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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.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 2:33pm
Imagine close to the entire population of the U.S. picking up and moving somewhere else.
That’s the scale of China’s urbanization campaign: 250 million farmers moving to the city over the next 15 years. For those Chinese nervous about how this will transform – well, everything - in their country, Premier Li Keqiang told his countrymen this week not to worry: "We will strive to enable everyone has equal opportunity, regardless of whether you come from the city or the countryside," Li said, during his work report at the opening of the annual National People's Congress.
These soothing words – echoing the government’s "Chinese Dream," the theme of leader Xi Jinping’s new China – haven’t made believers of everyone.
In Southwest China, the city of Chongqing is being used as a test case for transitioning rural Chinese to change their residency status to urban residents. The government is persuading millions of farmers there to move to the city. When I ask a group of them, "How’s it going?" I get an earful - dozens of people speaking in the sweeping tones of the Sichuanese dialect yell over each other, complaining in unison.
The voice of Tan Congshu rises above the rest. "In the countryside, we grow our own vegetables and slaughter a pig when we want to eat," she says. "Here, everything costs money. Electricity, water, rent, food…everything!”
Tan just moved from her farm in the village of Wanzhou to this low-rent urban housing project near Chongqing's airport. She says if this is part of a national test, it’s already an epic fail. Dozens of curious onlookers nod in agreement. We’re standing in the shadow of a more than a dozen gray towers, each thirty stories high. The city built them to house more than 50,000 transplants from the farm.
Above the courtyard hangs a red propaganda banner. In white Chinese characters, it reads: “Deepen reform and unleash the power to realize the Chinese Dream!”
It’s sandwiched between banners warning residents about gas leaks and stray dogs.
Many here say they’ve forfeited their farms to the government in exchange for urban residency status, which provides health, retirement and education benefits for their children. But others, like Mrs. Tan, refused to give up their land – Tan's apartment here belongs to her son.
"The government offered me $200 to change my status from a rural to urban resident," Tan says. "They said it would be good for me and that they wouldn't take my land, but I didn’t believe them.”
Chongqing’s government is willing to give rural Chinese access to urban schools and health care, for a price – in many cases, the government wants their land. Many, like Tan, are refusing to part with their land, putting a kink in China’s urbanization plan.
"The issue now is whether or not this can be implemented, and I have a lot of doubts," says Kam Wing Chan, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes his research on China's urbanization campaign.
He says China’s government will have to give better incentives to rural Chinese to persuade them to move to the city – he says the future health of China’s economy depends on this.
"China’s been talking about creating domestic consumption," says Chan, "And now it’s harder because the urban population replacement rate is actually now negative.”
Chan says China’s plan for an urban consumer-based economy is at risk. And even if farmers are persuaded to move to the city, they may not become model consumers.
In the Chongqing district of Xinqiao, I ask another group of urbanized farmers how they like life in the city. Again, a chorus of screaming. It seems everywhere I go in this city, this question causes a social disturbance. Within minutes, two dozen people crowd around my microphone to complain.
Their apartments are older - resident Wang Xueying says they’re in terrible shape. She says most of the farmers haven’t found jobs in the city and do nothing but sit around. “After the local government took our land and demolished our homes, they put us here – but we still had to pay money," complains Wang. "They told us the value of our old homes wasn’t enough to cover the cost of these tiny apartments.”
The Xinqiao government refused interview requests from Marketplace. But the displaced people here say local officials who sold their farmland made a killing. They say the money was embezzled so that party officials could buy luxury cars and fancy apartments. "If this is what urbanization is like," screams one elderly resident, "I’d prefer to leave China altogether."
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 2:19pm
3.2 million passports have been lost or stolen from U.S. citizens since 2004.
That’s a lot of passports!
When a passport is stolen, it can make a circuitous loop around the world via underground criminal markets. Here's how it happens:
The Passport is taken.JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
The Passport makes its way from the petty thief to a wholesale warehouse. There, it will sit in a stack of other stolen passports.Flickr: UKhomeoffice
A passport forger calls the warehouse to say, "I have someone who needs an American passport, got any?"
The warehouse man rummages through the stack, pulls out a passport, and sends it to the forger.PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
The forger will, if necessary, adulterate the image on the passport. He'll run it through a chain of people possibly 10 links long, until it makes its way to the client.Flickr: Hc_07
Someone will buy the fake passport for $200-$7,000. It could be used to get a job, to open a bank account, to launder money, or to get on a plane. As is clear from the Malaysian Air mystery, border patrol does not always check against Interpol lists of stolen or flagged passports.Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images
STEP 6 (optional):
The stolen passport can be used to glean identification information that can then be used to apply for brand new passports – with a criminal’s photo and biometric information attached.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 12:02pm
The White House wants to make more Americans eligible for overtime pay. Currently, because of what is referred to as the Fair Labor Standards Act’s "white collar exemption," many salaried professionals are not entitled to extra pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. Later this week, the president intends to use his executive authority to change those rules. For 2014, which he is calling a "year of action," he has promised to pursue policy changes that do not involve congress. So whom would this change affect? "People who are defined as 'supervisors,'" says Gary Burtless, an economist at The Brookings Institution. "They have responsibility over other people besides themselves, a certain amount of independence."
Plus, it's hard enough measuring the mainstream economy. A new report from the Urban Institute has attempted to quantify the underground commercial sex economy. Researchers say in 2007 it was worth about $975 million, in just in seven U.S. cities. Curious about the business expenses of pimps? Check out their online feature for further insight. The Institute reports that pimps most often recruit sex workers from their own social circles. But the Internet is changing business. Bill Woolf is a detective with the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia. He says most scouting and recruitment of victims by traffickers is now done online.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 10:44am
The White House wants to make more Americans eligible for overtime pay. Currently, because of what is referred to as the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar exemption,” many salaried professionals are not entitled to extra pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.
Later this week, the president intends to use his executive authority to change those rules. For 2014, which he is calling a “year of action,” he has promised to pursue policy changes that do not involve congress.
So whom would this change affect? “People who are defined as ‘supervisors,’” says Gary Burtless, an economist at The Brookings Institution. “They have responsibility over other people besides themselves, a certain amount of independence.”
The economic recovery, Burtless argues, “has been better for profits than wages.” “The government is trying to put its thumb on the scale, helping workers,” he says.
Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow with the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has pushed for this change for more than a decade, since President George W. Bush expanded the exemption in 2004:
“We’re talking about millions of workers who would be newly eligible for overtime pay,” he says.
Critics argue changing the exemption would make it harder for businesses to hire new employees, and it could motivate them to trim their payrolls. In the long run, employers could simply reduce a white-collar supervisor’s base pay, so there would be no difference to his overall salary.
Bill Kilberg, a partner with the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, says he “doesn’t know if it is a good idea.” Kilberg suspects the courts will be asked to decide whether or not a rule change would be constitutional. “They can give it deference or not give it deference.”
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 4:58am
Climatologists in the U.S. and elsewhere are starting to predict a likely El Niño weather pattern in the coming year. That’s when changes in the temperature on the ocean surface in one part of the world create all kinds of unusual weather in lots of other places: rains in Florida, droughts in Australia. What might that mean for global food prices?
"Wait and see," says Scott Shellady, a commodities trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, an executive with Trean Group—and a farmer, growing corn and beans. At this point El Niño’s still a maybe. There’s other, for-sure stuff to factor for farmers to factor in right now, he says—like the prices of seed, fuel and fertilizer. "As much as El Niño gets talked about, if they put it in their business plan, they’ll probably be less profitable," Shellady notes.
El Niño effects are different everywhere—more rain in California, less in India—so the effects on crops vary a lot. Commodities markets smooth out some of the bumps—but not for everyone. Purdue University economist Nelson Villoria says in some places — for instance, parts of Africa — El Niño can mean prices double for staples like rice and corn. That’s because not all countries get their food on big global markets.
"Bangladesh gets rice from India," he says. "It doesn’t matter that rice in Uruguay or Argentina is growing strongly. Bangladesh really cares about what’s happening in India."
GIF: The sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.El Niño is characterized by warm temperatures, which you can see appearing in red regions:NOAA
Here is NOAA's official description of an El Niño and La Niña: "Sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean (above). El Niño is characterized by unusually warm temperatures and La Niña by unusually cool temperatures in the equatorial Pacific."
December 26, 2013