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A fund to invest more in rural infrastructure

Thu, 2014-07-24 08:57

Parts of rural America might be getting an infrastructure upgrade.

The Department of Agriculture is partnering with the private sector to launch a new investment fund stocked with $10 billion to go toward rural infrastructure development.

The idea is to bundle projects together so investors can more easily fund them, ranging from schools and hospitals to wastewater treatment facilities or even broadband.

For example, the state of Georgia exports nearly 30 percent of its agricultural products, according to Kent Wolfe, director of the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development at the University of Georgia.

“In order to get those products to the port and compete on a global basis, we need to make sure that we have an efficient transportation system, requiring additional funds in rails, roadways, and port facilities,” Wolfe says, describing the type of investment his area might benefit from.

Especially in more rural locations, communities simply can’t afford to do these large projects on their own.

“Rural areas often have farmland and lower cost rural housing and that’s about it to tax,” says Larry DeBoer, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. “In order to do a big project, the tax rates you’d need to do this sort of thing at normal interest rates would be quite high.”

CoBank, a national cooperative bank based in Colorado, is putting up the first $10 billion, though the Department of Agriculture is seeking additional funding from other private sources, like pension funds, endowments, and foundations.

The agency will then act as the matchmaker, finding projects for this fund to invest it. Some loans will be all private money, others a mix of private and public funding.

PODCAST: Breaking the glass ceiling

Thu, 2014-07-24 03:00

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has voted to change the way money market funds work. More on that decision. Plus, more on a new study shows that women and minority leaders tend to be punished for focusing on diversity, while white men are rewarded for the same behavior. Also, with the influx of young migrants detained at the Southwest border this year, we take a look at the countries from which most are fleeing: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Debating corporate tax inversions

Thu, 2014-07-24 03:00

Corporate tax inversions are the latest topic of debate on Capitol Hill. Allan Sloan, senior editor at large for Fortune magazine, appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday to talk about  international taxation and ways to reverse American companies reincorporating overseas.

Click the media player above to hear Allan Sloan in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to explain the maneuver, why it’s happening, and what government should do to regulate it. 


Some bond insurers oppose Detroit's bankruptcy plan

Thu, 2014-07-24 03:00

Retirees and employees have voted to accept benefit cuts under Detroit’s bankruptcy blueprint, but not all creditors are on board. Two of the biggest holdouts are bond insurers.

Some are cooperating with Detroit’s plan, but not Syncora Guarantee Inc.

“They’re fighting tooth and nail against the city’s proposed settlement, because it’ll cost them money,” says Alan Schankel, a municipal research analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Syncora and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) insured almost $1.5 billion of Detroit’s pension debt. The city is offering ten cents on the dollar, or less. That may not be enough.

“Bond insurers got in a lot of trouble in the 2008 crisis. A lot of them were investing in some very exotic derivatives and other things,” says Eric Scorsone, a public finance economist at Michigan State University.

Syncora was insuring mortgage backed securities and other complicated financial products, says analyst Alan Schankel. As the housing crisis hit, Syncora lost capital and its AAA rating.

This all comes at a time when fewer muni bonds are even getting insured. Schankel says before the financial crisis, more than half of new bonds got insurance.

“This year to date that percentage is 4.85 percent,” he says, calling it a precipitous drop.

He believes marketshare will improve over time. The question is whether it will happen in time for Syncora. 

Why young children are fleeing Central America

Thu, 2014-07-24 02:00

The issue of how to deal with young illegal immigrants has been particularly troubling for the Obama administration, with more than 57,000 young migrants, most from Central America, apprehended at the southwest border since October.

María Elena Salinas co-anchors the Univision Network’s national newscast “Noticiero Univision” and the weekly primetime newsmagazine “Aquí y Ahora." She took a recent trip to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to explore the social, political, and economic reasons why children are fleeing from those countries to the United States. 

Click the media player above to hear Univision anchor María Elena Salinas in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Demographics, tech, and the digital divide

Thu, 2014-07-24 02:00

In the tech industry, one of the central debates has been over whether continued technological innovation can do much good for a wider group of people than just a narrow slice of the urban upper middle class. Tessie Guillermo, CEO of the tech consulting company ZeroDivide, has been thinking about these issues.

The “digital divide” — the gaps between technology haves and have nots — which inspired the name of her firm, is a real and pressing issue. The skewed demographics of the tech industry can also make using technology to improve social outcomes a challenge.

“It creates a lot of anxiety and fear,” says Guillermo.

The ability to give digital literacy to these groups — community organizations and underserved communities — is difficult, and the demographics compound the challenge.

Furthermore, the way the tech industry sells these improvements could be counterproductive.

“There’s not necessarily an app for everything,” says Guillermo.

There is an impatience to how the tech industry deals with problems, in terms of the constant iteration, that doesn’t always translate to other contexts. 

When music introduces a new technology

Thu, 2014-07-24 02:00

If music tech nerds had a patron saint, that patron saint might be electronic music pioneer Robert Moog. As an inventor and entrepreneur, Moog's impact on synthesizers and electronic music in general is best described by gear heads who are more knowledgeable than yours truly. Nonetheless I've been thinking about Moog and his synthesizers a lot.

The 9th anniversary of Moog's death is just under a month away on August 21st. I've been thinking about Moogs in part because of the band Neutral Milk Hotel, which played Brooklyn on Wednesday. At this point, the band has reached a kind of classic indie rock status — known far more now than it was back when it was making records. And one of the great songs in the band's set right now features a special version of the Moog called the Rogue, played by bassist Julian Koster. Not designed by Moog himself, the instrument has its supporters and detractors.

But dang if it doesn't sound pretty awesome when Koster plays it on this tune. The first time I heard it, I was floored. Check it out (gets good around 2:00):

 

Instrument technology in the electronic age has vastly expanded the number of options musicians have when they go about making their music. That’s had a massive impact on the art form—maybe more than other disciplines, though that could be my bias.

As an example, the Rogue is actually pretty old fashioned. It came out in 1981 — since then there have been so many other kinds of synthesizers and digital instruments that have appeared to change the landscape for musicians. But it was cheaper than earlier models, making it easier for people who wanted a monophonic synth to get and play with.

For musicians, most of whom do not start out rich, price point is often a key deciding factor. And as technology advances, it often gets cheaper. So I think the Rogue is still one of my favorites — proof that innovation at its best can move the needle and the listener.  

Why it's so difficult to break the glass ceiling

Thu, 2014-07-24 02:00

Workplace discrimination comes in many different forms and shapes. But research out of the University of Colorado shows how women and minorities are often punished for promoting other women and minorities.

Researchers at the University of Colorado say they think they’ve solved the puzzle of why there is still a glass ceiling. They say women and minority leaders are discouraged from focusing on diversity, while white men are praised for doing so.

Matthew Kohut is Managing Partner of KNP Communications and co-author of the book, “Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential.” 

“This is a double standard. There’s no question that this is straight up discrimination,” says Kohut.

Kohut says a positive case for diversity has to be made again and again.

“Certainly my hope would be that, that would minimize the impact of this double standard and that would begin to chip away at it,” says Kohut.

But in the meantime, the best and brightest employees could still be overlooked. Lissa Broome heads the Director Diversity Initiative at the University of North Carolina Law School.

“So I would really hate the result of this to be that people don’t go to bat for whomever they believe the best candidate is regardless of that person’s gender or race,” said Broome. 

The study suggests one way to change this behavior is to get rid of the idea of “diversity” and instead focus on “demographic unselfishness.” 

GM recall numbers keep going up, up, up

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

Not to pick on GM, but it does bear a mention that the company issued another recall today. More than 700,000 vehicles.

That brings the total number of cars and trucks General Motors wants back — just for this year — to 28.77 million.

To put that in perspective, GM alone is close to breaking the record 30.8 million vehicles recalled industry-wide in 2004.

This being capitalism, GM shares are off a percent today.

Target attracts new customers by downsizing

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

Target, the big box retailing giant, keeps trying to wedge its offerings into smaller and smaller stores.  The company has already made a play for urban customers with its scaled down CityTarget stores. But even those will be five times as big as the new TargetExpress store that opened on Wednesday, in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Dinkytown.

TargetExpress offers some of the same items like electronics, baby bibs and groceries that are for sale in the larger Target stores. But there's just a lot less of them—about 1/5 as many items.

The clothing options include basics like socks and underwear.

"You have no quarters for laundry, here you go,” says Target spokeswoman Erika Winkels.

The TargetExpress in Dinkytown will cater to college students from the nearby University of Minnesota and other urbanites who need to do convenience shopping.

“It's these fill-in trips, trips in between the big stock-up trips; that is the biggest opportunity in retail right now,” says Carol Spieckerman, president and CEO of newmarketbuilders, a retail strategy firm.

Graphic by Gina Martinez & Shea Huffman/Marketplace

Spieckerman says Target and Wal-Mart, which are both trying out small formats, can use the mini stores to connect shoppers to inventory not available in-store. A tablet in the TargetExpress lets shoppers search for products and buy them online.

But for customer Josh Egge, the TargetExpress's value is its location. He manages a rental property near the new store and wants to tell potential tenants there are grocery options nearby.

“In the past, I've had to tell them walk five blocks and take a bus an extra two miles. So this will be really nice,” he says.

Target says it plans to open four more TargetExpress stores next year.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the table included listed the incorrect number of Super Targets. The graphic has been corrected.

Why high earnings aren't translating into jobs

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

Cash, assets, money.  Businesses in the U.S. have a lot of it these days. 

$16.4 trillion of it, in fact. 

"The ratio of assets to GDP is almost 100 percent," says Joel Prakken, co-founder of Macroeconomic Advisers.  "That’s very, very high."

To translate: every dollar spent in the U.S. economy in a year, businesses are holding in cash or securities. 

It’s a lot of money, but it’s not necessarily a reflection of a healthy economy.  Not all of it was earned here in the U.S., a lot was earned abroad.

“We’ve had very modest economic growth over the last four years and I don’t expect that to change any time soon,” says Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.  

And those gargantuan levels of cash and assets aren’t being spent creating corresponding levels of jobs.  In previous recoveries, monthly job creation has averaged up to 500,000 positions, but the current recovery is mustering a mere 200,000 consistently.      

One reason is the enduring hangover from the Great Recession. 

“A lot of businesses felt like the U.S. economy was ready to roll over into another recession,” says Wren.  Caution and fear do not promote hiring.  Things like business sentiment are improving, but it’s unlikely the country will see consistent economic growth above 3 percent until after 2016. 

But that's only part of the story.  It turns out businesses are trying to hire a little bit.  “There were 4.6 million open jobs in May of this year,” points out Matt Slaughter, Dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. That’s an increase of 700,000 over the past year. 

But firms are running into trouble filling those open positions. They’re so desperate that yearly quotas for hiring high-skilled immigrants filled up in four days with a record number of applications, says Slaughter.  “Companies are not finding the right kind of technical or other skills they need to fill some of the jobs they are looking to hire for.”

But maybe there is a bigger explanation, one that many economists including Slaughter, Prakken, and Larry Summers are talking about.  Maybe higher corporate profits and lower employment are the new normal.

It’s possible that “the nature of capital investments is gradually changing,” says Prakken.

For many years, a new technology or capital investment might destroy some jobs, but create many new ones.   The computer, for example, reduced clerical positions initially, but resulted in an explosion of other jobs over time.

Perhaps, though, we are entering a new era of capital investment, “one which destroys the demand for labor without creating parallel opportunities for displaced workers,” says Prakken.  

How airlines decide where it's too dangerous to fly

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

Although the FAA has banned American companies from flying to Israel,  potentially dangerous countries like Sudan, Chad, Pakistan and Niger only have warnings.

Michael Boyd, President of Boyd Group International, an aviation industry consulting firm that works with big carriers, says airlines consider many factors when deciding where to fly.

“Airlines don’t make that decision alone,” he says.

Take the case of Malaysian flight MH17, recently shot down over Ukraine. Lots of entities were involved in the decision to let the plane fly there, notes Boyd. Bodies like Eurocontrol – Europe’s answer to air traffic controllers. 

“There were over 400 airplanes the prior week that did the same flight – not a problem," says Boyd. "So there was no strong indication that there was a threat at that point in time.”

And when a route is potentially dangerous Boyd says the U.S. Department of State issues warnings. As a result, passengers don’t want to fly, so airlines cancel flights.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research, says the decision about where and when to fly can be much more complex.

“It may be political relationships between the countries. It may be commercial ties between the countries. It may be that while carriers from certain countries are not welcome, carriers from other countries will be welcome," he says.

If airlines have to fly around problem regions Harteveldt says they have to be sure they can accommodate additional flying time as well as costs for fuel and crew. Like pilots who, he notes, have the right to question the safety of destinations. But if one pilot won’t take a flight, an airline can look for another who will.

“Airlines are commercial businesses – they’re there to earn a profit for their investors, as well as provide safe transportation,” he says.

And safety is what a couple of the big carriers say is their top priority. Like American Airlines - it has canceled upcoming flights to Tel Aviv.

First, says Harteveldt, airlines rely on government authorities, like the FAA, to provide either guidance or edicts on what they should do.  They may also rely on other intelligence data that they obtain through private parties like independent companies providing security intelligence. But lastly says Harteveldt, there's one final resource airlines turn to:

"They use common sense."

Women’s empowerment gets a corporate boost

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:21

If you spend any time watching viral videos you may have seen some of the latest ads to target women and girls, and their parents. They focus on female strength, and can seem more like public service announcements than marketing campaigns. Except they're coming from companies like Verizon Wireless or Proctor & Gamble – and millions of people are choosing to watch them.

In one of the most-watched ads, for Always feminine products, there's no pitch for an actual product. Instead, a documentary maker sits behind a monitor. She asks several young adults to show her what it looks like to "run like a girl."

Each runner flails around, arms flapping, head flopping from side to side. It's a parody of uncoordinated running. Then the filmmaker asks the same question of a ten-year-old called Dakota.

The little girl races on the spot, like an athlete. No flailing. No flopping. The point? Pre-teens haven't yet absorbed the message that doing anything 'like a girl' means doing it badly – that 'girl' amounts to weakness.

"These ads are putting their finger on something that we all know is true but rarely talk about," says Rachel Simmons, co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute. "In adolescence there is a precipitous loss of self-esteem that girls experience. And this ad explained what was happening and validated the experience of millions of parents."

Which may explain why it's been viewed more than 40 million times in just a few weeks.

Jodi Detjen, a management professor at Suffolk University in Boston, says marketers are pushing messages about female strength and ability to capitalize on a national movement.

"You've got all these organizations trying to figure out how to get more women leaders," she says. "You've got all this pressure on Silicon Valley to get more women involved."

Not to mention the push to get more young women to take up science and technology careers.

Detjen says if advertisers want to get on board too, that's fine with her.

"Because of the complexity of the problem, I think we need these different approaches, so it's just like this perfect storm."

Rachel Simmons says it's not ideal. She'd rather girls learn this stuff from their parents, not a YouTube video.

"I want to have every girl have her teacher to tell her to stop apologizing, not a shampoo commercial. But if we don't live in that world I don't want to throw out the commercial just on principle," Simmons says.

That shampoo commercial she's talking about shows a woman in a business meeting speaking hesitantly, with this line:

"Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?"

Pantene made the ad. It focuses on some women's tendency to preface their words with an apology. Then the ad urges them to stop being sorry, and start having faith inthemselves. Pantene teamed up with the American Association of University Women to promote the campaign and help it reach a millennial audience.

But some women, like Stephanie Holland, don't relate to this particular commercial. They don't like that the ad encourages women to change their behavior. Holland writes the She-conomy blog about women's marketing power. She's also run her own ad agency for 30 years. For a long time, she did change her behavior.

"I have over time realized that I had to act like a man to be successful," Holland says.

And with hindsight, she regrets that. So if over-apologizing is more of a woman thing, she says, so what? Why can't women today be themselves at work, just like men? She feels the ad is condescending.

"At the end of the day, it's saying that we should change and not them. That they're right, and we're wrong."

Holland says some differences between the sexes are OK – and she's not sorry.

5 numbers that matter to the 'House of Cards' creator

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:16

Executives at Netflix knew Beau Willimon's "House of Cards" would be a hit, long before anyone saw it.

They'd crunched the copious numbers available on their audience - they knew who was watching what and when, on the most granular of levels (like, yes, if you spend 13 hours in front of your screen without pause, someone out there sees you). Their millions of subscribers liked films by director David Fincher, and they'd watch just about anything with actor Kevin Spacey. The British version of the show was already doing well. It seemed like one sure bet

Beau Willimon, however, cares about none of this. As he told Kai Ryssdal, not everyone at Netflix is awash in the same numbers - here are the figures that matter to him: 

Practically 0

...Willimon sees almost no data on "House of Cards." In his words: "I know virtually nothing."

Practically 0, redux

... and he doesn't want to see any data.

"Those numbers can lead to either forced choices that have nothing to do with the creative process, or, conversely, coming from the creative side, a form of pandering. Because you become obsessed with those numbers and try to cater to them. So, I don't have to deal with any of that... You can't get addicted to heroin if it's not available to you."

26 hours, guaranteed

Netflix made a big promise from the start: Two seasons, no matter what. 

"Knowing that I had 26 hours meant that I had a broad canvas I could paint on. I knew there were things I could lay in early on in season one that might not fully come back til the end of season two. So you could really delve deeper into characters. You don't feel rushed. You don't have to force big cliffhangers or jump the shark in order to try to make something dramatic happen unorganically, the way that some shows feel the pressure to, becasue they're in a ratings game week to week, fighting for their life. 

Infinite

...the amount of angst that goes into "House of Cards".

"All we really care about is the work we're trying to do that day. Trying to tell the best story we can... Constantly contending with our own sense of self-doubt and self-loathing, which is worse than any data set."

At least 1

 ...piece of data he wouldn't share with us.

 No, he wouldn't give us a release date for "House of Cards" season three. 

5 numbers that matter to the 'House of Cards' creator

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:16

Executives at Netflix knew Beau Willimon's "House of Cards" would be a hit, long before anyone saw it.

They'd crunched the copious numbers available on their audience - they knew who was watching what and when, on the most granular of levels (like, yes, if you spend 13 hours in front of your screen without pause, someone out there sees you). Their millions of subscribers liked films by director David Fincher, and they'd watch just about anything with actor Kevin Spacey. The British version of the show was already doing well. It seemed like one sure bet

Beau Willimon, however, cares about none of this. As he told Kai Ryssdal, not everyone at Netflix is awash in the same numbers - here are the figures that matter to him: 

Practically 0

...Willimon sees almost no data on "House of Cards." In his words: "I know virtually nothing."

Practically 0, redux

... and he doesn't want to see any data.

"Those numbers can lead to either forced choices that have nothing to do with the creative process, or, conversely, coming from the creative side, a form of pandering. Because you become obsessed with those numbers and try to cater to them. So, I don't have to deal with any of that... You can't get addicted to heroin if it's not available to you."

26 hours, guaranteed

Netflix made a big promise from the start: Two seasons, no matter what. 

"Knowing that I had 26 hours meant that I had a broad canvas I could paint on. I knew there were things I could lay in early on in season one that might not fully come back til the end of season two. So you could really delve deeper into characters. You don't feel rushed. You don't have to force big cliffhangers or jump the shark in order to try to make something dramatic happen unorganically, the way that some shows feel the pressure to, becasue they're in a ratings game week to week, fighting for their life. 

Infinite

...the amount of angst that goes into "House of Cards".

"All we really care about is the work we're trying to do that day. Trying to tell the best story we can... Constantly contending with our own sense of self-doubt and self-loathing, which is worse than any data set."

At least 1

 ...piece of data he wouldn't share with us.

 No, he wouldn't give us a release date for "House of Cards" season three. 

‘Economic patriotism’: Rhetorical, not economic, policy

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:58

Recently, President Obama has been traveling around the country, trying to shift focus back onto the economy. We talked to him about that a few weeks ago, at the White House.

You may have noticed a refrain in some of the president’s most recent speeches. Here is an example from a speech he delivered in Denver: “That’s what makes this country great – a sense of common purpose and patriotism, an economic patriotism.”

President Obama may have cribbed that term from a speech by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He was talking about the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney.

“Mitt has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport,” Strickland said. “It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands, and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.”

Obama used the phrase in a TV ad soon after, and it became the title of the president’s economic plan. So, almost two years later, how does Strickland define “economic patriotism”?

“Companies, corporations, CEOs need to understand that this country has provided them, and continues to provide for them, the means to be successful,” he says.

“Economic patriotism” is more of a rhetorical device than an economic theory. There is no textbook definition. President Obama has used it to talk about infrastructure investment. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew used it in a letter to lawmakers about corporate taxation.

Economic historian Gavin Wright, who teaches at Stanford, suggests “economic patriotism” is a broad brush. It refers to appeals to make economic behavior or economic policy based on “American values.” And, he adds, that has happened throughout history.

“During the Cold War era, I don’t recall hearing the term ‘economic patriotism,’ but it was more or less taken as a given,” Wright says.

In the 1790s, Alexander Hamilton asked the government to support manufacturers. It was an appeal to a special interest group, Wright notes, “but he also thought that this would be essential for the credibility of the American economy, the American nation.”

The phrase “economic patriotism” has been used by Democrats and Republicans, including Pat Buchanan and Amb. John Bohn, who ran the Export-Import Bank during the Reagan era. Bohn defines “economic patriotism” as understanding our economic policy as it compares to the economic policies of other countries.

“We need to have a kind of partnership between the government and the private sector if we are going to maximize our economic growth,” he says.

Over these last few weeks, the phrase has attracted criticism. Wright summarizes one complaint: “There is a market out there, and the market operates and reaches its outcomes, then the government wants to intervene and change that.”

So, Wright says, the debate over the definition of the term “economic patriotism” is really a proxy for a much bigger debate over the role government should play in the economy.

 

Small Business remains hopeful during slow season

Wed, 2014-07-23 10:37

As the economy continues to grow and unemployment drops to 6.1 percent in the U.S., we check in with a small business owner to see how things are on the ground level.

Olalah Njenga is the CEO of YellowWood Group based in Raleigh, North Carolina and says her business is doing okay, but it gets a little slow during the summer.

"We had a little bit of a bump from June to July and I think that’s pretty indicative of what’s happening to the general morale of small businesses right now," Njenga says. "I think that optimism is there. I’d like to say that we’ve hopeful but, you know, across the area of the business, hope doesn’t get employees paid."

In terms of hiring, Njenga says it’s been difficult to hire the right person to join the core team at YellwWood Group:

"And I’m not alone," she says. "There’s a lot of small businesses out there looking for that superstar person who is flexible and creative and only needs to be groomed against the values and the culture of the company, but they come in the door with a really nice set of skills."

Njenga says she stays optimistic and is excited for what’s in store for the future of her business.

"We have things in the works right now that we are productizing one of our flagship services," she says. "So we’re excited that we maybe able to take something that has traditionally been of service and translate it into a product. And it is launching this quarter."

Abuse of human growth hormone on the rise in teens

Wed, 2014-07-23 08:36

Use of human growth hormone is on the rise among teens in the U.S., according to a new report from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Human growth hormone (HGH) occurs naturally in the body and stimulates growth. But in recent years, a synthetic version of HGH been abused by professional athletes to enhance their performance, much like steroids.

While abuse of other drugs is flat or falling, the number of teens who say they’ve used HGH has doubled since 2012, to 11 percent, according to the survey.

But it’s not just teen athletes looking for an edge.

"A lot of kids are very interested in body image,” says Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Young girls want to be lean and toned, young boys want to be muscular and impressive.”

That desire has been met with aggressive marketing efforts for over-the-counter supplements that claim to boost HGH levels in the body.

Because the study is based on teens who self-report using HGH, it’s unclear whether the respondents were using these supplements or injecting the pharmaceutical-grade drug.

Shaun Assael, a senior writer at ESPN and the author of "Steroid Nation," believes the high cost of the pharmaceutical version would limit its use.

“The idea that [HGH] is being passed around in gym locker rooms, I’m not going to say it never goes on, but I’m highly skeptical of that,” he said.

Either way, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids finds the data troubling and potentially dangerous for teens, since supplement manufacturers don’t need approval from the Food and Drug Administration before marketing a new product. Rather, it’s the company’s responsibility to make sure the supplements are safe and effective.

However, even if the supplements aren’t dangerous, they are a waste of money, says Chris Cooper, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Essex and the author of the book "Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat."

“In general, a lot of pills that claim to effect human growth hormone in the body do nothing of the sort,” Cooper says. “Probably they just have a bad effect on your bank balance rather than your health.”

But Cooper cautions that injecting the wrong dose of synthetic HGH or using it without the supervision of a doctor can have much more serious health implications on teens’ growing bodies, including increased risk of diabetes.

PODCAST: Netflix goes global

Wed, 2014-07-23 03:00

A round-up of the numerous companies reporting profits this week, and what it means for the economy at large. Plus, more on Netflix's strategy to expand internationally, and what challenges they may face. Also, Manchester United is stateside, playing a game against Los Angeles Galaxy. After a rough patch of losses, we look at the team's hope for a return to success, both on the field, and in their finances.

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