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Updated: 32 min 27 sec ago

Ah, the smell of eggs and seaweed in the morning

Thu, 2015-07-16 01:53
229

That's how many votes were cast in the Greek parliament in favor of the latest bailout deal (that's out of a 300-seat chamber). With this outcome, funding of up to $94 billion will be offered to Greece in exchange for severe austerity measures. As Reuters reports, former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was among those adamantly against the deal, calling it "a new Versailles Treaty."

70 percent

That's the percentage of law school graduates who passed the bar in Ohio and landed jobs following graduation in 2010. Steve Fischer was not so lucky. A new lawyer with no prospects, he instead found work in the oil fields of North Dakota. But as soon as word got out about his expertise, he found himself flooded with requests for legal services. Fischer's experience is not uncommon — many lawyers are finding success in rural areas that have seen increased legal disputes in places that lack the legal infrastructure to cope.

$1 billion

That's how much the Vikings stadium in Minneapolis cost to construct. Why is that relevant? As CBS Minnesota points out, those scoffing at the price for the New Horizons space probe should reconsider what they think is too much money to spend on going into space — $720 million for a trip to Pluto is less than $1 billion for a stadium, after all.

$12.30

That's how much gardener Manuel Nieto makes an hour at his job in Irvine, California. That's more than the state's $9-an-hour minimum wage. But that's about to change. Unlike other cities that have passed laws raising the minimum wage, Irvine recently got rid of its living wage ordinance, which required contractors to pay workers above a certain amount for providing services like street cleaning and landscaping.

15 years

That's how long scientists have been working toward developing a new strain of seaweed. Good news: a group of researchers in Portland, Oregon, has done it. Even better news: it tastes like bacon. Or at least, it has the potential to taste like bacon. As reported by the Associated Press, this new strain of seaweed was originally developed to feed Abalone. But when scientists saw its nutritional value, they thought it might be worth it to develop the crop for humans. Among the products they've tried out using the seaweed: bacon-tasting strips.

It's been a tough week for Broadway

Wed, 2015-07-15 13:00

It's been a tough week or so on Broadway. You train all your life to get to the big stage, you're pouring your heart out up there, singing, dancing and sweating, and in the audience, the folks who probably paid a couple hundred bucks to be there are texting away like they're hanging out at Starbucks. 

A couple memorable incidents recently: one guy jumped up on stage and tried to plug his phone in to what turned out to be a fake outlet on the set. 

Actress Patty LuPone grabbed a phone out of a woman's hand during her show when the woman texted through the entire thing. 

Broadway has had enough, and performers are fighting back the only way they know how: with song.

Television and Broadway actress Lauren Benanti performed a little song with the Skivvies, a musical duo, about these recent events. 

Seriously people, put your iPhone down. 

Actually, pick it back up again, just for a second, or find a bigger screen, and check out the close-up images from Pluto that just came in Wednesday from New Horizons.

They're amazing. And it's not that often that we visit a new planet for the very first time.

 (Close-up image of a region near Pluto's equator/NASA/APL/SwRI via Getty Images)

Greeks feel 'betrayed' by German leadership

Wed, 2015-07-15 13:00

What's it like to be in Greece today? We talked to Elena Karanatis, who helped produce Marketplace's broadcast from Athens this week, and asked her about the International Monetary Fund's statement that it will not back a Greek bailout deal that does not involve debt relief. 

“People don’t think that the IMF is the worst villain anymore," Karanatis says. Now Greek ire rests on the German leadership, she says. “Some people feel really betrayed.… They think that the German leadership is treating Greece in a hostile way.”

For much of the debt crisis, many people in Greece have felt that the IMF was against them and their best interests. Karanatis says that this may be changing. “I think people here are starting to welcome the IMF report because they show that the debt is not viable at all.”

The terms are going to be voted on by the Greek parliament Wednesday night.

"The truth is that this agreement is really harsh, and it seems very unfair for most of Greek people who kept hoping for a better agreement,” Karanatis says.

Can private companies keep the space station supplied?

Wed, 2015-07-15 13:00

A couple of failed commercial launches of cargo to the International Space Station have members of Congress asking questions and researchers like Michael Fortenberry astonished at their bad luck.

Fortenberry had a $90,000 camera on the cargo flight that was supposed to go on the space station, along with 35 hard drives to store the images it collected. 

“The camera would record meteors when they enter the atmosphere at night," he says.

The camera even had a special spot reserved for it on the ISS. But the privately owned Orbital Sciences rocket that was supposed to carry it there blew up shortly after launch.

Fortenberry, a principal engineer at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio was watching the launch on TV. “It was pretty heartbreaking,” he says.

Luckily, he and his colleagues had enough spare parts to cobble together another camera, which was loaded on the next flight to the ISS, the SpaceX Falcon 9. Which also blew up. 

NASA lost quite a bit of gear on that flight as well, including a space suit and equipment to build a dock for other commercial shuttles to connect to the space station.

NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, William Gerstenmaier, explained to a congressional hearing that the agency estimates "the NASA cargo loss at roughly $110 or so million on the SpaceX flight.” Some of that money was recouped because NASA doesn't have to pay a portion of the fees for the failed mission.

The astronauts on board the station aren’t about to run out of food or supplies any time soon. They keep plenty of supplies on hand.

NASA plans to keep sending cargo commercially, and Representative Ami Bera (D-California) is among several members of Congress who express concern over the reliability of commercial space flight.  

“We’ve been fortunate that the accidents did not have human beings on them, and only cargo," he said in the July 10 hearing.  "But as we look at this partnership between commercialization... and taking human beings to the space station and beyond, it is a bit worrisome.”

Fortenberry, the researcher who lost his camera twice, is trying to stay positive. He points out the first launch failed a few hundred feet up, and the second a couple dozen miles up. He says at least its getting closer with every launch. He's working with NASA to get his camera on another flight, and he's convinced the third time will be the charm.

ConnectHome: Affordable subscriptions to the internet

Wed, 2015-07-15 12:59

President Barack Obama announced a new initiative Wednesday to continue nationwide expansion of high-speed internet access. The project, ConnectHome, will bring high-speed broadband to low income families. ConnectHome is a collaboration between private sector businesses, the federal government and communities, and will launch in 27 states.

Housing Secretary Julian Castro

Linly Lin/Marketplace

An analysis released by the president's Council of Economic Advisers explains that some Americans are unable to benefit from high-speed broadband. While nearly two-thirds of households in the lowest-income quintile own a computer, less than half have internet at home.  

"Having internet access, whether it is wired or wireless, for a young person growing up in a public housing community, both of those things are a plus," says Julián Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "The big win for these young folks is that now they’re are going to actually have internet access. And they’re going to have a chance to do the homework that before they weren’t able to do."

ConnectHome is a partnership with private companies, who will be footing most of the bill. They include Cox Communications, Sprint and Google.

The program will be free for some communities and up to $10 a month for others.

The administration says getting into the internet business will help bridge the digital divide for about 275 thousand households.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Debt relief for Greece: central and contentious

Wed, 2015-07-15 12:59

Protesters took to the streets in Athens on Wednesday, angry about the terms of a bailout the Greek parliament is voting on.

That agreement also faces a complicated path forward, thanks to the International Monetary Fund, which said Tuesday that it won’t be a part of a deal that doesn’t include debt relief for Greece.

Relief from Greece’s staggering debt could take different forms, including lowering interest rates, giving the country more time to make payments or simply wiping a portion of the debt away.

However, these paths are not created equal in the minds of many eurozone leaders.

“The line in the sand for some European states seems to be no principle reduction,” says Anna Gelpern, a law professor at Georgetown.

That hard line is all about politics and optics, she adds. “[They] don’t want to say we forgave Greek debt and lost money for the taxpayers.”

Debt forgiveness would also complicate Greece’s quest for additional bailout funds, says Mujtaba Rahman, with the Eurasia Group.  

“It’s difficult to convince skeptical creditor parliaments to both lend money to Greece at the same time as assuming losses on loans already extended,” he says.

Eurozone leaders may also be worried about the precedent their treatment of Greece may set, says Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University.

He describes their thought process as, “If we allow people to continually break rules, pretty soon, it’s not just going to be Greece breaking the rules, but … some other country that’s in the eurozone.”

However, the IMF warned that Greece is facing an unsustainable level of debt. If forgiveness is off the table, it suggested there would have to be big concessions elsewhere, possibly pushing the timing of payments out by decades.

In other words, Greece and its creditors still have a long way to go.

“I think this is the very beginning of the story,” says Gelpern. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end.”

Who's an employee?

Wed, 2015-07-15 12:59

New guidance from the Labor Department attempts to provide some clarity on just what makes an employee these days.

The department says its new guidelines are not a change in policy, but a kind of litmus test for when you’re an independent contractor and when you’re an employee, entitled to things like overtime, benefits and workers comp.

"We're not engaged in a game of gotcha," says David Weil, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour administrator. “Our mission is to ensure a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.”

To do that, the department looked at six factors, including how much control the employer has over the worker. 

“If you can control the hours people work, what they’re supposed to wear, all those kinds of things come into play,” says Marick Masters, a professor of business and director of the labor program at Wayne State University.

Masters thinks the new guidelines tilt the playing field more in favor of workers who’ve filed suit, claiming they’re misclassified as independent contractors and should be full-fledged employees.

This is a big issue in today’s on-demand economy. 

“The guidance that was issued today by the Department of Labor is marvelous,” says Boston labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan.

Liss-Riordan is on a class action case representing California Uber drivers who say they should be employees. She cites another factor mentioned in the department’s guidance: whether a worker is permanent.

“But someone who is working on an ongoing basis, until one side or the other decides to terminate the relationship, that’s an employee,” she says.

Liss-Riordan says Uber’s employees are permanent. 

But an Uber spokeswoman says many of their workers have other jobs, like the flexibility they have, and wouldn’t want to be classified as employees, no matter what the Labor Department says.

With the rise of the sharing economy, the question of who exactly should be classified as an employee has become a contentious issue. The California Labor Commission ruled last month that a former San Francisco-based Uber driver was an employee during her time with the company, not an independent contractor — a decision that Uber appealed. 

We combed through Uber's Terms of Service agreement and highlighted all the statements showcasing Uber's effort to distance itself from the "employer" label.

 

New Obamacare fight takes aim at 'Cadillac' tax

Wed, 2015-07-15 12:59

The Supreme Court fights over the Affordable Care Act may be over for now. But before you get too comfortable, there’s still plenty of fighting left to do. 

The latest example can be seen in Washington where Fortune 500 companies and labor unions have teamed up to lobby Congress to kill a tax on generous – some say lavish – health plans. In the health policy world, they call it the "Cadillac Tax," but for employers – and employees – who may get hit by it, it’s more like a "Ford Fusion Tax."

Most Affordable Care Act fights come from the right, but not this one says, James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council.

“There are actually more Democrats on the legislation to repeal it than there are Republicans,” he says.

Klein is leading the charge, with heavy hitters like Blue Cross Blue Shield and the labor union UNITEHERE right behind him. When the tax takes effect in 2018, here’s how it will be assessed: Tally up employer health benefits, which includes premiums paid by the employer and employee. If that costs more than $10,200 for a person or $27,500 for a family, you're subject to the tax.

“It’s really going to be a burden on our teachers, our custodians, the special ed aides and bus drivers,” says Brian Marshall, the superintendent of La Mesa-Spring Valley School District outside San Diego. “That’s just an attack on our middle class families.”

But the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities estimates that no more than 15 percent of plans would be hit by the tax.

“To oppose this tax by arguing that the biggest victims of the tax are ordinary middle-income workers is just not right," says Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center. "It’s just not supported by the evidence.”

Gleckman says the tax was included in Obamacare to force insurers, providers and even consumers (which includes employers) to root out excess, a serious problem.

“Doctors who like to do more tests and procedures because they get paid more for it. And consumers who don’t care because insurance is paying for it,” he says.

Gleckman says even with business and union forces pushing repeal, there’s a big force driving the Cadillac tax: In it’s first 10 years, it’s expected to raise $90 billion to fund the ACA. 

For Amazon, e-retail is just the tip of the iceberg

Wed, 2015-07-15 12:00

This month marks 20 years since Amazon sold its first book. It began as an online bookstore and then went on to sell and do so much more, helping to transform e-commerce in the process. But its influence goes well beyond selling online: it also changed expectations for shipping, and even impacts how we get online.

Amazon played a major role in making something common that was unthinkable two decades ago – fast, free shipping.

“That they can get all these different types of items in all these different quantities shipped all over the country in two days is amazing,” says Constance Helfat, professor of technology and strategy at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

Amazon accomplished that by opening lots of distribution centers and investing in data and tech. Killer logistics made it fast. Being big helped it drive a hard bargain with shippers.

“What this has done for UPS and FedEx in particular, I think it has probably made them up their game,” Helfat says.

The company also quietly became a mega-player in a totally different field through a venture called Amazon Web Services. Most people have never heard of it, but anyone who goes online experiences it, because it sells the very backbone of the internet.

“Amazon Web Services is the leading infrastructure provider on the Internet,” says Wharton School professor Kartik Hosanagar. “There were many companies that were actually direct competitors of Amazon that said, ‘let’s just use Amazon for our back-end infrastructure.’”

A multibillion dollar business running cloud computing server farms doesn’t sound much like something an online retailer does. But AWS is straight out of the Amazon playbook: get big, get good and sell cheap.

“We think of Amazon as a retailer, but really it’s this incredibly opportunistic and flexible technology company that’s in a lot of different businesses,” says Brad Stone, author of “The Everything Store,” the best-selling history of Amazon.

Those businesses include streaming movies, devices — and even drones.

Like any good 20-year-old, Amazon threw itself a huge birthday party Wednesday in the form of Prime Day, a sales event exclusive to Prime subscribers that purported to be "bigger than Black Friday." Amazon released some sales numbers that at least partially back-up this claim, but some reviews weren't so kind.

"A lot of the discounts look like they fell off a truck headed to a poorly regulated flea market," Gizmodo wrote, and users took to Twitter with #PrimeDayFails.

Prime Day also had stiff competition from Wal-Mart, who tried to crash the party with its own sale promising to undercut all of Amazon's deals. So who had the best to offer?

TVs

Amazon Prime members could get a 50-inch, 3D, HD Samsung smart TV for $999 — at least until the deal ran out early in the day. Wal-Mart had another Samsung TV with a slightly bigger and curved 4K screen for $1,297.99, or about $600 off.

They're both tricked out, and about a third less than list price. Amazon throws in an external hard drive with a bunch of HD movies and its offering seems slightly more practical.

Advantage: Amazon

Toilet paper

No contest. Wal-Mart will happily sell you 18 mega rolls of Charmin Ultra Strong TP for $16.98. Prime users can get a box of 24 for $47.95, almost double the price per (mega) roll.

Advantage: Wal-Mart

Computers and tablets

Amazon had a few killer deals, like more than half off this Lenovo convertible laptop and great deals on its own devices. But what if you don't want a Kindle? Wal-Mart had a much wider variety of brands at discount, so you were more likely to find the exact thing you were looking for.

Advantage: Wal-Mart

"Lord of the Rings" Blu-Ray box sets

For some reason, Amazon completely dominated this (very) particular category, offering all three "Lord of the Rings" movies (extended versions, natch) on Blu-Ray for $27.99, or 77 percent off list price. Even after the deal expired, Amazon's price was still quite a bit cheaper than Wal-Mart's $85 offer.

Advantage: Amazon

Run the Jewels on the confederate flag, money and teens

Wed, 2015-07-15 11:04

Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary interviewed Run the Jewels this week, a hip-hop duo formed by New York City-based rapper/music producer El-P and Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike in 2013. Killer Mike and El-P are willing to talk about the ways they wasted money in their respective youths (drugs, strippers, generally being young and dumb). They also open up about how their relationship with success – both monetary and artistic – has changed as they’ve reached 40.

El-P on how he thinks about money: 

So I think of money in the same way that everyone thinks of money. I like to be as free as possible in this world, and if the game is that you have to collect a bunch of green pieces of paper in order to be able to be autonomous and not have to deal with people you don’t want to deal with, I’m going to go get that. I’m not going to change myself or the thing I love or the thing that has been there for my whole life, which is the love of music. I’m not going to change what that is and what the intention is. So, I’ve always had the perspective that you want to try and bring money to the thing that you love and not try and take the thing that you love and change it so that it fits with what makes money. I love making money, but I just think at this point, both Mike and I agree that we’re not going to do it unless we feel right about it, or unless the surrounding circumstances are that we’re happy.

Killer Mike on money:

Money is a tool to be used, and it’s used to take care of my wife and children. It’s used to invest in my retirement, it’s used for me to open and run business, and I’ve learned the art of money. Now, I’m happier with security, knowing that I have a good savings now, knowing that my wife and I are making intelligent decisions with our money. But I was already happy, and I’ve better learned to use the tool that is money now, to keep me free of business deals that I don’t want to be in, to keep me free from the stress and strain of bill pay and to provide a better life for my children and my wife. 

Killer Mike and El-P on growing up in the music business:

Mike: When you’re 20 years old, you waste it on what all 20, everything you think you want, everything, stuff you order online. I'm from Atlanta, the capital of strip clubs, so I put a considerable amount of women through college, I'm sure. 

El-P: An apartment that's too expensive, you know. 

Mike: Yeah, cars that aren't worth the next year what you paid for it, you know, just all the stupid stuff. You know, when you grow up working class or poor, you have a fantasy of buying stuff, and when you first get money you indulge that fantasy and you can overindulge.

El-P: There’s no bigger picture, it’s like, wait a second, last week I had no money, and now I have $5,000 … I’ll probably be fine with $1,000. Let’s just take that $4,000 and make a couple memories, fellas.

Killer Mike on the Confederate flag:

Socially I think, I think the flag coming down is a good thing. Not that I have a problem with the flag for people who see it as a part of their heritage. Their family members might have served in the Confederacy, and they care to hang it on their living room walls or outside their porch, that’s fine with me. I don’t think that the flag of any loser nation should hang above the nation of winners. The Union won, America did not allow the secession. We became the country we’re supposed to become, and the Confederacy failed. And based on that failure, that flag should never hang over a government building or municipality again, because it represents a time when a civil war happened, and people wanted to secede from the Union, and it didn’t work. It’s that simple for me, you know. You can’t, you can’t, you know, LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers can’t wear a world champions T-shirt this summer, it just can’t happen, because they lost.  

The Confederate battle flag that people are used to seeing in places like Mississippi, South Carolina, that’s a, that’s a much worse offense to me because that flag in particular was the flag that says the Confederacy has not died. We’ve put on sheets, we ride at night, we put on black sheets, in the day we call ourselves judges, police officers. That says the spirit of secession lives, and that’s just simply not true, because you lost, and um, that’s the way it is. A lot of those flags went up in the turbulent '60s — when protest was about to give people their civil liberties, people that look like me — as a last ditch effort, you know, you know, just to be pugnacious and just to be ornery and mean, a lot of those flags went up. 

El-P and Killer Mike on friendship and race:

El-P: I think that for us, our friendship is so easy that there’s, and rooted in so many things, so many aspects of our personality and our history and things that we love and things, conversations we have. But it does come up, and it’s important to come up because in a lot of ways, in, we’re very aware that even us having a public friendship and even us having the chemistry and making music that works is a powerful thing to some degree for people to see, especially in times of confusion and strain. You can’t really explain friendship away, and I think that’s one of the most important things. You can’t really explain love away, so when that is standing there amidst all of the sort of confusion and turmoil and bickering, and you know, regression, we are very aware that that’s a powerful thing. And we have a rhythm and we have a respect for each other in the way that we deal with it, I think. I think that, a lot of times, it’s my job to shut up because there are ... very, very serious issues that are brought up that are directly related to Mike being a black man in America, that I can be in solidarity with, my brother and my friend, and support him the way that I think that any one human should support another human. But I’m old enough and wise enough to know when it’s not my place to really go in and talk because I don’t have the legitimate practical experience of being black in America. I think that comes out of us being 40 years old and being smart guys and being around, and having experience and having sensitivity to each other and understanding that. And there are other times when it really makes sense for us to talk, both of us to talk, because we’re talking about an issue that wouldn’t exist without the other guy’s race.

Mike: I think everyone should have a friend of a different class, culture or race. I think that would do a lot more to stop systemic racism and a perception of than anything else. I don’t ... think you can view people like, oh, they’re cool, as groups of people, and don’t bother them. But if you don’t have a Muslim friend, you’re not as progressive as you think. If you’re black and you don’t have a white friend, if you’re white you don’t have a black friend, an Asian friend —

El-P: — If you’re straight and you don’t have a gay friend —

Mike: If you don’t have someone from outside of your social circle of comfort, than you could be doing more. And it’s just that simple.

Killer Mike on advice to his teenage daughter:

Well yeah, we were at daddy-daughter dinner yesterday before I left. We talked about nose rings, tattoos, marijuana and college. And 'Mom won’t let me get a nose ring yet.' 'Why?' 'Because she says I’m too young.' 'I’m prone to agree with that. You need something to look forward to.' 'My friend went and got a tattoo.' 'Really, what’d Dad tell you?' 'You told me if I ever want a tattoo, to come to you, it’s going to be ugly like my older brother did when he snuck off and got one.' 'Good. Marijuana, I’m sure you’ve smoked, so I’m not going to ask you, so you don’t have to lie to me, but do you know the rules of smoking? Don’t give smoke, you know, anything anybody’s pre-rolled for you. If you’re in the company of boys, let me let you read this article on Mr. Bill Cosby. And we’re not going to be just randomly smoking.' And she got it, and then we spent the rest of our time after that 10 minutes talking about colleges, and you know, she wants to teach, and which colleges are going to be best for her. But, I just more than anything try to keep the lines of communication open. She’s fearless and that she she isn’t so afraid of her father that she’s not willing to be honest with me, so that was important. I have two daughters, a 17-year-old and an eight-year-old, and both are pretty feisty young women, and they let me know their minds.

The rules governing the Chinese stock market

Wed, 2015-07-15 04:00

The modern Chinese stock market is 25 years old, and it's having growing pains. The Communist Party acts like a hovering parent, steering the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges clear of life’s bumps and curves instead of letting the markets work out their own problems.

Technically the Chinese stock market is mostly closed to foreign investors and shouldn’t directly sway world markets, but global confidence has waned since mid-June, when the Shanghai Composite Index started a 30 percent nosedive.

Let’s look at some of the idiosyncratic rules governing the mysterious Chinese stock market:

Share tickers are serial numbers instead of letters.

If Alibaba were listed in Shanghai, its ticker would be a six-digit number, such as “300680” instead of BABA, its New York Stock Exchange symbol. There is no logical connection between the numbers assigned and company names.

Green means down; red, the favorite Chinese color, means up.

If the trading floor shows mostly red numbers, it means sighs of relief for the Chinese people.

Stock halting is common for Chinese public companies.

A company can halt its stock because of an imminent earnings report, an on-going business negotiation or an investigation by the regulatory commission. Halting can last for weeks or a month, unlike the U.S. exchanges, where halting is kept to less than an hour.

Chinese stocks are automatically halted for the rest of the trading day if there is a 10 percent change in price, up or down.

Therefore, bear or bull markets are restrained at that 10 percent change per day. Last week, about half of Chinese stocks were halted.

Shorting is only allowed for stock index futures in China.

In the past weeks, the Chinese government blamed short sellers for the plummeting markets and banned shorting activities.

Investors can take only one trading action per day, which is known as the T+1 Rule.

This is a nightmare for correcting trading mistakes and a technical block for short sellers.

Foreign investors cannot buy Chinese stocks freely.

China’s main market, the A-share market, is traded via Chinese yuan, or RMB. Foreign investors can only buy Chinese stocks through certified institutional investors, or they can take a detour and use Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, a mutual market-access program. Both ways are a bit clunky.

80 percent of Chinese stock buyers are mom-and-pop investors who bet their life savings hoping to make short-term gains from the stock markets.

Sean Lin (no relation to the reporter), an analyst at a major Chinese private equity firm, owns positions in both the Chinese and U.S. stock markets and knows their differences.

“Moms and pops prioritize the government’s guidance over companies’ performances,” he said via email from Guangdong, China. “They know even if Chinese companies don’t report any revenue, their stock prices will soar as long as there’s government policy support.

“There are much more frauds in the Chinese stock markets,” Lin added. “There have been few Chinese public companies delisting in the history, because the local governments want to keep jobs and won’t let the companies go bankrupt.”

PODCAST: The egg crisis caused by the bird flu

Wed, 2015-07-15 03:00

Prior to Fed Chair Janet Yellen's testimony in front of Congress, we'll talk about the released transcript of her statement. Plus, Netflix reports earnings this week. It’s counting on expanding overseas, particularly in China, but how’s that looking? And the bird flu crisis is winding down with no new reported since June 17th. But for bakers, there's still a big egg crisis.

And the Emmy goes to ... who cares?

Wed, 2015-07-15 02:58

With Emmy nominations out Thursday morning, Los Angeles has been inundated with "For Your Consideration" ads — Billboards, radio spots — making the case that one show or another deserves an Emmy nod.

But, really, how much do the Emmys matter? And who do they matter to?

Not that many people, says Jeetendr Sehdev, marketing professor at USC and a celebrity branding expert. "Less than one in ten people in America say that they will be more influenced to watch a TV show if it's won an Emmy award," he says.

And if the awards have lost their power to move audiences, are industry experts still paying attention to who takes home the prize?

Click the media player above to hear more.

Netflix wants to be global

Wed, 2015-07-15 02:00

The online video-streaming giant Netflix is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday.

Netflix forecasts that it will gain some 26 million international subscribers in 50 countries by the end of this year, and hopes to operate around the world by the end of 2016.

“The main thing for them at this stage is just the raw subscriber growth numbers,” says Jim Nail, a business-to-consumer analyst at Forrester Research.

The biggest prize for Netflix would be China, where the e-commerce company Alibaba recently launched its own streaming service.

“But I don't think it’s a deal killer," Nail says. "I think that it certainly sets up steeper competition, which is the future of Neflix.”

Domestically, Netflix aims to drive subscriptions by continuing to produce its own content with shows such as "Orange Is the New Black" or "House of Cards."

That programming is really expensive, University of Michigan communications professor Amanda Lotz says. “Netflix is spending a lot of money, and so that's the pressure to expand subscribers in order to amortize those costs over a bigger subscriber base."

The big threat to Netflix going forward, Lotz says, could be when all those content providers decide to simply bypass the middleman. “What happens once other studios stop selling their content to Netflix and choose to distribute it themselves?”

Netflix wants to be in every country

Wed, 2015-07-15 02:00

The online video-streaming giant, Netflix, is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday.

Netflix is forecast to gain some 26 million international subscribers in 50 countries by the end of this year, and hopes to operate around the world by the end of 2016.

Jim Nail is a business-to-consumer analyst at Forrester Research. “The main thing for them at this stage is just the raw subscriber growth numbers,” he says.

The biggest prize for Netflix would be China, where the e-commerce company Alibaba recently launched its own streaming service.

“But I don't think it’s a deal killer," Nail says. "I think that it certainly sets up steeper competition, which is the future of Neflix.”

Domestically, Netflix aims to drive subscriptions by continuing to produce its own content with shows such as "Orange Is the New Black" or "House of Cards."

That programming is really expensive, University of Michigan communications professor Amanda Lotz says. “Netflix is spending a lot of money, and so that's the pressure to expand subscribers in order to amortize those costs over a bigger subscriber base."

The big threat to Netflix going forward, Lotz says, could be when all those content providers decide to simply bypass the middleman. “What happens once other studios stop selling their content to Netflix and choose to distribute it themselves?”

Iranian oil gush could push prices down

Wed, 2015-07-15 02:00

The nuclear deal announced Tuesday between Iran and six world powers will eventually lead to severe international economic sanctions on Iran being lifted, and more Iranian oil and natural gas flowing onto world energy markets — assuming that the accord is not blocked by opponents in Washington or Tehran.

It will likely be late 2015 before any additional Iranian oil starts being sold legitimately on the world market. Iran reportedly has 20 million to 40 million barrels of oil stored in tankers ready to hit the market immediately. Within one year, experts predict the country can pump an additional 500,000 to nearly one million barrels-a-day from wells that were slowed down or plugged up because of sanctions.

Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department official who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, says Iran will try to ramp up production, and improve its oil infrastructure, as fast as possible. “The Iranians are really hungry for Western investment and capital and technology,” she says, adding that Iran is a good investment target for major international energy companies. “You don’t have the same security challenges in Iran that you have in Iraq or Libya.” She also says Iran may eventually provide a counterweight to the influence of Russia in supplying oil and gas to energy-poor countries in Eastern and Southern Europe.

Iran will sell its oil mostly to its traditional regional customers in Europe and Asia. But the oil market is global, so supplies, which are already over-abundant due to the global economic slowdown and high production levels in the U.S. and many OPEC countries, will likely rise even more in coming years, says Jim Burkhard, VP of energy analysis at IHS. He predicts that will put downward pressure on prices consumers pay in the U.S.

“The most important component of U.S. gasoline prices is the international price of crude oil,” says Burkhard. “So if international crude oil prices were to soften even more, we would see that reflected in pump prices in the United States.”

Necessity driving Greeks to adopt web banking

Wed, 2015-07-15 02:00

After a deal that avoids a "Grexit" and a sudden banking collapse, Greek banks remained closed. Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson spoke with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal, who is reporting from Athens, about how Greeks are coping in uncertain times. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

"Make no mistake," Ryssdal says, "it's tough here. Unemployment is at 25 percent. If not for the tourists here in downtown Athens, I don't know what would be going on." But he also sees the resilience of Greeks, as "people are finding these coping mechanisms."

One of which has been there the whole time: online banking. Ryssdal, quoting Panayotis Alexakis, an economist from the University of Athens, explains that "it's a good thing there are capital controls in place, that the banks are closed because it's convincing people to switch to web banking." Alexakis himself switched to online banking.  

But people still need cash. In the images from Greece, there are lines of 20 or 30 people queuing up for the ATM to withdraw their daily 60 euros. However, Ryssdal has had people tell him how "they see people in front of them with 3 or 4 cards. Like they've been deputized by the family to go to the bank for that day and cycle the cards in and out and get as many euros out as they can."

Ryssdal concludes, "necessity drives invention, I guess." And whether the invention is rediscovering online banking or gaming the withdrawal limits to feed your family, Greeks on the ground "are doing what they got to do." 

Latest ruling blurs the line on what Pharrell owes

Wed, 2015-07-15 01:49
$5.3 billion

That's how much Bank of America reported in earnings for the third quarter, up from the $2.3 billion reported during the same time last year. As reported by the New York Times, the bank saw expenses drop sharply, partly because litigation fees were down and partly because it has been working to cut costs in its legacy mortgage unit.

26 million

That's how many international subscribers Netflix is expected to gain in 50 countries by the end of this year. But it wants more. Now, the company is setting its sights on China, where it will face competition with Alibaba's recently launched streaming service. Netflix needs that focus on subscriber growth, as its increasingly expensive original content requires more and more funding to produce.

$1 million

That's about how much has been cut from the amount of money Pharrell Williams must pay to to Marvin Gaye's family for his role in producing the hit "Blurred Lines." Co-written with Robin Thicke, the song was found to have borrowed too liberally from Gaye's hit "Got to Give It Up." But don't expect this to be the end of the line (blurred or not). As the BBC reports, Williams and Thicke are expected to appeal the decision yet again.

$90

That's about how much John Lupo, a wholesale baker in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, says he pays for what used to be a $26 pail of liquid eggs. Why the sudden spike in price? With bird flu hitting the commercial egg industry hardest, bakers like Lupo find themselves paying more for their usual supplies. Adding insult to injury, even though the price of cartons of whole eggs hasn't spiked as high as that of liquid eggs, cracking the number of eggs needed to run a large-scale bakery isn't a practical option.

17-25

That's the age range of employees Starbucks is looking to hire at its first franchise in sub-Saharan Africa. Slated to open in 2016, the Johannesburg location is part of the company's goal to cater to the growing middle class. But it won't be without competition. As the BBC reports, Krispy Kreme also plans to open about 31 locations in South Africa over the next five years, not to mention the numerous local coffee shops that already exist in the area.

A German show faces a Greek audience

Tue, 2015-07-14 13:00

The last place you'd expect a group of German performers to put on a show right now is Athens, given the German government's hard line approach to the Greek debt crisis. Germany, it is safe to say, is not Greece's most favored nation.

Indeed, there is a great deal of anti-German feeling here at the moment — though it must be said, most of it is aimed directly at the country's leader, Angela Merkel, and her finance minister. But a small theater group called She She Pop chose this week, of all weeks, to make its Greek debut.

She She Pop is an all-female German group performing offbeat shows about social issues. It's been highly popular at alternative venues across Europe. But Lisa Lucassen, a member of the group, admits a certain nervousness about coming to Athens: "And I thought about putting some place on my body the sentence: 'I didn't vote for her.'"

"Her," meaning Merkel.

The actresses expected at least the occasional boo. But Wenke Seemen, another member, said they have not encountered any hostility from the audiences. And off stage, only the odd barbed question: "'Why is your government acting like that?' And I could only explain my personal point of view."

Seemen does not agree with Germany's position in the debt talks, "not at all."

These women are not flag-waving German nationalists. Ask Wenke about her own national identity, and she says, "I am...a European."

"A European rather than a German?" I ask.

"Rather than a German. Right."

Greece's economic outlook, from the streets of Athens

Tue, 2015-07-14 13:00

Although immediate danger of an economic collapse has passed, Greece and its people have a long way to go before things feel comfortable, or even normal.

In Athens, the attitude about Greece’s future is a mixed bag. There are citizens like Olga Karastathi, on the one hand. Karastathi opened up Chemin Bakery in Athens just as Greece was getting into economic trouble despite the turmoil, and she’s still optimistic.

“We don’t have any profit, but we keep going and hoping for the best,” she says.

For Karastathi, staying in Greece was never up for debate. 

“I don’t want to leave, I want to stay and try to make things better,” Karastathi says. 

Nick Voglis, owner of Trends Subs and Salads in Greece, shares Karastathi’s optimism. He was abroad for 20 years before coming back to Greece 16 years ago.

“I came here to create this into a franchise,” Voglis says about Trends Subs and Salads. “Unfortunately we were not able to do this.”

Voglis says that his restaurant has downsized significantly in the past several years: “Our business has fallen since the peak of 2007 by about 40 to 50 percent. We are barely making money.”

Still, he too remains optimistic that things can return to a level of stability in Greece.

“This is the biggest experiment in the Western World,” Voglis says. “I believe it’s going to work eventually. Every time you have a major problem you find solutions if you want to find a solution.”

On the other hand, there are Greeks like Tonia Korka. She’s juggling multiple jobs to support her son. Unlike Olga and Nick, Korka’s view of Greece’s future is bleak. She has no savings or bank account. Korka says her thirteen year old son isn’t as shaken by the economic downturn as she is.

“He’s not complaining because he’s a kid of the crisis, so he’s used to it, let’s say. He knows that this is the way things have to be,” she says.

Korka wants to get a job outside of Greece to support her family. She explains, “I would leave right now. If I had a job outside of here…I believer that here we’re lost, we’re done as a country”

Then, somewhere in the middle there are college students like Efie Garavela. Garavela has grown up dealing with this economic crisis. She still has two years left in school before she enters the job market, but even now she’s doubtful of her job prospects in Greece.

“My dreams are kind of crushed right now,” she says. “I’m really nervous about my future, to be honest. I just feel that I’m so young and I have so many dreams, and I want them to come true. And this country doesn’t offer me the chance to do so.”

The people living and working in Greece aren’t the only ones thinking about Greece. There’s also the flocks of tourists. One tourist, Sangeeth Perui, brought his family to Athens for a family vacation.

“The main thing I noticed is what you see in the press is a lot different than when you get here. It doesn’t seem like people here are nearly as worried as the press. It’s kinda like in California, you know, you go anywhere else and they think we have no water and we’re dying of dehydration, but California things seem find when you live there,” Perui says.

Other tourists, like Gail Allen, noticed that the lack of crowds seemed unusual. “You can tell there’s something different because it’s not busy on the streets and stuff. I’m hoping the tourist season will bring back the economy a little bit.”

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