National News

For Some Doctors, Almost All Medicare Patients Are Above Average

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 08:02

Recently released Medicare data show that 1,800 doctors and other health providers nearly always charge Medicare the highest rate for patient care. Experts challenge the legitimacy of the charges.

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PODCAST: The inflation-interest paradox

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:55

Today we're trying to resolve a paradox. Inflation is on the rise in America, yet interest rates are getting lower still. On the one hand, there's word this morning the Consumer Price Index went up three tenths percent in April, the most in 10 months.  Yet, look at benchmark interest rates. To look at this we turn to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

And, we been covering an ongoing swarm of protests by fast food workers looking for higher pay in the U.S. Now the protests are going global, involving fast food workers across more than 30 countries, from Argentina to New Zealand. Marketplace's Krissy Clark has some international comparisons.

Meanwhile, in Jersey City and other towns along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, small-scale entrepreneurs are taking aim at that urban ritual of waiting for the darned bus.  Private operators of mini-buses now ply the streets. Amid questions about safety and traffic, there are new regulations on the way. Marketplace's Dan Weissmann takes us to the "Wild West" of the Hudson.


A Sponge Cake's Long, Strange Trip: Germany To Denver, Via Japan

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:47

The baumkuchen is an odd yet tasty layered German sponge cake baked on a spit. It arrived in Denver last year via a long, strange tour of Asia. Its history is as complex as its many layers.

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Educating Girls: Big Payoff For $45 A Year

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:37

Girls without an education are six times more likely to marry young than those who've finished high school, according to a new report from the World Bank Group. Guest host Celeste Headlee learns more.

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Breaking Up Helped Ledisi Find 'The Truth' In Her Music

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:36

Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi pulls no punches when talking about a failed relationship. She says it even became the inspiration of her latest album.

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The Pact That Turned A Juvenile Delinquent Into A Medical Doctor

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:34

Not so long ago, Dr. Sampson Davis found himself in detention for a crime that could have sent his life in a completely different direction. He shares how his big break turned things around.

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FCC Gives Initial OK To New Internet Traffic Rules

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:31

The commissioners voted 3-2 to push forward with proposed rules intended to guide how Internet traffic is regulated. Public comments on the proposal are due by July 15.

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Statuettes and medals

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:20

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Friday, May 16:

In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on construction of new homes for April.

Viewers tune in to "The View" for Barbara Walters' final regular appearance.

Skip the gas pump. Fuel up on Wheaties instead. It's Bike to Work Day.

Gymnast Olga Korbut celebrates her 59th birthday. She wowed crowds with her gold medal winning moves in Munich at the 1972 Olympics.

And the first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929. "Wings" took top honors for best picture, the only silent film to do so.

After Cory Booker, Newark Takes A New Turn

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 07:13

Ras Baraka was elected mayor of New Jersey's largest city after criticizing the charter schools and corporate interests that thrived when Booker, the high-profile mayor-turned-senator, had the job.

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VA's Shinseki 'Mad As Hell' Over Alleged Delays At Facility

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 06:55

At issue are accusations of delayed treatment and preventable deaths at the VA hospital in Phoenix. Eric Shinseki, the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, is testifying before a Senate panel.

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'She's A Hero!' Boy Says Of Cat Who Fought Off Attacking Dog

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 06:34

A family's story of how their cat ran off a dog that had attacked their young son is making waves far beyond Bakersfield, Calif., as the incident was captured in a dramatic video.

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San Diego County Wildfires Prompt Evacuations, State Of Emergency

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 06:28

More than a half-dozen wildfires are burning in the Southern California county. Thousands of residents have been evacuated. Renee Montagne speaks with reporter Erik Anderson of member station KPBS.

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The cost of fast food meals calculated in worker wages

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 04:50

The push to raise fast food worker pay in the U.S. has just gone global. As day broke on May 15 around the world this morning, fast food restaurants from the Filipino capital of Manila, to mid-town Manhattan have seen flash mobs and protest signs. Workers at McDonalds, Burger Kings, Wendy’s and KFC’s across more than 30 countries are planning actions today.

How does fast-food work in the U.S. compare to other countries? First, you need to understand how important international markets have become for the fast food industry, which has by now just about saturated the U.S. market.

Take, for example, McDonalds. Today more than 70 percent of its sales come from overseas. One of the people who rings up all those burgers and fries is Taylor McLoon, 18, a McDonald’s cashier in Auckland, New Zealand. In New Zealand minimum wage is much higher than in the U.S., and McDonald's workers are unionized.

After three years working at the company, McLoon says she now makes $14.80 an hour in New Zealand Dollars—that’s about $12.80 in U.S. Dollars. When she recently visited Philadelphia, and told some McDonald's workers there how much she earns, they were “shocked, surprised, excited,” she recalls. “A lot of the expressions were ‘Holy—‘ Something-I’m-Not-Gonna-Say.”

But in other parts of the world, the $8 an hour or so wage that many U.S. fast food workers get seems pretty good, according to restaurant analyst Peter Saleh with Telsey Advisory Group. He came up with an interesting calculation to compare wages for KFC workers in China and the U.S.: how many hours did they need to work to afford a typical meal at the restaurant that employs them.

In the U.S., it takes about an hour’s worth of wages, Saleh says. “In China, you probably have to work three or four hours to be able to afford one of those meals.”

Just One-Third Of People Can Tell If You're Faking That Laugh

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 04:37

Plenty of primates laugh, but only humans fake it. So what are we getting out of that phony chuckle? Perhaps an unfair advantage at work and in social situations, researchers say.

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Turkish Mine Explosion: Angry Protests As Death Toll Rises

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 04:32

After Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested such accidents are unavoidable, thousands of people flocked to protests calling for his resignation.

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Don't Salmon, Don't Shoal: Learning The Lingo Of Safe Cycling

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 03:19

More and more people are bicycle commuting, but many haven't mastered the intricacies of bike etiquette. What the heck is a sharrow? Knowing that can make for a safer trip by bicycle or (gasp) car.

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10,000 Gallons Of Oil Spill In L.A. Neighborhood

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 03:09

Crude oil geysered high into the air after a pipeline rupture early Thursday morning in northern Los Angeles. Fire officials say the spill was knee-deep in some spots.

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How To Marry The Right Girl: A Mathematical Solution

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 02:49

Johannes Kepler, one of the world's great mathematicians, decided to marry in 1611. He made a list of 11 women to interview, and he wanted, of course, to choose the best. Here's the formula.

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Navy sailors get an e-reader called 'NeRD'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 02:12

The latest e-reader to hit the market has no internet connection. There are no apps. You can’t download any book you want. There’s definitely no camera. 

Just about all you can do on it is read any of its 300 preloaded books.

This is an e-reader for a very niche market: bored sailors on Navy submarines. 

“It’s a little funny to be rolling out a new tech product that’s a couple generations behind,” jokes Nilya Carrato, program assistant with the Navy General Library Program.

Subs are cramped quarters. Most have a small library on board with 25 paperbacks. So, the Navy wanted a device that could hold far more, take up less space, but not pose a threat to security. That’s why it has no wireless connection or camera.  

The priorities in its development were “Ensuring security, durability, and really access to all of the titles that they want,” says Ralph Lazaro, vice president of digital products at Findaway World, the Ohio company building the device. 

And, like any new tech product, it needed a catchy name. The Navy first tried NR, for Navy Reader. Then, they thought Navy eReader, or “Ner” for short. Eventually, Carrato says, it clicked, and they came up with NeRD, for "Navy eReader Device".

“‘Nerd’ definitely doesn’t have the stigma it used to,” Carrato says.  

For now, the Navy has ordered 385 NeRDs. They cost $3,000 a piece, but most of that pays for the book titles. The Navy says the devices’ costs are minimal.  

The NeRDs have a mix of fiction and nonfiction, from best sellers to Pulizer winners. The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay is on board. 

Submarine sailors are allowed to bring along smartphones and Kindles, but there are restrictions on where devices with cameras can be used on board, and they must have their wireless connections disabled. 

“A submarine is a secure environment,” Carrato says.  

The NeRD is designed to expand the on-board library and give sailors options when they run out of their own books and downloads on long assignments. 

Food prices rise but shoppers won't pay more

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 02:07

Wholesale food prices are soaring and consumers are still struggling in a challenging economy. That puts grocery stores in rather nasty bind.

“Retailers face that challenge as to whether to pass it on to consumers or suck it up and take lower margins,” says Timothy Richards, professor at Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business.

Profit margins in the grocery business aren’t that high in the first place. They’re generally around 1-2 percent. Even with these razor thin margins, grocers work hard to keep prices consumers pay low. With so many Americans unemployed or underemployed, stores that raise prices risk losing shoppers.

“We’re seeing consumers at an all-time high in thriftiness,” says Rich Nanda, principal at Deloitte Consulting. “They’re really trying to stretch every penny.”

Retailers worry that this may be a permanent shift. In Deloitte’s recent survey of food shoppers, 94 percent agreed with the statement “even if the economy improves, I will remain cautious and keep my spending at its current level.”

Mark Garrison: When stores have to pay more for food, something’s gotta give, says Arizona State University business professor Timothy Richards.

Timothy Richards: Retailers face that challenge as to whether to pass it on to consumers or suck it up and take lower margins.

And profit margins aren’t high anyway, says Boston College marketing professor Kathleen Seiders.

Kathleen Seiders: Around 1%, 2%, sometimes even lower.

Even so, stores must keep the price we consumers pay low, or risk losing shoppers.

Rich Nanda: We’re seeing consumers at an all-time high in thriftiness. They’re really trying to stretch every penny.

Rich Nanda with Deloitte Consulting says grocers could try pushing their cheaper store brands harder. They may have to, as the firm’s latest research on shoppers shows this thrift is not temporary.

Nanda: 9 in 10 told us that they’re not gonna change if and when the economy improves.

In any event, food prices will likely rise further this summer, at which point most retailers will have to pass more of the cost onto us. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

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