National News

Russia and China team up in agriculture

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-11 02:00

Agriculture makes up just 4 percent of Russian GDP, but that could change, as Russia announced last week the launch of a $2 billion investment fund with China to go toward agricultural projects. The two countries would cooperate on developing big swaths of arable land on each side of their borders. The partnership comes at a good time for Russia, which has been struggling since last year with sanctions from the U.S. and European Union. 

Russia answered sanctions from the West by saying, "Ok. We're not importing any food from Europe or the U.S." Now, Russia's hurtling toward a recession. William Cline, senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics says Russia’s under a great deal of pressure. 

At the same time, China has more than 1.3 billion mouths to feed. It's also under pressure to diversify its food and energy sources. Will Pomeranz, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, says Russia’s got food and plenty of oil and gas to sell. But to put this deal in perspective, “$2 billion is just not a lot of money,” he says.  

Russia’s agricultural output is more than $100 billion; China’s is more like a trillion. So Pomeranz says at best, this investment is really small potatoes. Or a modest beginning to a stronger partnership down the road. 

 

Debate over sleep holds up new trucking regulations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-11 02:00

Nathan Brooks drives all over the country delivering goods as a long-haul trucker, and when I met him at a rest stop just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, he was about to start his favorite drive: back home to Alabama. Brooks has been a trucker for 27 years, and says the job is getting harder than it used to be.

“Everything is more expensive now. There is a lot more traffic on the road. And you are more likely to get caught up in some kind of accident,” he says.

Truckers like Brooks deliver 70 percent of our domestic goods, and there are more trucks on the road now than ever. But truckers only make an average of $38,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many are paid by how many loads they deliver. There’s an obvious incentive to drive as much as possible—when I asked Brooks how long he’s on the road each day, he hesitated.

“You are going to get me in trouble now,” he says.

Nathan Brooks sits in his truck.

Miles Bryan

Brooks insists he stays under the federal limit of 11 hours of driving time a day, but answers like his make National Transportation Safety Board Chair Chris Hart nervous. Hart says that, since 2009, the number of trucking-caused accidents and deaths has been going up steadily.

“That [trend] is contrary to the general trend in motor vehicle accidents, which has been going down during that same time period,” says Hart.

One reason for that is fatigue—Hart says that fatigue causes 13 percent of trucking accidents, and contributes to more than half of them. In 2013, federal regulators introduced new rules for commercial trucking that reduced truckers’ weekly driving limits from 82 to 70 hours per week. More controversially, they also required truckers to take breaks at night.

“Humans are most likely to experience fatigue during the wee hours of the morning,” Hart says. “So we wanted two periods between 1:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. when drivers would have the opportunity to sleep.”

But those rules were suspended by a Congressional rider last December, thanks largely to the lobbying efforts of the American Trucking Associations, an industry group.

“Government shouldn't be telling people when to sleep,” says Chris Spear, the organization’s chief lobbyist. “That’s just not right.”

Spear claims that keeping truckers on the road at night is a win-win: they get clear roads and quicker delivery times, and we get truck-free commutes.

“It’s just a better time to work, but a lot of people don’t see that because they’re home in bed," Spear says.

The new trucking regulations are suspended until the completion of a congressionally-mandated safety study. Federal officials won’t tackle regulations again until October, at the earliest. In the meantime, truckers can hit the road any time they want. That is good news for Nathan Brooks, who couldn’t get back home fast enough.

“I have more trees in my front yard than there are in the entire state of Wyoming,” he says.

 

 

Pour one out for William Hung, American Idol is over

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-05-11 01:56
$2 billion

The value of the agriculture investment fund between Russia and China, which will go towards developing arable land on both sides of the border. But as some analysts point out, $2 billion is kind of small potatoes when considering the agricultural output of each country—Russia's is well over $100 billion, and China's is closer to a trillion.

$4 million

That's how much GlaxoSmithKline will give annually for the next five years to an institute aimed at finding a cure for H.I.V. and AIDS. Created in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Qura Therapeutics will be co-owned by the pharmaceutical company and the school, and will have the right to commercialize any findings.

3 pounds

That's about how many pounds of poop a single Canadian goose produces per day. And it's a big problem for any place the geese call home. The grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., for example, have lately been suffering from the negative effects of Goose droppings. Enter the border collie. Companies like Geese Police DC are being hired to patrol the National Mall with the dogs, who happen to enjoy scaring off the Geese without actually physically harming them.

70 percent

That's the percentage of domestic goods that are delivered by truck in the U.S. But as the number of trucks on the road has gone up in recent years, so has the number of accidents. It's why attempts have been made to regulate the amount of rest truckers get before they are allowed to hit the road, as 13 percent of trucking accidents are attributed to fatigue. But the American Trucking Association argues that regulating sleep isn't the answer, as allowing trucks to drive at night means clearer roads during the day.

10 minutes

That's roughly the cumulative amount of commercial time you'll watch during an hour-long episode of "Empire." Fox's smash hit set a new precedent for advertisers, as hour-long network TV shows generally have closer to 14 minutes of ads. The strategy makes ad time more valuable, and consequently, more expensive.

15 seasons

Speaking of shows on Fox, it was announced Monday that singing competition juggernaut American Idol will call it quits in 2016 after 15 seasons of star-making wins, celebrity judge feuds, and (lest we forget) William Hung.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo to South Africans: Stop Attacking Immigrants

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 01:04

There's been a wave of violence against immigrant workers. Now the Grammy-winning singers have joined their voices with Mali's superstar Salif Keita. The message: "United we stand."

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South Korea's Single Moms Struggle To Remove A Social Stigma

NPR News - Mon, 2015-05-11 00:16

Women who choose to raise their children out of wedlock are so rare in South Korean society that they face social ostracization, job losses and active encouragement to adopt out their kids.

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With Small Shifts, Israel Eases Restrictions On Some Palestinians

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 23:43

Older Palestinians can enter Israel without prior authorization; 100 Palestinian doctors are now permitted to drive to work. An Israeli officer describes these modest policy changes as an experiment.

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Two Guys In Paris Aim To Charm The World Into Climate Action

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 23:24

It's a nightmarish job: No exercise or fresh air and little food and sleep for days at a time, all in an effort to convince 200 countries to save Earth's climate and the planet. Can they do it?

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For Headache Pain, A Lifestyle Change May Be Better Than a Doctor Visit

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 23:22

Each year more than 12 million Americans go to the doctor because of severe, chronic headaches. Many are sent for expensive tests. Researchers say all this testing isn't doing people much good.

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Hundreds Of Rohingya Refugees Rescued At Sea After Fleeing Myanmar

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 11:14

The Muslim minority has long been persecuted in the country also known as Burma. Many Bangladeshis were also rescued.

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Raul Castro Says Pope Inspiring Him To Return To Church

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 09:24

The Cuban leader, who went to Jesuit schools as a child, says he might "resume praying and turn to the Church again" if Francis "continues in this vein."

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Yemen's Houthis Agree To 5-Day Cease-Fire To Allow Humanitarian Aid

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 06:59

The temporary truce comes amid an upsurge in Saudi-led airstrikes, including one in the capital that hit the private residence of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said to be a rebel ally.

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Coming Soon To A Highway Near You: A Semi Truck With A Brain

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 06:06

Self-driving cars are hot news, with Google and others showing off their latest innovations. Now expand that concept from four to 18 wheels, and you get the Freightliner Inspiration.

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Tornadoes Hit Texas As Tropical Storm Ana Makes Landfall In S.C.

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 05:10

At least one person is dead and others still missing in Texas. Meanwhile, near Myrtle Beach, a weakening Ana has stormed ashore.

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2 Suspects In Custody Following Fatal Shooting Of Mississippi Officers

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 04:06

The suspects were arrested after a manhunt that followed the deaths of Hattiesburg police officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate.

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So You Want To Be A Great Mother? Ask A Village Mom For Advice

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 03:03

Mothers love their kids like crazy! Our man in India knows from firsthand experience. To find out what it takes to be a crazy loving amma, he interviewed moms in his village.

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Counting Poor Students Is Getting Harder

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 02:53

Changes to the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program undermine a long-used measurement for child poverty.

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Can Volleyball Fight Crime? East Palo Alto Says, 'Game On'

NPR News - Sun, 2015-05-10 01:51

A California city with a crime problem — shootings, drug dealing and gang activity — finds that getting more kids and cops playing sports together regularly in the park can make a big difference.

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Political Postcard: Still Love For Bill Clinton In A Place Called Hope

NPR News - Sat, 2015-05-09 20:14

Bill Clinton won Arkansas twice when he ran for president. The state's politics have taken a dramatic turn to the right since, but some in his hometown like the idea of Clinton as First Gentleman.

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