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Scientists have solved a four decade long challenge of producing very thin nylon films that can be used for instance in electronic memory components. The thin nylon films are several 100 times thinner than human hair and could thus be attractive for applications in bendable electronic devices or for electronics in clothing.
Source: science daily

Engineers have developed experimental stickers that pick up physiological signals emanating from the skin, then wirelessly beam these health readings to a receiver clipped onto clothing. It's all part of a system called BodyNet.
Source: science daily

Some 40 or 50 kids, ages 7 to 19, work on their passing skills on a northeast Austin, Texas, soccer field. The practice is being run by Upper Ninety, a youth development program. But what makes Upper Ninety different from other soccer programs is it’s free.

That’s a great thing for 18-year-old Samuel Osezua, who moved here from Nigeria about a year ago. 

“Programs like this have helped me settle in faster because since it’s free, it’s attractive to everybody,” he said.

In the United States, elite competitive club soccer tends to be expensive. Membership dues for a team that’s affiliated with the official U.S. Soccer organization — as opposed to a recreational league or a school team — can cost $5,000 a year. That’s not to mention travel costs. Those could run a family thousands of dollars over the course of a season, too.

The founder of Upper Ninety, Kaitlin Swarts, grew up in Austin and played club soccer most of her life. She saw soccer getting more and more expensive and decided to do something about it.  

“I’m really fortunate to have been born into a family that could afford that, but that’s just not the reality for most people,” Swarts said.

When the English Premier League gets underway this weekend, all eyes (at least many American eyes) will be on a 20-year-old phenom from Hershey, Pennsylvania, named Christian Pulisic. He’s a bit of a curiosity because there’s only a handful of American men who play soccer in elite world leagues.

The fact that soccer is often unaffordable tends to limit the potential of U.S. men’s soccer. Youth clubs are not feeding enough players to the national team, which wasn’t even good enough to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. In the United States, the financial burden of developing elite young players falls to parents.

“In Europe the clubs are incentivized to develop those players because once they become adults, they can either contribute to the senior team or they can be sold for many millions of dollars to a rival club,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports & Society Program at the Aspen Institute.

A top German league team sent the young American, Pulisic, to Chelsea late last year. Chelsea paid a whopping $73 million to sign Pulisic.

If Pulisic were from Europe, though, the youth club he played on before he turned pro in Germany would be getting a fat 10% slice of that $73 million. It’s called a solidarity payment and isn’t part of the process in the U.S.

Tom Cove, president and CEO of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, said for some American clubs, that solidarity payment could mean a lot.

“With that kind of money, you can kind of serve many needs, really focusing on the elite and developing that best player, but also reaching back into the community,” he said. “That’s a significant amount of money to reach a local club.”

The governing body here, U.S. Soccer, has chosen to opt out of the system. One reason for that: Professional American players worry that when a big-time club like Chelsea has to pay this solidarity tax, they’re going to get less money.

Ultimately this means PA Classics — the developmental club of Pulisic’s childhood — won’t get a dime from his transfer. Steve Klein, the head of PA Classics, declined an interview.

But what about the U.S. Women, who just won another World Cup? Does the financial structure of U.S. Soccer hold women back, too? Farrey at the Aspen Institute said not really.

“In a nation of 330 million people, we just have so many more girls playing soccer,” he said. “Our ability to put together a roster of 20 or 24 players are going to be pretty good, is infinitely easier than it is in a lot of other countries.”

Back in northeast Austin, Swarts of Upper Ninety isn’t too worried about elite youth clubs getting money for their star players. Her organization isn’t a club team and wouldn’t be eligible for those payments, anyway. Her goal is totally different.

“Soccer should be a community thing, and you shouldn’t have to have all of the time and all of the money to enjoy it,” she said.

Source: marketplace

Uber and Lyft, both still unprofitable, announced quarterly earnings this week for the second time since going public. Lyft enjoyed higher-than-expected revenues; Uber’s was lower than expected.

The question of whether these companies will ever turn a profit has come into even sharper relief as the state of California considers legislation that would force Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.

California’s Assembly Bill 5 would codify the findings of a landmark state Supreme Court ruling, resulting in the reclassification of hundreds of thousands of gig workers as employees.

The distinction between employee and independent contractor is an expensive one: Social Security, payroll taxes, unemployment, workers’ comp and a host of other benefits come with employee status.

According to analysis released by Barclays earlier this year, if AB5 were signed into law it would add an estimated $500 million in expenses a year for Uber, $300 million a year for Lyft.

“These are companies that are so busy trying to figure out their business model as it is and then you’re throwing a big wrench into that,” said Paul Oyer, an economics professor at Stanford University.

According to Columbia University business professor Leonard Sherman, there are two things Uber and Lyft need to do approach profitability in the long run: raise prices and contain labor expenses. If the California law adds to driver costs, “you have really attacked any possible path to profitability,” he said.

Whether the bill becomes law or not, it could spur copycat efforts around the country, said UC Hastings law professor Veena Dubal.

“The ramifications are huge,” Dubal said. “It sends the message to other legislators: ‘oh, that’s possible.'”

Uber and Lyft are pursuing alternatives to human labor with driverless cars, said Susan Shaheen, an expert on transportation innovations at UC Berkeley.

“But in terms of wide-scale deployment everywhere in the United States, automation is going to take a long time,” she said.

AB5 has already passed one house of the legislature with a final vote in the other expected in August or September. Big change could be accelerating faster than self-driving cars can keep up.

Source: marketplace

For the past few years, JCPenney has had a long string of management shake-ups and store closures, interrupted by the occasional bright moment. And it has the stock price to prove it: Penney’s shares have consistently been trading under the $5 mark for many months. Technically, when it crossed that line it became a penny stock. And for the past several days in a row, it’s been under $1.

Now the New York Stock Exchange has stepped in and issued a stern warning to the retailer that it’s in danger of being delisted. That could mean a new home for Penney’s shares — the over-the-counter market.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

Source: marketplace

Erin Hennessy, a public relations executive in Washington, D.C., bought her first home about a year and a half ago. She locked in a pretty good interest rate — 4.25%. But today, she’s in the process of refinancing.

“We’re hopeful that once all the paperwork is done that I will be down to 3.75,” she said.

She figures she will save about $200 a month.

As anxious investors have poured money into Treasury bonds, yields have fallen. That’s pushed rates down on other long-term loans, like mortgages.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed loan just hit 3.6%, according to Freddie Mac. That’s a three-year low, and it’s got a lot of people who are currently paying more than that scrambling to refinance. Refi applications were up 12% this week.

“Two-thirds of our calls that are coming in are refinances,” said Lana Jern with Denver’s Uptown Mortgage.

The number of people who could benefit from a refi has exploded, said Andy Walden, who follows the mortgage market at research firm Black Knight.

“We currently see 9.7 million homeowners that could save three-quarters of a percent through a refinance, which is twice as many as there were in the market as little as two months ago,” he said.

That doesn’t mean all those 9.7 million people should refinance.  Those who aren’t going to stay in their home very long might pay more in closing costs and fees than they’ll save on interest.

Many homeowners are tempted by all the equity they’ve piled up as home values have risen. Jern said more of her clients have been refinancing into larger loans so they can pocket some extra cash.

Source: marketplace

Payday loans are a short-term, high-cost way to borrow money; 12 million Americans used them last year, often for one-off expenses like car repair or medical bills. According to the Consumer Federation of America, the loans typically run at about a 400% annual interest, and finance charges can range from $15 to $30 on a $100 loan.

Astry Sosa, 25, is a lead on the manufacturing line at Prier Products in Grandview, Missouri. Using Onward, she has saved enough money to pay for the taxes and licensing on her truck. (Peggy Lowe/KCUR)

There are now a growing number of efforts underway to help consumers avoid the need for those kinds of loans. One of them is Onward, a program still in pilot stage that allows workers to save small amounts of money over time, building a small nest egg for emergencies and creating credit.

Source: marketplace

Uber and Lyft, the two big competing ride-sharing companies, posted lower-than-expected revenue in their respective earnings reports this week. Each went public earlier this year. As the companies adjust to their new status, they may find that the financial pressure of being beholden to shareholders could mean changes in pricing strategies and branding.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

Source: marketplace

Purdue University researchers have developed a new fabric innovation that allows the wearer to control electronic devices through the clothing.
Source: science daily

Marvel announced some new milestones as it presented its upcoming Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at San Diego Comic-Con. The new slate of films will include the first ever Asian superhero in a lead role in “Shang-Chi” to star Awkwafina and Simu Liu, the first deaf superhero in “The Eternals,” starring Lauren Ridloff alongside Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani, and the first openly gay superhero in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” in which Tessa Thompson’s character Valkyrie will be out as a lesbian and the title character will be gender-changed to be played by Natalie Portman.

Marvel fan Dallas Schwab, 24, has seen plenty of homophobic references onscreen, like in the 2002 “Spider-Man” in which the hero — then played by Toby Maguire — makes a pejorative comment about a male opponent’s unitard, saying “that’s a cute outfit. Did your husband give it to you?”

“I watched that in the theater when I was a kid as kind of an insult,” said Schwab. When he heard that the upcoming Thor installment will feature a lesbian storyline he was encouraged.

“To have a movie franchise like Marvel be so big and to really lean into the representation I think is going to be extraordinarily meaningful to people,” he said.

That can translate to more lucrative returns for the studio as well. Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology at UCLA who tracks diversity in Hollywood, said films with broader representation perform better at the box office.

“Let’s face it — everything that we’ve seen in our studies suggest that audiences want to see this, and they will go and they will support these films,” he said, noting the trend set by the massive success of “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” will only intensify.

“The present and certainly the future — as America becomes more diverse— will be dependent upon having films that are populated with characters that look like America,” he said.

But it’s not enough to simply cast more diverse characters on screen said Nancy Wang Yuen, author of “Reel Inequality.”

“Audiences are really savvy now they want to see authentic storytelling,” she said. “They want to see parts of the story that really embrace and reflect their lived experiences.”

And that means increasing diversity behind the scenes as well. Marvel has announced it’s bringing on diverse directors and writers for their upcoming films, including Chloé Zhao, Taika Waititi and Destin Daniel Cretton.

Dallas Schwab said he’s not yet sure he’ll run to see the new Thor movie just because of a diverse character, “unless they make it kind of a sticking point in the movie and not just an afterthought.”

But done right, the move could recruit a whole new legion of fans to the Marvel universe. 

Source: marketplace