Marketplace - American Public Media

Secure phones (and apps) hit consumer market

Tue, 2015-01-06 02:00

The recent hack on Sony has been good news for at least one industry: cybersecurity. The sector gets a bump in attention whenever there is a leak of this magnitude. And right now, one of the hot markets in the business is mobile.

As more corporate information flows through employee smartphones, companies are paying for hardware and software to protect that data. To meet demand, security firms are developing increasingly secure phones and encryption software. Some of that new technology is now filtering down to the consumer market.

Vic Hyder is a former Navy SEAL, and he does not like the idea that his phone could leak his data — basically, that someone could be spying on him. So, Hyder is talking to me on his Blackphone, which encrypts his phone calls, emails, and texts.

Hyder is the chief strategist at Silent Circle. The software firm has partnered with a Spanish smartphone company to release the Blackphone. No, not a Blackberry, but a Blackphone, which is as secretive as it sounds.

In addition to encrypting communication, the Blackphone comes with a set of apps that do not send data to marketers. In the past, customers have mostly been CEOs, government officials, and celebrities. For instance, Hyder tells me that Shaq has just tweeted about getting a Blackphone. But Hyder says the device is starting to have a broader appeal.

More companies are buying Blackphones for employees, and now individuals can buy them online, too. Blackphone is currently developing an app store that it hopes will make the device more versatile and user-friendly. The company is not alone in the market for secure phones. Samsung has also started offering more security options for consumers.

With all the news of leaks and hacks, people are starting to pay more attention to mobile security, says Tyler Shields, an analyst at Forrester. But most regular people are not losing their sensitive data through hacks. They are losing it through their apps. 

Domingo Guerra, the president and founder of Appthority, which assess app security, says most apps make money by gathering and selling personal data.

“Because most apps are free or really cheap,” he says, “developers are almost encouraged to collect data.” To put it in perspective, Guerra says, “almost 99 percent of free apps collect some user data.”

On the whole, Guerra says apps are not getting better at protecting user information. He says some are so faulty that developers do not even know what information is being collected and transmitted to third parties. Of the three million apps his company has surveyed, Guerra says only a fraction are secure.

If that does not change, Guerra says we can expect to continue leaking data, regardless of what device we use.

Some new credit cards are more secure than others

Tue, 2015-01-06 02:00

Come October, stores and restaurants must install new credit card readers that accept secure credit cards with smart chips, or the store will be held responsible for any fraud that occurs. U.S. card issuers are scrambling to send members new chip-enabled cards, but not all of them will work the same way.

Some will require customers to sign a receipt like today. Others will use a more secure PIN code, like at an ATM, but most banks are choosing convenience and familiarity over security.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Schools go to court for more funding

Tue, 2015-01-06 02:00

Just before the new year, a three-judge panel in Kansas ruled that public schools are so under-funded as to violate the state’s constitution. Lawsuits like the one in Kansas have become a popular tactic to try to win more money for public schools. Thirteen states, from Texas to Pennsylvania, are facing active litigation.

In Hutchinson, Kansas, funding shortages have caused class sizes to increase, says Shelly Kiblinger, superintendent of public schools. Staff have also been let go. While the district once had three school resource officers, it now struggles to keep one. Five years ago, the district joined others in suing the state.

“Students were not receiving adequate funding,” Kiblinger says. “We were not able to provide them with a suitable public education, which is required under the constitution of the state of Kansas.”

The ruling in Kansas means the legislature could have to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars for public schools. More money isn’t on the way yet. The state is expected to appeal. An earlier case in Kansas led the state legislature to increase funding for schools, only to cut it back during the recent recession.

“Even when the rulings are in favor of the school districts, you don’t necessarily see the changes that most people would anticipate,” says Michael Griffith, a school finance consultant with the Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan policy group.

He points to Ohio, where he says a series of court victories hasn’t led to significant changes in funding. 

Often it comes down to a battle between the courts and state lawmakers. The Supreme Court in Washington state has threatened to shut down the public schools or fine legislators if they don’t come up with increased funding.

In Kansas, Griffith says, the state doesn’t have the money, and the only way to increase education spending would be to raise taxes.

“I think there would be a huge reluctance in the state of Kansas to do that,” he says.

Then there’s the question of whether more money leads to better schools. After its own court battles, Wyoming now spends more on education per student than any other state, but student achievement still lags. Money alone doesn’t fix schools, says Michael Rebell with the Campaign for Educational Equity.

“Money does matter if it’s used well,” he says. “Without it, you can’t make progress, especially when we’re talking about kids from low-income, high-poverty backgrounds.”

With schools enrolling more kids than ever with special needs, he says the cost of educating them is just getting higher.

A particularly fresh-faced Congress

Tue, 2015-01-06 01:30
13 senators

That's the number of new senators being sworn in on Tuesday. As the WSJ reports, they join 33 others who have served less than one six-year term, marking a change from what was once viewed as an institution governed by seniority.

$3.5 billion

AOL's approximate market value. Verizon has reportedly approached the company for a potential acquisition or joint venture, Bloomberg reports. People close to the talks said Verizon is seeking expertise in advertising, content and video.

13 states

That's how many states are currently facing active litigation concerning funding to the public school system. Kansas, the latest to join the ranks, saw a three-judge panel rule that public schools are so under-funded as to violate the state’s constitution.

1.5 meters

The maximum distance at which the new LG G Flex2 will recognize a special gesture to take timed selfies. That should come in handy coupled with your new five-foot selfie stick, but it's far from the only "bleeding-edge selfie tech" being shown off at the Consumer Electronics show this year. Quartz has a round-up.

$50

That's the price oil traded below on Monday. With the Republican-controlled congress taking hold on Tuesday, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is at the top of the agenda. But the pipeline was proposed back in 2008 under different conditions, which leads some to wonder what is the energy rationale for and against the project in a period of cheap oil.

3,040

The number of breweries operating in the U.S. as of this summer, the most since the 19th century. But the explosion of craft beer means brewers are starting to run out of names for themselves and their many varieties of pale ale, NPR reported, and it's leading to some legal battles.

Auto profits rebound, but wages don't follow

Mon, 2015-01-05 11:58

For generations of Americans, the manufacturing sector has been the gateway to the middle class. That idea persists today, even as that gate has been closing for years.

Take Ford Motor Company, for example. Like other car makers, Ford has been through some rough times, but is now riding high amid decreased costs, increased sales and a sexy new product with the new aluminum F-150 trucks.

All this should be good news for the middle class, but many auto-industry jobs still aren’t delivering on the wage front.

Darryl Steele takes his morning coffee in the midafternoon. That's the time he stops by a Tim Hortons restaurant before heading out for the night shift at Ford’s River Rouge assembly plant, in Dearborn, Michigan.

“I swing a hammer and a chisel, and I also carry a bar,” Steele says. He works as a body-shop fitter, attaching doors and hoods to the new Ford trucks.

“It’s the type of job where  you have to learn how to finesse that job, and sometimes you forget and so you feel it at the end of the day,” he says as he sips his coffee.

Since Steele has been with Ford since 2000, he’s what they call a “legacy employee,” exempt from wage and benefit cuts the United Auto Workers accepted following the 2010 auto crisis.

With an hourly wage north of $25 per hour, Steele says he and his co-workers are far from wealthy, and many haven’t seen a pay increase in over 10 years.

“Basically it’s a job where you make enough money to support a normal-sized family, maybe have a nice house, possibly save money – it's basically a middle-class job,” Steele says. 

Legacy employees are a shrinking majority in the auto industry. New hires making the so-called “tier two” wage are paid considerably less than previous generations, all while Ford is bringing in billions of dollars in profits.

But Ford says these profits are making it back into the pockets of workers. 

“You know, we've shared a lot of that profit growth with our employees,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas. “The last couple years our employees have had record profit-sharing checks, last year averaging $8,000 for all our UAW employees.” 

Hinrichs maintains that the tier-two wage is directly responsible for a hiring boom of 14,000 U.S. workers since 2011.

“A big portion of the new employees have been an insourcing of work, based on the competitiveness of the entry-level wage," he says. "So, we don't want to lose sight of the benefits collectively that the UAW and Ford have had from that."

Hinrichs says even at the lower starting wage, around $16 per hour, there is still a path forward for workers, including profit sharing and a 401(k) retirement plan.

“So, it's like 'Ride this merry-go-round long enough, and you'll get the golden ring,'” says Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research.

Dziczek agrees that without the UAW’s wage concessions, many of these new Ford jobs wouldn’t be there. But in the future, companies like Ford, GM and Chrysler will face much more competition for workers from other sectors.

“This was the cream of the crop of a blue-collar job, and now they're competing with suppliers, they may be competing with service sector jobs,” Dziczek says.

Even at the lower wage, many employees at Ford are simply glad to have a job, especially one with union representation and good benefits.

“There's not many jobs starting off at the $15 and change per hour that they have at Ford or across the big three,” says Jermaine Harris.

At 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, it’s as if Harris was born for a manufacturing job. In 2012, he started at Ford, where he runs a hoist dropping engines into Ford Focuses and the new C-Max cars. Like him, many of his co-workers came in on the lower tier-two wage.

“I work on a line that has 23 people on it,” says Harris. “Three of them are legacy workers, and 20 are entry level. Each one of them have families, a couple of them are single mothers, a couple people that are in their 50s that are starting over."

Growing up, Harris says he saw entire families that were supported by a job like the one he has now. He holds down another part-time job to make ends meet.

“I would love to just get by on the one job. I mean, basically I work every day. You know, I have a 2-year-old, I'd like to spend more time with him,” Harris says.

The UAW says improving the lot of workers like Harris will be a key part of next year’s contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. As UAW ranks swell with more tier-two workers, their votes will be increasingly necessary to ratify any new contract. While Harris says he's happy to have his job, he will vote against any contract that doesn’t do something for entry-level workers.

Auto profits rebound, but wages aren't following

Mon, 2015-01-05 11:58

For generations of Americans, the manufacturing sector has been the gateway to the middle class. That idea persists today, even as that gate has been closing for years now.

Take Ford Motor Company for example. Like other carmakers, Ford has been through some rough times, but is now riding high amid decreased costs, increased sales, and a sexy new product with the new aluminum F-150 trucks.

All this should be good news for the middle-class, but many auto industry jobs still aren’t delivering on the wages front.

Darryl Steele takes his morning coffee in the mid-afternoon. That’s the time he stops by this Tim Hortons before heading out for the night shift at Ford’s River Rouge Assembly Plant, in Dearborn, Michigan.

“I swing a hammer and a chisel and I also carry a bar,” Steele says. He works as a body-shop fitter, attaching doors and hoods to the new Ford trucks.

“It’s the type of job you have to finesse that job and sometimes you forget and then you feel it at the end of the day,” he says as he sips his coffee.

Steele has been with Ford since 2000, he’s what they call a “legacy employee.” Someone who is exempt from the wage and benefit cuts the UAW accepted following the 2010 auto crisis.

With an hourly wage north of $25 per hour, Steele says he and his co-workers are far from wealthy, and many haven’t seen a pay increase in over ten years.

“Basically it’s a job where you make enough money to support a normal-sized family, maybe have a nice house, possibly save money — it's basically a middle-class job,” says Steele. 

Legacy employees are a shrinking majority in the auto industry. New hires making the so-called “tier-two” wage are paid considerably less than previous generations, all while Ford is bring in billions of dollars in profits.

But Ford says these profits are making it back into the pockets of workers. 

“You know, we've shared a lot of that profit growth with our employees,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas. “The last couple years our employees have had record profit-sharing checks, last year averaging $8,000 for all our UAW employees.” 

Hinrichs maintains that the tier-two wage is directly responsible for a hiring boom of 14,000 U.S. workers since 2011.

“A big portion of these new employees have been an insourcing of work, based on the competitiveness of the entry-level wage," he says. "So, we don't want to lose sight of the benefits collectively that Ford and the UAW have had from that."

Hinrichs says even at the lower starting wage, around $16 per hour, there is still a path forward for workers, including profit sharing and a 401K retirement plan.

“So, it's like 'Ride this merry-go-round long enough and you'll get the golden ring,'” says Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research.

Dziczek agrees that without the UAW’s wage concessions, many of these new Ford jobs wouldn’t be there. But in the future, companies like Ford, GM and Chrysler, will face a lot more competition for workers from other sectors.

“This was the cream of the crop of a blue-collar job and now they're competing with suppliers, they may be competing with service sector jobs,” notes Dziczek.

But even at the lower wage, many employees at Ford are simply glad to have a job, especially one with union representation and good benefits.

“There's not many jobs starting off at the $15 and change per hour that they have at Ford or across the big three,” says Jermaine Harris.

At 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, it’s as if Harris was born for a manufacturing job. He started at Ford in 2012, where his job is to run a hoist dropping engines into Ford Focuses and the new C-Max cars. Like him, many of his co-workers came in on the lower tier-two wage.

“I work on a line that has 23 people on it,” says Harris, “Out of the 23 people, three of them are legacy workers and 20 are entry level. Each one of them have families, a couple of them are single mothers, a couple people that are in their 50's that are starting over."

Growing up he Harris says he saw entire families supported on the basis of one job like the one he has now. He holds down another part-time job to make ends meet.

“I would love to just get by on the one job. I mean, basically I work every day. You know, I have a two-year-old, I'd like to spend more time with him,” Harris says.

The UAW says improving the lot of guys like Harris will be a key part of next year’s contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. As UAW ranks swell with more tier 2 workers, their votes will be increasingly necessary to ratify any new contract, and while Harris says he happy to have his job he will vote against any contract that doesn’t do something for entry-level workers.

Greece could be headed for eurozone exit

Mon, 2015-01-05 11:53

The euro is not having a happy new year.

The currency crashed to a nine-year low against the U.S. dollar, partly due to a warning from Germany. The German government reportedly said that if Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party wins this month’s snap election, and reneges on some of the conditions of the country’s bailout, Greece could face default and be forced out of the euro.

Is that such a bad thing? Germans apparently believe that the eurozone could now cope with a Greek exit. Unlike at the height of the crisis three years ago, the European Central Bank will now buy unlimited amounts of the government bonds of a eurozone country that comes under speculative attack. That move should prevent the contagion spreading to other member states.

Some analysts are skeptical and point to the danger of political contagion. If, with International Monetary Fund help, Greece leaves the eurozone, throws off the shackles of austerity and starts to grow strongly again, would other heavily indebted and austerity-weary eurozone states be tempted follow suit?

Meet Belty, a smart belt that expands with your waist

Mon, 2015-01-05 11:07

You'll hear much in the coming days, here and elsewhere, about the consumer electronics show going on in Las Vegas this week.

Among the gizmos and gadgets is – and I am not making this up – a smart belt that adjusts throughout the day to your changing waistline.

Belty, as the belt is called, is part of the wearable tech trend, but whether anyone will actually wear it is another matter. Its creator, French firm Emiota, aims to start selling it in March for around $130, according to Bloomberg.

 

Are low oil prices an opening for a carbon tax?

Mon, 2015-01-05 11:00

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, now an economist at Harvard University, argued today in the Washington Post and the Financial Times that the case for a carbon tax is “overwhelming” given the low price of gasoline. The average price per gallon in the U.S. is $2.20. Adding a $.25 tax would take it to $2.45.

 

“Doing that against a backdrop where gas prices have declined $1.50, it’s a very rare opportunity,” says energy and environment economist Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman professor at the University of Chicago. Even at the University of Chicago, a shrine to free-market theories, taxing carbon is a mainstream concept, Greenstone says.

 

“Drawing from the far right of the economics profession all the way to the far left, this is not a political issue,” Greenstone says. “This is blackboard economics.”

 

His point: The price of gasoline today is wrong. It does not include the cost of carbon-dioxide pollution from burning it. This is the baseline case for taxing carbon emissions.

 

Even if it’s good economics, it’s dismal politics. Republicans now control both houses of Congress. Still, former GOP Congressman Bob Inglis sees an opportunity: A carbon tax would bring in money, to cut other taxes. Say, corporate income taxes.

 

“This is an opportunity to change what we tax,” Inglis says. “To get off of income, and to get the tax on emissions. It certainly fits with what we as conservatives believe.”

 

  

 

 

Training urban teachers who stay

Mon, 2015-01-05 10:50

Cheyandria Monks is getting ready to teach a phonics lesson to a class of first graders. Monks, 29, is not a teacher – yet. She’s a resident at Liberty Elementary in Baltimore. Basically, she's an apprentice. Her host teacher, Angela Guidera, walks her through the lesson.

Urban Teacher Center resident Cheyandria Monks, left, talks with her host teacher, Angela Guidera.

Monks listens to a recording of a song about a train “clickety-clacking” down a track. “Read it first,” Guidera suggests, “because the song goes pretty fast.”

Monks’ residency is part of a program at Urban Teacher Center, a nonprofit based in Baltimore. It’s built on the idea that, like doctors and chefs, teachers should train side-by-side with pros before they take charge of their own classrooms. In a traditional school, teachers-in-training might spend six or eight weeks – maybe a semester – as student teachers. The Urban Teacher Center residency lasts 15 months.

“They are learning what good teaching looks like and feels like, so that by the time they become the classroom teacher, there’s no surprises,” says Jennifer Green, the center's co-founder and CEO.

The schedule is demanding. Monks co-teaches most days, then heads off to her own master's classes at night. When she finally gets home, she might spend a few minutes with her baby daughter before tackling homework and lesson plans. She gets five or six hours of sleep.

The residency is meant to be hard, Green says. “We often hear that the first year of teaching is the hardest year of someone’s life.” One aim of the residency, she says, “is to make sure that our residents are up for the grueling nature of the task.”

If they’re not, they can drop out without leaving a class of students teacherless. Nationally, half of new teachers leave the profession within five years. In urban districts, turnover is even higher. Residencies are catching on as one way to produce teachers who know what they’re getting into. At the Urban Teacher Center, more than 20 percent of residents either quit or are asked to leave each year. Some don't return after the winter break.

“I think sometimes it’s unnecessarily brutal,” says Joseph Manko, principal of Liberty Elementary. “This is their first experience with the profession, and you want to prepare people. You also don’t want to scare them away.”

For the last three years, Manko has hosted a crop of residents at his school, which pays about 40 percent of the cost of their training. For now, philanthropy covers the rest. In return, Manko gets extra help in his classrooms and a school year to check out potential teachers. He hired one of last year’s residents for a permanent job. “He’s the first first-year teacher that we’ve hired in five years, but I’m happy to say he is far and away the best first-year teacher I’ve ever seen,” Manko says.

That teacher, Kevin Chandler, is still with the program at Urban Teacher Center. Now a fellow, he continues to take courses and work with a coach, but he’s in charge of a second-grade class. “The residency is the hardest part of this program,” Chandler says. “If you can make it through that year, you will be set.”

Monks is still getting through it. After lunch, she’s ready to teach that first-grade phonics lesson. The kids sit cross-legged on the carpet, each student on a colored square with an individual small whiteboard. They start out reading the train poem. “Clickety-clickety, clack clack clack,” they read in unison.

Then they try to find the words that start with the “cl” sound and write them on their boards. Before long, the kids start to fidget, then drift from their squares. Some scribble on their whiteboards.

Monks finds herself up against one of the hardest lessons for new teachers: classroom management. After a while, the official teacher, Guidera, steps in.

“Class, class, class,” she chants. “Yes, yes, yes!” the kids shout back.

Later, resident and mentor debrief. “How did you feel?” Guidera asks Monks. “I think I had them on the carpet way too long, so the whole group got really off task,” Monks says.

Guidera gives her some tips for moving through the lesson more quickly, and for holding the interest of restless kids. Monks will have another chance to get it right – she’s leading class all week.

Now, though, it’s time to put on her student hat.  She heads downtown for a class on teaching ratios and percentages with the other residents. There are 112 this year.

As class gets underway, Monks spreads out her dinner – a hot dog, yogurt and some coconut water from 7-Eleven – on her desk. Sometimes she’ll throw in a Red Bull to stay awake. If she gets through this year, Baltimore may have another effective teacher who actually sticks around. After the residency, fellows commit to teaching in a Baltimore or Washington, D.C. school for three years. The first class of fellows just finished that commitment. About three-quarters stayed on.

Training urban teachers who stay

Mon, 2015-01-05 10:50

Cheyandria Monks is getting ready to teach a phonics lesson to a class of first graders. Monks, 29, is not a teacher – yet. She’s a resident at Liberty Elementary in Baltimore. Basically, sh'es an apprentice. Her host teacher, Angela Guidera, walks her through the lesson.

Urban Teacher Center resident Cheyandria Monks, left, talks with her host teacher, Angela Guidera.

Monks listens to a recording of a song about a train “clickety-clacking” down a track. “Read it first,” Guidera suggests, “because the song goes pretty fast.”

Monks’ residency is part of a program at Urban Teacher Center, a nonprofit based in Baltimore. It’s built on the idea that, like doctors and chefs, teachers should train side-by-side with pros before they take charge of their own classrooms. In a traditional school, teachers-in-training might spend six or eight weeks – maybe a semester – as student teachers. The Urban Teacher Center residency lasts 15 months.

“They are learning what good teaching looks like and feels like, so that by the time they become the classroom teacher, there’s no surprises,” says Jennifer Green, the center's co-founder and CEO.

The schedule is demanding. Monks co-teaches most days, then heads off to her own master's classes at night. When she finally gets home, she might spend a few minutes with her baby daughter before tackling homework and lesson plans. She gets five or six hours of sleep.

The residency is meant to be hard, Green says. “We often hear that the first year of teaching is the hardest year of someone’s life.” One aim of the residency, she says, “is to make sure that our residents are up for the grueling nature of the task.”

If they’re not, they can drop out without leaving a class of students teacherless. Nationally, half of new teachers leave the profession within five years. In urban districts, turnover is even higher. Residencies are catching on as one way to produce teachers who know what they’re getting into. At the Urban Teacher Center, more than 20 percent of residents either quit or are asked to leave each year. Some don't return after the winter break.

“I think sometimes it’s unnecessarily brutal,” says Joseph Manko, principal of Liberty Elementary. “This is their first experience with the profession, and you want to prepare people. You also don’t want to scare them away.”

For the last three years, Manko has hosted a crop of residents at his school, which pays about 40 percent of the cost of their training. For now, philanthropy covers the rest. In return, Manko gets extra help in his classrooms and a school year to check out potential teachers. He hired one of last year’s residents for a permanent job. “He’s the first first-year teacher that we’ve hired in five years, but I’m happy to say he is far and away the best first-year teacher I’ve ever seen,” Manko says.

That teacher, Kevin Chandler, is still with the program at Urban Teacher Center. Now a fellow, he continues to take courses and work with a coach, but he’s in charge of a second-grade class. “The residency is the hardest part of this program,” Chandler says. “If you can make it through that year, you will be set.”

Monks is still getting through it. After lunch, she’s ready to teach that first-grade phonics lesson. The kids sit cross-legged on the carpet, each student on a colored square with an individual small whiteboard. They start out reading the train poem. “Clickety-clickety, clack clack clack,” they read in unison.

Then they try to find the words that start with the “cl” sound and write them on their boards. Before long, the kids start to fidget, then drift from their squares. Some scribble on their whiteboards.

Monks finds herself up against one of the hardest lessons for new teachers: classroom management. After a while, the official teacher, Guidera, steps in.

“Class, class, class,” she chants. “Yes, yes, yes!” the kids shout back.

Later, resident and mentor debrief. “How did you feel?” Guidera asks Monks. “I think I had them on the carpet way too long, so the whole group got really off task,” Monks says.

Guidera gives her some tips for moving through the lesson more quickly, and for holding the interest of restless kids. Monks will have another chance to get it right – she’s leading class all week.

Now, though, it’s time to put on her student hat.  She heads downtown for a class on teaching ratios and percentages with the other residents. There are 112 this year.

As class gets underway, Monks spreads out her dinner – a hot dog, yogurt and some coconut water from 7-Eleven – on her desk. Sometimes she’ll throw in a Red Bull to stay awake. If she gets through this year, Baltimore may have another effective teacher who actually sticks around. After the residency, fellows commit to teaching in a Baltimore or Washington, D.C. school for three years. The first class of fellows just finished that commitment. About three-quarters stayed on.

Why chicken wings cost more this time of year

Mon, 2015-01-05 10:04

The chicken industry did quite well in 2014. That may be largely due to the high chicken prices and low production costs. But Ed Fryar, President of Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers, Arkansas, believes chicken prices will not continue to increase in 2015, except for the chicken wings.  

"As you move into the Super Bowl and into March Madness, that causes wing prices to jump up," Fryar says.

Fryar says chicken breast has a strong market during the summer time and chicken feet are mostly exported to China.

"It’s hard to find a strong seasonal pattern in dark meat," Fryar says. "We export a substantial amount of dark meat from the United States, and because of that any issue with Avian Influenza, any political situation which causes one of our major importers to come and announce a ban on U.S poultry exports to them, those things kind of come and go."

Quiz: A fight for the right to K-12 funding

Mon, 2015-01-05 05:11

School finance became a constitutional issue in this state.

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PODCAST: Popular polar bears

Mon, 2015-01-05 03:00

What can you get for less than $1.20? The answer: a euro. Plus, Bankrate is forecasting that the Fed will finally hike up interest rates this year. What will this mean for cash-flush consumers, and their growing appetite for new cars, new mortgages, and other forms of debt? How far up do experts predict the rates will hike in 2015, and what impact may this have on the rest of the world’s tepid growth? And once a year, hundreds of polar bears descend upon Churchill, Manitoba, a town with more bears than people. Every year, Churchill’s 800 residents share their small town with a flood of scientists, researchers and tourists who come to study and see these massive creatures. But now, a threat to the polar bear population has Manitobans worried about their primary source of income.

2015 could be the year the Fed hikes up interest rates

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Bankrate is forecasting that the Fed will finally hike up interest rates this year.

What will this mean for cash-flush consumers, and their growing appetite for new cars, new mortgages, and other forms of debt? And how far up do experts predict the rates will hike in 2015, and what impact may this have on the rest of the world’s tepid growth?

Click the media player above to hear more.

A polar bear capital fears a bearless future

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Hundreds of bears gather every winter in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can return to hunting seals. This annual migration attracts thousands of tourists, and it's an economic boon for local businesses.

The problem? Polar bear season only lasts seven weeks. And when you’re hundreds of miles from the next major city, with no roads connecting you to the outside world, and there are only a few months of the year when the ground’s not covered in snow, there aren’t many options for work. Here in Churchill, Manitoba, population 800, there are three.

Tourism, the port of Churchill and the town's health center are the options, says Mayor Mike Spence.

The port, which sends grain to Europe, and the health center employ about 10 percent of the town. About 10,000 tourists a year travel here to see polar bears. They stay in local hotels and lodges, and ride on roving jeeps called tundra buggies.

As long as the bears are here, people will pay as much as $1,000 a day to come. But with the season lasting only two months, residents have a narrow window to make their main chunk of revenue — revenue that could disappear along with these animals. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, this population of polar bears could be gone in only a few decades. So, what does that mean for this town's future?

“When the last bear leaves town, so does everything else,” says Spence. “Big question is: How do we become more successful in year-round parts of our community?”

One potential resource could be increased promotion and tourism for the summer beluga whale season, he says. Some locals, like security guard Brendan Windsor, agree.

“There’s more than just bears to see around here,” Windsor says. “Beluga whales, lots of bird watching, flower season.”

But the mayor admits that's not enough. Ironically, global warming could open up the Northwest passage and benefit the port. But it wouldn't be enough to make up for the end of polar bear tourism.

“If we were to lose a part of it, or in time lose all of it, it would be very difficult to recover what it brings to the economy," he says.

Everyone agrees the next few years are critical. Churchill is cooperating with international research groups to bring awareness to the polar bears' plight, even live-streaming their annual migration. Because if the bears go, this town might not be far behind.

Mexico's president to visit Washington on Tuesday

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

On Tuesday, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visits Washington to hold talks with President Barack Obama on cooperation, economic and security issues such as the Merida Initiative.

Approved six years ago, the U.S. government appropriated $2.3 billion dollars for the plan, which called for the U.S. and Mexican governments to partner against crime that spreads across both country’s borders. It sounds like it should buy a lot of crime fighting. But only about half of the money promised by congress has been used.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Polar bear capital fears for future without bears

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Hundreds of bears gather every winter in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can return to hunting seals. This annual migration attracts thousands of tourists; an economic boon for local businesses.

The problem is, polar bear season only lasts seven weeks. And when you’re hundreds of miles from the next major city, with no roads connecting you to the outside world, and there are only a few months of the year when the ground’s not covered in snow, there aren’t many options for work. Here in Churchill, Manitoba, population 800, there are three.

“Tourism; the port of Churchill is another one; the Churchill health center is another,” says Mayor Mike Spence.

The port, which sends grain to Europe, and the health center, employ about 10 percent of the town. But people travel here to see polar bears. About 10,000 tourists come every year. They stay in local hotels and lodges, and ride on roving jeeps called tundra buggies.

If the bears are here, people will pay as much as $1,000 dollars a day to come. But with the season lasting only two months, residents have a narrow window to make their main chunk of revenue — revenue that could disappear along with these animals. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, this population of polar bears could be gone in only a few decades. So, what does that mean for this town's future?

“When the last bear leaves town, so does everything else,” laments Mayor Spence. “Big question is: how do we become more successful in year-round parts of our community?”

He says one potential could be increased promotion and tourism for the summer beluga whale season. Some locals, like security guard Brendan Windsor, agree.

“There’s more than just bears to see around here,” Windsor points out. “Beluga whales, lots of bird watching, flower season.”

But Mayor Spence admits that's not enough. Ironically, global warming could open up the Northwest passage and benefit the port. But it wouldn't be enough to make up for the end of polar bear tourism.

“If we were to lose a part of it, or in time lose all of it, it would be very difficult to recover what it brings to the economy," he says.

Everyone agrees the next few years are critical. Churchill is cooperating with international research groups to bring awareness to the polar bears' plight, even live-streaming their annual migration. Because if the bears go, this town might not be far behind.

New York developers are mad for super lux apartments

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

There’s lots of scaffolding, cranes, and hammering in New York City these days. Construction spending has nearly returned to pre-recession highs when accounting for inflation, with nearly $11 billion spent on residential construction this past year.

However, these buildings aren’t for just anyone

“They’re usually very tall, very large, and in the tens of millions of dollars in asking prices,” says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. He says the construction here is now dominated by ultra luxury apartment buildings; a big change from 5 or 10 years ago. “Then it was more a range of housing, more outer borough housing, more affordable housing. Now, we’re spending more money but getting less housing units.”

There’s even something now referred to as Billionaire’s Row in midtown.

“This apartment is over four thousand square feet,” Jeannie Woodbrey says casually, entering a half-floor apartment on the 58th floor of One57, a residential tower in Manhattan where she’s a senior sales executive. Central Park stretches out before the windows like a private runway.

“This one starts at 27, up to about 29, depending on the floor,” she explains, referring to the price tag (in millions).

All those millions buy three bedrooms, a big open living room, and a slew of amenities, including access to a pool which has music from Carnegie Hall piped in underwater.

“I describe this phenomenon as, 'We’re building the world’s most expensive bank safety deposit boxes,'” says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers. “Essentially, the consumer buys one of these units, puts their valuables in it and then rarely visits. And it’s not unique to New York. Miami is seeing this, San Francisco, Los Angeles.”

Miller says the uber wealthy, many of them foreign, are looking for a place to park their money — Many recent luxury sales have been all-cash deals.

High demand and high prices have encouraged developers to build lots of these super-lux buildings — perhaps too many.

“The Manhattan development market has a problem,” Miller says. “It’s facing too much supply with a steady demand. So when people say the market’s been softening, what they’re really saying is we’ve been building too much. The demand hasn’t really changed.”

He doesn’t believe it’s a bubble, but says the pace of sales is slowing and that may leave some planned projects on the drawing board. 

The euro drops to a nine-year low

Mon, 2015-01-05 01:30
$1.1918

The Euro fell to a nine-year low Monday morning, sinking to $1.1861 against the dollar before recovering to $1.1918. As the WSJ reports, the drop in value has a lot to do with Greek politics and expectations that the European Central Bank will amp up its stimulus program.

50 percent

Perspective employers were that much more likely to call back applicants with stereotypically white names than black names, even if their resumes were statistically identical. The author of that study, writing in the Upshot, cites other similar experiments and blames a subliminal, knee-jerk racial bias that contradicts conscious efforts to be more inclusive.

7 weeks

That's how long polar bear season lasts in Churchill, Manitoba. It's an important annual tourist attraction for the small town of 800 — many residents make a large portion of their income off of visitors coming to see the polar bears. But with global warming endangering the polar bear population, many Manitobans worry that their main source of revenue will disappear with the animals.

71 percent

The portion of New Years resolutions that are abandoned after two weeks, FiveThirtyEight reported. The site breaks down that sobering statistic for the most common resolutions.

$11 billion

That's how much was spent last year on residential construction in New York City, an amount which nearly returns to pre-recession highs when accounting for inflation. But that doesn't necessarily translate to cheaper housing, as a lot of that spending is going into lux apartment buildings meant for the super rich.

January 2000

The month AOL made its disastrous purchase of Time Warner, sealing its fate for good. Facebook is on a remarkably similar course as AOL, the Verge notes, in a tech landscape that looks remarkably similar to the 1990s.

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