National News

Alabama Bill Would Increase Workers' Comp Benefits For Amputees

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 08:49

A proposal to nearly triple the maximum compensation for workers who lose a limb follows an investigation that showed Alabama to have the lowest permanent partial disability benefits in the country.

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Quick Income Changes Can Threaten Coverage For Those On Medicaid

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 08:41

Obamacare added millions of new customers whose incomes hover near the Medicaid line. When their earnings rise or fall, their health insurance could lapse while they're switching plans.

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Debate: Has The President Exceeded His War Powers Authority?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 08:30

President Obama has launched a sustained, long-term military campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Four legal experts debate whether he had the constitutional power to do so.

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Hold The Mammal: Daring To Make Dairy-Free Cheese From Nuts

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 08:29

A new generation of cheese-makers is culturing the milk of nuts like almond and cashew with bacteria. The idea is to give the cheese more umami taste than what many other vegan products have.

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Lucille Ball Sculptor Apologizes For 'By Far My Most Unsettling' Work

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 07:47

"I take full responsibility for 'Scary Lucy,' " artist Dave Poulin says, adding that he didn't mean "to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image."

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Remembering Phyllis Klotman, Who Created An Amazing Collection Of Black Cinema

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 07:46

Phyllis R. Klotman made it her life's work to find and preserve black films. She found more than 3,000 films that may have disappeared otherwise.

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Greece Puts A Figure On Nazi-Era Reparations From Germany

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 07:22

Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told a parliamentary panel the figure was about $305.1 billion. It's the first time Greece has set a figure for the German occupation in the 1940s.

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Can Obama Turn Pariahs Into Partners?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 07:20

The president's tenure has been marked by outreach to nations that previous U.S. presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, ostracized for decades. It may take years to see if this approach succeeds.

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Watch Jon Stewart Defend Trevor Noah On 'The Daily Show'

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 06:17

Stewart, the show's host, called Noah, the man named to succeed him, "an incredibly thoughtful and ... funny ... individual." Noah had been criticized for the tone and content of some of his tweets.

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Hospitals innovate to keep patients from coming back

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-07 05:44

Mary Knight is in the lobby of Elyria Medical Center in, Elyria Ohio.  She was admitted three days earlier because of difficulty breathing, and she was waiting for her husband to pick her up. Knight explained she has asthma and a lung disease called COPD.  In her hands is a packet from the hospital containing 30 days of free steroids and antibiotics.

“And then they also gave me a prescription for Cingular which is going to help with the asthma,” Knight said.

Every patient with a diagnosis of COPD at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center leaves with that packet.  It’s one of the ways they are trying to keep this fragile group of patients from landing back in the hospital and driving up their readmission rates.

The government thinks sick patients are coming back to the hospital too soon. So a couple of years ago, the department of Health and Human Services decided to give hospitals a financial nudge in the right direction – by penalizing the hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements if the number of patients who came back to the hospital within 30 days exceeded the national average. 

It’s supposed to encourage hospitals to find ways to keep patients healthier.  The result is that hospitals are spending lots of money to find ways to keep patients from coming back – but there’s no consensus about what’s best for patients.

Wei Jen Chang, a hospitalist at UCSD who has studied the problem of readmission rates in patients with COPD, has done research that suggests it’s not the quality of care in the hospital that’s critical to keeping COPD patients healthy. It’s what happens and doesn’t happen after they leave.

“Not having good follow up, not being compliant with their medications, not having appropriate oxygen therapies…” Chang said, citing common problems that occur after discharge.

Chang and his team have lobbied his hospital for money to hire coordinators to follow up with their COPD patients and help them get outpatient services, but so far they’ve been unsuccessful.

“As it turns out, even if you are making a difference in the lives of patients for the better you may not be making a difference for the better in your hospital’s bottom line,” Chang says.

At Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, officials have done something similar to what Chang hopes to do. They hired a half dozen staff to identify patients at risk for readmission and guide their outpatient care. As a result, they have managed to reduce their readmission rates by 20 percent, said Alfred Connors, Metro Health’s chief of medicine.

“We can make quite a difference in the readmission rate,” says Connors “It’s clearly better for our patients – so we should do that.

But the question is what are hospitals willing to invest to do it? It’s clear that hospitals want healthier patients.  It’s less clear how much of their own financial health they’ll need to sacrifice to get there.

Pew: Japan And U.S. Respect Each Other And Distrust China

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 05:37

Japanese and Americans surveyed say they want the two nations to remain close, or get closer. And they share a suspicion of China.

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5 Things You Should Know About Sen. Rand Paul

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 05:03

The 52-year-old ophthalmologist has founded an eye clinic for low-income patients and once stood on the Senate floor for nearly 13 hours. Here's what else you might not know or remember.

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In Movie Piracy Case, Australian ISPs Are Ordered To Share Customers' Info

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 04:10

It's being called a landmark ruling in Australia, where delayed film release dates are blamed for helping create one of the highest rates of web piracy in the world.

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Sen. Rand Paul Poised To Announce 2016 Presidential Run

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 03:32

The Republican senator from Kentucky looks to get a jump on what is likely to be a crowded GOP field in 2016. Polls show him in a three-way tie for third place for his party's nomination.

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Rand Paul, Can A Libertarian Win The Republican Primary?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 03:03

As Rand Paul embarks on a presidential campaign, he doesn't fit into the mold of either party neatly. Especially on foreign policy, the Kentucky senator faces a challenge.

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In Reclaimed Tikrit, Mass Graves From ISIS's Brutal Occupation

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-07 03:03

As many as 1,700 people are believed to be in mass graves that have been unearthed near the site of a massacre of Iraqi soldiers manning a former U.S. military base.

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PODCAST: A Matzo empire leaves New York

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-07 03:00

Airing on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015: Today we get an updated picture on consumer credit - that is, how much Americans borrow, not counting mortgages. A preview on that. Plus, Vice President Joe Biden is speaking at a conference hosted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development today. Traditionally, HUD has partnered with private business and nonprofits to build housing for people without much money, and the need for these kinds of public-private partnerships is on the rise while funding for them is harder to come by. Plus, an estimated 40 percent of domestic matzo--unleavened crackery bread central to the Jewish celebration of passover--is produced by a single, family-run business that has been operating out of New York's Lower East Side since practically the dawn of time. But it's moving out of New York this summer. 

Starbucks CEO wants us to Learn Together, too

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-07 02:02

Since last summer, Starbucks has been paying for college for some of its employees. Now that program is going from Tall to—what shall we say—Grande?

CEO Howard Schultz has just announced that the Starbucks education money for online degrees through Arizona State University will now kick in for the early years of college, not just the last two. It's just one of a number of projects at the company that are more about social change than coffee, tea and muffins. A few weeks ago, the company tried to foster a national discussion about issues of race that proved controversial.

Click the media player above to hear Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz talk about expanding the company's education initiative, as well as the lessons learned from the previous campaign.


A group of Atlanta educators caught cheating

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-07 02:00

Eleven educators in Atlanta’s public school system were convicted last week in what’s being called the largest cheating scandal in American history. The group included teachers, testing officials and school administrators in the state of Georgia.  

The cheating was discovered through an unrelated data analysis by state officials in 2009. They examined standardized tests from schools across the state and found that an overwhelming number of Atlanta’s public schools reported tests where the wrong answer was erased and replaced with the right answer.  

“What the takeaway is, as state prosecutors just proved, is there was a district wide conspiracy to  cheat on these standardized tests,” said Rose Scott, a reporter and co-host of A Closer Look on WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station.

It’s still unclear, said Scott, whether teachers influenced students to change test answers or changed the answers themselves. “It’s a combination of both according to state officials and state investigators,” she added.

The analysis was fair overall, said Scott, because the state officials had not singled out public schools in Atlanta.

“But when the data came back, it showed that there was a high number of wrong to right erasures,” she said.

The cheating has raised other questions about the Atlanta public school system - for example, 80 percent of the students in it are at or near the poverty level, said Scott.   

“A huge percentage of them need additional resources for taking this test, but those additional resources did not mean teachers changing answers just to pass them on to the next grade or teachers changing answers to meet a high standard that was set by the district to begin with,” said Scott.


Alcoa faces pressure to cut cost

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-07 02:00

Alcoa reports earnings this Wednesday. The aluminum manufacturer is hoping to boost earnings by producing less aluminum, or smelting. Increased competition, especially from China, is pressuring Alcoa to reduce costs, close smelting plants and focus on more sophisticated finished aluminum products. This part of a strategy to compete against China, which once produced 5 percent of the world’s aluminum. Now it produces 50. And it’s being exported. 

Click the media player above to hear more.