National / International News

Republicans block minimum wage rise

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:32
Senate Republicans block a Democratic-backed rise in the US minimum wage, as the two parties stake out positions ahead of November's election.

Botched US execution sparks review

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:30
The governor of the US state of Oklahoma orders a "full review" of the state's execution procedures following a botched execution.

RAF squadron returns to Fife base

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:28
An RAF squadron returns to its base at Leuchars in Fife after a seven month deployment in Afghanistan.

Drought puts California rice in a sticky situation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:08

That sweet sticky rice that comes with your sushi likely came from California. The state grows almost all of the nation’s medium grain rice, and about half of it is exported.

And California's drought is expected to have a dramatic effect on rice production. Economists say the mere speculation of production losses is already driving up prices.

Ninety-seven percent of California’s rice is grown in the Sacramento Valley, including at Montna Farms, where a huge drag scrapers level fields in preparation for planting. Nicole Van Vleck says medium grain rice will grow here, which is perfect for sushi.  

“If you’re eating sushi rice in New York, or in Florida, or San Francisco you’re most likely undoubtedly going to be eating California rice,” says Van Vleck.

Van Vleck stands next to a water pump that’s flooding the field behind her.

“So this is water that’s coming from the Feather River. The Feather is just to the east of us, we divert out of the Feather,” she says.

Northern California farmers typically have plenty of water compared to those in the south, even during dry years. But not this year.

“This is the first time I know of that we cut back rice acreage because surface water allocations were cut so severely to water districts north of Sacramento,” says Dan Sumner, an agriculture economist at the University of California Davis.

Montna Farms has been in the Sacramento Valley for generations. But this is the first time a drought has caused so much uncertainty.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had to deal with,” says Van Vleck. “Day to day, things change. Right now we are down 48 percent over last year.”

Rice farmers will leave 100,000 acres of their fields fallow. That’s a big deal. Van Vleck says medium-grain rice grows in just a few places around the world.

“California does export about half of their crop. And so if California is affected because of the drought, it all of a sudden changes the price of medium grain substantially,” she says.

Sumner has already seen the price increase.

“Farmers were getting between $15 and 20 for a 100 pound sack of rice,” he says. “It’s now up in the range of $25 or $30 -- or more.”

Customers have seen the price bump at Oto’s Marketplace in Sacramento, a store that specializes in Asian foods.

“A lot of the distributors and everybody went in increments. You don’t see a big price raise all at one time," says Russell Oto, the store’s general manager. “But by May or June it might go up a little bit more than what my prices are now.”

What worries rice farmers like Van Vleck the most is the possibility that California could see more dry years ahead.

“We have this wonderful system of customers that count on us each and every year,” she says. “I don’t know that they’ll all be able to be serviced this year. Someone else will fill that void. You might not get the customer back.”

And economists say that’s the danger. Suppliers might just start buying their rice elsewhere, like Australia or Arkansas. The drought may send a signal to the world market that California rice isn’t reliable.

Derailed train bursts into flames

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:01
A train derails and catches fire in the US state of Virginia, forcing the evacuation of hundreds from nearby buildings.

Slow Growth For U.S. Economy, But Fed Plans Are Full Speed Ahead

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

The economy slowed sharply in the first quarter, but Federal Reserve policymakers voted unanimously to continue winding down their stimulus program.

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In Afghan Spring, Violence Rises — But So Do Recruiting Numbers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

In Afghanistan, as the winter snows melt, Taliban violence heats up. This year, there will be even fewer foreign troops in Afghanistan to prop up Afghan forces, who suffered record casualties in 2013 as they took the lead for security. While U.S. officials feared that could hamper recruiting efforts for the Afghan Army, Afghan officials say they have a surplus of volunteers.

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Ukraine's Acting President: We've Lost Control Of East

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

Pro-Russian separatists have seized government buildings in another eastern Ukrainian city. After Luhansk fell, Ukraine's acting president said his troops were helpless in the face of the unrest. He said he now was working to keep the rest of eastern Ukraine under his government's control.

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Botched Oklahoma Execution Mobilizes Death Penalty Opponents

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett's execution was botched on Tuesday, when a relatively new combination of drugs failed to work as expected.

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Against 'Dark Money,' A Star Witness Speaks In Congress

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

Congress held its first hearing on "dark money," the donations to tax-exempt political groups that can keep donors' names secret. The star witness at the Senate committee was former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a vocal critic of the rulings that opened the door for the secret spending.

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A Quiet Election Day In Iraq, With Some Signs For Concern

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

For the first time since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, Iraqis went to the polls to vote on their leaders. As Reuters reporter Ned Parker says, the day's events paint a grim future for Iraq's future.

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U.S. Tests Teens A Lot, But Worldwide, Exam Stakes Are Higher

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 12:00

American students take an alphabet soup of mandatory and voluntary exams: SAT, PISA, AP. Sure it's a lot, but in places like Japan and England, tests are incredibly high-stress and life-defining.

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Jeremy Paxman to quit Newsnight

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:58
Jeremy Paxman announces he is quitting BBC Two's Newsnight after 25 years at the helm, saying he would "like to go to bed at much the same time as most people".

Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails In Downtown Lynchburg, Va.

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:55

Authorities evacuated the general area but there are reports that some of the oil has seeped into the James River.

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Paxman's most famous encounters

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:42
Jeremy Paxman's most memorable Newsnight encounters

Children 'killed in Aleppo strike'

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:42
An air strike by Syrian government forces hits a school in Aleppo and kills at least 18 people, including 10 children, activists say.

Man 'murdered westernised wife'

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:42
A mother of three from Manchester was murdered by her husband for becoming "too westernised" and "establishing an independent life", a jury is told.

Deadly attack at Chinese station

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:36
A bomb and knife attack at a railway station in China's Xinjiang region leaves three dead and 79 others wounded, state media say.

Tube strike disruption continues

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:34
Services are running on 10 lines of the Tube network during the evening rush hour on day two of the latest strike.

Mars Rover Takes A Break To Drill A Hole

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 11:20

Over the next few days, Curiosity will drill deeper and collect samples, telling scientists about the fluids that once flowed across the area, a point of convergence for different types of terrain.

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