The Kremlin announced Vladimir Putin's decision on Monday. The move appears to indicate Putin's intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine.
Congressional candidates sometimes come from surprising backgrounds. Former comedians. Former American Idols. Now, thanks the current race being held in New Jersey's 2nd district, you can add programmer to that list of resumes.
Dave Cole is a former techie who grew up in New Jersey before graduating from Rutgers University. After a stint in the White House, where he helped build whitehouse.gov, he moved into the private sector to work for a startup that specialized in online maps called MapBox. According to Cole, it's a move that helped him see what government could learn from startup culture:
"Working in the private sector gave me such an opportunity to see the contrast to the way things get done, but also, how there really are good solutions out there to some of the problems that the government is facing."
Cole says his background in coding, and the transparency of the coding community, also has a strong influence on how he thinks Congress can be more effective:
"One of the ways running for Congress can be more open is if people who are running are just completely transparent about their platforms. It’s exactly the way the best software is built in the open source community."
Part of his belief in the values of technology comes from exposure at a young age; Cole says his mom bought him a computer when he was eight years old. It's a privilege that he wants to extend into the school system, teaching coding to kids at a younger age:
"I think of it like a foreign language -- It enriches your life, and it’s something that once people are encouraged and they can see all the creative possibilities that come from it, that creates jobs."
I am anchoring Marketplace Morning Report from London this week. While on the road, I am scouting for big ideas and I may have found a doozy.
Some iconoclastic economic thinkers just over the river in the Vauxhall area of London have constructed a device that wipes out unemployment.
Roll this baby out into the economy and everyone who wants to have a job would get a job. If it works as promised, not just Britain but the rest of the developed world including the U.S., could have full employment.
Outsourcing of jobs to poorer parts of the world? No problem. Robots and algorithms taking away human jobs, not to worry. And what is this device that would solve what is one of the greatest and most persistent economic problems?
Well, it is not a device in the sense of an electronic contraption. But it is a mechanism, a policy mechanism that is being put forth by experts at the New Economics Foundation here in London, among others. The idea is quite simple (although implementation will be tougher; I'll get to that in a moment).
Here is the idea: the 21-hour work week.
The NEF's proposal allows people to choose to work fewer hours. For the purposes of my discussion, let's do it by official decree: the order comes down that people can only work about half the hours they work now. That means it would take two people to do what is now one job. I do six shows a day as we roll through the time zones, including our ever-popular podcast.
With a 21-hour work week, I might do three of them a day and leave early. That means we could hire one more anchorman. Two people have jobs instead of one. Sure, the boss might try to cut my pay nearly in half, but if every working woman and working man was being paid less, prices should eventually drift downward to compensate.
Think of the benefits. If I were only working 21 hours in a week, I would have more time to do volunteer work, write a book, read a book, ride my bicycle, clean the basement -- more time to be a more balanced human being.
Yet, what might employers say about this 21-hour work week device to rid the developed world of unemployment once and for all? They generally don't like the idea much. You see, if there are two people doing the work of one -- that means two health care plans, two company pensions -- which could be a huge expense.
This suggests the 21-hour work week is more likely to come first to countries (like those in Europe) that have universal health care.
Another criticism that comes to mind about chopping the work week down the middle in order to produce full employment? Possible effects on income inequality. People who live off their wages and salaries as their hours are cut would find their incomes dropping (and their free time rising). People who live off their assets, their investments, might not see the same kind of decline in income. This might widen the gap between the richest and everyone else.
It is not just the New Economics Foundation here in London pushing a voluntary version of this. Up the road in Scotland, a policy group called the Jimmy Reid Foundation is trying to make the case for Scots working few hours. And, with all due respect to our UK hosts this week, the idea has a tradition in the U.S. as well. Not a glorious tradition, but a tradition. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt apparently put a stop to a bid to cap the American work week at 33 hours.
Even with the mass unemployment of the Great Depression, shorter work weeks were seen as just too radical a notion.
In a statement Monday, AstraZeneca's board said it "reiterates its confidence in AstraZeneca's ability to deliver on its prospects as an independent, science led business."
What is the collective noun for plutocrats? A plethora, perhaps? If so London has a plethora. And a big one.
According to the Sunday Times newspaper, the British capital is now home to 72 billionaires – many of them foreigners. Indian steel magnates, Russian energy oligarchs and Greek shipping tycoons.
With 72 of them, London has more billionaires than any other city on the planet. New York has only 48. That abundance of rich people is not exactly fueling national pride in Britain. In fact it's stoking fresh concern about growing income inequality – especially in London.
Not that wealthy London residents see themselves as part of the problem.
Yvgeny Chichvarkin – reportedly worth around $250 million -- does not even regard himself as a member of a metropolitan elite.
"Compared with people on the Forbes rich list, I'm rather poor," he says, while sitting in his business premises in London's exclusive Mayfair district.
Chichvarkin made his fortune from the sale of the cellphone business he built from scratch in Russia before he settled in London. He claims that he does not flaunt his money.
"I drive an eleven-year old Porsche," he says. "And although I love good food and wine, if I'm busy I will buy a hamburger for lunch."
While he plays down his own wealth, the 39-year old entrepreneur is more than happy to cater to the extravagant needs of the super-rich. His main British business is an exclusive wine store called HEDONISM; located just off Berkeley Square.
It stocks some of the finest and most expensive vintages in the world. Chichvarkin is particularly proud of his Chateu d’Yquem 1811 Sauternes – for $160,000. Yes, that's $160,000 for one bottle.
"I'm sure we will sell it," he says. "We have - two different customers – who are thinking about buying it."
Running a business in London’s richest neighborhood, rubbing shoulders with the wealthy, surrounded by opulence, Chichvarkon is not worried about London's growing inequality.
"It's not so terrible like in Russia or Venezuela," he shrugs. "Poor people in the UK have hot food, clear water, and a TV. And a mobile phone. They're not really poor, like Russian poor people."
The Russian begrudges paying what he calls "crazy taxes" to fund the benefits of Britain's "idle poor."
"A lot of them do nothing. But our shop creates a lot of taxes for them to do nothing," he says.
He says he's ticked off that if he sells that one bottle of Chateau d’Yquem, the sales tax alone will keep two or three people on welfare for a year.
Pennsylvania is among six states holding primary elections Tuesday. Gov. Tom Corbett is unchallenged in the GOP primary, but the general election is a different story.
Small jolts of electricity to the brain can treat diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson's. But some healthy people are trying electrical stimulation to make the brain sharper. And it may not be safe.
A huge hit upon its release, the 1949 musical South Pacific still resonates with contributors to The Race Card Project — particularly a song about how prejudice is learned, not innate.