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Carls Jr. says this is the 'most American' burger

Fri, 2015-05-15 13:00

Just in time for bathing suit season, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have announced a new sandwich, the "Most American Thickburger."

If you are curious as to what constitutes the most American version of a hamburger, it's a huge patty topped with a hot dog and potato chips, all glued together with American cheese. It comes in at a whopping 1,030 calories.

My favorite part of this story is not the culinary peak or valley the sandwich represents, but the fact that, reportedly, it's an idea that Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have had for a long time.

I wonder what was it about now that made them decide to go for it. What happened in that board room that finally made them say yes?

In police killings, numbers are scarce or inaccurate

Fri, 2015-05-15 13:00

Each year police kill a certain number of civilians. And every year the FBI puts out the Supplemental Homicide Report that's meant to provide an accurate count of those deaths. But it doesn't.

"I would rate it somewhere between awful and garbage-worthy," says David Klinger, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri and a retired cop, "It should be thrown out. People should not pay any mind to it."

It is so full of errors says Klinger, "I have described it as garbage, I have described it as a steaming pile of feces."

Three different government agencies have tried to get at the numbers. The Centers for Disease Control puts out a report, and there’s the FBI’s Justifiable Homicide Report. And, until March 2014 when it suspended data collection, the Bureau of Justice Statistics put out a report on arrest-related deaths

Check the data collected by the FBI and you'll see that in 2013, 461 civilians were killed by police. But the data may be off. That's because the information comes from local police agencies that aren't required to send their data to the FBI, so some police departments don’t send data at all. Klinger notes that some agencies say justifiable homicides shouldn't be treated as crimes.

"I have heard some police agencies say 'We’re not going to report this to the FBI because there’s no crime involved,'" Klinger says. 

But another part of the problem comes down to a tiny and seemingly mundane detail: paperwork. Look no further than the form law enforcement officers in Florida have to fill out when anyone in the state is killed. It looks like the kind of paperwork you fill out at a doctor’s office, but it's a form about death, and the categories are a little different. And that, says Gretl Plessinger, spokesperson for Florida’s Department of  Law Enforcement, is the problem. Some of the FBI’s categories and Florida’s catagories don't match.

Florida's Uniform Crime Reports Supplemental Homicide Report

Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement

“We both have a rifle and shotgun code," Plessigner says, "but the FBI has an additional code called 'other gun.' Florida doesn’t have a category called 'other gun.'”

Even though Florida sends its data to the FBI, the FBI isn't using it because the bureau can't compare apples to apples, or in this case, death-by-handgun to death-by-handgun, says Plessinger. While some of Florida’s police departments could easily update their systems to be in sync with the FBI’s, she says, for others, the process would be prohibitively expensive. It would mean buying new software or paying more staff. This same issue is preventing data from police departments around the country from being counted.

"Everyone is not filling out the same form, and that’s part of the problem," says Kevin Strom, director of the policing, security, investigative science program for RTI, a national nonprofit research organization.

RTI did a study with the Bureau of Justice Statistics that found that the FBI’s data is missing more than half of police-involved civilian deaths. Translate that into layman-speak and you have hundreds of people who have been killed by police who aren't being counted. That means the FBI's count of 461 deaths in 2013 could be vastly off.

What is the best way to find out how many civilian deaths have actually occurred?

"Unfortunately, in many places you would have to go to each individual police department and ask them," Strom says of the more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the country.

Getting a uniform system for all those police departments to report their data, says Strom, could be a challenge. In the meantime he says, the current system isn’t working very well, and the FBI agrees.

"Quite frankly, information's limited. It's very limited and it's very, spotty,"says Stephen Morris, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division.

But, he says, fixing the problem is not as easy as it might seem.

“Most people will say, 'Well that's simple, just issue, just make a law, just legislate it," Morris says.       

While the state of Maryland has just introduced legislation to make reporting all officer-involved deaths to the governor’s office mandatory, Oregon and North Carolina are the only other states with similar laws on the books. And, Morris says, even if the federal government made reporting justifiable homicides to the FBI mandatory, it's unlikely it would get willing participants.

“The states and the local agencies, some believe that they can, some believe that they don't have to," Morris says.

The FBI says it’s working on getting better data on deaths involving police, such as how and why the deaths happened. Klinger says if they don’t get the data they need to help them understand the problems, they won’t be able to fix them. He says better data is something everyone, including the police, want to see. 

But to make things even more complicated, Klinger says if we look only at deaths, we’ll miss out on most of the situations where cops decide to use deadly force. That’s because bullets shot by police are more likely to cause injury rather than death, Klinger says.  

"If we focus on the last moment when a police officer is making his or her decision to pull the trigger or to hold fire, we’re missing a huge component of what’s going on," he says.

If we knew more about the way officers behaved before a shooting, says Klinger, we could figure out ways to reduce the number of shootings that occur. Imagine, he says, you’re a cop on patrol. You get a call about a man with a gun. You’re in your police car, and you decide to pull up within 10 or 12 feet of this individual. He brandishes the gun. You end up shooting him.

 “An analysis would say that, 'Well, it’s a legally justified shooting,' and that would be true. But the broader analysis would be, 'Why in the world did you drive a squad car so close to a guy who had a gun?' ” Klinger says.

"Police officers are going to have to shoot people because people do bad things, and some of these people doing bad things who are shot by the police are going to die," Klinger says. "But there are ways we know that we can mitigate the likelihood that a police officer is going to have to shoot. If what we’re doing is just looking at the end point and not what came before, we’re missing an opportunity to train."

Weekly Wrap: consumers, takeovers and Pacific trade

Fri, 2015-05-15 13:00

Joining Adriene to talk about the week's business and economic news are Nela Richardson from Redfin and Cardiff Garcia from FT Alphaville. The big topics this week: a consumer sentiment number decline, fake takeover bids and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. 

What's the hang-up with collecting phone data?

Fri, 2015-05-15 13:00

Congress is trying to decide whether to change the way spy agencies collect bulk phone data on Americans. Earlier this week, the House decided to end government collection of our phone records.

We wondered, what if you did a cost-benefit analysis of all that metadata? Is it worth all the trouble? We’re talking about huge amounts of data here. 

The National Security Agency stores phone company billing information for calls made and received in the U.S. — which numbers called other numbers and when. So what does that cost?  Well, let’s just say in this case, talk is not cheap.

John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State and the libertarian Cato Institute, says it's in excess of $100 million a year.

Mueller got that number by estimating what the phone companies spend to gather and store their billing records, and adding in some extra for the cost of NSA analysis. 

That’s really hard to measure, though, because it’s classified.

“You get sort of a range," Mueller says. "It’s not trillions of dollars, by any means, and so you have fairly substantial money being spent on it."

OK, now the benefit part of our cost-benefit analysis.  A presidential commission has looked into that.

“There’s no benefit,” says Richard Clarke, who worked as a counter-terrorism adviser in the White House and was on the commission. He says all the phone record metadata wasn’t instrumental in preventing any terrorist attacks.

Clarke says the NSA has done its own cost-benefit analysis of its bulk collection of U.S. phone records.

“Some people at NSA told us that if Snowden hadn’t leaked this thing, they probably would have terminated it anyway,” he says, referring to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

So the commission said, "The phone companies already keep these records. Why should the NSA store them, too? Let’s keep them at the phone company. The NSA can get them with a court order." 

“We found that it was useful to have the ability to find out who has contacted whom," says Peter Swire, another member of the commission.  He teaches privacy and cybersecurity at Georgia Tech. "We believed the better way to do it was not a huge government warehouse.”

Swire says phone records may not be instrumental in preventing terrorist attacks, but they can help, so they should be available to the NSA. Just not at the NSA’s fingertips. 

Parents find promise and peril in education technology

Fri, 2015-05-15 11:16
These days, virtually every school in the country is wired, and students are doing everything from class work to homework on laptops and tablets. This hasn't just changed things for teachers and students, it has also changed life for parents.

In a national, online survey, "Parents' Attitudes Toward Educational Technology," Marketplace asked parents of children in grades 3 through 12 for their opinions on tech in the classroom.

Parents say nearly every child uses a computer, tablet, or smartphone for school work, including turning in homework, writing reports, taking tests and playing math and spelling games. In Atlanta, parent Carl Fields says his daughter uses technology in almost every one of her classes.

"She has her own laptop, and everything is done on Google Drive now, so she very rarely has to write anything. It's just primarily all a laptop, computer or tablet," he says.

Daryl Jackson and his wife are raising 11 children in Atlanta. The Marketplace survey shows most parents — about three-fourths — think technology in school will help children in their future careers.

"I think it's a great thing," Jackson says. "I wish I had it back when I was in school, I think I would be a lot more successful than I am now — not that I'm doing too shabby."

Also, the majority of parents — more than 71 percent — say technology has improved the "overall quality of education."

Technology for school has also allowed the helicopter parent to go digital — no more hiding the report card in the bottom of the backpack. Manny Garcia of Los Angeles has a 12-year-old and 16-year-old. Like most parents, he uses tech to track what's happening at school .

"I do check on their grades all the time," he says. "The good thing about that is that they're always good. So I don't worry too much about that."

But some parents are proudly unplugged, like Kerry Martin in Chicago. She says there's not a computer in her home.

"You've got to do it the old-fashioned way," she says. "We don't use the internet for things like math and science. You've got to dig down and get it done."

For all its advantages, technology has also given parents a new set of worries. Beth Sanders is the mother of a third grade student in Washington, D.C., and says she has to monitor her son carefully.

"It's easy for him to just get on YouTube or search for 'Minecraft' videos when he should be doing his work, so I have to stand over him and make sure he's looking at what he's supposed to be looking at," she says.

For Dominique Bell, who has a 11th grade student in a Chicago high school, "auto-correct is the devil," she says. About 40 percent of the parents we surveyed say they worry school tech makes their child too reliant on technology, and only 57 percent say technology for school has improved critical thinking skills.

"It's not teaching them to critically think. If they want to know the answer, they can just Google the answer instead of just actually having to figure it out or rely on themselves," Bell says.

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The Transaction: Hawaii condo

Fri, 2015-05-15 10:50

Marketplace listener Tracy Cambre Morales planned a Hawaii vacation for her 50th birthday.

After meticulously planning the trip for almost a year, the Morales family was excited. The plane tickets were purchased, the condo and car rental were secured, the family was set. Right before the family was supposed to depart, Tracy's mother-in-law got sick, and the doctor gave her two months to live.

The Hawaii trip to was postponed indefinitely. After canceling the plane tickets and the rental car, Tracy was faced with canceling the rented condo, which was not refundable. To her surprise, the condo owner had different plans.

Listen to the Morales' story in the audio player above.

Making food more selfie-friendly

Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

That’s how many people follow Chili’s on Instagram, as of Friday morning, and the chain is sprucing up their dishes to try and attract more. They've started serving fries in stainless steel containers and using burger buns with more visual appeal, Bloomberg reported.


That’s how many Pedialyte sales are attributed to adult consumers. Yep, the electrolyte-filled drink used to re-hydrate kids with stomach flu is being used frequently by adults to cure hangovers and the like.

71 percent

That’s how many parents are saying technology has improved the “overall quality of education” for their child. The data comes from a new Marketplace survey of about 1,000 parents of kids in grades 3 through 12.

3.4 million

That’s how many rural-area addresses Google plans to capture using drones for their Google Maps. Or is it? Take our Silicon Tally quiz to test your tech news savvy. 

$2 billion

That’s how much money the military spent on “urgent humanitarian” needs in Afghanistan. The money was used to “gain support from the locals for both the U.S. military and the nascent Afghan government,” Pro Publica reported. The items include sweaters, prayer beads for Ramadan and healthcare supplies, among other efforts like community radio and a poetry competition.

Sotheby's courts new buyers with an assist from Drake

Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

A Jean-Michel Basquiat painting hangs on a wall in Sotheby’s S2 gallery in New York — two black and red faces in profile on a gray background. On a stand in front of it, an iPad with a pair of Beats by Dre headphones plays a song by ILoveMakonnen.

The pairing is part of a recent show, “I Like It Like This.” While Sotheby’s is best known for its high-end auctions, it sells through gallery exhibitions as well. For this one, curators tapped an unexpected partner: Drake, the Canadian TV actor turned Grammy-winning musician. He selected songs to go with roughly 20 works of art in the show.

The idea is to look at the dialogue between black American art and music, says S2 Director Jackie Wachter.

“You have [Takashi] Murakami doing Kanye West albums, you have Jay Z rapping about Picasso,” Watcher says. “There obviously is this intersection and overlap between the two art forms.”

So what is the dialogue? What do the pairings say? Wachter says they’re just Drake’s interpretations; she didn't ask for explanations, and he didn't say.  

“I sort of think it’ll come out organically here and there,” she says.

To accompany this 2014 painting by artist Kehinde Wiley, “Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Henri, D’Orléans,” Drake chose the song “Multiply” by A$AP Rocky.

Tracey Samuelson/Marketplace

But Wachter is very clear on why Drake makes sense for Sotheby’s: The company is hoping its association with Drake might bring new, younger people in the door.

“We’re just a business that’s trying to grow,” Watcher says. “It’s interesting to look at our numbers and see 'Wow, we really have the same clients every single year.' ”

Plus, Sotheby’s is eager to be seen as cool, says Ben Davis, the national art critic for ArtNet News.

“I really view this as an experiment,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a freakish experiment, like throwing stuff at the wall at seeing what sticks. In this case, like literally just throwing up iPads with music on them and seeing if that amuses people.”

Price tags for the show range from $10,000 to $10 million — songs not included.

PODCAST: Rethinking flood protection

Fri, 2015-05-15 03:00

First up, Netflix is in talks with a Chinese media company about a potential partnership in China. More on that. Plus, how much are your feelings worth? We look at how much is paid for detailed information regarding consumer sentiment. Plus, AquaFence is essentially a removable, reusable temporary wall that hooks into the ground and keeps out water. Since Superstorm Sandy, the number of AquaFences in Manhattan and Brooklyn has gone from zero to 40. Several Boston companies are now investing in the system too. They say it's the answer to East Coast flooding problems that are becoming more frequent because of climate change.

Exclusive survey: Parents weigh in on the digital classroom

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:15

For the last year, our LearningCurve team has been looking at the impact of technology on education. We've talked to students, teachers and ed-tech companies about the digital revolution taking hold in classrooms across the country.

We've explored the promise of individualized learning and the peril of student data-mining. We've delved into the economics of the corporate arms race to outfit the nation’s classrooms, and student interactions with devices and software in lockup.

Now we turn our attention to parents, many of whom have spent the last year exploring the ins-and-outs of educational technology themselves, alongside their children. We wanted to get parents' views of the shift, as their children do more school work on laptops and tablets, and become accustomed to emailing teachers and checking grades online.

In a national, online survey of 1,002 parents of kids in grades 3 through 12 conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide, "Parents' Attitudes Toward Educational Technology," we found parents feel good about the growing use of technology in education, and most think it is improving the quality of education for their children.

Share the survey results using our infographic

Parents also think tech can be especially effective for courses in STEM — subjects like math and science. Most parents also think technology can help level the playing field between rich and poor children, with Hispanic parents especially apt to feel this way. But parents across all income levels and races still have concerns about issues like screen time and technology’s impact on critical thinking.

  • 90 percent of children in grades 3 through 12 have access to use a computer for school work, with most using their own household computer.  
  • 98 percent of children use technology for their school work, including smartphones.

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 

Most parents — 51 percent — think schools are spending the right amount of money on technology in the classroom. About four out of 10 parents would like to see schools spend more.

Parents are also comfortable with the amount of money they spend on educational technology for their own child. Seventy percent say they are spending the right amount on technology for their kid’s school work.

  • 83 percent of parents say their child's school requires students to conduct research online.   
  • 68 percent say technology has increased their ability to help their children with school work. 

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 11

Students from low-income households are required to do fewer educational tasks digitally than their high-income counterparts. For example, 70 percent of high-income students have been asked to turn in assignments online, while only 41 percent of low-income students have submitted work digitally.

Parents name teacher quality and class size as the education issues most important to them — student use of technology for school ranked third. They are also concerned about the amount of standardized testing.

  • 80 percent of parents say tech has made it easier for them to be involved with their child's education.  
  • 78 percent of parents use technology to monitor their child's grades.

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 27

Parents also worry about their child's private information. Seventy-nine percent say they are at least somewhat, very or extremely concerned about the security and privacy of their child’s data. About three-fourths of parents worry about advertisers' access to their children, and the same amount — 72 percent — are concerned their child will find inappropriate content online.

In spite of these worries, parents remain very positive about the potential of the digital classroom. More than 71 percent of parents report technology has improved the “overall quality of education” for their child.

Marketplace/Parents' Attitudes Toward Education Technology, page 23

How much are our feelings worth?

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

“It’s not an exaggeration to say as goes the consumer, so goes the economy,” says Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman Private Banking. That’s why consumer confidence is one of the leading economic indicators, it tells us how consumers feel about the economy and what their expectations are, which are clues on how the economy is doing and where it’s going.

But that consumer survey data isn’t free. At least, not all of it.

“The top line data we release publicly, for anyone to avail themselves of,” says Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, the source of one the Consumer Confidence Index – one of the two most widely known consumer surveys.

While the top line, or general data, is free, if you want to know more it’ll cost you. “What folks are subscribing to then is the more detailed information,” says Franco.

The Conference Board’s subscriptions to its in depth data start at $629 a month. 

That pales in comparison to what the other major source of data charged recently. The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, which creates its Surveys of Consumers, charged Thomson Reuters more than $1 million a year up through 2014. 

That, however, was for exclusive rights to the data. Thomson Reuters with the cooperation of the University supplied the data early to investors who paid extra – on the order of $5000 per month. These subscribers got only a 2 second head start – but that was plenty of time for electronic traders.

Since January of 2015, the University sells its detailed data to Bloomberg, and offers its general data for free simultaneously on its website. While the contract with Bloomberg is not exclusive, Bloomberg is the only one buying the data. The firm ended the practice of selling early access.

Who uses consumer confidence data? 

“It ranges from economists to government agencies to retailers,” says Franco.

Economists such as Kristin Reynolds with consulting firm HIS uses the data in conjunction with troves of other data points in forecasting. “We try to look at a trend and look for changes in the direction of the economy,” she says. 

That’s gold for just about any industry – all from our feelings! 

After Hurricane Sandy, a redesign of flood protection

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

People like to say Superstorm Sandy was a wakeup call. As it approached New York City in October 2012, businesses there had no choice but to rely on an age-old technique.

"Sandbags!,” says Bryan Koop. He's a vice president of Boston Properties, one of the country’s largest owners and developers of office buildings. “I'm pretty sure those were around when the Romans were building buildings."

In the aftermath of Sandy, East Coast companies like Koop’s went in search of new ways to protect themselves from flooding. Since then many have made hefty investments in one particular product: the AquaFence. Boston Properties sustainability Manager, Ben Myers, says it’s the only good option out there.

"We did look at one inflatable solution that wasn't as easily deployed and was inflatable, so it could puncture and – not work,” Myers laughs.

Boston Properties installed an AquaFence system around its signature property, Atlantic Wharf, which sits adjacent to the Boston Harbor. There’s no sign of anything different with the building until a storm approaches. When one does, a few workers pull out the AquaFence’s Ikea-like interchangeable parts from where they’re stored under the building’s parking lot.

"I've heard stories that when Sandy hit New York, there were trucks were stopped, material supplies were commandeered for the emergency response," Myers says. "This is here, it's secure, we're not waiting for sand or supplies to be shipped in from an outside point."

The team anchors each part of the fence to small hooks usually hidden under bricks surrounding the structure. When they’re done, the AquaFence turns the building into a walled city, with one difference: the side of the wall facing out—toward the encroaching storm water—is connected to a series of panels that lie on the ground. Floodwater is supposed to cover those panels on the ground, weighing them down and strengthening the whole AquaFence.

"We can keep this up piecemeal. We can keep our entrances open, we can keep our parking garage open, right until the last minute,” Atlantic Wharf property manager Barrett Cooke says. “We actually have portable staircases that would be strategically placed near our entrance points that are means for people to easily walk across it."

Forty AquaFences have been installed around buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn since Sandy. At a couple hundred thousand dollars each, it’s not a small investment. But the AquaFence’s big selling point is that you can put it up when you need it, fast.

“Eight hundred linear feet of fence—going up in a matter of a couple hours,” Koop marvels.

And it’s all reusable. Adam Goldberg, director of the New Jersey-based AquaFence company, says several AquaFences have been through floods multiple times successfully.

“There’s a grain facility in Hungary that has used the panels four times in four years,” he says.

Goldberg says the product is spreading fast—there are more than 50 in the US and another 20 in other countries.

“We had sales increases of about 200 percent, year over year, for the last three years in the US,” he says. “Last year alone we had over 40 projects.” 

Pedialyte embraces its new customers: revelers

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

Amy Garlit is not afraid to admit it: she sometimes drinks Pedialyte when she's hung over.

“If I know I'm going to have a crazy night out I'll buy some in advance for the next day,” she says.  

Click the player above to see Marketplace staff try Pedialyte for themselves.

Garlit, 30, says she used to drink Gatorade after a big night out—like a pub crawl—to rehydrate. Then a friend turned her on to Pedialyte a couple years ago.

Pedialyte, an electrolyte-filled drink used to rehydrate kids with stomach flu, is now getting traction among lots of adults like Garlit.

Abbott Laboratories, which makes the beverage, says adult use of the drink has increased by 57 percent since 2012. The top reasons for adult use are stomach flu and hang-overs.

“Today we know that more than a third of our sales actually come from that adult use,” says Michelle Zendah, an Abbott spokeswoman.

Zendah says the company is trying to appeal to its new customer base with flavors like strawberry lemonade and orange. Zendah says they’re “a little more appealing than a Grape or a Fruit Punch that a child would prefer.”

A new social media marketing campaign includes quips like Pedialyte goes well "with both red and white." Wine, that is.

“The question is, how do you keep your marketing mix consistent with the two segments,” asks Carlos Torelli, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota. He says some parents might find Pedialyte's new identity hard to swallow.

“Because they don't think that the kids should be drinking something that somebody drinks after a hangover,” he says. “Although it might be chemically the same thing, it might look weird.”

Torrelli says it might make sense for Abbott to have two separately branded drinks. The company says it currently has no such plans.

Video produced by Preditorial

Music: "Royal Banana" Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0



Silicon Tally: The selfie drones are coming

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

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

This week, we're joined by Kristen Bellstrom, senior editor at Fortune Magazine, where she writes The Broadsheet—a daily newsletter about the world’s most powerful women.

Click the media player above to play along with this week's quiz.