National / International News
For car dealer Andreas Basilopoulos, there have been some unexpected signs of life at his used luxury car showroom in Athens.
“The last three years we were selling 10 to 15 cars a month. Now it’s double,” he says.Andreas Basilopoulos says \"selling luxury cars has been easier this year.\"Stephen Beard
Sales have picked up for cars like a 20-year-old Porsche 911 priced at $60,000 and a four-year-old BMW at $30,000.
Basilopoulos has not been the only beneficiary of a curious — even bizarre — twist in economic behavior. In a country threatened with financial collapse and penury, sales of new and used luxury cars have jumped by 20 percent since the spring.
“We’ve had a lot of customers who are afraid of losing money if Greece is forced out of the eurozone and the country converts overnight to the drachma,” Basilopoulos says. “So they’ve been taking money out of the bank and buying luxury cars with it. Just to protect their wealth.”
Nikos Mertekis, editor of the Greek edition of Car and Driver Magazine, argues that it doesn’t make sense, since the cars in question are not collectors’ items. Some car experts have questioned the wisdom of this maneuver.
“I don’t think this is an investment,” he says. “A car is a depreciating asset.”
But many Greeks apparently believe that a car will depreciate less than any new currency the country may be forced to launch if Greece is booted out of the eurozone.
Car dealer Andreas Basilopoulos insists that his used BMWs, Mercedes and Porsches will hold their value, especially since customers will be able to sell them easily in Germany.
He claims it’s now much cheaper for Germans to buy a used German car in recession-hit Greece than in Germany. Oh, the topsy-turvy world of Greekonomics.
Michel Martin hosts a live storytelling event around police and community relations in Los Angeles. Join the online conversation by using #StreetsAndBeats.
The Senate today is expected to give final approval for a bill that gives the president fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
If the measure passes, it will be a defeat for labor unions which have been trying to scuttle the trade deal. They built a large coalition to oppose it; from firefighters, to environmental and non-profit groups, to tech companies.
Their argument has been, among other things, that other trade policies have cost jobs and contributed to stagnating wages.
"The American labor movement has had a very blunt and unsophisticated argument against global trade," says Gary Chaison, professor of labor relations at Clark University. "I don't think it's a question anymore of whether or not there will be global trade. It's just a question of who the winners and the losers are."
Chaison says the labor unions' expected legislative defeat is an indication of their diminished power, although they may still attempt to exert influence when it comes time to vote the trade deal up or down, without amendments (that's fast-track authority).
"The game is not over," says Robert Blecker, an economics professor at American University, because Congress still has a voice with final approval of the deal.
Labor unions could continue to oppose the deal, Blecker says, "Labor could also negotiate for add-ons or side agreements, or increased trade adjustment assistance, or some other considerations."
The House of Representatives will hold a hearing Wednesday on a proposed a corporate tax holiday on money kept overseas as a way of refilling the drained coffers of the Highway Trust Fund. The plan would temporarily reduce the tax rate to get the money back to the U.S., then stash it away to pay for roads and bridges.
The idea has support on both sides of the aisle. But that won’t fix the fund’s solvency problem. The reason for that is the 18 cents you pay the fund for every gallon you put into your car is the exact same amount you paid back in 1993, the last year it was raised. And 18 cents buys a lot less today than it did back then.
“For some reason, the gas tax is politically toxic in Washington,” says Rob Puentes, senior fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Puentes says that might be because states have their own gas taxes — and a bunch of those were hiked just in the past year.
“In some ways, perhaps this whole idea of repatriation is easier than trying to define what the transportation program should be for the future,” Puentes says.
James Burnley, transportation secretary under Ronald Reagan, says the repatriation idea is also “a temporary fix.”
Burnley says two federal commissions tasked with fixing the fund’s broken revenue stream have proposed the same permanent fix: a vehicle miles traveled tax.
“You tax based on how many miles a vehicle is driven each year. And you do that regardless the mode of power of the vehicle,” he says.
That, he says, is a good fix in a time of increasingly fuel efficient cars — if they use fuel at all. And it's also a fix, he says, that isn’t being entertained by Congress.
As part of our series about technology in prisons called "Jailbreak," we paid a visit to a new program that uses technology to fill an important role in the development of the children of those who are incarcerated.
Organizers say the TeleStory program the first of its kind in the country. At the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, families of inmates bring their children to a special room filled with toys and books. Even more unique: the room is virtually connected to a prison on Rikers Island.
As part of the program, an inmate who has had training gets a rare opportunity: they get to read a book to their child.
We paid a visit to the Brooklyn Public Library's main branch, where we got to chat with a family taking part in the program.
Click the media player above to hear more.
Evelyn Powell is 68 years old and extraordinarily sick.
“I have emphysema. I’ve got arrhythmic heart failure; got asthma,” says Powell, who runs a rooming house in Portland, Oregon. “I was in and out of the hospital all the time — it would be a month, a whole month, I’d be in the hospital three or four times.”
She’s the kind of patient who gets labeled a “frequent flier” by healthcare providers. It’s a pejorative label, but it’s certainly easy to judge Powell.
She struggled to keep track of her medication. She ate lousy food. She kept smoking.
Physician assistant Cassie Ryan-Mapolski sees plenty of patients like Powell at her Portland clinic. Sooner or later, she says, you just get stuck.
“There can be those moments where you’re like, ‘I don’t know what else to do for you. Why are you here? What do you want? What do you want me to do? I have no way to help you, I have no way to help you help yourself,’” she says.
In virtually every city and town in America there are men and women who can’t keep up with chronic illnesses like diabetes and congestive heart failure. In virtually every city and town in America there are also doctors and nurses who believe poverty, mental illness and addiction are at the root of the problem.
These are among the most expensive patients in the healthcare system, and their ranks are growing. Under the Affordable Care Act, more people at the margins are getting insurance through Medicaid.
“If you were homeless and had a lot of healthcare needs, in the past you often couldn’t access healthcare, you would get sicker and you would often die,” says Harvard’s Dr. Ashish Jha. “Today we have a lot more people coming into the healthcare system, insurance expansion has meant a lot of these people thankfully can get healthcare.”
And that means the cost to taxpayers for prescriptions, ambulance rides and week-long hospital stays just keep climbing.
But unlike costs for people at the end of life, or even for those battling cancer, these costs – at least on paper – could be reduced or avoided if people get better care.
The consulting firm Oliver Wyman says delivering proper care to these patients nationwide could save $300 billion dollars a year.
The question, of course, is what proper care looks like.
What’s happening on a recent afternoon at the Dishman Community Center in Portland may be part of the answer.
Social worker Lisa Pearlstein leads her patient-client Tony Horst toward the pool. He’s a little nervous. He hasn’t been swimming in 15 years.
“It might be hard on me, it might be not hard,” he says. “Hope I don’t have chest pains in the swimming pool.”
Horst has heart problem. He’s got to lug around an oxygen tank. He also has a lot of anxiety.
The fact that he showed up at all – after getting lost on his way here – is because of the relationship he’s built with Pearlstein.
Pretty soon the two are tossing around a striped beach ball.
Horst is part of the Health Resilience Program run by Care CareOregon, an insurance company covering Medicaid patients. Under the program people like Pearlstein seek out the whole picture of a person.
She asks about their priorities, their worries and their pain. As that relationship develops, it helps her more clearly see the medical and the social roadblocks.
That’s crucial to building the kind of trust she’s built with Horst.
“This population of people has been affected by so much hell,” she says. “It’s overwhelming sometimes.”
It may be overwhelming, and time consuming, but CareOregon believes getting to know patients so intimately lets them do a better job. The company also collects a lot of data, which has helped it realize that not all poor patients with chronic illnesses are the same.
Some are able to manage their disease and don’t cycle in and out of the hospital. Those who do find themselves at the hospital so frequently are often socially isolated.
They’re patients like Joanie McVeigh. She’s married, but her husband is gone a lot, and she’s really sick. She has diabetes, OCD, PTSD, panic and anxiety attacks, asthma, sleep apnea, and plantar fasciitis.
McVeigh is asking for help from two people who are visiting her recently in her studio apartment at the Sandy Motel. This is her care team. CareOregon tackles social isolation by pairing patients with a social worker and a peer who has similar lived experiences.
McVeigh’s become fast friends with social worker Quinne Salemeh and with peer Sam Osborne, who also has bipolar disorder. McVeigh tells me about one day earlier this year when her feet and knee were driving her nuts.
“I was really frustrated,” she says, “and I was really in pain.” She couldn’t make headway with the doctor, and she felt her anxiety spooling up inside.
“I was emotionally feeling like I wanted to get to the hospital. I wanted to take pills. I was crying. It set my bipolar in. I wanted to throw things,” she says.
She was close to calling the ambulance, but instead she started scrolling through her phone, eventually texting Osborne.
“I remember she came and sat on my couch,” McVeigh says. “And we just had this amazing, connecting talk.”
Catastrophe averted. No 911 call, no ambulance, no ER admission.
CareOregon knows it still needs better data to prove the concept works, but this approach – with its focus on relationships and reaching the socially isolated – seems to be paying off.
Two-and-a-half years since the program launched, the company says it’s cut hospital and emergency room admissions by 35 percent
Part of that is because people like Joanie – and like Evelyn Powell, the “frequent flier” from earlier in our story, have never wanted to spend so much time in the hospital or ER. And now they don’t have to.
In Powell’s case, CareOregon has helped her avoid trips to the ER for the last year, and she’s only had one hospitalization of any kind in 2015.
Doctors love the program. They says it’s easier to work with these patients. Even the bean counters seem happy; CareOregon estimates that next year it will save at least double what it costs to run the program.
Improving health and saving money is the only measure of success for many in the industry. Some like CareOregon’s Lisa Pearlstein wonder if that bar is too high.
“We could do everything and still people are going to struggle,” she says. “It’s just poverty is so profound. Trauma is so profound.”
Pearlstein tells me about Bop, a 50-something woman addicted to heroin for more than 30 years, in and out of an abusive relationship, in chronic pain.
“We had a standing appointment,” Pearlstein says. “She would show up on Monday morning at 9:30. I could see her get off the bus, and I could be able to tell if she was high or not.”
Pearlstein says while they worked together for a couple of years, Bop kept going to the hospital and the ER about the same as always.
She was on the street until Pearlstein got her into hospice.
“She died in her sister’s home, in a bed, with treatment,” she says. “She wasn’t in pain. She died with dignity."
“She didn’t just fall down, face down, in the street in the gutter and get picked up and taken to the emergency room where nobody knew her,” Pearlstein says.
No one ever saved any money on Bop, but she died the way she wanted, and for Pearlstein, maybe that was enough.
That's how much demand for guns rose, year over year, immediately after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, according to U.S. News and World Report. What's interesting is that the demand was tied specifically to Obama, surging as Hillary Clinton, who had similar policies on gun control, dropped out of the race.40 percent
That's the percentage of people who say they don't know their partner's income. That's according to a new study from Fidelity investments, which also says about a third of couples had differing answers about their investable assets. Also worth noting: most couples in the study said they had great communication.$41 million
That's how much candidates reported refunding in campaign contributions in the last election cycle, for public relations reasons, because the donor had been involved in criminal activity, or any number of other reasons. The New York Times' Upshot notes that campaigns don't give back money often — the refunds made up just 1.4 percent of contributions — but they don't often vet donors either.20 percent
That's how much the luxury car market in Greece has jumped since the spring. Something like a $60,000 Porsche 911 is not an item you'd expect folks suffering a financial crisis to purchase. But in Greece, some citizens feel their money is safer in luxury cars than in the bank.$47,000
That's about how much an iPhone 6 costs in Venezuela as a result of a lack of supply, and skyrocketing inflation. Bloomberg takes a look at the causes behind the country's unreasonable smartphone market, which prices the latest iPhone at about 41 times the monthly minimum wage.