National / International News

'Terror drive' victim clung to wipers

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:56
Video of a man clinging to windscreen wipers as he was carried along a dual carriageway near Camberley is released by police.

HSBC boss admits 'reputation damage'

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:54
Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive of HSBC, tells MPs his personal financial arrangements have led HSBC to suffer reputational damage.

Giveaway Budget not credible - Cable

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:54
A pre-election Budget with major tax cuts and spending pledges would not be "credible", says Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Ramzan Kadyrov: Putin's key Chechen ally

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:51
As Chechens are held over the killing of Boris Nemtsov, BBC News examines the bond between President Putin and the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

It's getting harder to sell sales jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:46

Sales jobs once were ideal for new college graduates trying to get a foot in the door, or even for young people without a degree. But according to a Harvard Business Review report, sales jobs — especially those in the tech sector — are becoming harder to fill. With 1.9 million job postings, sales was the single largest occupation group in terms of job postings in 2013.

That’s bad news for companies, where no sales means no revenue.   

Talent acquisition specialist Beth Wolfe is recruiting for two sales jobs at software company Daxco in Birmingham, Alabama. At her desk, she pulls out a small stack of resumes with notes scribbled all over them. Filling these positions is very much on the front burner, Wolfe says.

“We consider our sales and our tech roles right now to be our highest priority in terms of like filling, because obviously without those sales, we’re not going to stay afloat,” she says. 

The challenge: You’ve got your sales people and your tech people. But finding that person who’s both? “I mean, there are fantastic sales people out there who just have a hard time picking up on the tech,” Wolfe says. 

Brent Thomson, managing partner with Peak Sales Recruiting, says the tech sector is especially hungry for top talent. Part of that’s because technology is constantly changing, but sales isn’t what it used to be, either.  

“There’s still some people who think it’s somebody who tells cheesy jokes, and walks in with coffee and donuts, but I think the world has evolved,” Thomson says. 

Now, he says buyers are a lot more educated, and they want more substance, less dog-and-pony show. But stereotypes die hard, and that’s keeping a lot of would-be salespeople out of the profession. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Sales Leadership is where students learn to sell. John Hansen, director of the program, tells students how to handle rejection, what to do when a buyer says, “I don’t have time to think about it right now,” and how to move in for the close without seeming … pushy. The students laugh because "pushy" is exactly what comes to mind when they think about sales people.

But also, Hansen says, a lot of students see sales jobs as way too much pressure. 

“The majority of students we have in the program, even though they’ve chosen sales, they’re still a bit nervous about the fact that a large percentage of their compensation may be tied to how they perform,” Hansen says. 

Jeremy Barnes, a senior at UAB, is majoring in industrial distribution with a minor in mechanical engineering. He used to sell home security products, but says it wasn’t for him. 

“Even though I believe I’d be great at it, the pressure of it, and I think there’s other skills I think that can help me in other ways,” Barnes says. 

For one thing, he says he didn’t like pushing people into buying stuff so he could have more money in his pocket. And, he says, these jobs — especially the entry-level ones —seem like revolving doors. 

“I’m more looking for security, I really am. Long-term security,” Barnes says.

It's getting harder to sell sales jobs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:46

Sales jobs once were ideal for new college graduates trying to get a foot in the door, or even for young people without a degree. But according to a Harvard Business Review report, sales jobs — especially those in the tech sector — are becoming harder to fill. With 1.9 million job postings, sales was the single largest occupation group in terms of job postings in 2013.

That’s bad news for companies, where no sales means no revenue.   

Talent acquisition specialist Beth Wolfe is recruiting for two sales jobs at software company Daxco in Birmingham, Alabama. At her desk, she pulls out a small stack of resumes with notes scribbled all over them. Filling these positions is very much on the front burner, Wolfe says.

“We consider our sales and our tech roles right now to be our highest priority in terms of like filling, because obviously without those sales, we’re not going to stay afloat,” she says. 

The challenge: You’ve got your sales people and your tech people. But finding that person who’s both? “I mean, there are fantastic sales people out there who just have a hard time picking up on the tech,” Wolfe says. 

Brent Thomson, managing partner with Peak Sales Recruiting, says the tech sector is especially hungry for top talent. Part of that’s because technology is constantly changing, but sales isn’t what it used to be, either.  

“There’s still some people who think it’s somebody who tells cheesy jokes, and walks in with coffee and donuts, but I think the world has evolved,” Thomson says. 

Now, he says buyers are a lot more educated, and they want more substance, less dog-and-pony show. But stereotypes die hard, and that’s keeping a lot of would-be salespeople out of the profession. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Sales Leadership is where students learn to sell. John Hansen, director of the program, tells students how to handle rejection, what to do when a buyer says, “I don’t have time to think about it right now,” and how to move in for the close without seeming … pushy. The students laugh because "pushy" is exactly what comes to mind when they think about sales people.

But also, Hansen says, a lot of students see sales jobs as way too much pressure. 

“The majority of students we have in the program, even though they’ve chosen sales, they’re still a bit nervous about the fact that a large percentage of their compensation may be tied to how they perform,” Hansen says. 

Jeremy Barnes, a senior at UAB, is majoring in industrial distribution with a minor in mechanical engineering. He used to sell home security products, but says it wasn’t for him. 

“Even though I believe I’d be great at it, the pressure of it, and I think there’s other skills I think that can help me in other ways,” Barnes says. 

For one thing, he says he didn’t like pushing people into buying stuff so he could have more money in his pocket. And, he says, these jobs — especially the entry-level ones —seem like revolving doors. 

“I’m more looking for security, I really am. Long-term security,” Barnes says.

Obama Imposes Sanctions On Venezuela, Invoking Emergency Powers

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:46

Citing an "erosion of human rights guarantees," President Obama issues an executive order imposing sanctions on members of Venezuela's military and intelligence services.

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Travel ban for Sri Lanka ex-official

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:37
A Sri Lankan court issues a travel ban on Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former president's brother, as a boatload of weapons is investigated.

McIlroy unhappy with Doral display

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:35
Rory McIlroy admits he has work to do to get his game in shape before going for a career grand slam at the Masters.

Barclays 'misleading shareholders'

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:32
A leading pension body calls for the immediate resignation of Sir John Sunderland, chair of Barclays' pay review committee, as pay row continues.

Children's services 'fell apart'

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:22
A former children's services boss has been sacked after a "botched review" caused the department to "fall apart".

VIDEO: Preparing to fight terror in Africa

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:21
As hundreds of soldiers from Chad and Niger cross the border into Nigeria to fight Boko Haram, Thomas Fessy joins US and African soldiers taking part in training exercises in Chad.

Emwazi 'wanted to harm Tanzania'

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:13
Mohammed Emwazi, the man otherwise known as "Jihadi John", wanted to carry out "acts of terrorism" in Tanzania, one of its top officials believes.

Oklahoma racist chants 'disgraceful'

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:03
The University of Oklahoma president says students who took part in a videotaped racist chant are "disgraceful" as he joins a rally on campus.

Is the Uber economy bad for workers?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 08:00

You don’t have to look very hard these days to find an app billing itself as “The Uber of ….A, B, or C”.  Case in point: Waffle House, the national chain of all-night eateries, has joined forces with Roadie, an app that connects drivers with people who want something shipped.

There are also apps to do your grocery shopping, wash your clothes, even clean out your garage.  The thing that all these businesses have in common is they use smartphones to connect people who want a job done with those who need the work.

But, the economy is already awash with temp workers and this “Uberification” of the job force might actually do more harm than good.

Three years ago AJ Brustein was a brand manager for Coca-Cola.  At the time and he noticed one problem that Cokes merchandizers, the companies who keep Coke stocked on store shelves, constantly struggled with.

“They’d get a call from a store manager somewhere saying, ‘Hey Coke Zero is out of stock you need to come back and restock it, or ‘Hey you need to build this display today instead of tomorrow or Pepsi is going to build it.”

Brustein says these kids of unplanned stops meant delays, and diverting staff from other jobs, which all added up lost sales and increased costs.

“Paying overtime, extra transportation costs, consumers are buying Pepsi instead of coke,” notes Brustein. So, he and his co-founder Yong Kim, pitched Coke on an idea for an app they call Wonolo, which stands for “Work. Now. Locally.”

The app allowed companies to post these extra, unexpected jobs on Wonolo, where they could find vetted temps to do the work.  Just like say, using TaskRabbit to find someone to clean your garage.

Wonolo has since spun off from Coke.  But haven’t we always had temp workers in our economy? Has anything really changed?  The answer is yes, and the reason is smartphones and GPS.

“The ability to create a marketplace really depends on being able to match buyers and sellers,” notes Stewart Thornhill.  Thornhill is the Executive Director, Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University Of Michigan Ross School Of Business. 

Thanks to the smartphone most of us carry in our pocket, the ease of finding people ready to take on a little extra work has made it frighteningly easy for companies to offload jobs that would otherwise go to full-time staff. 

“This is really digitizing that worker in the Walmart parking lot,” says Thornhill. “If I were a labor organizer or on the workforce side, I’d find that a very concerning trend.  If I were on the corporate employment side I would see that as a cost-cutting measure.”

But part of the appeal of many of these gig-economy jobs is specifically because they are not full time.

Joe Franco works as a personal shopper for Instacart in Washington DC. Instacart is an app allowing people to order for groceries, and have them delivered directly to their house. There's no fleet of trucks, no inventory, just software.

As a senior at the University of Maryland, Franco says Instacart's flexibility is key.

“So, I take classes in the morning and I'm done by around noon time. So, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I'll typically work from around 2:00 to 9:00pm,” says Franco.

Franco has worked for Instacart for about a year.  He’s paid by commission based on the quantity of groceries he picks up and how many deliveries he makes.

"Typically shoppers earn between $12-$20 per hour. I've certainly had times when it's been more lucrative than that," he says.

Still, at some point many of us hope to have a real job. The kind covered by basic labor laws, like overtime, unemployment insurance, social security, or even the occasional sick day—all benefits companies like Instacart, Uber, or Wonolo, don’t have to offer because workers are technically “independent contractors.”

It's a loophole of labor regulations that some feel is creating a speedy race to the bottom.

“If people are willing to work two or three hours helping set up a display at a store, or mowing someone’s lawn, they’re not doing that simply because you have this app on the web,” says Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “They’re doing it because of a larger set of policies that deprive them of alternatives.”

By acting as middlemen in the market for temp work Baker says these gig companies are able to skirt labor laws, while putting pressure on other industries to do the same.

“Well, that’s simply bad for the economy, we should have the same set of regulations everywhere, and it really doesn’t matter if they order you over the web, it should be the same.

Baker says there is a key distinction between creating work and creating jobs.  He points to Uber which has 850 permanent employees and over 160,000 drivers.

Jordan Metzer is the CEO of Washio, a mobile app for laundry washing.  Maybe laws do need to change, he says, but people are going to use new technology, and he feels most people are savvy enough to seek out work that suits them.

“You know, a lot of our drivers are either music instructors, or Yoga teachers, or students, or professionals getting a new degree and it’s an awesome opportunity to make additional capital,” Metzer says.

At the end of the day, Metzer says the sharing economy is about creating systems that work for the customer first, and the company second.

“If you think of a taxi service, you still have to call a central line and speak to an operator and wait to get a car dispatched and all of that was convenience for the service provider, for the taxi in this case.  And if you look at what Uber does, it cuts out all of these steps that make it convenient for the consumer,” says Metzer

According to the Department of labor the U.S has around 2.8 million temp workers, which is a record.  But those numbers only count people employed by “temp agencies”, and don’t include a single person working in the gig economy.

Daylight Savings, a thing that exists for no discernable reason

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 07:56

Even though it's nice to have the sun out later in the day, there's not much evidence that Daylight Savings Time actually cuts down on electricity use.

Via Quartz:

"Another bit of research zeroed in on a natural experiment built around the US state of Indiana, which until 2006 had a patchwork approach to daylight saving time in which some counties participated and others didn’t. The researchers looked at electricity demand for counties that didn’t have daylight saving time for 30 years, and then started in 2006. The results?

We find that the overall DST effect on electricity consumption runs counter to conventional wisdom: DST results in a 1-percent overall increase in residential electricity demand, and the effect is highly statistically significant."

But still, it being darker early is kinda depressing.

Is it time for the Apple Watch?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 07:56

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage March 9 in the company’s live-streamed ‘Spring Forward’ event in San Francisco, to show off new products and unveil updates of existing products.

Cook announced an exclusive partnership between Apple TV and HBO – just in time for the new season of ‘Game of Thrones.’ He also touted a slimmer, meaner Macbook. But it was the eagerly awaited Apple Watch that was the star of the show. In stores in April, the device will show text messages and emails, help users track fitness and health, and allow watch-to-watch communication. The watch goes on sale (preorder, and to try in stores) on April 10. The basic aluminum Apple Watch Sport is priced from $349 (38 mm version) to $399 (42mm). A steel version ranges from $549-$1,099. The gold Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000.

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Apple is widely credited with shaking up traditional brick-and-mortar retail in America with its sleek, cutting-edge stores. Many are in prime downtown locations -- sparkling, airy glass cubes with soaring ceilings and a fluid open-plan inside. Salespeople greet customers at the entrance and wander the floor conducting transactions and providing technical assistance. There is no fixed spatial hierarchy for locating cash registers, customer service, and inventory for sale.

But it’s not a retail style or layout that necessarily lends itself to showcasing and selling fashion accessories like watches — even if they sport all the mobile technology Apple has to offer.

“Watch stores are very luxurious places,” says Ian Sherr, executive editor at CNET News. He says Apple faces a challenge: “If you’re going to sell a watch for $10,000, how are you going to attract that kind of customer into your store?” 

Typically, Apple stores only carry a few devices and models—with a few size and case-color-variations. Customers spend their time test-driving the technology, trying out apps and features, discussing memory and screen-size and processing speed with salespeople. But for watch sales, says Sherr, “people will want to try different watch bands, different sizes, so that’s going to change how the retail experience works.”

Apple is entering a market that’s struggling. Smart-watches from competitors including Pebble, LG, and Samsung haven’t been huge sellers so far. Analyst James McQuivey at Forrester Research believes Apple will have an edge with consumers, though, and could drive widespread adoption of the small wearable mobile devices. “You really aren’t going to believe a fashion piece for thousands of dollars from some of these other watch makers, the way you will from Apple,” says McQuivey. He believes Apple’s long history of design innovation — in both physical devices, and the user-interface — could encourage consumers to at least try an Apple Watch.

McQuivey doesn’t think Apple will try to compete for traditional luxury consumers and watch connoiseurs, even with its new $10,000-plus gold offering. “That Rolex buyer wants to go into a dealer, they want to have a personal conversation over a cherrywood desk,” says McQuivey. “What Apple is going to do is steal the next Rolex buyer, the one that’s 27 or 33 today.” That's a consumer who is likely already comfortable with Apple’s retail style and stores.

Sherr and McQuivey agree that Apple-store layouts and displays will likely be revamped to showcase the new smart-watches as fashion accessories. Apple recently hired the former CEO of luxury brand Burberry,  Angela Ahrendts, to run its brick-and-mortar and online stores; analysts believe one reason for bringing Ahrendts on was to get ready to promote and sell the Apple Watch. James McQuivey predicts store employees will be encouraged to adopt a new script, and to temper their characteristic low-key straight-talking advice-giving: “They’ll get those Apple in-store salespeople to say ‘Well, while you’re here, just try this on. Oh, it looks great on you.’”

The 'good news, bad news' behind stock buybacks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 07:56

General Motors has about $25 billion in cash, and on Monday, it announced it’ll send $5 billion of that to shareholders by buying back stocks; it’ll send another $5 billion back to investors by paying out more in dividends. 

Why? 

Well, it’s got to do something with extra cash. Some investors argue: Why not give it to us?

“Companies have been hoarding cash ever since the financial crisis, and one main reason for this is companies are spooked,” says Damien Park, managing partner of Hedge Fund Solutions. “As a result, there is more cash on corporate balance sheets today than ever before.” 

Large piles of cash tend to invite some investors to complain — loudly.  They might say they aren’t getting enough return on their investment, or that the company’s not spending wisely. In General Motors’ case, one hedge fund backed investor Harry J. Wilson, who was preparing to acquire a seat on GM’s board of directors to push his agenda for returning cash to shareholders.   

“One of the ways the company responds to this,” says Steven Davidoff Solomon, professor of law at UC Berkeley School of Law, “is to say, 'Look, we’re trying to help our shareholders, we’ll give them back some cash.'” 

In a nutshell: Please shut up and here’s some money.

The stock buyback has several advantages. It reduces the number of shares floating around, and so each remaining share becomes more valuable in principal. 

“Buybacks boost earnings per share and so ... you can get a better stock price,” says Hedge Fund Solutions’ Damien Park.  

Returning money to shareholders via buybacks is often preferred over dividends. Dividends are taxed twice, once as income for the company, and again as income for the individual receiving the dividend. Moreover, once a company commits to boosting dividends, if there is ever a time in the future when the company wants to return dividends to previous levels, investors will view it very negatively.

The downside of using cash to buy back stocks is ... you’re using cash to buy back stocks.  

“The other angle on this is that companies could be doing other things with the cash,” says Ed Clissold, U.S. Market Strategist at Ned Davis Research. Like saving it for the next economic crisis or spending it to grow the company, “...expanding their plants, hiring more workers, paying them more and filtering it through to the economy.”

In a sluggish economy firms may not see growth as possible. Thus buybacks are a vote, says Clissold, that a company doesn’t see many opportunities out there to invest in. 

Drawing the line between contributions and bribes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-09 07:56

Members of Congress give campaign donors special access, at least according to what Berkeley Ph.D. student Josh Kalla found in a 2013 study (pdf).

“We went into the study trying to see, does money lead to unequal political outcomes?” Kalla says.

Kalla sent emails to almost 200 members of Congress, from real constituents, requesting a meeting. Half were identified as donors, and they were much more likely to get a meeting.

“Yeah, it was about a three-fold increase, I believe,” he says.

Next, Kalla wants to study whether political contributions actually influence legislation. When it comes to a bribery investigation, a number of factors are considered.

“I think timing can be a factor,” says Richard Briffault, a professor of legislation at Columbia Law School.

As in, did a member of Congress get a political donation right before or after voting on a bill? Was there a quid pro quo?

“There have been undercover deals, outright handshakes," Briffault says."Sometimes it’s provable, but in other situations it’s a lot grayer.”

Donors know how to exploit the gray areas. Larry Noble, now senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, once worked as a private attorney advising clients on how to make legal political donations.

“When you’re making a political contribution, never discuss an issue," he says. "What that means as a practical matter is the contribution is made, and then the lobbying takes place the next day.”

Then, according to Noble, the lobbyist can simply say the conversation was an exercise of free speech.

Sexton on track for Cardiff showdown

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-09 07:43
Ireland say fly-half Johnny Sexton's recovery from a hamstring strain is going well and expect him to face Wales.

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