National News

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 12:02

An NPR investigation has found an explosion in the use of fees charged to criminal defendants across the country, which has created a system of justice that targets the poor.

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Why Google isn't really 'free'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 11:43

Martin Smith says its OK for you to be outraged by the NSA's surveillance programs, but still use Google and Facebook every day.

“People like the connectivity that they get out of giving information to private companies,” says Smith, producer of the two-part Frontline documentary "United States of Secrets". “And we haven’t seen the kind of abuses [with private companies] that we associate with government overreach. When George Orwell wrote "1984", it was about government. It wasn’t about private corporations.”

But private companies aren’t totally in the clear. Companies like Google may not have been doing the spying. But Martin says that when the government came calling, they didn’t ask many questions.

The documentary includes a clip of President Bush speaking shortly after 9/11:

BUSH: “The new law that I signed today will allow surveillance of all communications used by terrorists. Including emails, the internet, and cell phones.”

“It was kind remarkable to go back and in the context of what we know now listen to what President Bush was then saying,” says Smith “It was all laid out. The companies clearly had to know.

Smith says what we need to remember is that services like Gmail aren’t really free. At heart, Google is an advertising company. They make money by selling stuff to their users. The more data they have, the better the internet giant is at selling their users more stuff

“When Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google put together their search engine, that could have been a service that you paid for. Instead, its a 'free service.' But what we are giving in return is access to our personal data.”

Frontline's"United States of Secrets" Part II airs Tuesaday night on PBS.

Victories In Oregon, Utah, For Same-Sex-Marriage Proponents

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 11:08

In Oregon, a federal judge overturned a state ban on the practice and in Utah, a judge said the state must recognize hundreds of gay marriages that had already taken place.

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Sandwich Monday: The White Castle Waffle Breakfast Sandwich

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 10:52

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try the latest bewaffled breakfast item: the White Castle Waffle Breakfast Sandwich.

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Occupy Wall Street Activist Gets 90 Days For Assaulting Officer

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 10:48

Cecily McMillan was convicted earlier this month of elbowing a police officer during her arrest at an OWS rally in March 2012.

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Two obsessed guys and a radical motorcycle design

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 10:24

Ten years ago JT Nesbitt was one of the top motorcycle designers in the world. His picture graced the cover of magazines. Celebrities sought out his extravagantly expensive machines. But in 2005, while he was visiting a prince in the Middle East, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and destroyed Confederate Motorcycles, the company that built Nesbitt’s bikes. Seven years later, his career hadn’t recovered. He was about to take a job waiting tables in the French Quarter, when a stranger showed up on his doorstep and turned his life upside down.

The stranger was a fan of Nesbitt’s work. He wanted to see his latest motorcycle projects. But, Nesbitt explained, he hadn’t designed a bike in seven years, and he was broke. The stranger looked around the shop and offered to buy Nesbitt a drink. So the two of them took a walk down Decatur street, to a French Quarter bar called Molly’s .

They took a seat at a table and ordered beers. And then the stranger asked Nesbitt a question.  “He says, 'What would you do if you could do anything?'”

The stranger says he asked the question on a whim, “I just honestly wanted to know, and [Nesbitt] was momentarily dumbfounded because nobody had asked him that. But strangely, as if it were rehearsed, he had his notebook with him.”

Nesbitt always carries his sketchbook with him.  And so he pulled it out. But before opening it, he made the stranger swear on his grandmother’s eyeballs that he wouldn’t tell anyone about what he was about to show him. The Stranger agreed. So Nesbitt opened up his sketchbook.

Courtesy of JT Nesbitt

The "Stranger’s" name turned out to be Jim Jacoby and in many ways, JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby are opposites. Jacoby loves technology; he thinks it can be used to better mankind. Nesbitt shuns most modern conveniences. He doesn’t have phones that can text. Jacoby is soft-spoken, an introvert. “Even having a conversation like this is outside of what I would find comfortable,” he said in a recent interview. Nesbitt can be blunt and abrasive. “Dude, that’s a stupid question,” he once responded to a question I asked.

But one trait they both share is obsessiveness. “This is the only thing that I think about,” said Nesbitt referring to his design project, “and the only thing I’ve thought about for the last eight years.”

Jacoby says he asked to see Nesbitt’s sketchbook simply out of curiosity. What he saw were the drawings of a bizarre looking motorcycle. But the more he thought about them, the more began to see the motorcycle as a solution to a much bigger problem: The decline of industrial design and craftsmanship in America.

“It's unacceptable,” said Jacoby, “that somebody like JT would be sitting here waiting, unable to do what he’s capable of doing. And if we don’t capture this in people like JT and many other incredibly talented people who work with their hands first and then transfer things to computer, we’ll have lost something incredibly valuable.”

Jacoby is a successful entrepreneur who started a company in 2001 called Manifest Digital. It builds websites and does social marketing for large corporations like McDonalds. He built it from nothing and had 140 employees working for him. But he was starting to have doubts about the life he had built around his company.

“A company that needed to be profit driven and hit certain numbers... and I was trying to [save] the world... those two things are hard to square,” said Jim.

The meeting with Nesbitt pushed him over the edge. He made the decision to quit the company he founded.

And then he took his life savings and handed them over to Nesbitt to fund the building of three prototypes of this unusual machine. But the motorcycle commission is just one part of something bigger.

“The goal is to separate the drive for profit from the act of designing,” explained Jacoby. He wants to remove the corporate constraints that normally hinder industrial designers like Nesbitt.  Nesbitt doesn't have to worry about things like keeping the cost of materials down or designing for mass appeal.

One of the reasons Nesbitt was on the verge of going back to being a waiter is that he is unwilling to compromise.

“If Jim hadn't shown up I would be serving you lunch,” said Nesbitt, “and that’s OK. There’s honor in that. I’d rather be the guy serving you lunch than a guy who is building a compromised motorcycle for mass consumption.”

Jacoby has not given Nesbitt any design restrictions for this motorcycle. Nesbitt has complete and total freedom. “So I don’t have to worry about 'Will people like this or that?', which frees me up to do pure design, pure art.”

JT and Jim are trying to create a new type of patronage system. They compare it to the Medici’s, the wealthy banking family that birthed the Italian Renaissance. They call this system the ADMCi, short for "The American Design and Master Craft Initiative".

“I think we're at the beginning now of what could be another Renaissance,” says Jim. “You have more money sitting on the sidelines through private equity and venture capital and in business profits than has ever existed. My goal is to lead through example and inspiration, and say, 'Let’s believe in great craftsmen first, and put that money to work with them.' And the byproduct will create all kinds of other business opportunities.”

The ADMCi is made up of three entities. One of them is a nonprofit called The Master Practitioner Foundation. This entity will apply for grants, and most importantly seek out wealthy donors, or patrons. JT is building three prototypes. When they are finished, JT and Jim will likely sell them for about $250,000 each. But whoever buys one won’t own it outright. They will be more like stewards of the motorcycle. In the same way an art collector might purchase a painting to be on display to the public, the motorcycle may be part of a traveling museum exhibit.

 

JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby.

Scott Tudury

David Lenk is an industrial design expert who also designs museum exhibits for a living. Lenk thinks the ADMCi could help reverse the decline of industrial design and manufacturing in America, which, he says, peaked in the mid 1950s: “You can walk through any flea market aisle today and find a Sunbeam blender or an Emerson fan or Bakelite Xenith radio from the late '40s to early '50s and, not only do they look good, they probably still work.”

But, said Lenk, things started to change in the mid-50s. “The Harvard MBA grads started fanning out with their evangelizing of planned obsolescence, and finance became more important than corporate traditions of design or quality. And by the mid 60s it was all gone. It’s just junk.”

Lenk believes that if the ADMCi’s first commission is a big enough success, if it makes a big enough splash, it could be a model for a new way to fund innovation and design, an alternative to traditional profit-driven investment models. It’s part of a decentralization that’s occurring, he said, “sort of an anti-corporate, structures that are like virtual teams of suppliers that come together to support efforts that will allow individuals with ideas such as JT Nesbitt to produce.”

Jason Cormier

Lenk’s involvement in this project happened entirely by chance. Nearly two years after JT first showed Jim his sketchbook at Molly’s, the two of them were back at the bar in their usual spot when Lenk happened to sit next to them. “It was a real motorhead moment. Within two sentences we were talking about French Coach work of the 1930s.”

And then JT told David about his motorcycle prototype which by this point was nearly complete. It was in his shop just a few blocks away.  The conversation ended, said Lenk, with an invitation to visit JT’s shop that Saturday, “but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.”

Hacking won't scare U.S. companies out of China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 10:11

The Department of Justice announced today that five Chinese military officers have been indicted for allegedly hacking trade secrets from U.S companies.

It’s the first time that the U.S. has charged specific foreign officials with cyber espionage, but as Marketplace's China correspondent Rob Schmitz tells us, it’s actually sort of old news.

“A little more than a year ago we learned that the People’s Liberation Army hacked into dozens of U.S. companies, stealing reams of intellectual property,” says Schmitz. “But this news and its implications were cut short: Right after it was discovered, Edward Snowden released what amounted to a nuclear bomb on the U.S. intelligence community by exposing the NSA’s spying operation.”

Schmitz says China probably wants the trade secrets to help build up its infrastructure. The hacking allegedly took place three or four years ago, when China had just announced plans to build dozens of nuclear power plants across the country.

“Of course the United States has a lot of experience building nuclear power plants. So it could be reasonably assumed that China was cutting and copying the U.S.”

Schmitz says hacking is a growing problem for U.S. companies, but that doesn’t mean they’ll abandon their operations in China.

“The companies that were hacked last year were too scared to complain about having their technology stolen by the Chinese, because they were afraid of upsetting one of their most important global markets. Unless U.S. companies stand up for themselves and start publicly complaining about this, I think the hacking will go on for quite a while.”

Cats, video games, funerals: All with video on demand

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 09:31

According to Variety, Google is in talks to buy Twitch, a live video game streaming service, for close to $1 billion. Yup, a website that lets you watch other people play video games may be worth $1 billion. Fans don't even have to fire up their own version of "Call of Duty." The reported deal illustrates the growth of live streaming technology. For example:

Streams that make us go Squee! Streaming service provider UStream says the market for live streaming is growing. Right now it says it gets about 77 million unique global views a month -- a year ago at this time it got just 55 million. The company says it broadcasts everything from church services, to content broadcast by citizen journalists to disc jockey lessons. Animal cams, it notes, are always popular:

1. French bull dog puppies!

2. Baby Hummingbirds!

3. Kitty rescue center cam!

Life event live streams

1. Graduations
In case you can't get enough tickets for grandma, grandpa, and grandma and grandpa.

2. Weddings

You may not catch the bouquet, but you also don’t have to shell out for plane tickets.

3. Funerals

Mark Krause of Krause Funeral Homes says he started offering a streaming service in 2009, charging consumers about $195 on top of  regular costs. While Krause notes that the stream wasn’t meant to replace the ceremony itself, he says it was  helpful for family members who weren’t able to physically attend. Unfortunately Krause notes that just a few years ago, the technology was too unstable to provide a seamless experience for consumers: "It's more on the bloody edge, than the cutting edge," he says. "I'm always about trying innovating things but funeral directors won't provide it if they can’t rely on it."

Other

1. 2014 Rope Skipping National Championships

BrightRoll, a tech platform that powers video advertising on the web says sports make up a massive, disproportionate share of streamed video. Tim Avila, Senior Vice President of Marketing Operations at BrightRoll says there was a 176% increase in live video ad views between 2013 and 2014.
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sctv18

2. Bigfoot cam.

Do you believe? Watch this stream and maybe you'll finally spy proof for your theories.

3. London Bridge

Like bridges? Like London? You will love this.

E. Coli Fears Spark Recall Of 1.8 Million Pounds Of Beef

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 09:28

Investigators say at least 11 people have been made ill by products that were recalled in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

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Whoa! Watch A Spectacular Supercell Take Form In Wyoming

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:51

A storm chaser caught the formation of an extreme thunderstorm in Wyoming. It looks like it's out of a science-fiction movie.

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California Chrome To Run In Belmont, Nasal Strips And All

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:33

There was concern the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness would not be allowed to wear nasal strips at the June 7 Belmont Stakes, the third leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.

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'Fed Up' Portrays Obese Kids As Victims In A Sugar-Coated World

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:08

A new documentary argues that the food industry and government policies have pushed too much sugar on children and caused the childhood obesity epidemic. But the industry says society is to blame.

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New Sitcom 'Unapologetically Embraces' Asian-American Family Life

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:05

Fresh Off the Boat will be one of the first network sitcoms in decades to feature an Asian-American cast. Critic Jeff Yang, whose son plays the lead, talks with host Michel Martin.

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Flooding In Balkans Kills Dozens, Threatens Power Supply

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:05

Months' worth of rain has fallen in Bosnia, Serbia and parts of Croatia in recent days. A Bosnian official compared the scope of the damage to the Yugoslav war of the 1990s.

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TV Networks Double Down On Diversity This Fall

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:04

Many new shows this fall feature diverse casts or a person of color in a leading role. But will people actually tune in? NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans weighs in.

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Less Sleep For Little Kids Linked To More Belly Fat Later On

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:04

Need another reason to get the kids to bed on time? The more sleep young children miss out on during early childhood, the more likely they are to be obese at age 7.

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In Europe And America, New Internet Rules Up For Debate

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:03

Rey Junco of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society breaks down recent developments on net neutrality and the control of information online.

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'New York Times' Upheaval: Is This A Barack Vs. Hillary Moment?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:03

The New York Times has fired Jill Abramson, making Dean Baquet the paper's first African-American executive editor. The move has sparked a debate about newsroom diversity and 'editing while female.'

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3 Million Young People Missing From Housing Market? It's Everyone's Problem

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 08:02

Fewer young adults are buying homes today compared with a decade ago. The National Housing Conference's Lisa Sturtevant and NPR's Marilyn Geewax explain worries that it could harm the housing market.

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Supreme Court Will Hear TSA Whistleblower Case

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 07:29

The case pits the Department of Homeland Security against a former air marshal who told reporters about policies he didn't agree with, including a plan to not put agents on long flights.

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