National News

A Weight-Loss Device Aims To Curb Hunger By Zapping A Nerve

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 07:56

A surgically implanted device similar to a pacemaker gained FDA approval after showing some weight loss in people who are obese. But people in a study who had sham devices lost weight, too.

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Duke's Muslim Students Prepare For Prayers Amid Controversy

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 07:15

They will gather for their call to prayer in the quadrangle outside Duke Chapel, a day after Duke University reversed course on allowing the traditional call to prayer from the chapel's bell tower.

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It's Official: 2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record, NOAA Says

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 07:03

The annually-averaged temperature was 1.24 degrees Fahrenheit over the 20th century average, and easily broke the records set in 2005 and 2010.

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Arizona 1st In Nation To Require High Schoolers To Pass Civics Test

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 06:48

The state's governor signed a bill into law that will require graduates to pass the same civics test given to candidates for U.S. citizenship. Similar measures are being considered in other states.

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Head Of Medicare, Who Oversaw Obamacare Rollout, Will Step Down

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 06:11

Marilyn Tavenner said she was stepping down in February. She joined the Obama administration in 2010 and oversaw the problematic rollout of the President Obama's signature domestic program.

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Iowa's Sen. Ernst Grabs Spotlight That's Often Proven Too Hot

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 06:06

As often as not, the opportunity to speak right after the president has been the kiss of death for aspiring politicians — especially for the GOP during the Obama years.

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Saudis Postpone 2nd Round Of Public Flogging For Jailed Blogger Raif Badawi

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 05:44

A doctor who examined Badawi found his wounds from last Friday's public flogging hadn't healed and he would be unable to withstand another round. The punishment could be carried out next Friday.

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Pope, On Visit To Philippines, Defends Catholic Ban On Contraception

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 05:38

Francis, on the second day of his visit to the predominately Catholic nation, called for families to be "sanctuaries of respect for life."

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Quiz: National champs on the field and in the classroom?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 04:58

Ohio State’s football team won the first College Football Playoff, but its Graduation Success Rate rate lags behind other sports programs on its campus.

GSR is a NCAA metric that accounts for student-athlete transfers.

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Quiz: National champions on the field - and the classroom?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 04:58

Ohio State’s football team won the first College Football Playoff, but its Graduation Success Rate rate lags behind other sports programs on its campus.

GSR is a NCAA metric that accounts for student-athlete transfers.

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Long-Lost British Spacecraft Spotted By NASA Probe Orbiting Mars

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 04:10

The Beagle 2 Mars Lander was lost Christmas day 2003. Today, British scientists confirmed their spacecraft was found partially deployed on the surface of Mars.

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PODCAST: Breaking the Google Glass

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 03:00

On Friday, new regulations go into effect governing the US relationship Cuba. Americans still can't visit willy-nilly, but there are now 12 categories of visitors who won't need a license to travel there, including family visits, educational, religious. And how does one get to Cuba, exactly? Plus, Google is ending sales of its Glass eyewear, the heads-up display that linked eyeglass frames to the internet. And sand from a few midwestern states is highly preferred for fracking, and large mines have turned parts of rural Wisconsin inside out. When officials in Trempealeau County tried to limit new mines, mining companies looked closely at how local government is structured in rural Wisconsin- and got creative.

Google decides to shelve Glass, for now

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 03:00

Google is ending sales of its Google Glass eyewear, those futuristic looking little wearable computers that were the embodiment of tech cool for a short period of time.

The company made the announcement yesterday, but says the move is not the end of Glass. Rather, it’s is just the end of “beta testing” for the Glass eyewear. 

"It doesn't come as a huge surprise that Google has decided to bench what they've been making so far, and putting the core technology into other things," says Chris Green, a Technology Industry Analyst for the Davies Murphy Group. All along he says, Glass was just a proof of concept.

"The future of Google Glass may live somewhere else, whether it's integrated into clothing, whether it’s integrated into a smart phone," says Green.

While some critics say the move hurts early adopters—the people who paid the hefty $1500 cost to purchase Glass—Google says this is just another step in the products development. 

Others say going back to the drawing board might be actually be good idea.

“It was not the easiest to use, the most intuitive, or even the most useful product out there,” notes Rebecca Lieb, analyst with the Altimeter Group.

Lieb says that doesn’t mean the Glass experiment was a failure, even smartphones when they first came out weren’t a huge hit. Just look at fitness tracking products like Fitbit she says.

We're only beginning to scratch the surface of wearable technology,” says Lieb. "It’s a topic you're going to hear a lot about this year, and in the next five years to come."

Even though regular people won’t be able to buy new Glass, Google is keeping its “Glass at Work” program for use in industries like hospitals and factories.

“Their strategy might be a gradual shifting away from the consumer market to industry,” says Chris Hazelton, Research Director for Enterprise Mobility at 451 Research.

“Their search engine business definitely provides them with a steady stream of cash and a healthy advantage over their closest competition,” he says.

Going forward, Google says the Glass team will move out of the semi-secret “Google X” incubator labs to become standalone division reporting to a new CEO.

More Than Two Dozen Arrested In France, Belgium In Anti-Terror Raids

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:45

In Belgium, police say they disrupted a major attack when they arrested 13 suspects and seized guns, munitions and explosives.

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So, when can I buy a flight to Cuba?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

Starting Friday, the United States will permit more Americans to travel to Cuba.

But how do you get there? The short answer: it may still be a bit before there are commercial flights from the U.S.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Settlers of Catan: Green Bay Edition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00
7 percent

More news from big banks: Goldman Sachs reported on Friday a 7 percent decrease in profits in the fourth quarter. As reported by the New York Times, today's latest report joins disappointing results from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup.

600 jobs

The drop in price of crude oil isn't just a big, global story — It hits local industry, too. Take Lorain, Ohio, for example, where the steel mill says it will have to get rid of 600 jobs — nearly every employee — as demand for steel for drilling and shale exploration has dropped significantly. 

2 sand mines

When officials in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, tried to set limits on new sand mines, mining companies looked closely at how local government is structured in rural Wisconsin and got creative. Sand mining has turned parts of rural Wisconsin inside out thanks to fracking for oil and gas. Since the county only regulates mining in unincorporated areas, mining companies went to some of the cities of Trempealeau County and asked to be annexed — Cities like Independence, population 1,363, which is now home to two sand mines.

19 oscar nominations

Well, now she's just showing off. With this year's oscar nominations, Meryl Streep has a total of 19 career oscar nominations. Check out our breakdown of the numbers behind the golden statue.

$9.99

Et tu, glitter? $9.99 is how much it will cost you to send an envelope of glitter to your enemies via Australian startup ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com. But you already knew that, didn't you? So why not show your tech savvy over at Silicon Tally, our weekly quiz on the week in tech news.

10 points

That's how many points a player needs to gather in order to win a game of Settlers of Catan. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who apparently are huge fans.

Frac sand companies get creative with local politics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

When officials in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, tried to set limits on new sand mines, mining companies looked closely at how local government is structured in rural Wisconsin and got creative.

Sand mining has turned parts of rural Wisconsin inside out thanks to fracking for oil and gas. Fracking consumes 100 billion pounds of sand a year, and sand from a few midwestern states is highly prized.

Trempealeau has more mines than any other county, and in mid-2013, the Trempealeau County board declared a year-long moratorium on new mining permits.

However, the county only regulates mining in unincorporated areas. So mining companies went to some of the cities of Trempealeau County and asked to be annexed.

Like the City of Independence, population 1,363, now home to two sand mines.

At City Hall, Mayor Ottie Baekcer says Independence needed a shot in the arm: “And as you see, there’s not people standing outside that door, trying to bring a GM factory in here.”

Sometimes there’s cash upfront. One company offered $1.5 million to the City of Blair — population 1,379, plus two mines — if the city annexed another site.

Cities like Blair and Independence also offer more-permissive rules for mines than the county. “We let them work 24 hours, ‘round the clock, you see, where the county don’t,” says Blair’s mayor, Ardell Knutson. Rules around noise can also be less strict.        

With annexations, more than half a dozen different ordinances now regulate sand-mining in the county.

“It’s chaos,” says Jack Speerstra, who represents a third layer of local government: townships that provide services to rural parts of the county. Land getting annexed into a city like Independence comes out of a township like Lincoln, where Speerstra is the board chair.

When his constituents have problems — with noise or light from mines that become their neighbors on newly-annexed city land — they get caught in the middle of the chaos that Speerstra talks about. “They call the county, and the county says it’s in the city jurisdiction,” he says. “Who do you call?”

Lincoln and another town are suing Independence to prevent one proposed annexation. The mine site is far from the city limit, connected by a strip of other parcels. Wisconsin courts have ruled against “balloon-on-a-string” annexations before.

Meanwhile, Speerstra has a dairy farm to run. He takes a stipend of $400 a month to serve as town chair.

When aked if it is usually in his job description to negotiate with publicly-traded companies, he chuckles.

“No,” he says. “I’ve done this for 25 years. And in the first in the first 25 years, I probably had contact with an attorneys once every 4 or 5 years at the most.”

Now, he talks to lawyers three, four, five times a week.

Meanwhile, mining companies have also looked for allies going up the chain of government in the state capitol. Proposed legislation in 2013 would have given the state exclusive authority over mining permits; cutting local governments out of the process. That proposal died the first time out, but one senator has said he plans to float it again soon.

Netflix becomes a movie studio

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

In a major first for Hollywood this year, Netflix will release a big-budget movie which it financed both in theaters, and on its streaming service at the same time.

The streaming service signed a four-film deal with Adam Sandler's production company last year, and will release one of his films later this year (the exact date hasn't been announced). It's also financing a sequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which will be released in theaters and Netflix on August 28.

The moves into the film producing business are part of an effort at Netflix to change how films are distributed.

"The current distibution model for movies is pretty antiquated," Ted Sarandos, chief of Netflix's original content, said during MIPCOM, a television industry trade conference last year.

You can watch Sarandos' entire keynote interview below: 

It can take a year for a Hollywood movie to go from theaters to Netflix - part of a system set in place decades ago in which a film is released in 'windows': first in theaters, then in other formats such as DVD, video-on-demand and streaming.

"So, what we wanted to do is accelerate the model by putting our money where our mouth is a little bit," says Sarandos, "And say we'll release movies in theaters and on Netflix. And, we'll fund the movies to make it work."

"That's completely different and sort of upends the old economic model," says Chris McGurk, chief of Cinedigm, a digital content distributor, who used to be an executive at multiple Hollywood studios including Disney, Universal and MGM.

In recent years, some smaller-budget independent films have upended that model and been released in digital formats first or at the same time as in cinemas, but "now you're talking about major motion pictures," says McGurk, "with multi-tens of millions of dollars budgets, with top-line hollywood talent. And that is pretty much unheard of."

McGurk says Netflix's 50 million subscribers give it the best chance so far to make money on a major digital-first film.

A disappearing industry in Lorain, Ohio

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

On Friday, the International Energy Agency predicted that non-OPEC oil producers will slow the growth of their production this year. There's also news the oil services company Schlumberger will cut 9,000 jobs.

To get some perspective on what this means at a local level, just look at the town of Lorain, Ohio, west of Cleveland. Once economically distressed, jobs poured in at the U.S. steel plant in Lorain to make pipes for domestic shale oil production. Now, crude oil is trading at less than half the price it was in June, and Lorain's mayor, Chase Ritenauer, is seeing the effects.

Says Ritenauer, "U.S. Steel, what they do is driven by the price of crude oil. As crude oil prices have gone down, the demand from their customers for the steel, for the drilling, for the shale exploration, has gone down." Now, there's word that 600 workers at Lorain's steel plant, nearly everyone, will lose their jobs.

"It illustrates the global economy, and how the global economy can impact Lorain, Ohio pretty dramatically," says Ritenauer.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Silicon Tally: Et tu, glitter?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by science reporter Flora Lichtman, host of the forthcoming podcast on climate change entitled "The Adaptors".

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