National News

Will the future economy be driven by purpose or money?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 02:05

From Good Friday services to the Passover seder and beyond, it's a time of year that is full of reminders that there's more to life than material things. And some business thinkers are catching on. 

Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, argues we've entered a new era of people demanding their work add up to something. He joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss. 

Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

 

New trade talks spark beef over tariffs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 01:38

Japan and the U.S. are having beef over the price of meat.

The U.S. is pressuring Japan to remove import tariffs on pork and beef as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed new free trade agreement being discussed by twelve countries on the Pacific Rim. Next week when President Obama goes to Tokyo this issue will be high on the agenda.

Japan is the world's top importer of pork — Japanese eat expensive tenderloins and cutlets deep fried into crispy katsu.

"Over 25 percent of the U.S. pork is exported, and Japan is our most consistent trading partner," says Bob Ivey, general manager of Maxwell Foods, a major U.S. pork producer that sells to Japan. "So we are very excited about the new trade agreement."

But that agreement won't be easy. Japan has traditionally protected its agricultural commodities. Japanese Wagyu beef is renowned, and their pork industry is one of the world's largest. Still, the U.S. is pushing for much lower import tariffs on its meat.

"That's the U.S. demand. You could say roughly free trade in a little less than a generation," says Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, and international economics think tank. "This will be one of those down to the wire deals."

If they can't work this out, Hufbauer says Japan could drop out of the agreement altogether.

In which we DO NOT spoil GoT: Silicon Tally

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 01:00

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

This week we're joined by corporate reporter for Quartz, John McDuling.

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Home Depot turns to the Internet for growth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-18 00:16

Home Depot as an online retailer? The Wall Street Journal reports that the big box retailer wants to grow by getting you to purchase building and home improvement supplies online

Part of the shift is due to overbuilding. For example, when I lived in Los Angeles, there were three Home Depots within a few miles of my house. And for a while, it seemed like it was building a store on every corner.

"That’s probably accurate," says Seth Basham, an analyst at WedBush, adding that the excess of stores isn't just a problem for Home Depot. "Between them and Lowe's and Menard's, the number of households per store continued to decline throughout the decade of the 1990s and 2000s," Basham said. 

And so Home Depot is now turning to the Internet for growth. 

"The biggest unique challenge to Home Depot is figuring out what the customer actually wants to buy online," says Maggie Taylor, an analyst at Moody’s. "So I think, carpeting for example, you’re always going probably into the store and take a look at."

And heavy items like Jacuzzi tubs might not be worth buying online because of shipping costs. Getting purchases to people - on time and on budget - will be another challenge. But Taylor says with tech giants like Amazon nipping at Home Depot's business, the big box retailer has no choice but to forge ahead.

Born With HIV, Building A Future

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 23:34

In high school, Cristina Peña was afraid to tell her boyfriend, Chris Ondaatje, that she was HIV-positive. She needn't have worried. More than a decade later, they're still together.

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Sunni Discontent Fuels Growing Violence In Iraq's Anbar Province

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 23:33

Fed up with what they say is years of discrimination by the Shiite-led government, ordinary Sunnis have joined Islamist fighters. There are echoes of past conflicts, with a few important distinctions.

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Six Words: 'Segregation Should Not Determine Our Future'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 23:31

Central High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., was once considered a model of desegregation. Today, the school's population is 99 percent black. One family's story underscores three generations of change.

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Suspect Arrested In Kansas City Highway Shootings

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 23:23

Police in Grandview, Mo., arrested a suspect Thursday in a string of random vehicle shootings on Kansas City-area highways over the past few weeks. Three motorists have been wounded.

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6 Killed, 9 Missing In Avalanche On Everest

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 23:17

An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest on Friday along a route used to climb the world's highest peak. As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.

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Transcript Shows Ferry Captain Delayed Evacuation

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 22:50

Fresh questions arose about whether quicker action by the captain of a doomed ferry could have saved lives. Rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of passengers still missing Friday and feared dead.

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'Completely Unique': Cave-Dwelling Female Insects Have Penises

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 16:34

A team of international scientists have found four species of insects with reversed sex organs. The females' anatomy may have to do with their need for nutrients that only males produce.

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Even Chimps Know That A Firm Bed Makes For Quality Sleep

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 14:31

A new study looking at the nests made by chimpanzees in Uganda found that they prefer a type of tree that gives them a firm and secure sleeping platform.

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Tabasco And Beer-Flavored: Not Your Easter Bunny's Jelly Beans

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 14:21

On the eve of Easter and National Jelly Bean Day, let us probe the mysterious origins and unexpected ascendency of the humble candy. And to celebrate, we've sampled Jelly Belly's newest flavors.

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Obama's Favorite County — At Least When It Comes To Giving Speeches

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 14:02

The president has visited Prince George's County, Md., four times this year. It is the most affluent county with an African-American majority. It also happens to be very close to the White House.

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Digging into the 8 million ACA signups

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-17 13:44

Eight million Americans have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said at a White House briefing Thursday, a figure that surpassed the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's initial projection of 7 million.

Over the past six weeks some 3.7 million people signed up for insurance, according to the White House, and 28 percent of those who got insurance via the federal exchange were in the 18-34 age range, a figure of great interest to the insurance industry. Conventional wisdom is that younger people tend to be healthier (and cheaper to insurer) than older adults. The corollary is the healthier the risk pool in 2014, the less premium prices rise in 2015.

Obama said "we have a strong, good story to tell" and then went on the offensive , adding that 5.7 million Americans have been locked out of the run on insurance through Medicaid expansion because 24 states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs.

A more complete report on enrollment numbers is expected next week. It's important to note that not all of consumers who sign up for insurance will actually purchase insurance, so it's likely the 8 million number will drop. What was interesting – and perhaps surprising – was that millions of Americans flocked to the federal and state exchanges at the 11th hour. It suggests that there is a healthy interest in having health insurance. That interest is only expected to grow.

In fast food burgers, geography is key

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-17 13:14

Sonic is America’s fourth biggest burger chain, a fact that might surprise you if you live outside of the South. Sonic’s are located mostly around Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi.

There are about 3,500 Sonic locations. But the company plans on opening 1,000 more locations over the next decade. “With this move, we see Sonic entering that arena of largest national players and leaving behind those regional players,” says Patrick Lenow, a spokesperson for Sonic, which is known for reviving the classic American drive-in. Food is ordered through an intercom and delivered to your car, often by servers on roller skates.

A graphic created by Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed shows the concentration of fast-food burger chains around the country. (Courtesy of Stephen Von Worley/Data Pointed)

“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” says Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”

That may explain why it’s focusing much of its expansion in California. “When I think of one of the most successful burger chains in America, I think of In-N-Out Burger, which originated in California as a drive-in,” says Darren Tristano, a foodservice concept & menu expert with Technomic.

Another way Sonic differentiates itself from its competitors is by emphasizing its non-burger menu items, like the more than a million different soda flavors it offers. “They also sell hot dogs that are very regionalized in terms of flavor and have items like tater-tots on the menu,” Tristano says.

So, if you don’t live in the South, and you get a late night craving for chocolate-pineapple soda and tater tots delivered on roller skates, you may soon be able to satisfy it.

By Shea Huffman and Gina Martinez /Marketplace

The data for the graphic above was provided by a Marketforce Information survey on American's favorite burger chain by region:

Courtesy of Marketforce Information

Chelsea Clinton Says She's Pregnant

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 13:07

The 34-year-old daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are "very excited."

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'Consent is a fiction' in consumer contracts

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-17 13:06

After Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Professor Imre Szalai's wife gave birth, the Szalais were asked to sign an arbitration clause in the delivery room. That clause stipulated that they would have to settle any disputes with the hospital through arbitration, not in court. 

Because of his professional training, and because he has written a book on the history of arbitration, "Outsourcing Justice: The Rise of Modern Arbitration Laws in America," Szalai had his wife sign the form – his thinking being that, because she’d just gone through labor, a judge evaluating the agreement later would probably find that she was not in a clear state of mind at that time.

Arbitration started out as a business-to-business thing. During prohibition, courts were swamped, and it was a way to clear cases. Since a 2011 Supreme Court decision, arbitration has gained traction as a way for businesses to avoid lawsuits, as The New York Times noted Thursday. And when it comes to how companies are protecting themselves now, "You have to admit that, when it comes to consumer contracts, consent is a fiction," says Brian Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt. 

To wit:

  • From the terms of use at Netflix: “If you are a Netflix member in the United States (including its possessions and territories), you and Netflix agree that any dispute, claim or controversy arising out of or relating in any way to the Netflix service, these Terms of Use and this Arbitration Agreement, shall be determined by binding arbitration or in small claims court.” And, in all caps: “YOU AND NETFLIX AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN YOUR OR ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING.”
  • Amazon.com's agreement, which says “Any dispute or claim relating in any way to your use of any Amazon Service, or to any products or services sold or distributed by Amazon or through Amazon.com will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court.” And, RE: class actions: “We each agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class, consolidated or representative action.”
  • There's Electronic Arts ("By accepting these terms, you and EA expressly waive the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action.”) and StubHub: "You and StubHub each agree that any and all disputes or claims that have arisen or may arise between you and StubHub relating in any way to or arising out of this or previous versions of the User Agreement, your use of or access to StubHub's Site or Services, or any tickets or related passes sold or purchased through StubHub's Site or Services shall be resolved exclusively through final and binding arbitration, rather than in court, except that you may assert claims in small claims court, if your claims qualify."

For more examples, you can visit the “Forced Arbitration Rogues Gallery,” which the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has created.  

The market's great expectations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-17 13:03

Goldman Sachs on Thursday told the world its profits fell 11 percent. Yet the bank's stock rose on the news. It may sound odd, but it's perfectly logical on Wall Street. The markets expected Goldman to do even worse, so when the news wasn't as bad as predicted, the stock moved up.

Fine tuning market expectations is important for public companies. It's a lot like a kid who blows a test. It's better to tell mom and dad before the report card comes. If your parents are both accounting professors, they would call that giving guidance.

"If my daughter has a test that's particularly difficult, we hear about it beforehand," says James Myers.

He and his wife Linda Myers study these issues at University of Arkansas. They have two kids and are both quick to say both are good students. But if they ever hit a bump, they say it's wise to dial down their expectations before the report card arrives.

Companies can do the same thing ahead of their own report cards, the quarterly earnings reports. Providing guidance about good or bad times at the company can help keep the stock price under control when the final news comes.

Or, another example, by way of Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch and his Whiteboard:

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Mark Garrison: It’s actually pretty simple, just an expectations game. Amy Hutton is a professor at Boston College’s business school.

Amy Hutton: When Goldman announces their earnings, even if they’re down from last quarter or last year, if they’re higher than the expectation built into the stock price, the stock price is gonna go up.

Bad news can be perversely good, as long as Wall Street expected worse. So it’s important for companies to fine tune those investor expectations. It’s a lot like a kid who blows a test. It’s better to tell the parents before the report card comes. If your parents are both accounting professors, they call that giving guidance.

James Myers: If my daughter has a test that’s particularly difficult, we hear about it beforehand.

James Myers and his wife Linda study these investment issues at University of Arkansas. They say their kids make good grades and rarely need to, but sometimes a warning is wise.

Linda Myers: Because our expectations are a little bit lower, then we wouldn’t be as concerned about the low grade and I think it’s a pretty good analogy of what managers might do.

University of Michigan accounting professor Greg Miller says company guidance can work the same way. Just like parents, investors don’t like surprises.

Greg Miller: If you surprise people, they get madder. And so if there’s something coming that people are gonna be unhappy about, I’d rather own up to it now and let them know because they’re gonna be mad at me either way about the bad news.

Companies try to manage Wall Street’s expectations, to make sure a bad earnings report doesn’t torpedo the stock price. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

When Being Pregnant Also Means Being Out Of A Job

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-17 13:03

Thirty-six years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers still have very different interpretations of what they're required to do to accommodate expectant mothers.

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