National News

More Jobs, Less Inflation Drive Down 'Misery' — So Where's The Joy?

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-07 05:16

With unemployment dropping, the "misery index" is at its lowest level in more than 50 years. So why aren't Americans feeling cheerful? Economists say meager wages and big debts are still problems.

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Malaysian Official: Search For MH370 To Continue Through May

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-07 05:03

The ill-fated airliner disappeared a year ago and despite an intensives search in the southern Indian Ocean, no definitive clues have turned up.

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For A French Rabbi And His Muslim Team, There's Work To Be Done

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-07 04:25

Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his Muslim assistants work in poor neighborhoods where many residents are immigrants from Islamic countries. January's terror attacks only made him more determined.

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Russia Arrests 2 In Connection With Nemtsov Murder

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-07 04:08

The exact role of the suspects, both from the insurgency plagued North Caucuses region, is still unclear. Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down in Moscow last week.

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Having Loved And Lost, One Man Takes On Medical Malpractice In India

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-07 03:03

It's a country whose people are reluctant to report malpractice. But when a doctor prescribed "an astronomical dose of the wrong steroid" to his wife, Kunal Saha was determined to blow the whistle.

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Two Detained In Killing Of Russion Opposition Politician

NPR News - Sat, 2015-03-07 01:36

The two suspects, detained in the killing a week ago of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, are said to be from Russia's North Caucasus region.

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Derailed Oil Train Continues To Burn In Illinois

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 21:30

It's the third fiery derailment of trains carrying Bakken crude oil in three weeks, raising more questions about the volatility of the oil and the safety of the tank cars used to transport crude.

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Report: Recent Guantanamo Releases Less Likely To Reengage In Terrorism

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 17:22

The data show former detainees a bit more likely to join insurgents than they were six months earlier. But the most recently-released are less likely to do so.

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Clinton, White House Play Delicate Dance As Emails Await Release

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 14:20

Questions about Hillary Clinton's reliance on a private email account when she was Secretary of State will dog the likely presidential hopeful — and the administration she worked for — for months.

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Grease, griddles and gravy: 24 hours straight as a Waffle House grill operator

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 14:18

Feel like going “all the way” tonight? At diner-chain the Waffle House, that means you ordered something along the lines of poutine made in the South: Hash browns smothered in cheese, jalapeños and oh so much more.

This is just some of the lingo devised by Waffle House staff to keep the restaurant running like a well-oiled — err, greased — machine. Life at the griddle of the Waffle House is far from glamorous, but that didn't stop Bon Appétit restaurant and drinks editor — and Waffle House aficionado — Andrew Knowlton from trying his hand behind the counter of one in Atlanta, Georgia for 24 hours straight.

Brian Finke/ Bon Appetit

His piece, “What It’s Like to Work at the Waffle House for 24 Hours Straight” appears in Bon Appétit.

“It was a steep, steep learning curve,” says Knowlton. “The line cooks never see a ticket — it gets yelled out by the waiters. Then they take various condiments, whether it’s ketchup or grape jelly and where they put it on the plate … immediately identifies what the plate is that the grill operator needs to cook. I fumbled my way through that.”

The Waffle House is an American staple, with over 1,700 restaurants peppered across 25 states. A native Southerner, Knowlton is a bit of a Waffle House new convert; he was 17 years old when he first experienced the magic of the ‘House. Once he tried it, he was hooked. Fast-forward a few years and Knowlton found himself on the other side of the order window serving up nosh for hungry — and sometimes drunk — diners.

Brian Finke/ Bon Appetit

At the end of the long shift, Knowlton says he walked away with one lesson: “Being a gentleman and a professional costs you nothing… Smile, have a good time … most of the people coming through are good people … a few bad ones come in, but that’s kinda life anyway, and it’s how you roll with it."

Part-Time Workers Struggle With Full-Time Juggling Act

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 13:49

By the numbers, February was a good month for job creation. But while there is plenty of hiring, there are still many part-timers who want more work and struggle to balance the jobs they do have.

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Snowden: Asylum In Switzerland A 'Great Political Option'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 13:28

The NSA leaker, living in exile in Russia, made the remark while speaking via video link to an audience in Geneva.

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Voluptuous Veg: Can Food Porn Seed Lust For Healthy Eating?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 12:55

Tempting-looking spoonfuls of chocolate are plentiful online. Beautiful Brussels sprouts? Not so much. A campaign aims to boost the number of these images and whet our appetites for healthy foods.

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In shale country, a boom in quiet

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 12:15

Carroll County, in eastern Ohio, was the original bird’s-eye for Utica shale gas development in the state.  Trucks with Texas license plates now jam the roads alongside Amish buggies. Farmers are fixing up their houses as money from mineral leases rolls in.

But for Frank Brothers, the price is too high.

“As you can see, that’s what’s coming right at our door,” Brothers says, nearly yelling to be heard above the continuous, grating hum emanating from a nearby gas compressor station.

It’s something you’d expect to hear inside a factory, not in a residential urban neighborhood – and less in a rural township like this one.

But even though their house sits on 21 forested acres, the Brothers family has been cooped up indoors with the windows closed since last March. That’s when the energy company Blue Racer Midstream started the huge engines of its compressor station across the street. They’ve run pretty much 24/7 since.

“They’re you’re hitting 87,” Brothers says, holding up a decibel meter at his front property line. It’s hard to have a conversation from just a few feet apart.

Compressors are needed about every 50 to 100 miles along pipelines to help move gas through them.

They’re always loud, but this situation is rare – energy companies do usually shield the neighbors. And that’s what’s pushing what you might call a "silent boom" accompanying the oil and gas bonanza – a boom in noise abatement. 

Companies say business took off with development of the Barnett Shale in the mid-to-late 2000s, as oil and gas companies were rushing to pull gold out of the ground under Fort Worth, Texas.

“Noise became a front-burner issue for them, because the sweet spot of the shale was literally underneath some of the more densely populated areas,” says Murray Stacy, vice president of Shreveport-based Sound Fighter Systems.

Stacy says energy companies improvised their own solutions at first, but soon realized they needed expert help. At the peak of Barnett development, 80 percent of Sound Fighters’ business came from the shale gas industry, he says. It’s still about 60 percent. 

The demand for noise control in the Utica and Marcellus shales drew Canadian company Noise Solutions to open a branch in western Pennsylvania.

“It was a growth of about 100 percent,” says Tyler Mose, the company’s business development engineer, as he stands on the busy production floor of the plant in Sharon. He shows off 15-inch-thick sound-absorbing walls, and explains that everything is custom-built to address specific sound frequencies.

Then he takes me outside to show me what his company can do.

He leads me across the snow to a little building, designed for loud equipment. One side is open, and another is walled off by a series of panels, a few inches thick and about a foot and a half deep.

From inside the building, it’s like you’re looking through open window blinds. The panels are made of perforated sheet metal and sound-absorbing insulation.

Mose crouches inside, looks out at me through the slats, and starts talking. Even though he’s only three or four feet away, I pick up only the faintest hints of his voice. Mostly, I watch his mouth move and hear nothing. It’s kind of amazing.

That kind of technology can reduce compressor noise from factory-floor level, like in Frank Brothers’ yard, to a low hum, about what you’d expect if you lived in an urban neighborhood.

In fact, when I stand about eight feet outside a noise-suppressing building housing a compressor station in Canton, Ohio, the sound is similar to the highway traffic I hear from my neighborhood in Cleveland.

Dominion East Ohio owns this station, and John Schniegenberg is the company’s principal engineer. He says the effect isn’t cheap.

“We’re probably talking in excess of a quarter million dollars,” for noise abatement at the $6 million facility, he says.

But that has bought much better relations with the neighbors.

Even with low oil prices, professional noise fighters are confident. Sound regulations are tightening. And gas producers profit on volume, so they’re always trying to move more gas, faster. That means stronger – and louder – compressors.

Noise Solutions’ CEO Scott MacDonald says his role is to referee.

“We help to ensure harmony between the industry and the community,” he says.

That doesn’t guarantee communities will embrace oil and gas development. But it might lower the volume on a little part of the debate.

Should Labels Say Meat Was Made In USA? Ranchers, Meatpackers Disagree

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 12:14

U.S. ranchers want consumers to know their meat came from cattle "raised in America." Meatpackers argue such labels add cost without much benefit. A trade dispute could soon make the labels disappear.

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North Korean Diplomat Stopped In Bangladesh With $1.4 Million In Gold

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 11:33

The first secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Dhaka tried to claim diplomatic immunity when customs officials asked to scan his bags, officials said.

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Source: Justice Dept. Prepares To Charge N.J. Sen. Menendez With Corruption

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 10:49

It is alleged that the Democrat did political favors for a friend and donor. It is not clear how long it will take for actual criminal charges to emerge, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

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#NPRreads: On America's First Suicide Bombing And Its Influential Pizza Lobby

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 10:43

From the people on our money to the effects of calling someone black, this week, we bring you four reads that illuminate a bit of history or pieces of regulation you may not have known about.

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DOJ Indicts 3 Men Accused Of 'Largest Data Breach In History'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-06 10:08

Two Vietnamese citizens and a Canadian are charged in connection with hacking eight U.S. email service providers and using stolen addresses for spam marketing.

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Don't even think about sledding on Capitol Hill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-06 10:07

Perhaps you've seen photos of kids sledding on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., since the federal government and schools were closed on Thursday.

But, did you know they were breaking the law?

"No person shall coast or slide a sled within Capitol Grounds." Also, kite-flying and tricycles are prohibited.

— David Gura (@davidgura) March 5, 2015
It's true. From the Capitol Grounds Regulations, courtesy of the architect of the capitol's office: "No person shall coast or slide a sled within Capitol Grounds."

Bah ... humbug.