National / International News

Amazon and the publisher

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:02

Publisher Hachette, and some of its authors, are complaining that Amazon is cutting them out. Amazon and Hachette are in the middle of negotiations over pricing. As a negotiating tactic, Amazon allegedly is listing Hachette’s books as unavailable, delaying shipping, and advertising similar books at lower prices. 

“I can see on the page that Amazon is trying to tell people to buy other books at lower prices elsewhere and that my book won’t ship,” says writer and illustrator Nina Laden.  Laden’s book, “Once Upon a Memory” sank precipitously in the book rankings as a result, she contends.  “I find myself caught in the middle.”

Laden’s complaint belies a not uncommon concern over Amazon’s dominance of the book business. Amazon controls more than a third of the book business in the United States, but it’s far from a monopoly, says Gerry Guttman, a publishing consultant with Lexicon Group. “In fact, what they would say is all they’re doing is trying to get the books to consumers at the cheapest possible rate.”

In the long run, Amazon promises more returns for authors, according to best-selling author Joe Konrath. 

“In the past publishing has had as much power as amazon and they were incredibly irresponsible with that power,” says Konrath.  “Amazon is keeping prices low, they’re giving authors much better rates than any publisher in history ever has – 70 percent compared to 12.5 percent.”

Konrath left Hachette to publish through Amazon. He says authors upset with Amazon’s treatment of the publisher have the option to switch. 

It’s not clear, however, whether there is a single winner for consumers. “The outcome of this dispute, even if it in the short run leads to higher prices or contract terms that prevent Amazon from discounting, that’s not so bad for consumers,” says Geoffrey Manne, director of the International Center for Law and Economics. “Consumers don’t want to pay high prices – but if it maintains profit margins allowing companies to enter into the market” and compete, “those things are good for consumers.” Amazon wants lower prices now, but perhaps slightly higher prices would invite companies such as Apple to compete with Amazon, bringing lower prices later.

Regardless of what, ultimately, will benefit consumers most, “It’s a fight over margins. Both publishers on the one hand and Amazon on the other are struggling for profits right now.”

But in the short term, from the perspective of the affected authors, it’s like the Kenyan phrase, “when elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers.”

Hewlett-Packard's innovation trend flattened long ago

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:01

Hewlett Packard helped create Silicon Valley. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the company out of a garage in Palo Alto in 1939, and innovated like crazy for decades. But the company hasn’t been in the innovation business for quite some time, and it’s had a rocky 15 years. CEO Meg Whitman announced up to 16,000 layoffs Friday— bringing the total for this round to 50,000. And this is the sixth or seventh round of cuts since 2002.

Tech writer George Anders wrote the book on HP—Perfect Enough, which looked at the company’s efforts to reinvent itself in the late 1990s— after its work in innovation was over.

Hewlett-Packard’s last great innovation came about 30 years ago, says Anders, when it introduced the inkjet printer and the laser printer. "And that started as a small, stumbling little business with low-quality products, and it just kept getting better and better and more competitive."

After that, the company was too focused on looking for monster hits to tinker around with the little innovations that had made the company great. "At the boardroom level," says Anders, "HP was always thinking, 'Where’s the next printing business?'”

A series of CEOs came and went. HP bought companies and cut workers. A 2008 layoff made at least one list of all-time biggest mass firings. This round of cuts, which started in 2012, is twice as big.

However, tech analysts say the company has a future. For one thing: It’s now the old dinosaur — HP’s major revenue comes from serving giant corporate clients — and that comes with advantages. "The case for legacy companies is that they have client relationships, they have client trust," says Jim Kelleher, a tech analyst with Argus Research. He says the core business HP is now in — managing data — is growing.

Even though that business is threatened by cloud computing, HP has time to make a transition, says Brent Bracelin from Pacific Crest Securities. "That $110 billion billion dollars of infrastructure that they sell annually doesn’t move to the cloud overnight," he says.

Hewlett-Packard's innovation trend flatened long ago

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:01

Hewlett Packard helped create Silicon Valley. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the company out of a garage in Palo Alto in 1939, and innovated like crazy for decades. But the company hasn’t been in the innovation business for quite some time, and it’s had a rocky 15 years. CEO Meg Whitman announced up to 16,000 layoffs Friday— bringing the total for this round to 50,000. And this is the sixth or seventh round of cuts since 2002.

Tech writer George Anders wrote the book on HP—Perfect Enough, which looked at the company’s efforts to reinvent itself in the late 1990s— after its work in innovation was over.

Hewlett-Packard’s last great innovation came about 30 years ago, says Anders, when it introduced the inkjet printer and the laser printer. "And that started as a small, stumbling little business with low-quality products, and it just kept getting better and better and more competitive."

After that, the company was too focused on looking for monster hits to tinker around with the little innovations that had made the company great. "At the boardroom level," says Anders, "HP was always thinking, 'Where’s the next printing business?'”

A series of CEOs came and went. HP bought companies and cut workers. A 2008 layoff made at least one list of all-time biggest mass firings. This round of cuts, which started in 2012, is twice as big.

However, tech analysts say the company has a future. For one thing: It’s now the old dinosaur — HP’s major revenue comes from serving giant corporate clients — and that comes with advantages. "The case for legacy companies is that they have client relationships, they have client trust," says Jim Kelleher, a tech analyst with Argus Research. He says the core business HP is now in — managing data — is growing.

Even though that business is threatened by cloud computing, HP has time to make a transition, says Brent Bracelin from Pacific Crest Securities. "That $110 billion billion dollars of infrastructure that they sell annually doesn’t move to the cloud overnight," he says.

McCrea 'must quit' amid sex inquiry

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:45
The deputy leader of NI21 calls for his party leader to step aside while allegations of sexual impropriety against a young woman are investigated.

Organic Cat Litter Chief Suspect In Nuclear Waste Accident

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:24

The release of plutonium at a New Mexico nuclear dump may have been caused by a bad purchase at the pet shop.

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Parents' legal win on nursery cuts

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:23
Parents campaigning against cuts to nursery provision in Rhondda Cynon Taf win the latest stage of their battle at the High Court in London.

Hospital services shake-up supported

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:18
Controversial plans to centralise hospital services in five south Wales sites are expected to go ahead after a patients' watchdog chose not to refer the decision to the health minister.

At Pa. School, Teens Build Empathy By Confiding In A Crowd

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:16

Kids can act out when they're feeling isolated, so one Philadelphia school encourages students to take the mic and reveal their deepest fears in front of their peers. The result? Honesty and kindness.

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Obama Taps San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro For HUD Secretary

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:16

Castro would take over the Department of Housing and Urban Development at a time when the nation's housing market has been treading water.

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Castro nominated housing secretary

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:09
President Barack Obama nominates San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a rising Democratic star, as housing secretary in a cabinet reshuffle.

Contenders cross Europe in EU race

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:04
Candidates vying for the EU's top job - president of the European Commission - are canvassing support across the 28 member states.

VIDEO: From chocolate billionaire to president?

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:03
Ukraine has denied a claim by Russia's President Putin that Ukraine has descended into "full-scale civil war". Daniel Sandford reports.

Obama Taps San Antonio Mayor For Housing Post

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:03

The president nominates Julian Castro as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, replacing Shaun Donovan, who would become budget director.

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California's Drought Isn't Making Food Cost More. Here's Why

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 12:01

California produces most of America's vegetables and nuts. Yet there's little sign the drought there is creating food shortages in the U.S., because farmers are rationing water and draining aquifers.

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VIDEO: Hillsborough jury visits stadium

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 11:58
The jury at the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough has been visiting the stadium in Sheffield where the disaster happened in April 1989.

Biometric underwear helps monitor the sick

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 11:55

We’ve all heard about patients using various apps and devices to track their health.

Well a hospital in Greece has taken what sometimes is called telemonitoring to a whole new level.

Doctors gave patients with the lung disease COPD biometric underwear to keep tabs on their heart rate, breathing and activity levels.

Biometric underwear goes against the rule of thumb in the world of wearable technology that fashion matters.

Unless, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Steve Downs says you’re sick. 

“In the case of somebody who is discharged from the hospital for COPD they may have a very strong motivation for putting on something that may or may not be comfortable,” he says.

In the case of the biometric underwear whatever discomfort there was, may have been worth it.

Patients left the hospital sooner, were less likely to come back and had fewer follow-ups.

A path to lower costs and improved health.

“The promise of this technology is that it allows you to have the data about effective the treatment is so you can make the kind of adjustments to get the best outcome,” says Downs.

These tantalizing possibilities drive the rush into wearables.

IHS Electronics and Media projects in just three years, it could be a $60 million dollar industry.

But it’s a tricky business says Dr. Jesse Shantz, Chief Medical Officer for Montreal-based startup OMsignal which has just introduced a line of workout shirts to monitor heart and breathing levels.

“To be successful in this, you have to become commercially viable. To be commercially viable you have to pick a narrow consumer segment and give them what they need,” he says.

The difficult question for consumers is what do they need?

“I think there is going to be a lot of chaos and cacophony until they figure this out,” saysDr. Bob Wachter, a health professor at the University of California San Francisco.

“I’m just worried that your mom, who is 80 years old but fine is in Boca. And here you are the daughter who is sitting in Philadelphia and the sensor that she’s wearing in her underpants shows that her heart rate just went up by 10 or 15. What do you do?”

Wachter expects Madison Avenue to convince the worried that collecting real time data helps you and your loved ones.

But right now, it’s the truly sick who may benefit the most from wearables fashion be damned. 

Congress To Award Highest Honor To Army's Only Latino Unit

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 11:42

A new bill passed by Congress would award Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment the Congressional Gold Medal, which has been presented to the Navajo Code Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen and other units.

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What do people really think about maids?

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 11:29
The shocking things people say about their maids

Ukraine's industrial heartland is up for grabs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 11:19

Ukrainians head to the polls on Sunday. Well, maybe. 

Mark Lowen says that, in chaotic eastern Ukraine, the election may not even happen.

“You do occasionally stumble upon armed groups in the city center,” says Lowen, a BBC correspondent in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. “But if you go out of Donetsk to [the outlying towns] they are totally in the hands of pro-Russia armed militias.  There is a siege-like atmosphere there, and that is where the election will not be held at all.”

Lowen says that losing eastern Ukraine to separatists would be a huge economic blow to the Ukrainian government.

‘This is the industrial heartland of the country," he says, "There is a massive mining, steel, iron industries... it is an extremely important area. If Kiev loses control of this area entirely it loses a massive chunk of its economy.”

The front runner in the presidential election is a candy making billionaire named Petro Poroshenko. He's reached out to the east -- if elected he says his first trip will be to Donetsk. But Lowen says he's still a controversial figure.

"His pro-European stance will go down well in Kiev and western Ukraine," Lowen says, "But less well here in the east, where there are many people who still feel Ukraine should have closer ties to Russia."

Radio 1's Big Weekend in Glasgow kicks off

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 10:50
Radio 1's free festival gets under way in Glasgow
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