National News

Police cams center of story again in Sandra Bland case

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 10:00

Video from a Texas state trooper’s dashboard camera is being scrutinized after capturing the officer’s violent encounter with a citizen who later died in jail. 

That citizen was Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Chicago native who had just moved to Texas for a job at Prairie View A&M University. On July 10, she was pulled over by state trooper Brian T. Encinia for failing to signal a lane change. The exchange that followed soon escalated. Bland refused to put out a cigarette, after which the officer pulled her from her car.

As the New York Times reports, a dashcam video released Tuesday shows most of the ensuing violent encounter, including Encinia’s threat to use a stun gun on Bland, and audio from a portion of the video where the two are out of frame includes Bland saying, “You just slammed me, knocked my head into the ground.”

After three days in a jail cell, Bland was found dead, in what was originally deemed a suicide. Details continue to emerge, and authorities are now treating the case as a murder investigation.

With the release of the dashcam footage comes troubling revelations. As Buzzfeed writes, the Texas Department of Public Safety says the arrest violated several rules of conduct.  

The investigation into Sandra Bland’s death is the latest story fueling an ongoing national conversation about civilian deaths during arrests and while in police custody, racial violence and the flaws in our nation’s incarceration system.  

The Marketplace series,“Behind the Blue Line” explored some of the same issues that are surfacing in this case, namely questions about use of excessive police force and whether the filming of police can increase accountability and transparency.  

Police departments grapple with body camera costs  

Cases involving allegations of excessive police force have prompted proposals to equip police officers with body cameras to monitor their behavior. 

According to a survey by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), many police chiefs reported that the use of body cameras correlates with a decrease in complaints against officers.

However, there are monetary barriers to the cameras' implementation, which can cost up to millions of dollars annually for a city-wide program. Another survey from PERF reports that 39 percent of police executives have said that cost was one of the main reasons they don’t use body cameras within their departments.

Body cameras spread, changing how cops do their job

Aside from President Obama, who requested $263 million to fund body cameras and training for police officers across the country, others are trying to devote financial resources to increase accountability in policing. At the federal level, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in May that that the Justice Department would spend $20 million on body cameras for select police departments throughout the nation. 

Some places have already invested in the use of body cams. Take the Seattle Police Department.  It announced plans to spend $2 million on 1,000 cameras, and currently uploads police body cam footage to its YouTube channel.

Since 2012, Rialto, California's police department has also been using body cams.  Officers must turn them on “before any significant encounter with a member of the public, a witness or a suspect.”  

A study by the Cambridge University Institute of Criminology  in the United Kingdom found that in the first year of the department’s use of body cameras, there was an 88 percent decline in civilian complaints against police and a 60 percent decline in use-of-force by police. As a result, Rialto police chief Tony Farrar has supplied the entire department with body cameras. 

However, despite bodycams’ advantages, some officers and criminal justice experts have contested their use.  They argue that filming may prevent police officers from acting as they normally would, or inhibit them from using “adequate force when they need to.”

Training is in short supply for police forces  

Questions about Bland's mental health have been raised amid the Wednesday release of booking documents. The documents reveal discrepancies, with two forms indicating that Bland had attempted suicide in 2014 and 2015, respectively. 

Texas State Sen. Royce West has criticized jail officials for their treatment of Bland, saying he thinks they should have put her on suicide watch, which would require 15-minute face-to-face checkups, instead of the standard hourly ones. Bland's family, however, refutes the claim that she committed suicide. 

Ongoing police training is expensive and in short supply. Of the country’s 18,000 local and state police departments, just 15 percent “do comprehensive mental health crisis training,” according to a program manager with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kevin Dillon, a retired police officer and owner of KFD Training and Consulting, says he thinks that police officers aren’t getting enough training in areas such as use of force.

Tight budgets can make spending on training difficult, he says. 

“[Training can cost] anywhere from $100 for a one-day course for one officer to over $10,000 for a whole department for a week,” Dillon told Marketplace's Sally Herships. 

Sting Videos Part Of Longtime Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 09:50

The young anti-abortion activist who planned the recent sting videos on Planned Parenthood staff members has ties to larger group that oppose abortion.

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How An 11-Year-Old Boy Invented The Popsicle

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 09:23

The beloved ice pops were born of a young boy's tinkering with sugary soda powder and water on a cold night. But the end of this tale for Frank Epperson was not as sweet as his treat.

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Intensive End-Of-Life Care On The Rise For Cancer Patients

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 09:04

Researchers found that although the use of durable powers of attorney increased, so, too, has the number of people who received all possible care at the end of life.

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FBI Says It's Too Early To Tell If Chattanooga Shooter Was Radicalized

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 08:56

The bureau says it's treating Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez as a "homegrown violent extremist." Abdulazeez attacked two military facilities last week and killed five service members.

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Charleston Shooting Suspect Roof To Be Indicted On Federal Hate Crime Charges

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 07:44

In addition to nine counts of murder leveled by state prosecutors, the Justice Department plans to unveil federal charges against Dylann Roof Wednesday.

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Why a share's price and its value might not line up

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 07:30

Valuation is a sticky subject: what is a company worth? Apple was worth $766 billion at the start of the week. This morning it was worth $50 billion less. Yesterday, Facebook was worth less than General Electric: today it’s worth $2 billion more.

How can this be? How can a company’s value change so quickly in such a short time? The answer is, it depends on what you mean by “value.” There are a couple of ways of determining a company’s valuation, as this short video neatly explains. There’s the easy, shortcut way, which is to ask what everyone else thinks – it’s right there in the stock price. Multiply that number by the number of shares that the company has outstanding, and you get something called the market valuation, or the market capitalization.

But there are a couple of problems with this approach. First off, only asking people what they think something is worth is a flawed strategy … because people are often just plain wrong. Second, when people buy shares in a company, they’re making a bet, hoping that the share price will rise. Which means a lot of people in the market aren’t focused on the company’s worth, they’re really just interested in its price, which is an important distinction.

It’s that focus on worth that defines the second way of determining a company’s value. It’s called a fundamental valuation, and it requires a lot more than just looking at a stock price. Analysts doing a fundamental valuation do what’s called due diligence: they comb through the company’s books, see what it earns and how it earns it, how much debt it has and what the competition is like. It’s an exhaustive, time-consuming and expensive process, but investors fail to do it at their peril.

The fundamental valuation does indeed drive the market valuation to some extent: a lot of the people buying shares have done the hard work to assess a company’s worth. But a lot have not. A lot are lazy so-and-sos who buy when something’s rising and sell when it’s falling. That so-called momentum trading, can skew the price of a stock dramatically, pushing it way higher than it should be, and turning trading in the stock market into a much riskier business than it should be. Because it you buy at a point higher than the fundamentals of the company justify, and the market corrects, you could be left badly needing a drink.

Health Effects Of Transitioning In Teen Years Remain Unknown

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 07:18

Though endocrinologists have been treating trans youths with hormones for about a decade, it's not clear how starting that process in adolescence affects health. A study aims to find out.

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Marijuana Growers Hit A Snag: Toxic Pesticides

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 05:58

Attempts to regulate chemicals in marijuana production often hit another problem: the plant's wide range of uses sets it apart from many traditional food crops.

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Archie Comics Cartoonist Tom Moore Dies At 86

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 05:14

A long-time contributor to the Archie franchise has died in his hometown of El Paso.

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For Kids With Tourette's, At-Home Training Could Help

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 04:26

Psychologists are working on an online training program that draws on principles of in-person behavioral therapy to help patients with Tourette syndrome manage their tics.

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How The Big New Education Law Could Cut Testing Time

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 04:03

Several Senate amendments aim a weed-whacker at the thicket of standardized tests.

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Loops, Glitches Raise Questions About Texas Dashcam Video

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 04:02

The dashcam shows police stopping and arresting Sandra Bland, who was later found hanged in her jail cell. The video, however, loops and jumps at some point without explanation.

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After Four Years, Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Gets His Passport Back

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-22 03:01

Authorities had seized Ai's passport in apparent retaliation for his social and political work. Ai's work is often fiercely critical of the Chinese government.

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PODCAST: Banking in Cuba

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 03:00

There is word today that a bank in Florida has set up a direct link with a bank in Havannah. It's called a correspondent deal, and we'll talk about how it will improve banking between Cuba and the U.S. And an advocacy group in Chicago is tackling a problem affecting transgender people: how to find businesses and service providers that are not just friendly, but understanding of their needs. 

Homejoy shuts its doors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 02:00

At the end of July, the on-demand cleaning start-up Homejoy will shut down in the wake of lawsuits challenging the company's classification of workers as contractors rather than employees. It's a familiar story that has affected companies like Uber, Lyft, and Handy.

Click the media player above to hear Marketplace's Molly Wood talk with Christopher Koopman, research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, about how this case signals to a change in the sharing economy. 

According to Koopman, the sharing economy's growth in recent years "has been driven by the fact that this isn’t a traditional business model and it isn't an employer and employee relationship." Yet, this is precisely the point of contention for the numerous lawsuits levied against Homejoy and others.

Companies in the sharing economy toe a dubious line between online platform, social network, and employer. Koopman maintains that "saying they're no longer a platform connecting people but in fact an employer could really spell doom for a lot of these companies like we're seeing with Homejoy."

In the wake of Google snatching up Homejoy's tech and product team, Koopman sees the future as especially bleak for small outfits if these organizations are deemed employers: "Only the largest and most deep pocketed firms are going to be the ones that are able to weather that storm. So you'll see firms like Uber, Lyft and the other really large players in the sharing economy likely survive. But this could be extremely difficult for the small startups."

Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo make, lose, and lose money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 02:00

Apple (AAPL) reported its fiscal third-quarter earnings after the closing bell on Tuesday. Earnings were up 38 percent from the same period one year ago, to $10.7 billion. Revenues were up 33 percent to $49.6 billion. iPhone sales were up 35 percent, totaling 47.5 million in the quarter, and iPhone sales more than doubled in China, a key market for mobile technology.

Nonetheless, Apple stock fell 7 percent in immediate after-hours trading following the earnings release. Investment analysts were expecting stronger iPhone sales — in the 50-million-unit range. The stock selloff may reflect investors’ concerns that the iPhone juggernaut could be peaking and the company's iPhone franchise losing momentum.

iPhone sales account for 63 percent of Apple’s global sales, up from 53 percent of sales one year ago. By continuing to roll out major upgrades of the iPhone series, Apple has succeeded in pushing up iPhone prices by $100-per-phone to $662-per-phone on average, even as smartphone prices overall have been declining. Apple has continued to develop and release new versions of its popular iPad tablets, and it has introduced a new product category, the smart-watch (the company did not break out sales figures for its new Apple Watch separately in this earnings report).

Yahoo (YHOO) continued on its turnaround path in its fiscal second quarter, reporting higher revenues but a net loss due to higher expenses. The company increased sales by 15 percent year-over-year, more than analyst expectations. However, Yahoo’s cost of traffic acquisition — money it pays search partners — more than tripled, which cut into earnings and led to a net quarterly loss of $22 million.

CEO Marissa Mayer expressed satisfaction with Yahoo’s results, pointing to improvements in the company’s mobile, video, and social-media businesses, which are all key to Mayer's revival plans for Yahoo.

Microsoft (MSFT) reported a record net loss in its fiscal fourth quarter, of $3.2 billion. That loss was primarily due to a $7.5 billion accounting charge Microsoft took in the quarter for its ill-fated purchase of Nokia. Microsoft announced earlier in July that it plans to eliminate 7,800 jobs connected to its troubled mobile-phone business. Microsoft reported that quarterly revenue was down 5 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Its full-year revenue increased to $93.5 billion from $86.8 billion the previous year. Annual profit fell to $12.2 billion from $22 billion the previous year. In the fourth quarter, Microsoft experienced some weakness in its Office and Windows product lines, countered by strength in cloud services, Xbox, and Surface tablet computers. 

In home bidding wars, love letters can seal a deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 02:00

In many real estate markets around the country, a shortage of homes for sale is creating stiff competition among buyers. In order to stand out in a possible bidding war, some buyers try to win favor by writing a personal appeal to the seller. 

“When the listing for your home came up online, we fell in love,” wrote Becca Schulman Havemeyer in a letter to the seller of a four bedroom home in the Boston area. “We love the charm and character of your home and can tell that your family cherished it as well.”

The Havemeyers had tried to boost their chances of getting the house by offering more than the list price. They also included an “escalation clause” in the offer, saying they’d be willing to bid yet higher, in case it came to that.

Schulman Havemeyer says the financial extras didn’t move the seller, who initially went with another bidder. But when that deal fell through, the seller turned to the Havemeyers because of their letter.  

“I've confirmed with her, because we've now been in touch, that she loved our letter and loved thinking about a family — a young family — coming into her home and having new memories there and honoring it in a different way,” Schulman Havemeyer says.

Potential homebuyers have used the love letter tactic for years in tight markets. But the letters may be more necessary today as way to get sellers' attentions. Demand for homes outstrips supply in many cities, properties are selling quickly, and sellers may enjoy multiple bid offers.

“I want the seller to feel the humanness of the bid,” says Kat Wies, a Durham, N.C.-based realtor who regularly includes a cover letter with her clients’ offers.

Wies's letters aren’t just a big wet kiss, though. She says she describes what the potential buyers like about the house.

“But you also want to describe the things the potential buyers would need to spend money on,” she says.

Some realtors say potential buyers need to be cautious not to spill their guts along with their ink, as the strategy can backfire. Even the Havemeyers, who penned love letters themselves, chafed at receiving them in return.

Will Havemeyer says it felt odd to read about how much someone else would enjoy the home he put a lot of work into. He still thought of it as his house.

“Hearing someone else talk about how they're going to live in it is hard to take,” he says.

In that case, where words failed, money still talked. The winning bidders whose letter didn’t sit right did ultimately prevail — but Havemeyer says it was largely because they were paying cash.

Looking for progress for treating Alzheimer's

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 02:00

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, a disease that can't be prevented or slow, much less cured. The FDA hasn’t approved a new drug to treat it in more than 10 years. As a result, some big pharmaceutical companies are getting together in Washington this week to discuss experimental drugs that hope to fill that market gap. 

Eli Lilly is releasing results from a clinical trial of solanezumab. Dr. Bill Thies is senior scientist in residence at the Alzheimer’s Association. "One of the issues in Alzheimer's trials is that it's a relatively slowly progressing disease," he says. "So it's hard to see changes in the rate of progression."

But Thies says today’s data should give doctors a better sense of whether this drug is working. The key is a third trial that’s already underway. The results of that trial should be made available in 12 to 18 months. "The FDA has agreed to accept the first two trials as a pivotal proof of the effectiveness of the drug," Thies says.

"So, if this third trial is successful, that gives us the opportunity to see a drug that actually will be eligible for licensing. That data is in the future but it's relatively soon in the future."

Ashtyn Evans, a healthcare analyst with Edward Jones, says the market potential for drugs like solanezumab is huge. "This is an unmet need," she says. "There's currently nothing on the market right now that is disease modifying or actually slows the cognitive decline. So, the potential for a drug that actually helps slow the decline could be quite large."

Eli Lilly sees a market opportunity and has already invested close to a billion dollars in its Alzheimer’s program. After all, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans and is the only one in the top ten that currently can’t be prevented, cured or slowed. 

An online directory aims to help transgender people

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-22 02:00

About half the time Ricky Hill of Chicago goes to the doctor, Hill has to educate the doctor about being transgender. Other times, clinic workers have called Hill by the wrong name. These are experiences with which many other transgender people can identify.

"We figure out who is a doctor that's not going to mis-gender me, or get my name wrong every single time I go in. Or, look at me like I'm a weirdo. Or, ask a bunch of inappropriate questions that have nothing to do with the sinus infection that I came in for," Hill says.

Ricky Hill

Nova Safo/Marketplace

Hill, 32, identifies between the male and female genders, and prefers the pronouns them and they, versus him or her. "I identify as a trans-masculine, gender-queer person," Hill says.

Hill is always on the lookout for doctors, hairstylists, gender-neutral bathrooms, and any other service or business where they can feel accepted.

"It is a constant explanation," Hill says, "I would love to have a day where my gender was not the topic of some sort of conversation."

This is why a non-profit advocacy group in Chicago has created an online database to help transgender people find businesses and service providers that are not just friendly, but understanding of their needs. Most of the online directory is comprised of healthcare services, and it includes a rate and review function, as well as the ability to search for businesses and providers by location.

The directory, called RAD Remedy — RAD stands for Referral Aggregator Database — is online, but still in development mode. It could potentially make a big impact, because of the sizable population of transgender Americans; up to 700,000 people, according to an estimate by UCLA's Williams Institute.

"Our, sort of, hope is to provide as much information to people as possible, for them to know what they're walking into," says Riley Johnson, RAD Remedy's co-founder.

It is not just an issue of convenience. More than a quarter of transgender people report harassment in a medical setting, says Daphna Stroumsa, a resident OBGYN at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Robert Garofalo 

Nova Safo/Marketplace

Stroumsa has researched transgender healthcare, finding that it can even be difficult to identify surgeons willing to work with patients who are transitioning.

"Trans people have suffered so much from the way the healthcare system has treated them," Stroumsa says. "The medical professions have not been taught and trained the cultural sensitivity issues and the medical issues."

Among the clinic's listed on RAD Remedy is Chicago-based Lurie Children's Hospital's outpatient clinic for transgender youth. It is one of few focused on that population.

"We've had ... patients come from as far as Kentucky, Michigan ... Iowa. All the surrounding states of the Midwest," says Robert Garofalo, a specialist in pediatrics and adolescent medicine, who runs the clinic.

Garofalo says there are only a couple of dozen other clinics like his.