National / International News

VIDEO: Three held over California fires

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 12:01
A wildfire in Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains has forced the evacuation of 2,000 people, officials say.

VIDEO: 3D printing used to make knickers

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:59
Companies across the north west are now making products using 3D printers.

In London, The Case Of The Purloined Water Lily

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:44

An exceptionally rare flower that is virtually extinct has been stolen from London's Kew Gardens, in a crime experts say could be the work of an obsessed collector. aA British newspaper says that stealing the precious water lily "is like an old master theft."

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Dalgety Bay radiation plans revealed

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:41
The BBC obtains details of the options being considered by the MoD to deal with radioactive contamination on the beach at Dalgety Bay in Fife.

5 facts you'd never guess about Chuck E. Cheese

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:38

At first glance, $1.3 billion seems like a lot to pay for a kiddie-birthday-party giant that has seen better days. So what will private-equity firm Apollo Global Management, which announced the merger this morning, do to recoup that kind of investment?

Here’s a possible answer: Send Chuck to Russia. And other former Soviet-block countries. At least, that's one scenario that occurs to Chris Christopher, who follows consumer behavior for IHS Global Insight.

"Those countries didn’t have very good restaurants, until the Berlin Wall fell down," he says. "And now that things are very open, and people have a little more spending money, they do dine out."

A private equity company could have the deep pockets and the flexibility to let Chuck try his luck abroad. And to anyone shopping for a U.S. restaurant brand to export, Chuck E. Cheese is a relative bargain.

Back at home, the company has seen its same-store sales fall in the last few years, even as the company has tried various updates. The trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News keeps a “top 100” list. In its most-recent rankings, Chuck E. Cheese fell from 91 to 99.

Editor Ron Ruggles, who has been reporting on the chain for 20 years, points out that the entertainment side of the enterprise— the giant mouse, the video games, that kind of stuff— has seen the competition get much tougher in recent years.

"So much entertainment is coming into the home now," he says. "It is difficult to offer something that’s different from what people can get."

So what distinguishes this pizza-slinging mouse from his competition? If nothing else, a storied past. What we learned about Chuck E. Cheese today:

1. He was buddies with Steve Jobs. Before venturing into the pizza-theater business, CEO Nolan Bushnell founded the video game company Atari. There, he was Steve Jobs' boss when Jobs worked for Atari as a technician. In Bushnell's latest book, "Finding The Next Steve Jobs," he advises entrepreneurs to think outside of the box when hiring, with interview questions such as: "What is the opposite of a table?" (Correct answer: "Nothing, as far as I know. Certainly not a chair.")   

2. Perhaps "a kid can be a kid," but a rat can't be a rat. In his early days, Chuck E. Cheese was a New Jersey rat who smoked cigars. According to the New York Daily News, executives considered naming him "Rick the Rat," but changed course when a PR firm suggested customers might be put off from their pizza. In 2012, Chuck E. was officially made over into mouse...

3. ...a pop-punk mouse. He was most recently voiced by Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band Bowling for Soup.

4. He's spinning off into store-bought shredded cheese. For customers who really like the pizza. 

5. He hasn't always had run of the anthropomorphic-animal-with-a-pizza-arcade market. From the July 1982 edition of Fortune Magazine: Billy Bob Brockali, a "quizzical" bear, headlined at competing ShowBiz Pizza Place through the early 1980s. But Billy Bob and his parent company couldn't keep up. They declared bankruptcy in 1984, and merged with the mice in 1989.

New Drug Combination Takes 24 Minutes To Execute Ohio Killer

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:29

The state has run out of the drug used in past executions. The drugs administered to killer and rapist Dennis McGuire had not been used in Ohio before. He was treated "far more humanely" than the woman he killed, her family said Thursday.

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What tech companies want from Obama's NSA proposal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:28

President Obama is expected to suggest reforms to the NSA surveillance program tomorrow. And considering that data collection is also the capital of the tech business today, it’s no surprise that the industry has been lobbying for change.

“The first thing, is stop the bulk collection not just of phone data but internet data,” said Brough Turner, the founder and CTO at netBlazr, an internet service provider in Watertown, Mass.

While a lot of attention has been paid to phone data, tech companies point out that the FISA Act also allows for the bulk collection of Internet data. Turner’s developing wireless products, and a few months ago he was shopping it around in Europe.

“I was in Germany in October, and it was pretty clear that American services are completely, suspicious and American products are somewhat suspicious,” Turner said. “That was three months ago. At this point, the situation is much more negative.”

Turner says that Obama can start putting some of these concerns at ease if he proposes a policy to protect the privacy of foreign internet users.

The NSA revelations are also calling into question the security of cloud computing, said Matt Simons, the director of social and economic justice at ThoughtWorks, which builds custom software for business around the world. He says moving software to the cloud has, in part, fueled this tech boom

But “people are seeking to build their own clouds, people are seeking to use clouds that are not storing their data inside the United States,” Simons said.

He added that the NSA revelations appear to be having a bigger impact on small and medium sized businesses. While there are few alternatives to Google, Facebook and Amazon, the global competition for smaller scale products is fierce.

One thing that’s hitting all tech companies is the news that the NSA has built back doors into security software, said Stephen Cobb, a researcher at ESET, a cyber-security firm that protects company servers.

“It really sent a shiver through the security community because we know if you weaken it for the intelligence community, than the bad guys will exploit it, too,” Cobb said.

Cobbs says before the Snowden revelations, the cyber-security industry shared information with the government. Now, that relationship has chilled.

Why the demise of brick and mortar stores may not be such a big deal for the economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:25

Big box retailer Best Buy released some truly dismal holiday sales results today. Sales fell nearly 1 percent during the holiday shopping season. Sears and Costco saw disappointing sales too, and JC Penney announced it is closing 33 stores and eliminating 2,000 jobs. 

A decade ago, big box stores were the titans of retail; small businesses were shutting their doors left and right because they couldn’t compete with the likes of Costco, Best Buy and Target on price and selection. Now the big boys are "struggling to find their customers," says Laura Kennedy, principle analyst at Kantar Retail. "I think Seth Meyers made a joke on Saturday Night Live that 'Toys R Us announced its stores would remain open for 87 straight hours leading up to Christmas... meanwhile, the Internet announced that it will be open all the time, always, forever.'"

E-commerce accounts for roughly 6 percent of the retail economy. That number is growing fast, but if retail titans like Best Buy go down the tubes, we could have a problem. "They do $45 billion in revenue, so it is a big deal," says Brian Yarbrough, a consumer analyst at Edward Jones. "Retailers realize they probably over-expanded and made the box too big over the years, and when they close, it’s not good for the economy."

The biggest issue? Jobs. Yarbrough points out big box stores employ thousands of people, from sales clerks to store managers. Still, he says, many of those jobs will migrate along with our shopping habits. "You might lose a few people in the stores, but a lot of these retailers are ramping up hiring around systems and software and distribution centers. And I think that there’s not a ton of job losses."

Adding to that, big box stores are becoming economic small potatoes. "They’re becoming less part of even the retail space," says Chris Christopher, a consumer economist at IHS Global Insight. "So they are becoming less important and they also are struggling. Just because a lot of consumers are sort of saying, ‘Hey, I don’t need that extra item.’"

Christopher points out the economy has improved, but the average household has about 8 percent less income than it did before the recession. That gives another edge to online retailers, which can charge less for items because they don’t have to pay for the big overhead of a big box store.

Primark death plunge 'not suicide'

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:20
There is no evidence a woman who fell to her death in a Liverpool Primark store wanted to kill herself, a coroner rules.

VIDEO: Roache 'raped girl in his two homes'

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 11:08
A woman said Coronation Street star William Roache "pushed her on to a bed" and was "cold and calculated" as he raped her, a jury has heard. Mr Roache denies two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967.

Error warning on education accounts

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:46
The government's spending watchdog has raised concerns about last year's accounts from the Department for Education related to the academy programme.

Flood spending figures clarified

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:42
The government is forced to clarify its claim to be spending more on flood defences than ever before.

Prince and duchess to tour Canada

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:38
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will tour Canada in May, visiting Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, officials say.

Doctors Say Reid Request For Bowel Research Money No Joke

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:29

In his new book, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates jabs Sen. Harry Reid for urging Defense Department research on irritable bowel syndrome. But the illness has been a plague on many Gulf War veterans.

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Concern mounts over missing boy

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:24
Police Scotland activates the national Child Rescue Alert system as concern grows for a three-year-old boy missing in Edinburgh.

'Race hate' campaign in east Belfast

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:24
The police say a small group of people is behind an organised campaign of attacks against ethnic minorities in east Belfast, after three houses were damaged overnight.

Quadruple a matter of time - Kompany

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:18
Captain Vincent Kompany backs Manchester City to complete an unprecedented quadruple of trophies before long.

Trial told of 'unanswered questions'

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:16
The trial of a man accused burying his mother in a shallow grave is told there would always be unanswered questions over the case.

Murder accused 'flipped' after row

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:14
A man tells his girlfriend "will you just die" after stabbing her 40 times and waiting for around five hours before calling 999, a jury is told.

Deadly bomb blast in Colombian town

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-16 10:14
A bomb blast kills at least one person in western Colombia, a day after Farc rebels said their unilateral ceasefire had come to an end.

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