National News

Brazil Reels From Thrashing That Bounced It From World Cup

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 05:19

To say Brazil's 7-1 loss to Germany stunned the host country would risk giving the impression that its fans aren't feeling intense pain at this defeat.

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Big rigs get environmental overhaul

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 05:03

Head on down to the Port of Long Beach on any given day, stand alongside the hundreds of big rigs meandering from harbors to Southern California's freeways and take a deep breath. Every truck that rolls by coughs out a little whiff of diesel exhaust.

"We still suffer from the worst air quality in the nation," says Dr. Matt Miyasato, Deputy Executive Officer for Science and Technology Advancement at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, "and that means that our residents are not breathing healthful air about a third of the year." 

Miyasato identifies diesel engines as a major contributor to toxic air -- not just in Long Beach, but across the country. And in addition to delivering asthma and lung cancer, old-fashioned dirty big-rigs eat up $150 billion in fuel every year.

The good news is manufacturers like Cummins and Peterbilt are working on new trucks that are 50% more energy-efficient.

Dr. Mark Duvall at the Electric Power Research Institute says companies like Staples are experimenting with electric delivery trucks. Staples can expect to pay $30,000 more for an electric truck, but recoup that expense in maintenance after about three years.

"You can actually take the combustion engine and it’s not even in the equation," says Duvall. "You get rid of the transmission, the fuel tank, all the emission systems. And so you you save quite a bit of cost and weight and you make a much simpler vehicle."

Researchers have identified various new technologies that would yield significant energy savings if implemented.

"We would be cutting the projected fuel use by 1.4 million barrels of oil per day," says Dr. Dave Cooke, a Vehicles Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "And that corresponds to about 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses.”

The Department of Energy is pushing truck manufacturers to bring these tech innovations to market as soon as possible, through an initiative called SuperTruck.

"I think you will see these technologies migrate to the market quite quickly," says Patrick Davis, Director of the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. "The cost of shipping is directly added to the cost of goods and services delivered. So as you lower the cost of shipping, you would expect the cost of those goods and services to go down."

Those savings aren’t due until 2017, when tighter emissions rules go into effect. But some truck manufacturers are already getting a jump on that deadline by rolling out small improvements one by one, three years ahead of schedule.

Big rigs get environmental overhaul

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 05:03

Head on down to the Port of Long Beach on any given day, stand alongside the hundreds of big rigs meandering from harbors to Southern California's freeways and take a deep breath. Every truck that rolls by coughs out a little whiff of diesel exhaust.

"We still suffer from the worst air quality in the nation," says Dr. Matt Miyasato, Deputy Executive Officer for Science and Technology Advancement at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, "and that means that our residents are not breathing healthful air about a third of the year." 

Miyasato identifies diesel engines as a major contributor to toxic air -- not just in Long Beach, but across the country. And in addition to delivering asthma and lung cancer, old-fashioned dirty big-rigs eat up $150 billion in fuel every year.

The good news is manufacturers like Cummins and Peterbilt are working on new trucks that are 50% more energy-efficient.

Dr. Mark Duvall at the Electric Power Research Institute says companies like Staples are experimenting with electric delivery trucks. Staples can expect to pay $30,000 more for an electric truck, but recoup that expense in maintenance after about three years.

"You can actually take the combustion engine and it’s not even in the equation," says Duvall. "You get rid of the transmission, the fuel tank, all the emission systems. And so you you save quite a bit of cost and weight and you make a much simpler vehicle."

Researchers have identified various new technologies that would yield significant energy savings if implemented.

"We would be cutting the projected fuel use by 1.4 million barrels of oil per day," says Dr. Dave Cooke, a Vehicles Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "And that corresponds to about 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses.”

The Department of Energy is pushing truck manufacturers to bring these tech innovations to market as soon as possible, through an initiative called SuperTruck.

"I think you will see these technologies migrate to the market quite quickly," says Patrick Davis, Director of the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. "The cost of shipping is directly added to the cost of goods and services delivered. So as you lower the cost of shipping, you would expect the cost of those goods and services to go down."

Those savings aren’t due until 2017, when tighter emissions rules go into effect. But some truck manufacturers are already getting a jump on that deadline by rolling out small improvements one by one, three years ahead of schedule.

Immigrants Sending Money Back Home Face Fewer Options

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 04:03

The giant remittances economy has been expanding for years. Facing tighter regulations, big banks are nixing services that let people send money across borders.

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Israel Strikes Gaza, As Hamas Rockets Show Increased Range

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 03:18

In a notable step, rockets fired from Gaza were being aimed at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Israel launched air attacks on more than 150 targets in Gaza.

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A Tough Little Droplet Fights To Stick Around

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 03:03

It's just a drop of water. It's about to fall. And when it does, a story begins. What happens next may feel oddly familiar. Maybe it's telling you — about you.

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PODCAST: Keep on truckin'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 03:00

How Brazil's huge loss in its World Cup match against Germany could change the flow of public money in the Brazilian economy. Plus, more on citigroup's settlement, as well as Uber's plan to attract new users with lower fares. Also, a look at efforts to create more energy efficient big rigs

'Seinfeld' by the numbers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 03:00

Babies born the year "Seinfeld" premiered are now old enough to rent cars (Better get the insurance if you plan on beating the hell out of the thing). The "Show About Nothing" premiered 25 years ago this week. Back then, "The Seinfeld Chronicles," as they were called, introduced a comedian, his friend George, and kooky neighbor Kessler (Elaine wouldn't be added until later.) Watching the slow paced pilot episode, it's hard to believe that from such modest beginnings came one of the most critically and commercially successful, game-changing shows in television history.

"Seinfeld" not only made multimillionaires of creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld many times over, it continues to be a major revenue generator for distributor Sony and production company Castle Rock, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. New York magazine recently took a look at the economics behind the show. Here's a breakdown of "Seinfeld" by the numbers:

$40,000

The amount of money Jerry Seinfeld was paid per episode during the 1991-92 season.

$1 million

How much Seinfeld made per episode by 1997-98, the show's ninth and final season.

76.3 million

The number of people who tuned in to watch the "Seinfeld" series finale. 

$110 million

The price of Jerry Seinfeld's artistic integrity. After nine seasons, Seinfeld decided to call it quits, rejecting NBC's offer of $5 million an episode - $110 million for the season - to continue the show for a tenth year. 

$3.1 billion

The amount of money "Seinfeld" has made since becoming syndicated in 1995. Those reruns on TBS and late at night after the news on your local CW affiliate add up.

$400 million

What Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld will each make off the most recent syndication cycle.

Bringing a smarter approach to American healthcare

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 02:00

In the debate over improving American healthcare, one issue that has come into focus is how hospital record-keeping is largely stuck in the past. It's something Dr. David Bates, Senior Vice President for Quality and Safety at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has thought a lot about. He recently published a study on the most effective ways hospitals should be using big data to reduce healthcare costs.

According to Bates, one of the major elements of a big data approach is having an algorithm.

“A triage algorithm is a tool that helps you predict how sick a someone is going to be,” he said.

One of the bigger issues that’s prevented the implementation of these strategies is hospital record-keeping procedures.

Two years ago, only 20 percent of hospitals in the US were using electronic records. Now, the number is 80 percent. However, electronic records don’t equal big data approaches; the data itself still needs to be analyzed.  

Aging prisoners bring healthcare cost headache

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 02:00



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Healthcare for prisoners has long taken a bite out of state budgets, but a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says prisons have cut back on those costs. They’ve outsourced some health services, used tele-medicine, and simply incarcerated fewer people. But the aging of the inmate population threatens to drive those costs right back up.

According to Pew's Maria Schiff, during the same period -- 1999 to 2012 --  the number of prison inmates 55 and older jumped 204 percent, while the number of inmates younger than 55 increased only nine percent.

Schiff says stiff sentences delivered in the 1980’s and an uptick in older felons drive this trend of what’s often called the graying of America’s prisons. Prisons are forced to make accommodations.

“Ramps going into a dining room, elimination of bunk beds, officer training to address things like hearing and vision loss, dementia,” she says.

And taxpayers are picking up the tab.

In 2009, Michigan spent $11 thousand on prisoners in their mid-to late 50’s, four times what the state spent on inmates in their 20’s. University of California San Francisco Professor Brie Williams says efforts to parole older, sicker prisoners are unpopular.

“Many times people say you’ve done the crime, serve the time,” she says.

But given the cost of that time, Williams says many states are now reconsidering and trying to make it easier for these inmates to be released.

 













































































































































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Healthcare for prisoners has long taken a bite out of state budgets.  A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says prisons have cut back on those costs.  They’ve outsourced some health services, used tele-medicine and simply incarcerated fewer people. But the aging of the inmate population threatens to drive those costs right back up.

DG: Here’s a stat to chew on; since 1999 the number of prison inmates 55 and older has jumped 204%.

Schiff: While during that same period, the number of inmates younger than 55 increased only nine percent.

DG: Pew’s Maria Schiff says stiff sentences delivered in the 80’s and an uptick in older felons drive this trend.

She says prisons are forced to make accommodations.

Schiff: ramps going into a dining room, elimination of bunk beds, officer training to address things like hearing and vision loss.

DG: And taxpayers are picking up the tab.

In 2009 Michigan…spent $11 thousand dollar for prisoners in their mid-to late 50’s…four times what the state spent on inmates in their 20s.

University of California San Francisco Professor Brie Williams says efforts to parole older, sicker prisoners are unpopular.

Williams: Many times people say you’ve done the crime, serve the time.

DG: But given the cost of that time, Williams says many states are now reconsidering…trying to make it easier for these inmates to be released.

I’m DG for Marketplace.

 

U.S. companies shell out more for business travel

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 02:00

When the Great Recession hit, business travel was one of the first things to go as companies looked for ways to cut back. But a new report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) shows employees are taking to the rails, roads, and skies again, as confidence in the economy continues to grow.

The group says American companies are booking more business trips than they were this time last year by 2.8 percent, and their employees are spending 7.6 percent more money on the road. The GBTA expects both numbers to keep going up as the economy rallies.

That pleases Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley, who studies global collaboration and co-authored a 2009 report on the potential negative consequences for business relationships when companies skimp on travel.

"I think we’re going to have healthier, more functional teams, more effective work," Neeley explains. "You can have similar effects without the face-to-face contact but it takes much longer."

So where does that leave video calls and other high tech tools for connecting remotely?  

"I think a lot of companies got their toes wet with teleconferencing thinking it would eliminate travel, and really what it’s turned out to be is an extra tool for businesses to compete," says Kevin Mitchell, Executive Director of the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group.

The report’s most encouraging finding, Mitchell believes, is that companies are spending 7.1 percent more on conventions and other group travel  – an investment that pays off longer term.

 

Note to bees: do not stop and smell the roses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 02:00

Note to bees: do not stop and smell the roses.

A new study released by the environmental consulting firm Pesticide Research Institute and nonprofit group Friends of the Earth says about half of the garden plants sold at big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart contain neonicotinoids (neonics for short), a pesticide highly toxic to pollinating insects – like bees. 

Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment NY, a statewide citizen based environmental advocacy organization, says home gardeners are buying plants, completely unaware that they're laced with poisons.

"Gardeners are putting these in their homes," she says, "and there’s no warning they could actually have a negative effect on bees."

There are no federal requirements necessitating that plants treated with neonics be labeled. Leibowitz says the lack of labels on plants is a big problem. Just imagine, she says, that you’re a bee and all that yummy nectar you’re drinking, and the pollen you’re carrying back to the hive is laced with poison and you don't know it. 

For bees, this is akin to a plot twist from a horror film. “The flowers," says Leibowitz, "are killing the bees...They just had a little snack, had a little drink and they’re going back to their hive and they’re poisoning the queen.”

Leibowitz says it’s not just farmers, but home gardeners who also now need to pay attention to pesticides.

Tim Brown, an Associate Scientistis with the Pesticide Research Institute and one of the authors of the new study, gets "super science geeky" when he explains how a neonic pesticide works. 

“It targets the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors,” he says.

For all the non scientists out there, those are within the teeny, tiny bee brain. But Brown notes, we humans have a lot riding on the wellbeing of the tiny brains of bees.

"A lot of the foods we enjoy eating," he says, "almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries -- there are a number of crops that are pollinated by bees and if we’re not protecting their health then we’re going to see impacts. Either we’re not going to get the supply that we want or it’s going to be a lot more expensive to get these foods."

Joe Bischoff, Regulatory & Legislative Affairs Director for AmericanHort, a horticultural industry association, says the pesticide question is a thorny one for growers. If we stop using neonics we’ll also have a problem he says. Think of the white fly, or the asian long-horned beetle. Not all bugs, notes Bischoff, are helpful to plants.

If you throw only one chemical class at many of these insects, they overcome it," he says. "In the long run this is a dangerous situation."

Bischoff says growers are worried about controlling problem insects, but he says we should remember that growers are businesses -- they wouldn’t buy pesticides if they didn’t have to.

And the study, he says, could be flawed. The research was based on the presence of pesticide in plant tissue - like flowers. "Bees don’t consume flowers," says Bischoff, "they consume pollen and nectar."

The pesticide also has a half life, meaning it decays and loses its potency over a certain period of time. Instead of banning neonics outright Bischoff says growers should use it more wisely.

But some big box stores are taking anti-neonic action. BJ’s Wholesale Club says it's working to sell plants that are neonic free and Home Depot will require all its suppliers to label plants that they have treated by the fourth quarter of 2014.

Brown says there aren't a lot of studies that look at how long the toxicity of a neonic lingers. One complication is that different varieties of plants metabolize poisons according to different time frames. A lot, he says, depends on the method of application. When a pesticide is sprayed on the surface of a plant the residue won’t necessarily be broken down by enzymes, but the sunlight can cause its strength to fade. But still, a poison may linger for months or years presenting a harmful dining option for bees.

"We know for a fact," says Tim Brown, that if the pesticides are in the tissue of the plant, "it’s in the pollen and nectar too."

Why American Apparel is no longer sexy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-09 02:00

We’re gonna pause in our regularly scheduled host-blogging for something a little different today: video, not text. Pictures, not words.

The subject at hand is the weirdest CEO interview I’ve done in 13 years at Marketplace – the founder and now ex-CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney.

He’s trying to claw his way back into the company. The company, meanwhile, looks like it’s trying to move on.

And with that… here you go:

Video produced by Preditorial 

In Google Newsroom, Brazil Defeat Is Not A Headline

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 00:21

Google is mining its search data from the World Cup games, trying to make factoids that go viral. Its "newsroom" is focused on happy thoughts, not sad ones — like Brazil's brutal defeat.

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Gay Teacher Files Sex Discrimination Claim Against Georgia School

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 23:33

Flint Dollar had to leave a Catholic school after officials learned he plans to marry his partner. Federal anti-discrimination laws don't cover sexual orientation, so he's fighting back another way.

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States Push For Prison Sentence Overhaul; Prosecutors Push Back

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 23:32

Several red states, including Louisiana, have been diverting some offenders away from prison and into drug treatment and other incarceration alternatives. But not everyone is embracing the effort.

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Like All Animals, We Need Stress. Just Not Too Much

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 23:32

A racing mind and a pounding heart aren't all bad — the stress response can help humans and other animals deal with the unexpected. So what makes a vital system, that evolved to help us, turn toxic?

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As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 16:30

So far, so good. ISEE-3, the versatile 1978 space probe that took a detour to greet a comet in the 1980s, is now on track to get close to the moon, scientists say, though course fixes can be tricky.

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The Collective Anguish Of The Brazilian Defeat

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 14:39

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro watched Brazil's World Cup semifinal against Germany in a bar in Sao Paulo. She speaks to Robert Siegel about the game and the devastation it sowed among Brazilian fans.

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A Senator Turns His Bible Into A Political Tool

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 14:28

In his new ad, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor uses his Bible to respond to an opponent's attack.

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