National News

Has Vladimir Putin Just Overplayed His Hand?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 08:15

The Russia leader was riding high at home this year with the successful Winter Olympics and his annexation of Crimea. Now he's staring at a recession and has alienated Western nations that could help.

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Hunt For Dengue Vaccine Gets Closer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 08:12

Dengue sickens millions of people each year, and there's no cure. Now scientists have found powerful antibodies that stop the virus. Their discovery offers a road map to develop a simple vaccine.

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FIFA Dismisses U.S. Lawyer's Appeal On Handling Of World Cup Report

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 07:41

Michael Garcia had filed an appeal against how his report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cup was handled. FIFA said his appeal is inadmissible.

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Jeb Bush Announces He Will 'Actively Explore' Presidential Run

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 06:34

Bush, a GOP favorite, said he would establish a political action committee in January to "facilitate conversations with citizens across America."

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Book News: James Patterson Makes Good On $1M Promise To Indies

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 06:26

With a final $437,000 push, his plan to donate $1 million of his own money to support independent booksellers is complete. Also: Judy Blume is set to publish her first adult novel in 15 years.

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Thousands Lay Flowers At The Site Hostage Siege In Sydney

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 05:24

A day after two people, plus a gunman were killed in a hostage siege, thousands of Australians left bouquets of flowers. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife visited and signed a condolence book.

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Quiz: Studying social networks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 04:46

The most discussed academic paper on the web in 2014 involved manipulating social media users, according to Altmetric rankings of online research.

We talked about the study back in July.

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Few Employers Cover Egg Freezing For Women With Cancer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 04:22

Although egg freezing is the perk of the moment at some high-profile companies, the option isn't often available, even for women with serious illnesses that could affect their fertility.

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Russia's Rate Increase Fails To Stop Currency's Steep Decline

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 03:41

The ruble plunged to a record low against the dollar, today, despite efforts by the Russian central bank to stabilize it.

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Is Courting Controversy An Urban Outfitters Strategy?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 03:03

Questionable sincerity aside, the recent pileup of apparent missteps by the retailer raises another question: Is the company doing it on purpose?

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PODCAST: Lend me your art

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 03:00

How the falling price of oil and its effects on the economy might factor into the deliberations of the Federal Reserve this week. And while the economic scars of the recession largely started to heal by 2013 for white Americans, minority Americans are still feeling an acute decline in wealth, according to Federal Reserve data that was crunched by the Pew Research Center. We dig into one of the reasons why: Housing. Plus, while western sanctions bite more deeply into the Russian economy, and there's talk of a new Cold War, the British Museum has stunned the world with an extraordinary gesture.  It's lent a priceless Greek antiquity to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. But why lend to the Russians? 

Taliban Gunmen Storm School, Kill Dozens In Pakistan

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:35

Officials said the death toll stood at 126 more than half of them were students. The school is run by the military and the Taliban said they were retaliating for a recent military offensive.

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Wealth gap in U.S. widens among races

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:00

As the economy recovers, the wealth gap along racial lines in the U.S. is widening.

What’s driving the divide? Recent research shows one big reason is the disparity in asset wealth. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

Wealth gap widens among races

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:00

As the economy recovers, the wealth gap along racial lines is widening.

What’s driving the divide? Recent research shows one big reason is the disparity in asset wealth. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

How will the Fed respond to plummeting oil prices?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:00

The Federal Reserve is expected to make some big announcements this week on the heels of meetings in Washington where Janet Yellen and her colleagues will discuss the health of the U.S. economy. One subject that will undoubtedly come up: Plummeting oil prices. As of today, oil is hovering right around $60 a barrel. So how will oil’s new low, low price affect the Fed’s anticipated policy changes?

Let’s start with inflation. One of the Fed’s stated goals is to increase inflation in the U.S. from its current 1.7 percent, to a target rate of 2 percent, “and all that’s going on in the energy sector is somewhat disinflationary if not deflationary,” says  Marilyn Cohen, president of Envision capital management. She thinks falling prices in the energy sector could make the Fed cautious about raising interest rates.

But Americans spending less on fuel means consumers have more money for goods and services, “and that,” says former Fed economist Morris Davis, “should create, or at least be correlated, with new job creation.”

Money not being spent on oil would do more good for the economy than the hit that U.S. oil companies will take, and Davis thinks the Fed sees these low oil prices as a new, longer term reality. “If that’s what the Federal Reserve is thinking then they would I guess, assume an extended boom on these low oil prices.”

A continuing boom would be a signal to the Fed that says "go ahead, raise interest rates." The Fed will issue its statement on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating health insurance for small businesses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:00

This is Mike Brey’s busiest time of year. 

Brey owns four Hobby Works toy stores in Maryland and Virginia, and he’s got about 50 full- and part-time workers. He huddles with one at his store in Laurel, Maryland, in an aisle jam-packed with remote-control cars. They're talking inventory.

Brey is just getting over a cold. There’s no time to sleep around the holidays if you own a toy store, and no time to look over health insurance plans – one of his least favorite chores.

“Yeah, I hate it,” he says.

Still, Brey does provide insurance for his employees, even though he doesn’t have to, because he has fewer than 50 full-timers. Brey leads me to his back office and computer, where he’s been noodling around on Maryland’s SHOP website, which was set up under the Affordable Care Act to connect small businesses with health insurers.

“There we go," he says, clicking on the site and reading. "See details of SHOP plans for 2014 coverage.”

Brey says he used to have only a couple of plans to choose from. But on the SHOP exchange, “You have CareFirst offering, Coventry, Evergreen, Kaiser, United.”

But here’s the thing: Brey’s just browsing, not buying. And he’s not alone.

“It’s been, admittedly, a little slow getting out of the starting gate,” says Sabrina Corlette, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. 

She says there are a number of reasons enrollment in the SHOP exchanges isn’t taking off. They’ve had technical problems, and a tax credit small businesses get for using SHOP is hard to apply for.

“I’ve heard from some small businesses that they’d have to pay their accountant and broker more than they actually would get back in benefits,” she says.

Still, there is some evidence that businesses could get a deal on SHOP. 

“We found, in general, that plans on the SHOP cost less than those off the SHOP," says Jon Gabel, a senior fellow at NORC, a University of Chicago research center. "Could be 9 percent lower on average.”

Still, Gabel says, it’s too soon to say whether the SHOP exchanges will survive.  

But Brey hopes they stick around. He says he’ll start some serious insurance shopping after the holiday rush.

Will oil’s price affect the Fed?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:00

The Federal Reserve is expected to make some big announcements this week, coming on the heels of meetings in Washington where Janet Yellen and her colleagues will be discussing the health of the U.S. economy. One subject that will undoubtedly come up is plummeting oil prices. As of today, oil is hovering right around $60 a barrel. So how will oil’s new low, low price affect the Fed’s anticipated policy changes?

Let’s start with inflation. One of the Fed’s stated goals is to increase inflation in the U.S. from its current 1.7 percent, to a target rate of 2 percent, “and all that’s going on in the energy sector is somewhat disinflationary if not deflationary,” says  Marilyn Cohen, president of Envision capital management. She thinks falling prices in the energy sector could make the Fed cautious about raising interest rates.

But Americans spending less on fuel means consumers have more money for goods and services, “and that,” says former Fed economist Morris Davis, “should create, or at least be correlated, with new job creation.”

Money not being spent on oil would do more good for the economy than the hit that U.S. oil companies will take, and Davis thinks the Fed sees these low oil prices as a new, longer term reality. “If that’s what the Federal Reserve is thinking then they would I guess, assume an extended boom on these low oil prices.”

A continuing boom would be a signal to the Fed that says go ahead, raise interest rates. The Fed will issue its statement on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the pulse of SHOP exchanges

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 02:00

This is Mike Brey’s busiest time of year. 

Brey owns four Hobby Works toy stores in Maryland and Virginia, and he’s got about 50 full and part-time workers. He huddles with one at his store in Laurel, Maryland, in an aisle jam-packed with remote-control cars. They're talking inventory.

Brey is just getting over a cold. There’s no time to sleep around the holidays if you own a toy store, and no time to look over health insurance plans — one of his least favorite chores.

“Yeah, I hate it,” he says.

Still, Brey does provide insurance for his employees, even though he doesn’t have to, because he has fewer than 50 full-timers. Brey leads me to his back office and computer, where he’s been noodling around on Maryland’s SHOP website, which was set up under the Affordable Care Act to connect small businesses with health insurers.

“There we go," he says, clicking on the site and reading. "See details of SHOP plans for 2014 coverage.”

Brey says he used to have only a couple of plans to choose from. But on the SHOP exchange, “You have CareFirst offering, Coventry, Evergreen, Kaiser, United.”

But here’s the thing: Brey’s just browsing, not buying. And he’s not alone.

“It’s been, admittedly, a little slow getting out of the starting gate,” says Sabrina Corlette, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. 

She says there are a number of reasons enrollment in the SHOP exchanges isn’t taking off. They’ve had technical problems, and a tax credit small businesses get for using SHOP is really hard to apply for.

“I’ve heard from some small businesses that they’d have to pay their accountant and broker more than they actually would get back in benefits,” she says.

Still, there is some evidence that businesses could get a deal on SHOP. 

“We found, in general, that plans on the SHOP cost less than those off the SHOP," says Jon Gabel, a senior fellow at NORC, a University of Chicago research center. "Could be 9 percent lower on average.”

Still, Gabel says, it’s too soon to say whether the SHOP exchanges will survive.  

But Brey hopes they stick around. He says he’ll start some serious insurance shopping after the holiday rush.

Pulling the Ruble out of the rubble

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-12-16 01:30
17 percent

Russia raised its interest rate in the middle of the night to 17 percent, as reported by the New York Times. The move came in response to a slip in the worth of the ruble by 10 percent on Monday. 

$5 million

That's how much money the nonprofit Invisible Children made in just 48 hours after their video "Kony 2012" redefined viral. The windfall was soon followed by a wave of criticism that cost donations and irreparably damaged the group's reputation. Two years later, Invisible Children has announced it will let most of its staff go, Buzzfeed reported, and raise $150,000 for a planned phase-out of its programs in 2015.

$60

That's about where the cost of a barrel of oil currently rests. The record low prices have some wondering how upcoming announcements (expected this week) from the Federal Reserve will be affected.

0

The number of people who lead the practices outlined in the Senate's CIA torture report who are still working in government. All of them are now retired or in the private sector. Mashable has a "where are they now?" feature.

50 full-time employees

Small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not required to provide health insurance. But in the case that they do, many are having a tough time navigating exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, specifically in what is known as a SHOP exchange.

$2.44

The cost of a half-gallon of milk, one of many items featured in the New Yorker's "gift guide for the boyfriend who has nothing."

Judge Regrets Harsh Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

NPR News - Tue, 2014-12-16 00:03

Thousands of people are imprisoned for decades, if not life, because of tough drug sentences. Now judges, lawyers and advocates ask whether it's time to dial back those penalties.

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