National News

To Make A Spacecraft That Folds And Unfolds, Try Origami

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:27

The traditional Japanese art of folding paper is now adding grace and ease to the deployment of fragile solar panels, seismometers and other vital instruments in outer space.

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Lawmakers Call For GM's Top Lawyer To Step Down

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:27

Delphi, the company that made the defective ignition switch in General Motors vehicles, has stayed out of the harsh glare in the recall scandal. But that changed Thursday, as Delphi's CEO joined GM CEO Mary Barra and GM's top lawyer for a grilling on Capitol Hill.

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Senate Re-Authorizes Government's Role In Terrorism Insurance

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:27

The Senate has voted to reauthorize terrorism risk insurance, to help businesses stay solvent in the event of attacks. The bill faces a tougher road in the House, where some Republicans want to reduce the potential price tag for taxpayers.

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Malaysian Airliner Crashes In Eastern Ukraine

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:27

A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying nearly 300 people has crashed in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. It's unclear why it crashed, but the Ukrainian president is calling for an investigation.

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Microsoft Announces Largest Job Cut In Its History

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:27

Microsoft plans to eliminate as many as 18,000 jobs over the next year — about 14 percent of its global workforce. The cuts would be the largest in the company's history. Microsoft recently acquired Nokia's mobile phone business, which boosted its head count by 25,000 and most of the cuts will be in that area.

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A Brief History Of Civilian Planes That Have Been Shot Down

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:04

It's rare, but commercial flights do come under fire. In fact, the Ukrainian army accidentally downed a Russian civilian plane with a missile during a military exercise in Crimea in 2001.

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Israel Launches Ground Offensive In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 11:49

Escalating its conflict with Hamas, Israel sent ground forces into Gaza on Thursday.

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Streaming books on Amazon?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-17 11:44

Heads up e-book readers: if you were fast enough yesterday you may have seen that Amazon is preparing to launch an e-book subscription service. Maybe. A page on its website was put up, and then taken down again, very quickly. The service, called  “Kindle Unlimited,” would give subscribers access to 600,000 books for $10 a month. 

There’s nothing new about a book subscription service (remember Book of the Month club?), but Dan Cryan, Senior Director of Digital Media with IHS, points out that the subscription model has gotten popular again.

“There has a been a rush of subscription commerce items covering everything from dollar shave club, offering cheap razors, through to subscription underwear,” he says.

Scribd and Oyster, both e-book subscription services representing the interest in the digital book sector. Eric Stromberg, CEO and Co-Founder of Oyster, says since the company's launch last September, it has "continuously brought in more revenue from paying subscribers" than it's paid out each month.

But Cryan says it's unclear how well a subscription service can scale. "It's safe to say," he notes, "that neither Scribd nor Oyster, has set the world on fire." After all, while subscription services can work well, they're only practical for some products and some consumers.

“Certain products like diapers, there’s obviously a high quantity of demand needed on a very regular basis. For other goods it’s less clear that you need new items, quite so regularly,” says Cryan.

Scribd says its deals with publishers mostly make older titles available, but many readers want the newest ones. Jim Milliot, Editorial Director of Publishers Weekly, says that’s exactly why publishers are reluctant to give subscribers access to their newest releases.

“Instead of going out and buying the new John Grisham, maybe they would wait for it to come up as part of a subscription service," he says.

From the publisher's perspective, Milliot says, if customers are paying $9.99 "for the all-you-can-eat type of thing, instead of $15 for the new John Grisham, you’re losing out."

And there’s a plot twist.

"This doesn’t have anything to do with ebooks," says Michael Norris, an independent consultant to the media industry. “Everything a company like Amazon does has to do with making their close customers even closer.”

Norris notes that Amazon doesn’t have to sell books to stay alive. A subscription service just means another reason consumers would have to stick around its website – and hopefully spend more money.

A collection of items you told us you cannot live without (or at least have to have, once a month)

The Modern American Man, Charted

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 10:54

By some measures, not much has changed for the American male in the past few decades — girls still do better in school and men still make more money. In other areas, the differences are profound.

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Hey, Miss Idaho, Is That An Insulin Pump On Your Bikini?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 10:49

Sierra Sandison couldn't imagine how she would hide an insulin pump during beauty pageants. So she decided to show it off for the Miss Idaho pageant. She won. Type 1 diabetics say they won, too.

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Actress And Singer Elaine Stritch Has Died

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 10:34

Elaine Stritch, whose talent led to a substantial career on Broadway and in cabarets, died today at age 89. She had been living in her native Michigan, where she moved last year from New York.

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Of borders and businesses: moving forward in Murrieta

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-17 10:18

If you look online for "Murrieta, California" this is what you find: footage of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators chanting, waving American flags, and in at least one case, people spitting on each other. 

But if you go to Murrieta, you also see a supportive business community that turns out for events like the ribbon cutting at a new family-owned Mexican restaurant, Mariscos Las Palmas.

Ribbon cutting at Mariscos Las Palmas on July 11, 2014 in Murrieta, California.

Lindsay Foster Thomas

About 30 business owners from the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce feast on ceviche and tostadas in the restaurant's parking lot. Efrain Buenrostro Barrajas, the owner, won't talk about the demonstrations. That's because it's an emotional issue in Murrietta, explains his son, Norbert Buenrostro.

"He just doesn't want to send the wrong message to people, to customers, thinking he's for it or against it. He is an immigrant, but we choose not to talk about it because it's so sensitive," says Buenrostro.

That's the attitude of many business owners here: Stay out of the fray and promote a positive image of the city.

But economist John Husing, who studies the region where Murrieta is located, says he's hearing something else from area business owners behind closed doors.

"They are looking at this as an absolute embarrassment for Murrieta. The best statement I heard made is: 'You really don't want to be in a place where people are spitting on each other.' This was not good for business," Husing says.

Murrieta is a relatively affluent city of just over 100,000 people. The Chamber of Commerce is aggressively trying to attract new jobs. Chamber President Patrick Ellis says, "It's always a concern when something happens that paints a black eye on the city. And you have to do the best you can to get through it."

Eleven days after the protests started, only a handful of people are left sitting under tarps outside the Border Patrol Station.  They have signs that say "Congress, Secure The Border" and "Immigrate Legally."

Demonstrators in Murrieta on July 11, 2014 across from the Border Patrol station

Lindsay Foster Thomas

John Henry, who is so keen to prove he's from Murrieta that he displays his driver's licence, says he is there because he is worried about immigrants.

"I'm out here today to show support for the border patrol guys and to also let the federal government know that we're not going to let them use our small town as a refugee camp. And that they're treating these people incorrectly," says Henry.  "They need to be brought to a facility that can properly help them. The facility here only holds 25 people, and they're putting 140 people into that area."

Henry thinks the message of what he calls "the rallies," has been distorted. He says things turned ugly in early July, thanks to outsiders coming in town. He's sympathetic to business owners' concerns, but he has his own economic worries.

Demonstrator John Henry speaks with Marketplace reporter Noel King

Lindsay Foster Thomas

"The majority of the people in this area - if you look at the demographics - that are unemployed are white males, ages 18 to 32," Henry says, describing the demographic category he falls into.  "Finding work around here is very hard. Especially when we have thousands of people migrating through this area."

For now, the buses have stopped coming in to the city. But immigration protests have sprung up in places like Oracle, Arizona, another town that may have to start thinking about its reputation.

For more on Murrieta’s business climate, visit the Wealth & Poverty desk blog on Medium: http://ow.ly/zi9v5.

Florida Court Overturns State's Same-Sex-Marriage Ban

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 10:02

The case applies only in Monroe County, which includes Key West, and will almost certainly be appealed. But a similar case is pending in Miami.

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Feeling The Heat, Burning The Suits: Reporting On Ebola From Sierra Leone

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 10:00

The Ebola treatment center in Kailahun is the largest ever built, with 64 beds. A visit reveals the toll on the staff — and how much of the Ebola-fighting budget literally goes up in smoke.

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Acid rain: what it takes to stop pollution

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-17 09:55

Sue Capone was a young biologist in 1984 when, amid a growing environmental crisis, she started work at the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation in upstate New York. The corporation had recently been formed to study how seriously acid rain was affecting sensitive lakes and ponds in the mountains. It was her job to measure just how bad things were.

Capone found many lakes were crystal clear. They were beautiful to look at, but a sign that things were very wrong: Acid rain had killed just about anything living in the water, including the fish.

For 30 years now, Capone has been driving, hiking, and flying to dozens of mountain lakes to collect vials of water to take back to the lab for analysis. And she's surprised at how fast things have turned around. "Some of the classic, clear waters from the acid days are starting to look more cloudy," she says. "That's a very good sign."

pH levels, a measure of acidity, are improving. Now, when the state stocks fish in many lakes, they survive, and even thrive, to the joy of fishermen who found the 1970s and '80s depressing. It's a remarkable turnaround in since acid rain's discovery in the U.S. by a young professor at Dartmouth College named Gene Likens, just a half century ago.

"It was a great surprise," Likens said. "It was one of those 'a ha!' moments."

At the time, Likens and his colleagues were beginning a project to measure the health of a New Hampshire forest. It was like taking the vital signs of a patient, trying to get a baseline of health. Then, it rained, and he was shocked to find the rainfall's acidity was closer to vinegar than pure water.

"We didn't know how acid rain should be," he says. "We certainly weren't thinking about acid rain."

This was about to become his life's work. It would be nearly another decade before he would help popularize the term "acid rain" in his first academic paper. There was a lot of work to be done first.

Foremost, he had to figure out rain's normal pH levels. This was no easy task. He and some colleagues traveled to some of the most remote places on Earth, like the southern tips of South America and Africa, to measure rain as unadulterated by human activity as possible.

Their hunch was right. The rain falling in New Hampshire was way too acidic, and was well on its way to killing forests and lakes. He had another hunch: coal-powered power plants in the Midwest were the culprit, but he would need solid proof. Utility owners were skeptical.

Electric companies would tell him, "No, it's not going up my smokestack! No! What went up my smokestack didn't come down on your forest in New Hampshire," he said.

His team's first attempt at proving a connection between power plant emissions and acid rain was simultaneously rudimentary and ambitious. They'd follow smokestack plumes in small planes to see where they ended up. Before long, they developed more sophisticated tracer chemicals that proved the hypothesis.

Coal-fired power plants in the Midwest were emitting millions of tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. The pollutants then blew east, falling as acid rain on the ecosystems of states like New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

With the evidence in by 1972, Likens was ready to tell the world in his first academic paper on the subject.

"We thought long and hard about what the title should be," he says. In the end, they went with "Acid rain," which turned out to be a brilliant label. It clicked with the public.

"The idea that you could sing in the rain, walk in the rain, and then the rain was acid, really grabbed people," he said. "It had that impact. Branding, if you will."

A couple of years later, with another paper on the way, acid rain was now big news, featured on the front page of major newspapers. Likens became a celebrity among his peers.

"I had phone calls from literally all over the world. Scientists saying, 'What is going on? What is all this about?'"

Hundreds then joined the research effort, and by the 1980s, acid rain was a mainstream issue. Schoolchildren wrote papers about it. The PBS series NOVA devoted an hour to the crisis. It was the environmental crisis du jour, even ending up in "Captain Planet," the kids' cartoon.

Despite the public awareness, acid rain also felt intractable. Even with mounting evidence, politicians procrastinated by ordering more studies. And, even if there had been political will to solve acid rain, there was no guarantee that environmentalists and industry could get on the same page.

That was the state of affairs until the 1988 election, which placed in power politicians with serious interest in doing something about acid rain.

"It was like all the planets aligning," said Brian McLean, then with the Environmental Protection Agency. He was one player in a surprising group who worked together to get a new Clean Air Act proposed, written and enacted in mere months.

"The political, the interest groups, industry, environmentalists, and particularly political leadership coming together at an unusual time," McLean said.

The first big thing that happened: George H.W. Bush became president. Much more than his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, Bush wanted to prove a Republican leader could be serious about the environment. He ran on the issue.

At the same time, there was a big shift among Democrats. George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine, replaced Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, as majority leader. In that era, environmental politics was much more divided by geography than party. Maine was a victim of acid rain, caused in part by West Virginia coal.

So, with new politicians in charge, Boyden Gray on Bush's transition team called a meeting at the White House. Among those there was Dan Dudek of the Environmental Defense Fund. He was also an economist.

President Bush, Dudek said, "wanted to make good on his promise of being the environmental president. We said 'Hey! solve the acid rain problem! That will certainly quiet the critics.'"

Gray tells the story a little differently. "Well, we were already focused on acid rain, so I don't know if they tipped the balance on that," he said.

Either way, the environmental crisis was now a top priority.

Dudek had an idea he thought might just bring together Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and industry. He pitched it to Gray at that meeting.

"You can do it in a novel way," Dudek said. "Set up a market."

Gray said it was that idea, a market approach, that "broke the logjam." Here, an environmental group was behind the kind of idea a Republican could get behind.

The idea was this: The government sets a limit on the amount of sulfur dioxide that can be released in a year. Power companies are told how much they can emit. It's up to them to decide how to get to those lower levels—maybe install scrubbers or switch to a a different kind of coal. If they cut more than their allowance, they could sell the excess to a power company struggling to meet its limit. It became known as: cap and trade.

It wasn't the kind of idea power companies were used to hearing from government. Gary Hart was with the big utility Southern Company at the time, and he first heard about it at a coal conference.

"And, I kind of casually walked over to the office after the conference and said, guys, you won't believe what I just heard," Hart recalled.

Southern Company, like many utilities, was initially fiercely opposed. It was fear of the unknown, he said.

But behind the scenes, Hart and his team watched the bills' drafts closely, calculating how much each would cost the company.

Meanwhile, Brian McLean at EPA was writing the White House's plan as fast as possible.

"That's all I did for five or six months, day and night, we worked on these things," McLean remembered. "We got it up there. I remember the first day we were outside and there was sun. I hadn't seen the sun in that many months."

It was July 1989. President Bush gathered members of Congress to the Rose Garden to unveil his proposed new Clean Air Act. By 1990, it was law.

And, it worked, better than even many supporters predicted. Some companies overcorrected so they could make money selling allowances. Emissions fell faster and more cheaply than planned.

The act called for emissions to be reduced by half. But today, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions are down more than 70 percent.

In the end, the program won over environmentalists who thought it was too lenient on industry, and an industry that expected it to be expensive.

And, Gary Hart said, it worked partly because all the sides more or less got along.

"People who you thought would be natural enemies like Southern Company and EPA, we were working together because we wanted it to work," he said.

That's not to say acid rain is completely solved. Forest ecosystems will take far longer to recover than lakes.

But with years of improvement, Karen Roy, the head of the Adirondack Long Term Monitoring Program, is thinking of scaling back the collection of lake samples. A basement conference room was nicknamed "the war room" in the 1980s. A map of the region still covers one wall, with pins in the lakes the team has analyzed the past three decades. Some of the pins have fallen out as the crisis abated.

"Would I have predicted we could have turned this around as a nation? No, I would not," Roy says. "Too many other things seemed to get in the way."

How companies like Microsoft should handle mass layoffs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-17 09:43

Over the next year, Microsoft says it will be cutting up to 18,000 jobs, the biggest job cuts in the company’s history. The cuts are the result of the corporation re-aligning itself after it acquired Nokia in April.

Mass layoffs are very hard on workers, even the ones who are spared, but there are right ways and wrong ways to manage the process. We asked Sara Grant, adjunct associate professor at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU and Robert Sutton, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of the book, "Scaling up Excellence," for some thoughts.

Here are their suggestions about what managers and companies should do:

Set clear boundaries.

Companies need to be clear about how many jobs are getting cut, when people will know and how they will know. Rumors run rampant in times of uncertainty and it's important for companies to get out in front of the panic as much as they can. It's essential that companies honor these timetables, if they don't, there can be a feeling that the layoffs are never-ending.

Answer the question, "Why?"

Companies need to explain why the layoffs are happening and try to help people make sense of the situation.

Give people some control over the process.

Employees need to have some kind of say in the process and feel like their voices are being heard. Voluntary buyouts are one way to achieve this.

Treat departing workers with respect.

This is crucial. People in management needs to be in the office physically when layoffs are happening. They should be compassionate and present Hiding in their office during this time is not a good idea.

Provide laid off workers with support.

Companies should provide résumé help, wih other advice and support to employees who are leaving. Most importantly, they need to give workers a fair severance package.

Listen to dissenters.

There's often a temptation for companies to punish people who speak out during times of turmoil, but those conversations should be encouraged. Employees need to feel like they're part of the process.

Let people mourn.

Workers are saying goodbye to friends, lunch buddies and supervisors. They're often taking on more work. Be sensitive that the workers who stay will have mixed emotions and need support and time to process a big layoff.

Provide a clear vision for the future.

Employees need to feel like the company has direction. Do this by providing a clear vision to workers about where they are headed and where the company itself is headed.

Wildfire In Washington State Threatens Hundreds Of Homes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 09:28

Firefighters have yet to contain the blaze in the central part of the state. The Chiwaukum Creek Fire is burning through heavy timber and sent a plume of smoke 25,000 feet into the air.

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Strike Averted On Nation's Largest Commuter Rail Line

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-17 09:11

Unions representing Long Island Rail Road workers had threatened to go out on strike Sunday, potentially stranding hundreds of thousands of commuters. But a deal was reached Thursday.

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Would a Marketplace by any other name smell as sweet?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-17 09:09

Retailers spend a lot of time thinking about what the shopping experience is like for customers, and how that reflects on the store’s brand. They think about the signature decor of the store, they think about lighting and they think about overhead music –and they think about the store’s scent. In fact, scent is something they’ve thought long and hard about.

“If [retailers] don’t connect and make it a comfortable, welcoming place to shop, and to spend their money, consumers will go somewhere else” says Andy Kindfuller, CEO of ScentAir. His company creates signature scents based on what he calls “brand attributes.”

Kindfuller is adamant that these aren’t perfumes. Their scents are dispersed through a space with the company’s equipment. They’ve worked with medical waiting rooms where the goal was to create a calming atmosphere, with a hotel whose lobby now subtly smells like cookies and tea, and a sport stadium that smells, as Kindfuller says, “like victory.”

ScentAir works closely with their client’s marketing team as they devise a scent. When it comes to actually creating the fragrance, Kindfuller says it really does boil down to a team of folks in a room with a whiteboard.

“The perfumers that we use, use up to 10,000 different ingredients... what’s amazing is they can identify those 10,000 just by smell and so we will often create a fragrance that can have several hundred different notes.”

Kindfuller and his team even made a scent for Marketplace. We've been having our staff try them out today.

 

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal:

 

Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark:

 

Marketplace reporter David Weinberg:

<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/what-does-business-smell-like">View Survey</a>

Would a Marketplace by any other name smell as sweet?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-17 09:09

Retailers spend a lot of time thinking about what the shopping experience is like for customers, and how that reflects on the store’s brand. They think about the signature decor of the store, they think about lighting and they think about overhead music –and they think about the store’s scent. In fact, scent is something they’ve thought long and hard about.

“If [retailers] don’t connect and make it a comfortable, welcoming place to shop, and to spend their money, consumers will go somewhere else” says Andy Kindfuller, CEO of ScentAir. His company creates signature scents based on what he calls “brand attributes.”

Kindfuller is adamant that these aren’t perfumes. Their scents are dispersed through a space with the company’s equipment. They’ve worked with medical waiting rooms where the goal was to create a calming atmosphere, with a hotel whose lobby now subtly smells like cookies and tea, and a sport stadium that smells, as Kindfuller says, “like victory.”

ScentAir works closely with their client’s marketing team as they devise a scent. When it comes to actually creating the fragrance, Kindfuller says it really does boil down to a team of folks in a room with a whiteboard.

“The perfumers that we use, use up to 10,000 different ingredients... what’s amazing is they can identify those 10,000 just by smell and so we will often create a fragrance that can have several hundred different notes.”

Kindfuller and his team even made a scent for Marketplace. We're having our staff try them out today.

 

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