Marketplace - American Public Media

Subscribe to Marketplace - American Public Media feed
Updated: 44 min 51 sec ago

I'll take a burrito, hold the GMOs

Mon, 2015-04-27 01:58
2 days

That's how much time passed between Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election and GOP media consultant Rick Wilson's first professional conversation about the 2016 election. In the months leading up to contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, presidential hopefuls compete in "the invisible primary," trying to gather enough money and media attention to run a viable campaign. 

40 percent

As it stands, servicemembers who serve over 20 years in the military are entitled to 50 percent of their income at retirement. But a new proposal would reduce that number to 40 percent, while adding a 401(k) savings account. The change has brought up strong opinions on both sides of the argument, with some worrying that it will lessen the incentive to serve those 20 plus years. But others argue that the low percentage of servicemembers who currently make it to that landmark proves that the current deal isn't working either.

$25 million

That's how much Comcast spent on lobbying last year, trying to drum up support for its $45 billion merger with rival cable giant Time Warner. Comcast officially abandoned those plans Friday, amid regulatory scrutiny and consumer pushback. The NY Times looked into how such and elaborate and expensive lobbying apparatus could have failed to move lawmakers, when Comcast had been so convincing in their case to acquire NBCUniversal just a few years before. 

$2.4 million

That's how much someone made by buying up stock options in Altera, right as rumors were flying on social media that the company was about to be acquired by Intel. The deal moved faster than any human could have managed, and it wasn't a one-time thing. Slate explains how this is different from high frequency trading as we know it, and why traders are rattled. 

68 ingredients

That's how many total ingredients are used at Chipotle. And starting Monday, the fast food chain announced it will no longer use genetically engineered foods in any of its restaurants. As the NY Times notes, a similar chain to Chipotle uses 81 ingredients—less ingredients means its easier to make the switch. Among the biggest challenges: Chipotle used soy oil to fry its chips, and soy is largely genetically modified in the states. Opting instead for a slightly more expensive canola oil may show up in the price tag someday soon.

Weekly Wrap: Nasdaq, Greece and Comcast

Fri, 2015-04-24 13:23

Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news are Felix Salmon of Fusion and Jo Ling Kent of Fox Business News.

The big topics this week: Nasdaq's record high, Greece's meeting with eurozone finance ministers in Riga, Latvia and the collapse of the Time Warner Cable-Comcast merger.

Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.


How much paper would it take to print the Internet?

Fri, 2015-04-24 13:00

This story falls firmly in the categories of A: People having too much time on their hands and B: Stuff that's kind of interesting nonetheless.

Students at the University of Leicester over in the U.K. have figured out how much paper it would take to print the Internet. The whole Internet. 

They started by figuring out what it would take to print Wikipedia. Turns out? Almost 71 million pieces of paper. 

Then, using the generally accepted figure of 4.5 billion websites out there, and adjusting for font size, pictures and all that, they say it'd take 136 billion pieces of 8-by-11-inch paper to print the whole Internet.

Amazon's cloud services rain profits

Fri, 2015-04-24 13:00

Amazon released first-quarter earnings Thursday,  and made it clear that,  for now, it owns the cloud and it's raining profits.

Amazon Web Services, which offers data storage and other tech services,  took in revenues of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year.  Profits topped $265 million. 

“Yeah, I mean, [it's] really firing on all cylinders,” says Colin Sebastian, senior research analyst at Robert Baird. 

Amazon's success in the cloud can be credited to one very smart move, says Sebastion.  It got there first. 

“The reason they dominate is they created this market,” he says 

Amazon started as an online marketplace for everything. To be that marketplace, it had to build more and more servers. The company built  to peak capacity, which means often times it was left with more capacity than it needed. 

“They woke up one day and realized they could sell that same service to other companies.”

Amazon Web Service’s profit margin is 17 percent. The company's overall profit margin is 2 percent. "Think of it as accounting for a third of overall profits, a tremendous amount of operating income” says Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray.  

Cloud services are still a nascent industry. “There are literally tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars at stake,” says Sebastian.

And AWS is still seven times larger than Microsoft's cloud services — it's nearest competitor, says Munster.  But Google, IBM and HP are all racing to catch up by offering more than simple data storage, which has become a commodity. 

Munster says it’s going to be hard for competitors to gain market share. AWS already has more than a million customers including Netflix and NASA, “and now what we’re seeing now, is businesses are standardizing on Amazon Web Service, building applications that are optimized for AWS, that just creates more stickiness.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said web services could one day outsize Amazon’s retail business. That day  may not come soon enough. As it has done many times, the retail side posted a loss last quarter. 

The complicated formula — and incentives — behind CEO pay

Fri, 2015-04-24 12:45

Long ago, CEO pay came in the form of a CEO paycheck — and perhaps a bonus. 

Today, Aaron Boyd, director of governance research at executive compensation firm Equilar, says those cash payments are dwarfed by the roughly 65 percent of compensation for S&P 500 CEOs that comes in the form of stock.

Time-based Stock: Stocks that are awarded once you have worked at a company for a specific amount of time, such as 5 years. 

Performance Stock: Stocks that are awarded if the company meets certain metrics, like revenue goals or earnings per share.

Raghu Manavalan/Marketplace

The shift to stock was motivated in part by regulators' and shareholders' desire to make CEOs more accountable.

"The obvious thing to do for the CEO would be to just, you know, relax, definitely slack off on our dime," says Lalitha Naveen, associate professor of finance at the Fox School of Business at Temple University.

"If you want to prevent that then you want the CEO to think like a shareholder," Naveen says. 

Most of that stock compensation itself is now tied to some further performance metrics. But Kevin Murphy, professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business, thinks while the idea sounds good on paper, it's only created more ways to game the compensation system.

CinemaCon: Where Hollywood entices theater owners

Fri, 2015-04-24 11:15

The place for Hollywood insiders to be this week was not on the lot or a fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills. They weren't in California at all. Instead, all eyes were on Las Vegas.

The biggest stars, directors and studios crowded into a high-tech theater at Cesar's Palace, where they showed new trailers, behind-the-scenes footage and even some full-length films. Plus, the latest and greatest in sound and theater technology.

It's a confab you might not be familiar with, called CinemaCon. Unlike, say, Comic-Con, movie fans are not invited. Instead, theater owners from around the world come to see everything from the latest projectors, new food items to sell alongside the popcorn, and of course, the movies themselves. 

"In this day and age, a theater owner could watch a trailer back home. But this is a way to sort of make them feel special and give them attention," said Pamela McClintock, senior film writer for the Hollywood Reporter, who was in Las Vegas covering the event. 

That attention included big stars announcing big new projects. Vin Diesel paid homage to Paul Walker and announced that yes, there will be an eighth movie in the "Fast & Furious" franchise. Tom Cruise presented footage for the next "Mission: Impossible film." But that wasn't all. 

He "talked about doing the stunt where he's hanging off the side of the airplane, which you see in the trailer," McClintock said. "They showed unedited footage and you could see the rope where we was hanging... It really was him."



Your Wallet: Ceilings

Fri, 2015-04-24 11:05

Next week's show is about ceilings.

And we want to know: what are the ceilings you've bumped up against in your career?

Tell us what happened.

You can write to us here

Or on Marketplace's Facebook page.

Or on twitter ... We're at @MarketplaceWKND

The business behind the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight

Fri, 2015-04-24 09:45

Everyone who reserved a Las Vegas hotel room for a grand per night next weekend, you can breathe a little easier. The biggest boxing match in years is confirmed. A contract dispute between the two promoters meant tickets just went on sale yesterday for a fight that's years in the making and just a week away. That was a close one.

The pent-up demand for Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to get into the ring is totaling up to big bucks.

"Its guys that are five years past the moment when they should’ve been having this fight," says Kenneth Shropshire from the Wharton Sports Business Initiative. "It’s not the heavyweights. This is where people are excited to see someone that is closer in size to the average man."

Inside the not-so-invisible primary

Fri, 2015-04-24 09:02

Sure, it's April 2015, but the 2016 election is well underway. Just this week, the Koch brothers, the billionaire conservatives, signaled that they may put their money behind Governor Scott Walker. 

The time when candidates who may or may not run amass money and buzz is often called the "invisible primary," or the money primary. It is crucial to campaigns — it's the time when candidates gather funds and experts to back their campaigns. And, the invisible primary is getting longer.

Rick Wilson, a Republican media consultant based in Florida, says he hasn't signed on to any particular campaign — yet. But that's likely to change.

Wilson says he's been talking about the 2016 election on a professional level since two days after the 2012 election.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

The biggest, baddest black markets in the US

Fri, 2015-04-24 09:00

Landfills, Star Wars, abstinence and breakfast cereal — just a few of the numbers the website Statistic Brain tracks.

There's also a tally on the value of black markets. Overall, Statistic Brain says there is about $625 billion of illicit trade in the U.S. every year, and 1.8 billion jobs are created by the black market globally.

Product counterfeiting tops out as one of the most lucrative categories, at a U.S. market value of $225 billion.

CEO Seth Harden says some of these numbers can be hard to come by, but here's a quick snapshot of some value of goods for sale on the black market, according to Statistic Brain:

Average U.S. Street Value for Illicit Items Street Value AK-47 Price $400 Cocaine Price $174.2 per gram Ecstasy Price $35 per tablet Heroin Price $200 per gram Marijuana Price $20 – $1,800 per ounce Meth Price $3 – $500 per gram

 Listen to the full interview in the audio player above to hear more.

Life inside the cloister

Fri, 2015-04-24 09:00

In the hills of Hollywood, California, a cluster of uniform, nondescript white buildings with red-tiled roofs isn't eye-catching from the street, especially behind high cement walls. But this is home for Dominican nuns, cloistered inside this Catholic monastery.

Author Maura Weiler researched cloistered nuns for her new book "Contrition," a fictional tale about two sisters separated at birth — one, a talented artist, who is a cloistered nun with a vow of silence.

Inside the Hollywood monastery, Sister Mary Pia explains what life is like as a real cloistered nun at the Monastery of the Angels.

Listen to the full story using the audio player above.

From human trafficking victim to survivor

Fri, 2015-04-24 09:00

For several years, Rama was virtually invisible to the outside world.

In 2003, she was sold by her late husband's family in southern India to work for a doctor in California. She was effectively housebound, working without pay for more than three years, with no real idea where she was.

"Every day I would hear, 'You don't have papers, we could do anything to you,'" she says.

She was eventually able to escape, working a series of other jobs below minimum wage in other doctors' homes for a few more years.

In 2012, she got help from the South Asian Network, or SAN. That's when she was able to get her T Visa, for victims of trafficking.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above to hear Rama's story.

From human trafficking victim to survivor

Fri, 2015-04-24 09:00

For several years, Rama was virtually invisible to the outside world.

In 2003, she was sold by her late husband's family in southern India to work for a doctor in California. She was effectively housebound, working without pay for more than three years, with no real idea where she was.

"Every day I would hear, 'You don't have papers, we could do anything to you,'" she says.

She was eventually able to escape, working a series of other jobs below minimum wage in other doctors' homes for a few more years.

In 2012, she got help from the South Asian Network, or SAN. That's when she was able to get her T Visa, for victims of trafficking.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above to hear Rama's story.

Dynamic camouflage will let soldiers hide like a squid

Fri, 2015-04-24 08:56

Some of the newest technology and development in camouflage is inspired by a 60-million-year-old creature: squid.

In a lab at UC Irvine, chemical engineering professor Alon Gorodetsky and his team are making synthetic squid protein using bacteria. The lab is recreating a protein called Reflectin — it's what allows squid to change color and disappear into their surroundings by manipulating light — in the hopes that it could someday be used by the military as part of more effective camouflage.

Gorodetsky is working on taking the purified protein to coat tape, stickers and other materials in an effort to use the natural camouflage properties outside the ocean. His work is part of a larger movement towards dynamic camouflage — camouflage that responds to external stimuli and adapts. 

The early versions of Reflectin-coated stickers appear to change color and reflect light in unique ways. A piece of shiny, coated material that normally has a metallic blue color will appear red if placed on a red piece of paper. The coating can take on colors across the spectrum, and can even reflect back infrared light, which most things can't. 

The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have taken note of the animal-inspired research. Squid-protein coating could potentially help soldiers be less vulnerable to thermal or infrared detection, and could be used to create distinct tags or patterns so that team members could recognize one another in the dark, thus preventing friendly fire. 

The squid protein has multiple uses — Reflectin could also be used in clothing to help regulate body temperature to keep cool during a workout or to keep warm with a very thin jacket. That's what has the DOE and clothing company Under Armour so excited. Gorodetsky says the defense and energy applications for Reflectin complement each other.

"[They are] two sides of the same coin, whether you're working to control radiative emissions for energy applications or whether you're working to make it harder for someone to detect you, the technology will be quite similar," he says.

Gorodetsky says color-changing clothing could be on the way in the next decade, even further out to 30 or 40 years from now, camouflage could become even more adaptive.

"You could have a shirt that looks more like formal wear in one situation and then changes to look more like an informal T-shirt in another situation," he says.

Even though this type of research is in very early stages, Gorodetsky says the future of camouflage is dynamic.

"That's is really the exciting area to go into," he says. "Using natural systems and animals for inspiration, because the things that they can do in terms of camouflage are far beyond anything that we've been able to do artificially."

Nursing home care is changing, and it may save money

Fri, 2015-04-24 05:42

Thanks to advances in medicine, elderly patients now live much longer. But they’re also much sicker, and skilled nursing facilities are often ill-equipped to handle patients in need of such high levels of care.

“Once they are discharged from the hospital and go to either home or to a skilled nursing facility, that kind of level of attention that kind of level of monitoring, that kind of level of immediate remediation just isn’t possible,” says David Reuben, UCLA School of Medicine’s chief of geriatrics.

The result is that growing numbers of medically fragile patients are sent by ambulance to local emergency rooms—over and over again.

It’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of elderly patients discharged from the hospital find themselves back within a month, many of them arriving from nursing homes.

That’s frustrating for patients, and it’s expensive, says Brian White, President of Northwest Hospital in Baltimore. In an effort to reduce hospital readmissions White prompted his hospital to bring the doctors to the patients rather than the other way around.

“We’re looking at bringing those resources to the bedside, rather than putting the patient in an ambulance and bringing them to a facility that supposedly has those resources,” White says.

Dr. Raymond Miller works for a group of Maryland physicians called Post Acute Physician Partners – a group White helped launch in March of this year. On a recent day, Miller checked up on Dorothy Terkowitz, a patient at Levindale Geriatric Center in Baltimore, where she is recovering after a hospital stay.

As part of that outreach, Miller asks Terkowitz how she’s doing, if she is in any pain, if the rehab is helping.

Miller and his partners follow patients discharged from four Baltimore area hospitals to surrounding nursing facilities. They see patients like Terkowitz daily, with the goal of heading off problems before they become critical and land patients back in the hospital.

In a pilot project with a single nursing home over the last year, hospital readmissions were reduced by about half, says White. And while he says the cost of running the group just breaks even, it adds up to huge savings for the hospital.

"You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars for every patient you can impact – times lots of patients," says White

White hopes Baltimore will serve as a model for other hospitals to imitate. But not everyone is quite so certain that blurring the lines between hospital and nursing homes will be the panacea he hopes.

Mary Tinetti, chief of geriatrics at Yale New Haven Hospital and Medical School, worries that there are some patients who are simply too sick for nursing homes. They will always need the hospital she says, and reproducing the hospital setting in nursing homes to care for these patients is less efficient and potentially more costly. Instead, Tinetti argues the real problem is that patients often believe they are getting better, when they aren’t.

“I think having a more frank and open discussion with these patients might mean that the care that they would prefer would change from having these frequent hospitalizations to perhaps moving to palliative care or even hospice care sooner than currently,” Tinetti says.

Tinetti says the real measure of quality is whether a patient’s care meets their goals – and that’s much harder to quantify than the number of patients coming back to the hospital.

Cable giants call off merger

Fri, 2015-04-24 03:00

Cable giants Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable are ditching out of their planned merger amidst a heap of regulatory scrutiny.

Combined, Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have had about 30 percent of the pay TV market and more than 50 percent of the broadband market.

Regulators worried that would thwart competition and mean higher prices for consumers.

“All that scale would give Comcast enormous discretion over what reaches Americans, what Americans pay, information flows, customer service—really unlimited power,” says Susan Crawford is co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Crawford also says President Barack Obama's push to have broadband providers regulated like utilities signaled the government would step up its scrutiny.

But Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey thinks regulators are taking an overly narrow view. He doubts a Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would've kept other players out of the lucrative broadband market.

“Because broadband is going to generate billions of dollars of revenue and billions of dollars of profit in the next ten years, broadband competition is going to happen,” says McQuivey.

McQuivey says that means companies like Google, Amazon and even Facebook could eventually be motivated to enter the fray.





PODCAST: The merger that never was

Fri, 2015-04-24 03:00

The Comcast and Time Warner Cable deal is officially off. More on that. Plus, it's been two years since a terrible collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,100 workers. Among the findings was that workers there had recognized things were wrong with the building a day before the collapse, but factory owners demanded the workers go back in. There have been various moves to improve working conditions in the years since, and one of the key recommendations was to make it easier to set up unions in Bangladesh. Now, the questions remains: if they had been given a stronger voice, the workers might have been able to refuse to go back into the building.

Silicon Tally: A Whale of a Tail Emoji

Fri, 2015-04-24 03:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Fred Benenson, data lead at Kickstarter and the creator of an all-emoji translation of Moby Dick.

var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "", id: "silicon-tally-04-24", placeholder: "pd_1429884013" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'':'';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

Puerto Rico could run out of money in three months

Fri, 2015-04-24 02:00

Puerto Rico finance officials warn a government shutdown may be only months away. Puerto Rico is saddled with $70 billion in debt and has been unable to sell the billions in bonds it needs to avoid running out of money.

Heidie Calero, a business consultant there, says the question is whether Puerto Rico's lawmakers will overhaul the tax system.

"Right now we have so many suspense stories that it's really terrible," she says.

This crisis didn't happen overnight. Government spending has outpaced revenue for years. U.S. tax breaks made the island attractive for businesses, and Puerto Rico had itself a moment. Those tax credits ended, but spending went on.

"From investment grade that we were before, a very coveted financial paper, we are now the status of junk," Calero says.

Luiz Mesquita, a business professor at Arizona State, blames mismanagement. Take the troubled Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which is state run.

"And because of these mismanagements, you see the cost of energy for local businesses to go up significantly," he says.

And when it's expensive to do business in Puerto Rico, companies just don't see the appeal anymore.

Audio for this story is forthcoming.

What's in a $12 minimum wage?

Fri, 2015-04-24 02:00

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, is expected to introduce a new proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. 

Why $12? President Barack Obama used his 2013 State of the Union address to call for raising it from $7.25, its current rate, to $9 an hour. But in his 2014 address, he bumped that up to $10.10 an hour. "$10.10," the President said. "It's easy to remember $10.10."

In the meantime, a fast food workers' movement has been pushing for a $15 an hour wage, and Chicago and Seattle raised theirs to $13 and $15, respectively.

"The good news is ... we are going to learn more about how local labor markets adjust to higher minimum wages," says Arindrajit Dube, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

That's because Chicago and Seattle's hikes will be the highest ever in the U.S.

As for Senator Murray's $12 minimum wage bill: it would increase 75 cents to $8 in 2016, then a dollar more each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. 

Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution, says it's unlikely to pass in this congress, but "very large majorities of the public believe the minimum wage is too low and we would be better off if we raised it."