National / International News
Walmart is raising wages. The country’s largest private retailer says it’s doing so in order to stay in compliance with 21 states raising their minimum wages in the new year. But, while it might seem counter-intuitive, paying higher wages could mean a better bottom line, not just for workers, but also for Walmart.
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Most olive oil comes from Europe — where producers have had one of the worst growing seasons in 20 years — for a number of reasons.
First, last year was a bumper crop, and apparently the trees tend to get tired the following year. More importantly, the weather was lousy for olives, and great for insects like the olive fly. It lays eggs inside the fruit, the maggots dig their way out, and ... yuck. There were other bugs too, and a fungus; they all had a great year. The International Olive Council projects that production will be down 27 percent worldwide. The world’s biggest producer is Spain, and production is down more than 50 percent there.
And while supplies are low, demand has grown in the past two decades. Global consumption is about 50 percent higher than in the early 1990s.
That means high prices, and a higher likelihood that more olive oil will be fake.
What gets sold as Italian extra-virgin olive oil often isn't. It may not be Italian, may not be extra-virgin, and may not be 100 percent olive oil. A lot of oil that’s bottled in Italy actually gets imported from elsewhere, and others have reported that some bottlers adulterate the product.
Tom Mueller — who wrote an exposé on the whole setup for the New Yorker, and then a book called “Extra Virginity” — told the L.A. Times recently that anything priced under 12 bucks a liter almost certainly wouldn't be extra-virgin Italian olive oil from this year’s harvest.
On the other hand, production doubled in Greece this year. And it almost tripled in Tunisia. So a bottle that says it came from one of those two countries is more likely to be the real thing.
After suffering through some of the very worst of the Great Recession and housing crisis, property values and rents in Detroit are headed back up again. Developer Richard Baron is the CEO of St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, which is building 400 new rental units.
“The market has firmed up very nicely, certainly for apartments in downtown, around the core, and we think that it will continue to grow,” says Baron.
Even the long-stalled market for single-family houses is beginning to approach pre-recession levels.
“If anything, our biggest challenge is that I have way more buyers than I do quality houses that are move-in ready,” says Ryan Cooley, an agent for O’Connor Real Estate. Despite the good news for downtown, Cooley says many outlying neighborhoods are not seeing the same turnaround.
Ten years ago, San Diego entrepreneur Brian Jones bought a ramshackle house in Cleveland.
But don’t write this off as your standard fixer-upper yarn, as that rickety heap was used in the filming of the 1983 holiday classic, “A Christmas Story”. You know, the one with little Ralphie wishing for a Red Ryder BB Gun, but forever warned he’ll “shoot his eye out.”
Jones took a brave shot himself at saving the house, which he has turned into one of Cleveland's biggest tourist attractions.
Coming in from the cold, the day’s first tour — about 20 people — squeeze into “A Christmas Story” House. They’re greeted by tour guide Jeff Woodard.
“Come on in, welcome to Ralphie and Randy’s,” he smiles.
The visitors play with a Red Ryder BB gun or pose with the infamous leg lamp by the window. There are also elf hats and other novelty head wear, though the “pink nightmare” bunny pajamas are across the street in the gift shop.
Woodward explains how this house was used during the filming of “A Christmas Story” in 1983.
“Basic rule of thumb is, if you can see a shot through a window or through a doorway into outdoor ambient light, that shot was filmed in this house,” he says.
But after filming wrapped up, 3159 West 11th Street became just another address in hardscrabble Cleveland. Nature, via economic downturn, took its course.
Then in 2004, Brian Jones — a fan of the movie who had also launched a thriving leg lamp enterprise the year before — learned that the home was listed on eBay for $99,000.
“Never mind that the houses in this area are $25,000 and $30,000 homes,” says Woodward. “(Jones) doesn’t know that, he doesn’t care. He calls the two brothers who own the house, and he says, 'Make you a deal. You take this off of eBay today, I will write you a check for $150,000.'”
The visitors gasp.
Flash forward to today. Jones, who lives in Florida now but drops in every now and then on business, reflects on the time and money spent restoring the house to its cinematic grandeur, inside and outside.
“You’re looking at about one and a half million dollars invested over the past decade,” says Jones.
The house now sees visitors from all over the world.
“There was guy from South Africa," says Jones. "He was crawling under the sink, just like Randy: "'Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.'"
And last year, Jones launched the Christmas Story House Foundation, which helps fix up other homes in the immediate neighborhood. Last year it raised $60,000.
Rich Weiss was a beneficiary. He applied for funding and got approved this past year. “A completely painted house exterior, and a completely replaced porch, that isn’t inexpensive,” Weiss says.
While the operators of “A Christmas Story” House and Museum wouldn’t disclose annual revenues, it’s safe to say, with most of its 50,000 annual visitors paying the adult admission rate of ten dollars, that its profits are cozier than a set of pink bunny pajamas.
As oil prices plummet, what is the effect on the alternative energy sector. We find out. Plus, a surge in jobs has brought people back to downtown Detroit, making apartments scarce and prompting a building boom. And Oakland cat-lovers Adam Myatt and Ana Dunn opened Cat Town Cafe - the country's first feline filled coffee shop - and they have been so busy that they are taking reservations. The main product isn’t the hip local coffee and bagels, it is the cats themselves.
An expedition to the Pacific's Mariana Trench has found evidence that life exists miles below the surface. But it's not life as we know it.