National News

Want to get in shape? Get chased by zombies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 15:00

You've seen those high-tech bracelets worn by everyone from Oklahoma City Thunder hoops star Kevin Durant to Apple CEO Tim Cook. And yet, Nike reportedly is going to shutter the division, and lay off the engineers, who make the athletic company's FuelBand wearable fitness tracker. 

 

Is the wearable fitness device market slowing down? No, not really. In fact, for many, the standard Fitbit or calorie-counter apps are too basic. Check out these unconventional additions to the list of tech aimed at getting you in shape.

 

Coach Alba

 

Not everyone can afford a personal trainer or a life coach who takes responsibility for their clients' health. That's where Coach Alba comes in. After answering a survey on pivotal moments in daily life, Coach Alba is designed to text users during "crucial moments" to remind them of goals, and to encourage good behavior. If, for example, late night snacking is your vice, Coach Alba will ping you in the evening with reminders of what you've already eaten that day. Find out more about Coach Alba here.

 

 

Pact

 

If you think words are cheap, then Pact might be the right phone app for you. Aside from allowing you to track your diet and exercise on your phone, Pact adds the element of financial reward if you keep your set goals. Your pay off comes at the expense of fellow users who did not make it to the gym when they said they would, or those who ate a donut instead of a salad. Be warned: fail at meeting your goals, and you end up paying more successful Pact users with your hard earned cash. Find out more about Pact here.

 

 

GymShamer

 

Like Pact, GymShamer uses public accountability as motivation. Unlike Pact, you pay with your dignity, not your money. GymShamer is set up to notify your friends via your social media accounts when you miss a trip to the gym. Winner of a Foursquare hackathon in January, GymShamer may be coming to an embarrassing social media debacle near you. Find out more about GymShamer here.

 

GymShamer

 

Striiv

 

If you're a gamer, gameplay advantages may be more your speed. The Striiv Pedometer rewards the amount of steps you've taken by providing goods for a Farmville-esque game on your phone and computer. In this case, you're populating an enchanted island with trees and animals. It's like Lost, but with rewards for people who continue to pay attention. Find out more about Striiv here.

 

 

Zombies, Run!

 

Speaking of gaming and fitness, "Zombies, Run!" is an app that places the user in the middle of a post-apocalyptic dystopia where running isn't just for exercise, it's for survival. Like Striiv, the more you exercise, the more rewards you receive. Unlike Striiv, you're also running for your life. "Zombies, Run!" will instruct the user on how far they have to go in order to escape the hoarde of imaginary zombies following close behind. Think "Running Dead," not "Walking Dead." Find out more about "Zombies, Run!" here.

 

U.S. Says It's Monitoring For Possible North Korea Nuclear Test

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:41

The State Department, citing news reports of heightened activity at Pyongyang's test site, says it's closely watching the situation.

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Green GOP Group Caught Between 'Rock And A Hard Place'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:17

On Earth Day 2014, it wasn't easy being an environmental organization in the Republican Party. The big donors who write checks aren't much interested in the environment.

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Why Roto-Rooter cares how you die

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:03

The Centers for Disease Control tells us that about 2.5 million people die in this country every year.

And 44 percent of those people are now dying in hospice care.

That's surely a cultural change, but it's also a business opportunity. Hospice care has become a $17 billion business.

Fran Smith wrote a book about hospice care called "Changing the Way We Die."

She describes hospice care as the most successful part of the healthcare industry, and says it's surprising who is getting into the game.

"More than half of hospice programs are run by for profit companies. All the growth in hospice over the past ten years has been in the for-profit sector. The company that owns Roto-Rooter, ChemEd, is the owner of the largest hospice chain in the country - Vitas."

Are Apple's halcyon growth days over?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:56

Apple is expected to report mostly flat revenues from a year ago, when it releases earnings after the bell Wednesday. It wasn’t so long ago, of course, that Apple’s stock was a rocket ship, seeing the kind of exponential growth you find in tiny startups. Another tech company used to be like that: Microsoft. 

Until around 2000, it was a growth story. Then, it got big and slow and its stock stagnated and people just stuck with it for the dividends. The question on investors’ minds is whether Apple will have a similar fate. 

“There are very different circumstances that faced Microsoft in the 1990s and Apple of today,” says Pai-Ling Yin, a Social Science Research Scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. She says Apple is no Microsoft.  

First of all, it can’t afford to sit still. Unlike Microsoft’s monopoly position, Apple faces stiff competition from the likes of Google and Amazon.

And, Apple has a different culture.

“It has demonstrated a unique ability to reinvent itself every few years,” says Ross Rubin of Reticle Research. 

Now, investors are used to the company reinventing itself with new products that cannibalize its old ones.

“Apple is in a transition but I don’t think we’re ever going to find a point where Apple isn’t in some kind of transition,” says Robert Paul Leitao, founder of the Braeburn Group, a network of Apple analysts.

Soon, we may find out if the company can pull off another winner. 

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been promising to enter “new product categories” soon.

The wearable future from bracelets to mouth guards

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:50

When Nike first came out with those little bracelet-fitness trackers they call FuelBands, everyone from basketball star Kevin Durant to Apple CEO Tim Cook was wrapping them around their wrists. But there are reports out now that Nike might be stepping out of the wearable technology market, after it made layoffs in its FuelBand engineering team.

The brave new world of wearable technology has come a long way since the good old fashioned wrist watch. 

Of course, these days, wearable tech can do a lot more than just tell time.  Gadgets like the FuelBand and FitBit track the steps you take, and the calories you burn. Others can track your heart rate, or control your thermostat and the volume on your stereo.

And while Nike may be stepping back from manufacturing its own wrist-band activity tracker, that area between your arm and your hand is still shaping up to be a very hot place for tech innovation.  Apple is expected to come out with an iWatch sometime this year.  Google has been developing an operating system, designed just for watches and other wrist-friendly gadgets. 

"We expect great growth in this market over the next few years," says Chris Jones, vice president at the tech analyst firm Canalys. Jones says just over 7 million of these "smart bands" sold around the world last year, and predicts that number could triple in 2014. 

But all you other body parts out there-- don't be jealous.  You too will get cool technology.  Over at the wearable tech company i1 Biometrics, they are developing mouth guards that go in the mouths of football player, "to sense whether or not they've suffered impacts that might warrant them being pulled from the game," explains David Gallaher, the firm's social media director.

There are also smart band-aids that adhere to your skin and track your hydration.  Smart tattoos with RFID chips you can plant under your skin to monitor all sorts of things. Only the tech crazed will be using this kind of stuff in the near future, but soon they might be as common as a wrist watch...used to be.

What's on that dollar bill? Maybe some anthrax

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:10

And this final note which may rekindle your interest in bitcoin.

From the Wall Street Journal: money is even dirtier than your mother told you it was. The Dirty Money Project at NYU conducted what's called the first comprehensive study of DNA found on dollar bills.

And found the bacteria that causes acne, other bacteria linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections. They also discovered extremely minute traces of anthrax and diphtheria, and DNA from horses, dogs, and white rhinos.

Soldier Speaks Up A Decade After Pat Tillman's Friendly-Fire Death

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:02

Steven Elliott, one of the Rangers who mistakenly fired on Tillman's position, says he believed there were no "friendlies" in the area when he pulled the trigger.

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Hospitals Can Speed Stroke Treatment, But It's Not Easy

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:47

The faster people get treatment after suffering a stroke, the less likely they are to be permanently disabled or die. Speeding up hospital procedures helps, studies find. But cost is an issue, too.

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Online Sales Taxes Shift Consumer Behavior, Study Shows

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

Some states have enacted so-called Amazon taxes, forcing the giant online retailer to collect sales taxes the same way traditional stores do. In those states, Amazon's sales fell about 10 percent.

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Who's Getting Preschool Right? Researchers Point To Tulsa

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:14

A national debate over universal preschool has raised an important question: What does high-quality pre-K look like? Researchers say the preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., is among the nation's best.

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Fast-Food CEOs Earn Supersize Salaries; Workers Earn Small Potatoes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:08

A new report finds that the average compensation of fast-food CEOs has quadrupled since 2000. By comparison, worker wages have increased less than 1 percent.

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As Putin Rides Wave Of Popularity, Opposition May Get Swept Under

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:06

Russian President Vladimir Putin is using a recent surge in popularity to crack down on opposition. Several proposed laws would strengthen penalties against protestors, and officials and local media alike are denouncing criticism of Putin as "unpatriotic."

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Amid Ukraine's Faltering Hopes For Peace, Biden Speaks In Kiev

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:06

During a visit to Kiev, Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia that it must help to reduce tensions in Ukraine. A recent international agreement intended to disarm militant groups seems to be failing.

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Search Efforts For Nigerian Schoolgirls Dogged By Shifting Numbers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:06

As the search continues for the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, the exact number of those still missing is in dispute. Michelle Faul, Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press, explains more.

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High Court Upholds Michigan's Affirmative Action Ban

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:06

By a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved measure in Michigan that banned the use of race or gender in deciding admissions to the state's public universities.

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Longtime D.C. Lawyer Is White House's Next Top Counsel

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 12:06

The White House named Neil Eggleston its new top lawyer. He'll have to muster his legal and political skills to deal with a divided Congress and multiple investigations of the Obama's administration.

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FDA Advisers Vote Against Approving New Opioid Painkiller

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:50

The developer of Moxduo says the drug, which combines morphine and oxycodone, would provide faster pain relief. But reviewers say there's not enough evidence that the combination drug is safer.

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Who Are Nepal's Sherpas?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:49

Members of this Nepalese community are renowned for their climbing skills and remarkable endurance at high altitudes. They are paid well by local standards, but it's a job fraught with risk.

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Fire a failing manager and other lessons from sports

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:40

Why can’t the corporate world be more like major league sports? When a sports team loses too much, the coach gets the boot, and gets it fast. In the past week, the Knicks fired their entire coaching staff, Manchester United sacked their manager, and the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team coach was fired too.

Far be it from us to endorse bloodlust, but why aren’t CEO's dealt this kind of fate?

1. They are, you just might not know it.

The Conference Board has done a lot of research on corporate succession, and one of their researchers, Melissa Aguilar says “the probability of a succession event is higher following poor performance.” Huh? What? Succession event? Yes, ‘succession event’ – Aguilar didn’t say ‘firing’, because “not everything that gets called a retirement is a retirement.”  You’d be surprised at how many CEO’s “retire” at a young age. Plus, coaches are more like managers, not corporate executives. And you can be sure that in the corporate world, a manager who doesn’t perform well will be shown the door.

2. A good CEO is hard to find. 

“I can tell you, I’ve managed a number of successions – it’s very hard!” in the words of Joseph Bower, who teaches at Harvard Business School.  “Companies are much more idiosyncratic than we think or as an economist would pretend - they have complex cultures, they have capabilities that tend to be unique,” and they’re made of complex arrays of humans which, as we all know, behave rather strangely in large groups. Finding the right person can be hard, and it can take a long time.

“I remember at one point the head of Johnson wax was hired by Nike because he was a good marketing executive and it was thought he could do well at Nike,” says Bower. “It turns out that marketing furniture polish is very different from marketing running shoes. That didn’t work out.” 

 3.Because a CEO isn’t a real thing.

Otherwise put, being a CEO isn’t a real thing. It’s not like being a blacksmith or a French teacher, where there’s a specific and universal skill set. You could run a company of two people selling pickles or a company of two thousand advising commodity investors – in both cases you’re a CEO. That doesn’t mean you can do both well.

4.You can’t hide the fact you lost a game. You can totally hide the fact your earnings are down.

“For a corporation, results are much more opaque,” says Smith college’s Andrew Zimbalist. “It’s not win or lose. Although corporations like to have growth and profit, there are ways to hide the lack of profits or to inflate the actual profits.” 

To be fair there are a lot of other things you can blame for bad results if you’re a CEO – the economy, GDP, China – take your pick of scapegoats real or not. 

“At a corporate level there’s more cronyism,” says Zimbalist. “You have boards of people who are CEOs themselves. It’s a social circle that’s more tight, and they are likely to be more lenient since they are in a similar situation. 

5.If Shareholders were like fans, Wall Street would be full of drunks and burnt out buildings

“It’s well known that some investors are not rational, but almost anybody would agree that very few sports fans are rational,” says Matteo Arena, who teaches finance at Marquette University. “Most fans react to poor results in a very passionate way and put a lot of pressure on teams.” That thirst for revenge and destruction is why sports teams often ditch their coaches or managers so quickly.  

6.Maybe Shareholders are like sports fans, but just slower.

A sports team can lose ten games in a month, but it takes a corporation 2.5 years to have 10 quarters of bad earnings. And CEOs usually walk shareholders through the ups and the downs, explaining what they expect to happen, which can sometimes be like talking down an angry mob.   

7.The CEO is often in charge of replacing the CEO

“In more than 50 percent of publicly traded companies in the US, the CEO is also chairman of the board,” says Matteo Arena. How easy do you think it is to replace the person in charge if that person ... is in charge of replacing the person in charge? 

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