Marketplace - American Public Media

Amazon heads to college

Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

Amazon has struck deals with three major universities to create online university stores, which will sell course textbooks and other university-branded goods.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which is one of the institutions along with Purdue and University of California, Davis, estimates that its students will save about $380 a year in textbook costs, because of lower prices through Amazon.

"This is something that students have already started to do," says Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesperson for UMass Amherst. "Online sales of books have been increasing."

The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at the three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a discounted Prime plan at $49—Amazon's customer loyalty program, which also includes access to its streaming video service.

Blaguszewski says the deal with Amazon will take over an expiring contract with Follett, one of the retailers that are licensed to operate many university bookstores. Another such retailer in the $10 billion college bookstore market is Barnes & Noble.

"Definitely, this continues to put pressure on Barnes and Noble," says Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "This is yet again another example of how Amazon is gaining share."

"When any entity of that size comes into the marketplace ... that is going to be a formidable competitor, " says Todd Summer, who runs a university-owned bookstore at San Diego State and is the president of the National Association of College Stores board of trustees.

Summer says his store can compete with Amazon: "We've got a very dedicated staff that's tied into the campus."

NACS says there are some 4,500 college and university bookstores in the United State, and a majority are owned by the schools. Still, that leaves hundreds, at least, that are operated by Follett, Barnes and Noble, and others. They are likely targets for Amazon once existing contracts with schools expire.

And while Mulpuru says three stores do not market disruption make, she sees Amazon's move as one of building habits: getting young people used to its online services, which could yield dividends well after students graduate.

Right now, it's an interesting experiment, she says. And where better to launch an experiment than America's college campuses.

How an algorithm is taught to be prejudiced

Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

Algorithms are everywhere. It’s what advertisers use to target users online, and it’s what search engines use to cough up all those results in a particular order. Even the data collected by governments is used to build algorithms which are then used to track, flag or analyze whatever the government is looking to track, flag or analyze.

But there’s a growing fear that these algorithms are learning stereotypes, and therefore abetting data discrimination. Some algorithms, for instance, make an assumption about an individual's ability to pay debt based on race. Basically, a lot of data goes into these “black box algorithms,” as they are known, and they produce results that are often discriminatory.

“I call it a black box because we don’t have access to these sorts of algorithms,” says Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland. Pasquale explores this subject in his new book, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.

The algorithms produce results based solely on the data that was fed to them, but the trouble is no one knows exactly how the algorithm is crunching that data. Yes, algorithms are racist, Pasquale says, but they are also “reflecting the preferences of thousands and possibly millions of users.”

He sees this as a problem because it’s likely to influence even those who don't buy into such stereotypes. And they may start thinking like the algorithm. He recommends something akin to “an anti-discrimination type of approach."

If it’s true, he adds, that we can never know how these algorithms work, then we must not allow certain results: “We need to move beyond saying we just reflect what people think and make them (algorithms) more progressive."

How to avoid raising a spoiled brat

Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

For many parents, there is the very real fear of raising a spoiled brat; clueless about money, how to manage it, and how to be smart about it. According to Ron Lieber, author and personal finance columnist for The New York Times, raising a financially responsible child is a matter of being open to dialogue, as well as giving regular opportunities to be smart about money.

That means providing a regular allowance, free of any correlation to whether or not a child accomplishes tasks. In his new book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About MoneyLieber argues that regular chores and allowances should accomplish two separate goals: fostering work ethic, and teaching a child how to manage money, respectively. 

Read an excerpt from "The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money" below

The Allowance Debates

Three jars, unpaid chores, and a whole lot of patience

In the 18 or so years before your children leave for college, they are likely to want many of the following items: American Girl dolls. One-hundred-fifty-dollar sneakers. Then another pair six months later, when they grow out of the first pair. A second ear piercing. Beats by Dre headphones that will cover the piercings. Apps by the dozen. A microscope as powerful as the ones they use at school. Jeans with a price tag higher than in-state college tuition was 30 or 40 years ago. Concert tickets. Cars. An iPad. An iPhone. The new iPad. The new iPhone. Replacement chargers for the ones they lose, repeatedly. North Face jackets. A dog.

All the while, there will be many things you want them to do: Pick up a younger sibling from an after-school activity. Make the floor reappear in their room. Take out the garbage. Start dinner. Mow the lawn. Walk the dog. The dishes. Four loads of laundry. Grocery shopping.

Most parents consider these two lists and deliver a consistent message to their kids about the connection between them: Do the work, and we’ll give you money to save up to buy the stuff. They call the work chores, and the money is the children’s allowance. The lesson is that you can buy things, just so long as you do things.

It all seems reasonable. But there’s something fundamental that we fail to stop and ask ourselves during the decade or so that we make our weekly distributions to our children: What are we really trying to accomplish with an allowance anyway?

When parents tie allowance to the completion of chores, they make work the primary focus, not money. But children have many places to pick up a good work ethic. Strict teachers, drill-sergeant coaches, and choral conductors will instill plenty of discipline. Homework is a slog that builds stamina over time. Most part-time jobs that teenagers take on involve a fair bit of drudgery, but they adjust and get dressed down by difficult bosses, and few of them ever get fired.

We should certainly do our part at home by making them do all kinds of chores. But they ought to do them for the same reason we do—because the chores need to be done, and not with the expectation of compensation. If they do them poorly, there are plenty of valuable privileges we can take away, aside from withholding money. So allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool that gets sharper and more potent over a decade or so of annual raises and increasing responsibility.

Secret sauce, public sale

Tue, 2015-02-03 01:30
$258 million

How much Google Ventures initially invested in Uber in August 2013. It's put more money into the "e-hailing" service since then and a Goggle exec sits on Uber's board, but the companies could soon go from friends to bitter enemies, if they haven't already. Bloomberg dropped the bomb late Monday that Google is prepping its own ride service, likely connected to its self-driving cars. It would be a blow and a huge threat to Uber, which is investing in its own self-driving cars.

$10 billion

How much the college bookstore industry is worth — and now Amazon wants a piece of that market. The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a Prime plan  — Amazon's customer-loyalty program — discounted to $49. Prime includes access to its video-streaming service.

92

The number of measles cases recorded statewide in California as of Monday night, nearly a third in Orange County alone. The outbreak has been largely attributed to the anti-vaccination movement that's gained momentum in the past several years and threatened to become a partisan issue Monday. A new episode of Retro Report explores how debunked autism research, celebrity and unclear reporting by the media have helped push down vaccination rates in parts of the U.S.

6

At least that many court cases in the past two months have had to wrestle with the use of emoji in texts, Facebook posts or other online chatter being admitted as evidence. We pointed out one already, and the Marshall Project has outlined several more. They also created a nifty tool that pairs a random movie line with a random emoji to show how the context changes.

1949

The year Edsac, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator and one of the U.K.'s earliest computers, first ran calculations. A piece of that computer was recently discovered in the U.S., according to the BBC.

25 milliliters

The size of a tube of McDonald's Big Mac secret sauce, now on sale in Australia until supplies run out. 

Special sauce, special sale

Tue, 2015-02-03 01:30
$258 million

That's how much Google Ventures initially invested in Uber in August 2013. It's put more money in the e-hailing service since then and a Goggle exec sits on Uber's board, but the companies could soon go from friends to bitter enemies, if they haven't already. Bloomberg dropped the bomb late Monday that Google is prepping its own ride service, likely connected to its self-driving cars. It would be a blow and a huge new threat to Uber, which is investing in its own self-driving cars now.

$10 billion

That's how much the college bookstore industry is worth — and now Amazon wants a piece of that market. The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a discounted Prime plan at $49 — Amazon's customer loyalty program, which also includes access to its streaming video service.

92

The number of measles cases recorded statewide in California as of Monday night, nearly a third in Orange County alone. This outbreak has been largely attributed to the anti-vaccination movement that's gained momentum in the past several years and threatened to become a partisan issue Monday. It was perfect timing for the new episode of Retro Report, which explores how debunked autism research, celebrity and false balance in the media pushed down vaccination rates in some parts of the U.S.

6

At least that many court cases in the past two months have had to wrestle with the use of emoji in texts, Facebook posts or other online chatter being admitted as evidence. We told you about one already, and the Marshall Project has outlined several more. They also created a nifty tool that pairs a random movie line with a random emoji to show how the context changes.

1949

That's the year Edsac, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator and one of the UK's earliest computers, first ran calculations. A piece of that computer was recently discovered in the U.S., as reported by the BBC.

25 milliliters

That's the size of a tube of McDonald's Big Mac secret sauce, now on sale in Australia until supplies run out. 

Moving on from Teapot Dome, 90-plus years later

Mon, 2015-02-02 13:51

On Friday, the Department of Energy finalized a deal to sell off the Teapot Dome oilfield. Yes ... that Teapot Dome.

The oilfield, located in Wyoming, was central to the Teapot Dome bribery scandal that scarred the Warren Harding Administration in the 1920s.

Anyway, taxpayers got 22 million barrels of oil out of the ground over the years. We sold off the oilfield for $45 million.

Federica Marchionni goes from high-end to Lands' End

Mon, 2015-02-02 12:30

Former Dolce & Gabbana executive Federica Marchionni is the new CEO of American brand Lands' End, but why would Lands' End need a CEO with high-fashion experience? 

"Lands' End, I guess, needs a little shot of fashion," says Kate Betts, a fashion journalist.

The Lands' End brand was lost in the shuffle, leaving many confused as to what separates the American clothing maker from other similar staple brands. "It's definitely been in the shadow of very authentic American brands like L.L. Bean for awhile," Betts says.

What can Marchionni do to differentiate Lands' End's style?

"She's going to pick a merchandiser, and that merchandiser is going to be instrumental in making the floor of any sales space look unique in a way that catches the consumer's eye," Betts says. " And keeps the consumer coming back."

Big Oil cuts back, but not on dividends

Mon, 2015-02-02 12:26

Profits at ExxonMobil are down this quarter, 21% below a year ago.

Like the other big oil companies, ExxonMobil has been hurt by falling oil prices, and has been cutting jobs and investment as a result. But neither ExxonMobil, nor the other Big Oil firms like Shell and BP have cut back on dividends. 

Josh Peters, director of equity-income strategy and editor of Morningstar's Dividend Investor newsletter, says "dividend investors" aren't just retirees, but a variety of investors who manage risk by buying stocks that provide a regular income, not just growth.

Brian Youngberg, senior energy analyst at Edward Jones, says dividends are the only reason to invest in the big oil companies right now. 

Douglas Skinner, professor of accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business,  says once companies start paying a dividend, they're unlikely to reverse themselves, because investors not only depend on them but see them as a signal of stability.

The budget as a starting point for tax reform

Mon, 2015-02-02 11:30

Republican lawmakers called President Obama’s budget “top down” and “backward looking.” They said it “contains no solutions to address the drivers of our debt.” So where is the room for compromise?

"The one point Democrats, Republicans and the president can agree on is the tax system is a mess,” says Richard Kaplan, the Peer and Sarah Pedersen Professor of Law at the University of Illinois. “That you wouldn’t design it this way from scratch, that many of its key features are unjustifiable and that you ought to fix it.”

Kaplan points out you don’t see that kind of agreement on financial reform or healthcare reform. The president’s plan goes after money that companies have made and stashed overseas. He has proposed a one-time tax of 14 percent on that money.

“He’s hitting a popular theme,” says Thomas Cooke, a distinguished teaching professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “I think there is general consensus that we need to do what we can to get money back from offshore.” Cooke also sees says room for compromise on how the government taxes interest on investments.

But it is easy to say you are in favor of tax reform, says  Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. “It’s like saying we are all in favor of mother and an apple pie, but what does that really mean?  And it means very different things to the president and congressional Republicans.”

The president wants to raise more revenue through reform, to spend on things like improving infrastructure. Republicans insist tax reform not raise any new revenue. “And that is a point of major disagreement between the president and congressional Republicans,” Gleckman says.

The president’s budget is a starting point. It will be months before we get detailed plans for tax reform from Democrats and Republicans.

 

A nation in agreement: Nationwide's ad was a buzzkill

Mon, 2015-02-02 10:44

Imagine you are at the biggest party in the world. Katy Perry is there, on a giant, golden robotic puppet lion. She's going to sing and everyone is having a great time, because it's the Super Bowl.

Then an adorable little boy shows up in an ad and tells you he’s dead.

"You’ve been watching the game. Suddenly, someone comes in and puts a downer on it all," says Britt Bulla, a strategy director with international branding agency Siegel+Gale. He echoed a sentiment that's been buzzing all over Twitter. Nationwide's ad was a buzzkill.

Shedding light on childhood deaths is important, Bulla says, but the the ad wasn't handled well.

"Look at the context we’re in. We’re watching a ball game," he says. "And we’re going to go back to watching a ball game."

Say what you want, but that #nationwide commercial is a good reminder to cherish everything you have because you could get fired tomorrow.

— John Ramsey (@jtramsey) February 2, 2015

David Rogers, a professor of digital marketing at Columbia Business School, offers an opinion about as subtle as those popping on Twitter.

"I think their ad agency should be fired. They did a horrible job," he says. "You don’t start a conversation by freaking people out."

The communication strategy made no sense, Rogers says.

”It didn’t even have a direct enough link to their makesafehappen website.”

"We're Nationwide Insurance! EVERYONE DIES. Enjoy the game! Nationwide."

— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) February 2, 2015

An ad for a not-so-peppy topic can be successful during the Super Bowl, just look at the spot that Procter& Gamble's Always brand ran, says Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

“The interesting contrast is what Nationwide did and what Procter & Gamble did," he says. “The two companies were trying to do pretty much the same thing. Which was say 'we’re working on important issues that matter.'”

Amid the post-game day chatter about Nationwide, there's the notion that no publicity is bad publicity. But it’s hard to find too many tweets or marketers who see it as a success.

One big problem says Rogers, is practical.

"They flash at the very end – this hashtag and url," he says. "Your child could die at any minute, and what should you do about it? Tweet our hashtag," he says. "Where are you supposed to go from there?"

Truly proud of our #client @Nationwide and my team @Ogilvy for #makesafehappen. The most brave and the most important film of #SuperBowlAds

— Adam Tucker (@Adman_Tucker) February 2, 2015

Five highlights of the Sundance Film Festival

Mon, 2015-02-02 10:10

Netflix and Amazon attended the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, this year – looking to make digital distribution an option for independent filmmakers. So were the digital companies a big hit at the festival?

"Not really," says Wesley Morris, film critic at Grantland. "I think what you’re going to see is people feeling Amazon out. I think filmmakers really do want to feel like their movie is at a movie studio, and they have a deal to reflect that. And for now, Sundance is their number one distribution deal."

One festival highlight was "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl."

"It is a very charming, really well-made movie about a guy who befriends a dying girl," says Morris. "And when you’re watching that movie and you get to the last 10 to 15 minutes, as someone said to me – when I was like 'I’m not going to be moved by this at all' – 'you won’t be human if you aren’t.'"

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" swept the festival awards and was picked up by Fox Searchlight after a bidding war.

Four more highlights from Sundance 2015:

"The End of the Tour" 

"Tangerine"

"The Wolfpack"

"Results"

Recapping this year's Sundance Film Festival

Mon, 2015-02-02 10:10

Netflix and Amazon attended the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah this year – looking to make digital distribution an option for independent filmmakers. So, were the digital companies a big hit at the festival?

 

"Not really," says Wesley Morris, film critic at Grantland. "I think what you’re going to see is people feeling Amazon out. I think filmmakers really do want to feel like their movie is at a movie studio and they have a deal to reflect that. And for now, Sundance is their number-one distribution deal."

 

One of the festival’s highlights was "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl."

 

"It is a very charming, really well-made movie about a guy who befriends a dying girl," says Morris. "And when you’re watching that movie and you get to the last 10 to 15 minutes, as someone said to me – when I was like 'I’m not going to be moved by this at all' - 'You won’t be human if you aren’t.'"

 

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" swept the festival awards and got picked up by Fox Searchlight after a bidding war.

 

Four more highlights from Sundance 2015:

 

"The End of the Tour"

 

"Tangerine"

"The Wolfpack"

 

"Results"

 

 

 

In Greece, designer retail therapy on a shoestring

Mon, 2015-02-02 08:59

Greece remains mired in crisis and profoundly depressed, yet at least one small corner of the country's economy is flourishing: luxury goods. The business of helping Greece keep up appearances in economically troubled times is, apparently, booming.

For instance, Starbags rents out expensive designer handbags, and offers an affordable solution to any woman who wants to flaunt her wealth even if she doesn't have it anymore.

“Most women who would rent from a company like ours would want instant recognition,” says Oliana Spiridopoulos, Starbags' owner. “They want to be recognized for their good taste and economic status. They want to be seen looking their best but also looking socially mobile.”

That’s upwardly socially mobile … even though the country may not be headed that way economically. Starbags charges the equivalent of about $60 to rent a handbag by such designers as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and other top fashion houses. More importantly, it's a cheaper option than paying $1,800 to buy a new bag.

“People rent the handbags for very special occasions, like weddings and christenings, where they’d be expected to carry something relatively more expensive than usual,” says John Spiliotakis, Starbag’s executive director.

So, do people who rent the handbags pretend they own it? “Some tell their friends they’ve hired the bag, some don’t. But, look, nobody is going to come up and ask whether the bag you’re carrying belongs to you,” says Spiridopoulos says.

Down-on-their-luck fashionistas who prefer to own their clothes and accessories have another option in Athens, they can buy second-hand designer clothing like shirts, jackets, coats, dresses, pants and even wedding dresses at a store called Kilo Shop. “We buy large quantities of secondhand or surplus designer clothes abroad by kilo,” says George Danakas, a co-owner of the shop. “So it is only fair to sell by the kilo to our cash-strapped customers here in Greece.”

The clothes are in excellent condition but since they have been bought in bulk and could be 10, 20 or even 30 years old, the prices are low: a pair of Levi 501s for under $20, a Tommy Hilfiger shirt for just over $10. 

Sabine Danakas, another Kilo Shop co-owner, claims that the business is prospering in spite of — or perhaps because of — the crisis. “Greek people live mostly outside. They may live in plain houses and apartments but when they go out in the sun, they have this feeling of showing off,” she says with a laugh. “And this is particularly true during an economic downturn. They want to look good and if it does not cost very much to look good, they’re really happy!”

Neli Sfigopoulou, a 28-year-old tourist trade worker, looks happy as she weighs which designer top to buy in the Kilo Shop. In these difficult economic times, she says, this kind of shopping is retail therapy on a shoestring.

Quiz: Big year for university endowments

Mon, 2015-02-02 07:18

Harvard University raised more money in 2014 than any U.S. school ever.

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FCC regulator: Don't dish out discounts to Dish

Mon, 2015-02-02 07:00

A regulator with the Federal Communications Commission is crying foul over Dish Network Corp.’s pursuit of small business discounts in a wireless spectrum auction last week.

Dish pulled in more than $13 billion worth of wireless licenses in the auction. But it might not end up paying that much. Dish is seeking to tap discounts the FCC sets aside for small businesses. It secured bids through a couple small companies it's invested in. Those partner firms qualify for the discounts. 

“It is an outrage that a Fortune 500 corporation, using some shell corporations that are very creatively structured, can try to claim over $3 billion worth bidding credits that are meant for small businesses,” says FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

Pai is calling for an FCC investigation into the matter. Dish couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. It has generally stayed mum about the auction. 

The company is not a wireless service provider—it’s in the business of satellite TV and internet. And yet, over the past few years, Dish has amassed a surprising amount of wireless spectrum. 

Blair Levin, a former FCC chief of staff, says it’s unclear if Dish will partner with another wireless company or start an independent wireless service—or something else altogether.

But Levin says the final result might be worth the $3 billion in discounts Dish is seeking.

“If they provide ways so that Americans can have faster, better, cheaper mobile services, I think we’ll look back and say it was a bargain,” Levin says.

Still, the FCC’s Commissioner Pai says the rules of the bidding process must be followed, and he want to make sure Dish hasn't flouted the rules.

"The mandate we got was to give small businesses a chance to break into the wireless marketplace," he says. "It wasn't to give large corporations with sophisticated lawyers an opportunity to game the system in order to get the taxpayer-funded discount on bidding at spectrum auctions."

How do sports teams get their championship T-shirts so fast?

Mon, 2015-02-02 05:20

Listener Danielle Addleman from Novato, California, has always wondered about how major league sports teams get T-shirts that declare them the champions immediately after they win.

To figure out how the winning team gets their hands on those T-shirts so quickly, I wanted to understand just what it takes to make one of these commemorative tees. So I visited a screen-printing company called AKT Enterprises in Pomona, California. The warehouse, where T-shirts are printed and packaged, was warm and smelled like ink.

Daisy Palacios/Marketplace

AKT’s head of West Coast operations, Robert Pfeffer, gave me a tour. He told me about the different variables that go into the T-shirt making business, "type of garment, color of garment, locations, size of artwork, the different colors that are going into the print and the type of inks that are used."

The longest part of the process is figuring out what the client wants. For example, if you needed shirts for your kid’s entire little league team, "standard screen printing is probably anywhere between a 7- to 10-day process," Pfeffer says. "To get garments ordered, get everything here, get your artwork approved, and then to actually have it printed and shipped out to you."

But when the client is an entire football league? The planning starts before the season does.

Jim Pisani, president of Majestic Athletic, has an entire team dedicated to championship events for the major league sports and the NCAA.

"They plan about six months out for each event, from the product, the T-shirts and the fleece that are going to be used, to working on designs with each one of the leagues," Pisani says. "During what we call the ‘hot market’ – whether it’s the Super Bowl, the World Series or the Stanley Cup championship – we do what’s called ‘locker room T-shirts.’"

Those locker room T-shirts are the ones you saw the Patriots wearing after the Super Bowl, and that you can buy right away at the stadium. Every year, shirts are printed for both teams before the final game and are kept in closely guarded boxes behind the scenes. The second the clock expires, workers take the winner’s shirts onto the field and give them to the new champions. And just like that – instant marketing for the same T-shirts that will be in stores the next morning.

However, Pisani says, most championship T-shirts that you can buy in stores the next day are printed right after the game.

"That’s when we’ll really kick into gear. We’ll have product ready within less than 24 hours, sometimes within two to three hours depending on where the location is," Pisani says.

Manufactures and retailers pre-position thousands of blank shirts, jackets and hats at printing facilities all over the country. As teams are eliminated in the playoffs, so are the screen-printers that were hired in their region. So, when the Super Bowl’s game clock was running out, the T-shirt print workers in Seattle and in New England run in and wait for the count – to start up the T-shirt press.

Daisy Palacios/Marketplace

“The actual printing, once the order is taken, the stencil is made, and everything is set up – it probably takes anywhere between 10 to 15 seconds,” Pfeffer says.

Depending on the complexity of the design, T-shirt printers move pretty fast. "I’ve seen numbers upward over 600 an hour and as few as 200 an hour," Pfeffer says.

Big orders like these might require the winner’s T-shirt print shop to run for at least 18 hours and bring in a second shift. The shops hired to print the losing team’s gear just go home.

What’s going to happen to the pre-printed shirts that say the Seahawks won the Super Bowl? Twenty years ago they would have been destroyed, but the leagues and retailers now partner with nonprofit organizations and donate the clothing to Third World countries.

The only condition the league sets with these organizations is that the licensed apparel never makes it way to the U.S. market, says Beau Stephens, senior vice president of university business at Navigate, an investment analysis firm that specializes in sports and entertainment.

"I think they take it very seriously because it’s additional revenue. They fiercely protect it in that they don’t want misprinted merchandise on the streets either," Stephens says.

The majority of the donated gear comes from retailers. "On average, the typical amount is probably somewhere in the $2 million range that goes overseas," he says.

Which means there’s a strange bright side to blowing the big game. Sure – the Patriots made its hometown fans happy, but the Seahawks will get new fans all over the world.

President's plan to tax foreign earnings

Mon, 2015-02-02 03:00

President Barack Obama hopes to raise $238 billion for infrastructure projects by taxing the foreign earnings of U.S. companies.  

Currently, firms pay no taxes on their earnings from abroad until they move those earnings to the United States, at which point they face a 35 percent corporate tax rate. The result is that many firms have kept that money abroad. 

“They have a strong incentive to not repatriate the profits,” says Joseph Cordes professor of public policy at George Washington University. Firms are now sitting on $2 trillion of foreign earnings stashed abroad. In the past, the government has tried to suck that money into the U.S. by offering a tax holiday – temporarily slashing the rate from 35 percent to 5 percent, according to Roberton Williams at the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center. He says that has made the problem worse: “The history of repatriation gives firms an incentive to leave money overseas and wait for another tax holiday.”

The president’s plan offers a one time tax on earnings of 14 percent, which is higher than a tax holiday but lower than the tax on the books. Moving forward, firms would have to pay taxes on foreign earnings at a rate of 19 percent, whether or not they bring the money home.  

PODCAST: Cider has its moment

Mon, 2015-02-02 03:00

First up, we take a moment to better understand a piece of President Obama's budget proposal set for release today that might find some support from some members of both parties in Congress. Plus, although sales of alcoholic cider currently amount to just 1 percent of the beer market, sales are way up. In Vermont, where craft beer is already big, some say Vermont is poised to become the Napa Valley of hard cider.

The President hopes to tax foreign earnings

Mon, 2015-02-02 03:00

President Barack Obama hopes to raise $238 billion for infrastructure projects by taxing the foreign earnings of U.S. companies.  

Currently, firms pay no taxes on their earnings from abroad until they move those earnings to the United States, at which point they face a 35 percent corporate tax rate. The result is that many firms have kept that money abroad. 

“They have a strong incentive to not repatriate the profits,” says Joseph Cordes professor of public policy at George Washington University. Firms are now sitting on $2 trillion of foreign earnings stashed abroad. In the past, the government has tried to suck that money into the U.S. by offering a tax holiday – temporarily slashing the rate from 35 percent to 5 percent, according to Roberton Williams at the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center. He says that has made the problem worse: “The history of repatriation gives firms an incentive to leave money overseas and wait for another tax holiday.”

The President’s plan offers a one time tax on earnings of 14 percent, which is higher than a tax holiday but lower than the tax on the books. Moving forward, firms would have to pay taxes on foreign earnings at a rate of 19 percent, whether or not they bring the money home.  

Cider makers think Vermont could be their Napa Valley

Mon, 2015-02-02 02:00

Consumption of hard cider in the United States has been growing, thanks in large part to women and millennials. Part of the appeal has been dietary. People on paleo and gluten-free diets can imbibe. But hard cider appeals to locavores and consumers committed to craft brewing. In Vermont, where eating local is practically the state motto, craft cider makers are thriving.

At Citizen Cider in Burlington there are 10 different ciders on tap. Co-founder Kris Nelson poured your thirsty correspondent a Brose, which is cider fermented with whole blueberries.

“It doesn’t drink like a blueberry wine or a cider,” Nelson explains. “It drinks more like a bubbly Rosé from southern France.”

Citizen Cider is eager for local farmers to grow apples just for cider-making. But here's the problem: farmers get far less for the smaller, blemished apples used to make cider than they get for so-called dessert fruit, which commands a price around $25 a bushel. According to University of Vermont researcher Terry Bradshaw, apple growers in Vermont are being cautious about the emerging cider market. 

“There are some orchards in the state that are planted for this market,” said Bradshaw, who makes hard cider at his home in Calais, VT. “But nobody is putting in a sizable orchard just because the economics aren't really figured out yet.”

Production and infrastructure costs are lower for cider apple orchards, but it take several years for new orchards to become productive. Citizen Cider president Justin Heilenbach is confident that the market will adapt.

“Nobody ever wanted a whole crop grown for hard cider making, and now there’s a bunch of people that do,” Heilenbach said of Vermont’s craft cider makers. “What's going to happen with this is, like any other industry, as there's more money on the table, there will be more people that want to plant those orchards and there'll be more people that want to buy” the apples grown there.

The hard cider industry expects that in the next decade, cider will rise from 1 percent of the beer market to 5 percent. 

 

 

 

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