National / International News

Preventing Worker Burnout Can Boost The Bottom Line

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:12

Weary employees could need more than just time off to re-energize. Some employers have ditched the time cards, let workers set their own schedules or allow them to rotate jobs to prevent burnout.

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VIDEO: Tooth decay: 'We found out the hard way'

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:11
As a survey shows more than one in 10 three-year-olds have tooth decay, Waheed Ahmad describes how his daughter, Mariam, had to have teeth removed at the age of four.

Phelps 'arrested for drink driving'

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:09
US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has apologised after being arrested for speeding while driving under the influence of alcohol in Baltimore, Maryland.

'Brutal attack' broke soldier's neck

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:08
A soldier was "brutally" murdered by a comrade from the same barracks after a night out drinking, a court hears.

How One Chauffeur Took Down A Corrupt Brazilian Politician

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:08

Antonio Cavalcante helped get a candidate for governor barred after showing that the politician had embezzled millions of dollars while he was a state legislator.

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Ebola Researchers Have A Radical Idea: Rush A Vaccine Into The Field

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:08

Traditional methods for containing the Ebola outbreak aren't working fast enough. So some scientists want to bypass the typical trial phases and bring new vaccines directly to people at risk.

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'Human Flesh' Burger Is A Treat To Tempt The Walking Dead

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:04

In a stunt to promote the next season of the hit zombie show The Walking Dead, London chefs have concocted a burger inspired by human flesh. They're giving them away Tuesday at a pop-up restaurant.

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Excerpt: 'Law of the Jungle'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-30 12:03

Deep in the jungle of Ecuador, after a steep climb over the Andes and into the rainforest, oil executives struck gold. Well, more oil anyway. This was back in the 1960s. Texaco was drilling wells in Colombia and had reason to believe there was plenty more petroleum to the South. The boom that followed brought airports, roads, jobs and a middle class that hadn't really existed before in Ecuador.

But the oil company — Texaco then, now a part of Chevron — did everything fast and cheap.

Waste was dumped straight into unlined oil pits. Water used in oil production was left untreated on the surface of rivers. Although the Ecuadorian government noticed, no officials came from Quito to supervise.

The long-term damage to the community prompted an environmental lawsuit that lasted more than two decades. In the process, the pursuit of justice turned an initially well-intentioned lawyer named Steven Donziger into a green celebrity, and later, a Machiavellian figure.

Paul Barrett has documented the bad behavior all the way around, and wrote about it in his new book, "The Law of the Jungle." 

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Chapter One

SURVEILLANCE

The lawyer Steven Donziger stepped out onto 104th Street. He looked west toward Riverside Park and east toward Broadway. The dark sedans had been tailing him for at least a month now. They followed him for blocks at a time, slowing when he slowed, stop­ping when he stopped, their passengers watching his every move.

Donziger lived on a quiet block on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He worked from home, a two-bedroom apartment he shared with his wife, their five-year-old son, and a cocker spaniel. Photographs and artwork from Latin America adorned the apart­ment. Documents in cardboard boxes surrounded the dining table. In the narrow foyer, stacks of stapled legal filings competed for space with a mud-spattered mountain bike.

On this morning in the spring of 2012, Donziger had wheeled the bicycle down the hall to the elevator and across the marble-floored lobby. Fifty years old, he dressed like a graduate student, in jeans, unironed button-down shirt, and tattered jacket.

“Cómo estás?” he asked the doorman as they bumped fists.

“Bien, muy bien, señor.”

Then Donziger had emerged from the building and, as was his habit, searched for the dark sedans. Six-foot-four and powerfully built, he would not have been difficult to track. Sometimes, in ad­dition to the cars, he thought he saw men on foot, pretending to peer into store windows if he looked their way.

Donziger began pedaling toward Ocean Grill, a seafood res­taurant where he did business over lunch. As he approached the corner, he glanced over his shoulder in time to see the large car pull out of its parking space and fall in behind him. He didn’t fear actual physical harm. The company was too smart, he thought, to turn him into a martyr. It wanted to distract him, intimidate him.

He despised his corporate foes: their money, their influence, their cynical disrespect for his clients in the Amazonian rain for­est of northeastern Ecuador. The company would never willingly pay what it owed. Its lawyers and lobbyists had said as much. Now they were coming after him, making it personal. He’d written down license plate numbers, but the police weren’t interested. Every day people killed each other in New York. What did he expect the police to do about cars that might or might not have been following him?

The surveillance wasn’t his main worry. A year earlier, in Feb­ruary 2011, the company had sued him. The 193-page suit, filed under the federal antiracketeering statute, alleged that he had ginned up fraudulent evidence as part of a conspiracy to extort the company. A federal judge had taken the accusations seriously. The judge forced him to turn over his hard drives, e‑mail, and boxes of documents. Donziger had said some truly dumb things—he admit­ted that much—and now they were public. His bravado sounded in­criminating, he also acknowledged, especially if it was taken out of context. He’d cut a few corners, used tactics they didn’t teach back at Harvard Law School. He could lose his law license. Conceivably, the U.S. Attorney’s Office could bring criminal charges.

The company, as Donziger saw it, fought dirty; he fought back in kind. Slugging it out, he’d pulled off something amazing. His ragtag team had gone to a provincial Ecuadorian courtroom and won a judgment that mighty Texaco had ruined the lives of thousands of farmers and Amazon tribesmen. Because of him, a tiny third-world nation had spoken truth to power. Donziger had pressed the case for nearly twenty years now, beginning as the most junior member of the plaintiffs’ legal team and ultimately rising to field commander. Before going after Texaco (which was acquired in 2001 by Chevron), he’d never brought even a slip-and-fall suit. That he’d survived this long must have shocked the oil company and its lawyers. No wonder they were branding him a racketeer and prying into his personal life.

He was not alone, though. Impressed by the potential for gar­gantuan legal fees, Patton Boggs, a tough corporate law firm, had joined Donziger. Together, they were seeking liens against refin­eries, terminals, and tankers worldwide. He’d retained a famous white-collar defense attorney to represent him in the racketeering suit. The Amazon pollution case had been featured on 60 Minutes and in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Bloom­berg Businessweek. In 2009, it was the subject of an acclaimed docu­mentary that played at the Sundance Film Festival. A rock star in green-activism circles, Donziger had received support from Bianca Jagger, Sting, and Sting’s wife, the actress Trudie Styler. He had given Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie a private tour of the oil zone in Ecuador.

“I cannot believe what we have accomplished,” Donziger had written in private notes several years earlier, during a flight to Ecuador. “I cannot wait to get off the plane and see my fellow soldiers—often the only people I feel who get me. I want to look in their eyes and see if they understand the enormity of what this team has accomplished.” He had gone toe-to-toe with one of the most powerful multinationals in the world and won the largest pollution verdict in history: $19 billion. That was billion with a “b,” real money by anyone’s standard. If he could survive the venge­ful countersuit and collect the judgment, the Ecuador case would, in Donziger’s expansive estimation, create a precedent benefitting “millions of persons victimized by human rights abuses commit­ted by multinational corporations pursuing economic gain.” And it would make him a very wealthy man.

Arriving at the Ocean Grill, he slowed his bicycle. The surveil­lance sedan—Wait, were there two of them?—kept cruising south. Donziger chained his bike to a no parking sign and shrugged off his backpack. The spy cars disappeared in traffic. He knew they would circle back. They always did.

California imposes plastic bag ban

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:54
The US state is the first to pass legislation imposing a ban on single-use plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores.

Protest halts Nasa spaceflight plans

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:42
Nasa is facing a delay to work on two new commercial spacecraft after a formal protest about the contract award process.

Catalans rally for independence vote

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:25
Thousands of pro-independence campaigners take to the streets of Barcelona after the Catalan government says it remains "determined" to hold the vote.

Trains halted by track-side fire

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:23
Trains on a railway line out of Birmingham are stopped due to a fire involving 200 tons of metal in Smethwick.

Armed police in stand-off with man

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:18
Armed police are involved in a stand-off with a man in North Shields who witnesses say was waving a gun.

U.S. Charges Four Hackers Over Theft Of Games From Microsoft, Army

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:17

The four men were between the ages of 18 and 28 and stole games before they were released. They also stole Apache helicopter simulator software developed by a video game manufacturer.

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VIDEO: Teenagers rescue pensioner from fire

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:15
A pensioner from Liverpool has said she owes her life to three teenagers who rescued her from a house fire.

Netflix grabs rights to 'Crouching Tiger' sequel

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:10

A new battle in the war for our eyeballs has just been scheduled for August 28, 2015. The Weinstein Company announced a deal to release the sequel to the hit art-house martial arts film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" simultaneously in Imax movie theaters and on Netflix. 

It's a shot across the bow of the major movie theater chains — Regal, AMC and Cinemark — who control most of the theaters in the United States and demand an exclusive, 90-day "window" before their films move to smaller screens on television or online.

"Anything that starts to erode or challenge the 90-day window could be disaster for them," says Sam Craig, director of the Entertainment, Media and Technology program at NYU. According to Craig, if just 10 percent of theatergoers stayed home, it would mean a loss of more than a billion dollars in ticket sales. 

"No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens Imax committed are in science centers and aquariums," says an AMC Theatres statement.

Other movies have attempted to debut online and in theaters, but this deal is the first to include Netflix, and the first to include a film that could have just as easily debuted in theaters, according to BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield. "I think if movie studios see the success of what Netflix and Imax do, I think others will follow," says Greenfield.

If they do, theaters will only be able to differentiate on the basis of the theatergoing experience — something they've been attempting to do for years. Regal Cinemas ran trailers in which action films gradually shrank to a small rectangle in the middle of the big screen, while a narrator intoned: "If you want action this big you can’t have a screen this small."  But consumers with smartphones increasingly watch videos even on the smallest of screens, and hardware options have arguably made home viewing more theatrical. 

"The exhibitors are right: It is a different experience," Craig says. "But you get a lot of people that have 60-inch HD screens and surround sound, and maybe they would be just as happy watching it at home."

Ban On Single-Use Plastic Bags Is Enacted In California

NPR News - Tue, 2014-09-30 11:07

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed SB 270, the first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in the U.S. It requires a 10-cent fee for the use of compostable or paper bags.

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Microsoft unveils Windows 10 system

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 10:56
Microsoft announces the next version of its core operating system, called Windows 10, which will reintroduce the Start Menu.

VIDEO: Driest September in UK since 1910

BBC - Tue, 2014-09-30 10:53
September is likely to go down as the driest since records began over a century ago in 1910, according to provisional figures released by the Met Office.

The 'blackout rule' is out because football is more popular than it used to be

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-09-30 10:53

In a unanimous five-to-zero vote, the Federal Communications Commission decided to eliminate the blackout rule. Since 1975, the regulation barred cable and satellite television from airing local sporting events when the team failed to sell enough tickets to fill their stadium. The National Football League has defended the rule for many years, calling it a tool to ensure a large attendance at the games.

Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, talked with David Gura about the move. Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

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