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The DHS needs a morale boost

Mon, 2015-02-23 08:57

The latest skirmish in Congress’s never-ending budget battles comes at the end of this week, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security dries up — unless Congress can agree on a compromise to keep it running. 

But even if Congress acts on the budget, DHS has another huge problem: Morale among DHS employees is dreadful. Every year, the federal government surveys its workers, asking if they're recognized for good work, if they respect their leaders, and so on.

“DHS does not stack up well,” says Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a good government group that crunches the federal survey numbers and ranks morale at government agencies. 

For the past few years, DHS has come in dead last.

“It is redefining the bottom of the rankings for large agencies,” says Stier.

Stier says part of the problem is the way DHS was created after the September 11 terror attacks. Twenty-two very different federal departments and agencies were merged into one gigantic bureaucracy — but they all kept their congressional overseers. Now, more than 80 committees and subcommittees have jurisdiction over DHS.  

Jeff Neal, who headed the agency’s HR department from 2009 to 2011, says he was constantly writing reports for Congress.

“It didn’t really help us run the department," he says. "It was very frustrating. We had other things that were more critical than writing reports."

Now, Congress is causing DHS employees more headaches, and this latest budget skirmish just makes morale worse.

“People are very stressed out," says Nicole Byram, president of the National Treasury Employees Union chapter in Savannah, Georgia and a Customs and Border protection officer. "People are very anxious. Everyone kind of has this feeling of, oh no. Not again.”

Because they know, if Congress can’t agree on how to keep funding DHS, there’ll be a partial government shutdown. But they’re considered essential, so they’d have to work without pay during the impasse. And getting back pay? That takes an act of Congress — a mood crusher sure to keep DHS at the bottom of the morale rankings.

Tooth fairies reimburse an average of $4 per tooth

Mon, 2015-02-23 08:57

I've got a seven-year-old who's about to lose a tooth — it's just a couple of good wiggles and a twist or two away from coming out. And when it does, I feel pretty safe in guessing that she's going to get about a buck under her pillow.

Turns out, tooth fairies at other houses are a bit more fast and loose with the cash.

A survey by dental insurance company Delta Dental says the national average for American kids is $4.36.

The Original Tooth Fairy Poll

Not in my house, I'll tell you that.

Edwin Land: "The original Steve Jobs"

Mon, 2015-02-23 07:20

 If you wear sunglasses, use a camera or watch T.V. on an LCD screen you have Edwin Land to thank for one of his many innovations: the polarization process. 

According to Ronald Fierstein, author of "A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War," Polaroid founder Edwin Land and Apple's Steve Jobs had a lot in common.

"They were both college dropouts. They both formed and pretty much single-handedly developed tremendous technology companies," Land says. 

But Land and Polaroid would also have to endure a massive lawsuit with American photography juggernaut Kodak. In the end, Polaroid won, says Fierstein. "Kodak had to pay almost a billion dollars in damages... which until a few weeks ago held the record for most damages ever," he says.

Even though Polaroid was able to keep Kodak from capitalizing on its innovations, eventually both companies just stopped innovating. "They both held on to the technologies that made them great. And they held on too long," Fierstein says.

Land's story isn't just the story of Polaroid though. He was also an integral player in a government committee that led wartime scientific research.

"While all of the polarizing stuff was going on at Polaroid and the photography and everything else, Land, in secret, over the course of several decades, worked for seven American presidents," Fierstein says.

So the guy who came up with the Polaroid instant camera? He also "led a committee that came up with the U2 spy plane," Fierstein says. "Even the mini-cam that was on a stick that Neil Armstrong used on the moon, came from that Land Commission, that Land Panel group."


Read an excerpt from Fierstein's book below: 

A Father’s Sage Advice

By Ronald K. Fierstein, author of A Triumph of Genius – Edwin Land, Polaroid and the Kodak Patent War.

When Edwin Land, still in his teens, informed his father that he was dropping out of Harvard before the end of his freshman year to pursue his search for a practical polarizer material, and that he needed the equivalent of seventy thousand dollars to fund his experiments, Land’s father agreed, but gave his son a critical piece of advice that would stand him in good stead for the rest of his career:  when you find your solution, protect yourself so that some big corporation does not come along and steal it from you. 

Land remains perhaps the most important, yet least known, inventor and technology entrepreneur in American history. In many ways, he was the original Steve Jobs.  TheApple founder once hailed Land as “a national treasure,” and modeled much of his own career after the inventor.  Launching his career upon his invention -- at age nineteen -- of the plastic polarizer, Land later imagined and then nurtured into existence the revolutionary “one-step” photographic system that helped build Polaroid into one of the most innovative companies of the 20th century.  Along the way he made critical contributions to top-secret U.S. military intelligence efforts during World War II and the Cold War in the service of seven American presidents.

Polaroid and Kodak had a long relationship that dated back to the early 1930s, when Kodak became the first significant customer for Land’s plastic polarizer material.  Beginning in the early 1940s, when Land began research in photography, Kodak helped at every step of the way, even manufacturing the negative components for incorporation by Polaroid into each of its one-step films.  By the mid-1960s, Polaroid stood as Kodak’s second largest corporate customer – it was truly a mutually beneficial relationship.

But that relationship was soon to change, in a dramatic way.  In 1968, Land showed his Rochester colleagues the prototype for a new generation of Polaroid film. For the first time, the photograph would emerge from the camera and require no further manipulation – one could simply hold it and watch it develop in the light. Land enthusiastically declared that this new system would revolutionize photography, and become as ubiquitous as the telephone.

The Kodak executives listened carefully, and took his claims seriously.  Following the meeting, Kodak conducted marketing analyses indicating that it stood to lose billions of dollars of film sales because of Polaroid’s new system.  This realization changed Kodak’s attitude toward Polaroid and Land forever.  As a result, it demanded that, in exchange for its help in bringing the new film to market, Polaroid allow Kodak to enter the instant photography field with competitive products sold in its iconic yellow boxes.

This was something that the much-smaller Polaroid could not abide.  When Kodak refused to budge on its demand, Polaroid was forced to go it alone.  It built new facilities to manufacture, for the first time, every element of its film.  Finally, in 1972, Polaroid introduced its SX-70 camera and film combination, a system that delivered on Land’s initial intent to give photographers the instant gratification of holding a photograph in their hands seconds after the shutter was snapped.  Time called it “a stunning technological achievement,” and Life declared that it was “a daring challenge to Kodak for supremacy in the $4 billion-a-year U.S. photo industry.”

Kodak executives apparently agreed with this assessment.  The company had already poured substantial time and resources into an effort to develop its own technology that would allow it to enter the instant photography market.  But these efforts completely changed course in 1972 once Kodak finally saw the commercial SX-70 camera and film. Executives declared that what the proud Rochester company had on its drawing boards was “no longer desirable.” 

An urgent effort was immediately undertaken to come up with a more competitive system.  However, after studying the SX-70 camera and film closely, Kodak scientists were unsure about their ability to meet the challenge. Yet, Kodak top executives were determined, and directed that the research efforts continue.  In so doing, a directive was issued that foreshadowed what was to become one of the most important legal battles over technology in the history of the United States. As observed many years later by industry commentators, Kodak, feeling “hemmed in by Polaroid’s vast portfolio of patents,” had indeed “panicked.” In apparent desperation, management directed Kodak engineers to “not be constrained by what an individual feels is a potential patent infringement,” but to consult the patent department.

The litigation over instant photography technology is among the most historic in American legal annals.  Polaroid’s ultimate victory, as a result of which Kodak was forced to remove its instant cameras and film from store shelves, and to pay almost $1 billion in damages to Polaroid, stands as one of the most severe punishments in the patent field ever meted out by a court of law. 

More importantly, the result in Polaroid v Kodak signaled a shift back to a pro-patent era in the courts from decades in which patents had been seen as a potential tool for anti-competitive corporate behavior, and thus had suffered as a means for technological innovators to protect their work.  Inspired by his father’s early admonition, Land had long been a believer in, and a proponent of, the patent system as a tool necessary to encourage innovation, especially among small companies and individual inventors.  His pivotal role in the trial as Polaroid’s star witness, as a defender of the pioneering research he and his colleagues had done, made for a dramatic denouement to his career, and his life-long support of the patent system.

Supreme Court considers A&F religious head dress case

Mon, 2015-02-23 03:00

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday about whether a teenager was discriminated against by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch seven years ago, when a local store manager in Tulsa, Oklahoma did not hire the teen for a job after she showed up to her interview wearing a head dress.

Abercrombie never asked about the then-17-year-old girl's religious affiliation. She is Muslim. The teen did not discuss her religion, either, but also never asked the company to accommodate her wearing a head dress should she be hired.

At the time, Abercrombie had a policy of banning its retail workers from wearing any head coverings, namely hats. Since then, the company has altered its policy to allow for religious exemptions.

When the hiring manager informed a supervisor of the applicant's head dress, and said she guessed that it was worn for religious reasons, the supervisor cited the head covering ban and the teen was not hired.

"The applicant never said, I need a religious accommodation," says Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris, where he specializes in employment law, among other areas.

When Abercrombie didn't hire the applicant, it was relying on established practice that someone has to volunteer their religious affiliation first and ask a company to accommodate them, says Segal.

"The key is whether the applicant needs to say it, or whether the employer has constructive knowledge," says Segal, clarifying that constructive knowledge means whether Abercrombie should have known that the applicant's head scarf was for religious purposes - just as a yarmulke is often worn by those of the Jewish faith.

Michael Delikat, who heads the labor law practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, says that notion complicates the job interview process.

"If Abercrombie is to lose, it definitely puts employers in a more perilous position," says Delikat, because employers will have to walk a fine line: avoid asking employees about religion but also shouldering a greater burden to avoid any potential discrimination that may occur from observable characteristics.

PODCAST: Discrimination vs. a dress code

Mon, 2015-02-23 03:00

First up, we'll talk about a case going before the Supreme Court regarding a Muslim woman who applied to work at Abercrombie & Fitch, and was denied because of her head scarf. Plus, we'll also talk about YouTube's newest app that targets content to kids. And as Chicago gears up for its mayoral elections, we take a look at the disparity between candidates when it comes to funding for election campaigns.  

Can tech transform education for juvenile offenders?

Mon, 2015-02-23 02:00

Every year, the federal government spends more than $180 million to educate neglected and delinquent kids. A big chunk of that money goes to residential juvenile facilities. Tens of thousands of kids pass through these facilities each year — some for just a few months, others for much longer. 

Historically, the juvenile justice system has not done a very good job of educating these kids. The challenges are well established: too few teachers, too few resources and a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation.

Many juveniles enter the system already failing in school or far behind. Many also suffer from emotional problems, learning disabilities and language barriers.

Research shows that rather than making up lost ground, many juveniles lose ground while inside. Many never return to high school once they are released, or drop out once they do. 

In December 2014, the Department of Education and Department of Justice issued new guidance urging states to make education a top priority in the juvenile justice system. 

Among the recommendations: improve funding; focus on hiring and retain high-quality teachers; and provide students the type of education technology that is more common in public schools.

To hear more, listen to the full story in the audio player above.

Click here to share your thoughts on this story.
Email us at or send us a tweet @LearningCurveEd

In Chicago mayoral race, money talks

Mon, 2015-02-23 02:00

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces four opponents in the city’s February 24 election. He started election season with low approval ratings but has a sizeable lead in fund-raising. With some $19 million dollars in contributions, according to figures compiled by WBEZ in Chicago, Mayor Emanuel has raised more than four times as much as all of his opponents, combined.

Bob Fioretti is a member of Chicago’s city council, running for Mayor. Which means dialing for dollars, even during an interview.

With a reporter in the room, he gets lucky. Somebody actually picks up, and commits to a $5,000 donation.   

After hanging up, Fioretti says, "I should have you in the room all the time."

Fioretti is rarely this successful, and he is way, way behind. This interview takes place less than a week before election day, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has almost 17 times as much money as he does.

In a recent poll from the Chicago Tribune, a fifth of voters didn’t know who Fioretti was.

"If you can’t raise money, you’re not a player," says Paul Green, a Roosevelt University professor who has been watching Chicago politics for generations.

"Let’s face it," he says. "If you want to raise money, it’s better to know rich people than poor people."

It's a strategy that has been working for Mayor Emanuel. Last summer, his approval rating was below 30 percent. But, with the help of six-figure donations, he’s advertising on TV, and he’s been climbing in the polls.

More than half of Mayor Emanuel’s donations come from outside the city limits, and about half of those come from outside of the state of Illinois.

Paul Green thinks this isn’t really an upgrade from the old, infamously-corrupt Chicago political machine. "They were really more honest than the way we raise money now," he says. "They would go door-to-door and talk to you."

Emanuel’s profile is consistent with that of members of Congress with national reputations, according to David Levinthal, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, which tracks political money nationwide.

Those politicians share a consistent trait, he says. "They get the lion’s share of the money, not from their home state, or their home district, but from everywhere else."

For incumbent politicians, Levinthal says, the rules are simple. 

First: "Don’t do things that are just monumentally stupid." Like, say, tweeting a lewd picture of yourself to somebody, or getting caught on tape smoking crack.

Second: "Raise a whole lot of money," Levinthal says. "If you do those things, that is a recipe for success."

Emanuel's success is not a sure thing. A week before election day, polls showed 45 percent of voters supporting him. But in Chicago’s non-partisan election, he needs 50 percent — plus one vote — to avoid a runoff.

For many workers, there's no such thing as a "snow day"

Mon, 2015-02-23 02:00

For some of us, the recent run of freezing temperatures and snowstorms has made getting to work rough, a frustration, and certainly an inconvenience. The lucky ones can work from home for a day or two, distracting cooped up kids with screen time.

Some of us aren’t so lucky, even when public transportation has shut down and all the cabbies stay home.

New Jersey-based wood worker Kelly Conklin says when the weather turns nasty, he tells it to his 13 employees straight.

“Use common sense. Our general policy is we are not asking anyone to risk their lives for this,” he says.

Productivity suffers a bit, says Conklin.

But after 30 plus years running his business he says he’s learned a simple lesson: The day after the storm, without any prompting from him, everybody puts in a little extra for a boss who is reasonable.

Click the media player above to hear more.

YouTube launches kids app

Mon, 2015-02-23 02:00

YouTube launches a kids app on Monday. It comes with a filter for content, kid friendly design, and a parental timer for how long kids can play. It’s just one of several new media platforms targeting kids. Targeting kids is, of course, not new. There is a long and storied history going from SpongeBob back to Sesame Street and before.

What's new is how children and teens can and do consume content.

"They are massively nonlinear," says John Rose, a partner at Boston Consulting Group. "They watch and play what they want, when they want." Children grow up migrating from phone to PC to tablet, with on demand content as the norm. The idea of the TV as a the only source of content or even the first source of content doesn't really make sense to them.

YouTube's numbers appear to prove it: viewing of family-friendly entertainment channels is reportedly growing four times faster than for the rest of YouTube. Netflix has begun creating children-oriented original content, and Rose says he wouldn't be surprised if others joined in. 

"What we're seeing now is the emergence of a new set of players," he says. "A rededication to find new audiences based on the mobile tablet and digital online pathways." Faster connection speeds and more ubiquitous wireless all help. 

James Steyer is CEO of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that rates content for child and family friendliness. The group also reviewed YouTube's app.

"This is clearly a business decision," he says, referring to the general pivot among new media firms toward children. "Parents and educators out there need to be aware that the reason companies are targeting kids is in order to make money."

The fact that ads may accompany or derive from a child's viewing experience means parents should watch both for content and ads. "We have to be extra vigilant that those ads when allowed are appropriate and that parents talk to their kids about the consumeristic messages kids are going to get along with the content," says Steyer. Common Sense Media reviewed YouTube's Kids App.  

Focusing on kids content has been a market strategy for decades, and every new technology or platform has found its own way of getting in on it. Youtube and Netflix are the latest newcomers.  


Snapchat's secret to success

Mon, 2015-02-23 02:00

Snapchat just might become the world’s third most highly valued start-up, coming up behind Xiaomi and Uber. News broke last week that the instant messaging service, whose content disappears within seconds, is seeking a valuation that could go up to $19 billion.

What makes Snapchat worth that much money? For one, it just launched a new feature called Discover. It’s made up of several channels, via which Vice, CNN, National Geographic and others will broadcast content according to deals they signed with Snaphat.

“They all want to reach Snapchat users who are young, they are millennials, they are the cool kids,” says Will Oremus, a senior tech writer at Slate, who has written about how the app often confuses him.

“We are confounded by snapchat, the little buttons don't make any sense,” he says.

A self-proclaimed “oldster,” Oremus, 32, says he is 148 in “Snapchat years.” And this, he thinks, is at the heart of Snapchat’s success. It appeals to teenagers and millennials because older people don’t use it. And they don’t use it because it’s confusing, according to Oremus.

Take Facebook, for instance. When it first launched, Oremus says, it was popular among college-going kids because it took some time to figure out and it was largely used by youngsters. Using Facebook effortlessly, and constantly sharing on it, was part of a secret knowledge they shared. But soon people of all ages started using Facebook. Today, Facebook, according to Oremus, is for “the uncool kids and, more than that, for the uncool parents.”

Oremus says this is similar to a theory put forward by venture capitalist Andrew Parker in his blog. In that post, Parker talks about “the secret knowledge culture of gaming,” and how each game came with its own set of cheat codes, passwords and “hidden artifacts.” He writes that this turned the “secret knowledge” into a “shared experience.”

“Snapchat, in its way, is about secret knowledge, too,” says Oremus. “It’s cool because the parents can’t figure it out. The way the kids figure out is they show each other. That’s what makes it fun.”


The statistics behind those Oscar acceptance speeches

Mon, 2015-02-23 01:30
1.68 million black men

During his Oscar acceptance speech, John Legend stated, "We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850." Vox looked into the numbers behind the statement, finding that 1.68 million black men are currently under correctional control, not including those who are in jail serving short sentences or are awaiting trial. That's more than the 872,924 black men who were enslaved in 1850. While the growth in overall population in the U.S. makes the statistic slightly misleading, Vox points to other equally alarming studies on how incarceration affects the lives of black men.

80 cents

Speaking of the Oscars, Best Actress in a Supporting Role winner Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to call for equal rights and pay for women. As Fusion reports, she has a point. Women still only made 80 cents to a man's dollar in 2014 — a slight improvement over previous years that's credited to the recession hitting men harder.

$14.5 billion

That's the value of the deal in which Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. will pay $10.1 billion for Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. As reported by Bloomberg, Salix is soon expected to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea.


That's how much Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has raised for his re-election campaign thus far. That's four times the amount raised by his opponents (see chart below). Like any election, it helps to know rich people. And as some are pointing out, this new electing funding structure may be no better than the old, infamously-corrupt Chicago political machine.


179 apps

That's how many Android apps ask for only access to users' network connectivity and access to the power data, meaning no GPS information is provided. But that doesn't mean these apps can't figure out where you are. New research shows that location can be determined by how your phone is using power — the further away a signal, the harder the phone has to work. As reported by the BBC, even though activities like listening to music and using social media also contribute to battery loss, the researchers were able to create an algorithm that discounted these factors.


We have some catching up to do on cyber-security

Fri, 2015-02-20 12:47

If you want to know about the crimes of the past, read Agatha Christie. If you want to know about the crimes of the future, read Marc Goodman.

Goodman started his career as a Los Angeles police officer, and first forayed into the tech crime beat in a fairly unremarkable way.

“When I was working as a detective one day my lieutenant screamed my name across the detective squad room, ‘Goodman, get over here!’. I thought I was in trouble, I said, ‘Yeah, boss. What’s up?’ He said, ‘I have a question for you. Do you know how to spell check in WordPerfect?’ And I said, ‘Sure. Shift F2.’ He had a big grin on his face and said ‘I knew you were my guy, you’re my technogeek. I’ve got a case for you.’ Back in the mid-'90s the fact that I could spell check put me at the techno-elite of police officers.”

Goodman says when he joined the force he had seven months of training in handwriting and was once reprimanded for typing a report on an electric typewriters. He says his experiences are representative of just how far law enforcement is behind cyber criminals.

“There’s Moore’s Law and there are Moore’s Outlaws,” he says. Goodman has worked for Interpol, the FBI, even the U.S. Secret Service, and through his new book "Future Crimes"
he’s feverishly trying to sound the alarm that we will soon be more vulnerable than we have ever been. Why?

“Our cell phones and computers are now online,” Goodman says. “But in the future it’s going to be our cars, airplanes, pacemakers, pets, elevators, prisons. Every physical object is going online because of something called 'the Internet of things.'”

Somewhere between 50 and 200 billion things will be connected soon, he says, and that will take the new crime paradigm to a terrifying level.

“Crime used to be a one-on-one affair. Go out and buy a gun or a knife if you’re a criminal, rob one person at a time,” Goodman says. “Now through technology it becomes possible for one person to reach out and touch over 100 million people.”

Goodman believes we need a literal army to fight this new threat.

"We have recruitment stations for the army and police and we have so many people working in high tech,” Goodman says. “We need people with those skills to be brought in, put through background checks and trained. We had the Civilian Defense Corp. to protect neighborhoods from the Germans during World War II and the Russians during the Cold War. We have the Red Cross to help in disasters. There is no one that can step in for a cyber-crisis."

Here are some of the things Goodman told us that made our eyes bulge or just flat-out tear up.

  • Every 10 minutes these days mankind creates as much information as the first 10,000 generations of human beings did.
  • Internet protocol right now allows for 4.5 billion devices to be connected at one time. Soon internet protocol will be enlarged to allow 78 octillion. Yeah, that’s a real number. It’s 78 billion billion billion. That means every grain of sand on the planet could have a trillion IP addresses.
  • You can buy a 6 terabyte hard drive on Amazon for less than $300 and store all of the music ever recorded anywhere in the world.
  • Google founder Eric Schmidt has predicted that by 2020 every person on the planet will be online. He’s probably not wrong because 92 percent of American toddlers already had a digital presence in 2010.
  • Every minute in 2014 we sent about 204 million emails, ran 2 million Google searches, tweeted 100,000 times, downloaded 47,000 apps from the Apple app store, ans uploaded 48 hours of new video to YouTube
  • Up to 200,000 new viruses are created each day, and the average anti-virus software stops just 5 percent of malware. Nevertheless, global spending on security software is forecast to skyrocket to $94 billion by 2017.
  • The web you know and love is only a small percentage of what’s out there. The “dark web” or “deep web” is about 500 times larger, with content protected by passwords, paywalls or special software. This is where a lot of the bad stuff hides.  
  • The United Nations estimates that transnational organized crime rakes in more than $2 trillion a year in profits. That accounts for 15-20% of global GDP.
  • Nearly 20 percent of Americans and EU citizens have been victims of identity theft.
  • The only thing keeping your computer from being hacked is choice. Around 75 percent of computers can be hacked in minutes. Viruses cost consumers $2.3 billion per year — that's just to people who know they've been attacked.
  • The average hacker is now 35-years-old and 80 percent of them are working with an organization. Many of these groups are sophisticated operations run like businesses, with CEOs, SEO, quality control, even marketing and human resource departments. In fact, a company called Innovative Marketing Solutions operated out of an office in Kiev complete with reception, a help desk and sales representatives who met with clients and issued receipts. The shell company sold $500,000,000 worth of anti-virus software in three years, and that was just its side business. The software actually installed viruses that stole personal information that was then sold.
  • The Poneman Institute estimates it costs a company $188 for every customer record stolen, from stopping the leak, bringing in outside consultants, replacing credit cards, lawsuits, etc. About 90 percent of small businesses that have customer information stolen go out of business within three years of an attack.
  • In 2011, Facebook’s own security department shockingly admitted that over 600,000 accounts were compromised every day. The company has been working to improve security measures since.
  • Medical identity theft — false claims with stolen IDs — costs the U.S. healthcare system $5.6 billion annually.
  • In the U.S., 200,000 children are trafficked for sex each year. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that trafficking generates upwards of $32 billion a year.

Why do you share your secrets with strangers?

Fri, 2015-02-20 11:05

We tell our secrets to psychologists, therapists, and licensed "professionals." But sometimes? We talk to complete strangers.

Lots of people spill their secrets to Mathew Schmuck while he's at work.

Why? Mathew answers this question outside The Black Cat, where he tends bar. 



Your Wallet: Where do you fall on the economic ladder?

Fri, 2015-02-20 10:15

On next week's show, we're talking about economic classes, and how we get where we are.

So where do you fall? Have you spent your whole life in the middle class? Maybe you climbed into a new financial class, or did some backsliding.

We want to hear your stories.

Write to us, by visiting us on the web and clicking on go or tweet us, we're @MarketplaceWKND

How much is a secret worth?

Fri, 2015-02-20 09:55

This week on the show, we've heard stories of side businesses and workarounds, secrets of sorts that impact the economy or our personal finances.

But what about the business of secrets? How much is a secret worth, in dollars?

We decided to find out, from someone whose business is in unveiling government secrets.

MuckRock is an organization that charges people -- journalists, researchers, citizens -- to file information requests. They use the Freedom of Information Act -- FOIA -- to obtain documents and data from the government.

MuckRock files thousands of requests...right now, they're looking into the CIA.

Marketplace Weekend spoke to Michael Morisy, co-founder of MuckRock and Knight fellow at Stanford, about the process of uncovering information.

To hear the whole story, tune in to the audio player above. 

My Money Story: Driving for Lyft

Fri, 2015-02-20 09:51

Moonlighting, second jobs, side projects. Working a side business in this economy is a fairly common thing.

Sometimes it's to indulge a passion. Sometimes it's to make ends meet.

Kim Buckley works to support herself and her daughter in Los Angeles. And her side business turned into....another side business.

Kim works in transportation with the LA unified school district. She also drives for the ride sharing service Lyft. And  that service's main competition, Uber. 

To hear Kim's whole story, listen in the audio player above. 

How do you make a better life, and what does it mean?

Fri, 2015-02-20 09:23

In a partnership with the BBC, in a series called Six Routes to Riches, Lizzie O'Leary has been exploring what happens when the global economy collides with real life.

How do you make a better life? And what does that mean? This week, O'Leary is joined by the BBC's Nkem Ifejika, who digs in to Nigeria's economy. Ifejika grew up in Nigeria, and has watched the economy change and shift.

In coming weeks, we'll also report from India, China, and the United States.

Next week, you'll hear O'Leary's own reporting from Brazil. O'Leary spent the past two weeks there, talking to the people at the top of the economic ladder.

How do you make better life? And what does that mean?

Fri, 2015-02-20 09:23

In a partnership with the BBC, in a series called Six Routes to Riches, Lizzie O'Leary has been exploring what happens when the global economy collides with real life.

How do you make a better life? And what does that mean? This week, O'Leary is joined by the BBC's Nkem Ifejika, who digs in to Nigeria's economy. Ifejika grew up in Nigeria, and has watched the economy change and shift.

In coming weeks, we'll also report from India, China, and the United States.

Next week, you'll hear O'Leary's own reporting from Brazil. O'Leary spent the past two weeks there, talking to the people at the top of the economic ladder.

Fun Fact Friday: Social media, still a thing making tons of money

Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

Catherine Rampell from The Washington Post and Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal wrap up the week in news. But, what else did we learn this week?

Fun fact: Instagram now has more than 300 million users worldwide.

Photo sharing, however, was not the initial intention for the app. Discover more fun facts about Instagram and its co-founder, Kevin Systrom here: 

How a humble stray dog helped launch Instagram

Fun fact: An acre-foot of farmland uses the equivalent to 326,000 gallons of water.

Since farming requires a lot of water, Farmers are adapting to the current drought conditions in California by switching to drip-irrrigating methods as opposed to flooding, and choosing to produce lucrative crops over low-value crops. 

Central Valley farms come at a cost for dry California

Fun fact: Snapchat is reportedly worth as much as $19 billion now.

With Snapchat's ads running for a rumored minimum price of $750,000 a day and its recent collaboration with news and entertainment channels, investors appear more than eager to raise the social media company's valuation.

Here's why Snapchat has doubled in value

Fun fact: Chinese companies invested more than $12 billion in projects in 2014.

Where the U.S. was once outsourcing, it now seems China is venturing into the U.S. A change in growth model has left Chinese companies seeking the kinds of skilled labor available in the United States, which is why many have began opening up shops from Texas to Indiana.

Chinese factories move to a new frontier: America

Remember CD's? Yeah, Starbucks is done selling those.

Fri, 2015-02-20 09:22

Billboard reported this week that Starbucks is going to stop selling compact discs in its stores come March.

There was a time, Billboard says, when Starbucks was doing $65 million a year in CD sales.

But no more, because — and here comes the line of the day — they're gonna stop selling what no one listens to music on anymore anyway.