Colorado and Washington state are setting up legalized marijuana markets, and advocates are celebrating. But there are signs of discontent. Even a founder of a marijuana legalization group says there's a possibility of a popular backlash.
Despite the fact that Merkel will be governing along with her rivals, not much is expected to change in regards to Germany's policy on the eurozone.
Two decades ago, labor unions warned that the North American Free Trade Agreement would drive away U.S. jobs and push wages down. Today, unions feel as strongly as ever that NAFTA was a mistake for U.S. workers, but quantifying the factors behind the decline in the middle class is no simple matter.
Moscow has agreed to a massive bailout package for Ukraine, a deal that could keep the country from bankruptcy next year.
Some of the most heated protests in San Francisco have been over big, sleek buses — private shuttles that Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Facebook use to get their city-living employees to work. They've become a symbol of the city's changing socioeconomic landscape.
Ten years ago Congress approved a $15 billion plan to combat HIV in developing countries. Since then, the global health initiative has funded HIV treatment for nearly 7 million people and prevented hundreds of thousands of babies from getting infected during childbirth.
Free-diving is a risky sport, involving swimming deep into the ocean without the aid of air tanks. But after a diver's death in November, some free-divers worry that the sport's governing body is still not doing enough to prevent common injuries and reel in overambitious competitors.
This final note today, in which we learned skinny jeans almost doomed the American dollar.
From the pages of the Washington Post, this historical tidbit:
Cranes -- the company that for more than a century has supplied the cotton fiber from which greenback are made -- used to use discarded denim for its cotton.
Until back in the 1990's the fashion world discovered spandex and how it helped jeans fit just right. And, sadly, spoiled denim as a currency-source forever more.
Now, Cranes just goes straight to plant.
Tech companies like Google and Facebook don’t just want to dominate the web, they also want to takeover the pipes that bring you the Internet. For example, Google has been laying cables in the oceans around Asia and Facebook has secured fiber cables to move traffic back-and-forth from its data centers.
Right now, access to the Internet is still largely controlled by telecom companies, said Allan Hammond, the director of the Broadband Institute at Santa Clara University. To explain why the tech companies might want a biger part of that pie, Hammond launches into a a fairy tale of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff”...
"There were three billy goats gruff, who wanted to cross the bridge to eat the grass on the other side," Hammond says.
The first goat tries to cross but the troll living under the bridge, tells him to get off.
"In this case, the troll under the bridge are the telecom companies," he says.
The bridge is the Internet pipeline that they control. And the goats are tech companies like Google, Netflix and Amazon who need the bridge to deliver their content. In the fairy tale, the goats get rid of the troll. But in real life Hammond says, the tech companies have decided to build their own bridge.
He adds that companies like Verizon have made it clear that they want to start charging tech giants for distributing data heavy content like video. But Dan Bieler, a telecom analyst at Forrester, says it's not just video that the tech giants are worried about. As our lives move onto the cloud tech companies will need an ever-bigger bigger pipeline.
"If you upload a document on Dropbox, if you use Google apps" you're using the cloud, Beiler said. And more-and-more companies are ditching their servers and renting space on Amazon, Google and Microsoft’s cloud.
'Detail men' are sales reps who sell doctors on new drugs. They became a fixture in the mid-20th century, when federal laws first started requiring prescriptions for some drugs.
“You have the creation of the prescription-only drug at exactly the time the pharmaceutical industry is transforming into innovative patent-protected medicines,” says Jeremy Greene, a medical historian at Johns Hopkins University.
Pharmaceutical companies realized doctor’s prescription pads were the funnels to drug sales.
"And all of this,'' Greene says, "puts an increased emphasis on not just having salesman, but having a trained detail man -- and they were almost all men in the mid-20th century -- have a trained detail man that you could put into the doctor’s office."
Greene says initially these detail men were nervous about teaching doctors how to do their job.
Drug reps, men and women, became fixtures at doctors’ offices. You know, the often attractive folks, waiting purposefully in a room of sick people.
These days, the job is changing again. Doctors aren’t the funnels to drug sales they once were.
"Physician autonomy over prescribing has been decreasing over time," says Ernst Berndt, a health economics professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Benefit managers make more of the calls about what drugs you’ll get. Now, pharmceutical companies have to make their case to health plans, not just doctors.
Wednesday afternoon, the Fed will make an announcement, and investors will be watching to see if it tells the world when it will taper the large-scale bond purchases known as quantitative easing. The main worry about QE is that throwing all that money around would lead to inflation. So far, that hasn’t happened. But there are some lesser-known risks of QE.
If the Fed’s plan lifts the economy the way it hopes, interest rates will rise eventually. Higher interest rates drive down bond prices, including the Fed’s holdings.
“It means the Fed to a certain extent, bought high,” explains University of Wisconsin economist Ken West. “They’re buying high and selling low.”
That’s the exact opposite of what a good investor does. Odd as it sounds, the Fed stands to lose money selling bonds that it doesn’t hold to maturity.
Then there’s the impact on the market of the Fed’s deep dive into bonds. A program that gobbles up $85 billion in bonds every month will inevitably make waves in the securities market.
“Fed purchases have been substantial,” says Matt Slaughter, associate dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “One of the big open questions is from where inside the United States or abroad will creditors appear to buy that kind of debt in the future from the U.S. Treasury.”
There’s also the political risk of QE.
“Certainly if you’re at the Federal Reserve, you would like to implement your monetary policy without taking a lot of criticism from Congress,” says Hamilton College professor Ann Owen, a former Fed economist.
Even when less aggressive, the Fed has its critics. The most extreme don’t even think the central bank should exist. QE really riles up lawmakers who share that view. And they can make life complicated for the Fed.
Supporters of QE concede its risks, but say the benefits outweigh them.
“Caution always makes sense,” says Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers. “But this is not a reason not to do it, because not doing quantitative easing also means leaving millions of people unemployed.”
We’ll find out the Fed’s take soon enough.
Mark Garrison: If the Fed’s plan lifts the economy the way it hopes, interest rates will rise eventually. University of Wisconsin economist Ken West reminds us what that does to bond prices.
Ken West: The price of the securities goes down. It means the Fed to a certain extent, bought high. They’re buying high and selling low.
Yup, it’s the exact opposite of what a good investor does. Odd as it sounds, the Fed stands to lose money selling those bonds in the future. Then there’s the impact on the market of the Fed’s deep dive into bonds.
Matt Slaughter: Fed purchases have been substantial.
Dartmouth business school associate dean Matt Slaughter says you can’t stop gobbling up $85 billion in bonds every month without making waves.
Slaughter: One of the big open questions is from where inside the United States or abroad will creditors appear to buy that kind of debt in the future from the U.S. Treasury.
Then there’s the political risk of QE. Hamilton College professor Ann Owen is a former Fed economist.
Ann Owen: Certainly if you’re at the Federal Reserve, you would like to implement your monetary policy without taking a lot of criticism from Congress.
Even when less aggressive, the Fed has its critics. The most extreme don’t even think the central bank should exist. QE really riles up lawmakers with that view. And they can make life complicated for the Fed. Brookings Institution senior fellow Justin Wolfers concedes QE’s risks, but says the benefits outweigh them.
Justin Wolfers: Caution always makes sense. But this is not a reason not to do it, because not doing quantitative easing also means leaving millions of people unemployed.
We’ll find out the Fed’s take tomorrow. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.