WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Amazon takes aim at Etsy with new craft site http://www.wbez.org/news/amazon-takes-aim-etsy-new-craft-site-113253 <p><p>Amazon is firing yet another shot at a competitor. This time it&#39;s a mega-artisanal shot, at Etsy &mdash; the popular craft site. The e-commerce giant on Thursday launched Handmade, a new marketplace for, well, handmade goods. This could be wonderful news for the artisan movement, or terrible news for Etsy, its staunchest supporter to date.</p><p>Valerie Nethery got a message out of the blue, from Amazon. &quot;They emailed me directly. I&#39;m not sure how they found me.&quot;</p><p>She&#39;s runs a little shop called&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lilyemmejewelry.com/about" target="_blank">LilyEmme</a>, and guesses &quot;maybe they found my Instagram, or maybe word of mouth.&quot;</p><p>Or maybe through&nbsp;<a href="https://www.etsy.com/shop/LilyEmmeJewelry">her page on Etsy</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/torchwork-8fc73b4454f008b4994535624ace5cb8ce12ea58-s1200.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 600px;" title="Valerie Nethery's LilyEmme Jewelry is among the first artisanal stores to be featured on Handmade, Amazon's new marketplace. (Courtesy LilyEmme Jewelry)" /></div><p>Nethery sells 14-karat gold jewelry that&#39;s handmade and ethical, using eco-friendly stones such as moissanite and ethically sourced conflict-free diamonds.</p><p>She&#39;s sold enough on Etsy (and through her own advertising) to make this her full-time job. And like many small-business owners, she wants to grow. So she couldn&#39;t ignore that email.</p><p>&quot;Well, it&#39;s Amazon,&quot; she says. &quot;It&#39;s such a big company. I really am passionate about what I do, so &mdash; I wanted to be at the forefront of something that I knew was going to be really big.&quot;</p><p>Amazon Handmade went live Thursday and Nethery was among the first artisans showcased on it. She says so far, she hasn&#39;t seen a flood of orders but a few inquiries asking how quickly LilyEmme can get items out and what options are available for custom orders.</p><p>Amazon is giving artisans a very seductive offer: a chance to reach more than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&amp;node=8445211011" target="_blank">240 million Amazon customers</a>&nbsp;globally. The store debuts with about 80,000 items from 5,000 sellers.</p><p>Amazon&#39;s definition of&nbsp;<a href="http://services.amazon.com/handmade/handmade.htm" target="_blank">definition of handmade</a>&nbsp;is quite strict. Items have to be completely factory-free &mdash; no help at all from manufacturers or a kit.</p><p>Etsy, the incumbent,&nbsp;<a href="https://blog.etsy.com/news/2015/the-next-phase-of-responsible-manufacturing-at-etsy/" target="_blank">lets its artisans use that extra help</a>&nbsp;to scale up. Vanessa Haim, a business owner who&nbsp;<a href="https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dopedoll" target="_blank">sells on Etsy</a>, says it&#39;s unclear which business will woo and retain more sellers &mdash; and buyers &mdash; over time. She asks, &quot;Well, are people going to now just want to go to Amazon for these kind of products?&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s an open question.</p><p>Etsy went public in April and is under pressure from investors to grow. This move by Amazon could cut into Etsy&#39;s bottom line.</p><p>Or, Haim says optimistically, the money Amazon pumps into marketing could make the pie bigger for the handmade industry &mdash; bringing in customers who didn&#39;t know to look before. &quot;Maybe instead of, you know, buying this product new, I can get this maybe handmade,&quot; she says.</p><p>Etsy says in a statement that it has spent a decade learning how to support artisans and sellers in a way that &quot;no other marketplace can.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/10/08/446980229/amazon-takes-aim-at-etsy-with-a-new-craft-site-handmade?ft=nprml&amp;f=446980229" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/amazon-takes-aim-etsy-new-craft-site-113253 Treasury Secretary keeps up pressure to raise debt limit http://www.wbez.org/news/treasury-secretary-keeps-pressure-raise-debt-limit-113235 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/2015-10-07-treasury-secretary-lew-0051edit_custom-47c71016557c54f789a026b770f7f5858fe3ab5b-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says there isn&#39;t much time. Congress and the White House face two big deadlines to fund the government. It will be an intricate maneuver to meet both deadlines even as congressional leadership changes. And in an interview with NPR, Lew described behind-the-scenes negotiations meant to avert a last-minute crisis.</p><p>&quot;There are conversations going on at a staff level,&quot; Lew told NPR&#39;s Steve Inskeep, &quot;and I think the key is for Democrats and Republicans [in Congress] to talk to each other.&quot;</p><p>From his office at the Treasury Department, Lew commented on the challenge of doing what should be the routine business of government. A Congress that was never designed to act quickly, and that&#39;s been made dysfunctional by partisanship, must resolve multiple problems within weeks.</p><p>House Speaker John Boehner retires at the end of October; Republicans are voting today on his successor. By Nov. 5, Lew says, Congress must raise the federal debt limit to allow the government to meet its obligations. Then in December comes a deadline to approve spending and avert a government shutdown.</p><p>Lew insists the administration will not negotiate over the debt limit. &quot;We have made it clear that we are not going to let the debt ceiling be used as way to extract commitments that otherwise would be unacceptable.&quot;</p><p>Yet Lew acknowledged that there is a larger conversation underway about measures that could address both the borrowing and spending deadlines, and possibly pass before Speaker Boehner steps down.</p><p>Negotiators are trying to hammer out something substantive to change the so-called sequester, a series of across-the-board defense and spending cuts put in place in recent years.</p><p>With Boehner exiting, there&#39;s the potential for a longer-term budget deal, possibly two years, that could be passed with Democratic support. Neither Boehner nor Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown any interest in another government shutdown over the debt limit. Boehner has also promised to &quot;clean the barn&quot; before he leaves.</p><p>Lew&#39;s comments come as House Republicans are set to vote to pick their nominee to be replace Boehner.</p><p>White House officials say there are open lines of communication and point to &quot;shared goals.&quot; Lew was also echoing some of what President Obama said at a press conference Friday.</p><p>&quot;When it comes to the debt ceiling, we&#39;re not going back there,&quot; Obama said. But, the president added, &quot;I do think there is still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly finance both our defense and non-defense needs, that maintains a prudent control of our deficits and that we can do that in short order.&quot;</p><p>Obama himself also acknowledged his conversations with congressional leaders.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ve always said if it&#39;s easier to combine it with something else that&#39;s mutually acceptable, that&#39;s a form question,&quot; Lew said, adding, &quot;That&#39;s for Congress to decide. We&#39;ve told them they need to raise the debt limit. If combining a couple of things together that are on their way towards approval, makes it easier&mdash; what they can&#39;t do is, it can&#39;t be used to extract an unacceptable policy commitment.&quot;</p><p>The debt ceiling has been routinely raised in the past. That is until the 2010 wave election that saw Republicans take over the U.S. House fueled by an influx of Tea Party candidates. The Tea Party has made the national debt, which is now more than $18 trillion, a key part of its platform. In 2011 and 2013, Tea Party members&#39; push to cut spending rather than raise the debt limit, pushed the country to the brink of default.</p><p>Negotiations on major spending reform in 2011 between Obama and Boehner failed, and then, in 2013, the fight over the debt limit led to a partial government shutdown.</p><p>Treasury warned that the country was within a day of not being able to make its debt payments, and to re-open the government, Boehner&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/us/congress-budget-debate.html?_r=0">resorted to relying on Democratic votes</a>, an unusual maneuver for the majority.</p><p>There&#39;s motivation from both sides this time around in getting a deal done, in large measure, because the future appears so unpredictable. With Boehner gone, there&#39;s no telling what the strategy will be of the new House Republican leadership team that is not even in place yet.</p><p>&quot;Getting to the day before we can&#39;t pay our bills, the day before the government of the United States might default for the first time in its history,&quot; Lew told NPR, &quot;we shouldn&#39;t get even close to it, so the notion that the deadline is the last possible moment to act, is a mistake. And it&#39;s a mistake which Congress should avoid.&quot;</p><h3>More from the interview:</h3><p><strong>On what tools Treasury is trying to use to help create jobs and raise wages:</strong></p><p>&quot;We&#39;re continuing to advocate doing something like combining business tax reform with infrastructure to use the one time revenue that comes from business tax reform to have a big increase in our infrastructure investment. So I think some of the solutions are quite clear, if we could only get the political process to produce them.&quot;</p><p><strong>On what changes could come to the $10 bill:</strong></p><p>&quot;What I announced was we were going to be putting out a whole new family of bills, not just the $10 bill, but we&#39;re going to be redesigning the other bills in this new series. And I said that there is potentially going to be a number of changes. So I would just invite you to stay tuned and in the end see whether we keep the commitment I made to continue to honor both a woman and Alexander Hamilton and our history of democracy.&quot;</p><p><strong>On whether the U.S. could expect multiple women on U.S. currency:</strong></p><p>&quot;What I would say is that everyone is focused on one square inch of the bill. There&#39;s two whole sides to a bill. And there is a lot of space to tell a lot of stories.&quot;</p><p><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/10/08/446707186/treasury-secretary-keeps-up-pressure-to-raise-debt-limit">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 09:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/treasury-secretary-keeps-pressure-raise-debt-limit-113235 98-day Illinois budget impasse could delay 911 calls http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-06/98-day-illinois-budget-impasse-could-delay-911-calls-113206 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1006_illinois-budget-624x416.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 360px; width: 540px;" title="The Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Ill. has been closed indefinitely because of a budget impasse between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature. (Seth Perlman/AP)" /></p><p>Illinois has gone almost 100 days without a budget and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, at odds with Democrats in the legislature, signaled that a deal could still be far down the road.</p><p>The impasse has racked up more than $6 billion in unpaid bills and week-by-week, state services are struggling to find funding.</p><p>Among other services, the state has <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-stops-paying-local-health-clinics-std-testing-113205" target="_blank">halted free STD testing</a>, and the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/governor-closing-museums-shooting-range-budget-standoff-113123" target="_blank">Illinois State Museum in Springfield closed</a> to the public indefinitely for the first time in its 138-year history.</p><p>Now, local 911 call systems are in jeopardy after it was announced that they would stop receiving state revenue from cell phone taxes.</p><p><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/"><em>Here &amp; Now</em>&rsquo;</a>s Jeremy Hobson speaks with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/tarnold-0" target="_blank">WBEZ reporter&nbsp;Tony Arnold</a>&nbsp;for the latest on the shutdown and what needs to happen to reach a resolution.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/06/illinois-budget-standoff" target="_blank"><em> via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-06/98-day-illinois-budget-impasse-could-delay-911-calls-113206 Illinois stops paying local health clinics for STD testing http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-stops-paying-local-health-clinics-std-testing-113205 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/3572379084_c631e882f6_z_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois has notified more than 100 jails, health departments and family planning programs that it no longer will provide free testing for sexually transmitted diseases at state labs.</p><p>A memo dated Sept. 30 says the labs will no longer accept specimens starting this week. The notification was first reported by the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers.</p><p>The programs now must use testing services of commercial private labs or local hospitals.</p><p>Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says the change will save money, but it&#39;s not related to the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/caught-middle" target="_blank">state budget impasse</a> between the Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner.</p><p>Illinois Public Health Association spokesman Tom Hughes says the change comes at a difficult time because the stalemate has stalled other state funding to health departments.</p><p>&mdash;<em> The Associated Press</em></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-stops-paying-local-health-clinics-std-testing-113205 Raising the minimum wage puts a city at odds with lawmakers http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-06/raising-minimum-wage-puts-city-odds-lawmakers-113192 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Supporters of Min Wage increase.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><div id="file-293415"><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Supporters of a higher minimum wage came out in force when the St. Louis Board of Aldermen held a hearing on the issue. (Marketplace/Jason Rosenbaum)" id="1" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/styles/primary-image-766x447/public/Supporters%20of%20Min%20Wage%20increase.jpg?itok=9Yy0e05l" style="height: 350px; width: 600px;" title="Supporters of a higher minimum wage came out in force when the St. Louis Board of Aldermen held a hearing on the issue. (Marketplace/Jason Rosenbaum)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div>Bettie Douglas could barely contain her excitement when St. Louis raised its minimum wage. Dressed&nbsp;in her black McDonald&rsquo;s uniform, Douglas crammed into St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay&rsquo;s office earlier this year after the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved legislation raising the city&rsquo;s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018.</div></div></div><div><div id="story-content"><p>After Slay signed the bill into law, Douglas predicted the bill would mean a little more money in her pocket &mdash; and a lot more piece of mind. &nbsp;&ldquo;I need to be able to eat, be able to take myself,&rdquo; Douglas says. &ldquo;And I can see in the future I won&rsquo;t have to rob Peter to pay Paul.&quot;</p><p>With a stroke of Slay&rsquo;s pen, St. Louis joined more than 25 cities and counties that raised its minimum wage independently from the rest of the state. It&rsquo;s part of a nationwide movement that&rsquo;s struck a chord with labor unions, left-leaning activists and Democratic politicians like St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think that any person who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty,&rdquo; Green says. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s what we have right now. Somebody who&rsquo;s making minimum wage is earning $16,000 a year roughly. You can&rsquo;t raise a family on that. You can&rsquo;t get an apartment on that &ndash; at least not a decent apartment. And it makes it very difficult to break that cycle of poverty.&rdquo;</p><p>But St. Louis&rsquo; minimum wage push came with a big catch. Not only is the new law facing a fierce legal attack from businesses and business groups, but it&rsquo;s being met with some serious push-back from the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly.</p><p>Missouri lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto of legislation banning cities from raising their own minimum wage. The bill effectively invalidated Kansas City&rsquo;s minimum wage hike and prevents any other city from following St. Louis&rsquo; lead.</p><p>If St. Louis&rsquo; minimum wage law survives a legal challenge, the city could have a higher wage scale than the rest of the state. That&rsquo;s alarming enough for Cooperative Health Care owner Mitch Waks to threaten to leave St. Louis if the minimum wage hike goes into effect.</p><p>&ldquo;If the economics force us out of business, what is the alternative?&rdquo; Waks says. &ldquo;Well, you can start caring for your mom and I applaud that.&rdquo;</p><div><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Cooperative Home Healthcare owner Mitch Waks spoke against the minimum wage increase at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen committee hearing. (Marketplace/Jason Rosenbaum)" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/Waks%20min%20wage.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="Cooperative Home Healthcare owner Mitch Waks spoke against the minimum wage increase at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen committee hearing. (Marketplace/Jason Rosenbaum)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div><p>Some St. Louis aldermen who opposed the minimum wage bill &mdash; such as St. Louis Alderman Antonio French &mdash; felt that the city was putting itself at a major competitive disadvantage. He thought it was a &nbsp;mistake to go through with the wage increase without surrounding counties following suit.</p></div></div><p>&ldquo;I want people to remember this vote today how we&rsquo;ve changed the economy in the city of St. Louis and how we&rsquo;ve done something alone when didn&rsquo;t have to do it,&rdquo; French says. &ldquo;We did it without the proper information. And it&rsquo;s going to hurt the folks that I think many people are intending to help.&rdquo;</p><p>So did St. Louis just shoot itself in the foot from an economic standpoint? It depends on who you ask.</p><p>David Wiczer, an economist at the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve, says the &ldquo;potential cost of a minimum wage is in effect a detrimental effect on employment, which is difficult to observe in the data.&rdquo; He went on to say that &ldquo;if it (a detrimental effect) &nbsp;is there, it&rsquo;s very small.&rdquo;</p><p>But Wiczer says there&rsquo;s &ldquo;anecdotal evidence&rdquo; that a minimum wage hike&rsquo;s employment effect &ldquo;happens with a lag.&rdquo;</p><p>&quot;At some point in the future, the job growth in this locality is slower than somewhere else. And that&rsquo;s the result of all of these small-level decisions affirmed to not locate in one area and locate then in another area. And there is research that shows that if there is an employment effect, it often happens with a lag,&rdquo; Wiczer says.</p><p>Jake Rosenfeld is a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He just moved back here from Seattle, where novice baristas and fishmongers will eventually make $15 an hour thanks to a local minimum wage increase.</p><p>Rosenfeld says minimum wage boosts aren&rsquo;t completely inconsequential to businesses. But he says companies shouldn&rsquo;t panic either.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re an employer in the city and you&rsquo;re only competitive advantage is paying rock bottom wages, then yes. A minimum wage increase is going to be alarming. But there are other ways businesses compete,&rdquo; Rosenfeld says. &ldquo;This is a tried and true tactic that you can compete on things like productivity, on having the best most productive workers. And having this differential between surrounding areas actually does provide an advantage to those employers who see themselves as kind of &#39;high road&#39; employers who take care of their employees and in return get higher productivity out of them.&rdquo;</p><p>But St. Louis&rsquo; minimum wage law isn&rsquo;t set in stone quite yet. A court case over its legality is set to begin in October.</p></div></div><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/raising-minimum-wage-puts-city-odds-lawmakers" target="_blank"><em>via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-06/raising-minimum-wage-puts-city-odds-lawmakers-113192 Three things to know about those new credit cards http://www.wbez.org/news/three-things-know-about-those-new-credit-cards-113151 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A%20computer%20chip%20is%20seen%20on%20a%20newly%20issued%20credit%20card.jpg" style="height: 449px; width: 600px;" title="A computer chip is seen on a newly issued credit card in this photo illustration taken in Encinitas, Calif., this week. In an effort to reduce counterfeit and credit card fraud, more than 200 million payment cards have been issued with embedded computer chips in the U.S., ahead of a Oct. 1 deadline for the switch to such cards, according to the Smart Card Alliance. (Mike Blake/Reuters/Landov)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div><p>Today is the day &mdash; the beginning of the end for the venerable (but woefully open to abuse) magnetic stripe, a technology pioneered in the 1960s. Enter the more secure age of the chip, or &quot;EMV&quot; cards.</p><p>At least in theory.&nbsp;It&#39;s actually a bit more complicated. Here are three things to know:</p></div><p><strong>Is October 1st the deadline for the switch from magnetic-stripe cards to the chipped cards?</strong></p><p>Yes and no. The Oct. 1 deadline was created by MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express to reduce or eliminate their exposure to credit card fraud. So, beginning today, merchants, rather than the credit card companies, are liable for magnetic stripe fraud, says Martin Ferenczi, president of Oberthur Technologies, the leading global EMV product and service provider.</p><p>(You can read a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/history-credit-card-magnetic-stripe-1273.php">history of the magnetic stripe here</a>.)<br /><br /><a href="http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/emv-faq-chip-cards-answers-1264.php#ixzz3nKLLzHNM">Creditcards.com</a>&nbsp;writes:</p><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;Consider the example of a financial institution that issues a chip card used at a merchant that has not changed its system to accept chip technology. This allows a counterfeit card to be successfully used.</em></p><p><em>&quot; &#39;The cost of the fraud will fall back on the merchant,&#39; Ferenczi says.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><p>So the date is more the start than the end of the process. According to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pulsenetwork.com/pulse/documents/index/serveDoc.html?doc=DI_Press_Release_2_EMV_and_Fraud_FINAL">a survey published earlier this month by Pulse, a Discover company</a>, 90 percent of U.S. financial institutions either have begun issuing EMV cards or say they will do so by the end of the year. &quot;Based on these plans, 25 percent of U.S. debit cards &mdash; approximately 71 million cards &mdash; will be migrated to chip by the end of 2015. The percentage is expected to rise to 73 percent by the end of 2016 and 96 percent by the end of 2017,&quot; the Pulse survey says.</p><p>So far, 200 million payment cards have been issued with the embedded computer chips in the U.S. ahead of Thursday&#39;s deadline, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.smartcardalliance.org/">Smart Card Alliance.</a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/securecreditcardtech.jpg" style="height: 449px; width: 600px;" title="(DAVIS/TNS/Landov)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>How do I use an EMV card?</strong></p><p>It&#39;s only a little different from what you&#39;re used to doing with your old credit cards. The main change is that you&#39;ll be dipping the card rather than swiping it. Think of some of the newer ATMs &mdash; dip, then complete the transaction with a signature or a four-digit PIN. Then remove the card and complete the transaction. (Some of the cards are&nbsp;<a href="http://tsys.com/ngenuity-journal/chip-and-pin-vs-chip-and-signature-a-rivalry-nears-historic-proportions.cfm">chip-and-signature; others, chip-and-PIN</a>.)</p><p><strong>But in practice, it might not be so simple.</strong></p><p>&quot;Confusion about the use of the new cards is going to make lines longer during the holiday shopping season because the customer might be confused about how it works,&quot; Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for Creditcards.com, is quoted by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/10/01/transition-chip-and-pin-credit-cards-what-you-need-know/72571816/">USA Today</a>&nbsp;as saying. &quot;The employee at the checkout counter might be confused. And you add it all up and you could end up with some frustrated customers.&quot;</p><p><strong>Will my old magnetic stripe card still work?</strong></p><p>Yes. There&#39;s a magnetic stripe on the back of the new cards, so that technology will still work with merchants who haven&#39;t made the transition.</p><p>&quot;[We] know, based on experience in other countries, it takes several years to get to critical mass. So we&#39;re seeing Oct. 1 as more of a kickoff toward increasing the momentum toward chip. People will still be able to use their [cards with] magnetic stripes,&quot; says Stephanie Ericksen, vice president of risk products for Visa, according to&nbsp;<em>USA Today.</em></p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/01/445006454/3-things-to-know-about-those-new-credit-cards?ft=nprml&amp;f=445006454" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 12:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/three-things-know-about-those-new-credit-cards-113151 As commodity prices slide, layoffs and restructuring follow http://www.wbez.org/news/commodity-prices-slide-layoffs-and-restructuring-follow-113159 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_880892989250.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="Tractors and equipment made by Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc. are seen in Clinton, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)" /></div><p>In recent days, we&#39;ve seen these headlines:</p><ul><li>Caterpillar is planning to cut up to 10,000 jobs.</li><li>After standing for 127 years as an industrial giant, Alcoa will be splitting into two smaller companies.</li><li>Glencore, a global mining giant, is seeing its stock price crumble amid insolvency rumors.</li></ul><p>The three events may seem unrelated, but in fact, all are part of one big story: the commodities-price collapse.</p><p>All over the world, producers of raw materials sold in bulk, such as oil, copper, aluminum and zinc, have been tumbling in value. For most of us, these price changes may have seemed unimportant, or maybe even good. Cheap commodities have helped hold down consumer price inflation this past year.</p><p>But now, the reverberations from the commodities plunge are being felt by more and more Americans. This is no longer a story about miner layoffs in remote parts of South Africa or Australia. Now it&#39;s about middle-class jobs disappearing from Peoria as sales of mining equipment dry up.</p><p>Last week,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/24/us-caterpillar-layoffs-idUSKCN0RO1I820150924">Caterpillar said</a>&nbsp;it plans to lay off up to 10,000 workers, with a &quot;significant&quot; number of those cuts coming in Illinois. The company says that with equipment orders evaporating, 2016 will &quot;mark the first time in Caterpillar&#39;s 90-year history that sales and revenues have decreased four years in a row.&quot;</p><p>And at Alcoa &mdash; short for the Aluminum Company of America &mdash; a divorce is coming. The company,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alcoa.com/global/en/about_alcoa/history/home.asp">founded in 1888</a>&nbsp;in Pittsburgh, announced it will split into two separate businesses next year.</p><p>The old part of Alcoa will chug along with its traditional bauxite-mining, alumina-refining and aluminum-production businesses. The other part will escape the commodity end of the industry to become a &quot;value added&quot; maker of engineered products.</p><p>And then there&#39;s Glencore. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.glencore.com/">Swiss company</a>&nbsp;has a huge trading division that buys and sells commodities, and another arm that mines those materials, such as copper, zinc and coal. And the company, which has about $30 billion in debt, has lost roughly three-quarters of its stock value this year.</p><p>Perhaps more than any other company, Glencore provides a disturbing look at what happens when soaring expectations combine with low-interest loans to create high risks.</p><p>Five years ago, Glencore could see China buying up commodities at a torrid pace. China needed raw materials for construction of office buildings, roads, manufacturing plants and more. So it wanted to buy lots of zinc.</p><p>Zinc is a silvery-white metal used to coat iron and steel to block rust. It&#39;s also used to make brass, rubber and semiconductors. In fact, it&#39;s the world&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://geology.com/usgs/uses-of-zinc">fourth-most-consumed metal</a>&nbsp;&mdash; after iron, aluminum and copper.</p><p>So Glencore&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mining.com/glencore-xstrata-mcarthur-river-mine-expansion-plan-approved-39488">mined zinc</a>&nbsp;feverishly and bet heavily on its rising value. And it borrowed a lot for expansions.</p><p>At the time, that all made perfect sense. Zinc prices were up, and interest rates were down at rock bottom. Expanding the business seemed like a brilliant idea.</p><p>But now that China&#39;s growth is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/08/27/435113583/china-s-economic-slowdown-further-hurts-depressed-commodity-prices">dramatically cooling</a>, so is demand for zinc. Prices have fallen about&nbsp;<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/18/zinc-glencore-inventories-idUSL5N11O1AV20150918">30 percent</a>&nbsp;just since May. Investors wonder how Glencore is going to repay all of its debt now that revenues are falling.</p><p>This Glencore saga explains why the Federal Reserve&#39;s decisions on interest rates are so important. The central bank had slashed interest rates during the Great Recession to encourage companies to borrow for expansions. And it worked.</p><p>But for commodity companies, it worked too well; many borrowed heavily to splurge on dramatic expansions. Now they are faced with the consequences of this exuberance.</p><p>So critics can say that the Fed helped create this mess by keeping rates too low for too long.</p><p>But at this point, raising rates could make it even tougher for producers of commodities &mdash; whether miners, drillers or farmers &mdash; to refinance their debts, making it all the more difficult for them to hang on.</p><p>This is why investors and analysts, zinc miners and wheat farmers, hang on every word from the Fed.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/09/30/444531514/as-commodity-prices-slide-layoffs-and-restructurings-follow?ft=nprml&amp;f=444531514" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 12:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/commodity-prices-slide-layoffs-and-restructuring-follow-113159 Governor closing museums, shooting range in budget standoff http://www.wbez.org/news/governor-closing-museums-shooting-range-budget-standoff-113123 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_680176133108.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; Gov. Bruce Rauner is set to close state museums and a sport-shooting complex because of Illinois&#39; budget crisis, even though most staff will still report to work and the museum&#39;s board chairman says the savings will amount to &quot;peanuts.&quot;</p><p>By museum officials&#39; calculations, the closing of the 138-year-old museum in Springfield and its four satellite facilities will initially save the state a tiny fraction of the state&#39;s projected $5 billion budget gap.</p><p>The Republican governor targeted the museums and the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in the southern Illinois community of Sparta for closure effective Wednesday. He says it&#39;s part of his efforts to manage state finances as Illinois enters its fourth month without a budget and a deal with Democrats who control the Legislature remains elusive.</p><p>Rauner&#39;s office initially sent layoff notices to more than 100 workers at the sites <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnBll2sT948" target="_blank">earlier this year</a>. He said closing the museums and recreational complex would save Illinois about $6.3 million.</p><p>But labor unions sued, arguing the move violated their contracts with the state. Rauner agreed to postpone the layoffs for union workers pending a court ruling but said he would go ahead with the closings.</p><p>The decision has left supporters of the facilities scratching their heads. They note workers will be collecting paychecks and the facilities still will have to be maintained, but the public &mdash; including school groups that frequent the museums &mdash; will be shut out.</p><p>Guerry Suggs, chairman of the state museum board of directors, said the move doesn&#39;t make much sense. Suggs said researchers and scientists will continue their work, but it&#39;s unclear what tour guides, security officers and other staff will do.</p><p>&quot;Maybe somebody will get a good card game going,&quot; he said.</p><p>Rauner spokeswoman Lyndsey Walters said in addition to scientific research, curators will maintain collections and educators will plan future programming. Other employees will be put in &quot;temporary roles.&quot; Workers at the Sparta complex will prepare the site for winter then be reassigned to other sites.</p><p>&quot;Closing the Illinois State Museum and Sparta Shooting Complex will save Illinois taxpayers millions of dollars,&quot; Walters said in an emailed statement.</p><p>Walters would not address how the savings could be that high if almost all the employees are still being paid and the facilities still have to be maintained.</p><p>Suggs estimated the savings from laying off a small number of nonunion museum employees would be less than $400,000 annually &mdash; minuscule compared with the state&#39;s multibillion-dollar deficit or the tax revenue generated by tourists, he said.</p><p>The museum&#39;s branch locations are the Dickson Mounds archaeological site in Lewistown and art galleries in&nbsp;Chicago, Lockport and Whittington.</p><p>&mdash; <em>via The Associated Press</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 12:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/governor-closing-museums-shooting-range-budget-standoff-113123 Insurance CEOs again called before lawmakers http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace-morning-report/2015-09-29/insurance-ceos-again-called-lawmakers-113111 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/David McNewGetty.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="image-insert-image ">Top health insurance executives are making the rounds these days in Washington.</div><p>Last week, CEOs from Aetna and Anthem &ndash; who are each looking to complete mega-mergers &ndash; testified before the Senate, and the two return again&nbsp;<a href="http://judiciary.house.gov/index.cfm/hearings?ID=020363B9-F9EF-4623-8E67-28A0B260675A">Tuesday</a>&nbsp;for a hearing in the House.</p><p>Lawmakers have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.c-span.org/video/?328263-1/hearing-health-insurance-consolidation">pressed</a>&nbsp;the executives to detail how consumers will benefit from these potential deals.</p><p>When the companies announced their respective mergers, each promised efficiencies and reduced costs, and last week Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Aetna&rsquo;s Mark Bertolini whether he would commit to passing those savings on to policyholders.</p><p>&ldquo;It is our intention to make our products more affordable. And we commit to continue to drive affordability across the system in the changing relationship with providers,&rdquo; said Bertolini.</p><p>When Franken said that didn&rsquo;t address his question, Bertolini managed an &ldquo;Okay.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead of the explicit promise Franken sought, the executives hinted that as bigger companies they could negotiate better rates with hospitals and doctors.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>They said the deals would make it easier to pay providers for quality rather than the volume, another way they hope to control costs.</p><p>Leemore Dafny with the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern says whatever insurers promise on Capitol Hill doesn&rsquo;t mean too much.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not pledges that we want, it&rsquo;s competition that we want to ensure that savings are passed through if they are realized,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>In other words, if the Justice Department believes these mergers don&rsquo;t violate antitrust law, there may be less competition.</p><p>And without competition, Dafny says companies have less reason to lower premiums.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/health-care/insurance-ceos-again-called-lawmakers" target="_blank"><em>via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace-morning-report/2015-09-29/insurance-ceos-again-called-lawmakers-113111 Credit cards with chips become standard this week http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-09-28/credit-cards-chips-become-standard-week-113091 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Credit cards with chips are pictured in Philadelphia on June 10, 2015.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>Starting Thursday, credit cards with embedded microchips will become standard, instead of cards having only the magnetic swipe strip on the back.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The chips are aimed at increasing security and preventing hacks. Here &amp; Now&lsquo;s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Ali Velshi, host of &ldquo;Ali Velshi on Target&rdquo; on Al Jazeera America, about the change.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/09/28/credit-cards-with-chips" target="_blank"><em>via Here &amp; Now</em></a></div></p> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-09-28/credit-cards-chips-become-standard-week-113091