National News

Danish Tourist Reportedly Gang-Raped, Robbed In New Delhi

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 06:37

The attack in the heart of the city is the latest bringing global focus to sexual violence in India. Police say the 51-year-old woman had asked for directions from a group of men, who lured her to a secluded place and then robbed, beat and sexually assaulted her at knife-point.

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Why does the NSA spy?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 06:12

The National Security Agency says it only spies to protect us from cyberattacks.  Or so it told the New York Times. A Times article says the NSA has inserted software in almost 100,000 computers across the globe.  Using them to spy. And launch cyberattacks of its own. 

Washington has repeatedly accused China of giving intelligence to Chinese companies, to give them a leg up on their international competitors. The U.S. says it never does that for American firms. The NSA told the Times, quote, "We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of…US companies."   

Endpoint Technologies founder and president Roger Kay says, don’t you believe it.

"It’s another instance of the pot calling the kettle black," he says. 

Kay doesn’t buy the NSA’s insistence that it never shares secrets with U.S. CEOs. He says it’s just too easy to let juicy stuff slip. 

"It would be easy enough to have somebody who knows how to do these things approach the company directly and just say, hey -- by the way, this might be of interest to you," he explains.

Kay says it would be of interest to the NSA because more and more, getting an advantage economically, is part of national security.

Strike Up The Band! Minnesota Orchestra Lockout Ends

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 05:29

After 15 months, management and the musicians have agreed on a contract that will settle their dispute. The performers agreed to pay cuts and to pay more of their health care expenses. Management did not get concessions that were as large as they first sought.

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Extending Jobless Benefits Likely Delayed Again

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 05:00

Senators couldn't reach agreement Tuesday on a way to restore benefits for 1.3 million people who have been out of work for extended periods. With the Senate planning to go on a recess next week, it's looking like any action will be put off.

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NSA Reportedly Can Monitor 100,000 Computers Worldwide

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 04:00

Circuit boards and USB cards were implanted surreptitiously in the computers when they were shipped overseas from the manufacturers, The New York Times reports. The program, called Quantum, allows intelligence agencies to alter data and insert malware.

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The incredible business card of Chen Guangbiao

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 03:49

When you print up business cards, you want to put your best foot forward.

Take Chen Guangbiao, the CEO of a recycling company in Nanjing, China. According to his business card, he's quite a guy.  

Take a look at some of his credentials:

(photo credit: William Launder for The Wall Street Journal)

His business card's gone viral and he certainly seems like a good man to have in your contacts list. 

Chen's a busy guy. If you remember, he was also interested in buying the Times

Why is it so hard to cut Pentagon spending?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 03:46

Initially the budget agreement would curbs pension increases for all military retirees under age 62.  Instead of keeping up with inflation, pensions would rise by one percent less than the inflation rate.  But disabled veterans were accidentally included. Everyone agreed they should be exempt from the cuts.  And at the last minute, veterans’ survivors were also exempted. 

Retired colonel Mike Barron is a lobbyist for the Military Officers Association of America.  He says nobody’s pension should be cut.

"It’s very unfair, and it’s harmful," he explains. "It’s a breach of faith.”

And the lobbying is effective. The Pentagon runs into a brick wall in Congress, even when it tries to make minor cutbacks in personnel.  

Lawrence Korb is a former assistant defense secretary for manpower. He says the military is straying away from its core mission.

"We’re going to be like General Motors or something," he says. "We’re going to spend more and more on people who used to make things rather than people making them now."

Meanwhile, the cost of military pay and benefits has doubled over the past ten years. 

The Fed: Cash cow or sitting duck?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 03:10

The price of gold has plummeted over the last year and that's been putting the squeeze on the Swiss Bank, which holds quite a bit of it. Now, the Swiss National Bank can't pay a dividend to shareholders. 

At the U.S. Federal Reserve, the issue is less about gold and more about all the bonds that it has been buying for its portfolio -- and those aren't collapsing. But what about the longer term trend?

Allan Sloan, senior editor at large of Fortune Magazine, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss. 

Bringing the long-term unemployed back to the office

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 02:57

President Obama's visit to Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday to discuss the economy comes a day after the U.S. Senate failed to advance a plan restoring jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. 

Those workers, who've been without a job for six months, number roughly 3.8 million. Russ Lane of Durham is one of them. He left a newspaper job six years ago to take care of a sick family member, and he says he hasn’t had steady work since -- no matter what companies think of his resume.

"If the paper doesn’t look exactly as they so choose," he says, "they’ll make their decisions."

William Dickens of Northeastern University says if you’re qualified and recently unemployed, you have about 10 to 20 percent chance of landing an interview for a job. 

"Compared to after six months, you have somewhere in the range of a one to two percent chance of being called in for a job," he says.

Dickens commends the President for calling on CEOs to give the long-term unemployed a shot. Many companies just weed them out electronically. Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute has his own ideas, including using unemployment insurance to help pay people to move to places where there are jobs. 

"It may make sense to say, hey, we’ll cut you a check and help you move to, say, North Dakota where there are a lot of jobs for truck drivers," he says.

Strain also thinks a lower minimum wage might entice companies to take a chance on these workers, though he doesn’t expect the president to take him up on that idea. 

Kuwait Announces $500 Million Pledge To Syria

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 02:02

Kuwait pledged $500 million and the U.S. promised $380 million to alleviate the suffering of Syrians affected by the country's civil war. Kuwait is hosting an international fundraising conference to help Syrians affected by the war.

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The World Bank has a sunny forecast for the year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 01:48

The World Bank thinks 2014 is going to be a good year for many global economies. Last year's 2.4 percent growth could increase to 3.2 percent this year. 

The BBC's economics correspondent Andrew Walker joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss the report and the speculation that swirled around the Fed's tapering. 

This is not your grandfather's tin foil hat...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 01:21

Tin foil hats just got way more interesting. Italian designers made a hat, a collar and a visor that look fancy but also serve a classic tinfoil hat purpose. The accessories actually work to ward off neuroimaging surveillance.

If a brain scan is detected, the device will distract the wearer for a second to scramble their brain activity and protect their privacy. How? In one case, by hitting the wearer with an electric shock.

Small price to pay for protecting your privacy for a millisecond? 

Anti-NIS Accessories from Caitlin Morris on Vimeo.

Why the medical testing biz is like Gucci handbags

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 01:15

You'd think with millions of new patients coming on under the Affordable Care Act - many who haven’t seen a doctor in years, and need lots of tests - lab owners would be drooling over their microscopes.

There will definitely be more tests done.

Physicians like Penn Medicine internist Dr. Michael Cirigliano says he will order tests for cholesterol, kidney and thyroid function among others for a new patient

“Because you are like snow with no footprints in it. I don’t know where you are coming from. I don’t know where I stand with you,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean lab owners are hunting for second homes in Hawaii.

“It’s not a great time to be involved in this industry,” says Dennis Weissman, a medical lab consultant. “Laboratory revenues did see a decline in 2013, for the first time since I’ve been following this industry for 35 years.”

Even with a small bump from new ACA patients, a report from market research firm G2 Intelligence predicts the $75 billion industry will continue to slow down through 2015.

Why? Shrinking reimbursements from both the federal government and private insurers.

Dan Mendelson with consulting company Avalere Health,  says the industry’s economics are changing.

“It’s getting less expensive for lab companies to do the routine tests. And the federal government wants a part of that action,” he says.

To protect their businesses, labs like Quest and LabCorp are moving beyond that routine work. 

Richard Nicholson who runs West Pacific Medical Lab in southern California says the money is in the more sophisticated, specialized tests, like cancer tumor profiling and pediatric sequencing for genetic disorders.

“It’s like selling a Gucci purse vs. a purse at JC Penny. They sell less of them, but they make more money,” he says.

Dr. Eleanor Herriman - who did the G2 Intelligence industry analysis - says what’s happening with labs is what’s happening throughout healthcare: simple volume doesn’t drive business anymore.

The new healthcare currency she says is value, like a new DNA test for sepsis.

“Instead of it taking three days to figure out what the bug is, these new DNA tests are rapid so they move it to 12 hours. So these tests are lowering death rates and savings thousands of dollars per patient,” she says.

More and more doctors and hospitals must live within tight budgets to care for their patients.

Herriman says the future of the lab industry lies in finding tests that help the providers do just that.

Mobile messaging is more popular than ever. But not TEXT messaging.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 01:04

According to the mobile analytics firm Flurry, mobile use arount the world in 2013 increased by 115 percent over the previous year. 

While music, games, news and other factors all played a role in the growth, messaging turned out to be the bulk of what drove the spike in increased usage. 

But surprisingly, text messaging actually decreased for the first time. That's because people are starting to use different services to communicate -- ones that are cheaper or more fun to use. 

Lindsey Turrentine, editor-in-chief of reviews at CNET, joins Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson to discuss why messaging apps are becoming more popular.

NCAA to debate paying college athletes a stipend

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-15 00:57

As the NCAA annual convention opens in San Diego, one issue being discussed is a proposal to allow schools to pay student athletes. Several college football players wore patches in recent bowl games, with the letters APU on them, All Players United.

They believe athletes deserve a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits generated by their performance. NCAA president Mark Emmert supports a system that would allow schools to pay athletes modest stipends.

There are two questions at the heart of this issue.

One is: can schools afford to pay players? Second: should they pay players?

"If we are considering it from a purely economic point of view, of course, if they create value they should be compensated, as we do in any business," says Lake Forest College economics professor Robert Baade. He says there's no question that teams can afford to pay players.

Profits from TV contracts, bowl games and endorsements generate tens of millions of dollars for college football programs.

If the NCAA decides to allow schools to pay players, that money will have to come out of someone's pocket. One likely target is the coaches.

"Not all, but close to all the states in the United States, the highest paid public official is the football coach at the flagship state university," says sports economist Allen Sanderson, at the University of Chicago.

In the current system, coaches play a crucial role in luring players to teams. Sanderson says that role would be diminished if teams could use money to lure athletes.

'Pretty Good' Budget Deal Looks Good Enough To Avoid Shutdown

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 00:06

The so-called "omnibus" package of all 12 annual spending bills has more money in it than what Congressional Republicans wanted, but less than what President Obama had asked for. There is some disappointment with the measure on both sides of the aisle, but this time nobody is talking about forcing another government shutdown.

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Soon To Be Big In Japan, Jim Beam's Roots To Stay In Kentucky

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 00:05

In a deal worth some $16 billion, Japanese beverage giant Suntory is buying Beam Inc., maker of Jim Beam bourbon and owner of well-known American brands such as Maker's Mark. Industry leaders say it's a reflection of bourbon's exploding popularity in Asian markets, but some wonder if the new owners will preserve bourbon's Kentucky heritage.

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Russia Aims To Implement The Tightest Security In Olympic History

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 00:04

Russian officials say high-tech surveillance and the deployment of tens of thousands of troops are part of the most extensive Olympic security measures ever. The region surrounding host city Sochi is home to Europe's deadliest insurgency, and Islamist militants have proven their ability to strike.

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A Woman Comes To Terms With Her Family's Slave-Owning Past

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-15 00:03

Kate Byroade had always known her ancestors were slave owners, but she had been told their slaves were treated well. Understanding the truth took her on a difficult lifelong journey. Americans are shy "about calling out the great wickedness of slavery," she says. "We should not be."

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Report: NSA Maps Pathway Into Computers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-14 23:33

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The software was not implanted in computers in the U.S.

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