National / International News

A California drought loser: pool contractors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:00

The backyard swimming pool may be an icon of suburban California, but as the state’s drought drags on, it’s a prime target for water conservation. Water utilities are putting in mandatory conservation rules and the swimming pool industry is on the losing end.

The drought is top of mind for many customers that walk into the showroom of Royal Pools in San Jose. “They want to know,” said Royal Pools’ Marc Hannigan. “Our customers who are under contract, whose pools are under way right now, are asking: is there going to be water to fill my pool?”

The concern is real, because almost 30 California cities and water agencies have banned filling new pools with potable water during the drought. Others are considering similar rules, which doesn’t surprise Hannigan. He says pools are an easy target.

“It is very symbolic and it looks good, banning swimming pools,” he said. “Really, swimming pools don’t waste water like people think they do.”

Hannigan is referring to an often-cited analysis by the Santa Margarita Water District comparing the water use in backyard pools to landscaping. A new built-in pool can require 20,000 to 30,000 gallons to fill. After that, it uses much less, just topping off.

“You put a cover on those pools, evaporation is done,” Hannigan said. “Fully half the pools we build here have automatic covers on them.”

A lawn can guzzle 20,000 gallons every year. According to the study, a pool, especially with a cover, can use less than a lawn does over time, but it takes three to five years to reach the break-even point.

Some water utilities say that’s too long to wait, because they’re facing steep cutbacks this year, up to 36 percent of their water use. So the drought rules they’re adopting are designed to send a message.

“The tens of thousands of gallons that it takes to fill a pool may not matter much in aggregate,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “But the reality is that compared to the necessity of the use of water for drinking, for our everyday needs, pools simply aren’t that high a priority.”

Other cities have cited similar concerns, saying in a drought as serious as this one, only essential uses of water should be allowed.

“We’re all in this thing together, and that means we all need to tighten our belts and in some ways, that’s not always comfortable,” Liccardo said.

Hannigan says the pool industry is already feeling pretty uncomfortable.

“What we don’t know is how many people aren’t calling,” he said. “How many people want a pool and are waiting, after four or five years of recession? Now they have the money and wherewithal to put a pool in, and they’re not calling.”

For now, the pool industry is getting creative. In one Bay Area city, Hannigan’s company is planning on filling a new pool by draining an old one and trucking the water over.

Why bond yields are rising across the world

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:00

Government bond yields have been rising for a couple of months now, but today they hit new highs for the year in the U.S., Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Yields rise when prices fall, and prices fall when investors sell, which a lot of them are doing right now thanks to an improving economy.

"The bond market doesn't like growth. It likes recession much better between the two," says Marilyn Cohen of Envision Capital Management.

Cohen says investors cool to bonds in an improving economy, and that's what is happening now. "Things are looking better in the economy, as far as housing starts, housing sales, durable goods are looking a little bit better, and certainly car sales are looking spectacular," she says.

But there is a dark side to rising bond yields, because it could also be an indication that investors are worried about a lack of liquidity, says Karen Petrou of Federal Financial Analytics.

"We're really looking at the unintended result of well-intentioned crisis reforms," she says.

Those reforms require banks to hold onto more cash. As a result, they are not playing as big a part in buying and selling bonds, which Petrou says is leading to "significant structural changes in the bond market that have the financial system very, very spooked."

But Cohen thinks we are far from crisis mode on that issue, and that while there may be some concern about liquidity, a lot more bonds would have to be sold off at once for there to be a crisis.

For the time being, she says, rising yields will nudge interest rates slightly higher, which should be good for Wall Street and Main Street.

"Most baby boomers that are living on fixed incomes will be very happy that interest rates go up," because that means their monthly retirement incomes will go up, too, Cohen says.

Your favorite see-through Pepsi is returning

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:00


Here's a piece of news before we say goodbye and go kick back and enjoy a nice refreshing beverage. 

It seems possible that one very enthusiastic YouTube campaign could lead to the return of Crystal Pepsi

Remember Crystal Pepsi? From the '90s? It was like Pepsi ... but clear.

Well, this guy on YouTube who goes by LA Beast started a campaign to bring back Crystal Pepsi. 

Because he has 1.2 million subscribers, he got a letter from Pepsi (addressed to "Mr. Beast") suggesting he might be happy with something the company has in store. 

Next stop: grunge rock. (That's a '90s joke, by the way.) 

Just received this from @pepsi on twitter a min agoIt is my duty to share it with all of you. #BringBackCrystalPEPSI pic.twitter.com/hyTbH5spbL

— L.A. Beast (@KevLAbeast) June 8, 2015

'We are safe' says missing mum

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:00
A mother who went missing with her three-year-old son contacts a newspaper to say they are "safe and happy".

Marketing shift now on American Apparel’s laundry list

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:00

American Apparel plans to hang its sexually charged marketing strategy out to dry.

Removing the raciness from its ads and “streamlining its offerings" are all a part of the clothing company's plans to revamp a brand associated with suggestive poses, sexual innuendo and a scandal-ridden founder. 

Operation rebrand comes several months after a power shift. Former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney — a controversial figure with several sexual harassment lawsuits to his name — was ousted in December, with former Warnaco executive Paula Schneider taking his place in January.  

The clothing company will aim to position itself in a “positive, inclusive, socially conscious light” — an ethos pretty different from the one promoted under Charney’s reign.   

“Sex is inextricably linked to fashion and apparel,” Charney told Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal in an interview last year.

Listen to Kai Ryssdal's extended interview with Dov Charney below: 

Texas pool party officer 'not racist'

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:53
The police officer filmed in a confrontation with black teenagers at a pool party in Texas was acting out of stress, not racism, says his lawyer.

Freedom, Not Fries? Texas Official Wants Deep Fryers Back In Schools

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:44

The agricultural commissioner wants to roll back a decade-old ban on soda machines and deep fryers in schools. He says it's not about giving kids a treat but about giving school districts the choice.

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Chancellor announces RBS sell-off

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:43
The government plans to sell its stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland, Chancellor George Osborne announces in his annual Mansion House speech.

Finding affordable housing in an unaffordable place

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:41

You may have noticed some headlines a few months back about how filmmaker George Lucas has decided to get in to the affordable housing business.  In April, he announced plans to spend more than $100 million of his own money to build apartments for workers and low-income seniors on a rural plot of land he owns in Marin, a wealthy county just north of San Francisco where he's lived and worked for many decades.

This news got a lot of coverage and inspired a lot of puns about how Lucas was "Striking Back" against his neighbors, after they'd resisted his earlier efforts to build a movie studio on that same piece of land. But there's a deeper story underneath all this — that has to do with just how hard it can be to build affordable housing in a place that is anything but.

Read more below…

Marin County has some of the most expensive housing in the nation.  The county is full of beaches, redwoods and rolling hills. It’s also right next to San Francisco's booming tech economy.

But Marin has very limited housing stock: more than 80 percent of Marin has been set aside never to be developed.

In Marin, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is more than $1,700 dollars. The median home price is more than $800,000. It has one of the highest median incomes and highest levels of income inequality in the nation. Lots of high earners call it home — movie stars, lawyers and doctors. But middle-income folks like teachers and nurses? Not so much. Many of them commute from other less-expensive counties.

And low-income workers mostly cluster in Marin's few higher-density areas near the freeway, doubling or tripling up in units. 

Sharon Mincheff lived in one of those over-crowded apartment buildings in Marin until a few years ago.

 She worked as a care-giver for the elderly. Then she lost her job and couldn't afford her apartment anymore. For a time, she was homeless.

“Everything happened all at once in my life,” Mincheff says. “I was at the age where there’s not a lot of options out there for you.” 

After Mincheff lost her home, she found her way to a shelter. The waiting list to get in to most affordable housing units in the county was more than 10 years long. But a counselor told her that because she was a low-income senior, she would be put on a slightly shorter list. Her wait was about four years. Eventually, there was an open unit at a new affordable complex called Toussin Senior Apartments.

Toussin is located in Kentfield, one of Marin’s most expensive towns. The complex is a little cluster of 13 apartment units. They're painted sage green, Craftsmen style, and designed to blend in as well as they can with the multimillion-dollar homes in the hills just above it, further up a little leafy street. Mincheff says she's discovered affordable housing projects like hers can carry a stigma in some parts of Marin.   

“That you’re gonna get low-life drug addict people,” she says. “I so sometimes want to stand up and yell and scream, you know, that's not what comes here. You don't understand.”

Mary Stompe is the CEO of the nonprofit, PEP Housing, that built Toussin Senior Apartments. She says it took 19 sources of funding to construct the 13 units.  The whole project cost $5.5 million to build. Funding came from a group of government agencies and grants and tax credits.

And each of these sources came with a different set of rules about what exactly their pot of money could be used to fund. 

“If you see my spread sheet,” Stompe says. “It is very large, and it can be mind blowing.”


Explore the cost of building affordable housing around California

Graphic by Tony Wagner | Data: The California Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the California Housing Finance Agency and the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee

That’s why Stompe says she’s excited about the latest project she's leading, planned for a former piece of dairy land in northern Marin County.  It is called Grady Ranch. 

At 200 units, it will be one of the biggest affordable housing complexes in Marin County. And it's funded by one source: George Lucas. The filmmaker declined our request for an interview, but his spokesperson said that Lucas just wanted to do something nice for the people of Marin.

But not everyone in the county thinks his affordable housing project is such a nice idea. On Thursday, we'll explore that story.

(Photos: Krissy Clark/Marketplace)

Finding affordable housing in an unaffordable place

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:41

You may have noticed some headlines a few months back about how filmmaker George Lucas has decided to get in to the affordable housing business.  In April, he announced plans to spend more than $100 million of his own money to build apartments for workers and low-income seniors on a rural plot of land he owns in Marin, a wealthy county just north of San Francisco where he's lived and worked for many decades.

This news got a lot of coverage and inspired a lot of puns about how Lucas was "Striking Back" against his neighbors, after they'd resisted his earlier efforts to build a movie studio on that same piece of land. But there's a deeper story underneath all this — that has to do with just how hard it can be to build affordable housing in a place that is anything but.

Read more below…

Marin County has some of the most expensive housing in the nation.  The county is full of beaches, redwoods and rolling hills. It’s also right next to San Francisco's booming tech economy.

But Marin has very limited housing stock: more than 80 percent of Marin has been set aside never to be developed.

In Marin, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is more than $1,700 dollars. The median home price is more than $800,000. It has one of the highest median incomes and highest levels of income inequality in the nation. Lots of high earners call it home — movie stars, lawyers and doctors. But middle-income folks like teachers and nurses? Not so much. Many of them commute from other less-expensive counties.

And low-income workers mostly cluster in Marin's few higher-density areas near the freeway, doubling or tripling up in units. 

Sharon Mincheff lived in one of those over-crowded apartment buildings in Marin until a few years ago.

 She worked as a care-giver for the elderly. Then she lost her job and couldn't afford her apartment anymore. For a time, she was homeless.

“Everything happened all at once in my life,” Mincheff says. “I was at the age where there’s not a lot of options out there for you.” 

After Mincheff lost her home, she found her way to a shelter. The waiting list to get in to most affordable housing units in the county was more than 10 years long. But a counselor told her that because she was a low-income senior, she would be put on a slightly shorter list. Her wait was about four years. Eventually, there was an open unit at a new affordable complex called Toussin Senior Apartments.

Toussin is located in Kentfield, one of Marin’s most expensive towns. The complex is a little cluster of 13 apartment units. They're painted sage green, Craftsmen style, and designed to blend in as well as they can with the multimillion-dollar homes in the hills just above it, further up a little leafy street. Mincheff says she's discovered affordable housing projects like hers can carry a stigma in some parts of Marin.   

“That you’re gonna get low-life drug addict people,” she says. “I so sometimes want to stand up and yell and scream, you know, that's not what comes here. You don't understand.”

Mary Stompe is the CEO of the nonprofit, PEP Housing, that built Toussin Senior Apartments. She says it took 19 sources of funding to construct the 13 units.  The whole project cost $5.5 million to build. Funding came from a group of government agencies and grants and tax credits.

And each of these sources came with a different set of rules about what exactly their pot of money could be used to fund. 

“If you see my spread sheet,” Stompe says. “It is very large, and it can be mind blowing.”

 

That’s why Stompe says she’s excited about the latest project she's leading, planned for a former piece of dairy land in northern Marin County.  It is called Grady Ranch. 

At 200 units, it will be one of the biggest affordable housing complexes in Marin County. And it's funded by one source: George Lucas. The filmmaker declined our request for an interview, but his spokesperson said that Lucas just wanted to do something nice for the people of Marin.

But not everyone in the county thinks his affordable housing project is such a nice idea. On Thursday, we'll explore that story.

(Photos: Krissy Clark/Marketplace)

Bernie Sanders: 'We Are The Underdog'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:39

The presidential candidate, who has emerged as the leading critic to Hillary Clinton,sat down with WAMU's Diane Rehm to talk about his campaign, policies and his chances.

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Brazil legend Zico wants Fifa role

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:36
Brazil legend Zico says he intends to stand for the presidency of crisis-hit Fifa as it is his "duty".

Australia yet to allow gay marriage

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:34
Why Australian politicians are so out of step

VIDEO: Zimbabwe sends rhinos to Botswana

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:31
Rhino poaching in Africa is on the rise with syndicates making millions at the expense of the endangered species and their horns.

'Some Indication' That NY Escapees Might Have Headed To Vermont

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:18

More than 450 personnel are going door-to-door, conducting car searches and gathering information to try to find escaped killers David Sweat and Richard Matt.

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Whistl ends home delivery service

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:16
Postal business Whistl is ending its home delivery service in London, Liverpool and Manchester, putting up to 1,800 jobs at risk.

Saturn's Dark And Mysterious Outer Ring Is Even Bigger Than Expected

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:07

Scientists say the Phoebe ring is more than 200 times as big across as Saturn itself. They used a special infrared space telescope to get the best look yet at the massive ring of black dust.

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Mayweather tops sporting rich list

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 12:01
Boxer Floyd Mayweather has been named the world's highest-paid sportsman of the past 12 months by Forbes magazine.

Jeb Bush And Florida's 'Scarlet Letter Law,' Explained

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 11:56

While Jeb Bush was governor, Florida had a law requiring some women to list their sexual encounters in the newspaper. What's the controversy all about, and what did Bush have to do with it, exactly?

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VIDEO: Baby born from frozen ovary

BBC - Wed, 2015-06-10 11:36
In a world first, a woman has given birth to a healthy baby using ovarian tissue which had been removed when she was a child.

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