National / International News

'Killer in the cockpit'

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:32
Friday's papers are full of speculation about what may have led the co-pilot of the Germanwings Airbus 320 to deliberately crash the jet, and on how airlines can protect themselves from such occurrences.

Cunning elite hoard wealth in Angola

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:24
Angola is an economic success story, writes Mary Harper - but also a land many inhabit in poverty, while a super-wealthy elite thrives.

VIDEO: The predictive powers of fridges

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:22
What does your food shopping say about you?

Analysis: 'Hell yes, I'm tough enough'

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:13
As Ed Miliband says he is tough enough to run the country, will the image convince the public?

Vladimir Putin's formative German years

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:12
The shock that left a young KGB officer in fear of people power

VIDEO: The life of a rare fruit collector

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:06
Helton Josue Teodoro Muniz is one of the world's great rare fruit collectors, yet he was born with a motor neurone deficiency and it is difficult for him even today to hold a seed.

VIDEO: Would you buy a phone made of grass?

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:06
BBC News talks to designer Sean Miles of Design Works, who has moulded a phone from recycled parts and natural materials, including grass.

Election 2015: Who won the interview contest on social media?

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:05
Which party leader won the first TV contest on social media?

Can data help create English football stars?

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 16:00
Can data help create England's next football stars?

Polar ice shelf thinning speeds up

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:52
Eighteen years of satellite data reveal an acceleration in the thinning of many of Antarctica's floating ice shelves.

Argentine president's case dismissed

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:51
A court of appeals in Argentina has upheld a decision to throw out controversial allegations against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

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:

Policeman arrested over wife murder

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:30
A serving police officer is arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife at their Northampton home.

VIDEO: Relatives visit Germanwings crash site

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:16
Relatives of those who died in the Germanwings plane crash, including the parents of the co-pilot, have arrived in the southern French Alps.

Bahrain 0-6 Colombia

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 15:08
Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao scores twice as Colombia thrash Bahrain in an international friendly.

England v Lithuania

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 14:57
Preview followed by live coverage of Friday's European Championship Qualifying game between England and Lithuania.

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.  

Man dies after tree falls on van

BBC - Thu, 2015-03-26 14:46
A man dies and a woman is seriously injured after a tree falls on a van in County Armagh.

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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