National / International News

Tabasco And Beer-Flavored: Not Your Easter Bunny's Jelly Beans

NPR News - 7 hours 10 min ago

On the eve of Easter and National Jelly Bean Day, let us probe the mysterious origins and unexpected ascendency of the humble candy. And to celebrate, we've sampled Jelly Belly's newest flavors.

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Chelsea Clinton announces pregnancy

BBC - 7 hours 11 min ago
The daughter of former US President Bill Clinton and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces she is pregnant with her first child.

Obama's Favorite County — At Least When It Comes To Giving Speeches

NPR News - 7 hours 29 min ago

The president has visited Prince George's County, Md., four times this year. It is the most affluent county with an African-American majority. It also happens to be very close to the White House.

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Dowie gives Liverpool winning start

BBC - 7 hours 30 min ago
Natasha Dowie's goal gives Super League champions Liverpool a winning start to their title defence against Manchester City.

Deal struck to calm Ukraine crisis

BBC - 7 hours 42 min ago
Russia, Ukraine, the US and the European Union say all sides have agreed to steps to "de-escalate" the crisis in eastern Ukraine at talks in Geneva.

Deadly attack on South Sudan UN base

BBC - 7 hours 46 min ago
Dozens of civilians sheltering in a UN base in the South Sudan city of Bor have been killed in an attack by armed youths, the UN says.

Digging into the 8 million ACA signups

Eight million Americans have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said at a White House briefing Thursday, a figure that surpassed the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's initial projection of 7 million.

Over the past six weeks some 3.7 million people signed up for insurance, according to the White House, and 28 percent of those who got insurance via the federal exchange were in the 18-34 age range, a figure of great interest to the insurance industry. Conventional wisdom is that younger people tend to be healthier (and cheaper to insurer) than older adults. The corollary is the healthier the risk pool in 2014, the less premium prices rise in 2015.

Obama said "we have a strong, good story to tell" and then went on the offensive , adding that 5.7 million Americans have been locked out of the run on insurance through Medicaid expansion because 24 states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs.

A more complete report on enrollment numbers is expected next week. It's important to note that not all of consumers who sign up for insurance will actually purchase insurance, so it's likely the 8 million number will drop. What was interesting – and perhaps surprising – was that millions of Americans flocked to the federal and state exchanges at the 11th hour. It suggests that there is a healthy interest in having health insurance. That interest is only expected to grow.

Kelpies lit up for launch event

BBC - 7 hours 49 min ago
The Kelpies, a massive new art installation overlooking the M9 near Falkirk, are lit up as part of a pyrotechnic launch event.

Labour hires Obama poll guru Axelrod

BBC - 8 hours 1 min ago
David Axelrod, the strategist who masterminded Barack Obama's presidential victories, will be a key adviser on Ed Miliband's 2015 general election campaign, the Labour Party says.

Mata backs Moyes to revive Man Utd

BBC - 8 hours 2 min ago
Record buy Juan Mata is confident Manchester United will become a force under David Moyes with the addition of new signings.

Power cut due to 'transient fault'

BBC - 8 hours 12 min ago
The mass power outage which affected more than 200,000 homes across the Highlands and Islands was caused by a "transient fault", according to the Scottish government.

In fast food burgers, geography is key

Sonic is America’s fourth biggest burger chain, a fact that might surprise you if you live outside of the South. Sonic’s are located mostly around Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi.

There are about 3,500 Sonic locations. But the company plans on opening 1,000 more locations over the next decade. “With this move, we see Sonic entering that arena of largest national players and leaving behind those regional players,” says Patrick Lenow, a spokesperson for Sonic, which is known for reviving the classic American drive-in. Food is ordered through an intercom and delivered to your car, often by servers on roller skates.

A graphic created by Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed shows the concentration of fast-food burger chains around the country. (Courtesy of Stephen Von Worley/Data Pointed)

“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” says Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”

That may explain why it’s focusing much of its expansion in California. “When I think of one of the most successful burger chains in America, I think of In-N-Out Burger, which originated in California as a drive-in,” says Darren Tristano, a foodservice concept & menu expert with Technomic.

Another way Sonic differentiates itself from its competitors is by emphasizing its non-burger menu items, like the more than a million different soda flavors it offers. “They also sell hot dogs that are very regionalized in terms of flavor and have items like tater-tots on the menu,” Tristano says.

So, if you don’t live in the South, and you get a late night craving for chocolate-pineapple soda and tater tots delivered on roller skates, you may soon be able to satisfy it.

By Shea Huffman and Gina Martinez /Marketplace

The data for the graphic above was provided by a Marketforce Information survey on American's favorite burger chain by region:

Courtesy of Marketforce Information

Weibo shares surge on US debut

BBC - 8 hours 21 min ago
Shares in China's largest Twitter-like service, Weibo, went up by almost 20% on the first day of its listing in the US, despite a disappointing start.

Chelsea Clinton Says She's Pregnant

NPR News - 8 hours 24 min ago

The 34-year-old daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are "very excited."

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'Consent is a fiction' in consumer contracts

After Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Professor Imre Szalai's wife gave birth, the Szalais were asked to sign an arbitration clause in the delivery room. That clause stipulated that they would have to settle any disputes with the hospital through arbitration, not in court. 

Because of his professional training, and because he has written a book on the history of arbitration, "Outsourcing Justice: The Rise of Modern Arbitration Laws in America," Szalai had his wife sign the form – his thinking being that, because she’d just gone through labor, a judge evaluating the agreement later would probably find that she was not in a clear state of mind at that time.

Arbitration started out as a business-to-business thing. During prohibition, courts were swamped, and it was a way to clear cases. Since a 2011 Supreme Court decision, arbitration has gained traction as a way for businesses to avoid lawsuits, as The New York Times noted Thursday. And when it comes to how companies are protecting themselves now, "You have to admit that, when it comes to consumer contracts, consent is a fiction," says Brian Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt. 

To wit:

  • From the terms of use at Netflix: “If you are a Netflix member in the United States (including its possessions and territories), you and Netflix agree that any dispute, claim or controversy arising out of or relating in any way to the Netflix service, these Terms of Use and this Arbitration Agreement, shall be determined by binding arbitration or in small claims court.” And, in all caps: “YOU AND NETFLIX AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN YOUR OR ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING.”
  • Amazon.com's agreement, which says “Any dispute or claim relating in any way to your use of any Amazon Service, or to any products or services sold or distributed by Amazon or through Amazon.com will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court.” And, RE: class actions: “We each agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class, consolidated or representative action.”
  • There's Electronic Arts ("By accepting these terms, you and EA expressly waive the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action.”) and StubHub: "You and StubHub each agree that any and all disputes or claims that have arisen or may arise between you and StubHub relating in any way to or arising out of this or previous versions of the User Agreement, your use of or access to StubHub's Site or Services, or any tickets or related passes sold or purchased through StubHub's Site or Services shall be resolved exclusively through final and binding arbitration, rather than in court, except that you may assert claims in small claims court, if your claims qualify."

For more examples, you can visit the “Forced Arbitration Rogues Gallery,” which the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has created.  

The market's great expectations

Goldman Sachs on Thursday told the world its profits fell 11 percent. Yet the bank's stock rose on the news. It may sound odd, but it's perfectly logical on Wall Street. The markets expected Goldman to do even worse, so when the news wasn't as bad as predicted, the stock moved up.

Fine tuning market expectations is important for public companies. It's a lot like a kid who blows a test. It's better to tell mom and dad before the report card comes. If your parents are both accounting professors, they would call that giving guidance.

"If my daughter has a test that's particularly difficult, we hear about it beforehand," says James Myers.

He and his wife Linda Myers study these issues at University of Arkansas. They have two kids and are both quick to say both are good students. But if they ever hit a bump, they say it's wise to dial down their expectations before the report card arrives.

Companies can do the same thing ahead of their own report cards, the quarterly earnings reports. Providing guidance about good or bad times at the company can help keep the stock price under control when the final news comes.

Or, another example, by way of Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch and his Whiteboard:

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Mark Garrison: It’s actually pretty simple, just an expectations game. Amy Hutton is a professor at Boston College’s business school.

Amy Hutton: When Goldman announces their earnings, even if they’re down from last quarter or last year, if they’re higher than the expectation built into the stock price, the stock price is gonna go up.

Bad news can be perversely good, as long as Wall Street expected worse. So it’s important for companies to fine tune those investor expectations. It’s a lot like a kid who blows a test. It’s better to tell the parents before the report card comes. If your parents are both accounting professors, they call that giving guidance.

James Myers: If my daughter has a test that’s particularly difficult, we hear about it beforehand.

James Myers and his wife Linda study these investment issues at University of Arkansas. They say their kids make good grades and rarely need to, but sometimes a warning is wise.

Linda Myers: Because our expectations are a little bit lower, then we wouldn’t be as concerned about the low grade and I think it’s a pretty good analogy of what managers might do.

University of Michigan accounting professor Greg Miller says company guidance can work the same way. Just like parents, investors don’t like surprises.

Greg Miller: If you surprise people, they get madder. And so if there’s something coming that people are gonna be unhappy about, I’d rather own up to it now and let them know because they’re gonna be mad at me either way about the bad news.

Companies try to manage Wall Street’s expectations, to make sure a bad earnings report doesn’t torpedo the stock price. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

When Being Pregnant Also Means Being Out Of A Job

NPR News - 8 hours 28 min ago

Thirty-six years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers still have very different interpretations of what they're required to do to accommodate expectant mothers.

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Hull KR 21-20 Hull FC

BBC - 8 hours 28 min ago
Hull FC's Graeme Horne runs in two tries against his former club before a Craig Hall drop-goal edges a superb derby.

French far-right 'opens arms' to UKIP

BBC - 8 hours 33 min ago
The leader of the right-wing Front National party in France says she would welcome collaboration with UKIP in fighting against the EU "with open arms".

Breakthrough in leukaemia treatment

BBC - 8 hours 34 min ago
Scientists at Cardiff University say they have made a significant breakthrough in the treatment of the most common form of leukaemia.

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