National News

Claw machines: The most enjoyable way to get scammed

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 13:00

Phil Edwards has loved playing the claw machine since he was a child. It was this love that led him to look into how these machines actually work and what makes them so tricky. He wasn’t sure at first what he’d find. 

“I thought that maybe these stuffed animals were packed really tightly, or that the claw simply didn’t work at all," he says. "But it turns out it’s a lot more insidious than that.”

The truth was that claw machine owners could manipulate the machine down to the smallest detail. Edwards found claw machine manuals that instruct operators on how to control the strength of the claw. What’s more, they can also manipulate the claw’s “dropping” ability.

“People thought I was naïve, and I had a suspicion that there were just bad claw machines, or claw machines that just didn’t work well, but I didn’t think they were rigged so precisely to maximize the profit,” he says.

Operators can also randomize the claw so that you can’t tell which round will be the winning one. Edwards describes the whole operation as a smart system, which he says is “trying to manipulate you as delicately as possible into spending more money.”

But will this deter him from playing anymore? Doesn’t seem likely.

“I’ve already spent a dollar in those things," since the article came out, he says. "And now I have the added benefit that every time someone wins a claw machine prize, they let me know immediately.”

The financials of same-sex marriage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 12:59

The Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry could bring some big financial changes.  

First, let’s talk taxes and the marriage penalty.  

“Where there’s a plus, there’s a minus,” says Janis Cowhey, a partner at Marcum LLP and co-leader of its Modern Family and LGBT practice group.  “Once you’re combining your income, you start to lose deductions, you start to lose credits as well as hit the higher income tax brackets faster.”  

But lower-income same-sex couples could save money filing as a married couple. Now they can claim their children as dependents, which leads to a higher earned income tax credit. 

And if your spouse gets benefits through your job, that’s not taxed. 

Right now, "if you work for a corporation and they offer domestic partner benefits, you’re taxed on the benefit that your partner gets,” says Bill Moran, a senior vice president at Merrill Lynch and national director of its LGBT financial services team. 

But here’s the thing. Moran says corporations have already started phasing out domestic partner benefits in states that recognized same-sex marriage.  

It happened to Meghan Maury, an attorney in Washington, D.C.  She now works as senior policy counsel at the National LGBTQ Task Force as the director of its criminal and economic justice project. 

But before she got that job, she depended on her partner’s employer for benefits — until same-sex marriage was legalized in the District of Columbia.

“They said it just doesn’t make legal or financial sense for us anymore to be providing domestic partnership benefits," she says. 

Maury ended up on Medicaid.  And she thinks that’ll happen to other unmarried same-sex partners, as more employers phase out domestic partner benefits in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

How Hollywood mega-hits spread the joy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 12:58

It's going to be another big weekend at the box office: "Ted 2," "Jurassic World" and "Inside Out" are each expected to pull in another $50 million or more.

It’s easy to understand how the monster success of "Jurassic World" is good for Universal. And how Pixar and its parent Disney must be feeling right now about "Inside Out."  

Joy.

It turns out, a blockbuster can also inspire joy in the theater next door. 

"There are plenty of examples historically where a movie was so massive and the industry was afraid that other movies wouldn’t perform well, and the exact opposite happened," says Phil Contrino, chief analyst for Boxoffice.com.

He says movies like "Avatar," "Frozen" and now "Jurassic World" have all had a halo effect. "At the end of the day, movies are a product like anything else, and if customers walk away happy and satisfied with the experience, they are more prone to come back again."

Tom Nunan thinks there’s another reason movie going begets movie going; he’s founder of Bull's Eye Entertainment and a professor at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.

"What happens, as you are probably aware as a consumer, is that sometimes your movie is sold out," Nunan says. So, you check the time, check in with your partner and you go see something else.

"Big movies always create more box office all around," Nunan says.

And smart marketers take advantage of that. "They’ll own the fact that there are other movies that you can see out there that are really fun, and big, and exciting, and will just have a sense of humor about it, and try to entice you to see us too."

How Key Republicans Helped Obama To Biggest Week Of His Second Term

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 12:29

President Obama has some key Republicans to thank for their role in moving major issues in his direction — from health care and trade to same-sex marriage and the Confederate flag — was remarkable.

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How NPR Located More Veterans Exposed To Mustard Gas Than The VA

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 12:24

NPR Researcher Barbara Van Woerkom used documents and public databases to find 1,200 vets who participated in World War II secret chemical experiments. The Department of Veterans Affairs found 610.

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Watch: President Obama's Eulogy At Emanuel AME Church

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 12:19

The president spoke for more than 35 minutes at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pickney and ended by singing "Amazing Grace" with attendees.

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Weekly Wrap: GDP and Greece

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 11:47

 Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post and Fusion's' Felix Salmon join Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news. The big topics this week: GDP, consumer spending, Greece's financial situation and the country's relationship with the eurozone. 

Greece calling for referendum on bailout

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 11:45

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is taking it to the people.

In a speech late Friday evening, Tsipras said he's going hold a referendum on a bailout deal July 5. 

It's not quite clear which bailout package will be up for a vote, or whether the meetings scheduled for this weekend in Brussels are still going to happen.

N.Y. Prison Escapees Believed Headed To Canada

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 11:02

Police say more evidence of the pair has been found in an area of upstate New York about 10 miles from the border and some 30 miles from the prison they broke out of.

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Opportunity in America: Then and now

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:46

When you think of postwar America, you might think about unending opportunity and limitless optimism. Were things really as rosy as they seemed back then? And what about now? Is America still an economic promised land?

David Lazarus took these questions to Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who's studied the periods at length.

A Wrap-Up Of Same-Sex Marriage's Big Day At The High Court

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:37

David Greene of Morning Edition reviews the day's events at the Supreme Court, where a landmark ruling effectively legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

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Pharmacist rejects creditors' prescription for Greece

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:36

As he dispenses his pills and powders in his pharmacy in Athens, Giannis Dagres is counting the primary cost of his country’s economic crisis: a severe shortage of drugs.

“Almost every category of drugs: antibiotics, drugs for high blood pressure, vaccines for children. We’re running short of almost everything," he says.

Supplies are dwindling because the government has been forced to cut spending on health care. Dagres admits that the shortages make him ashamed of Greece, a nation that “claims to be a developed country.”

Drug shortages are not the only challenge Dagres is facing. Greece’s  international creditors want to scrap the pharmacists’ current monopoly that gives them the sole right to sell over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and painkiller paracetamol. Supermarkets and other outlets aren’t allowed to. The creditors call this blatant protectionism. Pharmacist Lefteris Marinos disputes the negative connotation.   

“Protectionism means protecting something, and in this particular case it means protecting the health of the Greek people," Marinos says.

He argues that a pharmacist should always be on hand to ensure that it’s safe for a particular customer to take aspirin. But Nikolaos Haritakis, professor of economics at Athens University, doesn’t buy that.

“ Nonsense! It’s a … stupidity!” he says, laughing. “This is pure protectionism and totally detrimental to society."

It’s  not just economists who say that.  Dr. Dimitrios Papadimitriadis, a psychiatrist and a health economist, agrees that the pharmacy regulations must be loosened and that foreign pharmacy chains — currently banned — should be allowed to operate in Greece.

“I think the patient would be better off if the competition was actually working, because drug  prices will be lower,” Papadimitriadis says.  

 Darges points out that Greece has many more pharmacy shops per capita than all other European countries. He argues that foreign takeovers would cut the number and that remote rural areas would suffer. He accuses the creditors of neo-colonialism.

“Every time the foreigners come here, the first thing they say, "We want privatizations. Because they want to come and get our assets so they want us to work for them, as a colony,” he complains.  

But without the creditors’ help, and that help is conditional, Greece could be booted out of the eurozone.  Any new currency would plummet. The cost of imported drugs — and most of them are imported in Greece — would soar. More woe for the pharmacist … and his customers.   

Ken Cuccinelli: Same-Sex Marriage Decision 'Ripped From The States'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:35

The former attorney general of Virginia comments on Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

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Mapping The Impact Of The Obergefell Decision On States

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:32

For a look at the Supreme Court ruling's effect on the states, David Greene turns to NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, who lays out which states had banned same-sex marriage prior to the ruling.

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A Farmer's 2nd Look At Same-Sex Marriage: High Court Ruling Is 'Great Thing'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:17

Morning Edition spoke to North Dakota farmer Edd Goerger about same-sex marriage recently. At that point, he'd expressed ambivalence; now, David Greene gets Goerger's take on Friday's big ruling.

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From Ice Cream To Ian McKellen: Reactions To Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:04

There was jubilation among supporters of same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court declared it legal in all 50 states. We've rounded up some of the best reactions.

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From Ice Cream To Ian McKellan: Reactions To Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:04

There was jubilation among supporters of same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court declared it legal in all 50 states. We've rounded up some of the best reactions.

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San Francisco Doctors Tap App For Nationwide LGBT Health Study

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:01

Researchers at University of California, San Francisco are looking to an app for help in collecting health information from people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

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An Opponent's Take On The High Court's Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 10:01

For a different perspective on the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling, David Greene speaks to Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. of Beltsville, Md. Jackson offers his disappointment at the ruling.

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Same-Sex Marriage Plaintiff Discusses The Historic Win At The High Court

NPR News - Fri, 2015-06-26 09:47

Ijpe DeKoe was among the plaintiffs whose case was involved in the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. He speaks with David Greene about the case, and about his reaction to the legal victory.

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