National News

Report: Germanwings Co-Pilot Treated For Depression

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 02:51

The report in the daily Bild comes as Duesseldorf police searched Andreas Lubitz's home Montabaur. Lubitz appears to have deliberately crashed the plane carrying 150 people into the French Alps.

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New York chef turns food scraps into fine cuisine

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

Americans love a good food trend, whether it’s boneless wings, or eating like a locavore. In New York, one establishment is breaking new ground with a menu that consists only of dishes made from food waste.

Dumpster dive vegetable salad. Fried skate wing cartilage. Meatloaf made from beef usually fed to dogs. These are among the specialties at wastED, a popup in the space that’s usually occupied by Blue Hill, a farm-to-table restaurant where President Obama and the first lady once ate.

Like a lot of food-conscious people, Blue Hill’s chef, Dan Barber, is appalled by waste. Not just the meals people leave on the plate, but the food that never even makes it into the kitchen.

For example: the leftover pulp from cold-pressed juice. Barber figured out how to turn it into veggie burgers. And he says the guy who runs the juice factory is delighted.

“I mean, he said, ‘I’ve thought about this a lot and I hate that we’re trucking this to other states to dump or to compost, it makes no sense,’” Barber says. “But is it his fault? I don’t think so.”

Barber believes it’s the chef’s job to find a use for everything, so the supply chain sends less food into the trash.

In his kitchen, Dan Barber picks up what appears to be a thumb-sized piece of plywood.

“After you press the pistachio for the pistachio oil, this is what’s left. But here we made it into a cookie,” Barber says.

Dipped in chocolate, it is actually pretty good.

A peek inside the kitchen trash can reveals a tangle of latex gloves and plastic wrap. Nevertheless, Dan Barber reaches in, and pulls out some useable vegetable matter.

“See that’s a no-no,” Barber says. “I’m glad you caught me. These are beautiful ends of shallots. We should probably do a dish with this.”

WastED runs through the end of the month. All plates cost $15, and reservations are recommended.





The ins and outs of 'zero-based budgeting'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

It looks like Kraft will be put on a strict diet after its merger with Heinz.

That diet could come in the form of zero-based budgeting which the parent company behind the deal – 3G Capital Partners – uses as part of it's cost-cutting playbook.

It involves  managers justifying spending plans from scratch every year, and not just carrying over the last year’s budget.

“Every department within a large organization would have to justify their existence,” says Shane Dikolli, a professor of management accounting in the MBA program at Duke University.

He says when 3G Capital Partners took over Heinz, it saved money by getting rid of corporate jets, and even limited use of company printers.  

But there are drawbacks. Zero-based budgeting is time consuming, and can hurt morale. That's why many companies just do it every few years.

But it is catching on, and not just in corporate suites. The Iowa governor’s budget office uses snippets of zero-based budgeting to examine government programs. And Iowa lawmakers are considering legislation to bring the state even closer to a zero-based budgeting system. 





European Union investigates e-commerce

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

The European Union plans to investigate whether there is anti-competitive behavior among e-commerce sites across the 28-nation bloc.

The investigation, which will last more than a year, will examine a number of online retailers and websites, including giants like Amazon, which accounts for a large chunk of Europe's e-commerce.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission antitrust chief, says she wants to investigate why cross-border purchases make up only 15 percent of the EU's online sales.

Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesperson with the European Commission, says the investigation is aimed at a broader goal. "There is an overarching ambition of the commission to make sure that we have a single market in online in general," says Cardoso.

Silicon Tally: Facebook Drones

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-27 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 Ben Richmond, contributing editor to Vice’s Motherboard.

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Soylent aims for maximum nutrition with minimum effort

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

It might seem surprising (or not, depending on your personal taste) that a life lived on instant ramen could lead to a breakthrough in nutrition. But that's exactly what led Robert Rhinehart to want a food product that provided all of the nutrients of a full meal while maintaining the simplicity of something like an instant noodle. So he created Soylent, which is touted as the biggest pivot in YC (Y-Combinator) history.

With roughly the consistency of a milkshake, Soylent is described on the company's website as providing "maximum nutrition with minimum effort."

Click the media player above to hear Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio try Soylent for himself.

$85 will buy you a week's worth of the product (28+ meals, according to the site). For $300, you get 112+ meals, which the company says is enough for 4 weeks of sustenance. 

The Washington Post sat down with a nutritionist to breakdown of some of the benefits and drawbacks of the product. While both the absence of added sugar and preservatives, as well as the elimination of waste were acknowledged as benefits, the article also points to the cultural necessity of food preparation and community. The need for dietary fiber and variety in diet are also cited as concerns.

For his part, Rhinehart says that he was drawn to how a product like Soylent could eliminate some of the complexities of meal preparation from his daily life. And, he points out, traditional meals will be there when you want them. 


Two apps, both alike in functionality

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-03-27 01:58

That's what Twitter paid to acquire the live-streaming app Periscope earlier in the year. The app launched Thursday, riding a new wave of smartphone live-streaming. Kai Ryssdal talked with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson about the streaming resurgence, its commerce and drawbacks.


That's how much you'll spend on 4 weeks worth of Soylent, a milkshake-like product that claims to provide the nutrients of a full meal with minimal effort. Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio got to try some of the stuff, and said the flavor was unremarkable. Robert Rhinehart, the creator of the product, said that's the point. Rhinehart's goal was to create a product that removed some of the complexities of meal preparation from his daily life.

5 percent

The average mall vacancy rate in American malls at the end of last year. That comes from a report often cited to show malls are dying, including in this blog. CityLab puts the stats in context, arguing that the death of the American mall has been greatly exaggerated.


The approximate cost of a "notel," a portable media player that is gaining popularity in North Korea, Reuters reports. It's a combination TV/radio/DVD player with USB and SD ports, and it can be charged from a car battery. It's essentially the perfect device for North Koreans looking to get around censorship laws; some will reportedly watch banned media via USB with a state-approved DVD in the player to camouflage their use. Notels are pouring into the country from China via the black market, so many that the government recently started selling its own modified versions.

2 agents

That’s how many agents the FBI has that are authorized to fly its fleet of drones. This was just one of the frailities revealed in a report released earlier this week on the FBI's drone program. But you already knew that, didn't you? So why not head over to Silicon Tally, our weekly quiz on the week in tech, and prove your news savvy.

German Police Search For Clues To Crash In Co-Pilot's Homes

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 01:14

Police have searched the homes of Andreas Lubitz in two German cities in search of an explanation for why he may have crashed a passenger plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

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Senate Follows House In Passing GOP Budget To Balance Budget

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 01:06

Working into Friday's pre-dawn hours, senators approved the blueprint by a near party-line 52-46 vote, endorsing a measure that closely follows one the House passed Wednesday.

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As Nigeria Votes, The Specter Of Boko Haram Hangs Over The Election

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 01:02

Nigerians pick their president on Saturday. For election officials, the challenges include providing ballots for more than a million people displaced by Boko Haram attacks.

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NASA To Study A Twin In Space And His Brother On Earth

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 00:43

During astronaut Scott Kelly's year in space, scientists will compare his physiology with that of his twin brother, Mark, to study the effect of prolonged space flight on the human body.

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Was Your Seafood Caught By Slaves? AP Uncovers Unsavory Trade

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 00:43

Some of the seafood that winds up in American grocery stores, in restaurants, even in cat food, may have been caught by Burmese slaves, a year-long investigation by the Associated Press finds.

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Police Departments Open Up 'Safe Lots' For Craigslist Transactions

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 00:42

Several crimes around the U.S. have been tied to the website's in-person transactions. So police departments are offering up their parking lots to provide a secure space for buying and selling stuff.

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Her Instagram Feed Finds The Fun In Long-Suffering Somalia

NPR News - Fri, 2015-03-27 00:41

Ugaaso Abukar Boocow left when she was a toddler to escape the Civil War. Now she's back, and Instagram is making her famous as she shares upbeat views of her homeland.

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Cord cutter, or committed to cable? How you watch what you watch

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:43

When Marketplace conducted a poll about your entertainment consumption habits, we learned that while some of you are still paying for deluxe cable packages, many others have found creative solutions to cut down costs — some to as low as $7 a month (by getting internet services for free). 

Here are how Marketplace listeners are getting their entertainment, how much it’s costing them, and why some of them decided to cut the cord on cable:

Cord cutter, or committed to cable? How you watch what you watch

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:43

When Marketplace conducted a poll about your entertainment consumption habits, we learned that while some of you are still paying for deluxe cable packages, many others have found creative solutions to cut down costs — some to as low as $7 a month (by getting internet services for free). 

Here are how Marketplace listeners are getting their entertainment, how much it’s costing them, and why some of them decided to cut the cord on cable:

The plant business trying to sprout again

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-03-26 14:47

It’s estimated that since 2008, around a third of all plant nurseries in the U.S. went out of business.   The industry was hit hard by the housing bust, competition from big box stores, and some bad winters, to top it all off.  But the plant industry’s roots run too deep for it to disappear, and many nurseries are looking for niches to survive their economic winter: sell online, sell interesting, sell weird.

That's the strategy growing in the immense, hot, and humid greenhouses owned by Gardens Alive 20 minutes outside of Dayton, Ohio. 

Felix Cooper, vice president of Gardens Alive, stands in front of a black raspberry - "the first black raspberry to ever have two crops, a fall bearer and a spring bearer,” he says.  The company owns several plant nurseries, seed companies, and offers environmentally friendly garden products. “Right across there we have one of our new grapes. It has this continuously fruiting trait. It’s the coolest thing we’ve seen in a long time.”

The grape plant is so popular that last year, it sold out in January before the company even started shipping.  

Such novel varieties are critical to the business, says Gardens Alive founder Niles Kinerk . “There’s no question in my mind that the future in our industry has to rely on providing to particular niche markets - that the big boxes don’t view as big enough to justify their interests."

Big box stores are the biggest source of competition for plant nurseries, and between them and the recession, the plant nursery business has gotten nailed. Nationwide it’s lost a third of its growers. 

Tony Avent runs Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina, where half of the nursery industry was wiped out during and after the recession.  He has taken the whole sell-interesting, sell-weird strategy to the next level.

“There’s an Amorphophallus titanum,” he says, pointing to a photo of the currently dormant giant bulb.  “It’s a plant with a flower that’s seven to nine feet tall.  It has a smell that resembles, say, running over a pack of animals in the road - and the smell that would occur several weeks later.”   

Yes, people want to buy it.

Greg Matusky is not one of them. But he is the kind of adamant gardener that Plant Delights and Gardens Alive caters to.   

“Every year I try something I consider exotic, something different. I have an olive plant, this year I’m going to grow capers,” he says, noting that he didn’t get them from a big box store. 

“If you can find four or five varieties of tomatoes at Home Depot, you’re doing pretty well,” he says.  Matusky grows hundreds of tomato plants a year in his garden outside of Philadelphia.  “The selection is much greater if you go online.”

Avent says the decline of the nursery industry and the rise of the garden department has had a fundamental impact on the plants themselves.

“Everything has shifted to plants that have a fast production time, plants which are what’s called a ‘seven-racker’ – breed them short enough so they can fit on a seven-racker truck,” he says.  “It doesn’t really matter anymore to a lot of plant breeders how it will perform in the garden.”

Avent says some growers will spray  hormones on plants to keep them compact and attractive on shelves, but not particularly verdant in the garden.

While there are, in fact, many new plant varieties available than ever before, obtaining them can be a challenge, which is where some nurseries see an advantage. 

There are a few other things in the nurseries’ favor.  One is the simple fact that so many of them have gone out of business, which means there’s less competition for the ones still around.  There are now shortages of some plants that take a while to grow, like landscape trees.  Most growers didn’t plant many of them five years ago when things were bad, so there aren’t enough ready now.  That’s great for businesses in that niche.

“There are actually people who go out and scout landscapes. They will  go out to properties and proposition the owners, saying we will pay you $50,000 for this tree if you allow us to dig it and move it to a property because of the shortage in the industry,” says Avent.  It’s a story confirmed by real estate agents in the Northeast. 

But the main thing the plant nurseries are banking on is gardeners like Matusky, gardeners with a discerning green thumb and a penchant for growing their own food. 

“Tomatoes are one thing that really blow your brains out when you taste them and realize what a real tomato tastes like,” Matusky says. “Cucumbers, the same thing. Eggplant less bitter than you’ll ever taste from the supermarket.”

From new varieties to online merchandising, nurseries are doing everything they can to stick around, supplying gardeners who want fresh pea plants, and those who want plants that smell like pee.  If the strategy is right, it may, after a seven year winter, finally be spring for the plant nursery industry.  

Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-26 14:40

An official investigation into an accident last February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has concluded that cat litter is the culprit. Organic material in the litter caused a drum to burst.

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Amazingly, Congress Actually Got Something Done

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-26 14:15

The leaders and members must, in a word, compromise. And on this occasion, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did just that, with skill and savvy.

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Big Shelves of Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Than Scientists Thought

NPR News - Thu, 2015-03-26 13:32

The shrinking of ice at the ocean's edge in the West Antarctic has increased by 70 percent over the past decade, an analysis of satellite images suggests.

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