National News

One man's water technology watershed moment

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 14:32

Trillions of gallons of water are lost to leakage and bursts from pipeline utilities worldwide each year.

Amanda Little wrote a feature about the conservation efforts of one man, Amir Peleg, for Bloomberg Businessweek. Peleg is an entrepreneur who started TaKaDu, a water network management company that tracks leaks in pipes using data collected by sensors.

Little points out that the U.S. probably won’t be implementing anything like this for a while. “Utilities have very little incentive to implant these smart sensors in their networks and sort of absorb the costs of that,” she says.

TaKaDu primarily works with desert countries, or countries that have been in drought conditions for decades. In those places, their pricing structures penalize water use. This differs from water use in the United States, which Peleg refers to as “all-you-can-eat water.”

Little describes a difference in attitude towards water: “There has been this consciousness in Israel and actually much of the world, that water is a life or death issue. It is the wellspring of their economy, and for that matter, their national security. Wars have been fought around water for thousands of years. In the US, we’re really only just beginning to develop this sort of consciousness around water.”

“This is a story about technology and a technological shift but it’s really a story about a changing of consciousness,” she says.

Quick facts about water:  

  • 8.6 trillion gallons of water worldwide are lost to leaks each year
  • For every $1 spent on reducing water leaks, $5 worth of water can be saved
  • 30-35 percent of water pumped through the pipelines of utilities worldwide is lost to leaks and bursts

You can read Amanda Little’s piece, Israel’s Water Ninja, in its entirety online.

The Story Behind '40 Acres and a Mule'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 14:02

As the Civil War was winding down 150 years ago, Union leaders asked their men how they could help the thousands of newly freed slaves.

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Minifasting: How Occasionally Skipping Meals May Boost Health

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:47

If your New Year's resolutions to eat better haven't panned out yet, consider intermittent fasting. It's gaining traction among dieters and researchers for its benefits beyond just weight loss.

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Organizers Of Anti-Islam Rally In Germany Commemorate Paris Attack

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:46

The protest in Dresden drew about 25,000 people who are against what they see as the "Islamization of Europe." Their rally was met by counterdemonstrations.

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Obama unveils cybersecurity proposals

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:30

President Obama announced a series of cybersecurity proposals Monday, in advance of the State of the Union address. He wants to require companies to notify consumers of a data breach within 30 days, and he says more companies will soon provide free credit scores. Those plans only address what happens after a breach, though. Are companies learning from the hacks at Target, Sony and Home Depot?

President proposes rules for companies hit by breaches

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:30

President Obama announced a series of cybersecurity proposals Monday, ahead of the State of the Union address. He wants to require companies to notify consumers of a data breach within 30 days, and he says more companies will soon provide free credit scores. Those plans only address what happens after a breach, though. Are companies learning from the hacks at Target, Sony and Home Depot?

Lovin' the McDonald's ad – and hatin' it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:30

A new ad from McDonald's that aired during the Golden Globes is getting almost as much buzz on Twitter as a celebrity’s red carpet outfit. Reactions range from lovin' it: I think the @McDonalds spot that aired during the #GoldenGIobes2015 is the most human the brand has ever felt. Not bad for fast food. — Miranda Lemon (@lemonmira) January 12, 2015 To those who make the ad seem like a McDisaster: @McDonalds I just threw up in my mouth watching your commercial during the #GoldenGlobes. Desperate attempt to rescue your image. Blech! — Jessica Boaman (@JessicaBoaman) January 12, 2015 Against a musical backdrop of kids singing, the ad shows local franchises using their signs to support their communities — including "We remember 9/11" and "Keep jobs in Toledo." The chain also has a blog telling the stories behind each marquee. It's unclear if the company's portrayal of itself as a community-builder will be enough to strengthen its ailing brand. The whole thing has us wondering... what's the sign say at the McDonald's where you live? Is it more "Happy 30th Ed and Beth" or "Over 99 billion served"? Let us know on Facebook.

Lovin' the McDonald's Ad?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:30

A new ad from McDonald's that aired during the Golden Globes is getting almost as much buzz on Twitter as a celebrity’s red carpet outfit. Reactions range from lovin' it: I think the @McDonalds spot that aired during the #GoldenGIobes2015 is the most human the brand has ever felt. Not bad for fast food. — Miranda Lemon (@lemonmira) January 12, 2015 To those that make the ad seem like a McDisaster: @McDonalds I just threw up in my mouth watching your commercial during the #GoldenGlobes. Desperate attempt to rescue your image. Blech! — Jessica Boaman (@JessicaBoaman) January 12, 2015 Against a musical backdrop of kids singing, the ad shows local franchises using their signs to support their communities — everything from "We remember 9/11" to "Keep jobs in Toledo." The chain even has a blog telling the stories behind each marquee. It's unclear if the company's portrayal of itself as a community-builder will be enough to strengthen its ailing brand. The whole thing has us wondering... what's the sign say at the McDonald's where you live? Is it more "Happy 30th Ed and Beth" or "Over 99 billion served"? Let us know on Facebook.

Ducks Vs. Bucks: Who Will Win The NCAA's New Football Title?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:16

Oregon is second in the nation in scoring, with 47.2 points per game. Ohio State was fifth, with 45 points. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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An Exhibit Offers A Different Angle On Life In Public Housing

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:16

An exhibit in Brooklyn aims to upend stereotypes about public housing by profiling residents and their achievements. The curators know their subject well; they once lived in public housing themselves.

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Imagining A Future When The Doctor's Office Is In Your Home

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 13:12

You can now monitor your heart rhythm with your cell phone. Dr. Eric Topol imagines a day when patients will be doing a lot more of their own medical testing, with doctors as advisers.

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In France's Muslim Community, Stories Of Heroism, And Some Fear

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:54

Muslims were among the first people at the scene of last week's attacks in Paris. An employee of the kosher supermarket saved hostages, and a policeman died responding to the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

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The World's Oldest First Grader Is Honored By A Goodle Doodle

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:45

At age 84, Kimani Maruge put on a school uniform for the first time and went to school. Today's doodle pays tribute to his inspirational story.

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The World's Oldest First-Grader Is Honored By A Google Doodle

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:45

At age 84, Kimani Maruge put on a school uniform for the first time and went to school. Today's doodle pays tribute to his inspirational story.

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What makes medical debt detrimental

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:37

About 43 million Americans have overdue medical debt on their credit reports, according to a report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Julie Linsey, a part-time knitting instructor from Aurora, Illinois, is one of them. Hospitalized in 2005, she soon found herself in debt.

“It piled up a whole lot of bills and then the recurring, follow-up visits and prescription costs just really hit us hard,” she says.

When her doctor stopped taking her insurance, she ended up paying her bills out of pocket. Linsey says she faced "hundreds of dollars a month in bills." 

As the CFPB report highlights, medical debt isn’t the same as other debt. Many small collection agencies, with differing reporting and recordkeeping practices, try to collect the debt. In addition, medical debt is often involuntary. Someone could wake up after getting hit by a bus owing thousands of dollars.

Judith Fox, a consumer law professor at Notre Dame University, says consumers often think their insurance already paid a medical bill or don't realize a balance is due. 

“Sometimes [an] insurance company did pay for it, but they pay for it late and it goes to collection,” Fox says.

Lenders sometimes “park” unpaid debts on a report, even if they are beyond the statute of limitations. This means that the next lender to examine the report  will see an unpaid bill, even years after the fact. A Fox client who was trying to rent a new place ran into this problem.

“The landlord pulled up the credit report, and there was this old debt on there and they said: ‘Well, you’ve got collections, you’ve got to pay that or we won’t rent to you,’” Fox says. “Legally, they really didn’t have to pay it, but if they wanted to rent the apartment, they did.”

Inaccuracy is a widespread problem, according to Gail Hillebrand, associate director for consumer education and engagement at the CFPB.

“There are lots of smaller collectors, and they have a variety of practices. Some will put it on your credit report when it’s only 30 days late,” Hillebrand says. “It’s very hard to tell if you owe the money, when you owe the money, and how much of it you owe because of the intersection of the medical billing and what’s happening with your insurance company.”

Linsey had the same problem. Even after paying, it took time before the debt collectors updated their information and stopped calling her. “After a while I turned off my phone,” she says, with a sigh.

Until new rules are written, there’s really only one thing consumers can do: Keep a close eye on their credit reports.

U.S. State Dept.: Weak Government Has Slowed Haiti's Recovery

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:37

Five years ago, Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake. Haiti Special Coordinator Thomas Adams for the U.S. State Department tells Audie Cornish why the reconstruction has been achingly slow.

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Bored ... And Brilliant? A Challenge To Disconnect From Your Phone

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

Studies suggest we get our most original ideas when we stop the constant stimulation and let ourselves get bored. The podcast New Tech City is challenging you to disconnect — and see what happens.

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In South Carolina, Class Action Lawsuit Pits Foster Kids Against State

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

After years of high profile problems — including the death of five children and cries of inaction — the South Carolina Department of Social Services is facing a new hurdle. Foster care children in the state have banded together in a class action lawsuit to demand changes.

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Greeks Shun Mainstream Politics Without Great Alternatives

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

Many Greeks say they plan to vote outside the political mainstream in this month's election because they want an end to the corrupt, populist politics of the past. So they're reaching out to radical parties, including the leftist Syriza Party, which is expected to win the election, after holding just four percent of parliamentary seats in 2009

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Obama Announces Tech Proposals Ahead Of State Of The Union

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:18

On Monday President Obama called for new measures to protect consumers against identity theft and to safeguard students' electronic privacy. It's part of a weeklong series of technology-themed proposals as Obama prepares for next week's State of the Union address.

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