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Oil layoffs start at wellheads and work their way up

Fri, 2015-04-17 02:00

Oil prices dropped, and jobs had to go. The first ones were at the oil service companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger. "They've quickly moved to reduce their amount of operations in the field, and the first phone call they make is to that service company," Jeff Bush, president of CSI Recruiting, which places workers in oil and gas jobs, says.

Next come layoffs at the major oil companies. And now, Bush says, job cuts are trickling down to the independents—companies that just focus on oil and natural gas extraction.

"It just follows the course of who feels the pain the first," he says.

In Texas, just in the last three weeks, more than 500 workers—from drillers to crane operators— have lost jobs, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. And since November, the unemployment claims keep coming, Lisa Givens, spokeswoman for the commission says.

"We have just over 50,000 claims filed for that time period," Givens says."And then last year for this same time period we saw just over 23,000 claims filed."

 

What makes economic mobility possible.

Fri, 2015-04-17 02:00

Kathleen Somerset-Fields has something she whispers to herself when her hands start to sweat and the doubts crowd in.

I'll be fine. I'll be fine. I'll be fine.

She picked up the habit almost a decade ago, in a GED class. When she was worried about a new challenge, she says her teacher would tell her the same thing: “Go ahead Kathleen, you'll be fine. You'll be fine!”

“Every time, she’s been fine,” said Diane Brogan-Adams, remembering those days back in the GED class she taught.

When student and teacher first met, Somerset-Fields was a struggling young mother, whose own mother was battling drug addiction.

“You get people that look at you and think, ‘She's only 16 with two kids? Oh my god. She's a trouble maker,’” Somerset-Fields says. But “Miss Diane,” as she called her teacher at the time, was different.

“She was welcoming.”

Miss Diane remembers their first meeting well.

“Kathleen pulled up in a station wagon with wood trim and came in with these two children, very confident, I remember later after she filled out paper work and I saw how old she was, I was kind of surprised.”

Brogan-Adams took a special interest in her student. Somerset-Fields remembers that whenever she missed class, her teacher would call to find out what was going on, and when she was coming back.

Eventually, Somerset-Fields did come back and graduated. Then they lost touch, until several years later, when Somerset-Fields walked out of a parenting class she was taking at a community center. Her old teacher was now working at that center. They saw each other in the parking lot.

“Seriously I think god had me walking across that parking lot because he knew I needed guidance at that time,” Somerset-Fields says of that reunion with her teacher. “Honestly she has been my guidance.”

By that point, Somerset-Fields had worked a series of low-paying jobs: nursing aid, quality control at a bacon factory. Eventually Brogan-Adams offered her old student a job at the community center. Today, Somerset-Fields is the Assistant Manager of a youth program there.

“Kathleen is like one of my children,” Brogan-Adams says of her former student. “She just adds a lot to my life.”

The networks of support and community that Somerset-Fields found when she met “Miss Diane” teacher long ago at that GED class, and that she passes on now to a new generation of kids at the youth program—they are key parts of what economists call social capital. And research shows that places high in social capital have better rates of upward mobility for kids born in to poverty. 

At Coachella, fashion steals some of the limelight

Fri, 2015-04-17 02:00

Here's the big news so far from the Coachella music festival. Madonna made out with Drake and Justin Bieber was reportedly escorted out in a headlock.

For many festival-goers though, what's more important than the gossip or the music, is what everyone is wearing.

Coachella draws hundreds of thousands of people into the desert east of Los Angeles for two weekends. Sure there are big names in music like AC/DC, Jack White, and Ryan Adams. But as Pret-a-Reporter fashion writer Kathryn Romeyn puts it, the fans are as concerned about their image as hearing the bands.

“They want to Instagram good pictures of themselves,” Romeyn says.

In other words, selfies.

Yes, the festival is chock-full of teens and twenty-somethings, many from LA.  Picture this—a hoard of impressionable minds with disposable incomes and social media followers, all transported to the blank desert landscape for two weekends of pop-music-infused, millenial partying.  It's a marketing opportunity that makes the fashion industry salivate.

Coachella has become big business, says PR-firm-owner Lori Riviere, and fashion brands have jumped on the bandwagon.

The handbag giant, Coach, hosts backstage performances. Cosmetics colossus Sephora brings a tent for beauty touch-ups. Need eyewear? Glasses.com is there too.

Sarah Call is Glasses.com's director of content. She says the festival is part of the company's brand relaunch strategy.

“We felt it was sort of the perfect place to celebrate self-expression,” she says.

Fashion companies see dollar signs in the festival's free-spirit-Woodstockian vibe. H&M now has its own Coachella clothing line. The festival style is a hippie-LA-Boho mishmash. Think fringe shirts, big sun glasses, and lots of skin.

Music festivals are a great place to see and be seen says Jim Andrews of sponsorship consultant IEG. 

“There's lots of downtime,” he says. “Lots of walking around time.”

Andrews says festivals are better than say a sporting event—where fans could get distracted by actually watching the game. At festivals “there's a lot more time for quality interaction,” Andrews says.

Everyone is cashing in. Celebrities and musicians get paid to wear clothes. Fashion magazines stuff their pages with glossy Coachella photos and articles about how to preserve your beauty in the hot desert. Nobody wants to be sweaty and gross. It's not Woodstock.

Music critic Jim Farber says the audience doesn't seem to care that festivals have gotten super corporate.

“If they are offended by it they generally are pretty quiet about it,” he says, “or else they enjoy it.”

It hasn't always been this way. Farber remembers when he want to the first Lollapalooza music festival back in 1991.  There was just a bunch of bands and one guy with a falafel stand.

Silicon Tally: Game of Pirates

Fri, 2015-04-17 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Annalee Newitz, Editor-In-Chief of Gizmodo, and author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction.

Click on the multimedia player above to hear more. 

A delay with billions of dollars in consequences

Fri, 2015-04-17 01:00
$4.46 billion

That's how much bond sales got postponed due to a failure in Bloomberg Terminal. The British Treasury delayed 3 billion pounds, or about $4.46 billion, in short-term debt. In our digital era, where data and money are intricately weaved, the loss of a data feed has consequences. And in this case, billion-dollar consequences. Thomson Reuters produce a competing product but not all investors have access to both. 

4.9 percent

That's the chances a person will reach the top-fifth of earners in Dayton, Ohio when starting from the bottom fifth, making Dayton among the worst cities for economic mobility in the U.S. On Thursday's show, we took a looked at Dayton's history, its racial and economic segregation, and its relationship with the American dream. On Friday, we'll examine the role education and relationships play in empowering the people in Dayton and cities like it to pull themselves out of poverty.

11,000

That's how many jobs the largest oil-field company plans to cut from its ranks. The company Schlumberger profit fell 39 percent for the first quarter amid a slowdown in the oil and gas industry, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Three Days

That's how long the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are expected to meet this weekend. The two institutions are expected to focus on a cool down in the European Union and strong U.S. economic figures. However, the Fed rate hike and a strong dollar still contribute to global instability, especially in developing economies. Another important topic is the China-lead Asia investment bank that combines Chinese capital with Beijing's political clout. 

173,132

That's how many leaked emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment were posted on Wikileaks Thursday. The emails stem from a massive data breach last winter that had largely wound down after the release of "The Interview," but they had previously only been available to a small group, mostly in the media. Now the contents of the damaging leak are fully searchable, CNET reported, embarrassing emails and sensitive information and all.

86 percent

That's how far prices for Etsy shares jumped in their first day of trading Thursday, ending the day at $30. Now Etsy's worth about $3.5 billion, Techcrunch reported, and that puts the company at risk of alienating its devoted, crafty audience, who may have gone to Etsy to avoid big companies in the first place. For his part, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson kept things authentic, wearing an all-Etsy outfit for the occasion. 

Confusion over computers in the classroom

Thu, 2015-04-16 13:08

The educational technologies sector has become a $13 billion industry, with a growing list of start-ups and big companies vying for school district funds. At the same time, a lot of school districts are having trouble keeping up with fast-moving changes.

This trend may have something to do with news that the Los Angeles Unified School District wants some of its money back, after halting a plan estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars to buy iPads loaded with educational software from Pearson. The LAUSD complains that the combo of Pearson's software and Apple's iPad has simply not delivered on its promise.

While there is a lot of money and growth in the educational technology sector, LAUSD's travails are signs of what education consultant Allison Bailey of Boston Consulting Group calls the "pitfalls" of fast change. Bailey says part of the problem is that while school districts have been spending money on new technologies, many haven't planned for additional resources needed to train teachers and implement technologies in the classroom. 

A lot of teachers are tech-savvy, Bailey says, just like many students, but "in order for things to be rolled out and fully implemented, we need all teachers to feel comfortable and to understand practically how to get ... best use out of technology."

There are other hurdles for districts, too. New technologies are often unproven by their very nature, so it also makes it hard for districts to figure out what will be useful for them and how to evaluate a product before purchase, Bailey says. 

"Because of the flood of offerings that are emerging in the market," she says, "It's a lot for school districts to actually think through and manage on their own." She says the kind of data that districts will need to make informed decisions will come in the years ahead, as technologies are used and assessed. 

Michael Moe, CEO of GSV Capital, says of the $400 million he manages, he's invested about 30 percent into educational technology firms. He describes the current trend as less of a flood, and more of an "explosion."

"Today, increasingly every teacher has a smartphone," he says, "mainly every school in America is connected."

That has created the right conditions for a lot of start-ups to want to enter into the educational technology arena, Moe says. Venture capital firms have been pouring a lot of money into education technology. Moe's firm runs a summit for ed-tech start-ups, which included about 30 firms five years ago. In the latest summit, says Moe, there were nearly 300 companies.

Big firms are also in the game. Google, Microsoft and Apple are all trying to grab a share of the ed-tech market, as are big educational publishers, such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson. Stephen Baker of NDP Group, a market research firm, says two-thirds of Google's 2014 sales of Chromebook notebooks went to organizations, "and the market assumes that almost all of that has been into education."

Baker also uses the "explosion" word to describe the accelerating ed-tech trend. "What we've definitely seen in certainly the last two to three years is a real explosion of personal devices available ... for students in big educational institutions." 

Smile! We're analyzing how you're feeling using videos

Thu, 2015-04-16 13:05

The advertising world spends a lot of money trying to make you feel something. They want to make you laugh, cry, feel hungry even...anything to sell their products and build brand loyalty. However, tracking whether or not their commercials are working is hard to do. A company called Affectiva says it can help by using video footage to collect emotional data.

Co-founder and Chief Science Officer Rana El Kaliouby says, “Emotions influence every aspect of our life; from how we connect and communicate with each other and also how we make decisions. We feel that our emotions are missing from the digital world and our digital experiences.” Affectiva is trying to change that.

Their flagship program, Affdex, asks viewers to consent to be monitored, and then users’ facial expressions are captured while they watch advertisements. Affectiva has collected 2.7 million videos in 75 different countries. That data is aggregated to analyze how emotionally engaged users are with a service or ad. The program is able to detect smiles, confusion, brow furrow, even how wrinkles may move around an eye. Affdex is now able to understand smiles better than most people can.  

The program is being used primarily for advertising companies, but they are also working on real time video communication with multiple people in a conversation. It may be used to track engagement in online courses, webinars, business meetings, even job interview videos.

Kaliouby recognizes that there are some applications that blur the line, but Affectiva has stayed away from anything without a clear opt in. “We’re more focused on the ones where we feel we can bridge a communication gap,” says Kaliouby. 

Kaliouby’s background is in computer science. She says, “I spent many many hours with my computer and it really bugged me that it was very oblivious to my emotional state and that kind of inspired and motivated me to build an emotionally intelligent computer.”

Watch Kai test out Affdex below:

Etsy's CEO wore all Etsy for the first day of trading

Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

File this story under "practicing what you preach."

Etsy — the crafty-sales-retail-homemade items site — started trading this morning, and did really well. Shares popped 88 percent, $30 apiece at the close.

More to the point, though: Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson told Business Insider that everything he was wearing to celebrate the IPO — all the way down to his socks — was bought on the site.

When we had Dickerson on the show about a year ago, he told us his favorite thing he bought on the site: a computer bag made from a French army tent, a leather bomber jacket and a Navy kit bag.

Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce

 

Etsy's CEO wore all Etsy for the first day of trading

Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

File this story under "practicing what you preach."

Etsy — the crafty-sales-retail-homemade items site — started trading this morning, and did really well. Shares popped 88 percent, $30 apiece at the close.

More to the point though: Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson told Business Insider that everything he was wearing to celebrate the IPO — all the way down to his socks — was bought on the site.

When we had Dickerson on the show about a year ago, he told us his favorite thing he bought on the site: a computer bag made from a French army tent, a leather bomber jacket and a Navy kit bag.

Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce

 

Bankruptcy shields GM from some liability cases

Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that General Motors is shielded from potential liability related to defective ignition switches that occurred before the company's 2009 bankruptcy.

The ruling, from Judge Robert Gerber, is a huge victory for GM as it walks a fine line between accepting responsibility for a safety crisis that has been linked to the deaths of 84 people, and trying to position the post-bankruptcy organization for success going forward.

John Pottow is a law professor at the University of Michigan. He says the ruling is great for GM.

“It’s a big deal because what they were trying to do is bulletproof their bankruptcy reorganization plan,” Pottow says.

The ruling establishes a clear legal separation between the “Old GM”, and the new post-bankruptcy GM. 

Still, the legal cases in this matter are far from resolved. Pottow said the fact that the “New GM” knew about the defective switches, but did not bring up the issue during bankruptcy, could end up helping the plaintiffs.

"The law takes notice incredibly seriously and if someone figures out they did something wrong they have to send out notice right away, particularly if they've discharged something in bankruptcy,” Pottow said.

“So, that could be another hook they're trying to grab on to, to say we still have a second bite at the apple."

Steve Berman, a partner with Seattle-based Hagens-Berman, is co-counsel in the suit against General Motors.  He said they will appeal Judge Gerber’s ruling.

Even factoring out the cars that are shielded from liability, GM could still be on the hook for economic losses for people who bought cars after the bankruptcy.

“Let’s just say conservatively there's still 10 million cars left and the average value of diminution was $700—that's $7 Billion,” Berman said.

In addition to ongoing lawsuits for economic loses, the company also faces legal action from people who were insured in crashes.

In a statement, GM praised the decision and stated that any future claims not barred by the ruling must still be proven in court.

Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce

Thu, 2015-04-16 11:02

[Ed note: In honor of Etsy's IPO, our December 2013 interview with Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson]

When you think about the really big names in online retailing just a couple of companies probably come to mind: Amazon, eBay, maybe Apple. But there's another name that can arguably be added to that list. Just 8 years after it started, Etsy does almost a billion dollars a year in annual transactions. Chad Dickerson is the guy who's been running Etsy for the past five years, and we popped into the company's corporate headquarters in Brooklyn to pay him a visit. Etsy's business has doubled under Dickerson's lead, and he says as Etsy grows, so goes its sellers.


"One of our sellers who was doing Etsy as an escape from nursing school, she started to achieve success and some exposure. Fast-forwarding she was noticed buy Nordstrom and did a deal with Nordstrom and now not only has she quit her job but her husband quit his finance job to help her. In this particular case this is literally a mom and pop. Etsy is really about making a life not just a living so we're just giving them the ability to grow and really change their lives."

Dickerson says the growth is just the start of the mark Etsy strives to make. He says the company hopes it won't just give other online retailers a run for the money,  they'll change the whole marketplace.  

"What I see Etsy doing is changing the way things are made. I think the ethos of Etsy, this idea that buying and selling should be all about people will start extending into areas like manufacturing and distribution and all of these things. When I think about what Etsy can do over the next 10 or 20 years it's really humanizing the whole supply chain."

 

What makes a land of opportunity

Thu, 2015-04-16 08:18

Whether it's going from the proverbial rags to the proverbial riches, or just doing a little better than your parents, stories of upward mobility have long been a part of how we define the American dream. But how possible is that dream today? A group of economists at Harvard and UC Berkeley have been looking in to that question recently. It turns out the answer varies widely depending on geography.

Part of the researchers’ theory is that by looking at places with especially bad rates of upward mobility, to see what those places have in common and what they’re missing, we can learn something about how to optimize chances for upward mobility everywhere.

Which is what brought me to Dayton, Ohio, recently. The Dayton metro area has one of the worst rates of economic mobility in the country. Other areas with poor rates include Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

In Dayton, 40 percent of children born poor, stay poor.  Just five percent make it to the top fifth of earners by the time they're adults. Before we get to some of the things that may drive those statistics, it's worth pointing out that Dayton used to have a very different reputation.

For much of the early 20th century, Dayton was known for innovation, opportunity and upward mobility. The area was full of people from humble backgrounds who “made it.” The story of the Wright Brothers and their airplane is one of the best known. But there is also the story of their high school classmate, the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Dunbar was born in Dayton, in 1872, to parents who'd been born in to slavery. After graduating high school, he was too poor to afford college. He worked as an elevator operator. To support his writing, he sold copies of his poems for a dollar to people who rode on his elevator.

A decade later, Dunbar had catapulted himself in to a different life. He was the first African American poet to become internationally famous. He met the Queen of England and Teddy Roosevelt. He was a major inspiration for poets in the Harlem Renaissance and throughout the twentieth century, including Maya Angelou. Her poem "Caged Bird" is a direct reference to Dunbar’s poem "Sympathy.”

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

In early twentieth century Dayton, Dunbar could turn his literary success in to economic success. That fact is still evident today on what is now called Paul Laurence Dunbar Street, where a stately Italianate-style two-story home stands. Dunbar bought the building in 1904 at the height of his fame.

“He really wanted to purchase the finest home that he could afford,” says Alex Heckman, who gives tours of the home for the group Dayton History. “It was a lovely middle class neighborhood when he was living here.”

But the neighborhood has changed since Dunbar's time. Dilapidated and boarded up homes now surround the Dunbar House. Heckman says he worries about bringing visitors here. In just the last few years, three violent felonies have taken place on the property, or right next to it.

“There was a homicide victim whose body was dumped and set on fire literally feet from the visitor's center entrance. There was a prostitute shot in the alley behind this historic barn. And a few doors down, a young man was shot,” Heckman says. “The last half century of disinvestment in neighborhoods like this one... it’s tragic.”

The Paul Laurence Dunbar Home is now a stately historic landmark, in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood.

Krissy Clark/Marketplace

How does a place that celebrates a man who so famously achieved the proverbial American dream become a place full of such nightmares?

That is of course not something the handful of paragraphs that make up this article can fully answer. But the fact that Dunbar’s former neighborhood and many others like it in cities across the country, have become so disinvested and so economically isolated — that fact in itself has become a key focal point of economic research on upward mobility.

“Areas where there's more concentrated poverty — more economic segregation — tend to have lower rates of upward mobility,” says Harvard economist Nathan Hendren.

Hendren is part of a team of researchers at Harvard and UC Berkeley who have combed through decades of Internal Revenue Service data to track the earnings of children born into poor families as they reach adulthood. The team wanted to figure out which places have the best rates of upward mobility, which have the worst, and why.

They have looked at all kinds of possible factors that might be at play: the health of a region’s overall labor market, its median income, tax policies, percentage of immigrants, even the number of bowling alleys per capita (the theory is bowling alleys might be a sign of broader community engagement).

Among all the factors the team analyzed, a few patterns rose to the top. Areas with the worst rates of economic mobility tend to have worse schools and less stable families, which isn’t all that surprising. Perhaps less obvious was the fact that areas with poor economic mobility also tended to have more income inequality and economic segregation.

A map of Dayton, Ohio census data from 2010 color-coded by race. Blue dots represent white residents, green dots represent black residents. Click for a zoom-able, interactive version.

Courtesy: Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

“It’s really about the extent to which the poor at the bottom of the income distribution are geographically segregated from the middle class and the upper class,” Hendren says. “Are people from disadvantaged backgrounds economically integrated in to the local area?”

In other words, a crucial part of economic mobility seems to be whether rich and poor and middle class people are bumping in to each other, and interacting on a daily basis.

For Kathleen Somerset-Fields, who grew up in Dayton in the 1990s and 2000s, the answer to that question was a distinct “No.”

As a child, Somerset-Fields lived in a public housing project not far from Paul Laurence Dunbar's home, but long after he died, once the area was known for concentrated poverty and extreme racial segregation. It’s a part of Dayton known the "West Side.” Somerset-Fields says stereotypes about West Dayton are so ingrained that she tries to avoid saying that's where she grew up during job interviews. 

“When you put that down in your resume, it's like ‘Oh, the West Side of Dayton, here we go,’” she says. “I don't want to be looked at like that. I'm not the West.”

Growing up, Somerset-Fields faced an overwhelming tangle of struggles. Her mom and step-father battled with drug addiction. Somerset-Fields and her siblings were moved in to foster care for a time. At 13, she had her first child and was basically the mother to her six younger siblings—paying bills, and managing the food stamps and government assistance they survived on.

“It was hard — but I'm grateful for it,” she says, her voice getting lower. “I would say it empowered me. It really did. To strive for better. To want better. To do better.”

And somehow, Somerset-Fields seems to be beating the odds working against those born in to poor families in Dayton and places like it. Today, she is the assistant manager of a youth program at a community center in Dayton. She says she is definitely not rich, but she is not poor either.

“I consider myself surviving.  Is that a category?” she laughs. “Surviving on the good end.”

Of course, it's impossible to say exactly why Somerset-Fields found a way to climb out of poverty when forty percent of her peers in Dayton have not. But when I ask her what she thinks, she immediately points to one relationship in her life, with a teacher she met in a GED class when she was 16 named Diane Brogan-Adams.

On Friday, we look at the two women's relationship and the support it provided, which researchers think may be a key ingredient for economic mobility.

How to get voters to reconsider a repeat candidate

Thu, 2015-04-16 06:25

First Lady, Senator from New York, presidential candidate, Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton has a long history in politics, which Marco Rubio was quick to use against her as he launched a bid for the Republican nomination earlier this week.

“Now just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday,” he said.

How does Clinton avoid this “yesterday” role with voters? How does she get people to listen again and listen anew, perhaps even change their minds? Getting voters or consumers to take a second look at a candidate, a company, a product — something they already think they know — is tough work, says Scott Davis, the chief growth officer at Prophet, a brand strategy firm.

“One of the most important things in this campaign process is that there’s a lot that people think they know, and a lot they don’t know, about Hillary Clinton," says Karen Finney, a Clinton campaign spokesperson. That’s why Clinton is starting small and slow, touring in a van she calls "Scooby," having one-on-one conversations with potential voters.

It’s important Clinton be authentic and very clear about her purpose, Davis says. It helps if she can give other people the tools to advocate on her behalf. She may also need to plan something big, bold or innovative to shake people from their preconceived ideas.

Howard Belk, co-CEO and chief creative officer at Siegel+Gale, says Clinton might reference something about her history in a way that won’t alienate her supporters, but with fresh ideas and programs. After her supporters, Belk says the second group Clinton should be targeting is the "switchers." In brand terms, they're the people who may open the product, even if they don’t use it. But he advises against trying to pander to a third category, detractors. They’re a lost cause.

Click here to continue reading below...

 The New York Times recently reported that the Clinton campaign has hired Kristina Schake, former communications chief to Michelle Obama, who was in charge of the current First Lady's image and appearances on"Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and the Oscars.

But Clinton is only one of many prominent politicians who have undergone a rebranding. We called up a couple of political scientists to ask them about other notable political reinventions, and how successful they were.

Richard Nixon

Like Clinton, Nixon was very much a known commodity when he ran for president in 1968. He was a congressman and a vice president before famously losing to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, and he went on to lose the California gubernatorial race in 1962.

Generally, in today's political environment, "if you lose a presidential general election you're done, you don't get a chance to reinvent yourself," says Vincent Hutchings, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan.

Nixon worked on several other campaigns, taking some cues from Barry Goldwater and George Wallace and earning favors, Hutchings says. By the late 1960s Nixon reemerged as a "law and order" candidate. He also made a bid for likability by hiring a joke writer and appearing on "Laugh-In," notes UCLA political science assistant professor Chris Tausanovitch. He finally won the presidency in 1968.

"He wasn't ever going to pull off the same kind of persona as a Kennedy, be that Robert or John F. Kennedy," Hutchings says. "But he seized upon this growing unease in some sectors of the American electorate regarding the progress of the civil rights movement, urban unrest, [and so on]."

Arlen Specter

Specter changed parties at the beginning and end of his political career — two reinventions in two very different political climates with two very different results.

"Voters don't like it when people appear to be switching their views," UCLA's Tausanovitch says. "In fact, voters like it so little that they would prefer a candidate who sticks to their guns, rather than a candidate who switches their views in a way that [the voter] might even favor."

Specter pulled of a party switch in 1965 and went on to enjoy a 30-year career in the Senate as a moderate Republican. When he ran as a Democrat in 2009, Specter lost in the primary, in part because partisan lines were far more rigid, Tausanovitch says.

"These days the legislative parties are incredibly sorted out. Liberal Republicans are still a lot more conservative than conservative Democrats, which in the '60s was not true," Tausanovitch says. "There were Rockefeller Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats and boll weevils and all of these moderates ... that could fit in either party."

Al Gore

Gore's problem was similar to Hillary Clinton's, Tausanovitch says: he came off as arrogant, stilted, and his plain blue suits were bland.

"[The blue suit] conveys dullness, convention, safety and, ultimately, boredom," the Washington Post wrote in May 1999. "In other words, the Blue Suit-ness of the suit underlines the Al Gore-ness of Al Gore."

Gore was told to loosen up by none other than embattled departing President Bill Clinton. Gore tried brown suits and polo shirts, but just got made fun of.

Instead Gore came into his own after losing to George W. Bush in 2000. Gore became an environmental advocate and appears far more at ease in public, Tausanovitch says, though it doesn't appear his politics have changed much. Instead, it seems getting out of politics gave Gore the re-brand he needed during his campaign.

"It looks like he has come into his own as an authentic and better public speaker, but his problem to begin with was not that he was hiding something," Tausanovitch says. "That's not an experiment that we don't get to run with Hillary Clinton, but it's certainly something that people will speculate about."

Toyota's expansion

Thu, 2015-04-16 03:00

Airing on Thursday, April 16, 2015: There's word today that Japan has overtaken China as the number one foreign holder of US treasuries. I'm speaking of Japanese pension funds, the Japanese government and other Japanese investors. We consult Adolfo Laurenti, chief international economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago on the shift to US debt. Plus, the world's largest car maker by volume, Toyota, is saying it plans to invest $1.4 billion to build two new factories in Mexico and China. The announcement marks an end to three-year freeze on expansions that Toyota imposed on itself. More on that. Electronic payments-through companies like PayPal-are supposed to make it easier and safer to buy things online. But we found that it doesn't always translate when you're trying to make a purchase across borders.

Ivy League schools key into online courses

Thu, 2015-04-16 02:03

Yale University’s School of Medicine is deciding whether to create an online version of its physician’s assistant master’s program. Its first attempt failed because it couldn't get accreditation.  Yale says it’s “reviewing the matter” and may try again.

Yale’s partner in all this is the education technology company 2U, which has plenty of other customers, many of them Ivy League schools.

“There’s a lot of demand for us right now,” says Chip Paucek, CEO of 2U. He says universities want to enroll students online to address shortages of workers in some fields. But online degrees also bring in more tuition dollars.

“A university needs to figure out how to pay its bills and be sustainable," he says. "Just like any enterprise.”

But some degrees lend themselves more to online learning than others.

“So learning statistics or data science online, certainly learning some of the computer sense, skills and knowledge,” says Andrew Kelly, education scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Kelly says degrees that require hands-on training, like physician’s assistant’s programs, are more difficult, because universities have to find hospitals where online students can train. 

A hand-crafted IPO

Thu, 2015-04-16 02:00

Ahead of its IPO, Etsy priced its shares at $16, with an estimated value of $1.78 billion. But Thursday saw those numbers explode, with shares opening at $31, which placed the company value at $3.4 billion.

The 10-year-old marketplace for vintage and handmade goods, is a ‘B Corp,’ or ‘benefit corporation’ - i.e it’s certified as a company that benefits the community. It's notable because very few (Etsy is only the second) for-profit companies with B Corp certification go public.

“If it can do good for the community, for the consumer, for the vendors, it satisfies the B Corp requirement and gives them a good rating,” said Santosh Rao, head of research at Manhattan Venture Partners.

The other reason, Rao added, is strategic: “They need to keep the vendors happy. 80 percent of their business is repeat customers and loyalty is important for the company.”

Etsy’s vendors, however, are mostly small businesses that, on average, don’t make much more than the U.S. median income. That means they aren’t nearly as wealthy as those who typically invest in the stock market.

It’s always risky to buy stock in any company, Rao said, but “nothing wrong in having them come in and especially this one where they are committed to the community.”

Although Etsy hasn’t been profitable recently, the IPO is likely to help, according to Rao. It would help them raise the money to grow bigger and expand beyond the U.S.  

But the bigger Etsy gets, the higher the chances of its business becoming more commercial. That could be a problem since many, including Rao, believe its loyal customer base is the result of its stated mission to promote the opposite: artisanal goods and small, community-based businesses.

“It was designed originally for that,” said Rao. “It wasn’t meant to be a big, high-scale commercial operation and that’s where they made the market.”

Etsy could keep the commercialism at bay, said Rao, because it was a ‘B Corp.’

“They don’t have to necessarily look at the bottom line every quarter,” he said. “In the end they have to show a path to profitability to show they they are a good business but there’s no near-term, absolute imperative to show a profit.”

But even Rao believes there’s a strong likelihood of it being bought over by a bigger company. “I’ll give 60 percent odds that they will be acquired,” he said.

 

Big coal gets its day in court against the EPA

Thu, 2015-04-16 02:00

Coal-mining companies Peabody Energy and Murray Energy have sued to block the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing its Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s broadest plan to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants. Today lawyers present oral arguments in the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In general, the law favors the EPA, according to Harvard law professor Jody Freeman, a former attorney for the Obama White House who wrote the book on climate change and U.S. law, published by the American Bar Association. 

If the court allows the case to move forward, "I would be very surprised," she says. "Now, of course, look: Courts sometimes do unusual things."

A decision against the EPA—  even if reversed later— would mean delay, which could be costly to President Obama, who has a tight timeline.

"He wants to get this done by the time he leaves office," Freeman says. Otherwise, a Republican president might easily undo it in 2017.  

"So, this is for all the marbles," Freeman says. "This is a very high-stakes case that is playing out in the courts and will keep playing out in the courts."

The plaintiffs have trouble, win or lose. According to a new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, this will be a record year for the closing of coal-fired power plants.

"That is driven by multiple factors," Bloomberg analyst Ethan Zindler says. "In the short-run, it’s really not being driven by the Clean Power Plan."

There have been other regulations, plus competition from cheap natural gas, and the inefficiency of many plants, some of them 50 years old. 

One of the plaintiffs, Peabody Energy, was removed from the S&P 500 stock index in September 2014.

At a conference a few days later, the CEO of Murray Energy— the other plaintiff— talked about his industry’s “absolute destruction.” He said, "It’s not coming back.”

Toyota ramps up expansion plans

Thu, 2015-04-16 02:00

The world’s largest carmaker by volume, Toyota, says it plans to invest $1.4 billion to build two new factories in Mexico and China.

The announcement marks an end to a three-year, self-imposed expansion freeze. The new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, will turn out 200,000 compact Corollas per year by 2019. The plant in Guangzhou, China plans to start production in 2017 with a capacity to make around 100,000 cars a year.

The free-trade agreements between Mexico, the U.S., and Europe, coupled with Toyota’s new super-efficient global architecture has the potential to set a new competitive threshold for the car industry.

Recycled bikes provide affordable transportation

Thu, 2015-04-16 02:00

Mohammad Wasiq works at one of the hotels on Savannah’s downtown riverfront. His job is just shy of a mile and a half from his apartment - an easy bike ride. He says it usually takes him less than 10 minutes.

Before Wasiq got the bike, he had to take the bus, and that was a different story. “First ten days, I was late sometimes, sometimes early,” he says, “because I couldn’t wait for the bus so I was just walking from here.”

Wasiq’s bike came from the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s recycling program. The group takes donations of used bikes and parts. Then volunteers refurbish them and outfit them with accessories the users might need, like racks for groceries. A refugee placement organization called Lutheran Services of Georgia connects the Bike Campaign with people who need the help. Each user gets a helmet, a lock, and a light.

Lauren Cruickshank works with the refugees. “The fact that they can get a bicycle for free means that they’re not spending money on the bicycle,” she says, “and it also means that maybe they don’t have to spend money on a bus ticket each time they’re going to their ESL class or each time they’re going to the grocery store.”

The program also offers a mobile repair trailer and helps people learn about bike maintenance. Manager Jen Colestock says that’s also key when every penny counts.

“Especially if you’re somebody who bikes by necessity, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford that repair at a bike shop but might have access to tools to fix it, that’s another ten, twenty, thirty dollars that you’ve saved then,” Colestock says.

A spokesperson for the League of American Bicyclists says recycling programs like this one have been around for a while, and they’ve seen a rise around the country as biking has gotten more popular. They have a lot of different goals - from increasing economic freedom to helping the environment.

 

Why Nicaraguan businesses can't take PayPal

Thu, 2015-04-16 02:00
"Pay securely. Here, there, anywhere." That's the slogan currently on PayPal's website, and one of the central promises for digital payments of all kinds. But so far, the promise isn't accessible "anywhere."  For instance: Nicaragua. 

On the country's Pacific coast, in a remote beach town, there is a Spanish school called Pie de Gigante. It draws an international crowd to its website. But its founder, Juan Delgado, says it has sometimes failed to convert them into real-world visitors, thanks to its website's inability to let them pay online to reserve a space.

"Right now, we're using a system that's a little bit complicated," he says, speaking in Spanish. "We use a system of paying via Western Union or in cash."

 PayPal isn't an option. 

"In most of Latin America today, the only way you can take money out of your PayPal account is having a U.S. bank  account," says Arnoldo Reyes, head of financial services and business development for PayPal in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The exceptions have required the company to navigate local regluations and to partner directly with individual banks. It's this kind of extra work that pushes companies like PayPal to focus first on bigger, wealthier markets. (Nicaragua is the second poorest country in all of Latin America, after Haiti.) 

"I mean, you can't take an Uber in Nicaragua," says Reyes.

"We're basically closed off," says Marcella Chamorro, an entrepreneur who first ran into the payment problem when trying to create a kind of Nicaraguan Ticketmaster. 

"I know a bunch of small business owners who need to find like a cousin in California who can open a bank account for them and then sell through PayPal to this bank account and then their aunt comes three months later to bring the cash," she says. "It's really complicated."

It makes it harder for locals than for people like Chris James--a British ex-pat who runs the Hostal El Momento in Granada, Nicaragua. He has a local, Nicaraguan bank account for cash and credit cards. But he also has a U.S. bank account, which he uses for receiving PayPal payments. 

"It's easier to have both really: accounts here and out of the country as well," he says. "That's what I find anyway."

The situation has been changing. In the last few years, PayPal has partnered with local banks to make receiving payments possible in Peru, Chile, Costa Rica and--on Monday--the Dominican Republic. But as for Nicaragua, Reyes says while the country is on PayPal's radar, the company couldn't give any specific timeline.

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