National News

Covered California Votes To Cap What Patients Pay For Pricey Drugs

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 06:46

The agency that administers Obamacare in California moved to make expensive medicines more affordable in 2016. In most plans, patients will pay no more than $150 or $250 a month.

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2 Biker Rallies: One White, One Black — One 'Badass,' The Other, Just 'Bad'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 05:48

A pair of motorcycle rallies in Myrtle Beach, S.C. — one black, one white — tell us a lot about who gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to biker culture.

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A Wedding And A Challenge: Lebanese Couples Fight For Civil Marriage

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 05:34

No one ever said marriage was easy, but in Lebanon, it's even harder: The country has 15 sets of matrimonial laws for 18 different religions and sects. Activists want the right to civil marriages.

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A Wedding And A Challenge: Lebanese Couples Fight For Civil Marriage

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 05:33

No one ever said marriage was easy, but in Lebanon, it's even harder: The country has 15 sets of matrimonial laws for 18 different religions and sects. Activists want the right to civil marriages.

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Pipeline Operator: Possibly Months Before Cause Of Calif. Spill Found

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 05:04

Plains All American, the company that operates the pipeline, says it has yet to uncover the problem. So far, 9,000 gallons of sludge have been removed from a nine-miles stretch of Calif. coast.

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Islamic State Reportedly Seizes Last Syria-Iraq Border Crossing

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 04:04

The checkpoint at al-Tanf, known as al-Waleed in Iraq, has been seized, according to a British-based monitoring group that says ISIS fighters now control half of Syria.

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An Irreplaceable Replacement, This Sub Gets The Job Done

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 04:03

Josephine Brewington, from Indiana, is the 2015 Substitute Teacher of the Year.

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How Do You Motivate Kids To Stop Skipping School?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 03:36

A study in an Indian slum tried promising a reward: Improve your attendance, and you'll get a small treat. But for third-graders, sometimes these incentive schemes can do more harm than good.

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Irish Voters Decide Whether To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-22 03:15

Polls show the "yes" vote is stronger in the conservative, predominately Catholic country. But public opinion surveys could be masking a "shy no vote," observers say.

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PODCAST: Disappearing grocery stores

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 03:01

The guessing game over when interest rates will go up ... continues. More on that. Plus, we all know what a 'leap year' is, but what about a 'leap second'? On June 30th, an extra second will be added to the world's clocks to make up for the discord between the earth's rotation and the clocks we humans use. And while it may not seem like much, it's a big deal to the world's markets. Plus, residents in the struggling city of Flint, Michigan, have seen their share of hardship over the years. In addition to a catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is losing its grocery stores, making life even more difficult for its poorest residents.

Grocery exodus has Flint shopping for answers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Residents in the struggling town of Flint, Michigan, have seen their share of hardship over the years.

In addition the catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is also struggling to provide groceries to its poorest residents.

Jason Lorenz, a public information officer at Flint City Hall, has a wall map showing the city boundaries. One thing that’s rapidly disappearing from the map are grocery stores.

“Yeah, we had a Kroger that closed, we have a Meijer up on the northwest side of town. Either side of M-21 here were two VG’s. They both closed,” Lorenz says.

Over the past eight months, Flint has seen three groceries close, most recently the Kroger on Davison Road. That means that a city of 100,000 people now has only one major grocery within city limits.

“Flint was a very tough decision for us,” says Kroger spokesman Brandon Barrow. This latest store closure, he says, was simply unavoidable.

Kroger closed the Davison Road location only two weeks after making the announcement. Barrow says the business was simply unsustainable.

“Over the course of nine years, we lost just over $3 million at that particular location.”

According the U.S. Census, more than 40 percent of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line. Many don’t have cars, meaning they are increasingly cut off from fresh groceries.

Bettie Cavendish is disabled and can’t drive. When the Eastside Kroger closed, she started taking the bus to a Walmart located outside the city. 

“It’s a four to-six hour trip, generally, for me,” Cavendish says. “I [also] have to walk a half hour to get to the bus stop, because it doesn't go down the road I'm on. “

And after she’s done all of her shopping, Cavendish says she has to carry all her groceries back home. It’s one of the hardest parts of her week.

"I guess people would think it would be easier because you have the time when you're disabled. But it's a lot harder. They don't make it easier on you at all."

The bus that Cavendish takes is a special grocery route that Flint created as a 90-day test. If the ridership is there, the line may become permanent, says Ed Benning, general manager of Flint’s bus system, the MTA.

Flint MTA opened a special ''Ride to Groceries'' route for 90 days

Adam Allington

I think the ridership will be there, because the need is not going to go away,” Benning says. 

The grocery bus helps, but it only runs weekday hours from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., leaving some working people without the chance to shop during the week.

Grocery store exodus has Flint searching for answers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Residents in the struggling town of Flint, Michigan have seen their share of hardship over the years.

In addition the catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is also struggling to provide groceries to its poorest residents.

Jason Lorenz is a public information officer at Flint City Hall. On his wall is a map showing the city boundaries. One thing that’s rapidly disappearing from the map are grocery stores.

“Yeah, we had a Kroger that closed, we have a Meijer up on the northwest side of town. Either side of M-21here were two VG’s, they both closed,” Lorenz said.

Over the past eight months, Flint has seen three groceries close. Most recently the Kroger on Davison Road, meaning that a city of 100,000 people now has only one major grocery within city limits.

“Flint was a very tough decision for us,” said Kroger spokesman Brandon Barrow.

This latest store closure, he says, was simply unavoidable.

Kroger closed the Davison Road location only two weeks after making the announcement. Barrow said the business was simply unsustainable.

“Over the course of nine years we lost just over $3 million at that particular location.”

According the U.S. Census, over 40 percent of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line. Many don’t have cars, meaning they are increasingly cut off from fresh groceries.

Bettie Cavendish is disabled and can’t drive. When the Eastside Kroger closed she started taking the bus to a Walmart located outside the city. 

“It’s a 4-6 hour trip, generally for me,” Cavendish said. “I [also] have to walk a half hour to get to the bus stop because it doesn't go down the road I'm on. “

And after she’s done all of her shopping, Cavendish says has to carry all her groceries back home. It’s one of the hardest parts of her week.

"I guess people would think it would be easier because you have the time, when you're disabled.  But it's a lot harder, they don't make it easier on you at all."

Ed Benning is the general manager of Flint’s bus system, the MTA. The bus that Cavendish takes is a special grocery route that Flint created as a test for 90 days. If the ridership is there Benning says the line may become permanent.

Flint MTA opened a special \"Ride to Groceries\" route for 90 days

Adam Allington

I think the ridership will be there, because the need is not going to go away,” Benning said. The grocery bus helps, but even that only runs weekday hours from 9:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.

So, if you do have a job, you likely still won’t have the chance to do your shopping during the week.

Insuring governments against disease outbreaks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, a new plan has emerged to guard against future risk: insurance for disease outbreaks. The idea is to help protect governments and industry against the costs of pandemics. A San Francisco firm announced $30 million in funding for the idea this week.

Today, nobody can buy an insurance policy that protects them from a pandemic. But by 2017, at least one company promises to have a product on the market. Dr. Richard Wilcox runs the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a company that sells insurance to African countries and is owned by the governmental body the African Union. He says when Ebola hit, countries lacked money for the basics, like public health workers and the ability to quarantine. So Wilcox says they waited, as governments around the globe and philanthropists passed the hat.

“The cost of having to wait for funds to be mobilized abroad is so expensive to their economy, to their vulnerable populations that they protect,” he says.

If a country takes out a policy, it will be able to get cash quickly to support efforts to control outbreaks. Wilcox estimates costs can run into the tens of millions for even cases numbering in the single digits. Aon insurance consultant Dr. Gisele Norris says Ebola has gotten governments, insurers and companies thinking about pandemics in a whole new way.

“Ebola was so instructive in that was a completely unforeseen event. And no one was prepared,” she says. “I think maybe what it brought home was there is a whole world of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease out there.”

The point, says Norris, is that we don’t know what’s going to strike next time, but there will be a next time. With that new thought in mind, she says certain industries like healthcare, aviation, hospitality and higher education are at higher risk and may look for ways to limit their financial exposure. Of course, price will determine the size of any future market. 

In Africa, ARC will sell policies that encourages public health investment. Simply, the more prepared for an epidemic, the lower its premiums—perhaps a model for industry as well.

 

 

 

 

The 'leap second' — another Y2K moment?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

On June 30, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time/Coordinated Universal Time, an extra second will be added to the world’s master clocks so that they sync up with the earth’s rotation, which does not precisely match the clocks and computers we earthlings use.

Financial exchanges and firms that depend on precise pricing and transaction data are planning for this so-called "leap second" down the micro-second.

“It’s a big issue for financial firms,” says Victor Yodaiken, whose software firm, FSMLabs, provides time-synchronization computer applications to those firms. “A whole second is a long time. Software is really not set up to see time go backwards.”

U.S.-based exchanges have a deadline of Friday to submit their plans for dealing with the leap second to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Yodaiken says high-frequency traders are particularly sensitive to the problem because of their automated algorithms.

Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges and those in Asia (Japan, Australia, Singapore and South Korea) will adjust to the extra second by spreading it out over a longer period or adding it later in the day. “During the trading day, their clocks will be different,” says programmer-analyst Steve Allen at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. He is dealing with an automated telescope that will have to adjust to the leap second. “There will be moments during that day when transactions from one market to another seem to come from the future.”

Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution or will halt after-hours trading beforehand.

Another Y2K moment? The 'leap second.'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

On June 30, 2015, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time/Coordinated Universal Time, an extra second will be added to the world’s master clocks. That’s to sync up with the earth’s rotation, which does not precisely match the clocks and computers we earthlings use.

This so-called ‘leap second’ is being planned for by financial exchanges and firms that depend on precise pricing and transaction data, down the micro-second.

“It’s a big issue for financial firms,” says Victor Yodaiken, whose software firm, FSMLabs, provides time-synchronization computer applications to those firms. “A whole second is a long time. Software is really not set up to see time go backwards.”

U.S.-based exchanges have a deadline of Friday, May 22, to submit their plans for dealing with the leap second to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Yodaiken says high-frequency traders are particularly sensitive to the problem because of their automated algorithms.

Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges and those in Asia (Japan, Australia, Singapore and South Korea) will adjust to the extra second differently—spreading it out over a longer period, or adding it later in the day. “During the trading day, their clocks will be different,” says programmer-analyst Steve Allen at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. He is dealing with an automated telescope that will have to adjust to the leap second. “There will be moments during that day when transactions from one market to another seem to come from the future.”

Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution, or will halt after-hours trading beforehand.

Baltimore's $100 million investment legacy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Phyllis Young has a full life: three children, five grandchildren, a mortgage and a job she loves. Eleven years ago, Young, a geriatric nurse's assistant, was making $8 an hour and hoping to boost her wages to $12. She hit a stroke of luck.

Baltimore, in 1994, won a federal contest aimed at alleviating poverty in urban cores. Six cities were given a federal grant of $100 million each as well as a package of tax breaks for businesses and employers. The money and tax credits were intended to revitalize each city's poorest neighborhoods, which were called Empowerment Zones.

Each of the winning cities was given some leeway to do what it wanted with the money. Baltimore city leaders decided to focus on job creation and training. One of the training programs was a certification course for nursing assistants run through Sojourner-Douglass College. Participants, including Young, had their tuition paid and were given a $600 monthly grant.

Today, Young looks back on her graduation from the program with pride. The Empowerment Zone effort, she says, got her closer to the middle-class lifestyle she'd always wanted. But despite her successes, she faces the same challenges as many people in today's economy: her nursing job, which pays $17 an hour, is only part time. She also has a full-time job, where she makes less. She says her bills have gone up, but her wages haven't kept pace.

With federal eyes fixed on Baltimore following the eruption of violent protests that drew attention to that city's high levels of poverty and unemployment, Young suggests that maybe it's time for another round of Empowerment Zones.

 

The impact of Baltimore's $100 million investment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Phyllis Young has a full life: three children, five grandchildren, a mortgage, and a job she loves. 11 years ago, Young, a geriatric nurse's assistant, was making $8 an hour and hoping to boost her wages to $12. She hit a stroke of luck.

Baltimore, in 1994, won a federal contest aimed at alleviating poverty in urban cores. Six cities were given a federal grant of $100 million each as well as a package of tax breaks for businesses and employers. The money and tax credits were intended to revitalize each city's poorest neighborhoods, which were called Empowerment Zones.

Each of the winning cities was given some leeway to do what it wanted with the money. Baltimore city leaders decided to focus on job creation and job training. One of the training programs was a certification course for nursing assistants run through Sojourner Douglass College. Participants, including Young, had their tuition paid and were given a $600 monthly grant.

Today, Young looks back on her graduation from the program with pride. The Empowerment Zone effort, she says, got her closer to the middle-class lifestyle she'd always wanted. But despite her successes, she faces the same challenges as many people in today's economy. Her nursing job, which pays $17 an hour, is only part time. She works another full-time job, where she makes less. She says her bills have gone up, but her wages haven't kept pace.

With federal eyes fixed on Baltimore following the eruption of violent protests that drew attention to that city's high levels of poverty and unemployment, Young suggests that maybe it's time for another round of Empowerment Zones.

 

We're getting double the unicorns this year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:59
$6 billion

That was Square's valuation after a round of fundraising last fall. CEO Jack Dorsey started the payment venture with another multi-billion-dollar company under his belt: a little micro-blogging service called Twitter. We chatted with Dorsey about what he's learned since starting Twitter at 29, how Square came together and much more. Listen to the extended interview here.

29

Speaking of billion-dollar-start-ups, that's how many so-called "unicorns" have sprung up so far this year. Venture capital analyst CB Insights predicts we'll see another 47 before the end of the year, which puts 2015 on track to double the number of companies that raised $1 billion in 2014.

9 percent

That's Adidas' share of the athletic shoe market, and it's shrinking. Nike, on the other hand, has about half. The former got a big boost when it signed musician Kanye West away from Nike, and West's "Yeezy Season 1" line debuted in February to much fanfare. But fashion and lifestyle are a much smaller part of the Adidas Group, which is still behind in sports. This puts the company at a crossroads, Fortune reported.

1

That's how many grocery stores are left in the city limits of Flint, Michigan, which has a population of 100,000 people. Three grocery stores in Flint have closed just within the last eight months. And with many residents without cars, access to fresh groceries has become even more difficult.

22 million

That's how many people take cruises every year. The more than 300 ocean liners that make port in the U.S. come with a host of unique hazards and regulations borne from essentially being floating cities. ProPublica has put together a comprehensive guide to cruise safety, running down just about everything that can go wrong (and how often it does) as well as searchable safety records for hundreds of vessels.

1 second

That's the amount of time that will be added on June 30th to the world's clocks. Meant to correct the discord between the earth's rotation and the clocks we humans use, that extra second is also a headache for world markets. May 22 is the deadline for U.S.-based markets to turn in a plan of action to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. One of the biggest hurdles is that different markets are adding the second in different ways: some all at once, some spread out over a period of time.

100 years

As part of the Future Library Project, Margaret Atwood will place a newly written book in a time capsule to be opened in 100 years. The closest any of us will come to knowing what's inside that book (aside from cryogenically freezing ourselves) will be a live periscope viewing of the event that will take place next week. 

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated the rate grocery stores have been closing in Flint, Michigan. The city lost three stores in the past eight months. The text has been corrected.

Silicon Tally: Hashtag POTUS

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:59

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? 

This week, we're joined by Dan Lyons, a tech journalist and writer for season 2 of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Click the media player above to hear host Ben Johnson take on Dan Lyons for this week's Silicon Tally.

In America's Heartland, Heroin Crisis Is Hitting Too Close To Home

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 23:57

Midwest and Southwest states struggle with an influx of heroin being sold for cheap by Mexican cartels. In one community, a spike in heroin-related deaths has everyone on high alert.

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