Marketplace - American Public Media

Big tobacco says your e-cigarette may kill you

Tue, 2015-03-24 02:00

Back in 1994, the heads of the largest tobacco corporations were called before Congress to testify about the effects of tobacco. Each and every executive said they believed nicotine was not addictive. But today we know that the tobacco industry was aware of nicotine's addictiveness—and tobacco's harm—for decades.

So a recent push to put strong warning labels on e-cigarettes and to place them behind the counter, away from children's hands, may seem like big tobacco has had a change of heart. But experts say they believe large tobacco companies are trying to dominate the e-cigarette market by pushing smaller competitors out of business.

Click the media player above to hear more.

#I'mRunningForPresident

Tue, 2015-03-24 01:53
11 months

This month, China's factory sector saw its lowest number in 11 months. As Reuters reports, it could be a sign that China's economy, the second largest in the world, is slowing.

11

That's how many GOP presidential contenders count Ted Cruz as one of their Twitter followers. Cruz became the first major candidate to officially enter the race Monday, and he's keeping tabs on other hopefuls including Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Chris Christie. Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal don't make the cut, and Christie doesn't follow back. Bloomberg has a fun interactive graphic of all the potential candidates' Twitter info, including the only GOP contender who follows Barack Obama.

$5 billion

That's the worth of the U.S. spice industry, which is primarily dominated by McCormick & Company. It's a good time to be in the spice business - with more families choosing to cook at home instead of eating out, there's an increased interest in spicing up those home-cooked meals. But with the rise of smaller brands, as well as stores producing their own products, companies like McCormick & Company are trying to make their way out of the center of the grocery store and into the produce and protein sections where health-conscious consumers are shopping.

12 hours

The maximum amount of time a cruise ship crew has to clear out all passengers, clean, restock and otherwise turn over what is essentially a small floating city before setting off again. It's a hectic process that runs on astounding efficiency and gets more complicated as the industry builds larger and larger vessels. The New York Times profiles "turnaround day" for  one 6,000-passenger ship.

3 years

That's how long you could potentially go to prison for sending an email that "causes annoyance." Section 66A, a law in India, outlines severe punishment for online activity such as commenting on social networks. As the BBC reports, the Supreme Court in India ruled to strike down the law on Tuesday, saying that it violated people's constitutional right to free speech.

84 percent

The median cell phone ownership in 32 emerging and developing countries, according to a new Pew Research report. Internet access is not nearly as widespread, the survey found, still concentrated in the young and educated in richer countries.

Existing home sales report reveals caution

Mon, 2015-03-23 14:19

The National Association of Realtors released its February existing home sales report on Monday, March 23rd, 2015. Numbers were up by 1.2 percent, but that wasn't enough to make up for the drop in existing home sales in January of 4.9 percent.   Even LeBron James is having trouble selling his Miami house and just dropped the price to $15 million. James is not the only homeowner having trouble finding a buyer, but there aren’t many homeowners putting their houses up for sale either, says Adam DeSanctis, with the National Association of Realtors.     “Current homeowners are possibly waiting for their equity to build up a little bit longer before selling,” he says, or sitting on some low interest rates they snagged refinancing in the last year or two.     McKay Price, who teaches real estate at Lehigh University, says this shortage of homes is good for home sellers, but “If I’m a home buyer and I’m interested in finding just the right house, then I’d be a little bit grumpy about the inventory being as tight as it is,” he says. “I’d want more choices.”   Especially for folks who can’t afford a down payment, much less a 16,000-square-foot mansion. Sorry, LeBron.   

Greece: Time and money is running out

Mon, 2015-03-23 11:23

The Greek government is running out of money. The country has only enough cash to last another couple of weeks.

So when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin today, it's not surprising he wanted her support for financial concessions.

Germany is the largest contributor to Greece's various bailouts, so it has a powerful voice in European negotiations. However, the relationship between the two countries isn't going so well.

Just as the saying goes: "history repeats itself" — the two countries’ disagreement goes back to World War II.

"The Greeks have dusted down an old claim for reparations for Nazi atrocities against Greece during World War II," says Marketplace’s Stephen Beard. "That has played very badly in Germany."

Meet the guardian of Fenway Park

Mon, 2015-03-23 11:00

Boston's Fenway Park is the hallowed home of the Red Sox, famous for the so-called "green monster" wall that lives out in high left field and the lone red seat in the bleachers that marks the park's farthest home run.

David Mellor, director of grounds at Fenway Park, keeps the park and all its famous landmarks in good shape and ready for ball games.

Mellor knows all there is to know about the park itself, including temperaments of the green monster.

"The green monster, being 37 feet high and green, absorbs a lot of heat," says Mellor. He says during the spring, fall and winter, the massive heat-absorbing wall helps melt the snow and warm up the grass. "But in the summer, that radiant heat is something we have to monitor and make sure the grass doesn't get too hot or dry out," Mellor explains.

Before it was his job to take care of the park, Mellor dreamt of pitching for Major League Baseball. But a tragic accident ruined Mellor's plans to become a player for the MLB.

"A month after I got out of high school, before I could play baseball in college, I was hit by a car," says Mellor.

In the end, Mellor was destined for Fenway.

"My job is the next best thing to playing, I'm very honored to be here," Mellor says.

America's next financial crisis?

Mon, 2015-03-23 09:40

Michael Lewis is always writing something, and, more often than not, something damning about the financial industry. Most recently, his book "Flash Boys" followed Brad Katsuyama, a Wall Street insider who saw significant problems in high frequency trading. 

In a new afterword for the paperback edition, also published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Lewis notes, "When I sat down to write 'Flash Boys,' in 2013, I didn’t intend to see just how angry I could make the richest people on Wall Street." 

The anger was simply a byproduct of what Lewis thought was a straightforward story. 

"The story was: what happens when a good man walks onto Wall Street and finds a problem," Lewis says. "But of course it irritated all the people who were making lots of money off the problem."

That problem was a result of high frequency trading, the transactions that happen in microseconds or nano-seconds. Traders at large firms had access to information moments before other investors, essentially a view a just fractions of a second into the future. Multiply a few pennies to their advantage over 2 million trades per second, it adds up. 

Katsuyama created his own exchange which, Lewis says, puts a few speed bumps in front of that supersonic trading to create a level playing field. Called IEX, it's growing, with backing from venture capitalists and institutional investors. Will that be enough to solve the problem?

"I think there's every possibility, over a period of five to ten years of market-based change," Lewis says. "I don't hold a lot of hope of other sources of change."

Other sources of change could include new regulation, or self-imposed discipline on the part of traders. Regulation would be the purvey of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but officials there have radically different views on how well the market is functioning. On one hand, chair Mary Jo White has told Congress that markets are operating well. Contrast that with former SEC official John Ramsay, who likened the structure of U.S. stock markets to the Death Star. Ramsay is among Lewis's sources, and has gone on to join IEX.  

As for self-discipline, there's too much money encouraging traders to stick with current habits. 

"If you go back to the financial crisis, what caused it wasn't really bad people, it was people badly incentivized," Lewis said. "This is that all over again. It's a very badly incentivized stock market."

And, depressing as that is, it gets worse. At least when Lewis asked the experts he featured in "Flash Boys."

"If the market continues to be structured as it is, you're looking at the next financial crisis."

If animal feed were organic, could we afford eggs?

Mon, 2015-03-23 08:50

The World Health Organization now says the weed-killer glyphosate, better known as Roundup, probably causes cancer. Most corn and soybeans produced in the U.S. are treated with glyphosate.

But, Americans don't eat much corn — not unless you live on Fritos, or maybe Coca-Cola, which is sweetened with corn syrup. We instead eat animals that eat corn: cows, pigs, chickens. Maybe we’re consuming glyphosate when we eat a nice, juicy steak or an Egg McMuffin.

If we ended up switching away from chemicals like the Monsanto-marketed Roundup — say, if all our animal feed were organically grown — how much would our eggs and milk cost? 

To start with: Organic corn costs more. From $11 a bushel to almost $14, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with conventional corn selling for less than $4

But animal feed is a relatively tiny part of the cost of our food. You know how many eggs you get from a bushel of corn? More than 200 eggs, which is less than two cents worth of corn per egg. Triple that cost, by using organic corn to feed the chickens, and you're only at six cents.

Higher feed prices do not tend to push up grocery bills, says Bruce Babcock, an economist at Iowa State University who studies corn.

"We did run this experiment where we doubled the price of corn," he says, and he’s not talking about an experiment in the lab, this was in the real world. The price of corn goes up and down, and you can see what grocery prices do.

"It wasn’t so long ago that we had $8 corn, not $4 corn," he says, "and people hardly noticed at the supermarket."

So, why did I pay almost five bucks for a dozen organic eggs yesterday? I asked David Bruce, who runs the egg program at the Organic Valley co-op. His members sold $50 million worth of eggs last year.

He says, organic producers do have other costs — and the distributor and the store both take a cut of my $5. But basically, he says, I paid that much because I wanted them — and so did a lot of other people.

"Demand is outstripping supply," he says. "You know, we’re filling orders at 60 percent," meaning, if a distributor asks for a 100 cases, a farmer can only send 60.

If the whole world went organic, there would be more supply — more organic corn, more organic chickens — and price would probably come down.

Quitting the Bakken: one oil worker walks away

Mon, 2015-03-23 08:38

In the past few years, workers from all over America have flocked to North Dakota for jobs in the booming oil industry. For a lot of people struggling through their own hard times, it’s been an opportunity for a second chance. And for some, it was their last resort. But since summer 2014, oil prices have dropped by half. Some 75,000 oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.

Apryl Boyce is one of those workers. She's 42, tall, tough-looking and pretty, with long blond hair tucked beneath a crocheted beanie. She came to the Bakken last fall and has spent months driving a one-ton truck all over the oil field, at all hours of the day, as a hot shot, a driver who hauls equipment from one job site to another. Recently, things have slowed down a lot.

"It used to be you’d get called out at four in the morning and be doing runs until 10 at night," she said.

Now, she waits by the phone most of the day. There are 80 fewer drilling rigs here in North Dakota than there were six months ago. That means less to haul around.

At the office of Badlands Service Group, the small oil field company Apryl works for, owner Jim Levasseur said his work force is 40 percent smaller than it was a few weeks ago. He's been cutting people's hours — and then a lot of them have quit.

"They’re wanting 60 to 80 hours a week, and if they’re only going to get 40 hours a week, they’re going to go home," he said. "It may not be as much money, but at least they’re home every night and not sacrificing."

Given how dangerous the oil field is, Jim said, he doesn't blame them for leaving. "People get killed up here on a weekly basis. These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen for working."

Safety is only part of why Apryl is leaving. Her unpleasant housing situation is another major contributor. A week ago, Jim combined employee housing to cut costs. He asked Apryl to move in with 11 young men in a tired old ranch house on what used to be the outskirts of Williston, which is now hemmed in by new apartment buildings.

"I try to wear bulky pajamas and heavy sweatshirts and try to be as unattractive as possible," she said. "Because I don’t want to provoke any unwanted comments."

Apryl looked for other places to live, but an average one bedroom here still runs over $2,000. Her ad on Craigslist seeking housing didn’t work, either: She received a bunch of offers of free rent in exchange for sexual favors.

"There weren't any legit, comfortable offers," she said.

But there's another reason, a deeper reason, why she decided to leave. Ten years ago, her mother died. At that time Apryl sold everything she owned (except a storage unit full of her mother's cookbooks) and began bouncing from job to job: oil field trucker in Colorado, cattle ranch cook in Wyoming. She was running, she said, from anything she used to do, anything that made her feel like herself — until she got to the Bakken.

"It took the absolute grungiest, dingiest, darkest part of life to make me realize you can stop running," she said.

The oil field slowdown has given her a chance to pause. To think about what brought her to the Bakken, and what no longer keeps her there.

"I lost myself in the oil fields," Apryl said. "I lost myself chasing money for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not going to let it happen again."

Two days later, Apryl left Williston for a mountain town in Colorado she had talked about a lot. She’s running again, but this time to a place that feels like home.

Quitting the Bakken: one oil worker walks away

Mon, 2015-03-23 08:38

In the past few years, workers from all over America have flocked to North Dakota for jobs in the booming oil industry. For a lot of people struggling through their own hard times, it’s been an opportunity for a second chance. And for some, it was their last resort. But since summer 2014, oil prices have dropped by half. Some 75,000 oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.

Apryl Boyce is one of those workers. She's 42, tall, tough-looking and pretty, with long blond hair tucked beneath a crocheted beanie. She came to the Bakken last fall and has spent months driving a one-ton truck all over the oilfield, at all hours of the day, as a hot shot, a driver who hauls equipment from one job site to another. Recently, things have slowed down a lot.

"It used to be you’d get called out at four in the morning and be doing runs until 10 at night," she said.

Now, she waits by the phone most of the day. There are 80 fewer drilling rigs here in North Dakota than there were six months ago. That means less to haul around.

At the office of Badlands Service Group, the small oil field company Apryl works for, owner Jim Levasseur said his work force is 40 percent smaller than it was a few weeks ago. He's been cutting people's hours — and then a lot of them have quit.

"They’re wanting 60 to 80 hours a week, and if they’re only going to get 40 hours a week, they’re going to go home," he said. "It may not be as much money, but at least they’re home every night and not sacrificing."

Given how dangerous the oilfield is, Jim said, he doesn't blame them for leaving. "People get killed up here on a weekly basis. These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen for working."

Safety is only part of why Apryl is leaving. Her unpleasant housing situation is another major contributor. A week ago, Jim combined employee housing to cut costs. He asked Apryl to move in with 11 young men in a tired old ranch house on what used to be the outskirts of Williston, which is now hemmed in by new apartment buildings.

"I try to wear bulky pajamas and heavy sweatshirts and try to be as unattractive as possible," she said. "Because I don’t want to provoke any unwanted comments."

Apryl looked for other places to live, but an average one bedroom here still runs over $2,000. Her ad on Craigslist seeking housing didn’t work, either: She received a bunch of offers of free rent in exchange for sexual favors.

"There weren't any legit, comfortable offers," she said.

But there's another reason, a deeper reason, why she decided to leave. Ten years ago, her mother died. At that time Apryl sold everything she owned (except a storage unit full of her mother's cookbooks) and began bouncing from job to job: oilfield trucker in Colorado, cattle ranch cook in Wyoming. She was running, she said, from anything she used to do, anything that made her feel like herself — until she got to the Bakken.

"It took the absolute grungiest, dingiest, darkest part of life to make me realize you can stop running," she said.

The oilfield slowdown has given her a chance to pause. To think about what brought her to the Bakken, and what no longer keeps her there.

"I lost myself in the oilfields," Apryl said. "I lost myself chasing money for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not going to let it happen again."

Two days later, Apryl left Williston for a mountain town in Colorado she had talked about a lot. She’s running again, but this time to a place that feels like home.

Why RadioShack's bankruptcy ended in an auction

Mon, 2015-03-23 08:36

A bankruptcy auction began for RadioShack Monday. One bidder is Standard General, a hedge fund that is also a major RadioShack shareholder and creditor. It wants to keep approximately half RadioShack's stores open through a deal with Sprint. But other bidders are expected to be liquidators, looking to simply sell off all RadioShack's assets. 

The bankruptcy auction is a different approach than the restructuring and relaunching that characterized, for example, American Airlines' bankruptcy. But Peter Gilhuly, co-chair of the insolvency practice at Latham and Watkins, says it's actually more common, especially for retailers. 

"Auctions are wonderful mechanisms for determining a price and allocating a resource," says Bob Hansen, professor of business administration at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

But bankruptcy auctions legally can optimize only that price, looking for the "highest and best offer" to pay back creditors — even though the different plans will have vastly different outcomes for the business. Standard General says its plan will save 9,000 jobs.

"That's what makes this news," says Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities. "We just don't know. And people's jobs are in the balance."

Big changes on the way to the NFL

Mon, 2015-03-23 08:30

Forget basketball and the NCAA tournament for a minute here. Let's talk football.

The NFL is having its annual owners meeting this week in Phoenix, out of which have come two things of note:

One: the NFL's gonna suspend its longstanding and much-hated blackout rule for this coming season. That's the rule that had kept home games off television in local markets unless they're sold out 72 hours before kickoff.

And two: the league will broadcast the October 25 Jacksonville vs. Buffalo game online via Facebook or YouTube.

When you consider that the NFL signed $27 billion worth of television contracts just a couple of years ago, it's an interesting first step.

How a poison pill works

Mon, 2015-03-23 05:33

For months, the biggest mall operator in the U.S., Simon Property Group (SPG), has been trying to buy the third largest, Macerich.

SPG has tried everything: SPG asked the board of directors from Macerich nicely, it has thrown money at shareholders, and now it's waging a nasty campaign in the press against the company's directors.

It's a classic example of a hostile takeover, and as SPG has gotten more and more hostile, Macerich has responded with some hostility of its own: a "poison pill."

A poison pill is essentially a deterrent designed to make a buyout very unpleasant for the acquiring company. Poison pills come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have a variety of effects.

Poison pills come in two basic forms: They can either make an acquisition very hard to swallow, or they can have awful side-effects.

The Macerich poison pill falls into the first camp. If SPG attempts to buy up a huge chunk of Macerich — specifically 10 percent or more of the company — current shareholders will be able to buy one preferred share for every share of Macerich that they already hold. This will dilute the value of SPG's 10 percent stake, and also make it doubly expensive to buy Macerich.

Pretty hard to swallow, right?

There is one antidote to this poison, though, and that's money — and SPG has buckets of money. The company may decide it wants Macerich so badly it is prepared to spend the money and swallow the poison — with Macerich right along with it. 

How a poison pill works

Mon, 2015-03-23 05:33

For months, the biggest mall operator in the U.S., Simon Property Group (SPG), has been trying to buy the third largest, Macerich.

SPG has tried everything: SPG asked the board of directors from Macerich nicely, it has thrown money at shareholders, and now it's waging a nasty campaign in the press against the company's directors.

As SPG has gotten more and more hostile, Macerich has responded with some hostility of its own: a "poison pill."

A poison pill is essentially a deterrent designed to make a buyout very unpleasant for the acquiring company. Poison pills come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have a variety of effects.

Poison pills come in two basic forms: They can either make an acquisition very hard to swallow, or they can have awful side-effects.

The Macerich poison pill falls into the first camp. If SPG attempts to buy up a huge chunk of Macerich — specifically 10 percent or more of the company — current shareholders will be able to buy one preferred share for every share of Macerich that they already hold. This will dilute the value of SPG's 10 percent stake, and also make it doubly expensive to buy Macerich.

Pretty hard to swallow, right?

There is one antidote to this poison, though, and that's money — and SPG has buckets of money. The company may decide it wants Macerich so badly it is prepared to spend the money and swallow the poison — with Macerich right along with it. 

PODCAST: Protecting student privacy

Mon, 2015-03-23 03:00

The long-awaited student privacy bill from the Feds is expected to land Monday. Early indications are it will be better for the Ed tech industry than for student-data privacy advocates and parents. Plus, the National Association of Realtors will release existing home sales on Monday. That number is expected to be up by around 2.5 percent. Will that make up for the disappointing January number when existing home sells fell by almost 5 percent. And it can be very expensive to run for office. Turns out, winning that office can also come with some unexpected expenses. 

Proposed legislation would protect student data

Mon, 2015-03-23 02:01
A student privacy bill long in the works is scheduled to be introduced in Congress today, by U.S. Representatives Luke Messer and Jared Polis.

The legislation is expected to prohibit companies from selling students’ personal information to third parties, or from using data for non-educational purposes, like marketing.

Khaliah Barnes, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Student Privacy Project, says there are not enough current restrictions when it comes to student data.

"We're in, unfortunately, the wild west when it comes to student privacy," she says. "We're hopeful the upcoming legislation will correct the current wrongs."

The proposed bill would not prevent states from passing even tougher laws themselves, making some industry giants worried, though so far 125 companies including Google and Apple have signed the Student Privacy Pledge, vowing, among other things, not to sell student data.
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Student data privacy laws around the nation

In 2014, many states considered or passed new legislation protecting student data. You can see which states responded to which issues by clicking on the icons below. You can also click on each state for more details about its laws.

Cloud-computing restrictionsStates which have passed or considered legislation restricting cloud-computing services and vendors.

Limits marketing to studentsStates which have passed or considered legislation restricting the use of student data for marketing

Limits data sharingStates which have passed or considered legislation restricting how student data is shared.

Increases transparencyStates which have passed or considered legislation making the data-collection process more transparent.

Limits data collectionStates which have passed or considered legislation limiting the kind of information that schools and agencies can collect.

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Laws:

Bills:

  • States with new privacy laws
  • States with legislation introduced in 2014
  • States where legislation was defeated
  • States which rely solely on federal laws
  • New laws or legislation restricting cloud-computing services and vendors.
  • New laws or legislation restricting the use of student data for marketing
  • New laws or legislation restricting how student data is shared.
  • New laws or legislation making the data-collection process more transparent.
  • New laws or legislation limiting the kind of information that schools and agencies can collect.

Sources: Marketplace research and Data Quality Campaign data

var icons = [] var cloudicon = '' var marketingicon = '' var sharingicon = '' var transparencyicon = '' var collectionicon = '' var stateData2 = [] var law = document.getElementById('law'); var bill = document.getElementById('bill'); var billinfo = document.getElementById('billinfo'); var statespan = document.getElementById('state'); sorting(dandata, "cloud") var clouddata = syncData(dandata,statesData); sorting(dandata, 'collection') var collectiondata = syncData(dandata,statesData) sorting(dandata, 'sharing') var sharedata = syncData(dandata,statesData) sorting(dandata, 'transparency') var transparencydata = syncData(dandata,statesData) sorting(dandata, 'marketing') var marketingdata = syncData(dandata,statesData) //function to sort JSON object by filters function sorting(json_object, key_to_sort_by) { function sortByKey(a, b) { var x = a[key_to_sort_by]; var y = b[key_to_sort_by]; return ((x < y) ? -1 : ((x > y) ? 1 : 0)); } json_object.sort(sortByKey); } //displays description of each bill function billPanel(state){ var i = 0; var firstlaw = true; var firstbill = true; law.innerHTML = ""; bill.innerHTML = ""; bill.style.visibility = "hidden" while(databills[i].State != state){ i++ } if(databills[i].State != null){ statespan.innerHTML = '

' + databills[i].State + '

'; do{ if(databills[i].billlaw == "law"){ if (firstlaw){ law.innerHTML = '

' + "Laws:" + '

'; firstlaw = false } law.innerHTML += '

' + databills[i].BillNumber + '

' + databills[i].Summary + '
' + '

' + databills[i].Status + ", " + databills[i].Date + '

'; law.style.visibility = "visible"; }else if (databills[i].billlaw == ""){ if (firstbill){ bill.innerHTML = '

' + "Bills:" + '

' + "This state considered legislation at some point in its 2014 legislative session. The bill, or bills, were neither passed nor voted down. Many states are near the conclusion of their legislative year, but some of these bills could still be passed. Many states considered multiple bills. The types of issues that the legislation addressed are described by the icons accompanying each state on the map." + '

' + "To read the legislation in full, click on each bill‘s number." + '

'; firstbill = false } bill.innerHTML += '

' + databills[i].BillNumber + '

' + '' + '

' + databills[i].Status + '

'; bill.style.visibility = "visible"; }else if(databills[i].billlaw == "dead"){ if (firstbill){ bill.innerHTML = '

' + "Bills:" + '

' + "Legislation was considered in this state, but was voted down. To read the rejected legislation in full, click on each bill’s number." + '

'; firstbill = false } bill.innerHTML += '

' + databills[i].BillNumber + '

' + '' + '

' + databills[i].Status + '

'; bill.style.visibility = "visible"; }else{ law.innerHTML += '

' + "This state follows federal laws governing student data. The two main student data laws are the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children‘s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA)." + '

' + "FERPA limits how, and with whom, a student‘s educational records are shared. It also gives parents the right to look at their child‘s records."+ '

' + "COPPA limits the data a company can collect online from a child under the age of 13, and would be the main source of restrictions for any company that receives student data." + '

' + "A bill was introduced in Congress in July to update FERPA with new restrictions on using student data for marketing, a mandate for more transparency on what data is being collected, and new requirements for data security." + '

' } i++ } while (databills[i].State == state) } } var buttonpushed; //create the map if(parseInt(window.innerWidth) < 786){ var zoom = 3 }else{ var zoom = 4 } var map = L.map('map').setView([39.8, -97], zoom); L.tileLayer('https://{s}.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/dabendschein.j88bdg63/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', { attribution: 'Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, Imagery © Mapbox', maxZoom: 13 }).addTo(map); map.scrollWheelZoom.disable(); // control that shows state info on hover var info = L.control(); info.onAdd = function (map) { this._div = L.DomUtil.create('div', 'info upright'); var emptystate = " " var emptyicons = [] this.update(emptystate, emptyicons); return this._div; }; info.update = function (state, icons) { this._div.innerHTML = '' + state + '' + '
' + icons[0] + " " + icons[1] + " " + icons[2] + " " + icons[3] + " " + icons[4]; }; info.addTo(map); function filter(criterion) { buttonpushed = criterion if (criterion == 'cloud'){ stateData2 = clouddata }else if (criterion == 'collection'){ stateData2 = collectiondata }else if (criterion == 'sharing'){ stateData2 = sharedata }else if (criterion == 'marketing'){ stateData2 = marketingdata }else{ stateData2 = transparencydata } map.removeLayer(geojson) geojson = L.geoJson(stateData2, { style: restyle, onEachFeature: onEachFeature }).addTo(map); } function reset(){ map.removeLayer(geojson) geojson = L.geoJson(statesData, { style: style, onEachFeature: onEachFeature }).addTo(map); } //puts map geographical data in same order as map information data function syncData(dandata, statedata){ var newlist = [] for(i=0; i < dandata.length; i++){ var x = 0 while(statedata.features[x].properties.name != dandata[i].State){ x++ } newlist.push(statedata.features[x]) } return newlist; } // get colors from JSON data function getColor(d) { var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } return dandata[i].fill; } //new state colors for filter buttons function reColor(d) { var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } var fill = dandata[i].fill; if (fieldvalue == "x"){ return dandata[i].fill; }else{ return "#6B6B73"; } } function getLineColor(d){ var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } if(fieldvalue != "x"){ return "white"; }else{ return "yellow"; } } function setWeight(d){ var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } if(fieldvalue != "x"){ return 2; }else{ return 4; } } function setDash(d){ var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } if(fieldvalue != "x"){ return '3'; }else{ return ''; } } function style(feature) { return { weight: 2, opacity: 1, color: 'white', dashArray: '3', fillOpacity: 0.6, fillColor: getColor(feature.properties.name) }; } function restyle(feature) { return { weight: setWeight(feature.properties.name), opacity: 1, color: getLineColor(feature.properties.name), dashArray: setDash(feature.properties.name), fillOpacity: 0.9, fillColor: reColor(feature.properties.name), }; } function highlightFeature(e) { icons = [] var layer = e.target; var panel = document.getElementsByClassName("upright"); if (layer.feature.properties.name != null){ panel[0].style.visibility = "visible"; layer.setStyle({ weight: 5, color: 'yellow', dashArray: '', fillOpacity: 0.7 }); displayIcons(e) } function displayIcons(e){ var i = 0; while (layer.feature.properties.name != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if (!L.Browser.ie && !L.Browser.opera) { layer.bringToFront(); } if(dandata[i].cloud == "x"){ icons.push(cloudicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].marketing == "x"){ icons.push(marketingicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].datasharing == "x"){ icons.push(sharingicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].transparency == "x"){ icons.push(transparencyicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].datacollection == "x"){ icons.push(collectionicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } info.update(dandata[i].State,icons ); } } function displayInfo(e) { document.getElementById("billinfo").style.display="block"; var layer = e.target; var i = 0; while (layer.feature.properties.name != dandata[i].State){ i++ } billPanel(dandata[i].State); displayIcons(e) } var geojson; function resetHighlight(e) { geojson.resetStyle(e.target); var panel = document.getElementsByClassName("upright"); panel[0].style.visibility = "hidden"; info.update(); } function zoomToFeature(e) { map.fitBounds(e.target.getBounds()); } function onEachFeature(feature, layer) { layer.on({ mouseover: highlightFeature, mouseout: resetHighlight, click: displayInfo }); } geojson = L.geoJson(statesData, { style: style, onEachFeature: onEachFeature }).addTo(map); map.attributionControl.addAttribution('Population data © US Census Bureau'); var legend = L.control({position: 'bottomright'}); legend.onAdd = function (map) { var div = L.DomUtil.create('div', 'info legend'), labels = []; // labels.push(' ' + "Bill"); // labels.push(' ' + "Bill Defeated"); // labels.push(' ' + "State Law"); // labels.push(' ' + "Federal Law"); div.innerHTML = labels.join('
'); return div; }; legend.addTo(map); document.getElementById("billinfo").style.display="none"; function closeModal() { document.getElementById("billinfo").style.display="none"; // document.getElementById("state").style.visibility="hidden"; // document.getElementById("bill").style.visibility="hidden"; // document.getElementById("law").style.visibility="hidden"; // document.getElementById("statecontent").style.visibility="hidden"; }

What a school science project looks like in 2015

Mon, 2015-03-23 02:00

Students from across America will be demonstrating science projects at the White House’s fifth annual science fair on Monday. With technology transforming what’s possible in the classroom, President Barack Obama will be introduced to a rather impressive line-up, which includes research that seeks to identify cures for cancer and ebola, as well as an “urban” wheelchair with parts from a 3D-printer.

“A lot of the change has come through the use of technology, and really, through the apps that have been developed for tablets and cell phones,” says Norm Brennan, a science teacher at the Mirman school in Los Angeles. Brennan, who was the California State Science Fair Teacher of the Year in 2014, has been teaching for 20 years now.

“I had one group of boys who used an iPhone app for G-forces," he says. “They were testing the impact of helmets and concussions and putting jell forces to see how that would lessen the effect using an app on an iPhone.”

Then there was a student who used a 3D printer to print a prosthetic arm, which was robotically controlled by putting hooking it up to a glove. Another student developed an app that microbiologists can use to count the number of microbes in a given colony. "Instead of counting them by hand you can take an image through an ipad and it counts for you,” says Brennan. 

Funding is sometimes an issue, he admits, but since he teaches at a private school, parents sometimes help out. The school is also planning on applying for grants that fund science or STEM-based projects, Brennan adds.

Science fairs, he says, have certainly come a long way since he was a student. Back then, he was studying the impact of magnetic waves on a colony of ants on the move, so he placed magnets in an ant-infested area and waited to see what would happen.

“It had no effect on them,” he says. “They walked right by.”

 

Starbucks amends (but doesn't end) race initiative

Mon, 2015-03-23 02:00

Starbucks is ending the most controversial piece of its 'Race Together' initiative—Baristas will no longer be encouraged to write or place stickers on customers' cups, and engage them in conversations about race and ethnicity. CEO Howard Schulz said in an open letter that the company will continue to hold forums on race, and commit to hiring 10,000 "opportunity youth."

Paul Argenti, a professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth's Tuck School, says the widespread online mockery Starbucks endured will likely dissuade other companies who might have considered launching similar initiatives. 

"What Starbucks does is not something that everyone else is going to do unless it's wildly successful," Argenti says. "And unfortunately I think this is a setback for something that was a fairly bold idea and will make other companies cautious."

 

What a school science project looks like in 2015

Mon, 2015-03-23 02:00

Students from across America will be demonstrating science projects at the White House’s fifth annual science fair on Monday. With technology transforming what’s possible in the classroom, President Barack Obama will be introduced to a rather impressive line-up, which includes research that seeks to identify cures for cancer and ebola, as well as an “urban” wheelchair with parts from a 3D-printer.

“A lot of the change has come through the use of technology, and really, through the apps that have been developed for tablets and cell phones,” says Norm Brennan, a science teacher at the Mirman school in Los Angeles. Brennan, who was the California State Science Fair Teacher of the Year in 2014, has been teaching for 20 years now.

“I had one group of boys who used an iPhone app for G-forces," he says. “They were testing the impact of helmets and concussions and putting jell forces to see how that would lessen the effect using an app on an iPhone.”

Then there was a student who used a 3D printer to print a prosthetic arm, which was robotically controlled by putting hooking it up to a glove. Another student developed an app that microbiologists can use to count the number of microbes in a given colony. "Instead of counting them by hand you can take an image through an ipad and it counts for you,” says Brennan. 

Funding is sometimes an issue, he admits, but since he teaches at a private school, parents sometimes help out. The school is also planning on applying for grants that fund science or STEM-based projects, Brennan adds.

Science fairs, he says, have certainly come a long way since he was a student. Back then, he was studying the impact of magnetic waves on a colony of ants on the move, so he placed magnets in an ant-infested area and waited to see what would happen.

“It had no effect on them,” he says. “They walked right by.”

 

Los Angeles finally ends a century-old water war

Mon, 2015-03-23 02:00

California is known for its water wars, but they usually don’t end during a drought. That’s what’s happened in the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierras. Los Angeles and air regulators in that scenic rural valley recently made peace in an ongoing dispute rooted in the city's century-old “water grab.” If your history’s failing you, think “Chinatown,” the movie.  

When William Mulholland masterminded the Los Angeles aqueduct 100 years ago, he had no idea of the environmental disaster that would follow. The aqueduct drained Owens Lake, once 12 miles top to bottom, eight miles wide. Owens turned into a salt flat, and when the winds kicked up, the dust storms were phenomenal. At one time, Owens was the biggest single source of dust pollution in the country.

“The dust would completely fill the Owens Valley here,” says Ted Schade, who recently retired as air pollution control officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. “It was actually really eerie because you would actually feel the hair rising up on your arm, the hair rising up on the back of your neck, and dust levels so high they literally could kill you if you didn’t have the ability to protect yourself.” 

Schade pushed Los Angeles for years to better control the toxic dust storms. Today the winds still blow in the Owens Valley, but those hair-raising storms are a thing of the past. For over 15 years now, Los Angeles has spent well over a billion dollars on the biggest dust control project in the U.S.

Ratepayers have paid a big price for it. “Two months out of their whole years’ worth of payment on a bill towards water goes to Owens Lake,” says Richard Harasick, director of water operations for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

But that’s about to change. Over the years the city’s flooded, gravelled and planted vegetation on nearly half the lake, but frequently fought with local air regulators over how much more the city needed to do. “L.A. always hoped they could get away with less control, less money,  less water than more,” says Schade.

The city agreed to fix the dust problem, "but never agreed on where’s the finish line,” Harasick says. A new agreement settles that question, once and for all, requiring the city to mitigate dust on no more than 53 square miles of the lake. That gives the city certainty regarding its liability, something it had been seeking for years. 

Both sides agree the valley’s dust problem is nearly fixed. “There’s nothing to argue over anymore,” says Harasick. “And so both sides can take all the energy that was going to the courts or arguing orders and really get to just geek out and figure out how to do Owens Lake better, cheaper, faster.”

Better and cheaper, meaning using less water, for one. After all, California is in the middle of a historic drought. So flooding trouble spots now seems wasteful. The latest dust control method is tilling the lakebed. “This is basically zero water, and it’s just creating a rough surface with large clods that the wind can’t erode,” says Nik Barbieri, director of technical services for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.

The patchwork of dust control methods on Owens Lake makes for one of the most surreal landscapes in the United States. But surreal is relative in this neighborhood. Death Valley lies straight east.

Some political offices come with a rent bill

Mon, 2015-03-23 02:00

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s office in the state Capitol has wood paneled walls, heavy drapes, a massive wooden desk dominating the room - and a rental charge of $110,000 a year.

If you’re surprised to hear that, you’re not alone. So was Newsom.

“Absolutely surprised,” says Newsom. “Tried to get a reduction in rent, didn’t work so well!”

It turns out Newsom’s situation isn’t unique. Ray Walton is the former Executive Director of the National Association of State Chief Administrators.

“It’s pretty common for states around the country to charge what might be termed rent, but is more accurately probably characterized as maintenance and custodial care for the space,” he says.

But Newsom says he wasn’t aware he’d have to rent the office when he was first elected. And with a budget of just about one million dollars, he had to find savings in other places. So a few years back, Newsom closed his satellite offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles and rented a desk at a co-working space for tech startups in San Francisco called "The Founders Den."

He pays $500 a month. Along with the desk, there’s also a chair and a filing cabinet. But there's something missing: a computer.

“I have no computer, I have a smart phone. Laptops seem so 20th century,” Newsom says.

It should be noted there’s no computer in his Capitol office either. Not that he spends much time there. Newsom is only in the Capitol about one day a week. Which can make that $110,000 a year rent seem pretty high. But he says he’d never give up the office.

“No, 'cause I love going up there,” he says. “I don’t like it, I love it. I mean I really do. It’s so much fun.”

Newsom has announced he’ll run for Governor in 2018. If he wins, he’ll get to move into the office across the hall, which, aside from its other obvious benefits, has one more selling point: the Governor doesn’t have to pay rent.

 

 

 

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