National News

How do you measure the cost of a toxic spill that turns off the tap?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-14 00:10

A saying of Ben Franklin's has special resonance in Charleston, W.V., "When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." Or, when it's been contaminated. Even for residents who don't run restaurants, or need hospital care, the inconveniences added up over five days.

Amanda Hardman appreciates her good luck. She's got a car, so she can get to distribution spots for bottled drinking water. Better yet, her husband has an old house outside of town with a well. Fifteen people from three different households are making the trek for showers.

But the water tank there is limited, so it brought home some everyday lessons in water conservation: "You know, not to leave the water on while you brush your teeth," she says. "Not to leave the shower on while you shave your legs."

And that taking a shower is worth a 30-minute drive each way -- even if that means other chores don't get done, and social life grinds to a halt.

Economist David Zetland wrote "The End of Abundance: Economic Solutions to Water Scarcity." He says West Virginia residents have -- at least temporarily -- flipped to a Third World experience of water. The real cost isn't just the bottled water and the paper plates. It's the time spent getting basic needs met.

"In the developing world, young girls don't go to school because they spend their entire lives gathering water," he says.

Egypt Holds Key Vote On Country's New Charter

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 23:20

Egyptians start voting Tuesday on a draft for their country's next constitution. It's a vision for the nation's future and a milestone in a military-backed roadmap put in place after Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in a coup last July.

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Officers Acquitted In California Homeless Death

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 23:14

Two former Fullerton police officers who were videotaped in a violent struggle with a homeless man during an arrest were acquitted Monday of killing him. The arrest was captured on a 33-minute surveillance video that was key evidence at the trial.

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Mysteries Persist Surrounding West Virginia Chemical Spill

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 17:54

West Virginia officials told residents Monday to flush out their home water systems before using the tap water again, and the ban on the water persists in some places. Tests at the affected water treatment plant show almost no contamination. However, some toxicologists say, the spill shows how little is known about many chemicals in common use.

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Water Bans Lifted In Several West Virginia Areas

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 16:49

Some 300,000 water customers have been under a ban since a chemical spill last Thursday. The ban on using tap water was lifted in at least three affected areas Monday.

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Nearly Six Decades Later, Integration Remains A Work In Progress

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 16:47

In Little Rock, Ark., a federal judge approved a settlement that brings an end to a landmark school desegregation case. The case dates back to 1957, when nine black students integrated Central High School, which up until that point was all-white. But after 60 years of desegregation efforts, are the classes really integrated?

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Desegregation Pact Gets Judge's Approval In Arkansas

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 15:54

A long-running school desegregation fight is over, after a federal judge accepted a settlement reached by lawyers for black students, three Little Rock-area school districts, and the state. Under the deal, the state will no longer have to send yearly payments of around $70 million to aid desegregation.

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California Rep. George Miller To Retire

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 15:24

A top ally to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat announced Monday that he will not seek re-election after serving in Congress for 40 years.

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Coffee Myth-Busting: Cup Of Joe May Help Hydration And Memory

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 14:56

A new study adds to the evidence that among everyday coffee drinkers, the old wives' tale that coffee will lead to dehydration is really just that: a tale. Another study found that caffeine may help to consolidate memories in the short term, but may not help retrieve old memories.

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Game Over For Nintendo? Not If Mario And Zelda Fans Keep Playing

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 14:53

Some analysts say that Nintendo's days are numbered because sales of its new console, Wii U, have been lackluster. But since Nintendo still offers some of the most popular game franchises, the love of Zelda and Mario may keep the company going for a long time.

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Federal Health Care Enrollees: Older Outnumber Younger

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 14:50

For the first time, the Obama administration released demographic data about the more than 2 million people who have signed up for private health insurance through the exchanges set up by the federal government. The administration said it hopes the number of young people signing up will pick up steam.

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Google Buys Nest, May Soon Know How Cool You Like Your Home

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-13 14:37

The search giant bought Nest, the home automation startup with smart thermostats and smart smoke detectors that are found in homes around the world. It signals a tipping point for "the Internet of things."

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Wall Street says, 'No, really -- take Sunday off.'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-13 14:36

Bank of America has recommended its junior employees take one day off every weekend. It isn't the only firm on Wall Street suggesting a change. JP Morgan says it will hire more junior people to lessen the workload. Goldman Sachs has created a junior officer task force to look into the issue.

"You've got to wonder what's behind this," says Nancy Koehn, historian at the Harvard Business School. "Is this about cleaning Wall Street's image... or is this about attracting talent?"

Koehn says Wall Street faces competition from Silicon Valley, where young workers expect high pay and lots of perks.

Koehn says it will take a lot more than these company recommendations to change workplace culture on Wall Street.

"You can bet all those folks, whether they take the Sunday off or not are going to be logged into their smartphone answering every single email that comes their way," she says.

Obamacare stats show some young folks signed up

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-13 14:18

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that nearly 2 million people enrolled for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges in December. That includes a dramatic increase in the number of young people signing up. That number of so-called 'young invincibles' is higher than some had predicted.

And in a conference call today, HHS officials said that about one in four of all the consumers on the exchanges are between the ages of 18-34. Ideally, you want to see a higher rate, about 40 percent, of exchange customers in that age range. The data raises a bunch of questions:

Q: If things stay at this current pace, what are we in for?

A: The non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation ran some numbers and found the world will not end if we stay at this 25 percent rate:

"Premiums might have to go up by 2-3 percent in 2015, but there’s no risk of any death spiral here with the kind of enrollment numbers they’ve released," says Kaiser Vice President Larry Levitt.

Levitt says he expects more young people will arrive in the final 11 weeks before the March 31st enrollment deadline.

Q: But even if more young people do sign up, this is more about health than age, right?

A: Right. A sick 23-year-old will cost the insurance companies a lot more than a healthy 63-year-old. That said, the government plans to aggressively go out and recruit as many young and healthy people as possible.

Q: What haven't we learned from today's numbers that we'd like to know about?

A: What is missing is basic but difficult to obtain stats. Look, some 16 million Americans are expected to get insurance in 2014. Of the 2.2 million who have enrolled through the exchanges we don’t know how many of them are uninsured. Nearly 4 million people have signed up for Medicaid. How many of them are new to the healthcare program? Finally, how many people are asking for hardship exemption because they can’t afford the coverage? It’s January, still early, and right now we’ve got more questions than answers.

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