National / International News

Rocket launch debris found in Amazon

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:56
A Brazilian fisherman in a remote Amazon region river finds debris from a European satellite launch from a base in neighbouring French Guyana.

Fossil fuel subsidies growing despite concerns

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:56
It's not just renewable energies that receive subsidies

Obamacare Enrollees Emboldened To Leave Jobs, Start Businesses

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:50

Some people who felt stuck in certain jobs, just because they needed the employment-based health insurance, say they are finding the Affordable Care Act liberating.

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VIDEO: Pro-Russia activists take Luhansk offices

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:47
Pro-Russia activists have stormed several official buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk.

Knox 'delivered fatal knife blow'

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:36
The Italian judges who reinstated the guilty verdict against Amanda Knox say she delivered the knife blow that killed UK student Meredith Kercher.

This is why I joined Real - Bale

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:32
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale says reaching the Champions League final shows why he swapped Tottenham for the Bernabeu.

Frontier Airlines will charge to use overhead bins

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:29

You've got your low cost airlines, and then you've got your ultra-low cost airlines.   Frontier has a new pricing structure. Base fares are going down. But if you want to use the overhead bin, it'l be $20 for frequent fliers who book online, and $50 for those who wait until they get to the gate.   That space at your feet under the seat in front of you: Still free... for now.  

Two people killed in house blaze

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:16
Two people are killed in a house blaze in Garforth, near Leeds.

Ronaldo breaks Messi goals record

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 14:03
Cristiano Ronaldo claims the record for the most goals in a Champions League campaign in Real Madrid's victory over Bayern.

A swift punishment, but is it a just one?

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:59
The debate over the banning of LA Clippers' Donald Sterling

In The City Of Love, There's No Love Lost For Tourists' Love Locks

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:42

Lovebirds write their names on a padlock, attach it to something and toss the key. Sweet, right? Non, say opponents in Paris who want to ban a practice they say is damaging architecture and more.

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In The City Of Love, There's No Love Lost For Tourists' Love Locks

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:42

Lovebirds write their names on a padlock, lock it to something and toss the key. Sweet, right? Non, say opponents in Paris who want to ban a practice they say is damaging architecture and more.

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Yahoo's making content of its own

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:41

Original online content is still in its infancy, but boy, is it a crowded crib.

Beyond the TV and the movie screen, there's YouTube, Netflix, HBO GO, Vimeo, Vice, Vevo and Hulu -- and now there's Yahoo, too. 

Courtesy of a new deal with Live Nation, Yahoo will air live concerts every day starting this summer. It'll also offer two new comedy series: "Other Space," a so-called galactic adventure set a hundred years from now, and "Sin City Saints," about a fictional pro basketball team. Yahoo is getting into this business because video ads command much higher prices than typical banners and popup ads, but it's a costly strategy.

Whether it pays off ultimately depends on how good the shows are, how much visibility they get and how well they're marketed to the public. Otherwise, they risk sinking without trace.  

A Texas-sized bankruptcy for giant Texas energy deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:39

Texas was dealt a blow by the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, via a ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency can order states to cut down on emissions if those emissions are drifting over to neighboring states.

Texas has the highest CO2 emissions of any state in the country. Texas also consumes the most energy, which brings us to the second major blow dealt to Texas: The state’s largest electricity provider, Energy Future Holdings Corp., filed for bankruptcy.

In 2007, Goldman Sachs and private equity firms acquired TXU for $45 billion, making it the biggest leveraged buyout ever. There were lots of reasons to believe that owning the largest provider of electricity in the largest state in the continental U.S. had lots of potential for growth, so private equity firms loaded the company -- renamed "Energy Future" -- with debt.

“The problems, of course, are when the business becomes less valuable, or there are meaningful hiccups,” says Peter Cowan, managing director of Clear Capital Advisors.

Those meaningful hiccups can be caused by a larger economic downturn, or from changes within the industry. In this case it was both. The 2008 recession caused an overall decline in energy use. And then came the fracking boom, which drove the price of natural gas down, along with the utility’s profits. When Energy Future filed for bankruptcy today, its total assets were $36.4 billion. Its debt was nearly $50 billion. 

Barbarians at the Gate and the other largest LBO that you might have heard of 

by Tobin Low

It was the largest buyout in U.S. history. At the time, the 2007 purchase of Energy Future Holdings for $45 billion was called that.

But credited with creating the LBO environment of the next 20 years, the 1989 purchase of Nabisco was both contentious and dramatic. The food company sold for $31.1 billion at the time, and when adjusted for inflation, the sale price is closer to $55.38 billion. With the adjusted price of Energy Future coming in at around $47.23 billion, Nabisco's sale wins by almost $7 billion.

Plus, as dramatic as Energy Future's end may be, Nabisco's LBO started out with a bidding war that has since been immortalized in book and on screen. F. Ross Johnson, then executive of the company, partnered with with a buyout firm to attempt an in-house purchase of the company. Enter Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company (also involved in Energy Future's purchase). KKR started a bidding war that continued to hike the price of Nabisco higher and higher. At the end of the day, Johnson lost out, and ultimately left the company. 

To this day, it is still considered to be "one of the most game-changing deal in American financial history."

How Donald Sterling won 'humanitarian' awards

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:37

Among the sanctions NBA Commissioner Adam Silver loaded on Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald T. Sterling today for what can charitably be described as Sterling's racist remarks, was a lifetime ban from the NBA, and a $2.5 million fine. The NBA will donate the money to organizations that "promote anti-discrimination and tolerance."

Those groups, though, have actually already gotten a fair amount of money from Sterling and his charitable foundations. This comes as no surprise if you live in Los Angeles and still read the newspaper. The Los Angeles Times periodically prints giant ads that Donald Sterling designs himself, promoting his donations to, and awards from, all sorts of community groups.

Just this weekend he took one out celebrating his pledge to UCLA to support kidney research. (Today, UCLA rejected that pledge.) Past ads have celebrated Sterling's honors from the Black Business Association, and his first lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.

Sterling has "contributed to a lot of minority charities, including the NAACP," Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles NAACP chapter, said at a press conference on Monday, explaining why his chapter had planned to give Sterling another life time achievement award next month—a move they thought better of this week.

Sterling has been accused of racist behavior several times over the course of his career. But that shouldn't make his donations to groups that promote tolerance, or their celebration of his donations, all that surprising, says Rob Reich, co-director of Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

"Philanthropy has too frequently been a form of 'reputation laundering,'" Reich says, adding that using charitable gifts to "wash" one's reputation has a long history. Think: an oil company that gives a university money for a clean energy research center.

In the case of Sterling, he's known for small donations to dozens of community groups—a strategy that has the benefit of maintaining your social status in the local circles where you do business, Reich says. "Because one stands in actual relationships with people in the local area, the philanthropic donations one makes goes to sustain ones local relationships."

Regardless of Sterling's motivations, or his racist comments, Augustin Pantoja, the financial manager at Jefferson High School in south Los Angeles, is glad for Sterling's local charity.

"He's helping our community," Pantoja told me when I reached him by phone at the school, which has a largely black and Latino student body. Pantoja says he won't refuse the annual $5,000 that Sterling gives to help Jefferson students go to college, many of whom "have the capacity to further their education, but because of lack of money they don't pursue that."

"I'm a minority," Pantoja tells me, cautioning that he doesn't want to wade too deeply into the controversy around Sterling's comments. But, he says of Sterling's charity, "at least he's doing something."

UPDATED: After One Botched Execution, Oklahoma Stays A Second

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:37

The state was set to use a new combination of drugs, but the execution of Clayton D. Lockett failed. He died after the execution was aborted. The new drugs have been the subject of controversy.

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Mourinho attacks critics of style

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:32
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho criticises "philosophers" who have questioned his side's tactics in recent matches.

The economics of Korean pop

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:17

When you hear the term K-Pop, chances are Gangnam Style by Psy pops in your head. (Editors' note: And we're sorry, because it will now probably stay there all day.)

But there is so much more to K-Pop than Psy, and chances are you’ll soon start hearing more proof.

South Korea is now the 11th biggest music market in the world. The most recent figures show the country raked in over $187 million in 2012, and the three big companies behind K-Pop are making a big international push.

Mark James Russell is a music journalist living in Seoul. His new book “K-Pop Now! The Korean Music Revolution” outlines the explosion of Korean pop music in the 1990s, and chronicles the acts that have kept it growing for the past three decades.

Our first question to Russell: What exactly is K-Pop, anyway?

“There’s usually upbeat dance music, it’s very loud, it’s very flashy," he said. "To use the old Spinal Tap reference, this one goes up to 11, in Korea, they start at 11 and they go up from there.”

Russell says “Gangnam Style” isn’t exactly the best song to represent K-Pop as a whole, but its success showed South Korea that its music was exportable. The video for the song is the most viewed YouTube video of all time, closing in on 2 billion views. To Russell, that represents a shift in the American public’s view toward Asian culture.

“Asia occupies a strange mental place with people in the West. Some people think it’s exotic or weird or goofy. Often they’re laughing at it. But when people enjoyed “Gangnam Style”, it felt like they were laughing with it.”

Boy bands and girl bands called "idol groups" similar to The Backstreet Boys or The Spice Girls are the biggest sellers in Seoul. And Russell says Korean pop stars and super groups are not only expanding their reach over borders, but are actually starting to compete with other music markets before songs are even recorded.

“K-Pop from very early on was looking to get out of Korea. It was looking to become more international. So they brought in songwriters from other places. They buy a lot of music from Scandinavia. Universal Music Europe sells a lot of stuff to Korea...I’ve talked several times to the head of A&R (Artists & Repertoire) there... he has taken away songs from American artists and given them to K-Pop artists because he feels the right combination could be more profitable in Korea.”

Russell says Korea’s embrace of K-Pop doesn’t just show an evolving taste in music, it represents a political and economic turnaround for a country that just a few decades ago looked drab and isolated.

“It’s been a whole series of changes that go back quite a ways. From the rise of democracy and the Olympics in ’88 (to) the country just opening up, it’s become a much more lifestyle-oriented country. For many years people worked very long hours six days a week. But now people have more money and more free time, and they want to fill that time with fun things.” 

If You Want Flextime But Are Afraid To Ask, Consider Moving

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:15

In Vermont and San Francisco, the right of employees to ask for flexible work schedules is now enshrined in law. That doesn't mean, however, that employers are compelled to grant them.

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Ex-Tory Patrick Mercer resigns as MP

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-29 13:14
Ex-Tory MP Patrick Mercer resigns after being suspended from the Commons for six months, triggering a by-election in his Newark constituency.
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