Congress recently passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which — along with funding the Federal Aviation Administration's budget through 2015 — encourages the acceleration of unmanned aircraft programs in U.S. airspace. Drones have taken on a large role in military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The new legislation could make the technology more prevalent in several arenas, from local police departments to farmers monitoring crops.
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 12:31 pm
Angry Birds — a mobile phone game in which players use a slingshot to propel birds at tiny little green pigs — has been a runaway hit since its 2009 release, with more than 700 million downloads, a TV show and a feature film in the works. It isn't alone. NPR's Neal Conan talks with New York Times Magazine critic-at-large Sam Anderson about people's fascination with — and addiction to — what Anderson calls "stupid games."
Chrysler, Ford and General Motors gained market share in the past couple years. Helped by Toyota's much-publicized recalls, the problems that Japanese carmakers faced after last year's earthquake and tsunami, and an improving reputation for the quality of American-made vehicles, Detroit's Big Three grabbed 47 percent of sales last year — up from 45.1 percent in 2010 and 44 percent in 2009.
Our friend Micki Maynard of Changing Gears, though, reports that the Detroit companies' comeback — in terms of market share — may be over.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Over the weekend, scandal overshadowed the president's visit to a hemispheric summit in Colombia. Reports accused 11 U.S. Secret Service agents of cavorting with prostitutes ahead of the president's arrival.
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 1:22 pm
Greenpeace released its latest report today asking, "How clean is your cloud?"
The annual report examines the server farms built by the largest Internet companies — including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo — and ranks them according to how efficient their cloud facilities are, and where they get their electricity.
Yahoo — which has struggled to please investors in recent years — was the only major Internet company in the study to get most of its electricity from renewable or clean energy sources, according to the report.
How bad are things at the General Services Administration, where the scandal over extravagant spending at a Las Vegas conference has led to resignations, firings and could end up with criminal charges for some officials?
On a panel at an ideas conference in New York City, Rattner noted that before the financial crisis began in 2008, Wall Street was the "global leader in finance. ... But of course, it got out of control."
In 1925, people lined up to buy anti-evolution books in Dayton, Tenn., where the "monkey trial" of teacher John T. Scopes took place. Tennessee recently enacted a law encouraging teachers to question accepted science on evolution and other issues.
Credit Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Scopes (center), a high school science teacher, was put on trial for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution, an act that was illegal. He was convicted and fined $100, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.
Credit Courtesy of Vanderbilt University
Roger Cone, chairman of the department of molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., says he thinks scientists "have a responsibility to be in the public sphere."
Credit Erik Schelzig / AP
Tennessee state Rep. Bill Dunn, a Republican from Knoxville, says the legislation he co-sponsored does nothing to threaten the teaching of evolution or other science subjects.
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 1:42 pm
If you've ever had a bacterial infection like staph or strep throat, your doctor may have prescribed penicillin. But if you've had the flu or a common cold virus, penicillin won't work. That's because antibacterials only kill bacteria, and both the flu and the common cold are viruses. So for illnesses like the flu, doctors prescribe antiviral drugs, which target the mechanisms that viruses use to reproduce.
The "summit scandal" continues to grow, judging from this story just posted by Reuters:
"Twenty or 21 women were brought back to the hotel in Colombia by U.S. Secret Service agents and members of the U.S. military in an incident last week involving alleged misconduct with prostitutes, U.S. Senator Susan Collins said on Tuesday."
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 9:26 am
Food stamps have long been a favorite whipping boy of politicians looking to beat up on government spending. But the massive food-assistance program does help keep people out of poverty, according to new research.
Food stamp benefits led to a decline of 4.4 percent in poverty from 2000 to 2009, according to a new report from the USDA's Economic Research Service.
Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 4:30 pm
For those who can't get enough of polls about the presidential election, Gallup has fired up its "daily tracking" survey that will follow the levels of support for President Obama and presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is reaching out to a segment of the Republican base that has given him trouble in this year's primary season: the Tea Party. On Monday night in Philadelphia, he spoke to activists from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, and what might have been a tough crowd turned out to be just the opposite.
They fear what might happen if Tibetans were allowed to live freely and others under Chinese rule started to demand more respect for their rights. That has meant, he said, that "they ignore ... reality and they impose their rules. ... That's the problem."
One of the surprises from Monday's Pulitzer Prize announcements was the lack of an award in the fiction category. It's the first time since 1977 that the Pulitzer board hasn't given an award for fiction writing.
The New Zealand town of Christchurch is rebuilding after an earthquake left its 19th century cathedral in ruins. Its replacement has been dubbed "the cardboard cathedral." It's a temporary fix while the permanent building is under construction.
The crisis between Sudan and South Sudan has intensified with the north branding its recently independent southern neighbor the enemy. This follows two weeks of bitter fighting in the disputed oil-producing border area between the two Sudans. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is monitoring developments from her base in Dakar, Senegal and joins us now.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Good morning, Ofeibea.
NEARY: Now, Ofeibea, just bring us up to date on what is happening in Sudan and South Sudan right now.
We're going to hear now from a religious leader revered by Tibetan Buddhists and admired by countless others - the 14th Dalai Lama. A year ago he stepped down as the political leader of Tibet's government in exile to devote himself to spreading a spiritual message of compassion and peace. Still, he's been drawn into talking about violence since a wave of deadly protests swept through the Tibetan areas of China.
They say the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes. But half that statement appears to be under challenge by one late rap star and some special effects, which brings us to today's last word in business - virtual comeback.
The day that many dread is here: It's Tax Day. Of the 143 million federal tax returns filed last year, more than 80 percent qualified for a refund. Steve Inskeep talks to David Wessel, economics editor of The Wall Street Journal, about the economics of tax refunds.
President Obama's so-called Buffett rule has slammed into a wall of GOP opposition. On the eve of tax day, Senate Republicans voted yesterday to block a measure that would have made mega-investor Warren Buffett and billionaires and millionaires like him pay at least a 30 percent tax rate. Although Buffett endorses such a rule, Senate Republicans call it an election year gimmick. Their Democratic counterparts insist it's all about fairness. NPR's David Welna has our story.
The actor Alec Baldwin is in Washington, speaking in favor of the National Endowment for the Arts. The government-funded arts organization long ago supported the Sundance Film Festival and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In more recent years, the NEA has supported writers, arts education for kids, and everything from jazz musicians to urban design. It has also faced political controversy; most notably in the 1990s, when its funding was slashed.
Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: "POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price."
Houston usually gets from $2 to $20 for a poem, he says. He's received a $100 bill more than once. The Oakland, Calif., resident has been composing spontaneous street poems in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Five years ago, it became his main source of income.