Marketplace - American Public Media

The numbers for November 11, 2014

Tue, 2014-11-11 10:13

It's Veterans Day in the U.S., Armistice Day and Remembrance Day abroad. We have at least one veteran on staff at "Marketplace": Kai Ryssdal, who served as a Navy pilot during the Cold War.

Kai flew fighter jets from the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt along the coast of Norway in search of Russian nuclear bombers, and wrote about the experience for our series, "The New Cold War?

A Pew study found nearly half of post-9/11 veterans served with someone who was killed in the line of duty. Two-thirds of veterans said they had been exposed to casualties, either because they were injured themselves or served with someone who was hurt or killed. That exposure meant vets were far more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

Poppy Field is a comprehensive and interactive visualization of all war deaths since the start of the 20th century, and Vox has a good breakdown looking at American fatalities in major wars.  

Here are some other numbers we're watching and stories we're reading Tuesday:


Tension in Ferguson, Missouri is mounting ahead of a grand jury decision on the death of teenager Michael Brown, and the evidence is in the numbers. According to the AP, local police have spent $65,500 on batons, shields and other gear, plus another $35,500 on pepper spray and the like since August. The big business of tear gas, explained. Meanwhile, residents are preparing, too. CNN reported a spike in weapons sales and spoke with business owners who are boarding up their windows

$972.7 million

A different side of the oil boom -- that's how much Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm will pay his ex-wife Sue Ann Hamm to settle their divorce. Continental is the largest oil producer in North Dakota. Hamm might have gotten off easy, the Wall Street Journal reported Mrs. Hamm originally sought several billion and analysts predicted the split would cost him twice as much.

Former Secretary Robert Gates on recruiting veterans

Tue, 2014-11-11 07:38

Unemployment rates for veterans, both men and women, who have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan is still relatively high. But companies like Wal-Mart, Uber, and Starbucks are putting great effort into their recruiting and hiring vets.  

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is no stranger to the military's training programs. Having served as Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, he's now on the Starbucks board.

"There’s transition training that the troops have to go through," Gates says. "More and more employers are actually going on to bases to meet with military people who are facing transition out of the military."

There are many steps the military is taking to help give young people a smooth transition over to the civilian workforce, Gates says, and many employers are being a lot more aggressive in providing guidance for vets, as well.

"I know that the ideas at Starbucks came from a couple of people in the management chain who had been in the military," he says. "I think it’s actually been self-generated often in these companies by young veterans who have been hired and then are telling their own management 'you guys need to get more involved.'"


China and U.S. reach agreement on high tech products

Tue, 2014-11-11 05:00

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced a "breakthrough" in negotiations with China over high tech products Monday night. The agreement could herald the first major tariff-cutting agreement at the World Trade Organization in 17 years, covering an estimated $1 trillion of products ranging from MRI machines to video game consoles. 

The negotiations concerned an update to the Information Technology Agreement, or ITA, signed in the late 1990s, under which countries agreed to cut tariffs to zero for a list of high-tech products. 

"For high tech products, every country wished to be a leader in that," says Wing Thye Woo, professor of economics at UC Davis and president of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia. "So when high tech products started appearing quickly, some countries started putting tariffs on them.

Woo says the ITA didn't follow the model of other free trade agreements: cut tariffs for the entire sector, with certain products singled out as exceptions. 

"You do not say mackerel is not free trade but salmon is free trade," says Woo. "All fish is free trade, unless we specify certain fish."

"This one is the other way around: The following are free trade items, and what is not mentioned is not free trade," he says.

Signatories of the ITA agreed to cut tariffs only for products that fit into certain categories such as computers and data-storage media. 

China signed on to this agreement when it joined the WTO in 2001. "It had to," says Woo. "But then the number of high-tech products kind of exploded."

Efforts to increase the list stalled.

"China was the main opposition on this issue of broadening the Information Technology agreement," says Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. China had, for instance, maintained tariffs of up to 25 percent to protect its burgeoning semiconductor industry.

The agreement with the United States could un-stick negotiations with the other 54 economies involved in the ITA negotiations. "The presumption is those other countries will agree because they have been negotiating pretty much alongside the United States," say Hufbauer.

"And I think it foreshadows more agreements on other issues between the US and China," he says. "It’s really a new day."

Quiz: Hidden cameras in the classroom

Tue, 2014-11-11 04:40

Harvard researchers secretly photographed more than 2,000 students to study classroom behavior last spring. News reports and other Harvard faculty have called out the study’s questionable ethics. Two years ago Harvard administrators reportedly read the emails of resident deans – you guessed it – in secret.

Harvard researchers studied student behavior with secret cameras. What did they uncover?

You can watch a presentation by one of the photo researchers on YouTube.

PODCAST: Powerful and profitable art

Tue, 2014-11-11 03:00

First up, in China, what's called "Single's Day" is drawing to a close. It's a new-ish celebration that is to single people what Mother's Day is to mother's. But it's now morphed into the day people go online to buy things, often with their office computer. China's Alibaba said sales broke through $8 billion so far today in an orgy of commerce that, if you do the math, dwarfs America's so-called Black Friday. And tech products could soon travel across borders with less baggage as a result of the first major cut in international tariffs in 17 years, and it affects a range of technology products from MRI medical scanners to video games. More on that. Plus, it's Veterans Day in the U.S. and this summer marked 100 years since the outbreak of hostilities that became what was then called The Great War. To commemorate Britain's lost lives, an artist has staged a powerful installation at the Tower of London. It's really popular, and lucrative for veterans' charities.

Garth Brooks album is online, but not for streaming

Tue, 2014-11-11 02:00

Garth Brooks is following Taylor Swift’s lead, away from streaming music services. Not even a month after Swift pulled her catalog from Spotify, Brooks is releasing a new album that you can download, but not stream, for free. 

The album is called "Man Against Machine," but it may as well be called "Man Against Streaming Machine."

Garth Brooks is releasing the album on a new website he helped create, called GhostTunes. The site only allows you to buy music from Brooks and many others.

“It’s a sale, not a stream," says Stephanie Kellar, the lead marketing professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She says Brooks faces a huge challenge: “How does he get people to go to his site and purchase music there?”

But GhostTunes says it's not trying to be Spotify.

“There’s no question that we’re the smallest ant on this molehill,” says Randy Bernard, CEO of GhostTunes. 

Bernard says they’re aiming for a niche market, appealing to Garth Brooks fans, and offering extras.

“When you go on the site, you’ll be able to purchase merchandise or tickets from Ticketmaster," he says. "We offer a one-stop shop."

And, unlike Spotify, the site also offers Taylor Swift’s music.

London’s poppies prove the value of public art

Tue, 2014-11-11 02:00

London has gone poppy mad. Many people, throughout the UK and Ireland, wear poppies at this time of year to show their support for veterans and their families. So it’s not uncommon to see glimpses of scarlet everywhere; on business suits, overcoats, sweaters and even T-shirts. This year, though, the poppies that are really attracting attention are on the ground, filling the moat of the Tower of London, in a display of 888,246 ceramic flowers, one for each colonial or military fatality of the first world war.

The display, called "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red," has been a money-spinner for charities, which will raise as much as GBP15 million from the sale of the two-foot tall poppies. The drive to raise money around the event knocked even the most successful Kickstarter campaign into a cocked hat, raising GBP2.5 million in just six days.  

The poppies have also been good for London. Again, estimates vary, but news reports from the capital said as many as four million people, mostly from other parts of the UK and Ireland, have visited the Tower to see the display. The poppies have been such a resounding success that the exhibit is to go on tour: 10,000 poppies will be displayed around the country before they become housed by the Imperial War Museum.

The enormous display didn’t cost the UK government or the City of London a penny. The thousands of volunteers who hammered the flowers into the moat were volunteers. The flowers sold for GBP25, 10 percent of which will go to six service charities: Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help For Heroes, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and the Confederation of Service Charities. All net proceeds from the sale will also go to those charities, and the government said recently it will waive the tax bill resulting from the sale of the poppies. UK Chancellor George Osborne said the government will make up some of the cost with GBP500,000 in LIBOR fixing fines collected from banks.

Best of all, the installation has been good for art. It has shown that great works of art don’t have to be static or permanent; they can be broken up and bought by the public; they can be successfully sponsored, and they can be of enormous benefit to society. How many other works of art in London get four million visitors in a quarter? And how many have the kind of impact that Blood-swept Lands and Seas of Red has had on those who’ve visited it? Millions of children have learned something about the history of their country, and probably their family, that they might never have otherwise known. The fact that they learned it for free is a bonus for the government. And it’s a lesson, too: art can be a good investment, not just socially, but financially. Which is why governments should work hard to fund and promote their countries’ artworks whenever possible.

Economic recovery drives growth in low-paid jobs

Tue, 2014-11-11 02:00

The October 2014 employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the U.S. economy is continuing to deliver steady job growth and lower unemployment, even as consumer demand and business activity remain lackluster compared to previous recoveries.

And signs increasingly point to a solid finish to the year. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that retailers and shippers—including both brick-and-mortar and online operations—added 180,600 jobs in October, more than any previous October on record. That’s an increase of 13 percent from 2013.

Employment in the transportation sector has been going up all year in tandem with the recovery of consumer spending.

“We’re seeing a huge demand for truck drivers,” said Michael Gritton of Kentuckiana Works, the regional workforce development agency in Louisville, Kentucky, which has become a logistics hub for the Midwest.

Nationwide, the U.S. economy has added more than 35,000 truck drivers since October 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Gritton points out that the cost of commercial-driver training is high—as much as $5,000—and it's not easy to find government funding or student loans to cover the cost. But a typical course only takes four to six weeks. Starting pay is typically in the $15/hour range (though it can rise to nearly double that with experience).

Other service sectors in which jobs are now consistently growing are also low-pay, explains economist Paul Edelstein at IHS.

“We’re seeing a big shift towards the leisure and hospitality sector, restaurants and bars, where the wages aren’t very good,” said Edelstein. Employment in leisure and hospitality has increased by 380,000 in the past year.

Daycare is another low-paid occupation that is now adding jobs consistently (nearly 19,000 since October 2013), driven by the overall expansion of the economy. As more parents become two-income households again, they need to pay someone else to watch the kids.