National / International News

Yellen's big speech number two

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:27

What happened this week?

Fed Chair Janet Yellen soothed some nerves, that's what. Yellen said on Wednesday, in just her second public speech after succeeding Ben Bernanke, that the Federal Reserve will keep its key interest rate near zero for however long it takes to meet the central bank's target on employment and inflation.

"I'm relieved that she's worried about this because there is a lot of slackness in the labor market," said Felix Salmon from Reuters. "There's a huge number of people out there who should be working, and who aren't working, and who aren't necessarily picked up in the unemployment figures. And the fact that she's well aware of this relieves me, because I don't want her to start raising rates just because the unemployment rate goes down if the optimal number of people don't have jobs." 

"If you look at the history of previous financial crisis, usually it can decade before things really heal and before people get back to work and the economy recovers," said Catherine Rampell, from the Washington Post. "In comparison to other recessions in recent memory this feels like a really long drawn out recovery, but compared to previous recoveries following financial crisis, we're about on track." 

In regards to inflation overall, Salmon believes it has its pros and cons.

"Inflation works as a kind of grease to the economy. If you know that prices are gonna go up tomorrow, you spend money today. And you get excited about prices going up and you make more money in the future. It's weird but true that a small level of inflation is a really good thing for both economic growth and for employment."  

Rescue Workers Erect Memorial To Washington Mudslide Victims

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:02

Rescuers say they've recovered 39 bodies from the massive March 22 mudslide and are still searching for four others.

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Airbnb To Start Charging Hotel Taxes In A Handful Of Cities

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 13:01

Airbnb and other rental websites have made billions marketing existing housing to tourists, without hotel tax. Soon, Airbnb will start collecting tax in New York City, San Francisco and Portland, Ore.

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The employment problem of prime-age men

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:59

The U.S. economy might be said to have a ‘man problem.’ Over the past several decades, increasing numbers of men in their prime working years have stopped working, or even looking for work. Fewer men than women are pursuing higher education, which would allow them to find better-paying jobs. And technology is squeezing men with poor education levels and job skills out of blue-collar jobs altogether.

But now, as the job market and the industrial sector in particular, pick up, the problem may be easing—a bit.

The first few decades after World War II could be dubbed ‘the Golden Age of Guys.’ Almost all men in their prime working years—25 to 54 years old—were working. The percentage peaked at 96 percent in March 1953.

But by the mid-1970s, that percentage had fallen below 90 percent. Repeated recessions, the energy crisis, women entering the workforce, and the outsourcing of male-dominated manufacturing and other blue-collar work to developing countries with lower labor costs, all took their toll.

“When you see both job quantity and job quality on the wage side declining—the clear sign that there’s a serious problem here—you know that there’s a real contraction in labor demand facing this group,” says Jared Bernstein, who served as chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and is now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,

There was a brief respite to the long decline in the 2000s. Construction boomed during the housing bubble and absorbed many unskilled and semi-skilled men who no longer could find work in manufacturing. But the Great Recession erased those gains, and even more blue-collar jobs vanished. By late 2009, nearly 20 percent of prime-age men weren’t working. They were unemployed, on disability, or had become discouraged and given up even looking for a job.

“Once you’re out of the labor force it can be tough to get back in,” says Bernstein. “We’re talking about people who ought to be right in the heart of their earning capacity in their career. Way too many of these folks have just left the job market.”

But the economic recovery is several years old now, and jobs—including blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and construction—are being created again. The percentage of prime-age men who aren't employed fell below 17 percent in early 2014.

Bruce Chirre is 29, and has enrolled in an associate’s-degree program to study welding at Mount Hood Community College outside Portland, Oregon. He’s a high-school graduate, has three young children and a wife to support, and was unemployed for two years after being laid off from his job at 7-Eleven.

“It’s hard,” says Chirre. “Going to school, getting loans and all that.” Chirre works part-time as a janitor to pay the bills. Still, he says he’s hopeful about his prospects once he finishes the program later this year. “I’ve already talked to employers and they’re ready to hire,” he says.

Chirre’s welding instructor, Rick Walters, says job offers should be plentiful—in construction, bridge-and-road building, and other trades.

“We have folks who are my age getting into retirement age,” says Walters. “And there is going to be an incredible void of skilled workers. We simply can’t take our infrastructure and export it to China to be welded.” He says welders start right out of community college at around $14/hour. On union jobs, he says, experienced welders can make as much as $45/hour to $65/hour.

Down the hall at the community college is the automotive shop, where a group of students are breaking down and reassembling automatic transmissions. It’s bright, clean, and quieter than in the welding class.

Automotive instructor Steve Michner says all his students already have jobs—that’s how much demand there is for skilled workers. “And then when they graduate all they have to do is keep that position by being a good worker,” he says. Pay in jobs at auto dealerships or auto repair shops can ultimately rise to $50,000 a year or more, he says.

Student Ben Brown is 25. He was working construction after graduating high school, but the work dried up in the recession.

“So I was working at Walgreens and kind of sitting around and nothing was going on in my life, and I’d always intended to do this program out of high school but I was kind of scared,” says Brown. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, so I was like ‘I’ve got to get doing something because I’m not going to be able to make any money.'”

But there are still big hurdles facing the demographic of prime-age men who don't have any higher education, or even a high-school diploma, says Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

“Some of these folks were never in that skilled of a job to begin with,” says Van Horn. “They may have low rates of literacy. And for them to get into some of these jobs that require training is difficult.”

Foreign doctor 'safety fears' - front pages

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:56
Some papers focus on suggestions foreign-trained doctors are less skilled than British counterparts, while others report on a child said to have caught meningitis from a cat.

Nigeria schoolgirls 'still missing'

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:53
Nigeria's military rows back on an earlier statement that most of the teenage girls abducted by suspected Islamist militants had been freed.

One Scientist's Quest To Vanquish Epileptic Seizures

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:37

Ivan Soltesz studies epilepsy in mice, but says children with chronic seizures are his inspiration. He's closing in on a way to quell the seizures with light — and without drugs' side effects.

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Why great companies aren't so great online

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:34

Lists like, "Best Places To Work," or "Top 10 Coolest Companies," usually focus on salaries, or perks like stock options, wellness programs, or a great cafeteria.

But even those details sometimes don't tell you what the culture is like inside a company and what employees lives are like. 

Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing, looked at the LinkedIn profiles of 250 people who worked at celebrated companies, and found that 80 percent of them had nothing to say about the places they worked.

“I’ve been watching this trend on social media, where employees are out there, they’re looking each other up, they’re engaging online the same way we would engage at a bar, you know ‘Hey, what’s real? What’s going on?’ And what I didn’t see is, I didn’t see companies adapting to that. I saw them using the same old broadcast channels to get their message out. So that disconnect is what i wanted to explore,” Seiden says.

“Once upon a time, if a company wanted to speak to the world, they would have to buy advertising," Seiden says.T"hey would have to have a press release get picked up by journalists and carried out through a broadcast medium. Now, because of social media, we all broadcast.”

Read Jason Seiden's thoughts on why employees are silent about their companies on LinkedIn

US 'delays' Keystone XL decision

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:20
The US state department gives federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL oil pipeline before determining whether to issue a permit.

Obama signs UN envoy visa ban law

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:19
President Barack Obama signs into law a measure that would bar entry to any UN ambassador whom the US says has engaged in "terrorist activity".

Disaster On Everest Marks Deadliest Day In Mountain's History

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:08

More than 13 Nepalese climbers died while preparing a route on Mount Everest for Western climbers. Grayson Schaffer of Outside Magazine explains that local porters and guides bear the brunt of the danger on these extreme climbs.

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Pipeline Put Off, As Keystone Review Is Indefinitely Extended

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:08

It looks as though the "comment period" for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project will be extended, delaying a decision past the November elections.

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Simmonds qualifies for IPC Euros

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-18 12:00
Ellie Simmonds, Stephanie Slater and Amy Marren qualify for the European Championships at the British Para-Swimming meet.

As beef and pork prices rise, demand tastes like chicken

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:58

With the pork industry saddled with a bad case of pig flu, and the beef industry suffering a drought, right now would be a great time to be a chicken farmer.

In the wake of rising beef and pork prices, chicken is now the cheapest protein on the market. Chicken farmers anticipate earning the most in a year since 1996, even accounting for a drop in farm income due to crop surpluses. Demand for poultry has gone up as a result. So much, in fact, that chicken farmers haven't been able to keep up with the increased demand -- and one farmer is struggling to keep up.

"We haven't run out of chickens, but we are sold out, says Ed Fryar, CEO of Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers, Arkansas. "The demand has outstripped the available supply for this year."

Fryar goes through approximately 540,000 birds per week, which he says can take anywhere from four to nine weeks to reach market weight. While that sounds fast, increasing production to keep up with increased demand would take significantly longer--about a year and a half.

And that still doesn't change the fact that, for now,  Fryar can't sell what he doesn't have.

"When you're sold out, if you've got a good customer and they order five percent or ten percent more than they normally take, you don't have the birds," he said. "You don't have the meat to send them, and you'd hate to say no to a customer."

As beef and pork prices rise, demand tastes like chicken

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:58

With the pork industry saddled with a bad case of pig flu, and the beef industry suffering a drought, right now would be a great time to be a chicken farmer.

In the wake of rising beef and pork prices, chicken is now the cheapest protein on the market. Chicken farmers anticipate earning the most in a year since 1996, even accounting for a drop in farm income due to crop surpluses. Demand for poultry has gone up as a result. So much, in fact, that chicken farmers haven't been able to keep up with the increased demand -- and one farmer is struggling to keep up.

"We haven't run out of chickens, but we are sold out, says Ed Fryar, CEO of Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers, Arkansas. "The demand has outstripped the available supply for this year."

Fryar goes through approximately 540,000 birds per week, which he says can take anywhere from four to nine weeks to reach market weight. While that sounds fast, increasing production to keep up with increased demand would take significantly longer--about a year and a half.

And that still doesn't change the fact that, for now,  Fryar can't sell what he doesn't have.

"When you're sold out, if you've got a good customer and they order five percent or ten percent more than they normally take, you don't have the birds," he said. "You don't have the meat to send them, and you'd hate to say no to a customer."

Why you should budget, even if you're broke

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:53

We often talk about the importance of creating a budget: Figuring out your monthly income, expenses, and what you want to set aside for retirement, emergencies and fun.

But if you don't have a lot of money coming in, the whole exercise can feel overwhelming. Or worse, pointless. How do you budget, when you're broke?

Kristin Wong, personal finance blogger, wrote a guide for broke budgeting on the website Lifehacker

First: Assess Your Financial Situation

If you have more money going out than coming in, here's what your financial plan boils down to: spend less and/or earn more. To figure out how to do this, first take an assessment of your income and expenses. This will help you develop a reasonable and realistic budget.

Have broke budgeting tips of your own? Leave them in the comments or tweet them to @LiveMoney.

Instagram exposes your real friends

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:49

Instagram angered a number of its most loyal users by revealing the true identity of their friends. It happened on Wednesday, when the photo sharing app announced it would be removing any and all deactivated and spam accounts.

"After receiving feedback from members in the Instagram community, we recently fixed an issue that incorrectly included inactive accounts in follower/following lists," a spokesman said in a statement to the tech news site Recode.

The company made a similar move back in 2012, due to backlash over an increase in instagram spammers. But in a change of events, this time users took to Twitter and social media to express their annoyance with the new removal tactics by revealing just how many spammers were following them. 

Some users started a hashtag campaign called the #SaveMyInstagram2014.

Others questioned what would happen if Twitter were to perform the same clean up.

While many were displeased with their sudden decrease in followers, Instagram says it believes users will benefit from the change.

"We believe this will provide a more authentic experience and genuinely reflect people who are actually engaging with each other’s content."

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Leaflets Given To Donetsk Jews Made Waves Worldwide, But Not In Donetsk

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:49

The story of fliers ordering Jews to register with the separatists stoked fears of anti-Semitism. But Jews in the Ukrainian town say the orders aren't real and were intended as political provocation.

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Like Ham? There's A Festival For That In French Basque Country

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:49

The port town of Bayonne in France's Basque region is known for its colorful food and culture. And since 1464, its residents have celebrated the remarkable, local cured ham at the springtime Ham Fair.

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British teenager killed in Syria

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-18 11:41
A British teenager said to have "died in battle" fighting with anti-government forces in Syria, is described as a "martyr" by his father.

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