National News

Two Small Earthquakes Shake Dallas; Jokes Ensue

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 17:12

Some residents said they felt nothing; some worried about the effects of fracking; others joked about it all.

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Botched Lethal Injection Executions Reignite Death Penalty Debate

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 13:45

Capital punishment and lethal injection were in the news quite a bit in 2014. Unable to secure certain drugs, states began using new ones, and that caused a number of executions to go awry.

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Republican Majority Makes Boehner's Job Easier — And Harder

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 13:39

Republicans formally took full control of Congress for the first time during Barack Obama's presidency on Tuesday. Republicans took over the Senate and added to their majority in the House.

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Kirby Delauter, Who Didn't Want His Name In A News Story, Is Now A Story

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 13:23

Frederick County, Md., Council Member Kirby Delauter threatened a local reporter with a lawsuit for using his name in a story without permission. The Frederick News-Post responded in an editorial.

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An Army Chaplain, First Tested By War, Finds His Faith Renewed

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:54

When David Peters went to Iraq as an Army chaplain, his relationship with God faltered. But after years of feeling adrift, he eventually found that the trauma of war had actually deepened his faith.

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DishTV's New Service Targets Cable Cord Cutters

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:53

DishTV is offering a new digital service for cord cutters — ESPN and a dozen other channels for just $20 a month. Does it lead to a cable-less future?

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Record lows on bond market: A cause for concern

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:50

It was a day of record low yields in the global bond market on Tuesday. In the U.S., the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond fell below 2 percent, while in Europe record lows were set in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France and the Netherlands. Germany and Japan both have 10-year bond yields under 0.5 percent.

But what do these record lows tell us about the real economy? 

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says that the low yields are surprising, especially during a recovery. Steven Major, head of fixed-income research at HSBC and one of few analysts to predict that 10-year U.S. Treasury bills would remain at 2.1 percent at the end of last year, says it may seem like a contradiction to those watching short-term indicators like quarterly gross domestic product growth, because bonds pay off over many years.  Steven Englander, global head of G-10 foreign exchange strategy at Citigroup, agrees that the bond market is hinting at something deeper and more long-term.

Summers identifies the deeper trend as one of "secular stagnation": High savings and low investment. It's not a cause for panic, but he says it is a cause for concern.

NYPD Union Leader: Apology From De Blasio Would Go A Long Way

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:48

Patrick Lynch, the head of the big New York City Police Department union, the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, has been a outspoken critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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Baseball Hall Of Fame Elects Three Pitchers, Second Baseman

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

Pitchers Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez, and second baseman Craig Biggio were elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday. Robert Siegel talks to Tom Goldman about the selections and some of the notable ballplayers who did not get in, like Don Mattingly.

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Bess Meyerson Was An Author, TV Personality, Civil Servant

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

Bess Myerson was crowned Miss America in 1945 and was the only Jewish-American woman to ever hold the title. She went on to have a long career in public affairs though it was sometimes marked by scandal. She died Dec. 14 at the age of 90.

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Freshman Representatives Start First Day In Congress

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

Robert Siegel talks to Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters of California and Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona about starting their first term in Congress.

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Lawyers Try To Fight Death Penalty With New PTSD Understanding

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

A 66-year-old Vietnam vet is due to be executed next week for the 1998 murder of a deputy sheriff in Georgia. There's no question that he shot the officer thanks to a grisly dashcam video. But the man's lawyers say PTSD and mental illness were not taken into consideration at sentencing.

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Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will spend two years in federal prison. McDonnell was sentenced on Tuesday. He and his wife were convicted of using the governor's office for favors to businessman Johnnie Williams in exchange for over $170,000 in loans and gifts.

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Keystone XL Pipeline Gets Another Chance With New Congress

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

With the new Congress sworn in and the GOP in charge, votes to advance the Keystone XL Pipeline are the first order of business.

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Obama And Mexican President Talk Cuba, Immigration

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

Two big issues between President Obama and his Mexican counterpart: Obama's recent controversial executive actions on immigration and Cuba.

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Anti-Muslim Rallies Grow In Germany

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:37

A movement tinged with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment has been growing in the German city of Dresden since the fall. The city's weekly rally grew to some 18,000 people on Monday. Robert Siegel speaks with Melanie Amann, who covers German national politics for the newspaper Der Spiegel, about the so-called "PEGIDA" movement.

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From Paleo To Plant-Based, New Report Ranks Top Diets Of 2015

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:19

The caveman way of eating ranked near the bottom of a list of 35 diets ranked by medical and nutrition experts. The winners? The Mediterranean-like DASH and the plant-centric Ornish eating plan.

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Free-Climbing Yosemite's El Capitan Takes A Team — And Time

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:14

Two rock climbers are close to finishing a hugely ambitious project on El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley — free-climbing the Dawn Wall. They talked to NPR's Melissa Block from the rock face.

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A food critic's power in the Internet age

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:08

Local restaurant reviewer Leslie Brenner has ruffled the feathers of a chef and some restaurateurs in Dallas. She's been attacked on Twitter and Facebook, and some restaurants are not cooperating for reviews.

In an era of online reviews and food bloggers, does it really matter what one critic writes in a newspaper? More than you might think.  The Internet has changed how reviews impact the business of restaurants and how professional critics do their jobs.

A great place to see that transformation is at the crossroads of tech and dining in San Francisco.

Matt Straus has a classic restaurant story. He started at a local McDonald's and worked his way into San Francisco's fine dining scene. After 23 years, he finally opened his own place, The Heirloom Café. Then a year later, it happened: the bad review.

If you’ve seen the movie "Chef," where Jon Favreau makes mincemeat out of a critic, you are familiar with the fantasy response to getting panned.

What went down in real life with Matt Straus was much less funny, and far more depressing. 

Straus thought he would be ruined. “It was though somebody had announced that we were the 'Emperor with no clothes,'” he says. “It was devastating.” 

But, instead of going out of business, Straus actually saw a bump in business when his regular customers came out to support him. “Many of them came up to me and said, 'Wow, that was a crazy review,'" Straus says.

The Heirloom Café was already regarded as a restaurant worth visiting. It had some good write-ups and positive comments from diners on sites like OpenTable. Plus, it had a four out of five-star rating on Yelp. Online reviews affect business more than a critic's opinion, Mat Schuster, who co-owns Canela Bistro Bar, a Spanish restaurant in San Francisco.

Yelp reviews are one of the most popular ways new customers discover his restaurant, Schuster says. He takes his Yelp ratings so seriously he uses them to reward his staff. The ratings determine bonuses for managers and the sous chef, and if servers are mentioned in a five-star review, Schuster says he gives them a $25 gift card.

Studies at UC Berkeley and Harvard University show that increasing the average Yelp rating by even half a star can have a big impact on business. 

But old-style critics still matter. Heather Irwin, a food writer and blogger in California wine country, says a review in a local paper can put a new restaurant on the map before online ratings accumulate. Plus, it makes a nice trophy. “Even though it might sound a little old fashion,” Irwin says, “the restaurants really like to have that plaque with the restaurant review from the newspaper posted in their lobby.” 

If a review does not go a restaurant's way, it's another story. Brenner, the dining critic at the Dallas Morning News, managed to make a chef and local restaurateurs so furious that they are trying to compromise the integrity of  her reviews by refusing to let her pay. Why? Because, Brenner says, “they're not happy with the star-rating system.” 

The newspaper has used the same star system for decades but that may soon change, Brenner says, as food critics adapt to compete with with the abundant and alluring food coverage online — the host of blogs that can feature sexy photos of artisanal cocktails, chi-chi barbecue and celebrity chefs. 

Some reviewers, like Brenner, are even giving up their sacred anonymity. Critics used to hide their identities so they could secretly review restaurants. That is harder to pull off these days with social media and smartphones. 

There is an upside having a more public persona – it gives critics an opportunity to build their own star power. 

The future of the restaurant critic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:08

Local restaurant reviewer Leslie Brenner has ruffled the feathers of a chef and some restaurateurs in Dallas. She's been attacked on Twitter and Facebook, and some restaurants are not cooperating for reviews.

In an era of online reviews and food bloggers, does it really matter what one critic writes in a newspaper? More than you might think.  The Internet has changed how reviews impact the business of restaurants and how professional critics do their jobs.

A great place to see that transformation is at the crossroads of tech and dining in San Francisco.

Matt Straus has a classic restaurant story. He started at a local McDonald's and worked his way into San Francisco's fine dining scene. After 23 years, he finally opened his own place, The Heirloom Café. Then a year later, it happened: the bad review.

If you’ve seen the movie "Chef," where Jon Favreau makes mincemeat out of a critic, you are familiar with the fantasy response to getting panned.

What went down in real life with Matt Straus was much less funny, and far more depressing. 

Straus thought he would be ruined. “It was though somebody had announced that we were the 'Emperor with no clothes,'” he says. “It was devastating.” 

But, instead of going out of business, Straus actually saw a bump in business when his regular customers came out to support him. “Many of them came up to me and said, 'Wow, that was a crazy review he wrote,'" Straus says.

The Heirloom Café was already regarded as a restaurant worth visiting. It had some good write-ups and positive comments from diners on sites like OpenTable. Plus, it had a four out of five-star rating on Yelp. Online reviews affect business more than a critic's opinion, Mat Schuster, who co-owns Canela Bistro Bar, a Spanish restaurant in San Francisco.

Yelp reviews are one of the most popular ways new customers discover his restaurant, Schuster says. He takes his Yelp ratings so seriously he uses them to reward his staff. The ratings determine bonuses for managers and the sous chef, and if servers are mentioned in a five-star review, Schuster says he gives them a $25 gift card.

Studies at UC Berkeley and Harvard University show that increasing the average Yelp rating by even half a star can have a big impact on business. 

But old-style critics still matter. Heather Irwin, a food writer and blogger in California wine country, says a review in a local paper can put a new restaurant on the map before online ratings accumulate. Plus, it makes a nice trophy. “Even though it might sound a little old fashion,” Irwin says, “the restaurants really like to have that plaque with the restaurant review from the newspaper posted in their lobby.” 

If a review does not go a restaurant's way, it's another story. Brenner, the dining critic at the Dallas Morning News, managed to make a chef and local restaurateurs so furious that they are trying to compromise the integrity of  her reviews by refusing to let her pay. Why? Because, Brenner says, “they're not happy with the star-rating system.” 

The newspaper has used the same star system for decades but that may soon change, Brenner says, as food critics adapt to compete with with the abundant and alluring food coverage online — the host of blogs that can feature sexy photos of artisanal cocktails, chi-chi barbecue and celebrity chefs. 

Some reviewers, like Brenner, are even giving up their sacred anonymity. Critics used to hide their identities so they could secretly review restaurants. That is harder to pull off these days with social media and smartphones. 

Plus with a more public persona, critics have more ways to build their own star power. 

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