National / International News
The Federal Reserve meets Tuesday for two days, and many market watchers expect more clues about when the central bank will raise interest rates.
But the Producer Price Index released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday suggests that there might not be much inflation to combat. It dropped unexpectedly by 0.5 percent, which could mean that interest rates aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Marketplace host David Gura checked in with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson to get the latest on this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference.
“Brands come down here to gain visibility among a really large media audience: actors, venture capitalists, music fans,” Johnson says.
It makes sense that established brands — as well as startups — would want to make an impression at SxSW.
“There have been some big things launched here, like Twitter many years back – now a public company with a market cap of $30 billion or thereabouts,” says Johnson.
According to Johnson, the interactive portion of SxSW is really about “an exchange of ideas.”
What are some of the prominent topics at this year’s SxSW Interactive? Johnson says privacy and virtual reality are getting a lot of attention. And a robot petting zoo.
“But one big idea this year is bionics. And more broadly, when and how our bodies will actually merge with technology,” says Johnson.
Hugh Herr of MIT’s Media Lab Center for Extreme Bionics, presented at SXSW as part of the IEEE's "The Future of Identity" series, and wore what he called the "world’s first powered ankle foot prosthesis."
Johnson says, consumers won’t necessarily see any of the bionics at this year’s SxSW any time soon. But that doesn’t mean big companies aren’t listening to conversations about the future of bionics.
“The more those discussions happen they get closer to reality,” Johnson says.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are locked in a public argument with Elton John over their recent remarks condemning in vitro fertilization and saying same-sex couples shouldn't raise children.
The quick rise of measles infections in the wake of cases reported among Disneyland visitors underscores how even a small dip in vaccination rates can allow the virus to spread.
The Federal Trade Commission has announced changes to the way it challenges mergers it believes are anti-competitive or bad for consumers. The new rules come as the commission faces criticism from Republican lawmakers, some of whom are pitching legislation that would press the FTC to rely on federal courts instead of its own in-house system.
Under its old procedures, when the FTC views a merger as anti-competitive, it typically goes down two different paths: It asks a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction -- which essentially freezes the merger-- while it also holds a trial in its own in-house administrative court system.
Under the new rules, if the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction is denied, merging parties can request to withdraw from the administrative proceeding -- a request which will now be automatically granted. This allows the parties to be able talk to the commission, which they can't do when the case is ongoing, and gives them the opportunity to try to settle or convince the commissioners to abandon the administrative case altogether. However, the FTC retains the option to re-start administrative proceeding if it believes it's in the public's interest.
This approach means companies will get a faster resolution to their cases, says John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School.
“This is a big victory for the corporate community,” he explains. “Mergers need to be resolved in the near term. If they stretch on for a year without being resolved, many of the benefits are lost.”
Facebook has a new set of "community standards" — the rules governing what you can and cannot do on the platform. It's nearly three times as long as the previous version thanks to more detail about, for example, what kind of nude photos are acceptable.
Rebecca MacKinnon, director of the New America Foundation's Ranking Digital Rights project, says it's in part a reaction to criticism that Facebook has clamped down too much on free speech, from photographs to pseudonyms of anonymous protesters.
Twitter, in contrast, has taken flak for being too permissive of bullying.
"Twitter is a much easier place to kind of drop in, drop a little bomb, and go away," says Fatemeh Khatibloo, analyst at Forrester.
Jonathon Morgan, a data scientist who co-authored a report on the use of Twitter by the terrorist group ISIS, says the difference between the two social networks' approach to free speech is more about being different products than having different philosophies.
If you ever find yourself on the "Jeopardy" stage in front of Alex Trebek and you're totally stumped, what's your best Hail Mary guess?
Well, someone has gone through every Jeopardy episode between 1984 and 2012, He looked at close to 200,000 clues and found that one has been the answer, or question in this case, 216 times.
The answer is, "What is China?"
Based on this analysis: You'd be wise to "focus on science, literature, history, and geography." And the most common final Jeopardy category, at least recently, is "word origins."
Many of the boxes, bags and bottles that contain our edibles were once groundbreaking —both in their design and in how they changed our perception of what's inside. Designers tell us their favorites.
Nearly 3 inches fell Sunday night in Boston — making this winter the city's snowiest ever.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang said this week the government is serious about cutting smog and will impose harsher fines on polluters. Keqiang's comments came after the online release this month of a groundbreaking — at least, for China — documentary on the country’s air pollution crisis, called “Under the Dome” (video).
The country’s environment minister compared it to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the book that paved the way for the U.S. environmental movement, but Chinese officials have been silent on the film since — and it’s even been taken offline in the country, presumably by government censors.
Still, China observers say this may be the country’s “Silent Spring” moment.
“The Chinese public has come to believe they have a right to a clean environment,” says Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center.
Like the early U.S. anti-air pollution movement, mothers worried about pollution's health effects have initiated much of the dissent, and big polluting industries are resisting change. Change in China is complicated by the fact that powerful local governments have little incentive to curb the dirty industries that fuel their economies, and often try to skirt the central government’s regulations.