Marketplace - American Public Media

The governor's on the phone, he wants you to move back

Tue, 2015-07-21 13:00

Meet Max Salzburg. He’s 37, married and works in marketing. He lives with his wife Sonja in Fort Collins, Colorado, a bustling small city filled with breweries and bike aficionados. But Salzburg grew up about an hour away from here, in the much smaller town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

“I thought it was small,” Salzburg says. “And lame. And boring.”

Salzburg got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming, but as soon as he was finished he left for city life in Colorado, where he has been ever since. That move is fairly common: young people who grew up in rural areas move away from home at a rate three and half times higher than their city counterparts, according to federal statistics.

Max Salzburg holds Wyoming regalia in his Fort Collins, Colorado home. 

Miles Bryan

But Salzburg is a little older now. He and his wife are thinking about a baby, and maybe relocating. That’s an opportunity for Wyoming and rural states like it, which desperately need skilled workers. 

So how do you convince a young, educated couple like Max and Sonja Salzburg to give up farm-to-table meals and good concerts for small-town life?

Well, if you’re South Dakota, with a robocall.

“Are you looking for a better way of life? One where the skies are blue, the air is fresh and the opportunities are limitless?” That’s South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s opening line in a robocall you will get if someone enters your phone number at Dakota Roots, the state’s employment matchmaking program. It allows moms or high school buddies to sign up their lost loved ones to be contacted by a job recruiter, who tries to place them back in the Mt. Rushmore state.

Dakota Roots has been around since 2006 and has placed about 4,000 people back in the state. Recently, Dakota Roots has inspired similar job-matchmaking programs Choose Idaho and Wyoming Grown

Hayley McKee works for the state and helped set up Wyoming Grown. She  says the program  got started after the state ran the numbers, and realized 60 percent of young people left Wyoming within 10 years of finishing high school. She says a lot of those young people are not going to give up city life for the open prairie, “but for those people who want to come back, who are familiar with Wyoming, I feel pretty confident we are making some strides here.”

So how do you zero in on who actually wants to come back? Here’s a hint: look for diapers.

“A strategy of trying to attract back people who are in their 30s and have children probably has the best possible chance of success,” says Professor Ken Johnson, who studies rural demographic change at the University of New Hampshire.

Johnson says there is a minor trend (emphasis on the "minor") of 30-somethings going back to their rural homes. The ones who do are usually at the point in their lives when they care less about good bars and more about good schools. Johnson says those people can be swayed by the prospect of a decent job — even if it isn’t as good as what they could get in an urban area.   

“Maybe that’s enough to push somebody who is kind of sitting on the fence to think about coming back,” Johnson says. 

Salzburg’s parents are hoping he will jump off that fence.  They encouraged him to sign up for Wyoming Grown, but Salzburg insists they are leaving it up to him. He says he’s still undecided about moving, but a kid might make up his mind.

“If we had kids and there was a good job and we could go somewhere in Wyoming with decent schools I mean... yeah,” he says. “My childhood was boring, I want my child to have that.”

Whether his kid will stick around is another question. 

Imagine your car being hacked...while you're driving it

Tue, 2015-07-21 12:59

The Security and Privacy in Your Car Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, aiming in part to protect your car from being hacked, according to sponsors.  

Imagine being in your car on the highway and suddenly the air turns on, the music turns up and your car stops…right in the middle of traffic. Now a video of the hacker appears on your display screen. Terrifying, right?

Well, hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek just proved that it’s possible, and they’re urging the auto industry to do something about it. Andy Greenberg, a senior writer at Wired, was their test dummy. He wrote about the experience for Wired.com in a piece called "Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway – With Me in It."

Greenberg describes driving a Jeep Cherokee 70 miles per hour on the freeway when he lost control of his vehicle. The car’s brakes were cut, leaving him to frantically and uncontrollably slide the car into a ditch.

“Despite the blasting air conditioning, I was still sweating when I got off the highway,” he says.

Miller and Valasek have discovered a feature that allows them to control vehicles remotely through the Internet, regardless of the vehicle’s location. The hackers plan to release their findings and code to the public. They say they're sending a message to the industry that this is a serious issue, and they want consumers to hold the industry accountable.

PODCAST: A boom in hotel building

Tue, 2015-07-21 03:00

The Federal Reserve in its capacity as banking system regulator issued new guidelines for the eight biggest banks in the country. More on that. Plus, Apples reports quarter earnings. We look at what people will be watching for in the results, and where the Watch figures in. Plus, we'll talk about a nationwide surge in hotel building post-recession, with NYC at the front of the pack.  

How's the Apple Watch doing? Wall St awaits clues

Tue, 2015-07-21 02:00

Apple releases third-quarter earnings Tuesday and analysts will be looking for a big bump in iPhone sales. They'll also be looking for hints about how the Apple Watch is doing.

Last year during the third quarter, Apple sold 35 million iPhones. This year, analysts predict somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million.

If they're right, "This could be the first sign that the flagship Android phones are effectively done," says Andrew Uerkwitz of Oppenheimer, pointing out that phones that cost as much as the iPhone, like Samsung's Galaxy 6, don't sell nearly as well.

Apple has said it won't break out quarterly sales numbers for the Apple Watch, so analysts will be looking to other revenue categories, such as "other," for clues.

 

A boom in new hotel construction

Tue, 2015-07-21 02:00

The Baccarat Hotel and Residences is one of Manhattan’s newest hotels. As its name suggests, it is dripping in crystal, with enormous chandeliers, ornate vases — even its walls are made of what looks like undulating crystal glass.

It is the latest in a rash of new hotels that are opening across New York City, and the country. From Houston to Miami, cranes are busy erecting new hotels. In fact, over the past year, hotel construction is up 21 percent, according to data from STR, which analyzes the industry.

With so much competition, not to mention sites like AirBnB, hotel rates are staying relatively low. That’s welcome news not just for Americans looking to take a trip this summer, but also for Europeans, who have been hard hit by the strong U.S. dollar.

“The U.S. hotel industry is doing either well or really well, depending on where you’re at,” said Jan Freitag, a senior vice president for STR. “We broke records last year, we are breaking records this year. We have more rooms available than ever, but we’ve also sold more rooms than ever and generated more revenue than ever.”

For Europeans, this hotel boom couldn’t come at a better time. The dollar has been strengthening against the euro in recent months, diminishing their spending power and making America costlier than it has been in years.

“It’s getting more expensive,” said Dutch tourist Danny Engels, who was wandering through Times Square with his family recently. He had hoped to buy an Apple Watch, but decided against it because of the exchange rate.

But while Engels has curtailed his spending, he did not cancel his trip. Foreigners typically plan their trips months in advance, so unless it stays expensive for a sustained period, Europeans will continue flocking here, hotel experts predict. And that is good news, as there will certainly be enough hotel rooms to house them.

 

 

Five years on, Dodd-Frank still controversial

Tue, 2015-07-21 02:00

It’s been five years since the Dodd-Frank Act became law, with the goal of preventing the chaos of the 2008 economic crisis from happening again.

But the question whether it’s worked is just as polarizing as the law itself was back then. The law affects Wall Street, banks, whistleblowers, consumer protection, and other sectors of the financial industry.

Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland, says there have been flaws in the implementation of the law, but “the dangerous trading, to the extent Dodd-Frank reaches it and controls it, has been substantially mitigated because of the fact that it’s not a dark market anymore.”

In order to mitigate that “dangerous trading” that led to the 2008 market crash, the Securities and Exchange Commission had to write lots of new rules, and the agency isn’t done. Richard Williams of the Mercatus Center says the sheer number of new rules is too big a burden, particularly for banks. He says that makes it harder for banks to lend.

“I don’t think anybody knows precisely what this is going to do to the financial sector," he says.

The SEC says all those rules are making the financial markets stronger and more resilient.

An inflation of profits at Toshiba

Tue, 2015-07-21 01:58
$1.2 billion

That's how much Toshiba profits have been inflated over several years, according to an independent inquiry. On Tusday, CEO Hisao Tanaka and several other executives resigned in light of the findings. As Reuters reports, the scandal comes at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to rebuild the country's reputation in the global financial market.

5 years

That's how long it has been since the Dodd-Frank Act became law. But even though it's been around for a while, that doesn't mean the Securities and Exchange Commission is done revising and adding new rules. It leaves some experts worried that too many rules will burden banks from lending.

21 percent

That's how much hotel construction has grown over the past year, according to data from STR. With this boom in competition, not to mention Airbnb, rates for hotel rooms have stayed low — a welcome development for Europeans visiting the U.S., as the dollar remains strong against the euro.

$55

That's how much Star Wars superfan Ken Landrum charged per file to re-create his 40-piece, 3-D printed Stormtrooper gun. By offering his design to the public, he is effectively offering merchandise eight months before the next Star Wars film hits theaters, and five months before the official wares from the movie are offered in Disney stores. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at what the era of home 3-D printing might mean for Hollywood merchandising.

£20

That's the value of the note which will get a bit of a face lift in the UK — for the past two months, the Bank of England accepted nominations from the public of British visual artists they thought should be featured on the new note. Among the nominees are Alexander McQueen, Beatrix Potter, and Marie Tussaud. Check out the full list of nominees here. From this list, 3-5 finalists will be chosen by an advisory committee, from which the Governor will pick the face of the new £20 note in spring 2016.

Getting hired today takes twice as long as in 2010

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

The labor market has been doing pretty well in recent years. There are plenty of jobs out there for people to take advantage of. But now it looks like the wait to get that job is taking longer.

According to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, it’s taking twice as long for job offers to come through than it did in 2010. “The single biggest reason that hiring appears to take longer seems to be more screens,” Chamberlain says.

These screens include “things like group panel interviews and skills tests and background tests,” he says. “There are several reasons for it, but the most important one is that jobs are getting more complicated than they used to be.”

That comprehensive process likely comes from companies having more sensitive data online compared to just a few years ago. "They’re being much more careful about who they hire,” Chamberlain says. “There’s really not much you can do as a job seeker other than just wait it out.”

Click the media player above to hear more.

PayPal makes its stock market debut

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

PayPal, the online-payment company, began trading today on the Nasdaq following a split from eBay. And after just one day on the stock market, PayPal's market capitalization had surpassed the market value of eBay, which acquired the payment service 13 years ago.

Nikhil Joseph, an analyst with the emerging technologies practice of the Mercator Advisory Group, says in the early days of online commerce, PayPal earned consumers' trust as a secure online payments processor. But he says the company must find new opportunities for growth.

"Card transactions online have gotten a lot more secure," Joseph says. "So there are a lot of questions around what really is the value proposition that PayPal's offering."

PayPal is looking to answer those questions by growing its share of the mobile-payment market, as consumers increasingly use their smartphones to pay for goods in brick-and-mortar stores.

"Offline retail is much bigger than online retail," says James Wester, a global payments analyst at IDC. "That's where all the card issuers are," he says. "Apple and Google are trying to get into it as well."

Gil Luria, is an e-commerce analyst at Wedbush Securities. He says growth in mobile payments is expected to skyrocket over the next five years as shoppers become more comfortable with the technology. He predicts Android, Google and PayPal will be the three most dominant players.

And mobile payments are not just about payments at retail stores. They are also peer-to-peer transactions. Those are things like "splitting a check, giving money to your kid or to a friend," says Luria.  While those kinds of transactions might not generate much revenue, analysts say, they help complete the payment ecosystem and can potentially build a data profile of customers that could be valuable to marketers. 

PayPal owns Venmo, one of the most popular person-to-person payment apps.  In early July, it also announced that it was acquiring Xoom, a digital money transfer provider to foreign countries.

"They can now compete head to head with Western Union and MoneyGram," says Luria.

Why can’t adults order off the kids’ menu?

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

Kids’ menus: they’re salty, sweet, greasy and more appropriately portioned than lots of meals served to adults at casual restaurants. So why the age restrictions? What stops adults from just ordering the small stuff they crave?

This question came in from Rachel Kirby in Nashville, Tennessee for our “I’ve Always Wondered” series. She says she can’t be the only one who’s thought about it.

Kirby is 33, but she says she tries to order from the kid’s menu pretty often. She likes the smaller portions, and she says it doesn’t seem fair that adults are restricted from ordering off the 12-and-under menu in more than a few establishments.

Fast food restaurants typically don’t check, but she says she has been shut down before, mostly at sit-down restaurants.

Kendall Goodrich, chair of the marketing department at the Wright State University business school in Dayton, Ohio, isn’t surprised.  

“If everyone ordered off of this kids menu, then they wouldn’t make any money,” says Goodrich. He says kids menus are mainly a way to get families through the door. “If someone has small kids, you get the kid in at the lower price and what they’re hoping is that they’ll get the adults to pay full price.”

But Goodrich says some restaurants don’t want to lose loyal customers by turning them down, either. It all depends on company policies and the owner’s personal style. “It might even go back to their upbringing where they had a conservative rules-based background or more open type of environment.”

So they might let you do it, but it’s discouraged.

 

Iran: Franchise frontier?

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

This final note on the way out, which comes with the observation that Monday the United Nations Security Council approved the nuclear deal with Iran that was announced last week.

Much has been made, rightly, of the business opportunities that will come with fully opening up a market of 80 million people to the global economy.

McDonald's isn't waiting around.

Should you be the entrepreneurial type, there's a form on its corporate website where you can fill out an application to open a Golden Arches franchise in Tehran.

Why A&P can go bust, but Greece can't

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

Call Monday "Debt Relief Day." Two troubled entities are getting debt relief payments. The first: Greece received  $7.75 billion from the European Financial Stability Mechanism and promptly made payments to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The second debtor is closer to home: the storied grocery chain Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P, which received a $100 million loan as part of its bankruptcy filing.

Bankruptcies often start with these "debtor-in-possession financings," says Peter Gilhuly, with the law firm Latham & Watkins. The money is meant to fund the company through the bankruptcy process.

“When you have your biggest trouble, you’re getting a lot of money to allow you to restructure, or in A&P’s case, to liquidate efficiently,” he says.

Like Greece’s latest proposed bailout, Gilhuly says this money is supposed to be a bridge, part of path forward guided by the U.S. bankruptcy code.

But because there isn’t a bankruptcy code for countries, Greece’s process is more unpredictable, says Lee Buchheit, a partner with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

“There is an institutional method by which claims against a corporate debtor can be extended or written down, and that’s binding on all creditors,” he says. For sovereign countries, negotiations are more “ad hoc.”

A&P has deals in place to sell 120 of its nearly 300 stores. It says it will continue its efforts to sell the rest.

The company has been on a slow decline since the 1950s, says Marc Levinson, author of “The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business America."

“At its peak in the late 1920s, A&P became the first retailer anywhere to sell $1 billion worth of merchandise in a single year,” Levinson says. “It was truly a giant.”

The dark side of the ocean

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

The global economy is very dependent on the millions of small cargo boats and large merchant ships that carry about 90 percent of the world’s goods. The problem is the high seas, where all this trade occurs, is one of the most lawless areas in the world.

Ian Urbina has begun to write about the trouble of international waters in a four-part series for the New York Times entitled “The Outlaw Ocean.” He says that the problem with these waters is that they “belong to everyone and no one. There’s no international police force out there. It’s really kind of a jurisdiction with no cops.”

The crimes committed there occur mostly on larger trade ships and include everything from illegal dumping of oil to abandoning stowaways at sea as a storm approaches.

Even though land-locked nations like Bolivia and Mongolia should be among those to take care of this problem, Urbina says they have little incentive to do so. “They have these lucrative flagging programs where they sell the right to fly their flag.”

There is hope in a new United Nations bill called the Biodiversity Agreement, which is designed to impose some rules on the high seas. Urbina remains skeptical. “It’s years away from even being written, much less figuring out how they would enforce it,” he says.

Click on the media player above to hear more.

Big data is following you

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

Big data is coming for us. It's like the younger, online sibling of big brother, watching our every move. But if you're a consumer who's not wild about being tracked by retailers, this time, the enemy is inside the walls, or, to be more exact, your hard drive. Big data takes careful note note of how many times we search for "wrinkle cream," "acne cure" or "weight loss teas," where you're logging in from and on what kind of device.

Say you’re online, shopping for rain boots, searching for options on large sites like Amazon, Zappos or Target. If you pull up your Facebook feed just a few minutes later, odds are  an ad for rain boots is exactly what you'll find there. Ads trail you on the internet thanks to cookies — tiny text files that websites deposit on your computer and use to keep track of how many times you visit a site or what you were searching for.

Collect all those cookies from you and me, and all the other users out there, add them together, and you get big data. Retailers know what you, specifically, are interested in, like rain boots. They also know what people like you are interested in — if a consumer is shopping for boots, maybe he or she will also buy an umbrella or tomato soup.

Though data may not be the sexiest topic — “it’s kind of a deal killer at cocktail parties" says Eric Siegel, author of "Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die" — data about us can be powerful.

Big data can even figure out when we are going to die, Siegel says. "Anybody can go to death-clock.org and see your expected exact date of departure,” he says.

Also, it can also predict less scary stuff: “Whether you're going to commit an act of fraud. Whether you're going to turn out to be a poor risk for a credit card," he says.

And how likely you are to buy that pair of rain boots. But if big data is so smart, then why is it, so, well, stupid? Why do are we shown ads for the same things, over and over again,   often for products we’ve already bought? Even Facebook agrees retargeting ads, the name for ads that chase us around the internet, is not always a hot strategy for advertising.

"I would agree and you would agree that that’s not a great experience for you as a person — it’s just frankly annoying," says Brian Boland, vice president of advertising technology for Facebook.

Images of boots appear in Amazon.com's "Related to Items You've Viewed" section for reporter Sally Herships after she purchases boots from Zappos.com. (Sally Herships/Marketplace) 

To remedy the problem, Facebook made a change in the fall. Boland says ads on Facebook now come with a drop-down menu built in with choices like "I don't want to see this."

"That tells us to stop showing you that product and to stop reminding you of the thing that you may be wearing on your feet today," he says.

But why does Facebook need to hear directly from the consumer? For one thing, Siegel says, big data is not a crystal ball. Data don't have a brain. Instead, what matters is how intelligently retailers use it. And most of the time, it seems, they’re still figuring out that.

"You can think of big data as sort of a class of 15 year olds. Some of them are super mature prodigies, and they’re doing extraordinarily well,” he says. "The rest of them are your standard 15 year olds who have so much potential, but they’re rough around the edges, so they may be doing things pretty effectively in order to get the grade, or in the case of online marketing in order to improve profit, potentially drastically. But it’s still kind of clumsy, kind of embarrassing, it’s kind of shameless."

Like when advertisers use data to bombard you with ads for things you’ve already searched for and even already bought.

“If you’ve been to any website and thought about doing anything, you’ve probably been chased around for a number of days with impressions [ads] from all over the place," says Nick Stoltz, senior vice president of strategy at MarketShare, a marketing and analytics company.

One reason we see all these repeat ads, says Stoltz, is because when you buy something from Company A., Company B doesn’t know about it. So it keeps showing you ads, because after all, it wants your business. Another reason, notes Stoltz, is they're cheap.

"They cost fractions of cents to serve thousands of these things," he says. "So you can see why they’re so popular."

Finally, says Stoltz, advertising campaigns cost money. So companies want to know if their campaigns are worth the cost. But that can be hard to suss out. Was it an ad in a print magazine that persuaded a consumer to buy? A commercial on TV? The ad in their Facebook feed? Even though they know it's a faulty practice, Stoltz says marketers are very likely to give credit for a sale to the last part of an ad campaign that a consumer clicked on — often a retargeted ad.

"It’s as simple as saying who deserves the star on their back? Who gets the brownie points? If all the marketers are a troop of Brownies, who gets the brownie points for the sale of the boots that you just did?" he says.

But imagine the web without big data. To prove a point, Stoltz opens the webpage for high-end retail site Gilt.com. An ad for Spanx — maker of women's undergarments — pops up.

"Which I’m not interested in," he said.

For retailers, the options often are a) showering consumers in random ads for things they may have no interest in, or b) sending us too many ads for things we may have already bought. Most of the time, retailers go with choice b, and Siegel says they do that because they're cheap and so just enough of the time, companies will make a profit.

“Exactly. So you’re going to be annoyed and your neighbor is going to be annoyed and your friends and cousins and everybody is going to be annoyed, except for this one person who lives down the street, and they’re going to actually buy it and the company doesn’t lose much by being annoying.”

Europe to Greece: Here's some money to pay us back

Mon, 2015-07-20 13:00

Last week, European creditors gave Greece an injection of cash. But not much of the $6.8 billion Athens paid out today actually went into the Greek economy.

“The money that Greece just got was immediately spent on paying back the IMF and paying back the European Central Bank," says Mitu Gulati, a law professor at Duke University. "I mean Greece got a tiny portion of it. They’re lending Greece money to pay themselves back, and that's how we got into this awful situation in the first place."

Gulati helped with the restructuring of Greek debt back in 2012, and co-authored a new plan to help Greece out of this crisis. His strategy would have the private sector step back in to replace the foreign governments and organizations currently holding Greek debt.

The current situation, with money coming in to Greece only to go back out to creditors, is unsustainable, says Rob Howse, a professor of international law at New York University.

He says the fact that European governments have been so resistant to restructuring or writing off some of Greece's debts represents a “kind of a symptom or a reflection of the unreality of this whole process with the eurozone.”

Howse has an alternative. He was part of a United Nations task force attempting to make the bankruptcy of a country look more like that of a municipality or a company, with rules on how to make a country's bailout a bit more organized.

But he says one of the big differences between companies that run out of cash and countries that do the same is whom they owe.

“Some of the main creditors, when you are dealing with a country ... are, for example, pensioners, people dependent on Social Security and people dependent on the health care system.

It’s easier to blow off Wall Street investors than to deny granny her retirement.

The Greek government and its European creditors have to figure out how to move on from just funneling money from one creditor to another. If they don't, says Duke University's Gulati, "unfortunately, I think that will result in Grexit, Greece exiting [the eurozone.]"

In the meantime... you can always check with us to see if Greece is solvent yet.

PODCAST: Fast-tracking doctors

Mon, 2015-07-20 03:00

First up, we'll talk about the economic lesson in today's plunge in the price of gold. Plus, we'll talk about a program in Savannah, Georgia, that's attempting to lure would-be doctors into primary care by offering a fast-track education to ease student loans.

Lockheed Martin reaches deal to buy Sikorsky Aircraft

Mon, 2015-07-20 03:00

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has reached a deal to purchase Sikorsky Aircraft, the company that manufactures the Blackhawk helicopter. The deal is worth $9 billion dollars.

If this deal goes through, the world’s largest defense contractor will likely gain even more influence in negotiations with the Pentagon.

For the past few years, revenue has been fairly flat for Lockheed Martin. Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, says this deal suggests a shifting strategy for the contractor.

“Broadly speaking there’s two types of defense contracting. One is building stuff, whether it’s tanks, ships or aircraft. And the other is providing services. Whether it’s network solutions of systems integration,” he says.

Aboulafia says when it comes to profitability, nothing is quite as lucrative as building stuff. To that end, Lockheed this morning also announced that it could sell or spin off its government IT and technical services.

Still, this deal leaves Lockheed in a strong position says American University Professor Gordon Adams.

“There is no question in my mind the upper-hand is with the industry. Because the industry is so concentrated. The Pentagon needs to, has to have this equipment. They don’t have a lot of options of where to turn,” he says.

Adams says given consolidation in this sector, contractors have the ability to hold the government hostage in negotiations.

Blue Cross Blue Shield will offer credit protection

Mon, 2015-07-20 02:00

Earlier this year, hackers broke into the database for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield – one of the nation’s largest insurers. The bad guys made off with personal information of nearly 80 million consumers.

By the start of next year, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans will offer credit monitoring and fraud detection to most of their collective 106 million members.

The company's senior vice president of operations and chief information officer, Doug Porter, says Blue Cross Blue Shield is making a major investment.

“We’re not doing this in lieu of other protections, it’s one more prong to make sure we have the protections from beginning to end,” he says.

Consumers have the choice to opt in for this service. Several IT analysts say the measure could cost several hundred million dollars. While that may ultimately get baked into the price consumers pay, John Pescatore with the SANS Institute says it’s a wise move for the Blues.

“By offering these credit monitoring services, you are essentially working to limit your liability in the future. $350 million may cost a lot of money, but a class action law suit may cost you more than that,” he says.

We may find out soon. Some 100 lawsuits have been filed against Anthem for its data breach and are being wrapped into a class action suit in California.

Fast-tracking doctors to lessen student loans

Mon, 2015-07-20 02:00

One of the goals of health reform is to cut costs by keeping patients healthy through preventative care. But that approach leans heavily on routine care from family doctors — who are in short supply. A program in Savannah, Georgia is trying to fast-track primary care doctors through medical school.

Inside Memorial Hospital’s pediatric unit, Mary Keith makes her rounds, checking on a seven-week-old patient who’s about to go home. Keith is a family medicine resident at Mercer University. But unlike most students, she spent just three years — not four — in medical school before starting her residency.

Keith says the shortened program was appealing, but that’s not the only reason she chose Mercer.

“When I came into medical school I knew I wanted to do family medicine, so it kind of seemed like a no-brainer to me to have a fast-track into a good family medicine program,” she says.

The accelerated program cuts out some electives, like clinical experience in ear, nose, and throat (ENT) or pulmonology. Still, students like Keith will save more than $40,000 in tuition and start earning a salary a year early.  

Dr. Robert Pallay is chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Mercer. He says if you can cut the length and cost of med school, more students will consider primary care over a higher-paying specialty.

“One of the things that helps the students choose what discipline they want to go into in medicine is funding,” he says. “You talk to medical students, a lot of them don’t want to admit that money is the reason behind their choice of a specialty, but we all know that that’s real.”

Especially, he says, when they know they’ll be graduating with hefty student loans.

Texas Tech University has a similar fast-track program and several schools around the country are looking at this model.   

Dr. Rich Hawkins of the American Medical Association says this approach could help solve the primary care doctor shortage.

“But a caution is just making sure that when students graduate early from medical school, that they’re ready to graduate,” Hawkins says.

And if they’re not, he says, med schools have to make sure students get the skills they need before they’re allowed to practice.

The three-year model could catch on: the AMA is looking at ways to improve medical education in general, including accelerated training for some students. Georgia lawmakers recently approved more than a million dollars a year to expand Mercer’s program.

Banks in Greece reopen

Mon, 2015-07-20 02:00

After three weeks of financial purgatory, retail banks reopened in Greece on Monday. Withdrawal limits at ATMs remain, but more can be taken out at once. Plus, Greeks will finally be able to get into their safety deposit boxes.

Economist Vicky Pryce of the Centre for Economics and Business Research in London joined us to talk about what this means to Greek pensioners — Click the media player above to hear more.

And from our partners at the BBC:

Athens reached a cash-for-reforms deal aimed at avoiding a debt default and an exit from the eurozone.

But many restrictions remain and Greeks also face price rises with an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT).

Queues at ATMs have been a feature of life in Greece for weeks, with people waiting in line each day to withdraw a maximum of $66 a day, a restriction imposed amid fears of a run on banks.

From Monday, the daily limit becomes a weekly one, capped at $460, meaning Greeks will not have to queue every day.

An architect told the BBC that the banks reopening will make only a small difference to his ability to operate.

"The key challenge is that we cannot pay our suppliers, which means that we will eventually run out of products to sell," Vassilis Masselos told the BBC World Service's Newsday program.

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