National / International News

Weak Euro undermines Chanel's China strategy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 12:00

If you’re thinking about planning a vacation to Europe, now would be a good time. The American dollar is worth more now against the Euro than at any point over the past decade.

While the exchange rate may be welcome news for some tourists, the same may not be said for luxury European brands like Chanel or Gucci. Chanel handbags are so much cheaper in Paris than in China that Chinese tourists are flooding Paris shops for luxury bargains. Chanel want them to buy its handbags in China, expanding its market there.

So Chanel will increase prices in Europe and cut them in Asia.

“I think the Chinese consumer will benefit from this, because they will get lower prices and they won't have to go shop in New York, London or Paris in order to get the benefit of those relatively lower prices,” says Milton Pedraza of the Luxury Institute.

But high-end brands in particular need to think long and hard about changing prices from country to country.

"One of the keys to running a luxury business is that the customers understand that the prices don't move all that often, and that you're not waiting for products to go on sale,” says Stifel analyst David Schick.

Schick says long-term profitability for companies like Chanel or Louis Vuitton won’t hinge on exchange rates, but rather on how they are able to compete in a market that is increasingly crowed with competitors — many of whom are perfectly willing to sell you a handbag online, instead of through a shop on the Champs-Élysées.

This Spanish Pig-Slaughtering Tradition Is Rooted In Sustainability

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 12:00

In Spanish villages, townspeople gather at dawn to collectively slaughter a pig, then prepare every last bit as food, even the ears. The ancient ritual, called matanza, is now drawing foodie tourists.

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Teens Say They Change Clothes And Do Homework While Driving

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 11:46

So they do seem to get that texting is dangerous. But putting on makeup and contact lenses at 65 mph? No problem. Researchers in Oregon are trying to train teenagers on the risks of multitasking.

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France Considers A Ban On Overly Skinny Models

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 11:35

Proposed legislation in France would criminalize the use of underweight models and ban online sites that glorify anorexia and other eating disorders.

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Kraft recalls 6.5 million boxes of macaroni and cheese

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 11:19

Kraft Foods says it is recalling more than 6.5 million boxes of its iconic original-flavor "Macaroni and Cheese Dinner." The company says numerous consumers reported finding metal pieces in the packages. The affected boxes have a "Best When Used By" date of Sept. 18 through Oct. 11, 2015, and the manufacturing code “C2” printed below the date.

A company spokesperson told Marketplace via email it is, “too early to speculate about the cost of this action.” Large recalls can run up costs in the tens of millions of dollars for a company — including lost revenue, inventory and production, as well as damage to brand reputation. Some of that cost may be covered by insurance.

The system for food-safety product recalls in the U.S. has changed in the past several years, following passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. When a food company — like Kraft — receives complaints from consumers or reports of food-borne illness, or it discovers contamination at a production facility in its supply chain, it notifies the FDA and consumers, and voluntarily recalls the product. If a food-safety problem is identified by the FDA and the company does not comply with a request for a voluntary recall, FSMA allows the FDA to order a recall.

 

Mac 'n cheese noodles make great art supplies, but just make sure to check your recalled Kraft boxes for metal first.

Raghu Manavalan/Marketplace 

Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs at the Center for Food Safety, a consumer-advocacy group, says there is still more work to be done to ensure that mass-produced food sold in America is safe.

“The recent announcement (by Kraft) is a reminder of just how fragile our food-safety system is here in the U.S.,” he says. “Increasingly, responses to food-safety concerns are more motivated by PR and marketplace interests, than by public health concerns.”

But industry analyst Jim Hertel at food consultancy Willard Bishop in Chicago believes Americans are generally satisfied with the largely-voluntary system of food-safety monitoring and enforcement. His company does consulting work for Kraft and other food manufacturers.

“There is a level of confidence that the U.S. inspection regimen basically has gotten it right,” he says.

Hertel says most consumers understand that contaminated food does make its way into grocery-store and restaurant food occasionally. But he believes these incidents sow more fear in consumers when they are caused by a microbe or dangerous chemical, rather than (as with Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese) a chip of metal, possibly left by a flaw in the manufacturing process.

“The things that consumers can’t see are sometimes more terrifying than the things they can see,” Hertel says. “When it’s a biological or bacterial agent, I think there’s a lot more fear, uncertainty and doubt that creeps into the consumer’s mind.”

Oxford head leaving for New York

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 11:17
Oxford's vice chancellor Andrew Hamilton is leaving to take over as president of New York University.

US Fed hints at interest rate rise

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:49
The US Federal Reserve signals a future rise in interest rates, but says it will wait until the labour market improves, sending stocks higher.

VIDEO: No unique Celtic human gene

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:48
The largest genetic survey of Britain has shown that there were clear differences in DNA but no unique Celtic gene.

Several shot in Phoenix suburb

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:44
At least four people have been shot at multiple locations in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

No Charges For Operator Of Drone That Crashed At White House

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:39

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the decision followed a Secret Service investigation into the Jan. 26 incident. The FAA is conducting its own review of the quad copter's crash.

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Feeling the OBR's pain

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:27
The OBR warns some of the assumptions it uses have become 'complex and opaque'

Parents weigh the lessons of Common Core testing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:20
In a small brick house in Glen Burnie, Maryland, 9-year-old Thevy Mak sits at the piano, practicing before a lesson.

Small and thin, with long dark hair, Thevy is a little girl caught up in a big fight playing out around the country. This week, her fourth grade class will take the first round of the new PARCC assessment; standardized tests tied to the Common Core education standards. Thevy won’t be joining them.

“I was glad I didn’t have to,” Thevy says. “Sometimes the questions are really hard and I get really confused.”

Thevy's mom, Sheena Mak, tried some sample questions from the test and felt they were beyond Thevy’s grade level. Mak also doesn’t like what she views as corporate-driven school reform. Pearson, a multi-billion dollar education company, helped develop the test. Not that she went into all that with Thevy.

Sheena Mak (center), with daughters Sophia, 7 (left), and Thevy, 9. Thevy is not taking standardized tests tied to the Common Core standards this year. Amy Scott/Marketplace

"As a parent it is my duty, it's my responsibility, to make the decisions for my children that I think are in their best interest,” Mak says.

Thevy is among millions of students who are scheduled this month to take the first round of tests aligned with the Common Core standards.  Depending on the state, the tests have different names and take different forms. They’re all designed to track kids’ progress toward college and careers. And no matter where you live, there are likely to be families who will refuse to let their kids be tested.

As more parents make that choice this spring, they’re wrestling with what it will mean for their kids. After all, the kids are the ones who have to show up and refuse the tests.

“The first thought that came to my mind was, ‘Boy this puts a kid in an awkward position,’” says Joanna Faber, a former teacher who runs workshops about how to communicate with children.

With all the drama about testing — parents shaming each other on Facebook and protesting in front of schools — Faber says kids may feel torn between two authorities: parent and school. She suggests giving children a choice.

“If your child’s very uncomfortable about the idea of opting out, you might tell her, ‘Listen, if you want to just sit and take the test, that’s okay. I can protest in other ways,’” Faber says.

Parents should let their kids decide whether to take the Common Core tests.
Lynne Rigby wanted to opt her kids out of Florida’s new Common Core test. She says it’s taking too much time away from learning. But she worried about how her seventh grader would feel going against the grain.

“He's such a rule follower and I expected him to want to take the test,” Rigby says.

So she let him and his older brother decide.

“I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, and they’re not here to fight my battle,” she says. “They’re 13 and 14. They’re capable of making those decisions.”

Both boys chose not to take the tests. So did lots of other students at their school, Rigby says, so they didn’t stand out. Other parents worry about how that decision will affect kids later on, though, when they confront other challenges like in college or the workplace.

“I think it’s actually very destructive in a deep way to signal to kids that a test is hard or scary or that they can’t do it,” says Amy Briggs, a mother of two in Brooklyn, New York, a hotbed of the opt-out movement.

Briggs works for a nonprofit that helps teachers implement the Common Core, so she doesn't share the distaste many in the opt-out movement have for the standards themselves. As a mom, Briggs says she’d rather see her kids fail a test than be protected from taking it.

“I feel like my job is to cheer them on,” she says. “I’m not going to remove every obstacle. Tests are part of the deal.”

A lot of parents think they shouldn’t be part of the deal — at least not so many of them — and that test scores shouldn’t play such a big role in how schools are rated, whether get kids ahead, and whether teachers keep their jobs. They say opting out teaches kids a different lesson about standing up for their beliefs.

Public school parents and teachers remain closely divided when it comes to their overall attitudes toward the Common Core standards, split between positive and negative impressions. Kelsey Fowler/Piktochart

Brooklyn Ritter, 9, will sit out testing at her public Montessori school in Baltimore.

“I decided that I didn’t want to take it, because I am no good at tests — especially when it’s being timed,” she says.

Her mom, Elena Ritter, says Brooklyn was so worried about the test she didn’t want to become a third grader. That’s when annual state testing begins. But Ritter says refusing the test is not about saving Brooklyn from something scary.

“I always say ‘90 percent of fear is between your ears,’” she says. But if I can’t get behind the test myself and they don’t want to do it, I didn’t feel like I could push them to do it.

In the end, the lesson a kid takes away from opting out may depend more on the kid than the parents, says Faber.

“If your child feels empowered by it, then it’s empowering,” she says. “If they feel awkward and frightened about it, then it’s not going to be empowering.”

With kids taking 113 standardized tests, on average, by the time they finish high school, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to think about it.

Montsho handed two-year doping ban

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:16
Former 400m world champion Amantle Montsho is banned for two years for doping at last year's Commonwealth Games.

Fed Sends Clear Sign On Raising Rates, But Says Hike Unlikely In April

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:06

In a statement, the Federal Reserve dropped a pledge to be "patient" before raising rates.

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DNA study: Celts not a single group

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:00
A DNA study of Britons shows that, genetically, there is not a unique Celtic group of people in the UK.

Osborne warning on corporation tax

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:58
The Chancellor warns Northern Ireland's political parties that they must reach agreement on welfare changes if they are to get power over corporation tax.

Attorney General Holder Jokes Republicans Have 'A New Fondness For Me'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:45

The Senate has delayed confirming Holder's successor Loretta Lynch. Sen. Durbin says she's been "asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar."

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US tycoon Durst on suicide watch

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:43
Millionaire real estate tycoon Robert Durst is moved to a mental health unit after he was deemed a suicide risk.

Alonso has 'good day' in simulator

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:42
McLaren are encouraged by Fernando Alonso's session in the simulator as part of a plan for his return to the track.

Mesa, Ariz., Police Seek Active Shooter

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:38

A police spokesman said at least four people have been shot. He said police are looking for a bald white male in his 40s, wearing a gray shirt, black pants or shorts and with a tattoo on his neck.

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