National News

On Welfare? Don't Use The Money For Movies, Say Kansas Lawmakers

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:50

The legislature has passed a bill that would bar people on public assistance from using cash aid on theme parks, pools and casinos, or from withdrawing more than $25 per day from the ATM.

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Brands Target Tween Girls In Bid To Keep Them As Longtime Customers

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:40

Brands increasingly see tweens as a distinct consumer group. From menstruation products to underwear, advertisers are targeting young girls in an informal tone to gain loyal customers earlier on.

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Study Finds The Poor Subject To Unfair Fines, Driver's License Suspensions

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:01

The report says many of the police and court practices highlighted in a recent federal investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., police department occur in California as well.

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Selena lives on via hologram

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:00

The Latin American pop star Selena Quintanilla has been dead for a couple of decades, but now her family is collaborating with a tech firm called Acrovirt to create what it's calling a 360 degree "digital embodiment" of the singer.


The hologram will be able to dance, move and interact. It will sing Selena's old repertoire, as well as new songs. The project, called Selena the One, is meant to be a cut above the hologram performances we've seen in recent years of singers like Michael Jackson or Tupac Shakur.

Media expert Aram Sinnreich at Rutgers University says there's plenty of demand from consumers to see a second life for their favorite entertainers, even if they're not really there.

Thank California for your low-flow faucet

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:00

New water restrictions in California are imposing steep cutbacks in cities and towns across the state.

Those cutbacks are also coming to bathrooms and kitchens. New low-flow standards for fixtures like faucets and toilets are forecast to save around 10 billion gallons of water the first year, and up to 105 billion gallons per year over time, according to the California Energy Commission. 

Because of its size, California has a history of pulling industry in the direction of conservation. The new standards go into effect for toilets and urinals, but also for kitchen and bath faucets sold after January 1, 2016.

When California rolled out stricter fuel and emissions regulations for cars, the auto industry eventually adopted the guidelines for all cars. Now, many are saying the same could be true for toilets and faucets. 

"The adage is, where California goes, so goes the market," says Andy Hoffman, Faculty Director of the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute, which focuses on sustainability and business. 

Converting a standard faucet into low-flow isn’t as complex as re-engineering a car, but companies could have an incentive to market the more efficient products.

“It could also get them to bring down the cost because they are going to increase sales,” Hoffman said.  “Certainly California will be a motivated market to buy, perhaps,  waterless urinals or dual-flush toilets.”

People who don’t like low-flow faucets might be tempted to buy out of state or online, but state incentives could keep that activity to a minimum.

Others say consumers are already accustomed to efficient products, and won’t go out of their way to buy older ones. Tracy Quinn is a water policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"I don't think most consumers out there will notice the difference between a toilet that flushes with 1.6 gallons and one that flushes with 1.28," Quinn said.

Even in states that aren’t wracked by drought, Quinn notes that saving drinking water that now goes down the drain or toilet still makes financial sense, and is something she thinks consumers will want access to.

Can YouTube get us to pay for ad-free cat videos?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:00

Google is reportedly planning an ad-free version of its YouTube service, for which users will pay around $10 per month. Netflix has amassed millions of paying customers for its streaming video, and just this week, HBO launched a stand-alone streaming service. 

Getting users to pay for ad-free cat videos seems worth a shot, says Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research.  "If you could sell content that costs you nothing— and charge a very premium price for that inventory — it’s worth trying, isn’t it?" 

He does think it’s a long shot. Asked whether people hate ads enough to pay a fee to skip them, Wieser called the idea “silly.”

Although lots of people pay for Netflix, he doesn’t think YouTube is real competition. 

"'House of Cards' will be meeting people building houses with cards," Wieser says.

Count Hank Green among those who think the new model is worth a shot. He earns his living making YouTube videos, and says he's got 33 employees.

His channels include Vlogbrothers, with his brother John, who wrote the best-selling young-adult novel, "The Fault in Our Stars".

Another, Crash Course, features education videos.

Hank Green says he hates advertisements.

"I much prefer the paid models to advertising models," he says. "I think advertising models are inefficient, and I hate seeing ads that are blatantly manipulative — and even deceptive — on my content."  

What’s been working for him recently is asking viewers for support directly. Not everybody has to give, he says— just enough.

"So really it’s not about creating content that everybody wants to watch," Green says. "It’s about creating content where people say, after they watch it: 'You know, I’d feel better if I paid for that.'"

It sounds suspiciously like, well, public radio.

Later, Green wrote back with a response to the "House of Cards" swipe:

"If you're one of the 5,000 super die hard card-stackers in the world," he wrote, "maybe videos of people building houses of cards is more valuable to you than House of Cards, is what I should have said." 

An Artist's Brainstorm: Put Photos On Those Faceless Ebola Suits

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 12:30

Printers blew up. People took the photo stickers home. But in the end, art professor Mary Beth Heffernan succeeded in bringing a human face to the scary-looking protective gear.

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3 Times Rand Paul Got 'Testy' This Week

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 12:03

Days into his campaign, Paul is pouncing on the mainstream media and Democrats, though he insists his short temper is "pretty equal opportunity."

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Is It Time For A Warning Label On Sugar-Loaded Drinks?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 11:52

New legislation in California and New York proposes a label for for sugary beverages. The label looks like the warning on cigarette packages, but the beverage industry has called it "misleading."

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Cultural Revolution-Meets-Aliens: Chinese Writer Takes On Sci-Fi

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 11:50

Chinese novels have dwelt mainly on the past and present. Liu Cixin is starting to change that. His science-packed, futuristic best-sellers explore the cosmos, and offers commentary on current events.

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PG&E Hit With $1.6 Billion Penalty For 2010 Calif. Pipeline Explosion

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 11:42

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was ordered to pay the fine — the largest ever charged a public utility — for the San Bruno explosion and fire that killed 8 people.

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