National / International News

A rural town hates the coming of high-speed trains

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:00

California's high-speed rail project will pump billions of dollars into the state. While cities like Palmdale welcome the bullet train and its economic benefits, some neighboring towns hate the planned rail project. Consider the small town of Acton.

Within Los Angeles County, you can't get closer to cowboy country than Acton. It's up in the foothills. A town of 10,000, Acton has two groceries and an equal number of stores that sell feed for horses.

"If they're coming to Acton, they're willing to forgo a Wal-Mart and a shopping mall," said Pam Wolter, who has been a real estate agent here for 25 years. "They're coming here for the peace and quiet and for the rural lifestyle."

All the homes in Acton have big lots — at least one acre. Wolter says the average price for a three-bedroom, two-bath house is about $500,000.

She says the proposed routes for the high-speed train scare away prospective buyers and make current residents think about selling.

"There [are] a lot of changes that are going to happen to Acton," she says. "And people are already getting concerned. If they're close to retirement age, and thinking they should move on now, while they can. So we see, as the real estate industry, a serious decline in property value."

Wolter drives me out to visit the actress Tippi Hedren. She's most famous for starring in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." Now she runs the Shambala Preserve — a sanctuary for rescued big cats, like Zeus, the 500-pound lion.

"Zeus was living in Texas," Hedren says. "The son was graduating. And the parents said, 'We'll either get you a Lexus or a lion. One of the two.' And he said, 'I'll take the lion.'"

When Zeus grew too big for the Texas family, he moved here.

Hedren says one of the proposed routes for the high-speed rail would cross her property. "If it came through here, we couldn't be here because of the noise level," she says. "The Shambala preserve would not be able to exist here."

I asked if it wasn't fair to ask people along the planned train route to make a sacrifice for the sake of the environment, since the project would likely reduce the number of people driving in cars. But Hedren doesn't think consumers will really switch.

"Californians are not train riders," she says. "We're really not. When we go to San Francisco, we fly."

Hedren thinks the bullet train is obsolete before it's even been built.

Down the road, Ray and Elizabeth Billet grow peaches and pears. Her grandfather homesteaded here back in 1891. Sometimes they rent the property to movie producers.

"I had another one yesterday who wanted to film in August, and I says, 'Nothin' doin'," Elizabeth says. "Because we'll be picking peaches."

One of the proposed routes for the high-speed rail would cut across the Billets' property. Ray says they had planned to develop some of their land, which is zoned for small houses on 5-acre lots.

"That's gone," he says. "Nobody's going to want to live next to a damn railroad that's going 220 miles an hour."

And because almost everyone relies on wells, Ray says construction of the high-speed rail will ruin the town's drinking water.

Elizabeth says the project doesn't make economic sense for the state. "They don't have the funding for it."

After hearing so many complaints about the cost of the project, I turned to Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. He expects the final funding will come from the private sector through a partnership with the state, and that the price tag could be less than the projected $68 billion.

"The bid prices are coming in considerably below our estimates," he says. "I'm confident that we're actually going to be able to drive down the cost of delivering this program."

Morales said the state's population is growing, and it needs more infrastructure.

"When you do a comparison, the cost of building more roads and more airports is about two to three times what the cost of high-speed rail will be," he says.

That argument doesn't carry a lot of weight around Acton.

The state won't make a final decision about the route for high-speed rail for at least a year. So, residents still have time to persuade officials to move the train's tracks somewhere else.

Uber will tell you your passenger rating now

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:00

I'm at the same time appalled and embarrassed.

The good people at Quartz — whom we produce a podcast with, by the way, called Actuality — noticed Uber has decided to let you know your user rating if you ask for it.

You know how users can rate drivers? They rate you, too.

Which gets me to the appalling and embarrassing part.

Turns out I clock in as an Uber rider at a mere three and a half stars out of five.

Uber will tell you your passenger ranking now

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-07-29 13:00

I'm at the same time appalled and embarrassed.

The good people at Quartz — whom we produce a podcast with, by the way, called Actuality — noticed Uber has decided to let you know your user rating if you ask for it.

You know how users can rate drivers? They rate you, too.

Which gets me to the appalling and embarrassing part.

Turns out I clock in as an Uber rider at a mere three and a half stars out of five.

US lion killer 'sorry for disruption'

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:58
Dentist Walter Palmer apologises to his patients for the disruption caused by the backlash against him over the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe.

Once Outlaws, Young Lords Find A Museum Home For Radical Roots

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:55

Inspired by the Black Panthers, the Young Lords were formed in New York City by a group of Puerto Rican youth in 1969. Their history is now on display in a new exhibition.

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One Point Of View On How Lions Can Earn Money For Africa

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:53

Cecil the lion died in an apparently illegal hunt in Zimbabwe. But legal trophy hunting can bring in big bucks for Africa nations. Our interviewee thinks tourism is a far more profitable venture.

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Birkin Bag Is Fine But Namesake Actress Wants 'Birkin Croco' Rebranded

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:51

After seeing a video that PETA published on the treatment of crocodiles, Jane Burkin asks Hermes to remove her name from the line's crocodile-skin version.

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VIDEO: On the banks of the new Suez Canal

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:49
Ahead of the inauguration of Egypt's new Suez Canal, Sally Nabil went to take a look at the waterway.

California's Drought Spurs Unexpected Effect: Eco-Friendly Development

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:38

In the state's agricultural Central Valley, planning is under way to transform peach and plum fields into Kings River Village, a solar-powered community that will send wastewater back into an aquifer.

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Politics Overshadows U.S. Tech Firms' Hopes For Entering Iran

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:38

With a young, well-educated population, Iran has the potential to be a boom market for tech. But sanctions and negative political implications for doing business there seem to limit prospects.

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Celtic 1-0 Qarabag

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:37
Dedryck Boyata keeps Celtic's Champions League hopes on track with a late winner against Qarabag.

The Golden Age Of Cocktails: When Americans Learned To Love Mixed Drinks

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:33

The Manhattan, the daiquiri, the martini. These classic cocktails were all born between the 1860s and Prohibition, an era when American bartending got inventive — and theatrical.

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Nobel Prize Winner Thinks No One Should Ever Retire

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:19

Muhammad Yunus — honored for loaning millions to poor women — just turned 75. And he's thrilled to keep on working: 'The word retirement is very harmful.'

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I can bowl better, says Anderson

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:12
England's James Anderson says he can improve despite taking 6-47, his best Ashes figures, on day one of the third Test.

Russia vetoes MH17 tribunal at UN

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:06
Russia vetoes a United Nations draft resolution seeking to establish an international criminal tribunal into last year's MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine.

Doctors Devise A Better Way To Diagnose Shaken Baby Syndrome

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 12:05

Doubters have said that merely shaking a baby can't cause brain damage or death. Listing six injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome will make it easier to identify child abuse, a study says.

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US congressman faces fraud charges

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 11:06
Chaka Fattah, who has represented Pennsylvania since 1994, is accused of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds.

Some Chinese Grandparents Are Making Their Grandkids Fat

NPR News - Wed, 2015-07-29 10:55

A new study shows that children in China who are mainly cared for by grandparents instead of mom and dad are twice as likely to be overweight — contributing to the country's obesity epidemic.

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Mundell backs more powers for islands

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 10:43
Scottish Secretary David Mundell is to confirm a commitment to hand more powers to island communities on a visit to Stornoway.

FA backs Platini for Fifa presidency

BBC - Wed, 2015-07-29 10:24
The English Football Association gives its backing to Michel Platini's bid to become the next boss of Fifa.

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