The Salt
1:57 am
Thu January 5, 2012

How The Russians Saved America's Sunflower

A field of sunflowers in Russia.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 10:42 am

Next time you buy some potato chips, take a look at the list of ingredients. There's a good chance that, right after potatoes, you'll see this: "Sunflower oil."

You might think nothing of it. After all, the sunflower is the state flower of Kansas. Why wouldn't the potato chip industry use this home-grown oil?

But before the sunflower ended up helping to fry potatoes, it had to take a long detour through, of all places, the Soviet Union.

Let's follow this trail from the beginning.

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National Security
11:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Critics Question Pentagon's New Strategy

For two decades, the Pentagon has maintained that it could fight two wars at the same time. But as the Obama administration releases its new military strategy Thursday, some question whether the Pentagon will abandon that long-held commitment.

An early draft of the Pentagon's new strategy, The New York Times reported, said the military would only be able to win one war and spoil an adversary's efforts in a second war.

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Election 2012
11:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Attacking Super PACs Fueled By Anonymous Donors

A screen grab from an anti-Newt Gingrich ad from the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.
Restore Our Future, Inc.

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 7:23 am

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

The Real Holiday Party For Weight Loss Firms? It's Now

Jenny Craig brand ambassador and singer Mariah Carey (left) poses with Dana Fiser (right),CEO of Jenny Craig, at a press conference in New York City in November.
Cindy Ord Getty Images

The New Year is almost always happy for the weight-loss industry. When the holiday gorging ends, the resolutions to shed those extra pounds begin.

Weight Watchers North America president David Burwick says the first week of the year is the biggest week in what is typically his company's most profitable quarter.

"This is our Super Bowl," he says. "The first week of January is our Super Bowl for Weight Watchers."

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Science
11:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

How Fracking Wastewater Is Tied To Quakes

With the skyline of Youngstown, Ohio, in the distance, a brine injection well owned by Northstar Disposal Services LLC is seen in Youngstown on Jan. 4. The company has halted operations at the well, which disposes of brine used in gas and oil drilling, after a series of small earthquakes hit the Youngstown area.
Amy Sancetta AP

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 2:00 pm

Small earthquakes in Ohio and Arkansas associated with hydraulic fracturing for natural gas have taken many people by surprise. Gas industry executives say there's no hard evidence that their activities are causing these quakes. But some scientists say it's certainly possible; in fact, people have been causing quakes for years.

In the 1960s, geologists realized that gold mines in South Africa had created small earthquakes. Caverns dug into the earth thousands of feet below the surface collapsed. The "pancake" effect caused quakes — in one case a magnitude-5.2 temblor.

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The Arab Spring: One Year Later
11:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Bahrain: The Revolution That Wasn't

Bahrain is the one Arab country where the government has suppressed a major uprising. Here, protesters wave flags at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama on Feb. 20, 2011, when the demonstrations were at their peak.
John Moore/Getty Images

Arab revolts against secular leaders have been much more successful over the past year than those against monarchs. The one monarchy that faced a serious threat was the tiny Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. But after weeks of protests, troops from Saudi Arabia rolled into the country, the Bahraini regime imposed martial law, and a government crackdown followed. Kelly McEvers made several trips to Bahrain this past year and filed this report as part of NPR's series looking at the Arab Spring and where it stands today.

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Energy
11:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Solar Panels Compete With Cheap Natural Gas

Barbara Scott and Mac Given in Media, Pa., had 21 solar panels installed last March. With government rebates and tax incentives, Scott says, her family spent $21,000 to install the system.
Jeff Brady NPR

Renewable energy is growing rapidly in the U.S., with wind and solar industries enjoying double-digit growth each year. Part of that growth comes from more homeowners choosing to install solar panels.

With government subsidies, some people can even make a financial argument for installing the panels. But in recent years, the price of one fossil fuel — natural gas — has declined so much that solar panels are having difficulty competing.

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The Two-Way
4:49 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Google Slaps Its Own Wrist Over Chrome Pay-For-Blogging Flap

Google is "downgrading the search result ranking of the company's own Web browser, Google Chrome, for 60 days," as PC World reports, because some bloggers ending up being paid to mention Chrome during a recent ad campaign.

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It's All Politics
3:55 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

GOP Candidates Laud Bachmann, Who Departs Without Endorsing A Former Rival

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announces an end to her campaign for president on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Chris Carlson AP

Originally published on Wed January 4, 2012 4:09 pm

Several former rivals of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann were quick to applaud the now-suspended campaign run by the only woman to have sought the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Jon Huntsman said Bachmann added an "energetic and passionate voice" to the campaign. Mitt Romney called Bachmann a friend with a "titanium spine." And Newt Gingrich extolled Bachmann's "considerable talent" and "great courage."

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The Two-Way
3:55 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Mom Kills Intruder, Dead Man's Alleged Accomplice Faces Murder Charge

The story of how 18-year-old Sarah Dawn McKinley shot and killed a man who authorities say was breaking into her house on Saturday has been getting lots of attention because of the 911 phone call she made and the already tragic circumstances surrounding the incident.

McKinley, of Blanchard, Okla., called 911 to say that a man was trying to get inside her mobile home and that she feared for her life and that of her 3-month-old son. She asked the 911 operator if she could shoot him if he got inside.

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