National News

PODCAST: Disappearing grocery stores

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 03:01

The guessing game over when interest rates will go up ... continues. More on that. Plus, we all know what a 'leap year' is, but what about a 'leap second'? On June 30th, an extra second will be added to the world's clocks to make up for the discord between the earth's rotation and the clocks we humans use. And while it may not seem like much, it's a big deal to the world's markets. Plus, residents in the struggling city of Flint, Michigan, have seen their share of hardship over the years. In addition to a catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is losing its grocery stores, making life even more difficult for its poorest residents.

Grocery exodus has Flint shopping for answers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Residents in the struggling town of Flint, Michigan, have seen their share of hardship over the years.

In addition the catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is also struggling to provide groceries to its poorest residents.

Jason Lorenz, a public information officer at Flint City Hall, has a wall map showing the city boundaries. One thing that’s rapidly disappearing from the map are grocery stores.

“Yeah, we had a Kroger that closed, we have a Meijer up on the northwest side of town. Either side of M-21 here were two VG’s. They both closed,” Lorenz says.

Over the past eight months, Flint has seen three groceries close, most recently the Kroger on Davison Road. That means that a city of 100,000 people now has only one major grocery within city limits.

“Flint was a very tough decision for us,” says Kroger spokesman Brandon Barrow. This latest store closure, he says, was simply unavoidable.

Kroger closed the Davison Road location only two weeks after making the announcement. Barrow says the business was simply unsustainable.

“Over the course of nine years, we lost just over $3 million at that particular location.”

According the U.S. Census, more than 40 percent of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line. Many don’t have cars, meaning they are increasingly cut off from fresh groceries.

Bettie Cavendish is disabled and can’t drive. When the Eastside Kroger closed, she started taking the bus to a Walmart located outside the city. 

“It’s a four to-six hour trip, generally, for me,” Cavendish says. “I [also] have to walk a half hour to get to the bus stop, because it doesn't go down the road I'm on. “

And after she’s done all of her shopping, Cavendish says she has to carry all her groceries back home. It’s one of the hardest parts of her week.

"I guess people would think it would be easier because you have the time when you're disabled. But it's a lot harder. They don't make it easier on you at all."

The bus that Cavendish takes is a special grocery route that Flint created as a 90-day test. If the ridership is there, the line may become permanent, says Ed Benning, general manager of Flint’s bus system, the MTA.

Flint MTA opened a special ''Ride to Groceries'' route for 90 days

Adam Allington

I think the ridership will be there, because the need is not going to go away,” Benning says. 

The grocery bus helps, but it only runs weekday hours from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., leaving some working people without the chance to shop during the week.

Grocery store exodus has Flint searching for answers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Residents in the struggling town of Flint, Michigan have seen their share of hardship over the years.

In addition the catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is also struggling to provide groceries to its poorest residents.

Jason Lorenz is a public information officer at Flint City Hall. On his wall is a map showing the city boundaries. One thing that’s rapidly disappearing from the map are grocery stores.

“Yeah, we had a Kroger that closed, we have a Meijer up on the northwest side of town. Either side of M-21here were two VG’s, they both closed,” Lorenz said.

Over the past eight months, Flint has seen three groceries close. Most recently the Kroger on Davison Road, meaning that a city of 100,000 people now has only one major grocery within city limits.

“Flint was a very tough decision for us,” said Kroger spokesman Brandon Barrow.

This latest store closure, he says, was simply unavoidable.

Kroger closed the Davison Road location only two weeks after making the announcement. Barrow said the business was simply unsustainable.

“Over the course of nine years we lost just over $3 million at that particular location.”

According the U.S. Census, over 40 percent of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line. Many don’t have cars, meaning they are increasingly cut off from fresh groceries.

Bettie Cavendish is disabled and can’t drive. When the Eastside Kroger closed she started taking the bus to a Walmart located outside the city. 

“It’s a 4-6 hour trip, generally for me,” Cavendish said. “I [also] have to walk a half hour to get to the bus stop because it doesn't go down the road I'm on. “

And after she’s done all of her shopping, Cavendish says has to carry all her groceries back home. It’s one of the hardest parts of her week.

"I guess people would think it would be easier because you have the time, when you're disabled.  But it's a lot harder, they don't make it easier on you at all."

Ed Benning is the general manager of Flint’s bus system, the MTA. The bus that Cavendish takes is a special grocery route that Flint created as a test for 90 days. If the ridership is there Benning says the line may become permanent.

Flint MTA opened a special \"Ride to Groceries\" route for 90 days

Adam Allington

I think the ridership will be there, because the need is not going to go away,” Benning said. The grocery bus helps, but even that only runs weekday hours from 9:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.

So, if you do have a job, you likely still won’t have the chance to do your shopping during the week.

Insuring governments against disease outbreaks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, a new plan has emerged to guard against future risk: insurance for disease outbreaks. The idea is to help protect governments and industry against the costs of pandemics. A San Francisco firm announced $30 million in funding for the idea this week.

Today, nobody can buy an insurance policy that protects them from a pandemic. But by 2017, at least one company promises to have a product on the market. Dr. Richard Wilcox runs the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a company that sells insurance to African countries and is owned by the governmental body the African Union. He says when Ebola hit, countries lacked money for the basics, like public health workers and the ability to quarantine. So Wilcox says they waited, as governments around the globe and philanthropists passed the hat.

“The cost of having to wait for funds to be mobilized abroad is so expensive to their economy, to their vulnerable populations that they protect,” he says.

If a country takes out a policy, it will be able to get cash quickly to support efforts to control outbreaks. Wilcox estimates costs can run into the tens of millions for even cases numbering in the single digits. Aon insurance consultant Dr. Gisele Norris says Ebola has gotten governments, insurers and companies thinking about pandemics in a whole new way.

“Ebola was so instructive in that was a completely unforeseen event. And no one was prepared,” she says. “I think maybe what it brought home was there is a whole world of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease out there.”

The point, says Norris, is that we don’t know what’s going to strike next time, but there will be a next time. With that new thought in mind, she says certain industries like healthcare, aviation, hospitality and higher education are at higher risk and may look for ways to limit their financial exposure. Of course, price will determine the size of any future market. 

In Africa, ARC will sell policies that encourages public health investment. Simply, the more prepared for an epidemic, the lower its premiums—perhaps a model for industry as well.

 

 

 

 

The 'leap second' — another Y2K moment?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

On June 30, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time/Coordinated Universal Time, an extra second will be added to the world’s master clocks so that they sync up with the earth’s rotation, which does not precisely match the clocks and computers we earthlings use.

Financial exchanges and firms that depend on precise pricing and transaction data are planning for this so-called "leap second" down the micro-second.

“It’s a big issue for financial firms,” says Victor Yodaiken, whose software firm, FSMLabs, provides time-synchronization computer applications to those firms. “A whole second is a long time. Software is really not set up to see time go backwards.”

U.S.-based exchanges have a deadline of Friday to submit their plans for dealing with the leap second to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Yodaiken says high-frequency traders are particularly sensitive to the problem because of their automated algorithms.

Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges and those in Asia (Japan, Australia, Singapore and South Korea) will adjust to the extra second by spreading it out over a longer period or adding it later in the day. “During the trading day, their clocks will be different,” says programmer-analyst Steve Allen at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. He is dealing with an automated telescope that will have to adjust to the leap second. “There will be moments during that day when transactions from one market to another seem to come from the future.”

Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution or will halt after-hours trading beforehand.

Another Y2K moment? The 'leap second.'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

On June 30, 2015, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time/Coordinated Universal Time, an extra second will be added to the world’s master clocks. That’s to sync up with the earth’s rotation, which does not precisely match the clocks and computers we earthlings use.

This so-called ‘leap second’ is being planned for by financial exchanges and firms that depend on precise pricing and transaction data, down the micro-second.

“It’s a big issue for financial firms,” says Victor Yodaiken, whose software firm, FSMLabs, provides time-synchronization computer applications to those firms. “A whole second is a long time. Software is really not set up to see time go backwards.”

U.S.-based exchanges have a deadline of Friday, May 22, to submit their plans for dealing with the leap second to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Yodaiken says high-frequency traders are particularly sensitive to the problem because of their automated algorithms.

Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges and those in Asia (Japan, Australia, Singapore and South Korea) will adjust to the extra second differently—spreading it out over a longer period, or adding it later in the day. “During the trading day, their clocks will be different,” says programmer-analyst Steve Allen at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. He is dealing with an automated telescope that will have to adjust to the leap second. “There will be moments during that day when transactions from one market to another seem to come from the future.”

Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution, or will halt after-hours trading beforehand.

Baltimore's $100 million investment legacy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Phyllis Young has a full life: three children, five grandchildren, a mortgage and a job she loves. Eleven years ago, Young, a geriatric nurse's assistant, was making $8 an hour and hoping to boost her wages to $12. She hit a stroke of luck.

Baltimore, in 1994, won a federal contest aimed at alleviating poverty in urban cores. Six cities were given a federal grant of $100 million each as well as a package of tax breaks for businesses and employers. The money and tax credits were intended to revitalize each city's poorest neighborhoods, which were called Empowerment Zones.

Each of the winning cities was given some leeway to do what it wanted with the money. Baltimore city leaders decided to focus on job creation and training. One of the training programs was a certification course for nursing assistants run through Sojourner-Douglass College. Participants, including Young, had their tuition paid and were given a $600 monthly grant.

Today, Young looks back on her graduation from the program with pride. The Empowerment Zone effort, she says, got her closer to the middle-class lifestyle she'd always wanted. But despite her successes, she faces the same challenges as many people in today's economy: her nursing job, which pays $17 an hour, is only part time. She also has a full-time job, where she makes less. She says her bills have gone up, but her wages haven't kept pace.

With federal eyes fixed on Baltimore following the eruption of violent protests that drew attention to that city's high levels of poverty and unemployment, Young suggests that maybe it's time for another round of Empowerment Zones.

 

The impact of Baltimore's $100 million investment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Phyllis Young has a full life: three children, five grandchildren, a mortgage, and a job she loves. 11 years ago, Young, a geriatric nurse's assistant, was making $8 an hour and hoping to boost her wages to $12. She hit a stroke of luck.

Baltimore, in 1994, won a federal contest aimed at alleviating poverty in urban cores. Six cities were given a federal grant of $100 million each as well as a package of tax breaks for businesses and employers. The money and tax credits were intended to revitalize each city's poorest neighborhoods, which were called Empowerment Zones.

Each of the winning cities was given some leeway to do what it wanted with the money. Baltimore city leaders decided to focus on job creation and job training. One of the training programs was a certification course for nursing assistants run through Sojourner Douglass College. Participants, including Young, had their tuition paid and were given a $600 monthly grant.

Today, Young looks back on her graduation from the program with pride. The Empowerment Zone effort, she says, got her closer to the middle-class lifestyle she'd always wanted. But despite her successes, she faces the same challenges as many people in today's economy. Her nursing job, which pays $17 an hour, is only part time. She works another full-time job, where she makes less. She says her bills have gone up, but her wages haven't kept pace.

With federal eyes fixed on Baltimore following the eruption of violent protests that drew attention to that city's high levels of poverty and unemployment, Young suggests that maybe it's time for another round of Empowerment Zones.

 

We're getting double the unicorns this year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:59
$6 billion

That was Square's valuation after a round of fundraising last fall. CEO Jack Dorsey started the payment venture with another multi-billion-dollar company under his belt: a little micro-blogging service called Twitter. We chatted with Dorsey about what he's learned since starting Twitter at 29, how Square came together and much more. Listen to the extended interview here.

29

Speaking of billion-dollar-start-ups, that's how many so-called "unicorns" have sprung up so far this year. Venture capital analyst CB Insights predicts we'll see another 47 before the end of the year, which puts 2015 on track to double the number of companies that raised $1 billion in 2014.

9 percent

That's Adidas' share of the athletic shoe market, and it's shrinking. Nike, on the other hand, has about half. The former got a big boost when it signed musician Kanye West away from Nike, and West's "Yeezy Season 1" line debuted in February to much fanfare. But fashion and lifestyle are a much smaller part of the Adidas Group, which is still behind in sports. This puts the company at a crossroads, Fortune reported.

1

That's how many grocery stores are left in the city limits of Flint, Michigan, which has a population of 100,000 people. Three grocery stores in Flint have closed just within the last eight months. And with many residents without cars, access to fresh groceries has become even more difficult.

22 million

That's how many people take cruises every year. The more than 300 ocean liners that make port in the U.S. come with a host of unique hazards and regulations borne from essentially being floating cities. ProPublica has put together a comprehensive guide to cruise safety, running down just about everything that can go wrong (and how often it does) as well as searchable safety records for hundreds of vessels.

1 second

That's the amount of time that will be added on June 30th to the world's clocks. Meant to correct the discord between the earth's rotation and the clocks we humans use, that extra second is also a headache for world markets. May 22 is the deadline for U.S.-based markets to turn in a plan of action to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. One of the biggest hurdles is that different markets are adding the second in different ways: some all at once, some spread out over a period of time.

100 years

As part of the Future Library Project, Margaret Atwood will place a newly written book in a time capsule to be opened in 100 years. The closest any of us will come to knowing what's inside that book (aside from cryogenically freezing ourselves) will be a live periscope viewing of the event that will take place next week. 

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated the rate grocery stores have been closing in Flint, Michigan. The city lost three stores in the past eight months. The text has been corrected.

Silicon Tally: Hashtag POTUS

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:59

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? 

This week, we're joined by Dan Lyons, a tech journalist and writer for season 2 of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Click the media player above to hear host Ben Johnson take on Dan Lyons for this week's Silicon Tally.

In America's Heartland, Heroin Crisis Is Hitting Too Close To Home

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 23:57

Midwest and Southwest states struggle with an influx of heroin being sold for cheap by Mexican cartels. In one community, a spike in heroin-related deaths has everyone on high alert.

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Census Reveals Universe Of Marine Microbes At Bottom Of The Food Chain

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 23:55

The ocean's tiniest inhabitants — including bacteria, plankton, krill — are food for most everything that swims or floats. Now, scientists have completed a count of this vast and diverse hidden world.

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Korean Air 'Nut Rage' Executive Freed From Jail

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 23:55

An appeals court reduced the sentence of former Korean Air executive Heather Cho. She demanded a plane return to the gate because her macadamia nuts weren't served in a manner to her liking.

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Uneasy Rider: The Origins Of Motorcycle Gangs And How They Remain A Force

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 23:51

Steve Cook, who heads the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association, tells NPR that soldiers returning from World War II formed biker gangs, which became infamous during a 1947 riot.

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Adios, Trans Fats: FDA Poised To Phase Out Artery-Clogging Fat

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 23:50

Any day now, the FDA could announce a final rule aimed at removing much of the remaining trans fats out of the food supply. It could amount to a near ban on the fats, which wreak cardiovascular havoc.

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Millions Of Dollars In Speech Fees Support Clinton Foundation

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 18:10

Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to talk to banks, universities and other groups, and give the proceeds to the family's philanthropic foundation.

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Exclusivity in the changing medical landscape

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 14:09

Health care is expanding to include services that are accessible and exclusive to the extreme — like telemedicine and concierge doctors, respectively.

As more insurance groups begin to cover telehealth, and a growing number of services use mobile and digital avenues, access to a doctor is becoming easier. But when it comes to actually getting into the doctors office, it can seem as if there are too many people and too few doctors. Maybe because there are.

While medical schools have increased enrollment to account for the shortage, a 1997 cap on federal funding for teaching hospitals limits the number of residencies. 

For those willing to pay a fee ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, the small but growing number of concierge doctors will see you whenever you want.

So with health care dividing into inclusive and exclusive methods of care, what does the future hold? Dr. Molly Coye, chief innovation officer at UCLA Health, joined Marketplace Weekend to talk about the changes to accessibility and exclusivity in health care.

Tune in to the interview using the audio player above. 

Making credit more accessible — and less exclusive

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:42

Many of us carry little membership cards in our wallets every day — credit cards.

They give us access to money that we may not have and let us pay for things when we're not carrying cash. Our credit scores give us access to loans, mortgages, jobs, and, sometimes, more credit cards.

Understanding credit can be difficult: what exactly goes into a credit score? Michelle Singletary, who writes the nationally syndicated Washington Post personal finance column "The Color of Money," says that building and maintaining a high credit score can be simple. "People think that there are so many tricks to getting a good credit score," she says, "but the number one way to get a good credit score is to pay your bills on time."

For those who are new to credit, using a low-tier card with fees and working up to a more serious card is a good option. And for those who want a credit score without a credit card, paying off student loans, a mortgage, or a car loan can help establish a credit score. 

Credit scores, like the FICO score, were designed to make credit and money more accessible with more objective criteria. Singletary says that in the past, lenders would call the merchants you did business with and just ask about your credibility. "It was much more subjective," she says, because merchants could bring in your personal history, or their own biases. 

While a numeric, measurable score makes things simpler, it can still be discriminatory, especially against people who rent instead of own a home. Singletary says that this can especially skew against people of color, who rent in higher numbers. "If you're a renter, your on-time rental payments aren't considered in the traditional FICO score," Singletary says, "and so that could eliminate some good history for a great number of people, oftentimes minorities."

The good news for everyone is that credit and credit scores are changing. Medical debt, which has in the past carried significant weight in a credit score, is becoming less important in the new FICO score. Singletary says that hopefully, rental payments could also be included in different types of scores. 

While credit scores aren't being used less, they are expanding and becoming more inclusive. Singletary encourages people who are working to establish or rebuild a credit score to do it themselves using MyFICO or tips from the Federal Trade Commission

To learn more about establishing, rebuilding and maintaining credit, tune in to the full interview using the player above. 

 

Grand Jury Indicts 6 Baltimore Officers In Freddie Gray's Death

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:41

Prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby said at a news conference that the officers will be arraigned July 2. The charges against them are mostly similar to those announced May 1.

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Maryland Joins States That Won't Test New Drivers For Parallel Parking

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:01

Officials say the skills are tested by other tasks, like turning a car around. As of yet, using backup cameras on a driving test isn't allowed.

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