National News

On Hawaii, a big telescope stirs conflict

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-18 02:00

Spiritual and cultural values are clashing with scientific and economic considerations on the Big Island of Hawaii, where protesters want to stop development of a $1.4 billion observatory called the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The mountain of Mauna Kea rises almost 14,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, making it popular with astronomers. But the mountain also has religious and cultural importance for native Hawaiians. For two months, protesters have camped out on the mountain to block construction of the 18-story observatory. They consider Mauna Kea sacred; it is the burial grounds for their ancestors.

"It's also our watershed for the whole island of Hawaii," Kealoha Pisciotta says. "There are seven aquifers that are fed by the summit of Mauna Kea."

The people behind the telescope project have vowed to protect the aquifer, and promise to remove all liquid waste from the mountain.

"The Thirty Meter Telescope is, I think, the biggest jump forward in terms of observing capability for exploring the universe that we've had going all the way back to the first telescope that Galileo used," says Mike Bolte, an astronomy professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory is a consortium of two universities (University of California and CalTech) and four countries (Canada, Japan, India and China).

Construction of the telescope is expected to create about 300 jobs. About half that many people will staff the observatory once it's running. And the project has funded a workforce development program to help train engineers and computer specialists.

"That's to make sure that local folks have the opportunity to get these jobs at the observatory," Bolte says.

The island of Hawaii is currently dependent on the tourist and military industries. That's one reason that banana farmer Richard Ha supports the project.

"It's another industry," Ha says. "The Thirty Meter Telescope will bring $26 million annually into our economy."

Young people often have to leave the island to find work. Ha says, "If we could get more employment, the young folks would be able to stay home."

Earlier this week, protesters chanted outside the headquarters for the Thirty Meter Telescope in Pasadena, California.

Activist Pua Case said the Hawaiian culture is more valuable than the jobs and money the telescope would bring.

"We need to find our people better jobs, that their grandchildren will be proud of them for," Case says. "Not jobs that have destroyed our Hawaii and our way of life."

A legal challenge of the project is headed for Hawaii's Supreme Court.

The best part of waking up ... is caffeine

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:52
$10

The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it will mint a new $10 bill in 2020. But this time around, the bills will feature the face of a yet-to-be-chosen woman. With recent campaigns to get a woman's face on the $20 bill, we take a look at why it will be Hamilton, and not Jackson, who is replaced.

1.2 gigabytes

That's how much wireless data American smartphone users consume each month, on average. That's a lot more than anyone used back in 2007, Wired notes, when AT&T offered "unlimited data" plans to get customers in the door and trying out the then-new iPhone. Now those plans have come back to bite AT&T, which was hit with a $100 million fine from the FCC Wednesday for throttling data.

55 minutes

That's how long it takes Phillip Thomas, a communications technician for the County of Marin, to drive to work ... on a good day. That's twice as long as the national-average for a one way commute, and Thomas says his drive can take as long as 80 minutes. His problem is not unique — many workers in Marin find themselves priced out of property ownership in an area where the median price for a single family home is $1 million. In fact, 40 to 60 percent of the workforce in Marin commute from elsewhere.

4.5 miles

That's the gap between the 210 and 710 freeways in the Northeast Los Angeles suburbs. At some point the two roads were supposed to connect, and a tunnel linking them has been controversial for decades. It's another case study in our series on infrastructure, "The Weak Link."

$1.4 billion

That's how much will potentially be spent on a new observatory located on the Big Island of Hawaii. But plans for the Thirty Meter Telescope are controversial, as the building site — the mountain of Mauna Kea — has deep cultural importance for native Hawaiian, not to mention its role as the main watershed for the island. But the team behind the telescope promise to be environmentally conscious, and some Hawaiians welcome the economic boost the project could bring to the area.

190 milligrams

That how much caffeine is in an iced coffee from Caribou, and it's the strongest of the major chains — compare it to Seattle's Best's measly 45 milligrams. The Washington Post's Wonk blog has gathered up everything you need to know about coffee in 19 charts. Need an even stronger coffee data buzz? Here's a map of all the major coffee chains in the U.S.  

Fact Check: Could Jeb Bush Really Grow GDP At 4 Percent? It's Hard To See How.

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:03

Jeb Bush is saying he can create 4 percent GDP growth as president, but there's little evidence that a president really can cause that kind of growth alone.

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Istanbul Bookstore Caters To Syrian Refugees In Need Of A Good Read

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:02

The mere mention of Syrian refugees can conjure up images of families living in tents in the desert. But a bookstore in Istanbul serves as a cultural oasis and informal community center for Syrians.

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Why Israel Lets Qatar Give Millions To Hamas

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:01

Israel's long-standing policy has been to isolate Hamas. But in a rare exception, Israel does permit Qatar to send large sums for projects in Gaza, the territory run by Hamas.

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Raised Around Cry For Smaller Government, Rand Paul Carries The Torch

NPR News - Thu, 2015-06-18 01:00

In Lake Jackson, Texas where Paul grew up, he learned politics and his small-government philosophy around the Paul family's kitchen table.

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9 Dead In Shooting At Charleston, S.C., Church

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 20:59

Police are still searching for a suspect in the attack, described as a young white man. Charleston police chief Gregory Mullen says the shooting will be investigated as a hate crime.

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Report: Brian Williams Out As Anchor, But Will Stay With NBC

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 20:57

CNN and other news organizations report Williams will shift over to MSNBC, where he'll cover breaking news, while Lester Holt will remain as anchor of NBC Nightly News.

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It's Time To Pay Attention To 'Below-The-Belt' Cancers

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 14:47

That's another way of referring to gynecological cancers, which strike over 1 million women a year — and are on the rise in the developing world.

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Baby Bump? U.S. Birth Rate Rises

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 14:07

Nearly 4 million babies were born last year. Preliminary data from the CDC show that the U.S. birth rate increased last year for the first time since 2007.

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Worms Know What's Up — And Now Scientists Know Why

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 14:03

In what researchers say is a first, they've discovered the neuron in worms that detects Earth's magnetic field. They say the worms have microscopic antenna-shaped sensors to help orient themselves.

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L.A. installs water pipes that can survive disaster

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:58

Los Angeles water officials say we have a lot to learn from the Japanese when it comes to protecting water infrastructure from natural disaster. Japan has severe earthquakes, and for almost 40 years the Kubota Corporation, a competitor of Caterpillar, has made quake-resistant ductile-iron water pipes. Underground water pipes can break in an earthquake, cutting off water supply to streets and sometimes entire neighborhoods.

 Two years ago Los Angeles became the first city in the U.S. to install them. They’re designed so they don’t pull apart at the joints when the earth moves. Engineer Craig Davis, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s earthquake expert, says the pipes have withstood a 9.0 magnitude quake in Japan. “This pipe has survived 10 feet of ground movement and it hasn’t even leaked. So that’s very significant.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lowers a quake-resistant water pipe in downtown Los Angeles. (Credit: Vanessa Smith)

Los Angeles is testing the pipe in five locations around the city. The pipe is almost double the cost of conventional water pipe, so quake-proofing the entire city would be prohibitively expensive, but also probably unnecessary. Some parts of Los Angeles are much more prone to liquefaction than others. The idea, according to LADWP’s Marty Adams, is to use the Japanese-made pipes in the most critical and vulnerable places, including streets serving hospitals and key civic buildings. “When we have a pipe coming in for replacement, we’ll ask if it should be earthquake resistant.”

The city has over 7,000 miles of pipe and has already replaced some of the oldest, most corroded pipe with new, regular ductile iron pipe that’s “almost hermetically sealed” so the soil never touches the pipe, according to Adams. Last summer a 93-year-old water main under Sunset Boulevard ruptured and flooded part of the UCLA campus, becoming “the poster child of infrastructure needs,” Adams says.

A BMW is surrounded by water on Sunset Blvd., near the campus of UCLA after a water main rupture in 2014. (Jabin Botsford/Copyright © 2014. Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with Permission.) 

LADWP officials say quake-resistant pipes will help limit the number of water main breaks in "The Big One." Davis and Adams are acutely aware of what can happen to water infrastructure during an earthquake. They both were working for the department in 1994 when the Northridge quake hit. The city had to repair more than 1,500 breaks, Adams says, and according to the state Office of Emergency Services, over 48,000 homes were cut off from running water. Davis says the quake "changed his whole understanding" about infrastructure vulnerability. "It's essential we have a seismic resilience program."

Marketplace is teaming up with Waze to look at transportation infrastructure across the U.S. Click here to find out how you can be a part of our series and report bad infrastructure on your own commute. 

L.A. installs water pipes that can survive disaster

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:58

Los Angeles water officials say we have a lot to learn from the Japanese when it comes to protecting water infrastructure from natural disaster. Japan has severe earthquakes, and for almost 40 years the Kubota Corporation, a competitor of Caterpillar, has made quake-resistant ductile-iron water pipes. Underground water pipes can break in an earthquake, cutting off water supply to streets and sometimes entire neighborhoods.

 Two years ago Los Angeles became the first city in the U.S. to install them. They’re designed so they don’t pull apart at the joints when the earth moves. Engineer Craig Davis, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s earthquake expert, says the pipes have withstood a 9.0 magnitude quake in Japan. “This pipe has survived 10 feet of ground movement and it hasn’t even leaked. So that’s very significant.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lowers a quake-resistant water pipe in downtown Los Angeles. (Credit: Vanessa Smith)

Los Angeles is testing the pipe in five locations around the city. The pipe is almost double the cost of conventional water pipe, so quake-proofing the entire city would be prohibitively expensive, but also probably unnecessary. Some parts of Los Angeles are much more prone to liquefaction than others. The idea, according to LADWP’s Marty Adams, is to use the Japanese-made pipes in the most critical and vulnerable places, including streets serving hospitals and key civic buildings. “When we have a pipe coming in for replacement, we’ll ask if it should be earthquake resistant.”

The city has over 7,000 miles of pipe and has already replaced some of the oldest, most corroded pipe with new, regular ductile iron pipe that’s “almost hermetically sealed” so the soil never touches the pipe, according to Adams. Last summer a 93-year-old water main under Sunset Boulevard ruptured and flooded part of the UCLA campus, becoming “the poster child of infrastructure needs,” Adams says.

A BMW is surrounded by water on Sunset Blvd., near the campus of UCLA after a water main rupture in 2014. (Jabin Botsford/Copyright © 2014. Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with Permission.) 

LADWP officials say quake-resistant pipes will help limit the number of water main breaks in "The Big One." Davis and Adams are acutely aware of what can happen to water infrastructure during an earthquake. They both were working for the department in 1994 when the Northridge quake hit. The city had to repair more than 1,500 breaks, Adams says, and according to the state Office of Emergency Services, over 48,000 homes were cut off from running water. Davis says the quake "changed his whole understanding" about infrastructure vulnerability. "It's essential we have a seismic resilience program."

Marketplace is teaming up with Waze to look at transportation infrastructure across the U.S. Click here to find out how you can be a part of our series and report bad infrastructure on your own commute. 

Washington Berry Pickers Push For Elusive Union Contract

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:57

Only about 2 percent of farm workers in the county are part of a union, and few have successfully negotiated contracts with farms. Workers at the Sakuma Brothers Farm are trying for both.

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As Fitbit Goes Public, It Will Have To Outrun Competition

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:55

Amid the buzz around wearables, Fitbit heads to the NYSE. The fitness tracking firm faces challenges from smart watches, but it may get a boost from companies that want to keep tabs on workers.

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Third Man Arrested In New York Pressure Cooker Bomb Plot

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:22

Prosecutors say Fareed Mumuni, 21, was part of a plot to support ISIS. A criminal complaint also alleges he used a kitchen knife to try to stab an FBI agent who came to his Staten Island home.

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The Pope Is About To Weigh In On Climate Change. Not Everyone Is Happy

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:10

A number of conservative politicians have cast a dim eye on Pope Francis' statements on climate change. A teaching document coming out Thursday aims to make the environment a moral imperative.

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California says Uber driver was employee

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:00

  The California Labor Commission has ruled that a former Uber driver was an employee during her time with the company. Uber filed an appeal yesterday. But this probably won’t be the last battle fought on the front lines of the so-called gig economy.   “Got a car? Turn it into a money machine.” So says Uber’s website. Sounds tempting, huh? But Uber drivers pay for their own gas and their own insurance. They don’t get paid for waiting time.  

“And that is, of course, one of the reasons why Uber has been so successful is because they don’t carry these costs,” says Gerald Friedman, chair of the economics department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Friedman says the ruling could set a precedent for millions of independent workers around the country, “and it’s going to encourage suits like this in other states.”

He says over the years, the independent contractor workforce has grown, partly because employers don’t have to pay things like overtime or health benefits.

John-Paul Ferguson, who teaches strategy at Stanford’s business school, says if Uber drivers are considered employees, that means higher labor costs, and ultimately, “We would probably see that passed on as slightly higher prices to end customers.”

But that won’t kill Uber’s success, Ferguson says. It’ll just give them less of an advantage over regular cab companies. As to how this ruling might affect other app-based services like Airbnb or TaskRabbit?

“There’s going to be a lot of careful parsing of how different firms have treated the people who are using their apps to provide services to people,” he says.

Ferguson says it’ll probably depend on what kind of contracts exist between the firms and the service providers.  

   

The bond market does what it wants

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:58

Here's a reality check of sorts on the breathlessness with which we all — and by we, I mean us too — greet pronouncements from the Federal Reserve.

The bond market heard Fed Chair Janet Yellen speak today, and couldn't have cared less.

The often quoted 10-year Treasury note closed at a yield of about 2.3 percent — right smack where it opened before Yellen said a word.

California Labor Commission Rules Uber Driver Is An Employee, Not A Contractor

NPR News - Wed, 2015-06-17 12:58

An Uber driver in San Francisco will be paid more than $4,000 in expenses.

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