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Will Jupiter align with Mars?

Mon, 2014-04-28 11:09

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Tuesday, April 29th:

In Washington, the Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting on interest rates. It's one of eight scheduled over the course of the year.

The Conference Board releases its April Consumer Confidence Index.

46 years ago, in the Age of Aquarius, "Hair" opened on Broadway. Let the sunshine in.

Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst was born on April 29, 1863. He built a media empire and a giant castle which you can tour in San Simeon, California.

And what's the deal with birthdays? Comedian Jerry Seinfeld turns 60.

CarMax, Virgin America, others abandon Clippers' ship

Mon, 2014-04-28 11:00

The NBA is still investigating the legitimacy of a recording that appears to show Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks, but action from the corporate world was swift and decisive. Several major sponsors of the Clippers either "paused" or pulled their support from the team.

The used-car retailer CarMax and Virgin America both announced they will cut ties to the Clippers immediately, while insurance company State Farm and the auto maker Kia Motors have suspended their sponsorships. It is difficult to be exact with the numbers on how much each company pays in sponsorship, but it will certainly be a blow to a team that was otherwise having a strong year. 

Listed No. 13 on Forbes' list of NBA team valuations, the Clippers are currently valued at $575 million, though many estimate the team could sell for more than that. It is also worth noting that Sterling bought the team in 1981, when they were based in San Diego, for $12 million.

This is not the first time the Clippers' owner has faced accusations of this nature -- in 2009, Sterling paid a settlement of $2.725 million in a federal housing discrimination case in which he was accused of excluding black and hispanic tenants from renting properties that he owned in Los Angeles.

 

A post mortem for the 'worst video game ever'

Mon, 2014-04-28 10:54
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 18:00 moparx / Creative Commons

The Atari 2600.

On Saturday, near the New Mexico town of Alamagordo, a group of video game enthusiasts, excavation specialists, and filmmakers started digging a hole in a desert landfill. Why? You may remember some months ago we talked about the legend that in the early 1980s, video game maker Atari secretly dumped tons of video games into a hole in the middle of the desert.

The reasons for this particular move remain a bit of a mystery, but certainly the game maker was in financial trouble. That's in part because of one particular game -- it was based on the movie E.T., and it did poorly. So poorly, in fact, that it's still described as the worst video game in history.

The man who designed Atari's E.T. game is Howard Scott Warshaw. He was there when the video game treasure trove was uncovered. Listen above for the post mortem. 

Marketplace Tech for Monday, April 28, 2014by Ben JohnsonPodcast Title A post mortem for the 'worst video game ever'Story Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

What if you found out your boss made racist remarks?

Mon, 2014-04-28 10:46

On Tuesday night, twelve guys are scheduled to show up at work – a short shift where they'll collectively earn millions of dollars for themselves and their franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers.

But the job could prove tougher than usual in the aftermath of racist remarks allegedly made by team owner Donald Sterling released over the weekend.

The NBA is still investigating the legitimacy of a recording that appears to show Sterling making racist remarks about African-Americans, but the controversy made us wonder: What's it like to work for a boss who you believe harbors prejudice against you and others?

We asked people on Facebook and Twitter to share their experiences:

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One tip for employers – if there is a prejudiced person calling the shots, experts say it's best to give them the boot. "Workplace Discrimination Has Real Economic Consequences" begins one section of a 2013 study by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. Some of those consequences include lower profits for companies, a high turnover rate and decreased employee productivity at work.

The NBA has not yet decided what, if any, action it will take against Sterling. However, workplace consultant Virginia Clarke has advised employers on how to handle prejudice when it surfaces in the workplace.

"I advise companies to not tolerate bias or discrimination at any level," she says. "Boards of directors must hold senior leaders accountable for such transgressions. Senior leaders need to start making leaders and owners accountable for their behavior and the development of their subordinates."

Clarke, a partner with executive leadership recruiter Amrop Knightsbridge, continues, "Leading in a multicultural world is a leadership competency that needs to be learned in some cases. In order to be a real competency the learning must transcend tolerance; it must require a demonstration of true understanding and empathy."

Have you ever had to work for someone you believed harbored prejudice against you or others? How did that experience affect your ability to do your job? Leave a comment below, on Facebook or tweet us @MarketplaceAPM.

What can the NBA do about unwanted owners?

Mon, 2014-04-28 09:26
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 09:52 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers watches a game seated next to his girlfriend V. Stiviano.

The National Basketball Association says it's first order of business is to verify whether or not it's the voice of the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, making disparaging remarks about African American people. The tape is allegedly a conversation between Sterling and his mixed-race girlfriend V. Stiviano. The man on the tape urges Stiviano not to bring her black friends to LA Clippers games. Taking photos with black people is like, quote, "talking to the enemy." Magic Johnson and Charles Barclay are among former NBA players who say if the tape is really the Clipper's owner then Sterling can't keep owning the team. For some perspective, we turn to Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

And, a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Care Center finds that breast-cancer survivors have a high rate of long-term unemployment. And the specific kind of treatment they get, may lower their chances of keeping their job or finding a new job years later.

Meanwhile, with a hint of the week ahead when it comes to not just those markets but to the economy and jobs, we check in with Carl Riccadona, senior US economist, Deutsche Bank Securities in New York.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday April 28, 2014by David BrancaccioPodcast Title PODCAST: NBA deals with SterlingSyndication All in onePMPApp Respond No

How Russian sanctions could pinch Western companies

Mon, 2014-04-28 09:24
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 16:23 Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

The logo of state-owned oil company Rosneft is seen on the roof of gas-filling station near Stalin's time skyscraper in Moscow, 12 July 2006.

 

President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia today. The sanctions target 17 Russian companies and seven individuals. Among those individuals is Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft.

How will that affect Big Oil? Well, for starters, BP’s stock fell after the sanctions were announced. BP owns almost 20 percent of Rosneft. 

At its annual meeting earlier this month, BP said it’s committed to its investment in Rosneft, and will comply with any relevant sanctions. And if those sanctions really start to bite, will Moscow take a whack at BP or Exxon? Some oil analysts say no.

“Western oil companies and Russia are in bed together... they are strange bedfellows, but they are dependent on one another,” says Stephen Schork, of the Schork report.

So far, drilling is continuing as usual in Russia. But senior Obama administration officials say the sanctions could be ratcheted up.

 

 

Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014by Nancy Marshall-GenzerPodcast Title How Russian sanctions could pinch Western companiesStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Drowning in debt? Consider a restructuring

Mon, 2014-04-28 09:22

The word restructuring sounds intimidating. In construction terms, it usually means something expensive, like tearing down, or renovating. But restructuring your debt doesn't have to be expensive or overly difficulty.

In fact, whether you're an individual or a corporation, it's supposed to save you money.

One of the reasons restructuring sounds so scary is because it's often associated with bankruptcy. But you don't have to go into bankruptcy to restructure your debt. Lately companies with money problems have increasingly managed to avoid bankruptcy -- and that's creating big issues for attorneys.

This week, a Los Angeles bankruptcy law firm, Stutman Treister & Glatt, announced it's closing its doors. Why? Because companies re opting to restructure their debt by refinancing with cheap money, rather than seeking protection from their creditors under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

In other words, "restructuring" is often as simple as replacing one kind of debt with another. A refinancing is often itself a kind of restructuring, because it replaces the same amount of money owed, but at different terms: so while the principal remains the same, the interest rate may be lower, and the borrower may have to pay the loan back more quickly.

And anyone can get a restructuring: it's just a matter of asking your lender before your situation becomes critical. If you think you might have a problem keeping up your payments in the future, talk to your lender about it, and try to arrange a transition. Because if the situation becomes critical, you may find yourself in default, unable to pay and heading towards bankruptcy. And bankruptcy's bad for everyone.

Except the attorneys.

High-school graduation rate hits 80 percent for first time

Mon, 2014-04-28 09:21
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 16:10 Joe Raedle/Getty Images

High school graduation rates have reached a new high following a decade-long campaign to raise graduation rates. A graduate wears his mortarboard with Free at Last written during the commencement ceremony for Cypress Bay High School graduates at Marlins Park on June 4, 2012 in Miami, Florida. 

For the first time, high school graduation rates in the U.S. are above 80 percent. That’s according to a report called “Building a GradNation.” The study was released today by a coalition of education groups, including Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates CenterAmerica’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

The news represents a significant improvement since 2001, when 71 percent of American teenagers graduated from high school. Researchers say several things have changed since then. One, there is better data, so the public is more aware of the problem. Two, the accountability movement in education: think "No Child Left Behind."

Robert Balfanz,  co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center and a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, says when researchers started digging into the numbers, it showed that just 12 percent of the nation’s high schools were producing nearly half of the dropouts. Those high schools are known in education circles as “dropout factories.”  

John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises and one of the principal authors of the report, says some of those “dropout factories” have closed. “But many of them were re-tooled or re-designed,” Bridgeland says. “Smaller learning environments have been created. More personalized, engaging, rigorous classrooms that keep these young people in school and on track to graduate.”

Some states have raised graduation rates dramatically. North Carolina went from a 68 percent graduation rate in 2005 to over 82 percent today.

Jim Key, area superintendent for high schools in Durham, North Carolina, says his district now starts tracking students who are potential dropouts while they are still in middle school. Then the district sends them to ninth grade a few weeks early.

“That gives them a chance to become more acclimated to high school, to build some positive relationship with a few teachers, administrators and counselors,” Key says. It just gives those students a leg up, if you will, on being prepared for high school, to understand the expectations and what’s at stake.”

 What’s at stake is earning power, among other things. John Bridgeland says a high school graduate “will make $1 million more over his or her life time, than a high school dropout.”

 College graduates, of course, do even better. The latest statistics, however, show that fewer high school graduates are applying to college. Just under two-thirds of the class of 2013 attended college in the fall.

By Shea Huffman/Marketplace

Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014by Sarah GardnerPodcast Title High-school graduation rate hits 80 percent for first timeStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

What can the NBA do about unwanted owners?

Mon, 2014-04-28 06:52

The National Basketball Association says it's first order of business is to verify whether or not it's the voice of the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, making disparaging remarks about African American people. The tape is allegedly a conversation between Sterling and his mixed-race girlfriend V. Stiviano. The man on the tape urges Stiviano not to bring her black friends to LA Clippers games. Taking photos with black people is like, quote, "talking to the enemy." Magic Johnson and Charles Barclay are among former NBA players who say if the tape is really the Clipper's owner then Sterling can't keep owning the team. For some perspective, we turn to Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

And, a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Care Center finds that breast-cancer survivors have a high rate of long-term unemployment. And the specific kind of treatment they get, may lower their chances of keeping their job or finding a new job years later.

Meanwhile, with a hint of the week ahead when it comes to not just those markets but to the economy and jobs, we check in with Carl Riccadona, senior US economist, Deutsche Bank Securities in New York.

Want to buy a Tesla in China? Take a number.

Mon, 2014-04-28 06:27
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 07:26 FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

A worker walks past a covered car at the booth of electric carmaker Tesla on March 3, 2014 on the eve of the press day of the Geneva Motor Show in Geneva. 

What is it about some products -- Furbies, iPhones, Nintendos -- that get us to wait in line to buy them? In China, the carmaker Tesla is inspiring a queue of its own, a months-long virtual waiting list to buy the Tesla S.

Cao Wenbo, a 36-year-old film producer in Shanghai, joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about what got him to sign up for the all-electric sportscar. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday April 28, 2014Interview by David BrancaccioPodcast Title Want to buy a Tesla in China? Take a number.Story Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Breast-cancer survivors and long-term unemployment

Mon, 2014-04-28 06:03
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 08:57 Larry French/Getty Images

A recent study found that breast cancer survivors have a high rate of long-term unemployment. The image illustrates cancer survivors that were welcomed before a game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium in 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.

A new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Care Center finds that breast cancer survivors have a high rate of long-term unemployment. The specific kind of treatment they get may lower their chances of keeping their job or finding a new job years later.

University of Michigan oncology professor Reshma Jagsi is lead author on the study, published in the journal “Cancer.” She says her team surveyed breast cancer survivors in Detroit and Los Angeles from 2005 to 2007, and narrowed their results to follow the women who were working at the time they were diagnosed.

Approximately 30 percent were unemployed four years later.

“I don’t think too many of us are surprised to hear patients are likely to miss work or even stop working altogether while getting chemotherapy treatment,” says Jagsi. What did surprise her? That women who received chemotherapy at the beginning of treatment had an even higher rate of unemployment four years on. Other studies have found lower levels of long-term unemployment among women who want to keep working after being treated for breast cancer.

Ragsi says knowing the possible long-term implications—on employment and personal finances—might help women and their doctors make decisions about whether to utilize chemotherapy early on in treatment.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) passed in 1993 protects women who need time off for medical treatment, says Cathy Ruckelshaus at the National Employment Law Project. However: “It basically covers mostly full-time workers,” says Ruckelshaus. “She has to have been there for a year, and she’s entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.” Ruckelshaus says the leave is unpaid, and can be taken intermittently over an extended period (i.e., not in a consecutive twelve-week period) to deal with chemotherapy treatment, side effects or long-term consequences such as fatigue.

If a woman still can’t keep up with a full-time schedule, or needs additional time off for follow-up treatment after her twelve weeks of FMLA are up, she can attempt to qualify for disability. If she can still work, then the Americans with Disability Act might require the employer to accommodate her with a flexible or part-time schedule, or provide the possibility of telecommuting, says Ruckelshaus.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday April 28, 2014by Mitchell HartmanPodcast Title Breast-cancer survivors face high rates of long-term unemploymentStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Breast-cancer survivors and long-term unemployment

Mon, 2014-04-28 05:57

A new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Care Center finds that breast cancer survivors have a high rate of long-term unemployment. The specific kind of treatment they get may lower their chances of keeping their job or finding a new job years later.

University of Michigan oncology professor Reshma Jagsi is lead author on the study, published in the journal “Cancer.” She says her team surveyed breast cancer survivors in Detroit and Los Angeles from 2005 to 2007, and narrowed their results to follow the women who were working at the time they were diagnosed.

Approximately 30 percent were unemployed four years later.

“I don’t think too many of us are surprised to hear patients are likely to miss work or even stop working altogether while getting chemotherapy treatment,” says Jagsi. What did surprise her? That women who received chemotherapy at the beginning of treatment had an even higher rate of unemployment four years on. Other studies have found lower levels of long-term unemployment among women who want to keep working after being treated for breast cancer.

Ragsi says knowing the possible long-term implications—on employment and personal finances—might help women and their doctors make decisions about whether to utilize chemotherapy early on in treatment.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) passed in 1993 protects women who need time off for medical treatment, says Cathy Ruckelshaus at the National Employment Law Project. However: “It basically covers mostly full-time workers,” says Ruckelshaus. “She has to have been there for a year, and she’s entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.” Ruckelshaus says the leave is unpaid, and can be taken intermittently over an extended period (i.e., not in a consecutive twelve-week period) to deal with chemotherapy treatment, side effects or long-term consequences such as fatigue.

If a woman still can’t keep up with a full-time schedule, or needs additional time off for follow-up treatment after her twelve weeks of FMLA are up, she can attempt to qualify for disability. If she can still work, then the Americans with Disability Act might require the employer to accommodate her with a flexible or part-time schedule, or provide the possibility of telecommuting, says Ruckelshaus.

Want to buy a Tesla in China? Take a number.

Mon, 2014-04-28 04:26

What is it about some products -- Furbies, iPhones, Nintendos -- that get us to wait in line to buy them? In China, the carmaker Tesla is inspiring a queue of its own, a months-long virtual waiting list to buy the Tesla S.

Cao Wenbo, a 36-year-old film producer in Shanghai, joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about what got him to sign up for the all-electric sportscar. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

The difference between coders, programmers and engineers

Mon, 2014-04-28 02:31

There's a line in the new HBO show "Silicon Valley" that's making people ask a really basic question: What's the difference between a coder, a programmer and an engineer?

In the show, our hero is Richard Hendricks, a college dropout who works at the software company "Hooli" (which may or may not parody Google) and who has written a valuable algorithm on the side.

In an early scene, Richard is approached by two male co-workers. And under his breath, Richard seems to say "programmers, oh no, no."

The scene puzzled a lot of viewers, including Sid Gidwany, head of engineering at August, a startup in San Francisco.

"I thought that scene was kind of weird because he, himself, is a programmer," Gidwany says.

Hendricks, after all has written his own algorithm, so isn't he a programmer, too? Or maybe he's a coder, or maybe an engineer. Or maybe, because he wrote the program on his off hours, does that make him a hacker?

If you're confused, you're not alone.

Most Americans don't work at software companies, which means most of us have no idea about the distinction between these terms. If there even is one.

"There's not too much of a distinction," says Gidwany. "He can call himself a coder or engineer or whatever."

It turns out that you can indeed self identify as pretty much anything you like if you work in the software business these days.

Coder? You're a shut-in who spends most of his (yes, statistically, you're probably a dude) hunched over a laptop and rarely see the light of day.

Hacker? You're a bit dangerous (or at least you imagine you are).

Programmer? You're proud to be a nerd.

Engineer? You're filling in your Match.com profile.

In other words, you can call yourself whatever you think is cool. But it wasn't always that way. In fact, the distinction is a bit of a throwback, which is why it would make sense if the creator of the TV show Silicon Valley referred to it.

"Mike Judge was a Silicon Valley guy maybe 20 years ago," says Nick Heyman. He calls himself an engineer. I met him and Goodwani at the Founder's Den, a co-working space in San Francisco.

"There was was a big distinction back then," Heyman says. "Now much less."

Godwani agrees. "Especially, late 70s, early 80s," he says. "Companies back then made a distinction between engineers and programmers."

He says, back then computer science degrees weren't offered by a lot of colleges so if you wanted to learn about computers, you would get a more traditional engineering degree.

"Programmers were generally self-taught," Gidwani says. "So a lot of times, there was a distinction of 'I am more formally trained, I am more highly educated.'"

While some big tech companies still reserve the title of "engineer" for people with degrees, college dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, helped disrupt that hierarchy.

And in recent years, new software tools have blurred the distinction even more by enabling people without formal training to build amazing tech products. So now anyone can call themselves a coder, programmer, hacker and even an engineer.

Oh and by the way, that scene in the show where Richard Hendricks recoils at the sight of his colleagues? A number of people told me what actually says is, "Bro-grammers, oh no, no!"

Yeah, who wouldn't be freaked out!

When ads start jumping to the second screen

Mon, 2014-04-28 02:21

It’s enough to give advertisers nightmares: more and more people picking up their phones and tablets during commercial breaks and tuning out the ads. (That’s if they’re still watching broadcast TV at all).

"As an advertiser, you're never really sure if the audience that the networks say they're delivering to you actually watch your ads," says analyst Paul Sweeney with Bloomberg Industries.

Now the company Xaxis has developed a product called Sync to reclaim those “lost” TV viewers. It sends complementary ads to the ones you’re ignoring on TV right to websites you’re likely to visit online.

"Oh, you're hearing a commercial for a food company and then, oh, I'm looking at my Facebook and there's a sponsored post there," says Xaxis' Larry Allen.

The big idea: There’s no escape during commercial break.

New York's median rent is $1,100. Seems low...

Mon, 2014-04-28 02:18

Rents in New York City are up 75 percent since the year 2000, according to a new report from the New York City Comptroller's office.

"The data from the report is chilling," says Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Since 2000, median incomes are down, but rents are up far more than elsewhere in the U.S. And, there are fewer apartments available to the middle class.

"We've actually lost 400,000 apartments renting for less than a $1000," Stringer says.

But the median rent -- the point at which half of rents are below and half above -- might not be what you think. In New York, it's now $1,100 a month, according to the report.

Anyone who notices New York real estate knows that rent averages are often reported to be much higher. Reis, one company that compiles such data, says it's now around $3,200 a month.

But that number only looks at apartments on the open market. In New York, more than 60 percent of rentals are public housing, or subsidized or rent regulated.

Ryan Severino, a senior economist at Reis, says that can limit supply and, "It can make apartments more expensive for anyone who has to compete in the more competitive market."

And, yet, people keep moving here, far faster than new units are built.

The difference between coders, programmers and engineers

Sun, 2014-04-27 15:32
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 05:31

HBO's "Silicon Valley" airs Sundays at 10 PM 

There's a line in the new HBO show "Silicon Valley" that's making people ask a really basic question: What's the difference between a coder, a programmer and an engineer?

In the show, our hero is Richard Hendricks, a college dropout who works at the software company "Hooli" (which may or may not parody Google) and who has written a valuable algorithm on the side.

In an early scene, Richard is approached by two male co-workers. And under his breath, Richard seems to say "programmers, oh no, no."

The scene puzzled a lot of viewers, including Sid Gidwany, head of engineering at August, a startup in San Francisco.

"I thought that scene was kind of weird because he, himself, is a programmer," Gidwany says.

Hendricks, after all has written his own algorithm, so isn't he a programmer, too? Or maybe he's a coder, or maybe an engineer. Or maybe, because he wrote the program on his off hours, does that make him a hacker?

If you're confused, you're not alone.

Most Americans don't work at software companies, which means most of us have no idea about the distinction between these terms. If there even is one.

"There's not too much of a distinction," says Gidwany. "He can call himself a coder or engineer or whatever."

It turns out that you can indeed self identify as pretty much anything you like if you work in the software business these days.

Coder? You're a shut-in who spends most of his (yes, statistically, you're probably a dude) hunched over a laptop and rarely see the light of day.

Hacker? You're a bit dangerous (or at least you imagine you are).

Programmer? You're proud to be a nerd.

Engineer? You're filling in your Match.com profile.

In other words, you can call yourself whatever you think is cool. But it wasn't always that way. In fact, the distinction is a bit of a throwback, which is why it would make sense if the creator of the TV show Silicon Valley referred to it.

"Mike Judge was a Silicon Valley guy maybe 20 years ago," says Nick Heyman. He calls himself an engineer. I met him and Goodwani at the Founder's Den, a co-working space in San Francisco.

"There was was a big distinction back then," Heyman says. "Now much less."

Godwani agrees. "Especially, late 70s, early 80s," he says. "Companies back then made a distinction between engineers and programmers."

He says, back then computer science degrees weren't offered by a lot of colleges so if you wanted to learn about computers, you would get a more traditional engineering degree.

"Programmers were generally self-taught," Gidwani says. "So a lot of times, there was a distinction of 'I am more formally trained, I am more highly educated.'"

While some big tech companies still reserve the title of "engineer" for people with degrees, college dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, helped disrupt that hierarchy.

And in recent years, new software tools have blurred the distinction even more by enabling people without formal training to build amazing tech products. So now anyone can call themselves a coder, programmer, hacker and even an engineer.

Oh and by the way, that scene in the show where Richard Hendricks recoils at the sight of his colleagues? A number of people told me what actually says is, "Bro-grammers, oh no, no!"

Yeah, who wouldn't be freaked out!

Marketplace Tech for Monday, April 28, 2014Marketplace Morning Report for Monday April 28, 2014by Queena KimPodcast Title The difference between coders, programmers and engineersStory Type FeatureSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Coal ash = environmental win (when you recycle it)

Fri, 2014-04-25 14:12
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 16:21 Dan Weissmann

Steve Fleming, technical director for the Chicago-area concrete manufacturer Prairie Materials, stands in front of the concrete-mixing plant at the firm's home office. Prairie Materials uses about 100,000 tons of coal fly ash in its concrete every year.

Coal ash jumped into the headlines this year when a pond maintained by Duke Energy spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina. It fouled the water supply, and brought national scrutiny to what sounded like a huge, and largely unregulated source of toxic waste.

The same week, to much less fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it endorsed the practice of using coal ash to make concrete. As it turns out, environmentalists largely agree. 

Engineers tend to be advocates. Steve Fleming is technical director for Chicago-based Prairie Materials, a large concrete supplier. And he is a fan of coal ash.

"We add it to our concrete to help with its performance," he says. "Both in its plastic state"— that is, when it’s wet, since coal ash makes concrete easier to work with — "and most important from my point of view, it helps the long-term performance of the concrete as well. It actually increases the strength, and makes the concrete last longer."

As an engineer, Fleming has long appreciated coal ash’s benefits. It took customers longer.

"When I first started, 18-19 years ago, I had a lot of customers who thought that fly-ash was not good," he says. "They said, 'It’s a waste product, and why are you putting it in my concrete?' Now, we have contractors who are requesting fly ash. If we ship them a straight cement mix, they’ll complain."

There are environmental advantages, too. Coal ash has toxins in it: arsenic, lead, mercury. Locking that stuff up in concrete seems safer than letting it sit in landfills or ponds that can contaminate groundwater.

The EPA endorsed using coal ash in concrete after comparing it to the toxins in Portland cement. Turns out, Portland cement is more toxic.

Portland cement is also much worse for the environment. "Portland cement production is one of the major greenhouse-gas sources  worldwide," says Craig Benson, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

He explains: Making Portland cement involves applying heat to limestone — which is made of calcium, oxygen and carbon — to get lime: calcium and oxygen.

"That process liberates a lot of carbon dioxide," he says. "That goes right up in the atmosphere."

There are more benefits: Using coal ash means not using resources to dig up limestone. Or burning fuel to heat it up. And because fly ash makes concrete last longer, it also means not replacing the concrete as often.

All of which also means saving money. Benson did a study on that. "It was really remarkable," he says. "Just the economic impact is about $5 billion to our economy."

Lisa Evans, a lawyer for Earthjustice, is reluctant to declare herself a fan of using coal ash for concrete. She’d rather we stop burning coal. Failing that, however, she thinks concrete is a good idea.

"I think characterizing it as a 'win' would be accurate," she says. "If you’re going to make coal ash in the first place, locking it up in concrete is preferable to a lot of the other ways we use or dispose of coal ash."  

But the consensus isn’t perfect. The EPA is currently deciding between two alternatives for regulating coal ash. Evans favors one that would regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, except for designated "beneficial re-uses" like concrete.  

That proposal worries John Ward, a spokesman for the coal-ash recycling industry, who runs a group called Citizens for Recycling First. He thinks the exception would just cause confusion. "How can you call something hazardous on the property of the people who made it," he says, "and expect you to want to use it in your house?"

He thinks that potential confusion could make utilities reluctant to allow recyclers to take coal ash at all.  

Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014by Dan WeissmannPodcast Title Coal ash = environmental win (when you recycle it)Story Type FeatureSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

In which Dove's 'Real Beauty' campaign faces real backlash

Fri, 2014-04-25 13:38

In Dove's latest advertisement, "Patches," a scientist prescribes a "beauty patch" to women suffering from low self esteem. Over the course of four minutes, the patch-wearing "patients" move from lines like "If I were more confident, I'd have the confidence to approach a guy, maybe," to "I've defintiely opened up something inside of me to make me feel more... great."

Magic! Except spoiler: There's nothing in the beauty patch. Dove's not selling any patches -- they're selling the story of women finding inner beauty, a.k.a., the Dove brand's strategy since 2004. They've sold creams to slow the signs of aging with messages about being "pro age." They've launched self-esteem programs and campaigns critiquing the whole business of advertising. 

A Dove spokesman told Ad Age they created the "Patches" video "to intentionally provoke a debate about women's relationship with beauty." And what a debate they've started: The "Patches" ad has been called patronizing, garbage and at least one word we wouldn't print on our own site. In just one hour Friday morning, at least 500 people watched this parody video:

Dove grew from a $200 million soap brand in the early 1990s into a nearly $4 billion corporation by 2013, selling everything from deodorant to hairspray. They've sold products -- lots of products -- with the message "You are more beautiful than you think." 

Andrea Learned, a communications consultant and author of "Don't Think Pink," a book about marketing to women, says Dove’s original ‘Real Beauty’ campaign turned selling soap into an important cultural dialogue, helping women embrace their bodies—old or young, fat or thin. 

But she thinks the latest campaign has "lost its way. It kind of creeped me out right from the beginning," she says. She thinks the tactic in the video of misleading the female subjects about the treatment they're getting in order to show that really, you are beautiful if you feel beautiful, will alienate many female consumers. She found herself wondering if the real Dove ad might not just be the parody. “Get out of digging this hole for women—of being these incredibly insecure beings," she says. "That is old news.”

Former ad executive Cindy Gallop agrees that the new Dove campaign is "patronizing" and "not credible." She thinks it's a big misstep for Dove's ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather. But she also thinks any publicity can be good publicity—if the brand embraces the criticism and builds on it.

“The fact that they are stimulating dialogue, that we are talking about this, in whatever context, is terrific," Gallop says. "And it’s all tremendous fodder for them to take the campaign forward in an even stronger way next time out of the gate.”

Gallop has a pitch for Dove’s next campaign: real-life men saying what they like in their real-life women. Grey hair, freckles, curves—things most advertisers never portray in their impossible-to-acheive models of female beauty.

Is all this pushback a sign that Dove doesn't have its pulse on what women think any more? What do you think of the campaign? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook

Why it makes economic sense to send a letter for $0.49

Fri, 2014-04-25 13:30

Every other week we try to answer some of the questions that you've submitted for our series, I’ve Always Wondered. This week, we are going to answer a question from listener Mark Robbins: "How is it possible that for less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can send a letter halfway across the globe to a remote island in the South Pacific?" 

Marketplace reporter David Weinberg wanted to know, too. And thus his week-long experiment began: 

Monday: The Post Office's spectacular scale.

Tuesday: How postage gets divided among nations (spoiler: not evenly).

Wednesday: Until the 1960s, it didn't matter if the Postal Service made money.

Thursday: Why the USPS doesn't do email

Friday: How else could we get a message to the people of Tanna? (serious question)

Monday: The Post Office's spectacular scale.

Listener Mark Robbins sent us his question via email. He chose, for his example, the island of Tanna, about a thousand miles west of Australia. I found an address for a bar on the island, and before I sent the letter, I called Robbins to ask if he had anything he'd like to say to the people of Tanna.

“Hello from chilly northeastern Pennsylvania. Wish I were there.”

I dropped the letter in the mailbox with a $1.15 global forever stamp. From there, it was taken to the main Los Angeles sorting facility, a 1 million square foot building  where I met Ken Starks, the acting manager of plant support operations.

And herein lies the answer to Mark’s question: The reason you can send a letter across the ocean for less than the price of a cup of coffee is because of the staggering economy of scale of the USPS.

Take, for example this one machine:

This delivery bar code sorting machine processes 30,000-40,000 pieces of mail per hour. The minimum amount of postage required to send a letter is $0.49. So nearly every day, this one machine processes at least $20,000 in postage revenue per hour. And this is just one of several machines in a single sorting facility.

The USPS handles half of all the mail in the world. In 2013 the postal service generated $65.2 billion in revenue. It has more retail locations in the U.S. than McDonald's, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart combined. It's the second largest employer in the U.S. behind Wal-Mart, and the median salary of a U.S. postal worker is about $53,000.

So for every letter that travels across the globe, there are millions that travel much shorter distances. They subsidize the cost of international letters.

Tuesday: How postage gets divided among nations (spoiler: not evenly).

To send our letter to the island of Tanna, I purchased a global forever stamp for $1.15. By the time it arrives it will have traveled on multiple on-the-ground vehicles and airplanes in multiple countries.

This is what the inside of a postal truck looks like.

David Weinberg/Marketplace

So how does that $1.15 get divided among all nations? Here are the steps:

Step 1: Receive Payment for Postage

The origin country of the letter gets to keep 100 percent of the postage revenue. For now…

Step 2: Weight it

The island of Tanna is in the country of Vanuatu, which is one of the 192 member countries of the Universal Postal Union. At the end of the year, every member of the UPU adds up the weight of all the mail it delivered for other countries.

Step 3: Pay Your Dues

The UPU has established a complicated system of terminal dues that countries pay each other for mail delivered outside its borders. So if the USPS delivered 2,000 kilograms of mail from Vanautu in 2013, and Vanautu only delivered 1,000 kilograms U.S. mail from the U.S., then Vanautu will have to pay terminal dues to the U.S. How does that money get divided up among the multiple countries that handle the letter? 

Google Maps

Short answer: It doesn’t get divided for each individual piece of mail. Instead, countries pay terminal dues based on the overall weight of mail shipped between them.

These rates are decided by The Universal Postal Union.

Wednesday: Until the 1960s, it didn't matter if the Postal Service made money.

And now our letter to Vanuatu takes a moment to ask itself the question: "Why am I not an email?"

The Postal Service is, as they know all too well, losing money

Historian Richard John says, this isn't a new story -- it just didn't matter as much in the country's early days. When the Postal Service was established in 1775 -- with Ben Franklin as the country's first Postmaster -- it functioned as a government agency, with no real mandate to break even.

And as the country expanded, the Postal Service did too. They were often at the forefront of new transportation technologies -- think: stagecoaches, motorcycles, railroads, airplanes, and even missiles.

A city carrier in Washington, D.C., gathers mail from a post-mounted collection box using \"The Flying Merkel,\" a belt-driven, two-cylinder V-twin motorcycle, circa 1911. The use of motorcycles for mail collection and delivery in cities peaked in the 1920s. Four-wheeled automobiles and trucks, with their larger capacities, soon became the vehicles of choice. 

Courtesy of the United States Postal Service

"The Post Office was very quick to give contracts to flyers. Charles Lindbergh. And the airlines got an absolutely essential boost from that postal funding in 1920s and 30s," John says. "In more recent period, the 50s, 60s and 70s, optical scaning recognition are technologies the Post Office [supported]."

How'd they manage to pay for all this innovation?

"Congress used to foot the bill when the institution was running a deficit," John says. "Coroporate money doesn't become important til 1900."

And even then, John says, these external funds competed with "a thought experient about how our nineteenth century forbearers believed politics should be conducted with major federal subsidies to make it possible to spread the news, which remained a central mandate. Newspapers and magazines -- LIFE Magazine was a famously important magazine in 1960s -- was more or less destroyed by changes in postal rates. It got more expensive to mail, and it was no longer economical. So it's a remarkable odyssey for an institution a lot of peope cared about." 

Today's assumption that the postal service should break even took root in the early 1970s. Postal worker strikes prompted then-President Richard Nixon to pass the Postal Reorganization Act in 1971, which turned the agency into a semi-independent business -- and as a semi-independent business, money started to matter. The Postal Service hasn't used taxpayer money since 1982, with a few exceptions, such as sending absentee ballots to Americans overseas. Today, the USPS relies on the costs of postage and sales for almost all of their expenses.

Eddie Hubbard (left) and William E. Boeing stand in front of a Boeing C-700 seaplane near Seattle, Washington, after returning from a survey flight to Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 3, 1919. They brought with them a pouch with 60 letters, making this the first international mail flight.

Boeing Airplane Company/Collection of United States Postal Service

Some say the Postal Service stopped innovating because its business model changed, and the funds simply weren't there.

Tomorrow, we'll talk with someone who thinks the story isn't so simple. 

Thursday: Why the USPS doesn't do email

Why isn’t there an @usps.gov email address available to the public -- one that carries with it the same privacy laws that apply to postal mail?

Shiva Ayyadurai asked USPS management that same question in 1997, the year he calls "The Crossover," when email volume exceeded postal mail volume. At the time, Ayyadurai says the USPS did not see email as a threat to first-class mail. And in 1997, there really was no reason to be concerned -- during the three years leading up to 1997, the USPS posted cumulative earnings of $4.6 billion and, First-Class mail was up by 13 percentage points.

Ayyadurai calls himself the inventor of email, a claim that has been widely disputed, says he has a vested interest in the answer. It would take 15 years of criticism, but in 2012 Shiva Ayyadurai  produced a report, funded by the USPS, outlined several ways for the USPS could integrate email into its business model. Ayyadurai says the USPS did respond after he submitted his research.

 

Friday: How else could we get a message to the people of Tanna? (serious question)

 

In all probability, our letter is still on its way to Tanna. 

Which raises the question: How else could we convey Mark's message to this small island nation? What are your ideas, Internet?

Send them to us via Facebook or in the comments below. Or, you know, via snail mail. 

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