National / International News

In Battered Ukraine, Spirit Of Defiance Lives On In Maidan Square

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 13:00

A year ago, Kiev's central square was the center of the protest movement that ousted Ukraine's president. The square remains a home for free speech, including criticism of the current government.

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VIDEO: Hawking's ex on 'uncanny portrayal'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:49
Jane Hawking, Stephen Hawking's former wife, on whose memoir the film The Theory of Everything is based, says that she was "astounded" at how realistic Felicity Jones' performance was.

Bid to change abortion law defeated

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:45
The House of Commons has defeated a bid by backbench MPs to make explicit in law that abortion on the grounds of gender is illegal in the UK.

Feeding Babies Foods With Peanuts Appears To Prevent Allergies

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:38

Babies who ate the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter weekly were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday. So finds a landmark new study.

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Early exposure 'cuts peanut allergy'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:30
A study suggests eating peanut as a baby can dramatically reduce the risk of allergy - contrary to advice given around the world.

As unions decline, dockworkers still have clout

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:27

West coast dockworkers and shippers reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract Friday afternoon, ending months of labor strife. The effects of the standoff have been felt around the world – car assembly lines without crucial parts, billions in produce lost, and a shortage of french fries in Japan. 

In a time when organized labor is declining, one relatively small union, The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) still has the power to slow down the economy. 

Neither side will reveal details of the new contract, but it’s likely generous.

Shipping companies say dock workers average $147,000 per year. The ILWU says if you take out a few specialized positions, the figure is closer to $80,000. Either way, it is a good salary, especially for non-college grads.

“The ILWU is the American dream,” says Dave Arian, Vice-President of the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission, who worked for 44 years on the docks, and was an ILWU President. “My dad was a longshoreman. My daughter works on the waterfront. My sister retired off the waterfront. There are some families who have five generations and 30 people down here or more.”

Arian is well aware that the dock workers are an anomaly, a throwback to the days when blue-collar workers could routinely join a union and live a comfortable middle-class life, complete with a generous pension and full benefits. Such is the advantage of holding the power to shut down all 29 West Coast ports in your hands, as opposed to the East and Gulf Coasts, where ports aren’t covered by a single contract.

“I don’t believe longshoremen are any more militant than autoworkers were or mineworkers were,” says Arian. “But we have something they didn’t have: A strategic position where you can choke off capital.”

That’s because 40 percent of the goods imported into the U.S. come through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Being a dock worker is great work if you can get it, but the key is getting it.

“The last time we put out applications, 360,000 people put in applications,” said Arian.

The union resorted to a lottery to pick 16,000 so-called casuals. Known as the “grunts of the waterfront,” they only pick up work full cardholders don’t want. And work is very sporadic, sometimes just one day a week.

Graduating to a class-B member can take a decade, but there are lucky ones, like Carol Randolph, who was only a casual for a year and a half.

“I’m kind of embarrassed to say it,” says Randolph. “My son has a casual card now and he’s been there seven years.”

Randolph’s father-in-law and uncles were in the ILWU, and her brother and brother-in-law are still in it now. Both of her sons are casuals, and so is her daughter. She raised all three as a single parent, working at the docks.

“This job has provided me with a decent home, clothes for my kids, food on the table, and they went to college," says Randolph. "We’re not going to Europe on vacation, but we do take vacations.”

But she has mixed feelings about her kids working the docks.

“It is an extremely dangerous job,” said Randolph. “We don’t have small accidents. We have accidents that kill.”

We met for coffee at the end of her nine-hour shift at a diner where, like every other business near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, there were ILWU signs taped to the window.

Randolph worked the docks for years but has enough seniority now that she can have one of the most desirable jobs – a vessel planner.

“We pretty much decide on what order the containers will have to be coming off the shift,” says Randolph. "If you don’t do it right, you can break the ship. Literally break the ship. The dangerous cargo that has hazardous explosives has to be stored in certain positions.”

When I asked Randolph if the union wanted better healthcare benefits, she said no, because how could they get any better? You can see pretty much any doctor you want and pay practically nothing out of pocket.

Randolph understands people not lucky enough to enjoy such gold-plated benefits might be envious.

“I don’t blame them for being jealous,” said Randolph. “This is a nice job.”

There are only about 20,000 dockworkers such as Randolph still working on the west coast, most of them at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Billions of dollars were lost as they negotiated for a contract, and experts say it will take several months to clear the backlog at ports.

VIDEO: Smart syringes 'could save millions'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:24
The World Health Organisation says a new generation of so called 'smart syringes,' that break after being used once, could save a million lives a year around the world.

Japan's struggling seaweed industry

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:05
Japan's seaweed industry misses out on Abenomics

Barcelona not favourites - Enrique

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 12:03
Barcelona are not clear favourites to beat Manchester City and reach the Champions League last eight, says Luis Enrique.

Your Soap Has Bacteria In It, But It Still Gets You Clean

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 11:18

Everyone presumes that soap is clean, but manufacturers know it's always got a few random germs in it. Most of the time that's not a problem, but every now and then things can get out of control.

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Putin: War with Ukraine 'unlikely'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 11:17
Russia's Vladimir Putin says war with Ukraine is 'unlikely', despite Ukrainian claims that Russia has been backing rebels in the east.

A dozen overdose on 'Molly' in US

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 11:16
A dozen university students are in hospital after overdosing on "Molly" or MDMA, a popular synthetic party drug, in Connecticut.

U.S. Appoints First Ever Special Envoy For LGBT Rights

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 11:15

The State Department said Randy Berry's job will be to "reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

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Closing the digital divide on the inside

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-23 11:02

The Wyoming Girls' School in Sheridan, Wy., is home to 39 young women between the ages of 14 and 18. They’ve all broken the law — mostly non-violent offenses like drugs and probation violations. These girls are among the tens of thousands of kids nationally who have been sentenced to live in secure juvenile justice facilities.

Historically, these facilities have failed kids when it comes to getting them an education.

The Wyoming Girls' School is an exception. On Monday, Feb. 23 Marketplace will explore how the school is preparing its girls to succeed in the 21st century economy.

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One million disability checks planned

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 10:52
A new company given the contract to assess disabled people for a sickness benefit tells the BBC it will do one million assessments this year.

Ad tool is 'worse than Superfish'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 10:51
A tool shipped with security products could pose a bigger security risk than Superfish - another controversial program, say experts.

Swiss deal over Italian tax evasion

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 10:49
Italy and Switzerland have signed a deal to work together on tackling tax evasion.

Where did it all go wrong for Parma?

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 10:18
Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla helped Parma become one of Europe's top teams - now the club can't afford hot showers.

Lebanon satirist quizzed over tweet

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 10:13
A Lebanese satirist has appeared before a prosecutor in Beirut after being accused by the country's top Sunni religious authority of insulting Islam.

Qatar 2022 likely in Nov/Dec - Fifa

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 10:13
Fifa can choose only November and December for the 2022 World Cup, the head of the governing body's taskforce says.