National / International News

India Sentences 3 To Hang For Multiple Rapes

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:14

The men were sentenced under a new, tougher law on sexual assaults. They were convicted in two separate cases, including the rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai.

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Could A 'Barbie' Get Real? What A Healthy Fashion Doll Looks Like

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:14

Barbie dolls are marketed with sports gear, but could they actually run on those spindly gams? The design for a doll based on an average 19-year-old's physique looks like it really has legs.

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Federal Judge Says He'll Require Ohio To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:12

Voters approved a prohibition in 2004. The judge, during arguments over a case involving birth certificates of children of same-sex couples, previewed a decision he plans to issue on April 14.

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VIDEO: Peake on his preparations for ISS

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:11
Major Tim Peake is due to begin his visit the International Space Station to carrying out scientific experiments at the end of 2015.

Ford's China conundrum: Big profits, bribery allegations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:04

At the end of Ford’s assembly line in Chongqing, Plant Manager Greg Brown is counting cars. “If we stand here an hour, we should count 63 cars going by here,” Brown says, peering at a digital sign above us displaying the number of cars that have come off the line already today. “We’re scheduled to build 1,281 vehicles today.”

Ford sold its first passenger car in China in 2003. Last year, it sold close to a million.

Most of them are assembled here in the Southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chongqing, Ford’s largest manufacturing hub outside Michigan. It’s a joint venture with Chinese automaker Chang’an. “In Chongqing, we’re in a fantastic spot, because the growing auto market is out here in the middle and in the West,” says Scott Chang, spokesman for Ford. “So being in Chongqing gives us a great advantage.”

Another advantage is a near endless supply of cheap labor. The Chongqing region is home to low wages, and tens of millions of farmers eager to make more money at a factory close to home. The twenty-first century autoworker is someone like Liu Chan. He's a short, thin assembly line manager wearing a navy blue work suit emblazoned with the joint venture’s official name Chang’an Ford. “I work at the final stage of the assembly line, making adjustments to vehicles coming off the line,” says Liu inside the plant’s break room.

Liu says he works eight hours a day, with few chances for overtime. He has two kids, he owns a Ford Focus, and his wife works here, too. Ford has handpicked Liu to speak with me, and managers won’t let him discuss salary, overtime rates, no numbers.

“But this is Marketplace,” I say to his managers, “we do the numbers.”

Nope, says Ford – those numbers are secret.

So after my day at Ford is through, I return to the factory gates without the looming presence of Ford management, where other workers help me do the numbers.

“My base salary is higher than average - a little over 1,800 yuan a month,” says a worker named Xu.

His salary is equal to $1.80 an hour. Xu works on the assembly line at the plant. He shows me his Ford ID badge, but he asks that his full name not be used. Xu says with overtime and bonuses, he makes around $10,000 (U.S.) a year – enough to buy a modest apartment nearby for his wife, child and his wife’s parents.

He says he feels lucky to have this job. “The workload is very demanding, hours are long, and it’s very tiring,” says Xu, “But my salary is very high compared to work at any other factory around here.”

Xu says getting a job at Ford is so competitive that some people resort to bribing employees in Ford’s HR department just to secure a position at the plant. “It’s pretty common for the most coveted jobs at the company like the quality control department,” says Xu. “They usually have to pay between 3,000 to 5,000 yuan," which works out to be $500-900. “If you’re a woman, it’ll cost you more than double that.”

Xu says that’s because women are generally looking for less labor-intensive but highly coveted administrative roles. Xu says paying for positions at Ford was common a few years ago, but lately it’s less so because of the increasing amount of overtime required to keep up with demand. “I know one person who paid 5,000 yuan to get a job here,” says Xu, “But then he was assigned to work in the welding workshop – a really tough job. He wanted to quit, but he had to stick around to earn back the bribe he had paid.”

Xu says Ford management has made it clear to employees that bribery is illegal and if they knew about this, they’d put a stop to it. But Xu says this would be challenging for the foreign automaker. “There’s a Chinese saying: There are rules that come from above and there are solutions down here on the ground,” Xu says with a laugh.

Ford may not be alone: Marketplace discovered online posts in China by middlemen and job seekers indicating coveted jobs were for sale inside other foreign automakers like Volkswagen and General Motors. Another Ford worker, named Wang – who also didn’t want to give his full name – says he too knows people at Ford who paid bribes for their jobs. He says the problem doesn’t emanate from Ford, but from China. “You might not do this sort of thing in the US, but here in China, bribing someone to get something you want is completely normal and inevitable,” says Wang with a shrug.

Not all the Ford workers Marketplace spoke to in Chongqing talked about others who had paid for positions at the plant. Several assembly line workers said they had never heard of such a thing.

In a written statement to Marketplace, Ford said: “We take these allegations very seriously and have initiated an investigation. Any behavior that violates our policies, such as the alleged behavior, would result in immediate dismissal.”

James McGregor, head of the China region for APCO Worldwide and author of “One Billion Customers: Lessons from the front lines of doing business in China,” says it usually takes foreign companies years to get used to the scale of corruption in China. “Everything you do, every transaction, every deal, every move, every permit, there’s just so many interfaces with the government,” says McGregor.

And at every step, he says, somebody’s taking money. “So when you get into the private companies, that culture that will infect it.”

McGregor’s advice for foreign companies who find this sort of corruption inside their China operation? Don’t be soft.

“You should fire people and you should do it very publicly, and you should turn them over to police authorities,” says McGregor. “Unfortunately what happens in foreign companies a lot is they’ll investigate corruption, and then they’ll quietly pay the people off to go away and inflict some other company because they don’t want the embarrassment.”

Another challenge for companies like Ford is they’re required by Chinese law to partner with a Chinese company. Ford’s Chongqing plant is a 50/50 joint venture with Chang’an, one of China’s big four automakers. Often, Chinese partners bring their own corporate culture to the mix – which can include practices like taking bribes.

Ford employee Xu says many of his colleagues at Chongqing’s Ford plant came from one of the plants owned by the Chinese partner – he says the benefits and pay at Ford are much better. And Xu says lucky for him, he didn’t have to pay to get a job he liked.

Data compiled by Stella Xie.

Why the 'Internet of Things' is still fragile

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 09:01
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 16:56 George Frey/Getty Images News

A Nest thermostat being adjusted.

In the world of the Internet of Things, every device from your refrigerator to your thermostat seems smart. The idea is, we humans don’t have to set temperatures or see if we’ve run out of milk because the devices will do it for us.

It’s all supposed to be seamless. Until it’s not.

And that brings us to Nest, which is halting sales of its Nest Protect fire alarm and smoke detector. The company said the fire alarm's “wave function,” which allows you to turn off false alarms, can, under certain circumstances, delay an alarm going off in a real fire. 

It appears that the "Internet of Things" isn’t making devices as smart or as seamless as promised. The reason is simple: It's still the early days for the Internet of Things, said Jeremey Jaech, the CEO of SNUPI technologies. He said right now, the business landscape is like the wild west.

"And it’s not at all clear who’s going to win," Jaech said. 

Jaech said there are lots of different start-ups producing almost as many varieties of software and hardware to power the Internet of Things. But these products don’t always speak the same language. And that often means you have to start dealing with a human being in customer support.

"What I would expect to happen, because it’s happened in virtually every other industry, is that you start to see consolidation occur, and standardization will come," Jaech said. 

When winners emerge, everyone in the industry starts speaking the same languages. The technology becomes more seamless, and so the help line becomes less necessary -- maybe.

"There’s a gap between the promise of the technology and the reality of the messiness of our lives," said Jonathan Gaw, an an analyst at IDC. He points to the Nest thermometer, which he owns.

"The promise of the Nest is that it recognizes movements in the household so it can adjust the temperature accordingly," Gaw said. 

But Gaw’s thermostat is hidden behind his big screen TV and so it can't monitor movements. Tony Costa is an analyst at Forrester and he said companies need to start adjusting expectations.

"Consumer electronic companies are used developing devices if something goes wrong with them, it’ll ruin your day," Costa said. "You know if your iphone crashes, it’s kind of a bummer."

But if your fire alarm crashes, that could be fatal. Costa said, these companies are known for pushing the envelope. But when it comes to wiring our lives, they might want something less glitzy but more dependable ... or maybe just a human who can help them out.

Marketplace for Friday April 4, 2014by Queena KimPodcast Title: Why the 'Internet of Things' is still fragileStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

What would full employment feel like?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:53
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 16:51 John Moore/Getty Images

Applicants line up to speak to prospective employers at a job fair on June 11, 2012 in New York City. 

New jobs numbers show the national unemployment rate is holding steady at 6.7 percent.

The hope is that the number will continue to fall. Borrowing a line from Ludacris, the question for the unemployment rate is: “How low can you go?”

The unemployment rate can’t get to zero. It’s impossible. There will always be people entering the workforce, or between jobs. But just how low the unemployment rate can go is really tough to answer.

“To me, a fair definition of full employment in the United States today would be unemployment under 4 percent,” said Robert Pollin, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Economists disagree about the unemployment rate that will signal the U.S. has achieved to full employment. Some say it’s 5.5 percent, others say it could get down to 2 percent.

There’s more agreement on what a world of full employment feels like. “People who want a job are ready and willing to work. They will find a job,” said L. Randall Wray, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It would be an economy where you can feel good about the chances of getting that next job. Your children will be able to get work when they leave school. You’ll be able to plan for the future a little better—maybe buy a house.

“You don’t have to take the worst jobs that come along, just out of fear that you can’t find something better,” Wray said.

In an economy of full-employment, you, the worker, have more control. There are fewer people out there looking to replace you. “When you are at full employment,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “you are in a situation where employers actually need to bid wages up to get and to keep the workers they need, even for low wage workers.”

At full employment, Bernstein said, we’d likely all get paid more. At the bottom, the middle, and the top of the pay scale.

Marketplace for Friday April 4, 2014 Raghu Manavalan/Marketplace The unemployment rate, from 2008 to March 2014by Adriene HillPodcast Title: What would full employment feel like?Story Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Ferguson takes Harvard teaching role

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:53
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson takes a "long-term teaching position" at Harvard University.

PM rejects Miller apology criticism

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:52
David Cameron rejects criticism of Culture Secretary Maria Miller's apology to Parliament over her expenses, after Labour says the PM let her "off the hook".

Westminster welfare plan unrealistic

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:52
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers says the prospect of the Westminster government taking powers to legislate for welfare changes in Northern Ireland is not realistic.

Position 'no licence' for sex abuse

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:48
Nigel Evans' position as a deputy speaker did not give him licence to sexually touch people without their consent, a jury hears.

Hamilton fastest in Bahrain practice

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:43
Lewis Hamilton headed team-mate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes were in a league of their own in Friday practice at the Bahrain GP.

Sir Bruce steps down from Strictly

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:41
Sir Bruce Forsyth is stepping down as host of Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC confirms.

Brilliant Kohli leads India to final

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:35
Virat Kohli guides India to a six-wicket win over South Africa and a World Twenty20 final meeting with Sri Lanka.

Spot-fix arrest footballers named

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:26
Preston North End's captain and five other players at the club are named as six arrested in connection with spot-fixing, the BBC understands.

BBC iPlayer shows online for 30 days

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:22
The BBC Trust approves plans to extend the BBC iPlayer's seven-day catch-up window to 30 days.

Bush's 'Art Of Leadership' Puts Putin And Others On Display

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:21

The 43rd president has taken up art since leaving the White House. The Bush center in Dallas is showing some of his portraits of world leaders. His favorite: that of his father, the 41st president.

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Weekendish: Freedom, sloths and ballpoint pens

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:16
The Magazine’s best reads this week and your comments

'Over-complicated' bullying system

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:14
Some victims of bullying could be failed by an "over-complicated" system, Wales' children's commissioner says.

Mama may have, Papa may have...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-04 08:13
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 08:57 Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Billie Holiday

 From the Marketplace datebook, here's a look at what's coming up April 7:

Marketplace for Thursday April 3, 2014by Millie JeffersonPodcast Title: Mama may have, Papa may have...Story Type: BlogSyndication: PMPApp Respond: No
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