April 28, 2014

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

10:03 a.m. ET

Pizza is not happy. At least that is what animal welfare advocates are saying as they band together to protest the living conditions of "the world's saddest polar bear," which is housed in an aquarium in a shopping mall in China, The New York Times reports. "Animals deserve so much better than being enclosed in a glass box, with very little in it, to attract shoppers. It shows a complete lack of regard for their welfare," said Hu Chunmei of the Endangered Species Fund.

It isn't uncommon in China for malls to have "zoos," an attraction that brings in physical customers during an age when online shopping is booming. The Grandview Mall in Guangdong Province, where Pizza the polar bear lives, also houses arctic wolves and beluga whales.

A photo posted by aleonalynx (@aleonalynx) on

Pizza has shown signs of distress in his enclosure; 48 organizations sent an open letter to the province's governor insisting that something be done. Yorkshire Wildlife Park in England has even offered to take Pizza, although Grandview Mall declined.

The mall management claims Pizza has adapted to his living conditions, and accused those who disagree of following the agenda of foreigners. "They say, 'You are using a Western point of view' in order to oppose us," Qin Xiaona of the Capital Animal Welfare Association said. "But we can't forget that we have a tradition in China of 'respecting heaven, caring for animals.'" Jeva Lange

9:45 a.m. ET

Samantha Bee sat down with "fellow nasty woman" Madeleine Albright in Monday night's episode of Full Frontal, in the hopes that the first female secretary of state could help her figure out why everyone is so hung up on Hillary Clinton's gender. After playing a montage of people criticizing everything from Clinton's voice to her facial expressions, Bee asked Albright, "So, does playing into her womanness help Hillary, or does reminding people that she's a woman hurt her chances of winning the election?"

Albright wasn't quite sure, but she did have a theory for why men like Donald Trump are so afraid of powerful women. "I think we're seen in whatever previous relationship they have had, like the third-grade teacher that told Johnny to be nicer — or Donald," Albright said.

As for Bee's question about whether this "pulsing cancer of misogyny" ever goes away, Albright deferred to woman leaders across the globe. Watch everyone from the president of Croatia to the prime minister of Norway counsel Bee on the difficulties of leading while female, below. Becca Stanek

9:29 a.m. ET

There was a big, green, gaping lawn visible at Tim Kaine's rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, where Hillary Clinton's vice presidential candidate didn't exactly draw massive crowds:

In a raspy, campaign trail-worn voice, Kaine still managed to work up enthusiasm for the few who turned out. "You really are a checkmate state," he said. "That's more than a battleground state … If we win for Hillary here, it's over. She's going to be president." Still, as CNN noted, Kaine was very much suffering from a case of the Mondays:

Admittedly, vice presidents don't have the same draw as the tops of their tickets. But for comparison, Mike Pence also hosted a rally on Monday:

This much is good news for Kaine, at least: Clinton leads in the Sunshine State by as many as 5 points. Jeva Lange

9:05 a.m. ET
Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians meet for the first game of the 2016 World Series on Tuesday at Progressive Field in Ohio, with the two teams carrying a combined 176-year championship drought.

The Cubs have widely been considered World Series favorites since Opening Day, and are headed by GM Theo Epstein, who assembled the also curse-breaking 2004 Boston Red Sox. In the other dugout is Indians manager Terry Francona, another fixture of the 2004 Red Sox; he will be tasked with outmaneuvering Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Playoff-tested leftie Jon Lester will lead off on the mound for the Cubs, while the Indians will start their ace, Corey Kluber.

"The baseball gods are really happy right now," said Indians first baseman Mike Napoli of the World Series matchup between the two long-suffering teams. "I wanted the Cubs to win [the NLCS], just because I knew how cool it would be to be a part of it. I think it's going to be a special World Series. There's two droughts, and there's going to be a winner."

The first pitch is at 8:08 p.m. ET on FOX, with streaming options on Sling TV and postseason.TV. Jeva Lange

8:29 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Liberal activist Aaron Black — a former Occupy Wall Street organizer and associate with Democracy Partners — allegedly tipped off conservative website Breitbart ahead of his disruptions in order to coordinate coverage, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told Politico. Black harassed candidates in the primaries, reportedly alerting Breitbart by phone, email, and in person about protests, such as when he dressed up as a robot for one of Marco Rubio's rallies.

"[Black] worked directly with Breitbart's political team on the ground in the primary states to sabotage Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and elect Trump as nominee of [the Republican] party," the person familiar with Black's alleged involvement said. "[Black] was coordinating with [Breitbart's] top staff to rabble rouse against Rubio at rallies."

Black also recently showed up in an undercover Project Veritas video, in which he claimed to work for the Democratic National Committee although he does not appear on its payroll. Black claims in the video he was the architect of protests in Chicago that resulted in Trump canceling a rally in the city; Trump touted the video as evidence of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama meddling in the election during the final presidential debate.

When reached for comment, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow told Politico, "Breitbart News Network is proud to work with sources from across the political spectrum to cover important and breaking news stories so that we may bring the most informative reporting to our readers." Jeva Lange

8:19 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party are hosting a big watch party at the MGM Grand casino in Detroit on Election Night, but the Michigan Republican Party has decided to sit this year out. "It is a costly endeavor and we are using all available resources to elect Republicans," Sarah Anderson, communications director for the Michigan GOP, told The Detroit News. These parties are typically events to showcase the party's winners and give campaign volunteers, the media, and political activists and candidates a place to watch election results trickle in.

In 2012, with Michigan native Mitt Romney on the presidential ticket and a U.S. Senate race, the state GOP hosted a big party in Lansing, notes Chad Livengood at The Detroit News, but this year there's no statewide race and no special connection to either Donald Trump or his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. It's not clear if the Trump campaign will host its own party in Michigan. FiveThirtyEight gives Hillary Clinton a 91.8 percent chance of winning Michigan, a state she narrowly lost to Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and Donald Trump easily won in his GOP primary race. Peter Weber

7:51 a.m. ET

Twitter is preparing to cut an estimated 8 percent of its workforce this week, people familiar with the decision told Bloomberg. The reduction of approximately 300 people comes ahead of Twitter's third-quarter earnings report, expected at 7 a.m. ET on Thursday.

The company has faced continued struggles to turn itself around, with a 40 percent fall in its share price in the past year making it tempting for engineers to exit for rivals like Google and Facebook. Twitter has also explored a sale, although Walt Disney Co., Alphabet Inc., and others eventually withdrew from the talks.

Without an obvious suitor, Twitter's going to need to figure out a way to be more forward-looking and hopeful to Wall Street. Starting off with layoffs to make the business more efficient is sometimes where things go.

But it's still going to come down to actually improving the product. Trolls aside, [co-founder and CEO Jack] Dorsey has actually not made any dramatic sweeping changes to the service other than adding more of an algorithmic touch to the feed. And attempts to make it less confusing, like removing contributions to character limits for kinds of media and trying to fix @replies (and "canoes"), still haven't helped make the service more sticky and attract new users. (There's also Moments, but that story still hasn't seemingly played out yet.) [TechCrunch]

Twitter also dropped 8 percent of its employees a year ago, when Dorsey rejoined as CEO. Jeva Lange

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