National News

Can Fear Of Cancer Keep College Kids From Binge Drinking?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 06:42

College students tune out warnings about the risks of heavy drinking. Pointing out that drinking increases the risk of cancer may help, researchers say. But will that matter on Saturday night?

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How to unsend an email

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 06:36

Is there anything more horrific in these modern times than an erroneous reply all, an in-progress draft that gets sent, or a mistaken cc:? The answer is yes, there are many things that are much worse. However, nothing is quite as embarrassing.

Consider the case of Ben Sherwood, the newly-announced president of the Disney/ABC Television Group. Back in 2004, when Sherwood was executive producer of Good Morning America, he sent an encouraging holiday email to his employees lauding them for their work. Unfortunate for him, he also attached the editorial comments from his wife from when he was drafting the email.

A pretty harmless mistake, unless you count the use of "doll"as harmful to one's image. Some of you would. But an email that gets sent to the masses when it was intended for only one recipient can also be a motivator. Take Bill Cochran, for example. A creative director for ad agency Richards Group, he successfully pitched a Super Bowl commercial to Bridgestone Tires in 2010, and was looking to repeat his success in 2011. When an email from his boss jokingly pitted employees against each other for landing a successful Bridgestone pitch, Cochran meant to reply to just his art director with a derisive email about his fellow competitors.

Instead, he emailed his trash talking response to the entire company. Cue panic. After being thoroughly embarassed, Cochran turned the experience into his ad pitch. It went on to become the 2011 Bridgestone Superbowl commercial. 

In fact, a lot of humor can come out of a mistaken email chain. When Hollywood producer Nathane Kahane moved offices, his assistant sent an email notifying the A-list clients in Kahane's list of contacts. His mistake was in cc-ing the recipients instead of bcc-ing. Huge celebrities like Judd Apatow and Warren Beatty were treated to an email chain comprised of humorous reply-alls from people thoroughly enjoying the mistake, with Apatow leading the way.

Here's the thing. We're all familiar with the pitfalls of email, so there's a certain amount of forgiveness when a co-worker accidentally loops everyone in on their private business. In some instances, it even leads to a Super Bowl campaign. Mostly, though, it's just embarassing. So do yourself a favor. If Google's Gmail is your preferred messaging medium, check out the slideshow above to turn on the "unsend" feature. 

Last Chance To Ask About Health Law Before Sign-Up Deadline

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 06:36

A 19-year-old claimed on his parents' tax return as a dependent doesn't plan to buy health coverage. Forgoing insurance will trigger a penalty. Who will be on the hook for it?

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Disney buys Maker Studios for $500 million

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 06:10

The Walt Disney company will pay $500 million for Maker Studios, and is willing to add $450 million more to the deal if Maker meets performance goals. 

Fueled by a subscriber base of some 380 million people, Maker's content gets more than 5 billion views per month. 

Disney may excel at producing big-budget blockbusters, but Maker Studios is producing what kids and teens increasingly want: short-form videos they can watch on their cellphones.

And since young people are flocking to YouTube productions, so are advertisers. Brad Adgate, a Senior Vice President of Research at Horizon Media says forecasters predict sales of $5.7 billion in online advertising this year.

Adgate says it is unclear whether Maker Studios will be expected to fall in line with the family-friendly Disney brand and focus on PG-rated content, or whether Disney is willing to spice things up a bit for the sake of the particular demographic, among whom, Maker's content reigns supreme: teenagers. 

Disney buys Maker Studios for $500 million

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 06:10

The Walt Disney company will pay $500 million for Maker Studios, and is willing to add $450 million more to the deal if Maker meets performance goals. 

Fueled by a subscriber base of some 380 million people, Maker's content gets more than 5 billion views per month. 

Disney may excel at producing big-budget blockbusters, but Maker Studios is producing what kids and teens increasingly want: short-form videos they can watch on their cellphones.

And since young people are flocking to YouTube productions, so are advertisers. Brad Adgate, a Senior Vice President of Research at Horizon Media says forecasters predict sales of $5.7 billion in online advertising this year.

Adgate says it is unclear whether Maker Studios will be expected to fall in line with the family-friendly Disney brand and focus on PG-rated content, or whether Disney is willing to spice things up a bit for the sake of the particular demographic, among whom, Maker's content reigns supreme: teenagers. 

National Guard To Join Search In Washington State Mudslide

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 05:42

The number of dead stood at 14, while 176 people were still unaccounted for three days after the massive slide near Oso, Wash. But officials caution that the number of missing might go down.

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Obama: Russia Making 'Series Of Calculations' After Crimea

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 04:25

The president said there is no expectation that Russia would be "dislodged by force" from Crimea but that sanctions aimed at the Kremlin were already having an impact.

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Can You Open A Bottle Of Wine With A Shoe? Yes, But It Ain't Pretty

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 03:30

A YouTube video makes it look so easy: Nine swift strikes against a wall and voila! Your cabernet is ready for pouring. We weren't as successful. But we did figure out the physics behind the trick.

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White House To Propose Halting NSA Bulk Collection Of Phone Data

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 03:20

The planned overhaul of NSA procedures comes after President Obama said in January that he wanted to get the government out of the business of collecting Americans' phone records.

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Bad Weather Suspends Search For Flight 370 In Indian Ocean

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 02:54

Gale-force winds temporarily halted efforts to find the Malaysia Airlines jet as China demanded access to satellite data used to determine that the plane crashed off the Australian coast.

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Chevron Pizza 'Scandal' Leaves Small Town Divided

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 01:04

The free pizza coupons the company offered Bobtown, Pa., residents after a nearby natural gas well explosion killed a worker have been criticized as paltry, but some in the town don't feel that way.

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Survival of the fittest millennial

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 01:00

Millennials -- American teens, twenty- and thirty-somethings born after 1980 -- have inherited one of the toughest economic environments in years. Yet, according to new data from Pew, they may be one of the most economically optimistic generations ever.

Alicia Menendez, reporter and anchor for Fusion TV, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss what's behind the apparent paradox. 

For plumbers, it’s all about the sweet smell of money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 01:00

While working underneath a house, Joseph Rosenblum, a plumber in training in northwest Arkansas, confronted a skunk and discovered a talent that he previously hadn’t been aware of: crawling very quickly.

"At least its tail wasn’t facing me," he recalled. "I had a little bit of a chance to get out of there before I got sprayed."

Smelly creatures, sewage baths and late-night emergency calls to fix broken pipes are all part of the mix in Mr. Rosenblum’s chosen line of work.

But the potential to earn a good living, doing a job he finds rewarding, outweighs the drawbacks, Mr. Rosenblum, 34, said. He figures that if he works hard, he can earn from $50,000 to $70,000 a year or even more, once he is fully licensed.

"I know plumbers that make $80,000, $90,000 a year," he said in a recent interview, after spending an afternoon clearing a clogged drain at a local restaurant.

Turns out there may be something to the advice your meddling uncle gave you at your high school graduation, about skipping college and becoming a plumber instead.

Plumbers and the related trades of pipe fitters and steamfitters, who often work in commercial and industrial settings, earned median pay of about $49,000 a year nationally, well above the $35,000 average for all occupations, according to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earn more than $84,000 a year. The average in big markets like Chicago and New York is about $70,000. (One caveat: The statistics are gathered from employers subject to paying unemployment insurance, so they don’t include the roughly 11 percent of plumbers who are self-employed.)

Demand for plumbers and fitters is strong. The number employed is expected to grow 21 percent by 2022, versus 11 percent across all occupations, according to Labor Bureau statistics. Mr. Rosenblum also reasons that plumbers have a fair degree of job security: "No matter how technologically advanced the world gets, plumbing is going to be kind of a basic necessity," he said.

Even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, a billionaire who knows a few things about making money, told listeners to his weekly radio show last spring that working as a plumber makes more financial sense for some students than attending an elite, four-year college: "Being a plumber, actually for the average person, probably would be a better deal, because you don’t spend four years spending $40, 50 thousand tuition, and no income," he said.

While they needn’t have a college degree, most plumbers must undergo years of training to become fully licensed. Requirements vary by state, but prospective plumbers typically spend four to five years as paid apprentices, while also taking classroom instruction in skills like reading blueprints. Then they must pass an exam to obtain a license. Apprentices typically must be at least 18 and have a high school diploma, or the equivalent, to begin training. They also must have a decent grasp of math, especially if they’re working on new construction; they may need to calculate, for instance, the volume of liquids that certain pipes can carry and correctly measure the length of pipe needed for a job.

In some cases — like Mr. Rosenblum’s — the company that hires a prospective plumber sponsors the classroom training. Alternatively, trainees may join the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia, the major trade union for plumbers.

About 30 percent of plumbers and pipe fitters belong to unions, according to, a website that estimates union membership based on federal data. The United Association, with 300 local affiliates in 50 states, provides structured training programs and also functions as an employment hub, matching  members with jobs at companies that negotiate contracts with the union.

John Murphy, business manager of United Association Local 1 in New York City, said the local’s 6,000 members work primarily on major construction projects, like office towers and hospitals. Union apprentices at Local 1 start at $14 an hour and make more than $50 per hour after completing a five-year apprenticeship and passing a test to advance to journeyman plumber status, Mr. Murphy said. Experienced plumbers can make $200,000 a year, he said — but that typically means many hours on the job.  Openings for apprenticeships tend to vary with the economy; if the outlook calls for significant new construction, more openings occur. Local 1 tries to maintain its apprentices at about 20 percent of its active membership, said Mr. Murphy.

The union makes 1,000 applications available about every two years, he said, and about 400 applicants are deemed qualified after taking a basic aptitude test and an assessment of manual dexterity. The union draws from that pool for new apprentice classes. Also, a certain number of apprentices come from "direct entry" programs, he said, like those promoting the hiring of veterans. Over the last 18 months, the local has accepted 275 new apprentices.

While historically sons of plumbers often became plumbers, family members don’t get special preference, said Mr. Murphy, a fourth-generation plumber. “My son would have to get on line, along with everyone else.”

Plumbing is still a male-dominated trade; just 1.1 percent of plumbers and those in related trades are women, according to 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some union locals have programs to encourage women to become apprentices. United Association 1 in New York works with Nontraditional Employment for Women, or NEW, which aims to bring women into the construction trades, to hire women as apprentices, said Mr. Murphy. The local has 39 female apprentices, 22 of whom joined in the past 18 months.

Mr. Rosenblum, who chose the nonunion training route, is a fourth-year apprentice; he expects to take the test for his journeyman’s license in the spring. A native of tiny Greers Ferry, Ark., he spent time as a young man helping his grandfather build houses. He graduated from high school in 1998 and later enlisted in the Marine Corps. After completing a nine-month tour in Iraq and Kuwait in 2004, he moved to California and completed an associate degree under the G.I. bill.

He worked for about six years as the director of property services for an apartment company that managed 5,000 units in Orange County, but then moved on to work for a friend who owned a plumbing company. (Under California’s rules, he said, individual plumbers do not have to be licensed, as long as they are working for a licensed plumber.)

He found he enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of plumbing. Most anybody, he said, can learn how to change an angle stop — the little shut-off valve found under every sink — or replace a flapper in their toilet tank. “But knowing actually how plumbing works and, you know, determining issues and plumbing problems, that’s kind of one of the things I like to specialize in,” he said.

About a year ago, he became engaged to a California woman who had family back in his home state, and they decided to move to Arkansas. He researched plumbing companies online and after sending out few applications was hired at Allied Plumbing & Drain Service, a firm in Springdale, Ark.

Mr. Rosenblum was taking a bit of a risk; under the rules in Arkansas, his plumbing experience in California wouldn’t necessarily count toward licensing requirements. Fortunately, he said, he had good documentation of three and a half years of work, so state authorities required that he complete just one year of training and instruction to become eligible to take the journeyman’s test. He was accepted at an apprenticeship program at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Ark., and attends classes one night a week.

 Once he passes the journeyman’s test and works for an additional year, he’ll be eligible to apply to take the exam for a master plumber’s license. That means he’ll be able to obtain work permits on his own and also will be able to train new plumbers. “At that point in time, you can basically do anything a plumber needs to get done,” he said.

Mr. Rosenblum solders a copper pipe. Plumbers go through years of training for their licenses. (Beth Hall/The New York Times)

Dan Mallory, 56, founder and president of Allied Plumbing and Mr. Rosenblum’s boss, starts apprentices at $10 to $12 an hour and pays for their training; their hourly wage can increase to as much as $18 an hour over four years. Once they pass their journeyman’s test, he said, they are eligible for commissions based on the cost of the assignments they complete, which gives them the opportunity to make more money.

A few of his plumbers earn six-figure incomes, he said, but a typical workweek is around 50 hours, and the jobs are often physically demanding. His plumbers take turns being on call overnight and on weekends and often work outside in bitterly cold weather. After four years, his plumbers can make a very good income as long as they don’t “have a mind-set of working 8 to 5,” he said.

Mr. Mallory still goes out on calls himself because, he says, he enjoys the work. He began working for a plumber in Oklahoma as a teenager and passed the state’s equivalent of the master plumber test at age 20 — he was told he was one of the youngest in the state to pass the test at the time. He recalls working 100 hours a week, until his schedule strained his marriage and forced him to cut back. He later became a home builder, but he said he returned to plumbing when he had trouble finding enough plumbers to work on the houses he was building. He built Allied into a regional firm and now employs 15 plumbers and apprentices.

His company does both new construction work and service plumbing, responding to both residential and commercial customers. Doing both helps the company ride out the ups and downs of the economy. “If you’re a service plumber,” he said, “it’s pretty much recession-proof.”

Still, there’s no avoiding the downsides, including the potential for encountering raw sewage. Mr. Rosenblum said he wore gloves as much as possible on the job and made sure his immunizations were up-to-date to avoid becoming ill. Sometimes, “it’s just nasty,” he said.

And the unpredictable work hours are another negative. “You can’t just drop your pipe wrench and say ‘O.K., it’s 5 o’clock, I’m going home,’ and they still don’t have water to their house,” he said.

But Mr. Rosenblum, who typically gets going with a 5:30 a.m. workout at the gym, says long days don’t faze him, and more hours mean more income. He also plans to complete a business degree at a local university to fully prepare for his career.

Work in America: Our special series in partnership with the New York Times looking at how the improvements in technology, combined with companies’ increased ability to outsource, have conspired to make radical changes to work in America. 

"If you’re just a guy that goes in and puts in your 40 hours a week, you’re going to make minimal salary,” he said. “But if you put in a little extra time and a little extra work, you’re going to do well."

It may (or may not) help homeowners on the receiving end of pricey plumbing bills that Mr. Rosenblum said he often feels bad when toting up the cost of a repair, especially in tough economic times.  "I hate to be the bearer of bad news when it comes to my customers," he said, especially since having water and proper drainage is a necessity. It’s hard, he said, to present someone with a bill for $150 or $200, when they might be tight on cash. But, "at the end of the day, they called me out, and they need to get it done," he said. 

Bringing more women into the startup ecosystem

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 01:00

Started in 2005, Y Combinator has served as the birthplace for some of the best known companies in the tech industry - Reddit, Dropbox, and Pebble are just a few of the organizations that benefitted from one of the incubator's bi-annual startup smorgasbords. Since its inception, over 630 startups have taken 3 months to move to Silicon Valley, during which they prepare to pitch to investors during the final Demo Day. Being selected as a Y Combinator participant can be a huge jumping off point for entrepreneurs with a good idea and the motivation to see it through.

Though, the organization hasn't been without controversy. Former President Paul Graham came under fire for comments that seemed to disparage women's potential as leaders of startup companies (Graham insists he was misquoted).

Regardless, it seems one of the goals for the organization, or at least for newly appointed President Sam Altman, is to promote more female entrepreneurs into the program. According to Altman, the most recent class of Y Combinator participants is 24% female, which is higher than what the tech industry at large can claim.

As far as successfully pitching to investors, Altman points to classic missteps in public speaking as the first hurdle Y Combinator participants have to clear; things like remembering to speak clearly and make eye contact with the audience. The next step is a little bit trickier.

"But really if you look at a fundamental level, in a two and a half minute pitch, all you're trying to do is convince investors that there is a chance, however small, that you could be the next $10 billion startup."


Putting student debt on trial

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 01:00

You may have to find a new way to make mom proud.

A new report from the New American Foundation shows problematic debt levels for graduate students -- an 8 percent annual rise for the last four years. Law school in particular is known for its hefty tuition bills --  the average debt load for law students in 2012 was just over $140,000.

And applications have plummeted in the past few years.

American Bar Association

At the same time, John Cashman, vice president for law firm recruiting at Major, Lindsey & Africa says the state of the job market right now for lawyers is "dicey."

"I think the value of a law degree is basically the same," Cashman adds. "What's changed, is the calculation of risk and return is much more important."


*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the spelling of the name of the law firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. The text has been corrected.

Maze Of College Costs And Aid Programs Traps Some Families

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 01:00

Over 20 years, the average burden for a four-year college graduate in the U.S. has gone from $9,000 to $30,000. The percentage of students with debt has shot up from about half to nearly 70 percent.

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Being uninsured versus underinsured

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 00:29

As Monday's deadline to sign up for health insurance or face a penalty approaches, there's plenty of attention on the uninsured. But how about the underinsured? 

Nearly 32 million people were underinsured in 2012, meaning they had insurance but that it wasn't robust enough to protect them from major medical costs, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund

The figures are from before individuals could buy insurance on Affordable Care Act exchanges, but some say the problem persists. 

Suzy Jeffreys, who runs the North-by-Northeast Community Health Center in Portland, Ore., says often the patients who don’t qualify for *Medicaid choose the next cheapest healthcare option.

Commonwealth Fund

*CORRECTION: A previous verions of this article misstated that patients who didn't qualify for Medicare, instead of Medicaid, were seeking other healthcare options. The text has been corrected.


Interview with Box CEO Aaron Levie

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 00:20

You've heard plenty about cloud computing, but have you heard of the company called Box?

In the world of online storage and big data, Box is the David to tech Goliaths Microsoft and Oracle. The company had filed for an initial public offering earlier this year and now Box has made the details of that filing public. CEO Aaron Levie and company hope to raise $250 million, though Box isn't profitable yet. In its regulatory filing, the company says it has 25 million registered users.

We spoke with 29 year-old Aaron Levie about Box before his company released the details of his IPO.

Q: Give me a basic description of the Box mission.

At Box what we’re really focused on is helping businesses take all the data that they create and generate, all the files and information in their company, and move that to the cloud. So they can securely share information, collaborate around it, work with partners and colleagues and distribute all of the data they need to all of the right people in and outside of their company. And that’s what we do for now 200,000 companies across the globe.

Q: It's an interesting time for companies like yours. Why is this such a moment for service companies?

Right now, I think we’re in a really important and interesting time in the software ecosystem, particularly as it relates to the enterprise world. You have nearly $300 billion that is spent every single year on traditional software and hardware that goes into managing the sort of information backbone of enterprises. And the vast majority of that technology’s going to migrate to the cloud.

We’ve seen companies like Workday and Google and Salesforce that have delivered next generation technologies that help companies use their information, and it means that the enterprise doesn’t have to have any of that software or hardware in their business anymore. And so what we try and do at Box is we are trying to power the content layer of the next generation enterprise that can let you collaborate and share much more efficiently.

The exciting part is how much this can change how businesses operate and work with their information. So we’re seeing companies from manufacturing to health care to financial services that are beginning to change the very nature of how they work and the products they deliver, because now they have so much data they can work with from anywhere.

Q: Your particular area has some pretty big competitors. Microsoft is a competitor. Amazon is a competitor. How is Box different?

We, for some reason, just really enjoy pain. We chose one of the more dynamic markets that are out there from a competitive standpoint. But, interestingly, when we started the company nine and a half years ago, we had this idea that as the cost of storage went down, as mobility increased, and as bandwidth increased, that you’d want to be able to get to your files from anywhere.

That led us to being early enough in the market where we were able to create early competitive advantage by always focusing on delivering the absolute best customer experience while also ensuring that enterprises of all sizes could use our technology. Our real differentiation is: Whether you’re a company of 10,000 employees or 50,000 employees or 250,000 employees, you can use our product as the most secure solution for sharing and collaborating on data, but as an individual, you experience our service just as you would any consumer application. And it’s that sort of balance and pairing of a consumer focus with an enterprise technology set that allows us to compete very effectively for large enterprises like Proctor and Gamble and E-bay and Eli Lily and Schneider Electric, all of which have rolled Box out to tens of thousands of their employees.

Q: If one of your big competitors came to you and asked to buy, would you say yes?

No. We’re very focused on building out an independent company. We’re only a couple percent of the way thought this journey that we’d like to go on, and as we look at the space and time that we operate in right now, we’ll look back at this period and it will be very similar to the early 1980s, when PCs entered the enterprise and changed every single thing about IT within organizations. We’re in one of those periods right now with the combination of mobile computing and cloud [computing] coming together. This is going to enable every business in the world to change how they’re going to work and how they build products and how they compete in their own marketplaces. We’re very early in what we want to create and accomplish in this market, so we are definitely not selling.

Q: You’re 29. What are the pressures that come with that? Do you feel pressure related to your age and what you’re doing? What people expect from you and what people expect from your company?

Well actually, I’m feeling quite old these days. Most of the up and coming founders are 21 and 22 -- I literally have grey hair -- and I’ve been through quite a bit with Box. I think we’ve certainly been through a lot of the learning events that startups go through, and I think that’s helped us mature as a company. The space that we play in, the enterprise world, means that we have to surround ourselves with incredible talent that can allow us to go execute. So I think we’re very fortunate to have built up a company where age hasn’t been as much of an issue, because we’ve built a very strong team around us. But there’s a lot of pressure to always be growing the company and always be competing as effectively as possible.

Q: Is there a form of software or hardware that doesn’t exist that you’re waiting for that will make a huge change to what you do?

About a week ago I would not have had a good answer to that question, and now I do. We’re really starting to see some pretty tremendous use cases for our technology and for lots of enterprise technologies out there. As an example, there are a lot of conversations about drones. So if you’re a construction company and you want to be able to have aerial imagery of your construction site -- to be able to either monitor it, or be able to see certain angles that are really hard to get to -- if you’re in agriculture and you want to be able to study your crop yield or be able to see different kinds of patterns from a weather standpoint, you can now have drones that basically are augmenting our ability to collect information and gather data.

What we didn’t realize was that a couple of these commercial drone companies are using Box as the storage platform for the data that they generated. So all of this aerial imagery can go into our platform where you can look at it, share it, collaborate around it and have a secure place for accessing that information. Every day we’re seeing all these new use cases for information that is going to change the competitive dynamics of companies that begin to take that information. If you’re a farm and you’re using drones to augment your talent force, you’re going to be much more competitive than the farm that’s not getting that information.

So we think a lot of these technologies are going to come together to change competitive advantage in ways we never imagined.

Why Oil Drilling Is Both Safer And Riskier Since Exxon Valdez

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 23:20

The 1989 oil spill prompted changes in oil industry regulation and spill research. But oil companies today are working in more remote places than ever, from the Arctic to deep below the ocean floor.

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Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Case Goes Before Supreme Court

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-24 23:18

The craft store chain's conservative Christian owners object to the Affordable Care Act mandate to include coverage for birth control in company health insurance plans.

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