Midterm elections aren't quite over yet, thanks to a runoff in Louisiana, but the Republican victory was decisive nonetheless. The GOP gained at least seven seats to take control of the Senate, and further cemented its control of the House. Even in some races that were supposed to be close, NPR called the night "a derecho" — an intense, destructive storm — for Democrats.
For his part, President Barack Obama said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he won't be "mopey," and will compromise with the legislature on some issues, without backing down on others.
In an exhaustive report, the Washington Post detailed exactly how we got here. As the Democrats were preoccupied by in-fighting and discontent with the White House, Republicans were shrewdly picking candidates, avoiding gaffes and working to tie opponents to Obama.
Stocks and oil are both on the rise after the Republican victory. Here are some other numbers we're watching Tuesday:$9.75
One more election note: that's the new minimum wage in Alaska at 2016, approved overwhelmingly by voters Tuesday. They also legalized marijuana, as did Oregon and Washington DC. South Dakota, Arkansas and Nebraska voters OK'd minimum wage hikes too, Forbes reported. Several ballot measures not typically associated with the GOP were surprises in an election that otherwise represented a rightward shift.$100
That's how much Uber is saying it will save its drivers on car payments with car loans facilitated by the car service, but financed through third parties. Uber says the arrangement is mutually beneficial, adding drivers to its network and connecting people with cars who might have bad credit or no credit. But others aren't so sure. Gawker's Valleywag blog has poked holes in Uber's claims and recent press coverage, citing drivers' reports of unpredictable wages and pointing to the recent surge in sub-prime auto loans.1605
The very first Guy Fawkes Day, when a plot to blow up Parliament was exposed over 400 years ago. The BBC has a fun explainer about the history of the holiday and its continued notoriety, thanks in no small part to "V for Vendetta."
The monthly employment report from the Department of Labor will likely show the economy added approximately 240,000 jobs in October, and unemployment held steady at 5.9 percent, after falling below 6.0 percent in September for the first time since mid-2008.
Economists can point to steady improvement over the past several years in those two statistics—job creation, and the unemployment rate (which was 7.2 percent in September 2013, and 9 percent two years earlier).
Yet, this ‘official’ unemployment rate doesn’t accurately characterize many aspects of the labor market right now—in particular, how hard it still is to land a middle-income job; how easy it is for employers to find qualified candidates; and how little those employers have to compete with each other over wage and benefit offers, in order to hire the workers they want.
The ‘official’ unemployment rate—called the U-3 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics—only counts how many people are actively unemployed. They’re looking for work and actually applied for a job in the past four weeks.
But right now, the number of people who are not working, but would like to work, is unprecedentedly high. These people have given up looking—possibly because they don’t think any jobs are available for them, or perhaps to attend school and upgrade their skills, or to go into semi-retirement. They’ve pushed down the labor force participation rate to its lowest level (62.7 percent in September) since the late 1970s.
Combine these discouraged and marginally attached workers with the ‘underemployed’—people who would like to find better-paying full-time jobs but can only find part-time jobs—and total unemployment (the U-6 rate), as measured by the BLS, is averaging well over 12 percent in 2014 (it was 11.8 percent in September).
Economists have anticipated that some attrition in the labor market would occur when the Baby Boomers began retiring earlier this decade. But in fact, after the recession, older workers have stayed on the job longer than was predicted, on average. With retirement savings and home equity depleted by the recession, older Americans are holding on to jobs if they can.
“Where we’re seeing large declines in labor force participation is actually among prime-age workers,” explains University of California-Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein, “especially among people in their early twenties. It’s hard for me to believe that there’s this enormous group of people in their early twenties who have decided that they’re never going to work.”
Rothstein and many other economists believe the economy hasn’t changed structurally so that fewer people want to work or feel the financial need to work. Rather, they think the labor market is simply too weak, and demand in the economy too anemic, to employ all the potential workers who want and need jobs. They believe if the economy strengthens significantly, many of those potential workers will come out of the woodwork and begin job-hunting again.
Absent such improvement, the labor market is likely to remain slack, even if the official unemployment rate continues to decline steadily and eventually dips below the Federal Reserve’s target of 5.5 percent. Fed policymakers, led by chair Janet Yellen, have said they are looking at other labor market indicators in addition to the unemployment rate, to make sure they don’t withdraw economic stimulus and kill the nascent recovery before it’s helped the hard-core and long-term unemployed, the underemployed, and discouraged workers.
Rising wages are now considered a key harbinger of labor-market tightening by market participants and Fed policymakers, explains economist John Canally at LPL Financial.
“I think that’s the ultimate indicator—to get wage growth back to normal, back to the 3.5-percent-to-4.5-percent gains we saw prior to the Great Recession,” said Canally. “Then I think there’ll be confidence that businesses are finding it more and more difficult to fill jobs.”
In recent years, average hourly earnings have been rising in the 2-percent-per-year range, just keeping pace with inflation.
Another indicator of a tightening labor market would be a reverse in recent declines in labor force participation, especially among prime-age workers. If more people who have dropped out of the workforce, or never entered it after high school or college, started looking for work again, that might raise the unemployment rate temporarily. But it would be another sign the economy is truly on the mend.
Roughly a third of college students transfer within six years, but their credits don't always follow them, according to a report by the Department of Education.Among students who started college in 2003, how many transferred no credits?
Come January, Republicans will control both houses of Congress. Still, the new Congress and the White House might find common ground in a key area that could affect businesses and the labor market.
These cover everything from intellectual property to tariffs, and much, much more.
A GOP controlled Senate could help those deals. Remember, trade deals have proved tricky for Democrats, especially when labor issues are involved.
“The Republican Party, for most of its history, was the protectionist party,” says professor Allan Lichtman of American University. “But for the last 30 or 40 years it switched and become a strongly free trade party. So I think the winds of free trade will be blowing from a Republican Senate.”
Now, Republicans aren’t homogenous on trade issues.
There is, however, an important way a Republican controlled Senate can help Obama with his trade goals.
It’s something called TPA, or Trade Promotion Authority. It’s also known as “fast-track” authority. It’s something Congress has to vote on.
TPA would help the Administration both negotiate and pass trade deals. That’s because, with fast-track in place, lawmakers can only take an up or down vote on a trade pact, without amendments.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not support such a bill. However, the new expected Senate Majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, has said he wants it.
How the outcome of the elections plays into the current state of the economy. Plus, a preview of the jobs number for October, and which statistics are looking better than others.
It was a little more than a year ago, in October 2013, that a showdown between the President and Congress led to a government shutdown, after missing the deadline to pass a new bill to fund the government.
Now, even though Congress is in a lame-duck session, there is still work to do, including another government funding bill.
“The single most important, must-pass bill for the lame-duck Congress to finish is a spending bill for the federal government,” says Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
That bill could either be a continuing resolution that funds government for a while longer—the current C.R., as it's known, expires at the end of the day on December 11—or it could fund the government through September 2015.
Binder thinks it will be the latter.
“My sense is that Republican leaders in particular, and I think Democratic leaders, really want to put the omnibus bill—wrapping up all these spending bills—they really want to put it to rest in December, so that they can start from a clean slate come January,” says Binder.
But, James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, isn’t so sure. He says a shorter-term funding bill is more likely.
“They have very little time, so I suspect that they’ll just move it into the next year,” says Thurber. “And within that bill there will be discussion of whether we should support the war effort against ISIS.”
In addition to the government funding bill, Thurber and Binder agree Congress will have to address defense spending issues before the end of the year. The House has passed a bill to fund the defense department in 2015, but the Senate hasn’t yet, and is likely to work toward that goal.
With only a few weeks left, lawmakers will also face the end-of-year expiration of 128 tax incentives, such as the mortgage interest tax deduction and the R&D tax credit for business.
We’re thinking about how money is spent on runoffs, but we should be looking at a different part of the fundraising process. So says Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School.
"Whether or not money is spent differently, it’s going to be raised differently," he says.
Because of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, there’s been a dramatic increase in what Norden calls 'outside money.'
“[Money] that’s not coming from the candidates, that’s not coming from the parties, that’s coming from outside groups," he says. "That means Super PACs, that means these new dark money groups, 501(C)(4)s. They’re spending an extraordinary amount, often times more than the candidates themselves are spending."
But, while everyone wants to get voters out, doing it an additional time, "that’s going to take additional resources,” says Tracy Sturdivant, co-founder of the Make it Work Campaign, a non profit that works to creates economic security for women.
At least, notes Sturdivant, runoffs have one bright side. For organizations, trying to get voters to the polls also means a chance to recalibrate.
"They’re going to take what they learned and put more resources towards the activities that actually did encourage voters to turn out the first time,” she says.
But even so, voter fatigue can make runoffs tough — for all parties involved.
One of the first steps in the fight against Ebola is to increase communication throughout the region. The Ebola phone does just that.
The phone, which looks much like your typical office device, has been distributed across threatened regions in an effort to get first line responders connected to epidemiologists and isolation centers.
The point of this communication is to share information and data, but one of the problems that comes up when storing data in clinics treating Ebola patients is that everything that goes into the clinic is destroyed, which makes keeping a diary or a hard drive to share with others is impossible.
For this reason, among many others, the CDC has launched an online platform called Epi Info which allows clinics to log all the information they're getting about Ebola in the field to this central software. Clinics treating Ebola patients have iPad's where the information is logged and shared with others to continue fighting this vicious disease.
Colin Baker is a journalist based in Bamako, Mali's capital city. He joined us to talk about the other high tech solutions being used to share important medical data.
Click the media player above to hear Colin Baker in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
Deadmau5 makes dance music. But he also sells hats, pint glasses, t-shirts—all featuring the eerie, circles-for-ears cartoon "mau5head" that is his symbol.
"He's in gaming and mobile apps and music and producing and imaging and movies," says his attorney, Dina LaPolt. "He's in every space imaginable."
Under U.S. law, the use of his "mau5head" on all this merchandise has trademark protection, just by existing. But last summer Deadmau5—real name Joel Zimmerman—applied for something stronger: trademark registration.
The implications of registration are significant but limited. "It's a little bit easier and cheaper to sue others," says Jeremy Sheff, law professor at St. John's.
“There are various side tweaks in the process that a registration is helpful for,” says Rebecca Tushnet, law professor at Georgetown.
The legal costs, on the other hand, were clear.
"We always knew Disney would oppose it because that’s what Disney does," says LaPolt.
Disney is notoriously protective of its intellectual property, especially when it comes to Mickey Mouse. To pick a trivial example, in 1981, Disney successfully got a bar in Colonie, NY called "Mickey's Mousetrap" to change its name, even though it was owned by two men named Mickey.
"We're giving in,'' Mickey Colarusso told the New York Times, ''because we don't have the time or money to battle an organization as big as Disney."
In part, this may be because you need to exercise trademark rights in order to retain them. "Trademark owners often feel they need to take symbolic actions," says Tushnet.
But despite the certainty that it would bring about a battle with Disney, LaPolt strategized to apply for registration. "I like to change things and battle people," she says. "That’s why I’m a lawyer."
Disney did file to block Deadmau5's registration, arguing that despite the creepy grin and vacant eyes, the "mau5head," with its round head and round ears, "so resembles Disney's prior use and registered Disney's Mouse Ears Marks" as to be likely "to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive."
"There are a number of thing that’ll confuse people," says Jack Jacoby, professor of marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business who says he is involved in 30 or 40 trademark disputes per year.
In the case of Disney vs. Deadmau5, Jacoby says the confusion case boils down to what’s in the mind of the person who picks a mau5head t-shirt off the rack-and whether they'll think the Deadmau5 item was made by, affiliated with or allowed by Disney.
"Disney’s saying 'Wait, people may think that this comes from us,'" says Jacoby.
Outside a mall in Queens, New York, I put this to the test by showing a picture of a Deadmau5 shirt to various fans of electronic music.
Among his fans, everyone knew the symbol immediately, and had no confusion about Disney's involvement.
Jacoby wrote, or at least edited, the book on doing more scientific versions of these surveys for the American Bar Association, and says such a survey could help Deadmau5 if Disney sued for infringement. But although the current battle over registration rights at the Patent and Trademark Office concerns the same questions—Does the use of the Deadmau5 mark cause "confusion" of Disney's mouse ears mark—it won't admit this kind of survey.
"Most of the action is in the federal courts. And the federal courts, they want you to simulate reality as closely as possible," says Jacoby. "But the PTO only wants to look at the mark in isolation. So the silhouette, in this case, of the ears."
This lack of real-world context could hurt Deadmau5's chances. The choice to take on Disney anyways could be to seek a settlement or for PR—Deadmau5 has been known for publicity stunts in the past. Or it could be sheer stubbornness.
"Sometimes people get very committed to their symbols, almost like their children," says Tushnet.
The Patent and Trademark Office wouldn’t comment on timing, but observers say a decision from the PTO on these warring parents could take years.
On Tuesday, voters in four states decided whether to raise the minimum wage starting in 2015.
Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all decided to approve the increases. Illinois voters approved a non-binding ballot initiative to raise the state's minimum wage.
The measure in Illinois was placed on the ballot by that state's legislature, while the measures in the other states were added by citizen initiatives. A number of other states, including New York, Massachusetts and West Virginia, are also set to increase their minimum wages in 2015, in accordance with previous legislation.
When states put minimum wage increases on the ballot, voters tend to be supportive. But voters this week also flipped the balance of Congress in favor of Republicans, many of whom say they don’t want to raise the minimum wage.
“Don’t ever make assumption that voters are consistent in the way they think,” says Jeffrey Berry, a professor of political science of Tufts University. “When you go into the ballot booth, and cast your vote, there’s here’s no sign that says, ‘You’re required to be consistent in the way you vote. Please proceed.’”
He says voters who supported the increase in minimum wage may still have wanted to convey a desire for change in Washington – the two messages don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
But the popular support for these increases likely won’t push Republicans to embrace raising the federal minimum wage, says Berry, because that’d be too big a win for President Obama.
“That’s the last thing this new Congress wants to do,” he says.
While the state-by-state approach feels chaotic, it also kind of works.
“You might say that it makes more sense to have a $10 minimum in California and a $7.25 minimum in Mississippi than to have a $9 minimum in both,” says David Neumark, a professor of economics and the director of the Center for Economics & Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine. He notes that outliers like Seattle and San Francisco which have voted for $15 per hour minimum wage are the exception.
Even before these elections, nearly two dozen states – plus District of Columbia – had set their minimum wages above the federal level.
Several details already have become the center of conversations, including one email in which outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder criticizes Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and his "idiot cronies."
In Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner is projected to beat Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has won re-election, defeating Democrat Mary Burke.
Florida's medical marijuana ballot measure fell short of the 60 percent approval required. Oregon voters approved Measure 91, allowing legalization. Alaska also has a legalization ballot measure.
The Republicans will control both chambers of Congress next year. And in Virginia, a race between Democratic incumbent Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie is coming down to the wire.
We track all the incumbent candidates who lost the midterm election
Here's a guide to keeping up to date on the night's events, on NPR and its member stations.
The Unicode Consortium had previously backed only one skin color, a yellow-orange tone it considered generic. But the group threw away that approach after a wide call for more variety.
Today's injunction takes effect in one week, depending on whether the state appeals. The judge in the case said the state's ban on marriage between people of the same sex violates the 14th Amendment.
The U.S. is now the world's largest oil producer, and some worry that falling prices could mean an industry slowdown. But with production costs also falling, drillers are unlikely to cut back soon.
Kenyan distance runners won both the men's and women's divisions of Sunday's New York City Marathon. A Harvard evolutionary biologist suggests some possible reasons why.