National News

Dire Predictions On Ebola's Spread From Top Health Organizations

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 15:00

The World Health Organization warns of more than 20,000 cases by early November if help doesn't arrive quickly in West Africa. The CDC projects 1.4 million cases by late January.

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General Motors adds insult to injury for Detroit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:54

General Motors is trying to re-establish the luxury bona fides of the Cadillac brand, by moving Cadillac's global headquarters to New York next year.

High end consumers in a global city – it makes sense. Still, one wonders what Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac – the guy who founded the City of Detroit – would think if he were still around.

NIH gives $10.1 million for gender-balanced research

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:53

The National Institutes of Health want to end a long-standing bias in biomedical research, towards men. It turns out when researchers do what are called pre-clinical studies, most of the time they’re using male animals and male cells. Today the NIH announced that it has awarded an extra $10 million to help bring more balance into the lab.

Researchers have long preferred male animals and cells, partly because they thought the female menstrual cycle introduced too much variability. That’s not true, says Janine Austin Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the NIH. This additional funding encourages researchers to study both sexes, she says.

“We’re really looking to transform how science is done, and in order for us to do that, we have to help scientists understand the methods and the benefits of studying both sexes,” Clayton says.

By not studying both sexes, Clayton says we may be missing out on discoveries that could help both men and women. One grant will help look at why women have higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Other studies will look at sex differences in stroke, lung disease and alcohol abuse.

But is $10 million enough to change science?

“It will hopefully spill over,” says Kathryn Sandberg, director the Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging and Disease at Georgetown University. Researchers will present their work at meetings, and others may become interested, she says.

“I think it’s a good first step,” Sandberg says.

The money won’t just bring more female subjects into the mix. Sarah D’Orazio, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, has a grant from the NIH to study the immune response in mice to the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The extra $100,000 in supplemental funding will help her buy male mice. Each one costs $24, she says, plus shipping and lodging.

“They’re very well cared for here at the University of Kentucky. So I have, basically, a hotel bill that I have to pay for the mice while they’re here during our experiment,” she says.

D’Orazio says she had done small studies with both males and females in the past.

“We had an observation all along that female mice were much more susceptible to the infection, and we just didn’t really have the funding to follow up on that observation,” D’Orazio says.

If she can prove there is a difference, D’Orazio says she could get more funding to study why and develop treatments to help women.

Making the inversion game harder to play

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:52

The Treasury Department has announced that it's going to change tax rules to curb corporate inversions - deals that let U.S. companies move their headquarters overseas, and avoid U.S. taxes. 

The new rules would keep companies from playing one of their favorite inversion games:  hopscotch.

Here's how you play: say you’re a U.S. company with a foreign subsidiary. The subsidiary earned loads of money. But you don’t want to bring it back to the U.S., where you’d have to pay taxes on it.  So the subsidiary loans the money to a foreign parent you create through an inversion.

“They hopscotch over their U.S. parent," says Lee Sheppard, contributing editor to the journal Tax Notes. "That’s why it’s called hopscotch."

Sheppard says the new Treasury rules would make hopscotching illegal. And you can’t play skinny down anymore, either.  That’s a way to shrink a U.S. company’s share in a foreign firm created through an inversion. 

“I think these rules will be effective at stopping some of the abuses of the past," says Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban/Brookings Tax Policy Center. “The question, though, is,  how effective they will be at stopping potentially new abuses.”

Especially since Treasury hasn’t banned all of the inversion games. Take earnings stripping. That’s where a U.S. company takes out a big loan from the foreign parent it creates in an inversion, and gets to write off the debt payments.  

Still, Treasury is making inversions more complicated.

“A lot of transactions that might have been relatively easy are now going to have to be analyzed much more carefully,” says Ryan Dudley, a partner at the accounting firm,  Friedman LLP.

In fact, some of the big inversions announced lately may not go through now, because Treasury says the new rules are effective immediately.  So if you’ve announced a big inversion deal, but haven’t completed it, you may have to find a new game to play. 

Crime Falls As U.S. Locks Up Fewer People, Attorney General Holder Says

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:38

For the first time in more than 40 years, both the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate have fallen by around 10 percent in a roughly five-year span, the attorney general says.

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Student loan default rates don't tell the whole story

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:30

This week, the U.S. Department of Education will release data on the percentage of borrowers who have defaulted on federal student loans over the last three years. Schools with high rates of default face consequences.

There are new standards. According to Nick Hillman, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, a college doesn’t want its default rate to hit 40 percent a year, or 30 percent over three years:  “They eventually could lose access to not just their student loans, but also Pell Grants and other types of federal aid, which can rack up to millions of dollars, depending on the institution.”

If a school is worried about its default rate, Hillman says, that institution will try hard to lower it. “There’s a lot of gaming that can happen, and just really weak incentives and penalties involved with current policies,” he says. Schools can push students to ask for forbearance, or defer payments.

According to Thomas Weko, a managing researcher in the American Institutes for Research’s education program, “Not that many institutions fail to meet this test.” After the government released the last data set on default rates, it penalized eight schools out of some 6,000.  Weko says a school that is worried about its default rate can hire consultants for tracking borrowers who are at risk of default, “doing sort of briefings and trainings with students.” A college that can’t lower its default rate, Weko adds, definitely has problems navigating the federal financial aid system.

“It’s like knowing where the speed camera is, and still getting it wrong,” he jokes.

According to Jacob Gross, a professor in the University of Louisville’s College of Education and Human Development, this highlights a bigger issue. “I think a real important part of this debate is whose fault is default,” he says.

Is default the student’s burden? Or the institution’s? And the federal government doesn’t always consider a would-be borrowers’ credit risk the way private lenders can.

Insurance Brokers Key To Kentucky's Obamacare Success

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:20

Many brokers feared the new federal health law would make them obsolete. But more than 40 percent of people who signed up for insurance via Kentucky's state exchange used a broker.

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Big Sponsors May Find It Hard To Break Up With The NFL

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 12:59

Companies like Anheuser-Busch pay hundreds of millions to be identified with the NFL's aura. The last thing they want is to be associated with scandal, but it might be financially tough to walk away.

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'Black-ish' is a sitcom unafraid of big questions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 12:43

“black-ish” is being hailed for bringing new ideas to the family sitcom landscape, but it's all very familiar for creator Kenya Barris.

“My wife is a doctor, we have five kids. We kind of came from humble beginnings and pulled ourselves up," Barris says. "[Then we] looked around at who our kids were, looked around at our friends’ kids, and kept having that same conversation over and over: We didn't really recognize the life that they were living compared to the life we were living."

That closely resembles the premise of "black-ish," which stars Anthony Anderson as a successful marketing executive who's worried his family — his four children, his wife (a doctor) and his father — have lost sight of their roots.

"Black-ish" also stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne. Larry Wilmore helped craft the first season before leaving for his own Comedy Central show.

Wilmore says he was on board as soon as he read the first page of the script. "black-ish" tackled race as a social issue, putting it at the center of the plot, not the sidebar.

"There was content on this show that I felt hadn't been on television in a long time," Wilmore says. "And the fact that he was so honest about race: It wasn’t a family that happened to be black.”

The show, which debuts Wednesday on ABC, has already drawn praise for the way it handles nuances of race, class and identity. TV critic Alan Sepinwall wrote that "black-ish" has a smart, defined point-of-view while still achieving the sitcom ideal of "mak[ing] the universal specific and the specific universal." NPR called it one of the fall's best new shows and the A.V. Club wrote that "Black-ish" refreshingly brings more perspectives and ideas to prime time, instead of just "'diversity' for diversity's sake."

For more on "black-ish," listen to Kai's conversation with Barris and Wilmore in the audio player above.

Nobelist Muhammad Yunus: Be A Go-Getter, Not A Job Getter

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 12:35

The founding father of "microcredit" is helping to judge a contest with maxidollars: the Clinton Global Initiative's Hult Prize, granting $1 million to a new business idea that'll help the poor.

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Move To Curb U.S. Corporate Tax Dodges Could Delay Reform

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 12:22

Business and consumer groups say Congress needs to reform taxes, but few expect change soon. In fact, Treasury's tweaks to tax law may diminish the political will to address broader tax reform.

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More Women Skip Prenatal Tests After Learning About Risks

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 12:08

Research suggests that women may not be getting the information they need to make informed decisions about prenatal genetic testing, particularly invasive tests that can harm the fetus.

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Even When Abortion Is Illegal, The Market May Sell Pills For Abortion

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 12:08

An ulcer drug is dramatically changing the face of back-alley abortions in developing countries and cutting the rate of maternal deaths. Misoprostol is widely available even where abortion is banned.

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Before You Take A Bite Of That Mushroom, Consider This

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 11:46

Guess what scientists found lurking inside a common-looking packet of supermarket porcini? Three entirely new species of fungi. That's what happens when you DNA sequence your dinner.

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Tungsten: just try and smash it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 11:43

The BBC’s Justin Rowlatt has a series exploring the economy through the elements – yes, those elements.

So tungsten is not the most famous element on the table. But you do know it well.

"Tungsten has two incredibly useful properties," says Rowlatt.  "It's very dense and very strong."

Since tungsten is unlikely to break or smash, you probably use it to cut through hard things.

"The only substance harder than tungsten are diamonds," says Rowlatt.

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

Tribune Publishing enters the viral marketing sphere

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 11:00

Tribune Publishing, newly-created this summer after the Tribune media conglomerate split its print and broadcast operations, has partnered with Contend, a viral video marketing company. 

The deal brings digital video savvy to Tribune Publishing’s four-year-old marketing operations, which has already been courting advertisers with a one-stop-shop approach. 

While many newspapers and other legacy print publications have been beefing up their digital marketing offerings—mostly through native ads, such as sponsored web articles—this appears to be the first time a newspaper chain has made a direct investment in a viral video company, one that is not only creating ad content for Tribune’s websites, but for other websites and social media portals as well.  

“Our digital marketing services are our fastest growing area. It has the most upside. It opens up a whole new client list,” says Bill Adee, executive vice president of digital for Tribune Publishing. “What we’re really doing is we’re focusing on a problem that a lot of businesses have, which is creating content. And at the beginning, it was focused on maybe more text-based needs.”

The investment in Contend, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, allows Tribune Publishing to broaden its portfolio to video content, such as an online video series for the supermarket chain Jewel-Osco, which was the first time Contend and Tribune Publishing partnered on a campaign. 

Something Fresh - Ep3 - Quincy from Contend on Vimeo.

The Jewel-Osco series did not run on Tribune’s website—signaling a shift in strategy in which the ads the newspaper giant creates internally do not necessarily have to be ads that run on its own properties. 

“We’re well-known story tellers, right…So why wouldn't we be very good on behalf of a brand telling a story? Completely separate departments. Completely. But at its core, that’s what we do,” Adee says. 

While marketing and news may be separate departments, newspapers are banking on audiences realizing that distinction. Adee says he doesn’t see a danger of an audience backlash, at least with the video content, because it is not disguised as news content. 

“It’s not 'Jewel presented by the Chicago Tribune.' It’s Jewel. There’s no mistaking where this video came from,” Adee says. 

Newspapers may be willing to take risks with sponsored online content, because digital advertising represents one of the few areas of revenue growth for the industry, says Ken Doctor, a media analyst who used to be an executive at the former Knight Ridder Newspaper Chain. 

“It’s a big industry trend. It’s one of the biggest that we’ve seen in several years. And we see it everywhere from at the top end—the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Hearst magazines—to… smaller papers across the country,” Doctor says. 

As newspapers are losing the big advertisers they used to rely upon, they’re turning to the tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in their markets. 

“So publishers are saying: 'We know media, we know how to tell stories with writing and now with video, and we can also help them with social media.' So they are completely reorienting their sales approach away from just selling space to helping these merchants bring in new customers and retain the current customers they have. So, it’s really been a revolution in marketing, and we’re in about the third year of it at this point,” Doctor says. 

For Tribune Publishing, that revolution is necessary. Its digital ad sales accounted for 18 percent of all its ad revenue. And digital ads are one of the few areas of growth for newspapers, Doctor says. 

Contend CEO Steven Amato says while his company is part of the new media world, there are advantages to partnering with a newspaper chain that has established highly-recognizable brands in many cities. 

“Tribune is sitting on an amazing bunch of assets… and they have such deep relationships in local markets. That’s an unbelievable asset. They are part of [their communities]… that is not something you get everyday,” Amato says. “It’s a 167-year-old startup right now, Tribune Publishing. It’s very exciting.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Tribune Publishing in the headline and when the partnership was announced. The text has been corrected.

The Tribune Company enters the viral marketing sphere

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-23 11:00

Tribune Publishing, newly-created this summer after the Tribune media conglomerate split its print and broadcast operations, this week announced a partnership with Contend, a viral video marketing company. 

The deal brings digital video savvy to Tribune Publishing’s four-year-old marketing operations, which has already been courting advertisers with a one-stop-shop approach. 

While many newspapers and other legacy print publications have been beefing up their digital marketing offerings—mostly through native ads, such as sponsored web articles—this appears to be the first time a newspaper chain has made a direct investment in a viral video company, one that is not only creating ad content for Tribune’s websites, but for other websites and social media portals as well.  

“Our digital marketing services are our fastest growing area. It has the most upside. It opens up a whole new client list,” says Bill Adee, executive vice president of digital for Tribune Publishing. “What we’re really doing is we’re focusing on a problem that a lot of businesses have, which is creating content. And at the beginning, it was focused on maybe more text-based needs.”

The investment in Contend, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, allows Tribune Publishing to broaden its portfolio to video content, such as an online video series for the supermarket chain Jewel-Osco, which was the first time Contend and Tribune Publishing partnered on a campaign. 

Something Fresh - Ep3 - Quincy from Contend on Vimeo.

The Jewel-Osco series did not run on Tribune’s website—signaling a shift in strategy in which the ads the newspaper giant creates internally do not necessarily have to be ads that run on its own properties. 

“We’re well-known story tellers, right…So why wouldn't we be very good on behalf of a brand telling a story? Completely separate departments. Completely. But at its core, that’s what we do,” Adee says. 

While marketing and news may be separate departments, newspapers are banking on audiences realizing that distinction. Adee says he doesn’t see a danger of an audience backlash, at least with the video content, because it is not disguised as news content. 

“It’s not 'Jewel presented by the Chicago Tribune.' It’s Jewel. There’s no mistaking where this video came from,” Adee says. 

Newspapers may be willing to take risks with sponsored online content, because digital advertising represents one of the few areas of revenue growth for the industry, says Ken Doctor, a media analyst who used to be an executive at the former Knight Ridder Newspaper Chain. 

“It’s a big industry trend. It’s one of the biggest that we’ve seen in several years. And we see it everywhere from at the top end—the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Hearst magazines—to… smaller papers across the country,” Doctor says. 

As newspapers are losing the big advertisers they used to rely upon, they’re turning to the tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in their markets. 

“So publishers are saying: 'We know media, we know how to tell stories with writing and now with video, and we can also help them with social media.' So they are completely reorienting their sales approach away from just selling space to helping these merchants bring in new customers and retain the current customers they have. So, it’s really been a revolution in marketing, and we’re in about the third year of it at this point,” Doctor says. 

For Tribune Publishing, that revolution is necessary. Its digital ad sales accounted for 18 percent of all its ad revenue. And digital ads are one of the few areas of growth for newspapers, Doctor says. 

Contend CEO Steven Amato says while his company is part of the new media world, there are advantages to partnering with a newspaper chain that has established highly-recognizable brands in many cities. 

“Tribune is sitting on an amazing bunch of assets… and they have such deep relationships in local markets. That’s an unbelievable asset. They are part of [their communities]… that is not something you get everyday,” Amato says. “It’s a 167-year-old startup right now, Tribune Publishing. It’s very exciting.”

Al-Qaida's Khorasan Group Led By Hard-Core Fighters

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 10:45

The group, which was targeted by U.S. airstrikes in Syria last night, has been on the U.S. radar for a while. Intelligence officials say they have tracked its individual members for years.

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Meet The Global Groups That Alicia Keys Got Naked For

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 10:40

The Grammy-winning singer posed in the nude (in a G-rated way) to draw attention to a dozen charities. Here's a look at the goals of the global players — and what they'd do if money were no object.

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Insurers Cautious As Proton Beam Cancer Therapy Gains Popularity

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-23 10:09

Supporters of the controversial, high-priced treatment say routine coverage would help propel research that would support its use. Skeptics say that approach is backward.

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