National News

Doing the numbers on the super rich

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 12:16

The collective wealth of the world's 80 richest people matches the wealth of the poorest 50 percent of the population. That's according to new data from Oxfam, which says the super-rich are getting much richer. In 2010, it took 388 of the richest people to match half of the global wealth.

It is a powerful comparison but can also be abstract. Indeed. Oxfam has been criticized for the way it calculates global wealth. What does all this money actually look like? We pulled the top names off Forbes' billionaire list to see if we could come up with equivalents that could help you picture their net worth.

The Walton Family: $160.2 billion

The heirs to Wal-Mart founders Sam and Bud Walton are four of the 15 richest people in the world, with more than $160 billion split between Christy, Rob, Alice and Jim Walton. That's as much as Apple's notoriously large cash reserves.

Bill Gates: $80.6 billion

The Microsoft founder has donated much of his personal wealth via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He could still buy Uber twice, but just barely.

Warren Buffet and Carlos Slim: About $73 billion apiece

They're neck-and-neck for second place on Forbe's rich list. If they joined forces, they could level out the hit Russia's economy took this fall from sanctions and dropping oil prices.

Another fun fact: Buffet earned $13.5 billion in 2013 alone, meaning it took him just two minutes to earn $51,900, the median household income in the U.S. This tool from Penny Stocks Lab calculates how long it took Buffet to earn your wage:

Amancio Ortega: $61.4 billion

The fashion tycoon hails from Spain, but his net worth is equal to the GDP of the Dominican Republic.

Koch Brothers: $41 billion each

Charles and David Koch are known for running Koch Inudstries, one of the largest privately held companies in the world, as well as for their political activism and charitable donations. With their personal fortunes, the brothers could both cover the costs of every major national election from 1998 to 2014 and still have several billion left over.

Larry Elison: $54.5 billion

His daughter is producing Oscar-winning movies, but with his personal wealth, Larry Elison could buy every team in the NFL plus half of the teams in the MLB.

Liliane Bettencourt: $38 billion

If the 92-year-old L'Oreal heiress wanted, she could fund the European Space Agency for about a decade, or NASA for two years.

Michael Bloomberg: $35 billion

The media mogul was mayor of New York, but his personal fortune almost exactly matches the Gross Metropolitan Product of Tuscon, Arizona.

 And that's just the start: there are 67 more billionaires in that top 80, adding up to a net worth of $1.9 trillion. 

Obama's Big Bid To Change Sick-Leave Laws May Hinge On Small Business

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 12:16

The president's call for mandatory paid sick days starred in his State of the Union address. But forget the big speech: It may be small businesses — and state lawmakers — that decide this debate.

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The euro is dropping, but airfares aren't

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 12:11

Your dollar may go further in Europe these days — but you'll have to get there first.

Airlines know that a weak euro will boost tourism, and they're raising the price of tickets from the U.S. to Europe, Asia and South America accordingly. On the flip side, airlines are cutting prices on flights originating in Europe to ensure demand remains high.

As fuel prices hit record highs over the past decade, many airlines ditched gas-guzzling jumbo jets for smaller aircraft with fewer seats. A drop in fuel prices may mean that some of those larger carriers return to the skies. That should — and the key word is should — lead to a drop in prices.

Debate: Is Amazon The Reader's Friend?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 12:01

Two teams of editors and writers, including best-selling author Scott Turow, face off over Amazon's influence over the publishing industry, in the latest debate from Intelligence Squared U.S.

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Striving to get to 'HIV zero'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 11:49

Fifteen years ago, the Millennium Development Goals challenged the world to stop and begin to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015. The world missed that goal, and today, 35 million people are still living with HIV and millions are suffering from AIDS. It can be hard to see how to bend the curve on the spread of this virus.

However, several places have managed to start to make inroads against the virus. Vancouver, British Columbia, and San Francisco have both made strides in reducing the spread of the virus. Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to end the HIV epidemic in the state. Another city that’s had some success is Washington, D.C.

“We had about 1,300 cases at a peak in 2007, and we are just under 500 as our preliminary numbers for 2013,” says Michael Kharfen, head of the Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration

The district’s three-pronged strategy of outreach, treatment and prevention is the secret to its success, according to Kharfen.

Outreach means finding and testing as many people as possible – in schools, hospitals and on street corners. Sometimes Washington residents have to opt out of a test.

Treatment means getting people who are HIV positive into medical care and onto HIV medications as soon as possible, so they can stay healthy. Recent studies have shown that this method, known as “Treatment as Prevention” or “TasP” makes HIV positive people more than 95 percent less likely to transmit the virus to someone else, Kharfen says.

Prevention means needle exchanges, safer sex ad campaigns and giving out millions of free condoms. All this was achieved, Kharfen said, with an annual budget of around $85 million.

Another factor, he says, is the close relationship between Washington's government and its medical providers, like Whitman-Walker Health. It has many LGBT and low-income clients, two groups that bear a disproportionate burden of HIV infection.

“You can show that over a four-year period you can reduce the incidence of HIV by 70 percent and really get a marked improvement,” says Dr. Richard Elion, Whitman-Walker Health's clinical research director. “But that last 30 percent, over time, is not showing a decline. And that now is really where the illness is.”

So how do public health officials hit a shrinking target?

Washington has to get creative, Elion says. Whitman-Walker runs public health studies and surveys that look at at the next generation of HIV/AIDS treatments, approaches that include new medications and cold hard cash. One study looks at the impact of paying HIV-positive people a couple hundred dollars a year if they remain HIV undetectable, and therefore not infectious. Compare that to the roughly $20,000 it can cost for medicine for each newly infected patient.

Providers face challenges in getting patients to adhere to treatment for most chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, Elion says. “The difference is that HIV because it’s an infectious disease has ramifications as a result of that lack of control," he says.

Whitman-Walker’s surveys helped show that a new prevention strategy known as "pre-exposure prophylaxis," or "PrEP," which involves taking HIV medicine to prevent infection, works in the real world. 

Methods like these, known as biomedical interventions, should chip away at that shrinking target, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And as for those lofty Millennium Development Goals? It's OK to miss a target, he says.

“When you set a goal and strive for it – although you may not reach precisely the goal that you set – it increases the energy, it increases the effort and it increases the fate that you’re going to get there,” Fauci says.

The ultimate goal is a world of “HIV zero,” no more AIDS deaths and no more HIV transmissions, Fauci says. He and other scientists say that day probably won’t come until there is a safe and effective vaccine, and that’s at least a decade away.

Maybe Early Humans Weren't The First To Get A Good Grip

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 11:45

The opposable thumb you use to hold a pencil was long thought to be a defining aspect of humans. But an analysis of finger bones suggests stone tool use by pre-humans — perhaps 3 million years ago.

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Jeff Gordon Says 2015 Will Be His Last Full NASCAR Season

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 11:39

Jeff Gordon, who announced today that he won't race full-time after this year. Now 43, Gordon has been part of competitive racing since he was 5 years old.

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What's More Nutritious, Orange Juice Or An Orange? It's Complicated

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 11:39

A study suggests that when it comes to oranges, juice may unlock more of some beneficial nutrients for our bodies to absorb than fruit does. But don't use that as an excuse to gulp down OJ just yet.

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Pipeline spill exposes a fracking cost

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 11:35

From North Dakota comes word of a record oil and gas spill. No, not the petroleum itself, but the wastewater from the fracking process. And these days there’s a lot of it.

The water could be toxic, even though federal rules exempt it from treatment as hazardous waste. Fracking pumps huge volumes of water into the well, and even more comes back out. A typical well can spit about 1,000 gallons a day. Some of the water is recycled back into fracking, stored in pits or used to de-ice roads. It's also injected deep underground, which has been known to cause earthquakes.

How Much More (Or Less) Would You Make If We Rolled Back Inequality?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 10:39

What would incomes look like for U.S. families today if the income distribution were the same as it was in 1979?

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House Approves Bill That Would Bar Federal Funding For Abortions

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 09:42

A bill that would prohibit using federal money to pay for "any abortion" or for "health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion" has been approved by the House.

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Google could be your next wireless carrier

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 09:22

Google reportedly plans to get into the wireless technology space by piggybacking off of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks. 

The search-engine giant would effectively rent excess network capacity from those providers so it could then sell its own wireless service plans to customers.

Sprint wouldn't comment on the rumored deal.  T-Mobile pretty much said, "Um, go ask Google." Google is keeping mum.

“I think they're looking at adding some other type of value beyond just a cheaper price,” says Bill Menezes of the research firm Gartner.

The wireless industry is already highly competitive, with carriers jockeying to provide cheaper plans and shorter contracts. So it might seem odd that Google would want to get into the game. Google will likely come up with some kind of "wireless services plus” package to differentiate itself, according to Menezes.

“They have other things to offer, whether it's YouTube-oriented or something related to Google apps, if you're a business," he says.

Another possibility is that Google will try to perfect a way of letting customers move seamlessly between wireless and WiFi service, which would disrupt how wireless carriers work. 

“The innovation here is going to be for them to develop ways in which they provide ubiquitous access to, ultimately, what Google wants, which is Google's applications,” says Pai-ling Yin, a social science research scholar at Stanford University's Institute of Economic Policy Research. 

Ultimately, Google may just want to learn more about being a carrier – and experiment with ways to expand Internet access in remote areas, Yin says.

What's in it for Sprint and T-Mobile?  If Google pays to use their excess network capacity, that would help offset costs they incurred building up their wireless networks.

What’s QE and the ECB got to do with you and me?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 08:56

The European Central Bank’s quantitative easing bond-buying program is supposed to boost the eurozone’s economy. It could also have some big effects on this side of the pond. A stronger dollar hurts tourism and exporters, but some of that European cash could find its way to our shores in other ways.

Disneyland Measles Outbreak Hits 59 Cases And Counting

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 08:24

People from 7 months to 70 years old have fallen ill, and one quarter of the victims have been hospitalized. California officials say it's proof yet again of how easily measles spreads.

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Quiz: Not as ready as they think they are

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 07:50

Employers say recent college grads overestimate how prepared they are for jobs, according to a survey.

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Israel's Netanyahu Accepts Invitation To Address Congress

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 07:32

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint meeting of Congress on March 3, three weeks later than he was originally scheduled to speak after an invitation by House Speaker John Boehner.

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Hello, I Must Be Squatting

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 07:00

You're a new Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. A villager comes by. Do you a) give a high five b) nod your head respectfully or c) squat and say "n naa."

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Patriots Coach Bill Belichick Denies Knowledge Of Deflated Footballs

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 06:18

His comments come amid reports that 11 of 12 footballs used by the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game were underinflated — an apparent advantage. The NFL is investigating the matter.

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The State of the (Film) Union

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 06:16

The Oscars debates are alive and well this year.

One of the most talked-about films of this Oscars season is "American Sniper," which — despite a $90 million debut weekend at the box office — is receiving mixed reviews from critics, including Grantland's Wesley Morris.

"I feel like there's a second half to the movie that is only hinted at," Morris said. "The intent is to complicate the automatic urge to turn a guy like [Bradley Cooper's character] Chris Kyle into a hero ... and the thing the movie sets out to do, it just doesn't achieve, I think in part because the script isn't that good."

Watch the trailer for American Sniper here:

Morris acknowledges that Hollywood has a diversity problem, saying the Academy needs "to actively invite people of color." But, he says, it's not the sole issue surrounding the nominations. He points to the release timeline of the film "Selma."

"Selma opened on Christmas Day. It went wide on January 9. This is not really enough time to enter the collective cultural consciousness," he said. "It gives people who thought Selma was a possible Oscar front-runner time to mount a campaign against it."

Watch the trailer for "Selma" here:

ECB Unveils Massive Bond-Buying Stimulus Program For Eurozone

NPR News - Thu, 2015-01-22 05:44

Its chief said the European Central Bank will buy 60 billion euros worth of bonds each month until either September 2016 or when inflation reaches about 2 percent.

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