National / International News

The Santa Barbara oil spill that changed history

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:00

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency over a coastal oil spill, which dumped as much as 20,000 gallons into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara on Tuesday. This is not the first spill in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara was the site of the world’s first offshore oil drilling back in 1896. In 1969, it was also the site of our nation’s biggest oil spill, up to that point, when some three million gallons spewed from an offshore rig.

"I think it was seared in the memories of all of us who grew up here in southern California, and I think it was seared in the consciousness of most Americans," says Zed Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles County supervisor.

Given the value of the Channel Islands and the Santa Barbara coast as an environmental and economic resource, drilling for oil there didn’t make sense in 1969, he says, and it doesn’t today.

“You can get oil in a lot of places. You cannot get more beaches, you cannot get more marine life.”

The 1969 spill, along with the burning of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, seeded the modern environmental movement, and the creation of groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council a year later in 1970.

Joel Reynolds is the Western Director of the NRDC.

“It led to the drafting and enactment of a whole series of federal environmental laws that today we take for granted,” Reynolds says. “Things like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, The Coastal Zone Management Act and on and on and on."

Reynolds says it’s unfortunate that lessons of the first spill still haven’t been learned.

"My reaction, my immediate reaction was—not again!"

This week’s spill is much smaller than the one in 1969, which itself was smaller than the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago.

But more drilling is on the way. This year the Obama administration announced plans to issue new oil and gas leases along the southeast Atlantic coast, starting in 2017.

CVS seeks to buy Omnicare

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:00

If you're in the business of filling and managing prescription drugs, you probably want to get as close as possible to some of your potentially biggest customers: folks in nursing homes.

No surprise, then, that CVS Health is snapping up Omnicare, the nation's leading provider of pharmacy services for long-term care facilities. The deal, valued at nearly $13 billion, including debt, is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

“This is a really strategic deal for CVS Health,” says Dan Mendelson, chief executive of the consulting company Avalere Health.

Mendelson says with the American population aging, it makes sense for CVS to want a foothold in the markets served by Omnicare, which has 160 locations in 47 states.

“The seniors in these facilities are sometimes taking upwards of 10 medications,” Mendelson says.

When those medications don't mix well together, or when people take too little or too much of a medication, they can get really sick and even die. CVS could help seniors in long-term care avoid those health disasters, says Joel Hay, Professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy at the University of Southern California. 

Hay says CVS has sophisticated systems to manage drug use.

“If they can bring these into the long-term care arena, senior living arena, there's a very good opportunity to dramatically improve health,” he says.

CVS might also be able to use the greater economies of scale from its acquisition of Omnicare to buy drugs at cheaper prices. It will get more customers, after all, says Albert Wertheimer, a professor of Temple University's School of Pharmacy. But Wertheimer doubts CVS would actually pass those cost savings to its customers.

“Well, that would be nice,” he says, “but I've learned to be skeptical over the years.”

Wertheimer says the more likely beneficiary would be CVS’s own bottom line.

Jack Dorsey: Twitter co-founder, Square CEO, punk

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:00

You have about a 0.00006 percent chance of starting a billion-dollar business. Jack Dorsey didn't just start one — he's got two.

Dorsey was 29 when he launched Twitter with his pals Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass back in 2006. His handle, @Jack, is Twitter's first personal account.

Since then, he has launched Square, a mobile payment company that he hopes will change the way we pay for thngs. You've probably used Square at an independently-owned store or restaurant. It's a little white minimalist card reader that plugs right into an iPad or iPhone. The company has also gotten into organizing, and even lending. It's hoping to be a one-stop-shop for small business owners.

Dorsey talked about Square and his life since Twitter at Dig Wines, a wine shop in San Francisco — where, by the way, Square readers are at the cash register.

Square’s “aha!” moment:

It was really our founding moment when our co-founder Jim McKelvey, who was my boss when I was 15 years old back in St. Louis Missouri, called me and said he just lost a sale of his glass art because he couldn’t accept a credit card. And he was calling me on his iPhone which was a super computer… We have all this power in our hands, but why couldn’t we do a simple thing, or something that seemed as simple, as accepting a piece of plastic? Which is far more convenient than cash, far more convenient than a check. Why isn’t that possible? The company is an answer to that question.

On how Square works:

The insight really came from looking at the back of the credit card and the back of the credit card is a magstripe. And a magstripe is really the same technology that a cassette tape is. It’s audio. If you listen to the audio on a magstripe, it sounds like a squirrel screeching really loudly. You know, if you put a read head next to that, then you can decode that audio into numbers and those numbers you can send up to processors. All that was required was an audio jack that didn’t just put sound out but also had mic in, and every iPhone at that time had a mic in ring that we just plugged into. Suddenly, we were able to push that audio into and decode those into numbers.

On what he does as a CEO:

First, assembling the right team. (That means) hiring, certainly, but it also means parting ways with folks that just aren’t cutting it…making sure that we’re paying attention to that team dynamic and [that] it’s collaborative and it’s really challenging itself. Number two is making sure decisions are being made. I say that if I have to make a decision, we have an organizational failure. (That's) because I don’t have the same context as someone who is working day to day with the data, with the understanding of the customer. I definitely see the organization and the people in it as the ones to make the decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.

On how his experience with Twitter affected how he started Square:

I was a first-time CEO. It’s not a position I necessarily wanted to be in. It’s a position that I was grateful for but was put in, and we were growing extremely extremely fast. But what I took from all of that is how important it is to really focus on the fundamentals. And the fundamentals that I found were the company and the team, and Square was interesting because we definitely made new mistakes, because I wasn’t going out and saying “Well I’m going to get into microblogging again.” We did something completely different and we got into finance. When I started Square, I was in credit card debt. I had a terrible FICO score. I lived all the pain that our merchants live every single day. We took those lessons and we baked it into the product.

On the connection between emotion and finance:

When I walk into a place like this (wine shop), there’s an emotion. When I take this bottle of wine home after I purchase it, there’s an emotion. No matter how much of our life moves online, we will always have places like this where we come together. We trade stories. We communicate. We see each other, and I think it’s a mistake to extract the soul from commerce because it enables a lot of these experiences that we treasure for the rest of our life. 

On Square’s legacy:

I definitely want Square to have a massive impact, and I think it has the potential to be that. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure that’s the case. Really what that means is that that’s accessible to more people.

Predicting the first line of his obituary:

Jack Dorsey, punk.

Jack Dorsey: Twitter founder, Square CEO, punk

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:00

You have about a 0.00006 percent chance of starting a billion-dollar business. Jack Dorsey didn't just start one — he's got two.

Dorsey was 29 when he launched Twitter with his pals Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass back in 2006. His handle, @Jack, is Twitter's first personal account.

Since then, he has launched Square, a mobile payment company that he hopes will change the way we pay for thngs. You've probably used Square at an independently-owned store or restaurant. It's a little white minimalist card reader that plugs right into an iPad or iPhone. The company has also gotten into organizing and even lending. It's hoping to be a one-stop-shop for small business owners.

Dorsey talked about Square and his life since Twitter at a wine bar in San Francisco.

Square’s “aha!” moment:

It was really our founding moment when our co-founder Jim McKelvey, who was my boss when I was 15 years old back in St. Louis Missouri, called me and said he just lost a sale of his glass art because he couldn’t accept a credit card. And he was calling me on his iPhone which was a super computer… We have all this power in our hands but why couldn’t we do a simple thing, or something that seemed as simple as accepting a piece of plastic? Which is far more convenient than cash, far more convenient than a check. Why isn’t that possible? The company is an answer to that question.

On how Square works:

The insight really came from looking at the back of the credit card and the back of the credit card is a magstripe. And a magstripe is really the same technology that a cassette tape is. It’s audio. If you listen to the audio on a magstripe, it sounds like a squirrel screeching really loudly. You know, if you put a read head next to that, then you can decode that audio into numbers and those numbers you can send up to processors. All that was required was an audio jack that didn’t just put sound out but also had mic in, and every iPhone at that time had a mic-in ring that we just plugged into. Suddenly we were able to push that audio into and decode those into numbers.

On what he does as a CEO:

1. Assembling the right team.

Assembling the team means hiring, certainly, but it also means parting ways with folks that just aren’t cutting it…making sure that we’re paying attention to that team dynamic and [that] it’s collaborative and it’s really challenging itself.

2. Making sure decisions are being made.

The reason I say that if I have to make a decision, we have a failure, we have an organizational failure is because I don’t have the same context as someone who is working day to day with the data, with the understanding of the customer.

3. Making sure that those are the right decisions

that the decisions we are making today are far greater, and far more impactful than what we did yesterday. I definitely see the organization and the people in it as the ones to make the decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.

On how his experience with Twitter affected how he started Square:

I was a first time CEO. It’s not a position I necessarily wanted to be in. It’s a position that I was grateful for but was put in, and we were growing extremely extremely fast. But what I took from all of that is how important it is to really focus on the fundamentals. And the fundamentals that I found were the company and the team, and Square was interesting because we definitely made new mistakes, because I wasn’t going out and saying “Well I’m going to get into microblogging again” We did something completely different and we got into finance. When I started Square, I was in credit card debt. I had a terrible FICO score. I lived all the pain that our merchants live every single day. We took those lessons and we baked it into the product.

On Square’s legacy:

I definitely want Square to have a massive impact, and I think it has the potential to be that. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure that’s the case. Really what that means is that that’s accessible to more people.

Predicting the first line of his obituary:

Jack Dorsey, punk.

Taking virtual reality beyond video games

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 13:00

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson recently learned to fly. Well, in the virtual world anyway.

Johnson took a virtual flight over New York City (complete with crashes) with the help of Birdly, a full-body VR simulator designed by the Institute for Design Research at the Zürich University of the Arts.

 “It’s kind of ridiculous and amazing because you can just fly around this map of Manhattan and…it’s not really a game, it’s something else,” Johnson says.

A flying simulator is great, but as Johnson says, the cost of making all that 3D content is prohibitive — for now, anyway.

"It is getting cheaper. And it’s getting cheaper for people who don’t make video games,” he says.

So how are companies going to monetize virtual reality outside of the video game space?

“It really could be, in many ways, the future of everything from entertainment…to a place where you could actually go shopping. Think of an Amazon mall that you’re moving around in from home,” Johnson says.  

Deutsche hit by investor revolt

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:57
Deutsche Bank shareholders deliver a strong vote of disapproval on the running of the German financial giant.

Boy Scouts' gay ban 'unsustainable'

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:47
The head of the Boy Scouts of America says defiant chapters and possible legal challenges should give organisation pause.

'Children died' in US air strike

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:43
A US air strike on Syria probably killed two children, the Pentagon says, acknowledging civilian casualties for first time.

#MotorCityDrive: Is Detroit's Economic Engine Roaring Back To Life?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:40

Michel Martin heads to Detroit for a live conversation with some of the creative forces fueling the Motor City's economy. She'll ask: What's driving Detroit's future now?

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Top 10 Steven Gerrard moments

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:32
Before Steven Gerrard's final Liverpool match, BBC Sport remembers some of his stand-out moments for the club.

China Kicks Off 'Great Leap Forward' On The Soccer Field

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:28

China is rolling out an ambitious soccer program. President Xi Jinping is reported to be a super fan who wants China to win a World Cup. Critics say there's too much emphasis on quick results.

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Chew On This: The Science Of Great NYC Bagels (It's Not The Water)

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:25

Popular myth has long credited New York's soft water for the city's irresistibly crusty, chewy bagels. But the chemistry behind a superior bagel is more complicated.

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White House Ban On Militarized Gear For Police May Mean Little

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 12:13

An NPR analysis of equipment given to police agencies by the Pentagon since 2006 — 84,258 assault rifles, 951 armored vehicles, for example — found a vast majority of it would fall outside the ban.

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Axe killer 'possessed by demons'

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:52
A man who hacked to death his mother and sister with an axe had said beforehand he was "possessed by the demons", an inquest hears.

Brave England fight to slay ghosts

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:35
The day-one recovery against New Zealand gives hope that the ghosts haunting England may soon be just a memory, writes Tom Fordyce.

Head Of Boy Scouts Says Group's Ban On Gay Adults 'Unsustainable'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:29

Robert Gates, a former CIA director and former defense secretary, told the organization, "We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be."

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The biker shootout in Waco, by the numbers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:16

Authorities are still trying to piece together what exactly happened at a Waco, Texas bar on Sunday, when a melee involving rival biker gangs and police left nine people dead and 18 injured. Let's do the numbers on what we know so far:

177

That's how many people were arrested in connection with shootout, all of them facing felony organized crime charges with bonds set for $1 million. That has potential to overwhelm McLennan County, one expert told USA Today, because the criminal docket was already full and costs for a single death penalty case can reach into the "high six figures." Experts predicted many plea bargains and charges dropped.

120

The number of people who were detained after a similar biker brawl in Nevada in 2002, the New York Times reported. That gang fight, between the Hell's Angels the Mongols, could offer a peek at how things will shake out in Waco: seven Hell's Angels were convicted in federal court, and six Mongols pleaded guilty in state court.

$59 per day

The approximate cost of a jail bed in Texas, according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

68

That's how many locations Twin Peaks sports bar has around the country, though the chain announced its Waco franchise would not reopen after Sunday's violence, which was mostly confined to the parking lot. Police and the restaurant itself both blamed the franchise owner for ignoring warnings from law enforcement about the potential for violence.

318 (and counting)

The number of weapons police have collected from the scene so far, including 118 handguns, 157 knives, chains, brass knuckles, clubs and one AK-47. Police said they expect the number to rise because weapons were hidden all over: in trash cans, stoves and bags of chips, stuffed between seat cushions, even partially flushed down the toilet.

The biker shootout in Waco, by the numbers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:16

Authorities are still trying to piece together what exactly happened at a Waco, Texas bar on Sunday, when a melee involving rival biker gangs and police left nine people dead and 18 injured. Let's do the numbers on what we know so far:

177

That's how many people were arrested in connection with shootout, all of them facing felony organized crime charges with bonds set for $1 million. That has potential to overwhelm McLennan County, one expert told USA Today, because the criminal docket was already full and costs for a single death penalty case can reach into the "high six figures." Experts predicted many plea bargains and charges dropped.

120

The number of people who were detained after a similar biker brawl in Nevada in 2002, the New York Times reported. That gang fight, between the Hell's Angels the Mongols, could offer a peek at how things will shake out in Waco: seven Hell's Angels were convicted in federal court, and six Mongols pleaded guilty in state court.

$59 per day

The approximate cost of a jail bed in Texas, according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

68

That's how many locations Twin Peaks sports bar has around the country, though the chain announced its Waco franchise would not reopen after Sunday's violence, which was mostly confined to the parking lot. Police and the restaurant itself both blamed the franchise owner for ignoring warnings from law enforcement about the potential for violence.

318 (and counting)

The number of weapons police have collected from the scene so far, including 118 handguns, 157 knives, chains, brass knuckles, clubs and one AK-47. Police said they expect the number to rise because weapons were hidden all over: in trash cans, stoves and bags of chips, stuffed between seat cushions, even partially flushed down the toilet.

 

Benitez lined up by Real Madrid

BBC - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:14
Former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez could replace Carlo Ancelotti as manager of Real Madrid.

A Toilet In Every Home: Zambians Celebrate Sanitation Milestone

NPR News - Thu, 2015-05-21 11:14

The practice of defecating in the open is all too common in Zambia because many families don't have other options. But now the country has achieved a milestone: its first zone free of open defecation.

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