National News

Who's Going To Be Afghanistan's Next President?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 05:53

Eleven candidates are trying to replace Hamid Karzai in the April 5 election. Ten are Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group. Candidates are already holding rallies, debating and wooing the support of tribal leaders. Here's a rundown of the top contenders.

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Who's Going To Be Afghanistan's Next President?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 05:53

Eleven candidates are trying to replace Karzai in the April 5 election. Ten are Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group. Candidates are already holding rallies, debating, and wooing the support of tribal leaders. Here's a rundown of the top contenders.

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EU officials debate sanctions after Switzerland restricts immigration

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 05:18

The European Union is trying to figure out what to do with a non-member in their midst, after voters in Switzerland passed a referendum to puts limits on the number of foreigners who can live and work there.  The BBC's Imogen Foulks joined us from Geneva to tell us more.

Click play above to hear more.

How Caffeinated Are Our Kids? Coffee Consumption Jumps

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 05:14

Energy drinks tend to get a bad rap. But when it comes to caffeine intake, teenagers seem to be getting far more caffeine from coffee drinks. Overall, about three-fourths of children in the U.S. consume caffeine on a given day.

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North Korea's homegrown operating system seems familiar

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 04:35

Have you heard of the new computer operating system Red Star? No? Well you've probably seen it. Sort of. Red Star OS is the new Home-Grown operating system in North Korea.

And like some of the other tech built in that country...it has a familiar vibe.

David Lee, a technology reporter for the BBC, says North Korean engineers have opted for a new kind of imitation.

HTC goes low-end amid struggle to compete in smartphone market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 04:15

Taiwanese phone maker HTC announced quarterly earnings that fell to $1.4 billion this week. That may not sound bad but in a competitive smartphone market, HTC has struggled to sit at the table with the likes of Apple and Samsung. So, the company is making some new moves. Our friend Lindsey Turrentine at CNET joined us to help us take a look at this.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

HTC struggles to compete in smartphone market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 04:15

Taiwanese phone maker HTC announced quarterly earnings that fell to $1.4 billion this week. That may not sound bad but in a competitive smartphone market, HTC has struggled to sit at the table with the likes of Apple and Samsung. So, the company is making some new moves. Our friend Lindsey Turrentine at CNET joined us to help us take a look at this.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

Could workers in a Southern state join an auto union?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 03:54

Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee will vote on whether they want union representation on Wednesday through Friday. Gov. Bill Haslam* and Sen. Jack Johnson (who is also chair of the state's Commerce and Labor Committee), both oppose the union moving in.

There are two big reasons foreign auto makers who want to build cars in the U.S. look to the Southeast: cheaper labor and generous state incentives. The United Auto Workers union has tried to organize in America's foreign auto plants in previous years, without much success.

"One of our big selling points is that we are right-to-work, and quite frankly I don't think they need that union organization for the benefit of the employees," Johnson argued.

As far as pay disputes and potential strikes? That's going to be tricky for United Auto Workers. 

"I think the UAW does not have an incentive to go in there and jam up wages super-high in such a way that it makes Volkswagen fail," says Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota. Sojourner says if that happens, the union can kiss goodbye any hope of getting into more foreign-owned factories, especially in the South.

 

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the governor of Tennessee. It's Bill Haslam. The text has been corrected.

 

Will Janet Yellen follow the Bernanke plan?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 03:53

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen appears before Congress on Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee, her first regular visit since succeeding Ben Bernanke. 

A Fed chair’s testimony -- and responses to members of Congress -- are always scrutinized.  This time, if anything, the scrutiny will be heightened: Not only is Yellen new to the leadership role, there has been increased turmoil in global financial markets of late. Stocks have been volatile after a big selloff in recent weeks. Emerging markets are being dumped on by investors as their curriencies experience volatility; countries with weak trade balance numbers are being pressured to raise the interest rates they offer on government debt, in part to compete with higher rates anticipated for U.S. Treasuries.

This global fluctuation of interest rates is partly due to the Federal Reserve winding down its extraordinary fiscal stimulus policy known as quantitative easing. The Fed has been buying tens of billions of dollars worth of bonds each month to keep interest rates low and encourage more investment and consumption in the U.S.

After a mostly-unexpected announcement late 2013 that increased the likelihood for further tapering moves in the first half of 2014, Yellen meets Congress to discuss concerns such as: ‘Is the job market getting healthier?’, ’Is inflation a danger long-term?’, ‘Are emerging markets a threat to U.S. markets?’, and ‘Could a precipitous slowdown in U.S. or global growth change the course of tapering?’

“I believe that Janet Yellen will be as careful, as forthright, and as candid as Ben Bernanke,” predicts economist Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, New Jersey. “And that, I think, is a departure from the kind of obfuscation that we saw with (Alan) Greenspan.”

Baumohl says Yellen will attempt to deflect questions that bear on what the Fed might do in specific situations -- like if a major emerging market defaulted, or if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling, noting that market participants will listen closely for cues on asset value policy changes  (i.e., for equities and real estate). They’ll be looking for hints as to “whether she is going to be able to prevent, or carefully deflate, any kind of asset bubble that may be emerging,” he added. “She is going to be doing something that no one has done before” in the wake of the financial crisis and the extraordinary fiscal measures to refloat the economy. 

The damage (along with asset bubbles) that inflation-hawks warn is already on the horizon because of the Fed’s quantitative easing will also likely be a topic of questioning, predicts economist John Canally at LPL Financial in Boston.

“Consumers see inflation all the time—at the gas station, at the grocery store,” says Canally. "And it’s infuriating to the average consumer who says ‘Wait a minute, there’s inflation—my food bill’s higher, my gasoline bill’s higher too.' So Yellen may get asked about inflation. But the answers she gives might not be what consumers want to hear.”

Meanwhile, a significant bloc in Congress—and one that crosses party lines—is pushing legislation to limit the Fed’s wide powers over the economy and the financial sector. Karen Petrou, managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics in Washington, D.C., says those lawmakers won’t hesitate to grill Yellen on what they perceive as the Fed’s overreaching regulation and over-intervention in the economy, independent of the will of the legislative branch. That aggressive stance on the Fed’s leadership role originates with Ben Bernanke and his efforts to stabilize markets during the financial crisis, and Yellen also strongly backs the policy.  

“It’s one of the few areas where the Republicans and more liberal Democrats really agree," says Petrou. "They think the Fed is being too good to the big banks, is agreeing to too many international compacts that should be reviewed by Congress. They come together when it gets around to disliking and distrusting the Fed.”

One thing Janet Yellen doesn’t want, says Petrou, is to start a term by having Congress clip her regulatory wings. It’s an eventuality Yellen is likely to fight with both rhetoric, and an effort to fully cooperate fully with Congressional requests for information and additional appearances on the Hill in coming months.

Yellen also appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

Fed's Janet Yellen grilled by Congress for the first time

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 03:53

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen appears before Congress on Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee, her first regular visit since succeeding Ben Bernanke. 

A Fed chair’s testimony -- and responses to members of Congress -- are always scrutinized.  This time, if anything, the scrutiny will be heightened: Not only is Yellen new to the leadership role, there has been increased turmoil in global financial markets of late. Stocks have been volatile after a big selloff in recent weeks. Emerging markets are being dumped on by investors as their curriencies experience volatility; countries with weak trade balance numbers are being pressured to raise the interest rates they offer on government debt, in part to compete with higher rates anticipated for U.S. Treasuries.

This global fluctuation of interest rates is partly due to the Federal Reserve winding down its extraordinary fiscal stimulus policy known as quantitative easing. The Fed has been buying tens of billions of dollars worth of bonds each month to keep interest rates low and encourage more investment and consumption in the U.S.

After a mostly-unexpected announcement late 2013 that increased the likelihood for further tapering moves in the first half of 2014, Yellen meets Congress to discuss concerns such as: ‘Is the job market getting healthier?’, ’Is inflation a danger long-term?’, ‘Are emerging markets a threat to U.S. markets?’, and ‘Could a precipitous slowdown in U.S. or global growth change the course of tapering?’

“I believe that Janet Yellen will be as careful, as forthright, and as candid as Ben Bernanke,” predicts economist Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, New Jersey. “And that, I think, is a departure from the kind of obfuscation that we saw with (Alan) Greenspan.”

Baumohl says Yellen will attempt to deflect questions that bear on what the Fed might do in specific situations -- like if a major emerging market defaulted, or if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling, noting that market participants will listen closely for cues on asset value policy changes  (i.e., for equities and real estate). They’ll be looking for hints as to “whether she is going to be able to prevent, or carefully deflate, any kind of asset bubble that may be emerging,” he added. “She is going to be doing something that no one has done before” in the wake of the financial crisis and the extraordinary fiscal measures to refloat the economy. 

The damage (along with asset bubbles) that inflation-hawks warn is already on the horizon because of the Fed’s quantitative easing will also likely be a topic of questioning, predicts economist John Canally at LPL Financial in Boston.

“Consumers see inflation all the time—at the gas station, at the grocery store,” says Canally. "And it’s infuriating to the average consumer who says ‘Wait a minute, there’s inflation—my food bill’s higher, my gasoline bill’s higher too.' So Yellen may get asked about inflation. But the answers she gives might not be what consumers want to hear.”

Meanwhile, a significant bloc in Congress—and one that crosses party lines—is pushing legislation to limit the Fed’s wide powers over the economy and the financial sector. Karen Petrou, managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics in Washington, D.C., says those lawmakers won’t hesitate to grill Yellen on what they perceive as the Fed’s overreaching regulation and over-intervention in the economy, independent of the will of the legislative branch. That aggressive stance on the Fed’s leadership role originates with Ben Bernanke and his efforts to stabilize markets during the financial crisis, and Yellen also strongly backs the policy.  

“It’s one of the few areas where the Republicans and more liberal Democrats really agree," says Petrou. "They think the Fed is being too good to the big banks, is agreeing to too many international compacts that should be reviewed by Congress. They come together when it gets around to disliking and distrusting the Fed.”

One thing Janet Yellen doesn’t want, says Petrou, is to start a term by having Congress clip her regulatory wings. It’s an eventuality Yellen is likely to fight with both rhetoric, and an effort to fully cooperate fully with Congressional requests for information and additional appearances on the Hill in coming months.

Yellen also appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

Shirley Temple Dies; Childhood Movie Star Became Diplomat

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 03:30

Her singing and dancing in movies charmed millions during the Great Depression, when she was the top box-office draw. After leaving show business, Temple (known in her private life as Shirley Temple Black) was an ambassador. She represented the nation at the U.N. and in Prague during the Cold War.

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Can redditors influence lawmakers?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 03:11

Today a list of over 5,000 online companies and organizations want to help, and hurt, two separate legislation moving through capital hill. The bills deals with the NSA and Surveillance. Tumblr, Mozilla, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are all calling their efforts "The Day We Fight Back."

The website Reddit is also involved. Erik Martin, Reddit's General Manager, describes the pieces of legislation:

"One is called the U.S.A. Freedom Act, that's a bipartisan bill that would curtail some of the NSA's surveillance activities and abuses. The other bill, sort of a competing bill, attempts to legalize and codify the bulk collection of data and phone records, and that's the FISA Improvement Act. So 'The Day We Fight Back' is really getting people to show their support for the U.S.A. Freedom Act and show their disapproval of the FISA Improvement Act."

Martin admits that Reddit is entering a new and tricky area when it decides to push for certain laws over others. But he hopes that posts on Reddit's front page, which gets 19 million views every day, will inspire more dialogue about surveillance.

And maybe some real world action, like people calling their Congressional representatives. Two years ago internet companies helped kill the so-called SOPA and PIPA acts this way. Many felt those bills went too far in protecting intellectual property. The challenge here, Martin says, is getting people to pick up the phone again for an issue as murky as surveillance.

See Martin's call to action to Reddit users here.

Using the internet to influence lawmakers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 03:11

Today a list of over 5,000 online companies and organizations want to help, and hurt, two separate legislation moving through capital hill. The bills deals with the NSA and Surveillance. Tumblr, Mozilla, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are all calling their efforts "The Day We Fight Back."

The website Reddit is also involved. Erik Martin, Reddit's General Manager, describes the pieces of legislation:

"One is called the U.S.A. Freedom Act, that's a bipartisan bill that would curtail some of the NSA's surveillance activities and abuses. The other bill, sort of a competing bill, attempts to legalize and codify the bulk collection of data and phone records, and that's the FISA Improvement Act. So 'The Day We Fight Back' is really getting people to show their support for the U.S.A. Freedom Act and show their disapproval of the FISA Improvement Act."

Martin admits that Reddit is entering a new and tricky area when it decides to push for certain laws over others. But he hopes that posts on Reddit's front page, which gets 19 million views every day, will inspire more dialogue about surveillance.

And maybe some real world action, like people calling their Congressional representatives. Two years ago internet companies helped kill the so-called SOPA and PIPA acts this way. Many felt those bills went too far in protecting intellectual property. The challenge here, Martin says, is getting people to pick up the phone again for an issue as murky as surveillance.

See Martin's call to action to Reddit users here.

Silicon Galley? Seeking innovation off-shore

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:47

Could Silicon Valley become more of an island? An island is both an outpost with its own rules that's also a bit cut off from the wider society -- a combination of characteristics which emerged during a series of conversations on whether an island of innovation would end up a richer or poorer place if left to its own devices. 

I invited Dario Mutabdjiza, CEO of a start-up called Blueseed, to explain his out-to-sea vision at a Half Moon Bay California pier that may end up launching a thousand entreprenuerial ships. If he can raise enough money, Mutabdjiza would like to put a collection of floating dorms and offices just past the limit of current US immigration law, about 12 miles out to sea. The "venture capital row" near Stanford is about 30 minutes away from this wharf.

“The most realistic possibility would be [to use] a cruise ship, a used cruised ship,” Mutabdjiza says. The cost to maintain the floating real estate might even be competitive with the Bay Area's high-priced commercial rental space.

“They're beautiful, they have rooms, they have theaters, they have restaurants.  Any cruise ship would be good enough to begin with. We wouldn't have to do much retrofitting.”

 

Sailing Through Immigration Laws 

Many entrepreneurs and-or engineers have bright ideas they'd like to develop in the United States, but it's a difficult process getting them a full-time work visa to pursue that dream, Mutabdjiza says, who sees a more flexible business multiple entry visa as an easier get: “What you cannot do on those [traditional full-time work] visas, and that's where Blueseed comes in, you cannot legally work in the United States. So the work on their startup would happen [with a business multiple entry visa] on a ship. The coding and the business development, and the networking activities would happen in Silicon Valley.”  He concedes the work visa concerns could be better solved if the U.S. Congress changed immigration laws. 

If this seems familiar--a floating solution to a policy problem--you may remember how the overseers of British broadcasting denied the public consistent rock n' roll until pirate radio stations went on the air from ships at sea. 

 

Maritime Urban Planning 

Another Northern California-based outfit even has a grander vision: Entire floating cities in an attempt to solve what's seen as a broken government that stands in the way of innovation.

“The end goal is to see a thousand floating cities each competing for citizens,” says Randolph Hencken, executive director of the Seasteading Institute, which wants to break what supporters see as a government monopoly… on government.

“It's strange to think of governance as a technology, but a technology is something we use to get things done.  Most technologies advance through innovation and competition in the marketplace,” he says. “Right now just a few big firms have that monopoly on government.  IF we can open up the blue frontier to humanity, each competing for citizens, we'll see great advances in government.”

Floating cities could be part of a liberatian-flavored utopian community -- think Hershey, Pennsylvania or the community in Texas tried by cereal tycoon C.W. Post.  When the Seasteading Institute put up a survey, more than a thousand people said they want in.

“I think that people who are called to the seasteading want to do good for the world,” Hencken says.

 

Pirate Bay (IRL)

Might a community beyond the reach of many existing laws attract pirates? “I think that while there have to be rules, there has to be safety out there,” Hencken replies. “The ocean is a harsh environment, it's not a place that will invite people to do bad things.”

The first goal would be to start small with a ship docked in the protected harbor of a friendly country, which isn't likely to be California or the U.S. any time soon. 

Financially, Mutabdjiza rejects any accusation that Blueseed’s vessels will be used as offshore tax dodge, saying a typical venture capitalist looking to invest would insist that that a start-up incorporate-and therefore pay taxes-in actual U.S. jurisdiction.

 

Tomorrow, our Silicon Island conversations continue with one of the Valley's most influential venture capitalists, Tim Draper.  He wants Silicon Valley to be its own state and is pushing a ballot initiative to make it so. 

Should the post office sell personal loans?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:23

Imagine you've just walked into a U.S Postal Service branch office in 2016.

Mail that package -- check.

Buy stamps – check.

Apply for a loan --- uh, check?

The Service’s independent Inspector General wants post offices to provide basic financial services, both to help low-income people who are underserved by banks and to shore up its own ailing balance sheet. If you want to meet unbanked and underbanked people, go stand outside ACE Cash Express in Arlington, Virginia. Stevenn Foster just paid off a $500 payday loan, "and interest was $136,” he says, referring to the fees. That gives his short term loan an effective APR of several hundred percent.

“If that’s what they say I have to pay, I pay, I don’t have no problem with that,” Foster says. “I mean, they been good to me.

He can’t get a loan from his regular bank. In fact, most people here say they’re grateful to have somewhere to cash checks and pay bills.

But just a block away, there’s a post office.

David Williams is Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service and if he gets his way, that post office would offer some of the same services as ACE Cash Express, for less. He says that would be a huge draw for the 68 million people who are underserved by banks.

“People that are currently in a pretty desperate situation,” he says. “They live in economic deserts today, they don’t have access to anyone other than these enterprises that charge 300% plus (for a loan).”

Post offices already provide money orders. Williams thinks they should expand to provide pre-paid debit-type cards (people could load cash or paychecks onto the card), savings products, and even simple loans.

He says collecting a fraction of the money now spent on interest and fees for payday lenders and other banking alternatives would bring in nine billion dollars a year. That’s the payoff for the Postal Service, which has lost about 25 billion dollars since 2011, due in part to a Congressional requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health benefits.

So, does additional revenue + helping the underbanked = win-win?

Lauren Saunders is managing attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. She likes the creative approach to reaching people underserved by traditional banking. But, “getting into loans, I think, is a little more of a tricky area,” she says.

The idea is that borrowers at post offices  would arrange to have loan payments automatically withheld from their paychecks. That would lower risk and interest rates.

“A lender may feel confident they’re gonna collect on your loan if they get to take part of your paycheck before you get it,” Saunders says. “But that doesn’t mean you can afford it, and that you can make it through the month, and pay for the necessities and expenses that you have, without getting yourself into a cycle of debt.”

Even with better terms, many low-income people just can’t afford more debt.

Still, the Inspector General’s postal banking idea is gaining steam with Congressional Democrats. The Postal Service itself says it’s evaluating the recommendations.

Should the U.S. Postal Service get into financial services?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:23

Imagine you've just walked into a U.S Postal Service branch office in 2016.

Mail that package -- check.

Buy stamps – check.

Apply for a loan --- uh, check?

The Service’s independent Inspector General wants post offices to provide basic financial services, both to help low-income people who are underserved by banks and to shore up its own ailing balance sheet. If you want to meet unbanked and underbanked people, go stand outside ACE Cash Express in Arlington, Virginia. Stevenn Foster just paid off a $500 payday loan, "and interest was $136,” he says, referring to the fees. That gives his short term loan an effective APR of several hundred percent.

“If that’s what they say I have to pay, I pay, I don’t have no problem with that,” Foster says. “I mean, they been good to me.

He can’t get a loan from his regular bank. In fact, most people here say they’re grateful to have somewhere to cash checks and pay bills.

But just a block away, there’s a post office.

David Williams is Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service and if he gets his way, that post office would offer some of the same services as ACE Cash Express, for less. He says that would be a huge draw for the 68 million people who are underserved by banks.

“People that are currently in a pretty desperate situation,” he says. “They live in economic deserts today, they don’t have access to anyone other than these enterprises that charge 300% plus (for a loan).”

Post offices already provide money orders. Williams thinks they should expand to provide pre-paid debit-type cards (people could load cash or paychecks onto the card), savings products, and even simple loans.

He says collecting a fraction of the money now spent on interest and fees for payday lenders and other banking alternatives would bring in nine billion dollars a year. That’s the payoff for the Postal Service, which has lost about 25 billion dollars since 2011, due in part to a Congressional requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health benefits.

So, does additional revenue + helping the underbanked = win-win?

Lauren Saunders is managing attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. She likes the creative approach to reaching people underserved by traditional banking. But, “getting into loans, I think, is a little more of a tricky area,” she says.

The idea is that borrowers at post offices  would arrange to have loan payments automatically withheld from their paychecks. That would lower risk and interest rates.

“A lender may feel confident they’re gonna collect on your loan if they get to take part of your paycheck before you get it,” Saunders says. “But that doesn’t mean you can afford it, and that you can make it through the month, and pay for the necessities and expenses that you have, without getting yourself into a cycle of debt.”

Even with better terms, many low-income people just can’t afford more debt.

Still, the Inspector General’s postal banking idea is gaining steam with Congressional Democrats. The Postal Service itself says it’s evaluating the recommendations.

U.S. And Canadian Women's Hockey Brings Plenty Of Heat To The Ice

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:44

The two teams will meet Wednesday in an early round game, but they have an intense rivalry that has often turned to heated clashes on the ice. The players are neither embarrassed nor proud of the fighting, but, yes, it could happen again.

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With An Air Bag, Help During An Avalanche Is A Cord-Yank Away

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:31

Air bags stored in backpacks are saving the lives of backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. They look something like car air bags, but they work on an entirely different principle. These keep you safe simply by turning you into a larger object, and that helps you rise to the top of debris.

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With An Air Bag, Help During An Avalanche Is A Cord-Yank Away

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:31

Air bags stored in backpacks are saving the lives of backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. They look something like car airbags, but they work on an entirely different principle. These keep you safe simply by turning you into a larger object, and that helps you rise to the top of debris.

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Tesla's 'fair price' China strategy - will it work?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:25

There’s a reason the big automakers charge as much as they possibly can in China for their top end models: China’s rich are always willing to spend more.

"From the point of view of having something everybody knows is expensive, as a means to show you’ve made it," says Michael Laske, CEO of the vehicle testing company AVL China, "I think people are more inclined to want to spend higher prices."

But Tesla announced the price of its Model S electric car in China will only be 50 percent higher than its U.S. price.  That's a far cry from typical pricing behavior by foreign automakers in China, which are known for marking up the price of their high-end vehicles by up to 200 percent.

Tesla says the 50 percent markeup is necessary to account for unavoidable taxes and shipping costs.

"It's kind of a good marketing tool," says Jack Perkowski, founder of JFP holdings. "But they need that because they have some other shortcomings they have to overcome."

Like trying to sell electric vehicles in a market where ‘environmentally conscious’ is largely regarded as a foreign spending habit.

But forget Chinese consumers, says AVL’s Michael Laske. China’s government is the one at the controls of the economy, and it wants more electric vehicles on China's expanding network of expressways.

"I think the Chinese government strategy is to try be a market leader in the electrification area," says Laske, "So any company that comes in and supports this approach I think will be welcomed."

Laske says Chinese automakers are five years behind their foreign counterparts in internal combustion engine technology, and the government would prefer to leapfrog over gas guzzler,s and focus their energies on developing innovative electric vehicles - a smart choice, given China's big supply of rare earth metals like lithium, which is used to make batteries for electric cars.

Tesla plans to open operations in a dozen Chinese cities, and expects to achieve a third of its overall growth from China by the end of this year.  It's an ambitious goal for a newcomer, but one that Laske thinks is reachable. After all, Tesla only sold around twenty thousand cars last year, and China now has more than a million millionaires – many of them looking for the newest flashy sports car.

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