National News

Why automakers are getting into healthcare

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 02:44

A new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers highlights growing opportunity in the healthcare sector. 

In fact, the report lays out that almost half of the Fortune 50 companies – firms that previously did not have anything to do with healthcare – are getting into the game.

“The money is starting to move differently,” says the report’s author, Ceci Connolly, the head of the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "More and more of us are having to spend our own dollars, and make our own health care decisions."

Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans have health insurance, technology is changing, and we have seen “the rise of the consumer.”

The report highlight's Ford's work on a system that would help drivers with chronic conditions.

"These sorts of pushes toward more consumer-directed health care might be a good thing," says Zack Cooper, a health policy professor at Yale. He says access to data and access to information means we're not as reliant on experts.

Can Russia be isolated? Not if China has anything to do with it.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 02:16

With Ukraine refusing to pay its gas bills to Russia's Gazprom and Europe looking for alternative energy sources, Russia -- it seems -- is on the outs. But now Putin is turning his attention eastward, towards China, and may be finding a friend. 

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss Russia's balancing act and why the country might try to disrupt Ukraine's upcoming elections.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full interview. 

2 Pakistani Musicians Gain Fame Singing Political Satire

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 01:16

In Pakistan, it's too dangerous to print your opinion. So it may be surprising that 2 Pakistani musicians are Internet celebrities after releasing songs lambasting the nation's mullahs and military.

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Sharp decline in Chinese trade surprise economists

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 01:12

Speaking at the Bo’ao forum for Asia, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reassured attendees that China’s economy “has had a smooth start this year, and our overall performance is good.”

 As Li said this, key economic data was released from China showing exports from the world’s second biggest economy had slipped 6.6% in March from a year ago. Imports were down more than 11%.

Both numbers were worse than forecasters predicted. Part of the reason is that a year ago, many Chinese exporters were overstating the value of their shipments in order to bypass China’s strict currency controls. That allowed them to bring more dollars into China with the hopes that the Yuan would appreciate. This year, China’s central bank has pushed down the value of the Yuan, so there’s no longer an incentive for exporters to fake the numbers.

The 11% decline in imports, however, surprised a lot of economists. The month of March is always an important one for China, because it’s the first month after the Chinese New Year, which tends to skew numbers a bit because of the inactivity of the markets.

A decline in imports is a sign that China’s economy is still in slowdown mode. Premier Li acknowledged as much during his speech today. “These problems are not only the result of a complex international environment, but also objective reflections of prominent conflicts that lie deep inside China’s economy, as well as the fact that China’s growth rate is shifting gear,” said Li.

 

 

The U.S. needs more energy grids

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-10 01:00

The U.S. Senate Energy Committee is meeting to consider the reliability and security of the U.S. electric grid. It's a question that bears asking, considering the entire U.S. runs on just three, large-scale power grids (East coast, West coast and Texas. Go figure). As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. 

At least David Newman, a physics professor at the University of Alaska, thinks so. His research explores how smaller power grids could help avoid massive outages like the 2003 Northeast blackout. Though, he certainly understands the appeal of having a larger grid:

"As you increase the size of the network, you’re increasing the number of places that you can be getting the energy to, and so you make it -- in a sense -- more efficient. But our work showed that it’s actually also potentially a bad thing because what it does is that it allows larger and larger failures of the system."

Newman acknowledges that there's no way to get rid of system failures completely, but with massive outages potentially costing billions of dollars, it's at least worth exploring what size network optimally combines efficiency and security.

No Plows, Cows, Sows: Not Your (Grand)Father's Youth Farm Group

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-10 00:29

A record number of kids are joining the FFA, formerly the Future Farmers of America. Many are from urban and suburban areas, and they're shifting the group's focus from agriculture to food science.

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In Ukraine's Rust Belt, A Mix Of Nostalgia And Nationalism

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 23:37

People in the region cling to the decaying world they're familiar with — and think they would have a more secure future with post-Soviet Russia than with Ukraine in the "capitalist" EU.

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A Reporter Reflects On Rwanda: 'It's Like A Madness Took Over'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 23:36

NPR's Jackie Northam was a freelance reporter based in Kenya when the Rwandan genocide erupted. In this essay, she recalls covering those terrible events and trying to make sense of them afterward.

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Doctors' Billing System Stays Stuck In The 1970s For Now

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 23:33

Last week Congress delayed an upgrade of codes that govern the U.S. health system. Some say this will waste millions of dollars and make cost-saving and life-saving research more difficult.

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No Laptops, No Wi-Fi: How One Cafe Fired Up Sales

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 23:30

What's the etiquette around using your laptop in public? If you stop for lunch at the August First Bakery in Burlington, Vt., keep your computer in your bag. The cafe is banning screens.

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What M&M's have to do with dog food

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 15:51

M & M’s, Snickers, Twix and Milky Way. They’re all made by Mars. In fact, most of us know Mars as one of the world’s biggest chocolate makers.

What you may not know is that Mars makes a lot more than chocolate. The company owns products such as instant rice, coffee, holistic remedies -- and even pet food.

In fact, if you feed your dog or cat Pedigree or Whiskas, or even “gourmet filets” made by the high-end Cesar brand, you are buying Mars products. And now, Mars will own even more of the names in the pet food aisle.

Procter & Gamble on Wednesday agreed to sell their Iams, Eukanuba and Natura pet food brands to Mars for $2.9 billion in cash. The deal is limited to markets in North America, Latin America and a few other countries.

“The deal reinforces our leadership in pet nutrition and veterinary science,” Todd Lachman, global president for Mars Petcare, said in a statement.

Who knew Mars was a leader in “pet nutrition and veterinary science”?

Here are five brands you might also be surprised to know that Mars owns: 

1. Uncle Ben's Rice

 (Source: YouTube

2. CocoaVia 

www.cocoavia.com 

3. Cesar

(Source: YouTube)

 4. Altoids 

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

5. Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape

(Source:YouTube)

The heartache of Heartbleed

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 15:00

There is plenty of panic to go around surrounding the announcement of a major security flaw in OpenSSL, the open-sourced version of the security connection used by most web servers to encrypt information between users, sites, and companies. Here's some basic info on "Heartbleed," and what you need to know:

1. What the heck is SSL? And should I worry whenever that lock appears in my browser? Or when I see ‘https://’?

SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer.” It refers to the connection between your computer and the company hosting whatever website you are currently browsing. Take a banking website, for example. Ideally, you’d want that connection to be secure against hackers being able to see the information being transmitted back and forth -- In this case, sensitive information like your social security number or your credit card numbers. Companies that have a SSL connection will encrypt any information transferred between your computer and the company.

That’s why you see the lock in the upper left-hand corner of your browser. Companies with an SSL connection have paid for an SSL Certificate, and notify their users via the lock icon. Additionally, the “s” in “https://” is another signifier of an SSL connection, and stands for “secure.”

For more information, check out this video.

In theory, this is how it should work: encryption of information on an SSL should guard against anyone gaining access and decrypting that information. Except when it doesn’t. As security experts discovered, a flaw in the open-sourced version of SSL has been a vulnerability for about two years, and could allow a hacker to get access to private information as well as the key to decryption. It’s especially problematic when considering that about 2/3 of the web-serves use OpenSSL. Cue terrifying nickname: the “Heartbleed” bug.

 2. I’ve heard I shouldn’t change my passwords yet. Why not?

In simple terms, if a site is compromised, changing your password won’t do much until the company that runs the site installs a patch. A better strategy is to wait until sites have a chance to fix their “Heartbleed” woes, and then change your password. Otherwise you might simply be giving a hacker your new password.

3. Which sites are affected by “Heartbleed”?

You can look at a list of sites here, or check for yourself here.

 

*UPDATE: While changing your password on a website that isn't yet secure could be dangerous, many companies are now saying they have patched or updated OpenSSL flaws in their system and that users should update login information. Mashable has a good running list of sites and their status.

Turmoil in Ukraine Clouds The Region's Economic Outlook

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 14:05

The developed part of Europe is perking up, but the other part of the continent is anything but steady these days, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank say.

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Why My Wife Didn't Choose A Double Mastectomy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 14:03

More and more women are deciding to have double mastectomies when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. TV host Samantha Harris is just the latest. But it's not the right choice for everyone.

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Roses are red, violets are blue

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 13:44

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's what's coming up April 10:

  • In Washington, a look at the nation's balance sheet. The Treasury Department issues its monthly statement for March.
  • Drone delivery is just one of the topics at the fourth annual PostalVision 2020 Conference getting underway in the nation's capital.
  • Golfers tee off in Augusta, Georgia during the first round of the Masters Tournament.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby" was first published on April 10th, 1925.
  • And think eloquent thoughts. April is National Poetry Month.

Comcast says it needs to get bigger to compete

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 13:38

Before a Senate hearing on Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, the company dropped a lengthy memo to the Federal Communications Commission, summed up in a blog post. In part, it argued that the merger would be good for competition in broadband, since Comcast’s rivals— including telecoms like Verizon and AT&T— are so big

Which is a different question from whether they offer broadband services that actually compete with Comcast. Andy Hargreaves, a Pacific Crest Securities analyst who looks at both TV and tech, thinks Comcast already dominates, with other companies unable to consistently offer similar speeds.

He estimates that the merged company would have the best-quality service in about 70 percent of the U.S. market. He thinks that’s a problem -- it gives the company power to keep jacking up prices.  “They are exceptionally good at raising rates,” he says.

However, he doubts these questions will sink the deal. Merging the companies, he says, doesn’t actually make it much harder for a real competitor to emerge.

“It’s already near impossible,” he says. “So raising the bar from really, really, really, really, really, high to really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY high is not that big a deal.”

David Balto, an anti-trust lawyer and a former Federal Trade Commission official, thinks the merger will likely be approved. Comcast and Time Warner haven't been competing with each other before the merger in existing markets, so consumers aren’t losing choices.

“You may not like the competitive environment,” he says, “but there are scores of mergers that the FTC and the Justice Department have approved because they could not find a loss of competition.”

Goldman Sachs considers shutting down its 'dark pool'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 13:10

Goldman Sachs executives have reportedly been toying with the idea of shutting down their dark pool, known as Sigma X.

"Dark pools" are to stock exchanges what private pools are to the Y. They are places for people to trade stocks in private, and many banks have them.

Privacy and Savings

There are benefits to having a dark pool, to be sure. Customers can trade more cheaply as they don’t pay exchange fees like they would on, say, the NYSE.  For institutional investors, privacy can be critically important as well. For example, an institutional investor making a supersized buy order in the open would be noticed by sellers, who would raise the price before the order was even complete.  

“Essentially, large institutional investors like this as a way of minimizing price impact and reducing trading costs,” says Craig Pirrong at the University of Houston. 

Suspicion and Negative PR

However, there is also a great deal of suspicion over dark pools at the moment, as the flipside of privacy is decreased transparency. “There’s a considerable deal of regulatory uncertainty and legal uncertainty,” Pirrong says.

“Almost all dark pools work by taking prices from exchanges and filling orders based on those exchanges,” explains Larry Harris of the USC Marshall School of Business. So is it fair that a dark pool can use exchange prices, but not contribute to formation of those prices? Harris says: “And even worse, as the orders are taken away from those exchanges, the quality of the prices depreciates.”

Customers may see a conflict of interest as well.  

“It might be better if people weren’t worried that I was only going to my dark pool because it was my dark pool,” says Joe Gawronsky, president of Rosenblatt Securities. It’s a bit of a PR problem. 

A Liability Issue

Running a private stock exchange is no small feat. When participants’ expectations aren’t aligned with reality, or when prices in the pool become disconnected from prices on exchanges, it can be a serious liability for the entity running the pool.

“Particularly when there’s a fast moving, volatile market and the timeliness of the prices may be, for whatever reason, not appropriately reflective of the prices that were prevailing at the time,” says Andrew Karolyi, professor of finance at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell.  This happened to Goldman in 2011, and the bank sent checks to cover traders who lost out as a result.

Alternatives

Gawronsky says firms like Goldman have alternatives. “There are other methods to get price improvement and hide your order other than using your own dark pool,” he says. 

There are other entities’ dark pools, of course. There’s also IEX, an alternative trading platform designed to address what its founders argue are flaws in the structure of the U.S. equity market. Goldman has supported IEX precisely because of its commitment to transparency and market moderating effect.  

Finally, for those concerned with anonymity, Gawronsky points out that Goldman and other large banks offer algorithmic trading. These are computer-based trading mechanisms that can be used to disguise movements -- breaking up a large trade into smaller trades throughout the day, for example.   

When all is said and done: “I’m not sure it will materially affect Goldman’s revenues,” Gawronsky says.  “You could argue they don’t have that much to lose, and what do they gain? Potentially a PR win and something that customers may applaud.”

Peeps year-round: Harbinger of apocalypse

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 13:10

I've been away, which is maybe how I missed this, but you know peeps? Those marshmallow bird things you get around easter?   The companies that makes them -- Just Born -- says starting May 1, they'll be available all year round.   "We're making every day into a holiday," a company official said.   Allow me to exercise the Marketplace host's prerogative, and declare it this week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us.        

Peeps year-round: Harbinger of apocalypse.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 13:10
I've been away, which is maybe how I missed this, but you know peeps? Those marshmallow bird things you get around easter?   The companies that makes them -- Just Born -- says starting May 1, they'll be available all year round.   "We're making every day into a holiday," a company official said.   Allow me to exercise the Marketplace host's prerogative, and declare it this week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us.        

What To Do Now That The Heartbleed Bug Exposed The Internet

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-09 13:08

As companies scramble to patch a bug that exposed much of the Internet for two years, you can protect yourself by practicing some good Web hygiene.

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