National / International News

Why visa rejections do not halt Nigerian migrants

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 15:02
Why visa rejections do not halt Nigerian migrants

Fitbit

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 15:02
Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit?

Elderly 'being trapped' in hospital

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 15:01
Elderly people are being "trapped" in English hospitals in ever greater numbers as there is no where else for them to go, the charity Age UK warns.

Ecuador Women 0-1 Japan Women

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 14:58
Holders Japan progress to the last 16 of the Women's World Cup as Group C winners, while Cameroon also reach the knockout stages.

Syrian air force strikes 'kill 16'

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 14:52
At least 16 people, including 13 children, die after Syrian air force jets bomb a town in the Deraa province, says a UK-based monitoring group.

VIDEO: Smiler victim 'feared she would die'

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 14:23
One of the victims of the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash has told the BBC that she thought she was going to die.

'Ferrari can pounce in Austria'

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 14:18
Mistakes are easy to make in Austria and Ferrari will be ready to strike if Mercedes make any, says BBC Sport's Allan McNish.

Fox confirms Murdoch handover plans

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 14:14
21st Century Fox confirms that James Murdoch will take over as chief executive from his father Rupert on 1 July.

Labour mayor hopefuls debate Heathrow

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:50
The candidates to become Labour's nomination for London mayor clash over airport expansion in their first hustings debate.

People Are Finally Talking About The Thing Nobody Wants To Talk About

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:50

It's menstrual hygiene. The topic makes many folks uncomfortable. Yet in the developing world, it's a problem that keeps girls from going to school and playing in sports. Now things are changing.

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Foo Fighters cancel Glastonbury gig

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:34
Rock group Foo Fighters cancel their headline slot at this year's Glastonbury Festival after frontman Dave Grohl broke his leg.

Millions flock to Final Fantasy remake

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:32
More than 3.5 million people have watched the online trailer for the remake of Final Fantasy VII since it was unveiled at E3 last night.

Palestinian government 'to resign'

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:27
The Palestinian unity government - made of rival Fatah and Hamas factions - will resign over a Gaza governance row, President Mahmoud Abbas says.

U.S. Women Take The Soccer Pitch Against Surprising Nigerian Team At The World Cup

NPR News - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:12

The American women are favored to win but are going on to the next round regardless of the outcome. A win would ease their path toward the Cup.

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L.A.'s biggest vulnerability lies under its streets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:10

Ask people in Los Angeles whether they have extra water on hand in case of a big earthquake, and you usually get a sheepish response. “Nothing, like, substantial,” one 23-year-old L.A. native says. “If water were taken away from me for a week or two, I’d probably be screwed at that point.”

Southern California is at great risk for a catastrophic earthquake. Most everyone living there knows it but, like most humans, they live in denial. It's more fun to watch Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in “San Andreas.” But “San Andreas” the reality is scary enough, according to Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena. “So if the earthquake were to happen today, first, we are cutting off all foreign water," she says. Southern California’s biggest earthquake vulnerability, she says, is its water infrastructure. 

First, the aqueducts. Southern California imports well over half its water supply; Los Angeles, between 85 and 90 percent. A trio of monumental aqueducts delivers the water from hundreds of miles away.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct is one of three aqueducts bringing fresh water to Southern California. They all cross the San Andreas fault. This historic silent movie celebrates the aqueduct’s completion in 1913.  Credit: Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

But here’s the problem: along a fault line, major earthquakes can shift the ground 20 feet or more. All the aqueducts feeding Southern California have to cross the San Andreas fault. That’s a “massive vulnerability,” Jones says.

 

One of those crossings is west of Palmdale, California, about an hour north of Los Angeles. The California Aqueduct carries water to Southern California from  the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, hundreds of miles to the north. The Delta is another vulnerable water system, propped up by fragile earthen levees. Steve Erie, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, says the levee system makes “pre-Katrina New Orleans look like an engineering marvel.”

“All you need is basically a little earthquake up in Northern California, and you’ve got a major disruption in one of the key aqueducts that comes to Southern California," he says.

A 2008 report called “The Shakeout Scenario” relates the story of a hypothetical 7.8 magnitude quake on the southern San Andreas fault. In that scenario, the aqueducts take a big hit. “It wasn’t clear, I think, to the planners that it’s very likely that all of them will break at once,” Jones says. “A big earthquake happens on a long fault, and the most likely distribution actually takes out all of them.”

Still, aqueducts can be repaired, right? And officials at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California say they have six months of emergency water in storage, despite the drought.

But here’s the thing: An earthquake can also damage the old water distribution pipes, particularly old cast-iron pipes. Timothy Strack, city of Riverside fire captain and chairman of the California Seismic Safety Commission, said the real weak link is the water infrastructure under the streets. “The distribution system in a lot of Southern California is a really old system,” Strack said. “You’re only as good as your last mile of pipe. You can have good storage, but if you can’t get the water to the hydrants….”

Marty Adams, senior assistant general manager of the water system at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, says the city has over 7,000 miles of pipe, some of it dating back to the 1920s and earlier. Adams was instrumental in efforts to get water services restored after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. "We had 1,500 or so breaks," he says. "We got everybody back in water by the seventh or eighth day. The question for us is, if you have 'The Big One,' is it going to affect everywhere in the city and all the surrounding cities as well?”

If that happens, he says, “It’s going to be harder for agencies to support each other.”

Charles Scawthorn, a global authority on earthquake damage to infrastructure, said a catastrophic quake on the San Andreas could possibly shut off water to some areas for months. “We anticipate tens of thousands of breaks, and those repairs are going to take a long time," he says. "And in the meantime, you’re not going to have water in your house.”

Scawthorn was in Osaka, Japan, when the disastrous 1995 earthquake hit the city of Kobe, about 20 miles away. Water and power both failed throughout Kobe. “It was like Berlin in April of 1945 or something," he recalls. "Collapsed buildings everywhere. People in the street, huddled in camp chairs with coats around them, in complete darkness.” 

Scawthorn says water was delivered by ship to the Kobe port, then trucked to neighborhoods, where residents filled jugs and bottles and carried water home twice a day. It took three months to fully restore water service.

Enough breaks in a city’s water system can severely damage the economy, especially if ruptured water pipes have hampered fire fighting, damaging homes and businesses. Most businesses can't operate without running water, just like households.

“What we are worried about is that life becomes so miserable that people give up on living here,” seismologist Lucy Jones says. "If we don’t have showers, it’s a significant public health issue. And if people leave, they’re much less likely to be able to return.”

A U.S. Growers warehouse.

Vanessa Smith/Marketplace

It's impossible to quake-proof all of the region's water infrastructure. The city has begun replacing some of the most corroded pipes, but officials say they can only afford to do so much so fast.Corselli says if a monster quake cut off their water supply, they could lock down and last for a week or so, but there’s a limit. “We would be out of business if we had an extended shutdown,” he says. “It affects shipping. It affects everything.”Business people like Peter Corselli, vice president of U.S. Growers Cold Storage, are acutely aware of water's importance to the economy. U.S. Growers freezes and refrigerates food for customers ranging from Trader Joe’s to Farmer John. It takes about 20 million gallons of water each year to run the company's refrigeration systems. That's water, a drought-aware Corselli adds, that ultimately returns to nature as evaporation.Officials in Southern California believe broken water infrastructure would hurt the regional economy more than other post-quake damage. By one estimate, $50 billion in lost business could occur.

Craig Davis, the DWP's quake expert, is behind a pilot program in the city to install Japanese-made earthquake-resistant water pipes. And Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has an ambitious plan to make the city more resilient to earthquakes.

Money, however, is an issue. Charles Scawthorn likes to tell the story of San Francisco fire Chief Dennis Sullivan in 1905. He urged the city to finance a separate saltwater system to extinguish fires, just in case of a big shaker. “And it was rejected because it was too expensive,” Scawthorn says. The next year, the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake hit and the city nearly burned to the ground.  

Israeli artist wins BP Portrait Award

BBC - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:03
Israeli artist Matan Ben-Cnaan wins this year's BP Portrait Award, worth £30,000.

The business of Forbes rankings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:00

Forbes has settled a libel suit with Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who says the magazine underestimated his wealth.  

Forbes has carved out a niche with its ranking of the world’s billionaires. But how does Forbes get the information for these lists? What's the secret sauce?

The first thing you have to do if you’re going to make a billionaires' list is forget how you’d calculate your own worth. Think like a billionaire. Once you’re in this altered state, a billionaire’s bottom line makes sense. For example…

“Frankly, the salary’s kind of a rounding error,” says Kerry Dolan, an assistant managing editor at Forbes. “The real value for a lot of these people’s net worth is the value of the stake in the company that they founded or inherited.”

Dolan wrote the article about Prince Alwaleed. She can’t comment about that story or the settlement. 

But she does say it can be hard to calculate someone’s net worth if that company is private. Dolan says Forbes will contact the person and ask for an audited financial statement. 

Forbes will also talk to analysts and former employees to see if there’s an art collection. Why does Forbes go to all that trouble?

“People love that kind of a list,” says John Carroll, a professor of mass communication at Boston University. “There’s a total fascination with wealth and celebrity and the intersection of the two. All of those things boost circulation.”

But there are some people who don’t like the list – people who are on it and don’t want to be.

"I think most people are probably trying to guard their privacy and their secrecy," says Steve Goldberg, a partner in Tweddell Goldberg Investment Management. "I know – in my business you’re not allowed to tell people who your clients are, much less how much money they have.”

But Forbes’ Dolan says other billionaires love being on the list and will even exaggerate their wealth to get on it.

FBI, DOJ probe St. Louis Cardinals

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:00

Here's today's "The New England Patriots Aren't the Only Cheats" edition.

Landing firmly on the sports-is-a-business-not-just-a-game side of the argument: it seems the St. Louis Cardinals are being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department for hacking into the player personnel database of the Houston Astros.

The New York Times has the story, which goes on to say "subpoenas have been served on both the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence." 

There is no joy in Mudville.

FBI, DOJ probe St. Luis Cardinals

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:00

Here's today's "The New England Patriots Aren't the Only Cheats" edition.

Landing firmly on the sports-is-a-business-not-just-a-game side of the argument: it seems the St. Louis Cardinals are being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department for hacking into the player personnel database of the Houston Astros.

The New York Times has the story, which goes on to say "subpoenas have been served on both the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence." 

There is no joy in Mudville.

Goldman to improve its consumer Sachs appeal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-06-16 13:00

Goldman Sachs is getting into the online- and app-based consumer loan business, according to the New York Times. You might be able to get that loan to build your deck or buy that truck online direct from the megabank.

But it’s hardly blazing a new trail. FinTech, as the startup world has dubbed the arrival of disruption to the financial services industry, has been moving along for years.  Just like Amazon took the store out of bookstores and Netflix busted Blockbuster, a swarm of firms like SoFi, Lending Club, On Deck, Betterment, Motif Investing and Loyal3 has been trying to undermine the business models of traditional banks by offering some kind of marriage between new technology and financial services. 

Larger banks have been slow on the uptake for several reasons.

“They haven’t had huge incentive to come into the market space,” says Mike Cagney, CEO and co-founder of SoFi, a firm that offers algorithm-driven online lending and securitization of high quality loans, and who by his own account wants to make it possible to one day “fire your bank.”

Cagney says large traditional banks have been complacent doing business as usual with baby boomers and have overlooked a major opportunity: underbanked, financial-maturity-delayed millennials. 

“It’s a false premise that when someone’s 45 they want to into a branch with bad hours and crappy product and service. That’s not how it works – 70 percent of millennials would rather go to the dentist than go to the bank,” says Cagney.

Another constraint facing traditional banks: the fact that they’re banks. “If you’re classified as a bank, there’s a whole set of regulatory burdens that fall on your shoulders that make it hard to move fast,” says Rita Gunther McGrath, professor of management at the Columbia Business School. 

The rules on deposits control how banks do all the other things they do from remittances to mortgages. Startups with nifty ideas on how to offer any one of those services without having to carry deposits don’t have to abide by those rules. 

Lastly, banks have been slow to innovate for the same reason that humans have always been slow: inertia.

“It’s true that in more recent times certain types of innovation were allowed to run amok,” McGrath says, but largely in terms of the products offered to consumers, “most are the same as they were 30 years ago.” 

Innovation can attract regulatory attention and doesn’t fit comfortably with financial models. “Breathing in and out and doing your job every day is a safer bet,” McGrath says.

Grant Easterbrook, co-founder of Dream Forward Financial, a disruptive startup in the retirement savings space, says innovation at large institutions with a lot of stakeholders is “just hard to do until it becomes blindingly obvious.”

All the same, banks do have some serious advantages: “Millions of accounts to tap into, lots of money to spend that startups don’t have. They just need to get moving on it.”

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