National / International News

VIDEO: Fugitive prisoner caught at pub

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 14:57
A prisoner who escaped from custody in the Republic of Ireland has been found and arrested in Belfast.

Spotlight RTS award for Cahill scoop

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 14:52
BBC Northern Ireland current affairs programme Spotlight wins Scoop of the Year at the Royal Television Society journalism awards for its Maíria Cahill investigation.

Former rap star Vanilla Ice arrested

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 14:27
Former rap and home improvement star Vanilla Ice is arrested on suspicion of burglary and theft in the US state of Florida, police say.

Red Cross Criticizes NPR's Coverage; NPR And ProPublica Respond

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 14:23

NPR and ProPublica investigated the charity's response to Superstorm Sandy and other disasters as well as its finances.

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Here's why Snapchat has doubled in value

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-18 14:09

Snapchat is seeking to raise as much as $500 million in a new round of funding, which would value the company at as much as $19 billion. That's almost twice its valuation after its last round of funding, a year ago.

Snapchat's growing audience of teens and young adults is one reason for the increase, says Julie Ask of Forrester Research.  "We don't know how much [Snapchat has] grown their audience, but my guess would be is that it's big," Ask says.

Snapchat is a private company, so it hasn't released a lot of details on its audience. But educated guesses put its growing base of teen and young-adult users at anywhere between 100 to 200 million.

"There is scarcity of companies and options out there that have audiences as large Snapchat," says Ask.

Investors are willing to place big bets, says Ask, on companies that can monetize audience--particularly a young one. And "Snapchat has figured out a monetization model," says Brian Solis of Altimeter Group.

Snapchat is now selling ads for a rumored minimum price of $750,000 a day, and has recently published content channels with news and entertainment.

"They understand the psychology of teenage engagement and communication," says Solis.

Not everyone is sold on the valuation. "Were I to be a Snapchat shareholder," says Paul Kedrosky, a partner at SK Ventures and a technology equities analyst, "I would be very happy selling to the people buying at $19 billion."

Kedrosky says that Snapchat investors are probably hoping an eventual IPO will come in at more than $19 billion,  so that they can cash out. Others may believe the company eventually will be sold at an even higher price (just as WhatsApp was bought for $22 billion by Facebook).

"This is a house of cards," Kedrosky says, referring to Snapchat's valuation. "The numbers themselves are in no sense credible."

VIDEO: Jeb Bush 'his own man'

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:52
Jeb Bush, who is hoping to be the Republican candidate for the US presidency in 2016, has insisted that he is his "own man".

Ukraine calls for UN peacekeepers

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:51
President Petro Poroshenko calls for UN peacekeepers to be sent to eastern Ukraine after his forces withdraw from the besieged city of Debaltseve.

Australian wins US terror appeal

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:49
An Australian former Guantanamo Bay detainee, David Hicks, successfully challenges his terrorism conviction in the US.

Foo Fighters to headline Glastonbury

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:38
After wining best international band at the NME Awards, Foo Fighters announce they are topping Friday night at this year's Glastonbury Festival.

Central Valley farms come at a cost for dry California

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:33

In California, as in many states, the biggest water users are farmers. Almost 80 percent of the water used by Californians (not including, for example, water released to keep rivers at flows liveable for fish) goes to agriculture.

That’s in part because the state’s ranchers and farmers haven’t taken water for granted, holding hard to water rights handed out on a “first-come, first-served” basis long before there were 38 million people in the state. But if drought persists and there’s just not enough water to go round, what happens?

Between the Central Valley, some coastal areas and the Imperial Valley on the Mexican border, California grows roughly half the fruits, nuts and veggies Americans eat. The Central Valley, much of it irrigated, is at the heart of it. It’s farming on steroids.

The region, bigger than nine states, churns out everything from canned tomatoes to chardonnay grapes to citrus. Not to mention all the almonds. Each almond requires a gallon of water. And the million-plus dairy cows in the valley each drink a bathtub of water every day.  

Some of this production takes place in counties lucky to get eight inches of rain a year. That’s what Phoenix gets.

“When you think about California without water, there’s not a whole lot of agricultural potential there,” says Andrew Novakovic, an agricultural economist at Cornell University. “But like the rest of the West, and even more so in the Central Valley, you throw in a little water and it becomes an incredibly fertile, incredibly productive area.”

But water is the key; cheap water and lots of it. A herculean system of government-built dams, canals and pipelines carries melted snowpack from the Sierra Nevadas on the eastern edge of the valley, down to the hot, dusty flatlands below.

The snowpack is at near-record lows. When that happens, California’s “first-come, first served” water rights leaves the “last-served” staring at dry taps. Even in wetter years, the water supply is oversubscribed.

“There literally are more water rights to more acre feet of water than there is water available,” says Phil Garone, associate professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus.

California is by far the country's top agricultural producer, but it’s hardly a farm state. Agriculture accounts for only 2 percent of California’s GDP.

“If you’re driving between cities ,you’ll see a lot of agriculture,” says Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. “But if you look at economic production per acre or per acre foot of water, agriculture is very, very small compared to most urban uses of water and land.”

In a persistent drought, Lund says, farming in the Central Valley would inevitably shrink. But he and other researchers wondered what was the worst that could happen. So they computer-modelled a seven-decade megadrought. The results were surprising. 

“What the model does, it says, well, the urban areas, they have a very, very high willingness to pay for water,” Lund says. Cities and their residents will have to conserve, but they will have water.

 The model shows water deliveries to farms and ranches shrinks 25 percent. Irrigated cropland in the Central Valley plummets. Some farming communities die. The environment suffers. But farming survives. 

In fact, agriculture loses just 10 percent of economic production. “It sounds really disastrous to lose half the water in California,” Lund says. "And in some places it definitely would be. But the overall economy and our overall civilization really stays around.”

That’s partly because it doesn’t take a lot of water shifting from farmers to cities to satisfy urban needs, says Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. After all, plants and livestock require a lot of water. Farmers don’t talk in gallons, they talk in acre feet, Sumner says. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons.

“Think of gallon jugs filling football field after football field. And think of what we do with it. We pour it on the ground."

The mega-drought model carries several assumptions, including efficient water trading and urban conservation. It also assumes farmers will adapt to changing conditions. That’s already happening in the Central Valley.

Farmers are drip-irrigating fields instead of flooding them. They're ditching low-value crops, like cotton,for more lucrative crops,  like almonds. Farming, after all, is a business.

“So when a farmer is short on water they’re going to say, well, I’d like to have more water but the water I have I’m going to make the most profit from it that I can,” Lund says.

In the Central Valley, that can also mean “value-added” agriculture. Bolthouse Farms is doing that with carrots. One of its products is “Kids Veggie Snackers” -- colorful packets of baby carrots with a pouch of seasoning like chili lime or ranch.  

“You can literally snack a vegetable anywhere, anytime,” says Todd Putman, Bolthouse’s chief marketing officer.

Bolthouse is owned by Campbell Soup and farms up to 30,000 acres of carrots in California. The company’s square-mile facility in Bakersfield processes 2 billion pounds of fresh carrots a year.

“We’re lucky that carrots don’t require a lot of water, versus citrus and pistachios,” Putman says. But Bolthouse grows carrots in other parts of the country and eastern Canada, too.  “That diversifies our growing regions,” he says. “And we’re trying to do more and more of that to anticipate any drought threat.”

Michael McMaster, a third-generation farmer who grows citrus in Tulare County, has already felt the full force of the current drought. This year, he didn’t receive a drop of irrigation water from the federally run water project he depends on. He lost most of his crop as a result.

“And what little we have left is tiny., "McMaster says. "I mean, the fruit that’s remaining is too small to market.  So we’re looking at pretty much a total loss for this season.”

One in four jobs in Tulare County depend on growers like McMaster staying in business, according to the local farm bureau. McMaster says the United States could import all its fresh citrus, but asks at what cost? “We provide some of the safest produce in the world, at a reasonable price, and once we’re gone, it will be hard to bring it back,” he says.

This season, McMaster managed to keep his trees alive only by buying surplus water from a district with more senior water rights than his. He paid eight times his normal price, roughly what some city dwellers in California pay.

Obama: We Must Change The Narrative On Islam To Combat Violent Extremists

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:21

In a keynote address, Obama said that the stories of successful Muslims in America must be raised to combat what he called a "generational challenge."

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School autism row 'message revealed'

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:19
A voicemail message has emerged of a school asking a mother to keep her autistic son at home during an Ofsted inspection.

FC Basel 1-1 FC Porto

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:16
Referee Mark Clattenburg awards a disputed penalty that gives Porto the edge in their Champions League tie against Basel.

Man arrested over Becky Godden murder

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:15
A 51-year-old man from Swindon is arrested on suspicion of the murder of Becky Godden, who was 20 when she disappeared in December 2002.

In Argentina, Marchers Mark One Month Since Prosecutor's Death

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:15

A group of prosecutors in Argentina has called a silent protest for Wednesday to demand answers into the gunshot death of a prosecutor investigating the nation's worst terror attack.

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Terror arrest of woman with baby

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:14
A woman travelling with her one-year-old son is arrested at Heathrow Airport on suspicion of terrorism offences.

Artist, Believed Target Of Copenhagen Attack, Still In Hiding

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 13:05

Audie Cornish talks to Lars Vilks, who was at a free speech forum that was attacked over the weekend. He is believed to have been a target for his controversial drawings of the prophet Mohammad.

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For Somalis In Minneapolis, Jihadi Recruiting Is A Recurring Nightmare

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 12:54

U.S. officials say young Somali-Americans are leaving the Twin Cities for Syria to join the group ISIS, encouraged by an earlier wave of jihadists who had joined al-Shabab in Somalia.

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Ukrainian Soldiers Retreat After Eastern Town Falls

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 12:54

The forced withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from a strategically important town in eastern Ukraine is a blow to the recent ceasefire agreement — and to President Petro Poroshenko.

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From Haiti's Earthquake To Ebola, He Had Five Busy Years At USAID

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-18 12:54

It's the last day on the job for Rajiv Shah — who at age 36 became the youngest ever head of USAID. A key figure in the U.S. Ebola response, Shah has his critics, but he's proud of his record.

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