National / International News

We can finish above Arsenal - Koeman

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 13:36
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman believes his side can end the season higher than Arsenal in the Premier League.

A Haven In A Land Of Unsafe Abortions

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 13:29

In India, abortions are legal. But women are often afraid or ashamed to seek an abortion. And for rural women, there may not be a facility nearby. Here is the story of one woman's decision.

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Long-Awaited College Football Playoff Finally Here

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 13:19

In one semifinal, top-ranked Alabama is pitted against Ohio State. In the other, defending champion and undefeated Florida State takes on Oregon. Robert Siegel talks to Grantland's Holly Anderson.

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Luck Be A Lentil Tonight! What The World Eats To Welcome The New Year

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 13:10

From Italy to Japan to the Philippines, people will hope for happiness, health and wealth as they sit down to a New Year's meal. Sometimes that last wish is expressed as actual money in the food.

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'Gilmore Girls' Actor Edward Herrmann, Who Also Portrayed FDR, Dies

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 13:03

He played the head vampire in The Lost Boys, a three-term president on TV and a beloved grandfather. The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor was 71. The cause was brain cancer, his manager said.

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No-Kill Shelters Save Millions Of Unwanted Pets — But Not All Of Them

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:26

In the 20 years since San Francisco's SPCA guaranteed adoption for healthy dogs, shelters and rescue groups have embraced the no-kill approach. But the term means different things to different people.

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Rain Eases California Drought Anxiety, If Not The Actual Drought

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:26

This year was the third-driest on record for the state, but recent storms, plus new groundwater regulations, have given the hardest-hit agricultural towns a glimmer of hope.

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6 Reasons Steve Scalise Will Survive His Speech Scandal

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:26

The House majority whip's protestations of innocence about EURO and its views have strained credulity, both in Washington and in Louisiana. But it's not nearly enough to bring him down.

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After Years Of Conflict, U.S. Mission Shifts In Afghanistan

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:26

With the start of the new year, the more than 10,000 American troops remaining there will take on more of a supporting role. But Afghan forces will still need help fighting the Taliban.

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The Prostitutes Are Not Happy. Neither Are Brides. Sex, Love And Ebola

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:26

The prostitutes of Freetown can't find customers. A wedding planner's shop is stuffed with dresses but couples keep delaying the big day. And the condomologist reports that business isn't booming.

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2014 Stories At The Intersection Of Race And Sports

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:24

As the year winds down, Code Switch is taking a step back to pay tribute to some important — but perhaps forgotten — stories about race and sports.

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Shanghai new year crush 'kills 35'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:11
Crush at New Year's Eve celebrations in Shanghai kills 35 people and injures about 42 others, Chinese state media reports.

Man City extend loan of Lampard

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 12:10
Frank Lampard's loan with Manchester City is extended until the end of the season.

Palestinians Seek To Join International Criminal Court

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:57

Membership in the ICC could allow the Palestinians a means to pursue war crimes charges against Israel. But the move is likely to draw sharp response from Israel and the U.S.

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Oil prices end the year on a low note

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:49

Oil prices, perhaps fittingly, ended the year with another drop. The 1 percent decline came after news of (even) more supply than we expected and (even) weaker demand. For the year, oil prices are down by half.

"Let's say you bet on oil prices rising, you just got two more lumps of coal in your stocking as far as data," says Marketplace's Scott Tong.

Chinese factories appear to have slowed down, and they buy a lot of oil. And the amount of petroleum on the shelf in storage in the U.S. went up. The price of oil is at its lowest in five years. "And if we measure it in terms of gasoline, the last time it was $2.30 a gallon nationally was the summer of 2008," Tong says.

Last quarter, the U.S. economy grew 5 percent. So cheap crude can be seen as a good thing for those in the airline, travel and hotel industries. It also helps consumers who still carry cash in their pockets. "If we look globally, the emerging locomotives of China and India, they rely a lot more on energy to grow," says Tong. "This is a bigger boost for those countries than it is here."

But, there's also losers. Electric vehicles, alternative fuels and oil producing countries and companies are hurting right now.

Thousands join Hogmanay celebrations

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:46
Tens of thousands of party-goers are taking to the streets for Hogmanay celebrations across Scotland.

They put the digits in New Year's glasses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:43

When the clock strikes midnight, what will you be wearing? Those silly, disposable glasses that have the digits of the new year built into the frames? There’s a business story behind those glasses, involving intellectual property, overseas manufacturing and friendship.

Richard Sclafani and Peter Caruso came up with the concept for the glasses on a Friday night in January 1990. They were hanging out at Caruso’s house, drinking beers and doodling.

“And then suddenly, nobody knows why, Pete just drew the number 2000 on a piece of paper, and he drew two little eyeballs inside the zeroes,” Sclafani says.

An idea was born: Make frames out of the digits of the coming year. 1991 would be easy, with those big round nines.

Most people probably would have dropped their brilliant idea in the cold light of the following dawn. Instead, they did the opposite. They found a manufacturer near Seattle to make prototypes and started testing the market.

“I sent about 300 of 'em to my nephew back in New York, and he went down to Times Square and put those glasses on and started selling 'em,” Sclafani says. “And he sold the whole 300 in about an hour. So we really knew we had something then.”

It was a homespun operation. Sclafani and Caruso spent their own money building the business and hired about 100 neighbors to do seasonal work when it was time to ship the glasses.

Business grew each year, peaking in December 1999, with a half-million 2000-edition glasses sold.

After that, business fizzled. No one felt much like celebrating 2002, after the 9/11 terror attacks. And competitors started flooding the market with knockoffs made overseas. Sclafani and Caruso had a design patent, but they learned it doesn’t afford much protection.

The pair got out of the new year’s glasses business in 2008.

Did they at least get rich along the way?

“No not at all,” says Sclafani and adds: If you want to make novelties, you should do it because it’s fun. If the idea is popular, he says, “I can guarantee you will get ripped off.”

Tonight, Sclafani and Caruso will probably watch the party in Times Square on TV – and people wearing the style of glasses they invented.

New Year's glasses and the fickle market for novelties

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:43

When the clock strikes midnight, what will you be wearing? Well how about those silly, disposable glasses that have the digits of the new year built into the frames? It turns out there’s a business story behind those glasses, involving intellectual property, overseas manufacturing and friendship.

It was a Friday night in January 1990 that Richard Sclafani and Peter Caruso accidentally invented the glasses. They were hanging out at Peter’s house, drinking beers, and doodling.

“And then suddenly, nobody knows why, Pete just drew the number 2000 on a piece of paper and he drew two little eyeballs inside the zeroes,” Richard explained.

An idea was born: Make frames out of the digits of the coming year. 1991 would be easy, with those big round nines.

Now if Richard and Peter were most people, they probably would have dropped their brilliant idea in the cold light of the following dawn. Instead, they did the opposite. They found a manufacturer near Seattle to make prototypes and started testing the market.

“I sent about 300 of ‘em to my nephew back in New York, and he went down to Times Square and put those glasses on and started selling ‘em,” Richard said. “And he sold the whole 300 in about an hour. So we really knew we had something then.”

It was a homespun operation. Richard and Peter spent their own money building the business, and hired about 100 neighbors to do seasonal work when it was time to ship the glasses.

Business grew each year, peaking in December 1999, with a half-million 2000-edition glasses sold.

After that, business fizzled. No one felt much like celebrating 2002, after the 9/11 terror attacks. And competitors started flooding the market with their own knockoff glasses, made overseas. Richard and Peter had a design patent, but they learned it doesn’t afford much protection.

Peter Caruso and Richard Sclafani finally got out of the new year’s glasses business in 2008.

Did they at least get rich along the way?

“No not at all,” said Richard Sclafani, adding that you want to make novelties, you should do it because it’s fun. If the idea is popular, “I can guarantee you will get ripped off.”

Tonight, he and Peter will probably watch the party in Times Square on TV. Where people will be wearing the glasses they invented.

Fashion's new fairy godmother: Designer dress rental

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:41

Men may be used to renting a tuxedo for special occasions. But if you ask the average woman about renting a dress for a holiday party, she’ll probably find the idea a bit distasteful.

Not law school student Sarah Mannix. She sees nothing untoward about renting a dress. She graduated from college five years ago, and back then it was normal for her to go into one of her friends’ rooms and ask to borrow something.

“Borrowing someone else’s clothes to wear for one night has always been my 'go to' move for having a good wardrobe,” says Mannix.

Rental clothing companies are betting on that attitude. Some have niches such as plus-size or pregnancy clothing. Others offer aspirational customers like Mannix a little luxury. Shawn Grain Carter, who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says young consumers watch plenty of reality TV and read a lot about celebrities’ lives. They want to imitate that lifestyle.

“You might not be able to afford a yacht, a private plane or second home,” says Carter. “But you can afford an Hermes handbag, a Birkin bag, and then you can return it because you only need it for that weekend to impress your friends at a bar mitzvah.”

Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO of 5-year-old company Rent the Runway, says Spotify, Netflix and AirBnB are just part of the rental economy, and that fashion is an obvious next step.

“I fundamentally believe that within the next 10 years … every single woman will have a subscription to fashion,” she says. “Just like she has a subscription to music and entertainment. And a portion of what you wear will be things you rent.”

Of the companies that have sprung up during the last 10 years or so, Rent the Runway is the biggest and most ambitious. It specializes in leasing designer gowns and accessories for a few days at a time. Customers search for their garment and reserve it online. After they've worn it, they ship it back to the company’s warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. It’s dry cleaned, mended if necessary and shipped to the next customer – often on the same day. The company says it runs the largest dry-cleaning operation in the U.S.

I had never thought about renting a dress before, but I ended up trying one on in a Rent the Runway New York showroom. Briefly slipping into a deep plum, sleeveless gown made me feel a bit like Cinderella. I could rent the dress for $165. Sadly, my life isn’t glamorous enough for me to need it.

Mannix goes out a lot more than I do, and has spent about $800 at Rent the Runway over the last few years. She prefers to rent rather than buy because her goal is to look good at the particular event she’s attending.

“I’d prefer not to be wearing the same thing that I’ve been in Facebook pictures or on Instagram wearing six months ago,” she says.

She may not have to wear the same thing twice even when she starts work as a lawyer. Rent the Runway recently launched a subscription service. Customers can put together a queue of everyday clothing and accessories and receive a few new items a month. Mannix is on the waiting list.

Defense nominee's record as 'Buyer in Chief'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-31 11:17

The Defense Department's Office of the Undersecretary for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics is better known by a shorter name: Acquisitions.

It is in charge of buying everything from toilet paper to fighter jets, and Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter was in charge of it from 2009 to 2011. 

The hallmark of Carter’s two year tenure there was an initiative called “Better Buying Power” to cut down on this wasteful spending, says Bill Greenwalt, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. It was aimed at fighting the perception of waste at the Pentagon.

“If you look at any major weapons system program at the Department of Defense, it’s over budget, not on schedule, and at the end of the day, it performs under what was actually asked for," he says.

He says maintaining stated budget targets for new and existing weapons systems will be a goal of a Pentagon under Carter. “The next real difficult issue is to invest in the future and to actually drive the innovation,” Greenwalt says.

For decades, NASA and the Pentagon poured money into research and development and dominated the high-tech industry, but since the 1980s the private sector has spent more. That means anyone can buy the technology, including America’s enemies. Bringing Silicon Valley innovation to the Defense Department will also be a priority, says Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha.

“If you look at what’s going on in autonomous systems for example," he says, "the money that Google is putting into robotics, autonomous vehicles … Amazon playing around with drones, the Department of Defense is going to have to tap into that expertise.”

Skeptical that a superstar corporation will team up with the Pentagon? Well it’s happened before. During World War II, one of the government’s biggest defense contractors was General Motors.

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