National News

Sodium Sleuths: Do Southerners Eat More Salt Than The Rest Of Us?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 11:54

Here's a mystery: Hypertension, which is tied to salt intake, is more prevalent in the South. Researchers had a hunch that Southerners were eating more salty packaged foods, so they went gumshoeing.

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China Protests Emergency Landing Of U.S. Warplanes In Taiwan

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 11:12

Two Navy F-18s landed at an airbase on the island, which Beijing considers part of its sovereign territory.

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Why Babies Love (And Learn From) Magic Tricks

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 10:43

A new study in the journal Science explores the power of surprise to motivate infant learning.

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California drought prompts 25 percent mandatory cutbacks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-02 10:28

We're not quite there yet, but it's entirely possible that the not-so-distant future in California includes two-minute showers, brown lawns, and — heaven forbid — unwashed cars.

Governor Jerry Brown ordered the first mandatory water cuts in California's history on Wednesday. Local water districts will be required to cut per-capita consumption by 25 percent.

The question on the minds of many Californians and other drought-watchers: what took the state this long?

"For some reason during this drought, [they] have not stepped up the way they have in earlier droughts, which is somewhat alarming to us," says Felicia Marcus, chair of California's Water Resources Control Board. "There really is, obviously, a need for greater state leadership."

Brown made his announcement at Tahoe, where officials measure the snowpack each spring. Sierra Nevada snowmelt trickles into rivers and aqueducts and accounts for about a third of the state's drinking water. 

Marketplace sustainability reporter Sarah Gardner has the key details:

  • The cuts will be handled at the local level. There are over 400 water districts in California. 
  • Districts that have already reduced consumption won't have to meet the full 25 percent target.
  • Some districts in Orange and San Diego Counties still tick off 500 gallons of water consumption, per person, per day. 
  • Over half of residential water use goes to maintaining lawns and gardens. 
  • Agriculture, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of water consumption in California, is not subject to these mandatory cutbacks. 

In short, Gardner says, this mandate is all about urban use, which may prove controversial among city-dwellers who resent agriculture's overwhelming share of water. Farmers counter that the state produces half of the US-grown nuts, vegetables and fruit. 

"Governor Brown made a point, yesterday, of sort of defending agriculture," Gardner said.

"He said, farmers, specifically those with junior water rights have already had a lot of cutbacks. State officials talked, too, about all the land that's been fallowed. They are not ready to challenge this centuries-old water rights system."

Gardner added, the mandatory cuts will only intensify the debate over who gets how much water in California, and for what purpose. 

Like Mars: Dusty Sandstorm Blocks Visibility And Travel In Dubai

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 10:19

More than 100 cars were reportedly involved in accidents. Conditions forced airlines to delay or cancel flights in Dubai after the sandstorm arrived from Saudi Arabia early this morning.

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U.N. Report: 25,000 Foreign Fighters Joining Islamist Militant Groups

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:26

Thousands have left their homes en route to Iraq and Syria, which the U.N. report calls an "international finishing school" for extremists.

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Iran Reached Agreement With World Powers On Nuclear Program

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:21

Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani tweeted that Iran and six world powers, including the United States, had reached an agreement on "key parameters" of the issue.

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The Menendez Paradox

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:19

The senator who once testified against a corrupt mayor is facing his own federal corruption charges.

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Patagonia tests the limits of sustainability

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:18

On Thursday, the venture fund for outdoor clothing company Patagonia announced an investment of more than $1 million in a Swiss company, Beyond Surface Technologies (BST), that works to reduce the impact of textile chemicals on the environment.

Phil Graves oversees the Patagonia fund, called $20 Million and Change, which targets environmental problems. He says the investment in BST could yield dividends for the planet.

What makes them unique, Graves says of BST, "is they don't use synthetic, petroleum-based chemicals for their textile finishings. They use natural substances."

Patagonia is one of the most progressive, environmentally committed American companies. But at the same time that it searches for solutions, Patagonia has also contributed to the environmental problems.

For example, the current process of water-proofing for performance clothing, like Patagonia's rain jackets, involves some harmful chemicals.

"The existing technology uses fluorocarbons, which are pretty nasty things in terms of environmental impact," Graves says. "They take forever to degrade. The challenge is when you look at some of the existing alternatives that are more environmentally-friendly, they don't last."

That idea of durability is a recurring theme. It resurfaces again when Phil Graves takes me surfing. We hit the waves so I could test another Patagonia innovation — an earth-friendly wetsuit that's 60 percent plant-based bio-rubber.

"When you look at the environmental benefits, it's a much cleaner process than the process that goes into making neoprene," Graves says.

I wore the new, "green" wetsuit. Graves wore one of Patagonia's traditional wetsuits, which is 100 percent neoprene.

From my brief demo, I found the bio-rubber wetsuit just as warm as any neoprene versions I've ever used, and even a little bit thinner, which made it easier to paddle out.

But that bio-rubber wetsuit doesn't come cheap. Patagonia charges more than $500. That's about four times more than a standard neoprene wetsuit from a competing brand.

Mike Russo studied Patagonia for his book "Companies on a Mission: Entrepreneurial Strategies for Growing Responsibly, Sustainably, and Profitably."

"A significant part of the customer base cares and might reward the company for its environmental programs with purchases at prices higher than they would be willing to pay otherwise," Russo says.

Also, that innovative eco-wetsuit is still 40 percent synthetic rubber.

Back at Patagonia headquarters, I ask CEO Rose Marcario why the company entered the wetsuit market before it had an environmentally-friendly alternative to offer.

"In our case, we enter the market and create a market so that we have a voice in the market," Marcario says.

What about the conflict between the company's eco-friendly investments and its continued use of the traditional, harmful chemicals used for water-proofing?

"That's always been a tension because we create the best gear for very extreme conditions. And sometimes the best finishes for those extreme conditions — of wind and snow — are chemical based," she says.

And, again, there's that idea of durability.

"The issue, when you look at some innovative products — in terms of environmental sustainability — is that they don't have the performance," says Phil Graves. "What we've found is — long-term — when you look at the total footprint of the wetsuit or the jacket or whatever it is, extending the life of that garment makes the biggest difference in terms of environmental impact."

At some level, it may be better to have a synthetic product that lasts for generations, rather than an innovative substitute that repeatedly needs to be replaced.

Will Your Child Become Nearsighted? One Simple Way To Find Out

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:10

If you're not a bit farsighted at age 6, you're much more likely to be nearsighted by age 12, a study of thousands of children finds. A simple eye refraction exam can spot it early on.

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Quiz: Balancing school and work

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:08

More than 10 percent of full-time undergrads receive work-study financial aid, according to the Department of Education.

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New report finds 64 percent of managers 'disengaged'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:06

A new poll out from Gallup says half of all employees in this country have, at some point or another, quit their jobs to get away from a bad boss.

...Which is either depressing or empowering, I'm not sure which.

Of course, that may be because of the second part of the survey: just 35 percent of managers in American companies call themselves "engaged." 64 percent say they're "not engaged" or "actively disengaged."

Which is just a drag.

What can the Fed do about income inequality?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-02 09:01

Once upon a time, back when Laurence Meyer was a governor of the Federal Reserve, he was called to testify before Congress. Bernie Sanders, today a U.S. senator from Vermont, asked him what the Fed would do about income inequality. Meyer's reply? "Nothing."

That's not because he thought it wasn't a problem, but because of the Fed's strictly defined mandate: "full employment and price stability," Meyer said. "Anything else — not their job."

But what the Fed can do is conduct research, and that's just what Janet Yellen called for in a Thursday speech in Washington, D.C. Yellen called income inequality a "disturbing trend" and noted that family dynamics and related microeconomic factors could impact economic mobility and the broader economy.

A growing body of research suggests that lifelong economic productivity is affected by both family and early childhood development.

Randall Kroszner, an economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, says "I think we have much more data than we did before to drill down into the micro-factors that may be driving macroeconomics."

Ted Peters, a former Fed director, said that Yellen's star status means she can use the bully pulpit to rally politicians to take note of emerging economic trends that might affect the American economy.

"Janet Yellen publicly speaking out against this carries a lot of weight," Peters says. 

Could Chris Christie Appoint Himself To The U.S. Senate? Yes, He Can

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 08:58

The indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., could lead to Chris Christie, R-N.J., appointing a replacement. With Christie's presidential prospects, he might want to consider appointing himself.

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The Kids Brainwashed By Boko Haram Were Silent For Good Reason

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 07:58

That's how children cope with a fearful situation. But what happens when the trauma ends? We learn more about the the 84 boy rescued from a school that was reportedly influenced by the terror group.

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Megachurch Founder, Televangelist Robert Schuller Dies At 88

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 07:49

The pastor who built his church from nothing in the 1960s also launched the Hour of Power broadcast a decade later. By 2010, however, the palatial Crystal Cathedral was forced into bankruptcy.

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After Selma, King's March On Ballot Boxes

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 06:34

Tucked away in the archives of the University of South Carolina is a video clip of a rousing King speech.

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Germanwings Crash: 2nd Black Box Found, French Prosecutor Says

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 06:29

The plane's voice recorder was recovered last week near the scene of the crash. From it, investigators were able to determine that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane.

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Indiana, Arkansas Struggle With Changes To 'Religious Freedom' Laws

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 06:24

The states, which both passed legislation that critics say would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, have been forced to backtrack following protests.

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World's Muslim Population Will Surpass Christians This Century, Pew Says

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 06:01

Islam is growing more rapidly than any other religion in the world, according to the Pew Research Center, which predicts that Islam will nearly equal Christianity by 2050 before eclipsing it.

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