A new biography reveals that young Thoreau took quite a few detours on his path to Walden. A gossipy young man who loved eating popcorn, ice skating and listening to his music box, schoolmates and neighbors found him standoffish and regarded his fascination with plants and Indian relics as downright odd.
There's news that despite aggressive efforts to pump money into the Japanese economy, the effort isn't going that well. The Japanese government today reported the economy there October to December grew at an annualized rate of just 1 percent, much lower than forecast. BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes joined us from Tokyo to help digest the news.
Click play above to hear the interview.
Journalists who broke the news in The Guardian and The Washington Post are among those receiving this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism. Without their work, the stories "would not have seen the light of day."
The United Auto Workers had worked for years to get a foot in the door of Volkswagen's factory in Tennessee. But now workers at the plant turned down the proposal for some union representation by a vote of 712 to 626. There are questions about what's next for a union that is now only a quarter the size it was 35 years ago. The union says it's evaluating what it sees as outside interference in the vote and may challenge the result. Brent Snavely writes about the automotive industry for the Detroit Free Press and joined us to explain.
Click play above to hear the interview.
In blunt language that supports what the outside world has feared for decades, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says that "the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
Abraham Lincoln is known as one of America's greatest presidents. Turns out, he was also a cook who used to join his wife in the kitchen after work. In her new culinary biography of Lincoln, a food historian walks us through his life with stories — and recipes — of what he ate, cooked and served.
It has already been a rough year for virtual currencies like Bitcoin, and for some of the dark online markets that often use virtual currencies. In the wake of online illegal drug market Silk Road being shut down, a second version of Silk Road was hacked, and a similar online market called Utopia has also been shuttered by authorities. Dave Lee is a technology reporter for the BBC, and joined us to talk about it.
Click play above to hear more.
David Wood is one of the few upstate New York churchgoers still praying for snow.
"I told my wife, if the people in this church knew what we were praying for, they probably wouldn't let us in," he says.
But Wood loves the sound of snowplows, because falling snow means rising profits for him. He's president of Sears Ecological Applications, in Rome, N.Y., and this long and tough winter in the northeast has been good for him. He makes de-icing liquid spread by snowplows. He started back in 1997, with a liquid made from the leftovers of folks who made rum.
Wood bought a patent for the liquid from a Hungarian distillery. Those distillers dumped their waste in a stream and accidentally discovered that the rum remnants prevented freezing.
"These people standing there looking put together the idea that when you were discharging this material in very cold weather you didn't have freezing of the stream," he says
But spreading rum byproduct on roads? It was a hard sell at first. Wood made a strong case, though. He told cities and towns: my de-icer will stretch your road salt, make it stickier, an it'll work even in super-cold weather. Wood's company grew. He started licensing his patent, to people like Denver Preston of K-Tech Specialty Coatings, who's another big fan of winter.
"The thing that really is exciting for us – believe it or not – are the extremely cold temperatures," Preston says.
Preston expects sales to be up 100 percent this year. He makes his de-icing liquid from beet juice. Other entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to make a buck from Jack Frost.
Jon Down, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Portland, had his students brainstorming the other day. One student suggested a snowman kit, or as Down describe is, "A multipurpose tote container that could double as making the balls that would be just perfect for a snowman."
Down says all the snow we're getting is an opportunity for the right entrepreneurs.
Five years ago today, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – better known as "the stimulus" – into law.
It was about $750 billion worth of spending that was supposed to kick start an economic recovery and, as its supporters said, "save or create" 3.5 million jobs.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus created somewhere between 500,000 and 3.3 million jobs.
"If you want a precise answer that no one can quibble with, you're not going to get that," says Jim Feyrer, an economics professor at Dartmouth College who has studied the stimulus.
He says he believes unemployment is lower than it would have been, but it is impossible to say how much lower, because there is not enough data. The world, Feyrer notes, is "too messy."
In 2009, "the economy was in much worse shape at that point than we thought it was at that point," says Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, a research associate at Harvard University who was an economist at the White House in 2009. And the economy continued to go downhill after the stimulus was passed.
Chodorow-Reich says many studies, including one he co-authored, have shown the stimulus had "a large impact on employment."
But Feyrer says the biggest challenge of assessing how well the legislation worked is that we "don't have what we call a counterfactual. We don't know what the world would have looked like in the absence of passing a stimulus package."
And that is something its critics continue to seize upon as President Obama asks congress to approve more money to improve infrastructure.
More than 3 million people have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, but there’s one population the initiative is struggling to reach: Latinos. In California fewer than 20 percent of Obamacare enrollees are Latino. Arizona and Texas have also had trouble getting Latinos to enroll.
"It’s absolutely critical, because this is a numbers game," says Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health. Mendelson says Obamacare needs more people to sign up to keep costs down. For that to happen, he says, states need to offer informational materials specially targeted to Latinos.
"That will require a combination of communication and clarification of both the health care eligibility rules and our immigration rules," says Len Nichols, health economist with George Mason University.
Getting Latinos to sign up in greater numbers will require more outreach says Avalere’s Dan Mendelson.
"With diligence, culturally sensitive materials and a lot of work, this is a problem that can be solved."
Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S. Mendelson says for Obamacare to succeed, the administration will have to work to win over minority groups.
Fashion Week is done in New York. But Social Media Week is just starting today; it involves 2,500 events in 25 cities. It's sort of like a conference, with big sponsors like Google, Microsoft, and American Expres, and a lot of networking, panel discussions and performances. As events get underway we wanted to talk a little bit about the state of social media, with Harvard Law Proffesor Jonathan Zittrain. He says we've become accustomed to using social data generated by companies like Twitter.
Click play above to hear the whole interview.
An Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked a plane bound for Rome on Monday and flew it to Geneva, where he wanted to seek asylum, officials said.
Over the next two years, Hong Kong plans to burn 28 tons of ivory. Many conservationists hope destroying stockpiles will dampen demand in a country where many wealthy Chinese are buying ivory statues and carvings as investments. Others worry that it may have no effect at all.
I shower (nearly) everyday. I take long, hot showers. I think about the day ahead, what I'm going to wear. Sometimes I hum.
I do not think about water.
"We wake up, we turn on the tap, and out comes as much water as we want for less than we pay for cell phone service or television," says Robert Glennon, author of "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It," and a professor at the University of Arizona. "Unfortunately, when most of us think about water we think about it like the air: infinite and inexhaustible. When for all practical purposes, it's very finite and very exhaustible."
As we know from our economics classes, treating supply as if it's unlimited, when it's not, likely means one thing: we're not paying enough for it.
Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, says the way we allocate and value water here in California isn't rational.
A more sensible system would be more efficient. We'd hand out water differently. Price differently. And, Gleick says, we'd think differently about water.
"The value of water is more than just the amount of money we can get out of it to do something," he says.
The value of water extends beyond the value to farmers and businesses to our ecosystems and environment. That's a part of the picture Gleick says has been ignored for a long time.
"Because of that," he says, "our wetlands have disappeared, our fisheries our dying, our salmon are going extinct."
But, pushing back against current water policy isn't for the faint of heart.
"The reality is, if you want a short life as a public official, what you want to do is advocate raising the price of water," says Glennon.
Sometimes a drought can force the issue.
It's getting easier to cancel a health insurance policy if you get a new job or have other life changes. And new parents can buy coverage for the baby after he or she is born. But there are exceptions to many rules in the Affordable Care Act, so it's worth checking out how they affect you.
It's estimated that only about 10 percent of K-12 schools teach computer science. Some companies are trying to fill a void in American public education by teaching kids computer programming basics. The push comes amid projections that there will be far more tech sector jobs than computer science graduates to fill them.
Electronic cigarettes are often billed as safe and helpful for adult smokers trying to kick their habit. But the CDC says 1 in 5 young teens who try an e-cigarette have never smoked tobacco. And between 2011 and 2012, the devices doubled in popularity among middle-school and high-school students.
The Cleveland Cavaliers' point guard was selected MVP after scoring 31 points, racking up 14 assists. He helped rally the Eastern Conference from an 18-point deficit in the second half of its 163-155 victory over the West.
An explosion tore through a bus filled with South Korean sightseers in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday, killing at least four people. The incident raises fears that Islamic militants have renewed a bloody campaign to wreck Egypt's tourism industry.
This network of performance venues — nightclubs, bars, juke joints and theaters — formed during Jim Crow because black performers in the U.S. didn't have access to white-owned clubs. But what did chitlins have to do with it?