National News

Facebook's Newsfeed Study: Was It Ethical Or A Violation Of Privacy?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 09:22

In 2012, Facebook changed its users' newsfeeds without their knowledge for research. Host Michel Martin learns more about the study and why some people aren't happy about it.

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What The Supreme Court Rulings Mean For Unions, Religious Freedom

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 09:22

Host Michel Martin speaks with Supreme Court correspondent David Savage, and labor economist Steven Pitts about the high court's rulings on public employee unions and contraception.

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Musicians protest movie studios recording overseas

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 08:45

Hollywood has been dealing with the problem of runaway production for years.  A growing number of film and television productions are being lured away from Los Angeles by tax credits.

One group of show business employees is speaking out about it. The American Federation of Musicians recently held a protest outside the Los Angeles offices of Lionsgate, the studio responsible for, among other blockbusters, "The Hunger Games".  The musicians work in film scoring. They’re upset with Lionsgate for accepting millions in tax credits to film in the U.S., but then score those films overseas.

Marc Sazer is a violinist and a member of the American Federation of Musicians. He’s worked for decades in film and television. “The major studios have longstanding relationships with the American Federation of Musicians,” said Sazer. “Fox, Universal, Columbia, Paramount and Disney, when they produce domestically, they score their films with us.”

Lionsgate is not considered a major studio. Technically, it’s a mini-major studio. But Sazer and the other members of the musicians' union argue that Lionsgate is at the same level as the major studios. Last year it generated $2.7 billion in revenue, millions of which came in the form of tax credits.

“We’re trying to bring attention to the fact that companies are taking our tax dollars and then taking our jobs overseas, which depletes our social compact," Sazer said. "It also depletes our cultural equity, because it undermines the livelihoods and the sustainability of our musical culture.” Lionsgate did not respond to a request for an interview.

In an outdoor amphitheater in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pasadena Symphony is tuning up for a rehearsal. Hundreds of empty chairs face the stage. Peacocks outnumber audience members.

“We have about half of the orchestra on stage, some early birds, some will whisk in at the last minute,” said trombonist Andy Malloy. He’s worked in film and television since he got his first gig on "Laverne and Shirley".

Film and TV gigs used to make up 75 to 80 percent of Malloy’s income. “My guess, if there are 60 musicians here, easily 40 to 50 people do recording work as well," he said.

According to the union, total earnings of its members have fallen by half since 2007. During a recent protest, Malloy and his colleagues delivered a petition to Lionsgate headquarters. At the time, they singled out one film in particular, "Draft Day" starring Kevin Costner.

The score to "Draft Day" was recorded at a studio in Macedonia called F.A.M.E.’S. Laurent Koppitz, the founder of F.A.M.E.’S, is a musician himself, originally from France. He was working at a classical music record label in Paris when he visited Macedonia for the first time. “I discovered a country that was really interested in attracting investors and doing business,” said Koppitz.

Koppitz was able to get a loan, fix up a recording studio and audition more than 100 classical musicians. That was six years ago. Nearly all the jobs he gets are low-budget productions, accompaniment on pop albums, Bollywood films and video game music.

“Ninety-nine percent of what we do is independent projects,” Koppitz said. Some of them turn famous. 

Koppitz was surprised when he came across news reports that F.A.M.E.’S was taking jobs from American musicians. He says he can’t compete with the quality of studios in Los Angeles. And that was not his intention. Kopitz started F.A.M.E.’S to make live orchestras affordable to those with small budgets, who might otherwise use pre-recorded or electronic music.

So when a low-budget production hires his musicians, that, he says, is an example of the good aspect of globalization: more musicians get work and more productions have live music.

But if large studios hire him simply because he’s cheaper, then he says they are coming to Macedonia for the wrong reason. “When you go for the wrong reason, like 'Oh, it’s cheap,' it’s not very nice for anybody because it takes the job here which is a problem,” he said

That problem Koppitz said, is the bad aspect of globalization. 

Older Adults Are Fatter Than Ever, Increasing Their Risk Of Illness

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 08:25

There's good news and bad news about aging boomers, a Census Bureau report finds. They're drinking less and voting more, but they're also heavier, which could mean less independence later.

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European Court Upholds France's Burqa Ban

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 07:00

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that France's ban on face-covering veils was legitimate, and did not violate a Muslim woman's freedoms.

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Why don't we count all the unemployed?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 06:32

Lesley Perkins is a human resources management consultant who’s been unemployed for about 3 1/2 years.

“I feel forgotten and ignored by our society,” she says.

Perkins also feels ignored by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  It only counts you as unemployed if you’ve “actively looked for work” in the past four weeks.  But Perkins isn’t sure what that means.

“Is it actually filling out a job application or is it actually going to networking functions and trying to connect with people there?” she says.

I was confused, too, so I called Jim Walker, a Bureau of Labor Statistics economist.  He says the Bureau will count you if you send out a resume as you’re surfing websites.  Or hand someone a resume as you’re networking. People who aren’t so active in their job search aren’t counted in the official jobless numbers.  But the Bureau still keeps track of them.  They’re labeled the “marginally attached.”

“People who just say 'Well, I’m not working. I would want a job but I’m not looking right now,'” says Walker.

The Bureau gets its numbers by talking to real people. It surveys 60,000 households, asking people if they’re working or looking for a job.  Justin Wolfers, a labor economist at the University of Michigan, says part of the confusion is you can be counted as unemployed, even if you don’t get an unemployment check.

“One part of the government says you’re not unemployed in the sense that they’re not going to pay you benefits. But another part says 'No, no, we’re definitely going to count you as unemployed,'” he says.

Wolfers says the Bureau’s system isn’t perfect.  But it’s about the best we can hope for, because there is no easy way to measure unemployment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VA Offers Doctor's Appointment To Man Who Died In 2012

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 06:25

A Massachusetts woman got a letter saying that a Veterans Affairs hospital was ready to see her husband, a Vietnam veteran who died of a brain tumor nearly two years ago.

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Thousands Rally In Hong Kong To Call For Democratic Vote

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 05:16

Activists are threatening to blockade the city's financial district unless China allows a free and fair vote to elect Hong Kong's leader.

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Skimpier Health Plans Could Impose Big Out-Of-Pocket Costs

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 04:42

Insurers and some Democratic senators say people should have a cheaper option on the health exchanges. But those plans may leave people with painfully high copays and deductibles if they get sick.

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More workers get crammed into less space

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 04:00

More people have jobs than before the Great Recession started, but office workers are cramped into less space than before. A lot of office space went empty during the recession, but a report from the real-estate information company Reis shows that only about half of that space has filled back up. 

It’s normal for office space to come back more slowly than employment, partly because offices often shrink more slowly than the workforce too.

"As you go into a recesssion and companies start to lay off employees, often-times the size of their physical footprint can’t shrink in accordance with that," says Ryan Severino, an economist at Reis. "So there tends to be a little bit of a mismatch."    

In other words, when companies bring back workers, a lot of them already have a bunch of extra space to put those people.  

Even when companies don’t have extra space — say, they were able to get out of their old lease and take a smaller space — increasing the footprint comes after hiring the people, and not until the old space gets tight.

"When you start doubling-up that office space, and start hearing complaints, you’re going to start planning," says  Susan Wachter, a professor at the Wharton School of business. "But you need to know the people are on board, and that you’re gonna need that space. And then, that too takes time." Budgeting for a move, for example, doesn't happen overnight.

This recovery has seen even less pickup of office space than previous cycles. Wachter also notes that open layouts, which require less space per employee, have become more popular.

France's Former President Sarkozy Taken Into Custody

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 03:55

Suspicions about Nicolas Sarkozy's fundraising activities also touch on late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the heiress to the L'Oreal fortune.

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Israel Kills Man In Raid As Troops Seek Teens' Abductors

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 03:30

The operation was part of the search for two Palestinians suspected in the deaths of three Israeli teens whose bodies were found Monday.

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Asking Kids With Special Needs To Clear The Same Bar

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 03:07

An official pronouncement raises more questions than it answers.

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PODCAST: Shrinking office space

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 03:00

As the second half of 2014 gets underway, a look at the S&P 500 index. Plus, with the number of jobs recovering since the Great Recession, a look at why office space doesn't tend to increase at the same rate. Also, is the "sharing economy" all it's cracked up to be? With big money flowing through businesses like Airbnb and Lyft, not everyone is on as equal a playing field as promised.

When the 'sharing economy' doesn't really play fair

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 03:00

A "sharing economy" can be as simple as a neighborhood with a shared lawnmower, but companies with big cash flow – think ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, as well as room rental places like Airbnb – are increasingly considered part of this model.

Oakland, California-based reporter Susie Cagle writes of her experience attending "Share," a conference on the sharing economy sponsored by Airbnb, Lyft, and eBay. She left the conference thinking the word "sharing" is getting stretched completely out of shape.

In her article, "The Case Against Sharing: On access, scarcity, and trust," Cagle recognizes the opportunity in these peer-to-peer economies, but thinks larger businesses like Airbnb and Lyft should be treated as just that: a business.

Click the media player above to hear reporter Susie Cagle in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

IBM's Watson Is Out With Its Own Barbecue Sauce

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:55

The supercomputer first showed off its intellectual prowess on Jeopardy. Now after analyzing a massive number of recipes, Watson has come up with its own sauce.

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Facebook's psychology study under scrutiny

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:00

Facebook has been at the center of controversy in the tech world after it was revealed that the social network manipulated the feeds of its users to examine how they react to changes in the tone of their friends' posts. 

The main finding of the study, according to Karen North, professor of social media and psychology at USC, is that Human beings are social animals — People saw that their friends were posting positive or negative things, and leaned towards doing what their friends were doing. 

As for the motivations behind the study, improving Facebook's core business was likely the key. 

“This is probably a combination of how to get people to buy things but also how to drive up engagement with Facebook,” says North. 

She also noted that the mining of consumer data in such a manner is fairly common. The reaction here, she argues, might speak to the nature of the business Facebook is in. 

She adds, "This is nothing new, it's just that it feels a little more invasive here because it feels like it is infiltrating our private conversations."

The most popular crowd at the public library?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:00
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/library-users">View Survey</a>

Green cards pay for new hotels

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-01 02:00

A new hotel just opened in downtown Los Angeles, with most of the money to pay for it originating outside the country – 95 percent of the financing came from 320 immigrant investors from 14 countries.

The sleek, modern lobby is unusual because it serves two hotels in one building: a Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn.

General manager Erik Palmer says the two-in-one model appeals to investors.

“From an owners’ lens, it makes the hotel a lot more efficient. We have one front desk team, one housekeeping team and one engineering team," he says.

Almost all the financing came through what are called EB-5 visas, otherwise known as investor visas. In return for a $500,000 investment that creates at least ten jobs, foreigners get a green card.

One hotel investor – William Jeffcock – is a British citizen by way of Monaco.

“Because my home and residence was Monaco, there were very few paths which I would have qualified for. So the EB-5 really was the only way for me to come,” says Jeffcock.

He says his hotel investment was not primarily to buy a green card for the U.S.

“I hope to make money on this,” says Jeffcock. “I believe in the next two or three years I’ll be making 2 to 6 percent on my money.”

But other businesses using EB-5 money don’t always deliver what’s promised. In several states, the visa program has been used to defraud investors. Some observers dispute the number of jobs created.

Plus, there’s the issue of who collects the money. Even though the U.S. government is giving away the green cards, it’s the private sector that collects the half-million dollar payment.

“If you really want to create jobs, why not do it directly, by having the money come to the government? And then the government can decide how to allocate that to create jobs,” says John Vogel, who teaches at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Vogel says the government could use money from investment visas for hiring workers to repair our infrastructure or expand internet access; the kind of economic development that benefits more of society than new hotels.

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