David Kestenbaum

David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.

In his years at NPR, David has covered science's discoveries and its darker side, including the Northeast blackout, the anthrax attacks and the collapse of the New Orleans levees. He has also reported on energy issues, particularly nuclear and climate change.

David has won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

David worked briefly on the show This American Life, and set up a radio journalism program in Cambodia on a Fulbright fellowship. He also teaches a journalism class at Johns Hopkins University.

David holds a bachelor's of science degree in physics from Yale University and a doctorate in physics from Harvard University.

Pages

12:28pm

Fri December 28, 2012
Planet Money

What A Former FBI Hostage Negotiator Can Teach Us About The Fiscal Cliff

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 1:27 pm

Drew Angerer Getty Images

The tortuous negotiations involved in the "fiscal cliff" talks are like a chess game.

To shed some light on the kinds of negotiation techniques that members of Congress might be using during the talks, we asked two negotiators to walk us through their tactics with examples from their everyday lives.

Read more

3:24am

Fri December 14, 2012
Planet Money

Why A Principal Created His Own Currency

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 2:43 pm

David Kestenbaum NPR

Shawn Rux took over as principal of MS 53, a New York City middle school, last year. At the time, 50 or 60 kids were absent every day. You could understand why they stayed away: The school was chaos.

Twenty-two teachers had quit, the entire office staff had quit, and hundreds of kids had been suspended. The school was given a grade of F from the city's department of education.

"It was in a bad place," Rux says.

Read more

3:18am

Wed November 21, 2012
Planet Money

How The Government Set Up A Fake Bank To Launder Drug Money

Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 1:18 pm

Skip Latson marks the fake opening of RHM Trust Bank.
Bill Bruton

In the early 1990s, Colombian drug cartels had a problem: They had more money than they knew what to do with.

"They were having a very difficult time with just the logistics of laundering millions and millions and millions of dollars every week," says Skip Latson, who worked for the DEA at the time.

So Latson and Bill Bruton, who was a special agent with the IRS, hatched a plan: They'd create a fake, offshore bank catering to the needs of the drug cartel.

Read more

7:48am

Sat November 17, 2012
Planet Money

A Sequester Is A 'Jelly-Like Mass,' And Other Notes On Fiscal-Cliff Jargon

Charles Dharapak AP

Here's a quick rundown on three of the most impenetrable terms related to the fiscal cliff. For more, see our post, The Fiscal Cliff In Three And A Half Graphics.

1. Sequester

Read more

4:04am

Thu November 15, 2012
Planet Money

Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years

Originally published on Mon November 19, 2012 2:04 pm

An oilcloth sign advertising Coca-Cola from 1905.
The Coca-Cola Company

Prices change; that's fundamental to how economies work.

And yet: In 1886, a bottle of Coke cost a nickel. It was also a nickel in 1900, 1915 and 1930. In fact, 70 years after the first Coke was sold, you could still buy a bottle for a nickel.

Three wars, the Great Depression, hundreds of competitors — none of it made any difference for the price of Coke. Why not?

Read more

4:16pm

Tue November 6, 2012
Planet Money

A Hidden Safety Net, Made Visible By The Storm

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 4:54 pm

Shopping carts full of food damaged by Sandy await disposal at Fairway.
Seth Wenig AP

The Fairway supermarket in Red Hook, Brooklyn is the sort of place New Yorkers, accustomed to cramped spaces, talk about with amazement. It's an actual, full-size supermarket, right at the edge of New York Harbor.

It's a beautiful setting, but one that was diastrous last week, when Sandy came through.

"There were five feet of water throughout the store," Bill Sanford, the president of the company told me. "Everything was submerged."

They had to throw out dumpsters worth of food. Chicken, fish, vegetables.

Read more

4:19am

Fri October 26, 2012
Planet Money

Energy Independence Wouldn't Make Gasoline Any Cheaper

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 4:05 pm

Friedemann Vogel Getty Images

Just about every president since Richard Nixon has set energy independence as a goal, and both major candidates have brought it up the current campaign.

As it turns out, there is a place, not so far from here, that has achieved energy independence: Canada.

Canada produces far more oil than it consumes. They're not dependent on the Middle East! They've got all the oil they need!

I called Stephen Gordon, a professor of economics at Université Laval in Quebec City, to ask him about what energy independence means for his nation.

Read more

3:00pm

Thu October 4, 2012
Planet Money

The Accountant Who Changed The World

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 4:04 pm

A page from Pacioli's math encyclopedia, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita.
via Jane Gleeson-White

The story of the birth of accounting begins with numbers. In the 1400s, much of Europe was still using Roman numerals, and finding it really hard to easily add or subtract. (Try adding MCVI to XCIV.)

But fortunately, Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) started catching on, and with those numbers, merchants in Venice developed a revolutionary system we now call "double-entry" bookkeeping. This is how it works:

Read more

3:25am

Fri September 28, 2012
Planet Money

He Won't Tell You His Name, But He'll Help You Hide Your Money

Originally published on Sat September 29, 2012 7:11 pm

Meet Adam Wolf*, your asset protection adviser. (*Not his real name.)
via Global Wealth Protection

We set up our shell companies. Then we wondered: What do people actually do with shell companies?

One popular use, it turns out, is what professionals call "asset protection." Ordinary people call this "hiding money."

Maybe you're a surgeon worried a patient might sue you and take everything you have. Or you want to hide money from your ex (or your soon-to-be ex).

Read more

3:32am

Thu September 20, 2012
Planet Money

Insurance Companies Send Out Rebate Checks; Economists Get Nervous

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 5:41 pm

iStockphoto.com

Nearly 13 million Americans have gotten, or will soon be getting, rebates from their health insurance companies. This is because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that's supposed to force insurance companies to run better.

But while the idea of getting a check from your health insurance company may sound great, some economists worry this rule could actually make health insurance more expensive.

Read more

2:50pm

Fri September 14, 2012
Planet Money

Even If You're All-Powerful, It's Hard To Fix The Economy

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 2:43 pm

This guy lives in a computer. Can you get him a job?
Walt Disney Pictures The Kobal Collection

The world inside Mark Zandi's computer model feels pretty familiar. It's full of people who are worried about the economy. Their homes are being foreclosed on. They're paying more for gas. Something like 13 million of them can't find jobs.

Read more

3:42pm

Mon August 27, 2012
Planet Money

A Father Of High-Speed Trading Thinks We Should Slow Down

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 3:54 pm

Thomas Peterffy, shown here in 2010
Brendan Smialowski Getty Images

First, three stories from Thomas Peterffy's life as a trader:

Story #1:

When Peterffy was a kid growing up in communist Hungary in the 1950s his buddy went to Austria and brought back a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. Peterffy bought the pack, broke the sticks of gum up into little pieces, and sold them at a profit. The principal at his school was not amused. "Where's your communist conscience?" the principal asked.

Not surprisingly, given story #1, Peterffy moved to the U.S. as a young man.

Story #2:

Read more

4:03pm

Fri July 27, 2012
Planet Money

Losing With LIBOR: One Trader's Story

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 6:02 pm

London-based Barclays Bank agreed to pay a $453 million fine over charges it manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate — LIBOR — a key global interest rate.
Oli Scarff Getty Images

We've been talking a lot lately about what's been dubbed the "LIBOR rate fixing scandal," where some of the biggest banks in the world have been accused of manipulating a key global interest rate.

Read more

3:06am

Thu July 5, 2012
Planet Money

The Farmer And The Commerce Clause

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 10:25 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court, 70 years after rejecting Roscoe Filburn's bid to limit the federal government's power to regulate commerce.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Last week's Supreme Court ruling on the health care law might have made Roscoe Filburn a little happier.

Filburn was an Ohio dairy farmer who had a beef with the federal government, one he took to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1942. He lost.

Read more

1:30pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Planet Money

Nobel Laureate: 'I've Been Wrong So Often, I Don't Find It Extraordinary At All'

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:07 pm

"I'm 101 at the moment," Ronald Coase said.
University of Chicago

I recently had a brief conversation with Ronald Coase.

"I'm 101 at the moment," he told me. "I get older by the minute."

Read more

Pages