National / International News
A little MRI video seems to settle the decades-old debate about that loud pop of the joints: It's all about bubbles. But imagine an air bag inflating, not the bursting of a balloon.
Researchers in Kenya uncover tools dated to 3.3 million years ago, long before the first humans, as we know them, walked the Earth.
Robyn Gritz investigated major national security threats, but says the FBI drummed her out of a job after she fell out of favor with her supervisors. She went on to sell cosmetics and answer phones.
The world's fastest-growing major economy is slowing its roll, just slightly. China's announced a 7 percent growth rate in the most recent quarter, on an annualized basis.
And if you're saying to yourself right now, "I'd love to hear numbers like in the U.S., or in Europe," yes, you're right. Seven percent is huge. But compared to the past few decades, when China's growth seemed unstoppable.
Lately, China-watchers have wanted it both ways: a more balanced and stable economy that continues to push global growth with its breakneck pace.
"It's probably an irrational expectation," says Matthews Asia investment strategist Andy Rothman.
Even at 7 percent, though, China is driving a third of global growth. That's more than the U.S. and Europe combined. Constant economic growth has fostered a culture of entrepreneurship in the Communist state.
"When I started there in '84, there were no private companies at all. Today, 80 percent of employment is private, all the new job creation is private," Rothman says. "People starting up businesses in garages, just like the U.S."
More than GDP figures, today Rothman focuses on the job market and income growth. China is doing well by those measures, he says. In his talks with small, private companies, he finds that businesses are having to give raises to both skilled workers and those on the factory floor alike, to hang on to the workforce they need.
While that's a good sign for China, the average person still can't buy a car or home. Despite massive urbanization, half of the population is in the countryside, where incomes are much lower.
As this all settles out, Rothman says, we should be prepared for the day when China's growth range matches other industrial nations: plus or minus 3 percent a year.
And as deceleration of Chinese growth continues, Rothman says we'll have to brace ourselves for the hyperbole.
"Every quarter, people are going to be telling us, 'Hey, that was the slowest quarter since the Tang dynasty,'" Rothman says.
Jason and Kristen Sarata won a diamond at a charity raffle, but when the couple couldn’t agree on whether to sell the diamond or not, Jason hid it in the laundry room.
“The diamond became part of this vast repository of what I’ve learned is known as the overhang,” says “Freakonomics” author Stephen Dubner.
According to diamond expert Edward Jay Epstein, “The overhang is every diamond ever sold in history that is on someone’s finger or in a bank vault, or in some drawer somewhere.”
Dubner says when people stash away their prized diamonds, it makes them more valuable. “All those unsold diamonds that people keep because they think of them as investments makes them valuable because they are constricted,” he says.
And the common belief that diamonds are inherently valuable? It’s just not true.
“[The diamond industry has] kept prices high over the years by constricting demand, kind of matching demand to the number of engagements, for instance, for engagement rings,” Dubner says.
In fact, reselling a diamond for top dollar isn’t all that easy. “The markup from a jeweler is huge, so you can’t expect to get all that much if you sell it back to a jeweler and you don’t have that many choices. It’s what economists call a thin market.”
Which is why the Saratas have decided to skip over the middleman and sell their diamond on eBay (they’ll also donate fifty percent of the sale back to the charity they won the jewel from).
“If you know anybody that wants to buy a diamond, not just any diamond, a diamond that was won at a raffle and fought over and hid in a laundry room and fought over some more, head over to eBay and search for 'Freakonomics Charity Diamond,'” Dubner says.
The Federal Reserve was out with its eight-times-a-year regional look at the American economy on Wednesday. Sure, fine, call me a dork if you will — but I do love me some Beige Book.
The Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog read it so we don't have to. The choicest nuggets...
- First of all, the weather in the Northeast: restaurant revenues in the Boston area were down 30 to 40 percent with all that snow on the ground.
- Apparently, it's been raining a lot in Mississippi and Alabama: really wet ground there means farmers are behind on their corn planting. They might switch 'em over to soybeans, in fact.
- And, from the "yes, it is a tech bubble" category: backlogs for architectural companies in San Francisco are the biggest they've been since the recession.
On Wednesday, the European Union's antitrust division officially hit Google with an antitrust case, which could cost the search giant as much as $6.6 billion, according to Margrethe Vestager, the European Union competition commissioner. The accusation is that the search giant abused its power in the European market, by privileging its Google Shopping service in its Google Search results.
But are monopolies always bad? Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, says Google has been dominant in the European market for more than a decade.
"Having a big market share by itself is OK," says Nicholas Economides, Professor of Economics at NYU Stern School of Business. He says the problem is when companies abuse that market share by taking anticompetitive actions that hurt its competitors and its customers.
Determining when competitors and customers are harmed is hardly straightforward, according to Peter Passell editor of The Milken Institute Review.
But some say when you look at Google's business model, that debate is inevitable. Says Marketplace's Molly Wood, "Google's goal—and it's a mission-driven company—is to organize the world's information ... And if that means occasionally buying a company so that they can deliver results from a company they already own, so be it."
When asked if she thinks there is a possible happy ending in this situation, Wood points to the need for Google to return to filtering results, not owning them: "Let Yelp surface for restaurant reviews instead of having your own restaurant reviews."
And as far as the possibility of an outcome affecting policy in the states, Wood says, "The EU has had a different standard, but I will say, if they have solid findings, it could cross the pond."