Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 4:19 pm
When it comes to improving health, there are carrots and there are sticks.
One way to try to influence people's habits is by tying how much they pay for health coverage to their behavior.
Starting next year, for instance, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, will charge workers who smoke a penalty ranging from $260 to $2,340 annually on health insurance. That's a pretty big stick. As for a carrot, the retailer will offer free smoking-cessation help.
Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 7:55 pm
In the election held a year ago this week, Republicans took over control of the House with the help of nearly 90 newcomers to their ranks. Now, just a year before the 2012 contests, many of those freshman lawmakers find themselves facing tough re-election bids.
A year ago, nearly 1,000 U.S. Marine officers and enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment deployed to restive Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. By the time their tour ended in April 2011, the Marines of the 3/5 — known as "Darkhorse" — suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past 10 years of war. This week, NPR tells the story of this unit's seven long months at war — both in Afghanistan and back home.
To us it sounded like the premise of a particularly cruel reality TV show: Six men are picked to live in a windowless, cramped mock spaceship for 18 months to see how humans would react to conditions similar to what one would expect on a mission to Mars.
Tomorrow, after 520 days of isolation, the hatch will finally be open and the volunteers will return to normal life. With a cost of $15 million, the project, dubbed Mars500, is a serious experiment commissioned by the European Space Agency.
Beginning Nov. 10, citizens and permanent residents in Cuba will be able to buy and sell residential property on the island. The move is one of the more major acts of reforms instituted by President Raúl Castro.
Pull any packaged food item off the shelf and chances are it has a long list of mysterious ingredients with highly scientific names like "methylcellulose." If you're like us, you may puzzle and even worry a little over theseunappetizing words.
Why do we have so much weird stuff like methylcellulose and xanthum gum that's produced in a laboratory in our food? Texture, baby, texture. It's nearly impossible to understate the importance of texture and "mouth feel" to food companies, especially in an age when people fear the fat content in their food.
Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 5:51 pm
Hillary Adams, who videotaped her father beating her in 2004 and released it to the world last week because she believes he should not be serving as a judge in Texas, said this morning that such punishments happened regularly and that she believes her father "needs help and rehabilitation."
For his part, Judge William Adams says that "in my mind I haven't done anything wrong. ... She wasn't hurt, it was a long time ago" and she was just "being disciplined."
Catching up on the latest news about the allegations, which he says are false, that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain sexually harassed some women when he was heading the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s:
But what began as a "mostly peaceful" general strike that "drew thousands Wednesday for rallies and marches ... turned chaotic early Thursday after protesters took over a vacant building and police moved in, firing tear gas and flashbang grenades."
The revelation this week that the Earth now holds 7 billion people, according to the U.N.'s population division, prompted a question: Who else is in the 7 Billion Club? To find out which other animals had reached that plateau, we asked wildlife experts — and they patiently explained why our innocent question was nearly impossible to answer.
The setting for this year's G-20 summit meeting is the Riviera Convention Center that hosts the Cannes Film Festival. President Obama will be walking the red carpet, but it's the European leaders who are stars of this show.
The Europeans are facing pressure to erect a financial "firewall" that will prevent the debt problems now plaguing Greece from spreading to the rest of the Continent and beyond.
The U.S. economy hit an important milestone last week: Gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced in the country, returned to pre-recession levels. But the gains were made with millions fewer workers. Part of the reason is technology, as computers and machines continue to replace humans.
We used to think about machines taking over mundane jobs, like twisting a screw into a toaster on an assembly line over and over again. But more recently, technology is eliminating higher-skill jobs.
About 3,000 people gathered at the Port of Oakland Wednesday, and effectively shut it down. People flooded the port area and blocked exits. The protest remained largely peaceful until the late evening, when police responded to a bonfire.
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was found guilty of conspiring to sell weapons to South American terrorists Wednesday. Host Renee Montagne talks to Michael Sullivan about the conviction of the so-called "Merchant of Death."
We're going to hear now about a very small race that's making big political waves. The race is for the school board of Wake County, North Carolina. It comes after a policy using family income to create economic diversity in the schools was tossed out by a Republican school board in 2009. This Tuesday, a runoff election for one seat on the board may put the Democrats back in the majority. Dave DeWitt of North Carolina Public Radio reports the school board race is attracting national attention and big money.
Some towns in New York are rushing to ban horizontal hydrofracking, a controversial technique for capturing natural gas trapped deep under ground. The state itself has yet to approve fracking, but Dryden, N.Y., isn't taking any chances. Town supervisors approved a ban based on local zoning. David Chanatry of the New York Reporting Project at Utica College reports, the Dryden's ban is the issue in next week's town board elections.
NPR's business news begins with a bleaker forecast from the Fed. Just when we were beginning to hear some more positive economic news, the Federal Reserve reminds us not to get too excited. It's predicting slower growth and less improvement in the unemployment rate through 2013 than previously expected. This news comes after a two-day meeting of the Fed's policy-making committee, in which it decided against taking new measures to stimulate the economy for now.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. To understand the European debt crisis, it helps to keep track of both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, Europeans have agreed on a bailout deal that among other things would cut the debts of Greece. It's being held up by the Greek prime minister's plan to hold a referendum on austerity measures. Europeans have told Greece it's got to decide soon if it wants to be part of the eurozone or not.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a number of promises to fellow leaders of the eurozone countries at a summit meeting in October. Now Italy's economy is starting to become a growing concern for European Union leaders and financial markets.