National / International News

Guess How Much Of Uncle Sam's Money Goes To Foreign Aid! Guess Again!

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:17

A poll shows that Americans have no clue about the percent of the budget pie that is directed to foreign aid. But maybe it's not our fault.

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California's Strawberry Feud Ends, But Who Will Breed New Berries?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:06

Strawberry farmers have dropped a lawsuit against the University of California, Davis, and the university has hired a new strawberry breeder. But the future of academic berry breeding is uncertain.

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When It's Hard To Get A Vaccine Exemption, More Kids Get Shots

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:00

Robert Siegel speaks to Emory University epidemiologist Dr. Saad Omer about his research into state laws covering non-medical vaccine exemptions.

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With New Moves, Russia's Parliament Looks To Rewrite History

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:58

Russia's seizure of Crimea has been widely criticized. But what if Crimea was given away illegally to Ukraine back in 1954? Russian lawmakers are hard at work on their own version of history.

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Texas Insurance Brokers Play Bigger Obamacare Role

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:54

Despite an uneasy relationship to the health law, insurance brokers are touting their expertise and helping Texans sign up for Affordable Care Act insurance.

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Failing Bridges Taking A Toll; Some States Move To Raise Gas Tax

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:54

With gas prices down, a growing number of states are turning to a gas tax increase. New Jersey looks at following suit to fund much-needed projects, but some drivers aren't eager to pay up.

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Tech May Get In The Way Of Good Culture Shock While Studying Abroad

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

A record number of Americans are studying abroad. Educators say that's good, as it promotes better cross-cultural understanding. But many in the field worry the influx of technology and social media may be hampering students' ability to fully immerse themselves abroad.

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Family Confirms Death Of American Hostage Held By ISIS Militants

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

The family of Kayla Mueller released a statement on Tuesday confirming her death while being held hostage by ISIS militants. Mueller's death raises questions about whether U.S. policies made it more difficult to save her.

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New Government Agency Designed To Tackle Cyber Threats More Effectively

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

The Obama administration is creating a new agency to gather and distribute intelligence on cyber threats more quickly. The agency is modeled after the National Counter Terrorism Center, created after Sept. 11 to improve information sharing across the U.S. government.

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New Illinois Governor Has Unions Bristling Less Than A Month Into The Job

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

Illinois' new Republican governor is taking a page in politics from other Midwestern states. Bruce Rauner is setting policies that have government labor unions bristling and he hasn't even been on the job for a month.

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Putin Receives Warm Royal Welcome In Egypt

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

Russian President Vladimir Putin brought a present to Cairo for the Egyptian president — a Kalashnikov rifle. The two leaders also signed a deal for a Russian nuclear plant.

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A Historic Drought Grips Brazil's Economic Capital

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

Restaurants are using disposable cutlery and plates. Residents only have water for a few hours. Food prices are soaring. Now, Sao Paulo faces draconian rationing of up to five days a week.

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Advocates Join Fight To Eliminate Detroit's Rape Kit Backlog

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

Six years ago, 11,000 untested rape kits were found in Detroit. Now nearly all of the kits have been tested, but it will cost the city millions to investigate and prosecute every case.

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Pregnant With Cancer: One Woman's Journey

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:40

Mary Harris found out she was pregnant the day before she had scheduled surgery for breast cancer. It turns out there is limited data on how chemotherapy during pregnancy affects a baby.

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Strangled wife accused 'on drugs'

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:39
A jealous husband who strangled his wife and tried to kill her as she worked on an intensive care unit was on drugs at the time, a jury hears.

Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:37
Arsenal move into the Premier League top four as they beat Leicester who sit five points adrift of Premier League safety.

Hull City 2-0 Aston Villa

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:37
Dame N'Doye marks his first start for Hull with a goal and an assist as they move above Aston Villa in the table.

NY policeman charged over shooting

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:31
A police officer is charged over the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in a block of flats in New York City, according to a lawyer in the case.

Rising seas threaten South Florida's drinking water

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:22

Greater Miami is a place where the idea of not having enough water seems completely bananas. South Florida receives about 60 inches of rainfall a year, and groundwater is more than plentiful. Keeping streets and homes from getting flooded with freshwater is still a huge job here.

But rising sea levels change things in unexpected ways, and seawater threatens to turn the drinking water salty. In some places, the ocean has already made good on that threat. And the problem is going to get worse.

To illustrate, Harold Wanless takes me out behind a car-rental place by the Miami airport. He’s a University of Miami geology professor who has spent decades studying how sea levels change, from the ice ages to today.

There's a lot to see and hear in this little spot: two highways converging, planes flying overhead, Miami Jai-Alai, the Pink Pussycat Strip Club. ("Everything you want near an airport," says Wanless. "I guess.")

He's chosen this location for two reasons. First, this entire area used to be part of the Everglades. "When they drained the Everglades here, water levels dropped about 7 feet," he says. "And voila! You have an airport."

Second, in this particular spot, a canal comes under those highways and hits a little barrier. This structure, several miles inland, is the boundary between the salty ocean water, and South Florida’s freshwater supply.

That water supply isn't contained underground. "It goes right up to the surface," says Wanless. "So, yeah – this is our aquifer. This is our water."

And this is where the goal of managing freshwater flooding meets the threat of rising seas.

One of this little barrier's main jobs is actually to get rid of freshwater after heavy rains, to prevent flooding. The gate opens and rainwater building up behind the dam spills out to sea.

There are dams like this all over the region. But for them to work – for the freshwater to spill – the seawater has to be lower than the gate.

Which it won’t be for much longer. "By the middle of the century, or before, 82 percent of these structures will no longer function," Wanless says.

Meaning, if those gates got opened, seawater would flow in. And salt would contaminate the drinking-water supply.

Keeping the gate closed would mean flooding out areas on the freshwater side.

The first part of this video shows how barriers like the one near Miami’s airport work. When floodwaters rise, the gate opens, and freshwater spills out to the sea. In the second part, sea levels rise past the point where the gate opens. When floodwaters rise, the gate stays closed, to keep saltwater out.

Miami Beach is spending up to $400 million on pumps to send floodwater out to sea.

But there's another threat to drinking water, underground. And it’s already resulted in contaminated drinking-water wells in some cities here.

To see that threat, I went to West Palm Beach – the offices of the South Florida Water Management District – to meet Jayantha Obeysekera, a scientist there with the title chief modeler of hydrologic and environmental systems.

Essentially, he looks at the big picture, and he showed me what’s under South Florida. "This is a little prop that I use," he says, pulling a piece of rock out of wrapping paper.

It’s called porous limestone. Before I got here, I was thinking, porous like a membrane – maybe a really thick, hard coffee filter? But no.

"This is like Swiss cheese," says Obeysekera. "There are a lot of openings for water to move through."

He’s understating things. Swiss cheese doesn’t have this many holes. This is all openings. It's porous like a volleyball net.

 

A sample of the porous limestone found beneath South Florida, held here by Jayantha Obeysekera of the South Florida Water Management District, shows how little barrier there is between salt-water and fresh-water underground in the region.

Dan Weissmann/Marketplace

And this is what makes South Florida’s problem with rising seas, well, special.

"People suggest, why don't we do what the Dutch do," says Obeysekera. "Build a levee and stop the seawater coming,"

With rock like this, that won't work. A levee, says Obeysekera, "may stop the seawater storm surge on the surface, but the water will come underground."

That’s what’s happening right now. And before seawater floods the land, it’s flowing into the water supply.

To describe that process, it will probably help if we first clear up a question: If there’s really no barrier between saltwater and fresh underground water, why isn’t all the drinking water salty already?

The reason is gravity. Saltwater is heavier than freshwater. Some seawater has always moved into the limestone, but it sits under the freshwater, which floats on top.

Then sea levels rise. Saltwater pushes up to where that freshwater was floating. It doesn’t have to push all the way to the surface to cause problems – just to the depth where the local well got sunk a few decades ago.

When that happens, "those well fields will be impacted," says Obeysekera. "They will go salty."

That’s already happened in parts of Broward County, north of Miami. Some municipalities there now get some of their water from a county facility farther inland.

The more sea levels rise, the farther inland the saltwater comes, and the more places get affected.

Jennifer Jurado directs Broward's environmental planning division, which means she oversees the county's long-term water planning. She shows me maps of where the saltwater has already come – and where it’s heading: Hollywood, Hallandale, Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale ... the list goes on.

"It’s quite significant," says Jurado. And it’s not just Broward.

That’s why Wanless has spent almost 20 years trying to warn his neighbors across South Florida: They’d better start planning.

"If we get blindsided," he says, "we’re a bunch of Okies." As in: Dust Bowl refugees. No water, no viable anything. "It’s going to be ugly," he says.

For years, his warnings got a less-than-warm reception. Then, gradually, things changed.

"It was maybe 2005 when I would give a talk to a Rotary or business group," he says. "They stopped yelling obscenities, at the end or during the talk, and they started listening."

A couple of years later, he says, there was another shift. "People were starting to hang around after talks," he says. They wanted to know what they could do, what the community could do.

Now, he says, he hears from people who have helped themselves.

"It’s truly unbelievable," he says, "the number of people that call me or send a note saying: 'We had three or four properties. We just sold them and made a killing, and thank you so much.'"

Meaning, they’ve gotten out while property values are still high. "We're truly entering a time of what will become real-estate roulette."

Looking at projections on a 30-year horizon, he says – that’s as long as a mortgage.

Wanless is not alone in his thinking. I meet Rene Machado as he prepares for a round of golf in Coral Gables. He’s 75, moved here 10 years ago from New York — and he thinks Coral Gables is the best place on earth: lush, peaceful and close to downtown.

"It's like being in New York City and living in Central Park," he says. "How cool is that?" And, bonus: It's never winter.

I ask if he thinks about the rising sea levels, the threat. He says, sure. All the time.

And yes, he thinks about how long he should keep owning a home here. "I would evaluate every five years," he says. "I think after 10 years, I have to take it seriously."

From the windows of his 24th-floor office in downtown Miami, land-use attorney Wayne Pathman has a panoramic view of Miami Beach and the central city. There are cranes everywhere, putting up new skyscrapers. Pathman has played a role in some of these projects.

A map from a group called Architecture 2030 shows areas of Miami that will be flooded when sea levels rise 1.25 meters. That's about how much seas will rise by 2100, according one of the \"intermediate\" scenarios projected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Courtesy Architecture 2030

However, he doesn’t think everything we see will survive the next few decades, as rising seas encroach.

"There are solutions," he says. "Man has been very good at finding solutions. But I don’t think we’re saving everything."

He’s been pushing for local officials to rethink building codes, to account for where sea-levels will be in a few decades.

"This is a very developed area – high-density population – and it’s coming," he says. "And we keep building as if it’s not, and we keep living here as if it’s not."

These new skyscrapers are just a small fraction of what he’s talking about. South Florida’s population was about 5 million in the year 2000. Now it’s almost 6 million and growing.

Defending structures against flooding, whether from storms or higher seas, seems like the most-immediate issue, but threats to the water supply can't be ignored.

"Obviously, nobody lives here if we don’t have potable water," Pathman says.

Not even behind a seawall.

If You Have Dementia, Can You Hasten Death As You Wished?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:15

Margaret Bentley, a woman in British Columbia, didn't want food or liquids if she became mentally disabled. But a nursing home is refusing to stop feeding her, even though she has Alzheimer's.

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