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The biker shootout in Waco, by the numbers

Thu, 2015-05-21 11:16

Authorities are still trying to piece together what exactly happened at a Waco, Texas bar on Sunday, when a melee involving rival biker gangs and police left nine people dead and 18 injured. Let's do the numbers on what we know so far:

177

That's how many people were arrested in connection with shootout, all of them facing felony organized crime charges with bonds set for $1 million. That has potential to overwhelm McLennan County, one expert told USA Today, because the criminal docket was already full and costs for a single death penalty case can reach into the "high six figures." Experts predicted many plea bargains and charges dropped.

120

The number of people who were detained after a similar biker brawl in Nevada in 2002, the New York Times reported. That gang fight, between the Hell's Angels the Mongols, could offer a peek at how things will shake out in Waco: seven Hell's Angels were convicted in federal court, and six Mongols pleaded guilty in state court.

$59 per day

The approximate cost of a jail bed in Texas, according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

68

That's how many locations Twin Peaks sports bar has around the country, though the chain announced its Waco franchise would not reopen after Sunday's violence, which was mostly confined to the parking lot. Police and the restaurant itself both blamed the franchise owner for ignoring warnings from law enforcement about the potential for violence.

318 (and counting)

The number of weapons police have collected from the scene so far, including 118 handguns, 157 knives, chains, brass knuckles, clubs and one AK-47. Police said they expect the number to rise because weapons were hidden all over: in trash cans, stoves and bags of chips, stuffed between seat cushions, even partially flushed down the toilet.

The biker shootout in Waco, by the numbers

Thu, 2015-05-21 11:16

Authorities are still trying to piece together what exactly happened at a Waco, Texas bar on Sunday, when a melee involving rival biker gangs and police left nine people dead and 18 injured. Let's do the numbers on what we know so far:

177

That's how many people were arrested in connection with shootout, all of them facing felony organized crime charges with bonds set for $1 million. That has potential to overwhelm McLennan County, one expert told USA Today, because the criminal docket was already full and costs for a single death penalty case can reach into the "high six figures." Experts predicted many plea bargains and charges dropped.

120

The number of people who were detained after a similar biker brawl in Nevada in 2002, the New York Times reported. That gang fight, between the Hell's Angels the Mongols, could offer a peek at how things will shake out in Waco: seven Hell's Angels were convicted in federal court, and six Mongols pleaded guilty in state court.

$59 per day

The approximate cost of a jail bed in Texas, according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

68

That's how many locations Twin Peaks sports bar has around the country, though the chain announced its Waco franchise would not reopen after Sunday's violence, which was mostly confined to the parking lot. Police and the restaurant itself both blamed the franchise owner for ignoring warnings from law enforcement about the potential for violence.

318 (and counting)

The number of weapons police have collected from the scene so far, including 118 handguns, 157 knives, chains, brass knuckles, clubs and one AK-47. Police said they expect the number to rise because weapons were hidden all over: in trash cans, stoves and bags of chips, stuffed between seat cushions, even partially flushed down the toilet.

 

PODCAST: New York as a lesson in economics

Thu, 2015-05-21 03:00

A new report from the OECD shows income inequality in many parts of the world including the U.S. The data shows the gap between the rich and poor is seven times larger than it was in the '80s. Plus, our senior economics contributor Chris Farrell talks about the economic lessons learned and taught by New York City.

How the Disney 'ecosystem' works

Thu, 2015-05-21 02:00

Disneyland in California turns 60 this summer, and it's kicking off festivities with a big party this weekend. Revelers can stay overnight at Disney's theme parks in California and Florida.

But Disney, the media company, has more than a birthday to celebrate. A couple of weeks ago it reported second quarter profits that beat expectations—led by its theme parks and the film Frozen.

How can a film from two years ago still be a profit maker for the company?

"We're a company with a very long tail," explained Disney CFO Jay Rasulo at a media industry conference last week.

That long tail refers to the various merchandizing, theme park attractions, and other efforts that can generate cash from popular films and Disney characters long after they last appeared on the big screen.

Disney's consumer product sales brought in almost a billion dollars last quarter.

"We really look at every aspect of our uniquely linked-together ecosystem," Rasulo said at the conference.

This is the Disney way of doing things, according to Marty Sklar, a longtime company executive who worked with Walt Disney when the first theme park opened.

"It really goes back to things that Walt did in merchandizing Mickey Mouse ... as early as the '30s," says Sklar. "So that is a pattern that was long ago established."

Sklar says even Disneyland attractions like Tomorrowland and Frontierland were prompted from content out of Disney's studio.

Parent Gap Inc. benefits as Old Navy gets stylish

Thu, 2015-05-21 02:00

Clothing retailer Gap Inc. reports first-quarter results on Thursday. Revenue in 2014 totaled $16.2 billion, up 3.2 percent from the previous year. For the last four quarters, profit has gone up year-over-year by an average of 4 percent. But there's an interesting fragmentation within parent company Gap Inc. Last fiscal year, store sales fell 5 percent at Gap stores; Banana Republic's sales were also unimpressive. But at Old Navy, sales went up 5 percent.

Old Navy started out as a place where the whole family could pick up cheap fleece jackets and tank tops.

"They really weren't known very much for being fashion forward," says Jane Thomas, marketing professor at Winthrop University.

Other retailers, like H&M and Forever 21, started grabbing young shoppers. But then Gap Inc. hired the executive who led H&M's expansion into the U.S., Stefan Larsson, and asked him to revamp Old Navy.

"It's brilliant strategy," Thomas says.

Now, plain T-shirts and khakis are bold prints and crinkle-gauze tops. Mark Cohen, head of retail studies at Columbia University's business school, says Old Navy is making its merchandise more interesting and attractive. But the Gap has an identity crisis.

"Is it trading into the teen segment with American Eagle, Abercrombie and Aeropostale, or is it trying to move up market to an older customer? I'm not sure they get it," Cohen says.

If the Gap does get it, he says, it's not making it clear.

An egg-cellent shortage of eggs

Thu, 2015-05-21 01:58
$12.7 billion

That's how much CVS Health Corp will reportedly pay to acquire Omnicare Inc, a pharmaceuticals provider. As Bloomberg reports, pharmaceutical companies are looking for ways to consolidate to take full advantage of the rising demand for pharmacy services.

87 percent

That’s the percentage of afflicted chickens in the recent avian flu outbreak that are egg-laying hens, according to the New York Times. And that potentially means big business for a company like Hampton Creek, which sells an egg substitute product. The chief executive of Hampton Creek says eight companies, including General Mills, have been in contact about purchasing supplies. It seems that without planning for the inevitable shortage of the real stuff, these companies might really lay an egg.

5 percent

That's how much sales for Old Navy increased last fiscal year. In an effort to shed its reputation as a store for cheap basics, Old Navy hired Stefan Larsson, who helped oversee H&M's expansion stateside. And the numbers show the style makeover has worked. That's good news for parent company Gap Inc., but leaves its sister franchise, The Gap, with an identity crisis—The Gap saw sales fall 5 percent in the same amount of time. 

60

That's how old Disney will turn this summer. We take a look at how the economic ecosystem of the company works—from parlaying the success of films into merchandising, as well as attractions in one of many theme parks. Frozen, for example, was released two years ago, and the company is still reaping the benefits—its recent second quarter earnings report showed stronger-than-expected numbers.

$100 million

That's how much the city of Baltimore was given 20 years ago as part of a program called The Empowerment Zone. Delivered in the form of a block grant and a package of tax credits for businesses and employers, the award went to six cities, with some wiggle room for each to choose how the money could be used. Baltimore chose to focus on job creation in its poorest neighborhoods. Marketplace's Noel King recently took a trip to Baltimore to answer the question: How many jobs does $100 million get you?

Currency control sits uneasily in trade deal

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

Congress is debating whether or not to attach some new rules about what countries can and can't do with their currencies to a pending "fast track" trade bill, which would allow Congress to vote on free trade deals but not filibuster or amend them. 

 

“What I think we’re trying to do here is to create a playing field on which international trade will take place now for years to come,” says Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former member of President Obama’s economic team. “So you want labor standards, you want environmental standards and you also want currency standards.”

 

If countries are able to devalue their currencies to make their exports cheaper relative to other countries, Bernstein says that means the playing field isn’t level anymore. ­­

 

However, the Obama administration has opposed adding currency rules to pending fast-track legislation or a 12-country trade deal in the works, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Tuesday that adding these currency rules could open to door for other countries to challenge Federal Reserve policies.

 

“It’s a pretty fine line between actual intervention in the foreign exchange market and alternatively, using monetary policy, that is printing more money or reducing interest rates, in order to make the currency cheaper in value,” says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University.

 

While Bernstein thinks spotting currency manipulators is straightforward, Alan Sykes, a professor at NYU School of Law, says countries always have other explanations for their actions.

 

“They’re promoting development, they’re maintaining a stable value of their currency, or in the case of the United States, we need low interest rates to stimulate the economy in the face of a serious recession,” he says. “So there’s always a story.”

 

The Senate is expected to vote on a fast-track bill later this week. 

My First Job: Video dating service

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

Melissa O’Neil’s first job was working the front desk for a dating service, but this was before the days of sites like eHarmony or Match.com

“Back in the day before the internet, they would actually take videos of people doing all the things they do in the online forms now,” O’Neil says.

According to O’Neil, sometimes customers’ dating videos had outtakes.

“The guys very much got in trouble and had to be edited for saying things about what they were looking for … and women were more on the side of saying things about themselves that they shouldn’t have said.”

But O’Neil says she was able to learn something from the mistakes of all those video daters looking for love.

“Seeing how people presented themselves and the kind of things they could do that would shoot themselves in the foot taught me a lot about how to present myself – obviously in the dating world – but more specifically in the work world,” says O’Neil.  

Rate rigging in London affects U.S. consumers

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

The Justice Department says five big banks have agreed to plead guilty to manipulating foreign exchange markets: Barclays, Citibgroup, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS. UBS also pleaded guilty to skewing a benchmark rate called LIBOR.

LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, is what big banks charge each other for loans. Lots of consumer loans with variable interest rates are based on it, such as adjustable-rate mortgages, private student loans and car loans.

“There are important amounts of borrowing for car loans and for credit cards that are absolutely tied to a variable rate, and that variable rate is often LIBOR,” says Simon Johnson, a professor of global economics and management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Adjustable-rate mortgages are also tied to the LIBOR, and its manipulation has unsettled the mortgage market. 

“It undermined the whole credibility of an index for mortgages that supposedly was above board in terms of how it adjusted – either lowered or raised your payment,” says Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance.

Consumers were also affected by the currency manipulation, although more indirectly. U.S.  companies with business aboard might have lost out because of the skewed currency market.

“And when that happens, they have to pass on the costs somewhere, and they may well pass them onto consumers,” says Hillary Sale, a professor of law and management at Washington University in Saint Louis.

So the next time you yawn at someone manipulating a market far away that you’ve never heard of, just remember, you could be the one who pays.

 

 

 

The job application for Al-Qaeda

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

On Wednesday, the U.S. government declassified a whole bunch of documents it found in Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

Lots of fascinating stuff — among them a job application to join Al-Qaeda, which will sound familiar to anyone who's ever filled out any job application.

These are all quotes:

  • "Please write clearly and legibly."
  • "Have you ever been in jail or prison?"
  • "List your previous occupations."
  • "Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?"
  • "Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?"

Northwestern professor is a real 'Survivor'

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

Max Dawson has always been a fan of the long-running reality television "Survivor," so much so that in 2012 he taught a class about it at Northwestern University. “The class was called “The Tribe Has Spoken,” says Dawson, now a Los Angeles-based media consultant. “I wanted to teach these students … about the industry they were going into. And what better way than using a case study of a show that really defined reality TV and redefined what American television is all about?”

Dawson’s class soon caught the eye of recruiters for "Survivor" and he was offered a spot on the show. “First, I thought I was being pranked by a friend or a student, but when the idea was planted in my head, it suddenly seemed really logical,” he says.

After getting the invitation, Dawson spent nearly two years preparing for the show. He did everything from putting in time at the gym to reading books about psychology in order to get ready. When it finally came time to make his debut, he felt ready. But he quickly realized that he may have been a bit too prepared.

“I was voted off in the second week,” Dawson says. “I came to the harsh realization that not everyone loves a know-it-all.”

This season of "Survivor" also had contestants broken into one of three groups: The white collars, the blue collars and the no collars. Dawson was put into the white collars, which he doesn’t think did him any favors. “White collar is synonymous with the 1 percent, the oppressor, the man,” he says. “To me that was putting a target on our backs.”

Even though some would say that reality television represents a degradation of entertainment TV, Dawson says that the genre goes beyond that.

“I see it more as a great sociological experiment that not only allows us to be entertained, but forces us to think about really tough issues, to confront things that we might not otherwise want to confront or that our entertainment might otherwise allow us to avoid.”

How many jobs does $100 million get you?

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

Like many cities, Baltimore is dotted with the ghosts of industry: businesses, large and small, that have moved elsewhere or closed altogether.

There's the old FMC Corp. campus in Fairfield, its the lawn still neatly trimmed, but the parking lot is empty, and the property is ringed by fences and "No Trespassing" signs. FMC left Baltimore in 2008, part of a cost-cutting move.

The Globe Screen Printing building is on Hollins Street, right across from St. Peter's church, where Babe Ruth was baptized. Globe Screen, a family business, closed about 12 years ago.

A Bank One check-remittance center on East Fayette Street has been turned into Baltimore City Health Department building. It closed several years ago, primarily because people stopped writing so many checks.

What these businesses have in common is that each of them was located within one of Baltimore's poorer neighborhoods, which, in the '90s, were part of a citywide and federal effort to turn disinvested neighborhoods into "neighborhoods of choice."

In December 1994, Andrew Cuomo, then an assistant secretary with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, stood at a podium to announce the names of six cities that had been chosen to take part in an ambitious federal push to alleviate inner-city poverty. The Empowerment Zone program awarded a $100 million block grant and a package of tax credits for businesses and employers to the six. Seventy four cities applied, but Baltimore put on a show, dispatching a caravan of school buses and a marching band to Washington to deliver Charm City's application.

The winning cities, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia-Camden, had some leeway in how they'd use the funds, which were to be spread out over a decade. For Baltimore, job creation and job training in the poorest neighborhoods (called Empowerment Zones) were priorities. Twenty years later (and 11 years after the program ended) Baltimore's effort offers both successes and failures.

The money was dispersed with an eye to getting people to work. Thirty-five million went to workforce development, including career centers and job training. About $27 million went to job creation efforts, including small business loans. Another $13 million focused on quality of life rather than jobs, financing home improvements and cleaning up lead paint.

Baltimore kept detailed records of how the money was spent, and in 2005, researchers at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute tallied up the number of jobs created within the Empowerment Zones. In total, the report says 5,777 jobs were created. Over time though, many of those jobs have left Baltimore. Small businesses, listed as the recipients of tax credits or loans in HUD reports, have shut down. Some larger industries have moved their operations overseas.

Some areas of the city, though, have been transformed. In 1997, Sylvan Learning Systems relocated its headquarters to the Harbor East neighborhood, which at the time was industrial and largely empty. Today, Harbor East is a vibrant area of retail and restaurants. Sylvan, now Laureate Education, is still there.

But in the poorest neighborhoods, job creation has remained elusive. Unemployment and poverty rates remain high.

Sandtown-Winchester drew attention earlier this month as the blight-ravaged home of Freddie Gray, a young man who died in police custody, sparking protests that grew violent in some places.

A Marketplace analysis of census data shows that during the decade of Empowerment Zone funding, the unemployment rate in Sandtown-Winchester was 18 percent. In 2013, data, which includes the recession years, shows an unemployment rate of 22 percent.

Diane Bell-McKoy, the CEO of Associated Black Charities, was chair of the Empower Baltimore Management Corporation, the nonprofit entity set up to distribute the federal money. She sees some successes, but the failures haunt her.

"I can tell you factually, by looking at wage record data, that people benefited," Bell-McKoy says. "I can tell you factually that people that got loans [from] us for homeownership, that they still own their homes. I can tell you factually that there are some businesses that survived. I can tell you all that factually. But I can tell you that wasn't enough."

The boarded up homes and lack of stores in Sandtown-Winchester would seem to attest to that. Still, the Empowerment Zone money did lead to a personal transformation for one Baltimore individual. 

Antoine Bennett, a 44-year-old lifelong Sandtown-Winchester resident, had just finished up a three-and-a-half year stint in prison when the Empowerment Zone funds were made available.  The zone joined with other community development efforts. Bennett took advantage of them, finding a job at a youth center, taking college courses, feeling the pride of being called Mr. Bennett instead of a prison number. He hasn't missed a paycheck since. He considers neighborhood transformation a full-time job — his.

Bennett is now an outreach minister at New Song Community Church in Sandtown-Winchester.

"Our goal is to build up strong men of character in this community," Bennett says. "That the world can look and say, 'In that community, it is easy for them to go from ex-con to icon in a very unique way. It's the evidence that the ill-fated are truly illuminated in that community.' "

Technology meets advertising, with you as the target

Wed, 2015-05-20 13:00

Advertising used to look like this: People went out to lunch, drank a lot, had some great ideas and put them on television. But these days, advertising is all about mobile, all about digital and all about machines.  

Doug Fleming heads up programmatic ad sales at Hulu, the TV streaming service. Along with thousands of other advertising and marketing executives, Fleming has decamped to San Francisco this week for the Adtech conference. It’s two days of, well, everything thats means anything when it comes to advertising and technology.

Fleming is giving a talk at the conference about the way things work now. Here’s a preview:

“It is absolutely imperative that a publisher has their technology stack in order. Their content management system is talking to their database, their consumer marketing team is tied in with their advertising team, who are tied in with all facets of the inner-workings of the machine.”

Translation: Digital advertising is on a tear. It's expected to hit $50 billion this year, and a lot of that is thanks to automation. Buying, selling, targeting and placing ads is all being done by computers, and it needs to be a well-oiled machine to work properly.

Here’s what that looks like: Say you load a YouTube video on your smartphone. An ad often pops up first. But before it does, there’s a tiny pause. And during that pause, “in nine-one thousandths of a second, there’s a mini bidding war that takes place to see who’s going to win that impression,” says Kenny Day, who runs political ad sales for Yahoo! and is a veteran of the ad tech business. Day is describing what’s known as real-time bidding. It was introduced by Google back in 2009, when it bought the ad-tech company Doubleclick and invented computerized ad auctions.

But ad tech really took off when the power of buying and selling in a fraction of a second was combined with the mounds of data companies collect on consumers. That combination has fueled a spate of acquisitions in the past two years. And it’s what is behind Verizon’s $4.4 billion offer for AOL, which has a solid ad tech business.

“There are all these data companies that are dropping pixels on you. They're cookie-ing you. They know that you are female, between the ages of 30 and 54,” says Day, adding that they know where you live, your political leanings and the products you buy.

And when you log into Facebook or Google or surf on your phone, those little trackers follow you everywhere.

Everyone's sort of tagged with these IDs that we carry with us. It's called a long tail, Day says.

The data is anonymous, but computer algorithms compare your activities to millions of people doing the same things you are doing online and determine what types of ads people similar to you might like. And the more data that gets fed into the mix, the more precise the targeting and the bigger the potential payoff for advertisers.

So when that ad pops up on the video you’re about to watch, and it’s for a product that you may actually be interested in buying, there you have it: the cross-device, behaviorally targeted, real-time bidding, technology stack in action.

And who said ad tech was hard to understand?  

PODCAST: Skin in the game

Wed, 2015-05-20 03:00

How the head of the fed is keeping Wall Street workers chained to their desks ahead of the long holiday weekend. Plus, the Senate Education Committee meets Wednesday. Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee and is a former secretary of education, has proposed that colleges share in the risk of lending to student. He says this would lead to reduced student borrowing. How would it work if colleges had “skin in the game” and how realistic is the proposal? We'll also talk to Allan Sloan of the Washington Post about the costs of investing in a hedge fund.

If students default, should colleges pay up?

Wed, 2015-05-20 02:00

In the Senate, a committee hearing on Wednesday is scheduled to look at the idea of having colleges pay part of the cost of student loan defaults, which totaled $99 billion in 2014.

Some seven million Americans have defaulted on their student loans, and 70 percent of them are college drop-outs. They average about $14,000 in student debt.

"You want people to care about the debt beyond the day after they issue it, and to make colleges somewhat financially responsible," says Ben Miller, who studies education policy at the Center for American Progress.

To do that, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions is considering whether colleges should pay back the federal government a portion of any defaulted debt. It's also considering what that payback should look like: whether it should be a set fee, or a percentage of the loan amount, for example.

Pauline Abernathy, vice president of The Institute for College Access and Success, supports the idea of college debt default accountability. Her organization has provided feedback to the Senate committee on what form that should take. But, she says there are also risks to consider in crafting any future legislation.

"We don't want to provide any disincentive for schools to enroll low- income students, who may in some cases have a higher risk of default," Abernathy says.

While a potential bill could be a couple of years away, Abernathy says there does seem to be increasing bipartisan support for the concept of having colleges share in the risks of student loans.

In the 2015 fiscal year, the U.S. government's college grants and loans will total about $138 billion.

Even with insurance, people avoid the doctor

Wed, 2015-05-20 02:00

Among people 65 and under, almost two-thirds are covered by private health insurance plans, according to the CDC. But that doesn’t mean health care is affordable. A report released today by the Commonwealth Fund shows that rising deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses are a serious problem for more than 30 million underinsured working-age adults.

Knee replacements, hysterectomies, even getting prescriptions filled, are all things people with insurance are opting not to do, simply to cut down on out-of-pocket costs, says Jeffrey Rice, CEO of Healthcare Bluebook. “As deductibles have gone up, patients’ expenses have gone up,” he says.

A mid-range health insurance deductible can be $1,200. What’s more, Rice says, over the past 20 years, the cost of healthcare has shot way up.

“What used to be $150 visit to the ER to get a few stitches now turns into a $2,000 or $3,000 bill,” Rice says.

So a lot of people are thinking long and hard before going to the doctor. Dylan Roby, of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, says many health plans try to steer people toward preventive care. But here’s the catch: “If there’s not enough education and awareness about it, people still are going to see the deductible upfront as a big cost barrier,” he says.

Roby says if people take time to learn what’s free under their health plans, they might avoid bigger problems later.

 

 

The perfect writing surface

Wed, 2015-05-20 02:00

We're launching a series called Pro Tool: Tools of the Professional. What we're looking for is that must-have device in the possession of anyone in the workforc, be they hair dresser, welder or writer.

The second item in our series? A notebook.

Professional: J. Robert Lennon, writing professor at Cornell University and author of seven novels and two story collections, including most recently "See You in Paradise."
 

 

 

Courtesy of the author 

 

 

Pro Tool: A Seven Seas journal, bound by Nanami Paper of Irvine, California.

 

 

 

Lennon stamps the front of his notebook with his chop to signify which side is the front.

literambivalence 

 

 

Why it's a Pro Tool: "It's made with this amazing Japanese paper called Tomoe River paper. It's very thin and glassy. If you like to write with a fountain pen ... it's the perfect surface." - J. Robert Lennon

Cost: $19 and up.

 

 

Apple says the best things in life aren't freemium

Wed, 2015-05-20 01:56
13 percent

That's how much iTunes music sales dropped last year, and that means Apple is using its remaining pull in the music industry to set up its next big move, Harvard Business Review reported. The tech giant wants labels to pressure Spotify and other streaming services to drop their "freemium" model ahead of its rumored relaunch of Beats Music.

12 percent

The share price for auto supplier Takata fell as much as 12 percent on Wednesday, following Tuesday's announcement that many of its airbags — about 34 million — are faulty and require a recall. The problem has to do with the airbags rupturing when deployed, causing several deaths and many more injuries. As the New York Times reports, it's the largest recall related to automobiles ever. 

$99 billion

That's the total amount of defaulted student loans in 2014. With such high figures, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions is considering legislation that would force colleges to pay back some of that defaulted debt. But some experts worry that such a requirement might discourage universities from accepting low-income students who may be a statistically higher risk for default.

$19

That's how much a Seven Seas journal costs. Made with Japanese Tomoe River paper, it's a little pricier than your average pad or notebook. But writer J. Robert Lennon says it helps him do his job well. Find out more over at "Pro Tool: Tools of the Professional," our series on the must-have devices in the hands of working professionals.

30 million

That's the number of underinsured, working-age adults in the U.S. And according to a new report, many of these people are opting not to seek out expensive treatments in spite of being insured. The reason? Rising deductibles and out-of-pocket costs force people to second guess when is the right time to call the doctor.

$19.35 per hour

That's how much, on average, a household would have to earn at a full-time job to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the U.S. That's according to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The report lays out required household pay by state, some of them many times the minimum wage there.

America's infrastructure isn't sexy

Tue, 2015-05-19 13:00

America's infrastructure has fallen behind other nations. Highways are congested. Bridges are crumbling. Flights are delayed. Clearly, we need a solution. Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter identifies the hallmarks of successful transportation systems and explains the work being done to address these issues in her new book "Move: Putting America's Infrastructure Back in the Lead." 

What’s the solution? 

We need a new vision that puts mobility at the center of so many things. I think that if we can rally the public and rally leaders, state and local, who do press on Washington to say this is a critical national priority for our future, this is the only way to grow the economy, this is the only way to end poverty. I mean, poor people are living in areas where they don’t have access to cars or public transportation. This is important to health, traffic fatalities, the air we breathe. State and local (governments) get it. Mayors and governors get it and we need their voices. 

On federal vs. local leadership: 

Federal, it’s so partisan, it’s so hard to get anything to happen. But mayors, for example, are very pragmatic. They have to run their city and often it’s all about operations and transportation. Governors often have a vision about what will build their economy. 

On the word “infrastructure” not being appealing: 

I thought when I started talking about the fact that I was writing this book, that I would say “infrastructure” and people would go to sleep. Instead, they want to tell me their story…they want to talk about their traffic jam, their late flight, their potholes, their awful neighborhood construction problems.  

Interesting facts about infrastructure in the United States:

  • The average American commuter wastes a total of 38 hours in traffic each year. That’s 5.5 billion hours in lost US productivity annually and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel. Traffic congestion alone costs about $70 billion per year in time wasted.
  • Nearly 20 million Americans work in transportation, transportation infrastructure, and related industries.
  • The average household spends between 11-19 percent of its budget on getting around.
  • Between 1989-2013, the US had nearly 600 bridge failures. Some of those collapses have led to deaths and hundreds of injuries.
  • In 2012, a quarter of all US bridges were deemed by the Federal Highway Administration to be structurally deficient. By 2023, a quarter of US bridges will be over 65 years old (and structurally deficient).
  • Delayed or canceled flights cost the economy about $30-40 billion a year.
  • The cost of traffic accidents is about $871 billion per year.

Tic Tac to release mint flavor geared toward millennials

Tue, 2015-05-19 13:00

This whole "Ooh-milliennials! Gotta-cater-to-the-millennials!" thing pretty much jumps the shark. 

Bloomberg reports today that Tic Tac is coming out with a new product: varieties that change flavor as you suck on them.

The company has apparently spent 18 months studying—yes, Tic Tacs—to make sure that Tic Tacs are "appealing to those younger consumers." 

There are, it seems, three reasons people buy Tic Tacs.

To freshen their breath. Fine.

To have a "sweet fruity moment." Fine.

But also, the company says, for emotional rescue.

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