National / International News
The Nigerian Islamist militant group has traded grainy videos for slick productions. This week, Boko Haram posted a video purportedly showing the bodies of two beheaded men accused of spying.
Think of this as a corporate restructuring 2.0.
A secret document penned by D.C. Federal Reserve governor Daniel Tarullo in 2010 set in motion a silent centralization of powers within the organization. Now, the change is having some unforeseen consequences.
Up until 2008, the New York Fed was in charge of keeping tabs on the nation’s banking industry.
"After the financial crisis," says the WSJ’s Jon Hilsenrath, "Tarullo came along with Ben Bernanke’s assent and said, basically, ‘we’re gonna do it a new way.’” This “new way” included stripping oversight powers from the New York Fed and placing them in the hands of a special committee based in Washington.
Referred to as the “Triangle Document,” the six-page document provided a blueprint for a new era. Now, oversight of all 12 Federal Reserve banks is managed by Tarullo’s committee.
Hilsenrath says, though, that the change hasn’t necessarily made the process any easier. “There are critics who say the banks feel burdened by the whole process … There are also complaints even within the system that the new system makes it a little bit harder for the information to flow up to the most senior people in the Fed.”
There is a small village called Wasteland in the Northeast China region. Despite its name, looks nothing like a wasteland, according to Michael Meyer, author of "In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China."
Meyer spent three years living in Wasteland, while his wife pursued a legal career in Hong Kong. He explains early on that Wasteland was his wife’s childhood home, however, she had no interest in returning to the village.
"In the village, there is that divide right down the middle where there’s an older generation, say people over age 40 like myself, who want to stay and want to keep their roots there," says Meyer. "And then there’s this younger generation that says 'no there’s nothing for us here, we want to leave.'"
Villages surrounding Wasteland have similar names. There is Dunes, Mud Town and Lonely Outpost. So, Meyer spent some time investigating why the villages have these names.
"Although the villages were all founded in the early 18th century, the closest I could come to why they have these names is this sort of Greenland, Iceland name reversal – where the people who originally settled these areas didn’t want other migrants to come there, they didn’t want bandits to stop there," says Meyer. "So they gave them these very undesirable names, but in fact, they look nothing like what they are named."
In his book, Meyer finds that a privately owned rice company, called Eastern Fortune, buys the farmers off their land and moves them into company-built apartments, in order to use the land to grow rice. Some villagers welcome the new apartments and crop prices the company offers, while others don’t.
Read an excerpt from "In Manchuria":
In winter the land is frozen and still. A cloudless sky shines off
snow-covered rice paddies, reflecting light so bright, you have to shield
your eyes. I lean into a stinging wind and trudge north up Red Flag Road,
to a village named Wasteland.
The view is flat, lifeless, and silver fresh. The two-lane cement road
slices through the paddies like the courses plowed across frozen lakes in
my native Minnesota, but there are no icehouses to shelter in here. Ten
minutes ago, I set off from the coal-fueled warmth of Number 22 Middle
School, where I volunteer as an English teacher. Already my beard is
beaded with ice.
Tufts of dry husks sprout through the snow, resembling ripening brooms.
To my left, the sun sinks over the far horizon. It is 3:22 p.m. at December’s
end—or, as Chinese farmers know it, dongzhi (Winter Solstice), one of
twenty-four fortnight-long periods describing the seasons based on the sun’s
longitude. The previous solar term was Major Snow, which fell on schedule,
blanketing Wasteland in white. Next up, in early January, is Slight Cold,
which, given today’s high temperature of minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit, makes
me fear what “slight” will feel like. At school, a red nylon propaganda
banner lashed to the accordion entrance gate urges us to PREVENT HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE and, less helpfully, announces that WINTER BRINGS THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN TEMPERATURE.
Red Flag Road’s single traffic sign displays a speed limit of forty kilometers
an hour. On school days I never see anyone break it; bicycles and
three-wheeled motorcycles saunter and sputter to the crossroads’ Agricultural
Bank, seed store, noodle shops, and train station. Painted bright pink and
crowned with a peaked tin roof whose cobalt-blue matches Wasteland’s
usual sky, the station has been rendered all but obsolete: the new highspeed
trains that cover the seventy miles between the cities of Jilin and
Changchun do not stop here. For passengers in the sealed compartment,
Wasteland whooshes by in a silent four-second blur, looking like any other
village in northeast China.
Closer inspection reveals a dotted line of trash aside Red Flag Road:
empty boxes of expensive Panda brand cigarettes and bottles of Moutai
brand liquor; broadsheets of stock tips, real estate flyers, and fortune-telling
booklets advising the most auspicious days to buy property; and selfpublished
circulars, sold in big cities, with titles such as Intriguing Stories
and Strange Affairs. In addition to the latest gossip about the private lives
of top officials, the pamphlets answer questions such as Will our capital be
moved from Beijing? (No.) Did the 1989 student protest movement fail? (Yes.)
How many people were killed during the Cultural Revolution? (Lots.)
Today the only sound on Red Flag Road comes from another banner,
strung between two Manchurian ash seedlings, whipping in the wind. The
cloth twists and unfurls, then twists again. Between gusts spin the Chinese
characters for plant, then seeds, then record and yield. I pass the banner
every day and, unlike the farmers, study its message. In the Chinese
countryside—free of newsstands and street signs—propaganda is my
primer, even when written by Comrade Obvious. This red ribbon teaches
me the characters that form: PLANT QUALITY SEEDS TO PRODUCE A RECORD YEILD.
For decades, the three-story middle school was Wasteland’s tallest structure.
From my English classroom window I can see all the village’s homes,
whose clusters make an archipelago across the fields. Now I walk toward
a billboard whose message I can read a mile away: BUILD THE NORTHEAST’S TOP VILLAGE. It was erected by Eastern Fortune Rice,
a private agribusiness company based in Wasteland. I never thought about
this propaganda—just another exercise in blatancy—until Eastern Fortune
began making it come true.
Gossip says that, like the railroad, Red Flag Road will be upgraded, too.
Locals wonder if it’s their way of life that will be made obsolete. There’s
even talk of changing the village’s name.
No one can say for certain why the place is called Wasteland. It may
have been a ploy by homesteaders to discourage other migrants from moving
to this fertile floodplain, stretching from the western banks of the Songhua
(Pine Flower) River to forested foothills. Neighboring hamlets, also
comprising a few dozen single-story homes abutting table-flat rice paddies,
include Lonely Outpost, Zhang’s Smelly Ditch, the Dunes, and Mud Town.
In the movie Caddyshack, Rodney Dangerfield boasts that he and his
partner, Wang, just bought some land at the Great Wall: “On the good
side!” Wasteland is in the other direction. Beyond the wall begins China’s
northeast, or Dongbei (rhymes with wrong way). Chinese say a map of their
country resembles a chicken, which makes the Northeast its head, squeezing
between Mongolian grasslands and the Ever-White Mountains before
bumping up against Siberia.
The cause was cardiac arrest, the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement. Cardinal Edward Egan was 82.
Iraqi army forces, Shiite militias and Kurdish peshmerga are battling to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown from Islamic State extremists.
Everyone knows people who attend the CIAA basketball tournament have cash to burn. So why did a Charlotte hotel go out of its way to make sure they spent it?
He quarantined himself because his bodyguard died of Ebola. The virus is still taking a toll, with 81 new cases last week. Maybe it's because people are no longer being careful.
Two giant robots have directed traffic in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2013. This week three others joined them.
High-profile online retailers like Zulily and Wayfair had solid debuts with their IPO’s in 2014. The timing is right for Etsy, says Mark Brohan, vice president of research for Internet Retailer Magazine. William Sahlman, professor at Harvard Business School, says Etsy fulfills customers’ craving for something different. Etsy’s mission has been to change the way things are made and sold, and Sahlman says companies can retain that socially-minded philosophy — just look at Ben & Jerry’s. “They were able to go public and still maintain a sense with their customers that they were different,” Sahlman says. Steve Kaplan, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, says there might be some initial rumblings of discontent when the company goes public. But at the end of the day, “If you deliver something that your customers really like, you have created a huge amount of social value,” he says.
Inspired by Etsy's crafty culture, this handmade world cloud shows some of the more unique words from the company's IPO filing.Kelsey Fowler/Marketplace
The e-commerce site, which focuses on quirky, handmade goods, has filed for an IPO. The paperwork reveals a plan to focus more on manufacturing and marketing — but not much suggestion of big profits.
The job market is looking up, especially for skilled IT workers.
It can take more than one year to hire for some positions, like software engineer, in the hottest tech markets these days. People with skills developing mobile-apps and managing network and cloud-computing infrastructure are especially in demand right now, according to recruiters. Starting salaries this year for engineering graduates will average $63,000. Meanwhile, petroleum engineers will average $80,600, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Salaries can easily reach six figures by mid-career.
One of these workers, James Jones, arrived in Portland, Oregon, recently on a late-night flight from Chicago, where he lives. Jones was in Portland for meetings and training at Puppet Labs, the fast-growing technology company that hired him several months ago as a technical solutions engineer. Jones travels throughout the Midwest explaining, deploying and troubleshooting Puppet’s open-source-based automation software that helps manage huge data centers.
Jones is 27 years old, married with no children. He graduated from Northwestern University in 2009 with a degree in psychology and computer science and faced the Great Recession. “Definitely the economy had taken a downturn,” says Jones, “and it was a little bit rough to find jobs. It was scary there for a bit.”
But that only lasted several months. Then he landed at job at Hewlett-Packard, paying around $50,000 per year. His new job at Puppet Labs pays significantly better — though he wouldn’t say precisely how much, nor would the company. Salaries in the field average in the high-five to low-six figures.
“I was very satisfied” with the offer from Puppet Labs, Jones says. “They were willing to work with me and make sure I was happy. Because I’m kind of a hobbyist--I actually like managing servers and getting at little nerdy at home--working in the field I love, for a company I respect, was the bigger focus for me than money alone.”
Puppet Labs’ senior recruiter Art Amela says the 330-employee company – up from just 30 employees about five years ago – continues to expand aggressively at several U.S. locations, as well as in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic. Amela says pay and benefits have to stay competitive with other fast-growing technology companies; stock options are a standard part of the compensation package, as well as a host of lifestyle amenities: a well-stocked cafeteria and coffee bar; board-games and old-style video-game consoles in the common area; and a room for employees to repair their bicycles.
And Amela says for top engineers with several years’ experience, poaching is now common. “We know they’re being contacted all the time,” he says, “and casually I’ll check with them about how many have contacted them this week. But if we keep our employees happy — and they are happy — it’s not going to be a threat.”
Still, says Dan Finnigan, CEO of the online recruitment website JobVite, employers large and small have to be prepared these days for a lot of turnover in their workforce.
“If you’re now in your twenties and college-educated, you’re likely to change jobs every three to four years," says Finnigan. "People are always looking. They're looking at work, using their smartphones. Companies need to be prepared to do whatever they can to minimize churn. But they need to assume that their business is like a college. They’re bringing in classes of people who will one day graduate and move on, and they need to continue to recruit new classes.”
A recent study found that teachers with Asian-sounding names were given poorer marks, and their accents were the main reason.
Crude oil is currently in contango. That's when the price today for buying a commodity in the near future (like, later today) is cheaper than for the more distant future (like, in three months). That happens occasionally. But Credit Suisse in a note to investors suggests that something even stranger could be around the corner: 'super contango.'
"When you have a 'contango' it means that there's too much oil around," says one of the authors of that research note, Credit Suisse global energy economist Jan Stuart. "When you have a 'super contango,' it means there's just, like a freakish amount of oil."
Mike Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, explains this "freakish" behavior by comparing oil to tomatoes. If there are too many tomatoes today, producers can freeze them and sell them later. But this only works if there is room in the freezer. As storage becomes more scarce, it becomes more expensive -- sending futures prices (the cost of commodity, plus the cost of storage, plus a small profit) through the roof.
The crude-oil equivalent would be of crude-oil inventories hitting the "tank tops" -- filling the available storage. But Bruce Heine, spokesperson for Magellan Midstream Partners, says none of their crude-oil storage customers have yet asked them to build more tanks at their Cushing, Oklahoma tank farm.
Credit Suisse's Jan Stuart believes that a "super-contango" situation in the crude oil market is still a ways off. To get there, we'll need another 11 or 12 more weeks like the last few.