NPR's business news starts with Iran shaking the oil markets.
Oil prices are higher this morning after a top Iranian official threatened to block a considerable part of the world's oil supply, if new economic sanctions are imposed on his country. The official spoke of blocking oil tankers from moving through the Straits of Hormuz; that's the opening from the Persian Gulf, a major transit route for a number of nations, and it goes right past the Iranian shore.
This week Earth Notes concludes its series on the sun with a look at how to use a backyard solar oven. You can use one anywhere there’s a few square feet of sunny exposure on a backyard or balcony.
And yes, you can use a solar oven on some winter days. Even when it’s cold and the ground is covering with snow, a cooker will work if you have enough sunshine and your solar oven is well insulated. But you’ll need to use the midday hours when the sun is at least 45 degrees above the horizon—that means your shadow is shorter than your height.
When summer’s flashy circus of wildflowers has passed and the last browned autumn leaf has fallen, an eye looking for signs of plant life is left with the conifers, those stalwart trees that stay green all year long.
Conifers do drop their needles and replace them with new ones—just not all at once. Their ability to photosynthesize all year long gives them a built-in advantage in living in places with a relatively short warm season. So does their natural chemical antifreeze, which prevents needles from freezing even in frigid conditions.
2011 has been a momentous year in the 30-year-old AIDS pandemic.
The big breakthrough was the discovery that antiviral drugs can prevent someone who's infected with HIV from passing the virus to others. It's nearly 100 percent effective. That led President Obama to declare earlier this month that the U.S. will expand HIV treatment in hard-hit countries by 50 percent.
Reason To Smile: Samuel Palmisano, president and CEO of IBM, walks by an IBM logo at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, Germany. Palmisano is set to step down later this month, and Virginia Rometty will take over on Jan. 1.
Far from a relic, IBM has been one of the best stocks on the Dow this year, rising more than perennial tech hotshots Google and Apple. The company may be 100, but it has totally remade its business for the 21st century.
The company sold its PC business 6 years ago, and now, more than 83 percent of its business is services and software. Sign a contract with Big Blue and you get consulting, cloud computing, servers, analytics, even financing.
"There is no such thing as an IBM PC," says IBM managing partner Adam Klaber.
Credit William Keener / Golden Gate Cetacean Research
A group of harbor porpoises in San Francisco Bay, photographed from the Golden Gate Bridge. Harbor porpoises haven't been seen in the bay since the 1930s. Researchers believe World War II activity may have contributed to their disappearance. The Navy strung a seven-mile underwater net across the mouth of the bay to keep out enemy submarines.
Something that has been missing from San Francisco Bay since World War II appears to be making a comeback: Harbor porpoises are showing up in growing numbers, and researchers are trying to understand why they're returning.
The walkway across the Golden Gate Bridge is almost always packed with people taking photos. But Bill Keener isn't here for snapshots of the stunning views. He's aiming his massive telephoto lens at a dark shape in the water 200 feet below.
Ah, we still do the town on New Year's Eve, but tearing the goal posts down is now verboten. Deemed too dangerous. In fact, as our new year approaches, it's a good time to look back on several other things in sport that have long since faded away.
Who remembers, for example, that at the end of each inning in the field, baseball players would just chuck their gloves onto the grass behind their position, leaving the field littered with mitts. All game long.