National / International News

VIDEO: House of Commons

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 02:19
MPs debate the quality of train services in south east London and Kent.

'Converting your pension into a granite countertop'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 02:17

It's becoming harder and harder for consumers to get loans. So they're turning to another money source -- their retirement accounts.

During good times, we contribute to our retirement plans. In bad times, we raid them. The Great Recession threw the raiding into high gear. Many people used their retirement money to stave off disaster.

University of Michigan economist Frank P. Stafford says we spent on "layoffs, unexpected medical expenses." But, some retirement raids were for things like home makeovers:

"Converting your pension into a granite countertop," says Stafford.

The thing is, if you take money out of your retirement plan before age 59 and a half, you pay a 10 percent penalty.

Yet, Stafford says, 5 to 6 percent of us have done that over the past two years.

You can avoid the penalty by just borrowing against your retirement accounts. Plenty of us did so in 2012.

"Basically one out of five employees over the one year period take loans out of their 401k plan and have an outstanding balance," says Joe Ready, the head of institutional retirement at Wells Fargo.

Ready says there is a little good news. Those loans have plateaued, and more people are contributing to their retirement plans.

Retirement Breach In Defined Contribution Plans (from HelloWallet)

Why advertisers care how long a show sits in your DVR

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 02:14

So, how long does it take you to watch all those programs you DVR?

You might not care if you wait a day or two, but you know who does? Network executives and advertisers.

That's because ad deals are based on what's known as C3, a measurement of commercial minutes seen live and over the following three days. Advertisers don't pay for your eyeballs if you watch "Scandal" on day four.

"From the networks' perspective, they're saying, 'Well hey, if someone didn't skip the commercial on day four, why are they worth nothing?'" says Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

But some ads do get stale. That ad for the Saturday-only sale? Doesn't do much good on Sunday.

So now tell us, how long does it take you to get to the shows you missed?

How long do you typically wait to watch shows on your DVR?

Ditching the single-use water bottle

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 02:14

Every day at a sprawling Arrowhead bottle plant in Los Angeles, a towering yellow robot nicknamed "Apollo" grabs empty 5 gallon water cooler jugs from trucks, and sends them to refill stations under the watchful eye of technicians.

Those large office water bottles get tons of re-use, but most individual plastic bottles are only used once. How do we reduce that waste? San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu wrote legislation to limit single-use bottle sales on public property. 

"People can still purchase single use plastic water bottle at their local grocery store or their corner store," Chiu says. "But what we want to do is really ask residents in our city to think about changing their consumer behavior."

A New York entrepreneur named Nan Harris hopes to change our water drinking habits with a vending machine called WaterStop Carts. After noticing the wastefulness of single-use bottles, she sold her co-op to finance a company to develop a more efficient technology.

WaterStop Carts - First Prototype from WaterStop Carts on Vimeo.

"Bottled water is just easier to find, that's all there is to it," says Harris. "So we developed the concept of accessibility through mobility."

Harris' sleek metal vending machine connects to municipal tap water, then runs it through filters like those at the giant bottled water plants. It also sells reusable bottles that collapse when not in use. Future versions will dispense another life-saving resource: wifi hotspots.

MIT students invented a similar machine called Refresh. It sells new bottles for $1.50, but refills are just 50 cents if you bring your own bottle.

Over in Los Angeles' Koreatown, Richard Chin and his fiancee opened a water store called Alkasource. In a back room that looks like a science lab, they filter regular Los Angeles tap water into a bottle of your choice: plastic, glass, or metal.

"Once we started doing research about how water is sold, how water is produced and purified, we found that there weren't that many resources for great quality water," says Chin. "And so we decided to get into this business to provide the community with a source for very clean water."

The International Bottled Water Association's Chris Hogan acknowledges that lots of new eco-friendly options have popped up lately. "We have no problem with tap water, filtered water, using a reusable water bottle," Hogan says. "The important thing is to drink water."

The end result for consumers is more choice -- from a bottling plant full of robots, to little machines that filter water right in front of you.

AUDIO: Woman defends filming own abortion

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 02:12
Emily Letts, who filmed herself while having a surgical termination and posted it online, has defended her decision.

US joins hunt for Nigerian girls

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 02:00
A team of US experts is sent to Nigeria to help find more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The General Election: One year to go

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:59
General election promises few certainties, says Nick Robinson

ITV buys US TV producer Leftfield

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:54
ITV buys an 80% stake in US reality TV producer Leftfield Entertainment, the firm behind shows such as the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

The men blasted for urinating in public

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:53
The men blasted with jets of water for urinating in public

Stars boycott Beverly Hills Hotel

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:42
Hollywood stars are staying away from a famous hotel after the owner, Brunei's government, introduced a harsh Islamic penal code.

Six months, 73,000 locations

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:32
Attempting to photograph all of London's streets

VIDEO: Why Kelis' album will make you hungry

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:28
Biscuits and gravy, Jerk ribs and Cobbler: Kelis speaks to BBC Breakfast about the tracks on her latest album, Food.

Call over poverty attainment gap

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:18
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calls for more to be done to help children from poorer families do well at school.

Hospital worker 'rated genitals'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:16
An operating theatre worker at Stoke Mandeville Hospital is struck off for rating patients' genitals and breasts while they were sedated.

VIDEO: Ex Co-op chair locked out of court

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:15
Former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers arrived at Leeds Magistrates' Court to face drug possession charges, only to find the building locked.

Elderly woman dies after car crash

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:11
An 84-year-old woman dies in hospital following a two-car crash in the village of Sixmilecross, outside Omagh, County Tyrone.

New Tyrannosaur named 'Pinocchio'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:02
A new type of tyrannosaur with a very long nose has been discovered by scientists in Scotland and China.

Carer recruits 'must speak English'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:01
Agencies must ensure people they recruit as carers can speak English before placing them in vulnerable people's homes, a government adviser says

Making music for the movies with John Powell

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:00

Having scored over 50 films, John Powell knows what a film should sound like. With his latest project, Rio 2, creating the original soundtrack involved a lot of unique sounds; like the swoosh of bird feathers, for example.

It's all part of his meticulous process of recording isolated sound effects and instrumental lines, then putting them together in a final mix. This kind of technological control is huge for Powell.

In fact, he says he wouldn't be the composer he is now without computers. 

Starting with the Atari ST 1080 -- Yes, that Atari ST 1080 -- computers have become an integral part of Powell's composition process.

Yet, in spite of having some of the most advanced recording technology at his disposal, Powell says the most important technological advancement in his process has been having instant access to different kinds of music from around the world: 

"Ultimately it comes down to whether or not you can write a tune. And that really is just about the music you've experienced."

Sainsbury's reports rise in profits

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-07 00:47
UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's reports a 16.3% rise in annual pre-tax profit to £898m for the year to 15 March.
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