Marketplace - American Public Media

Instagram exposes your real friends

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:49

Instagram angered a number of its most loyal users by revealing the true identity of their friends. It happened on Wednesday, when the photo sharing app announced it would be removing any and all deactivated and spam accounts.

"After receiving feedback from members in the Instagram community, we recently fixed an issue that incorrectly included inactive accounts in follower/following lists," a spokesman said in a statement to the tech news site Recode.

The company made a similar move back in 2012, due to backlash over an increase in instagram spammers. But in a change of events, this time users took to Twitter and social media to express their annoyance with the new removal tactics by revealing just how many spammers were following them. 

Some users started a hashtag campaign called the #SaveMyInstagram2014.

Others questioned what would happen if Twitter were to perform the same clean up.

While many were displeased with their sudden decrease in followers, Instagram says it believes users will benefit from the change.

"We believe this will provide a more authentic experience and genuinely reflect people who are actually engaging with each other’s content."

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The importance of confidence for women

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:25

Women in the workforce get no shortage of messages about how we should behave. Advocate for yourself … but not too much. Ask for a raise … but pick your moment.

Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America, and Claire Shipman, correspondent for ABC and Good Morning America, authors of "The Confidence Code," argue that women will occupy more C-suites and positions of power by taking risks, speaking up, and being more confident.

How confident are you? Take the ‘Confidence Quiz’

On the meaning of confidence:

Shipman: “The stuff that turns thoughts into action … Confidence is about your belief in your ability to have an impact on the world. To get things done , so there’s a real element of action about it."

On the confidence gap between men and women:

Kay: "The last book we wrote made the case for women in business and how companies, organizations, that employ more senior women, do better than their competitors. And yet as we interviewed these senior women we kept hearing phrases like, ‘You know, I’m just lucky to have got where I am,’ or, ‘I was in the right place at the right time,’ or, ‘I’m not sure I’m the right person for that new promotion or that new big contract.’ And we thought that’s so strange, you know, we never hear phrases like that from men. So, we started to dig into the research on this and a lot of psychologists and business schools have now done research showing that there is indeed a confidence gap between men and women."

"For example, there is a business school study from Manchester University in the U.K., that the professor has been asking students, what do you think you deserve to earn five years after you graduate. Men routinely say they deserve to earn $80,000 on average. Women will say it’s $64,000. That a 20% difference. [At] Hewlett Packard, women will apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skill set, men are happy if they have 60% of the skill set because they think they’re going to learn the rest on the job."

"Women, whilst we have all the talent, we have all the competence, we’re perfectly able, we are undervaluing ourselves compared to men."

On the importance of failure:

Shipman: "Carol Dweck said to us something that was pivotal. She said, “If life were one long grade school, women would rule the world.” And that is because although we’re raising girls in large measure these days to think they can do anything, we’re still nurturing them to be perfect and people pleasers and well behaved — in fact, too perfect. And so they internalize this sort of coloring within the lines, pleasing people, being quiet, getting good grades. They do that all the way through college. They excel. They hit the real world, and guess what? They haven’t screwed up. They haven’t failed. They haven’t learned that you lose, you flunk, you do this. It doesn’t matter you just keep going."

Kay: "What you learn when you fail at something, whether it’s something small like asking for a pay raise that you don’t get, big or small, whether it’s in your personal life or private life, in the end you realize you’re still there. You’re still standing."

The importance of confidence

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:25

Women in the workforce get no shortage of messages about how we should behave. Advocate for yourself … but not too much. Ask for a raise … but pick your moment.

Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America, and Claire Shipman, correspondent for ABC and Good Morning America, authors of "The Confidence Code," argue that women will occupy more C-suites and positions of power by taking risks, speaking up, and being more confident.

How confident are you? Take the ‘Confidence Quiz’

On the meaning of confidence:

Shipman: “The stuff that turns thoughts into action … Confidence is about your belief in your ability to have an impact on the world. To get things done , so there’s a real element of action about it.

On the confidence gap between men and women:

Kay: The last book we wrote made the case for women in business and how companies, organizations, that employ more senior women, do better than their competitors. And yet as we interviewed these senior women we kept hearing phrases like, ‘You know, I’m just lucky to have got where I am,’ or, ‘I was in the right place at the right time,’ or, ‘I’m not sure I’m the right person for that new promotion or that new big contract.’ And we thought that’s so strange, you know, we never hear phrases like that from men. So, we started to dig into the research on this and a lot of psychologists and business schools have now done research showing that there is indeed a confidence gap between men and women.

For example, there is a business school study from Manchester University in the U.K., that the professor has been asking students, what do you think you deserve to earn five years after you graduate. Men routinely say they deserve to earn $80,000 on average. Women will say it’s $64,000. That a 20% difference. [At] Hewlett Packard, women will apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skill set, men are happy if they have 60% of the skill set because they think they’re going to learn the rest on the job.

Women, whilst we have all the talent, we have all the competence, we’re perfectly able, we are undervaluing ourselves compared to men.

On the importance of failure:

Shipman: Carol Dweck said to us something that was pivotal. She said, “If life were one long grade school, women would rule the world.” And that is because although we’re raising girls in large measure these days to think they can do anything, we’re still nurturing them to be perfect and people pleasers and well behaved — in fact, too perfect. And so they internalize this sort of coloring within the lines, pleasing people, being quiet, getting good grades. They do that all the way through college. They excel. They hit the real world, and guess what? They haven’t screwed up. They haven’t failed. They haven’t learned that you lose, you flunk, you do this. It doesn’t matter you just keep going.

Kay: What you learn when you fail at something, whether it’s something small like asking for a pay raise that you don’t get, big or small, whether it’s in your personal life or private life, in the end you realize you’re still there. You’re still standing.

Russia's annexation of Crimea comes with a cost

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:13

The Russians are now suffering a double financial whammy from the crisis in Ukraine. Not only have they seen a big slowdown in their economic growth thanks to sanctions -- they’re also counting the specific cost of annexing the Ukrainian province of Crimea.

The annexation the Black Sea peninsula has proved wildly popular in Russia. But after the first flush of acquisition, reality is beginning to dawn and, like many takeovers in the corporate world, this one is turning out to be very costly.

“In many ways Russia may have bitten off more than it expected with Crimea. And I think the overhaul of the economy there is a bigger task than many would expect,” argues Raoul Ruparel of the Open Europe think tank.

The peninsula may be semi-detached physically from the rest of Ukraine, but it is well-integrated economically with the mainland. Prying it away from Ukraine and plugging it into Russia won’t be easy… or cheap.

“It is really dependent on mainland Ukraine for its power supply, and for its food supply, and for its public services. The banking system will be really difficult to disentangle,” claims Lilit Grevorgyan of IHS Global Insight. 

Building new infrastructure and new financial links between Crimea and Russia will cost a fortune. $3 billion for new power stations. $3 billion for a planned bridge between the two countries. And then there’s the pledge to raise pensions and public sector wages in Crimea to Russian levels, which will set the  Kremlin back a further $3 billion a year.

“In the context of an already difficult fiscal environment, those pledges pose a problem,” explains Sam Charap of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s not surprising that the Russian finance minister is complaining about the extra cost.”

There is an economic upside to the annexation. Russia will save an estimated $4 billion a year in rent for its naval base in Crimea. And there is the prospect of exploiting untapped oil and gas reserves off the Crimean coast. Not that annexing Crimea was motivated by money. It’s about national pride . The move has won the overwhelming approval of the Russian public – 79 percent are in favor. 

However - say the critics – that is no guarantee that Russia’s actions will prove successful in the long term. Most Germans applauded Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland - the German speaking province of Checkoslovakia. And – as we know – that didn’t end well for Germany.

Military commissaries consider going generic

Fri, 2014-04-18 10:26
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 05:20 Wikimedia Commons

The commissary at the Fort Hood base.

Military commissaries, grocery stores that sell name-brand products to military families basically at cost, are facing a billion-dollar budget cut over the next three years. And defense officials are considering a sea change for commissaries: allowing them to stock generic.

That’s something Patt Donaldson would like, and steering two kids and two loaded carts, he and his wife Jessica Donaldson wrap up a big shopping trip.

She’s in the Navy and they live near the Fort Belvoir Commissary in Virginia. But they do these big runs off base – at ALDI, Costco, and Wegmans. They like the produce better, and all the store brands. Generic yogurt, canned fruit and pasta run down the belt to checkout.

“The generics we can get outside of the commissary is certainly far cheaper for us than what we can get buying name brands in the commissary,” says Patt Donaldson.

This is something military spouses often debate – where to get the best deals. Commissaries offer 30 percent savings on a typical basket of brand name goods, though some products see steeper discounts than others.

Currently, commissaries can’t sell generics. But now that the Pentagon has proposed a billion dollar commissary cut over three years, commissary prices are expected to rise. That has some officials wondering if stocking generics is a solution.

It’s an option Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Raymond Chandler described at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“If I’m a young soldier and I choose to go to the commissary... the only thing I can buy is Green Giant or Hunt’s brands," he said. "But I can go to Walmart and get great value and that’s 30 cents less for a can of corn than it is in the commissary.”

So stock generics and everyone saves, right? Upsetting the commissary ecology has risks, says Tom Gordy, President of the Armed Forces Marketing Council, which represents military brokers who work with the name brands.

Say for example the Defense Commissary Agency went out and contracted for a store brand. Let’s call it Five Star Food. “That means the name brand products that are on the shelves will lose their shelf space, and they will also lose volume of sales,” he says.

Five Star Food would have costs, of course. To make it look as cheap as a generics in civilian groceries, Gordy says commissaries might have to mark up their remaining name brands even more.

“The manufacturers right now, most of them give best pricing to the Defense Commissary Agency,” he says.

They also provide marketing dollars. They even stock shelves. All, Gordy says, to support a military benefit. They might be less inclined to subsidize a military business.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday, April 21, 2014 Kate Davidson/Marketplace

Military spouse Patt Donaldson after a recent shopping trip.

by Kate DavidsonPodcast Title Military commissaries consider going genericStory Type FeatureSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Solar grows, with government help

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:56
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 16:55 Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled 891 photovoltaic modules on the roof of the the department's Forrestal building roof in Washington, DC. 

The White House announced new initiatives to support more solar development this week. But the Department of Energy’s inspector general cast a cloud, with a report slamming a $68 million loan guarantee gone wrong—shades of the Solyndra failure.  

However, solar has actually been growing by leaps and bounds. It provides a little less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity— enough to light more than two million households. Other numbers sound even more impressive.

"More solar has been installed in 18 months than in the previous 30 years combined," says Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association.  "The cost of installed solar systems have dropped 50 percent since 2010."

"Over the last five years, costs have come way down, particularly for large-scale solar installations," says Severin Borenstein of the University of California's Haas School of Business.  "They are almost competitive in some areas now with regular fossil fuel power."

Home installations, he says, are more qualified.

"Some people can save money by putting in solar on their house," he says. "Most people still won't save money."

Solar is competitive only because of government subsidies— many in the form of tax breaks. Borenstein says the calculations are complicated, but federal tax breaks alone can give back almost 45 percent.

That investment is paying off, says Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research at Greentech Media. "It's created a market that has driven costs down year over year," he says. "And why the drop in price accelerates is because there's learning that is done from all these installations. There are economies of scale. 

"There's been a huge storyline about panel prices falling," he says. "Actually, in 2013, the price of panels rose a little bit, and despite that, system prices fell. And that’s where learning from increased deployments makes a huge difference."  

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014by Dan WeissmannPodcast Title Solar grows, with government helpStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Marketing to men with razors

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:54
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 16:52 Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Brad Griffith of Woodhaven, Queens, New York shaves with the Gillette M3Power Micro-Powered Razor at Gotham Hall back in 2004 in New York City.

When it comes to marketing products to men, it helps to play up how technologically advanced they are, says Jean-Pierre Dubé, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

"Men love inscrutable jargon," he says.

And Gillette seems ready to take a page out of Dube’s playbook, with the ProGlide FlexBall, which features “a swiveling ball-hinge that allows the blade to pivot and comes with a high-end price,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The razor, which is expected to debut around Father’s Day, “cuts hairs 23 microns shorter.”

It’s just the latest innovation in high-end men’s shaving:

By Shea Huffman

The shaving arms race really kicked off with Gillette's MACH3 razor, marketed for its three blades that promised a closer shave.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Not to be outdone, competitor Schick decided to one-up Gillette with its quaduple-bladed razor, the Quattro.

Courtesy of Quattro.

It was at this point that people started to question the wisdom of simply adding more and more blades to razors. At least one noteable outlet asked, "What's next, five blades?"

As it turns out, that's precisely what was next. Gillette's Fusion ProGlide boasted a quintuple-bladed head.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Schick quickly came out with its own five-blade razor in response, the Hydro 5.

Courtesy of Schick.

With five blades in the razor already, what more could you do to impress the discerning man looking for a close shave? Of course! You attach a tiny battery-operated motor to the blades to make them vibrate. Thus the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razer was born.

Courtesy of Gillette

With the disposable razor companies now venturing into the motorized trimmer business, it was only a matter of time before they just stuck an entire electric razor into mix. For your consideration, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler 3-in-1 Men's Body Groomer with Beard Trimmer.

Courtesy of Gillette.

With a rotating-on-a-ball-hinge blade forthcoming from Gillette, what more could a man possibly want out of his shaving tools?

Razor companies will surely let them know.

And ladies, don't think you're immune to the razor marketing madness:

Courtesy of Gillette.

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014by David GuraPodcast Title Marketing to men with razorsStory Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

It's cheaper to buy than rent, but the gap is closing

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:51
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 16:49 Scott Olson/Getty Images

A 'For Sale' sign stands in front of a house on May 31, 2011 in Chicago, Ill. Some homes in Gary, Indiana are selling for $1.00.

If you live in parts of California, or New York, or Hawaii. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

But, it is true.

In most parts of the country, it can be a whole lot cheaper to pay a mortgage than to pay rent.

“Home values are still down about 13 percent from where they were at peak values in 2007,” said Stan Humphries, Chief Economist at Zillow, “pair that with historically low mortgage rates, and you have a real situation of affordability in the U.S.”

The situation for renters, on the other hand, is pretty awful.  Rents are way up. “We’re at the worse place we’ve ever been in terms of rental affordability,” said Chris Herbert, Research Director at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Demand for rentals has jumped since the recession. Herbert says today half of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on accommodation.

Which might have you wondering—if it’s REALLY cheaper ... why don’t people just buy?

“For one thing, if you don’t have savings, you’re going to have a hard time making down payment constraints,” said Herbert, “and if you’re spending a lot of your income now for rent, it's going to be very hard to get that savings together.”

Also, since the housing crisis, it’s a whole lot harder to get a loan.

Right now, the difference between buying and renting is narrowing ever so slightly.

“Over the past year, rents have risen nationally almost four percent year-over-year” said Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Trulia, “but home prices have risen faster, home prices are up about ten percent nationally year-over-year.

The price gap between buyers and renters is shrinking. But housing is getting less affordable for everyone.

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014by Adriene HillPodcast Title It's cheaper to buy than rent, but the gap is closingStory Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

It pays to be polite in-flight

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:39

As evidenced in the video below, which has been viewed nearly 9.5 million times (and counting) on YouTube, Marty Cobb is one likeable flight attendant.

But even if the members of your cabin crew aren't hilarious, it’s important to make them like you, according to George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com.

Hobica, who was flying before he learned how to walk, believes that packing our manners on every flight is the right thing to do — and it has paid off for him in various ways, including class upgrades and complimentary cocktails.

9. Pens! People are always asking flight attendants for pens, whether to complete immigration and customs forms or to simply do the crossword puzzle. Bring a few extra cheap pens, bundle them up and give them to your crewmember. It may not be as enjoyable as a box of chocolates, but they will surely put them to good use.

Click the audio player to hear Hobica’s plea for in-flight politeness and read more tips for making flight attendants like you

Have travel tips of your own? Share them with a comment below or Tweet them to us @LiveMoney

And if you're curious about the airplane movie references in the interview, they're from "Airplane," "Midnight Run," "View From The Top," and "Soul Plane."

Peak beard theory

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:32

An actual academic study in the journal Biology Letters says, basically, "the more men who have beards...the less attractive those beards are."

It's called "negative frequency-dependent preferences and variation in male facial hair," and in plain language, it means: "We've reached peak beard. It's time for beards to go out of fashion."

To which I say: Amen, brother. I'm the clean cut type -- I wouldn't look good with a beard, even if I could grow one....


    

The resurgence of dot-com investment

Fri, 2014-04-18 07:49

Venture capitalists are pouring money into internet startups again: they’ve invested $9.5 billion in various startups so far this year, according to the latest MoneyTree report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters. 

The report claims we haven't seen this much venture capital floating around since 2001, as the dot com bubble was starting to deflate. Right now, web ventures are getting the most investment money, and biotech is a distant second. 

“The amount of capital that a startup requires now is much less,” says venture capitalist Peter Cohan, president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. Cohan says startups are cheaper now because technology is so much more advanced than it was in the 90s.  And it costs a lot less.

Some startups that failed in the 90s are being tried again. Things like online currier services. They weren't feasbile in the 90s, because there weren’t any smart phones yet.

“It was very difficult to track curriers and pinpoint where they are so it was very difficult to deliver,” says  Jalak Jobanputra, founder of Future Perfect Ventures, another venture capital firm. 

Is all this startup money blowing up a bubble? Jobanputra says yes.  But it probably won’t pop. Instead, she expects it to deflate, slowly. 

PODCAST: Obamacare's youth movement

Fri, 2014-04-18 06:57

The White House is touting its calculation that 8 million have signed up for health insurance under federal health reform. But a key question is whether enough of them will be young people, a group that often blew off insurance before, and are needed to make the economics of the plan work. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer joins us to explain.

The U.S. is pressuring Japan to remove import tariffs on pork and beef as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed new free trade agreement being discussed by twelve countries on the Pacific Rim. Next week when President Obama goes to Tokyo this issue will be high on the agenda. Japan is the world's top importer of pork — Japanese eat expensive tenderloins and cutlets deep fried into crispy katsu. But that agreement won't be easy. Japan has traditionally protected its agricultural commodities.

A case going before the Supreme Court next Tuesday pits traditional television broadcasters against Aereo, which lets customers record broadcast TV in their local markets and then watch programs via television, computer, tablet or smartphone. The technology that makes it possible is a farm of thousands of tiny antennas, each smaller than a nickel. The case – in which some say billions of dollars are potentially at stake – hinges on what constitutes a public broadcast versus a private one, under copyright law.

 

Got a favorite tree? Throw it a party

Fri, 2014-04-18 05:48

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's an extended look at what's coming up the week of April 21, 2014:

30,000 people are expected to gather on the South Lawn at the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll.

Do something nice for your planet on Tuesday. It's Earth Day.

The National Association of Realtors reports on sales of existing homes for March.

More interested in a new home? We get those sales figures from the Commerce Department on Wednesday.

Ebertfest gets underway in Champaign, Illinois. The annual event "celebrates films that haven't received the recognition they deserved during their original runs."

If you're in Iceland you probably have time off to celebrate the first day of summer on Thursday. It's a public holiday.

In this country it's Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. And the good folks at the Commerce Department are scheduled to report on durable goods orders for March. Hopefully they can kick that out before their kids show up to the office.

Friday is National Arbor Day, the tree planting holiday. More good things for the planet.

And it's a serious event with a lot of dough at stake. The National Pie Championships roll out in Orlando. Just in time for bathing suit season.

A 'threat' to broadcast TV heads to D.C.

Fri, 2014-04-18 02:52

A case going before the Supreme Court next Tuesday pits traditional television broadcasters against Aereo, which lets customers record broadcast TV in their local markets and then watch programs via television, computer, tablet or smartphone. The technology that makes it possible is a farm of thousands of tiny antennas, each smaller than a nickel.

"It is just racks and racks of storage equipment and transcoding equipment for rendering the signal, storing the signal, and providing recording functionality for the consumers," says Aereo's chief executive, Chet Kanojia, at one such data center, a 10,000-square-foot facility in Brooklyn.

The antennas pick up signals coming from the nearby Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. Customers are assigned an antenna and a DVR, they choose what to record and when, for a few dollars a month.

"The important thing is it is a one-to-one relationship," Kanojia says. "So, one antenna, one file, one stream, all under a consumer's control at all times."

The case – in which some say billions of dollars are potentially at stake – hinges on what constitutes a public broadcast versus a private one, under copyright law.

Tom Nachbar, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, frames the question this way: "By performing that service for thousands of people at the same time, although totally individually, are they doing what is essentially a transmission to the public?"

When it comes to copyright, there's a difference between a private performance – watching or recording something in your home, for example – and a public one – taking a copyrighted work and distributing it widely.

Aereo's opponents say the company is doing the latter: "They're grabbing signals out of the air without paying for them, and then trying to make a profit off of that," says attorney Neal Katyal, who is advising the broadcasters suing Aereo. "That's not the American way."

Every year, broadcasters invest billions of dollars in creating content, Katyal says, and they recoup those costs with ads. On top of that, Nachbar adds cable providers pay for the right to distribute local channels. Aereo, which serves 13 markets, doesn't, and that's why the case could be so monumental.

If the court rules in Aereo's favor, those cable providers could argue they shouldn't have to pay the broadcasters either.

"It really is a threat to the current structure of the way broadcast television works," *Nachbar notes.

*CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the final quotation. The text has been corrected. 

Will the future economy be driven by purpose or money?

Fri, 2014-04-18 02:05

From Good Friday services to the Passover seder and beyond, it's a time of year that is full of reminders that there's more to life than material things. And some business thinkers are catching on. 

Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, argues we've entered a new era of people demanding their work add up to something. He joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss. 

Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

 

New trade talks spark beef over tariffs

Fri, 2014-04-18 01:38

Japan and the U.S. are having beef over the price of meat.

The U.S. is pressuring Japan to remove import tariffs on pork and beef as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed new free trade agreement being discussed by twelve countries on the Pacific Rim. Next week when President Obama goes to Tokyo this issue will be high on the agenda.

Japan is the world's top importer of pork — Japanese eat expensive tenderloins and cutlets deep fried into crispy katsu.

"Over 25 percent of the U.S. pork is exported, and Japan is our most consistent trading partner," says Bob Ivey, general manager of Maxwell Foods, a major U.S. pork producer that sells to Japan. "So we are very excited about the new trade agreement."

But that agreement won't be easy. Japan has traditionally protected its agricultural commodities. Japanese Wagyu beef is renowned, and their pork industry is one of the world's largest. Still, the U.S. is pushing for much lower import tariffs on its meat.

"That's the U.S. demand. You could say roughly free trade in a little less than a generation," says Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, and international economics think tank. "This will be one of those down to the wire deals."

If they can't work this out, Hufbauer says Japan could drop out of the agreement altogether.

In which we DO NOT spoil GoT: Silicon Tally

Fri, 2014-04-18 01:00

It's time for Silicon Tally. How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week we're joined by corporate reporter for Quartz, John McDuling.

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Home Depot turns to the Internet for growth

Fri, 2014-04-18 00:16

Home Depot as an online retailer? The Wall Street Journal reports that the big box retailer wants to grow by getting you to purchase building and home improvement supplies online

Part of the shift is due to overbuilding. For example, when I lived in Los Angeles, there were three Home Depots within a few miles of my house. And for a while, it seemed like it was building a store on every corner.

"That’s probably accurate," says Seth Basham, an analyst at WedBush, adding that the excess of stores isn't just a problem for Home Depot. "Between them and Lowe's and Menard's, the number of households per store continued to decline throughout the decade of the 1990s and 2000s," Basham said. 

And so Home Depot is now turning to the Internet for growth. 

"The biggest unique challenge to Home Depot is figuring out what the customer actually wants to buy online," says Maggie Taylor, an analyst at Moody’s. "So I think, carpeting for example, you’re always going probably into the store and take a look at."

And heavy items like Jacuzzi tubs might not be worth buying online because of shipping costs. Getting purchases to people - on time and on budget - will be another challenge. But Taylor says with tech giants like Amazon nipping at Home Depot's business, the big box retailer has no choice but to forge ahead.

Digging into the 8 million ACA signups

Thu, 2014-04-17 13:44

Eight million Americans have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said at a White House briefing Thursday, a figure that surpassed the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's initial projection of 7 million.

Over the past six weeks some 3.7 million people signed up for insurance, according to the White House, and 28 percent of those who got insurance via the federal exchange were in the 18-34 age range, a figure of great interest to the insurance industry. Conventional wisdom is that younger people tend to be healthier (and cheaper to insurer) than older adults. The corollary is the healthier the risk pool in 2014, the less premium prices rise in 2015.

Obama said "we have a strong, good story to tell" and then went on the offensive , adding that 5.7 million Americans have been locked out of the run on insurance through Medicaid expansion because 24 states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs.

A more complete report on enrollment numbers is expected next week. It's important to note that not all of consumers who sign up for insurance will actually purchase insurance, so it's likely the 8 million number will drop. What was interesting – and perhaps surprising – was that millions of Americans flocked to the federal and state exchanges at the 11th hour. It suggests that there is a healthy interest in having health insurance. That interest is only expected to grow.

In fast food burgers, geography is key

Thu, 2014-04-17 13:14

Sonic is America’s fourth biggest burger chain, a fact that might surprise you if you live outside of the South. Sonic’s are located mostly around Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi.

There are about 3,500 Sonic locations. But the company plans on opening 1,000 more locations over the next decade. “With this move, we see Sonic entering that arena of largest national players and leaving behind those regional players,” says Patrick Lenow, a spokesperson for Sonic, which is known for reviving the classic American drive-in. Food is ordered through an intercom and delivered to your car, often by servers on roller skates.

A graphic created by Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed shows the concentration of fast-food burger chains around the country. (Courtesy of Stephen Von Worley/Data Pointed)

“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” says Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”

That may explain why it’s focusing much of its expansion in California. “When I think of one of the most successful burger chains in America, I think of In-N-Out Burger, which originated in California as a drive-in,” says Darren Tristano, a foodservice concept & menu expert with Technomic.

Another way Sonic differentiates itself from its competitors is by emphasizing its non-burger menu items, like the more than a million different soda flavors it offers. “They also sell hot dogs that are very regionalized in terms of flavor and have items like tater-tots on the menu,” Tristano says.

So, if you don’t live in the South, and you get a late night craving for chocolate-pineapple soda and tater tots delivered on roller skates, you may soon be able to satisfy it.

By Shea Huffman and Gina Martinez /Marketplace

The data for the graphic above was provided by a Marketforce Information survey on American's favorite burger chain by region:

Courtesy of Marketforce Information

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