Marketplace - American Public Media

Syndicate content
Updated: 20 min 21 sec ago

Marketplace’s most viral stories of 2013

Mon, 2013-12-30 13:35

Thoughts, disclaimers, bad jokes, etc.: This is our look back at Marketplace’s top stories on Marketplace.org, Facebook, Twitter, reddit and Stitcher in 2013. Like Katherine Goldstein at Slate pointed out in her article on Slate's most viral stories, one of the most interesting takeaways was the lack of overlapping stories between platforms. The only stories to appear on different lists were Income Upshot and a story on curing alcoholism in Russia.

Most viewed on Marketplace.org: These were our most visited stories in 2013, even if the article was posted before this year. A years-old story on alcoholism in Russia made our most-viewed list in 2013, probably due to hitting the front page of reddit (you can see the rest of our top reddit stories below). Timothy Geithner's signature is still ridiculous looking, even though that story came out in 2012.

  1. Income Upshot: Your income ranked nationally
  2. No more working at home for Hewlett-Packard employees?
  3. Timothy Geithner's signature not fit for print
  4. The killer cure for alcoholism in Russia
  5. What do employers really want from college grads? 

APM Marketplace on Facebook: Facebook posts are sorted by “biggest reach,” basically the total number of people who saw that post, whether because they like Marketplace on Facebook or saw the post through their friends. This list includes Facebook posts from 2013. Every top Facebook story included questions to spur discussion from our audience. None of these five stories were top stories on other platforms. Our Facebook post on unemployed millennials was Marketplace’s best Facebook story this year by far — which isn't surprising because if you're an unemployed millennial, you may be spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook.

  1. Economically frustrated Millennials have a new meme for out-of-touch Baby Boomers. Whose side are you on -- and why?
  2. Do you agree with the TV show chosen to represent your state in this map?
  3. Are you ready to retire? Be sure your retirement is on track, no matter what your age.
  4. McDonald's offers employees sample budget that doesn't list 'food' or 'heat' as monthly budget items, and assumes workers have two jobs to make yearly income. Do you think the budget is realistic? Does it line up with your expenses?
  5. Michael Pollan says "We don't value cooking... We've fallen into this mode where we let the corporations do the cooking for us. The problem is, they don't do it very well." Do you agree? Why or why not?

@MarketplaceAPM on Twitter: Twitter stories are ranked by most clicks of links in tweets to read the article, and only include stories from 2013. These titles are the headline of the story, not the actual tweets themselves. Take homes? Twitter loves Rob Delaney, everyone loves Sriracha, and "1234" is a mediocre PIN choice.

  1. Exclusive: Sriracha founder reveals the 'secret' wholesale price of his sauce
  2. The funniest man on Twitter
  3. Income Upshot: What does your income say about you?
  4. Is your PIN code one of the easiest to figure out?
  5. How one family went bankrupt spending $100,000 on Beanie Babies

Marketplace on Stitcher: Stitcher is one of our most popular audio platforms to share individual audio segments. A lot of Stitcher's traffic comes from the Bay Area, which may explain the focus on tech, banking, and yoga pants.

  1. Ukraine decides between east and west
  2. Facebook warns some users to change their passwords after hack
  3. Google TV gadget costs $35. Game changer?
  4. Lululemon tries to get past transparent pants-gate
  5. Inside the world of China's "shadow banks"

reddit: Articles on reddit are sorted by which stories received the most upvotes (basically reddit's equivalent to Facebook's likes). TIL stands for 'Today I Learned," reddit's sub-section on interesting facts from the past. Three of the five reddit stories focus on tech in some way, which makes sense given reddit's stereotype of tech-savvy millennials.

  1. TIL in Russia many doctors "treat" alcoholism by surgically implanting a small capsule into their patients. The capsules react so severely with alcohol that once the patient touches a single drop, they instantly acquire an excruciating illness of similar intensity to acute heroin withdrawal
  2. TIL that 'casual friday' is the product of a guerrilla marketing campaign by Levis' new khakis brand, Dockers during the early 90s recession.
  3. Beijing provides a $19,000 USD subsidy to buy an electric car
  4. 'Creator of the Internet' Tim Berners-Lee says the Copyright Alert System is bad for democracy.
  5. Listen to a Verizon spokeswoman explain the reason behind Verizon's data plan changes. Around the 1:15 mark."

How to sell your hair for $4,000

Mon, 2013-12-30 12:51

Mary Brown is a mother of four in Provo, Utah. And this autumn, she said goodbye to something very close to her.

"I rolled it kind of like a rope," she says, "and placed it in the bag, and placed that into a mail envelope, and off it went."

Need a hint about she was sending off: Well, Brown had a nickname growing up.

"A lot of my friends called me Rapunzel from the time I was a teenager," she remembers. "I've always had long hair."

In October, her long hair became that rope she placed in a bag. Brown had spent the last four years getting her hair ready to sell.

"I did a lot of research," she says. "You don't want to use heating products on your hair, you want to use very mild shampoos. It also helps if you are eating really healthily and taking multivitamins."

Her sister had put her in touch with a hair sales website, and Brown put together an ad for her hair.

“My husband and I went and we took two or three days to do photo shoots around my hair, and picked the best ones we could – with my hair down, with my hair braided, so you could see the different shades of blonde," she says.

In the ad, Brown's hair was crazy-long, super shiny, and incredibly straight. A woman who makes hair extensions in Australia saw the ad too. She bought Brown's ponytails, for a thousand dollars.

Brown's ad was on Hairwork.com. Marlys Fladeland, who runs the website, says, “I am the first to start a business like this in the United States.”

There are nowat least four sites where you can sell your hair online.

Fladeland has seen hair sell from anywhere between $100 and $4,000. She charges people $25 to post an ad, and she gets about 20-30 ads a month.

"Everybody who needs money sells hair, I think," Fladeland adds. "It's actually more when the economy is bad because hair is something that you can grow back. And when people need money, they'll find a way."

She says she sees more people trying to sell their hair around the holidays, when wallets are especially empty. 

But people aren't just selling hair. They are also selling milk, eggs, even kidneys.

"It is horrifying," says Nicholas Colas, a market analyst at the brokerage firm ConvergEx. "And obviously selling a kidney is actually illegal in the U.S., or purchasing one as well. But it is to my mind speaks to the kind of relative desperation that a lot of people still have about their economic condition."

Colas says the stock market may be doing well, but the economic recovery hasn't filtered to middle-class people. He doesn't think that many people are actually selling their kidneys, but he sees hair and breast milk sales as a creative response to hard times.

"I find it very admirable," he adds. "It requires a lot of ingenuity and it requires a lot of focus to do what it take to make things happen for you."

Mary Brown says her experience has made her look at hair differently.

"I think that when I look at people now," she admits, "with long beautiful hair, in my head I calculate how much they could probably sell that for if they wanted to. 'You know she could he could probably get a good $300 for that ponytail.' Or 'Ooh, that hair is really thick, she might be able to get $1000, $1300 even.'"

Brown says she herself is doing alright money-wise. But she has a number of friends who aren't, and she wanted to help them out. So far, the cash has paid for one friend's school loan, and another friend's car repair.

In prison you get health care. When you're released ...

Mon, 2013-12-30 12:05

People in prison are sick. A recent report found the nation spends more than $6.5 billion every year on healthcare services for the men and women who are incarcerated. But right now, much of that care stops as prisoners are released.

And many prison officials believe that’s part of the reason why so many former inmates keep coming back.

The Affordable Care Act could interrupt this cycle beginning in January as several hundred thousand former inmates become eligible for healthcare.

Miguel Rodriguez has been in and out of prison for more than 30 years, usually for selling heroin. And after every release, it’s been the same story.

“Go to the corner, to go sell and get high,” he says. And then land back in prison all over again.

When he was released for the last time a couple years ago, Rodriquez, now 53, was suffering from Hepatitis C, congestive heart failure and asthma.

“I couldn’t walk from here to that window," he says. "It would take me half hour to walk one block. That’s how my health really was.”

Rodriguez has been in and out of the hospital six times, the emergency room 10 times. He’s had a pacemaker and bypass surgery. And because he can’t pay, hospitals have eaten those costs, which get passed on to the rest of us.

Dr. Ingrid Binswanger of the University of Colorado says the Affordable Care Act might catch people like Rodriguez before their health hits rock bottom, and their healthcare costs skyrocket. 

“We could potentially treat those conditions before people need to be hospitalized or go to the emergency room,” she says. 

Under the new health law, nearly half of all inmates who leave prison next year - some 300,000 - will be eligible for health insurance, primarily through Medicaid.

Historically, many states have barred low-income adults without children from signing up. Under the ACA that restriction now goes away.

“There has been nothing in my career that has been this exciting as this moment,” says Dr. Emily Wang,  a primary care physician who teaches at Yale Medical School and treats former inmates.

Wang has seen that simple access to care – particularly for substance abuse or mental health – can help ex-cons find their footing. And save money in part because this patient population is so expensive to treat.

“Individuals that are released from prison, they are 12 times more likely to die even in the first two weeks following release," she says. "They are more likely to be hospitalized, they are more likely to go to the emergency department.”

Wang says about 85 percent of prisoners have some kind of health problem.

This helps explain why a large chunk of prison budgets goes towards healthcare, running into the billions every year. New York state spends about $74 million dollars annually just on medications.

“What the public generally doesn’t know is that we are essentially cycling people with mental illness, substance abuse problems through our jails and prisons and back out again,” says Jack Beck with the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors prison conditions.

Behind bars, Beck explains, inmates get treatment; they get meds, their chronic conditions in check. When they get out, all that goes away.

And Dr. Wang says that’s when taxpayers get slammed.

“Because you are paying for the care now," she says. "You’re paying for the cost of their care, when they are using the emergency department, when they are hospitalized for conditions that are preventable.” 

Wang says the next step is to get insurance to former inmates as soon as they hit the streets.

That may not be as easy as it sounds. 

“Nobody is really responsible, no agency, for what happens to ex-offenders when they leave,” says Donna Strugar-Fritsch, a prison consultant with Health Management Associates, who works with local governments.

Strugar-Fritsch says many states are still putting systems in place to simply make sure inmates walk out of prison with Medicaid cards. And even for those who are insured, there is a shortage of treatment programs for substance abuse and mental illness.

But in states expanding Medicaid under the ACA, there’s momentum to deal with these knotty questions. Bottom line: it costs a lot more to keep someone in prison than it does to provide them with the kind of healthcare and services that might keep them out.

Miguel Rodriguez, who says he has stopped taking heroin, goes to an out-patient substance abuse program several times a week. And soon he will have Medicaid.

“Now I can make my doctor’s appointments, I can get my medications,” he says.

But insurance is a tool, it’s no guarantee. For his coverage to work, Rodriguez must do something he’s never been able to do, take care of his health.

New Year's at Applebee's: $375 per person

Mon, 2013-12-30 12:05

You now have less than a day to make your New Year's Eve plans. For lots of people there's not much to plan -- those that like to avoid crowds, they'll be watching the ball drop in Manhattan from the comfort of their couch.

But if you want to watch the ball drop in person, the Applebee's in Times Square has a deal for you: $375 gets you into the restaurant, with an open bar and a buffet.

If spending New Year's at an Applebee's surrounded by lots of drunk people isn't your idea of a good time, perhaps you'd like the $85 four-course dinner at 80 Thoreau in Concord, Mass. It starts with foie gras torchon and duck prosciutto, a departure from the normal menu.

"This is set up more like a tasting-menu style," says Vincent Vella, the maîtres d' and co-owner of 80 Thoreau.

This is a big New Year's for restaurants, says David Adler, the CEO of Biz Bash media.

"There are a lot of people going out for New Year's Eve, especially because this is such a long holiday week," he says. The proliferation of foodie culture has made New Year's a night for chefs to showcase their talents, he adds. And because it's a special night, people will spend a little more than they normally would.

For those who aren't in the one percent, but want to party like they are, you could take a cruise on the Lady Windridge in Fort Lauderdale.

"If you want to have a wonderful party on a boat, then come to Windridge and you will get just exactly what your dreams are all about," says Kathleen Windridge, the owner of the yacht.

She normally rents it for private parties and corporate events. The New Year's tickets are $175 for a four-hour cruise, with open bar and a buffet.

"We finished being sold out today. So we are very, very fortunate," says Windridge.

New Year's is also a night for non-profits to raise money through charity events. In Los Angeles, Ron Lynch, a comedian and voice on the TV show "Bob's Burgers," is hosting a live show at the Steve Allen Theater, a portion of the proceeds going to the non-profit Trepany House.

"It's only $20," he says. "We tried to make it as cheap as possible and still try to make a little money."

The show will feature comedians from "Mr. Show" and "Community." Members of Cee Lo Green's band will close the show with a dance party.

Why you acting crazy, Twitter?

Mon, 2013-12-30 12:05

Twitter’s stock has gone for quite a ride in the past week.  It swung from $60 a share up to almost $75, and then right back down again.  Does Twitter need mood stabilizers? Only a trained medical professional can answer that question.  But if it does, it’s not because of the volatility of its stock.

You see, volatility is as volatility does, as they say.

“What you’re seeing is just the uncertainty and volatility of the underlying economics feeding through into the price,” says Scott Clemons, Chief Investment Strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. 

The price of any stock is based on two things: How much money do people think the company will make in the future? And how much is that worth to investors?

For a company like Twitter, which hasn’t made money yet, estimates vary wildly.

“Some analysts think Twitter is the best thing since sliced bread, other analysts can look at it and say, 'Remember MySpace?,'” says Clemons.  For a newly-floated company like Twitter, “the valuation is more a matter of faith than it is of analytical observation.”

IT’S JUST THAT TIME OF YEAR

This time of year is usually volatile.

"So many people are on vacation – there’s fewer market players," says Eric Parnell, founder of Gerring Wealth Management.

Basically, stock trading is like a crowd of people all talking at once – voices usually get drowned out. But if there are just a few people in the room, voices – and trades -- carry.  

Also, the end of the year is a good opportunity to lock in gains (or losses, if you need to book some) and “position yourself” -- both from a tax perspective and in terms of strategy for the new year.

Many money managers try to position themselves this time of year in stocks that have been hot during the previous year – “it’s really for appearances,” says Wells Fargo Advisors Senior Equity Strategist Scott Wren.

Lastly, Brown Brothers Harriman’s Scott Clemons adds, a lot of people take care of their big philanthropy this time of year.  So they might give a bunch of shares to a charity, which will then immediately sell them and cash out.    

I’M SO EXCITED, I’M SO SCARED

Volatility might be scary if you’re invested in a stock and you’re watching it bounce all over the place, but in general it’s not a bad thing.  In fact, “It’s an opportunity,” says Wells Fargo’s Scott Wren.   “You want volatility , you want the market to have some pullback because it gives you opportunities to invest cash you may have on the sidelines.”

But it turns out, Twitter notwithstanding, volatility, as measured by a metric called the VIX, was just at a low for the year.  That could mean investors are either being timid, or, as Eric Parnell believes, it’s a sign of complacency.

"Extreme calm can almost be a sign of bad things to come," he says. "It’s always good to have people on guard and show caution, it means people are acting with good discipline."

In a year with strong double-digit gains in the market and "no meaningful correction," it has Parnell eyeing the horizon. 

Wells Fargo Advisor’s Scott Wren also expects volatility to pick up in the next few months.

"There are high expectations for 2014 that economic growth will accelerate to a new level," he says. "We don’t see that and I think there will be some surprises."

Swiss bank account holders, time to fess up!

Mon, 2013-12-30 12:05

If you have a hidden Swiss bank account, now’s probably the time to admit it. Dec. 31 is the deadline for famously-secretive Swiss banks to sign up for non-prosecution deals with the U.S. government, in exchange for passing over detailed account information about their American clients.

“The Justice Department and the IRS have always looked at these cases as if you come clean and you come forward before we get your name, you can avoid prosecution,” says Jeffrey Neiman, a lawyer who helped prosecute the government case against the Swiss bank UBS. 

In 2009, UBS agreed to identify its American customers and pay the U.S. $780 million to settle charges it helped Americans avoid taxes.

But owning up isn’t as easy as writing a heartfelt apology to the IRS. 

“Americans with undeclared assets are going to file eight years of amended tax forms, eight years of delinquent other forms and they are going to have to pay whatever tax is owed," says Neiman.

Eight years of tax forms. Big penalties. It sounds like a lot. But failure to report could be a whole lot worse.

“You’re risking jail,” says Neiman. And losing a big chunk of your account value.

So, let’s weigh the odds. Just how likely is it really that the government will track you down? 

“You know the thinking now is that it’ll probably come out, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but before too long,” says James Hines, a law professor at the University of Michigan.

Swiss banks don’t want trouble with the U.S. government any more than the rest of us. They’re likely to hand over your account information if it keeps them off a prosecutor’s to-do list. Which is why lawyers think the best thing hidden account holders can do is, fess up.

Will Volgograd attacks scare off Olympic tourists?

Mon, 2013-12-30 12:05

Two suicide bomb attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd have raised questions about the country’s security and preparedness to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“I think a lot of people in Russia are in shock” says the BBC’s Artyom Liss, based in Moscow. “Most people are just concentrating on the day-to-day but there is a very palpable sense of unease, certainly here in Moscow and in other parts of Russia as well.”

Volgograd is about 600 miles to the Northeast of Sochi. The state-controlled media have regularly assured its audience that the insurgency was under control and that the Sochi games would be “the safest Olympics in history.”

Russia was already expected to spend about $50 billion on the games and it’s expected they’ll boost security but some analysts have suggested Putin used security funding to keep watch on his political enemies rather than fight terrorism.

"A lot of the security experts are saying this amount of money and this amount of resource and effort could have been better spent trying to infiltrate those extremist cells and trying to tackle them."

With six weeks until the games are scheduled to begin, it’s too soon to say if the attacks will reduce attendance at Sochi.

 

Jane Austen explains monetary policy

Mon, 2013-12-30 11:31

This final note: It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that if you combine Jane Austen and economics, I can't resist it.

We don't know exactly what was going on at Citibank over the holidays, but we're delighted that their strategist Steven Englander decided to explain monetary and fiscal policy using Austen quotes.

In his argument for Fed transparency:

"I don't approve of surprises. The pleasure is never enhanced and the inconvenience is considerable." 

To justify quantitative easing:

"A large income is the best recipe for happiness."

And for entitlement reform:

"People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid them."

Those are from "Emma", and "Pride and Prejudice." (H/T Business Insider, for finding the note.)

A year in China: bad air, bad debt

Mon, 2013-12-30 10:05

As we look at the biggest stories of 2013, what stands out to Marketplace China Correspondent Rob Schmitz is the idea of "forced transparency" in two specific areas of China: bad air quality and bad debt.

AIR QUALITY. Some people may have first started paying attention to the air pollution in China during the 'airpocalypse' in Beijing earlier this year, along with this month's bad Shanghai smog. And that has shifted focus to the hard truths of China's economic growth. Lung cancer deaths are up, and so is frustration from everyday Chinese who must live with the heavy pollution. 

 

BAD DEBT. Then, there was an interbank lending crisis in China in June.  China’s credit bubble got too big, and the "shadow banking" industry posed a huge threat to the world's second-largest economy.  Schmitz says there is "tons of bad debt" in China's economic growth model, which is built on the premise of, "borrow, borrow, borrow; and build, build, build."  For years, China could hide it. But like air pollution, it's now out there for all to see.

"We'll see more events like this in 2014, where the government can no longer hide from its own people," Schmitz says, "because the fallout from 30 years of economic growth at all costs is becoming more and more obvious to everyone here."

A year in China: bad debt and an 'airpocalypse'

Mon, 2013-12-30 10:05

As we look at the biggest stories of 2013, what stands out to Marketplace China Correspondent Rob Schmitz is the idea of "forced transparency" in two specific areas of China: bad air quality and bad debt.

AIR QUALITY. Some people may have first started paying attention to the air pollution in China during the 'airpocalypse' in Beijing earlier this year, along with this month's bad Shanghai smog. And that has shifted focus to the hard truths of China's economic growth. Lung cancer deaths are up, and so is frustration from everyday Chinese who must live with the heavy pollution. 

 

BAD DEBT. Then, there was an interbank lending crisis in China in June.  China’s credit bubble got too big, and the "shadow banking" industry posed a huge threat to the world's second-largest economy.  Schmitz says there is "tons of bad debt" in China's economic growth model, which is built on the premise of, "borrow, borrow, borrow; and build, build, build."  For years, China could hide it. But like air pollution, it's now out there for all to see.

"We'll see more events like this in 2014, where the government can no longer hide from its own people," Schmitz says, "because the fallout from 30 years of economic growth at all costs is becoming more and more obvious to everyone here."

Inside the NSA's elite hacking unit

Mon, 2013-12-30 09:10

German publication Der Spiegel reports on just how far the National Security Agency might be going to build back doors into technology for surveillance in a story about a division called Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. The elite group of government hackers apparently intercepted packages carrying gear, like servers and computer parts, to install special monitoring equipment. Click the audio player above to hear more.

PODCAST: Sprint CEO Dan Hesse

Mon, 2013-12-30 07:55

The Dow is up by 29 percent for the year on this penultimate day of trading for 2013.  A check on the markets for the year.

It was a big day Friday for the mobile phone carrier Sprint. It's stock rose 8.3 percent, amid unconfirmed chatter that it might one day merge with T-Mobile. Sprint's CEO, Dan Hesse doesn't comment on speculation, but he is willing to talk to us about all the equipment his troops have been ripping out this year -- at the cost of some disruption -- to provide data-sucking smart phones with more speed.  

2014 is going to be the wearable tech year, we swear

Mon, 2013-12-30 07:38

All this week, Marketplace Tech is going to be talking to guests about big tech trends in the coming year. Today, a topic that failed to live up to it's promise in 2013 -- wearable tech. CNET's Lindsey Turrentine thinks it's going to be big next year. Click the audio player above to find out why.

New Year, new money

Mon, 2013-12-30 06:26

We’re running to the gym and chewing carrots. It must be January!  

After a couple of months of ingesting, imbibing, spending and swiping, so begins our attempts to make 2014 the year when we get everything right.  Well, maybe just better.

And we can make things better, especially when it comes to our money.  In the spirit of knowing the ‘enemy’ to win the battle, let me introduce you to what tends to trip up our best New Year's money efforts and what we can do to make 2014 the year that works:

The Money Is Just the Wrapping

We had on the show recently a couple with the financial resolution for this year to save more money and get out of a paycheck-to-paycheck way of life.  The Mrs. is a professional bookkeeper and her husband builds spreadsheets to track their spending.  But despite all this tracking experience, they can’t stop spending too much.  I pointed out to them that though tracking a behavior can change the behavior, they’ve set their sights on tracking the wrong thing -- the price tags, the money.  The numbers are a reflection of spending, but not the act of spending itself.

I nudged them to think about focusing on the behavior, not the dollars, to write down physically, with pen, or pencil, and actual paper, what they spent every dollar on, every day for thirty days.  They should also note how much something costs but by writing down the actual item and having to focus on the "what" vs. the how much, they'd have to process what their spending behavior actually is which can lead them to spend less.  

It was an "Ah-ha!" moment for them. So ask yourself: If you haven't had success with a money resolution that required you to change your behavior, were you focused on the right thing -- the 'what?' 

Your Resolution May Be a Blob

Resolutions without parameters and definition are amorphous -- they're blobs.  Blobs don’t stay in place and they don’t get you where you need to be.  You need your resolution to live in concrete.  Or, at least to include a couple of bricks.  

If I asked you what your financial resolution is and you said: "To save more money." Would you be able to tell me how much money in total and within what timeframe and where the money would come from?  

Defining the how-much, the how-long and where-it’s-going-to-come-from takes away the psychological barrier of ambiguity.  To spell out your New Year's resolution with as much detail as comfortably possible is to give it a better chance at life.  

Want to save money this year?  How much money? (Looking for a realistic, hard number here, people!) Why are you saving this money? And where will it come from?

Now, break it down further:  How much time do you have? That will help determine how much you need to save every month to get to your goal. Cutting long-term goals down into shorter and shorter timeframes -- in effect, creating mini-goals -- helps us celebrate mini-victories.  Every time you reach a mini-goal, that pat on the back makes it more likely that you'll keep going.  

Make your resolution live: give it definition. Give it a timeframe. Make it realistic and write it all down. Soon your 'blob' of a promise to yourself will be rockin’ a six-pack.

Why Are You Going At It Alone?

There's a reason why it was a big deal for Tyra Banks and her studio audience to show up with t-shirts emblazoned with their weight.: How embarrassing!

The same goes for money. It's hard to share our financial reality and goals with others. But, for most of us, social support is just what we need to stay on track. And maybe it's not so much the cheerleading, but having to be accountable to someone else for what you do. Being watched changes behavior. Add to that surveillance folks who love you and want to see you succeed, and you’ve got a lot of 'juice.'

So many of us keep our money struggles private. (How's that workin'?) But before you start sharing your 'bidness' on Facebook, make a tally of those folks who are there for you in good times and bad and of course, who won't tell the world your bank balance. Create a Facebook mini-support-group. You can set this up so only people you chose can see what you’re doing, not all your 'friends.'  Tell them what your resolution is and ask for support. Report in often and let yourself be called out when you stray. Just think of the shared joy when you’ve made it.

Sometimes it takes a village to reach the finish line.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse says faster data and higher definition calls are his company's future

Mon, 2013-12-30 06:25

It was a big day Friday for the mobile phone carrier Sprint. It's stock rose 8.3 percent, amid unconfirmed chatter that it might one day merge with T-Mobile. Sprint's CEO, Dan Hesse doesn't comment on speculation, but he is willing to talk to us about all the equipment his troops have been ripping out this year -- at the cost of some disruption -- to provide data-sucking smart phones with more speed.  

"2013, first of all, has been a year of rebuilding, and we think our customers will see it as very worth it when we get it completed, which we hope to do sometime later next year," Hesse says of the infrastructure improvements Sprint has been working on. "Sometimes, we use the analogy of 'The Three Little Pigs.' We're the third pig whose building that brick house, who's taking a little longer, and there's a little bit of disruption. And so next year what you're going to see is Sprint Spark, which we announced on October 30 for five big cities."

Spark is Sprint's beefed up data network. "Basically what it means for the customer is your phone can work about 50 megabits per second," Hesse says. "A year from now it will be double that, and two years from now, triple that. So you're talking 150 megabits per second for the phone."

Hesse says that aside from a faster data network, Sprint customers should soon expect to have better quality sound on phone calls.

"We have announced something called 'high definition voice,' where your wireless phone will the be better of your devices, between your landline and your cell phone. So, today, somebody with perfect hearing hears about 10 octaves. The cell phone gives you about 4 octaves. 'High definition voice' will give you 7 of those 10 octaves, so I don't think it's going to be unusual at all six months from now for people to say, 'Let's get off this landline and let's have this call on a cell phone so we can hear each other better.'"

If those advances sound like they should be enough to catapult Sprit over Verizon and AT&T from its spot as the number three carrier, Hesse says his company is more focused on a long term strategy that doesn't involve becoming number one overnight.

"I still believe we'll be number three in size for some time. You know, Verizon and AT&T are so much larger than us," he says. "We can have five phenomenal years and still not necessarily not move into the one or two spot just because of the size of the big two."

Back in October, Marketplace Morning Report talked to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who used words like "suck" and "bloated" to describe competitors AT&T and Verizon. But when we asked him to comment on Sprint, Legere took a more measured and complimentary tone. Does that mean a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is on the horizon? As one would expect, Hesse is staying mum on the topic. But he seems open to the possibility.

"I will say that what T-Mobile has done and what we're doing is we have to be very innovative in a variety of areas, including price, because of the size of the big two," Hesse says. "The industry would be healthier and competition would be better if there was some consolidation, and number three was closer in size to one and two."

Saudi Arabia pledges $3bn to help Lebanon fight Hezbollah

Mon, 2013-12-30 06:13

Saudi Arabia has been throwing its cash around in an apparent effort to influence world affairs. It supports the rebels in Syria, and the kingdom is helping to bankroll the military-backed Egyptian government.

This morning, there's word Saudi Arabia has made a $3 billion pledge to help Lebanon buy arms to counteract the role of Hezbollah, the Shia militia and political group backed by Iran. The BBC's Carine Torbay reports on the latest from Beirut. Click the audio player above to hear more.

Over a million sign up for Obamacare, mostly in December

Mon, 2013-12-30 05:32

The Department of Health and Human Services says that more than a million Americans signed up, using healthcare.gov between October 1, when the site had its problem plagued rollout, and December 24. Of those million-plus people, nearly ninety percent signed up this month, in December.

That could indicate a couple of things. First, that the people who signed up wanted coverage that would start this Wednesday. It also could mean that healthcare.gov is working better and has gotten more reliable since October.

But it's not all good news. While the government is trumpeting these numbers, they’re still way lower than what had been forecast.

While the deadline for coverage that begins on January 1 has now passed, we're only half way through the six-month open enrollment period. The next big deadline is March 31. If you don’t have insurance by then, you'll be hit with a tax penalty.

 Over these next few months, we’re going to see more outreach both to Americans who can sign up and to Americans who have signed up, and are wondering what’s next -- what’s covered, what isn't, etc. And, we can assume that behind the scenes, there will be more work fixing healthcare.gov and the overall rollout of the healthcare law.

D.C.'s traffic cameras go beyond just red lights

Mon, 2013-12-30 05:22

Drivers in Washington, D.C., today, beware. The city has a new digital dragnet and drivers who block the box, fail to yield to pedestrians, or take overweight trucks onto residential streets could be ticketed at close to 100 new locations throughout the city.

Automated traffic enforcement is so much more than just one camera at a stoplight.  “These are contractors, hired by the cities, to set up the cameras, maintain them and also submit all that data to the police departments,” says Mark Takahashi, automotive editor with Edmunds.com.

And it’s the cost of installing these systems, which can use radar, video cameras and even lasers to track violators, as well as wrangling with the contractors who maintain them, that can be a deterrent. Some cities, Takahashi says, wanted to make intersections safer by extending the duration of the yellow light before it turns red. But he says they were prevented by their contracts with the maintenance firms. “They weren’t allowed to extend that yellow light period,” he says, “because it would impinge on their earnings.”

Takahashi say some cities, like LA, have decided the systems are just too pricey to continue.  

Washington, where new cameras have been flagging drivers with warnings for about a month, will begin issuing tickets for everything from failing to yield to pedestrians to driving oversized vehicles in restricted areas. City officials declined to speak Friday about the program.

Traffic cameras, says Russ Rader with the Insurance Institute for Highway safety, should be about safety, not about revenue. And he says, urban planners should also keep in mind the financial realities the cameras bring. One red light camera, at one intersection, says can run $100,000. So when it comes creating budgets, municipalities should realize the cameras have diminishing returns. “Cities should not depend on camera revenue to fund programs indefinitely. Because as the cameras work, to change driver behavior, the revenue falls,” he says.

But cities are still trying to collect where they can.

John Townsend, public affairs manager for AAA's mid-Atlantic region, says there needs to be greater transparency about the kind of tickets imposed. The cameras are designed, he says, to stop the most serious violations. “This is why you have such a high buy-in rate for these programs,” he notes, but that’s not why most people get tickets. He says in many systems, drivers are flagged for illegal turns or going past an intersection's stop line.

Less than five percent of all crashes in the country occur when people make turns on red, notes Townsend. “If that’s what you’re going to use your device for then tell people,” he says.

Rader says research shows the cameras are have been proven effective at getting drivers to stop running red lights. But Takahashi says that research isn’t solid. While in some cases he agrees that fatalities have dropped, he says the cause isn’t clear. He says, aside from arousing ire in drivers around the country, who voice their annoyance on Twitter, Meetup and Facebook, without a police officer to physically hand out tickets, the cameras simply aren’t strong deterrents. Drivers, he notes, may run a red light, but not receive a ticket in the mail for weeks. Nothing to compare, he says, with that “sinking feeling in your gut when you see a police officer on the other side of the intersection.”

From revolting to revolt: Why is my office this color?

Mon, 2013-12-30 05:13

A REVOLT AGAINST BORING ROWN AND PUKE GREEN

Resist the urge to avert your eyes and take a look at this kitchen

It’s very likely a 40-year-old kitchen.  You can probably tell just by looking. How?

“Avocado Green,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.  “And Harvest Gold.” 

Those were the colors of the 70’s, with a nice helping of brown. “It was all so pervasive in that time,” Eiseman says – without derision, notably.

In the early eighties, the dominant color scheme was mauve, gray, and turquoise. Back then, color trends were virtually “dictatorial,” says Eiseman, “everyone marched to the same drummer.”

Then, consumers revolted. 

“Of course, what happened in the mid 80’s was you couldn’t sell anything avocado or harvest gold because people had really OD’d on that color scheme.”  She says it had a lot to do with women.   

“You had this empowerment of women saying I don’t want to do what’s prescribed anymore, I want to do my own thing -- I’m doing it with my skirt length I’m going to do it with color as well," Eiseman says.

A MOVE TO ORGANIC TRENDS INSPIRED BY FASHION

Trends arise more organically these days, and a major place to start is the runway.

“Designers don’t follow trends, we start them,” says Nicholas Petrou of PetrouMan. At his Bleecker Street showroom, he produces some of the burgundy, ochre and, gold earth tones associated with his next collection, which he calls “Nomad.” 

“Traveling is a big part of who we are today, so many people travel, and nomads are the best example so I’m interested in that.”

If Petrou has successfully hit on a collective cultural nerve, his colors might be seen elsewhere. The measure of a color trend is whether it makes it from the runway into more durable products in the years that follow.   

Jane Harrington Durst manages automotive paints for PPG Industries, which supplies paint for everything from ships to cellphones. “In the late 90s,” she says, “Ralph Lauren made a big splash with dark greens in fashion and interior design, and many of the American Automotive designers [then] had a version of deep hunter green.”

WE’RE MORE COMPLICATED THAN FASHION

Obviously it doesn’t all boil down to fashion. In the 2000s, Apple had a major influence in color trends.  

“That clean white that we saw in a lot of Apple products in the 2000s became really popular," says Dee Schlotter, national color marketing manager for PPG Architectural Coatings. She says Apple captured a spirit of unwinding, serenity, and de-cluttering. “There are a lot of societal influences in why [consumers] react to colors at a certain time,” says Schlotter. 

“During the recession, the colors we saw were all gray -- from walls to pillows to bedding. Even in fashion, we saw gray went into summer, which it doesn’t do.” After the recession, Schlotter says there was a reactive “explosion of color.”

TODAY’S TRENDS AND TREND SPOTTERS

Spotting a color trend and bringing it to market in the modern age is part science and part curation. 

“You still have to give consumers a pattern to follow so to speak, or else there would be mass confusion,” says Pantone’s Eiseman. “So when those of us who are forecasters are working on a  forecast, what we do is think in terms of more than one palette.” 

Forecasters now provide palettes that cater to different predominant attitudes. 

“We are thinking in terms of different lifestyles and how those lifestyles can best be served by certain color combinations and looks," she says.

But that still means looking everywhere to track what color schemes are on the up and up.

“It’s almost like my antennae start to quiver, and I see certain colors on the ascendancy, on the rise. We might see it in a concept car, a high end coffee maker, or it can come from a hot new film.”

Pantone’s color of the year for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. PPG’s is Buttercream Yellow. 

Don’t worry, though.  The Harvest Gold and Avocado Green combo isn’t coming back anytime soon.  

Hey commuters, your taxes are going up next year

Mon, 2013-12-30 05:00

Lots of companies, especially in big cities, have plans that let workers put aside pre-tax money for transit. Starting January 1, a change in the tax code will lower the amount they can put aside by more than 45 percent, costing the heaviest users more than $1,000 a year.  

It amounts to a small cut in public support for transit -- the public policy equivalent of an insult to Mom and apple pie. 

"Taking public transportation is good for everyone," says Robertson Williams from the Tax Policy Center in Washington, DC. "It takes cars off the road. It reduces pollution. It reduces transit times for almost everyone."

So people like Williams get annoyed that this transit tax break gets reduced, but a corresponding break for parking gets a little bump up.

One survey shows the transit benefit does get people on buses and subways:  About a fifth of those who signed up said they’d previously driven to work.

The maximum amount you can set aside is dropping from $245 a month to $130, which some riders may not even notice: A monthly pass on the New York subway only costs $112. People with long rides on commuter trains will feel the hit.

The Association for Commuter Transportation, which is supported by companies that administer the transit-benefit program, wants the tax break extended.  Jason Pavluchuk, a lobbyist for the group, says he doesn't get pushback on policy.  However, getting Congress to act can take heavy lifting.  "People aren’t, you know, marching on Washington to have their transit benefits," he says.

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4