National News

When You've Seen Subway Rats, Ebola Seems Like Nothin'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 12:06

New York has no time for fear-mongering and wild speculation about the spread of disease through their city. They're too busy crafting the perfect "Ebowla" joke for Twitter.

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Shooting At Washington School Leaves 2 Dead, Including Gunman

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 11:45

Television images showed students running out of the Marysville, Wash., high school with their hands up. A local hospital said it had received four victims; three of them are in critical condition.

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Fashion Police: Why Are You Wearing Rubber Boots In Liberia?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 11:26

Like most people in Monrovia, our correspondent is constantly washing her hands with chlorinated water. But her booted feet are drawing strange looks.

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In Southeast Turkey, A Long History Of Bloodshed And Worship

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 11:24

A vast plain near Syria is no stranger to military carnage. But a place known as "Potbelly Hill" holds ruins built in ancient times, possibly for ritual purposes, long before organized religion.

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How do actors make money off residuals?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 11:06

If you watch season three, episode seven of “The Walking Dead” you may see me eating a guy. I was paid $100 to dress up like a zombie and help take down and disembowel a hermit. But aside from chiggers and a blurry screen grab for my Facebook page, that $100 is all I’ll ever get from my performance. That’s because extras get no residuals.

When you become a bigger part of the show, however, that changes. The next step up from an extra is a day player. If you get a line of dialogue in a show or have a scripted physical interaction with a character (called “special business”), you qualify for residuals. Everyone from day players to stunt performers to the main cast of a show, otherwise known as“featured players,” gets residuals. How much they get is based on what they are paid in the first place. 

If you listen to the story above (there's an audio player below the video), you’ll hear how John Michael Tyler who played Gunther the barista on “Friends” got paid for his very first line. This Gunther:

But here, I thought it would be interesting to calculate how much one of the main cast members gets paid:

The “Friends” cast was making $1  million an episode for the last couple of seasons. But Craig Beatty, the Vice President of Entertainment Partners, says there’s a ceiling. During “Friends” that was around $2,500 an episode. So let’s use that as our jumping off point to calculate an example:

Let’s take “The One Where Eddie Moves In," otherwise known as the ultimate "Smelly Cat" episode:

If, back in 1996, it repeated once during the summer and once the following year on NBC, then Lisa Kudrow would have theoretically gotten:

$2,500 x 2 = $5,000

When a show is syndicated to basic cable and local television stations (called "free television" in the biz), a sliding scale kicks in. Kudrow would have received 40 percent for the first re-run (40 percent of $2,500 = $1,000), 30 percent for the second re-run ($750) and then 25 percent for the next three re-runs. After that, it goes down incrementally until the 13th time it airs.  From then on, an actor gets 5 percent for each episode every time it airs, forever. So if “The One Where Eddie Moves In” re-aired five times in syndication, the math would work like this:

40% of $2,500 = $1,000

 

+

30% of $2,500 = $750

 

+

25% of $2,500 = $625 x 3 = $1,875

 

Kudrow would also be compensated for foreign rights, but those work a little differently. Back in the '90s, she would’ve gotten one flat payment of 35 percent, no matter how many channels it showed on outside North America. So:

35% of $2,500 = $875

 

And if we add all that up:

$5,000 + $875 + $1,000 + $750 + $1,875 = $9,500

 

I won’t get into DVD and digital media sales because those get pretty complicated, but let’s just say we hit $10,000 total per episode, for easy math’s sake . With 236 episodes, that would mean Kudrow would’ve gotten at least:

$2,360,000 in total residuals for “Friends.”

 

Now, we all know “Friends” has aired a bajillion times, so it’s safe to say that estimate is ludicrously, ridiculously and extremely low. Plus, the cast of “Friends” actually negotiated for a higher share than that maximum for residuals, so they’re sitting pretty, especially since "Friends" has made somewhere north of $3 billion in syndication.

Regardless, residuals are a steady stream of income in a line of work where nothing else is all that steady.

 

Tracking Ebola's digital footprints

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 11:00

Dr. Craig Spencer was treating Ebola patients in Guinea two weeks ago. He now is in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan after showing symptoms of the disease himself. Health officials are telling New Yorkers not to worry, and that Ebola is a difficult virus to contract – requiring contact with body fluids from an infected person while they are showing symptoms, including fever and diarrhea.   

All the same, those officials are continuing to retrace Spencer’s steps through the city to see who might have been exposed to the virus. They have Spencer’s own account as a starting point, but they’re being helped by the multiple electronic checkpoints of life in the city. 

From our commute on the subway, to buying our morning coffee with a credit card, to that Uber ride and of course Facebook updates, we are all leaving a digital wake as we move through the physical world.

“There’s a whole field of digital epidemiology harnessing these new digital data streams like digital exhaust for purposes of public health,” says John Brownstein, associate professor at Harvard Medical School. 

Spencer took an Uber to the Gutter bowling alley in Brooklyn, for example.

“You can get access to the driver, distance [and] location that driver went to, the other passengers of that vehicle,” Brownstein says.

Credit card histories are obvious logs of a person’s location. But there are less obvious sources of information as well.

“We’ve looked at people’s access to free wireless networks, and we could tell when two people were close to one another and how they move around the city based on their access to social networks and we can model the spread of disease,” Brownstein says. That information is usually aggregated to study movement of large groups and transmission of disease, but it could also be used to trace individuals.

Smartphones especially leave digital trails far beyond simple call logs or even GPS data.

“That phone is doing a bunch of things for us,” says Gavin Manes, CEO of digital forensics firm Avansic.  Not only is it regularly checking with the phone company for texts or voicemail messages, it is interacting with third parties. 

“If you work for a business, you are probably have an email account connected to something like Microsoft Exchange,” he says. “Every so often your phone is making sure it still has the connection and reporting to that server what its IP address is and its approximate location.” While a phone company may keep its logs of a user’s location for only a few hours or a few days, the logs on email servers – or Facebook servers or Twitter servers – persist much longer. 

Even digital keychains used to lock or unlock a vehicle can send information that can be picked up, says Mane.  When you point your keyfob at your car and click to unlock it, that message can be picked up by another car of the same make. 

There is one big caveat to using all this data.

“It’s not easy and it’s not automatic,” Manes says.

Take the subway, for example. It’s possible to detect what subway card was swiped at a turnstyle right after a sick person’s.  From there, an investigator may have to go to a subway card machine’s records to determine what credit card number was associated with that subway card.  From there an investigator will have to connect a name to that credit card number, which will probably involve going through a credit card company.     

“There is no computer in someone’s basement that’s automatically tracking that material together,” Manes says. This is because none of these data sources was designed to track people for the sake of tracking people. 

“This tracking data, it’s not like these systems were developed for that purpose, it’s a byproduct of the system needing to function,” Manes says. “When we can triangulate someone’s cellphone, it’s not because we designed the cellphone system to be able to do that, it’s a byproduct of the need of the phone company to know where someone is so they can know which cellphone tower for them to talk to.”

The data is big, and so is the city.  Sifting through both is a monumental task. 

 

New chapter in Duracell's history

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 11:00

Proctor & Gamble announced Friday it was planning to spin off Duracell.

 

Smithsonian historian Eric Hintz shares the story of the battery company, which got its start back in World War II.

 

 

Made with easel.ly

 

For more, click the audio player above.

We're looking for the fullest inbox in America

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 10:00

As Amy Scott reported, we send billions of emails every day.

The thing is, email is terrible. At least that's the conclusion among Marketplace's digital audience: between unnecessary "reply all," vague subject lines and passive-aggressive cc'ing, the inbox can be a place of pain.

It can also be crowded. We asked:

How many emails do you have in your inbox? Tell the truth. #numberslove — Marketplace (@Marketplace) October 23, 2014

 So far, we've seen a few inbox zero fanatics. We salute them:

@marketplace 0 unread emails everyday. — Jules Botero (@jules_MIA) October 24, 2014

0 emails! 32 READ! :) I dislike having unread email haha @Marketplace — Diali (@DialiAvila) October 24, 2014

We've also seen... way more than zero:

@Marketplace 16,695 in main inbox folder, an additional 5,000,000+ in saved folders — Blaine Bershad (@BlaineBershad) October 23, 2014

@Marketplace 192,397 emails.

— Mike Brown (@xenoxaos) October 23, 2014

@Marketplace 218,543 and that's just one of 7 email accounts... — Sara Phalen (@SaraPhalen) October 23, 2014

The question now: Can you beat them? We want to find the fullest inbox in America. Tweet us @Marketplace. Bonus points for a screenshot. 

'Freakish' Sunspot Wows Astronomers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 09:58

AR 2192, the largest sunspot seen since the beginning of the current 11-year cycle that started in 2008, is producing strong solar flares.

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Vocational high schools: Where job skills are the goal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 08:46

.chart div{background-color:#0E477F;text-align:right;padding:3px;margin:1px;color:#fff}.chart-text{font-size:1em;font-family:sans-serif}@media screen and (max-width:480px){.chart-text{font-size:.8em}} This story originally appeared on "American RadioWorks" as part of their hour-long documentary "Ready to Work: Reviving Vocational Ed." 

If there’s one message today’s high school students hear over and over again, it’s this: Go to college.

But Liz King, who grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, has known since middle school that college was not for her.

“I’m not a book person,” she says. “You know you are or you’re not.”

So, when the time came, King asked to go to Minuteman, a vocational high school near by. She wanted to become a hairdresser.

“I wasn’t having any of that,” says King’s mom, Jeanette Chapman. Years earlier, her son had asked if he could go to Minuteman to study plumbing. She said no to him too.

“I just had the impression that going to vocational school, he would miss out on something, a profession where you could make more money,” Chapman says. “I think it was all to do with making more money.”

Chapman, like most parents, wanted her kids to go to college. Surveys show more than 90 percent of Americans believe a college education is important.

More than 90 percent of Americans believe a college education is important, but only 32 percent of people over the age of 24 have a bachelor’s degree.

“You’ve got a paradigm that’s embraced by almost everybody, but the reality is that by the time they get to their late 20s, only 30 percent of young people have actually gotten a four-year degree,” says Bill Symonds, director of the Global Pathways Institute and author of a 2011 report for the Harvard Graduate School of Education called Pathways to Prosperity. The report argues the U.S. is failing to prepare millions of young people to lead successful lives because high schools focus too narrowly on an academic, college-prep approach to education.

Symonds says there are millions of good jobs that don’t require a Bachelor’s degree. Many of those jobs are in so-called “middle-skill” occupations, like construction manager and computer technician. These jobs tend to require professional licenses and certificates, but not college.  According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, the median certificate holder out-earns more than a quarter of people who have Bachelor’s degrees.

Straight to college — or not

Thirty-four percent of 2013 high school graduates were not enrolled in college as of Oct. 2013

Enrolled1.96 million Not enrolled1.01 million Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Minuteman

Minuteman Regional High school, a vocational school outside of Boston, offers the kind of education in which, Symonds says, the nation should invest more. Students spend half their time in academic classes and half in a career major. They can choose high tech fields like robotics and computer programming or traditional trades like plumbing and carpentry.

Steve Hurley, a graduate of the electrical wiring program, says he chose Minuteman because he “didn’t want to get out of high school and not know what I was going to do with my life.”

Hurley graduated in 2014 with a certificate that helped him get started as an electrician’s apprentice. If he becomes a certified electrician, he can expect to make about  $40,000 a year to start. That’s higher than the median wage for all workers in the United States.

Michelle Roche, director of career and technical education at Minuteman, says lots of kids who might otherwise drop out of high school end up thriving in vocational school.

“The students who have not felt success when they’re in a traditional academic school, where they've got to sit, the teacher’s talking at them, they’ve got to regurgitate this information, they've got to memorize and study. They’ll come here and they’re standing on their feet, they’re working with their hands, they figure out a problem,” she says. “And success breeds success.”

Graduation rates at regional vocational high schools in Massachusetts are actually higher than at traditional high schools.

'If I went to college, I would waste a crap-load of money'

Liz King, the aspiring hairdresser, convinced her mother to let her go to Minuteman, by promising to take all the college prep classes, in case she changed her mind about going to college.

But King says she knew college wasn’t for her.

“I thought that if I went to college, I would waste a crapload of money,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t good at studying. I was a procrastinator. And if someone was like, ‘Hey Liz, let’s go party, hey Liz, let’s go NOT study,’ I would’ve been like. ‘OK!’ I’m not self-motivated like that.”

But she is motivated about her career in cosmetology.

King graduated from Minuteman in 2004. By then, she had completed enough training hours in school to take the exam for her cosmetology license. She took the test days after she finished her high school classes and had her license by the time she walked across the stage to get her Minuteman diploma.

“My thing was having my certification before I walked,” she says. “That was more important to me than my diploma.”

King is now 28. She’s married, has a baby, and is doing what she loves.  She and a business partner recently opened their own hair salon. It’s called J&L Studio, in Arlington, Massachusetts.

King won’t say how well it’s doing, but she says her family is “good, we’re comfortable, we’re paying our bills.”

She also says that when it’s time for her daughter to look at high schools, she plans to take her to Minuteman.

“Who knows, she might be book smart and want to be a doctor and then I don’t know if Minuteman would be the right choice for her. Maybe she would need like a Harvard-type high school. But, says King, “I want her to know that it’s not one way or no way.”

What you learn, what you earn

Average earnings of U.S. workforce by education

Graduate degree$76,000 Bachelor's degree$54,300 Associate's degree$42,088 Certificate$34,946 Some college, no degree$34,624 High school graduate$29,202 High school dropout$20,480 Source: Georgetown University

What do I love to do?

Ed Bouquillon, the superintendent of the school district where Minuteman is located, says when students graduate from Minuteman he wants them to be able to answer two questions: What do I do well? And what do I love to do?

“And we’ll connect the answers to occupations or college majors,” he says.

When he meets with parents, he asks them if they know the answers to those two questions.

“Some say ‘yeah,” he says. “And some say, ‘Boy, I wish someone had asked me that in high school.’”

The numbers for October 24, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 08:35

Amazon shares dropped 95 cents at close Thursday and the company posted disappointing earnings with operating losses at $544 million. It has been a big quarter for Amazon, with new acquisitions, well-received original series, ugly publisher fights and a disastrous smartphone launch.

The Fire Phone loomed large over the earnings call, which by itself has cost Amazon $170 million. With that new perspective, Forbes just published a review of the cash-hemorrhaging, actually-not-bad device.

Here are some other numbers we're watching and other stories we're reading Friday:

$5.5 million

Ello is jumping off of that new venture capital infusion and becoming a public benefit corporation, Wired reported. Critics have noted the social network's ad-free, data-benevolent ethos might not stand up to investor pressure or future revenue opportunities. But its new PBC status — a relatively new designation — and charter prohibits Ello or any future buyer from selling advertising or user data.

64 percent

The portion of American adults who don't know that online price discrimination — steering different users toward different price points based on cookies and other data — is legal. A new study from Northwestern University shows this practice is widespread, used by major retailers and travel sites. Time has a guide for users trying to get the best price.

95,000

That's how many temporary employees UPS will bring on this holiday season, up 10,000 from last year. Overall, holiday retail hiring is expected to surpass 800,000 employees this year, the highest it has been since 1999. Though those temp positions only turn into permanent jobs for a few.

$200,000

The man who bought Ebola.com for $13,500 just sold the domain name to a Russian cannabis company for $200,000 in cash and stock, the Verge reported. That's $50,000 more than his asking price.

In Minnesota, Abandoned Wheelchairs Are Just Part Of The Landscape

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 08:09

If you live in Rochester, Minn., you'll get used to seeing wheelchairs left in odd places. The city is home to the Mayo Clinic, after all. But some of those wheelchairs venture far afield indeed.

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Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 07:53

New research suggests that curiosity triggers chemical changes in the brain that help us better understand and retain information.

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Halloween High Jinks For Fun And Nonprofits

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 07:11

Many Americans are not scared to reuse old clothes for new Halloween costumes.

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Dallas Nurse Nina Pham, Now 'Ebola Free,' Discharged By NIH

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 07:04

The National Institutes of Health in Maryland announced that the 26-year-old who was infected while caring for a Liberian patient has no detectable virus in her blood.

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Boko Haram Reportedly Abducts More Girls Despite Cease-Fire Deal

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 06:22

A day after Nigeria's announcement last week that a truce had been signed and the release of more than 200 girls secured, 25 more were said to have been kidnapped by extremists.

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VIDEO: Talking While Female

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 05:03

For starters: Your voice is too squeaky, too loud; it lacks authority, is grating or obnoxious or unprofessional. Why is talking while female such an offense?

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Mali's First Ebola Case In Current Outbreak Is 2-Year-Old Girl

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 04:10

The toddler was reportedly brought by her grandmother from neighboring Guinea, where the epidemic is raging.

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A Wisecracking Biochemist Shares Her Kitchen ABCs

NPR News - Fri, 2014-10-24 03:03

Shirley Corriher, author of Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, has tips on taking the bitter bite out of coffee, and holding onto cabbage's red hue while it's in the pan.

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PODCAST: All I want for Christmas is a gift I ordered

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-10-24 03:00

A physician who traveled to West Africa to care for Ebola patients is now in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. More on precautions being taken in his care. Plus, some news out of Europe this morning: members of the European Union have agreed on new targets for emissions. Back here in the states, investors continue to pay attention to energy prices which are on the decline. More on that. And in Chicago this weekend, UPS will hold a recruiting event to hire temporary drivers. The company says it needs 95,000 seasonal workers to meet the demand from holiday shoppers and to avoid what happened last year.

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