Marketplace - American Public Media

Waiting for a key report on global oil market

Mon, 2015-02-09 02:00

The International Energy Agency in Paris issues its look-ahead to oil markets in the next five years on Tuesday. So what's the key question, and why do so many energy pros follow this agency?

To many analysts, consensus is spelled I-E-A. The International Energy Agency forms consensus, says consultant Bob McNally of the Rapidan Group.

He says consensus used to be that OPEC would intervene whenever prices fell. Until last fall, when it didn't. The big question now – a central question in the upcoming medium-term report – is how a new world without an OPEC price-stabilizer might look.

Some analysts see a prolonged period of low crude oil prices, perhaps below $75 a barrel. McNally's take: "We told our clients, welcome back to Space Mountain, the Disneyland roller coaster."

In other words, volatility.

Lending ones' eyes via smartphone

Mon, 2015-02-09 02:00

An app that helps the blind by connecting them to sighted volunteers who can see through their video camera has been gaining a lot of attention since its recent launch. Be My Eyes, as the app is known, was developed by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a 50-year-old Dane, and funded by three different Danish groups. Wiberg himself is visually impaired.

“Its great to see people being really innovative in this space,” says Eliza Cooper, a social media consultant who has been blind since childhood. She recently tested the app to find out the expiration date on her milk carton.

“I didn't know where the expiration date usually is,” says Cooper. So her volunteer looked at her own milk carton and then told Cooper where to aim the camera.

What made her apprehensive, Cooper says, was not the technology itself, but the person who would be on the other end. “Maybe someone who is lonely and just wants a connection, and they choose to use this app,” she says. “That made me nervous."

But she soon realized that wasn’t the case. The woman Cooper spoke to didn’t ask to exchange names. “I felt good about not having any pressure to identify anything more than I wanted to,” says Cooper.

Click the media player above to hear more about Eliza Cooper's experience using 'Be My Eyes.'

 

Who lives in a money-making pineapple under the sea?

Mon, 2015-02-09 01:30
54 percent

The portion of New York City real estate purchases over $5 million that were conducted by shell companies, the New York Times reported. That adds up to more than $4 billion, much of it paid anonymously by LLCs or other corporations with fluid, obscured ownership. A Times investigation, rolling out this week, found that number is on the rise and transparency in the city's high-end real estate is disappearing, which becomes disconcerting when many of the shell companies trace back to foreign billionaires with checkered pasts.

29

The number of states in which truck driving was the most common job in 2014, according to an analysis by NPR. They used census data, and excluded two very broad categories "manager" and "salesperson," to find truckers have become more and more common as other jobs move overseas or become obsolete.

$590 million

That's the size of the stake Alibaba is taking in a smartphone maker based in China, as reported by the New York Times. Meizu Technology Co. will get access to Alibaba's sales channels in exchange for using Alibaba's operating system in its devices.

1,800

The number of drunk driving accidents Uber claims to have "likely prevented" in California since launching there two and a half years ago. But ProPublica notes the relationship between the ride-sharing service and drunk driving may not be so clear-cut. Indeed, communities with UberX saw a larger drop in drunk driving accidents among under-30 set than those cities that didn't have the low-cost ride service. But it's a leap to credit Uber - both sets of communities saw drops and it's unclear how many of the people under-30 actually it.

$56 million

Are you ready kids? The SpongeBob Squarepants movie won the weekend box office with a $56 million opening. As reported by the WSJ, the yellow sponge dethroned previous top spot holder "American Sniper."

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