National News

Sniper Attack On Calif. Power Station Raises Terrorism Fears

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 09:40

Last April in San Jose, transformers were knocked out at a power station when one or more snipers fired at least 100 rounds into them. Investigators say they don't believe it was an act of terrorism, but other experts disagree.

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Congress holds hearing data breaches at Target, retailers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 09:31

Congress has been holding hearings this week on the massive personal data breach at Target and other retailers. Top executives have been answering questions on the hill about how 70 million people had their personal data stolen. Today executives and others are answering questions about data security in front of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance on that committee and we spoke to him before the hearings began this morning.

Click play on the audio player above to hear the whole interview.

India's reaction to Satya Nadella becoming Microsoft CEO

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 09:11

We've been talking a lot this week about Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella. But we haven't heard from anyone in his native country of India. So we asked The BBC's Yogita Lamaye to give us a sense of how people are reacting from Mumbai.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 08:00

Alena, a reworking of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, takes place in the contemporary art world, while The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is a "delicious French romp." Critic Maureen Corrigan says both novels are "exquisite vehicles of escape fiction."

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PODCAST: What are 'Climate Hubs?'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 07:42

Today President Obama will announce seven of what the administration's calling climate hubs around the country. These hubs will collect data to help farmers, and others, deal with drought, fires, and floods. Marketplace's David Weinberg joined us to help explain how this is going to work.

And, Twitter is announcing its first ever earnings figures later today. But for the social media company, revenue is hardly the only number that matters. Sure, earnings do matter in an earnings report. But people who follow Twitter -- the stock — are going to be looking other places for clues, too.

Spanish government figures out this week show that about 113-thousand Spaniards lost their jobs in January. Spain’s unemployment rate of 26 percent is higher than that of any European Union country except Greece. But the government says the economy is improving and the jobs picture will improve this year. The BBC’s Tom Burridge reports from Madrid that one advantage the country enjoys is a skilled and affordable workforce.

Millions Warned To Stay Off Roads As Latest Storm Spreads

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 06:59

If you're in the North and you love winter weather, there's more of it. If you're sick of slipping and sliding, the news isn't so good. In New York state, drivers have been asked to stay off the roads — and will be ticketed if they try to get on Interstate 84.

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Electronic Tongues Are The Beer Snobs Of The Future

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 06:19

Researchers in Barcelona have developed an electronic tongue that really knows the difference between a pilsner, a lager and a bock. It's still a prototype, but its creators say it could someday replace human taste-testers.

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Obama administration to announce climate hubs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 06:14

Today President Obama will announce seven of what the administration's calling climate hubs around the country. These hubs will collect data to help farmers, and others, deal with drought, fires, and floods. Marketplace's David Weinberg joined us to help explain how this is going to work.

"So there's not a lot of details yet on how they will work but basically the seven hubs and 3 sub hubs, will collect regional data on climate conditions and use that data to educate farmers and rural communities on how to deal with things like drought and changes in the growing season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that droughts alone, from 2011-2013 cost the U.S. $50 billion. And the creation of these hubs is an example of the president's plan to bypass congress on certain issues, something he promised in his State of the Union speech last week."

And how will these hubs use this data to help rural communities?

We could see initiatives like we're seeing now in California which has been especially hard hit by drought. These are things like storm water capture projects or invasive pest control which have a big impact on the ag business. Data could help communities manage their water use and better develop systems for recycling water. The hubs would also study fire seasons which are getting longer and more severe as temperatures rise. And this is a sort of stepping stone to broader climate change legislation that the Obama administration would like to pass.

CVS to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco by Oct. 1

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 05:58

In a first for a major drugstore chain, CVS will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco beginning in October. That will wipe out an estimated $2 billion a year in sales, but CVS believes it can more than make up the difference by expanding services to promote better health.

Troy Brennan, Chief Medical Officer for CVS Caremark, joined us to talk about the company's decision.

"As a health care company, you just can't be selling the number one public health problem," Brennan says.

Click play on the audio player above to hear the whole interview.

Employers Added 175,000 Jobs Last Month, Survey Signals

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 05:54

The ADP National Employment Report shows slow but solid growth. But will Friday's survey from the Labor Department agree? A month ago, the two reports reached very different conclusions about job growth at the end of 2013.

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Using apps to track cattle in Scotland

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 05:29

Here's a place you wouldn't expect to find an award-winning app. A cattle farm in Scotland. The application is, yes, for cattle management. It was designed by teenagers as part of a contest put together by an organization called Apps for Good.  

Judith Burns, a producer at the BBC's radio project called School Report, joined us to talk about it. Click play on the audio player above to hear the interview.

Reports: 4 Arrests Linked To Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 05:23

Police in Manhattan are telling New York news outlets that three men and one woman are in custody. It's thought they may have been involved in the distribution of heroin reportedly found in the apartment where the actor died over the weekend.

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What online job listings tell us about the economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 05:16

Years ago, the Conference Board sifted through pages and pages of classified help wanted ads in newspapers.  They switched to online job sites in 2005, but the idea is the same: Scan through help wanted ads to get a picture of the jobs market.

“I’m using it because I’m particularly interested in how difficult it is to fill new job vacancies,”  says Jonathan Rothwell, a labor analyst at Brookings, who has looked at data on math and computer science positions. “Those jobs are now almost as difficult to fill today as they were before the recession.”

But Rothwell says it’s still easy to fill lower-skilled jobs. 

And economist June Shelp, a vice president at the Conference Board who developed the online job index, says she has found picky employers. 

She says they used to hire community college graduates but, “Now they’re asking for somebody who has a graduate degree.”

The Conference Board isn’t the only game in town.  Other private companies, and some states, are also crunching job site data.

CVS To Stop Selling Tobacco Products

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 04:25

The company's 7,600 pharmacies will remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from their shelves by Oct. 1. The decision should "help people on their path to better health," says CVS CEO Larry Merlo.

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Designing battlefield technology to save lives

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 04:20

Usually when we talk about technology in war, we're talking about technology designed, essentially, to destroy life. But today we're focusing a new technology designed to protect it.

John Steinbaugh is a former special forces medic for the U.S. army. Now he works at a startup in Oregon called RevMedx . It's made up of scientists and veterans trying to solve an evolving set of problems on the battlefield.

"The battlefield is fluid," Steinbaugh says, "Every rotation you go there it's like a new war. So medics are constantly coming back, updating other medics on what has changed on the battlefield, and one of the standard compaints was wound packing."

Specifically, wound packing to try and stop bleeding after someone has been hit with a bullet. Or shrapnel. These kinds of wounds are deep and narrow. So Steinbaugh and others designed a new piece of tech to help. The XSTAT looks kind of like a syringe filled with little Sweet Tart candies. But they're not candies.

"Picture a sponge that you would buy at the store that, when you run it under water, it grows about 15 times its size," says Steinbaugh, "This idea came from taking the same compressed sponge technology and punching them into a bunch of pellets. Throw them all into one syringe, and when they make contact with fluid or blood, they all expand at the same time, creating a tremendous amount of pressure."

That pressure seals wounds in 15 seconds. And the inventors say it's enough to keep someone alive until they reach a hospital. The XSTAT is also designed to be light and be attached easily to body armor. RevMedx has recieved a $5 million grant from the U.S. Army to develop a finished prototype, and they won a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a version to be used to stop postpartum bleeding.

Spain's skilled and affordable workers may turn the tide

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 04:09

Spanish government figures out this week show that about 113-thousand Spaniards lost their jobs in January. Spain’s unemployment rate of 26 percent is higher than that of any European Union country except Greece. But the government says the economy is improving and the jobs picture will improve this year. The BBC’s Tom Burridge reports from Madrid that one advantage the country enjoys is a skilled and affordable workforce.

Antonio Molina is the CEO of a company called Advanced Medical Projects which tries to cure some of the rare and fatal genetic diseases that affect children. He set it up in 2009 at the height of Spain’s economic crisis. Back then, it wasn’t easy to get funding for a start-up and he had to apply to 69 banks before he got the necessary funds. Molina believes things are getting better and investor confidence is returning. He just secured 21 million Euros – about 28 million dollars – from a French-Swiss venture capital firm. Molina says start-ups based in Spain have an advantage because the scientists are highly-trained and they cost less than in the US or Germany where competition is greater.

Tech company boss Juan Cartagena agrees. He says the current difficult jobs market means that talent is available at a discount rate and there’s not as much competing demand as there would be in countries like the US, where the tech sector is much bigger than Spain’s. Cartagena says many bright people want to work for his firm Traity – a website that collates and analyzes social media activity - because it’s a challenge.

The Spanish government, meanwhile, has challenges of its own. It must make Spain more competitive and cement the economic recovery it says is in place. Professor Xavier Vives, a prominent Spanish economist from the SA Business School, says more investment is needed in innovation, in research and development and in education. He believes Spain can only be successful once it embraces radical structural reforms.

But European elections are taking place in May and few believe there will be reforms before then – or any significant improvement in Spain’s depressing jobs situation.

Irish bankers on trial for financial collapse

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 03:59

In the US, there's a persistent criticism is that no high-level Wall Street executives went to jail for their role in the 2008 financial collapse. That may not, in the end, be the case in Ireland.

The former chairman and CEO of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick, and two deputies go on trial today in Dublin for allegedly trying to pump up the bank's share price.  The trial is described as one of the most complex in Ireland's history.  There's intense public interest because the Irish government's fateful decision to bail out banks like Anglo Irish five years ago essentially bankrupted the country.

The BBC's Diamaid Fleming joined us from Dublin to give some perspective. Click play above to hear the interview.

Vatican Let Abuse Of Kids Go On For Decades, U.N. Panel Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-02-05 03:55

In what's being called an "unprecedented and scathing report," the U.N.'s Committee on the Rights of the Child says the Catholic Church's hierarchy adopted policies that let tens of thousands of children be sexually molested for decades. The Vatican says it isn't responsible for abusive priests.

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What story will Twitter's first earnings report tell?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 03:21

Twitter is announcing its first ever earnings figures later today. But for the social media company, revenue is hardly the only number that matters.

Sure, earnings do matter in an earnings report. But people who follow Twitter -- the stock — are going to be looking other places for clues, too.

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, says, "I'm going to be watching for any information about how big their user base is getting."

How many more people are using Twitter is important.

"They do trail behind Facebook by a wide margin," she says, "and there have been some concerns that while they are growing substantially, Twitter is still a hard service to use."

Williamson will be looking for any sign Twitter might try to simplify. Nate Elliott, who follows Twitter for Forrester Research, says, "I'm most looking forward to hearing what the management has to say about their plans for marketing and advertising offerings."

Of course, all these indicators --  how many users, how many ads -- add up to the question investors want an answer to: how much revenue?

 

Amid Texas drought, this rain man bottles water

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-02-05 03:10

Drive west on U.S. 290* about 20 miles from Austin, Texas, and turn directly into Richard Heinichen’s driveway. A sign overhead reads, “Tank Town: World Headquarters, rainwater stuff.”

From this 10-acre plant in Dripping Springs, Heinichin installs home rainwater-collection systems for his neighbors in the Hill Country, and sells “bottled cloud juice” to cafes and hotels in Austin.  

Collecting rainwatwer may seem like an unorthodox proposal to address the record water shortages that have gripped the drought-gripped state. Heinichin says it's no problem. "You got enough square footage"— on a rooftop—"you got it covered."  

He's got the square footage at Tank Town. Two barns have 20,000 square feet of rooftop that rain can run off of. Instead of downspouts, the gutters run to across-spouts, like aqueducts, to 17 above-ground tanks.

Those tanks hold a quarter-million gallons, and they’re full up, even though Heinichin bottles about 37,000 gallons a year.

That’s not enough to keep up with the rainfall, even in a drought.

"It rained 11 inches on Halloween," he says.  "Over 100,000 gallons went out on the highway out there."   

Heinechin says it’s not just the quantity of rainwater that makes it compelling. It’s the quality.

"I didn’t realize rainwater was so good," he says, "till I drilled a well."

That was in the early 1990s, when he moved to the Texas Hill Country. At first, well water— hard and salty-- was the only option.

"Took a bath in it— I smelled like rotten eggs," he recalls. "Almost threw up in the shower. And you try to go to the shower to get clean!"

His clothes stood up by themselves. His coffee tasted awful.

So he decided to give rainwater a try. As a trained blacksmith, and a tinkerer, Heinichin did the work himself, installing the gutters, the aqueducts, and the first tanks.

He liked the result, but he didn’t think of it as a line of work. That came to him.

"My neighbor comes over and says, 'What’s the deal with your dishes? They’re so clear!'" he says.  "And I say, 'I know!' Because before they were foggy and looked like hell.  And he came over and just noticed it, and says, 'I want— I have to have that, too.'"

That neighbor told others, and a business was born.  "Tank Town just grew by itself," says Heinichin, "Bbcause there was such demand for what I did."

The cost — around $15,000 — is comparable to having a well dug.

"People say, ‘When is this damn thing gonna pay me back?’ And I say, ‘First shower.’"  

Heinichin says he does about 30 home systems a year — and he doesn’t want more customers.

"We weed ‘em out," he says. "If we do their system, then they become a Tank Town citizen — one of our people — and we have to take care of them. And some of these — you don’t want to take care of everybody."

However, to start the bottling business, he did need to do some convincing. Just not to customers.

"Government said, 'You can’t do that, because government’s not approved as a source for water,'" he says. "I say, 'OK, where do you get your water?'  They keep thinking, and I get ‘em up to the highland lakes.  ‘OK, so what fills that?’"

The Texas Commision on Environmental Quality eventually certified Tank Town as an approved public source of water.

*CORRECTION: The original version of this story misidentified the highway leading to Richard Heinichen’s home. It is U.S. 290. The text has been corrected.

 

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