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Quiz: How colleges break your heart

Tue, 2014-12-23 04:24

At least two private universities sent acceptance emails to rejected students in 2014.

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It's beginning to look a lot like ... a strong GDP report

Tue, 2014-12-23 03:00
5 percent

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department revised its estimate of gross domestic product to 5 percent, up from the 3.9 percent reported last month. As reported by the New York Times, this is the fastest growth rate for the U.S. economy since 2003.

$30 million

Sponsoring a bowl game for college football can be expensive – some estimate it costs companies as much as $30 million. It could be a big reason why there has been a recent shake-up in bowl game sponsorships.

10 hours

The Internet went down Monday for 10 hours (some reports say nine) in North Korea, leading some to speculate that the outage was the proportionate response to the Sony hacks promised by President Barack Obama.

$16,000

WSJ reports that last week, police in Chongqing, China, raided a training session for Uber drivers. Officials say they will crack down on such car-hailing services, fining drivers as much as 100,000 yuan, or $16,000.

$5,000

If you're looking for holiday gifts for that special Scientologist in your life, Quartz has a link to a Christmas catalogue featuring L. Ron-approved holiday merchandise. Maybe you're interested in a $5,000 e-meter as a stocking stuffer?

PODCAST: It's expensive to pay for college...football

Tue, 2014-12-23 03:00

First up, we talk the biggest economic growth for the U.S. in 11 years. And college football’s new playoff system is shaking up the game off the field too. Some of the big companies sponsoring bowl games defected to another game or dropped their support altogether. We look at why there's been such a large shake up. Plus, many industries have gotten the Silicon Valley treatment (i.e. disruption), so why not Wall Street? More of our conversation with IEX CEO and President Brad Katsuyama on bringing innovation to financial services. 

It's beginning to look a lot like...a strong GDP report

Tue, 2014-12-23 03:00
5 percent

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department revised its estimate of GDP to 5 percent, up from the 3.9 percent reported last month. As reported by the New York Times, this makes for the fastest growth rate for the U.S. economy since 2003.

$30 million

Sponsoring a bowl game for college football can be expensive—Some estimate it costs companies as much as $30 million. It could be a big reason why there has been a recent shake up of sponsorship of bowl games.

10 hours

The internet went down for 10 hours (some reports say 9) in North Korea on Monday, leading some to speculate that the outage was the proportionate response to the Sony hacks promised by President Barack Obama.

$16,000

WSJ reports that last week, police in Congqing, China raided a training session for Uber drivers. Officials say they will fine drivers using car-hailing services as much as 100,000 yuan, or $16,000.

$5,000

If you're looking for holiday gifts for that special Scientologist in your life, Quartz has a link to a Christmas catalogue featuring L. Ron-approved holiday merchandise. Maybe you're interested in a $5,000 e-meter as a stocking stuffer?

Will Venezuela default? Investors think so

Tue, 2014-12-23 02:00

Venezuela’s dealing with a double whammy as far as oil prices are concerned. Oil, whose price has halved in the past year, accounts for 95 percent of the country’s exports and 45 percent of the government’s budget. Oil is the primary source for the U.S. dollars needed to sustain the country’s severe import dependence and external debt. Traders put the odds of default within the next five years at 91 percent. 

The college bowl game sponsor shuffle

Tue, 2014-12-23 02:00

College football's new playoff system is shaking up the game off the field too. Some of the big companies sponsoring bowl games defected to another game or dropped their sponsorship altogether. So what's behind the shuffle? 

Click the media player above to hear more. 

Brad Katsuyama talks disrupting Wall Street

Tue, 2014-12-23 02:00

Wall Street has many a fancy computer, with computer science whizzes to match. But some wonder why it has yet to get the full Silicon Valley treatment (i.e. "disruption"). Where is the "Amazon" of financial services?

Brad Katsuyama, President and CEO of IEX, certainly thinks it's time for a shake up. Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio spoke with Katsuyama about why he thinks innovation could help right market wrongs.

Click the media player above to hear more.

 

 

Odds 'high' that Sony will air 'The Interview' in some form

Mon, 2014-12-22 14:00

Adriene Hill sat down with Wesley Morris, a film critic for the pop culture blog Grantland, to talk about the state of the film industry this holiday season.

Morris says he has plenty of choices at the movie theater this winter, but he's not interested in any of them.

"I've been calling it 'Dumpcember' ... you've got maybe 30 movies just dropped into the end of the year to qualify for awards," Morris says.

And then there's the Sony hack problem. Theaters won't profit from "The Interview" any time soon, but will Sony?

"Odds seem very high that video on demand or some streaming platform will be the primary way to see this movie," Morris says.

Attention, discount shoppers: The psychology of sales

Mon, 2014-12-22 13:42

We are in the final throes of the holiday shopping season and by this time you have been bombarded with discount offers and sales: 20 percent off, 50 percent off, buy one get one free, no money down, etc., etc.

So how do sales work, psychologically speaking?

“Imagine that a new car is $30,000 discounted to $20,000,” says behavioral economist Dan Ariely. “So you say to yourself, ‘Oh my goodness this is really worth $30,000, [but] right now it’s $20,000.’ It gives you an extra sense of value."

And because sales are temporary they create a sense of urgency says Ariely. “It’s a short time thing and you better take advantage of this.”

But do sales actually get people to spend more? Or are they used to lure shoppers in, so that store gets its slice of a zero-sum pie?

“This is not just specifically for the holidays, but we’ve been finding over time that more than half of all shoppers are saying they want to spend no more than they had in the past,” says Amy Koo, a retail analyst with Kantar. “That puts a pretty firm ceiling on what they are willing to spend.” 

Sales are also a good way to get people in the door ... but what’s really important is that they come back again after the sale is over.

“While people may be spending the same, they are actually concentrating their spending on fewer stores, which make a big difference in terms of making sure you as a retailer try to secure the loyalty of the shopper,” Koo says.

Stores do that by offering programs that give deeper discounts to loyal customers.

There’s also the low-price guarantee. Walmart for example, has the Savings Catcher program. Shoppers scan their receipt, and if they find the same product cheaper at a competitor, Walmart issues a gift card for the difference, ensuring a return visit.

At an intersection in downtown Glendale, California, I met Lejaun Smith waiting to cross the street. He had a shopping bag in his hand, and I asked him if he’d been lured into the store by a sale, and if so, did that sale get him to spend more. “Yes, on both answers,” he said.

“Yes, spend more money and yes, get me through that door. And it works every time.”

The psychology of discounts and sales

Mon, 2014-12-22 13:42

We are in the final days of the holiday shopping season and by this time you have been bombarded with offers and specials and sales: 20 percent off, 50 percent off, buy one get one free, no money down, etc., etc.

So how do sales work, psychologically speaking?

“Imagine that a new car is $30,000 discounted to $20,000,” says behavioral economist Dan Ariely. “So you say to yourself, ‘oh my goodness this is really worth $30,000, [but] right now it’s $20,000.’ It gives you an extra sense of value."

And because sales are temporary they create a sense of urgency says Ariely. “It’s a short time thing and you better take advantage of this.”

But do sales actually get people to spend more? Or are they used to lure shoppers in, so that store gets its slice of a zero-sum pie?

“This is not just specifically for the holidays, but we’ve been finding over time that more than half of all shoppers are saying they want to spend no more than they had in the past,” says Amy Koo, a retail analyst with Kantar. “That puts a pretty firm ceiling on what they are willing to spend.” 

Sales are also a good way to get people in the door ... but what’s really important is that they come back again after the sale is over.

“While people may be spending the same, they are actually concentrating their spending on fewer stores which make a big difference in terms of making sure you as a retailer try to secure the loyalty of the shopper,” Koo says.

Stores do that by offering programs that give deeper discounts to loyal customers.

There’s also the low price guarantee. Walmart for example, has the Savings Catcher program. Shoppers scan their receipt and if they find the same product cheaper at a competitor, Walmart issues a gift card for the difference, ensuring a return visit by that customer.

At an intersection in downtown Glendale, California, I met Lejaun Smith waiting to cross the street. He had a shopping bag in his hand and I asked him if he’d been lured into the store by a sale, and if so, did that sale get him to spend more. “Yes, on both answers,” he said.

“Yes, spend more money and yes, get me through that door. And it works every time.”

Why won't OPEC cut production ?

Mon, 2014-12-22 13:00

Despite falling crude oil prices, key members of OPEC reiterated over the weekend that they intend to keep drilling and pumping.

Yesterday, the oil minister for Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest and most influential member, indicated the cartel would never cut production. Analyst Bhushan Bahree at IHS Energy points out that the cartel’s last supply cut in 2008 backfired when competitors ate into its market. OPEC does not want a rerun.

Persistent low prices could benefit the cartel long term: They could cultivate a new generation of car drivers who drive more and alleviate concerns in the oil patch that global demand for oil may soon peak. Political concerns are also in play: OPEC's supply-king, Saudi Arabia, could see low prices bankrupting its key nemesis, Iran. If Tehran runs out of money to support Syria’s regime, as well as its own nuclear ambitions, Valerie Marcel of the Chatham House think tank says that would go down as a victory in Saudi Arabia.

Why aren't more urinals installed in homes?

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:31

Nowadays, urinals – a somewhat primitive bathroom fixture – come in all different shapes and sizes. You can even get one coated in 24-karat gold leaf. And for the latest installment in our series “I’ve Always Wondered," we head to the men’s room to tackle one listener’s question.

It comes from Mike Dolan, who is in the military, but first and foremost, he’s a guy. “So my I’ve always wondered, why do you never see a urinal in a private home? I have a friend, my college buddy, who has four boys. That’s five males in a house, and they’re constantly flushing toilets and wasting all that water. And it’s like why don’t you just get a urinal?” Dolan asks.

Turns out they’re out there.

Marci Jones, manager of the showroom at GLS Plumbing Supply in Birmingham, Alabama, has sold a few on occasion. “It would be for the man-cave in the basement where the man’s going to be all the time, and this is something he’s always wanted in his home," Jones says, "and the wife says, 'OK, we’ll do it downstairs.'”

They remain uncommon fixtures in the home because “most women do not want urinals in their master bath,” Jones says.

Jones had some customers in the showroom, Terry and Eddie Higginbotham, that she used to make her point. With couples, the discussion about whether to put a urinal in the house usually goes something like this:

 “Would you like a urinal in your bathroom?” Jones asks Eddie. “Yes,” he says. “I’ve always thought about having one in my bathroom, because it does use less water. And it’s like a jet, it’s like, 'KUSHH!'" 

Jones asks, “What does the wife say?” On cue, Terry replies, “No.”

Homes with urinals are hard to find. I asked around and started getting odd tips, which brought me to the house of Al Troncalli. Grace Troncalli, Al's sister, inherited the house when Al passed away. 

“Look at this bathroom,” she says, “Is this the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen?” There is a urinal in here. And let’s just say Grace and a man she once dated appreciated it.

Even though they haven’t caught on in homes, urinals in some form have been around for centuries. The French even made them sound elegant. “The first 'pissoirs' as they were called, which were actually just barrels, were instituted under Napoleon III in the 1840s. This was part of his attempt to sort of clean up Paris,” says Andrew Howe, chairman of the history department at La Sierra University in Riverside, California.

Fast forward about 25 years to the United States, right after the Civil War. Howe says there was a huge population explosion, and workers took to the factories. Dumping urine by hand into rivers and behind bushes was impractical and gross. So in 1866 Andrew Rankin patented today’s urinal, which connected to a sewage system.

 “A lot of these factories and business owners put in bathrooms. And the urinal was much more space-saving than a sit-down toilet,” Howe says. “Much of the workforce was male, [so] urinals made a lot of sense.”

But wives were often making the decisions about the home, and why would they choose to have a urinal? Since it can’t replace a toilet, it was a luxury item ... one that many women still don’t like.

Back to our listener, Mike Dolan, and his buddy with four boys. Michele Marsden in Berryville, Virginia, is the mother of those four boys and says there’s no way she’d install a urinal in the house. “I think it’s ugly,” she says. “I think it’s absolutely ugly, yes.”

And she had a question for Mike Dolan. “I asked Mike if he’s ever cleaned toilets or if he’s ever cleaned a urinal,” she says.

The answer was no.

That brings us to the big question: Does a urinal save money? John Koeller, an engineer who studies the water efficiency of toilets and other fixtures, says a urinal won't save you much "in terms of the dollars on your water bill." While urinals use less water – as little as a pint per flush compared to a modern toilet that uses somewhere around 1.3 gallons per flush – a urinal would save you less than $40 a year.

Your best bet, according to Koeller:  “Get a dual flush toilet.”

It saves money, it saves water. And guys, it’ll save you grief from the women in your life.

Man behind 'world's largest instrument'

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:00

For the past 25 years, Peter Richard Conte has gone to work every day in the women’s casual department at the Center City Macy’s in Philadelphia. But he doesn't sell designer denim or stocking sweaters. He tickles the keys of what is billed as the largest instrument in the world: the Wanamaker organ.

Considered a national treasure, the organ is 110 years old and named for John Wanamaker, the department store magnate who bought it for his flagship Philadelphia store. He had it shipped from St. Louis in 11 freight cars. The organ now has 30,000 pipes and thousands of keys, buttons, levers and pedals. To play it well, Conte must be equal parts musician and athlete. 

“It’s a difficult instrument to play,” Conte says. “There are so many things going on. It’s multitasking at the nth degree. Literally for a five-minute piece of music I will spend up to 20 hours preparing it on an instrument.”

As the Grand Court Organist, Conte performs twice a day, Monday through Friday during most of the year. But during the holidays, the frequency increases as does the spectacle.

“At Christmas time we get thousands and thousands of people into Macy’s to hear this instrument,” Conte says. “And it actually accompanies the world famous light show. Thousands and thousands of LED lights and it ends up with this incredible finale when all the lights in the trees come on and the organ plays a really wonderful arrangement of O’ Tannenbaum. It’s a thrill because you get to have these huge audiences every couple of hours in the store. I just love what I do.” 

Organist who brings 'world's largest instrument' to life

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:00

For the past 25 years, Peter Richard Conte has gone to work every day in the women’s casual department at the Center City Macy’s in Philadelphia. But he doesn't sell designer denim or stocking sweaters. He tickles the keys of what is billed as the largest instrument in the world: the Wanamaker organ.

Considered a national treasure, the organ is 110 years old and named for John Wanamaker, the department store magnate who bought it for his flagship Philadelphia store. He had it shipped from St. Louis in 11 freight cars. The organ now has 30,000 pipes and thousands of keys, buttons, levers and pedals. To play it well, Conte must be equal parts musician and athlete. 

“It’s a difficult instrument to play,” Conte says. “There are so many things going on. It’s multitasking at the nth degree. Literally for a five-minute piece of music I will spend up to 20 hours preparing it on an instrument.”

As the Grand Court Organist, Conte performs twice a day, Monday through Friday during most of the year. But during the holidays, the frequency increases as does the spectacle.

“At Christmas time we get thousands and thousands of people into Macy’s to hear this instrument,” Conte says. “And it actually accompanies the world famous light show. Thousands and thousands of LED lights and it ends up with this incredible finale when all the lights in the trees come on and the organ plays a really wonderful arrangement of O’ Tannenbaum. It’s a thrill because you get to have these huge audiences every couple of hours in the store. I just love what I do.” 

Pope Francis is not feeling the holiday cheer

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:00

Pope Francis gave his annual Christmas address to the priests, bishops and cardinals that run the Roman Catholic Church. And it wasn't all warm and fuzzy.

The pope chastised them for workplace ills that include office gossip, jealousy and pandering to the bosses, according to the New York Times.

It's reassuring to know these things happen pretty much everywhere.

FedEx and UPS do better this year, but Amazon lurks

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:00

UPS and FedEx have spent a lot of money getting up to speed for this holiday season. And they’ve done well. But long term, they may need to do a lot better because Amazon is disrupting  the shipping business. The big carriers will have to think differently if they want to continue to compete, particularly if Amazon decides to get into the shipping game itself.

Price war brews over costly hepatitis C drug

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:00

The biotech industry has reaped huge profits in recent years by developing custom drugs that treat a wide variety of conditions, including cancer and arthritis. The massive cost of some of these drugs has caused lawmakers and insurance companies to push back. So it was big news today when pharmacy benefit-manager Express Scripts announced it was switching to a new hepatitis C drug by a different manufacturer.

At around $84,000 for a 12-week course of therapy, Express Scripts dropped the drug Sovaldi and its maker Gilead Sciences Inc., in favor of a new hepatitis C drug offered at a discount by rival company AbbVie. Even though having multiple drugs to choose from is a good thing, some clinicians say exclusive arrangements, like the one Express Scripts brokered with AbbVie, are not always best for the patient. 

"We don't want to have our hands tied, to be told that we can only offer drug A or drug B, because there may be a reason that the one that's not offered may be preferable to the patient in front of you," says Dr. Robert Fontana, a professor of hepatology at the University of Michigan.

Reasons to donate to Marketplace

Mon, 2014-12-22 10:09

Marketplace turned 25 this year. That’s 25 years of bringing you the news, the numbers and explaining how Wall Street affects your street. That’s also 25 years of providing a public radio news service, thanks in large part to support from our listeners. A program of the nonprofit American Public Media Group, Marketplace has a staff dedicated to providing compelling and relevant content, day in and day out.

Follow along below as Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson and Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary get their goofy on for a good cause: Inspiring you to make a donation. Help us reach our goal of 2,500 donors in honor of our 25th anniversary. Make a donation by Dec. 31 and your gift counts twice thanks to a dollar-for-dollar match by the Kendeda Fund.

How is anyone supposed to think around here with these thin walls?

Quiz: If computers are smart now, just wait

Mon, 2014-12-22 04:29

Stanford University launched a long-term study of artificial intelligence.

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A new drug becomes the only option for some patients

Mon, 2014-12-22 03:00

A newly-approved drug for Hepatitis C will be the only treatment covered for many patients whose employers use a company called Express Scripts for their pharmacy benefits.

Last year, Gilead Sciences Inc. introduced a highly-effective hepatitis C drug, with an $84,000 price tag. Those kinds of prices have been more common for drugs treating conditions so rare they are sometimes called “orphan diseases." Hepatitis C, on the other hand, affects more than three million people.

"These were orphan-drug prices for common diseases," says Steve Miller, chief medical officer for Express Scripts. "That’s just not sustainable."

The sticker price on the new drug, from AbbVie Inc., is just a tiny bit cheaper— $83,319— but Express Scripts has negotiated a discount.

The company says patients will benefit through expanded access to the drug, which has generally only been covered for people with advanced stages of the disease. 

On the other hand, the new arrangement limits treatment options for patients. It's too soon to tell whether that downside will be significant, says Jack Hoadley, a research professor with Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. AbbVie's drug was approved on December 19, just days before the Express Scripts deal was announced.  

"This drug is so recently approved we’re only going to be learning over time whether there are some patients this drug doesn’t work as well for," says Hoadley.

Express Scripts covers about 25 million people directly. It also administers drug benefits for another 65 million through health insurance plans.  

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