While the U.S. has not called the toppling of President Mohammed Morsi a "coup," most direct military aid has been suspended, a top Democratic lawmaker's staff tells The Daily Beast. But the White House says that's incorrect.
This final note on the way out, in which you learn that I -- every now and then -- have too much time on my hands.
I found a survey online today. The url pretty much says it all: www.whichfamouseconomistareyoumostsimilarto.com
Answer a mere 105 questions, and the Internet will tell you where you lie on the economic spectrum. Actually, it'll give you an idea if you answer 20 of 'em.
Fair warning though -- they're not easy, one question is as follows:
"All else equal, permanently raising the federal marginal tax rate on ordinary income by 1 percentage point for those in the top (i.e., currently 35%) tax bracket would increase federal tax revenue over the next 10 years.
Head over to the site and check it out yourself.
Al Jazeera America launches today on various cable networks across the nation. Unlike other cable news shows, the new network has a nearly limitless amount of money, financed by the oil-and-gas rich government of Qatar. This means Al Jazeera America's executives won't be losing sleep over ad sales. In fact, they've cut the number of ads per hour in half.
But could swimming in cash be a problem? Kelly McBride, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute, was stumped when asked if there was a downside to being news-rich. "Hmmm, I can't think of a bad thing," McBride says. She says Al Jazeera America hopes to distinguish itself with news seen as too expensive for rival networks. Focusing on content could bring Al Jazeera success.
"With all of these resources, they will get a really big scoop, and it will be some great television story that they will have exclusive or first access to. And then people will watch," says McBride.
Al Jazeera America is available in 48 million of the 100 million TV watching homes. But it still has a brand problem, says media analyst Jeff Jarvis.
"I have Verizon Fios at home, and I wanted to see whether I was going to be able to see Al Jazeera America on it, but what I [found] was a rather robust discussion of people saying 'Don't put that Al Jazeera on my Fios'," says Jarvis.
The Poynter Institute's Kelly McBride says if Al Jazeera America delivers on its promises, it can overcome the bias. She will be watching the station today. That is, if she can find it.
"I can't actually watch it in my marketplace," she says, " but I'll be watching one way or another."
The summer cruise season means big business in Alaska. Near Juneau's docks, a whole retail strip comes alive for a few short months just to cater to the million passengers who pass through, with jewelry stores being the most popular. Nearly every shop advertises diamonds and tanzanite, steep discounts and free charms. But a sign on one storefront stands out: "Don't see us on your shopping map? We'd rather not give your cruise ship a kickback!"
"We put up that sign because a lot of people were unaware of the gimmicks that were going on the cruise lines," says Jay Mehan, who runs the store.
Of the half dozen local business owners I talked to about these kickbacks, Mehan was the only who would agree to be quoted. Even then, he wouldn't let me use his real name, out of fear of getting blackballed by the cruise industry.
Years ago, Mehan used to pay $25,000 plus 10 percent of sales to be part of the cruise shopping programs. The shopping programs are run by media companies, who then pay the cruise lines to have their employees -- known as "port lecturers" -- on board the ship. These port lecturers are supposed to work like shopping ambassadors, guiding tourists to trusted retailers. But even though Mehan was part of their program, customers were still steered to chains with stronger ties to the industry. So he stopped paying. Then Mehan started hearing troubling things from passengers.
"They would say, 'We were told to only go to certain stores because the other stores are people who sometimes don't sell the real stuff and we are not responsible for it,' and stuff like that," says Mehan. "So that's like a scare factor."
These kinds of complaints got so bad that the state of Alaska started investigating the companies who hire the port lecturers and pay the cruise lines to have them on board. Ed Sniffen handles consumer protection for the state, and he says it wasn't just local businesses who were upset. Passengers were also saying they'd been ripped off.
"'Hey, I bought this diamond at this shop, and they told me that it was a two-karat something, and I paid $20,000 for it. When I got it back home and had it appraised, it was really only worth $5,000,'" says Sniffen. "You know, some of those kinds of things."
Port lecturers operate on cruises across the world, from the Caribbean to the South Pacific. But Alaska is the first place to crack down on their employers. This spring, the state agreed to a $200,000 settlement with Onboard Media, Royal Media Partners, and the PPI Group -- the three Florida-based companies that put port lecturers on Alaska cruise voyages. The companies didn't have to admit to any wrongdoing, but they did have to start requiring port lecturers to disclose that they didn't work for the cruise lines and that what they were doing was a type of advertising. They were also expressly prohibited from disparaging stores that didn't participate in their programs and from making misleading statements about sale prices and return policies.
None of the major cruise lines that operate in Alaska -- Carnival, Princess, Holland America, and Norwegian -- responded to emails asking about their relationship with port lecturers. Royal Media Partners and the PPI Group also ignored interview requests. Only Onboard Media answered questions about the settlement terms.
"[The settlement] simply formalized policies that Onboard Media has always followed," wrote Noelle Sipos, a spokesperson for Onboard Media, in an e-mail. She added that the company is complying with all of Alaska regulations, but that they're not applying the state's rules to other places. "The program in each region is tailored to support the requirements of the local authorities," wrote Sipos.
Whether the regulations are working, neither Mehan nor Sniffen can say for certain. Both say it's too early to tell. But at the very least, both think that passengers are getting savvier about how port lecturers operate.
Before Cindy Dollar gets off her cruise ship, she's given a shopping map, a bunch of coupons, and a tote bag for her haul. She's vacationing from Texas, and she says there's serious pressure to spend. "Yeah, it's constant," says Dollar. "I mean if you let yourself, you can be barraged with the whole shopping experience on the ship."
From what she's seen, it looks like the port lecturers are following the state's new rules. They're putting disclaimers on promotional materials, and reading from scripts that describe their presentations as marketing. They're still pushy, but at least you know where they're coming from, she says.
So far, their pitch doesn't seem to be working on her. Dollar doesn't plan on buying from the stores that are being hyped up, and she definitely isn't thinking about making any huge purchases. "I plan to bring back a few souvenirs for family and my petsitter," Dollar laughs.
She thinks a local gift shop will do just the trick.
Asian markets are down today, and Indonesia is getting the worst of it, dropping 5 percent two days in a row. The BBC's Karishma Vaswani joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison from Jakarta to discuss. Click on the audio player above to hear more.
Food mash-ups may not be new: Think Tex-Mex or barbecue chicken pizza.
But by combining Korean and Mexican cuisine, the Kogi Korean BBQ food truck has become one of the most popular food trucks in Los Angeles -- selling creations like spicy pork tacos and kimchi quesadillas.
In New York, a bakery has combined the donut and croissant to form the much-talked-about cronut -- with people willing to stand in line for hours to taste it.
And then there are the food mash-ups that are just a bit less savory. The food combinations that just make you think: How is this ever going to make money?
Here's a list of 5 good and bad food mash-ups created by businesses.
Click through the slideshow above to see the tasty and no-so-tasty treats.
5 best food mash-ups
The cronut was created by French-born pastry chef-owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery. The fried, flaky pastry, is a cross between a donut and a croissant -- became an overnight sensation in New York. In May 2013, Ansel trademarked the name. Versions of it have popped up in cities across America, like Los Angeles, Jacksonville, Calif., and Minneapolis.
"It's very much like a doughnut and croissant and yet completely different from both," Ansel told National Geographic. "You have the crispy sugary outside of a doughnut and the flaky tender layers of a croissant on the inside."
Doritos Locos Tacos:
In 2012, Taco Bell unveiled its new Doritos Locos Tacos (DLT) -- a taco with a shell made from Doritos Chips (both Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch flavors). The combo has proven to be popular with the public, and good for the bottom line. Taco Bell says that it is the fast food company's "most successful product platform ever -- with 600 million sold since March 2012." A new flavor of DLT will hit Taco Bells nationwide on August 22.
“Launching the first two Doritos Locos Tacos were obvious: Nacho Cheese is the top-selling Doritos flavor and our fans asked us for Cool Ranch. For the third DLT, we heard our customers as they told us they wanted something spicy and with flavor. So, in another Taco Bell first, we partnered with Frito-Lay to create a DLT that delivers heat, but with a twist, and is available exclusively at Taco Bell. Mirroring the flavors of a regional spicy Doritos chip, we made a few changes based on customer feedback -– including the use of a red shell and a more descriptive name –- to create Fiery DLT,” said Taco Bell President Brian Niccol in a press release.
Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich:
Who doesn't like ice cream sandwiches? And we all wanted Pop-Tarts growing up, didn't we? The Carl's Jr. hamburger chain has combined the two tasty treats to form a 'Pop-Tart ice cream sandwich.'
“It’s very rare when a new menu item that is being tested in a small number of restaurants goes viral to the degree this one did, but that’s exactly what happened with the new Hand-Scooped Strawberry Pop-Tarts Ice Cream Sandwich,” said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer of Carl’s Jr., in a press release. “The idea of it just seemed to capture people’s imaginations and it’s one of those things that just brings a smile to everyone’s face when they hear about it, if not a downright swoon in some cases. So, really, we had no choice but to make it available for all Carl’s Jr. customers to enjoy.”
The ramen burger is the brainchild of Keizo Shimamoto, a Japanese-American and founder of the blog, GoRamen. "From a very young age, at a time when my brain was still learning how to store memories, I've always loved ramen. As a second generation Japanese-American who grew up frequenting Japan with family, I soon developed a love that would one day encapsulate my wildest dreams," Shimamoto writes in his blog.
Atlanta-based Cinnabon is attempting to diversify its product line away from just cinnamon rolls. It sorta did that when it added cheese, marinara sauce and pepperoni on top of Cinnabon's soft dough.
5 worst food mashups
Double Down Chicken Sandwich:
The infamous sandwich from KFC contains bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese, and secret sauce in between two pieces of Original Recipe chicken fillets. The 600-calorie sandwich garnered criticism for its unhealthy content, but still managed to sell 10 million units just three months after it debuted in the U.S. In Canada, it became KFC Canada’s best-selling new menu item ever.
Also known as a donut burger, this monstrosity is a hamburger or cheeseburger with one or more glazed donuts in place of buns. Dunkin' Donuts has a version that's 360 calories. Legend has it that the burger was named for famed singer Luther Vandross, who favored the mashup.
Chicken & Waffle Taco:
Taco Bell may have scored a homerun with its Doritos Locos Tacos, but we're less sure about its Waffle Tacos, especially the Chicken & Waffle version. The fast food giant is testing the taco -- a breaded chicken patty draped in either country gravy or syrup dressing wrapped in a waffle -- at select locations in Orange County, Calif. Which raises the question: Why is Taco Bell of all places trying out foods that one wouldn't normally associate with Tex-Mex? The brand is expected to begin offering breakfast items in 2014.
Crown Crust Carnival cheeseburger and chicken strip crust pizzas:
Listen, we love putting things on pizza that, let's just say, may not be everyone's cup of tea. From anchovies to pineapple, you can top a pizza with almost anything. But why would you stuff a crust with cheeseburgers and chicken strips? Pizza Hut Middle East did just that in 2012. This isn't the first time the fast-food chain has made headlines for its interesting mixes. It's also tried cream-cheese cone pizzas and breadsticks... filled with Kit Kats.
Chocolate eclair hot dog:
Oh, Canada. This hot dog wrapped in a chocolate eclair -- topped off with whippled cream and sprinkles -- is too much. Maple Lodge Farms, a poultry processor, debuted the hot dog at the Canada National Exhibition.
When the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act back in June, the fight for same-sex marriage rights moved overnight to the 37 states that currently don’t allow same-sex marriage.
Nationally, the campaign is ramping up, with fundraising and lobbying in a handful of states most likely to pass same-sex marriage soon, says Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement at the group Freedom to Marry, based in New York and Washington, D.C.
“The road to marriage is different in each state,” Zepatos says, pointing out that legislators in Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey could pass marriage equality this year. In New Jersey, they’d need a veto-proof majority to overcome opposition from governor Chris Christie.
The first state with a ballot measure before voters is Oregon. Next November, voters will decide whether to add same-sex marriage to the state constitution. An amendment banning gay marriage won at the ballot box back in 2004.
“Those ground games look much bigger in those states where every voter is a decision-maker,” says Zepatos. The effort needs to include an army of paid and volunteer petition-gatherers and phone-bankers, plus paid advertising as the vote approaches in fall 2014.
“The cost of these campaigns probably won’t top business-related measures, like what a casino will spend on a ballot measure,” says Zepatos. “But you’ll get up to the $6 million, $8 million, or potentially $10 million figure.”
Campaign funds are already flowing at Oregon United for Marriage’s new field office in Portland. The effort’s being helped by a $10,000 donation -- matched through a Facebook campaign -- from a wealthy local gay couple long involved in the same-sex marriage fight.
At the new field office, about a dozen young staffers head out every afternoon to get ballot signatures and ask for donations from supporters.
“My name’s Charlie, I’m with the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples,” is how Charlie Dunkin begins his spiel one afternoon as he walks from house to house in an upper-middle-class tree-lined neighborhood near Reed College in Portland.
Dunkin, 25, has been doing this work ever since he graduated college with a psychology degree in the spring. He thinks it’ll keep him gainfully employed at least until next November.
Urban planning student Inna Levin, 33, says getting paid a few dollars above Oregon’s minimum wage of $8.95 per hour, to do something she believes in anyway, is a pretty good deal.
“I have volunteered in the past,” she says. “In this position I’m a paid canvasser. The freedom to marry is really important to me.”
The Oregon Family Council, which backed Oregon’s successful anti-gay-marriage amendment in 2004 and is expected to vigorously oppose the effort to overturn it next November, did not respond to an interview request.
Political analyst Bill Lunch, former chair of the political science department at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says opponents of same-sex marriage are unlikely to raise anything like the multi-millions of dollars that advocates of marriage equality can count on getting from committed donors -- both in- and out-of-state.
But, says Thalia Zepatos of Freedom to Marry, don’t count her opponents out.
“They do need a large campaign” to counteract the big effort (paid staff, volunteers, phone-banking, advertising) that marriage-equality advocates will mount, says Zepatos. “But I don’t think we should underestimate the power and the reach of those church networks that they do activate -- thousands upon thousands of congregants.”
Most of those folks will be volunteers, ready to get out the vote for their side all across the state next November.