National / International News

VIDEO: Town puts up Christmas tree in April

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:33
A town with one of the "worst" festive displays in Britain is to switch on its new tree eight months before Christmas.

SEC Rule Would Link Executive Pay To Performance

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:33

The rule, which grew out of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill, would make it easier for shareholders to see whether salaries are in line with a company's financial performance.

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Japan's Abe Pushes The Pacific Trade Deal Onto Center Stage

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:01

The Japanese prime minister used his time in the spotlight in Washington to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying it would create both prosperity and peace. Democrats remain skeptical.

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GDP suffers what's becoming a seasonal slowdown

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

Growth of the U.S. gross domestic product, a broad measure of the economy, ground almost to a halt in the first three months of the year, growing just 0.2 percent, even lower than expected.

A number of temporary factors, economists and analysts say, account for the first quarter slowdown, including: a West Coast port slowdown that caused a backlog of exports, a slowdown in exports themselves due to a strong dollar, and reduced consumer spending, which might be at least partly accounted for by a second year of bad winter weather.

"Spending on mining, exploration and wells, a.k.a energy, is down 48.7 percent — that is a big number," says Guy Lebas of Janney Montgomery Scott. The reason for that is oil prices. They are down, and so is investment in that sector.

Weather is another big culprit for slowing GDP growth, Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics says. "The weather was unusually severe this winter, as it was last year, so that's part of what's happening," he says.

Bad weather affected consumer spending, which grew 1.9 percent in the first quarter, compared to the previous quarter's 4.4 percent growth.

But the effects of winter weather, aside from unusually severe weather, are supposed to be accounted for in the GDP numbers, says Justin Wolfers, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"Government statisticians actually seasonally adjust the data," Wolfers says.

Wolfers examined that adjustment of the last 30 years, and found a pattern. "The estimate of GDP growth in the first quarter has consistently been lower than on all the other quarters," he says, adding that could mean the seasonal adjustment is off.

Statisticians haven't significantly changed the seasonal adjustment algorithm (although they've tweaked it) in decades, he says. In fact, Wolfers says there is a lot more consistency in yearly GDP numbers.

"The yearly numbers have been remarkably consistent," he says. "They've suggested that this is an economy that keeps growing."

Jim O'Sullivan says to put the first-quarter GDP numbers in context, he is also watching jobless claims. "Over time, if there is significant slowing in the trend in GDP, invariably you see an uptrend in claims." So far, he says, such an uptrend has not occurred.

Warren Buffett serenades shareholders

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

Two things: one, the rich really are different. And two, Coca-Cola had its annual shareholder meeting today.

At the meeting, a Coke shareholder named Warren Buffett sang the soda giant's jingle "I'd like to Buy the World a Coke" while playing the ukulele, which you can watch below:    

How great is that? Buffett was piped in via video, by the way—he wasn't live.

Buffett's own annual shareholder meeting for his holding company Berkshire Hathaway is this weekend in Omaha.

Get this: 50,000 are expected to show up. Oracle of Omaha, indeed. 

My First Job: Junior Journalist

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

Sometimes it takes a few years — or even a few decades — to figure out what you want to do.

But deciding on a career was never really a problem for Richard Stolley, who got his first job as a journalist at the age of 15 and would go on to become a founding editor of People magazine.

During World War II, a friend of Stolley’s joined the Navy. His job — sports editor at the Pekin Daily Times — would be left vacant. So the newly enlisted friend asked if Stolley was interested in the position.

“Of course, not knowing any better, I said I would be very interested,” Stolley says.

Stolley was tasked with filling stories and editing the sports section, but he also got to read news about the war well before most Americans.

“This was during WWII and a lot of unusual things were taking place,” Stolley says.

The day before the invasion of Normandy, the Pekin Daily Times’ teletype received an alert that a major news break was coming.

“I felt very privileged that a 15, 16-year-old could walk over to the teletype and find out things about WWII that almost nobody else in the world knew,” Stolley says. “Pretty heady stuff.”

Stolley remembers the excitement of hearing the presses turn on every afternoon. The roar resonating from the basement of the newspaper offices invigorated him too.

“I had this feeling, well, whatever I wrote is going out to 15,000 readers — can’t call it back now,” Stolley says.

For Stolley, his first job was more than just a paycheck. It set the tone for his entire career.

“I mean, it cemented my life,” Stolley says. “There was no way after working as a professional journalist at the age of 15 that I was ever going to want to do anything else.”

Baltimore and the cost of rioting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

Residents of Baltimore are still cleaning up from Monday’s riots. The unrest came at the start of the tourism and convention season, and just after Baltimore had just launched a new ad campaign earlier in the month, featuring celebrities like baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.

Now, Visit Baltimore, which handles the city’s tourism and convention marketing, is pulling the new ad campaign. They're working on a different message, reassuring tourists they’ll be safe.

“And the second thing we want is to make sure they understand the city’s in great shape,” says Visit Baltimore CEO Tom Noonan.

But that could be a hard sell. Two conventions scheduled for this week in Baltimore were cancelled, and the city’s 10 p.m. curfew is scheduled to stretch into next week. Restaurants and bars have already taken a hit, and things will just get worse because they'll have to close early this weekend.

“Especially for the waiters and waitresses and bar staff who rely on tips. That’s like having probably two thirds of your income just reduced overnight," says Bernard Lyons, bar manager at Bertha’s, in Baltimore’s touristy Fell’s Point neighborhood.

And the economic damage from a riot can last a long time — just ask Los Angeles. Of course, its 1992 riots dragged on and Baltimore’s only lasted about a day, but still, the city's economy is suffering. And outside aid isn't likely to pour in, like it does when a community is hit by a natural disaster.

“It’s almost as if people are saying you fouled your nest, you fix it,” says Rob Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College who co-authored a study that says the losses from LA's riots totaled at least $3.8 billion.

SEC wants clarity on CEO pay vs. company performance

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

CEO pay is one of those issues that really gets people's blood boiling. That's especially true since the financial crisis. CEOs of big banks take home millions, even though, in several cases, their companies tanked and nearly took our economy with them.

One piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010 was supposed to address that. It said investors should have better information about publicly traded companies and how executive pay relates to corporate performance.

Five years on, the SEC is proposing new rules to actually make that happen.

But publicly traded companies already have to disclose what their top executives make. Peter Crist, chairman of Crist Kolder Associates, says investors can usually work out how a CEO’s pay relates to a company’s performance from information it already sends to shareholders.

The SEC knows this, of course: it just wants companies to preset that information in a uniform way that investors can easily understand.

That might sound simple enough, but Stanford professor David Larcker says standardization can be a headache.  Executives are often compensated with stock options that stretch over years, and could vary widely in value over that time. The SEC now wants companies to count that money only once the options vest.

Measuring a company’s performance can also be tricky, says Nora McCord, the managing director of Steven Hall & Partners, an executive compensation consulting firm. She says metrics such as total shareholder returns don't necessarily give a complete picture of how a company is doing.

But the SEC is determined to make these changes happen. It says it hopes these measures will improve transparency and make investors better informed when they vote on executive compensation.

Can you trace the way CEO pay corresponds to performance? We looked at a couple companies to see.

Tony Wagner and Raghu Manavalan/Marketplace

Bernanke passes through the 'revolving door'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

Ben Bernanke has a new job at Pimco, the private investment management firm headquartered in Newport Beach, California. Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve Chairman, will serve as an adviser, a role he also holds at Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel LLC.

But why doesn’t moving from a regulatory organization like the Fed to a private organization like Pimco account for a conflict of interest?

Well, Bernanke’s new job is perfectly legal, because, as Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch says, “The Federal Reserve regulates banks and neither Pimco nor Citadel are banks.”

What tasks will Bernanke likely take up at his private sector gigs?

“He’s managed to lock himself into a situation where he’s going to be, basically, making speeches at luncheons for Citadel and Pimco,” Hirsch says. 

Bernanke’s move into the private sector might be characterized as just another example of the “revolving door” between government and Wall Street, but it’s nothing new.

“It’s business as usual,” Hirsch says. “Alan Greenspan did it… he actually became a consultant at Pimco. As long as it doesn’t cause a conflict of interest, I don’t really see there’s that much wrong with it.” 

Build 2015: We should all be 'failing' like Microsoft

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-29 13:00

Silicon Valley developers gathered for a conference on Wednesday. Energy was high, and when tickets went on sale, they sold out in under an hour.

And no, it was not hosted by Apple. 

"It definitely seems like it would be the least interesting tech event of possibly the entire year, but Microsoft is having a little bit of a prom king moment," says Marketplace tech correspondent Molly Wood. 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduced the company's new operating system, Windows 10, at its Build 2015 conference. For those keeping score, there is no Windows 9, perhaps to avoid any association with Windows 8, which, as Wood put it, "bombed." 

Windows 10 will run across Microsoft devices: desktop computers, laptops, the Windows phone, tablets — even the XBox. 

The conference was intended to stoke excitement among developers to build apps using Windows 10, even though sales of Windows phones have largely been disappointing. The prom king moment was brought to you by Nadella, who took over from longtime CEO Steve Ballmer in 2014. 

"Microsoft, for a long time, has had this problem where it was very divided," Wood says. "So even though they've been promising a unified Windows experience for at least a decade, it seems like Satya Nadella is actually breaking down the walls." 

Beyond Windows, the most excitement today came from a new augmented reality headset the company is calling HoloLens — "Microsoft's sort of new, cool attempt to be future-sexy," Wood called it. "Augmented reality headsets are almost like the next step after virtual reality because they project images onto the real world."

One demonstration of HoloLens showed medical students examining holograms of cadavers, looking at broken bones and beating hearts. 


Despite Microsoft's reputation as being generally lackluster compared with shiny consumer offerings from Apple and Google, it's still wildly profitable. It's worth $400 billion and has annual revenue of $93 million. 

"We should all be 'failing' like the rumors of Microsoft failing," Wood says. 

The real strength of its business, what Nadella spent 90 minutes discussing at Build 2015, is Microsoft's cloud offerings. 

"Most of that [revenue], is on those cloud services that Amazon just announced it makes so much money on," she says. "And so, even if Windows 10 and Windows Phone don't totally take off, they're still going to be okay."

Scottish Sun backs the SNP

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:59
The Scottish Sun newspaper has announced its backing for the SNP ahead of the General Election vote on 7 May.

UN launches Nepal earthquake appeal

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:42
The UN launches a $415m appeal for survivors of the Nepal earthquake, as frustration mounts at the pace of relief efforts.

Leicester City 1-3 Chelsea

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:40
Chelsea fight back to beat in-form Leicester and are now just one win away from the Premier League title.

When You Make Kids' Meals Healthier By Default, They Still Eat 'Em Up

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:29

When a restaurant chain revamped its kids' menu, making items like strawberries and salad the default sides instead of fries, it improved the healthfulness of meals ordered — by a lot, a study finds.

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Rubella eradicated from Americas

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:24
North and South America become the first regions to completely eradicate rubella, or German measles, after no cases in five years

Jobs event for Tullis Russell staff

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:22
Staff made redundant when a Fife paper-making firm went into administration have the opportunity to meet employers interested in recruiting next week.

Tumour memoir wins £30,000 book prize

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:18
A memoir written by the wife of an art critic who died of a brain tumour wins a £30,000 prize for new books about medicine, health or illness.

VIDEO: Historic Clandon House up in flames

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:17
Dozens of fire-fighters are tackling a large blaze at Clandon Park House, a stately home in Surrey.

Quake Briton tells of narrow escape

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:08
A British survivor of the earthquake in Nepal speaks of his narrow escape from death, as he is reunited with his family in the UK.

California ramps up emissions fight

BBC - Wed, 2015-04-29 12:00
The US state of California has stepped up its attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by setting tough new targets for 2030.