National / International News

Co-operation and controversy in Iran

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 11:21
Ashton visit to Iran sparks co-operation and controversy

Do you tip your barista?

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

Who to tip? How much?

These are questions that go back generations.

At the end of the 19th century, it was a huge controversy.

"There was probably not a newspaper you could pick up or a magazine that you could pick up, in the late 19th and early 20th century, and flip through it for a few pages, and not find an article about tipping," said Andrew Haley, a history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, and author of "Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class."

Middle class diners wrote editorials against tipping. They boycotted. Some places outlawed it.

"Six states passed anti-tipping laws in the early 20th century," Haley said, "and at least four other states were considering similar laws.”

Over time, Americans got used to tipping and settled on some basic rules.

"The norm is very clear," said Mike Lynn, a marketing professor at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, "you tip 15 percent to 20 percent to waiters and waitresses." That, he says is pre-tax, and it includes beverages and wine.

As straightforward as it is, a third of folks don’t know it.

"There are norms for tipping other service providers," Lynn said, "but they are even less well known than the restaurant norm."

So, what's the norm for a coffeehouse like Starbucks?

Lynn paused. He sighed. "I don’t know," he said.

Everyone does something a little different -- no tip, tip all the time, tip when they get food.

Marketplace has a poll, too. Of the nearly 550 responses so far, most don't tip. Those who do, tend to tip $1. Ten people said they'll just drop whatever change they get back into the tip jar.

It's possible the Starbucks app could start to set a norm.

Some of that will depend on how the app works, said Holona Ochs, a professor at Lehigh University and co-author of "Gratuity: A Contextual Understanding of Tipping Norms From the Perspective of Tipped Employees." If the app asks you how much you want to tip, with suggestions, like the screens in the back of cabs do, "then it’s a signal that you are required to tip, even if the service was poor."

The more people are encouraged to tip, the more likely they are to give one.

But, should customers be tipping baristas at all? Why are hair dressers tipped, but not mechanics? There are a number of theories out there.

"Economists would say we tip those service providers where it is more economically efficient for the customer to monitor and reward employee behavior than for the firm to do it," Lynn said. Different customers want to be treated differently; people tip in circumstances where the customer is in the best position to determine who did a good job.

Anthropologists have a different theory about who gets a tip.

"We tip to avoid envy," explained Lynn. "My car mechanic doesn't envy me because I had a broken car."

But the server might. "When I go out to eat, I'm having a good time," said Lynn. We don’t want to be the subject of envy. So we give a tip to say "don't envy me, have a drink on me later."

Lynn says the small amount of data that exists suggests a third explanation: people tip more when they think there’s a greater income disparity between server and the customer. And when they have more personal contact with the person they’re tipping.

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Man Exonerated, Freed After 3 Decades On Louisiana's Death Row

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 11:04

Glenn Ford, 64, was convicted in 1984 for first degree murder and given a death sentence. New evidence proves he wasn't at the crime scene.

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Clashes after Turkish boy's funeral

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 11:01
Turkish police fire tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Istanbul after the funeral of a teenager wounded in anti-government clashes last year.

Nigeria checks 'missing $20bn' claim

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:58
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan orders a forensic audit of the state oil firm following claims that $20bn (£12bn) have gone missing.

PM's belief in Israel 'unbreakable'

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:56
David Cameron says his belief in Israel is "unbreakable" as he urges the country's MPs to pursue a deal with Palestinians to end all conflict.

Pistorius toilet door shown to court

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:48
A forensics expert swings a cricket bat at a toilet door in the courtroom at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial to demonstrate key pieces of evidence.

Wall Street average bonus rises 15%

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:38
Wall Street bonuses rose 15% last year, to the highest level since the global financial crisis, according to the New York state finance chief.

Preparing for China's urban billion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:33

Imagine close to the entire population of the U.S. picking up and moving somewhere else.

That’s the scale of China’s urbanization campaign: 250 million farmers moving to the city over the next 15 years. For those Chinese nervous about how this will transform – well, everything - in their country, Premier Li Keqiang told his countrymen this week not to worry: "We will strive to enable everyone has equal opportunity, regardless of whether you come from the city or the countryside," Li said, during his work report at the opening of the annual National People's Congress.

These soothing words – echoing the government’s "Chinese Dream," the theme of leader Xi Jinping’s new China – haven’t made believers of everyone.

In Southwest China, the city of Chongqing is being used as a test case for transitioning rural Chinese to change their residency status to urban residents. The government is persuading millions of farmers there to move to the city. When I ask a group of them, "How’s it going?" I get an earful - dozens of people speaking in the sweeping tones of the Sichuanese dialect yell over each other, complaining in unison.

The voice of Tan Congshu rises above the rest. "In the countryside, we grow our own vegetables and slaughter a pig when we want to eat," she says. "Here, everything costs money. Electricity, water, rent, food…everything!”

Tan just moved from her farm in the village of Wanzhou to this low-rent urban housing project near Chongqing's airport. She says if this is part of a national test, it’s already an epic fail. Dozens of curious onlookers nod in agreement. We’re standing in the shadow of a more than a dozen gray towers, each thirty stories high. The city built them to house more than 50,000 transplants from the farm.

Above the courtyard hangs a red propaganda banner. In white Chinese characters, it reads: “Deepen reform and unleash the power to realize the Chinese Dream!”

It’s sandwiched between banners warning residents about gas leaks and stray dogs.

Many here say they’ve forfeited their farms to the government in exchange for urban residency status, which provides health, retirement and education benefits for their children. But others, like Mrs. Tan, refused to give up their land – Tan's apartment here belongs to her son.

"The government offered me $200 to change my status from a rural to urban resident," Tan says. "They said it would be good for me and that they wouldn't take my land, but I didn’t believe them.”

Chongqing’s government is willing to give rural Chinese access to urban schools and health care, for a price – in many cases, the government wants their land. Many, like Tan, are refusing to part with their land, putting a kink in China’s urbanization plan.

"The issue now is whether or not this can be implemented, and I have a lot of doubts," says Kam Wing Chan, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes his research on China's urbanization campaign.

He says China’s government will have to give better incentives to rural Chinese to persuade them to move to the city – he says the future health of China’s economy depends on this.

"China’s been talking about creating domestic consumption," says Chan, "And now it’s harder because the urban population replacement rate is actually now negative.”

Chan says China’s plan for an urban consumer-based economy is at risk. And even if farmers are persuaded to move to the city, they may not become model consumers.

In the Chongqing district of Xinqiao, I ask another group of urbanized farmers how they like life in the city. Again, a chorus of screaming. It seems everywhere I go in this city, this question causes a social disturbance. Within minutes, two dozen people crowd around my microphone to complain.

Their apartments are older - resident Wang Xueying says they’re in terrible shape. She says most of the farmers haven’t found jobs in the city and do nothing but sit around. “After the local government took our land and demolished our homes, they put us here – but we still had to pay money," complains Wang. "They told us the value of our old homes wasn’t enough to cover the cost of these tiny apartments.”

The Xinqiao government refused interview requests from Marketplace. But the displaced people here say local officials who sold their farmland made a killing. They say the money was embezzled so that party officials could buy luxury cars and fancy apartments. "If this is what urbanization is like," screams one elderly resident, "I’d prefer to leave China altogether."

Graham Holroyd rape trial begins

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:28
A former rugby league player goes on trial accused of sexual offences against a boy and a girl dating back to when he was child.

Healthier Patients May Have To Wait For Costly Hepatitis C Drugs

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:24

Private insurers, as well as those serving Medicaid patients, are wrestling with how to cover the new drugs. Many say they will require prior approval and may be limited to the sickest patients.

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Will Not Seek Another Term

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:21

To run for another term, it would have required a legal battle to challenge the state's term limits. Brewer completed the final year of Janet Napolitano's term. She won another four-year term in 2010.

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The life of a stolen passport

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:19

3.2 million passports have been lost or stolen from U.S. citizens since 2004.

That’s a lot of passports!

When a passport is stolen, it can make a circuitous loop around the world via underground criminal markets. Here's how it happens:


The Passport is taken.




The Passport makes its way from the petty thief to a wholesale warehouse. There, it will sit in a stack of other stolen passports. 

Flickr: UKhomeoffice


STEP 3(A):

A passport forger calls the warehouse to say, "I have someone who needs an American passport, got any?"

STEP 3(B):

The warehouse man rummages through the stack, pulls out a passport, and sends it to the forger.



The forger will, if necessary, adulterate the image on the passport. He'll run it through a chain of people possibly 10 links long, until it makes its way to the client.

Flickr: Hc_07


Someone will buy the fake passport for $200-$7,000. It could be used to get a job, to open a bank account, to launder money, or to get on a plane. As is clear from the Malaysian Air mystery, border patrol does not always check against Interpol lists of stolen or flagged passports. 

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

STEP 6 (optional):

The stolen passport can be used to glean identification information that can then be used to apply for brand new passports – with a criminal’s photo and biometric information attached.  

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


 Instructions for reporting your passport as lost or stolen are available here (for local) and here (for abroad).

VIDEO: Why power lines might scare wildlife

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:13
See the bursts of UV light from power lines that scientists say may be causing animals to avoid large areas around them.

Water-To-Wine Machine Sound Too Good To Be True? It Is

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:12

News media were quick to report on a $499 "Miracle Machine" that could turn water into wine. The science sounded suspect to us, with good reason. The perpetrators call it a sham for charity's sake.

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Witness says 'all blacks look alike'

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:11
A witness in the PC Keith Blakelock murder trial tells the Old Bailey that "all blacks look alike" to him.

Obama's Big Move On Overtime Pay Keyed To Swing, Base Voters

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:11

The administration's plan to increase the number of American workers eligible for mandatory overtime pay is seen as part of a strategy to stress income inequality.

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Block on Charles's letters unlawful

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:04
The attorney general's decision to block publication of letters written by the Prince of Wales to government ministers is ruled unlawful.

Flashing power lines 'scare animals'

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:03
Bursts of UV light from high-voltage cables may be causing animals to avoid large areas around power lines, research reveals.

Suicide followed 'paedophile trap'

BBC - Wed, 2014-03-12 10:02
A man snared by an internet "paedophile hunter" took his own life days after police had questioned him, an inquest finds.

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