National / International News
As HBO releases the high-definition version of The Wire, NPR's Eric Deggans says that binge-watching the show feels more like reading today's headlines — especially on issues of race and class.
Despite the intensifying efforts to turn back the obesity epidemic, Medicare and many private health plans are reluctant to pay for four medicines approved to help people shed pounds.
At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, one of the growing trends among the companies exhibiting at the giant industry gathering is the so-called smart home. An explosion of gadgets aims to take objects around the home, add processors and sensors to them, and connect them to the Internet.
Listening to some of the people hawking smart home technologies, you’d think we’re all a bit paranoid.
"We have room motion sensors that will sit up on the corner ... it’s infrared so it detects heat signatures" to differentiate between pets and potential intruders, says Leah Polk, with computer accessories company Belkin. Sensors can even be added to people, she says.
"We also have a keychain sensor, which is designed to sit on your keychain, or on your kid’s backpack or on your pet’s collar that can tell you if they’ve come or gone," Polk says.
Alarm.com strives to be the Apple of this sensor-filled world. Jay Kenny says his company can provide the platform to make everything work together.
"When the security system is disarmed, the lights can turn on, the thermostat can adjust, the garage door can close. All these things happen automatically as if they are one organism," Kenny says.
Shawn DuBravac, a senior economist with the Consumer Electronics Association, says that connecting more everyday objects to the Internet is definitely a trend.
When Richard Kail retired to the northwestern Wyoming town of Pinedale in the late 1990s, it was a sleepy place mostly getting by on jobs in tourism and government. Kail bought some apartments and a hotel in Big Piney, at town about 30 miles south of Pinedale. He did steady business, but nothing special. That is, until around 2005, when he started to get a lot more calls.
By the mid 2000s, a new technology called hydraulic fracturing had opened up thousands of natural gas wells around Pinedale. Hundreds of energy workers descended on the area, all looking for a place to stay.
“There were continually calls,” Kail said. “They were willing to pay just about anything you ask them. There was a real frenzy for finding places.”
The demand for housing was just too much for the area to handle, said Steve Smith, mayor of Pinedale from 2006 until last June. “At the end of the day we just couldn’t pull it together here,” he said.
Pinedale scrambled to react to the boom, but there was not enough housing, and too many energy workers searching for a place to stay. What got in the way? First, the free market.
“Everything was going up and up in Pinedale,” Smith said. “Folks that had lived here for a long time that might have been valued for $100 or $150,000 now selling for $300,000. In that market it is very difficult to find land to put in attainable housing.”
Attainable housing—housing that isn’t necessarily cheap, but is available.
The second issue is the sewer lines and roads and stoplights: all the stuff a town has to build along with housing.
“Previous administrations had long-term plans to improve infrastructure. But when you have this many new people coming, and this much new traffic on your roads..."
The third big issue, which was more of a question for Pinedale, is a little more abstract: do you make the energy workers a part of the town and a part of the community? For Mayor Smith, the answer was yes.
“I wanted those people coming into our community to be part of our community,” Smith said. “To pay sales tax and property tax and enroll their kids in school. I thought that was important, and I still do.”
Smith says locals welcomed the idea of their bars and diners filling up with energy workers. But when it came to housing, he was overruled. A housing report commissioned by the town in 2008 recommended it limit new residential development to cushion the real estate values of long-term residents. Ultimately very little worker housing was built.
Fast forward four years, and the same scenario is playing out again, this time in the northeastern Wyoming town of Wright.
Roger Jones has developed apartments and townhouses in energy towns in Wyoming and the Dakotas. Right now he’s building some apartments in Wright, which is seeing a surge in oil development. These construction projects take an average of one to two years, so contractors often underbuild because they don’t know how long the boom will last.
“You always want to have a waiting list,” Jones said. He said he was optimistic about the Wright project a few months ago, but the sharp drop in the price of oil recently has him concerned.
Unlike the boom in Pinedale, Wright has had plenty of lead time to track the growth of oil and gas work. Mayor Tim Albin says he wants to see the energy workers in the area living and shopping in Wright, but he says the town has to invest long-term first. That means using oil tax proceeds to build an almost $10 million recreation center, but taking it slow with housing.
“We want to build for the future and have our town be a permanent structure,” Albin said. “We are not trying to just build stuff to handle the overflow and then go ‘we don’t care what happens in two years whether it folds or not.’”
When small towns in energy states are hit with a boom, they know a bust is probably coming, too. Even with plenty of foresight, it's hard to get around the fact that investment in the needs of energy workers might not be a good investment for the town.
“I mean this happens everyplace,” said Pinedale innkeeper Richard Kail. "Nobody is prepared. Those things just happen and we adjust and--it’s a bitch.”
Coach, the luxury handbag and accessories company, has made a half-billion dollar move to acquire Stuart Weitzman, the luxury footwear brand. Coach's stock price dropped by over 30 percent in 2014, and it has been looking for a way to revitalize its offering. Will a new pair of shoes do the trick?
For years, cord-cutters ditching cable had few options for live sports. Dish will soon offer an Internet streaming service that changes that. For $20 a month, its Sling TV will offer ESPN and a few other channels online. It’s an attempt by ESPN and Dish to reach millennials who have little intention of paying for traditional TV. The risk is that it will also attract existing customers who just want to save money.
When CNN went on the air, founder Ted Turner said: "Barring satellite problems, we won't be signing off until the world ends."
Apparently there's an actual file in CNN's video bank called "TURNER DOOMSDAY VIDEO."
The video shows a band playing "Nearer, My God to Thee." Then the screen goes black and, apparently, we all die.
In all parts of the world, nurses deliver most of a patient's care — especially in countries with limited medical resources. But who will train these nurses? Partners in Health has a plan.
King Abdullah, who's at least 90, was hospitalized last week and Crown Prince Salman delivered an annual televised speech Tuesday. One analyst says the kingdom is stable, perhaps too much so.
The House, which has a Republican majority, is expected to vote on the controversial pipeline this week. The GOP-dominated Senate is considering a similar measure, which has bipartisan support.
Days before he was scheduled to die, inmate Frank Van Den Bleeken has been told he won't be allowed to die from an assisted suicide. His request had been granted last September.
The Ohio Republican received 216 votes. At least two dozen fellow Republicans voted against him.