When the Affordable Care Act was working its way through Congress, Gary Lauer was nervous. Part of the bill sounded grim. It said people could buy required health coverage online, but only through websites run by state and federal governments.
"That was going to pretty much delete us from the landscape," he says.
The Japanese city of Narita is best known to the outside world for its major airport that serves Tokyo, the nation's capital city.
Narita is also a rural area of Chiba Prefecture, however, with a long tradition of rice farming.
Toward the end of the summer, Narita's rice farmers gather to pray for bountiful harvests. They dance, play music and ride elaborate festival carts. From afar, the wagons appear to glide through a sea of lush green paddy fields as villagers pull them down Narita's placid country lanes.
When critics of industrial agriculture complain that today's food production is too big and too dependent on pesticides, that it damages the environment and delivers mediocre food, there's a line that farmers offer in response: We're feeding the world.
It's high-tech agriculture's claim to the moral high ground. Farmers say they farm the way they do to produce food as efficiently as possible to feed the world.
How often do whales clean their ears? Well, never. And so, year after year, their ear wax builds up, layer upon layer. According to a study published Monday, these columns of ear wax contain a record of chemical pollution in the oceans.
The study used the ear wax extracted from the carcass of a blue whale that washed ashore on a California beach back in 2007. Scientists at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History collected the wax from inside the skull of the dead whale and preserved it. The column of wax was almost a foot long.
These were the words uttered by painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was deeply shaken after he heard the story of a black graffiti artist who was beaten to death by New York City police. Seeing his own life reflected in the death of a fellow artist, Basquiat went on to create Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart),not only to commemorate the young man's death, but also to challenge the state-sanctioned brutality that men of color could face for pursuing their art in public spaces.
Editor's note: After the crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America, we solicited this commentary from writer Anna John, one of the co-founders of the blog Sepia Mutiny. This post includes several embedded tweets that contain explicit language.
Originally published on Tue September 17, 2013 8:04 am
Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old man believed responsible for Monday's shooting rampage that killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, was a former full-time Navy reservist who had obtained a concealed-carry permit in Texas and was arrested three years ago for illegally discharging a weapon.
From the standpoint of global warming, burning natural gas can be better than burning coal, a study published this week suggests.
This is a contentious issue among people who are opposed to the natural gas drilling practice known as fracking. That technique involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells to release far more gas than conventional drilling can. Opponents of fracking have been concerned not only about local environmental issues, but also about the potential for methane leaks to make global warming worse.
You may be hearing a lot about the National Book Awards this week — at least that's what the National Book Foundation hopes. That's because they've made some changes to the awards that they hope will get more people talking about them. Over four days starting Monday, they will roll out their nominees in four different categories — beginning with Young People's Literature and ending Thursday with Fiction.
The whole beauty of fantasy sports is that you can manage teams of pro athletes without ever leaving your couch. The process of drafting teams, betting on the success of individual players and trash-talking with your similarly obsessed friends takes place on Web and mobile platforms, and that makes the fantasy sports pastime about more than just bragging rights. It's become a billion-dollar business.
A line of men in black rain boots push trash carts through the alleys of Lahore, Pakistan. They stop at an open sewer along a neighborhood street and start to pull up shoes, bricks, plates and any other trash that might block the flow of wastewater.
Standing water is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. And the local government in Lahore is on a focused mission: Stop the spread of dengue fever by mosquitoes.
American cyclist Chris Horner celebrates winning Spain's Vuelta bicycle race Sunday. Anti-doping officials say that Horner, who at 41 is the oldest ever to win one of cycling's top events, was not at the hotel drug testers visited.
Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 3:40 pm
The cycling team of Chris Horner, the 41-year-old American who won Spain's Vuelta bike race on Sunday, says the racer followed the rules in telling doping officials where they could test him. And Monday afternoon, U.S. doping officials agreed that Horner had done his part to allow surprise out-of-competition testing.
Conjecture over Horner's victory in the three-week Vuelta a Espana grew after drug testers couldn't find him at a team hotel in Madrid on Monday morning. His team says the officials went to the wrong hotel.
Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 2:46 pm
It's mostly the usual suspects on the latest Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans: Bill Gates tops the list for the 20th consecutive year, with a net worth of $72 billion, followed by investor Warren Buffett and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
The Koch brothers, Charles and David, tie for fourth place, while Walton family members with an interest in retail behemoth Wal-Mart occupy positions 6 through 9.
Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 3:39 pm
A decade ago, Atkins was undeniably the fad diet of the moment: Back then, nearly 10 percent of Americans said they were either on the low-carb weight-loss plan or had tried it.
But after Dr. Robert Atkins, its namesake and mastermind, died of a head injury in 2003, the brand went downhill fast. Nutritionists berated the plan for promoting saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods. Sales of Atkins books and food products dropped precipitously. And Atkins Nutritionals filed for bankruptcy in 2005.
Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 2:35 pm
By taking his name out of consideration for the Federal Reserve chairmanship this weekend, Lawrence Summers became a metaphor for the difficulties President Obama has had in pursuing his economic agenda.
And the end of Summers, at least as Ben Bernanke's potential successor, signaled that the president's inability to get traction on his economic agenda is likely to get worse, not better. Now even lawmakers in his own party are willing to break with him on high-profile economic decisions.
In the past few years a wisp of a trend has emerged suggesting that the huge rise in obesity among children and teenagers may have peaked.
Here's one more bit of evidence: Teenagers are cutting back on sugary drinks, getting more exercise and watching less TV. But overall they're still pretty awesomely bad when it comes to healthful behaviors, a study finds.
Financial markets rallied Monday, a day after Lawrence Summers took himself out of the running to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. Summers had been seen as a front-runner to replace Ben Bernanke, whose term expires in January.
His exit improved the odds for his chief rival for the position — Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen — as well as those of Donald Kohn, the former vice chairman of the Fed board.
The world watches and waits to hear if the Assad government will give up Syria's chemical weapons stock. In the meantime, George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace talks with host Michel Martin about Israel's view on the Syrian conflict.
It's been half a century since the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed. The blast killed four little girls and was a turning point in the civil rights movement. Host Michel Martin revisits that era with historian Taylor Branch.
We all knew the "wild child" in school, the one who couldn't sit still during story time, or raise her hand to speak in class. Elizabeth Weil has written a piece for the New Republic, asking if it's the child's fault, or the education system's. She talks with host Michel Martin.
There was a time when Debora Spar was used to being the only woman in the room. As a professor at Harvard Business School, she was surrounded by what she describes as "alpha men of the academic sort — men with big egos and big attitudes and an awful lot of testosterone."
Then, in 2008, she found herself in the opposite situation: She became the president of Barnard College, the women's college affiliated with Columbia University, where "there was barely a male in sight."
Ten years ago, literary scholar Carla Kaplan released an acclaimed edition of the letters of Zora Neale Hurston. In the course of researching Hurston's life, Kaplan became curious about the white women who were in Harlem in the same period as Hurston, women who risked family exile and social ostracism to be part of the artistic and political movements of the Harlem Renaissance. Now, Kaplan has published a cultural history of those women called Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance.
Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 12:41 pm
For the first two millennia of McDonald's Breakfast Menu, very little changed, but the past several months have brought startling reforms. The company introduced the Egg White Delight McMuffin, which has 50 fewer calories and one fewer yellow spot than the regular McMuffin. They stopped slapping you in the face when you try to order the Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait. And now, they bring us the Steak, Egg & Cheese McMuffin.