National / International News

Gag rules: illegal, but alive and well

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:15

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) "guarantees basic rights of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work, and take collective action including strike if necessary."

Despite the NLRA, some companies still threaten their employees with lowering their pay or hours and even with termination if they discuss their pay with other employees.

"Gag rules are illegal," says Nancy Koehn of the Harvard Business School. "But there is no question that they are alive and well in America."

There are many disadvantages for workers who don’t know if they’re getting paid fairly or not, says Koehn.

"If you have no sense of what your pay is on some kid of latter of compensation across the organization, you have no sense of what kind of organization this is in terms of how they reward people for a job well done," says Koehn.

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

Tory MP David Ruffley to stand down

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:13
Conservative MP David Ruffley, who had been criticised after receiving a police caution for common assault, is to retire from Parliament at the next election.

International Court Rules Against Russia In $50 Billion Decision

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:13

Russia says it will appeal an unfavorable decision by a court in The Hague. The Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded $50 billion to shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company.

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An Uneasy End To Ramadan In Gaza, Where Fighting Intensifies Once More

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:09

NPR's Emily Harris reports on the Muslim holiday of Eid in Gaza, where one where one family traces the course of three weeks of war in broken bread, temporary shelters and mourning for their dead.

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A Deal Between 'Dollar' Stores Raises The Stakes Against Wal-Mart

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:09

The slice of retail aimed at America's most budget-conscious consumers is consolidating. Dollar Tree is buying Family Dollar for $8.5 billion, a deal encouraged by activist investors Carl Icahn and Nelson Peltz. The new company will have 13,000 stores, making it a more formidable competitor — in size, at least — to Wal-Mart.

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Teacher Tenure Fight Spills Into N.Y., Where A New Lawsuit Brews

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:09

A new salvo has been fired in the fight over teacher tenure. A group led by former TV anchor Campbell Brown filed a complaint in New York state court, arguing that tenure laws are preventing the state from providing every child with the "sound, basic education" its constitution guarantees.

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Taliban In Pakistan Derail World Polio Eradication

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:07

The militant group threatens to kill parents who immunize their children. As a result, polio has come roaring back in Pakistan. Eradication now hinges on whether the country can control the virus.

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Russia ordered to pay $50 billion to oil shareholders

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:03

There was more bad news for Russia today. The Hague, an international arbitration court, ruled the country acted improperly when it confiscated the assets of the oil company Yukos back in 2003.

The court’s ruling requires Russia to pay $50 billion to former Yukos shareholders but “there’s no likelihood that they will simply roll over and hand the cash over” says the BBC’s Andrew Walker.

Russia has already says it will appeal the ruling but Walker says shareholders of Yukos could fight back. They could get a court order to seize some of Russia’s commercial assets but that would likely take years.

The ruling probably won’t mean much to other companies with an eye to invest in Russia. Walker says Russia already has a poor reputation when it comes to creating a good climate for business.

“Investors that get involved in Russia are typically doing it because they think that the energy resources there are so large that there must ultimately be the potential to make money. “

Walker notes that tomorrow, EU officials will meet to consider sanctions against the energy, arms, and financial sectors in Russia.

Teacher Tenure Lawsuits Spread From California To New York

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 12:03

Why are so many low-income and minority kids getting second-class educations in the U.S.? That question is at the center of the heated debate about tenure protections and who gets them.

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VIDEO: Busker about to hit the big time

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:57
A musician who spent 20 years busking on the streets of London is about to hit the big time with the release of his first album on a major record label.

Lightning kills man on US beach

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:49
One man is killed and several people are hurt following lightning strikes on crowded Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California.

VIDEO: Dolphin filmed in the River Severn

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:46
Marine experts have said a dolphin spotted in the River Severn in Gloucestershire will make its own way back to the sea.

Medicare's Costs Stabilize, But Its Problems Are Far From Fixed

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:43

Medicare's trust fund is projected to have money until 2030, four years longer than predicted last year. But the fund that pays for disability benefits could run dry just two years from now.

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Another Appeals Court Tosses Same-Sex-Marriage Ban

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:41

A lower court's ruling that threw out a Virginia law has been upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling quickly led North Carolina to drop its defense of its own ban.

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VIDEO: 'Training' issue over smoke scare Tube

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:25
A Tube driver who took four minutes to open the doors of a train filling with smoke lacked training, an accident investigation report has found.

How faces drive first impressions

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:23
UK scientists model the physical attributes that underpin our social judgements about strangers.

Chicken factories given all-clear

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:20
Poultry processing plants in Llangefni and Scunthorpe alleged to have committed hygiene breaches are rated "good" and "generally satisfactory".

Swimming gold caps fine day for Wales

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:09
Swimmer Jazz Carlin claims Team Wales' third gold on a day when they added four medals to their tally at Glasgow 2014.

A small UK company with big graphene dreams

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-28 11:05

It’s not often that anyone speaks highly of carbon, given the part that element plays in climate change. But a growing number of companies are eagerly promoting carbon in one specific form: It’s called graphene, and it is said to be the strongest, thinnest and most flexible material ever discovered.

First isolated by a British university in 2004, this so-called "wonder product" has sparked a multi-million dollar corporate scramble to exploit the breakthrough.

“This is akin to the invention of silicon or plastics,” says Jon Mabbit of Applied Graphene Materials (AGM), a small start-up in northeast England that has joined the great graphene rush. “This is a disruptive technology. It has the potential to revolutionize countless markets.”

One atom thick, the substance is so thin that it’s regarded as two-dimensional. And it has an impressive list of other properties: 100 times stronger than steel; far more flexible than rubber; the world’s best conductor of heat and electricity; almost totally transparent and yet completely impermeable. Among the uses touted: super-fast computer chips; cellphones you can roll up like a piece of paper and stuff into your pocket; and super-thin condoms.

But the graphene “prospectors” face some major hurdles.

“There’s an enormous leap between what you can do in the laboratory and having a product that is technologically ready," says Valerie Jamieson of New Scientist magazine. "Graphene’s been stymied by the difficulty of making large sheets of the stuff. A tiny flaw can impair the product’s conductivity, making it useless in electronics."

Jamieson is also concerned about cost. Graphene sheets cost $60 per square inch to produce but that needs to come down to $1 a square inch for use in computer chips, and 10 cents for touch screen displays. And there’s another, strategic worry: the vast bulk of the graphite from which graphene naturally derives would have to be mined in China.

But Mabbitt of AGM reckons that his company has cracked some of those problems. He and his colleagues have developed a method of synthesizing the substance out of cheap alcohol, so there is no need to dig it out of the ground at great expense. The company claims it can grow a ton of graphene a year with one relatively small piece of equipment. And they’re not turning out sheets for use in consumer electronics, so tiny flaws don’t matter. They aim to use their graphene as an additive to paints and lubricants.

"The impermeability of graphene makes it fantastic for stopping moisture attacking a ship’s hull," says Mabbitt. "It also prevents sea-life from building up on the hull. So potentially you have a rust and barnacle-free vessel. That gives you a double whammy: low-maintenance and improved efficiency through water, which equates to fuel-saving."

Graphene-coated aircraft – he says – would be both lighter and lightning proof. He believes the range of industrial applications for graphene is enormous. Not as sexy as roll-up cell phones and ultra-thin condoms, perhaps, but a wonder material nevertheless.

Russia plans $50bn Yukos appeal

BBC - Mon, 2014-07-28 10:54
Russia will appeal against a court decision ordering it to pay the biggest compensation package to date, amounting to $50bn (£29.5bn) in damages.
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