National / International News

Puerto Rico could run out of money in three months

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-24 02:00

Puerto Rico finance officials warn a government shutdown may be only months away. Puerto Rico is saddled with $70 billion in debt and has been unable to sell the billions in bonds it needs to avoid running out of money.

Heidie Calero, a business consultant there, says the question is whether Puerto Rico's lawmakers will overhaul the tax system.

"Right now we have so many suspense stories that it's really terrible," she says.

This crisis didn't happen overnight. Government spending has outpaced revenue for years. U.S. tax breaks made the island attractive for businesses, and Puerto Rico had itself a moment. Those tax credits ended, but spending went on.

"From investment grade that we were before, a very coveted financial paper, we are now the status of junk," Calero says.

Luiz Mesquita, a business professor at Arizona State, blames mismanagement. Take the troubled Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which is state run.

"And because of these mismanagements, you see the cost of energy for local businesses to go up significantly," he says.

And when it's expensive to do business in Puerto Rico, companies just don't see the appeal anymore.

Audio for this story is forthcoming.

What's in a $12 minimum wage?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-24 02:00

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, is expected to introduce a new proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. 

Why $12? President Barack Obama used his 2013 State of the Union address to call for raising it from $7.25, its current rate, to $9 an hour. But in his 2014 address, he bumped that up to $10.10 an hour. "$10.10," the President said. "It's easy to remember $10.10."

In the meantime, a fast food workers' movement has been pushing for a $15 an hour wage, and Chicago and Seattle raised theirs to $13 and $15, respectively.

"The good news is ... we are going to learn more about how local labor markets adjust to higher minimum wages," says Arindrajit Dube, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

That's because Chicago and Seattle's hikes will be the highest ever in the U.S.

As for Senator Murray's $12 minimum wage bill: it would increase 75 cents to $8 in 2016, then a dollar more each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. 

Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution, says it's unlikely to pass in this congress, but "very large majorities of the public believe the minimum wage is too low and we would be better off if we raised it." 

Apple Watch makes its fashionable debut

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-24 02:00

Apple releases its much-anticipated watch on Friday.

Some customers will start receiving their online orders in the mail. And those willing to pay up to $17,000 for an 18-karat gold version can buy one at one of several high-end fashion boutiques that sell it in just a few cities around the globe, including Paris, London and Los Angeles.

With its price, exclusivity, limited supply and courting of celebrities, Apple has adopted branding techniques from the luxury world.

The company sent watches in advance of the debut to celebrities with fashion influence, including singer Beyonce, who was photographed wearing a gold Apple Watch.

As it has done with other products, Apple is also emphasizing quality. With its high-end gold watch, it's even staking a premium on the gold itself. In a company video, Apple's chief designer Jony Ive said the gold was a special composite.

"Each is a custom alloy, designed to be not only beautiful, but up to twice as hard as standard gold," Ive said.

Even trying on the gold watch at an Apple store is an unusual shopping experience. The expensive watches are kept under lock and key, and are followed around the store by a guard.

Milton Pedraza, who heads the consulting firm Luxury Institute, says Apple has adopted luxury brand techniques in order to further position itself — through its watch — above its competitors and so it won't be forced to compete in price. 

At the same time, associating the Apple Watch with high-end fashion could make it more likely that people will buy the cheaper version to associate with the higher-priced one.

"You create this level of exclusivity ... and therefore it has, what we would call, a halo effect. It makes it more compelling ... more desired," says Pedraza.

In its first week of pre-orders, Apple sold 1.4 million watches online, according to Slice Intelligence, an e-commerce research firm. Less than one percent of those pre-orders were the expensive gold watches.

But Apple's high-fashion positioning also has to do with the tricky nature of wearable technologies.

"It could be the most amazing technology in the world, but if it doesn't look good, it's dead in the water," says James Letourneau, who helps run Design.UX, an online company that sells colorful fabric covers for Fitbit movement trackers.

He says once you wear a device, it becomes intensely personal.

"They can't just be an accelerometer in a little box that people walk around in," Letourneau says. "People want it to look nice. And they don't want it to look like everyone else's."

The cable giant that wasn't

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:59
$45.2 billion

That's what a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have been worth. But Comcast, in light of scrutiny, abandoned the takeover Friday morning. The deal would have united two largest cable companies in the U.S. and created a telecommunication giant.

18 karat

That's the ratio of gold in the luxury version of the Apple Watch. The price tag? Up to $17,000. Apple officially released its smart watches Friday, and some of customers will start receiving their online orders in the mail. In addition to the regular Apple stores in your local mall, you can also find the wearable technology in select fashion boutiques around the world. Still not sure which model to get? Take our quiz.

4.6 billion

That's how much Amazon's cloud computing business made last year, and they're expecting to rake in $6.23 billion this year. The retailer revealed the numbers behind Amazon Web Services for the first time Tuesday. Wired notes the cloud is high-margin, and growing faster than Amazon's other arms, but plenty of companies are lining up to take a piece of the expanding market.  

Three months

This is how long Puerto Rico has before the government runs out of money. Saddled with $70 billion debt, the U.S. territory faces tough decisions in budget cuts. Finance officials warned that a government shutdown may be in place if the government cannot reduce spending and increase revenue. And unlike Detroit, for example, Puerto Rico doesn't have the luxury of U.S. bankruptcy protection.

2007

That's the year Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia first conceived Airbnb, the hospitality start-up that has gone on to become a multi-billion dollar business with shared rentals worldwide. We visited company headquarters in San Francisco recently to talk with Chesky about the service's rapid growth, recent controversies and just what kind of company Airbnb is anyway.

$12

That's the new federal minimum wage proposed by Senator Patty Murray of Washington. The bill would up wages 75 cents to $8 in 2016, then a dollar more each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. 

A cable giant falls

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:59
$45.2 billion

That would be the worth Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger. But on Friday morning, Comcast, in light of scrutiny, abandoned the takeover of Time Warner Cable. The deal would have united two largest cable companies in the U.S. and created a telecommunication giant.

18 karat

That's the ratio of gold in the luxury version of the Apple Watch. The price tag? A hefty $17,000. Apple officially released its smart watches today, and some of customers will start receiving their online orders in the mail. In addition to the regular Apple stores in your local mall, you can also find the wearable technology in select fashion boutiques around the world. 

4.6 billion

That's how much Amazon's cloud computing business made last year, and they're expecting to rake in $6.23 billion this year. The retailer revealed the numbers behind Amazon Web Services for the first time Tuesday. Wired notes the cloud is high-margin, and growing faster than Amazon's other arms, but plenty of companies are lining up to take a piece of the expanding market.  

three months

This is how long Puerto Rico has before the government runs out of money. Saddled with $70 billion debt, the U.S. territory faces tough decisions in budget cuts. Finance officials warned that a government shutdown may be in place if the government cannot reduce spending and increase revenue. And unlike a city like Detroit, Puerto Rico doesn't have the luxury of U.S. bankruptcy protection.

2007

That's the year Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia first conceived Airbnb, the hospitality start-up that has gone on to become a multi-billion dollar business with shared rentals worldwide. We visited company headquarters in San Francisco recently to talk with Chesky about the service's rapid growth, recent controversies and just what kind of company Airbnb is anyway.

$12

That's the new federal minimum wage proposed by Senator Patty Murray of Washington. The bill would increase 75 cents to $8 in 2016, then a dollar more each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. 

Lib Dems warn of market vote worries

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:55
Treasury minister Danny Alexander warns of market concern at the prospect of a minority government "on life support" after the election.

VIDEO: Drone can stream live to You Tube

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:48
DJI has launched a drone that has the ability to stream high-definition video live to You Tube.

VIDEO: Inside one of the world's most secretive countries

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:48
Eritrea is one of the most closed countries in the world, with no independent media or political opposition and a widely criticised human rights record.

VIDEO: App that lets you stream live video

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:45
BBC Click's Kate Russell tests an app that lets you stream live video from your handset.

Will HSBC really quit the UK?

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:43
Leaving Britain would be a costly business for Europe’s biggest bank and a significant blow to the prestige of the City.

'Time running out' for Greek deal

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:33
Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselboem warns "time is running is out" for a Greek debt deal as eurozone finance ministers prepare to meet Greek officials.

EU migrant action 'not enough'

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:28
Human rights groups say new measures agreed by the EU to tackle the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean do not go far enough.

Ship boarded in North Sea drugs raid

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:26
A ship is being searched at Aberdeen harbour after it was boarded in the North Sea on suspicion of carrying drugs.

VIDEO: Key moments from Armenia ceremony

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:20
Commemorations are under way in Armenia to mark the centenary of the start of killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

New law 'should not ban buying sex'

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:20
MSPs back a proposed law on human trafficking but say the buying of sex should not be criminalised as part of the new legislation.

Chile town blanketed in volcanic ash

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:19
Residents and emergency workers in southern Chile clear ash that has rained down on towns near the Calbuco volcano.

Migrants killed on Macedonia railway

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:12
Police in Macedonia say at least 14 migrants were killed by an express train as they followed a well-trodden route to western Europe.

VIDEO: Video shows US school stage collapse

BBC - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:10
A stage at a school in Indiana, US, has collapsed during a musical performance, injuring dozens of people.

Clinton Faces Bad Headlines And More Questions Of Scandal

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:03

From questions surrounding the Clinton family foundation to a congressional investigation into Benghazi, Hillary Clinton's campaign is pushing back against allegations of scandal.

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As Governors Eye The White House, Home Takes A Back Seat

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-24 01:03

Governing is messy, but slumping approval ratings for hopefuls like Scott Walker and Chris Christie likely won't have much impact on the presidential contest.

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