PODCAST: Protest mail, air travel gale

A South African activist has launched an international campaign calling on people to put their toenail clippings in the mail, addressed to the Chinese embassy in Pretoria.

The group of CEOs who rang this morning's opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange showed up to make a point. They're among more than 100 business leaders who have signed on to a statement calling for action on the national debt -- action, they say, that should include new tax revenue along with cutting spending. 

Even though people have been using early versions of Windows 8 for months, Microsoft officially launches the new operating system today at an event in New York. It goes on sale tomorrow, along with a new tablet computer: the Microsoft Surface. It's getting decent early reviews, but Microsoft is undeniably late to the tablet market, but CEO Steve Ballmer is optimistic.

Ad revenues at the New York Times Company fell short, and this morning the company missed earnings expectations. The company also owns the Boston Globe. Dunkin Donuts fans, your carb and coffee of choice came out with earnings today that beat analysts expectations. It also boosted its outlook for the year -- just a little icing on the donut.

Last week's initial claims for unemployment are out, and they seem to resume the positive trend interrupted by a couple of hiccups in recent weeks. Initial claims were down 23,000.

Ford is closing its last vehicle manufacturing plant in the UK. It is shutting down the factory in Southampton that makes commercial vans, and moving production to Turkey. This follows yesterday's news about a Ford factory closure in Belgium.

Every bit of public data -- housing, employment, consumer spending -- changes how voters feel about the state of the nation -- and about their own well-being.

International air travel to and from the U.S. has more than doubled in the last 20 years to 152 million trips in 2011 according to a new report from the Bookings Institution.

News this morning that one of the last international airlines without an online booking system has finally joined the 21st century. Check out the new website of Air Koryo, out of North Korea. In theory, you can book travel between Pyongyang and Vladivostok, Beijing, or Shenyang, China's major city near the North Korean border. Now, before you book your NK getaway, two caveats: First, you still need a visa, and that's presumably no easier than its ever been. And second: Air Koryo is the world's only airline rated "one star." A recent review says the plane was ancient, the food was revolting, and the two hour trip featured a continuous loop of the same North Korean concert.

And finally, the Chinese embassy in South Africa is preparing for an influx of suspicious packages. Specifically, envelopes containing toenail clippings. You see, many Chinese value rhino horn as a traditional medicine and some of that comes from rhinos poached in Africa. Now, rhino horns are made of keratin, the same stuff as our toenails. A South African activist has launched an international campaign calling on people to put their toenail clippings in the mail, addressed to the Chinese embassy in Pretoria. Not really clear if the idea is just to protest or to actually suggest an alternative supply for Chinese medicine.

About the author

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

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