National / International News

Cigarette package law brought forward

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:41
The government is to legislate to introduce standardised cigarette packaging before May's general election, ministers say.

VIDEO: HMS Victory 'rotting from the inside'

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:26
HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flag ship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, is in urgent need of repair due to extensive water damage.

The true biography of 'Davos Man'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:15

The origins of "Davos Man" are murky.  

As a name, it's often an epithet, spoken with venom. It refers both to the individual human beings who attend the World Economic Forum at a ski resort in Davos, Switzerland each year, and the global, capitalist power structure they are taken to represent.

Its first use is often credited to "The Clash of Civilizations" by Samuel Huntington, but, in fact, the words "Davos Man" never actually appear in the book. Instead, the earliest reference I could find was an editorial from 1997 in The Economist, "In Defense of Davos Man," that ostensibly reviews Huntington's book. It seeks not to bury, but to praise and defend "Davos Man" as a paragon of a global capitalism that could transcend culture and bring people of the world together. Here is the ending:  

Although 40 or so heads of state will troop to Davos this weekend, the event is paid for by companies, and run in their interests. They do not go to butter up the politicians; it is the other way around (see previous leader). Davos Man, finding it boring to shake the hand of an obscure prime minister, prefers to meet Microsoft's Bill Gates.

All this should cheer up Mr Huntington, not cast him down. Some people find Davos Man hard to take: there is something uncultured about all the money-grubbing and managerialism. But it is part of the beauty of Davos Man that, by and large, he does not give a fig for culture as the Huntingtons of the world define it. He will attend a piano recital, but does not mind whether an idea, a technique or a market is (in Mr Huntington's complex scheme) Sinic, Hindu, Islamic or Orthodox. If an idea works or a market arises, he will grab it. Like it or loathe it, that is an approach more likely to bring peoples together than to force them apart.

Matthew Bishop, an editor at the Economist who was in the meeting that debated this editorial in 1997, says elements of the argument are still valid.

But Seyla Benhabib, professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University, says the forces that Davos Man represents have also pulled people apart, exacerbating global inequality.

Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion, says Davos Man hasn't changed since he started attending. "Rich people don't change that much, I don't think," he says.

Fallout from S&P ban could last longer than a year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:14

The Securities and Exchange Commission banned Standard & Poor's, the world's largest credit rater, from a large part of the mortgage market for one year. SEC says the time out is because of ratings S&P issued in 2011 that regulators claim were “misleading.”

The suspension will bar S&P from rating securities backed by bundles of loans tied to such structures as shopping malls and office buildings. The ban is significant because investors typically require these kinds of bonds to be graded by two of the three ratings agencies, and now that S&P has been benched, the math is easy.

"So, who do they go to? They have to now, sort of go to Moody's and Fitch," says Amiyatosh Purnanandam, a University of Michigan finance professor. The long-term impact of the ban may extend well beyond a year because so much sensitive information is shared with ratings agencies. "Once you as a potential rater have giving all of this Fitch, you would be reluctant to switch to S&P, even after a year when S&P comes back into the game," he says.

S&P can still issue ratings for corporate bonds. They can also service the residential and municipal bond markets. Moreover, some say the securities S&P is not allowed to rate were never really in its wheelhouse.

"It’s not like these companies are going to be doing more business now that S&P has dropped out," says Dick Larkin, director of credit analysis for H.J. Sims.

In a statement, S&P said that it does not admit or deny any of the charges filed against it. The company also agreed to pay $77 million to the SEC, New York and Massachusetts to settle charges tied to its ratings of mortgage-backed securities.

Tootsie Roll CEO, 95, leaves behind a sweet legacy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:05

Melvin Gordon, 95, who was the serving chief executive of Tootsie Roll Industries, a company he had run for more than a half-century, died yesterday. He will be succeeded by his wife, Ellen Gordon, who had been its president and COO.

Traders think the transition will lead to a buyout, which led to a 7.1 percent increase in shares today, according to Bloomberg.

Which leads to the question ... Tootsie Rolls are part of a publicly traded company? Well, yes, since 1922 when it was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange as Sweets Company of America. The company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. in 1966.

This vintage animated commercial from the 1970s is a testament to just how little the brand has changed over the years: The same color scheme, font and signature wrapper have stood the test of time to the present day. "Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me," sings a young child as the commercial complements the lyrics by having everything the animated children touch turn into animated, chewy, chocolate candy. 

Tootsie Roll Industries is one of the largest candy companies in the United States. It also owns Blow Pop, Junior Mints and Dubble Bubble, to name a few. What is perhaps the brand's most famous ad campaign asked a question that has been haunting candy lovers for years: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

The owl's answer — three — proved to be unsatisfying, since more than one group of students has tried to come up with a more scientific answer. (The Venn diagram of engineers and candy eaters apparently has a significant overlap.) A group at Purdue University created a licking machine that took an average of 364 licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center, while a group at Michigan's licking machine averaged 411 licks. The cow, the fox, the turtle and the owl don't know the answer ... and neither does anyone else.

NHS strike talks to resume on Friday

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:04
Talks aimed at averting strikes by health workers in England and Northern Ireland next week will resume on Friday - after being adjourned on Wednesday evening - unions say.

Scientists Give Genetically Modified Organisms A Safety Switch

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-21 11:03

By making E. coli dependent on an artificial amino acid, scientists hope to show that engineered organisms can be safer and more useful for industrial processes like drug production.

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MP died after drinking spirits

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:59
An MP from Greater Manchester died after drinking a fatal amount of spirits during an official dinner in Poland, an inquest has heard.

Meteorite is 'hard drive' from space

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:58
Researchers have decoded ancient recordings from fragments of an asteroid dating back billions of years to the start of the Solar System.

Sea god statue stolen from mountain

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:42
A six-foot statue of a Celtic sea god, created by a Game of Thrones sculptor, is stolen from a mountainside in County Londonderry.

Tootsie Roll boss dies at age of 95

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:35
Tootsie Roll chief executive Melvin Gordon dies at the age of 95 after leading the US confectionery firm for more than five decades.

Nigeria Buhari defends school record

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:28
Nigeria's main opposition presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, rejects claims that he did not obtain his school-leaving certificate.

Bulgakov's 'Master' Still Strikes A Chord In Today's Russia

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:16

Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov's classic, The Master and Margarita, ridiculed Soviet leaders and bureaucracy. It wasn't published until 27 years after his death, but still resonates with Russians.

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Monkey handed into Fife vet surgery

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:14
A Marmoset monkey is handed in to a vet surgery in Fife by a member of the public, who claimed to have found it in a shoe-box on Monday.

VIDEO: Northern White rhinos facing extinction

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:13
Northern White rhinos are on the edge of extinction with just five of them left in the world, but conservation experts are trying to find ways to save them.

Europe considers quantitative easing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 10:00

The European Central Bank is expected to announce a large bond buying program Thursday. Quantitative easing, as it’s called, could help boost the moribund eurozone economy by encouraging investment, but many are not on board. The Germans are the biggest critics, reminded of hyperinflation nearly a century ago, and worried that QE would let weaker European economies off the hook. 


VIDEO: Del Boy fan's £4,000 tattoo

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 09:59
An Only Fools and Horses fan from Bristol has spent £4,000 having a tribute to the TV show tattooed on his back.

Explaining 'middle-class economics'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 09:55

Ask just about anybody, and they’ll tell you they’re part of the middle class.

“Certainly, it is the label of choice,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. More than half of the people in Gallup's last survey identified themselves as middle class, he says. But there’s more to it than just wealth, or income. “Middle class seems to be a very comfortable place for Americans to put themselves,” Newport says.

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama called middle-class economics "the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. "

But "middle class" has no formal economic definition, meaning many people define it themselves.

“And that often means working, not relying on government," says Melissa Kearney, director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. "But it’s really a nebulous concept.”

Politicians love to talk about middle-class Americans, Kearney says, but it’s hard to tailor government programs to them, precisely because there’s no middle-class definition. As a result, Obama’s plan bleeds over to not-so-middle class Americans, she says.

“Some of these tax benefits would extend to folks – couples making $200,000,” she says, referring to beneficiaries of a proposed tax credit for two-income couples. 

Other parts of the president’s plan apply mainly to low-income Americans – things like increasing the minimum wage and instituting paid sick days. The president’s proposal would have to be more targeted to reach people truly in the middle of the pack.

Did he hit the target? 

“He threw a water balloon at it, and it splattered all over the place,” says Sharyn O’Halloran, a professor of political economy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “He saw a target – middle class – and just made a bunch of big sweeping proposals which he thought would be appealing to them.”

The proposals won’t necessarily be appealing to Congress.  Still, O’Halloran says, the president has set the stage for Democrats who want to make middle class economics part of the 2016 presidential race.

Film festival announces line-up

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-21 09:54
The European premiere of the new Noah Baumbach film, While We're Young, will be the opening gala at the Glasgow Film Festival, it has been announced.

Marketplace's live coverage of the 2015 State of the Union address

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 09:41
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