Alex Goldmark

Episode 897: New Orleans Vs. Airbnb

Feb 27, 2019

Charlene Griffith has spent her life in New Orleans. She grew up there, and worked one of her first jobs in a hotel there. When Airbnb came to town, she launched her business there. She fixed up a blighted home in the historic neighborhood of Treme, invested a lot in it, and started renting it out to tourists for good money.

It was a great homegrown success story.

But lots of other people also got in on Airbnb. So many homes have become mini-hotels that whole blocks --whole neighborhoods-- are losing the thing that makes New Orleans, New Orleans: its residents.

What do silver dollars, Venmo, and Brexit have in common? They're all on the minds of our listeners.

Today on the show, we take listener questions, and hunt for answers. We try to figure out how Venmo makes money, how the tax system really works, why truckers are buying helicopters in England, and more.

A lot can happen after we put an episode out into the world. That's why we love The Rest Of The Story, our periodic check-in on stories we've reported.

Today on the show, we revisit some episodes from the year that was. In case you missed them, here are the original episodes featured.

If something is going wrong in your workplace, there's probably a law that explains why. Like Goodhart's Law, which says if a company decides to measure something, workers will find a way to respond with good numbers. Or, the Peter Principle, which says that every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.

Today on the show, we picked a few of the more famous laws and tested them out in our office. And that's where the giant trophy comes in.

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Tonight's Mega Millions jackpot is at a record $1.6 billion. Audie, I don't know about you, but I have not even bothered buying a ticket because I'm a total pessimist about the lottery. I don't even try anymore. What about you?

A version of this episode originally ran in January 2016.

Tonight's Mega Millions jackpot is the largest in history at $1.6 billion. And we've got lottery fever again.

Today on the show, the story of the first known lottery. It goes back to Queen Elizabeth in 1567, involves poems, gold plates, and petty criminals. It didn't go well. And we have the story of lottery legend Stefan Mandel. He created a system to take the luck out of the lottery and won jackpot after jackpot. He tells us how he pulled it off. (Think bank heist but legal.)

Every hero has a nemesis. Tom had Jerry. Batman had the Joker. Politicians are no different. Basically every candidate who has ever run for office targets the same enemy: Regulations. Red tape. Rules churned out by the federal bureaucracy that touch on everything from carbon emissions to goat farms to vending machines.

Some ideas seem too good to be true. Like this one. It comes from a 13-year-old listener named Amy. She says she knows the government has trouble finding enough money to pay for stuff like schools and hospitals. And she wondered if it has considered just printing more money. She asked us: Can the government do that? Just make more money to pay for stuff?

This podcast sounded a lot different back when it started. Times were different too. In early September, 2008, the housing crisis was underway, but Lehman Brothers was still in business. It was an economy on the brink, fraught with menace and foreboding, but still standing. Nobody knew how bad it would get during that particular week.

Bob Axelrod was teaching political science at the University of Michigan in the 1980s, and he was obsessed with one idea: how to get countries to cooperate. Back then, it looked like the United States and the Soviet Union might be headed towards nuclear war. Axelrod wanted to figure out how to keep that from happening. And he found inspiration in an unlikely place, computers that could play chess, and one of the greatest thought experiments of all time, the prisoner's dilemma.

A bottle of fancy vodka, like Grey Goose, costs about $35. A bottle of the cheap stuff can be under $10. That's a wide range, but, by definition, vodka is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. So, could there really be a difference between vodkas? Or is the difference all in the marketing?

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Episode 763: BOTUS

Apr 7, 2017

All across Wall Street, humans are being replaced by computers. Even the people who make decisions about which stocks to buy and sell are being replaced by computer programs, by bots.

To understand what goes on inside a stock-picking bot, we at Planet Money built our own.

Bots are cheaper than stock-picking humans. They're less emotional and more disciplined. They can process more information at once. They are doing things like scanning social media for consumer trends and counting the number of cars parked in Wal-Mart parking lots, then using that to trade.

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence has ordered all lobbyists to be removed from the Trump transition team. After some initial stumbles, the team is vowing to keep a promise that Trump made while campaigning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

In 2011, Lariat Alhassan had a business in Abuja, Nigeria. Larclux Paint was the name. She sold house paint. And industrial paint. Textured paint. Paint that fills in cracks in your walls. It was a paint company. But a really small one.

"The employee I had was just me. I was the production manager. I was the marketer. I was delivery person. I was everything," says Alhassan, laughing. "Except the security."

That was the company. A woman in her late 20s and a security guard watching over a factory space she rented to make the paint.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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