National News

Iran's President Marks Revolution With Call For Negotiations

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:19

In a major address, Hassan Rouhani mocked U.S. military threats. But he also used the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution to say that negotiations with the U.S. and others offers the best path for Iran.

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A 'First Of Its Kind Conference' About Sexual Assault On Campus

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

Nearly three years after the federal government issued guidelines for dealing with sexual misconduct on campus, administrators are meeting at the University of Virginia to discuss problems and progress. As Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF reports, leaders in higher education say they're struggling to understand and manage sexual assaults in the age of "hooking up."

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Law Enforcement Straddles Atlantic To Round Up Alleged Mobsters

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

The FBI and Italian police made two dozen arrests on Tuesday in connection with an alleged drug trafficking ring. The ring involved mobsters in Brooklyn and members of the 'Ndrangheta, a powerful crime syndicate based in Calabria, Italy.

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Shaun White Misses The Medal Stand As iPod Gets The Gold

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

Coming into Sochi, American snowboarder Shaun White made headlines when he decided to drop out of the slopestyle event, citing a wish to focus on the halfpipe competition. Things turned out poorly for White in the halfpipe on Tuesday, though, as he fell twice and failed to medal. Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov — nicknamed "iPod — finished first instead.

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Fed Chair Promises Continuity Before Congress

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

Janet Yellen made her first appearance before Congress as chair of the Federal Reserve on Tuesday. Her remarks, released prior to her testimony, stressed that there would be a lot of continuity with past policies, because she had helped develop and implement them.

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In Olympic First, Women Ski Jumpers Shatter Glass Ceiling

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

History is being made Tuesday in Sochi, as women's ski jump makes its debut as an Olympic event. While men have competed in ski jumping for nearly a century, women have not been included in Olympic competition. They've been seeking equality in their sport for more than a decade. Tamara Keith was on hand to report on the day's events.

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This Time, Officials Claim They're Ready For Southern Storms

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

Another winter storm is hitting the Deep South on Tuesday. Snow is falling in six Southern states. Two weeks ago, a storm paralyzed metro Atlanta. Some motorists were trapped on snowy and icy interstates for 18 hours. But this time around, officials are saying they will be better prepared.

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Pay Cuts, End Of Tenure Put North Carolina Teachers On Edge

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

No state has seen as steep a drop in teacher salaries over the past few years. Legislators also halted a salary bump for teachers with master's degrees and cut a cap on class size. "Teachers are really questioning why they want to teach," says the head of a state advocacy group.

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Nonprofits Pull In Investors To Tackle Housing Affordability

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

One of the biggest problems facing low-income families is a lack of affordable housing. A coalition of nonprofits hopes to attack the problem using a well-known tool in the private sector — a real estate investment trust that allows investors to pool their funds to buy property.

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Economist Says Best Climate Fix A Tough Sell, But Worth It

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 13:00

Yale's William Nordhaus has been running the numbers on Earth's climate troubles. He says charging a fair price for any dumping of carbon dioxide into the air is a cost-effective solution. But at least half the planet must cooperate, his math suggests, or it will be all pain, no gain.

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Freelancers: From 'hustlers' into 'heroes for hire'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:59

The U.S. economy is not creating a whole lot of new jobs these days, but the country’s freelance ranks are growing.  About a third of the American workforce has what the government calls "contingent" employment, and there’s a new industry looking to cash in on that upward trend.

Case in point: the Boston start-up OhYouHero.  The company is headquartered in a Boston office building, where its founders are about to launch a website they say will help freelancers find work. OhYouHero members can build a virtual storefront and list their skills for prospective employers.

These freelancers can specialize in anything from dog-walking and personal shopping to online marketing and creative direction. Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer John Evans Maden not only designed the site -- he's also a client with an active profile

"If you got in touch with me and said 'I need this done right now,' I would do it," he says. 

As Evans Maden explains it, the company wants freelancers to think of themselves as "heroes for hire," instead of hustlers who "sometimes getting hustled" themselves.

"We think that it should be much, much, much easier to make a living in the United States, with all the technology we have."

Freelancers get paid through the site. The company takes an 8 percent cut, which Evans Maden says is below industry standard.  For such a young industry, OhYouHero has a lot of competition. 

"We’ve seen an explosion in online work platforms, such as oDesk and eLance," says Andrew Karpie of Staffing Industry Analysts.  

Karpie adds that before the recession, there were about 24  job sites for freelancers. Now he puts the number at 80 -- or more. 

"These online platform businesses are innovating, even revolutionizing, how those two sides of work supply and demand come together."

That matchmaking is just the start of this new relationship between freelancers and the free market.  Once workers get jobs, other new companies want to sell them time-management software or billing services.  New York-based Harvest offers online-invoicing, that sends automatic reminders when employers don’t pay. 

OhYouHero says its freelance customer base grew 300 percent in the past three years.

"So people are picking up different tools that are allowing them to be really good at the business end stuff, as well as their core competency -- [what] they actually get paid for," says Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace

The coworking company is one of a growing number of that offer shared office spaces -- where freelancers can be more productive than in their living rooms, and meet with clients they want to impress. Neuner says more than half of NextSpace members are self-employed. 

"There’s such a huge market to serve, so we have every intention - we’re at nine locations now - to be ten times that size by the end of the decade." 

By 2020, estimates show half the American workforce could be freelancing.

"Industry is realizing the freelancers, and what we call the independent workforce, has reached a scale that they want to serve it," says Steve King, a consultant at Emergent Research.  For freelancers who can afford to be served, King says a lot of the new products are free or low-cost. 

"We’re going to see freelancing [become] easier to do, which is good because it’s traditionally been hard." 

For many freelancers, even a little less hustling could mean more time to enjoy some of the perks of self-employment.

Freelance workers: From "hustlers" into "heroes for hire"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:59

The U.S. economy is not creating a whole lot of new jobs these days, but the country’s freelance ranks are growing.  About a third of the American workforce has what the government calls "contingent" employment, and there’s a new industry looking to cash in on that upward trend.

Case in point: the Boston start-up OhYouHero.  The company is headquartered in a Boston office building, where its founders are about to launch a website they say will help freelancers find work. OhYouHero members can build a virtual storefront and list their skills for prospective employers.

These freelancers can specialize in anything from dog-walking and personal shopping to online marketing and creative direction. Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer John Evans Maden not only designed the site -- he's also a client with an active profile

"If you got in touch with me and said 'I need this done right now,' I would do it," he says. 

As Evans Maden explains it, the company wants freelancers to think of themselves as "heroes for hire," instead of hustlers who "sometimes getting hustled" themselves.

"We think that it should be much, much, much easier to make a living in the United States, with all the technology we have."

Freelancers get paid through the site. The company takes an 8 percent cut, which Evans Maden says is below industry standard.  For such a young industry, OhYouHero has a lot of competition. 

"We’ve seen an explosion in online work platforms, such as oDesk and eLance," says Andrew Karpie of Staffing Industry Analysts.  

Karpie adds that before the recession, there were about 24  job sites for freelancers. Now he puts the number at 80 -- or more. 

"These online platform businesses are innovating, even revolutionizing, how those two sides of work supply and demand come together."

That matchmaking is just the start of this new relationship between freelancers and the free market.  Once workers get jobs, other new companies want to sell them time-management software or billing services.  New York-based Harvest offers online-invoicing, that sends automatic reminders when employers don’t pay. 

OhYouHero says its freelance customer base grew 300 percent in the past three years.

"So people are picking up different tools that are allowing them to be really good at the business end stuff, as well as their core competency -- [what] they actually get paid for," says Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace

The coworking company is one of a growing number of that offer shared office spaces -- where freelancers can be more productive than in their living rooms, and meet with clients they want to impress. Neuner says more than half of NextSpace members are self-employed. 

"There’s such a huge market to serve, so we have every intention - we’re at nine locations now - to be ten times that size by the end of the decade." 

By 2020, estimates show half the American workforce could be freelancing.

"Industry is realizing the freelancers, and what we call the independent workforce, has reached a scale that they want to serve it," says Steve King, a consultant at Emergent Research.  For freelancers who can afford to be served, King says a lot of the new products are free or low-cost. 

"We’re going to see freelancing [become] easier to do, which is good because it’s traditionally been hard." 

For many freelancers, even a little less hustling could mean more time to enjoy some of the perks of self-employment.

PHOTO: Sochi Olympic Park As Seen From Space

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:54

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station give us a view of the Olympics that we haven't seen.

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PHOTO: Sochi Olympic Park As Seen From Space

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:54

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station give us a view of the Olympics that we haven't seen.

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Healthcare teams 'wrapped around' patients

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:36

The overhaul at Cooper University Hospital begins in the waiting room.

As recently as last summer, this office was in rough shape. Carpet was patched with mismatched swatches; there were walls that time forgot.

"That a wall could be stained with marks of people’s heads, it appeared as if people were sitting there, shadows of them," says Sophia Kolosowsky, who has worked here since 1995. Look around now and you see modern wood furniture, bright colors, tasteful photos of long ago Camden on the walls instead of shadows.

"We don’t need to have that inner-city ghetto look for our patients here," she says. "We need to make them feel comfortable that we care about them. And this speaks volumes.

When you strip away all the bells and whistles at the Cooper Advanced Care Center, you see a massive effort to make primary and specialty care for the poorest and sickest patients – who for years have cost hospitals money – as easy to get as just showing up at the ER, says the clinic's executive director, Kathy Stillo.

"I think we are figuring out how to redo this whole thing, how to deliver this care in a much smarter and more efficient way," she says.

Transforming the whole practice has taken a financial investment and a leap of faith. This office was designed exclusively for the hospital’s nearly 10,000 Medicaid patients – patients who often are unemployed, homeless, mentally ill and sick.  Armed with a mandate from Cooper – and several million dollars from a New Jersey philanthropic group, the Nicholson Foundation – Stillo hopes to stem those losses by figuring out how to fuse patients to their healthcare providers.

"Our feeling is to make sure these aren’t just doctors and patients seeing each other in short clips," she says. "There are more comprehensive teams wrapped around those patients."

Stillo, who came from the pharmaceutical industry, was brought in to look at this as a business problem to solve. Cooper lost $3 million providing care to this population last year, and under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is going to grow, perhaps covering up to nearly a quarter of the population.

That’s just one reason why hospitals around the country are looking at their Medicaid patients, some for the first time in decades. At Cooper, the office has started these group visits, with up to 12 patients a doctor and other staff to learn ways to better manage their condition. If a patient ends up in the ER or hospital, someone from the office goes to the patient's bed-side to schedule a follow-up primary care visit within seven days.

The office is also reconfiguring basic functions, like how its phone calls get answered.

The other thing that's already paying off – and it doesn’t sound sexy: Reconfiguring basic office functions. 

Evan Gaston, who handles that  work, says that when he first arrived, he found a chaotic Grand Central-type scene phones ringing constantly. Imagine, Gaston says, patients lining up waiting to check in, others waiting to check out, workers overwhelmed.

"While at the same time have a phone balanced on their neck," he recalls. "Saying, ‘oh please can I have you hold one moment?’ They would put the phone down and it would ring again. We’re talking 700 calls a day."

The answer seemed obvious: build some kind of call center. 

But even a straight-forward-sounding idea like that – what sometimes is called organizational spaghetti – took Gaston two solid months. Norma Martinez, who has worked the front desk for 11 years, says whatever it took was worth it. Patients, she says, often got angry, like the time a woman went off after she had to be rescheduled because her doctor was called away suddenly. The woman threatened workers and police came. 

"That kind of thing happened maybe three times a month," Martinez says. "And now, we’ve only had maybe out of the whole time, maybe twice."

Having fewer frustrated patients is good, but it’s not the same as reducing ER visits and hospital admissions. Columbia Health Policy Professor Michael Sparer says what the new office is trying to do – getting buy-in from patients - is incredibly tough.

"Now you are asking patients to change their behavior in significant ways. And... they’ve got to trust the people who are asking them to do that," he says. "You are talking about changing the delivery system for the high cost, low-income population in the United States. And changing delivery systems is not easy to do."

Sparer says no one has yet figured out a model that can be franchised like McDonald’s, but the demand for solutions is growing. Bloomberg Industries estimates that at least $50 billion was spent last year managing Medicaid patients. 

The team at Cooper hasn’t cracked a code yet, but costs have come down 10 percent after the first several months, partly because patients like 60-year-old Nick Panaro, who had a pain come out of nowhere, could get right into the clinic.

"Sometimes I didn’t get an appointment here for two weeks," Panaro says. "That has changed. It seems like they take you right in if they have to."

The way Stillo drew it up -- seeing patients quickly so they don’t have to go to the ER  and tinkering with how healthcare is delivered -- so far, people are healthier and we all end up paying less money.

In Illinois Deal, The Onion Will Promote Health Insurance (Really)

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:33

Get Covered Illinois, the state's health insurance exchange, has hired Onion Labs, The Onion's in-house ad team, to develop banner ads, a video and other online material to persuade young people to sign up for insurance coverage.

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More students are taking AP exams, which don’t come cheap

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:32

A new report shows the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement exams has nearly doubled in the last decade. At $89 a pop — though a low-income subsidy is available — the millions of tests add up to a lot of revenue for the College Board, the non-profit that runs the AP program.

Those revenues are rising as more and more students and parents come to see AP classes as vital to getting into college in an increasingly competitive admissions environment.

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The percentage of high school graduates from each state in 2013 that took an AP exam

Those who graduated high school before the last decade might be surprised to hear just how many AP classes today’s students take and how early they start them. North Carolina high school student Brooke Huang needed a moment to recall the all the AP classes she took, which included environmental science, art history, calculus AB and world history.

That was just her sophomore year; she’s taken plenty more AP classes since. The courses were previously a way for students to set themselves apart, but with college admissions increasingly competitive, many students feel they’re now potentially as important as the SAT, also run by the College Board. Testing fees can add up fast for families.

“If your son or daughter is taking more than one, you could be spending several hundred dollars,” says Andrea Morris, mother of a Maryland high school student. “That’s real money to many families.”

She knows other parents who set aside their tax refunds to pay test fees.

Revenue from the AP program is vital for the College Board, a company that brings in more than $750 million dollars a year overall. Senior vice president Trevor Packer hears the complaints from parents, but says testing is costly to run. He also says Board research shows families see the opportunity to earn college credit as a fair deal. And the College Board does reduce fees for low-income students.

“We haven’t seen that that $89 exam fee is a barrier for most students,” Packer says.

With a college degree more important than ever and AP classes widely seen as the path to great schools, more parents will be shelling out for their kids to take these tests. Future reports on AP tests may show higher numbers still.

After 23 Years, Your Waiter Is Ready For A Raise

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 12:22

The tipped minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1991, but legislation before Congress could finally change that. The restaurant industry says that will cost jobs and drive away diners. But in states where servers, bartenders and other tipped workers already make more than the federal minimum wage, restaurants haven't been hurting.

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Erin Hamlin Sets A U.S. First With Medal In Luge

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 11:43

German Natalie Geisenberger's winning margin of 1.139 seconds was the largest at the Olympics since 1964, the sport's first year at the games. The American Hamlin says of her medal, "It's surreal, really."

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A closer look at the penny. (A really close look).

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 11:39

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Wednesday:

  • In Washington, the Treasury department is scheduled to issue its monthly statement for January.
  • The Senate Special Committee on Aging teams with the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to discuss entrepreneurship among seniors.
  • And President Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. Got a penny? Flip it over to the reverse side where you’ll see the Lincoln Memorial. That design was put in place in honor of the former president’s 150th birthday.

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