National / International News

Clegg calls PCCs 'failed experiment'

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 11:37
Nick Clegg calls police and crime commissioners a "failed experiment" and says the Liberal Democrats will not contest the South Yorkshire by-election.

VIDEO: Tory defector Reckless moves family

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 11:36
Mark Reckless, the Kent Conservative MP who defected to UKIP, has moved his family as the controversy around his actions continues.

How do you perceive time? Jump off a building and see

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-03 11:36

David Eagleman is a scientist who asks people to jump off of buildings. 

No, he's not an evil villain (as far as we know). He's a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine who studies time. 

As a boy, Eagleman fell off his roof, and had that classic film-reel experience of time slowing down, even though the fall took less than a second. Ever since, he has been interested in how the brain perceives time. 

In the experiment, Eagleman built what he calls a "perceptual chronometer," essentially giant flashing numbers that subject saw as they fell 150 feet toward a giant net. 

"I can measure the speed at which you're seeing the world, so I could figure out if people were actually seeing in slow motion, like Neo in The Matrix, or whether it was just a trick of memory, retrospectively." 

As it turns out, it was a trick of memory. People falling, or in the midst of a car crash, lay down memory more densely than in the average moment, Eagleman concluded.

"So when you read that back out you think, 'wow, that must have taken a really long time.'" 

It's not only freak accidents that pass in milliseconds. Super-speedy automated systems have become staples of our economy, from high frequency trading to commercial airplanes to the profuse streaming video libraries online.

"It's happening at a scale we can't perceive," Eagleman said, pondering an ever-more sci-fi future. "Maybe someday we'll fight our wars that way. We'll have drones fighting. World War III will be over in a tenth of a second... and we'll see who won."

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Sweden To Recognize Palestinian State

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 11:36

The move, which was announced by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, would make Sweden the first major European nation to take that step.

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US to release force-feeding tapes

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 11:27
A US judge orders the government to release videotapes depicting a Guantanamo Bay prisoner on hunger strike being force-fed.

Sturridge signs new Liverpool deal

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 11:03
Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge, 25, signs a new long term contract with the Anfield club.

Man guilty of pregnant teen's murder

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:51
A man who murdered his 16-year-old pregnant girlfriend with a knotted scarf is jailed for a minimum of 14 years.

IN IMAGES: A Violent Day For Hong Kong's Occupiers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:50

A group of pro-Beijing demonstrators attacked activists who have staged a week of civil disobedience calling for greater freedom.

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Protests cut short Top Gear shoot

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:43
The crew of TV's Top Gear fly out of Argentina after facing protests over a number plate which appeared to refer to the 1982 Falklands War.

Warning over future of Longannet

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:42
The future of Scotland's largest power station is in doubt due to the high cost of connecting to the national grid, the BBC has learned.

VIDEO: Tories to 'curb human rights cases'

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:33
A future Conservative government would prevent British laws being over-ruled by the European Court of Human Rights if the party were to win an outright majority in the next election.

Is Enterovirus D68 Behind The Mysterious Paralysis In Children?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:31

Several dozen children in California and Colorado have suffered paralyzed limbs, which doctors speculate could be caused by the respiratory virus EV-68. But we're a long way from knowing for sure.

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UN troops killed in Mali ambush

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 10:28
Nine UN peacekeepers in Mali are killed after their convoy was ambushed in the north-east, the deadliest attack on the force so far, the UN says.

Dallas Health Officials Lower Ebola 'Contact Traces' To 50

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:55

A doctor at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas says the list of "contact traces" has been narrowed and that "will be followed on a daily basis" to check for symptoms.

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Lebanon 'imposes curfews on Syrians'

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:43
Lebanese towns and villages are increasingly imposing curfews on Syrian refugees, restricting their movements, Human Rights Watch says.

How a bank knows it has been hacked

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:43

Hackers got into JPMorgan Chase’s network over the summer, and according to the bank, that breach compromised 76 million households and seven million small businesses. The bank says there is no evidence hackers got a hold of account information, just names and addresses, e-mails and phone numbers, but those data are valuable. 

Companies often learn their systems have been breached from third parties. According to Anton Chuvakin, a vice president in Gartner’s security and risk management group, law enforcement will call if they spot stolen data on underground forums.

“Oh, by the way, we are seeing your data here," might be the message from law enforcement, he says. "What’s up with that?”

These days, big banks spend big on their own security. JPMorgan has allocated $250 million.

When a bank discovers a breach, “you’re going to have a big senior management powwow,” says Julie Conroy, research director for the Aite Group’s retail banking practice, who covers data security. Management will put into place a “security incident response plan,” “and the forensic analysis is very much like what you see at a crime scene,” she says.

It’s methodical, and according to Martin Lindner, a cybersecurity specialist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, banks keep logs of everything that happens on their servers. “So, in theory, they can go back to all those logs, replay them, and see what happened that was the thing that appears to be nefarious,” he explains. That is a lot of information, and going through that is time consuming.

Forensics is just one part of a “security incident response plan.” There is also remediation and communication. With this breach, tens of millions of people are at risk. Lawrence Baxter, the William B. McGuire Professor of the Practice of Law at Duke University, says hackers could use what they have gathered to phish for more information using, say, an official-looking e-mail message.

“You may only get a half of one percent of the customer base fooled by it, but that’s enough,” he says, to cause more damage to customers’ bank accounts, and also to the bank’s reputation.

Why lower unemployment doesn't mean higher inflation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:42

The September employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — with 248,000 jobs created, and unemployment declining to 5.9 percent — heightened speculation that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates in early 2015, rather than waiting until later in the year.

That is in part because many Fed-watchers anticipate that Fed governors will begin to see signs of accelerating wage and price inflation, as unemployment continues to fall toward the level economists call the ‘natural rate of unemployment,’ or in technical terms, the ‘non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment’ (NAIRU). Right now, the Congressional Budget Office has pegged that level at 5.7 percent, according to Capital Economics.

That rate of unemployment is generally considered the level below which wage pressures begin to build, because the labor market has tightened enough that employers have to compete for workers by outbidding each other, explains economist Michael Strain at the American Enterprise Institute.

“If there are fewer unemployed workers around, then workers are relatively more scarce, and companies have to be more competitive to attract workers,” said Strain. “And the way that they compete is by offering higher wages.”

Strain said a parallel dynamic also puts upward pressure on wages: workers who have jobs feel like they have more bargaining power with their bosses, because they know they will be more difficult and costly to replace. So they take the risk of asking for a raise, and may even be ready to jump ship and look elsewhere if they don’t get one.

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank president Richard Fisher was quoted by Reuters last month saying that “Declines in the unemployment rate below 6.1 percent exert significantly higher wage pressures than if the rate is above 6.1 percent.”

But so far, economists are hard-pressed to find any acceleration in inflation. Price pressures are muted, and average hourly wages actually fell one cent in September.

“There are currently no signs of wage inflation reemerging,” said UCLA economist Roger Farmer.

One possible reason is that there are a lot of people who have dropped out of the workforce. Labor force participation is at 62.7 percent, the lowest level since 1978. Those people aren’t counted as unemployed, but many do want jobs. Others are working part time but want full-time work, explained Douglas Holtz-Eakin at the American Action Forum.

“If, as the unemployment rate goes down, some of those people flood back in, that slack takes some of the pressure off the inflation process.”

Also, said economist Mark Kuperberg at Swarthmore College, employers could pay workers more, without raising the prices they charge for goods and services, because of productivity increases. Higher productivity has saved employers money, which they have mostly not passed on in workers’ paychecks.

“It’s like I became twice as productive, I started producing twice as much per hour, but I was only paid 50 percent more, not 100 percent more,” said Kuperberg. “I could in principle be paid that other 50 percent and there would still be no inflation pressure.”

The Phillips Curve and jobs numbers, explained

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:36

With the jobs numbers out today, we’ve been hearing a lot about this thing called the Phillips Curve.

What is the Phillips Curve?

It’s a theory, developed by an economist called A.W.H. Phillips, that says when unemployment is high, wages increase slowly; and when unemployment is low, wages rise rapidly.

Why am I hearing about it today?

Because unemployment has dropped to 5.9 percent. That is much lower than people expected, and so, if you believe the Phillips Curve, you’d expect wages to be rising fast right now.

Rising fast? I’m not seeing my wages rise at all!  

And neither are most Americans. The BLS says wages are up about two percent compared to last year. That is slightly higher than inflation, which is running about 1.6 percent. That’s the slowest rate of wage growth since the Second World War. And it’s not making anyone rich.

So the Phillips Curve is bogus?

Well, let’s just say it has been "adapted" since Phillips came up with the model in the late '50s. His theory has been tweaked by everyone from Paul Samuelson to Milton Friedman, and what we have now is a rule of thumb (ie not strictly accurate rule) that says when unemployment falls past a certain level, inflation will start to increase.

How would inflation increase?

A shrinking pool of unemployed workers means there’s more demand for labor. Theoretically, in this high demand, low supply situation, workers should be able to negotiate higher wages. Companies would pay for those wage increases by raising prices for their goods, which means inflation.

Why isn't the Philips curve doing its thing, then?

Part of the reason is because of why the pool of unemployed workers is shrinking. Some are being hired. But others are simply giving up. Labor force participation is now the lowest since 1978, at 62.7 percent. That means there is a huge pool of workers out there who have given up looking for work, but who could conceivably come back into the market as the economy improves. And then there’s the type of job that people are getting: part-time and temporary gigs.

Those jobs come without benefits. Or those unskilled service jobs that can’t support an individual, and certainly not a family. They’re not the kind of jobs that workers were competing for back in the '50s, when Phillips came up with his curve.  Or in the '80s, when Friedman came up with his tweaks to Philips’ theories.

Does anyone know what’s going on?

Not really! This economy is flummoxing everyone. It’s certainly not behaving in accordance with existing economic models. Much of the reason is that work in America has changed radically in the last decade. The way companies hire and pay workers has shifted the balance in employers’ favor, so that companies look very strong and healthy right now, while workers do not. Companies are earning more, while most workers are making less than or the same as before. Companies are hoarding cash, while workers are pinching pennies. And in many cases, companies are getting more protection from the state, while offering less protection and fewer benefits to workers.

So are these jobs numbers just a smokescreen for a bad economy?

No. Any time you see 248,000 people hired, that’s a good thing (assuming that number isn’t revised downward). And the economy is improving. But because of the way work has changed in the U.S., the numbers we’re getting these days aren’t the same as the numbers we got in 2005. The jobs aren’t the same, in terms of the type of jobs that there are out there, and the pool of unemployed isn’t the same, in terms of the type of workers who are looking for jobs. Things are getting better, but the fact that the Federal Reserve is nervous about rolling back stimulus when unemployment is this low is proof that the economy isn’t as healthy as it might appear.

Canada to join anti-IS air strikes

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:28
Canada plans to join the US-led campaign of air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, its government says.

Kenya MPs 'to back leader at Hague'

BBC - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:13
Scores of Kenyan MPs are preparing to visit The Hague to back President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is due to appear at the International Criminal Court.
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