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PODCAST: Researchers take an uber

Mon, 2015-06-01 03:00

First up, we'll talk about where all those disappearing Carnegie Mellon professors went. Hint: they took Uber. Plus, the spectrum auction does not happen until 2016, but there's already a lot of interest in what's for sale. The reason? The spectrum that's for sale is primo. And T-Mobile wants a big piece of it. 

California farmer is 'minimizing the hurt'

Mon, 2015-06-01 02:43

Farmers in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta hold some of the most secure water rights in the state. But as the drought deepens, even those privileged “riparian rights” holders might have to sacrifice their water.

That's why many of them have agreed to slash their water use 25 percent in exchange for a promise they won’t face harsher mandatory cuts this growing season. Farmers say they’ll do that by fallowing fields, shifting to less thirsty crops and using less water to irrigate low-profit crops.

“It’s about minimizing the hurt,” farmer Rudy Mussi says.

Click the media player above to hear more.

T-mobile wants more beachfront spectrum

Mon, 2015-06-01 02:00

The Federal Communications Commission is going to auction off more of the airwaves next year, to wireless companies. All the phone companies want more spectrum, as we use more of those airwaves to stream stuff.  

And the spectrum the FCC is auctioning off is primo.

“Yeah, this is beachfront,” says Kathleen O’Brien Ham, T-Mobile’s Vice President for Federal Regulatory Affairs.

This beachfront property? It’s super spectrum, which can cover long distances and travel through buildings in a single bound. T-Mobile wants to expand its reach and compete more.  

“That competition is giving consumers great choice, great pricing,” says O'Brien Ham.

T-Mobile wants the FCC to set aside half the spectrum to be auctioned off - so only smaller companies can bid on it. But the FCC may not go for that, because it has to strike a balance.

“Between trying to promote competition versus generating ample competitive bidding revenues from the auction," says Robert Frieden, a professor of telecommunications and law at Penn State University.

Neil Grace, a spokesperson for the FCC,  says the spectrum speculation is premature.  “No decisions have been made.”

Startup tries to raise the dirt-cheap price of water

Mon, 2015-06-01 02:00

Here's a question for you: How much is water worth?

We aren't talking anything fancy here, just regular old tap water. The answer is pretty darn little — less than a penny a gallon in most places around the country.

That is even true in California, where there is a historic drought. It's become so bad that the state has mandated water cutbacks and is considering fines. One Bay Area company has a different idea to encourage conservation. It wants to change the value of water.

Many of us waste gallons and gallons of water. And that’s not talking about watering large lawns or weekly car washes, but simple things like letting the shower run to warm up. Yup, we just let all that water go right down the drain. But not Alice Green.

Green lived in California during the '70s when the state was in another drought. “I knew then that we didn't have water to waste,” she says.


Alice Green conserves water and could start earning rebate money with the startup MeterHero. (Sam Harnett)

Green started taking conservation measures back then. She saves “warm-up water” from her showers and uses it to flush her toilet. Instead of a lawn, she has planted drought-resistant native plants. 

Today, Green lives in a co-housing neighborhood, which is a kind of hippier version of a condo association. It has signed up for MeterHero, a startup that tracks your water usage and gives rebates if you conserve. It pays one dollar for every hundred gallons less used.

Green's neighbor, Raines Cohen, says the 14-house co-op has been working hard on conservation in the past year. It has cut back nearly a thousand gallons a day with things like landscape and irrigation improvements. That kind of conservation would net them $10 a day with MeterHero's rebates.

 “We will see if we can keep that up, but now we have a strong incentive because of rebates,” Cohen says.

The concept seems pretty straightforward. MeterHero offers a cash carrot to get you to cut back. But the end goal is bigger than that, says founder McGee Young. 

“We can't raise the price of water,” Young says, “but what we can do is put a value on water, and specifically a value on water conservation.”

The rebates effectively make the water worth more. You are a lot less likely to flush a cash rebate down the toilet than water. But how do we know what price-per-gallon will make people stop taking water for granted?

“We don't," Young says. "It's a big experiment. No one has tried to put a price on conservation.” 

To conduct this experiment, MeterHero needs money to fuel the rebates. Right now, it is using its own cash, but the plan is to get businesses to sponsor the rebates. Companies get some nice PR—save water, save the planet. It could also help sell products, like fake grass.

Brad Borgman is with Heavenly Greens, an artificial turf company that is working with MeterHero. Borgman sees the rebate as a pitch to potential clients.

“You know it never hurts to get a little money back when you're trying to do your best to conserve,” he says.

Borgman adds that the rebates help connect water-conscious consumers with companies like his. “It seems like an obvious mutual fit so far, a kind of win-win-win for everyone,” he says.

MeterHero is just getting started, and so far it has handed out about $5,000 in rebates. There is a long way to go before most of us start thinking twice about all that water we flush down the toilet.

In a homeless district, growing numbers raise tensions

Mon, 2015-06-01 02:00

In the last two years, Los Angeles County has seen a 12 percent increase in homelessness. One result is that homeless encampments are appearing across Los Angeles. But traditionally, homeless people and services for them have been concentrated downtown, on Skid Row, and the increase is changing conditions there, too.

In the shadows of skyscrapers, homeless encampments occupy the sidewalks. On one block after another, people sleep in tents and live on the streets, with constant activity 24-hours a day.

But on those same blocks, companies are doing business. 

“I would call it a war-zone down here,” says Mark Shinbane, president of Ore-Cal Corporation. It’s a seafood importer and distribution company that’s operated here since 1961.

The neighborhood has always had issues, but Shinbane says they’ve gotten much worse. “There’s a lot of thievery. We’ve had people break in to the property. They’ve stolen equipment – copper off the roofs.”

Homeless people have threatened and tried to assault his staff. Shinbane says the situation makes it hard to hire new workers, “because they see the area, they drive by and they keep on driving. So, we have to interview more people. I may have to offer higher wages in certain cases to get people to come down and work. It’s a real challenge.”

It’s also an issue for a school in the heart of Skid Row called Inner-City Arts. It has some students who are themselves homeless. But increasingly, the people living on the surrounding streets are more aggressive and potentially dangerous.

“For 25 years, we did not feel the need to have a security guard at our entry gate. And now we do. And that’s an increased cost for the campus that takes away from the free education we’re providing the students,” says the school’s CEO, Bob Smiland. 

Security and sanitation issues have forced businesses to chip-in to support the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District, which pressure-washes sidewalks and employs a team of security guards.

Executive director Raquel Beard says members pay according to the size of their business. “Some can be as much as $20,000 or $30,000 a year.”

Beard has watched some companies move out of the neighborhood. But selling property on Skid Row isn’t very profitable. 

“You can’t get the money that you would get in other parts of downtown,” she says. 

Critics talk about gentrification driving the poor from downtown Los Angeles. But Beard says gentrification hasn’t come to Skid Row. And she doubts it ever will.

 

Start-up tries to raise the dirt cheap price of water

Mon, 2015-06-01 02:00

Okay, here's a question for you. How much is water worth?

We aren't talking anything fancy here, just regular old tap water. The answer is pretty darn little—less than a penny a gallon in most places around the country.

That is even true in California where there is a historic drought. It has gotten so bad the state has mandated water cut-backs and is considering fines. One Bay Area company has a different idea to encourage conservation. It wants to change the value of water.

Like many of us, you probably waste gallons and gallons of water. And that’s not talking about watering large lawns or weekly car washes, but simple things like letting the shower run to warm up. Yup, we just let all that water go right down the drain. But not Alice Green.

Green lived in California during the seventies when the state was in another drought. She says “I knew then that we didn't have water to waste.”


Alice Green conserves water and could start earning rebate money with the start-up MeterHero. (Sam Harnett)

Green started taking conservation measures back then. She saves “warm-up water” from her showers and uses it to flush her toilet. Instead of a lawn, she has planted drought-resistant native plants. 

Today, Green lives in a co-housing neighborhood, which is a kind of hippier version of a condo association. It has signed up for MeterHero, a start-up that tracks your water usage and gives rebates if you conserve. It pays you one dollar for every hundred gallons less you use.

Green's neighbor, Raines Cohen, says the fourteen-house co-op has been working hard on conservation in the past year. It has cut back nearly a thousand gallons a day with things like landscape and irrigation improvements. That kind of conservation would net them 10 dollars a day with MeterHero's rebates. Cohen says, “We will see if we can keep that up, but now we have a strong incentive because of rebates.”

The concept seems pretty straight-forward. MeterHero offers a cash carrot to get you to cut back. But the end goal is bigger than that says founder McGee Young. 

“We can't raise the price of water,” Young says, “but what we can do is put a value on water and specifically a value on water conservation.”

The rebates effectively make the water worth more. You are a lot less likely to flush a cash rebate down the toilet than water. But how do we know what price-per-gallon will make people stop taking water for granted? Young says, “We don't. It's a big experiment. No one has tried to put a price on conservation.”

To do this experiment, MeterHero needs money to fuel the rebates. Right now it is using its own cash. The plan is to get businesses to sponsor the rebates. Companies get some nice PR, you know. Save water, save the planet. It could also help sell products, products like fake grass.

Brad Borgman is with Heavenly Greens, an artificial turf company that is working with MeterHero. Borgman sees the rebate as a pitch to potential clients. He says, “You know it never hurts to get a little money back when you're trying to do your best to conserve.”

Borgman adds that the rebates help connect water-conscious consumers with companies like his. He says “It seems like an obvious mutual fit so far, a kind of win-win-win for everyone.”

MeterHero is just getting started. So far it has handed out about $5,000 in rebates. There is a long way to go before most of us start thinking twice about all that water we flush down the toilet.

The happiest (and most expensive) place on earth

Mon, 2015-06-01 01:59
$99

That's the price for a one-day pass to Disneyland, but soon that could be the cheapest of a three-tiered ticketing system, the LA Times reported. Disney is reportedly weighing a system that would charge more for tickets on peak weekends and holidays.

$16.7 billion

That's how much Intel has agreed to pay for Altera Corp. An earlier attempt at the deal fell apart in April. But as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Monday's successful purchase means Intel can utilize Altera's ability to build specialized chips—a process that is not as cost effective for larger companies to invest the time and effort into developing for themselves.

3.66 seconds

That's the average time it took articles to load via links on Facebook, according to web performance firm Catchpoint Systems as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The service's new "Instant Articles," on the other hand, take between zero and 300 milliseconds to load.

12 percent

That's about the portion of police officers nationwide that are black, about 1.2 percent smaller than the African-American portion of the U.S. population. That's remained mostly unchanged since the late nineties, and many say those numbers belie the diversity of some local police departments where representation is much further out of proportion.

12 percent

That's the increase in homelessness seen in Los Angeles County just in the last two years. We took a closer look at businesses in Skid Row—an area of downtown L.A. where both the homeless and services directed towards helping them having typically congregated—and how they have been affected as tensions rise in the neighborhood. 

The Peace Corps wants ... baby boomers?

Fri, 2015-05-29 16:06

According to the U.S. Peace Corps, 7 percent of its 6,818 volunteers are over the age of 50, and the international service organization would like to see that double. Retired volunteers, the agency says, bring unique life skills and professional experiences with them that allow them to instantly impact the communities they serve around the world.

Enter John and Rosemary Bottcher from Monticello, Florida, married 47 years. Rosemary, 72, is a retired environmental chemist, and John, 71, was an environmental attorney. They served together from 2011-2013 in Paraguay, where Rosemary taught secondary school and John worked in agricultural economics building sustainable gardens. 

"It was just a grand adventure," Rosemary says. "I just wanted to do something different, because lying about when you're retired can get pretty boring pretty fast." John and Rosemary's decided to join the Peace Corps after visiting their daughter, a volunteer herself, in Guatemala. 

 

Why its difficult for minorities to become cops

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:01

Incidents of racial bias by police, harsh treatment of black and Latino civilians by police and police shootings in questionable circumstances are continuing to generate protest and investigation across the U.S.

Many critics of contemporary law enforcement cite the continued dominance of police departments by whites, often in cities that have become majority black and/or Latino, as a significant cause of continued problems between police and the communities they serve.

According to a detailed analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics and local police department data by the New York Times, even after decades of effort to recruit more minorities into policing, some big-city and suburban departments have wide racial imbalances between the race of police officers and residents.

Nationally, African-Americans made up 12 percent of local police forces in 2013, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That percentage has stayed the same since 1997, and it's 1.2 percent below the black share of U.S. population as a whole, according to census data. Hispanics are also underrepresented by about 5.5 percent nationwide.

Delores Jones-Brown is a former prosecutor who is now a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  

“If you’ve got 12 percent African-American police officers in a community that’s 60, 70 or 80 percent African-American, you’re not doing very well," she says, adding that minorities are concentrated at the bottom of the police hierarchy in most departments.

“Many of the police personnel who are of color are likely not at a command-staff level," Jones-Brown says. "And that means they’re not being able to make many decisions about what kinds of policies and practices will be in place.”

One economic development getting in the way of minority recruitment at all levels is the rising African-American middle class, Jones-Brown says.

“African-Americans who are smart enough, college-educated enough or otherwise talented in other areas that pay more money and produce less risk, are taking advantage of those opportunities,” she says.

But being a police officer can be a very good, middle-class job for many. Charles Wilson can attest to this. He’s a 44-year veteran of policing.

“I started my police career in Ohio. I’ve done patrol, I’ve done traffic, I’ve worked narcotics, I’ve worked internal affairs. And I’ve been a police chief,” he says.

Wilson now wears a uniform patrolling a college campus in Providence, Rhode Island, and also serves as chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, with thousands of members and chapters across the Northeastern U.S. Wilson started on the force when he was just out of high school, with a baby on the way.

“I needed a job; the police department was hiring. I took the test, got on the job, and have been crazy ever since I guess,” he says.

Policing can also be lonely at times for officers of color, Wilson says.

“Our numbers in many agencies are in single digits or double-digits," he says. "The vast majority of the law enforcement community remains the bastion of white officers.”

Getting more black and brown people to wear blue has become a crusade for him.

“It pays well, the benefits are good, there are rarely layoffs,” he says of law enforcement as a career. “And you have the opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average starting salary at departments serving 25,000 residents or more nationwide is $45,000. Typically the job does not require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Even if better-educated and more upwardly mobile African-Americans are shunning law enforcement careers, people from less-privileged backgrounds might welcome these good government jobs. But Jones-Brown says many can’t pass the entry test, the credit check or the criminal background check.

“Young men who live in highly policed communities stand very little chance of making it to, say, age 24 without having had some police encounter,” she says. A recent study in the journal Crime and Delinquency found that by age 23, 49 percent of black men and 44 percent of Hispanic men had been arrested, compared to 38 percent of white men.

Molloy College criminology professor John Eterno witnessed this first-hand as a precinct captain in New York City where, he says, cops issued “numerous summonses, stop-and-frisks, and arrests for relatively low-level things like marijuana possession.”

Often these were searches and detentions dictated by the “broken windows” concept of law enforcement that Eterno says has led to heavy-handed and disproportionate policing and arrests in lower-income minority neighborhoods in cities like New York.

“In terms of recruitment for these young minority kids, now that they have a criminal record, it’s much more difficult to get them into law enforcement,” he says.

But relaxing these disqualifying criteria would still leave another recruitment barrier: the stigma of joining the police, Wilson says.

“There is a significant amount of distrust and dissatisfaction with law enforcement," he says. "People I talk to nowadays say, ‘It ain’t cool to be the ‘po-po.’ ”

Recruitment is a challenge in the Latino community, too.

“Most Hispanics, where they come from, the countries they lived in, they don’t really like the police,” says Ismael Cano, a Mexican-American police officer with nearly a decade on the force in the small city of Pasco, Washington. “They don’t feel like they can trust police and call police to help them.”

Pasco’s demographics have changed in recent decades, as migrant farm workers settled down and took jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and services. Cano himself worked in the fields with his parents through junior high school and was a volunteer reserve officer before joining the Pasco Police Department in 2006. He appears every few weeks on local Spanish-language radio station KRCW to discuss policing and talk it up as a career option for young Latinos.

But then, he says, he’ll meet people at a party: “I’ll get in a group talking to people, and I’m proud of what I do, but they will start walking away, and usually by the end of the party, I end up in a corner by myself, because nobody wanted to talk to me.”

Pasco has had its share of conflict over race and policing lately after an unarmed Latino man, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot to death in February by three officers. Civil rights activists want a bigger Latino presence on the Pasco police force, but police Capt. Ken Roske insists Pasco’s doing pretty well.

“We’ve been praised by other cities for our workforce — it turns out to be about 21 percent Hispanic and/or Spanish-speaking officers,” Roske says. “Not that we want to stop there, and not that we don’t want to keep working and striving forward. We certainly want our department to mirror the community. It’s not as easy to accomplish that.”

Roske says it’s unrealistic to expect Pasco’s police department to match the majority Latino population. Some aren’t legal residents or don’t speak English, both of which would disqualify them from the force.

The city has had success in recruiting by paying a premium to Spanish-speaking officers and recruiting through the Boy Scouts Explorer program.

But police-trainer Michael Coker says departments need to do more. Coker’s a retired black officer from Portsmouth, Virginia, who offers courses all over the country. He says to recruit more minorities, departments have to offer more role models.

When he was in high school, Coker says he worked at the local police department as a clerk-typist, and a young black cadet would drive past him every day. “So he would give me a ride to work. A year later, he became a cop. I became a cadet, because he made it seem so cool. I did a ride-along, got in a car with him, and I was sucked in.”

Making blue more black and brown

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:01

Incidents of racial bias by police, harsh treatment of black and Latino civilians by police and police shootings in questionable circumstances are continuing to generate protest and investigation across the U.S.

Many critics of contemporary law enforcement cite the continued dominance of police departments by whites, often in cities that have become majority black and/or Latino, as a significant cause of continued problems between police and the communities they serve.

According to a detailed analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics and local police department data by the New York Times, even after decades of effort to recruit more minorities into policing, some big-city and suburban departments have wide racial imbalances between the race of police officers and residents.

Nationally, African-Americans made up 12 percent of local police forces in 2013, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That percentage has stayed the same since 1997, and it's 1.2 percent below the black share of U.S. population as a whole, according to census data. Hispanics are also underrepresented by about 5.5 percent nationwide.

Delores Jones-Brown is a former prosecutor who is now a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  

“If you’ve got 12 percent African-American police officers in a community that’s 60, 70 or 80 percent African-American, you’re not doing very well," she says, adding that minorities are concentrated at the bottom of the police hierarchy in most departments.

“Many of the police personnel who are of color are likely not at a command-staff level," Jones-Brown says. "And that means they’re not being able to make many decisions about what kinds of policies and practices will be in place.”

One economic development getting in the way of minority recruitment at all levels is the rising African-American middle class, Jones-Brown says.

“African-Americans who are smart enough, college-educated enough or otherwise talented in other areas that pay more money and produce less risk, are taking advantage of those opportunities,” she says.

But being a police officer can be a very good, middle-class job for many. Charles Wilson can attest to this. He’s a 44-year veteran of policing.

“I started my police career in Ohio. I’ve done patrol, I’ve done traffic, I’ve worked narcotics, I’ve worked internal affairs. And I’ve been a police chief,” he says.

Wilson now wears a uniform patrolling a college campus in Providence, Rhode Island, and also serves as chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, with thousands of members and chapters across the Northeastern U.S. Wilson started on the force when he was just out of high school, with a baby on the way.

“I needed a job; the police department was hiring. I took the test, got on the job, and have been crazy ever since I guess,” he says.

Policing can also be lonely at times for officers of color, Wilson says.

“Our numbers in many agencies are in single digits or double-digits," he says. "The vast majority of the law enforcement community remains the bastion of white officers.”

Getting more black and brown people to wear blue has become a crusade for him.

“It pays well, the benefits are good, there are rarely layoffs,” he says of law enforcement as a career. “And you have the opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average starting salary at departments serving 25,000 residents or more nationwide is $45,000. Typically the job does not require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Even if better-educated and more upwardly mobile African-Americans are shunning law enforcement careers, people from less-privileged backgrounds might welcome these good government jobs. But Jones-Brown says many can’t pass the entry test, the credit check or the criminal background check.

“Young men who live in highly policed communities stand very little chance of making it to, say, age 24 without having had some police encounter,” she says. A recent study in the journal Crime and Delinquency found that by age 23, 49 percent of black men and 44 percent of Hispanic men had been arrested, compared to 38 percent of white men.

Molloy College criminology professor John Eterno witnessed this first-hand as a precinct captain in New York City where, he says, cops issued “numerous summonses, stop-and-frisks, and arrests for relatively low-level things like marijuana possession.”

Often these were searches and detentions dictated by the “broken windows” concept of law enforcement that Eterno says has led to heavy-handed and disproportionate policing and arrests in lower-income minority neighborhoods in cities like New York.

“In terms of recruitment for these young minority kids, now that they have a criminal record, it’s much more difficult to get them into law enforcement,” he says.

But relaxing these disqualifying criteria would still leave another recruitment barrier: the stigma of joining the police, Wilson says.

“There is a significant amount of distrust and dissatisfaction with law enforcement," he says. "People I talk to nowadays say, ‘It ain’t cool to be the ‘po-po.’ ”

Recruitment is a challenge in the Latino community, too.

“Most Hispanics, where they come from, the countries they lived in, they don’t really like the police,” says Ismael Cano, a Mexican-American police officer with nearly a decade on the force in the small city of Pasco, Washington. “They don’t feel like they can trust police and call police to help them.”

Pasco’s demographics have changed in recent decades, as migrant farm workers settled down and took jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and services. Cano himself worked in the fields with his parents through junior high school and was a volunteer reserve officer before joining the Pasco Police Department in 2006. He appears every few weeks on local Spanish-language radio station KRCW to discuss policing and talk it up as a career option for young Latinos.

But then, he says, he’ll meet people at a party: “I’ll get in a group talking to people, and I’m proud of what I do, but they will start walking away, and usually by the end of the party, I end up in a corner by myself, because nobody wanted to talk to me.”

Pasco has had its share of conflict over race and policing lately after an unarmed Latino man, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot to death in February by three officers. Civil rights activists want a bigger Latino presence on the Pasco police force, but police Capt. Ken Roske insists Pasco’s doing pretty well.

“We’ve been praised by other cities for our workforce — it turns out to be about 21 percent Hispanic and/or Spanish-speaking officers,” Roske says. “Not that we want to stop there, and not that we don’t want to keep working and striving forward. We certainly want our department to mirror the community. It’s not as easy to accomplish that.”

Roske says it’s unrealistic to expect Pasco’s police department to match the majority Latino population. Some aren’t legal residents or don’t speak English, both of which would disqualify them from the force.

The city has had success in recruiting by paying a premium to Spanish-speaking officers and recruiting through the Boy Scouts Explorer program.

But police-trainer Michael Coker says departments need to do more. Coker’s a retired black officer from Portsmouth, Virginia, who offers courses all over the country. He says to recruit more minorities, departments have to offer more role models.

When he was in high school, Coker says he worked at the local police department as a clerk-typist, and a young black cadet would drive past him every day. “So he would give me a ride to work. A year later, he became a cop. I became a cadet, because he made it seem so cool. I did a ride-along, got in a car with him, and I was sucked in.”

Why making movies isn't like making hamburgers

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:00

The summer movie season is not exactly off to a strong start. The Memorial Day weekend box-office take was one of the lowest in years.

Disney’s lackluster “Tomorrowland” was partly to blame. It cost a couple hundred million dollars and brought in just over $40 million. But it wasn’t the only disappointment, and this weekend could bring more pain with the opening of Sony’s $40 million movie, “Aloha,” starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone. Early reviews have ranged between scathing and, well, scathing. According to emails leaked when Sony was hacked late last year, there were signs that the studio knew the picture was in trouble.

But movies aren’t like other products. You can’t test market them the same way as hamburgers and toothpaste. They can be very expensive to tweak. And at some point, you just have to turn out the lights and hope for the best.

For more, listen to the audio player above.  

Making a home without a house

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:00

The number of homeless people in Los Angeles County has grown 12 percent in the last two years. New encampments have sprouted on sidewalks across the city, including a dozen or so tents just across the 110 Freeway from Los Angeles' downtown — in plain-sight of commuters passing on their way to work.

"People go by us and think we're invisible," Dennis Epping, 44, says. "It's frustrating and degrading."

Epping shares a tent with Christine Boyer, 52. The couple has been together for more than a decade. In the past, when they fell on hard times, they could rely on family.

"See, we could always go home," Boyer says. "But my mom died. So I don't have any parents left, or grandparents, or anything. So we just took to the road."

They have issues that keep them from holding down regular jobs. He has a felony record for burglary, and she has a spinal disability that makes it hard to stand or sit in the same position for long.

"I go panhandle everyday to make money because I'm not going to just sit here and rot," Boyer said. "I have to get up every day and go hustle at least $20 to $50. Otherwise, I don't feel like I've done anything."

They spend some of that money on laundry, which for Boyer, is a way to maintain some dignity. "There's a lot of clothes in the trash and all over the streets, because they give them away for free," she said. "You don't have to do your laundry."

Epping and Boyer say they could sleep inside at a shelter, but that would require them to separate and give away their 4-year-old dog. "It doesn't matter what we go through so long as we don't get pulled apart," Boyer said. "We're all we have. We don't have anything else."

The lack of a social safety net is a constant theme. At a neighboring tent, Anthony Colebar, 48, said he and his wife were pushed out of their low-income apartment so the new owner could raise the rent. They don't have friends or family to put them up, so they've been on the streets for about three weeks.

"I'm from Illinois," Colebar says. "I'm a journeyman. My dad was a journeyman. His dad was a journeyman. Can't find any work out here."

All his job prospects require a car, so he's saving up to buy wheels and looking for another cheap apartment.

"It's hard to save money when you're out here," he says. "There's no refrigerator to go to Food 4 Less and stock up on food. There's no way to heat water to eat noodles – ramen noodles – and stuff. So we eat a lot of lunch meat, a lot of sandwiches."

Colebar says he and his wife receive about $1,200 a month from government aid.

Even though he doesn't get paid for it, Colebar does some work every day, cleaning the sidewalk and gutters with a broom. He says his neighbors don't see any reason to help.

"They don't realize how good we have it right here," he says. "We don't have to take our tents down. There's businesses. People walk by here every day. You gotta keep it clean – they'll leave us alone. Because, until we find another place, this is where we're at."

The encampments aren't just downtown. Eight miles northeast, one tent after another lines the freeway along the Arroyo Seco riverbank.

Under a bridge, several dogs are guarding three tents. One belongs to Eddie Hanson, 23, who shares it with his 18-year-old girlfriend, Hope Hunter.

They been living under the bridge for three months. Eddie says he picked the spot for "the coverage. It's out of the rain. I'm able to get electricity and a few things I need as far as survival."

Many homeless campers pick sites under bridges and on property not patrolled by city police. Eddie Hanson, 23, and Hope Hunter, 18, have a tent, sofa and firepit under a bridge between the Arroyo Seco Parkway and the Arroyo Seco’s channel. 

Jeff Tyler/Marketplace

They get electricity by splicing into the line connected to a street light. Hanson collects about $700 a month in government assistance, and he makes a little extra from scavenging.

"I usually collect cans or scrap," he says. "Scrap metal. Copper. Whatever I can find laying on the side of the road out here. People throw out amazing trash."

He found a beat-up sofa that now sits in front of the fire-pit used for cooking.

"They expect homeless people to provide for themselves, as far as work," Hanson says. "But records or drug inabilities disallow them to get a job."

Hanson says he's been living on the street since he was 12. He has a record for assault and stealing cars. Hope Hunter says she's been homeless since she was 14. She was addicted to speed, but says she's sober now .

"I go to N.A. meetings regularly now just so I can stay clean," she says. "Just because I'm homeless doesn't mean I have to look homeless or act homeless. It's good not to live up to a stereotype that everyone already thinks. It's good to prove people wrong."

Hunter says she got her GED certificate at a homeless shelter when she was 17. "I've been looking for a job," she says. "But if you're homeless, a lot of them will be, like, 'Oh, you're homeless? We don't want you working here. How are you going to take a shower? How are you going to do all that?' "

They have plans to move off the street. Hunter has been in contact with her grandparents, who she expects will help her with $500 to buy a camper.

"I just found out I'm pregnant," she says, letting out a long sigh. "It's really stressful for me, because I can't take my baby home without having an address."

Will sponsors bail on the World Cup?

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:00

Talk about a bad week for the “beautiful game.” The corruption charges against FIFA officials are off-putting, yet there is no other live global event that provides the marketing reach that an event like FIFA's World Cup offers.

Some sponsors have left in the past, but current ones, like Visa and Coca-Cola, have big investments to think about as they consider their responses.

Rob Prazmark is the CEO of 21 Sports and Entertainment Marketing Group. “You could put the World Cup on the moon, and the amount of eyeballs watching it would not change," he says.

With a global audience of over 3 billion — remember, there are around 7 billion people on the entire planet — an advertising deal with the World Cup carries an enormous upside. And, FIFA still has three years until the next World Cup in Russia to repair its image.

“And if they don't,” Prazmark says, “the sponsors will either walk away, find a way to sue them or just let their contracts expire.

But don’t hold your breath on that happening says Jonathan Lee, managing director of marketing and strategy at Huge.

"Brands aren't going to walk away or bail on FIFA, unless the fans actually bail on football," Lee says.

That’s not going to happen, but with some much money and prestige on the line, corporate sponsors might exert pressure on Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s newly re-elected president, in other ways.

“Will they force him to reconsider proceedings going forward and the awarding of that 2022 World Cup?” asks Patrick Rishe, director of the Sports Business Program at Washington University in St. Louis.

Rishe says awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup was highly suspect to begin with, and advertisers like Coca Cola or Adidas won’t want their names dragged through the mud over and over again for the next seven years.

Video: 'Game of Thrones,' Facebook and the GDP Explained

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:00

What's Gross Domestic Product? It’s like if Westeros from "Game of Thrones" had a Facebook page. Get it? You will.

Produced by Preditorial
Design and Animation by Fatdroid
Script: Paddy Hirsch
Director: Rick Kent
Producer: Mimi Kent

California's snowpack has run out

Fri, 2015-05-29 13:00

This news is of primary interest to Californians and anybody who eats any of the fruits and vegetables that are grown here.

A chart out from the California snow survey showed that the California snowpack — you know, the source of a huge chunk of the water supply in this state — is at zero.

California Department of Water Resources

Zero percent of normal.

There's no water left up there.

 

Marketing to Millennials

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:14

At Leo Burnett, the Chicago-based ad agency ranked 9th in the world, most meetings mention millennials. Mick McCabe, chief strategy officer at Leo Burnett, says that Millennials are "the topic du jour," and it shows in the agency's ads. 

Leo Burnett works with McDonald's, Coke, Allstate, Nintendo, Samsung and esurance. In recent years, their ads have introduced themes and characters meant to appeal to a younger audience, building status for newer brands that already skew young and revitalizing advertising for legacy brands. 

McCabe says that Millennials are a crucial audience for all kinds of brands. This group of roughly 80 million 18-34 year-olds spends billions of dollars. And it's a unique group, too: "It is the most diverse generation ever, very tolerant, very open," McCabe says. 

"For marketers, the reason they're such a profound part of the conversation is that they represent what the future looks like," McCabe says, "and so companies can either succeed or fail as they succeed and fail with Millennials."

McCabe says there's an obsession with having conversations with Millennials, and with "what technology they're using ... what's imporant to them, how to connect with them, how to, frankly, develop them as customers for long periods of time."

Research has shown that Millennials like to make purchases that make them feel good about themselves and want to be spoken with, not to. McCabe says these qualities are very human, and so "the things that they want, to connect with people, to have their voice heard, to be authentic, to laugh, to change the world for better, are very indigenous to this group as they are to all human beings." 

"What's different [about Millennials]," McCabe says, "is their embrace of technology allows them to, in a much more intense way, access those emotions, access their voice being heard."

Leo Burnett tries to tap into this mentality with multi-platform ads that involve social — or social network — interaction. One particular ad, a campaign for Always called #LikeAGirl, had millions of views on YouTube and sparked conversations on Twitter before it aired as a Super Bowl commercial. 

 

Another notable ad for Allstate used its "Mayhem" character in an interactive ad — Allstate found a real couple who was oversharing on public social media and sold replicas of their belongings at MayhemSale.com while they were out of the house. 

McCabe says that when marketing to Millennials, timing is key. This is a generation that wants to be spoken to authentically. McCabe says that it's crucial to "speak with the right note, with the right subject, at the right time ... they want it when they want it."

Part of this has to do with mobile advertising — Millennials, and anyone else with a smartphone and other internet-connected devices, are innundated with ads. So what sticks out are things that have a more personal or contextual touch. 

If it sounds a little mushy and emotional, maybe that's because it is. But McCabe says the emotional outreach isn't just about money. "The health of a company ... depends on them having real connections with Millennials. If they have a fake connection with them, they won't grow."

Communities, money, and membership

Fri, 2015-05-29 09:26

What's the most important community you've been a part of?

And how did it affect your life? Have you paid to be a member of a club?

We want to know! Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Your Wallet: Communities

Fri, 2015-05-29 09:26

What's the most important community you've been a part of?

And how did it affect your life? Have you paid to be a member of a club?

We want to know! Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Retirement: How it feels and how to pay for it

Fri, 2015-05-29 09:14

Retirement. How does it feel? And how do you pay for it?

Lizzie O'Leary talks about the psychology of retirement with Nancy Schlossberg, the author of Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose.

"Especially for men and women who are highly invested in their work, who love what they're doing, the thought of retirement creates some anxiety," Schlossberg says. 

For financial advice, Lizzie turns to Rhonda Schaffler, the editor-at-large at TheStreet and anchor of TheStreet TV.

"You should have about 70 percent of the income that you had while you were working, so that means your expenses have to come down because you will have less money," Schaffler says. "And that, by the way, is assuming you have saved enough money. So it's a very delicate balance, and we've seen in study after study that most people aren't getting it right."

 

 

Generation Z talks college and money

Fri, 2015-05-29 09:08

Generation Z is starting college.  The oldest members the group born after Millennials are graduating from high school or wrapping up their freshman year of college. 

Gen Z members, born in the late '90s to early '00s, are just beginning to grasp the economy, their finances and their future. At John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, Tia Reid, Emmanuel Reyes, Diego Jimenez and Beja Wolf are getting ready to graduate — all four are headed to college next year. 

For this cohort, who experienced a recession while they were in middle and elementary school, the economy has been unpredictable. Reid, Reyes, Jiminez and Wolf are navigating complicated methods of paying for school and juggling their personal finances.

Reyes says that even though he has a significant scholarship to UC Santa Barbara, he's already saving for next year. "I don't want to put this burden on [my parents]," Reyes says. "I know that my dad would work harder to pay for college, but I don't want to do that to him. I'm growing up, so I want to take care of things myself. I want to work, and save that little money that I do get just to get this out of the way, and eventually, I'll be the one that helps him."

Reyes works part time as a caterer to help support his family during the school year, and he's opening a bank account for the first time to manage his finances during school next year. "One of my biggest fears is going through college and investing all this money on my education and coming out without a job," Reyes says. "I want to believe that I will find a job, and I hope that's the case, that when I come out of college, there's a job waiting for me."

Reyes shares his skepticism about the job market with his classmates. Beja Wolf, who will be heading to Louis and Clark College next year, says, "I don't think I've really trusted the economy because I've been indoctrinated with this kind of cynical viewpoint of 'you're not going to get a job,' especially because in middle school and early high school we were going through a recession.... Unless you go into science or math, you're not going to get a steady paycheck out of college."

Wolf has some hope — she's seen others "find jobs out of the strangest majors that you wouldn't expect to coalesce with what they ended up doing," but says she doesn't think she'll get a good job out of college. To get her footing in an artistic career, Wolf says, "I think I'll probably have to work awhile." 

Tia Reid, who will attend Occidental College in the fall, says that she's aiming for education beyond college – she wants to be a lawyer. But she says even though "the economy is getting better ... we were in a recession, so I'm not quite sure how trustworthy [the economy] is right now." 

Reid is saving money from summer jobs. "Whenever I get money, I always put it in my bank account," she says. "For next year, I've somewhat started saving. My parents are also contributing, but the school's also helping with financial aid, so it's not that big of a burden." 

Limiting the financial burden of college can be a huge relief, especially for a generation whose members recognize the unpredictable job market that may await them. Diego Jiminez chose between Brown University and UC Berkeley based on their financial offers. "I've been pretty fortunate growing up, so there's always been money," Jiminez says. "It holds a certain importance, but it's not always the top priority in my life." Jiminez says his dad started saving for college "the day I was born." He picked Berkeley because its aid package will, with some help from his parents, make it possible for him to graduate debt free. 

"I wouldn't necessarily say that I trust the economy so much as I trust myself," Jiminez says. He acknowledges that finding a job in recent years has been difficult, but thinks "those days are kind of past us ... if you work hard, there's definitely a spot for you."

 

 

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