From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Thursday:
- In Washington, the Commerce Department issues retail sales data for January.
- The International Energy Agency releases its monthly oil market report on supply and demand around the globe.
- If you spot an orphaned shopping cart on your block help it find its way home. February is 'Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month.' Hey, does pushing a grocery cart across a parking lots count as exercise?
- Musician Peter Gabriel turns 64.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is schedule to release its ten-year agricultural projections. The report is published each February.
When bad weather shuts down school or delays its openings, it locks out many needy kids from a key source of nutrition. Some 70 percent of U.S. schoolchildren who eat school lunches get them for free or at reduced prices.
Fans of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue may be surprised by the newest model to grace the pages of the upcoming issue.
It's a doll -- Barbie, to be specific. The 55-year-old female icon will be featured in a spread, shot by the same photographer who shot cover model Kate Upton and her fellow swimsuit-wearing women. Mattel is also releasing a special edition Sports Illustrated swimsuit doll, and a new ad campaign featuring the hashtag #unapologetic.
— Barbie (@Barbie) February 10, 2014
Let's start with the obvious question. Why would Mattel want to put a doll made for little girls in a magazine made for grown men?
"The swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated actually reaches quite a few women," says Lisa McKnight, senior vice president of marketing for North America at Mattel.
The women who purchase the magazine for fashion reasons are potential Barbie fans.
"Target is a big sponsor of this issue, and then will sell a swimwear line in their stores," says McKnight.
Also available at Target: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition of Barbie, whose full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. The doll will be featured in a modern version of the black and white swimsuit that she wore when she was introduced to the world in 1959. Toy analyst Sean McGowan says this isn't the first time Mattel has marketed Barbie to adults.
"There was a big store in Shanghai that actually had a bar. That doesn't seem very kid friendly," McGowan says.
But putting Barbie in a swimsuit magazine is a very risky move.
"For example," says McGowan, "my wife is an ardent feminist and a teacher of girls from K-12. And she has only reluctantly come around to the idea that Barbie can be used to project positive images of empowerment, and choice, and career options."
Barbie's appearance in a magazine that objectifies the female body, adds McGowan, could undo the progress Mattel has made in convincing parents that Barbie is a positive role model.
The cyber-dating industry is stretching far beyond its mass-market beginnings, with niche dating sites for every lifestyle or preference. "You name the obscure interest, there's probably a site for it," says online dating expert Dan Slater.
Ray Nagin was indicted last January, when prosecutors said he engaged in bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and filing false tax returns.
This week the FCC adopted new phone rates for people in prison, jail or detention centers. Under the new rules, interstate collect phone calls can cost no more than 25 cents per minute and debit or pre-paid phone calls can cost no more than 21 cents per minute.
Before the rate caps, an interstate call could cost as much as $17 for a 15 minute call. Under the new rate caps, a 15 minute call would be about $3.15.
"This is essentially the federal government putting its foot down on a system that’s been broken for a decade," said Leah Sakala, a policy analyst with the Prison Policy Initiative.
Sakala said the prison phone industry preys on people who can’t afford it.
"This is a market that profits from exploiting communities who are the most economically vulnerable," said Sakala.
Sakala claims that the more notable phone companies used to profit from the prison phone industry, but were bought out by companies owned by investment banks.
Below is a rundown of how much certain compnies charge in fees for calls from prison:
The Los Angeles Times reports that the prison phone market brings in over $1.2 billion every year.
Today's prison phone market, which brings in $1.2 billion annually, is dominated by two little-known phone companies. Global Tel-Link, based in Atlanta, and Securus Technologies of Dallas, both backed by private equity firms, make up more than 80% of the market, according to Standard & Poor's.
The phone companies insist it simply costs more to provide inmate phone services, which require security features such as call screening, restricting phone numbers and blocking three-way calls.
"All the real work to allow an inmate to make a call happens before the call is even accepted," said Stephanie Joyce, counsel for Securus. Securus and other companies charge fees to initiate a call, add funds to an account or receive statements, partially to help recoup those costs, Joyce said.
Securus Technologies said the new caps on phone charges will cost them over $10 million in revenues.
In an interview with Bloomberg BNA, Securus Technologies CEO Richard Smith said he's unsure of what the real impact will be:
“Securus is committed to providing high end security features that one third of all the prisons in the U.S. require and we will continue to fight for prisons and jails to fight for the prices that they deem are necessary to support their own prisons and jails."
The U.S Court of Appeals denied a bid to stay the FCC's new rate caps.
Barbara Mancini was charged with assisting her father's suicide by providing him with a lethal dose of morphine. A judge's decision in her favor is the latest in a series of developments signaling a reluctance of courts and state legislatures to criminalize medical care that may hasten death.
Researchers from California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say they've figured out how to get their laser to squeeze hydrogen atoms together to make helium atoms, releasing energy in the process. It's an important step in the decades-long quest for fusion energy.