National / International News

The rise of the election 'attack ad'

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 10:24
The banned ads featuring in the 2015 election

The Age of Man 'started in 1610'

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 10:03
New dates for the start of the Anthropocene - the geological age of humans - have been proposed by scientists. 31836233

Apple saves on rent thanks to long iPhone lines

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 10:01

All 31 banks subjected to the Federal Reserve's stress tests passed the first round last week, showing they can continue to lend even amid economic collapse. But the second round of results, due Wednesday, might not go quite as well for all the banks.

21,944.66 points

That's where the Dow Jones Industrial average would have sat Tuesday, in theory, if Apple had joined in 2008 instead of Bank of America, Bloomberg reported. In reality, Apple joined this week, displacing AT&T and B of A left in 2013.

Courtesy:Bloomberg 2 percent per square foot

Speaking of Apple, that's the portion of sales its retail stores pay for space in American malls, the Wall Street Journal reported. Compare that to the up to 15 percent other retailers typically pay per square foot. Apple has reportedly negotiated for lower rent because of their stores' massive draw.

$10 billion

That's how much General Motors is giving back to shareholders in dividends and stock buyback, quelling a potential spat with activist investors. But the move could mean GM will lose some ground as it attempts to keep wages down during negotiations with the autoworkers union this summer.


The number of deaths tied to film or TV production from 2010 to 2014, doubling the previous five years. An LA Times investigation found the uptick is tied in part to reality TV production and the drive to create thrilling footage

$7.3 million

The damages an LA jury ordered "Blurred Lines" co-writers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay Marvin Gaye's family for infringing on Gaye's "Got to Give it Up" copyright with the 2013 megahit. Quartz joins the flurry of "soundalike" lists with a playlist, so you can decide for yourself who's a copycat and who's not.

Police forced to retire want payout

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 10:01
Nearly 150 ex-police officers in Wales are seeking compensation after being forced to retire early.

UK 'needs to hear DUP policies'

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:58
The DUP's deputy leader says voters across the UK need to know where his party stands on national issues as it could play a role in a hung parliament.

Ahead of labor talks, GM puts pressure on itself

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:54

GM announced this week it’ll give shareholders $5 billion in dividends and a $5 billion stock buyback. That’s good news for investors, and for GM, which managed to avoid a major clash with hedge fund interests on the board.

Times are good for automakers like GM.  But when the company opens negotiations with the United Autoworkers Union this summer, it’s going to try to keep a lid on wages, says Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry and Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research.

The union will think, "If they had the kind of money that they had to pay out for this stock play, they’ve got money to fund what the union is looking for,” she says.

Some workers haven’t had a raise in more than eight years. And Dziczek says the UAW says the ones who did still aren’t earning enough.

Ross Eisenbrey, vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute, says GM can increase share prices at the risk of everything else, or take the long view: investing in new equipment and the workforce. He says GM has to balance all of those things against a desire to reward shareholders. 

Ferdinand charged with misconduct

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:44
QPR director of football Les Ferdinand is charged with misconduct by the FA after allegedly abusing a match official.

Top teachers could get 2% pay rise

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:35
The government is to give schools the power to increase the pay of top performing teachers by up to 2%, the BBC understands.

Bruce agrees new deal with Hull City

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:17
Hull City boss Steve Bruce agrees a contract extension with the Premier League side.

SF releases welfare reform dossier

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:14
Sinn Féin releases a 25-page dossier in an attempt to explain why they decided to withdraw their support from the welfare reform bill.

U.S. College Finds Priceless Coin Collection — In Its Own Library

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-11 09:04

A dozen gold Roman coins — one from each reign of Rome's first emperors, starting with Julius Caesar — spent decades on a shelf in the University at Buffalo's library.

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Mandelson doubts over Labour victory

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:58
Ex-cabinet minister Lord Mandelson has predicted Labour will not win a majority at May's general election, saying there will be another hung Parliament.

Allman biopic train death trial ends

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:56
The director of a biopic about singer Gregg Allman pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a case involving a fatal train crash on the film's set.

The App Of The Moment: Meerkat Tests Our Desire To Share Live Video

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:55

The new mobile app for live video streaming piggybacks off Twitter and is easy to use. Meerkat comes at a time when video is increasingly popular. But can the hype last?

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Apple's invented a new way to make 18-karat gold

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:51

This final note on the way out, in which we mix popular culture, high tech and metallurgy.

The folks at Slate have been poring over Apple's patent applications for that Apple Watch you may have heard so much about. It turns out, Apple's invented a new way to make 18-karat gold for it's top-of-the-line watches.

It's complicated, and I'm not a scientist, but Apple plans to use something called, "metal matrix composite." 

To put it another way, Apple is combining gold with durable materials that don't have much mass, but take up lots of space. That gives it wonderful qualities like lightness and scratch-resistance (normal gold is somewhat soft and prone to damage). And by mass, the final product is still 75 percent gold. But when it's poured into a mold to make an Apple Watch Edition's shell, the other, not-so-precious ingredients take up most of the room. Apple gets to use less gold per cubic centimeter and still call it 18-karat. It gets to stretch its gold out further than, say, Rolex would, to make a watch this size and shape.  

It's still actual 18-karat gold technically, but it lets the company — and this is a quote from its patent filing — use "as little gold as possible."

Police fees shore up budgets in many towns

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:50

Thomas Jackson, the police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, resigned Wednesday, exactly one week after a scathing report from the Department of Justice criticized the city's use of law enforcement as a revenue generation tool.

Ferguson City Manager John Shaw stepped down on Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said Ferguson officials pressured police to generate revenue through aggressive tactics and ticketing. City officials exerted "overriding pressure," Holder said, using "law enforcement not as a public service, but as a tool for raising revenue."

Beth Colgan, a law professor at UCLA who has been studying the issue of municipalities and their use of fees, says there's evidence that a lot of local governments are using law enforcement and court fines to shore up budgets.

"If you look at the criminal and civil codes in any county or state," says Colgan, "as a general matter, the use of fines, and fees, and costs, is something that's pervasive around the country."

In Chicago, for instance, red light cameras reportedly generate $70 million in fines every year. There is now debate between mayoral candidates about whether those cameras should remain, and if not, how to replace that revenue.

The tiny town of Randolph, Missouri, got into trouble a few years ago when the state learned the town's budget came almost exclusively from highway traffic fines.

Knowing whether local governments' reliance on fines has become a national problem or not is difficult, says Brian Jackson, because of a lack of empirical research examining the issue nationwide.

Jackson, who heads the safety and justice program at the Rand Corporation, says there is no question that fines and fees became prominent revenue sources for many local governments, especially after the financial crisis. 

"As a business model, funding through fine revenue does reduce the amount of taxes that have to be levied to pay for public safety, because it's another funding stream," Jackson said. 

But while many municipalities are relying on fines and fees from law enforcement, few have considered the potential implications, Jackson says. 

"The problem here is one of incentives," he said. "The question comes down to how much is too much, and at what point does that start distorting the decisions of individual officers," or their superiors. 

The bigger question, he says, is whether voters are willing to fund services their local governments provide through taxes instead of fines and fees.

How does the strong dollar affect U.S. consumers?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:49

The ol’ dollar just isn’t what it used to be. It's actually worth quite a bit more.

The value of the dollar has been rising steadily compared to other currencies. On Wednesday, the value of a euro fell to $1.05 -- below $1.06 for the first time since 2003. Tuesday, the dollar hit its highest value against the Japanese yen in nearly eight years.

What does that mean for U.S. consumers?

For Bill Kendrick of Davis, California, it means cheaper supplies for his 1983 Atari computer. He has his eye on a cartridge that’s 20 percent cheaper than a similar one he bought several years ago, thanks to a better exchange rate.

American retailers who buy goods abroad will see a similar discount, but they might choose to pocket the savings instead of passing them along to their customers, says Dan Morris of TIAA-CREF Asset Management.

Now would also be a good time to vacation in Europe, says Boris Schlossberg at BK Asset Management. He said he has been surprised by the speed at which the dollar is rising, but he cautions that what goes up will eventually come back down. Today’s discounts won’t last forever.

Rangers to appoint McCall as manager

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:48
Stuart McCall is to be appointed Rangers manager until the end of the season, BBC Scotland has learned.

Japan struggles to build a new electricity network

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:48

Four years after the earthquake and nuclear plant meltdown, Japan has gone cold turkey on nuclear energy. For now, zero reactors are currently in operation.

Solar energy has sought to fill some of that void. Thanks to subsidies and affordable, efficient solar panels, Japan’s solar market has grown tenfold in the last two years. Then, utilities controlling the grid pushed back, and refused to take additional solar energy.

There are technical trade-offs, says engineering professor Massoud Amin at the University of Minnesota, that can cause brownouts and blackouts.

There are fixes, a complex assortment of solutions often referred to as a smart grid. But that requires an enormous investment, that Paul Scalise of the University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany says raises a fundamental question: Who pays for it?

This is a clean-energy issue that doesn’t just face Japan. Germany, Spain, Australia and California all confront questions of grid reliability and upgrade. While it may be in the interests of some utilities to resist change — and hold off direct competitors in the power generation space — inaction in the case of Japan comes with its own trade-off: the environment. Without nuclear energy, the country increasingly relies on imported fossil fuels.

Talk of SNP deal will dog Miliband

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:48
The Conservatives believe they are on to a winner by alleging the Labour leader will have to make a deal with the SNP, writes Laura Kuenssberg.