National / International News

US funding stand-off over migrants

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:26
President Barack Obama and Congress are at loggerheads over homeland security's $40bn (£26bn) budget, with time running out to secure a deal.

Osborne: Labour 'arsonists' over HSBC

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:23
Chancellor George Osborne likens Labour to "arsonists throwing rocks at firefighters" over HSBC, as he defends the government's record on tackling tax evasion.

Riots shut Texas prison

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:22
Prison officials in south Texas are transferring hundreds of inmates after the men took control of the facility and set fires.

Edwin Land: "The original Steve Jobs"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:20

 If you wear sunglasses, use a camera or watch T.V. on an LCD screen you have Edwin Land to thank for one of his many innovations: the polarization process. 

According to Ronald Fierstein, author of "A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War," Polaroid founder Edwin Land and Apple's Steve Jobs had a lot in common.

"They were both college dropouts. They both formed and pretty much single-handedly developed tremendous technology companies," Land says. 

But Land and Polaroid would also have to endure a massive lawsuit with American photography juggernaut Kodak. In the end, Polaroid won, says Fierstein. "Kodak had to pay almost a billion dollars in damages... which until a few weeks ago held the record for most damages ever," he says.

Even though Polaroid was able to keep Kodak from capitalizing on its innovations, eventually both companies just stopped innovating. "They both held on to the technologies that made them great. And they held on too long," Fierstein says.

Land's story isn't just the story of Polaroid though. He was also an integral player in a government committee that led wartime scientific research.

"While all of the polarizing stuff was going on at Polaroid and the photography and everything else, Land, in secret, over the course of several decades, worked for seven American presidents," Fierstein says.

So the guy who came up with the Polaroid instant camera? He also "led a committee that came up with the U2 spy plane," Fierstein says. "Even the mini-cam that was on a stick that Neil Armstrong used on the moon, came from that Land Commission, that Land Panel group."


Read an excerpt from Fierstein's book below: 

A Father’s Sage Advice

By Ronald K. Fierstein, author of A Triumph of Genius – Edwin Land, Polaroid and the Kodak Patent War.

When Edwin Land, still in his teens, informed his father that he was dropping out of Harvard before the end of his freshman year to pursue his search for a practical polarizer material, and that he needed the equivalent of seventy thousand dollars to fund his experiments, Land’s father agreed, but gave his son a critical piece of advice that would stand him in good stead for the rest of his career:  when you find your solution, protect yourself so that some big corporation does not come along and steal it from you. 

Land remains perhaps the most important, yet least known, inventor and technology entrepreneur in American history. In many ways, he was the original Steve Jobs.  TheApple founder once hailed Land as “a national treasure,” and modeled much of his own career after the inventor.  Launching his career upon his invention -- at age nineteen -- of the plastic polarizer, Land later imagined and then nurtured into existence the revolutionary “one-step” photographic system that helped build Polaroid into one of the most innovative companies of the 20th century.  Along the way he made critical contributions to top-secret U.S. military intelligence efforts during World War II and the Cold War in the service of seven American presidents.

Polaroid and Kodak had a long relationship that dated back to the early 1930s, when Kodak became the first significant customer for Land’s plastic polarizer material.  Beginning in the early 1940s, when Land began research in photography, Kodak helped at every step of the way, even manufacturing the negative components for incorporation by Polaroid into each of its one-step films.  By the mid-1960s, Polaroid stood as Kodak’s second largest corporate customer – it was truly a mutually beneficial relationship.

But that relationship was soon to change, in a dramatic way.  In 1968, Land showed his Rochester colleagues the prototype for a new generation of Polaroid film. For the first time, the photograph would emerge from the camera and require no further manipulation – one could simply hold it and watch it develop in the light. Land enthusiastically declared that this new system would revolutionize photography, and become as ubiquitous as the telephone.

The Kodak executives listened carefully, and took his claims seriously.  Following the meeting, Kodak conducted marketing analyses indicating that it stood to lose billions of dollars of film sales because of Polaroid’s new system.  This realization changed Kodak’s attitude toward Polaroid and Land forever.  As a result, it demanded that, in exchange for its help in bringing the new film to market, Polaroid allow Kodak to enter the instant photography field with competitive products sold in its iconic yellow boxes.

This was something that the much-smaller Polaroid could not abide.  When Kodak refused to budge on its demand, Polaroid was forced to go it alone.  It built new facilities to manufacture, for the first time, every element of its film.  Finally, in 1972, Polaroid introduced its SX-70 camera and film combination, a system that delivered on Land’s initial intent to give photographers the instant gratification of holding a photograph in their hands seconds after the shutter was snapped.  Time called it “a stunning technological achievement,” and Life declared that it was “a daring challenge to Kodak for supremacy in the $4 billion-a-year U.S. photo industry.”

Kodak executives apparently agreed with this assessment.  The company had already poured substantial time and resources into an effort to develop its own technology that would allow it to enter the instant photography market.  But these efforts completely changed course in 1972 once Kodak finally saw the commercial SX-70 camera and film. Executives declared that what the proud Rochester company had on its drawing boards was “no longer desirable.” 

An urgent effort was immediately undertaken to come up with a more competitive system.  However, after studying the SX-70 camera and film closely, Kodak scientists were unsure about their ability to meet the challenge. Yet, Kodak top executives were determined, and directed that the research efforts continue.  In so doing, a directive was issued that foreshadowed what was to become one of the most important legal battles over technology in the history of the United States. As observed many years later by industry commentators, Kodak, feeling “hemmed in by Polaroid’s vast portfolio of patents,” had indeed “panicked.” In apparent desperation, management directed Kodak engineers to “not be constrained by what an individual feels is a potential patent infringement,” but to consult the patent department.

The litigation over instant photography technology is among the most historic in American legal annals.  Polaroid’s ultimate victory, as a result of which Kodak was forced to remove its instant cameras and film from store shelves, and to pay almost $1 billion in damages to Polaroid, stands as one of the most severe punishments in the patent field ever meted out by a court of law. 

More importantly, the result in Polaroid v Kodak signaled a shift back to a pro-patent era in the courts from decades in which patents had been seen as a potential tool for anti-competitive corporate behavior, and thus had suffered as a means for technological innovators to protect their work.  Inspired by his father’s early admonition, Land had long been a believer in, and a proponent of, the patent system as a tool necessary to encourage innovation, especially among small companies and individual inventors.  His pivotal role in the trial as Polaroid’s star witness, as a defender of the pioneering research he and his colleagues had done, made for a dramatic denouement to his career, and his life-long support of the patent system.

Kenya anti-terror law thrown out

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:05
Kenya's top court throws out key aspects of new anti-terrorism legislation, including clauses that curbed media freedom and capped refugee numbers.

50 Years Of Shrinking Union Membership, In One Map

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:04

Union membership has been on a steady decline nationally since the middle of the last century. Watch as membership declines in states across the country.

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As Iran Nuclear Talks Resume, Critics Ratchet Up The Rhetoric

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:55

U.S. and Iranian delegates are hunkered down in Geneva trying to settle on the framework for an accord on the future of Iran's nuclear program. Not everyone is impressed with this nuclear diplomacy.

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Chelsea fan's parents back their son

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:46
The parents of an ex-police officer and Chelsea fan involved in an alleged racist incident on the Paris Metro say they are "shocked and worried" for him.

Pakistan school attack suspect held

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:43
The Pakistani military arrests a man suspected of planning December's attack on a school in Peshawar, which killed at least 150 people.

Administration Bars Health Plans That Won't Cover Hospital Care

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:40

Companies mainly in lower-wage industries that hadn't previously offered health coverage had been flocking to the stripped-down plans for 2015.

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Maldives ex-leader denied bail

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:39
A court in the Maldives denies bail to former President Mohamed Nasheed who was arrested on Sunday under anti-terror laws.

Honda's President Resigns, After A Troubled Year For Carmaker

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:34

Takanobu Ito, who has led Honda since 2009, will leave his post in June, giving way to Takahiro Hachigo, an executive who began his career as an engineer.

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Soldiers killed by 'friendly fire'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:33
Two UK soldiers were killed in "friendly fire" in Afghanistan when they were hit by an anti-tank missile attack ordered by their Danish counterparts, an inquest hears.

Church jobs low pay 'embarrassing'

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:21
The Archbishop of Canterbury says it is "embarrassing" the Church of England pays some staff less than the living wage - despite its calls to the contrary.

Ofcom probe Channel 4's UKIP drama

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:18
Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom says it will investigate Channel 4 drama UKIP: The First 100 Days after it received more than 5,000 complaints.

VIDEO: How smart syringes work - 15 Secs?

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:02
Only smart syringes that break after one use should be used for injections by 2020, the World Health Organisation has announced. But how do they work?

Stag gore victim given press role

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 06:01
A stag gore victim who complained that newspapers made "inappropriate" references to her transgender status joins a committee regulating the press.

Apple invests 1.7bn euros in centres

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 05:51
Apple is to invest 1.7bn euros (£1.25bn) developing data centres in the Republic of Ireland and Denmark.

Becoming American: Immigrants Tweet Their Stories

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 05:48

Entrepreneurs and engineers, performers and professors are among those who are sharing their stories about becoming American on Twitter.

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Egyptian Court Orders Prominent Activist Jailed For 5 Years

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 05:45

Blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others were convicted of violating a law banning unlicensed protests. Activists said the sentences underscore the lengths the government will go to to stifle dissent.

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