The new Party directive says smoking, “damages the image of the party and the government.”
So does rampant corruption – but smoking seems to be a more manageable vice among China’s ruling elite.
"The leadership wants local officials to change their style and become closer to the people," says Wu Yiqun, who helps head an anti-smoking NGO in Beijing. "Part of this is setting a good example by not smoking."
But old habits die hard.
When I approach three well-dressed smokers in their 50s outside a tobacco shop in Shanghai with my microphone, one of them drops his cigarette and dashes off. The second one retreats into the shop, and the third one, Gu Ziheng, takes a long drag of his cigarette before explaining the other two were "leaders," dodging the question of whether they’re government officials.
Gu thinks this smoking ban is a good idea. "To build a civilized society, you need economic support as a foundation," he says, conjuring Party talking points, "China’s developed into a stronger nation, so it must take care of its image."
As Gu says this, his friend who dashed off peeks his head out from behind a wall, and whispers loudly enough so we all can hear: “Don’t say anything bad about the party!”
Gu and I both nod, the man disappears, and we resume the interview.
Gu tells me this smoking ban has a lot to do with Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption. "Now - in China, you have high-end, and low-end, cigarettes," Gu explains, exhaling smoke. "Smoking high-end cigarettes means you’re corrupt."
Local officials in China have been caught using public money to buy expensive cigarettes as gifts to other officials. After Gu puts out his cigarette, his friend who retreated to the tobacco shop comes out with a red, shiny carton of Chunghwa cigarettes. They’re certainly not the highest-end cigarettes. But Chunghwas, which cost a hundred dollars a carton, are commonly used as bribes in China.
As I stare at the candy apple red box, both men say awkwardly “we bought these with our own money.”
The third man remains partially hidden behind the wall, avoiding the microphone, unable to enjoy a smoke.
The Justice Department will answer a challenge to a provision in the law requiring most employers that offer health insurance to include birth control at no cost. A group of Catholic nuns objects to the provision, and they won a temporary reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Grupo Unidos por el Canal, made up of Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Panamanian firms, says it will halt work if it doesn't get paid for $1.6 billion in cost overruns in the next three weeks.
If people have insurance coverage, the theory went, they won't end up in the emergency room as often. But an analysis of Oregon's expansion of Medicaid found that people who gained coverage were 40 percent more likely to go to the emergency room.
If you haven't heard of the Quadrantids, don't worry. Even NASA calls them "a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation." But in the Northern Hemisphere, they can be well worth watching.
The say the body of the Rev. Eric Freed, found in the rectory of St. Bernard Church in Eureka on New Year's Day, showed signs of a struggle.
More than 1 million people lost their unemployment benefits as 2014 began. Whether or not those benefits get extended, economists say there are ways to change the program that will make it work better. One suggestion is work sharing, which has helped reduce Germany's unemployment.
For the past three decades, the state averaged about 50 quakes a year. Last year, there were almost 3,000. Some geologists say the state's oil and gas industry might be to blame for the increase.
A new Pew survey showing that belief in evolution has dropped among Republicans is fueling critics who argue the GOP is anti-science. But Republican strategists say it's not an issue that will matter at the polls.
Happy New Year! In 2014, Marketplace Money will follow a few listeners from around the country who’ve resolved to make over their personal finance lives. We’ll be checking up on their financial New Year’s resolutions periodically throughout the year and see if they're achieving their goals!
Name: Eric Sawchak, 21
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Resolution: “I'm going to get a job this year after I graduate, hopefully. And I would like to start saving for all the long-term goals that I have, most specifically: retirement and planning ahead for the family that I'm probably going to have. My parents set me up with a Roth IRA a few years ago, so I kind of got the bug early."
"I'm not going to graduate with any debt because my parents set me up with a 529 [college savings plan], for which I owe my parents a whole load of thanks. I have a part-time internship, that provides me about $10 an hour for the 10 hours a week I work there, so I have a little bit of extra income. But when I graduate that's all pretty much going to stop, if I can't find a real job, full-time job, then ... geez, I don't even know what I'm going to do. But for the present, I'm in a pretty good situation."
Carmen says: “We can plan all we want, but it's gotta be: Start with now! So what are those immediate needs? What's going to happen is that your income ... that is going to fuel the expenses for your family in the future, your retirement. So without thinking about how that job is going to happen, you can't get at that money. Think about the practical about getting that job, which means living on your own. And what would those costs be? And you can estimate, 'How much would my budget be for rent? I would have to save up for first and last month's payment."
The Florida congressman, who was arrested in November for cocaine possession, said he's returning to Congress. But the Republican hasn't said yet whether he'll seek another two years in Congress when his term expires this year.
Researchers in Tokyo have put a new twist on the use of sound to suspend objects in air. They've used ultrasonic standing waves to trap pieces of wood, metal and water – and even move them around.
The New York Times and Britain's The Guardian have published editorials saying accused spy Edward Snowden has sparked an important debate about the proper limits of electronic surveillance.
The proceeds from corruption, and legal and ethical gray areas, are a daily fact of life in China. The practice of gray income, which shows no sign of abating, may make political reforms more difficult.
Among those who stand to benefit the most from the expansion of Medicaid are homeless adults. Many of these men and women are mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol. Enrolling them can be difficult, but the benefits should be substantial.
The new Desert Flower Center offers treatment for the physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation. But fear of alienation from their families and communities may keep some victims, mainly immigrants from Africa, from taking advantage of the center.
Remember screw caps on jugs of wine? These days, many winemakers have wholeheartedly embraced the screw tops — not just for their ease of use, but for the way they seal the wine's taste. Now many consumers are learning to look past the caps' former downmarket reputation.
IBM finished last year with a sad-sounding distinction: Its stock was the only one on the Dow Jones Industrial Average to lose value in 2013. The average as a whole was up 26 percent—IBM’s share price went down 2 percent.
But some say Big Blue, the company, looks a lot healthier than its stock’s performance. IBM made money and paid dividends. And in the fast-changing tech world, it retains some big advantages.
One of the biggest advantages is… being big. And being one of the companies big companies can rely on to take care of all their IT needs. Chief Information Officers for Fortune 500 Companies? Not big risk takers.
If I’ve got IBM, I’ve got a guy.
"And, I have one throat to choke," says Grady Burkett of Morningstar. "So if my guy messes up, I know exactly who to call."
All that integration means that for IBM’s customers, switching to another vendor isn’t a consumer's choice to switch from PC to Mac. It’s more like getting a divorce.
IBM does its best to keep its customers happy by staying current, and playing catch-up when it needs to— sometimes by buying smaller, younger companies that have developed new technology.
For instance, cloud computing—which allows customers to rent server space instead of buying servers from vendors like IBM—is eating into sales. So last year IBM bought a company called Softlayer that specializes in providing cloud services.
Andrew McAfee, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Business and author of Enterprise 2.0, thinks IBM’s star turn on TV a couple of years ago—as the builder of Jeopardy champ Watson—was a good sign. "IBM did not build Watson just to play Jeopardy," he says.
Instead, IBM built Watson to compete with Google search, Apple’s SIRI, and other I-can-answer-that-question-for-you applications. "Think about it applied to troubleshooting, applied to customer service, applied to medical diagnostics," he says. "The potential uses for a Watson-style technology are all over the place." The company's website for Watson reflects these ideas.
The company's stock is likely to come back over time, according to Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson. "We think that over that longer horizon these fundamentals will shine through more, and that will be reflected in the stock price," he says.
In other words, the fast-moving stock market may yet catch up with this big, mature company.
In 2013, the average U.S. citizen found out that almost everything we do on the web can be monitored by the NSA.
Consumers responded with a collective shrug, at least in regards to their web browsing and spending habits. In other words, consumers haven't logged off of Google, Facebook, Yahoo or any of the PRISM companies en masse.
The question for 2014 is how will enterprise -- or business customers -- respond?
"One of the things we do know is that a lot of these companies have come out saying that they're gonna put in extra measures like encrypting their emails as well as trying to figure out a way that the information going from server to server is secure. They're trying to up their game," says Marketplace's Queena Kim. "Of course, it's just a matter of time before the NSA ups their game and it becomes this arms race. Then the question is, 'Who starts paying for all these security measures.'"
Right now, analysts estimate that the NSA revelations could cost U.S. cloud computing providers anywhere from $35 billion to $180 billion in lost business. Analysts believe that foreign companies in Europe and Asia will be more hesitatant to do business with U.S. cloud providers.
Of course the difference betwee $35 billion and $180 billion is huge -- but it serves to highlight the uncertaintly facing those tech companies.
Fiat announced it is going to buy Chrysler in a $4.3 billion deal. Fiat had gotten control of Chrysler as part of a 2009 bailout deal overseen by the Obama Administration, but now Fiat will totally control Chrysler.
Chrysler is, of course, a very iconic American brand in a very iconic American industry, so should it brace for consumer backlash here in the U.S.?
As it turns out, the answer might be yes.
We like to be patriotic when we shop. A recent survey by Perception Research Services found three-quarters of shoppers were more likely to buy something because it was 'Made in America.'
"What they tell us is it’s a concern for the economy," says Jonathan Asher, executive vice president the research firm. "They want to support jobs at home and that sort of thing."
Last year, Walmart launched a local product push and pledged to buy an additional $50 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over the next decade. A company spokesman said surveys showed 'Made in the USA' was very important to Walmart shoppers.
It also tends to be important to car shoppers.
"For some reason, automobile brands really get associated with the country that originated them," says Ira Kalb, a marketing professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. But origins aren't so simple, especially when it comes to cars.
"What we've found is that Japanese, Korean as well as German manufacturers are increasingly building more and more of their product sold in North America in North America," says Michael Robinet, Managing Director of IHS Automotive.
Still, people aren’t logical when it comes to brand loyalty and backlash says Kalb.
"Brand is a funny thing; it exists in the mind. In marketing, that’s what we do," says Kalb. "We’re sort of doing non-invasive brain surgery."
Kalb says a little brand-surgery might be in order for Chrysler. He says the company will need to address the fact it’s no longer American, especially with older consumers, who tend to care more about where things are made and tend to have more money to buy those things.