National News

Tracing the perilous history Antarctic expeditions

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

Off Antarctica, three icebreakers have so far failed to make it through to a Russian ship trapped in the ice since Christmas Eve. It's a research ship with 74 scientists, some tourists, and crew.  Everyone's fine, but now they're waiting for a break in the weather so a helicopter can get through.

Ben Maddison an historian on the ship, and is retracing the voyage of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson who ran into big trouble in the Antarctic a hundred years ago. That's the one where the expedition members had to eat their sleddogs and learned the fatal consequences of injesting concentrations of vitamin A in dog's liver. Our interest is the economic incentives for that famous famous but tragic expedition.

Click on the audio player above to hear more.

The push to educate the newly insured

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-01 03:54

As of December 31, the government says more than two million Americans have signed up for insurance through the state or federal health exchanges – some for the first time. Nearly 4 million more have enrolled in Medicaid.

It's akin to waking up to a new car in your garage, but not necessarily knowing how to drive. And consumers will be the first ones to tell you, there’s a lot to learn about health insurance.

According to a recent report from the Urban Institute, less than half of Americans with insurance felt like they had a good grasp on basic health insurance terms like premium, deductible and covered services.

“A lot of our focus has been on on-boarding a customer,” saysBrian Lobley of Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia. "What do we do to make that first experience not only useful to them, but to understand it.”

For example, Lobley says consumers might be tempted to purchase a plan with low monthly premiums, but he says that might come with expensive co-pays. 

“And you’d be better off paying a little bit more per month to have a lower out-of-pocket cost,” he says.

Insurers want the customer experience to be positive the first time out. Because if it is, those customers could they stick around for years to come.

The biggest tech legal battles to watch in 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-01 03:27

This week we're talking to people about big tech trends in the coming year. Today it's Cyrus Farivar, senior business editor at the website Ars Technica. He has been looking at some big tech issues in 2014 through the lens of some high profile legal battles.

The first case getting attention this year is that of Pascal Abidor, a French citizen whose laptop and phone were confiscated and copied when he was detained at the border between Canada and the U.S. in 2010. Abidor's lawsuit was dismissed this week by a federal judge in Brooklyn.

Other cases to watch this year include the criminal case centered around the illegal drug marketplace Silk Road, as well as the extradition hearing in New Zealand for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

The tech behind tracking marijuana plants in Colorado

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-01 02:59

Starting today, Colorado will become the first state to begin allowing the sale of marijuana to anyone over the age of 21. Recreational use has been legal in the state for about a year now, but today the plant will be officially available at stores with special liscenses. And, where there's a crop, and retail stores to sell that crop, there's a tracking system -- as in RFID tags. Not an alien concept to the world of retail. Some of these tags have a strap that you can attach to the plant. Each plant gets tagged, each tag has a number, and each number goes into an large online database. The Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution or as Julie Postlethwait, an officer with Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division, calls it, MITS.

Click on the audio player above to hear more.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush Is Hospitalized

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

Barbara Bush, 88, is in a hospital in Houston with a respiratory-related issue, according to her husband's office.

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Dying Lawyer Convicted Of Aiding Terrorism Leaves Prison

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-01 01:25

In 2005, Lynn Stewart was convicted of helping blind Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with followers while he was serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks.

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RoboCop? How About RoboPenguin!

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

When physicist Flavio Noca first saw penguins zooming around underwater, he was blown away by their speed and maneuverability. Now, his team has built a robotic arm that perfectly mimics the flippers in action — and he says the device could someday propel underwater craft.

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Malawian Farmers Say Adapt To Climate Change Or Die

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

A local Christian aid group is trying to help villages adapt by planting drought-tolerant crops and setting up pumps for irrigation. But even with new methods and crops, farmers still need to know: When is it safe to plant?

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Federal Flood Insurance Program Drowning In Debt. Who Will Pay?

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

Congress has tried to boost premiums on the cheap, subsidized insurance FEMA offers. But property owners in flood zones protested the rate hikes, and legislators backed off in 2013, calling for "further study." Meanwhile, a string of bad storms has left the program $24 billion in debt — so far.

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Banks Try To Save Big With 'ATMs Of The Future'

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 23:58

An ATM that lets you video chat with a teller hundreds of miles away? It's part of an effort by the banking industry to cut costs: The more ATMs can do, the less banks have to spend on tellers and real estate. But in-person branches still remain the best way for banks to get new business.

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Justice Delays Birth Control Mandate For Catholic Groups

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 19:34

A Supreme Court justice has blocked implementation of portions of President Obama's health care law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control. Justice Sonia Sotomayor is giving the government until Friday to respond.

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Japan's State Secrets Law: Hailed By U.S., Denounced By Japanese

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 15:53

Japan's tough new law protecting state secrets was a victory for Washington, which had long pressured its Asian ally to exert tighter control over classified information. But the controversial law has triggered widespread outrage in Japan and undermined the popularity of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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2014 Resolutions: Destie Sprague

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2013-12-31 14:54

Happy New Year! In 2014, Marketplace Money will follow a few listeners from around the country who’ve resolved to make over their personal finance lives. We’ll be checking up on their financial New Year’s resolutions periodically throughout the year and see if they're achieving their goals!

Name: Destie Hohman Sprague
Family: Husband George Sprague, son Robert Sprague
Location: Bath, Maine
Resolution: “We are really looking to firm up some of our general mechanics of our finances, like readjusting our investment allocation. I think more importantly, handling our general cash flow and getting a better cash-management system and graphing our income and expenses. We’re thinking about doing a cash-only system, so we’re not pulling out that credit card or writing checks.”

The Spragues are happy with their current savings, but Destie did mention she’d like to turn her focus to something else: “I’m more interested in saving, driving down our expenses, and increasing savings so that potentially i could switch over into doing consulting work … it’s a longer term goal and it’s not very motivating in the day-to-day to going out to lunch at work.”

Carmen Says: “In order for us to actually turn our inertia into action, we need that kind of nudge, that little push over the edge, and part of that is really having a motivation that you feel connected to. You want to be a consultant, I would say, when would that happen? How much money would you need in the bank to make it happen? That’s going to be your cash goal.”

“Let’s say it’s $100 a month. Mark on your calendar four years out, take it every 30 days. This is the balance you have to have, one of the exercises I give people: Write down everything you spend. And that simple action will get you to process what you’re spending. You naturally will spend less, because you’re thinking about it .. it’s a way of making those decisions live.”

Vitamin E Might Help Slow Alzheimer's Early On

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 14:45

Vitamin E has gotten a bad rap because of studies finding it increases risk of death. But people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease might be able to fend off symptoms for a while, a study finds. That could mean more a little more time to live independently, and less burden on caregivers.

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Out Like A Bull: 2013 Was A Banner Year For Wall Street

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 14:31

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 26.5 percent, the S&P Index rose 29.6 percent and the Nasdaq jumped 38 percent.

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Utah Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Stop Gay Marriages

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 14:29

Utah officials say of same-sex marriages that are now taking place in their state, "each one is an affront." Justice Sonia Sotomayor has asked for a response to their request for a stay by Friday.

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Here's How Young Farmers Looking For Land Are Getting Creative

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 14:13

Across the country, there's a wave of interest in local food, and a new generation of young farmers wants to grow it. But many aren't buying land. Instead, they're renting it.

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The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 13:46

In 2012, "massive open online courses" were lauded as the most important trend in higher education. But this year, educators and even students rebelled against the rapid expansion of online learning. Two of the biggest MOOCs say they're making big changes in how they deliver their classes in 2014.

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Judge Upholds Key Provisions Of N.Y. Gun-Control Law

NPR News - Tue, 2013-12-31 13:14

Judge William Skretny in Buffalo rejected arguments from opponents that a ban on large-capacity magazines and the sale of semi-automatic rifles infringed on Second Amendment rights.

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Peace talks in world's newest state involve oil revenue

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2013-12-31 13:12

Peace talks in Ethiopia could end heavy fighting between the government and rebels in South Sudan. Formed in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest state.

And what happens in the region has global economic implications because oil represents 98 percent of South Sudan's budget revenue.

"It would have been difficult for South Sudan to become an independent country without America's influence, even though of course it was the South Sudanese who died in the long wars and fought for their freedom," says the BBC's James Copnall.

Both the U.S. and China in particular are watching the situation closely.

On Tuesday, the U.S. sent Donald Booth, special envoy to the region, to meet with President Kiir. The U.S. has been sending aid to the country, after years of conflict.


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