National / International News

Who, What, Why: The questions of 2014 answered

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 15:31
The questions of 2014, answered succinctly

How France has forgotten the Christmas truce soldiers

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 15:27
How France has forgotten the WW1 enemies who shook hands

Christmas 'not a fairytale' - Welby

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 15:12
Fairytale endings do not reflect the true spirit of Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to say in his Christmas Day sermon, which alludes to the battlefield truce of 1914.

VIDEO: Monastery home for asylum seekers

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 15:06
Swiss Monastery Einsiedeln Abbey has taken in around 30 asylum seekers from Eritrea.

Man charged with grandson's murder

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 15:00
The grandfather of a nine-year-old boy found dead in Lincoln is charged with his murder.

Pope Francis phones Iraqi refugees

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 14:50
Pope Francis speaks by telephone to Iraqi refugees in a camp near Irbil before celebrating Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter's.

How to close a deal on a Christmas tree

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-24 14:30

Ernest Parker Jr. sells trees at Frosty’s Christmas trees in Los Angeles. But selling trees is really more of a hobby for Parker, who used to work for the health department. He says his wife told him he had to find something to do after he retired.

“It’s not so much about the money for me, it’s something to do, it keeps me in shape,” Parker says.

Even after seven years working at the same stand, Parker says he looks forward to selling trees every year.

“We’re a big part of this community now, so it’s a great pleasure to work here on this lot," Parker says. 

Spain's king condemns corruption

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 14:25
Spain's new King Felipe VI attacks corruption in his Christmas Eve address, but does not mention his sister's forthcoming tax fraud trial.

Modern gift-wrap tradition has ties to Hallmark

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-24 13:53

Maybe you’ve already started wrapping your holiday presents. Or maybe you’re one of those up-past-midnight-on Christmas-Eve types.

Either way, the Christmas wrapping session is a holiday tradition. You put the kids to bed, maybe pour yourself a glass of wine and line up the tape, the scissors and the rolls of printed paper.

But where did this ritual come from?

“Have you read "Little Women?" my friend Nancy asks. “The opening chapter is about the girls deciding that they’re giving up their Christmas gifts to help a poor family, and then they decide to use their allowance money to each buy a present for their mother. Somebody gives her a handkerchief, somebody else gives her perfume, and they don’t really wrap them. They tie a rose onto it I think – or some kind of flower.”

Turns out, wrapping presents – especially in paper printed with holiday scenes – is a relatively new thing.

In the early 20th century, “there was plain paper. So there may have been solid white, solid red, green that a package could have been wrapped in,” says Sharman Roberts, the archivist and historian for Hallmark.

An accident of sorts changed things, she says. 

In 1917, J.C. and Rollie Hall – the guys who would go on to found Hallmark – had a stationary shop in downtown Kansas City. They sold out of the plain wrapping paper, so Rollie went back to the warehouse for more. Instead, he brought back sheets of fancy French paper.

“They were printed in bold colors, lots of patterns, very stylized, and we used them for envelope liners at that time,” Roberts says.

The papers flew off the shelves, and, boom: an industry was born.

By the 1920s Hallmark was printing its own wrapping paper. Today, the gift-wrap industry is worth more than $3 billion.

And for some people, the annual opportunity to wrap stacks of presents is no chore.

It is a privilege.

I made a gift-wrapping date with my friends Laura Weber Davis and Nancy Kaffer. Davis is a producer for Detroit Public Radio, and Kaffer is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press. They – we – are women who make our living writing and talking about Serious Things.

And gift wrapping is serious business.

“I come from a family of gift-wrappers,” Laura says. “My grandfather was a [World War II] engineer and carried his military precision on to wrapping.”

There are rules to wrapping.

No. 1: No gift bags.

“Everyone who’s really obsessed with wrapping presents knows gift bags are a shoddy substitute. They’re the poor man’s gift-wrap package,” Nancy says.

Another rule: No shiny tape.

“I’m also weird about not using more paper than I need to,” Laura says as she demonstrates her measuring and cutting skills, honed during three years she spent working the gift-wrap counter at a department store. Nancy and I are a little jealous.

Nancy tries her hand at a rather elaborate trick, using an X-acto knife to slice a star out of a piece of paper that will go over a contrasting paper, concealing a box of Lego Friends.

We talk about the right balance of papers under the tree, the beauty of a perfectly offset bow, and the fact that the care we put into these packages is worth the time an effort, even when our handiwork is ripped to shreds by some kid.

It’s a little bit like the Tao,” says Nancy. ”It’s the way and the goal.”

 

Mishandling Of Ebola Sample May Have Exposed CDC Technician To Virus

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 13:43

The worker will be monitored for symptoms. Officials are investigating the incident, in which the virus was moved from a high-security lab to a low-security lab at the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta.

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VIDEO: Space station visible in London skies

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 13:37
The International Space Station was visible on two occasions as it moved across the London skyline on Wednesday evening.

Nicaragua's much-touted canal meets with opposition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-24 13:33

Nicaragua has broken ground on a nearly 200-mile shipping canal that will carve the country, including Lake Nicaragua, to link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The Nicaraguan government says the canal will create jobs and investment that will lift the country out of deep poverty, but plans for the project have been accompanied by considerable skepticism.

The idea for a cross-Nicaragua canal is 200 years old, yet every time plans have been put into action, they have failed. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, a Hofstra University professor who studies global trade and transport, says Nicaragua is probably attempting it once again because a Hong Kong-based firm is raising a reported $50 billion to get the job done. "Nicaragua has a lot to benefit out of this, without forking [over] any of the capital," Rodrigue says. 

The benefits for ordinary Nicaraguans remain to be seen. The promise of jobs that have yet to materialize may be further undercut by worries over the environmental impact on Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in the region. Pedro Alvarez, who teaches civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, says he fears that dredging Lake Nicaragua, a vital source of drinking and agricultural water, will lead to " dead zones. "

 

When Home And Health Are Just Out Of Reach

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 12:25

Health insurance doesn't pay for housing, but sometimes that is what a patient needs most. A Medicaid experiment helps some elderly and disabled people move out of institutions into their own homes.

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Japanese Artist Indicted For 'Vagina Kayak'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 12:13

Provocative artist Megumi Igarashi has been arrested twice in Japan this year for distributing data that lets people make a 3-D printed kayak that incorporates a model of her genitals.

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A Blizzard Of Cash: Christmas Comes Early To Hong Kong

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-24 12:11

Drivers and pedestrians leapt into busy Hong Kong traffic to scoop up millions of dollars of bills spilled by a security van. Much of it has not been returned.

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Pakistan army to try terror suspects

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 12:08
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says new military courts will hear terrorism-related cases after an agreement between political parties.

Jordan plane 'not shot down by IS'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 11:50
The Jordanian plane that crashed in Syria was not shot down by Islamic State militants, the US says.

VIDEO: Virginia's water-skiing Santa Claus

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-24 11:47
The annual water-skiing Santa event takes place on the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Will 'The Interview' make money for Sony?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-24 11:39
Sony Pictures released the Seth Rogen film "The Interview" on various digital media platforms today. It is available for purchase ($15 plus tax) or rent ($6) on Google Play, YouTube Movies (yes, there is such a thing), Microsoft's Xbox, and a special website Sony created for the film.

Marketplace opted for the purchase option:

Purchased for a grand total of $16.13, we are about to watch #TheInterview on YouTube pic.twitter.com/9jS8ySnsc3

— Marketplace (@Marketplace) December 24, 2014

The movie clocks at two hours, but its plot has dragged on for weeks — it was at the center of an international hacking incident attributed to North Korea, in which troves of Sony Pictures' secret financial data and executive emails were released.

The film will also be screened in some 200 movie theaters across the country on Christmas Day. It was originally scheduled for a wider release, but the nation's top movie theater chains canceled screenings after attackers issued a threat. Sony then announced its intentions to release the film following a public scolding by President Obama

Now, the question is whether the film will actually recoup the reported $90 million it cost Sony to make and market the movie. 

"I would be shocked if they're going to recoup their ... investment," says Peter Kafka, a senior editor at the technology and media site Re/code. "You can sort of work out how many folks they need ... to rent this thing to make it worthwhile."

That number would be about 16.7 million rentals, if the studio was getting 100 percent of the proceeds from each sale. It won't be.

John Sloss, who advises on digital media distribution at Cinetic Media, says "The Interview" would have had a much better chance at making money if Sony had released the film earlier and on every digital platform at once. After all, he says, cinemas aren't where the profits are for studios.

"More often than not, the theatrical is a loss leader, because most of the releasing costs go onto the theatrical release, which builds awareness," which then helps sell the film on other platforms with better margins, says Sloss.

Sony might have gotten between 40 and 50 percent of the price of a movie ticket at the cinema. But, it'll get between 70 and 90 percent of the money spent on the various video on demand platforms that are showing "The Interview."

"In a couple of years, transactional VOD, when combined with DVD, will exceed the revenue of DVD when it was at its height 10 years ago," says Sloss, adding that that could total to about twice as much as a film makes in movie theaters.

The question now is whether the enormous attention the film has gotten because of the cyber attack will translate to enough viewers — and enough positive word of mouth from those who initially see the movie — to add up to significant revenues for Sony Pictures.

And how did Marketplace feel about the movie?

[View the story "Marketplace watches "The Interview" live" on Storify]  

Tech in 2015: We'll be connected 24/7

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-24 11:16

This year, we saw some sci-fi-worthy advances in technology that included drones, virtual reality and space exploration. But in 2015, what technology can we expect that will actually change our everyday lives?

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson says, get ready for more Internet.

"We're going to be connected, and more effectively connected, not just by our cell connection but by Wi-Fi, all the time," Johnson says.

That ubiquitous Wi-Fi connection might have some drawbacks depending on how you feel about advertisements. "We're going to get advertisements delivered to our phones that relate to the places around us," he says.

If you're not ready to have ads following you around the mall, you have options. "There is a creepy aspect to this ... and we do have some control where you can actually turn off notifications or location reporting on your phone," Johnson says.

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