Gold prices are down again this morning, after falling by more than 10 percent since Friday -- its biggest drop in 30 years. Oil prices are also lower.
But how do these drops in commodity prices affect your wallet?
Marketplace's Senior Producer of personal finance Paddy Hirsch joins Morning Report Host Jeremy Hobson to explain.
Britain's biggest retailer, the supermarket Tesco, has announced its first drop in profit in 20 years -- and its U.S. business expansion may be partly to blame. Tesco, which owns the grocery store chain Fresh & Easy, has announced that it will close down its 199 locations and exit the U.S. market.
Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London joins Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson to explain why the company struggled to make it in America.
Even Apple's music business is taking a hit -- from Amazon. The online retail giant snapped up 22 percent of the music download market in the last quarter of last year, according to the NPD Group’s annual music study.
“Amazon has for years had a great CD business,” says NPD Senior Vice President Russ Crupnick. As those same customers have adopted digital downloads, he says, “often times their loyalty to Amazon has stuck.” Loyalty to Apple is slipping. iTunes’ share fell to 63 percent, from 68 percent the year before.
Meanwhile, both Apple and Amazon have to worry about guys like Fletcher Price.
“I would say 99 percent of my music comes from Pandora One,” says the 24-year-old business analyst from Indianapolis, Ind.
Price pays $36 a year to stream music -- without actually owning any of it -- on Pandora. Or he borrows his fiancée’s Spotify account. That streaming service announced plans this week to expand into Asia and Latin America.
Still, Price says, sometimes you just have to own a song. His latest download: “Gangnam Style” on iTunes. "Just because it was a fantastic song," he says.
NPD’s Crupnick says music streaming won’t dominate the music business any time soon.
“Consumers still want a variety of ways to engage with music,” he says.
Including some pretty low-tech ones. Crupnick says sales of physical, hold-in-your-hand CDs to teenagers were up about 20 percent last year.
How do you buy or listen to music?
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the rate for Pandora One. The music service costs $36 per year. The text has been corrected.
Rumors are swirling that Twitter is in talks with Viacom and NBC in the hopes of putting short video clips into tweets. For Twitter, such partnerships would be about selling advertising and getting people to spend more time in their Twitter feed.
Whether or not Tweet TV becomes a reality, the TV industry is changing fast -- and one of its pillars, bundling, may be about to fall.
"You've got to think of mainstream media as an old line army that's been marching along very, very well. They've been offering consumer exactly what they want to offer," says New York Times columnist David Carr, who adds that traditional media companies are being attacked from many fronts.
"It isn't any one thing, it's insurgents coming over the hill," he says.
Insurgents like Hopper, the controversial digital video recorder that fast forwards through ads so you don't have to. Of course, bundling helped pay for a lot of good content, and the ability of consumers to pick and choose what they want to watch more efficiently means a dip in profits. Then there are the new content creators, like Netflix, which has had success with its own version of the political thriller show "House of Cards".
"The weird thing about 'House of Cards' is because of big data, because of what they know about their consumers -- they know that you like David Fincher and I like Kevin Spacey -- they knew it would be a hit before it ever happened," Carr says.
Predicting the future and making TV cheaper -- add that to the promises of big data and the tech world.
Prank calls -- which in 2013 are all but rooted out with caller ID -- may get new life with a new app called Burner. The app allows users to create disposable phone numbers so that it's harder to track who’s calling you. The idea may sound familiar to fans of HBO's show The Wire, where criminals used burner cellphones to trip up police. But the software may have legitimate privacy uses as well.
Lindsey Turrentine is editor-in-chief of reviews for CNET joins Marketplace's Ben Johnson to explain the app and its purpose beyond pranks.
Computer glitches at home can be frustrating, but what about when they keep an entire airline company from taking off? That’s what happened yesterday, when American Airlines had to cancel over 400 flights and deal with massive delays because employees couldn't access its computerized reservation system, Sabre.
"Airline reservation systems tend to be very, very complex integrated networks," says Ken Colburn, CEO of Data Doctors, which helps companies recover data after a disaster or a system meltdown. "All it takes is one portion of the network to malfunction and it can really cause disruption across the system.
While American Airlines is nearing a merger with US Airways, the two companies haven't yet tried to combine their complicated reservation software and data. Colburn says finding problems within large systems can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. A hardware failure, a wonky piece of code, or that age-old classic: an honest mistake.
"It's entirely possible that it's just one of those really dumb human error things -- somebody tripped over a cord, somebody removed a file," he says. "Most of these systems are really looking for outside hackers or outside issues, and a lot of times it ends up being something really benign internally that just spun out of control."
American Airlines representatives said they would refund cancellations and waive fees for rescheduling.
A new study shows allowing unauthorized immigrants in Arizona to become legal citizens would improve their pay and working conditions.
The Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University released the study Wednesday. It says the state's estimated 190,000 unauthorized workers would see a pay increase of 8 to 11 percent if they were granted citizenship.
"They do better because they can compete for jobs that are available only to U.S. citizens. But more than that, becoming a citizen shows your commitment to America," says author Mike Slaven.
Slaven says employers will invest in those committed workers. According to the study, a path to citizenship could mean up to $246 million a year in extra income for Arizona's low-wage immigrant workforce. This trend applies to the whole country, because "every state has people who fall into that category," Slaven says.
Still, citizenship may not be a magic tonic. The UCLA Labor Center's Victor Narro points to 1986 — when a wave of three-million people were granted amnesty. He says that law had something very important missing from it. It did not guard against wage theft and workplace discrimination.
"We need to make sure that no matter what comes out of Congress, there has to be a commitment of resources to make sure worker protection laws are going to be enforced," Narro says.
Otherwise, he adds wages will stay low.
“My wife was diagnosed with cancer three years ago after they started digging underneath our home,” recalls Zhou. “She got it from the drinking water. It changed color and it developed a thick layer of sediment from all the mining.”
Economy at the expense of the environment
Like many other villagers here who have lost loved ones to cancer in recent years, Zhou blames his wife’s condition on Dasheng Chemical, the village’s phosphate mining operation and fertilizer factory that began operations nearly a decade ago.
“Now many people here have cancer,” says Zhou, shaking his head, “all kinds of cancer.”
Stories like this have become more common as China begins to come to terms with three decades of historic economic growth that has left much of the nation’s countryside –the source of China’s massive food supply -- contaminated with toxic chemicals. It’s also left Chinese people suffering from an 80 percent increase in cancer rates from 30 years ago, at the start of the country’s economic reforms.
“Our existing economic growth model –the relentless pursuit of GDP growth- is built on sacrificing the environment,” says Zeng Xiangbin, a Wuhan-based environmental lawyer. “There is simply no pollution site that I visit where I don’t feel heartbroken.”
Zeng has made a career out of defending farmers who live in China’s so-called “cancer villages” against local industry and government officials. On this day, he’s in Niuchong village to assess the damage from Dasheng Chemical’s mining and fertilizer production operation. A one thousand foot-high pile of ash looms above a river valley, blending in with the mountains that surround the village. Each day, Dasheng Chemical’s dump trucks unload more ash onto the hill, dumping piles of phosphogypsum, an industrial byproduct of phosphate fertilizer that contains cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, chromium-6, and cadmium. Factories have dumped 300 million tons of phosphogypsum in villages like Niuchong all over the country. China produces nearly half of the world’s phosphate fertilizer, exporting nearly a fifth of it to other countries.
In 2009, Chinese journalist Deng Fei published a map highlighting a number of China's 'cancer villages.' Stella Xie translated this version of the map.
View China's Cancer Vilages in a larger map
It takes a village
Niuchong Villager Yao Chengying, a straight-talking pig farmer in her 50s, says the runoff from the mountain of phosphogypsum combined with the emissions from Dasheng’s fertilizer factory have poisoned the village’s crops. “All the crops just died,” says Yao. “The watermelons were inedible. Even the pigs wouldn’t eat them.”
Yao’s piglets were born with deformed bodies as her other pigs slowly died off. She tried to fall back on her rice crop, but as the pollution became worse, more regional purchasers avoided the region, labelling rice from Niuchong village as poisonous. And that’s when farmers in Niuchong realized the battle for safer food in China started with them.
“Ever since 2010, we’ve assembled a group of farmers to protest at the Dasheng factory gates on a weekly basis,” says Yao. Farmers have even made several trips to Beijing to petition to the central government authorities. Facing pressure from the provincial government, Dasheng chemical reimbursed the first two farming families to complain about lost livestock and crops. And then more farmers protested.
“The local government quickly became scared,” says Yao, “so police arrested the two residents -- my husband included -- who’ve managed to get reimbursed by the company as a warning to the other farmers who were protesting.”
Yao’s husband Wei Kaizu and villager Yu Dinghai were arrested by police six months ago, charged with blackmailing Dasheng Chemical. Yao says the two men were framed by the local government, which owns a stake in Dasheng Chemical and was doing the company a favor.
Neither Dasheng Chemical nor officials from the city of Zhongxiang, which carried out the arrest, agreed to an interview with Marketplace. The trial of the two men is was originally scheduled for April 9th. It’s been postponsed until the end of April.
Village chief: "I'm ashamed."
Meanwhile, the village chief of Niuchong has been busy mediating the near-constant struggle between his villagers, Dasheng Chemical, and government officials in Zhongxiang, the city that has jurisdiction over the village.
“As the head of the village, I’m ashamed that I can’t do more to help get villagers access to cleaner water,” says Li Jun, “They have every right to complain about it. I’ve appealed many times to my superiors in the city government, but since it’s going to cost a lot to install new water lines here, they’ve put the village on a waiting list.”
In the past year, city officials have sent Li to Beijing multiple times to intercept local villagers who made it to Beijing to file official complaints against local officials.
“My villagers made it to Beijing three times last year,” recalls Li, “I was finally removed from my previous party secretary role because of my failure to rein them in.”
But Li’s got other things to worry about. His father is one of dozens in Niuchong village who are dying of cancer.
At the home of Zhou Yuansheng, family from throughout the region crowd around the bed of his wife, who is in her final days of battling cancer. His 20 year-old son has just arrived from Southern China.
“Before she became sick, we made enough money to ensure that our son would finish high school and go onto university,” says Zhou. “But we’ve spent so much on her chemotherapy treatment, my son had to drop out of high school to earn more money at a factory.”
Two days later, Zhou’s wife Zhang Runxiang died at the age of 42, the latest villager in Niuchong to succumb to cancer.
Correction: Due to a translation error, the original article misstated the type of cancer Zhang Runxiang suffered from. She died from uterine cancer. The text has been corrected.
“It was yellow and green and it smelled terrible," says Wu, standing on the edge of his rice paddy in rural Yunnan, in China's southwest. The waste was from a factory next door, a byproduct from making chemicals used for tanning leather.
Each day for 20 years, workers dumped more of it, making the hill bigger and bigger. Last year, an estimated 300 million pounds of chemical sludge towered over Wu’s land and the river below.
"Whenever it rained, our rice paddy and the river would suddenly turn bright yellow," Wu says. "Much of my rice died. It killed everything in its path."
Around the time the hill began to form, Wu and his wife had two sons. The two boys grew up bathing in the river that turned yellow when it rained, they breathed the dust that blew off of the hill on windy days, and the oldest son, Wu Wenyong, spent much of his childhood working the rice paddies in the hill’s shadow.
When he was 14, Wu Wenyong began having health problems. He couldn’t stop coughing, he had difficulty breathing, and his chest hurt.
"We heard on the local news that this hill might be harmful to our health, so we took our son to the hospital and asked the doctor whether it had anything to do with his health problems," remembers Wu's mother Qi Xianying. "The doctor didn’t say anything. He just shook his head."
This was in 2011.
At the time, the environmental NGO Greenpeace had traveled to Wu’s village here in rural Yunnan province to test the water in the rice paddies and wells surrounding the hill. The samples were high in Chromium-6, a known carcinogen. One water sample from Wu’s land showed the level of Chromium-6 was 240 times higher than what China and the U.S. allows in their drinking water.
“I would say that’s startlingly high," says U.C. Davis researcher Peter Green, who studies chromium’s impact on water. “Although some people can detoxify some amount of it, the amounts mentioned are very, very high and to me it’s not plausible that that could be detoxified by anyone.”
Wu Wenyong was in eighth grade when he was diagnosed with two types of cancer: leukemia and thymoma.
The doctor handed over the diagnosis report to the 14-year-old. Neither his father nor his mother can read.
“We didn’t understand what was going on, but as my son read the diagnosis, he seemed to understand how severe his cancer was," says Qi Xianying through tears. "I felt so guilty and so sad, but he had the strength to smile. He told me ‘Mom, don’t cry. I won’t be around to help farm the land anymore, but dad will help you. It’ll be all right.’”
Qi and her husband borrowed thousands of dollars from family and sold all of their cattle and sheep — everything they owned — to pay for Wu’s chemotherapy.
"It didn’t work. He would wake up with foam all over his mouth and he couldn’t settle down," says Qi, sobbing. "He was in so much pain. He finally asked me to open the window. He said ‘Just let me jump, mom.’”
On Feb. 16, 2012, Wu Wenyong died in his hospital bed. He was 15.
“There are a lot of sad stories of pollution victims all over China," says Ma Tianjie, who works for Greenpeace China.
In a recent trip to Xinglong, the village where the Wu family lives, Ma found at least 30 other villagers among 500 who had been diagnosed with cancer. Even the government has started referring to these places as cancer villages.
In 2009, Chinese journalist Deng Fei published a map highlighting a number of China's 'cancer villages.' Stella Xie translated this version of the map.
View China's Cancer Vilages in a larger map
Officials are worried, because villages like these supply China with its food.
"I think the implications are significant," Ma says. "A lot of these heavy metals will be accumulated in food crops grown near the pollution site."
Five years ago, a soil survey taken from rice in three of China’s largest agricultural provinces shocked Chinese consumers.
Sixty percent of the rice samples showed excessive amounts of cadmium, a heavy metal that causes bone and kidney damage. At the time, Chinese scientists openly discussed the widespread contamination of China’s food supply. But these days, they’re not talking. Several scientists declined interviews with Marketplace. That’s because late last year, China’s communist party declared national soil surveys ‘state secrets.’
Revealing China’s ‘state secrets’ can send you to prison.
American scientist Peter Green says in the case of Chromium-6, which polluted the soil in Xinglong Village, it’s undoubtedly been absorbed by the rice grown there.
"Rice, like all plants, takes up water from its roots," Green says, "and Chromium-6 — hexavalent chromium — is very soluble in water, and will get into the plants. And that’s unfortunate, because it can get into the food chain and be eaten by humans or perhaps other animals.”
Back in Xinglong village, the 300-million-pound hill of Chromium-6 waste is now gone. The company that created it, LuLiang Peace Technology, removed the waste a few months ago. But farmer Wu Shuliang says his well water is still contaminated. I ask him to show me.
Wu grabs a 10-foot long stick and dips it down into the well.
When he pulls it up, the end of the stick is covered with a thick, mustard-yellow chemical sludge.
Marketplace contacted LuLiang Peace Technology, and the factory manager, Mr. Qian, spoke to us. After we told him we were a news organization, he hung up and didn’t answer any more calls. The local government also ignored Marketplace’s repeated requests for interviews.
Farmers Qi Xianyi and Wu Shuliang still grow rice in the yellow contaminated water they pump from their well. Their family doesn’t dare eat it.
Instead, they sell it to others.
"We don’t have a choice," says Qi. "We lost all our money paying the medical bills for our son. Now he’s dead, and we’re broke. We know the rice is dangerous. We sell it to vendors from other provinces in China who travel here to purchase it."
And those vendors sell this contaminated rice throughout China. The situation seems hopeless, but lately there have been encouraging developments.
A week ago, a top official of China’s Ministry of the Environment said the soil survey currently deemed ‘a state secret’ will soon be released to the public.
A local judge has also agreed to review the case of Luliang Peace Technology’s contamination of Xinglong Village. If the judge rules against the factory, millions of dollars would be set aside for villagers like the Wu family who have lost loved ones.
But Qi says the ruling may come too late for her family. Her father-in-law is dying. And her 12-year-old son has recently developed a chronic cough that sounds like his brother's before he got cancer.
The problem is, Qi says, her family has so much debt from treating her first son’s cancer that now they can’t afford to bring their remaining son to the doctor for help.
The Boston bombings have raised fears about the world’s biggest marathon, which takes place in London next Sunday.
“It makes you do a double-take on the whole thing. And I just pray that everybody will be safe,” says Hannah Carter, one of the 36,000 runners scheduled to take part.
The British government insists that the runners and the half a million spectators expected to line the route will all be totally safe -- thanks to the U.K.’s expertise in security. Those skills were honed fighting IRA terrorism for more than 30 years in Northern Ireland. They were further refined by the experience of staging the Olympics in London last year. The U.K. spent a billion dollars on security at the Games, which has also left it well equipped technically.
"The technology, things like CCTV cameras and the software that can automatically recognize odd behavior in crowds, is still state of the art,” says Jennifer Cole, a terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute.
London has an estimated 400,000 closed circuit television cameras, more than any other major city.
London is already bristling with security personnel; thousands of soldiers and police officers will be officiating tomorrow at Margaret Thatcher’s ceremonial $13 million funeral. Their security operation could be extended -- at no great extra cost -- to cover the marathon.
“There are personnel around and processes in place that are going to be very easy to just carry on over into the weekend,” says Cole.
Another analyst, Dr. Peter Lehr -- a terrorism studies lecturer at St. Andrews University in Scotland -- says there is a much safer and cheaper way to stage the London Marathon. You have the competitors running round and round inside Wembley stadium, behind locked doors, and without any spectators.
But, he says, the only winner would be terrorism.
Most days, Laura Perille shows up to the office, planning on a full day of fund raising, grant reviews and phone calls.
Perille is the executive director of Edvestors, a small non-profit that works to bring private investment to urban public schools.
But today isn't one of those days. Today is the day after.
The day after two bombs went off in Boston, just a few blocks from EdVestors offices in the heart of Back Bay. The day after three people were killed and more than a hundred injured. Today, business is a lot less about business and a lot more about family.
"The number one thing people are looking for is information and reassurance and community," Perille said. "In moments of great tragedy and damage, that's what people look for. And so in our very small way, that's what we were doing."
So, today, coffee and pastry greeted workers at EdVestors as they came into the office.
And the usual meetings, calls and tasks were pushed to the side.
People in and around the city are rattled. One of yesterday's victims – 8-year-old Martin Richard — attended Neighborhood House Charter School, a school Edvestors works with.
Richard's mother and 6-year-old sister were seriously injured in the blasts.
Perille knows minds will wander, and they must.
"It's a day to take time to reflect. It doesn't have to be about getting the job done," she says.
Yesterday after the bombs went off, Perille immediately began tracking her people down, including Rachael Alldian. She's the youngest and newest staff member. She was running the marathon and had yet to cross the finish line.
"As soon as I saw [the explosions], the next thought was I have to make sure Rachael is ok," Perille said.
She fired off a text.
"Are you OK?"
Thirty long minutes later, Rachael replied.
"I'm OK. We were right there. Was anyone else there? Is everyone OK?"
Perille told everyone to avoid the chaos of rush hour and come in late today, and if that was too much – the office is just outside the 15-block crime scene – it was fine to work from home.
Perille says from EdVestors earliest days, back in 2002 when it had just two employees, Perille has tried to create an atmosphere where people are valued professionally and personally.
"I am responsible. I don't think of it as being the boss. I think of it as being the leader. It is the leader's job to set the tone. That's the culture we have. And that's what my team would expect from me," she says.
Perille says keeping people informed and demonstrating her care is one way to make sure her employees give their best effort when it comes to their job helping to improve Boston public schools.
So, what are builders building and what kind of homes do consumers want? The granite countertop of the new kitchen is like the leather interior of a new car -- a standard, special order must-have.
Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer for Toll Brothers, a custom home builder, says buyers want kitchens that look semi-professional and bathrooms that could rival a spa. “They are spending a lot of money in the kitchen, and in the master bath,” she says.
And since mortgage rates are so low, and Sterling notes, money is “almost free”, she says new home buyers are looking to reward themselves with special features throughout the house. “Like man caves, cathedral ceilings, additional bedrooms and bathrooms.”
Don’t forget the bonus room. Extra space, in your house for... whatever you want.
David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, says that homes are a little larger than before the recession. “They’re particularly bigger than during the recession,” he says.
Crowe notes that while the average size of a home fell during the recession now it’s picking up again. “But that has more to do with the fact that only those with very good credit ratings and employment histories can purchase right now, can get a mortgage,” he says.
While single-family home construction is up over last year, according to Crowe the rise in housing building is really due to new apartments. Younger workers often don’t have cash for a mortgage and choose to rent instead.
What about those who can afford to buy a brand new home? Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at Wharton, says there’s a new trend going on -- smaller houses in more urban areas. “There’s an actual increase in demand for city living, for being closer to transit, or less commuting,“ she says.
For those buying homes on smaller lots, Wachter says it’s not just proximity to the potential jobs. It’s also because land prices are coming back strong.
Illustration: Reporter Sally Herships' illustration of what would appear in her own house, if it was only six rooms.
Travel can be romantic, adventurous, and exciting--but it's also a big business, says Elizabeth Becker, author of "Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism."
"It is one of the world's biggest industries" she says. One of every 11 people is employed in tourism. It is the second only to the energy field [when it comes to a] strategy of poorer countries ... to climb out of their poverty.
But wealth it brings can have negative consequences as well.
"You can see the schizophrenia when a local government wants to make money but then they're seeing the incredible destruction" she says."They drain the services and often they don't give much back to the local economy." Venice is one example Becker points to in the book. Visitors can overwhelm the city at times, far outnumbering Venetians. Stores favored by locals, like grocery stores, are pushed out for businesses that cater to tourists, including high-end chain stores.
The cruise industry has created similar problems in the spots they've chosen for docking and single-day destinations. Becker notes that some sites have created "sacrifice zones" -- "areas where tourists would be gently pushed to protect the greater area." Countries like Belize have resorted to the so-called sacrifice zones to help protect nature preserves.
Who's doing all this travel? And who causes the biggest problems? Becker says American tourists are getting a better reputation. But as for those traveling the most? That soon will be the Chinese.
"In 2009, more Chinese visited Paris than all of the United States." And the French have embraced them. Some stores have hired translators, restaurants have encouraged fusion Franco-Chinese cooking, and the French tourism board has paid close attention to the habits and likes of the Chinese tourist.
There are, without question, benefits to be gained by opening a country up to tourism. But still, "tourism is the typical double edged sword where it can bring so much pleasure but so much destruction." It's up to governments to figure out the right balance of regulation to preserve their resources and their economies.
Dozens of Boston blocks are locked down so investigators can pick through bombing evidence in the triangle-shaped crime scene. But just outside borders of that triangle, small businesses are reopening. They’re unlocking their doors because they feel a deep connection and obligation to the community that houses them.
Transit and traffic difficulties have convinced many to steer clear of the area near the attacks, meaning fewer people walking around. The drop in pedestrians gives the area the feel of a college town when students are on break: Not empty, but tangibly lacking.
Just outside the police barricades are the pleasant and stately grounds of the Christian Science Plaza. On most sunny days like Tuesday, people lounge around the gardens and hear chirping birds, so long as they aren't too close to the Massachusetts Avenue traffic. But today the birds also competed with the sound of police helicopters overhead.
Among the businesses along Massachusetts Avenue that opened was a flower shop called Fern.
Crystal Cobb Collier was sweeping up as she recalled Monday’s events. Through the store windows, she saw people both fleeing the blast and running toward it to help. Staffers weren’t sure if their street would be accessible Tuesday, but once they knew it would open, the owner decided the store would too. But few customers came through.
“It’s been a slow morning,” Collier sighs.
It’s the same story for a lot of businesses nearby. None of them expressed surprise. Collier says that one reason to open in the face of slow sales is to be there for special transactions that occur without words or money. She described a man wearing his marathon jacket who stepped into the shop today. He said and bought nothing, merely leaning in to inhale the floral aroma.
“I guess he was just taking in that moment to thank God he made it through another day,” Collier says. “I didn’t say anything; I just kinda let him take that moment.”
A florist is a rare kind of business that serves people at their most joyous and darkest moments. Monday’s attacks turned one into the other. Flowers that might have graced bouquets for triumphant runners now await service in a memorial arrangement.
Massachusetts Avenue connects with Boylston Street, where the bombs exploded. But just beyond that is the quirky shopping of Newbury Street. Open for business Tuesday was Bauer Wine & Spirits, a business dating to the mid '60s. In normal years, the marathon’s aftermath was filled with popping corks. But there’s no such thirst this year.
“They’re not celebrating,” says general manager Howie Rubin. “I don’t think we’re gonna sell any champagne for a while.”
Just a block off the blast site, Newbury Street wasn’t guaranteed to be accessible today. But once Rubin found out it was, he decided to open. He says customers come in wanting to talk about their experience. And he wants to make sure they can gather over a drink if they prefer.
“You’ve gotta get life back to normal after something like that,” he explains. “People do want to get together with their friends and try and resume life as they knew it as quickly as they can.”
The Fairy Shop is near the wine store and closer still to the blast site. Michael Selletto closed about 20 minutes after hearing, feeling and smelling the explosions. The eclectic, fantasy-focused store has loyal fans, who thanked him for opening and providing an otherworldly escape from the week’s events. He shrugged off the possibility of slow sales this week when he decided to reopen.
“Bringing a little magic into the world,” he says. “That’s really what drives me.”
After the explosions, comes the investigation. The president has said that authorities will "follow every lead," and Boston's mayor is reminding the public that "no piece of information or detail is too small." But in an age of surveillance cameras on nearly every block, and cell phone cameras in nearly every pocket, how do investigators actually wade through all that possibly helpful video they're going to get?
Consider that almost as soon as the bombs went off, social media sites were full of snippets of the tragedy that people had captured on their cell phones. But it's not just dramatic footage like this that could help investigators.
“As important is a video five minutes before the explosion, two blocks away,” says Angelo Guarino, president of Ocean Systems, a company that develops forensic video technology for use by law enforcement. He says in a moment where you might be waving "hi mom" into the camera, in the background a person that investigators have connected to the attack might be walking by, “and that might be where they get the best image.”
Investigators will likely gather thousands of hours of video, from cell phones and store security cameras. And ATM cameras. And traffic light cameras. But it will be in hundreds of different digital formats, many of them proprietary, so just collecting it all into one system is tough. Guarino warns that the usual ways we share videos, over YouTube, or burned on a dvd, involve data compression, to make the files smaller and easier to send. “That means throwing data away, throwing evidence away,” he says. “It could come down to a pixel.”
To tackle that issue, companies like Guarino’s have developed special technology that can be used to gather and copy video without compromising its quality. Once all that video is gathered, it goes to a place like the Digital Media Evidence Processing Lab at the University of Indianapolis, where, someone like Grant Fredericks -- a forensic video expert -- sifts through it all, frame by frame, trying to make connections.
Fredericks says his team will tag everything, including “clothing descriptions, hat descriptions, backpack descriptions, shoes descriptions, location descriptions.” Those tags are cross-referenced so “you can then track an individual across the city,” he says.
But is all this technology, all this combing of video, worth it? When asked what are the odds that the person who planted the package would have actually been caught on video yesterday, Fredericks doesn’t hesitate. “One hundred percent likely, probably 100 times or more,” he says.
On an average day, a person is likely to be recorded 30 times, he adds. And this was the Boston Marathon.
The promotion was such a big draw at a Central Phoenix McDonald's Tuesday morning that it took some effort to squeeze through the front door. "I suspect that we'll serve over 500 students this morning, just in this restaurant alone," says franchise operator Jerry Gehrke.
Last year, Arizona McDonald's restaurants gave out more than 81,000 meals to kids on test day. Restaurants in a handful of other states, including Florida, Oklahoma and Minnesota, have also participated. Gehrke spends $2 a head on each student's Egg McMuffin, a pack of apple slices, and a carton of milk or orange juice. He says it's good for the kids, who need brain food to ace the state's standardized tests.
The free breakfast also builds customer loyalty.
"It does. It makes me feel like, oh my God, after so much money being spent here, I finally get something back," says mom Naomi Quintero, who eats at the restaurant every weekend with her family.
Quintero's sons will each get 18 grams of protein in their egg sandwich. That's pretty good fuel for a test, said Simin Levinson, a nutritionist at Arizona State University. "I would consider it to be a well-rounded meal," she says.
But it's not the only place to get one. The nearby Creighton School District says about 4,700 students eat a free breakfast every day. Their families are poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals. Levinson says these meals are nutritionally similar to the free McDonald's menu. But if she had a choice, she'd take the one that's free of corporate influence.
"This is where I can't help but be a little bit skeptical: Is this a ploy that McDonald's is using in creating a whole new generation of consumers that will be brand loyal specific to McDonald's?" she says.
That worries Levinson because she says the next time those 500 kids are in line, they're likely to chose something loaded with fat and sodium.
A day after three people were killed and over 130 injured by two bombings at the Boston Marathon, the search for answers is well underway. The FBI has taken charge of the investigation and is appealing for any video, audio and still images taken by spectators. But sifting through all the submissions in an organized fashion presents a significant challenge.
Of all the programs in the federal budget, Section 8 housing doesn't have much fat to cut. The program provides rent vouchers to families earning an average of less than $13,000 a year. But sequestration has left housing authorities with a stark choice: Eliminate some vouchers altogether, or ask people to contribute more.
Yahoo has bought Summly, Snip.It, and Jybe among other small startups you may never have heard of. The strategy, basically is: Smart people will develop smarter products. Shares are up more than 50 percent under Mayer, but analysts say it has nothing to do with her or Yahoo's main business.
Support has been pouring in from around the world to help those in Boston affected by the Boston Marathon bombings Monday.
There are a number of ways for you to help, whether in person or digitally. We've listed a few below.
Have other ways to help? Tell us in the comments.
General information and support
Boston Marathon's Official Facebook Page: Marathon officials are adding the latest information to their Facebook page, including where runners can reclaim their belongings.
#BostonHelp is one of many hashtags being used to collect and disseminate information about how to help and help being offered.
The Boston Police is also regularly tweeting news and updates from Boston.
Finding a place to stay
Those stranded in the Boston area and need a place to stay can fill out this form, provided by The Boston Globe, to connect with people who are offering housing. The paper's @GlobeMarathon lists news, information for runners, and other offers that poured into this Google spreadsheet.
Making sure loved ones are OK
Boston Police Help Line: Family members looking for information about individuals injured during the incident are encouraged to call (617) 635-4500.
Boston Marathon Athlete Tracker: This section of the marathon's official website lets users track runners by name or bib number to find out if and when runners finished the race.
Google Person Finder's Boston Marathon Page: Google Person Finder allows users to enter the name of a person they're looking for or enter information about someone who is there.
The American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts: This branch of the Red Cross has opened a disaster operation center to help families locate loved ones who were at the Boston Marathon.
American Red Cross's Safe and Well website: This allows people to register their status with the Red Cross so family members can search for them.
To give police help
Boston Police Tip Line: Anyone with information about the incident at the Boston Marathon is encouraged to call the Boston Police Department's tip line: 1-800-494-TIPS or call the department's task force tip line at 617-223-6610 or email Boston@ci.fbi.gov
Community members wanting to help this investigation can call 1(800) CALL-FBI or the BPD's Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1 (800) 494-TIPS.
Since Marissa Mayer took the helm of Yahoo, the company has been acquiring tech and media brains.
""Yahoo is buying people's companies that are very talented especially in mobile where consumer is moving," says Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Company.
Yahoo bought Summly, Snip.It, and Jybe among other small startups you may never have heard of. The strategy, basically is: Smart people will develop smarter products. Shares are up more than 50 percent under Mayer, but analysts say it has nothing to do with her or Yahoo's main business.
"The reality is the vast, vast, vast majority of the underlying appreciation of Yahoo stock is due to the tremendous growth in value of the company's Asian assets," says Brian Wieser, analyst with the Pivotal Research Group.
He says Yahoo owns a big stake in Yahoo Japan, an independent web portal, and Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce company that sold more last year than Amazon and eBay combined. They're both growing 40-60 percent per year and pushing up Yahoo's stock.
Yahoo's recent run on brainpower:
Yahoo purchased Stamped, which was Mayer's first acquisition as CEO, in October of 2012. Stamped is a New York City start-up with a mobile app that allows users to record and share recommendations with friends. All of Stamped's nine employees were reported to join Yahoo.
In December of 2012, Yahoo purchased video chat broadcasting app OnTheAir. The app lets people webcast single or splitscreen interviews. All five members of the start-up joined Yahoo's mobile team.
In January of 2013, Yahoo acquired Snip.It, a Pinterest-like app which lets users clip and display news articles. All but one of Snip.It's 10-person staff were reported to join Yahoo.
Mayer made a move to purchase Propeld, the maker of mobile app Alike, which lets users mark nearby venues as "favorites," in February of 2013. After the acquisition, the Alike team moved over to work at Yahoo.
In March, Yahoo purchased Jybe, a startup food, event, book, and movie recommendations service that hopes to "help connect people with the world around them." Jybe was founded by three ex-Yahoo employees, who will now re-enter the company fold.
Last month, Yahoo acquired news-reading app Summly from its 17-year-old founder Nick D'Aloisio. D'Aloisio is working with the company to incorporate Summly's technology, which translates long-form news stories into shorter summaries, into Yahoo's mobile apps.
Can a plane's cockpit be hacked? One researcher, who used a smartphone to hack the cockpit of a virtual airplane at a security conference in Amsterdam, says yes. The FAA and several makers of cockpit equipment disagree. They say it would be much harder, if not impossible, in a real aircraft.
Chester Wisniewski of the computer security firm Sophos joins Marketplace Tech host David Brancaccio to explain if the idea has much credence.