National / International News

Young, Idealistic And Transsexual: Speaking Out In Africa

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:55

Tampose Mapotheng was born a girl but now lives as a man — a difficult choice in Lesotho. He's spent the summer in the U.S., learning to be a more effective advocate for the LGBTI community.

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Top Khmer Rouge leaders guilty

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:52
Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal convicts two top Khmer Rouge leaders of crimes against humanity and jails them for life.

Former BBC IT head unfairly dismissed

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:50
John Linwood, the former BBC technology chief sacked over the failed £100m Digital Media Initiative was unfairly dismissed, says an employment tribunal.

Gangster's son is jailed for murder

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:33
The son of a murdered gangland enforcer has been jailed for life for killing a friend in Shettleston, Glasgow.

DRD budget cuts lead to job losses

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:15
The BBC learns that a Belfast firm is laying-off 11 staff as a result of Stormont's budget cuts.

VIDEO: Will Russian sanctions hit shoppers?

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:14
Steve Rosenberg asks if Russia's ban on food imports from the EU, US and other Western countries in response to sanctions over Ukraine will affects shoppers.

West Africa erects Ebola blockades

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:07
Liberian soldiers set up an Ebola blockade for the capital as troops in Sierra Leone seal off two districts to stop the virus spreading.

Clegg: Mental health 'needs boost'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:02
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urges mental health research to be given the same attention as physical health, and makes a manifesto pledge to pour £50m into research.

Familiar Name Returns To Missouri Ballot

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:02

Jay Ashcroft, the son of the former U.S. attorney general — and governor and senator — is following in his father's footsteps by running for office.

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Butterfly Shifts From Shabby To Chic With A Tweak Of The Scales

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:58

By playing with the physics of wing color, scientists get a glimpse into how butterflies get their colors, and how quickly they can evolve from brown to brilliant.

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How Texas can live with lower carbon emissions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:49

When the Environmental Protection Agency released its Clean Power Plan, its proposal for regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants, every state got its own target for reducing emissions. The EPA's plan creates some challenges for Texas, but it also creates major opportunities for the second-biggest state.

The biggest challenge, before and after the EPA's plan: air conditioning.  Texas summers are murder without it, and the state’s grid has to be ready for demand to spike quickly on hot days.

On a summer day, eight technicians manage that challenge from a huge, dim room near Austin. The silence is deafening, and the visual stimulus is overwhelming, with most of the light coming from computer monitors — 10 or so on each desk, plus the big board — 50 feet wide, with maps, charts, weather projections, all shifting in real time.  

This is the control room at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — ERCOT for short. It looks a little like something out of the TV show “24,” but a lot quieter. "It’s not as crazy, if you will, as what you would see on an episode of '24,'" says Dan Woodfin, ERCOT's operations director.  "Even when things get a little hectic, you d0n't hear a lot of voices raised." When managing an electric grid that serves about 24 million people, he says, it helps to keep a cool head.

ERCOT sends signals to different power sources — coal, gas, wind and nuclear — to turn on and off at just the right time to keep the air conditioning running for those 24 million people. Each source costs a different amount to run and takes a different amount of time to turn on and off.

Near Houston, Steve Hedge watches ERCOT’s signals at a giant power plant he manages for NRG Energy. The plant has three different types of generators.  

First, coal: "The coal units are low-cost generation," Hedge says. "They run all the time, 24 hours a day."

Next come some big natural gas generators. "Gas is a lot more expensive fuel than coal, right now, so it costs more to make that power," says Hedge. "Those units start and stop every day during the summertime."

But they don’t start on a dime. Three hours, minimum. So what if the temperature suddenly spikes?

That’s where another kind of natural gas generator comes in — a peaker.  "This unit can respond to those short peaks," says Hedge. "Start real quick, provide the power, and then shut off." It’s less efficient and more expensive to run, but it comes in handy on hot days.

So, Steve Hedge, his counterparts at other plants and ERCOT are all working with two variables: Cost and timing.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan introduces a third: Carbon emissions. The coal generators are cheap to run because coal is cheap, but they emit more carbon dioxide. 

One way or another reducing emissions will raise electricity prices, probably by some switching from coal to less-cheap gas. "About a billion dollars a year in increased costs for energy," says John Larsen, an analyst with the Rhodium Group, which issued a study on the Clean Power Plan in July. He says that billion-dollar bill, spread across Texas and three next-door states, comes with a big upside for the region: "Anywhere from two or three billion dollars a year, up to 16 or 17."

Those billions will come from pumping more natural gas, because lots of states — not just Texas — will have to do some switching from coal to gas. "That increases demand for natural gas, so parts of the country that produce natural gas do quite well," says Larsen. "In fact, Texas is one of the largest gas-producing states in the country." Meaning that Texas will see more upside than most.  

A construction project behind one of Hedge’s coal generators could point to a second big advantage for Texas under the EPA's proposal. NRG is starting to build a system to capture the carbon dioxide. "We’re going to take that CO2, we’re going to put it in a pipeline, and inject it in an oilfield south of the plant," says Hedge.

The project, called Petra Nova, combines two things:  First, carbon capture, the part happening here. That's technology the EPA would like to see used more, but it’s expensive.

The second part pays the bill, by putting that carbon to lucrative use in the oilfield. Pump carbon into a low-performing oilfield, and it will pump out more oil, a technique called "enhanced oilfield recovery." Arun Banskota, president of NRG subsidiary Petra Nova, says the oilfield produces about 500 barrels daily right now. "Once we get carbon into that same field," he says, "we will be producing about 15,000 barrels a day." That's 30 times as much.

Banskota hopes to repeat the process elsewhere. He says there are lots of Texas oilfields where carbon dioxide could help.  To hit all of them, he says, "You need approximately one hundred projects of the type we’re doing right now. The potential is huge, and the opportunity is huge."

It's an opportunity, however, that most states don't have access to. Kentucky, for example, has lots of carbon dioxide from burning coal, but not so many oilfields.

Thursday's gossip column

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:40
Manchester United chase Fredy Guarin and Mehdi Benatia, Arsenal pursue Shakhtar's Douglas Costa, plus more.

VIDEO: New Doctor will be 'fun and mysterious'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:39
Peter Capaldi has been meeting fans in Cardiff ahead of his debut as Doctor Who.

The Murky Motives Of The Afghan Soldier Who Shot A U.S. General

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:18

The soldier resented the Taliban, according to fellow soldiers. But he was apparently upset that male British troops were training female Afghan soldiers, they say.

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House Calls Keep People Out Of Nursing Homes And Save Money

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:08

In the case of an elderly patient with multiple medical problems, having a team of health workers deliver care to the home can be cheaper than expensive stays in nursing homes and emergency rooms.

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Air Algerie black box 'unusable'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:07
The voice recorder from a black box of the Air Algerie flight that crashed in Mali last month is damaged and unintelligible, French investigators say.

Pistorius told 'snowball of lies'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:00
South African athlete Oscar Pistorius is accused of being a "deceitful witness" as his murder trial resumes for closing arguments.

Google announces it will reward secure websites

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:00

Google has announced a move it hopes will push websites to become more secure in the wake of headlines about a Russian crime ring collecting more than 1 billion internet passwords, not to mention ongoing revelations about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance of some online activities.

The company said Wednesday it will start rewarding websites that use encryption by giving them slightly higher search rankings.

If you don’t know what an encrypted website looks like already, try the following: go to the top of your web browser where the url address is displayed, and look for a picture of a little padlock.

If you see a padlock (and/or the letters “https” in front of the “www”), that means the website you are on is secure and encrypted. If you don't see those signs, the site is probably not encrypted.

Most e-commerce sites already have the little padlock.

“But any of the sites that are just content sites -- that you don't have to log in to, that you just read -- most of those sites probably do not,” says Barry Schwartz, of Search Engine Land, a website about internet search.

In fact, Schwartz's own website does not currently have that little padlock. Neither does Marketplace, the New York Times (with the exception of pages devoted to subscriber account information), or for that matter, my woefully out-of-date personal wordpress site.

It’s not that hard for a web developer to convert an unencrypted site into an encrypted one, says Schwartz. But it can take time and money to make sure the process is done right, especially for sites with a lot of existing content.

Google's decision to boost search results for sites that take these steps adds a bit more incentive.

That’s a good thing, says Roger Kay of tech research firm Endpoint Technologies, because even if you are just browsing content, an unsecure link can leave your computer more vulnerable to hackers.

“They can take it over, they can turn it in to part of bot net, they can fish around in it for passwords and things that lead to money,” Kay says.

Even an https website that has that little padlock can never be 100 percent secure, he says. But encryption measures definitely help.

 

 

VIDEO: Dixons Carphone unveils new stores

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 06:49
The first PC World and Currys stores to feature Carphone Warehouse outlets have opened after the completion of a £3.8bn merger.

Major fire forces people from homes

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-07 06:48
A major fire destroys a former factory, the businesses inside and forces the evacuation of more than 200 homes in Leicester.
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