National / International News

VIDEO: Surrogate baby: Conflicting claims

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 05:10
The Australian parents and the Thai surrogate mother of a baby who has Down's syndrome give conflicting accounts of how he was left behind.

VIDEO: MH17 flowers moved at Schiphol airport

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 05:04
Hundreds of flowers and tributes laid outside Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam in remembrance of the victims of the Malaysian airliner which crashed in Ukraine are being moved to a new location.

NHS waits: Getting the excuses in early?

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 04:55
Is the government getting excuses in early, asks Nick Triggle

The four-year spread of bubble tea

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 04:37
Four years ago bubble tea was relatively unknown in the UK, but the drinks are now ubiquitous.

AUDIO: Priest denied job after gay wedding

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 04:26
A gay British priest says his NHS job offer has been withdrawn as a bishop would not grant him the licence needed.

Family mourning dead baby attacked

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 04:20
A family holding a private service for a stillborn baby are attacked by a gang in a park in Colchester.

Labour slams after-school arts slump

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 04:13
The government is to blame for a slump in the number of primary pupils in England taking after-school arts classes, Labour says.

Thousands flee Lebanese border town

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 04:01
Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees flee clashes between the Lebanese army and Syrian rebels who raided a border town.

Day in pictures: 4 August 2014

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 03:47
24 hours of news photos: 4 August

AUDIO: The 'right man' to play £1m Stradivarius

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 03:14
An 18-year-old boy has been loaned a rare Stradivarius violin, worth £1m, by a musician who was touched by the similarities in their lives.

Australia to deliver 'best' Games

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 03:13
Australia promise to build on the "standout" Glasgow 2014 and deliver the "best" Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Your pictures: Abandoned

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 03:04
Readers' photos on the theme of "abandoned"

The education benefits in the VA Reform Bill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-04 03:00

The VA Reform Bill on its way to President Barack Obama's desk includes a benefit for vets who want to get a college degree. The benefit says public universities receiving GI Bill money must now give all veterans in-state tuition.

Right now, if a veteran wants to enroll in an out-of-state public college, Uncle Sam pays the in-state tuition while the veteran-turned-student has to pay any extra out-of-state fees. The new law, passed by Congress last week, means states will now have to swallow those extra costs, said Aaron Glantz, who covers Veterans Affairs for the Center for Investigative Reporting.

“The losers are those schools because they’re going to get less money,” Glatnz said. “But the big winners continue to be these giant publically traded for-profit schools.”

For-profit schools are winning in this equation because they're sucking in most of the GI Bill money by enrolling lots of veterans. Many of them are private schools, so if a veteran attends classes there, the university takes in up to $20,000 of taxpayer money in tuition.

The University of Phoenix has raked in nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money over the past five years this way.

However, not all state schools see the new law as a loser. Ross Bryant is a veteran and with the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He says veterans “bring a worldly view. They bring world leadership and when they graduate we hope they stay here in Nevada.”

States like Ohio and Nevada have already passed state laws doing exactly what this new law does. They’ve done it, in part, to lure skilled, educated workers to their state.

PODCAST: "Mini" muni in Colorado

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-04 03:00

Massachusetts-based Market Basket hosts a job fair on Monday in response to employees protesting the firing of CEO Arthur Demoulas -- The company is looking to replace said employees. Plus, the VA reform bill crossing President Barack Obama's desk has a new benefit for veterans looking to attend college -- public universities receiving G.I. money must charge in-state tuition for all vets. So who wins and who loses in this new set-up? And municipal bonds are the sort-of boring financial tool that big institutional investors use to hedge their bets. But this week, the city of Denver is hoping to attract a totally different class of buyers for its bond sale. The city is selling $500 “mini-bonds" to state residents, as a way to get locals literally invested in the community.

VIDEO: How to become a virtual bird

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 02:51
Click is at London's Barbican for Digital Revolution, an immersive exhibition of art, design, film, music and video games.

Mexican mayor shot dead in Jalisco

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 02:24
Unidentified gunmen shoot dead the mayor of Ayutla, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, just over a month after the deputy police chief was killed.

NHS to target long waits for ops

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-04 02:15
The NHS in England has been ordered to prioritise patients who have endured long waits for routine treatment.

Airplanes become the new weather balloons

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-04 02:00

Flight delays and cancellations cost airlines billions of dollars a year. But what if better weather data -- data gathered by planes themselves -- could help prevent unnecessary delays?

Turns out, that’s already happening.

Let’s start with the old-school way of collecting data for weather forecasts. It’s 6:30 in the morning at a National Weather Service post in Sterling, Virginia.

“What we’re doing now is getting the helium to flow into the balloon,” says meteorologist Kevin Witt as he inflates a six foot latex weather balloon.

These balloons float into the sky twice a day, from about 90 sites, carrying instruments that send back pressure, temperature, and humidity data. They go high – about 19 miles high – transmitting data as the balloon expands to the size of a small building and ultimately pops. The instrument, called a radiosonde, floats back to earth on a little orange parachute.

The government has been launching weather balloons in some form since the 1930s.

The NWS Sterling office is near Dulles International Airport, so Witt calls the tower before releasing the balloon.

It just so happens, there could be planes flying through Dulles that are also collecting weather data. The government has long partnered with airlines to measure temperature and wind during flights. More recently, Southwest Airlines and UPS Airlines have installed sophisticated sensors that measure water vapor, like balloons do.

But unlike balloons, which provide a data snapshot over a shorter time, planes create a moving picture as they take off and land, then take off and land again. They transmit humidity data every few seconds upon ascent, every few minutes at cruising altitude, and multiple times a minute while landing. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ascent and descent data are compiled into profiles for each flight, whether it's a long haul or a short jump.

“Without the aircraft observations, the models are only receiving data every 12 hours,” says Steve Pritchett, program manager for the National Weather Service Aircraft Observation Program.

Remember, weather balloons launch twice a day. So let’s say a thunderstorm is projected to hit Dulles at 3pm. A plane might send real time info that no, the air mass is drier -- No storm likely.

“And I don’t have to wait 12 hours to determine that,” Pritchett says. “I can see it because I have an observation coming in this hour from an aircraft.”

He says major airports in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston don’t even have upper-air balloon launches within one hundred miles. But they do have Southwest Airlines. Its chief meteorologist Rick Curtis says the company has equipped 87 planes with water vapor sensors, with 19 more in the pipeline. He says the technology is working.

In late November of this past year, we were able to use that information to determine whether or not an ice storm was gonna affect Dallas,” he says.

That’s Dallas, Texas, not Dulles. Curtis says Southwest looked at the atmospheric data, saw less moisture and some warmer layers, then kept flying.

“It saved the mass, wholesale cancellations of an event like that,” he says. “Something that’s commonplace when you see an ice storm come to a southern city.”

And that saves money. Economist Kevin Neels of the Brattle Group worked on a study that found delays directly cost airlines $8.3 billion in 2007. That’s not including the cost to passengers.

“We estimated that the cost to the people was twice as much as the cost to the airlines,” he says.

Right now, the government pays for the water vapor sensors. Steve Pritchett of the National Weather Service says it’s worth it. He wishes all planes were equipped with them. The only drawback of relying on planes for data, he says, is he can’t tell them where to fly.

 

 

 

"Mini" muni bonds — double your money, help your city

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-04 02:00

Municipal bonds are the sort-of boring financial tool that big institutional investors use to hedge their bets. But this week, the city of Denver is hoping to attract a totally different class of buyers for its bond sale.

The city is selling $500 “mini-bonds" to state residents, as a way to get locals literally invested in the community.

It’s a simple pitch for investors: buy a few of these mini-bonds, and in 14 years you’re guaranteed to double your money. In the meantime, the city gets funds to renovate two cultural attractions and build a new recreation center.

The yield is higher than what the city offers on traditional bonds, but Denver’s Chief Financial Officer Cary Kennedy believes the extra expense is worth it to keep the money in the state.

“We’re willing to offer this to the citizens of Colorado because we want to give them that investment opportunity,” Kennedy says. “And we also want them to feel like they can support these critical infrastructure projects.”

The concept of mini-bonds has been around for a while, but they’re rarely issued by governments. That’s in part because they can be a real headache to administer.

Lynnette Kelly, executive director of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, says the back-office costs can be significant for the issuer. The customer service needs of thousands of individual small investors can add up to quite a headache.

“My mother, for example, had a lot of mini-bonds from a public power district,” Kelly says. “She had questions all the time. You know, 'Where’s my interest check?' And, 'I think I lost my mini-bond, what do I do now?' All of those basic everyday questions have to be handled and they have to be handled really well.”

Investors can now find the answers to a lot of those questions online, making mini-bonds easier to manage.

And Denver is certainly betting on their popularity. It hopes to sell $12 million in mini-bonds in just five days.

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