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The Greek debt crisis by the numbers

Tue, 2015-06-30 10:40

The need-to-know numbers about the Greek debt crisis, explained by Paddy Hirsch.

Produced by Preditorial | www.preditorial.tv

Writer and Host: Paddy Hirsch

Director and Edtor: Rick Kent

Director of Photography: Anton Seim

Producer: Mimi Kent

President Obama extends overtime pay to more workers

Tue, 2015-06-30 03:00

A new move from President Barack Obama aims to make more Americans eligible for overtime pay. The proposal, announced Tuesday, could mean bigger paychecks for up to five million workers.

Employees with a salary of $23,660 a year or more can be considered management and barred from time-and-a-half pay, even if they work more than 40 hours. The proposed change from the Obama administration would raise the bar to $50,440. And it'll move in the future to keep pace with inflation and wage growth.

Dan Hamermesh, Professor Emeritus of economics at University of Texas at Austin, doesn’t think the overall effects will be very large. Many workers will get small wins: either get a slight bump in take home pay or have slightly shorter hours for the same salary.

“It will also, I’m pretty sure, create jobs,” he adds. “If an extra hour becomes more expensive, some employers are gonna wanna hire more people.”

This is all likely to raise costs for companies, which is why business advocates aren’t happy.

A change like this does not require approval from Congress, but it’s not a done deal yet. It’ll be open for public comment and could take several months to finalize.

Mark Garrison: Right now, employees with a salary just under $24-thousand dollars can be considered management and barred from time and a half pay. The rule change from the Obama administration would raise the bar to a little over 50-grand. And it'll move in the future to keep pace with inflation.

Dan Hamermesh: I don’t think this is a huge thing. I think it’s beneficial. I don’t think the effects will be very large.

University of Texas economics professor Dan Hamermesh says many workers will either get a small bump in take home pay or have slightly shorter hours for the same salary.

Dan Hamermesh: It will also, I’m pretty sure, create jobs, because if an extra hour becomes more expensive, some employers are gonna wanna hire more people.

This is all likely to raise costs for companies, which is why business advocates aren’t happy. A change like this does not require approval from Congress, but it’s not a done deal yet. It’ll be open for public comment and could take several months to finalize. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

PODCAST: Greek credit cards

Tue, 2015-06-30 03:00

Greece and the faulty assumption that everyone has access to a credit card. We'll check in on how Greek citizens are handling the banks being shutdown there. Plus, the Export-Import Bank’s charter expires at midnight Wednesday: we look at how this leaves it in an awkward state of limbo. And Apple's new music streaming service launches today. We'll talk about what to expect.

 

 

PODCAST: Cameras in the workplace

Tue, 2015-06-30 03:00

With the Greek public being asked to vote on Sunday to approve or reject the terms of the EU's latest financial bailout, the immediate question is how to keep the economy going between now and then. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about the case before the Supreme Court involving Environmental Protection Agency regulations of power plant emissions. And Police departments all over the country are frantically ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days. But those little cameras are also spreading into a lot of workplaces that have absolutely nothing to do with the police.

Ex-Im Bank, to reauthorize or not to reauthorize

Tue, 2015-06-30 02:00

The controversial Export-Import Bank’s authorization will expire at the stroke of midnight Wednesday, meaning the government institution that finances exports made by American companies, among other things, can follow through on its existing loans and guarantees, but can’t fund new ones.

The bank has long been targeted by some Republicans who don’t believe the government should be involved in this market and that the bank only benefits large corporations.

Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, says the bank amounts to corporate welfare and sees opportunity in Wednesday’s expiration.

“It’s one thing to reauthorize it,” he says, noting the bank has been reauthorized numerous times during its eight-decade existence. “It’s another thing to restart it once it’s already expired.”

Supporters of the Ex-Im Bank, meanwhile, argue it fills a gap in the private lending market for companies of all sizes and that the uncertainty leading up to Wednesday’s expiration has already hurt American businesses.

"Symbolically, [the expiration] is hugely important," says Edward Alden, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. "I do think contracts will be lost, though it's hard to put a clear number on it."

“The winner here is China and other countries that are going full steam ahead with their own export credit agencies and taking advantage of the opportunity to see Ex-Im lapse,” says Miriam Sapiro, principal at the consulting firm Summit Strategies and a former deputy U.S. trade representative.

Sapiro’s hoping Congress will reauthorize the bank when it’s back in session in July.

Lessons from Cyprus on handling debt crisis

Tue, 2015-06-30 02:00

Banks are rationing cash, European creditors are closing in — Sounds like the current situation in Greece. But that was Cyprus, two years ago.

Even though their economies are different, Greece could learn some lessons from Cyprus.

Lesson one? Staying with the euro doesn’t mean a trip down easy street. Cyprus still struggles with high unemployment.

Lesson two? Listen to creditors, like the IMF.

“Cooperating with the IMF paid off for Cyprus because, after two years they’re on the road to recovery,” says Charles Movit, an economist at IHS covering Cyprus.

“I don’t think so at all,” says Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He says Cyprus is still in bad shape.

“A lot of people have suffered," he says. "They’re still unemployed. A lot of businesses went bankrupt.”

But Weisbrot and Movit agree on lesson three: limits on how much money can be sent abroad or taken out of a bank can help keep cash where it’s needed. 

 

 

Flagship Westgate Mall reopens in Kenya

Tue, 2015-06-30 02:00

The upscale Nairobi mall attacked by terrorists in 2013 plans a partial reopening on Wednesday. At least 67 people died when Al Shabaab, an African offshoot of Al Qaeda, attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall.

The siege was a blow to the heart of Nairobi’s prosperity, where malls serve espresso and hummus. New roads, and ever present construction cranes show Kenya’s continued rise. It’s become an economic hub of East Africa, but fears of terrorism have hurt business and scared away some foreign tourists.

The reopening of Westgate, many say, is a conscious decision to defy the terrorists. Others see it as callous.

“The fact that they want to reopen Westgate mall is a bit demeaning. It really is,” says Sadia Ahmed, who, until recently, was a radio host on East FM, a Kenyan radio station popular with the region’s Asian population.

On September 21, 2013, she was recording a cooking segment on Westgate’s roof.

“Two explosions went off, and that’s when we saw people run out of the mall and onto the rooftop,” Ahmed remembers. She spent hours running and crouching amid grenades and gunshots. She'd rather the mall become a memorial park. That's what became of the American Embassy attacked in Nairobi in 1998. 

Just weeks ago, you could still see bullet holes in Westgate's windows. Outside, there were ghostly outlines on the walls where there had once been shop signs. Then, almost overnight, the building received a fresh coat of paint. Contractors hammered as new signs went up. Westgate has the same name and logo as before the attack.
 
There will be a different color scheme inside the mall when it reopens, and some shops won’t return, but it will mostly look the same.

“It’s a sort of reaffirmation to citizens that look, we are resilient,” says Peter Alingo, who directs the Institute for Security Studies in Kenya. He welcomes the mall’s return, but worries poor levels of security across Nairobi are unchanged.

When mall security guards check people out with metal detectors, it’s more a matter of performance than prevention. When Alingo goes to park his car, he’s taken to asking the guards what they’re looking for in his trunk.

“They say to me they’re looking for anything that looks weird, that has some wires on it,” he says. “And, I said ‘what the heck is this? And, how are you going to deal with it once you see it?’ They have no idea.”

One guard told him, if he sees a bomb, he’ll just run for his life.
 
People living in the upscale neighborhood near Westgate are cautiously awaiting the mall’s return. Some say it’ll be strange at first. Resident Jyoti Dadhley says she’ll certainly shop there again, “but it will be just for what I need to and get the hell out.”

But Sadia Ahmed just wants to see the inside of the mall to remember.

“I will go back. Once. Just for closure. But I will never step into mall to have a good time. Ever,” she says.

 

 

I'm leaving on a (garbage-fueled) jet plane

Tue, 2015-06-30 01:41
1 second

That's how much time will be added to the world clock on Tuesday. What may seem like an insignificant amount of time actually has big implications for trading around the world. Take a look at our explainer on how the 'leap second' will be applied to the global market.

26 million

At least that many Facebook users have put their profile picture through a rainbow filter in celebration of Pride month and last week's Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide. The company its not running a study related to the photo tool, but the Atlantic points out Facebook has previously examined the way users can influence each other with the 'I Voted" button, profile picture changes and other instances of what's sometimes called "slacktivism."

$50,440 a year

That's the amount proposed by President Barack Obama as the new earning threshold for workers qualifying for overtime pay. The current ceiling is $23,660 a year. The White House says as many as 5 million workers will benefit from the rule change in the short term. But as the New York Times reports, some economists worry that the change will result in employers shortening hours, rather than paying time-and-a-half.

66,320

That's how many people used Airbnb to stay in the Marais neighborhood in Paris last summer, more than actually live there. The Wall Street Journal examined how the explosion of bookings on Airbnb have changed Paris, and what kinds of people are staying where. Looking for more Airbnb data? This site gets granular -- down to individual listings -- with several major cities.

$30 million

That's how much United Airlines says it will invest in Fulcrum BioEnergy, a company that effectively turns trash into fuel. As reported by the New York Times, the airlines plans a flight for this summer that will be primarily run on the garbage-sourced fuel. A large part of the motivation to invest in alternative fuels is the pressure on major airlines to reduce carbon emissions.

Conversations about mobility, live from Aspen

Mon, 2015-06-29 15:08

Monday's Marketplace was broadcast live from the Belly Up in Aspen, Colorado, and the Aspen Ideas Festival. We took a break from the usual Marketplace format for a series of conversations all around one theme: mobility and the economy.

Economic mobility (or lack thereof) in Greece (starts at 01:10)

First things first: we had to talk about Greece. The European Central Bank froze funding to Greek banks. As the latest deadline for the country looms over its creditors and citizens, tensions are understandably high.

Some business owners, like gourmet sandwich shop owner Nick Voglis, have voiced their concerns.

"They implemented capital control here in Athens, and people started getting a little worried," Voglis told our reporter. "They have panicked a little bit."

To help better understand the current situation, Kai Ryssdal spoke to David Leonhardt, managing editor for The Upshot from The New York Times.

Mobility in education (starts at 6:15)

Next up, Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira and Veniam CEO Robin Chase, who chatted with us about the intersection of technology and education. The ever growing number of technology platforms makes it easier for people to use data. As a consequence, this makes it easier for students all over the world to expand their opportunities.

The bottom line when it comes to education and technology: “Get on board, or get left behind.”

Mobile content (starts at 14:55)

Netflix has revolutionized the way television content is distributed and consumed. Ted Sarandos, the company's chief content officer, says that he doesn't care how people watch the content of the service, even if it means watching "Lawrence of Arabia" on an iPhone.

"We just want you to have the best experience possible," Sarandos says. "For some, that experience is defined by convenience and watching a movie on your iPad. Or it's defined by wanting to see it on your big TV in 4K."

Brand mobility (starts at 20:12)

Among the leaders and thinkers at the Aspen Ideas Festival were some unexpected guests. Entrepreneur and two-time world champion skier Chris Davenport talked with us about what it takes to change your brand when you’re an athlete.

First things first, why does anyone choose to hike up dangerous mountains and ski down them? Chris says, “because it’s there.”

As of now, Chris is an athlete. But someday he’ll have to make the transition away from that. Of course, whether it’s a physical risk or a reputation-based risk, being brand mobile can be tricky. Chris says one of the keys to keeping himself on the right track is that he “can’t be afraid to fail.”

He says, “I’m out there putting one foot in front of the other … always have to be willing and able to turn around and find another way.… In my business, there has to be another day, I can’t afford to risk it all.” 

SCOTUS rules against EPA regulations

Mon, 2015-06-29 13:33

The Supreme Court handed President Barack Obama two victories last week: the Affordable Care Act will keep its subsidies and same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states. But in a 5-4 decision on Monday, the Supreme Court decided against the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution regulations.

The regulations would have limited emissions from coal-fired plants, but the court's decision centered on the issue of environmental benefits versus industry cost. 

Justice Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the court, wrote, "The agency must consider cost — including, most importantly, cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary." Scalia added, "It is not rational, never mind 'appropriate,' to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits."

The EPA's rules will stay in effect until a District of Columbia appeals court decides whether the rules will be amended or thrown out entirely.

Europeans take refuge in gold

Mon, 2015-06-29 13:00

Let's circle back to the lack of mobility Greeks and their money are dealing with right now.

Bloomberg News is reporting that Europeans have been buying gold — traditionally the safest of safe havens — at quite a clip this month.

The U.K. Royal Mint says sales of gold coins to Greeks was "double the five-month average in June." 

Private coin retailer CoinInvest.com says it's sold out, and that it's the French, Germans and Greeks who are buying.

The rest of the world ... meh.

Gold closed up about 0.5 percent today in New York.

Puerto Rico faces debt deadline

Mon, 2015-06-29 02:24

Puerto Rico is staring down a deadline on July 1st when some of its $72.3 billion in public debt will come due. There’s the $630 million payment on general obligation bonds, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority owes money on its $9 billion debt.  

“They’re reaching the Rubicon now and have to decide how to proceed, debts are coming due, they don’t have the money in the bank to pay them,” says Peter Hakim, president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue. In an interview with the New York Times, Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro García Padilla openly admitted the island is not able to pay its debt. 

Moody’s has rated Puerto Rico’s debt at CAA2, one of the lowest ratings the agency can give — On a 21 level scale, CAA2 is third from the bottom and considered ‘junk’ status.

“It indicates a high risk of default and significant expected losses for bond holders,” says Ted Hampton, Vice President and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investor Service.

Moody’s downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt a month ago, driven by disclosures the commonwealth had made about its declining cash reserves and the potential that if it couldn’t sell more debt it would run out of cash this summer. 

“The house of representatives passed a measure that would suspend the practice of setting aside the money they need to pay future bond service,” says Hampton. "That’s an indicator of severe distress and lack of liquidity, even if that law is not enacted.”

Charles Blitzer, principal at Blitzer Consulting and a former IMF official, sees some potential for a turnaround. “I’ve seen many distressed sovereigns suffering from fiscal crises in my career and I would say this is the most stress for least fundamental reasons,” he says. “This can be solved without too much effort.”

The government raised the sales tax in May from 7 percent to 11.5 percent, though that won’t help with the July 1st deadline as revenues won’t come in until late in July. 

While most investors have abandoned the territory, Puerto Rico is negotiating right now with hedge funds for loans to keep its budget afloat.

Some proposals involve raising electricity bills, and one lawmaker has warned of massive furloughs of government workers. This has left Puerto Ricans swimming in uncertainty.

Christina Sumaza is an entrepreneur who moved back to the territory to pursue business interests and fight the exodus of talent from the island. “I try to look at the positive side of things and be solutions oriented, but a lot of people are very very frustrated and scared even. Can the government sustain itself economically for the next few months, you know what’s going to happen?”

Puerto Rico’s troubles have several origins. In 2006 a U.S. tax break  that incentivized manufacturers to produce in the territory expired. “At one time about half of all pharmaceuticals used in the U.S. were manufactured in Puerto Rico,” says Peter Hakem. “When Washington decided to phase out that tax free situation, by the end of it the companies were leaving Puerto Rico and unemployment jumped very high very quickly.”

Hakem says government leaders in Puerto Rico have not been held accountable for economic management because so much economic power and support derives from Washington.

The territory borrowed to finance current expenditures, and combined with the recession found itself having difficulty repaying those debts. 

Afghanistan increases opium production

Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime says in a new report that global opium production has reached record levels not seen since the 1930s, mainly due to increased cultivation in Afghanistan.

Thomas Pietschmann, co-author of the UN report, says it is meant as a warning that the world is sitting on vast amounts of opium, not all of which has reached drug users.

That opium could make its way to the streets of Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia over the next few years and increase the number of deaths related to opium and heroin, which is also derived from the opium poppy plant.

The main reason for the increased opium yield is instability in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are pressuring farmers to grow the plant.

"Taliban has used it to fuel many of its activities. It's one of its main sources of revenue, says Michael Kugelman, senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

"Farmers in Afghanistan ... are pressured, intimidated and threatened by violence ... if they don't keep up with poppy production," Kugelman says.

With most foreign troops now out of Afghanistan, especially since the end of 2014, and instability growing, farmers are also increasingly planting opium poppies for their own economic survival. 

It is a practice they have employed for decades, despite $8 billion in efforts by the U.S. to reduce opium cultivation. Pietschmann says those efforts in Afghanistan worked, at first, by convincing farmers to plant other crops. Some farmers switched crops by being shown that they could still make money planting other crops. 

"It's a really market-driven approach, but at the same time, really helping and assisting the farmers to change their mindset," Pietschmann says.

But, he says, that approach needs stability, which is something Afghanistan currently lacks.

Video cameras spread to more workplaces

Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.

Those tiny video cameras, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.

“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”

Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”

Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room.

“What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid, and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”

Lew Maltby at the National Workrights Institute says video monitoring shouldn’t be over used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work settings where they may be vulnerable. For instance, video cameras could be used to protect civilians from racially biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, and young kids from abusive teachers.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” Maltby says. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”

In a novel application, mounted video cameras are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).

Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches, so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port,” he says.

Pettinger says the cameras will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.

Video-cams spread to more and more workplaces

Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days, as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.

Those tiny video-cams, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.

“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast-food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate, to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”

Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”

Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room. “What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”

Lew Maltby at the Workrights Institute says video-monitoring shouldn’t be over-used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work-settings where they may be vulnerable: for instance, to protect civilians from the racially-biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, young kids from abusive teachers.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” says Maltby. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”

In a novel application, mounted video-cams are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).

Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon, and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches,” says Pettinger, “so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port.”

Pettinger says the cams will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel, to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.

Video-cams spread to more and more workplaces

Mon, 2015-06-29 02:00

Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days, as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.

Those tiny video-cams, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.

“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast-food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate, to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”

Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”

Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room. “What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”

Lew Maltby at the Workrights Institute says video-monitoring shouldn’t be over-used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work-settings where they may be vulnerable: for instance, to protect civilians from the racially-biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, young kids from abusive teachers.

“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” says Maltby. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”

In a novel application, mounted video-cams are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).

Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon, and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches,” says Pettinger, “so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port.”

Pettinger says the cams will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel, to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.

McDonald's on a McBike

Mon, 2015-06-29 01:54
$72.3 billion

That's the amount of debt facing Puerto Rico, with a deadline of July 1st to pay some of what is due. In an interview with the New York Times, Puerto Rico's Gov. Alejandro García Padilla openly admitted the island is not able to pay. Several factors have contributed to the current situation, including the expiration of a tax break in 2006 that caused many pharmaceutical companies to leave the country, increasing unemployment in its wake.

350

At least that many companies filed amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the Washington Post. That legal procedure might have more of an impact, but the real risk for businesses actually came Friday, when they publicly celebrated the ruling on Twitter. As Wonkblog notes, the fact that so many brands risked alienating customers opposed to same-sex marriages says a lot about how public opinion has changed. 

$8 billion

That's how much the U.S. has pumped into efforts to discourage opium growth in Afghanistan. Yet a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says global opium production is at an all time high, largely because of Afghan farmers increasingly relying on the crop for economic stability. Faced with pressure from the Taliban, who use much of the revenue, the farmers have planted more and more opium poppy plants to meet the demand.

780,000

That's about how many commercial janitor businesses there are in the U.S. Nearly all of them are just one person, but a few are huge multibillion dollar corporations. Janitors work alone through the night and are often hired under layers of subcontracting. A yearlong investigation from Reveal, Frontline, Univision, UC Berkley and KQED found the conditions are ripe for exploitation, harassment and sexual abuse from supervisors, and victims are unwilling or unable to speak out.

2

The number of markets McDonald's is testing new bike-friendly to-go packaging. The "McBike" is designed to hang from your handlebars and it holds a burger, fry and small drink. Looking for a #HotTake on this bid for young, environmentally conscious fast-food fans? The Verge has you covered.

Skid Row storage helps put order in lives of homeless

Fri, 2015-06-26 13:20

As the number of people living on the streets has risen and homeless encampments have spread across Southern California, the Los Angeles City Council has worked to speed the process by which officials can collect homeless people’s possessions from sidewalks and parks.

The council approved a measure on Tuesday that would reduce the warning time the homeless are given when confiscating items from 72 hours to 24. 

When city workers impound homeless people’s stuff, it ends up at a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. It’s kept on shelves in a corner behind a locked gate.   

“We store the property. We keep it safe and clean," says Alex Conedy, the facility’s project manager. "For whatever it is and whoever it belongs to, it’s important to them. So we treat it as such.” 

He’s sympathetic to the transient nature of life on the streets and the impact it has on people’s possessions. 

“If a person has to go and take care of some business — they’re homeless — they have a doctor’s appointment, they have a job interview. They have to leave periodically from time to time. And they have nowhere to store their property,” Conedy says. “So, when they come back, that property is sometimes not there, for whatever reason.”

It may have been stolen. But, if city workers confiscate property, they leave a notice informing owners that their belongings are being stored here and giving them 90 days to reclaim it.

A lot of the impounded stuff is not what you'd expect to see abandoned. There is an edger for cutting the lawn, there are 20 to 30 bicycles, some of them pretty good looking bikes. There’s a wheelchair.

Few people ever claim their belongings. Since the beginning of the year, Conedy says around 20 people have come here to get their stuff.

Most of the warehouse is taken up by a different kind of storage. In one neat row after another, there are 1,462 60-gallon plastic garbage bins.

“They are actually sanitized,” Conedy says. “We call them ‘bins’ because they’re not utilized as trash cans. They’re utilized as safe storage bins.”

A program called The Bin allows homeless people like Chris Rodriguez, 43, to use the storage bins for free. “Anywhere else, you have to pay 60, 70 dollars for storage,” says Rodriguez.

His wife Monica says they keep clean clothes in their bin, but they also use it as a kind of safe-deposit box. “Because our stuff isn’t just junk. It’s our important papers. Like Social Security papers. Or legal documents.”

Many of the people are dropping off belongings before going to work. Storage is important in relation to finding or keeping  a job.

“Many of the clients have to use the service to keep their job. They have somewhere to store their property so they can go to work every day,” says Emily Chin, the operations manager at a nonprofit called Chrysalis, which runs The Bin.

Juliano, who only gives his first name, is close to being able to move off the streets.  

“I have a job. I’m a team member at Jack in the Box. I just don’t get enough hours to afford my own place,” says Juliano. “They’re talking about a promotion. That would give me more time. And if I get the promotion, then I can afford a place. So I do have a plan.”

Conedy sees some clients every day. Like Silas Loveless, 57, a big man who laughs easily. He’s studying to get his commercial license to drive a big rig.  

For the better part of a year, Loveless has been taking truck driving classes, which cost $150 a month. He only collects $221 a month in government assistance.  So Loveless has had to rely on food stamps and he sleeps at a homeless shelter.

He has three more classes before his test with the Department of Motor Vehicles.  

“Each time, if you fail, it’s thirty bucks a pop to re-test. And I don’t have thirty bucks, so that’s not an option,” says Loveless.

He says truck drivers make around $700 a week. Loveless considers that enough money to live like a king. At the very least, he’d be able to afford his own place, where he could store his stuff in something other than a sanitized garbage bin.

Claw machines: The most enjoyable way to get scammed

Fri, 2015-06-26 13:00

Phil Edwards has loved playing the claw machine since he was a child. It was this love that led him to look into how these machines actually work and what makes them so tricky. He wasn’t sure at first what he’d find. 

“I thought that maybe these stuffed animals were packed really tightly, or that the claw simply didn’t work at all," he says. "But it turns out it’s a lot more insidious than that.”

The truth was that claw machine owners could manipulate the machine down to the smallest detail. Edwards found claw machine manuals that instruct operators on how to control the strength of the claw. What’s more, they can also manipulate the claw’s “dropping” ability.

“People thought I was naïve, and I had a suspicion that there were just bad claw machines, or claw machines that just didn’t work well, but I didn’t think they were rigged so precisely to maximize the profit,” he says.

Operators can also randomize the claw so that you can’t tell which round will be the winning one. Edwards describes the whole operation as a smart system, which he says is “trying to manipulate you as delicately as possible into spending more money.”

But will this deter him from playing anymore? Doesn’t seem likely.

“I’ve already spent a dollar in those things," since the article came out, he says. "And now I have the added benefit that every time someone wins a claw machine prize, they let me know immediately.”

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