with Kai Ryssdal

About the Program

Public radio's only national series about the global economy and finance takes a broad view of business, covering any story related to money — most of the world's stories are. Hosted by Kai Ryssdal.

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Senate budget battle likely as vote looms
The Senate is expected to take up a budget framework this week. If it passes, the GOP will be one step closer to the tax overhaul it so desperately wants. President Donald Trump promised yesterday in a Rose Garden press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the tax plan is on track. But the outcome of the pending budget vote is far from predictable. Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (10/17/2017)

Can Congress make consumer data safer?
The Senate Banking committee meets today for another hearing about the Equifax data breach. With the major credit reporting agencies woven deeply into the fabric of our financial system, what can Congress actually do here? Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (10/17/2017)

A move from natural gas to electricity for homes
Not long ago natural gas – the fuel that probably gave you your hot shower this morning – was being hailed as the clean “bridge” fuel, because it polluted less than other alternatives. For some purposes it still is, such as when it replaces diesel fuel in buses. But in our homes, some now believe natural gas should be phased out in favor of electric appliances, for climate reasons. “We are going to need to stop using gas appliances like gas water heaters, and gas space heaters and start using more energy efficient electric appliances,” said Rachel Golden, a senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club. There is already a trend to convert from gas to electrical power. One out of every four homes in the U.S. is all-electric, according the most recent survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The trend is strongest in the south. Golden points out that electricity is increasingly made with clean solar and wind. “Right now people understand the benefit of having an electric vehicle, and soon I think they will also understand the benefits of having all-electric homes,” she said. Related Excess solar power in California? Pay Arizona to take it Can America weather a cyber attack on its power grid? When it is burned, or particularly if it leaks out unburned, natural gas contributes to climate change. Dan Thomsen, a contractor who specializes in air quality, said it probably wasn’t optimal to put combustion appliances inside living spaces. Thomsen and several others recommended a type of heating and air conditioning known as heat pumps. He believes the future is electrification of homes. Mauzy Heating Air & Solar, a heat pump vendor and installer in San Diego, also praised heat pumps, but said the company has seen no uptick in sales. It recommends them for people who have solar systems on their roofs, because that electricity is paid for. Sean Armstrong of Redwood Energy, which specializes in all-electric construction, recommends heat pumps for many more situations than just solar homes. He installs them in affordable apartment buildings across California. “A refrigerator uses more electricity for heating and cooling than a heat pump in an apartment,” Armstrong said. But gas utility companies say natural gas helps keep energy affordable. Many people struggle to pay utility bills and cannot risk them going higher.  Gabe Harris, a principal gas analyst with Wood MacKenzie said a switch to electricity for heat or the hot water heater may cost you.“The truth is it is still more expensive than gas in most of the uses that we use it for right now,” he said. When people switch from gas to electricity, sometimes they have to increase the electrical service to the circuit breaker box, another cost. Harris agrees electricity is getting cleaner. But he said putting up wind turbines and solar farms takes fossil fuel, too. They require a lot of concrete, and the energy for making and pouring concrete comes from fossil fuels. Still studies show wind and solar farms tend to make up for that fossil fuel use not too long after they start operating.  (10/17/2017)

The view from Amazon's HQ1 in Seattle is cranes, construction and luxury apartments
Two dozen people zigzag through Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, footsteps crunching on pavement and gravel. A local blog called The Urbanist organized the tour about the history of this neighborhood — the location of Amazon’s first headquarters. In a few years, the view around HQ1 has morphed from low-slung warehouses to tall, modern apartment buildings and cranes that poke out of construction sites around every bend. “It looks like a millennial paradise,” said Seattle resident Anthony Bridgewater, who took the tour. Cities across North America are sending their best pitches to Amazon to host the company’s second headquarters. Seattle is among the cities making a bid, but the city’s residents are split between those who are wringing their hands over the company’s possible expansion in a different location, and those who say “no thanks.” Related Walmart vs. Amazon: Which will win the retail wars? Seattle increasing affordable housing through a bargain with private developers Seattle’s recent changes are dizzying. Just two metrics: in 10 years, the population has increased over 20 percent and the median home price has increased around 50 percent to $730,000. The region is home to a lot of Fortune 500 companies, all driving growth, though Amazon is Seattle’s largest employer. Pam Carter has lived in Seattle for decades. She and her husband recently moved across town after selling to developers who put up a five-story apartment building. “Our house no longer exists,” she said. The tour passes one high rise. Carter remembers when it went up. “You suddenly couldn’t see the Olympic Mountains. And I hated that,” Carter said. Sometimes she gets lost without landmarks­­­ in sight, she said. Terry Franguiadakis moved to Seattle in the '90s. “We felt like it was an empty city,” he said. “There was a lot of parking lots. It was kind of desolate.” Now it gets more vibrant every year, he said, with good restaurants, people living in the city and milling around the streets. “I think it’s great,” Franguiadakis said. But, the city wasn’t prepared for the boom, especially not in the housing market, said Ethan Phelps-Goodman with the organization Seattle Tech 4 Housing. Amazon’s next host should get ready quickly, so low- and middle-income people don’t get priced out, he said. “You're going to need to build abundant housing to go along with all those jobs that are going to stream in, not just for the Amazon employees, but for the restaurant workers, and the baristas, and the security guards, and the many, many jobs that will be created by all the new wealth,” Phelps-Goodman said. According to Amazon, the company’s presence is a boon to Seattle’s economy, and the company gives back to the local community through philanthropy and volunteering. The company will announce the location of its second headquarters next year.   (10/17/2017)

Pretty much all Wi-Fi is vulnerable, security experts reveal
Belgian researchers have identified a vulnerability in the way most of us connect wirelessly to the internet. The weakness even has a name: Krack. If exploited (and luckily that has not yet happened, as far as anyone can tell), information like our credit cards, passwords, basically anything we type is at risk for being seen and stolen. For businesses trying to keep their data and yours safe, this opens up a whole new front in the cybersecurity war.  (10/16/2017)

My Economy: Anxious about medical bills down the road
My Economy tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy. Today’s installment is from Irwin Kwan, a user experience designer in Massachusetts. There are a couple things you hear, especially from people who advocate financial independence. You know, have six months expenses, make sure your expenses are less than your income. And we have that covered. All the costs of health care and disasters — like, God forbid, someone in my family gets cancer, and we have to start paying regular expenses — you don’t know what those costs are. You just know that they’re high. And it’s so high compared to almost anything in your life that you have to pay for. My wife, when she was younger, she had to take an ambulance ride. It was five minutes long, the ride. And the bill from the hospital was over $10,000. She had to fight her insurance to try and get that reduced and reduced and reduced over time, until they finally agreed to a reasonable amount. Your health is really important, and all of this stuff is really important. But you feel like there’s this weird disconnect between the way you pay for insurance and the direct value you get of it. I guess it’s pretty timely, because open enrollment season for insurance is coming up, right? And every year, your employer contacts you and is, like, “these, these, these, these, these things have changed on your insurance." As I get older, I’m going to have to start check-listing these things off. And making sure “this is now covered, that’s not covered anymore... Do I want to do that?” I’m pretty fortunate and I’m worried. I can’t even imagine what people [do] who struggle to get health insurance and then have to struggle to pay for it. It doesn’t seem sustainable. There seems like there has to be a more efficient way. (10/16/2017)

Can a corporate tax cut really boost average household income by $4,000?
The White House released a paper today laying out the argument that a corporate tax cut will give a $4,000 boost to the average household. The studies being used to back up its assertion come from reputable places like the Kansas City Fed and Harvard, although there are plenty of other studies that say otherwise. The merits of the corporate tax cut and who it benefits is setting up to be a battle of the academics over some complex models predicting how companies might behave. So what does recent history tells us companies do? And why does the White House think this time will be different? (10/16/2017)

Rising medical costs may outpace a Social Security cost-of-living raise next year
Social Security benefits will rise 2 percent in 2018 for approximately 61 million older Americans who rely on the benefit. The annual cost-of-living adjustment is based on the third-quarter Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers. The COLA hasn’t been as high as 2 percent since 2011; it rose 0.3 percent this year and didn't increase at all in 2016. Low inflation in recent years has helped seniors financially, since many are on fixed incomes. But the rate of inflation in the health care sector has exceeded overall consumer price inflation in recent years. And that’s a challenge for older Americans, who typically spend a greater percentage of their annual budget on health care than younger people. Annual CPI calculations may also fail to capture a significant driver of health care inflation — the introduction of new, high-priced drugs, medical devices and procedures that can’t easily be compared to a similar health care expenditure in the previous year’s CPI data.   (10/16/2017)

This California neighborhood was exempt from fire rules. Now much of it is in ashes.
Over the past week, Northern California has seen some horrific fires blaze across its neighborhoods. One of the remarkable things about those fires, in addition to their speed and the scale of the destruction, is what buildings burned and where those buildings were. The Tubbs Fire, which hit the city of Santa Rosa, has burned more than 35,000 acres. It was 70 percent contained as of today, according to Cal Fire. However, many of the homes that burned down were not on the official maps that show the places most at risk of wildfire in the area.  Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Doug Smith, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, about his article on Coffey Park, a neighborhood in Sonoma County, and how its residents had every reason to believe their homes were not at high risk of wildfires. To hear the interview, click on the audio player above. (10/16/2017)

California law relaxes backyard building rules to ease the housing crisis
Ira Belgrade had been a Hollywood talent manager for decades when his wife, who was also his business partner, died suddenly from Lyme disease.  “I fell apart, my business fell apart,” Belgrade said.  “How was I going to tell my 2 1/2-year-old, 'Now we’ve got to move, you can’t have that bedroom anymore'? I didn’t want to do that.”That’s when Belgrade decided to turn his detached home office, which had once been a garage, into a two-bedroom rental apartment known as an "accessory dwelling unit," granny flat or backyard home. “And that would absolutely help me pay my mortgage,” Belgrade said.But when he brought this idea to the city for permits, it said no. Under Los Angeles’ strict regulations, Belgrade’s lot was too small, the unit was too close to the main house and it needed covered parking. “So I just said 'F 'em, I’m doing it,' ” Belgrade said. “And I did, and it worked out great.” That is, until someone reported him. After an inspection and fine, Belgrade was told to get legal, he’d have to make changes to the tune of $50,000. That left him in limbo until he heard about a state lawmaker pushing reform in Sacramento. Turns out, planners had begun to see backyard structures — from converted garages to full freestanding houses — as a solution to the housing crisis. “There’s a lot of free land in the city, and it’s in people’s backyards,” said Dana Cuff, director of UCLA’s CityLab. The think tank has been studying the issue for a decade. LA has miles and miles of single-family homes, each with a backyard. By relaxing backyard homebuilding rules, Cuff says cities can boost affordable housing stock without spending any money. And families can turn their garages and backyards into sources of income. “Basically, it puts the growth of the city in the hands of individual property owners, so they get the benefits,” Cuff said. Cuff wrote the California bill to relax those tough requirements and fees for backyard homes. It became law this year. And while local zoning and safety laws still apply, it’s much easier to become a backyard landlord. There are critics, of course, including those who worry increased backyard home development will increase traffic and exacerbate parking problems. Valid concerns in LA, but backyard homes should pop up gradually, giving time for communities to respond, Cuff said. Meanwhile, the private sector is taking notice. “There couldn’t be a better time to get into this,” said Alexis Rivas, CEO of the company Cover, which designs, builds and installs prefabricated backyard dwellings. It placed its first home last week. “It’s a huge market,” Rivas said. “There’s over half a million single-family homes in Los Angeles with backyards that have potential for a structure like this.” Rivas plans to produce 150 homes per year from his LA factory. He said a one-bedroom backyard home ranges in price from about $100,000 to $400,000, depending on the design and materials used. Rivas isn’t the only one who sees a business opportunity here. After waiting seven years, Ira Belgrade said his backyard home was the first in LA legalized under the new law, and now he’s started a consulting business to help others get their backyard homes approved. The company is called YIMBY LA, or Yes In My Backyard Los Angeles.“I know what it did for me,” Belgrade said. “I know how it helped me.” The process still takes some time, money and know-how, Belgrade said. But with the law finally on his side, it’s much easier than his first time around. (10/16/2017)

Colin Kaepernick says the NFL colluded against him
Colin Kaepernick — the football player who started kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice — has now filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing its teams of colluding against him. He opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March, and no team has signed him despite a strong season last year. That's led to speculation in the sports community that he’s been blackballed by the NFL because of his political activism. In August of last year, Kaepernick said he refused to stand for the national anthem because of racial inequality that exists in the U.S.  "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." Back in September, hundreds of football players, coaches and NFL owners engaged in their own forms of protest (which included kneeling) after Donald Trump called on NFL owners to fire football players who do not stand during the pledge of allegiance. The NFL is bound by a collective bargaining agreement, which mandates that Kaepernick's case be handled through arbitration. It'll be up to Kaepernick show evidence of collusion and prove that the teams actively conspired against him. It’s not enough to point out that he’s a talented player and hasn’t been signed — the collective bargaining agreement actually says that explicitly. Kaepernick and his team have to meet a higher level of proof.  Kaepernick’s hired Mark Geragos, a high-profile lawyer who said in a tweet that they filed a grievance after exhausting all other options with the teams.  Geragos & Geragos official statement on @Kaepernick7 who we are proud to represent — Mark Geragos (@markgeragos) October 16, 2017 Related The NFL vs. Trump: Can you be fired for a peaceful protest? The First Amendment won't protect you from saying something your company doesn't like NFL players lobby Congress for criminal justice reform (10/16/2017)

New device detects texting while driving, but is it legal?
In 2011, Ben Lieberman got the call every parent dreads. His college age son had been in a car accident and later died. Lieberman was told the driver fell asleep at the wheel. But the accident happened during rush hour – on a windy road. So Lieberman wondered if the driver had been texting but says he was shocked at how difficult that can be to investigate.  “I learned the hard way that there’s really no system in place right now," he said.  It took Lieberman six months in court to get the driver’s phone records. But phone records don’t show as much as you might think. CTIA, a trade association that represents the wireless industry, says operators can see when a data session is conducted, but it's difficult to distinguish what that information is. Phone records don’t show when specific apps like Snapchat or Instagram are used. “Saying get the phone records is like saying take a Breathalyzer test, it only detects tequila,” said Lieberman.  But there is no Breathalyzer for cell phones. Distracted driving — when drivers eat, put on makeup or text — causes more than 3,000 deaths a year. The National Highway Traffic Administration says it also costs $46 billion annually for everything from injuries to vehicle repairs, and of course, lost productivity due to death. With the exception of Montana and Arizona, texting while driving is illegal in every state, but unless police catch you in the act, it can be very hard to prove. Related What are tech companies doing to stop distracted driving? Self-driving car makers haven't perfected a key piece of tech Lieberman became an activist, talking to legislators, police and tech companies like Cellebrite. The company developed a prototype called the Textalyzer, a tablet about the size of an iPad that police can plug into a driver’s phone. Software scans the phone’s system logs and pulls up a list of activity. Pricing has yet to be determined but the company says police departments would likely need to buy a device, and a subscription – for upgrades and support. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the state’s Traffic Safety Committee to review the technology and Chicago’s Public Safety Committee will be reviewing legislation that would introduce its use. But similar legislation is stalled in Tennessee. The Textalyzer would allow police to scan driver's phones without a warrant, but wouldn't show content. "This doesn't show any phone numbers, doesn't show any conversations. It doesn't show any pictures," said Lieberman.  While Lieberman and Cellebrite point out that the device will not show activity, such as Facebook pages or Instagram posts, privacy experts say they have big concerns. “There are a lot of questions about this Textalyzer app. What exactly does it do? What exactly does it look at?" said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU.  Notes Stanley, the Textalzyer violates our constitutional rights.  “For centuries, we've had a very clear legal framework by which government agents access extremely private sources of information about us, and that's the warrant, based on probable cause," said Stanley. Stanley said police can search you without a warrant if you’re arrested. But your phone is different. So just pulling up a list of apps we use for anything from religious or sexual interests would be intrusive. Hannah Bloch-Wehba, who teaches media law at Yale, agrees. The issue here, she said, is that just looking at activity on your phone is a search. "The analogy is sort of like if the police were to come and open your file cabinet and look at all of the titles of the files in the cabinet but weren't to look at the contents of those files," she said.  "Opening the cabinet is itself the search. So plugging in the Textalyzer there is the search. And it doesn't matter whether the police look at the content or the activity on the phone. They've still searched the phone by plugging in the device." Ben Lieberman said he disagrees with Bloch-Wehba's interpretation of the law. But he says, regardless, the Textalyzer is just a prototype. It can be changed. In New York, where the Traffic Safety Committee is reviewing the technology, the state wants to get feedback from drivers this fall.  (10/16/2017)

Chinese internet giant Alibaba looks to scoop up global talent in $15 billion R&D expansion
Chinese internet giant Alibaba is taking a big step toward competing globally. It plans to more than double spending on research and development to $15 billion over the next three years, and will open labs in seven cities around the world, including in Russia, Singapore and in the U.S. But can its dominance of the Chinese market translate into international success? Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (10/16/2017)

How Apple and Android took over the smartphone market
Microsoft recently confirmed that its Windows Phone operating system is over and done. That means when it's time to buy a new smartphone, there are basically only two operating systems a consumer can choose from: iOS or Android. The two have a sort of duopoly on the smartphone market. Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, and a little over a year later Google unveiled its first Android phone. The big smartphone battle has mostly remained between the two platforms ever since. It might simply be because they were the biggest initial innovators in the market. "It's almost like this competition is playing out at a different level," said Julie Ask, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "And the reason Apple and Google are becoming so good is because they're investing so much in technology and hiring so much talent around artificial intelligence and augmented reality and virtual reality, and what's going to be the next generation of experiences. It's almost as if some of these other players can't compete for that talent." New York City resident Charlie Bruem, 31, said he picked the iPhone simply because it was the first option on the market. He's been an Apple user ever since. But he would like to see other options. "Competition would make prices better. The fact that this iPhone X is going to be $1,000 is pretty ridiculous. The more competition, the cheaper the prices," he said. Related The iPhone's influence goes way beyond the smartphone market How Apple's technology affects the smartphone repair business Analyst Ask said that most users are like Bruem, and that once they pick an operating system, they won't switch to the other. But that's not the case for everyone. Colleen Burke is 25 and has been an Android user for four years, but has thinking about switching back to the iPhone, mostly because of fear of missing out. "My friends give me a hard time because they see the green message on their iPhones, and I'm ready to stop hearing those hate texts," she said. Her 32-year-old sister, Christine Burke, has an iPhone because her employer requires it for work, and she doesn't like it. She's ready for a new player to step into the market.  "I think Apple has gotten pretty complacent with their forward thinking," she said. "And I don't find Apple to be as intuitive." So what would have to happen for other companies to actually break into the smartphone game? "Consumers are buying these devices based on the quality of the communication," Ask said. "Now it's on apps, but what is that thing that could come next that becomes more compelling for consumers than what these existing players are giving them?" There could also be a market for lower-tech phones, or at least there was some nostalgia among the people interviewed. They miss the durability of phones that aren't made of glass, the text-friendly keyboards and everyone's favorite Nokia game, Snake. (10/16/2017)

The cost of being a DACA recipient
This week President Donald Trump sent Congress a sweeping list of immigration demands, including the building of a border wall in exchange for an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, as it is known, was created to shield immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. And it gives them work permits. But to be one of the 800,000 current DACA recipients, you've got to pay up, $495 to be exact. Marketplace Weekend spoke to Doris Meissner, senior fellow and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, to find out more about DACA fees. An edited transcript of their conversation follows. Lizzie O'Leary: So DACA recipients pay fees. Where does the money from those fees go? Doris Meissner: Well, the money from the fees goes to an agency called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. That processes their applications and the cost of doing the fingerprints, the cost of producing the card, the work authorization card, those are all costs that figure in the calculation. Different kinds of applications are set at different price levels. O'Leary: You know, one of the things that struck us when we went out and started talking to DACA recipients, we learned about the cost — runs about 500 bucks to apply for DACA. How do they figure out that that was what they were going to charge? Meissner: Well, there is a government regulation that determines, that guides agencies in determining how much they will charge for services, like deciding this application. And that regulation requires that they'd set the fee with what their actual costs are as an agency for handling the application. But the idea is that this is to be a process and this has to be an agency that operates as close to how a business would as any kind of a government entity could. So they are to charge what their cost of business is. O'Leary: Well, USCIS, you know, it wasn't always funded by fees. How did this happen? Meissner: Well, this happened in the 1980s. It was, earlier than that, funded through the federal budget and typically, because immigration didn't have a large constituency and for these kinds of things actually still doesn't, because these are not people who vote, it was always shortchanged. So it tried to gain the status to be a fee-based agency and that was granted by Congress sometime in the 1980s. But when it became a fee-based agency — that tends to be the terminology that's used — that is something that agencies like USCIS want, because it meant that they had an assured revenue source, and they did not have to compete in the same way against other agencies. So it actually has been a real improvement in the immigration system, because it does mean that the agency is able to support itself. O'Leary: You know, when I think about something like, say, DACA that both brings in money, and I would imagine if, you know, we moved toward the end of DACA, that's going to take money away. But how do you get a program off its feet then, say, suddenly DACA's put in by executive order. And yet you got to make everything happen. How do you make everything happen if you haven't gotten the fees yet? Meissner: That's, of course, one of the problems is that, you know, where does an agency get the upfront money in order to invest in the processes that are required for a new program? That was particularly difficult with DACA, because Congress can, if it's supportive of a particular program, allow for upfront funding. But it did not do that with DACA, because it didn't approve of DACA, and that meant that the agency had to shift its personnel around in ways that made them available. That meant that almost by definition, there became delays in some other parts of the immigration system where people didn't get their applications decided as quickly. So there's a real juggling act that comes along with this kind of a fee-based system. O'Leary: Well, if DACA goes away, what happens to the money that those fees have been bringing in? Meissner: Well, that money, of course, won't be there, but they will have facilities most likely that they have been paying for and the contractors that are generating the identification documents, the work authorization documents. So all of that will have to be adjusted, but for a while, that will be a problem for the agency to adjust. O'Leary: You know, we have so many conversations on this show about budgets and federal budgets and Congress holding the purse strings for different things. You know, since this is a completely different model, I'm just curious, do you think it's a good one? Meissner: When it came about, it was a lifesaver. And I think by and large, that's proven to be the case. There definitely are hiccup times, like DACA, when there's a disagreement between the executive branch and the legislative branch, and the legislative branch is somewhat punishing in the way that it deals with the revenue. But overall, it has meant a real improvement in the immigration system. O'Leary: How do you think that serves immigrants? You know, some people will have the money to pay these fees, some people won't. Meissner: There is a bigger argument that you're suggesting, I think, and that is whether in fact this is a public good as compared to an individual good. I mean, the philosophy, of course, has been that this is a service that gives that private individual a good, therefore the individual should pay for whatever it costs. You know, the counter argument is that it's in the public interest. That argument is still out there but it is not one that has a strong following at all, and it certainly isn't one that budgeteers have accepted or taken seriously for a very long time. (10/13/2017)

Trump delivers another blow to Obamacare
And this one lands directly on the insurance industry, for now. The president cut payments to insurers that go toward subsidies for low-income people who buy policies on the health care exchanges. Those so-called cost-sharing reductions were worth billions to the insurance industry. So what will it do now?  (10/13/2017)

To win support for corporate tax reform, Trump promises a $4000 “pay raise”
To sell his tax plan, President Donald Trump is trying to send a message to ordinary Americans: that cutting corporate taxes will benefit them too. During a speech this week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in front of a crowd of truckers, he claimed that by allowing companies to bring back overseas money at a low tax rate, the typical American household will benefit by getting a "pay raise" of about $4000.  What’s behind the claim – and is it likely? To hear the full story, click on the audio player above.Related The GOP tax plan has fewer tax brackets and bigger deductions, but is light on details 2017 is no 1986 when it comes to tax reform (10/13/2017)

Trump won't certify Iran deal
President Donald Trump announced today he won't certify Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. The decision had been flagged in advance by administration officials. The next move is up to Congress. It has 60 days to decide whether or not to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the 2015 deal. Any decision to reimpose the sanctions wouldn't go down well with our allies across the Atlantic. (10/13/2017)

Do nondisclosure agreements protect sexual abusers?
Hollywood is struggling to come to terms with the Harvey Weinstein scandal. More women have come forward with more allegations and named other big names. But it’s not just entertainment where payoffs happen to keep people quiet. What role do nondisclosure agreements play in shielding sexual abusers? (10/13/2017)

Schools have become the latest target of cyberattacks
An entire school district in Flathead Valley, Montana, shut down for days after hackers targeted several schools, sending death threats to students and staff, and threatening to release sensitive personal information unless a ransom was paid in the online currency bitcoin. More than 30 schools and a community college closed for three days, affecting over 17,500 students.For Superintendent Steve Bradshaw, it all started with a text message from an unknown number."I got a very threatening message," said Bradshaw, head of schools in Columbia Falls, Montana. "It said something to the effect that I wasn't going to see him coming and that I would pay. It was fairly threatening."And that was just the beginning. Soon, threatening text messages spread across the Flathead Valley to school staff, parents and students. Messages with explicit threats to students."That they were going to splatter the blood of our children all over the hallways and things like that," Bradshaw said. "Fairly, fairly dark messages." At that point, Bradshaw and other school officials in the area made a decision: Close the schools.And as threatening messages continued to spread, people in the rural Montana area had two questions on their mind: Who is this? And why are they doing it?"It had me bothered enough that I actually had my shotgun in the bedroom," Bradshaw said. "I've never done that before."School was then cancelled for a total of three days. Activities were cancelled over the weekend. And over at the local paper, things were in a flurry.The suspects"As a reporter, I was investigating and reporting on this, too," said Dillon Tabish, a reporter for the local Flathead Beacon newspaper. "And we actually got contacted by the suspects." Tabish began an electronic message interview with the suspects. "And kind of unfortunately got to see the kind of gruesome stuff that they were saying," Tabish said.From the Flathead Beacon:The individual said on multiple occasions in various ways that he or she intended to kill people in large numbers. The suspect said they were heavily armed with “extensive training.”“If you know anything about military weapons … it should scare your region,” the person said.When asked again why he or she was targeting the Flathead Valley, they responded that they wanted to scare people and harm as many people as possible.“I wanted the public to exist in a state of fear before I make my move. This will allow the government protecting your children to look poorly in the light of the public,” the suspect said.The individual later elaborated, “The quaint, small, backwoods region of the US like yours is prime hunting grounds. This incident is the last thing you will expect to happen here.”Soon, authorities linked the source of the threats to an overseas hacking organization that identifies itself as TheDarkOverlord Solutions. Authorities tied that group to high-profile hacking incidents, including a breach of Netflix.The group sent a ransom letter to members of the Columbia Falls school board and superintendent, demanding payment in bitcoin. Otherwise, they threatened to release sensitive personal information hacked from school servers.In the letter, the group laid out three ways the district could pay the bitcoin ransom: in one lump sum at a certain rate over a year, or at lesser rate over six months if a school staff member agreed to "write us a five-page essay about his personal experience and emotions throughout this ordeal."Why target a school?The Montana school district didn't pay the ransom. The FBI and other law enforcement continue to investigate that case. The district is beefing up its cybersecurity. And, after three days, classes resumed at schools across the Flathead Valley.But they're not alone. Schools in Texas, Iowa and Alabama also say they have been hacked by The DarkOverlordSolutions.Which raises the question: Why target a school?"They just sit on a wealth of information," said Michael Kaiser, executive director at National Cyber Security Alliance. "If you think of what a school has about the students, the parents, the teachers. It's an incredible amount of data which is incredibly valuable to cyber criminals."And beyond that, cash-strapped schools might not have the best resources to protect that data."I think, you know, there's also a mistake that sometimes schools may make, which is they think, 'Oh, well, why would I be a target?' " Kaiser said. "And I think they have to understand that they're not always being targeted directly."Often hackers send out wide phishing scams. All it may take is for someone to click on a link."Sometimes people think, 'Oh, I'm not going to be targeted' but they need to understand they're not always targeted," Kaiser said. "Sometimes they're just being swept up." To listen to the full story, tune in using the audio player above. (10/13/2017)

What happens when the economic census is late
What you don't know can indeed hurt you, economically. Every five years, the government surveys businesses in what's called the Economic Census of the United States. That census should be happening right now but it's not, due to a few different reasons. Danny Vinik, the assistant editor at Politico's "The Agenda," has the story on this — and it's appropriately titled "Is Washington bungling the Census?""People aren't ready to say we're in a crisis quite yet," Vinik said in an interview with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. "But the lack of funding is really, really costing the Census Bureau right now. They're just having a lot of trouble actually funding a lot of the preparations they need."Due to this, the Economic Census, which was supposed to start in January, has been pushed back. And that means the many people, business, and policymakers who could use that up-to-date information are going to have to wait.To listen to the full interview, use the media player above.  (10/13/2017)

Deportations trouble Texas schools
Texas has a new “sanctuary cities” law called SB4. Opponents call it the “show me your papers” law because now cops can ask for a person’s “papers,” or proof of their immigration status. And if the person is an unauthorized immigrant, it is likely a simple traffic stop could unleash deportation procedures. The fear of deportations extends to public schools because they could lose millions. But how many millions? Well, it’s not clear, because in Texas, school officials don’t know how many students are unauthorized. Therefore, they don’t know how many could face deportation. Michael Williams, the past commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, said that’s because since 1982, K-12th students have been covered by the Equal Protection Clause. “There’s a United States Supreme Court case,” Williams said, “that prohibits school officials from asking any student what their immigration status is.” According to the Pew Research Center, 13 percent of schoolchildren in Texas have parents who are unauthorized — a total of about 737,000 kids or more than the entire population of El Paso. Related With DACA's future uncertain, one young recipient pushes ahead with his business dreams The cost of being a DACA recipient When parents are deported, they often bring their school-age children with them, even if the children are U.S.-born Americans. And if children leave, Texas schools lose an average of about $8,000 in federal and state money for every student. Special categories of students represent even more. Former Texas Education Commissioner Williams said if eight children were to leave a campus, $64,000 would be gone. “That’s about what you pay a teacher,” he said. “[And] that could have real financial consequences.” For the moment, Texas is holding back on the “show me your papers” law in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, but deportations from other states continue. And most people who are deported are from Mexico. Ricardo Sánchez Carrillo is with Mexico’s Department of Bilingual Education. He said when American kids arrive in Mexico with their deported parents, they struggle to integrate into the classrooms for several reasons. He spoke in Spanish when he said the children miss their everyday lives, including the food. But they also “face discrimination because they don’t speak Spanish, and their psychological trauma is huge after their deportation or their parents’ deportation.” This year alone, officials in Mexico expect about 5,000 kids to arrive from across the United States with their deported parents.  (10/13/2017)

Will Congress pass any big legislation in 2017?
Rachel Abrams of The New York Times and Fortune's Leigh Gallagher join Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal to discuss this week's business and economic news. President Donald Trump has been making a lot of bombastic statements asking Congress to pass legislation, but so far, it hasn't been able to deliver. It's not looking good for Congress to pass tax reform or any other major legislation by the end of the year, which could dramatically impact midterm election results. And despite Trump's promises for economic growth, the IMF forecasts the U.S. economy will grow by about 2 percent, which lags behind the global projection for 3.6 percent growth.  (10/13/2017)

Why it's so hard to qualify as a dog walker
Laine Higgins wanted to earn some extra cash. So she applied for a job as a dog walker in New York City with one of the many on-demand dog-walking services. And was denied. "I got one question wrong on the safety test, and I think what did me in was all of the questions they have about harnesses. So to their credit, they're very thorough." Higgins isn't alone. According to her report in the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle based pet-care app Rover accepts just 15 percent of applicants. For Wag!, the acceptance rate is 5 percent. Marketplace Weekend's Lizzie O'Leary spoke with Higgins about the U.S. dog walker market and the challenges of becoming part of the pack.   (10/13/2017)

Beer, big screen TVs and the Dodgers
Fall sports are in full swing. Football season began last month, hockey kicked off last week, basketball begins soon and playoff baseball has fans riveted. And lots of people will be watching from sports bars instead of the couch. This is perhaps especially true in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers are in the playoffs, but the team's exclusive deal with Spectrum cable has prevented many fans from watching the games at home. The deal has been great for business at bars with a swanky sports package and a big screen, like Mohawk Bend in Los Angeles. The bar is just minutes away from Dodger stadium, and beverage director Thom Sigsby says the pub is crowded at this time of year with sports fans. To listen to the full story, tune in using the audio player above. (10/13/2017)

An empire built on fame reaches a 10-year milestone
Say what you want about the Kardashians. Whether you watch their reality television show or not, it’s unlikely that you haven’t heard of them. The family, famous for being famous, has reached the decade milestone of coming into millions of homes, notwithstanding their fans who follow every move they make on social media. Even if the show ends, the Kardashian brand likely won’t.Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (10/13/2017)

Trump to cut off federal subsidies to health insurers under Obamacare
The White House announced late Thursday that the administration will stop making cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers to subsidize health insurance plans they offer to low-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act.The action came just after a set of other regulatory changes were announced relaxing the rules and required benefits for health plans under Obamacare.President Trump’s action on the cost-sharing reduction payments could rapidly upset the insurance market — specifically the individual market, where insurers count on the subsidies to afford to offer policies to people eligible for financial assistance.The cost-sharing reduction payments were expected to total about $9 billion for 2017, and $100 billion over the next decade.Cost-sharing reduction payments provide taxpayer dollars to insurers, so insurers can offer health plans on the ACA exchanges to people earning from 100 percent to 250 percent of the poverty level. The subsidies lower their out-of-pocket co-pays and deductibles."Essentially, this is going back to the pre-ACA world, where you don't have to cover things like prescription drugs. The requirements in terms of pre-existing condition exclusions are now up in the air," said Benjamin Sommers, an associate professor of health policy and economics at Harvard University.Related This cancer patient is devoting his life to making drugs more affordable HHS documents show Obamacare marketing was working in 2016 In other words, Sommers said, this is a good thing if you're young and healthy, and don't want comprehensive health insurance. But for older adults, people with chronic conditions, and those who want coverage for prescription drugs and mental health — this is not a good thing. "This will undermine a lot of the gains over the past four years," he added.Trump administration health officials said that based on an opinion from the Justice Department, the payments are improper and will end immediately.When people start signing up for ACA insurance in a few weeks, they may see premiums and co-pays listed for 2018 coverage that are based on the cost-sharing reduction payments continuing to be paid by the Trump administration.However, if insurers aren’t getting paid anymore, they could face significantly higher costs, and financial losses.Halting the payments could cause insurers to raise some customers’ premiums on the exchanges next year to make up the lost money, or to withdraw from the individual market and Obamacare exchanges altogether.According to Consumer Reports, nearly 6 million Americans — more than half of those who buy their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges — have been benefiting from the cost-sharing reduction payments subsidies until now, through significantly lower co-pays and deductibles. A separate subsidy that funds tax breaks for low- and middle-income people to make their Obamacare insurance premiums more affordable is not affected by the Trump administration decision on cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers.  (10/13/2017)

Homeowners might have to start paying taxes on forgiven debt again
It was 2007. The air was starting to leak out of the housing bubble. Home prices were beginning their free fall. “Many homeowners struggled to repay their mortgages, and were re-negotiating their mortgages with banks,” said Steve Rosenthal, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.As part of those re-negotiations the banks sometimes forgave part of the debt for homeowners who had missed mortgage payments or were underwater and sold houses for less than what they owed on their mortgages. But the IRS saw that forgiven debt as income. Homeowners had to pay taxes on it, even though they no longer had a home.“And it seems as if the IRS is hitting people when they’re down,” Rosenthal said.So, to take the pressure off people who were already struggling through the recession, Congress passed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act in 2007.  It was supposed to expire after two years. But the recession dragged on. And lawmakers kept renewing it, helping millions of homeowners. Rosenthal estimates the Act would help a few million more if it were renewed. People like 49-year-old Fikirte Betru from Germantown, Maryland. She and her husband scraped by for years, to make their mortgage payments on time.Related Many countries help people prepare their taxes for free. Why doesn't the U.S.? Tax brackets and why you shouldn't fear a raise “We live from hand-to-mouth," said Betru. "He work, we pay mortgage.”Betru, an Ethiopian immigrant, said her husband was diagnosed with bone cancer two years ago, and couldn’t work. He was a truck driver.  They fell behind on their mortgage payments. To avoid foreclosure, they deeded the house back to the bank.  The bank forgave around $150,000 of their debt.  If the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act isn’t extended, they’ll owe around $20,000 in taxes.“I don’t think it’s right if you give forgiveness and then, on the other hand you say, you have to pay," Betru said.Consumer groups are lobbying to keep the Act alive, but it’s tough going. For starters, they have to get lawmakers’ attention.“A lot of people are saying we know, it’s on the list,” said Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.She says getting an extension is usually pretty routine. But this year?  Everybody’s preoccupied.“There are lots of issues just in the past month that have come up, between the hurricanes and immigrant rights,” she said.And White said a lot of people think the housing crisis is over, but it’s far from over in many parts of the country, like in Germantown, Maryland, where close to 10 percent of homeowners are still underwater.   (10/13/2017)

Some of NOAA's satellites are still dependent on floppy disks
To find out how your trusted weather app gets its intel, look no further than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Getting that intel takes a lot of equipment. There's a building in Maryland where NOAA pulls that information down from space, using giant antennas and dishes on its roof.  It's got a massive server room where the data they collect gets stored and sent out. The interior of the NOAA offices in Virginia. Kimberly Adams/Marketplace "When you get the data down from the satellite, it's only as good as where you can send it," said Bill Carter, IT systems specialist at NOAA's Satellite Operations Facility. Some of the machines are older than the people working in the building. "A lot of the equipment is from 1986, '87," said Carter, pointing out the openings for the 3.5" floppy disks, which they still use. "If you do the proper maintenance, you can make things last for a long, long time."  Carter gave Marketplace Tech a tour of the NOAA facility — click the audio player above to hear the tour.  Related What budget cuts would mean for predicting storms like Irma 6 everyday inventions that were born from space tech Junk in space could have impact on earth CORRECTION: The original version of this piece included the wrong location of the facility. It is located in Maryland. (10/13/2017)

Do rising stock prices help the nation’s debt?
The stock market has surged for much of the last year, and the president — like all presidents — is trying to take credit. Fair enough. But last night, he suggested the stock market can help fix the country’s national debt problem. Which got a lot of people scratching a lot of heads. Is there even any connection between the two? (10/12/2017)

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