National / International News

Praise For Indian PM's Diplomacy, Then A Backlash For His Undiplomatic Remark

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 14:09

He may have thought it was a compliment to say his Bangladeshi counterpart has done well "despite being a woman." Yes, it's now a hashtag.

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VIDEO: Apple reveals new music app

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:53
Apple has announced a new app that combines a streaming song and music video library, an internet radio station and a way for artists to share unreleased tracks and other material.

BBC at risk as the UK weighs TV license fee

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:23

Imagine a country where you have to be licensed to watch TV — and could be fined and even jailed for watching while unlicensed. Sounds Orwellian. 

But you don’t have to imagine it; the UK  requires anyone with a TV to buy an annual license, costing around $220. The total revenue raised — about $5 billion a year — is used to fund the country’s state-owned broadcasting organization, the BBC, or “the Beeb” as it’s known in Britain. 

Enforcing this charge can be messy: cases of people accused of evading the fee accounted for more than one in 10 of all criminal prosecutions in magistrates’ courts in 2013 – with 155,000 convicted and fined and 50 going to prison for failure to pay the fine.

The newly elected Conservative government has promised to decriminalize this funding system so no one will be punished by the criminal law for failing to pay the license fee;  nonpayment would be treated as a civil matter, like the nonpayment of a telephone bill. Some Brits would like to see the TV license system scrapped altogether.

An online petition to abolish the TV license fee has gained more than 158,000 signatures. The petition claims the fee gives the broadcaster an unfair advantage over its commercial rivals in terms of revenue and, because it is unrelated to the ability to pay, it is a "burden on the poor." 

Eamonn Butler, head of the free-market Adam Smith Institute, argues that in our digital, multichannel, multiplatform age the license fee is wrong in principle and hopelessly outdated. 

“It stems from the time when the BBC was a monopoly broadcaster,” he says. "I own a television set, but I rarely watch the BBC because I have 200 other channels to choose from. So why should I be forced to pay for a network that I don’t actually look at when I’ve got so much other choice?" 

But the Beeb, which is by far Britain’s biggest news provider, has many supporters.

“It produces some astonishingly good television, some very, very good radio and its website is something I refer to several times a day,” says media consultant Ben Fenton. “So I’m a consumer of the BBC. I like the product. I’m happy to pay for it through the license fee.”

The opposition Labour Party also supports the license fee as a source of funding, at least until the corporation’s charter is renewed in 2017. Labour claims that decriminalizing the fee now would deprive the Beeb of much-needed revenue. Enforcing the fee in the civil courts would cost more than the revenue it would raise and therefore, if it’s unenforced, fewer people would pay it. 

“There’s a danger that you just smash a 200-million pound hole in the BBC’s finances," says  Chris Bryant, Labour’s culture spokesman. “That’s the amount the BBC spends on all of its children’s broadcasting. You’ll smash that 200-million hole in the BBC’s finances without having thought how to make that up from any other source.” 

But the BBC is under the gun. One thousand British households a day are opting out of the license fee, claiming that they no longer have a TV set and get their news and entertainment over the internet. The Beeb will need to find new ways to raise its revenue.

In Atlantic City, A Silver Lining For Casinos Left Standing

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:16

Four of 12 casinos in Atlantic City closed last year, but the first quarter of 2015 brought good news to those remaining. The local economy is still reeling, but less competition means higher profits.

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Will Apple Music become number one?

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:16
Is Apple's new Music app too complicated to beat Spotify, or will consumers favour its mix of services?

Apple Announces Music Streaming Service

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:02

The tech giant, whose iTunes store is the recording industry's largest retailer, finally unveiled its streaming service, which will cost $9.99 a month for unlimited access to music.

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Netflix scoops up 'War Machine' and Brad Pitt

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:00

Who says Netflix doesn't have any good movies?

After focusing on original TV and shows that you can binge-watch, the streaming service has landed its biggest movie debut yet.

Brad Pitt's new movie "War Machine" will debut on Netflix at the same time it lands in theaters.

Reports say Netflix spent a cool $30 million to get the film — and to keep annoying theater owners, of course.

"War Machine" is a satirical comedy that stars Pitt as a general who leads the American war effort in Afghanistan. It's due out next year.

Netflix has announced a couple other movie debuts, but we all know that when you get Brad Pitt, that takes it to a whole other level.

Netflix's scoops up 'War Machine' and Brad Pitt

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:00

Who says Netflix doesn't have any good movies?

After focusing on original TV and shows that you can binge-watch, the streaming service has landed its biggest movie debut yet.

Brad Pitt's new movie "War Machine" will debut on Netflix at the same time it lands in theaters.

Reports say Netflix spent a cool $30 million to get the film — and to keep annoying theater owners, of course.

"War Machine" is a satirical comedy that stars Pitt as a general who leads the American war effort in Afghanistan. It's due out next year.

Netflix has announced a couple other movie debuts, but we all know that when you get Brad Pitt, that takes it to a whole other level.

Why CalPERS wants a little less to do with Wall Street

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:00

Wall Street cares a lot more than you might think about retired government workers. Investment managers rack up hefty fees managing money for giant pension funds. CalPERS, which manages some $300 billion of California pension money, is now changing the game by cutting back half its money managers.

CalPERS believes it has way too many people managing its money, charging way too much. Public pension funds have enough trouble just finding enough money to pay retirees, so they’re all under pressure to cut expenses.

It’s not that CalPERS is dropping Wall Street to go its own way. It’s more about buying in bulk, says Leora Friedberg, a University of Virginia economics professor. 

“They’re going to then concentrate a bigger share of their total funds with a smaller group of managers,” Friedberg says. 

CalPERS wants to more easily track performance and drive a harder bargain on those fees. Some on Wall Street could make more money. Others will lose out.

And CalPERS is just the beginning, says Steven Davidoff Solomon, a law professor at UC Berkeley.

Other pension funds could follow suit, forcing Wall Street investment managers to fight harder for business by slashing fees.

The CalPERS fight is also a reminder to regular folks with 401(k)s and other human-size investments. Take a close look at the fees you pay, or they could devour your savings.

Mark Garrison: CalPERS believes it has way too many people managing its money, charging way too much. Jean-Pierre Aubry is with the Center for Retirement Research, where he looks closely at public pension funds.

Jean-Pierre Aubry: It’s among the highest, so it’s really one of the top ten in terms of the fees it pays compared to the other largest plans in the nation.

These funds have enough trouble just finding enough money to pay retirees, so they’re all under pressure to cut expenses. It’s not that CalPERS is dropping Wall Street to go its own way. It’s more about buying in bulk, explains University of Virginia economics professor Leora Friedberg.

Leora Friedberg: They’re going to then concentrate a bigger share of their total funds with a smaller group of managers.

CalPERS wants to more easily track performance and drive a harder bargain on those fees. Some on Wall Street could make more money. Others will lose out. And CalPERS is just the beginning, says Berkeley’s Steven Davidoff Solomon.

Steven Davidoff Solomon: CalPERS is the 800-pound gorilla of pension funds.

With heft, comes influence. Other pension funds could follow suit, forcing Wall Street investment managers to fight harder for business by slashing fees. The CalPERS fight is also a reminder to regular folks like us, with 401(k)s and other human-size investments. Take a close look at the fees you pay, or they could devour your savings.

Steven Davidoff Solomon: The lesson here is pretty simple. It’s keep your eye on the ball, don’t have too many funds, make sure you know what you’re getting out of your investments.

Even if you don’t have CalPERS’ $300 billion to work with, you can still play it smart with what you’ve got. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Lufthansa to charge extra for using other websites

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 13:00

Beginning in September, Europe's leading airline, Germany-based Lufthansa, will charge an additional 16 euros, or just under $18, on every ticket issued through a computerized reservation network for booking flights, hotels and other travel needs. Think Orbitz or Expedia. The surcharge aims to increase Lufthansa's profitability. It might also cost travelers.

Price comparison sites almost always book at the lowest fare. That's good for consumers, but bad for airlines, because the fees airlines pay to these sites are the same no matter what a ticket costs. 

"They are, on a percentage-wise basis, the highest distribution costs as a percentage of revenue that an airline would ever experience," says Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst.

Lufthansa says using the online booking system costs it in the three-digit million euro range. By imposing the 16 euro surcharge, Lufthansa could make more money if it drives customers to book directly. Paul Ruden, executive vice president for legal and industry affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents, says Lufthansa will ultimately lose bargain-minded customers.

"If their idea is that consumers will completely abandon all alternatives and book only directly with Lufthansa, then they're dreaming," Ruden says.

Karl Moore, who teaches at McGill University and follows the airline industry, says this is about control. By driving travelers to book through Lufthansa directly, the airline can showcase more options — that cost extra — that wouldn't show up on a comparison booking site like Orbitz. This money-making strategy is called "unbundling."

"So instead of getting a meal with your flight and a particular seat and this sort of thing, if you want to have a particular seat, an aisle seat or have the meal, you pay extra for it," he says.

That's why Ruden says this tactic might work for Lufthansa, at the expense of consumers.

This Year, Women (And Girls) Rule The Big Screen

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 12:55

NPR film critic Bob Mondello notes that this year's most popular movies are surprisingly womancentric. That's more than at any other time in at least three decades.

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Chinese armpit hair competition triggers online debate

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 12:44
An online '"armpit hair competition" triggers a huge debate online in China, with opinion divided about its rights and wrongs.

Pitmasters Embrace New Barbecue Truth: Rested Meat Is Sublime

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 12:37

How to rest a big hunk of meat — a pork shoulder, a beef brisket or ribs — to keep it moist hours after it comes off the pit? Restaurants now use warming units, but DIY home warmers are just as good.

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Gascoigne's 'relief' over alcoholism

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 12:35
In a BBC Radio 5 live interview, Paul Gascoigne speaks about alcoholism, press 'lies' and missing playing football.

Trying to make sense of Kim Jong-un

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 12:34
Why it's so hard to make sense of Kim Jong-un, North Korea's Supreme Leader.

Aston Villa sale moves a step closer

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 12:25
Aston Villa grant exclusive negotiation rights to an unnamed potential new owner but it is not ex-Chelsea man Paul Smith.

Dowsett wants to regain hour record

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 11:42
Britain's Alex Dowsett says he will aim to regain the hour record after it was broken by Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Frampton fights Mexican in US debut

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 11:41
Carl Frampton will defend his IBF super-bantamweight title against Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Junior in Texas on 18 July.

After Spending Millions On Communications, Homeland Security Fails Radio Test

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 11:37

The department has spent millions of dollars so first-responders from different agencies can communicate with one another. The Office of the Inspector General reports there's still a lot of static.

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'Suitcase boy' reunited with mother

BBC - Mon, 2015-06-08 11:35
An eight-year-old boy from Ivory Coast who was found being smuggled into Spain in a suitcase is reunited with his mother.

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