The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talks with NPR about why it's often better to advise and assist than to get involved militarily. And he looks at the Pentagon's looming budget crisis.
Upstate South Carolina, and the cities of Greenville, Greer, and Spartanburg, traditionally rose and fell with the textile industry.
And, boy, did the region feel it when the textile business got hammered economically in the 1970s. But the area has now repositioned itself as a global manufacturing hub, with BMW setting up its only North American manufacturing center here.
The BMW plant is reminiscent, The Atlantic's James Fallows says, of the original stop in our American Futures project. Sioux Falls, S.D., was an agri-business capital that's had to adapt to a global economy. Also like Sioux Falls, this part of South Carolina seems to have positioned itself as regional trading/transportation center.
Visually, the region is stunning. Fallows says, "it really is beautiful to fly down the inland valleys of Virginia and North Carolina, with the mountains to your west all the way along." The route Fallows, and his wife Deb, flew was more-or-less parallel to the "Fall Line" -- the border between the mountains, which rise in quite a steep escarpment west of Greenville, and the rolling piedmont ("foot of mountain") plateau which leads to the "low country" and the sea. The fall line is so named because that is where the water is falling out of the mountains, in rapids and waterfalls. And that is where the early mills set up their waterwheels to power their work.
The heritage from those days led, in fits-and-starts, to today's Michelin and BMW factories, according to James Fallows:"There's one relatively well-known tale about this part of the country. People have heard in the past 20 years that BMW has set up its only North American plant here, outside Greenville. Michelin is here. GE is here. This is a perfect test case of a place that was built for one industrial era, this was all textiles and even 20 or 30 years ago this was the textile capital of the world. Textiles are just gone now and the way that certain part of this area have recovered -- and others have struggled -- is what we're looking at." View Survey
Retail analysts say more data breaches like the hits on Target and Neiman Marcus are coming. A new report details how hackers "with ties to the former Soviet Union" stay ahead with "innovation and a high degree of skill."
Twenty years after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook Northridge, Calif., scientists have gathered in Los Angeles to talk strategy. Los Angeles is the largest U.S. metropolitan area on an active fault line, and the question at hand isn't whether another quake will strike, but where, when, and who will be within range. Plus, on top of all that, how much will it cost?
U.S. Geological Survey scientists say earthquakes are the most expensive natural disasters, in terms of human and monetary risk. For instance, the 1994 Northridge quake cost $15.3 billion (adjusted for inflation, that's $24 billion in 2013 -- a price tag eclipsed only by Hurricane Katrina.)
Today, seismologists worry future earthquakes will be more expensive than any before -- not because there will be more movement of tectonic plates (that stays constant), but because population growth has put more people and metropolises on top of active zones. According to U.S. Geological Survey scientist Bill Leith, "It depends on where it hits. What earthquakes do is generate a lot of energy, and if that energy is directed at a major metropolitan area, it does a major amount of damage."
So which cities should worry about becoming the next Northridge?
University of Colorado professor Roger Bilham has researched the cities most at risk of a "big one." In terms of population growth vs. seismic history, residents of these cities should be on guard for lots of possible shaking, and lots of possible financial fallout:
- Mexico City
- Dacca, Bangladesh
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Karachi, Pakistan
- Manila, Philippines
- Delhi, India
- Los Angeles
- Cairo, Egypt
- Teheran, Iran
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Osaka, Japan
- Lima, Peru
- Lahore, Pakistan
- Bogotá, Colombia
The latest evidence that artificially sweetened drinks may be making us hungrier? Heavier-set people who choose diet beverages are making up the calorie gap at meals and through snacks — especially sweet ones, researchers report.
Eight days after a chemical spill led authorities to warn 300,000 people not to use the water coming from their taps, the all-clear has been given. Only those in a few small towns are still being cautioned.
We all dream of a nice nest egg for retirement, but how do you make your savings stretch once you are there?
We've been told that there are some simple rules to follow in the golden years. But in the "new normal," do those rules still apply? David Blanchett, head of investment research at Morningstar Investment Management, says the first rule you should question is the 4 percent rule. That is, the idea that when you retire, withdraw 4 percent from your 401k every year … and then increase that by inflation.
So does it still apply? "The problem is the four percent rule is kinda based on a couple both aged 65 and it doesn’t really apply to someone who is single and age 65 and married couple who is 75."
"It’s a good starting point, but it’s not very realistic for every type of retiree."
What about income?
Things like the four percent rule provide a better insight on how much you need to save for retirement, not how much you withdraw, for instance.
“Whatever income need you have to create that’s not covered by things like a pension or social security, you need about 20 to 25 times that income amount when you actually retire.”
But even that, it comes down to your spending. A 65-year old might not spend like an 80-year old.
When a nickel is worth five cents, but costs ten cents to make, the U.S. Mint has to consider an update. As extracting, transporting and engineering metals like copper and nickel gets more expensive, the Mint is weighing changes to composition of coins.
"It's the same way that we absorb in music," said Garrett Burke, a coin enthusiast who designed the concept for the California state coin. "It used to be vinyl, then it went to digital, now we do downloads. We can't expect the composition of the coin to remain the same, particularly when the costs go up."
For business owners who make their trade in change, some of these proposals are nervewracking.
Roni Moore is vice president of marketing for the National Automatic Merchandising Association, which represents vending machine operators.
"We need the mint to understand that a redesign of currency would change the alloy content of coins, likely in a way that would force our vending companies to upgrade or replace coin acceptors," Moore says.
According to Moore's calculations, the process could cost between one hundred and five hundred dollars per machine, a formidable cost to small business owners.
It’s a beautiful, sunny day in California’s Central Valley. Up and down the West Coast, it's been sunny for weeks. Anyone who got caught in the recent polar vortex might call that a fantasy.
But this morning, in an official statement, the governor of this agricultural state gave it a different name.
"Today, I am declaring a drought emergency," Gov. Jerry Brown said. "We're facing perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago."
Brown has been under pressure to make such a declaration for weeks from farmers, farm workers, and the various people who represent them. But as he has said, the governor "can’t make it rain," official declaration or no. What water there is gets moved around the state, and Brown’s statement does open the door for farmers to ask for a bigger share.
Gayle Holman is with the Westlands Water District, which distributes water to farmers in the state’s Central Valley region. The drought obviously affects jobs for workers and money for farmers there, but the region has major reach.
"Anything that you are consuming for dinner tonight," she says, "I imagine originated right here in the Central Valley."
Especially if you’re thinking about a salad: Tomatoes, lettuce, almonds. Glass of wine? That’s nearby, too. Holman says that right now, farmers are holding back from planting about a third of the Central Valley’s 600,000 acres.
Nor is the problem limited to California. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared parts of 11 western states official disaster areas. Including all of Oregon, home to a region that produces much of the country's yellow onion crop.
The effects will be visible in grocery baskets nationwide, says Phil Lembert, who runs Supermarket Guru.
"It means that foods are going to be more expensive," he says. "Matter of fact, this is not a surprise. We’ve been hearing from the USDA and from the weather folks that we’re going to have more weather problems for probably the next 15 to 20 years."
Yes, he means climate change. "We're really seeing the effects of what's gone on with the climate for the last 50 years," he says. "There's no question that the price of our foods will rise because of this."