National / International News

UK urges swift Syria chlorine probe

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 06:12
The UK has called on the global chemical weapons watchdog to carry out "with urgency" its investigation into the alleged use of chlorine in Syria.

Sacking over poor elderly home care

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 06:11
One staff member is sacked and seven suspended from an Essex care home after an undercover Panorama investigation finds poor care.

Walmart wants to sell you auto insurance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-30 06:10

Seems like you can get everything at Walmart—including the kitchen sink. And, now, auto insurance.

Walmart is rolling out a new service via its website,, that allows consumers to shop online for auto coverage, compare premiums, and sign up for a policy all in one sitting and from a single website.

It’s part of the giant retailer’s strategy to offer more financial services as it struggles to sell more to consumers in its stores, says retail consultant Burt Flickinger III at the Strategic Resource Group in New York.

“Whether it’s money transfers, or competing with GameStop on used videos, or auto insurance, Walmart is struggling to attract shoppers,” says Flickinger. “And the shoppers aren’t coming to the supercenters.”

Flickinger says Walmart needs to do something. He says same-store sales have been down for the past five quarters. Price-conscious consumers have been struggling to afford even Walmart’s discounted prices in the prolonged economic downturn, and Flickinger says Walmart has stumbled on customer service, with inadequate staffing and understocking of its stores.

“The auto insurance adds customer continuity and frequency, and Walmart has the second-biggest IT capabilities anywhere in America, second only to the Pentagon,” says Flickinger. “Walmart certainly has the size and scale to make financial services pay off.”

Walmart senior vice president Daniel Eckert explained Walmart’s new auto insurance as an at-home or in-the-office opportunity to compare quotes from multiple insurers, and to bind (actually secure coverage based on the quote offered)—without leaving its website.

The online market is hosted at the website of Walmart’s partner in developing the product, Eckert says the new service will be promoted at, and in displays at Walmart stores. It is being launched initially in Arkasnas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, with rollout plans for the rest of the country later in 2014.

Who Really Pays For Health Care Might Surprise You

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:58

Government has been part of the business of medicine at least since the 1940s, when Washington began appropriating billions of dollars to build private and government hospitals.

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A computer program to write your essays

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:53

A writing professor at MIT has developed a computer program that writes a college essay in one second, after you input a few key words and it actually scores pretty well on an online grading system meant for actual human student writing.

The idea isn't to fool your professor; it's attempt to show that computers that grade exam essays can be totally tricked into giving high marks.  

Les Perelmen, a recently-retired MIT professor who worked with students to develop the program, generated a sample for Marketplace on the subject of the future of education and technology.  The essay begins:

"Teaching has not, and no doubt never will be exemplary. Human society will always regret didactics; some of avocations and others for an accession.  A lack of didactics lies in the field of literature but also the field of philosophy. Teaching is the most cordially arrogant trope of mankind. "

What does it actually mean?  We're not sure, but it merited a whopping 5.6 out of 6 score on an online grading tool being marketed to schools as a way to help grade student work.  You can see the full breakdown of scores from the essay on the image attached above.

Perelmen, who is a noted critic of robotic grading, labeled the machine the Basic Automatic B.S. Essay Language Generator, or "BABEL."  He recently wrote an editorial about robo-grading in the Boston Globe and spoke at length with the Chronicle of Higher Education about his program.

The full essay generated by Perelmen's program for Marketplace can be read below if you have the stomach to make it through the whole thing:

Teaching has not, and no doubt never will be exemplary. Human society will always regret didactics; some of avocations and others for an accession. a lack of didactics lies in the field of literature but also the field of philosophy. Teaching is the most cordially arrogant trope of mankind.

Reiteration, especially for excess, masticates an interloper on exorbitantly but fallaciously truculent assassinations by instruction. If advocates renege or assure reprobation, gluttony that is situationally boisterous but is risible, sapient, and soporific with educational activity can be more reprovingly entreated. Additionally, technology, often at an utterance, can be the commencement. In my experience, all of the reprobates to our personal consequence of the dictator we countenance delineate the escapades in question. Even so, armed with the knowledge that the recondite disruption encounters establishment, most of the organisms for my precinct assent. Our personal scrutinization to the contradiction we placate howls. Education which depreciates all of the ruminations might divisively be a juggernaut on our personal sanction with the allusion we propagate as well. The countenance of diagnoses may be legerdemain but is belligerent yet somehow effortless, not cornucopia that tantalizes provocation and allocates inspections. In my theory of knowledge class, none of the agronomists at our personal scenario by the exposition we ponder embark and anesthetize reprimands which observe the response. The more a concession that blusters should be verification, the less rationalization can increasingly be an absolute predator.

As I have learned in my semiotics class, technology is the most fundamental affront of humankind. Though interference for presumption inverts, information processes brains. The same pendulum may process two different orbitals to process an orbital. The plasma is not the only thing the brain reacts; it also receives neutrinoes for conjecture with technology. Due to cavorting, audaciously but stridently consummate accessions ascend also on technology. a substantiated education changes the intercession at education.

The appendage, frequently to a tyro, taunts educational activity. The sooner the people involved account, the sooner reprobation sublimates respondents. Furthermore, as I have learned in my literature class, society will always evince didactics. Our personal exile of the adjuration we augur will be contretemps with assemblies and may presumptuously be compensation. The casuistry might, still yet, be unintentional in the way we insist or enlightenment the awkwardly and despicably predatory recrudescence but presume avocations. In my semantics class, almost all of the quarrels at my advance ruminate or analyze the development. a quantity of engineering is slight for our personal postulate on the civilization we accuse as well. The axiom aggregates dislocation, not a commencement. In my experience, many of the lamentations by our personal confluence at the account we denigrate diagnose taunts. The less palaver that culminates is petite in the extent to which we fascinate most of the adherents for the realm of reality and insinuate or should tenaciously be an accumulation, the more reprobates masticate the accumulation of community.

Instruction with agreements will always be an experience of human society. In any case, armed with the knowledge that consideration may reclusively be severance, most of the accusations at my contradiction denounce tropes but intercede and surprise salvers which stipulate a countenance. If articulated celebrations allege and enlighten assumptions to the admonishment, pedagogy which retorts sanctions can be more unfavorably sanctioned. Education has not, and undoubtedly never will be misleading but not confidential. Teaching is gregariously but naively postlapsarian as a result of its those in question.  

Drink price plan referred to Europe

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:48
A legal challenge to the Scottish government's policy on minimum alcohol pricing is referred to a European court by the Court of Session in Edinburgh, delaying the plans for two years.

Baby ashes scandal 'a great tragedy'

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:44
Parents affected by the Mortonhall scandal were not told that ashes were left after their babies were cremated because it would have been "too distressing".

Bercow cuts off Cameron at PMQs

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:37
Speaker John Bercow cuts off David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions, telling him he has said enough.

Thailand Calls New Elections Amid Fears Of Another Opposition Boycott

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:26

It's not clear whether the opposition, whose boycott of February elections caused the vote to be invalidated, will participate in the new balloting, set for July.

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VIDEO: Schnabel on art, Lou Reed and Bez

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:25
Julian Schnabel discusses his art, his friendship with the late Lou Reed and painting to the music of Black Grape, with Newsnight's Stephen Smith.

Labour wants 'school standards tsars'

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:18
Labour is calling for a clearer structure for supervising different types of state-funded schools, including academies and free schools.

Modi accused of India poll violation

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:18
India's Election Commission accuses the main opposition BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of violating the election code.

British Actor Bob Hoskins Dies At 71

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:14

He was best known for films such as The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Mona Lisa. Hoskins' agent said the actor died Tuesday from pneumonia.

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VIDEO: Video tributes to Hillsborough 96

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:11
The families of those who died at the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989 have been giving tributes to them at the new inquest.

Salmond defends Putin pride remark

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:09
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond says remarks he made about admiring Russian president Vladimir Putin were not ill-judged.

Senegal rebels declare a ceasefire

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:06
A top Senegalese rebel leader declares a unilateral ceasefire in Casamance, raising hopes of ending one of West Africa's longest-running conflicts.

Is this the most boring advert ever made?

BBC - Wed, 2014-04-30 05:05
Leica claims the advert for its new camera is the most boring of all time. Can tedium be an effective marketing tool, asks Jon Kelly.

Amid Violence And Without U.S. Troops, Iraq Votes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 04:59

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party appears to be the strongest going into Wednesday's polls. In a country plagued by bloodshed and sectarian divisions, the vote is testing Iraq to the limits.

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Amid Violence And Without U.S. Troops, Iraq Votes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 04:59

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party appears to be the strongest going into Wednesday's polls. In a country plagued by bloodshed and sectarian divisions, the vote is testing Iraq to the limits.

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Harsh Winter Puts The Brakes On U.S. Economic Growth

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-30 04:56

First-quarter GDP fell to just 0.1 percent, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which blamed much of the slowing on weather-related factors.

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