All Things Considered for Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Brings New Insurance Rules, Health Coverage

New rules from the Affordable Care Act go into effect Wednesday, and coverage starts for millions of Americans who signed up for health insurance on state and federal exchanges.
Wednesday marks the first day for millions of Americans to be covered by health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But a lingering controversy over one of the law's required benefits, contraceptive coverage, is still playing out in the courts.
Mississippi is still lagging in numbers of people who are signing up for health insurance, despite insurers trying to get people enrolled, and many people getting good prices for insurance coverage.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering restricting or even possibly banning menthol cigarettes. Public health advocates are pushing for this, saying menthol makes cigarettes more addictive and makes it easier for young people to start smoking. But opponents argue there's no evidence that menthol is bad and even some evidence it may be less risky. They also worry about creating a dangerous black market for menthol cigarettes, especially in African American communities, where menthol is most popular.
Some metal alloys will "remember" a shape when you heat them to the same temperature they were originally shaped at. So a straight wire made from one of these "shape memory alloys" might change back into a spring when heated, or vice versa. But the alloys that exist today change shape at low temperatures. Materials scientists at Sandia National Laboratory have developed new alloys that don't change shape until they reach hundreds of degrees, opening the door to thousands of new applications.
Archeologists who study the people who lived in the Arctic thousands of years ago are in a race against time. Coastal settlements are being washed away by erosion, storm surges and other climate changes related to global warming. Clues to the past that were frozen intact in permafrost for thousands of years are melting and being destroyed by the elements. Archeologists are looking to climate scientists to predict where the erosion will be the fastest so they can pinpoint their research on the places that will disappear the soonest. Until now the predictions have largely been too coarse to provide much guidance. But the National Park Service is trying to change this. It's funding research that supposed to forecast the threats that more than 100 coastal national parks face from sea level rise and storm surges due to climate change.
Brazil is the world's third largest market for Facebook, the fifth largest for Twitter, and it has quickly become the largest market for Lulu, the controversial man-rating app for women. That has highlighted the country's race to pass legislation to keep up with a quickly changing society.
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn is home to the Brooklyn Nets. It's also home to some of the most advanced technology ever to come to a stadium or arena. Many older sports venues have struggled to keep pace with the latest developments in digital devices and social media. But that's hardly the case at Barclays. The venue even has its own app.
The city of Wilmington, Del., is not large, about 71,000 residents. But its escalating gun violence problem compares to that of many larger cities. The effects on the community, in particular its youngest residents has city officials calling it a pandemic and they are seeking federal help.
The troubled Broadway musical Spiderman: Turn Out the Dark closes this week. Audie Cornish talks to playwright Glen Berger about his book The Song of Spiderman about the production's rocky road.
New York City's first new mayor in a dozen years was sworn in by former president Bill Clinton Wednesday. Bill de Blasio's term running the largest city in the U.S. will be markedly different than that of outgoing billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg — if he follows through on campaign promises. De Blasio's populist platform offered remedies for the city's growing economic inequality, but he'll need approval from state legislators in Albany if he's to implement some of the policies.
Wednesday marks the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. Audie Cornish talks with Ryan Cook, general manager of the The Clinic Medical Marijuana Center. The company has three growing facilities and six stores, one of which now offers recreational pot sales to those over the age of 21.
A baby born today in Ethiopia is three times more likely to survive to age 5 than one born in 1990. This reduction in child mortality isn't due to expensive international aid, but rather an investment in bare-bone health clinics run by minimally trained community workers.
Even conservatives who once championed disclosure of political spending are now arguing that contributions should be able to be made secretly, and they point to the long-standing exemption from disclosure for the Socialist Workers Party.
In 1979, Gary Shteyngart's family moved from Leningrad to Queens. Three decades later, he wrote a memoir about growing up in a Russian immigrant family in New York. Reviewer Meg Wolitzer says the book is full of rich, gratifying writing as well as pride, exuberance and sophisticated humor.
Psychologists have found a simple way to improve academic performance and even health. When people sit down and write about a negative experience and they revise their story to see it in a more positive way, it changes their behavior and helps them succeed.
He's the only man with two gold medals in Snowboard Cross from the Olympics, in 2006 and 2010. And now Seth Wescott of Maine is trying for a third in Sochi. But this time around, Wescott's recovering from a torn ACL and a broken tibia, injuries sustained during an annual snowboard trek in the rugged Alaska wilderness last April. Wescott knows it will be difficult to defend his title. But at 37 he's no shrinking violet. He's already setting his sights on the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, when he'll be 41 years old.
The jazz artist Gregory Porter, who turned to singing when an injury ended his football career, claims three people as his main influences: his minister mother, his absentee father, and Nat King Cole. He discusses his musical life and the album Liquid Spirit with NPR's Audie Cornish.You can read more about Porter, and see a video of Porter singing on the New York City subway here.
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