NOLA Schools Failing Students With Disabilities?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 23:46

In New Orleans, nine of ten children attend charter schools. But parents and activists say the city's nearly all-charter system is failing many children with disabilities.

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'Redeployment,' 'Age Of Ambition' Win National Book Awards

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 17:57

The veteran-penned short story collection and the nonfiction look at modern China and its citizens joined youth literature winner Brown Girl Dreaming and poetry winner Faithful and Virtuous Night.

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Designers gave us the Doublemint twins – and much more

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-19 14:23

The new book "Dorothy and Otis: Designing the American Dream" explores the life and work of designer Dorothy Shepard and her husband, Otis. Regarded as giants in early 20th century advertising, the pair had a hand in creating the Doublemint twins and uniforms for the Chicago Cubs. 

Their association with P.K. Wrigley, son of chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., gave the Shepards a platform for their now-iconic work, which included planning and promoting Catalina Island as a resort.

The book's authors, Norman Hathaway and Dan Nadel, marveled at how ahead of their time the Shepards were.

"Wrigley owned the Cubs, as he owned the chewing gum, as he owned Catalina Island,” Nadel says. “And I think he trusted Otis so much that it was just sort of, 'Oh, somebody needs to do this … so why not the guy I entrust with everything else?'"

 

The couple that designed the American dream

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-19 14:23

"Dorothy and Otis: Designing the American Dream" explores the life and work of designer Dorothy Shepard and her husband, Otis.

The pair had a hand in creating the Doublemint twins and uniforms for the Chicago Cubs, and authors Norman Hathaway and Dan Nadel marveled at how ahead of their time the Shepards were.

Their association with P.K. Wrigley, son of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, gave the Shepards a platform for their now-iconic work.

"Wrigley owned the Cubs, as he owned the chewing gum, as he owned Catalina Island,” Nadel says. “And I think he trusted Otis so much that it was just sort of, 'Oh, somebody needs to do this … so why not the guy I entrust with everything else?'"

 

Delinquent Mine Fines: 'Clearly Troubling ... More Can Be Done'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 14:21

"We have tools in place to crack down on these scofflaws, but what's missing is a stronger commitment," says John Kline, a key House Republican.

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Motown's Jimmy Ruffin Dies; Sang 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 14:14

Singer Jimmy Ruffin, who was born in Mississippi but lent his soulful voice to hits for Detroit's Motown Records, died Monday at age 78, according to reports.

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Oh, The Places You'll Go: Toilet Signs Try To Help (And Often Fail)

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:57

Do I squat or sit? What can I flush? Is there even a way to flush? Signs from around the world aim to answer your vital toilet questions. Sometimes they're helpful. Sometimes they're just ... weird..

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Senate 'Torture Report' Findings Expected This Year

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:56

An executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's two-year-old report will be made public before Democrats relinquish control of the Senate in January.

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Bush Pilot Helps Rural Alaskan Police Explore Isolated Villages

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:52

The troopers who police rural Alaska can't do their jobs without a good bush pilot to fly them into remote areas. In Bristol Bay, that pilot is John Bouker.

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For Millions Of Millennials: Some College, No Degree, Lots Of Debt

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:27

Noelle Johnson has about $20,000 in student loans and is still working on her degree. Without the higher earnings a B.A. can bring, even a modest student debt load can pose a big challenge.

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'The Hunger Games' Meets Capitol Hill At The Freshman Office Lottery

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:24

New members tried out any number of rituals — from lucky dances to backflips — hoping the office odds were ever in their favor.

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America's 'Best Restroom 2014' Is Verdant And Curvy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:21

The top bathroom in America is currently at Philadelphia's Longwood Gardens, where 17 commodious chambers are built into what the facility says is the largest "green wall" on the continent.

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Gilead Buys Shortcut For FDA Drug Review For $125 Million

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 12:09

The Food and Drug Administration priority review voucher comes from a Canadian company that got it by developing a drug for leishmaniasis, a disease long neglected by pharmaceutical companies.

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NBC And Netflix Shelve Bill Cosby Projects As New Rape Claim Emerges

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-19 11:07

A TV comedy Bill Cosby was developing for NBC has been canceled, after new allegations of rape against the comedian. Netflix made a similar move late Tuesday, shelving a comedy special.

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