Marketplace - American Public Media

Why it's so difficult to break the glass ceiling

Thu, 2014-07-24 02:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GM recall numbers keep going up, up, up

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

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

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

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

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

Target attracts new customers by downsizing

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

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

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

The clothing options include basics like socks and underwear.

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

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

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

Graphic by Gina Martinez & Shea Huffman/Marketplace

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

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

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

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

 

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

Why high earnings aren't translating into jobs

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

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

$16.4 trillion of it, in fact. 

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

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

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

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

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

One reason is the enduring hangover from the Great Recession. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How airlines decide where it's too dangerous to fly

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:47

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"They use common sense."

Women’s empowerment gets a corporate boost

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:16

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

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

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

Practically 0

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

Practically 0, redux

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

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

26 hours, guaranteed

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

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

Infinite

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

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

At least 1

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

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

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

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:16

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

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

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

Practically 0

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

Practically 0, redux

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

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

26 hours, guaranteed

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

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

Infinite

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

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

At least 1

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

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

‘Economic patriotism’: Rhetorical, not economic, policy

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Small Business remains hopeful during slow season

Wed, 2014-07-23 10:37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abuse of human growth hormone on the rise in teens

Wed, 2014-07-23 08:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PODCAST: Netflix goes global

Wed, 2014-07-23 03:00

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

In search of better email encryption

Wed, 2014-07-23 02:00

Since the Snowden revelations, it has become clear that email as a basic internet protocol is essentially insecure, and other options -- texting, messaging apps, and the like -- are not much better. 

"If you really want to have secure communication, don't use email," says New York Times Tech Columnist Molly Wood.

There has been signifigant movement on creating simpler encryption tools -- Virtru, for example, is a browser plugin that encrypts messages for the recipient when emails are sent from a browser using the program.

However, even a potentially game-changing method like this has its issues: a third party is still being given the information. 

 

Little banks swing (and miss) at the big guys

Wed, 2014-07-23 02:00

Almost 80 percent of respondents in a recent Harris poll blame big banks for the financial crisis. The poll was commissioned by smaller banks.  

They're using it to smack the big guys by running TV ads that say, 'hey, we’re the good guys.'

But the commercials haven’t made a dent yet in big bank dominance. 

“If you go back to 1994, the community banks and credit unions had about a 70 percent market share. Today, the community banks and credit unions have less than 30,” says Gabe Krajicek, CEO of BancVue, which supplies high-tech services to small banks.

Krajicek says consumers think they can only get the latest mobile banking apps from the big banks.  

There’s another reason we stay with the megabanks, even if we hate them: convenience. 

“If you have to drive five miles to use your ATM, most people don’t like that,” says Bill Black, an economist at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Black says community banks are able to make a lot of small business loans, but only because the big banks won’t bother with them. 

See the infographic below to see some more stats about local banking:

(Courtesy:KASASA)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referenced Gabe Krajicek as CEO for Kasasa. He is the CEO of BancVue, which owns the product Kasasa. The text has been corrected.

Netflix goes global. Will it pay off?

Wed, 2014-07-23 02:00

Stock in Netflix has been flirting with an all-time highs this week.

Investors are bullish about the company’s prospects overseas; Netflix plans to expand into European markets in September.

“International expansion has been a core part of Netflix strategy,” says Andy Liu, director at Standard & Poor.

But others believe the stock is overvalued.

Michael Pachter is a research analyst at Wedbush Securities. He anticipates that expanding into new international markets will be expensive.

“Each country requires separate technology spending. Each country requires a separate content deal,” says Pachter.

High cotton and southern language

Wed, 2014-07-23 01:00

Often it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  And on a recent reporting trip to South Carolina, I was reminded that in the rural south, how you say things can be an art. A few examples from listeners:

“Frog Strangler” -  a heavy rainstorm where even a frog would have a hard time getting out of it.  (Andy Grabel, who grew up in Georgia)

“Even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while”  -  basically means even the most incompetent of us can luck out.  (Fernando Pizzaro, who grew up all over the South)

“They’re living in high cotton,” - meaning their lives are pretty cushy and they’re doing well. Or “I’m feeling low cotton today,” meaning I’m having a bad day.   (Leslie Criss – Tupelo Mississippi)

It’s not a coincidence that nature and agriculture figure so prominently in many southern idioms. Economic realities can leave linguistic marks, and the language of the South is a window into its economic past.

“The south was much more rural than other areas,” says Walt Wolfram, professor of Linguistics at North Carolina State University and author of "Talkin' Tar Heel." “So because farming was such an important part of the culture, there are a lot of terms related to things like weather and farming and so forth.”

The phrase "stubborn as a Missouri mule" came about during a time when Missouri exported mules. The phrase "chopping in high cotton" or "living in high cotton" refers, according to some explanations, to the fact that if the cotton had grown high, the crop was abundant and a field worker would be shaded from the scorching sun. 

In southern fishing towns you get expressions incorporating the wind and the water and the fishing economy.

“It’s draped over occupations, the economy, lifestyle really,” says Gill. 

Some expressions seem to derive from the strong work ethic required for farming. It’s hard work and there’s little time or patience for slacking or whining. 

“People that want by the yard but try by the inch, should be kicked by the foot” -  If someone wants by the yard, it means “they want an enormous amount for a minimal effort, so they need to be kicked by a good foot.”   (Reggie McDaniel, Mullins South Carolina)

I would put the following phrase in the same category of work-ethic related expressions.

"When you run into someone who’s grouchy, give them a big smile and say, 'You can just get happy in the same britches you got mad in.'"  (Leslie Criss)

Perhaps otherwise put, "Snap out of it and get with the program."

Some southern expressions have made their way into broader usage. 

"Bless your heart." – Basically that means you’re too dimwitted to know any better. I think I love that one because it epitomizes the southern way of being a little bit catty but not wanting to sound too mean.  (Danelle Lane, Charlotte North Carolina)

(This famous expression may, however, actually owe its origins to the English.)

Many linguistic gems are fading.

“You don’t find these expressions nearly as much in urban areas in the South as you do in rural areas,” says Wolfram. “So the divide between the rural and urban south is in some ways becoming as sharp between the divide between northern and southern speech.”

In part it’s because more northerners are moving into Southern cities, but also some expressions just don’t seem to make it from grandparents and parents to their children as much. 

Wolfram says he hopes that southern speech – which, he adds, is quite alive and well - becomes more recognized as one of the treasures the south has to offer, and a piece of its heritage:

“There was a period in the south where some people were ashamed of talking southern, but I hope we can celebrate southern speech as part of its culture and history.”

Here are some of my favorite southern expressions and some from listeners.  Feel free to add your favorite in the comments. 

  • A long row to hoe – a difficult task
  • All hat and no cattle – all talk/show
  • Drunker than Cooter Brown – They say Cooter Brown lived on the dividing line between north and south during the Civil War. He had family on both sides and so didn’t want to fight. So he got drunk and stayed drunk for the whole Civil War so nobody would draft him.
  • Wish? Wish in one hand and pee in the other and see which one fills up first! – wishing won’t get you anywhere. The implication being you have to work for it.
  • Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – assuming everything goes right. “See you next time Grandma!” “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!”
  • Worthless as nipples on a boar hog - useless
  • Might could – possibly, a noncommittal maybe
  • Lost as a ball in high weeds – to describe someone who is very confused, hopelessly out of the loop or doesn’t know what they’re doing.
  • I wouldn’t care to – I’d be happy to
  • Crooked as a barrel of fish hooks – an untrustworthy, corrupt person
  • Catch the Devil – to have a rough/bad time

CORRECTION: The state where Andy Grabel grew up was misidentified. The text has been corrected.

3 ways Harvard President Drew Faust measures colleges

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:51

By 2015, the Obama administration will evaluate colleges on average tuition cost, low-income student enrollment, graduation rates and job earnings after graduation.

When they released this proposal last year, the higher education community generally disagreed with their criteria. One strong critic is Drew Faust, the president at Harvard University. Here are some measurements she thinks are important to consider:

Measurement: Jobs, but not salaries.

Faust is not opposed to focusing on kinds of work students can do after they graduate. However, she believes emphazing earnings at a first job distorts the picture.

"Some of our economists at Harvard have done analysis of this, and find that you really only begin to get an accurate reflection of lifetime earnings if you look at 10 years out. So I think they’re looking hard at more nuanced ways of measuring output of education.”

Measurement: The percentage of students on financial aid.

Of course, she cites the stats from Harvard: They accepted 5.9 percent of the 24,294 applicants for the entering class of 2014, and Faust says they have expanded financial aid programs so that those select few can actually afford to enroll.

"We have a financial aid policy that supports 60 percent of our undergraduates," she said. "They pay an average of $12,000 a year."

Faust also said that about 20 percent of Harvard's class makes no parental or family contribution at all.

Measurement: How digital-forward teaching is.

The big push at Harvard right now is digital — Harvard edX, where anyone can take classes from their computer. Faust says this provides acess to the knowledge and research for students, researchers and educators around the globe. 

"We get many students from Asia and Europe," she says, "and our students expect to live their lives and practice their professions and fields in a global environment."

Faust also says learning and "the fundamental value of learning and challenging ourselves in the realm of research and relating our research and teaching" are key principles to any education system. She thinks its better to focus on how education and learning can better a student, rather than how much they will make.

It's illegal to work in August...for Congress

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:39

We've all heard Congress is in recess more than it's actually in session, but there's more to the story.

It turns out Congress working during August is actually against the law.

Congress will recess for its summer break next Friday because the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 says it has to  according to the Washington Post.

In fact the House and Senate shall recess, "not later than July 31 of each year...to the second day after Labor Day."

Jeesh.

 

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