National / International News

Oil and gas will drive disputes on future control of the South China Sea

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 11:13

The global geopolitical conversation this week is focused on Europe and Ukraine and what the G7 is going do about Russia.

However, eventually and probably sooner rather than later, the conversation is going to turn back to Asia. President Obama's got a trip scheduled to the region next month, and somewhere in his conversations with leaders there the South China Sea is going to come up; who gets to control it and who gets the oil and natural gas reserves that are under the ocean floor.

In his new book “Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and The End of a Stable Pacific”, Robert Kaplan breaks down how a possible dispute over the South China Sea could have a substantial impact.

Kaplan notes that the South China Sea is said to have oil reserves of seven billion barrels and over 900 cubic feet of natural gas. This makes it very attractive to countries in the region. Kaplan said the biggest competitor for control of the South China Sea is China. 

“The Chinese themselves claim what’s called the nine dash line or the whole heart of the sea itself” said Kaplan. “China sees the South China Sea, the way the United States saw the Caribbean in the 19th and early 20th century; as the blue water extension of its continental landmass that it must dominate”.

Kaplan said the possible dispute over who owns the South China Sea could have a staunching economic impact.

“If the pacific is no longer stable, that will affect investment, growth rates, etc.” said Kaplan. “If you ask me what’s the biggest question in the world today; it’s not ‘Will Iran get its Nukes?’ it’s the direction of the Chinese economy.”

China claims that the South China Sea will produce 130 million barrels of oil.  Kaplan said that if this calculation is correct, the South China Sea is only second to Saudi Arabia in terms of how much oil it has.

Treasury to sell more Lloyds shares

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 11:13
The government announces plans to return more of Lloyds Banking Group to the private sector, with the sale of a 7.5% stake to investors.

Holder Ding beaten in first round

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 11:08
Ding Junhui is beaten by Ben Woollaston in the first round of the Players' Championship Grand Final in Preston.

Pollution From Home Stoves Kills Millions Of People Worldwide

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 11:07

Air pollution causes 1 in 8 deaths worldwide, with half of the deaths caused by fumes from home stoves. Fixing the problem isn't as simple as providing more efficient stoves. Habits must change, too.

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VIDEO: Osborne plays bingo in Cardiff

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:55
George Osborne has tried his hand at bingo after recently announcing a plan to halve bingo tax from 20% to 10%.

Your Smartphone Is A Crucial Police Tool, If They Can Crack It

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:54

Suspects' smartphones contain a wealth of information: calls, photos, GPS data. With so much info, it's often all police need to make a case. But with fast-changing phone technology, it can take work.

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In which Kai Ryssdal has to settle for $22.40

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:52

I got an email from Amazon this morning, telling me I had a credit of $22.40 in my account. It's a payout from the $166 million e-book price-fixing settlement.

What's interesting is how they figured out who got how much: It's $3.17 for each New York Times best-seller you bought, and $0.73 for everything else.

Did you get a settlement payout? Tell us on our RebelMouse page:

IRS Says It Will Treat Bitcoins As Property, Not Currency

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:47

This means any profits made on the currency will be taxed at the lower, capital-gains rate. The rule, however, also means investors have to keep extensive records.

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Wal-Mart Recalls 'Cuddle Care' Dolls Because They Can Burn

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:45

The dolls get sick on cue and come with a medical kit that can relieve their symptoms. But the electronics inside the dolls can get hot enough to cause blisters or burns.

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Zimbabwe to compensate rape victim

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:44
Zimbabwe's top court orders the state to pay compensation to a rape victim who was denied an abortion after she was attacked eight years ago.

MOOC 2.0: Open online education moves forward

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:32

 There are some new developments this week in the land of the MOOC. That’s shorthand for the "Massive Open Online Courses" that were supposed to transform higher education as we know it, bringing free education from the likes of Harvard and Stanford to you and me.

MOOC pioneer Coursera has hired a new CEO -- none other than the former long-time president of Yale University, Richard Levin.

Meanwhile Coursera competitor edX has a new president from the business world -- former Vistaprint executive Wendy Cebula. The hires mark a new phase in the evolution of free online education as it tries to move beyond the initial hype -- and the inevitable backlash.

"Clearly there's a big jump between the credibility of two Stanford faculty members and someone who's a 20-year president of Yale University," says Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller. "I think this really makes clear that we are not out to put universities out of business -- have never been out to do that."

Six signs that MOOCs are growing up

by Marc Sollinger

MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, are pretty much exactly what their acronym implies: college courses offered on the web that anyone can take. The actual format of the courses vary by what actual work is required and whether they're free or require payment. Critics say they’re overhyped.  However you parse it, MOOCs are becoming a big deal. Here are six signs they’re growing up: 

1. Ex-Yale president joins Coursera

Coursera is the largest provider of MOOCs, with 532 courses offered. And Richard C. Levin, who ran Yale for 20 years, will be it’s CEO. This development means Coursera will be led by someone with lots of ties the world of brick-and-mortar higher ed. This move could show that Coursera is looking to get at least some of its courses accredited. (So far, none of the schools that create content for Coursera actually offer credit for courses taken.)

2. Thomas Friedman thinks MOOCs might save the world

Well, perhaps not save the world. But Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, does think that “nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty.” It’s not just Friedman that thinks MOOCs might change education -- they’ve been praised in Al Jazeera, elsewhere in the New York Times, and Wired. Though MOOCs have had their share of criticism, the idea that they could democratize education is widely-held.

3. MOOCs go global

It’s not just U.S. colleges that are offering MOOCs. Universities in Finland, France, and Ireland also have their own massive online courses. In the U.K. they’ve launched FutureLearn, which offers courses from 23 local universities. Part of the appeal of MOOCs is that anyone from across the globe can access them and increasingly, the courses can come from anywhere as well. In fact, one Harvard professor’s course was so popular in South Korea, he was invited to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game in that country.

4. Wharton puts its first year online

Last year, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most prestigious business schools in the U.S., put much of its first-year MBA content online. Though you won’t get access to career services or an alumni network, and the courses aren’t actually for credit, you can still access all the information presented to a beginning Wharton student. This interest in MOOCs is not atypical of top-tier business schools, with seven of Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Top 10 Business Schools experimenting with them. 

5. MOOCs help train physician’s assistants in Ghana

A team at the University of New Mexico has partnered with Central University College in Ghana to use MOOCs to train physician’s assistants. The project is still in its early stages. It involves buying tablets for 30 students studying to be doctor’s aides in rural Ghana and using the tablets to train the students while they help people in their communities. Though it’s not a standard MOOC, according to the University of New Mexico’s Charlotte Gunawardena, it demonstrates the potential of the technology.

6. Georgia Tech offers master's degree through a MOOC

Though MOOCs can broadcast a college’s content, most universities don’t offer accreditation for completing one. So it was big news when Georgia Tech offered a Master's in Computer Science using massively open online course technology. The master's degree cost $6,600, cheap compared to the $44,000 Georgia Tech charges for residential studies, but far more than the $49 Coursera charges for its courses.

MOOC 2.0: Free online education moves forward

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:32

There are some new developments this week in the land of the MOOC. That’s shorthand for the "Massive Open Online Courses" that were supposed to transform higher education as we know it, bringing free education from the likes of Harvard and Stanford to you and me.

MOOC pioneer Coursera has hired a new CEO -- none other than the former long-time president of Yale University, Richard Levin. Meanwhile competitor edX has a new president from the business world, former Vistaprint executive Wendy Cebula. The hires mark a new phase in the evolution of free online education as it tries to move beyond the initial hype--and the inevitable backlash.

Laverbread link to salmonella cases

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:30
An investigation is launched into an outbreak of salmonella possibly linked to laverbread in the Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Carmarthenshire areas.

Outsourcing the NSA's phone-call database

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:28

The Obama administration has outlined a plan to replace the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone data, the New York Times reports. Instead of maintaining its own five-year record of all phone calls, the NSA would ask a court for individual sets of records, and then get those records from the phone companies. The House Intelligence Committee has a similar recommendation.  

Which raises the question of what new burdens these rules would place on telecom companies.

The short answer:  Not much. Under the proposals we’ve heard about, the telecom companies would be required to keep 18 months of data. Which happens to be what they keep already.

This would be a level of intrusiveness we should all be used to, says James Lewis, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The phone companies collect this information no matter what, right? It’s your phone bill," he says. "And the NSA—or any other federal agency—can always get it with a court order."

As the 2005 revelation of warrantless wiretapping highlighted, phone companies have generally turned over whatever data the government asks for. So they won’t need to set up new systems for responding to NSA requests.

"They already have offices that process these court orders," says Lewis. "So now these offices will have one more request to process."

Volume should be no problem. NSA officials say they searched their own database a total of 288 times in 2012. And looked at fewer than 6,000 phone numbers

Steven Bradbury, who was a justice department lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, would prefer to see the NSA have access to all five years of records.

However, he says asking the phone companies to hang onto it just wasn’t a practical idea.

"They don’t want to do that, they don’t have a need to do that for their own businesses, and they don’t have the capacity to do it," he says. "That would, as a practical matter, result in a contractor keeping the data."

He thinks security could be an issue. Companies like Target have suffered well-publicized data breaches recently.  

And federal IT contracting has gotten a bad rep after the botched rollout of healthcare.gov

However, Bradbury is thinking of another example: "Remember, too, that Edward Snowden was an employee of an outside contractor," he says.  

Does Obama just want to outsource the NSA's phone-call database?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:28

The Obama administration has outlined a plan to replace the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone data, the New York Times reports. Instead of maintaining its own five-year record of all phone calls, the NSA would ask a court for individual sets of records, and then get those records from the phone companies. The House Intelligence Committee has a similar recommendation.  

Which raises the question of what new burdens these rules would place on telecom companies.

The short answer:  Not much. Under the proposals we’ve heard about, the telecom companies would be required to keep 18 months of data. Which happens to be what they keep already.

This would be a level of intrusiveness we should all be used to, says James Lewis, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The phone companies collect this information no matter what, right? It’s your phone bill," he says. "And the NSA—or any other federal agency—can always get it with a court order."

As the 2005 revelation of warrantless wiretapping highlighted, phone companies have generally turned over whatever data the government asks for. So they won’t need to set up new systems for responding to NSA requests.

"They already have offices that process these court orders," says Lewis. "So now these offices will have one more request to process."

Volume should be no problem. NSA officials say they searched their own database a total of 288 times in 2012. And looked at fewer than 6,000 phone numbers

Steven Bradbury, who was a justice department lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, would prefer to see the NSA have access to all five years of records.

However, he says asking the phone companies to hang onto it just wasn’t a practical idea.

"They don’t want to do that, they don’t have a need to do that for their own businesses, and they don’t have the capacity to do it," he says. "That would, as a practical matter, result in a contractor keeping the data."

He thinks security could be an issue. Companies like Target have suffered well-publicized data breaches recently.  

And federal IT contracting has gotten a bad rep after the botched rollout of healthcare.gov

However, Bradbury is thinking of another example: "Remember, too, that Edward Snowden was an employee of an outside contractor," he says.  

Cleanup Continues After Oil Spill Near Houston Ship Channel

NPR News - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:21

Officials said most of the oil was drifting into the Gulf Of Mexico, perhaps limiting the impact to sensitive bird habitats.

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Lithuania pleads for US gas supplies

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:16
Lithuania's energy minister calls on the US Senate to speed-up natural gas exports to Europe, in order to challenge Russia's dominance.

The D.I.Y. career

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-03-25 10:09

The photos spread out on a coffee table tell the story of a career. In one, a woman wears a fairy costume and rides a flying horse. In another, the woman lounges on a desert rock at sunrise, in a gold bikini draped with red silk. In a third, she wears an Uncle Sam outfit and poses on three-foot stilts.

These are photos of Heather Burdette, a Las Vegas entertainer, at work.

Not on the table are audition reels from Ms. Burdette’s other career, one in which corporations pay her $500 to $1,000 a day to present their products, including tires and cybersecurity products, at trade shows. It is work for which she wears business attire instead of hot pants. These jobs are lucrative but infrequent.

The overlapping careers have this in common: The work is temporary, one freelance job after another. Ms. Burdette is among the millions of Americans who piece together a living. Freelancers, the self-employed, temporaries — all know the current job will end and they need to keep looking for the next one. Increasingly, even many people with full-time jobs feel insecurity about their work.

Ms. Burdette knows the trajectory of insecurity. She has worked in Las Vegas as an entertainer since 1996, sometimes in jobs that quickly disappeared.

Right now, she is busy. A freelancer since 2008, she works with 30 agents. Some help her book conventions. Others set her up with entertainment jobs. In addition to her presenting, this year she has worked as an astrologer and stilt-walker, and she helped dress fashion models at a mall. She is fortunate to live in a city with huge entertainment and convention industries that rely on temporary workers. "It’s the land of opportunity," she said.

But as Ms. Burdette gets older, she has no choice but to consider new ways to earn a paycheck. In both of her careers, looks matter. At 43, she knows she cannot do these jobs indefinitely.

"I’m really proud of the moments and the things these represent," she said, touching the photos on her coffee table. One is a profile of her, not in costume, with the words "Remember who you are  and always keep growing." This is to inspire her, to encourage her to work on the skills she will need for whatever work will come next.

"Whether that means getting a 9-to-5 job and putting on the big-girl pants," she said, "or whether it just means going into something where people are not looking at me, and I’m not covered in rhinestones every day."

How many people have temporary work is hard to say. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 14 million people were self-employed last month, including freelancers like Ms. Burdette.

 At Haunted Harvest, a Halloween-themed event at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Heather Burdette painted the face of Aaron J. Tillman. (Photo: Isaac Brekken/The New York Times).

There has been no official count of insecure workers in years. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office estimated that about 30 percent of the work force was "contingent," including those with temporary and part-time jobs.

The number of people paid by temp agencies like Manpower has grown 46 percent since 2009, according to Labor Bureau data. "The staffing industry has added more jobs than any other sector since the end of the recession," said Erin Hatton, a sociology professor at the University at Buffalo and the author of "The Temp Economy."

There are contingent office workers and factory workers. There are contingent computer programmers and corporate executives.

"We know that temps are everywhere," Professor Hatton said.

Starting with the recession, employers have slashed costs, and a major way to do that has been to lower labor costs. Temporary workers often are paid less than regular employees. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies can avoid health insurance costs by hiring part-time workers (who may qualify for subsidized insurance).

"What we call contingent workers is really hard to define, because to some extent we’re all contingent now," said Arne Kalleberg, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of "Good Jobs, Bad Jobs."

"Work has become much more insecure, much more precarious," he said. "So everybody is a temporary in one sense, because their levels of job security have really decreased in recent years."

The trick with insecure work, for the worker, is that the next paycheck is unpredictable. For low-income factory temps, being chosen for work can mean the difference between making rent or not making rent, eating well or not eating well. For freelancers like Ms. Burdette, the lack of security can make it hard to buy a house or plan for the future. What if a job comes up? What if it doesn’t?

Ms. Burdette is familiar with financial insecurity. She declared bankruptcy in 2005. When she married in 2008, she brought to the marriage a few thousand dollars in credit card debt.

She and her husband, Jozef Bobula, met in January and married in May. They were in love, she said, but he also needed a green card for immigration reasons. He’s from Slovakia.

Mr. Bobula, 37, is a bass guitarist. He, too, pieces together work in Las Vegas, and is playing a regular gig at the Stratosphere casino. He also has a jazz trio and a duo, plays solo and teaches music.

Part of what attracted Ms. Burdette to Mr. Bobula was his ability to manage money. "He is accustomed to saving first and spending second," she said.

Today, her credit card debt is paid off. Her 2000 Nissan Xterra is paid for. She says the last four years have been her first without debt since she was 18.

Ms. Burdette calls her financial situation stable right now. She and her husband, combined, make $55,000 to $75,000 a year. Their apartment is cozy, but comfortable. Ms. Burdette calls the style "Craigslist chic," because she bought most of her furniture on the resale website. The most valuable things in their apartment are her husband’s guitars.

The couple do not have retirement savings, but they do have an emergency fund and are considering investing a portion of it in the stock market. Her husband had the savings account when they married, and they only recently added her name to it. They waited, she said, because they wanted to see if the marriage would last.

"To have my name on it," she said, "it brought still another level of peace and comfort that I didn’t think could even have existed."

"I can say no to gigs I don’t want to do,” she said. "I can be more discerning. I don’t have to stand around in a showgirl costume if I’m not feeling physically up to it in terms of my appearance."

Ms. Burdette wants to find a new set of gigs in which people are not looking at her quite as closely. She has explored voice-over work, recording audiobooks. She has considered doing more with her astrology experience.

She would consider a full-time job, but as a last choice. She said her parents spent years planning and worrying and stressed about the future. "It didn’t get them any more secure than me," she said. "I’m actually more secure right now, because I understand that the bottom can fall out at any time."

 Ms. Burdette at a construction trade show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Jozef Bobula/The New York Times)

One of her old business cards said, "Whaddya need?" Her current card says, "singularly multitalented."

Under the new health law, which includes a mandate to buy insurance or face a penalty, Ms. Burdette has coverage for the first time in years. "It does provide people with a cushion," Professor Kalleberg said, "so that they can search, so that they can look for opportunities."

Now, Ms. Burdette has to figure out what those opportunities will be. Reinvention is a word heard a lot in today’s labor market. Jobs keep changing. People have to change to keep up, especially people without employers that provide training.

But many temporary and self-employed workers do not have the money or time to reinvent themselves and their skills. Even if they do, it is not clear which jobs will be available. "The path ahead is not going to be laid out for you," Professor Kalleberg said.

Work in America: Our special series in partnership with the New York Times looking at how the improvements in technology, combined with companies’ increased ability to outsource, have conspired to make radical changes to work in America. 

 

The advice to reinvent is "easy to say, sitting in a job that has a fairly clear career path like I do," he said. "But it’s a difficult situation and it’s stressful."

Figuring out what’s next may be a little easier for Ms. Burdette. She has been doing just that for years.

"I don’t know what it’s like not to reinvent," she said, "I’m just used to that."

Danish zoo kills four healthy lions

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 09:49
A zoo in Denmark that provoked outrage after putting down a healthy giraffe, has killed a family of four lions to make way for a new young male lion.

Missing woman's family to sue Disney

BBC - Tue, 2014-03-25 09:21
The parents of missing British cruise worker Rebecca Coriam file a damages claim against Disney over her disappearance.

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