Marketplace - American Public Media

A surprise winner in Virginia: Randolph-Macon College

Wed, 2014-06-11 08:58

Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. Ever heard of it?

If you hadn't before, it's likely you did on Wednesday. David Brat, an economics professor who just big-footed Eric Cantor and his Democratic challenger, Jack Trammell, are both on the faculty of this one small school outside of Richmond.

"While this may be short-lived, I think if you were to look at the placement of the 'Randolph Macon College' name in the media it would be a very high number," says Dan Hurley, Associate Vice President for government relations and state policy with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He says this kind of marketing is worth millions.

Typically a school would have to have a winning football or basketball team to get this kind of press.  Like a few years ago, when Butler University in Indiana, made it to the NCAA Final Four.

"That impacted them in terms of inquiries, applicants and enrollments, for a number of years," says  Jim Paskill, president of Paskill, Stapleton & Lord, a higher education marketing firm. Paskill says he agrees having two congressional candidates come out of one college sure can make a school look good, but he says he’s a wary. An eight-month campaign season can be a long time under the microscope.

“You know, if this becomes a very divisive campaign and it’s seen as a mud-slinging between two candidates, I don’t think it’s going to reflect very positively on the college,” he says.

No chance of that, says Randolph Macon’s president Robert Lindgren.

“These are two very principled honest,  folks who will debate the issues and not do, some of the typically political things that you might in a congressional campaign," he says.

We’ll find out if his prediction holds up in November. 

Big business may try to downplay Eric Cantor's defeat

Wed, 2014-06-11 03:00

Dave Bratt, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, has defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary in Virginia’s seventh congressional district.

A defining issue in that campaign was immigration. Bratt accused Cantor of being “soft” on the issue, noting Cantor had voiced support for immigration reform.

Members of the business community, which have backed reform, reacted to the election results in the same way many Americans did. Bill Miller, with the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs in Washington, said the outcome was “pretty shocking.”

“Nobody really saw this coming,” he added.

Miller cautions against Monday-morning quarterbacking, saying it is too early to know what Cantor’s primary defeat will mean for immigration reform. His group’s goal, he says, remains the same: “It’s important to fix this system.”

Miller argues the U.S. needs more visas for high-tech workers a better guest worker program, among other things.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says he expects big business will try to downplay what happened yesterday; instead, they will point to primary victories by pro-reform Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Rep. Renee Elmers from North Carolina.

“They are still pushing very hard for action, but I think they have to be discouraged by this,” Alden says.

There are several new pro-reform groups in Washington backed by business leaders, including FWD.us, which was started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Ali Noorani, who leads the National Immigration Forum, is optimistic the House will tackle immigration legislation this summer.

“Until John Boehner burns down the windmill of immigration reform, we’re still in play,” he says.

Plugging in battery makers and battery innovators

Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

If you were to make a list of the top five products that will play a prominent role in our future, the battery would definitely be at the top. Batteries power our devices, our cars will increasingly rely on them, and they are a fundamental component in renewable energy grids.

In Berkley, California, scientists are experimenting with new ways to make safer, more efficient batteries. At the same time, angel investors are experimenting with new ways of connecting those scientists with companies that can get those batteries into the market.

About 10 years ago, when scientists were trying to invent new kinds of batteries, they often used a method called "cook and look." 

“So you go cook a material up, take a bunch of compounds, heat it up to very high temperature, and you will then go make a battery with it and you’ll go look  and see if that battery worked the way you would expect it to work,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Srinivasan says today his lab uses computers to identify new materials. As a result he can produce quicker results. But turning those results into tangible products is a slow process.  “Going from the lab to the market can take as much as 10 years in the battery space," he says. "And that bottleneck in going from lab to market is what we are trying to solve with CalCharge.

CalCharge is a consortium of companies, universities, laboratories and unions. It was created by CalCEF, the California Clean Energy Angel Fund, which provides seed money to startups in the clean energy field.

CalCEF spent two years studying the process of innovation in the battery industry and found multiple bottlenecks. Labs need more trained scientists. Additional skilled workers are needed to install new technologies when they do get to market and, although the national labs are mandated by Congress to produce practical technology for the private sector, they are burdened by complex regulations.

“For an individual company that wanted to work with a national lab to do cooperative research, it could take between six and nine months easily for a company to negotiate a single project, and that’s just untenable for most companies,” said CalCEF managing director Jeff Anderson.

CalCharge was created to help streamline that process. It connects energy storage companies with the national labs. It also worked with San Jose State University to create a Master of Science program that focuses on battery technologies.

CalCharge gets its base funding from companies that pay annual dues to join the consortium. In the eight weeks since CalCharge officially launched, several companies including Duracel, Volkswagen and LG, have signed on as members.

PODCAST: NASA's flying saucer

Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

With Eric Cantor's stunning defeat, a look at how the business community is reacting to the turn of events, and what it means for immigration reform. Plus, with the world cup on the international stage, we take a closer look at the state of Brazil's economy. Also, NASA is launching a flying saucer like space craft bound for Mars. It will serve as a test for new landing gear meant to slow down the craft's 3,000 MPH traveling speed.

GDP: Oil Patch Booms While Northeast Lags

Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis's data on state-by-state GDP for 2013 lags GDP figures already released for the entire U.S. In March, the bureau reported that GDP nationwide rose by 1.9 percent in 2013. That compared to 2.8 percent growth in 2012.

 

But drill down, and economic growth varies widely between the states, says Alan Berube, who helps compile the Metro Monitor at the Brookings Institution.

“The picture is still one of a multi-speed recovery,” says Berube.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts that the states that grew fastest in 2013 — and likely have continued to grow strongly in 2014 — are on the West Coast (California, Oregon and Washington), where home prices have strongly rebounded and high-tech barely faltered in the recession. Other bright spots: states in the South and High Plains where oil and natural gas are booming.

“North Dakota will continue to look really good,” says Zandi. “Texas — the strongest big economy in the country throughout the recession and recovery — that will continue. I think we’ll see some states that got nailed in the housing bust turning more definitively up — Nevada, Arizona and Florida — where the leisure and hospitality industry has also come back.”

While growth rates now look reasonably strong in the upper Midwest, where manufacturing is still a major economic force, “it’s like a rubber ball,” says Alan Berube. “They just bounced back because they crashed so hard. Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo — they’ve been in a long-term recession with job losses dating back to the early 2000's. So they’re doing better than they were two or three years ago — a lot better. But they’re still not quite as well off as they were a decade or two ago.”

Economic growth has lagged in recent years in New England (outside the Boston Metro area, which is a hub for finance, high-tech and higher education), and also in the Mid-Atlantic states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Data on our data: 30 days to review taped phone calls

Wed, 2014-06-11 02:00

This month marks the first anniversary of the Edward Snowden leaks that changed our understanding of online privacy. Just like the subject matter of the leaks, the reporting over the last year has offered a deluge of information. So this week, we're posting a short series about all that data. Every day we'll bring you another number that reminds us how much we have learned in the last year about online surveillance and the reach of the NSA.

30 days

is how long the NSA can store phone conversations after recording

Through its SOMALGET program, the NSA records and store phone conversations in bulk. Agents can go back into those records and review them for up to 30 days.

This practice, and the ability for the government to do it, is something Nadia Kayali, an activist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says many find surprising. "I don’t think people think about their phone calls actually being recorded and then being maintained. Being maintained for 30 days? That is shocking."

NASA's flying saucers hopefully won't be a smash hit

Wed, 2014-06-11 01:00

NASA may, weather permitting, launch what’s playfully being called a flying saucer.

It does look like a flying saucer, but it’s really more like landing gear...for Mars. NASA has ambitious plans for what it wants to send to the Red Planet – like people, habitats, and rockets for return journeys back to earth. This would involve payloads of 20, 30, or perhaps even 40 tons – dwarfing the one ton Curiosity Rover that touched down on Mars two years ago.

To land said gigantic saucers on Mars – which, by the way, travel at four times the speed of sound (Mach 4, 3,044 miles per hour, or 0.8 miles per second) -- you need to slow them down first.

“It’s difficult to land things on Mars versus Earth because the atmosphere is very thin, just one percent of Earth’s,” explains Mark Adler, program manager for the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project.

Parachutes alone won’t do, and rockets would require more fuel than anyone would like to carry all the way to Mars. “So we need large decelerators, to slow things down.”

That's where the “flying saucer” comes in. It’s a disc shaped payload that has, among other things, two experimental technologies to slow down vastly massive payloads.

The first is a “supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator”: a doughnut shaped airbag that will make the payload a little more fat and less dense, slowing it down from four times the speed of sound to a mere two times the speed of sound.

The second is a large 100-foot supersonic parachute.

Together, they will be taken up to 120,000 feet by helium balloon, and then launched up to 180,000 feet where the atmosphere resembles that of Mars, reaching Mach 4.

Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch, says the technology is “probably one of the most cost-effective things one can imagine,” compared to using rockets to brake a rocket’s fall.

Cost effective doesn’t mean cheap, of course. This program costs $200 million dollars, of which $150 million has already been spent. It's one of the reasons NASA can't privatize the project like it does with cargo flights to the space station.

“You know, landing on Mars so far doesn’t seem to be very profitable,” says Michael Lopez Alegria, president of the Commercial Space Flight Federation. While he foresees a day when private companies will take up the slack, governments will have to open the frontier to Mars.

For now, that means not crashing into the surface of Mars at 3,000 miles per hour.

How (constantly) informed must we be?

Wed, 2014-06-11 00:23

First of all, mad props to my colleague David Brancaccio for starting – and finishing – the 544-mile AIDS/Lifecycle ride this past week. 

Second of all, more and bigger mad props for having the guts to put a picture of himself in full biking kit – spandex shorts, shirt, the whole deal – on his most recent post about the ride. I once did a photo shoot for Runners World magazine in the Marketplace studios, and let's just say, I'm still hearing about it.

This is not, however, a gratuitous post about Marketplace hosts in fitness gear. It's about the point David made more eloquently than I could, so I'm just going to piggyback on it here and add some observations. It's important, he wrote, to unplug every now and then. To consciously unplug. And to take the time you get back to just... be.

Believe me when I tell you I'm not preaching at you here. I'm as guilty as the next guy of burying my nose in my phone; of tuning out my kid's tennis match to check my Twitter feed (Yes, I'm that dad). Part of it is my personality, part of it is my line of work, and part of it is habit. 

But seriously – how many different variations of the Hillary Clinton book-tour interview do we need to read to know she's running for president (Yes, there, I said it. Come talk to me in a year, we'll see who's right)? How many times do you have to click on a link about Donald Sterling and whether he will or won't sell the Clippers – I mean, fercryinoutloud – to know he's an unsavory individual? And don't even get me started on the damn missing plane.

Yes, there is real news out there every day. And yes we do have an obligation as citizens in a representative democracy to be informed. But c'mon. Just... be.

Okay, now I'm preaching. So that's it. That's all I got this week. That, and don't ever, ever wear a short suit. As in shorts, but in a suit.

 

Judge: Bad teachers cost kids big bucks

Tue, 2014-06-10 14:27

A California Superior Court judge has ruled that teacher tenure "disproportionately" affects poor and  minority students, saying the evidence "shocks the conscience."

The judge sided with the arguments of Harvard economist Raj Chetty, who argued that students can lose millions of dollars in potential future income if they aren't educated properly.

Jennifer Medina is a reporter based in Los Angeles who covers the city for The New York Times. She says the judge's ruling will make teachers more accountable:

"What's at issue here is how teachers are hired and fired. The way teachers are fired is a very long and complex process that makes it very difficult to get rid of teachers that administrators and principals deem ineffective."

Medina says tenure has been viewed by many opponents as the catalyst for a vicious cycle that puts kids at risk. 

"Teachers tend to want to get out of (low performing schools) and so those schools have the highest turnover. When you get a high turnover of teachers it's seen as a less desirable school and you're much more likely to get teachers people want to get rid of. People refer to it as the dance of the lemons."

Medina says this effort in California was bank-rolled by Silicon Valley billionaire David Welch, and he plans on pushing the initiative elsewhere, so this case could have an impact on the entire U.S. educational system.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Who is signing up for business school MOOCs?

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:34
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/moocs-worldwide">View Survey</a>

What should your political memoir be called?

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:23

Just a glancing blow to the masterful public relations campaign being waged by Hillary Clinton's publishers for her new book, "Hard Choices".

The line around the corner from Barnes & Noble Union Square for @HillaryClinton's first #HardChoices book signing. pic.twitter.com/ZCpRbMtYs8

— HillaryBook (@HillaryBook) June 10, 2014

Time magazine knows how hard it can be to come up with snappy titles for political memoirs - -so they've created a political memoir name generator.

Mine?

"A Charge to Compete".

Why florists, farmers and beer brewers want drones

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:22

Over the weekend, BP won the race to fly the first fully legal commercial drone over U.S. soil. Getting the Federal Aviation Administration’s OK apparently took more than a year of wrangling. The FAA has been working on a set of less-arduous guidelines for years, but those are still months away at best— much to the frustration of many businesses.

For instance: sunflower farmers. “The sunflower crop is anywhere from 6 to 7 feet tall and has a large canopy of leaves,” says John Sandbakken, who runs the National Sunflower Association. “It’s very difficult to see, down below, what’s going on. This is something, with a drone, you could fly over, get a much better visual of what’s really happening.”

The Sunflower Association is one of more than 30 organizations that have asked the FAA to speed up new regulations.

Who else could use a drone? Anybody who deals with one of what Mike Toscano calls “the Four D's: The dirty, difficult, dangerous and dull jobs that human beings are faced with.”

Toscano runs the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems— a drone trade group— which last year released a study claiming drones could add $27 million a day to the U.S. economy.

He says drones have two specialties. One is delivery: "whether you’re delivering tacos, beer, medicine, food, water, cellphones or whatever." Two: "They’re good at situational awareness,” he says.

They're good at checking things out, he says, like those sunfllower crops, or BP’s oilfield. Toscano thinks that capability is where the next round of approved activity will take place, monitoring crops, pipelines, maybe even smokestack emissions. Even Hollywood’s a candidate.

Meanwhile, a lot of small-timers have started jumping the gun, including florists, real-estate photographers from Manhattan to Peoria, and an online pharmacy.

“By and large, FAA enforcement has been spotty, and so they’ve been able to do so with impunity,” says Rebecca MacPherson, a former FAA attorney.

So far, the FAA has only attempted to penalize one commercial drone user, and in that case, a federal judge ruled in March that the agency lacked authority to regulate.

Potatoes fight to get on the WIC nutrition list

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:16

Funding for WIC, the food assistance program for low-income women, infants and children, is expected to be debated on the floor of the House this week, and the Senate soon after. One of the more surprising issues that will come up: potatoes. 

WIC gives low-income mothers vouchers to buy certain foods—foods with nutrients they might not otherwise be getting enough of. A panel of scientists puts together the list, and it has evolved (once carrots were one of the only approved vegetables). A few years ago the list was overhauled to add all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies.

But one food item scientists left off the list: potatoes. This has recently become a concern for a bipartisan group of congress-folk.

“Never would I have guessed that the lowly potato would turn out to be such a contentious issue,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing recently. Collins is from Maine--home to a lot of potato growers.

Collins has been leading the fight to get fresh potatoes—just fresh ones—put on the WIC list. She passed around a chart showing the nutritional value of potatoes. A few of her colleagues made "hot potato" jokes.

But this is serious business for people like Mark Szymanski, with the National Potato Council.

“As the National Potato Council and the entire potato industry, we're very concerned when the federal government is telling people they should avoid our vegetable,” Szymanski says.

But Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, says the government isn’t trying to ostracize potatoes. Nestle, who loves potatoes herself (“there’s nothing more delicious than a baked potato,” she told me), argues they shouldn’t be on the WIC-approved list because WIC participants are eating plenty of potatoes already—especially the kind that wind up as french fries and potato chips. 

Eric Rimm, a professor of nutrition at Harvard who advises the USDA, says the point of WIC money is to encourage pregnant women and young kids to go beyond potato. 

“Forty-five percent of vegetables consumed by women of child-bearing age are already potatoes, he argues, citing a 2013 study. “It's not like we're a potato-deficient society.”

How big is Iraq's oil industry now?

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:14

In Iraq, sectarian violence erupted in the city of Mosul. The Iraqi army fled their posts and much of the city is now under the control of Sunni Militants. Mosul is a key city for the Iraqi oil industry which has been ramping up production and exports steadily since the US led invasion in 2003. Iraq has overtaken Iran as the second largest oil producing country among the 12 OPEC nations.

In February, oil production in Iraq hit 3.6 million barrels, setting a 30 year record. “Most of it is concentrated in the south,” says Iraq Oil report Editor-in-chief Ben Lando, “80 to 90 percent of it in Basra Province alone.”

Since March, when the Iraq Turkey pipeline in the north was bombed, production has been restricted.  Attacks on repair workers have prevented the pipeline from being repaired.  “So that’s about 300,000 barrels a day that would have been exported now shut in.” says Lando.

The Kurdish government in the north is trying to get oil out independently. It recently shipped a million barrels of crude by tanker, through Turkey. “From what we can tell, there wasn’t a buyer ahead of time and they are essentially looking for a port,” says Chad Mabry is an analyst with MLV and Company.

Those tankers are basically circling the Mediterranean waiting for a buyer, says Mabry, “and you are seeing some pressure from the Iraqis, telling potential buyers, you better watch out if you take that on, we are going to apply some pressure from our end.”

Iraq has set very ambitious goals for oil. The country wants to nearly triple its current production, to 9 million barrels per day by 2020, a number that, is way above industry forecasts says IBISworld analyst James Crompton. “According to the International Energy Administration by 2020 Iraq could be producing about 6 million barrels per day.”

But even those forecasts may be optimistic, if the region faces more instability.

The oil cartel OPEC, of which Iraq is a member, meets in Vienna on Wednesday to discuss production quotas for the second half of the year. Which makes your wonder about the numbers behind Iraq's oil industry:

2

Iraq ranks as the second largest oil producer among the 12 OPEC nations, overtaking Iran. Saudi Arabia is the top producer.  (WSJ)

3.6 million

The number of barrels of oil Iraq produced per day in February, a 30-year high. The previous high-water mark was 3.5 million barrels per day, recorded in 1979 when dictator Saddam Hussein took power. (WSJ)

5

Iraq's rank among other nations around the world in terms of its proven crude oil reserves. (EIA)

9 million

The number of barrels of oil Iraq is expected to produce daily by 2020, according to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani. He also expects Iraq to export 7.5 million barrels of oil per day in the same time frame. (UPI)

6 million

The number of barrels of oil International Energy Administration analyst Jeremy Crompton says Iraq will be capable of producing daily by 2020, a forecast much lower than the country's aspirations. (International Energy Administration)

300,000

The number of barrels of oil per day that otherwise would have been exported from Iraq, were it not for a March 2 bombing attack of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline, according to Ben Lando, editor-in-chief of the Iraq Oil Report. (Iraq Oil Report)

How big is Iraq's oil industry now?

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:14

In Iraq, sectarian violence erupted in the city of Mosul. The Iraqi army fled their posts and much of the city is now under the control of Sunni Militants. Mosul is a key city for the Iraqi oil industry which has been ramping up production and exports steadily since the US led invasion in 2003. Iraq has overtaken Iran as the second largest oil producing country among the 12 OPEC nations.

In February, oil production in Iraq hit 3.6 million barrels, setting a 30 year record. “Most of it is concentrated in the south,” says Iraq Oil report Editor-in-chief Ben Lando, “80 to 90 percent of it in Basra Province alone.”

Since March, when the Iraq Turkey pipeline in the north was bombed, production has been restricted.  Attacks on repair workers have prevented the pipeline from being repaired.  “So that’s about 300,000 barrels a day that would have been exported now shut in.” says Lando.

The Kurdish government in the north is trying to get oil out independently. It recently shipped a million barrels of crude by tanker, through Turkey. “From what we can tell, there wasn’t a buyer ahead of time and they are essentially looking for a port,” says Chad Mabry is an analyst with MLV and Company.

Those tankers are basically circling the Mediterranean waiting for a buyer, says Mabry, “and you are seeing some pressure from the Iraqis, telling potential buyers, you better watch out if you take that on, we are going to apply some pressure from our end.”

Iraq has set very ambitious goals for oil. The country wants to nearly triple its current production, to 9 million barrels per day by 2020, a number that, is way above industry forecasts says IBIS world analyst Jeremy Crompton. “According to the International Energy Administration by 2020 Iraq could be producing about 6 million barrels per day.”

But even those forecasts may be optimistic, if the region faces more instability.

The oil cartel OPEC, of which Iraq is a member, meets in Vienna on Wednesday to discuss production quotas for the second half of the year. Which makes your wonder about the numbers behind Iraq's oil industry:

2

Iraq ranks as the second largest oil producer among the 12 OPEC nations, overtaking Iran. Saudi Arabia is the top producer.  (WSJ)

3.6 million

The number of barrels of oil Iraq produced per day in February, a 30-year high. The previous high-water mark was 3.5 million barrels per day, recorded in 1979 when dictator Saddam Hussein took power. (WSJ)

5

Iraq's rank among other nations around the world in terms of its proven crude oil reserves. (EIA)

9 million

The number of barrels of oil Iraq is expected to produce daily by 2020, according to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani. He also expects Iraq to export 7.5 million barrels of oil per day in the same time frame. (UPI)

6 million

The number of barrels of oil International Energy Administration analyst Jeremy Crompton says Iraq will be capable of producing daily by 2020, a forecast much lower than the country's aspirations. (International Energy Administration)

300,000

The number of barrels of oil per day that otherwise would have been exported from Iraq, were it not for a March 2 bombing attack of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline, according to Ben Lando, editor-in-chief of the Iraq Oil Report. (Iraq Oil Report)

Coca-Cola ventures again into U.K. waters

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:07

Ten years after the calamitous launch of its Dasani bottled water in Britain, Coca Cola is getting back into the British bottled water market. Later this summer the drinks giant will introduce its leading American brand – Glaceau Smartwater – into the United Kingdom.

Coke has good commercial reasons to take the plunge.

“Bottled water is a growing market in the U.K., and that’s something you can’t say about any other drinks category,” says Olly Wehring of Just-Drinks. “Bottled water sales are worth 1.4 billion pounds ($2.35 billion) a year and are growing at 6 percent annually in Britain. While other categories, like colas, are stagnating chiefly due to health concerns.” 

But the rollout of Glaceau Smartwater has revived painful memories for Coca Cola. The Disani launch in 2004 was a marketing and manufacturing disaster. 

"The problem was they were discovered to be using tap water bought from the Thames Water utility, filtering it, putting it in a bottle and charging a wonderful margin,” says marketing expert Allysson Stewart-Allen.

“Matters got even worse when Coke learned that as a byproduct of the filtering process, you got a chemical in the water: bromate. And this bromate is - at high levels - a potential toxin.” 

Coke pulled half a million bottles off the supermarket shelves and pulled the brand out of Britain.

Ten years on, does the bitter aftertaste of that debacle linger among British consumers, and will it put them off buying Coke’s new offering? Marketplace sampled the views of some bottled water drinkers in a small shopping centre outside London. 

“I would probably try Smartwater just out of curiosity,” ventured Dick Pimm. “To be honest I didn’t know about the Dasani disaster.”

Rosie Pearce said she would probably not buy the new drink. “I’m a bit anti-Coca-Cola because it’s a large contributor to obesity. It’s probably getting more into bottled water as a way of deflecting criticism away from some of its more harmful products.”

Peter Woodman was not so hard on the drinks giant.

“I would probably try Smartwater. I think it would probably be fine,” he said

“And no I won’t be put off Coca-Cola products by the Dasani disaster. I’d give them a second chance!” 

Coca-Cola is steering well clear of tap water this time around. The new product will be distilled from vaporized spring water with electrolytes added. The company has clearly been chastened by the ill-fated Dasani rollout and has now set its sights on a major new goal. While it has the third largest share of the world’s bottled water market , it has only a 1 percent share of Britain’s. Coke is aiming to slake the U.K.’s growing thirst while feeding its own ferocious hunger for expansion and profit.

Improving student achievement with video games

Tue, 2014-06-10 12:40

Hey teachers, do you have low-performing students, who have trouble paying attention? The solution could be video games.

That’s according to a survey of more than 700 teachers, who use games in the classroom, It was conducted by the Games and Learning Publishing Council. (Potential self-interest noted).  Forty-seven percent of teachers said that low-performing students were the main beneficiaries of gaming in the classroom, and 28 percent said students with emotional or behavioral issues benefited most.

Also from the survey of teachers:

  • 55 percent use gaming in the classroom at least once a week;  9 percent use it daily.
  • 55 percent said the games were most valuable as motivators of low-performing students and special education students.
  • 30 percent have students use games individually; 20 percent have kids work in small groups; and 17 percent play as a class.
  • Teachers rely most on other teachers for game recommendations.
  • Why aren’t more teachers using games?  Most cited not enough time. But cost and lack of tech resources were also popular answers.
  • The Games and Learning Publishing Council  is a coalition of game developers, industry leaders, investors, scholars and education experts focused on expanding game-based learning.

The survey doesn't make game recommendations, but one blogger and teacher recently listed his favorite options here.   There is an even longer list at the techlearning.com website.  

Among those options on both lists is Minecraft, a game that has more than a few teacher devotees.  A whole library of Minecraft-based learning games created by enthusiastic educators can be found here.

The biggest match in the World Cup: Nike vs. Adidas

Tue, 2014-06-10 11:45

The World Cup starts this Thursday, but a match of a different sort is already well under way: the sales competition between Nike and Adidas. 

The two companies go at it year after year, but the World Cup is a rare opportunity to market products to the entire world.

In Portland, Oregon, the walls of Tursi Soccer Store are lined with shoes.

“So Nike and Adidas comes here and does this," says Jim Tursi, pointing to the walls of his store. "They come in and actually put all the displays up. We give them half the store each and they get to do what they want with it.”

The store's displays looks like something out of a modern art museum, the lighting just perfect, holding soccer cleats in a sort of suspended animation. One display has a few shoes behind glass and gives off the faint sound of a club beat.

Spring and summer are always busy, Tursi says, but this year’s business is up 30 percent. Not only that, but Nike and Adidas launched a slew of new jerseys, shoes and soccer balls all leading up the start of the World Cup.

“Nike and Adidas has such a hand in everything now. They fight tooth and nail with each other," Tursi says. "It’s very competitive.”

Nike’s soccer business brought in nearly $2 billion in 2013. Adidas didn’t release its figures for 2013, but expects to sell more than $2.7 billion worth of soccer gear this year.

Courtney Brunious, associate director at the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute, says the World Cup is the perfect place for this turf war.

“It almost stands alone in terms of the ability for brands and sponsors to get out there and reach such a wide group of potential customers,” Brunious says.

But here’s the interesting thing: Adidas has been in the soccer business since 1949. Nike? Only about two decades.

“They’ve since maybe even pulled even, or only slightly behind, Adidas in soccer,” says Paul Swinand, an analyst with Morningstar.

In 2008, Nike purchased Umbro and sold it just a few years later, but not before gutting the company of several multi-million dollar sponsorship deals.

“The sponsorships are really key in the global sales dominance,” Swinand says.

With this move, Nike was able to put its logo on the jerseys of teams like Manchester City and England’s national team, which Swinand argues gave Nike a boost to compete.

“Adidas is very sensitive to somebody encroaching on their brand heritage," he says. "They’ve pushed very hard to maintain the lead.”

But that sales lead for Adidas -- if there is one at all -- may not be forever.

Tursi says for the 18 year-olds and under, Nike dominates his soccer shoe business.

He says Nike is holding off on one final shoe that comes out the first day of the tournament -- the new Superfly.

“We can’t show it get because we’re not allowed to, because it’s all top secret as they do things,” he says.

But that doesn't stop him from showing them off.

Tursi heads into the back room, reaches onto a shelf he grabs a brightly colored soccer cleat. Nike calls the color “Hyper Punch” -- a mix of blinding pink and hunter orange, with the company’s signature swoosh across the top. The cost: $275.

“These will go June 12, all sold out," he says.

In a month, the World Cup will be over. Pretty soon, Tursi says, the buzz will be about whatever Nike and Adidas do next.

Two ways to leave TV

Tue, 2014-06-10 10:21

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Wednesday, June 11:

In Washington, we get a look at the nation's balance sheet. The Treasury Department is scheduled to release its monthly statement for May.

A House subcommittee on Communications and Technology holds a hearing on "Media Ownership in the 21st Century."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a closed hearing on the situation in Ukraine.

His character's fate looks dubious on "Game of Thrones", but in real life actor Peter Dinklage turns 45. A child of the 80s.

And providing more opportunities to get voted off TV, "American Idol" premiered on June 11, 2002.

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