National News

PODCAST: The nuance of inflation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 03:00

We have screens at the ready here to watch what happens when stock in the massive Chinese online commerce operation, Alibaba, starts trading in New York. Shares will start at $68, the top of the company's range. But while many investors are eagerly diving in, others are advising caution. Plus, as we've been hearing, the Scots have voted to stay with the United Kingdom, and this--among other things--has a bearing on interest rates. And as Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the surprising, sometimes delightful and sometimes destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century. Last week, we heard a classical definition of inflation from the Harvard professor who literally wrote the textbook definition. But price changes have many causes and can effect people with varying incomes quite differently. Today, we talk to Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Weekend Brunch: AliBaba's IPO and the Fed's new normal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 02:12

Venessa Wong from Bloomberg and Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson chat about the week's news. Click play above to hear them break down the Federal Reserve's latest decision and the AliBaba IPO.

Brunch reading list:

Bloomberg: 3 Photos That Help Explain the Frenzy Over Alibaba's IPO

Businessweek: I Used Alibaba to Make 280 Pairs of Brightly Colored Pants

CNBC: Fed will end QE next month, 'considerable time' remains

Washington Post: Federal Reserve details new exit strategy, keeps record-low rate




Want to sell a house? Head West. Want to buy? Go East.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 02:00

Online real estate site Zillow released a study on Friday that listed the markets for sellers and buyers in the United States. 

Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist said the lists show an east/west divide.  

Most of the best markets for sellers, says Humphries, are on the West Coast. Markets like San Jose, San Francisco and Seattle top the list. Most of the cities that favor buyers are in the east and midwest. 

"Markets like Providence, Cleveland and Philadelphia. And it’s not necessarily by historical standards that they’re bad markets," Humphries said. 

He said home prices in many of the buyers' markets haven’t risen as sharply, but that also means that when the market slows, home prices won’t crash as hard.

Kevin Hamilton knows all about seller’s markets. He’s with Red Oak Realty in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"You know a lot people think realtors are really excited about this hot market, and truthfully we’re not," he said. 

Hamilton said right now, buyers are offering way too much for houses. While responsible realtors advise against such irrational behavior, he said, when the market slows and prices crash, clients don’t remember.

"Everyone kinda came back and said, 'Why did you tell me to buy this?'" Hamilton said. "You know, well, if you looked back at that day, we didn’t."

Silicon Tally - Mo Money, Mo Facebook

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 02:00

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

This week, we're joined by Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code For America. Pahlka also recently served as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the United States Government.

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Why you'd pay more for a car with hand-crank windows

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 01:30

As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the weird, delightful and destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century.

But first, let's take a ride...back to 1989.

Back then, the cheapest Accord sedan had just 98-horsepower, hand-crank windows, no AC, and retailed for $11,770.

A commercial for the popular automobile posits that maybe one day, someone will build a better car than the Accord...maybe.



Since then, improvements have been made, and the Honda Accord is currently the best-selling car in America.

But how has the price changed? And when you adjust for inflation, is it more or less expensive than back in 1989?

We checked in with Joe Ciaccia, general manager of Honda Manhattan, to see how much the car will set you back with today's prices. And as for how it compares to its 25 year old counterpart, the answer might surprise you.

Click the media player above to hear more on the surprising affect inflation has had on the Honda Accord.

How NASA's New Spaceships Stack Up

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 00:20

Earlier this week, NASA awarded two contracts for new spaceships to commercial companies. Here's how they compare.

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Scientist IDs Bodies Of Migrants, Helping Families Find Closure

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 00:18

Lori Baker uses DNA samples to track down the loved ones of immigrants who died on their journeys. "I would love not to do this anymore, but I don't think I have it in me not to," she says.

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Congress Quietly Extends The Budget — Past Election Day, Anyway

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 00:15

Since the GOP retook the House, the chamber once brought the country to the brink of a debt default and once shut down the government. But in election years, including this one, there's no such drama.

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Some On Staten Island Opt For Buyout Of 'Houses That Don't Belong'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 00:13

As part of the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy, New York's plan is to buy and demolish hundreds of homes on Staten and Long islands and let nature return as a barrier to future storm surges.

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Voters In Scotland Reject Independence With Unprecedented Turnout

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 21:45

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence.

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In Scotland History Is Made... But At A Golf Club

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 15:56

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews voted to allow women for the first time in its 260 year history.

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In Sierra Leone, A Lockdown ... Or A Time To Reflect?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 14:41

Sierra Leoneans scramble for supplies as a three-day, countrywide lockdown approaches. International medical professionals doubt the move will do much to halt the spread of Ebola.

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Senate Approves Measure To Arm And Train Syrian Rebels

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 14:37

The measure, approved in rare bipartisan fashion by both chambers, is now headed to President Obama's desk.

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A Frightening Curve: How Fast Is The Ebola Outbreak Growing?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 14:00

Health leaders now say the Ebola epidemic is growing exponentially. That means, if nothing changes in the next few weeks, we could see at least 60,000 Ebola cases by the end of 2014.

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Look, Mom, I Finally Made It To Broadway!

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 13:52

NPR's Michel Martin will sit down with a panel of award-winning playwrights to ask about diversity in theater. Follow here or join us on Twitter on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, using #NPRMichel.

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TV Guide Network creates a POP

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 13:52

The TV Guide Network is breaking away from the magazine of the same name and rebranding itself as "POP."

The new network is set to launch early next year. Their new demographic? 

An 18 to 54 year old age range who are, "socially engaged and connected and who have a thirst for pop culture," according to the Hollywood Reporter. 

White House and colleges grapple with sexual assault

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 13:52

If you're in the business of higher education, the issue of sexual assault is on your radar.

The White House is expected to unveil a nationwide plan to address the issue Friday at the same time some 70 colleges and universities are under investigation for how they've handled sexual assault cases.

High-profile lawsuits are grabbing headlines and threatening reputations. As you may expect, all of this is getting the attention of college and university presidents and administrators. 

You don't have to look any farther than the University of California at Berkeley — one of the schools being investigated — to see that sexual violence is becoming a top concern.

This fall, the school made its sexual violence training mandatory and all but several hundred students showed up. Spokesperson Claire Holmes says the clock is ticking for the no-shows.

"If they do not complete the training by Oct. 1, we will put a hold on their registration for the spring semester," she says.

Schools around the nation have gotten the memo, says Terry Hartle, with the American Council on Education. It's certainly in university and colleges' long-term financial interest to toughen up their response to sexual assault, and Hartle says he's seen a dramatic rise in student, faculty and security training.

"That is clearly the most obvious, immediate action," he says. "It is also in many ways the easiest."

Finding ways to investigate and resolve these cases is a more complicated and difficult matter, Hartle says. There's pressure on colleges and universities to act because schools out of compliance with federal Title IX rules could lose funding for student aid.

Attorney Cari Simon, who represents victims of sexual assault, says there are businesses out there ready to offer quick fixes.

"We are seeing folks who call themselves trainers or experts who maybe haven't been around all that long saying 'Pay me this, and I'll get you in compliance.' But it's really about checking the box and not getting at the heart of the issue and changing rape culture," she says.

So, how will prospective students and their parents will know if a school is safe or not?

Diane Rosenfeld, who runs the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School, says people must be smart consumers and do some digging.

"See if there are dedicated resources to preventing campus sexual assault, look at statements the president has made [look at] whether the school has been sued or not," she says.

Campus sexual assault by the numbers

One in five

The big statistic here, touted by the White House task force on campus sexual assault and many lawmakers: one in five women will be sexually assaulted during her college years. That figure becomes even more concerning the portion of victims who report their attacks to police — 12 percent — and the way those numbers were found.


That's the number of respondents to the government's Campus Sexual Assault Study, where the "one in five" figure comes from. The Justice Department distributed web surveys to two major public universities and based their results on the 5,446 respondents, according to a PolitiFact analysis. That very small sample size doesn't invalidate the study's findings — which were consistent with other, wider-reaching studies — but shows just how hidden and difficult to track these crimes are.


In July, the Washington Post analyzed sexual assault reports at four-year colleges and universities nationwide from 2010 to 2012. According to their data, 480 schools reported no forcible sex offenses in those three years. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill told the Post those schools are more concerning than schools with many reported assaults, and she questions if or how they are encouraging victims to come forward.

Bezos wins a round in the billionaire space race

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 13:52

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors Inc. has been jockeying to get his Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX for short) some work helping NASA build new launch systems. Now he's been one-upped by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has his own spaceship enterprise: Blue Origin.

NASA’s existing supplier has announced that it will use Blue Origin’s technology in its next generation of launchers.

All of which raises a question: Is there money to be made here? Or is this just billionaires with unlimited funds for new toys?

First, there are a couple of big reasons to take on these kinds of projects. To start with, the launch technology we use now is 40 years old, says  Jim Bell, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State. It’s like the Atari 2600 of rockets.

"The existing generation of traditional engines are the Ataris of their time," he says, "and there’s a whole bunch of start-ups out there — Blue Origin being one and SpaceX being another — that are building our modern XBoxes."

Also, the rocket engines we’ve been using since the 1990s is Russian. Ever since tensions flared over Ukraine, that dependency on Russia has been making policy-makers pretty nervous.

There is money in space, but it's mostly in selling satellite services like TV and GPS, less so in the launch technology that Bezos and Musk are competing over.

"If you were looking for the very best money-making machine, I would probably not advise you to invest in starting your own launch company," says Carissa Christensen managing partner at the Tauri Group, a consultancy that specializes in space technology.

"Space is a little like the movie business. Nobody is in it by accident," she says. "Everyone desperately wants to be doing it. There are three people behind everybody who is making money at it, who would like to be involved the industry— and part of it is the allure of it. It’s fascinating."

As for startups looking to do next-generation space tech, Christensen says she’s seen generations of them. This one, which also includes Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, is different.

"The people who are starting these companies are not simply doing it to build the coolest rocket that they can," she says. "They are doing it to prove that you can make money in space. They are doing it with very deep pockets, they are doing it with business expertise from outside the space industry, and they are actually succeeding."

Both companies are private, but the SpaceX website describes the company as "profitable and cash-flow positive."

Blue Origin's "about" page does not mention profits, but refers to the company's mission as "a long-term effort, which we're pursuing incrementally, step-by-step."

A Coastal Paradise Confronts Its Watery Future

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 13:49

With rising seas, cities like Satellite Beach, Fla., are debating options: defend the shoreline to avoid destruction, or retreat, withdrawing homes and businesses from the water's edge.

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