National / International News

Brazil's Slaves Are Being Freed, But Owners Go Largely Unpunished

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:37

In the past 20 years, almost 50,000 enslaved Brazilian workers have been freed from some 2,000 worksites. But an estimated 200,000 remain trapped in slavery, due to deep-seated impunity: Slaveholders can pay hefty fines and civil damages, but criminal convictions and jail time are rare.

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How Industrial Chemical Regulation Failed West Virginia

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:36

For Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward, the recent chemical spill — and sometimes confusing information authorities have provided about the risks to citizens — reflects longstanding regulatory failures in the state. He says West Virginia has "basically ignored" recommendations for stricter oversight.

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Commonwealth baton route revealed

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:33
The route of the England leg of the Queen's Baton Relay ahead of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games is revealed.

Acting ban for Ahmadinejad 'lookalike'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:31
A well-known Iranian actor reveals he was banned from acting for eight years because of his resemblance to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iceland food bin theft case dropped

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:23
The case against three men accused of stealing food from bins outside an Iceland store is dropped by prosecutors.

Sharif seeks talks despite attacks

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:21
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he still wants to hold peace talks with the Taliban, despite a wave of deadly attacks in recent months.

A Little Acid Turns Mouse Blood Into Brain, Heart And Stem Cells

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:20

Japanese scientists say they've figured out a fast, easy way to make the most powerful cells in the world: embryonic stem cells. The magic ingredient? Something akin to lemon juice. So far it's still unknown if the method would work with human cells or could be used for medical treatments.

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How cash is like Bitcoin. And how Bitcoin is like Kim Kardashian.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:14

Bitcoin is a digital currency, controlled only by software, that somehow, some people have collectively decided is worth something. This can be a bit of a brain-bender.

But, it turns out, we do the same every day with cash.

“Money is a form of shared reality,” says Adam Waytz, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. It’s a shared illusion: “In order for it to have value, that means that everyone has to agree that this is something we’re going to treat as valuable.” 

With cash, we take paper, with numbers printed on it, and imbue it with value greater than the sum of paper and ink. Bitcoin works the same way.

“It’s sort of the Kim Kardashian of money,” says Waytz. “Kim Kardashian is famous for being famous. Bitcoin is valuable because a lot of people have agreed to value it.” 

One reason people value Bitcoin is that it is hard to trace back to a person. It’s a feature that can make law enforcement a little nervous. There’s no bank keeping tabs. No paper trail. People buy illegal stuff with Bitcoin. But, again, cash is the same.

“If you and I meet at a park, and I give you $100, and you give me something in return, and we part our separate ways, that’s a completely anonymous transaction,” says Jerry Brito, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. There’s no record of the time, the park we met at, what we traded.

Cash can be better at keeping secrets than Bitcoin. With Bitcoin, Brito says, “you have to keep a record of the transaction, and the amount, and the Bitcoin addresses that were involved. So it’s less anonymous than cash. It's pseudonymous, is one way to put it.”

Bitcoin leaves a digital trail. That’s how Bitcoin works. It’s a trail that cash is very good at erasing.

But cash isn’t entirely invisible. It’s got a physical presence. You have to get it. Move it. And, its physical nature has costs.

“I have to spend time going to the ATM, and take money out, and that could be time that’s taken away from other productive activities,” says Bhaskar Chakravorti with the Fletcher School at Tufts University. It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up, says Chakravorti, to tens of billions of dollars. Time that you wouldn’t have to waste in a Bitcoin world.

There’s also the cost to businesses of using cash. You’ve got to hire services to protect it, and get it to and from the bank. Businesses, say Chakravorti, “incur costs because cash gets stolen from a retail outlet, or because there are robberies.” In a world where everyone uses Bitcoin, instead, there’s nothing in the cash register for robbers to steal.

There’s another big cost of cash to our society. The tax gap. All the money that we don’t send the government in taxes, when we pay for things off the books. Chakravorti estimates that cash costs the U.S. government  more than $100 billion a year.

Bitcoin is enough like cash that that cost wouldn’t disappear.  

Missing For 112 Years, First Porsche Is Found In Warehouse

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:08

The P1 that Ferdinand Porsche helped develop was an electric vehicle that could chug along at 22 mph. It was discovered in an Austrian warehouse and is going on display at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

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Congressman apologises for threat

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:06
A congressman who threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony after President Obama's State of the Union address apologises.

Megan 'entered river after drinking'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:58
Police searching for a missing student say it is likely she entered the River Ouse, in York, while "affected by alcohol".

Why Red-State Kentucky Got A Shoutout From Obama

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:51

President Obama described the state as "not the most liberal part of the country." In fact, Kentucky gives him lower approval ratings than all but seven other states. Yet the state's Democratic governor has pushed Obama's priorities on health and education more successfully than most other governors.

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Plato planet-hunter in pole position

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:48
A telescope to find thousands of planets beyond our Solar System is the hot favourite for selection as Europe's next medium-class space science mission.

Cabaye completes £19m move to PSG

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:45
Ligue 1 champions Paris St-Germain complete the signing of France midfielder Yohan Cabaye from Newcastle in a £19m deal.

Murray marriage tweet 'was a joke'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:44
Andy Murray's tweet saying he is to marry his partner Kim Sears later this year was a joke, according to his PR agency.

Sainsbury's boss King to step down

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:41
Sainsbury's says chief executive Justin King is to leave the supermarket chain in July after 10 years at the head of the company.

Crash-film drivers face prosecution

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:39
A police force says it may prosecute drivers who were spotted filming the scene of a motorway crash as they went past at rush-hour.

VIDEO: Jared Leto's 'role of a lifetime'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:36
Jared Leto, who plays opposite Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, talks about why his eye was not on the prize when he accepted the role of a transgendered woman living with HIV.

Bus crash driver wins dismissal case

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:21
A bus driver who blacked out causing his double decker to crash and topple over in Belfast wins a claim for unfair dismissal, it has emerged.

South Africa raises interest rates

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 09:16
South Africa's central bank raises interest rates, following efforts by Turkey and other emerging currencies to stabilise their currencies.

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