National News

Trio Of Astronauts Return To Earth After Record-Breaking ISS Mission

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 06:28

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti surpassed a space endurance record for a female spacefarer.

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Dirty Dancing In The Early 1900s

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 06:23

Scandalous swirls like the Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot and Grizzly Bear may have even scared President-elect Woodrow Wilson.

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Reports: Christopher Lee, Star In 'Dracula,' 'Star Wars,' Dies

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 04:56

Lee's career was varied and vast: He made his name as Dracula for decades, but then went on to play roles in Hollywood blockbusters like Lord of the Rings. Lee was 93 years old.

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Authorities Beef Up Search For Killers Who Escaped New York Prison

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 04:39

An area not far from the prison where David Sweat and Richard Matt broke out last weekend appears to be a focus of police scrutiny, but officials were also looking in neighboring Vermont.

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PODCAST: Costco cars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-11 03:00

There is news today that retail sales went up 1.2 percent in May. More on that. Plus, Costco is closing in on becoming the biggest car retailer in the nation, thanks to a policy of selling cars at a fixed, discounted price. And no, they don’t come in packs of two. We'll also talk to Univision’s Leon Krauze about the Mexican midterm elections this past weekend.

China Sentences Former Security Chief To Life In Prison For Corruption

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 02:44

Zhou Yongkang became the highest-ranking official to be convicted in President Xi Jinping's campaign against corruption. Zhou was accused of taking bribes and leaking state secrets.

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Another Costco bonus for members: discount cars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-11 02:00

Nearly 50 million Americans pay an annual fee of $55 to $110 a year at Costco so they can stock up on giant packages of steeply discounted paper towels or even bargain-priced jewelry.

But a growing number of Costco members are also turning to the company to score a ride. Costco has become a major player in the world of car sales. The retailer says it helped move about 400,000 cars last year.

“Costco is essentially acting as a middle man,” says Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “They are working with the manufacturers to bring in vehicles and essentially set a price for the vehicle.”

Costco negotiates price discounts that can save members $1,000 on average.

“So their members then don't have to haggle,” Schuster says.

John Rand tracks Costco at the research firm Kantar Retail. He says Costco offers special opportunities like brokered car purchases and even vacations because it’s focused on growing and retaining its membership base. Rand says 80 percent of its net revenue comes from member fees.

“Costco is in many ways not really a retailer," he says. "They tell you what they are: they're a club ... and as a club their mission is constantly to provide something extraordinary to members.”

The virtual doctor will see you now

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-11 02:00

Walgreens, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, has announced plans to provide virtual medical exams to patients in 25 states by the end of the year.

The news is part of a larger trend of giving patients less expensive alternatives to a doctor's office visit.

Patients will be able to use the Walgreens mobile app to access doctors who can then write prescriptions for common ailments such as, say, pinkeye or a sinus infection.

Jon Linkous is CEO of the non-profit American Telemedicine Association. He says the growing trend will increase healthcare access and provide greater convenience.

“Patients who are now customers can look at this application and avoid the long waits that it might take for them to get an appointment at a primary care doctor as well as having to go into a waiting room filled with other sick people,” Linkous says.

Walmart, CVS, and RiteAid are exploring plans to launch their own virtual clinics, but there are also risks. That is according to Andy Haig, director of e-Health at the University of Michigan.

“What's most important that people need to realize is that primary care medicine is a book that is about 20,000 pages wide, and there is a reason for that,” Haig says.

This is a business model, it’s not a quality model," he says. "A few major lawsuits may change things for the better, and I'm hoping that these large companies are smart enough to play the odds and be sure they have good quality and they place limits on their treatment.”

UnitedHealthcare and Anthem are also making plans to roll out telemedicine services by next year.

The virtual doctor will see you now

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-11 02:00

Walgreens, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, has announced plans to provide virtual medical exams to patients in 25 states by the end of the year.

The news is part of a larger trend of giving patients less expensive alternatives to a doctor's office visit.

Patients will be able to use the Walgreens mobile app to access doctors who can then write prescriptions for common ailments such as, say, pinkeye or a sinus infection.

Jon Linkous is CEO of the non-profit American Telemedicine Association. He says the growing trend will increase healthcare access and provide greater convenience.

“Patients who are now customers can look at this application and avoid the long waits that it might take for them to get an appointment at a primary care doctor as well as having to go into a waiting room filled with other sick people,” Linkous says.

Walmart, CVS, and RiteAid are exploring plans to launch their own virtual clinics, but there are also risks. That is according to Andy Haig, director of e-Health at the University of Michigan.

“What's most important that people need to realize is that primary care medicine is a book that is about 20,000 pages wide, and there is a reason for that,” Haig says.

This is a business model, it’s not a quality model," he says. "A few major lawsuits may change things for the better, and I'm hoping that these large companies are smart enough to play the odds and be sure they have good quality and they place limits on their treatment.”

UnitedHealthcare and Anthem are also making plans to roll out telemedicine services by next year.

Advocates say insurers are driving away sick customers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-11 02:00

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently in the initial review period for health care plans to be sold on exchanges for the 2016 open enrollment period. They’re making sure plans comply with the complex regulations in the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. But this time around, some groups are objecting to minute details in plans. Advocates and patients say some insurers are designing their benefits to drive away people with preexisting conditions.

One such patient is Sarah Truman, of Portland, Oregon. Truman wakes up every day and sorts through her stockpile of pills. “I take 17 pills a day—on a good day,” she explains.

Truman has psoriasis, the autoimmune disorder that causes flaky and scaly skin. She also has psoriatic arthritis, a related condition that causes painful joint swelling.

Even under her Obamacare plan, she still spends hundreds of dollars each month on co-payments. That's actually an improvement. But one crucial intravenous medication — a type of chemotherapy — costs more than a copay.

“That right now is $15,000 a month, and that’s treated as a co-insurance, not a co-pay,” Truman says.

Since Truman has 20 percent co-insurance rate, she pays 20 percent of the cost: $3,000 a month. Even though she has a well paying job, she still has to go to food banks to afford her kids’ food. Advocates say plans like hers force patients to either pay very high costs or find a different plan, thus undermining the purpose of the affordable care act.

Douglas Jacobs, a masters student in Public health at Harvard University, surveyed how plans priced their drugs

“We found a full one in four plans were practicing what we called 'adverse tiering,'” he says, meaning that the drugs a person needs for a condition are prohibitively expensive under that plan.

“The whole purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to distribute risk in a way that made healthcare affordable to individuals who couldn't get to it before Affordable Care Act was passed,” Jacobs says.

And advocates say the clearest-cut example of adverse tiering was found in Florida by the AIDS Institute.

“There are discrimination protections in the ACA, and they are trying to get around those,” explains Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute’s vice president of policy.

The AIDS Institute says it's discrimination because some Florida plans put all HIV medications into the highest tier—even generics. Schmid says it’s a tiny nudge to keep expensive groups of people away from those plans. The AIDS Institute objected and sent a letter to the Obama administration.

“The administration has said that this is discrimination,” Schmid says. “Now we need them to enforce the law.”

They also complained to Florida’s insurance regulator, and eventually insurers placed some HIV medications into cheaper tiers. The insurers declined to comment on pending legal matters.

The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing whether this kind of drug pricing is discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions. Their ruling should apply by next year’s open enrollment.

Say yes to the Pinterest board

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-11 01:59
30 percent

That's the portion of Pinterest boards dedicated that are wedding-themed and set to private. Sometimes, you just want to plan your wedding in secret, and as the Washington Post reports, some of these brides-to-be are only lacking one thing for their perfectly manicured day: an actual groom.

175

That's how many workers have been laid off from J. Crew following a disappointing earnings report. This includes the current head designer, Tom Mora. As CNN Money reports, sales for the company were down 5 percent from this time last year.

8 years

That's how long a new deal between Nike and the NBA will last. As part of the agreement, the Nike swoosh will appear on uniforms, and Nike replaces Adidas as the exclusive provider of clothing for the league. As Time reports, fans and players of were dissatisfied with the style of uniforms provided. Apparently, basketball players don't like sleeves.

5

That's how many subreddits were banned by Reddit for violating its rules on harassment. As Mashable points out, the move is a distinct change in direction for the site, as it has previously let users largely guide the direction of the content. 

$1,000

That's the average savings for customer buying a car from Costco. How does the superstore haggle the deals? By acting as the middleman between manufacturers and buyers, brokering deals on behalf of customers. And since 80 percent of its net revenue comes from member fees, it can afford to focus on lowering prices.

A Suit That Turns A Person Into A Robot (Sort Of)

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 01:01

Robots are really bad at many simple, human tasks. One possible workaround: Combine the person with the machine.

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Experiencing The 'Realities Of Being A Police Officer'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 01:00

A group that raises money for police officers subjected to investigation or lawsuits is using a simulator program to help outsiders understand the challenges of the job.

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America's Next Economic Boom Could Be Lying Underground

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 00:30

When it comes to improving the standard of living for Americans, the middle class could use some help. One Harvard economist says the help is underground, in the form of oil and natural gas.

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Surrogate Parenting: A Worldwide Industry, Lacking Global Rules

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-11 00:28

In the U.S., surrogacy is a widely accepted practice, though it's governed by a patchwork of state laws. It's barred in some European countries, but widely practiced and large unregulated in India.

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Data Dive Suggests Link Between Heartburn Drugs And Heart Attacks

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 23:45

The drugs are proton-pump inhibitors, including Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid. But the study doesn't show cause and effect. Other factors — diet, drink or tobacco — may play a role.

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Creepy or Comforting? South Korea Tracks Smartphones To Curb MERS

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 15:13

The government is trying to strike a balance between doing too little and doing too much to stop an outbreak of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome. But has it stepped over a line?

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Libertarian Magazine 'Reason' Target Of Federal Subpoena

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 14:03

Federal prosecutors want the magazine to turn over the identities of six users who posted threatening comments against the federal judge in the Silk Road case.

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Missouri Slow To Advance A Post-Ferguson Agenda

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:47

While several states have passed new laws aimed to curb excessive force by police, there's been surprisingly little traction in Missouri, where Michael Brown's death spurred international protests.

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What Big Pharma wants from the big trade deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-10 13:00

On Wednesday, a few pages from the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement were published by Wikileaks and reported on by the New York Times. They seemed to indicate changes that go against the wishes of the pharmaceutical industry, eliminating language that sought to guarantee drug companies “competitive market-derived prices” when they sell overseas. 

But the pharmaceutical industry has been lobbying lawmakers on the TPP since the beginning, and shaping far more than this one section of the agreement, according to Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the New America foundation and author of "The Business of America Is Lobbying."

Jay Taylor, head of international affairs for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says the industry is seeking, among other things, vital protections of intellectual property. But Judit Rius Sanjuan, head of the Doctors Without Borders' Access Campaign, says these protections could drive up the price of lifesaving drugs in the developing world. 

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