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.
Back when Scott Walker was still in the race and Jeb Bush seemed like the GOP's strongest contender, Marco Rubio, as The New York Times puts it, "looked boxed out." But now that Walker has thrown in the towel and Bush is struggling, Rubio may finally be getting his big chance — and the betting markets are paying attention. Since the last Republican debate, The New York Times reports that Rubio's chances of winning the nomination have more than doubled, jumping from 13 percent to 29 percent. That puts him only two percentage points behind Bush, at 31 percent.
But even with the window wide open for Rubio, The New York Times writer Nate Cohn wonders if the 2016 hopeful can take advantage. Rubio's widespread appeal is a double-edged sword, Cohn suggests, since he "is not the natural favorite of any wing of the party, which is the easiest way for a candidate to become the first choice to a meaningful block of voters." As a "young, Catholic, Latino lawyer from Miami," Rubio might also struggle to appeal to "old, evangelical, white, less-educated, and rural voters," Cohn writes.
Challenges aside, the odds are still looking better than ever for Rubio.
The Daily Show tackles the Oregon tragedy with a cleverly cynical bit on the sad predictability of U.S. mass shootings
On Monday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah addressed last week's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and it started out with a fairly normal throw to senior correspondent Jessica Williams. It pretty quickly became apparent, though, that the Daily Show team was going to make a point about the déjà vu nature of these "terrible, unending national tragedies." And they did.
"I'm sick of having to do my job when our leaders won't even do theirs," Williams told Noah after admitting to pre-taping her segments on mass shootings and other sadly predictable events. When Noah protested that the media still has to cover tragedies like the one in Oregon, Williams said that the reports aren't pointless, exactly, just one part of America's "five stages of mass shooting grief," with Stage 4 being " a weekend of half-assed gun control debate in the media" and the final stage being when "we all go back to Keeping up with the Kardashians." When Noah responded with a rousing speech about demanding change, Williams brought the segment full circle. It's a little cynical, and pretty dark, but sadly appropriate. Watch below. Peter Weber
For the owners of the Rhode Island farmhouse that inspired the 2013 horror film The Conjuring, it's not the supernatural that scares them — it's the superfans. Norma Sutcliffe and Gerald Helfrich are suing Warner Bros. over legions of trespassing ghost hunters inspired by the film, citing "threats of physical violence and harm, sleepless nights, and worry that one day, one of the many trespassers will commit an act of destruction, violence, or harm," according to court documents reported by Entertainment Weekly and The Guardian.
The "Conjuring-instigated siege of their property" began in 2013, after the film was released; before then, Sutcliffe and Helfrich had lived in the house since 1987 without any spooks, terrestrial or otherworldly. However, the owners maintain that Warner Bros. released the film without ever letting them know or asking their permission — with the studio going as far as "to market the movie as based on a true story" as well as to "prominently" identify the location of the house in promotional materials.
The court documents added that, "The property was inundated by curiosity seekers and trespassers who, at all hours of night and day, come to and on to the property, approach, and seek to enter the house, take photographs and videos, ignore the 'no trespassing' signs, fences, and barriers installed." Up to 500 such trespassers are mentioned in the report. For Warner Bros., it might turn out that The Conjuring was truer than they realized: Sometimes it is better to keep the genie in the bottle. Jeva Lange
"The Swan" is arguably the most beautiful movement of Carnival of the Animals by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns, usually performed with just piano and cello. On Monday's Late Show, justifiably legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma played the tune with Stephen Colbert's house band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human. They didn't stick to the traditional arrangement, throwing in brushed drums, bass, guitar, and sax. With a lesser or more heavy-handed arrangement, that could have been a recipe for disaster. It wasn't. There's enough terrible news in the world — watch and enjoy some rare beauty below. Peter Weber
On Monday, NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting after Russian fighter jets in Syria flew at least two sorties into Turkish airspace over the weekend, once locking its weapons onto Turkish fighter jets. The NATO officials warned that Russia's "irresponsible behavior" could have serious consequences. Russia responded that the incursions were an accident and that "there is no need to look for conspiratorial reasons." U.S. and NATO officials dismiss that explanation and suggest Russia is trying to intimidate Turkey and its allies.
In Chile on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is "greatly concerned" about the Russian incursions "because it is precisely the kind of thing that, had Turkey responded under its rights, could have resulted in a shootdown." If Russia attacks Turkey, NATO is obligated to come to Ankara's defense.
Russian fighter jets join an increasingly crowded aerial battlefield over Syria, where Russian and Syrian jets are bombing one side of the country and the U.S.-led coalition — which includes Turkey as well as France, Australia, Canada, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia — is bombing Islamic State and other Islamist targets around the country. "What we're seeing now is a lot of different countries and coalitions operating in the skies over Syria," said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "I think it creates a situation that is fraught with danger and very delicate, as we'd seen in the issue of the violation of the airspace with Turkey.... This should really refocus people's attention on finding a political solution." Peter Weber
On Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics to two particle physicists, Takaaki Kajita in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald in Canada, for their discovery of neutrino oscillations and the resulting evidence that subatomic neutrino particles have mass. "The discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe," the academy explained in a news release. Those findings "have yielded crucial insights into the all but hidden world of neutrinos. After photons, the particles of light, neutrinos are the most numerous in the entire cosmos."
On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice, the European Union's highest court, threw out a 15-year-old agreement allowing companies to transfer data freely between the U.S. and EU. The ruling, which can't be appealed, appears to prohibit Facebook, Google, and other tech companies large and small from moving data about their European customers to the United States, and nobody is quite sure what will happen next.
The case was started by an Austrian law student, Max Schrems, who sued Facebook in Ireland — Facebook's European headquarters — arguing that due to revelations by U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, European consumer data wasn't given adequate privacy protections by Facebook and other U.S. tech companies. The ECJ agreed, immediately invalidating a "safe harbor" agreement in place since 2000 that allows about 4,000 U.S. and European companies to transfer data overseas on the understanding that that data will be given the privacy safeguards applicable to each country's consumers.
Under the new ruling, national regulators will be able to judge whether companies meet their national privacy rules, and stop them from transferring data if they don't. "Companies may not be able to move people's data until domestic data protection authorities give their approval," London privacy lawyer Marc Dautlich tells The New York Times. "In some of Europe's 28 countries, that is not going to be easy."
The court's decision, and stalled two-year-old negotiations for a new safe harbor agreement highlights "the different approaches to online data protection by the United States, where privacy is viewed as a consumer protection issue, and Europe, where it is almost on a par with such fundamental rights as freedom of expression," notes The New York Times. The European Commission is expected to address the ruling on Tuesday. Peter Weber