National News

Hero Or Villian? Historical Ukrainian Figure Symbolizes Today's Feud

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 06:45

More than a half-century after his death, Stepan Bandera is a deeply divisive figure in the current battle. Ukrainian nationalists put up posters of him while pro-Russian separatists burn his effigy.

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Hero Or Villain? Historical Ukrainian Figure Symbolizes Today's Feud

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 06:45

More than a half-century after his death, Stepan Bandera is a deeply divisive figure in the current battle. Ukrainian nationalists put up posters of him while pro-Russian separatists burn his effigy.

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Following Abuses, Medicare Tightens Reins On Its Drug Program

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 06:39

Medicare gives itself the power to ban doctors if they prescribe medications in abusive ways. The action follows a ProPublica series that found inappropriate prescribing, waste and fraud.

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What To Watch In Tuesday's Elections

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 06:03

One of the biggest political questions of the year will be answered: Can Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell withstand a Tea Party challenge?

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Chipotle Tells Its Customers Not To Bring Guns To Its Restaurants

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 05:52

The request is similar to the one made by Starbucks back in September and comes after a the group Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America launched a national campaign.

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CIA Says It Will No Longer Use Vaccine Programs As Cover

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 05:45

Answering health experts' complaints that using vaccination programs for spying had hurt international efforts to fight disease, the CIA says it has stopped the practice.

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The 25 Most Promising Graduation Speeches Of The Year

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 05:40

Cristina Negrut has read more than 1,000 commencement speeches over the past eight years. She lists the speeches she's most looking forward to in this year's roster.

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Are London's CEOs earning too much?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 05:23

How much more should a CEO earn than his or her employee? The rates vary around the world, showing little consensus. 

In recent years, U.S. CEO's have seen their pay rise to 350 times that of the average worker. In the U.K., levels of pay aren't far behind, but the conversation concerning executive compensation is far ahead. 

Deborah Hargreaves, founding director of the High Pay Centre in London and a leading voice in that conversation, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss executive pay and what levels are best for business and the economy. Click on the audio player to hear more.

 

Beezin' May Be Bogus, But Other Dopey Teen Fads Can Bite Back

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 04:50

Teens have always been creative about repurposing household products in search of a high, and they're getting help from social media. Parents are wondering how to tell danger from harmless hype.

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Tupelo Man Who Sent Ricin Letters To Obama Gets 25-Year Sentence

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 04:09

After late wrangling that included a threat to withdraw his guilty plea and an offer to eat poison in a sandwich, J. Everett Dutschke accepted a 25-year prison sentence.

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The Secret Players In The Russia-Ukraine Game

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 03:44

Is the Chechen military fighting for Russia in Ukraine? If so, these covert operations could have significant and dangerous consequences.

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In China, Anger At U.S. Hacking Charges — And Claims Of Hypocrisy

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 03:20

Citing U.S. surveillance and wiretapping operations, China says the U.S. has double standards on cybersecurity. The angry response came a day after the U.S. accused 5 Chinese officials of hacking.

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Ah, Commencement. Caps, Gowns And Mispronounced Names

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 03:03

It's commencement. You are responsible for calling hundreds of students, one by one, to the stage. Every parent is anxiously waiting for you to pronounce their kid's name — correctly. What do you do?

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How the AT&T-DirecTV deal plays in Latin America

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 02:51

In the U.S., satellite TV has been at something of a disadvantage, compared to cable.  

“Part of the reason for that is they lacked the clout to effectively negotiate reasonable rates for content, so they’ve always lagged in the content wars,” according to David Balto, a former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission who now runs a private anti-trust practice.

The merger will, says Balto, place both AT&T and DirectTV in a much better position to bargain for content in the U.S., making it “a much stronger rival to Comcast.”   There are places, however, where satellite already has the upper hand and where DirectTV has a significant stake that could accrue to its and AT&T’s mutual benefit, if the merger makes it past regulators. 

In many emerging markets, where public infrastructure is limited, satellite access is cheaper and more feasible for consumers.   

Stephen Snyder, an analyst with global intelligence and advisory firm Ergo, explains that “satellite TV requires much less infrastructure than cable does. All you need is a dish to receive the signal, whereas with cable TV you need to have antennae, cables, amplifiers and so forth, so that makes it a lot more costly to install.”

It’s the same reason why mobile banking and mobile phone use are so high in the developing world.  “Brazil has six times as many mobile phone users as it does landlines, compared to the U.S. where that ratio is 2 to 1,” says Snyder.  

In the U.S., the cable industry had a two-decade head start in terms of infrastructure and relationships that allowed it to prevent the ascendance of a new system – satellite – that otherwise could have well won out.  The rise of the internet and its associated convenience and alternate infrastructure has finally begun to pry off cable’s dominance. In emerging markets, however, that competition is getting off to a more even start, and the old race may turn out differently.

DirectTV has aggressively targeted Latin America, where it now has around 18 million subscribers, and which constitutes its fastest growing segment.    

“There’s a great opportunity for expansion in Latin America,” says Erik Brannon with IHS Global Insight.  “As people become more affluent, uptake of more high-end cell services like what we enjoy domestically would become the norm, so it’s a significant opportunity for AT&T to expand and do what they do best – provide wireless services.” 

Is London too expensive for poor Londoners?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 02:45

London may have opened its doors to the rich from around the world– at the latest count the city had 72 billionaires - but some of the British capital’s poorest, indigenous residents are not feeling quite so welcome. They are being priced out of their hometown. 

Twenty-nine single mothers on welfare in the east London borough of Newham claim that they were threatened with exile from their own city. The mothers were living in the Focus E15 hostel for the homeless and when the hostel faced closure, the local authority reportedly advised the women to relocate to cheaper parts of the country.

One of the mothers -- 20-year-old Samantha Joanne Middleton -- was angered by the advice: “They’re trying to move me away from my family. I mean, I’m born and bred. My mum and my dad are from Newham. Their family’s from Newham. It’s not right. It really ain’t right.” she says.

Middleton became homeless after a domestic dispute. 19-year-old Jasmin Stone was in the same predicament when she went to live in the hostel, and she claims she too was told by the local authority that although she was born and brought up in Newham, she’s now too poor to live in the borough: “East London was a place for the poor. But it’s not anymore. You see so many luxury apartments everywhere. The rents are so expensive. London’s being made a place for just rich people.”

Some of those rich people are foreign investors buying new luxury apartments in the city off-plan. That makes Middleton feel even more alienated. 

“We’re the minority of London now,” she says. “Londoners don't live in London anymore.” 

The 29 “Focus E15” mothers will be living in London for a while longer. Thanks to a protest campaign organized by local activist Hannah Caller, the mothers have been given a reprieve; they will stay in the neighbourhood in private rented accommodation for the immediate future. But Hannah sees this as only a temporary fix.

“The fundamental problems remain for poor people across the capital,” says Caller. “Both Labour and Conservative governments have failed to build enough public housing for low-income families. And now the present coalition government is also squeezing the incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community by cutting and capping welfare benefits.”

Caller accuses Britain’s main political parties of not caring about the poor and focusing only on the money that big business and rich individuals can bring into London. 

No one at the Newham Borough Council was available for comment.

Local activist Hannah Caller pictured next to a campaign poster says “ British governments don’t care about the poor.” 

Stephen Beard/Marketplace 

President Obama makes a sales pitch for the U.S.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 02:44

President Obama will meet with business executives Tuesday morning with the goal of getting more companies to invest in the United States. 

The Obama administration is the first White House to actively campaign for foreign investments. And its intervention is none too soon.

Last year, foreign investment in the U.S. was roughly $193 billion -- down from its peak of $310 billion in 2008.

Dartmouth’s Matthew Slaughter says the U.S. attracts investments from foreign companies by telling executives that the U.S. is "the most innovative, open, largest economy on the planet.”

But Slaughter says many foreign company leaders respond by saying growth in the U.S. has slowed compared to developing countries like China, not to mention an aging infrastructure, complicated immigration system and high corporate taxes.

In 2011, the White House set up an office to attract foreign investments; work that until then had been left up to cities and states.

Nancy McLernon is president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment, which represents U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies.

She says it’s still too soon to know whether the White House strategy is working, but it can’t hurt.

“Competition around the world has gotten more intense and fierce," McLernon says, "It was getting harder for Ohio to go compete against Singapore.”

Video gaming as a spectator sport

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 01:10

According to Variety, Google is in talks to buy Twitch, a live video game streaming service, for close to $1 billion.

According to the tech news site Re/code, "When Twitch started up in June 2011, it claimed five million users a month. In 2012, it was up to 20 million. By the end of last year, that number had jumped to 45 million. Broadband service provider Sandvine says Twitch now accounts for 1.35 percent of Internet traffic during peak hours in North America. That’s more than HBO Go’s 1.24 percent."

But how much can streaming video game play actually be worth?

"Streaming is essentially broadcasting yourself and your gameplay online in the gaming world," says former professional gamer Mike Rufail. "We have what is a growing sport, and there's a lot of interaction between the person who is streaming and the viewer."

Here's a live stream here:

TSM_WildTurtle !function(a){var b="embedly-platform",c="script";if(!a.getElementById(b)){var d=a.createElement(c);d.id=b,d.src=("https:"===document.location.protocol?"https":"http")+"://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/platform.js";var e=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];e.parentNode.insertBefore(d,e)}}(document);

"Google would be interested in this from a pure investment standpoint," says Rufail. "It's grown to a point now where the advertising revenue generated from these online broadcasts rival major television networks and surpass many of them as well. So I think, a lot of people, are cutting off their televisions and taking in the things on the web."

In London, food banks feel the strain

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 23:56

At the Tower Hamlets Food Bank in East London, staff make up bags of groceries for the dozens of people who attend the center daily because they can’t afford to feed themselves. The food bank is just a few minutes away from the wealth of London’s Canary Wharf financial hub, yet Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in Britain.

Those who use the food bank are referred by their doctor or local social services department. One man – unwilling to give his name - said he’d recently lost his job, and that he didn’t want to be at the food bank.

“I just never thought I would end up here,” he said.

 In the last year alone, there’s been a 160 percent increase in people using food banks, according to the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity that runs almost 40 percent of the UK’s food banks.

Amy Kimbangi, project coordinator at the Tower Hamlets food bank, says it now feeds about 200 people a month. She rejects accusations in some newspapers here that some who go there are just freeloaders abusing the system.

“The majority of people who come here do not want to be at the food bank," she says. "People who come here feel ashamed, feel embarrassed.”

She says a system is in place to ensure that the people helped are those who really need it.

Some say the surge in poverty and the resultant increase in the numbers of people using food banks is the result of sweeping government cuts in welfare benefits. They say people shouldn’t have to rely on food banks in a relatively rich country.

Others disagree. John O’Connell of the Taxpayers Alliance, a campaign group that backs the government cuts, say the greater use of food banks is a good thing.

“The answer isn’t always government hand-outs. It’s endemic of the growth of the benefits system which engenders a culture of dependency in the UK.”  

“The government,” O’Connell says, “can’t take care of everyone.”

Faarea Masud/BBC

 

Opportunity cost and the home

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 23:40

I met someone recently who bragged that she and her husband had saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years because they did all the work around their house themselves. That means yardwork, maintenance, the whole nine.

But did they really save money? What if they ran the numbers on that opportunity cost equation and found they actually lost money?

I'm thinking a lot about this right now, because I bought a new house recently, and there's plenty of maintenance to be done. In fact, right now, there's a guy out back fixing a busted pipe in my sprinkler system. And I’m feeling a bit guilty: Should I be out there fixing that thing? It doesn't look that difficult – all it really amounts to is replacing a piece of broken plastic piping.

The case for outsourcing

  1. I know nothing about sprinkler systems. Nada. Zip.
  2. I have no specialized equipment, or materials, so I’ll have to find out what I need to buy and then go buy it. And then get distracted in the grilling section of the hardware store. And end up spending way more than I really should.
  3. I’ll probably make a mess of it the first time and have to do it over. Plus there’s that vital part that I didn’t get at the store, so I have to make another trip.
  4. It’s what time? Where did the day go?
  5. I didn’t even start writing this blog, and now I might get fired.
  6. My sprinkler guy will take 30 minutes and charge me $50. Boom.

The case for DIY

  1. I’m gaining valuable experience. Once you’ve done something once, whether its stucco, or concreting or sanding a painting a deck, you know what to do, what equipment to buy or lease and how much time it takes. And that investment could mean that every time my sprinklers go kablooey, I have the confidence, know-how and gear to fix them myself in short order, and for next to nothing.
  2. I’m not making any money during the time that the sprinkler guy is fixing my stuff: I’m an exempt employee and I don’t’ get paid overtime.
  3. I get huge satisfaction out of fixing stuff myself. I feel like a provider, a fixer, someone who can be relied on to get things done when things break down. I feel like Magyver. I feel … like a man!
  4. Fixing stuff is fun. Plus you have bragging rights. 

If opportunity cost is "the road not traveled," then the cost of outsourcing is the improvement in my expertise and sense of satisfaction. The cost of DIY, on the other hand is all the time (and maybe money) that I could otherwise spend either making money or relaxing (hey, it's the weekend).

Which means that the opportunity cost calculation of whether or not to outsource household chores becomes a very personal one. People calculate it when they decide whether or not to get groceries delivered, to have a gardener come to work on their yard, or to have their house cleaned by someone else. And a big factor in the decision is how much you enjoy doing those chores yourself. If you really, really hate it, and it takes forever, and you'd enjoy that time so much more doing something else productive or fulfilling or rewarding, then go ahead and outsource.

For a lot of people, of course, there is no question of doing an opportunity cost calculation: they simply don't make enough money to even consider paying someone else to do something for them, so they have to do it themselves. Which means that if you're in a position where you find yourself wondering about opportunity cost, it means you're lucky. Even if it does mean doing some math.

Pope To Travel To Holy Land With Rabbi And Muslim Leader

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 23:33

Pope Francis will head to the Middle East this week to preach peace and has asked two friends from Argentina to accompany him, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Islamic studies professor Omar Abboud.

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