National News

Balkan Floods Expose Deadly Mines From 1990s Civil War

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 14:58

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center says a decade of work to reduce the danger from land mines has been washed away by the rising waters.

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Is 'insourcing' enough to boost the U.S. economy?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 13:59

The White House opened its doors Tuesday to executives from some big companies. The occasion? Well, the Obama Administration is touting its record on what's known as "insourcing," companies making investments and expanding in the U.S. instead of abroad. The government says its SelectUSA program has helped win $18 billion in U.S. business investments so far.

But when it comes to growing manufacturing and getting the economy back on track, is insourcing going to be enough? “Our problem is that the administration seems to be clapping for investment with just one hand,” says Shaun Donnelly, with the U.S. Council for International Business. “Somehow inward investment is good and they’re absolutely silent on outward investment.”

The White House announced a second SelectUSA summit with global business representatives will be held in the Spring of 2015.

Obamacare Buried By Avalanche Of Negative Ads, Study Finds

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 13:57

According to an analysis of Affordable Care Act advertising, an unprecedented amount of money was spent on negative ads attacking the law. And very little was spent defending it.

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Shocker: No one likes ISPs or cable providers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 13:43

In light of the Comcast-TimeWarner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers, the American Customer Satisfaction Index is out with its latest survey of the telecommunications industry.

To everyone's, ahem, surprise, internet service providers (ISPs) and cable TV services are at the bottom of the bottom. ISPs got a satisfaction score of 63 out of 100, citing complaints of "high prices, poor reliability, and declining customer service," and cable companies got a low of 65. 

They're doing surprisingly well, though - if the equivalent of a C-grade can be called "well" -- cell phone companies and wireless providers, who received scores of 78 and 72 respectively.  

Royal Caribbean Offers 5-Week-Long U.S.-To-China Cruise

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 13:28

The one-time voyage is meant to inaugurate the company's new Quantum of the Seas, a 1,142-foot vessel that will hail from Shanghai.

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Despite Drama, Oregon GOP Choice Comes Down To Purity, Practicality

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 13:16

Two Republicans with compelling personal stories, Monica Wehby and Jason Conger, are vying for the chance to unseat Oregon's incumbent Democratic senator, Jeff Merkley.

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Manhattan gets its first Dairy Queen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 13:01

There are more than 4,000 Dairy Queens in the U.S. China has nearly 600. But out of all those stores, none is on the New York island of Manhattan. That changes next week when the Minnesota-based chain opens its first Manhattan location.  

“I like to say a Blizzard is going to hit Manhattan, and really New York City as a whole,” says John Gainor, International Dairy Queen’s president and CEO. 

The Blizzard is the chain’s signature milkshake. Gainor was in town taking a look at the soon-to-open, two-story Dairy Queen on 14th Street in Manhattan. 

But this is a city with endless options for treats, from frozen yogurt to artisanal ice cream. Dairy Queen has stiff competition. Just blocks away I found a Mister Softee truck, a New York icon.  

Ric Perez working inside didn’t feel the threat. 

“People prefer Mister Softee. Yes, it is a New York thing,” he says. 

Actually, Dairy Queen CEO Gainor says his competition is any fast food restaurant. McDonald's has a McFlurry, and this Dairy Queen serves burgers. 

And, for all the talk of chains like 7-Eleven and IHOP and now Dairy Queen invading Manhattan, this one seems different. 

“New Yorkers have been very welcoming to our brand,” Gainor says. 

That’s not just CEO-talk. Many New Yorkers aren’t from here. They have a soft spot for Dairy Queen’s soft-serve, growing up in Dairy Queen towns.

“When we were younger, we’d ride our bikes there and stuff like that,” says Adam Sansone, walking near Union Square.  

More Dairy Queens are on the way for Manhattan and the other four boroughs.

They won’t necessarily replace mom and pop shops. Retail all over New York has been expanding since 1993, thanks to drastically reduced crime and a bigger population. 

“A lot of companies probably feel that they can’t afford not to be here in New York City,” says MIchael Moynihan, chief economist at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. 

Lawmakers Seek Delay On Healthy Lunch Rules For Schools

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:57

Some in Congress want to give schools more time to comply with a new law to limit calories and fat and add more veggies to meals. But nutrition advocates say it would roll back healthy gains for kids.

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Ukraine's Richest Man Pushes Back Against Pro-Moscow Separatists

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:55

There are increasing signs of friction between pro-Moscow separatists and local residents in eastern Ukraine, as some local people demand an end to the violence and lawlessness in the region.

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Twin Car Bombs Kill More Than 100 In Nigeria

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:52

The explosions came about a half-hour apart at a bus terminal and market in the city of Jos. Officials suspect the same militant Islamist group that kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls last month.

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A motorcycle design for the history books

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:49

This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Jim Jacoby wants to create an American Renaissance of design. He has a plan to give blank checks to master craftsmen, and give them the freedom and the budget to build their dream project. His first commission, a groundbreaking motorcycle by renowned designer JT Nesbitt, is nearly complete. It’s sort of a patronage system loosely modeled after the Medici, the wealthy banking family that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance. This new system is designed to remove the drive for profit from the act of designing. The hope is that through this process, breakthroughs in design and engineering emerge. And those breakthroughs will lead to business opportunities.

This system is called the ADMCi, American Design and Master Craft Initiative, and its first commission is called The Bienville Legacy.

When David Lenk, an industrial design expert, first saw the Bienville Legacy, he was so moved, he cried. He says the design rivaled the great industrial designers of history, “the genes of engineering greats like Barnes Wallis along with the ascetics, the fine touch of Ettore Bugatti. I know that your eyebrows may arch linking JT with these engineering and design icons, but I will stand behind it.”

What he saw, he says, “Was a motorcycle that basically challenges many, many engineering precepts that go back 120 years. This is a guy who not only stepped back to square one, but then he stepped out of the square.”

Let’s go back to square one. The origin of the motorcycle is essentially the bicycle. “Think about the first motorcycle,” says Lenk, “it was a bicycle that they hung an engine onto.” But for The Bienville Legacy, Nesbitt started from an entirely new origin point: The bow.

“The very first man-made spring is a bow and arrow. So this technology is Paleolithic. It predates civilization,” says Newsbitt.

Imagine a bow and arrow pointed at the sky. Where your hand grips the bow is where the engine of the motorcycle is attached. At each end of the bow is a wheel. So instead of having shocks like a regular motorcycle, the entire bike is one big leaf spring. It looks like it's part beast, part machine.

“These are the sort of things you read about in history books,” says Lenk.

Lenk has spent his entire life surrounded by industrial design. His grandfather was at one point the largest producer of soldering irons in the world. Lenk went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design. “I guess you could say I’ve been born with this bug and have nurtured it my whole life,” he said.

Today Lenk designs museum exhibits for a living. After finishing a recent job at a museum in New Orleans his employer took him to a French Quarter bar called Molly’s to celebrate. By chance, he happened to sit next to JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby. “It was a real Motorhead moment,” Lenk remembered. “Within two sentences we were talking about French Coachwork of the 1930s and design, and the conversation ended with an invitation to visit his C shop that Saturday. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.”

Nesbitt’s shop is called Bienville studios. It’s about a block from the Mississippi River on the edge of the French Quarter. When you step inside, it’s surprising just how spare it is: a small workbench, a few racks with parts, some tool boxes.

JT Nesbitt working in his studio.

Justin Jackola

But the most striking thing in JT’s shop is in the center of the room, a strange looking motorcycle, balancing on a hydraulic lift like a statue on a pedestal. It’s a prototype that Nesbitt built. He’s named it The Bienville Legacy.

“There’s no example, as far as I know, of anyone else in the world doing that. It’s completely original thought,” said motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart. He’s written about motorcycles for over 30 years. He’s been called the kingmaker because he’s often the first person to ride and review new bikes. 

He described Nesbitt’s design as breathtaking, though to most people it simply looks strange.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a strange-looking thing because we don’t have to sell them,” said Nesbitt.

If this were a typical corporate motorcycle, the plan would be to put the bike into production and sell them for a profit. But this is not a profit-driven endeavor. “To look at this for short-term recoupment would be to undermine the overall purpose of what we're up to,” said Jim Jacoby.

He’s put up his life savings to pay for the building of three prototypes. Jacoby gave Nesbitt a blank check and told him build his dream bike without any constraints. The expectation is that by giving JT the freedom to experiment with new ideas and materials, breakthroughs in engineering and design will emerge.

When I visited Nesbitt at his shop, one of the first things Nesbitt showed me was a small box full of bolts

“This is titanium hardware,” said Nesbitt, holding up a wooden box. Nesbitt designed the bolts himself. The bolts and other hardware alone cost $30,000. Boeing's prototype shop in Seattle is manufacturing them.

Nesbitt says this motorcycle is the first to use this much titanium and carbon composite structurally. “I think that all motorcycle designers want to use those materials but they are limited by their budgets. The materials that I'm talking about are radically expensive.”

Motorcyle journalist Alan Cathcart mounts the nearly competed Bienville Legacy Prototpye.  

Scott Tudury

Nesbitt calls titanium a miracle material, “and now it’s available. Ten years ago, I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now because the military industrial complex had sucked up all the titanium. It’s just now becoming available in quantity.”

One of the byproducts of Nesbitt’s motorcycle is eight original engineering patents related to his first-of-its kind suspension system. “The outcomes for the patents might be new ways of doing suspension in automobiles,” said Jacoby.

This is one potential long term source of revenue from the bike. If the automotive industry adopts these engineering ideas, it would have to pay to license the patents. But that’s a big "if." This is one reason this project is a tough sell to investors: It’s unclear if any of Nesbitt’s radical designs will ever be adopted by the wider automotive world.

When Nesbitt was commissioned to build his motorcycle prototype, he signed over the patents and intellectual property to the American Design and Master Craft initiative, the ADMCi. In exchange, he gets his rent paid, but zero salary. If the patents do make money, he will get a percentage. But again, that’s the big if.

“I think on balance, I’m coming out way ahead,” said Nesbitt. “I’m giving everything I can to live my dream. I get to reinvent American motorcycling.”

Motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart has been called \"The Kingmaker.\" Here he is with Nesbitt and the nearly completed Bienville Legacy.

Scott Tudury

The next step for Nesbitt and Jacoby is to prove that the motorcycle is more than just a beautifully crafted, groundbreaking design; they have to prove that it can perform. So they’re taking the bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, to attempt to break a world land speed record. 

“The weight advantage, for a variety of design decisions, is tremendous,” said Jacoby, “It’s probably going to net out as a 350 pound bike with a 300-350 horsepower engine which is, by any definition, a rocket.”

Jacoby has decided he wants to be the one to ride the bike across the salt. He’ll have to top 200 miles per hour to break the record in the category this bike competes in. He’s never gone anywhere near that fast on a motorcycle. He admits that this plan is completely absurd, but, he says, it’s necessary. “This is a design that needs to be proven on the field of battle. And the field of battle in this case is the Salt Flats.”

After Nesbitt finishes building the motorcycles, he will remain a part of the ADMCi. “I become one of the people who’s involved with selecting the next project.”

If the ADMCi can recoup the money spent on the three prototypes and attract patrons to fund more commissions, Nesbitt will help seek out another master craftsman to get a blank.

This time he will be the one asking the question, “What would you do if you could do anything?”

“I’m the perfect person to be a judge of character, said Nesbitt, “and when somebody asks you what you would do if you could do anything, you had better be ready with a good answer.”

CORRECTION: Barnes' Wallis' last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. The text has been corrected.

Big Bang's Ripples: Two Scientists Recall Their Big Discovery

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:42

Fifty years ago today, two astronomers in New Jersey accidentally discovered the Big Bang's afterglow. The roaring space static their hilltop antenna detected came from the birth of the universe.

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In A Bid To End Political Impasse, Thai Army Imposes Martial Law

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:27

Thailand's army imposed martial law overnight, as the country's political crisis continues to deepen. Journalist Michael Sullivan reports on the crisis from Bangkok.

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Brash On The Campaign Trail, Modi Steps Into Parliament Humble

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:27

Narendra Modi made his maiden visit to the halls of India's parliament Tuesday, shortly after being unanimously voted his party's leader. Then, he was off to the presidential palace to receive the invitation to form a government.

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Big Fees For The Big Easy's Poorest Defendents

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:27

In the next installment of an NPR investigation, Joseph Shapiro goes to New Orleans to look at the ways poor people are charged for their public defender in court.

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CIA Announces Plans To End Fake Vaccination Programs

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:24

The phony vaccination programs were used in its spy operations abroad. The decision comes after leaders from U.S. public health schools brought the practice to light.

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Voters Go To Polls On Primary Season's Busiest Day Yet

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 12:24

In a day packed full of primaries, voters headed to the polls in six states — including three that are expected to have highly competitive Senate races.

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Minnesota Selected As Host Of Super Bowl LII

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:51

The NFL continued its tradition of awarding the big game to teams with newly-built stadiums.

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Global Temperatures Tied Record High Last Month

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:14

Warmer weather in Australia and Siberia helped make last month the hottest April on record, tying levels last seen in 2010. Climate change may be putting landmarks like the Statue of Liberty at risk.

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Coup Or Not, It's Business As Usual For Most Thais

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-20 11:08

After the army declared martial law, on the streets of Bangkok, it's mostly soldiers and selfies.

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