Governments at all levels are trying to save money by scaling back retirement benefits. Public employees may still end up with more generous plans than their private-sector counterparts, but the days of feeling totally secure about their pension income may be numbered.
Today, the World Health Organization releases its annual report on malaria. The disease kills some 600,000 people every year -- most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. Part of fighting any disease is understanding how populations move. And now, there's a tech device now being used to tackle this challenge. It's called... a cell phone.
An epidemiologist at Harvard named Caroline Buckee has been looking at massive amounts of cell phone data. Think the phone calls and texts of 15 million cell phone users in Kenya, for instance, with their locations triangulated by the phone company.
"So we combine that human mobility model with clinical information about the malaria parasite, and we use mathematical models to predict how people are going to spread it when they travel," Buckee says.
Think of plotting Malaria cases on a map and then overlaying data showing where people are moving, which helps make better predictions about where the disease might go next. Dr. Buckee points out that this data is thoroughly anonymous – they just see a bunch of dots. Still there are challenges.
"The challenges are the very poorest populations, and that the density of cell towers determines how high a resolution you can get your estimates," Buckee says. "So, in some of the most rural and underserved populations, we have the hardest time."
Buckee hopes those phones could someday warn people of an outbreak.
The court said only Parliament can change the colonial-era law. The decision, which reverses a landmark lower court ruling that decriminalized homosexual acts, is being called a major setback to gay rights in the country.
As a man stood next to President Obama and other world leaders at Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Mandela he only pretended to do sign language, many in the deaf community say.
As of Nov. 30, more than 137,000 people had obtained health insurance through the federal website. Another 227,000 got coverage through the state exchanges. Users have until Dec. 23 to sign up if they want the health insurance coverage to start Jan. 1, 2014.
One of the world’s largest hotel chains expects investors will check in and stay awhile. Hilton Worldwide will price shares of the company after the market closes today, and will begin trading Thursday.
The initial public offering could raise more than $2 billion. It’s expected to be one of the largest pay-outs of the year. The company planned to introduce the stock on Friday, but was pushed forward because so many people are itching to invest.
Why investors so eager to buy shares of Hilton?
Hilton Worldwide oversees more than 4,000 hotels. But it owns less than half of the actual real estate. And that may not be such a bad thing.
“The business of managing franchising hotels is a fantastic business,” says Chad Mollman, an equity analyst for Morningstar. He says managing franchises doesn’t require much investment and expenses are low. “They typically get royalties of 4 to 5 percent of sales. It’s almost pure profit.”
And hotels like Hilton tend to lock-in long contracts with franchisees.
“You could have a management contract that lasts almost 50 years. In some cases, it’s almost a locked annuity for management companies,” says Nikhil Bhalla, a lodging analyst with F.B.R. & Company.
Growth outside of the U.S. has taken off.
“You’re seeing the Hilton brands grow in China, India, Latin America, Russia, at an alarming rate,” says Ryan Meliker, who tracks lodging companies for a boutique investment bank called M.L.V. & Company.
In this country, demand for hotel rooms is up. But the supply has remained almost flat, with little new hotel construction.
That’s good for companies like Hilton, but not so much for consumers. Over the next few years, analysts expect hotel room prices will continue to rise.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan announced a bipartisan budget proposal Tuesday. For more details on the plan, Steve Inskeep speaks with Murray, who led her party in the negotiations.