National / International News

The economics of Korean pop

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:17

When you hear the term K-Pop, chances are Gangnam Style by Psy pops in your head. (Editors' note: And we're sorry, because it will now probably stay there all day.)

But there is so much more to K-Pop than Psy, and chances are you’ll soon start hearing more proof.

South Korea is now the 11th biggest music market in the world. The most recent figures show the country raked in over $187 million in 2012, and the three big companies behind K-Pop are making a big international push.

Mark James Russell is a music journalist living in Seoul. His new book “K-Pop Now! The Korean Music Revolution” outlines the explosion of Korean pop music in the 1990s, and chronicles the acts that have kept it growing for the past three decades.

Our first question to Russell: What exactly is K-Pop, anyway?

“There’s usually upbeat dance music, it’s very loud, it’s very flashy," he said. "To use the old Spinal Tap reference, this one goes up to 11, in Korea, they start at 11 and they go up from there.”

Russell says “Gangnam Style” isn’t exactly the best song to represent K-Pop as a whole, but its success showed South Korea that its music was exportable. The video for the song is the most viewed YouTube video of all time, closing in on 2 billion views. To Russell, that represents a shift in the American public’s view toward Asian culture.

“Asia occupies a strange mental place with people in the West. Some people think it’s exotic or weird or goofy. Often they’re laughing at it. But when people enjoyed “Gangnam Style”, it felt like they were laughing with it.”

Boy bands and girl bands called "idol groups" similar to The Backstreet Boys or The Spice Girls are the biggest sellers in Seoul. And Russell says Korean pop stars and super groups are not only expanding their reach over borders, but are actually starting to compete with other music markets before songs are even recorded.

“K-Pop from very early on was looking to get out of Korea. It was looking to become more international. So they brought in songwriters from other places. They buy a lot of music from Scandinavia. Universal Music Europe sells a lot of stuff to Korea...I’ve talked several times to the head of A&R (Artists & Repertoire) there... he has taken away songs from American artists and given them to K-Pop artists because he feels the right combination could be more profitable in Korea.”

Russell says Korea’s embrace of K-Pop doesn’t just show an evolving taste in music, it represents a political and economic turnaround for a country that just a few decades ago looked drab and isolated.

“It’s been a whole series of changes that go back quite a ways. From the rise of democracy and the Olympics in ’88 (to) the country just opening up, it’s become a much more lifestyle-oriented country. For many years people worked very long hours six days a week. But now people have more money and more free time, and they want to fill that time with fun things.” 

If You Want Flextime But Are Afraid To Ask, Consider Moving

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:15

In Vermont and San Francisco, the right of employees to ask for flexible work schedules is now enshrined in law. That doesn't mean, however, that employers are compelled to grant them.

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Ex-Tory Patrick Mercer resigns as MP

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:14
Ex-Tory MP Patrick Mercer resigns after being suspended from the Commons for six months, triggering a by-election in his Newark constituency.

Mom's Diet Right Before Pregnancy Can Alter Baby's Genes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:14

Vitamin deficiencies near the time of conception change which genes get turned on during early development, scientists find.

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Dubai jails Scorpions drummer Kottak

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:10
The US drummer for the German rock band Scorpions has been sentenced to one month in jail in Dubai for offensive behaviour, local media say.

Bayern Munich 0-4 Real Madrid (agg 0-5)

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:55
Real Madrid sail into their first Champions League final since 2002 with a one-sided away win over holders Bayern Munich.

VIDEO: Cable defends Royal Mail sale price

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:50
The UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, stands by the initial pricing of Royal Mail shares, as he gives evidence to a parliamentary committee.

Ukraine rebels storm Luhansk offices

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:50
Pro-Russia activists seize official buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, as the US tells Russia to "leave Ukraine in peace".

LA Clippers owner banned for life

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:42
The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers pro-basketball team is banned from the sport for life after making racist remarks on tape.

The man with 42 hours to get home

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:37
A man who is always travelling - and always rushing home

Donor-advised funds: A controversial form of charity

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:27

Each year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy releases a list of the American charities that have raised the most money from private donors. United Way topped the most recent list; the Salvation Army took the third spot. At number two was Fidelity Charitable, named for the giant financial services corporation which sponsored the creation of the charity and still provides investment and technology services. 

Fidelity Charitable helps people set up donor-advised funds, which offer a twist on traditional charitable giving. For example, rather than writing a check to the Salvation Army, a donor would put that money into a Fidelity Charitable giving account. The money can then be invested or granted right away, explains Amy Danforth, president of Fidelity Charitable. 

"Granting is when they turn to the causes they care about, and log in to our website, or contact us by phone, and make a grant to the charity they care about: [their] alma mater, their church, the Red Cross, a food bank," Danforth said. 

Which sounds a lot like traditional charitable giving. So, why not just give the money directly to the food bank? Danforth says donor-advised funds work best for people who give to more than one charity a year.

"I would say if you are only giving to one charity, one time a year, that a donor-advised fund would not be the right solution," Danforth said. "Many people give to multiple charities, and multiple times in a given year." She says choosing  donor-advised funds can cut down on both paperworth and confusion. And they are not just for cash. You can donate assets -- like, say, property -- and Fidelity Charitable will help expedite what can be a complicated process. 

Compared to many other charities, donor-advised funds are booming.

"They are growing like gangbusters," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "The rest of the charity world is growing very slowly, but donor-advised funds are seeing giant increases."

The funds are seeing growth among all kinds of donors. 

"It's a mix of average people and very wealthy people," Palmer said. "You can put as little as $3,000 into one of these accounts, or you can put in many millions."

The benefit of the fund is that once the money is deposited, the donation can be written off on the donor's taxes. And that's why the funds are controversial, because even as the tax break is given, there's no deadline for when the money must be given away. 

"There is no time limit at all," said Ray Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School, "so the money can stay in the fund for a decade, a century, or many centuries."

Madoff says some donor-advised funds  are even marketed as family foundations, for people to pass the spirit of charitable giving on to kids and grandkids. 

"The problem is," said Madoff, "there's a difference between the spirit of charitable giving and real charitable giving." 

For its part, Fidelity Charitable does insist that donors give away some part of their fund within seven years. But as with any donor-advised fund, even a small fraction of the money can be granted, while the donor still recieves a tax deduction for the full amount. 

Why Would The NAACP Honor Donald Sterling Anyway?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:24

The LA Clippers' owner had a track record of discriminatory behavior. Though the NAACP rescinded a planned award for him after his racist rant, it has honored him in the past.

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In This Turkish Town, Liver (And Olive Oil Wrestling) Are King

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:23

Spring in Edirne means the annual Liver Festival, where locals feast on the fried livers of lambs that grazed on nearby plains. It's just the thing to get you through a long day of oil wrestling.

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Reactions To NBA's Ban Of Clippers Owner Donald Sterling

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:19

Current and former NBA players are praising the league's decision to punish LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban over racist remarks he made in an audio recording.

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How Will We Feed?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:14

[2014-04-29 13:00:00] By the year 2050, it’s projected that the world will have 9 billion mouths to feed. We’ll talk this hour about the challenges the planet will face to produce enough food with Jonathan Foley, whose piece “Feeding 9 Billion” is the cover story for the May issue of National Geographic.

Breaking Down The Home-Rule Charter

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:13

[2014-04-29 12:00:00] The conversation surrounding the Dallas Independent School District is whether or not it should become a home-rule district. We’ll talk this hour about the pros and cons of re-imagining DISD with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and school board member Bernadette Nutall.

Poll: Young Voters Uninterested In November 2014 Elections

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:13

A new survey reports voting interest among 18- to 29-year-olds has declined in recent months. Only a quarter say they'll definitely vote in the midterm elections.

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How Donald Sterling Violated The NBA's Unspoken Social Contract

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:08

The contrast between the racial makeup of the league's ownership class and its players usually goes unmentioned. But the Donald Sterling fracas has pushed that not-quite-subtext to the fore.

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Why the EU and the U.S. target different individuals

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:04

The European Union today slapped sanctions on 15 more people it accuses of aggravating the crisis in Ukraine. This follows yesterday’s move by the U.S. targeting another seven individuals and 17 companies. This may suggest a degree of coordination between the U.S. and Europe -- a kind of one-two punch. But look a little closer, and you'll see a big difference between the American and the European measures.

The EU has now imposed travel bans and asset freezes on a total of 48 people, and all of them have one thing in common: They’re all directly implicated in the Ukrainian crisis. That’s not the case with the U.S. sanctions.

“The American approach has been much more targeted on Mr. Putin’s inner circle, and on businesses that are believed to be controlled by those individuals,” says John Lough, Associate Fellow at the Chatham House think tank in London. 

Take one of the principal victims of the American asset freeze announced on Monday: Igor Sechin, head of the Russian energy giant Rosneft. He is not believed to have been involved in the alleged attempt to destabilize Ukraine. But he is a very close ally of President Putin . 

Meanwhile the Europeans today penalized – among others – several Ukrainian separatists and the head of Russian military intelligence.

“You could say the Europeans are pussy-footing around in the sense that they are being more legalistic. They are going after the instruments of this policy rather than going for the most sensitive area of the Russian elite, the people on whom President Putin depends,” says Nick Redman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The softer European approach is not surprising. The EU does ten times as much trade with Russia as the US does. Europe also depends on Russia for 30 percent of its natural gas. Redman says don’t expect the Europeans to hit the Russians where it really hurts - say in the energy sector - for fear of Russian retaliation. 

“Obviously sanctions that would be more effective and would go further, would impose costs on the imposing nations," he says. 

Celebrity chef denies discrimination

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 12:04
Celebrity chef Stephen Terry denies allegations of sexual discrimination made against his restaurant by a young female chef.

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