Google celebrates 15 years of search today. In 1998, it was located in a garage at 232 Santa Margarita, Menlo Park. Today, the tech giant has much nicer real estate, the massive Googleplex in Mountain View, not to mention a global ecosystem of software, hardware, and moon shot projects. But Google's bread and butter has always been search, and the company has given itself a birthday present -- a big update to it's search algorithm. Will Oremus of Slate Magazine has been following the changes and tells Marketplace Tech all about them.
I like coffee, I like tea. I like people who send free coffee offers to me.
Which makes me a big fan of MrFreeStuff.com , which sent me a list of eight offers, good for National Coffee Day, this Sunday only:
Krispy Kreme - Get a free 12 ounce cup of coffee or pay $1 for a specialty drink, including their seasonal pumpkin spice latte. You can also enter to win a free large coffee everyday for a year.
Dunkin' Donuts - Download the free Dunkin' Donuts mobile app to get a free 10 ounce hot coffee or 16 ounce iced coffee. On Sept. 28 and Sept. 29, you can also purchase their 16 ounce packaged coffee for $5.99.
Starbucks - Get a free sample of Starbucks' newest medium-blend coffee, Ethiopia. You can also get a free ceramic mug with purchase of a one-pound bag of coffee.
Peet's Coffee & Tea - From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., get a free 12 ounce maple latte with any baked item order or purchase of Simply Oatmeal.
Wawa - Get a free 16 ounce coffee when you fill out a form on their Facebook page.
USA Coffee Company - Get a free 8 ounce bag of Union Roast coffee with any coffee order at USA Coffee Company's website.
Tim Hortons - Tell the cashier "Happy National Coffee Day" when you buy one coffee, and get another coffee free (any size applies, according to their Facebook page).
Caribou Coffee - Details of Caribou Coffee's National Coffee Day offer will be posted to their Facebook page sometime Sept. 28. According to sources, the offer will be a free small coffee.
In 1995 and 1996, the federal government was shuttered due to a budget impasse. Sound familiar? We peeked into the past to see what the shutdown looked like back then.
The greatest closer in baseball history threw his last pitch at Yankee Stadium Thursday night. Rivera, who's heading off to retirement, shed some tears as his teammates and a sell-out crowd cheered.
By 2015, Facebook and other social networking sites will have to allow California minors to delete embarrassing posts. But the law is riddled with loopholes, and teens won't be protected any more than they already are.
This week, received letters on a whole range of financial issues, especially ones about you as a consumer. And how to interact with companies -- big and small. We've all had the experience of dealing with fees and hidden charges. So we brought in Los Angeles Times consumer columnist David Lazarus to answer your questions.
Debbie, 54, is a homemaker from York, Penn. She went to a walk-in clinic with a rash on her ankle and was diagnosed with having poison ivy. The walk-in clinic is a member of her insurance's network. She paid the $15 co-pay, but when she later received her explanation of benefits from her insurance company, she found two separate billing items. One was for the visit and there was an additional $50 charge. Unsure of what the charge was for, she called the walk-in clinic, who told her the billing was done through a third party. She called the third party and found that the $50 charge was a facilities charge -- and received conflicting information about whether it could be taken off her bill. She told the third party that she wouldn't pay for the charge, and her insurer told her that they wouldn't pay for it. Ultimately, the third party charged the credit card she used during her visit -- and she couldn't have it taken off her bill.
Lazarus says Debbie's experience isn't unique.
"This is messed up on many levels, clearly. A facilities charge typically applies when you go to a hospital, a large facility. A walk-in clinic I haven't really hard of many examples of that. Now there are a number of things to address here. First of all, what facility is she paying for here -- the toilets, the closet, what facility is it? That's one thing. Another thing is her insurer should be the one stepping up and dealing with the health care provider here to get rid of this fee. It's not like the insurer should just be wiping their hands off it and walking away and saying it's your problem, not ours. That's not the way the insurer is supposed to work. And then finally, the idea that they're going to ding your credit card simply because they can without your authorization certainly seems to be walking around a few moral and ethical lines," says Lazarus.
Lazarus says this is an example of cost-shifting, which is what happens in the health care world when a facility -- a hospital, clinic, doctor's office, etc. -- wants to ding an insured person for the costs of treating uninsured people.How to negotiate your health care bills
"What they're doing is they're slapping you with these bogus charges or raising charges for things that are perfectly normal like, say, anesthesia or bandages or saline or tests. They charge wildly ridiculous prices for those so again, they can take some cream off the top and apply that to their costs of treating the uninsured," says Lazarus. "Is any of that fair? No. Is it business as usual? Yes."
Lazarus says the Affordable Care Act won't really address situations like this. It doesn't get at costs or pricing to a great degree, says Lazarus. He says the ACA is aiming to get as many of the uninsured into the fold.
As for Debbie, Lazarus says she should appeal to the clinic -- which will have a dispute process that she should go through. He also advises her to work with her insurer, which has an obligation to try and handle billing questions.
"If none of that gets you anywhere, you always have other choices. For instance, there are folks out there called patient advocates and what you can do is do a Google search for a patient advocate in your area -- so put in the right parameters. And you'll get people who exist solely to step in and be an intermediary. These are people who have a lot of experience in the health care equation and can help do blocking and tackling in this sort of thing. Now for a $50 charge, I don't know if it's going to be worth it," says Lazarus.
However, patient advocates will charge a fee for their services. Lazarus says when you're looking at a situation for thousands of dollars, that's when a patient advocate would be worth the cost.
Lazarus also answered these questions from listeners:
- Kristen from Idaho is a bit worried about her father. According to her, he pays for account monitoring services to ward off unauthorized use of his financial accounts and identity theft. But she wonders if what he's paying for is worth it.
- Chris from Michigan doesn't trust the bank that he now has a home loan through. He wonders if there's anything he can do to make himself feel like he's doing business with a good lender.
As they resume their investigation into allegations about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, U.N. experts are looking into at least three incidents for which President Bashar Assad's aides have said the rebels were responsible. The inspectors are not expected to assign blame.
Unhappy with the battery life and speed of your new smartphone? Fear not: There's news today of a computing breakthrough that promises to make computer chips faster, cheaper and more energy efficient.
Silicon has been the basic material of computer electronics for decades. But Stanford University researchers say they've developed a computer based on a technology called carbon nanotubes. These are little carbon wires so small that up to 150,000 could fit in the width of a human hair.
But should you really care? Yes:
- Because the speed of silicon chips are about to hit a wall.
A laptop today would've been considered a supercomputer 20 years ago. Every couple years, processors have gotten smaller and faster, relentlessly. But that progress is going to slow down soon.
"People are very worried that ten years from now we will completely run out of steam," says Kevin Skadron who heads the computer science department at the University of Virginia.
Silicon chips are made more powerful as we pack more transistors into them. But that sucks up more and more power, and they get too hot.
"The total power of the chip keeps going up and we can’t cost effectively cool that," Skadron says.
On top of that, we can only get silicon circuits so small before they stop working well. Enter the carbon nanotube.
"Carbon nanotubes just make that problem go away,” says Skadron.
Carbon nanotubes are tiny (up to 150,000 could fit in the width of the thickest human hair) rolled up tubes of carbon. They have low electrical resistance, and can be scaled down far beyond what Silicon can do. The computer that researchers at Stanford created using carbon nanotube transistors is very basic -- it has 178 transistors, while a Microsoft Xbox One gaming system has 5 billion -- but it works.
Stanford's Subhasish Mitra, who led the research says, "this is the first demonstration that you can build something real beyond silicon transistors."
- Your cellphone will thank you. (In the future, when it’s a sentient being.)
Carbon nanotubes may not create full-blown artificial intelligence, at least not any time soon, but the circuitry could do wonders for your smart phone.
"You care about two things when it comes to your cellphone or computer – you care about how fast it is and how long its battery is," says Max Shulaker, a grad student who was the lead author on the nanotube computing paper that announced the work in the journal Nature. "Those are the two things which carbon nanotubes improve by an order of magnitude."
- Think beyond your cell phone
Longer lasting phone batteries (which would be a small miracle) is thinking small, says Sharad Malik who teaches electrical engineering at Princeton.
"If we do this right, we should see not just future smartphones but something which we can’t even imagine today," he says. "That’s the real promise here."
- But don’t get crazy.
Siri isn’t going to turn into Hal anytime soon. There are a lot of issues that need resolving before carbon nanotubes are going to appear in your microwave or desktop. The Stanford computer is just an example that it’s possible, sort of like the Wright Brothers’ plane demonstrated human flight was possible. It’ll take a decade at least for this technology to reach consumers.
U.S. households spent .3 percent more in August than they did in the previous month according to new figures out today. In more positive news, incomes rose .4 percent in August, the biggest month-to-month gain since February. Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, calls this is a pleasant surprise.
Most individuals face a challenge in managing the money they make and the money they spend. The solution, of course, is making a budget. When it comes to talking about government spending and debt, a lot of politicians and talking heads like to compare the spending of the entire country to spending at an individual level -- saying if families can manage to stick to a budget, so can the government.
The analogy makes some sense: it's easy to get our heads around.Obama & the debt ceiling: An explainer
The government is considering raising the debt ceiling -- again. But what exactly is the debt ceiling: Watch an explainer to understand what's at stake and what it means for you and me. Watch now
But Marketplace’s David Gura says the government is huge with a lot of complicated expenses. For the individual, or the family, they really only have to worry about housing, food, transportation, and a few other categories. But government spending priorities are very different: take the example of defense spending, which isn't exactly on the family balance sheet, but takes up about 20 percent of the national budget. Plus, a big chunk of the budget goes to social welfare programs, which isn't the same for families.
On the other side of the balance sheet, the government can also tax people and print money. They can also borrow at much lower rates than the average person.
October the 1st is when the health insurance exchanges will open. Those exchanges are a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. You can shop for a health care plan, if you don't have insurance. That includes self employed workers just like Micki Maynard, the editor of Curbing Cars and a contributor at Forbes.
She represents one area of the health care market folks who are highly successful, but might now qualify for a federal subsidy. So they have a choice to make. In her case, she just signed up for Cobra and now she needs to figure out if she'll get a better deal with the ACA.
Maynard currently holds a few different positions to bring in the paychecks -- including a teaching gig at the University of Michigan and at Central Michigan University. While teaching, she usually earns a salary from the schools. On top of that, she does a lot of freelance journalism work.How do you know if you have good health insurance?
CMU had offered her a health plan, but that just expired. She received a letter in the mail that she would be eligible for Cobra. The option she elected will be about $491 a month, and it includes prescription coverage.
Before deciding to take the Cobra insurance, however, Maynard went on to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan site to calculate alternative options. To get something similar to her Cobra plan would have been just under $1,000.
"If I could get health care for $300-$400 a month I would be very, very happy," she explains. "However, I'm not sure that's going to be possible. I just don't know."
Maynard says she's looking at all of her options, including what might be available for her under the exchanges.
This final note on the way out today. Couple of quick ones, actually.
As you settle in for whatever football games you choose to watch this weekend, pause a moment for that yellow first down line on your screen. It debuted 15 years ago today on ESPN, which I thought was kind of interesting.
Google also turns 15 today, which gets us to this, from a Pew Research Center report: 56 percent of Internet users say they've Googled themselves. Which means 44 percent of y'all are lying.
A political journalist tells congressional Republicans to pull the trigger on a government shutdown and debt default... Speaker Boehner's attempt to placate his House GOP caucus' hardliners fails ... Someone goes cute and furry to sell Obamacare.
A small box found near Mont Blanc contained rubies, sapphires and emeralds thought to be worth more than $330,000. Authorities suspect they had been on board one of two Indian passenger planes that crashed in the area — one in 1950; one in 1966. The climber who found the treasure turned it in.
This weekend, TV viewers will be on edge, awaiting the final fortunes of AMC's drama "Breaking Bad" and anti-hero Walter White.
We've been playing around with our Wealth & Poverty Desk's new data visualization tool Income Upshot, which uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau, marketing firms, academic researchers and other sources to explore what someone's income can tell us about their lifestyle and consumer behavior. Basically, we're looking into the relationship between what we earn and how we live, work and play.
And that got us thinking about Walter White, and how the entire premise of the show -- set to air its series finale this Sunday -- is based on the concept of money.
White begins to make and deal meth as a means for providing money for his family if he were to die from cancer, money he apparently wasn't receiving enough of as a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, N.M.
How people at different incomes live, work and play. A new data interactive from Marketplace's Wealth & Poverty Desk. Try the interactive.
So let's do the numbers on Walter White: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, White would have been making a mean income of $57,710 as a general high school teacher in the U.S.
In a highly tense moment during this season, he stated his address is 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, but that's all made up. Turns out, the White residence shown on the show is a real house in Albuquerque, and it's located in the 87111 zip code.
Run that through our Income Upshot tool and we'll see that:
- White is making $4,313 below the median level income of $62,023 of his neighbors in Albuquerque, but he's also just about the mid-range for the rest of the country.
- People at this income range tend to married, own their homes and are more likely to own dogs.
- They prefer beer -- Schraderbrau, anyone?
But as we've gone on in the series, of course, White starts raking in the meth money. (Minor spoilers ahead, for those not caught up on season 5)
He reveals that he's been able to stash away about $80 million in straight cash. So run that calculation through Income Upshot, and as a meth dealer:
- He's making more than 96 percent of the U.S. He's also likely to be married, own his home and dogs as pets.
- People in that income range tend to choose wine ... But it does seem Heisenberg is more a whiskey man.
- Luxury cars are, obviously, the most common auto buy for people in this bracket. Heisenberg obviously went a bit more sporty, with his black Chrysler 300C SRT8, which retails for $49,450.
And who knows where White stands now, between Uncle Jack's gang and his own lone barrel and just basically every crazy thing that could happen this Sunday.
But while you wait for the series finale, why not check your own status?
Plug in your income and zip code into Income Upshot and let us know your results.
How did the creators of Breaking Bad get millions of fans to stick by a meth-cooking drug lord season after season? The crafty use of an old editing technique in the pilot let us see the world through Walt's eyes, a film psychologist says, making it easier to excuse his immoral choices later on.
Microsoft's co-founder wishes Windows PCs had been given one start-up key instead of the famous three-key combination. But fans are both nostalgic about what was required and say it helped protect their PCs from some problems.
A study by an international panel of scientists shows that the researchers are confident about the links between human activity, global warming and climate change.
When most Americans buy houses, they borrow money -- in the form of a mortgage. And so they pay attention to rates and prices.
This week, Case-Shiller -- a closely watched index of the housing market -- came out with its regular survey of 20 cities. Prices are up in all of them; plus, we're seeing a rise in mortgage rates. But does that mean it is the right time to buy?
"Home prices are up about 12 percent in a year," points out Ilyce Glink, a personal finance expert and author. "That, if they were stocks, would still be a mind-blowing rise. But for houses, which never usually move faster than just over the rate of inflation -- to have a 12 percent rise in a year is absolutely astonishing."
But another piece of the news was that the prices rose slower in July than in the previous month. That's good news, according to Glink. "The fact that it's now slowing a bit I think is actually a very good thing for the housing market, because if you kept going up at 12 percent a year, pretty soon nobody would be able to afford a house."
One place in the country where home prices have been rising in particular is in the San Francisco Bay Area -- with prices going up more than 20 percent. One of our listeners, 28-year-old Calvin, is looking to possibly buy a home with his soon-to-be wife. Both are finishing up medical residencies, and thankfully have very little debt. In the coming years, their income will climb a lot as they become full doctors. But they wonder how much they should save for a down payment versus saving for retirement.
Glink's advice to Calvin is to start taking some of that money and steering it towards the home down payment, especially since the couple is so young and has already been putting money towards retirement. "Since you live in a very high-cost area, which isn't getting any cheaper -- there was barely a dip in the home prices in the San Francisco area -- I think what you ought to do is start directing some more money into this down payment."
She adds that in the coming years, getting a good interest rate on higher priced homes is going to get more and more difficult.
Over the course of its existence, BlackBerry sold smartphones to more than 200 million people. It became ubiquitous in places like Indonesia but it began with an invasion of Wall Street and Washington.