National / International News

The biter bit - or has Suarez got off lightly?

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 08:05
Luis Suarez's partially successful appeal will disappoint some but the result seems a sensible solution to most observers, writes Dan Roan.

Fracking threatens election tremors

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 08:00
How big an impact will fracking have on 2015 election?

Rik Mayall mural for birthplace

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:37
A 20ft (6m) high mural of comedian Rik Mayall is created in his birthplace in Essex.

VIDEO: Two US states 'swap weather systems'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:31
Unusual weather in the Western US has caused an apparent "swap" in weather systems between Arizona and Washington State.

UN declares major emergency in Iraq

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:23
The UN declares its highest level of emergency in Iraq as a humanitarian crisis follows the rapid advance by Islamic State militants.

Southampton sign Hull striker Long

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:05
Southampton complete the signing of Hull City striker Shane Long for an undisclosed fee, reported to be about £12m.

Beneath These Masks Is An Artist Conflicted By Junk Food

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:05

James Ostrer slathered himself and a few friends with cream cheese and then piled candy, doughnuts and fries on top. As he photographed these human sculptures, he found a sort of catharsis.

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Jail 'destroyed' China rights lawyer

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:04
Leading Chinese dissident, Gao Zhisheng, has been left "destroyed" and "unintelligible" by three years in jail, according to his lawyer.

California could stay dry enough to make food pricier

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-14 07:00

In an ongoing drought that’s often described as epic, California’s legislature has approved a proposal to ask voters for more than $7 billion in water-infrastructure projects.

Among those who were pleased:  The California Farm Bureau. Much of California’s water goes to growing crops, and the state produces a big chunk of the nation’s fruit, veggies, and nuts.

The drought has been extremely tough on farmers, and the bad news is:  It’s probably reasonable to expect more of the same, over the very long term. Recent research shows that the last hundred years were probably the long-term equivalent of the rainy season.

“All of our water-management decisions in the West were made based on a really, really wet period, comparatively speaking, looking at the last thousand years of record,” says Richard Heim a meteorologist for the Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Climate change will amplify any natural drying-out. “It’s going to be hotter and drier in the western United States,” says Heim. “Bad.”

Given that, California agriculture might need a major re-think. “It’s not clear that  we should be growing these kind of crops— vegetables, nut trees, grapes— these kinds of very thirsty crops— in a region like California,” says Yusuke Kuwayama, an economist at Resources for the Future.

He thinks the long-term alternative is probably more-expensive broccoli.

California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger says: OK, but where else are you going to grow tomatoes in December? Nebraska? 

“Our Mediterranean climates are the richest growing regions in the world,” Wenger says. “And by definition, they have good soils, they have temperate climates, and they don’t have water. We have to bring water to them.”  

California currently imports a significant amount of water from the Colorado River.

An animation depicting the past six weeks of drought conditions in the United States. (Graphic courtesy of United States Drought Monitor.)

 

Wanted At Barneys New York: An 'Anti-Profiling Consultant'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:59

The high-end retailer settled a nine-month investigation by the New York state attorney general's office by agreeing to hire an independent expert on preventing racial profiling.

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Quins launch European Champions Cup

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:53
Harlequins will entertain French side Castres in the opening game of the new European Rugby Champions Cup on Friday 17 October.

'Trophy' theory over woodland skull

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:48
A human skull discovered in woodland could have been a "trophy" brought back to the UK from abroad, an inquest hears.

Queue jumping charge for calls to EE

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:48
Mobile phone company EE has introduced a 50p charge for jumping the queue on customer service calls, angering some customers.

ECB 'under pressure' to boost growth

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:38
Stagnating growth in the eurozone has put pressure on the European Central Bank to take further measures to boost the economic bloc, say analysts.

How People In Ferguson See The Police in Ferguson

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:35

Some residents say that even before Ferguson police killed a teenager, they saw the police as a potential threat. Increasingly this week, they're seeing the police in military gear.

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Watson praises Woods after withdrawal

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:13
US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson says Tiger Woods has taken the high road for his early decision to rule himself out.

DR Congo war crimes 'test case'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 06:02
The war crimes trial in the DR Congo of a senior ex-army officer will be a test of military justice in the country, the UN says.

Guinea declares Ebola emergency

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 05:56
Guinea declares a national health emergency as it battles to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 people.

Donetsk shelled amid Russia aid row

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-14 05:56
Shells hit the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk, amid a continuing dispute over a Russian aid convoy now stationed close to the border.

Building a school with a future

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-14 05:48

If you've gone back to visit your old elementary or high school recently, you may have been surprised to find it’s still there.  And, it’s pretty much the way you left it — dark classrooms, narrow hallways.

A typical "cells and bells" school building. Hillel Academy in Tampa, FL, before renovation. (Prakash Nair)

But after a big slowdown during the recession, spending on new school construction — renovating old schools and building new ones — is slowly picking up again. It was more than $13 billion last year.

School Construction 101 | Create Infographics

Many newer schools are being designed with the latest technologies and teaching models in mind,  schools like the new Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep charter school in San Jose, California.

Bright blue, purple and orange paint cover the classroom walls. The design is clean. The spaces are open. Natural light streams into the building from skylights above. There’s open duct work. Throughout the school, there are small, private “breakout spaces” where kids can work with teachers or each other.

At the center of it all is a wide-open computer lab, about the size of four classrooms, with polished concrete floors. It’ll soon be full of 160 kids, each on their own laptop, working on their own lessons.

The computer lab at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in San Jose. (Adriene Hill/Marketplace)

“Individualized instruction for students is the right way to go,” said Laura Kozel, vice president of facilities at Rocketship, a network of elementary charter schools where computers are a part of every kids’ day. Kozel is in charge of making sure everything is ready in time for the hundreds of students from kindergarten through fourth grade, who’ll pour into the school next week. "You have to meet every child where they are at, and that’s really what this model is designed to do,” she said.

Kids learning on cutting edge technology raises two important questions. The first: How will a fragile computer ever survive a year with a kindergartner and a concrete floor?

And, second: How do you design a school that won’t be obsolete in 20 years, when no one has any idea what tech or teaching might look like in five?

“If we do a good job, it’s to give the teacher something that is going to be adaptable to however they want to teach,” said architect Michael Pinto, from NAC|Architecture, a firm that specializes in school design.

“The challenge is to both be specific to the things they want to do, but also preserve some generality, flexibility, that agility that adapts to new technologies, new philosophies of learning.”

In other words, the school of the future is a school that knows how to get out of the way.

Pinto shows me just such a place: Playa Vista Elementary School in Los Angeles.

Playground area at Playa Vista Elementary School. (Edmund Barr)

There are no docks to park your jetpack. Or cubbies for Google glasses.

Instead the three-year-old school is characterized by moveable partitions, open spaces and furniture that doesn’t screech across the floor when you rearrange it.

A multipurpose space, at Playa Vista Elementary, used as an event space and cafeteria, with automated roll-up doors to open up to the outside. (Edmund Barr)

Teacher Rachel Henry calls her classroom "amoebic."

“I’m a firm believer that children need change, and they can get bored easily just with their physical environment,” she said.  She changes the classroom setup about once a month.

Spaces at the school are built to transform into other spaces, in the simplest of ways. The architects made the outside walkways wider than usual so they can also be learning spaces.

There’s a bridge over the courtyard intended for dropping things over the side. In the school of the future, kids still wrap eggs in paper and cardboard and hope for the best.

All the flexibility is meant to encourage a new type of learning: Learning by doing. Learning with new technology. Learning that is collaborative, personalized. Learning that architect Prakash Nair said more traditional schools are no good at. 

Nair is the founding president of Fielding Nair International and the author of the forthcoming book “Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning.”

He calls traditional U.S. schools “cells and bells.”

“Kids are in a cell called a classroom for a certain period of time,” he said.  A bell goes off. “And then they go to another fairly identical cell.”

Nair says we currently have $2 trillion worth of “cells and bells” type school facilities around the country.

“If you look at the research about how we learn, it has nothing to do with being trapped in a room with people of the same age,” he said.

Nair imagines schools without big auditoriums, with cafes instead of large cafeterias.

He says schools with open, flexible space can cost less to build than traditional schools.

Remember those lockers at the beginning of the story? This is the same space, post-renovation. (Prakash Nair)

Old-school schools use about two-thirds of the space for learning. New-school schools, said Nair, use as much as 85 percent of the space.

The Rocketship school in San Jose cost about $10 million to build, compared to about $16 million for a traditional elementary school.

Around the country, teachers and architects are working toward the same goal: to be prepared for the stream of kids headed their way in a few days and a few decades from now.

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