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The National Labor Relations Board says McDonald's shares responsibility for how workers are treated at its franchised restaurants. (AP)

McDonald's Responsible For Treatment Of Workers, Agency Says

by Alan Greenblatt
Jul 29, 2014

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The Golden Arches logo goes up at a McDonald's restaurant in Robinson Township, Pa., in January

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McDonald's shares responsibility for how workers are treated at its franchised restaurants, the general counsel's office for the National Labor Relations Board announced Tuesday.

Since November 2012, NLRB has had 181 cases filed involving McDonald's. Many have been dismissed, but the agency said that McDonald's USA LLC will be considered a joint employer in cases that are found to have merit.

Restaurant chains have fought such a designation. McDonald's intends to contest the ruling, which the company warned could have a broad impact beyond the restaurant business.

Its 3,000 franchisees set the terms of employment, such as wages and hours, Heather Smedstad, McDonald's senior vice president for human resources, said in a statement.

"McDonald's also believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small businesses, and goes against decades of established law," she said.

Labor advocates say that it's clear who's really the boss, arguing that the company holds enormous sway over the business operations of its franchise owners.

"The reality is that McDonald's requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there's no doubt who's really in charge," said Micah Wissinger, a New York attorney who represents McDonald's workers.

Labor organizers have been organizing protests about working conditions at fast-food restaurants and seeking an increase in the minimum wage for employees to $15 an hour.

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People holding Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags demonstrate in front of the French-built Vladivostok warship in St. Nazaire, western France, on June 1. The protesters are opposed to the sale of the Vladivostok and Sevastopol warships to Russia. (AFP/Getty Images)

France Presses On With Deal To Sell Two Warships To Russia

Jul 29, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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The Vladivostok leaves the harbor of St. Nazaire, a major shipbuilding center, for a test run in the open sea on March 5. Russian sailors arrive in St. Nazaire aboard the Smolniy on June 30. They are among the 400 Russian sailors who will train on the Vladivostok -- and sail the ship back to Russia.

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France plans to go ahead with the sale of two warships to the Kremlin, even as the European Union and U.S. strengthen sanctions on Russia amid continued fighting in Ukraine and the aftermath of the downed Malaysian airliner.

People in St. Nazaire, the port town where the boats are being built, agree: The contract with Moscow should be fulfilled, they say. Despite mounting international pressure, cancellation of the deal, they say, would be a bad move for business.

There's not much love for Russian President Vladimir Putin in France. But in St. Nazaire, the contract is more about preserving a way of life than anything else.

Shipbuilding has been a mainstay of the local economy since the 19th century. Today, the town — located where the Loire River empties into the Atlantic Ocean — is one of the world's top builders of massive cruise ships and ferries. To keep that place, people say, contracts must be respected.

That includes 72-year-old retired Russian teacher Francois Chabeau. He says he avoids meeting Russians these days because they all love Putin, who Chabeau says is "dreadful."

"I think we must deliver the ships because we have a contract with the Russians," Chabeau says. "If we don't deliver the ships there will [not be new] contracts for ships."

And that, he says, trumps what's happening in Ukraine.

"Yes, on one side it's terrible what happens," he says. "But on the other side, we have a contract."

Other townspeople, like tobacco shop owner Christian Saunier, 60, say the ships are not the cause of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and canceling them won't resolve the crisis. He also points out that France is the world's third-largest arms seller, and if it cancels the ships it should also cancel all the missiles and planes it sells abroad.

The Russian ships are providing five years of employment for about 2,500 people in St. Nazaire.

The town appears to be thriving. On a recent day, hundreds of people shop at a market overflowing with fresh produce, and freshly caught fish.

Marc Menager, 65, has worked at the St. Nazaire shipyard for 37 years.

While the ship workers are prouder of the ocean liners they build, like the Queen Mary 2, Menager says, the warship contract came at a time when orders were down.

He says the two warships will not be outfitted with weaponry or communications systems. Critics say they will be able to carry hundreds of troops and helicopters.

Some 400 Russian soldiers sailed into St. Nazaire last month. They came to train on one of the newly built warships, the Vladivostok — and then sail it home in a few months. A second ship, the Sevastopol, which is still under construction, is set to be delivered to Russia in 2015.

Down by the water, there's a ceremony going on in the shipyard, next to the Vladivostok. A group of Russian sailors in uniform is singing military songs.

Bernard Grua, an activist who is protesting this ship deal, is one of the local people watching through the fence.

"These people, they represent Putin's regime. And sure, it's not only frustrating, but excuse me, it's disgusting," he says. "This collaboration is a shame for France."

Grua says the next generation will have to live with the consequences.

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Anti-abortion protester Mary McLaurin calls out to a patient at the Jackson Women's Health Organization in 2013. (AP)

Court Rejects Law Threatening Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic

by Alan Greenblatt
Jul 29, 2014

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The Vladivostok leaves the harbor of St. Nazaire, a major shipbuilding center, for a test run in the open sea on March 5. Russian sailors arrive in St. Nazaire aboard the Smolniy on June 30. They are among the 400 Russian sailors who will train on the Vladivostok -- and sail the ship back to Russia.

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A federal appeals court has rejected a Mississippi law that would have forced the state's only abortion clinic to close.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday turned aside arguments that women seeking to have an abortion could have the procedure done in a neighboring state.

Closing the clinic in Jackson would place an "undue burden" on women, the court found.

"Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion," Judge E. Grady Jolly wrote for the majority. "Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state."

The Mississippi law, enacted in 2012, requires abortion providers to have on staff doctors with admitting privileges at neighboring hospitals. Physicians at the Jackson clinic applied for privileges at area hospitals, but were unable to obtain them.

Other states have passed similar requirements, which has led to the closure of numerous clinics in states such as Texas and Ohio.

In March, a 5th Circuit panel upheld the Texas law, finding that it did not endanger women's health. The number of abortion clinics operating in Texas has dropped by half over the past year.

With today's ruling, the judges signaled that while closing many clinics is OK, a law that forces the closure of a state's very last clinic is not.

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A fisherman pulls a basket filled with anchovies aboard a fishing boat off of Peru's northern port of Chimbote, in 2012. Peru is the world's top fishmeal exporter, producing about a third of worldwide supply. (Reuters/Landov)

Want To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint? Choose Mackerel Over Shrimp

by April Fulton
Jul 29, 2014

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The Vladivostok leaves the harbor of St. Nazaire, a major shipbuilding center, for a test run in the open sea on March 5. Russian sailors arrive in St. Nazaire aboard the Smolniy on June 30. They are among the 400 Russian sailors who will train on the Vladivostok -- and sail the ship back to Russia.

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Small fatty fish like mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies are high in omega-3s, vitamin D and low on the food chain.

Those shining attributes have earned them plenty of nods from doctors and environmentalists alike, as we've reported. They're not among the most popular seafoods in the U.S., though, partly because of their fishy taste.

But if you knew that eating these fish would mean shrinking your carbon footprint a wee bit, would that convince you to buy them over say, that bag of frozen shrimp you just mindlessly threw into your grocery cart?

Robert Parker is betting that if you care about eating greener, you'll want to know about how much fuel it takes to catch your favorite fish. He's a Ph.D. candidate from Nova Scotia, studying the fishing industry at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

Parker and Peter Tyedmers, who directs the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, recently published an analysis of a fishing industry fuel use database Tyedmers developed. Their analysis finds that fisheries producing the small fish - sardines, mackerel, and anchovies — are "among the most energy and carbon-efficient forms of protein production." The paper appeared in the journal Fish and Fisheries on July 4.

They also found that fishing for shrimp and lobster are almost as fuel-intensive as raising livestock. As we've reported, raising livestock has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat.

For example, Parker says, to catch a metric ton (about 2,200 pounds) of sardines or anchovies, it takes about 5 gallons of fuel.

In contrast, to get the same amount of lobster or shrimp, you'd burn an average of 2,100 to 2,600 gallons of fuel.

Now, U.S. and Canadian lobster outfits "are a bit more efficient because of the higher lobster biomass in the ocean," he says. But they are still burning close to 264 gallons of fuel to catch those 2,200 pounds of crustacean.

So why is all this fuel getting burned? As the fishing industry has evolved in the last century from throwing out a few lines over the local dock to industrialized operations, we've been able to fish in more parts of the ocean and freeze our catch right on the boats.

But "a consequence of many of these advancements has been the increased reliance of fisheries on larger vessels, the motorization of fishing fleets with more powerful engines and the increased demand by fisheries for fossil fuels to power everything from propulsion and gear operation to on-board processing, refrigeration and ancillary services such as navigational aids," the paper says.

And the boats - not the packing plants or trucks transporting fish to the store — are where the bulk of the burn comes from, Parker says. The energy needed to get fish to the dock accounts for 60 to 90 percent of the fishing industry's total energy use and emissions.

"Fuel is the second biggest cost" in fish production, says Parker, and labor is first, so to encourage more efficient fisheries - and fewer greenhouse gas emissions — we should be "implementing measures shown to decrease fuel consumption."

And what people do with the fish is inefficient, too. Much of the mackerel, sardines and anchovies get turned to livestock and aquaculture feed, rather than going right to hungry humans. So we're "taking an efficient system and making it part of an average or inefficient system," he says.

But getting more people to eat these fish is a tough sell, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Parker himself admits that he wasn't always a herring fan, but on a trip to Denmark, that's what was served at the hotel breakfast, so he gave it a try.

Now, he's a believer. "If you have pickled herring, it's one of the most delicious things," he says.

Parker acknowledges that his fuel and fishing study has some limitations. For starters, its largely built from fisheries data from Europe and Australia, where the best records are kept, as well as some from North America. The database does not have much data on fuel use and fishing in the developing world — yet.

Also, he notes, fisheries are not generally giant offenders when it comes to the food system's carbon emissions. "Fisheries in general have a relatively low carbon footprint when it comes to food ... they don't have [the] methane associated with cows, and feed costs," he says.

But they hope their work goes beyond emissions. "We're looking at all the different factors now - we need to feed people, we need to support rural communities, we need to provide healthy and high quality food to people - one niche issue is the role of fisheries in fuel consumption."

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A fisherman pulls a basket filled with anchovies aboard a fishing boat off of Peru's northern port of Chimbote, in 2012. Peru is the world's top fishmeal exporter, producing about a third of worldwide supply. (Reuters/Landov)

OkCupid Sometimes Messes A Bit With Love, In The Name Of Science

Jul 29, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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The Vladivostok leaves the harbor of St. Nazaire, a major shipbuilding center, for a test run in the open sea on March 5. Russian sailors arrive in St. Nazaire aboard the Smolniy on June 30. They are among the 400 Russian sailors who will train on the Vladivostok -- and sail the ship back to Russia.

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OkCupid, the online dating site, disclosed Monday that they sometimes manipulate their users' profiles for experiments. Christian Rudder, co-founder and president of OkCupid, tells Audie Cornish that these experiments help the site improve how it works.

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