National News

Unlocking the digital classroom for kids in lock up

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Technology has become an integral part of education. Students are increasingly learning with help from laptops, iPads and other digital technology. Schools are embracing blended classrooms, which mix traditional and online learning.

But technology presents unique hurdles for the juvenile justice system, which has been reluctant to introduce computers and the internet into secure facilities.

Since 2013, San Diego County has been confronting the challenges of introducing laptops — and digital learning — into its juvenile justice facilities.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Marketplace takes a look at the surprising results. Check back then for the full story.

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The Comcast merger with Time Warner isn't a sure thing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Last February, when Comcast announced it was buying Time Warner Cable, federal approval of the merger didn't seem like a major hurdle. The two biggest cable companies said their merger wouldn’t reduce competition — and wouldn’t result in higher rates —  because geographically, they served different markets.

However, as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to rule on the merger in late March, investors seem to think the deal may fall through. Time Warner's stock has been trading at prices below the amount Comcast has offered to pay.

"There’s a lot changing in how people consume media," says Amy Yong, an analyst with Macquarie Group. "And that’s why it’s become a lot more contentious than a lot of people originally anticipated."

She means cord-cutting — getting video on the Internet instead of over cable TV — has started to look more like a reality. For instance, HBO announced last fall that it would soon offer a stand-alone online service, no cable package required.

That prospect raises new questions about Comcast and Time-Warner, companies that sell both cable TV and broadband services. As broadband providers, might they choke out cord-cutting services to protect their TV business?

The FCC has started looking at new regulations to prevent just that, including a proposal to regulate broadband services as a utility.

"The actions that we've seen may suggest a mindset that is more concerned about competition in broadband, and simply less hospitable to further mergers in this sector," says Kevin Werbach, a Wharton School professor and former counsel to the FCC.

The FCC's concern might spell trouble for the Comcast merger. 

However, Jeff Wlodarczak, CEO of Pivotal Research Group, thinks Comcast's interests in selling broadband services, and the FCC's interests in protecting video services like Netflix or the new HBO service, line up just fine.

"Cable has no real interest right now in doing anything that makes Netflix less attractive," says Wlodaczak. "Netflix consumes massive amounts of bandwidth." And as a broadband provider, Comcast wants to sell more bandwidth, not less.

Who should have the key to your messages?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Remember when UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he wanted to pass a law that would compel messaging apps to provide a backdoor for security agencies? That would, in effect, ban encrypted software that has no key. President Barack Obama agreed with him.  

In response to that proposal, Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of internet law at Harvard University, wrote an open letter to Cameron, explaining why he thinks it’s a “very bad idea.”

It’s one thing to try and regulate WhastApp, says Zittrain, because the government knows  where Facebook “lives,” and the Silicon Valley company has assets that could be seized.

But what happens when someone produces the next wildly popular messaging app? What if that someone happens to be, as Zittrain wrote in his letter, “two caffeine-fueled university sophomores?” They would be pretty hard to regulate, or even find, according to him.

“You’re kind of stuck, which means you have to go double or nothing,” says Zittrain. “You now have to try to regulate the entire app ecosystem.”  

Even if that were to work, which he doubts, he believes the price is not worth the reward. The way he sees it, it’s similar to a rule that would allow the police to walk into people's homes without a warrant and look around to make sure everything is fine.

“That might well reduce crime, but it’s just not something that a free society would tolerate,” says Zittrain.


Gas prices inch up as refinery strike continues

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

The nation’s largest refinery strike in decades continues. The United Steelworkers’ strike began on the first of February and has now expanded to 12 facilities, including the nation’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. The union is striking over the use of contract workers and worker safety, among other issues.  

Since the strike started, average gasoline prices have risen modestly. Most of the affected oil refineries are still running, staffed by managers and most likely, some contractors. Shell Oil is the leading oil company negotiator in the labor dispute.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Why water should cost a lot more

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

In today’s markets, the price for water does not follow typical supply and demand considerations and does not reflect water scarcity. In many high-growth regions of the world, the price of water is actually inverse to its scarcity. The disconnect between market price and risk makes it hard to substantiate the business case to invest in water conservation strategies. It also encourages growth in regions where water is scarce – and therefore where growth will be least sustainable.

In many major cities shown on the infographic, the price businesses pay for water is much less than its full value. Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, for example, have a risk premium 2 ½ to 4 times higher than the current price of water. Looking ahead, this risk is also expected to grow over the next ten years as populations grow and the demand for water grows. For cities like Las Vegas, Dallas, or Phoenix, whose populations and economies are forecasted to grow significantly, water scarcity presents a significant risk to businesses vitality and profitability. 

Data provided by Trucost and Ecolab.

Uber's valuation is surging

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:30

That's the Austin, Texas metro area's "economic segregation index," and it's the highest of the country's big cities. Two researchers from the University of Toronto devised the metric, the Washington Post reported, which shows how likely residents with disparate income, education and occupation are to live in separate neighborhoods.


That's how much a cubic metre of water costs businesses in Los Angeles. That's pretty cheap, especially considering that when you factor in water scarcity and the likelihood of drought, it should cost more like $5.97. And L.A. isn't the only city where water costs beer prices for champagne tastes. It's a problem across the U.S.

$2.6 billion

Speaking of water, it will cost Washington D.C. an estimated $2.6 billion to complete an underground tunnel system that can handle excess water when storms hit. Right now, flooding water can only go into sewage pipes, creating a cocktail of rain and raw sewage that ends up flowing directly into the rivers. With the new pipe system, the mixture will have a place to go to be stored and treated. And for those who scoff at the price tag, some would argue that its better to pay preventative costs to handle flooding rather than deal with the damage after the fact.

$41 billion

Uber's valuation as of its latest round of fundraising, more than double what it was worth in June. The Verge has an interactive graphic showing just how far the the tech start-up bubble has expanded, with valuations and fundraising for the biggest companies on a spectacular rise in the last year alone.

$1.087 billion

The global box office gross of "Transformers: Age of Extinction," which was set in the U.S. but featured an explosive climax in Hong Kong. That diversity in setting — or having no Earth-bound setting at all — defined global box office winners in 2014, according to an analysis by CityLab.

8 regions

Napa Valley may soon be sour grapes. Over at Bloomberg, they've profiled 8 regions which are up-and-coming in the wine industry. Thanks to factors like changing tastes and climate change, places like Tokaj, Hungary and the Republic of Georgia are producing bottles worth uncorking.

'Weird' Fern Shows The Power Of Interspecies Sex

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:52

Two species of fern that diverged 60 million years ago are as evolutionarily distant as, say, elephants and manatees. Nonetheless, the two species recently produced a hybrid, say astounded botanists.

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Army Corps Project Pits Farmland Against Flood Threat

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:51

A levee project would cordon off lucrative farmland along the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri. But small towns in Illinois say that puts them at risk of flooding while protecting rich farmers.

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Analysts Fear A Prolonged Drop In Oil Will Hurt Oklahoma's Banks

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:50

Oklahoma oil is expensive to produce, so the sharp drop in prices has forced many drilling companies to cut jobs. If prices stay low, the pain could spread to the banks that finance the oil industry.

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In LA, Missing Kindergarten Is A Big Deal

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:48

Research shows that missing school in the crucial early days of school leads to problems later on. In Los Angeles, educators are working to raise kindergarten attendance.

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How Do You Market To Millennials?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:46

Young people between the ages of 18 and 35 spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year. NPR asked some in this group how brands and corporations can get their attention.

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Washington State County Unsure If It Can Take Wave Of North Dakota Crude

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:42

Once a booming timber area, Grays Harbor County is the site of three proposed oil terminals. The local fishing industry sees the uptick in oil movement as a big risk, with limited economic benefits.

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As Homeland Security Steps Up Cybercrime Fight, Tech Industry Wary

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 23:37

The Department of Homeland Security, an agency repeatedly criticized for internal mismanagement and bloat, is the cornerstone of the new White House initiative to fight cybercrime.

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'American Horror Story' Cast Member Ben Woolf Dies At 34

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 21:32

Ben Woolf died Monday after being injured in a street accident, a spokesman said. The 4-foot-4 actor was hit by the side mirror of a passing vehicle on an LA-area street last week.

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Despite Furious Objections, Bill O'Reilly's War Claims Warrant Scrutiny

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 19:17

The Fox News star's claims of reporting from a war zone, bullets flying, during the Falkland Islands war don't appear to hold up. His countercampaign against his accusers is noteworthy as well.

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Reports: Red Sox Sign Cuban Phenom Moncada To Contract Worth At Least $30M

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 17:13

The 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder Yoan Moncada has been the talk of pre-season baseball. The Sox would also have to pay about another $30 million to Major League Baseball in an overage tax.

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'Cold Actually Feels Good' At The U.S. Winter Swimming Championship

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 14:01

Last weekend, more than 40 swimmers from around the country competed in the inaugural American winter swimming championship in northern Vermont. They swam in a two lane pool cut into an icy lake.

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Acidifying Waters Are Endangering Your Oysters And Mussels

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 13:46

Many coastal communities that harvest shellfish could soon be hurt by ocean acidification, a study finds. The Pacific Northwest and New England are hot spots, as are estuaries along the East Coast.

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Awash In Social Media, Cops Still Need The Public To Detect Threats

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 13:31

It's hard to know when to take violent language seriously online. But when Jonathan Hutson saw an anonymous threat to an unnamed school on Twitter, he couldn't let it go.

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Good News: More Crops! Bad News: More Plague!

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-23 13:11

Tiny patches of Tanzanian farmland contain more rats in nearby forests. These rats are more likely to carry the bacteria that causes the plague in humans.

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