National / International News

Iraqi troops 'enter parts of Tikrit'

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:49
Iraqi forces retake parts of the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS) militants, Iraqi officials say, as a major government offensive continues.

Christie to race in Russian Worlds

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:41
Elise Christie will compete in the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, despite a death in her family.

6.5 Million Social Security Numbers Linked To Those 112 Or Older

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:28

That's not a typo. A watchdog review of the Social Security Administration also found more than 4,000 people availed of the E-Verify system using numbers belonging to those over that age.

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'Test Kitchen': How To Make Vegetarian Dishes Pop With A Little Umami

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:22

Cooking with plant foods naturally high in compounds called glutamates can stimulate the same taste receptors that meat does. America's Test Kitchen explains in The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.

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The Fall to return for a third time

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:16
The BBC confirms that the hit serial killer drama The Fall has been commissioned for a third series.

VIDEO: 'Rifles and grenades still echo'

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:10
Fergal Keane travels between the Ukrainian and rebel frontlines near Donetsk to meet the men and women fighting on each side.

Endebted Gigaom shuts down

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 10:03
Gigaom, one of the leading technology blogs, has ceased operations after running out of money.

Playing The Odds With Statins: Heart Disease Or Diabetes?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:55

Doctors hand out cholesterol-lowering statins like breath mints, but like any drug they come with risks. Less heart disease, sure, a slightly higher risk of diabetes, too. So what's a person to do?

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Genetic Disorder May Reveal How Statins Boost Diabetes Risk

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:54

People with a hereditary form of very high cholesterol are much less likely to get diabetes, a study finds. And that offers clues as to why cholesterol-lowering drugs sometimes raise diabetes risk.

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'Jihadi bride' faces prosecution

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:54
A Scottish woman who travelled to Syria to become a so-called "jihadi bride" will be prosecuted if she ever returns to the UK, MPs have been told.

Ireland accidently legalises drugs

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:42
The Irish government is holding an emergency session to close an unexpected loophole in its Misuse of Drugs Act.

The tricky business behind fake Hollywood money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:32

Greg Bilson Jr. runs a company called Independent Studio Services or ISS. They make props for pretty much every movie and television show you’ve seen in the last 40 years, including 90210, CSI, and Indiana Jones.

One of ISS’s specialties? Prop money.

That made ISS the ideal company to work on Rush Hour 2. The premise of the movie is that two police offices, played by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, chase a counterfeiter known for producing high grade counterfeit money. To prepare for the climax of the film, ISS created a billion dollars of fake money.

Bilson says, “it was fourteen pallet loads of $100 bills, stacked four feet high, solid.” That’s a lot of money, all of which was to be blown up in a casino.

The scene went well but as thousands of these fake bills rained down, many extras grabbed a few of these bills and kept them as souvenirs. Some of those extras tried to spend the money.

The federal authorities weren't too pleased about this. Secret service agents swarmed the set, shut down production, confiscated all the bills that were left, and then they paid Bilson a visit at ISS. He was essentially blamed for counterfeiting.

“Most people would look at this bill and kind of laugh” says Bilson. “It is a very bad picture of Ben Franklin, who we named ‘Franken,’ it says, ‘Motion picture use only’ on 15 different places, it [says], ‘In dog we trust.’ There are many many things that are different from the real bill, but it’s still not within the parameters of legal.”

Bilson has to operate under the counterfeit detection act of 1992. Essentially what this law says is that bills must be either 75% smaller than or 150% larger than the size of a real bill and one color, one side.

And that puts Greg Bilson and other prop builders in Hollywood in a tough spot. They have to skirt the line between these strict counterfeiting laws and producers' demands for this incredibly realistic money. And sometimes, these prop builders have trouble finding that sweet spot in the middle.

“Movie producers and films and TV shows are kind of wanting us to break the law all the time. So we have to keep within those parameters, or do it in a manner that is legal.”

Like other prop masters, Bilson isn't trying to dupe the public. He’s just doing his job.

Read the full story on Pricenomics.

Janet Yellen needs to work on her brand

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:29

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that came out on Monday, just 14 percent of Americans know who Janet Yellen is and have an opinion about her, good or bad.

The rest of us don't know, or aren't sure, whether she's the most powerful person in the global economy.

So ... I quit.

(Just kidding.)

The cost of inefficient Social Security record keeping

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:29

The Social Security Administration keeps track of deaths in the U.S. with a death master file. The Inspector General at Social Security decided to give it an audit, after getting a call from a bank that went something like this: "Hey, a young guy just opened an account with us. But his Social Security Number says he was born in 1886."

“How do you have people who were supposedly born those dates, and yet there’s no death on the death master file?” asks Rona Lawson, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audit in the Inspector General’s office. 

Lawson says banks use the "death master file" to make sure dead people's Social Security numbers aren't being used fraudulently. The E-Verify program uses it to find undocumented workers. Lawson says 4,000 of those 112-year-olds were put through E-verify.

"I don’t know whether those 4,000 people got the jobs or not,” she says, tongue-in-cheek.

At least eight federal agencies use the "death master file," including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the IRS. Since the file isn’t 100 percent accurate, they could be paying out refunds and pensions to dead people. The Social Security Administration did respond to the audit, and says it doesn’t have the money or manpower to correct the "death master file."

One problem is shrinking budget appropriations from Congress, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“It’s a little hypocritical to insist on cutting the funding and then blame the program for not adequately dealing with recording people’s deaths,” Baker says.

Social Security says it’ll look into problems and report back to the Inspector General by the end of September.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Rona Lawson. The text has been corrected.

 

Why the stock market just dropped

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:29

On Tuesday, the US stock market opened by plummeting, with the S&P 500 dropping into negative territory for the year.

Why? 

Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, points to two main factors: A rapidly strengthening dollar and fears that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner than expected, stoked by comments by outgoing Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher.  

But Steven Englander, global head of G10 foreign exchange strategy at Citigroup, is less certain. He points out that interest rate fears have been significant since late February, when Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer told CNBC a rate hike this year was highly probable. "We've gotten used to thinking of a zero interest rate as normal," Fischer said. "It's far from normal."

As for the dollar, it did rapidly strengthen overnight, but the initiating event is a bit of a mystery. "Why this sort of realization hit the market at around 8 p.m. New York time or 8 a.m. Asia time is a bit of a puzzle," says Englander. "Because I've checked with colleagues and there's no real news." 

An article in Bloomberg suggested a slump in the Euro and Yen was prompted by a sell-off the New Zealand dollar, or "kiwi," after threatening letters were sent to dairy producers there. 

"The little kiwi that roared?" asks Englander. "I don't think so."

But when it comes to the origin of a market move, it's hard to definitively rule any explanation out.

Study reveals 1.8m in sports clubs

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:28
More than 1.8m people belong to sports clubs and almost three million sports competitions took place in England in 2014, reveals a new study.

University Of Oklahoma Expels 2 Students Seen As Leading Racist Chant

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:23

Saying they had "created a hostile learning environment for others," University of Oklahoma President David Boren expelled two students who have been identified as the leaders of a racist chant.

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Ferret ban remains in New York City

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:22
The New York City Health board fails to lift a 25-year-old ferret ban in place, disappointing ferret fancies in the city.

Le Pen party faces EU fraud claims

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:22
The European Parliament calls in the EU's anti-fraud squad over possible financial irregularities committed by France's National Front.

Biggest fall this year for FTSE 100

BBC - Tue, 2015-03-10 09:21
The FTSE 100 records its biggest one-day fall of the year after energy shares are hit by the falling price of oil.

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