National News

Economy Adds 257,000 New Jobs; Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 04:38

The jobless rate ticked up to 5.7 percent despite robust job growth that exceeded economists' expectations.

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Pilots Of Doomed Taipei Flight Faced Problems With Both Engines

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 03:46

Investigators say the turboprop plane's right engine lost thrust 37 seconds into the flight, and that the left one failed to restart not long afterwards.

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PODCAST: A strong three months for jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 03:00

The last three months taken together have been very strong for American jobs. More on the jobs report for January from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plus, in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, there is a push to bring technology start ups as a way to revitalize the area and bring new jobs in.

Jordan Strikes At ISIS; Obama Said To Be Preparing To Request War Powers

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:50

Repeated air strikes on the self-described Islamic State are "the beginning of our retaliation" for the extremist group's brutal killing of a captured pilot, Jordan's foreign minister says.

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App sales plateau in the age of 'freemium'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:00

App sales are today a multibillion dollar industry, but a new forecast from eMarketer says that sales of apps have plateaued.

Part of the reason is the growth of so-called "freemium" apps, which are free to download but have items for sale inside the app. The freemium business model is tantalizing for developers.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Tech heads to the Bronx

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:00

Hoping to take advantage of a growing trend to bring IT jobs back to the U.S., a technology consulting firm is setting up shop in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, hoping to create a viable business and serve a philanthropic purpose at the same time.

That neighborhood is the South Bronx of New York, where within a two-mile radius there are five large housing projects and where 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the 2010 Census. It is the poorest congressional district in America.

The company trying to inject tech jobs and spending power into the neighborhood is Doran Jones. Keith Klain is the company's co-CEO. Klain spent more than 20 years setting up IT operations overseas. Now, he's trying to bring some of those jobs back to the U.S. and into the South Bronx.

He joined Doran Jones from Barclays, where, until February of 2014, he ran their Global Testing Center. Now, he's building a 45,000 sq. ft. facility in a nondescript building just across the river from Manhattan — the U.S. financial capital where a wealth of finance firms and other businesses are potential clients for the IT quality testing business he is starting up.

"This is a viable business. We'll transform this neighborhood with real tech jobs," says Klain.

The most important element of his plan, and what sets it apart from some of the other tech start-ups and incubators who have moved into the Bronx area to take advantage of one of the few areas of New York with relatively cheap rent, is a partnership with Per Scholas.

Per Scholas is a non-profit workforce training center. Klain set up a courses at the center specifically tailored to teach the kinds of skills he needs from entry-level workers. He has an agreement in which Doran Jones funds the free courses, and promises to staff 80 percent of its workforce with Per Scholas graduates.

Per Scholas also gets 25 percent of future Doran Jones profits. They even share a building.

Angie Kamath, executive director of Per Scholas, says the unique arrangement is an opportunity to change the dynamic in the South Bronx neighborhood.

"It's going to, I believe, really kickstart and show other firms that they can, too, locate in what are traditionally underserved areas," Kamath says.

"Part of this program is to give people an entry into a career that they wouldn't ordinarily have gotten," says Klain, "There is an overlooked population here that is a very rich source of tech talent."

One of Klain's most recent hires is Cochrane Williams, 37, who used to be a photographer with sporadic income. "I needed a career change. I needed something stable. I have a daughter. So I needed to also think about that," Williams says.

Just as other entry-level workers who will be hired by Doran Jones through its partnership with Per Scholas, Williams' starting salary is $35,000 with benefits. While that income does not go far in one of the most expensive cities in the country, entry-level Doran Jones employees will get an automatic raise to $45,000 in a year, and to $55,000 in two years.

"For a lot of our folks who are coming in and their last wages were $15,000, this is pretty life changing," says Kamath. Many in the neighborhood hold minimum wage, or close to minimum wage jobs, she says, such as security guards or retail workers.

Williams says his starting salary was not his only consideration in deciding to join Doran Jones. He sees it as an investment in his future. "This is basically getting in on the ground floor. And you get to grow with the company. There is nothing more solid than that, in terms of trying to establish a career," says Williams.

Doran Jones and Per Scholas are also hoping to get in on the ground floor. For them, that ground floor is a growing movement to bring IT jobs back to the U.S.

A number of firms have sprung up across the country to lure lucrative IT contracts away from foreign firms. Their pitch: that for certain IT jobs, being located near a business's time zone, for instance, could be beneficial. They also can point to inefficiencies in the current outsourcing model: the need for lots of travel, or the hiring and relocation of middle managers to supervise far away employees.

Ron Hira has been studying the trend of IT 'onshoring." He is a professor of public policy at Howard Unviersity and author of the book Outsourcing America. There are a number of small companies around the country, most with a few hundred workers, he says, that are trying to win away IT contracts from foreign firms (which can have workforces in the hundreds of thousands).

"I'd say this is a small blip right now. But it has the opportunity to become a serious market niche, as much as 15 to 20 percent at some point," Hira says.

The key will be for U.S. companies to grow beyond employing hundreds, says Hira. That goal faces hurdles such as tax incentives that unintentionally favor 'offshoring' by allowing companies to retain their profits untaxed overseas, he says.

"I've been approached by multiple other cities in the country that are looking at this as a kind of a case study: can this be done?," says Klain.

Klain will open the doors of his new Bronx technology center in March. He has 15 clients lined up, and hopes to initially hire 150 people — and eventually, 450. Also, he says start-ups have already approached him about leasing space in his new center. A small sign that his hoped-for urban renewal of the South Bronx just might come to fruition.

Kraft aims at discount shoppers with Velveeta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 02:00

The food business is in transition, with mega-brands such as Kraft, General Mills, and Campbell Soup struggling to hold on to market share at mainstream grocery stores. Shoppers are increasingly gravitating up-market to gourmet 'fresh-format' stores, and down-market to booming discount chains such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

It’s in the latter category that these companies see the most potential for growth as low-income, immigrant and young shoppers look for deep bargains in the post-recession economy.

For instance, Kraft’s Velveeta individual cheese-sauce servings haven't been selling well in traditional groceries. But the company decided not to pull them from the market because they do extremely well in discount dollar-stores because of their low price-point.

“The growth in the industry is really in dollar- and limited-assortment stores,” says Jim Hertel at grocery consultancy Willard Bishop. "And it's in more upscale types of food retailers, like Whole Foods."

Kraft's flagship brands—like Oscar Mayer, Kool Aid, Maxwell House, and Velveeta—aren't likely to be taken up by upscale consumers. But Michael Stern, co-author of the Roadfood.com books about American vernacular cuisine, who also appears as a regular commentator on public radio's ‘The Splendid Table,” says Velveeta is perfect for penetrating the discount food market.

“It’s cheap, and it’s very easy," Stern says. "I always have Velveeta in my refrigerator. A cheeseburger is not a cheeseburger without Velveeta. It’s so glossy, so smooth."

'Cheap’ and ‘easy’ are two attributes that Jim Hertel says consumers put at a premium when filling their shopping carts at discount stores.

Beware: the Left Shark is litigious

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 01:30
257,000

That's the number of jobs added in January according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate went up a bit to 5.7%

150 employees

To date, Tesla has poached 150 employees from Apple. As Bloomberg reports, that's more than the car company has hired from anywhere else, including other car companies.

$35,000

That's the starting salary for an entry level employee at tech startup Doran Jones, located in the Bronx. That may seem low, but employees are drawn from Per Scholas, a non-profit workforce training center, and get an automatic raise to $45,000 in a year, and to $55,000 in two years. It's part of the company's philosophy that there is an untapped talent pool in the U.S. for the tech industry.

235,361,264

That’s how many times Sia's song 'Chandelier' has been streamed on Spotify. Based on the fact that Sia has the most spotify streams for both song and record, Spotify predicts she will win in both categories at the Grammys. But you already knew that, didn't you? So why not head over to Silicon Tally, our weekly quiz on the week in tech news, and prove your news savvy.

$24.99

That's how much it costs to get your very own 3D-printed model of the "Left Shark" from Katy Perry's Super Bowl halftime show. At least, that's how much it would cost if you could buy one. As the BBC reports, Fernando Sosa, who was selling the blueprints to the model via an online directory, was served a cease and desist notice from Perry's lawyers.

8

That's the size of the committee appointed by Google to implement the European Union's ruling on the "Right to be Forgotten." The 8-member advisory board now says they support Google's decision to limit the scope of the ruling to the EU, instead of applying the practice globally. As reported by the WSJ, the move will likely cause more friction in the conflict between the company and the EU.

Silicon Tally: Sia later

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-06 01:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news.

This week, we're joined by Shannon Cook, a Spotify trends analyst, for a digital-music-themed Silicon Tally.

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Critics Say Ebola Crisis Was WHO's Big Failure. Will Reform Follow?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-06 01:02

The World Health Organization failed to respond quickly and effectively to the outbreak in West Africa. Now the agency is proposing a new structure. But change could prove difficult.

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