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A new product from a notorious name in entertainment

Tue, 2014-11-18 06:00

For years, the file-sharing service BitTorrent has been associated with piracy, as millions of people streamed creative content—movies, or music—for free.

Now, BitTorrent—with 170 million users—says it wants to empower artists, musicians and filmmakers.

While this is a bit ironic for some, the plan is to become a platform where musicians and others sell songs, albums and merchandise. 

The company’s Director of Content Strategy Straith Schreder says you can think of it a bit like Etsy.

“It’s built to kind of bring people together over the content and creativity that they keep in common. That’s very much our mission here,” she says.

The hope is BitTorrent's so-called ‘bundles’ —what the company calls content in this new model—will slow the piracy that’s plagued the entertainment industry; the piracy that some associate with BitTorrent.

Complete Music Update editor Chris Cooke says while it’s not clear yet how to protect artists, direct to consumer models offer some hope.

“Artists now can know pretty precisely who their core fan base are, what sort of people they are, where they live, what they like to spend money on. And then provide products and services that excite those fans,” he says.

Cooke says the music industry is just learning how to capitalize on this new model.

He says the best thing about internet is that’s its putting artists in direct relationship with their fans. 

Bob Marley family launches global pot brand

Tue, 2014-11-18 04:50

The family of Jamaican-born reggae star Bob Marley launched a first-of-its-kind global cannabis brand on Tuesday. The brand, Marley Natural, is meant for both medical and adult-recreational use (21-and-over), and will hit the market in late 2015. It is a venture of Bob Marley’s widow, Rita, who is also a reggae musician, and Marley's children and grandchildren, in partnership with Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a leading cannabis-focused private equity firm.

Bob Marley’s name and legacy—attached to a mass-marketed global marijuana brand—could be a killer app in this booming industry. Legal marijuana sales are expected to grow from $2.4 billion in 2014 to $10 billion by 2018, according to the cannabis investment group ArcView. The meteoric growth in revenue is predicated on an expected transition of current and new cannabis consumers from purchasing marijuana on the illegal black market, to purchasing it in state-regulated and taxed retail stores and dispensaries.

However, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and there are many obstacles to success for investors and brands. It is currently extremely difficult for cannabis-related businesses to obtain banking services, and many business expenses can’t be deducted under federal tax law. Production, processing and distribution can generally be done only within the state where the marijuana is sold. Interstate and international shipping of marijuana is not permitted.

Marley Natural products will include heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains in smokeable and vaporizable form, said Privateer CEO Brendan Kennedy in an interview at a huge  pot trade show—the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo—in Las Vegas last week. The brand also features therapeutic cannabis and hemp-infused lotions; pot paraphernalia, such as smoking implements; carrying cases and the like. The Jamaican marijuana strains offered will be similar to those Bob Marley himself favored during his life, said Kennedy, including “Lamb’s Bread” and “Pineapple Skunk.”

Marley Natural will only be available for sale in local, state, and national jurisdictions where marijuana use is legal, according to Privateer. 23 states and the District of Columbia now permit marijuana use for medical purposes; four states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational adult-use, including Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska (the latter two by voter initiative in November 2014, with implementation pending under state law). Legalization advocates predict California, Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Hawaii could pass similar initiatives by 2017 (see map below). Several European countries and Uruguay also permit some legal use of marijuana.

A new online ad for Marley Natural begins with sweeping aerial views of a tropical jungle and a voiceover saying: “In Bob Marley’s vision for a better world, one united by love, respect and social justice, he advocates for the positive power of the herb,” as reggae music swells in the background. The brand's logo appears in the video; it includes an image of the Lion of Judah, a powerful spiritual symbol for the Jamaican Rastafari movement, which reveres cannabis.

“In many ways our father helped start this movement at least fifty years ago,” said Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter, in an interview before the launch. “He said it himself: ‘When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.’ So it feels very natural to us to use his voice on a global scale, getting the message across of the many benefits of cannabis.”

But even as public opinion appears to be gradually shifting toward more support of legalization for adult users, most Americans still don’t see cannabis as a beneficial recreational or mind-altering pastime. And they may not be ready for slick marketing of everything from joints, to powerful pot cookies and candies.

Rachel O’Bryan is a lawyer and mother in Denver. She co-founded the group Smart Colorado, which advocates for tighter regulation of marijuana. She said her goal is to prevent use and access by young people, as well as inappropriate marketing of edibles and other products to children.

“I think if we end up with national brands, the federal government will have no choice—there will have to be more attention on the safety of these products,” O'Bryan said.

Members of the Marley family insist their new brand is aimed at legal adult users 21-and-over, and not young people. They promise that both the labeling and the marketing will be clear on this point.

“Children like music,” said Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son. “But just like with other adult products—tobacco, consumption of alcohol, going to a nightclub—people have to be responsible. Our label will always gear toward adults and steer away from children. We want people to have a responsible mind, to have full knowledge, to understand the benefits of cannabis. It’s not a toy.”

States labeled 'adult use' are predicted to pass recreational marijuana legalization for adults 21 or older, or medical marijuana. As predicted, voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia approved recreational-marijuana legalization in November 2014. Voters in Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize recreational marijuana production, distribution and retail sale in 2012.

The ArcView Group, ArcView Market Research

 

Quiz: Taken for granted

Tue, 2014-11-18 04:10

States doled out more than $9 billion in higher-ed grants during the 2012 school year, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.

What percentage of state grant money awarded to students in 2012 was need-based?

PODCAST: Taxing marijuana

Tue, 2014-11-18 03:00

The people with their PhD's in economics were thinking wholesale prices would fall for October. How could they not with oil prices dropping and dropping? What happened instead today, an uptick in the producer price index. More on that. Plus, when choosing iPhone versus Android, you might see Apple and Samsung as rivals. But a deal is reportedly in the works for Samsung to once again supply most of the microchips inside Apple phones and tablets. And there's news that some cities in Oregon are looking at legal options to see if they can tax marijuana sales once recreational use becomes legal next summer. The ballot measure voters approved the other week says only the state can tax pot. 

Mapping New York's massive public wi-fi needs

Tue, 2014-11-18 02:00
10,000

The number of pay phones New York City could replace with pylons providing free public Wi-Fi and domestic calls under a new proposal called LinkNYC. The program would be the largest of its kind in the country and, the Verge notes, would provide dizzying speeds many homes don't have access to yet. The plan would be funded by advertising on the kiosks, which are projected to rake in $500 million in 12 years. It's all very ambitious, with a long road ahead.

2.5 million

That's how many children in the U.S. experience homelessness annually, according to a new study. The numbers represent a historic high and the root causes are primarily economic. In states like California that have a high cost of living, families surviving on minimum wage can't afford the average two-bedroom apartment, which generally costs $28/hour in income.

495

That's how many satellites the U.S. has in orbit, more than a third of the at least 1,200 orbiting earth right now. Using data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Quartz has compiled massive, beautiful interactive graphic showing them all. You can watch the pace of the satellites at varying altitudes and sort them by country, purpose and more.  

3.5 years

The portion of a life sentence Lindy Chamberlain served after being wrongly convicted for killing her infant daughter in the early 1980s. New evidence came to light showing Chamberlain's claim, that little Azaria has been stolen from the family's campsite by a dingo, was actually true. Chamberlain was released, but for decades she fought public opinion, which had long condemned her, and the state, which long refused to change Azaria's official cause of death. Her struggle went largely ignored as "a dingo took my baby" became a pop culture punchline completely divorced from the tragedy. The Retro Report has a new mini documentary on the case.

$10 billion

That's how much legal marijuana sales is projected to bring in by 2018. The family of Jamaican-born reggae star Bob Marley launched a first-of-its-kind global cannabis brand on Tuesday. The late performer could become a powerful messenger for the emerging marijuana market. As his famous quote goes: "When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself."

Samsung and Apple: It's complicated

Tue, 2014-11-18 02:00

We’ve been seeing reports that Apple and Samsung have reached a deal for Samsung to supply most of the chips for Apple iPhones and iPads, starting in 2016.

There's no confirmation from Apple, but there’s no denying that Samsung has been a major supplier for Apple, which could be surprising, considering they’re competitors. 

Apple and Samsung have fought in court over patents. But, like many a squabbling couple, they find they need each other.

“It’s a complicated relationship,” says Jon Erensen, research director in the semiconductor group at Gartner.   

Erensen says Samsung needs Apple because it’s a big player, ordering lots of chips. Apple needs Samsung because it can reliably spit out lots of chips for Apple products.

“They want to make sure they don’t create a bottleneck in their supply chain for a key component,” Erensen says.

But how can they be so intertwined, when they seem to hate each other? It’s simple. Samsung has compartmentalized its relationship with Apple.

“It’s different parts of Samsung," says Michael Palma, the IDC research manager for consumer semiconductors. "Samsung is a huge corporation. The chip business is run separately.”

So, while the Samsung division that sells phones may hate Apple, its chip business found a way to Apple’s heart. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The number of homeless kids is on the rise

Tue, 2014-11-18 02:00

A new report on child homelessness in America finds that 2.5 million children experience homelessness annually.

The numbers represent a historic high and the root causes are primarily economic.

The study, published by the National Center on Family Homelessness, finds that as many as one in thirty children are homeless at some time during the year, an increase of 8 percent.

“The largest group is families that are doubled up and living place-to-place. They’re moving in with families and friends, and they’re kind of moving around a lot,” says Carmela DeCandia, Director of the National Center on Family Homelessness.

DeCandia says part of the reason for the shockingly high numbers is that previous studies on child and family homelessness often didn’t count families living outside the [homeless] shelter system.

High living costs are a particular problem in California, which accounts for more than one-fifth of all homeless children in the country, nearly 527,000.

According to the report, California's high cost of living means an average two-bedroom apartment in California costs $28/hour in income.

“Which means that that even if you had two parents working at minimum wage, they would still not be able to afford that kind of apartment,” notes Colette Auerswald, a pediatrician and professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Minimum wage in California is $8/hr.

Auerswald says homeless children need to become a funding priority for state and federal agencies, much like chronically homeless adults and homeless veterans. 

Meet Generation Z

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:08
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One sure sign that college application season is in full swing at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, outside of Washington, D.C.: Students are pouring in to the office of CollegeTracks, a program that helps students from low- and moderate-income families navigate the process.

The office is packed with students seeking help, because this generation of high school students has heard over and over again — from their parents, their teachers, their president — that college is a must.

“Nowadays you need a degree to get a good job,” says Daniel Roa, 17.

“It’s kind of something that everyone does now,” says Alexandra Haller, 18.

“That’s the extra step we need to fulfilling what we want to be when we’re older,” says Adam Mungani, 17.

These students — all seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase — are part of the first wave of Generation Z. If you haven’t even heard of Gen Z, don’t worry. Neither had they.

“I have no idea what that means,” says Haller, blond with pink lipstick and glasses. “The last generation?”

Gen. ZReality 42% expect to work for themselves in their career11% of working Americans are self-employed 36% expect to pay for college mainly with scholarships or grants59% of undergrads received grants in 2011 $100monthly student loan payment most students said was manageable$242average monthly student loan payment 29% consider a $100,000 annual salary rich22% of Americans earn $100,000 or more annually 17% expect to pay for college mainly with student loans67% of undergrads received loans in 2011 Source: Northeastern University

Gen Z, or the iGeneration as some have called it, refers to those born since roughly 1995. These are kids who have never known a world without the Internet and smartphones. And they’re just starting to hit college.

Marketplace teamed up with Northeastern University to survey the latest crop of college-bound teenagers, aged 16 to 19. About two-thirds of them plan to attend at least some college right out of high school.

The big question is how to pay for it. Two-thirds said they were “concerned” about being able to afford college. When I bring up the notion of loans, the students I talk to recoil.

“Last resort,” says Haller.

“It’s not worth the debt,” says Tamara King, 17, who has long hair and braces.

It’s no wonder they’re down on debt. The first wave of Gen Z watched their parents struggle through the recession. They saw older brothers and sisters graduate and not be able to get jobs.

 “Didn’t the president just finish paying off his student debt, like, a year ago?” asks King.

Actually, it was like 10 years ago. But still.

“I mean he’s the president,” she says. “In the end, it was a good result, but I wouldn’t want that.”

So where will the money come from? Almost a quarter of the students surveyed said mainly from their parents. More than a third expect grants and academic scholarships to foot most of the bill. That may be unrealistic, says Heather O’Leary, who studies Gen Z as an analyst with the higher ed research and advisory firm Eduventures.

“Our research also has shown that students are expecting an inordinate amount of merit-based and need-based scholarships, even students whose families are coming from very high income levels,” she says.

Colleges are partly to blame for the false expectations, O'Leary says, because they set high tuition prices, then compete for students by offering them discounts in the form of financial aid.

“It also falls to parents who have been telling them from a very early age they’re all very special snowflakes and they should be recognized for that individuality,” she says.

The individuals I talked to don’t expect college to come easy. They plan to work, or to save money by starting at community college. What they do expect, just like most of the kids who took the survey, is for college to prepare them for careers. They want schools to offer courses in entrepreneurship and to build in practical experience through things like internships.

Tiffany King, Tamara’s twin sister, plans to complete as many internships as possible.

“Even if you graduate and you wave around, 'Hey, I got my college degree,' where’s your experience in that field?” King says.

Despite their worries, this is a confident bunch. A striking number of them — 42 percent — plan to work for themselves during their careers. That’s nearly four times the percentage of American workers who are self-employed.

Almost two-thirds expect to be better off financially than their parents. Mungani, the son of Somali immigrants who didn’t go to college, says his generation has time.

“Our economy now will change after we graduate college,” he says. “So just keep your head high and your hopes up that you can get a job.”

Not that these kids have the luxury worry much about life after college.

“I honestly can’t think that far, because I’m worried about getting into college,” says Haller.

Tires and civil war: America's business with warlords

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:07

Back in 1926 an American named Harvey Firestone cut a deal with the government of Liberia.

The African country, which had been founded in 1847 by freed American slaves, sold Firestone a million acres of land chalk-full of rubber tree plants for just six cents an acre. The deal created the world's largest rubber tree plantation and deeply intertwined Liberia and the Firestone Tire Company. But starting in the late 1980s, the relationship became much more complicated. A series of political uprisings and coups led to the takeover of a large portion of Liberia by infamous warlord Charles Taylor. 

“Charles Taylor became the first person since Nazi Germany as a head of state to be convicted of crimes against humanity,” says T. Christian Miller, a ProPublica’s reporter who worked on the documentary “Firestone and the Warlord" with Frontline. The film focuses on a decision Firestone made after Taylor took over: the decision to go back and try to rebuild the plantation.

“This becomes a story about choices,” Miller says. “The choices that a big American corporation faces when it comes into contact with a violent guerrilla leader, which happens all the time.”

The film digs up more than 200 documents that for the first time reveal a deal cut between Firestone and Taylor to bring their business back to Liberia. To many Liberians and even some U.S. diplomats, Miller says, the deal helped fund the warlord’s rampage and reign, thereby leaving the company with blood on its hands. But Firestone insists to this day that it was just conducting business as usual.

“They would deny that,” Miller says. “They were not there to help Charles Taylor fight a war. They were there to run their business. And as part of having to run their business they had to pay taxes to the guy who was in charge. At that time Charles Taylor was in charge.”

A setback for Japan's 'Abenomics'

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:00

On Monday, Japan released gross domestic product numbers that signaled the country has officially slipped into recession. Instead of the modest economic growth that had been forecast, the economy shrank by 1.6 percent — the second consecutive quarter of contraction.

It was seen as a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics" program. Abe's government has sought to revive the long-stagnant Japanese economy primarily through stimulus, but officials recently raised a red flag on the country's ballooning debt load. They said they needed to deal with the debt issue at the same time as the growth issue, and decided raising money by increasing the sales tax was the best approach.

It was, in a sense, the result of a treatment for one ailment (ballooning debt) exacerbating a second malaise (low growth).

"Sometimes in medical treatments there are certain kinds of medicines that are lethal in large doses but beneficial in small doses," says David Stockton, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "Maybe in this case the dosage was just too hard for the patient, and the patient has relapsed now."

 The “dosage” in this case was a 5 to 8 percent increase in the sales tax, beginning in April of this year.

"Sales taxes are typically on goods," says Liz Malm, economist at the Tax Foundation research group. "You’ve got the classic law of demand kicking in here where if the price of a good goes up, you tend to get less consumption of a good."

 In Japan’s case, those goods included  durable, big-ticket items like homes.

"If you’re buying eggs every week, you’re not going to stockpile eggs, because they’re gonna go bad," says  Josh Hausman, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.

Japanese consumption increased prior to the April tax hike, but then decreased afterward. Many economists expected this to result in contraction in the second quarter, but most expected the economy to revert to growth in the third quarter. 

"I think this sort of adds to a growing body of evidence that contractionary fiscal policy – so raising taxes or cutting spending –can be quite damaging," says Hausman. "More damaging than many economists might have expected."

 Abe is now widely expected to delay a second dose of sales tax increases scheduled for October, 2015.

How a sales tax pushed Japan into recession

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:00

On Monday, Japan released GDP numbers that signaled the country has officially slipped into recession. Instead of the modest economic growth that had been forecast, the economy shrank by 1.6 percent—the second consecutive quarter of contraction.

It was taken as a set-back for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics" program. Abe's government has sought to revive the long-stagnant Japanese economy primarily through stimulus, but officials recently raised a red flag on the country's ballooning debt load. They said they needed to deal with the debt issue at the same time as the growth issue, and decided raising money by increasing the sales tax was the best approach.

It was, in a sense, the result of a treatment for one ailment—ballooning debt—exacerbating a second malaise—low growth.

"Sometimes in medical treatments there are certain kinds of medicines that are lethal in large doses but beneficial in small doses," says David Stockton, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "Maybe in this case the dosage was just too hard for the patient and the patient has relapsed now."

 The “dosage” in this case was a 5 to 8 percent increase in the sales tax, beginning in April of this year.

"Sales taxes are typically on goods," says Liz Malm, economist at the Tax Foundation. "You’ve got the classic law of demand kicking in here where if the price of a good goes up, you tend to get less consumption of a good."

 In Japan’s case, those goods included  durable, big-ticket items like homes.

"If you’re buying eggs every week, you’re not going to stockpile eggs, because they’re gonna go bad," says  Josh Hausman, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Japanese consumption increased prior to the April tax hike, but then decreased afterwards. Many economists expected this to result in contraction in the second quarter, but most expected the economy to revert to growth in the third quarter. 

"I think this sort of adds to a growing body of evidence that contractionary fiscal policy, so raising taxes or cutting spending, can be quite damaging," says Hausman. "More damaging than many economists might have expected."

 Abe is now widely expected to delay a second dose of sales tax increases scheduled for October, 2015.

Falling oil prices hurt state budgets

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:00

Oil prices are falling. Good news, right? 

It all depends on where you sit. If you’re trying to balance a state budget that relies heavily on oil taxes, it’s crunch time.

Louisiana, which has relied on oil and gas tax revenue for 12 to 15 percent of its budget in recent years, is adjusting its revenue forecasts. They now expect $90 million less from fossil fuel taxes than planned. Greg Albrecht, chief economist at the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office, says this past spring they expected oil prices to stay around $95 a barrel well into 2015.

“In fact, for a couple months into this fiscal year, we had hundred-dollar-plus a barrel of oil prices,” says Albrecht. 

Oil has been trading for under $80 a barrel recently. Political observers in Louisiana expect some cuts in healthcare and higher education as a result of the revenue shortfall.

In North Dakota last year oil and gas taxes made up over half of all state revenue. But Pam Sharp, director of the state’s Office of Management and Budget, isn’t predicting a disaster. State law requires most of that money go into various reserve funds, not the general fund. 

“The way the oil taxes are structured in North Dakota … I think it puts us in really good shape to weather that kind of storm,” Sharp says. 

Falling oil prices do mean less money for North Dakota's reserve funds, including the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund. That pot of money goes to much-needed infrastructure in the oil boom state, including roads and school construction loans. Sharp does expect, however, that in this two-year budget cycle alone, North Dakota will collect $6 billion dollars in oil and gas taxes.

Lower oil prices hurt state budgets

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:00

Oil prices are falling. Good news, right? 

It all depends on where you sit. If you’re trying to balance a state budget that relies heavily on oil taxes, it’s crunch time.

Louisiana, which has relied on oil and gas tax revenue for 12 to 15 percent of its budget in recent years, is adjusting its revenue forecasts. They now expect $90 million less from fossil fuel taxes than planned. Greg Albrecht, chief economist at the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office, says this past spring they expected oil prices to stay around $95 a barrel well into 2015.

“In fact, for a couple months into this fiscal year, we had $100 dollar-plus a barrel of oil prices,” says Albrecht. 

Oil has been trading for under $80 a barrel recently. Political observers in Louisiana expect some cuts in healthcare and higher education as a result of the revenue shortfall.

In North Dakota last year oil and gas taxes made up over half of all state revenue. But Pam Sharp, director of the state’s Office of Management and Budget, isn’t predicting a disaster. State law requires most of that money go into various reserve funds, not the general fund. 

“The way the oil taxes are structured in North Dakota… I think it puts us in really good shape to weather that kind of storm,” Sharp says. 

Falling oil prices do mean less money for North Dakota's reserve funds, including the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund. That pot of money goes to much-needed infrastructure in the oil boom state, including roads and school construction loans. Sharp does expect, however, that in this two-year budget cycle alone, North Dakota will collect $6 billion dollars in oil and gas taxes.

Snapchat partners with Square to present ... Snapcash

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:00

Snapchat, the app that lets you send pictures or videos that disappear after a couple of seconds, is getting into the mobile payment business.

It's a peer-to-peer payment system called Snapcash. You can use it to send money to your friends.

All you have to do is enter your bank account information, type in a dollar amount and hit the green button.

What could possibly go wrong?

To announce its new partnership with mobile payment service Square, Snapchat rolled out a promotional video. It imagines what is going on inside your phone while you are using Snapcash as a Monopoly-meets-Emerald-City, Broadway-style crossover universe.

See for yourself:

 

Snapchat partnered with Square to present: Snapcash

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:00

Snapchat, the app that lets you send pictures or videos that disappear after a couple of seconds, is getting into the mobile payment business.

It's a peer-to-peer payment system called Snapcash. You can use it to send money to your friends.

All you have to do is enter your bank account information, type in a dollar amount and hit the green button.

What could possibly go wrong?

To announce their new partnership with Square, Snapchat rolled out a promotional video. It imagines the inside of your phone while using Snapchat as a Monopoly-meets-Emerald-City, Broadway-style crossover universe.

See for yourself:

 

Quiz: Me and Gen Z

Mon, 2014-11-17 09:55

Northeastern University, in conjunction with Marketplace, surveyed American teens ages 16 to 19 to create a "Portrait of Generation Z."

Answer these 10 questions from the survey to find if you're in sync with Gen Z, and share your results.

Please upgrade your browser to use this content.

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Quiz: When universities partner abroad, who learns?

Mon, 2014-11-17 04:52

American universities are increasingly teaming up with international colleges, according to the American Council on Education.

How many international joint and dual degree programs enroll only non-U.S. students?

PODCAST: Japan's surprise recession

Mon, 2014-11-17 03:00

First up, more on Japan's surprise recession. Then we speak to Omer Gokcekus about his latest book, “The Peculiar Dynamics of Corruption.”

Charting Japan's road to recession

Mon, 2014-11-17 02:00
1.6 percent

That's how much Japan's gross domestic product shrunk on an annualized basis in the third quarter, pushing the country into a recession. Many are blaming a second-quarter sales tax hike, which raised taxes to 8 percent. A second increase to 10 percent was scheduled for next fall, but will likely be delayed, Bloomberg reported. Consumers weren't spending after the first tax increase, the Wall Street Journal noted. Businesses weren't stocking near as much, making the GDP contract further.

1.6 cents

That's what it costs the U.S. to make a penny because zinc prices are on the rise. The logistics of minting coins are just one of many challenges ahead of the militant group ISIS as it looks to establish its own currency. Quartz lays them out in a handy three-step guide to creating and distributing legal tender. Step one? "Establish authority."

$1.2 million

The price nonprofit Organizing for America is paying each year for access to President Barack Obama's campaign email list, which the Wall Street Journal notes could be the largest of its kind, at over 30 million subscribers when Obama was reelected. All those emails and data will be useful to OFA, an Obama campaign offshoot, as it begins fundraising for 2016.

$34.6 billion

That's how much Halliburton will pay for Baker Hughes, as announced on Monday. As the New York Times reports, the deal prevents what could have been a hostile takeover.

$38 million

"Dumb and Dumber To" pulled in $38 million over the weekend, claiming the top spot at the box office. This in spite of its 27% on RottenTomatoes.com. Not so dumb after all.

Hong Kong and Shangai exchanges link up in big reform

Mon, 2014-11-17 02:00

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect opens for business Monday. For the first time, investors from each market will have access to the other. It also means it will now be a lot easier for international investors to invest in mainland China.

"China’s markets are [currently] somewhat protected," says Peter Marber, head of emerging markets at Loomis, Sayles & Company. "They’ve got some stocks that list themselves on the New York Stock Exchange and around the world, but it’s only a small percentage of, really, what’s listed in China. This will allow us to invest in companies that we’ve just never had access to in the past."

While the linking of exchanges is important on its own, it’s also symbolic of a larger journey of financial reforms in the country.

"This is a historic development," says Nicholas Consonery, director of the Eurasia Group's Asia practice. "The second biggest economy in the world has a closed capital account, a very restricted stock market, and as it opens, I don’t even think we can even fully appreciate what a cataclysmic event this is going to be for the global capital markets."

Consonery thinks Chinese officials are committed, but still cautious about these larger reforms, so they’ll be watching the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect very closely before pursuing others. 

Both Consonery and Marber say investors should proceed with caution. The rules that govern companies in Shanghai can be very different than Hong Kong and around the world. 

"We’ve had a recent IPO for Alibaba, there’s been some questions about enforceability of certain kinds of commercial rights," Marber says. "But I would hope that most investors would have such a diversified exposure to the country that they wouldn't put all their eggs just a few baskets."

 

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