National / International News

Diner offers prayer discount

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 15:06
How a US cafe's 15% 'prayer discount' sparked an internet row

VIDEO: Amazon under threat by illegal mining

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 15:04
A surge in illegal gold mining has destroyed vast areas of the Amazon forest in Brazil.

Government reveals green plan

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 15:04
The Scottish government is to publish a report which, it says, highlights the environmental benefits of independence.

VIDEO: Loom bands craze 'inspiring art'

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 14:48
BBC Newsnight's Stephen Smith investigated whether loom bands are inspiring artists and fashion designers.

A Top Immigration Judge Calls For Shift On 'Fast-Tracking'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-08 14:47

A call to stop fast-tracking deportation hearings of unaccompanied minors comes from an unusual source: a judge who says the current practice could lead to many appeals.

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James Brady's Death Is Ruled A Homicide

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-08 14:33

His wounds were inflicted 33 years ago, but James Brady died from John Hinckley Jr.'s attack on President Reagan, according to Washington, D.C., police who cite a Virginia medical examiner's report.

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VIDEO: Gaza air strikes and rocket attacks resume

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 14:04
Israel launches air strikes into Gaza after Palestinian rockets are fired at the end of a three-day truce.

'Sketchy' app sparks racism row

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 14:02
A new app called SketchFactor, which uses crowd-sourced data to alert users to 'sketchy' areas, is in hot water after some accuse it of being racist.

Argentine 'stolen grandson' speaks

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 14:02
An Argentine musician who was taken from his parents during military rule speaks of his joy of being reunited with his grandmother, a top campaigner.

Forster on brink of Southampton move

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:57
Fraser Forster is on the verge of joining Southampton after they agreed a fee of £10m with Scottish champions Celtic.

Local mismanagement, dry conditions causing a global freshwater crisis

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:54

For drivers in Southern California, drivers will be reminded over and over again they are living through a drought. On radio, there are ads urging people not to wash their cars or water their lawns, along with billboards telling people to be on the lookout for water wasters. Meanwhile, electronic road signs used for Amber Alerts and accident warnings have defaulted to reminders the state is in severe drought warnings.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An electronic sign near the 280 freeway warns of serious drought conditions and encourages people to use less water in San Francisco, California. The message is part of a statewide educational campaign that the California Department of Transportation. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record dating back 119 years, prompting California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a statewide drought emergency last month.

How bad is it in California? Well, agricultural groups estimate some $5 billion will be lost this year because of the dry conditions.

But dry conditions and water shortages are happening on every continent except Antarctica, and that’s presenting a serious global challenge for small and big companies, according to Financial Times Environmental Correspondent Pilita Clark. She recently wrote a series called a World Without Water, and she says mismanagement and dry conditions are causing a significant crisis around the globe.

“In other words, water is really poorly distributed,” Clark says. “And then, it’s long been taken for granted … it’s been polluted. So what we’re seeing in country after country is growing competition between farmers and industry. And that growing competition between two groups is becoming more and more intense.”

Of course, a crisis can create opportunity. In Las Vegas, a public-private partnership is looking to take their expertise in handling drought. The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance is looking to sell that knowledge to other governments and groups around the world.

“What this is a unique partnership, taking all of the research and all of the technology, and turn it into a commercialization opportunity,” says LVGEA CEO and President Tom Scancke. “This is a whole new marketplace that hasn't been looked at or inspected properly.”

Weekend Brunch: 'Too big to fail'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:52

This week, Lizzie O'Leary sits down for brunch with New York Magazine contributing editor Jessica Pressler and Business Insider's Executive Editor Joe Weisenthal to discuss the economic news of last week and what's on their plate this week (get it?).

Topics:

Politico: Bank of America to pay nearly $17 billion in mortgage pact

Bloomberg: Big Banks’ ‘Living Wills’ Get Failing Grade

Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Cardiff City

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:47
The Football League season begins with a draw at Ewood Park as Blackburn come from behind to hold Cardiff.

Why medical debt is different from other debt

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:46

People with lots of unpaid medical bills could be getting a break on their credit scores

Fair Isaac Corp., otherwise known as "FICO",  says it is changing its calculations to ease the impact of medical debt that’s gone to collection. 

So what is it about medical debt that makes it different from all other kinds of debt?

“When you go to the Gap to buy jeans, you ultimately know at the time of purchase exactly what the cost of that is going to be,” says Ken Brevoort, senior economist with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When you pay for your "1969 ultimate panel cuffed always skinny jean," you are the only person paying the bill.

When you go to the doctor – usually – it’s you and your insurance company.

“When you have the insurance involved, you don’t necessarily know what’s going to be your portion and what’s going to be the insurance’s portion,” says Brevoort.

Here’s the thing: paying medical bills is so complicated sometimes the consumer doesn’t even know when they still owe money. FICO senior consumer credit specialist Anthony Sprauve says ignorance isn’t a good reason to give someone a lower FICO score.

“We recognize that it’s not an indicator of a person struggling in most cases when it’s happening by itself,” he says.

The federal government estimates about 7 percent of consumers have unpaid medical bills that have gone to collection agencies. Those consumers could see a 25 point or better score under FICO’s changes, says Sprauve.

“They are going to have access to more credit and they are going to be able to get credit as a lower price,” he says.

That’s the good news. The bad news is more and more consumers must wade into the byzantine world of healthcare billing.

Which means if you want to make sure you’re up to date on your bills, it’s still on you.

Here's a... uh... final note for... uh... today

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:45

Here's a pet peeve about how I sound on the radio: When I listen back to myself in interviews, I'm struck by how often I say "uhhh" as I'm putting together a question. I think it makes me sound stupid, but it's how I talk, so I roll with it.

Turns out I'm completely normal.

A post at the Atlantic quotes a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, who says men use "uh" more and more as they get older.

Women tend to say"um," but that decreases with age.

Lake Erie's Toxic Bloom Has Ohio Farmers On The Defensive

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:36

Ohio farmers say they are not the only ones to blame for Toledo's polluted drinking water. They say they are using only as much fertilizer as they need to grow their crops.

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Big banks fail their financial checkup

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:23

The biggest banks in the U.S. were made to write living wills, so that in the event of another crisis, like the one in 2008, the economy wouldn't go down with them.

But this week, they basically flunked their checkups with federal regulators.

“Banks weren’t expecting this kind of pushback, they’ve been submitting these living wills for the last several years, like three years in a row, starting in 2012, and they kept on falling short,” says Paddy Hirsch, Marketplace editor and host of The Whiteboard. “But nobody’s really pushed back on them. This time, the regulators pushed back really hard. And it’s taken the banks a little bit by surprise.”

And if banks don’t cooperate, banks could face additional regulations.

“I think it’s in the back of everybody’s minds that [the 2008 crisis] is a possibility. And what the regulators are trying to do, is get to a place where it’s as remote a possibility as possible. And for the most part, the people who are running the banks absolutely don’t want to be in a position where they are a bank that’s ‘too big to fail.’”

So, what happens next?

“What they might actually do is start changing their legal structures to make them less complex,” Hirsch says. Financial derivatives contracts and other structures could be simplified to comply with new and additional regulations.

Your Wallet: 1 in 3 Americans have debt in collections

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:21

According to a study from the Urban Institute, an estimated 1 in 3 adults, or around 77 million people, are so far behind on their debt that their account has been placed in collections. 

“Being indebted is like being in shackles, or like wearing one of those cartoon ball and chains. And that can be not just a financial obligation, but an emotional or intellectual obligation as well, because it’s hanging over you," consumer columnist David Lazarus say. "It’s coloring virtually every decision you’re making in life.”

And it also takes a toll on your credit score, too. That could make an impact down the line. “If your credit score takes a hammering. Any future borrowing you’re doing is going to be at a much higher interest, if you can get the loan. More over, if you get a black mark on your credit score, it can take about 7 years to get that off.”

But, as David Lazarus notes, the worst thing you can do is ignore the calls. Instead, be aggressive, and "a key thing to remember for consumers is you have rights," Lazarus says. Debt collectors can't harass or abuse you, they can't call you early in the morning or late at night, and they can't threaten to imprison you.

Credit.com: Top 10 Debt Collection Rights

You should also keep in mind that past due debt carries a statute of limitations, depending on your state. “It doesn't mean the debt goes away," Lazarus says, "they can still keep trying to collect, but they can’t take you to court. They can’t sue you”

VIDEO: National unity deal for Afghan rivals

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:13
Afghan presidential rivals, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, agree to form a united government. after months of feuding.

Fixing the fix: Price-setting precious metals in London

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:07

Next week, the London-based system for setting the price of silver – which is more than a century old – will be scrapped in favor of a new electronic, auction-based method.

The move has raised another big question mark over the future of an even more important price-setting mechanism: the so-called "gold fix." Since 1919, the value of the yellow metal has been set daily in London, but after a series of benchmark rigging scandals, the gold fix is looking more than a little tarnished.

The name doesn't help. These days, the word “fix" hardly inspires confidence in the integrity of the system – especially since banks are involved .

“People don’t trust banks,” says Brian Lucey, Professor of Finance at Trinity College Dublin. “The fix is not a transparent process, and therefore it inevitably gives rise to conspiracy theories and concern.”

Four banks – including Barclays and HSBC – get together on the phone twice a day to deal in gold bullion. The price they strike becomes the latest "fix" or global benchmark for the yellow metal. Details of the conversation between the four banks are not immediately made public, and that provides scope for rigging.

Alberto Thomas of market consulting firm Fideres Partners testified before a parliamentary committee this summer and warned of the danger of abuse: “Effectively you've got a massive potential for insider trading in that market, and market manipulation... It doesn't mean it happens every day, but the opportunity is there. Our analysis shows that between 2010 and 2013, up to 30 percent of the fixes showed signs of rigging."

Adrian Ash of BullionVault.com, an online gold and silver exchange, is not convinced there has been such widespread abuse. But he concedes there has been at least one case of gold fix manipulation.

“Barclays Bank were recently fined 26 million pounds for a trader at a separate, precious metals desk at their bank, who put in a false order at the fix to try to push the price a little bit lower," says Ash. “The trader stood to get a bigger bonus if the gold price fell below a certain level.”

This is not the biggest banking scandal to hit London - the rigging of the LIBOR interest rate benchmark was far more serious, since it was used as the basis for trillions of dollars worth of financial transactions.

But Ash worries that the doubts swirling about the London gold fix could be harmful: “I think there is a danger of the reputation of the London bullion market being damaged by the current fuss around the fix,” he says .

Without greater transparency and independent oversight, the fix could wither, and London could lose more business to the burgeoning gold market in Shanghai.

When the silver fix is reformed next week, gold may not be far behind.

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