National News

Why The War On Cancer Hasn't Been Won

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 12:00

Medical researchers have made only modest progress treating the most common cancers since the war on cancer was declared in 1971. The disease has proved far more complicated than doctors had hoped.

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Wilson Sporting Goods Acquires Louisville Slugger Brand

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:57

The $70 million dollar deal will join the makers of Major League Baseball's official bat with the company that produces MLB's official glove.

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Stats Split On Progress Against Cancer

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:53

When you dig into the number on cancer, the results are mixed. Overall, deaths are up. But survival five years after diagnosis has improved for many forms of the disease, including breast cancer.

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Supreme Court Declines Challenge To Strict Wisconsin Voter ID Law

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:51

Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, a handful of challenges to state voter ID laws are making their way through the courts, including to strict laws in Texas and North Carolina.

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Greece: Time and money is running out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:23

The Greek government is running out of money. The country has only enough cash to last another couple of weeks.

So when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin today, it's not surprising he wanted her support for financial concessions.

Germany is the largest contributor to Greece's various bailouts, so it has a powerful voice in European negotiations. However, the relationship between the two countries isn't going so well.

Just as the saying goes: "history repeats itself" — the two countries’ disagreement goes back to World War II.

"The Greeks have dusted down an old claim for reparations for Nazi atrocities against Greece during World War II," says Marketplace’s Stephen Beard. "That has played very badly in Germany."

Meet the guardian of Fenway Park

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 11:00

Boston's Fenway Park is the hallowed home of the Red Sox, famous for the so-called "green monster" wall that lives out in high left field and the lone red seat in the bleachers that marks the park's farthest home run.

David Mellor, director of grounds at Fenway Park, keeps the park and all its famous landmarks in good shape and ready for ball games.

Mellor knows all there is to know about the park itself, including temperaments of the green monster.

"The green monster, being 37 feet high and green, absorbs a lot of heat," says Mellor. He says during the spring, fall and winter, the massive heat-absorbing wall helps melt the snow and warm up the grass. "But in the summer, that radiant heat is something we have to monitor and make sure the grass doesn't get too hot or dry out," Mellor explains.

Before it was his job to take care of the park, Mellor dreamt of pitching for Major League Baseball. But a tragic accident ruined Mellor's plans to become a player for the MLB.

"A month after I got out of high school, before I could play baseball in college, I was hit by a car," says Mellor.

In the end, Mellor was destined for Fenway.

"My job is the next best thing to playing, I'm very honored to be here," Mellor says.

Sandwich Monday: Burger King's YUMBO

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 10:55

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try the YUMBO. It's a Burger King sandwich with ham and cheese recently pulled out of retirement.

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Israel's Netanyahu Apologizes For Remarks On Arab Voters

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 10:19

The Israeli leader, in an attempt to get his supporters to vote last week, warned that Arab citizens were voting "in droves" to unseat his government. The comments were widely criticized.

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Justice Dept. Faults Philly Police For Poor Training On Deadly Force Policy

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:43

A review of the city's 394 officer-involved shootings between 2007 and 2014 also found police recruits were not trained in a "systematic and modular fashion."

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Liberte, Egalite, Gastronomie? France Rallies To Defend Its Food's Honor

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:42

With fast food now a staple at home and Danish and Spanish chefs in the limelight, France's culinary supremacy is no longer a given. The government has mobilized to save French food traditions.

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America's next financial crisis?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:40

Michael Lewis is always writing something, and, more often than not, something damning about the financial industry. Most recently, his book "Flash Boys" followed Brad Katsuyama, a Wall Street insider who saw significant problems in high frequency trading. 

In a new afterword for the paperback edition, also published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Lewis notes, "When I sat down to write 'Flash Boys,' in 2013, I didn’t intend to see just how angry I could make the richest people on Wall Street." 

The anger was simply a byproduct of what Lewis thought was a straightforward story. 

"The story was: what happens when a good man walks onto Wall Street and finds a problem," Lewis says. "But of course it irritated all the people who were making lots of money off the problem."

That problem was a result of high frequency trading, the transactions that happen in microseconds or nano-seconds. Traders at large firms had access to information moments before other investors, essentially a view a just fractions of a second into the future. Multiply a few pennies to their advantage over 2 million trades per second, it adds up. 

Katsuyama created his own exchange which, Lewis says, puts a few speed bumps in front of that supersonic trading to create a level playing field. Called IEX, it's growing, with backing from venture capitalists and institutional investors. Will that be enough to solve the problem?

"I think there's every possibility, over a period of five to ten years of market-based change," Lewis says. "I don't hold a lot of hope of other sources of change."

Other sources of change could include new regulation, or self-imposed discipline on the part of traders. Regulation would be the purvey of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but officials there have radically different views on how well the market is functioning. On one hand, chair Mary Jo White has told Congress that markets are operating well. Contrast that with former SEC official John Ramsay, who likened the structure of U.S. stock markets to the Death Star. Ramsay is among Lewis's sources, and has gone on to join IEX.  

As for self-discipline, there's too much money encouraging traders to stick with current habits. 

"If you go back to the financial crisis, what caused it wasn't really bad people, it was people badly incentivized," Lewis said. "This is that all over again. It's a very badly incentivized stock market."

And, depressing as that is, it gets worse. At least when Lewis asked the experts he featured in "Flash Boys."

"If the market continues to be structured as it is, you're looking at the next financial crisis."

If You're Going To Die Soon, Do You Really Need Statins?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 09:17

Many older people are taking a lot of meds, and some drugs may not be doing them much good. When terminally ill people went off statins, they said they felt better. And it didn't increase their risk.

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You Think Your City Is Full Of Trash? Ha!

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:56

Welcome to Kathmandu — or as some call it, Trashmandu. Even in the best of times, rubbish piles up everywhere. Now things have gotten worse.

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If animal feed were organic, could we afford eggs?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:50

The World Health Organization now says the weed-killer glyphosate, better known as Roundup, probably causes cancer. Most corn and soybeans produced in the U.S. are treated with glyphosate.

But, Americans don't eat much corn — not unless you live on Fritos, or maybe Coca-Cola, which is sweetened with corn syrup. We instead eat animals that eat corn: cows, pigs, chickens. Maybe we’re consuming glyphosate when we eat a nice, juicy steak or an Egg McMuffin.

If we ended up switching away from chemicals like the Monsanto-marketed Roundup — say, if all our animal feed were organically grown — how much would our eggs and milk cost? 

To start with: Organic corn costs more. From $11 a bushel to almost $14, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with conventional corn selling for less than $4

But animal feed is a relatively tiny part of the cost of our food. You know how many eggs you get from a bushel of corn? More than 200 eggs, which is less than two cents worth of corn per egg. Triple that cost, by using organic corn to feed the chickens, and you're only at six cents.

Higher feed prices do not tend to push up grocery bills, says Bruce Babcock, an economist at Iowa State University who studies corn.

"We did run this experiment where we doubled the price of corn," he says, and he’s not talking about an experiment in the lab, this was in the real world. The price of corn goes up and down, and you can see what grocery prices do.

"It wasn’t so long ago that we had $8 corn, not $4 corn," he says, "and people hardly noticed at the supermarket."

So, why did I pay almost five bucks for a dozen organic eggs yesterday? I asked David Bruce, who runs the egg program at the Organic Valley co-op. His members sold $50 million worth of eggs last year.

He says, organic producers do have other costs — and the distributor and the store both take a cut of my $5. But basically, he says, I paid that much because I wanted them — and so did a lot of other people.

"Demand is outstripping supply," he says. "You know, we’re filling orders at 60 percent," meaning, if a distributor asks for a 100 cases, a farmer can only send 60.

If the whole world went organic, there would be more supply — more organic corn, more organic chickens — and price would probably come down.

Quitting the Bakken: one oil worker walks away

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:38

In the past few years, workers from all over America have flocked to North Dakota for jobs in the booming oil industry. For a lot of people struggling through their own hard times, it’s been an opportunity for a second chance. And for some, it was their last resort. But since summer 2014, oil prices have dropped by half. Some 75,000 oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.

Apryl Boyce is one of those workers. She's 42, tall, tough-looking and pretty, with long blond hair tucked beneath a crocheted beanie. She came to the Bakken last fall and has spent months driving a one-ton truck all over the oil field, at all hours of the day, as a hot shot, a driver who hauls equipment from one job site to another. Recently, things have slowed down a lot.

"It used to be you’d get called out at four in the morning and be doing runs until 10 at night," she said.

Now, she waits by the phone most of the day. There are 80 fewer drilling rigs here in North Dakota than there were six months ago. That means less to haul around.

At the office of Badlands Service Group, the small oil field company Apryl works for, owner Jim Levasseur said his work force is 40 percent smaller than it was a few weeks ago. He's been cutting people's hours — and then a lot of them have quit.

"They’re wanting 60 to 80 hours a week, and if they’re only going to get 40 hours a week, they’re going to go home," he said. "It may not be as much money, but at least they’re home every night and not sacrificing."

Given how dangerous the oil field is, Jim said, he doesn't blame them for leaving. "People get killed up here on a weekly basis. These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen for working."

Safety is only part of why Apryl is leaving. Her unpleasant housing situation is another major contributor. A week ago, Jim combined employee housing to cut costs. He asked Apryl to move in with 11 young men in a tired old ranch house on what used to be the outskirts of Williston, which is now hemmed in by new apartment buildings.

"I try to wear bulky pajamas and heavy sweatshirts and try to be as unattractive as possible," she said. "Because I don’t want to provoke any unwanted comments."

Apryl looked for other places to live, but an average one bedroom here still runs over $2,000. Her ad on Craigslist seeking housing didn’t work, either: She received a bunch of offers of free rent in exchange for sexual favors.

"There weren't any legit, comfortable offers," she said.

But there's another reason, a deeper reason, why she decided to leave. Ten years ago, her mother died. At that time Apryl sold everything she owned (except a storage unit full of her mother's cookbooks) and began bouncing from job to job: oil field trucker in Colorado, cattle ranch cook in Wyoming. She was running, she said, from anything she used to do, anything that made her feel like herself — until she got to the Bakken.

"It took the absolute grungiest, dingiest, darkest part of life to make me realize you can stop running," she said.

The oil field slowdown has given her a chance to pause. To think about what brought her to the Bakken, and what no longer keeps her there.

"I lost myself in the oil fields," Apryl said. "I lost myself chasing money for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not going to let it happen again."

Two days later, Apryl left Williston for a mountain town in Colorado she had talked about a lot. She’s running again, but this time to a place that feels like home.

Quitting the Bakken: one oil worker walks away

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:38

In the past few years, workers from all over America have flocked to North Dakota for jobs in the booming oil industry. For a lot of people struggling through their own hard times, it’s been an opportunity for a second chance. And for some, it was their last resort. But since summer 2014, oil prices have dropped by half. Some 75,000 oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.

Apryl Boyce is one of those workers. She's 42, tall, tough-looking and pretty, with long blond hair tucked beneath a crocheted beanie. She came to the Bakken last fall and has spent months driving a one-ton truck all over the oilfield, at all hours of the day, as a hot shot, a driver who hauls equipment from one job site to another. Recently, things have slowed down a lot.

"It used to be you’d get called out at four in the morning and be doing runs until 10 at night," she said.

Now, she waits by the phone most of the day. There are 80 fewer drilling rigs here in North Dakota than there were six months ago. That means less to haul around.

At the office of Badlands Service Group, the small oil field company Apryl works for, owner Jim Levasseur said his work force is 40 percent smaller than it was a few weeks ago. He's been cutting people's hours — and then a lot of them have quit.

"They’re wanting 60 to 80 hours a week, and if they’re only going to get 40 hours a week, they’re going to go home," he said. "It may not be as much money, but at least they’re home every night and not sacrificing."

Given how dangerous the oilfield is, Jim said, he doesn't blame them for leaving. "People get killed up here on a weekly basis. These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen for working."

Safety is only part of why Apryl is leaving. Her unpleasant housing situation is another major contributor. A week ago, Jim combined employee housing to cut costs. He asked Apryl to move in with 11 young men in a tired old ranch house on what used to be the outskirts of Williston, which is now hemmed in by new apartment buildings.

"I try to wear bulky pajamas and heavy sweatshirts and try to be as unattractive as possible," she said. "Because I don’t want to provoke any unwanted comments."

Apryl looked for other places to live, but an average one bedroom here still runs over $2,000. Her ad on Craigslist seeking housing didn’t work, either: She received a bunch of offers of free rent in exchange for sexual favors.

"There weren't any legit, comfortable offers," she said.

But there's another reason, a deeper reason, why she decided to leave. Ten years ago, her mother died. At that time Apryl sold everything she owned (except a storage unit full of her mother's cookbooks) and began bouncing from job to job: oilfield trucker in Colorado, cattle ranch cook in Wyoming. She was running, she said, from anything she used to do, anything that made her feel like herself — until she got to the Bakken.

"It took the absolute grungiest, dingiest, darkest part of life to make me realize you can stop running," she said.

The oilfield slowdown has given her a chance to pause. To think about what brought her to the Bakken, and what no longer keeps her there.

"I lost myself in the oilfields," Apryl said. "I lost myself chasing money for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not going to let it happen again."

Two days later, Apryl left Williston for a mountain town in Colorado she had talked about a lot. She’s running again, but this time to a place that feels like home.

Why RadioShack's bankruptcy ended in an auction

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:36

A bankruptcy auction began for RadioShack Monday. One bidder is Standard General, a hedge fund that is also a major RadioShack shareholder and creditor. It wants to keep approximately half RadioShack's stores open through a deal with Sprint. But other bidders are expected to be liquidators, looking to simply sell off all RadioShack's assets. 

The bankruptcy auction is a different approach than the restructuring and relaunching that characterized, for example, American Airlines' bankruptcy. But Peter Gilhuly, co-chair of the insolvency practice at Latham and Watkins, says it's actually more common, especially for retailers. 

"Auctions are wonderful mechanisms for determining a price and allocating a resource," says Bob Hansen, professor of business administration at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

But bankruptcy auctions legally can optimize only that price, looking for the "highest and best offer" to pay back creditors — even though the different plans will have vastly different outcomes for the business. Standard General says its plan will save 9,000 jobs.

"That's what makes this news," says Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities. "We just don't know. And people's jobs are in the balance."

Big changes on the way to the NFL

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:30

Forget basketball and the NCAA tournament for a minute here. Let's talk football.

The NFL is having its annual owners meeting this week in Phoenix, out of which have come two things of note:

One: the NFL's gonna suspend its longstanding and much-hated blackout rule for this coming season. That's the rule that had kept home games off television in local markets unless they're sold out 72 hours before kickoff.

And two: the league will broadcast the October 25 Jacksonville vs. Buffalo game online via Facebook or YouTube.

When you consider that the NFL signed $27 billion worth of television contracts just a couple of years ago, it's an interesting first step.

Singapore Mourns Founding Leader Lee Kuan Yew

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:22

The city state began seven days of national mourning after Lee's death today at age 91. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was "grieved beyond words" at Lee's death.

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An Object Of Desire: Hope And Yearning For The Internet In Cuba

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 07:57

Without a doubt, the Internet in Cuba is tough. The politics are thorny; getting it is difficult. But there are signs that change is on the horizon.

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