National / International News

Governor Puts Moratorium On Pennsylvania's Death Penalty

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:53

Gov. Tom Wolf has declared a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania, taking a stance he had embraced during his recent campaign. Wolf, a Democrat, was sworn in last month.

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Sochi return 'is like coming home'

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:51
Winter Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold is back racing at Sochi, the scene of her triumph 12 months ago.

What's the point of satire?

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:50
What exactly is the point of satire?

11-year-old boy up for goal award

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:49
An 11-year-old boy from Northern Ireland is in the running for the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) goal of the month award.

10 things we didn't know last week

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:49
Police horses in one English force can't be called Brian, and more news nuggets

Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:46
A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week.

Six Routes: How to make it in Germany

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:44

In this series, we're going around the world in 40 days, stopping at six countries in the middle of the new global economy: Nigeria, Brazil, China, India, Germany, and the U.S. We'll meet the people who've made it, those who are trying to make it, and the people making the big decisions in the world economy.

The first stop on this tour is Germany: The country boasts the world's fourth-largest economy and is the beating heart of the eurozone, the guardian of financial discipline. When it comes to money, what makes Germans tick?

DEBT AND GUILT

The election of Greece's left-wing government on a promise to reduce the country’s mountain of debt has created a standoff with Europe's economic powerhouse — and has thrown Germany's ultraconservative attitude to debt into sharp relief.

Marcel Fratzscher, who heads the prestigious German Economic Research Institute, says debt-aversion is even rooted in the German language.

The German word for debt, "schuld," is the same as the German word for "guilt." "To get into debt, you have done something bad and that describes the German people's attitude quite well," Fratzscher says.

The German way is to "save now, have later," rather than 'have now, pay later,' and it's not just older Germans. On the streets of Berlin, young Germans told us what they would do if they won 1 million euro. A new car, a holiday, a new outfit? "I would save it for when I need it" was the typical reply. That savings habit is the key to understanding another characteristic of Germans: fear of inflation.

Common wisdom says this is due to scars left by hyperinflation in the 1920s that saw the exchange rate go from 4 marks to the dollar to 4 trillion. There may be some residual echoes of that period, but Germans have moved on. The real reason is found in the German love of saving, and inflation is the enemy of savers.

For a nation full of them, the idea of lowering interest rates and printing money holds a double threat: It reduces the rate you get on savings and potentially causes inflation in the future, which means savings buy less. The good news for Germany is that inflation hasn't arrived and although interest rates are low, the related weakness of the euro has kept German exports like cars and machinery competitively priced.

That engineering and exporting success is the source of considerable German pride. They even have a name for it, “Wirtschaftswunder,” which translates to “economic miracle,” and refers to the decades after World War II in which the German economy rose from the rubble to become one of the strongest in the world.

But it wasn’t really a miracle that led to this resurgence. Economists attribute the "Wirtschaftswunder" to a set of basic interlocking economic principals — principals that you can see at work in the Menzel Electric Motor factory in Berlin.

INVEST IN YOUR WORKFORCE

Thomas Dobratz, a supervisor at the Menzel factory, has worked there for more than 30 years – since the company’s current owner, Mathis Menzel, was a young boy. Dobratz started as an apprentice at the factory, following in his family’s footsteps.

“My father was here, and my uncle was here, and my brother was here,” he says.

This kind of long family relationship between factory and worker is still common in German industry, Menzel says.

"It’s usual that people are working all their life in the same company,” Menzel say. “There's lots of skills developed and loyalty."

And the loyalty goes both ways. Good wages keep Menzel’s workers loyal to his company, and those workers' skills and experience keep Menzel loyal to them. Even though he could hire workers for less money in other countries, he's not tempted to outsource because it could compromise the quality of his products, he says. The kind of quality that helps explain why exports make up a whopping 50 percent of German gross domestic product.

LONG-TERM THINKING

Menzel’s decision not to outsource — as tempting as it might sound in the short-run but wouldn't pay off in the long run — is the kind of thinking that brings us to another reason that has helped Menzel's factory and the wider German economy. Menzel says because his company is relatively small and family-owned, a kind of company known as a “Mittelstand” company in Germany, he is not beholden to shareholder's short-term quarterly demands. He can think in terms of decades, not quarters. 

But it is not all roses for German workers. After reunification in 1989, Germany agreed to an exchange rate that swapped one East German Ostmark for one West German Deutsche.

Politically, it may have been the right thing to do, but almost overnight workers in East Germany's unproductive state-run factories became too expensive to employ. Their productivity lagged western peers, and plants lost contracts and were closed. This hampered growth, until German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder introduced huge cuts to wages, benefits and social services 10 years ago.

This saw the rise of the working poor whose pay doesn't cover their cost of living. This also helps explain German impatience with other European countries, most notably at the moment, Greece. Many feel they had to make painful economic sacrifices to meet their political goals, so why can't others?

Stefan Schneider, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, says: “We had to shoulder the cost of reunification, which was a big stress for the economy and we did it on our own, and I think this might explain why Germans have limited patience when they say other countries [are] dragging their feet on reform.”

But others would say German memories are short when it comes to debt forgiveness. The German postwar "miracle" might never have happened if Germany hadn't been let off half its postwar debts in 1953. This is not lost on Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister who recently said "no one understands the Greece position better than the Germans."

Adrian has red card overturned

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:31
West Ham goalkeeper Adrian's red card has been overturned, but the club are charged by the Football Association.

Are we now on half measures?

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:28
ONS figures show fewer people are indulging in alcohol and that's largely down to the preferences of young adults.

Quiz: Closing achievement gaps

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:22

In a study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, researchers look at how improving educational achievement of lower classes would boost the economy.

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My Money Story: The economics of life in a wheelchair

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:16

Jay Cramer was rock climbing with friends in Malibu Creek State Park. He had just been chosen as a semi-finalist to appear on "Survivor," and he wanted to train. He had never been bouldering — free climbing with no ropes — but his friends were experienced. 

A 30-minute hike lead Cramer to a section of the park that was all water and rock. He took a few harmless falls into the water and got right back up. Then, clinging to the rock, he knew he was going down again. His friend told him to "just let go," but Cramer pushed off the rock instead. 

His head hit rock, he plummeted into the water below. And he couldn't move, couldn't flip over. Eyes open, conscious, he looked down into the water. His friends thought he was joking, but when they saw blood, they came to pull him out, and called for an airlift. 

After a long surgery, Cramer woke up in the hospital, paralyzed from the chest down. He shattered his C5 vertebrae, an incomplete injury that left him with feeling, but limited his movement. Fourteen of his friends spent the night in the hospital, and Cramer says when he saw them, he "knew everything was going to be okay."

"My finances changed when my mobility changed," Cramer says. "Because there are certain parameters that you have to live by when you need the things that I need."

Cramer is confined to a power wheelchair. He can drive, and says he's about 90 percent self-suffiencient, and leads a very normal life. He does need a caregiver in the mornings, to help him out, "and that can get quite expensive."

Government funded programs like In Home Supportive Services give people like Cramer money for a caregiver.

"In order to get that, in order to get Medi-Cal, and anything else that you need, there's only a certain amount of money you can have in your bank account, and there's only a certain amount of money that you can make, per month, in order to receive benefits," Cramer says. 

"It's a very, very fine line that you have to walk, so to speak, to make sure that you've got the money that you need to live and survive," he says. Balancing his own income with state support is tricky, but Cramer says there's a huge leap to get to total financial independence. 

Cramer says that in order to make enough money, "so that you don't receive any more benefits and you can be self-sufficient, it's quite a big jump, because there's a lot of things that you need to take care of now, medically."

"I am a very mobile person ... because it's not a when life hands you lemons you made lemonade kind of situation, it's you just want to live your life. It doesn't matter what kind of curve balls are thrown at you," Cramer said. "The best you can do is learn to adjust and adapt, which oddly enough are two of the important traits that it takes to get you through a game show like survivor." 

His life has changed a lot since his accident. He's found success as an actor and a comedian — the stand-up comedy community rallied around him after he was injured, helping to raise money that he eventually used to buy a car. He also started supervising the Know Barriers peer mentoring program at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center. 

Cramer also found love. He was single at the time of his accident, but is now married to Katy Sullivan, an athlete who completed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and a fellow actor. 

"You figure it out, you move and you shake, and you make your way through it," said Cramer, "I honestly see the sky as the only limit, and maybe not even that."

'Feelgood factor vital to England'

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:15
Andy Farrell calls on England to cash in on the "feelgood factor" after last week's 21-16 victory over Wales.

God, Grits And American Dreams: It's Presidential Candidate Book Season

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:12

The Iowa caucuses are a year away, which means it's time for presidential campaign books. Marco Rubio will be in Iowa Friday to hawk his new work.

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Killed dog walker had 11 broken ribs

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:05
A woman who was murdered in a Glasgow park while walking her dog had suffered 11 broken ribs and a broken thigh bone, a judge has been told.

Go Figure: The week in numbers

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:01
The week's big numbers visualised.

Oscars hopeful hits funding target

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 08:00
Oscar-nominated British animator Daisy Jacobs is celebrating after winning a Bafta and raising enough money to fund her next project.

Week in pictures: 7-13 February 2015

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:57
Photos from around the world: 7-13 February

Police stop-search claim 'inaccurate'

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:53
Scotland's Information Commissioner denies forcing police to release stop-and search data to the BBC.

Italy probe into baby ambulance death

BBC - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:46
The Italian health minister launches an inquiry following the death of a baby who died after she was reportedly turned away from three hospitals.

Your Brain May Want That Bottle Of Soda Because It's Easy To Pick Up

NPR News - Fri, 2015-02-13 07:37

Coca-Cola has launched a small, easy-to-hold bottle in Kenya. And the size and shape could make people crave it. That's the belief of psychologist Sian Beilock, author of How the Body Knows Its Mind.

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