National News

Suarez Bite Controversy Pays Off For Gamblers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 05:39

A European betting service is paying gamblers who bet that Uruguay's Luis Suarez would use his teeth in anger in Brazil's World Cup.

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Iraq: Militants Kill Senior Army Leader; Maliki Resists Changes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 04:25

In the face of gains by extremist Sunni militants, Iraq's Shiite leader rejects calls for a unity government. The ISIS force has reportedly been attacked by Syrian warplanes in Iraq.

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Actor Eli Wallach, Who Brought Hint Of Humanity To Villainous Roles, Dies

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 03:44

For decades, Eli Wallach won fans by bringing humanity and humor to roles that pitted him as a villain against titans such as Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. Wallach was 98.

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Two Glorious Science Experiments: One About Sex, The Other About Lunch

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 03:03

In the 1760s, an Italian scientist ran a sex experiment that required putting teeny trousers on some ardent male frogs. Hot guys in pants, it turns out, aren't so hot.

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Climate change could be good for those who sell seeds

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 03:00

Agriculture was one focus of a new report called "Risky Business" that looks at the economic impacts of global warming, and its findings could be good for companies like Monsanto, which sells seeds to farmers around the world.

Global warming will produce winners and losers in farming: If Iowa gets too hot to produce corn, North Dakota will warm up enough to grow it. A company like Monsanto could be a winner.

"If they can solve the problem of developing crops that are resistant to these types of extreme temperatures, they’re going to make a lot of money," says Solomon Hsiang, a Berkeley economist who co-wrote the “Risky Business” report.

Monsanto already benefits from warmer weather. Lewis Ziska from the U.S. Department of Agriculture looked at trends in pesticide use from north to south. The south’s warmer, shorter winters don’t kill off as many weeds and bugs.

"Farmers are, of course, not stupid," Ziska says. "They simply have to use more pesticides to get the same yields."

Monsanto makes a lot of those weed-killers and bug-killers. 

"As the climate of Missouri or Iowa becomes more like the climate of Louisiana, then that’s going to be reflected in terms of the chemical usage," says Ziska.

But pesticides, like antibiotics, tend to become less effective over time, especially when over-used. Monsanto would have to earn its money by creating newer, more-effective chemicals.


Silicon Valley comes to Oakland

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 03:00

First there was Silicon Valley. Then, the tech industry surged up into San Francisco. Now, it has hopped across the bay into Oakland.

Kisha Richardson runs her start-up out of the Impact Hub, a new co-working space near downtown Oakland. Her app is called CleanME. It helps people manage home cleaning services. In a lot of ways, Richardson is a typical tech entrepreneur: she played with Legos as a kid, loves to build things, and geeks out over code.

But in a lot of ways she doesn't fit the profile -- She's a woman, she's African American, and her start-up is in Oakland.

“This is where it is at,” Richardson says. "When you have artists and creatives and engineers all clustering into one area, magic happens.”

Richardson says she came to Oakland because it feels like Brooklyn. It's close to the big city, cheaper, and has a different vibe.

Mitchell Kapor is trying to grow that vibe. He has a venture capital fund in Oakland, and part of its mission is to support minority and female entrepreneurs. He thinks Oakland could be a hub for that diversity.

“Oakland is the next cool place,” he says. "It has a certain gritty and resilient character that I think are going to be a positive influence on the tech community that is formed here.”

The tech industry is being criticized for its lack of diversity. Google just released data showing that about ninety-one percent of its employees are either Asian or White, and seventy percent are men. The company is working to improve its image in Oakland. It has donated $500,000 to a charity that teaches low-income youth tech and business skills.

But not everyone is impressed. 

“It's tokenism. It's marketing. It's public relations," says Olis Simmons, the chief executive officer of Youth Uprising, a community center in Oakland.

Simmons says what the city really needs is serious investments in schools and social services. Unemployment hovers around twenty percent in her neighborhood, and the school next door still doesn't have reliable high-speed internet.

“The truth is,” she says, “if you don't invest, then over the long haul, what you do is you transfer ownership of your city to a group of people that are new.”

And new people are pouring into Oakland. The last census shows there are now more white residents than black for the first time since the 1970s.

PODCAST: Oakland's Silicon Valley

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 02:00

The Obama administration is moving to remove a 40 year ban on oil exports. We take a look at what that means for gas prices. Plus, with the tech industry's notorious gender and diversity issues, Google has donated $50 million to "Made with Code," which is meant to inspire young girls. But change might mean more than just money for education. Plus, why Oakland may be the next Silicon Valley, but with more diversity than its counterpart across the bay.

Parking apps under scrutiny from city governments

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 02:00

Parking in a big city is one of those tasks that seem to often inspire annoyance. Just as well, plenty of apps have stepped in to improve the experience.

But San Francisco's City Attorney sent a cease and desist letter to one such app maker this week.

MonkeyParking tries to match people looking for parking spots and people willing to leave them, and does so for a price. The app allows people to inform others that they are leaving a spot, thus opening it up for bids. The evacuator can be paid as much as $10 by the seeker, a prospect the city is not enthused with.  

San Fransico says the app involves the buying and selling of city property. The app maker counters that it it simply selling information. 

Mike Billings, who covers tech and venture capital for the Wall Street Journal, notes that the city itself has experimented with creating parking apps, thus adding an element of public-private competition to the story. 

Click the audio player above to hear more on the topic.

The new growth engine for airports: cargo

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 02:00

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport holds the honor of “world’s busiest” when it comes to passengers. But it doesn’t crack the top 30 in terms of cargo; something Louisville, Anchorage, and Indianapolis all do.

Airport officials, and even Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, want to change that. But it’s not necessarily an easy proposition. Nor is it a sexy one, admits Ilona Zimmer, a coordinator for Lufthansa Cargo.

Inside the German airline’s cargo warehouse at Hartsfield-Jackson, Zimmer watches as a pair of forklifts lift pallets onto storage shelves. 

“I would say machinery parts and, at the moment, textiles, make up the majority of shipments coming in," Zimmer says.

Come fall, Zimmer says case after case of French Beaujolais will take up most shelf space.   

Activity inside the warehouse is constant, but Hartsfield Jackson general manager Miguel Southwell wants to see more. Lots more.

“We have some work to do,” he admits.  

The traditional cargo market is stagnant, so the airport is building facilities to go after a different sector. Their interested in perishable goods, like pharmaceuticals and fresh flowers. That will help revenues.

But Southwell says all the focus on cargo is really about employment.  

“The main purpose of an airport is to be any community’s chief jobs driver,” he says. “That’s why an airport exists.”

But airports are limited in what they can do to attract new cargo, says Enno Osinga. He’s in charge of cargo operations at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, and Vice Chair of Vice-Chair of The International Air Cargo Association.

“An airport, if you look at it unkindly, is a bit of concrete. It’s got runways. It’s got aprons,” Osinga says. “They’re all the same.”

The key to bolstering cargo operations, Osinga says, is to convince industry to build nearby.

Atlanta’s doing that.

It’s also constructing more cargo warehouses on-site.

And to sweeten the pot further, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson is offering a few million dollars in incentives for new cargo service. 

Murdered Voting Advocate's Brother Wants Protections Back

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 01:04

David Goodman says last year the Supreme Court gutted the civil rights law that Andrew Goodman and other Freedom Summer activists gave their lives for.

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Murdered Voting Advocate's Brother Wants Protections Back

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-25 01:04

David Goodman says last year the Supreme Court gutted the civil rights law that Andrew Goodman and other Freedom Summer activists gave their lives for.

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Google addresses the white male culture of tech

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 01:00

Google kicks off its big developer conference Wednesday. Less than a month after admitting it has a diversity problem, the company is taking measures to address the white male culture of the tech world. Google committed $50 million to a project called Made With Code, meant to inspire girls to get into coding.

Education is crucial, says Alaina Percival, who heads the group Women Who Code. But she says tech culture also contributes to the problem, like when industry people talk about hiring, say, a new iOS specialist.

“They’ll say, oh we need a great iOS guy,” Percival says -- not a great iOS person.

“Little things like that, that happen over and over again, that if you complained about any one of them, you would sound crazy,” she adds.

Lisa Cook is an economist at Michigan State University who researches the participation of women and minorities in the basic research and commercialization of inventions. She points out that culture plays into recruitment as well. Cook says people tend to recruit from the schools and labs they themselves experienced. The problem is that those social networks might leave out places like historically black colleges and universities.

“While HBCUs are responsible for a declining number of bachelor’s degrees, they’re responsible for an increasing number of STEM graduates,” she says.

Cook says those are the places that recruiters who want to increase diversity should target.

The business opportunity that is climate change

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-25 01:00

Climate change is a business opportunity.

There. I said it. Also? It's true. And kind of a paradox.

Global warming's been a bit buzzy this week, what with former Treasury Secretary — and current Republican — Henry Paulson in the New York Times this past weekend coming out in favor of a tax on carbon as the best way to control global warming, and a report from Paulson and others laying out the economic risks of climate change (Although, honestly, couldn't they have come up with a better name for the report than 'Risky Business?').

Six or seven years ago we sent Stephen Beard and Sam Eaton off to do a series we called 'Frozen Assets' — an exploration of the ways in which businesses would be able to take advantage of a warming planet. Back then, we concentrated on the areas that were (and mostly still are) literally frozen — Norway, Arctic Canada, and Greenland — and what would happen up there; oil exploration, fishing opportunities and shipping routes through the Northwest passage.

Since then, as the Paulson report and countless others have made clear, the obvious downsides have been mounting: decreased productivity, coastal property damage, infrastructure problems, lower crop yields and growing public health concerns. I could go on, but it'd be easier if you just have a look at the report, which I highly recommend.

Here — at long last — is my point. There's a way that capitalism — arguably the root cause of global warming — can help us find a way out. Or, at least, a way to mitigate the looming apocalypse. If companies, governments and people realize that market forces can work to our advantage in this — without resorting reflexively to well-entrenched positions — well, then maybe we've got a chance.

Or, to paraphrase Ezra Klein, maybe we're just screwed.

Beijing: From Hardship Post To Plum Assignment And Back Again

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 23:32

In past decades, foreign firms offered lavish perks for people to work in Beijing because of how hard life was there. China's booming economy ended that. Now, air pollution is driving many to leave.

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Cuba's Mariel Port: Once An Escape, Now A Window To The Future

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 23:29

In the 1980s and '90s, thousands of Cubans fleeing to the U.S. passed through Mariel port. Today, it's the site of an ambitious special economic zone that is filling many locals with optimism.

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Deford: NCAA Says Amateurism Is Alive And Well, But The Jig Is Up

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 23:28

In a trial underway in California, the NCAA is arguing that college ball players should not be paid. But every coach knows that many players are not typical students, says commentator Frank Deford.

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How Much Does A Terrorist Attack Cost? A Lot Less Than You'd Think

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 23:27

A remote-controlled bomb costs as much as an iPhone. Car bombs can cost up to $20,000. So for a cash-rich group like ISIS, the only limit to attacks is the number of people willing to carry them out.

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Trouble In Paradise: Opiate Use Spikes On Martha's Vineyard

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 23:25

There have been six overdose deaths on the posh island since last August. An addiction specialist on Martha's Vineyard calls it a "phenomenal rate for a community of 16,000 people."

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Hachette Book Group Buys Perseus

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 22:09

The news comes at a time when Hachette is in contentious negotiations with, which has slowed shipments, reduced discounts and removed pre-order buttons for numerous Hachette releases.

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Sen. Thad Cochran Beats Back Tea Party Challenge

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-24 19:49

The 76-year-old Mississippi Republican managed to hang on after a runoff that likely represented the Tea Party's best remaining chance to knock off a Senate incumbent.

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