National / International News

Japan presses for IS hostage release

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:27
Japan's government says it is exploring all possible ways to save the lives of two Japanese men held by Islamic State militants demanding a ransom.

'No rebel withdrawal' in Yemen

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:17
Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen remain in key positions in the capital Sanaa, despite a deal under which they agreed to withdraw, witnesses say.

Cigarette packets law flawed - firms

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:06
The tobacco industry warns that government plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging in England are "flawed".

BP boss says Deepwater liabilities exceed cost of Hurricane Katrina

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:00
The chief executive reveals how, five years on, the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico is still weighing heavily on BP.

A closer look at inheritance taxes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:00

This week, after the White House circulated some big changes to the tax code the President is now seeking, we took a look at the trust fund aspect of the proposal.

If, for example, somebody's Uncle Jack put $1 million into a tax deferred investment, it rose to $100 million over the years, and then Uncle Jack died, under the current system the heirs pay no capital gains tax on that increase. In other words, Uncle Jack gets to pass on his tax protection in the will. The administration would like to change that.

A number of listeners wrote us saying words to the effect of "Hello...what about inheritance tax?" Good point. How might controversial inheritance tax play out if the President's trust fund plans were to somehow gather steam?

Click the media player above to hear Michael Graetz, professor of tax law at Columbia University, in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Executive diversity can pay off, study says

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:00

Gender, ethnic and racial diversity among corporate leaders can correlate to better earnings, according to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Working in a diverse environment means "you make very few assumptions about ... the extent to which others will agree with you," says Evan Apfelbaum, who studies workplace diversity issues at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "And so it produces this kind of more rigorous, comprehensive decision-making outcomes," says Apfelbaum.

But Shirley Davis Sheppard, who leads diversity efforts at several major companies, says while it is seen as a worthy goal, "when it comes down to the budget ... and getting senior executive commitment, that's where you start to find a little bit more of the challenge," because diversity initiatives can take a long time to show dividends.

Study links higher Medicaid payments to accessibility

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:00

Most things in healthcare are complicated. This one isn’t.

When the federal government under Obamacare paid doctors more to treat Medicaid patients, the doctors treated more Medicaid patients, according to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine that comes just a few weeks after Medicaid rates, which had been boosted temporarily, returned to their lower levels.

You could say this report is an example of doctors just chasing a buck. But, of course, most things in healthcare are complicated.

If doctors want to treat Medicaid patients, they face difficult economic realities.

For example, Dr. Shawn Purifoy is living his dream: running his own family medicine office in his home town of Malvern, Arkansas. Setting a 20 percent quota on Medicaid patients wasn’t part of the plan.

“Those patients aren’t different kinds of people. They are just people who don’t make as much money. They are still in my kids’ class or going to church with me,” he says.

But Purifoy says the math makes it simple. For a standard visit, Medicaid reimburses him $36, Medicare sends him $67 and Blue Cross pays him $88. On top of that, Medicaid patients tend to be sicker, which eats up his time.

“That doesn’t work financially,” he says. “That sounds like a horrible thing to say but the truth is you are going to get paid a certain amount, and it really doesn’t make that much difference how much more time it takes to do the work.”

To take on more Medicaid patients could mean Purifoy cutting salaries, maybe jobs. Obamacare architects understood these economics from the start. That’s why they put in the two year fee bump.

It’s helped Camden, New Jersey primary care doctor Ramon Acosta patch up some holes in his practice. Literally.

“We have been able to do some repairs, like some roofing work,” he said of the extra money from Medicaid. “We have been able to pay some tax arrears.”

If the bump were to come back — highly unlikely — it would buy Acosta five to ten more minutes a visit. That may sound trivial, but it would mean fewer gut wrenching conversations like a recent one with a boy and his mother who had two pressing concerns about her son.

“Unfortunately, I said which one of the two problems would you like me to address primarily,” he says, recalling that he did not have the time to address both concerns.

Acosta’s made a living off these sorts of hard choices for 26 years now. Asked the trick to staying in business, he says long hours – and knowing money is something other doctors make.

Technology can't make you fall asleep

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 02:00

If I learned anything from watching the Back to the Future movies, it is that prescience is dangerous. Someone who knows too much about their own future might try to reprogram it in their favor, and every small change has the potential to rewrite history.

In an early scene from Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker - played by Elisabeth Shue - travel from 1985 to 2015. The DeLorean is airborne and Doctor Emmett “Doc” Brown is wearing a funky visor.

But forget flying cars and fashion - Jennifer wants to know what happens to her in the future: “I’m gonna be able to see my wedding dress! I wonder where we live. I bet it’s a big a house with lots of kids!”

Worried about where her curiosity might lead her, Doc pulls out his sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator - it looks like a pair of high-tech opera glasses - and knocks her out with a flash. Doc and Marty then hide Jennifer’s unconscious body in an alley to protect her from the shock of crossing paths with her future self.

"The future? Marty, what do you mean? How can we be in the future?"  

Doc Brown is a time travel expert and practiced meddler, so it is not surprising that he carries around a sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator in case he needs one to cover his tracks. But does a sleep-inducing device exist in the real 2015? It does not - at least not in the way Back to the Future imagines.

That flash of light is the first clue that the technology is too good to be true. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that nighttime exposure to light - especially the kind emitted by electronic devices - makes it harder to fall asleep.

Aiming a little lower than instant-sleep-inducing technology, we find ourselves among a range of devices that won’t make you fall asleep, but might make you sleep better.

The U.S. military is very interested in efficient sleeping. In 2003, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) put $20 million toward its “Continuous Assisted Performance program,” research that looked for ways to keep soldiers awake for up to seven days “without suffering any deleterious mental or physical effects and without using any of the current generation of stimulants,” according to DARPA’s then-director Tony Tether.

In conjunction with DARPA, a company called Advanced Brain Monitoring is developing a sleep mask called the Somneo Sleep Trainer. It blocks light and noise, and heating elements around the eyes may help people reach a deeper stage of sleep faster.

Another technique to encourage better sleep is called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. TMS uses magnetic fields to create small electrical currents in parts of the brain, and researchers are trying to tune those currents to nudge a sleeping brain toward restorative, REM sleep.

Sarah Lisanby is Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University. “Sleep is a rhythm,” she says. “And you can actually use the different forms of stimulation - such as magnetic stimulation, or direct electrical stimulation, or sensory stimulation - at different frequencies to modulate those brain rhythms. The idea is to try to entrain the rhythmic activity of the brain in a way that would be comparable to sleep.”  

Which brings us back to Doc’s device. Alpha waves are a type of brain wave that occur during REM sleep. If an alpha rhythm generator did exist, maybe it would stimulate the brain rhythms associated with restorative sleep. But there is another flaw in its design.

Brain-stimulating technologies like TMS are better at suggesting behaviors than forcing them. So, short of a blow to the head or some other kind of trauma, there isn’t a reliable, non-invasive way to knock someone out. To put someone to sleep, they have to want it.

You can find more from our Back to Back to the Future Part II series at Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog and on Soundcloud.

Violent crime rises across Wales

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:56
Violent crime has seen a large rise in Wales, although the level of overall crime has only gone up slightly, official figures show.

VIDEO: Moment elephant calf rescued from pit

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:36
Rescuers came to the aid of an elephant calf which fell into an empty storage pit in a nature reserve in Yunnan Province, south west China.

Your pictures: Cold weather

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:30
Readers' photos on the theme of "cold weather"

When the Government fakes out Facebook

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:30
2,400 jobs

Following a disappointing holiday season for sales, Ebay announced it would be cutting 2,400 jobs — roughly 7 percent of its workforce. The  e-commerce company will soon be dividing its PayPal and eBay marketplace businesses into two publicly traded companies.

25 minutes

That's how long President Barack Obama talked about the economy in his hour-long State of the Union address Tuesday, more than any other topic. That's according to the Washington Post, which broke down the speech by topic. Twitter's data scientists also annotated the speech, showing which topics were being tweeted about when both Obama and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst were addressing the nation.

22 years

We've heard of taking a break, but this is a bit ridiculous. A.K. Verma, an executive engineer at the Central Public Works Department in India, took a leave of absence ... back in 1990. In 1992, he was found guilty of  "willful absence," but it would take another 22 years before he was actually fired.


That's how much sold for Wednesday, after the site became a sensation over the weekend, pulling in over 20,000 orders. Flipping these types of viral sites is common, Motherboard reported, usually when the owner hopes to cash in before a fad burns out.


That's how much the U.S. Justice Department will have to pay Sondra Arquiett for using pictures of her to create a fake Facebook profile. Arquiett was arrested in 2010 for allegedly being involved in a drug ring. At the time, her phone was confiscated, at which point she gave permission for officers to access data to help with the investigation. She did not, however, anticipate that they would later use photos found on her phone to make a Facebook profile with the intent of trapping her boyfriend, also suspected of being involved in illicit activity. 

72 percent

The portion of Airbnb listings in New York that violate zoning or other laws, according to a report the states's attorney general released last fall. Now the city is using new data-driven tools to crack down on these listings, WNYC reported. One official called the practice "'Moneyball' for quality of life violations," and it means 30 percent more work without hiring anyone new.

Congo clashes over cut internet

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:25
Clashes erupt in DR Congo to demand the restoration of the internet, which was cut during protests against President Kabila, witnesses say.

Aussie changes no distraction - Bell

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:23
England's Ian Bell says Australia missing seven of their World Cup squad for Friday's match in Hobart is not a distraction.

UK borrowing rises in December

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:18
UK government borrowing increased to £13.1bn in December, up from £10.3bn a year earlier, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Simon Pegg to co-write Star Trek 3

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:16
The actor and writer Simon Pegg confirms he is set co-write Star Trek 3 and will return to play Scotty in the film franchise.

The story of Cantona's kung-fu kick

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:16
Burgers, seagulls & shotguns: the inside story of the most shocking episode in Premier League history by those who were there.

Tribute to window fall student

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:00
The family of a student who died after falling out of an Edinburgh window pays tribute to him, describing him as smart, funny and witty.

Crime figures remain at record low

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:00
Crime remains at record low levels in England and Wales, despite some increases due to changes in how police record incidents.

VIDEO: How Cantona's kung-fu kick was reported

BBC - Thu, 2015-01-22 00:55
BBC Sport looks back on Eric Cantona's infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter in January 1995.