National / International News
Iranian leaders trying to gain support for the nuclear deal at home are turning to a surprising place for talking points: Israel. The sales pitch in Washington? The alternative would be much worse.
The labor market has been doing pretty well in recent years. There are plenty of jobs out there for people to take advantage of. But now it looks like the wait to get that job is taking longer.
According to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, it’s taking twice as long for job offers to come through than it did in 2010. “The single biggest reason that hiring appears to take longer seems to be more screens,” Chamberlain says.
These screens include “things like group panel interviews and skills tests and background tests,” he says. “There are several reasons for it, but the most important one is that jobs are getting more complicated than they used to be.”
That comprehensive process likely comes from companies having more sensitive data online compared to just a few years ago. "They’re being much more careful about who they hire,” Chamberlain says. “There’s really not much you can do as a job seeker other than just wait it out.”
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PayPal, the online-payment company, began trading today on the Nasdaq following a split from eBay. And after just one day on the stock market, PayPal's market capitalization had surpassed the market value of eBay, which acquired the payment service 13 years ago.
Nikhil Joseph, an analyst with the emerging technologies practice of the Mercator Advisory Group, says in the early days of online commerce, PayPal earned consumers' trust as a secure online payments processor. But he says the company must find new opportunities for growth.
"Card transactions online have gotten a lot more secure," Joseph says. "So there are a lot of questions around what really is the value proposition that PayPal's offering."
PayPal is looking to answer those questions by growing its share of the mobile-payment market, as consumers increasingly use their smartphones to pay for goods in brick-and-mortar stores.
"Offline retail is much bigger than online retail," says James Wester, a global payments analyst at IDC. "That's where all the card issuers are," he says. "Apple and Google are trying to get into it as well."
Gil Luria, is an e-commerce analyst at Wedbush Securities. He says growth in mobile payments is expected to skyrocket over the next five years as shoppers become more comfortable with the technology. He predicts Android, Google and PayPal will be the three most dominant players.
And mobile payments are not just about payments at retail stores. They are also peer-to-peer transactions. Those are things like "splitting a check, giving money to your kid or to a friend," says Luria. While those kinds of transactions might not generate much revenue, analysts say, they help complete the payment ecosystem and can potentially build a data profile of customers that could be valuable to marketers.
PayPal owns Venmo, one of the most popular person-to-person payment apps. In early July, it also announced that it was acquiring Xoom, a digital money transfer provider to foreign countries.
"They can now compete head to head with Western Union and MoneyGram," says Luria.
Kids’ menus: they’re salty, sweet, greasy and more appropriately portioned than lots of meals served to adults at casual restaurants. So why the age restrictions? What stops adults from just ordering the small stuff they crave?
This question came in from Rachel Kirby in Nashville, Tennessee for our “I’ve Always Wondered” series. She says she can’t be the only one who’s thought about it.
Kirby is 33, but she says she tries to order from the kid’s menu pretty often. She likes the smaller portions, and she says it doesn’t seem fair that adults are restricted from ordering off the 12-and-under menu in more than a few establishments.
Fast food restaurants typically don’t check, but she says she has been shut down before, mostly at sit-down restaurants.
Kendall Goodrich, chair of the marketing department at the Wright State University business school in Dayton, Ohio, isn’t surprised.
“If everyone ordered off of this kids menu, then they wouldn’t make any money,” says Goodrich. He says kids menus are mainly a way to get families through the door. “If someone has small kids, you get the kid in at the lower price and what they’re hoping is that they’ll get the adults to pay full price.”
But Goodrich says some restaurants don’t want to lose loyal customers by turning them down, either. It all depends on company policies and the owner’s personal style. “It might even go back to their upbringing where they had a conservative rules-based background or more open type of environment.”
So they might let you do it, but it’s discouraged.
This final note on the way out, which comes with the observation that Monday the United Nations Security Council approved the nuclear deal with Iran that was announced last week.
Much has been made, rightly, of the business opportunities that will come with fully opening up a market of 80 million people to the global economy.
McDonald's isn't waiting around.
Should you be the entrepreneurial type, there's a form on its corporate website where you can fill out an application to open a Golden Arches franchise in Tehran.
Call Monday "Debt Relief Day." Two troubled entities are getting debt relief payments. The first: Greece received $7.75 billion from the European Financial Stability Mechanism and promptly made payments to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The second debtor is closer to home: the storied grocery chain Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P, which received a $100 million loan as part of its bankruptcy filing.
Bankruptcies often start with these "debtor-in-possession financings," says Peter Gilhuly, with the law firm Latham & Watkins. The money is meant to fund the company through the bankruptcy process.
“When you have your biggest trouble, you’re getting a lot of money to allow you to restructure, or in A&P’s case, to liquidate efficiently,” he says.
Like Greece’s latest proposed bailout, Gilhuly says this money is supposed to be a bridge, part of path forward guided by the U.S. bankruptcy code.
But because there isn’t a bankruptcy code for countries, Greece’s process is more unpredictable, says Lee Buchheit, a partner with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.
“There is an institutional method by which claims against a corporate debtor can be extended or written down, and that’s binding on all creditors,” he says. For sovereign countries, negotiations are more “ad hoc.”
A&P has deals in place to sell 120 of its nearly 300 stores. It says it will continue its efforts to sell the rest.
The company has been on a slow decline since the 1950s, says Marc Levinson, author of “The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business America."
“At its peak in the late 1920s, A&P became the first retailer anywhere to sell $1 billion worth of merchandise in a single year,” Levinson says. “It was truly a giant.”
The global economy is very dependent on the millions of small cargo boats and large merchant ships that carry about 90 percent of the world’s goods. The problem is the high seas, where all this trade occurs, is one of the most lawless areas in the world.
Ian Urbina has begun to write about the trouble of international waters in a four-part series for the New York Times entitled “The Outlaw Ocean.” He says that the problem with these waters is that they “belong to everyone and no one. There’s no international police force out there. It’s really kind of a jurisdiction with no cops.”
The crimes committed there occur mostly on larger trade ships and include everything from illegal dumping of oil to abandoning stowaways at sea as a storm approaches.
Even though land-locked nations like Bolivia and Mongolia should be among those to take care of this problem, Urbina says they have little incentive to do so. “They have these lucrative flagging programs where they sell the right to fly their flag.”
There is hope in a new United Nations bill called the Biodiversity Agreement, which is designed to impose some rules on the high seas. Urbina remains skeptical. “It’s years away from even being written, much less figuring out how they would enforce it,” he says.
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Big data is coming for us. It's like the younger, online sibling of big brother, watching our every move. But if you're a consumer who's not wild about being tracked by retailers, this time, the enemy is inside the walls, or, to be more exact, your hard drive. Big data takes careful note note of how many times we search for "wrinkle cream," "acne cure" or "weight loss teas," where you're logging in from and on what kind of device.
Say you’re online, shopping for rain boots, searching for options on large sites like Amazon, Zappos or Target. If you pull up your Facebook feed just a few minutes later, odds are an ad for rain boots is exactly what you'll find there. Ads trail you on the internet thanks to cookies — tiny text files that websites deposit on your computer and use to keep track of how many times you visit a site or what you were searching for.
Collect all those cookies from you and me, and all the other users out there, add them together, and you get big data. Retailers know what you, specifically, are interested in, like rain boots. They also know what people like you are interested in — if a consumer is shopping for boots, maybe he or she will also buy an umbrella or tomato soup.
Though data may not be the sexiest topic — “it’s kind of a deal killer at cocktail parties" says Eric Siegel, author of "Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die" — data about us can be powerful.
Big data can even figure out when we are going to die, Siegel says. "Anybody can go to death-clock.org and see your expected exact date of departure,” he says.
Also, it can also predict less scary stuff: “Whether you're going to commit an act of fraud. Whether you're going to turn out to be a poor risk for a credit card," he says.
And how likely you are to buy that pair of rain boots. But if big data is so smart, then why is it, so, well, stupid? Why do are we shown ads for the same things, over and over again, often for products we’ve already bought? Even Facebook agrees retargeting ads, the name for ads that chase us around the internet, is not always a hot strategy for advertising.
"I would agree and you would agree that that’s not a great experience for you as a person — it’s just frankly annoying," says Brian Boland, vice president of advertising technology for Facebook.
Images of boots appear in Amazon.com's "Related to Items You've Viewed" section for reporter Sally Herships after she purchases boots from Zappos.com. (Sally Herships/Marketplace)
To remedy the problem, Facebook made a change in the fall. Boland says ads on Facebook now come with a drop-down menu built in with choices like "I don't want to see this."
"That tells us to stop showing you that product and to stop reminding you of the thing that you may be wearing on your feet today," he says.
But why does Facebook need to hear directly from the consumer? For one thing, Siegel says, big data is not a crystal ball. Data don't have a brain. Instead, what matters is how intelligently retailers use it. And most of the time, it seems, they’re still figuring out that.
"You can think of big data as sort of a class of 15 year olds. Some of them are super mature prodigies, and they’re doing extraordinarily well,” he says. "The rest of them are your standard 15 year olds who have so much potential, but they’re rough around the edges, so they may be doing things pretty effectively in order to get the grade, or in the case of online marketing in order to improve profit, potentially drastically. But it’s still kind of clumsy, kind of embarrassing, it’s kind of shameless."
Like when advertisers use data to bombard you with ads for things you’ve already searched for and even already bought.
“If you’ve been to any website and thought about doing anything, you’ve probably been chased around for a number of days with impressions [ads] from all over the place," says Nick Stoltz, senior vice president of strategy at MarketShare, a marketing and analytics company.
One reason we see all these repeat ads, says Stoltz, is because when you buy something from Company A., Company B doesn’t know about it. So it keeps showing you ads, because after all, it wants your business. Another reason, notes Stoltz, is they're cheap.
"They cost fractions of cents to serve thousands of these things," he says. "So you can see why they’re so popular."
Finally, says Stoltz, advertising campaigns cost money. So companies want to know if their campaigns are worth the cost. But that can be hard to suss out. Was it an ad in a print magazine that persuaded a consumer to buy? A commercial on TV? The ad in their Facebook feed? Even though they know it's a faulty practice, Stoltz says marketers are very likely to give credit for a sale to the last part of an ad campaign that a consumer clicked on — often a retargeted ad.
"It’s as simple as saying who deserves the star on their back? Who gets the brownie points? If all the marketers are a troop of Brownies, who gets the brownie points for the sale of the boots that you just did?" he says.
But imagine the web without big data. To prove a point, Stoltz opens the webpage for high-end retail site Gilt.com. An ad for Spanx — maker of women's undergarments — pops up.
"Which I’m not interested in," he said.
For retailers, the options often are a) showering consumers in random ads for things they may have no interest in, or b) sending us too many ads for things we may have already bought. Most of the time, retailers go with choice b, and Siegel says they do that because they're cheap and so just enough of the time, companies will make a profit.
“Exactly. So you’re going to be annoyed and your neighbor is going to be annoyed and your friends and cousins and everybody is going to be annoyed, except for this one person who lives down the street, and they’re going to actually buy it and the company doesn’t lose much by being annoying.”
Last week, European creditors gave Greece an injection of cash. But not much of the $6.8 billion Athens paid out today actually went into the Greek economy.
“The money that Greece just got was immediately spent on paying back the IMF and paying back the European Central Bank," says Mitu Gulati, a law professor at Duke University. "I mean Greece got a tiny portion of it. They’re lending Greece money to pay themselves back, and that's how we got into this awful situation in the first place."
Gulati helped with the restructuring of Greek debt back in 2012, and co-authored a new plan to help Greece out of this crisis. His strategy would have the private sector step back in to replace the foreign governments and organizations currently holding Greek debt.
The current situation, with money coming in to Greece only to go back out to creditors, is unsustainable, says Rob Howse, a professor of international law at New York University.
He says the fact that European governments have been so resistant to restructuring or writing off some of Greece's debts represents a “kind of a symptom or a reflection of the unreality of this whole process with the eurozone.”
Howse has an alternative. He was part of a United Nations task force attempting to make the bankruptcy of a country look more like that of a municipality or a company, with rules on how to make a country's bailout a bit more organized.
But he says one of the big differences between companies that run out of cash and countries that do the same is whom they owe.
“Some of the main creditors, when you are dealing with a country ... are, for example, pensioners, people dependent on Social Security and people dependent on the health care system.
It’s easier to blow off Wall Street investors than to deny granny her retirement.
The Greek government and its European creditors have to figure out how to move on from just funneling money from one creditor to another. If they don't, says Duke University's Gulati, "unfortunately, I think that will result in Grexit, Greece exiting [the eurozone.]"
In the meantime... you can always check with us to see if Greece is solvent yet.
It's the second major title for Johnson, an Iowa native whose breakthrough win came at the Masters back in 2007. Jordan Spieth narrowly missed a chance at the playoff.
Chicken bones unearthed in Israel may mark a turning point in human cuisine: They could be the earliest evidence of people raising chickens for food, rather than cockfighting or use in ceremonies.
Gandgadhara Tilak Katnam is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary mission: getting rid of India's killer potholes.