National News

Istanbul Bookstore Caters To Syrian Refugees In Need Of A Good Read

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:02

The mere mention of Syrian refugees can conjure up images of families living in tents in the desert. But a bookstore in Istanbul serves as a cultural oasis and informal community center for Syrians.

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Why Israel Lets Qatar Give Millions To Hamas

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:01

Israel's long-standing policy has been to isolate Hamas. But in a rare exception, Israel does permit Qatar to send large sums for projects in Gaza, the territory run by Hamas.

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Raised Around Cry For Smaller Government, Rand Paul Carries The Torch

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:00

In Lake Jackson, Texas where Paul grew up, he learned politics and his small-government philosophy around the Paul family's kitchen table.

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9 Dead In Shooting At Charleston, S.C., Church

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 20:59

Police are still searching for a suspect in the attack, described as a young white man. Charleston police chief Gregory Mullen says the shooting will be investigated as a hate crime.

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Report: Brian Williams Out As Anchor, But Will Stay With NBC

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 20:57

CNN and other news organizations report Williams will shift over to MSNBC, where he'll cover breaking news, while Lester Holt will remain as anchor of NBC Nightly News.

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It's Time To Pay Attention To 'Below-The-Belt' Cancers

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 14:47

That's another way of referring to gynecological cancers, which strike over 1 million women a year — and are on the rise in the developing world.

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Baby Bump? U.S. Birth Rate Rises

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 14:07

Nearly 4 million babies were born last year. Preliminary data from the CDC show that the U.S. birth rate increased last year for the first time since 2007.

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Worms Know What's Up — And Now Scientists Know Why

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 14:03

In what researchers say is a first, they've discovered the neuron in worms that detects Earth's magnetic field. They say the worms have microscopic antenna-shaped sensors to help orient themselves.

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L.A. installs water pipes that can survive disaster

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:58

Los Angeles water officials say we have a lot to learn from the Japanese when it comes to protecting water infrastructure from natural disaster. Japan has severe earthquakes, and for almost 40 years the Kubota Corporation, a competitor of Caterpillar, has made quake-resistant ductile-iron water pipes. Underground water pipes can break in an earthquake, cutting off water supply to streets and sometimes entire neighborhoods.

 Two years ago Los Angeles became the first city in the U.S. to install them. They’re designed so they don’t pull apart at the joints when the earth moves. Engineer Craig Davis, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s earthquake expert, says the pipes have withstood a 9.0 magnitude quake in Japan. “This pipe has survived 10 feet of ground movement and it hasn’t even leaked. So that’s very significant.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lowers a quake-resistant water pipe in downtown Los Angeles. (Credit: Vanessa Smith)

Los Angeles is testing the pipe in five locations around the city. The pipe is almost double the cost of conventional water pipe, so quake-proofing the entire city would be prohibitively expensive, but also probably unnecessary. Some parts of Los Angeles are much more prone to liquefaction than others. The idea, according to LADWP’s Marty Adams, is to use the Japanese-made pipes in the most critical and vulnerable places, including streets serving hospitals and key civic buildings. “When we have a pipe coming in for replacement, we’ll ask if it should be earthquake resistant.”

The city has over 7,000 miles of pipe and has already replaced some of the oldest, most corroded pipe with new, regular ductile iron pipe that’s “almost hermetically sealed” so the soil never touches the pipe, according to Adams. Last summer a 93-year-old water main under Sunset Boulevard ruptured and flooded part of the UCLA campus, becoming “the poster child of infrastructure needs,” Adams says.

A BMW is surrounded by water on Sunset Blvd., near the campus of UCLA after a water main rupture in 2014. (Jabin Botsford/Copyright © 2014. Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with Permission.) 

LADWP officials say quake-resistant pipes will help limit the number of water main breaks in "The Big One." Davis and Adams are acutely aware of what can happen to water infrastructure during an earthquake. They both were working for the department in 1994 when the Northridge quake hit. The city had to repair more than 1,500 breaks, Adams says, and according to the state Office of Emergency Services, over 48,000 homes were cut off from running water. Davis says the quake "changed his whole understanding" about infrastructure vulnerability. "It's essential we have a seismic resilience program."

Marketplace is teaming up with Waze to look at transportation infrastructure across the U.S. Click here to find out how you can be a part of our series and report bad infrastructure on your own commute. 

L.A. installs water pipes that can survive disaster

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:58

Los Angeles water officials say we have a lot to learn from the Japanese when it comes to protecting water infrastructure from natural disaster. Japan has severe earthquakes, and for almost 40 years the Kubota Corporation, a competitor of Caterpillar, has made quake-resistant ductile-iron water pipes. Underground water pipes can break in an earthquake, cutting off water supply to streets and sometimes entire neighborhoods.

 Two years ago Los Angeles became the first city in the U.S. to install them. They’re designed so they don’t pull apart at the joints when the earth moves. Engineer Craig Davis, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s earthquake expert, says the pipes have withstood a 9.0 magnitude quake in Japan. “This pipe has survived 10 feet of ground movement and it hasn’t even leaked. So that’s very significant.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lowers a quake-resistant water pipe in downtown Los Angeles. (Credit: Vanessa Smith)

Los Angeles is testing the pipe in five locations around the city. The pipe is almost double the cost of conventional water pipe, so quake-proofing the entire city would be prohibitively expensive, but also probably unnecessary. Some parts of Los Angeles are much more prone to liquefaction than others. The idea, according to LADWP’s Marty Adams, is to use the Japanese-made pipes in the most critical and vulnerable places, including streets serving hospitals and key civic buildings. “When we have a pipe coming in for replacement, we’ll ask if it should be earthquake resistant.”

The city has over 7,000 miles of pipe and has already replaced some of the oldest, most corroded pipe with new, regular ductile iron pipe that’s “almost hermetically sealed” so the soil never touches the pipe, according to Adams. Last summer a 93-year-old water main under Sunset Boulevard ruptured and flooded part of the UCLA campus, becoming “the poster child of infrastructure needs,” Adams says.

A BMW is surrounded by water on Sunset Blvd., near the campus of UCLA after a water main rupture in 2014. (Jabin Botsford/Copyright © 2014. Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with Permission.) 

LADWP officials say quake-resistant pipes will help limit the number of water main breaks in "The Big One." Davis and Adams are acutely aware of what can happen to water infrastructure during an earthquake. They both were working for the department in 1994 when the Northridge quake hit. The city had to repair more than 1,500 breaks, Adams says, and according to the state Office of Emergency Services, over 48,000 homes were cut off from running water. Davis says the quake "changed his whole understanding" about infrastructure vulnerability. "It's essential we have a seismic resilience program."

Marketplace is teaming up with Waze to look at transportation infrastructure across the U.S. Click here to find out how you can be a part of our series and report bad infrastructure on your own commute. 

Washington Berry Pickers Push For Elusive Union Contract

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:57

Only about 2 percent of farm workers in the county are part of a union, and few have successfully negotiated contracts with farms. Workers at the Sakuma Brothers Farm are trying for both.

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As Fitbit Goes Public, It Will Have To Outrun Competition

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:55

Amid the buzz around wearables, Fitbit heads to the NYSE. The fitness tracking firm faces challenges from smart watches, but it may get a boost from companies that want to keep tabs on workers.

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Third Man Arrested In New York Pressure Cooker Bomb Plot

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:22

Prosecutors say Fareed Mumuni, 21, was part of a plot to support ISIS. A criminal complaint also alleges he used a kitchen knife to try to stab an FBI agent who came to his Staten Island home.

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The Pope Is About To Weigh In On Climate Change. Not Everyone Is Happy

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:10

A number of conservative politicians have cast a dim eye on Pope Francis' statements on climate change. A teaching document coming out Thursday aims to make the environment a moral imperative.

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California says Uber driver was employee

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:00

  The California Labor Commission has ruled that a former Uber driver was an employee during her time with the company. Uber filed an appeal yesterday. But this probably won’t be the last battle fought on the front lines of the so-called gig economy.   “Got a car? Turn it into a money machine.” So says Uber’s website. Sounds tempting, huh? But Uber drivers pay for their own gas and their own insurance. They don’t get paid for waiting time.  

“And that is, of course, one of the reasons why Uber has been so successful is because they don’t carry these costs,” says Gerald Friedman, chair of the economics department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Friedman says the ruling could set a precedent for millions of independent workers around the country, “and it’s going to encourage suits like this in other states.”

He says over the years, the independent contractor workforce has grown, partly because employers don’t have to pay things like overtime or health benefits.

John-Paul Ferguson, who teaches strategy at Stanford’s business school, says if Uber drivers are considered employees, that means higher labor costs, and ultimately, “We would probably see that passed on as slightly higher prices to end customers.”

But that won’t kill Uber’s success, Ferguson says. It’ll just give them less of an advantage over regular cab companies. As to how this ruling might affect other app-based services like Airbnb or TaskRabbit?

“There’s going to be a lot of careful parsing of how different firms have treated the people who are using their apps to provide services to people,” he says.

Ferguson says it’ll probably depend on what kind of contracts exist between the firms and the service providers.  

   

The bond market does what it wants

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:58

Here's a reality check of sorts on the breathlessness with which we all — and by we, I mean us too — greet pronouncements from the Federal Reserve.

The bond market heard Fed Chair Janet Yellen speak today, and couldn't have cared less.

The often quoted 10-year Treasury note closed at a yield of about 2.3 percent — right smack where it opened before Yellen said a word.

California Labor Commission Rules Uber Driver Is An Employee, Not A Contractor

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:58

An Uber driver in San Francisco will be paid more than $4,000 in expenses.

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Three things to know from the Fed’s press conference

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:51

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen spoke after the Fed's Open Market Committee meeting Wednesday. Here are three takeaways:

First, "gradual" is the new normal. A majority of Fed policy makers see an interest rate hike coming later this year, as long as economic conditions are right. And they see more interest rate increases next year. But Yellen kept stressing at the press conference that the rate hikes will be gradual. It's not like the Fed will double interest rates overnight.

Second, the Fed thinks the economy will improve later this year. Yellen says the economic setbacks at the start of this year are only temporary. The port disruptions on the West Coast are over, the rough East Coast winter has (thankfully) ended. The fall in energy prices that kept inflation lower than the Fed wanted is also easing.

Third, we won't make Europe happy. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde called on the Fed not to raise rates until next year. Asked about this at the press conference, Yellen said the Fed would do what it had to do — raising rates later this year, as long as the U.S. economy is strong enough.

 

Health care costs? Let's talk

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:49

When a doctor prescribes a medication, most of us don’t ask how much it’ll cost. It makes sense: for a lot of people – both doctors and patients – talking about the cost of care is a totally foreign concept.

Peter Ubel is the perfect person to explain why that is. He’s a physician who now teaches at Duke University, specializing in the overlap of ethics, behavioral economics and medicine.

“Not that long ago, if a person had insurance, they had really good insurance that covered the vast majority of the expenses,” Ubel says. “So there really wasn’t much to talk about when it came to money.”

But these days there’s a lot more to talk about. The Kaiser Family Foundation says last year, 80 percent of people who got insurance through their job still faced an annual deductible that could run as high as $3,000 or more.

That means we all have skin in the game now, Ubel says.

"When the doctor recommends one medication to us, we might have reason now to ask whether another medicine would be almost as good and a lot cheaper,” he explains.

That type of conversation is still rare, but it is happening in at least one medical field.

At Mohawk Alley Animal Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr. Diane Tang examines the mouth of a huge black and white cat named Melvin.

“Tell me a little about what’s going on with Melvin today,” Dr. Tang says to Melvin’s owner, Morgan Bradley. Bradley replies that she’s concerned about a bump on the cat’s face.

Tang lays out testing and treatment options for Melvin.

 

 

 

 

Tang examines Melvin. (Rebecca Pelvin/KPCC)

 

Then, Kayla Wilkinson, a technician assistant at the hospital, enters the exam room and says something rarely said in a doctor’s office for people: “We have two estimates here,” Wilkinson says, as she walks Bradley through the different options. 

Regarding one treatment plan, she adds, “it is most definitely not going to ever get higher than the high point, but just to prepare you, we like to give you a pillow for what to expect.”

Bradley says she appreciates getting this information upfront.

“It always helps in knowing what to prepare for and how much money I’m going to have to scrounge for,” Bradley says.

Dr. Reshma Gupta, an internal medicine physician at UCLA, says the veterinarian model is a good one for the human health care system, but there's a caveat.

She says doctors and patients can — and should — discuss different treatment options, just as veterinarians do.

“I think where it works is that, when you’re trying to make shared decisions with patients, you come up with all the options that are available for the patient,” Gupta says.

The problem, she says, is doctors who treat people have no way of knowing what those options will cost.

Doctors "do not have access to costs of medications, or commonly ordered labs, or radiology when they're face to face with a patient," Gupta says. "And so they don't have the ability to actually offer that information to patients.”

Ubel, the Duke University professor, says it comes down to one word: insurance.

“We all have different insurance plans, and so we all face different costs, and it’s almost impossible for a physician to figure out what any given patient has to pay,” Ubel says.

Ubel is optimistic that this situation will change. In the long run, he believes improved and innovative technology will make these prices more readily available. But for now, he says some information is better than none.

“We know that the old fashioned, generic antibiotic is going to be cheap and the brand new, high-powered antibiotic is going to be expensive,” he says. “And how expensive it is might vary from patient to patient, but just knowing the gist of the cost should be enough for doctors and patients to get somewhere in deciding what to do.”

But when deciding what to do, Ubel says there’s another more nuanced difference between pets and people: we’re just not comfortable talking about the costs of our own care.

But Ubel says, if we do, we might find that, like Melvin the cat, we have more options than we realize.

Gaming Industry Pushes Virtual Reality, But Content Lags

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:05

Developers are showcasing immersive virtual reality games at the E3 expo. But aside from VR headsets and demos, there isn't much software available yet to take advantage of the new technology.

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