National / International News

US school confiscates pupils' meals

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 16:13
School officials in the US state of Utah apologise after a worker confiscated lunches from students whose parents were in arrears on meal payments.

Ukraine leader defiant amid turmoil

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 15:59
Ukraine's president, who is on sick leave, says the government is doing all it can to end the political crisis but the opposition is "inflaming" unrest.

Zynga buys game-maker NaturalMotion

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 15:39
Social gaming firm Zynga announces the purchase of UK gamemaker Natural Motion as it posts a loss of $25m for the fourth quarter.

Advice for Janet Yellen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-30 15:35

When you're in a position of power, you get no shortage of unsolicited advice. Bearing that in mind, we wondered what sort of advice people might have for Janet Yellen, as she becomes the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, after Ben Bernanke's term ends today. We took a sampling, not just from those who know the Fed, but from some regular folks, too.

DONALD KOHN, Former Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve

Dear Janet,

Better you than me. May the force be with you.

Your friend,

Don Kohn


ED MORALES, a tourist from California we caught up with near the Fed building in Washington

Dear Janet,

Treat others as you would want to be treated.  Obviously going in and talking with your coworkers... Give them the respect that you would want, and obviously you would receive the same respect in return. And it would make for a better work environment.


Ed Morales


SUSAN TENDALL, of North Potomac, Md.

Dear Janet,

If I were to give advice to my four grown children on the first day of their jobs, I would tell them to try and find somebody they can mentor with. Take lots of notes, review those notes every night until you know what you’re doing, and keep a smile on your face and to not give up.


Susan Tendall


JOHN MAKIN, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Dear Chairman Yellen,

Congratulations on your appointment as Fed chairman. One of the things that's important to remember is that the usual problem the Fed faces – rising inflation – is no longer present. In fact, deflation is a primary threat to a stable and growing economy. As you proceed with deliberations with the FOMC, I hope that you will put a higher priority on avoiding deflation.

With very best wishes for success in what I’m sure you know is a challenging job,

John H. Makin

Russia's Love Affair With Vodka Lures Many To An Early Grave

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 15:35

Russia has a big problem with vodka, which is a key factor in the country's abysmal life expectancy, researchers say. But measures like banning vodka sales at night have had an immediate effect on a young Russian man's chances of living to age 55

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Small Cuts To Food Stamps Add Up To Big Pains For Many Recipients

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:58

The proposed farm bill would cut nearly $1 billion a year from the food stamp program, known as SNAP. While it's far less than what Republicans had originally wanted, the proposal will affect roughly 850,000 households, many of which are still struggling from cuts made only three months ago.

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VIDEO: Johansson quits Oxfam over ad row

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:49
Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson steps down as an Oxfam ambassador after criticism of her support for Israeli company SodaStream.

The 5 steps of snow day acceptance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:43

Where are the Nannies Without Borders when you need them? For  working parents who have already blown through their repertoire of "fun things to do with kids when you're stuck inside!" -- and also their patience and vacation days-- this winter has been particularly cruel.
And it threatens to get worse. In Boston earlier this month, on the same day that school was cancelled, yet again, an assistant professor at the Harvard Kennedy School unleashed a pro-snow day study. It concluded that snow days don't, in fact, have a negative impact on learning -- a finding that threatens to embolden superintendents to err on the side of cancellation.  Talk about kicking parents while they're down.

Psychologists have yet to name the combination of despair and bitterness a snow day can trigger, but it's not unlike the famous five stages of grief described by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Based on interviews I've conducted with house-bound would-be working parents, they are:
Stage One: Denial

  • "It doesn't look like it's accumulating."
  • "The meteorologists are always wrong."
  • "If they were going to call a snowday, they would have called it already."

Stage Two: Anger

  • "I stayed home last time -- my husband/wife is staying home tomorrow."
  • "Let my boss spend the day with a two-year-old and see how easy it is to get work done."
  • "When I was a kid they never cancelled school."

Stage Three: Bargaining

  • "If they don't cancel school tomorrow, I promise I will: a) chaperone a field trip; b) get off my phone when my son is at bat; c) be better about making sure my kids floss, and not just the morning of the dentist appointment."

Stage Four: Depression

  • "That brown-noser in accounting is going to make a play for my job."
  • "I'm going to be stuck at home with a toddler and a kindergartner, and they're going to want to go sledding."
  • "I am powerless over the hot chocolate and brownies I bought in a pathetic attempt to make the day seem festive."

 Stage five: Acceptance

  • "My children are going to spend eight hours playing Madden."

US 'concern' at Syria weapons delay

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:27
The US says only 4% of Syria's declared chemical weapons has been surrendered and expresses concern at the lack of progress.

Top Navy officer tapped to lead NSA

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:15
President Barack Obama will nominate Vice-Adm Michael Rogers as the new head of the National Security Agency, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel says.

City invites views over £50m cuts

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:13
Residents in Cardiff are asked to give their views on the council's plans to cut £50m from its budget.

Utah School Draws Ire For Taking Kids' Lunches; Debt Cited

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:04

Anger and frustration followed an incident Tuesday, in which up to 40 students had their lunches taken away from them at the cashier's station in an elementary school cafeteria. The food was thrown away; the students were told their accounts had no credit on them.

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Lib Dems attack Labour on borrowing

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:01
Labour would be able to borrow £166bn more than the coalition is planning under the party's new tax and spending rules, the Liberal Democrats claim.

Google earnings climb on ad revenue

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:00
Search giant Google reports fourth quarter profits of $3.38bn, up 17% from a year earlier, buoyed by strong advertising revenue.

U.K. spat over women's pay in the financial sector

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-30 13:48

On Saturday, Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, an honor which has brought her top billing in a British poll of the world’s ten most powerful female financiers. Eight of the women – including Yellen – combined their glittering careers with a family and children.

This may come as a revelation to Nigel Farage, head of the fast-growing U.K. Independence Party. Farage has just caused a storm of protest with some outspoken comments in London’s financial centre – the City as it’s known – on the subject of maternity and work. To quote:

"If a woman broker who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away," said Farage, claiming that said woman's clients will have drifted off, and her contacts will have dwindled.

"This helps explain why female finance workers in Britain earn on average 30% less than men," he said.

Should Nigel Farage know what he’s talking about? He spent more than 20 years working as a commodities broker before he became involved in politics.

"He’s talking absolute rubbish!" declares Louise Cooper – a former stockbroker and a mother of two. "You don’t get two or three years off to have a baby. The maximum amount of time you get off is 12 months. And many women choose to take four, five, or six months. That is usually much less than gardening leave," says Cooper.

"Gardening leave" is the time that city workers – having quit their jobs – must stay away from work before they are allowed to join a rival company. In London, it usually lasts six months to a year.

Cooper asks: "Why is six months or so of maternity leave more damaging to a company than twelve months of gardening leave?" 

Kirstie Ayre – an employment expert with the Pinsent Masons law firm - said the notion that women are "somehow intrinsically worth less to financial institutions because they might leave to have a family is laughable."

"These days when an employee leaves, the company does not automatically lose clients. Those contacts are usually shared between teams of employees," she said.

Others complained that Nigel Farage’s comments were harmful to working mothers.

"We found his remarks very disappointing. This will make life so much more difficult for the many women who are doing a very impressive job of balancing their work and family responsibilities," said Rosalind Bragg, director of the charity Maternity Action.

Bragg is afraid that Farage’s comments will fuel further prejudice against working women, already a major problem.

"Since the economic downturn began, the rates of pregnancy discrimination in the U.K. have grown dramatically, and that’s true of the finance sector as much as it is of the wider labor market. In 2006, 30,000 women lost their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination, and now the figure’s risen to about 60,000 a year. That’s roughly 1 in 7 pregnant women in the workforce," she said.  

Obama To Nominate Vice Adm. Michael Rogers As NSA Chief

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 13:46

Rogers, the current head of U.S. Cyber Command, is a cryptologist by trade. If confirmed, he'll take over the spy agency at a crucial time in its history, when its activities have come under close public scrutiny.

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Cameron plans fresh push on web data

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 13:44
The prime minister says he wants a cross-party push after the next election to modernise laws covering communications data.

Amanda Knox Guilty Verdict Reinstated By Italian Court

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 13:42

The appeals court in Florence found Knox and her ex-boyfriend guilty of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher and sentenced her to 28 1/2 years in prison. Knox currently lives in Seattle, and the sentence is likely to set up a long battle over her extradition.

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Report: Syrian Government Has Demolished Entire Neighborhoods

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 13:31

Human Rights Watch says neighborhoods in the capital, Damascus, and the city of Hama were targeted by the government because they were opposition strongholds.

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VIDEO: Town's nudes win artist photoshoot

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-30 13:29
A Kent seaside town beats two in Sussex to be the location for a mass nude photoshoot by American body artist Spencer Tunick.

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