Marketplace - American Public Media

Can Russia be isolated? Not if China has anything to do with it.

Thu, 2014-04-10 02:16

With Ukraine refusing to pay its gas bills to Russia's Gazprom and Europe looking for alternative energy sources, Russia -- it seems -- is on the outs. But now Putin is turning his attention eastward, towards China, and may be finding a friend. 

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss Russia's balancing act and why the country might try to disrupt Ukraine's upcoming elections.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full interview. 

Sharp decline in Chinese trade surprise economists

Thu, 2014-04-10 01:12

Speaking at the Bo’ao forum for Asia, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reassured attendees that China’s economy “has had a smooth start this year, and our overall performance is good.”

 As Li said this, key economic data was released from China showing exports from the world’s second biggest economy had slipped 6.6% in March from a year ago. Imports were down more than 11%.

Both numbers were worse than forecasters predicted. Part of the reason is that a year ago, many Chinese exporters were overstating the value of their shipments in order to bypass China’s strict currency controls. That allowed them to bring more dollars into China with the hopes that the Yuan would appreciate. This year, China’s central bank has pushed down the value of the Yuan, so there’s no longer an incentive for exporters to fake the numbers.

The 11% decline in imports, however, surprised a lot of economists. The month of March is always an important one for China, because it’s the first month after the Chinese New Year, which tends to skew numbers a bit because of the inactivity of the markets.

A decline in imports is a sign that China’s economy is still in slowdown mode. Premier Li acknowledged as much during his speech today. “These problems are not only the result of a complex international environment, but also objective reflections of prominent conflicts that lie deep inside China’s economy, as well as the fact that China’s growth rate is shifting gear,” said Li.

 

 

The U.S. needs more energy grids

Thu, 2014-04-10 01:00

The U.S. Senate Energy Committee is meeting to consider the reliability and security of the U.S. electric grid. It's a question that bears asking, considering the entire U.S. runs on just three, large-scale power grids (East coast, West coast and Texas. Go figure). As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. 

At least David Newman, a physics professor at the University of Alaska, thinks so. His research explores how smaller power grids could help avoid massive outages like the 2003 Northeast blackout. Though, he certainly understands the appeal of having a larger grid:

"As you increase the size of the network, you’re increasing the number of places that you can be getting the energy to, and so you make it -- in a sense -- more efficient. But our work showed that it’s actually also potentially a bad thing because what it does is that it allows larger and larger failures of the system."

Newman acknowledges that there's no way to get rid of system failures completely, but with massive outages potentially costing billions of dollars, it's at least worth exploring what size network optimally combines efficiency and security.

What M&M's have to do with dog food

Wed, 2014-04-09 15:51

M & M’s, Snickers, Twix and Milky Way. They’re all made by Mars. In fact, most of us know Mars as one of the world’s biggest chocolate makers.

What you may not know is that Mars makes a lot more than chocolate. The company owns products such as instant rice, coffee, holistic remedies -- and even pet food.

In fact, if you feed your dog or cat Pedigree or Whiskas, or even “gourmet filets” made by the high-end Cesar brand, you are buying Mars products. And now, Mars will own even more of the names in the pet food aisle.

Procter & Gamble on Wednesday agreed to sell their Iams, Eukanuba and Natura pet food brands to Mars for $2.9 billion in cash. The deal is limited to markets in North America, Latin America and a few other countries.

“The deal reinforces our leadership in pet nutrition and veterinary science,” Todd Lachman, global president for Mars Petcare, said in a statement.

Who knew Mars was a leader in “pet nutrition and veterinary science”?

Here are five brands you might also be surprised to know that Mars owns: 

1. Uncle Ben's Rice

 (Source: YouTube

2. CocoaVia 

www.cocoavia.com 

3. Cesar

(Source: YouTube)

 4. Altoids 

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

5. Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape

(Source:YouTube)

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