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Obama's VA pick resigned under pressure from P&G

Mon, 2014-06-30 01:00

President Barack Obama is expected to nominate the former head of Procter & Gamble as secretary of Veterans Affairs, following Eric Shinseki’s resignation last month. A West Point graduate, Robert McDonald spent 33 years with the company that sells Crest toothpaste, Duracell batteries, and Charmin toilet paper

After his time in the army, McDonald spent his entire career at Procter & Gamble, where he oversaw 120,000 employees.

His four years running the company were difficult ones. When McDonald took over in 2009, P&G was deep into a strategy that emphasized charging premium prices for brand name products —  a strategy that became less effective after the financial crash of 2008. McDonald’s retirement from P&G last year was under pressure.

The new assignment could bring new challenges. Even though Procter & Gamble is the world’s biggest consumer-products company, it’s actually smaller than the VA. The company reports sales of $84 billion — a bit more than half of the VA’s $154 billion budget. The VA also has more than twice as many employees as P&G.

Transgender female workers face added discrimination

Mon, 2014-06-30 01:00

For transgender people, work isn’t always an easy place to be – They often face discrimination, and are twice as likely to be unemployed as the rest of the population. Many who do work are under-employed. But transgender experiences at the office can tell us a lot about the status of men and women at work.

Sociologist Kristen Schilt has spent years talking to transgender men and women about their work lives. One guy she interviewed is named Thomas. He’s a lawyer. He’d begun working at his law firm as Susan. Everyone in his firm knew about his transition, but clients and others outside the firm were told Susan had been let go.

Schilt says some time after his transition, his boss told Thomas that a lawyer at another firm said, “He was so glad they had fired Susan, who he had found to be very incompetent, but that he really loved this new guy, Thomas.”

That lawyer had no idea Thomas and Susan were the same person. But they were the same person, with the exact same abilities – Thomas just looked like a man.

Schilt says two-thirds of the transgender men she interviewed found workplace life easier once they left their female days behind. They’d say things like, “I don’t have to back up the claims I’m making. People listen to me more.” They reported having more authority than they’d ever had in their old work lives.

Chris Edwards has experienced that first hand. He’s a transgender man who works in advertising. He now perceives his workplace differently, too.

“As a creative director, and as a male creative director, I started to notice differences with the way women were treated,” he says. “But when I was a woman I didn’t really notice.”

Now he’s quite conscious of the pay gap at his firm. And he says it’s always a woman who’s expected to take the notes in meetings – no matter how senior she is.

Lisa Scheps knows all about that difference in status. When she was living publicly as a man, Scheps ran a business with three male partners. At 40, she told them she was going to start living openly as a female. She wasn’t prepared for their responses.

“One person said to me, ‘How do you expect to deal with business when all you’re going to be thinking about is nail polish?’,” says Scheps.

Her partners pushed her out of the company. Scheps has been an entrepreneur all her life. She thought she’d just start something else as a female business owner.

“My 40 years as man in the business world, I did not know failure,” she says. “Success came very easily to me.”

Not any more. Scheps, who is the co-founder of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, says administrative work is pretty much all she’s been able to find. Her income has fallen dramatically. 

“It’s a very different world that I have discovered for women in the United States versus men in the Unites States,” she says. “It’s just that much harder, you just have to be that much better.”

Like everyone else who’s underemployed, Scheps says she just wants a job that matches her experience.

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast on women and the workplace called The Broad Experience.

Are European banks feeling more heat than U.S. ones?

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:26

According to the New York Times and other reports, next week the European bank BNP Paribas will pay almost $9 billion in penalties to U.S. regulators and plead guilty to criminal charges. That follows other recent actions against bankers at Credit Suisse. But why are actions like these seemingly so infrequent?

"It's not that the regulators are only focusing on the European banks. I think you could make the a strong case that the penalties that they're seeking are may be a little bit disproportionate to the crimes, at least if you compare them to how much as a share of profits the American banks are having to pay," says Cardiff Garcia with the blog FT Alphaville. "But I don't think it's that the regulators are singling out the Europeans. I think this is more just that the regulators sense a few issues where they can take some scalps and so they're going for it."

"It's kind of the shareholders, in many cases, that have been held to account and not so much the actual people who are making the bad-guy decisions," adds Catherine Rampell, a columnist and blogger for the Washington Post. "And I think that has a lot of people very angry and understandably so."

Bank penalties weren't the only thing being discussed on Wall Street this week, even though the business world slowed down as we approach the July 4 holiday. A terrible GDP report out this week had many wondering about economic growth in the U.S., especially earlier this year.

"Certainly things looked a lot worse in the end than they started in the beginning," says Rampell. "It could turn out that the quarter was better actually than we thought.... and there are a lot of other data points in the U.S. economy that demonstrate that actually we're doing better than the GDP number, at face value, suggests."

And what about all the American attention paid to the 2014 World Cup and the U.S. men's national soccer team?

" We're all just exciteable enough to get into it while the U.S. is winning, and yet the minute we lose or we get knocked out," Garcia says, "we'll just say, oh well, whatever, it's just soccer anyways."

Are European banks feeling more heat than U.S. ones?

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:26

According to the New York Times and other reports, next week the European bank BNP Paribas will pay almost $9 billion in penalties to U.S. regulators and plead guilty to criminal charges. That follows other recent actions against bankers at Credit Suisse. But why are actions like these seemingly so infrequent?

"It's not that the regulators are only focusing on the European banks. I think you could make the a strong case that the penalties that they're seeking are may be a little bit disproportionate to the crimes, at least if you compare them to how much as a share of profits the American banks are having to pay," says Cardiff Garcia with the blog FT Alphaville. "But I don't think it's that the regulators are singling out the Europeans. I think this is more just that the regulators sense a few issues where they can take some scalps and so they're going for it."

"It's kind of the shareholders, in many cases, that have been held to account and not so much the actual people who are making the bad-guy decisions," adds Catherine Rampell, a columnist and blogger for the Washington Post. "And I think that has a lot of people very angry and understandably so."

Bank penalties weren't the only thing being discussed on Wall Street this week, even though the business world slowed down as we approach the July 4 holiday. A terrible GDP report out this week had many wondering about economic growth in the U.S., especially earlier this year.

"Certainly things looked a lot worse in the end than they started in the beginning," says Rampell. "It could turn out that the quarter was better actually than we thought.... and there are a lot of other data points in the U.S. economy that demonstrate that actually we're doing better than the GDP number, at face value, suggests."

And what about all the American attention paid to the 2014 World Cup and the U.S. men's national soccer team?

" We're all just exciteable enough to get into it while the U.S. is winning, and yet the minute we lose or we get knocked out," Garcia says, "we'll just say, oh well, whatever, it's just soccer anyways."

'TV Everywhere' is sometimes TV nowhere

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:26

At its peak during Thursday’s US-Germany World Cup game, ESPN was serving up a record 1.7 million streams of its channel over the internet. It was not without hiccups. 

A number of users had issues logging into the service. 

When I tried today — not a peak time for viewership — I, too, got an “authentication error” on my first attempt. 

All this logging in to prove we pay for cable is part of something the industry calls “TV Everywhere." It’s used by HBO GO, CNN, and others. 

It’s designed to give consumers what we want — the ability to watch live TV on computers, tablets, and smartphones — but also keeps us paying the cable company. 

But it’s rarely an easy experience.  

“it’s a huge issue,” says Daniel Frankel, editor of Fierce Cable, and online trade publication. “The problem is that it’s just not fully baked yet. It’s such a hugely complex initiative involving so many rights deals and so many technology deals, it’s bound to not work seamlessly for the consumer.” 

It’s a far cry from services like Netflix, Hulu, even the now illegal Aereo that all let you log in once and keep using the service. 

“The key to TV Everywhere’s future is removing authentication altogether,” says Michael Greeson, President of The Diffusion Group, which consults for the industry.  

TV Everywhere has been slow to catch on. After five years, most cable subscribers don’t know it exists. And, he says the industry has been so afraid of people stealing its content that it’s made it too hard to use. 

Similarly, the music industry initially put far more restrictions on downloads than it does today. Many predict the cable industry will relax its rules. 

ESPN says its working with cable companies to simplify things. Its own president, earlier this year, called today’s TV Everywhere setup, “clunky.”

'TV Everywhere' is sometimes TV nowhere

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:26

At its peak during Thursday’s US-Germany World Cup game, ESPN was serving up a record 1.7 million streams of its channel over the internet. It was not without hiccups. 

A number of users had issues logging into the service. 

When I tried today — not a peak time for viewership — I, too, got an “authentication error” on my first attempt. 

All this logging in to prove we pay for cable is part of something the industry calls “TV Everywhere." It’s used by HBO GO, CNN, and others. 

It’s designed to give consumers what we want — the ability to watch live TV on computers, tablets, and smartphones — but also keeps us paying the cable company. 

But it’s rarely an easy experience.  

“it’s a huge issue,” says Daniel Frankel, editor of Fierce Cable, and online trade publication. “The problem is that it’s just not fully baked yet. It’s such a hugely complex initiative involving so many rights deals and so many technology deals, it’s bound to not work seamlessly for the consumer.” 

It’s a far cry from services like Netflix, Hulu, even the now illegal Aereo that all let you log in once and keep using the service. 

“The key to TV Everywhere’s future is removing authentication altogether,” says Michael Greeson, President of The Diffusion Group, which consults for the industry.  

TV Everywhere has been slow to catch on. After five years, most cable subscribers don’t know it exists. And, he says the industry has been so afraid of people stealing its content that it’s made it too hard to use. 

Similarly, the music industry initially put far more restrictions on downloads than it does today. Many predict the cable industry will relax its rules. 

ESPN says its working with cable companies to simplify things. Its own president, earlier this year, called today’s TV Everywhere setup, “clunky.”

Ukraine signs historic deal with the EU

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:19

A HIGHLY SYMBOLIC AGREEMENT...

It was last November that Ukraine’s then president Viktor Yanukovych sparked what would become an international crisis when he pulled out of a trade deal with Europe. Seven months, one toppled presidency, and a Russian invasion later, that trade agreement has been signed.  

Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the EU signed the deal today.

For many Ukrainians, such as Yulia Drozd, this was a potent confirmation of their European identity and destiny. 

“This is just a sign that the USSR period came to an end in Ukraine and this is a point of no return, you know, this is a joy, just a complete joy,” says Drozd, speaking from a café near Kiev’s main square.

While Drozd believes the accord will lead to economic improvement, “not really many people understand association with the EU from the economic point of view.”

..WITH SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS

But there are far reaching changes now set in motion as European tariffs on 98 percent of Ukrainian goods go down.   

“The calculations are that this would increase Ukraine’s exports altogether by 50 percent over five years or so and increase gross domestic product in the same period by 12 percent,” according to Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

He says the most obvious industry to benefit will be agriculture , which constitutes a third of Ukrainian exports already. The agreement is gradual in its exposure of Ukraine’s agricultural sector to foreign competition. Manufacturing investment from Europe and the U.S. for the purposes of exporting to Europe are also possible.

There are sectors that appear likely to suffer moving forward. “The less modern sectors,” says Åslund, among them steel and heavy machinery. These industries are centered in the Russia-leaning east of the country, and were focused on export to Russia. They have been the target of Russian import restrictions since the crisis began.    

A FOCUS ON GOVERNMENT REFORM AND ANTI-CORRUPTION

The European association agreement also contains a list of reforms that Ukraine must undertake to fight endemic corruption and raise standards. “There are literally hundreds of laws that Ukraine has committed itself to adopt,” says Åslund. “And this means that the whole state apparatus in Ukraine which is in very bad shape, will be reformed using technical assistance from the European Union.”

“To give you an example, sixty state agencies of EU countries have made  contracts with corresponding state agencies in Ukraine that these EU agencies will reform these Ukrainian state agencies.”

Alexander Kliment, director of Russia research at Eurasia Group, says these things will lay a foundation for future growth. “The reforms involved in making the Ukrainian economy more efficient and less corrupt are by themselves big advantages.”

COSTS

“The gamble is that over the longer term meeting higher standards, European standards, will open larger markets and create more economic growth, but in the short term there are costs,” says Kliment.

As Ukraine brings regulatory codes ranging from phytosanitary requirements to standards for agricultural products and foodstuffs into harmony with European codes, Ukrainian businesses will have to adapt. “Ukrainian companies are used to meeting one set of standards in Ukraine will now have to invest to meet another set of higher standards,” and this will require investment.

Russia, fearful that its normally open borders with Ukraine would be flooded with European goods, has restricted many goods from crossing its borders since the current crisis began. 

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

The time frame along which the economic effects of the agreement unfold presents one of the greatest challenges to it. Ukrainian politicians, says Kliment, will have a difficult task of managing people's high expectations. “The benefits of this agreement are over the medium to long term, and people’s frustrations with agreements of this kind can come in the immediate to short term.”

Ukraine signs historic deal with the EU

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:19

A HIGHLY SYMBOLIC AGREEMENT...

It was last November that Ukraine’s then president Viktor Yanukovych sparked what would become an international crisis when he pulled out of a trade deal with Europe. Seven months, one toppled presidency, and a Russian invasion later, that trade agreement has been signed.  

Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the EU signed the deal today.

For many Ukrainians, such as Yulia Drozd, this was a potent confirmation of their European identity and destiny. 

“This is just a sign that the USSR period came to an end in Ukraine and this is a point of no return, you know, this is a joy, just a complete joy,” says Drozd, speaking from a café near Kiev’s main square.

While Drozd believes the accord will lead to economic improvement, “not really many people understand association with the EU from the economic point of view.”

..WITH SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS

But there are far reaching changes now set in motion as European tariffs on 98 percent of Ukrainian goods go down.   

“The calculations are that this would increase Ukraine’s exports altogether by 50 percent over five years or so and increase gross domestic product in the same period by 12 percent,” according to Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

He says the most obvious industry to benefit will be agriculture , which constitutes a third of Ukrainian exports already. The agreement is gradual in its exposure of Ukraine’s agricultural sector to foreign competition. Manufacturing investment from Europe and the U.S. for the purposes of exporting to Europe are also possible.

There are sectors that appear likely to suffer moving forward. “The less modern sectors,” says Åslund, among them steel and heavy machinery. These industries are centered in the Russia-leaning east of the country, and were focused on export to Russia. They have been the target of Russian import restrictions since the crisis began.    

A FOCUS ON GOVERNMENT REFORM AND ANTI-CORRUPTION

The European association agreement also contains a list of reforms that Ukraine must undertake to fight endemic corruption and raise standards. “There are literally hundreds of laws that Ukraine has committed itself to adopt,” says Åslund. “And this means that the whole state apparatus in Ukraine which is in very bad shape, will be reformed using technical assistance from the European Union.”

“To give you an example, sixty state agencies of EU countries have made  contracts with corresponding state agencies in Ukraine that these EU agencies will reform these Ukrainian state agencies.”

Alexander Kliment, director of Russia research at Eurasia Group, says these things will lay a foundation for future growth. “The reforms involved in making the Ukrainian economy more efficient and less corrupt are by themselves big advantages.”

COSTS

“The gamble is that over the longer term meeting higher standards, European standards, will open larger markets and create more economic growth, but in the short term there are costs,” says Kliment.

As Ukraine brings regulatory codes ranging from phytosanitary requirements to standards for agricultural products and foodstuffs into harmony with European codes, Ukrainian businesses will have to adapt. “Ukrainian companies are used to meeting one set of standards in Ukraine will now have to invest to meet another set of higher standards,” and this will require investment.

Russia, fearful that its normally open borders with Ukraine would be flooded with European goods, has restricted many goods from crossing its borders since the current crisis began. 

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

The time frame along which the economic effects of the agreement unfold presents one of the greatest challenges to it. Ukrainian politicians, says Kliment, will have a difficult task of managing people's high expectations. “The benefits of this agreement are over the medium to long term, and people’s frustrations with agreements of this kind can come in the immediate to short term.”

Trade deal aligns Ukraine with Europe

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:19

A HIGHLY SYMBOLIC AGREEMENT...

It was last November that Ukraine’s then president Viktor Yanukovych sparked what would become an international crisis when he pulled out of a trade deal with Europe. Seven months, one toppled presidency, and a Russian invasion later, that trade agreement has been signed.  

Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the EU signed the deal today.

For many Ukrainians, such as Yulia Drozd, this was a potent confirmation of their European identity and destiny. 

“This is just a sign that the USSR period came to an end in Ukraine and this is a point of no return, you know, this is a joy, just a complete joy,” says Drozd, speaking from a café near Kiev’s main square.

While Drozd believes the accord will lead to economic improvement, “not really many people understand association with the EU from the economic point of view.”

..WITH SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS

But there are far reaching changes now set in motion as European tariffs on 98 percent of Ukrainian goods go down.   

“The calculations are that this would increase Ukraine’s exports altogether by 50 percent over five years or so and increase gross domestic product in the same period by 12 percent,” according to Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

He says the most obvious industry to benefit will be agriculture , which constitutes a third of Ukrainian exports already. The agreement is gradual in its exposure of Ukraine’s agricultural sector to foreign competition. Manufacturing investment from Europe and the U.S. for the purposes of exporting to Europe are also possible.

There are sectors that appear likely to suffer moving forward. “The less modern sectors,” says Åslund, among them steel and heavy machinery. These industries are centered in the Russia-leaning east of the country, and were focused on export to Russia. They have been the target of Russian import restrictions since the crisis began.    

A FOCUS ON GOVERNMENT REFORM AND ANTI-CORRUPTION

The European association agreement also contains a list of reforms that Ukraine must undertake to fight endemic corruption and raise standards. “There are literally hundreds of laws that Ukraine has committed itself to adopt,” says Åslund. “And this means that the whole state apparatus in Ukraine which is in very bad shape, will be reformed using technical assistance from the European Union.”

“To give you an example, sixty state agencies of EU countries have made  contracts with corresponding state agencies in Ukraine that these EU agencies will reform these Ukrainian state agencies.”

Alexander Kliment, director of Russia research at Eurasia Group, says these things will lay a foundation for future growth. “The reforms involved in making the Ukrainian economy more efficient and less corrupt are by themselves big advantages.”

COSTS

“The gamble is that over the longer term meeting higher standards, European standards, will open larger markets and create more economic growth, but in the short term there are costs,” says Kliment.

As Ukraine brings regulatory codes ranging from phytosanitary requirements to standards for agricultural products and foodstuffs into harmony with European codes, Ukrainian businesses will have to adapt. “Ukrainian companies are used to meeting one set of standards in Ukraine will now have to invest to meet another set of higher standards,” and this will require investment.

Russia, fearful that its normally open borders with Ukraine would be flooded with European goods, has restricted many goods from crossing its borders since the current crisis began. 

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

The time frame along which the economic effects of the agreement unfold presents one of the greatest challenges to it. Ukrainian politicians, says Kliment, will have a difficult task of managing people's high expectations. “The benefits of this agreement are over the medium to long term, and people’s frustrations with agreements of this kind can come in the immediate to short term.”

U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in paid leave

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:17

Today, the Obama administration hosted the White House Summit on Working Families. It rolled out some new policy proposals, and focused attention on maternity and paternity leave, where the U.S. is an outlier in global rankings.

There were panels and plenaries, on topics like caregiving and compensation. Victoria Budson runs the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University, and she says the U.S. has some dubious distinctions. For one, it is “the only industrialized nation in the world that has no mandatory paid leave.”

About ten percent of Americans in the private sector can get some paid leave when they have kids.

“You know, this is a real black eye for the United States,” says Pamela Stone, a sociologist at Hunter College. She says today’s summit was designed to get more Americans to take notice.

“Something like this is really important for raising the visibility of an issue, but also legitimating an issue,” Stone says. “Telling people out there, this is an issue for you.”

The president brought the legitimacy, but the White House must have figured some star power could boost the summit’s visibility -- or get more Americans to watch the event’s live stream. So, organizers invited actress Christina Hendricks to participate.

Hendricks said she was proud to be representing, as she put it, “a working woman in two decades” -- Hendricks, the actress, and the character she plays on “Mad Men.”

“One who is fighting in the past for equality and one who is very, very excited to finally see that dream realized,” she said.

The upshot of today’s summit, however, is that dream has not been fully realized. According to Linda Houser, a professor of social work at Widener University, these issues have become increasingly visible.

“I mean, there are very few people that, in the course of their lives, don’t either care for a child or an adult,” she says.

But despite that, policies haven’t kept up.

U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in paid leave

Fri, 2014-06-27 13:17

Today, the Obama administration hosted the White House Summit on Working Families. It rolled out some new policy proposals, and focused attention on maternity and paternity leave, where the U.S. is an outlier in global rankings.

There were panels and plenaries, on topics like caregiving and compensation. Victoria Budson runs the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University, and she says the U.S. has some dubious distinctions. For one, it is “the only industrialized nation in the world that has no mandatory paid leave.”

About ten percent of Americans in the private sector can get some paid leave when they have kids.

“You know, this is a real black eye for the United States,” says Pamela Stone, a sociologist at Hunter College. She says today’s summit was designed to get more Americans to take notice.

“Something like this is really important for raising the visibility of an issue, but also legitimating an issue,” Stone says. “Telling people out there, this is an issue for you.”

The president brought the legitimacy, but the White House must have figured some star power could boost the summit’s visibility -- or get more Americans to watch the event’s live stream. So, organizers invited actress Christina Hendricks to participate.

Hendricks said she was proud to be representing, as she put it, “a working woman in two decades” -- Hendricks, the actress, and the character she plays on “Mad Men.”

“One who is fighting in the past for equality and one who is very, very excited to finally see that dream realized,” she said.

The upshot of today’s summit, however, is that dream has not been fully realized. According to Linda Houser, a professor of social work at Widener University, these issues have become increasingly visible.

“I mean, there are very few people that, in the course of their lives, don’t either care for a child or an adult,” she says.

But despite that, policies haven’t kept up.

Quit your job! It proves the economy's getting better

Fri, 2014-06-27 12:49

At this stage in the recovery —f ive years after the U.S. officially emerged from recession, labor economists would like to see the “quits rate” rise. It’s a measure of the percentage of people voluntarily leaving their employment — rather than being laid off or having a contract end. Workers might leave a job if they’ve been recruited for another one, or even to look for another job without having one already lined up. Or, they might quit to go back to school, or retire, or take a break from work altogether.

“When the economy is strong, people are more likely to be able to quit the job they’re in,” says labor economist Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute, “to take another job that has better opportunities for wage growth and advancement, perhaps it better matches their skills and interests.”

Since plummeting at the start of the Great Recession, the quits rate has been gradually rising. But (at 1.8 percent in April 2014, the most recent month for Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting), the quits rate is still nearly 20 percent below its pre-recession level, says Shierholz, and nowhere near what would be expected in a robust economy with plenty of job opportunities.

And Dan Finnigan at Jobvite thinks that for a long time to come, most American workers are going to be hesitant to take the risk of quitting. “The last recession actually frightened the workforce,” says Finnigan. “And most companies now have a difficult time convincing prospective employees that they’re going to be able to stick with them for a long career.” 

Executive coach Jean Erickson Walker in Portland, Oregon, leads career-building sessions for middle-aged managers and she urges people to consider leaving a current job if it’s not satisfying, or not providing opportunities for advancement. She says many workers have felt stuck for years in bad jobs, too fearful of unemployment and financial hardship to move on. 

“There's a restlessness that people have identified in their lives,” says Erickson Walker. “It's —‘I want to do something new, I want relief.’ This not the time yet, but I think it will be in the months to come, when you should feel comfortable leaving to look for something else.”

Indeed, quitting a decent job in this economy — without something as good or better already lined up — might sounds crazy in this economy.

But it’s exactly what Jean MacDonald, 53, did last year. She left a very successful software firm, which she had helped grow over a decade, to found App Camp for Girls in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. And raised $100,000 through crowdfunding to get the nonprofit off the ground.

The impetus to start a free summer program to teach teenage girls how to code came at a developers conference she attended in her previous job.

“I looked around the room, and I didn’t see any other women,” says MacDonald. “At that moment it hit me: ‘This just does not make sense.’” 

App Camp for Girls lasts one week and enrolls up to a dozen girls per session. (See the girls pitching their Apps at the end of last summer's session in Portland here.)

Now in its second season, it's expanded to Seattle, and MacDonald is recruiting volunteers to launch the program to other cities around the country.

For MacDonald, it’s a 60-hour-per-week job, and unpaid — at least so far.

“I really had a burning desire to do this,” she says. “Maybe I’m a masochist but I thought: 'Wow, I get to try all these things that I don’t know how to do.'”

MacDonald says if she can’t make. App Camp for Girls a paying gig eventually, she’ll go back to high tech. She's confident about that, too — she says firms are always looking for experienced, talented workers.

Quit your job! It proves the economy's getting better

Fri, 2014-06-27 12:49

At this stage in the recovery —f ive years after the U.S. officially emerged from recession, labor economists would like to see the “quits rate” rise. It’s a measure of the percentage of people voluntarily leaving their employment — rather than being laid off or having a contract end. Workers might leave a job if they’ve been recruited for another one, or even to look for another job without having one already lined up. Or, they might quit to go back to school, or retire, or take a break from work altogether.

“When the economy is strong, people are more likely to be able to quit the job they’re in,” says labor economist Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute, “to take another job that has better opportunities for wage growth and advancement, perhaps it better matches their skills and interests.”

Since plummeting at the start of the Great Recession, the quits rate has been gradually rising. But (at 1.8 percent in April 2014, the most recent month for Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting), the quits rate is still nearly 20 percent below its pre-recession level, says Shierholz, and nowhere near what would be expected in a robust economy with plenty of job opportunities.

And Dan Finnigan at Jobvite thinks that for a long time to come, most American workers are going to be hesitant to take the risk of quitting. “The last recession actually frightened the workforce,” says Finnigan. “And most companies now have a difficult time convincing prospective employees that they’re going to be able to stick with them for a long career.” 

Executive coach Jean Erickson Walker in Portland, Oregon, leads career-building sessions for middle-aged managers and she urges people to consider leaving a current job if it’s not satisfying, or not providing opportunities for advancement. She says many workers have felt stuck for years in bad jobs, too fearful of unemployment and financial hardship to move on. 

“There's a restlessness that people have identified in their lives,” says Erickson Walker. “It's —‘I want to do something new, I want relief.’ This not the time yet, but I think it will be in the months to come, when you should feel comfortable leaving to look for something else.”

Indeed, quitting a decent job in this economy — without something as good or better already lined up — might sounds crazy in this economy.

But it’s exactly what Jean MacDonald, 53, did last year. She left a very successful software firm, which she had helped grow over a decade, to found App Camp for Girls in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. And raised $100,000 through crowdfunding to get the nonprofit off the ground.

The impetus to start a free summer program to teach teenage girls how to code came at a developers conference she attended in her previous job.

“I looked around the room, and I didn’t see any other women,” says MacDonald. “At that moment it hit me: ‘This just does not make sense.’” 

App Camp for Girls lasts one week and enrolls up to a dozen girls per session. (See the girls pitching their Apps at the end of last summer's session in Portland here.)

Now in its second season, it's expanded to Seattle, and MacDonald is recruiting volunteers to launch the program to other cities around the country.

For MacDonald, it’s a 60-hour-per-week job, and unpaid — at least so far.

“I really had a burning desire to do this,” she says. “Maybe I’m a masochist but I thought: 'Wow, I get to try all these things that I don’t know how to do.'”

MacDonald says if she can’t make. App Camp for Girls a paying gig eventually, she’ll go back to high tech. She's confident about that, too — she says firms are always looking for experienced, talented workers.

Dan Washburn's new book on golf course ban in China

Fri, 2014-06-27 12:30

China is in the middle of a golf boom. In the past few years, the country has had about 4oo new golf courses built... and most of them are deemed illegal by the Chinese government. 

In Dan Washburn's new book, "The Forbidden Game," he follows three people who are involved with the golf industry in China. The new trend is seen as a bizarre activity through the friends and family members of Zhou Xunshu, one of the main characters in the book. Xunshu is from a small and poor village in China and it was when he got a job as a security guard in one of the main providences when he was introduced to the game. The only problem was that he was the only one in his village who knew about golf according to Washburn.

“The rest of his family has no idea what golf is… doesn’t understand it, doesn’t really care. I mean, they all wanted him to be a police man. Nobody in the family has been a police man before... so when he comes back, even if he’s ranked in the top 20 in China in golf, to many he’s still the son that never became a police.” 

The game of golf is for the rich and elite of China. While not a lot of people play or can afford the sport, Washburn says the activity is growing in popularity. 

“You can still say that statistically zero percent of the population plays golf. But the thing about China – statistically zero percent of one point four billion could still be… you know, a decent number.” 

Yet in the midst of its popularity, the Chinese government has been cracking down on the rapid construction of golf courses across the nation. The majority of land used to build golf courses are meant for agricultural purposes. Yet even if China tried to remove these golf courses, there's too many developing to start. 

“China is where all of the new golf courses are getting built. Some say, ‘if you’re not working in China in this industry, you may not be working at all. “   

Dan Washburn's new book on golf course ban in China

Fri, 2014-06-27 12:30

China is in the middle of a golf boom. In the past few years, the country has had about 4oo new golf courses built... and most of them are deemed illegal by the Chinese government. 

In Dan Washburn's new book, "The Forbidden Game," he follows three people who are involved with the golf industry in China. The new trend is seen as a bizarre activity through the friends and family members of Zhou Xunshu, one of the main characters in the book. Xunshu is from a small and poor village in China and it was when he got a job as a security guard in one of the main providences when he was introduced to the game. The only problem was that he was the only one in his village who knew about golf according to Washburn.

“The rest of his family has no idea what golf is… doesn’t understand it, doesn’t really care. I mean, they all wanted him to be a police man. Nobody in the family has been a police man before... so when he comes back, even if he’s ranked in the top 20 in China in golf, to many he’s still the son that never became a police.” 

The game of golf is for the rich and elite of China. While not a lot of people play or can afford the sport, Washburn says the activity is growing in popularity. 

“You can still say that statistically zero percent of the population plays golf. But the thing about China – statistically zero percent of one point four billion could still be… you know, a decent number.” 

Yet in the midst of its popularity, the Chinese government has been cracking down on the rapid construction of golf courses across the nation. The majority of land used to build golf courses are meant for agricultural purposes. Yet even if China tried to remove these golf courses, there's too many developing to start. 

“China is where all of the new golf courses are getting built. Some say, ‘if you’re not working in China in this industry, you may not be working at all. “   

Hot dog, it's a holiday week

Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

From the Marketplace Datebook here's an extended look at events coming up the week of June 30:

What's happening in the housing market? On Monday the National Association of Realtors issues its monthly pending home sales index for May.

It's a holiday week for Congress leading up to Independence Day.

The National Organization for Women was established on June 30, 1966.

And remember Scarlett O'Hara's famous line? "After all...tomorrow is another day." We at Datebook headquarters love that sentiment. Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone with the Wind" was published on June 30, 1936 according to history.com. It won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reports on construction spending for May.

Wanna take a ride? Wednesday is World UFO Day. Maybe you'll get lucky.

On Thursday the Labor Department releases its June jobs report.

And crank the A/C. We enter the dog days of summer.

U.S. markets are closed on Friday for Independence Day.

Exercising your independence with trip? You have some solid company. According to AAA 41 million Americans are rocketing out of town for the holiday.

And finally, July is National Hot Dog Month. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Los Angeles beats all other cities for hot dog consumption. I am filled with pride.

Hot dog, it's a holiday week

Fri, 2014-06-27 12:07

From the Marketplace Datebook here's an extended look at events coming up the week of June 30:

What's happening in the housing market? On Monday the National Association of Realtors issues its monthly pending home sales index for May.

It's a holiday week for Congress leading up to Independence Day.

The National Organization for Women was established on June 30, 1966.

And remember Scarlett O'Hara's famous line? "After all...tomorrow is another day." We at Datebook headquarters love that sentiment. Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone with the Wind" was published on June 30, 1936 according to history.com. It won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reports on construction spending for May.

Wanna take a ride? Wednesday is World UFO Day. Maybe you'll get lucky.

On Thursday the Labor Department releases its June jobs report.

And crank the A/C. We enter the dog days of summer.

U.S. markets are closed on Friday for Independence Day.

Exercising your independence with trip? You have some solid company. According to AAA 41 million Americans are rocketing out of town for the holiday.

And finally, July is National Hot Dog Month. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Los Angeles beats all other cities for hot dog consumption. I am filled with pride.

Space tourism: Still for the future, New Mexico learns

Fri, 2014-06-27 11:27

Money's everywhere. And then sometimes… suddenly… it's not.

Down in the Southern New Mexico desert four years ago, there was a kind of birthday.

Richard Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, christened Virgin Galactic and promised tourists a two and a half hour flight to space for $250,000 per trip.

The operation set up shop outside Las Cruces at a place called Spaceport America.

Josh Wheeler wrote about it for Buzzfeed. "It rises up in the middle of the desert, almost from ground level, on the south side, then opens up with this giant three story glass wall with this giant runway, coming out of it on the other side. It's really sort of a beautiful building to find out in the middle of the desert."

Fred Martino, Director of Content at the public radio station KRWG in Las Cruces,  lives near the facility.

"When people heard about this idea, they really were excited about it. And not just from an economic development standpoint," Martino says. "The idea that they would live in the place where space travel would be possible, that was really an exciting idea. So was what the Spaceport could bring with it, in a state where 30 percent of children live in poverty. New Mexico would front the money for the Spaceport. And Virgin would pay rent, and bring big spending space tourists, money and jobs. Plus, a chance to be a part of something kind of magical."

Except, it hasn't happened yet. There have been no Virgin Galactic space flights in 2012. Or 2013. There were construction delays. Haggles with regulators. Insurance problems. Political fights .

"There was some concern at one point about Virgin Galactic's future in New Mexico," Martino says. "And it had to do with the legislation that was being proposed at the state level to give liability protection for the folks who do the launches, build the equipment for the spaceport. And the Spaceport came with a big price tag. More than $200 million… money from the state, the local counties, and their taxpayers. For now, the action at the Spaceport is mostly from Elon Musk's company Space X. And NASA."

Josh Wheeler rode the one bus on the one road that drives to it. "The couple times I visited nothing was happening out there."

Virgin Galactic has said it will stay at Spaceport America. But state officials are no longer counting on those space tourists to make the money back. "They were no longer going to get the economic development that comes from the being cradle of a nascent industry, they had to rely on the promise of a tourist boom," Wheeler says.

For now, those are the people New Mexico is relying on to recoup its money: what they call "terrestrial space tourists," who will ride a bus out to the desert to see the Spaceport, and never get off the ground.

"It's very ironic, that on the one hand you have people that can afford a $250,000 ticket going up into sub-orbital space, and getting those amazing views. And on the other hand, you'll have people that can't afford those tickets, who are expected to just come and watch those people who do have that money, go and have this potentially life changing experience," Wheeler says.

What happens next here? What Virgin Galactic does next will dictate that. Richard Branson told Fusion that he's "90 percent certain" they will launch this year.

We reached out to both Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America, but as of now, we haven't heard back.

Space tourism: Still for the future, New Mexico learns

Fri, 2014-06-27 11:27

Money's everywhere. And then sometimes… suddenly… it's not.

Down in the Southern New Mexico desert four years ago, there was a kind of birthday.

Richard Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, christened Virgin Galactic and promised tourists a two and a half hour flight to space for $250,000 per trip.

The operation set up shop outside Las Cruces at a place called Spaceport America.

Josh Wheeler wrote about it for Buzzfeed. "It rises up in the middle of the desert, almost from ground level, on the south side, then opens up with this giant three story glass wall with this giant runway, coming out of it on the other side. It's really sort of a beautiful building to find out in the middle of the desert."

Fred Martino, Director of Content at the public radio station KRWG in Las Cruces,  lives near the facility.

"When people heard about this idea, they really were excited about it. And not just from an economic development standpoint," Martino says. "The idea that they would live in the place where space travel would be possible, that was really an exciting idea. So was what the Spaceport could bring with it, in a state where 30 percent of children live in poverty. New Mexico would front the money for the Spaceport. And Virgin would pay rent, and bring big spending space tourists, money and jobs. Plus, a chance to be a part of something kind of magical."

Except, it hasn't happened yet. There have been no Virgin Galactic space flights in 2012. Or 2013. There were construction delays. Haggles with regulators. Insurance problems. Political fights .

"There was some concern at one point about Virgin Galactic's future in New Mexico," Martino says. "And it had to do with the legislation that was being proposed at the state level to give liability protection for the folks who do the launches, build the equipment for the spaceport. And the Spaceport came with a big price tag. More than $200 million… money from the state, the local counties, and their taxpayers. For now, the action at the Spaceport is mostly from Elon Musk's company Space X. And NASA."

Josh Wheeler rode the one bus on the one road that drives to it. "The couple times I visited nothing was happening out there."

Virgin Galactic has said it will stay at Spaceport America. But state officials are no longer counting on those space tourists to make the money back. "They were no longer going to get the economic development that comes from the being cradle of a nascent industry, they had to rely on the promise of a tourist boom," Wheeler says.

For now, those are the people New Mexico is relying on to recoup its money: what they call "terrestrial space tourists," who will ride a bus out to the desert to see the Spaceport, and never get off the ground.

"It's very ironic, that on the one hand you have people that can afford a $250,000 ticket going up into sub-orbital space, and getting those amazing views. And on the other hand, you'll have people that can't afford those tickets, who are expected to just come and watch those people who do have that money, go and have this potentially life changing experience," Wheeler says.

What happens next here? What Virgin Galactic does next will dictate that. Richard Branson told Fusion that he's "90 percent certain" they will launch this year.

We reached out to both Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America, but as of now, we haven't heard back.

Tech IRL: A second life for pay phones

Fri, 2014-06-27 11:21

Ever walk down the street and see a phone booth? Do you even notice it anymore?

There are some city planners and internet companies out there that do.

Cities in the United States and around the world are working on turning those neglected telephones into wi-fi hotspots. Among them: New York City.

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson joins Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary to explore tech in real life.

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