National / International News

VIDEO: Will Israel erupt in violence again?

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:29
The attack on a synagogue in West Jerusalem follows months of tension, as Jeremy Bowen reports.

Non-league duo into second round

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:15
Conference sides Southport and Telford reach round two of the FA Cup as Concord Rangers frustrate League Two Mansfield.

Does Church of England need to reform?

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:10
The vote for women bishops was hugely important, says Caroline Wyatt, but does the Church of England need to do more?

Tuition fees: Should they go higher or lower?

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:07
How do tuition fees in England compare with the rest of Europe?

'Terror in the temple' - the papers

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:06
The attack at a Jerusalem synagogue which left four rabbis and a policeman dead appears on several front pages.

Millions More Airbags Need Recall, Department Of Transportation Says

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:06

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says a full national recall is needed for airbag inflators that have been found to sometimes pepper drivers with metal shrapnel.

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Animators face 4K film 'challenge'

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:03
The advent of 4K technology will cause a big problem for animators who use computer-based techniques to make movies, says technical head of Minions movie maker Illumination.

Former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders, A Racial Moderate In A Split South, Dies

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:02

Sanders, who was thought of as a leader of the "New South," helped bring more racial integration to Georgia in the 1960s. He died in Atlanta on Sunday.

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VIDEO: How do you make a Lego movie?

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 15:00
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller tell BBC Click about how they directed The Lego Movie

Wednesday's gossip column

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 14:49
Manchester United prepare £47m Mats Hummels swoop, Real Madrid want Hugo Lloris, David De Gea fitness boost, plus more

VIDEO: Russia demands guarantees from Nato

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 14:48
Vladimir Putin's chief spokesperson says the West's response over the Ukraine crisis makes them "feel fear".

Teacher 'had sex all over school'

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 14:28
A teacher who "gave in to temptation" and pursued a secret affair with a teenager had sex with her in empty classrooms, a court hears.

Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline Bill, In A Close Vote

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-18 14:20

The controversial project to expand an oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico has failed to get the approval of Congress.

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Brazil billionaire goes on trial

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 14:00
The trial has begun in Rio de Janeiro of Eike Batista, a Brazilian billionaire accused of insider dealing.

Paying for upgrades under the tray-table

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-11-18 13:50

Flying is not what it used to be. What was once glamorous now feels like walking through a mall to get to a cattle chute. Airlines are expanding first class and squeezing coach passengers into tighter quarters. Every spare inch of space and every service from bag-checking to expedited security has a price.

So on a recent trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, I decided to try for my own upgrades. At every opportunity, I discreetly offered cash to airline employees, Transportation Security Administration employees and fellow passengers in exchange for a better seat or faster service. I wanted to know what would happen when institutional fees leave the institution and were offered instead on the black market.

I started at the United Airlines ticket counter, offering the agent a $20 bill for a seat upgrade. She refused, acting as though this kind of thing happened all the time. She pointed to a seat map on the screen. “This is the only upgrade I have,” she said. “It’s $85.” At security, I tried to slip a couple of twenties to the officer at the T.S.A. PreCheck line so I could breeze through. He gave me a look that said, “Nice try,” and pointed to the long line of people inching toward the body scanners.

Once I got to the gate, I approached the passengers in the roped-off section for premium fliers. I went down the line, one by one, offering cash for their seats. One man shook his head, barely looking up from his phone. Another appeared confused. I had to explain that I wasn’t trying to get on the plane; I had a seat in coach. He declined. “I’ve got to get some work done,” he said.

Nearly everyone seemed bothered by my offer. The closest I got to a yes was with a couple who did not want to split up for the flight; otherwise, they might have considered it.

On the plane, I could not persuade anyone in a seat with extra legroom to switch places for money. I was surprised; I said I was willing to go as high as $100 and told them I needed to sit close to the front to exit quickly once we landed.

Perhaps I appeared a little suspect to some people. I have a bushy beard and long hair. I could pass for a young Cat Stevens in the right light.

But I did talk to Debbie, a flight attendant who was not on my flight but who observes the behavior of hundreds of passengers every day. Debbie, who asked that I not use her last name, was a social worker at a mental hospital before becoming a flight attendant. “So I was used to working with unpredictable people,” she said, “and I was actually kind of surprised at the general rudeness and lack of caring about other people that I saw in passengers on planes when I first started.”

Now she’s used to it. She wasn’t surprised that no one took my offer of cash for a seat. She sometimes has trouble getting passengers to switch seats to accommodate families, even when she offers free drinks and a seat that isn’t a downgrade.

Once, while Debbie was flying off duty, the pilot announced that an emergency landing was needed. “The working flight attendants wanted to move me up front so that I could help with an evacuation if it was necessary,” she said. The crew asked first-class passengers if one of them would give up a seat for her, but none were willing to move. “Luckily we didn’t need to evacuate,” Debbie said. “But it was interesting that nobody wanted to move, even when a flight attendant is saying ‘This will help save your life.’”

I also ran my experiment by Tom Bunn, a former airline captain (whose employers included United) and a licensed therapist. He, too, was not surprised by the reactions I got, but for different reasons.

For many people, he said, the act of flying is incredibly stressful. It is not so much because of long security lines and cramped seats, but because of the psychological act of giving up control, of leaving solid ground. Settling into an assigned seat, he said, is part of the process of quieting their anxiety. “So any change they have to face, they would rather not face it,” Mr. Bunn said. My cash offer may not have been enough to justify restarting that process of calming themselves.

My own theory is that people considering my offer may have been afraid that they would be breaking a rule and could be kicked off the plane as a result. Recently, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men traveling from New York to Israel caused a flight delay when they refused to sit next to women for religious reasons. Many of the men offered passengers money to exchange seats, which, it turns out, is not against many airlines’ policies.

I contacted six airlines, including United, to ask about their policy regarding passenger-to-passenger transactions. Delta, United, American and Spirit responded. Delta and American said they had no policy that forbade passengers from exchanging seats for money. Spirit forbids only switching to an exit row or to larger front seats, the airline’s first-class equivalent.

Rahsaan Johnson of United said it was against company policy for employees to take money from a customer in exchange for a favor. But United does not have a policy against customers exchanging money for seat swaps. “Seat assignment is not specifically prohibited at this point. Changing cabins is,” Mr. Johnson said. So, for example, if you are in coach, you cannot switch with someone in first class.

Of all the upgrades I tried to get, only one could have landed me in any real trouble: offering cash for access to T.S.A. PreCheck. “That’s not how the program works,” said Ross Feinstein, T.S.A.’s press secretary. “Bribing a federal employee, I believe, is illegal.”

It does however, seem to be legal to buy your way to the front of the T.S.A. line. “The actual T.S.A. process begins where someone checks your ID,” Mr. Feinstein said. Before that point, anyone ahead of you in line is fair game for an offer.

Scots let themselves down - Strachan

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 13:45
Gordon Strachan says Scotland appeared "mentally fatigued" in the defeat by England at Celtic Park.

UN calls for N Korea rights probe

BBC - Tue, 2014-11-18 13:36
A UN committee adopts a motion urging the Security Council to refer North Korea over its human rights record to the International Criminal Court.

Amid The Stereotypes, Some Facts About Millennials

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-18 13:23

"Millennial" is the demographic buzzword of the moment. But are young adults today really so different from previous generations? We charted some numbers to find out — and spotted interesting trends.

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Aid Groups See A Dropoff In U.S. Health Volunteers To Fight Ebola

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-18 13:19

International aid groups say the decline in volunteers is due to quarantine restrictions imposed by the states of New York and New Jersey.

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FAA Can Regulate Small Drones: NTSB Reverses Judge's Ruling

NPR News - Tue, 2014-11-18 13:16

Overturning a federal judge's ruling that the FAA was wrong to fine a man $10,000 for flying a small drone, the NTSB says the agency can regulate such drones as "aircraft."

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