National / International News

Major Theater Chains Won't Screen 'The Interview' Amid Threats

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:23

News reports say Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex will not screen the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The decision deals a blow to the film, which cost $44 million to make.

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VIDEO: US navy develops 'fish' robot

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:18
The US military has been showing off its latest catch.

VIDEO: What might be 2015's big themes?

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:14
Geeks v Spooks, microbiomes and elections at home and abroad: What Newsnight's specialists think could be 2015's big themes.

Russian journalists try to thwart Kremlin censorship

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

As the ruble crashed and the Russian Central Bank hiked interest rates to record highs, the lead story for most TV stations in Moscow was not the country’s dire financial crisis. It was this: “President Vladimir Putin has won the annual Man of the Year award for the 15th year running.”


Russia – under Putin – is not exactly a haven of press freedom. Indeed, one group of disgruntled journalists is so disgusted by the level of censorship at home, they just left Russia, settled in the Baltic state of Latvia and launched their own independent online service with the aim of providing Russians with objective news. Their departure was triggered by the firing of a well-known, independent editor.


Galina Timchenko was editor-in-chief of the Russian online news service Lenta until earlier this year, when she carried some stories that were critical of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. Timchenko was fired and replaced by a PR man who is very close to the Kremlin. Speaking from her self-imposed exile in the Latvian capital of Riga, she says the oligarch owner of Lenta was leaned on by the Russian government.


“It’s a very usual situation to put pressure on the owner of media,” she says.


That is an understatement. Russia is gaining a grisly international reputation for press censorship. It’s been ranked 148th out of 173 nations for press freedom, with Russian journalists, media workers and news providers receiving threats and sometimes even physical abuse if they publish anything negative about the Kremlin and its close allies in the business world.


Some in the media are fighting back. After Timchenko was fired, all 70 journalists on her staff quit in protest and 20 of them followed her to Latvia. In a converted warehouse in Riga, they’re producing stories for a new independent Russian language news service called Meduza. The service's content is published not only on a website but also on an app, to prevent the Kremlin from barring it.


“It’s more difficult to block, and as far as I know there’s no example of blocking apps in Russia still," Timchenko says.


The site is in its infancy, attracting around 81,000 visitors a day, compared with Lenta’s 3 million. Meduza expects to make its money from subscriptions, ads and app sales. For an organization committed to openness and transparency it is making an unusual move, refusing to reveal the cost of setting up in Latvia or the source of the money – and that’s ringing alarm bells.


“I find this problematic, the fact that this project would not actually reveal where the funding is coming from,” says Vladimir Strukov. He is an independent Russian commentator and professor of Russian cultural studies and world cinemas at the University of Leeds in England. 


“This lack of transparency gives a sense that there’s something happening there and it breeds conspiracy theories among bloggers and other media users in Russia," he says.


But Timchenko counters that by not revealing the names of her financial backers, she is protecting them from harassment by the Kremlin.


“I want to decrease their political risk,” she says.


Timchenko has given Meduza three years to break even but agrees she has her work cut out. In spite of Russia’s growing economic problems, Putin remains wildly popular. His message appears to be more appealing to the Russian public than what the independent media has to say.

New York is first state to ban fracking

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

The fracking wars continue, this time in the Big Apple. The controversial drilling practice has been banned in local town and cities, but today New York became the first state to enact a ban.

Kai talks to Scott Tong, who has been covering fracking and the oil industry for Marketplace.

Why law school enrollment is way down

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

Law schools enrolled about 120,000 students in 2014, a decrease of almost 7 percent from last year. It was the smallest number admitted since 1987.

While law school was once seen as a golden ticket to a financially stable future, the profession is becoming less popular. New technology is helping lawyers work more efficiently, allowing them to handle a bigger workload. But it also cuts down on a firm's need to hire more lawyers, which means fewer graduates nab full-time permanent jobs.

As recently as 2000, "almost every school was reporting employment outcomes with 90 percent or more of their graduates employed," says Jerry Organ, who teaches at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Back then, schools didn't have to report what kinds of jobs their alumni were getting, but now they do, he says. Numbers over the last few years have reflected this reporting change, with only about half of  students getting full-time, long-term jobs as lawyers.

Now that’s an unexpected energy boost. (Thanks, Cuba)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00

Cuba and the United States are taking steps to normalize their long-troubled relationship in both politics and economics.

In response, tons of investors bought stock in the Cuba Beverage Company. Shares were up nearly 140 percent at one point, according to the Wall Street Journal. The thing is, the Cuba Beverage Company is an energy drink firm out of San Diego. No relation to Cuba, the country, at all.

It's not a big energy drink company. The shares only rose to 4 cents apiece. Caveat emptor, nonetheless.

US stocks surge Fed statement

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:58
The US Federal Reserve leaves interest rates on hold and says it "can be patient" over any decision to raise them, sending stocks higher.

Festival lights viewed from space

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:40
Satellites view how Christmas in the US and Ramadan in the Middle East brighten the globe.

Alan Gross, U.S. Contractor Freed By Cuba, Says 'It's Good To Be Home'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:38

Havana freed Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison, as a humanitarian gesture. The former USAID contractor said he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

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PHOTO: The Meaning in a Phone Call

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:29

A conversation between Presidents Obama and Castro preceded a plan to normalize diplomatic relations between historical foes.

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Bouncer cleared of murder charge

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:11
A bouncer has been cleared of murder after a man died when being escorted out of a bar in Aberdeen city centre for being too drunk.

The U.S. And Cuba: A Brief History Of A Tortured Relationship

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:09

The stalemate has outlasted 10 U.S. presidents, a failed invasion, a nuclear crisis and countless boatloads of Cuban asylum seekers. All that changed on Wednesday.

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Woman 'at war with PSNI' court told

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:49
A woman accused of trying to kill a police officer in a pipe bomb attack declared herself "at war with the police" on Facebook, a Belfast court is told.

Prisoner Exchange With Cuba Led To Freedom For Top U.S. Intelligence Agent

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:31

President Obama called the unnamed man "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba." The agent spent nearly two decades in a Cuban prison.

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Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:30

Though blacks still lag whites nationwide in health, disparities have been largely eliminated in the western states, a study finds. Kaiser Permanente's Medicare HMOs did best on that.

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VIDEO: Pakistan attack 'darkest day of my life'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:30
BBC News speaks to Shah Jehan, a UK relative of two young boys who died in the Peshawar school attack.

German road toll plan gets go-ahead

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:29
The German government approves plans for a controversial road toll, including charging foreigners for using the Autobahn.

New Cuba Policy Is Met With Cheers And Jeers On Both Sides Of The Aisle

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:26

Sen. Marco Rubio and other prominent Cuban-American lawmakers issued blistering rebukes of plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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Mass grave 'found in eastern Syria'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:17
The bodies of more than 230 people believed to have been killed by Islamic State (IS) have been found in a mass grave in eastern Syria, activists say.