Marketplace on WVTF, RADIO IQ & RADIO IQ w/BBC News

Weekdays at 6:00 PM on WVTF and 6:30 PM on RADIO IQ

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. 

Marketplace, weekdays at 6:00 pm on WVTF and 6:30 pm on our RADIO IQ and RADIO IQ With BBC News networks.

Be sure to check out the  Marketplace Morning Report weekdays at 9:51 on RADIO IQ and RADIO IQ With BBC News.

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Program Headlines

  • Thursday, July 9, 2015 6:00am

    The House narrowly passed a bill Wednesday rewriting the federal education law known as the No Child Left Behind Act. No Democrats voted for the measure, which would significantly reduce the role of the federal government in setting education policy and allow federal funding to “follow” low-income students to other schools. 27 Republicans voted against the bill. Meanwhile debate on a bipartisan bill in the Senate is expected to stretch into next week. 

    Many blame the 14-year-old education law for ushering in the era of high-stakes standardized testing as a way to hold schools accountable. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would maintain annual testing in reading and math, but give states more flexibility in how they use test scores and how they deal with low-performing schools.

    "Right now, under existing law, the federal government dictates how they need to respond," says Lanae Erickson Hatalsky with the centrist group Third Way. "Under this law, the states would get to dictate how they’re going to intervene in those schools."

    Civil rights activists worry some states won’t do enough to make sure low-income, disabled, and minority students are learning.

    "Especially among our most vulnerable students, we need to make sure that we know not only how they are performing,” but that states will step in when students are falling behind, says Leticia Bustillos with the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group.

    The Senate bill does address what many see as over-testing in schools. States and districts, which often pile on additional tests, could use federal funds to study how they assess students — and how often. The House adopted an amendment to its bill allowing parents to opt their children out of testing. 

  • Wednesday, July 8, 2015 6:52pm

    Ever since the Shanghai Composite index dropped back in June from a 52-week high, it’s been on a downhill spiral. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was off another 5.9 percent on Wednesday.

    The drop encouraged the Chinese government to step in and invest money into the stock market in hopes it would fix the problem.

    “It’s really kind of dumb and futile,” says Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia. “What’s going to worry me more is if they start intervening in the economy in addition to the stock market.”

    Rothman says the Chinese government’s response to the drop was not surprising — as its responded to similar crisis like this before. But if this decline continues, could it damage China’s economy?  

    “Not many Chinese are actually invested in the market,” Rothman says. “There are only about 50 million active investors [out of] a population of 1.3 billion.”

    And most of those investors, Rothman says, have about 15,000 U.S. dollars in their bank accounts.

    Click the media player above to hear more.

  • Wednesday, July 8, 2015 5:05pm

    Tokeland, Washington — Tom Petersen’s 50-foot crab boat is sitting idly in the Port of Willapa Harbor, a tiny coastal inlet 40 or so miles north of the mouth of the Columbia River. On a normal early summer day, Petersen would be selling Dungeness crab to canneries, big-city buyers and even fresh off the back of his boat to locals and tourists. And he’d be making good money doing it. With crab selling at up to $10 per pound, Petersen could be making thousands of dollars a day.

    But for the past few weeks, Petersen and all the other commercial crabbers who fish this 38-mile stretch of Washington’s coast have been forced to pull up their crab pots. And they’re not alone. Commercial and recreational razor clamming has been shut down in Oregon and parts of Washington, costing local economies millions of dollars. 

    Tom Petersen sits in his 50-foot boat

    Tom Petersen sits in his 50-foot boat

    The unusually warm water and sunny weather this spring contributed to a giant bloom of algae that releases a toxin known as domoic acid. It gets into the food chain via filter feeders like razor clams that can then be eaten by crabs, marine mammals, birds and humans. Too much of the toxin can induce seizures, short-term memory loss and even death.
    The epicenter of the algae bloom appears to be along Washington’s southern coast just north of the mouth of the Columbia River.   

    And as Peterson can attest, the impacts on the multimillion-dollar commercial Dungeness crab fishery have been severe. He was out on his boat, Gail Force, checking his pots when he heard the news that his fishing area was closed.

    “It had been a really slow winter season, and it was just starting to shape up. And about noon that day I got the report that they were closing our season down,” Petersen recalls.
    “I felt like throwing up. I was sick to my stomach.”

    In Washington, the Dungeness crab fishery is worth more than $60 million a year. Oregon’s is roughly the same size, and California’s is even more valuable — close to $200 million annually.

    “Dungeness crab is the single most valuable species fishery on the West Coast,” says Larry Thevik, vice president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association and a crabber for 45 years.

    “If we have more of these episodes, it’s going to be pretty devastating,” Thevik says, adding that he does not disagree with the state’s decision to close 38 miles of the Washington coast to Dungeness crab harvest. “We wouldn’t want to err on the wrong side of the public safety issue and have someone get ill and have that translate into a market crisis.”

    Commercial and recreational razor clam harvesting has been closed in Southern Washington and all of Oregon. Dan Ayres, the coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, says it was not easy to turn people away from the beaches in early May, but the risk was too high.

    “Razor clams tend to bind the toxins in their fat tissue, and they hang onto it for a long time,” Ayres says, adding that the concentrations of domoic acid found in some razor clam samples were more than 10 times above action levels. Oysters and other filter feeders can also be contaminated, though they tend to pass the toxin through their systems more quickly than razor clams.

    A sign advertising crab in Tokeland

    A sign advertising crab in Tokeland 

    Ayres estimates that the lost revenue from the razor clam closure since May could total more than $9 million for Washington’s coastal communities. Commercial razor clam diggers are out roughly $250,000, he says.

    “These are small business men who are living somewhat on the edge, and it’s tough for them,” Ayres says.

    Petersen stands next to hundreds of his crab pots, piled high and dry on the shore near the dock. Several other boats are tied up nearby, but there’s not a soul to be seen in the marina, which would normally be bustling this time of year, Petersen says.

    He’s hoping that the bloom will subside and he and his crew can get back out on the water, but if the toxin levels don’t go down, he could be looking at six months with no crabbing. Petersen’s been doing this for 40 years. He’s paid off his boat. He’ll get by, he says, but his two young crewmen are collecting unemployment.
    “One of them’s trying to make house payments. The other one’s got kids they’re trying to raise, and they’re just all standing on the sidelines now,” he says, looking out over the quiet harbor.

    “When I first started crabbing I got on with this old sea dog and he told me, ‘Tom,’ he says, ‘You gotta really work hard. Every day you miss is a day you’re not gonna make up.’ ”

    This story came to us via EarthFix, the public media collaborative that covers science and the environment in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Wednesday, July 8, 2015 4:59pm

    Just to bring it back home with all the global news of late: the Federal Reserve released the minutes of its most recent meeting today.

    I'm just going to quote them, because Fed minutes are some good reading, I'm here to tell you.

    "Members thus saw economic conditions as continuing to approach those consistent with warranting a start to the normalization of the stance of monetary policy."

    Or, in other words, interest rate hikes are coming before the end of the year.

  • Wednesday, July 8, 2015 4:58pm

    Congress is again asking questions about the nation's federal helium reserve — yep, such a thing exists — after a critical audit in April.

    Sure, helium is used in balloons, and can make your voice sound funny if you inhale it. But there are so many other uses for helium.

    “Computer chips and fiber optics are some big uses now," says Tim Spisak, a senior adviser at the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the reserve. "MRI is a big use.”

    The reserve was first dreamed up about a hundred years ago for the military. Today, Spisak says, private industry uses about half of the helium to cool the magnets in MRIs and purify silicon.

    “It is crucial, because we have no alternative,” says Moses Chan, a professor of physics at Pennsylvania State University who uses helium in his lab. 

    Chan says 20 years ago, he paid $2 for a liter of helium. Today’s price: $8. 

    Martha Morton, director of research instrumentation at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, works with huge magnets and uses helium to cool them. Morton says helium production isn’t keeping up with demand. And ideally, "I would like to see at least some helium reserve just to balance out price spikes,” she says.

    But Congress has told the Bureau of Land Management to get out of the helium business by 2021, selling what’s left in the reserve.