National News

John Boehner Casts Doubt On Prospects For Immigration Reform

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 11:17

The House speaker said there was a trust deficit between the GOP and President Obama, so immigration reform would be a "difficult" issue to move on this year.

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NASA Probe Finds Newly Formed Crater On Mars

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 10:37

The impact that formed the 100-foot-diameter scar threw Martian rock and soil more than nine miles across the surface.

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Taliban Release Video Of Captured 'American Military Dog'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 10:15

The video seems to mark the first time a canine has been used in a prisoner of war video. The Pentagon said U.S. forces lost a working dog in December.

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The 9 weirdest cities that have hosted the Olympics (and why!)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 10:05

With the Winter Olympics starting, the world’s attention is drawn toward Sochi, a small and sunny resort city in the Southwestern corner of Russia. And with that attention, a question. Why Sochi?

It does seem strange to choose a city known for its beach and palm trees to host something called the Winter Olympics, but strange city choices aren’t new to the Games. So without further ado, here are the nine oddest choices to host the Olympics:

Melbourne & Stockholm. That's right, the 1956 Summer Games were held in two entirely different cities, in two entirely different countries, and on two entirely different continents. No, track athletes didn’t run the 100 meters in Melbourne and then take a flight to Stockholm to compete in the 200 meters.  Melbourne was picked as the host city and nearly all of the events happened there, but because of Australia’s strict quarantine laws, the equestrian events had to be held in Stolkholm. The Olympic organizers were not aware of these laws before they picked Melbourne, and by the time the International Olympic Committee learned of them, it was already too late to do anything about it.

Helsinki. As Sochi is one of the warmest cities to host a Winter Olympics, Helsinki was one of the coldest cities to host a Summer Olympics. During the summer months it averages 64 degrees, which isn't too cold, unless you compare it to other Summer Games. The Beijing Olympics had an average high of 87 degrees, and the Athens Olympics averaged 90 degrees. But that’s not the only reason Helsinki was a strange choice for the 1952 Olympics. It's actually the smallest and least economically powerful city the IOC has ever picked. According to Brookings, Helsinki has the lowest GDP of any city to host the Summer Olympics. And Finland is the smallest nation to have organized them. By all accounts, it did a fine job hosting, with 70,000 people crowding into the stadium stadium. At the time, Helsinki had a population of 380,000.

Squaw Valley, Calif. The Winter Olympics has been hosted in some fairly out-of-the-way places. Lake Placid, N.Y., Albertville, France, and Innsbruck, Austria, aren't really megacities. But the 1960 Winter Olympics have the distinction of being the only Games to go to a place with only one resident. When Alexander Cushing persuaded the IOC to have the games in his new resort of Squaw Valley, there was one chairlift, one lodge, and one person living there. That person was Alexander Cushing. Fortunately for Cushing’s legacy, a world-class winter sports complex was built in time for the games, and afterwards, Squaw Valley became a destination ski resort, frequently visited by Hollywood stars. In fact, the opening ceremonies were designed by Walt Disney himself, and included the release of 2,000 doves. 

 

St. Louis. The choice for the 1904 Summer Olympics wasn’t as out-of-the blue as you might think. St. Louis was the fourth-largest American city at the time, and the games were part of an immense World’s Fair that celebrated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase. Unfortunately, the World’s Fair completely overshadowed the Olympics. Even more unfortunate, it led to one of the most disgusting moments in Olympic history. A competition, concocted by one of the Fair's organizers, pitted Olympic athletes against "savages" from the human zoos at the World's Fair. Yes, "human zoos." The fair took people from "primitive" societies, recreated their villages in St. Louis, and then let tourists gawk at them. It was disgusting. And the contest between these displaced tribespeople and Olympic athletes was embarrassing.

Montreal. Montreal makes sense as an Olympic host city. It's the second-largest city in Canada and generates $142.8 billion in GDP. It wouldn't have been a strange choice for the IOC at all, if not for the corruption and cost overruns. Originally estimated to be around $360 million, costs for the 1976 Summer Games ballooned to $1.6 billion. Montreal's Olympic Stadium was eventually paid for. In 2006. Although the site of some of the greatest moments in Olympic history (Nadia Comanici’s perfect 10 being the best example), the Montreal games stand as a reminder for future host cities to not overspend on the Games.

Moscow & Los Angeles. Moscow and Los Angeles are two of the biggest and most culturally important cities in the world. Combined, they have a GDP of over $1 trillion. However, the IOC's choice to pick Moscow as the host of the 1980 Summer Games and Los Angeles as the host of the 1984 Games presented a few problems, as there happened to be a Cold War going on at the time. The U.S. organized a boycott of the Moscow Games as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. More than 50 nations joined America in the boycott, lowering the number of participating nations to 80, the fewest since 1956. In response, the USSR boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. Only thirteen other countries joined them, but this bloc of countries took home 58 percent of the gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. And though the Los Angeles Games are now remembered for actually managing to turn a $223 million profit (mostly because of corporate sponsorship and using existing structures), picking these two cities caused the level of athletic competition to dip significantly.

Sochi. This list had to include Sochi, one of the strangest host cities to be chosen. It's a subtropical resort town that boasts palm trees and beaches. Granted, the skiers and snowboarders will be skiing and snowboarding on the nearby mountains, but organizers are still hoarding snow in case it doesn't, well, snow. And because Sochi is a sunny vacation destination, organizers had to construct massive sports and transportation projects. Partly due to that, it's the most expensive Olympics in history, with a price tag of nearly $50 billion. Certainly one of the weirdest host cities ever to be picked.

From Projects To Parliament, Britain's 'Rev. Rose' Breaks Barriers

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 09:59

Rose Hudson-Wilkin was the first black woman to be chaplain to the queen of England. Now she is chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons as well. Even while fulfilling these high-profile roles, she continues to run an East London parish that struggles with poverty and gang violence.

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From Projects To Parliament, Britain's 'Rev. Rose' Breaks Barriers

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 09:59

Rose Hudson-Wilkin was the first black woman to be chaplain to the queen of England. Now she is chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons as well. Even while fulfilling these high-profile roles, she continues to run an East London parish that struggles with poverty and gang violence.

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Subway Phasing Out Bread Additive After Blogger Flags Health Concerns

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 09:51

Just a few days after a food blogger created a buzz with an online petition raising questions about the safety of a food additive commonly used in commercial baking, sandwich giant Subway has announced plans to phase it out of its fresh-baked breads.

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Sony Will Shed 5,000 Jobs And Its PC Business

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 09:05

The embattled entertainment and electronics company also said it had annual loss of $1 billion. Analysts fear the restructuring may be too little too late for the company.

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Luxury Carmaker Aston Martin Cites Fake Chinese Plastics In Recall

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:36

The company uses plastics supplied by DuPont for a key part, but it instead received counterfeit material labeled with DuPont's name. About 75 percent of cars built after 2007 are affected.

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Communities along rail lines worry about oil explosions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:29

Ever lapsed into daydreaming while you sit at a railroad crossing, waiting for a long freight train to go by?

After a fatal oil train explosion in Quebec last summer killed 47 people and flattened a downtown, people aren't daydreaming anymore. That disaster served as a wake-up call to a lot of communities living close to railroad tracks, who suddenly realized that was crude oil rolling by in tanker. As oil trains have had more accidents, and governments are examining the safety of rail oil shipments, some local residents are applying the brakes on what they see as a dangerous rush to move oil by train.

There are, however, powerful economic reasons why more oil is being shipped by rail, rather than through pipelines.

 

Reporter Sarah Gardner talked with Graham Brisben, CEO and founder, PLG Consulting, about moving oil by train:

Q: How much crude oil are we moving on trains?

A: It's certainly growing. It's up to about 400,000 carloads per year today. Although crude by rail gets a lot of attention -- it's a big focus in the media partly because it's an area of growth for railroads, but also because there have been a number of high profile crude-by-rail accidents -- the reality is it's only 2 to 3 percent of total car loadings for the railroads.

Q: Why are they using trains to move oil to refineries?

A: Initially, when crude by rail got started, it occurred in the Bakken play in North Dakota. The initial idea was to use rail to get crude to market simply to bide the time until pipelines were built out with enough capacity. But once crude oil got going, the commodity traders and the exploration and production companies realized that rail gave them faster transit times, the ability to ramp up more quickly than pipelines, and the ability to take the crude oil to different destinations where a higher price could be received for those barrels.

Q: There's not just one price?

A: No. Because crude oil trades at different prices at different places according to oil benchmarks (like West Texas Intermediate, Light Louisiana Sweet and Brent).

Q: Won't crude by rail go away when more pipelines get built?

A: As the pipeline network gets built out in a north-south direction, the flow of crude from the Bakken in North Dakota will have more of a shift from rail back to pipeline. But going east-west, that business will persist. You're simply not going to see a buildout of pipelines going east-west. It's simply cost-prohibitive to go over the Rocky Mountains, for example.

Q: What about tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada?

A: That oil is coming to market both by pipeline and now, increasingly, by rail. First, it was the light, sweet crude out of the Bakken. Now, it's heavy sour Canadian crude going to U.S. refineries.

Q: Who's making money on all this?

A: Obviously this has been a bright spot for the railroads. And tank car builders and leasers have enjoyed some very flush returns. The other beneficiary has been commodity traders who take advantage of those price spreads. It's also a good time to be in the refining business because of abundant domestic supply. They're in a better position than they were five years ago.

Q: Federal regulators are moving to increase safety standards in light of recent accidents. Will those new regulations affect the economics of crude by rail?

A: Crude by rail is economically attractive enough to warrant the hard work it is going to take to improve safety. The measures that can be taken, in reality, aren't all that difficult. We expect regulations on retrofitting tank cars with crude oil. Also it wouldn't surprise me if there end up being routing guidelines away from population centers, along with the speed restrictions. And greater scrutiny of terminal operations.

Q: Railroads seem very old-fashioned somehow. Could we live without them?

A: Could we live? Yes. Could our economy survive without railroads? No.

More crude oil travels by train, and communities along rail lines grow concerned

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:29

Ever lapsed into daydreaming while you sit at a railroad crossing, waiting for a long freight train to go by?

When a fatal oil train explosion in Quebec last summer killed 47 people and flattened a downtown, people aren't daydreaming anymore. That disaster served as a wake-up call to a lot of people living close to railroad tracks, who suddenly realized that was crude oil rolling by in tanker. As oil trains have had more accidents, and governments are examining the safety of rail oil shipments, some local residents are applying the brakes on what they see as a dangerous rush to move oil by train.

There are, however, powerful economic reasons why more oil is being shipped by rail, rather than through pipelines.

 

Reporter Sarah Gardner talked with Graham Brisben, CEO and founder, PLG Consulting, about moving oil by train:

Q: How much crude oil are we moving on trains?

A: It's certainly growing. It's up to about 400,000 carloads per year today. Although crude by rail gets a lot of attention -- it's a big focus in the media partly because it's an area of growth for railroads, but also because there have been a number of high profile crude-by-rail accidents -- the reality is it's only 2 to 3 percent of total car loadings for the railroads.

Q: Why are they using trains to move oil to refineries?

A: Initially, when crude by rail got started, it occurred in the Bakken play in North Dakota. The initial idea was to use rail to get crude to market simply to bide the time until pipelines were built out with enough capacity. But once crude oil got going, the commodity traders and the exploration and production companies realized that rail gave them faster transit times, the ability to ramp up more quickly than pipelines, and the ability to take the crude oil to different destinations where a higher price could be received for those barrels.

Q: There's not just one price?

A: No. Because crude oil trades at different prices at different places according to oil benchmarks (like West Texas Intermediate, Light Louisiana Sweet and Brent).

Q: Won't crude by rail go away when more pipelines get built?

A: As the pipeline network gets built out in a north-south direction, the flow of crude from the Bakken in North Dakota will have more of a shift from rail back to pipeline. But going east-west, that business will persist. You're simply not going to see a buildout of pipelines going east-west. It's simply cost-prohibitive to go over the Rocky Mountains, for example.

Q: What about tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada?

A: That oil is coming to market both by pipeline and now, increasingly, by rail. First, it was the light, sweet crude out of the Bakken. Now, it's heavy sour Canadian crude going to U.S. refineries.

Q: Who's making money on all this?

A: Obviously this has been a bright spot for the railroads. And tank car builders and leasers have enjoyed some very flush returns. The other beneficiary has been commodity traders who take advantage of those price spreads. It's also a good time to be in the refining business because of abundant domestic supply. They're in a better position than they were five years ago.

Q: Federal regulators are moving to increase safety standards in light of recent accidents. Will those new regulations affect the economics of crude by rail?

A: Crude by rail is economically attractive enough to warrant the hard work it is going to take to improve safety. The measures that can be taken, in reality, aren't all that difficult. We expect regulations on retrofitting tank cars with crude oil. Also it wouldn't surprise me if there end up being routing guidelines away from population centers, along with the speed restrictions. And greater scrutiny of terminal operations.

Q: Railroads seem very old-fashioned somehow. Could we live without them?

A: Could we live? Yes. Could our economy survive without railroads? No.

PODCAST: Layoffs in tech and retail

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:27

There are job cuts and there are companies that announce plans to cut jobs. The outplacement firm Challenger Grey and Christmas keeps a monthly tally of the latter, and there's news just now these layoff announcements surged in January. A combined total of 45,100 jobs will eventually go, including many jobs from the supposedly screamingly-hot world of technology.

The governor of Tennessee wants to make community college or technical school free for all high school graduates in the state. Republican Governor Bill Haslam calls his proposal the Tennessee Promise. It's part of a broader workforce development strategy in a state that lags behind in higher education, but wants a technically savvy labor pool.

European foreign ministers this month are meeting with officials in Cuba to work out a new agreement on trade and investment. What might this mean for Cuba's still tenuous relationship with the U.S.?

Twitter's good earnings report just doesn't cut it for investors

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:16

Twitter released it's first quarterly earnings report yesterday. And the little bluebird did better than expected, earning two hundred and 42 million dollars in revenue last quarter. But investors aren't happy this morning, because growth in the number of Twitter monthly users was not sky high. Twitter's stock has dropped 20 percent so far this morning.

Brian Blau is a research director for consumer technologies at Gartner and joined us to help explain.

Click play on the audio player above to hear the interview.

Sonic Dictionary: An Aural History Project

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:11

If you don't know the meaning of a word, says Mary Caton Lingold at Duke University, you can look it up in the dictionary, but if you don't know what a particular sound sounds like, where do you go?The Sonic Dictionary, of course.

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Stolen Stradivarius Found By Milwaukee Police

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:07

The instrument, known as "Lipinski" was stolen from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's concert master last week.

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How easy should it be to join a labor union?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 08:00

The National Labor Relations Board proposed changes to the rules that govern how workers vote on whether or not to unionize. The new rules make it easier for workers to organize by allowing them to distribute information electronically and by shortening the election period.

Under the current system, if workers want to form a union they have to file a petition and then hold an NLRB-sanctioned election. Before the election is the appeals process. Labor organizers argue this system allow employers to delay elections.

“The idea is to eliminate those tactical maneuvers,” says Thomas Kochan, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The new rules would move the appeals process to after the election, thereby shortening the period between the petition and the election. 

The U.S. Chamber of commerce and other business groups oppose the rule change.

“They feel like these rules are going to have the effect of silencing employers,” says Geoff Burr, Vice President of Government Affairs at The Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group that represents 22,000 predominantly non-union construction businesses. 

The 5 member board of the NLRB is divided with three democrats in favor of the rule change and two republicans opposed.  Both sides will have 75 days to weigh in on the rule change before a public hearing in April.

Less Sleep, More Time Online Raise Risk For Teen Depression

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 07:30

Lack of sleep contributes to depression in teenagers, two studies find. Lack of exercise and lots of time online don't help, either. The solution, researchers say, is for parents to make sure their children are getting a good nine to 10 hours of sleep a night, even in high school.

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European officials to consider new trade with Cuba

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 07:24

European foreign ministers this month are meeting with officials in Cuba to work out a new agreement on trade and investment. What might this mean for Cuba's still tenuous relationship with the U.S.?

Enrique Acevedo, a Miami-based reporter and anchor for Univision joined us to help answer that question. Click play on the audio player above to hear the interview.

Opinions on Cuba, of course, vary widely.  Enrique's network is just finishing up its surveys for a nationwide poll on the attitudes of Americans toward Cuba, which Univision plans to release next week. 

When tech jobs don't last forever

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-06 07:08

There are job cuts and there are companies that announce plans to cut jobs. The outplacement firm Challenger Grey and Christmas keeps a monthly tally of the latter, and there's news just now these layoff announcements surged in January. A combined total of 45,100 jobs will eventually go, including many jobs from the supposedly screamingly-hot world of technology.

John Challenger is CEO is the company that commissions the survey and said that while the tech industry has seen a lot of growth, it's also subject to a lot of volatility. Companies like Intel and EMC are shifting their business strategies to account for the mobile market.

Many of the announced layoffs are part of a trend we've been tracking in recent weeks, with retailers like Target, Sear's, Macy's laying off after the holidays.

"The cuts that occured in retail came from two sources," Challenger says, "They looked at their store operations and cut unprofitable areas of their businesses post-holiday rush, but also tens of thousands of workers, year-in-year-out, leave their jobs -- they've been hired during the holiday season -- and then when the season's over, they go back to their full-time jobs or second jobs. Those jobs literally disappear when the season's over and come back in the following year."

The government's monthly tally of employed and unemployed comes tomorrow, a report that experts say could be distorted by the weather and people falling out of the labor force after their unemployment benefits were curtailed.

What Do You Want To Know About The Sochi Olympics?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-06 07:08

Are people excited about the Winter Olympics? Don't figure skaters get dizzy? Those are some of the questions being answered on Quora, the "knowledge sharing" site. We'll highlight interesting questions during the 2014 Winter Games.

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