National News

Baseball Man Don Zimmer Dies, Ending An Epic Sports Career

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:59

His big-league career began in the 1950s and included the most recent Yankees dynasty. Baseball is mourning Don Zimmer today, remembering a man who loved the game that loved him back.

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Central African Republic Bans Texting, Citing Need For Order

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:53

The poor country has been plagued by political turmoil and Muslim-Christian fighting. The government cut off texting amid a new round of violent protests and calls for a general strike.

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When does an American company stop being American?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:51

It's a fairly common practice among big corporations in the U.S. to keep large portions of their business outside of the country in order to avoid paying American taxes. The process of corporate inversion is usually practiced by companies that earn large amounts of foreign income that is already taxed overseas, though critics say this can cost the U.S. substantial tax revenues they would otherwise receive from American companies.

But if a company that still does business in the U.S. moves operations, or even its headquarters, outside of the U.S., is it still an American company?

The Fortune 500 doesn't think so -- companies that move headquarters outside the U.S. get kicked off their list. On the other hand, the S&P 500 does not remove American companies with overseas headquarters. Allen Sloan, Fortune Magazine's senior editor, thinks his publication has it right.

"The Fortune 500 is supposed to be a list of American companies, and if you decide not to be an American company, we kick you out of the list," Sloan says. "These are companies that want to benefit from the United States, they would just rather have their headquarters in a country where the tax rate is lower."

Though, defining a company's "Americanness" by where they keep their headquarters is a little tricky. After all, Apple and General Electric both hold high ranking spots on Fortune's list, but both companies keep profits overseas and avoid American taxes. Sloan's argument is that location makes a lot of difference, even if just in attitude.

"If you take your headquarters out of the United States, you aren't an American company," says Sloan, "We can argue about degrees about a lot of these companies, but at least they're still acting as if they're Americans and they have some responsibility to the country, whereas these other guys who go overseas, well they want all the protections, they just don't want to pay for them."

In the bigger picture, the law usually catches up to companies using overseas holdings to avoid taxes, forcing them to come up with ever more complicated methods of not paying. The question becomes whether or not there is a way to simplify the tax system and stay fair, or are we stuck with a endless cycle that keeps getting more complicated?

"I don't know how to do it, but I know what's going on is not right," Sloan says. "Having a situation where a company does this or that and is not an American company, but wants to keep all the benefits of being an American company, like having a real legal system, having actual markets that function, you ought to pay for it."

When does an American company stop being American?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:51

It's a fairly common practice among big corporations in the U.S. to keep large portions of their business outside of the country in order to avoid paying American taxes. The process of corporate inversion is usually practiced by companies that earn large amounts of foreign income that is already taxed overseas, though critics say this can cost the U.S. substantial tax revenues they would otherwise receive from American companies.

But if a company that still does business in the U.S. moves operations, or even its headquarters, outside of the U.S., is it still an American company?

The Fortune 500 doesn't think so -- companies that move headquarters outside the U.S. get kicked off their list. On the other hand, the S&P 500 does not remove American companies with overseas headquarters. Allen Sloan, Fortune Magazine's senior editor, thinks his publication has it right.

"The Fortune 500 is supposed to be a list of American companies, and if you decide not to be an American company, we kick you out of the list," Sloan says. "These are companies that want to benefit from the United States, they would just rather have their headquarters in a country where the tax rate is lower."

Though, defining a company's "Americanness" by where they keep their headquarters is a little tricky. After all, Apple and General Electric both hold high ranking spots on Fortune's list, but both companies keep profits overseas and avoid American taxes. Sloan's argument is that location makes a lot of difference, even if just in attitude.

"If you take your headquarters out of the United States, you aren't an American company," says Sloan, "We can argue about degrees about a lot of these companies, but at least they're still acting as if they're Americans and they have some responsibility to the country, whereas these other guys who go overseas, well they want all the protections, they just don't want to pay for them."

In the bigger picture, the law usually catches up to companies using overseas holdings to avoid taxes, forcing them to come up with ever more complicated methods of not paying. The question becomes whether or not there is a way to simplify the tax system and stay fair, or are we stuck with a endless cycle that keeps getting more complicated?

"I don't know how to do it, but I know what's going on is not right," Sloan says. "Having a situation where a company does this or that and is not an American company, but wants to keep all the benefits of being an American company, like having a real legal system, having actual markets that function, you ought to pay for it."

Torture tested guitar strings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:30

Making strings is a family business for the D'Addarios. In fact, Jim D'Addario, CEO of D'Addario and Company, remembers being a 13 when his dad first started asking him to test guitar string prototypes while watching television. 

Since taking over the company, D'Addario has made it a point to innovate the technology involved in making newer, better guitar strings. That's how the company's more durable NYXL strings came to be. The technology behind the new strings starts with the wire:

Here's host Ben Johnson with Jim D'Addario getting a chance to feel the wire for himself:

Part of the process of developing the NYXL strings has been, well, torturing them: stretching them beyond their normal capacity and then using a robotic arm to continuously strum the warped string.

As the saying goes, the proof is in the...broken strings? The average string lasts just a couple of strokes against the torture machine, while the NYXL strings can last upwards of 1,000 strums while still staying in tune.

Torture tested guitar strings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:30

Making strings is a family business for the D'Addarios. In fact, Jim D'Addario, CEO of D'Addario and Company, remembers being a 13 when his dad first started asking him to test guitar string prototypes while watching television. 

Since taking over the company, D'Addario has made it a point to innovate the technology involved in making newer, better guitar strings. That's how the company's more durable NYXL strings came to be. The technology behind the new strings starts with the wire:

Here's host Ben Johnson with Jim D'Addario getting a chance to feel the wire for himself:

Part of the process of developing the NYXL strings has been, well, torturing them: stretching them beyond their normal capacity and then using a robotic arm to continuously strum the warped string.

As the saying goes, the proof is in the...broken strings? The average string lasts just a couple of strokes against the torture machine, while the NYXL strings can last upwards of 1,000 strums while still staying in tune.

A Master's In Media...From Conde Nast?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-05 04:03

Architectural Digest, Wired, Vogue, Gourmet...why a magazine brand is getting into the education business.

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Is vocal fry hurting women's job prospects?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 03:48

A new set of data suggests that vocal fry -- or vocal creakiness -- could negatively impact female job applicants. The study, published by the online journal PLOS, played samples of male and female subjects speaking in both a normal voice and with vocal fry. Participants were then surveyed as to which candidates they found to be more suitable to hire for a job. 

While a preference for a normal speaking voice was nearly equally matched for both men and women -- results show a preference for a normal voice 86 percent of the time for female speakers and 83 percent of the time for male speakers -- those surveyed reacted more negatively to women with vocal fry than men.

Olga Khazan, who covered the topic for The Atlantic, joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison to discuss the study and its implications for women in the workplace. Click on the audio player above to hear more.

Do you prefer a normal voice or fry voice? Click below to hear the vocal samples from the study:

 

Is vocal fry hurting women's job prospects?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 03:48

A new set of data suggests that vocal fry -- or vocal creakiness -- could negatively impact female job applicants. The study, published by the online journal PLOS, played samples of male and female subjects speaking in both a normal voice and with vocal fry. Participants were then surveyed as to which candidates they found to be more suitable to hire for a job. 

While a preference for a normal speaking voice was nearly equally matched for both men and women -- results show a preference for a normal voice 86 percent of the time for female speakers and 83 percent of the time for male speakers -- those surveyed reacted more negatively to women with vocal fry than men.

Olga Khazan, who covered the topic for The Atlantic, joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison to discuss the study and its implications for women in the workplace. Click on the audio player above to hear more.

Do you prefer a normal voice or fry voice? Click below to hear the vocal samples from the study:

 

Cave-Dwelling In Spain Offers A Welcome Inconvenience

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-05 03:48

In the province of Granada in Southern Spain, thousands of people live completely unplugged in caverns. The caves have been a place of refuge for centuries. Now they provide a new kind of escape.

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Bergdahl's Hometown Cancels Celebration Of His Return

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-05 03:29

Organizers of a rally held in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's honor while he was a prisoner say they're canceling this year's event, citing backlash over the prisoner swap that freed him.

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Book News: Experimental Debut Novel Wins Prestigious Baileys Prize

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-05 03:05

Also: A book at one of Harvard's libraries is "without a doubt bound in human skin"; J.K. Rowling has released an excerpt of her new novel.

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The Clippers' price tag could catch on

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 02:59

The world of business has been abuzz about the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, and for good reason -- $2 billion is nearly quadruple the previous record for an NBA team (last month's $550 million price tag for the Milwaukee Bucks).

"I think this sets a new bar for pricing," says Matt Powell analyst with SportsOneSource. "It’s like the real estate market, right? What’s your comparable? And I think this is always going to be thrown up in people’s faces about what a team is worth."

$2 billion might not be as crazy as it sounds when you consider a couple of factors, like "the size of the LA market and the fact that there’s a big pending TV contract coming up and quite a few interested bidders," says David Carter, director of USC’s Sports Business Institute. "The number on the surface seems a little bit high, but when you peel it back, ultimately, it might make sense."

The Clippers brought in an estimated $128 million dollars in revenue last year, according to Forbes. That's a far cry from $2 billion, but sports teams tend to be reliable earners. "Franchise values are going to continue to climb," says Carter. "We’ve seen nothing short of a real appetite for sports content and fans consuming it so many different ways."

Carter also points out that a team like the Clippers actually coming up for sale is a rare window of opportunity.

 

The Clippers' price tag could catch on

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 02:59

The world of business has been abuzz about the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, and for good reason -- $2 billion is nearly quadruple the previous record for an NBA team (last month's $550 million price tag for the Milwaukee Bucks).

"I think this sets a new bar for pricing," says Matt Powell analyst with SportsOneSource. "It’s like the real estate market, right? What’s your comparable? And I think this is always going to be thrown up in people’s faces about what a team is worth."

$2 billion might not be as crazy as it sounds when you consider a couple of factors, like "the size of the LA market and the fact that there’s a big pending TV contract coming up and quite a few interested bidders," says David Carter, director of USC’s Sports Business Institute. "The number on the surface seems a little bit high, but when you peel it back, ultimately, it might make sense."

The Clippers brought in an estimated $128 million dollars in revenue last year, according to Forbes. That's a far cry from $2 billion, but sports teams tend to be reliable earners. "Franchise values are going to continue to climb," says Carter. "We’ve seen nothing short of a real appetite for sports content and fans consuming it so many different ways."

Carter also points out that a team like the Clippers actually coming up for sale is a rare window of opportunity.

 

Burwell's highest priority: get more Latinos insured

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 02:59

The Senate votes today on the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell for Health and Human Services Secretary. And it’s a pretty good bet that high on her priority list will be enrolling Latinos in the Affordable Care Act. 

Latinos have the highest uninsured rates compared to other ethnic groups. They're also a younger segment of the overall population, and The White House has said enrolling young, healthy people is one of the keys to the success of the ACA.

So how to go about enrolling more Latinos in the ACA? Take Houston, Texas, for example, where nearly half the population is Latino, and where Benjamin Hernandez is assistant director of Health and Human Services.  He says one thing the new Secretary could do to help him boost Latino enrollment would be to give him access to real time data on who is signing up and where they live.

“That is very helpful to us because we shift resources and people into those communities that aren’t getting the message,” says Hernandez.

Targeting those who aren’t getting the message is also the mission of Anne Filipic. She is president of Enroll America, which has collected data from the first enrollment period and is studying it to determine what got people to sign up for healthcare. “Specifically for Latinos, we do see that the in-person assistance, the presence in communities goes along way,” says Filipic.

Enroll America found that people who had personal assistance were about twice as likely to enroll, compared to people who just went online.  And Latinos and African-Americans were 43 percent more likely to seek that assistance than their white counterparts. 

Filipic says it’s also important for the new secretary of Health and Human Services to provide resources for on-the-ground workers in underserved communities, “and to make sure that they have the bilingual tools to reach consumers.”

Burwell's highest priority: get more Latinos insured

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 02:59

The Senate votes today on the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell for Health and Human Services Secretary. And it’s a pretty good bet that high on her priority list will be enrolling Latinos in the Affordable Care Act. 

Latinos have the highest uninsured rates compared to other ethnic groups. They're also a younger segment of the overall population, and The White House has said enrolling young, healthy people is one of the keys to the success of the ACA.

So how to go about enrolling more Latinos in the ACA? Take Houston, Texas, for example, where nearly half the population is Latino, and where Benjamin Hernandez is assistant director of Health and Human Services.  He says one thing the new Secretary could do to help him boost Latino enrollment would be to give him access to real time data on who is signing up and where they live.

“That is very helpful to us because we shift resources and people into those communities that aren’t getting the message,” says Hernandez.

Targeting those who aren’t getting the message is also the mission of Anne Filipic. She is president of Enroll America, which has collected data from the first enrollment period and is studying it to determine what got people to sign up for healthcare. “Specifically for Latinos, we do see that the in-person assistance, the presence in communities goes along way,” says Filipic.

Enroll America found that people who had personal assistance were about twice as likely to enroll, compared to people who just went online.  And Latinos and African-Americans were 43 percent more likely to seek that assistance than their white counterparts. 

Filipic says it’s also important for the new secretary of Health and Human Services to provide resources for on-the-ground workers in underserved communities, “and to make sure that they have the bilingual tools to reach consumers.”

How I learned to stop worrying and love 'Silicon Valley'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 02:44

Every week when we start our Marketplace Tech game of Silicon Tally, I say something like: "I've got a number for you." And this week, ahead of that game, I do. The number is one. There's a song about it, and even some discussion about it on the Interwebs this week. That's because one is the number of lead female characters in the new HBO show "Silicon Valley." 

The tech industry has a women problem, and "Silicon Valley," which is about the tech industry, also has a women problem. Amanda Crew, who plays billionaire Peter Gregory's assistant Monica on the show, is the only recurring female character in all of the first season. Some feel that this is proof that the show displays "oblivious sexism." Others think the show's depiction of real world problems involving gender lacks nuance. While I cringed at one reviewer's admission that he keeps forgetting the name of Crew's character, I don't really buy these arguments. Not yet, anyway.

I think the show is good enough to get better. When the show premiered, I asked executive producer Alec Berg about the criticisms that it didn't have enough strong women characters. His response: "do we want to do the sort of perfect satirical riff on women in tech? Of course we do, and that's our intention. If we haven't gotten to it yet, it's definitely one of the things--I mean just the fact that that is one of the hot button issues that everybody brings up, that to me means we owe it to the show to lean into that."

So OK, sure, the show isn't Sheryl Sandberg-ing just yet. But it's also far from "Entourage." "Silicon Valley" is truly funny-sometimes even hilarious. In fact, its funniest jokes don't involve the male anatomy, but jargon and self-driving cars. A show with a sense of humor beyond male anatomy jokes is a show that can grow, even if it was made by the creator of "Beavis and Butthead." Here's one of my favorite clips from the first season, featuring Martin Star from "Freaks and Geeks" and "Party Down" fame (WARNING: some strong language in there). 

I hope that in its second season, "Silicon Valley" will grow. The big question right now is whether the show will be allowed to by the network and the critics. Remember when "Girls" was criticized for not having enough diversity in the cast? That show has been allowed to exist and evolve despite that criticism--maybe "Silicon Valley" can, too.

But there's already a lot of things working against it: the focus of the show and its commitment to depicting real shop talk and happenings in the tech industry, despite the fact that most of us don't give a damn what a hash table is, or care about going to Tech Crunch Disrupt. The show isn't about a chemistry teacher or ad executive's spiral into evil or despair. But it is a show about a part of our economy, our society and our world that is a big deal these days. That in and of itself should be a strong argument for at least a few more seasons. 

Before we write it off or leave it for dead (at least until season two), let's look at another few "Silicon Valley" numbers. The last episode had 1.7 million viewers. I asked a friend who studies ratings, and he says for HBO, that appears to be pretty solid--even if the show benefits greatly from airing right after a massively successful hit like "Game of Thrones." He also points out that "Silicon Valley" is currently ranked 4th out of the network's 23 series, and that it looks like it has a good playback rating too. That means part of the show's audience isn't watching it because it comes after the thing they just watched, instead choosing to stream it online at a later date. That suggests the beginnings of a loyal audience. As long as that audience exists and builds, "Silicon Valley" will have the chance to lampoon the good and the "bro" of the tech industry. Maybe even add some more consistent female characters to the mix.

Just like the world it depicts, the show's survival and improvement probably depends on it. 

How I learned to stop worrying and love 'Silicon Valley'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-05 02:44

Every week when we start our Marketplace Tech game of Silicon Tally, I say something like: "I've got a number for you." And this week, ahead of that game, I do. The number is one. There's a song about it, and even some discussion about it on the Interwebs this week. That's because one is the number of lead female characters in the new HBO show "Silicon Valley." 

The tech industry has a women problem, and "Silicon Valley," which is about the tech industry, also has a women problem. Amanda Crew, who plays billionaire Peter Gregory's assistant Monica on the show, is the only recurring female character in all of the first season. Some feel that this is proof that the show displays "oblivious sexism." Others think the show's depiction of real world problems involving gender lacks nuance. While I cringed at one reviewer's admission that he keeps forgetting the name of Crew's character, I don't really buy these arguments. Not yet, anyway.

I think the show is good enough to get better. When the show premiered, I asked executive producer Alec Berg about the criticisms that it didn't have enough strong women characters. His response: "do we want to do the sort of perfect satirical riff on women in tech? Of course we do, and that's our intention. If we haven't gotten to it yet, it's definitely one of the things--I mean just the fact that that is one of the hot button issues that everybody brings up, that to me means we owe it to the show to lean into that."

So OK, sure, the show isn't Sheryl Sandberg-ing just yet. But it's also far from "Entourage." "Silicon Valley" is truly funny-sometimes even hilarious. In fact, its funniest jokes don't involve the male anatomy, but jargon and self-driving cars. A show with a sense of humor beyond male anatomy jokes is a show that can grow, even if it was made by the creator of "Beavis and Butthead." Here's one of my favorite clips from the first season, featuring Martin Star from "Freaks and Geeks" and "Party Down" fame (WARNING: some strong language in there). 

I hope that in its second season, "Silicon Valley" will grow. The big question right now is whether the show will be allowed to by the network and the critics. Remember when "Girls" was criticized for not having enough diversity in the cast? That show has been allowed to exist and evolve despite that criticism--maybe "Silicon Valley" can, too.

But there's already a lot of things working against it: the focus of the show and its commitment to depicting real shop talk and happenings in the tech industry, despite the fact that most of us don't give a damn what a hash table is, or care about going to Tech Crunch Disrupt. The show isn't about a chemistry teacher or ad executive's spiral into evil or despair. But it is a show about a part of our economy, our society and our world that is a big deal these days. That in and of itself should be a strong argument for at least a few more seasons. 

Before we write it off or leave it for dead (at least until season two), let's look at another few "Silicon Valley" numbers. The last episode had 1.7 million viewers. I asked a friend who studies ratings, and he says for HBO, that appears to be pretty solid--even if the show benefits greatly from airing right after a massively successful hit like "Game of Thrones." He also points out that "Silicon Valley" is currently ranked 4th out of the network's 23 series, and that it looks like it has a good playback rating too. That means part of the show's audience isn't watching it because it comes after the thing they just watched, instead choosing to stream it online at a later date. That suggests the beginnings of a loyal audience. As long as that audience exists and builds, "Silicon Valley" will have the chance to lampoon the good and the "bro" of the tech industry. Maybe even add some more consistent female characters to the mix.

Just like the world it depicts, the show's survival and improvement probably depends on it. 

As Brazil Barrels Toward World Cup, Brazilians Aren't Feeling It

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 23:34

The games are just a week away, and enthusiasm is low. Stadiums aren't finished, infrastructure is incomplete, and there have been protests. According to one Brazilian soccer fan, "We didn't deliver."

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A Year After Snowden, U.S. Tech Losing Trust Overseas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 23:32

It's not every day that an industry in hypergrowth loses trust with its customers in a big way. That's what has happened with American companies in cloud computing such as Cisco.

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