Marketplace - American Public Media
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's also National Physical Therapy Month, National Pharmacists Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month and more than a dozen others. Other months of the year are similarly crowded. One online calendar lists more than 30 “months” for May alone.
How do all these months get scheduled?
It may have escaped your notice that October was Lupus Awareness Month. That’s “was,” past tense.
Lupus Month is now in May, but in 1994, when Duane Peters started working for the Lupus Foundation of America, it was October.
"We noticed that over the years the month became very crowded," says Peters, who is now the organization's senior communications director.
He won’t say breast cancer was the only big competitor, but that disease did lock up a lot of corporate support, which created awkward conversations.
"Certainly it would behoove us," he says, "not to put a company in that position where they say, 'Gee whiz, we already do something for breast cancer. We like lupus, we want to support it, but... '"
In 2003, the Lupus Foundation started looking seriously at May. It took years: first to decide, then to switch.
Other months are more straightforward. I asked Pam Paladin, who runs marketing for the American Association of Orthodontists, why October was National Orthodontic Health Month.
"As it turns out, the week following Halloween is generally the busiest week for orthodontists for emergency appointments," she says.
Caramel apples — not so kind to braces. Be aware.
But what about all those commemorative days?
Sure, you'll spend October being aware of all sorts of stuff, but if you're wishing there were more to commemorate in a more arbitrary way, the month is full of many obscure holidays. In fact, you could spend every single day in October celebrating something. Some of these days are more official than others, but no matter. We assembled the list with some help from Marketplace's professional datebook-er Michelle Philippe, who also reminded us that October is American Cheese Month.
October 9 — Leif Erikson Day
October 13 — National Kick Butt Day. Not to be confused with the anti-smoking Kick Butts day. Also happens to be Columbus Day.
October 16 — Take your Parents to Lunch Day and National Feral Cat Day
October 24 —National Food Day, kind of a catch-all. Not to be confused with...
October 25 —National Greasy Food Day
October 31 — National Breadstix Day. There's conflicting information on this one, but you should probably give your trick-or-treaters bread anyway.
If you were around during the '80s, you probably remember the Indiana Jones movies—the swashbuckling archaeologist traveled the world digging up ancient treasures.
If you were to go looking for a real-life, present-day Indiana Jones, you might get someone like Michael Toth. He travels with his teams around the world using modern technology—lasers, high-tech cameras—to unearth treasure. It's centuries-old writing that appears in very faint form on manuscripts called palimpsests. Along the way, they've discovered everything from lost languages to some very mysterious fingerprints.
You’re not discovering ancient manuscripts; you’re working to read what’s buried in them. Tell me a little about the work you do.
We work on a range of manuscripts—the earliest copy of Archimedes work, David Livingston’s diaries—and we use spectral imaging to reveal that text which is not seen by the naked eye.
Why isn’t that text visible? We’re talking about two different layers of writing here, right?
That is correct. It’s usually on parchment. And they’re written initially with an ink made out of the galls of oak trees, and that’s been scraped off and overwritten. And in doing so, it’s preserved that text underneath it.
And the process you use is something called spectral imaging. Tell me about that and what kind of technology is involved in that.
So we shine lights on the object to bring out that ink which responds best to, say, the ultraviolet in the case of iron gall, or a modern carbon black ink in the infrared.
You and I met in the Sinai Desert, when you were working at Saint Catherine’s Monastery to look at some of the ancient manuscripts that have been held in the library there for over 1,000 years. Tell me a little about the work you’ve done at Saint Catherine’s and some of the things you found.
Some are historical texts. Some are medical or mathematical texts. We’re still assessing what is underneath this rich trove and, ultimately, are going to make this available to the world.
Do you have a favorite moment of discovery?
Oh, yes. The work on Abraham Lincoln’s draft of the Gettysburg Address. And as we were imaging it, at the bottom, on a blank part of the paper, the ultraviolet light came on and there’s gemlike glow at the bottom. And we said, “Hey, we’ve gotta look at this,” and we saw a thumbprint. And then on the back three fingerprints. As if someone was holding that paper, which is folded in thirds, as if it’s in a coat pocket, had held it up to read.
And is it Abraham Lincoln’s fingerprints?
We don’t know. We know there’s enough of the whorls and loops to be able to assess the fingerprint. But of course there was no FBI fingerprint lab, much less West Virginia back then. So they are working with various forensics experts to try to assess that compared to other documents.
This is about a movie that is, as they say, coming soon to a theater near you.
If that music doesn't provoke a Pavlovian response that sends you running for your old Game Boy, let us get to the point: There will be a Tetris movie.
The head of the company making the movie, Threshold Entertainment, also made the "Mortal Kombat" series.
But in case you're wondering how a game that's all about bricks will translate to the big screen, Henk Rogers, managing director of The Tetris Company, says: "There's much more to Tetris than simply clearing lines." The Tetris Company owns the rights to the game that debuted three decades ago.
"We have a story behind Tetris," Threshold's Larry Kasanoff promises, adding it'll be "a very big, epic sci-fi movie."
People who buy used trucks rarely go to toy stores. Customers of KFC also frequent Home Depot, Nissan dealerships and museums. Latinos are 43 percent less likely to shop at Whole Foods than the average person.
These are conclusions made by the consumer behavior analytics company PlaceIQ, derived from tracking people on their smartphones.
Over the years, companies have developed surveys to gather data on people inside their homes — things like demographics, income and automobile ownership. But the outside world has remained largely a black box. Now, smartphones allow companies like PlaceIQ to not only uncover what people do in the real world, but also connect it back to traditional data gathered from homes.
PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall says: “We use location as foundation to essentially hang data from.”
In other words, location becomes the glue holding together a rich digital profile.
To better track mobile users, PlaceIQ has built a new map of America. The company has broken down the country into 100-meter-by-100-meter tiles. Inside each one, PlaceIQ notes where mobile users go and what they do. “We can see their journey across our map of the world,” McCall says, “and now we can build very rich behavioral profiles.”
The company can tell who shops at Wal-Mart frequently, who travels for business, who likes fine dining or who works a particular job. Since PlaceIQ can see where mobile users live, it can tie this real-world behavior to traditionally gathered info like demographics, income and even TV-viewing habits. McCall says linking all this data lets companies see relationships. They can connect information — PlaceIQ gets TV data from the company Rentrack — with their physical behaviors in the world. That means companies can start to predict what people will do based on something like what they watch. And that is a powerful tool for advertisers.
So, in case you're wondering, does PlaceIQ know exactly who you are? No, McCall says. The data is currently anonymous, and furthermore, McCall says he doesn't even want to know your identity. That would raise privacy concerns, and, well, it's not the point. With a rich digital profile, PlaceIQ doesn't need to know who you are in order to predict what you'll do and help companies sell you things.
Sanjog Misra is a professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He says digital data “is going to change the way we market our products.” It will alter things like how companies develop products and display them in stores. Companies can now send personalized ads to individual users at an exact time and place. For instance, Misra says companies may advertise to customers when they are entering a supermarket but not while they are sitting at home.
Advertisers have been dreaming of individually tailored, one-to-one marketing for years. The ability to know exactly where you are is even better than they hoped.
But according to Jeffery Chester, “It has a very, very dark side.” Chester is with the Center for Digital Democracy. He says collecting all this data is an invasion of privacy. And there's another problem, he says — one that is less obvious and even more alarming: discrimination.
Chester says this kind of hyperlocal behavioral analysis allows for a new form of redlining. Chester says customers won't be treated differently because of where they live, but instead because of their digital data. Chester says digital data is already being used to determine how we are treated — whether we get perks like coupon codes and free shipping, or if we have to pay full price. In the future, who knows what it will impact, he says — maybe credit card rates and loan accessibility.
Chester wonders if this is the future we would like to have. “Do we want to live in a society where every movement we make, every decision we embrace is collected and analyzed and decisions are made about it?”
Well, we do give apps the right to track us. We can stop them by turning off the location services feature on our phones. But without it, some apps won't work.
Duncan McCall from PlaceIQ says it's foolish to try to hide from tech. He says we cannot avoid the potential threats of innovation by “trying to play whack-a-mole with technology, because you'll always lose that, because it will always evolve.”
McCall and Chester do agree on one thing: The only way to prevent discrimination and control our privacy is through regulation.
Netflix dominates streaming media in a lot of ways. It has 50 million subscribers, some well-regarded original series, enough clout to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Comcast and Verizon and it accounts for a jaw-dropping 34 percent of web traffic.
Netflix may have a virtual monopoly, but there are plenty of competitors lining up. Amazon, Hulu, Playstation Network, Xbox, Yahoo and others are all throwing around a lot of money to break in to original programming.
"The problem is, at a certain point, there's going to be too many of these services and they're not going to be able to sustain themselves," television critic Alan Sepinwall says.
An expensive cable bundle helps all channels subsidize each other, he says, but "There's no equivalent of that for streaming, and I don't think there will be."
Here's the recipe Netflix's competitors are following to try to break in to this hot new market.
Step 1: Don't wait for the audience to find to you
How can people watch your shiny, new original content if they don't know about your service? That's not really a problem for streaming-centric companies like Netflix and Hulu, but for other established brands it's a surprisingly tough nut to crack.
"Most of the time when I go to Amazon it's just listing 'Here are items you've viewed, maybe you should order those!'" Sepinwall says. "So you don't inherently think of Amazon as a streaming business. Whereas with Netflix, that's the only reason you go."
In fact, a study from earlier this year showed about a third of Amazon Prime customers have never used the video streaming service included in their membership.
Yahoo's Screen service has faced similar problems. At TechCrunch Disrupt, CEO Marissa Mayer noted that Yahoo had produced 86 different series over the past year, "none of whom you've ever heard about because it was sort of a failed branding exercise."
Only "Burning Love" — a "Bachelor" parody with literally dozens of big names attached — got any traction, and Yahoo Screen kept lagging behind until it suddenly made headlines in July.
Step 2: Buy yourself some credibility
Cult hit "Community" had barely hung on at NBC over five seasons of firings, re-hirings, behind-the-scenes drama, cast changes and sinking ratings before finally being canceled. But "Community" was exactly what Yahoo needed.
"The more players there are, the more you need to do something big to sort of stand out and seem like you belong on that same playing field," says Vox culture editor Todd Vanderwerff. "I think a lot of this is just purchasing credibility."
It's the same reason Netflix resurrected Fox's "Arrested Development" last year. A niche flop on traditional TV could be a huge hit for a new company if the audience is willing to follow.
There are a few other ways to close the credibility gap, too. Amazon paid through the nose this spring for the right to stream old HBO shows, and Hulu has built up a respectable catalog of foreign shows along with a just-announced Stephen King adaptation.
Even the mighty Netflix is still buying credibility, especially as it changes strategy. The service brought back three canceled shows this year, and Netflix is set to release its first original feature film — a sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" — the same day it's released in IMAX theaters.
Step 3: Make a word-of-mouth hit (and stack the deck with a good gimmick)
It's tough to make a hit from scratch, but there are a couple of ways to tip the odds.
Sepinwall points to "House of Cards." The show isn't that good, he says, but gets by because it looks like a so-called prestige cable drama — the way it's shot, the antihero, the high-profile cast — and people like binge-watching it.
"I remember when 'House of Cards' season one was released ... I would watch my Twitter feed and it turned into a race," he says. "Even if [the show] is not that great, but it has some sense of forward momentum, it becomes easy to go forward and you feel like [you're] on the ground floor of something special."
When the show's second season debuted on Netflix all at once, the explosion of social media conversation seemed to prove the show's success. Netflix doesn't make its streaming numbers public, Sepinwall notes, so it's impossible to know how many people actually watched.
Amazon has turned to crowd-sourcing, letting subscribers see user-submitted pilots and vote on their favorites. The process has its flaws, both critics said, but after a few tries Amazon may have its first big hit in "Transparent," which debuted over the weekend to rapturous reviews.
Step 4: Wait for the industry to shake out
Vanderwerff compared streaming to the early days of home video, predicting we'll see a lot of media companies come and go or change hands as the industry adjusts.
"I really think we're on the precipice of everyone in Hollywood trying to get in this game, and it's going to come down to the same companies you've always heard of."
The player to watch is HBO. Their streaming service is still bundled with cable, but when they break from that model and embrace streaming, Vanderwerff says, many more companies will follow.
Streaming services are still tied to traditional TV in other ways. They have no restrictions on time or content, but they don't stray far from what the networks are offering.
"There's no reason an episode has to be 30 or 60 minutes," Vanderwerff says. "That is an artificial constraint placed on us by the early gods of television that we have now evolved past, we just haven't realized it yet."
The full possibilities of streaming TV — the niche ideas, the crowd-sourcing, the binging and more — might not come to fruition until the format has become more standardized, and that could take some mergers and acquisitions.
Deep in the jungle of Ecuador, after a steep climb over the Andes and into the rainforest, oil executives struck gold. Well, more oil anyway. This was back in the 1960s. Texaco was drilling wells in Colombia and had reason to believe there was plenty more petroleum to the South. The boom that followed brought airports, roads, jobs and a middle class that hadn't really existed before in Ecuador.
But the oil company — Texaco then, now a part of Chevron — did everything fast and cheap.
Waste was dumped straight into unlined oil pits. Water used in oil production was left untreated on the surface of rivers. Although the Ecuadorian government noticed, no officials came from Quito to supervise.
The long-term damage to the community prompted an environmental lawsuit that lasted more than two decades. In the process, the pursuit of justice turned an initially well-intentioned lawyer named Steven Donziger into a green celebrity, and later, a Machiavellian figure.
Paul Barrett has documented the bad behavior all the way around, and wrote about it in his new book, "The Law of the Jungle."
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
The lawyer Steven Donziger stepped out onto 104th Street. He looked west toward Riverside Park and east toward Broadway. The dark sedans had been tailing him for at least a month now. They followed him for blocks at a time, slowing when he slowed, stopping when he stopped, their passengers watching his every move.
Donziger lived on a quiet block on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He worked from home, a two-bedroom apartment he shared with his wife, their five-year-old son, and a cocker spaniel. Photographs and artwork from Latin America adorned the apartment. Documents in cardboard boxes surrounded the dining table. In the narrow foyer, stacks of stapled legal filings competed for space with a mud-spattered mountain bike.
On this morning in the spring of 2012, Donziger had wheeled the bicycle down the hall to the elevator and across the marble-floored lobby. Fifty years old, he dressed like a graduate student, in jeans, unironed button-down shirt, and tattered jacket.
“Cómo estás?” he asked the doorman as they bumped fists.
“Bien, muy bien, señor.”
Then Donziger had emerged from the building and, as was his habit, searched for the dark sedans. Six-foot-four and powerfully built, he would not have been difficult to track. Sometimes, in addition to the cars, he thought he saw men on foot, pretending to peer into store windows if he looked their way.
Donziger began pedaling toward Ocean Grill, a seafood restaurant where he did business over lunch. As he approached the corner, he glanced over his shoulder in time to see the large car pull out of its parking space and fall in behind him. He didn’t fear actual physical harm. The company was too smart, he thought, to turn him into a martyr. It wanted to distract him, intimidate him.
He despised his corporate foes: their money, their influence, their cynical disrespect for his clients in the Amazonian rain forest of northeastern Ecuador. The company would never willingly pay what it owed. Its lawyers and lobbyists had said as much. Now they were coming after him, making it personal. He’d written down license plate numbers, but the police weren’t interested. Every day people killed each other in New York. What did he expect the police to do about cars that might or might not have been following him?
The surveillance wasn’t his main worry. A year earlier, in February 2011, the company had sued him. The 193-page suit, filed under the federal antiracketeering statute, alleged that he had ginned up fraudulent evidence as part of a conspiracy to extort the company. A federal judge had taken the accusations seriously. The judge forced him to turn over his hard drives, e‑mail, and boxes of documents. Donziger had said some truly dumb things—he admitted that much—and now they were public. His bravado sounded incriminating, he also acknowledged, especially if it was taken out of context. He’d cut a few corners, used tactics they didn’t teach back at Harvard Law School. He could lose his law license. Conceivably, the U.S. Attorney’s Office could bring criminal charges.
The company, as Donziger saw it, fought dirty; he fought back in kind. Slugging it out, he’d pulled off something amazing. His ragtag team had gone to a provincial Ecuadorian courtroom and won a judgment that mighty Texaco had ruined the lives of thousands of farmers and Amazon tribesmen. Because of him, a tiny third-world nation had spoken truth to power. Donziger had pressed the case for nearly twenty years now, beginning as the most junior member of the plaintiffs’ legal team and ultimately rising to field commander. Before going after Texaco (which was acquired in 2001 by Chevron), he’d never brought even a slip-and-fall suit. That he’d survived this long must have shocked the oil company and its lawyers. No wonder they were branding him a racketeer and prying into his personal life.
He was not alone, though. Impressed by the potential for gargantuan legal fees, Patton Boggs, a tough corporate law firm, had joined Donziger. Together, they were seeking liens against refineries, terminals, and tankers worldwide. He’d retained a famous white-collar defense attorney to represent him in the racketeering suit. The Amazon pollution case had been featured on 60 Minutes and in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Bloomberg Businessweek. In 2009, it was the subject of an acclaimed documentary that played at the Sundance Film Festival. A rock star in green-activism circles, Donziger had received support from Bianca Jagger, Sting, and Sting’s wife, the actress Trudie Styler. He had given Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie a private tour of the oil zone in Ecuador.
“I cannot believe what we have accomplished,” Donziger had written in private notes several years earlier, during a flight to Ecuador. “I cannot wait to get off the plane and see my fellow soldiers—often the only people I feel who get me. I want to look in their eyes and see if they understand the enormity of what this team has accomplished.” He had gone toe-to-toe with one of the most powerful multinationals in the world and won the largest pollution verdict in history: $19 billion. That was billion with a “b,” real money by anyone’s standard. If he could survive the vengeful countersuit and collect the judgment, the Ecuador case would, in Donziger’s expansive estimation, create a precedent benefitting “millions of persons victimized by human rights abuses committed by multinational corporations pursuing economic gain.” And it would make him a very wealthy man.
Arriving at the Ocean Grill, he slowed his bicycle. The surveillance sedan—Wait, were there two of them?—kept cruising south. Donziger chained his bike to a no parking sign and shrugged off his backpack. The spy cars disappeared in traffic. He knew they would circle back. They always did.
A new battle in the war for our eyeballs has just been scheduled for August 28, 2015. The Weinstein Company announced a deal to release the sequel to the hit art-house martial arts film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" simultaneously in Imax movie theaters and on Netflix.
It's a shot across the bow of the major movie theater chains — Regal, AMC and Cinemark — who control most of the theaters in the United States and demand an exclusive, 90-day "window" before their films move to smaller screens on television or online.
"Anything that starts to erode or challenge the 90-day window could be disaster for them," says Sam Craig, director of the Entertainment, Media and Technology program at NYU. According to Craig, if just 10 percent of theatergoers stayed home, it would mean a loss of more than a billion dollars in ticket sales.
"No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens Imax committed are in science centers and aquariums," says an AMC Theatres statement.
Other movies have attempted to debut online and in theaters, but this deal is the first to include Netflix, and the first to include a film that could have just as easily debuted in theaters, according to BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield. "I think if movie studios see the success of what Netflix and Imax do, I think others will follow," says Greenfield.
If they do, theaters will only be able to differentiate on the basis of the theatergoing experience — something they've been attempting to do for years. Regal Cinemas ran trailers in which action films gradually shrank to a small rectangle in the middle of the big screen, while a narrator intoned: "If you want action this big you can’t have a screen this small." But consumers with smartphones increasingly watch videos even on the smallest of screens, and hardware options have arguably made home viewing more theatrical.
"The exhibitors are right: It is a different experience," Craig says. "But you get a lot of people that have 60-inch HD screens and surround sound, and maybe they would be just as happy watching it at home."
In a unanimous five-to-zero vote, the Federal Communications Commission decided to eliminate the blackout rule. Since 1975, the regulation barred cable and satellite television from airing local sporting events when the team failed to sell enough tickets to fill their stadium. The National Football League has defended the rule for many years, calling it a tool to ensure a large attendance at the games.
Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, talked with David Gura about the move. Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.
EBay and PayPal are going their separate ways. It’s an amicable parting though.
They don’t need each other like they used to. PayPal is getting fewer and fewer new users from eBay — 25–30 percent today, dropping to 15 percent three years from now, CEO John Donahoe told CNBC. Ebay needs some flexibility as it tries to grow its share of e-commerce.
Activist investor Carl Icahn launched a high-profile campaign to split the companies nine months ago, heckling eBay’s leadership and preparing to insert board members of his choosing. He was rebuffed in the short term, but eBay has clearly come around.
“We are happy that eBay’s board and management have acted responsibly concerning the separation — perhaps a little later than they should have, but earlier than we expected,” Icahn wrote in a statement.
“They have to grudgingly admit he is right,” says Paul Sweeney, senior media analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.
PayPal wants to be the way everyone pays for everything: online and at the store. But so does Square, Softcard, Google and now Apple Pay.
“The eBay folks and PayPal folks looked around the marketplace [and] they saw a market that’s continuing to change rapidly and continuing to get more competitive,” says Sweeney.
If PayPal has to consider eBay every time it makes a decision, it’s going to get tied down.
“They also recognize they were potentially missing out on other business opportunities by being part of the bigger company,” Sweeney says. “By being a stand-alone company they can be a little more nimble, innovative, and perhaps pursue new opportunities.”
There is enormous money at stake. Proximity payments — paying for things using your phone — are blowing up, says eMarketer analyst Bryan Yeager.
“This year we expect proximity payments to reach $3.5 billion — doubling over last year,” Yeager says. “We expect it to next year reach $8.59 billion, and by the end of 2018 hitting a little more than $118 billion.”
Even so, Yeager says that’s a drop in the bucket when you consider how much money gets put on credit cards.
EBay also needs to free up cash to work on its own issues; there’s competition from Amazon and maybe even Alibaba. Mergers and acquisitions may even be in eBay’s future, the CEO hinted to CNBC.
The companies will split late next year. But they’ll still be friends.
What a difference eight months makes.
Just last January, eBay President and CEO John Donahoe told analysts in a big conference call, “We and the board believe the best way to drive long-term shareholder value is to keep eBay and PayPal together.”
But here's what Donahoe said in a different statement Tuesday morning, announcing that eBay will spin off PayPal into a separate, publicly traded company: “However, a thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively. The industry landscape is changing, and each business faces different competitive opportunities and challenges."
So, what’s changed? Well, there's been continuing pressure from activist shareholders like Carl Icahn. He’s said all along that PayPal could make more money if it were separated from eBay. Icahn thinks Ebay had a conflict of interest that held back PayPal’s growth.
We can start seeing if Icahn’s right when PayPal becomes a stand-alone stock of its own. That’ll be after an initial public offering sometime later next year.
The Federal Communications Commission voted this morning to eliminate the controversial blackout rule. The rule, which mainly applies to NFL games, says if 85 percent of tickets aren’t sold, teams can prevent local broadcasts of games.
If NFL teams decided to impose the rule for a game, free local TV couldn’t broadcast it. The rule further said cable and satellite TV couldn’t air it locally, either.
The NFL didn't want the blackout rule eliminated. It has said that without the rule, it could just move all its games to cable, putting them out of reach of low income fans who can’t afford cable.
“The NFL is doing a lot of posturing here,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. He says NFL teams can still tell broadcasters and cable outlets to black out games. It doesn’t need the FCC to do that. “The NFL can still negotiate to black out the game whenever there’s a deficiency in attendance. So we’re unlikely to see any appreciable effect here.”
And, Zimbalist says, if the NFL did try to move all its games onto cable, it would violate a law called the Sports Broadcasting Act, which was designed to keep games on TV.
Six people have hopped the White House fence so far this year. The latest incident — in which the intruder reportedly blew through at least five layers of security before he was caught — put Secret Service Director Julia Pierson under fire at a congressional hearing Monday. Lawmakers were also livid after the Washington Post reported the Secret Service was slow to respond when shots were fired at the White House in 2011. Pierson took full responsibility for the problems and pledged to review Secret Service procedure.
Here's what we're reading — and the numbers we're watching — Tuesday.41 percent
The predicted drop in revenue for utilities if solar power gets just 10 percent of the market. Rooftop solar panels are getting cheaper all the time, although they only account for 0.4 percent of the energy produced in the U.S. now. Because 43 states have "net metering" laws allowing solar users to sell their excess energy back to electric companies, Vox reported, the proliferation of rooftop panels could put utilities in a "death spiral."$7.2 billion
That's how much PayPal made in the past year, and their revenue is rising faster than parent company eBay's has. The company announced Monday it would spin off PayPal into its own company, Business Insider reports. EBay acquired the online payment system for $1.5 billion in 2002, and these days PayPal claims to facilitate one out of every six dollars spent online.0
As of last week, there are precisely zero Saturday morning cartoon programming blocks on TV. The last one, the CW's "Vortexx," aired for the last time on Saturday. The marathons, once a staple of American childhood and the ideal pairing with sugary cereals, were killed by a combination of FCC regulation and the spread of cable. /Film has a nice look back at the various cartoon blocks from the '80s and the commercials that aired with them.
EBay decides it's time for PayPal to be pushed back out of the nest: There's news this morning that the auction company eBay will spin off its payment system, PayPal. Plus, tomorrow is the first of October, one year since the rollout of Healthcare.gov, and the texture of health care in America is changing. For instance, there's been disruption in the old pattern of health care providers sending bills and the insurance companies paying their portion. Now, some insurers are tying what they pay to how well the doctors, hospitals and labs are doing their jobs. And call it social and environmental investing, call it impact investing, applying our personal values to our portfolios is not a new idea. One big example in the 1980s was college students forcing their universities to sell their stakes in companies that did business with apartheid South Africa. But now some influential countries have come together to recommend that governments help impact investing become an even more powerful force for making the world a better place.
Last year, drugmaker Bayer introduced the first new IUD in 13 years. And this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its guidelines to say long-acting reversible contraceptives, including IUDs, should be the first line of defense to prevent teen pregnancies.
It's been a long road for the IUD. It’s been some 40 years since the Dalkon Shield hit the market. The intrauterine contraceptive device was one of many IUDs at the time, but it is still remembered decades later as a spectacular disaster.
Many women developed pelvic inflammatory disease from the device, which had not been vetted by the FDA. The Shield also had a high failure rate, leading to infections, miscarriages and death.
The Dalkon Shield was pulled off the market, and a federally funded study in 1981 said IUDs were dangerous.
Some two decades later, when Jenna Sauers, then in her late teens, went to her doctor asking for an IUD as an alternative form of contraception to taking pills with hormones, her doctor would not prescribe it. She tried a second doctor, and then a third who, she recalled, told her: “That’s only an option for women who have completed their families.”
“The damage done was the perception that all IUDs are dangerous,” says Dr. Jill Schwartz, medical director at CONRAD, an organization that focuses on reproductive health research.
Sauers, who is now 28, finally succeeded after visiting yet another doctor.
“I do think that everybody should have the choice. I think they can be a great option, especially for people who, for whatever reason, don’t like taking hormonal birth control,” Sauers says.
Sauers is confident that her IUD poses little risk, because in the last few decades more research has shown that it was the faulty design of the Shield, not IUDs themselves, that was dangerous. Still, it has taken some time to undo the damage done by the Dalkon Shield. In the 1990s, new research came out that called into question the 1981 study condemning all IUDs. In 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study saying IUDs are 20 times more effective than birth-control pills, the patch or the vaginal ring.
“In the intervening 40 years, there’s been increasing scrutiny and increasing requirements by the FDA and other organizations,” says Dr. Mary Ott, one of the co-authors of the new AAP guidelines for teenage girls. “All the modern devices have at least a decade of safety and effectiveness data in the United States, and 20 years or more internationally.”
Ott says IUDs are now so safe that teenage girls face more health dangers from complications from pregnancy than they do from the IUDs themselves.
“It’s been not only drug companies, it’s academics, it’s the whole community” that’s been behind the effort to make IUDs more available, says Schwartz.
World health groups and nonprofits have also been a part of that effort, with Planned Parenthood launching a nationwide educational campaign last year.
John Ajemian was riding his bike on a perfect sunny day in the Boston suburbs in 2006 when he was struck and killed by a car. He was 43.
“After his death, we wanted to plan a memorial service,” says Marianne Ajemian, John’s sister and one of the executors of his estate. “And he kept all his correspondence and records on his email account.”
In addition to his contacts, Marianne wanted the financial records and correspondence it might hold. But the provider refused to give the family access to the account, so she’s suing them. The case is ongoing.
“If you have a diary, if you have letters, your personal representatives are entitled to see that,” she argues.
As people store increasing amounts of information online in email, social media and cloud storage accounts, what happens to those digital accounts has become a more pressing issue. A recent study by MacAfee found that the average person has $35,000 in digital assets stored online or on their devices.
This summer, the Uniform Law Commission, a group that writes laws for states, drafted legislation that would give executors or other personal representatives access to digital accounts when someone dies. Delaware became the first state to pass a version of it last month, joining only a handful of states that already have more limited laws.
“Essentially, what we’re trying to do is allow the fiduciary to have access, unless the account holder didn’t want a fiduciary to have access,” says Suzanne Walsh, an estate lawyer who helped draft the ULC’s proposed legislation.
“In the old days when I began practicing law, we worked with file cabinets and paper documents,” she explains. “Yesterday’s filing cabinet is now a laptop or a computer or even a phone. Because of that, the nature of our work has changed when we’re administering an estate or assisting an incapable person.”
Balancing access and privacy can be complicated, though.
“There are sometimes third parties who have communicated with the deceased person who expect those communications to remain private,” says Jim Halpert, the general counsel of the State Privacy and Security Coalition, which represents Facebook, Google, Yahoo and others on issues like this. “[They] don’t expect somebody that they don’t know, and in some cases a person the deceased didn’t even know, to be going through the communications.”
People may not want their family reading their emails, he says, though the law commission’s version provides the option to opt out of access.
Moreover, many service providers worry that state laws granting access are in conflict with existing federal laws.
Currently, companies have varying policies about what happens when an account holder dies. For example, Yahoo says in its terms of service that accounts can’t transfer after death, but a spokesperson says the company will give access if the deceased lays out their explicit permissions in their will. Google lets people chose whether their info should be shared or deleted if they die. Facebook gives family members the option to close the account or "memorialize" it, which preserves the photos and posts already visible on the account, but doesn't give access to private messages.
Halpert says another solution would be to give access to logs that list senders and receivers, but not the contents of emails.
For Marianne Ajemian, that’s not enough.
“John was a writer,” she says. “And so whatever was in that email account could have been very important to us.”
Until she gets into the account, she says she doesn’t know what she might be missing — and how much sentimental or financial value it could hold.
Commercial insurers are ditching or at least tweaking the way they pay medical providers, according to a report out Tuesday from the group Catalyst for Payment Reform.
For years, commercial insurers as well as state and federal governments have paid doctors and hospitals under what’s called fee-for-service. To many in the health care world, fee-for-service is seen as one of the key drivers behind the run-up in health care costs, because it offers a financial incentive to provide extra services that may not be needed.
“I believe fee-for-service generates a lot of waste, and overuse of health care services can be not just wasteful, but harmful,” says Harvard Health Economics professor Meredith Rosenthal.
Rosenthal says, based on her research, alternatives to fee-for-service can reduce the volume of services by as much as 20 percent. Rosenthal is quick to add that there’s no great evidence yet on the effectiveness of any of the alternatives.
“How to design a payment system to obtain the best value for money and value in health care is a very complicated question. And that’s where we are really learning,” she says.
So what options are out there?
Here’s a list of four payment methods starting with the most traditional, presented with the caveat that these brief descriptions are intended for those of us who aren’t health care wonks.
Fee-for-Service: A payment model in which providers get paid for specific tests, services or procedures.
It's the granddaddy of payment models and a scourge for many health reformers.
Pay for Performance: A payment model in which on top of the usual fees providers are paid, they can earn extra money for meeting certain health care quality goals or other performance targets, like increased efficiency.
In its report, Catalyst for Payment Reform says this is by far the most popular reform this year. You can think of it as health care reform with training wheels.
Shared Risk: A payment method in which providers accept some financial liability if they spend over a targeted budget. If they go under budget, providers keep a portion of the savings.
A classic intermediate step that carries risk and reward; sort of reform with a safety net. It's not very common.
Full Capitation/Global Payment: A fixed payment to providers for care they give over a set time period, like one month or a year, no matter how much care the patient utilizes.
This is the most aggressive payment method, where providers keep all the savings and eat all costs that go above the fixed payment. Some see this as medical providers taking on the role of insurer.
One in three couples who married recently met the web. There's sites for every conceivable niche and online dating is a billion-dollar industry. But what about the people who are out there building websites, tech companies and apps?
Sometimes the singles of Silicon Valley need individual help to try and meet "the One," and they're willing to pay top dollar for it.
For the full story, click the audio player above.
For the next installment in the BBC’s Justin Rowlatt's microscopic look at the economy: the silicon revolution.
Not only is silicon one of the major components in computer chips, but it’s also found in your windows, mirrors and wine glasses.
"Silicon is the basis of glass," Rowlatt says. "We think of the silicon revolution being computers. But actually one of the very early technological revolutions was glass."
Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.