National News

Can fast fashion compete with Prada?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:56

The fast-fashion retailer H&M is debuting its high-end spin-off brand, "Collection of Style," in pop-up stores in the U.S. next week. The brand, COS for short, is an upscale line that aims to mimic the look of popular fashion brands, such as Prada or Jil Sander, while keeping costs down. The company is scheduled to open full stores in the U.S. later this year.

"It's much less expensive, and it's hip in a way that I don't think fast fashion has had this hip kind of attitude before," says fashion journalist Kate Betts, author of the book, "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the power of style."

COS has stores in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It's only now starting to venture into the American market, with plans to open stores in New York and Los Angeles.

Betts points out that COS has a viable market in the U.S.: "The retailers, the department stores have given women the habit of buying everything on sale, so they're not going to pay full-price for anything anymore."

How Rwanda's Only Ice Cream Shop Challenges Cultural Taboos

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:36

Rwanda is a hot country, and people love dairy products. But the culture discourages public displays of need, including hunger. The women running the lone ice cream shop are trying to change that.

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Last week may have been Gouda, but this week is Feta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:23

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's what's coming up April 11:

  • In Washington, the Labor Department issues its Producer Price Index for March.
  • The International Energy Agency releases its monthly oil market report on supply and demand around the globe.
  • The University of Michigan releases its preliminary April consumer sentiment survey.
  • "Houston, we've had a problem here." That was communication from the aborted Apollo 13 mission that launched on April 11, 1970. The crew didn't land on the Moon as planned, but they did eventually splash down safely on Earth. You probably saw the movie.
  • Iowans were the first to pay a state tax on cigarettes. A 2 cent per pack tax was imposed on April 11, 1921.
  • And foodies probably already know that it's National Cheese Fondue Day. What beats things dipped in cheese? Help me. I'm drawing a blank.

Last week may have been Goulda, but this week is Feta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:23

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's what's coming up April 11:

  • In Washington, the Labor Department issues its Producer Price Index for March.
  • The International Energy Agency releases its monthly oil market report on supply and demand around the globe.
  • The University of Michigan releases its preliminary April consumer sentiment survey.
  • "Houston, we've had a problem here." That was communication from the aborted Apollo 13 mission that launched on April 11, 1970. The crew didn't land on the Moon as planned, but they did eventually splash down safely on Earth. You probably saw the movie.
  • Iowans were the first to pay a state tax on cigarettes. A 2 cent per pack tax was imposed on April 11, 1921.
  • And foodies probably already know that it's National Cheese Fondue Day. What beats things dipped in cheese? Help me. I'm drawing a blank.

When rural hospitals close, towns struggle to stay open

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:15

There’s a healthcare crisis in America that you might not have heard about: Rural hospitals are closing at a rate that’s starting to get some politicians’ attention. Republicans blame Obamacare, while Democrats blame some states’ refusal to expand Medicaid. In reality, the problem started years before all that.

What's clear is that rural hospitals and the rural economy rise and fall together.

Hancock Memorial Hospital in the tiny town of Sparta, Georgia was among the first of nine rural hospitals that have closed across Georgia since 2000. Today, it’s overgrown with weeds and vines, while the roof caves on the gurneys and computers still inside.

“I mean, it was just not economically feasible to maintain the staff and the equipment,” says Robert Moore, whose family has lived in Hancock County since they were emancipated.

Sparta was once a fancy town with lots of antebellum mansions. But Moore says things really started going south in the 1990s.

“Rural Georgia was based on the textile industry, and when NAFTA was signed, all that moved to Mexico, and… sent everything into a downspin,” Moore says.

Hancock County Commission Chair Sistie Hudson says it’s not surprising that a population so small and so poor can't support a whole hospital. “There’s about 2,600 people [in Hancock County] that still work, out of the little more than 8,000 that we have,” she says.

But with Hancock Memorial boarded up, the prospects for future growth are even worse. When Hudson tries to recruit a new industrial employer, one of the first things they ask is: “Do you have a hospital?”

“You just really need a local facility just in case somebody gets hurt in these factories, you know? It’s something that they like to see,” Hudson says.

Just imagine what having no emergency room nearby would do to a company’s workers comp and other insurance costs. It’s a non-starter for most businesses. 

University of North Carolina professor Mark Holmes studied the economic impact of 140 rural hospital closures nationwide.  He found that three years out, losing a hospital costs a community, on average, “about 1.6 percentage points in unemployment, about $700 in per capita income, and that was in [year] 2000 dollars so that’d be probably about $1,000 currently."

And that’s only the effect on economic health. What about health?

Speaking on the subject a few weeks ago, Georgia state Senator David Lucas paused several times to weep as he addressed his colleagues this spring: “[It] ends up with rural communities, such as Hancock County, where 39 percent of the folks who have a stroke or have a heart attack die." That’s a lot higher than in counties with hospitals close by.

Georgia officials are exploring solutions to this problem that could become a national model – basically, a medical facility that does more than an urgent care clinic, but isn’t as big a whole hospital. But Georgia’s Community Health Commissioner Clyde Reese says America’s healthcare system doesn’t provide enough ways for the operator of that kind of place to get paid.

“They’re not going to be hospitals, they won’t be reimbursed as hospitals, they won’t be able to charge a facility fee, they won’t get the Medicaid add-on rate, etc.,” Reese says.

Reese is working on ways to fix that. Because without reimbursements, there will be no emergency care. And with no emergency care, there probably will be no new jobs in Hancock County.

Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:03

Researchers ignited a debate three years ago when they changed a deadly flu virus so that it could spread between people. Only five mutations are needed to turn the virus into a pandemic threat.

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Why low inflation can be dangerous

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:51
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 06:36 JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Euro cents are seen on a chessboard and the word 'inflation' as a part of a advertisement on October 12, 2010 in Berlin.

Right now our inflation rate is around 1 percent. But some at the Fed say that's way too low.

The hope is to see inflation go up. But why on earth would we want to increase inflation?  

"A little bit is good, but not too much. It's like a lot of things in life -- good in moderation," says Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at Wharton. "Higher inflation is a bad thing, but mild inflation, statistically has been associated with very good economic times."

Siegel says during times of inflation, the dollar decreases in value. So the $100 you borrowed back in the day was worth more then, than your $100 payment today -- which means less financial burdens for consumers and more cash to spend.

And that's one reason the Fed wants to see inflation go up -- just a little bit. 

"It's not so high as to be hurting a lot of people, but it's at a level which would probably create a lot of jobs," says Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisers. Thayer says the benefit of job creation would probably outweigh a slightly higher inflation rate.

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday, April 11, 2014by Sally HershipsPodcast Title Why low inflation can be dangerousStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Ukraine not on the agenda as IMF gathers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:46
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 06:20 Mark Wilson/Getty Images

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during a media briefing at the IMF Headquarters, on April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Director Lagarde spoke about their agenda for the 2014 Spring Meetings that are taking place now and will end on Sunday.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are set to open their annual spring meetings. It will be a busy weekend for finance ministers and economists who are visiting Washington from all over the world. Dozens of panels and speeches are on the agenda, but none are about Ukraine, a country the IMF has offered billions of dollars.

According to Ken Rogoff, former IMF chief economist, right now, “the geopolitics overrides what the finance ministers and the central bankers think.”

But at a gathering of policymakers from close to 200 countries, it is bound to come up.

“I think it’s going to be talked about behind closed doors,” says Barry Eichengreen, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.  

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday, April 11, 2014by David GuraPodcast Title Ukraine not on the agenda as IMF gathersStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Obama: 'The Story Of America Is The Story Of Progress'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:31

In a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, President Obama remembered Lyndon Johnson as complex man who seized a moment and became a giant of American history.

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What Family Dollar says about the economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:10
Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 16:47 Ryotaro takao/ Flikr

Family Dollar exterior in Honeoye Falls, NY.

The retail chain Family Dollar said Thursday it's going to close more than 300 stores. Shrinking sales and falling profits are the proximate causes. There is a line of thinking that says, "If a discount store like Family Dollar is reporting bad news like this, maybe that's good news for the broader economy."  

Discount stores tend to do well during a downturn, when once higher-income consumers “trade down” for cheaper options, the argument goes, so perhaps the fact that discount stores are showing signs of struggle means those customers are trading back up, in response to a recovering economy.  

And it is true that Family Dollar has thrived during many economic shocks.  In fact, there’s a chart Family Dollar management recently trotted out at a retail industry conference that highlights this phenomenon -- a timeline of shocks to the American economy, events like the 9/11 terror attacks and the housing meltdown. After each of these events, you see a  steep incline on the graph, denoting earnings increases for Family Dollar. 

Family Dollar

But just because Family Dollar is floundering now doesn’t mean the larger economy is thriving. Higher-income customers may be leaving family dollar now that their economic fortunes seem to be brightening in the economic recovery.  But the story is complicated by the fact that low-income households still face high unemployment rates, and less money to spend in the wake of recent cuts to government assistance programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance.

Family Dollar

Marketplace for Thursday April 10, 2014by Krissy ClarkPodcast Title What Family Dollar says about the economyStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Even A Very Weak Signal From The Brain Might Help Paraplegics

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:09

By electrically stimulating the lower spine in men with paraplegia, researchers were able to get them to initiate movement. The big challenge is how to achieve coordinated motor control.

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Don't mess with French workers' 35 hour work week

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 09:57

From France, home of the 35 hour work week, this item: French tech sector employees  have just struck a new collective bargaining agreement, under the terms of which they are guaranteed that after-hours emails -- as in the kind we all check on our phones while at a soccer game -- will not impinge on that aforesaid 35 hour week.

Workers now have the unimpeded right to unplug at quitting time.

To this story, one can only say, zut alors, sacre bleu and 'How do I get me some of that action'?

How Bad Is Brazil's Crime? Watch This Mugging On Live TV

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 09:49

A television network was conducting a live interview with a woman about Rio's rampant street crime when a robber brazenly ripped a gold chain from the woman's neck.

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What A Ban On Taxi Apps In Shanghai Says About China's Economy

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 09:42

The smartphone apps let people summon cabs and negotiate prices directly with drivers. Officials say they benefit the young and the rich. But they're also a free-market challenge to state control.

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Justice: Albuquerque Police Show 'Pattern Of Excessive Force'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 09:12

After a nearly 18-month investigation, the Justice Department has concluded that the city's police department uses deadly force more often than is necessary, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

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Is Everything More Delicious When You Eat With Your Hands?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 08:30

An Indian-American reporter recalls the deep shame he felt as a kid eating Indian food with his hands. But his daughter reminds him of the true joy of hand-eating, and he decides to try it in public.

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'Gospel Of Jesus's Wife' Papyrus Not A Forgery, Harvard Says

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 08:25

The tiny fragment, written in Egyptian Coptic, contains a purported reference by Jesus to his wife. New evidence dates it to between the sixth and ninth centuries.

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Stephen Colbert Will Take Over 'Late Show'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 08:24

The Comedy Central star will sit behind the desk after David Letterman retires next year, CBS announced Thursday.

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Wonk Week In Washington: When Briefings Are Better Than Blossoms

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 07:41

Let the tourists stare at the cherry blossoms. This week, with its World Bank and IMF meetings, is for the true, serious wonks who just can't get enough of lecture halls and soggy hors d'oeuvres.

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'Will I Survive, Or Will I Die?' Stabbing Survivor Wondered

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 07:29

Brett Hurt was one of the first students stabbed Wednesday at a high school near Pittsburgh. He credits a friend for saving his life and hopes his attacker will "forgive himself."

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