National / International News

Silicon Tally: Bounce with Me

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by David Banks, co-editor of the blog Cyborgology.

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South Africa police scuffle with MPs

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:17
Riot police in South Africa clash with MPs hours after parliament passed a report absolving the president of using state money to upgrade his private home.

Hagel to unveil nuclear arms reform

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:16
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is to announce a major reform of the United States' nuclear arms management after reviews uncovered major flaws.

Tallying the Secret Service's "comedy of errors"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

That's how many people have gotten over the White House fence since 1973, the Washington Post reports. An investigation found many layers of security failed on September 19, the report found, allowing a man to hop the fence, run through the White House lawn and into the East Room before he was detained. An agent with an attack dog was taking a personal call without a radio on him, for instance, and several others overestimated various barriers and didn't react in time as a result. One congressman called the incident "a comedy of errors."

2.9 percent

The annual increase this year for in-state students at public four-year colleges, falling under 3 percent for the first time since 1975, Vox reported. Growth is slowing down, but school is still more expensive than ever; the College Board found tuition at public four-year schools is three times higher than it was in the 1980s, when adjusting for inflation. A lot of those hikes happened during the recession. Meanwhile, family income has fallen or stayed flat.

1 percent

That's how many engineers at Facebook, Google and Twitter are black, and 3 percent are hispanic. The vast majority of employees of these and other companies in Silicon Valley are men. Bloomberg talked to dozens of women and people of color working in tech about their experiences. Employees talked about feeling isolated, with far more incentive to try to fit in with the status quo than to push for more diversity at work.


The Energy Department projects that the national average price per gallon of gas will continue to drop throughout the end of the year to $2.80 in December. That’s especially good news for low-income drivers, who generally have to commute much more to work.

2 bounces

Don’t be fooled by decoy answers on this week’s Silicon Tally—2 bounces is how many times the Phillae Space Probe bounced before landing safely on the surface of a comet. But you already knew that, so why not take our quiz to test your knowledge of the week in tech news?

50 Starbucks

That’s how many Starbucks exist in the Netherlands. Consider this as you’re sipping your Chestnut Praline latte: On Friday, the European Union authorities accused the Netherlands of cutting Starbucks a deal (i.e. tax breaks) when the green mermaid announced it would move its European headquarters to the UK.

The big economic impact of data about the weather

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, says it was the target of an Internet-based hacking attack “in recent weeks.”

The federal agency, which operates the National Weather Service, is being tight-lipped about the details of the attack and its subsequent decision to take down some of its websites in response.

The “impacts were temporary and all services have been fully restored,” NOAA said in a written statement. The agency also said the incident did not compromise its ability to offer forecasts to the public.

But, according to the Washington Post, there was a disruption of some weather data, including information provided to European weather forecasting counterparts. Such weather data is critical to a number of industries and government operations, all of which rely on raw data provided by the National Weather Service.

"Most airlines have their own weather prediction and monitoring operation,” but rely on NWS raw data, says Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot and aviation consultant. Cockpits inside more modern airplanes also have satellite weather images beamed in, Aimer says.

The outage, which reportedly occurred in October during the hurricane season, also exposes the reliance on government weather data for disaster planners.

“We see a storm coming ... and all the information you can have prompts decisions about when you evacuate, where do you move people to, what places will be safe and what places will be inundated,” says Gary Cecchine, a senior policy analyst at RAND Corporation.

In Chicago, for example, forecasts help determine when to open the water gates into Lake Michigan to prevent flooding. 

Falling gas prices are a big help for the low-income

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

In a surprising reversal from previous forecasts, the U.S. Energy Department is now predicting that the average price of gasoline will remain below $3.00 a gallon next year.

That’s a 44-cent drop from its previous outlook, and especially good news for the working poor since the vast majority of workers (both above and below the poverty line) commute to work by car.

With gas now selling for $2.85 a gallon at a gas station, just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jesse Foster says he’s paying $10 less to fill his tank than he was even a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of savings,” says Foster, “because I drive a Suburban. So it’s real good news.”

It’s particularly good news if you work for minimum wage. Since poorer commuters spend a greater percentage of their income on gas, any relief at the pump creates a ripple effect of benefits.

“Which might mean that you don’t run out of healthy foods,” says Margaret Simms, director of the Low-Income Working Families Project at the Urban Institute. “It also means that maybe you can pay a bill that you had to skip this month because you had to put gas in your car.”

Simms also points out that any data the government has on commuters treats both low and high-income drivers the same, which might present a false picture since many low-income workers drive less fuel-efficient cars.

The Energy Department projects that gas prices will continue dropping for the remainder of the year, with a national average of $2.80 a gallon expected for December.

Volkswagen deal revs up union hopes in the South

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-11-14 02:00

This week Volkswagen laid out a plan to recognize the United Auto Workers at its Tennessee plant, though it’s not quite what the union was hoping for.

The UAW has been desperate to organize one of the foreign-owned plants in the South as it rebuilds its membership rolls. And the South is where so many of the auto jobs are these days.

“The plants are located here. It’s important for us to organize them,” UAW president Dennis Williams said at a ceremony establishing a local chapter in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The UAW’s southern strategy appeared to be snuffed out in February when workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant voted down union representation. This was at an automaker that had been welcoming to the union.

Instead of trying its luck elsewhere, the UAW has tried a side door. It started a local chapter even without recognition from Volkswagen.

The UAW has called this week’s policy change at Volkswagen a “step forward.” But it still doesn’t accomplish the Detroit-based union’s ultimate goal.

The policy allows for multiple unions to have different levels of representation. And no one would get exclusive bargaining rights. For that reason, some Republican politicians who had been campaigning against the UAW are cheering.

“I think it’s a victory for the workers, for Volkswagen and for Chattanooga, in particular,” said Gerald McCormick, majority leader of the Tennessee state house.

Republicans have fought to keep the UAW from getting a foothold in the region because they see the union as damaging to the business climate.

The union could use a big win to go into other plants with a head of steam.

“We’re talking to Nissan workers, we’re talking to Mercedes workers. We talk to BMW workers,” UAW secretary Gary Casteel said during the organizing push. “Which one of those has the amount of interest from employees that we would start an organizing drive? We’d have to assess that.”

But Casteel points out that the UAW has a long history in the south, just not in the big multinational plants.

Membership has even grown in recent years, but labor attorney Cliff Hammond says they’re small shops.

“I don’t think people really appreciate how difficult it is to—even in Michigan, Ohio—win a big plant, let alone down in the South where you don’t have your grassroots,” Hammond said.

And despite inroads at Volkswagen, no one is counting this week as the momentum-shifting win the UAW has been looking for. 


Hosie elected SNP deputy leader

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 01:59
Stewart Hosie is unveiled as the new deputy leader of the SNP at the party's conference in Perth.

Council 'complacent' before murder

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 01:45
A report finds "unacceptable levels of complacency" at a council which failed to help a woman who was later beaten to death.

VIDEO: Leaders gather for G20 summit

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 01:17
Leaders of the world's 20 largest economies are gathering in Queensland city of Brisbane for the G20 summit this weekend.

With Drought The New Normal, Calif. Farmers Find They Have To Change

NPR News - Fri, 2014-11-14 01:06

Three years of severe drought in California is forcing farmers and ranchers to make some tough choices. In some cases, they're rethinking everything about their business and finding new opportunities.

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Your pictures: Fireworks

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 01:02
Readers' photos on the theme of "fireworks"

Man charged over knifepoint rape

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:59
A 24-year-old man is charged after a woman was raped at knifepoint at Leith Links in Edinburgh.

Big Bang Theory pays tribute to star

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:52
US sitcom The Big Bang Theory pays tribute to cast member Carol Ann Susi, who died earlier this week from cancer.

VIDEO: Is video of Syrian 'hero boy' authentic?

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:48
Was this young boy's act of bravery real?

Lancaster calms fears on Samoa game

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:47
Head coach Stuart Lancaster expects England to play Samoa next week, despite the tourists having threatened to boycott the match.

Israel lifts age limit on holy site

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:32
Israel says it will allow men of all ages into Jerusalem's holy site, after months of age restrictions following tension in the city.

'Time for risks' with comet lander

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:29
Scientists working on Philae comet lander say it is time to take more risks with the probe, amid fears its battery might die in hours.

Afghan president in Pakistan visit

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:29
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is to meet Pakistani leaders on his first visit to Islamabad - a trip seen as a chance to reset troubled ties.

Work starts on razing Bridger house

BBC - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:28
Builders prepare to demolish a cottage dubbed the "house of evil", where Mark Bridger is believed to have murdered April Jones two years ago.