National / International News
Eric Holder calls the attacks on Ferguson officers disgusting and cowardly. He is putting in motion a pilot program in six cities to try to improve police-citizen interactions.
On a freezing cold day, Zhan Guo stood on a Manhattan street corner. Every available parking space on the surrounding blocks was taken. Turning to the cars driving past, Guo estimated one out of every three was circling the blocks, looking for a place to park.
“Why are they searching? Because [street-parking rates] are too cheap,” Guo says.
Guo researches parking at the Wagner School of Public Policy at New York University, and says studies show that on average, one-third of cars in a downtown area at any given time are looking for parking.
Metered parking in much of Manhattan costs $3.50 an hour, while other blocks require only that cars be moved for twice-weekly street cleaning. That means many people would rather search for street parking than pay for a private garage.
“If you’re a reasonable person, you’re willing to spend maybe thirty minutes searching around, instead of $20 right now into a garage,” he says.
Tell someone the price of their parking meter is too cheap and most people will probably disagree, probably pretty strongly, says Rachel Weinberger with Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates.
Weinberger says the average meter rate nationwide is $1.15. Accounting for inflation, that’s actually roughly about on par with the country’s first meters.
“The first parking meters were installed in the '30s, really at the behest of a merchant who felt like his employees were parking in front on his store and he couldn’t get them to move,” she says. “So he petitioned the city council to put meters in on his block.”
But if the price of parking hasn’t changed much in real terms, demand for it has. Weinberger says raising prices is difficult, as the process in many cities is more political than scientific.
“We sort of lost the will to change the prices,” she says. “It’s particularly humorous to me that someone might be going out to dinner for say $200, and yet they’re loathe to pay $6, let’s say it’s two hours, on top of your $200 dinner bill.”
However, in recent years, some cities, like Seattle, Pasadena and San Francisco have started to use systems that do try to take demand into account when setting the price of parking.
“So every six or eight weeks we adjust the rates up or down by 25 cents an hour or 50 cents an hour,” says Lauren Mattern, the manager of parking policy and technology at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
San Francisco recently finished a pilot program to test its new pricing strategy. The city nudges the rates up or down until sensors in the parking spots indicate that at any given time, there’s about one open space per block. Rates were also adjusted based on the day of the week or time of day.
“Then there is a ceiling and a floor to that, so we can go as low as 25 cents an hour or as high as $6 an hour,” she says.
In one neighborhood, she says that meant increasing rates on a busy street, and dropping them on a nearby quieter one.
“Basically by adjusting rates, we’re able to draw some of the demand away from the busier street and give people a bargain for parking on the less popular street,” she explains. “So you’re able to price shop for parking in that neighborhood for the first time.”
Mattern says on the whole, the average price of parking in the pilot neighborhoods actually dropped, and no more circling, looking for a spot.
Some entrepreneurs are leaving the high tech hot spots of San Francisco, New York and the Silicon Valley for greener pastures in a place that actually has greener pastures: Lincoln, Neb.
There’s a new set of companies getting into the mattress game, and they’re disrupting the traditional model of lying on bed after bed to compare. Kyle Stock explores the mattress industry and the newcomers that are changing things up in his piece, “New Startups Aren’t Keeping Big Mattresses Up At Night,” for Bloomberg Business.
In the scope of consumer products, the humble mattress is becoming simpler by the day. A mattress doesn’t need to get faster or smaller or lighter. It doesn’t have to charge more quickly or use less energy. And though bedding now involves complicated chemical formulas rather than horsehair and reeds, it is still primarily a puzzle of textiles.
But a mattress store was still plenty baffling to Jeff Holt, a professional photographer who recently moved to Charleston, S.C., with his girlfriend and her weary, taco-like mattress. They lay on bed after bed, lent a skeptical ear to a dogged salesman, and eventually grew tired—and not from the cushy products.
“It was like going to a restaurant with 200 options on the menu,” Holt said. “All it does is confuse you. And everything about it feels like a car dealership.”
As young companies grow, the future of the industry is uncertain. However, even with the new craft mattress companies starting up, industry giants are doing just fine. Last year, the three biggest public companies, Tempur-Sealy, Select Comfort, and Mattress Firm, saw sales jump 21 percent.
Craft beer is a rapidly-growing industry and Washington lawmakers have noticed. Two proposed bills would lower the federal excise tax for small brewers.
Congress has not reauthorized special assistance for rural communities this year. But to pay for extra programs like preschool, Basin School District doesn't have many other options.
There is something depressing about a closed ski slope in winter. The trails are bare and grassy. The chairlifts just hang there, waving a little in the breeze. It's like walking into an empty restaurant on a Friday night. That's been the mood in Tahoe for much of this winter.
In the middle of February, I took a trip to the Homewood Mountain Ski Resort. It is a smaller ski area in Tahoe frequented by locals. Unlike the bigger resorts, Homewood sells lift tickets for under 50 dollars, and it isn't filled with restaurants and retail stores. The base of the mountain starts right at the lake, a relatively low elevation that gives it beautiful views but not much snow.
Like many of the smaller resorts in the area, Homewood has been forced to shut down twice this season because of warm, dry conditions. General manager Kevin Mitchell says it has been challenging to keep employees and customers engaged. Looking around at the muddy trails, it's not hard to see why.
Professor Daniel Scott studies tourism and climate change at the University of Waterloo. He says increasingly unpredictable weather favors companies with deeper pockets. They have resources to invest in ways that will mitigate the financial impact of unfavorable conditions — like snow-making machines and resort attractions aside from skiing and snowboarding.
"The problem with mom and pop resorts," says Scott, " is if you have two or three bad years in a row, your financial reserves are gone. You can't make a go of it anymore."
Scott says larger corporations are more climate resilient. They have capital reserves to ride out bad years, and they can diversify geographically. He says big resort chains are now buying ski areas across the country so they can cash in wherever the snow falls. Scott puts it this way: increased variable weather is hastening the trend toward consolidation in the ski industry.
It is already happening up in Lake Tahoe. Five ski areas there are now owned by either Powdr Corporation or Vail Resorts, both industry giants. And in the last few years, the private equity firm KSL Partners has merged two iconic Tahoe resorts — Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
Some of the bigger resorts in Tahoe seem to be handling these bad seasons better than others. Squaw Valley is a much larger and higher elevation resort than Homewood. President and CEO Andy Wirth says Squaw has been able to "hedge" the challenge of climate change.
"We are facing the three driest years in 1200 years," Wirth says. "But at the same time, we have increased season passes by 37 percent."
Squaw Valley has ways to make it through these dry winters. It offers season passes that can be used at other resorts, so skiers and snowboarders can chase the powder — that is, if they have the money to travel. Squaw also has attractions besides the mountain: restaurants, retail, and a winter park with tubing. There was even talk of building a water park, a popular development now at bigger resorts.
So, is this the future for a smaller resort like Homewood? No, says General Manager Kevin Mitchell. "We don't want to become one of the giant resorts in Tahoe," Mitchell says, "We want to hold a lot of the character we currently have." The resort is planning to build a gondola that will ferry passengers higher up the mountain where there may actually be some snow. In the meantime
But if the snowstorms don't start coming to Tahoe, that could become harder and harder to do.
This story originally appeared on KQED's "The California Report."
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol this week. But Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says he is introducing legislation to make its production, sale and possession illegal.
"I've always believed in a zone of privacy," Clinton once said. Her use of a personal email account while secretary of state is just the latest example of trying to defend that zone.
Police in Mexico are known more for taking bribes than fighting crime. Tijuana's force is now using body cameras and hopes it will show that the public also plays a big role in corruption.
If you are a business which needs to store loads of data, this week you've got more options for that so-called "cold storage."
Google has unveiled a new service to store old data at a penny per gigabyte per month, and a retrieval process it says takes seconds.
The company considers this new product a "game-changer" that will make it easier to access the kind of data a business might occasionally need.
Forrester analyst Henry Baltazar sees this as a way for Google to build relationships.
"There's a lot of things you can do once data is in the cloud but the key thing is you can't really sell those services unless you have data," he says.
Scientists announced in a NASA teleconference that the biggest moon in our solar system has a salty ocean hidden below its icy surface.