National / International News

Week in pictures: 27 September - 3 October 2014

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:13
Some of the best news photos from around the world

The Birth And Afterlife Of Israel's Precious Etrog Fruit

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:09

An odd, beautiful and persnickety citrus fruit has its big moment during the Jewish fall festival of Sukkot. But then what do you do with it?

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10 things we didn't know last week

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:09
There is a right way to eat chocolate, and other topical nuggets.

Why are North Dakota's oilfields so dangerous?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:05

North Dakota is the most dangerous state in the country for oil and gas workers.

But that fact hasn't gotten a lot of attention until now. Governor Jack Dalrymple announced to Inside Energy that he's planning to bring together the state’s top safety officials to look into fatalities in the industry, and to see what they can do better.

To understand why the oil and gas industry here is so dangerous, I went to the heart of the boom: Williston.

Here, the streets are crawling with trucks — semis hauling water and muddy pick-ups carrying oil field workers. DeAnn Clark watches the traffic from behind the counter at Arnie's Motorcycles, where oil and gas workers make up about a third of the business.

"They just kind of tear off out into the street," she said. "'Oh, that one will be back,' we’re thinking, all wrecked up. And sometimes they are."

This culture of risk-taking contributes to the high fatality rate in the oil and gas industry around the country. According to a recent report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, half of the oil and gas workers who died in vehicle accidents weren’t wearing seat belts. Teresa Van Deusen sees it all the time in her job as safety specialist for WPX Energy, a large oil company here.

"Workers, especially new workers, have the go-get em kind of attitude," she said. "They think, 'Oh I can do that. I can do this little shortcut.’ Well, when you’re working with the pressures and dangers that are inherent to the oil field, you can’t do shortcuts."

Learn more about how Inside Energy sorted through the data for the "Dark Side of the Boom" series.

I met Teresa at a meeting of industry safety professionals put on by the MonDaks Safety Network, an all-volunteer organization founded in Texas in 2003 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  and members of the oil and gas industry to address injuries and deaths among workers. Many people at this meeting told me inexperience played a large role in the state's high fatality rate.

"The experience level of our entry-level employee is significantly lower than the individuals or companies I visit with in Texas or Colorado," said Scott Rogers, an industrial hygienist and occupational safety consultant from Bozeman, Montana who works with oil companies in the Bakken shale formation. Rogers said the problem extends to workplace safety professionals, too.

Dennis Schmitz is the head of MonDaks, and he said another part of the problem is that most oil and gas companies are unlikely to ever have a safety inspection in North Dakota -- even though OSHA has hired more inspectors recently and created specific programs that target the oil industry.

"You probably almost have better odds of winning the lottery than getting a visit from a regulatory agency," he said.

But according to Schmitz, the root of the problem is that in onshore drilling operations, big oil companies aren’t directly responsible for workplace safety. They contract out most every dangerous jobs on an oil well to smaller companies.

When I asked Teresa Van Deusen of WPX Energy if there was there anything companies like hers could do to help smaller contractors be safer, she said she wasn't sure how to answer the question. "We do everything that we can. Obviously that is the drilling company's employee."

WPX, she said, follows all the OSHA standards and expects the contractors to do the same. But ultimately, the contractor is responsible for training its employees.

At the state level, North Dakota has many worker safety programs in place. Companies with good safety records enjoy lower premiums on their workers compensation insurance and there's grant money for safety training. According to Governor Jack Dalyrmple, these incentives are "a better approach to workforce safety" than stricter enforcement OSHA.

"We feel the programs we have in place are working," he said.

Still, in my interview with the Governor, Dalrymple said he would ask the directors of the state's Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol and Workforce Safety and Insurance (the state's workers compensation board) to study the worker fatality problem in North Dakota's oil and gas industry.

"It's certainly appropriate for a governor to bring focus to something like that," he said. "And the way we would do that is through my regular contact with my cabinet members. I would just turn to them and say, I want a report about what we’re doing about fatalities in the workforce and I want to know if there’s anyway we can do it better. And I think because of this interview, I will probably be doing that at our next meeting.

This is the second article in a series, "Dark Side of the Boom," produced by Inside Energy, a public media collaboration focused on America's energy issues.

Radiographers to strike over NHS pay

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:05
Radiographers vote in favour of industrial action, potentially affecting X-ray and ultrasound services around the UK.

Question Time apologises over Alice

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:04
The BBC's Question Time apologises after being criticised by the sister of Alice Gross for a debate linking the murder of the 14-year-old and immigration.

Somali militants 'leaving key base'

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 07:04
Al-Qaeda-aligned militants are withdrawing from their last major stronghold on Somalia's southern coast, residents in Barawe tell the BBC.

VIDEO: The car that's powered by air

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:54
At the Paris Motor Show, Theo Leggett looks at the Peugeot 208 hybrid air - a concept car that brings a new meaning to the term "gas guzzler".

What You Need To Know For Medicare Open Enrollment

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:51

There will be fewer plans to pick from this time around. But people can still expect plenty of options for prescriptions drugs and privately run insurance through Medicare Advantage.

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VIDEO: A look at the super-luxurious Q80

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:47
Among the cars grabbing the headlines at the Paris Motor Show is the Q80, a super-luxurious concept car produced by Infiniti.

How Tough Is The Mortgage Market? Even Bernanke Can't Get Refinanced

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:45

The former Fed chair told an audience in Chicago that he was unable to refinance his home loan, adding that lenders "may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions."

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VIDEO: Wedgwood treasures saved by appeal

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:44
The Wedgwood Museum collection has been saved for the nation after reaching its £15.75m target in a month.

US unemployment rate at six-year low

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:38
The US economy added 248,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate dipped to a six-year low of 5.9%, official figures show.

Canada Identifies Ship Found From 1846 Arctic Expedition

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:26

The announcement that a vessel from the doomed Franklin team had been found came last month, but now archaeologists say they've determined that it's the HMS Erebus.

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Another day, another tablet?

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:24
Hugh Pym asks if medication is the solution to problem drinking

Muslims In Minnesota Weigh Whether To Expel Or Engage At-Risk Youth

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:24

After several young people left to join ISIS, leaders are considering which approach to take with marginalized youth. Boston's experience with the marathon bombing suspects may be instructive.

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Catalans vow to hold referendum

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:22
Catalan leaders agree to push ahead with a referendum on independence from Spain, defying a constitutional block by Madrid.

Messi to face tax evasion trial

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:10
Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi is to face trial for alleged tax evasion, a Spanish judge rules, rejecting an appeal to drop charges.

Uni rankings fall prompts concern

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:10
Students at Aberystwyth University express concern after the institution sees a dramatic fall in its place in UK league table guides.

Eurozone economy 'stuck in a rut'

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 06:09
A closely-watched survey shows the eurozone economy 'is stuck in a rut', but retail sales come in stronger than expected.
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