National / International News
Heating pads and other passive treatments don't do any good if the goal is gaining strength and mobility, according to the Choosing Wisely campaign. Instead, it's all about the exercise.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate panel he supports the president's plan to combat Islamic State militants but that if it proved necessary, he would recommend U.S. ground forces.
About 45.3 million people were living at or below the poverty line last year, according to new census data released Tuesday. That's about 14.5 percent of the population, and a slight drop from last year's 15 percent. Median household income also crept up to $51,939, only about $180 more than last year.
Here's what we're reading — and other numbers we're watching — Tuesday morning.$105
That's the base price of Android One, a series of affordable smartphones Google announced in India Monday. It's a bid to capture the country's emerging smartphone market, the New York Times reported, which is expected to double by 2018. Google is also testing drones designed to bring Internet to remote areas.$70 million
The cost for Russian rockets to ferry one American astronaut to the International Space Station has climbed since the space shuttle was retired three years ago, and NASA is looking for a new solution. They're expected to contract out so-called "space taxis," the Wall Street Journal reported, and Boeing is the favorite over Elon Musk's SpaceX.$340 million
Money was contracted to private companies to clean Chicago's public schools in February as a cost saving move. Now principals are pushing back, the Washington Post reported, saying their schools are filthy, grappling with waste and bug problems they didn't have before.
The California Public Employee’s Retirement System, better known as Calpers, is the country’s largest public pension fund with $300 billion in assets. So when it acts, investors take notice.
Calpers is going to completely shed its $4 billion dollars of hedge fund investments because it says they’re too complex and costly.
Calpers made 7.1 percent in returns on its hedge fund investments for its last fiscal year, but it also paid $135 million in fees. The pension fund has a goal for its investments of 7.5 percent returns and, as a whole, earned over 18 percent last year.
Still, it’s surprising that Calpers is getting out of hedge funds entirely, says Olivia Mitchell, the executive director of the Pension Research Council at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“The idea of hedge funds is they’re supposed to be protective of market downturns,” Mitchell explains. “One of the costs of that is that they don’t necessarily give the whole upside when markets rise.”
But she also said that hedge funds tend to be relatively opaque in their investments–which, combined with high fees, might prompt more pension funds to follow Calpers.
“Calpers has always been a leader in the public pension space,” says Mitchell. “Certainly others will take a good look at their hedge fund portfolios. My sense is that other cities in California are already taking a bit of a hard look…and Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are debating this issue as well.”
A high level, international panel has done the numbers that it says show it makes economic sense to fight climate change. The new report comes from the Global Commision on the Economy and Climate. In a sense, tugging the other way, is this: A year ago today, the head of the American Automobile Association said sub-3 dollar a gallon gasoline in America "may be history." Well don't look now, but a global glut of oil has pushed down the average price to $3.39 and falling. Plus, some private insurance companies reimburse doctors for end-of-life conversations. Now, Medicare is considering paying for these. How some technology companies that are coming up with organized ways for people to spell out their medical wishes when the end comes.
This Thursday, the people of Scotland vote in a crucial referendum. They will decide whether or not they want their country to separate from the rest of the UK and become independent again, dissolving the union forged with England 307 years ago.
Yes campaigners claim that a kind of nirvana beckons. They argue that the Scots will each be at least $1600 better off if they secede. The country will be wealthy enough to afford all its existing state-funded benefits like free university tuition and free social care for the elderly and much more besides.
But this rosy scenario is partly based on a key assumption: The separatists take it for granted that an independent Scotland would inherit the vast bulk of the oil and natural gas that lies off the Scottish coast in the North Sea. Is this a safe assumption?
“Absolutely not,” claims Oxford University economist Professor Sir Paul Collier. “This is a greedy resource grab. The Scots have every right to secede but they cannot run off with all the oil. They have to share it.” Collier points out that when oil was discovered in the North Sea in the 1960’s, the British parliament passed an Act establishing that the resource belonged equally to every part of the UK.
“The Scots represent about 8% of the UK population,” says Collier. “Therefore they should only be entitled to about 8% of the oil.”
The pro-independence campaigners are banking on more like 90%; they’ve dismissed Collier’s claim. Scottish entrepreneur Ivan McKee maintains that an independent Scotland will own everything that lies in its territorial waters regardless of any British Act of parliament.
“After independence, whatever laws were passed by the Westminster Parliament won’t actually be in effect in Scotland any more than a law that was passed in Westminster would have any jurisdiction in the USA,” McKee says.
But the Yes campaign’s reliance on North Sea oil is shaky for another reason: production has sharply declined. There’s still plenty of fossil fuel there, but it’s in deeper and rougher waters than before; costs are rising; and a number of studies and forecasts indicate that tax revenues from North Sea oil are likely to shrink in the years ahead.
“That’s bad news for the separatists” says retired executive Anthony Rush, who lives in Scotland and campaigns against independence. “This puts this idea that we’re going to have free healthcare, free education, free this that and the other, funded by oil. That puts that in severe doubt.”
Dying isn’t what most people want to talk about when they visit the doctor. But it could soon become a standard part of a check-up. Some private insurance companies already reimburse doctors for end-of-life conversations, and Medicare is considering joining the club.
When people over 65 end up in the hospital, about half of them eventually need someone else in the family to make decisions for them—End of life decisions.
Still, only a small percentage of people—under 30 percent in the U.S.—have written advanced directives.
Tech entrepreneurs are trying to change that by creating apps and online databases to store and edit end-of-life wishes.
Scott Brown and Jeff Zucker started one such company, called My Directives. It’s a web-based system they hope will become a sort of Facebook of advance directives.
Jeff Zucker and Scott Brown are co-founders of My Directives.Lauren Silverman
Right now, Brown says, end-of-life wishes are still stuck in the era of file folders.
“That document, once it’s created,” Brown says, “it’s placed in a shoe box or file cabinet or safety deposit box, and it’s not available when it’s needed. People can’t plan their emergencies Monday through Friday 9-to-5.”
Cutting Out The Legal Jargon
Online sites and apps for living wills make it possible to upload and edit the medical procedures you do and don’t want in your final days. They’re also a way to personalize end-of-life wishes.
The "My Directives" site, for example, allows you to upload video messages to loved ones.
Christine White, 62, is a social worker in Salem Oregon who uses My Directives.
Christine White, with her husband Daniel in Oregon.Christine White
In a note to her husband, she wrote the following:
“If I precede my husband, I want him to know that his incessant whistling was the joy of my life. In fact, every day with him was a gift I cherished.”
“I felt so much better he would know how much he meant to me,” she says.
Costs, Savings, And Criticism
In addition to emotional relief, proponents of advance directives say they can save money.
Still, there are plenty of advance directives critics.
Dr. Henry Perkins has been researching advance directives for 35 years, and he still doesn’t find them very useful.
“They promise more control over future care than is possible, they are hard to implement, and some doctors don’t follow them,” says Perkins.
He recommends patients choose one or two people whom they trust a great deal to be their surrogate decision makers in a time of crisis. “The best we can do is ask people to be there for us,” he says.
Control Through Technology
Dr. Molly Coye, chief innovation officer at the University of California, Los Angeles, envisions a world where talking about the end of life is normal; Perhaps part of signing up for health insurance, getting a driver’s license or applying for a mortgage.
“People are ready to hear this I think,” she says. “It’s just so far there are not a lot of people who have been approached about it.” Coye says new tools and technologies make end of life documents more accessible and easier for doctors to follow in emergencies.
As for patients, moving the advance directive from the shoebox to a smartphone means making updates is less dusty, and a lot faster.