National / International News

The world's worst stadium disaster

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:58
The world's worst stadium disaster - and one of the least known

Extradited pair remanded in US jail

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:54
A British couple who lost their fight against extradition are remanded in custody by a US court to face fraud charges.

Swim team, chess club, drones?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:45

Laptops, tablets, calculators.  For lots of high school students, technology has become pretty routine. Not so for students at three Illinois high schools.

Those students are building drones, as part of a program funded by the a  National Science Foundation, and created by Matthew Schroyer, an amateur mechanical engineer, and a  journalist who promotes using drones in investigative reporting.  

Schroyer, who is based at the University of Illinois, also trains teachers in how to incorporate creative science and tech education into their classes. If he had his way, he’d just be out there building drones with the kids all day.

"My favorite thing is to help the students just put those things together,” Schoyer said.

Students build the drones, and then use them in ways that benefit the local community.  One group did low-flight photography of local corn and soybean fields, to gather information about the plants for a biological survey. Another helped map out a local quarry, using the same aerial photography techniques.

Schroyer’s aim is to make drones an integral part of the science curriculum.  Students could build and fly very small drones indoors, he said.  

So if you catch your kid with aerial photos of your neighbor’s backyard someday, don’t be alarmed. He may just be doing his homework.

Court Orders Conyers Back On Ballot

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:44

Rep. John Conyers got off to a good start on his holiday weekend with a federal court's decision preventing Michigan officials from throwing him off the primary ballot.

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Teen suicide after Facebook threats

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:36
An inquest hears that a 17-year-old boy killed himself after receiving violent threats on Facebook.

VIDEO: Film Review - the week's new films

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:18
Film critic Mark Kermode reviews the week's film releases, including X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Heli and Fading Gigolo.

How To Stay Afloat In Your Infinite Stream Of Photos

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 14:01

In an age of smartphones, it's easy to take an overwhelming number of photos. NPR's picture editor, Kainaz Amaria, has some tips for creating a bounty of images without driving yourself crazy.

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What does HUD do?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:57

President Obama has nominated San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

Now, if you wanna be HUD secretary, there are a few things you should know. No. 1: HUD doesn’t have a say in the biggest federal housing initiative, the housing deductions in the federal tax code.

“HUD has not traditionally been one of the most powerful cabinet agencies,” says Robert Van Order, a former HUD economist who now teaches finance and economics at George Washington University. Van Order points out a second challenge facing Castro: HUD’s budget has been cut. 

Still, Van Order says, housing is important, especially now when it’s so key to our economic recovery. 

“And so the secretary of HUD has to represent housing as a part of the discussions of what legislation ought to be,” he explains.

Henry Cisneros, who was HUD secretary during the Clinton administration, says the top boss at HUD still sets priorities for housing.

“A HUD secretary can make a difference," he says.  "Tweaking policy and budgets. Working with the Congress.”

And Cisnerso says, don’t forget the Federal Housing Administration , or FHA, is part of HUD. It insures housing loans for people banks pass over.  And during the housing crisis, it was "essentially the only source of credit for first-time homebuyers in particular, but minority homebuyers as well,” says Erika Poethig, who worked on policy development at HUD and left last year to join the Urban Institute. 

Poethig says Castro will have plenty of work to do as the housing recovery sputters along.  

That is, pending a Senate confirmation vote. 

Greg Asked For A Holiday. The Internet Helped Him Get It

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:42

A vacation request from a security guard for the U.K.-based fashion retailer Arcadia inadvertently got forwarded to the entire company. Within hours, it became a Twitter sensation.

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Farage: UKIP now 'serious players'

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:37
Nigel Farage says UKIP can win seats at the general election after it made gains in English council polls at the expense of other parties.

Bale and Real share La Decima dream

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:35
Humble Gareth Bale avoids Real Madrid hubris as city rivals Atletico stand between them and a historic 10th European Cup.

Call for cap on fuel bill surcharges

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:30
Pressure is mounting on energy suppliers to cut the amount they charge customers who do not pay their bills by direct debit.

Oldest American celebrates 115 years

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:29
The oldest living American, one of the few people still alive worldwide to be born in the 19th Century, celebrates her 115th birthday.

Economist Piketty's Work Doesn't Add Up, 'Financial Times' Says

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:28

The U.K.-based newspaper says the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a treatise on income inequality, may have gotten some of his data wrong.

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Irish and Czechs vote in Euro polls

BBC - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:17
Voters in Ireland and the Czech Republic go to the polls on the second day of European elections.

The millennial takeover

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:04

This final note today comes to us from the Bureau of the Census. They did a whole big data dump this week buried deep inside of which was this tidbit:

The most represented age in the American population, that is the biggest age group, is 22 year olds. The second largest group is 23 year olds, then followed by 21 year olds.

Then and only then in fourth place a baby boomer- a poor lonely 53 year old.

There are now more people in their 20's in this country, yes, millenials, than any other group.

The Weekly Wrap: Still waiting for a housing boost

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:03

Housing is up today, but the market still remains bleak and has yet to provide us with any sort of economic boost.

John Carney with the Wall Street Journal believes we're still burned out from last year. 

"We had so much refinancing the last year that we sort of smuggled forward a lot of housing energy with low interest rates last year. There's just not a lot of juice. Everybody who wanted to refinance has. With wages sitll pretty low and unemployment still high, there's not a lot of new household formation going on."

Linette Lopez from the Business Insider adds, "And the people that could possibly refinance are thinking:  Hey, maybe the Fed is going to raise rates soon, so why don't I just forget about this for now."

And with that, we move on to Credit Suisse. Early this week, Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to criminal charges of tax evasion, which coulld lead to additional related cases.

"When they criminally charged Arthur Andersen and the firm collapsed, that scared everybody to death. The prosecutors were loathed to actually charge criminally big corporations. What we've seen now....is that it's in fact surviveable. It doesn't just mean you go out of business when you're criminally charged. You can even plead guilty which is what Credit Suisse did... So I think prosectuers will now no longer fear it's a death sentence for corporations," says Carney.

In mergers and acquisitions news this week, AT&T also announced its plans to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion on Sunday and we broke the news on Monday. There seems to be more corporate get togethers happening lately. 

"There's probably a lot of pent up demand deals that haven't happened , so we're going to see a lot more of that," says Carney.

"When you're talking about AT&T and Direct TV, they're going to have make a lot of promises to consumers to insure and assuage the views of politicians that everything is going to be okay. And I'm talking about no bundling, helping people in rural areas get faster internet connection. The companies are going to have to sweeten the pot so that the government believes this isn't going to be monopolizing or hurting consumers in any way shape or form" says Lopez.

Overall, everything seems to be going a million miles an hour on Wall Street.

"It was expected," say Lopez. "As David Tepper said last week at a Wall Street conference, 'it's nervous time!' He said, 'I wouldn't go short. But don't be too long. It's time to keep some cash. So everybody just hold on to your hats until everything stabilizes.'"

...And that's the guy who made $3.5 billion last year!

Amazon and the publisher

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:02

Publisher Hachette, and some of its authors, are complaining that Amazon is cutting them out. Amazon and Hachette are in the middle of negotiations over pricing. As a negotiating tactic, Amazon allegedly is listing Hachette’s books as unavailable, delaying shipping, and advertising similar books at lower prices. 

“I can see on the page that Amazon is trying to tell people to buy other books at lower prices elsewhere and that my book won’t ship,” says writer and illustrator Nina Laden.  Laden’s book, “Once Upon a Memory” sank precipitously in the book rankings as a result, she contends.  “I find myself caught in the middle.”

Laden’s complaint belies a not uncommon concern over Amazon’s dominance of the book business. Amazon controls more than a third of the book business in the United States, but it’s far from a monopoly, says Gerry Guttman, a publishing consultant with Lexicon Group. “In fact, what they would say is all they’re doing is trying to get the books to consumers at the cheapest possible rate.”

In the long run, Amazon promises more returns for authors, according to best-selling author Joe Konrath. 

“In the past publishing has had as much power as amazon and they were incredibly irresponsible with that power,” says Konrath.  “Amazon is keeping prices low, they’re giving authors much better rates than any publisher in history ever has – 70 percent compared to 12.5 percent.”

Konrath left Hachette to publish through Amazon. He says authors upset with Amazon’s treatment of the publisher have the option to switch. 

It’s not clear, however, whether there is a single winner for consumers. “The outcome of this dispute, even if it in the short run leads to higher prices or contract terms that prevent Amazon from discounting, that’s not so bad for consumers,” says Geoffrey Manne, director of the International Center for Law and Economics. “Consumers don’t want to pay high prices – but if it maintains profit margins allowing companies to enter into the market” and compete, “those things are good for consumers.” Amazon wants lower prices now, but perhaps slightly higher prices would invite companies such as Apple to compete with Amazon, bringing lower prices later.

Regardless of what, ultimately, will benefit consumers most, “It’s a fight over margins. Both publishers on the one hand and Amazon on the other are struggling for profits right now.”

But in the short term, from the perspective of the affected authors, it’s like the Kenyan phrase, “when elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers.”

Hewlett-Packard's innovation trend flattened long ago

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:01

Hewlett Packard helped create Silicon Valley. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the company out of a garage in Palo Alto in 1939, and innovated like crazy for decades. But the company hasn’t been in the innovation business for quite some time, and it’s had a rocky 15 years. CEO Meg Whitman announced up to 16,000 layoffs Friday— bringing the total for this round to 50,000. And this is the sixth or seventh round of cuts since 2002.

Tech writer George Anders wrote the book on HP—Perfect Enough, which looked at the company’s efforts to reinvent itself in the late 1990s— after its work in innovation was over.

Hewlett-Packard’s last great innovation came about 30 years ago, says Anders, when it introduced the inkjet printer and the laser printer. "And that started as a small, stumbling little business with low-quality products, and it just kept getting better and better and more competitive."

After that, the company was too focused on looking for monster hits to tinker around with the little innovations that had made the company great. "At the boardroom level," says Anders, "HP was always thinking, 'Where’s the next printing business?'”

A series of CEOs came and went. HP bought companies and cut workers. A 2008 layoff made at least one list of all-time biggest mass firings. This round of cuts, which started in 2012, is twice as big.

However, tech analysts say the company has a future. For one thing: It’s now the old dinosaur — HP’s major revenue comes from serving giant corporate clients — and that comes with advantages. "The case for legacy companies is that they have client relationships, they have client trust," says Jim Kelleher, a tech analyst with Argus Research. He says the core business HP is now in — managing data — is growing.

Even though that business is threatened by cloud computing, HP has time to make a transition, says Brent Bracelin from Pacific Crest Securities. "That $110 billion billion dollars of infrastructure that they sell annually doesn’t move to the cloud overnight," he says.

Hewlett-Packard's innovation trend flatened long ago

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-23 13:01

Hewlett Packard helped create Silicon Valley. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the company out of a garage in Palo Alto in 1939, and innovated like crazy for decades. But the company hasn’t been in the innovation business for quite some time, and it’s had a rocky 15 years. CEO Meg Whitman announced up to 16,000 layoffs Friday— bringing the total for this round to 50,000. And this is the sixth or seventh round of cuts since 2002.

Tech writer George Anders wrote the book on HP—Perfect Enough, which looked at the company’s efforts to reinvent itself in the late 1990s— after its work in innovation was over.

Hewlett-Packard’s last great innovation came about 30 years ago, says Anders, when it introduced the inkjet printer and the laser printer. "And that started as a small, stumbling little business with low-quality products, and it just kept getting better and better and more competitive."

After that, the company was too focused on looking for monster hits to tinker around with the little innovations that had made the company great. "At the boardroom level," says Anders, "HP was always thinking, 'Where’s the next printing business?'”

A series of CEOs came and went. HP bought companies and cut workers. A 2008 layoff made at least one list of all-time biggest mass firings. This round of cuts, which started in 2012, is twice as big.

However, tech analysts say the company has a future. For one thing: It’s now the old dinosaur — HP’s major revenue comes from serving giant corporate clients — and that comes with advantages. "The case for legacy companies is that they have client relationships, they have client trust," says Jim Kelleher, a tech analyst with Argus Research. He says the core business HP is now in — managing data — is growing.

Even though that business is threatened by cloud computing, HP has time to make a transition, says Brent Bracelin from Pacific Crest Securities. "That $110 billion billion dollars of infrastructure that they sell annually doesn’t move to the cloud overnight," he says.

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