National / International News

Insuring governments against disease outbreaks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, a new plan has emerged to guard against future risk: insurance for disease outbreaks. The idea is to help protect governments and industry against the costs of pandemics. A San Francisco firm announced $30 million in funding for the idea this week.

Today, nobody can buy an insurance policy that protects them from a pandemic. But by 2017, at least one company promises to have a product on the market. Dr. Richard Wilcox runs the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a company that sells insurance to African countries and is owned by the governmental body the African Union. He says when Ebola hit, countries lacked money for the basics, like public health workers and the ability to quarantine. So Wilcox says they waited, as governments around the globe and philanthropists passed the hat.

“The cost of having to wait for funds to be mobilized abroad is so expensive to their economy, to their vulnerable populations that they protect,” he says.

If a country takes out a policy, it will be able to get cash quickly to support efforts to control outbreaks. Wilcox estimates costs can run into the tens of millions for even cases numbering in the single digits. Aon insurance consultant Dr. Gisele Norris says Ebola has gotten governments, insurers and companies thinking about pandemics in a whole new way.

“Ebola was so instructive in that was a completely unforeseen event. And no one was prepared,” she says. “I think maybe what it brought home was there is a whole world of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease out there.”

The point, says Norris, is that we don’t know what’s going to strike next time, but there will be a next time. With that new thought in mind, she says certain industries like healthcare, aviation, hospitality and higher education are at higher risk and may look for ways to limit their financial exposure. Of course, price will determine the size of any future market. 

In Africa, ARC will sell policies that encourages public health investment. Simply, the more prepared for an epidemic, the lower its premiums—perhaps a model for industry as well.

 

 

 

 

The 'leap second' — another Y2K moment?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

On June 30, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time/Coordinated Universal Time, an extra second will be added to the world’s master clocks so that they sync up with the earth’s rotation, which does not precisely match the clocks and computers we earthlings use.

Financial exchanges and firms that depend on precise pricing and transaction data are planning for this so-called "leap second" down the micro-second.

“It’s a big issue for financial firms,” says Victor Yodaiken, whose software firm, FSMLabs, provides time-synchronization computer applications to those firms. “A whole second is a long time. Software is really not set up to see time go backwards.”

U.S.-based exchanges have a deadline of Friday to submit their plans for dealing with the leap second to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Yodaiken says high-frequency traders are particularly sensitive to the problem because of their automated algorithms.

Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges and those in Asia (Japan, Australia, Singapore and South Korea) will adjust to the extra second by spreading it out over a longer period or adding it later in the day. “During the trading day, their clocks will be different,” says programmer-analyst Steve Allen at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. He is dealing with an automated telescope that will have to adjust to the leap second. “There will be moments during that day when transactions from one market to another seem to come from the future.”

Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution or will halt after-hours trading beforehand.

Another Y2K moment? The 'leap second.'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

On June 30, 2015, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time/Coordinated Universal Time, an extra second will be added to the world’s master clocks. That’s to sync up with the earth’s rotation, which does not precisely match the clocks and computers we earthlings use.

This so-called ‘leap second’ is being planned for by financial exchanges and firms that depend on precise pricing and transaction data, down the micro-second.

“It’s a big issue for financial firms,” says Victor Yodaiken, whose software firm, FSMLabs, provides time-synchronization computer applications to those firms. “A whole second is a long time. Software is really not set up to see time go backwards.”

U.S.-based exchanges have a deadline of Friday, May 22, to submit their plans for dealing with the leap second to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Yodaiken says high-frequency traders are particularly sensitive to the problem because of their automated algorithms.

Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges and those in Asia (Japan, Australia, Singapore and South Korea) will adjust to the extra second differently—spreading it out over a longer period, or adding it later in the day. “During the trading day, their clocks will be different,” says programmer-analyst Steve Allen at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. He is dealing with an automated telescope that will have to adjust to the leap second. “There will be moments during that day when transactions from one market to another seem to come from the future.”

Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution, or will halt after-hours trading beforehand.

Baltimore's $100 million investment legacy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Phyllis Young has a full life: three children, five grandchildren, a mortgage and a job she loves. Eleven years ago, Young, a geriatric nurse's assistant, was making $8 an hour and hoping to boost her wages to $12. She hit a stroke of luck.

Baltimore, in 1994, won a federal contest aimed at alleviating poverty in urban cores. Six cities were given a federal grant of $100 million each as well as a package of tax breaks for businesses and employers. The money and tax credits were intended to revitalize each city's poorest neighborhoods, which were called Empowerment Zones.

Each of the winning cities was given some leeway to do what it wanted with the money. Baltimore city leaders decided to focus on job creation and training. One of the training programs was a certification course for nursing assistants run through Sojourner-Douglass College. Participants, including Young, had their tuition paid and were given a $600 monthly grant.

Today, Young looks back on her graduation from the program with pride. The Empowerment Zone effort, she says, got her closer to the middle-class lifestyle she'd always wanted. But despite her successes, she faces the same challenges as many people in today's economy: her nursing job, which pays $17 an hour, is only part time. She also has a full-time job, where she makes less. She says her bills have gone up, but her wages haven't kept pace.

With federal eyes fixed on Baltimore following the eruption of violent protests that drew attention to that city's high levels of poverty and unemployment, Young suggests that maybe it's time for another round of Empowerment Zones.

 

The impact of Baltimore's $100 million investment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 02:00

Phyllis Young has a full life: three children, five grandchildren, a mortgage, and a job she loves. 11 years ago, Young, a geriatric nurse's assistant, was making $8 an hour and hoping to boost her wages to $12. She hit a stroke of luck.

Baltimore, in 1994, won a federal contest aimed at alleviating poverty in urban cores. Six cities were given a federal grant of $100 million each as well as a package of tax breaks for businesses and employers. The money and tax credits were intended to revitalize each city's poorest neighborhoods, which were called Empowerment Zones.

Each of the winning cities was given some leeway to do what it wanted with the money. Baltimore city leaders decided to focus on job creation and job training. One of the training programs was a certification course for nursing assistants run through Sojourner Douglass College. Participants, including Young, had their tuition paid and were given a $600 monthly grant.

Today, Young looks back on her graduation from the program with pride. The Empowerment Zone effort, she says, got her closer to the middle-class lifestyle she'd always wanted. But despite her successes, she faces the same challenges as many people in today's economy. Her nursing job, which pays $17 an hour, is only part time. She works another full-time job, where she makes less. She says her bills have gone up, but her wages haven't kept pace.

With federal eyes fixed on Baltimore following the eruption of violent protests that drew attention to that city's high levels of poverty and unemployment, Young suggests that maybe it's time for another round of Empowerment Zones.

 

We're getting double the unicorns this year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:59
$6 billion

That was Square's valuation after a round of fundraising last fall. CEO Jack Dorsey started the payment venture with another multi-billion-dollar company under his belt: a little micro-blogging service called Twitter. We chatted with Dorsey about what he's learned since starting Twitter at 29, how Square came together and much more. Listen to the extended interview here.

29

Speaking of billion-dollar-start-ups, that's how many so-called "unicorns" have sprung up so far this year. Venture capital analyst CB Insights predicts we'll see another 47 before the end of the year, which puts 2015 on track to double the number of companies that raised $1 billion in 2014.

9 percent

That's Adidas' share of the athletic shoe market, and it's shrinking. Nike, on the other hand, has about half. The former got a big boost when it signed musician Kanye West away from Nike, and West's "Yeezy Season 1" line debuted in February to much fanfare. But fashion and lifestyle are a much smaller part of the Adidas Group, which is still behind in sports. This puts the company at a crossroads, Fortune reported.

1

That's how many grocery stores are left in the city limits of Flint, Michigan, which has a population of 100,000 people. Three grocery stores in Flint have closed just within the last eight months. And with many residents without cars, access to fresh groceries has become even more difficult.

22 million

That's how many people take cruises every year. The more than 300 ocean liners that make port in the U.S. come with a host of unique hazards and regulations borne from essentially being floating cities. ProPublica has put together a comprehensive guide to cruise safety, running down just about everything that can go wrong (and how often it does) as well as searchable safety records for hundreds of vessels.

1 second

That's the amount of time that will be added on June 30th to the world's clocks. Meant to correct the discord between the earth's rotation and the clocks we humans use, that extra second is also a headache for world markets. May 22 is the deadline for U.S.-based markets to turn in a plan of action to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. One of the biggest hurdles is that different markets are adding the second in different ways: some all at once, some spread out over a period of time.

100 years

As part of the Future Library Project, Margaret Atwood will place a newly written book in a time capsule to be opened in 100 years. The closest any of us will come to knowing what's inside that book (aside from cryogenically freezing ourselves) will be a live periscope viewing of the event that will take place next week. 

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated the rate grocery stores have been closing in Flint, Michigan. The city lost three stores in the past eight months. The text has been corrected.

Silicon Tally: Hashtag POTUS

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:59

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? 

This week, we're joined by Dan Lyons, a tech journalist and writer for season 2 of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Click the media player above to hear host Ben Johnson take on Dan Lyons for this week's Silicon Tally.

EU agrees €1.8bn loan to Ukraine

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:55
The European Union agrees a €1.8bn (£1.3bn; $2bn) loan to Ukraine - the largest financial aid deal with a non-EU member.

Fearne Cotton broadcasts final show

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:38
DJ Fearne Cotton is broadcasting her final show on Radio 1, after almost 10 years at the helm of the Live Lounge.

English drink 'more than estimated'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:33
The amount of alcohol people in England drink is underestimated by the equivalent of 12 million bottles of wine a week, according to new research.

McIlroy 'angry' as Molinari leads

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:32
Rory McIlroy, six strokes behind leader Francesco Molinari, admits to getting "angry" at the PGA Championship.

Myanmar in first migrant boat rescue

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:31
Myanmar rescues two migrant boats with more than 200 people in its waters in the first such operation following criticism.

Government borrowing falls to £6.8bn

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:26
UK government borrowing fell to £6.8bn in April, down from £9.3bn a year earlier, official figures show.

Rodgers expects Sterling to stay

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:21
Brendan Rodgers says he expects Raheem Sterling to see through the remaining two years of his contract.

Live WW2 bomb poses 'risk to life'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:17
An 110lb unexploded World War Two bomb found by builders near Wembley Stadium poses a "risk to life", the Army says.

AMs will receive a £10,000 pay rise

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:17
The basic salary for assembly members in Wales will rise from £54,000 to £64,000 in 2016, it is confirmed.

Colombia strike kills 18 Farc rebels

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 01:10
At least 18 members of the Farc rebel group die in an army raid - the deadliest attack since air raids resumed last month.

'Fire crash' man taken to hospital

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 00:49
A man aged 30 is taken to hospital after a serious crash on the A90 near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire.

Luiz dismisses 'virgin' reports

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 00:38
Paris St-Germain defender David Luiz accuses the media of a lack of respect after dismissing reports he is a virgin.

VIDEO: 'I thought a bomb had gone off'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-22 00:34
Caroline Knott from Ramsgate tells the BBC how the Kent earthquake woke her up.

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