National News

The GPS trade-off: Get lost less often, but lose privacy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:34

In the age of Google Maps, Siri, and GPS, it is hard to get lost.

"You can if you really, really work at it,” says Hiawatha Bray, technology reporter at the Boston Globe and author of “You are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves.”

“The whole idea of being able to navigate through the world with a higher degree of reliability is one of the most challenging technical problems the human race has ever faced, and it’s taken us centuries to beat it.”

But this technological achievement has come at a price, says Bray: Privacy.

Bray says many technologies weren’t designed to track people, but some companies -- and governments -- are using it to do just that. Cell phones and license plate scanners have new, unforseen second purposes. Many cities regularly scan the license plates of vehicles driving their streets.

"There’s no limit right now, under law, [on] how long you can keep those records," Bray says. “I don’t want to get lost, I just don’t want others to constantly track my location.”

Utah Gay Marriage Gets Hearing In Appeals Court

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

Same-sex marriage went before an appeals court in Utah on Thursday. It's the first federal appellate court to hear a marriage case after the 2013 marriage equality decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee was in the courtroom for the hearing.

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Egyptian Journalist Trial Is Long On Jail Time — But Short On Proof

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo about the ongoing trial of Al-Jazeera journalists. The journalists have now been in jail for more than 100 days.

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Colbert Plans To Take Up The Late Night Mic For CBS

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

CBS announced that comedian Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman as a late night host on the network. Letterman, who turns 67 on Saturday, announced his retirement last week.

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Out Of Delhi, A Potential Sea Change For India Election

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

Thursday's a milestone day in India's long election, as 11 states and territories vote on seats in the lower house of parliament. The ruling Congress Party is suffering under anti-incumbent sentiment.

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Austin Hosts Presidents Past And Present To Honor Civil Rights

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

President Obama is in Austin, Texas, honoring the legacy of President Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He's one of four U.S. presidents to appear at a civil rights summit this week.

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Budget Bomb-Throwing Resumes With Party Line Vote

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

The House voted Thursday to approve the budget introduced by Paul Ryan. It was passed on a party line vote. NPR's Tamara Keith joins the program to talk politics and policy.

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A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

The slogan is plastered on cars, cut into the grass at Fenway, tattooed on arms, bedazzled on sweatshirts and printed on T-shirts (and everything else). But some wonder whether it's time to retire it.

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Drilling Frenzy Fuels Sudden Growth In Small Texas Town

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:08

The boom has brought unexpected prosperity — and many new problems — to Cotulla. It's in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale area, which has quickly become the nation's No. 2 oil-producing region.

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GM To Take $1.3 Billion Charge Linked To Recall

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 12:01

The announcement comes on the same day that the automaker said it was suspending two engineers linked to the ignition switch defect that triggered the recall.

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Look out, Human Resources departments

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:59

The Wall Street Journal says there's anecdotal evidence that some companies are choosing to get rid of their Human Resources department. Employers are asking managers to pick up all that interpoersonal stuff, with computer software picking up the payroll and benefits paperwork.

"There's something seductive about the logic of it." says Nancy Koehn, historian at the Harvard Business school.

But she's not convinced it's a good idea. "There's a reason that early twenty-first century companies of any size end up having...a human resource department."

Koehn says it's vital to have someone to settle workplace disputes, manage pay, and to make sure the employees and the company are compliant with state and federal laws.

She also points to companies known for their happy workforce, like Southwest Airlines, Coca-Cola, who invest in huge amounts of human resource management: "It's no surprise -- but an engaged, satisfied, non-bickering workforce that's legally compliant is critically important to the ka-ching, ka-ching of winning in the marketplace."

Can fast fashion compete with Prada?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:56

The fast-fashion retailer H&M is debuting its high-end spin-off brand, "Collection of Style," in pop-up stores in the U.S. next week. The brand, COS for short, is an upscale line that aims to mimic the look of popular fashion brands, such as Prada or Jil Sander, while keeping costs down. The company is scheduled to open full stores in the U.S. later this year.

"It's much less expensive, and it's hip in a way that I don't think fast fashion has had this hip kind of attitude before," says fashion journalist Kate Betts, author of the book, "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the power of style."

COS has stores in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It's only now starting to venture into the American market, with plans to open stores in New York and Los Angeles.

Betts points out that COS has a viable market in the U.S.: "The retailers, the department stores have given women the habit of buying everything on sale, so they're not going to pay full-price for anything anymore."

How Rwanda's Only Ice Cream Shop Challenges Cultural Taboos

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:36

Rwanda is a hot country, and people love dairy products. But the culture discourages public displays of need, including hunger. The women running the lone ice cream shop are trying to change that.

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Last week may have been Gouda, but this week is Feta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:23

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's what's coming up April 11:

  • In Washington, the Labor Department issues its Producer Price Index for March.
  • The International Energy Agency releases its monthly oil market report on supply and demand around the globe.
  • The University of Michigan releases its preliminary April consumer sentiment survey.
  • "Houston, we've had a problem here." That was communication from the aborted Apollo 13 mission that launched on April 11, 1970. The crew didn't land on the Moon as planned, but they did eventually splash down safely on Earth. You probably saw the movie.
  • Iowans were the first to pay a state tax on cigarettes. A 2 cent per pack tax was imposed on April 11, 1921.
  • And foodies probably already know that it's National Cheese Fondue Day. What beats things dipped in cheese? Help me. I'm drawing a blank.

Last week may have been Goulda, but this week is Feta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:23

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's what's coming up April 11:

  • In Washington, the Labor Department issues its Producer Price Index for March.
  • The International Energy Agency releases its monthly oil market report on supply and demand around the globe.
  • The University of Michigan releases its preliminary April consumer sentiment survey.
  • "Houston, we've had a problem here." That was communication from the aborted Apollo 13 mission that launched on April 11, 1970. The crew didn't land on the Moon as planned, but they did eventually splash down safely on Earth. You probably saw the movie.
  • Iowans were the first to pay a state tax on cigarettes. A 2 cent per pack tax was imposed on April 11, 1921.
  • And foodies probably already know that it's National Cheese Fondue Day. What beats things dipped in cheese? Help me. I'm drawing a blank.

When rural hospitals close, towns struggle to stay open

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:15

There’s a healthcare crisis in America that you might not have heard about: Rural hospitals are closing at a rate that’s starting to get some politicians’ attention. Republicans blame Obamacare, while Democrats blame some states’ refusal to expand Medicaid. In reality, the problem started years before all that.

What's clear is that rural hospitals and the rural economy rise and fall together.

Hancock Memorial Hospital in the tiny town of Sparta, Georgia was among the first of nine rural hospitals that have closed across Georgia since 2000. Today, it’s overgrown with weeds and vines, while the roof caves on the gurneys and computers still inside.

“I mean, it was just not economically feasible to maintain the staff and the equipment,” says Robert Moore, whose family has lived in Hancock County since they were emancipated.

Sparta was once a fancy town with lots of antebellum mansions. But Moore says things really started going south in the 1990s.

“Rural Georgia was based on the textile industry, and when NAFTA was signed, all that moved to Mexico, and… sent everything into a downspin,” Moore says.

Hancock County Commission Chair Sistie Hudson says it’s not surprising that a population so small and so poor can't support a whole hospital. “There’s about 2,600 people [in Hancock County] that still work, out of the little more than 8,000 that we have,” she says.

But with Hancock Memorial boarded up, the prospects for future growth are even worse. When Hudson tries to recruit a new industrial employer, one of the first things they ask is: “Do you have a hospital?”

“You just really need a local facility just in case somebody gets hurt in these factories, you know? It’s something that they like to see,” Hudson says.

Just imagine what having no emergency room nearby would do to a company’s workers comp and other insurance costs. It’s a non-starter for most businesses. 

University of North Carolina professor Mark Holmes studied the economic impact of 140 rural hospital closures nationwide.  He found that three years out, losing a hospital costs a community, on average, “about 1.6 percentage points in unemployment, about $700 in per capita income, and that was in [year] 2000 dollars so that’d be probably about $1,000 currently."

And that’s only the effect on economic health. What about health?

Speaking on the subject a few weeks ago, Georgia state Senator David Lucas paused several times to weep as he addressed his colleagues this spring: “[It] ends up with rural communities, such as Hancock County, where 39 percent of the folks who have a stroke or have a heart attack die." That’s a lot higher than in counties with hospitals close by.

Georgia officials are exploring solutions to this problem that could become a national model – basically, a medical facility that does more than an urgent care clinic, but isn’t as big a whole hospital. But Georgia’s Community Health Commissioner Clyde Reese says America’s healthcare system doesn’t provide enough ways for the operator of that kind of place to get paid.

“They’re not going to be hospitals, they won’t be reimbursed as hospitals, they won’t be able to charge a facility fee, they won’t get the Medicaid add-on rate, etc.,” Reese says.

Reese is working on ways to fix that. Because without reimbursements, there will be no emergency care. And with no emergency care, there probably will be no new jobs in Hancock County.

Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 11:03

Researchers ignited a debate three years ago when they changed a deadly flu virus so that it could spread between people. Only five mutations are needed to turn the virus into a pandemic threat.

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Why low inflation can be dangerous

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:51
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 06:36 JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Euro cents are seen on a chessboard and the word 'inflation' as a part of a advertisement on October 12, 2010 in Berlin.

Right now our inflation rate is around 1 percent. But some at the Fed say that's way too low.

The hope is to see inflation go up. But why on earth would we want to increase inflation?  

"A little bit is good, but not too much. It's like a lot of things in life -- good in moderation," says Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at Wharton. "Higher inflation is a bad thing, but mild inflation, statistically has been associated with very good economic times."

Siegel says during times of inflation, the dollar decreases in value. So the $100 you borrowed back in the day was worth more then, than your $100 payment today -- which means less financial burdens for consumers and more cash to spend.

And that's one reason the Fed wants to see inflation go up -- just a little bit. 

"It's not so high as to be hurting a lot of people, but it's at a level which would probably create a lot of jobs," says Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisers. Thayer says the benefit of job creation would probably outweigh a slightly higher inflation rate.

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday, April 11, 2014by Sally HershipsPodcast Title Why low inflation can be dangerousStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Ukraine not on the agenda as IMF gathers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:46
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 06:20 Mark Wilson/Getty Images

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during a media briefing at the IMF Headquarters, on April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Director Lagarde spoke about their agenda for the 2014 Spring Meetings that are taking place now and will end on Sunday.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are set to open their annual spring meetings. It will be a busy weekend for finance ministers and economists who are visiting Washington from all over the world. Dozens of panels and speeches are on the agenda, but none are about Ukraine, a country the IMF has offered billions of dollars.

According to Ken Rogoff, former IMF chief economist, right now, “the geopolitics overrides what the finance ministers and the central bankers think.”

But at a gathering of policymakers from close to 200 countries, it is bound to come up.

“I think it’s going to be talked about behind closed doors,” says Barry Eichengreen, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.  

Marketplace Morning Report for Friday, April 11, 2014by David GuraPodcast Title Ukraine not on the agenda as IMF gathersStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Obama: 'The Story Of America Is The Story Of Progress'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 10:31

In a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, President Obama remembered Lyndon Johnson as complex man who seized a moment and became a giant of American history.

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