National / International News

Zimbabwe team arrive in Pakistan

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 02:14
Zimbabwe's national cricket team is in Pakistan, the first Test-playing nation to visit the country since a deadly 2009 militant attack.

Newlove killer's appeal rejected

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 02:05
A man who kicked to death father-of-three Garry Newlove outside his Warrington home in 2007 loses a bid to have his sentence cut.

The Congressional Budget Office: staying above the fray

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-19 02:00

Keith Hall, director of the Congressional Budget Office, will offer his first Senate testimony Tuesday since taking the helm of the nonpartisan agency in early April. It’s also the first oversight hearings for CBO in over three decades, according to the Senate Budget Committee.

The primary focus will be the agency’s 2016 budget, drafted under Hall’s predecessor.

While Congress often uses a director’s testimony to question the assumptions and findings of CBO reports, the agency refrains from offering policy recommendations, says Phil Joyce, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland.

“I heard someone at CBO say once, 'If you ask us how much something costs, we’ll tell you how much it costs. If you ask us whether it’s a good idea, we’ll tell you how much it costs,'” he says.

In fact, Joyce says it’s often members of the director’s own party who are most disappointed with the agency’s reports.

“It’s very much like being the referee in a college basketball game,” agrees Douglas Holtz-Eakin , who led the CBO from 2003 to 2005 and is now president of the conservative think tank American Action Forum. “There’s always a coach standing on the sidelines screaming at the referee, and it’s not usually over the call the referee just made. It’s over the next call. 'Can we soften him up for the next call?'”

Swatting: not a new phenomenon, but the cost is rising

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-19 02:00

By now, a lot of video gamers and law enforcement officers are familiar with this bit of viral video. It's professional Video Gamer Jordan Matthewson, a.k.a. Kootra, doing what pro gamers like him do: Broadcasting his game play to viewers from his offices in Littleton, Colorado. In the middle of tactical movements with his teammates online, Matthewson is interrupted by sounds of police activity down the hall in real life. Moments later, he's forced to the ground by members of a real live SWAT team.


Matthewson was the victim of a prank called swatting. It's been around for decades, and it works like this: A prankster calls an emergency hotline claiming to be at the scene of a hostage situation—sometimes the perpetrator of said hostage situation—sending police and other first responders to an address, weapons and gurneys at the ready. But the prankster isn't actually at the location, and instead law enforcement surprises unsuspecting targets at the address.

For hackers, new technology is making swatting both easier to pull off and more attractive. The rise of live-streaming video games and other content online means the potential audience for swatting has gone from a few targets and the people sent to check up on them to thousands or tens of thousands.

For emergency call centers, fighting swatting or distributed denial of service attacks is a perennial cost. Christopher Carver is a director at the National Emergency Number Association in Virginia. He says that the process of updating emergency call center systems has a price tag in the "billions." These days, a 911 dispatcher can see caller ID and location information in a matter of seconds. But now that a majority of calls can come in from smartphones or over online services like Skype or Google Voice, there are also more tools to "spoof" the location of a call.

Spoofing is a hacker method that is used in lots of different ways. Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer at the security firm ThreatMetrix, says it's one of the most common tools for hackers to take your identity. Swatting attacks from British Columbia to Florida have been made possible in part thanks to the use of spoofing.

Last month in the city of Rochester New York, Lieutenant Aaron Springer and his 30-member SWAT team got a taste. They raced to a residential building where there was actually no hostage situation. How much did swatting set his department back?

"My guys? Maybe fifteen hundred bucks, maybe three thousand dollars," he says. When you add 30 more officers sent to the scene to direct traffic, the fire department, an ambulance, and multiple department chiefs, Lieutenant Springer ballparks the total cost closer to $15,000.

Springer says swatting doesn't happen often enough to make a big change to operations—the last occurrence was several years ago—but the growing costs to law enforcement and emergency services helped inspire New York Senator Chuck Schumer to introduce a piece of legislation that would carry stricter punishments for swatting.

Lieutenant Springer is worried about a different cost; that he'll hesitate the next time his team gets a call, in a scenario when every second counts.

Wal-Mart reports results after hiking workers' pay

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-19 02:00

Wal-Mart announces its first quarter results Tuesday. There’s been a lot of buzz about the world’s biggest retailer bumping up wages. Earlier this year, CEO Doug McMillon announced the company would raise starting pay to at least $9 an hour, effective last  last month, and at least $10 an hour starting next year.

Sure, paying employees more comes with a cost—An estimated $1 billion. But Wal-Mart is taking the long view here, says University of California, Berkeley economics professor Enrico Moretti.

“First of all, they’re going to have lower turnover cost, and probably they’re going to be able to attract a better pool of workers,” Moretti says.

The downside: it’ll probably be at least several months before the benefits start to really sink in.

Still, cutting turnover is smart for a company like Wal-Mart, says Neil Stern, senior partner with retail consulting firm McMillan Doolittle. “Turnover is a huge cost for retailers,” he says.

Stern says it costs money to look for replacements, to hire, and to train new workers. And that cuts into profits.

Increasing pay is fine, Stern says, but other things also matter when you’re trying to retain workers; like promotion opportunities and how much fun you have on the job.


The bite is worse than the bark

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-05-19 01:59
$5.8 trillion

That's the size of the market for administering 401(k)s. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that employees have the right to sue employers if they find a lack of due diligence in combating high management fees on their 401(k). Most don't tend to notice the 1 or 2 percent fees, but as the LA Times points out, that can add up over the span of a career.

30 percent

That's the commission Uber is collecting from some new drivers, testing a tiered system in which partners work up to keeping 80 percent of their fares after giving 40 rides each week. This would be Uber's highest commission yet, and Forbes notes in the competitive ride-sharing space companies like Uber and Lyft frequently tweak commissions to stay competitive.

5,767 times

That's how many times postal workers were bitten by dogs last year, according to new statistics. That's up almost 200 bites from last year. So in this case, the bite is actually worse than the bark.


That's the portion of Target's $73 billion in revenue that comes from groceries, the Wall Street Journal reported. The retailer is changing its approach to food, stocking more organic and specialty items, downplaying processed, packaged offerings.


That's how much Lieutenant Aaron Springer of Rochester, New York, estimates was spent on a single SWAT team response to an emergency call. The problem? The call was a fake. In a prank known as swatting, a fake call is placed to an emergency hotline, often with claims of a hostage situation. As video gamers who stream themselves live online have become more popular, so has the practice of swatting them to see the ensuing chaos. But aside from creating a dangerous situation, the practice is also causing police departments more and more money.

2.75 million

That's about how many Republican voters from the 2012 election will be dead by November 2016, about 453,000 more those who voted Democratic. That's according to a back-of-the-envelope analysis from Politico, which reports that the GOP could be at a real disadvantage if it can't gather younger voters.

Union calls for online strike ballots

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 01:37
Turnout in strike ballots would "rocket" if people were allowed to vote electronically or by phone, a union leader says.

Deflation: Are we really there yet?

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 01:34
Official figures show that the value of that pound in your pocket is actually increasing. But is that necessarily good news?

'Gay cake row' bakery guilty

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 01:33
A Christian-run bakery is found guilty of discriminating against a gay customer over its refusal to make a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

Ennis-Hill fit to compete in Gotzis

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 01:08
Jessica Ennis-Hill says she is fit to compete in her first heptathlon since becoming Olympic champion in 2012.

Rail union asked to cancel strike

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 01:07
Network Rail asks the TSSA rail union to withdraw notice of industrial action on bank holiday Monday, saying there are "numerous defects" in its ballot.

France teachers strike over reforms

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:54
Teachers across France go on strike against the government's proposed education reforms, including devoting less time to Latin and Greek.

Langer out of England contention

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:43
Justin Langer opts to stay with Western Australia despite being approached about the England coaching job.

IS militants tighten grip on Ramadi

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:35
Residents in Ramadi describe Islamic State militants flushing out opponents as they cement their hold on the Iraqi city captured at the weekend.

Trident sailor hands himself in

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:35
A Royal Navy submariner who criticised Trident nuclear submarine safety procedures hands himself in to police on his return to the UK.

UK inflation rate turns negative

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:31
Inflation measured by Consumer Prices Index fell to -0.1% in April, down from 0% in March, official figures show

'True face of Shakespeare' revealed

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:30
A 400-year-old botany book contains what could be the only known portrait of William Shakespeare made in his lifetime, according to an academic expert.

Sterling should stay, says Barnes

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:27
Raheem Sterling will not be guaranteed first-team football if he leaves Liverpool, says former Reds winger John Barnes.

RNLI search for 'missing' passenger

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:25
Lifeboats from Donaghadee and Bangor are have been launched after reports of a missing passenger from a Irish Sea ferry

Bank wants an artist for £20 note

BBC - Tue, 2015-05-19 00:10
The image of a visual artist will appear on the next version of the £20 note - and the Bank of England wants the public to make nominations.