National News

Ebola is scaring people away from ERs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 08:33

During the past few days, there has been no wait at Texas Health Presbyterian’s emergency room in Dallas. Usually, it takes about 45 minutes to see a doctor. But a week after a patient confirmed to have Ebola came through the ER, it’s not the most popular place.

“If I lived in Dallas and became ill, I would head straight for the Texas Health ER knowing that the waiting lines are so short,” Dr. Albert Wu says. Wu is professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “I would bet that Texas Health is a safer hospital,” Wu says, “and their ED is safer than the other hospitals they would otherwise compete with.”

Wu says even if fear about catching Ebola is not always rational, the panic will have a short-term effect on business. “Emergency departments are certainly one of the main routes to getting hospital admissions," Wu says. "So for almost every big hospital, the emergency room is a crucial way to get patients.”

There are more than 80,000 visits to the ER at Texas Health Presbyterian each year. On average, an ER visit brings in anywhere from $150 to $1,000 in revenue, according to Dr. Angelo Falcone. That might not sound like a lot, but Falcone says if you multiply that by the number of patients that are not coming, it “dramatically affects both the hospital's and the group's bottom line.”

Falcone is CEO of Medical Emergency Professionals, which staffs emergency departments in Maryland and Connecticut. He says the real financial loss isn’t from not treating a broken arm or prescribing pills. It’s from not admitting a patient. Nearly half of hospital patients come through the ER. When you lose one of those customers, Falcone says it could be a loss of tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. Falcone says patients probably won’t avoid the hospital permanently, and fluctuations in patient numbers come with the territory. “It’s the nature of the beast,” he says. “In emergency medicine, you’ll have some days where all of a sudden all the patients show up and other days where it’s not quite as crazy.”

In the long run, Alex Wu at Johns Hopkins says Texas Health Presbyterian could actually benefit. “I’m not sure they’re going to make their reputation on ‘We do the best job curing Ebola cases, send them to us!’ but they are getting their name mentioned and that might not be a terrible thing,” he says.

Right now, we just have the hospital’s symptoms; the prognosis is uncertain.

NPR Chief Announces Departure Of Key Digital Strategist

NPR News - Mon, 2014-10-06 08:32

CEO Jarl Mohn announced Monday that Kinsey Wilson is leaving the network. Wilson, whose exit follows the departure of several other NPR executives, is seen as a leader on the digital front.

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The numbers for October 6, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 08:16

The crowd of protesters in Hong Kong reached 80,000 this weekend, organizers said. The pro-democracy movement and the government were still at a standoff on Monday morning, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would "take all necessary actions to restore social order." The crackdown didn't materialize and protesters cleared a small path to the government headquarters as their ranks thinned. Quartz reported that neither side seems to have a clear plan.

Here are the stories we're reading, and other numbers we're watching, Monday.

55,000

That's the number of jobs HP says it will cut—5,000 more than expected—the New York Times reported. The bump comes amid the news that HP will split into two companies, one focused on business technology and the other focused on consumer hardware. 

$290

Bitcoin's value fell nearly 20 percent over the weekend to $290, the BBC reported. It's the sharpest drop yet in a steady decline for the online currency, which was worth more than $1,000 late last year. 

$6 billion

Meanwhile, the mobile payment market was roiling with rumors Monday. Square nabbed $150 million at a $6 billion valuation, but the Verge reported new cash might confirm Square is in trouble. Elsewhere in Silicon Valley, Facebook seems to be experimenting with peer-to-peer mobile payment. A few users found the functionality already hidden in the company's Messenger app, TechCrunch reported.

2016

That's when new episodes of David Lynch's cult hit "Twin Peaks" will debut on Showtime, 25 years after its original run. The Screen Wars rage on.

Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Gay-Marriage Appeals

NPR News - Mon, 2014-10-06 07:37

On Monday, on the first day of its new term, the court stunned the legal world, refusing to take any of the appeals pending on lower court rulings allowing gay marriage.

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The FCC takes on illegal jamming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 06:00

Last week, the FCC fined Marriott $600,000 for jamming guests’ Wi-Fi signals at one of its hotels. The Marriott Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, was operating software designed to protect networks from threats, but instead used it to disrupt and shut down the Wi-Fi hot spot that guests had set up in one of its conference rooms. Marriott charges up to $1,000 for setting up Wi-Fi hot spots of its own, but doesn’t bar people from using other Wi-Fi systems.

Marriott, for its part, says the hotel acted lawfully and that the FCC is vague about what kinds of jamming are allowed. The FCC seems to have been pretty clear for several years now that pretty much no jamming is permissible. Also, if you think you’re being jammed, they have an online tip line

Here are some of the creative ways people have been using signal jammers to mess with GPS, cellphones and Wi-Fi (and how they got busted for it).

1. If I can't talk to anyone on the bus, nobody will!

This guy used a jammer to keep people from chatting on the bus.  

2. Putting the "mute" in commute

A Florida man didn’t want people talking or texting while driving. So he put a jammer in his car to disrupt the phones of everyone who drove around him as he commuted to work each day. Unfortunately, he was also interfering with 911 signals. And people who were lawfully using a headset.  

3. Welcome to the People's Republic of Workistan

Employers seem to love jamming their employees' phones. Steel manufacturing companies do it. So do sewing companies.

4. You're not the boss of me

Employees have used jammers to fight back. This guy’s boss put GPS trackers in his truck to track his whereabouts and lunch breaks, so he got a jammer to disable it. Unfortunately, he also messed with planes landing and taking off at the airport.  

5. Jam tomorrow. Jam yesterday. But never jam today.

In the largest fine of the agency’s history, the FCC said it would assess a $34.9 million penalty against a Chinese signal jammer manufacturer for marketing its products in the U.S. over two years. It’s gone after smaller manufacturers as well, after jammers were found being used in a Texas cosmetology school and another disrupted communications in a sheriff’s office in Florida. As Mitchell Lazarus writes for CommLawBlog:

“Ironically, in both Texas and Florida, it is legal to openly carry firearms into a Starbucks, say. But not a phone jammer. So when the cell phone at the next table erupts into The William Tell Overture and its owner bellows, “HELLO? HEY! YEAH, IN A STARBUCKS! IT’S RAINING HERE! SO WHERE’RE YOU?” pulling out the jammer is not an option. It’s the firearm or nothing. This may not be good public policy.”

Another day, another corporate breakup

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 03:40

Another day, another corporate breakup. Hewlett-Packard confirmed today it will split into two companies. One will focus on personal computers and printers, and the other will focus, among other things, on the enterprise space of the cloud. It turns out HP is not the only old tech company that's been refocusing in a divergent tech landscape.

PODCAST: William Dudley on regulation and interest rates

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 03:00

It's the job of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to regulate powerful Wall Street banks. It's not the only regulator, of course, yet it's a crucial one. But has the New York Fed become too deferential to the financial institutions it watches over, too cozy? This question moved to the foreground after the public radio program This American Life with news organization ProPublica obtained audio recordings made secretly inside the New York Fed. The recordings were made by a then–New York Fed employee who would later sue for wrongful dismissal. William Dudley, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, joins us to discuss. He'll also talk about one of the most consequential economic decisions of the decade: when, at long last, to raise interest rates. That determination, which will have the effect of tapping the brakes of the economy, will revolve around how strong the labor market has become and whether prices are threatening to rise too quickly.

LinkedIn gives college ratings a big data twist

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 02:00

LinkedIn is entering the crowded field of college rankings and giving it a big data twist. 

When you join LinkedIn, you tell the site where you went to school, your field and where you work. The job site ran the numbers on its more than 313 million members to see where they went to college and what they’re doing now, says spokesperson LinkedIn Crystal Braswell.

They used it to “narrow down the list of top schools that are really launching their students into successful, desirable jobs,” Braswell says.

LinkedIn defined “desirable jobs” by crunching the numbers to find companies that are good at both attracting and retaining employees.

Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research says the list is limited.

“Right now, only the top 25 schools in any of the fields is displayed,” he says.

And so it’s mostly the usual colleges that top the lists. Still, Schneider favors this data-driven approach, especially in the current economy.

“I think the 2008 financial crises scared the life out of everybody,” Schneider says. “You go to college and now you’re not even guaranteed good employment.”

And with college tuition rising, Schneider says students are increasingly interested in what their college degree will get them in the job market.

William Dudley on interest rates and regulatory scrutiny

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 02:00

As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the surprising, sometimes delightful and sometimes destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century. And that means an examination of our old friend inflation.

William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, thinks a lot about inflation. He joined Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about when to raise interest rates to thwart inflation, and why he thinks it's good to let the economy run "a little hot" before taking action.

Among the topics discussed, Dudley also addresses concerns that the New York Fed has become too deferential to the financial institutions it watches over. This question moved to the foreground after the public radio program This American Life—along with news organization ProPublica—obtained audio recordings made secretly inside the New York Fed. The recordings were made by a former New York Fed employee who later sued for wrongful dismissal. 

Click on the media player above to hear William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

DB: From APM in NY, I’m David Brancaccio. It’s the job of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to regulate powerful Wall Street banks. It’s not the only regulator, of course, yet it’s a crucial one. But has the NY Fed become too deferential to the financial institutions it watches over? Too cozy?

This question moved to the foreground after the public radio program This American Life with news organization ProPublica obtained audio recordings made secretly inside the New York Fed. The recordings were made by a then NY Fed employee who would later sue for wrongful dismissal. Marketplace talked to the president and CEO of the NY Fed about this. William Dudley, thanks for joining us.

WD: Happy to be here.

DB: We all heard some tapes on the radio that make it sound like your team went soft on at least one big Wall Street firm that you’re supposed to be regulating. Is that not what you hear on the tapes?

WD: I completely stand behind the work and integrity of our staff. They’re operating completely in the public interest. That’s the first point I’d make. The second, improving supervision has been and remains a priority for me. When I became president of the bank in 2009, soon after that I commissioned Professor David Beim of Columbia to come in and do an evaluation of supervision.

DB: He did that big internal report that you got a look at that came out in some filings.

WD: That’s correct. And I basically told him, "Go anywhere you want, ask any questions you want, and tell me what you think about the state of play in supervision of the bank." And I think the record will show that we were actually quite responsive to the recommendations in the Beim report. We’ve had a significant reorganization within our supervision groups in terms of how we do supervision. We do a lot more horizontal and quantitative reviews. Examiner independence is completely paramount to how we run supervision. We try to ensure that independence by rotations, so people don’t stay within the same institution indefinitely. We rotate them every couple of years, but the real key is to look at what we’ve done. Is the banking system safer and sounder today than it was five years ago? And I think when you look at that you’ll see a whole bunch of things that the Federal Reserve system has done to make the banking system much safer and sounder. Higher cap rate requirements, higher liquidity requirements, capital surcharges for systemically important financial institutions…

DB: Here’s the thing though, we study it in poli-sci class, the tendency of government regulators to adopt the values of those they regulate. The watchdogs can become, what were we taught, captured. Now avoiding capture, it seems to me that it’s something that you don’t achieve once and for all. Isn’t it something that you have to continually fight against?

WD: In terms of the bank culture, this is something that you’re always… you never arrive at the destination of the culture you’re trying to strive for. We continue to work to have the best culture in the bank that we can possibly have. When I became president of the bank in January of 2009, I came back to the bank after an FOC meeting. We had a town hall. And I made it very clear then, in fact, the primary mantra of that address was “best idea wins.” And we continue to strive to make sure that is embedded in the culture of the bank.

DB: You saw what Senator Elizabeth Warren said in this statement, “When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street it threatens our whole economy.” She and Senator Sherrod Brown have called for a congressional investigation. What do you think of the idea of an investigation given the stakes are quite high in this area?

WD: It’s the Congress' prerogative to investigate. If they want to investigate, we’re going to completely cooperate because we think the facts are very much on our side.

DB: Mr. Dudley is a regulator, but he’s also one of the guardians of America’s interest rates as a member of the Federal Reserve’s open market committee. In that regard, Dudley told me there is room to be patient before he would recommend raising interest rates to thwart inflation.

WD: We’re going to be assessing the progress towards our dual mandate objectives, maximum sustainable employment in the context of price stability. Right now we’re missing on both of our objectives. The unemployment rate is high and inflation is low relative to a target of 2 percent. It calls for a very accommodative monetary policy. Now, if the economy evolves as most people are hoping over the next year, hopefully we’ll get to a point where we actually can raise interest rates in 2015, and I would be delighted if that could be the case.

DB: You would be delighted to raise interest rates if that’s the case? Why?

WD: In other words, if the economy is strong enough and we’re closer to our objectives, raising interest rates would be a sign of success. So it would actually be good news.

DB: I saw you said that you would be willing to let the economy run a little hot, those were your words, in the interest of the economy being healthy. What did you mean by that?

WD: A lot of people that are currently long-term unemployed, they’ve been out of work for a very long time. This is obviously very bad for them, but it’s also very bad for the economy as a whole. Allowing the economy to run a little hot would make it more likely that inflation would actually move up towards the 2 percent objective. And two, it would pull some of these long-term unemployed back into the workforce. Getting these people employed is critical to the long-term health of the economy, because if they’re not employed over the next year or two, they’re going to lose their job skills and become unemployable.

DB: Does this make you a dove, sir? On the question of inflation.

WD: I don’t think so. I’m reacting completely to the Fed's mandate objectives. We’re trying obviously to hit 2 percent, but we’re not going to hit it precisely. We should be spending some time a little below it and a little above it. It’s not a ceiling.

DB: Inflation is an odd thing though. It’s often in the eye of the beholder. The consumer price index is telling us there’s hardly a dram of inflation, but if you have medical bills or you’re sending a kid to college, prices might be going up and your household budget might be under pressure even now.

WD: That’s absolutely correct. I think people experience inflation in different ways depending on their particular circumstances and what people are experiencing. Inflation is also relevant to what’s happening on the income side of the ledger. If your income is rising at a decent clip, then 1.5 percent inflation is very manageable, but if your incomes are stagnant or declining then 1.5 percent inflation is a problem for individuals.

DB: William Dudley, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, thank you very much for the time.

WD: Thank you.

Charitable giving not keeping up with highest incomes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-06 02:00

Are the rich getting less generous? A new report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds that while overall giving is up, the wealthiest Americans are giving a smaller share of their wealth to charity. Meanwhile, the less well-off are giving away more of what they earn.

The Chronicle looked at tax returns for those who itemized deductions in 2012. Those earning more than $200,000 a year gave 4.6 percent less of their income to charity than they gave in 2006, before the recession. Americans making less than $100,000 gave 4.5 percent more.

As the rich have grown richer—partly from stock market gains—their giving hasn’t kept pace, says Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer. Meanwhile, those closer to poverty have been more willing to dig deeper.

“People realize that they themselves are just one step away from possibly being homeless or jobless,” she says. “The more affluent people just aren’t as close to those folks.”

The biggest decline was in North Dakota, where residents gave away 16 percent less of their income in 2012.

That’s largely because incomes have grown so dramatically from the state’s oil boom, says Kevin Dvorak, president of the North Dakota Community Foundation.

For the newly wealthy, he says, it takes time “to kind of wrap your mind around, 'Yes, all of my needs are going to be met and beyond, and now I have the ability to give as I never did before.’”

Overall, though, he says most charities in the state will tell you they’re faring much better.

Neves Will Face Incumbent Rousseff In Brazil's Runoff Election

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 15:01

In Sunday's presidential election, incumbent Dilma Rousseff and right-of-center candidate Aecio Neves came out on top. Marina Silva, the environmentalist Socialist candidate, trailed far behind.

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'You Have The Right To Remain Silent.' Or Do You?

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 13:05

Any devotee of TV crime dramas or police procedural shows hears the phrase regularly. But court decisions in recent years have chipped away at that principle.

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WATCH: Protesters Disrupt St. Louis Symphony With 'Requiem For Mike Brown'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 11:33

"Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all," the demonstrators sang, referring to the unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer.

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Occupy Central: Faces From Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 10:04

On what could be a fateful day for the eight-day old civil disobedience movement, NPR's Anthony Kuhn brings us some of the sights.

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Gabby Giffords' SuperPAC Fights For Her Old House Seat

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 08:59

Sympathy for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011, helped get her successor elected. Now she lobbies for tighter gun laws, and a tough ad from her PAC has stirred anger.

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Hope For Ebola Treatment Found In Survivors

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 08:17

Health officials are looking to those who have recovered from Ebola to treat new cases. The World Health Organization hopes to find antibodies in the blood of people who have fought off the virus.

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UPDATED: Authorities In Dallas Find Man Who Had Contact With Ebola Patient

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 08:06

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said they want to provide the man with a "compassionate place where we can monitor him and care for his every need."

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Seeing Neurological Patients As Characters, Not Case Studies

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 06:29

Legendary theater director Peter Brook is working on a new play centered on people with unusual conditions — like synesthesia, extraordinary memory or the inability to sense their own bodies.

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Vatican Synod Tests The Pope's Vision Of A More Merciful Church

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 06:27

Bishops are meeting with Pope Francis these next two weeks for an extraordinary conference to debate family matters – including hot-button issues like artificial contraception and gay civil unions.

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Mass Graves Found In Mexico, Near Place Where 43 Students Went Missing

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-05 05:35

The students were last seen being forced into police vans. The mass graves gave rise to fears that the missing students may be dead.

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