National News

New Solitary Confinement Plan At Rikers: Humane Or Putting Officers At Risk?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 15:35

After years of pressure, New York is changing its policy on solitary confinement. Activists say it's a historic step forward. Officers say it will bring more bloodshed.

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We Lie About What We Eat, And It's Messing Up Science

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 14:34

Humans are notoriously bad at remembering exactly how much we eat and exercise, yet researchers often ask. A new paper says self-reported data have skewed hundreds of studies and must be discontinued.

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Dollar's Rise Is Good News For The U.S., For Now

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 14:31

The dollar's value keeps climbing. That's a sign of a healthy economy, especially compared to some of America's biggest trading partners — but it also has the potential to slow U.S. economic growth.

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Control, Eliminate, Eradicate A Disease: What's The Difference?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:43

We've eradicated smallpox. But we can only hope to control malaria. A new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History explains how disease fighters set and pursue their goals.

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Ohio Man Is Arrested For Allegedly Plotting Attack On U.S. Capitol

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:40

The FBI says Christopher Lee Cornell of Cincinnati bought weapons to carry out an attack. Agents also say he used Twitter to express support for the violent extremist group Islamic State.

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With oil prices down, small companies feel the squeeze

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:33

We’ve been hearing a lot about crashing oil prices lately. Crude oil is selling for $46 barrel today compared to over $90 a year ago. The price drop is great news for consumers and terrible for oil companies. But not all oil companies -- or oil fields -- are created equal. When oil prices drop, size and location matters.

McAndrew Rudisill knows this. He's the CEO of Emerald Oil, a small, Denver-based oil and gas company that only operates in the Bakken shale of North Dakota. He's got about 50 wells -- minuscule compared to giant oil companies like Continental Resources, with 1000 wells in the Bakken alone and more in places like Colorado and Oklahoma.

Small companies like Emerald are likely to feel the impact of dropping oil prices first, says Niles Hushka, CEO of KLJ, an engineering firm in Bismarck. It is harder for smaller firms to quickly get loans and additional financing. With fewer wells, they also have less money coming in to ride out tough times. Companies in the Bakken need a lot of money to keep drilling. New wells can cost up to $10 million each.

Another factor that makes smaller companies more vulnerable is a lack of geographic diversity. Larger companies, Hushka says, "will have resources that are spread throughout a number of oil plays and therefore they’re much better protected" than small companies who may only have wells in the Bakken.

North Dakota oil companies have to pay much higher transportation costs than companies in Texas or Oklahoma because they are farther from Gulf Coast refineries and must transport much of their oil by train, which is costlier than pipelines. The price per barrel doesn't reflect that cost, so when you hear that oil has dropped to $50 per barrel, oil companies in North Dakota are only getting about $37.

Geography within the Bakken matters, too, says Niles Hushka: "If you're in one of North Dakota’s hot spots, you’ve got a great big smile on your face."

That's because in the heart of the Bakken, like McKenzie or Dunn Counties, it's possible to drill new wells and still break even with prices in the low $30s. In fact, that’s where most of the drilling rigs have moved in recent months. But in the more marginal areas, like Divide County, where operating costs are higher and wells don't produce as much oil, it's harder to justify the cost of drilling a new well.

As a small company, Emerald Oil can't afford to drill a ton of new wells next year. That's because a lot of oil gets produced in a well's first two to six months, so Emerald needs that peak production to come when prices are higher, at least over $85 per barrel.

But they'll still drill a few new wells in order to hang onto their mineral leases In North Dakota, companies have three years to drill a well before their mineral lease expires, assuming their lease is with a private mineral rights owner and not the government.

But other small companies are stopping entirely. Butch Butler is president of a Colorado-based oil company called Resource Drilling that is even smaller than Emerald. Butler jokes that he is the company's landman, geologist, drilling engineer, operations engineer and whatever else needs to be done.

Butler has just one well in North Dakota, and a few months ago, the plan was to drill another two. When prices dropped, Butler put that plan on hold.

Butler's been in the business long enough to have acquired a gallows humor about oil prices. Both times I talked to him in the past two months, he joked that things were bad, but he wasn’t quote “slitting his wrists” yet.

"I’ve been in this business 38 years," he says, "and truly most of that time has been not so good."

He's come to expect dramatic swings and slides, so he doesn't seem too fazed by the recent price drop. It's a good attitude for an oilman to have.

This story was produced by Inside Energy, a public media collaboration focused on America's energy issues.

Homeland Security Secretary Defends Executive Actions On Immigration

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:26

Audie Cornish talks to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

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Some French Muslims See Conspiracies In Paris Shootings

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:17

In Muslim communities around France, some don't believe the official version of events. In schools, some Muslim students refused to join in a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks.

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Obama promotes Internet independence for communities

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:11

President Obama spoke Wednesday in Cedar Falls, Iowa, about his proposal to encourage more municipalities to set up their own high-speed fiber-optic networks. Yet plenty of hurdles remain to creating fast and reliable Internet connections, including infrastructure and regulations.

 

JPMorgan CEO says 'banks are under assault'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:11

JPMorgan Chase posted disappointing fourth quarter earnings today, missing analyst expectations. During a call with reporters, CEO Jamie Dimon declared that “banks are under assault," and that it now has five or six regulators coming after it on different issues, compared to one or two previously.

Marcus Stanley, policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, says Dimon has it backward – regulators and Congress are under assault from the financial lobby due to ongoing efforts to repeal various elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms passed in 2010.

Who’s right?

Both sides, says John Coffee, a Columbia Law School professor. In 2014, many regulators took a stricter attitude toward banks, including state-level overseers. And while the financial crisis made it clear we need better bank oversight, Aaron Klein of the Bipartisan Policy Center says he thinks that consolidating regulators would save money for both banks and taxpayers. 

JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon says banks 'under assault'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-14 13:11

JPMorgan Chase posted disappointing fourth quarter earnings today, missing analyst expectations. During a call with reporters, CEO Jamie Dimon declared that “banks are under assault," that it now has five or six regulators coming after it on every different issue, compared to the old days it dealt with one or two. Marcus Stanley, the policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, thinks Dimon has it backwards, that it’s regulators and U.S. Congress who are under assault from the financial lobby, due to its ongoing efforts to repeal various elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms passed in 2010.

So who’s right?

Actually, both sides, says John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. In 2014, many regulators took a stricter attitude toward the banks, including state-level overseers. And while the financial crisis made it clear we need better bank oversight, Aaron Klein with the Bipartisan Policy Center, thinks consolidate regulators would save money for both banks and taxpayers. 

Falling Oil Prices Have North Dakota Migrants Rethinking The Boom

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:59

Falling oil prices are leading to a slow down in drilling. And that means workers are rethinking the long commutes they've been making for once-steady, good-paying jobs.

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French Ambassador To U.S. Outlines 'Predicament' Of Immigration

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:51

While France's leaders had feared an attack, Ambassador Gerard Araud says, "what happened was in a sense maybe worse than what we were expecting, because it was done in a very professional way."

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Finding, Selling Flaws In Apple's Code Can Be Lucrative Work

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:51

Every time there is a big new release of some Apple software or operating system, hackers get to work — finding a flaw in Apple's computer code can be very lucrative.

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Al-Qaida Group Claims Responsibility In 'Charlie Hebdo' Attack

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:46

Audie Cornish speaks with Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University's Center for Security Studies, about al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

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In Wake Of Lapses, Top Secret Service Officials Are Told To Leave

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:43

The Washington Post is reporting the departures would gut much of the agency's upper management following security lapses that led to harsh criticism of the presidential protection service.

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From The Mouths Of Apes, Babble Hints At Origins of Human Speech

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:33

You say banana; this orangutan says ... well, it's hard to tell what she's saying. But the rhythmic, speech-like sounds of the zoo-dwelling ape have started scientists talking.

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Threatened By Liability, Iowa City Bans Sledding

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:16

The city of Dubuque, Iowa, is the latest city to pass a ban on sledding. It affects all but two hills in town. City Council members say they've passed the ban to protect tax payers from lawsuits.

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Obama Spotlights High-Speed Internet Success In Iowa

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:16

President Obama visited Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Wednesday to spotlight that community's investment in an affordable, high-speed Internet system. The president wants to encourage similar systems elsewhere, but community-owned networks face challenges from commercial Internet providers.

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New 'Charlie Hebdo' Cover Met With Condemnation, Albeit Measured

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:16

Religious and government authorities in the Middle East seem to be trying to tamp down any outrage over the publication of another cartoon of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed in France's Charlie Hebdo magazine.

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