National News

High-Tech Maker Spaces: Helping Little Startups Make It Big

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 13:07

Inventing a new product is hard if you can't afford to build a prototype. Enter maker spaces, workshops boasting shared high-tech tools. Entrepreneurs love them, and big backers are taking notice.

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Only one person has gone to jail for the financial crisis

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-30 13:01

Only one banker has gone to jail for his role in the financial crisis. That person is Kareem Serageldin, formerly an executive at Credit Suisse. He began serving his 30 month sentence earlier this year.

“It’s not a conspiracy,” says Jesse Eisinger, a senior reporter at ProPublica, on why there have been so criminal proceedings. Instead, the Department of Justice was chastened by a series of court losses, and “effectively lost its ability to indict corporations or go after individuals at the highest echelons of corporate America.”

Eisinger details how the Department of Justice "lost its way" in an article for the New York Times Magazine.

In his account, the turning point was the case against Enron’s Arthur Anderson. Two years after winning the original case, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict. Eisinger says the Supreme Court “didn’t say that Arthur Anderson was not guilty of the crime that they had been indicted for, which was obstruction of justice. It revolved around jury instructions. But the Department of Justice took this as a huge black eye.”

Ever since, the DOJ has focused on crimes that are easier to win – such as insider trading cases. And they’ve been reluctant to investigate or bring charges against company CEOs.  

“The real bad actors are the top officers in companies that commit crimes," Eisinger said. "And you have to go after them successfully if you want to deter white collar crime.”

Renegade Cider Makers Get Funky To Cope With Apple Shortage

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 13:00

Few U.S. farmers grow the tannic apples traditionally used to make hard cider. So craft cider makers are using eating apples and adding chili, chocolate and tropical juices to boost their flavor.

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Twitter CEO Hopes To Attract Users By Clearing The Clutter

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:50

Dick Costolo calls the @ sign "scaffolding" that gets in the way of clear communication. And he says Twitter has to bridge the gap between the brand's global awareness and user engagement.

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Minimum Wage Raise: Blocked For Now, May Live Again In Campaigns

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:44

A bill to increase the federal minimum wage was blocked in the Senate on Wednesday, as Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes necessary to bypass a filibuster.

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Earth's Climate Problems

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:37

[2014-04-30 13:00:00] Our national conversation about climate change involves analyzing scientific research. But it also includes plenty of political rhetoric and emotionally-charged speech on both sides of the issue. We’ll talk this hour about the history of how we’ve talked about global warming with Emory University professor Patrick Allitt. His new book is A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism (Penguin History).

Beethoven in Dallas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:36

[2014-04-30 12:00:00] Nearly 200 years after his death, Ludwig van Beethoven remains one of the towering figures of classical music. And this spring, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the composer with three weeks of performances. We’ll talk this hour about Beethoven’s lasting impact on both classical music and pop culture with DSO music director Jaap van Zweden and concertmaster Alex Kerr.

Drought puts California rice in a sticky situation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:08

That sweet sticky rice that comes with your sushi likely came from California. The state grows almost all of the nation’s medium grain rice, and about half of it is exported.

And California's drought is expected to have a dramatic effect on rice production. Economists say the mere speculation of production losses is already driving up prices.

Ninety-seven percent of California’s rice is grown in the Sacramento Valley, including at Montna Farms, where a huge drag scrapers level fields in preparation for planting. Nicole Van Vleck says medium grain rice will grow here, which is perfect for sushi.  

“If you’re eating sushi rice in New York, or in Florida, or San Francisco you’re most likely undoubtedly going to be eating California rice,” says Van Vleck.

Van Vleck stands next to a water pump that’s flooding the field behind her.

“So this is water that’s coming from the Feather River. The Feather is just to the east of us, we divert out of the Feather,” she says.

Northern California farmers typically have plenty of water compared to those in the south, even during dry years. But not this year.

“This is the first time I know of that we cut back rice acreage because surface water allocations were cut so severely to water districts north of Sacramento,” says Dan Sumner, an agriculture economist at the University of California Davis.

Montna Farms has been in the Sacramento Valley for generations. But this is the first time a drought has caused so much uncertainty.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had to deal with,” says Van Vleck. “Day to day, things change. Right now we are down 48 percent over last year.”

Rice farmers will leave 100,000 acres of their fields fallow. That’s a big deal. Van Vleck says medium-grain rice grows in just a few places around the world.

“California does export about half of their crop. And so if California is affected because of the drought, it all of a sudden changes the price of medium grain substantially,” she says.

Sumner has already seen the price increase.

“Farmers were getting between $15 and 20 for a 100 pound sack of rice,” he says. “It’s now up in the range of $25 or $30 -- or more.”

Customers have seen the price bump at Oto’s Marketplace in Sacramento, a store that specializes in Asian foods.

“A lot of the distributors and everybody went in increments. You don’t see a big price raise all at one time," says Russell Oto, the store’s general manager. “But by May or June it might go up a little bit more than what my prices are now.”

What worries rice farmers like Van Vleck the most is the possibility that California could see more dry years ahead.

“We have this wonderful system of customers that count on us each and every year,” she says. “I don’t know that they’ll all be able to be serviced this year. Someone else will fill that void. You might not get the customer back.”

And economists say that’s the danger. Suppliers might just start buying their rice elsewhere, like Australia or Arkansas. The drought may send a signal to the world market that California rice isn’t reliable.

Slow Growth For U.S. Economy, But Fed Plans Are Full Speed Ahead

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

The economy slowed sharply in the first quarter, but Federal Reserve policymakers voted unanimously to continue winding down their stimulus program.

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In Afghan Spring, Violence Rises — But So Do Recruiting Numbers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

In Afghanistan, as the winter snows melt, Taliban violence heats up. This year, there will be even fewer foreign troops in Afghanistan to prop up Afghan forces, who suffered record casualties in 2013 as they took the lead for security. While U.S. officials feared that could hamper recruiting efforts for the Afghan Army, Afghan officials say they have a surplus of volunteers.

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Ukraine's Acting President: We've Lost Control Of East

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

Pro-Russian separatists have seized government buildings in another eastern Ukrainian city. After Luhansk fell, Ukraine's acting president said his troops were helpless in the face of the unrest. He said he now was working to keep the rest of eastern Ukraine under his government's control.

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Botched Oklahoma Execution Mobilizes Death Penalty Opponents

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett's execution was botched on Tuesday, when a relatively new combination of drugs failed to work as expected.

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Against 'Dark Money,' A Star Witness Speaks In Congress

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

Congress held its first hearing on "dark money," the donations to tax-exempt political groups that can keep donors' names secret. The star witness at the Senate committee was former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a vocal critic of the rulings that opened the door for the secret spending.

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A Quiet Election Day In Iraq, With Some Signs For Concern

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

For the first time since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, Iraqis went to the polls to vote on their leaders. As Reuters reporter Ned Parker says, the day's events paint a grim future for Iraq's future.

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U.S. Tests Teens A Lot, But Worldwide, Exam Stakes Are Higher

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

American students take an alphabet soup of mandatory and voluntary exams: SAT, PISA, AP. Sure it's a lot, but in places like Japan and England, tests are incredibly high-stress and life-defining.

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Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails In Downtown Lynchburg, Va.

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:55

Authorities evacuated the general area but there are reports that some of the oil has seeped into the James River.

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Mars Rover Takes A Break To Drill A Hole

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:20

Over the next few days, Curiosity will drill deeper and collect samples, telling scientists about the fluids that once flowed across the area, a point of convergence for different types of terrain.

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Smiting The Mite To Save The Bees (And The Crops They Pollinate)

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:07

A government scientist says that to help keep more bees from dying we need to focus on helping beekeepers fight the varroa mite. But some groups say pesticides are just as problematic.

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Oklahoma Governor Calls For Independent Review Of Botched Execution

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:06

Gov. Mary Fallin said she will also delay other executions until the review is complete. Oklahoma tried to execute a man using a new combination of drugs. He died after the procedure was called off.

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A Whale Of A Problem: Town Faces Threat Of Exploding Carcass

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 10:17

The town of Trout River in Newfoundland has a bloated, methane-filled, 80-foot blue whale carcass on its beach, and people are concerned that it might spontaneously combust.

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