This week, Lizzie O'Leary sits down for brunch with New York Magazine contributing editor Jessica Pressler and Business Insider's Executive Editor Joe Weisenthal to discuss the economic news of last week and what's on their plate this week (get it?).
Israeli air strikes have flattened Gazan homes, even as they target Hamas militants. One Palestinian human rights advocate says that, with these attacks, Israel is destroying a safe future for itself.
The World Health Organization has announced a sweeping new guideline, recommending that all men who have sex with mean take antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection.
Tobacco companies Reynolds American and Lorillard have confirmed they're in talks about a merger. For Reynolds, the move would mean doubling down on the future of e-cigarettes.
One of the first serious hits by a Hamas rocket has left a gas station burning — and one Israeli badly injured — as Israel ramps up talk of a Gaza ground invasion. But that carries a lot of downsides.
Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.
The World Health Organization strongly recommends that men who have sex with men consider a daily pill that would prevent HIV infection. That seems like a drastic measure — but is it?
Had “Sports Illustrated” existed in 1900, its swimsuit issue would not have been especially titillating. Back then, the standard lady’s swimsuit wasn’t much different than her everyday clothes. It was basically a dress, plus a hat and even shoes.
By World War II, with fabric in short supply, slightly more revealing two-piece numbers were considered okay. But even they didn’t expose anything so scandalous as a — gasp! — Belly button.
But post-war? A couple of Frenchmen sensed the world was ready to loosen up. The first of them — one Jacques Heim — designed a two-piece so tiny he called it “l’atome.” The Atom.
But Heim was one-upped by his countryman, Louis Reard. On July 5th, 1946, he unveiled an even tinier suit: “The Bikini.” Named after a Pacific island atoll where, four days earlier, an atomic bomb had been tested. Reard claimed he had “split The Atom.”
Public reactions were … extreme. Reard got 50,000 fan letters thanking him for the invention. Mostly from men. But in some countries, shocked lawmakers instated bikini bans. Reard happily embraced the controversy. In ads, he said bikinis were small enough to be "pulled through a wedding ring."
Soon, the anti-bikini lobby collapsed as the suit became popular on beaches all over Europe and finally — in 1960 — in the U.S.A. The same year singer Brian Hyland scored a number-one hit about a girl too embarrassed to be seen in one.
This story comes to us courtesy of our friends at Dinner Party Download.
It’s been three months since the Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than two hundred schoolgirls in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has yet to free the girls, and it’s come under criticism for its handling of the crisis. It’s also been shamed by the global campaign #BringBackOurGirls, which even Michelle Obama got in on.
So what’s a country with a bad rap to do? Get some PR, of course.
“I think there is a narrative that the government was not doing enough,” says Mark Irion, president of the public relations firm LEVICK, which signed a $1.2 million contract to galvanize support for the Nigerian government and its fight against terrorism.
LEVICK’s motto is "Communicating trust." Irion says much of the storyline about Nigeria’s tepid response to the crisis “is not true.”
“There are things that are underway and are public,” he says. “And there are things that, of course, cannot be publicly discussed. But, yes, there is a false narrative that we intend to correct.”
It’s no coincidence the Washington Post recently ran an op-ed from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. “My silence has been necessary,” he wrote, “to avoid compromising the details of our investigation.”
(Here’s a tongue-in-cheek response to that piece.)
J. Peter Pham directs the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. He says the fact is Nigeria has failed to deal with Boko Haram over the years.
“You cannot spin that reality any more than you can spin the fact that there are more than two hundred schoolgirls still missing and Boko Haram continues to attack with impunity throughout northeastern Nigeria,” he says.
Now, trying to improve the image of foreign governments is nothing new. It’s big business for PR firms like Ketchum Inc., which made more than $10 million from its foreign clients last year, including the Russia Federation and Gazprom. (You can see that tabulation here, via the Sunlight Foundation.) Ketchum continued to represent Russia through the turmoil in Ukraine.
Still, part of this business is knowing who to represent and when to stop.
“You know everyone has their own litmus test,” says Toby Moffett, a former Congressman who used to run The Moffett Group. That was the M in the PLM Group, the trio of firms that lobbied and did communications for Egypt under Hosni Mubarak and the military council that replaced him.
That representation continued until Egyptian police raided U.S.-backed NGOs and barred some Americans from leaving the country.
“I did receive a call from a friend who happened to be President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood,” Moffett recalls. “And Ray was not happy, to put it mildly.”
LaHood’s son was one of the Americans who was temporarily trapped in Egypt. Moffett says he would’ve dropped the Egypt account anyway. Still…
“You know there was that kind of gentle persuasion, shall we say,” he says.
When it comes to foreign governments, it turns out gentle persuasion can run both ways.
One postscript: In October, Egypt signed a new contract with another communications firm, The Glover Park Group. That representation will cost the country $250,000 a month.
Host: It’s been three months since the Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has yet to free them … it’s also been shamed by that global campaign … hashtag-bring-back-our-girls. Even Michelle Obama got in on that. So what’s a country with a bad rap to do? Get some PR, of course. Kate Davidson reports.
Here’s what Nigeria’s image problem sounds like:
News montage: The authorities had no number for how many girls were taken/The country’s first lady expressed doubts that there was any kidnapping./A government with no idea where they are – We want our girls back now. Now.
That … is a PR nightmare. Which is why someone in Nigeria called in the image pros.
Irion: I think there is a narrative that the government was not doing enough.
Mark Irion is president of the public relations firm Levick, which signed a 1.2 million dollar contract to galvanize support for the Nigerian government and its fight against terrorism. Levick’s motto is communicating trust. Irion says much of the storyline about Nigeria’s tepid response…
Irion: …is not true. There are things that are underway and are public. And there are things that, of course, cannot be publicly discussed. But yes, there is a false narrative that we intend to correct.
It’s no coincidence the Washington Post recently ran an op-ed from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. “My silence has been necessary,” he wrote, “to avoid compromising the details of our investigation.” J Peter Pham directs the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. He says the fact is Nigeria has failed to deal with Boko Haram over the years.
Pham: You cannot spin that reality any more than you can spin the fact that there are more than two hundred schoolgirls still missing and Boko Haram continues to attack with impunity throughout Northeastern Nigeria.
Now, trying to improve the image of foreign governments is nothing new. It’s big business for PR firms like Ketchum … which made more than ten million dollars from foreign clients like Russia last year. Ketchum continued to represent Russia after it annexed Crimea. Still, part of this business is knowing who to represent and when to stop.
Moffett: You know everyone has their own litmus test.
Toby Moffett is a former Congressman who used to run The Moffett Group … one of the firms that lobbied and did PR for Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, and the military council that replaced him. Until, that is, Egyptian police raided US-backed NGOs and barred some Americans from leaving the country.
Moffett: I did receive a call from a friend who happened to be President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. And Ray was not happy, to put it mildly.
LaHood’s son was one of the Americans who was temporarily trapped in Egypt. Moffett says he would’ve dropped the Egypt account anyway … but …
Moffett: You know there was that kind of gentle persuasion, shall we say.
When it comes to foreign governments, it turns out gentle persuasion can run both ways. I’m Kate Davidson, for Marketplace.
The largest school of the tiny fish seen in 30 years was spotted earlier this week off La Jolla, Calif.
Corn prices fell to a record low; it hasn’t been this cheap in almost four years. Weather conditions are favorable for the crops at this point, and that means surpluses. But with so much corn, can farmers sell it all?
"There are still real nice markets out there," says Keith Alverson, a sixth-generation ethanol corn farmer in Chester, South Dakota. "It’s just a matter of what price point you want to market it at."
Alverson says although there's huge demand for corn, there's still an abundance of it that needs a home. So what does an ethanol corn farmer do with all of their extra corn?
"We are gearing it up for storage," says Alverson. They’ve added more bunker storage to hold the corn and are preparing for a big harvest.
Over the past few months, Alverson says he's seen a big change in corn prices. A bushel is going for about $3.50 now, about $1.00 to $1.50 less than it was a year ago.
But Alverson says he's confident he will still sell his corn and manage his profits accordingly.
"Just like any other business, you try and lock in your margins," says Alverson. "We made some grain sales ahead of time at nice profitable levels, and we try to manage out costs wisely."
Those various and sundry airport taxes may have finally jumped the shark.
Outbound passengers at the international airport in Caracas, Venezuela will now have to pay 127 Bolívar - about $20 at the official rate of exchange - to breathe.
The government apparently needs it cover the cost of a newly-installed system that uses ozone to purify the air conditioning system.
No word on what happens if you don't pay.
The hard drives contained information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. At the time, the White House distanced itself from the U.K. government's actions.
The practice came under fire last week, when opponents prevented two buses holding detained migrants from entering a Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, Calif.
The idea that sacrificing at the gym entitles us to a reward seems to be embedded in our collective thinking. Researchers set out to test how this affects how we eat after a workout.
This summer, Kenyan artists came to Washington, D.C., for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Some of them make their living by turning trash into sculptures, jewelry and igloos.
People who have survived a suicide attempt often have trouble finding a place to talk about suicide risk or a way to help others. So they are going public with their experiences.
The NBA star will play for the Cavaliers next season. He opted out of his contract with the Heat after spending four seasons in Miami.
The president says he's working on addressing the surge of unauthorized border crossings into the U.S. But is his decision to not visit the border an epic mistake? The Barbershop guys weigh in.
Host Michel Martin learns more about what's happening at the World Cup, both on and off the field, in the days leading up to the final match on Sunday.