National News

A very tech-y Mother's day! A new Silicon Tally

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 01:00

It's time for Silicon Tally. How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week we're joined by Adrienne LaFrance, an editor and technology reporter at The Atlantic. var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/", id: "silicon-tally-may-9", placeholder: "pd_1399585051" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'https://polldaddy.com/survey.js':'http://i0.poll.fm/survey.js';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

The tech of DJ-ing with DJ Rekha

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 01:00

If you head downtown to (le) Poisson Rouge on the first Thursday of the month, you'll find yourself transported to another country. The Punjab region of South Asia, to be exact.

That's because Rekha Malhotra, a.k.a. DJ Rekha, has spent her entire career as a DJ championing the sounds of Bhangra and Bollywood in the states.

These days, you can find her at Basement Bhangra, a monthly dance party that celebrates the music and dance of Bhangra.

Bhangra music is, in and of itself, a kind of remix - a melding of folk tunes with Western styles of music.

It just so happens that the style and form of the music lends itself to having a dance beat added underneath. 

It is this kind of embrace of the new as it relates to the old that Malhotra remembers as being a significant part of the Indian-American community she knew growing up:

“Every Indian American household had a VCR first, because the movies were important, watching the Bollywood films. And in the 90s there was a huge Indian Bollywood remix scene. Taking Bollywood records without getting the original parts and putting beats on them.”

For her part, Malhotra says technology is both a help and a hinderance to her life as a DJ.

She laments the loss of craft when it comes to the art of physically picking out records and matching the rhythms of tracks for seamless transitions. She also points out, however, that the ability to quickly purchase and download a requested song that she doesn't have on a record or a CD is a blessing, and allows her to better serve her audience.

At the end of the day, Malhotra says being a DJ is about being able to read an audience and react, and no amount of technology can give you that talent.

Listen to a Spotify playlist built by Ben Johnson featuring artists from our Playing With Machines series, and others: 

Medicaid's new patients: healthier, and maybe cheaper

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 00:37

Since the launch of the Affordable Care Act last fall, some five million more Americans have enrolled in the nation's healthcare program for low-income people.

With only half the states expanding their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, researchers believe that number would double if all 50 states moved ahead, and several new reports suggest it may be cheaper for states to go ahead than previously estimated.

Cost is one of the top reasons politicians cite to explain why they're against expanding the program.

A recent Congressional Budget Office report said the cost for states would be nearly a third less than expected. Why the cut?

The CBO over-estimated the number of people eligible for Medicaid pre-ACA who would come out of the woodwork – an effect known in the industry as "woodworking" – as efforts got underway to recruit newly-eligible folks to sign up for Medicaid. And because fewer of previously-eligible people signed up, the bill for states is lower, because states pay a vastly higher share of costs for the previously eligible.

And there are other signs that Medicaid's expansion may help the bottom line.

"We improved care. We improved outcomes and we reduced costs," says Dr. Randy Cebul, who runs the Center for Health Care Research & Policy. He's also the one keeping tabs on the data from a Medicaid pilot project in Cleveland involving nearly 30,000 low-income residents.

Cebul says in this test case for Medicaid expansion in Ohio, health providers helped cut ER use, increased primary care visits and kept spending 25 percent below projections.

"There are probably half of the states that have not expanded Medicaid," he says, "and I think this should be a reason they want to reconsider their decision."

And new Medicaid patients are generally less depressed and not as heavy as people already enrolled, according to a study from Steven Hill, an economist with the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"I think some people were concerned that the people who will be newly eligible might be very unhealthy," he says. "But that's not what we found. And so they may need even less care than current enrollees," he says.

Edwin Park with the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities believes the growing body of information strengthens the proposition that states can afford an expansion.

"All this evidence continues to undermine that it's too costly for the states to take up," he says.

There's just one thing.

Many health policy people, including Park and George Washington health policy professor Sara Rosenbaum say state opposition isn't driven by economics as much as philosophy.

"It's a belief that somehow when you help the poor with governmental assistance you are encouraging bad behavior, laziness," says Rosenbaum.

Josh Archambault with the right-leaning Foundation for Government Accountability says there's some truth to that.

Ultimately though, he says the problem is that you're expanding a broken program that doesn't work for people currently enrolled. And why, he asks, would you just expand something like that?

"Not only does it hurt the people you are adding, but it already hurts people who are on the boat," he says.

But what some conservatives want – and they've begun to get it – is more flexibility in how the expansion program is designed. Even with that, full acceptance could take years. Don't forget, Arizona adopted the original Medicaid program in 1982, 17 years after it was first introduced.

An insider's look into Alibaba and its quirky founder

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:55

In 1995, Alibaba founder Jack Ma was an English teacher. He was visiting Seattle when a friend introduced him to the internet. Ma quickly typed "China" into the search engine. The result? "No data found" appeared on the screen.

Weeks later, Ma was in Beijing, on a Quixotic quest to convince China's government to create the country's first internet site.

The film "Crocodile in the Yangtze" shows grainy footage of a floppy-haired Ma delivering his pitch to a skeptical bureaucrat: "Nowadays, foreigners can use computers from any desktop to find products from around the world," says Ma to a confused-looking senior level official. "They can order directly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore. But they can't order anything from China, because right now there's nothing from China on the Internet."

The official politely asked Ma to take a hike. The film's director Porter Erisman says none of the officials Ma visited on that trip had even heard about the Internet. "You can just see in the footage, the people who are looking at him, they just think he's crazy."

Erisman got the footage from a reporter for state-run television, who thought it'd be funny to follow Ma around as he got kicked out of one government office after another. "The reason the woman was filming Jack was because she thought here's this crazy guy who's clearly not going to go anywhere -- we should record this as an example of how not to behave."

Five years later, Ma started Alibaba, which would become the world's largest online marketplace, and Porter Erisman was hired as the company's first American employee.

At the time, eBay set its sights on China – and Erisman said Jack Ma used his background as a student of martial arts to engage the Western giant.

"One of the key principles in martial arts is you can use an opponents strength against them," says Erisman. "So when we looked at eBay with their big advertising campaign, we realized we could use that campaign to help promote Taobao."

Taobao, Alibaba's shopping site, was launched to fend off eBay.

Alibaba embarked on an aggressive media campaign, attacking eBay and questioning which company was better for China. The strategy worked -- every time eBay ran a local ad, it got people thinking about this new Chinese shopping site Taobao. eBay eventually pulled out of China, and Taobao -- with its hundreds of millions of users -- is a big reason Alibaba is expected to raise billions from investors when it goes public.

That's despite Jack Ma's attitude towards Wall Street, which he shared with Alibaba empoyees at a company gala in Porter Erisman's film.

"Let the Wall Street investors curse us if they want," Ma shouts from a stage in front of thousands of employees, "We will still follow the principle of customers first, employees second, and investors third."

When Lyrics Get Posted Online, Who Gets Paid?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:52

There are about 5 million searches for lyrics every day on Google. Who gets paid when people look up lyrics online?

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Books With Gay Themes Put S.C. Colleges' Funding At Risk

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:43

Students in South Carolina state colleges are rallying against what they see as a conservative attack on academic freedom.

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Saying Goodbye To A Friend Who's 'Ready To Go Home'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:35

Eddie Lanier was homeless when David Wright brought him home years ago for a shower and a meal. Today, Eddie is terminally ill and in hospice care — but he's not afraid to die, he tells his friend.

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Former Commando Turns Conservationist To Save Elephants Of Dzanga Bai

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:34

Nir Kalron was once an Israeli commando, then private security consultant to African leaders, and a dealer of legal arms. Today he's working with African locals to hunt ivory poachers via satellite.

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For Moms In Congress, Votes Mix With Diapers And School Pickup

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:32

There are just nine women who have given birth while serving in Congress. In some ways, they're like all working moms who can't find enough time in the day. But there are also significant differences.

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Well Into Spring, 'Frozen' Soundtrack Keeps The Charts Cool

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 23:23

The soundtrack to Disney's Frozen has been the biggest-selling album of 2014, topping the Billboard album chart for 13 weeks.

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NFL Draft: Texans Pick Clowney; Manziel To Browns

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 22:20

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney went No. 1 in the NFL draft to the Houston Texans. Johnny Manziel lasted until the 22nd pick when he was taken by the Cleveland Browns.

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Report: Apple On Verge Of Buying Beats For $3.2 Billion

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-08 22:10

Apple is trying to acquire Beats Electronics, the headphone maker and music streaming distributor founded by hip-hop star Dr. Dre and record producer Jimmy Iovine, according to a published report.

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