National News

Ballerina Misty Copeland counts herself lucky

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2016-06-30 11:20

Update: Misty Copeland was promoted Tuesday, June 30 to principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater. She's the first-ever African-American woman to hold that title.


Age starting dance: 13

Height: 5 feet 2 inches

Bust: "Bigger than most"

At least, that's how ballerina Misty Copeland describes her numbers-defying career in dance. A soloist with the American Ballet Theater in New York, Copeland recently explained how she doesn't really fit into the traditional model for ballet, but still made it work.

“All of those numbers, they just don’t add up to create a classical dancer,” she says. "No matter what, I'm going to be who I am."

Listen to the full conversation from our live show in New York City in the audio player above.

Tesla is disrupting more than just the car business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Sat, 2016-02-06 16:01

Tesla Motors is building the world's biggest battery factory just outside of Reno, Nevada. The company is calling it the “gigafactory,” and when it’s up and running in 2016 it’s expected to make Tesla’s electric cars much more affordable. 

“In a single factory we're doubling the worldwide capacity to manufacture lithium-ion batteries,” says J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer. 

That's significant enough. But the company also plans to develop batteries for use with solar-power generation – giving Tesla a shot at challenging public utilities as an energy source, Straubel says.

“At the price points that we're expecting to achieve with the gigafactory ... we see a market that is well in excess of the production capability of the factory,” says Straubel.

The market for batteries is an offshoot of the booming business for solar panels, particularly in states such as California, where solar is becoming commonplace.

“We sign up approximately one new customer every minute of the workday," says Will Craven, director of public affairs at California-based SolarCity.

Much of the excess energy harnessed by solar panels is returned to the power grid, Cravens says. This means homeowners and businesses may earn a credit from their power companies, but have no say over when and how that energy is used.

The partnership with SolarCity will use rooftop solar panels fitted with Tesla’s battery packs to allow customers to keep that energy in-house. That means they can use it however, and whenever, they want. The concept puts Tesla in direct competition with utility companies.

“Stationary storage, or backup storage, is really being considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of renewable electricity generation,” says Ben Kallo, an analyst with the Robert W. Baird financial services firm.

Kallo points out that the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources makes them less reliable because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.  But with the ability to store that energy, renewable energy sources can compete head-to-head with utility companies for customers.

“There are still many utilities out there who kind of have their head stuck in the sand and just hope that this goes away. What we're seeing is really building momentum,” Kallo says.

Forward-minded utilities might look at Tesla’s business model as an opportunity, he says.  Energy-storage technology could be used to build capacity in their existing grids, and also build new infrastructure for battery-powered cars and homes.


Federal Court Places A Stay On Order Compelling NCAA To Pay Athletes

NPR News - 1 hour 9 min ago

The ruling comes nearly a year after a district court judge ruled that the NCAA violated antitrust laws and should let schools pay athletes $5,000.

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Dylann Roof Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Hate Crime Charges

NPR News - 1 hour 31 min ago

The 21-year-old is accused of carrying out the ruthless attack that killed nine worshippers in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., last month.

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#NPRReads: Considering The Language Of Wine And What's In A Toddler's Mouth

NPR News - 2 hours 13 min ago

Also, we explore a piece that argues that you should want robots to take your job. No. Seriously.

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Marine Version Of F-35 Reportedly Deemed 'Combat Ready'

NPR News - 2 hours 19 min ago

With a total program cost estimated at $400 billion and a per-plane price tag of $135 million, the Joint Strike Fighter program is considered the most expensive in U.S. history.

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She Owes Her Activism To A Brave Mom, The ADA And Chocolate Cake

NPR News - 2 hours 35 min ago

Born deaf and blind to a refugee mother, Haben Girma has had opportunities in the U.S. she'd never have had in Eritrea. But it was an urge for dessert that led her to advocate for the disabled.

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Toxic Lead Contaminates Some Traditional Ayurvedic Medicines

NPR News - 2 hours 40 min ago

Traditional Ayurvedic treatments are popular in India and the United States, but some can be contaminated with high levels of lead and other toxic metals. People continue to be harmed.

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Despite High Expectations, Sentencing Reform Proposals Still On Ice

NPR News - 2 hours 46 min ago

Sen. John Cornyn suggested a hearing and markup on reform proposals could be imminent. But multiple sources tell NPR that concrete language is still being hotly debated behind closed doors.

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Arson Attack That Killed Toddler In West Bank Is Called Terrorism

NPR News - 3 hours 56 min ago

An 18-month old died in the fire. The perpetrators scrawled slogans in Hebrew on an outside wall of the house. Palestinian leaders blamed the Israeli government.

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New Ebola Vaccine Has '100 Percent' Effectiveness In Early Results

NPR News - 4 hours 7 min ago

The trial of the VSV-EBOV vaccine was called Ebola ça Suffit – French for "Ebola that's enough." Researchers say it's both effective and quick, with no new Ebola cases 6 days after vaccination.

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Summer Olympics 2008 Host Beijing Awarded 2022 Winter Games

NPR News - 4 hours 11 min ago

The International Olympic Committee has selected Beijing as the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics. It's the first city ever to host both summer and winter games.

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Death Of Beloved Lion Heats Up Criticism Of Big Game Hunting

NPR News - 4 hours 24 min ago

The killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe has highlighted big game hunting. Hunters legally kill more than 600 African lions every year. More than half the tourists hunting in Africa are American.

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In Report, Justice Accuses St. Louis County Family Court Of Racial Bias

NPR News - 5 hours 26 min ago

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division found that the court fails to provide children adequate representation. In addition, it says the court treats black kids harsher than white ones.

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More Previously Uninsured Californians Got Coverage Under Obamacare

NPR News - 5 hours 33 min ago

More than two-thirds of Californians who didn't have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act took full effect in 2014 have it now. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey documents the changes.

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Tonight, Look For A Rare (But Not Quite Blue) Moon

NPR News - 6 hours 7 min ago

The modern definition of a "blue moon" has nothing to do with its color.

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Measuring The Power Of A Prison Education

NPR News - 6 hours 26 min ago

Inmates who took college-level courses while in prison saw a 16 percent drop in their risk of re-incarceration.

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WikiLeaks Docs Purport To Show The U.S. Spied On Japan's Government

NPR News - 7 hours 2 min ago

The documents also allege that the U.S. targeted Japanese banks and companies, including Mitsubishi.

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Early results suggest an effective Ebola vaccine

The world is on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine — Findings were published on Friday in the medical journal ‘The Lancet.’  

The World Health Organization cautions that more research is needed, but early results are promising. Namely, after administering the vaccine to 4,000 people who were in close contact with Ebola patients, the treatment provided 100 percent protection.

As one epidemiologist put it on Twitter: “Hey science, you really, really inspire me. This is breathtaking news.”

What’s also breathtaking is that the research, development and testing of a vaccine typically takes a decade, and this one took 5 months.

“When there is an urgency to save lives, research and development can be fast-tracked and made to work for the common good,” says WHO Assistant-Director General Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny.

Kieny says the global response, where countries and their regulators worked closely with industry, could serve as a model for future outbreaks.

As impressive as the response was, Boston University Professor Kevin Outterson says there’s an even more fundamental lesson here. 

“The only way you would come up with something that quickly is if the basic research had been done for a decade before,” he says.

Modest funding from Canada, the U.S. and European governments in the early 2000s paved the way for today’s breakthrough, says Outterson.

Moving forward he says even with proposed increases in scientific research spending in Congress, the question is whether it’s a substantial enough investment.

PODCAST: Tuning with the push of a button

With another deadline on Monday for Puerto Rico to repay $60 million to bond holders, we take a look at the economic challenges for the commonwealth as tourism dips. Plus, we'll talk about Wall Streets' workout — two major fitness companies are planning IPOs. And a Nashville instrument maker has spent millions of dollars over the course of a decade trying to perfect the self-tuning guitar. But this year, Gibson started making automatic tuners a standard feature on most of its electric guitars.