Earlier this year, the town of Murrieta California started positioning itself as a culturally diverse and economically strong oasis in the California desert. About an hour north of San Diego, the bedroom community is trying to lure companies in the tech and medical fields. But then, a wave of undocumented immigrants began crossing the border in Texas, some 800 miles away.
Soon, US Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers brought hundreds of those undocumented immigrants to the federal detention in Murrieta. And with that, anti-illegal immigration protests broke out, giving the city a huge public relations black eye.
To see how the business community is responding to all the bad press, we spoke with Kim Davidson, Murrieta’s Business Development Manager.
Click play above to hear how immigration and immigration protests affect Murrieta.
It's likely that the missile that downed the Malaysia Airlines plane yesterday was a relic of the Cold War era known as a "Buk."
Here’s what we know about the Soviet-era missile system:
What is a Buk missile?
The Buk is a surface-to-air missile that can shoot down airplanes flying up to 13 miles off the ground.
It looks like the lower half of a tank or truck, with a few anti-aircraft missiles on the top and was developed by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s.
What does "Buk" mean, anyway?
Buk means “Beech Tree” in Russian. During the Cold War, NATO’s code name for the Buk was "the Grizzly.”
How many of them exist?
There are several hundred Buk missile systems out in the world today, in the hands of about a dozen countries, says arms control expert Igor Sutyagin with the Royal United Services Institute in London. Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics are known to have them. Syria, which has bought weapons from Russia for years, has also been known to own the systems.
Who has them now?
There is no official registry of where each Buk system is, but the United Nations and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute keep lists that attempt to keep track of these and other weapons. Individual countries also try to track the weapons through their own intelligence agencies.
How could one have ended up in Ukraine?
There are a few theories on the origins of the Buk missile system that allegedly shot down the Malaysian passenger jet. The Ukrainian military inherited some Buks after the Soviet Union collapsed. It's possible that pro-Russian rebels captured one from the Ukrainian army. Or, it could have come from a Russian military commander, either through official channels or on the black market.
Why do weapons from that era end up in different places?
It’s not uncommon for old weapons from Russia and the U.S. to have second and third lives beyond their original owners. Military officials sell old equipment to other countries, often at bargain prices.
“The United States is anxious in many cases to provide allies with military capabilities that don’t bust their budget,” says Bruce Bennett, Senior Defense Analyst with the Rand Corporation. The sales are legal, and governments aren’t required to report the movements of those weapons around the globe, though the UN and SIPRI both try to keep track.
It’s even more difficult to know how many smaller, less conspicuous Soviet-era weapons are circulating around the world's conflict zones illegally.
Listen to their conversation in the audio player above.
The good people at Nielsen did some measuring of how many apps we use on a regular basis.
You'll probably need a second to think about it; there are lots of categories to consider, right? News, travel, entertainment, finance...
We all, on average, we use 26.8 apps per month on a regular basis.
There seems to be a natural cap of 30; no age group uses that many.
Some 255 million people log on to Twitter every month. That’s lot of people, but the number’s not growing fast enough to satisfy some investors. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports Twitter may unveil new metrics to convince investors that the world of people who engage with Twitter is bigger than the world that logs on.
“When you’re analyzing a social network, there are only two things that you care about,” says Shyam Patil, senior internet research analyst at Wedbush Securities. “The number of users and the level of engagement.”
Twitter describes those now with two metrics: monthly active users and timeline views. But there’s a problem, says analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.
“The problem is: Twitter - surprise, surprise - isn’t for everyone,” he says.
Growth in users and engagement has slowed year-over-year.
But these days, plenty of non-tweeters still interact with tweets. Say you’re a sports fan reading a piece online about LeBron James going back to Cleveland. Tweets from LeBron might be embedded in the article.
“So that would be me engaging with Twitter, but not really signed on,” says Shyam Patil.
Your mom might not send tweets, but she’d see and hear them if you watched "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" together.
Twitter’s new metrics would – reportedly – capture some of that wider audience. The company declined to comment, citing the quiet period that precedes earnings reports.
Analyst Brian Wieser says he thinks all this focus on Twitter user metrics is “distracting from the fact that they’ve got a great business. Metrics that would tell a much better story are things like: How many advertisers do they have? What is the average spend per advertiser?”
Things, he says, that speak more directly to Twitter’s source of business than the number of people who see tweets.
The downed Malaysia Airlines jet has passengers and airlines alike asking new questions about safety, wondering why the company stuck to a flight path directly over a volatile conflict zone. President Obama says it appears the plane was shot down by a missile from Ukrainian land controlled by pro-Russian forces.
Ukrainian authorities had closed the flight path up to 32,000 feet. But Flight MH17 was above that altitude. Even before the incident, some airlines avoided the area altogether. Malaysia Airlines, however, stayed the course, as did several other carriers. A less efficient flight path means more money spent on fuel, crews and maintenance. So it’s not a decision carriers take lightly.
“This industry has gotten so dog-eat-dog and so competitive that they’re looking at the bottom line far more than they ever have in the history of this industry,” says University of Portland finance professor Richard Gritta, who has long studied commercial aviation.
The strict cost cutting of modern airlines is striking to those who remember aviation’s glamorous golden age. Retired American Airlines pilot Jim Tilmon remembers taking a plane hundreds of miles off its planned path to avoid nasty weather and provide a more comfortable ride for passengers.
“I did burn a little bit more fuel, but it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t so much that the airline got upset,” Tilmon remembers.
With airlines facing high fuel prices and relentless shareholder pressure, pilots today don’t expect their employers to be so lenient.
Mark Garrison: Airlines use computer modeling and human judgment to choose flight plans. Basically, they look at two things, says aviation consultant George Hamlin.
George Hamlin: The first thing is safety. The considerations after that are basically you would like to do that at the lowest possible cost.
A less efficient flight path means more money spent on fuel, crews and maintenance. So it’s not a decision carriers take lightly. Ukrainian authorities had closed the flight path up to 32,000 feet. But Flight MH17 was above that. Some airlines still avoided the area altogether, paying more for extra safety. Malaysia Airlines stayed the course, as did several other carriers.
Richard Gritta: This industry has gotten so dog eat dog and so competitive that they’re looking at the bottom line far more than they ever have in the history of this industry.
University of Portland finance professor Richard Gritta says a longer flight path may only cost a few dollars more per seat. But multiply that over all the flights and it takes a real bite out of profits.
Gritta: It becomes a fairly big deal, especially if you’re flying that route several times a day.
Strict cost cutting is why you don’t often hear captains of today’s commercial jets talk like Jim Tilmon.
Jim Tilmon: I’ve flown hundreds of miles around weather to keep my passengers secure and safe and comfortable.
Tilmon was a longtime American Airlines pilot, whose career included air travel’s golden age.
Tilmon: I did burn a little bit more fuel, but it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t so much that the airline got upset because I did that.
With companies facing high fuel prices and shareholder pressure, pilots today don’t expect their employers to be so lenient. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.
In Congress, there’s been a big, heated debate about a bank most people probably haven’t heard of: The Export-Import Bank of the United States, commonly called the Ex-Im.
The bank’s charter expires in September, and many conservative Republicans would like to kill it, while others are calling for reforms.
Conservatives say the Ex-Im bank is bloated, inefficient, comes at a high cost to the taxpayer and is really just a form of corporate welfare for big companies, including Boeing.
But Democrats and some Republicans say Ex-Im helps small businesses enter foreign markets, helping boost exports.
To help explain what the Ex-Im bank does and put it in context, we took a little field trip to a fabric whole seller in New York City who once did business with the bank. We also spoke with entrepreneur and investor Jan Boyer* in Washington, D.C.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story provided the misspelled the name of Jan Boyer. The text has been corrected.
Smartphones hold so much of our lives. From our photos to our emails to our texts, there is a lot of personal info housed on our smartphones. Hayley Tsukayama, tech reporter for the Washington Post, joins Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary to tell listeners what they should be doing with their smartphone before selling it.
Selling your smartphone is a quick way to make some cash. But a study published earlier this week by the security firm Avast, in which the firm bought some used Android phones and recovered thousands of "erased" personal files, stands as a good reminder that you have to think carefully before you sell.
The Federal Communications Commission is getting inundated with comments on its proposed net neutrality rules.
The folks weighing in include regular people, business owners and musicians. The band OK Go ganged up with a bunch of other artists to write a letter objecting to parts of the proposed net neutrality rules. They don't like the idea that broadband companies could charge extra for "fast lanes" on the web, which could give some content providers an advantage. OK Go's lead singer Damian Kulash fears big-pocketed content providers would push little guys out of the way online.
"Our big breakthrough was a video we made in my backyard for $5. Suddenly, a band could get directly to their fans with a massive video that we'd made for almost no money," he says.
Kulash thinks the FCC's current proposal could crimp, not advance, that kind of open access to an online audience.
On the other side of the debate sits the telecom industry, which doesn't like the idea that it might be regulated as a utility. Telecom companies say that could kill investment and innovation.
The FCC says it's putting extra processes in place so all public input is seriously considered. The agency's commissioner and senior staff get summaries of the comments.
But law professor Christopher Yoo at the University of Pennsylvania says the FCC is too constrained by court rulings on its proposed regulations, and can't take all views into consideration at this point.
He doubts that the final version of the rules will be shaped by posts and emails from average Joes.
"They will be used by whichever side of the debate it favors as rhetorical flourish," Yoo says.
Blair Levin, a former chief of staff with the FCC, is more hopeful that every comment counts.
"This is obviously one of the issues about which the public cares most that the FCC will be dealing with," Levin says.
Levin thinks the FCC still has a lot of options on the table. The agency hopes to finalize the rules by year's end.
Editors' Note: American Public Media Group, Marketplace's parent, submitted comments to the FCC generally in favor of net neutrality.
Here’s a handful of student loan numbers for you. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, current student loan debt is nearing $1.2 trillion. An estimated 7 million borrowers are now in default; behind on $100 billion in debt.
All of which adds up to a juicy market for companies looking to cash in on people with student debt troubles.
This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against two student-loan debt-settlement companies. The suits allege that Broadsword Student Advantageand First American Tax Defense tricked borrowers into paying upfront fees for student loan help the companies didn’t provide.
According to one of the filings, First American Tax Defense promised enrollment in a fake “Obama Forgiveness Program.”
Madigan said these companies run ads that entice people excited to call, “and what they really find out is that these are scam artists [who] want their money.”
In a 2013 report, the National Consumer Law Center found that “a new ‘student loan debt relief’ industry has sprung up in response to the demand for borrower assistance and the dearth of reliable resources.”
“There’s a lot of debt, it’s very confusing,” said NCLC attorney Persis Yu. “I think some borrowers are desperate and they are turning to places that look like they might be an easy fix.”
She says many of these debt-settlement companies mischaracterize government programs as their own.
They charge borrowers as much as $1600 for services, like debt consolidation, that are available from the government for nothing.
“What’s making this possible is a lack of awareness of repayment options,” said Mark Kantrowitz, student financial aid expert from Edvisors.com.
He says the government should run an ad campaign of its own, so students with debt know what help is available for free.
If you are struggling to pay back your federal student loans, here are your options:
- Direct consolidation: If you have multiple federal student loans you can consolidate them into one payment and extend the life of the loan to 30 years to lower monthly payments.
- Extended repayment: Borrowers with more than $30,000 in debt can extend the repayment period from the standard 10 years up to 25.
- Graduated repayment: Borrowers who choose extended repayment can also set up monthly payments that start low and grow every two years.
- Income-based repayment: Your monthly payment is pegged to your income and can be adjusted annually to account for income fluctuations. The term of the loan can also be modified to go beyond 10 years.
- Income contingent repayment: Your payment based on your monthly income and any outstanding debt is cancelled after 25 years.
- Pay-as-you-earn: For borrowers who took out loans after 2007 and have a family or financial hardship. This income-based plan offers the lowest monthly payment options of any income-based plan.
How to spot a scam:
- High-pressure sales tactics, like suggesting your interest rates are about to skyrocket, without debt consolidation.
- Charging fees before debts are settled
- Touting a "new government program" or suggesting they have special access to government programs
- Claiming to represent the Department of Education or other government agency
- Offers of discounted pay-back rates, gifts or special incentives
- The hard sell, plain and simple
The federal government and other organizations offer free, legitimate relief for those who have fallen behind on their student loans:
The biggest thing I own is my mattress. Some people have trucks or boats or houses or heirloom chests of drawers or ambitiously large desks or impressive, ill-conceived contemporary art pieces, but the most impressive thing I own just this big, squishy rectangle.
It might not seem like much, but getting this mattress was a major life step for me. When I first moved to Portland, Oregon six years ago, I was determined to furnish my room through only things I could get for free. This sounds like a bohemian ideal, but factoring into my ethics was the fact I was dang near broke. It was 2008 and I had just graduated from college. I was working an unpaid internship as a reporter at a newspaper and the headlines were full of lines about bankers fleeing their offices as the economy went into freefall. Personally, the anxiety about not really having a paying job was compounded by the slightly more pressing concern of not really having a bed. So when a roommate offered me his old futon frame and pad from the basement, claiming it was like “sleeping on a cloud,” I gladly took him up on the offer. That futon turned out to be a cloud made of stabby wooden railroad slats. But it was my accursed futon now, and I was grateful.
I used to talk about this lack of major possessions as a romantic thing: I wouldn’t want to own anything that I couldn’t throw in the back of a van at any moment, because—who knows?—maybe in a month I’d decide to travel through Latin America and change the world. Honestly, though, the truth is that even when I got a job, soon after Obama was inaugurated, I was scared to buy anything remotely nice—like a car or a sofa that didn’t smell like cats. I know I’m supposed to view large, expensive items as investments. I feel like I’m supposed to go into debt for things because they’ll wind up helping me in the long run. But I came of age in a time when the absurdity of the whole credit system became tragically clear—the people running the economy reminded me of Gene Wilder’s version of Willy Wonka, mysterious men running around, gleefully pulling levels that unleashed sweet rewards on some and chaos on others.
When I was a kid, I remember debt looming over my parents like a silent, gloomy cloud. The day they finally paid off their credit cards, they cut them up in front of me and we ordered pizza to celebrate—they paid with cash. Years later, I spent a week helping teach down sodden houses in Mobile, Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina tore through and flooded whole neighborhoods. I spent days shoveling peoples’ possessions into giant piles in the gutter—sofas, entire moldy bookshelves, water-logged TVs. Then when I moved to Portland, I often reported from the county courthouse, where every morning there was an auction of foreclosed homes on the front steps of the building.
All signs seemed to point to the conclusion that big possessions—requiring a mortgage and a car payment and a cable bill—would become an anchor, dragging me underwater. I realized, slowly, that I’m not a bohemian free spirit…
I’m a frugal cynic.
Back on that horrible slab of a futon, I toughed out the nights for two years, until my very sweet new boyfriend finally cracked. He told me in no uncertain terms that I either needed an actual mattress or he was never sleeping at my house again.
“But!” I protested, “I can’t just buy a mattress.” Since I’d been getting regular paychecks, I had enough money to buy something better than the filthy heap that haunted my floor. But I was nervous to committing to owning a real, adult thing that I might someday see ruined.
But he had a point. So I dutifully took the bus to IKEA and walked up the trail to the bedroom section to the gauntlet of modernist bed frames, eyeballing pricetags. Around me, cheerful couples were buying mattresses, joyfully betting on a stable future full of new furniture and reliable middle-class jobs. That’s the IKEA spirit. I felt so out of place that I turned heel and left in defeat.
After another night, gathering my resolve while lying on the wooden planks, I gave it another shot, heading to a family-run mattress store near my house. It was empty when I walked in. Without the oppressively upbeat surroundings, I actually liked looking at the beds. I flopped on one after another. They were so comfy. It dawned on me that a bed was not a dangerous luxury item that would trap me. This was a bed. Come bull market or bailout, you need a bed. It’s okay to buy simple things that I’ll appreciate for years and years, even if I don’t know what those years will look like.
I paid $300 for a springy queen size mattress. And I felt good.
I’ve had that mattress for four years now. At the end of each chaotic day, it’s nice to come home to stable and cozy place.
And besides, worst case scenario, it can always double as a life raft.
Marvel announced earlier this week some changes to two of their most prominent characters. A woman will pick up Thor’s hammer and Sam Wilson — a black hero currently known as Falcon — will pick up Captain America's shield.
The current Thor will soon become unworthy of Mjolnir. Only a select few can wield the legendary hammer, and whoever picks it up becomes the new Thor. That change and the new Cap both came naturally from their series' respective writers, says Wil Moss, an editor at Marvel. Moss works with Thor writer Jason Aaron.
"It just kind of sprung from where he was taking the character," Moss said. "Thor has a tradition of other people holding the hammer and being Thor for a while."
Marvel has taken other steps to make its pages more diverse in recent years. When Spider-Man died in the company's separate"Ultimate" line, he was replaced with a black Hispanic teenager. The publisher also introduced an all-female "X-Men" comic last year and relaunched the series "Ms. Marvel" in February with a Muslim, Pakistani-American heroine. These shifts have drawn acclaim, but changes to Thor and Captain America might be the most sweeping and visible yet.
Moss says besides the creative reasons for shaking up these characters, these changes make sense as a way to build a new audience for Marvel.
"It’s just a way to broaden our audience, to make characters that more people would be interested, to reach different groups of people."
This new Thor might look different, but Moss says she'll quickly jump into the same adventures as her predecessor.
"Right off the bat she's going to be fighting Frost Giants," Moss says. "She's getting right into the thick of things."
The Justice Department is accusing FedEx of shipping packages from illegal online pharmacies in spite of repeated warnings from U.S. drug enforcement officials.
A Justice Department indictment says FedEx knew it was delivering drugs to dealers and addicts, and continued the deliveries in spite of warnings from the government.
In a statement, FedEx says it can't police the more than 10 million packages it delivers per day. So, what are FedEx's responsiblities here?
“What you ideally would go for in this case is whoever is buying or selling these illegal drugs, not who’s carrying them,” says David Ross, a global logistics analyst at Stifel Nicolaus who follows FedEx.
Ross says FedEx would lose money if it spent time going through its packages.
Kent Smith of Ursa Major Associates agrees that FedEx can’t police shipments. Still, he says, FedEx should have a reasonable idea of what it’s transporting.
“If they’re aware that these companies were in trouble with the law, I think they had an obligation to do something about it,” he says.
The indictment says that instead, after some online drug sites were shut down by the government, FedEx started requiring online pharmacy shippers to be approved by its credit department, but continued delivering packages for them.
In light of the airline tragedy in Ukraine, a look why there isn't a simple list of no-fly zones over world hot spots. Plus, what cap and trade has to do with acid rain. And finally, most people tend to ignore pop up ads, but a new study looks at what kind of ads perform better than others.
I used to live with two packed suitcases: One at home, one at the office. Whatever I needed for a week on the road if a big story broke. When I left for the BP oil spill, I didn’t come home for four months.
Breaking news can exhibit a mysterious pull over those of us who do this for a living: the need to see things up close, ask questions, witness scraps of history.
In that life before Marketplace, one of the things I covered was aviation. And so I am sadly riveted to the story of Malaysia Airlines flight 17. Exchanging emails with old sources, looking at debris, and imagining the cruel depths 298 families now find themselves in.
Layered on top of the Israeli military invasion of Gaza, so much tragedy and death can be overwhelming. As a prolific social media consumer, I have to say that this post from the satirical @thetweetofgod felt achingly poignant:
I have lost control of the situation.— God (@TheTweetOfGod) July 17, 2014
Sometimes, at moments like these, we turn away for our own self-preservation.
I’d like to advocate against that.
We live in a remarkable time for storytelling. News outlets are experimenting with all sorts of ways to do journalism. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so many other services let us experience what other people see, think and hear. There is vitriol out there, sure. But there are opportunities for human connection and empathy.
So here are my rules of thumb for a moment like this:
1) Trust the pros. Breaking stories move fast, and even the best news coverage is never perfect. But professional journalists will do their best to verify, distill, and double check.
2) Never forget the watching witness. Abraham Zapruder captured perhaps the very first iconic piece of “crowd-sourced” video. A bystander or someone with a cell phone may witness history (I trust services like storyful.com to verify social content).
3) Remember to be human. Take a moment to learn about those passengers. Each one was loved by someone – probably many someones. Every person on board changed lives, and indeed, at least one altered history.
Each year, nearly half a million teachers switch schools or leave the profession altogether. Eric Soule, who landed his first full-time job at a charter school in Riverside, California, in 2013, spent years as a substitute teacher in public schools.
"It really seemed like the school districts were stringing me along," Soule said. "[They said] 'Oh, at the end of the year we can hire you on.' And that happened year after year."
Ellen Moir, CEO of the New Teacher Center, says young teachers, in particular, frequently leave fast.
"Mostly they're getting placed in urban districts or rural America, in some of the toughest schools and some of the most under-served communities," Moir said. "And they are given a sink or swim method."
Many of them swim in the same direction.
"Typically the path is toward higher-wealth, whiter districts, where students can predicatably perform better," said Susan Moore Johnson a Research Professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.
Moore says her research shows that a school's culture plays a huge role. It also indicates that teachers will stay in schools where they have good leadership and feel supported.
Most of the mobile display ads that pop-up on our phones don’t mean a thing -- We ignore them and keep on tapping and swiping. But a study out of Columbia Business School sheds light on what consumers pay attention to in this booming mobile advertising industry.
Miklos Sarvary, the report's co-author, directs the Media Program at Columbia Business School. He says if advertisers want mobile users to think twice about their ads, they should offer up useful items.
“These would be products like cars, or refrigerators, or lawn mowers, so pretty high ticket items, generally,” says Sarvary.
He says important purchases get more attention than pop ups for pleasure items like movie tickets and jewelry.
“What happens is that when a little ad like that pops up, it kind of makes you think about the decision again,” he says. “So, it reminds you of the information you already store in your mind.”
Jim Davidson is Director of Research at Bronto Software, which connects retailers with customers on mobile devices.
“Mobile really encompasses a lot of different technologies in a lot of ways that folks shop, and it’s really up to marketers to find the best way to have that conversation,” Davidson says.
Sarvary’s report shows nearly $17 billion was spent on mobile advertising last year, a figure that is expected to quadruple by 2017.
Our series "We Used to Be China," continues with stories about our country confronting the environmental challenges that now bedevil China. Problems like… acid rain. It was the environmental crisis of the '80s, but a new Clean Air Act in 1990 greatly reduced the pollutants causing acid rain. It did so with something we now call Cap and Trade…setting a maximum level of pollutants and then letting industry decide how to get there.
Listen above for more.