National News

Supreme Court Weighs In On Raisins, Spider-Man And Hotel Registries

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 11:38

Rulings in the term's biggest cases, Obamacare and same-sex marriage, are still outstanding.

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Graham And Haley Set To Join Those Calling For Flag's Removal In S.C.

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 11:37

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is expected to call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from a prominent place on the Statehouse grounds.

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Russia And The West Play Tug of War; Serbia Feels Caught In The Middle

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 11:36

Serbia has long had close ties to Russia. But as with other Slavic countries, it's also looking to develop ties with Western Europe. It's a tough balance to strike these days.

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'Big Chicken' has Boston Market flying higher

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 11:14

Fast-casual refers to the restaurants that are somewhere between McDonald's and Applebee's. When it launched in 1985, Boston Market was the biggest name in the fast-casual food industry, as its signature chicken dishes struck a chord with foodies.

After that big boom, the company became too successful too quickly and filed for bankruptcy. Now, Boston Market is back. George Michel, who previously worked as the head of A&W Restaurants, joined the company in 2010 as the CEO or, as he prefers to be called, "The Big Chicken."

“That’s what my business card says, and that’s how I introduce myself to all of our employees,” Michel says. He says that speaking to a CEO naturally intimidates workers, “but the minute I say I’m 'The Big Chicken,’ I get a big laugh, and we start the conversation.”

Michel has had Boston Market on an upward trend in recent years. This year, the company will open up 12 new restaurants. This is significant because Boston Market only has around 460 locations. When compared with Chipotle, another fast-casual brand that has more than 1,700 locations, it needs to gain all the ground that it can.

“We’re gonna continue to grow,” Michel says. “Next year we’re planning to open 20 to 24 [restaurants], so … we’ve been fine with competing in the marketplace.”

That marketplace doesn’t just include fast-casual restaurants or even just restaurants. According to Michel, “Between 4:30 and 6:30 really, we compete with supermarkets."

Michel notes that at those evening times, moms and dads are thinking about what to bring home for dinner, and “either they’re going to go to Boston Market and get a family meal … or they’re going to go to the supermarket and do their shopping and buy a rotisserie chicken on the way out.”

Despite that competition, Michel says he feels optimistic about the future of his company. Much of that optimism comes from his appreciation of the restaurant business and Boston Market’s customers.

“In the restaurant business … you deal with the food that people love to eat and you measure your results all the way from the top to the bottom line,” he says. “What’s amazing is that everywhere that I go, people know what Boston Market stands for — people have a great love for the brand.”

Released From Prison, Nuclear Protest Nun Now Likely To Stay Free

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 10:34

The Justice Department said it will not seek a rehearing after Sister Megan Rice's sabotage conviction was thrown out last month.

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Martha Stewart Living To Be Bought By Sequential For $353 Million

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 09:51

Stewart's company has been in need of financial for a while.

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'We Are Not Cured': Obama Discusses Racism In America With Marc Maron

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 09:41

In the wake of last week's killing of nine black church members in Charleston, President Obama talks about the status of race relations in a conversation on the WTF with March Maron podcast.

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California's Medicaid Program Fails To Ensure Access To Doctors

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 09:25

The state is isn't monitoring its Medicaid managed care plans to make sure they have enough doctors to meet patients' needs, an audit finds. And thousands of calls to an ombudsman were never returned.

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U.S. Women Face Colombia Tonight In Round Of 16

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 08:32

Colombian star Lady Andrade told USA Today that her team would win: "We're going to beat them since they like to talk so much."

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U.N. Report Finds Israel, Hamas May Have Committed War Crimes

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 06:45

The Independent Commission of Inquiry found there was a huge increase in firepower during the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza.

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Taylor Swift convinces Apple to pay indie artists

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 06:35

Taylor Swift’s social media shaming of Apple appears to have prompted the company to make changes to its new music streaming service—Apple Music.

Swift had threatening to withhold her album, "1989,” because of the company’s policy to not pay artists during a three-month trial period.

Apple’s reversal was announced on Twitter. Eddy Cue, the company’s senior vice president of internet software and services made the announcement that “We hear you Taylor Swift and indie artists,” via tweet, and Apple will pay royalties during the 3-month trial.

The specific behind Apple Music’s royalties plan remain to be revealed and Apple has declined to comment.

So, is this a win for musicians and artists?

“I would say it’s more of a blip than a major win,” said Miles Raymer, a freelance music journalist from Brooklyn.

Raymer points out that the economics of these new streaming services are still being sorted out, and the royalty issue was never a huge issue — for artists, or Apple.

“I think the quick reaction from Apple really underscores how little money is involved in the bigger picture,” Raymer said.  “Streaming royalties are a fraction of a penny per song. 

The cumulative amount of royalties that they'll pay over this three month period is a fraction of the billions that they invested to purchase Beats.”

So unless you are among the Taylor Swifts, Led Zeppelins, or the Beatles-es of the world, streaming royalties aren’t likely to make a dent in your bottom line

Even with the success of streaming music — Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, TIDAL —  it’s a very crowded market.  But, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine (and Beats co-founder) claims that Apple Music will be the first “artist friendly,” streaming platform.

A statement Raymer believes amounts to little more than well-intentioned PR.

“Streaming platforms talking about being artist friendly sort of sounds like McDonalds talking about artisanal hamburgers—it sounds nice, but it won’t change anything.”

But controlling access to the distribution network, whether its terrestrial radio with Clear Channel, or the iTunes store, or Spotify means the artist will be subject to economics of other companies

Jim DeRogatis is the co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago public radio.

“I mean, you've got to remember, in the history of humankind making music, the idea of selling recordings, or selling access to it is a mere century and change old,” DeRogatis said.

Which is why, DeRogatis noted, artists will always be better off if they can sell their music directly to consumers, either at concerts, or their own online marketplace.

Taylor Swift convinces Apple to pay indie artists

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 06:35

Taylor Swift’s social media shaming of Apple appears to have prompted the company to make changes to its new music streaming service—Apple Music.

Swift had threatening to withhold her album, "1989,” because of the company’s policy to not pay artists during a three-month trial period.

Apple’s reversal was announced on Twitter. Eddy Cue, the company’s senior vice president of internet software and services made the announcement that “We hear you Taylor Swift and indie artists,” via tweet, and Apple will pay royalties during the 3-month trial.

The specific behind Apple Music’s royalties plan remain to be revealed and Apple has declined to comment.

So, is this a win for musicians and artists?

“I would say it’s more of a blip than a major win,” said Miles Raymer, a freelance music journalist from Brooklyn.

Raymer points out that the economics of these new streaming services are still being sorted out, and the royalty issue was never a huge issue — for artists, or Apple.

“I think the quick reaction from Apple really underscores how little money is involved in the bigger picture,” Raymer said.  “Streaming royalties are a fraction of a penny per song. 

The cumulative amount of royalties that they'll pay over this three month period is a fraction of the billions that they invested to purchase Beats.”

So unless you are among the Taylor Swifts, Led Zeppelins, or the Beatles-es of the world, streaming royalties aren’t likely to make a dent in your bottom line

Even with the success of streaming music — Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, TIDAL —  it’s a very crowded market.  But, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine (and Beats co-founder) claims that Apple Music will be the first “artist friendly,” streaming platform.

A statement Raymer believes amounts to little more than well-intentioned PR.

“Streaming platforms talking about being artist friendly sort of sounds like McDonalds talking about artisanal hamburgers—it sounds nice, but it won’t change anything.”

But controlling access to the distribution network, whether its terrestrial radio with Clear Channel, or the iTunes store, or Spotify means the artist will be subject to economics of other companies

Jim DeRogatis is the co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago public radio.

“I mean, you've got to remember, in the history of humankind making music, the idea of selling recordings, or selling access to it is a mere century and change old,” DeRogatis said.

Which is why, DeRogatis noted, artists will always be better off if they can sell their music directly to consumers, either at concerts, or their own online marketplace.

Body Of Former White House Chef Found In New Mexico

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 03:12

Walter Scheib, who served as executive chef for Presidents Clinton and Bush, was found near a trail in the mountains near Taos. The 61-year-old was missing for a week.

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PODCAST: They're not coming to America

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 03:00

Players in financial markets are betting big money that Greece cuts a deal with its creditors soon. More on that. Plus, we'll have more context on Europe and its debt from Mark Blyth, Professor of Political Economy at Brown University and author of "Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea." And a technical glitch in the U.S. Visa system may cause a headache for thousands of visitors to the United States this summer.  We'll talk about the possible impact on recreational travelers, as well as visas for farmworkers from Mexico and visiting students.

Taliban Attack Afghan Parliament In Kabul

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 02:36

Authorities were eventually able to repel the attack killing all of the Taliban militants. More than a dozen civilians were also hurt in the attack.

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A computer glitch spells trouble for visitors to the U.S.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 02:00

Those going to the U.S. State Department’s website this week looking for a travel visa will likely get a message saying the department’s having technical difficulties. This is putting potentially tens of thousands of visitors and summer workers on hold.

The State Department says more than a hundred computer experts are working around the clock to fix the glitch. But Nathan Sales, who teaches law at Syracuse University, says he’s not optimistic it will be resolved quickly. "If you’re the State Department, and your visa processing system goes down, well, you’re not going to go out of business, and there’s no real accountability mechanism by which foreign citizens who would really like to visit family members or go to Disneyworld can hold you accountable."

Sales says it’s unfortunate any time of year, but it’s especially tough during peak travel season. "People aren’t able to come to the United States because of a technical glitch on our end, that’s going to have some real impact on our tourism industry."

Not to mention the potential effects on agriculture, which relies on migrant workers. Arnold Haiman teaches national security at George Washington University. "This is the time of year when there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, that you can’t wait, it won’t happen if the crops go bad.”

The State Department says it’s giving priority to farm workers.

The FCC takes action to deal with robocalls

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 02:00

The FCC is taking new action to deal with robocalls — recorded phone calls and text messages offering various products and services. Unwanted solicitations are annoying at best and can be fraudulent at worse. The FCC gets hundreds of thousands of angry complaints a year. In its declaratory rulings, the FCC aims to close loopholes and bulk up protection.

Consumer advocates are particularly pleased the FCC is now explicitly telling phone companies they can provide blocking technology. They’ve generally avoided doing so, claiming it wasn’t legal. Consumer advocates never bought this excuse. Now they want action from phone providers.

“We really hope that the companies stop stalling,” says Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel at Consumers Union, which has been pushing the FCC for these changes. “We hope that they will take the FCC’s words to heart and consumers’ wishes to heart.”

Some companies worry, saying the ruling opens them up to unfair lawsuits and that robocalls can be a legitimate way to reach people and sell products and services they want.

The FCC is allowing exemptions for certain urgent messages, such as a prescription drug refill reminder or bank fraud notification.

Mark Garrison: We all get this stuff. In my case, it’s recurring text messages from a company that is absolutely convinced I’m in the market for sunglasses and way too in love with emoji. The messages are incredibly annoying, sometimes worse.

Delara Derakhshani: A lot of them are fraudulent scams. Many of them are directed at vulnerable populations such as the elderly.

Delara Derakhshani is a lawyer at Consumers Union, which has been pushing the FCC for these changes. She’s thrilled the FCC is now explicitly telling phone companies they can provide blocking technology. They’ve generally avoided doing so, claiming it wasn’t legal. Consumer advocates never bought this excuse. Now they want action from wireless providers.

Delara Derakhshani: We really hope that the companies stop stalling. We hope that they will take the FCC’s words to heart and consumers’ wishes to heart.

Some companies worry, saying the ruling opens them up to unfair lawsuits and that robocalls can be a legit way to reach people. The FCC is allowing exemptions for urgent messages, such as a prescription drug refill reminder or fraud notification. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

The new math in healthcare: make money by saving money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 02:00

Over the course of his career, Dr. Seth Berkowitz has met with patients much like one of his first – a 300-lb. farmer in rural North Carolina with diabetes and heart trouble.

“His own diet was highly processed food, and he knew that was making his health worse,” Berkowitz says. “You’d talk with him and he’d be like, ‘Oh, I know what I need to be doing. It’s just not an affordable thing for me.’”

Berkowitz says as he encountered the problem over and over – in North Carolina, the Bay Area and Boston – an idea hardened in in his mind. Many of his sickest patients would happily focus on health, if they could just deal with their more pressing problems first.

So Berkowitz, an internist, has designed a pilot program at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he works now, that he thinks just might work for his diabetic patients.  

“We’re working with an organization that delivers medically tailored meals to people in their houses," he says. “Good quality food. It’s made from ingredients grown in the Boston area. They have their own test kitchen.”

Berkowitz bets if he gets them eating healthier foods, his patients will need less medication, will move around more, and will be more productive.

He is one of handful of researcher trying to improve health for the patients sometimes called the 5/50s; the 5 percent of patients who use 50 percent of the resources. The program has the potential to improve health and save money on hospital bills paid by Medicaid and, by extension, American taxpayers.

It’s a growing idea in a healthcare landscape where providers are increasingly rewarded based on patients’ outcomes, not just the number of services provided.

The idea sounds simple, right? Spend $100 for a week’s worth of meals as a way to head off the repeated trips to the hospital that can run $6,000 to $10,000 a visit. Save a lot of healthcare spending by spending a little bit more on social services.

But here’s the problem: Doctors don’t know who is going to end up in the hospital. They just can’t predict it well enough, so they might spend lots of money on meals for people where food isn’t the problem at all.

At a clinic run by Massachusetts General Hospital in Revere, not far from Berkowitz’s Boston office, plenty of patients seem like they could be a good fit for the meals program.

There’s 71-year-old Tom Sullivan, who weighed 250 lbs. when he first showed up ten years ago.

Today, he weighs 316 lbs.

“Whatever I eat is either sandwiches or microwave – garbage,” he says. “Your body can tell you if you are doing good or not. And it hasn’t gotten any better.”

And there’s 39-year-old Carrie Walsh, who knows what food she wants to buy, even if she can’t afford it.

“I just feel really sad because I want to take care of myself,” she says, her voice catching. “And if I had the financial means, I’d be able to be eating better.”

Berkowitz says he’s got 1,500 Walshes and Sullivans he could enroll in the program, but he’s only got the budget for 50 of them.

What makes finding the right 50 even harder, says Harvard health economist Kate Baicker, is having healthy food on hand might not be enough.

“Maybe they don’t have a place for food deliveries,” says Baicker. “Maybe they don’t have adequate cooking facilities.”

The stated goal of this work – improving health and saving money – hinges on lining up the right patient with the right program.

Allison Hamblin with the Center for Health Care Strategies says the danger there is that healthcare providers won’t get it right.

“We need to prove that we can economically justify this work as part of healthcare,” she says. “And until we can demonstrate that this is cost-effective, it won’t be a mainstream activity.”

Poor targeting could sink a program financially. And right now, many providers doing this work don’t target at all, relying instead on referrals or a signups through a first-come, first-served basis.

Doctors and researchers in Washington state, San Diego and Dallas are developing predictive models they believe will take the guesswork out and lead to the right matches. That encourages Dr. Clemons Hong, a lead researcher in this field, but he says people must understand this problem needs more than a big data solution.

“I think the perfect marriage is data and relationships,” he says.

Hong says a trusting relationship – one where the healthcare workers really know the patient – is essential. Remember, he says, this is a group of people whose lives are turned inside and out.

He says a patient at high risk might start taking their medications for depression, or diabetes, or congestive heart failure and do well for a while. “Then mom dies, right? And then they get depressed again and stop taking their medication,” he says. “Then here we are all over again.”

That brings us back to Berkowitz, who is also trying to marry data and relationships.

In his modest, windowless office, Berkowitz reads off a couple questions to help him find patients best suited for the meal program.

All told, he’s created a 100-question survey, with questions like, “In the last three months, did you ever put off buying medication so that you would have money to buy food?” Or “I worried that my food would run out before I had money to buy more. Was that often true, sometimes true or never true?”

Crude as that may be, learning a patient’s complicated backstory may be the most effective way to move forward.

Even if cumbersome questionnaires are the best they’ve got, people in trenches, like nurse practitioner Christine Goscila, say they’ll take it.  

“You can see how frustrating it is for the patient,” she says. “Their weight steadily rises, and the insulin steadily rises. And it’s this vicious cycle that’s never stopped because that one issue that could fix it all isn’t being addressed.” 

Goscila says if it comes down to the providing meals or providing more insulin to help patients like Walsh or Sullivan, her money’s on the meals every time.

We are never, ever, ever ... giving away free music

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-22 01:56
July 30

The launch date for Apple Music, and the start of its controversial three-month trial period. The tech giant came under fire last week for reportedly forcing artists to forgo royalties during the trial. Apple caved late Sunday night after Taylor Swift posted an open letter shaming the company, the Verge reported.

1,000 robots

That's how many "Peppers" — a humanoid robot that can recognize human emotion — were made available for purchase on Saturday in Japan. Pepper costs around $1,600, with $200 in monthly fees. And as CNN reports, the first batch of bots sold out in about a minute.

$250,000

That's how high the average price is for an Indian wedding with hundreds of guests and days of festivities, one planner told Marketplace Weekend. It's a booming industry, and venues and vendors see lots of dollar signs.

$47 billion

That was the amount of money put forth by health insurer Anthem in a proposed deal to buy one of its competitors, Cigna. But that offer was later rejected by Cigna. Still, as the New York Times reports, its just one of several moves being made by health insurers to try and consolidate in a new market created by the Affordable Care Act.

2,900

That's how many interns Goldman Sachs is bringing on this year, and it's instituting new policies to reduce their stress level, Reuters reported. Now interns at Goldman will be required to leave the offices between midnight and 7 a.m., and take Saturdays off. Nothing says low-stress like a 17-hour workday, right?

33 officiants

That's how many are employed by Alan Katz's 24-hour elopement chapel in Long Beach, California. In his 11 years running the business, Katz says he's seen the number of people looking to elope grow exponentially. The reason: like any other successful business, they offer lower prices and convenience.

U.S. Troops Tested By Race In Secret World War II Chemical Experiments

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-22 00:59

While the Pentagon acknowledged years ago that it used American servicemen in World War II mustard gas experiments, NPR found new details about tests that grouped subjects by the color of their skin.

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