National / International News

Maasai Warriors: Caught Between Spears and Cellphones

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 12:02

One of Kenya's oldest tribes has held on to a traditional lifestyle but it's not uncommon to see members holding a cellphone in one hand while wearing their cultural robes, or shukas.

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Justice Dept. Declines To Step Into Dispute Between CIA And Senators

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 12:02

The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a dispute over access to sensitive materials on enhanced interrogations. The power struggle relates to a long-running Senate probe over the mistreatment of detainees after Sept. 11.

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Amid Eroding Trust, Germany Expels America's Top Spy In Berlin

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 12:02

Germany has asked the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country. This comes as two Germans are under investigation for spying for the U.S. in Germany. While tensions between the allies are high, both countries are trying not to strain relations too far.

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Deaths Mount Into The Dozens As Gaza Strip Bombardment Builds

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 12:02

Israeli air strikes continue to pound the Gaza Strip. NPR's Emily Harris reports from Gaza on the intensifying conflict there.

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After Losing An Only Child, Chinese Parents Face Old Age Alone

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 12:02

China's one-child policy, introduced more than three decades ago, has had some unintended consequences. One is that, in the event of a child's death, many older parents lack a source of support.

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In West Africa, Officials Target Ignorance And Fear Over Ebola

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 12:02

Health officials are trying to convince families to bring the ill to health centers and to change the way their bury their dead to rein in the disease, which has killed hundreds across the region.

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Chile's Sanchez signs for Arsenal

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:49
Chile international forward Alexis Sanchez signs for Arsenal from Spanish giants Barcelona for a fee in the region of £35m.

Boehner calls for migrant law change

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:44
House Speaker John Boehner wants to speed up the deportation of children migrating illegally, to ease the growing border crisis.

Egyptian statue sells for £16m

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:43
A 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue is sold for nearly £16m at Christie's of London, amid calls from the country's ambassador for it to be handed back to Egypt.

New combat jet's UK debut cancelled

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:36
The F-35 combat jet, due to be used on Britain's new aircraft carriers, will not appear at the Royal International Air Tattoo on Friday.

Gini: the measure of inequality

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:26

Not everyone has the same amount of money. Some are richer. Some are poorer. That's pretty obvious. But just how much more money do the rich have? How much poorer are the poor?

Those are questions that not that long ago, people didn't really know how to answer.

The going theory in the early 1900s was that in any country, at any point in history, wealth distribution was constant.  That “everywhere, at all time, the top 20 percent have 80 percent of the wealth, and the bottom 80 percent split the 20 percent remaining,” says Professor Jean-Guy Prevost, who studies the history of statistics at the University of Quebec in Montreal. 

A century ago, Prevost says, before there were many wealth or income statistics available, influential economists like Vilfredo Pareto argued there was a natural order to the ratio between the haves and the have-nots.  One that could not be changed.

Then a handsome and stubborn Italian statistician named Corrado Gini came along. Gini found the idea of wealth distribution being always the same absurd. Being a statistician, he expressed this in a 35-page paper called “On the Measurement of Concentration and Variability of Characters,” published in 1914. 

(Courtesy:International Journal of Statistics, 2005)

 In the paper, Gini analyzed as much economic data as he could find from different parts of the world— records on income distribution in Denmark versus Norway, on the varying size of inheritance to residents of Swiss cities, on the distribution of property holdings in Tasmania compared to South Australia.

In the process, Gini created what we now call the Gini Index. Basically it’s a scale from zero to 100 that allows you to measure just how concentrated income or wealth is in a given country at a given time.

A perfectly unequal country, where one person has all the wealth, would rank 100 on the Gini Index. On the other end of the spectrum, a country where everyone has exactly the same amount of money would rank as a zero. 

Of course, in the real world countries fall somewhere in the middle. On the relatively equal end, Sweden comes in at about a 23 on the Gini Index*.  The U.S. has gone from the low 40s to the high 40s in the last few decades. South Africa, one of the most unequal countries, is about a 62.

When Gini invented the index at the beginning of the 20th century, many countries, including the U.S., were headed into an era of rising equality and a growing middle class. Today many of those same countries seem headed in reverse, which has made the Gini Index a central measurement for everyone from the Wall Street Occupiers to President Obama.

But in case you're thinking the guy behind this inequality measurement was some kind of liberal softy? Guess again. Corrado Gini was a card-carrying fascist.

Yes, that Fascist Party. The one known for embracing racial supremacy, totalitarianism, and jack boots. Gini wasn't just a member. He built and defended the ideology in his book “The Scientific Basis of Fascism.”

“He was even more fascist than the Fascist Party at the moment,” says Giovanni Favero, an economic historian at Ca'Foscari University in Venice.

For Gini and the Fascist Party he belonged to, measuring inequality wasn't important because they cared so much about the poor, explains Favero. Instead, they cared about maintaining the proper balance between rich and poor. If a country got “too equal,” Gini worried you’d “lose social differences, you have people who are not used to have wealth using their wealth in bad ways and things like that,” says Favero.

But a society that was “too unequal” could also be bad in Gini’s eyes. If kids from wealthy families started inheriting too much money, “they would kind of make a retreat from the productive sector, and became people who lived on their interest only,” explains Prevost. In other words, lazy. “And so lose their function as a ruling class.”

Even though Corrado Gini was a fascist, once he let his Gini Index out of the bottle, so to speak, it became a tool that transcended fascist ideology. Or any ideology at all.

“Just having that measure changes the conversation,” says Andrew Berg, an economist at the International Monetary Fund. What made Gini's work important-- and still relevant 100 years later--is that by having a way to measure inequality you could start asking new questions, from all different points of view, about the way a society's wealth is distributed.

“There's a set of political, ethical or moral questions you might ask whether we care about the ratio between the rich and poor for example, about how inequality matters for things like well being. Or you might ask, is the crime rate higher in unequal countries? Do unequal countries grow faster?”

These are questions that have since been asked by people across the ideological spectrum. From Marxists (some of whom were Gini’s students) to World Bank economists, to market strategists at multi-national corporations.

And if you want to find the most comprehensive list of Gini numbers for countries around the world?  It's on the CIA's website. 

 

*Measured after taxes and government safety net programs. Gini coefficients for countries can vary depending on  survey data used, and whether incomes are measured pre or post-tax.  For example, two of the most comprehensive lists of Gini measurements, from the CIA World Factbook and the World Bank have slightly different rankings for countries.

Blake's Games apology to Scotland

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:20
Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake apologises to Scotland for snubbing the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this month.

Councils tempted by art windfall

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:18
The councils tempted to cash in on their art collections

Despite humiliation by Germany, Brazilians unlikely to back Argentina

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:17
Why many Brazilians will be backing Germany on Sunday

Violinist died after court advice

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:17
A violinist took a fatal overdose after learning the jury in her abuser's trial had been instructed by the judge to find not guilty verdicts for several charges.

Eileen Ford, Creator Of The Supermodel, Dies At 92

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:14

As co-founder of the Ford modeling agency, she was instrumental in promoting such superstars as Lauren Hutton and Christie Brinkley.

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Why HIV Spreads Less Easily In Heterosexual Couples

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:10

People in heterosexual relationships are about 20 times less likely to pass HIV to their partners than homosexual men. Now scientists have found a clue to why this disparity exists.

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Why HIV Spreads Less Easily In Heterosexual Couples

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:10

People in heterosexual relationships are about 20 times less likely to pass HIV to their partners than homosexual men. Now scientists have found a clue to why this disparity exists.

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Stabbed NHS worker 'deeply missed'

BBC - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:03
An NHS worker stabbed to death at the mental health hospital in Gloucestershire is described as "highly compassionate".

Boeing projects global air travel will double

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 11:00

Boeing has raised its projection for aircraft sales. The company expects the number of airline passengers to double in the next 20 years, creating demand for nearly 37,000 new planes and a $5.2 trillion market.

Many of those new planes will go to developing countries, especially in Asia, where air travel is taking off as incomes rise. The boom also means a lot more jet fuel will be burned, with an increase in CO2 emissions.

Much of the increased air travel over the next few years will be domestic flights within Asia on smaller, single-aisle planes like Boeing’s 737.

“When you have a smaller aircraft like that and shorter flights, you see an increase in emissions per head,” says Worldwatch Institute project manager Mark Konold.

Emissions from the airline industry could double by 2020 and quadruple by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It’s difficult to predict the exact amount of fuel that a 737 burns on each trip. There are nine variants in the equation, says aerospace engineer Magdy Attia. “A good estimate for the fuel burn is between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons of fuel per hour at cruise."

Attia says new advances in engine technology could increase fuel efficiency by 12 to 15 percent. That would mean substantial savings for airlines. Fuel makes up about half their expenses. But the reduction in emissions would likely be offset by increased air traffic. Air travel currently produces between two and three percent of global CO2 emissions.

Randy Tinseth is vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He says Boeing has made gains in fuel efficiency with recent  models. “We are building 737 next-generation airplanes which we call the 737 MAX.”

The 737 MAX is 14 percent more fuel efficient than the previous generation of 737’s. But it’s unclear how many of the new planes Boeing sells will be the more efficient model.

Graphic by Shea Huffman/Marketplace

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