One big piece of today's economic news will come from Washington tonight when President Obama delivers his state of the union address. Juli Niemann, an analyst with Smith Moore & Company, shares her thoughts on what Obama will highlight and the state of jobs and the economy.
Much of the excitement over social networks has been based around the idea that they can sell targeted ads and maybe eventually things. Well, “social commerce” is becoming a bit more real. Starting Wednesday, American Express customers who link their cards to their Twitter accounts will be able to make purchases with a tweet.
Here’s how it works: American Express will release a list of things you can buy as favorites on their Twitter page -- think a Kindle Fire or an X-box. Each product will have a special hashtag. You tweet that hashtag, along with a second confirmation tweet from American Express, then the product gets mailed to your billing address.
“Everything happens within the Twitter eco-system,” says Doug Pierce, the head of research at Digital Due Diligence. “So there’s no going to the merchant site, no fumbling to find your card. It’s really simple, seamless.”
Pierce says it’s seamless because a lot of marketing already happens on Twitter and so that’s where you may first find a product you want. But the new payment system may be more about social media cred, than just about making money.
“It’s something to help spread the word about what can be done and how to do it, ” says Ingrid Lunden, a staff writer for TechCrunch. “And how cool and hip American Express is, rather than something that really will generate massive returns.”
Lunden says at least for now, what you buy with this system will likely be limited, as will the number of people who choose to participate.
The Wall Street Journal and other media are reporting that the people who brought you the iPhone are working on an iWristwatch. While wearable electronics seem to be the next must-have gadget, it's not clear whether Apple wants to jump into a market that is in its infancy.
"The expectation is that if Apple is going to do it, they are going to go above and beyond, they are going to make it amazing in some way that it was previously not amazing," says Molly Wood, executive editor at CNET. "Honestly, the biggest step they could take in that direction would be to make a smart watch that is, in fact, attractive."
Though Wood is skeptical that Apple will put out a new product in this area any time soon, she says that smart watch makers, such as Pebble and Martian, are likely nervous about what an Apple iWatch would mean for the market.
So what would a smart watch do? Developers are working on devices that alert the wearer of incoming phone calls, make outgoing calls, and sync up with smartphones.
"I think wearables have a lot of potential, but I think the watch is actually still limited because of the screen size, and you don't want it to light up in the movies. People buy watches for style, not necessarily all these functions" says Wood.
Anywhere you look, the trend seems clear. One forecast shows smartphone use will double to two billion around the world in the next two years. Another shows 700 million phone/computers will be sold this year. No doubt many businesses look at those numbers and think: 'We need a mobile app, ASAP'.
That's where Alex Moazed comes in. He and his team at Applico are app-makers, catering to the likes of AT&T and NBC. His first big hit was an app for the New York City transit system. Since then, he's realized that companies need to think beyond just a mobile app:
"A lot of people rushed to the market, and said, 'Well, we have this web product, let's just extend it to mobile'," says Moazed. "But then if you really take a step back and think about what mobile allows you to do, that's where you can embrace innovation, you can really start to rethink your entire business model."
Moazed says successful businesses are already starting to create mobile innovation groups to enhance their business models and prepare for the future.
Today marks four years to the day since the last fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the U.S. In addition, the New York Times points out that last year was the safest for global air travel since 1945.
According to Keith Mackey, an aviation safety consultant in Ocala, Florida, there have been several key technological advancements in airline safety, including better weather radar, new plane tracking systems, and better equipped planes.
In addition, Mackey says the airline industry and regulators are learning from mistakes.
"One of the things that we learned from our last accident, in Buffalo four years ago, is some of the airlines were hiring very inexperienced pilots, and the FAA is taking steps now to change that," says Mackey.
Who's that sitting over near First Lady Michelle Obama tonight at the President State of the Union address? Word is it's going to be Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The State of the Union speech will no doubt address jobs and immigration reform. But how high a priority does the administration place on innovation and technology?
"We have a President who is incredibly passionate about the power of technology and innovation to improve government," says White house Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.
Park says the government is already working to attract tech entrepreneurs.
"We've actually found a lot of people in government who are very entrepreneurial, who are extremely mission-oriented, brass-knuckled, and want to get things done. We've actually also found that it is incredibly beneficial to bring people from outside government to complement the people that we've got to deliver even better results," says Park.
On Thursday, the President will take some of his State of the Union ideas and do a Google Plus online hangout, 4:50 in the afternoon eastern. Google Plus will be town hall style, but the questions will be curated and vetted. Some politicians have become leery of the free-for-alls that can happen in some online formats.
North Korea television confirmed this morning that the country had successfully carried out a third nuclear test, the first since Kim Jong-un took power. An international monitoring agency in Austria said the explosion was twice as big as North Korea's previous test in 2009, despite allegedly involving a smaller, "more advanced" device.
North Korea's foreign ministry has threatened even stronger action -- though it didn't say what -- if the United States kept up its hostility.
The BBC's Jon Sudworth in Beijing says a test like this would have cost billions of dollars and that's money North Korea really needs to feed its own citizens. The country has struggled to feed its own people and regularly needs food aid in order to stave off famine.
The test has been strongly condemned in the region. South Korea and Japan are pushing for even harsher sanctions. According to Sudworth, the Chinese response is harder to read. On paper the Chinese government has strongly condemned the North Koreans, but Sudworth suggests that some military hawks in China may welcome a little sabre-rattling by its closest regional ally as a message to the U.S.
The state legislature in Ohio continues hearings today on a new budget with some interesting tax ideas. Gov. John Kasich's (R) proposal cuts income taxes and it lowers the sales tax. But there's a catch: It levies sales taxes on a big list of services for the first time.
Here's a partial list of the services that could get hit with a 5 percent sales tax: coin-operated laundry, dating services, investment counseling, online downloads, movie tickets, funeral services, and haircuts.
Demetrius Williams, who runs Ambitions Barber Shop in Cleveland, is no fan of this idea. He says some of his customers complain they're already paying too much for their kids' haircuts.
"They say, 'Hey how much is a haircut?' And you tell them $10, it's like, 'Woah, $10? For a child? He doesn't have $10 worth of hair.'"
Most policy experts support the idea of taxing services. Zach Schiller, at liberal think tank Policy Matters Ohio, says if you want to keep state governments running, you've got to do it. But he has a big problem with the governor's plan to cut income taxes 20 percent. He says that unfairly favors the wealthy.
"The people in the top 1 percent will receive, on average, more than $10,000 a year in a tax cut. People in the bottom fifth will on average pay $63."
Schiller says Ohio should tax the wealthy more, not less. According to Schiller, state funds have been cut back in the past few years for local government and social services. He says right now, what low-income people really need is tax relief.
"If we go ahead and start taxing movie tickets and haircuts and so on-low-income people who can least afford it, we should take steps to protect them."
State tax commissioner Joe Testa says many of the services that would be newly taxed are professional services used by wealthier people.
"We're talking about hiring lawyers and accountants and engineers and architects, and markerters."
Testa says Ohio's been moving down this road for decades.
"Two-thirds of all consumption is services as opposed to goods. Whereas back when sales tax was started, back in the '30s, it was almost the opposite."
Hawaii and New Mexico already tax more than one hundred services. Several states, including Louisiana and Minnesota, have floated their own service tax ideas. Experts say this shift has been a long time coming.
UPDATED (9:15am EST): Publishing company McGraw-Hill swung to loss in the last quarter, but it's bigger problem could be a Justice Department lawsuit related to the housing bust and financial crisis.
The federal government claims Standard & Poor's inflated credit ratings on mortgage-backed securities that turned out to be worthless.
"The government's allegations are as grave as one could imagine," says securities attorney Lance Kimmel. Rather than a slap on the wrist, he says a $5 billion penalty would destroy McGraw-Hill, which earned less than a billion dollars in 2011.
That profit fell to $437 in 2012, as McGraw-Hill reported a $216 million loss for the fourth quarter.
"S&P, facing what I think would be a death knell, has no reason to settle, they're in a fight for their life," Kimmel adds.
McGraw-Hill already refused to settle once. And it could be tough for the government to prove that S&P manipulated ratings and hid that from investors.
"I think the government's going to have a hard time on this one. Fraud is always a bit of an amorphous concept," says Kimmel.
The other two major ratings agencies, Moody's and Fitch, also gave top grades to bad mortgage bonds, but so far the government has not sued them.
When President Obama went to Newtown, Conn., last month after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many people in Chicago wondered when he would visit the Windy City. Over 300 Chicago Public School students were shot last year, 24 of them fatally. This Friday, the president will be coming to Chicago and he’ll be giving a speech all about gun violence and murder. The president's attention to the problem will be appreciated by people like Bob Bennett, who has seen the value of his home in a South Side neighborhood plummet as a result of gun violence.
Houses on a block near Bob Bennett's home in Englewood
As the housing bubble grew, so did the appetite for homes in poorer neighborhoods in major cities like Chicago. Almost 13 years ago, Bennett was one of many homebuyers who bet big on places they thought were on the way up. In fact, the inside of Bennett’s 2,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago is something to behold. The place is decorated with beautiful paintings, leather couches, hardwood floors and granite countertops. But it’s another story when you look outside his back window.
“This house right here?” Bennett says, pointing out his kitchen window to a distressed property across the alley. “Board up to right, board up to the left. So, that’s three we’re looking at right outside the window.”
In fact, abandoned houses and empty lots line the streets around Bennett's home. When he bought the two-story frame house in 2000, he was betting that Englewood was about to make a dramatic comeback. He'd seen it happen in other historically black neighborhoods on the South Side.
“I was looking for a neighborhood that I thought was going to be the next Bronzeville,” he says. “And obviously that unfortunately has not really happened.”
Bennett bet wrong on gentrification. Instead of coming up, Englewood's been spiraling down. Home prices are off over 50 percent from five years ago. And the neighborhood has one of the highest murder rates in the city.
“If I had it to do all over again,” Bennett says. “No. To be honest with you, I would not have moved here.”
But neither is he willing to sell the home for pennies on the dollar. “I’m not just going to give my house away,” he says.
Bennett serves loose-leaf tea in his kitchen
Critics of gentrification say people like Bob Bennett push poor residents out. But city officials like Alderman Willie Cochran say middle class pioneers like Bennett are just what Englewood needs.
“The most important thing about that character in the community is that they have stabilized the community to the point where I can advocate for reinvestment and redevelopment,” says Cochran, who represents Chicago’s 20th Ward, which includes Englewood.
Cochran says he needs well-educated people who make good money to help him attract new business and job opportunities.
But Bennett says the first step to economic prosperity is not attracting more middle-class families. It's stopping the violence in Englewood.
“It destroys any economic growth that you could hope for,” says Bennett. “It destroys property values. It can totally destroy a community.”
Get rid of the violence, he says... and a more prosperous neighborhood will follow.
When President Obama gives the State of the Union address this evening, we all know one word he'll utter many times: Yes, J is for jobs.
Perhaps every successful politician promises employment. But looking back at the president's first term, where have the jobs actually come from?
Over the course of the last four years, the U.S. lost 4 million jobs, then created more than 5 million. Net gain: 1.2 million. The education and healthcare fields created many of those.
Why? We're getting older and trying to get wiser. But it also may be hard to replace workers in those fields with technology.
"Education and healthcare are two sectors where location really matters," says economist Ronnie Chatterji at Duke University. "The bedside manner of a physician, for example. Or a teacher being in the same classroom as a student."
Other sectors seeing net job gains included retail, leisure, and energy. Of course the housing market plummeted, as did jobs related to it, but that's turning up.
"In the next four years," says economist Kenneth Goldstein of the Conference Board, a business research group, "I think we'll see a return to job growth in manufacturing, in construction, and perhaps also in the public sector."
The jobless rate remains stubbornly high, at 7.9 percent. You could blame the president, or credit him for jobs created, or neither. Goldstein says in large part, market demand creates jobs.
With new data showing a narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit, in part because of a drop in oil imports, few dispute the massive impact that the fracking boom could have on American energy fortunes. Instead, the conversation turns to the size and scale of this boom. A number of analysts have suggested the shale revolution will turbo-charge the economy for years, a development on the order of the steam engine or the Internet.
Citigroup's Ed Morse has authored a report claiming: Energy 2020: North America, the NewMiddle East?
Check out this jobs chart from that report:
Or this quote: "Surging supply growth could transform North America into the new Middle East by 2020, driven by growth in shale oil and gas, deepwater and oil sands resources." Harvard research fellow Leonardo Maugeri, in the meantime, has authored a similar report entitled Oil: the Next Revolution.
A more moderated view is offered by our podcast guest this week. Trevor House of the Rhodium Group has a new report out suggesting "the long-term benefits are modest." To Houser, history suggests resource booms create manufacturing winners (resource sector) and losers (non-resource sectors). Here's his chart on how a resource surge affected Canada: blue bars winners, green bars losers.
Two years ago today, after a month of sometimes violent protests, Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign as the president of Egypt. There is now a new president, but not much more political stability. And, depending on the day, just as much unrest on the streets, protesting the new regime.
It's a continuing challenge for Egypt's already struggling economy, and a disappointment for business leaders who once had hope for more political and economic change. "It has been two years since the revolution, but it all hasn't been tragic -- there are times worse than now and some better than now -- but the economy is suffering badly, especially tourism, which is 11 percent of the GDP," said Hisham Fahmy, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. "All our friends from around the world who are waiting to support Egypt are on hold -- and that is precarious."
Despite the problems, he says people still need to buy food and other products, which has been a boon to multi-national companies like Proctor & Gamble and GM. "There are people reaping opportunities," he says. "Unfortunately, [the unrest] has affected smaller companies -- people who can't afford to pay their employees."
In corporate-speak, what Pope Benedict XVI did today is succession planning. The surprise resignation announcement isn’t good practice by business-world standards. But at the Vatican, the move is revolutionary, something no pope has done in six centuries. Only death could end the tenure of most popes. If you think of him as the CEO of a global faith, the move can be seen as bold, forward-thinking management.
“To have said to the church, ‘we need people who can do this faster, better and be more nimble than I can at 85,’ I think that’s a profound statement of a manager,” says Thomas Harvey of Notre Dame’s business school, a former CEO of Catholic Charities USA.
The Pope’s resignation is getting high marks from church watchers. But other management moves fell short. He made cleaning up shady Vatican finances a priority. But that task, which has challenged other popes, is far from finished. Critics also say his leadership was weak on confronting sexual abuse scandals.
Even supporters who praise his towering intellectual legacy concede that his managerial skills were lacking.
“He will be rated as a better teacher than he was a manager,” says Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome, who teaches students seeking MBAs in church management.
Pope Benedict faced greater competition to Catholicism from the growth of Pentecostalism in developing countries. Groome says the pontiff didn’t inspire donations the way his predecessor did.
“I’m not sure that this man has been able to raise the monies that perhaps John Paul II had attracted,” he adds. “Financially, he probably doesn’t leave the church in a very strong position.”
But popes aren’t ultimately measured by revenue or as technocrats. And even if a future pope prioritized bringing sweeping change to a labyrinthine bureaucracy, longtime Vatican observers say he would be frustrated.
“A pope doesn’t come in like a CEO and change up the whole management,” explains veteran Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher. “On the whole, the people that work in the Vatican work for life.”
All the management skill in the world is little match for the traditions and history of a 2,000-year-old faith with a billion-strong flock.
The State of the Union isn’t the only speech President Obama will give this week. On Friday, he’ll address the nation from Chicago. The speech will be about gun violence and murder in the nation’s third largest city and across the country.
Last year, Chicago had 506 homicides, the most since 2008. Per capita, that's worse than both New York City and Los Angeles. In January, 42 people were killed, setting a pace that would surpass 2012. In fact, gun violence is actually down across the city overall since the early '90s. But certain neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city have been decimated by violence -- neighborhoods like Englewood. And it's not just the people who are suffering. The economy of Englewood has also been devastated.
An empty corner lot on 63rd Street
At one time, 63rd Street, a major east-west thoroughfare across the heart of Englewood, was a vibrant economic strip anchored by major department stores like Sears. Today, most major retailers, including the big grocery chains, have abandoned the area. Vacant lots, empty buildings and boarded-up businesses now dot the landscape where thriving enterprises once operated.
It’s not just 63rd Street. The same is true of just about any other commercial street in Englewood and many of the residential areas in the South Side as well. One reason is that Englewood has one of the highest homicide rates in the city. It also has one of the highest unemployment rates. Forty percent of the people who live there are unemployed. And for those who do work in Englewood, dealing with violence has now become part of the job.
“Yeah, I was here. I heard the shots, but I didn’t see what happened because I was in here working,” says the head barber at Headhunterz near 63rd Street, where a 20-year-old man was shot in the face three times just the day before.
“They had it all taped off yesterday,” says the barber, who didn’t want to give his name for fear of gang retaliation. That’s a very real concern since most of the violence in Englewood and other parts of the city is the result of warring gang factions competing for control of drug sale turf.
The view from the barber shop. A man was shot three times in front of the business.
The barber was willing to talk about how he's had to change the way he does business because of the violence. Unlike other barbershops, the Headhunterz front door is always locked and they do not take unknown walk-in customers. “If I don’t know you, that’s it, especially at certain hours,” says the barber. “I just don’t take them. It’s just not worth the risk.”
Such precaution is part of the cost of doing business in Englewood, which fewer and fewer people are willing to do anymore in the neighborhood.
Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, says that violence not only destroys business, but that every homicide in Chicago reduces the city's population by 70 people: people who may have occupied a now boarded-up home, owned an auto repair shop or grocery store or paid taxes that kept cops on the streets and kids in schools.
“One thing that happens when violence is driving people and business out of the city is that it obviously reduces the tax base, which denigrates the ability of the city government to address the violence problem, which generates more violence, which drives out more tax base,” Ludwig says.
“So that’s a very unfortunate cycle. What you wind up with in some of these very disadvantaged neighborhoods is even bigger concentrations of poverty, and all of that further fuels the risk of violence in the neighborhoods,” he says.
Ludwig estimates that the total social cost of violence in Chicago is $2.5 billion each year. And the common thread between cities with soaring murder rates is segregation -- both racial and economic. Englewood is almost entirely black and now almost entirely poor.
Syron Smith is an exception to that rule. The 37-year-old office manager owns a home near Englewood with his wife, Jamika, and their 15-month old daughter, Mariah. Smith may be middle-class now, but he grew up in high rise housing projects -- mostly black, mostly poor -- and definitely violent.
“I was born in ’75, so I remember at 6 years old , which was ’81, asking my mom, 'Why were blacks killing each other?'” says Smith.
It’s a question he and many others are still asking. It’s also a major reason that Smith spends almost all his free time as a community organizer, working to stop the violence in neighborhoods across the city. “The black community has to feel good again,” he says. “If you don’t feel good, you’re not trying to do nothing, you’re not motivated. With the beat down happening all the time in these neighborhoods, I tell them, ‘You’re in the oven, and the temperature’s high. When do you have time to feel good?’”
Syron Smith during a meeting with teens that he mentors
So, 12 years ago Smith founded National Block Club University and spends nights and weekends mentoring teens. He tries to make them feel good about themselves. He teaches them that education is the only way to break the cycle of violence in the community, and that education also leads to economic prosperity.
Fifteen-year old Melik Phipps and 13-year-old Khalil Stringer are two of the teens that Smith mentors. They understand that to do well in life, they've got to go to school. But they say getting an education in Englewood can be complicated sometimes. “I’m concerned that just walking home from school there might be a shooting somewhere in my area, and I’ll probably get shot,” says Phipps. “I’m very concerned about that.”
The violence weighs heavily on the boys. And they’ve seen what living with violence does to people.
“People just don’t feel safe going anywhere,” he says. “They have to watch their backs. They feel like they have to carry a weapon on them. They just don’t trust anyone who walks by them. People don’t seem too nice these days.”
It's hard for the boys to concentrate on the future when the present is so perilous.
But Khalil's got an idea he thinks could solve a few of Englewood's problems. “Like all these abandoned fields? They should make more libraries so that I could actually go somewhere in my neighborhood to concentrate,” he says.
It’s a small idea to help solve a giant problem. But maybe his generation is a good place to start.
President Obama will visit Chicago this week as part of his tour promoting a plan to battle gun violence. In 2011, the state of Illinois recorded 452 murders, 83 percent of which were gun-related.
View an interactive map of gun crime data by state. Click to interact
Last year in 2012, the city of Chicago alone recorded over 500 dead -- which was twice as many as New York, and 200 more than Los Angeles. This January, the Windy City had the most homicides since 2002 -- 42 people killed.
This week, Marketplace's Sylvester Monroe reports from Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the city. Here's an economic breakdown of the area:
Average income: $11,993 (Chicago's is $27,148)
Poverty level: 42.2 percent
Unemployment rate: 21.3 percent
Percent without high school diploma: 29.4 percent
Violent crime ranking: From 11/26/12 to 12/26/2012, Englewood ranked 9th of 77 neighborhoods when it comes to homicides, assaults and rapes. Nineteen violent crimes over the time period were on the street or on a sidewalk. One was at a school and one was at a bus stop. There were 17 homicides in 2012.
Property crime rankings: From 11/26/12 to 12/26/2012, Englewood ranked 6th of 77 neighborhoods when it comes to thefts, car thefts and arson.
Quality of life crime rankings: From 11/26/12 to 12/26/2012, Englewood ranked 6th of 77 neighborhoods when it comes to narcotics, vandalism and prostitution crimes.
Other facts: Englewood has one of the highest concentrations of relocated project households that use housing vouchers on the private market; Of Englewood's 15,210 households, 274 were moved from the projects to Englewood between 1999 and 2010. That's 1.5 percent of households, one of the highest concentrations in the city.
Apple, the uber-successful maker of pods, pads and phones, is reportedly working on a watch with the functionality of a so-called “smart” device.
Apple won’t confirm in the report is true, but many who work in the mobile computing industry think such technology will be coming to a wrist near you, sooner rather than later.
In a way, it’s been here for a while.
Casio’s calculator watch has been around for decades, and in 2003, Microsoft unveiled a watch that gave sports scores and weather called SPOT for Smart Personal Object Technology.
But SPOT turned out to be a FLOP. So why would Apple’s version fare better?
"Apple has a pattern of taking a look at what technology is out there, but not working very well, and improving it to the point that consumers crave it,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Plus, a smart watch doesn’t have to replicate all the functionality of an iPhone or iPad to be appealing.
Ed Price, director of research partnerships at Georgia Tech, says a smart watch would likely work with, not in place of, current products.
“A phone call comes in. Your phone is silenced, but the caller ID information is on your watch display,” he says, describing how a so-called “smart” watch could function in a real-world setting. “So it actually makes your existing smartphone or iPad work better than it does right now.”
The question is how to make it. Price says the technology for a small, bendable display exists. Corning makes the glass used in the iPhone, and says it’s developed a type of bendable glass called Willow Glass.
The company would not say whether Apple is working with Corning to use the technology.
However it’s made, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster says it’s coming.
“In Apple’s case, we think they’re always looking to find something better than their existing business, and this would fit that category,” he says.
Munster says smart watches and smart glasses are the two arenas where consumers are most likely to see new mobile computing technologies.
The next question is what to call it? iWatch, iTime, iWrist? iDunno.
The manhunt in southern California for ex-police officer Christopher Dorner has prompted a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture and conviction. It's one of the biggest rewards ever offered by a local government, and has already generated more than 600 tips.
The reward money was assembled from a unusual variety of sources, including the L.A. Dodgers baseball team, the F.B.I., six anonymous donors and lots of local governments. Los Angeles County is considering adding another $100,000 to the pot, according to spokesman Tony Bell.
“It’s a good investment,” Bell says. “It’s an investment in public safety and a cost savings from having to have a killer on the loose, more lives lost, more resources expended.”
Rewards can also bring publicity to a case, reaching people who might have valuable information, and giving them an incentive to come forward.
“It's -- how do I say this? -- free money,” says Gene Ferrara, a retired police man on the board of Crime Stoppers in Cincinnati. That group is part of a nationwide nonprofit that offers cash rewards raised by donations, to useful tipsters. “They're not out working hard digging a ditch for eight hours. They just provide information, and they get money for it.”
Ferrara says cash rewards lead to hundreds of arrests each year, many of which turn in to convictions.
Still, millions of dollars in reward money goes unclaimed around the country. Why would people turn down “free money”? For one, people fear risking their own safety if they get involved, and the bigger the reward, the harder it is to remain anonymous, says Ferrara.
“If it’s a million dollar reward, the IRS is going to want their cut. That’s income,” he says. “So the police department’s got to report who you are to the IRS. You can't be anonymous.”
There's another risk with a high price tag, says Adam Alter, a professor of marketing and psychology at New York University. If you’re a friend or family member of a suspect, and you’re on the fence about turning in someone you love, a big reward might actually backfire because “you're turning it in to an economic transaction for someone's freedom, which I think is for a lot of people quite offensive,” Alter said.
Alter suggests that sometimes it's better to keep money out of it, and let doing the right thing be its own reward.
If you're looking for industries that have thrived despite the economy, a good place to go is Kentucky. That's where they make bourbon, of course. Sales of the uniquely American spirit are growing by triple digits outside of the states. But there is a downside to all that growth. The company that owns Maker's Mark, the brand known for bottles that are hand-dipped in wax, announced it doesn't have enough supply to keep up with demand. So it's going to water it down.
For whiskey to be labeled bourbon, it has to be made from at least 51 percent corn, distilled at no higher than 160 proof, and be aged in a white oak barrel. It doesn't have to be made in Kentucky, but it does have to be made in the U.S.
Michael Veach is the author of "Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage." He says Maker's Mark is one of the few family-operated distilleries remaining in the United States. The distillery started making bourbon in 1954.
In recent years bourbon has been on a roll. "The problem is that these last 10 years the industry has been growing faster than anyone thought it would," Veach says.
That is a problem for aged whiskey like Maker's. The bourbon distilling now won't be out of the casks for another six years. Beam, Inc., which owns Maker's, says it hasn't made enough to keep up with demand. So Rob Samuels, the grandson of Maker's founder, announced a solution.
Maker's will lower the alcohol content by 6.6 percent by adding water to each batch. That could turn some loyal fans off the brand, which is why it made the announcement in an email to customers it calls ambassadors. Eric Mater is an ambassador in Kansas City. He subscribes to an email list and receives gifts each year like a knitted sweater for his bottle.
He made this suggestion to Beam, Inc.: "Maybe they should cut out the free gifts for the ambassadors and keep the bourbon at full strength."
And be warned if you're a bourbon drinker: the supply problem is industry-wide.
There's more to statistics. So much more than just numbers.
"Statistics are everywhere from Netflix determining what movie you want to watch to retailers coming up with borderline scary methods for figuring our what your shopping habit are going to be, "says Charles Wheelan, author of "Naked Statistics."
Statistics is the simple and helpful analysis of all the raw data out there -- whether it's about a baseball player's at-bat performance, or sales figures at The Gap. But the figure should be digested with some skepticism, Wheelan says, because data can be interpreted a lot of different ways.
"Statistics are like online dating," he says. "You can say things in your profile that are true, but by acts of omission or different emphasis you might leave out or stress some things that present a picture of you that is not wholly accurate."