Trump sounds off about Germany’s trade surplus, again

President Trump sounded off in a meeting with G-7 officials yesterday, allegedly saying that Germany is “bad, very bad” for running up a trade surplus with the U.S., selling millions of cars on American shores. This is not the first time the president has called out Germany on trade, and it’s safe to say that the U.S. relationship with one of its closest allies has chilled considerably since January. But, politics aside, the manufacturing relationship between Germany and the U.S. is gigantic. Click the audio player above to hear the full story.
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Why Ramadan is a big deal for Arab TV networks

This Saturday marks the beginning of Ramadan. Muslims worldwide will spend the next 30 days fasting from dawn until dusk. But when families gather to break the fast after the sun goes down, many observe another Ramadan tradition — binge-watching television. Arab TV networks craft content with widespread appeal in the Islamic community for this time of year, but it's also a way to shape public opinion. Marwan Kraidy is a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on Arab media. He talked with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about television during the month of Ramadan. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. Kai Ryssdal: Ramadan, the month of it. It is a television event in the Arab world. Yes? Marwan Kraidy: It's a huge television event. It's like the sweeps rolled into the Super Bowl, extended over a full month. Ryssdal: I mean, is it a money-making opportunity then? Not to be crass about it. Kraidy: Advertising rates go up. They at least double. Sometimes they go up to, like, 160 percent. Advertising slots, instead of 20 percent of programs become 30 percent. Everybody's paying more attention, everybody wants to advertise there and everybody has to pay more to do that. Related Why you always see the same ad while binge-watching TV Four ways the web is helping TV advertising Ryssdal: When does the television watching happen? Does it happen after dusk when families gather for the meal, or what are the logistics of it? Kraidy: It typically happens late, after dusk. A family gather for the meal, they typically start eating and then the television event begins. And the prime-time hours during Ramadan can extend into 2 a.m. So it's a very long stretch. Ryssdal: And what are you watching? I mean, is it everything or is it is there a specific kind of program? Kraidy: Traditionally comedy programming, variety and game programming dominated, particularly in Egypt. In Saudi Arabia, it used to be religious programs. Nowadays, the single kind that dominates our television series, the so-called mosalsalat. They typically last for the whole month. You get one episode every night. They can be of a historical nature. They can be romantic in nature. And this year, there are, depending on whom you ask, anywhere between 100 and 140 of these competing for the attention of 200 million viewers over a period of 30 days. Ryssdal: Tell me about this one that's out this year. It's called "Black Crows," and the idea is that it involves Islamic State for the first time, and it's sort of taking on some contemporary issues. Kraidy: Yes. So, over the last few years a lot of these programs have taken on contemporary issues. This is not the first one that tackles terrorism and jihadi issues in Arab societies. But it's the first one dedicated to Islamic State. It seems that it focuses on women living life under Islamic State. It's owned by Saudi Arabian interests. And what they're saying about this show — they're really defining it as an effort to fight Islamic State. So, there's sort of a political countering extremism element to it. It's not just entertainment.
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How Jared Kushner’s family business treated its tenants

Jared Kushner is the son-in-law of the president of the United States, a senior official in the Trump White House and, according to some reports, a person of interest in the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign and Russian interference. He's also a big name in commercial real estate. Although he's stepped away from a formal role managing his family's real estate businesses, he's still a beneficiary of the company and its investments. ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis spent time at some of the Kushner Companies' lesser-known properties for a story in the New York Times Magazine this weekend. He talked with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about what he learned. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation. Kai Ryssdal: Just as a way to get going here, give me the background on the Kushner Companies and specifically Jared's role in those companies in that family enterprise before the election. Alec MacGillis: Well, the Kushner Companies is a major real estate company that goes back decades back to Jared’s grandfather, and we think of them usually as a company with these very fancy high-end holdings. But in fact, they also have these very modest downscale holdings around the country that Jared himself bought. He made these purchases in 2011, 2012, soon after the recession and just got them at a real bargain and saw them as a good investment that would produce a steady revenue stream. Ryssdal: The thrust of the piece in the Times this weekend is the extent to which and the vigor with which Kushner Companies and their subsidiaries go after and collect the debts from some of these tenants. Tell me about Kamiia Warren. MacGillis: So, she was single mom who had three kids. Back in 2010, she was living in one of these units and she decided to move out. Couple years later, a process server comes to her new house and says, “You are being sued for several thousand dollars because you broke your lease.” And she's very confused by this because she had not broken her lease. She had gotten written permission to move. But she was also confused because the company that was suing her was a company she'd never heard of. Turns out, that the Kushner companies had, in the intervening time, bought this complex. And they had basically gone back through the records looking for any former tenants that they could possibly go after for more money — anyone who had broken a lease or owed back rent when they had left, even if it was two or three years earlier. And one of the people they swept up in this sort of clawback was Kamiia. And they went after her. She went to court. She unfortunately did not have a copy of that signed form anymore, and the judge sided with the company and she ended up getting a judgment of almost $5,000 when all the different interests and fees and late fees and court costs and attorney's fees were piled on.   Ryssdal: And her wages were garnished right? Her bank account gets garnished. MacGillis: Exactly. She got wiped out. She finally did get a copy of the form and she brought it to court and said, “Here, I've even got the form,” but even that didn't help. And the judgment stood. She’s now got a court lien against her, which has completely destroyed her credit record. Ryssdal: You called the company. What did they say? MacGillis: Company said that this is just how it works. Basically, it was remarkably businesslike, almost brusque response from the company saying, "First of all we follow industry standards in these matters. Second of all, these are contracts that are signed by the tenants and they owe us this money, and if they break a lease we're going to come after them." In the case of Kamiia Warren, they had no specific response. They said, "We decline to comment on that particular case." Ryssdal: There are anecdotes like that throughout the piece and included in many of them was the question you asked of whether or not they knew Jared Kushner was, at some level of remove, their landlord. What did they say? MacGillis: Almost nobody had any idea that he was their landlord. They were stunned when they found out. And a lot of them in fact did not even know who Jared Kushner was. I would say, “Are you aware that your complex is owned by Jared Kushner or the family of Jared Kushner?” And that name often meant nothing to them. It was only when I described Jared Kushner as, you know, the husband of Ivanka, then they made the connection and then it really sank in. One of the things that comes through in these complexes is just how completely disconnected people in this realm are politically. So many people I spoke to did not vote at all. These are people living right on the edge of a mid-size city right on the East Coast, 40 miles from Washington, and they're very cut off politically. It's another reminder of just how great the sort of disconnect is in the lower tiers of our society.
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TV news fact-checked: Gianforte, Gingrich, Pelosi & more

By Nancy Watzman and Katie Dahl

In this week’s round-up from the TV News Archive,  our fact-checking partners declare that Greg Gianforte, now Montana’s U.S. House representative-elect, was the aggressor in a conflict with a reporter; Newt Gingrich spread a conspiracy theory; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stretched claims about how veterans could be hurt under the House GOP health care bill; and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney double-counted money.

Claim: Guardian reporter’s aggression, not Gianforte’s, caused altercation (flip that)

On May 24 a campaign spokesperson for Greg Gianforte, who has since won the Montana U.S. House race, said, “Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian‘s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

As reported by John Kruzel and Smitha Rajan for PolitiFact, a Fox News reporter was in the room at the time and gave this account. “…Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.” Gianforte has since apologized.

Claim: DNC staffer assassinated after giving emails to WikiLeaks (unsupported)

Newt Gingrich, a former Republican House Speaker, said in a TV interview, “we have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 23,000. I’m sorry, 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments.”

“Gingrich Spreads Conspiracy Theory,” read a headline from FactCheck.org. Eugene Kiely reported “there’s no evidence for his claim.” PunditFact, a project of PolitiFact, gave Gingrich its worst fact-check rating, Pants on Fire.  Lauren Carroll reported, “Hours after Fox published its report, (Rod) Wheeler recanted. He told CNN that he hadn’t seen the evidence himself, and his knowledge of Rich’s alleged email contact with WikiLeaks came from the national Fox News reporter, not his own investigative work.”

(Note: Kiely also made use of the Wayback Machine in his piece, linking to a now-deleted Fox News story now saved at the Internet Archive. Washington Post reporters Kristine Phillips and Peter Holley published similar links in their story on how Fox News retracted its story on Seth Rich.)

Claim: seven million veterans will lose tax credit for their families in health care bill (three Pinocchios)

During a speech at a conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif., said of the House-passed GOP health care reform bill, “Seven million veterans will lose their tax credit for their families in this bill.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker that “veterans ‘could’ — not ‘will,’ as Pelosi says — lose tax credits if the current protections don’t carry over under a new health law… Would it affect 7 million veterans and their families? Not necessarily.”

Claim: economic growth will pay for both eliminating the deficit and tax cuts (wait a minute)

In a press conference about President Trump’s proposed 2018 fiscal budget, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said “we get to an actual balance on this budget within the 10-year window,” because “we will bring back 3% economic growth to this country and those numbers are assumed in this budget. By the way if we don’t the budget will never balance. You will never see a balanced budget again. We refuse to accept that the new normal in this country. Three percent was the old normal. Three percent will be the new normal again under the Trump administration and that is part and parcel with the foundation of this budget.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also claimed economic growth would pay for the proposed revenue-neutral tax plan, “This will pay for itself with growth and with reduced — reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes.”

“Wait a minute, say tax and budget experts, that’s double-counting the same money,” reported Robert Farley of FactCheck.org. Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center told FactCheck.org that you can’t assume growth will balance the budget and offset tax cuts, “Both of those are not plausible,” he said

Claim: Manafort and others visited Moscow during the campaign (mostly false)

In a TV interview, Rep. Maxine Waters, D., Calif., said “I really do believe that much of what you saw coming out of Trump’s mouth was a play from Putin’s playbook… I think you can see visits, you know, to Moscow made during the campaign by (Paul) Manafort and others.”

“From what’s on the public record, Manafort didn’t go at all, and (Carter) Page went once… Waters made it sound like this was a regular occurrence. We rate this claim Mostly False.” Jon Greenberg reported for PolitiFact.

Claim: Wisconsin high-risk pool had 8 or 9 plans, people could go to any doctor, and premiums and copays were cheaper than Obamacare (half true)

In response to criticism from Democrats for the House-passed health care proposal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R., Wis., said “In Wisconsin, we had a really successful high-risk pool. Ten percent of the people in the individual market in Wisconsin were in the state high-risk pool. They had eight or nine plans to choose from. They could go to any doctor or any hospital they wanted. And their premiums and copays were cheaper than they are under Obamacare today.”

For PolitiFact, Tom Kertscher reported “He’s essentially on target on the first two parts, but not on the third… it can’t be flatly stated that the high-risk pool plans were cheaper than Obamacare plans for comparable coverage.”

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Instagram made a Snapchat knockoff. Can they even do that?

When 16-year-old Rileigh Smirl opens up Instagram, she pretty much ignores its newest and most-prominent feature. The little bubbles at the top that are supposed to show everyone’s “Stories" — a collection of photo and video slideshows decorated with stickers, drawings, filters and so on. “Honestly I have never used the ones on Instagram and I don't know anyone personally that has used them. They're just kind of there, and we're aware that they're there,” she said. “There's maybe like, three or four stories across the top of my home page, mostly from celebrities.” That doesn't mean her friends aren't making Stories. They're all over on Snapchat. Smirl, who co-hosts a podcast about teenage life called "Still Buffering," said Instagram is for scrolling through a feed of photos. Stories are for Snapchat. “By the time Instagram Stories and messaging and stuff became available, I'd been on Snapchat for a year,” she said. “It was just kind of weird to make that transition.” Since Instagram launched Stories last summer, it's raised eyebrows in the tech world for replicating Snapchat's feature of the same name. The messaging app introduced its Stories feature in 2013. Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, folded Stories into its other apps and last week added augmented reality "face filters," which was pretty much the only bell or whistle left to co-opt from Snapchat.  The two Stories are virtually identical — even more so, it bears mentioning, since Snapchat copied a few functions and flourishes from Instagram. But when does copying cross the line into legally dubious territory? If Snap tried to sue, would it even have a case? A demonstration of the similarities between Snapchat and Instagram.  Tony Wagner/Marketplace Um, not really. "Ideas, before you actually put them to work, are very vulnerable to stealing," said University of California, Hastings law professor Ben Depoorter. "We give protection to someone who can make good on that idea, and put it into a particular application, practice, expression, art form." So from a copyright perspective, Snapchat owns the actual code that makes Stories work, but not the abstract idea for Stories itself. To make a copyright claim, Snapchat would have to show Instagram actually copied significant parts of its code. That seems pretty unlikely: There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to put a dog nose over your face. Beyond copyright, Snapchat has patent applications covering things like “ephemeral message galleries.” Likewise, Facebook has a patent for “managing an ephemeral post in a social networking system” that sounds like its Snapchat competitor Slingshot. That app came with a potential patent battle of its own, before Facebook pulled it. But asserting a patent would be an uphill battle too. Companies submit patent applications for all kinds of reasons, Depoorter said. They can help attract investors or shore up offense or defense for future litigation.   “You know, you can scare people with patents, but at the end of the day the validity of a lot of patents is questionable, especially software patents,” he said. “And even though the USPTO might grant you the patent, whether it will hold up in court is a whole different matter.” Software patents have always been a little murky, said University of Idaho law professor Annemarie Bridy, and litigants are even more gun-shy since a 2014 Supreme court ruling threw a bunch of patents in doubt. “If it’s a patent that just takes existing prior art and just says ‘do it on a computer,’ that's too abstract to be patent-able,” Bridy said. That kind of takes us back to the idea of Stories. Sure, the execution is similar but does anyone really own a time-limited slideshow? “It’s always interesting to see how Silicon Valley companies sort of assimilate innovations from other sources as a way of remaining competitive,” Bridy said. “Innovation works through limitation, innovation is cumulative. Innovation inevitably involves copying earlier technologies and then improving on them.” Neither company responded to requests for comment, but that’s more or less what Instagram has argued in the past. Execs have given Snapchat “kudos” for pioneering Stories, but argued it’s just another format, or a facet of social media no one really owns. In that way, Stories are like hashtags, algorithmic feeds, photos filters and so on; all were popularized by one company, then co-opted by everyone else. “Snapchat adopted face filters that existed elsewhere first, right? And slideshows existed in other places, too,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told TechCrunch last summer. “So I think that’s the interesting part of the Valley. You can’t just recreate another product. But you can say ‘what’s really awesome about a format? And does it apply to our network?’” With the news that Instagram Stories quickly surpassed Snapchat in daily users, it’s hard not to see echoes of summer 2013, when Instagram added looping videos and ushered the video app Vine toward its eventual death last year. That move helped solidify Facebook’s reputation, to some, as a copycat that absorbs any “format” and “applies” it to its billion-person network. “A large audience doesn't turn someone else's idea into a big idea,” journalist John Herrman wrote in BuzzFeed at the time. ”And it certainly doesn't make it yours.” Related Instagram florists are changing the $7 billion industry What do you have in common with today's teens? Since then, Facebook made an unsuccessful bid to buy Snapchat, then tried to replicate its success with several standalone apps that flopped. The company’s also cemented its place as the fifth head in Silicon Valley’s Mt. Rushmore with Amazon, Alphabet, Apple and Microsoft. So in this case, Bridy said, a giant appears to be ripping off a competitive upstart. Not a great look. “I wonder if what sort of offends sensibilities about what Instagram is doing now is...it doesn’t seem so much like they're adding any value themselves,” she said. At the end of the day, the sensibilities of tech industry watchers are pretty different than users. Some of the users we interviewed said what makes the two apps distinct doesn't have as much to do with this one feature. Washington D.C. high schooler John Ourand, 17, said Instagram had gotten too stressful to bother with. He said he felt obligated to follow everyone who went to his school and other schools, he stressed about follower counts and was distracted trying to get to get perfect photos. Snapchat is more of a closed system. "I would scroll through my feed and it would just be kind of a bunch of people I don't really know,” Ourand said. “Snapchat is a lot more kind of personalized and private, because when you add people, all you see is their name and like their Snap score snaps… You can't really see who they follow or who follows them or who they're snapping. All you can see is them.” But that same gamification, like the scores Ourand mentioned, was what made Margot Thompson, 16, quit Snapchat. She didn’t like the way the app tallies “streaks” — that is, consecutive snaps two users have sent each other snaps — can sour friendships. “They don't even send interesting content. Like they'll just snap random pictures of themselves, or like the floor for instance, and just send them to a bunch of people just to keep up that 300-, 400-day streak,” Thompson says. “If you break someone's streak, especially if it's a friend, then they might even get mad at you. I know that happens a lot with my friends which is why I stopped using it.” Stories are just as anxiety-producing, she said. Instead of the idealized, arm’s-length view of classmates’ lives she got on Instagram, Snapchat Stories gave a real-time feed what everyone was up to, and now that opportunity for FOMO is at the top of her Instagram feed too. “I wouldn't want to go into my friend’s story and be like ‘Oh you're hanging out with this person and I was not invited,’” she said. “That's kind of the reason I got off Snapchat, I wish they could have stayed separate.”
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