Marketplace on WVTF, RADIO IQ & RADIO IQ w/BBC News
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, June 30, 2015 7:00am
With the Greek public being asked to vote on Sunday to approve or reject the terms of the EU's latest financial bailout, the immediate question is how to keep the economy going between now and then. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about the case before the Supreme Court involving Environmental Protection Agency regulations of power plant emissions. And Police departments all over the country are frantically ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days. But those little cameras are also spreading into a lot of workplaces that have absolutely nothing to do with the police.
Monday, June 29, 2015 6:24am
Puerto Rico is staring down a deadline on July 1st when some of its $72.3 billion in public debt will come due. There’s the $630 million payment on general obligation bonds, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority owes money on its $9 billion debt.
“They’re reaching the Rubicon now and have to decide how to proceed," says Peter Hakim, president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue. "Debts are coming due. They don’t have the money in the bank to pay them.” In an interview with the New York Times, Puerto Rico's Gov. Alejandro García Padilla openly admitted the island is not able to pay its debt.
Moody’s Investors Service has rated Puerto Rico’s debt at CAA2, one of the lowest ratings the agency can give. On a 21 level scale, CAA2 is third from the bottom and considered "junk" status.
“It indicates a high risk of default and significant expected losses for bond holders,” says Ted Hampton, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s.
Moody’s downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt a month ago, driven by disclosures the commonwealth had made about its declining cash reserves and the potential to run out of cash this summer if it couldn’t sell more debt.
“The House of Representatives passed a measure that would suspend the practice of setting aside the money they need to pay future bond service,” Hampton says. "That’s an indicator of severe distress and lack of liquidity, even if that law is not enacted.”
Charles Blitzer, principal at Blitzer Consulting and a former International Monetary Fund official, sees some potential for a turnaround. “I’ve seen many distressed sovereigns suffering from fiscal crises in my career, and I would say this is the most stress for least fundamental reasons,” he says. “This can be solved without too much effort.”
The government raised the sales tax in May from 7 percent to 11.5 percent, though that won’t help with the July 1st deadline as revenues won’t come in until late in July.
While most investors have abandoned the territory, Puerto Rico is negotiating right now with hedge funds for loans to keep its budget afloat.
Some proposals involve raising electricity bills, and one lawmaker has warned of massive furloughs of government workers. This has left Puerto Ricans swimming in uncertainty.
Christina Sumaza is an entrepreneur who moved back to the territory to pursue business interests and fight the exodus of talent from the island. “I try to look at the positive side of things and be solutions oriented, but a lot of people are very, very frustrated and scared even. Can the government sustain itself economically for the next few months? You know, what’s going to happen?”
Puerto Rico’s troubles have several origins. In 2006, a U.S. tax break that incentivized manufacturers to produce in the territory expired.
“At one time about half of all pharmaceuticals used in the U.S. were manufactured in Puerto Rico,” Hakim says. “When Washington decided to phase out that tax-free situation, by the end of it the companies were leaving Puerto Rico, and unemployment jumped very high very quickly.”
Hakim says government leaders in Puerto Rico have not been held accountable for economic management because so much economic power and support derives from Washington.
The territory borrowed to finance current expenditures, and combined with the recession's toll, Puerto Rico found itself having difficulty repaying those debts.
Monday, June 29, 2015 6:00am
Thomas Pietschmann, co-author of the U.N. report, says it is meant as a warning that the world is sitting on vast amounts of opium, not all of which has reached drug users.
That opium could make its way to the streets of Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia over the next few years and increase the number of deaths related to opium and heroin, which is also derived from the opium poppy plant.
The main reason for the increased opium yield is instability in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are pressuring farmers to grow the plant.
"Taliban has used it to fuel many of its activities. It's one of its main sources of revenue," says Michael Kugelman, senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
"Farmers in Afghanistan ... are pressured, intimidated and threatened by violence ... if they don't keep up with poppy production," Kugelman says.
With most foreign troops now out of Afghanistan, especially since the end of 2014, and instability growing, farmers are also increasingly planting opium poppies for their own economic survival.
It is a practice they have employed for decades, despite $8 billion in efforts by the U.S. to reduce opium cultivation. Pietschmann says those efforts in Afghanistan worked, at first, by convincing farmers to plant other crops. Some farmers switched after being shown that they could still make money planting other crops.
"It's a really market-driven approach, but at the same time, really helping and assisting the farmers to change their mindset," Pietschmann says.
But, he says, that approach needs stability, which is something Afghanistan currently lacks.
Monday, June 29, 2015 6:00am
Police departments all over the country are ordering body-cams and dash-cams for their patrol officers these days as they face pressure to monitor how officers treat civilians.
Those tiny video cameras, meanwhile, are spreading into a lot of workplaces that have nothing to do with police officers and guns.
“Hospitals, retail, we’re seeing them in manufacturing, we’re seeing them in every industry,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
The cameras are getting better with technological advances, and they're getting cheaper as more suppliers enter the market. They can be mounted on a dashboard or a helmet, an office door or in the ceiling of a factory. And Bronfenbrenner says companies in industries such as fast food and warehousing sometimes install them where workers congregate to monitor and intimidate union organizers. Plus, she says, “when they’re in the service sector, they’re violating not only the privacy of the worker, they’re violating the privacy of the customer.”
Video monitoring can benefit management and workers, says social psychologist Jack Aiello at Rutgers University — especially in workplaces that require high security, like food and pharmaceutical factories, power plants and commuter trains. “The cameras might be extremely effective to protect goods and people in circumstances where there might be abuse or theft.”
Aiello says so far there aren’t many legal restrictions to videotaping at work. He was an expert witness in a case where workers at a power company were videotaped in a locker room.
“What it did was to completely undermine the relationship that they had with their organization,” he says. “They became paranoid, and some of them were looking behind mirrors and pictures in their houses. People start to feel a Big Brother mentality, that somebody is over my shoulder all the time. And that creates stress.”
Lew Maltby at the National Workrights Institute says video monitoring shouldn’t be over used. But he says it has a place — to protect people in work settings where they may be vulnerable. For instance, video cameras could be used to protect civilians from racially biased police, the elderly from neglectful nurses, and young kids from abusive teachers.
“It’s oppressive to have to work on camera every minute of the day,” Maltby says. “It’s kind of creepy to tape teachers. But there may be a legitimate reason for it. How else are you going to know if the teachers are treating the children the way they should?”
In a novel application, mounted video cameras are being used to make sure fishermen comply with strict rules on catch and by-catch (seafood that’s accidentally caught in nets).
Brad Pettinger has been fishing for groundfish, salmon and abalone off the Pacific Coast for more than 40 years out of Brookings, Oregon, and he directs the Oregon Trawl Commission. He’s installing high-resolution cameras on his boat this summer. “There’ll be sensors on the winches, so when you kick on the hydraulics to set the net, the camera comes on, and it stays on until the vessel returns to port,” he says.
Pettinger says the cameras will take some getting used to. They’ll capture the whole deck: dying fish, tangled nets, cursing fishermen. He says he’s willing to sacrifice some privacy on his vessel to make sure everyone is following the same rules to protect the fishery.
Monday, June 29, 2015 5:54am$72.3 billion
That's the amount of debt facing Puerto Rico, with a deadline of July 1st to pay some of what is due. In an interview with the New York Times, Puerto Rico's Gov. Alejandro García Padilla openly admitted the island is not able to pay. Several factors have contributed to the current situation, including the expiration of a tax break in 2006 that caused many pharmaceutical companies to leave the country, increasing unemployment in its wake.350
At least that many companies filed amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the Washington Post. That legal procedure might have more of an impact, but the real risk for businesses actually came Friday, when they publicly celebrated the ruling on Twitter. As Wonkblog notes, the fact that so many brands risked alienating customers opposed to same-sex marriages says a lot about how public opinion has changed.$8 billion
That's how much the U.S. has pumped into efforts to discourage opium growth in Afghanistan. Yet a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says global opium production is at an all time high, largely because of Afghan farmers increasingly relying on the crop for economic stability. Faced with pressure from the Taliban, who use much of the revenue, the farmers have planted more and more opium poppy plants to meet the demand.780,000
That's about how many commercial janitor businesses there are in the U.S. Nearly all of them are just one person, but a few are huge multibillion dollar corporations. Janitors work alone through the night and are often hired under layers of subcontracting. A yearlong investigation from Reveal, Frontline, Univision, UC Berkley and KQED found the conditions are ripe for exploitation, harassment and sexual abuse from supervisors, and victims are unwilling or unable to speak out.2
The number of markets McDonald's is testing new bike-friendly to-go packaging. The "McBike" is designed to hang from your handlebars and it holds a burger, fry and small drink. Looking for a #HotTake on this bid for young, environmentally conscious fast-food fans? The Verge has you covered.