National / International News

The secret to China's GDP growth rebound: stimulus

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 02:00

After a tough first quarter, China’s economy grew 7.5 percent this Spring – faster than most economists expected. The reason? Stimulus funding.

China’s government has injected significantly more money into the Chinese economy in the last few months, spending money on railway infrastructure, social housing projects, and public works projects; activity much of the country hasn’t seen since the big stimulus package of 2008 that was launched to cope with the global financial crisis. That stimulus package has lead to economic waste and bad debt.

As a result, many economists are waiting for more meaningful structural reforms to China’s economy. But others don’t see it that way.

"They want to walk this sort of very delicate balance between stimulating to ensure a basic seven, eight, nine percent nominal rate of GDP growth, and then on the other side, pushing through some reforms," says Standard Chartered’s Head of China research Stephen Green.

Those reforms have yet to take shape. So far, Xi Jinping’s government has been too busy expelling corrupt government officials as part of a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign, which has also had a negative impact on China’s economy. But Green thinks we’ll soon see China’s government allowing private companies to open banks and begin lending, which he says would be a sign that bigger economic reforms are on their way.

 

Bike-sharing's big problem: missing bikes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 02:00

Urban bike-sharing programs have exploded— there are now more than 30 in the U.S., with plans for many more. But there are growing pains, and users can't see the biggest one: the bikes they’re not riding, because the biggest supplier went bankrupt six months ago. The biggest, most-popular programs won't expand this year, and planned programs in other cities have gotten stalled in the pipeline. 

For example, a few days before Chicago’s Divvy Bikes celebrated its first birthday in June, general manager Elliot Greenberger noted how much the program’s subscriber base had grown in 2014.  

"We’ve doubled, and it’s only June right now," he said. "We continue to see people signing up at about a hundred a day, sometimes more."

Here's what the growth curve looks like since Divvy started: 

 Here's another, perhaps even more impressive way of looking at Divvy's growth curve:

 Startups would envy this kind of growth. Programs in Washington, D.C., New York and elsewhere have taken similar trajectories.

However, Divvy was supposed to expand this spring — adding about 60 percent more bikes and docking stations. That’s on hold. The company that supplies Divvy’s equipment— Public Bike System Co.*went bankrupt in January. That company also supplies New York, Washington, Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, and other cities.

Those programs are managed by Divvy’s parent company, Alta Bicycle Share. When asked how long it has been since the supplier shipped new bikes, Alta Vice President Mia Birk pauses for a moment.

"Ooh," she says, "It must have been pre-bankruptcy."

That means no new bikes for any of Alta's cities. Meanwhile, programs in cities like Baltimore, Vancouver and Portland — also slated to be managed by Alta and supplied by Public Bike Share — have delayed their launch dates. The equipment includes proprietary designs, so going with another supplier isn’t an easy option.

 

"It’s been a disruption!" says Birk. "I mean, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s been really challenging." Birk says Alta has been working hard to get a new supply of bikes, but new bikes probably won’t arrive until 2015.

"Seems like there were some major promises made, and nobody looked closely at the financials or the supply chain," says Jeremiah Owyang of Crowd Companies. "That’s what you’re seeing here. Everybody went with the one provider, and overwhelmed them."

Colin Hughes studies bike-share worldwide at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. He says Public Bike System Co.’s bankruptcy doesn’t worry him.

"There’s plenty of other companies out there making bike-share bikes," says Hughes. "You may see the types of bikes used in some cities thrown out. But I don’t think you’re going to see bike-sharing as a whole thrown out."

Bike-sharing continues to grow worldwide. More than one city in China has more shared bikes than all of the United States. 

 

 *CORRECTION:  The original version of this article misstated the name of a company that provides equipment for municipal bicycle-sharing programs. It is the Public Bike System Co. The text has been corrected.

Death row Briton loses funding fight

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:34
A grandmother on death row in Indonesia loses her Supreme Court challenge over the lawfulness of a UK Government policy not to provide legal funding to Britons facing capital charges abroad.

Final reshuffle appointments due

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:33
David Cameron is due to complete the final appointments in his biggest ministerial reshuffle before questions from MPs in the Commons.

55 dead sharks on beach 'horrific'

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:23
A marine biologist says the "horrific" sight of 55 sharks washed up on a Gower beach may be the result of trawling.

Doosan Babcock to create 380 UK jobs

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:09
Doosan Babcock is to create 266 jobs at a new process engineering centre in Renfrew, Renfrewshire.

VIDEO: Meet Ireland's new ultimate fighter

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:06
You may never have heard of it, but mixed martial arts is said to be the fastest growing sport in the world.

South Africa thieves 'steal railway'

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:02
Miles of missing track cause about $2.3m of damage.

VIDEO: 'Self-drenching' craze in deaf community

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:01
The deaf community's new craze for drenching themselves.

Japan 'vagina artist' arrest debated

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:01
A woman who makes art based on her vagina is arrested on obscenity allegations, sparking debate in Japan.

Washington's still kicking the can down the road

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 01:00

Remember when Jon Stewart went on Crossfire – the old Crossfire, with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, not the new one with Newt Gingrich and whatstheirnames – and begged them to "Stop, stop hurting America"?

Not to put myself on the same level as Stewart, but here's my paraphrase: Washington is hurting America.

Yes, I know Washington has been dysfunctional for years now. And that we've all somehow become accustomed to politicians kicking the proverbial can down the road (gee, love that phrase) on serious and substantive issues of economic policy.

Maybe I'm being naïve here. But, the news this week that the White House has signed on to the Congressional quick fix to shore up the Highway Trust Fund for the short term was especially disspiriting. Why?

You know, I'm not sure. I guess because...in the not too distant past, we had a budget deal. We had responsible politicians acting the way they ought to, planning for the long term and not doing the nation's business in six-month chunks. I guess I thought maybe things had changed.

And then I remembered.

Naïve is probably right.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly spelled Jon Stewart's name. The text has been corrected.

California announces drought fines

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:39
California officials approve fines for residents who waste water, as the state faces its worst drought for nearly 40 years.

VIDEO: Imperial War Museum's makeover

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:21
The Imperial War Museum in London is reopening its doors following a multi-million pound facelift.

Moscow metro workers arrested

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:19
Russian police arrest two Moscow metro workers for safety breaches after a rush-hour train derailed, killing 21 people and injuring 162.

Oil firm Chevron to shed 225 jobs

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:18
Oil firm Chevron says it remains committed to its UK operation despite announcing 225 job cuts, following a review of its North Sea business.

Mercedes confirm Rosberg's new deal

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:15
Mercedes confirm Nico Rosberg has signed a "multi-year contract extension" with the Silver Arrows.

Rocky musical to close on Broadway

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:12
A stage adaptation of the big screen hit Rocky is to close on Broadway in August after just 188 regular performances.

Child obesity 'needs to be tackled'

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-16 00:10
Obesity in children in Northern Ireland is on the rise and needs to be tackled, according to a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health survey.

Four-winged dinosaur found in China

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-15 23:56
The largest ever four-winged dinosaur has been discovered in China, with remarkably long feathers on its hindwings and tail.

Craft Beer Reaches New Depths As Mainers Brew A Batch From Seaweed

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-15 23:42

A craft brewer in Maine is partnering with a most unusual item — seaweed. If the beer takes off, the state's emerging seaweed aquaculture industry may benefit.

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