National / International News
Lynn Eldredge has had six different jobs since he was laid off from a tractor manufacturer in 2000. Fourteen years later, he makes the same amount of money at his current job that he did back then.
The World Customs Organization, an international association of customs and law enforcement agencies, is out with its annual report on seizures of illegal goods and counterfeiting.
The product most likely to be counterfeited or illegally traded last year was pharmaceuticals, at a whopping 76 percent of all seizures.
The most counterfeited brand, on the other hand, was Nike. Followed by Apple, Rolex, Samsung and Adidas
Kinder Morgan oversees a vast network of oil and gas pipelines in North America. It's actually a family of companies and now they're consolidating. The "why" is complicated but the upshot isn't: the new corporation wants to spend more money acquiring even more pipelines. Because, it turns out, there's a shortage.
Kinder Morgan already operates or owns a piece of some 80,000 miles of pipelines in North America. Barbara Shook says its founder clearly wants more.
“Mr. Kinder kept talking about acquisitions and acquisitions and acquisitions during the conference call with analysts this morning,” says Shook, senior reporter-at-large with the Energy Intelligence Group. Disclosure: Shook owns shares in one of the Kinder Morgan companies.
She says the corporate restructuring will make it cheaper for Kinder Morgan to borrow money. That’s money Kinder Morgan can use to buy a precious commodity: other pipeline companies.
“We were caught short in terms of our transportation infrastructure for energy,” says Bob McNally, president of the Rapidan Group. He says the U.S. oil and gas boom changed everything – both the scale of the boom and where it’s happening.
“The parts of the country where we’re increasing production of oil and gas are not areas where we produced oil and gas before,” he says.
Think of all that natural gas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Think of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana.
Paul Sullivan, an energy security expert at Georgetown University and the National Defense University, says there aren’t enough pipelines to move it all.
“I think the proof that there is need for more is the amount of oil that is moving by rail,” he says, adding that so much oil is moving by rail that corn and other agricultural goods are getting squeezed out. Plus, derailments have a devastating effect.
“Moving oil by rail is more expensive and it’s also less safe,” Sullivan says.
Which is why companies like Kinder Morgan want to lay the groundwork for more pipelines.
BuzzFeed, the website that blessed us with the listicle revolution, just raised $50 million from some very prominent venture capitalists. That investment values the company at an estimated $850 million. To put this in context, the Washington Post recently sold for $250 million dollars. So, how did that valuation happen?
For one thing, BuzzFeed boasts that 150 million people visit it every month. By contrast, the New York Times gets 53.8 million visitors, according to comScore. But it's not just the number of visits that’s valuable, it's who those visitors are. Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries, said most of BuzzFeed’s audience is 35-and-under, a demographic that’s catnip to advertisers.
"It’s been harder and harder for advertisers to reach a younger demographic," Sweeney said. "The younger folks are the ones who are spending more time on the Internet, more time off of traditional media like newspapers, magazines or television."
A lot of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from people sharing its stories on social media sites. Sweeney says that's a risky strategy. BuzzFeed’s audience would be decimated if social media sites excluded its content.
But investors are betting that BuzzFeed will grow beyond listicles, said Ethan Kurzweil, a venture capitalist at Bessemer Venture Partners. He said investors expect BuzzFeed to become a go-to-platform that offers all kinds of content from video to news and who knows what else.
"I assume they’re betting on a modern media tech company," Kurzweil said. "Sort of a modern People Magazine, ESPN all in one, all in one, all in one property."
In fact, BuzzFeed is using its newest round of funding to expand into movies, said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at the Altimeter Group. She says don’t expect BuzzFeed to compete with 20th Century Fox or Paramount by making traditional films.
"I really don’t think that’s going to be the case," she said.
Lieb predicts BuzzFeed will redefine movies and create ones that cater to its digital-first audience.
There’s a new front in Amazon’s battle with its vendors. Because of a reported pricing dispute, some of Disney's DVDs and Blue-rays are no longer available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Book publisher Hachette is in a similar position. Its spat with the e-commerce site has become highly public, with each company publishing scathing letters about the other side. (Amazon's here, Hachette's here, and a group of 900 authors supporting Hachette here).
If this were a Disney movie, some would cast Amazon as the bad guy, like the evil fairy Maleficent (OK, she's less evil this time around, but still). Others would say it’s a Captain America-esque hero, fighting for lower prices for consumers.
Physical discs of both new Disney films are currently unavailable for pre-order on Amazon, though they are available for pre-purchase through the company's instant video service.
But, says Ed Brodow, the author of Negotiation Boot Camp, Amazon’s tactics aren’t good or bad – they’re business. Amazon, like all companies its size, is flexing its muscle to get the best deals possible.
“That’s what people do in negotiation all the time, they use their leverage,” says Brodow. “Amazon has a tremendous amount of leverage.”
Wal-Mart employs similar muscle, says Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities.
“Wal-Mart pays as low a price as anybody wholesale for any product that it sells, and it’s able to do so by exercising its market muscle,” he says. “Amazon is trying very hard to be Wal-Mart-like.”
Pre-orders are important for Disney because it will impact their first-day sales rankings, but Pachter doubts customers will miss the option much.
Not everyone agrees.
Amazon’s aggressive tactics risk its reputation with its customers, says Michael Norris, an independent publishing and media consultant.
“It’s really remarkable to me that a company that claims to be very consumer-centric finds absolutely nothing wrong with inconveniencing millions of consumers,” he adds.
The U.S. government is reportedly weighing options to evacuate thousands of civilians from Iraq's Yazidi religious sect, who are trapped in barren mountains in northern Iraq without food or water, imperiled by advancing Islamic State fighters. The crisis has put the Yazidis out of reach for humanitarian aid workers, who typically provide food, water and shelter to vulnerable people.
The humanitarian aid industry is growing, fueled by large-scale conflicts and natural disasters. Last year it took in a record $22 billion from donor governments, foundations, corporations and individuals. It employed more than 250,000 people.
Margaret Aguirre, the head of Global Initiatives for International Medical Corps, is one of them. The non-governmental organization moved offices recently, in part to save on rent, and Aguirre spent part of a recent day peeling layers of bubble wrap from framed photographs that will hang in her office. One, taken in South Sudan in 2012, showed a cluster of women, some with frightened children peeking from behind their backs, outside of an International Medical Corps clinic. Their homes had been bombed.
"It's said all the time, it sounds like a cliche, but when your home is bombed, you run," Aguirre said.
International Medical Corps' growth mirrors the growth of the aid industry. In 1984, when the NGO started work, it was comprised of a handful of volunteer doctors and nurses who traveled to Afghanistan to treat the wounded. Now, it employs nearly 5,000 people in 30 countries and will implement $300 million in program services this year alone.
Aid work as a growing profession
There are roughly 5,000 non-governmental organizations, according to Humanitarian Outcomes, a firm that researches humanitarian assistance. The sector is rapidly professionalizing.
"You can even get masters degrees in humanitarian assistance," said Abby Stoddard, a partner with Humanitarian Outcomes. "These could be technical specialists in water and sanitation or food assistance, logisticians, financial analysts. There's a whole raft of careers in international humanitarian aid."
Even so, aid work is often misunderstood as volunteer or charity work. Jessica Alexander, who has two masters degrees, and has done everything from managing camps for displaced people to working with former child soldiers, wrote a book called "Chasing Choas: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid", in part to clear up some of the misconceptions.
"People have come up to me at this point in my career and said, 'gosh, how can you afford to keep volunteering?'" Alexander said. "What they don't understand is this is very much a career and we're paid, and we're paid well, and we're paid with benefits."
As with any field, there's even a kind of career ladder, says William Easterly, who teaches economics at NYU and wrote the book "The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor." Easterly says he has seen a "huge increase" in the number of his students interested in pursuing careers in aid. Many of them will start in NGOs, where salaries are relatively low.
"They are small and operating on a pretty limited budget," Easterly said. "There's also a big phenomenon in NGOs of unpaid interns. Part of this is just supply and demand. There's a huge amount of young people who want to work in development and that's great, but there's just not enough jobs for them."
However, working for an NGO can offer young people a foothold to advance to the United Nations or World Bank, where salaries are higher.
An industry based in crisis
There is one large difference between humanitarian aid and other growth industries: An increase in the number of jobs, the amount of donations, and the demand for services usually isn't a good thing. It means more crises.
In addition to Iraq, there are humanitarian crises in Syria, South Sudan, the Gaza Strip and across Central Africa. There is even, according to the U.S. government, a humanitarian crisis on our border with Mexico, sparked by children and families fleeing Central America.
"We've been doing this for thirty years and I can honestly say there are more crises, there are more conflicts, there are more disasters," said International Medical Corps' Margaret Aguirre. "There are a lot of people in peril. It seems like there's a crisis everywhere."
The president said the only long-term solution in Iraq would be for Iraqis to work together. Obama said he and Vice President Biden have called to congratulate Haider al-Abadi.
Your doctor and lawyer may know a lot about you. But in a time when we are using computers to socialize, keep track of finances, do work and store family photos your IT person probably knows more.
Sierra Leone is at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. To help stop the virus, health workers are putting up Ebola awareness posters around the country. One doctor explains why they're so graphic.
Brett McGurk is the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. He joins Robert Siegel to explain U.S. policy on Iraq.
For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try The Dahlia, from Denver Biscuit Co. It's a breakfast sandwich served on a French toast biscuit.
The start to the school year in New Orleans offers a landmark moment in U.S. education. For the first time, a major urban school district will operate entirely with charter schools.