National News

Britain Set To Vote On '3-Parent Baby' Law Tuesday

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-03 03:10

While the technique is often referred to by the shorthand "three-parent baby," the controversial process uses nuclear DNA from two parents and the mitochondrial DNA of a third donor.

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PODCAST: When BP earnings seem like BS

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 03:00

This morning, the oil company BP reported no profits, but instead a loss of nearly $1 billion. Yet BP's stock price in London went up 2 percent. That's because while BP lost money, it didn't lose more money. Which brings up the question, are earnings reports just Rorschach tests? Also, there's a new study today saying we are now paying 15 percent of our medical bills out of pocket. More on that. And when the topic is children and money, the focus is often on consumption. But Ron Lieber, personal finance columnist for the New York Times says when teaching about money, don't forget the giving-it-away option.

Amazon heads to college

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

Amazon has struck deals with three major universities to create online university stores, which will sell course textbooks and other university-branded goods.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which is one of the institutions along with Purdue and University of California, Davis, estimates that its students will save about $380 a year in textbook costs, because of lower prices through Amazon.

"This is something that students have already started to do," says Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesperson for UMass Amherst. "Online sales of books have been increasing."

The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at the three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a discounted Prime plan at $49—Amazon's customer loyalty program, which also includes access to its streaming video service.

Blaguszewski says the deal with Amazon will take over an expiring contract with Follett, one of the retailers that are licensed to operate many university bookstores. Another such retailer in the $10 billion college bookstore market is Barnes & Noble.

"Definitely, this continues to put pressure on Barnes and Noble," says Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "This is yet again another example of how Amazon is gaining share."

"When any entity of that size comes into the marketplace ... that is going to be a formidable competitor, " says Todd Summer, who runs a university-owned bookstore at San Diego State and is the president of the National Association of College Stores board of trustees.

Summer says his store can compete with Amazon: "We've got a very dedicated staff that's tied into the campus."

NACS says there are some 4,500 college and university bookstores in the United State, and a majority are owned by the schools. Still, that leaves hundreds, at least, that are operated by Follett, Barnes and Noble, and others. They are likely targets for Amazon once existing contracts with schools expire.

And while Mulpuru says three stores do not market disruption make, she sees Amazon's move as one of building habits: getting young people used to its online services, which could yield dividends well after students graduate.

Right now, it's an interesting experiment, she says. And where better to launch an experiment than America's college campuses.

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs soar

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

Healthcare costs keep climbing, and so does our share of them.

Adults with insurance through work paid almost 7 percent more out-of-pocket in 2013 than in 2012, according to a new study  from the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonprofit funded partly by insurance companies.

“There’s more high deductible health plans and cost sharing, so the co-pays change,” says Eric Barrette, a senior researcher at the Institute.

The co-pays are going up, of course. High out-of-pocket spending could lead consumers to shop around more. Obviously you don’t want to just look for a bargain. You want a good doctor. But healthcare costs could fall if consumers were a bit more price-sensitive.

“If you’ve got more skin in the game, then you’re going to care much more about where you’re going to,” says Vivian Ho, a health economist at Rice University. 

But Ho says it’s hard to get consumers interested in shopping around. It’s tedious.

“And then you’re on the phone with all these people and you get transferred from one place to another,” she says.

Even when you do reach the right person, information can still be really hard to get, and inconsistent. Healthcare prices can vary, in the same state or even city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major retailers' herbal pills called into question

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

The New York Attorney General’s Office is asking four big retailers to pull some of their private label herbal supplements from store shelves due to what it says is fraudulent labeling. The office focused on GNC, Walmart, Target and Walgreens.

The AG's researchers went to a few of those retailers’ stores in new York state, rounded up a couple of their popular store-brand supplements, and then did some fancy DNA testing to see if the ingredients matched the labels.

Supplements at Walmart, which were supposed to contain ginkgo biloba, thought to be a memory booster, did not appear to have any of the plant’s material, but instead contained fillers like powdered radish and wheat—a potential issue for people allergic to gluten.

Tests on the other retailers’ private label supplements yielded similar results for other herbs such as St. John’s wort and valerian root.

The findings may resonate with health experts who’ve sounded alarms about weak federal oversight of the health supplement industry. Herbal supplements, unlike prescription medications, do not require premarketing approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The New York Attorney General’s office is asking the retailers to stop selling the products in question and provide information on the products’ manufacturers, along with any relevant quality control testing results.

Walmart says it wants customers “to have complete trust in the products they buy from our stores.” The company will reach out to its suppliers and “take appropriate action.” But it has no plans to pull the products at this time.

GNC says it will cooperate with the Attorney general’s office but that it stands behind the quality of its private label products and that it does test them.

Target says it has not yet seen the full report and “can't comment other than to reiterate that Target is committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests.”

Walgreens could not be reached for comment. It told the New York Times it would pull the supplements from store shelves nationwide.

Amazon heads to college

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

Amazon has struck deals with three major universities to create online university stores, which will sell course textbooks and other university-branded goods.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which is one of the institutions along with Purdue and University of California, Davis, estimates that its students will save about $380 a year in textbook costs, because of lower prices through Amazon.

"This is something that students have already started to do," says Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesperson for UMass Amherst. "Online sales of books have been increasing."

The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at the three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a discounted Prime plan at $49—Amazon's customer loyalty program, which also includes access to its streaming video service.

Blaguszewski says the deal with Amazon will take over an expiring contract with Follett, one of the retailers that are licensed to operate many university bookstores. Another such retailer in the $10 billion college bookstore market is Barnes & Noble.

"Definitely, this continues to put pressure on Barnes and Noble," says Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "This is yet again another example of how Amazon is gaining share."

"When any entity of that size comes into the marketplace ... that is going to be a formidable competitor, " says Todd Summer, who runs a university-owned bookstore at San Diego State and is the president of the National Association of College Stores board of trustees.

Summer says his store can compete with Amazon: "We've got a very dedicated staff that's tied into the campus."

NACS says there are some 4,500 college and university bookstores in the United State, and a majority are owned by the schools. Still, that leaves hundreds, at least, that are operated by Follett, Barnes and Noble, and others. They are likely targets for Amazon once existing contracts with schools expire.

And while Mulpuru says three stores do not market disruption make, she sees Amazon's move as one of building habits: getting young people used to its online services, which could yield dividends well after students graduate.

Right now, it's an interesting experiment, she says. And where better to launch an experiment than America's college campuses.

How an algorithm is taught to be prejudiced

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

Algorithms are everywhere. It’s what advertisers use to target users online, and it’s what search engines use to cough up all those results in a particular order. Even the data collected by governments is used to build algorithms which are then used to track, flag or analyze whatever the government is looking to track, flag or analyze.

But there’s a growing fear that these algorithms are learning stereotypes, and therefore abetting data discrimination. Some algorithms, for instance, make an assumption about an individual's ability to pay debt based on race. Basically, a lot of data goes into these “black box algorithms,” as they are known, and they produce results that are often discriminatory.

“I call it a black box because we don’t have access to these sorts of algorithms,” says Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland. Pasquale explores this subject in his new book, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.

The algorithms produce results based solely on the data that was fed to them, but the trouble is no one knows exactly how the algorithm is crunching that data. Yes, algorithms are racist, Pasquale says, but they are also “reflecting the preferences of thousands and possibly millions of users.”

He sees this as a problem because it’s likely to influence even those who don't buy into such stereotypes. And they may start thinking like the algorithm. He recommends something akin to “an anti-discrimination type of approach."

If it’s true, he adds, that we can never know how these algorithms work, then we must not allow certain results: “We need to move beyond saying we just reflect what people think and make them (algorithms) more progressive."

How to avoid raising a spoiled brat

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 02:00

For many parents, there is the very real fear of raising a spoiled brat; clueless about money, how to manage it, and how to be smart about it. According to Ron Lieber, author and personal finance columnist for The New York Times, raising a financially responsible child is a matter of being open to dialogue, as well as giving regular opportunities to be smart about money.

That means providing a regular allowance, free of any correlation to whether or not a child accomplishes tasks. In his new book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About MoneyLieber argues that regular chores and allowances should accomplish two separate goals: fostering work ethic, and teaching a child how to manage money, respectively. 

Read an excerpt from "The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money" below

The Allowance Debates

Three jars, unpaid chores, and a whole lot of patience

In the 18 or so years before your children leave for college, they are likely to want many of the following items: American Girl dolls. One-hundred-fifty-dollar sneakers. Then another pair six months later, when they grow out of the first pair. A second ear piercing. Beats by Dre headphones that will cover the piercings. Apps by the dozen. A microscope as powerful as the ones they use at school. Jeans with a price tag higher than in-state college tuition was 30 or 40 years ago. Concert tickets. Cars. An iPad. An iPhone. The new iPad. The new iPhone. Replacement chargers for the ones they lose, repeatedly. North Face jackets. A dog.

All the while, there will be many things you want them to do: Pick up a younger sibling from an after-school activity. Make the floor reappear in their room. Take out the garbage. Start dinner. Mow the lawn. Walk the dog. The dishes. Four loads of laundry. Grocery shopping.

Most parents consider these two lists and deliver a consistent message to their kids about the connection between them: Do the work, and we’ll give you money to save up to buy the stuff. They call the work chores, and the money is the children’s allowance. The lesson is that you can buy things, just so long as you do things.

It all seems reasonable. But there’s something fundamental that we fail to stop and ask ourselves during the decade or so that we make our weekly distributions to our children: What are we really trying to accomplish with an allowance anyway?

When parents tie allowance to the completion of chores, they make work the primary focus, not money. But children have many places to pick up a good work ethic. Strict teachers, drill-sergeant coaches, and choral conductors will instill plenty of discipline. Homework is a slog that builds stamina over time. Most part-time jobs that teenagers take on involve a fair bit of drudgery, but they adjust and get dressed down by difficult bosses, and few of them ever get fired.

We should certainly do our part at home by making them do all kinds of chores. But they ought to do them for the same reason we do—because the chores need to be done, and not with the expectation of compensation. If they do them poorly, there are plenty of valuable privileges we can take away, aside from withholding money. So allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool that gets sharper and more potent over a decade or so of annual raises and increasing responsibility.

Secret sauce, public sale

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 01:30
$258 million

How much Google Ventures initially invested in Uber in August 2013. It's put more money into the "e-hailing" service since then and a Goggle exec sits on Uber's board, but the companies could soon go from friends to bitter enemies, if they haven't already. Bloomberg dropped the bomb late Monday that Google is prepping its own ride service, likely connected to its self-driving cars. It would be a blow and a huge threat to Uber, which is investing in its own self-driving cars.

$10 billion

How much the college bookstore industry is worth — and now Amazon wants a piece of that market. The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a Prime plan  — Amazon's customer-loyalty program — discounted to $49. Prime includes access to its video-streaming service.

92

The number of measles cases recorded statewide in California as of Monday night, nearly a third in Orange County alone. The outbreak has been largely attributed to the anti-vaccination movement that's gained momentum in the past several years and threatened to become a partisan issue Monday. A new episode of Retro Report explores how debunked autism research, celebrity and unclear reporting by the media have helped push down vaccination rates in parts of the U.S.

6

At least that many court cases in the past two months have had to wrestle with the use of emoji in texts, Facebook posts or other online chatter being admitted as evidence. We pointed out one already, and the Marshall Project has outlined several more. They also created a nifty tool that pairs a random movie line with a random emoji to show how the context changes.

1949

The year Edsac, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator and one of the U.K.'s earliest computers, first ran calculations. A piece of that computer was recently discovered in the U.S., according to the BBC.

25 milliliters

The size of a tube of McDonald's Big Mac secret sauce, now on sale in Australia until supplies run out. 

Special sauce, special sale

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-03 01:30
$258 million

That's how much Google Ventures initially invested in Uber in August 2013. It's put more money in the e-hailing service since then and a Goggle exec sits on Uber's board, but the companies could soon go from friends to bitter enemies, if they haven't already. Bloomberg dropped the bomb late Monday that Google is prepping its own ride service, likely connected to its self-driving cars. It would be a blow and a huge new threat to Uber, which is investing in its own self-driving cars now.

$10 billion

That's how much the college bookstore industry is worth — and now Amazon wants a piece of that market. The online retailer will establish an on-campus distribution system at three universities to deliver textbook orders within one day. It will also offer deliveries of other goods in one day for students who purchase a discounted Prime plan at $49 — Amazon's customer loyalty program, which also includes access to its streaming video service.

92

The number of measles cases recorded statewide in California as of Monday night, nearly a third in Orange County alone. This outbreak has been largely attributed to the anti-vaccination movement that's gained momentum in the past several years and threatened to become a partisan issue Monday. It was perfect timing for the new episode of Retro Report, which explores how debunked autism research, celebrity and false balance in the media pushed down vaccination rates in some parts of the U.S.

6

At least that many court cases in the past two months have had to wrestle with the use of emoji in texts, Facebook posts or other online chatter being admitted as evidence. We told you about one already, and the Marshall Project has outlined several more. They also created a nifty tool that pairs a random movie line with a random emoji to show how the context changes.

1949

That's the year Edsac, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator and one of the UK's earliest computers, first ran calculations. A piece of that computer was recently discovered in the U.S., as reported by the BBC.

25 milliliters

That's the size of a tube of McDonald's Big Mac secret sauce, now on sale in Australia until supplies run out. 

With Oil Prices So Low, What's That Fuel Surcharge For, Exactly?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 23:59

Many transportation and delivery companies began adding fuel surcharges when oil prices shot up a few years ago. Now, the cost of oil has plunged — but many of those fuel fees still linger.

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A Boy Who Had Cancer Faces Measles Risk From The Unvaccinated

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 23:57

The father of a young child who had leukemia has a plea for other parents: Please vaccinate your children because people with compromised immune systems, including his son, can't be vaccinated.

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The Oscar Nominees Are In; The Shanghai DVD Sellers Are Stocking Up

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 23:56

The Academy Awards are coming this month and if you're still trying to see all the nominated films, it may be easier to find them in China than the U.S. As long as you don't mind the pirated version.

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Would FCC Plan Harm Telecom Investment? Even Industry Opinion Is Mixed

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 23:55

The Federal Communications Commission will decide this month whether the Internet should be regulated as a public utility. In speeches, CEOs alternately have predicted a chilling effect or no impact.

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A Sigh Of Relief For The Murdoch Media Empire

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 21:32

The U.S. Justice Department decides not to prosecute Rupert Murdoch's media companies for their role in a cellphone voice mail hacking scandal.

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U.S. Walks Back Decision To Classify Info On Afghan Security Forces

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 15:39

A government watchdog had said that classifying the information would harm its ability to publicly account for the billions of dollars spent each year on Afghan forces.

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Sundance Festival Opens Doors For Minority Filmmakers

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-02 14:15

The festival has become a launching pad for emerging filmmakers of color who face challenges in historically white, male-dominated Hollywood.

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