National / International News

The essential role of surgery

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 03:00

When we think about a global health crisis, we often think about specific diseases. But a new report out Monday in the Lancet challenges that view.

Authors point out a lack of adequate, timely and affordable surgical care resulted in a third of all deaths worldwide in 2010, or nearly 17 million lives—HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined for less than 4 million.

This paper reflects the shifting attitudes towards addressing global health problems. In a concrete way, we now have numbers that help get our arms around the essential role surgery plays.

First, the Lancet Commissioner on Global Surgery, which had input from 110 countries, found that 5 billion people don’t have access to surgery when they need it. Only a tiny sliver of all surgeries occur in the poorest countries.

The bottom line is that many easily treatable conditions effectively become death sentences. For example, 90 percent of maternal deaths could be averted—That’s 100,000 women a year. In the past, a lot of time and money has been devoted to a particular disease like malaria or TB.

But Dr. David Barash, Chief Medical Officer of the GE Foundation, says through combating Ebola, governments, philanthropists and industry are learning that tackling one disease in isolation is limited. Barash says what’s needed is a more robust public health infrastructure.

The awareness of what happened with Ebola really catalyzed everyone’s thinking that ‘Yes, it’s about the system, we need to invest in the system. Industry needs to be a part of that. Foundations need to be part of that. Academics need to be part of that,” he says.

Barash is optimistic this report will lead to action in part because it sets targets.

To improve global access to by 2030, 143 million more surgeries are needed each year, the health workforce must double, and there’s even a price tag: $350 billion.

Of course, the real hope is if you build infrastructure for surgeries, that same infrastructure will serve the public well during the next epidemic.

PODCAST: Aid in Nepal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 03:00

An update on aid after the earthquake in Nepal. Plus, President Obama is due to report to Congress today, the initial recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. What’s at stake for military personnel and for the federal budget? And just a few years ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority made waves with plans to complete at least three mothballed reactors. After billions in cost overruns and a slowdown in power demand because of the economic downturn and increased efficiency, TVA says the single reactor being completed this year will be enough.

Woman denied $41.8m jackpot payout

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:59
A 90-year-old woman is denied a $41.8m (£27.6m) penny slot machine bonus after the casino blames it on a computer error.

VIDEO: CCTV captures devastating earthquake

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:59
New footage has emerged of the moment the devastating earthquake struck Nepal, after several Chinese photographers arrived home on Sunday.

Holiday gas deaths 'a tragedy'

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:40
A coroner tells an inquest the deaths of two British children on holiday in Corfu was "a most appalling tragedy".

Oil price hovers at four month high

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:40
Oil prices are hovering at a four and a half month high amid concerns over disruption to supplies from the Middle East.

Scots missing after Nepal disaster

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:35
Several Scots are among those still unaccounted for following the massive earthquake which hit Nepal on Saturday.

Brothers missing in Nepal quake

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:34
Two brothers from Wales are missing following the earthquake in Nepal, and anther two men remain unaccounted for.

Tories risk losing us warns DUP

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:24
David Cameron risks losing the support of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists over the Tories' handling of Scotland.

VIDEO: Cheers as Cameron vows to win election

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:24
David Cameron has made a passionate address at a business event in London pledging to win the election'.

Germany 'failed to warn' before M17

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:23
Germany was told of the risk of flying over eastern Ukraine before flight MH17 was shot down, but failed to pass on the alert, reports say.

VIDEO: Live: Ed Miliband speech

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:22
Labour leader Ed Miliband gives a speech in Stockton.

VIDEO: Aerial view of Nepal devastation

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:21
Aerial view of the damage near the epicentre in Gorkha district, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur

'Mayweather should retire after fight'

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:01
Floyd Mayweather should retire after Saturday's super-fight against Manny Pacquiao, according to his father.

The situation in Nepal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:00

Aid workers have begun arriving in Nepal following Saturday's devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The death toll is reported at almost 4,000; that number is expected to grow.  This morning, we reached Sanjaya Dhakal, a reporter for the BBC in Nepal, on a line from Kathmandu.

Click the media player above to hear Sanjaya Dhakal describe current conditions in Nepal.

Powerful aftershocks were reported through the weekend. And as concerns grow over waterborne infections and diseases that could afflict survivors, aid workers are stressing the need for basic amenities  from the ground. Here are some of the numbers coming out of Nepal:

-Unicef is reporting that almost a million children in the area are in need of assistance.

-A cargo plane carrying about 70 aid workers was dispatched by the Pentagon on Sunday.  

-China also sent a rescue team of 62. A similar offer from the Taiwanese government was turned down, raising questions about how the power dynamics between bordering countries may play out in this situation. Nepal has historically served as a mid-way haven for Tibetans fleeing China into India.

 

Nuclear renaissance ebbs at largest public utility

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:00

The nation’s largest public utility is quietly scaling back expansion plans for nuclear power. Just eight years ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority was leading a nuclear renaissance, with plans to restart work on a handful of mothballed reactors. But splitting atoms to make electricity has become less attractive in the last few years.

The energy sector’s appetite for nuclear power has always ebbed and flowed. The plants are attractive because they create so much power in one place, but they’re also highly regulated by the federal government. They take many years to build and almost always cost more than anyone predicts.

And now there’s less demand for power.

“At least in the cases that we looked at, the need for a large base-load plant really doesn’t show up over time,” TVA vice president Joe Hoagland says of the utility’s new Integrated Resource Plan.

The new power predictions mean TVA will only finish Watts Bar Unit II, slated for completion later this year, after delays that span decades and cost overruns in the billions of dollars. Hoagland says demand just hasn’t picked up since the recession, and not just because big industrial customers went out of business—though they did. Consumers are more energy conscious, he says.

“The most obvious example of that would be the shift from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents,” Hoagland says.

Compounding the economic shift is the abundance of natural gas.

Richard Myers of the Nuclear Energy Institute says no one expected that the shale gas boom would be such a game changer.

“The volumes of gas that they found just truly blew everybody’s mind,” he says.

Utilities like TVA have been adding natural gas power plants, which are cheaper and more flexible than nuclear. But Myers figures nuclear’s time will still come.

“I think the new plants are going to get built when they’re needed, where they’re needed,” he says, noting that one in five U.S. households is powered by nuclear reactors.

Environmentalists who want to curtail the use of nuclear power in the U.S. agree with the assessment that the energy form will live on.

Don Safer of the Sierra Club says considering nuclear’s roller-coaster history, he figures it’s just a matter of time before the building boom resumes.

“It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” he says.

 

Why car insurance rates vary wildly by state

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:00

A new report from InsuranceQuotes shows that North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine have at least one thing in common: drivers there pay the least for auto insurance. In North Carolina, insurance rates ran 41 percent less than the national average. Highest was Michigan, where drivers paid more the double the national average for car insurance. There is a method to all of this insurance madness.

Next time you're in your car driving down the road, take a look at the billboards. Do you see a lot of ads for what are known as ambulance chasers? That might explain a thing or two about your insurance rates.

Robert Hoyt, who teaches risk management and insurance at the University of Georgia, says your state's legal environment has a lot to do with it. In other words, how likely drivers are to sue each other. Hoyt says when they're setting rates, insurance companies track all of this, even how often juries decide to award for damages.

Also, state laws factor in.

"The states that have the highest auto insurance costs do happen to be the no-fault states," he says. No-fault means your insurance company covers your injuries.

Laura Adams, senior analyst with InsuranceQuotes, says often it's just a matter of population density.

"The more cars, the more accidents that happen," she says.

She says that's why people in urban areas pay a lot more for car insurance.

 

Proposal would cut military pension and add a 401(k)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:00

As it stands today, servicemembers who advance through the Department of Defense are entitled to a pension of 50 percent of their income at retirement after 20 years of service. But a new proposal making its way through Congress would lower that to 40 percent and add a 401(k) savings account. 

Some veterans' groups, like the Military Officers Association of America, oppose the change and say the 20-year pension is an incentive for top officers to stay in the service.

"We're concerned that the commission's blended retirement benefit would fail to provide the necessary draw to retain those service members," says Col. Mike Barron, deputy director of government relations for MOAA. 

But the report from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission suggested this plan as a way to both save costs and increase incentives for servicemembers who don't make it to 20 years. Other, more controversial proposals—like overhauling the TriCare health system used by servicemembers—are stalled.

Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow for Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says it's clear that the 20-year pension isn't a good incentive, because only 17 percent of servicemembers get to that point.

"They are pushing out some of their best people with this inflexible, industrial age career model," Harrison says.

Harrison also notes that not all veterans' groups oppose the change; others, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, support it.

Why car insurance rates vary wildly by state

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 02:00

A new report from InsuranceQuotes shows that North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine have at least one thing in common: drivers there pay the least for auto insurance. In North Carolina, insurance rates ran 41 percent less than the national average. Highest was Michigan, where drivers paid more the double the national average for car insurance. There is a method to all of this insurance madness.

Next time you're in your car driving down the road, take a look at the billboards. Do you see a lot of ads for what are known as ambulance chasers? That might explain a thing or two about your insurance rates.

Robert Hoyt, who teaches risk management and insurance at the University of Georgia, says your state's legal environment has a lot to do with it. In other words, how likely drivers are to sue each other. Hoyt says when they're setting rates, insurance companies track all of this, even how often juries decide to award for damages.

Also, state laws factor in.

"The states that have the highest auto insurance costs do happen to be the no-fault states," he says. No-fault means your insurance company covers your injuries.

Laura Adams, senior analyst with InsuranceQuotes, says often it's just a matter of population density.

"The more cars, the more accidents that happen," she says.

She says that's why people in urban areas pay a lot more for car insurance.

 

I'll take a burrito, hold the GMOs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-27 01:58
2 days

That's how much time passed between Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election and GOP media consultant Rick Wilson's first professional conversation about the 2016 election. In the months leading up to contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, presidential hopefuls compete in "the invisible primary," trying to gather enough money and media attention to run a viable campaign. 

40 percent

As it stands, servicemembers who serve over 20 years in the military are entitled to 50 percent of their income at retirement. But a new proposal would reduce that number to 40 percent, while adding a 401(k) savings account. The change has brought up strong opinions on both sides of the argument, with some worrying that it will lessen the incentive to serve those 20 plus years. But others argue that the low percentage of servicemembers who currently make it to that landmark proves that the current deal isn't working either.

$25 million

That's how much Comcast spent on lobbying last year, trying to drum up support for its $45 billion merger with rival cable giant Time Warner. Comcast officially abandoned those plans Friday, amid regulatory scrutiny and consumer pushback. The NY Times looked into how such and elaborate and expensive lobbying apparatus could have failed to move lawmakers, when Comcast had been so convincing in their case to acquire NBCUniversal just a few years before. 

$2.4 million

That's how much someone made by buying up stock options in Altera, right as rumors were flying on social media that the company was about to be acquired by Intel. The deal moved faster than any human could have managed, and it wasn't a one-time thing. Slate explains how this is different from high frequency trading as we know it, and why traders are rattled. 

68 ingredients

That's how many total ingredients are used at Chipotle. And starting Monday, the fast food chain announced it will no longer use genetically engineered foods in any of its restaurants. As the NY Times notes, a similar chain to Chipotle uses 81 ingredients—less ingredients means its easier to make the switch. Among the biggest challenges: Chipotle used soy oil to fry its chips, and soy is largely genetically modified in the states. Opting instead for a slightly more expensive canola oil may show up in the price tag someday soon.

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