National / International News

Rest in poverty?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:59

This is probably the grimmest indicator of Britain's growing inequality: There's been a striking rise in the number of paupers' funerals. 

To be fair, it is not a very precise indicator because the number of British people who cannot afford their own funeral and have to be buried or cremated at the state's expense is shrouded in secrecy.

Local authorities have a legal duty to dispose of the indigent dead – under the Public Health (Control of Disease ) Act - but they don't brag about the subject. In fact they have to be compelled by requests under the U.K.'s freedom of information law to divulge any details.

A series of these requests by the opposition Labour Party has revealed a disturbing trend: Over the past five years, the number of paupers' funerals (or Public Health Funerals as they are more decorously termed) has increased across the country by 35 percent to more than 3,000 a year. In southwest England, the number has doubled.

"It's becoming too expensive for the poor to die," says Dr. Kate Woodthrope, of the Death and Society Centre at Bath University. Woodthorpe is not entirely surprised by the secrecy surrounding this subject. "There is something Dickensian about this. And there is a Victorian legacy of shame about not being able to give someone a decent send-off."

Dr. Woodthorpe – a sociology lecturer - blames a number of factors for the increase in state-funded burials and cremations.

"The costs have been rising. A cremation now costs an average of around [$5,000] and much more for burial because of the shortage of land," she says. "That's too expensive for many poor people."

But she also says Britain's relatively high divorce and separation rates have led to families becoming more dispersed around the country, blurring the lines of responsibility for burying sometimes distant relatives. 

A pauper's funeral sounds like a desperately bleak affair. But Julie Dunk of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management says the service is not perfunctory; it's simple and dignified and although there is usually no memorial marking the grave, the the name of the deceased is always recorded in the cemetary register. And these state-funded funerals can be well attended.

"I once arranged a public health funeral for a homeless man," says Dunk. "And although there was no family or friends to pay for the service, he was such a well known figure in the local neighborhood, that more than hundred people turned up at the funeral to pay their respects."

 

Tesco to move sweets from checkouts

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:38
Tesco says it is to stop selling sweets and chocolates at all its checkouts in an effort to help customers make healthier choices.

Ex-tycoon warns on Russia sanctions

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:26
Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky says new sanctions risk playing into the hands of nationalists trying to isolate Moscow from the West.

'Computers affect ability to learn'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:21
A teaching union in Northern Ireland voices concern about the impact of modern technology on children's ability to learn at school.

VIDEO: The house that is heated by sea water

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:01
The National Trust is unveiling a new project on Thursday to suck heat from the sea to warm one of its historic homes in North Wales.

Russian 'fury' at Charles, and eBay security - front pages

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:00
Growing Russian anger at Prince Charles's comments about Vladimir Putin, and concerns about a hacking attack on online auction site eBay are among the stories on Thursday's front pages.

Sea's heat to warm historic house

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 20:49
One of the finest old mansions in Wales is making history with a new technology that sucks heat from sea water.

VIDEO: Dozens charged in US child porn raid

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 20:28
Special Agent in Charge James Hayes says a police officer, a rabbi and a nurse are among more than 70 people arrested in the US for allegedly sharing child pornography online.

One of two absconded prisoners found

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 19:52
One of two men who absconded from an open prison in Cheshire is found, police say.

More Thai talks amid martial law

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 19:49
Parties on both sides of Thailand's political divide are to meet for a second day of talks, as martial law continues in the protest-hit nation.

What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 18:04
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 21:00 ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) applauds during an agreement signing ceremony in Shanghai on May 21, 2014, with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller (C) and Chinese state energy giant CNPC Chairman Zhou Jiping (R) attending the ceremony. China and Russia signed today a monumental, multi-decade gas supply contract in Shanghai, CNPC said, with reports saying it could be worth as much as $400 billion.

In Shanghai Wednesday, China signed an historic deal with Russia's Gazprom, securing a 30-year natural gas supply for the country. Russia and China have been in discussions over building a pipeline to deliver gas from Siberia to China for more than a decade.

This was the perfect time for China to be at the bargaining table with Russia's Gazprom because of the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Russia's government is becoming increasingly nervous about its reliance on selling natural gas to Western Europe and the constant threat of isolation from the West. For Russia, this deal means a more diversified customer bas for its enormous gas supply. For China, the deal means 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year starting in 2018 – equal to a quarter of what China currently consumes each year –will be purchased to the tune of nearly $400 billion.

The deal reveals a future where Russia and China are much closer economic partners than they've been in the past.

China is buying so much natural gas through this deal that it could help Beijing in its efforts to clean up China's environment. Much of the air pollution in China is due to burning coal. Natural gas is cleaner burning, and it's likely Russian gas will be replacing some of China's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

China relies more and more on a diverse array of foreign countries for its energy, and the fact this is a 30-year deal will allow China's government to rest a little easier at night.

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday May 21, 2014Interview with Rob SchmitzPodcast Title What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas dealStory Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 18:00

In Shanghai Wednesday, China signed an historic deal with Russia's Gazprom, securing a 30-year natural gas supply for the country. Russia and China have been in discussions over building a pipeline to deliver gas from Siberia to China for more than a decade.

This was the perfect time for China to be at the bargaining table with Russia's Gazprom because of the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Russia's government is becoming increasingly nervous about its reliance on selling natural gas to Western Europe and the constant threat of isolation from the West. For Russia, this deal means a more diversified customer bas for its enormous gas supply. For China, the deal means 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year starting in 2018 – equal to a quarter of what China currently consumes each year –will be purchased to the tune of nearly $400 billion.

The deal reveals a future where Russia and China are much closer economic partners than they've been in the past.

China is buying so much natural gas through this deal that it could help Beijing in its efforts to clean up China's environment. Much of the air pollution in China is due to burning coal. Natural gas is cleaner burning, and it's likely Russian gas will be replacing some of China's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

China relies more and more on a diverse array of foreign countries for its energy, and the fact this is a 30-year deal will allow China's government to rest a little easier at night.

Loneliness: Beating the curse of old age

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 17:58
The scheme that aims to bring comfort to the lonely

Furore over 'sexist' opera critics

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 17:52
Stars of the opera world react angrily to a series of reviews criticising the weight of Glyndebourne singer Tara Erraught.

VIDEO: Matadors gored at Madrid festival

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 17:40
A major event in Madrid's bullfighting season has been cancelled after all three matadors were gored by bulls.

Tuareg rebels 'defeat Mali army'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 17:38
Tuareg rebels in Mali say they have defeated government forces in heavy fighting for control of the key northern town of Kidal.

TV drama revisits 'optimism' of 1996

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 17:19
If the 2008 crash was the end of an era, was 1996 the start?

One month's domestic violence death toll

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 17:06
Eight people who died because of domestic violence

VIDEO: Artist's paintings to go on display

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 16:56
Hundreds of sketches, paintings and letters belonging to the 18th Century painter Joseph Wright are to go on public display for the first time.

Forest carbon loss 'underestimated'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-21 16:54
The amount of carbon lost from tropical forests through degradation is being significantly underestimated according to a new study.
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