National News

The Camel Did It: Scientists Nail Down Source Of Middle East Virus

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:25

Since the deadly MERS virus was detected two years ago, scientists have struggled to figure out how people catch it. A new study confirms that camels are a key source.

» E-Mail This

The economic backdrop to Tian'anmen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:51

Politically, China may not have changed much from 25 years ago, but economically? It might as well be a different country.

University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies Director Mary Gallagher remembers what it was like for Chinese workers in 1989. "There’s this big population in the cities, still working for state-owned companies, not making high wages, still having an iron rice bowl, and it’s creating all of these problems in the economy and it’s also reducing China’s competitiveness."

And then, the economic equivalent of a hurricane for these poorly-paid urbanites: hyper inflation. "While prices were going up at an average of about 7 percent a year in the mid 80s, in ‘88 there was a spike where it was more like 17 percent. So that kind of inflation hit hard," says Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California-Irvine history professor and author of "China In the 21st Century".

In a TV news reel from 1988, thousands of desperate shoppers at a Shanghai department store reach over each other to buy food. Up until then, prices were set by the government. But in 1988, the government began to systematically lift these price controls, allowing goods to be sold on the open market for the first time. Nobody knew when prices were going to rise, prompting waves of panic buying. “I’ve taken out all my money from the bank and I bought a bed," said one shopper to a Shanghai television reporter. "I don’t need one, but everyone is scrambling to buy one before the price of beds begin to rise.”

(Navigate to 2:45 and 5:35 to watch the footage of shoppers).

In 1988 China, prices were rising, salaries weren’t. Suddenly, many Chinese couldn’t afford many simple household goods. A song by musician Cui Jian captured the feeling of helplessness of the times: "I have asked you endlessly," the song goes, "when will you go with me? But you always laugh at me, for I have nothing to my name."

The lyrics seem to describe a boy, down on his luck, begging his girlfriend to leave with him. But others interpreted the boy as China’s young generation asking the rest of China –including the government – to join it. The song "Nothing to my Name" became an anthem to the demonstrations that later developed at Tian’anmen Square in 1989.

"I think generally Americans and the American media and the western media focused on the political issues more than the economic issues," University of Michigan’s Mary Gallagher said about the media coverage of the 1989 protests. Gallagher says framing the Tian’anmen demonstrations simply as students fighting for democracy ignores the fact that the rest of China’s population – many of whom were blue-collar workers – were protesting for better economic opportunities, too. "I think the general support the students got from the population was much more related to economic issues like inflation, like corruption, like failure to take advantage of opportunities. And people associated those things with political change."

But political change was too much to ask from China’s leaders. In the early morning hours of June 4, 1989, China's military turned on its own civilians, shooting and killing hundreds of people.

In the year following the Tian’anmen massacre, GDP growth plummeted, so did foreign investment. But it didn’t last long. China’s government sped up economic reforms, while keeping a lid on political reforms. This is often referred to as the unspoken deal China’s government made with its people after Tian’anmen: We allow you to make more money, you don’t challenge our authority.

University of California’s Jeffrey Wasserstrom says 25 years later, with China’s economy now slowing down, there are signs the Chinese people want to renegotiate this deal – it’s no longer clear that making more money is an option. "Now I think there’s a sense that if you’ve been left behind, maybe you’ll be permanently left behind," says Wasserstrom. "And also, with the rising concern with issues like food safety, and heavy polluted air and water, I think it’s not so clear to people anymore that they can assume their children will live better lives than they did."

"People are angry, but people are worried that if something changes, would anything get better?" asks University of Michigan's Mary Gallagher. "I don’t think people in China have much confidence in democracy right now, and looking around them they may feel particularly people in the cities and people in the middle class may feel that democracy could end up even worse. It’s a much more segmented society, and people who are wealthy and who are middle class have much more to protect. And when they think about democracy, they think about majority rule. And I think majority rule is scary to them."

The song that defined China’s generation of ’89 ends with singer Cui Jian asking a question, interpreted by some to be posed to China’s government: “Why do I always have to chase you? Could it be that in front of you, I’ll forever have nothing to my name?”

This year, China’s government invited Cui Jian to sing at the New Year Gala on state television, a program watched by 700 million Chinese, six times the number of people who watch the Superbowl. Cui accepted, on the condition that he sing "Nothing to my Name".

The government wouldn’t let him.

Cui Jian's response to the government? We no longer have a deal.

 

No more Roman numerals for the NFL

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:37

In Roman Numerals, the letter "L" is the number 50, which, as it happens, is the version of the Super Bowl that will be played in February 2016.

The NFL knowing a branding problem when it sees it, has decreed that that this years game will break with the tradition of using Roman numerals to identify the sequence.

It'll be simply"Super Bowl 50". Not "Super Bowl L".

No more Roman numerals for the NFL

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:37

In Roman Numerals, the letter "L" is the number 50, which, as it happens, is the version of the Super Bowl that will be played in February 2016.

The NFL knowing a branding problem when it sees it, has decreed that that this years game will break with the tradition of using Roman numerals to identify the sequence.

It'll be simply"Super Bowl 50". Not "Super Bowl L".

You can refinance a car, but not a student loan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:35

You can refinance payments for a house, a car, even a boat. So why can you not negotiate a better deal for your federal student loans and get out from under all that debt?

"Well you actually could," says financial aid expert Kantrowitz, "there’s no pre-payment penalties on student loans, federal or private."

So even though you could borrow from a private bank to pay off your government loan, the problem, says Kantrowitz, "is there aren’t lenders who are willing to beat the low rates on a federal education loan."

3.86 percent is the interest rate for a federal Stafford loan - if you got it today. But lots of borrowers have older loans with much higher rates. And, loaning money to students can be risky -- one in seven students defaults.   

"If you buy a house or a car and you default on that loan, the lender can reposses the car or foreclose on your house. An education lender can’t repossess your education," he says. 

But if Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has her way, students would be able to refinance their federal debt with a lower rate from the government.

David Bergeron, vice president for post secondary education policy at the Center for American Progress, says the long term solution isn't interest rates, instead it's reducing the amount of debt and the cost of college.

Though, he notes, giving students the option to refinance loans could free up an average of $2000 a year per borrower: “Refinancing would not make the underlying debt that a person owes go away,” he said. But if that money is spent on consumer goods or used towards a down payment for a house, it could help spur the economy rather than going straight to the government which stands to make almost $70 billion from the interest on loans issued between 2007 and 2012.

About Senator Warren's new proposal, “The government will still make money," says Bergeron, "it just won’t make as much money.”

At Walmart labor protests, striking isn't the point

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:33

Walmart kicks off its annual share-holders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday, and some Walmart workers are marking the occasion with a series of strikes across the country. Low pay is the spotlight issue--with protesters urging Walmart to raise wages to at least $25,000 a year.

But, as Walmart is quick to point out, only a tiny fraction of its workers will actually walk off the job. Depending on whom you ask, that low number means very different things.   Cynthia Brown-Elliott is a cake decorator at a Walmart in Cincinnati. She makes $8.95 an hour and lives in subsidized housing. When she strikes this week, she'll be holding a homemade sign that's a play on the Walmart slogan: Save money. Live better.   “I’m writing, ‘How Can You Save Money If You're Not Making Money? How Can You Live Better If You're Not Getting Paid Better?’” Brown-Elliot says.   She acknowledges, though, that her sign won’t have much company from co-workers on the picket line. Out of her store's several hundred employees, she knows of just seven workers walking off the job.   That relatively tiny number shows that most at Walmart are happy, says company spokesman Kory Lundberg.   “It's by and large not associates that are participating in these events. Usually the group is rounded out by UFCW* members, or people working at an organized retail competitor,” he says, referring to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers and other labor groups that have helped organize Walmart workers and protests.   “Our associates are smart. They know what a good job is. That's why 1.3 million of them have chosen to work for us,” Lundberg says.   But Brown- Elliott, the Cincinnati Walmart worker who is joining a handful of her colleagues in walking off the job, believes the low striker turn-out isn’t a sign of worker contentment; it’s a sign of worker fear. She says many of her co-workers who have families have told her they support the strikes this week, but feel they have too much to lose.   As an example, she points to a coworker who has joined the workers’ group Our Walmart, but decided not to strike. “She's a mother and she has children who are living in her house--she's scared of losing her job,” says Brown-Elliott, who is an empty-nester.   “In this economy you can’t afford to lose your job,” she adds, but says without a family to support she feels emboldened on the picket line. “I only have me to worry about.”   Fifty years ago, when workers were generally more skilled, unemployment rates were lower, and unions had more legal protections, striking didn't feel quite as risky for workers, even ones with families, according to Gary Chiason, professor of labor relations at Clark University.   Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.    “It's a question of drawing public attention,” he says. “The whole concept is to embarrass the employer as a low-wage, poor working condition employer—to go after the consumer who really holds the decision making power, and to tell the consumers that this is not a good place to patronize because they don’t pay workers well.”    In other words, in today’s economy, the number of low-paid retail workers on a picket line isn’t really the point. What matters is whether the signs they’re holding resonate with the shoppers walking by. 

CORRECTION: The original version of this article misidentified a union that is helping to organize protests by Walmart workers. It is the United Food and Commercial Workers. The article has been corrected.

Among Walmart protests, few actual strikers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:33

Walmart kicks off its annual share-holders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday, and some Walmart workers are marking the occasion with a series of strikes across the country. Low pay is the spotlight issue--with protesters urging Walmart to raise wages to at least $25,000 a year.

But, as Walmart is quick to point out, only a tiny fraction of its workers will actually walk off the job. Depending on whom you ask, that low number means very different things.   Cynthia Brown-Elliott is a cake decorator at a Walmart in Cincinnati. She makes $8.95 an hour and lives in subsidized housing. When she strikes this week, she'll be holding a homemade sign that's a play on the Walmart slogan: Save money. Live better.   “I’m writing, ‘How Can You Save Money If You're Not Making Money? How Can You Live Better If You're Not Getting Paid Better?’” Brown-Elliot says.   She acknowledges, though, that her sign won’t have much company from co-workers on the picket line. Out of her store's several hundred employees, she knows of just seven workers walking off the job.   That relatively tiny number shows that most at Walmart are happy, says company spokesman Kory Lundberg.   “It's by and large not associates that are participating in these events. Usually the group is rounded out by UFCW members, or people working at an organized retail competitor,” he says, referring to members of the United Food and Culinary Workers Union and other labor groups that have helped organize Walmart workers and protests.   “Our associates are smart. They know what a good job is. That's why 1.3 million of them have chosen to work for us,” Lundberg says.   But Brown- Elliott, the Cincinnati Walmart worker who is joining a handful of her colleagues in walking off the job, believes the low striker turn-out isn’t a sign of worker contentment; it’s a sign of worker fear. She says many of her co-workers who have families have told her they support the strikes this week, but feel they have too much to lose.   As an example, she points to a coworker who has joined the workers’ group Our Walmart, but decided not to strike. “She's a mother and she has children who are living in her house--she's scared of losing her job,” says Brown-Elliott, who is an empty-nester.   “In this economy you can’t afford to lose your job,” she adds, but says without a family to support she feels emboldened on the picket line. “I only have me to worry about.”   Fifty years ago, when workers were generally more skilled, unemployment rates were lower, and unions had more legal protections, striking didn't feel quite as risky for workers, even ones with families, according to Gary Chiason, professor of labor relations at Clark University.   Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.    “It's a question of drawing public attention,” he says. “The whole concept is to embarrass the employer as a low-wage, poor working condition employer—to go after the consumer who really holds the decision making power, and to tell the consumers that this is not a good place to patronize because they don’t pay workers well.”    In other words, in today’s economy, the number of low-paid retail workers on a picket line isn’t really the point. What matters is whether the signs they’re holding resonate with the shoppers walking by.   

What the VA and the Cleveland Clinic have in common

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:32

One of the country’s top hospital executives may be on the short-list to become the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Toby Cosgrove could replace Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki resigned over veterans waiting prolonged periods of time for an appointment and staff covering that up.

If there’s one thing the VA needs to do right now, it’s figure out how to make sure patients are getting the right care in the right place at the right time.

On paper Cosgrove’s resume seems ideal.

He’s a veteran, a successful surgeon and is seen as one of the few hospital executives in the country who has improved patient care and controlled healthcare costs.

Greg Anrig with the left-leaning Century Foundation says he thinks Cosgrove could hit the ground running because the VA and the Cleveland Clinic are similar creatures.

“They are team focused. They are focused on data, they are oriented on using technology effectively,” he says.

While this patient scandal has certainly marred the VA’s reputation, the VA has a sturdy track record delivering quality care that’s often similar to -- or better than -- what can be found in the private sector.

But one certain challenge ahead is addressing high patient demand in areas with sizeable veteran populations.

Cosgrove has shown he knows how to treat patients in hospitals when they need it, and elsewhere when they don’t.

The VA could likely benefit from that kind of patient management.

Some in the healthcare world believe if Cosgrove becomes the next secretary – and is successful - his reforms could influence hospitals around the nation.

Latest Sexual Assault In India Underscores U.N. Chief's Call For Action

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:21

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demands a global end to violence against women, a 35-year-old is molested and shot in front of her husband and five children in India's northeast.

» E-Mail This

Doctors Hesitate To Ask Heart Patients About End-Of-Life Plans

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:05

Most people diagnosed with heart failure die within five years, yet doctors often don't ask them about how they want to prepare for death, a study finds. They cited lack of confidence as one reason.

» E-Mail This

Despite Video Of Bergdahl's Release, Questions Dog His Capture

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:55

Questions surround Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's initial disappearance. Bergdahl has said he was captured by the Taliban while lagging behind on a patrol, but many wonder whether he planned to desert.

» E-Mail This

Ex-Ambassador To Syria: Civil War Could Drag On For Years

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:51

Robert Ford resigned as U.S. ambassador to Syria earlier this year. He tells NPR's Robert Siegel that it became impossible for him to defend the Obama administration's policies in the country.

» E-Mail This

NFL Says When It Comes To Super Bowl 50, 'L' Is For Losers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:47

The football league says the 2016 championship will depart from tradition by not using the Roman numeral L (50) because it doesn't work well on the logo.

» E-Mail This

Privacy Law Frustrates Parents Of Mentally Ill Adult Children

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:41

Even if parents are providing health insurance, they often can't find out what's happening when their adult children suffer from severe mental illness.

» E-Mail This

Women 'Complain A Lot, Interrupt,' Developer Says At Conference

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:18

At a tech conference in Berlin, a developer compared a software plug-in framework to his girlfriend, saying she "complains, interrupts" and "doesn't play well with others."

» E-Mail This

In Mississippi, A Heated Senate Primary Spills Into Runoff

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

In one of the country's most competitive primaries, incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel appear headed for a runoff.

» E-Mail This

Chinese Authorities Ensure Tiananmen Anniversary Passes Quietly

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

Twenty-five years ago, Chinese soldiers backed by tanks cracked down on protesters, shooting hundreds and possibly thousands of unarmed civilians in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The Chinese mourned victims in private Wednesday, as Tiananmen Square evinced a heavy security presence.

» E-Mail This

After State Lawmaker Comes Out, Campaign Becomes Battle Of Write-ins

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

Mike Fleck, who was re-elected three times before he came out as gay in 2012, lost the Republican state house primary to a write-in candidate. So he won as a write-in on the Democratic ballot instead.

» E-Mail This

New Pollution Rules Leave Utilities Frustrated, As Details Remain Up In Air

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

The Obama administration has proposed rules for limiting greenhouse gases, but many of the details must still be set by states, leaving utilities unsure about specifics they'll be expected to achieve.

» E-Mail This

ON THE AIR

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life.Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4