PODCAST: Schapiro steps down and is holiday spending up?

Before smartphones, tablets, or super fast at home Internet. Millions of Americans would return from their Thanksgiving weekends to high-speed Internet at work and get busy shopping.

The chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission is stepping down next month. It's not a surprise; Mary Schapiro was one of those widely expected to leave ahead of President Barack Obama's second term. It's been a long four years for anyone overseeing financial regulation in Washington. Schapiro became the first woman SEC chair in early 2009. She's been central in not only pursuing those who contributed to the financial crisis, but crafting regulations to prevent the next one.

Americans spent almost 13 percent more over the long holiday shopping weekend than we did last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Six percent more people dove into the Black Friday binge. All that matters to retailers and to the economy is how things shake out in the end.

Today, of course, is Cyber Monday -- supposedly the busiest online shopping day of the year. But as Marketplace's Krissy Clark reports, even though it seems we've only just coined the term, the face of Cyber Monday is already changing.

Valuable data here for parents, a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy took on what might seem like one of the safest ways for kids to burn off steam. The bouncy house! After all, can you do any better than a padded floor and walls? Yes... yes you can, apparently -- 11,000 kids went straight from the bouncy house to the emergency room in 2010. Mostly broken bones and sprains. The surge nicely tracks the rise in bouncy-house use at carnivals and parties, which has skyrocketed. In the end, the bouncy house market may prove to have been something of a bubble.

Here in the U.S. we're obsessed with our fiscal cliff, but the end of the year also brings a deadline the entire world is all but certain to miss. The Kyoto Protocol is the last major international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions -- and it expires at the end of 2012 with no replacement. Under that shadow, the annual international talks to address climate change got underway this morning in Doha, Qatar.

There are violent protests going on in Egypt this morning as the country's President Mohammed Morsi meets with senior judges. They're trying to resolve tensions over Morsi's decision last week to expand his powers. But the stock market is not waiting on a resolution. It has been dropping fast.

Detroit is on the verge of bankruptcy. And to be clear, we're talking about the city itself -- not the carmakers, who are doing alright at the moment. Detroit has a deal with the state of Michigan that's supposed to help keep the city solvent. But it's become clear that's just not working.

"Processed Cheese Food." When you put it like that... it doesn't sound real tasty. But doggone it, we eat a lot of American cheese -- we buy hundreds of millions of pounds of it every year. Now, a health-conscious competitor wants in on that market share.

If global warming or the fiscal cliff or our love or processed foods don't get us, maybe the robots will. Fortunately, Cambridge University is on the case. The hallowed institution is launching the "Centre for the Study of Existential Risk." Focuses will include -- along with climate change and nuclear war -- the potential of the human race to be done in by artificial intelligence. It's serious stuff. The Daily Mail quotes one of the center's founders: "We need to do a better job understanding the risks of potentially catastrophic technologies."

And finally, on a less armageddon-like note, you might think the great ocean navigation records have all been claimed. But in fact there is at least one more -- and a brave soul from the U.K. will step to the water's edge later this week, bend down, and launch his sturdy craft. The challenge: to become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic. The 30 lb sailboat "the Snoopy Sloop" will use solar power and a GPS system to find its way from Hampshire, England to somewhere near Plymouth, Mass. If all goes well, it'll take six months. Three attempts by others have failed in recent year. God speed, Snoopy Sloop.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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