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Who's the real-life inspiration for L.A. noir?

Tue, 2014-12-30 13:56

Who was Samuel Marlowe? That's something Los Angeles Times writer Daniel Miller spent a year trying to find out. 

A Jamaican immigrant, Marlowe fought in World War I. After settling in Los Angeles, he became one of California's first African-American private detectives, frequenting the speak-easies of 1930s L.A. and getting private investigative work from the Hollywood studios.

If Marlowe is starting to sound like a real-life noir character, it's because he probably is. Miller thinks Marlowe was friends with LA noir writers Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, whose novels seem to immortalize him in fiction.

"One of the best examples is a claim that Dashiell Hammett sent an early draft of a story called 'Night Shade' to Samuel Marlowe," Miller says.

But Miller's detective work on Marlowe ultimately has no conclusion. Many of the records that might have proven when Marlowe started as a PI are lost, and Hammett and Chandler aren't around to reveal their artistic inspirations.

As Miller says "Noir stories, they don't always end tidily, with all the loose ends tied up." 

Fuhu: The company that grew 158,000 percent in 2014

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:00

Fuhu, maker of the Nabi tablet for kids, is growing fast.

"Last year, I would estimate it at 158,000 percent growth," says Fuhu CEO Jim Mitchell. "When a company is growing this fast, you're constantly running and you're running at full speed," he says. 

But Mitchell and Fuhu co-founder Robb Fujioka say they don't want their company to lose its entrepreneurial spirit, its startup mentality amid all the expansion. 

"When you look at big corporations, they are really made to have measured growth and to have measured losses. We're not really built that way," Fujioka says.

And there's another way Fuhu differs from your everyday corporation: Its conference room.

"In the middle, instead of an open space, it's a big ball pit, with thousands and thousands of red balls that you might see, like, if you were at a McDonald's or something like that," Mitchell says.

Fujioka's son came up with the idea for the ball pit idea and, in the end, it made sense for the company to get playful with its conference room. With the ball pit, Fujioka says he wants to, "remind everybody that they're in a company that was made for kids."

 

Fuhu: The company that grew 158,000 percent in 2014

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:00

Fuhu, maker of the Nabi tablet for kids, is growing fast.

"Last year, I would estimate it at 158,000 percent growth," says Fuhu CEO Jim Mitchell. "When a company is growing this fast, you're constantly running and you're running at full speed," he says. 

But Mitchell and Fuhu co-founder Robb Fujioka say they don't want their company to lose its entrepreneurial spirit, its startup mentality amid all the expansion. 

"When you look at big corporations, they are really made to have measured growth and to have measured losses. We're not really built that way," Fujioka says.

And there's another way Fuhu differs from your everyday corporation: Its conference room.

"In the middle, instead of an open space, it's a big ball pit, with thousands and thousands of red balls that you might see, like, if you were at a McDonald's or something like that," Mitchell says.

Fujioka's son came up with the idea for the ball pit idea and, in the end, it made sense for the company to get playful with its conference room. With the ball pit, Fujioka says he wants to, "remind everybody that they're in a company that was made for kids."

 

Fuhu: The company that grew 158,000% in 2014

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:00

Fuhu, maker of the Nabi tablet for kids, is growing fast.

"I think last year, I would estimate it at 158,000 percent growth," says Fuhu CEO Jim Mitchell. "When a company is growing this fast, you're constantly running and you're running at full speed," he says. 

But Mitchell and Fuhu co-founder Robb Fujioka say they don't want to see their company lose its entrepreneurial spirit, its startup mentality amid all the expansion. 

"When you look at big corporations, they are really made to have measured growth and to have measured losses. We're not really built that way," Fujioka says.

And there's another way in which Fuhu differs from your everyday corporation: their conference room.

"In the middle, instead of an open space, it's a big ball pit, with thousands and thousands of red balls that you might see like if you were at a McDonalds or something like that," Mitchell says.

It was Fujioka's son who came up with the ball pit idea, but, in the end, it made sense for the company to get playful with their conference room. With the ball pit, Fujioka says he wants to, "... remind everybody that they're in a company that was made for kids."

 

Estimating costs and benefits of the auto bailout

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:00

Remember the 2008 auto bailouts?  The Treasury Department is just now closing the books on the controversial chapter by selling its last remaining stake in Ally Financial Inc., formerly known as the auto-lender GMAC.

President Obama has hailed the official end of the auto bailout as a roaring success, claiming that taxpayers recouped the $60 billion loaned out under his administration. The Treasury’s final reckoning, however, shows the bailout cost taxpayers about $9 billion, out of a total investment of around $80 billion between Presidents Bush and Obama.

But some say simply looking at money spent vs. money returned is not accurate.

“The cost of doing nothing was not free, and that’s not taken into account in the government’s $9 billion number,” says Kristin Dziczek, a director at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. Had the government let GM and Chrysler go belly up, she says, taxpayers would be out much more than $9 billion in the form of unemployment payments and decreased tax revenue.

Dziczek says the government-led bankruptcy and bailouts ultimately saved about a million jobs and helped the companies get back on their feet much faster. 

But others say simply labeling the bailout a “success” based on the fact that GM and Chrysler are now turning profits also misses the mark. “If you call a bailout a success, then it becomes a viable option next time, and the debate over whether or not to engage in it will be stunted,” says Dan Ikenson, a trade economist at the Cato Institute, a free-market think tank.

Ikenson says the bailouts effectively robbed Ford, Honda and other automakers of the spoils of capitalist success, and that future bailouts will likely follow.

Economists might have a sense of humor after all

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:00

Economists have a reputation for being a relatively serious lot. But maybe it's time to rethink that stereotype.

At next week's meeting of the American Economics Association in Boston, there will be a panel called the 7th Annual AEA Economics Humor Session.

Among the papers that'll be presented is one titled "A Few Goodmen: Surname-Sharing Economist Coauthors." It's written by four non-related economists ... all with the last name Goodman.

"Our main contribution is showing that such a collaboration is feasible," they write. 

Why AirAsia insurance payouts could vary

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:00

The CEO of AirAsia today pledged compensation for the persons aboard flight 8501, but the amount that families of the deceased will receive could vary widely.

Indonesia has not signed the newest aviation convention setting updated payouts for deadly air disasters, so if a person's ticket starts and ends in Indonesia – where the flight took off from – the grieving family could receive less.

In reality, airlines can pay what they see fit. Very often, they make initial payouts within the first two weeks to cover funeral and other up-front family expenses.

Robert Jensen, of Kenyon International Emergency Services, says most airlines have agreed to a minimum payment, typically about $25,000. He advises a follow-up payout of at least $175,000. Insurance companies may not pay up, but the airlines should, he says.

“You take care of the people and the bottom line is always enhanced,” he says.

Moreover, the alternative could be costly litigation.

 

Quiz: Outside the continent, part of the Core

Tue, 2014-12-30 04:46
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PODCAST: Consumer confidence trending upwards

Tue, 2014-12-30 03:00

Investors in Europe have been moving their portfolios away from risk in the day since it became clear a new general election will occur in Greece in the coming weeks. More on that. Plus, the last snapshot of American consumer confidence for the year came out today. Consumer Confidence rose from November to December. We have context on those statistics. And we'll also talk about the current state of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Consumer confidence on the rise at year's end

Tue, 2014-12-30 02:00

Consumer confidence has been trending upward during 2014, with both the Reuters/University of Michigan survey and the Conference Board survey reflecting a cheerier pre-recession outlook.

“People expect the economy to improve, and their personal finances to improve,” says economist Chris Christopher of IHS Global Insight.

The stock market has recently hit highs, boosting higher-income households, many of which have regained and surpassed their level of wealth before the recession. But middle-income households remain in the red, on average, since the recession. Long-term unemployment is still stubbornly high, wages are barely outpacing inflation, and millions of workers have dropped out of the labor force altogether.

But Bernie Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group says the overall economic picture is still overwhelmingly favorable: “We’ve got the best job growth that we’ve seen in 14 years. Companies as well as consumers are benefiting from lower gas prices, and from the lowest borrowing costs in history.” Baumohl still cautions that until the global economy gets healthy again and U.S. trading partners rebound, U.S. companies might not feel optimistic enough to go on a big hiring spree or raise wages.

Harbaugh's big Michigan payday

Tue, 2014-12-30 02:00

The University of Michigan announced a deal Tuesday that makes Jim Harbaugh its next head football coach.

 

 

Harbaugh was an All-American quarterback for Michigan and played 15 years in the NFL in addition to coaching at Stanford University and, most recently, with the San Francisco 49ers.

Harbaugh signed a seven-year deal worth $5 million per year plus increases each season. He also received a $2 million signing bonus.

Even though Michigan has fallen as a football powerhouse, Forbes says only Texas and Notre Dame bring in more revenue. 

"From a strictly financial point of view, it's already paid off, they'll make more money off of him by lunch today," says John U. Bacon, an author and commentator.

Bacon has written has written several books about Michigan football. He says the jump in season-ticket sales alone will more than pay Harbaugh’s contract, and if he can revive the storied Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, the entire Big Ten might profit.

"If you get that going, guess what? TV ratings go up. TV drives all of this. Not some of it, all of it," says Bacon.

These days it isn’t just the University of Michigans of the world that are willing to offer pro money to land a coach. More and more Division One teams are willing to pay millions of dollars to satisfy their fans, which was practically unheard of a decade ago.

"You know, really the theme here is brand revival," says Patrick Rishe, a sports economist at Missouri's Webster University.

Michigan essentially had to offer pro-level dollars, Rishe says, partly to compete for a coach of Harbaugh’s ilk, but more importantly, “to also show their fans they're serious about trying to get back into the fray."

The real question all along wasn’t whether Jim Harbaugh was worth the money Michigan was offering, Rishe says, but whether Harbaugh would leave the NFL.

A very merry Christmas for Apple

Tue, 2014-12-30 02:00
$8 million

The University of Michigan is expected to announce Tuesday a deal that would make Jim Harbaugh its next head football coach. In addition to his career on the field, Harbaugh has coached for both Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers. His NFL pedigree will earn him a pro-football salary; some estimates put his expected salary as head coach to be in the range of $6 million to $8 million. 

1 of 2

The parts released so far in the Intercept's exclusive and (ahem) serialized interview with Jay Wilds, a key figure in the investigative podcast "Serial." Host Sarah Koenig couldn't get Wilds on tape in her reporting, but he's speaking out now that "Serial" has concluded its first season, giving his side of the cold case Koenig was exploring.

51.3 percent

In its annual Christmas report, Flurry found that 51.3 percent of devices activated over the holiday were Apple products. This compared with 17.7 percent for Samsung, and 5.8 percent for Nokia, as reported by Tech Crunch.

60 million

The rough number of page views the various sites owned by Emerson Spartz rack up in a month. That's according to a recent New Yorker profile, which paints Spartz as the boy king of "viral content."

94 percent

That's the percentage global investment in Japan is down this year; the smallest annual amount since 2008. As Bloomberg reports, the dwindling numbers are mostly due to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics," which have sent Japan into a recession.

Consumer confidence on the rise at year-end

Tue, 2014-12-30 02:00

Consumer confidence has been trending upward during 2014, with both the Reuters/University of Michigan survey and the Conference Board survey back to pre-recession levels.

“People expect the economy to improve, and their personal finances to improve,” says economist Chris Christopher at IHS Global Insight.

The stock market has recently hit records, boosting higher-income households, many of which have regained and surpassed their level of wealth before the recession. But middle-income households remain in the red, on average, since the recession. Long-term unemployment is still stubbornly high, wages are barely outpacing inflation, and millions of workers have dropped out of the labor force altogether.

But Bernie Baumohl at the Economic Outlook Group says the overall economic picture is still overwhelmingly favorable: “We’ve got the best job growth that we’ve seen in 14 years. Companies as well as consumers are benefiting from lower gas prices, and from the lowest borrowing costs in history.” Baumohl still cautions that until the global economy returns to health and U.S. trading partners rebound, U.S. companies might not feel optimistic enough to go on a big hiring spree or raise wages.

Michigan offers big payday to revive football fortunes

Tue, 2014-12-30 02:00

The University of Michigan is expected to announce Tuesday a deal that would make Jim Harbaugh its next head football coach.

Harbaugh was an All-American quarterback for Michigan and played 15 years in the NFL, in addition to coaching at Stanford, and most recently with the San Francisco 49ers.

Harbaugh’s contract is expected to make him among the highest paid coaches in college sports, in the range of $6 million to $8 million per year.

Even though Michigan has fallen as a football powerhouse, Forbes says only Texas and Notre Dame bring in more revenue. 

"From a strictly financial point of view, it's already paid off, they'll make more money off of him by lunch today," says author and commentator John U. Bacon.

Bacon has written has written several books about Michigan football. He says the jump in season-ticket sales alone will more than pay Harbaugh’s contract, and if he can revive the storied Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, the entire Big Ten might profit.

"If you get that going, guess what? TV ratings go up. TV drives all of this. Not some of it, all of it," says Bacon.

These days it isn’t just the University of Michigan's of the world that are willing to offer pro money to land their coach. More and more Division One teams are willing to pay millions of dollars to satisfy their fans, which was practically unheard of a decade ago.

"You know, really the theme here is brand revival," says Patrick Rishe, a sports economist at Webster University.

Rishe says Michigan essentially had to offer dollars, partly to compete for a coach of Harbaugh’s ilk, but more importantly, “to also show their fans they're serious about trying to get back into the fray," he says.

Rishe says the real question all along wasn’t whether Jim Harbaugh was worth the money Michigan was offering, but whether he would leave the NFL.

The state of manufacturing in the states

Tue, 2014-12-30 01:30

Stephan Richter, editor in chief of The Globalist, has a question: What percentage of of U.S. jobs does the manufacturing sector account for today?

But more to the point, are those jobs part of an industry renaissance, or are they a new kind of employment that in reality, is not as good as it sounds?

Richter joined Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about the danger of heralding the return of manufacturing to the U.S.

Click the media player above to hear more.

 

AirAsia tragedy introduces U.S. to an iconic CEO

Mon, 2014-12-29 12:31

The disappearance of AirAsia flight 8501 is a story with lots of sadly familiar questions: What exactly happened, and where and how? Is there any hope for survivors?

One less-familiar element has been the quick response by the company and its CEO, Tony Fernandes, who has been talking to family members and taking to Twitter with the latest news.  For U.S. audiences, the story has been an introduction to an iconic Asian CEO and the innovative company he created.

In Jakarta this morning to communicate with Search and Rescue. All assets now in region. Going back to Surabaya now to be with families.

— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 29, 2014

In 2001, Tony Fernandes took over AirAsia and its enormous debts for 29 cents. He had a new idea: a budget airline for Asia.

It’s like Spirit Airlines in the U.S. — super-low fares, zero frills — but without the customer unhappiness that has become almost a trademark for Spirit. AirAsia’s gets great ratings for customer satisfaction. The difference is the customer that AirAsia serves.

"They’re really grabbing passengers who have never flown before," says Vinay Bhaskara, a senior business analyst with Airways News. "And they’re very transparent about their business model. You’re going to have to pay extra if you want extra."

For many AirAsia customers, flying itself is a huge upgrade, as reflected in the airline’s motto: "Now, everyone can fly!"

"That's an amazing concept — bringing air travel to the masses," says aviation consultant Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International.

By 2013, AirAsia was a network of regional airlines, and Fernandes was starring on an Asian version of “The Apprentice.” 

"All of these young business people were dying to work with him because of the mystique, and because of what he had actually accomplished," says Richard Turen, a luxury travel agent and a senior contributing editor for Travel Weekly.

Fernandes has branched out in other ways. He has a majority stake in an English Premier League football team and he's opened a chain of budget hotels that Turen says fill a new niche — something like a bridge between a hostel and a resort.

"It's like, 'Yes, you can go to a resort, and no it doesn’t have to be stuffy,'" he says. "'And no, you don’t have to pay $70 for breakfast.'"

As the weekend’s tragedy unfolded, Fernandes sent out multiple emotional tweets, calling the event his worst nightmare.

Corporate Twitter accounts try to be bae ... and fail

Mon, 2014-12-29 11:00

Bae, for those of you who don't know, is a favorite word of kids these days. I had to ask my 23-year-old colleague for a definition. Basically, "bae" is a term of endearment.

Now brands are getting in on the bae action, trying to be bae with everyone on social media. In response, the Brands Saying Bae Twitter account makes fun of corporate accounts that try to act cool. 

Accounts like Pizza Hut:

Basically this says that anyone who voluntarily follows Pizza Hut is too stupid to get a pun without an explanation. pic.twitter.com/RhMZzmD3aG

— Brands Saying Bae (@BrandsSayingBae) December 28, 2014

... and Whole Foods:

I wonder if Whole Foods CEO Walter E Robb IV tweeted this. pic.twitter.com/VNMHUhZ1db

— Brands Saying Bae (@BrandsSayingBae) December 29, 2014

Really, Whole Foods? We tweeted "bae" before it was cool:

Sequester cuts to squeeze BAE, overseas defense suppliers http://t.co/SwmYiHGmd2

— Marketplace (@Marketplace) February 21, 2013

Backlash over standardized testing expected to continue

Mon, 2014-12-29 11:00

One of the big stories of 2014 was the backlash against standardized testing. Teachers, principals and school boards protested against the number of tests their students had to take.

As most states gear up for the first big round of Common Core tests in 2015, more protests are expected.

"Teachers say it’s disruptive to the school day," says Marketplace’s education correspondent, Amy Scott. "And that spending a lot of time preparing for tests is not the same thing as learning."

So will we see fewer tests in 2015? Scott seems to think so. She says some states have already moved to reduce the amount of tests students have to take. And the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is long overdue for a rewrite.

The NFL's 'ready, set, fire' day

Mon, 2014-12-29 11:00

The NFL's regular season ended Sunday. And that means “Black Monday" followed, the day teams take stock of their wins and losses and, if they’re not happy, fire their head coaches and their staffs.

But finding new coaches means a scramble under intense pressure. Fans can turn into critics, teams are not allowed to recruit from their competition and owners are turning to executive search firms for help.

Greece political developments stir European debt fears

Mon, 2014-12-29 09:57

Greece may have tipped Europe back into crisis.

In its third and final attempt, the parliament in Athens failed to choose a new president, and that’s triggered a snap general election next month in which a radical anti-austerity, anti-bailout party called Syriza is the favorite to win.

Some analysts fear that if the Greeks do elect Syriza, it will weaken Germany’s support for Greece’s membership in the Eurozone and bolster German opposition to monetary easing across the stagnant Eurozone.

After a quiet 2014, the Eurozone looks set once again to become a major focus of international investor unease in 2015.

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