National / International News

Developing countries 'growth to rise'

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 12:05
Developing countries will see a small increase in growth in 2015 after a "disappointing" 2014, the World Bank has predicted.

France 'At War With Jihadism And Radical Islamism,' Prime Minister Says

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-13 12:04

But Manuel Valls said the country wasn't at war with ordinary Muslims or their religion. His remarks came ahead of a 488-to-1 vote to reauthorize French airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.

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Do workplace wellness programs work?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:57

Among the nation’s largest employers, wellness programs are expected to double this year according to Towers Watson.  These programs often use financial incentives and penalties to encourage workers to get healthy.  

Many healthcare observers say there is little evidence this $6 billion worker wellness industry does much to improve health or save money.

So why then are employers flocking to something with little reliable data?

“We suspect that companies are making money on them, otherwise they wouldn’t make plans to increase the program,” says Jill Horwitz, a law professor at UCLA.

Horwitz says the challenge is to identify those employees who would benefit from help addressing their health problems.

In the meantime several lawsuits are challenging the legality of wellness programs as financial penalties against workers are climbing.

Aetna raises its minimum wage ... who's next?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:52

Aetna’s raising its minimum base pay to $16 an hour and improving its health benefits starting in April 2015. It's a massive raise for some workers, generally in customer service and billing positions. 

But is this a sign that wages are preparing to rise for low income workers across the economy? Not necessarily.

Aetna, as a healthcare company, sees a future in which it is increasingly consumer facing. And yet, the turnover rate industry wide for customer service employees is around 30 percent.  The company is investing to improve morale, reduce that turnover rate and attract high quality employees.  

Mathews replaces Crolla in WBA shot

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:44
Liverpool fighter Derry Mathews replaces the injured Anthony Crolla to fight Richar Abril for the WBA lightweight title.

Lib Dems criticise David Ward tweet

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:38
Remarks made on Twitter by Lib Dem MP David Ward during French solidarity marches were "clearly in bad taste", the party says.

Falcao may leave Manchester United

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:29
Radamel Falcao will play for one of the world's best teams next season even if that is not Manchester United, says agent.

VIDEO: Escaped Rhea caught on camera

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:28
A rhea, an ostrich-like bird which is believed to have escaped from its owner a year ago, is filmed running across a field.

NI missed Ballon d'Or votes deadline

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:25
Northern Ireland's captain and coach did not get a vote in the Ballon d'Or poll as the Irish FA sent them too late.

Bidding for blood, the Priceline way

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:20

For hospitals, blood is a core commodity. 

 

“It’s not like if you run out of milk you’re fine, we’ll go without milk,” says Chris Godfrey. “If you run out of blood, there are lives at risk, so the stakes are very high.”

 

Most hospitals rely on regional blood centers, which is why Godfrey started Bloodbuy. It’s like Priceline, but for blood products – a cloud-based platform connecting supply with demand in a multibillion-dollar industry.

 

Blood complexities

 

Managing a blood supply is more complex than managing hospital products like morphine or pain pills. Two main factors make blood a tricky business:

 

  1. Blood products can expire quickly: While red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days, platelets last only five days before they need to be tossed.
  2. Blood supply varies greatly by region: Blood donations in Des Moines, Iowa, might be high, while in Houston there may be shortages.

 

“You have blood centers on the supply side and hospitals on the demand side,” Godfrey says. “So we act as a technology backbone that sits in between them and connects everybody.”

 

Where blood buyers and sellers unite

 

Like Priceline, Bloodbuy uses a series of algorithms that match a hospital’s needs with what’s available for the best deal. And the suppliers, not the shoppers, pay a fee to list what’s available. So far, there are users in six states.

 

Mike Dossey of John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, doesn’t use Bloodbuy, but says he can see how the service could save blood, and money, by making availability and prices more transparent across the country.

 

“Because it’s such a rare commodity, and you’re asking people to donate their precious blood, you don’t want to waste any of it,” he says. “We spend just under 4 million dollars a year on blood products.”

 

Today, a hospital pays from $170 to $300 for a pint of blood.

 

In a pilot program, Bloodbuy’s technology saved Texas Medical Center in Houston more than 20 percent on blood expenditures.

 

Dossey with John Peter Smith Hospital says there are risks to using the Priceline model.

 

“It might also affect your buying power with your current vendors if you’re using less of their products and going somewhere else,” he says.

 

Maintaining a good relationship with the blood bank in town is crucial, Dossey says, when there’s unexpected trauma.

 

“You could have a 10-car pileup out on the interstate and need those products swiftly,” he says. “And having that relationship with our vendors is also key to getting those products here when you need them.”

 

Both Dossey and Godfrey say they hope easier access to prices and inventory for hospitals will help even out supply and demand so blood can, yes,  circulate better.

Bidding for blood

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:20

For hospitals, blood is a core commodity. 

“It’s not like if you run out of milk you’re fine, we’ll go without milk,” says Chris Godfrey. “If you run out of blood, there are lives at risk, so the stakes are very high.”

Godfrey says the problem is most hospitals rely on regional blood centers. That’s why Godfrey started Bloodbuy. It’s like Priceline, but for blood products – a cloud-based platform connecting supply with demand in a multi-billion dollar industry.

Blood Complexities

Managing a blood supply is more complex than managing hospital products like morphine or pain pills. Two main factors make blood a tricky business:

  1. Blood products can expire fast: While red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days, platelets last only 5 days before they need to be tossed.
  2. Blood supply varies greatly by region: Blood donations in Des Moines, Iowa might be high, whereas in Houston, there may be shortages.

“You have blood centers on the supply side and hospitals on the demand side,” Godfrey says. “So we act as a technology backbone that sits in between them and connects everybody.”

Where Blood Buyers And Sellers Unite

Like Priceline, Bloodbuy uses a series of algorithms that match a hospital’s needs with what’s available for the best deal. And the suppliers, not the shoppers, pay a fee to list what’s available. So far, there are users in six states.

Mike Dossey, with John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, doesn’t use Bloodbuy, but sees how the service could save blood, and money, by making availability and prices more transparent across the country.

“Because it’s such a rare commodity and you’re asking people to donate their precious blood, you don’t want to waste any of it,” he says. “We spend just under 4 million dollars a year on blood products.”

Today, a hospital pays anywhere from $170 to $300 for a pint of blood.

In a pilot program, Bloodbuy’s technology saved Texas Medical Center in Houston more than 20 percent on blood expenditures.

Still, Dossey with John Peter Smith Hospital says there are risks to using the Priceline model.

“It might also affect your buying power with your current vendors if you’re using less of their products and going somewhere else,” he says.

Maintaining a good relationship with the blood bank in town is crucial, Dossey says, when there’s unexpected trauma.

“You could have a 10-car pileup out on the interstate and need those products swiftly,” he says. “And having that relationship with our vendors is also key to getting those products here when you need them.”

Both Dossey and Godfrey hope easier access to prices and inventory for hospitals will help even out supply and demand so blood can, yes, circulate better.

Happy reminder, courtesy of the Labor Department

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-13 11:00

There were, as of the end of November, 4.97 million open jobs in this economy.

That's more than there have been in 14 years.

That number comes from the Labor Department, and is taken by many – including Janet Yellen – as a good sign for the overall economy.

Pietersen has 'no chance' of recall

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:49
Former England bowler Steve Harmison says Kevin Pietersen does not have "a cat in hell's chance" of a recall to the side.

Weiss withdraws but will still work at Treasury

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:44

The president's nominee for the number-three job at the Treasury Department, Antonio Weiss, sent a letter to the White House, withdrawing from the process, after a confirmation fight driven by Senate Democrats. Instead, Weiss will become a top adviser to the treasury secretary. 

These types of arrangements are becoming more and more common, as nominees either can’t get confirmed or don’t want to go through the confirmation process.  

So, what’s difference, really? Does the adviser have the same amount of power, without the pain of confirmation? 

Depends who you ask.  

“He'll have, perhaps a secretary, but no staff.  And he’s not part of the established task forces in the White House,”  says Robert Shapiro, an undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration.

Shapiro says advisers don’t have the legal authority of someone who’s been confirmed. Still, advisers who are close to a secretary or president can be quite influential. Especially if everybody knows they’re close to power. 

"A lot just depends on the individual relationship and the reputation of that person in the Washington community.  The reputation for power is power," says Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

All those powerful people aren’t cheap. Paul Light, who teaches public service at NYU,  estimates that President Obama has 1,500 to 2,000 advisers.  Light says all those bodies can cause inefficiency.  

“Well, it’s like the childhood game of telephone, where you tell a secret to the person next to you, and that person passes it on, and eventually it gets distorted or dropped,” he explains.

And Light says whoever’s responsible for the drop or distortion doesn’t get in trouble, because there’s little accountability for advisers. Congress can’t collar them and call them on the carpet, the way they could with someone whose nomination they’d approved. 

OPEC's Decision To Keep Production Steady Starts To Hit Members

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:36

Venezuela's leader was in Qatar this week seeking billions to shore up his flagging economy. Oil prices have fallen by nearly 50 percent since last year and are now near a six-year low.

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How Do We Grow To Like The Foods We Once Hated?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:27

A psychologist says we have to be taught to like chili pepper and other foods we may initially dislike. The experience of eating it often somehow converts what's an aversion to a preference, he says.

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When Islamic Radicals Turn Moderate

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:27

The world has been focused in recent days on Muslims who have been radicalized. Here's the story of a radical who turned moderate.

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Brother doubts killer will be caught

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:20
The brother of an 86-year-old woman murdered two years ago says he doubts her killer will ever be brought to justice.

VIDEO: Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:17
Tony Blair gives evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

VIDEO: Pope Francis looks East to Asia

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-13 10:02
Pope Francis is trying to shift the focus of the Catholic Church away from Rome - and towards millions of Asian followers.

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