National / International News

Man Utd begin hunt but Giggs not in race

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:51
Manchester United begin their search for a successor to David Moyes but temporary boss Ryan Giggs is not under consideration to be the next full-time manager.

FDA Advisers Vote Against Approving New Opioid Painkiller

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:50

The developer of Moxduo says the drug, which combines morphine and oxycodone, would provide faster pain relief. But reviewers say there's not enough evidence that the combination drug is safer.

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Who Are Nepal's Sherpas?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:49

Members of this Nepalese community are renowned for their climbing skills and remarkable endurance at high altitudes. They are paid well by local standards, but it's a job fraught with risk.

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Fire a failing manager and other lessons from sports

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:40

Why can’t the corporate world be more like major league sports? When a sports team loses too much, the coach gets the boot, and gets it fast. In the past week, the Knicks fired their entire coaching staff, Manchester United sacked their manager, and the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team coach was fired too.

Far be it from us to endorse bloodlust, but why aren’t CEO's dealt this kind of fate?

1. They are, you just might not know it.

The Conference Board has done a lot of research on corporate succession, and one of their researchers, Melissa Aguilar says “the probability of a succession event is higher following poor performance.” Huh? What? Succession event? Yes, ‘succession event’ – Aguilar didn’t say ‘firing’, because “not everything that gets called a retirement is a retirement.”  You’d be surprised at how many CEO’s “retire” at a young age. Plus, coaches are more like managers, not corporate executives. And you can be sure that in the corporate world, a manager who doesn’t perform well will be shown the door.

2. A good CEO is hard to find. 

“I can tell you, I’ve managed a number of successions – it’s very hard!” in the words of Joseph Bower, who teaches at Harvard Business School.  “Companies are much more idiosyncratic than we think or as an economist would pretend - they have complex cultures, they have capabilities that tend to be unique,” and they’re made of complex arrays of humans which, as we all know, behave rather strangely in large groups. Finding the right person can be hard, and it can take a long time.

“I remember at one point the head of Johnson wax was hired by Nike because he was a good marketing executive and it was thought he could do well at Nike,” says Bower. “It turns out that marketing furniture polish is very different from marketing running shoes. That didn’t work out.” 

 3.Because a CEO isn’t a real thing.

Otherwise put, being a CEO isn’t a real thing. It’s not like being a blacksmith or a French teacher, where there’s a specific and universal skill set. You could run a company of two people selling pickles or a company of two thousand advising commodity investors – in both cases you’re a CEO. That doesn’t mean you can do both well.

4.You can’t hide the fact you lost a game. You can totally hide the fact your earnings are down.

“For a corporation, results are much more opaque,” says Smith college’s Andrew Zimbalist. “It’s not win or lose. Although corporations like to have growth and profit, there are ways to hide the lack of profits or to inflate the actual profits.” 

To be fair there are a lot of other things you can blame for bad results if you’re a CEO – the economy, GDP, China – take your pick of scapegoats real or not. 

“At a corporate level there’s more cronyism,” says Zimbalist. “You have boards of people who are CEOs themselves. It’s a social circle that’s more tight, and they are likely to be more lenient since they are in a similar situation. 

5.If Shareholders were like fans, Wall Street would be full of drunks and burnt out buildings

“It’s well known that some investors are not rational, but almost anybody would agree that very few sports fans are rational,” says Matteo Arena, who teaches finance at Marquette University. “Most fans react to poor results in a very passionate way and put a lot of pressure on teams.” That thirst for revenge and destruction is why sports teams often ditch their coaches or managers so quickly.  

6.Maybe Shareholders are like sports fans, but just slower.

A sports team can lose ten games in a month, but it takes a corporation 2.5 years to have 10 quarters of bad earnings. And CEOs usually walk shareholders through the ups and the downs, explaining what they expect to happen, which can sometimes be like talking down an angry mob.   

7.The CEO is often in charge of replacing the CEO

“In more than 50 percent of publicly traded companies in the US, the CEO is also chairman of the board,” says Matteo Arena. How easy do you think it is to replace the person in charge if that person ... is in charge of replacing the person in charge? 

Out Of Clout: Some States Brace For Washington Power Outage

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:31

A handful of states are about to lose decades of clout and seniority in Congress. Which one will be hardest hit of all? Michigan.

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Army Vs. National Guard: Who Gets Those Apache Helicopters?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:30

The Army plans to take all Apache attack helicopters from the National Guard. The Guard says that's an insult, but Army leaders say it's not personal — it's just about saving money.

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VIDEO: Man Utd players should be ashamed - Keane

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:27
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane says David Moyes was let down by United's players, who should be 'ashamed of themselves'.

VIDEO: UK debt wall 'falling down'

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:20
The UK economy may be starting to recover, but the country's levels of debt still remain among the highest in the developed world.

In TV Ad, GOP Senate Candidate Mocks 'War On Women' Rhetoric

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:12

Terri Lynn Land, a Republican running for Senate in Michigan, says she knows more about being a woman than the male Democratic congressman who's attacking her.

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VIDEO: Al-Jazeera trial sees video evidence

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:06
In Egypt, three journalists from Al Jazeera's English channel have appeared in court again on terrorism charges.

Brown: UK 'protects' Scots' pensions

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 11:02
Gordon Brown says Scottish pensioners are "better protected" in UK, comments the SNP describes as "ludicrous".

Colombian tribute to Garcia Marquez

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:50
Colombia honours its most renowned author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in a ceremony at the capital's cathedral, less than a week after he died aged 87.

Is TV streaming illegal? Aereo and the high court

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:46

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments about the legality of broadcast TV streaming operator Aereo. The case pits traditional television broadcasters against Aereo, which lets customers record broadcast TV in their local markets and then watch programs via television, computer, tablet or smartphone.

Q. What is Aereo?

A. Aereo, which was founded in 2012, is a service that lets paying subscribers watch broadcast TV on smart phones, tablets and computers. The company builds “antenna farms” that are filled with DVRs and thousands of dime-sized antennas. Using the Internet, customers can tune in and record local affiliates.

Q. Sounds complicated?  Was it for the justices?

A. Most of the justices displayed a decent understanding of technology, actually. Justice Sotomayor revealed she has a Roku, for instance. Other justices invoked Dropbox and Netflix. There were some exceptions, however. Justice Breyer made a few dated references to record stores – that is, stores that sell phonograph records.

Q. What does the case hinge on?

A. Under copyright law, there is a distinction between private performances and public performances of copyrighted works. Private performances are legal. You could invite friends over to your house to watch a basketball game, for instance. Public performances are illegal.

Aereo stresses each subscriber has a one-to-one relationship with its technology – DVRs and antennas. Each customer has total control over each of those two things. Broadcasters argue that, because Aereo has thousands of customers, what it is doing is illegal.

VIDEO: Sloviansk mourns pro-Russian activists

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:24
Daniel Sandford reports from the funerals of pro-Russian activists in Sloviansk, Ukraine, as US Vice-President Joe Biden urges Russia to "stop talking and start acting" to defuse the crisis there.

What do students actually learn in college?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:19

At Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., about ten students — all women but one — sit at a round table discussing Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey.”

 The 88-year-old college has a reputation for doing things differently. Most classes are small seminars like this one. There are no majors. Students do a lot of independent projects. And grades aren’t as important as the long written evaluations professors give every student at the end of every semester. It’s no surprise, then, that professor James Horowitz is skeptical of any uniform college rating system, like the one being proposed by the Obama administration.

“The goals that we are trying to achieve in instructing our students might be very different from what the University of Chicago or many other schools or a state school or a community college might be striving to achieve,” Horowitz says.

The Obama administration is due out this spring with details of its controversial plan to rate colleges on measures like value and affordability. The idea is that if students can compare schools on cost, graduation rates and even how much money students earn after they graduate — colleges might have to step up their game. Especially if, as proposed, poor performers risk losing access to federal financial aid.

All that, naturally, makes colleges just a bit nervous. Sarah Lawrence is fighting back with its own way of measuring value. The faculty came up with six abilities they think every Sarah Lawrence graduate should have. They include the ability to write and communicate effectively, to think analytically, and to accept and act on critique.

“We don’t believe that there’s like 100 things you should know when you graduate,” says computer science professor Michael Siff, who helped develop the tool. “It’s much more about are you a good learner? Do you know how to enter into a new domain and attack it with an open mind, but also an organized mind?”

Faculty advisors can use the results to track students’ progress over time and help them address any weaknesses. A student who’s struggling with communication could take class with a lot of oral presentations, for example, or make an appointment at the campus writing center.

But Siff says the tool is also about figuring out what the college can do better.

“This tool will allow us to assess ourselves as an institution,” he says. “Are we imparting what we believe to be these critical abilities?”

So how is the school doing? So far there are only data for two semesters, but on every measure seniors do better than juniors. Sophomores do better than freshmen.

Starting next fall, advisors will meet with their students at the beginning of each semester to talk over their progress. In sort of a trial run, Siff goes over the results so far with one of his advisees, junior Zachary Doege.

On a scale from “not yet developed” to “excellent,” he’s mostly at the top end. Doege says he likes seeing his own growth.

“I think the thing I like the most about this is just the fact that I can look back at how I was doing in previous semesters and sort of chart my own progress,” he says. “Not comparing me towards other students—just me to myself.”

That’s a different measure of the value of an education than, say, student loan debt or earnings after graduation — the sorts of things the Obama administration is considering as part of its ratings plan. Students and parents are right to ask if they’re getting their money’s worth, says the college’s president, Karen Lawrence. After financial aid, the average cost of a Sarah Lawrence education is almost $43,000 a year.

“People are worried about cost,” Lawrence says. “We understand that.”

And they’re worried about getting jobs after graduation. But she says the abilities that the new assessment measures—critical thinking and innovation and collaboration—are the same ones employers say they’re looking for.

“We think these are abilities that students are going to need both right after graduation and in the future, and so it could be an interesting model.”

One she hopes other schools will take a look at as they figure out how to answer the national debate about the value of college.

The six "critical abilities" that Sarah Lawrence College identified as skills that every graduate should have:

  • Ability to think analytically about the material.
  • Ability to express ideas effectively through written communication.
  • Ability to exchange ideas effectively through oral communication.
  • Ability to bring innovation to the work.
  • Ability to envisage and carry through a project independently, with appropriate guidance.
  • Ability to accept and act on critique to improve work.

Asteroid impact risks 'underplayed'

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:18
A visualisation showing where sizeable asteroids have hit the Earth in recent years has been released by the B612 Foundation.

45 People Were Shot In Chicago Over The Weekend

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:18

That follows 33 shootings the weekend before and 27 one week before that. As the weather is warming, the deadly incidents are on the rise again.

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We Didn't Believe In 'Artisanal' Toast, Until We Made Our Own

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 10:17

Inspired by toast's ascendance as a trendy snack du jour, we push "artisanal" toast in new directions. Using a blowtorch, coffee maker and dryer, we prove you can toast it yourself without a toaster.

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How one Tennessee county kept unemployment so low

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-22 09:57

There are parts of the South that continue to battle high unemployment, but Lincoln County, Tenn. is not one. It’s one of just two counties in the state that’s had the jobless rate dip below 5 percent in recent months.

This county of rolling farmland dotted with rusty silos and wooden barns has just 33,000 residents. Fewer than 900 are considered jobless. In some months, the county has had the lowest unemployment in Tennessee.

“Most everybody I know that wants a job has got a job,” says Jonathan Smith, who works at Goodman Manufacturing alongside his sister and parents.

Most who work in Lincoln County turn screws for a living, or something close to it. A handful of factories drive the local economy. Goodman is – by far – is the largest. In all, 1,500 employees build heating,ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) units from the ground up.

“We make plastic parts, we make wires, we make sheet metal,” says longtime plant manager Bill Miller.

Keeping Jobs In House

Instead of importing components from China, Miller says they’re made in house so the plant can respond to market demands. Sheets of metal are stamped and crimped into cooling coils as needed.

And looking around the factory floor, one can count on one hand the number of robots. Miller says there’s too much variability between small air-conditioning units for homes and monster machines meant for hotels.

“Robots are very difficult to program for that kind of complexity,” he says. “Human beings are very trainable for that kind of complexity.”

And that’s why there’s still a hiring sign out front. Goodman Manufacturing needs people. It’s hard work, but it pays pretty well compared to other jobs around. Average wages are $17 an hour – much better than some hospitality jobs.

“You can only clean so many toilets, and stuff, make beds,” says Louise Alaweneh, who left the local hospital to take a welding job at Goodman.  "Then you come out here and you get a taste of really working.”

Lincoln County has lost some factories as companies found it more profitable to move overseas. But the area has also recruited new employers to replace them, like a big Frito-Lay plant.

Who Gets Credit?

“We’re lucky, I guess,” says John Ed Underwood, mayor of Fayetteville, the county seat.

Considering he’s a politician, Underwood doesn’t take much credit for the economic good fortune. He tries to bring new companies to town, but he finds corporate recruiting to be a game of chance.

One executive recently showed up on a Lear Jet.

“We talked with him, would have thought we done a good job selling Lincoln County and Fayetteville to him. He got on his plane, and we ain’t heard from him since,” Underwood says. 

Really, Lincoln County has held it’s own against the odds. It has no Interstate. A rail spur was recently shutdown. And it’s not like there’s been a construction boom of subdivisions or a surge in any particular industry.

Underwood figures there’s just been a good balance of people and jobs in Lincoln County, at least until now. Several local factories are expanding.

“Four of them are going to hire are going to hire as many as 600 new employees,” he says. “Where are they coming from?”

One More Thing

There’s no bite-sized explanation for why Lincoln County has such low unemployment. But it certainly hasn’t hurt to be 30 miles from Huntsville, Ala.

“I work in Huntsville,” says Didre Smith. “I know several people who do.”

In fact, local officials estimate hundreds of people make that commute across state lines to Alabama. Many work at Redstone Arsenal.

Smith has an administrative job in a doctor’s office – something she couldn’t find in her home county. She used to work in a nearby pants factory.

“I chose that that would not be my profession always,” she says.

But outside of being a teacher, there aren’t many non-factory jobs here that pay a decent wage, hence the number who drive to Alabama every morning.

Lincoln’s lack of white-collar work is a problem, but most counties this size would trade places in a heartbeat. Other rural areas – even just a few counties over – are battling double-digit unemployment.

Manchester United sack manager Moyes

BBC - Tue, 2014-04-22 09:54
Manchester United manager David Moyes is sacked after only 10 months, with Ryan Giggs taking temporary charge at Old Trafford.
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