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Everybody's talking about Cuba

Wed, 2014-05-28 02:06

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a delegation to Cuba this week to, in its words, "develop a better understanding of the country’s current economic environment."    

“One thing it will do is open people’s eyes to some of the opportunities that may be down there, ” says former Deputy Secretary of State and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. Negroponte, who is not on the trip, now heads the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and recently signed a public letter the Society sent to President Barack Obama, asking him to ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba while continuing to push for human rights reforms. 

Why all this attention to Havana now? It’s partly because the administration has already eased up a bit.

“We should broaden out what is in our national interest to do with Cuba,” says Ted Piccone, acting vice president of the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program. “It’s in our interest to have better relations with the country.”

Texas A&M study says if the U.S. ended travel and financial restrictions on Cuba, the U.S. would be $1.1 billion richer. 

New trade venue is in talks to become a full-fledged financial exchange

Wed, 2014-05-28 01:36

Driven in part by Michael Lewis' recent book, regulators are taking hard looks at the widespread practice of ultra-high frequency trading in financial markets.  

Lewis' book argues that regular investors lose out when technology gives some traders the ability to jump in and out of trades with lightening speed. The fast folk say there's nothing wrong with what they do. At the center of Lewis' book is an upstart financial trading system out of New York City called IEX that looks for ways to use technology to insulate clients from high speed traders nibbling on the edges of their prices. Now the Wall Street Journal says IEX is in talks to raise several hundred million dollars in cash to turn itself into a full-fledged financial exchange with all the necessary regulatory permissions and safeguards. IEX isn't commenting about this, but the head of Market Operations at this maverick out was willing to talk about his efforts to thwart the fast boys, as he sees it.

Don Bollerman, Head of Market Operations at IEX, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss. 

A digital night at the museum

Wed, 2014-05-28 01:00

The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced that it would make over 400,000 pieces of art from its collection available online through high quality digitzation. It's part of a commitment by the museum to provide high resolution images for those who want to study the art work more closely. 

Sree Sreenivasan, digital officer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, points out that it's also a means by which people around the world can enjoy the collection:

"Everybody in the world has part of their history here over the 5,000 years of art that we've collected, and so they will find something that connects with them and their culture."

The Learning Curve story

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:38

Technology is transforming education.

It’s a big statement, and we’ve heard big statements before. Remember the early predictions about Apple computers? Or how educational television would be the future of learning?

But this time, things look different. Technology really may change the way teachers teach and children learn. The digital revolution, fueled by billions in private and public investment, is full of promise. The promise of making kids better learners by letting them direct their own learning, of making teachers better teachers by giving them more and better information about their students, of bringing down costs, and of getting more kids across the college finish line with less student debt.

Simply put, educational technology is the New Right Answer.

Or so its proponents would have us believe.

But for all the promise of online courses, flipped classrooms, personalized learning, tablets, laptops, apps, MOOCs and the rest of it, there’s an equal amount of peril. The peril of having kids, who already spend seven hours a day with electronic media, spend even more time in front of a screen. The peril of taking teachers out of the center of the class, and into the role of technology advisors directing kids to the best app. The peril of letting the feedback loop created by collecting data on everything students do, determine their futures.

This will be our territory.  Over the next year, the LearningCurve team will explore the expanding role of educational technology from preschool through college. We will take you into the digital classroom, and the hotbeds of EdTech innovation. We will ask the big questions about whether all this technology is actually making kids any smarter, or better prepared for the workforce of the 21st century. We will follow the money as it pours into the classroom.

We will bring these stories to you over the air and online. We will get behind the numbers that tell the deeper story . We will keep you up to date with a podcast and newsletter. We will let you test your knowledge with our daily quiz.

And we want to hear from you as we do it. Parents. Teachers. Students. Comment on our stories. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Humor us with your Tumblr posts. Join us in Google chats with experts. Tell us what you like and what drives you nuts about learning and teaching today. Join us in an ongoing conversation about one of the most important issues of the day. The education of the next generation.

About Learning Curve

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:38

Technology is transforming education.

It’s a big statement, and we’ve heard big statements before. Remember Apple computers? Or how educational television would be the future of learning?

But this time, things look different. Technology really may change the way teachers teach and children learn. The digital revolution, fueled by billions in private and public investment, is full of promise. The promise of making kids better learners by letting them direct their own learning, of making teachers better teachers by giving them more and better information about their students, of bringing down costs, and of getting more kids across the college finish line with less student debt.

Simply put, educational technology is the New Right Answer.

Or so its proponents would have us believe.

But for all the promise of online courses, flipped classrooms, personalized learning, tablets, laptops, apps, MOOCs and the rest of it, there’s an equal amount of peril. The peril of having kids, who already spend seven hours a day with electronic media, spend even more time in front of a screen. The peril of taking teachers out of the center of the class, and into the role of technology advisors directing kids to the best app. The peril of letting the feedback loop created by collecting data on everything students do, determine their futures.

This will be our territory. All of it and more. Over the next year, the LearningCurve team will explore the expanding role of educational technology from preschool through college. We will take you into the digital classroom, and the hotbeds of EdTech innovation. We will ask the big questions about whether all this technology is actually making kids any smarter, or better prepared for the workforce of the 21st century. We will follow the money as it pours into the classroom.

We will bring these stories to you over the air and online. We will get behind the numbers that tell the deeper story . We will keep you up to date with a podcast and newsletter. We will let you test your knowledge with our daily quiz.

And we want to hear from you as we do it. Parents. Teachers. Students. Comment on our stories. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Humor us with your Tumblr posts. Join us in Google chats with experts. Tell us what you like and what drives you nuts about learning and teaching today. Join us in an ongoing conversation about one of the most important issues of the day. The education of the next generation.

Gunnery Sgt. Holtry, United States Marine Corps

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:03

My drill instructor's name was Gunnery Sgt. Holtry, United States Marine Corps. That wasn't his given name, of course.

It was Jerry. Jerry W., to be more specific.

But lord help any of us if we ever were caught referring to him as anything but Gunnery Sgt. Holtry, United States Marine Corps.

That's him, by the way, fourth from the right in the picture above, just about the time I was in Officer Candidate School down in Pensacola, Florida.

It only lasted 14 weeks, but it's kind of telling that that's still how I remember him, almost 30 years on.

Why am I telling you this? Well, a couple of reasons, not necessarily connected but all of a piece somehow.

Item 1: On Tuesday, President Obama laid out his timeline for leaving Afghanistan. The official combat mission ends this year, 4,500 or so troops in-country by the end of next year, and by the end of 2016 what the White House calls "a normal embassy presence." According to the website icasualties.org, 2,322 Americans have died there since 2001.

Item 2: CNN anchor Jake Tapper's Twitter timeline this past weekend was, in honor of Memorial Day, a steady stream of remembrances of America's war dead. Makes you think.

SPC Casey Sheehan, 24, of Vacaville, Ca., was killed by RPGs/small-arms fire 4/4/2004 in Baghdad. #MemorialDay pic.twitter.com/PWaGaGRwM6

— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 27, 2014

Item 3: This past week or so having been, in addition to Memorial Day, graduation week at a lot of colleges, this commencement address by Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, stuck.

That's it. That's all I've got today. No Marketplace angle. No business, no economics.

I never served in combat. Not even close. But for some reason, Memorial Day this year hit me harder than usual.

Is China's property market crashing?

Tue, 2014-05-27 21:40

Housing sales in China have dropped nearly 10% over last year, and construction starts are down nearly 25%, despite nationwide easing of government restrictions on home buying and lending. The sluggish sector has left many wondering if China’s real estate market slowdown will end with a crash.

“I think that the property crash is underway,” said Anne Stevenson-Yang, research director at J-Capital in Beijing. “Once you lose the consumer’s confidence that there’s going to be price appreciation, then you can’t recover it.”

Stevenson-Yang’s team recently surveyed hundreds of properties in 44 cities throughout China. They found discounts as high as 40% on properties in all but one of those cities. In twelve of the cities they surveyed, developers were offering to finance or forgive down-payments on homes to get around a rule requiring buyers to put 30% down on a home purchase.

“So now the developers in these cities will basically write a contract that says ‘this guy already paid me 30%,’ and then give that to the bank in order to induce it to lend, when really they haven’t paid it at all,” said Stevenson-Yang.

In a country where many people buy property more as an investment rather than a place to live, economists say the threat of a property crash will mean a downturn in China’s consumer spending and will have a ripple effect throughout the world’s second-largest economy.

Share your experiences with tech in the classroom...We did!

Tue, 2014-05-27 15:14
.awesome{ background: #222 url(/images/alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 5px 10px 6px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px #222; border-bottom: 1px solid #222; position: relative; cursor: pointer; } .large.awesome { font-size: 14px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome { background-color: #2daebf; } Share Your Tech

The things you can learn about the people you work with….We asked staffers to contribute their classroom- tech memories to LearningCurve’s new tumblr, and the geek-out got underway in no time. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal,  remembered his efforts to blast a Klingon ship in a very early “online” Star Trek game he played in his 9th-grade computer lab..

A teletype machine was hooked up to a modem so old that it actually had a telephone headset on it. The commands and interactions were text-only and would blip by a couple of lines at a time, allowing Kai to boldly go where no man had gone before, but in very slow motion.

Oregon Trail, one of the first video games that was acceptable to play in school, got multiple shout outs (which should tell you something about the age of our staff). Even lower on the education scale: somebody posted a picture of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt.”  That contributor preferred to remain anonymous . LearningCurve reporter Adriene Hill figured out how to hack the scantron machine in her high school, but says she didn’t rig the test results. We’ve got memories of Windows 95, film-strip projectors and JFKs funeral on TV.   You can see our tech memories, and add your own, on our Tumblr page.

Share your experiences with tech in the classroom...We did!

Tue, 2014-05-27 15:14
.awesome{ background: #222 url(/images/alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 5px 10px 6px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px #222; border-bottom: 1px solid #222; position: relative; cursor: pointer; } .large.awesome { font-size: 14px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome { background-color: #2daebf; } Share Your Tech

The things you can learn about the people you work with….We asked staffers to contribute their classroom- tech memories to LearningCurve’s new tumblr, and the geek-out got underway in no time. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal,  remembered his efforts to blast a Klingon ship in a very early “online” Star Trek game he played in his 9th-grade computer lab..

A teletype machine was hooked up to a modem so old that it actually had a telephone headset on it. The commands and interactions were text-only and would blip by a couple of lines at a time, allowing Kai to boldly go where no man had gone before, but in very slow motion.

Oregon Trail, one of the first video games that was acceptable to play in school, got multiple shout outs (which should tell you something about the age of our staff). Even lower on the education scale: somebody posted a picture of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt.”  That contributor preferred to remain anonymous . LearningCurve reporter Adriene Hill figured out how to hack the scantron machine in her high school, but says she didn’t rig the test results. We’ve got memories of Windows 95, film-strip projectors and JFKs funeral on TV.   You can see our tech memories, and add your own, on our Tumblr page.

Share your classroom tech experiences... we did!

Tue, 2014-05-27 15:14
.awesome{ background: #222 url(/images/alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 5px 10px 6px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px #222; border-bottom: 1px solid #222; position: relative; cursor: pointer; } .large.awesome { font-size: 14px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome { background-color: #2daebf; } Share Your Tech

The things you can learn about the people you work with….We asked staffers to contribute their classroom- tech memories to LearningCurve’s new tumblr, and the geek-out got underway in no time. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal,  remembered his efforts to blast a Klingon ship in a very early “online” Star Trek game he played in his 9th-grade computer lab..

A teletype machine was hooked up to a modem so old that it actually had a telephone headset on it. The commands and interactions were text-only and would blip by a couple of lines at a time, allowing Kai to boldly go where no man had gone before, but in very slow motion.

Oregon Trail, one of the first video games that was acceptable to play in school, got multiple shout outs (which should tell you something about the age of our staff). Even lower on the education scale: somebody posted a picture of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt.”  That contributor preferred to remain anonymous . LearningCurve reporter Adriene Hill figured out how to hack the scantron machine in her high school, but says she didn’t rig the test results. We’ve got memories of Windows 95, film-strip projectors and JFKs funeral on TV.   You can see our tech memories, and add your own, on our Tumblr page.

The end of the job listing?

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:57

The rituals of applying for a job are well known to many at this point: Pick out something nice to wear, bring an extra copy of your resume, and maybe research the company before going into your interview. But along the way, several companies have made attempts to reinvent the hiring wheel. Most recently, Zappos got rid of job listings entirely, opting instead for a system in which interested individuals sign up to be part of a network of candidates that the company vets for open positions.

They're not the first to try a holistic approach to hiring, either. Messaging company Kik asks potential hires to start work part-time before they agree to the full time position. For those who already have a full-time gig, Kik invites them to work evenings, or during a vacation on a project that relates to their new position. The company believes that it works better for employers and employees to know if the job is a good fit.

Other companies partake in intense rites of passage for new hires. As outlined in this article on bizarre hiring rituals, Moving company GentleGiant asks employees to run stairs at the Harvard Stadium with their boss as part of a team building exercise. Foot Levelers, which makes chiropractic products in Virginia, has all new employees attend a screening of the film "Rudy" to gain inspiration.

But back to getting the job in the first place. Some would say that all of this is too much time spent vetting new hires and then ingraining them into the system. For those who shoot more from the hip, Travelodge tried out the speed-dating of interview processes back in 2008, giving each potential candidate just 3 minutes to prove themselves. Sometimes, first impressions are everything.

How not to slip slide the summer away

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:05

The "summer slide," as it's known, is what happens when you let your child do exactly that: sit around, play video games, watch TV and generally not do much to keep up the brain action. The Department of Education estimates that, on average, the "slide" can set students back two months in reading and math.

Here are four ways to stem the slide:

1) Crack the code. Coding camp may be the next best thing to playing a video game. No tents or marshmallow-roasting here. These camps are pretty much indoors, and range from day programs to overnight options at universities to online camps. EdSurge has a good round-up.

2) Virtual summer camp. If lanyards and popsicle-stick sculpture are not your thing,the online DIY company Make Media has partnered with Google, for Makers Camp. The "camp" lets students collaborate on creative engineering projects and share them with other kids across the country, using Google+. Like most Google products, it's free - the only price is letting Google know what your kid is up to.

3) There’s an app for that. There's no mistaking these apps for what they are: school. There are apps to track reading, apps featuring math and science activities, and a whole lot of others to help kids boost their skills over the summer.

4) Go traditional. The Department of Education suggests some quaint alternatives to the digital world on its blog. Spending time at the library, volunteering at the local dog shelter or hospital, or making a summer reading list, with a reward for each book completed.

The EPA starts targeting carbon dioxide in earnest

Tue, 2014-05-27 13:51

Expect to hear a lot about carbon dioxide in the next week. It's the main gas that's collecting in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Next Monday, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose rules limiting the carbon dioxide emitted by the power plants that produce most of our electricity. If the U.S. is going to play a role in the global reduction of greenhouse gases, the regulations the EPA is preparing are the most likely way that will happen any time soon.

Previous EPA rules have hit existing coal-burning plants by focusing on pollutants, like mercury and sulphur dioxide, that older coal plants produce. Pending rules would limit carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants and factories.

“The rule the EPA will introduce next week is the first step that’s specifically aimed at the power sector— reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector,” says Jonas Monast, director of climate and energy programs at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The administration will create carbon-reduction targets for states and allow each state to make a plan for hitting its target. One of the most efficient ways to hit a target: Shut down older, heavily-polluting coal-burning plants.

This isn’t exactly war on coal. “The real war on coal is not being waged by the Obama administration. It’s being waged by cheap natural gas,” says Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and environmental think tank.

Coal’s biggest advantage as a power source has been that it’s cheap. Low natural gas prices have eaten away much of that advantage. Utilities have been shutting down older coal plants and opening up new gas plants that also pollute less.

Regulations can lock in that shift and extend it, says Kevin Book, with ClearView Energy Partners. Adding next week’s proposals to what’s already been proposed could mean the U.S. ends up getting about a third less energy from coal than it did a few years ago. How much carbon emissions get reduced will depend on the targets EPA sets.

“This is the crown jewel of the Obama’s administration’s climate policy,” says Book. The rules could enable U.S. policy to have a global impact. In effect, they could put a price on carbon emissions. 

A bond that can't be broken

Tue, 2014-05-27 13:40

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Wednesday, May 28:

President Obama is scheduled to be in West Point to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2014.

Shoe company DSW releases quarterly earnings.

The Senate is on break this week.

The "Empress of Soul," Gladys Knight, turns 70.

And author Ian Fleming was born on May 28, 1908. You're probably familiar with one of his very charismatic characters: James Bond.

Pilgrim eyes Hillshire as tasty morsel

Tue, 2014-05-27 13:12

Chicken-producer Pilgrim's Pride has made a bid for sausage supremo, Hillshire Brands, and is offering $45 per share, or, what it says is a transaction valued at $6.4 billion

Would you like the chicken, or, the pork? That’s the question Pilgrim’s Pride wants to ask.

“When you call on a retail client, you want to give them as broad a choice of products as possible,” says John Stanton, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University. Stanton says for Pilgrim Pride’s, mainly a poultry producer, the plan to buy a company that sells pork, Hillshire farms,  makes sense.

“You want to say, 'You don’t need to talk to sausage people, you don’t need to talk to pork people,' because when you talk to me I can sell you all your poultry and all your pork products you want,” he says.

But Rob Campagnino, director of consumer research for Sector and Sovereign, notes that chicken and pork are both commodities, which means their prices are not very flexible. 

“So the price of chicken goes up and down, but that’s solely determined by the cost to produce it,” he says. 

So, Campagnino notes Pilgrim Pride’s bid isn’t just about gaining the ability to sell more kinds of protein. Instead it’s about moving beyond commodities, and getting into brands like Jimmy Dean sausages which is owned by Hillshire Farms.

"What you can do with something like Jimmy Dean is you can innovate," he says,  You can raise prices, and when you raise these prices they’re price increases that aren’t necessarily driven solely by changes in what it costs you to make it.”

Consolidating the two companies, would also offer some savings, but says Campagnino, that’s not the meat of the deal.

By Shea Huffman/Marketplace

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