National News

Obama: We Must 'Guard Against Cynicism' When It Comes To Poverty

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 15:08

"There's a lot we can do," President Obama said at a forum in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Just across town, progressive leaders laid out plans to tackle poverty.

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You've Saved Money At The Pump. Why Aren't You Spending It?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:38

Falling oil prices haven't boosted economic growth as much as expected. That's partly because consumers have chosen to pay down debt and save some of the windfall rather than spend it all.

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Brain Boost: Mediterranean Diet May Fend Off Memory Loss

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:04

People in their 60s and 70s who followed the Mediterranean diet for four years held steady on cognitive tests, a study found. But the test scores of people following a lower-fat diet went down.

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Oil downturn takes men out of 'man camps'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

There was a time when the Capital Lodge 'man camp' outside Tioga, North Dakota was teeming with oilfield workers, as many as 1,000 at the peak.

The guests there occasionally made local headlines for brawls — a couple of them violent. But more recently, Capital Lodge’s name popped up in local papers for a very different reason. The owners are looking to downsize.

“This facility here has slowed down dramatically,” says Tony Miller, an oilfield worker who has stayed at Capital Lodge. “When I first started coming here right around December, you'd wait in line to get food. And now it's kind of come and go as you please.”

In March, David Brown, the vice president for operations, acknowledged that Capital Lodge was looking to move some of its units to other parts of the Bakken oil patch. Its investors also looked into the possibility of converting some of the mancamp into a commercial motel. Occupancy had dropped below 300 during the winter months, though Brown said some of that could be seasonal.

Trends in the oil industry do not favor a rebound for the man camp. Drilling rig counts and payrolls have both dropped off. Man camps in North Dakota and Texas are both taking a hit as a result, according to Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston.

“We know that the rates they charge per day have dropped in some cases by more than half,” says Hirs. “It really doesn't matter what the rate is. They don't have anyone there to pay $10 a day, let alone $100 a day.”

Hirs points out the man camps were always meant to be temporary. The goal was to replace them with new apartments and homes — but he says some of those more permanent projects are in trouble, too.

“I've talked to a one real estate developer who started a $30 million project in the heart of the Bakken with the idea that, 'Heck, this might be worth $60 million,'” Hirs says. “But now they're looking at trying to make due with less than half the projected occupancy and perhaps less than half the projected rental rates.”

The president of the Williston Area Builders Association, Dave Nordenstrom, says the spring inventory of homes for sale was elevated, another sign of softer demand. But he’s not worried about a glut of homes on the market.

“I think as time goes on here that will shake out and builders will slow down some of their production,” he says.

Like a lot of locals, Nordenstrom says a break from the frenzied pace of the oil boom is welcome. He argues that the oil industry may be down but not out. Experts say there’s likely a 20-year supply of oil in the Bakken shale area, and the workers who support the industry going forward will still need housing.

“The oil isn’t going anywhere,” Nordenstrom says. "It's still going to be there.”

In the NBA, 'Hack-a-Shaq' is fouling ratings, too

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

As the NBA moves through its playoffs, the league is looking at the widely debated strategy known as 'Hack-a-Shaq,' named after the notoriously bad free-shooter Shaquille O'Neal.

Most recently, it's Hack-a-Jordan or Hack-a-DeAndre, for LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Amazing player, and terrible at free throws. Hack-a-Shaq, or hack-a-whomever, is when a team targets the opposition's worst free-throw shooter, pounding him with fouls. He has to take the free throw, he misses, the other team gets the ball.

"This kind of drags it down, and probably my guess would be the NBA would be looking at, 'how could we keep that excitement without having some of these games really have that type of slow finish that might not be as interesting to fans?'" asks Rodney Paul, professor of sport management at Syracuse University.

With the NHL playoffs and baseball season going on, the NBA faces stiff competition for viewers. Tom Rhoads, who teaches economics at Towson University, says banning Hack-a-Shaqs would make the game less frustrating for fans, but take away a key tactic.

"You have certain rules that are designed for the fan and not for the players," he says.

The constant stops in action aren't good for advertisers, either, according to Rodney Fort, a sports economist at the University of Michigan. Fort says breaks ought to be predictable. Otherwise, he says, "you have a difficult time identifying the number of slots to sell to advertisers."

He says the NBA, like other major sports leagues, has been pretty good at changing the rules to make more money.

 

In the NBA, 'Hack-a-Shaq' is fouling advertisers, too

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

As the NBA moves through its playoffs, the league is looking at the widely debated strategy known as 'Hack-a-Shaq,' named after the notoriously bad free-shooter Shaquille O'Neal.

Most recently, it's Hack-a-Jordan or Hack-a-DeAndre, for LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Amazing player, and terrible at free throws. Hack-a-Shaq, or hack-a-whomever, is when a team targets the opposition's worst free-throw shooter, pounding him with fouls. He has to take the free throw, he misses, the other team gets the ball.

"This kind of drags it down, and probably my guess would be the NBA would be looking at, 'how could we keep that excitement without having some of these games really have that type of slow finish that might not be as interesting to fans?'," says Rodney Paul, professor of sport management at Syracuse University.

With the NHL playoffs and baseball season going on, the NBA faces stiff competition for viewers. Tom Rhoads, who teaches economics at Towson University, says banning Hack-a-Shaqs would make the game less frustrating for fans, but take away a key tactic.

"You have certain rules that are designed for the fan and not for the players," he says.

The constant stops in action aren't good for advertisers, either, according to Rodney Fort, a sports economist at the University of Michigan. Fort says breaks ought to be predictable. Otherwise, he says, "you have a difficult time identifying the number of slots to sell to advertisers."

He says the NBA, like other major sports leagues, has been pretty good at changing the rules to make more money.

 

Re-thinking the boring bond

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

The usually boring bond market has been distinctly un-boring of late. What began in German bonds a couple of weeks ago has arrived at the U.S. Treasury market.

German rates have climbed about half a percent, “which is a big move in bond world,” says Brian Rehling, co-head of global fixed income strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “That’s really what’s moved U.S. rates higher.”

The yield on the 10-year Treasury on Tuesday climbed to its highest level since late November before settling back down slightly, to 2.26 percent.

Rate increases aren’t limited to the bond market, says Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. Consider a bank which might buy a bond or make a mortgage loan.

“If the returns [banks] get on bonds are higher, because interest rates have risen, they’re going to require a higher interest rate on that same mortgage loan,” LeBas says.

“We could list a whole conga line of ramifications,” says Marilyn Cohen, president of Envision Capital Management.

In addition to mortgage rates, she says “car loans are less sensitive than mortgage rates, but certainly will drift up, and any type of consumer loans or line of credit that you may have that you’re thinking about using a portion of, those rates would go up.”

Cohen says she doesn’t think we’ll see a big rate increases, but many  parts of the economy are counting on low interest rates. On the flip side, higher interest rates mean it’s a decent time to buy bonds – they’ll offer more income now.  

Medical scribe industry thrives

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

Think about the word, “scribe.” What pops into your head? Probably something from a humanities class in college or a History Channel documentary, right?

If you've visited a doctor lately, you might envision something more modern. The medical scribe industry has been booming in recent years, fueled largely by hospitals around the county switching to electronic medical record systems.

Tyrell Kirchhefer is the lead scribe in the emergency department at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. While the doctor on duty quizzes a patient, he stands silent in the back, taking exhaustive notes on his laptop.

“One of the biggest things they taught us [in medical scribe training] was not to show any facial expressions when you are in the room,” he says. “It takes a lot of work.”

Kirchhefer makes $13 an hour, and the work counts as “hands-on experience” on medical school applications, which he hopes to start submitting soon. He says that after more than a year behind his laptop in the ER, he’s been able to see the gamut of common medical experiences, and some that are not so common.

“I had a woman that was herding cattle one day and, somehow, she was run over by one of the bulls. She didn’t come in for 12 hours or something like that, because she didn’t think it was that bad. It was pretty bad: she had a wound the size of a large orange or a grapefruit.”    

The hospital had to adopt electronic medical records by this year in order to not get penalized on medicare and medicaid reimbursement.  

These records are much more comprehensive than the paper files or computer spreadsheets the hospital used to useThey also take much longer. Cheyenne Regional ER Doctor Amy Tortorich says it take her about 10 minutes per patient. She usually sees about 30 patients a day.

“That’s an extra five hours charting. So half my shift, almost half my shift.”

But with Kirchhefer she says she can see more patients, and they generally leave happier. Which, Tortorich says, makes medical scribes well worth their cost.

“All of my doctor friends want this.”

That kind of demand has created a booming industry. Sarah Lamb is the Chief Operations Officer for Scribe America, one of the biggest medical scribe companies in the country.

“In the past year alone we have tripled our growth to probably just under 7,500 employees in 47 states.”

The leading scribe trade group predicts the number of scribes working in America will go from about 20,000 today to 100,000 by 2020.

“Unless we have some futuristic component where a physician can do live documentation while walking down the hall, there will always be a need for scribes,” Lamb says.

Wait, why can’t that vision come true? Well there is one big obstacle: the medical scribe industry.

“By creating a new profession we are bypassing  the physician,” says Dr. George Gellert, Medical Informatics Officer at Christus Health Systems. “ As well as hospitals and clinics across the country [for their] input into this product.”

Dr. Gellert recently wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that, in fact, it’s in our best interest that doctors to have to deal with electronic medical record systems, even if they are frustrating. Gellert says right now electronic medical records are sort of like cell phones in the 90s—clunky and time consuming. Input from cellphone users on what worked and what didn’t was the push that eventually led to the smartphone.

“But if someone was there to manage all [your] cellphone functioning, would there have been the pressure to evolve cell phones? I suspect not.”

One day medical scribes might be innovated out of a job, but for now, many hospitals find them indispensable. In Cheyenne, Kirchhefer says his shop is always hiring. 

What's AOL, really?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

Here's a coda to our report about Verizon's deal to purchase AOL

We had AOL CEO Tim Armstrong on the program about two and a half years ago, when I asked him — as I sometimes do with CEOs — to describe what his company does in five words or less.

This is what he said:

AOL will be the best connected, most shared and most impactful brand and media company with a technology platform in the world.

So based on today's news, here's another way to say that: $4.4 billion. 

Verizon set to acquire AOL in billion-dollar deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

Here's a coda to our report about Verizon's deal to purchase AOL

We had AOL CEO Tim Armstrong on the program about two and a half years ago, when I asked him—as I sometimes do with CEOs—to describe what his company does in five words or less.

This is what he said:

Tim Armstrong: AOL will be the best connected, most shared, and most impactful brand and media company with a technology platform in the world.

So based on today's news, here's another way to say that: $4.4 billion. 

My Paris Dream: A fashion journalist on style and slang

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 13:00

As a young Princeton graduate, Kate Betts dreamed of moving to a different country to be a foreign correspondent.

She set her sights on Paris and with the encouraging words of her mother, “You can always come back,” she left and didn’t look back.

Betts caught the attention of John Fairchild, editor and chief of Women’s Wear Daily.Since then, Betts has worked in the fashion industry at Vogue and at Harper’s Bazaar.

She now has a book about her experience in fashion journalism called "My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine."

Betts realized that she wanted to pursue fashion journalism while talking to Yves Saint Laurent.

“That was a real moment for me because I realized that this is such an interesting subculture and such an interesting group of people and characters and that you didn’t necessarily have to be reporting from Hanoi to be considered a serious journalist,” she says.

“You could really write about anything, and if you did it in an interesting way and if the characters were compelling enough, then that was enough for journalism.” 

'Lawful Use' Of Force By Wisconsin Police Officer, DA Says

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 12:15

Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny shot and killed Tony Robinson, 19, on March 6. The case drew attention because of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of the police.

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University Of Virginia Dean Sues 'Rolling Stone' Over Discredited Rape Article

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 12:09

UVA's dean of students says the article portrayed her as the "chief villain of the story." She's suing the magazine and the author for $7.85 million.

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'Unsettling' Lucille Ball Sculpture Will Move To New Home In NY

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 11:37

The plan gives new life to a statue that gained dubious fame last month, when criticism of the bronze work reached a fever pitch. It's now seen as a part of comedy history.

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On YouTube, it's always late night

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 11:30

Late night TV is increasingly not on TV, or even on at night. In the past year nearly every major player — CBS, NBC, Comedy Central — have seen host shake-ups, with more on the way. HBO and Netflix are joining the fray and, as the New York Times points out, competition is stiffer as more viewers aren't bothering to stay up and watch anymore.

Instead, shows are fighting for viewers online, and some are performing better than others. To find out just how much better, we looked at each major late-night show's ratings last quarter and their most successful videos on YouTube. It's not a perfect measure — nearly all shows also host clips on their network's website, and on Facebook — but a pattern starts to emerge: younger shows are increasingly finding what works online. Often that's celebrities being silly, and they're reaching far bigger audiences because of it.

Here's how all the shows stack up:

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"

  • Debuted: February 17, 2014
  • Average nightly TV viewers: 3.9 million
  • Most popular YouTube video: "Lip Sync Battle with Emma Stone," 52.6 million views

After a year on-air, Fallon's "Tonight Show," dominates late-night TV in Nielsen ratings and YouTube views. Much of this online success comes from several recurring segments, online-only musical performances and nostalgia-fueled stunts, like reuniting the cast of "Saved by the Bell." The show's celebrity "lip-sync battles" have racked up some 165 million views for "Tonight," and Spike has its own, seperate show based on the concept.

"The Tonight Show" also posts web-exclusive backstage interviews, but those rarely crack seven figures.

"The Late Show with David Letterman"

  • Debuted: August 30, 1993
  • Average nightly TV viewers: 2.8 million
  • Most popular YouTube video: "Tina Fey's #LastDressEver," 13.8 million views and counting

Interestingly, Letterman had his biggest viral success just last week, when Tina Fey shed her fancy dress during an interview to say goodbye to the retiring host. The video has quickly lapped the show's most successful videos several times over. The only "Late Show" segments that have come close are other bits of planned spontaneity, like a particularly frenetic musical performance, a Robin Williams tribute or when Letterman announced his retirement.

CBS also produces a spin-off called "Live on Letterman" featuring hour-long concerts filmed in the Ed Sullivan Theater, streamed through the network's website.

"Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

  • Debuted: January 26, 2003
  • Average nightly TV viewers: 2.7 million
  • Most popular YouTube video: "YouTube Challenge - I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy," 53.3 million views

This one comes with a little asterisk: Kimmel's most popular YouTube video is actually a relatively-ancient 2010 clip in which he has Justin Bieber come on the show to surprise a young fan. It was huge views spike for "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which the show has only started to match recently. Let's chalk that one up as a fluke of the rabid Beiber fandom and look at the rest of Kimmel's big viral hits, which all involve crying children and celebrities saying terrible things about themselves.

The show's "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" videos have together racked up more than 355 million views. Kimmel's now-annual compilations of children hearing their parents ate all their Halloween candy have been a huge success as well. Only these recurring segments have started to match Kimmel's early success with Beibs.

"Conan"

  • Debuted: November 8, 2010
  • Average nightly TV viewers: 815,000
  • Most popular video: "Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, and Conan Share A Lyft Car," 17.7 million views

Like Letterman, Conan O'Brien's show is a little more old-fashioned, with fewer recurring segments featuring celebrities. His show's most popular videos involve going on goofing around outside the studio with his guests, like visiting a Korean Spa with actor Steven Yuen, playing video games with Marshawn Lynch and looking for dates with Dave Franco.

The show also posts "Interweb exclusive" outtakes and backstage interviews on the Team Coco website.

"Late Night with Seth Meyers"

  • Debuted: February 24, 2014
  • Average nightly TV viewers: 1.5 million
  • Most popular YouTube video: "Seth Brings Jon Snow to a Dinner Party," 6.8 million views

Seth Meyers' "Late Night" mostly posts clips from celebrity interviews, which rarely reach a million views. The few that have are with Internet darlings like Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift and Kanye West. The show does several pre-taped segments reminiscent of "Saturday Night Live," as well as live performances of actual cut "SNL" sketches, but only one has been a bonafide hit.

"The Late Late Show with James Cordon"

  • Debuted: March 23, 2015
  • Average nightly TV viewers: 1.5 million
  • Most popular YouTube video: "James Corden and Tom Hanks Act Out Tom's Filmography," 12.7 million views

A month and a half in, the new "Late Late Show" has started off strong, beating out time slot rival "Late Night" with a couple of videos that seem likely to become recurring bits over James Cordon's run as host. One has actors rapidly revisit all of their major roles in front of a green screen, and the other puts Cordon in the car, singing along to the radio with Mariah Carey.

Verizon is buying AOL. What now? Let us explain.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-12 11:28

On Tuesday, Verizon announced that it had purchased AOL for $4 billion. That led to a fair bit of head scratching. 

Verizon to buy AOL. AOL still exists?

— Isobel Carr (@IsobelCarr) May 12, 2015

There were also a lot of dial-up jokes and "you've got merger"s. But seriously: why on earth would Verizon buy AOL, and what does it plan to do now that it has? Let's break it down.

What is this deal all about?

It’s about mobile video, and it’s about ads.

Like Comcast and AT&T, Verizon has realized there’s no real money in being the plumber – that is, in selling access to the pipes, whether they’re wireless phone access or Internet access to the home. The real money is in content, and unless we're talking about public radio, content means ads. AOL has really great technology for delivering ads in mobile video, and they have a lot of original content too.

Verizon has said it wants to launch a mobile TV service as soon as this summer; this is the video and the ad platform that could power it. That would put it — much like Comcast with NBCUniversal and AT&T with DirecTV — in the content business, but it would be content aimed at mobile phones and wireless subscribers instead of traditional television.

OK, but why do they need AOL for that?

It turns out, in addition to making $143 million a year off people who still pay for dial-up, AOL has also spent the past few years building itself a pretty decent little ad technology business. It bought companies like 5min media, which distributes short video clips around the web so advertisers get more views. Then it spent $400 million on an ad technology company called Adap.tv that helped it put ads on all those little video clips.

Companies like Adap.tv do something called "programmatic advertising," which basically means they use computers to buy and place ads more efficiently and hopefully more effectively. That's another story, but for now what you need to know is that AOL got itself some good programmatic ad technology, and invested in creating a bunch of content to advertise against. That made them, apparently, a tempting target for a telco looking for a new revenue stream.

Why do it now?

Well, on the wireless side, Verizon is in a price war with T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, not to mention prepaid providers. Wireless used to be a great business because you could basically charge whatever you wanted for data —and Verizon did. That’s changing, so it's making less money on wireless. On the broadband access side, there are the looming net neutrality regulations — if broadband and wireless internet access are reclassified as utilities, that will limit Verizon’s flexibility around what it can charge for access. The telcos are worried they’ll make less money, so they’re all looking for other ways to keep the dream alive.

Sounds like a big bet. Will it work?

Selling ads against mobile video is a tough game, considering your main competitors are Facebook and Google.

It turns out that A: They're pretty good at ad technology themselves (read: the best in the world) and B: Most of the video people are watching on their phones is coming from either Facebook or YouTube. So even if Verizon does launch its own video streaming service, why would anyone use it when they still have YouTube and Facebook? Oh, and what if it's only on Verizon? That leaves out a huge chunk of the market that might never see those ads.

Meanwhile, if Verizon launches its own streaming video service, then it’s suddenly in the content business. That could raise some regulatory red flags. This deal still has to be approved by regulators, who might be worried that Verizon could prioritize its own video service over, say, YouTube.

Enough about business. What about me? 

Well, if Verizon does launch a new streaming video service, it could be a reason to stay a customer, if you like what they’re offering. They might use it to lure new customers onto the service, because they figure mobile video is huge and only getting huger.

On the back end, it’ll probably mean a lot more tracking of your behavior. Verizon’s already gotten in some hot water for using “super-cookies” that track your browsing and location information even if you thought you opted out on individual websites. Wanting to serve you targeted ads gives it even more reason to track everything you look at. So, choose wisely.

Fast-Track Trade Measure Fails Key Test Vote In Senate

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 11:20

The White House calls the vote merely a "procedural snafu" and expects to eventually prevail.

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A Foot In Africa, A Foot In Europe: Divide Grows Wider In Ceuta

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 10:28

The Spanish city is physically part of Africa. About half of its people are more prosperous Europeans; half are Arabic-speaking Muslims disproportionately living in poverty. That disparity is growing.

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Do We Talk Funny? 51 American Colloquialisms

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 10:16

American English has a rich history of regionalisms — which sometimes tell us a lot about where we come from.

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Malaysia Says It Will Turn Back Migrant Boats

NPR News - Tue, 2015-05-12 10:00

It comes a day after more than 1,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis landed in the waters of Malaysia's Langkawi island, and after Indonesia said it would also turn back the migrants.

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