Every weekday on Marketplace, Kai Ryssdal hosts a lively and unexpected exploration of the day’s business and economic news from Wall Street to your wallet.
The latest figures show a 1% contraction in the first quarter of this year- the economy's worst performance in three years. But should people despair over a poor GDP figure? Why do we place such importance on the GDP? When it comes to assessing the nation's well-being, can you pretty much choose your indicator? Also, Google release a diversity profile of its work force, showing how male-dominated the company is, with few women and even less blacks and Hispanics. How does this revelation matter for the U.S.'s innovation center? Plus, it suddenly seems that everyone wants a piece of Hillshire Brands, the maker of Jimmy Dean sausages and Ballpark hot dogs. Tyson Foods is out with a $6.1 billion bid, a couple days after Pilgrim's Pride made a $5.5 billion offer. We look at why Hillshire has become a hot property.
In a long- awaited report, the Federal Trade Commission today called for consumers to have more control over their personal information. The FTC wants Congress to consider legislation restricting the way data brokers can use the information they gather from "online" and "offline" sources. For example: What consumers buy, their social media activity, magazine subscriptions and political affiliations. In this episode we look at how the data brokers operate. Also, Google recently introduced a prototype for their self-driving vehicle. Generation of Americans have experienced driver's-ed as a rite of passage, sitting behind a wheel while a driving instructor with his own set of controls yells, "Cwutch it! Cwutch it!!!!" (Or maybe not...) Now that Google is developing a second-generation self-guided car with no controls for a human driver to grab, it is possible to imagine a life where people in cars don't even need to know how to drive. ...New York comes to mind. Plus, "The Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn't a galaxy away," says corporate VP of Skype, Gurdeep Pall. And with that, comes the unveiling of new translation software that will work in real-time: "Skype Translator" will be launched later this year. After decades of research, Microsoft has apparently made a "breakthrough" in translation software, so we look at how much of a difference this will make, and the impact on international business.
The online retailer Zappos has done away with traditional job postings, in favor of an internal social network which potential candidates must join. Although Zappos isn't a very traditional company- they did away with job titles last year- we'll look at the challenges companies face when hiring and how that process might be changing. Plus, chicken-producer Pilgrim's Pride is making a hostile takeover bid for sausage supremo, Hillshire Brands. Pilgrim has boasted of wanting to create one big "protein-focused" company. In an age where Walmart style behemoths dominate the grocery sector, food producers like Pilgrim's Pride see the advantage of size as they deal with the chains and seek market share. Climate change is also on the agenda today. As the Obama Administration readies its regualtions of carbon dioxide emissions by existing coal-burning plants, the underlying issue remains economics. If carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced, what is the most efficient means of doing so? Should we make everyone buy new, more energy-efficient cars and appliances? Or should we just address several hundred coal-burning plants that produce 30 percent of the U.S.'s carbon dioxide?
One in three babies are born by Cesarian section in the U.S., but the rates of C-sections vary widely by state, and even by hospital. Gigi Douban reports on how a call by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for fewer C-sections may play out. Meanwhile, Facebook has just announced new gender options. Users can now change their profiles to identify as transgender, transsexual, trans-feminine and many more; there are a lot of options. And for companies, making the choice to recognize, and, even showcase different lifestyles is becoming popular. And, Marketplace guest host David Gura talks about beer and business with Steve Hindy, co-founder of The Brooklyn Brewery.
The president is naming his new pick to be the head of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, currently the San Antonio mayor. And while HUD is something of a giant bureaucracy, it has less influence than you might think over housing in the U.S. We look at the limits of HUD’s power, and the tools HUD has to help the housing recovery. Plus, Hewlett-Packard is cutting thousands more jobs. Is this founder of Silicon Valley at the stage of life where it’s best strategy is cutting jobs to prop up profits as long as it can? Or can it, um, re-invent itself? Also, online retailer Amazon dislikes a book critical of its founder. It now lists the paperback edition of author Brad Stone’s book as unavailable. We explore whether Amazon’s current dominant role in book sales gives it certain responsibilities in terms of evenhandedness.
As Sears Canada today posts its steepest fall in quarterly sales in almost five years, we look at why Canada has proved such a difficult terrain for US businesses. Plus, Unilever is selling its Ragu brand to a Japanese conglomerate, the latest passage for the spaghetti sauce that brought Italian cooking into the mainstream in the U.S. We look at the cultural and culinary history of Italian-American food and its banner sauce (which is in fact a marinara, not a ragout). Also, new census figures say 7 of the 15 fastest growing communities in the U.S. are in Texas – places like Cedar Park, Frisco and San Marcos. But that growth doesn’t necessarily translate to wealth. In San Marcos, the median household income is just $26,000, far less than the state median of $49,000.