National News

This Dirty Little Weed May Have Cleaned Up Ancient Teeth

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 14:07

Turns out that for 7,000 years, snacking on nutsedge may have helped people avoid tooth decay. But at some point, the root it lost its charm. By the 1970s, it was branded "the world's worst weed."

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Lotteries Take In Billions, Often Attract The Poor

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 13:39

Americans wager nearly $60 billion a year on lotteries. Revenues help states, which use the money to provide services. But researchers say the games often draw low-income gamblers who are on welfare.

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U.S. Sanctions Major Russian Banks And Energy Companies

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 13:33

The Obama administration announced new sanctions Wednesday that go well beyond any previously imposed in its dispute with Russia over Ukraine. It's not clear whether Europeans will match them.

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California farms pumping water to make up for drought

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 13:27

This is the third-driest year in California in at least 106 years. The drought has led state officials to clamp down on water waste, like open hoses. Fines can hit $500. 

The drought is having its biggest effect on California’s mammoth agriculture industry. A report from UC Davis’s Center for Watershed Sciences pegs losses at $2.2 billion this year. 

“There will be some pockets of deprivation, poverty,” says Josué Medellín-Azuara, a UC Davis researcher who worked on the report.

Four hundred square miles of farmland has been fallowed—mostly lower-value crops like alfalfa. More than 17,000 seasonal farm workers are affected.

“It takes people to provide nutrients for those crops. It takes people to even insure those crops. It takes people to truck those crops to market,” says Bruce Blodgett, executive director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau.  

The drought’s impact could be far worse, though. 

Farmers in the Central Valley have managed to find another source for 75 percent of the water they normally get from state and federal reservoirs. They’re drilling deep into underground aquifers, pumping out enough water to cover 7,800 square miles a foot deep.  

“I’m fortunate enough to have a well for groundwater, but it’s caused our electric rates to probably triple,” says Thomas Ulm, a farmer in Modesto. 

Ulm’s farm is getting only half the reservoir water it’s usually allocated, so he’s relying on his own well to keep his almonds, walnuts and grapes growing. 

His neighbor just drilled a well, too. All this drilling and pumping is unregulated and, “Eventually, of course, you run out of water,” says Robert Glennon, a professor at the University of Arizona, and the author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It.” 

If the state’s groundwater is like a giant milkshake glass, “what California is allowing is a limitless number of straws in the glass,” he says. “That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s utterly unsustainable.”

Especially when this drought could last another year, or another 50.

 

Pardon my (economic) language

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 13:27

Apparently, and this kind of stands to reason, the use of profanity by CEOs varies with economic conditions.

Bloomberg actually went through and did a word search of earnings call transcripts for the past 10 years. Profanity peaked in 2010, dipped a bit, shot up again in 2012 and has been declining ever since.

I know you want to know what the words are, but I really need my job.

There's a chart that'll give you the details, though:

A screenshot of Bloomberg's graphic on CEO cursing. For more detail, see the full graphic. (Courtesy of Bloomberg)

Militias Clash At Libyan Airport For Fourth Day

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:54

The Tripoli airport has become a battleground between rival groups. The United Nations pulled its personnel out of the country earlier this week due to concerns about violence around the country.

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Visa Makes Big Move To Boost Consumer Spending Online

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:45

Ever try shopping on your smartphone and decide you don't want to put in your credit card number? Visa says it's a big problem and came up with a tool that combines improved security and convenience.

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Dallas Fed Chair: Time to lose monetary "beer goggles"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:35

"The punch in that punch bowl is still 108 proof," says Dallas Federal Reserve Bank Chair Richard Fisher. "Things look better when you have a lot of liquidity in your system."

He's calling on Washington to end the taper and rasie interest rates, something he believes will happen by October.

Chairman Fisher gave a speech on monetary policy today at USC Annenberg and stopped by Marketplace to chat afterwards.

Here is a link to his full speech, titled " Monetary Policy and the Maginot Line (With Reference to Jonathan Swift, Neil Irwin, Shakespeare’s Portia, Duck Hunting, the Virtues of Nuisance and Paul Volcker)".  Listen to his full conversation with Kai Ryssdal in the audio player above.

Patients With Low-Cost Insurance Struggle To Find Specialists

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:11

A Houston internist who supported the Affordable Care Act now finds that many of her patients who bought less expensive coverage have trouble getting the specialized care they need.

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The Devastation On The Ground In Gaza City

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:06

Audie Cornish speaks with Robert Turner of the United Nations in Gaza City, discussing the extent of the devastation there in the midst of Israel's bombardment.

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On Two Sides, Two Funerals — While Death Toll Mounts In Gaza

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:06

As the violence between Hamas and Israel continues, so too do the funerals that come in its wake. NPR correspondents Ari Shapiro and Emily Harris attended two such funerals today, in Tel Aviv and Gaza respectively, and they tell of what they learned there.

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Time Warner Rebuffs Rupert Murdoch's Big-Dollar Bid For Media Giant

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:06

Time Warner has rejected a buyout offer, reportedly as high as $80 billion, from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox. A deal between the two companies would create a media powerhouse — and a thicket of challenges for anti-trust regulators.

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With A Series Of Small Bans, Cities Turn Homelessness Into A Crime

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:06

By prohibiting acts like loitering and sleeping in public, cities hope to make streets safer. But advocates for the homeless say this type of legislation can be counterproductive.

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With A Rules Change For A Lever, Senate Ends Judge's 17-Year Wait

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 12:06

The Senate has voted 53 to 44 to confirm Ronnie White for a federal court judgeship in Missouri, 17 years after he was first nominated by President Bill Clinton.

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Dogs Carry Kissing Bug Disease In Texas And Latin America

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 11:56

From shelter mutts to show dogs, Texas canines are getting a parasite that causes heart problems in people. Dogs don't spread the parasite directly to humans. But they help to make it more prevalent.

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Apple-IBM deal shakes up workplace tech

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 11:29

Apple and IBM were once rivals but the two companies announced a plan Wednesday to work together. They will collaborate on software and cloud services, and IBM will distribute Apple products to some of its biggest customers – big business, universities, and the government.

This deal is a way for Apple,  maker of the iPhone and the iPad, to get more of those mobile devices into the workplace – historically BlackBerry’s and Microsoft’s turf. According to Norman Young, an analyst with Morningstar, this deal may have caught them by surprise.

“They didn’t really think that Apple would really compete in this space, because they never really had,” he says.

For a long time, Apple’s focus has been on consumers, but according to Stacy Crook of the market research company IDC, Apple has been making inroads. The workplace has seen more of what she calls “B.Y.O.D.”

“We just use the same device for our business use and our personal use these days,” she says.

IT guys and gals have tolerated that – sometimes grudgingly. These days, when we bring our own devices, odds are they are not BlackBerrys. 

“You know, from a BlackBerry’s perspective, this is pretty significant,” says tech analyst Sharon Cross, of Cross Research. She says BlackBerry made its name selling its devices to big business, and the security of its network was a huge selling point. With this new partnership, Apple and IBM say they will give corporate clients the assurance their apps and devices will be just as secure.

So what about Microsoft?

“This agreement is good for Apple, it’s good for IBM, it’s bad for BlackBerry, and it’s really not that impactful to Microsoft,” Cross says, noting companies will still buy PCs running Windows.

IBM could have partnered with Google. After all, Android phones remain popular. But according to Roger Kay, the head of Endpoint Technologies Associates, Apple’s trademark simplicity may have given it an edge.

“IT managers don’t have to deal with a hugely complex environment,” he says. “They know kind of what they’re getting.”

There are hundreds of different types of phones and tablets that run the Android operating system. With Apple, there’s just a handful.

 

Why Murdoch wants Time Warner: leverage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-16 11:27

As chairman of 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch owns many things: cable networks, a broadcast network and a big movie studio. As head of News Corp. he also owns some newspapers and a book publishing house. Now he’s also made a bid for Time Warner, which owns HBO, other cable networks and another big movie studio. Time Warner has turned him down, for now, but it’s worth asking what he wants with it.

Analysts say Time Warner has finally shrunk itself to the exact right size and shape for someone like Rupert Murdoch to be interested in it.

“Time Warner used to have AOL as part of its portfolio— that’s no longer true,” says Jim Goss, managing director of Barrington Research. “It obviously had Time Inc., the magazine publishing group, but as of about a month ago, that’s no longer true.”

Most importantly, Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable creates a huge potential adversary on the other side of the bargaining table: Distribution. That’s Murdoch’s adversary too.

Together, the two media companies gain clout. “Fox with Time Warner would have incontestable leverage against any distributor in terms of audience demand,” says Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners. “People would go beserk if they couldn’t get what Fox would own.”

Think: Game of Thrones. And sports: Turner Broadcasting has a lot of NBA games.

Conventional wisdom holds that this marks the beginning of a long campaign. Over a decades-long career, Murdoch has pursued other deals relentlessly.

“He likes to win,” says Samuel Craig from NYU’s Stern School of Business. “I think he’ll persist.”  

Craig says Murdoch may find allies on the other side of the table. “I think when the shareholders of Time-Warner look at it — and the price goes up a bit — they may say, ‘This is a pretty good deal, and we should do it.’”   

Syria's Army On The Verge Of Retaking The Country's Largest City

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-16 11:06

Rebels captured the eastern half of Aleppo, the country's biggest city, two years ago. Now President Assad's army looks likely to drive them out in what would be a major blow to the opposition.

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