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Michigan's vineyards: Wine that survives the winter?

Wed, 2014-06-18 13:09

Places like California are known for growing grapes that have been around for more than a century. But there are new types of grapes that have only been around for decade or two and are allowing wine to be made in places never imagined before -- like colder Midwest states.

One winemaker who’s joining the northern wine region is Dave Anthony. He and his wife, own and run a four and a half-acre vineyard and winery in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near the northern Lake Michigan shore.

Anthony says people were pretty surprised when he said he wanted to start a winery so far north 15 years ago.

“I think there’s some shock out there, that it actually works,” Anthony says. “The first reaction was beyond 'are you crazy?': 'It’s just stupidity, total stupidity.'”

Because the winters are cold here. This winter, temperatures in January and February were often well below zero.

But Anthony is growing what is called "cold hardy" wine grapes, and they can withstand 25 below zero temperatures. Many of these wine grapes were created by the University of Minnesota. It released its first cold hardy grape in 1996. Since then, Minnesota tripled the number of wineries in the state to 30. Iowa more than tripled the amount of grapes it’s growing.

But Anthony says the biggest challenge is the lack of name recognition for his wines.

“Who's ever heard of Marquette or La Cresent?” Anthony says.

But there already is a developed wine region in Michigan, it’s farther south near Lake Michigan, around Traverse City. It's a bit warmer there so the vineyards can grow the European varieties like Merlot and Pinot Grigio.

Charlie Edson is the owner and winemaker at Bel Lago winery near Traverse City.

He grows 100 varieties of grapes on his vineyard, including some cold hardy grapes. But he says customers like to buy wines with names that they know.

“I think it is marketable in certain circumstances. In our circumstances I probably wouldn’t go that route because consumers don’t know what those varieties are,” Edson says.

Edson says the biggest criticism of these new grapes - at least in terms of taste - is that they don’t have the same structure and character as the centuries old wines, like cabernet.

But Edson says cold hardy grapes are a type of crop insurance, considering how cold this winter was.

“There is winter injury in the vineyards right now, in most vineyards, and I can tell you the cold hardy varieties -- they laughed in the face of this winter, so we will have full crops of cold hardy varieties which is terrific,” Edson says.

That is not the case for most of the European varieties this year.

But back on the northern side of Lake Michigan, Anthony thinks this might be a wakeup call for grape growers, which might allow cold hardy grapes to expand and grow even further in the future.

Yo, $1 million. Yo.

Wed, 2014-06-18 13:03

Yo.

That's it.

Just Yo.

Capital Y; lower case O.

It's a new messaging app with a twist, I guess you could say. You can text somebody else with the Yo app. But all you can say is...Yo.

Here's the yo-crazy part: The guy who built it has moved from Israel to San Francisco. He's opened an office and hired staff. He's looking for "strategic partners."

And he's raised a million dollars from investors.

...yo.

C'mon...tell me we're not in a tech bubble.

Go ahead.

I dare you.

Yo.

San Francisco losing black residents, black businesses

Wed, 2014-06-18 11:58

During World War II, the Navy hired thousands of workers for its San Francisco Bay Area shipyards. Many were black migrants from the South who settled in the city's Fillmore District -- a neighborhood left with vacancies because of the internment of Japanese-Americans.

A vibrant black community flourished, and music venues opened up on nearly every block, hosting jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. The Fillmore District was nicknamed the Harlem of the West.

In those years, if you were a black visitor to San Francisco, you most likely made a pilgrimage to Marcus Books. In 1956, the NAACP convention came to town, and Reverend Amos Brown -- then just 15-years-old -- was a delegate from Mississippi traveling with his mentor, civil rights hero Medger Evers. It was the first time Brown met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and the first time he visited Marcus Books.

It was an iconic institution of culture, information, sociopolitical empowerment,” Brown reminisced. “Many international scholars and thinkers and civil rights leaders appeared at Marcus bookstore.”

The store began as a publishing company, printing hard-to-find texts from black leaders like Marcus Garvey, whom the bookstore was named after.

San Francisco poet Devorah Major says her father first brought her to Marcus Books when she was two years old. Later, the store was crucial to her career as a writer.

“I did readings when my first novel went out at Barnes & Noble, and they didn’t care -- I’d have five, or six, or ten people there,” she said. “I went to Marcus, and it was standing room only. It also is a measure of support, and those turn into sales.”

Marcus Books got into financial trouble last year, and the owners couldn’t afford to keep the store open. They tried a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money to buy back the property, and their supporters rallied on the steps of City Hall. But Reverend Amos Brown says the store’s problems started long before this. Business took a hit as San Francisco’s black residents moved out.

“We’ve lost over 50,000 since 1970, and that’s tragic,” Brown said recently when I talked to him in his office at San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church, where he arrived as pastor in 1976.  In the 1960s and '70s, city redevelopment policies displaced thousands of African Americans, and segregation often made it difficult to find new housing.

Brown is now the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP. The city, he says, is not as liberal and friendly towards African-Americans as its reputation might suggest.

“When it comes to employment, education, and housing opportunities, it’s not the ideal place to be in. If there is not a positive effort made to work with the African-American community to stop this hemorrhaging, I predict that in the next 5 to 10 years, there will not be 20,000 blacks left in this city.”

Black residents began leaving long before the current tech boom in the city, which has only made housing rentals even more difficult to secure. Mayor Ed Lee has committed to building 30,000 new affordable housing units in by 2020. Today, most of San Francisco’s black residents are low income renters.

Theodore Miller is director of San Francisco’s Out-Migration Initiative, the government’s latest attempt to retain black residents. One of Miller’s priorities is attracting young, college educated African-Americans to the city.

“We know the city of San Francisco is experiencing record growth across industries, and we need to make sure that African-Americans throughout the country think about San Francisco as a place to live and grow and raise their families,” he said.

But even if a new wave of black residents settles here, they’ll arrive in a city without many black-owned businesses. And Marcus Books in San Francisco won't be one of them -- it's gone for good.

This story was produced by TurnstyleNews.com, a project of Youth Radio.

Forget your wallet, text messaging is the way to go.

Wed, 2014-06-18 11:24

Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Charles Graeber spent 10 days in Kenya with only one requirement: to not use his wallet -- and to pay for everything by phone.

"I've never gone to Africa and I've never paid for anything with my phone," he said. So, intrigued by Kenya's M-pesa system ("M" stands for mobile and "pesa" means payment in Swahili). The system allows users to transfer money from phone-to-phone through text messages. Once Graeber landed in Kenya, it took him fifteen minutes to get set up with a phone, SIM card and become a client of the country’s largest mobile provider, Safaricom.

Charles was able to use his phone to pay for his taxi, book his hotel and even haggle down meat prices from the local market. This use of payment has become widely popular since its launch in 2007.

"Something like 93 percent of Kenyans with mobile phones have this... The truth is it's an alternative to banking... it is quickly becoming people's bank accounts. In fact, some people will keep their money on a SIM card, and then take that SIM card out and keep it in a cookie jar, sort of as a virtual savings account."

While the majority of Kenyans are using this method of payment, the U.S. has yet to adopt a system like this. It’s a shame, at least for Charles, who says he’s already missing it.

"You walk out the door only needing your phone… and your wallet is one less thing to forget."

How an Illinois company does businesses in Iraq

Wed, 2014-06-18 10:39

Jason Speer, President of Quality Float Works Inc., a float metal ball manufacturing company, has travelled several times to Iraq since their expansion into the troubled country:

"People still don’t even believe me, I have to show them some pictures," says Speer, about his business trips to Iraq.

Speer says he saw investing in Iraq as an opportunity.

"The country needs to be rebuilt," says Speer. "Everything has been destroyed over the years of neglect. I think there are a lot of opportunities for American businesses especially."

Doing business in Iraq is definitely not easy. Just shipping the float metal balls can be a tricky process. Speer says they work with a local business man that assists with the logistics of getting their product into the country, but sometimes their products sit for weeks at a time, just waiting for the paperwork to be handled and to be cleared.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

A time to be leisurly en route to your next engagement

Wed, 2014-06-18 10:22

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, June 19:

In Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a closed hearing on Iraq.

The Conference Board is scheduled to release its monthly index of leading economic indicators.

Let's all slow down and maybe wear something fetching for World Sauntering Day.

And "The Rocky Horror Show" stage production opened on June 19, 1973 at a small 63 seat theatre in London. Wider audiences were exposed to the film version. A toast!

Amazon likely to unveil new smart phone

Wed, 2014-06-18 04:00

The online retailing giant Amazon is expected to unveil a smart phone at a media event in Seattle today, with tech observers buzzing over the anticipated bells-and-whistles-like 3D features.

But many think the phone will largely function as a handheld shopping cart that you can then fill with more of Amazon's stuff.

“They want you to interact with them five, ten times a day, and the mobile phone is a great way to ensure that Amazon is there whenever you might need something,” says James McQuivey, a media analyst with Forrester Research.

McQuivey says an Amazon phone might also include a built-in payment system that could be used with any retailer.

Colin Gillis, senior technology analyst with the brokerage firm BGC Financial, thinks the phone might well be free. Same goes for the data if you're, say, downloading music from Amazon.

“It's the classic razor and blades. You can have the razor for free as long as you keep buying blades from us,” Gillis says.

Even so, Gillis thinks a smart phone won't bust Amazon out of its low profit margins.

The ‘Maker Movement’ heads to Washington

Wed, 2014-06-18 03:30

Some say that America is becoming a country of paper-pushers; that we aren’t actually making much real stuff anymore. But grassroots designers and fabricators are looking to change that perception. Today these so-called makers are gathering at the White House for a kind of trade fair to promote their businesses and their movement.

Jules Pieri, CEO of The Grommet, who helped shape the event, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss.

Click the audio player above to hear Jules Pieri in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio

PODCAST: Guardians of interest rates

Wed, 2014-06-18 03:00

In advance of the press conference coming out of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting, a look at what to expect from Chair Janet Yellen. Plus, more on the debut of the amazon phone. Also, while some criticize the U.S. for not making anything anymore, several fabricators and makers head to Washington, D.C. as part of the 'maker movement.'

Meet New Jersey’s tobacco bonds

Wed, 2014-06-18 03:00

And now for a fairy tale about tobacco bonds: once upon a time, it seemed like the clouds had opened up and rained money on many states when the great tobacco company settlement of 1998 was struck.

But like many a lottery jackpot, the $206 billion promised  would only get paid out slowly, over time. Impatient and cash-strapped states then figured out ways to get the money quicker by authorizing special bonds. Investors would lend the states their money, knowing they'd get paid back later when the tobacco settlement money trickled in, plus interest. 

Yet in some places -- New Jersey, for example -- some of those bonds ran into trouble and the investors who bought them weren’t so happy. Although state officials are under no obligation to fix the problem, they are proud of their solution.

But Fortune magazine senior editor-at-large Allan Sloan is not proud of his home state’s solution

Click the audio player above to hear Allan Sloan in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio

With Iraq back again, are we just hearing re-runs?

Wed, 2014-06-18 02:00

We did something the other day that I don’t actually think we’ve ever done before. Not on purpose, anyway. 

We re-ran an interview from the archives: Donald Rumsfeld, from a year or so ago, when he had a new book out that he was pushing.

We try real hard not to repeat ourselves. Real hard. Even if it’s the zillionth story on… I dunno…unemployment or something, we’re gonna try to find a fresh angle and tell you something new. 

But as we were putting the show together this past Friday, it dawned on me that we had an interview with one of the key people on what the United States did in Iraq a decade ago and it was just sitting there waiting to be heard.  Okay, re-heard, but you get my meaning. And with what's been happening over there the past couple of weeks, I figured airing it again would be a better service to our listeners than almost anything else we could do.

So we did.

Now, you could argue that an interview about Iraq has no business being on Marketplace. Or that I was rude and disrespectful to a former secretary of defense. Or that he's an unrepentant neo-conservative who should be in jail. All of those things – and more – were said about that interview (in the 100+ comments on our site and the hundreds of shares and links on Twitter and Facebook). Fine. 

And yes, I completely get and agree with the point Jim Fallows makes --  that those who led us into Iraq, or counseled in favor of war, should do the decent thing and stay quiet right now (he also, recommends those who should be listened to right now).

But when you have the opportunity to ask pointed question, as I did with Rumsfeld, and as Erin Burnett did with Paul Bremmer Monday night on CNN, then I think the obligation is to do exactly that and let people make up their own minds.

YouTube changes terms and conditions for labels

Wed, 2014-06-18 02:00

Digital "Terms and Conditions" are the things we agree to with the click of a box and a tiny prayer that they don’t turn on us. When the same thing happens on a grand scale, it can get pretty ugly.

This week, independent artists and record labels are locked in a staring contest with Google over new terms and conditions for posting music on YouTube -- The artists are names you'd recognize, including Adele and Jack White.

Molly Wood, New York Times Tech Columnist, says, "this is a story of big companies behaving badly.”

YouTube, trying to capitalize on its status as the number one place for streaming music, is starting a subscription music service. However, it is also threatening independent labels with being blocked from uploading to You Tube if they don’t license their music.

Says Wood, "For years, they [content producers] may have been bullied by movie studios, or TV studios, or record lables, and they thought they had found a safe haven in some of these digital startups, and the reality is that the behavior is looking the same."

Fed grapples with rising prices and slow growth

Wed, 2014-06-18 02:00

The Federal Reserve’s key policy-making body — the Federal Open Market Committee — wraps up its two-day meeting today with a news conference hosted by Chair Janet Yellen, and  projections on economic growth going forward.

Consumer prices were up strongly in May — at around a 2 percent annual rate — for everything from food and gasoline, to rents and new cars. If that keeps up, the Fed might have to raise short-term interest rates sooner than expected, to tamp down prices. That could also tamp down consumer spending and job growth.

“You’ve still got the backdrop of this slow-growth economy with stagnant household income," says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "Suddenly inflation’s starting to pick up, so you’re taking away what little spending power the consumer had.”

And Bernie Baumohl at the Economic Outlook Group says even though economic growth and job-creation have clearly rebounded since the dismal winter months, there are a lot of wild cards out there for the Fed — like stubbornly low wage-growth in the U.S., not to mention civil strife in Iraq, and soaring oil prices worldwide.

 “The geopolitical pot is really boiling furiously," says Baumohl. "And it really greatly complicates the decision-making process on the Fed, among investors and also among CEOs.”

 

Report finds low graduation rates, but high federal aid

Wed, 2014-06-18 02:00

A new report from the Education Trust says over $15 billion a year in federal aid goes to colleges where most of the students don’t graduate. Plus, many of the students -- three out of ten -- have so much debt they can’t repay it.

Not so suprising: most of the schools on the list are for-profit institutions.

There’s some argument in academic circles as to what is a good graduation rate -- some students transfer, some take longer to graduate, and not everyone finishes. Judith Scott-Clayton, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, says while that is the case, it's still easy to spot problematically low rates.

“I think most people could agree that 15 percent is probably too low," Scott-Clayton says.

But over a six year period at a group of schools (many of which are for-profit), the report found that 15 percent is exactly how few students are graduating.

Michael Dannenburg, Director of Higher Education Policy with Education Trust cites the University of Phoenix, a for-profit that he says receives $4 billion a year in federal student aid and has a lot of campuses on the low graduation list. The school points out that many of its students work on top of their studies, so of course it takes them longer to graduate. 

But Dannenburg notes the average college graduation rate from four year colleges after six years of enrollment is 59 percent. He also says you can’t pin low rates on low income students.

Says Dannenburg, "We’ve looked at scores of institutions that are serving similar students with similar characteristics that get very different results. In other words, demography is not destiny in higher education."

An ancient animal's blood is a modern medical miracle

Tue, 2014-06-17 14:58

An Archaic Creature

At night, on the full moon and the new moon in late May and early June, the sands of East Coast beaches host a dance that is a half-billion years old. 

Millions of horseshoe crabs, sensing the highest tides, swim ashore to spawn. The females will lay their eggs (4,000 a night) in the sand, and some weeks later, those eggs will hatch – at just the right time for the next peak tide to carry them out to sea. 

These are strange animals. A large, foot-long shield-like carapace covers most of the crab's body, which sports no less than nine eyes - seven on top and two on the bottom. Their plate-like, spiny abdomen gives way to a long tail lined with photoreceptors. They neither sting nor pinch. In fact, they aren’t actually crabs at all, but more closely related to scorpions and spiders.

These crabs have an ancient history. The current four species of horseshoe crabs go back as far as 200 million years, and people have found fossils of extinct varieties that are 445 million years old. This is a creature that predates the dinosaurs by as much as the dinosaurs predate us.

With primordial powers...

In their long history, they have developed some remarkable abilities.

“They have been exposed to every major lineage of bacteria in the ocean, and they have evolved some degree of immunity to, essentially, all of them,” says Eric Hallerman, Professor of Fish Conservation at Virginia Tech. “They’re invertebrates so they don’t have antibody-based immunity the way we do, they have cell-based immunity, and it’s the widest spectrum of that immunity in the animal world.”

The power of that immunity wasn't completey understood until 1954, when Frederik Bang, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachussetts discovered that horseshoe crab blood would clot when it came into contact with gram-negative bacteria – whether the bacteria were dead or alive. The crab blood reacts vigorously, further research would show, with highly resilient toxins produced by this type of bacteria.  

...that touch every corner of modern medicine

Bacterial endotoxins, as they are known, are “extremely potent,” says John Dubczak, general manager for Charles River Endosafe’s Endotoxin Microbial Detection Division. These endotoxins can be found everywhere, particularly in water, and they cannot be destroyed easily. Not even by boiling. 

“Doses as low as one nanogram per kilogram can cause fever, so 70 parts per billion will cause a fever reaction,” he says, if they enter the blood stream. Higher doses cause septic shock and organ failure. 

Horseshoe crab blood is used to create a test to detect these toxins.  The test is called the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate test, and it touches every corner of modern medicine.

“Pharmaceutical manufacturers, vaccine manufacturers, medical device manufacturers,” says Dubczak. “Basically any product that is going to see the blood system directly or indirectly has to be tested.” It’s used to inspect everything from needles and IVs to pacemakers and dialysis machines. The most sophisticated LAL test is so sensitive it can detect bacterial toxins down to one part per trillion.  

Before 1912, there was no test for these toxins, so any kind of intravenous or invasive surgical treatment was extremely risky. Scientists eventually developed a test in 1912 to determine if an intravenous treatment would cause fever or not. They used rabbits, which were injected with a sample and monitored for fever for several hours. Even into the '70s, biomedical firms would have hundreds of rabbits on hand to test devices for fever reaction.  The test was used widely in the medical community, but it wasn't foolproof.

Blue blood and the matrix for crabs

At a facility on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina, Charles River Endosafe extracts the blood from horseshoe crabs. Charles River is one of four companies in the U.S. that manufacture LAL using crabs’ blood.

The creatures are delivered by the truck load, alive, to a loading dock. 

“They’re blood donors, like the Red Cross,” says Dubczak. 

The crabs are inspected -- “we don’t pay fishermen for injured crabs” -- and scraped of their barnacles. They are rinsed, disinfected, and piled into large gray bins. 

One by one, they are strapped into “bleeding racks.” These are stainless steel carts that hold the animals in place, a dozen to a cart. Their abdomens and long tails are tucked under their carapaces.  “It’s their natural defensive  position,” says Dubczak, but it also exposes the membrane of their dorsal cardiac sinus – their primitive analog of a heart. “We’ll penetrate this membrane with a 14 gauge needle and drain the sinus.” Dubczak says this removes about 20 percent of the animal’s blood, “but the animals will have enough blood in their appendages as well as their gills to sustain them.”

The carts, with rows of membrane exposed crabs, are rolled into a hepafiltered clean room on one side of the warehouse space. The room has clear plastic walls and is staffed by teams of workers in scrubs and face masks. It’s reminiscent of a hospital ward. Or a giant bubble. 

The crabs' membranes are swabbed with alcohol and stuck with needles, and blood begins to drip into bottles. It looks exactly like blue Kool-Aid. Oxygen is carried in human blood by iron-based hemoglobin, which colors it red. The crabs' blood uses copper-based hemocyanin.

After 5 to 10 minutes, the needles are removed and the bleeding racks, laden with crabs, are rolled out of the bubble. The animals are removed from their racks, placed in an open air canopy-covered truck, and taken back to the ocean.  

 Most survive. Some do not.

Roughly half of one percent of these crabs die from the bleeding process at this facility, Dubczak says. He says for the biomedical industry as a whole, around 3 percent of horseshoe crabs die from the bleeding process.   

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the agency charged with regulating non-biomedical harvests of crabs, makes a blanket conservative assumption for its population estimates that across the entire biomedical industry, 15 percent of crabs die from bleeding.

Work done 10 years ago at Virginia Tech suggests similar mortality rates -- that 5 to 15 percent of crabs succumb, and “there’s been a more recent study conducted that suggested mortality is much higher, on the order of 28 percent,” says Eric Hallerman. Other researchers suggest that bled crabs may lay fewer eggs. 

“There is a huge debate over whose numbers are more realistic,” he says. The uncertainty of the numbers means “the issue of whether this is sustainable is a current research question.”   

It is a question not just because of a debate over numbers, but because biomedical companies aren't the only people using these crabs.

 The other harvest

Scientists use the crabs on land, fishermen use them at sea. They use the crabs for bait. The ASMFC says 729,100 horseshoe crabs were harvested and cut up in 2012 for use as bait to catch eels and whelks (sea snails).  The same year, the biomedical industry nationwide harvested 610,000 crabs, of which between 31,000 and 171,000 did not survive (depending on your survival rate assumption). By the ASMFC’s estimate, the bait fishery killed 10 times more crabs in 2012 than the biomedical fishery. 

 So...what’s sustainable?

The government stepped in to take the pressure off the horseshoe crab population in 1998, and catch limits and management plans have developed since then.  The 2012 bait harvest was still below what the ASMFC concluded was the maximum acceptable number (1.3 million crabs for that year).

“Currently the horseshoe crab management board is satisfied with the level of harvest in the bait industry,” says Marin Hawke, Fishery Management Coordinator for Horseshoe Crabs at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. She adds that the assessments of what is sustainable also take into account other species that depend on the crabs for food, such as the Red Knot, a shore bird that sustains its hemispheric migration by feeding on horseshoe crab eggs.

But there are some caveats.  First, the ASMFC doesn’t regulate or otherwise limit the biomedical harvest, it only sets quotas for the bait harvest. Nor does it use its estimations of biomedical mortality in determining how many crabs can be killed for bait.  

Secondly, the harvest of crabs doesn’t appear to be sustainable everywhere.

“We just completed a stock assessment update in 2013, and the Southeast Region which is North Carolina down to Florida, the abundance is increasing,” says Hawke. “In the Delaware Bay their abundance is constant, and in the Northeast Region it’s decreasing. We’re currently looking at why that might be happening in the Northeast Region.”

Between bait and blood, a very muddy picture

In South Carolina, the biomedical industry successfully lobbied the state government in the early '90s to ban the harvest of crabs for bait. The horseshoe crab population in South Carolina is increasing. New Jersey also has a moratorium on harvesting crabs.  Some observers wonder whether the New Jersey ban has driven fishermen to poach crabs in New York, driving down that state’s population. 

The ASMFC is finding it difficult to determine why populations are deteriorating in some regions while improving in others. It does not create regional population models based on biomedical harvest data because that data is confidential.  Since there are only four firms manufacturing LAL (and a fifth that bleeds crabs but does not make LAL tests), creating a publicly available model for horseshoe crab population at the regional level that takes into account both the bait and the biomedical harvest would divulge sensitive information that would be traceable to an individual biomedical firm. The ASMFC possesses the necessary data (biomedical firms are required to report it), but it cannot use it in a public, transparent way - so it doesn't. 

So the public is left knowing this: Overall, it looks like the crabs are being harvested sustainably, whether for bait or for blood. But in some places, they are not, and it’s unclear why --  or who is responsible.

The market for smokeless tobacco keeps on growing

Tue, 2014-06-17 13:56

Smokeless tobacco is about a $6 billion industry, says Bloomberg Industries analyst Kenneth Shea.

“Growing sales [are] at about a 6 percent annual rate, which is pretty good, particularly compared to cigarettes which grow at about 1 percent a year,” he says.

Shea says cigarette sales still command 85 percent of total tobacco sales, but products like chew and snuff are growing. Part of the draw, says Shea is that it’s getting harder and harder to find a place where you can smoke.

Harvard Public Health Professor Gregory Connolly says R.J. Reynolds and Altria parent company of Phillip Morris – have also done a great job luring consumers in.

“You can get twice the amount of nicotine out of a tin of Copenhagen than you do out of a pack of Marlboros,” he says.

Connolly says part of the problem is that regulations aren’t as tight for smokeless tobacco as they are for cigarettes.

“We banned all candy-like flavors, so you can’t get cherry cigarettes,” he says. “But [we] totally exempted smokeless tobacco. So you can buy lemon smokeless tobacco, minty smokeless tobacco, you name it.”

The National Institutes of Health considers chew a growing national problem.

Northwestern oncologist Dr. Mark Agulnik says he sees evidence of the product’s popularity in his office every day.

“We certainly see fewer smokers. The only group that has not changed over time is the group that has been exposed to smokeless tobacco,” he says.

Agulnik says he’s not sure whether the death of famous baseball player Tony Gwynn will slow smokeless tobacco sales.

But the doctor says at least people are talking about chew.

Something he says they weren’t doing last week.

4K TV: The shape of things to come, someday

Tue, 2014-06-17 13:54

Netflix is now streaming more 4K content, including Breaking Bad and a few movies. That follows a trend of growing 4K content, which is also called Ultra HD.

It’s very unlikely you’ll be watching, because only a handful of people have 4K TVs. Maybe you’ve never even heard of 4K -- and that’s OK, because hardly anyone has.

“Awareness is incredibly low,” says Glenn Hower of Parks Associates, a consumer technology research company. “Consumers, they aren’t familiar with the terminology. They don’t know what 4K is, what it means.”

4K promises an enhanced viewing experience, with four times more pixels than HD. But some reviewers who have done side-by-side comparisons say it’s pretty hard for mere humans to tell the difference unless they stand extremely close to the screen.

All those pixels cost a great deal of money. Ben Arnold with NPD Group says a 4K television can cost 50 percent more or double the cost of a comparable HD television. That’s a key reason why he estimates there are only around 100,000 4K sets in use in America.

A key to selling 4K sets is the existence of 4K content. There isn’t much out there now. Companies that offer it, whether they are cable, streaming or broadcast, could score by picking up new customers. Or they might regret it, like companies that recently invested in home 3D, which has been a disaster.

Mark Garrison: First, it’s OK if you’ve never heard of 4K. Hardly anyone has, says Glenn Hower of Parks Associates, a consumer tech research company.

Glenn Hower: Awareness is incredibly low. Consumers, they aren’t familiar with the terminology. They don’t know what 4K is, what it means.

4K screens promise enhanced pictures, with four times more pixels than HD. And you will pay dearly for them.

Ben Arnold: On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from 50% more to double.

Ben Arnold with NPD Group estimates there are only around 100-thousand 4K sets in use in America. We’re all smart enough to know if we wait, prices will drop. Electronics manufacturers and retailers want us to buy now. Jim Willcox at Consumer Reports says it’ll only happen if we get something to watch.

Jim Willcox: Content’s clearly one of the things that drives hardware. There’s always that chicken and egg situation when you have a new format.

Netflix and others that offer 4K might make money on new customers. Or they might regret it, like companies that recently invested in home 3D, which has been a disaster. Jonathan Sterne is a communications technology professor at McGill University.

Jonathan Sterne: There isn’t one recipe. But without content, you won’t have mass uptake. So someone basically has to take a bet on it.

One thing we’ll probably see more of: nature documentaries. The TV business loves them, believing close-ups of cuddly animals and bright birds get people to open their wallets for fancy TVs. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Why the Fed sees inflation differently than you

Tue, 2014-06-17 13:53

Thanks to the Labor Department, we got a read Tuesday on the state of the U.S. Economy. The latest Consumer Price Index indicates inflation is up.

Federal Reserve policymakers, who are meeting in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday, will pay close attention to that report, although they view it through a different lens than the rest of us.

The Fed wants to get ahead of inflation, because when the Fed changes its policies, that doesn’t have an immediate effect.  “It’s a long and variable lag process,” says Kevin T. Jacques, a professor of finance at Baldwin Wallace University. “It just takes a lot of time.”

Drought in the Midwest gives cattle farmers an edge

Tue, 2014-06-17 13:51

Spring has sprung in Rolla, Missouri, and cattle farmer Ken Lenox has noticed an increase in business.

“We’ve never dreamed of $2 a-pound cattle and they were well over $2 a-pound.”

When we last spoke with Lenox, he was dealing with temperatures below 14 degrees. The frost is now gone from his fields and he’s not only seeing a boom in his cattle business, but in his hay crops too.

“We just finished up 150 acres of hay. We just got rid of our spring calves that we sell. So things are looking up.”

Take your tips from the June Vogue and spend $343,368

Tue, 2014-06-17 13:39

Just because it's a fun thing to do, I guess, Noah Veltman, a data journalist at WNYC added up what it would cost to buy all the items and products featured on the editorial pages of the June 2014 editions of ten major magazines -- Vogue, InStyle, Cosmo and others.

 He's not even talking about the stuff featured in ads. At the top of the charts is Vogue... with a cumulative price tag of $343,368. Coming in at number ten? Real Simple...almost $16,000.  

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