This final note today, in which we finally find a Marketplace angle to the news out of Toronto and its crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford.
What was reported to be a crowd of hundreds of people lined up at Toronto's City Hall to buy Rob Ford bobblehead dolls.
$20 a piece for what are being called Robbie Bobbies.
Proceeds to the United Way.
One delicacy Washington usually shuns is good old humble pie. Even so, it seems like folks have been talking themselves hoarse with apologies lately. A lot of them are for, you guessed it, the botched rollout of Obamacare.
There was Medicare Chief Marilyn Tavenner: “I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius: “I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems.”
President Obama apologized that some people are facing insurance cancellations: “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”
Even CBS journalist Lara Logan issued a non-healthcare-related apology for 60 Minutes’ flawed Benghazi report.
But how much value do apologies actually have?
Davia Temin runs a marketing, crisis and reputation management firm for businesses. So she’s pretty good at spotting the faux-pology.
“That goes something like: ‘I’m so sorry you feel that way,’” she says.
Remember when the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch said he only markets to cool attractive people? Well, years later he is still regretting that his words were “interpreted in a manner that has caused offense.”
Temin says businesses also mess up apologies by going into denial.
“We really didn’t do that, did we? If we did do it, it really wasn’t that bad, was it?”
In medicine, more than 30 states now have laws that make it easier for doctors to say ‘I’m sorry,’ while making those apologies inadmissible in court. Some hospitals have reported that as transparency about medical errors goes up and safety improves, lawsuits go down.
Art Caplan directs the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He says research shows people are receptive to a doctor saying: ‘I’m sorry, my hand slipped.’
“That’s a terrible thing but it might be excused,” he says. “If you say, ‘I apologize, I came in drunk,’ apologies don’t get you very far.”
But presidential apologies are tricky. Political science professor Graham Dodds of Concordia University in Montreal points to what critics called Obama’s “apology tour” – the new president’s effort to mend fences in Europe and the Middle East.
“A lot of his critics, conservative critics especially, just thought this was terrible,” he says. “That the U.S. should never ever apologize. You know, you stand your ground, you never say sorry.”
And in fact, President Obama didn’t actually say ‘I’m sorry’ back then. It took the health care mess for him to do that now.
The death toll in the Philippines continues to climb. Officials in Tacloban say the death toll in just their city could be as high as 10,000. The head of the U.N.'s office of humanitarian relief has asked for $300 million as a way to get started with the relief effort.
Obviously there's a long way to go.
But the people there do have experience. About 20 typhoons a year hit the Philippines. On a list of countries likely to get smashed by natural disasters, the Philippines is way up there.
According to an ominous sounding index called the World Risk Report, the Philippines is the third most at-risk nation in the world, behind only the tiny island nations of Vanuatu and Tonga.
“It sits right in the typhoon belt and is also exposed to earthquakes as well,” says Michael Beck from the Nature Conservancy, which worked with aid groups and the U.N. University to produce the World Risk Report. He says the Philippines are vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise. And, it’s got a big and growing population, many of them poor. “This truly is a developing nation with a lot of vulnerable people.”
By some estimates, the regularity of disasters in the Philippines lowers the country’s GDP nearly one percent each year. This storm will likely take a greater toll. But, the economy has been growing fast and economists doubt the typhoon will slow it down all that much.
Raj Desai is a professor at Georgetown and fellow at the Brookings Institution. He says as the Philippines rebuilds, it’s got to think about the future “The best type of recovery occurs when the global foreign aid community is coordinating on, what is sometimes referred to, as ‘building back better,’” he says. Building back better means building with an eye to the long-term, “rebuilding through job creation, through restoring livelihoods and things like that.”
A single focus on infrastructure, says Desai, can keep a country vulnerable next time around.
Healthy eating and exercise are soooo last year. Today, First Lady Michele Obama touted a new goal: Higher education. At a speech at a high school in Washington, the First Lady stated her goals to increase the number of students who graduate from college. When the first lady picks an issue like this, it is "like a celebrity endorsement, it can draw public attention," says Karen Petrou, a Washingto- based economist and Managing Partner at Federal Financial Analytics. "And, because it is from the White House, it also tends to come with significant policy implications."
And those implications aren’t always positive. Remember the backlash when Hillary Clinton took on Healthcare reform? "There a view that first ladies should stick to ladylike issues," says Petrou. "Healthcare was a little too macho for the public taste at the time."
Michele Obama’s issues: exercise, healthy eating and now college education are all suitably… non macho…in addition to which the public loves this first lady. "We used to say around the White House, if you did something that was going to be really popular, 'Wow, you’re going to get Michele numbers with that,'" says Jared Bernstein, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former member of President Obama's economic team. Bernstein says in addition to being popular, Michele Obama is also a very persuasive spokesperson….and person. "I remember once I was in line at the White House mess and I was going to get a cookie, and she walks up and I decided to get an apple," he laughs. So just having her there makes a difference."
Still, that doesn’t mean more kids will go to college says Bernstein. Take the 'Just Say No' anti-drug movement backed by Nancy Reagan. It got a lot of press, but studies found that students who were exposed to 'Just Say No' were just as likely or even more likely to use drugs.
There are unofficial reports that 40,000-50,000 people have succeeded in purchasing an insurance plan through healthcare.gov, the home of the federal-run health exchanges. The original plan though was about 10 times that signed up by now, and ultimately 7 million.
If enrollment remains anemic, there will be plenty of pain to go around. The question is, who gets hurt the most?
“We have enough reserves for a year, year and a half, but 200 people in a year would be a problem,” saysPeter Beilenson, who runs Evergreen Health Co-op in Maryland.
Evergreen, which was created started to cash in on Obamacare, is the type of firm that could lose the most if enrollment remains flat. Since the exchanges went live in October, “We have seven people we’ve gotten on the exchanges,” Beilenson said. “At least we think we’ve got seven people.”
While Evergreen is closing in on contracts with some small businesses, Beilsen says he needs nearly 10,000 customers to stay in business.
It’s a different story for the big insurers.
They get most of their business from big employers, so they're not depending on customers brought in by Obamacare to insure their success. In addition, many of those new customers could have the types of illnesses that prevented them from being insured in the past, illness that can hit the bottom line.
But healthcare consultant Robert Laszewski says losing money isn’t the insurance industry’s top concern at the moment..
“If this doesn’t work then what’s the next chapter in America’s political debate over healthcare reform, and how will that impact them,” Laszewski says. “Do not underestimate how much the insurance industry wants Obamacare to work, so we can put this long term political soap opera about healthcare reform behind us and move on.”
Put another way, the unknown is a lot more terrifying than microscopic enrollment numbers at least in the first year of the ACA.
Harvard health economist David Cutler says if many uninsured Americans turn their backs on the exchanges, it will create high-risk pools with the sickest and most expensive patients.
“All high-risk pools that we have seen have become stunted. Enrollment is limited. Premiums are very high. Cost to the government becomes very high,” he says. And then the system collapses.
Cutler says if that happens, many of the 50 million Americans who are uninsured today will stay that way.
The U.S. power grid is a patchwork of networks, mostly built a long time ago. The aging grid's main protection against attack is that it's too sprawling and complicated to all go down at once.
The National Geographic Channel's "American Blackout" showed what the U.S. might look like if the grid went out for 10 days: Apocalypse, minus the zombies. No running water. No gas pumps, so no trucks. No trucks, so no food supply.
This week, thousands of people who operate the grid will run a simulation of a major attack on the nationwide system to test what would actually happen if the power grid collapsed.
Joshua Axelrod works at Ernst and Young. He advises companies on cyber-security for "critical infrastructure" - like the power grid. What does he think we'd miss if the grid went down? National defense.
"You take out a couple transformers. Can a military installation ... run for 18 to 24 months without an external electricity provider? Probably not," Axelrod says.
Axelrod spoke at a recent conference sponsored by the agency behind this week's drill, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, known as NERC. He titled his talk: "How the Grid Will Be Hacked."
"These systems were never really designed with security in mind," he says. "We're looking at an industry that uses technology that sometimes is upwards of 20 or 30 years old and still in place. It's just not built, inherently, for the world that we live in."
And that's just the computer side of things. In the spring, a man with a rifle damaged five transformers at a substation in California. Many installations are located in the middle of nowhere, unmanned.
"You can get to those locations, and you can cut a lock, jump a fence, break into a control-house door, and start manipulating systems," Axelrod says.
Axelrod says what keeps the grid safe from full-scale attack -- or, 'safe-ish' -- is mainly its size and complexity. Players with the capacity to knock it out and keep it out -- big countries like China -- don't have anything to gain. You'd need more of a James Bond super-villain type. And they haven't shown up. Yet.
So, NERC's two-day North American Grid Security Exercise 2013, known as Grid Ex, starts tomorrow. More than 2,000 workers from utility companies, regulators and law-enforcement from across North America will take part.
Ted Gutierrez runs cyber-security for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, NIPSCO. Two years ago, he took part in the first Grid Ex. "A few minutes into the exercise," he says, "you forget that it's an exercise."
Gutierrez works in the most generic environment imaginable: A concrete one-story office building, dated but clean, in a little campus behind a Home Depot. Across the parking lot, NIPSCO's control room is tucked into a similar building. Gutierrez goes in with his colleague Ed Gordon.
"This is the critical infrastructure protection perimeter, or barrier," Gordon says. It's a glass door.
Inside, it's a big room with dim lights and high ceilings. A 20-foot desk faces a wall of screens. One person sits at the desk, watching, clicking, answering radio calls. Another four or five people lean back at smaller desks or huddle quietly.
"Not super-exciting, and we like to keep it that way," Gutierrez says. But tomorrow, a few of these folks will get a great big jolt.
The scenario for this year's Grid Ex ups the ante from the first one in 2011. Brian Harrell, who runs Grid Ex, says 2011's exercise was just a cyber-attack. This time, expect stuff to blow up.
"We don't throw in the hurricane at the last second," Harrell says. "However, we are really trying to push ourselves to the limits."
But there is one element of a real, nationwide, long-term blackout that Grid Ex will not address: Telecommunications. In the world of the game, the internet and the phone system will keep working.
"It's very difficult to run an exercise without phone lines and email, I'll be honest with you," Harrell says. "That may be something we look at for next time."
If you don't have a credit card or a mortgage payment, it's tough to get a bank's attention when you're asking for a loan. It's a Catch-22.
How do you get credit if you don't have credit? Now Congress is considering a bill, called the Credit Access and Inclusion Act, that would make it easier for nontraditional borrowers to show they're worthy of the risk.
The idea is pretty simple. Not everyone owns a credit card or a house, so to help calculate a credit score why not use cell phone and utility payments? While you're at it, throw rent payments into the mix. "Not doing this is a real harm," says Michael Turner, who heads the Policy Economic Research Council.
PERC studies non-traditional methods of building credit and is a big supporter of the bill. Turner says it would give millions of minorities, college-aged kids and other low-income groups access to cheaper loans. "If you don't have a credit report or enough information in your credit report to generate a score, the default assumption is you're too high a risk and you're automatically rejected," he says.
PERC research shows that adding a utility would help 74 percent of "credit invisibles" get a credit score. Right now, Turner adds, many of these invisibles turn to high-cost payday loans to survive, or put off their dreams altogether.
Marco Meraz is the owner of Republica Empanada, a new restaurant in downtown Mesa, Ariz., and knows what it's like to be ignored by a bank. "This is our first venture into the restaurant industry so we're novice entrepreneurs," Meraz says.
On a recent Friday night, his staff was busy getting the getting the kitchen prepped for the dinner rush. "It definitely requires a lot of patience."
Meraz has long had dreams of opening this Latin restaurant, but with only a single credit card to his name and no experience running a business, the bank wouldn't give him a loan. "We had to find alternative means to finance this project," he says.
The alternative was a $20,000 line of credit obtained through a local neighborhood economic development group called NEDCO. Meraz finally started slinging empanadas this summer. But what if his credit report had included years of on-time cellphone and utility payments? Meraz says, "It would have allowed us to open our business a year-and-a-half sooner. That's a big difference."
Not everyone is sold on the promise of extending credit this way. Mike Sullivan, a credit expert at Take Charge America, says it will only complicate an already too complex system. "I think there's a lot of pitfalls along the way here," he says.
First of all, Sullivan says it's hard to predict if a customer will pay a credit card bill just because he pays his rent and water bill on time. Plus, Sullivan says credit reports are already full of mistakes, and disputing an inaccurate score is bureaucratic a nightmare. "So making it more complex isn't going to help that situation. It's going to probably hurt a few additional consumers because their credit isn't correct," he says.
Reporting rent and utility payments would still be voluntary under this bill, and credit agencies already do this on a limited basis. A spokesperson for Equifax, for instance, says the company already manages a database of 70 telecom, cable TV and utility companies.
"I don't necessarily believe it needs to be legislated," says Rene Castillo, who works at Salt River Project, a utility company that serves nearly a million people in the Metro Phoenix area. Castillo says her company reports severely delinquent accounts to collection agencies, but SRP won't punish customers every time a monthly payment is missed. "Power is something people need," she says. "There are things that happen in people's lives and we have programs and services that help them become current on their bill and not to have a problem."
And this is a point that opponents of the bill will make. In hard times, a few missed utility payments could bring down a credit score a lot faster than years of paying on time.
If there's a social network we think of when we think names like Lady Gaga, President Obama and even Jose Canseco ... it's Twitter.
The microblogging platform makes it easy for big names and celebrities to engage with others without getting stuck in an awkward conversation.
But now Facebook wants a piece of the action--and is building special tools to make it happen. We talk to Bloomberg News reporter Brian Womack, who looked at Facebook's new push.
Chinese leaders emerged from a four-day policy meeting today, and according to state media, leaders are announcing a shift toward a more market-based Chinese economy. China’s communist leaders said the government would allow the markets to play a "decisive" role in allocating resources in the world’s second-largest economy. For a country where local governments tend to micro-manage the allocation of resources from the central government, this shows China’s leadership wants the private sector to get a fair shake.
Also, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew heads to Asia and he plans to press China on the value of its currency. That's an effort that for years has gone nowhere. Undeterred by those long odds, Lew will also be working to convince U.S. trade partners in the region to reach agreement on an historic free trade deal by the end of this year. A proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, with twelve members along the Pacific Rim, make up almost 40 percent of the global economy.
And inside the hidden golf course economy.
Wow. Want to get folks talking about money? Throw in some religion.We recently asked some questions of Rabbi Dan Ain, of the 92nd St. Y, and Michelle Singletary, the “Color of Money” columnist for the Washington Post, including the big question: What place does faith have within finances? We were particularly interested in talking about how faith and religion plays out when it comes to debt.
Well, we got the message! Many of you were not at all pleased that we ended up talking about religion on a personal finance show.
Mark Fryer, from Springfield, Ore., wrote:
"If a person must give at the collection plate -- so be it. But intelligent investing for the future or money management has nothing to do with religion. Remember; religion is ‘belief’ -- money management has to do with analysis of facts and risks -- managing money has nothing to do with the hereafter.”
Bob Ellis of Billings, Mont., added:
"If you knew biblical history, you'd understand the folly of bringing religion to a financial program.”
And we got a lot more where those came from. So why would we bring these spiritual leaders on to discuss your money?
Because though you may not let your faith go near your money, millions of Americans regularly allow one to effect the other. It falls into the idea of ‘value’: How we spend our money reveals much about what we value in life. Our values also play a role in other financial decisions we make, such as taking on debt to go to college, or using a credit card to take a vacation you sorely need.
For many Americans of faith -- and particularly the thousands who flock to folks like Dave Ramsey, working directly with churches -- financial decisions and motivations revolve around spiritual beliefs. A fantastic (if door-stopping) recent book by anthropologist David Graeber called, “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” touches firmly on our long history of tying money and our financial practices to religion, all over the world.
This is why before I give one-on-one advice to someone about their money, I always make sure to ask: What’s important to you? Is it all about your kids going to the best school or that you get to retire early to do what you’ve always wanted to do? Is it about fulfillment or security? Or maybe, it’s about giving back.
To understand how and why people make the financial decisions they do, it's vital to get at what makes someone tick. Sometimes it's family, sometimes it's fear.
And sometimes -- many times -- it's about values and beliefs.
Even if you don’t practice a religion, what does your money and your decisions say about what you hold to be important?
As governments and charitable groups mobilize for typhoon disaster relief, the Philippines does have an important longer-term asset: The underlying strength of its economy.
Rebecca Jackson-Young is an analyst with the Asia team at the Economist Intelligence Unit, and she says the Philippines' economy was growing at an incredible fast pace of late.
"Even the most resilient of economies would struggle to cope with something of this magnitude ... The economy is doing pretty well. ... Of the Asian economies, it really is doing very, very well indeed. ... It's really the services, particularly the business processing, things like call centers, that's really well the growth has been. But also, of course, remittances from overseas workers."
Chinese leaders emerged from a four-day policy meeting today, and according to state media, leaders are announcing a shift toward a more market-based Chinese economy.
China’s communist leaders said the government would allow the markets to play a "decisive" role in allocating resources in the world’s second-largest economy. For a country where local governments tend to micro-manage the allocation of resources from the central government, this shows China’s leadership wants the private sector to get a fair shake.
And that gets at the heart of China’s economic problems: The state controls a lion’s share of the flow of money in China, and in the past twenty years, that capital has flowed mainly between the government and its own state-run companies, which have built roads, high-speed rail lines, and other infrastructure projects. All of this has spurred a steady rate of GDP growth.
Economists say China needs to change this formula for growth so that consumption is spurring the country’s economic growth, with the private sector taking the lead. So ceding control to the markets means a fairer playing field for private businesses in China as well as for – potentially – foreign businesses, including U.S. companies which are investing in China at an unprecedented rate.
The golf course business in the U.S. would nearly collapse without low-wage work, according to a new investigative series in Golf Digest.
The series documents how most of the maintenance work on golf courses across the country is now done by immigrants.
"Like most low-wage workplaces, there's a good number of undocumented immigrants," says Gabriel Thompson, a reporter for Golf Digest and author of "The Care Takers," a four-part series on Latinos and golf, which hit newstands today. "But there's also a number of Latino immigrants who are legal residents or U.S. citizens."
Golf courses are extremely labor intensive, nearly $6 out of every $10 goes to maintenance work on the course. That work employs 180,000 people in the U.S., including mechanics, irrigators, pesticide applicators, and landscapers.
These landscapers mow the fairways and rough, cut the greens, rake bunkers, change cups and make sure trees and flowers look pristine.
Despite how critical these landscapers and operators are, the job pays on average $10 to $11 per hour.
"Think about the ideal golf course worker: The ideal is to be invisible," says Thompson. "You arrive early and then once people show up, you are quiet, you are behind-the-scenes."
A few months ago, a big warehouse in New Jersey was destroyed by fire. It’s not the kind of story that normally makes national news, but it did.
That’s because the local fire chief partly blamed solar panels for the failure to contain the blaze. Four-alarm headlines followed: “Death Panels: Why Firefighters are Scared of Solar Rooftops.”
Matt Paiss, an 18-year veteran of the San Jose Fire Department in California, has made it his mission to make sure solar panels don’t become "death panels" for any firefighter. He trains firefighters around the country in solar safety and says many don’t understand how the technology works. Not that there aren’t dangers.
The panels can pose electrical shock and tripping hazards in certain cases, says Paiss. There’s also the question of the added weight they pose on a roof weakened by fire. With firefighters on the roof with all their tools and equipment, "we’re weakening the structure itself," says Paiss’ colleague, Captain Cleo Doss. "So then there’s the possibility of collapse."
Depending on their layout, solar panels can also prevent firefighters from doing a critical job when they arrive on the scene.
"One of the tactics that firefighters frequently perform when there’s a fire in the building is cutting a hole in the roof to let out the hottest gases and smoke," says Paiss. He says if a rooftop has too many panels, it can complicate or prevent a firefighter from cutting the proper ventilation holes in the roof. "There are some buildings that probably have more solar than they should."
Ken Johnson at the Solar Energy Industries Association says his group is working more closely with fire departments to make sure they don’t reflexively fear firefighting at solar-powered buildings.
"There are improvements that are going to be made in solar technology that will make it easier for firefighters to fight fires in the future," says Johnson. "but firefighters also need to have a basic understanding of how solar works."
In the meantime, there’s always negotiation.
Officials in Boulder, Colo., were all set to adopt the 2012 International Fire Code, one of several fire codes municipalities can choose to follow. When the state’s solar industry ran the numbers, it told city officials the stricter rules would cut its sales in half. They struck a compromise.
With images of the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan pouring in from the Philippines, where up to 10,000 are feared dead, rescue and recovery organizations from around the world are mobilizing to deliver aid. While much of the country waits for power, food, and water, here are some organizations that get good marks from groups that review these sorts of things:
GlobalGiving: This organization is focusing on delivering or securing food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter for survivors. GlobalGiving also promises a transparent process with updates on how donations are used and when aid is received.
Mercy Corps: Volunteers from Mercy Corps are deploying to the region to deliver basic supplies like food and water. This organization also has a good track record for transparency and efficient use of donations. To donate by phone, call: 1-888-747-7440.
UNICEF: UNICEF's aid focuses primarily on helping children. The organization is focused on delivering essential medicines, food, safe water and hygiene supplies to children and families in the area. You can donate online, call 1-800-367-5437 or text RELIEF to 864233.
The Phillipine Red Cross: The Phillipine chapter of the Red Cross is providing meals and relief items, as well as tracking services for people looking for missing family members. Local Red Cross chapters are also accepting donations.
The World Food Programme: The World Food Programme focuses on delivering food aid to children and families. Text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10 or call 1-202-747-0722.
Convoy of Hope: This organization has already distributed aid like food, water-purification kits, and clothing in hard-hit areas like Cebu and promises more is on the way. Convoy of Hope regularly posts updates on families and individuals that they help.
Doctors Without Borders: The well-known organization has already mobilized its doctors in the country and promises more aid including medical and psychological treatment.
You should also check with your favorite local charity to see if they are coordinating relief efforts.
Also check out Charity Navigator's top relief organizations for a more comprehensive list of charities.
In an ongoing effort to improve the quality of comments on the company's video site YouTube and to "encourage" people to sign up for it's social network Google+, the company has linked the two. As Google rolled out a new commenting policy this week, that forces users to be signed up for Google+ in order to post comments on YouTube videos.
That has not made the Internet very happy. In fact, nearly 100,000 people have signed a change.org petition for YouTube to repeal its new policy.
At the same time, many observers say YouTube comments needed to be overhauled.
"YouTube comments are notorious for being awful: Lewd, sexist, angry, spam," says Lindsay Turrentine, the editor-in-chief of reviews at CNET. "It's a problem that Google presumably wants to solve."
Other sites have changed their commenting policies recently, including ESPN, which has shifted their commenting system to Facebook. The magazine Popular Science did away with commenting on articles altogether.
"I still applaud what YouTube is trying to do here," writes Mashable's Chris Taylor in an op-ed titled, "Did YouTube Just Kill Its Comments — or Save Them?" "It wasn't something that could be solved with a few tweaks here or there. The entire culture of anonymous commenting on videos needed to go."
YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim had only posted one thing ever to YouTube (the very first video ever, in fact), until he posted a NSFW comment expressing unhappiness with the new rules.
"I believe resistance is completely futile," says CNET's Turrentine. "Here's the thing: You can't escape Google."
The country’s top financial official has his work cut out for him in Asia this week. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew heads to Asia and he plans to press China on the value of its currency.
That's an effort that for years has gone nowhere. Undeterred by those long odds, Lew will also be working to convince U.S. trade partners in the region to reach agreement on an historic free trade deal by the end of this year. A proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, with twelve members along the Pacific Rim, make up almost 40 percent of the global economy.
The U.S., Japan, Malaysia and others have been trying to close the free trade deal for three years.
"It requires political compromise," says Robert Lawrence, Professor of International Trade and Finance at Harvard. "Generally in these cases people don’t do that until they have no other choices. People [of], you know, the Treasury Secretary’s stature are going to be what it takes to make these compromises politically feasible."
The would-be members have given themselves a deadline of six more weeks to reach consensus. And that leaves some with questions about its fate.
"We have a Congress that has not acted on a Farm Bill and we have a number of restrictions other countries want to see lifted," says Jeff Schott, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "Everyone has something they're going to have to put into the pot."
It's a road trip for India's oil and gas businesses this week. The government is touring the globe in an effort to convince investors to buy into the country's oil and coal companies. The only catch is that those oil and gas companies are majority-owned by the government.
The government is looking to raise money to deal with immediate budget shortfalls.
India has a growing consumer market and middle class, so it’s been a target for foreign investors over the past decade or more. But so far, efforts to open key sectors to foreign investment have been slow to be implemented, especially in politically-sensitive areas of the economy.
Now, according to Reuters, the Indian government is mounting a road show in the U.S., Europe and Asia, to promote sales in the energy sector before the end of 2013.
India’s state-owned oil company loses money selling transportation and cooking fuels to the public at below-market prices set by the government. Plus, India’s energy industry — especially those enterprises owned by the government — are tainted by corruption.
Still, India hopes to raise as much as $2.3 billion dollars from investors in other countries.
"The Indian government needs to raise funds quickly," says Moyara Ruehsen, with the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "And they're worried about having their credit rating downgraded."
India's growth has slowed in recent years, and direct foreign investment could help boost growth.
"There are about 10 to 12 million people every year coming into the [Indian] workforce," says Alyssa Ayres, a former State Department official working on South Asia, who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations. "So India needs to be generating enough job growth to accommodate people. And the other issue is very large-scale needs for infrastructure development."
Ayres says the rule of law is strong in India, although the legal process can sometimes be long and drawn out. Ruehsen says foreign investors need to keep an eye on issues like corruption in state-controlled enterprises, as well as nationalist political opposition to further opening the economy to foreign ownership and competition.
Now three days since one of the most powerful storms in history slammed into the Philippines, the death toll continues to rise. Food and water are scarce and some people who lost their homes are trying desperately to get out while others have stayed and are beginning the grueling process of cleaning up and rebuilding.
The BBC's Alastair Leithead traveled to Cebu, one of the hardest hit areas of the islands near Tacloban, where we've seen most of the images of destruction.
"It looks like this area has been very badly hit," says Leithead, who mentions that official damage estimates haven't yet accounted for the entire region.
"There's the orange glow of a few fires outside homes, and a few pieces of blue light you get from the flourescent tubes that people are running off generators," Leithead says after arriving at night at the edge of a destroyed area, "It's very eerie."
Leithead says power is still down for much of the island and large areas that used to be towns are now completetly flattened, but clean up has already started, with people clearing debris into piles on the side of the road. For those who've stayed behind, though, it's just the beginning.
"It's such a huge task, even with all the aid that's coming in," says Leithead, "Just cooordinating it -- finding the people who need it most, getting the help to them -- and we still have no idea at this point as to how many people have died, how many people are injured, how many people still desperately need help from the authorities."
And this final note on supply and demand: Of Knishes.
The jewish doughy snack food generally filled with potatoes and other yummy things. It turns out that a fire at the country's largest knish-maker has created a nationwide shortage. Gabila's Knishes in Long Island usually sells about 15 million knishes a year.
The fire has meant a shortfall of knishes at supermarkets, stores and delis. Gabila's promises that they will soon replenish the knish supply.
Just in time for the start of Hanukkah.