National / International News

Man admits 'frenzied' knife murder

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 04:23
A man is facing a life sentence for murdering his friend's father in a frenzied knife attack at the victim's Clydebank flat.

As Korean Ferry Sank, Some Crew Members Fought To Save Lives

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 04:05

Although the captain and some of the officers have been called cowards or worse, passengers say other crew members acted heroically. At least seven crew members died or are missing.

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Godolphin doping scandal - one year on

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 04:04
Which questions remain unanswered 12 months after one of the biggest doping scandals in British horse racing history?

VIDEO: Leopard leaps through roof

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:58
A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur in India on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

Arrest over sailing club blaze

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:46
A man is arrested after a sailing club in Hampshire catches fire when a car crashes into the building.

1,000 fish killed in Tyrone river

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:42
About 1,000 fish, mostly trout, are found dead in the Oona River in Dungannon, County Tyrone.

A brief history of the credit score

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:42

Numbers are fundamentally utilitarian. They tell us about the economic world around us; both the big, broad economic world, and our own little slices of it.

Sure, the unemployment rate and GDP are important. But on a personal level, few numbers are as significant as the credit score. It’s one of the building blocks of the consumer economy.  “It’s immensely important,” says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert from creditsesame.com, “it controls everything from the terms and interest rates on loans, your access to mainstream loans, what you pay for insurance premiums.”

It’s not overblown, he says, to call the credit score the most important financial metric that we live with.

Some employers look at credit scores to decide between job candidates.  Some potential partners look at credit scores to decide between dates.  

There's even a dating service that offers to match you up based on credit scores.  

800-850 is "MARRIAGE POTENTIAL DING DING DING"750-800 is "take him/her home to Mom"700-750 is a "fixer-upper"650-700 is "fun for a night out, maybe, but bring cash"600-650 is "keep lookin'!"anything below 500 is "RUN because they won't even get a car loan, probably, and how embarrassing will that be at the PTA meetings?"200 is "this person is just pulling your leg and is really royalty"

 But it wasn’t that long ago that the credit score we know today, the FICO score, didn’t exist.   The first general-purpose FICO score came along in 1989, only 25 years ago. 

Highlights from the history of the FICO credit score

  • 1958: FICO sends letter to the 50 biggest American credit grantors, asking for the opportunity to explain a new concept: credit scoring. Only one replies.
  • 1970: Congress passes the Fair Credit Reporting Act, encouraging privacy and accuracy in credit reporting
  • 1975: FICO develops first behavior scoring system to predict credit risk of existing customers, for Wells Fargo.
  • 1989: First general-purpose FICO score debuts.
  • 2003: Congress enacts the  "Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003", which includes the right to free credit reports every year.
  • 2014: FICO claims its scores are used in more than 90% of lending decisions.

Before the FICO score came along, lenders did what they could to determine credit worthiness.  Not all of it good.  According to Frontline:

Credit reporting was born more than 100 ago, when small retail merchants banded together to trade financial information about their customers. The merchant associations then turned into small credit bureaus, which later consolidated into larger ones with the advent of computerization.

By the 1960s, controversy surfaced over the CRAs, according to Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center. Hoofnagle says the credit reports were being used to deny services and opportunities, and individuals had no right to see what was in their files. In addition, CRAs back then reported only negative financial information as well as "lifestyle" information culled from newspapers and other sources -- information such as sexual orientation, drinking habits, and cleanliness.

Many times, getting a loan was about having the right personal relationships. “You almost always did business with a banker who was a friend of the family, or someone with whom you'd golfed, or someone with whom your parents worked, or you went to church with, or were in rotary club with,” said Ulzheimer. “They would make a decision largely on a gut feel.”

It was a system of credit that left a lot of people out of the credit market based on gender, race, nationality and marital status.  

Airbnb in court over housing laws

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:25
Airbnb, the website that lets people rent their homes to holidaymakers, is to appear at the Supreme Court in New York.

Men sue uni saying 'woman paid more'

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:24
Eighteen men sue the University of Wales Trinity Saint David claiming they are paid less than female colleagues.

Introducing A Divorce Rate For Birds, And Guess Which Bird Never, Ever Divorces?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:10

A pair of swans suggests Love Eternal. You often see them in twos, gliding together. But they're not Nature's Coupliest Birds. Which are?

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In pictures: Rural murals

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:03
Huge murals in Dumfries and Galloway

Wheel Well Stowaway Was 'Runaway Kid With A Bad Idea'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 03:00

The California teen "ran for the nearest plane," according to the FBI. He ended up riding for 5 1/2 hours to Hawaii, and luckily survived the thin air and freezing temperatures.

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Earth day is middle aged. Is it over the hill?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:52

Graphic by Shea Huffman/Marketplace

Earth day, at 44, may be a little tired. The United Nations continues to report that the urgency of fighting climate change, for instance, should be red hot. But polling from Gallup shows that fewer people say they worry about it "a great deal" than at any time since 1998, when Gallup started asking the question. 

Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, says there's a trend that the top-line numbers don't show: The people who have moved from saying they're concerned about the environment to saying "not-so-much" are Republicans.

"So clearly the fact that this has become a political football has kept the overall concern numbers down," he says. "You’ve got a lot of conservatives and Republicans who say that it's exaggerated, and the concern and alarm are not nearly as high as Democrats say they are."

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, doesn’t think that polarization will last. He cites numbers from a poll commissioned by the Sierra Club, showing that young voters want action on climate change.

"To me, that says you’re going to see a return to bipartisan solutions on this issue sometime soon," Krupp says. "Because for either political party to have a future, they’re going to have to address this overwhelming challenge."

Malta criticised for mass bird shoot

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:51
A leading British naturalist accuses Malta of failing to prevent large-scale illegal shooting of migratory birds by hunters.

Supreme Court Case Could Change How You Watch TV

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:51

Aereo offers consumers in 11 cities a cheap way to watch local stations that deliver network TV shows. The networks contend that Aereo uses a gimmick to thwart the economic vitality of their business.

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Is Abenomics working? Depends on who you ask.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:43

Shinzo Abe came to power in December of 2012 with a strategy he called "the three arrows." Everyone else in the world has taken to calling it "Abe-nomics." Roughly approximated, you might call it: Inflate, stimulate, and deregulate. 

How's it working? Depends who you ask. 

Inflate: Fighting the deflationary monster

Deflation, or the threat of deflation, has stalked Japan for nearly 20 years. Deflation is poison for economic growth. Consumers put off today's spending because things will be cheaper tomorrow, wages don't rise, and both of those things reinforce future deflation. 

Abe appointed a new Central Bank president, Haruhiko Kuroda, and they went to town on the money supply and interest rates. They proclaimed a goal of doubling the monetary base and achieving inflation of 2 percent within two years, says Georgetown University's Arthur Alexander: "It was like a 222 program, very easy to sell, bumper sticker type of policy."

Some results were immediate. 

Longer term bond yields rose as people began to expect inflation and demand protection against it.  

"The new approach was also reflected in the exchange rate," says Stanford University's Takeo Hoshi. "It depreciated between 20 and 30 percent in the last year and a half," again reflecting people's expectation that inflation would at some point make the Yen less attractive – a good sign if you are trying to break the back of deflation.

Finally, inflation as measured by consumer price indices eventually rose above 1 percent. Japan may not get to the 2 percent Abe would like, but it’s certainly better than a zero or negative number.

Stimulate!

Abe has put forth a major stimulus package, but that, plus the ongoing expense of rebuilding after the Fukushima disaster, has resulted in a government debt of 227 percent of GDP. The country’s fiscal situation was problematic to begin with, and this has made some Japanese even more concerned.  

"People are seriously divided," says Ulrika Schaeda, who teaches Japanese business at the University of California, San Diego. It's reminiscent of the debates over government spending here.

A value added tax was introduced on April 1, but opinion is mixed as to whether it is sufficient to stabilize Japan's fiscal situation.

Deregulate: structural reform and the Big Picture

"The verdict on Abenomics will depend on whether or not they do the structural reforms," says Anil Kashyup, professor of Finance at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. The structural reforms are the big picture problems.

"There's all kinds of frictions that make Japan an unappealing place to do business," says Kashyup. Starting a business, getting hired full time, even finding childcare is hard in Japan. 

Some parts of Japan's economy are subsidized, protected, and unproductive says Kashyup.

"Rice in Japan is seven times the price on the world market," says Arthur Alexander, adjunct professor at Georgetown University. It appeared for a time that some headway was being made on opening Japan up to more international trade and a more vibrant retail sector, "but domestic politics seems to have reared its ugly head," Alexander says, referring to a cooling in negotiations between the U.S. and Japan over the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

This is the most difficult of Abe's arrows to guide, and it's what Japan watchers will be following closely. So in some ways Japan has changed a lot in a year.

The question is, will it keep changing?

Royals welcomed at Aboriginal site

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:41
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are presented with a traditional Aboriginal spear as they visit the sacred site of Uluru during their tour of Australia.

Breakfast TV pay 'deters' viewers

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:37
Former TV-am host Nick Owen says viewers are alienated by reports of presenters' high salaries, as Susanna Reid prepares to launch Good Morning Britain on ITV.

Sherpas base salary is about $2,000

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:36

Update, April 22, 8:15 am ET: Mt. Everest's Sherpa guides decided late Tuesday to abandon the rest of the climing season, according to AFP. The decision came after a meeting with government officials in Nepal over insurance and financial aid for victims of last Friday's avalanche on the mountain that killed 13 people. 

Original story, April 22, 7:00 am ET: Sherpa mountaineers believe insurance and financial aid for families of victims is inadequate. The minimum insurance policy for the guides pays a death benefit of about $10,000 and the Nepalese government has announced a special payment of $415 to families in the wake of a tragedy. Average per capital income in Nepal is about $645 a year.

The sherpas who climb Mount Everest above the base camp, which is where the danger begins, make a base salary of about $2,000. But their pay is also determined by a bonus sytem for delivering loads to various camps. If they make the summit, they are paid $250 the first time. And every additional summit is worth $500, according to Conrad Anker, the world-renowned mountaineer who has scaled Everest several times.

"A good sherpa can earn between $4,000 to $6,000 in pay in one season," says Anker. "But it is extremely dangerous work."

Anker says the economics in Nepal, outside of the climbing season, is mostly subsistence agriculture. 

 

Pay probe council bosses in court

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 02:33
Three top managers from Caerphilly council appear in court following a police investigation into pay rises given to senior staff.
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