National / International News

Clarkson jokes about BBC suspension

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:14
Jeremy Clarkson makes light of his suspension by the BBC as an online petition for him to be reinstated tops 400,000 signatures.

Dodging Bullets wins Champion Chase

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:09
Dodging Bullets, trained by Paul Nicholls, wins the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Mother charged over toddler's death

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:09
A mother and her partner are charged over the death of her young daughter from a head injury.

Lawes and Brown back for England

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:07
England make two changes for the Six Nations match against Scotland, with Courtney Lawes and Mike Brown returning to the XV.

Why sales of packaged or processed foods are declining

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 08:00

Packaged food manufacturers are grappling with some big shifts in consumption trends. Sales of some of the top brands at General Mills, Kraft and the Campbell Soup Company have been slumping. 

As Campbell’s chief executive Denise Morrison recently acknowledged at a conference, many Americans are turning away from foods whose ingredients aren't "fresh" or "natural."

“And along with this, as all of you know, comes a mounting distrust of so-called “Big Food”, the large food companies and legacy brands that millions of consumers have relied on for so long,” she told a room full of food industry analysts.

One of the people presenting a challenge for food companies is 23 year-old Nick Neylon. He says the pejorative phrase “Big Food” is part of his vocabulary.

“I would also use a term like evil and the devil and Lucifer,” he says.

I found Neylon stirring a pot of homemade polenta at a Minneapolis event called "Eat for Equity." People raise money for charities while sharing a big, healthy meal. A mushroom and fennel ragout filled the air with a rich, tomatoey scent. Neylon says that's his kind of grub. He avoids packaged and fast foods.

Nick Neylon dresses a salad at a Minneapolis event called “Eat for Equity.” 

Annie Baxter/Marketplace

“If someone else made it, don't eat it,” he says. “Generally you'll be happier if you cook all your food from scratch.”

Neylon's age may have something to do with his eating habits. Food and beverage analyst Darren Seifer with the NPD Group says the millennial generation is making a shift towards fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Seifer traces the change to the Great Recession — young people ate out less often because they were broke. And instead of cracking open, say, a can of Chef Boyardee, some learned how to cook.

“A lot of it has to do with how millennials got used to their kitchens sooner than we expected them to,” he says.

Food analyst Alexia Howard at Bernstein says women are playing a big role, too.

“Over the last several decades, really since the Second World War, heavily processed or packaged foods — more convenient foods — were embraced by moms-at-home and women wanting to get into the workforce,” she says.

But Howard says a few years ago, sales of products like Jell-O and TV dinners declined noticeably. Her theory: Moms were spending more time on the internet reading about what goes into food and got turned off by additives and preservatives.

Heidi Stark, who's 37, is a case in point.

“When you start reading what's actually in the packages, no one wants it,” she says.

Stark says gut problems prompted her to start eating super healthy over the past year. Now she plans out her menu and buys lots of fresh fruits, veggies and meat. On a recent trip to Lakewinds Food Co-op in Minneapolis, she bought the ingredients for a recipe involving pork chops, apples and shallots.

“That sounds gross!” her seven year-old son Anderson complained.

But his mom says he’ll eat it anyway.

Packaged food companies are trying to woo back consumers like Heidi Stark with some fresh products — like baby carrots from the Campbell Soup Company or protein-packed items, like a Kraft snack pack with meat, cheese and nuts. Some are also appealing to the growing interest in simple, organic ingredients — think General Mills' acquisition of Annie's, which makes organic macaroni and cheese.

Stock analyst Alexia Howard says even if these products sell well, they're still a small part of the companies' overall business.

“The margins on these new products are a lot lower,” she says. “The growth in these new products, rapid though it is, they're starting from a much smaller base than the bigger, established brands.”

While these big food companies struggle to meet the needs of millennials and moms who want fresher foods, Howard says we could see more cost-cutting — and even consolidation.

Your pictures: Castles

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:58
Readers' photographs on the theme of castles

Fresh US sanctions over Ukraine

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:54
he US has imposed sanctions on 14 Ukrainian separatists and Russians, including the former prime minister of Ukraine.

Regulator 'alert to pension scams'

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:51
A regulator has vowed to be on the lookout for fraud and scams when new pension freedoms come into force in April.

Carter demands snooker prize money

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:45
Ali Carter wants to claim his Indian Open prize money despite failing to attend the tournament because of a visa issue.

Quiz: How effective are Teach for America teachers?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:45

Mathematica Policy Research examined the effectiveness of Teach for America teachers after the nonprofit received a $50 million federal grant in 2010 to put more of its teachers in classrooms.

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Minecraft ban reports investigated

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:36
Minecraft owner Microsoft is investigating reports the Turkish government is preparing to ban the game, the BBC understands.

From Ancient Sumeria To Chipotle Tacos, Cumin Has Spiced Up The World

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:32

Cumin has been popular since the dawn of written history: It's the only English word that can be traced directly back to Sumerian. Since then it has insinuated itself into cuisines around the world.

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PODCAST: Farm bill comes up short

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:27

The dollar is on a 12-year high driven by the potential for high interest rates, but what does that mean for the markets? We check in with Payden & Rygel chief economist Jeffrey Cleveland. Next, GM announced this week it’ll give shareholders $5 billion in dividends and a $5 billion stock buyback. That’s good news for investors, and for GM, which managed to avoid a major clash with hedge fund interests on the board. But when the company opens negotiations with the United Autoworkers Union this summer, it could be tough to argue for keeping a lid on wages. Finally, Washington lobbyists and think tank-types are tearing apart the Farm Bill, trying to figure out how far Congress was off in budgeting for the subsidies that were ushered in by the subsidies it ushered in.

Are anti-smoking measures working?

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:27
The UK has some of the strongest smoking legislation in the world. But do we know what impact they have had on smoking rates?

How Big Sugar Steered Research On A 'Tooth Decay Vaccine'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:12

Though it never panned out, the sugar industry backed research to develop a vaccine to fight tooth decay, old industry documents reveal. Researchers say the goal was to deflect efforts to limit sugar.

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Fans summonsed over Paris incident

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 07:09
Five men are ordered to appear before magistrates over incidents on the Paris Metro that took place before Chelsea's match in the city last month.

Bercow in 'washing machine' apology

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 06:53
Commons Speaker John Bercow apologises for likening a female minister's answer to a washing machine which "does not stop".

Documents Detail Sugar Industry Efforts To Direct Medical Research

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-11 06:45

A dentist unearths documents detailing the sugar industry's influence over the National Institutes of Health's research agenda in the 1960s and 1970s. At issue: setting limits for sugar intake.

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Cheap 'Apple Watch' copies on sale

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-11 06:41
Smartwatches that mirror the Apple Watch's design and graphics are being sold via a site run by China's Alibaba.

Big change to farm subsidies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-11 06:41

Washington lobbyists and think tank-types are tearing apart the Farm Bill, trying to figure out how far Congress was off in budgeting for the subsidies the new bill ushered in.

“For major crops like corn we would expect payments to be double what they expected: $6.5 billion" says Vince Smith, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute and Montana State University.   

Farmers used to get the same, direct payment every year. Now they’re offered a choice of two subsidies. One kicks in when their revenues per acre drop, the other is tied to crop prices. If the price of, say, corn, falls below a target the government makes up the difference. 

But critics like say the targets were set too high. They say prices are falling more than Congress expected, and don’t have to fall much, for the subsidies to kick in.

“They look like a safety net even though they’re more like a trampoline, when you really stop and think about it,” says Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, or EWG.

Plenty of people in Washington have been thinking about it.  But the nation's capital can be something of a bubble.  I wanted to break through the bubble, and hear from someone who’s actually living with the new subsidies I head to Robb Ewoldt’s farm, in Eastern Iowa. 

I meet him in his repair shop.

“We grow corn and soy beans.  We grow alfalfa grass, alfalfa hay and kids,” he says, laughing. (Ewoldt is a father of two.)

He thinks taxpayers will actually save money under the new subsidy system. Before, he got a government payment even if he was selling his corn at record prices. 

“I think this will be a little bit more fair for the taxpayer because the money’s going to come when we are in pretty tough shape," he says. "When we need it.”

Ewoldt says most farmers are independent. They don’t like taking the subsidies, but they need them to get through the tough times, he says.