National News

When being cheap isn't worth it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 12:16

TLC's reality show ,"Extreme Cheapskates," showcases people who go to, well, extremes to save money. There's the woman who refuses to spend money doing laundry, so she uses a free sample of detergent and  her time in the shower to give her clothes a cleaning of sorts. And then, there's the couple who, as self-described cheapskates, decided to bestow a crib found in a dumpster unto their unborn daughter. 

There is quite a difference between cheap and frugal, according to Daryl Paranada, a reporter for, the differences are pretty clear. 

"Frugality means you're conscious about how you use and spend your hard-earned money," Paranada says. "Being cheap means you want to spend the least amount of money possible, no matter what. And that's not always the best approach to spending money. There are times when being cheap just isn't smart."

Many people try to save money when making home improvements by doing it themselves,  but Paranada says that when undertaking home improvement projects, going the cheap route is not the way to go. 

"Before you take out the hammers and you start a DIY project for your house, you should ask yourself three questions," he says. "First, do I know what I'm doing? Could I hurt myself or my house? And finally, is it worth my time?" 

Paranada also says that there are some things that are worth the money you pay for them. 

"If you think about it, you spend half your time in a mattress and half your time in shoes. A good mattress might cost you about $1000, but it's worth it because in the end it's all about value. What kind of things do you value? What kinds of things might improve your quality of life ," he says. 

For more tips on how to save money without being a miser, see Daryl Paranada's article, "13 Instances When Being Cheap Doesn't Pay Off."

Yes, the Hard Rock Cafe still exists

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 12:13

There are fewer than ten Planet Hollywood locations still open -- but for the Hard Rock Cafe, life after the recession has been one marked by growth.

And that has to do with their post-recession strategy, says Venessa Wong, a reporter at Bloomberg Businessweek.  The Seminole Tribe of Florida bought the struggling themed restaurant chain in 2007. Since then, the company has focused on building more restaurants overseas and expanding into a line of hotels and casinos.

In the U.S., they’ve also tried to update the brand by changing restaurant décor and playing new music. Wong thinks the changes and growth strategy could very well prove successful.

"As long as they offer tourists a good enough experience while they’re there, they’re probably likely to visit another Hard Rock at another location the next time they’re traveling to a place where it’s hard to find a good hamburger,” Wong said.

Paula Deen's Restaurant, Site Of Seafood And Slurs, Shuts Down

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 12:07

The restaurant at the center of a lawsuit involving celebrity chef Paula Deen has closed. Uncle Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House in Savannah, Ga., surprised employees by handing out final paychecks Thursday. Deen owned the eatery with her brother Bubba Hiers. A 2012 lawsuit accused the two of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

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In March Jobs Report, Market Awakens From A Winter Swoon

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 12:07

The U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March, according to data released this morning. The unemployment rate refused to budge, though, holding steady at 6.7 percent.

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Life Without Jobless Benefits: Watching, Searching And Praying

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 11:49

More than three months have passed since the long-term unemployed saw their federal jobless benefits cut off abruptly. One Michigan woman is looking for work while watching for congressional action.

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It's Complicated: When A CEO's Personal Position Becomes Public

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 11:46

The new CEO of Mozilla was forced to step down amid controversy over his anti-gay-marriage donation in 2008. How much should the public judge chief executives for their private views?

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U.S. Taps New Energy Sources, And Potential Geopolitical Clout

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 11:24

Thanks in large part to hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. finds itself awash in domestic energy — and moving rapidly toward self-sufficiency and a position of strategic and economic strength.

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Kerry: 'Reality Check Time' In Middle East Peace Talks

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 11:16

The secretary of state says both Israel and the Palestinians need to "spend some time thinking about making some very difficult decisions."

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Congressman's Lament: $174,000 Isn't Enough To Make Ends Meet

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 11:05

Rep. Jim Moran argues that members of Congress are underpaid. His claim has been greeted with derision, but there's evidence the cost of living in D.C. makes it tough for members of modest means.

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Cuisine And Culture Transform A Dallas Neighborhood

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 10:58

Trinity Groves, a 15-acre restaurant incubator, brought Chinese-Latin food and economic vitality back to West Dallas. What was once a dangerous neighborhood is now a hotspot for international eats.

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Nest Halts Sales Of Smoke Detector, Disables 'Wave' Feature

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 10:00

The Google owned company discovered users could unintentionally disable the device by waving their hands in front of the detector.

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PODCAST: March jobs report

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:56
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 09:56 MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with an employee in Fred's Pro Hardware, June 3, 2011 in Toledo, Ohio.

Employers hired 192,000 people in March. That's a strong showing, but not quite as high as economists had expected. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent. 
Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, joined us to discuss.

Also, it appears the jobs market is improving, slowly but surely. But are things really getting better on the ground? We put that question to Ron Martinez, who owns a sports bar in Los Angeles and says he's been hiring.

Meanwhile, take-out is the theme of the day on Wall Street. GrubHub starts trading on the New York Stock Exchange today. In addition to operating its own food delivery app, GrubHub owns online food delivery site, Seamless. Grubhub shares are priced at $26 a piece -- valuing the company at about $2 billion. Why is Grubhub such an attractive investment? Marketplace's Jeff Tyler takes a look.

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday April 4, 2014by Stacey Vanek SmithPodcast Title: PODCAST: March jobs reportSyndication: All in onePMPApp Respond: No

Never mind Letterman. What about his band?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:23
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 16:21 Courtesy of CBS

David Letterman's band.

The multi-million dollar question in the media world is: Who will get David Letterman’s time slot when the host steps down in 2015? An opening for a late night host also creates an opening for a band. Band leaders of successful shows are well-paid, and the increased exposure they get can open doors.

“It can enhance your chances of being successful at whatever it is that you want to do, simply because a lot of people know who you are,” says Jay Leno’s longtime band leader, Kevin Eubanks.

And for the musicians behind the band leaders, a regular spot in a late night band can be a nice change of pace from a hectic tour schedule.

Marketplace for Friday April 4, 2014

Mark Garrison: When Letterman announced his retirement on the show, the on-air reaction was quick.

Band leader Paul Shaffer made a fortune playing sidekick and enduring cracks about his Canadian heritage. The exposure he got could open doors for him after the show ends.

Kevin Eubanks: It can enhance your chances of being successful at whatever it is that you want to do, simply because a lot of people know who you are now.

Kevin Eubanks was Jay Leno’s longtime band leader. Getting a slot like that isn’t easy. They just don’t come up that often.

Eubanks: Jay and I, for instance, we just got along. So sometimes it can just be something that simple. That, oh, these two people get along and that would make for good TV.

Music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz points out that it’s about more than band leaders. Behind them are working musicians trying to make a good living in a tricky industry. A job on a talk show can be a welcome break.

Bob Lefsetz: If you can get a gig on a late night show, get paid every night, sleep in your own bed, it’s very appealing.

And when you tour, you can pay bigger venues. But late night opportunities are shrinking, says Bill Carter, author of several books on late night TV.

Bill Carter: Frankly, one of the things I think you might see is a condensed band, because they have tighter budgets than they used to and the bands are expensive.

But don’t look for them to disappear. They play a vital role you don’t see on TV. Eubanks says bands are crucial for keeping the studio audience hyped up.

Eubanks: The audience has all this energy because we gave it to them during the commercials that they wanna release it, because they’re there to have a party.

And there’s now a chance for another band leader to join it. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

by Mark GarrisonPodcast Title: Never mind Letterman. What about his band? Story Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

India Sentences 3 To Hang For Multiple Rapes

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:14

The men were sentenced under a new, tougher law on sexual assaults. They were convicted in two separate cases, including the rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai.

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Could A 'Barbie' Get Real? What A Healthy Fashion Doll Looks Like

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:14

Barbie dolls are marketed with sports gear, but could they actually run on those spindly gams? The design for a doll based on an average 19-year-old's physique looks like it really has legs.

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Federal Judge Says He'll Require Ohio To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:12

Voters approved a prohibition in 2004. The judge, during arguments over a case involving birth certificates of children of same-sex couples, previewed a decision he plans to issue on April 14.

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Ford's China conundrum: Big profits, bribery allegations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:04

At the end of Ford’s assembly line in Chongqing, Plant Manager Greg Brown is counting cars. “If we stand here an hour, we should count 63 cars going by here,” Brown says, peering at a digital sign above us displaying the number of cars that have come off the line already today. “We’re scheduled to build 1,281 vehicles today.”

Ford sold its first passenger car in China in 2003. Last year, it sold close to a million.

Most of them are assembled here in the Southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chongqing, Ford’s largest manufacturing hub outside Michigan. It’s a joint venture with Chinese automaker Chang’an. “In Chongqing, we’re in a fantastic spot, because the growing auto market is out here in the middle and in the West,” says Scott Chang, spokesman for Ford. “So being in Chongqing gives us a great advantage.”

Another advantage is a near endless supply of cheap labor. The Chongqing region is home to low wages, and tens of millions of farmers eager to make more money at a factory close to home. The twenty-first century autoworker is someone like Liu Chan. He's a short, thin assembly line manager wearing a navy blue work suit emblazoned with the joint venture’s official name Chang’an Ford. “I work at the final stage of the assembly line, making adjustments to vehicles coming off the line,” says Liu inside the plant’s break room.

Liu says he works eight hours a day, with few chances for overtime. He has two kids, he owns a Ford Focus, and his wife works here, too. Ford has handpicked Liu to speak with me, and managers won’t let him discuss salary, overtime rates, no numbers.

“But this is Marketplace,” I say to his managers, “we do the numbers.”

Nope, says Ford – those numbers are secret.

So after my day at Ford is through, I return to the factory gates without the looming presence of Ford management, where other workers help me do the numbers.

“My base salary is higher than average - a little over 1,800 yuan a month,” says a worker named Xu.

His salary is equal to $1.80 an hour. Xu works on the assembly line at the plant. He shows me his Ford ID badge, but he asks that his full name not be used. Xu says with overtime and bonuses, he makes around $10,000 (U.S.) a year – enough to buy a modest apartment nearby for his wife, child and his wife’s parents.

He says he feels lucky to have this job. “The workload is very demanding, hours are long, and it’s very tiring,” says Xu, “But my salary is very high compared to work at any other factory around here.”

Xu says getting a job at Ford is so competitive that some people resort to bribing employees in Ford’s HR department just to secure a position at the plant. “It’s pretty common for the most coveted jobs at the company like the quality control department,” says Xu. “They usually have to pay between 3,000 to 5,000 yuan," which works out to be $500-900. “If you’re a woman, it’ll cost you more than double that.”

Xu says that’s because women are generally looking for less labor-intensive but highly coveted administrative roles. Xu says paying for positions at Ford was common a few years ago, but lately it’s less so because of the increasing amount of overtime required to keep up with demand. “I know one person who paid 5,000 yuan to get a job here,” says Xu, “But then he was assigned to work in the welding workshop – a really tough job. He wanted to quit, but he had to stick around to earn back the bribe he had paid.”

Xu says Ford management has made it clear to employees that bribery is illegal and if they knew about this, they’d put a stop to it. But Xu says this would be challenging for the foreign automaker. “There’s a Chinese saying: There are rules that come from above and there are solutions down here on the ground,” Xu says with a laugh.

Ford may not be alone: Marketplace discovered online posts in China by middlemen and job seekers indicating coveted jobs were for sale inside other foreign automakers like Volkswagen and General Motors. Another Ford worker, named Wang – who also didn’t want to give his full name – says he too knows people at Ford who paid bribes for their jobs. He says the problem doesn’t emanate from Ford, but from China. “You might not do this sort of thing in the US, but here in China, bribing someone to get something you want is completely normal and inevitable,” says Wang with a shrug.

Not all the Ford workers Marketplace spoke to in Chongqing talked about others who had paid for positions at the plant. Several assembly line workers said they had never heard of such a thing.

In a written statement to Marketplace, Ford said: “We take these allegations very seriously and have initiated an investigation. Any behavior that violates our policies, such as the alleged behavior, would result in immediate dismissal.”

James McGregor, head of the China region for APCO Worldwide and author of “One Billion Customers: Lessons from the front lines of doing business in China,” says it usually takes foreign companies years to get used to the scale of corruption in China. “Everything you do, every transaction, every deal, every move, every permit, there’s just so many interfaces with the government,” says McGregor.

And at every step, he says, somebody’s taking money. “So when you get into the private companies, that culture that will infect it.”

McGregor’s advice for foreign companies who find this sort of corruption inside their China operation? Don’t be soft.

“You should fire people and you should do it very publicly, and you should turn them over to police authorities,” says McGregor. “Unfortunately what happens in foreign companies a lot is they’ll investigate corruption, and then they’ll quietly pay the people off to go away and inflict some other company because they don’t want the embarrassment.”

Another challenge for companies like Ford is they’re required by Chinese law to partner with a Chinese company. Ford’s Chongqing plant is a 50/50 joint venture with Chang’an, one of China’s big four automakers. Often, Chinese partners bring their own corporate culture to the mix – which can include practices like taking bribes.

Ford employee Xu says many of his colleagues at Chongqing’s Ford plant came from one of the plants owned by the Chinese partner – he says the benefits and pay at Ford are much better. And Xu says lucky for him, he didn’t have to pay to get a job he liked.

Data compiled by Stella Xie.

Why the 'Internet of Things' is still fragile

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:01
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 16:56 George Frey/Getty Images News

A Nest thermostat being adjusted.

In the world of the Internet of Things, every device from your refrigerator to your thermostat seems smart. The idea is, we humans don’t have to set temperatures or see if we’ve run out of milk because the devices will do it for us.

It’s all supposed to be seamless. Until it’s not.

And that brings us to Nest, which is halting sales of its Nest Protect fire alarm and smoke detector. The company said the fire alarm's “wave function,” which allows you to turn off false alarms, can, under certain circumstances, delay an alarm going off in a real fire. 

It appears that the "Internet of Things" isn’t making devices as smart or as seamless as promised. The reason is simple: It's still the early days for the Internet of Things, said Jeremey Jaech, the CEO of SNUPI technologies. He said right now, the business landscape is like the wild west.

"And it’s not at all clear who’s going to win," Jaech said. 

Jaech said there are lots of different start-ups producing almost as many varieties of software and hardware to power the Internet of Things. But these products don’t always speak the same language. And that often means you have to start dealing with a human being in customer support.

"What I would expect to happen, because it’s happened in virtually every other industry, is that you start to see consolidation occur, and standardization will come," Jaech said. 

When winners emerge, everyone in the industry starts speaking the same languages. The technology becomes more seamless, and so the help line becomes less necessary -- maybe.

"There’s a gap between the promise of the technology and the reality of the messiness of our lives," said Jonathan Gaw, an an analyst at IDC. He points to the Nest thermometer, which he owns.

"The promise of the Nest is that it recognizes movements in the household so it can adjust the temperature accordingly," Gaw said. 

But Gaw’s thermostat is hidden behind his big screen TV and so it can't monitor movements. Tony Costa is an analyst at Forrester and he said companies need to start adjusting expectations.

"Consumer electronic companies are used developing devices if something goes wrong with them, it’ll ruin your day," Costa said. "You know if your iphone crashes, it’s kind of a bummer."

But if your fire alarm crashes, that could be fatal. Costa said, these companies are known for pushing the envelope. But when it comes to wiring our lives, they might want something less glitzy but more dependable ... or maybe just a human who can help them out.

Marketplace for Friday April 4, 2014by Queena KimPodcast Title: Why the 'Internet of Things' is still fragileStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

What would full employment feel like?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:53
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 16:51 John Moore/Getty Images

Applicants line up to speak to prospective employers at a job fair on June 11, 2012 in New York City. 

New jobs numbers show the national unemployment rate is holding steady at 6.7 percent.

The hope is that the number will continue to fall. Borrowing a line from Ludacris, the question for the unemployment rate is: “How low can you go?”

The unemployment rate can’t get to zero. It’s impossible. There will always be people entering the workforce, or between jobs. But just how low the unemployment rate can go is really tough to answer.

“To me, a fair definition of full employment in the United States today would be unemployment under 4 percent,” said Robert Pollin, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Economists disagree about the unemployment rate that will signal the U.S. has achieved to full employment. Some say it’s 5.5 percent, others say it could get down to 2 percent.

There’s more agreement on what a world of full employment feels like. “People who want a job are ready and willing to work. They will find a job,” said L. Randall Wray, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It would be an economy where you can feel good about the chances of getting that next job. Your children will be able to get work when they leave school. You’ll be able to plan for the future a little better—maybe buy a house.

“You don’t have to take the worst jobs that come along, just out of fear that you can’t find something better,” Wray said.

In an economy of full-employment, you, the worker, have more control. There are fewer people out there looking to replace you. “When you are at full employment,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “you are in a situation where employers actually need to bid wages up to get and to keep the workers they need, even for low wage workers.”

At full employment, Bernstein said, we’d likely all get paid more. At the bottom, the middle, and the top of the pay scale.

Marketplace for Friday April 4, 2014 Raghu Manavalan/Marketplace The unemployment rate, from 2008 to March 2014by Adriene HillPodcast Title: What would full employment feel like?Story Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Bush's 'Art Of Leadership' Puts Putin And Others On Display

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:21

The 43rd president has taken up art since leaving the White House. The Bush center in Dallas is showing some of his portraits of world leaders. His favorite: that of his father, the 41st president.

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