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Updated: 42 min 11 sec ago

Niagara recalls bottled spring water

Tue, 2015-06-23 01:42
14 brands

That's how many brands had to issue a recall for bottled water sourced from Niagara Bottling. The reason? A spring contaminated with E. coli. And as NBC Philadelphia reports, while the contamination was discovered on June 10, the spring waited to notify the affected brands.

$1 billion

That's how much Alibaba has sunk into its once dormant food-ordering app known as Koubei. It's part of a move by the company to enter what is known as the O2O (online-to-offline) market of using apps to order goods and services. And as the Wall Street Journal reports, the company is attempting to compete with its rival Tencent Holdings Ltd. and its app, Ele.me

$150

That's how much Gary Portnoy originally was paid for writing the "Cheers" theme at 25. But television royalties are structured so that one is paid every time the show airs, so although the initial payday might be small, songwriters can make millions from getting their work on a hit show. We looked into the world of TV themes for the latest installment of our series "I've Always Wondered."

350 students

That's about how many students have graduated from the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland since it was founded in 1998. BTI's Lab Associates program offers job training to students looking to get into laboratory work — students like Jamond Turner who used to work as a security guard at Johns Hopkins University. The program started when Baltimore decided to use the $100 million it received as part of its designation as an Empowerment Zone to focus on job training and job creation. While the latter may have fallen off, the former seems to be one of the positive remnants of the program

$16.3 million

That was the average pay in the C-suite at the top 350 companies last year, on the rise since the Depression. Meanwhile, worker pay is remaining steady or even falling, according to the Economic Policy Institute study as reported by Mother Jones, meaning CEOs now make more than 300 times what workers in their respective fields earn. 

$236 billion

That's how high Facebook's market value reached during trading Monday, surpassing Walmart. Quartz notes that the shift points to technology's increasing prominence in the economy, even if Walmart brings in hundreds of billions more in revenue.

How much do TV theme songwriters earn?

Mon, 2015-06-22 13:07

Listener Cathy Lane wrote in with a question about music: How much do songwriters and performers earn when their music is used as a television theme song? Are they paid for every episode?

It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.

So we went to Gary Portnoy.  He was just 25 years old when he co-wrote the "Cheers" theme song in 1982.

“I think I got $150 for the "Cheers" theme,” Portnoy says. “And I had a very powerful lawyer, and he just says, 'Look, whatever it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be, but you’re not gonna make your money up front. So go for it.' ”

The song was Portnoy’s first big break. It also happened to be the most successful thing he’s ever done. Portnoy says his license plate actually reads: 1HIT1DR.

But that's not such a bad thing. Portnoy gets paid every time the song plays. In recent years, the song has been licensed for commercials — selling cars, Dr. Pepper and even insurance. He won’t say how much he has made off this one song. But he will say that it’s enough to live off of. Portnoy is now 59; he says he enjoys a simple life outside of New York City where he collects Japanese Maples and mid-Century studio pottery. And he never misses an episode of Judge Judy.

Entertainment lawyer Josh Grier has represented the B-52s, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and others. He says writing one theme song for a hit show that plays over and over again can basically fund your retirement.

“Yeah, you don’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars, you end up making millions of dollars,” Grier says. 

Jonathan Wolff wrote the theme music to a show that always seems to be playing somewhere — "Seinfeld".

“My royalty statements are hundreds and hundreds of pages long from who knows how many countries,” he says.

Wolff has calculated what that one show has made him, calling that number “a happy secret.” Thanks to the royalties, Wolff retired early and moved his family to Kentucky. Wolff stopped taking calls from Hollywood and started coaching little league.

“We decided that we were going to challenge this notion that there’s no such thing as enough money,” Wolff says. “We decided how ever many marbles there are in 2005, that’s what we’re going to leave with.”

How those royalties are calculated is a complicated business. There are whole organizations that specialize in tracking, collecting and distributing royalties for songwriters.

“I think the simplest thing to say is the more often it’s played, the better,” Grier says. “And if it goes into syndication, then it just becomes a constant flow of royalties.”

So that’s what happens when you’re hired to write a song. But what happens when you get that call — a television network wants to use your band’s little-known song for their TV theme? That’s what happened to Brett and Rennie Sparks, the husband-wife duo behind the Handsome Family.

“We were surprised, that’s for sure,” Brett says. “I think we initially deleted the email thinking it was some kind of joke.”

The Handsome Family released the song “Far From Any Road” in 2003. About a decade later, HBO used the song as the theme of the first season of "True Detective." It was never considered one of the band’s more popular tunes, but since airing repeatedly on HBO, Rennie estimates the song has earned more than all their other songs combined.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of all this exposure: Tons of new fans. And a lot of these new fans buy records. Digital sales for the Sparks’ label Carrot Top Records increased nine times what it was making before "True Detective" — thanks in large part to the Handsome Family’s music.

“Years ago, people wouldn’t look to a TV show or a movie or a commercial to find new music, but nowadays, they do,” Rennie says.

“Well, it was considered selling out, and it was considered lame,” Brett adds.

“Yes, but nowadays, it’s perfectly fine, so people do find us that way and become great fans of our music,” says Rennie.

While it’s a wonderful song, “Far From Any Road” was not exactly a hit at first. If it were, it’s fair to say HBO would have had to pay a lot more. Entertainment lawyer Josh Grier says to license a popular contemporary song, a TV network would probably have to pay six-figures. But he says, for the most part, the actual price tags are confidential.

Still, for every theme song that gets stuck in your head — and earns the songwriter a steady income — there are dozens more sitting on studio shelves, written for canceled pilots or short-lived TV shows.

“The universe has to shine on every aspect of it,” Gary Portnoy says. “It’s not just you wrote a magical song, but somebody wrote a magical script and somebody cast it well, and people took to it. So yeah, I’ve got a few TV themes that I think are as magical but probably no one’s ever going to hear them.”

Like this theme for the show "Marblehead Manor" that aired for one season in the late 1980s.

Reversing a trend, Instacart checks out part-timers

Mon, 2015-06-22 12:59

In a move that's the opposite of many others in the on-demand, sharing economy, the online grocery delivery service Instacart is converting some of its independent contractor shoppers, who purchase groceries on behalf of customers, to part-time employees.

The company says it is making the change in Chicago, expanding a pilot program that began in Boston. Andrea Saul, Instacart's vice president of communications, says the program will continue to expand in the coming months. Instacart does business in 16 other cities.

The move will add to Instacart's costs. "We are going to incur workers' compensation, different payroll taxes like unemployment, social security and Medicare," Saul says.

But Instacart was willing to take on those costs, because converting independent contractor shoppers into employees improved the company's customer service. 

"Our shoppers got more accurate picking items," Saul says. "We had more on-time deliveries."  

The company attributes the change to improvements in training and supervision made possible because workers were employees. 

Instacart has some 7,000 contractors, only a few hundred of whom are affected by the change so far. But of those given the option to switch to employee status, Saul says 75 percent did. 

"Wages will vary by market for the part-time employees, but we will be competitive in each market to attract and retain shoppers," Saul says. "The hourly floor is above local minimum wage in all regions." She did not detail specific numbers.

The conversion from independent contractor to part-time employee is an important distinction. Other companies have fought such a change. Last week, a California regulatory agency ruled that an Uber driver was an employee. Uber is appealing that decision.

"What we're caught with are 20th century definitions for a 21st century workforce and economy," says Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who has been vocal on the issue and says it is time for a new way of defining work.

"The idea that everybody fits neatly into being an employee, unemployed or an independent contractor really doesn't reflect the changing nature of this economy," Warner says.

One proposal is to create a dependent contractor designation, which would provide some employee-level benefits to independent workers. There are a host of other ideas, too.

Jeffrey Hirsch, an expert on labor law and a law professor at the University of North Carolina, says the issue is heating up as the on-demand economy explodes. "The indecision and the confusion involved is what's most harmful, both for the companies and for the workers," Hirsch says.

Existing home sales on the rise

Mon, 2015-06-22 12:59

The pace of existing homes sales increased just more than 5 percent from the month before, according to the National Association of Realtors, but perhaps more interesting is who it thinks is doing the buying: almost a third of buyers in May were first-timers. That's moving closer to the 40 percent that the organization sees as normal for the housing market.

Ben Fein-Smolinski and his girlfriend, both 26, were among those first-timers who leaped into the housing market in May.

“We figured that it was maybe time to stop paying rent and to get a place more permanent,” he says.

Buyers like Fein-Smolinski are an important piece of the housing economy. They tend to buy smaller homes, perhaps from people who might have decided they need more space for the kids. That family might then buy a home from baby boomers looking to downsize.

But Fein-Smolinski’s decision was also an economic one.

“We also thought it would be a little more cost effective, instead of finding a bigger apartment to rent,” he adds.

“Rents in this country have never been less affordable than they are now," says Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow. “If you can scrape together the down payment and qualify for a mortgage, it makes home ownership look very attractive.”

Other driving factors may be the improving job market or, perhaps, people who want to lock in low interest rates.

However, Richard Green, a professor at the University of Southern California, cautions not to get too excited about one month of data. Housing supply is tight and he says an even more important metric to watch is new construction.

“When you see a pick-up in existing home sales, that indicates there’s more demand for housing, and that extra demand for housing could boost the demand for new construction,” he says. “Things are better than they were three years ago, but we’re still not close to being normal.”

Bernanke wants Andrew Jackson gone from $20 bill

Mon, 2015-06-22 12:58

Currency wars are being waged in the Treasury Department. 

Secretary Jacob Lew has plans to take Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill and replace him with a woman.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighed in today and said he's appalled by Lew's proposal to drop a man Bernanke calls "the best...economic policymaker in U.S. history."

Far better: Bernanke goes on to suggest that a woman should replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. 

Me?

I'm with Ben.

 

In Greece, breadwinners struggle to make ends meet

Mon, 2015-06-22 12:46

For Effie Panoutsakopoulou, it’s been another bad day at the office. Little wonder: she works in a bank in Athens, and her branch has been besieged with customers clamoring to empty their accounts and even their safe-deposit boxes.  

“Today I had to open a deposit box for a lady. But I couldn’t turn the key. The lock was stuck. I tried three or four times," Panoutsakopoulou says. “And the lady  started screaming because she thought we didn’t want to open the safety deposit box for her. Everybody’s very stressed.”

Including Panoutsakopoulou. Her husband lost his job as an architect three years ago, and today they and their two young sons depend totally on her pay of $300 a week. Effie is worried that if the bank run continues, the banking system will collapse and her job will disappear.

With unemployment at 25 percent, millions of Greek households have been reduced to one precarious breadwinner. Christos Mavrou, a 35-year-old sales manager, ekes out a living on $270 a week for his extended family.

“My brother has no job, so I must support him, and his wife is pregnant, so their needs are higher now,” Mavrou says. “I’ve been helping a friend financially too. And, of course, I must support my parents.”

Which means picking up a $6,000 medical bill for his mother after her insurance failed to cover the aftercare for an operation. Mavrou is left with almost nothing to spend on himself, but he insists that he does not feel put upon.

“No, not at all,” he says. “It is my duty and my pleasure to help and support my family.”

Panoutsakopoulou admits that it hasn’t always been a pleasure being the sole breadwinner in her household. Her unemployed husband was paralyzed by depression for more than two years.  

“He was feeling useless. Because he thinks that, as the male of the family, he has to bring in the food. He was very, very depressed.”

This put the marriage under severe strain.

“I had to take care of him. I had to take care of the two boys as well. And I had to work at the bank. I was very, very tired of my husband being depressed, so that caused us a lot of fights,” admits Panoutsakopoulou.

After counselling — paid for by her bank — Panoutsakopoulou restored her own mental equilibrium, and she says the marriage is on the mend.

Mavrou says the crisis strengthened his family and that he feels appreciated by his relatives.

“They don’t tell me they’re grateful,” he says. “They show it to me with their eyes. I can see gratitude in their eyes.”  

Amid their country’s national humiliation, the breadwinners, at least, can feel some personal pride. 

'Big Chicken' has Boston Market flying higher

Mon, 2015-06-22 11:14

Fast-casual refers to the restaurants that are somewhere between McDonald's and Applebee's. When it launched in 1985, Boston Market was the biggest name in the fast-casual food industry, as its signature chicken dishes struck a chord with foodies.

After that big boom, the company became too successful too quickly and filed for bankruptcy. Now, Boston Market is back. George Michel, who previously worked as the head of A&W Restaurants, joined the company in 2010 as the CEO or, as he prefers to be called, "The Big Chicken."

“That’s what my business card says, and that’s how I introduce myself to all of our employees,” Michel says. He says that speaking to a CEO naturally intimidates workers, “but the minute I say I’m 'The Big Chicken,’ I get a big laugh, and we start the conversation.”

Michel has had Boston Market on an upward trend in recent years. This year, the company will open up 12 new restaurants. This is significant because Boston Market only has around 460 locations. When compared with Chipotle, another fast-casual brand that has more than 1,700 locations, it needs to gain all the ground that it can.

“We’re gonna continue to grow,” Michel says. “Next year we’re planning to open 20 to 24 [restaurants], so … we’ve been fine with competing in the marketplace.”

That marketplace doesn’t just include fast-casual restaurants or even just restaurants. According to Michel, “Between 4:30 and 6:30 really, we compete with supermarkets."

Michel notes that at those evening times, moms and dads are thinking about what to bring home for dinner, and “either they’re going to go to Boston Market and get a family meal … or they’re going to go to the supermarket and do their shopping and buy a rotisserie chicken on the way out.”

Despite that competition, Michel says he feels optimistic about the future of his company. Much of that optimism comes from his appreciation of the restaurant business and Boston Market’s customers.

“In the restaurant business … you deal with the food that people love to eat and you measure your results all the way from the top to the bottom line,” he says. “What’s amazing is that everywhere that I go, people know what Boston Market stands for — people have a great love for the brand.”

Taylor Swift convinces Apple to pay indie artists

Mon, 2015-06-22 06:35

Taylor Swift’s social media shaming of Apple appears to have prompted the company to make changes to its new music streaming service—Apple Music.

Swift had threatening to withhold her album, "1989,” because of the company’s policy to not pay artists during a three-month trial period.

Apple’s reversal was announced on Twitter. Eddy Cue, the company’s senior vice president of internet software and services made the announcement that “We hear you Taylor Swift and indie artists,” via tweet, and Apple will pay royalties during the 3-month trial.

The specific behind Apple Music’s royalties plan remain to be revealed and Apple has declined to comment.

So, is this a win for musicians and artists?

“I would say it’s more of a blip than a major win,” said Miles Raymer, a freelance music journalist from Brooklyn.

Raymer points out that the economics of these new streaming services are still being sorted out, and the royalty issue was never a huge issue — for artists, or Apple.

“I think the quick reaction from Apple really underscores how little money is involved in the bigger picture,” Raymer said.  “Streaming royalties are a fraction of a penny per song. 

The cumulative amount of royalties that they'll pay over this three month period is a fraction of the billions that they invested to purchase Beats.”

So unless you are among the Taylor Swifts, Led Zeppelins, or the Beatles-es of the world, streaming royalties aren’t likely to make a dent in your bottom line

Even with the success of streaming music — Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, TIDAL —  it’s a very crowded market.  But, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine (and Beats co-founder) claims that Apple Music will be the first “artist friendly,” streaming platform.

A statement Raymer believes amounts to little more than well-intentioned PR.

“Streaming platforms talking about being artist friendly sort of sounds like McDonalds talking about artisanal hamburgers—it sounds nice, but it won’t change anything.”

But controlling access to the distribution network, whether its terrestrial radio with Clear Channel, or the iTunes store, or Spotify means the artist will be subject to economics of other companies

Jim DeRogatis is the co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago public radio.

“I mean, you've got to remember, in the history of humankind making music, the idea of selling recordings, or selling access to it is a mere century and change old,” DeRogatis said.

Which is why, DeRogatis noted, artists will always be better off if they can sell their music directly to consumers, either at concerts, or their own online marketplace.

Taylor Swift convinces Apple to pay indie artists

Mon, 2015-06-22 06:35

Taylor Swift’s social media shaming of Apple appears to have prompted the company to make changes to its new music streaming service—Apple Music.

Swift had threatening to withhold her album, "1989,” because of the company’s policy to not pay artists during a three-month trial period.

Apple’s reversal was announced on Twitter. Eddy Cue, the company’s senior vice president of internet software and services made the announcement that “We hear you Taylor Swift and indie artists,” via tweet, and Apple will pay royalties during the 3-month trial.

The specific behind Apple Music’s royalties plan remain to be revealed and Apple has declined to comment.

So, is this a win for musicians and artists?

“I would say it’s more of a blip than a major win,” said Miles Raymer, a freelance music journalist from Brooklyn.

Raymer points out that the economics of these new streaming services are still being sorted out, and the royalty issue was never a huge issue — for artists, or Apple.

“I think the quick reaction from Apple really underscores how little money is involved in the bigger picture,” Raymer said.  “Streaming royalties are a fraction of a penny per song. 

The cumulative amount of royalties that they'll pay over this three month period is a fraction of the billions that they invested to purchase Beats.”

So unless you are among the Taylor Swifts, Led Zeppelins, or the Beatles-es of the world, streaming royalties aren’t likely to make a dent in your bottom line

Even with the success of streaming music — Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, TIDAL —  it’s a very crowded market.  But, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine (and Beats co-founder) claims that Apple Music will be the first “artist friendly,” streaming platform.

A statement Raymer believes amounts to little more than well-intentioned PR.

“Streaming platforms talking about being artist friendly sort of sounds like McDonalds talking about artisanal hamburgers—it sounds nice, but it won’t change anything.”

But controlling access to the distribution network, whether its terrestrial radio with Clear Channel, or the iTunes store, or Spotify means the artist will be subject to economics of other companies

Jim DeRogatis is the co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago public radio.

“I mean, you've got to remember, in the history of humankind making music, the idea of selling recordings, or selling access to it is a mere century and change old,” DeRogatis said.

Which is why, DeRogatis noted, artists will always be better off if they can sell their music directly to consumers, either at concerts, or their own online marketplace.

PODCAST: They're not coming to America

Mon, 2015-06-22 03:00

Players in financial markets are betting big money that Greece cuts a deal with its creditors soon. More on that. Plus, we'll have more context on Europe and its debt from Mark Blyth, Professor of Political Economy at Brown University and author of "Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea." And a technical glitch in the U.S. Visa system may cause a headache for thousands of visitors to the United States this summer.  We'll talk about the possible impact on recreational travelers, as well as visas for farmworkers from Mexico and visiting students.

A computer glitch spells trouble for visitors to the U.S.

Mon, 2015-06-22 02:00

Those going to the U.S. State Department’s website this week looking for a travel visa will likely get a message saying the department’s having technical difficulties. This is putting potentially tens of thousands of visitors and summer workers on hold.

The State Department says more than a hundred computer experts are working around the clock to fix the glitch. But Nathan Sales, who teaches law at Syracuse University, says he’s not optimistic it will be resolved quickly. "If you’re the State Department, and your visa processing system goes down, well, you’re not going to go out of business, and there’s no real accountability mechanism by which foreign citizens who would really like to visit family members or go to Disneyworld can hold you accountable."

Sales says it’s unfortunate any time of year, but it’s especially tough during peak travel season. "People aren’t able to come to the United States because of a technical glitch on our end, that’s going to have some real impact on our tourism industry."

Not to mention the potential effects on agriculture, which relies on migrant workers. Arnold Haiman teaches national security at George Washington University. "This is the time of year when there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, that you can’t wait, it won’t happen if the crops go bad.”

The State Department says it’s giving priority to farm workers.

The FCC takes action to deal with robocalls

Mon, 2015-06-22 02:00

The FCC is taking new action to deal with robocalls — recorded phone calls and text messages offering various products and services. Unwanted solicitations are annoying at best and can be fraudulent at worse. The FCC gets hundreds of thousands of angry complaints a year. In its declaratory rulings, the FCC aims to close loopholes and bulk up protection.

Consumer advocates are particularly pleased the FCC is now explicitly telling phone companies they can provide blocking technology. They’ve generally avoided doing so, claiming it wasn’t legal. Consumer advocates never bought this excuse. Now they want action from phone providers.

“We really hope that the companies stop stalling,” says Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel at Consumers Union, which has been pushing the FCC for these changes. “We hope that they will take the FCC’s words to heart and consumers’ wishes to heart.”

Some companies worry, saying the ruling opens them up to unfair lawsuits and that robocalls can be a legitimate way to reach people and sell products and services they want.

The FCC is allowing exemptions for certain urgent messages, such as a prescription drug refill reminder or bank fraud notification.

Mark Garrison: We all get this stuff. In my case, it’s recurring text messages from a company that is absolutely convinced I’m in the market for sunglasses and way too in love with emoji. The messages are incredibly annoying, sometimes worse.

Delara Derakhshani: A lot of them are fraudulent scams. Many of them are directed at vulnerable populations such as the elderly.

Delara Derakhshani is a lawyer at Consumers Union, which has been pushing the FCC for these changes. She’s thrilled the FCC is now explicitly telling phone companies they can provide blocking technology. They’ve generally avoided doing so, claiming it wasn’t legal. Consumer advocates never bought this excuse. Now they want action from wireless providers.

Delara Derakhshani: We really hope that the companies stop stalling. We hope that they will take the FCC’s words to heart and consumers’ wishes to heart.

Some companies worry, saying the ruling opens them up to unfair lawsuits and that robocalls can be a legit way to reach people. The FCC is allowing exemptions for urgent messages, such as a prescription drug refill reminder or fraud notification. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

The new math in healthcare: make money by saving money

Mon, 2015-06-22 02:00

Over the course of his career, Dr. Seth Berkowitz has met with patients much like one of his first – a 300-lb. farmer in rural North Carolina with diabetes and heart trouble.

“His own diet was highly processed food, and he knew that was making his health worse,” Berkowitz says. “You’d talk with him and he’d be like, ‘Oh, I know what I need to be doing. It’s just not an affordable thing for me.’”

Berkowitz says as he encountered the problem over and over – in North Carolina, the Bay Area and Boston – an idea hardened in in his mind. Many of his sickest patients would happily focus on health, if they could just deal with their more pressing problems first.

So Berkowitz, an internist, has designed a pilot program at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he works now, that he thinks just might work for his diabetic patients.  

“We’re working with an organization that delivers medically tailored meals to people in their houses," he says. “Good quality food. It’s made from ingredients grown in the Boston area. They have their own test kitchen.”

Berkowitz bets if he gets them eating healthier foods, his patients will need less medication, will move around more, and will be more productive.

He is one of handful of researcher trying to improve health for the patients sometimes called the 5/50s; the 5 percent of patients who use 50 percent of the resources. The program has the potential to improve health and save money on hospital bills paid by Medicaid and, by extension, American taxpayers.

It’s a growing idea in a healthcare landscape where providers are increasingly rewarded based on patients’ outcomes, not just the number of services provided.

The idea sounds simple, right? Spend $100 for a week’s worth of meals as a way to head off the repeated trips to the hospital that can run $6,000 to $10,000 a visit. Save a lot of healthcare spending by spending a little bit more on social services.

But here’s the problem: Doctors don’t know who is going to end up in the hospital. They just can’t predict it well enough, so they might spend lots of money on meals for people where food isn’t the problem at all.

At a clinic run by Massachusetts General Hospital in Revere, not far from Berkowitz’s Boston office, plenty of patients seem like they could be a good fit for the meals program.

There’s 71-year-old Tom Sullivan, who weighed 250 lbs. when he first showed up ten years ago.

Today, he weighs 316 lbs.

“Whatever I eat is either sandwiches or microwave – garbage,” he says. “Your body can tell you if you are doing good or not. And it hasn’t gotten any better.”

And there’s 39-year-old Carrie Walsh, who knows what food she wants to buy, even if she can’t afford it.

“I just feel really sad because I want to take care of myself,” she says, her voice catching. “And if I had the financial means, I’d be able to be eating better.”

Berkowitz says he’s got 1,500 Walshes and Sullivans he could enroll in the program, but he’s only got the budget for 50 of them.

What makes finding the right 50 even harder, says Harvard health economist Kate Baicker, is having healthy food on hand might not be enough.

“Maybe they don’t have a place for food deliveries,” says Baicker. “Maybe they don’t have adequate cooking facilities.”

The stated goal of this work – improving health and saving money – hinges on lining up the right patient with the right program.

Allison Hamblin with the Center for Health Care Strategies says the danger there is that healthcare providers won’t get it right.

“We need to prove that we can economically justify this work as part of healthcare,” she says. “And until we can demonstrate that this is cost-effective, it won’t be a mainstream activity.”

Poor targeting could sink a program financially. And right now, many providers doing this work don’t target at all, relying instead on referrals or a signups through a first-come, first-served basis.

Doctors and researchers in Washington state, San Diego and Dallas are developing predictive models they believe will take the guesswork out and lead to the right matches. That encourages Dr. Clemons Hong, a lead researcher in this field, but he says people must understand this problem needs more than a big data solution.

“I think the perfect marriage is data and relationships,” he says.

Hong says a trusting relationship – one where the healthcare workers really know the patient – is essential. Remember, he says, this is a group of people whose lives are turned inside and out.

He says a patient at high risk might start taking their medications for depression, or diabetes, or congestive heart failure and do well for a while. “Then mom dies, right? And then they get depressed again and stop taking their medication,” he says. “Then here we are all over again.”

That brings us back to Berkowitz, who is also trying to marry data and relationships.

In his modest, windowless office, Berkowitz reads off a couple questions to help him find patients best suited for the meal program.

All told, he’s created a 100-question survey, with questions like, “In the last three months, did you ever put off buying medication so that you would have money to buy food?” Or “I worried that my food would run out before I had money to buy more. Was that often true, sometimes true or never true?”

Crude as that may be, learning a patient’s complicated backstory may be the most effective way to move forward.

Even if cumbersome questionnaires are the best they’ve got, people in trenches, like nurse practitioner Christine Goscila, say they’ll take it.  

“You can see how frustrating it is for the patient,” she says. “Their weight steadily rises, and the insulin steadily rises. And it’s this vicious cycle that’s never stopped because that one issue that could fix it all isn’t being addressed.” 

Goscila says if it comes down to the providing meals or providing more insulin to help patients like Walsh or Sullivan, her money’s on the meals every time.

We are never, ever, ever ... giving away free music

Mon, 2015-06-22 01:56
July 30

The launch date for Apple Music, and the start of its controversial three-month trial period. The tech giant came under fire last week for reportedly forcing artists to forgo royalties during the trial. Apple caved late Sunday night after Taylor Swift posted an open letter shaming the company, the Verge reported.

1,000 robots

That's how many "Peppers" — a humanoid robot that can recognize human emotion — were made available for purchase on Saturday in Japan. Pepper costs around $1,600, with $200 in monthly fees. And as CNN reports, the first batch of bots sold out in about a minute.

$250,000

That's how high the average price is for an Indian wedding with hundreds of guests and days of festivities, one planner told Marketplace Weekend. It's a booming industry, and venues and vendors see lots of dollar signs.

$47 billion

That was the amount of money put forth by health insurer Anthem in a proposed deal to buy one of its competitors, Cigna. But that offer was later rejected by Cigna. Still, as the New York Times reports, its just one of several moves being made by health insurers to try and consolidate in a new market created by the Affordable Care Act.

2,900

That's how many interns Goldman Sachs is bringing on this year, and it's instituting new policies to reduce their stress level, Reuters reported. Now interns at Goldman will be required to leave the offices between midnight and 7 a.m., and take Saturdays off. Nothing says low-stress like a 17-hour workday, right?

33 officiants

That's how many are employed by Alan Katz's 24-hour elopement chapel in Long Beach, California. In his 11 years running the business, Katz says he's seen the number of people looking to elope grow exponentially. The reason: like any other successful business, they offer lower prices and convenience.

Fatherhood programs pair job training with therapy

Fri, 2015-06-19 13:33

If you work in social services in a town like Cheyenne, Wyoming, guys like Michael Peña are a big chunk of your budget.

“I’ve been in and out of prisons and jails,” Peña, 35, says. “Drug possessions, drug charges. It's been a rough one, man.”

Peña’s not a tall guy, but he’s encased in thick muscle, and he has tattoos running all the way up to the top of his bald head. Up until a few years ago he sold drugs with a local gang. Taxpayers shelled out a lot of money to pay for his prison stays and frequent trips to the local emergency room. He worked some shifts at McDonald's and on construction sites, but nothing really stuck. He was too ticked off all the time, something he says he got from his dad.

“He would go to the bar all night,” Peña says. “So I would never really see him unless he was pissed off or angry. Everything I learned, I learned from the streets.”

But then Peña’s sister got locked up, and he got custody of his 5-year-old nephew, Elijah. He was working construction at the time, and one of his buddies told him about Dad’s Making a Difference — a federally funded training program for low-income fathers.

Peña signed up for the free welding lessons. But the first week of class is spent with instructor Chuck Skinner, a psychotherapist. During one session Skinner has the class trained on a big paper chart. A black line divides it horizontally, and the top half is filled with words like “gratitude,” “create” and “chose.” Below, red letters spell out a different kind of vocabulary: “anger,” “fear” and “pain.”

“We can call them ‘life shocks,’ ” Skinner says as he squeaks his marker across the paper. “They are just going to happen.”

From there it's on to Freud and a brief overview of psychoanalysis. No welding tools in sight.

Michael Peña and his nephew Elijah. 

Miles Bryan

It may seem like a college psychology lecture, but lessons like this one on how to handle your emotions are more than 50 percent of the Dads Making a Difference curriculum. Since 2010, the Obama administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding similar fatherhood programs around the country. 

Chris Wiederspahn, the Dads Making a Difference director in Cheyenne, says most guys are drawn in by the promise of job training, but the softer stuff often turns out to be just as important to long-term stability. Wiederspahn says the skills you need to deal with a crying kid aren’t so different from what you need to deal with a frustrating boss.

Almost all of the guys who enroll in this program are felons or recovering addicts. But nine out of 10 in the Cheyenne program found jobs after graduating in the last few years, and most saw their wages go up by more than 50 percent.  

“You can’t separate being a better dad [from] being a better employee,” Wiederspahn says. “And a better citizen, and not going back to prison. They are connected, it's all connected."

This is a pretty big shift from when fatherhood programs took off back in the 1990s.

“A lot of the initial work was really focused on getting these guys jobs to pay child support,” says David Miller, a manager with Fatherhood.gov

But Miller says even if those dads could land jobs, they often struggled to keep them, or didn’t end up spending any of their paycheck on their kid. That’s why Miller hopes that combining job training with life skills is a smart bet in the long term for the dad and for the taxpayer.

“Addressing the anger, addressing the poor parenting is really important. Those are the kinds of things that, if we can address, we increase the likelihood that this man can be gainfully employed. And keep [his] job.”

Peña graduated from the Dads Making a Difference program last month, and he just landed a welding gig. It's good money to help raise Elijah.

“I won’t be upset or upset with myself because I can now provide for him,” Peña says.

Peña says he owes their close relationship and his new job to the program — the welding classes and the Freud.

Weekly Wrap: Greece, Federal Reserve and consumerism

Fri, 2015-06-19 12:57

Joining Adriene to talk about the week's business and economic news are Linette Lopez of Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. The big topics this week: Greece nears default, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen releases a message this week about the possibility of a rate hike and Pope Francis criticizes consumerism. 

 

Weekly Wrap:

Fri, 2015-06-19 12:57

Joining Adriene to talk about the week's business and economic news are Linette Lopez of Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. The big topics this week: Greece nears default, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen releases a message this week about the possibility of a rate hike and Pope Francis criticizes consumerism. 

 

Socially anxious? Try some kimchi

Fri, 2015-06-19 12:56

I'm delivering this to you — I'll admit it — with some amount of skepticism.

But it's kind of amazing.

And it's about pickles — one of the world's great foods.

Researchers at William & Mary and the University of Maryland say they've discovered a connection between eating fermented foods, such as pickles and kimchi, and feeling less anxious.

Just think, loading up on sauerkraut could help you ace that job interview. (Maybe.)  

Researchers still need to run experiments to see if they can prove any actual causation. 

Independent record labels push back against Apple

Fri, 2015-06-19 12:54

Taylor Swift’s smash album "1989" will not be available on Apple’s new music streaming service when it launches on June 30.

Swift has pulled the album from both Apple Music and Spotify over concerns the streaming services do not provide fair compensation for artists.

Now, independent artists and record labels are crying foul, too — upset over Apple’s contract stipulation of not paying artists’ royalties during the initial three-month roll out. Apple plans to charge customers $9.99 a month for the streaming service.

The Beggars Group is the parent company of indie labels such as Matador and 4AD, as well as popular artists such as Alabama Shakes, Adele and Radiohead. The company put up a blog post outlining its disagreement with Apple.

Still, Apple is a company that is very close to the hearts, and wallets, of many musicians, many of whom use Apple technology to produce their product, while also making a decent living selling music in its iTunes store.

But is all of that enough to convince independent artists to give away their music for free on Apple’s new streaming service?

“Maybe,” says Jim DeRogatis, co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio. 

“The models are changing so quickly, I don't know of any label, independent or major, that really has a clear idea of what Apple Radio, Apple Music or Beats Music is going to end up being,” DeRogatis says.

He notes that independent labels are right to be wary of any business model that devalues their product, but saying no to a company with the clout and reach of Apple is not an easy call.

“You know, many artists say, 'It's better to have people listening to my music, even if I'm not making any money, than not listening.' ”

But others say the fact that Apple spent months and months hammering out special arrangements with major labels, only to give independents a “take it or leave it” offer, just isn’t fair.

Jesse Von Doom is the CEO of Cash Music, a nonprofit tech startup that provides business tools for musicians.

“You're talking about a significant portion of the market that is dealt with as an afterthought, and that happened again with Apple,” Von Doom says.

“They're coming to people saying, 'Look, we're going to do this streaming product, we're the biggest company in the world, we have more money than God, and we're going to ask you to take the financial hit while we onboard customers.’"

Von Doom worries that Apple’s move into streaming and away from retail risks killing a really important source of income for musicians.

"I think it feels to a lot of artists like Apple is trying to make music just another feature of a phone." 

Indpedendent record labels push back against Apple

Fri, 2015-06-19 12:54

Taylor Swift’s smash album "1989" will not be available on Apple’s new music streaming service when it launches on June 30.

Swift has pulled the album from both Apple Music and Spotify over concerns the streaming services do not provide fair compensation for artists.

Now, independent artists and record labels are crying foul, too — upset over Apple’s contract stipulation of not paying artists’ royalties during the initial three-month roll out. Apple plans to charge customers $9.99 a month for the streaming service.

The Beggars Group is the parent company of indie labels such as Matador and 4AD, as well as popular artists such as Alabama Shakes, Adele and Radiohead. The company put up a blog post outlining its disagreement with Apple.

Still, Apple is a company that is very close to the hearts, and wallets, of many musicians, many of whom use Apple technology to produce their product, while also making a decent living selling music in its iTunes store.

But is all of that enough to convince independent artists to give away their music for free on Apple’s new streaming service?

“Maybe,” says Jim DeRogatis, co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio. 

“The models are changing so quickly, I don't know of any label, independent or major, that really has a clear idea of what Apple Radio, Apple Music or Beats Music is going to end up being,” DeRogatis says.

He notes that independent labels are right to be wary of any business model that devalues their product, but saying no to a company with the clout and reach of Apple is not an easy call.

“You know, many artists say, 'It's better to have people listening to my music, even if I'm not making any money, than not listening.' ”

But others say the fact that Apple spent months and months hammering out special arrangements with major labels, only to give independents a “take it or leave it” offer, just isn’t fair.

Jesse Von Doom is the CEO of Cash Music, a nonprofit tech startup that provides business tools for musicians.

“You're talking about a significant portion of the market that is dealt with as an afterthought, and that happened again with Apple,” Von Doom says.

“They're coming to people saying, 'Look, we're going to do this streaming product, we're the biggest company in the world, we have more money than God, and we're going to ask you to take the financial hit while we onboard customers.’"

Von Doom worries that Apple’s move into streaming and away from retail risks killing a really important source of income for musicians.

"I think it feels to a lot of artists like Apple is trying to make music just another feature of a phone." 

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