National / International News

Cyber-security lessons for UK schools

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 16:09
Children as young as 11 would be taught about careers in cyber-security, under new UK-wide plans.

Vodafone comes last in mobile tests

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 16:06
EE comes top while Vodafone ranks last in most categories in a comprehensive study of UK mobile networks.

Caffeine: America's addictive drug of choice

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 15:58

There’s a good chance that, while you’re reading this, you’re "under the influence of a drug." And "it’s completely legal, it’s completely socially acceptable, most Americans take this drug daily, even most adolescents take the drug daily, in smaller doses," says Murray Carpenter, author of  “Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks us.

The drug is, of course, caffeine. It’s most often associated with coffee, but you can find caffeine in tea, soda pop, chocolate, and, of course, energy drinks.

From the coffee counter in back, to walls lined with coolers full of sodas, to the five-hour energy shots crammed near the cash register, "Corner stores are monuments to our lust for caffeine," says Carpenter.

The soft drink industry is a $70 billion industry  and Carpenter estimates that coffee is another $30 billion.

“It’s a huge business,” he says.

And that’s because the effect caffeine has on us isn’t too different from nicotine. We reach for a daily cup of coffee or can of soda because we’re addicted.

“I think that they consistently downplay the importance of caffeine in their products, in terms of how appealing it makes the products to the consumer.”
While the Food and Drug Administration is investigating the effects of caffeine -- and the trend of adding caffeine to foods not normally associated with caffeine (like gum) -- even Carpenter says he still reaches for a daily up of caffeinated coffee: “I’m not crazy about decaf.”

McCoist praises title-winning players

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 15:46
Manager Ally McCoist heaps praise on his squad after Rangers become League One champions with eight games of the campaign still remaining.

Obama pledges to 'support Ukraine'

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 15:45
US President Barack Obama welcomes Ukraine's new PM to the White House and vows to "stand with Ukraine" in the dispute with Russia.

Judge Throws Out Charges Against Indian Diplomat

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 15:20

A federal judge said Devyani Khobragade enjoys diplomatic immunity. Her case sparked a diplomatic row between India and the U.S.

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Man on Syria-related terror charge

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:52
A 29-year-old man is charged with intending to assist in Syria-related acts of terror, Greater Manchester police say.

Tips for landing a new job inside your company

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:50

The economy might not be firing on all cylinders, but it is adding jobs. So what’s the best strategy for people who are employed and looking for something better in their own company? Internal candidates often have an advantage, but being an insider can sometimes prove a double-edged sword: You know the terrain, but everyone else knows your baggage.

Here are a few pieces of advice from Beth Kelly, managing partner of HR Collaborative in Michigan, and Thomas Kochan of MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Think about projects or assignments you’ve had in the past that would be good predictors for the new job you want. Beth Kelly says internal candidates are sometimes typecast as the accounting clerk or the receptionist. It can be hard to break out of those roles and convince the hiring manager you can also be a marketing specialist. Having concrete examples of your potential can help.

If your only route into a company is as temporary employee, treat that temp job like it’s the most important job you’ve had. In some fields, like manufacturing, temporary work has increasingly become the path to employment. Beth Kelly calls it a 90-day interview. Contingent hiring may be unsettling, but Kelly advises you to seize the opportunity and show what a team player you are.

If you trust your current boss, tell them you’re thinking about a job switch right away. If there’s not a trusting relationship, it’s different. Ask the manager to whom you’re applying for a job to tell you before speaking to your current supervisor. Having an open conversation with a trusted boss can open up opportunities. Thomas Kochan also encourages internal candidates who don’t get the new job to seek honest feedback on how to prepare for the next opening.

Apply for the job. Yes, it might be uncomfortable. But Thomas Kochan says many potential internal candidates who talk themselves out of applying for jobs later regret it.

VIDEO: Two die as blast levels NY buildings

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:47
Two women have died and more than 60 others are injured after a gas leak sparked an explosion which levelled two buildings in East Harlem, New York City.

The final push for Affordable Care Act signups

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:43

If you haven't signed up for health insurance by March 31, you'll likely face a penalty. 

The thing is, a lot of the uninsured don’t seem to know that the deadline is March 31.  Kantar Media says  insurance companies are now devoting almost half of all their ad spending to commercials with a health reform theme. 

Insurers are also giving financial support to some grassroots groups, like Enroll America.  It's organizing 3,000 enrollment events just in March aimed at getting people to sign up on one of the healthcare exchanges. The Service Employees International Union is also spreading the word, going door to door and making phone calls. "So far we’ve had 274,000 direct conversations but we want to pump that number up,” says SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.

Both groups are focusing on states like Texas and Florida, which aren’t too keen on the Affordable Care Act but have lots of uninsured residents. 

Barcelona 2-1 Manchester City (4-1 agg)

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:32
Lionel Messi and Dani Alves score as Barcelona knock Manchester City out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage.

Last of Us cleans up at game Baftas

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:21
Zombie thriller The Last of Us takes home five awards, including best game, at the video game Baftas held in London.

VIDEO: Skills shortage 'threatens hi-tech sector'

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:17
Business leaders have said a growing shortage of skills in the hi-tech sector is threatening Britain's economic recovery.

Rocket barrage from Gaza hits Israel

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:15
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fire more than 30 rockets at southern Israel, officials say, prompting retaliatory Israeli air strikes.

Mackerel quotas agreed after dispute

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:10
Mackerel fishing quotas for EU, Faroese and Norwegian fishermen are agreed after a long-running dispute.

New Jersey Judge Rules Women Can Keep Fathers Out Of Delivery Room

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:09

Basing his opinion on two landmark abortion cases, the judge said a woman has a stronger right over her body and her unborn child than the father. This is likely one of the first rulings of its kind.

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Murray knocked out at Indian Wells

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 14:02
Milos Raonic knocks out British number one Andy Murray in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Twitter invites writers to think beyond 140 characters

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 13:52

What's the pay-off for writers to keep sharing online? Twitter and publishers say the answer is simple: The social platform offers access to new audiences and book buyers. 

Twitter, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and Penguin Random House (the publishing company that merged in mid-2013) organized a writing competition and a series of in-person and online events for writers. #TwitterFiction Festival, running March 12-16, includes formal talks and informal chats with a logophile cornucopia: published writers, young and old writers, unpublished but professional writers, famous writers who aren’t writing as much anymore, and the “new” and undiscovered writer.

In fact, #TwitterFiction is not really about any specific genre of storytelling. The organizers even included a category for non-fiction submissions, making the event more about writing andwriters, than the actual genre of fiction. #TwitterFiction isn’t really about Twitter itself, either, although it’s certainly not about the writing on Facebook walls.

Twitter emphasizes new writing styles the social network is known to appreciate and promote:  

“We encourage writers to use Twitter in a variety of ways — everything from connecting with their readers to experiments with new forms of narrative. Twitter is even a great way for writers to play with visual narratives in real time. We ask them to be experimental - taking the art of storytelling and character-creation and using Twitter to bring it to life. Twitter is a wide open frontier for creative experimentation with a built-in global audience of millions and we encourage writers to take advantage of that.” - Andrew Fitzgerald, media partnerships at Twitter

The event’s website offers a creative tweet generator, which is a great Mad Libs for the 140-character set.

And answering the question of what the event isn’t (an event about Twitter or fiction or meeting new people in-person) reveals what it is: an attempt by a more traditional industry to meet the demands of the social media age by mimicking its personality.

Twitter wants to be form-friendly

It’s perhaps not a surprise that social media is a willing participant in a project that allows it to counter criticisms that Twitter is killing the English language. It also makes sense for Twitter to find creative ways to help content creators feel comfortable using the network as a publishing and promotional tool.

I tweet that I have a book, that I like a book, that I like your book… and all of a sudden I am hooked to a regular stream of information. Twitter is looking for new sources of revenue, and the more active users of its technology the better, if only from a purely fiscal point of view.

No one will check your follower count if you tweet away at #TwitterFiction, publishers aren’t treating it like the last pitch they will ever take from you, and writers have embraced the opportunity to do what they love best. However, this unique collaboration doesn’t mean there aren’t high stakes.

Twitter is a publishing and a promotional platform, to be sure -- but is it a marketplace where creative content, such as works of fiction, can be sold and bought?

And how does the supply-side (the authors and the publishers) see Twitter? Mostly as a way to reach the demand side (readers). Authors want to be read, and Twitter gives them instant gratification, in a sense. I asked Twitter what they think writers gain from using the network and attending such events:

“#TwitterFiction is a great way for writers to challenge themselves with a new genre or new technique. It’s also really beneficial to writers because Twitter makes for such an interesting stage: authors are essentially performing their work in front of a live, global audience. Twitter Fiction offers something traditional writing does not, as the possibility for creative storytelling are endless.” - Andrew Fitzgerald, Twitter

Soft-selling books on social media

Author and non-fiction #TwitterFiction contest winner Adam Popescu, 29,  says at first he was concerned that sharing an entire chapter of his (as-of-yet unpublished) book about a trip to the base of Mount Everest would result in a net loss. Popescu (who has worked on contract for Marketplace) was surprised to see his following increase by 700 people on the popular community site Wattpad after he published the chapter. 

When asked if he ever reached out directly on Twitter to publisher accounts (@-replying or @-mentioning publishers to get their attention), Popescu said that using Twitter is a delicate balance for writers. Using the platform without spending time to understand or engage in the reader community is “the equivalent of making a joke on a public stage, and then pointing to someone in the fourth row to ask if they got it,” Popescu noted.

Authors: Tweet to @MarketplaceAPM and tell us if you’ve successfully reached out to publishers online.

Petru Popescu, 70, who is both Adam’s father and a successfully published author himself, sits apart from his son -- on the suspicious-of-sharing-content-online camp, so I asked him what he thought about his son’s success writing both short and long form online:

“[On Twitter] you can't be long winded AT ALL, your readers don't look for rhetoric effect/intellectual complication; you have to have a voice, EVEN TWEETING, actually more so, because the space is so limited. The first person narrative, the ultra direct engaging of readers, those are writing ways of great value.” - Petru Popescu

UPDATE: We received comments on #TwitterFiction from Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and Other People We Married, on how she approaches Twitter for writers. Straub highlights the community on Twitter which she is able to see and particpate in: 

"Before I had a baby, Twitter was my pretend office, a place I could go to talk about cheese and television and books and my cats. Nowadays I use it more sleepily, as a late night companion, an insomniac friend. I know lots of writers find Twitter too distracting, but I really love being able to dip in and out and see what people are up to. Maybe that doesn't answer your question. I suppose that what I gain (as a writer) is a conversation. Some writers like to hide in their garrets, but I'm not one of those. I'm an extrovert in an introvert's universe, and Twitter is a bubbly, chatty place for the likes of me. 

"There are very few writers who I think use Twitter really well--that is, writers who are clearly having fun playing with the form itself. Teju Cole, Gary Shytengart, Colson Whitehead. Poets are often good, practiced as they are in pithiness. Standalone tweets, be they funny or wry or sarcastic or what have you, are the best. And, of course, the key to writing while using the platform is to turn it off." - Emma Straub, author


If Twitter builds it, they should come

Publishers, too, see Twitter’s short form style as a good way to introduce a soft sell. The bird du jour has won the favorable participation of well-heeled publication houses, which have a continual influx of submissions using traditional means.

In explaining its participation, Penguin Random House focused on the use of reader engagement on Twitter:

“Penguin Random House believes that social media is an excellent way for publishers and authors to connect with readers. There is an active and enthusiastic community of book lovers on Twitter who are very engaged in the conversation about books and reading.” - Christine McNamara, Vice President and Director of Partnerships at Random House

On making Twitter a friendly place for book buyers:

“We have seen tremendous interaction on Twitter through the various accounts and dialogs we participate in. It’s our experience that the conversation surrounding books on Twitter is diverse, smart, dynamic, and constant. Innovative events like the TwitterFiction Festival provide a wonderful opportunity for celebrating storytelling in its myriad forms and engaging with readers all over the world. We are proud to be one of the supporters for this great celebration of storytelling.” -  McNamara, Random House

AAP on its members, publishers, and authors/writers (a list of their featured participants at #TwitterFiction):

“The publishers who are our member organizations are committed to promoting the joy of reading and improving literacy. We get involved in a number of such initiatives supporting that mission and this fit perfectly. ...We welcome opportunities that showcase authors, writers and the expertise required in compelling storytelling.” - Andi Sporkin, AAP

#TwitterFiction shows the strength of Twitter’s user base and access to readers, the demand-side of the social platform. If Twitter can pull off becoming a platform for buying and selling, one suspects it could attempt the same with other media, too: news, photography, film, oil paintings, clothing… the list goes on.

Publishers are reaching out to readers. Authors are reaching out to readers. Twitter is helping the industry to showcase its work in all forms. The market is set for selling success. The only unknown is whether writers and authors-to-be will continue to share online. Concerns still exist, and publishers do not appear to be using social media to open up the field for writers. 

As long as Twitter and publishers keep trying, writers should take note: the readers are out there, tweeting, and reading. 

Now you can buy solar power (of a sort) at Best Buy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 13:45

Of all the things you can put in your cart at Best Buy, you probably didn’t think solar power for your home was one of them.

But that’s exactly what SolarCity CEO, Lyndon Rive, hopes you’ll do. His company just announced a partnership with Best Buy that he hopes will jump start the use of solar energy to power residential homes.

But Rive says this program isn’t just about buying the panels: "We install the equipment, we then sell you the electrons from the solar system.”

Most consumers say, from a poll the company conducted earlier this year that going green isn’t as important as paying less. Rive says he thinks customers will pay 10 to 12 percent less for their power than what they’d pay their utility company.

Rive says he thinks Best Buy is the best place to sell solar panels.

“When you go to Best Buy, the majority of the products you’re buying consume electricity. And what better to have a product to address that energy consumption with solar?”

VIDEO: Syria: Collective failure of century

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 13:44
David Miliband has described the international response to the crisis in Syria as the "defining collective failure of this century".

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