National / International News

Can community colleges cope with being free?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

President Barack Obama is expected to give a big boost to community colleges in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The President has proposed making tuition at two-year public colleges free for students in good standing. If the proposal passes Congress—and that’s a big if—can community colleges handle a surge in students?  

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The race to make the fastest supercomputer

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory may once again be home to the world’s fastest supercomputer. It was in 2012, but that title only lasted six months — then a computer in China took the top spot. But the U.S. recently put aside more than $400 million to keep itself in the race.

The supercomputer at Oak Ridge right now, called Titan, is the size of a basketball court and sounds like a jet engine. It can make 27 quadrillion — that’s 27 followed by 15 zeros — calculations per second.

“It’s almost like it’s alive,” says Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. “It has a pulse to it. You can feel it in your body when you walk in the room.”

These kinds of machines are used to do incredibly complex simulations of real-world things, such as analyzing weather patterns over time or predicting new chemical combinations in drugs. Faster computers mean more scientific breakthroughs.

But Bland says like any computer, whether it’s Titan or your personal laptop, will be basically obsolete in a few years.

“Because we can go out and buy a new machine for less than it costs to pay the maintenance of the old machine,” he says.

The U.S. has been a leader in supercomputing for decades, and staying up-to-date and ahead of the pack is pricy. Oak Ridge’s next computer, called Summit, could cost up to $280 million.

Yet Congress has funded supercomputing with gusto. In November, the Department of Energy pledged $425 million to help build Summit and a computer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) says it’s a priority that stretches across party lines.

“This is a case where the Obama administration and I and others in Congress since 2008 have had the same goal: We wanted to double funding for supercomputing,” he says.

Alexander gives two reasons: First, national security — some federally funded machines manage the country’s nuclear weapons.

Second, private companies can apply for time on the computers to develop products more quickly. For example, Procter and Gamble has used Oak Ridge’s Titan to research how the skin might react to its products.

And then there’s something that has non-monetary value: pride.

“It’s like being number one in football,” Alexander says. “We like the idea of having the fastest supercomputer in the world, and we have had that at Oak Ridge.”

Summit is expected to go live in 2017, but Oak Ridge isn’t calling it the fastest yet — By that time, some other country may be building one that’s even faster.


Gasoline prices are all over the map

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 02:00

You hear about the average national gasoline price, but it’s often different from the station down the block. So why are prices so inconsistent from station to station, not to mention state to state?

A gallon of gasoline costs about 50 percent more in New York than Missouri. Taxes vary by as much as 35 cents a gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Geography plays a role, too. States like Missouri and Oklahoma are near lots of refineries, and those refineries have pipeline access to cheaper crude supplies from the U.S. and Canada. Finally, state and local regulations produce many different varieties of gasoline, with different ethanol blends, octane requirements and emissions standards. 


Aldi heirs win art dealer damages

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:54
The heirs to the Aldi supermarket empire in Germany win €19m in damages in a civil case over an art dealer's purchase of paintings and cars.

Dog in sinkhole 'ok', says golf club

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:51
A golf club receives concerned requests from pet owners about the fate of a dog photographed in a sinkhole that appeared on its course.

Gordon Ramsay loses court battle

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:48
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay loses a High Court battle over being held personally liable for the rent on a London pub he bought.

Teacher dies after sledging accident

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:42
A woman who was seriously injured in a sledging accident in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park at the weekend dies in hospital.

How Melbourne made Amelie Mauresmo

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:39
Controversy, coming out and career-defining moments - why a return to the Australian Open holds no fear for Amelie Mauresmo.

Bahraini opposition leader charged

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:35
Bahraini opposition leader Ali Salman will go on trial next week on charges of "promoting political change using illegal forceful means and threats".

Disappointing economic growth in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:30
7.4 percent

With a low not seen in a quarter century, China's economic growth dropped to 7.4 percent in 2014. As reported by the WSJ, some economists predict that disappointing numbers from 2014 are just the start of a global deceleration of growth.


That's about how many times Ronald Reagan used the word "freedom" for every million words in his State of the Union addresses, the Atlantic reported. He also lead the pack on "god." The Atlantic has an automatic tool showing frequently-used words by president.

50 percent

You may have noticed disparities in gas prices from station to station, but what about state to state? For example, a gallon of gasoline costs about 50 percent more in New York than Missouri. Turns out, there's a lot of factors that play into why you'll pay more or less for a tank of gas in different states.

46 percent

President Barack Obama's approval rating heading into Tuesday's State of the Union address. It's a bump up from the past year, the New York Times' Upshot reported, and it'll become more important in the homestretch of Obama's second term and looking to Democrats chances in 2016.

27 quadrillion

That’s 27 followed by 15 zeros, and it's also the number of calculations per second the Titan supercomputer at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can compute. And it's not even the fastest in the world. That title is currently held by a supercomputer in China. It's why Congress has begun funding supercomputing with gusto, pledging over $400 million to building Oak Ridge's next supercomputer.


That's how many of the world's richest people it would take to match the collective wealth of the poorer half of the population, Quartz reported. That's a sharp drop from 2010, when you would have needed 388 super-rich to do the same.


Jobs risk at aircraft engine plant

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:25
Up to 100 jobs could be lost at the GE Aviation factory in Wales following a drop in business.

Tributes to Corrie's Anne Kirkbride

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:24
The cast of Coronation Street lead tributes to actress Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow in the ITV soap, after her death at the age of 60.

Odegaard: Europe's next wonderkid

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:12
Martin Odegaard is coveted by Europe's top clubs - here are 10 things you need to know about this 16-year-old sensation.

Boost UK-Iraqi Kurdistan ties - MPs

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:12
The UK must reinforce its diplomatic presence in Iraq's Kurdistan Region to help counter Islamist extremism, MPs say.

IRS Budget Cuts May Make For An Unpleasant Tax Filing Season

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:06

The IRS commissioner warns that congressionally mandated budget cuts are hurting the agency's ability to crack down on tax cheats, process timely refunds and even staff its help lines.

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Man remanded over Tesco murder bid

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 01:05
A man charged with attempting to murder a shopper at a Tesco store in Flintshire appears in court.

Coen brothers to head Cannes jury

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 00:58
Joel and Ethan Coen, the award-winning directors of No Country for Old Men and Fargo, will jointly head the 2015 Cannes Film Festival jury, organisers say.

Four face charges over Paris attacks

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 00:47
Four men are to appear before a judge in Paris on suspicion of supporting one of the gunmen behind the Islamist attacks in France that killed 17.

Ex Dragon quits uni over rape claim

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 00:46
An original member of TV's Dragons' Den quits as new chancellor of Teesside University after being arrested on suspicion of rape.

In pictures: Corrie's Deirdre

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 00:44
Pictures from the career of Anne Kirkbride