National / International News

Most Americans See Bible As Word Of God, Gallup Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:52

The survey finds that nearly a third believe the Bible is the literal word of God, while nearly half said a supreme being inspired the text.

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Darling in Salmond Kim Jong-il jibe

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:29
A political row breaks out after the leader of the pro-union Better Together campaign compares Alex Salmond to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

VIDEO: Pressure on ECB to stimulate Eurozone

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:28
The European Central Bank is expected to announce plans to stimulate growth in the Eurozone.

The Camel Did It: Scientists Nail Down Source Of Middle East Virus

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:25

Since the deadly MERS virus was detected two years ago, scientists have struggled to figure out how people catch it. A new study confirms that camels are a key source.

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VIDEO: Video shows US soldier handover

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:16
The Taliban release a video showing the handover of US soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdhal, after five years in captivity.

Video shows US soldier handover

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 14:08
The Taliban release a video showing the moment US soldier Bowe Bergdahl was handed to US forces.

Murray battles through in Paris gloom

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:52
Andy Murray produces a late surge to beat Gael Monfils in five sets and reach the French Open semi-finals.

The economic backdrop to Tian'anmen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:51

Politically, China may not have changed much from 25 years ago, but economically? It might as well be a different country.

University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies Director Mary Gallagher remembers what it was like for Chinese workers in 1989. "There’s this big population in the cities, still working for state-owned companies, not making high wages, still having an iron rice bowl, and it’s creating all of these problems in the economy and it’s also reducing China’s competitiveness."

And then, the economic equivalent of a hurricane for these poorly-paid urbanites: hyper inflation. "While prices were going up at an average of about 7 percent a year in the mid 80s, in ‘88 there was a spike where it was more like 17 percent. So that kind of inflation hit hard," says Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California-Irvine history professor and author of "China In the 21st Century".

In a TV news reel from 1988, thousands of desperate shoppers at a Shanghai department store reach over each other to buy food. Up until then, prices were set by the government. But in 1988, the government began to systematically lift these price controls, allowing goods to be sold on the open market for the first time. Nobody knew when prices were going to rise, prompting waves of panic buying. “I’ve taken out all my money from the bank and I bought a bed," said one shopper to a Shanghai television reporter. "I don’t need one, but everyone is scrambling to buy one before the price of beds begin to rise.”

(Navigate to 2:45 and 5:35 to watch the footage of shoppers).

In 1988 China, prices were rising, salaries weren’t. Suddenly, many Chinese couldn’t afford many simple household goods. A song by musician Cui Jian captured the feeling of helplessness of the times: "I have asked you endlessly," the song goes, "when will you go with me? But you always laugh at me, for I have nothing to my name."

The lyrics seem to describe a boy, down on his luck, begging his girlfriend to leave with him. But others interpreted the boy as China’s young generation asking the rest of China –including the government – to join it. The song "Nothing to my Name" became an anthem to the demonstrations that later developed at Tian’anmen Square in 1989.

"I think generally Americans and the American media and the western media focused on the political issues more than the economic issues," University of Michigan’s Mary Gallagher said about the media coverage of the 1989 protests. Gallagher says framing the Tian’anmen demonstrations simply as students fighting for democracy ignores the fact that the rest of China’s population – many of whom were blue-collar workers – were protesting for better economic opportunities, too. "I think the general support the students got from the population was much more related to economic issues like inflation, like corruption, like failure to take advantage of opportunities. And people associated those things with political change."

But political change was too much to ask from China’s leaders. In the early morning hours of June 4, 1989, China's military turned on its own civilians, shooting and killing hundreds of people.

In the year following the Tian’anmen massacre, GDP growth plummeted, so did foreign investment. But it didn’t last long. China’s government sped up economic reforms, while keeping a lid on political reforms. This is often referred to as the unspoken deal China’s government made with its people after Tian’anmen: We allow you to make more money, you don’t challenge our authority.

University of California’s Jeffrey Wasserstrom says 25 years later, with China’s economy now slowing down, there are signs the Chinese people want to renegotiate this deal – it’s no longer clear that making more money is an option. "Now I think there’s a sense that if you’ve been left behind, maybe you’ll be permanently left behind," says Wasserstrom. "And also, with the rising concern with issues like food safety, and heavy polluted air and water, I think it’s not so clear to people anymore that they can assume their children will live better lives than they did."

"People are angry, but people are worried that if something changes, would anything get better?" asks University of Michigan's Mary Gallagher. "I don’t think people in China have much confidence in democracy right now, and looking around them they may feel particularly people in the cities and people in the middle class may feel that democracy could end up even worse. It’s a much more segmented society, and people who are wealthy and who are middle class have much more to protect. And when they think about democracy, they think about majority rule. And I think majority rule is scary to them."

The song that defined China’s generation of ’89 ends with singer Cui Jian asking a question, interpreted by some to be posed to China’s government: “Why do I always have to chase you? Could it be that in front of you, I’ll forever have nothing to my name?”

This year, China’s government invited Cui Jian to sing at the New Year Gala on state television, a program watched by 700 million Chinese, six times the number of people who watch the Superbowl. Cui accepted, on the condition that he sing "Nothing to my Name".

The government wouldn’t let him.

Cui Jian's response to the government? We no longer have a deal.

 

No more Roman numerals for the NFL

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:37

In Roman Numerals, the letter "L" is the number 50, which, as it happens, is the version of the Super Bowl that will be played in February 2016.

The NFL knowing a branding problem when it sees it, has decreed that that this years game will break with the tradition of using Roman numerals to identify the sequence.

It'll be simply"Super Bowl 50". Not "Super Bowl L".

No more Roman numerals for the NFL

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:37

In Roman Numerals, the letter "L" is the number 50, which, as it happens, is the version of the Super Bowl that will be played in February 2016.

The NFL knowing a branding problem when it sees it, has decreed that that this years game will break with the tradition of using Roman numerals to identify the sequence.

It'll be simply"Super Bowl 50". Not "Super Bowl L".

You can refinance a car, but not a student loan

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:35

You can refinance payments for a house, a car, even a boat. So why can you not negotiate a better deal for your federal student loans and get out from under all that debt?

"Well you actually could," says financial aid expert Kantrowitz, "there’s no pre-payment penalties on student loans, federal or private."

So even though you could borrow from a private bank to pay off your government loan, the problem, says Kantrowitz, "is there aren’t lenders who are willing to beat the low rates on a federal education loan."

3.86 percent is the interest rate for a federal Stafford loan - if you got it today. But lots of borrowers have older loans with much higher rates. And, loaning money to students can be risky -- one in seven students defaults.   

"If you buy a house or a car and you default on that loan, the lender can reposses the car or foreclose on your house. An education lender can’t repossess your education," he says. 

But if Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has her way, students would be able to refinance their federal debt with a lower rate from the government.

David Bergeron, vice president for post secondary education policy at the Center for American Progress, says the long term solution isn't interest rates, instead it's reducing the amount of debt and the cost of college.

Though, he notes, giving students the option to refinance loans could free up an average of $2000 a year per borrower: “Refinancing would not make the underlying debt that a person owes go away,” he said. But if that money is spent on consumer goods or used towards a down payment for a house, it could help spur the economy rather than going straight to the government which stands to make almost $70 billion from the interest on loans issued between 2007 and 2012.

About Senator Warren's new proposal, “The government will still make money," says Bergeron, "it just won’t make as much money.”

At Walmart labor protests, striking isn't the point

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:33

Walmart kicks off its annual share-holders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday, and some Walmart workers are marking the occasion with a series of strikes across the country. Low pay is the spotlight issue--with protesters urging Walmart to raise wages to at least $25,000 a year.

But, as Walmart is quick to point out, only a tiny fraction of its workers will actually walk off the job. Depending on whom you ask, that low number means very different things.   Cynthia Brown-Elliott is a cake decorator at a Walmart in Cincinnati. She makes $8.95 an hour and lives in subsidized housing. When she strikes this week, she'll be holding a homemade sign that's a play on the Walmart slogan: Save money. Live better.   “I’m writing, ‘How Can You Save Money If You're Not Making Money? How Can You Live Better If You're Not Getting Paid Better?’” Brown-Elliot says.   She acknowledges, though, that her sign won’t have much company from co-workers on the picket line. Out of her store's several hundred employees, she knows of just seven workers walking off the job.   That relatively tiny number shows that most at Walmart are happy, says company spokesman Kory Lundberg.   “It's by and large not associates that are participating in these events. Usually the group is rounded out by UFCW* members, or people working at an organized retail competitor,” he says, referring to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers and other labor groups that have helped organize Walmart workers and protests.   “Our associates are smart. They know what a good job is. That's why 1.3 million of them have chosen to work for us,” Lundberg says.   But Brown- Elliott, the Cincinnati Walmart worker who is joining a handful of her colleagues in walking off the job, believes the low striker turn-out isn’t a sign of worker contentment; it’s a sign of worker fear. She says many of her co-workers who have families have told her they support the strikes this week, but feel they have too much to lose.   As an example, she points to a coworker who has joined the workers’ group Our Walmart, but decided not to strike. “She's a mother and she has children who are living in her house--she's scared of losing her job,” says Brown-Elliott, who is an empty-nester.   “In this economy you can’t afford to lose your job,” she adds, but says without a family to support she feels emboldened on the picket line. “I only have me to worry about.”   Fifty years ago, when workers were generally more skilled, unemployment rates were lower, and unions had more legal protections, striking didn't feel quite as risky for workers, even ones with families, according to Gary Chiason, professor of labor relations at Clark University.   Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.    “It's a question of drawing public attention,” he says. “The whole concept is to embarrass the employer as a low-wage, poor working condition employer—to go after the consumer who really holds the decision making power, and to tell the consumers that this is not a good place to patronize because they don’t pay workers well.”    In other words, in today’s economy, the number of low-paid retail workers on a picket line isn’t really the point. What matters is whether the signs they’re holding resonate with the shoppers walking by. 

CORRECTION: The original version of this article misidentified a union that is helping to organize protests by Walmart workers. It is the United Food and Commercial Workers. The article has been corrected.

Among Walmart protests, few actual strikers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:33

Walmart kicks off its annual share-holders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday, and some Walmart workers are marking the occasion with a series of strikes across the country. Low pay is the spotlight issue--with protesters urging Walmart to raise wages to at least $25,000 a year.

But, as Walmart is quick to point out, only a tiny fraction of its workers will actually walk off the job. Depending on whom you ask, that low number means very different things.   Cynthia Brown-Elliott is a cake decorator at a Walmart in Cincinnati. She makes $8.95 an hour and lives in subsidized housing. When she strikes this week, she'll be holding a homemade sign that's a play on the Walmart slogan: Save money. Live better.   “I’m writing, ‘How Can You Save Money If You're Not Making Money? How Can You Live Better If You're Not Getting Paid Better?’” Brown-Elliot says.   She acknowledges, though, that her sign won’t have much company from co-workers on the picket line. Out of her store's several hundred employees, she knows of just seven workers walking off the job.   That relatively tiny number shows that most at Walmart are happy, says company spokesman Kory Lundberg.   “It's by and large not associates that are participating in these events. Usually the group is rounded out by UFCW members, or people working at an organized retail competitor,” he says, referring to members of the United Food and Culinary Workers Union and other labor groups that have helped organize Walmart workers and protests.   “Our associates are smart. They know what a good job is. That's why 1.3 million of them have chosen to work for us,” Lundberg says.   But Brown- Elliott, the Cincinnati Walmart worker who is joining a handful of her colleagues in walking off the job, believes the low striker turn-out isn’t a sign of worker contentment; it’s a sign of worker fear. She says many of her co-workers who have families have told her they support the strikes this week, but feel they have too much to lose.   As an example, she points to a coworker who has joined the workers’ group Our Walmart, but decided not to strike. “She's a mother and she has children who are living in her house--she's scared of losing her job,” says Brown-Elliott, who is an empty-nester.   “In this economy you can’t afford to lose your job,” she adds, but says without a family to support she feels emboldened on the picket line. “I only have me to worry about.”   Fifty years ago, when workers were generally more skilled, unemployment rates were lower, and unions had more legal protections, striking didn't feel quite as risky for workers, even ones with families, according to Gary Chiason, professor of labor relations at Clark University.   Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.    “It's a question of drawing public attention,” he says. “The whole concept is to embarrass the employer as a low-wage, poor working condition employer—to go after the consumer who really holds the decision making power, and to tell the consumers that this is not a good place to patronize because they don’t pay workers well.”    In other words, in today’s economy, the number of low-paid retail workers on a picket line isn’t really the point. What matters is whether the signs they’re holding resonate with the shoppers walking by.   

Labour and Lib Dems 'hold talks'

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:32
Key allies of party leaders Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband meet to discuss what the two parties have in common, BBC Newsnight has learned.

What the VA and the Cleveland Clinic have in common

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:32

One of the country’s top hospital executives may be on the short-list to become the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Toby Cosgrove could replace Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki resigned over veterans waiting prolonged periods of time for an appointment and staff covering that up.

If there’s one thing the VA needs to do right now, it’s figure out how to make sure patients are getting the right care in the right place at the right time.

On paper Cosgrove’s resume seems ideal.

He’s a veteran, a successful surgeon and is seen as one of the few hospital executives in the country who has improved patient care and controlled healthcare costs.

Greg Anrig with the left-leaning Century Foundation says he thinks Cosgrove could hit the ground running because the VA and the Cleveland Clinic are similar creatures.

“They are team focused. They are focused on data, they are oriented on using technology effectively,” he says.

While this patient scandal has certainly marred the VA’s reputation, the VA has a sturdy track record delivering quality care that’s often similar to -- or better than -- what can be found in the private sector.

But one certain challenge ahead is addressing high patient demand in areas with sizeable veteran populations.

Cosgrove has shown he knows how to treat patients in hospitals when they need it, and elsewhere when they don’t.

The VA could likely benefit from that kind of patient management.

Some in the healthcare world believe if Cosgrove becomes the next secretary – and is successful - his reforms could influence hospitals around the nation.

Ecuador 2-2 England

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:29
Raheem Sterling is sent off and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is injured as England are held to a 2-2 draw by Ecuador in Miami.

Latest Sexual Assault In India Underscores U.N. Chief's Call For Action

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 13:21

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demands a global end to violence against women, a 35-year-old is molested and shot in front of her husband and five children in India's northeast.

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