National / International News

Silicon Valley Responds To Obama's NSA Proposals

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 13:00

On Friday, President Obama delivered a speech outlining his proposed reforms of the National Security Agency's surveillance practices. In All Tech Considered, our weekly look at technology, we explore how the speech was received by many of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley.

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As Protests Renew In Ukraine, Fears Of Violence Return

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 13:00

Anti-government protests have shaken Ukraine for two months. With the passage of a new law intended to limit public protests, the crisis is once again intensifying. Protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, clashed with police for a second day on Monday, one day after a massive protest in the city turned violent.

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Surprise Invitation Lands Syrian Peace Talks In Hot Water

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 13:00

The long-anticipated Syrian peace conference is again in turmoil. The U.N. secretary-general's surprise decision to invite Iran to attend the conference prompted a boycott threat from Syria's exiled opposition. At issue is the fact that Iran has not publicly committed to the framework for the conference or pledged to withdraw its troops and allied militias from Syria. Under pressure from the opposition groups and the U.S., the U.N. has since withdrawn its invitation to Iran.

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Punctured Tires In Kabul Are The Work Of Police, Not Punks

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 13:00

Car theft is less a crime than a security threat in Kabul: It's feared that militants could use stolen vehicles as car bombs. So the police have started puncturing the tires of cars parked on the street after dark, a policy that's raising ire among those whose cars that have been "protected" this way.

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Iran cannot go to Syria talks - US

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:45
The US urges the UN to drop its invitation to Iran to join peace talks on Syria, in a row that threatens to wreck the meeting.

VIDEO: Benefits Street school 'stigmatised'

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:27
A school in Birmingham has written to the education secretary claiming pupils are being stigmatised by a TV documentary about a street nearby.

VIDEO: 'Game is on' for Rosetta spacecraft

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:19
The BBC's Jonathan Amos explains what comes next for the Rosetta comet-chasing probe, after it successfully wakes from hibernation.

The history of coal as a brand

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:06

New numbers show that China's coal production will likely grow about 3 percent this year, despite a government campaign to cut air pollution.

Coal's history has been intertwined with growth, the industrial age, and lately, pollution and climate change. Barbara Freese is the author of Coal: A Human History, and discusses the history of coal as a brand.

Lord Rennard suspended from Lib Dems

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:05
The former Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard is suspended from the party after declining to apologise over sexual harassment claims.

Oxfam: World's Richest 1 Percent Control Half Of Global Wealth

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:04

The relief organization says the wealthiest 85 people own the same proportion as the planet's poorest 3.5 billion people. And Oxfam says it fears that growing income inequality will lead to social unrest.

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Johor in Malaysia moves weekends to Friday and Saturday

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-20 12:02

Malaysia's southern state of Johor is moving weekends to Friday and Saturday, so the state's Muslim population can attend Friday prayer. Private companies can choose whether to move their weekends to Friday as well, but Malaysians are divided on the issue - and it could impact investment from foreign companies.

If the DOW is closed for a holiday and no one is around to trade, does it still make a sound?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:43

It happens all the time, U.S. stock markets close for uniquely American holidays like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and President's Day, Hong Kong’s stock exchange closes for the Buddha’s Birthday and the Lunar New Year. 

It’s mostly not a big deal, but there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes during these events that show just how connected our global financial system is. 

LESS VIBRANT, LESS VOLATILE

“Often, holiday markets are less vibrant than days when major market centers are not closed,” says Andy Brooks, a Vice President at T. Rowe Price. Institutional investors will try to avoid global transactions, because “it’s kind of hard to effect a transaction when most people aren’t there.”

In fact, markets are measurably less volatile, according to University of Houston finance professor Craig Pirrong.  That’s because people trade on information, and they get information from trading. Less of one means less of the other, and in a global economy, information has no boundaries. 

 MARKETS LISTEN TO EACH OTHER. WHEN ONE IS QUIET, THERE’S LESS TO TALK ABOUT.

“The trading process itself generates information about the value of stocks,” says Pirrong. For example, people watch one another to see how they react – almost like a poker game.  Who’s buying? Why did that mutual fund just dump a bunch of shares? “So, to the extent that there’s less information being generated by the trading process in the U.S., that means there’s less information in these other markets.”

BUT WHEN EVERYONE’S BACK TO THE PARTY, THERE’S ALWAYS GOSSIP TO CATCH UP ON

The next day when a market opens, everyone has to catch up on what news that did occur.  “When the markets open, they have to incorporate all this news into stock prices very quickly,” says John Elder, professor of finance at Colorado State. As a result, once “we see higher average volatility.”

Elder says you can see this even after a weekend,  “On Mondays for example, markets tend to be more volatile than on Wednesdays.”

BUT LET’S NOT OVERBLOW THIS

Heather Brilliant is head of equity and corporate research for Morningstar, where she takes the long view.  “A planned market closure is generally not a big deal.” 

Still, once in a while, weird things can happen, a stock might move dramatically in Hong Kong while its price is frozen in the U.S., or you can get very one-sided market reactions to a given piece of news. “Let’s say a company reported earnings today in Europe and investors didn’t like the earnings, and many people wanted to get out. Well, perhaps if the U.S. market had been open,” says Brilliant, “there would be enough countervailing people interested in buying that stock.”  But the U.S. market isn’t open, and in Europe everyone is very pessimistic about this company and overwhelmingly dumps the stock.  “Therefore, the price could go down more than it would otherwise.” 

But again, this tends to get corrected once all markets are open again.   

AND A WORD OF WARNING FOR INVESTORS

All in all, when one market is out of the game, the others are a little duller and sometimes a little bit weirder, and it’s usually temporary, which leaves T. Rowe Price’s Andy Brooks with a word to the wise: “Investors should be wary to take any market moves made during holiday markets as having incredible significance, because you will often see a recalibration when everyone gets back to work.”

A Promise Unfulfilled: 1962 MLK Speech Recording Is Discovered

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:39

Last fall, curators and interns at the New York State Museum were digging through their audio archives in an effort to digitize their collection. They unearthed a treasure: a reel-to-reel tape of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech commemorating the centennial of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

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University grade inflation disputed

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:28
The rise in university degree grades, in which 70% achieved higher than a 2:2 last year, is not caused by grade inflation, claim researchers.

Huhne's 'sexuality blamed for split'

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:28
The former wife of ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne blamed his decision to leave her on his past relationships with men, a jury hears.

Open for business on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:24

U.S. financial markets are closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as are federal government offices, schools and banks. The holiday was established in 1986 and was adopted by all the states thereafter, though in some cases not without controversy.

Despite the holiday, around most cities today, most retail businesses aren't actually closed. “We would of course like more businesses and more people to recognize and commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King,” says Dedrick Muhammad, director of economic programs at the NAACP.

A survey of HR managers released by Bloomberg BNA last week found that 35 percent of U.S. employers (private, government, and nonprofit) plan to provide a paid day off for the holiday. That percentage has been creeping up very slowly in the past decade and is now on-par with President’s Day. It's higher than Columbus Day (16 percent) and Veteran’s Day (22 percent), but lower than the Friday after Thanksgiving (73 percent) and Christmas Eve (42 percent full-day, another 12 percent half-day), which are not federal holidays.

Muhammad says the significance of the day can’t be captured only by how many employers provide a day off and close their doors, “I think it is fair to ask: does it always require that people just shut down their businesses? Or are there activities at businesses that actually could help highlight the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King?”

In fact, roughly one in 10 employers support some type of commemoration, educational program, workplace or community service project to mark the day. Sarah Willie-LeBreton, sociologist at Swarthmore College, says that’s a good start. “I do think that many people see it as a day off or a day to go shopping,” says Willie-LeBreton, “and that’s something we need to work on as a culture.”

Plus, she points out, hanging up a ‘Closed’ sign isn’t always possible.

“Small businesses are in a more challenged situation because they often have a smaller profit margin,” says Willie-LeBreton. “But there are ways in which you can designate a portion of your profits to go to organizations that are advancing social equality, or engage clients in discussions.”

William Spriggs at Howard University serves as chief economist for the ACLU and he thinks the emphasis on service may distract attention from Dr. King’s focus before he was assassinated on issues of poverty and economic justice.

“A lot of people feel compelled to do an act of service,” says Spriggs. “Dr. King was calling for something far more revolutionary than painting schools or cleaning parks. He wanted to fight for things like raising the minimum wage and a guaranteed income.”

Spriggs says Dr. King was controversial in life, and it’s good there’s a holiday now to keep his controversial ideas front and center.

Spotify adds shop as Dre preps rival

BBC - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:22
Music streaming service Spotify enables merchandise sales as rapper Dr Dre prepares to launch rival streaming service under his Beats brand.

Rosetta Space Probe Gets Interplanetary Wake-Up Call

NPR News - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:20

The European comet-chaser has been in hibernation for nearly three years in an effort to conserve power. It is due for an August rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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Looking for a job? How new tech is helping companies find potential employees

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:19

Technology is making all kinds of choices for us these days, like how Netflix and Pandora can use big data to tell us which movies and music we might like. Now, it’s changing the way job seekers and employers connect.  Case in point: 21-year-old Isaiah Bien Amie, a Boston College senior who’s on track to graduate this spring with a major economics. 

He wants to get an MBA, but first he needs a job, so Bien Amie signed on with AfterCollege.com. The free website sends college students and recent grads curated alerts with job and internship postings based on where and what they study. 

It also allows employers to contact students directly. Bien Amie signed up a month ago and says he’s already had two interviews. 

“I think they are capable of getting a sense of who I am as a person and tailoring my search to make sure that the jobs that they are posting are intriguing to me,” Bien Amie says.

The matchmaker at AfterCollege is a bunch of math; the website started in 1999 as a searchable job board and it’s kept track of who applied for what. Last year, the company fed all that data through an algorithm and started recommending jobs.

“You have basically a reduced likelihood that you’re going to end up in a job you don’t like, or that you’re going to become a worker that the employer doesn’t like,” says CEO Roberto Angulo.

AfterCollege is one of a growing number of companies that are developing high-tech tools for the job market. As the economy recovers millions of people still need jobs, and hiring methods are outdated, according to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Relations at CareerBuilder.com. “You send in a piece of paper, whether it’s through a job board and it’s electronic or hard copy, and it’s, ‘here’s my life story, please recruiter read it.’”  She compares the interview process to going on a few dates, then getting married.  “What these products that are coming into the marketplace are really saying, is that there are so many more important parts to figuring if it’s a match.”

A new company called Knack makes video games employers can use to analyze job applicants’ personalities and talents. In one game dubbed “Wasabi Waiter” you play a server in a busy sushi bar who has to multitask to keep customers happy.

“From that they can infer all sorts of characteristics about you like your perseverance and your creativity, even your extroversion,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, a Knack adviser and Director of MIT’s Center for Digital Business.  “Those are things that don’t show up on your resume or your college transcript.”

Brynjolfsson says using big data to connect more companies with the right talent could have trillions of dollars in economic value. “Doing matchmaking for people’s careers and for the efficiency of companies and ultimately for the whole economy, that’s big money, and that’s something that’s going to hopefully lead to more fulfilling careers for a lot of people.”

He compares the way technology is opening up how companies work to what the microscope did for the study of biology. In the future, the future he believes more hiring decisions will be based on hard data, instead of software and gut reactions.

Looking for a job? How new tech is helping

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-01-20 11:19

Technology is making all kinds of choices for us these days, like how Netflix and Pandora can use big data to tell us which movies and music we might like. Now, it’s changing the way job seekers and employers connect.  Case in point: 21-year-old Isaiah Bien Amie, a Boston College senior who’s on track to graduate this spring with a major economics. 

He wants to get an MBA, but first he needs a job, so Bien Amie signed on with AfterCollege.com. The free website sends college students and recent grads curated alerts with job and internship postings based on where and what they study. 

It also allows employers to contact students directly. Bien Amie signed up a month ago and says he’s already had two interviews. 

“I think they are capable of getting a sense of who I am as a person and tailoring my search to make sure that the jobs that they are posting are intriguing to me,” Bien Amie says.

The matchmaker at AfterCollege is a bunch of math; the website started in 1999 as a searchable job board and it’s kept track of who applied for what. Last year, the company fed all that data through an algorithm and started recommending jobs.

“You have basically a reduced likelihood that you’re going to end up in a job you don’t like, or that you’re going to become a worker that the employer doesn’t like,” says CEO Roberto Angulo.

AfterCollege is one of a growing number of companies that are developing high-tech tools for the job market. As the economy recovers millions of people still need jobs, and hiring methods are outdated, according to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Relations at CareerBuilder.com. “You send in a piece of paper, whether it’s through a job board and it’s electronic or hard copy, and it’s, ‘here’s my life story, please recruiter read it.’”  She compares the interview process to going on a few dates, then getting married.  “What these products that are coming into the marketplace are really saying, is that there are so many more important parts to figuring if it’s a match.”

A new company called Knack makes video games employers can use to analyze job applicants’ personalities and talents. In one game dubbed “Wasabi Waiter” you play a server in a busy sushi bar who has to multitask to keep customers happy.

“From that they can infer all sorts of characteristics about you like your perseverance and your creativity, even your extroversion,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, a Knack adviser and Director of MIT’s Center for Digital Business.  “Those are things that don’t show up on your resume or your college transcript.”

Brynjolfsson says using big data to connect more companies with the right talent could have trillions of dollars in economic value. “Doing matchmaking for people’s careers and for the efficiency of companies and ultimately for the whole economy, that’s big money, and that’s something that’s going to hopefully lead to more fulfilling careers for a lot of people.”

He compares the way technology is opening up how companies work to what the microscope did for the study of biology. In the future, the future he believes more hiring decisions will be based on hard data, instead of software and gut reactions.

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