Marketplace - American Public Media

Syndicate content
Updated: 12 min 13 sec ago

Turns out smoking causes more than just cancer and lung disease

Fri, 2014-01-17 05:04

We all know by now that cigarette smoking is linked to cancer and lung disease. But the Surgeon General has a new report out that shows what other diseases the habit causes. 

Diseases like liver cancer, colorectal cancer, Type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. 

And there's new information on just what smoking actually costs us.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer joins host Lizzie O'Leary to discuss.

Oil giant Shell has a nasty surprise for the markets

Fri, 2014-01-17 04:56

Royal Dutch Shell is Europe's biggest oil company, but had to warn the markets this morning that its profits for the fourth quarter were less than half what they were last year.

That was in an early earnings report that erased about $10 billion in shareholder value.

The BBC's Rob Young says this isn't good for the big man in charge. 

"It’s not a great start for Shell’s new Chief Executive Ben van Beurden. He’s only been in the job 17 days, and he says this isn’t what he expects. Shares fell four percent, wiping about $10 billion off the value of the company."

The company issued what's called a "profit warning" -- meaning it won't meet analyst's expectations.

The BBC's Rob Young, joined Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary to discuss. 

Google buys Nest plus a silly mix-up: This week's Silicon Tally

Fri, 2014-01-17 04:02

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

This week, Marketplace's Queena Kim faces off against host Mark Garrison in our weekly Silicon Tally quiz. Play along at home, below.

var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "", id: "silicon-tally-pop-quiz-17", placeholder: "pd_1389968186" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'':'';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

Manipulating the markets, right from the online chat room

Fri, 2014-01-17 03:01

Today, we kick off a series on Wall Street technology. We start with something pretty low-tech: chat rooms.

Banks and traders are now under investigation, accused of meeting in chat rooms to hatch schemes to manipulate markets.

Robert Friedman, Editor-at-Large at Bloomberg News, joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison to discuss. 

Banks aim for diversity at the top. Can they do more?

Fri, 2014-01-17 01:39

The NAACP has issued a report card on diversity in the retail banking industry, and it doesn’t look good. The report is focused on the lack of minority suppliers as well as the lack of diversity in upper management positions in banking, and the highest grade, a C+, was scored both by Citibank and Bank of America. The lowest grade, a D+, was given to US Bank. While banks do have a lot of diversity programs, like recruitment and training, the NAACP says minorities don't stick around. 

If you want to fix a problem like lack of diversity in the banking industry,  Dedrick Muhammad, senior director of the Economic Department at the NAACP says just being not racist is not enough.  

"If someone starts off with greater wealth in their families, with greater access to educational opportunities, have family members that are in a much broader array of well paying jobs, they’re starting off ahead," he says, adding that a lack of prejudice today doesn’t do enough to make up for bias of the past.

"The kind of more passive approach of 'we’ll just bring people in through the teller jobs or maybe  through mid to lower management and they’ll just work their way up' --  they’re not working their way up," says Muhammad.

JP Morgan Chase had no comment on the study. The other banks cited in the study did release statements: Wells Fargo and Bank of America acknowledged they have work to do; USBank said it is disappointed in the results and is working to improve; Citibank notes diversity is a major 

Fabiola Dieudonne, a senior associate with the Center for Talent Innovation, which consults with banks to help them work on issues of diversity, says a big problem is that minority workers don’t get the honest feedback they need. Their supervisors, she says, say they’re afraid they’ll be misunderstood.

"Are you going to think that I’m being prejudiced?" she says they ask themselves. "Are you going to think I’m treating you differently than the next person?"

Dieudonne says supervisors "don't want anyone that you’re providing feedback to to go away feeling that way, so people just tend to avoid it altogether,” she says.

In addition, Dieudonne says, minority workers don’t get enough sponsors. (A sponsor is like a mentor but much more aggressive on your behalf.)

“They’re not getting as many sponsors because the sponsors that are sponsoring others, are sponsoring people that may look like them," says Dieudonne, adding that this isn’t racism. We’re much more comfortable, she says, on a subconscious level, with people like ourselves.

Dieudonne says these are the kinds of problems which prevent minority workers from getting the support they need to develop executive presence  -- the "it factor" that can carry them to the C-Suite.

Eveyln Tressitt, President of Grey Pearl Advisors, LLC , has that "it factor". She’s now a corporate consultant, but she used to work for big banks in human resources and as a COO. Banks, she says, need to get better at anticipating openings -- "and look at where you can build a pipeline for that opening. So it might mean you have to hire people in advance of when that opening is available."

Tressitt says that for diversity in banking to become a reality, it has to hit the top of the agenda everyday. In the meantime, Dieudonne says both corporations and multicultural workers continue to lose out.

"People see that you have the capability," she says. But something is missing. "You’ve spent  all this time making sure you’re part of this culture, you’ve conformed to what we see, a white male standard at leadership, you’ve conformed to that. So when you get to the point where you can reach over this hump and get there, you’ve lost a little bit of yourself."

When Sally contacted the banks cited in the study, here's how five of them responded:

Wells Fargo


“We welcome the opportunity to receive feedback on our progress, and acknowledge that we have areas of opportunity for us to improve on our diversity and inclusion efforts. We have a strategic plan with measurable goals in place that intentionally focuses on these areas, and we are monitoring and measuring our progress.”

JPMorgan Chase


declined to comment

Bank of America


"Retaining top diverse talent has been and will continue to be a key priority for us. We are proud to have a culture that prioritizes diversity and inclusion at all levels, and while we’ve made significant progress in several areas, we understand there is more work to do. We will continue our efforts through targeted recruiting and internal programs to support and advance top diverse talent throughout our organization."




"At Citibank, fostering a dynamic and diverse workforce is a major priority. Having talent that reflects the diversity of our customer base is one of the keys to our success as a business, and we take active steps to recruit, train and promote accordingly. We take seriously and participate in numerous external reports and reviews, including the NAACP Opportunity and Diversity Report Card study, to benchmark our work and help identify opportunities for further strengthening our practices. We take pride in the gains achieved through our diversity initiatives, and we remain committed to prioritizing this important issue. 

Further background: Priority workforce diverse objectives are defined annually and implemented through the Citi diversity operating committee, comprised of diversity and human resources professionals, as well as local business and regional diversity councils. The Citi Board of Directors reviews progress. Programs and initiatives are in place across our businesses to support and foster Citi’s diversity strategy. These include, among others, leadership development programs, employee networks and diversity-focused recruitment programs.  Since 1999, we have communicated our progress through our Diversity Annual Report.

Citi has been widely recognized by external organizations and publications for its diversity initiatives. Calvert Investments which recognized Citi as the most inclusive company in the S&P 100 for women and minorities, and Working Mother Magazine, has named Citi to their “100 Best Companies” for 23 consecutive years and “Best Companies for Multicultural Women.”  Diversity MBA Magazine recognized Citi as one of the Top 50 Best Places for Diverse Managers & Women and Exelon recognized Citi as one of the Top Banks, for Diversity and Inclusiveness.  Citi was named the number one Diversified Financial Industry Sustainability Leader by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). Citi has been on the DJSI North America Index and DJSI World Index since 2001."

U.S. Bank


"We take the NAACP’s findings seriously. While we are pleased to have received the organization’s highest scores for our board diversity and our branch locations in African-American neighborhoods, we are disappointed in the overall result and are working to improve our performance. We have made significant progress in several areas since 2011, which was the timeframe when the data that was analyzed. 

U.S. Bank strongly believes in the power of diversity – for our bank and in the communities we are proud to serve. We will study the recommendations from the NAACP, and we have committed to partnering with them on ways we can improve."


Report card time: Who do YOU think cares the most about diversity?

Can Phoenix un-suburbanize?

Fri, 2014-01-17 01:29

There’s a movement afoot to bring new money into urban areas all over the country, and surprisingly, Phoenix, is part of that movement.

The city has long been famous for its suburban sprawl. But now, plans are moving ahead to link high-rise downtown with a neighboring Latino barrio that wealthy developers have mostly ignored for the better part of 100 years. Not a shovel of dirt has moved, though neighbors already have expectations and fears.

With a good arm, you could probably pick up one of the empty beer bottles on 14.6 acres of land set aside for the proposed development, give it a good chuck, and clear the railroad tracks that separate Grant Park from the polished office buildings of downtown Phoenix. Feliciano Vera is the developer who intends to bridge this divide between rich and poor. “This is a condition that predates statehood,” he said.

In Grant Park, trees and good sidewalks are scarce. Decades of industrial use have polluted the soil. In 2012, median income – at about $19,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – was less than half what of it was citywide.

“For our community to go over the railroad tracks and for the downtown people to come on this side of the railroad tracks, it’s like going to China,” said Eva Olivas, CEO of the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, a group that works to improve the local neighborhoods.

But Olivas said the area is also rich with Latino history. In the 1970s, the now famous saying “si se puede” – Yes, we can – was coined just a few blocks from here when Cesar Chavez embarked on his historic fast for farmworker rights.  “We have been waiting and learning and preparing for this moment,” Olivas said. “This community wants to support something.”

That "something" could be up to 800 new apartments and townhouses – a third of them set aside for low-income residents. There’s room, right under an airport flight path, for about another 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

But with such long a history of disinvestment in this area, what makes the developer think he can pull it off? “The timing,” said Vera. Indeed, from Las Vegas to Detroit, American inner cities are revitalizing. “On the macro level, nationally we are going through this period of intense urbanization,” Vera said.

To gauge the community’s support, Vera is hosting a series of meetings for residents. At a recent gathering inside the Grant Park gym, Vangie Muller and Nenette Parra fantasized about this idea of urbanization. For both women, something as simple as a grocery store would be a huge improvement. But Parra also worried developers will put the community as she knows it at risk. It wouldn’t be the first time in Arizona that working-class Latinos got pushed out of their neighborhoods. Developers “cater to those that are more educated, that are able to speak up,” she said. “Everything that our neighborhood isn't -- that's what they cater to. That's what we don't want.”

The feeling is echoed at El Portal, a Mexican restaurant across the street from Grant Park. “There’s really not an embracing of the Mexican-American culture,” said owner Earl Wilcox. “It’s more the cowboy stuff, the Old West stuff.”

Wilcox’s family is well connected politically, and he’s used that clout to complain that the wrong development will threaten small businesses like his. Wilcox said competition from a big chain could wipe him out and spoil the atmosphere of the entire place.

“If they just come in, historically and traditionally the way they do things – build it and worry about all these things later – then there’s going to be a lot of problems,” he said. But if the developer recognizes Grant Park’s Latino culture, he said “it could be something really beautiful.”

Some towns fight to hang onto their JC Penney

Thu, 2014-01-16 14:13

JC Penney announced it is laying off 2,000 people and closing 33 poor performing stores. The move is expected to save the company $65 million a year.

One of the stores scheduled to close is in the Butte Plaza Mall in Butte, Mont. The manager of the mall, Alana Ferko, calls the news "devastating…the idea they could ever close never crossed my mind." Twelve full-time employees and 20 part-time employees will lose their job.

Ferko acknowledges the store has had some profitability problems, which is how it was put on the JC Penney store closure list.

"During this the period that they looked at, the national economy was shaky, JC Penney corporate was changing leadership and the philosophy and that affected us negatively," Ferko says.

For now, Ferko and others in the community hope JC Penney will reconsider the closure of the store.

"We are not going to lay down and we're definitely not going to stay down," she says, adding that they have plans for a local campaign, "to show [corporate] how important our local JC Penney is to Butte, Mont., and you know, hopefully, get them to change their mind."

JC Penney has had a presence in the city since 1929 and moved to its current location in 1995. Ferko says it’s a place where grandparents take their grandkids to buy new Easter shoes and she remembers getting her first credit card from JC Penney. 

"It’s a working man’s store. That’s what it was when I was a little girl – it’s been here for generations."

Some towns fight to hang onto their JC Penney

Thu, 2014-01-16 14:13

Retailer JC Penney announced it was laying off 2,000 people and closing 33 poor performing stores yesterday. The move is expected to save the company $65 million a year.

One of the stores scheduled to close is one of the anchor stores in the Butte Plaza Mall in Butte, Montana. The manager of the mall, Alana Ferko calls the news “devastating…the idea they could ever close never crossed my mind.” Twelve full-time employees and 20 part-time employees will lose their job.

Sony Betamax case paved the way for TiVo

Thu, 2014-01-16 13:28

This final note: Something to think about the next time you cue up the TiVo to record something.

It was thirty years ago this week, on January 17, 1984, that the Supreme Court of the United States said it was okay to do that.

The technology was firmly analog -- recording something from the TV onto videotape -- but the principle was clear.

The Justices said home recording was fine, copyright-wise. (Speaking of old technologies, the case is known as the Sony Betamax case.)

Meet the modern guidance counselor

Thu, 2014-01-16 13:08

When Tyler Lattimore was applying to college, he had to wait days to meet with the one counselor assigned to his high school in Gainesville, Fla. When he finally did, she didn’t seem to know much about the elite, out-of-state schools he was interested in.

Lattimore, now a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta, is a first-generation college student.

“I was actually fortunate to have a teacher who sat down with me after class and talked to me about my options," he says. "But the guidance counselor – I could not even imagine getting a hold of her long enough to do these kinds of things,” he says.

Meet the modern guidance counselor. Average caseload: 471 students. Today’s counselors juggle course advising, behavior problems – even coordinate standardized tests. When they do grab a few minutes to talk to students about college, they don’t have much training to fall back on.

The issue is on the forefront of the minds of educators, dozens of whom met with President and First Lady Obama today in Washington for a day-long summit. The focus is to help more low-income students get into – and finish – college. 

After Michelle Obama launched her campaign to encourage more low-income students to get degrees, counselor Patrick O’Connor wrote her an open letter, published by the Washington Post.

“It’s clear that the No. 1 need of school counselors, to help realize the goals Mrs. Obama was talking about, was to get better training in college admission counseling, college advising,” O’Connor says.

O’Connor works at a private school in Michigan, where he’s responsible for just 46 students. He also teaches counselors. In most states school counselors need a master’s degree, but O’Connor says only a handful of programs even offer a course on college advising.

“So by and large, most counselors are leaving their master's degree programs with no formal training at any level of depth about how to help students,” he says.

That means they’re often unprepared to advise students on things like financial aid, or finding the right fit.

Alexandria Walton Radford interviewed high school valedictorians for the book “Top Student, Top School?” She looked at why so few valedictorians from low-income backgrounds ended up in the most selective colleges.

“What they encountered were counselors who often gave college information to students en masse,” she says.

The counselors tended to focus on schools they knew about – schools where middle-of-the road students were likely to get in.

“For those high achieving high school students, those colleges did not tend to match their academic accomplishments,” Radford says.

That’s known as under-matching, and it can hurt low-income and first-generation college students, who tend to do better at more selective schools. Radford says those are the students who need the most guidance.

“What I found was that college counseling was pretty poor across the board, even in more affluent communities,” she says. “But the difference was, in those affluent families, the families could make up for the lack of guidance being received through the schools.”

That’s because the parents went to college themselves, or could afford to pay for private counseling.

Public school counselors are aware of the bad reviews they get. A few years ago the nonprofit research group Public Agenda surveyed hundreds of high school graduates. Most of them gave their counselors fair to poor marks.

“It made me angry, because here I'm working my tail off,” says Jeremy Goldman, a counselor at Pikesville High School outside Baltimore, Md.

Goldman has tried to learn on the job – sneaking in visits to college campuses on his vacation time.

At nearby Woodlawn High School, Ashley Gallant tries to meet with each of her 10th graders at least a few times a year to start the college conversation. In one of these meetings in her office, she asks 15-year-old India Griffin what she plans to do after high school.

“I want to go to a performing arts school to become a singer and a musician,” Griffin says.

Together, they search a software program on Gallant’s computer for colleges that might appeal to Griffin.

These one-on-one meetings are getting harder to fit in. Gallant used to be one of five counselors at the school. They’re down to four this year due to budget cuts, so she does more group meetings.

“We definitely have to be a little bit more creative and resourceful with our time,” Gallant says. “We’re having to do more with less, but that is pretty much how it is with most schools now.”

Without a big boost in funding, it’s not likely to get much better. The American School Counselor Association says there should be one counselor for every 250 students. Try selling that in cash-strapped districts like Philadelphia and in communities across California, where many counselors have more than 1,000 students on their to-do lists.

[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "The best -- and worst -- advice from guidance counselor" on Storify</a>]

No watering your lawn ... except for those who can afford their own private well

Thu, 2014-01-16 12:52

Driving to Brandi Gruis’s place in Austin, Texas, you pass block after block of little houses on brown, postage-stamp lawns. Then there’s her cul-de-sac: Big houses, acre-plus lots, and greener grass.

Brandi and her husband, Brian, moved here from Sioux City, South Dakota, last spring.  "We realized shortly after we moved in," she recalls, "we were one of the few in the neighborhood not to have a well."

Like much of Texas, the city of Austin has had drought for the last few years. In response, the city has imposed restrictions on watering lawns -- and utility rates that make watering expensive. But homeowners in greener -- and wealthier -- parts of town have found a work-around: Digging their own wells.

The practice is controversial. Local news outlets have run stories on wealthy homeowners -- including the state’s attorney general -- who seem, some say, to be thumbing their noses at the need for water conservation and shared sacrifice.

In Sioux City, Brandi and Brian Gruis let their grass go brown to conserve water. But in this cul-de-sac, letting the front yard go brown would be like walking the dog in your underwear. Brandi Gruis jokes -- or half-jokes -- about getting kicked out.

"I guess there’s still peer pressure when you’re adults, too," she says.

So on this December afternoon, there’s an 800-horsepower drilling rig in her backyard.

For anyone committed to watering a lawn this size in Austin, a $15,000 well pays itself back pretty quickly.

"Our watering bill would probably run about $700 to $1,000 a month if we watered just to keep the grass barely alive," says Ms. Gruis.

The drilling rig’s owner, Jim Blair, of Bee Cave Drilling, arrives just before work starts in earnest.

"It’ll get loud, all of a sudden," he promises.

Blair says he’s been digging 200 wells a year or more, and other drilling companies are getting work, too.

"People are always wanting to use their own water," he says. "They own the groundwater here in Texas."

Texas law supports the “right of capture,” meaning that property owners are entitled to take any water under their land -- even if it means pumping a neighbor’s well dry.

However, a mechanism exists for regulating groundwater that could curtail well-digging. Blair expects local authorities to try using it.

"There’s a big fight coming," he says. "That’s for sure."

Meanwhile, he says the prospect of that fight is good for business. It’s a reason for customers to dig wells now, while they can.

Also good for his business: The public shaming of homeowners who use too much city water on their lawns. For years, a local paper published an annual list of the city’s biggest water users.

"I look forward to that list coming out every year," says Blair with a laugh. "I always get the phone calls the next day."


5 facts you'd never guess about Chuck E. Cheese

Thu, 2014-01-16 11:38

At first glance, $1.3 billion seems like a lot to pay for a kiddie-birthday-party giant that has seen better days. So what will private-equity firm Apollo Global Management, which announced the merger this morning, do to recoup that kind of investment?

Here’s a possible answer: Send Chuck to Russia. And other former Soviet-block countries. At least, that's one scenario that occurs to Chris Christopher, who follows consumer behavior for IHS Global Insight.

"Those countries didn’t have very good restaurants, until the Berlin Wall fell down," he says. "And now that things are very open, and people have a little more spending money, they do dine out."

A private equity company could have the deep pockets and the flexibility to let Chuck try his luck abroad. And to anyone shopping for a U.S. restaurant brand to export, Chuck E. Cheese is a relative bargain.

Back at home, the company has seen its same-store sales fall in the last few years, even as the company has tried various updates. The trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News keeps a “top 100” list. In its most-recent rankings, Chuck E. Cheese fell from 91 to 99.

Editor Ron Ruggles, who has been reporting on the chain for 20 years, points out that the entertainment side of the enterprise— the giant mouse, the video games, that kind of stuff— has seen the competition get much tougher in recent years.

"So much entertainment is coming into the home now," he says. "It is difficult to offer something that’s different from what people can get."

So what distinguishes this pizza-slinging mouse from his competition? If nothing else, a storied past. What we learned about Chuck E. Cheese today:

1. He was buddies with Steve Jobs. Before venturing into the pizza-theater business, CEO Nolan Bushnell founded the video game company Atari. There, he was Steve Jobs' boss when Jobs worked for Atari as a technician. In Bushnell's latest book, "Finding The Next Steve Jobs," he advises entrepreneurs to think outside of the box when hiring, with interview questions such as: "What is the opposite of a table?" (Correct answer: "Nothing, as far as I know. Certainly not a chair.")   

2. Perhaps "a kid can be a kid," but a rat can't be a rat. In his early days, Chuck E. Cheese was a New Jersey rat who smoked cigars. According to the New York Daily News, executives considered naming him "Rick the Rat," but changed course when a PR firm suggested customers might be put off from their pizza. In 2012, Chuck E. was officially made over into mouse...

3. ...a pop-punk mouse. He was most recently voiced by Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band Bowling for Soup.

4. He's spinning off into store-bought shredded cheese. For customers who really like the pizza. 

5. He hasn't always had run of the anthropomorphic-animal-with-a-pizza-arcade market. From the July 1982 edition of Fortune Magazine: Billy Bob Brockali, a "quizzical" bear, headlined at competing ShowBiz Pizza Place through the early 1980s. But Billy Bob and his parent company couldn't keep up. They declared bankruptcy in 1984, and merged with the mice in 1989.

What tech companies want from Obama's NSA proposal

Thu, 2014-01-16 11:28

President Obama is expected to suggest reforms to the NSA surveillance program tomorrow. And considering that data collection is also the capital of the tech business today, it’s no surprise that the industry has been lobbying for change.

“The first thing, is stop the bulk collection not just of phone data but internet data,” said Brough Turner, the founder and CTO at netBlazr, an internet service provider in Watertown, Mass.

While a lot of attention has been paid to phone data, tech companies point out that the FISA Act also allows for the bulk collection of Internet data. Turner’s developing wireless products, and a few months ago he was shopping it around in Europe.

“I was in Germany in October, and it was pretty clear that American services are completely, suspicious and American products are somewhat suspicious,” Turner said. “That was three months ago. At this point, the situation is much more negative.”

Turner says that Obama can start putting some of these concerns at ease if he proposes a policy to protect the privacy of foreign internet users.

The NSA revelations are also calling into question the security of cloud computing, said Matt Simons, the director of social and economic justice at ThoughtWorks, which builds custom software for business around the world. He says moving software to the cloud has, in part, fueled this tech boom

But “people are seeking to build their own clouds, people are seeking to use clouds that are not storing their data inside the United States,” Simons said.

He added that the NSA revelations appear to be having a bigger impact on small and medium sized businesses. While there are few alternatives to Google, Facebook and Amazon, the global competition for smaller scale products is fierce.

One thing that’s hitting all tech companies is the news that the NSA has built back doors into security software, said Stephen Cobb, a researcher at ESET, a cyber-security firm that protects company servers.

“It really sent a shiver through the security community because we know if you weaken it for the intelligence community, than the bad guys will exploit it, too,” Cobb said.

Cobbs says before the Snowden revelations, the cyber-security industry shared information with the government. Now, that relationship has chilled.

Why the demise of brick and mortar stores may not be such a big deal for the economy

Thu, 2014-01-16 11:25

Big box retailer Best Buy released some truly dismal holiday sales results today. Sales fell nearly 1 percent during the holiday shopping season. Sears and Costco saw disappointing sales too, and JC Penney announced it is closing 33 stores and eliminating 2,000 jobs. 

A decade ago, big box stores were the titans of retail; small businesses were shutting their doors left and right because they couldn’t compete with the likes of Costco, Best Buy and Target on price and selection. Now the big boys are "struggling to find their customers," says Laura Kennedy, principle analyst at Kantar Retail. "I think Seth Meyers made a joke on Saturday Night Live that 'Toys R Us announced its stores would remain open for 87 straight hours leading up to Christmas... meanwhile, the Internet announced that it will be open all the time, always, forever.'"

E-commerce accounts for roughly 6 percent of the retail economy. That number is growing fast, but if retail titans like Best Buy go down the tubes, we could have a problem. "They do $45 billion in revenue, so it is a big deal," says Brian Yarbrough, a consumer analyst at Edward Jones. "Retailers realize they probably over-expanded and made the box too big over the years, and when they close, it’s not good for the economy."

The biggest issue? Jobs. Yarbrough points out big box stores employ thousands of people, from sales clerks to store managers. Still, he says, many of those jobs will migrate along with our shopping habits. "You might lose a few people in the stores, but a lot of these retailers are ramping up hiring around systems and software and distribution centers. And I think that there’s not a ton of job losses."

Adding to that, big box stores are becoming economic small potatoes. "They’re becoming less part of even the retail space," says Chris Christopher, a consumer economist at IHS Global Insight. "So they are becoming less important and they also are struggling. Just because a lot of consumers are sort of saying, ‘Hey, I don’t need that extra item.’"

Christopher points out the economy has improved, but the average household has about 8 percent less income than it did before the recession. That gives another edge to online retailers, which can charge less for items because they don’t have to pay for the big overhead of a big box store.

"We're sorry you got hacked": Target's letter to unlucky shoppers

Thu, 2014-01-16 09:34

A Marketplace staffer / Target "guest" received this email from the beleagured chain this morning. They're offering victims a year of credit monitoring, deep regrets, and some (all-too-useful?) advice: 

Dear Target Guest,
As you may have heard or read, Target learned in mid-December that criminals forced their way into our systems and took guest information, including debit and credit card data. Late last week, as part of our ongoing investigation, we learned that additional information, including name, mailing address, phone number or email address, was also taken.I am writing to make you aware that your name, mailing address, phone number or email address may have been taken during the intrusion.

I am truly sorry this incident occurred and sincerely regret any inconvenience it may cause you. Because we value you as a guest and your trust is important to us, Target is offering one year of free credit monitoring to all Target guests who shopped in U.S. stores, through Experian's® ProtectMyID® product which includes identity theft insurance where available. To receive your unique activation code for this service, please go to and register before April 23, 2014. Activation codes must be redeemed by April 30, 2014.
In addition, to guard against possible scams, always be cautious about sharing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, user IDs and financial account information. Here are some tips that will help protect you:

• Never share information with anyone over the phone, email or text, even if they claim to be someone you know or do business with. Instead, ask for a call-back number.
• Delete texts immediately from numbers or names you don't recognize.
• Be wary of emails that ask for money or send you to suspicious websites. Don't click links within emails you don't recognize.
Target's email communication regarding this incident will never ask you to provide personal or sensitive information.
Thank you for your patience and loyalty to Target. You can find additional information and FAQs about this incident at our website. If you have further questions, you may call us at 866-852-8680.
Gregg Steinhafel

Chairman, President and CEO

Want to go shopping, anyone?

Fox News and Roger Ailes 'reversed the economics of TV news'

Thu, 2014-01-16 09:20

Fox News and Roger Ailes aren't uncontroversial things to talk about. And we know you'll have some feedback on this interview. Click the button to right and give us your opinion -- in your own voice:

var audioboo={stream_id:'1816105'};

As one surveys the American corporate landscape, there are few CEOs out there as successful, influential, or powerful as Roger Ailes, the founder and president of Fox News.

He started in daytime television with Mike Douglas, back in the 1960s, got into politics with then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and since starting Fox News in 1996, has built it into a multi-billion dollar business and a huge political force.

Gabriel Sherman covers the media for New York magazine and is the author of "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country." Sherman says he interviewed 600 sources for his book, but Ailes was not one of them.

"He has reversed the economics of the TV business by revolutionizing how TV is packaged. By using politics he's figured out a business model that has allowed his network to generate twice the ratings of his competitors, CNN and MSNBC. His profits exceed all of cable news and the broadcast evening news networks combined, so as a business story it is an unparalleled success."

Fox News: 'Recreated in Roger Ailes' image'

Thu, 2014-01-16 09:20

var audioboo={stream_id:'1816105'};

As one surveys the American corporate landscape, there are few CEOs out there as successful, influential, or powerful as Roger Ailes, the founder and president of Fox News.

He started in daytime television with Mike Douglas, back in the 1960s, got into politics with then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and since starting Fox News in 1996, has built it into a multi-billion dollar business and a huge political force.

Gabriel Sherman covers the media for New York magazine and is the author of "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country."

Why is Congress focusing on poverty?

Thu, 2014-01-16 06:53

Income inequality is at levels we haven’t seen since the 1920s, according to Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution. But Burtless says there’s a key difference between then and now -- government safety net programs like unemployment benefits and food stamps. But Burtless says the fruits of the current economic recovery aren’t being distributed equally.

"The stock market has hit new record highs and there has been a very sharp recovery in the income position and the wealth position of people who were very affluent," he says. 

Wages for lower income Americans haven’t improved much since 2007.  And, Burtless says, the high unemployment rate certainly doesn’t help.

“If there are three people looking for a job for every vacancy then workers are in a very weak bargaining position," he explains.

And those workers are spread out. In Republican, and Democratic congressional districts. Which is one reason why both parties are paying attention to inequality. 

Labor wins two rulings, Walmart vows to fight back

Thu, 2014-01-16 06:14

Labor advocates scored two legal victories this week in their multi-pronged campaign against retail giant Walmart: at the National Labor Relations Board, and in a federal court in Southern California. In both cases, Walmart has pledged to fight the charges.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder, of California's Central District, reaffirmed an earlier decision that a class-action lawsuit (Carrillo v. Schneider Logistics) filed on behalf of warehouse workers who loaded goods for Walmart outside Los Angeles, can go forward. The judge rejected the claim by Walmart and Schneider (a national logistics company that operates warehouses for Walmart), that she should dismiss the lawsuit because the warehouse workers were directly employed and paid by subcontractors (in this case, temporary staffing agencies), and not Walmart or Schneider.

And on Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel issued a formal complaint against Walmart for allegedly taking illegal retaliation against dozens of Walmart workers in 14 states. Those workers (many affiliated with the group OUR Walmart, backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union) had engaged in protests and strikes over wages and working conditions. More than sixty Walmart supervisors and one company executive are named in the complaint, for allegedly threatening workers who participated in strikes at Walmart stores in May and June of 2013, in California, Kentucky, Texas, Washington and other states. The NLRB complaint says the workers were given written and verbal warnings and reprimands for striking. The complaint also says Walmart has miscategorized time spent on strike as an ‘unexcused absence’ from work.

Walmart spokesman  Kory Lundberg told Marketplace on Wednesday that the company looks forward to making its case on the merits of the NLRB complaint, and believes it will be vindicated. The case will come before an administrative law judge after Walmart files its response to the general counsel’s complaint at the end of January. The judge’s decision on Walmart’s culpability will then be accepted or rejected by the full five-member NLRB board.

"No reasonable person thinks it’s OK for someone to come and go from scheduled shifts as part of a union-organized campaign without being held accountable," Lundberg said of the Walmart workers who went on strike at stores last year.

Labor attorney Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon LLP in San Francisco, who is representing warehouse workers in the Carrillo case and has followed the worker-retaliation case as well, says the NLRB complaint is significant. "Retaliation is usually an individual-by-individual matter," says Rubin. "It is a big deal if a company had a nationwide policy or practice, established, implemented, or overseen from corporate headquarters, to retaliate against on-the-ground employees."

In reference to Judge Snyder’s denial of Walmart’s motion to dismiss the Carrillo class-action case (which alleges wage theft and other labor violations in Southern California warehouses operated for Walmart), Rubin says the judge has let the plaintiffs’ argument that Walmart was a 'joint employer' of the workers go forward. That is in spite of Walmart's claim that it was a 'customer' of the warehouse operator, Schneider Logistics, and wasn’t directly responsible for the subcontracted temporary workers’ wages or working conditions. 

PODCAST: The NBA has made it clear -- they want to expand to Europe

Thu, 2014-01-16 06:09

More than 100 college presidents will meet with President Obama to discuss ways to help low-income minority students graduate.

NBA officials have made it clear; they want to expand the brand in Europe.

Most local government finances are doing well when it comes to balance sheets, even capturing that elusive word -- surplus! We take a look at the state of state finances.

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.



Drupal theme by ver.1.4