National News

This Is Your Stressed-Out Brain On Scarcity

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 12:06

When we don't have enough of something — love, time or money — we spend extraordinary effort worrying about how to get by, research shows. The stress of poverty changes the way people think.

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Citigroup Agrees To $7 Billion Fine For 'Egregious' Misconduct

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 12:06

Citigroup has agreed to pay $7 billion to settle claims that it committed fraud when it sold mortgage-backed securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Most of the money will be paid to the U.S. Treasury, but some will be used to provide mortgage relief to struggling homeowners.

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The 3 Scariest Words A Boy Can Hear

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 12:06

"Be a man" — it's a mandate most boys hear at least once in their lives. Former NFL player Joe Ehrmann says it can leave boys ill-equipped to face life's real challenges.

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How tough is it to sell steel?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:33

After much speculation of the South Korean steel case — which found steel tubes are being illegally dumped in the U.S market — the Department of Commerce found unfairly priced imported steel could harm the U.S. market and cost jobs.

Lisa Goldenberg, president of Delaware Steel Company in Pennsylvania says her company is not doing as well as she hoped they would be this time of year, but business is moving along slowly. Job openings are a bit scarce too.

"We have not hired a lot, but I’m always looking for talented salespeople," says Goldenberg. "And that is very difficult in steel."

Being a steel sales person requires a strong sales personality, she says, and a lot of experience in the industry. However, Goldenberg hopes to hire an intern to help bring the company up to speed with new technology.

Goldenberg feels the pressures of a slow economy and says she tries to stay positive for a better 2015.

"We’re going to come out better on the other side, but with some bumps and bruises," says Goldenberg.

Giant African snails seized at Los Angeles airport

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:30

Straight from the wires of the Associated Press; customs inspectors seized a live shipment of 67 giant African snails at Los Angeles International Airport this month.

They took 67 snails with a total weight of 35 pounds. That is more than two pounds apiece. Of snails.

The mollusks apparently arrived from Nigeria.

Experts the AP spoke to say the species of snail is prohibited because, A: ew, but also, B: they pose a serious threat to agriculture, public health and the economy.

Giant African snails seized at Los Angeles airport

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:30

Straight from the wires of the Associated Press; customs inspectors seized a live shipment of 67 giant African snails at Los Angeles International Airport this month.

They took 67 snails with a total weight of 35 pounds. That is more than two pounds apiece. Of snails.

The mollusks apparently arrived from Nigeria.

Experts the AP spoke to say the species of snail is prohibited because, A: ew, but also, B: they pose a serious threat to agriculture, public health and the economy.

Accounting Giant To Pay $4 Million After Improper Lobbying

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:25

The SEC announced Monday that auditing giant Ernst & Young will pay $4 million to settle charges a subsidiary lobbied Congress inappropriately. The firm neither admitted nor denied the charges.

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Do We Choose Our Friends Because They Share Our Genes?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:08

You and your friends may have more than music and movies in common. Friends typically have more genetic similarities than strangers, researchers say. That may have evolutionary advantages.

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When is joining a bull market asking for trouble?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:04

Wouldn’t it be great if the stock market was just more straightforward? When individual investors wait out an iffy market until stocks seem strong enough to buy, a decline could be imminent. Or, says James Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, "since there are still plenty of people still on the sidelines, it could be a sign that the great bull market is going to get even stronger.”

Angel notes that participation in the stock market is still far below where it was five years ago, which means there are still many investors left to start buying stocks again. And he says, figuring out exactly when the market will peak is, at its very easiest, difficult.

"When the market goes up it’ll often overshoot and go above the fair value of the market," he says. "And when the market goes down it’ll overshoot on the way down and often go below the fair value of the market. Calling the turning point is the hardest thing to do."

Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisers, says a flood of individual investors entering the market can be a sign a bull run is over, but that's not what's happening here.

“Money is starting to move in, but I would not agree – when you read some headlines out there that money is pouring in from retail investors – we’re not seeing that from our clients,” he says.

Wren notes while we may see more volatile trading, there’s only a slim chance of another recession in the next couple of years. He expects the bull market to continue through 2016 – though a little less bullish. Gregory Miller, chief economist with Sun Trust Banks, agrees that the market may continue its course, though tempered slightly.

“Now, the prospect of continued 20 percent annualized returns may be coming to an end,” he says.

If you are looking for a safe place to park your cash, says Miller,  look for stocks that are tied to the economy, like industrials.

The worst thing to do," says James Angel, speaking about potential individual investors who may only now be buying into the stock market,  "is to chase what was hot last year."

If a stock was really hot last year, notes Angel, chances are it’ll have cooled off by now. Instead of looking to the past, he says to focus on the future -- thinking about investment objectives, time horizons and risk tolerance, especially while interest rates are so low. 

"Right now," he says, "we’re in a low-return environment, so making sure you don’t do something stupid is the most important thing. "

 

Payback time for student-loan scams?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:00

Here’s a handful of student loan numbers for you. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, current student loan debt is nearing $1.2 trillion. An estimated 7 million borrowers are now in default; behind on $100 billion in debt.

All of which adds up to a juicy market for companies looking to cash in on people with student debt troubles.

Today, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against two student-loan debt-settlement companies.  The suits allege that Broadsword Student Advantage and First American Tax Defense tricked borrowers into paying upfront fees for student loan help the companies didn’t provide.

According to one of the filings, First American Tax Defense promised enrollment in a fake “Obama Forgiveness Program.”

Madigan said these companies run ads that entice people excited to call, “and what they really find out is that these are scam artists [who] want their money.”

In a 2013 report, the National Consumer Law Center found that  “a new ‘student loan debt relief’ industry has sprung up in response to the demand for borrower assistance and the dearth of reliable resources.” 

“There’s a lot of debt, it’s very confusing,” said NCLC attorney Persis Yu. “I think some borrowers are desperate and they are turning to places that look like they might be an easy fix.” 

She says many of these debt-settlement companies mischaracterize government programs as their own.

They charge borrowers as much as $1600 for services, like debt consolidation, that are available from the government for nothing.

“What’s making this possible is a lack of awareness of repayment options,” said Mark Kantrowitz, student financial aid expert from Edvisors.com.

He says the government should run an ad campaign of its own, so students with debt know what help is available for free.

If you are struggling to pay back your federal student loans, here are your options:

  • Direct consolidation: If you have multiple federal student loans you can consolidate them into one payment and extend the life of the loan to 30 years to lower monthly payments. 
  • Extended repayment: Borrowers with more than $30,000 in debt can extend the repayment period from the standard 10 years up to 25.
  • Graduated repayment: Borrowers who choose extended repayment can also set up monthly payments that start low and grow every two years.
  • Income-based repayment: Your monthly payment is pegged to your income and can be adjusted annually to account for income fluctuations. The term of the loan can also be modified to go beyond 10 years.
  • Income contingent repayment: Your payment based on your monthly income and any outstanding debt is cancelled after 25 years.
  • Pay-as-you-earn: For borrowers who took out loans after 2007 and have a family or financial hardship. This income-based plan offers the lowest monthly payment options of any income-based plan.
  •  
  • Source: Office of Federal Student Aid

 

How to spot a scam:

  • High-pressure sales tactics, like suggesting your interest rates are about to skyrocket, without debt consolidation.
  • Charging fees before debts are settled
  • Touting a "new government program" or suggesting they have special access to government programs
  • Claiming to represent the Department of Education or other government agency
  • Offers of discounted pay-back rates, gifts or special incentives
  • The hard sell, plain and simple

Source: Department of Education and Federal Trade Commission
 

 Correction: The previous version of this story misidentified Mark Kantrowitz as Mike Kantrowitz. Marketplace regrets the error.

Why HealthCare.gov is going to get a CEO

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 10:55

File this under one of the toughest jobs in America.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is beating the bushes for a CEO of HealthCare.gov, the site that became a punch line on late night TV last fall.

The Obama Administration wants to make sure the funny guys get material from somewhere else. New HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell hopes appointing a CEO to oversee the operation will make the jokes go away.

The first thing the CEO must understand? That HealthCare.gov is an online store that exists to sell a product, and that product isn’t exactly a "hot ticket."

Health insurance is “a grudge buy,” says Jon Kingsdale, the first executive director of the Massachusetts exchange, known as the Massachusetts Health Connector.

“Nobody likes to go down to their corner broker’s office on a Saturday morning, like they do a car dealer, and smell the print on the new 150 page explanation of benefits, [or] see how fast they can get it from $0 to $60,000 in claims.”

Of course the federal government’s “glitchy” website only made it harder for consumers to kick the tires on those insurance policies.

As last year’s fiasco proved, running a public exchange – which covers two-thirds of the states - is uncharted territory for Washington.

Kingsdale says it’s a more entrepreneurial enterprise than most anything else the government does.

“I used to shock my very liberal, left-leaning board of directors by reminding them if you want to talk about enrollment and getting people covered, you are basically talking about marketing and sales,” he says.

By announcing plans to hire a CEO, many think HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell understands this operation requires a business approach, with business savvy.

The new executive will work with state exchanges, consumers and insures.

Former White House advisor Kavita Patel says if HHS is going to call this person a CEO, Burwell must give the person the power of a CEO.

"As we saw with the rollout, people didn’t have the resources or authority to make the decisions they needed, and in the end, we suffered for it,” she says.

While Patel likes the idea of these management changes, it’s easy to see how the CEO could get buried in the federal government maze. 

He or she will run what’s called the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight - a bureau within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, a division of HHS.

“Imagine taking a new start-up organization and putting it inside IBM. Something with 20,000 divisions, 200 senior vice presidents,” says Patel.

In a statement last month, Burwell said the CEO will have a “dotted line” straight to her.

In other words, this new management structure is supposed to help Burwell stay in the loop – poised to move if calamity strikes.

Leadership - though - is just one challenge facing the feds as we approach HealthCare.gov 2.0.

“Let’s say you are Aetna, Cigna, United, Blue Cross - they are in the middle of doing incredibly complicated bids right now for 2015, with lots and lots of open questions,” says Tom Scully, former CMS Administrator under George W. Bush.

Scully says the CEO must understand what it’s like to develop new insurance policies, and how to get consumers to buy them. Someone, he says, who knows the industry inside and out: “You are probably going to know when someone is coming crying screaming at you, or whether they are crying wolf, or have a real problem.”

Kingsdale, the former head of the Massachusetts exchange says here’s the thing: HealthCare.gov is here to stay.

He says that means the federal government must do things like "enhance the consumer experience", and hold insurers' hands - or keep their feet to the fire.

“As the exchange matures from the start-up to this more commercial, entrepreneurial phase, this is a chance for the Obama Administration to show that the government can learn from the private sector,” he says.

Kingsdale says the more HHS accepts that it’s running a unique online store, serving as middleman to frequently overwhelmed shoppers and frequently frustrated insurers, the more people get insurance.

Which, he says, is the whole point. 

PM – ACA CEO                                  7/10/14                                                GORENSTEIN

Host Lede: File this under…one of the toughest jobs in America.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services is beating the bushes for a CEO of healthcare.gov, the site we all know that became a punch line on late night T.V. last fall.

TAPE: Joke from Colbert Report

The Obama Administration wants to make sure the funny guys get material from somewhere else.

New HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell hopes a CEO to oversee the operation will make the jokes go away.

From the Health Desk at WHYY, Marketplace’s Dan Gorenstein has the story.

DG: When you think about it…healthcare.gov…is an online store that exists to sell health insurance.

Kingsdale: It’s a grudge buy.

DG: Jon Kingsdale was the first guy to run the Massachusetts exchange – the Connector.

Kingsdale: 2:40 nobody likes to go down to their corner broker’s office on a Saturday morning like they do a car dealer and smell the print on the new 150 page explanation of benefits.

DG:  Of course the federal government’s “glitchy” website only made it harder for consumers to kick the tires on those insurance policies.

As last year’s fiasco proved; running a public exchange – which covers two-thirds of the states - is uncharted territory for Washington.

Kingsdale says - really - it’s a more entrepreneurial enterprise than most anything else the government does.

Kingsdale: 3:33 …I used to shock my very liberal, left-leaning board of directors by reminding them if you want to talk about enrollment and getting people covered…you are basically talking about marketing and sales.

DG: By announcing plans to hire a CEO, many think HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell understands this operation requires a business approach, with business savvy.

Which makes sense since this person will work with state exchanges, consumers and insures.

Former White House advisor Kavita Patel says if we’re going to call this person a CEO though, we’ve got to give them the power of a CEO.

Patel: 4:36…as we saw with the rollout, people didn’t have the resources or authority to make the decisions they needed and in the end we suffered for it.

DG: While Patel likes the idea of these management changes, it’s easy to see how the CEO could get buried in the federal government maze.

Not to get too deep in bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, but this CEO will run what’s called the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight…a bureau within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid…a division of HHS.

Patel: :14… imagine taking a new start-up organization and putting it inside IBM. Something with 20,000 division with 200 senior vice presidents.

DG: In a statement last month, Burwell said the CEO will have a “dotted line” straight to her.

In other words, this new management structure is supposed to help Burwell stay in the loop – poised to move if calamity strikes. (flat)

Leadership - though - is just one challenge facing the feds as we approach healthcare.gov 2.0.

Scully: 14:56 let’s say you are Aetna, Cigna, United, Blue Cross, they are in the middle of doing incredibly complicated bids for 2015 right now, with lots and lots of open questions.

DG: Tom Scully was a top HHS official under George W. Bush.

Scully says the next CEO must understand what it’s like to develop new insurance policies – and how to get consumers to buy them.

Someone, he says, who knows the industry inside and out.

Scully: 8:06… you are probably going to know when someone is coming crying screaming at you or whether they are crying wolf, or have a real problem.

DG: Jon Kingsdale – the former head of the Massachusetts exchange – says here’s the thing; healthcare.gov is here to stay.

He says that means the federal government must do things like ‘enhance the consumer experience’ and hold insurers hands…or keep their feet to the fire.

Kingsdale: 6:!2… As the exchange matures… from the start-up to this more commercial, entrepreneurial phase, this is a chance for the Obama Administration to show that the government can learn from the private sector.

DG: Kingsdale says the more HHS accepts that it’s running a unique online store…and has a role as middleman to frequently overwhelmed shoppers and frequently frustrated insurers…the more people get insurance.

Which, he says, is the point.

I’m DG for Marketplace.

Trump Plaza Latest Atlantic City Casino To Fold

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 10:46

The casino sent out a warning on Monday to more than 1,000 employees that their jobs will likely end in September. It could be one of four Atlantic City casinos to shut down.

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Why A Spoonful Of Medicine Can Be A Big Safety Risk For Kids

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 10:11

Parents are used to seeing medication doses in tablespoons or teaspoons, but a study shows that using these units increases the risk that they will give their children the wrong dose of medicine.

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Tipping The Cap To Derek Jeter, An All-Star's All-Star

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 10:05

A stirring tribute ad shows celebrities, fans and rivals giving a nod to the New York Yankees shortstop, who is retiring at the end of this season.

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In Defiance of Damascus, Aid Goes Cross-Border To Rebel-Held Areas

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 09:59

Against the demands of the Assad regime, a covert cross-border operation has been getting aid to desperate Syrians in areas out of government control. A new U.N. resolution could expand these efforts.

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Nadine Gordimer: Wise Words About Bettering A Troubled World

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 09:20

She lived in a country where people suffered because of the color of their skin. And she had a knack for saying just the right thing to inspire us to stand up for all the world's needy souls.

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Tech Giants Make Net Neutrality Case As Deadline Nears

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 09:16

The nation's top Internet companies are officially pressing for broad regulation to maintain free and equal access to the Internet.

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Preachers Call For Compassion In Dealing With Immigrant Surge

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 09:05

Host Michel Martin speaks with religious leaders about how faith organizations are responding to the recent surge of immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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eBay and Sotheby's join forces again

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-14 09:00

eBay and Sotheby’s want you to buy more high-end stuff (from them, of course). So, they're marrying Sotheby’s cache and eBay’s technological know-how.

eBay is creating a new marketplace where it will stream some of Sotheby’s New York auctions, so customers can bid online. The idea is to reach new, younger consumers, who'd never go to an auction.

“You’ve got millennials who are starting to make  some money, and they’ve grown up around this technology, and would find it silly to go somewhere to do something like this,” says Paula Rosenblum, a managing partner with RSR Research.

Sotheby’s can just piggy back on eBay’s existing technology, the question is: What’s in it for eBay? 

“There’s never any harm from having a venerable brand like Sotheby’s sprinkle some of its pixie dust, hopefully, onto eBay,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst with Forrester Research.

Mulpuru says eBay wants to attract more affluent consumers to its site. But they won’t be able to use PayPal for their new paintings and purses - at least not right away.  

 The two companies tried a partnership a dozen years ago, but it didn’t work. They're hoping this time will be different.

In Nigeria, Malala Calls For Release Of Kidnapped Schoolgirls

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-14 08:56

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai has drawn renewed attention to the plight of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped in April, but their release appears no more imminent.

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