National News

Shell's Arctic drilling questioned over safety concerns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-24 02:00

The U.S. government won’t confirm, but it’s widely expected to reaffirm a controversial Arctic oil lease sale by the end of March.

Shell Oil wants to drill for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea, despite major equipment failures and accidents a few years ago. The Interior Department has proposed tighter rules for Arctic drilling, including a containment dome nearby, in case of a blowout.

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Your yard is getting smarter, too

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-24 02:00

The internet of things is coming to your front lawn...literally. The market for devices that can connect your yard may be new, but it’s already rather interesting.

“ It all comes down to sensor technology,” says Lindsey Turrentine, editor-in-chief at “Sensors are getting small and cheap, and now they can be embedded in things like the ‘Eden.’”

The ‘Eden,” Turrentine says, is similar to a large stake that goes into the soil, and is powered by solar energy. Once it’s in the soil, it monitors soil and plants to keep track of nutrients, moisture, and whatever else you may need to know to maintain your yard.

“You can also partner it up with a smart valve,” says Turrentine. The valve connects to a hose or watering device, which helps ‘Eden’ turn on the water when it determines that the plants need water.

What else might  be in store for smart yards in the future?  

“These companies are just starting to figure out the answers to really tough problems,” says Turrentine. “How do you get your outdoor sensors to work over your home wifi? How do you keep water from damaging these devices?"

As they solve these problems, she says, more such devices will start to appear in the market.

“These things are going to be much more accessible in probably five years, maybe ten,” says Turrentine.


Health-conscious consumers reach for spices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-24 02:00

Food industry analysts say Americans increasingly prefer home-cooked meals with fresh, simple ingredients. It’s the food that you find in the refrigerated sections on the perimeter of grocery stores, rather than the processed foods stacked on shelves in the middle aisles.

“The center of the store represents items that have not performed as well as those on the perimeter,” says Darren Seifer, a food and beverage analyst at the NPD Group.

That's not great news for some big food companies. But analysts say the spice industry, on the other hand, is getting a boost. People use spices to accent their fresh veggies and meats.

“The overall spice industry is growing mid to single digit type rates — let's call it 3-5 percent — whereas the packaged food guys are barely growing volumes or are slightly negative,” says Brian Yarbrough, a research analyst with Edward Jones.

Yarbrough says the U.S. spice and seasonings industry is a roughly $5 billion market. And it's dominated by McCormick & Company. Yarbrough says while McCormick is benefitting from healthy eating trends, it's losing market share to smaller niche brands and to competitors like Walmart and Safeway, which offer store brands. They're often cheaper.

“It's private label and a lot of these smaller players combined that are definitely impacting the McCormick Business,” he says.

Jeanette Beger, 32, of St. Paul, Minn., is the kind of consumer that McCormick may want to woo. She’s one of the millennials food industry analysts say were driven into their kitchens when the Great Recession rendered dining out unaffordable.

“We use a lot of spices,” Beger says, as she and her toddler spoon turmeric and coriander into a frying pan for a curry dish.

But a glimpse inside Beger's spice cabinet shows how McCormick is losing ground. Only two of the couple dozen spice containers are labeled McCormick. Beger buys niche brands and bulk spices from the local co-op.

Erin Lash, an analyst with Morningstar, says McCormick is trying to get health-conscious consumers like Beger to notice its products in the fresh food sections of stores.

“Over the past year, the company has worked to reposition their products outside the center of the store and place those next to produce and proteins to get them in front of consumers and be that next purchase,” she says.

Brian Yarbrough at Edward Jones says McCormick has been successful acquiring smaller spice makers and may also lean on that strategy as “an avenue of growth.”


Big tobacco says your e-cigarette may kill you

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-24 02:00

Back in 1994, the heads of the largest tobacco corporations were called before Congress to testify about the effects of tobacco. Each and every executive said they believed nicotine was not addictive. But today we know that the tobacco industry was aware of nicotine's addictiveness—and tobacco's harm—for decades.

So a recent push to put strong warning labels on e-cigarettes and to place them behind the counter, away from children's hands, may seem like big tobacco has had a change of heart. But experts say they believe large tobacco companies are trying to dominate the e-cigarette market by pushing smaller competitors out of business.

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Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-24 01:53
11 months

This month, China's factory sector saw its lowest number in 11 months. As Reuters reports, it could be a sign that China's economy, the second largest in the world, is slowing.


That's how many GOP presidential contenders count Ted Cruz as one of their Twitter followers. Cruz became the first major candidate to officially enter the race Monday, and he's keeping tabs on other hopefuls including Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Chris Christie. Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal don't make the cut, and Christie doesn't follow back. Bloomberg has a fun interactive graphic of all the potential candidates' Twitter info, including the only GOP contender who follows Barack Obama.

$5 billion

That's the worth of the U.S. spice industry, which is primarily dominated by McCormick & Company. It's a good time to be in the spice business - with more families choosing to cook at home instead of eating out, there's an increased interest in spicing up those home-cooked meals. But with the rise of smaller brands, as well as stores producing their own products, companies like McCormick & Company are trying to make their way out of the center of the grocery store and into the produce and protein sections where health-conscious consumers are shopping.

12 hours

The maximum amount of time a cruise ship crew has to clear out all passengers, clean, restock and otherwise turn over what is essentially a small floating city before setting off again. It's a hectic process that runs on astounding efficiency and gets more complicated as the industry builds larger and larger vessels. The New York Times profiles "turnaround day" for  one 6,000-passenger ship.

3 years

That's how long you could potentially go to prison for sending an email that "causes annoyance." Section 66A, a law in India, outlines severe punishment for online activity such as commenting on social networks. As the BBC reports, the Supreme Court in India ruled to strike down the law on Tuesday, saying that it violated people's constitutional right to free speech.

84 percent

The median cell phone ownership in 32 emerging and developing countries, according to a new Pew Research report. Internet access is not nearly as widespread, the survey found, still concentrated in the young and educated in richer countries.

Many Doctors Who Diagnose Alzheimer's Fail To Tell The Patient

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 23:42

Only about half of Medicare patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's are told of the diagnosis by their doctor, a study finds. That compares to 90 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer.

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Not Prosecuting Companies If They Promise To Behave

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 23:41

A conviction can be fatal for a big company. So in some cases prosecutors have been holding off punishing firms that have broken the law. In return, the companies vow to clean up their act.

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Sea Turtles Test Urban Waters In Southern California River 'Jacuzzi'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 23:40

Even with the warm outflow from nearby power plants, it's an odd new habitat choice. Volunteers and researchers are working to study and track the population that's popped up in the San Gabriel River.

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How 2 Children With Leukemia Helped Transform Its Treatment

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 23:38

Cancer treatment for kids has changed dramatically since the 1960s. Back then, doctors experimented with approaches that seemed promising but were also potentially toxic. Some survivors look back.

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Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 23:36

What's behind the curious food fad of mukbang, or live-streamed broadcasts of people eating endless amounts of food? The genre is so popular in South Korea that its stars pull in $10,000 a month.

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Utah Brings Back Firing Squads As Lethal Injection Drugs Remain Scarce

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 18:51

The Republican governor, who signed the bill Monday, has said Utah needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of drugs persists — though he's called firing squads "a little bit gruesome."

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Mo'ne Davis Says Player Who Sent Offensive Tweet Deserves Second Chance

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 16:36

Davis, a Little League phenom, said "everyone makes mistakes," and one tweet shouldn't mark the end of Joey Casselberry's baseball career.

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States That Expand Medicaid Detect More Cases Of Diabetes

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:56

Researchers say their study suggests more diabetes is being detected among poor people in some states because, thanks to Medicaid, more poor people are now able to get tested and afford care.

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You're Just A Blob In Layers Of Plastic

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:49

Ever wondered what it feels like to get into one of the moon suits that Ebola workers wear for protection? At a TED Talk, Bill Gates gave audience members a chance to climb in and see.

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'Cheated' Out Of An Education: Book Replays UNC's Student-Athlete Scandal

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:46

Authors Jay Smith and Mary Willingham explain how the school steered athletes to pass-through courses in order to keep players eligible.

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Existing home sales report reveals caution

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:19

The National Association of Realtors released its February existing home sales report on Monday, March 23rd, 2015. Numbers were up by 1.2 percent, but that wasn't enough to make up for the drop in existing home sales in January of 4.9 percent.   Even LeBron James is having trouble selling his Miami house and just dropped the price to $15 million. James is not the only homeowner having trouble finding a buyer, but there aren’t many homeowners putting their houses up for sale either, says Adam DeSanctis, with the National Association of Realtors.     “Current homeowners are possibly waiting for their equity to build up a little bit longer before selling,” he says, or sitting on some low interest rates they snagged refinancing in the last year or two.     McKay Price, who teaches real estate at Lehigh University, says this shortage of homes is good for home sellers, but “If I’m a home buyer and I’m interested in finding just the right house, then I’d be a little bit grumpy about the inventory being as tight as it is,” he says. “I’d want more choices.”   Especially for folks who can’t afford a down payment, much less a 16,000-square-foot mansion. Sorry, LeBron.   

Does This Strong Dollar Make U.S. Look Too Fat For Foreign Investors?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 14:10

The economic expansion makes the country look both attractive for making money and expensive for companies getting started here.

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Justices Debate Place Of Offensive Language On License Plates

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 13:41

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to allow Texas to refuse a personalized license plate design featuring the Confederate flag.

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Obama chief of staff: Israel's 50-year 'occupation' must end

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 13:17

The Obama administration is pushing back hard against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's suggestion that a two-state solution is dead and his reluctance to back an Iranian nuclear deal.

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Now Algorithms Are Deciding Whom To Hire, Based On Voice

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 12:40

If you're trying out for a job, the one judging you may not be a person — it could be a computer. Algorithms are evaluating human voices to determine which ones are engaging, calming and trustworthy.

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