National / International News

'Despicable' window cleaner jailed

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 03:07
A "despicable" window cleaner who tied up a pensioner, threatened her into silence and stole £15 is sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Gary Glitter jailed for 16 years

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 03:05
Ex-singer Gary Glitter jailed for 16 years for historical sex abuse against three girls between 1975-1980.

Spaniards 'joined Ukraine rebels'

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 03:03
Authorities in Spain arrest eight people accused of travelling to eastern Ukraine to fight alongside pro-Russian rebels.

Start date for 'Devo Manc' NHS plan

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 03:02
Greater Manchester will begin taking control of its health budget from April after a devolution agreement is signed by the Chancellor George Osborne.

PODCAST: Purifying water

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 03:00

Is a little less growth just fine? There's more to life than GDP, after all. After an analysis by government statisticians of the last three months, it turns out the economy did not grow 2.6 percent, it grew at more like 2.2 percent. More on that. The Credit Card industry has set a deadline of October 2015 to get more secure microchip-enabled credit cards in the hands of consumers to replace outdated magnetic stripe cards. A recent survey by CreditCards.com found that the industry is lagging behind this deadline, and that only a third of people have chip and pin credit cards. It’s a system widely used in other countries – so why is the rollout so slow here in the US? And D.C. is also taking its sewage and wringing out the methane in it, both to burn it for electricity for its own use, and to sell it. The future is to give up notion that some water is "pure" - it's got stuff in it, and water utilities are getting into the business of making as money as they can by getting it back to drinkable.

Stamp prices set to increase by 1p

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:45
The cost of first and second class stamps are each to rise by 1p from 30 March, Royal Mail announces.

Lake searched in missing teen hunt

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:40
A lake is searched as police attempt to locate a teenager who has been missing for more than a week.

Wide gap in regional house prices

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:29
The gap between the most expensive and cheapest regional average house prices in England and Wales is more than £350,000, figures show.

Third arrest in Copenhagen shootings

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:27
Danish police arrest a third man suspected of aiding a gunman who killed two people in attacks in Copenhagen earlier this month.

Reduced World Cup a nonsense – Agnew

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:15
Reducing the number of teams taking part in the next Cricket World Cup in 2019 is "a nonsense", says Jonathan Agnew.

Dress colour debate goes global

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:10
A debate between family and friends in Scotland about the colour of a dress for a wedding becomes an internet sensation.

US-Bangladesh writer hacked to death

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:01
Attackers hack to death a US-Bangladeshi blogger who campaigned for a secular society, sparking a protest by hundreds of students.

Cities and counties rely on Homeland Security dollars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:00

Some local government agencies could be adversely affected if funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires at the end of the day on Friday.

Congress is considering dueling proposals from the House and Senate to fund DHS. The House has proposed a short-term continuing resolution to fund the agency for three weeks, while the Senate proposed funding the department for the remainder of the fiscal year through September.

Many in local governments around the country are concerned, because some of the money that flows into DHS flows out to local agencies. It is spent on everything from emergency operations centers to firefighters' salaries.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says money from DHS grants could be delayed, if the agency shuts down, "because the approval process is done manually, and some of the personnel involved in those grant programs may actually be furloughed."

Philadelphia's mayor says the city can weather delays in funding, but smaller counties and cities are less flexible, according to Yejin Jang, associate legislative director at the National Association of Counties.

"Some counties are looking at contingency plans and plan to lay off some people. They are also planning to cancel some trainings and exercises," if full year's funding isn't restored soon, says Jang.

There is also a difference in what DHS can do under a continuing resolution, which funds the department short term, versus a full year's funding authorization.

DHS has already been operating under a continuing resolution for the last five months, and that's meant new grant applications cannot be processed.

"DHS is only going to be able to move forward with their grant activities if they are fully funded for the fiscal year," Jang says.

Take FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which in 2003 was folded into DHS. A continuing resolution complicates some of its grant making processes, according to Susan Hendrick, FEMA's press secretary.

"A lack of a full-year appropriation complicates FEMA's ability to disburse a wide array of preparedness grant funds over the remainder of the fiscal year," Hendrick said in a written statement to Marketplace. "Without the matching federal grants, our state, local, and tribal partners may face difficult choices about how they will make ends meet or curtail their activities."

Why U.S. banks are keeping an eye on Cuba talks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:00

U.S. and Cuban negotiators will meet in Washington Friday. On the agenda: whether Cuba should be taken off the U.S.'s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba wants off that list, and American banks are watching the negotiations closely. So are U.S. travelers, who can’t use their credit or debit cards on the island.

Right now, Americans can pay for hotels and plane tickets to Cuba in advance.  But once you get there, "all of your expenses, you need cash for them,” says Philip Peters, president of the Cuba Research Center in Alexandria, Va., who was traveling in Havana when we spoke. 

“You’re going to rent a car, you’re going to rent a cell phone, you’re going to feed yourself," he says. "You’re going need about $200 a day in cash.”

Peters says, if Cuba were taken off the terrorism list, U.S. banks would be more willing to do business there.

Geoff Thale, a Cuba analyst with the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America, says right now, banks are leery.

“What may seem like, to the bank, an innocent banking arrangement, could lead to substantial fines,” he says.

But Thale says, even if Cuba were taken off the list, U.S. banks would still be cautious. 

Case in point: MasterCard is removing its block on U.S. card transactions in Cuba this Sunday. But, that doesn’t mean your bank will clear them. MasterCard says you should contact your bank before you go to ensure your card will be "supported on the island."

 

 

 

 

 

How to turn sewage into a product people want

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:00

Can you run a stodgy water utility like a business? Turn sewer water into money? This is the premise behind what’s called the “digester” process at DC Water’s Blue Plains wastewater plant. 

“That’s why we don’t call this a waste treatment facility,” says DC Water CEO George Hawkins. “It is an enriched water facility, that’s a resource.” 

David Kidd

By all accounts, Hawkins is a star among water utility managers, an energetic executive from outside the sector (he’s a lawyer). In our interview, Hawkins routinely drops phrases you might expect in business school. For starters: 

I want to be like Nike.

We have the most important marketplace, the marketplace of public opinion

We fight for the support and loyalty of every customer

60% of the people who take a blind taste-test will rank our water better or the same as bottled water.

We have got the best product ever. Who gets to deliver water?

I consider myself kleptocrat-in-chief. I take good ideas from all over.

Here’s the good idea when it comes to the digester. Simply put, it takes human waste and processes it into sellable goods, like fertilizer.

“The farmers value it at $300 an acre,” says Chris Peot, director of resource recovery  at DC Water. “If I worked for a Fortune 500 company and said that we were going to give this asset away for free, I’d probably be fired on the spot.”

Walking me through the digester area, Peot explains most steps occurs in pipes and cylinders. So you can’t see much of the action, for obvious reasons: it stinks. First, waste is routed into centrifuges, to separate out the water from the economic “resource.” 

Scott Tong/Marketplace

The centrifuge spins and separates water from the solids, solids then heat up in a stage called thermal hydrolysis. DC Water has the only digester in the country with this step, designed to yield more economic product in the end.

Scott Tong/Marketplace

“The thermal hydrolysis process makes the food much more available for the microbes in the digesters,” Peot says, “which gives us better gas production.”

Better gas production — insert your own joke here. This comes out of the key stage: the digester. A huge cylinder, it operates like an actual stomach, mixing bacteria with the product to make gas. Instead of being released, this gas is captured and burned in a power plant to make electricity. That powers about a third of the plant for free.

Courtesy of Ted Coyle/DC Water

The other byproduct: High-end fertilizer that, thanks to the thermal stage, has fewer germs and less stink. This Grade-A fertilizer can be sold in urban areas — think home garden. And someday, this place could sell phosphorous, a captured nutrient ... or cleaned-up water.

“We call it N-E-W,” says Matt Ries of the Water Environment Federation. “Nutrients, energy and water that can now be recycled as resources.”

Ries explains water utilities are looking into new business models out of financial necessity. Most ratepayers are using and buying less water (due to more efficient toilets, washing machines, shower heads, etc). Pipes need replacing. Federal clean water standards are going up, without accompanying grants. Heavier or less predictable rainfalls demand more treatment, more planning.

“All of that means you need additional capital coming into the system,” Ries says. “There’s now a realization that we’ve got to operate differently as a business.”

This all comes as a challenge to a utility sector that is understandably conservative, DC Water CEO Hawkins says this business is no place for risky trial-and-error. 

“It is not one where you can start a new product and then it fails so you go back to a different one, like New Coke,” Hawkins says.

Silicon Tally: Frankincense, Apple watch, and Myrrh

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:00

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

This week, we're joined by Leo Laporte, host of the This Week in Tech podcast.

var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/", id: "silicon-tally-apple-watch", placeholder: "pd_1425040900" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'https://polldaddy.com/survey.js':'http://i0.poll.fm/survey.js';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

Fraud-resistant credit cards are a long time coming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:00

The major credit card companies—Mastercard, Visa, Discover and American Express—along with the major banks that issue their cards, have set a deadline of October 2015 for widespread adoption of new, more financially secure credit cards in the U.S. The cards, with so-called EMV technology, have an embedded microchip that limits the amount of financial and personal data transmitted to a retailer at the point of sale. That means there’s less chance of fraud or a devastating data hack down the line.

As of October, retailers will be responsible for the cost of credit-card fraud if they haven’t invested in and deployed new card-readers that exploit the new chip-cards. Card-issuers, meanwhile, have made a commitment to replace as many as possible of consumers’ old-style magnetic-stripe cards by the October deadline. Those old cards are easier to use for fraudulent purchases after the physical card has been stolen; the data communicated at the point of sale via the magnetic stripe is also easier to hack and use after purchase, once it is stored on the servers of a retailer or other financial institution.

CreditCards.com released a survey this week finding that as of February 2015, only three in ten American credit-card-holders had a chip-card. Senior industry analyst Matt Schulz says he doesn’t believe card-issuers will meet their own deadline of October 2015 for widespread adoption. Nor will retailers, he says; current estimates are that 25 percent or fewer of retailers have already deployed chip-card readers. Deployment is higher at major retailers such as Target and Walmart.

“Since the Great Recession,” says Schulz, “banks and retailers are definitely cautious when it comes to spending the money to make this investment.”

Mallory Duncan, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, estimates the cost of updating points-of-sale for retailers may be as high as $25 billion to $30 billion. The cards themselves cost approximately $1 each, compared to $0.25 each for magnetic-stripe cards, says David Robertson of the Nilson Report. He says that cost is mostly borne by the credit-card industry.

And Duncan says the anti-fraud value of the new cards is dubious. “There’s actually more hype than hope,” he says. That’s because card-issuers have opted to pair chip-enabled cards in the U.S. with signature verification at the point of sale. In Europe, where chip-cards have been in use for years and are nearly ubiquitous, the cards must be verified with a unique secret PIN entered by the card-holder. Signatures are easily forged, meaning a stolen card can still possibly be used to purchase expensive goods after it’s stolen. Without the PIN, a stolen card in Europe is much less likely to be used after it’s stolen. Online fraud  is still possible with both types of cards, since credit-card use that's not done in person doesn't utilize, and isn't protected by, EMV microchip-plus-verification functionality.

David Robertson at the Nilson Report explains that Americans typically have more credit cards than Europeans, and Americans tend to use their multiple cards for revolving credit. He says Europeans typically use a single charge- or debit-type card, which either deducts the purchase amount from their bank account immediately, or requires the consumer to pay off the full balance at the end of each month.

In the U.S., says Robertson, introducing PINs to validate each in-person credit card transaction would mean “you’d have four or five different PINS on your credit cards. It makes it tough, and the card-issuers don’t want to be in that place.” Robertson says card-issuers worry people will forget their multiple PINs, and stop using most of their cards as a result.

Why U.S. banks are keeping an eye on Cuba talks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-27 02:00

U.S. and Cuban negotiators will meet in Washington Friday. On the agenda: whether Cuba should be taken off the U.S.'s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba wants off that list, and American banks are watching the negotiations closely. So are U.S. travelers, who can’t use their credit or debit cards on the island.

Right now, Americans can pay for hotels and plane tickets to Cuba in advance.  But once you get there, "all of your expenses, you need cash for them,” says Philip Peters, president of the Cuba Research Center in Alexandria, Va., who was traveling in Havana when we spoke. 

“You’re going to rent a car, you’re going to rent a cell phone, you’re going to feed yourself," he says. "You’re going need about $200 a day in cash.”

Peters says, if Cuba were taken off the terrorism list, U.S. banks would be more willing to do business there.

Geoff Thale, a Cuba analyst with the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America, says right now, banks are leery.

“What may seem like, to the bank, an innocent banking arrangement, could lead to substantial fines,” he says.

But Thale says, even if Cuba were taken off the list, U.S. banks would still be cautious. 

Case in point: MasterCard is removing its block on U.S. card transactions in Cuba this Sunday. But, that doesn’t mean your bank will clear them. MasterCard says you should contact your bank before you go to ensure your card will be "supported on the island."

 

 

 

 

 

Man who raped boy at nursery jailed

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 01:49
A man who was found guilty of raping a young boy at a nursery and of sexually abusing a girl is jailed for eight years.

Police win right to Boston tapes

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-27 01:47
Police have won the right to listen to Boston College interviews by loyalist Winston 'Winkie' Rea but tapes remain secret in case of another appeal.

Pages