National / International News

Where the surplus oil goes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 11:00

The price of oil continues to drop around the world, which means that countries are starting to stockpile crude in hopes that prices will soon rise.

This increase in inventories also presents challenges for producers. Storing oil on railcars and tankers is an effective temporary solution, but eventually producers will have to make a decision about scaling back production.

“It’s a fairly serious decision, you don't just start and stop these things without a consequence,” says Mark Routt of the energy consultancy KBC. A traditional oil well, he says, is usually not as productive after it’s been shut down. Some producers might be pushed out of the market as prices continue to drop and as inventories rise.

Why a little debt isn't such a bad thing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 11:00

The Federal Reserve says U.S. household debt is growing, but debt as compared to income is as low as it's been in years. It’s also lower in the U.S. than it is in places like Britain or Canada.

Economists would tell you "debt" isn’t a dirty word. An increase in borrowing means an increase in spending, which means an increase in demand, which helps the economy. But having too much bad debt is where people found themselves in the recession.

"Households went through a very painful process of de-leveraging in the past couple of years," says Bernie Baumohl, chief economist with the Economic Outlook Group. "Bottom line is they are trying to restore some balance between the debt they are trying to service and the income they are making.”

But having your own financial house in order doesn’t necessarily help the overall economy. 

“That’s been a drag on economic growth as consumers have been more cautious with their spending,” says Gus Faucher, an economist with PNC financial services .

But now that many Americans have largely dug themselves out of the holes created by the great recession, Faucher expects an uptick in debt – and in spending.

“I think there is room for consumers to take on a little bit more debt – not go hog wild – but take on some more credit to fund purchases of big ticket items," he said.

While many Americans have stabilized their balance sheets, Thomas Cooley, a business professor at NYU’s Stern School, said young people have staggered under the weight of growing student debt.

“That’s a constraining factor in their ability to and their willingness to take on mortgage debt and more auto loan debt and so on,” he said.

That’s one reason why the millennials are sometimes called "Generation Rent."

Turns out ... lefties make less

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 11:00

The left-handed population is in the minority (at only about 12 percent), but there's no shortage of them making history. Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and four of the last seven presidents of the United States, including Barack Obama represent the left-handed contingent. 

But according to a new study, being left-handed can impair economic parity. The median income of left-handed people was 10 percent of that of right-handed people. 

This information comes from the fall 2014 edition of The Journal of Economic Perspectives in an article titled "The Wages of Sinistrality: Handedness, Brain Structure and Human Capital Accumulation." The study was the first to document this income gap.

Why the Federal Reserve wants to see more inflation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 11:00

If you’re one of those people out there worried about inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a message for you: Don’t sweat it.

The bureau's gauge of prices at the wholesale or producer level showed a gain of just 1.4 percent over the year ending in November. That’s the smallest annual increase in months.

Prices aren’t growing much faster for consumers, either.

Though the Federal Reserve has set an inflation target of 2 percent, we’re just not there.

But why do we need inflation at 2 percent, anyway?

“A little bit of inflation seems to be the sweet spot,” says Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica Bank.

Dye says if prices get too high, consumers lose confidence and wealth — they have to spend too much on goods and services. But if prices plunge too low, businesses lose money and may go bankrupt.

Still, why is 2 percent the sweet spot?

“Nobody really knows what the right number is,” says Alan Blinder, an economics professor at Princeton University and former vice chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Blinder says even if the 2 percent target seems random, there's a lot of consensus around it; other central banks use it, too. Blinder says part of the reason for picking that number – and sticking with it – is just to create clear expectations about how fast prices will rise. You don't want to keep changing the target, which he says, would confuse people, “as if the length of the yardstick was changing every year.”

But some economists say you also want to avoid falling consistently short of that target, which has been happening in the U.S.

Blinder argues that's a sign the Fed should keep stimulating the economy – to try to nudge the inflation rate up a bit.

Weekly Wrap: Comsumers, Congress and commodities

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 11:00

Kai sat down with Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post and Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal to discuss highlights from this week's news.

Van Persie to 'play for many years'

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 10:59
Manchester United striker Robin van Persie feels he can continue playing at the top level for "many years to come".

Uruguay prison diary preserved by UN

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 10:54
The UN has formally adopted an extraordinary account of life in a Uruguayan jail during military rule written on tiny cigarette papers.

Brand row man is UKIP MEP's brother

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 10:40
A Question Time audience member involved in a fiery debate with comedian Russell Brand is the brother of a UKIP MEP.

NOAA Team Finds Shipwreck From The 'Titanic of the Golden Gate'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-12 10:36

In 1901, the SS City of Rio de Janeiro went down in thick fog at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, killing 128 people — most immigrants from China and Japan.

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Your questions to BBC correspondent Frank Gardner

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 10:27
In a Twitter Q&A, the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardener answered questions about the redacted CIA report.

Growing Styrofoam out of mushrooms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:55

In a college dorm room, under a twin XL bed, a company was born. Ecovative, a biodesign company based in Albany, NY, began as a science project for Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer -- they grew oyster mushrooms under their beds, in the hopes of using them to recycle farm waste, and eventually, create an alternative to soft plastics, like Styrofoam. 

The experiment worked. Using the roots of mushrooms, Ecovative turns agricultural waste into packing materials, insulation, and even surfboards. Their products replace harmful, carcinogenic plastics found in Styrofoam and in furniture made from wood composite. Their products are all biodegradable, compostable, and sustainable. 

Mushroom roots bind together particles of farm waste to make a foam that settles in a mold -- Ecovative is able to shape these to make the kind of packaging that protects computer parts or furniture during shipping. Their materials, called Myco Board, have a pretty typical look and feel, and they cost about the same about as unrecyclable soft plastics. 

Replacing packing materials made logistical sense for Ecovative -- Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and chief scientist at Ecovative,  says that the company "sees itself as a material science company, and a materials provider...similar to Dow and DuPont, who were the materials leaders within the 20th century, we seek to be the biomaterials leader in the 21st century."

"When a customer is going to buy a product, they're looking at price, and performance," McIntyre says, "the environmental story is a nice-to-have, but it's not a need-to-have. All of our product offerings are at price parity or below traditional plastic foams or woods." That pitch has swayed customers already. In 2007, Ecovative's first customer was a Fortune 500 company, Steelcase furniture. Now they work with many other companies, including Dell and Crate and Barrel. 

They've also allowed smaller companies to experiment with their materials, offering the option to grow their own Myco Board -- that's how most of the mushroom surfboards are made, by individuals or companies, mostly located on the West Coast, who use Ecovative's foam to shape their own boards. Standford also collaborated with Ecovative on the body of a drone, made from mushroom materials, that will decompose in nature. 

Ecovative is able to keep prices down because they don't rely on fossil fuels to produce materials. They don't have an expensive factory, just molds that hold the Myco Foam while it hardens. Oil independence gives Ecovative added stability, and they save on space and staffing. 

Right now, materials made from agricultural waste are only making a small dent in the amount of unrecyclable material going into landfills and oceans, but as the number of biomaterials producers grows and as these companies expand, the materials industry could get a lot 'shroomier. 

Growing a replacement for Styrofoam ... out of mushrooms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:55

In a college dorm room, under a twin XL bed, a company was born. Ecovative, a biodesign company based in Albany, NY, began as a science project for Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer -- they grew oyster mushrooms under their beds, in the hopes of using them to recycle farm waste, and eventually, create an alternative to soft plastics, like Styrofoam. 

The experiment worked. Using the roots of mushrooms, Ecovative turns agricultural waste into packing materials, insulation, and even surfboards. Their products replace harmful, carcinogenic plastics found in Styrofoam and in furniture made from wood composite. Their products are all biodegradable, compostable, and sustainable. 

Mushroom roots bind together particles of farm waste to make a foam that settles in a mold -- Ecovative is able to shape these to make the kind of packaging that protects computer parts or furniture during shipping. Their materials, called Myco Board, have a pretty typical look and feel, and they cost about the same about as unrecyclable soft plastics. 

Replacing packing materials made logistical sense for Ecovative -- Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and chief scientist at Ecovative,  says that the company "sees itself as a material science company, and a materials provider...similar to Dow and DuPont, who were the materials leaders within the 20th century, we seek to be the biomaterials leader in the 21st century."

"When a customer is going to buy a product, they're looking at price, and performance," McIntyre says, "the environmental story is a nice-to-have, but it's not a need-to-have. All of our product offerings are at price parity or below traditional plastic foams or woods." That pitch has swayed customers already. In 2007, Ecovative's first customer was a Fortune 500 company, Steelcase furniture. Now they work with many other companies, including Dell and Crate and Barrel. 

They've also allowed smaller companies to experiment with their materials, offering the option to grow their own Myco Board -- that's how most of the mushroom surfboards are made, by individuals or companies, mostly located on the West Coast, who use Ecovative's foam to shape their own boards. Standford also collaborated with Ecovative on the body of a drone, made from mushroom materials, that will decompose in nature. 

Ecovative is able to keep prices down because they don't rely on fossil fuels to produce materials. They don't have an expensive factory, just molds that hold the Myco Foam while it hardens. Oil independence gives Ecovative added stability, and they save on space and staffing. 

Right now, materials made from agricultural waste are only making a small dent in the amount of unrecyclable material going into landfills and oceans, but as the number of biomaterials producers grows and as these companies expand, the materials industry could get a lot 'shroomier. 

Growing a replacement for Styrofoam...out of mushrooms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:55

In a college dorm room, under a twin XL bed, a company was born. Ecovative, a biodesign company based in Albany, NY, began as a science project for Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer -- they grew oyster mushrooms under their beds, in the hopes of using them to recycle farm waste, and eventually, create an alternative to soft plastics, like Styrofoam. 

The experiment worked. Using the roots of mushrooms, Ecovative turns agricultural waste into packing materials, insulation, and even surfboards. Their products replace harmful, carcinogenic plastics found in Styrofoam and in furniture made from wood composite. Their products are all biodegradable, compostable, and sustainable. 

Mushroom roots bind together particles of farm waste to make a foam that settles in a mold -- Ecovative is able to shape these to make the kind of packaging that protects computer parts or furniture during shipping. Their materials, called Myco Board, have a pretty typical look and feel, and they cost about the same about as unrecyclable soft plastics. 

Replacing packing materials made logistical sense for Ecovative -- Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and chief scientist at Ecovative,  says that the company "sees itself as a material science company, and a materials provider...similar to Dow and DuPont, who were the materials leaders within the 20th century, we seek to be the biomaterials leader in the 21st century."

"When a customer is going to buy a product, they're looking at price, and performance," McIntyre says, "the environmental story is a nice-to-have, but it's not a need-to-have. All of our product offerings are at price parity or below traditional plastic foams or woods." That pitch has swayed customers already. In 2007, Ecovative's first customer was a Fortune 500 company, Steelcase furniture. Now they work with many other companies, including Dell and Crate and Barrel. 

They've also allowed smaller companies to experiment with their materials, offering the option to grow their own Myco Board -- that's how most of the mushroom surfboards are made, by individuals or companies, mostly located on the West Coast, who use Ecovative's foam to shape their own boards. Standford also collaborated with Ecovative on the body of a drone, made from mushroom materials, that will decompose in nature. 

Ecovative is able to keep prices down because they don't rely on fossil fuels to produce materials. They don't have an expensive factory, just molds that hold the Myco Foam while it hardens. Oil independence gives Ecovative added stability, and they save on space and staffing. 

Right now, materials made from agricultural waste are only making a small dent in the amount of unrecyclable material going into landfills and oceans, but as the number of biomaterials producers grows and as these companies expand, the materials industry could get a lot 'shroomier. 

Juncker warns UK over migrant curbs

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:53
The president of the European Commission warns the UK not to "beat up" EU migrants as it tries to reduce immigration numbers.

Even in colour, Comet 67P is grey

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:50
The first colour image from the Rosetta spacecraft shows that Comet 67P is even more dark and monochrome than expected.

Vatican, Citing 'Delicate Situation,' Rejects Dalai Lama Meeting With Pope

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:46

It's an apparent reference to the Holy See's relations with Beijing. They haven't had diplomatic ties since 1949. Tibet's spiritual leader is in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

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Striker Balotelli accepts FA charge

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:37
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli accepts an FA charge for a post on social media but writes a letter in mitigation.

The ups and downs of manufacturing jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:36

The labor department says 28,000 new manufacturing jobs were created last month.

For decades manufacturing was a way to make a solid living without a college degree, but was it hit hard by automation and off-shoring.

The manufacturing jobs being created now are different, they are often specialized, or regional. One plant leaves and  another comes ... bringing with it a few precious slots.

Kenny Reeves has been working in manufacturing in the south since he graduated high school in 2007.

Confusion Over Job-Based Insurance Can Shortchange Consumers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:35

Some consumers mistakenly think that having access to skimpy coverage at work means they won't qualify for subsidies if they are interested in a more complete policy on the health care exchanges.

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Police called to man on pub roof

BBC - Fri, 2014-12-12 09:34
Police are dealing with a serious incident in Holyhead on Anglesey and have warned members of the public to avoid the area.

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