National News

Why you've been getting bonuses, not raises, lately

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 02:00

Good-bye, annual raises. Hello, bonuses?

In its annual U.S. Salary Increase survey, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt found performance-based bonuses were nearly 13 percent of payroll this year. That’s the highest percentage in the 35 years the company has conducted it survey.

University of Wisconsin Business Professor Barry Gerhart says there’s an easy explanation why: “If you put the money into salary, it’s there forever. If you give out money in terms of a bonus, people get it that year and have to re-earn it the following year,” he says.

Bosses' love affair with bonuses began pre-Recession, and even if the economy heats up, Gerhart doubts firms will move back to annual across the board. That's because raises carry fewer fixed costs and give companies flexibility.

Wharton Business School economist Iwan Barankay says if businesses rely on bonuses, they should be careful.

“If they are not designed well. The problem is that it leads to an environment where people are gaming the scheme just to maximize their bonus, but not really creating more value to the company,” he says.

Barankay says incentives are like a meal: what you put in determines whether you get what you want.

Summer interns as art installation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 01:30

The Chicago office of ad agency Havas Worldwide uses its lobby as a gallery, with picture windows facing the street. This summer’s exhibit: The company’s interns, doing their jobs, working around a long black table. Signs in the windows — like the one that said “feeding the interns is permitted and appreciated” — suggested a zoo exhibit as much as performance art.

The interns made out like working in public view was no big deal.

"Like every now and then we’ll look up when there’s like people peering through between the signs, trying to figure out what’s going on," Tori Dubray said.

That might be because they applied for the job — or the right word may be "auditioned" for it — in public.

"This year’s internship program was entirely cast and recruited through Instagram," said Jason Peterson, who runs the 500-person office and designed the internship.

To apply, potential interns posted to Instagram.

"It was a hashtag, Iamheretotakeyourjob," said intern Chris Hainey. That’s I. Am. Here. To. Take. Your. Job. "So, basically you challenged an employee that works here, and kind of posted something on Instagram saying why you would be better-suited for the position."

Hainey posted a stop-motion video — it showed an airplane flying in front of a colorful line of suitcases — with a suggestion that current Havas workers start packing.

Photography student Anna Russett took a different route. Havas offered two internships to people who could show they had more than 50,000 Instagram followers. When we met, she was at 111,000.

"That’s basically my resume," she said. "Showing that I can gain that many followers." 

She applied through a smartphone app called Popular Pays — a startup with offices at Havas. Popular Pays allows users get free stuff from local businesses if they agree to post photos of those rewards to a big enough group of Instagram followers.

"That’s currency," Peterson said, "because I can go into Antique Taco and I can go:  OK,  because I have a thousand followers, I can exchange that currency for a free milkshake."

"You will share that photo with that amount of people," Russett said. "Like, guaranteed."

This prompted a question: "So, you’re saying, like:  I will pimp myself out to a hundred thousand people for a milkshake?"

"Well…" Russett began. 

Peterson interrupted, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. First of all, have you been to Antique Taco? It’s a horchata milkshake? It’s delicious!"

Among the interns’ duties this summer: Coaching Havas employees on making better use of social media.  

Please, tip your waiters

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 00:00

I want you to close your eyes for a Labor Day thought experiment. 

Okay, no. This is not a mattress sale. It's a conversation about work, and what we learn from it.  

Think back to your first job. Maybe the person you were when you earned your first paycheck.

I was in high school in Washington, DC. And I spent my swampy 17-year-old summer working at a sandwich shop and café called A.K.A. Friscos (menu items were named for different places in San Francisco).

In rapid and terrifying order, I learned to prep food, slap together sandwiches for hostile, hungry journalists (the café was across the street from the local CBS affiliate), run the cash register, and bus tables.

We were quick, we were friendly, we cored lettuce with remarkable dexterity (I can still do it).

And I picked up a few lessons that stick with me.

1)      Work ethic matters. There’s simply no substitute for it. The shop’s assistant manager, Mesfin, had the most impressive work ethic I’ve ever seen. He was supporting a wife and a new baby while running the café, managing catering orders, helping open a new location, and supervising the high school kid…me.

2)      Laugh. Things invariably go wrong. Really, really wrong. Like mistaking-one-spice-for-another-in-the-chili wrong. I wish I could tell my younger self to laugh at these things instead of crying over them or getting mad. Chalk that one up to a lesson perhaps only learned with time.

3)      Tip. Like just about anyone who’s waited tables, I tip egregiously. In part because I was always shocked by the messes people left behind. But also because I think we don’t, as a society, place enough value on the work done in the service sector. Being on your feet and being pleasant can be hard, hard work. When I look at the growth in low wage jobs post-recession, I really worry. Hence, I continue to tip.

Just about everyone has a story or two from their first job. Love it, hate it, I bet you still carry it somewhere inside you. Come tell us about it. I’m @lizzieohreally, and the show is @marketplacewknd.

I might even make you a sandwich. 

NFL Lays Out New Penalty For Domestic Violence: 6-Game Suspension

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 15:19

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described the change in a letter to team owners. The league was criticized for suspending Ray Rice for only two games after his arrest on domestic violence charges.

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Obama Says U.S. Will Aid Iraqis Who Are Marooned On Mount Sinjar

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 14:42

President Obama announced that he has authorized a humanitarian mission to aid religious minorities stranded on Mount Sinjar in Iraq. Airstrikes will be a component of that mission.

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'We Don't Have A Strategy Yet' On Islamic State, Obama Says

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:59

But at a news conference, the president said the Sunni militant group was continuing to lose arms and equipment because of targeted U.S. strikes against its members in Iraq.

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Co-working gains steam, so is the business behind it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:55

For telecommuters putting in too many hours in a coffee shop or at your dining room table, there's co-working. There are more than 3,000 co-working spaces around the world, six times as many as there were just four years ago. But as business ventures go, a lot of these modern shared work spaces are short-lived.  

Think of it like a gym membership, only for your office. Pay a fee — daily or monthly — and you get a desk, a phone, maybe a meeting space. Bonus: You still get the buzz of being around other working professionals.

Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, a consulting firm that tracks the co-working industry, says don't expect co-working to go away anytime soon.

"They haven't peaked yet," he says. "It's an industry that continues to grow very rapidly. It's not a very old industry." 

The economy has left more people working on their own, and looking for a decent work space. As companies scale back, they're less willing to sign on to long-term leases.

"They can expand or shrink as they need to because they're basically paying month-to-month," he says.

Plus, King says, working from home has its challenges. Namely, distractions.

"You know, they take the dog for a walk or they start snacking, or there's a repeat of 'Gilligan's Island' on TV that they want to watch," says King.

However, King says like any new industry, co-working has a pretty high degree of churn. 

"Churn is a nice way of saying a lot of businesses go out of business," King says.

Last year, Atticus Rominger helped launch SocialVenture, a co-working space that used to be a warehouse in in Birmingham, Alabama. You can pay $175 a month for a desk or $375 a month for a private office. He says after doing a little research, his company found plenty of people interested in renting space.

"But we also found a lot of people who'd kicked the tires on co-working for many years and never really kind of took the bait," Rominger says.

In the last five years or so, at least three other co-working spaces in Birmingham have come and gone. Rominger says at SocialVenture, renting out desks hasn't been a problem. But creating a co-working culture — where there's a close-knit group of workers collaborating and bouncing ideas off of each other — is a different story.  

"And that's something that we're going to really just have to grow into as we balance the desire to have this active and close co-working community with the realities of having a mortgage and operating a real estate venture," he says.

In other words, Rominger says, the priority now for his co-working space is to find a profitable business model.

That energy and feel-good vibe can come later.

Zero-Tolerance Policing Is Not Racism, Say St. Louis-Area Cops

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:35

The protests following Michael Brown's death have rekindled long-standing complaints about racist policing in the St. Louis area. Cops there are now becoming more outspoken in their own defense.

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Who let the cats out? Russia did.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:18

The biggest bank in Russia, Sberbank, has started lending out cats.

Actual live cats.

Basically, if you take out a mortgage, they'll lend you a cat because apparently Russian lore says letting a cat walk through your house before you move in is good luck.

You've even got your choice of ten breeds including tabbies, Siamese, and, reports Bloomberg Businessweek, an exotic hairless cat resembling a sphinx.

Regrettably, Hello Kitty was not on the list.

Immigrants closing gap on homeownership

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:18

The U.S. homeownership rate fell in the Great Recession and its aftermath — from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004, to 64.7 percent in the most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

It turns out immigrant households bucked that trend, according to a recent report.

The analysis, published by economist Azanaw Mengistu at Fannie Mae, says that from 2000 to 2010, immigrant homeownership rose more than 2.5 percent, to 52.4 percent, while native-born homeownership fell more than 1 percent over the same period. Research by economists Kusum Mundra at Rutgers University and Ruth Uwaifo Oyelere at Georgia Tech, comes to similar conclusions.

Immigrant homeownership is likely to remain lower than native-born homeownership for the foreseeable future — that's a simple reflection of assets and income, as well as the high-priced metro areas they tend to immigrate to first when arriving in the U.S.

The gap between immigrants and those born in the U.S. appear to be narrowing significantly, though.

A possible explanation for the better homeownership outcome of immigrants in the past decade is that the documented and undocumented immigrants who arrived in droves during the 1980s and 1990s, are now well-established in communities, and in the workforce.

“The immigrants today are more educated, they have more time in the United States, and they’re more likely to be citizens, things that boost home-ownership rates,” says Rakesh Kochhar at the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

He also points out that recent immigrants are more heavily Asian and Middle Eastern; compared to Latinos. They tend to come to the U.S. with higher levels of education and wealth to begin with.

Mundra and Oyelere speculate in their paper that so-called ‘birth networks’ might help explain why some immigrant groups do better at homeownership. A large concentration of other immigrants from the same country or region might help people get and keep jobs, and pool the financial resources to buy and hold onto their homes in bad economic times.

Jose Quinonez, CEO of the nonprofit Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, believes immigrant families may have social characteristics that make holding onto their homes more likely.

“Their home means much more than just a mere investment that they can flip,” he says. “It’s really their realization of the American dream, of establishing themselves in the community and in the economy.”

Quinonez says immigrant families have a long history of pool financial resources across generations, and also tend to live together in multi-generational households. So if one adult loses a job, another may be available in the household to keep up the mortgage and hold off foreclosure.

Twitter offers free classes for would-be advertisers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:18

Angela D'Amario, president of Firebee, a small PR firm in Atlanta, Georgia, says she constantly promotes clients on Facebook and LinkedIn, but she has yet to figure out Twitter.

“It just seemed like no one was getting good results," she says. "Everything that was out about Twitter advertising was very confusing."

D’Amario says she really wants to know how to target specific groups of consumers the same way she says is possible on Facebook and LinkedIn.

"So, you’re not having your message seen by all these people who could care less," she says. "Where on Twitter – I really don’t get how it’s possible to do that – to say I want moms who are between the ages of 25-35, in Minnesota who like sports."

Enter flight school, the multimedia training plan that includes what Twitter calls “Story Problems.”

"They’re designed to be like real life client situations," says Kevin Lange, senior vice president, social media director at Starcom MediaVest Group. His agency helped Twitter develop the new training.

"The question might give you the objective of a hypothetical client, their advertising budget and then you have to pick from the choices which strategy on Twitter or which tweet is going to be most appropriate,he says

But, notes John Greening, a professor of brand management at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, figuring out what works on Twitter can be harder than it sounds.

“Everybody’s talking about it and they think they need it, but they don’t know why and they don’t know how," he says.

Some agencies said they couldn't even figure out how to sign up for the new training. (The signup link is here, just in case any of them are reading.)

One problem, says Greening, is simple lack of understanding of the new.

"With any of these new tools – people aren’t sure how to use them. What you find is that they put the old way of doing things against the new tool," he says. "So, if it’s video they might treat it like a TV commercial. Well... that might not be the most effective way that Twitter works."

Greening says just because consumers are using a platform doesn’t mean it’s valuable for advertisers.

"Just because it's out there and popular," he says, "doesn't mean it's an effective marketing tool."

What can ISIS do with oil wells it captures?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:18

By some estimates, the extremist group ISIS controls 60 percent of oil production in Syria, as well as six oil wells in Iraq.

Much of this oil ends up in the black market, and given that, the "purchase" and sale of this oil is far from typical.

In addition to its holdings, the group is also assumed to pilfer from pipelines and storage facilities, said Valerie Marcel, oil and Middle East analyst at the Chatham House think tank in London.

Marcel says ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, takes some of its crude and refines it. “They have an open pit, they burn the oil very crudely,” Marcel says. “And then they have some gasoline which they can provide to local residents, and to their own Humvees.”

The rest of the oil goes to market, largely in Turkey, through a murky set of intermediaries.

“Some of them are Iraqi middlemen, and they take the crude to the border,” Marcel says. “Others are Turkish middlemen. And they’re able to actually sometimes get the oil sold directly to a refinery in Turkey. So that involves a quite well-informed organization.”

Middlemen take a big cut of the money on the way to the black market. So instead of earning the world market price of $100 a barrel, ISIS pockets half or a quarter of that.

Still, assuming intelligence estimates that the group sells 40,000 to 60,000 barrels each day, daily revenue comes out to $1 million to $3 million.

This is enough oil that intelligence may be able to spot its movement.

“We are talking about at least 200 trucks,” says Luay al-Khateeb, an advisor to the Iraqi parliament and head of the Iraq Energy Institute. “And these fleets should be legitimate targets of U.S. and Iraqi air forces.”

Convoys may be a key point of interception. Once the crude gets to market, it can be untraceable.

“Once oil is integrated, it’s very hard to know, literally impossible to know, if a drop comes from here or from there,” says Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department intelligence official now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “What we are going to need is intelligence identifying those middlemen, and then deciding how to target their ability to continue functioning in that manner.”

As important as oil revenue is to ISIS, Levitt thinks it’s a small piece of the group’s overall finances.

The extremist group is also assumed to raid banks, and tax farmers and commerce in the territory it controls.

New Amazon Series Pilots Fall Short Of A TV Revolution

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:03

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans ranks Amazon's new batch of five series pilots, asking why none of them seem break the rules of TV quite enough to draw attention.

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When Zero Doesn't Mean Zero: Trans Fats Linger In Food

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 13:03

One in 10 packaged foods still contains trans fats, according to a new study. The problematic oils give foods a rich taste and texture and extend shelf life, but have been linked to heart disease.

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Michel Martin Goes #BeyondFerguson

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 12:58

NPR and St. Louis Public Radio are in Ferguson, Mo., today for a community conversation about race and law enforcement. Follow here or join us on Twitter at 7 p.m. ET to discuss #BeyondFerguson.

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Tom Frieden's Ebola Assessment: The Risk Is Increasing

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 12:54

In an exclusive interview with NPR, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares his impressions from a visit to West Africa.

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Foley's Mother: We Didn't Want Him To Go Back To Syria

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 12:45

Diane Foley tells NPR that her son, slain journalist James Foley, "could have done so many other things. But he, I think, was drawn to some of the drama, some of the rawness of the conflict zones."

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Texas Law Could Lead To Closure Of Clinics That Offer Abortions

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 12:39

A Texas law would require doctors' offices and clinics that perform abortions to comply with regulations that apply to ambulatory surgical centers. The change could lead to a loss of services.

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