National / International News

Search For Flight MH370 Reportedly Largest In History

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:17

Since the Malaysia Airlines jet with 239 people aboard vanished on March 8, it has set in motion a search-and-rescue mission that spans thousands of miles and involves more than two dozen countries.

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A Syrian Refugee Camp With Girl Scouts And A Safeway Store

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:17

Three years into Syria's civil war, a resigned stability and a sense of permanence are taking hold at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

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With no elephants around, the Chinese keep buying ivory

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:11

One of the surest ways to create a thriving black market in something: Make it illegal.

Drugs and U.S. dollars in closed economies are good examples. Another good example is the elephant ivory market, which is booming, despite bans on international trade and crackdowns in many African countries.

Damon Tabor wrote about the illegal ivory trade from source to final sale in the current issue of Men’s Journal.  He says there is a rising demand in China and that fuels poaching in Africa.

"The demand is a function of the rising Chinese middle class," said Tabor. "You have a sizeable portion of China’s population that now has disposable income and can spend it on things like ivory trinkets and these intricately carved ivory statues."

Tabor broke down the process of how poaching works. He gave us this example from one of his sources: 

1.     Suppliers will get an order from a buyer.

2.     A supplier will then transmit the orders to the actual poachers.

3.     The poachers go out and kill the elephants.

4.     The supplier will then pick up the dead elephants and drive them somewhere for international transportation, most likely a port.

5.     The ivory may then hit a customs official, who in this case would be on the supplier’s payroll.

6.     It's shipped to buyers and traders.

 Tabor said the demand for ivory has exceeded the reproductive capacity of elephants.  Which means of course, that the animal will eventually die out.  He says for people who don’t come into direct contact with the animal, this isn’t an issue.

"With the traders and the dealers and the middlemen I spoke to in China and Vietnam, there’s not a great deal of care for an animal that is several thousand miles away," said Tabor.

Alibaba is more than 'a Chinese Amazon'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

Alibaba gets compared to Amazon because it dominates China’s e-commerce market. But that’s where the comparison ends, says Perry Wong, a researcher at the Milken Institute. He said unlike Amazon, Alibaba doesn’t sell goods directly.

"It’s transaction platform rather than a merchandise selling outfit," he said. 

In other words, Alibaba is a middleman.

He tells this story about using Alibaba while at a hotel in Beijing: "I ordered something and I got the delivery in 3 ½ hours," Wong says. "The person who delivered it was a young man who rode on a bicycle."

Wong says people use Alibaba to buy everything from a few packages of ramen for dinner to big ticket items like computers. And the company does big business. In one day, Alibaba can sell more goods than all the e-commerce business in the U.S. put together, Wong says. 

Is Alibaba the 'Chinese Amazon?'

But Alibaba's reach doesn't stop with e-commerce, says Duncan Clark, with the investment advisory firm BDA China. The company's into almost every consumer service in China. 

"[There] were at one point, hospital appointment booking services," Clark says. "Another example would be a service called Kuaidi Dache, which is like Uber to book a taxi and this is hugely popular now."

Alibaba also bought a big stake in China’s Yelp. The companyt's into restaurant bookings, travel and even consumer banking. It makes microloans to small businesses and has a virtual wallet program that has about $80 billion in holdings.

Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries, says investors are bullish because Alibaba is more than an e-commerce play. 

"When investors buy Alibaba, they’re not just buying the growth of Chinese e-commerce," Sweeney says. "But they’re also buying the growth of consumerism in China."

Sweeney says Alibaba does faces stiff competition from other local firms in China, but big U.S. players like Google and Facebook are nowhere. 

General Takes Plea Deal In Sexual Assault Case

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

An Army general accused of sexually assaulting a subordinate has pleaded guilty to lesser charges. The case against him collapsed under doubts about the accuser's credibility.

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A Beer Backlash To LGBT Exclusion In St. Patrick's Parades

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

Beer makers Guinness and Sam Adams withdrew sponsorship from New York and Boston's St. Patrick Day parades, respectively, over the exclusion of openly gay, lesbian and transgender participants.

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Hoping To Clear The Air In Paris, Officials Ration The Rue

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

Paris is suffering from the worst smog it's seen in decades. Associated Press Paris Bureau Chief Angela Charltan explains the ways the city's dealing with the smog, including restrictions on drivers.

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With Sanctions, Obama Aims For Those Close To Putin

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

The Obama administration is ordering new sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials. The move is designed to penalize Russia for efforts to split Crimea away from Ukraine.

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Kiev Mobilizes Thousands Of Troops, Preparing For Worst

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

The Ukrainian parliament has voted to mobilize 40,000 reservists as Kiev tries to beef up its military following the referendum in Crimea.

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Out Of Antarctica, A 'Grand Slam' That Leads Back To The Big Bang

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

Physicists using data from an Antarctica telescope say they've observed evidence of primordial gravity waves — in other words, echoes of the Big Bang. If real, this may be a big advance for physics.

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Europe Pulls Punches With Limited Sanctions, Wary Of Backfire

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

European leaders have condemned the secession referendum in Crimea. They have reacted by imposing a visa ban and asset freeze on 21 people said to be behind Russia's actions in the region.

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Celebrations In Crimea — And Worries Among Troops Left Behind

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

Now that Crimea has voted to separate from Ukraine and join Russia, Ukrainian troops still stationed on the peninsula have become even less secure.

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Efforts To Close The Achievement Gap In Kids Start At Home

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:00

By age 3, kids in low-income households have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers, research shows. In Providence, R.I., a home visit program is focused on boosting vocabulary.

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Crimea: What's Next?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:58

Now that Crimea has voted in favor of union with Russia, it's up to Moscow to decide on annexation of the territory. Here's a look at the choices facing the major players in the Crimea crisis.

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Terry's father 'racially abused' man

BBC - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:44
Former England captain John Terry's father headbutted and racially abused a man in a drunken row over a cigarette, a court hears.

Scientists Search For Toxins In Cigarette Smoke Residue

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:32

Chemicals in cigarette smoke can settle on clothes, furniture and walls. Researchers call this thirdhand smoke and say laboratory experiments suggest it could be hazardous.

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Computers That Know What You Need, Before You Ask

NPR News - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:26

Programs — some already on your smartphone — are preparing useful information based on your past behavior, ushering in the era of predictive, or anticipatory, computing.

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The price of winning Crimea

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:20

Analysts predict Russia could spend up to $3 billion a year just to keep Crimea afloat. Instability in the region has cast a shadow over tourism, a major part of the Crimean economy. It's also unclear what might happen to Ukranian state property in Crimea. As for international economic sanctions, right now, they only target a handful of Russian and Ukranian officials, but the U.S. and Europe have warned those sanctions could be escalated, making many international investors nervous, and posing a further threat to Russia's economy. 

Do you wanna live forever?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:19

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up on March 18:  

  • In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on construction of new homes for February.
  • It’s National Biodiesel Day, observed on the birthday of engineer Rudolf Diesel.
  • And do you wanna live forever? Irene Cara sung all about it in the hit song “Fame.” It’s her birthday tomorrow. She’ll be 55.

MP 'groped' man in Commons bar

BBC - Mon, 2014-03-17 11:14
A man tells a court he was groped by MP Nigel Evans while he drank with a group of friends in a House of Commons bar.

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