National / International News

Adults 'unaware of NHS data plans'

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 09:18
Fewer than a third of adults in England recall getting an a leaflet about changes to the handling of medical records, a poll for the BBC suggests.

The real cost of Valentine's Day

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-14 09:14

It’s Valentine’s Day. For a lot of people, that means a day of big spending (and total paranoia).

But is your Valentine's Day dollar going to stretch as far this year as it did last year? Turns out, it depends.

Take roses. They've actually gotten less expensive. Jan Ooms has owned Roses and Blooms in Midtown Manhattan for more than 20 years. He shows off stacks of boxes that contain roses that have just been flown in from Ecuador.

"We’re looking at about 12,000 roses," says Ooms, who expects to sell about 25,000 roses out of his small shop this Valentine's Day.

Ooms says there is a Valentine’s mark-up. That's because, to get all those flowers, shops like his have to contract out entire farms in Central and South America. Growers charge a premium for the risk of dedicating entire fields to roses that must be ready exactly on time for the critical week. In the end, a dozen roses at Roses and Blooms will set you back between $28 and $70 this Valentine’s Day (vase not included) and that's not bad compared to five years ago.

"Overall, during the year, the price has been going down a little bit," says Ooms. "The bad economy has been hitting the flower business pretty hard."

Meanwhile, pricing competition has gotten fiercer.

"Flower prices overall have been declining over the past decade and that’s really with the emergence of online retailers," explains Hester Jeon, research analyst with IBISworld. "Price-based competition is more severe because consumers can compare prices."

Flowers aren’t the only Valentine’s Day essential that’s gotten cheaper: This year, bubbly is also a bargain (comparatively, anyway).

"Champagne sales globally have been in decline since 2007," says Ross Colbert, global beverage strategist with Rabobank. Colbert says demand for champagne has suffered as cheaper bubbly wines like prosecco and spumante have gained popularity. "Pricing today on champagne is probably as low as it’s going to go. There’s a lot of good value out there."

You’ll need those champagne savings to help pay for chocolates this year. Chocolate prices have plumped up a lot lately and that's mostly because of a price hike for chocolate's main raw material.

"The price of cocoa has risen significantly," says Jacques Torres,  New York-based chocolatier. He says cocoa prices are up more than 25 percent from last year. That’s partly because of skyrocketing demand from new markets like India and China, and partly because of fancier tastes here at home.

"Dark chocolate sells more and more and a higher percentage of dark," says Torres. "We used to see a lot more milk and we’ve switched. Now we sell over 60 percent dark chocolates."

Dark chocolate uses more cocoa. Cocoa is more expensive. So, those fancy chocolates cost a lot more.

Now, if only diamonds will do for your Valentine, be prepared to pay, says IBISWorld’s Jeon.

"10 percent of proposals take place on Valentine’s Day, which is interesting," Jeon says.

Yes. Interesting. Jeon says more people are getting married this year, thanks to an increase in gay marriage and the improving economy.

"So we’re going to see a growth in demand for jewelry this year and also higher prices."

All told, The National Retail Federation expects the average person will spend $133 this Valentine’s day, up from $130 last year.

Unjustly enough, single people will spend more—roughly $30 more than their married counterparts. There’s also a gender divide in Valentine’s spending according to chocolatier, Jacques Torres.

"Woman are usually organized," says Torres. "They will go on the website, look at the flavors and come a couple days before and shop. Men come the last 2 hours of the day. They rush, because they double park and they have a price in mind, but they don’t know what they buy... They come in saying, 'I want $20, $50 worth of chocolate.' When they pass $100, I know they are in trouble."

That’s the thing… You could opt not to spend any money at all on Valentine’s Day, but that could end up costing a lot more

Davina finishes gruelling challenge

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 09:12
TV presenter Davina McCall completes the final leg of her 500-mile Sport Relief challenge in London.

VIDEO: US highway pile-up from the air

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 09:09
Up to 100 cars have been involved in several accidents on a major highway in the US as a giant winter storms grips the country's north-east.

Why every household should have its own currency

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 09:07
As micro-currencies spring up alongside traditional money, Adam Gopnik asks just how 'micro' can micro-currencies become?

VIDEO: Video 'shows UK Syria suicide bomber'

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:59
A video has been posted online that appears to show Abdul Waheed Majid, believed to be the first British suicide bomber to blow himself up in Syria.

Did Michael Sam Take A 'Huge Risk' To Come Out Before The Draft?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:57

NFL hopeful Michael Sam recently announced he's gay. But is that why his draft stock has reportedly dropped? The Barbershop guys weigh in.

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Remembering The Radio Stations That Got Loud With 'Black And Proud'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:57

Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio highlights a time when black radio stations were the only ones playing music by African-Americans. Host Michel Martin talks about the audio documentary with legendary music producer Kenny Gamble, who narrated the project.

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Jay Z Or Jay-Z? Buzzfeed Tells You When To Hyphenate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:56

The AP Style Guide and Chicago Manual of Style are the gold standards for questions about capitalization, grammar, or usage. But what if you need to know how to properly write Jay Z's name? Buzzfeed's Copy Editor Emmy Favilla discusses the website's style guide for the Internet.

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Why "No One is Running With the President in Missouri"

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:56

Washington, D.C. is digging out from the snow, but Congress is already long gone on a two week recess. Host Michel Martin speaks with Christopher Ave of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Corey Dade of The Root, about the latest political news.

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London Market Report

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:54
London Market Report

10 things we didn't know last week

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:48
The brain reacts to :-) like a face but not to (-: and more nuggets

VIDEO: How two friends started a hashtag race row

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:45
How two friends started a hashtag race war

Report: 'Pattern Of Harassment' Led Dolphins Player To Quit

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:45

Jonathan Martin abruptly left the NFL team last season. He said teammate Richie Incognito had made his life miserable. Investigators say Martin and two others were the targets of racial slurs and other taunting.

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A brief history of snow removal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:34

This winter has been one of the coldest, snowiest, and most expensive in recent history. Last month the airlines cancelled 39,000 flights, the most since Hurricane Sandy. The weather likely factored into the reasons the January jobs report was so weak.  States are turning to beet juice and cheese brine to combat dwindling supplies of rock salt. Perhaps most tellingly, snowed-in Northeasterners demanded that Netflix release 'House of Cards' a day early so they could stay inside and binge watch.

But as snow plows navigate the roads of weather-weary Northeast, it's important to remember that winter wasn't always this easy. That's right, before the introduction of modern snow plows, people had to use horse drawn plows, train snow blowers, and shovels to move the snow away from where they wanted to go. 

Before the mid-1800s, there wasn't really any effort to get snow off roads. Just imagine no snow removal during the "The Great Snow of 1717," when New England was left with four feet of snow, and drifts of up to 25 feet high. Or "The Washington and Jefferson Snowstorm" of 1772 that trapped both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in their homes, with snow up to three feet thick.

No, before 1862, people didn't use snow plows, they used snow rollers. The way people travelled through snow was by attaching skis to their horse-drawn carts and carriages. Snow rollers were huge, horse-drawn wheels that would flatten out the snow, making it easier for the carts with skis to move through the winter roads.

But by the mid-19th century, as cities were rapidly growing in population, city streets needed to be entirely clear of snow for the business of the city to continue. And with this, came snow plows. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, they were first used by the city of Milwaukee in 1862. Early snow plows were horse-drawn, and would deposit the compacted snow in huge piles on the city's streets and sidewalks. Not all cities used plows though. Some just used shovels. In New York, clearing the snow was the responsibility of the Police Department, so on winter days, you might have seen policeman excavating thoroughfares.

At least until 1881, when it was made the charge of the Department of Street Cleaning.

Finally, during the Blizzard of 1888, cities got serious about snow removal. The blizzard covered the Northeast in four feet of snow. Carts were abandoned in the middle of the street, people were trapped in their homes for up to a week, and over 400 people died. However, this massive blizzard did force cities to change their tactics regarding snow removal. Cities increased the numbers of plows they had, and divided the cities into sections so they could more easily be tackled. And where before cities had waited until the storm was over to clear the roads, they now removed snow throughout the storm.

 

As horses gave way to cars and trains, so too did snow removal start to get mechanized. In Chicago, trams were affixed with plows, though most snow removal still had to be done with shovels and horse-drawn cart. (Being Chicago, this did lead to a 1907 scandal where workers, who were paid by the cart-full of snow they dumped into the lake, would only dump part of their load, thereby having to make more trips and get paid more money.) And a Canadian dentist named J.W. Elliot invented the snow blower to toss snow away from train tracks.

But the main development was in the motorized snow plow and the motorized salt spreader. As more and more cars came on the road in the early 20th Century, drivers demanded that roads be entirely free of snow. People had objected to the use of salt before (it damaged shoes and clothing), but now cities used it by the ton.

And car mounted snow plows, invented in the 1920s, started to become widely used, leading to snow removal we would recognize today. True, a huge snow plow might be less romantic than a snow roller clearing the way for horse-drawn carriages, but it (usually) enables most people to get to work on time.

Ukraine frees remaining protesters

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:30
The last of 243 jailed protesters walks free in Ukraine, prompting the opposition to ease its blockade of Kiev city centre.

Sexually Transmitted Food Poisoning? A Fish Toxin Could Be To Blame

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:29

Tropical fish, like red snapper and grouper, can accumulate one of the most poisonous toxins on Earth. People who eat those fish could get ciguatera, an illness with strange neurological effects, such as painful intercourse. And doctors say there's a chance it spreads through sex.

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Sexually Transmitted Food Poisoning? A Fish Toxin Could Be To Blame

NPR News - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:29

Tropical fish, like red snapper and grouper, can accumulate one of the most poisonous toxins on Earth, known as ciguatera. A few bites of an infected filet can trigger strange neurological effects: painful intercourse, reversal of how you feel temperature and the sensation of your teeth falling out. And doctors say there's a chance it spreads through sex.

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Live flood warning map: England and Wales

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:22
Live summary of flood warnings across England and Wales from the Environment Agency.

Italy tipped to have its youngest PM

BBC - Fri, 2014-02-14 08:22
The mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, is widely expected to be asked to form a new Italian government after the resignation of PM Enrico Letta.

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