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Calcium: Not so good in high doses

Wed, 2014-03-05 15:10

There are basically two ways to look at the economy – macro-economically and micro-economically. The BBC has taken that one step further – they’re looking at the economy micro-scopically, if you will.

The series is called “Elementary Business” and the element du jour is calcium. And while you’re probably familiar with why you need calcium to keep your body healthy, you might not be familiar with what a vital role it plays in building modern life.

“We use it for the most widely used man-made material on earth and in fact, this material is second only to water in terms of its use by man” says the BBC’s Justin Rowlatt. He’s talking about concrete.

Calcium is the base of cement – cement is used to hold the aggregates of sand together to make concrete.

Rowlatt finds this a bit bizarre because if you think about calcium as this “key structural material in nature, we’ve found uses for to be the key structural uses of mankind as well.”

But there’s a downside to the widespread use of concrete and therefore calcium. Calcium comes from limestone – the limestone is heated in a kilm which releases carbon dioxide into the environment. “When you learn how much cement we produce…you realize the scale of this in terms of a pollutant.”

Jeffrey Zients is not an economist

Wed, 2014-03-05 14:30

President Obama has a new top economic advisor, Jeffrey Zients. This new National Economic Council boss is not a longtime political insider or an economist, like the previous people to hold that post in the Obama administration. Zients is a management consultant and entrepreneur who made millions when he took his companies public. He’s perhaps best known as the guy the administration tapped him to fix the Healthcare.gov rollout disaster. He also ran the Office of Management and Budget.

So he’s not totally new to politics, but he’s not someone with deep Washington connections, like the man he’s replacing, Gene Sperling.

But that may not be an issue. Midterm elections are this year. Then after that, the Obama administration winds down, so it’s unlikely it could move ambitious legislation through Congress. Political observers see Zients serving as more of a salesman, selling the administration’s economic agenda, when indicators show an economy that’s not recovering as fast as everyone would like.

HBO turns to rap to promote 'Game of Thrones'

Wed, 2014-03-05 14:28

Season Four of "Games of Thrones" starts soon, and HBO has enlisted rappers to help promote the dark fantasy series. The musicians have made a mixtape that is best  described as a rap homage to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. 

HBO hopes the mixtape will bring in more black and Latino viewers. At first glance, it may be hard to see how hip-hop -- young, urban and cool -- gibes with a medieval fantasy.  But the rapper Common says it makes plenty of sense. "'Game of Thrones' centers around battles of power, and rap is definitely a battle of power," Common says in a promtional video.

Common’s analysis resonates with Renee Gosline, who teaches marketing at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and happens to be a hip hop fan.

Gosline says HBO isn’t the first company that’s tried to use rap stars to create buzz. A couple of years ago, Heineken launched Red Star Access, sponsoring concerts by up and coming musicians with the idea building a younger more diverse customer base.

"I think in the case of Red Star, people enjoyed the good music but it didn’t necessarily convert into actually purchasing Heiniken," Goseline says. She says that’s because the music didn’t speak to the Heineken brand:

The Ukraine crisis could extend to outer space

Wed, 2014-03-05 14:21
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 12:06 NASA via Getty Images

The International Space Station's Cupola along with two 'parked' Russian spacecraft -- a Soyuz and a progress supply ship on July 12, 2011.

Updated Thursday, April 3: So, as it turns out, the ongoing political tensions in Ukraine will impact things in space. According to a statement released Wednesday, NASA will suspend "the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation."

This does not however, include the operation of the International Space Station, which will continue. But travel to Russia, bilateral conferences, and email are all out the (space) window.

As noted below in the original article, NASA hopes  to have rockets launched from U.S. soil by 2017. And this could serve as a wake-up call to Congress. According to the statement, "The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It's that simple."

The ongoing political tensions in Ukraine might be one of the biggest diplomatic crises on Earth, but could it affect people in space? Since the American-Russian space partnership is more entwined than ever, it’s something to consider.

Both countries depend on each other to operate in space: Russia uses America's communication services and electrical systems, and (along with 13 other countries) the U.S. and Russia operate the International Space Station. NASA is extremely reliant on Roscosmos (the Russian space agency). The U.S. uses a Russian-built rocket, the RD-180, to put most of its national security payloads into space.

Perhaps most importantly, NASA is not capable of getting Americans off Earth without Russia's involvement. Due to the 2010 retirement of the space shuttle, NASA has been paying Russia around $70 million per astronaut to fly Americans up to the International Space Station. It's conceivable that Russia could simply refuse to let Americans use their Soyuz spacecraft.

According to John Logsdon, a space policy expert who is a professor emeritus at George Washington University, that scenario isn't likely but "it's a possibility."

"I wouldn't rank it as a very high possibility, but the reality is, it is in Russia's ability to do that," Logsdon says.

If that unlikely scenario did happen, we could, Logsdon says, have to wait two years until another American was sent into space – via NASA's Commercial Crew Program, a collaboration between NASA and several spacecraft companies. The basic idea is for NASA to facilitate the development of several spacecraft capable of transporting humans to the space station, and then choose which one it wants to use.

Right now, SpaceX is building the Dragon, Boeing is building the CST 100, and Sierra Nevada is building the Dream Chaser. The plan, as it stands now, is to have one of these spacecraft take Americans to the ISS by the end of 2017.

But this timetable could be rushed, and one of the spacecraft might be able to take off sometime in 2016. This would involve either spending more money for frequent test flights or requiring fewer tests. And fewer tests would make the entire project riskier.

Still, Roscosmos's refusing to cooperate with NASA due to the Ukraine situation is not an expected outcome. NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs expressed that Russia and America have had a long and fruitful partnership in space and emphasized that the partnership wasn't affected by diplomatic crises like the Georgian invasion of 2008.

"Congress even approved an extension of NASA's exemption from the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act during that time, which was needed for everything from acquiring Soyuz seats to the purchase of hardware for some of our commercial providers," Jacobs says.

NASA also managed to cooperate with the Russians during the height of the Cold War, which, as diplomatic crises go, was not a minor one. 

Even so, the situation in Ukraine might be the wake-up call to what the U.S. government needs, according to some.

"This dependence on another country, and particularly a former and potentially future geopolitical rival, for things of extreme strategic importance to U.S., is completely unacceptable," says Logsdon.

Many see the situation as a consequence of the government's slashing of the budget for space travel, which has left the U.S. in an unenviable scenario, one that advocates say only a larger budget can fix. And this might have even greater ramifications on the future of space exploration.

"Right now the big players with the money and capabilities are the U.S., Russia, and China," says Brian Weeden, technical advisor to the Secure World Foundation. "Congress has already blocked any cooperation between the U.S. and China on space activities, and the politics behind that are unlikely to change soon. If Russia is now off the table as well, then that could be a serious blow to any major human spaceflight mission to the moon or Mars in the near future. I just don't see how the other countries will be able to afford it without contributions from either Russia or China."

Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft atop rocket Falcon 9 lifts off from Pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Titusville, Fla.

by Marc SollingerStory Type: BlogSyndication: PMPApp Respond: No

Orchestra 2.0: Symphonies beat cable to a la carte

Wed, 2014-03-05 14:15

Imagine for a minute you're a CEO and your product isn't anything you can touch, or hold in your hands, or easily put on your smartphone.

It's experiential in the truest sense of the word, users skew older, and forget free -- your product isn't cheap at all. What are you supposed to do in an economy like the one we've got now, in which a growing number of consumers want what they want, when they want it, and nothing more?

Jesse Rosen deals with that problem every single day as the CEO of the League of American Orchestras

He says the traditional subscription orchestra business model forced patrons to buy a block. The people who bought Beethoven supported the folks who only wanted to see Mahler. But the business is adapting, and now orchestras are doing something that even cable TV hasn't done yet:

"The subscription system is really at odds with how people plan and organize their entertainment experiences today. So one of these things that's happened is we've seen a move to a different type of subscription package called a 'create your own.' So you give up having the same seat all the time, but what you get is the flexibility of picking the concerts you want to go to at the times you want to go to them."

Quiz: How well do you know your SAT vocabulary?

Wed, 2014-03-05 14:14

 The College Board announced some major changes to the SAT today.

Among them: the end of what are fondly known as "SAT words".  You know, the ones you learn for the SAT and never use again -- like "sagacious" and "prevaricator." Or, as the College Board puts it: "Vocabulary focused on words that are sometimes obscure and not widely used in college and career. These words, while interesting and useful in specific instances, often lack broad utility in varied disciplines and contexts."

Which words could languish in obscurity?

Happy birthday to a very old cookie

Wed, 2014-03-05 10:24

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s three things coming up on Thursday, March 6th:

In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on factory orders for January.

Chain stores are scheduled to report sales data for February.

And the Oreo turns 102. The crème filled cookie can be found in more than 100 countries. Doesn’t look a day over 25, we think.

 

Nurse-led clinics: No doctors required

Wed, 2014-03-05 08:26

Millions of Americans now have health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. But some are getting stuck on Step 2 – that is, finding a doctor.

Already, nearly a fifth of Americans live in areas with too few primary care physicians, and the shortage will only get worse as more people become insured. So, in some places, nurses are taking on the job of keeping people healthy.

In Milwaukee, a young boy named Earron Davis hops up on the exam table and swings his legs back and forth as a nurse takes his temperature and blood pressure. It’s the 10 year-old’s first visit to this new primary care clinic. It’s an area of Milwaukee with great healthcare needs, but few doctors. Physicians don’t want to be here because most people are on Medicaid, and doctors don’t make money off those patients. So Earron’s mom, Jessica Peterson, is happy there’s a new healthcare option so close to home.

"Cause there’s so many kids in the neighborhood that I’m sure has to go far out to see a doctor, so this is very, very, very convenient," Peterson says.

But the clinic hasn’t brought in any new doctors. Instead, nurse practitioners run it. They can handle the majority of primary care, and prescribe drugs. The clinic will still lose money on its Medicaid patients. But nurse practitioners cost a lot less than doctors. It’s a model that’s spreading.

"There has been tremendous growth in the nurse-managed health clinics, especially prior to the Affordable Care Act implementation, but certainly also now," says Tine Hansen-Turton, CEO of the National Nursing Centers Consortium. She says there are now 500 nurse-led clinics around the country, and the number will expand as providers look for less pricey ways to provide health care.

"I would go as far to say that we won’t have a successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act if we don’t utilize nurse practitioners in primary care roles," Hansen-Turton says.

Back at the new clinic in Milwaukee, nurse practitioner Susan Thaller is getting Earron Davis’ medications in order.

The boy has asthma, just like many of the young patients in this neighborhood. Thaller also treats a lot of diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

"As a family nurse practitioner, I offer a holistic assessment and then primary care. In that assessment, mental health issues, growth and development issues," she says.

This clinic, and another new one in town, are operated by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Marquette University. Director Kerry Yamat says the clinics came about because neighbors lobbied for better health care options.

"Children’s listened to the residents and realized that there was a need to provide closer access to health care in this community, so here we are today," Yamat says.

The response has been so good that one of the clinics has already expanded its hours. And there are plans to add even more nurses in the coming months. 

Congress votes to reduce flood-insurance rates—that they raised

Wed, 2014-03-05 08:24

Back in 2012, Congress voted to revamp the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run—and subsidized—by the federal government.

Big storms like Katrina had left the program deeply in the red. And the maps showing which areas had the biggest risk for storms—and where property-owners should be charged higher premiums—were decades out of date.

New Orleans was a prominent example. By year’s end, SuperStorm Sandy had added New York and New Jersey to the list—and pushed the flood program’s deficit to $24 billion.

But in 2013, as the maps started getting updated, coastal residents freaked out:  The updated maps made them high-risk homeowners, and their flood-insurance premiums shot up accordingly.

Realtors raised a stink too. Some homes—often those at the highest risk of flood damage—received subsidized flood-insurance rates, and the 2012 law said that if a home was sold, the new owner would not get the subsidy. Which made those homes harder to sell.

The new legislation, which passed the house 306-91, effectively restores things to the way they were before 2012 to most of those people. Anybody who was going to be re-mapped into a higher rate? The new maps won’t apply to them, as long as they already had flood insurance, says Jim Ellis, Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

And it keeps a lot of the subsidies in place.

Proponents say the new changes would not cost taxpayers money, because the bill includes a surcharge on all flood insurance policies: $25 for most properties, and a higher rate, $250, for vacation homes and businesses.

Opposing the measure was an interesting coalition that included environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council and anti-tax conservative groups like the National Taxpayers Union.

They have two big complaints: One is that the homes that receive subsidies are often the riskiest properties—that’s why the homeowners need subsidies.  This doesn’t create any incentive to flood-proof a beach house.   

And the other is that the subsidies aren’t means-tested: So the person who owns a beach house gets the same subsidy as the person who pours their coffee at the nearby Starbucks.

Robert Hartwig is President of the Insurance Information Institute, which is backed by the insurance industry. His group wasn’t part of the coalition opposing the bill, but he has strong opinions about what it means.

“What we can expect to see going forward is continuing accumulation of deficits by the National Flood Insurance Program,” he says. He’s not sure how much the proposed surcharges will mitigate them. “We’re also going to see reduced incentives to mitigate against future floods.” 

Floods that he thinks are likely. “If you believe anything at all, even about the mildest expected changes associated with climate change or sea-level rise,” he says, “you can expect that more coastal-innundation”—more floods—“in the future.”

PODCAST: Another ACA delay

Wed, 2014-03-05 08:03

Remember last fall, when health insurers sent out cancellation letters because some policies didn't meet the Affordable Care Acts requirements? President Obama decided to let people keep those policies a while longer - in some cases, for a year. Well, the Obama administration could announce as soon as this week that it's rolling back the deadline for people to get off these barebones plans. How many people would be affected?

 

The College Board – the company that puts out the SAT – is feeling the heat. In recent years, it's continued to lose market share to the firm that puts out the ACT. The College Board is expected to unveil a new test that's expected to look a lot like the ACT – which means more recognizable to traditional high school curriculum and less esoteric.

Has the U.S. abandoned orange juice? Quartz reporter Roberto Ferdman reported that we are drinking 40 percent less orange juice. Orange juice sales last year were at their lowest level in more than a decade.

 

Why China is lowering the bar on its growth

Wed, 2014-03-05 02:14

China's National People's Congress -- the country's annual policy-making session -- kicked off today in Beijing. China's leadership has a lot of work to do, including how to manage a transition to a consumer-led economic growth model. Can they do it? Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss.

Abandoning orange juice

Wed, 2014-03-05 01:17

Has the U.S. abandoned orange juice? Quartz reporter Roberto Ferdman reported that we are drinking 40 percent less orange juice. Orange juice sales last year were at their lowest level in more than a decade. Ferdman writes:

Orange juice’s precipitous decline is a big deal. For nearly five decades, the sweet beverage made its way onto more and more American breakfast tables nearly every year. At its height, almost three-quarters of American households bought and kept orange juice in their refrigerator, according to Alissa Hamilton 2009′s book Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice. But shifting American eating habits—which stigmatize sugar and leave little time for breakfast—and surging juice prices have done significant damage to American demand.

Ferdman also writes that orange juice is getting more expensive.

Another delay for the Affordable Care Act?

Wed, 2014-03-05 00:54

Remember last fall, when health insurers sent out cancellation letters because some policies didn't meet the Affordable Care Acts requirements? President Obama decided to let people keep those policies a while longer - in some cases, for a year.

Which means they'd be getting cancellation letters again this fall, right before the congressional elections. So the Obama administration could announce as soon as this week that it's rolling back the deadline for people to get off these barebones plans. How many people would be affected?

"Probably we're talking about thousands. Certainly not hundreds of thousands, " says former insurance executive Wendell Potter.

But these thousands of people could have an outsized impact if they decide to go without health insurance. That's because they're young and healthy -- just the kind of people the Affordable Care Act needs in its insurance pool.

SAT vs. ACT: The battle

Wed, 2014-03-05 00:33

The College Board – the company that puts out the SAT – is feeling the heat. In recent years, it's continued to lose market share to the firm that puts out the ACT.

The College Board is expected to unveil a new test that's expected to look a lot like the ACT – which means more recognizable to traditional high school curriculum and less esoteric. Testing is big business, bringing in billions for everything from test prep to shower curtains.

And any time there’s a new test put out, it’s a boon for the industry. Though, of course, anyone in this field needs to keep in mind that college and university admission officers are increasingly skeptical of the tests.

Here's one list of schools that have made taking these tests optional for admission.

African-American students study up on entrepreneurship

Wed, 2014-03-05 00:11

Teens know that getting a job is becoming tougher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 26 percent of them are employed, and just 16 percent of African American youngsters have jobs.

That might explain why African Americans kids are looking into entrepreneurship. Gallup recently found half of minority youngsters want to start businesses.

In East Cleveland, Ohio, high school senior Kevin Alexander already has business on his mind. His problem is how to get more customers for the company he’s launched.

“We own a steam cleaning business," Alexander says. "The business is run successfully by two entrepreneurs: myself as CEO, and a couple friends that I’ve hired to take care of the business while I’m out with the marching band.”

Alexander is learning how to run his company at Shaw High School, where he’s enrolled in a business management course. Here, students learn basic concepts like “market research” and “cost-benefit analyses.” Teacher Quelina Jordan says those skills separate teens who are serious entrepreneurs from their friends who have a side hustle.

"You’ll find lots of students who will sell candy in class or do hair," Jordan says. "They’ll find lots of ways to make money."

But serious business owners learn to account for the money they make.

"Of course, the challenge is things that are really important to business in terms of record keeping and really tracking and knowing what you’re doing," says Jordan.

Classes like Quelina Jordan’s are especially important for minority students. They're more interested in being their own boss than non-minorities.

But it’s hard to turn that passion into productivity.

“Currently I believe there are fewer work opportunities for teenagers than ever," says Carol Rivchun, head of Youth Opportunities Unlimited. It’s a non-profit that teaches kids to get jobs and start businesses.

“Companies aren’t hiring," Rivchun says. "There aren’t as many summer jobs as there used to be. This is really not good, because we have found that young people that have a work experience when they’re 16 or 17 are far more likely to succeed in a job later on.”

Kevin Alexander, the high school entrepreneur, doesn’t plan to work for anyone but himself. If he does look for an outside job, what’s he’s learned will make him as marketable as his steam-cleaning service.

Start up the StartUp Bus

Tue, 2014-03-04 14:06

The SXSW Interactive Festival is a convergance of some of the most creative minds in the tech industy. And if the StartUp Bus has any say, these tech industry big wigs won't know what hit them. In just three days, teams comprised of designers, programmers, and general tech enthusiasts will conceive and execute brand new startup companies as they make their way to Austin, Texas. Cue music:

There's no restrictions on what they can build. One team is working on an app to eliminate the need for business cards altogether. 

We'll be checking in regularly with the StartUp hopefuls as they head towards SXSW mile by mile, hack by hack.

Start up the StartUp Bus

Tue, 2014-03-04 14:06

The SXSW Interactive Festival is a convergance of some of the most creative minds in the tech industy. And if the StartUp Bus has any say, these tech industry big wigs won't know what hit them. In just three days, teams comprised of designers, programmers, and general tech enthusiasts will conceive and execute brand new startup companies as they make their way to Austin, Texas. Cue music:

There's no restrictions on what they can build. One team is working on an app to eliminate the need for business cards altogether. 

We'll be checking in regularly with the StartUp hopefuls as they head towards SXSW mile by mile, hack by hack.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel calls early ACA problems 'self-inflicted'

Tue, 2014-03-04 13:40

One of President Barack Obama’s advisers on health care reform, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, acknowledges that many of the problems the Affordable Care Act faced during the first few months of its implementation were self-inflicted wounds.

"It’s a tremendous achievement, and I think unfortunately, the communication strategy wasn’t everything it should have been."

Emanuel chronicles the rollout and the history of health care reform in the United States in his new book, “Reinventing American Health Care.”

His enthusiasm for the overall changes to the health care industry is somewhat personal. He recalls his early days as a doctor, working with emphysema patients. Patients often returned to the hospital after failing to take their medication or to make improvements to their living arrangements. Emanuel attributes their lack of improvement to a lack of physician follow-up, something the Affordable Care Act incentivizes.

When it came to working with states in the roll-out, Emanuel says he did not anticipate the clash of ideologies that would ensue.

“We thought that for many states, they also recognized that it’s important to balance states budgets, that it’s important to give people health care because they become more productive, they stop worrying about that element and can focus on jobs, raising their family and other things.”

Radio Shack’s latest survival strategy: Close stores

Tue, 2014-03-04 12:23

Radio Shack announced today that it could be closing more than 1,000 of its stores. Sales are way down for the electronics retailer. The company is trying to remake itself as a place to buy cell phones. It's not the first time the company has tried to be the go-to-store for new electronic products. 

"We were kind of the parts place. You could go and get resisters, transistors capacitors, that type of thing," says Illinois State marketing professor Gary L Hunter. For 17 years he worked Radio Shacks in North Carolina and Kentucky.

And Hunter worked at the company in the eighties, when a new product came along called "the computer."

"I sold Tandy Computers, Compaq computers, we sold IBM computers for a while," says Hunter.

The company, in its latest incarnation, wants to be mobile phone store. But it's not working.

"It's tough for any retailer to sell and make significant margins on cell phones" says George Low is Dean of the Neely School of Business at Texas Christian University.

So how has Radio Shack managed to stay alive? They're everywhere.

"It's convenient for people to go pick up whatever it is they need to pick up and that's why they've survived," Low says.

 

Video of Radio Shack Sells Really Expensive Cell Phones in 1987

Video of 80's Radio Shack Color Computer Commercial Video of Vintage Radio Shack Christmas Commercial - Mid 80s

For more vintage RadioShack photos and catalogues, check out RadioShackCatalogs.

Radio Shack’s latest survival strategy: Close 20 percent of stores

Tue, 2014-03-04 12:23

Radio Shack has tried many strategies over many decades to be the go-to store for the latest electronic products – starting with radios, in 1921. That’s when two brothers founded the store in Boston to cater to ham radio operators. To later generations, it sold audio equipment, parts for electronic hobbyists, and by the 1980’s, early home computers and remote-controlled toys. Its last strategy, though, was to sell cellphones, and cellphone retailers don’t make a lot of money – the cellphone makers and phone companies make the money. So now Radio Shack, which always seems to be around the corner, has another strategy: get smaller. It plans to close up to 1,100 of its 5,000 stores.

 

 

 

For more vintage RadioShack photos and catalogues, check out RadioShackCatalogs.

Radio Shack announced today that it could be closing more than 1,000 of its stores. Sales are way down for the electronics retailer. The company is trying to remake itself as a place to buy cell phones. It's not the first time the company has tried to be the go-to-store for new electronic products. 

"We were kind of the parts place. You could go and get resisters, transistors capacitors, that type of thing," says Illinois State marketing professor Gary L Hunter . For 17 years he worked Radio Shacks in North Carolina and Kentucky. Hunter worked at the company in the eighties, when a new product came along called the computer, " I sold Tandy Computers, Compaq computers, we sold IBM computers for a while," says Hunter.

The company, in its latest incarnation wants to be mobile phone store. But it's not working. "It's tough for any retailer to sell and make significant margins on cell phones" says George Low is dean of the Neely School of Business at Texas Christian University located in the Tandy building, named after Charles Tandy. Radio Shack has managed to stay alive because it is everywhere, says Low, "It's convenient for people to go pick up whatever it is they need to pick up and that's why they've survived."

 

Video of Radio Shack Sells Really Expensive Cell Phones in 1987

Video of 80's Radio Shack Color Computer Commercial Video of Vintage Radio Shack Christmas Commercial - Mid 80s

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