Marketplace on RADIO IQ with BBC
Marketplace with host Kai Ryssdal produced and distributed by American Public Media focuses on the latest business news both nationally and internationally, the global economy, and wider events linked to the financial markets.
The only national daily business news program originating from the West Coast, Marketplace is noted for its timely, relevant and accessible coverage of business, economics and personal finance.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 6:06am
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve releases notes from its last Open Market Committee meeting. Usually that’s a time for Fed watchers to comb through the details to try to divine what the Fed may do regarding its promise to raise interest rates. But this time it should be a little different.
The Fed ended that June meeting with a press conference, which takes the wind out of the sails of this batch of meeting minutes. But that’s not really why this release is anticlimactic.
"From three weeks ago, many things have happened," explains Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania.
Siegel says flatlining wage growth and the sudden possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone have thrown fresh instability into the global economy. Some of the Fed’s members may have changed their minds from what they said in mid-June.
"One wonders whether a close reading of those minutes would really give you any valuable tea leaves," Siegel says.
Michael Madowitz, an economist with the Center for American Progress, says he’s curious whether Fed officials are discussing the many possible scenarios of a Greek exit. He says some outcomes might even stimulate the U.S. economy.
"If you’ve got a lot of money flying out of Europe, it’s got to go somewhere. The safe place to go is the U.S.," he says.
Until the Greek crisis is settled, Fed watchers on the lookout for hints of a rate hike will be stuck gazing into a cloudy crystal ball.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 6:00am
The third item in our series? A pair of shoes.
Professional: Sarah Wroth, Corps de Ballet dancer at the Boston Ballet.
Sarah Wroth (foreground) appears in the Boston Ballet production of George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements ©The George Balanchine TrustGene Schiavone
Pro Tool: Freed of London, maker of the L pointe shoes.
Why it's a Pro Tool: "The evolution of a dancer's career is this process of trying to find the exact [shoe] maker that will enable them to dance their absolute best." - Sarah Wroth.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 6:00am
In over a decade since the war on terror started, the use of digital surveillance has exploded, not only in the U.S., but around the world. As malware has seeped into the foundation of national security, surveillance technology has moved further into the private sector.
Marketplace Tech host, Ben Johnson, talked with Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, about the current state of digital surveillance after a major hacking firm was hacked.
Click the media player above to hear host Ben Johnson in conversation with Christopher Soghoian.
Hacking Team is a boutique Italian surveillance technology firm, serving up made-to-order malware solutions for any supported or "not officially supported" regime.
On Sunday, a hacker infiltrated the company's network and published a huge trove of its documents to the tune of 400 GB. Speaking on the extent of the hack, Christopher Soghoian says, "this Hacking Team breach is really just everything. It’s the source code for the malware, for the surveillance software, it’s all the company’s internal emails, its all their invoices, its even their expense reports for their international travel. Everything is there."
While government agencies like the FBI and the NSA likely use custom surveillance software for high value targets, Soghoian points to low cost software as a market in which private companies like Hacking Team profit: "Surveillance companies are providing lower cost, cheaper surveillance software to governments with lower budgets. So, what we’re seeing is the governments with a few hundred thousand dollars can buy this software."
While the low costs enable certain countries to bulk up on malware for cheap, Soghoian believes it may hit closer to home: "What [it] means for Americans is that this technology if it has not already will very soon be trickling down to local and state law enforcement agencies. I would not be surprised to learn at all if local and state law enforcement agencies had also purchased this technology from Hacking Team".
In addition to some of the weaker passwords revealed in the hack, dismantling the hacker's house with the hacker's tools has revealed a disconnect between private interests and governmental regulation. Soghoian says the difficulty of regulating malware is because technology isn't a weapon, as Hacking Team argues. However, he maintains this breach may change the conversation: "I expect that once these documents are made public, I imagine that the U.N. and other governments might take a different view of what hacking team’s software does and what how existing arms control rules might apply to it."
Whether or not Hacking Team can recover from this hack remains to be seen. But if there's one thing to remember, it's don't make your password: Pas$wOrd!
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 6:00am
An American company offering unlimited vacation sounds like an unthinkable fantasy in a country famed for stingy time-off policies compared with other Western countries. But unlimited time off policies are a reality at a small number of American companies. And the results that they’re getting have other businesses taking a look.
Take ZocDoc, a healthcare technology company. Its New York offices have everything one expects from a young tech company these days: a tastefully industrial workspace, free yoga on Thursdays, a casual dress code, a ping pong table and a whole wall of free snacks (though as a health company, the munchies lean more wholesome than typical tech offices). The benefits package includes a time off policy that goes beyond generous: it’s endless.
“Team members can take time off whenever they need it or whenever they want to,” says Netta Samroengraja, CFO and chief people officer. “We feel like we have a much more motivated work force and they’re absolutely much more productive as well while they’re here.”
Asked how much time the average employee takes under an unlimited policy, she has no answer. The company doesn’t even track it. Staffers need to get permission from managers to schedule vacations, but face no limits on how long they’re gone, as long as they get their work done well. The same unlimited, untracked policy applies to sick days and personal days.
Carol Tyger, who works in marketing and took six weeks off last year, says when she explains the company’s policy to family and friends, she gets a mix of naked envy and total awe.
“I get a whole lot of reactions from: do you even work, why would you go to work and how do you get anything done?” she says.
Many managers are skeptical about unlimited time off. But some are curious, says Bruce Elliott, Manager of Compensation and Benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management.
“The first question we always get is: how are employees gonna abuse it?” he says. “That’s really the wrong question because what we do find is that employees don’t abuse this policy.”
Elliott’s numbers show just under 1 percent of American businesses have unlimited vacation policies. But there’s great deal of interest in these companies, as many cite gains in productivity, employee engagement and retention.
ZocDoc definitely isn’t going back.
“Overall, we’re really happy with how it’s turned out and it’s actually a great recruiting tool for us right now,” says Samroengraja.
Monday, July 6, 2015 6:05pm
Genetic data has a lot of medical implications for everyone. Genes can explain your current state of health, your ancestry, even what sorts of diseases you may be more susceptible to.
The DNA service company 23andMe wants to collect all of that valuable data and use it to tell customers more about their health.
"I really believe that we’re trying to do things that democratize health care for people," says Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe CEO.
For $100 and a bit of saliva, anyone can put their information on file with 23andMe and potentially be open to any number of medical advances and studies.
"What other health care product of this level of complexity can you say you can get for $100?" Wojcicki says.
Wojcicki believes that the health care system in the U.S. is fundamentally broken.
"If you look at the history of drug discovery, and you look at the pharma lobbying group, every single year for the last couple decades it has become more inefficient and harder and harder to develop new therapies," she says.
"The reason we started this company is because we believe that genetic information will be the foundation for the next way we deliver health care."
Even though 23andMe is rapidly becoming a storehouse for genetic information, Wojcicki is cognizant of the fear potential clients may have in all of their genomes being on file.
"We do do a lot of partnerships with pharma companies because we feel like that’s in the best interest of the consumer in order to make meaningful discoveries from the data."
Even though she and the company take that responsibility seriously, 23andMe still gives patients the option to leave the service at any time and subsequently have all of their information deleted. And although there are some risks in a business based around people's personal bodily information, Wojcicki remains faithful in the benefits of people being made aware of their genetic information.
"If we can actually decrease the failure rate from nine out of 10 drugs failing in clinical trials and instead have seven out of 10 instead failing, that is a major victory for drug discovery and for people having better therapy," she says.