National News

Start-up tries to raise the dirt cheap price of water

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-01 02:00

Okay, here's a question for you. How much is water worth?

We aren't talking anything fancy here, just regular old tap water. The answer is pretty darn little—less than a penny a gallon in most places around the country.

That is even true in California where there is a historic drought. It has gotten so bad the state has mandated water cut-backs and is considering fines. One Bay Area company has a different idea to encourage conservation. It wants to change the value of water.

Like many of us, you probably waste gallons and gallons of water. And that’s not talking about watering large lawns or weekly car washes, but simple things like letting the shower run to warm up. Yup, we just let all that water go right down the drain. But not Alice Green.

Green lived in California during the seventies when the state was in another drought. She says “I knew then that we didn't have water to waste.”

Alice Green conserves water and could start earning rebate money with the start-up MeterHero. (Sam Harnett)

Green started taking conservation measures back then. She saves “warm-up water” from her showers and uses it to flush her toilet. Instead of a lawn, she has planted drought-resistant native plants. 

Today, Green lives in a co-housing neighborhood, which is a kind of hippier version of a condo association. It has signed up for MeterHero, a start-up that tracks your water usage and gives rebates if you conserve. It pays you one dollar for every hundred gallons less you use.

Green's neighbor, Raines Cohen, says the fourteen-house co-op has been working hard on conservation in the past year. It has cut back nearly a thousand gallons a day with things like landscape and irrigation improvements. That kind of conservation would net them 10 dollars a day with MeterHero's rebates. Cohen says, “We will see if we can keep that up, but now we have a strong incentive because of rebates.”

The concept seems pretty straight-forward. MeterHero offers a cash carrot to get you to cut back. But the end goal is bigger than that says founder McGee Young. 

“We can't raise the price of water,” Young says, “but what we can do is put a value on water and specifically a value on water conservation.”

The rebates effectively make the water worth more. You are a lot less likely to flush a cash rebate down the toilet than water. But how do we know what price-per-gallon will make people stop taking water for granted? Young says, “We don't. It's a big experiment. No one has tried to put a price on conservation.”

To do this experiment, MeterHero needs money to fuel the rebates. Right now it is using its own cash. The plan is to get businesses to sponsor the rebates. Companies get some nice PR, you know. Save water, save the planet. It could also help sell products, products like fake grass.

Brad Borgman is with Heavenly Greens, an artificial turf company that is working with MeterHero. Borgman sees the rebate as a pitch to potential clients. He says, “You know it never hurts to get a little money back when you're trying to do your best to conserve.”

Borgman adds that the rebates help connect water-conscious consumers with companies like his. He says “It seems like an obvious mutual fit so far, a kind of win-win-win for everyone.”

MeterHero is just getting started. So far it has handed out about $5,000 in rebates. There is a long way to go before most of us start thinking twice about all that water we flush down the toilet.

The happiest (and most expensive) place on earth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-01 01:59

That's the price for a one-day pass to Disneyland, but soon that could be the cheapest of a three-tiered ticketing system, the LA Times reported. Disney is reportedly weighing a system that would charge more for tickets on peak weekends and holidays.

$16.7 billion

That's how much Intel has agreed to pay for Altera Corp. An earlier attempt at the deal fell apart in April. But as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Monday's successful purchase means Intel can utilize Altera's ability to build specialized chips—a process that is not as cost effective for larger companies to invest the time and effort into developing for themselves.

3.66 seconds

That's the average time it took articles to load via links on Facebook, according to web performance firm Catchpoint Systems as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The service's new "Instant Articles," on the other hand, take between zero and 300 milliseconds to load.

12 percent

That's about the portion of police officers nationwide that are black, about 1.2 percent smaller than the African-American portion of the U.S. population. That's remained mostly unchanged since the late nineties, and many say those numbers belie the diversity of some local police departments where representation is much further out of proportion.

12 percent

That's the increase in homelessness seen in Los Angeles County just in the last two years. We took a closer look at businesses in Skid Row—an area of downtown L.A. where both the homeless and services directed towards helping them having typically congregated—and how they have been affected as tensions rise in the neighborhood. 

No. 2 At Justice Warns Growing Prison Budget Detracts From Public Safety

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 23:36

The federal government spends $7 billion a year to incarcerate about 200,000 inmates. That's money Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates says could pay for more FBI agents and local police.

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New Hearing Technology Brings Sound To A Litte Girl

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 23:35

Jiya Bavishi is one of a handful of children in the United States testing an experimental hearing device, a tiny implant in her brainstem. Jiya is now able to hear and repeat some sounds.

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Editing The Climate Talkers: Punctuation's Effect On Earth's Fate

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 23:34

The littlest things — punctuation, precise word choice and grammar — can hold tremendous power in worldwide climate negotiations. This year in Europe, editors get a chance to help make history.

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10 Years Since Katrina: A Look Back At The Busiest Hurricane Season

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 23:33

Meteorologists say this year's hurricane season will be quieter than usual. But if a Category 3 or higher hit the U.S., it would be the first time since 2005, one of the worst years on record.

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How A Drunken Chipmunk Voice Helps Send A Public Service Message

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 23:32

First you get a crazy message from a friend. Then you get a not-so-crazy message that could help you find a job or fight a disease.

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Oldest Living Ex-Cubs Player Lennie Merullo Dies At 98

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 19:23

Lennie Merullo, a shortstop, played three games in the 1945 World Series and went 0 for 2. The Cubs lost in seven games to Detroit, and haven't made it back to the Series since then.

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Wreck Of A 221-Year-Old Slave Ship Is Confirmed Off South Africa

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 15:58

The ship crashed while carrying 400 slaves from Mozambique to Brazil in 1794. It's the first discovery of a wreck that sank while carrying slaves. Artifacts will be displayed at the Smithsonian.

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Live Blog: Facing Midnight Deadline, The Senate Debates Parts Of The Patriot Act

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 13:40

If the Senate fails to act before midnight, one of the most controversial parts of the Patriot Act — which allows for the bulk collection of phone records — will end.

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WIth A Midnight Deadline, The Senate Meets To Resolve Patriot Act Issues

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 13:14

The Obama administration is pressing the Senate to act to prevent key parts of the USA Patriot Act from expiring at the end of Sunday. Administration officials argue an expiration could hurt counterterrorism efforts. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates gets an update from correspondent Scott Horsley.

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Fatal Shootings By Police Twice As High As Official Number, Report Says

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 11:29

An analysis by The Washington Post shows that the number of such incidents is more than twice as high as official federal figures.

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Bernie Sanders Likens Salacious 1972 Essay To 'Fifty Shades Of Grey'

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 09:53

The senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate has been put on the defensive about the article he wrote for an alternative newspaper.

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No Love Lost In Paris As 'Love Locks' To Be Cut From Bridge

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 06:45

For years, lovers have placed padlocks on the bridge and tossed the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying commitment to one another. But Parisian officials have a less romantic view.

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Racial Diversity Grows On Network Television, But Will Quality Lag Behind?

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 06:16

Network TV's fall schedule has a lot of new shows with non-white stars and casts. But NPR television critic Eric Deggans wonders if those series will explore race and culture as well as current shows.

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All Eyes On Senate As Patriot Act Provisions Set To Expire

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 05:54

Three key provisions of the act sunset on June 1. The Senate has scheduled a rare Sunday session to try to pass a House measure that modifies some of the provisions.

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Secretary Of Agriculture: Bird Flu Poses 'No Health Issue' To Humans

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 05:22

The largest outbreak of avian flu in U.S. history is ravaging poultry at farms in the Midwest. Sec. Tom Vilsack says there's no risk of transmission to humans, but egg prices may rise.

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Planetary Society Regains Communication With LightSail Spacecraft

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 04:14

The organization launched the tiny satellite earlier this month, but then lost contact last week due to a software glitch.

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At World's Fair In Italy, The Future Of Food Is On The Table

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 03:34

Vertical farms, food trucks, tropical forests and the supermarket of the future are on display at Expo 2015 in Milan. Exhibits from 145 countries focus on how to feed the planet sustainably.

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Adult Course Offers Learning For The Sake Of Learning

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-31 03:34

The Clemente course provides low-income adults with college-level education about the arts, literature and the humanities — topics often lost in the race to get a practical degree.

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