National News

Attacker Made Video Of Himself Before Shooting, Canadian Police Say

NPR News - Mon, 2014-10-27 02:23

Police say they have "persuasive evidence" the shooting at a war memorial and Parliament building was ideologically and politically driven. The video, under analysis, will not be released for now.

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Jack Lew goes to Africa

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-27 02:00

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is in Cairo Monday, Tanzania Tuesday, and South Africa Thursday and Friday. He'll be meeting with finance ministers and business leaders, "to discuss the state of the global economy and policies to promote regional growth and investment," according to an official  Treasury Department advisory.

"When the Treasury Secretary goes to Africa, it’s about finance and private investment," says Todd Moss, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. "I would expect some kind of either energy or agriculture deal to be announced in Tanzania."

"[Tanzania] has discovered vast reserves of natural gas," says Witney Schneidman, a Brookings fellow and Africa advisor at Covington and Burling. 

Schneidman says Treasury might want to evaluate the government's capacity to negotiate the resulting complicated energy contracts. "Sometimes Treasury will actually deploy some of their people to work in the ministry of finance," he says. 

But the visit isn't primarily about volunteering resources.

"There will be some specific deals announced, probably at each stop," says Moss. "Otherwise it’s a huge wasted opportunity."

But both Schneidman and Moss say the larger goal is to send a message: that Africa—home to six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world—matters to the American economy.

The connection between data and voter turnout

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-27 02:00

Data is hugely important to politics—for fundraising, sure—but also for getting registered voters to the polls. Ahead of the 2014 midterm election, state and local candidates are using tools the presidential campaigns pioneered two years ago, and they are testing out technology designed to get out the vote in 2016. 

In his office at NGP VAN, the company’s CEO and president, Stu Trevelyan, shows off a new “social organizing tool.” Many Democratic campaigns use NGP VAN’s technology. Trevelyan and his colleagues have created what he calls “a virtual phone bank.” A campaign will use your Facebook profile to find friends of yours in competitive districts.

“I grew up in Massachusetts. I know a lot of people there,” Trevelyan explains. “I went to college in California. I know lots of people there. I can actually identify people from that district and actually begin calling them.”

The thinking is you are more likely to take advice from someone you know. Campaigns are trying to tap into what’s called “social capital.” Until recently, campaigns relied on actual phone banks, and volunteers on the ground, going door-to-door.

“So there were a lot of clipboards and a lot of paper, and frankly, a lot of data that didn’t get used,” Trevelyan says.

According to David Nickerson, an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, it is now common for a canvasser to carry a smart phone. An app will have a script; afterward, the volunteer can punch in some important information. “And that data is automatically uploaded with a time stamp, and then it gives you the next household you are supposed to go to,” says Nickerson, noting new technology makes it easier for campaigns to allocate resources better.

“You do that next round of calls, you can remove all the dead wood,” he says. “Or if the people said they didn’t support, you can make sure that you don’t knock on them again.”

Campaigns are also trying out new tools to get a sense of what voters are still up for grabs.

“Through the use of statistical modeling and surveys and experiments, it is now possible to really focus efforts on people who are most likely to change their mind if contacted,” says Patrick Ruffini, a Republican strategist with Echelon Insights.

The digital landscape is constantly changing, he says. Last time around, social media was not the primary way for campaigns to communicate with likely voters directly. By 2016, it may be, and campaign strategists like Ruffini and Trevelyan want to refine new tools before the next presidential election.

 

 

 

 

Food waste provides fertile ground for tech innovators

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-27 02:00

Food waste is a big problem around the world. The United Nations reports that 1.3 billion tons of food are tossed every year. But now, figuring out how to keep produce and leftovers out of landfills has become fertile ground for tech innovators.  

Throwing out food happens all along the supply chain. Here’s an example: A farmer ships out a truckload of eggplant, but when it arrives, the re-seller thinks the color’s a bit off.  

“They say it should be dark or it should be purple. I’m not really sure what color eggplant is supposed to be, but a lot of times, eggplant is refused because it’s not the color they want,” explains long-haul trucker, Richard Gordon. "Or you might get a load of potatoes with too many eyes in it or too many curves and they reject it for that reason.”

Gordon has transported food along the East Coast for 30 years. When a shipment was rejected, he hated throwing it in a dumpster, so he’d call his brother to help. 

“I would get on the phone and try to find a place for him to donate it to,” says Richard's brother, Roger Gordon. “We realized one day that hey, you know, Rich is calling me from a mobile computer, we should be able to find a way to take me out of the equation.”

Two years ago, Roger Gordon launched the web and app service, Food Cowboy. It connects truckers, wholesalers, caterers and restaurants with food charities and composters. Food rescuers will pay 10 cents a pound and suppliers can get a tax write-off for the donation. 

When food becomes available, it has to get to a rescuer fast, which is why an instant, established network is important. As a result, food waste apps are popping up across the country. In New York, there's PareUp, and in northern California, Crop Mobster. Two MIT business students are launching Spoiler Alert in Boston later this month.

“We are creating a mobile marketplace and routing tool to help businesses connect with other businesses to help one another manage their excess, expiring and spoiled food,” explains Ricky Ashenfelter, who created the service with his classmate, Emily Malina. It’s a happy coincidence that Massachusetts just banned large amounts of food waste from heading into the landfill.

Malina says users will pay a monthly subscription fee to set up transactions based on profiles filled out by the retailers and rescuers. “Spoiler Alert would then be used to confirm the exchange, route the driver from the non-profit, in most cases, to the destination where the food is available and then process the transaction,” says Malina.

These start-ups hope that bringing partners together will reduce landfill waste and curb hunger. Roger Gordon estimates Food Cowboy has brought more than 100,000 meals to people who need them. “We have a lot of problems in this country, a lot of really complicated problems, but hunger and food waste shouldn't be one of them,” he says. “We have enough food to feed every hungry person in America, wholesome food, every day.”

His brother, Richard, sums it up best. 

“No matter how small it is, I hate to throw it away,” says Richard Gordon. “And, I can’t eat that many carrots, you know.”

How long does Twitter have to not become MySpace?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-27 02:00

Since going public last fall, Twitter has yet to announce an actual profit. And as the company got ready to announce quarterly earnings this fall, analysts expected the company to announce another modest loss.

Twitter has introduced some new features in recent months—including a “buy” button for certain brands—but nothing especially dramatic. How much time does the company have before it gets lumped in with companies that never quite took over the world, like MySpace? 

Twitter makes some money by selling ads. Just not a profit. Analysts say ads aren’t a great fit with what users want from Twitter.

But analysts also say that Twitter is so useful to so many people, that profits must surely be there, somewhere. 

"I always like to say that the day television was invented was not the day the 30-minute sitcom was invented, or the one-minute advertising spot," says Rebecca Lieb from The Altimeter Group.  

However, some of the analogies suggest that Twitter’s success is not a sure thing.

For instance, Rob Enderle invokes the old joke about the kid who smiled like crazy while he shoveled through a pile of horse manure. "I honestly think there’s a pony in that pile," he says, "but it’s harder to discover because Twitter’s just so very different than everybody else is."

He thinks Twitter’s got maybe 12 to 18 months to find the pony. Which, again, he thinks is in there somewhere. "Somebody eventually will come up with something that works" he says. "And if it isn’t Twitter, then Twitter will likely be replaced by that company."

Like how Google replaced Yahoo, and Facebook replaced MySpace.

Drugstore chains take a bite out of Apple Pay

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-10-27 02:00

After rolling out Apple Pay with much fanfare on October 20, Apple has now hit a snag with its new mobile-payments system. And it’s not a technical problem. Rather, several major retailers don’t want to play ball and aren’t enabling mobile payments using Apple Pay in their stores. They include Wal-mart and Best Buy, and as of this week, CVS and Rite Aid.

The drugstore chains, which have not commented publicly on their recent decisions to shut down trials of Apple Pay in their stores, apparently favor a rival mobile-payment system that is in development now, and will be rolled out next year by a group of major retailers—including Wal-mart, Target, Lowes, Best Buy, Gap and others. That system, named CurrentC from the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), will bypass credit card companies. The payments will be made on a customer’s debit card, accessing their bank account, says technology analyst Ben Schachter at Macquarie Securities.

“It certainly feels like they’re going to push to disintermediate not only Apple and Google, but also the credit card companies,” said Schachter. “They clearly don’t like paying those credit card fees.”

Schachter expects Google to launch a mobile-payments system for Android smartphones soon, piggybacking on the near-field communication technology that Apple Pay uses to send payment information between a smartphone and a retail checkout terminal.

Consumers may not embrace CurrentC when it is launched, says IT and marketing professor Anindya Ghose at NYU's Stern School of Business. He said Apple Pay—which requires a smartphone wave and a fingerprint—offers a high level of financial security.

“Your credit card number is never revealed in any way to the merchant or anyone else in the system,” said Ghose. “It’s encrypted completely and secured. So the chances of a fraud are dramatically reduced.”

Apple Pay also keeps customers’ purchasing data more private. The rival store chains want that data to push coupons and special deals to customers via their smartphones.

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Cements Its Dominance

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 18:20

The U.S. team didn't give up a single goal in the 5-game CONCACAF tournament. They capped off their performance Sunday with a near-perfect 6-0 game against Costa Rica.

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N.Y., N.J. Say Quarantine Will Keep Some People At Home, Not At Hospitals

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 17:22

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that individuals who may have been exposed to Ebola will be required to remain at home for three weeks. New Jersey said it, too, would allow home quarantine.

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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Wins Tight Re-Election Vote

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 16:20

Rouseff will serve a second term as president of Brazil, after a contentious and close campaign.

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Evacuations Possible As Lava Continues To Flow From Hawaii Volcano

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 15:23

Lava from the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is approaching a rural town.

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As Downtown LA Grows, So Does Urgency To Fix Skid Row

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 13:56

In Los Angeles, more than a thousand people sleep on the street in cardboard boxes and tents — just a mile away from City Hall. Many want to fix Skid Row, but how to do it is extremely controversial.

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LeVar Burton Reads 'Go The [Expletive] To Sleep'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 13:09

To any over-exhausted parents who suspect they're hallucinating, we assure you: former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton gave a reading of the 2011 bestseller this weekend.

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After The Blackwater Convictions, A Book On Iraq's Nightmarish Reality

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 13:01

This week, four former Blackwater guards were found guilty in connection with a fatal shooting in 2007. Author Brian Castner recommends a book on the toll violence has taken on Iraq.

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Many Tunisians Vote In Key Test Of Arab Spring's Legacy

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 11:59

Voter turnout has been reported at around 60 percent of the electorate, as Tunisians cast votes in their country's first full parliamentary election Sunday.

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Pandora Hopes To Lure Musicians Backstage With Analytics

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 10:45

The music streaming company is making a play for artists' goodwill, announcing a new service that gives musicians access to data on who is listening to their music, when and where.

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Christie Defends Quarantine And Jabs At CDC Over Ebola

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 09:31

Dr. Anthony Fauci, leader of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, disagrees, says the quarantine could hamper efforts to combat the deadly outbreak in West Africa.

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Lifted On Giant Inner Tubes, An Old Tree Moves In Michigan

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 08:29

A 250-year-old oak tree once stood in the way of the University of Michigan's new business school — until they moved it this weekend. It wasn't easy, though, and definitely not cheap.

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Nurse Criticizes Quarantine After Negative Ebola Test, Hires Lawyer

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 07:57

Kaci Hickox says she doesn't have a fever; a preliminary blood test came back negative for Ebola. She reportedly hired a civil rights attorney to work for her release Sunday.

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Brazil Picks New President In A Tight Race Of Stark Contrasts

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 06:19

The race has come down to competing visions for the future of Latin America's largest economy, put forth by leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff and center-right challenger Aecio Neves.

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An Unlikely Friday Night Pizza Café Has A Big Heart

NPR News - Sun, 2014-10-26 06:08

One night a week, Erin and Robert Lockridge serve homemade pizza out of an empty corner café in Cincinnati, and diners pay what they can. The couple sees their work as God's mission in the community.

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