America eats an astonishing 50 billion pounds of meat a year. And to get all that beef, pork and chicken takes a colossal amount of resources. 'Big Ag' takes a lot of licks for the way it goes about getting that meat on our tables. But Americans get pretty ornery anytime the price per pound raises even a penny. Maureen Ogle is the author of a new book all about that tenuous balance. It's called "In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America." She says the abundant resources of The New World set the table for America's meat entitlement mentality, and demand has led to the efficient, albeit much-maligned, system we have today.
"The system we have now has many flaws. I wouldn't want to live next to a hog confinement operation and I'm sure you wouldn't want to either. But the simple fact is, given the demand, the system we have is the least disruptive we can have. It' the least disruptive to the soil, it's the least disruptive to people, it's the least disruptive to the environment. It's not perfect, but the idea of doing what critics want us to do, which is to dismantle the existing system and then go back to small scale agricultural production, we can't do that and supply demand."
The nation used Twitter to mark the second inauguration of President Obama and to get information on the Boston Marathon bombing. But the year's most retweeted tweet was about the sudden death of a TV star.
The nation used Twitter to mark the second inauguration of President Obama and to get information on the Boston Marathon bombing, but the year's most retweeted tweet was about the sudden death of a TV star.
This final note today, in which we give thanks for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 today to have a look at whether cellphones ought to be allowed on airplanes.
We've known that's been coming for a while now.
And the head of the FCC said even if they do approve cellphone use, it'll be up to individual airlines as to whether or not they'll allow them.
Here's where the Transportation Department comes in.
Secretary Anthony Fox rode to the rescue today. He said his department will have the final say, thank you very much.
So...there's hope yet.
Part discount grocer, part social service agency, the supermarkets limit membership to those who can prove they receive some form of welfare benefits. These stores, which are flourishing in Europe, sell food that's been rejected by grocers but is still perfectly edible and would otherwise end up in landfills.
Problems persist on the back end of HealthCare.gov, which must process accurate enrollment information so insurers can receive premium payments and start coverage for consumers. Reconciliation of the data just started this week, as time to fix problems is running out.
The most important lessons we learn about money don’t come from our accountants or our radios. They come from our family.
Each week, we invite someone to tell us about the money tips they inherited.
This week, we hear from indie rock musician Eleanor Friedberger.
She spent much of this year touring with her new album Personal Record, but she currently has nothing scheduled after December 20th until the following fall. "You have to be comfortable with not knowing when you're going to get paid next," says Friedberger.
Although her latest record is only the second under her name, she's been making a living through music for more than a decade as one half of the Fiery Furnaces with her brother Matthew Friedberger. She's managed this precarious financial situation in part by taking after her father. "He's a cheap guy, you know? I think some of my friends might describe me that way," she says.
She splurges on clothes -- "I probably get that from my mother" -- but in vintage stores, not Barneys. But she says she can't worry too much about money, or plan too much for the future, when income is unpredictable.
"I've had great years, and I've had bad years. I've had OK years, and I've had mostly years that I just get by," she says. "Which is good enough, considering I get to do something pretty great."
Suthep Thaugsuban says the supreme commanders of the army, navy, air force and police have agreed to meet him in a move likely to spark concerns of a possible coup.
The 16-year-old from a rich family got drunk and got behind the wheel of a pickup truck. There's been a lot of reaction to the news that he wasn't sentenced to prison, but will instead enter treatment and be on probation. Was his "affluenza" defense justified?
Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah was hanged Thursday for crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence. He's the first person convicted by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal to be executed.
Farm animals are big drug users.
“Seventy percent of all antibiotics produced in this country, by weight, go to animals,” says Stuart Levy, a professor at Tufts University and president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. He says almost all of those are feed additives. “Do we need all this antibiotic usage?" he asks. "The answer is no.”
The FDA, concerned about bacteria in humans becoming resistant to antibiotics, agrees -- no more using antibiotics to fatten animals. It’s asking drug companies to voluntarily change their labels, technically restricting use by farmers and potentially raising their costs.
Gay Miller is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A decade ago she estimated removing antibiotics to encourage growth might cost farmers a little more than a dollar a pig. Today, she says, it’s less clear what it might cost. Farmers, she says, want to “produce a pig that is healthy and high quality as efficiently as possible.”
“Certainly it is not something that’ll make the price of meat go down,” says Scott Hurd, a professor at Iowa State University and former USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety. He says the ag industry is ready for the change. But the rules aren’t going to stop farmers from giving drugs to their animals to keep them healthy.
“We’re raising babies here," he says, "and the important thing about antibiotics is to raise those babies in a healthy way.”
The pharma companies don’t seem all that worried they’re about to lose a big customer.
“We think the implications will be pretty minor, at least in the near term,” says David Krempa, an analyst at Morningstar. He thinks without a tougher ban, farmers are going to keep doing what they do.
Instagram, the social media photo sharing site, has introduced a new feature -- Instagram Direct. Normally, if you post a video or photo with the service, anyone (and I mean anyone) can see it. Starting today, you can share your snapshots and comments back-and-forth in real time -- only with the users you want.
If you’re wondering if Instagram’s new private feature was motivated by concerns about privacy...the answer is, not so much.
“I really believe that this new feature that Instagram has released is about competition,” says Brian Blau, research director in consumer technologies with Gartner, a technology research firm, "It's about 'me too.'"
Blau points out that Facebook, which owns Instagram, had tried to buy Snapchat, a photo and messaging service, for billions of dollars. So if you can't buy 'em -- build the same features on your site so your users don't leave.
"They’re all starting to look the same. These services are really starting to be homogenous, starting to look like one big pile of goop," Blau says. "That probably isn’t good for them."
Instagram’s game of copycat, says Julie Ask, a principal analyst with Forrester research, is actually part of a larger phenomenon.
"What's happening now is there's lot of applications that want to become platforms," she says. "They want to become that interface between the consumer and the phone-that-does-all-things."
Ask says in order to reach 'platform' status, companies are willing to take some risks -- like offering similar features.
"It's a very powerful thing, it's something that they can monetize if they can achieve it and so the stakes are very high. So while there is a chance that all of these services begin to seem the same, you've got to take a shot," she says.
Ask notes that while Instagram has 80 million users, WeChat, an app popular in Asia, has attracted hundreds of millions and in the process gained coveted 'platform' status.
"I used WeChat in Beijing a month ago," she says, "and we ordered takeout food from a micro app within WeChat."
Ask says the Americans needs to catch up with the global market for mobile technology.
"We don’t write about it because we don’t see it and live it every day," says Ask. "But if you go to Korea, or Indonesia, or the Philippines or China, that’s where you’re engaging everyday. That’s your environment, that’s where your friends are."
While there is a lot that is not in the House-approved budget deal crafted by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), it does take most of the sting out of "the sequester” -- the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts aimed at trimming the deficit. The second round of those is supposed to kick in next month.
Sequestration came to life on March 1, with cuts to the tune of $85 billion dollars. According to Bruce Cain, a political science professor at Stanford University, it was designed to be unappealing to lawmakers in both parties.
“The idea was that it would be so unpalatable that eventually they would come to the table,” he says.
But that took a while. Some programs were exempt, and Congress passed exceptions for air traffic controllers and FBI agents. So, for many Americans, that first round of cuts seemed abstract, Cain says.
“It didn’t ripple out to the public in the same way that, say, cuts at the local government level and the state level do,” he says.
Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, wonders if we will see more sequesters in the future, because politicians might now see it as a viable way to reduce spending.
The fear of more cuts next year is what finally got negotiators to compromise. But according to Alice Rivlin, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, it is too soon to do a postmortem.
“The sequester is not dead,” she says, noting Ryan and Murray’s deal is just a partial replacement for only two of the sequester’s remaining eight years.
“This sequester is still moving,” says Paul Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at New York University. “It’s still alive. This is going to come up over and over again.”
By law -- until Fiscal Year 2021.
The communications agency's commissioners voted 3-2 to consider new rules allowing voice calls while jetliners are in the air — something that's been forbidden on U.S. flights. But the head of the Department of Transportation says he's "concerned" by the prospect of such calls.
He defied a military dictator, sacked a prime minister, and persistently called generals and intelligence chiefs to account. Now, Iftikhar Chaudhry has retired after a tenure that changed the balance of power in his turbulent nation.
The giant cutter is designed to bore through rock and soil without a problem. But it has hit something that has brought work on a highway tunnel to a stop. Officials say it may take a couple weeks to figure out what's going on. Theories, anyone?
The former Price Is Right host is backing Republican David Jolly in a special election next month for a St. Petersburg-area congressional seat. The 90-year-old tells voters, "When you get to be as young as I am, you call it like you see it."
The world needs new antibiotics because so many of the existing drugs are losing their punch. Some people are already talking about a "post-antibiotic era," when bacteria can defeat all the drugs doctors have at their disposal. Two scientists are crowdfunding a campaign to get everyone digging for new antibiotics.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made headlines a couple weeks ago when he talked about using drones to deliver packages. It's an idea lot of people dismissed as pie in the sky. But in southwest Ohio, Amazon’s high-flying plans sound like money in the bank.
Right now, the Dayton region is competing with two dozen areas around the country to become a federal testing range for commercial drones. Above the cornfields and strip malls, you’d see tiny helicopters and planes, taking to the skies to do all kinds of things.
Frank Beafore, who runs SelectTech Geospatial, a small high-tech manufacturer in the city of Springfield, lists the possibilities: “Disaster management, power line surveys, telecommunications, television news coverage, making movies, sporting events, environmental monitoring, oil and gas exploration."
Beafore says some uses for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, could be just a couple years out.
In the company hangar at Springfield Airpark, Beafore shows off a UAV that looks sort of like an insect, with four helicopter blades and four spindly legs. The drone lifts off smoothly from the warehouse floor and passes over our heads, creating a little breeze and hovering in midair like a bird in the wind.
“The economic benefit is really only limited by our imagination,” says Maurice McDonald with the Dayton Development Coalition.
Ohio expects to bring in more than $2 billion from drones by 2025, with people here working to build, test and research them. This area could use the boost -- it’s been battered by the loss of manufacturing jobs.
But there’s a hang-up.
“The FAA really needs to address the procedures and policies associated with flying these systems,” says McDonald.
The trouble is, right now most companies can’t actually fly UAVs because the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t decided how to regulate them yet. The agency plans to pick six sites to open up air space where companies can test commercial drones, in anticipation of issuing general rules by the end of 2015.
The hope is companies come to places like Springfield for the air space, and then stay for good. But not everyone around here wants commercial drones to rule the skies.
“I don’t like it when machines take over,” says Teresa McKenzie, a Springfield resident. “It would be very weird.”
As UAVs get smaller, and cheaper, many people are worried about privacy, which is one of the reasons the FAA is taking its time on regulations.
“I certainly don’t want ‘em flying over my house,” Beafore says. But he emphasizes surveillance is not what his UAVs are about. The first uses will probably be agricultural, checking crops for mold or standing water.
And what’s a few candid pics of Ohio’s cornfields?
“The corn doesn’t care,” he says.
The FAA decision on where to let drones test their wings could come out as soon as this week, and Ohio's in the running against 23 states including North Dakota, Wyoming, New York and California.
With tickets for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 set to be the most expensive in the 112-year history of the event, a Michigan credit union is offering loans to Michigan State University fans who need some extra cash to get to the game in Pasadena, Calif. The Michigan State University Financial Credit Union is offering "Bowl Loans" starting at $1,000 with interest rates as low as 6.8 percent for students and alumni who thought their student loans just weren't enough debt for them.
The 2014 Rose Bowl is the Michigan State Spartans' first appearance since 1988 in what many consider the most storied of college football bowl games, and as such the school's demand for tickets from students and season ticketholders has outstripped its 24,000 allotment of tickets the event gives each team. Combine that with the fact that the game against Stanford is the 100th time the Rose Bowl has been played since 1902, and you get ticket prices averaging $901 with a median $482 per ticket (and rising) through resellers like Stub Hub. (That's a 122 percent increase over the last two years' prices and possibly the most expensive tickets in the event's history.)
With the record demand for tickets, the Michigan State University Financial Credit Union -- owned and operated by the Michigan State University community -- started offering the loans earlier this month. The 6.8 percent interest rate is only available for those whose credit scores qualify for it, but a borrower in good standing could expect to pay $111 on a $2,000 loan over the 18-month repayment period.
For context, round-trip airfare from Michigan to California for two could cost at least $2,000, and those lucky enough to snag tickets through the school would pay $150 plus a $25 processing fee for each ticket.
While the Rose Bowl may be "The Grandaddy of Them All" for college football, the BCS National Championship game between Auburn and Florida State (also happening in Pasadena) is commanding even higher ticket prices at an average of $1,864 per ticket.
The decision to take out a loan to see a football game might seem unusual, or even unwise, but for some, the excitement over the Spartans' first Rose Bowl in 25 years is trumping financial responsibility.