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Behold A Robot Hand With A Soft Touch

Dec 11, 2016

Robotics researchers at Cornell University made a hand that has something close to a human touch — it can not only touch delicate items but also sense the shape and texture of what it comes into contact with.

Such a soft robot hand is a step forward for the growing field of soft robotics — the kind of technology that's already used in warehouses to handle food or other products. But it also holds promise for better prosthetics, robots to interact directly with people or with fragile objects, or robots to squeeze into tight spaces.

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Among his campaign promises, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to increase domestic energy production and roll back President Obama's efforts to combat climate change. A lengthy questionnaire recently sent to the Department of Energy suggests that effort may dig deep.

Among the transition's inquiries, NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports:

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Patricia Aguilar, 21, began working at DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in central Washington nearly three years ago. She worked at the dairy's milking parlor, which she says handles about 3000 cows three times each day, seven days a week. Aguilar was one of four dairy workers responsible for pushing and guiding the cows into the parlor, connecting the animals to milking machines, wiping them and the machinery down, and cleaning towels and milk tanks.

The widening gap between rich and poor Americans has pushed the chances of children earning more money than their parents down to around 50 percent, economic researchers say. That's a sharp fall from 1940, when 90 percent of kids were destined to move up the income ladder.

Even after he becomes president, Donald Trump will hold another title dear to his heart: executive producer.

The next head of the U.S. government is to retain a stake and a credit for the NBC reality series Celebrity Apprentice, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells NPR. The story was first reported in the Hollywood trade publication Variety.

Larry Jefferson has been putting on a big red suit and perfecting his best ho, ho, ho for nearly 20 years.

The retired Army captain plays Santa at shopping malls, holiday parties and charity benefits. He hit the big time this year when he was handpicked at a Santa convention to appear at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

And by all accounts, kids and parents at the mall loved him. But when the story spread online, the negative attacks starting pouring in — because Jefferson is black.

Donald Trump was elected president promising to use his business-world experience and negotiating skills to help boost the American economy. Now that he's about to take office, a lot of people hope he'll leave the business world behind.

Two-thirds of those responding to a Bloomberg News poll said they think Trump needs to choose between being president and being a businessman, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

There's a lot of time for contemplation when you're milking cows in Mongolia. 90-year-old Lkhagvajav Bish has milked them for decades. She's a nomadic herder, and she follows them in their endless search for grass.

Today, the ger, or tent, she and her son live in is pitched in a valley surrounded by brown hills whose tops are white with frost, and as her hands squeeze the last milk from one of her herd, Bish reminisces about a time when this valley looked completely different.

Without congressional intervention, about 16,000 retired miners in seven states will lose their health care coverage by the end of the year.

A proposal to temporarily extend the benefits is working its way through Congress. But two Senate Democrats, who are advocates for a more comprehensive plan, say the temporary provision isn't enough.

They are threatening to hold up a spending bill that needs to pass by Friday night to keep the government running.

China's top court has handed basketball legend Michael Jordan a victory in a long-running trademark dispute over the use of his name by a Chinese company.

"Nothing is more important than protecting your own name, and today's decision shows the importance of that principle," Jordan said in a statement after the ruling. Here's more from Jordan:

The U.S. surgeon general said Thursday that e-cigarette use poses a significant and avoidable health risk to young people.

"We already know that e-cigarettes have the potential to cause lasting harm to the health of young users," said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. "Most contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug that can damage normal development of the brain – a process that continues until about age 25."

Murthy's comments were part of a report released Thursday on rising e-cigarette use by people under 25.

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President-elect Donald Trump has chosen fast-food restaurant CEO Andrew Puzder as his secretary of labor, his transition team announced Thursday.

Puzder is the CEO of CKE Holdings, the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, and in a statement Trump praised him as someone who "has created and boosted the careers of thousands of Americans."

The BOTS Act of 2016 is now on its way to President Obama's desk, after both houses of Congress approved the legislation that seeks to widen access to online ticket sales and foil scalpers who try to corner the market.

The ban applies to ticket sales for any public event that can be attended by 200 or more people; it targets software that routinely defeats attempts by venues to try to limit the number of tickets one buyer can purchase.

I first got to taste Blue Seal ice cream 13 years ago. I was 24 years old and teaching English in a tiny mountain town called Furukawa, which means "Old River." One weekend, some Canadian friends and I flew to Okinawa, Japan's southern-most island. Once we arrived in downtown Naha, Okinawa's capital city, my friends decided to dine at a steakhouse. And as the only vegetarian in the group, I was on my own. As I wandered down Kokusai-dori, or International Street, I saw the welcoming orange and blue entrance of a Blue Seal ice cream shop.

President-elect Donald Trump's latest Twitter target is a local union official who questioned the billionaire's account of how many jobs he saved at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis.

Trump has previously used social media to browbeat companies that move jobs offshore as well as entertainers whose acts he finds tiresome.

On Wednesday, Trump took aim at Chuck Jones, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999.

Trump wrote on Twitter that Jones "has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!"

Episode 740: Burnout

Dec 7, 2016

Exhaustion. Anxiety. Stress. Depression. Forgetfulness. Irritability. Screaming at large bodies of water. These are some symptoms of burnout.

Hospitals, tech companies, schools and law firms all struggle with burnout. Companies try to fix it. But burnout is really tough to solve. Even the psychologist who coined the term "burnout" had trouble preventing it. After working around the clock, he ended up burnt out.

Today on the show, why burnout is such a menace, and how a 26-year-old call center manager tried to beat it.

Royal Dutch Shell has signed a provisional agreement to develop oil and gas fields in Iran, a move that could signal energy companies will not be deterred from doing business with the Islamic Republic despite uncertainty whether a Trump administration will scrap a nuclear deal agreed to by world powers.

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When AT&T, a leading Internet provider, proposed a massive merger with Time Warner, a huge media conglomerate, the question many people asked was: Will I have to pay more for my TV?

On Wednesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee quizzed the CEOs of the two companies — over and over posing basically the same question: What will the $85.4 billion merger mean for the prices that consumers may have to pay?

President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, announcing his decision in a statement Thursday.

As attorney general, Pruitt has made no secret of his disdain for the EPA.

When he first moved to Miami, Waltter Teruel says, working as a recruiter for ITT Technical Institute was a welcome change from his life in New York where he had been selling antiques and life insurance.

As a recruiter, Teruel says, ITT Tech took care of the pitch to potential students for you. Recruiters used scripts set out in detailed PowerPoint presentations and got long lists of prospective students to call. But soon the welcome change faded. "Most of these students, they were looking for a job," not more school, says Teruel.

The holiday competition to warm the cold cockles of our hearts is sure heating up.

Tai Boxley needs a hysterectomy. The 34-year-old single mother has uterine prolapse, a condition that occurs when the muscles and ligaments supporting the uterus weaken, causing severe pain, bleeding and urine leakage.

Boxley and her 13-year-old son have health insurance through her job as an administrative assistant in Tulsa, Okla. But the plan has a deductible of $5,000 apiece, and Boxley's doctor said he won't do the surgery until she prepays her share of the cost.

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