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Updated: 11 min 52 sec ago

How your car's computers can spy on you

Fri, 2014-11-14 11:00

A group of major car-makers has come out with a set of consumer privacy protection principles. In essence, they promise to place limits on the ways their cars will spy on us – and who will get the information the cars collect.

The document includes rules for geolocation (where you are), driver behavior (how fast you drive, whether you’re wearing a seat belt and your "braking habits") and personal information, including — this is right there in the document — biometrics. 

Of course, modern cars already collect plenty of data.

"Anyone who's taken their car to a dealer knows that there's a port the dealer plugs into, and it gives them all kinds of diagnostic information," says Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum, which has issued a white paper about privacy and connected cars.

"But that data used to be in your car. You went into the dealer— he had to plug in," Polonetsky says. "That wasn’t being sent anywhere."

Now that cars can connect directly to the Internet, there’s more data to float out there – and some of that data is already floating.

"You’re driving along and advertisements will come up for certain hotels that we use," says Lori Rectanus, author of a Government Accountability Office report on location-based services in cars

"We look at that and we go, ‘How did they know that?'" she says. "'How did they know we would be interested in that?’"

The GAO did not find GPS navigation companies selling consumer-location data to advertisers, according to Rectanus. But they could. Or they could get hacked.

The point is: They know where you are, and that's enough to raise concerns, says Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Lee Tien.

"Somebody might say, 'Wait a minute. I drove to my oncologist's. I drove to Planned Parenthood. I drove to this location at this time when there's an AA meeting,'" Tien says. "There's lots of things about location that people would rather, often, keep private."

What if the car has a video camera that could record what you — and your passenger — are doing and saying?  Think about who you tend to be in a car with: "Parents with children, co-workers, colleagues, friends, family," Tien says. "A lot of conversations, a lot of activity [take place] inside the car."

There’s also the question of how you drive: Should your car have the ability to issue you a speeding ticket?

The new privacy principles don’t impress Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who has pushed for federal legislation to protect privacy in cars. "The principles do not provide consumers with a choice, whether sensitive information is collected in the first place," he says.

After all, if you don’t want anyone to track you through your phone, you can always turn it off.

How your car's computers could expose you

Fri, 2014-11-14 11:00

A group of major car-makers has come out with a set of consumer privacy protection principles. In essence, they promise there will be limits to the ways their cars will spy on us and who will get the information the cars collect.

The document includes rules for geolocation (where you are), driver behavior (how fast you drive, whether you’re wearing a seat belt and your "braking habits") and personally-identifiable information, including — this is right there in the document — biometrics. 

Of course modern cars already collect lots of data.

"Anyone who's taken their car to a dealer knows that there's a port the dealer plugs into, and it gives them all kinds of diagnostic information," says Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum, which has issued a white paper about privacy and connected cars.

"But that data used to be in your car. You went into the dealer— he had to plug in," Polonetsky says. "That wasn’t being sent anywhere."

Now that cars can connect directly to the Internet, there’s more data to float out there.

Some of that data is already floating. "You’re driving along and advertisements will come up for certain hotels that we use," says  Lori Rectanus, author of a Government Accountability Office report on location-based services in cars

"We look at that and we go, ‘How did they know that?'" she says. "'How did they know we would be interested in that?’"

Rectanus says the GAO did not find GPS navigation companies selling consumer-location data to advertisers. But they could. Or they could get hacked.

The point is they know where you are, and that's enough to raise concerns, says Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Lee Tien.

"Somebody might say, 'Wait a minute. I drove to my oncologist's. I drove to Planned Parenthood. I drove to this location at this time when there's an AA meeting,'" Tien says. "There's lots of things about location that people would rather, often, keep private."

Or, he says, what if the car has a video camera that could record what you — and your passenger — are doing and saying?  Think about who you tend to be in a car with: "Parents with children, co-workers, colleagues, friends, family," Tien says. "A lot of conversations, a lot of activity inside the car."

There’s also the question of how you drive: Do you want your car to be able to issue you a speeding ticket?

The new privacy principles don’t impress Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts who has pushed for federal legislation to protect privacy in cars. "The principles do not provide consumers with a choice, whether sensitive information is collected in the first place," he says.

After all, if you don’t want anyone to track you through your phone, you can always turn it off.

Aasif Mandvi's cross-cultural journey

Fri, 2014-11-14 09:53

Best known as a contributor to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Aasif Mandvi usually reports satirical news pertaining to the Middle East – under the title "senior Muslim correspondent" or even "senior foreign-looking correspondent."

Mandvi was born in Mumbai, moved to England a year later and then to Florida as a teenager. He's written a collection of personal essays called "No Land's Man" that explore his cross-cultural identity and acting career.

Mandvi describes the journey to his birthplace:

There’s this little children’s theater where I first discovered my bug and penchant and proclivity for performing and acting. I went back after all these years and the place had burned down. The book, you know, is called "No Land’s Man" and I keep searching for a home and ultimately realize that the metaphor of the open field is really the home that I've been searching for.  

On working for "The Daily Show":

"The Daily Show" has put me in front of millions of people. It has allowed me to speak into the zeitgeist in a way that very few other jobs could have. There’s very little downside to being on "The Daily Show." It’s been a great opportunity for me.

I don’t think of myself as a comedian. I think of myself as an actor who does comedy. Even on "The Daily Show," I feel like that person that I play is a character who happens to have my name but he also has a team of very funny Ivy League-educated Jewish comedy writers that go around with him wherever he goes. 

On using his cultural identity as a drive for creative work:

What is it to be a South Asian American man? That question is constantly in my work and will continue to be and actually becomes my source of power now.  

5 ways to make a city more walkable

Fri, 2014-11-14 09:23

For about half a century, American cities and suburbs were built as car towns – with long stretches of road. And sometimes without sidewalks. But lately, things have been changing. Americans are seeking more intimate city spaces and putting a high premium on good public transportation. Millennials don't seem to want to buy cars, or drive much. In their quest for more walkable cities, they are teaming up with some unlikely allies: Retirees.

As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more of them want to remain at home – and remain independent. A whopping 63 percent of boomers don’t intend to move, according to a recent study from the Demand Institute, a nonprofit think-tank devoted to consumer issues. And the aging population is soaring – a joint project from Harvard University and the AARP predicts that by 2030, there will be 73 million adults over age 65 living in the U.S. 

Aging Americans increasingly ask for walkable cities. It's one of their top priorities, according to Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP. What the AARP wants, it frequently gets. The organization is the eighth-largest lobbying group in the U.S. – its members are consummate voters, and more importantly, LeaMond says, "tend to be participants in the community. They come to community meetings, they're very involved." 

The AARP and the World Health Organization have focused on building more livable communities for the aging population through their Age-Friendly Cities and Communities program. Cities can adopt elements of a WHO-approved checklist to make communities safe and engaging for people who are aging. Many places have come a long way toward addressing infrastructure issues and community engagement, according to Tori Goldhammer, a Washington, D.C., occupational therapist who specializes in aging-in-place and fall prevention.

Yet investing in more walkable cities can be relatively affordable.

"There are many places where there's a lot of construction underway, and they're already making changes to the physical environment, and ensuring that it's done in the right way often doesn't add very many costs," LeaMond says.

Even when modifications are pricier, the investment can pay off.

"The more walkable a community is, the more the value of the property is going to be higher, and so there is an incentive for communities to look at this in more than just safety and mobility of its residents," LeaMond says. 

To better understand the importance of walkable communities, Lizzie O'Leary took a walk in the Washington, D.C., Eastern Market neighborhood with Goldhammer and a very special guest: her dad, Buck O'Leary.

On their walk they found these five factors that help make a city walkable:  

1. Keep sidewalks well-maintained

Sidewalk cracks, uneven bricks and tree roots are tripping hazards, especially when they're wet or icy. That’s one reason personal-injury lawyers exist. Slips and trips happen all the time on uneven sidewalks, according to occupational therapist Goldhammer. “Anything greater than a one-quarter inch in change of height can present a trip risk for anybody,” she says. Updating sidewalks that have undergone ordinary wear and tear would prevent injuries and make it easier to get around. 

2. Provide lots of outdoor seating

When you’re out for a stroll, it’s nice to be able have a seat, take a break, relax. Many communities that are participating in the AARP and World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities initiative have made a lot of progress in this area. For instance, the New York City Department of Transportation says 1,500 benches will be installed by 2015 through its CityBench program. 

3. Allow enough time at crosswalks

The Beatles may cross the street with a bit of swagger, but for many people it’s not so easy. Crosswalks can become hazardous for people rushing across them and frustrating for drivers waiting for them to clear. “There might be six lanes of traffic and [it takes] 22 seconds to get across the street, and it’s really very difficult,” Goldhammer says. 

4. Turn on the lights

In addition to being a major crime deterrent, a lack of sufficient lighting (also known as darkness) makes it more difficult to see those cracks in the sidewalk. Once shrouded in darkness, potential hazards that aren’t a big deal during the day become exponentially riskier.

5. Build plenty of clearly marked bike paths

It's not always this adorable when someone gets side-swiped by a Huffy. Cyclists need their own lanes to ensure they have enough space to ride safely. And in the context of age-friendly cities, bike lanes also keep bikes off sidewalks, making both the roads and the walkways safer for everyone.

PODCAST: Phoneless phone tapping

Fri, 2014-11-14 08:41

Federal agents reportedly have the technology to spy on mobile phones without ever involving phone companies.  This revelation from the Wall Street Journal today involves the US Marshall's service using light airplanes with devices that trick cells phones into linking with the plane instead of the phone company's cell phone towers. We talked with  Devlin Barrett, the Wall Street Journal reporter with the scoop this morning.  Plus: Volkswagen is laying out a plan to recognize the United Auto Workers Union at its only U.S. plant--the one in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's not quite what the union was hoping for. WPLN's Blake Farmer reports. Finally: Augusta National sees itself as a very exclusive golf club, indeed. Two years ago, it refused admission to no less than Chief Executive Officer of International Business Machines. Ginni Rometty is female and until recently, Augusta National didn't admit women. Now there is a report the IBM CEO has been let in.

Silicon Tally: Bounce with Me

Fri, 2014-11-14 02:30

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

This week, we're joined by David Banks, co-editor of the blog Cyborgology.

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Tallying the Secret Service's "comedy of errors"

Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00
36

That's how many people have gotten over the White House fence since 1973, the Washington Post reports. An investigation found many layers of security failed on September 19, the report found, allowing a man to hop the fence, run through the White House lawn and into the East Room before he was detained. An agent with an attack dog was taking a personal call without a radio on him, for instance, and several others overestimated various barriers and didn't react in time as a result. One congressman called the incident "a comedy of errors."

2.9 percent

The annual increase this year for in-state students at public four-year colleges, falling under 3 percent for the first time since 1975, Vox reported. Growth is slowing down, but school is still more expensive than ever; the College Board found tuition at public four-year schools is three times higher than it was in the 1980s, when adjusting for inflation. A lot of those hikes happened during the recession. Meanwhile, family income has fallen or stayed flat.

1 percent

That's how many engineers at Facebook, Google and Twitter are black, and 3 percent are hispanic. The vast majority of employees of these and other companies in Silicon Valley are men. Bloomberg talked to dozens of women and people of color working in tech about their experiences. Employees talked about feeling isolated, with far more incentive to try to fit in with the status quo than to push for more diversity at work.

$2.80

The Energy Department projects that the national average price per gallon of gas will continue to drop throughout the end of the year to $2.80 in December. That’s especially good news for low-income drivers, who generally have to commute much more to work.

2 bounces

Don’t be fooled by decoy answers on this week’s Silicon Tally—2 bounces is how many times the Phillae Space Probe bounced before landing safely on the surface of a comet. But you already knew that, so why not take our quiz to test your knowledge of the week in tech news?

50 Starbucks

That’s how many Starbucks exist in the Netherlands. Consider this as you’re sipping your Chestnut Praline latte: On Friday, the European Union authorities accused the Netherlands of cutting Starbucks a deal (i.e. tax breaks) when the green mermaid announced it would move its European headquarters to the UK.

The big economic impact of data about the weather

Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, says it was the target of an Internet-based hacking attack “in recent weeks.”

The federal agency, which operates the National Weather Service, is being tight-lipped about the details of the attack and its subsequent decision to take down some of its websites in response.

The “impacts were temporary and all services have been fully restored,” NOAA said in a written statement. The agency also said the incident did not compromise its ability to offer forecasts to the public.

But, according to the Washington Post, there was a disruption of some weather data, including information provided to European weather forecasting counterparts. Such weather data is critical to a number of industries and government operations, all of which rely on raw data provided by the National Weather Service.

"Most airlines have their own weather prediction and monitoring operation,” but rely on NWS raw data, says Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot and aviation consultant. Cockpits inside more modern airplanes also have satellite weather images beamed in, Aimer says.

The outage, which reportedly occurred in October during the hurricane season, also exposes the reliance on government weather data for disaster planners.

“We see a storm coming ... and all the information you can have prompts decisions about when you evacuate, where do you move people to, what places will be safe and what places will be inundated,” says Gary Cecchine, a senior policy analyst at RAND Corporation.

In Chicago, for example, forecasts help determine when to open the water gates into Lake Michigan to prevent flooding. 

Falling gas prices are a big help for the low-income

Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

In a surprising reversal from previous forecasts, the U.S. Energy Department is now predicting that the average price of gasoline will remain below $3.00 a gallon next year.

That’s a 44-cent drop from its previous outlook, and especially good news for the working poor since the vast majority of workers (both above and below the poverty line) commute to work by car.

With gas now selling for $2.85 a gallon at a gas station, just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jesse Foster says he’s paying $10 less to fill his tank than he was even a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of savings,” says Foster, “because I drive a Suburban. So it’s real good news.”

It’s particularly good news if you work for minimum wage. Since poorer commuters spend a greater percentage of their income on gas, any relief at the pump creates a ripple effect of benefits.

“Which might mean that you don’t run out of healthy foods,” says Margaret Simms, director of the Low-Income Working Families Project at the Urban Institute. “It also means that maybe you can pay a bill that you had to skip this month because you had to put gas in your car.”

Simms also points out that any data the government has on commuters treats both low and high-income drivers the same, which might present a false picture since many low-income workers drive less fuel-efficient cars.

The Energy Department projects that gas prices will continue dropping for the remainder of the year, with a national average of $2.80 a gallon expected for December.

Volkswagen deal revs up union hopes in the South

Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

This week Volkswagen laid out a plan to recognize the United Auto Workers at its Tennessee plant, though it’s not quite what the union was hoping for.

The UAW has been desperate to organize one of the foreign-owned plants in the South as it rebuilds its membership rolls. And the South is where so many of the auto jobs are these days.

“The plants are located here. It’s important for us to organize them,” UAW president Dennis Williams said at a ceremony establishing a local chapter in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The UAW’s southern strategy appeared to be snuffed out in February when workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant voted down union representation. This was at an automaker that had been welcoming to the union.

Instead of trying its luck elsewhere, the UAW has tried a side door. It started a local chapter even without recognition from Volkswagen.

The UAW has called this week’s policy change at Volkswagen a “step forward.” But it still doesn’t accomplish the Detroit-based union’s ultimate goal.

The policy allows for multiple unions to have different levels of representation. And no one would get exclusive bargaining rights. For that reason, some Republican politicians who had been campaigning against the UAW are cheering.

“I think it’s a victory for the workers, for Volkswagen and for Chattanooga, in particular,” said Gerald McCormick, majority leader of the Tennessee state house.

Republicans have fought to keep the UAW from getting a foothold in the region because they see the union as damaging to the business climate.

The union could use a big win to go into other plants with a head of steam.

“We’re talking to Nissan workers, we’re talking to Mercedes workers. We talk to BMW workers,” UAW secretary Gary Casteel said during the organizing push. “Which one of those has the amount of interest from employees that we would start an organizing drive? We’d have to assess that.”

But Casteel points out that the UAW has a long history in the south, just not in the big multinational plants.

Membership has even grown in recent years, but labor attorney Cliff Hammond says they’re small shops.

“I don’t think people really appreciate how difficult it is to—even in Michigan, Ohio—win a big plant, let alone down in the South where you don’t have your grassroots,” Hammond said.

And despite inroads at Volkswagen, no one is counting this week as the momentum-shifting win the UAW has been looking for. 

 

Gwynne Shotwell and Franklin Leonard talk creativity

Thu, 2014-11-13 15:15

 To celebrate Marketplace’s 25th anniversary, we hit the road with a series of live events across the country. The final stop on the “How I Learned…” tour brought us back to Los Angeles, where we talked about creativity in business with Gwynne Shotwell, the President and COO of SpaceX, and Franklin Leonard, founder and CEO of The Black List.

Leonard on the business of The Black List:

I think of what we do less as a business than as a mission.

We see our role as identifying and celebrating great screenwriting and facilitating that writing making it to the screen. I think it’s an ongoing process for us in terms of making it a viable business. I think we have something that sort of functions now, there are a lot of other things we want to do with it. But really the mission is far more important for us that the business model is right now.

Shotwell on the mission of Space X:

We have these crazy audacious goals. The company was founded fundamentally to change the value proposition of human transport into space. Really what we’re focused on now is doing a great job for our customers but building up enough revenue and having enough money to develop the capability to take people to Mars.

But would Shotwell go to Mars, if she had the chance? That’s a different story.

Well, I don’t like to camp. Early on, Mars is going to be camping. I think there are people far better suited to do that than me. But when the first Holiday Inn Express shows up, maybe I’ll go.

I’d love to go to space. I would love to peek out a giant window and look back at the blue marble. There’s no question, I’d love to do that. But that’s different from an eight-month trip in a bus with the same hundred people, not stopping by 7-11 for a Slurpee. You’re on that bus and you’re headed to mars. And what happens if you get there and you don’t like it? It’s eight months back. There’s no Uber back. Well you can get back on the spaceship and go back.

Bill Youngblood/Marketplace

Leonard says he learned a lot about creativity in the workplace from some of his previous jobs:

I’ve never been one to be so dogmatic about ‘Oh well the way things have always been done is the way things should be done.’ I think I’ve probably brought a lot of different approaches from previous jobs into the environments and jobs I have now and said, ‘well what if we do things this way? Why aren’t things done this way?’ And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there is a reason things are always done this way.

All kids are really creative. I’ve never met a child who is not creative. On some level, as we get older we take certain things for granted, assume certain things, assume things are impossible, and that things can only be done a certain way. I think a lot of it is getting back to being more childlike and sort of allowing yourself to believe that anything is possible.

Obama expected to announce immigration reform soon

Thu, 2014-11-13 13:42

President Obama is expected to make an announcement as soon as next week on immigration reform that will protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. To find out more, Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked to Michael Shear, White House correspondent for the New York Times.

To sum it up: If you are in the U.S. illegally but have a child who is a citizen, you may be able to apply for deferred action, which means you will not be deported. This may also provide a work permit. And of course, some people will be exempt, especially if they have a criminal record.  

“I think a lot of people would say, these folks are largely employed anyways," Shear says. "These are mostly people who have been living in the country for many years – five, 10 years in some cases. They hold down jobs, but they’re holding these jobs in kind of a hidden way. Or in a way that they’re constantly looking over their shoulders, having to worry about a deportation proceeding if they’re caught."

Additional components to the plan include expanding opportunities for immigrants with high-tech skills and adding extra security to the southern border.

“The idea that the administration puts forward is that if you bring these folks out of the shadows in that respect, allow them to sort of hold these jobs in an above-board way, it actually helps the economy instead of  [hurting] it,” Shear said.

There's a business opportunity behind open enrollment

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:47

Everybody knows shopping for insurance stinks. Not only do we not like it, but we’re not very good at it.

Minnesota state exchange CEO Scott Leitz says he saw consumers struggle last year.

“In many, many cases, it was hours of time that were spent kind of walking a person through what their choices were, answering their questions and helping them make a final decision,” he says.

With millions flocking to public exchanges under Obamacare, this shopping problem – which researchers have known about for years – is coming into focus.

Consumers must sort out co-insurance, deductibles, in-network, out-of-network and medications, then compare it all to screen after screen of health insurance plans. Wharton economist Jonathan Kolstad says don’t forget people also must guess what problems they’ll have over the next 12 months.

“Ultimately insurance is not just about the world as we know it today, it’s about knowing where we are going down the road,” he says.

Kolstad says there are more than 900,000 variables to consider when shopping for health insurance, and so it's no wonder that we tend to make such poor choices. Here’s the thing: Those choices have real world costs.

Kolstad’s research shows when employees don’t know what they’re doing, they leave $1,800 on the table. There’s certainly an opportunity here to both help people and to cash in. Several University of Pennsylvania professors – along with Kolstad – have launched software called Picwell in response.

Company CEO Jay Silverstein says their software is designed to “make the process easier, simpler, faster, better.”

Here’s how it works, according to Silverstein: Consumers first answer the four simple questions, "What is your age?" "Where do you live by zip code?" "What is your gender?" and "What medications are you on?"

Then Picwell’s algorithms cut, slice and dice the responses with a big data buffet that includes medical claims and credit scores. The result is Google-like. Almost instantaneously, the software spits out a list of the plans and ranks them by best fit. It also offers a total monthly cost estimate, which includes all out-of-pocket costs.

Industry consultant Ted von Glahn – who has no ties to the company - says Picwell is taking a lot of the mystery out of shopping. 

“The golden rule is 'do the math.' Don’t make me go find that neurologist procedure and 'is it covered or not?' Bring it right to me,” he says.

Compare Picwell to healthcare.gov. The federal exchange, says von Glahn, only offers the most basic tools forcing consumers to still do the math. Picwell is one of a dozen companies including GetInsured and Consumers’ CHECKBOOK in this small consumer choice space.

As these products mature, von Glahn believes, it will force the entire industry – insurers, hospitals and doctors – to become more efficient. 

“They can’t compete on the mistakes that consumers make, the dazzle and confusion of choice,” he says.

Change may well be here sooner than it seems. PricewaterhouseCoopers says a third of private companies are considering moving their active employees onto private exchanges within the next three years.

“My gut on this is private exchanges are in the early stages,” says PWC’s Michael Thompson. “The value proposition isn’t as strong as it ultimately will be. As that proposition grows, you’ll see more companies adopt it. I think the uptick rates will be significant.”

Not only do employers need to be convinced they can save money - so do employees. To that extent, whether exchanges take off or disintegrate could turn on the success of outfits like Picwell. CEO Silverstein says business is good: They’ve already lined up private and public exchanges, including Minnesota’s. He says there’s a good chance their clients will grow from 750,000 this year to 40 million in 2015.

Picwell executives believe their tiny industry is moving towards a time when consumers can actually find value - quite a transformation for a product that today many don’t understand or trust at all.

Diplo: DJ, producer and entrepreneur

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:17

Pop music is increasingly dominated by producers – the people who shape the sound of a recording. A lot of that sound is coming from the world of electronic dance music, or "EDM."

Their working hours aren't conventional – often midnight to 5 a.m. The work has an unconventional range, too, from DJing large Las Vegas nightclubs or festivals, to time in the studio with pop superstars like Beyoncé and Justin Bieber.

Grammy-nominated producer Wesley Pentz wears these hats and more. He also runs a record label.

"It's really hard to stay alive. We almost folded a year ago," Pentz said. 

But Pentz's career is very much alive. His fans know him better as Diplo. As a teen, a friend named him after his favorite dinosaur, "Diplodocus." Back then, he says, he sold mixtapes door-to-door in Florida. He loved music but wasn't really cut out for a band.

Wikimedia Commons

"I was never good at playing horns or guitar. But I thought,' why would I want to play guitar when I could play guitar forwards and backwards, mix it up and sample it?'" Pentz said, adding, "I also thought being a DJ was the future of music."

Maybe that's hindsight talking. Selling albums was once the music industry's lifeblood, but EDM with its high-production-value live shows, dense sound and up-to-the-minute remixes fits the current model, where live tours prop up the rest of the industry, and buzz builds through free tracks shared online.

Pentz also runs Mad Decent records, where he distributes his music and a wide array of up-and-coming artists. His label shared a sampling of music on themes of business and the economy. Check out the playlist below.

Listen to the full interview in the player above.

 

 

 

 

US deals make it a big week in global trade

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:00

It’s been a big week for global trade after the U.S. cleared hurdles to push two big deals forward.

First up was the Information Technology Agreement, in which the U.S. and China agreed to cut tariffs on technology products like semiconductors and other high tech goods. The second cleared an impasse with India over food stockpiling that will, in turn, rejuvenate the Trade Facilitation Agreement, a trillion-dollar accord on international customs procedures.

“Ten years ago, this would have been business as usual,” says Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “Now, these are breakthroughs.”

That’s because there’s been a drought of new trade deals in recent years, so these agreements have given the World Trade Organization fresh momentum.

Scissors says they also restore American leadership in trade.

“We’re the ones breaking through the barriers,” he says. “We’re the ones making the deals and with other important countries like China and India, but nonetheless we’re the common thread. That’s important.”

U.S. companies stand to benefit when the Information Technology Agreement is finalized.

“You go through the companies that are big in this space and a lot of them, say two-thirds, have U.S. names,” says Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Apple, Cisco and you can go down the list.”

Hufbauer says the key here isn’t the number of jobs this agreement might create, but the type – steady, high skilled, with good pay.

To a lesser extent, American companies that do a large volume of global shipping like FedEx and UPS also benefit from the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which will ease the process of moving goods across borders and seek to decrease corruption at ports.

Zooming out, these deals speak to how globally integrated our businesses have become, says Emily Blanchard, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

“In this world with global supply chains, little pieces of product are being added all across borders to create a final product,” she says. “If you have even small transaction costs at every border, those really add up.”

Warren Buffett finds tax advantage in Duracell deal

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:00

When Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway buys the battery brand Duracell from Procter & Gamble, Berkshire will pay the $4.7 billion price tag in stock. Not Berkshire Hathaway stock, but Procter & Gamble stock, which Berkshire just happens to have.

Berkshire Hathaway did a very similar swap earlier this year, when it bought a TV station from Graham Holdings — formerly and better known as the Washington Post Co. Same thing when it bought a subsidiary of Phillips 66 last December. Why not just pay cash?

First, these trades line up with something Berkshire Hathaway has come to favor over time: Owning and managing whole companies. According to Larry Cunningham, a George Washington University law professor and the editor of “The Essays of Warren Buffett,” Berkshire was once happy to either own stock or a small stake in a business. He says as Berkshire grew, that outlook changed.

"Now, it prefers to own entire businesses rather than small positions," he says. "So, this is a neat way to achieve that objective."

Also, these swaps allow Berkshire Hathaway to save a boatload on taxes. Procter and Gamble’s stock is worth much more than when Berkshire bought it, so selling that stock would mean paying taxes on the profit — probably more than 33 percent.

Thomas Lys, a finance professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has done the math. Berkshire originally bought its shares for $336 million, and the stock is now worth $4.7 billion.  

"So that's a profit of $4.4 billion," Lys says. "So a third of that is — hefty tax." 

But in this deal, Berkshire isn’t selling the stock. It’s trading one piece of Procter and Gamble — the stock — for another piece, Duracell. Going for big tax savings seems like it would sit uncomfortably with Buffett’s role as the rich guy who’s always calling on the government to change the tax code and raise his taxes. But Lys says there is an important distinction to be made because Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire.

"Warren Buffett has an obligation to his shareholder," Lys says. "And that obligation is to pay as little as the code allows."

Hollywood's next 'it' celebs – toys

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:00

The latest buzz on Wall Street is that toy maker Hasbro might acquire Dreamworks Animation, the company behind Shrek and Kung Fu Panda.

Neither company has commented on the rumor and, according to reports, talks could still fall apart. 

The possible acquisition reflects the modern big business of selling toys. Once upon a time, toys were, well, just toys. You built stuff with Legos and played make-believe with Transformers.

But that's changed, says Chris Byrne, a toy analyst at TTPM. Popular toys are now considered entertainment “properties.” For example, Hasbro's Transformers and even its Ouija board are now the stars of movies

Bryne says the question is now, "'How do we think about this property in all the ways in which kids encounter that entertainment?' So that could be toys, that could be TV, that could be movies, that could be video games." 

The shift reflects the way kids are buying toys, says  Sean McGowan, analyst at Needham and Co. Children's entertainment used to focus on toys and cartoons, but today, McGowan says, "the claims on kids' time and attention and money are growing. So you see them using their smart devices."

Featuring toys as movie stars has helped, but overall, toy sales have remained flat for more than a decade, McGowan says.

Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, says the fact that movie studios have also grown bullish on featuring toys also drives the trend.

"What’s happening in Hollywood, [is] the studios are really looking for tried-and-true already proven franchises, if you will, either stories or characters," Sweeney says. 

Sweeney says this deal would make sense on some levels – but the list of companies that have lost fortunes trying to make it in Hollywood is a long one.

Hollywood's next it celebs: Toys

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:00

The latest buzz on Wall Street is that toy maker Hasbro might acquire Dreamworks Animation, the company behind Shrek and Kung Fu Panda.

Neither company has commented on the rumor, and according to reports, talks could still fall apart. 

The possible acquisition reflects the modern big business of selling toys. Once upon a time, toys, were, well, just toys. You built stuff with Legos and played make-believe with Transformers.

But that's changed, says Chris Byrne, a toy analyst at TTPM. Popular toys are now considered entertainment “properties.” For example, Hasbro's Transformers and even its Ouija board are now the stars of movies

Bryne says the question is now, 'How do we think about this property in all the ways in which kids encounter that entertainment? So, that could be toys, that could be TV, that could be movies, that could be video games." 

The shift reflects the way kids are buying toys, says  Sean McGowan, analyst at Needham and Co. Children's entertainment used to focus on toys and cartoons, but today, McGowan says, "the claims on kids time and attention and money are growing. So, you see them using their smart devices."

McGowan says featuring toys as movie stars has helped, but overall, toy sales have remained flat for more than a decade. 

Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, says the fact that movie studios have also grown bullish on featuring toys also drives the trend. "What’s happening in Hollywood, [is] the studios are really looking for tried-and-true already proven franchises, if you will, either stories or characters," Sweeney says. 

Sweeney says this deal would make sense on some levels, but he says the list of companies that have lost fortunes trying to make it in Hollywood is a long one.

Why the Reddit CEO stepped down

Thu, 2014-11-13 11:00

Reddit CEO Yishan Wong stepped down Thursday. In a blog post, investor Sam Altman said the departure was over a fight with the board about a new office.

That's right: Wong didn't get the office he wanted so he quit.

"To be clear, though, we didn't ask or suggest that he resign — he decided to when we didn't approve the new office plan," Altman explained.

Whether this is actually what happened or just corporate nonsense is up for the debate.

 

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