Marketplace - American Public Media
There was a time when trolls were just scary fairy tale creatures under bridges harassing billy goats. These days? Trolls are everywhere.
Journalist Jon Ronson documents this public shaming renaissance in his new book, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed."
He highlights the recipients of some recent high-profile, public shamings: a joke on Twitter that came out badly and went viral, a brand compelled to offer compensation to unhappy customers. He says where once there was public humiliation you actually had to show up for, now there are subtweets and anonymous YouTube comments.
"We've created this system for ourselves ... this kind of weird surveillance system, where the only way to survive is to either be bland or silent," Ronsen says.
More often than not, Ronsen says, public shaming stems from good people just trying to do good:
"It was nice people like us wanting to show that we're proper, and ethical, and empathetic and we're attacking—we're punching up, we're attacking people misusing their privilege. It's good people like us that are creating the most destruction."
Ronson himself has recently received a fair amount of Internet backlash surrounding the book release, for a (now cut) line comparing the way men feel about getting fired to the way women feel about rape.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above to hear more, including Ronson's take on Trevor Noah, the new (publicly shamed) host of "The Daily Show."
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee isn't usually a group that stirs up great controversy in Washington, but its 2015 draft report shocked policymakers because it desecrated the sacred cow. Or at least, it suggested that the average American's 113 pounds of red meat consumed per year could have a negative health and environmental impact.
It even suggested that a vegan diet could result in ideal health and environmental outcomes. "Sustainability is not something that's within the purview of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee," says Eric Mittenthal, of the North American Meat Institute. "That should be looked at by experts in sustainability."
Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University and vice chair of the committee, said they didn't consider politics — just science.
"The...report did indicate that lean red meat could be a perfectly acceptable component of the diet," she says. "Lean" is the only category of red meat the committee recommends.
Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor and author of "Food Politics," said she thinks it's about time the committee consider the American diet's impact on the world. Calling the draft guidelines "groundbreaking," Nestle said they were scientifically sound.
"The committee said the healthiest diet has a lot of plant foods in it," Nestle says. "And guess what? The most sustainable diet you can possibly eat is exactly the same."
There is a new push into the potentially lucrative world of health data analytics. In collaboration with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, IBM has launched what it calls the "Watson Health Cloud," a service it believes will help you and me be healthier.
Let’s face it, when it comes to data, healthcare – as an industry – is still in the crawling stage.
“When you go to your doctor today, you see computers on the tables, in the exam rooms,” says Dr. Atul Butte, who's at the University of California San Francisco. “And doctors and nurses are entering a lot of data about patients, but the average amount of data is probably never looked at again.”
Butte says the Watson Health Cloud is an effort to mine the gold in that data that’s currently just sitting around. The promise is to gather distinct data threads, from heart rates measured by Apple Watches to blood pressure levels in the ICU, and weave them all together. That, says Dr. Kyu Rhee, IBM’s chief health officer, will give insurers, doctors and patients something illusive: a clearer picture of one person’s health. “The extraordinary opportunity we have with the data available, the knowledge that exists, to be able to connect that, that’s what this is fundamentally about,” he says.
IBM hopes to work with hospitals and insurers. Apple wants a seat at the adult’s healthcare table. And for Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, it’s a chance to gauge product performance in the field. Industry analyst Tim Barjarin of Creative Strategies says other companies are offering similar services, but these behemoths are well positioned.
“The belief right now is that Apple could sell anywhere from 15 to 20 million smart watches in just the first year," he says, meaning Apple and IBM could create the "gold standard" in this sector.
Barjarin says if these guys can pull it off, healthcare’s use of data may finally be ready to graduate to the walking stage.
Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, a day designed to draw attention to the unequal pay men and women get in this economy.
There are lots of caveats and warnings about the pay gap data, but the generally accepted number is that women make about 78 cents for every buck a man earns. The folks over at FiveThirtyEight have aggregated some state by state data, and came out with -- what else in data journalism today, but a chart.
Washington, D.C. is the closest to pay parity. Women there make 90 cents to every man's dollar.
Wyoming's dead last: 63 cents there.
Consumer spending finally rebounded, big banks are doing great, and people are optimistic about the stock market. So why isn’t the economy doing as well as you might expect? Marketplace editor Paddy Hirsch explains the mixed signals.
Consumer spending rebounded after three months of declining retail sales, but the increase isn’t as strong as people were expecting. Economists believed that recent job gains, wealth gains, and low gas prices should have added up to a resurgence in consumer sentiment. However, it seems that people are saving money and paying off debt, instead of pumping money into the economy. It’s a big deal if people aren’t spending, because the consumer economy makes up about 2/3 of the U.S. economy.
Big banks have reported positive first quarter earnings, but it’s not because people are saving money. Rather, banks are running certain sectors well, like trading and lending. Bank success this quarter doesn’t have anything to do with the consumer economy.
The stock market:
There is currently a disconnect between what is happening in the actual economy and what is happening in the stock market.
The stock market is doing really well, but that isn’t a reflection of what’s happening today. It’s a bet on what’s going to be going on in the economy in six months. Right now, people are optimistic about the stock market which is why the bet is so good. A lot of people are saying we might see a 5-10% correction in the next six months.
For at least 25 years, California has been developing an informal “spot market” for water. Cities or farmers looking for more water can often buy it from water districts that have more senior water rights and may not need all the water they get from state or federal water projects. But the state’s extreme drought is pushing the limits of that market. Supply is so constricted that even traditionally water-rich districts aren’t always willing to sell.
“If we’re water-short in our area, we’re not going to sell water outside of our area,” Ted Trimble says. Trimble, general manager of the Western Canal Water District, says the rice farmers in his northern California district and some others recently opted out of a tentative deal to sell their water to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. That’s because they found out their own water allocations from the state would be cut in half.
Right now, the California water market is “very supply-constrained," says Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “So when a market gets highly constrained, the number of transactions contracts and prices goes up. And that’s what’s happening in California.”
MWD was willing to pay $700 an acre foot for the rice farmers’ water. That’s twice as much as the going price five years ago, according to Trimble. An acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre one foot deep in water, or roughly the water supply used by two families of four in one year.
From Greg Gieser's at an oilfield services company in Kildeer, N.D., there are plenty of signs of a slowdown. He sees less traffic on the roads and fewer trucks clogging up the gas station. And then there's the drilling rigs—some of which are effectively mothballed.
“You'll see a field where there will be 18 drilling rigs, just sitting there, not doing anything,” he says.
And at Trilliant Oilfield Services, where Gieser is area supervisor for North Dakota, business is not exactly booming. The firm rents out equipment used for drilling new oil wells. In the past, it also made crews available for roustabout services—odd jobs on the oilfield. Both of those business lines have slowed down.
“We used to have half a dozen employees here and that's just gone by the wayside,” says Gieser. “They wanted me to hire more people, I just didn't see it, for the little bit of work that we do.”
Gieser surmises that if he had a sales rep, he could drum up more business, but the market forces aren’t working in his favor. A huge drop in oil prices is rippling across North Dakota, the second biggest oil producer in the U.S. Oil companies are backing off on the costly investment of drilling new wells because they may not be able to sell their oil profitably. Today there are about 90 rigs drilling new wells in the state, more than 50 percent fewer than a year ago.
The retrenchment is holding down revenue and headcounts at a whole host of businesses with ties to the oilfield.
Greg Gieser’s trying to keep his company going through the slow times by whatever means necessary.
“I rented a space in my yard to a company. Rented my building out. Whatever you can do to get revenue in and cut costs,” he says.
Bob Horab, the owner of a firm called McCody Concrete in Williston, N.D.Todd Melby
Meanwhile, oilfield companies want steep discounts from their service providers. Bob Horab, the owner of a firm called McCody Concrete in Williston, N.D., says negotiating those requests is like playing poker.
“I like to play poker with these guys just as much as they like to play with me. So we'll see what happens,” he says. “Who's going to tip their hand first? Am I going to chance losing their business or am I going to just fold?”
About 60 percent of the business at Horab's company is tied to oil. His concrete slabs serve as bases for heavy vessels and pumpjacks on the oilfield.
Horab says it'll likely be a while before the oil downturn really takes a toll on his business, and he may be able to offset any declines with commercial construction projects. But it’s clear that requests for discounts on his oilfield products are causing consternation in the meantime.
“The thing about it is, is, profit isn't a dirty word. They're in it for profit as am I. And if they break me, because I can't produce a profit, if I'm working at a loss, and if I go away, what good am I to anybody?” he asks. “When things come back, and I'm not here, then what do they do?”
Some business owners in the oil patch have much more immediate concerns about survival.
Mark Pyatt, owner of Killer Diesel Performance in Williston, N.D.Todd Melby
Mark Pyatt owns a repair shop called Killer Diesel Performance in Williston, N.D., where segment his parking lot has been dubbed "Death Row.” It consists of trucks left behind by customers, largely oilfield workers, who were previously flush with cash. They'd pay thousands of dollars to beef up their diesel engines so their trucks would go faster. But now, several customers aren't paying their bills.
Pyatt points to a black pick-up truck with enormous tires and wheels. He says the owner spent about $12,000 on bells and whistles and then found out the motor is bad, so he doesn’t want to fix it.
“And what's probably happened—probably work slowed down and he can't afford to. And it's been sitting here for two and a half months,” Pyatt says. “And if he doesn't pay the bill he owes, he'll never get it back.”
An employee of Killer Diesel PerformanceTodd Melby
The reversal of fortune for Pyatt has been abrupt. He says when he opened his doors last August, he had so much business that his mechanics were each earning about $9,000 a month. They still have some work trickling in, but Pyatt says it's not enough.
“They should probably be looking for jobs here shortly, and they know that,” he says.
Pyatt expects to close his doors this summer. He says a buyer is interested in taking the place off his hands and turning it around.
“I say more power to you, if that's the case,” he says. “But I have warned him fairly. I just do not believe that's possible.”
Pyatt's a tall guy with a long, scruffy beard, and the words "love hard" tattooed on his knuckles. He comes across as a mostly cheerful guy. But his outlook on the future of Williston is gloomy. If the oil industry bounces back, as many here hope it will, it won't happen soon enough to save businesses like his.
“It's called a boom town,” he says. “Why do they call it a boom town? It has to have a bust, otherwise they'd just call it a town.”
In the coming weeks, a dance between the companies that make the television shows we all love, and the people who pay for it all: the advertisers.
Upfronts, as they're called, happen each year in New York, and the name says it all. Networks pitch their programming to ad buyers, hoping to score a big budget up front. The typical measure that they're selling is a Nielsen rating, the total number of viewers broken down by age and gender. That's why we hear so much about categories like men aged 18-34 for programs like "The Daily Show."
But in an ad world infused by the many clicks and Tweets of social media, that may not be enough. Upfront sales have been flat, declining slightly in recent years.
Variety reports that Time Warner and Viacom have a new strategy. Both are in talks to guarantee specific outcomes from an ad campaign, not just the average number of eyeballs it will get.
"They are saying, 'Look, tell us what you need. Do you need more foot traffic in your restaurant? Do you need more people to sign up for your loyalty program? Do you need X number of retweets on Twitter? Tell us what you want and let's try to work it out together,'" said Brian Steinberg, senior TV editor for Variety.
That's a big shift from delivering a sizeable audience, and it relies on using more of the advertisers' own data, beyond what Nielsen can offer. Companies can compare email lists or loyalty swipes with geographic information pulled from set-top boxes to see who's really responding to the ads, and where.
It's a methodology directly affected by the popularity of tablets and online video -- and the smaller, more targeted audiences that advertisers are reaching there. Likewise, Time Warner is looking to test this strategy for smaller, more targeted broadcast channels like Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, whose younger audiences are fairly well-defined.
In the words of one marketing executive who talked to Steinberg, this is "the Holy Grail of advertising."
"For years, [advertisers] have long decried TV," he said. Despite big audience figures, there's little nuance. "You may blast a car ad on 'American Idol,' but how many of those people are in the market for a new car?"
Nielsen is a little nervous about this, Steinberg added. While it's still the dominant way ads are sold, the ratings don't capture the places people watch TV outside of the living room.
Tax day is almost here, and Uncle Sam is coming for your hard-earned dollars, to fritter away on wasteful roads and firehouses. Here are the lesser-known tax loopholes and deductions that will save you a fortune on this year's tax bill:
Everyone knows married couples get a variety of tax breaks, so why not slash your tax bill even further by marrying as many people as you can by April 15th? Your husbands and wives will agree there's nothing sexier than financial prudence.
You're also probably familiar with the Child Tax Credit, but you're not limited to your own kids! If you've disciplined a stranger's unruly child in a grocery store or on an airplane, you're not just a hero — you can also claim that child as a dependent!
Do you ever work from home? Do you ever spend long sleepless nights thinking about work? Does worrying about work consume your every waking moment? Good news! The inside of your mind may qualify as a home office.
What about small business owners? If you've trained your dog to work at your small business, the IRS owes you a $2,000 Canine In The Workplace Credit.
Finally, you can deduct all sorts of surprising things — home internet, business lunches, business funerals, museum-quality rocks, and most importantly, any money you'd rather just hang on to for yourself. After all, you earned it.
Besides, if the government really wants more money, they can always just print it themselves.
Airing on Tuesday, April 14, 2015: We were out buying new sheets and pillow cases, khaki pants, Adirondack chairs, Ford Fusions and two by fours last month. That's what the numbers suggest from the Commerce Department this morning, with retail sales up 9-10ths percent in March. Analysts see this as new evidence it was the rotten winter holding back consumers earlier in the year. Plus, U.S. Congress today will get an update on the F-35 jet, a program not yet in service but one estimated to cost a trillion dollars over its lifetime. More on that. How the strong dollar makes countries in the eurozone attractive destinations for American tourists.
The Reddit “Button” that started out as an April fool’s prank has turned into an internet obsession. As of this writing, nearly 750,000 people have pushed it.
What exactly is it? It's a button with a timer that counts back from 60 seconds. Anyone who had a Reddit account before the day the button launched can push the button and reset the clock. But they can only push once. And no one knows what happens if the clock gets to zero.
So what’s the big deal? “I think the short answer is, there’s a lot of reasons,” said Kelly Goldsmith, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University. She’s been reading what a lot of people have said online about their experience of pushing the button, which range from competition to status.
“But it also seems like there’s a strong sense of affiliation and a strong sense of community,” said Goldsmith. “But on the other hand, it could just be driven by curiosity.”
Curiosity about when the next person is going to push it? Or how long it’s going to keep going? Or what might happen if no one pushed it?
“That’s really what keeps it so mesmerizing,” said Goldsmith.
Although a strong sense of community is making people push the button, Goldsmith said, “the motivating power of curiosity” was part of it too.
“I don’t think gets enough attention in the academic literature, but it’s (curiosity) definitely a strong driving force,” said Goldsmith.
When she first heard about it, she admits she was in favor of people banding together not to push the button so they could see what would happen. But since then she’s changed her mind because she think so many people working together to keep the button going is a positive affiliation. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to push the button right away.
“I would absolutely be of the group that waits to get the clock as low as possible,” said Goldsmith. “Again, just for curiosity's sake. How low can it go? What would happen if no one pushed it?”
How did the Pentagon's F-35 fighter jet program, which was originally thought up as a way to cut costs, end up becoming the most expensive weapons program in history?
Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says policymakers boxed themselves into this expensive fighter jet. "By canceling the F-22 air superiority fighter," Eaglen said, "it made the F-35 fighter the only fighter option available to the Pentagon."
Eaglen says the original concept behind the JSF program—that creating a single, unified aircraft for all branches of the military would lower costs—has been discredited. "It's never truly joint; these are fraternal twins," Eaglen said.
Ben FitzGerald, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, says today the debate all centers around one question: "how do we manage the cost."
Canceling the F-35 is no longer an option, he said, because the Pentagon has put all its eggs in one basket.
If you’ve been thinking about visiting Europe, but haven’t wanted to pay top dollar, now is a pretty good time to take out your wallet. With the dollar creeping up on the euro, American tourists are modifying their summer itineraries.
University of Texas-Austin student Neena Malhotra is taking advantage of the weaker euro. She’s planning on traveling to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and Spain.
The price of everything from paella to train tickets has dropped –
“And when looking at the prices to determine whether it is a good idea or not,” she says, “it seemed more feasible than it had another time we had tried to do it.”
According to TripAdvisor, the average nightly rate for a European hotel this summer is $133. That’s compared to $164 last year. And the average cost of a one-week European trip has dropped by 11 percent.
Kathryn O’Kane of Brooklyn had budgeted $200 plus a night in Madrid and Basque Country.
“We were pleasantly surprised to find hotels about $100 a night,” she says.
And with the extra pocket money, O’Kane says her family will be able to do a lot more shopping, and take advantage of opportunities to see Spanish Guitar or Flamenco. That will no doubt please a lot of local businesses in Europe.
The dollar’s surge will also benefit travel agencies and tour companies. Paul Wiseman is president of Trafalgar Guided Vacations.
“We're having a very good year to Europe,” Wiseman says. “We’re seeing double digit growth in Italy and Great Britain and I’m sure that’s on the back of a very strong U.S. dollar.”
But is a 90 cent cheaper café au lait enough to tempt people to go to Paris instead of Mexico?
Who better to ask than Paula Serrano, a travel agent in the city of Paris, Texas.
“No, [travel] has not picked up,” Serrano says. “I sell more Mexico than anything.”
After all, in Cancun a dollar gets you not just one, but fifteen pesos.
On Tuesday, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo begin a week of big bank earnings reports. But we got a preview of the state of the big banks last week, when GE announced it would wind down and sell off most of the assets of the seventh-largest bank: GE Capital.
"The primary lesson is: If you don't have to be a bank, don't be one," says Fred Cannon, global director of research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. Cannon also says the fact that GE is selling most of the financial assets to smaller institutions is an indication of what sector will see faster growth in the years to come.
But bank analyst Nancy Bush says there is one area where the so-called “universal banks” have an edge this quarter: Trading on the volatility in the currency and commodities markets.
Last week, one of my colleagues was sounding a little tense as he set out to work on his taxes. Radio producer Josh Woo fills in here as a director on the Marketplace Morning Report and the thing is during 2014 tax year, Josh won big on a TV game show. Four years earlier, Josh had also won prizes on another show, The Price is Right, and a dozen years before that, when just a kid, Josh won two grand on Jeopardy. With Josh's tax return now signed and delivered, I wanted to see if with all this experience, if he managed to avoid the classic mistake or forgetting to pay estimated tax on extra income.
Click on the multimedia player above to hear more on what Josh's big win means to him this tax season.
That's how now-official presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has been polling, on average, for the past few months. While he's a low-performer in the crowded GOP field, FiveThirtyEight argues Rubio belongs in contention with presumed GOP front-runners like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Rubio has a history of beating expectations and winning important party endorsements, says analyst Harry Enten, and he could be a very electable, middle-of-the-road option for voters.1: 1.05
That's the euro-dollar exchange rate this morning. If you've been thinking about visiting Europe, but haven't wanted to pay top dollar, now is a pretty good time to take out your wallet. The attractive exchange rate is making everything from paella to rail tickets cheaper.$2,815
The average tax refund at the beginning of April, about $20 more than this time last tax season. All told, the IRS refunded about $374 billion last year. So why do so many people overpay? Turns out it has a lot to do with taxpayer psychology. We looked into it as part of our series, "I've Always Wondered..."April 15, 2015
Speaking of taxes, April 15 is the IRS tax filing deadline. As if you didn't already know. Our own producer Josh Woo was the winner on Wheel of Fortune in the 2014 tax year. And with his tax return now signed and delivered, we look at what his game show victory meant for him this tax season.1995
The year Lynda Weinman started Lynda.com with her husband Bruce Heavin. Born out of Weinman's do-it-yourself web design books, Lynda was bought by Linkedin last week for $1.5 billion. The Wall Street Journal has Weinman's story, from doing special effects on "RoboCop 2" to shaping the current landscape of ed-tech.5.6 percent
That's how much Nokia's stock went down on the Helsinki Stock Exchange today after news broke that the company is looking to buy Alcatel Lucent of France. While negotiations could always break down, Alcatel stock is up 12 percent in Paris now. And there are a few strands of American DNA in there. Lucent is descendent of the old AT&T, bell labs, the people who invented the laser.
The Fed came out with a warning this week about the bond market. Fed executive Vice President Simon Potter expressed concerns that extreme volatility like the October “flash crash” could become more common, perhaps the result of high frequency trading, or more surprisingly, too much regulation. Simon Potter doesn’t know exactly what caused the October spike. It could be because of high speed trading. Or because reforms enacted by regulators after the financial crisis, like increasing the amount of capital banks hold, could have unintentionally created more volatility.
The bond Flash Crash happened past October, actually wasn’t a crash at all, it was the opposite, a spike. In a 15 minute period, the yield on the 10-year treasury jumped more than two percent, which may not sound like a lot, but statistically speaking it was a price swing that should only happen once every 1.6 billion years.