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April 28, 2014
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For everyone who wants the United States to become a (bigger) manufacturing powerhouse again — so, most people in the U.S., and every member of Congress — a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group is a mixed blessing. On Friday, BCG released its rankings of cost competitiveness in manufacturing around the world, and the U.S. came in second place, after China. It is now more cost effective to produce goods in the U.S. than Brazil, the report found.

The U.S., along with Mexico, is one of the BCG's "rising stars" of global manufacturing, for having "significantly improved relative to nearly all other leading exporters across the globe." At least 300 companies have brought their manufacturing back to the U.S. from overseas, because "it just makes economic sense," BCG senior partner Hal Sirkin, a co-author of the report, tells Yahoo News. "The gap is closing and, when you add the transportation costs, it makes a lot more sense for a lot of products to be made in the U.S. than in China."

That sounds great, right? But remember what made China so alluring to manufacturers in the first place — low labor costs, lax environmental standards, and overworked factory workers? Here's BCG's explanation for why the U.S. is back in the manufacturing game:

The key reasons were stable wage growth, sustained productivity gains, steady exchange rates, and a big energy-cost advantage that is largely driven by the 50 percent fall in natural-gas prices since large-scale production of U.S. shale gas began in 2005. [BCG]

Another way of saying that: Fracking, foreign exchange rates, and that "stable wage growth," which Reuters calls "a euphemism for the fact that, in inflation-adjusted terms, industrial wages here are lower today than they were in the 1960s even though worker productivity has doubled over the same period of time." The only one of those factors that isn't controversial is the stronger yuan.

As this chart from The New York Times shows, the jobs that have been created in the post–Great Recession recovery have skewed toward the low end of the pay scale:

Most manufacturing jobs pay pretty decently, especially compared with fast food service. But as we celebrate the return of the American manufacturing sector, it's worth remembering that it's only partly because "Made in China" is becoming more expensive — "Made in the USA" is also becoming cheaper, for better and for worse.
Peter Weber

2:37 p.m. ET
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A transgender police officer in San Diego was barred from an LGBT event that she helped organize over concerns that her uniform would upset other attendees. Officer Christine Garcia helped plan and provided security for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event honoring victims of transgender-violence, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. But when she tried to enter a post-march event, she was turned away. A spokesperson blamed the incident on a "misunderstanding" and later apologized directly to Garcia, as well as the San Diego police chief.

"While we need to support those that are uncomfortable and honor their reactions to valid and understandable difficult previous experiences," one of the organizers wrote in a statement, "our LGBTQ San Diego police liaisons are a valued part of our community." The Week Staff

1:16 p.m. ET
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Just days after the NFL's decision to suspend Seantrel Henderson, Buffalo Bills offensive lineman, for 10 games for using marijuana to treat his Crohn's Disease, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr — the NBA's coach of the year last season — expressed support for a softer stance on pot from professional sports leagues.

"I'm not a pot person. It doesn't agree with me. I tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all," Kerr said in a podcast interview that aired Friday. "So I'm not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you're an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don't think there's any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin," he continued. "And yet, athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it's Vitamin C, like it's no big deal."

Kerr said he hopes to see a more reasonable approach to medical marijuana in pro sports, noting that concerns about negative public perception of pot users are increasingly a thing of the past. The full podcast is available here. Bonnie Kristian

12:55 p.m. ET
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The rebels who hold the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, Syria, have lost more than half of the territory they once controlled to forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime and its Russian allies. In the face of these regime advances, the opposition groups have been quietly negotiating with Russia in neighboring Turkey, so far with little effect.

On Saturday, Moscow announced it is ready to deal with the United States, which backs some of the militants fighting Assad, to arrange a full withdrawal of Syrian rebel forces from Aleppo. "We are immediately ready to send out military experts, diplomats to Geneva in order to agree [on] mutual actions with our American colleagues to ensure the pullout of all the rebels without exclusion from eastern Aleppo," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Rebel leaders in Aleppo have reportedly sworn they will not leave the city, and Washington has yet to respond to Moscow's invitation to talks. Bonnie Kristian

11:51 a.m. ET
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A new species of arapaima — a giant freshwater fish capable of breathing air with rudimentary lungs — has been found in the remote reaches of the Amazon River, and more distinct arapaima species may be discovered soon.

Capable of growing to 10 feet long and weighing upwards of 400 pounds, the heavily-armored fish lives in oxygen-poor waters and surfaces to breathe. The arapaima is difficult to catch and study and is also endangered, which is why species classification is so important: Only about 5,000 of the fish still live in the wild.

It is "hard to argue for conservation if you don't know it's there," explains Donald J. Stewart, a New York biology professor and National Geographic explorer whose team identified the new species. "The more of these we can recognize the more arguments we can make for getting the resources to protect them." Stewart expects "we'll have many more species before we're done" examining the arapaima's river climes. Bonnie Kristian

11:28 a.m. ET
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Ford Motor Company could be persuaded to halt outsourcing plans and keep manufacturing jobs here in the United States, executives indicated in interviews with Bloomberg and the Detroit Free Press on Friday. But if President-elect Donald Trump hopes to replicate his deal with Carrier, an air conditioning manufacturer that wanted to move some 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, he'll have to pony to Ford's demands.

"We will be very clear in the things we'd like to see," said Mark Fields, Ford's chief executive officer, to Bloomberg. High on his list are tax reform, free trade rules, and a relaxation of fuel economy regulations that have automakers producing more electric vehicles than they can sell. Fields argued Ford's position is not identical to Carrier's, as the automaker is repurposing its factories to build other models when it shifts some models' production abroad.

At the Detroit Free Press, Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks acknowledged that a call from the president-elect did influence Ford's recent decision to keep making a Lincoln SUV model in Kentucky. Shanks expressed hope that going forward, "there [is] some adjustment that can be made to the present regulatory framework that recognizes the market realities."

For more on whether the Carrier deal — and the inevitable subsequent demands from companies like Ford — was a terrific or terrible idea, check out The Week's dueling analyses. Bonnie Kristian

10:54 a.m. ET

At least nine people were killed and 25 more are missing after a massive fire broke out in a warehouse hosting a dance party Friday night in Oakland, California. The fire started around 11:30 p.m. and may be the deadliest blaze in city history. The building had no sprinkler system and smoke detectors did not activate, firefighters said.

"It was too hot, too much smoke, I had to get out of there," said Bob Mule, a photographer who escaped the fire with minor burns. "I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldn't get the fire extinguisher to work."

More than 50 Oakland firefighters worked through the night to get the fire under control, and arson investigators have been called to the scene. Bonnie Kristian

10:32 a.m. ET

About 2,000 U.S. military veterans calling themselves Veterans Stand for Standing Rock have amassed at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and hundreds more are expected to arrive this weekend. The veterans are building barracks for protesters to use as shelter from the frigid North Dakota winter and are volunteering to temporarily stand in for long-time protesters who need a break.

"We want to offer them a moment of peace and, if we can, take a little bit of pressure off," said Coast Guard veteran Ashleigh Jennifer Parker, labeling the militarized police response "unconstitutional." "People are being brutalized; concussion grenades are being thrown into crowds," she said. "They're spraying people, even old women, and other elders of the tribe with tear gas and pepper spray."

The veterans plan to stay at least through Dec. 7, though some may stick around longer. Bonnie Kristian

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