National / International News

1 Million Net Neutrality Comments Filed, But Will They Matter?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:54

The last time the FCC saw this much public interest was after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction. But research shows comments aren't likely to sway the agency's policy decision.

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For These Vegans, Masculinity Means Protecting The Planet

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:53

A group of men in New York are challenging the stereotype that eating meat signifies manliness. Instead, they say that manhood can be proven by caring for the planet, not dominating it.

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Prior takes break from England duty

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:52
England wicketkeeper Matt Prior is to take a break from cricket for the rest of the summer to recover from injuries.

High-Performing Charter Schools May Improve Students' Health

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:43

People who graduate from high school are healthier than people who drop out. To find out why, researchers looked at whether students who got into top charter schools were avoiding health risks.

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4 ideas from Nest CEO Tony Fadell

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:40

Tony Fadell is the founder and CEO of Nest, the company seeking to reinvent household techonolgy. The big idea... is an energy-saving, smart thermostat.

Fadell, a veteran of Apple., founded Nest Labs in 2010, which was acquired by Google earlier this year for $3.2 billion.

There are plenty of ideas floating around in Fadell's head, but here are four that came up in his interview with Kai Ryssdal:

Idea: We give too much power to one little switch.

There are about 250,000,000 U.S. thermostats operating in residential and light commercial buildings. The industry standard, Honeywell thermostat, has been around since 1953.

"When we look at the data," Fadell said, "less than 10 percent of those were ever programmed to save any energy."

Fadell said he was taken aback by how much power we give to the little on-and-off switches on the thermostats common in most homes: "[They're] controlling what amounts to be 50-to-60 percent of your total energy consumption for a year.. . That's really where the genesis of this whole idea started."

Idea: Making products people love matters.

"If you want to change people's behaviors or the way they think about something, you have to change the exterior," he says. "If you look at...thermostats on the wall today, they're ignored. People don't want to program them, people don't really use them." 

Fadell said Nest wanted to make sure the thermostats they were creating were eye-catching and engaging.

Their plan? Get customers "intrigued — that's how you grab them — through something that looks great, and then, ultimately, works great." 

Idea: Nest isn't a quick-hit, one-product company.

Fadell feels like it will take for him ten years to consider Nest (Nest Labs) profitable. And they have plenty of things to work on: Nest not only has the thermostat, but smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The company also they just closed their acquisition of Dropcam.

"We could be profitable if we wanted to stop, but we have very, very big ambitions. This is a ten year kind of investment that we're making."

Idea: The disruption-innovation era isn't over yet.

In response to the idea that innovation and disruption are overrated, Fadell said that's simply not true.

Fadell said one innovation or disruption has the ability to unseat a market leader overnight - think Sony, Nokia and Blackberry.

"Look where Sony used to be just 15 years ago," he said. "These kinds of disrutptive techologies allow us to create all kinds of new businesses and new services. Look at Uber."

He said these kinds of disruptions are innovations that are packaged well enough for consumers to understand and embrace. 

"I think we're only going to see more of these types of changes coming, not less and less." 

Humans make a house for sale feel more like home

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:40

About a year ago, Cora Blinsman’s mom passed away. Needless to say, it was a really hard on her. She started taking stock of her own life. Blinsman had been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for 20 years, and she was feeling burnt out. She needed space.

So she got a lot of it.

Blinsman applied to be a home manager with Showhomes, a nationwide home staging company. Basically, she pays a monthly fee to live in a really nice house for sale in one of the nicest upscale communities in Chapel Hill, N.C. Her latest is currently going for $430,000. It's got four bedrooms, two baths. The kitchen has two cooking surfaces; gas and electric. The backyard has three descending layers of gardens.

The idea behind Showhomes is that when someone lives in a home, it just feels warmer. More attractive to buyers.

"You’ve got your slippers by the bed," Blinsman said. "I mean, I kept it very neat, but you could tell somebody lived there."

Fred Pierson is the franchise manager for Showhomes in the Chapel Hill area. Pierson says the home manager method is the company’s most effective service. Seventy percent of the homes with managers living in them get an offer.

"Buyers are smart. They can tell when they’re walking into a staged home," said Pierson.

These are not always easy homes to sell — they’re often worth more than $1 million. The home Blinsman is in had been on the market a year before she moved in two months ago. Now, she pays $1,100 a month for a home that would normally have mortgage payments two or three times that amount. So, it’s a good deal. But there are drawbacks.

"If home managers are doing this just for the savings, it will not work," said Pierson. "It has to be a lifestyle they are willing to compromise."

For example, Blinsman only lived in her first home for five weeks before it sold. Some managers can move up to five times a year. And there are rules.

"They’re very basic," said Pierson. "You make your bed every day. Towels are not hung up over the shower, they’re placed in the dryer... You know, pick your stuff up and make sure it looks nice... The stuff I was always telling my kids," said Blinsman.

Also, home managers can't keep anything too personal lying around. No religious insignia. No family photos. One of Pierson's homes had a mural of the Dallas Cowboys up on the wall. Showhomes needed to remove it because there's always the chance someone looking to buy a home might love the house, but hate the Cowboys.

Blinsman says the rules haven’t been so bad. On the contrary, she says, being in this kind of home at this kind of time has been really good for her. Living in a wealthy community has opened her eyes to an entirely different lifestyle.

"I can be a part of the community and I can fit in pretty well," she explained.  "But if I had a little broken down car, I could never drive through this neighborhood. I’d be like, 'Oh my God, they’re gonna want to throw me out.'”

This is the real trick behind Showhomes. It’s not just about giving those looking for a home a look into someone else’s life – it’s about doing the same for the home manager. Giving them a chance to be someone else, if only for a little while.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story used the phrase "buyers" to describe situations home managers find themselves as part of their arrangement with Showhomes, as opposed to those looking to buy a home that is on the market. The text has been clarified throughout the story.

Drug gang man guilty of knife assault

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:31
A member of a Somalian gang of drug dealers is found guilty of assault to severe injury with a knife.

EnergyStar keeps consumer trust, despite bumps

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:29

Whirlpool Corporation is reportedly threatening to back out of the EnergyStar program unless Congress grants it— and other manufacturers— immunity from consumer lawsuits demanding compensation for EnergyStar products that don’t measure up. A voluntary program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, EnergyStar’s credibility took a hit four years ago, when the Government Accountability Office successfully scammed it into certifying bogus products.

The report was a doozy. GAO investigators submitted an application for a gasoline-powered alarm clock. It got listed. They submitted a “room air cleaner,” and linked to a picture of an electric space-heater with a feather duster attached. That got listed too.

Photo: Government Accountability Office

“Really, EPA wasn’t looking at every application,” says Shanon Baker-Branstetter, an attorney with Consumers Union. “The manufacturers were self-certifying.”

EPA made changes, says Ann Bailey, who runs the EnergyStar products program for EPA. “Since then, we’ve dramatically improved the rigor of the certification process and we’ve instituted third-party certification.”

Manufacturers now submit their products to an EPA-approved lab, like Underwriters Laboratories, which signs off. The third-parties also pull a few products off the shelf every year to see if they measure up to the claims. That led to 62 products getting disqualified last year.

“I think EPA has done a good job addressing the concerns that GAO had,” says Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Nadel thinks the current standards are high enough that he supports the proposed legislation, which would protect companies like Whirlpool from some consumer lawsuits, in cases where EPA has done a review.

“I think consumers tend to trust EPA,” says Nadel. Sales figures collected by EPA seem to back him up. Even in the years after the GAO report, the number of EnergyStar products sold continued to increase.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story gave the incorrect name for the Government Accountability Office in a caption. The text has been corrected.

Key moments in Griffin's leadership

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:26
Key moments from Nick Griffin's years leading the BNP

Tenuous Progress At Jet's Crash Site, As Clashes Flare Close By

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:23

The first investigators have reached the crash site of the Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, fighting flared in Donetsk between separatists and armed groups supporting the government.

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Life Under 'The Islamic State': Order In The Shadow Of Terror

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

The Sunni extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State is solidifying its hold on the Iraqi city of Mosul. As it does so, the group is building a track record for how it actually governs. NPR's Leila Fadel offers a glimpse of what life is like under the group's rule.

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By Putting Interrogations On Tape, FBI Opens Window Into Questioning

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies will soon begin recording the interrogations they conduct. It's a reversal of decades of policy and, the Obama administration says, a demonstration that agents act appropriately, without coercing suspects. Some big loopholes remain in the policy, though.

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Israel Targets Tunnels, But Hits Elsewhere — Including Gaza Hospital

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

As the Israeli military expands its assault in the Gaza Strip, casualty numbers continue to grow. At last count, more than 550 Palestinians — mostly civilians — and 25 Israeli soldiers have died. On Monday, an Israeli strike hit a hospital in central Gaza, killing people in the intensive care unit.

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In Days After Jet's Downing, A Dark Cloud Hangs Over Holland

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

Nearly 200 Dutch citizens died in the Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine. To learn about the country's response to the tragedy, Audie Cornish speaks with Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times.

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In Days After Jet's Crash, A Dark Cloud Hangs Over Holland

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

Nearly 200 Dutch citizens died in the Malaysian airliner crash over Ukraine. To find out more about the country's response to the tragedy, Audie Cornish speaks with Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times.

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Boston Bombing Suspect's Friend Is Convicted On Obstruction Charges

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of impeding the investigation into the attack. Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty Monday of obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

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Obama Signs Order To Protect Against Anti-LGBT Bias

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

President Obama has signed an executive order to ban bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees among federal contractors.

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GOP Marks Dodd-Frank's 4th Birthday With Calls For Repeal

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

It's been four years since Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law. On the anniversary of this sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, Republicans have released a report that argues the law falls short on one of its main tasks.

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Can The Egyptian Regime Still Play Peace Broker In Gaza Strife?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-21 12:17

Violence continues to escalate in the Gaza Strip. According to many foreign observers, Egypt must play a key role in any peace agreement between Israel and Hamas. To find out why, Robert Siegel speaks with Michele Dunne, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Tributes to A470 crash death victim

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-21 11:58
Family of 36-year-old Joanne Smart from Cardiff say they are devastated following her death after a crash on the A470 on Sunday.
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