National News

Golden State Joe: California Makes A Play For Coffee's Future

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 09:15

California's coffee crop is new and small, but farmers are optimistic about its potential. Scientists hope that by growing coffee here they can learn more about how to help the crop resist disease.

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Training The Next Generation Of Doctors To Get LGBT Health Right

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 09:01

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender often have a hard time getting appropriate health care. Med schools need to integrate LGBT health throughout training, a key group says.

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The Data You're OK Sharing And What You Don't Want Others To See

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 06:13

People consider their personal health information to be more sensitive than their religious views or purchasing habits, according to a survey on privacy by the Pew Research Center.

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The cost of living up to the U.S.-China climate deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-12 06:00

The United States and China made a surprise announcement Wednesday: After months of secret talks, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases had come to a joint agreement on climate change.

In its first commitment of this sort, China set a target of 2030 to halt emission increases and to produce 20% of its energy using non-fossil-fuel sources. 

The United States set a more nuanced target: a reduction of emissions by 2025 to 26-28% below 2005 levels. 

"I would characterize it as a call to accelerate what we’re already doing," says Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "I use the word accelerate, because in order to get there 10 years from now we have to start going a little faster."

The Obama administration claims this target is reachable under existing laws—an important consideration given that the Republican-controlled congress is highly unlikely to pass any related legislation.

To meet these goals will require building on initiatives the administration has put forward that do not require congressional approval, such as tougher fuel standards and the proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from power plants (Automobiles and electricity are the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States).  

Under the Clean Power Plan proposal, different states could determine how to cut carbon pollution in a variety of ways. 

"But the quickest, fastest, most cost effective option available is switching from carbon intensive coal generators to low carbon natural gas," says John Larsen, senior analyst with the Rhodium Group.

According to the Rhodium Group’s analysis, that switch could cut coal revenue by $15 to $20 billion—and boost revenues for natural gas producers by as much as $30 billion.

In Alaska's Senate Race, Republican Sullivan Upsets Incumbent

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 05:13

The late call in Alaska's vote is due to a close margin on Election Day and the time required to collect all the ballots from the state's far-flung polling places.

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Comet Landing: European Craft Due To Make Contact Today

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 04:25

As it hopes to learn the Philae robotic lander successfully settled onto the comet's surface, the European Space Agency says it is in contact with the spacecraft.

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China And U.S., Titans Of Carbon Pollution, Move To Cut Gases

NPR News - Wed, 2014-11-12 03:08

China and the U.S. account for more than a third of greenhouse gases — making it vital that any broad climate plans include the pair.

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PODCAST: Black Friday takes a whole week

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-12 03:00

Market players are also looking at a downbeat forecast from Britain's central bank; one more reason interest rates aren't going up in the U.S. any time soon. And a surprise announcement out of Beijing today: The United States and China have come to a joint agreement ... on climate change. For the first time, China is drawing a line in the sand on greenhouse gas emissions. And what about the United States? Plus, instead of stuffing your face in one sitting, imagine a bacchanalia spread over five days. The biggest of retailers Walmart says it wants to stretch out the frenzy of post-Thanksgiving shopping into nearly a week of sudden sales and other promotions. In practice that means some of the special deals won't happen on so-called Black Friday. And at a more spiritual level, is this the time to mention that there's more to life than consumption?

Even congressmen get hazed

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-12 02:00

Congress is back in session on Wednesday after the mid-term elections.

As with any new job, incoming politicians will have to sit through a new-hire orientation. That's right: even congressmen and senators have a human resources process they need to clear.

Perhaps it’s not that surprising; in this age of employee handbooks, ethics policies, and background checks, it takes a whole lot more than filling out a mere W-4.

“The HR portion of this orientation is just like what you’d see in the private sector and… nothing new,” says Mike Bishop. Bishop is an incoming GOP Representative representing Michigan’s 8th District.

In Bishop’s case, his previous experience in the Michigan State Legislature should help soften the blow. But for other incoming freshmen who come from outside of politics, it could be like “drinking water from a fire hose,” he says.

As new people are getting squared away, others are conducting exit interviews.

Russ Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri, served in Congress from 2004 to 2012. Even today, he still remembers that first orientation session.

“We were told, ‘this will be the most bi-partisan thing you ever do in your career,’” said Carnahan. “’After this, you’ll be pitted against each other, party-to-party, and it will go down-hill from there.’ That was a little prophetic.”

Any new employee will have questions and solicit advice, but here’s a pro-tip: It’s probably best to avoid asking your colleagues about the healthcare coverage.


Dirty 'frackwater' could yield lots of green

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-12 02:00

Inside a big industrial building in Pittsburgh, Mike Broeker shows off what he hopes is the next big thing in cleaning up the fracking business.

“We have three 8-foot diameter satellite dishes, these are the most common satellite dishes in the world,” says Broeker.

Broeker is COO of Epiphany Solar Water Systems, and no, he’s not selling telecom equipment. His company uses these satellite dishes to clean up the briny waste water that comes out of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells. This waste stream is toxic and it’s hard to clean—at least cheaply.

Epiphany’s satellite dishes are coated with highly reflective material, making them intense solar heat collectors. They use that heat to evaporate clean water out of tanks of the salty waste, which collects at well pads.

Broeker says it’s actually the same technology bootleggers use to make moonshine.

“It is the same concept; it is distillation,” Broeker says. Instead of making whiskey, Epiphany makes pure water.

A few years ago, the company started to treat drinking water in remote parts of the developing world. But when the fracking boom came, the company sensed an opportunity to jump into the fracking waste water business. A lot of other companies did, too. But it’s been a difficult technology to master—and few have succeeded.

“It’s such low quality water that the technology crashed and burned when they try to treat it,” says Brent Giles, an analyst with Lux Research. The high salt content of fracking waste water—it’s up to 10 times saltier than the ocean—has tripped up many companies. That much salt destroys equipment and clogs up filters. 

It’s not hard to see why these companies tried to get into the fracking waste business. Lux estimates that it’s a $1 billion market right now, and could grow to $9 billion by the next decade.

Giles says right now it’s cheaper to recycle that waste or inject it underground. But underground disposal comes with its own issues. The USGS has linked underground injection to earthquakes.

Some in the fracking industry think regulation might make injection wells more expensive in the future. And if that happens, companies that can clean the water up could get a flood of new business.


The newest class of Goldman Sachs partners

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-11-12 02:00

There are raises, and then there’s the kind of raise that happens if you make partner at Goldman Sachs. 

"It literally becomes a huge compensation event," says Mitchell Peskin, a partner at Execu|Search Group, a recruiting firm. "I mean a very large raise, and I mean the ability to now participate in the Goldman Sachs Partnership bonus pool."

If the pool is large enough, Peskin says, partners can make millions. Goldman Sachs didn’t respond to a request for information, but just the salary for a partner at the firm is estimated to be around $1,000,000.

“If money is important to you, and I would say it is to most people that work on Wall Street, it’s as good as it gets,” says Peskin.

Making partner means you’ve made it, and Goldman wants partners to feel that way, says Dr. Michael J. Driscoll, a clinical assistant professor of finance at Adelphi University.

“Because they want to keep the best and brightest, they don’t want them going to private equity firms, they don’t want them launching hedge funds on their own, possibly taking client contacts away from Goldman,” he says.

Plus, with the increased scrutiny and regulation that Wall Street and investment banks have come under in the last few years, Driscoll says there's an increased fear that talent will seek a landscape that's less under the noses of regulators. 

Still, Driscoll believes partners shouldn't get too comfortable: "You’re not a made man for life; this isn’t the Mob." If partners fail to produce, says Driscoll, they could lose their title.

"But I don’t think people are shedding too many tears for those that are un-partnered, they’ll be just fine."

Famous Paintings Sell For Millions At Auction, But The Artist Gets Zero

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 23:49

Unlike novelists and musicians, visual artists don't get royalties for their work. New legislation aims to fix this by taxing public sales, but auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's oppose the idea.

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How Animals Hacked The Rainbow And Got Stumped On Blue

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 23:47

There's more than one way to make color, nature tells us. And more than one way to use it to your own advantage.

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Actress Who Played Mrs. Wolowitz On 'Big Bang Theory' Dies At 62

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 22:49

Carol Ann Susi died on Tuesday after a brief battle with cancer, said her agent Pam Ellis-Evenas.

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China Agrees To Greenhouse Gas Cap; U.S. Will Accelerate Cuts

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 20:25

The unexpected breakthrough by the world's two largest polluters reflected both nations' desire to display a united front, and could inspire other reluctant developing countries to follow suit.

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Supreme Court Case Seeks Source Of Alabama Gerrymandering

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 20:03

The Court is being asked to decide whether a 2010 state legislative redistricting in Alabama overloaded some districts with black Democrats on the basis of race or party.

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John Doar Remembered As A Civil Rights Pioneer

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 19:50

A top civil rights lawyer for the Justice Department in the turbulent 1960s, John Doar made his mark fighting racial discrimination.

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Ferguson, Mo., Anxiously Awaits Michael Brown Grand Jury Decision

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 16:14

The jury could hand down its decision in the teen's death as early as this weekend, and both protesters and authorities are preparing for that moment.

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Chinese Shoppers Set Record For 'Singles Day' Shopping Spree

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-11 16:00

A day meant to celebrate being single has turned in to the world's largest shopping event. But it's unlikely to catch on in the U.S.

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