National / International News

From Estonia, Obama Talks Tough On Islamic State And Russia

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 12:19

President Obama visited Estonia, in an attempt to reassure Estonians of the support of the U.S. and NATO. Estonia and its neighbors Latvia and Lithuania are all NATO members, but they have grown increasing concerned about a potential security threat from Russia.

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North Carolina District Breaks Ties With Teach For America

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 12:19

The school board in Durham, N.C., voted 6-1 to end its relationship with Teach For America, after the current crop of teachers finish out their stints. Board members cited the lack of experience and the limited commitment of these young teachers in the district's "high-needs" schools. Education reporter Reema Khrais of WUNC explains the situation.

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Hong Kong's Drive For Open Elections Runs Low On Steam

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 12:19

Earlier this week, China insisted that the people of Hong Kong would not be allowed to nominate candidates for the territory's next leader. Occupy Central, a local democracy movement, is threatening to shut down the city's financial district in protest — but organizers acknowledge that only 3,000 people have signed pledges to participate.

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Health Officials Warn Ebola Is Spreading Faster Than Efforts To Contain It

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-03 12:19

A high-level delegation from the World Health Organization is in D.C. this week for talks with U.S. leaders about the Ebola outbreak. The United Nations group is seeking commitments from donor countries to meet a projected need of $600 million to control the epidemic. Meanwhile, the outbreak shows no signs of slowing in West Africa.

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Fox urges air strikes against IS

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 12:11
Ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox says the UK should launch air strikes against Islamic State "sooner rather than later".

UK-funded probe into IS atrocities

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 11:49
The BBC has learned that the British government is funding a team of international investigators to compile evidence against Islamic State fighters.

Who can you blame when you get hacked?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 11:20

The cloud is a tricky place to put your information, pictures or other things you consider private.

Turns out, every major cloud storage service — Dropbox, Apple's iCloud, Google Drive and so on — all use the "mutual responsibility model" in their terms of service. This means if you give away your credentials, then the cloud service provider cannot be held accountable if you get hacked.

"They count anything," says Ben Johnson, host of Marketplace Tech. "Even if you don’t know that you are giving it away. So if you get phished, or if someone gets you to click on something and they hack into your computer or your phone, that counts as ‘willingly giving it away.’"

With those terms of service, you might need to compromise some privacy for the convenience of using any cloud storage. Or, like Kai, you can turn the setting off altogether.

Listen to the Kai Ryssdal's full conversation with Ben Johnson in the audio player above.

An obsessive hunt for America's early recorded music

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 11:15

The technology of recorded music is a lot older than vinyl albums spinning on '60s-style turntables and singles — 45s — popping onto a jukebox needle.

The very earliest records held two to three minutes of music per side. They measured 10 inches of shellac, and were played on Victrolas that were more of a furniture design statement than a means to a musical end. The needles were so crude they gouged out the grooves on the records.

Moving at 78 rotations per minute, the remaining records are a technological relic that holds some of the earliest American music. There are few remaining metal masters, the engraving technology that can resuscitate the original recording sessions of, say, the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." So the record itself becomes an obsession for collectors who seek out 78s. 

"It's a high-stakes treasure hunt, in a way, because they're saving these songs from certain death," said Amanda Petrusich, who interviewed collectors for her book, "Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78 rpm Records".

The "wildness" includes Petrusich's own scuba-diving adventure into the Milwaukee River, after getting a tip that some 78s might be wasting away underwater. Not to mention the hours collectors spend at yard sales, scouring eBay, and the high price a rare disc can command. 

"There was a very public sale recently on eBay of a record for $37,000," Petrusich said, adding, "That's not uncommon."

The stereotype of the collector was partially true and partially not, Petrusich found. Overwhelmingly male? Definitely. A kind of tight-knit fraternity? Check. 

But older, sort of pale, doughy middle-aged men, à la Steve Buscemi's character in "Ghost World"? Petrusich says "not so much." 

Some of the obsession seems to be driven not only by the hunt, rarity and preciousness of the music 78s may contain. It's also a way for collectors to surround themselves with true antiques. 

"The idea that these are men who feel in some way isolated by or excluded from modernity is very much true. They end up ultimately collecting these things as a way of insulating themselves from that, or slowing down the acceleration of culture."

Fortunately for new fans of prewar blues or Creole music, a lot of songs have been digitized. For example, a song that Petrusich fell in love with, Blind Uncle Gaspard's "Sur Le Bord De L'eau," is on YouTube, iTunes and Amazon. Not least because it was included on the soundtrack to HBO's "True Detective." 

 

Petrusich and her fellow collectors hope more of these songs survive their fragile 78 form. 

"Not all old records are good, but there's a sense that we don't even know what has fallen through the cracks."

Even so, she said, there's a special quality to holding an old disc, hearing the scratches as it plays on the equipment it was first heard on. 

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

VIDEO: Iowa storm chaser hit by lightning

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 11:14
A father and son storm-chasing team talk about the moment one of them was struck by lightning.

VIDEO: Passions flare ahead of Scots vote

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 10:33
It is just over two week until Scotland's independence referendum, and as the campaign nears its climax there is some concern that the passionate arguments on both sides could boil over into aggressive behaviour.

At Fashion Week, it's hard to stand out from the crowd

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 10:26

New York City’s Fashion Week begins Wednesday night, and one of the first shows will be in Central Park — on horse-drawn carriages. 

"We'd like to refer to this as a moving runway," says Tobi Rubinstein Schneier of the Tahor Group, which dreamed up the idea for designer Victor de Souza. Seven models dressed in couture will ride seven carriages drawn by white horses in a loop. "The horses are iconic New York, and they’re majestic and they’re beautiful," says Schneier. "You know, they’re models themselves." 

It's just one of many techniques clothing brands are using to stand out in a crowded field. Ultrahip label Opening Ceremony is putting on a one-act play, co-written by film director Spike Jonze and actor Jonah Hill; British designer Gareth Pugh is creating an "immersive experience." Less established designers are thinking unconventionally as well. Emily Saunders would say only that her models would be static, and that the theme of her collection is a song.

"The 1968 Iron Butterfly song 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,'" she says. 

"There’s no question that cutting through the clutter is what every smart business person is trying to do today," says Alison Kenney Paul, vice chairman of retail and distribution at Deloitte. But in her view, the biggest change to Fashion Week is how the Internet and fast fashion have shortened the distance between the shows and the streets. 

"I believe you’re going to see some of the looks if they really resonate with people almost within weeks, not months," says Paul. "It’s much more of a short, uh, runway, if you will."

Based on current economic conditions, Paul predicts more consumers at the end of that runway this season.

Oh, yeah, and more neutral colors.  

VIDEO: 'Sorrow and shame' over IS daughter

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 10:24
The parents of a Glasgow woman, believed to be in Syria, have issued an emotional plea for her to return home.

VIDEO: 'Silly walks' Guardsman investigated

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 09:35
A British soldier is being investigated for apparently breaching military discipline by trying to entertain tourists while on guard duty outside Buckingham Palace.

'Fundamental flaw' in Apple iCloud

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 09:22
Apple's iCloud facility has a "fundamental security flaw", an expert warns, after intimate images of celebrities were stolen and leaked.

Nigeria border town 'captured'

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 09:14
Islamist militants in Nigeria capture a border town near Cameroon, witnesses say, amid a warning that the country could be breaking up like Iraq.

'Youngest hostage' returns to France

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 08:51
A mother arrives back in France from Turkey with her baby after her husband reportedly took the child to Syria.

Your Wallet: Hacking the grocery store

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 08:48

According to Gallup, families in America spend roughly $150 dollars a week on food:

Gallup

Marketplace Weekend wants to know, how do you save money at the grocery store?  

 

@MarketplaceWknd Plan meals around what's on sale (esp for meats) not just what you feel like eating.

— Karen Luck (@WhereIsMyKindle) September 3, 2014

 

Eat fast food whenever possible RT@MarketplaceWknd: What are your favorite tips and tricks to save money at the grocery store?

— SevenPointBuck (@SevenPointBuck) September 3, 2014

 

@MarketplaceWknd Reach for the back of the shelf (bread, meats, eggs, and so on). Later expiration dates for the same price.

— Dylan Campbell (@dylancampbell) September 3, 2014

Morgan denies ability groups plan

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 08:47
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says there are no plans to oblige secondary schools to divide pupils into ability groups.

Overdue reassessments hit homeowners hard

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-09-03 08:46

For David Bunzel, the bad news came in a letter, in March.

“I opened it up,” he says, “and I was surprised.”

Bunzel lives in Scarsdale, New York, just north of New York City. The community is doing its first town-wide property value reassessments in 45 years. And the letter Bunzel got came from the assessment office.

“The estimated value, from their perception, of our home went up overnight by about 30 percent,” he says.

The estimated value of your home helps determine how much you pay in property taxes.

Bunzel lives in a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes, and a 30 percent increase would be a lot of money. (He wouldn’t say exactly how much.) Things were even worse for some of his neighbors. Some even saw their assessments double.

So Bunzel and a bunch of his neighbors are now challenging the revaluations. He says he understands property assessments were way overdue in Scarsdale, but the way their homes were assessed and the sudden spike, he says, aren’t fair.

“Who has sympathy for these people?” says Robert Berg, another Scarsdale resident. “They were getting a great deal that we were paying for, for 45 years in many cases.”

Berg was one of the people who pushed for the property revaluations. He says the owners of what are now some of the most expensive homes in town weren't paying property taxes that reflected that. So people in more modest homes had to pay more than their share of property taxes to make up for it, he argues.

“If someone's paying too little,” Berg says, “someone's paying too much. And the whole purpose of a revaluation is to periodically and systematically review all the property valuations in town, so you can get equity in the tax rolls.”

The state of New York doesn't require periodic revaluations, but they recommend cities reassess properties every few years. Some towns in the state haven't had property reassessments since the Civil War.

New York's not alone in these infrequent assessments. In California, for example, your property tax is based on how much you paid for your house. If you've been sitting on a home for 40 years, you're paying way fewer taxes than someone who bought a similar home at today's prices.

Kim Rueben, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, says to avoid revaluation controversies like the one in Scarsdale and similar situations in California, cities need routine state-mandated property assessments. They keep property taxes smoother for everyone, Rueben says.

“I think it would be easier,” she says, “for the county and the local governments if the state did mandate it. And so they could just say that it's the state law to do this.”

But if cities and towns have been collecting property taxes for centuries, why haven't they figured this out yet?

“Some of this is much more political than fiscal,” Rueben says. “So the whole idea that you're not going to reassess properties has more to do with who has political power and who's going to end up being winners and losers.”

She says reassessments usually put the biggest dent in the pocketbooks of the upscale homeowners, so politicians might avoid enforcing reassessments to avoid upsetting wealthy voters.

“But,” she says, “it's never going to be any easier for them to do the reassessment.”

At some point, towns that have held off on reassessments are going to have to bite the bullet. Scarsdale's property revaluations are still under review, but they should go into effect later this month.

Director Andrew McLaglen dies at 94

BBC - Wed, 2014-09-03 08:29
Director Andrew V McLaglen, who was best known for Westerns and action films including The Wild Geese and McLintock!, dies at the age of 94.

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