National / International News

Lure Of China's Gray Economy Reaches Rich And Poor

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 13:35

The proceeds from corruption, and legal and ethical gray areas, are a daily fact of life in China. The practice of gray income, which shows no sign of abating, may make political reforms more difficult.

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Obamacare Brings Medicaid To Skid Row's 'Ugly Reality'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 13:16

Among those who stand to benefit the most from the expansion of Medicaid are homeless adults. Many of these men and women are mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol. Enrolling them can be difficult, but the benefits should be substantial.

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VIDEO: Antarctic rescue: 'Really exhilarating ride'

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 13:13
Scientific researchers who had been stranded on board an ice-bound vessel in the Antarctic have been airlifted to safety.

Lawro's FA Cup predictions

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 13:12
BBC Sport's football expert Mark Lawrenson takes on Sutton United's FA Cup giantkilling hero Matthew Hanlan

Berlin Clinic Aims To Make Genital Cutting Survivors Feel Whole

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 13:11

The new Desert Flower Center offers treatment for the physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation. But fear of alienation from their families and communities may keep some victims, mainly immigrants from Africa, from taking advantage of the center.

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Cork Versus Screw Cap: Don't Judge A Wine By How It's Sealed

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:49

Remember screw caps on jugs of wine? These days, many winemakers have wholeheartedly embraced the screw tops — not just for their ease of use, but for the way they seal the wine's taste. Now many consumers are learning to look past the caps' former downmarket reputation.

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IBM was the only Dow company to fall in 2013, and yet ...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:33

IBM finished last year with a sad-sounding distinction:  Its stock was the only one on the Dow Jones Industrial Average to lose value in 2013.  The average as a whole was up 26 percent—IBM’s share price went down 2 percent. 

But some say Big Blue, the company, looks a lot healthier than its stock’s performance.  IBM made money and paid dividends. And in the fast-changing tech world, it retains some big advantages. 

One of the biggest advantages is… being big. And being one of the companies big companies can rely on to take care of all their IT needs. Chief Information Officers for Fortune 500 Companies?  Not big risk takers. 

If I’ve got IBM, I’ve got a guy.

"And, I have one throat to choke," says Grady Burkett of Morningstar. "So if my guy messes up, I know exactly who to call."

All that integration means that for IBM’s customers, switching to another vendor isn’t a consumer's choice to switch from PC to Mac.  It’s more like getting a divorce.

IBM does its best to keep its customers happy by staying current, and playing catch-up when it needs to— sometimes by buying smaller, younger companies that have developed new technology.

For instance, cloud computing—which allows customers to rent server space instead of buying servers from vendors like IBM—is eating into sales. So last year IBM bought a company called Softlayer that specializes in providing cloud services. 

Andrew McAfee, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Business and author of Enterprise 2.0, thinks IBM’s star turn on TV a couple of years ago—as the builder of Jeopardy champ Watson—was a good sign.  "IBM did not build Watson just to play Jeopardy," he says.

Instead, IBM built Watson to compete with Google search, Apple’s SIRI, and other I-can-answer-that-question-for-you applications.  "Think about it applied to troubleshooting, applied to customer service, applied to medical diagnostics," he says. "The potential uses for a Watson-style technology are all over the place."  The company's website for Watson reflects these ideas.

The company's stock is likely to come back over time, according to Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson. "We think that over that longer horizon these fundamentals will shine through more, and that will be reflected in the stock price," he says.

In other words, the fast-moving stock market may yet catch up with this big, mature company.

The Edward Snowden effect: Tech in 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:33

In 2013, the average U.S. citizen found out that almost everything we do on the web can be monitored by the NSA. 

Consumers responded with a collective shrug, at least in regards to their web browsing and spending habits. In other words, consumers haven't logged off of Google, Facebook, Yahoo or any of the PRISM companies en masse. 

The question for 2014 is how will enterprise -- or business customers -- respond?

"One of the things we do know is that a lot of these companies have come out saying that they're gonna put in extra measures like encrypting their emails as well as trying to figure out a way that the information going from server to server is secure. They're trying to up their game," says Marketplace's Queena Kim. "Of course, it's just a matter of time before the NSA ups their game and it becomes this arms race. Then the question is, 'Who starts paying for all these security measures.'"

Right now, analysts estimate that the NSA revelations could cost U.S. cloud computing providers anywhere from $35 billion to $180 billion in lost business. Analysts believe that foreign companies in Europe and Asia will be more hesitatant to do business with U.S. cloud providers.

Of course the difference betwee $35 billion and $180 billion is huge -- but it serves to highlight the uncertaintly facing those tech companies.  

Do people still try to 'Buy American?'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:33

Fiat announced it is going to buy Chrysler in a $4.3 billion deal. Fiat had gotten control of Chrysler as part of a 2009 bailout deal overseen by the Obama Administration, but now Fiat will totally control Chrysler.

Chrysler is, of course, a very iconic American brand in a very iconic American industry, so should it brace for consumer backlash here in the U.S.? 

As it turns out, the answer might be yes.

We like to be patriotic when we shop. A recent survey by Perception Research Services found three-quarters of shoppers were more likely to buy something because it was 'Made in America.'

"What they tell us is it’s a concern for the economy," says Jonathan Asher, executive vice president the research firm. "They want to support jobs at home and that sort of thing."

Last year, Walmart launched a local product push and pledged to buy an additional $50 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over the next decade. A company spokesman said surveys showed 'Made in the USA' was very important to Walmart shoppers.

It also tends to be important to car shoppers.

"For some reason, automobile brands really get associated with the country that originated them," says Ira Kalb, a marketing professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. But origins aren't so simple, especially when it comes to cars.

"What we've found is that Japanese, Korean as well as German manufacturers are increasingly building more and more of their product sold in North America in North America," says Michael Robinet, Managing Director of IHS Automotive.  

Still, people aren’t logical when it comes to brand loyalty and backlash says Kalb.

"Brand is a funny thing; it exists in the mind. In marketing, that’s what we do," says Kalb. "We’re sort of doing non-invasive brain surgery."

Kalb says a little brand-surgery might be in order for Chrysler. He says the company will need to address the fact it’s no longer American, especially with older consumers, who tend to care more about where things are made and tend to have more money to buy those things.

How Obamacare will change the emergency room

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:32

A new report looking at the Oregon Medicaid program compares emergency room use between the uninsured and people with Medicaid – the healthcare program for primarily low income and disabled people.

And the report already has pundits worked up, especially with 9 million Americans projected to newly sign up for Medicaid this year under the Affordable Care Act.

The reason this is so hot – at least politically - is because the report over turns conventional healthcare thinking. Harvard health economist Amitabh Chandra describes the theory.

“If we insure the uninsured, they are not going to use the emergency room and they are going to use less healthcare. So in the long run, insuring the uninsured saves us money,” says Chandra.

Affordable Care Act advocates have used this argument to say insurance should be expanded.

There’s just one thing: that’s not what happens.

“Its basic economics that I would teach my students,” says MIT economist Amy Finkelstein – one of the report’s authors.

“When you lower the price of something, people buy more of it," says Finkelstein. "That’s true of apples and bananas and it turns out it’s true of healthcare too.”

Finkelstein explains in Oregon the emergency room is free if you are enrolled in Medicaid. What she and her team found is that people on Medicaid use the emergency room 40 percent more than people without insurance. But it’s not just emergency room use that’s up.

Co-author Katherine Baicker says its primary care, preventative care, prescription drugs.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s inefficient, good or bad. It just means that insurance makes healthcare more affordable," Baicker says. "And that has both financial consequences and health consequences."

Based on this report, there are already estimates that increased ER use will cost taxpayers half a billion dollars a year. This is the very definition of a political football, which is why details in this report matter.

First, nearly 60 percent of all the people on Medicaid in the study didn’t go to the emergency room at all over 18 months.

Second, when people with private insurance were given more generous private health coverage they healthcare use went up, too. And perhaps most important, Harvard’s Amitabh Chandra says when it comes to money, this isn’t where the action is.

“The spending is not in the emergency room. The spending is on high cost patients. These are cancer patients. Many of them in the end of life,” he says.

The Oregon report found emergency room use accounted for between 10 and 15 percent of patient costs.

Chandra says it would be easy to use this report and argue that the Affordable Care Act is too costly.

He says the big question – the tough question – is how to limit the care everyone agrees is inefficient and expensive, regardless of who gets it or where that care is received.

Note in bottle found after 23 years

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:32
A woman who threw a message in a bottle into the North Sea in Hull more than 20 years ago receives a reply after it was discovered in the Netherlands.

Nadal eases past Gulbis in Qatar

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:27
World number one Rafael Nadal advances to the Qatar Open semi-finals with a straight-sets win over Ernests Gulbis.

Holocracy: How Zappos could change corporate America

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:27

First it was open office space, and now its open management.

The tech world continues to turn traditional office structure on its head with a radical operational system of self-governing with no job titles and no managers. It's called holocracy and the term derives from the greek word 'holon,' which means a whole that's part of a greater whole.

Nancy Koehn, historian at Harvard Business School, relates the organizational structure to an early tech startup.

"[They] work like little villages, everyone pitches in, everyone is responsible for solving the next problem or putting out the next bonfire," Koehn says. "There's very little attention and very little formal structure around things like job titles, the purview of one's responsibility, or how one's measuring up."

Holocracy is not a new concept in the tech world. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams uses the system to run his 50-employee publishing platform Medium. But this doesn't end the role of bosses entirely, especially when it comes to pay.

According to Koehn, CEO's are going to have to "give up some of the gold and some of the scepter."

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