National / International News

Obama Makes Guest Appearance On Modi's Radio Show

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosts a radio show and this week his guest was President Barack Obama. They answered questions from a curious Indian public.

» E-Mail This

Koch Brothers Rival GOP With Plans To Spend $900 Million In 2016

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

The billionaire industrialist Koch brothers have announced their fundraising goal for the 2016 election: nearly $900 million, which puts the assorted secret-money groups in the same league as the national Republican Party.

» E-Mail This

How A Single Town In Syria Became A Symbol Of The War Against ISIS

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:10

Now that Kurdish fighters have retaken the Syrian border town of Kobani from ISIS, the Obama administration is assessing the significance of the development. For months, officials suggested the town was of little strategic significance even as warplanes bombed targets day after day.

» E-Mail This

Cable aide quits over fracking vote

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:09
Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt resigns as a parliamentary aide to Business Secretary Vince Cable after voting against the government on fracking,

Armstrong is a scapegoat - McQuaid

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:05
Banned cyclist Lance Armstrong has been harshly treated, according to former world cycling chief Pat McQuaid.

Doing the numbers on the Northeast's snowstorm

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 12:03

As New England digs itself out from two and a half feet of snow, New Yorkers are taking stock of the Snowpocalypse that wasn't.

But the forecasts, the hype and the precautions have real economic cost, says Scott Bernhardt, president of the weather economics analysis firm Planalytics.

"The economic impact of today is going to happen whether it was eight inches or 18 inches in Central Park.," Bernhardt says.

Widespread travel bans, school closures, flight cancellations, extra city workers and the like all come with serious cost. Locally, hardware, grocery and convenience stores enjoyed a spike in sales while sit-down restaurants lose revenue they can't make up. Meanwhile, some states are still getting hammered. 

"Tomorrow it'll be like it never happened in Philadelphia, probably New York as well," Bernhardt says. "When you get into Boston? Not so much. Hartford? Not so much."

The total economic cost remains to be seen. Let's do the numbers on the storm so far:

30 inches

The peak snowfall in Massachusetts, CNN reported, with drifts reaching up to six feet. As of Tuesday afternoon, parts of Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were under blizzard and winter storm warnings. New York City got off easy in comparison, with a paltry 7.9 inches falling in Central Park.

26.9 inches

New York City's record snowfall, recorded in February 2006 in Central Park. At that time, the city deployed 2,500 workers to help with cleanup, flights were grounded and trains were delayed, but the subway didn't shut down as it did Monday night.


That's how many domestic and international flights were cancelled Tuesday in anticipation of a historic nor'easter, with another 2,290 delayed. On Monday airlines cancelled 2,866 flights.

$160 million

The cost of lost labor if 10 percent of New York City's workforce stays home, The New York Times' Upshot reported. That might be a conservative estimate, since the majority of workers take the subway, which shut down for the first time in more than a century. Or it could be overstated, since so many people are wired to work from home.

$500 million

The estimated cost of the storm, a senior VP for Planalytics told CNBC Tuesday morning. That's far from the GDP-shrinking impact some analysts talked about Monday. In the case of New York City,  one economist told Bloomberg any lost output should be made up by the end of the week.

H is for Hawk wins Costa book prize

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:55
The winner of the Costa Book Award 2014 is announced at a ceremony in London.

Obama Administration Proposes Opening Up Atlantic To Drilling

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:51

At the same time, a new Interior Department plan designated nearly 10 million acres in Alaska as off-limits to any future oil and gas leasing. Reaction has been mixed to the draft plan.

» E-Mail This

A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Auschwitz At The Last Second

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:40

The line on the left went to the gas chambers, but an SS guard shoved Jack Mandelbaum to the right. Thus began a three-year nightmare in seven camps for a Jewish teenager who refused to give up hope.

» E-Mail This

South Africa 1-2 Ghana

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:31
Andre Ayew scores late on to take Ghana into the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals while South Africa go out.

Why Latin America should not squander the China boom

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:28
Kevin P Gallagher argues that Latin American countries have done well by China, but need to consolidate the gains and mitigate the new risks that come with engaging with the world's most dynamic economy.

Earthquake felt in mid-Hampshire

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:26
An earthquake with a magnitude of 2.9 is recorded in Hampshire, the British Geological Survey confirms.

VIDEO: Remembering Auschwitz - 70 years on

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:21
Some of those who survived Auschwitz have gathered there for a commemoration 70 years after the camp was liberated by Soviet troops.

Hate performance reviews? So does human resources

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:15

The Society for Human Resource Management says about 90 percent of companies give employees performance appraisals during the year. But only a small share of people who work in HR give their appraisal process high marks.

A few big companies like Microsoft and Kelly Services have acknowledged flaws in the traditional appraisal process and have retooled some major parts of it. So has software giant Adobe.

“For too long we've appeared as the police people, if you will, the regulators of processes that weren't necessarily valued by the intended audiences, whether it be by managers or employees,” says Donna Morris, senior vice president of People and Places at Adobe.

A few years ago, Adobe spiked the traditional annual review.  Managers and workers now do regular, verbal check-ins every couple months. There's no paperwork. Employees get clarity on their goals and can ask for support to help get their jobs done.

“People just really want to have an ongoing dialogue. They want to know that there's no surprise in terms of how they're performing, how they can make a difference in the organization,” Morris says.

Adobe’s part of what some experts say is a burgeoning trend of companies dumping the traditional performance review. Experts say the performance review can turn adversarial when talk of rankings and raises gets mixed into a conversation about an employee's growth and development. And if the conversation only happens once a year, that creates all the more pressure. 

But Sam Culbert, a management expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, says the trend to scrap the annual review needs to move faster. He's an outspoken critic of the traditional review, as the title of his book suggests: "Get Rid of the Performance Review: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on the Results That Really Matter."

“The metrics [of reviews] are baloney. One manager's team player is another manager's conflict avoider. There's no consistency,” Culbert says.

The annual employee review took off in the postwar era as companies tried out new management techniques. In the 1980s, Jack Welch, a chief executive at General Electric, popularized a way of ranking workers as a part of performance management, Culbert says.

“So you could give 20 percent ‘excellent’ and then you had to give 10 percent either 'improve’ or ‘get fired,’” Culbert says. “And the rest of the 70 percent were some form of average.”

Adobe's system may not put to rest the fear of getting fired that many workers associate with performance conversations. The company says it’s retaining more of its top workers under its new approach, it's also letting go of weaker employees at a higher rate.

India's illegal market for blood

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 11:08
The desperate patients in India turning to illegal blood donors

New Yorkers ask 'Is that it?'

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 10:58
While New Yorkers are asking why the city shut down for a few inches of snow, city officials say they're happy they were safe and not sorry.

VIDEO: Child soldiers freed from life of war

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-27 10:48
A South Sudanese militia has released 280 child soldiers as the first step in a process to free 3,000, the UN's children agency said.

Telecommuting is killing the snow day

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 10:40

As parts of the Northeast dig out from Tuesday's snowstorm, many workers will still be dealing with emails, presentations and phone calls that they've usually handled in the office.

One reason the storm's economic impact will be a relatively low $500 million is the rise of telecommuting, according to estimates by Planalytics, a firm that helps businesses plan for weather-driven changes.

The 2010 census figures show that 2.4 percent of workers telecommute full-time, an increase from 1.4 percent in 2000, says Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor. When Bloom studied telecommuting, he discovered workers can be 13 percent more productive and prefer working from home one or two days a week.

A snowstorm is the perfect time for companies to experiment with letting workers telecommute, he says, because they can see if it works for them. Telecommuting seems to be increasing among workers with lower-level jobs (such as IT call center assistants) and upper-level management positions, according to Bloom.

What goes into the 'durable goods index'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 10:38

Orders on durable goods were down almost 3.5 percent in December from a month earlier, according to a report issued Tuesday.

Figures on orders for durable goods are one way to judge the relative health of the American manufacturing sector.

Here's some of what goes into that index:

It starts with the U.S. Census Bureau, says Dale Jorgenson, a Harvard University economics professor.

"They collect information on what the shipments were, what they actually shipped out to their customers, what they are holding in terms of inventory, and finally what they received in terms of new orders," he says.


How a strong dollar can be a corporate weakness

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-27 10:36

DuPont, Procter & Gamble and Pfizer are among the multinational corporations blaming the strong dollar for earnings that missed analysts' expectations this quarter. But the strong dollar isn't a weakness for the reason you might expect. 

The dollar has spiked rapidly and broadly because the U.S. economy is doing relatively well, says Sameer Samana, global strategist at Wells Fargo.

How the U.S. dollar compares to the British pound, euro and Japanese yen.

Raghu Manavalan/Marketplace

That has hurt multinational corporations not necessarily because this makes exports more expensive but because of what Steven Englander, head of G10 foreign exchange strategy at Citigroup, calls the "translation effect."

Mauro Guillén, a professor of international management at the Wharton School, says this is when profits abroad are "lost in translation." They are reduced by the exchange rate when they are repatriated back to the United States. It may hurt a company's stock price, Guillén says, but it's not a threat to the broader economy.