National News

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Congress' Longest-Serving Woman, To Retire

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 07:54

The Maryland Democrat has served in the Senate since 1987, and was the first woman to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Quiz: An econ lesson in open textbooks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-02 07:34

College students spend more than $1,000, on average, for textbooks and supplies each year, according to the Student Public Interest Research Groups.

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Nasdaq Index Hits 5,000 For First Time Since 2000

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 07:34

The NASDAQ composite index returned to territory it hasn't seen since the heyday of the dot-com boom, crossing the 5,000 mark in early trading Monday.

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Feds want fewer anti-psychotics prescribed to seniors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-02 06:33

Some patients with dementia can behave in ways that caregivers find difficult: They hit, they yell. Sometimes, they get prescribed anti-psychotics.

The Food and Drug Administration says that such off-label uses are risky — people taking them are more likely to die.  A new report from the Government Accountability Office recommends steps for reducing their use.

Marketing efforts for these non-approved uses have drawn fire from federal prosecutors. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson paid more than a billion dollars in federal fines for improperly marketing its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. In March of this year, a Chicago psychiatrist pleaded guilty to accepting $600,000 in kickbacks from another drug-maker.

Not all adoption is illicit, says Dan Mendolson, CEO of Avalere, a health-care consultancy.

"A lot of the demand is driven by the patients' families," he says. "These are effective drugs, and the reason why they’re so widely prescribed is because they work beautifully."

However, they may eclipse other, safer alternatives, says Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Johns Hopkins University.

"There are certainly some settings where clinicians and patients and family members are between a rock and a hard place," Alexander says. "But I don’t think it’s fair to say that there aren’t other options. And I don’t think it’s fair to say that patients are breaking down the doors, trying to access these therapies."

The Department of Health and Human Services has been attempting to reduce the use of these drugs in nursing homes. Today’s report looks at their use with patients in other settings.

Video Shows L.A. Police Shot And Killed Man On Sidewalk

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 06:20

The LAPD says a Taser did not subdue the man, who was struggling with officers on the ground when he was shot to death. Police say the man tried to grab an officer's gun.

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Netanyahu: Reports Of Decline In U.S.-Israel Ties 'Just Wrong'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 05:41

His remarks at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee come a crucial time for U.S.-Israeli relationship.

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Netanyahu In Washington For Controversial Speech To Congress

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 04:18

"The move has created bad blood between Netanyahu and Obama, and relations between the two countries have suffered," NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

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College: I'll Only Go If I Know (That I Can Afford It)

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 04:03

New research shows if students don't think they can afford college, they may not even apply.

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PODCAST: What's in a tech name?

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

For the second month in a row, Americans spent less. More on that. Plus, Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs] will be discussed in California today at the leading online course provider Coursera’s annual conference. A likely discussion on the agenda: the growth of corporate MOOCs. And many cities across the U.S. are trying to become the next Silicon Valley. The word "startup" is often thrown around as these towns try to compete in today's global economy. In Minneapolis, there's even an effort to attract young talent by pushing for a regional name change. 

Iraq Launches Effort To Retake Tikrit From ISIS Fighters

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 02:51

An Iraqi force has begun a large-scale operation to recapture Tikrit, according to state TV. Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, lies between Baghdad and Mosul.

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What 5G means for you

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

The Mobile World Congress begins Monday in Barcelona, Spain. The agenda for the first day: 5G.

It’s still an emerging technology, but it’s got everyone excited because of what it promises. You can download movies in seconds, play your GIFs in milliseconds, and power the Internet of Things.

Even the FCC is excited: they announced late last year they they want to plan for 5G cellular networks.  

“This is one of the most exciting things, in my mind, that the FCC has done in a while,” says Ted Rappaport, director of NYU WIRELESS, and a professor at New York University's polytechnic school of engineering. “They have issued a notice of inquiry about how we could we use a vast new spectrum resource that has never been used before for mobile.”

If this happens, says Rappaport, cell phone frequency will at least increase to ten times of what it is now: “Going from 2 or 3 gigahertz to 28 or 38 or 60 or 72 gigahertz.”

Those speeds would bring “enormous”  bandwidth, he adds.

“Billions of dollars are being spent on the research and development for this 5G millimeter wave future,” says Rappaport.

 

Could 'North' become the new Silicon Valley?

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

Many cities across the U.S. are trying to become the next Silicon Valley. The word "startup" is often thrown around as these towns try to compete in today's global economy.

In Minneapolis, there's even an effort to attract young talent by pushing for a regional name change. That's right, a group of business leaders and academics think Minnesota should break away from the Midwest and establish a new region called the "North."

Tom Fisher is the dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. He says this change wouldn't just include the land of ten-thousand lakes.

"The 'North' isn't just Minnesota. It also includes parts of Iowa, a big part of Wisconsin, parts of Michigan and parts of the Dakota's," Fisher said.

Fisher says this grassroots effort gives the region a chance to promote something it is often ridiculed for.

"In the 'North,' where we often apologize for being cold, at least in the winter, part of what we're talking is that there's a huge advantage to that," Fisher said.

Fisher says in a cold climate, people aren't as distracted during the winter months, allowing them to huddle up and be creative. He points to the innovative culture in places like Scandinavia. Fisher also says Minnesota and surrounding areas are overlooked for their contributions to the tech community, especially when it comes to health-care technology.

But Paul DeBettignies, a local tech recruiter, says a campaign centered around a name change won't do much to convince young innovators to flock here. He adds that bragging about being able to thrive in harsh winters might not be a good idea.

"I usually get asked four questions by candidates. The first one is: 'how cold is it?' And then: 'No really, how cold is it?' DeBettignies said.

DeBettignies says those behind the regional name-change should ditch their geography obsession. He says they will get more mileage out of simply promoting the good things that are happening in the startup community. He also says it wouldn't hurt to remind the rest of the world that it does get warm here during the summer.

MOOCs 2.0, the corporate edition

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

One of the top online course providers, Coursera, holds its annual conference Monday and Tuesday. Coursera offers a long list of mostly free, massive open online courses, or MOOCs.   

The latest trend? MOOCs designed for workers to sharpen their skills. Some corporations are now requiring them. 

About half of the people taking MOOCs on Coursera are trying to upgrade their job skills. Some corporations have started paying for Coursera’s certificate programs.

MOOCs are especially useful for new fields like analyzing big data for things like credit scoring.

“Since it’s a brand new field, nobody studied it in school," says Rick Levin, CEO of Coursera. "Anybody over 30 never even heard of it when they were in school.”

So, their employer tells them to take a MOOC.   

Jeanne Meister is founding partner of the consulting firm Future Workplace. She expects corporations to start demanding more.

“Custom MOOCs to fill particular skill gaps," she says. "That’s where it’s going.”

Meister surveyed 195 HR executives about MOOCs a year and a half ago. 

70 percent wanted to use MOOCs for training. But there weren’t enough MOOCs on the subjects they wanted. 

Their complaint now? Too many MOOCs to choose from.

MOOCs 2.0, the corporate edition

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

One of the top online course providers, Coursera, holds its annual conference Monday and Tuesday. Coursera offers a long list of mostly free, massive open online courses, or MOOCs.   

The latest trend? MOOCs designed for workers to sharpen their skills. Some corporations are now requiring them. 

About half of the people taking MOOCs on Coursera are trying to upgrade their job skills. Some corporations have started paying for Coursera’s certificate programs.

MOOCs are especially useful for new fields like analyzing big data for things like credit scoring.

“Since it’s a brand new field, nobody studied it in school," says Rick Levin, CEO of Coursera. "Anybody over 30 never even heard of it when they were in school.”

So, their employer tells them to take a MOOC.   

Jeanne Meister is founding partner of the consulting firm Future Workplace. She expects corporations to start demanding more.

“Custom MOOCs to fill particular skill gaps," she says. "That’s where it’s going.”

Meister surveyed 195 HR executives about MOOCs a year and a half ago. 

70 percent wanted to use MOOCs for training. But there weren’t enough MOOCs on the subjects they wanted. 

Their complaint now? Too many MOOCs to choose from.

Advertising is built into 'House of Cards'

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

Netflix has released the new season of “House of Cards." If there’s been one criticism of the show, it’s that it’s too heavy on product placement.

One plus for brands: viewers can’t fast -forward through product placement, says John Murphy, who teaches advertising at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It’s part of the story line, and therefore it’s potentially much more valuable exposure than a traditional 30-second spot,” he says.

The brands are definitely making money. But the shows? Unlikely, says Abram Sauer, founder of the Annual Product Placement Awards at Brandchannel.com.

“I would be shocked, personally, to learn that any money was paid to Netflix in any form,” he says. 

Sauer says a lot of times brands pay with props instead of cash. Like, if there’s a bar scene, the brewer will bring in everything needed to make it look like a real bar. For a show, that can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

What's pushing family homelessness to record levels?

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

Jenny Blahowski is trying to be a normal mom. On a recent afternoon she fetched two of her boys at a bus stop in a Minneapolis suburb.

"How was school?" she asked, cheerfully.

But things are not normal. The kids pile into her minivan, which is filled with stuff you’d probably keep in your home, if you had a home. Blahowski and her kids have been homeless since December. Blankets, clothes and toys fill the back of the minivan. 

Jenny Blahowski greets her boys Leon, 6, and Daniel, 9 at a bus stop outside the emergency shelter they stayed at for nearly three months in the Minneapolis suburb Shakopee.

Annie Baxter/Marketplace

They’ve been staying at an emergency shelter run by the nonprofit Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Blahowski says that's helped a lot. But her six year-old, Leon, has been way more emotional lately. Crouched in his car seat, he peers out from under a purple ski cap with the word “LUCKY” emblazoned on it, and he begins to wail. His mom's not sure why. His crying jag lasts about half an hour.

There are now 2.5 million homeless kids in America today, according to the National Center for Family Homelessness at the American Institutes for Research or AIR.

“These are the highest numbers on record. It's truly epidemic levels that we've reached,” says John McGah, senior associate at AIR.

AIR came up with its number based on data from the U.S. Census and the Department of Education. The latter counts kids as homeless if they're on the street; in a car or a shelter; or if they're doubled up temporarily with friends or relatives. It’s a broader definition of homelessness than the one used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Experts say even doubling up can have bad consequences for kids. Wilder Research in St. Paul, Minn. has found that kids who are doubled up miss more school than kids in shelters, as shelters may provide transportation to school.

McGah and other experts say efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless have been successful in bringing their ranks down. But McGah says homeless kids and their families haven't gotten the same political attention.

At the same time, rents are rising. A lot of people are priced out of the rental market. And HUD’s Section 8 housing voucher program, its largest housing subsidy program for low-income people, isn't keeping up with demand.

“Everywhere you go, it's either there's a long, long wait-list or you can't even get on the wait-list because there are so many people on the wait-list,” says Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy with the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Jenny Blahowski says her six year-old son Leon has been more emotional than usual during the three months they’ve spent in a homeless shelter in a Minneapolis suburb.

Annie Baxter/Marketplace

Jenny Blahowski says she’s tried to get onto several section Section 8 wait lists to no avail. Beacon Interfaith is helping her on that front.

But she also faces another issue in today’s tight rental market: landlords are extra picky. Blahowski says she's been sober for four years but her past includes drugs and theft. Ditto for her husband, who's now in rehab. That all puts their family at a big disadvantage.

“You don't realize how far it will follow you even if you've been sober for so many years,” she says.

Still, a county program is helping Blahowski get out of the shelter and into transitional housing with three of her four kids. Her ex has custody of her oldest boy. Once her husband’s out of rehab, they’re both working, and the family has more permanent housing, Blahowski hopes to have all four boys under one roof.

“I want them to be someone that they're proud of,” she says. “So I try my hardest to find a home for them and make sure they’re going to school and doing what they have to do.”

Live Long and Draw my Image on $5 Bills

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-02 01:30
$11.8 billion

That's how much NXP Semiconductors will pay for Freescale semiconductor in what will result in a huge chip maker for all sorts of devices and industries. As reported by the NY Times, the merger will also benefit companies looking to simplify their list of suppliers for products like smart cars and mobile phones.

2.5 million

That's how many homeless children live in America today—the highest number on record—according to the National Center for Family Homelessness at the American Institutes for Research or AIR. Some say this demographic and their families have received less attention than homeless veterans and the chronically homeless. 

$5

In honor of the late Leonard Nimoy, The Canadian Design Resource called for a revival of "Spocking fives," the practice of drawing Spock's iconic hair, eyebrows, and pointy ears over the image of Canada's seventh prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier on $5 bills. As Quartz reports, defacing currency may be illegal, but it doesn't stop the $5 from being legal tender.

399 yuan

That's the price of Xiaomi's recently released Go Pro-like camera, as reported by the BBC. The device costs half as much as a Go Pro, and comes with certain features that its competitor lacks. It cannot, however, withstand some of the rough and tumble action related to filming oneself out in the wild.

$3 billion

For all you House of Cards fans, this is your official Spoiler Alert. Over at Vox, they've broken down a key element of the most recent season's 5th episode: the Stafford Act, which allows the President to allocate funding to what is deemed a national emergency. In the show, what President Frank Underwood attempts to pull off under the Stafford Act is met with intense skepticism. Turns out, real life isn't that different from television, with Congress worried that Presidents have started to abuse that power over time. There's even a theory that Presidents declare more states of emergency during election years. Though, with only a couple election years to compare since the act was passed, available data isn't conclusive, as you can see from Vox's chart:

VOX

Nurse Treated For Ebola To Sue Texas Hospital

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 01:09

Nina Pham, 26, who contracted Ebola after caring for a patient, tells the Dallas Morning News that she will file a lawsuit Monday charging the hospital in Dallas lacked proper training and equipment.

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People With Low Incomes Say They Pay A Price In Poor Health

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 00:05

People with household incomes of less than $25,000 a year say in a new poll that the lack of cash really hurts their health. Low-quality food and dangerous housing are two reasons why.

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Poll Finds Factors Large And Small Shape People's Health

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-02 00:03

Health is not just about trips to the doctor, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Housing, stress and abuse are factors.

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