National / International News

PODCAST: Laying transatlantic sea cables

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-08 03:00

We often have to go through security to get into work, but in some occupations this takes a while. Question: Are workers entitled to get paid for time spent doing the required screening? The issue is before the Supreme Court this morning. And the Federal Reserve reported yesterday that while credit card borrowing fell in August, consumers borrowed more through car loans and student loans, driving borrowing up overall. The burden of student loans on young people, age 20 through 29, is much heavier than it was for that age group a decade ago. Plus, the private company Space X with entrepreneur Elon Musk at the helm is spending this fall pushing for clearance to compete for satellite launching contracts. Now it's Boeing and Lockheed who get a lot of support from Russia for the rockets. But when it comes to communications, satellites are not the only way to go. Bjarni Thovardarson is CEO of a company called Hibernia Networks. As we speak, he's got a huge infrastructure project underway to link New York and London via Nova Scotia that's both cutting-edge and and old-school at the same time. 

Mental health: A start of a long journey?

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-08 02:37
Does Nick Clegg's speech mark the start of a long journey

VIDEO: The 'Harry Potter' password

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-08 02:07
A Silicon Valley start-up company has developed a way of replacing passwords by allowing users to create their own unique "air signature".

The heavy burden of student loans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-08 02:00

According to a new report from TransUnion, the burden of student loans on young people, ages 20 through 29, is much heavier than it was for that age group a decade ago. Charlie Wise, a vice president at TransUnion, looks at what is called the “consumer loan wallet” – how debt shakes out.

“Certainly, that student loan piece is a much, much larger share of that overall wallet,” he says. “In fact, it has nearly tripled between 2005 and 2014.”

On average, a twentysomething today has about $25,000 in student loan debt. That is up about $10,000 from 2005. Older borrowers are also carrying more student loan debt, in part because they co-signed loans with kids and grandkids.

Mortgages are down, as a percentage of young American’s debt. “If you were to look at that as a graphic, a bar chart, you would essentially see that the decline in mortgages is almost exactly matched by the increase in the student loan piece,” Wise explains.

There are several reasons for that. According to Brent Ambrose, the Smeal Professor of Risk Management at Penn State University, “lenders have been tightening underwriting standards; so, it is more difficult to get a mortgage now.”

Today’s twentysomethings may have learned a thing or two from the downturn. Less of their debt is credit card debt.

A farmers market at your front door

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-08 02:00

Rob Spiro is the co-founder of Good Eggs, a Brooklyn startup that brings the local farmers market to your front door.

In order to deal with the demands of an inherently unpredictable food environment, the company is putting together a software engineering team that not only builds a website where you can shop for food, but sophisticated logistic systems throughout its locations.

Good Eggs is currently providing services to Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and the San Francisco Bay Area. And as Spiro points out, "If you look at the market in any given city, the inventory is 100% different." Which is why the company has designed small "Foodhubs," each one with their own unique supply chain.

Being able to centralize activity will help local farmers compete with industry giants. Spiro says the ultimate goal is to have 1,000 Foodhub's located around the world, serving 10,000 food producers, and millions of customers.

Click the media player above to hear Rob Spiro in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

Stock buybacks could be good for investors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-08 02:00

The financial press has been sounding alarms over a trend toward more buybacks of stock by big, publicly traded companies. Stories in the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and now Bloomberg have warned that corporations may be buying back too much stock with an eye to pushing up the price, at the expense of investment in their businesses. 

Michael Mauboussin, head of global financial strategies for Credit Suisse, takes a different view. He doesn’t think more buybacks means less investment.

"When you buy back stock, it’s not like the money disappears," he says. "It’s going back to investors, who themselves are re-investing it."   

So even if the company isn’t investing in its own business, shareholders can invest in somebody else’s.

That sounds like a great idea to Aswath Damodaran, who teaches corporate finance at NYU’s Stern School of Business. When he looks at the biggest companies buying back the most stock—companies like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IBM—he sees a pattern.

"I mean you look at that list," he says, "and every single one of them, you look at the last decade, have a history of destroying value— of investing in things where they have nothing to show for it 5 years out, 10 years out.  I look at that list, and I say: Thank God for buybacks."

In other words, if a company doesn’t have great ideas to invest in these days, then giving money back to shareholders could be the right thing to do. And the market may thank it with a higher stock price.

Microscope work wins Nobel Prize

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-08 01:57
Nobel Prize for chemistry is awarded to three scientists for their work on boosting the resolution of microscopes.

Syria declares new chemical sites

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-08 01:47
The UN Security Council says Syria has revealed for the first time the existence of four more chemical weapons research and production facilities.

Saudi outrage over a female football fan

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-08 01:31
The woman abused for cheering her team