National / International News

Battle to restore power after gales

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:40
Engineers continue work to reconnect 19,000 homes across Wales still without power after storms, as forecasters warn of more bad weather.

An assist for young men of color?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:23

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that an event launching President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative would take place at the White House on Thursday, February 13, 2014. The event was postponed to a later date due to bad weather.

The White House plans to make good on a single, isolated promise that President Barack Obama made in his State of the Union Address back in January:

"I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential."

The president was highlighting a demographic group that faces among the worst prospects in America for finishing school, staying out of prison, finding good jobs, and helping to support their families. The official unemployment rate for African-American men over the age of 20 is 12 percent, more than double the 5.4 percent rate of white men. The rate is 8.2 percent for Hispanic males.

At the White House event planned for Thursday, the president was to launch his  initiative, called "My Brother’s Keeper." The event was postponed due to bad weather, and a White House source said it would be rescheduled.

The Administration has been lining up commitments from foundations, corporations, community organizations and educators to study and address racial disparities in education, criminal justice, and employment outcomes for young men.

In his travels around the country stumping about this issue, President Obama has observed many mentoring programs. One that has impressed him is called Becoming a Man (BAM), run by the nonprofit organization Youth Guidance in Chicago public schools.

Richard Dickinson is one of BAM’s counselors. BAM operates in 39 Chicago public schools with seventh-to-twelfth-grade boys. Dickinson leads group-interaction sessions on school grounds to teach so-called ‘social-cognitive’ skills. These include impulse control, future-orientation, and conflict resolution. Counselors teach a set of six core values: integrity, accountability, self-determination, positive anger expression, visionary goal-setting, and respect for womanhood.

Dickinson explains how the first—integrity—is crucial to future success in school and work.

"Integrity means being a man of your word, saying the things that you’re going to do and actually doing them, or at least trying to do them," says Dickinson. "That can only help to secure a job, keep it or create your own job."

The cost of the program is approximately $2,000 per student. Dickinson says nonprofits like Youth Guidance have to do the work—with funding from foundations and individuals and corporations—because the inner-city schools he works in don’t have the resources or expertise.

"They’re understaffed and under-supported," Dickinson says. "So there might be a school counselor on staff, but that individual isn’t really counseling, because of a variety of other hats they might have to wear every day."

Economist Jens Ludwig directs the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago. Along with Chicago Public Schools and World Sport Chicago, the Crime Lab conducted a randomized clinical trial of 2,500 adolescent boys participating in a BAM program for one year. The study found that BAM reduced violent crime by at-risk youth by 44 percent. It also increased school attendance, engagement, and credits earned. Projected out to the end of high school, the program could be expected to increase graduation rates by 5-8 percent.

Ludwig says that based on the Crime Lab’s study: "Our estimates suggest that every dollar you invest in Becoming a Man may generate up to $30 in benefits to society—from increased graduation rates and reduced criminal activity."

Video of Youth Guidance BAM Program - 6 minute version

Ludwig agrees with Dickinson that the challenges public schools already face in delivering academic learning—from remedial to college-prep— leave few resources to teach social-cognitive skills as well. That puts more burden on nonprofit educational and community groups to do the work, so that young men of color in poor neighborhoods can succeed in school, and avoid prison and violence.

Ludwig thinks President Obama’s initiative would help research and spread the best programs nationwide. "It has the potential to help us better understand what non-academic or social-cognitive skills we exactly need to help kids develop in order to improve their life outcomes," says Ludwig.

In the current political climate, Congress is unlikely to fund a big new federal program to deal with the challenges faced by young men of color nationwide. So President Obama is largely limited to the role of ‘convener,’ bringing together foundations, corporations, sports celebrities, educators and activists to support pilot projects in communities across the country.

'Most firms' back EU trade rules

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:21
Most businesses feel EU rules ensuring the freedom to trade goods with other members are "beneficial to the national interest", a government report suggests.

Facebook Gives Users New Options To Identify Gender

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:18

Facebook is rolling out changes to its 159 million members in the U.S. that will allow people to have a wider choice than simply male or female when selecting a gender description on the site. Users can choose from roughly 50 options including Trans Male, Trans Woman or Androgynous.

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Seven decades of bitterness

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:17
A dispute over islands in the East China Sea has inflamed relations between Japan and China - but they were tense even before. Mariko Oi investigates why.

VIDEO: Osborne rules out Scotland currency union

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:14
The Chancellor George Osborne has ruled out a currency union with an independent Scotland after receiving what he described as 'strong advice' from the Treasury's top civil servant.

Debt Ceiling Vote Relied On GOP's 'Tough Vote' Caucus

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:09

The 28 House Republicans who voted for the debt ceiling increase made it safe for the rest of their fellow Republicans not to.

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U.K. Warns Scotland: Vote To Secede, Lose Common Currency

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:03

Scots vote in a referendum on independence from the U.K. in September, and the pro-independence leader had previously said the new country would retain the pound as its currency. The message from London on Thursday: Not so fast.

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What's in a name for

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:01

Nothing stimulates the economy like a holiday. And when it comes to Valentine's Day, spending on chocolates, cards and trinkets makes for a busy time in the American economy.

This is especially true for flowers -- and 1-800-

Yes, that actually is the name of the company.

"In the 1980s, it was the hot new technology," says CEO Jim McCann of the "1-800" calling services. "Then in the mid to early nineties, we decided to add this dot-com thing onto the back of it."

McCann says uses a network of more than 7,000 local flower shops across the country to help grow and deliver their product. This includes Miami, which for the holiday has clocked-in 6,000 employees to prep and ship flowers for delivery.

"Valentine's Day is a crazy holiday in the middle of what is otherwise a quiet quarter," says McCann, whose competition now includes delivery services like Fed-Ex and online stores like Amazon.

"If we're not good enough to beat someone who sells everything at a commodity form, then shame on us," he says. "We have to sharpen our game all the time."

Afghan Prisoner Release Promises To Inflame Tensions

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Strained relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. and NATO may only get worse this week. The Afghan government is releasing 65 prisoners, many of whom have been accused by the West of plotting and participating in terrorist activities. Robert Siegel speaks with Nathan Hodge of The Wall Street Journal to learn more about the rationale behind this release and what it might mean for Afghan security and diplomacy.

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Tech Innovator And Master Of Maps Dies At 80

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Roger Tomlinson, the man widely regarded as the father of GIS — Geographic Information Systems — has died at age 80. Tomlinson's 1960s innovation, using computer software to overlay different types of maps on top of one another, revolutionized industry and government.

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Consumer Advocates Alarmed By $45 Billion Deal

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, is set to become even bigger. The Philadelphia-based company has reached an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider, in an all-stock deal valued at roughly $45 billion. Consumer groups oppose the deal on the grounds that it will hurt competition and raise prices. But the companies claim competition won't be harmed at all.

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Between U.S. And Russian Hockey, A Different Kind Of Cold War

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

The U.S. and Russian men's hockey teams played at the same time on Thursday. The teams will meet on the ice Saturday, when they will renew a storied rivalry that includes such historic games as the Miracle on Ice.

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With A Citizen In The Crosshairs, Where's The Line Drawn For Drones?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

The Obama administration is considering targeting an American citizen who is suspected of plotting a terrorist attack. The possibility again raises questions about U.S. drone policy and whether an American's citizenship rights are lost once that person joins a terrorist organization.

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Grounded And Confounded, Airlines Wait For Storms To Pass

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

The snow and ice storms sweeping the East Coast have been felt not only on the ground but in the air, as well. Airlines are cancelling thousands of flights, and both the companies and their passengers have had to deal with the fallout.

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Charlotte Hosts A Rare And Rowdy Visitor — Snow

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 13:00

Another spate of harsh winter weather has hit the East Coast, wreaking havoc with power lines and airline itineraries along the way. Cities unused to the snow and ice are having the toughest time coping with the storms. Ron Carlee, the city manager of Charlotte, N.C., joins us to discuss the ways his city is dealing with the weather.

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Cliff 'honoured' to join Morrissey

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:56
Sir Cliff Richard says it was a "great honour" to be asked by former Smiths frontman Morrissey to support him at a concert in New York.

More rain and high winds forecast

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:53
A new band of heavy rain is expected to hit the UK on Friday, as engineers work to reconnect power supplies cut off by Wednesday's storm.

No-Confidence Vote Ushers In Italy's Youngest-Ever Premier

NPR News - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:50

Enrico Letta's 10-month-old government failed to stimulate growth amid the country's worst post-war recession. One of his harshest critics, 39-year-old Matteo Renzi, is next in line.

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Life for boy's 'sadistic' murderer

BBC - Thu, 2014-02-13 12:45
A former soldier who murdered a four-year-old boy as his victim slept is told he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

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