National News

Twin Car Bombs Kill More Than 100 In Nigeria

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:52

The explosions came about a half-hour apart at a bus terminal and market in the city of Jos. Officials suspect the same militant Islamist group that kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls last month.

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A motorcycle design for the history books

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:49

This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Jim Jacoby wants to create an American Renaissance of design. He has a plan to give blank checks to master craftsmen, and give them the freedom and the budget to build their dream project. His first commission, a groundbreaking motorcycle by renowned designer JT Nesbitt, is nearly complete. It’s sort of a patronage system loosely modeled after the Medici, the wealthy banking family that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance. This new system is designed to remove the drive for profit from the act of designing. The hope is that through this process, breakthroughs in design and engineering emerge. And those breakthroughs will lead to business opportunities.

This system is called the ADMCi, American Design and Master Craft Initiative, and its first commission is called The Bienville Legacy.

When David Lenk, an industrial design expert, first saw the Bienville Legacy, he was so moved, he cried. He says the design rivaled the great industrial designers of history, “the genes of engineering greats like Barnes Wallis along with the ascetics, the fine touch of Ettore Bugatti. I know that your eyebrows may arch linking JT with these engineering and design icons, but I will stand behind it.”

What he saw, he says, “Was a motorcycle that basically challenges many, many engineering precepts that go back 120 years. This is a guy who not only stepped back to square one, but then he stepped out of the square.”

Let’s go back to square one. The origin of the motorcycle is essentially the bicycle. “Think about the first motorcycle,” says Lenk, “it was a bicycle that they hung an engine onto.” But for The Bienville Legacy, Nesbitt started from an entirely new origin point: The bow.

“The very first man-made spring is a bow and arrow. So this technology is Paleolithic. It predates civilization,” says Newsbitt.

Imagine a bow and arrow pointed at the sky. Where your hand grips the bow is where the engine of the motorcycle is attached. At each end of the bow is a wheel. So instead of having shocks like a regular motorcycle, the entire bike is one big leaf spring. It looks like it's part beast, part machine.

“These are the sort of things you read about in history books,” says Lenk.

Lenk has spent his entire life surrounded by industrial design. His grandfather was at one point the largest producer of soldering irons in the world. Lenk went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design. “I guess you could say I’ve been born with this bug and have nurtured it my whole life,” he said.

Today Lenk designs museum exhibits for a living. After finishing a recent job at a museum in New Orleans his employer took him to a French Quarter bar called Molly’s to celebrate. By chance, he happened to sit next to JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby. “It was a real Motorhead moment,” Lenk remembered. “Within two sentences we were talking about French Coachwork of the 1930s and design, and the conversation ended with an invitation to visit his C shop that Saturday. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.”

Nesbitt’s shop is called Bienville studios. It’s about a block from the Mississippi River on the edge of the French Quarter. When you step inside, it’s surprising just how spare it is: a small workbench, a few racks with parts, some tool boxes.

JT Nesbitt working in his studio.

Justin Jackola

But the most striking thing in JT’s shop is in the center of the room, a strange looking motorcycle, balancing on a hydraulic lift like a statue on a pedestal. It’s a prototype that Nesbitt built. He’s named it The Bienville Legacy.

“There’s no example, as far as I know, of anyone else in the world doing that. It’s completely original thought,” said motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart. He’s written about motorcycles for over 30 years. He’s been called the kingmaker because he’s often the first person to ride and review new bikes. 

He described Nesbitt’s design as breathtaking, though to most people it simply looks strange.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a strange-looking thing because we don’t have to sell them,” said Nesbitt.

If this were a typical corporate motorcycle, the plan would be to put the bike into production and sell them for a profit. But this is not a profit-driven endeavor. “To look at this for short-term recoupment would be to undermine the overall purpose of what we're up to,” said Jim Jacoby.

He’s put up his life savings to pay for the building of three prototypes. Jacoby gave Nesbitt a blank check and told him build his dream bike without any constraints. The expectation is that by giving JT the freedom to experiment with new ideas and materials, breakthroughs in engineering and design will emerge.

When I visited Nesbitt at his shop, one of the first things Nesbitt showed me was a small box full of bolts

“This is titanium hardware,” said Nesbitt, holding up a wooden box. Nesbitt designed the bolts himself. The bolts and other hardware alone cost $30,000. Boeing's prototype shop in Seattle is manufacturing them.

Nesbitt says this motorcycle is the first to use this much titanium and carbon composite structurally. “I think that all motorcycle designers want to use those materials but they are limited by their budgets. The materials that I'm talking about are radically expensive.”

Motorcyle journalist Alan Cathcart mounts the nearly competed Bienville Legacy Prototpye.  

Scott Tudury

Nesbitt calls titanium a miracle material, “and now it’s available. Ten years ago, I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now because the military industrial complex had sucked up all the titanium. It’s just now becoming available in quantity.”

One of the byproducts of Nesbitt’s motorcycle is eight original engineering patents related to his first-of-its kind suspension system. “The outcomes for the patents might be new ways of doing suspension in automobiles,” said Jacoby.

This is one potential long term source of revenue from the bike. If the automotive industry adopts these engineering ideas, it would have to pay to license the patents. But that’s a big "if." This is one reason this project is a tough sell to investors: It’s unclear if any of Nesbitt’s radical designs will ever be adopted by the wider automotive world.

When Nesbitt was commissioned to build his motorcycle prototype, he signed over the patents and intellectual property to the American Design and Master Craft initiative, the ADMCi. In exchange, he gets his rent paid, but zero salary. If the patents do make money, he will get a percentage. But again, that’s the big if.

“I think on balance, I’m coming out way ahead,” said Nesbitt. “I’m giving everything I can to live my dream. I get to reinvent American motorcycling.”

Motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart has been called \"The Kingmaker.\" Here he is with Nesbitt and the nearly completed Bienville Legacy.

Scott Tudury

The next step for Nesbitt and Jacoby is to prove that the motorcycle is more than just a beautifully crafted, groundbreaking design; they have to prove that it can perform. So they’re taking the bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, to attempt to break a world land speed record. 

“The weight advantage, for a variety of design decisions, is tremendous,” said Jacoby, “It’s probably going to net out as a 350 pound bike with a 300-350 horsepower engine which is, by any definition, a rocket.”

Jacoby has decided he wants to be the one to ride the bike across the salt. He’ll have to top 200 miles per hour to break the record in the category this bike competes in. He’s never gone anywhere near that fast on a motorcycle. He admits that this plan is completely absurd, but, he says, it’s necessary. “This is a design that needs to be proven on the field of battle. And the field of battle in this case is the Salt Flats.”

After Nesbitt finishes building the motorcycles, he will remain a part of the ADMCi. “I become one of the people who’s involved with selecting the next project.”

If the ADMCi can recoup the money spent on the three prototypes and attract patrons to fund more commissions, Nesbitt will help seek out another master craftsman to get a blank.

This time he will be the one asking the question, “What would you do if you could do anything?”

“I’m the perfect person to be a judge of character, said Nesbitt, “and when somebody asks you what you would do if you could do anything, you had better be ready with a good answer.”

CORRECTION: Barnes' Wallis' last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. The text has been corrected.

Big Bang's Ripples: Two Scientists Recall Their Big Discovery

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:42

Fifty years ago today, two astronomers in New Jersey accidentally discovered the Big Bang's afterglow. The roaring space static their hilltop antenna detected came from the birth of the universe.

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In A Bid To End Political Impasse, Thai Army Imposes Martial Law

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:27

Thailand's army imposed martial law overnight, as the country's political crisis continues to deepen. Journalist Michael Sullivan reports on the crisis from Bangkok.

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Brash On The Campaign Trail, Modi Steps Into Parliament Humble

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:27

Narendra Modi made his maiden visit to the halls of India's parliament Tuesday, shortly after being unanimously voted his party's leader. Then, he was off to the presidential palace to receive the invitation to form a government.

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Big Fees For The Big Easy's Poorest Defendents

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:27

In the next installment of an NPR investigation, Joseph Shapiro goes to New Orleans to look at the ways poor people are charged for their public defender in court.

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CIA Announces Plans To End Fake Vaccination Programs

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:24

The phony vaccination programs were used in its spy operations abroad. The decision comes after leaders from U.S. public health schools brought the practice to light.

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Voters Go To Polls On Primary Season's Busiest Day Yet

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:24

In a day packed full of primaries, voters headed to the polls in six states — including three that are expected to have highly competitive Senate races.

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Minnesota Selected As Host Of Super Bowl LII

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:51

The NFL continued its tradition of awarding the big game to teams with newly-built stadiums.

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Global Temperatures Tied Record High Last Month

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:14

Warmer weather in Australia and Siberia helped make last month the hottest April on record, tying levels last seen in 2010. Climate change may be putting landmarks like the Statue of Liberty at risk.

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Coup Or Not, It's Business As Usual For Most Thais

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:08

After the army declared martial law, on the streets of Bangkok, it's mostly soldiers and selfies.

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How much would an all-American iPhone cost?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:02

How much would an iPhone cost if it were entirely made in the U.S.?

At the moment, the iPhone 5 costs between $650 - $850 retail.

iPhones are mostly manufactured and assembled in China, famously by the company Foxconn. And Apple pays around $5 per iPhone for labor.

"It largely costs more for people to manufacture products in the U.S. because of higher labor costs," says Carl Howe, Vice President of data sciences at the Yankee Group. "Labor costs here are somewhere in the vicinity of two to three times what they’re going to be in China."

Now our iPhone (the cheapest model) will cost $660, but labor’s not the most significant financial advantage to manufacturing the iPhone in China, where Apple has been able to create enormous iPhone-assembling villages.

"They have these special regions, like Shenzhen, which is an industrial region," explains Rene Ritchie, editor-in-chief of iMore, a publication about Apple products. "Anything you need is just a couple of buildings away, and the ability to keep everything so close together has incredible logistic advantages for Apple."

Ritchie says it would be almost impossible to re-create that in the U.S., which would mean longer assembly times, less efficient assembly and lots of micro-shipments.

"It’s an incredibly complicated process to build one of these devices and you’d have to move that entire culture of production to the U.S. in order for it to work," says Ritchie.

And then there are the parts themselves…

"For almost every component that goes into the device, there may be as many as two or three sources," says Andrew Rassweilier, Senior Director of Materials and Cost Benchmarking at IHS technology. "Then if you were to dig down another layer into some of the components, such as the display, the touch screen, the batteries. Those are also assemblies that are comprised of multiple components coming from, potentially, multiple counties."

IHS broke down the cost of the iPhone’s components and found they add up to around $190 per phone. 

The most expensive part of the phone is the display, which costs about $40. Making the display in the U.S. would roughly triple its cost, according to Rassweilier. That alone would add around $80 to the price of the iPhone

That brings our iPhone to $740.

Rassweiler says making all of the iPhone’s parts in the U.S. would push the price of the iPhone’s components from $190 to around $600.

"If the materials alone are costing $600," says Rassweilier, "it stands to reason, that same iPhone could cost, perhaps, $2,000 at retail."

That's right. $2,000 for an iPhone.

And it wouldn’t even earn political goodwill from most of its customers.

 

Screenshot: "Inequality For All"/Radius/TWC

The U.S. only brings in 6 percent of profits from iPhone sales, according to "Inequality for All". 

"Two out of three Apple customers aren’t in the USA anymore," says the Yankee Group’s Carl Howe. "That’s quite a change from many years ago when most of Apple’s customers were in the US."

 It’s just as well, says Howe. Even with overseas cost efficiencies, the iPhone is one of the costliest phones on the market.

 

Two years ago, Marketplace's Shanghai Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz was only the second reporter ever to gain access to visit the factory floor at Foxconn. He took a tour of the assembly line and the Foxconn campus to see what living and working conditions were like for the hundreds of thousands of workers there:

Divide, Google's latest buy, hardens Android security

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:02

A deal leading from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley: Google is buying New York-based enterprise software company Divide for an undisclosed sum. Divide provides mobile device management technology—tools to keep business data separate and secure on smartphones and tablets. The company also provides productivity tools for people to work and collaborate on mobile devices.

The move is designed to drive more business for Google’s Android devices among companies concerned about security. 

Increasingly, people use their mobile devices for work and personal life interchangeably. Many employees are expected to access work data when they're at home or on the road, and people want to be able to use the mobile device of their choice, one which also holds personal email, photos, games and the like.

“If you download a tic-tac-toe game off the Google playstore,” says Tyler Shields, a mobile-security expert at Forrester Research, and it’s loaded with malware, “once you run it on your phone, it could grab all your contacts or all your calendars.” Shields says that might include some of your employer’s contacts and calendars, or confidential information like blueprints or business plans that you’ve been working on.

Technology analyst Crawford Del Prete at research firm IDC says of the acquisition of Divide: “This move by Google is to say: ‘We are hardening the Android experience. We are going to give you more control as an enterprise, to have a secure container and a secure place for your corporate data.’”

Del Prete says Google is wise to make this move, because there’s a perception in the marketplace—among IT professionals, business managers, and consumers—that competing devices and apps from Apple are more secure and less easily hacked.

How many devices (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer) did you have for work and play in 2004? 2009? Today? Tell us in the comments below, or get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania's Ban On Gay Marriage

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 10:41

The ruling comes a day after another federal judge ruled Oregon's ban on gay marriage violated the constitution. Pennsylvania passed the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 1996.

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Led Zeppelin Sued Over 'Stairway To Heaven' Guitar Line

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 10:33

Did a band from Los Angeles get ripped off by Led Zeppelin? That's the claim made in a new lawsuit by representatives of the band Spirit, which played some dates with the British rock legends.

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North Carolina Union Seeks To Enlist College Athletes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 10:26

The move comes two months after a National Labor Relations Board ruling that athletes at Northwestern University are school employees and therefore are entitled to form a union.

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Eating out? Leave a big tip

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 10:05

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Wednesday, May 21:

In Washington, the United States Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy will hold a hearing about Strengthening Social Security to Meet the Needs of Tomorrow’s Retirees.

President Obama will welcome the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks to the White House to honor the team and their Super Bowl XLVIII victory.

Brought to you by the letters U - S and O. Sesame Street’s Elmo and Friends will roll onto Capitol Hill in their Sesame Street/USO tour bus to attend the bi-annual USO Service Project event.

Thinking about a dinner date? Keep in mind that it’s National Wait Staff Day! Win over your server and your date with a large tip!

25 Years On, Mothers Of Tiananmen Square Dead Seek Answers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 09:36

A bullet to the head killed Zhang Xianling's son near Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Since then, she has led a group demanding the truth and accountability for those deaths.

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Poll: Yes To Medical Marijuana, Not So Much For Recreational Pot

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 09:24

Almost half the states have passed laws easing access to marijuana for medical or recreational use. But most Americans have reservations, especially when it comes to access by young people.

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Meet Happy! The unsettling new Happy Meal mascot

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 09:14

One thing that has fascinated me for a long time is how huge, multi-billion dollar companies can make really obvious mistakes, mistakes that even a child could see.

Do people lose touch with the hoi polloi when they've been enjoying the perks of the executive cafeteria for too long?

Is it a product of the 'yes man' corporate culture, where some out-of-touch CEO has a shower epiphany which rips unchecked through vice presidents, middle managers, and teams of consultants to be broadcast nationwide?

Take what happened today: I'm looking at a photo of one of the biggest, most expensive branding decisions McDonald's has made in a long time. Happy, the new mascot of the Happy Meal.

This is an updated version of the old mascot, which was a Happy Meal box with a yellow smile drawn on it. Simple. Classic. Totally solid mascot. It seems logical, obvious, even, to give that old tried-and-true mascot an update. Bring it to life: add arms, legs and a face. What could possibly go wrong?

Crazy Eyes. That's what.

Happy looks crazy. Not evil, serial killer-crazy (which would actually, I think, be better) or even evil genius crazy... it's a desperate, deeply-needy, sad kind of crazy.

Happy's eyes say: "Hi! I'm Happy! Will you be my friend? Please? I have a lot of trouble reading social cues! Oh my God, I'm so lonely!"

Happy has the kind of expression on his face that you sometimes see on an internet date or a person you are sitting next to on a transatlantic flight. The kind of expression the person in the aisle wears that makes you think, "How much time can I spend in the bathroom before it becomes rude to the point of cruelty?" Shortly before ordering the strongest possible drink as fast as you possibly can.

In its press release, McDonald's says Happy will serve as "an ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating... and will encourage kids to enjoy fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and wholesome beverages such as water or juice."

Happy accompanies a new yogurt option (alternative to french fries) in the Happy Meal. So, Happy is telling kids to eat their fruits and vegetables.

Kids.

Kids, who will take one look at Happy and know that if they sat next to Happy in the lunch room, their social life would be over until they went to college. If you thought kids hated eating their fruits and vegetables before, now those fruits and vegetables are associated with being a social outcast... which makes me think that maybe, just maybe, Happy isn't the marketing snafu it first appears to be.

Maybe Happy is ACTUALLY a piece of marketing genius.

Consider this: McDonald's serves burgers, sodas, fries, Filets-o-Fish, McRibs, Egg McMuffins and basically everything that is bad for you and can fit inside of a sesame seed bun. McDonald's might SAY it's embracing healthy eating, but it's not.

If everyone in the world started eating what their doctor told them to, McDonald's would go out of business inside of two weeks. So what does McDonald's do? It rolls out a mascot for healthy eating, to tell kids how great "fruits, vegetables and wholesome beverages" are; a mascot that is so deeply unsettling to look at, any child who sees it will probably never want to go within 100 miles of fruit, vegetables or wholesome drinks ever again.

You know what doesn't have any fruits or too many vegetables? Burgers. Fries. Filets-o-Fish. McRibs. Egg McMuffins and basically everything else McDonald's serves.

McDonald's has not rolled out a messed-up mascot, it's invented the anti-mascot. Happy is reverse-psychology marketing in action.

Children, highly impressionable children, will now forever associate "balanced and wholesome eating" with the kid who sits alone in the corner of the cafeteria and brings his cousin to the Homecoming dance.

Sure, Happy might have crazy eyes... but I would submit that they might just be crazy, like a fox. Crazy like a fox that will spend the rest of its life thinking trans-fats are what the cool kids are eating.

Well played, McDonald's.

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