National / International News

Justice Department Appeals Ruling Blocking Obama's Immigration Plan

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 09:19

The Department of Justice filing says a federal judge lacked authority to issue an injunction on President Obama's executive action on immigration.

» E-Mail This

Labour arts promise for schools

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 09:12
Ed Miliband says he would use Ofsted inspections to make schools put a greater emphasis on arts subjects.

France Seizes Passports Of 6 Allegedly Planning To Join Islamists In Syria

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:59

It's the first time the French government has used a measure that was approved in November to limit the number of French citizens joining Islamist groups in the Middle East.

» E-Mail This

The magic and misery of compounding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:57

The president wants to stop unscrupulous brokers from flogging investments to consumers that kick back fees to the brokerage. These kinds of dodgy investments cost consumers one percent a year, on average. That may not sound like much, but one percent a year is worth a lot to a saver, thanks to a magical thing called compound interest. Pop quiz: Would you rather get $10,000 a day for 30 days or a penny that doubled in value every day for the same 30 days? It’s a question often used to show the often counter-intuitive power of compounding. By day two, Option A yields $20,000, while Option B is a mere two cents. It feels like a no-brainer, right? But by the end of the month, Option B is the clear winner at more than $5 million, compared with Option A’s $300,000. The math is clear, but compounding is often difficult for us to wrap our heads around, says Andrew Meadows with Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, which provides retirement accounts for small businesses. “It’s essentially interest earning interest,” says Stephen Brobeck, the executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. What you earn goes back into your account and now you earn interest on that, plus your initial investment. The longer you leave the money, the more it snowballs. But that snowballing can work against you if you’re in debt and paying interest instead of earning it, cautions Diane Lim, an economist at the Committee for Economic Development. 

The DHS needs a morale boost

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:57

The latest skirmish in Congress’s never-ending budget battles comes at the end of this week, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security dries up — unless Congress can agree on a compromise to keep it running. 

But even if Congress acts on the budget, DHS has another huge problem: Morale among DHS employees is dreadful. Every year, the federal government surveys its workers, asking if they're recognized for good work, if they respect their leaders, and so on.

“DHS does not stack up well,” says Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a good government group that crunches the federal survey numbers and ranks morale at government agencies. 

For the past few years, DHS has come in dead last.

“It is redefining the bottom of the rankings for large agencies,” says Stier.

Stier says part of the problem is the way DHS was created after the September 11 terror attacks. Twenty-two very different federal departments and agencies were merged into one gigantic bureaucracy — but they all kept their congressional overseers. Now, more than 80 committees and subcommittees have jurisdiction over DHS.  

Jeff Neal, who headed the agency’s HR department from 2009 to 2011, says he was constantly writing reports for Congress.

“It didn’t really help us run the department," he says. "It was very frustrating. We had other things that were more critical than writing reports."

Now, Congress is causing DHS employees more headaches, and this latest budget skirmish just makes morale worse.

“People are very stressed out," says Nicole Byram, president of the National Treasury Employees Union chapter in Savannah, Georgia and a Customs and Border protection officer. "People are very anxious. Everyone kind of has this feeling of, oh no. Not again.”

Because they know, if Congress can’t agree on how to keep funding DHS, there’ll be a partial government shutdown. But they’re considered essential, so they’d have to work without pay during the impasse. And getting back pay? That takes an act of Congress — a mood crusher sure to keep DHS at the bottom of the morale rankings.

Tooth fairies reimburse an average of $4 per tooth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:57

I've got a seven-year-old who's about to lose a tooth — it's just a couple of good wiggles and a twist or two away from coming out. And when it does, I feel pretty safe in guessing that she's going to get about a buck under her pillow.

Turns out, tooth fairies at other houses are a bit more fast and loose with the cash.

A survey by dental insurance company Delta Dental says the national average for American kids is $4.36.

The Original Tooth Fairy Poll

Not in my house, I'll tell you that.

Andy Coulson faces perjury trial

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:51
Former Downing Street communications director Andy Coulson is to stand trial in Scotland on a charge of perjury.

Australia Announces Security Crackdown Amid 'Rising' Terrorist Threat

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:45

Under the proposed new measures, Australia can revoke citizenship to any dual national if they travel overseas to fight alongside jihadists.

» E-Mail This

Pay body wants 3% minimum wage rise

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:39
The independent body that advises the government on the minimum wage is to recommend an increase of 3%, Business Secretary Vince Cable says.

Obama Wants Rules That Force Brokers To Put Clients' Interests First

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:21

The Obama administration says the current system promotes conflicts of interest, leads to high fees and erodes returns on investment.

» E-Mail This

UK soldier missing in Cyprus found

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:08
A solider alleged to have left his Cyprus base last week to join the fight against Islamic State has been found, the Ministry of Defence says.

VIDEO: Huge sinkhole opens up in Naples

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 08:04
A sinkhole has appeared in a suburban part of Naples after a water pipe broke and caused the road to collapse.

The forgotten Cambridge spy interview

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:53
A recording of Cambridge spy emerges from the archives

Pregnant MP hits back at job doubts

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:47
Labour's Rachel Reeves hits back at suggestions from a Tory backbencher that she would not be able to give a government job her "full attention", while expecting a baby.

Yemen rebels threaten to try cabinet

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:43
Shia rebels in Yemen threaten to arrest and try the prime minister and all members of his cabinet for treason if they refuse to return to work.

12 Feet: A Soaring New Broad Jump Record Is Set At NFL Combine

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 07:42

If you're ever standing near Byron Jones when he jumps, you might want to stay well back. The cornerback flew more than 12 feet Monday, from a standing start.

» E-Mail This

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.