The House of Representatives is back from summer recess, and among the items on the agenda is the Social Media Working Group Act of 2014. While the government is already working with social media to inform and interact with citizens, one of the proposals under consideration is establishing a standard operating procedure for the Department of Homeland Security's Twitter account during a crisis.
According to Nate Elliott, social media analyst at Forrester Research, typically “The hope is when government or another authority tweets something, people will share it for them.”
However, because of the noisy environment of social media platforms, that generally doesn’t happen.
“Messages wash away very quickly,” according to Elliott. It's why the government is looking for a more cohesive social media strategy.
But there are challenges. Twitter, for example, does not use an algorithm to decide what the typical user sees in the same way as Facebook manages its feed. Plus, both allow increased visibility with paid posts, giving the government another challenge in reaching citizens on these platforms.
It's the first day that residents in the state of Washington State can walk into a store and legally buy marijuana for recreational purposes. Washington is the second state to legalize pot -- Coloradans have been able to purchase recreational pot since January 1st. But there are some notable differences in how each state regulates the still federally illegal plant.
One major difference is the number of retail outlets. Washington has capped the number 334, while Colorado has no cap. And initially Colorado did not require lab testing on pot.
“Everything that is sold in a retail marijuana store in Washington has been tested,” says Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Board, which drafted Washington’s new marijuana laws.
Colorado retailers are also required to grow nearly all the pot themselves. In Washington, retailers aren’t allowed to grow their own. They have to purchase it from a licensed growers and processors. And Smith says it’s taxed heavily: “25 percent from producers to processors, 25 percent from processors to retailers, and 25 percent from retailers to consumers.”
Revenue projections in both states are, like many residents, high. Washington predicts nearly $600 million over the next four years.
“What people forget," says Mark Kleiman, “is the high price of cannabis today reflects the legality. But once you don’t have to hide, you can do things much more efficiently.”
Kleiman is a UCLA professor of public policy and the author of several books on drug policy. He predicts that in the long run, legalization will drive pot production costs down. As a result pot prices will plummet, along with tax revenue.
For more of Marketplace's coverage on the legalization of retail marijuana sales in Washington, check out the links below:
Here at Marketplace, we've covered the growing marijuana industry in Washington since it was first approved for recreational use -- From the search for a marijuana consultant by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (which they later found), to figuring out a price structure, to the advent of businesses hoping to take advantage of legal sales.
And remember when the Denver Broncos took on the Seattle Seahawks at this year's Superbowl, and advocates for legalizing marijuana spent $5,000 on pro-pot billboards near the stadium? The event sprouted a lot of nicknames -- "The Stoner Bowl," for example.
But growing a business that's illegal most everywhere else can be tricky, especially when it comes to managing finances.
That's because most banks have decided that the venture is too risky, and are reluctant to do business with the marijuana industry. It's forcing many pot-related businesses to use cash only, which is nearly impossible as operations and revenue grow. With the amount of money involved things like sales, taxes, and licensing fees, it's difficult for businesses to operate without access to bank accounts.
Talk about a buzzkill.
Mexico might be out of the World Cup, but this year, the country is poised to beat rival Brazil on another global stage: For the first time in a decade, Mexico is expected to become the top Latin American automobile producer. And that bodes well for its economy overall.
Consultant IHS Automotive says Mexico has been making and exporting more cars than Brazil in 2014, and it should keep up pace through the rest of the year.
Analysts point to cheaper labor and proximity to the United States, one of Mexico’s biggest customers, as contributors to the surge in auto production. There's also new investment from foreign automakers.
"Audi, Nissan, Mazda, GM, Ford and many, many others," says Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "These are the types of firms where you’ve seen huge growth and innovation and productivity among Mexican workers that have made it really a competitive sector."
That momentum could jump start productivity across Mexico’s economy, according to Lisa Schineller, an analyst for Standard & Poors.
"The key challenge is trying to tackle outside the manufacturing sector, and improve education, infrastructure, et cetera," she says.
Schineller adds that S&P is also watching legislative reforms that would open Mexico’s energy industry to foreign investment.
SLUG: Mexican Auto Production
REPORTER: S.Mullen (Johnston)
Host lead: Mexico might be out of the World Cup, but the country is poised to beat rival Brazil on another global stage.
For the first time in a decade Mexico is expected to become the top Latin American automobile producer this year.
And that bodes well for Mexico’s economy overall, as Shannon Mullen reports.
* * *
MULLEN: So far this year, Mexico’s been making andexporting more cars than Brazil.
And consultant I-H-S Automotive says that should keep up through 2014.
One factor: cheaper labor. Another proximity to the U.S., one of Mexico’s biggest customers.
Then there’s all that recent investment from foreign automakers…
O’NEIL: Audi, Nissan, Mazda, GM, Ford and many many others…
MULLEN: Shannon O’Neil is a senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
O’NEIL: These are the types of firms where you’ve seen huge growth and innovation and productivity among Mexican workers that have made it really a competitive sector.
MULLEN: That momentum could jumpstart productivity across Mexico’s economy, says Lisa Schineller, an analyst for Standard & Poors.
SCHINELLER: the key challenge is trying to tackle outside the manufacturing sector, and improve education, infrastructure, etcera.
MULLEN: Schineller says S&P is also watching reforms that would open Mexico’s energy industry to foreign investment.
I’m S-M for Marketplace.
More than a hundred truckers who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are on strike, calling for better pay and safety and accusing transport companies of hindering their efforts to unionize. The trucking companies say they pay fair wages and that drivers striking are only a small slice of the total workforce.
It’s the latest workforce disruption at an important trade gateway with a long history of labor unrest.
The ports are a key point for trade with Asia, with hundreds of billions of dollars in goods moving through. You probably own something with a "Made in China" label, and it most likely came through these California ports.
Right now, only three trucking companies are affected by the strike. Others are still rolling. The picketing isn’t large enough to cause a major disruption.
But if dockworkers walk off the job in support of the truckers, it could snarl trade, with nationwide impact if the strike drags on.
Forget your typical summer camp experiences: swimming, campfires, telling ghost stories.
“I thought it was really cool to know how to make an app,” said Aurora, who is spending the week at iD Tech camp at UCLA. “I’m only a kid. I’m 11. You don’t see a lot of kids making apps in the app store that might actually sell. So I thought it would be cool.”
The room at iD Tech — this one on the campus of UCLA — is humming. Kids are enthralled by their computers: clicking, staring, thinking, asking questions, clicking again.
It’s mostly boys. The camp says 15 percent of its 36,000 campers nationwide are girls.
There are rows of students working on computers tucked inside individual cubbies. Bright signs on the wall say "Game", "Code", "Tech", and "Create."
There's no threat of poison ivy here. No surprise run-ins with spiders. No chance a water fight will break out.
“When I was younger, I had gone to more traditional camps, where it was all fun, all games,” said 14-year old Gavriel, who is learning 3D modeling and animation. “But I felt like it was time to get more serious about what I want to do for the future.”
More serious about the future...at 14.
The pamphlet for iD Tech camp plays straight into that. It's there on page one: “Right now there are over 1 million unfilled jobs in STEM.”
The message is that $900-plus for this week-long camp can help prepare a kid for those high-skilled jobs.
“Technology is great. Computers are great. It is going to be a part of our future,” said Peg Smith, head of the American Camp Association. But, she says, you can learn 21st century skills at traditional camps, too. Skills like creativity, communication, collaboration.
“For kids to be able to be outside, in nature, actively involved, in authentic situations with other people, is a real advantage in today’s world.”
The funny thing, said Smith, is that computer camp used to be where kids went to play with exotic devices.
Now, computers are everywhere.
And it’s traditional camp where they experience the exotic: nature.
When a big American company tries to buy a small company overseas, it’s always worth asking the question: "Why?" Sometimes, it’s because the acquisition gives the big company access to a new and growing market. Sometimes, it’s because the small company has some cool technology the big company wants. And sometimes … it’s a big fat tax dodge.
Take AbbVie, a U.S. pharmaceutical company that wants to buy an Irish drugmaker called Shire. Shire won’t give AbbVie access to an exciting new market, or bring it any sexy new technology. What it will provide – if the merger happens – is headquarters in a country with much lower tax rates than the U.S.
This is called a corporate inversion. Companies that do this behave a bit like the homeowner who sells her beautiful, perfect house in one city and uses the cash to buy a hovel in a town with a great school. The house may be outrageously expensive, and it may be falling down, but the buyer doesn’t care about any of that – she only cares about being able to send her kid to the local school. She can work out the other stuff later.
The same goes for Abbvie: it doesn’t care much about Shire, it cares about paying less in taxes. The same goes for another U.S. pharma company, Pfizer, that tried to buy British drugmaker AstraZeneca earlier this year, as well as a company called Destination Maternity, which tried to buy British maternity retailer Mothercare recently.
The list of companies that have inverted is a long one. It includes Applied Materials, which acquired a Japanese company and reincorporated in the Netherlands; Chiquita Brands, which bought Irish company Fyffes and shifted to Dublin; Power Management company Eaton Corp. did likewise after it bought Cooper Industries; pharma company Perrigo bought Irish company Elan and moved; and publisher Omnicom shifted to the Netherlands after it bought French rival Publicis Group.
Moving overseas to save tax money isn’t a new phenomenon, and companies are careful to obey the law. But, the law has made things more difficult. Companies used to be able to just open an office in Bermuda and move, but they’re not allowed to do that anymore. Hence the inversion activity that we’ve seen recently – at least 20 in the last two years, according to sources cited by the New York Times.
Now, you may think that it’s fair enough for companies to do this: It’s entirely legal, and the 35 percent tax rate that corporations pay is a lot higher than in other countries. So why shouldn’t these companies move and save? They do it within the U.S., after all, moving from state to state to get tax benefits. Some Congressional representatives might agree with you. Others, like Republican Senator Charles Grassley, says inversion may not be illegal, but it’s “immoral.” I guess he doesn’t like seeing all those dollars leaking away overseas.
It looks as though the Obama Administration feels the same way. The New York Times reported recently that “the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are working on draft legislation for comprehensive tax reform that is expected to include new rules intended to curtail inversions while also trying to make the United States a more competitive place for multinationals to call home.”