National / International News

Opera singer sacked for gay slur

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:55
Opera singer Tamar Iveri has her contract with Opera Australia terminated due to anti-gay comments posted on her Facebook page.

Social media 'half of police tasks'

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:47
Complaints originating from social media make up "at least half" of calls passed on to front-line officers, the head of the College of Policing tells the BBC.

Polish PM faces grilling over leak

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:46
A scandal over leaked recordings of top officials in Poland goes to parliament as Prime Minister Donald Tusk prepares to defend his ministers.

BMA chief warns on survival of NHS

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:32
The outgoing chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland warns that tough decisions need to be made if the NHS is going to survive.

'Sickening' attack on Jewish graves

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:27
Swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti is daubed on a Jewish cemetery in Manchester.

Sisi 'will not act' over Egypt trial

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:25
Egypt's president says he will not "interfere" in favour of three al-Jazeera journalists jailed in Cairo, as BBC journalists condemn the ruling.

D.C. starts taxing more services, like yoga studios

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:13

The following story was updated after the D.C. Council approved the city’s new budget today. It also voted to start charging sales tax on gyms, yoga studios, and other services.

Yogis in Washington D.C. are taking deep breaths. Very deep breaths.

Partly because that’s what they always do. And partly because the D.C. Council gave final approval to a tax proposal that has yoga teachers and fitness buffs worried.

It also highlights the changing nature of the sales tax. The council expanded the sales tax on the things we buy to include more services like gyms and yoga studios.

Debra Mishalove owns Flow Yoga Center (where, full disclosure, this reporter used to cat/cow).

“I have people who come to my studio, they’re dealing with symptoms from MS,” Mishalove says, referring to muscular sclerosis. “I have people who are dealing with depression, the pills weren’t working the yoga is. I have people who are coming for weight management, for eating disorders.”

The list goes on.

“I hate to see anybody have to pay any more than they do right now to access wellness.”

Opponents have dubbed this a wellness or fitness tax. But the tax expansion will also cover tanning salons, carpet cleaners, and car washes -- services that weren’t exactly mainstream when the sales tax began in the 1930s.

Back then, we spent most of our personal consumption dollars on stuff -- physical goods -- and that’s the base of the sales tax. But now, the service sector accounts for two-thirds of what we buy.

“If you don’t tax services in the long run, you don’t have a sales tax. End of story,” says Matt Gardner, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He says states should tax more services, ideally at a lower rate. But broadening the tax base isn’t easy, he says.

“Nobody really knew that Ohio tattoo parlors had a lobby in 2003. They found out really fast that they actually did,” he says. “In Maryland in 2007, I certainly don’t think lawmakers dreamed that landscapers would be surrounding the state capitol, but they did.”

What’s at stake is revenue for education, health care, transportation.

A group of tax wonks called the Federation of Tax Administrators compiled a list of 183 services that conceivably could be subject to sales tax -- everything from automotive rustproofing to taxidermy. D.C. currently taxes about 75 of them.

D.C.’s new sales tax expansion is part of a larger budget and tax proposal that reduces business and personal income taxes.

Kim Rueben, a commissioner on DC’s Tax Revision Commission, says the idea is to tax services that aren’t that portable. For example, you're not going to remove your wall-to-wall carpet to get it cleaned. That has to happen in your house.

Likewise, "If you live and work in D.C., it’s going to be really tough for you to decide that you’re going to go to a gym in Virginia or Maryland instead,” she says.

Kenyan 'Liz' gang rape trial begins

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:12
One of the six teenagers accused of gang-raping a 16-year-old girl in Kenya and dumping her in a pit latrine goes on trial.

VIDEO: What is secret of Costa Rica's success?

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:07
After unexpected wins against Uruguay and Italy, Costa Rica have already qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup.

VIDEO: Why this painting sold for £32m

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:06
A 1906 Claude Monet water lilies painting, Nympheas, has sold for £31.7m in London, the second highest price ever paid for the artist at an auction.

London students 'face crime risk'

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:01
Students in London could run a higher risk of being a victim of crime than those in other parts of the country, the Complete University Guide suggests.

Chelsea Clinton wants more girls involved in STEM

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Chelsea Clinton has been out in force these past few weeks. Last week, she spoke at an event in New York City for Google's pledge of $50 million dollars to close the gender gap in the tech industry. This week, she's in Denver, Colorado for the Clinton Foundation's event Clinton Global Initiative America, where she's been hosting conversations about getting women and girls to engage with careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The disparity between the number of women and men in STEM fields is no secret. It's a problem that Clinton says starts as early as middle school.

“Research is saying that teachers call on girls less than they call on boys in math and a science classes...which sends an invisible but insidious message their opinions aren’t as valued as boys,” says Clinton.

She also cites research showing that gender and race can play a role in the effectiveness of medical treatment, which makes increasing diversity in the science and medical fields all the more important. 

Recently, Clinton's $600,000 salary as a correspondant for NBC came under scrutiny. When asked if she felt the response was inherently gendered, Clinton pointed to a need for a larger conversation about opportunity for women on all levels instead of zeroing in on top earners like Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman.

"The real question is how do we ensure that there are both equal opportunities for women, and that that work is valued commensurately...one of the challenges is, you know, we have so many fewer women, that those comparisons are still just hard to make," says Clinton.

In her own life, Clinton credits her parents for encouraging her to have diverse interests -- she still remembers when Santa Claus brought her a commodore computer.

Chelsea Clinton wants more girls involved in STEM

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Chelsea Clinton has been out in force these past few weeks. Last week, she spoke at an event in New York City for Google's pledge of $50 million dollars to close the gender gap in the tech industry. This week, she's in Denver, Colorado for the Clinton Foundation's event Clinton Global Initiative America, where she's been hosting conversations about getting women and girls to engage with careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The disparity between the number of women and men in STEM fields is no secret. It's a problem that Clinton says starts as early as middle school.

“Research is saying that teachers call on girls less than they call on boys in math and a science classes...which sends an invisible but insidious message their opinions aren’t as valued as boys,” says Clinton.

She also cites research showing that gender and race can play a role in the effectiveness of medical treatment, which makes increasing diversity in the science and medical fields all the more important. 

Recently, Clinton's $600,000 salary as a correspondant for NBC came under scrutiny. When asked if she felt the response was inherently gendered, Clinton pointed to a need for a larger conversation about opportunity for women on all levels instead of zeroing in on top earners like Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman.

"The real question is how do we ensure that there are both equal opportunities for women, and that that work is valued commensurately...one of the challenges is, you know, we have so many fewer women, that those comparisons are still just hard to make," says Clinton.

In her own life, Clinton credits her parents for encouraging her to have diverse interests -- she still remembers when Santa Claus brought her a commodore computer.

AT&T and DirecTV defend proposed mega-merger

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Top executives from AT&T and DirecTV will appear before a House Judiciary subcommittee to make the case for their proposed $48.5 billion merger. The deal faces anti-trust questions, as does the $45 billion proposed merger of rivals Comcast and Time-Warner. The final decision will be made by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.

AT&T already has a strong customer base in mobile phone and internet, and it has a smaller pay-TV business, U-verse. It wants DirecTV so it can compete better in the pay-TV market. With all the satellite subscribers from DirecTV, AT&T would end up with 25 percent market share nationwide, though it would still trail a merged Comcast-Time Warner.

Carl Howe, technology analyst at the Yankee Group, says all this consolidation may lead to fewer choices for consumers — especially since cable companies tend to lay lines to an entire neighborhood or city.

“The number of companies that serve any individual consumer is usually one or two,” says Howe. "When you shrink one or two down to one, that’s called a monopoly.”

And a monopoly could mean higher prices for cable-TV customers.

Antitrust attorney Mark Ostrau at Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West says companies that make television shows and other video material won’t welcome all these mergers among cable-TV distributors, either.

“They (the cable companies) really do compete both for content and for advertising,” says Ostrau. “If you’re a content provider, you would be very nervous about too much concentration.”

AT&T argues that the merger with DirecTV will allow it to bundle stations and services. The company claims that could lead to better prices for consumers.

 

The share of pay-TV market held by various companies 

Cabletv.com

Specialty drugs could fuel health care inflation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Since the recession, U.S. employers' health care spending growth has been slowing from year to year. That's about to change, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.

The report says employer health care spending will accelerate in 2015, rising by 6.8 percent, a slightly faster rate of growth than what the company projected for 2014. The report’s authors say expensive specialty drugs will play a role in fueling the sharper rise in spending.

"It's actually a very big deal in terms of dollars. It's one of the reasons we single out that factor for 2015,” says Ceci Connolly, managing director of PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute.

Connolly points to a new treatment for Hepatitis C as an example of the new, high-cost drugs. Hepatitis C is a virus that causes liver disease and affects about 3 million Americans. One breakthrough drug, Sovaldi, can completely cure Hepatitis C in a high percentage of patients. But a twelve-week treatment costs $84,000.

However, in the case of Hepatitis C drugs, the hit to employers might not last long, according to Princeton University health care economist Uwe Reinhardt.

“Eventually all the people with Hep C will be cured, and all you have to do is deal with the new ones, which is not that heavy a growth,” he says.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers researchers say that in the short-term, employers will probably try to offset higher medical costs by shifting more of them to workers.

Housing market 'coming off the boil'

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 01:55
Home sales hit their highest level of the year in May but a banking group says the "heat is coming out of the housing market".

University trials three-year degrees

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 01:44
Students in Scotland could complete a full honours degree in three years for the first time in a pilot run at Abertay University.

Microsoft unveils Android phone

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 01:38
Microsoft unveils its first handset following its takeover of Nokia's handset business. The device runs on Android rather than Windows Phone.

AUDIO: 'Moral case' for introducing living wage

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 01:35
Archbishop of York John Sentamu says the UK government should make it a goal to cut the number of low paid workers by one million by 2020.

Thai minister forms anti-coup group

BBC - Tue, 2014-06-24 01:27
A former Thai minister forms a group to campaign for a return to democracy, in the wake of last month's military coup.
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