A community of about 20,000 Liberians lives around Atlanta. "We all know family, friends, neighbors that are falling victim" to the epidemic back home, one man says. He's collecting supplies to help.
In sports, a team's record is very important. Coaches and managers are judged on how many games they have won and lost. Is the same thing true of campaign managers and consultants?
This week, the Atlanta Braves held a press conference. "We have announced this morning that we have terminated our general manager, Frank Wren," said John Schuerholz, the team's president.
That got David Berri's attention. He's a sports economist at Southern Utah University.
"They didn't have that bad of a season," he says. The team's record is about .500, and that will keep them out of the postseason. "Why are they firing their general manager? Because the Braves have very high expectations. They expect to compete for a World Series every year."
Politicians also have high expectations. They also want to win. So, it is surprising to Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College, "how little accountability there is, given the amount of money that's being spent on consultants." And even if they lose, they continue to get hired.
According to Nyhan, this is because politicians have a hard time evaluating managers and consultants.
"It's the same kind of problem you face as a patient when you go into the doctor's office," he explains. You have to gauge how good someone is at something you don't know much about.
Ethan Roeder, the New Organizing Institute's executive director, has looked at what campaign managers and consultants get paid. He says they don't tend to advertise their records "because there is a general understanding that races are much more individual than that." What they will advertise are individual races in which they beat the odds.
Roeder points to a primary election in which a then-unknown Tea Party candidate defeated Eric Cantor, now the former House Majority Leader. The campaign manager known for helping David Brat win that race will always be the campaign manager known for helping David Brat win that race.
"You know he was probably working for peanuts, and they gave him a gas stipend and a flip phone and that was basically his compensation for the job," Roeder says.
The way the system is set up, there is no incentive for the best consultants to work on the toughest, most competitive races. Greg Martin, a professor of political science at Emory University, discovered that, along with Zachary Peskowitz, who teaches at The Ohio State University.
"Congressional elections, in general, are extremely predictable," Martin says, noting an incumbent is likely to win 90 percent of the time.
The percentage of Latinos who lack health insurance has fallen by more than a third since the Affordable Care Act kicked in this year, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, a health care policy group.
Historically, Latinos have been one of the least-covered groups in the U.S. when it comes to health insurance. Michelle Doty, the lead author of the report, says the low coverage has a lot to do with employment trends.
"For a long time, Latinos have tended to work in jobs that don't provide health insurance — low wage and small firms," Doty says.
But now that coverage gap is quickly being filled, Doty says, at least in states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The uninsured rate for Latinos has dropped from 35 percent to 17 percent in less than a year.
That shift translates to fewer emergency room visits and more preventive care for patients at the AltaMed community clinics that Alfonso Vega runs in Southern California. The clinics serve many low-income Latinos, many with diabetes. Without insurance, Vega says, many patients would avoid health care until crisis hit, but that has been changing as more people have enrolled in Medicaid in the last few months.
"There's countless patients that we're seeing that are seeing a primary care doctor every 90 days like they're supposed to — getting all the tests that they're supposed to have done on a periodic basis," Vega says.
In the states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare — where more than 20 million Latinos live — their uninsurance rates remain basically unchanged.
Over the past seven years, Americans have pulled back on major purchases, such as houses and big appliances — they’ve paid down debt, shopped "deep-discount," tried to put money away for a rainy day.
Now, according to a survey in the latest issue of Consumer Reports, Americans are ready to spend it up again. Of the people Consumer Reports surveyed, 64 percent said they were planning a big-ticket purchase this year — a new or used vehicle, a new home, a home remodel or a major appliance.
The trend can be seen among the ranks of wannabe homebuyers in many urban markets that have rebounded in the past several years. Lee Ritter, 31, is a successful web designer who had been outbid recently for houses in Portland, Oregon. He’s very eager to buy.
“I see the market going steeper and steeper into territory that I can’t follow,” said Ritter. “And there’s lots of competition.”
That competition makes realtors happy, and makes homebuilders more willing to take the risk of breaking ground. It’s also good news for big-box stores and local chains that sell washer-dryers and big-screen TVs.
Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports, says survey data from the publication show that as the acute effects of the recession fade, Americans are more ready to spend.
“Nearly half of Americans either bought a new or used vehicle in the past year, or plan to buy in the year ahead,” said Marks. “And a third recently completed or are ready to undertake a major home remodeling.” Marks said the 2015 housing market forecast is the best in years.
Marks chalks up these increasingly robust spending expectations to the fact that Americans see more jobs being created; many also see their family balance sheets improving. Also, people put off purchases for so long, cars are breaking down now and houses are no longer big enough for growing families.
Most economists anticipate steady improvement, rather than a sharp upward spike in major retail purchases in the coming year, though. They say Americans are still loathe to take on debt, or pay more than they have to for anything.
When it comes to police using force, what is acceptable and when? And are police too aggressive? Cops say they're trying to survive, but reformers say aggressive cop culture is making things worse.
Sheik Abdullah bin Bayyah is considered one of the most influential Muslims in the world. As a respected scholar, he has issued edicts to explain why groups such as the Islamic State have it wrong.