National News

How Will Narendra Modi Change India?

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 03:47

In a historic election, Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist party ousted India's long-ruling Congress party. Scott Simon talks with NPR's Julie McCarthy about what this political shift means for India.

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High Charges By Doctors May Or May Not Be Red Flags For Fraud

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 03:47

The government recently released a trove of information on how much doctors are charging Medicare. It does seem like some doctors are overcharging, but the explanation of high fees can be complicated.

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How South Sudan Came To The Brink Of Civil War

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 03:47

South Sudan is being torn apart by ethnic violence. NPR's Scott Simon talks to David Deng, research director for the South Sudan Law Society, about efforts to save the country from a civil war.

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Russia Says It Will End Space Station Collaboration With U.S.

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 03:47

With the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, what happens to U.S. and Russian co-operation in space? NPR's Scott Simon speaks to reporter Geoff Brumfiel about the future of the program.

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Gender And Money At The Helm Of 'The New York Times'

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 03:47

Rumors are flying over the firing of The New York Time's first female editor, Jill Abramson. Scott Simon talks with NPR's David Folkenflik about how gender and compensation may have played a roll.

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NAACP Selects Minister, Former Lawyer, As New President

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 03:42

Cornell William Brooks replaces Lorraine Miller, who has been serving as interim chief last since year. Brooks once ran for Congress and used to be a lawyer for the Justice Department and the FCC.

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Nostalgia For What's Been Lost Since 'Brown V. Board'

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 01:39

No one wants to return to the system of American apartheid. Public education, with its glaring inequities, is a reminder of all the work left undone.

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Nigerian Abductions Part Of A Terrible Pattern In African Conflicts

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 01:33

Africa's most notorious warlord, Joseph Kony, began mass abductions of schoolgirls in the 1980s. Since then, it has become a recurring feature in conflicts on the continent.

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Lao Military Plane Carrying Defense Chief Crashes

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-17 00:43

The plane was carrying about 20 people, including the country's defense minister and other senior officials. There was no word on casualties.

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Apple, Google, Agree To Drop Patent Infringement Dispute

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-16 16:33

The highest-profile suit between the two companies involved one patent essential to the way cellphones operate on a 3G network.

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Record Flooding In Balkans Destroys Communities

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-16 16:08

It's the worst flooding in Bosnia and Serbia in at least 120 years, triggering dozens of landslides and killing several people.

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Arkansas Supreme Court Suspends Ruling Allowing Gay Marriage

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-16 14:33

In an on again, off again, legal tussle, the high court granted a request from the state's attorney general to put the issuing of licenses on hold.

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The new rules of internships

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-16 14:25

Summer's almost here, the traditional season of the internship.

 

But interns beware: in the last few years a series of lawsuits against employers offering unpaid internships have changed the rules of the apprenticeship game.

 

Rachel Feintzeig is a management reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and has been writing about the plight of the new internship.

 

In recent years, internships have become a near-necessity for college students trying to stand out in a brutal job market. And while some positions can provide valuable work experience and a glimpse into corporate life, critics maintain that the stints often amount to little more than unpaid labor.

 

A survey last year from the National Association of Colleges and Employers suggests unpaid internships don't help students land full-time jobs. Alums of unpaid internships had full-time job offers at nearly the same rate as those who had no internships at all—about 37%, compared with 62% for those with paid internships.

To read more about how internships are changing, read Rachel's article for the Wall Street Journal

Final Note: Peak Embarrassed

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-16 14:04

In our Final Note for Friday, May 16, I've flashed back to my teenage self: those awkward days when we felt we could do nothing right and mortification lurked at every turn, complete disgrace only a heartbeat away. For me, anyway.

Researchers apparently found the exact age when we're most likely to be embarrassed. "Peak embarrassed," they call it.

17. 2 years of age is that peak point when you're more likely to feel embarrassed by your own actions, according to a 2013 study in the journal Psychological Science.

And that's probably good news for adults, or at least anyone over the age of 17.2 years.

Who's at fault for credit fraud: Company or consumer?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-16 14:04

We all know we're supposed to check our credit card statements every month to look for fraudulent charges.

But let's be real, we're supposed to do a lot of things.

We're slip up once in a while. And when we do, what safeguards are in place to catch these sneaky charges?

David Lazarus, columnist for the LA Times and frequent Money guest host, has been examining credit cards, and told the story of one woman's unidentifiable credit card charges for the LA Times.

When Kearns fell for AutoVantage's bogus check, the annual fee for the service was $119.99. Over the years it rose to $129.99 and then to $139.99.

Each time it appeared on Kearns' bill, it showed up in a cryptic fashion, usually "TLG*AutoVtg" and a phone number.

"Everything else had a name — CVS, Stater Bros., Best Buy," she said. "This was the only one that didn't."

Kearns mistakenly took the charge as auto maintenance paid for by her husband — an oil change, say, or tire rotation. It wasn't until this year that she finally realized she'd been paying over and over for something she couldn't identify.

To read more from David about credit card fraud, read his column for the LA Times

The Wrap: Keep chuggin' along

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-16 13:43

Things are generally well in the economy (key word = generally). Still, many people are leaving stocks and buying bonds behind, which is what they do when they are nervous about economic prospects. Why?

"The thing which is the risk to bonds -- which is inflation -- doesn't seem like it's going to turn up anytime soon," says Fusion's Felix Salmon.

We have to consider the relationship with inflation to better understand the bonds market. Here's the second question we want to know the answer to: Why is there no inflation in this dragging economy? 

"There's still so much slack in the labor market. People aren't getting hired. That's not pushing upward pressure on wages, the things people buy," Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post. "I think you really need to see a lot more activity in the economy before you really need to worry about inflation."

Inflation holding at low levels. People not getting hired. We've got that covered. We turn next to housing -- a key indicator of growth.

If you don't already know his name, Mr. Mel Watt is the director of the the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and this week, the oversight agency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they are going to make it easier for people to make mortgages and take out loans to boost the  housing market.

The third question on our minds at the end of this week: will the housing market ever recover, and how does that help the overall economy?

"I've always been suspicious about the U.S. government trying to boost the economy by making houses more expensive," says Salmon. "If you live in a country with 60-something percent home ownership, those policies always become very popular politically because people like to see the value of their houses go up."

But Watts wants to make Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac smaller: reform them, and maybe get rid of them.

"The administration has thrown its support behind a bill, that's kind of dead at this point, to wind down Fannie and Freddie. To replace them with something else. Hopefully something more permanent that would encourage more ownership. But it doesn't seem like that policy goal has turned around at all," says Rampell.

Are we stuck in the past? We ended our wrap with a callback to the past, as former Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner released a memoir on his role supervising President Barack Obama on the Great Recession. Something which we're very slowly recovering from.

What Apple and a convenience store have in common

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-16 13:40

There’s a new study out from eMarketer that measures how much profit stores squeeze out per square foot.  Apple leads the pack, at $4,551 a foot.  Most of the retailers at the top of the list sell expensive stuff. 

“Clearly the high-end consumer has more discretionary dollars to spend, driving strong sales per square foot," says Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics. "You don’t see many discounters on here, or department stores.”

But you do see Murphy USA, which runs a chain of gas station convenience stores.  It came in second.  Weird, right?  Maybe not, says Gary Rosenberger of EconoPlay, who follows these kinds of trends. We spoke while he was on a roadtrip and had, ironically enough, filled up at a Murphy location in Dillon, S.C.

Rosenberger says the place was packed, with about ten people in line ahead of him.

“And everybody there was in line basically either to buy lottery tickets or cigarettes,” he says.

Rosenberger says Murphy sells lots of people lots of stuff, but there’s another reason the retailers on this list are profitable:  Most of them don’t have to worry about online competition, and they’re making their stores a destination.   Take Restoration Hardware, for example. 

“They’ve been fairly explicit about that saying we want people to come in, spend time here, hang out here,”  says Nicole Perrin, the executive editor of eMarketer.

They’re adding restaurants and rooftop gardens to some stores. Anything to squeeze out one more dollar, per square foot. 

 

FDA Dangles Golden Ticket To Spur Drugs For Neglected Diseases

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-16 13:39

The Food and Drug Administration's approval of a new drug for leishmaniasis came with a voucher that can be redeemed to speed up the approval of a much more lucrative drug in the future.

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Why Darden ditched biscuits and not breadsticks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-16 13:38

Red Lobster is getting tossed overboard. The parent company, Darden Restaurants, announced that it’s selling the seafood chain for $2.1 billion. Both Red Lobster and Darden’s other big chain, Olive Garden, have been losing customers for years.  

Casual dining faces two problems, says David Henkes of the food-industry consultancy Technomic.  “It’s certainly getting squeezed at the higher end by more of a ‘polished-casual’ as we would call it,” he says. Think Cheesecake Factory. “And then at the lower end, you’ve got an extremely high-quality fast-food segment that we call fast-casual.  You think Panera, Chipotle.”

Panera and Chipotle give consumers two things, says Harry Balzer, who looks at food and drink for the consumer-research firm NPD. “It’s time and money,” he says. “Save me time, save me money. And this country has been under pressure, for its income, for a number of years now.”  

Consumers have been eating out less often, he says, to save money. Minding the size of the bill counts, too: An average check at Red Lobster is about twice the average tab at Chipotle.  

Increased global demand for seafood has made it harder to contain costs, says Andy Brennan, a restaurant analyst at IBIS World. "Seafood is one of the foods that you can't substitute out for cheaper products," he says.

That's the money side. With time, casual-dining restaurants like Red Lobster fare even worse, compared with their fast-casual competition, says Alex Susskind, a professor of food and beverage management at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

Compared with fast-casual, an average party spends more than twice as long at a Red Lobster: 45 minutes to an hour. Even for family dining, that’s a stretch. “When I go out with my family— I have two young kids,” he says, “And if we could get out in 35 minutes, that’s better.”

Olive Garden has all the same problems, but Susskind says Red Lobster has an additional burden: demographics.  “It’s still perceived as a restaurant your grandma went to.”

Even attempts to update the decor— like putting the bar front and center— haven’t helped with that. "It's just that older demographic— that is the bread-and-butter, I guess, of their existence— that prevents that younger demographic from moving in," he says. "In terms of problems, they probably saw that as something insurmountable, given the number of years they've been trying to adjust it."

 

Ancient Skeleton In Mexico Sheds Light On Americas Settlement

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-16 13:27

DNA from a 12,000-year-old skeleton of a teenage girl found in a cave in the Yucatan Peninsula shows the same markers found in modern Native Americans.

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