The plan was unveiled one day before the Iraqi parliament will hold its first meeting since the April 30 national elections.
Over the weekend, your Facebook feed may have exploded with anger— at Facebook. Researchers from the company, in collaboration with academic social scientists, published the results from a study in which the company manipulated the news feeds of hundreds of thousands of users. Some users saw news feeds full of negative material, others saw material that was positive. The idea was to see how those two conditions made people feel.
Well, the answer was that people felt really, really mad.
“This study has been characterized as Facebook deliberately trying to depress people,” says Michelle N. Meyer, a bioethicist at the Icahn School of Medicine. “Which, put that way, strikes people as potentially dangerous— and rude. People don’t like to feel like they’re being jerked around.”
Getting manipulated isn’t especially new, she says. “We’re manipulated all the time. Every day. You know, your mother wants you to eat brussels sprouts.”
However, it may be rude of Facebook to rub users’ faces in its ability to manipulate what they see.
That highlights an uncomfortable reality, says Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain, who studies the internet and society.
“We are relying more and more on just a handful of intermediaries to offer us a view of the world,” he says. “And the view that they offer is produced by a secret sauce that nobody reviews.”
First up, more on the expected nomination of Robert McDonald to head the VA, and his troubled history as the former head of Procter & Gamble. Plus, as another casino closes in Atlantic City, a look at the larger negative effects of the boom in the casino business in the Northeast. Also, with political giving getting bigger all the time, a new kind of financial planner has popped up -- Wealthy, politically-minded families are hiring people to manage their financial gifts to campaigning politicians.
The boom in political giving has given rise not only to countless television advertisements and myriad political action committees, but also to something of a new type of job: financial planner for wealthy political donors.
“They [wealthy donors] have other activities in their lives," says Bob Biersack, a fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics. "So they don’t follow the ins and outs of politics – who’s up, who’s down."
Enter what’s known as a donor-side consultant, like Ella Arnold, who works with five Bay-Area families. These are very wealthy families whom she declined to identify.
Arnold and her company, Buell Private Political Management, are in touch with clients every day, “managing their political giving and making sure they stay within federal and state limits – contribution limits,” she says.
Some of those limits disappeared recently, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in a case called McCutcheon versus FEC. Arnold says that actually made her kind of consulting more attractive to big donors. That class of political activist recognizes that candidates can now hit them up for more cash.
They’re thinking, “now that I can give all this extra money,” Arnold says, “I want to make sure that I’m sticking to a budget.”
Arnold meets with politicians. If she thinks one has a platform one of her clients might support, she’ll set up a meeting. And if everything goes well, maybe a fundraiser. She calls the role something akin to being a “wedding planner.”
“Donors, particularly businessmen, are typically risk averse, and the rule of do no harm to either their own good name or their business is their first and primary consideration,” says Dora Kingsley Vertenten, a professor at USC, who used to do this kind of work.
Arnold calls it a growth industry, especially in San Francisco and Silicon Valley; home to a lot of very rich people, many of whom are young, and are new to politics.
“I don’t think that there is a place where it is happening as fast as it is in the Bay Area, given the tech industry and all for that,” she says.
A recent demo gathering in New York featured several startups showing off their software projects. It was from the FinTech Innovations lab, which looks at innovations in the financial tech industry. The audience was comprised of some of the biggest banks and their affiliated financial companies in the world.
For more on the FinTech Innovations lab, click the media player above to hear Marketplace reporter Tracy Samuelson in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
Financial technology is a category defined as any kind of technology meant to serve banks, insurance companies, and other financial services industries. It's a growing market -- Investment in the sector has tripled since 2008.
Companies at the gathering show off products like Kasisto, which uses the technology underlying the iPhone’s Siri to allow a user to ask mobile banking apps specific questions about their banking information.
The banks, as the future customers of these companies, have an incentive to help improve these products, and create their own venture funds to invest in these companies.
The Showboat casino in Atlantic City is closing. It’s the second casino to close there this year. It turns out, a recent boom in Northeast casinos means the house doesn’t always win.
Since 2001, gaming revenue in the Northeast has increased 71 percent, the most of any region says David Schwartz, who directs the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
But regional growth isn’t good for old gambling hubs like New Jersey.
“You’ve had casinos open up in Pennsylvania in particular, which is where a lot of the customers for Atlantic City were coming from,” Schwartz says. “And now they have the same games they can play, it’s a shorter drive, it’s less gas money. So many of them are just playing there.”
Schwartz says gaming revenue in New Jersey has fallen 42 percent since 2007.
It’s not just the casinos that effects. Dave Fitzgerald, who directs the Ocean County, N.J., transportation department, says taxes on casino revenue help fund a program that gives people rides to dialysis appointments. But the decline in casino revenue means the program can’t take new clients.
“Back in ’08 we were transporting approximately 280 dialysis clients,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re now down to less than 30 dialysis clients. So it has severely impacted the level of services that we’ve been able to provide.”
The problem isn’t going away anytime soon. A third Jersey casino has filed for bankruptcy and is looking for a buyer.
Sales of Hillary Clinton’s most recent book, “Hard Choices,” slipped significantly after its first week on sale.
Clinton was reportedly paid a multi-million dollar advance by her publisher Simon & Schuster, raising questions from some about whether the publisher’s bet will pay off.
“I do think it’s doing well,” Kate McKean, vice president at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, says of the book. “She’s not going anywhere, so this book could potentially sell, and probably will sell for years and years.”
Still, even with books by celebrities that seem destined to be best sellers, publishers are taking a gamble, says Brian DeFiore, a New York-based literary agent.
“How much do we believe in this person?," DeFiore says. "How much do we believe the public wants to hear from this person and hear more about this person? And then, how much will that person’s voice resonate for years to come?”
Something else publishers taking into account: global sales. And given Clinton’s fame, DeFiore says it’s book that should sell around the world.
President Barack Obama is expected to nominate the former head of Procter & Gamble as secretary of Veterans Affairs, following Eric Shinseki’s resignation last month. A West Point graduate, Robert McDonald spent 33 years with the company that sells Crest toothpaste, Duracell batteries, and Charmin toilet paper.
After his time in the army, McDonald spent his entire career at Procter & Gamble, where he oversaw 120,000 employees.
His four years running the company were difficult ones. When McDonald took over in 2009, P&G was deep into a strategy that emphasized charging premium prices for brand name products — a strategy that became less effective after the financial crash of 2008. McDonald’s retirement from P&G last year was under pressure.
The new assignment could bring new challenges. Even though Procter & Gamble is the world’s biggest consumer-products company, it’s actually smaller than the VA. The company reports sales of $84 billion — a bit more than half of the VA’s $154 billion budget. The VA also has more than twice as many employees as P&G.
For transgender people, work isn’t always an easy place to be – They often face discrimination, and are twice as likely to be unemployed as the rest of the population. Many who do work are under-employed. But transgender experiences at the office can tell us a lot about the status of men and women at work.
Sociologist Kristen Schilt has spent years talking to transgender men and women about their work lives. One guy she interviewed is named Thomas. He’s a lawyer. He’d begun working at his law firm as Susan. Everyone in his firm knew about his transition, but clients and others outside the firm were told Susan had been let go.
Schilt says some time after his transition, his boss told Thomas that a lawyer at another firm said, “He was so glad they had fired Susan, who he had found to be very incompetent, but that he really loved this new guy, Thomas.”
That lawyer had no idea Thomas and Susan were the same person. But they were the same person, with the exact same abilities – Thomas just looked like a man.
Schilt says two-thirds of the transgender men she interviewed found workplace life easier once they left their female days behind. They’d say things like, “I don’t have to back up the claims I’m making. People listen to me more.” They reported having more authority than they’d ever had in their old work lives.
Chris Edwards has experienced that first hand. He’s a transgender man who works in advertising. He now perceives his workplace differently, too.
“As a creative director, and as a male creative director, I started to notice differences with the way women were treated,” he says. “But when I was a woman I didn’t really notice.”
Now he’s quite conscious of the pay gap at his firm. And he says it’s always a woman who’s expected to take the notes in meetings – no matter how senior she is.
Lisa Scheps knows all about that difference in status. When she was living publicly as a man, Scheps ran a business with three male partners. At 40, she told them she was going to start living openly as a female. She wasn’t prepared for their responses.
“One person said to me, ‘How do you expect to deal with business when all you’re going to be thinking about is nail polish?’,” says Scheps.
Her partners pushed her out of the company. Scheps has been an entrepreneur all her life. She thought she’d just start something else as a female business owner.
“My 40 years as man in the business world, I did not know failure,” she says. “Success came very easily to me.”
Not any more. Scheps, who is the co-founder of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, says administrative work is pretty much all she’s been able to find. Her income has fallen dramatically.
“It’s a very different world that I have discovered for women in the United States versus men in the Unites States,” she says. “It’s just that much harder, you just have to be that much better.”
Like everyone else who’s underemployed, Scheps says she just wants a job that matches her experience.
Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast on women and the workplace called The Broad Experience.
Offshore oil and gas money is central to the debate over whether Scotland should break off from the U.K. — especially in the remote Shetland Islands, where North Sea oil has transformed the economy.
The father of one of the 19 firefighters who died a year ago in the Yarnell Hill Fire wants to create shelters that better shield against direct flames.
When researchers asked young children to figure out an experiment using cause and effect, they did a much better job than young adults. That may be because their thinking is more flexible and fluid.
In Texas and elsewhere, guns are playing major roles this campaign season. Politicians have opened fire in ads, literally, and embraced the gun as a symbol of their conservative street cred.
Video chatting with a therapist is convenient, people who have tried it say. Research suggests online therapy can be effective, but issues with the quality of the service and privacy remain unsolved.
Farmers and ranchers, increasingly reliant on pumping groundwater, are desperate to have more and more wells installed. This frenzy could deplete California's aquifers, experts say.
Taylor, who played a lovable ex-convict surrounded by boisterous Southern belles on the sitcom Designing Women and appeared in numerous other TV and film roles, died of cancer, his agent said.
Kenneth Feinberg, the country's most well-known compensation expert, is scheduled to reveal the terms Monday, and GM CEO Mary Barra has said there will be no cap on payments.
It's typically a holy month of reflection for Muslims, but Iraqis face a bleak Ramadan this year. Extremists have taken over much of the country and show no sign of easing their fighting.
The debate over the federal minimum wage, which raised to $7.25 in 2009, is playing out across the country. Meanwhile, the minimum wage for tipped workers hasn't gone up for 23 years.