National / International News

U.S. Authenticates Video Of Militants Beheading American Journalist

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:30

A video in which the extremist group the Islamic State claims to execute American journalist James Foley is authentic, according to U.S. intelligence analysts. Foley was abducted in Syria in 2012.

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Barcelona transfer ban appeal fails

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:29
Barcelona cannot sign players until 2016 once the current transfer window shuts, after Fifa reject their appeal over a ban.

British pubs: popular but disappearing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:25

British pubs have been closing at a rate of 31 a week, and that rate is accelerating. The Campaign for Real Ale is warning that a world-famous British institution is in danger of severe decline. The group has called for urgent measures to save the pub and preserve a valuable piece of the fabric of British life.

Stephen Langdon is one of a group of regulars trying to save his local — The Maiden Over in Reading — from closure.

“It will damage the community no question about it.” Langdon says. “ The pub has been a real focal point for the families and local community. If we lose it, there will be nowhere else for us to have a social evening in our neighborhood. There is no other pub within easy, convenient walking distance from where we live.”

Langdon's pub is scheduled to be turned into a supermarket. A similar fate befell Gareth Epps’ local pub, with negative consequences for his social life.

"I don’t see my friends so often now, I don’t see my neighbors so often." Epps says. "It means I lose the chance to pay cricket for my pub team. It diminishes the quality of life in our neighborhood."

Many of the pubs that have closed their doors were making money but not as much money as the supermarkets that replaced them. Indeed, supermarkets now pose a big competitive threat to pubs as retailers of booze.

"Supermarkets are selling beer so cheap that people on low incomes are driven into the arms of the supermarkets because pub beer is so much more expensive." explains Roger Protz, author of "300 Beers to Try Before You Die." "So people buy cheap beer from the supermarket and drink it at home.”

Adding to the plight of the British pub is a corporate malaise. The handful of big companies that own most of the pubs are heavily in debt and they need to sell off more of their assets. The supermarket chains are willing buyers.

CAMRA used the occasion of its annual Great British Beer Festival last week to highlight the threat to the British pub and to call for closure of what it calls a loophole in UK planning law.

"Something that is as intrinsic to British culture as the British pub can be closed down, can be knocked down, it can have its use changed, with no reference to the local community." CAMRA’s spokesman Tom Stainer says. The group wants a planning application to be required before a pub can be demolished so that the local community has a chance to save it.

The group has launched an unusual crusade for the sake of the country’s social health: to drive the British people back to drink, in a pub.

China levies record antitrust fines on foreign firms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:21

In its latest effort to wield its power against foreign companies, China has levied more than $200 million in fines against a dozen Japanese auto parts makers for price-fixing.

German and American automakers are also being investigated. They were the largest fines placed on foreign companies in China since the government rolled out new anti-trust laws six years ago, and they're making a big impact on the world's largest auto market.

The investigation is the latest to target foreign companies within a select group of industries from pharmaceuticals to PR firms. CLSA analyst Scott Laprise says the investigation into price fixing among foreign companies in China's auto market is reasonable from a consumer perspective.

"If we look at it from a U.S.-style consumer protectionist view: What would you think if you found out your car was being sold two, three, four [or] in the case of some cars five times more expensive in another country?" Laprise asks. "Aren’t you taking advantage of that country?"

While some analysts may see this as the latest example of China's government unfairly targeting foreign firms, others point out that Chinese consumers are the fastest rising consumer group in the world, and this investigation is an effort on the part of China's government to protect them from unfair business practices.

 

China levies record antitrust fines on foreign firms

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:21

In its latest effort to wield its power against foreign companies, China has levied more than $200 million in fines against a dozen Japanese auto parts makers for price-fixing.

German and American automakers are also being investigated. They were the largest fines placed on foreign companies in China since the government rolled out new anti-trust laws six years ago, and they're making a big impact on the world's largest auto market.

The investigation is the latest to target foreign companies within a select group of industries from pharmaceuticals to PR firms. CLSA analyst Scott Laprise says the investigation into price fixing among foreign companies in China's auto market is reasonable from a consumer perspective.

"If we look at it from a U.S.-style consumer protectionist view: What would you think if you found out your car was being sold two, three, four [or] in the case of some cars five times more expensive in another country?" Laprise asks. "Aren’t you taking advantage of that country?"

While some analysts may see this as the latest example of China's government unfairly targeting foreign firms, others point out that Chinese consumers are the fastest rising consumer group in the world, and this investigation is an effort on the part of China's government to protect them from unfair business practices.

 

Argentina in plan to avoid US ruling

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:17
An emotional President de Kirchner says proposed legislation will return control of its debt to the government.

Urban Farms Build Resilience Within Singapore's Fragile Food System

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:17

Tiny Singapore imports almost all of its food. From gardens on deserted car parks to vertical farms in the vanishing countryside, a movement is afoot to help boost its agricultural production.

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Urban Farms Build Resilience Within Singapore's Fragile Food System

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:17

Tiny Singapore imports almost all its food. From gardens on deserted car parks to vertical farms in the vanishing countryside, a movement is afoot to help boost its agricultural production.

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VIDEO: Barenboim: 'Orchestra must play on'

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:14
Conductor Daniel Barenboim speaks to Newsnight's Kirsty Wark about how the situation in Gaza has affected his orchestra of musicians from both sides in the conflict.

VIDEO: Going Gaga for Scottish independence

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:10
Social media's use ahead of the independence referendum

Downgrade hits South African banks

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:10
Shares in South Africa’s largest banks have fallen after being downgraded by the credit ratings agency Moody’s.

If You're Born In The Sky, What's Your Nationality? An Airplane Puzzler

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 03:03

Suppose two Chinese parents get on an Australian airplane and, while flying over U.S. territory, they have a baby on the plane. Can that baby be an American citizen?

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AUDIO: Rennard accuser on party 'fudge'

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:57
One of the women who accused Lord Rennard of harassment said she is "flabbergasted but really not that surprised" that his membership suspension has been lifted.

VIDEO: BBC moved on amid Ferguson protests

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:55
Violence subsides but protests continue over the police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, as 47 arrests are made.

Heart deaths reach 'tipping point'

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:54
Parts of Europe are reaching a "tipping point" where cardiovascular disease is no longer the leading cause of death, a study shows.

Militants 'kill reporter on video'

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:51
The Islamic State militant group releases a video purporting to show the beheading of US journalist James Foley, seized in Syria in 2012.

Borders railway opening date set

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:50
First Minister Alex Salmond announces trains will run on the Borders to Edinburgh railway from 6 September 2015.

Rain sparks deadly Japan landslides

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:45
At least 32 people have been killed in landslides caused by heavy rain that buried houses in Japan's Hiroshima prefecture, officials say.

Uber launches home delivery service

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:39

Uber — the company known for on-demand taxi rides — is getting into the on-demand delivery business. Its foray into the delivery world is in Washington, D.C., where it has unveiled an experimental delivery service it calls Corner Store. 

Here's how it works: Say my baby is sick, and I need some infant cold medicine.

Uber will send one of its drivers out to pick up whatever I need. 

“Just think about a mom who’s at home with a sick kid and she doesn’t want to leave the child alone. It’s the perfect opportunity,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research.

Rosenblum says Uber is competing with lots of other companies who are experimenting with on-demand delivery: Google, eBay, Walmart. And, of course, Amazon.

How can Uber compete with the likes of Amazon? Think of Amazon as a bus, and Uber as, well, a taxi.

“Amazon is going to have the low-cost delivery because of all those passengers on the bus, whereas Uber is going to have one package on the taxi, ” says Rob Howard, founder and CEO of Grand Junction, a company that provides software for shippers.

Uber is offering its Corner Store delivery service for free at first, although you have to pay for the products you order. If Corner Store becomes permanent, it'll have to charge for delivery.

While Uber may not be able to match Amazon’s low prices, but Howard says consumers may be willing to pay more to get stuff fast. 

More housing starts don't mean more first-time buyers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 02:36

Home builders are having a party, thanks to a host of new numbers suggesting the backhoes and construction workers are busy. Home construction rose 22 percent over last year. Building permits are up 7.7 percent. And a measure of builders’ confidence has exceeded expectations.

But first-time buyers are largely absent. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, new buyers historically purchased around 30 percent of newly built homes. Now it’s around 16 percent.

“Underwriting criteria are tighter now,” says David Crowe of the association. “And that’s the age group that usually falls out if you are restrictive in terms of credit scores.”

Young buyers also face job instability, lower incomes, and increased down payments. One brokerage found the median down payment for starter homes rose from around $6,000 in 2007 to more than $9,000 last year.  

But first-timers are a key to unlocking the whole housing market. Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate at the Wharton School, says at some point, lots of first-timers will buy existing starter houses.

“When they come in the market, that’s going to give a boost to existing home sales,” Wachter says, “which will allow those who are in their homes, still not getting the price they want, still underwater, they’ll be able to sell. Then they’ll be able to buy the new homes, which tend to be trade-up homes. New homes are trade-up homes generally.”

It’s a cascade effect. And right now, new demand has to flow in.

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