National News

Even Penguins Get The Flu

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 20:03

Adelie penguins, which breed in huge colonies on the rocky Antarctic Peninsula, harbor a version of the avian influenza virus. But this strain doesn't make humans or the birds sick.

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USGS: Okla. Fracking Has Increased Chance Of 'Damaging Quake'

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 16:42

The U.S. Geological Survey and its state counterpart issued a joint statement saying magnitude 3.0 temblors had increased by 50 percent since October.

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Vatican Tells U.N. Committee That Abuse Claims Have Dropped

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 14:52

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said there had been a "stabilization and even decline of cases of pedophilia."

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Goodbye Norton anti-virus software

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-05 14:18

According to Symantec, maker of Norton anti-virus software, anti-virus software is "dead." At least, that's what an executive at the company told the Wall Street Journal

"We at Symantec and Norton have known that the era of AV-only protection has been over for quite some time," says Fran Rosch, Senior Vice President of security products and services at Symantec. (AV, by the way, is short for "anti-virus," not, as I initially assumed, short for "Audio/Visual"... a typical COE mistake ("Child of the Eighties").

Rosch says AV is no longer enough to stop cyber-criminals. Now, you've got a whole new acronym: "ATP, as we like to call it," says Rosch. "Advanced Threat Protection. We can see a file that’s starting to do something really weird, like reaching into an address book. We can then say, “Huh, suspicious, block it right there.” 

If the old virus protection software was akin to building a wall around your computer, the new software goes a step further.

"You want to make sure that the data on your computer isn’t the soft, gooey center any longer," says Barrett Lyon, founder of Take the Target data breach, says Lyon. "If that information was stored in a way that was encrypted and secured better, even though the bad guys got in, they wouldn’t be able to get to the actual information."

The data security industry is expected to balloon to $80 billion in the next few years.

"It’s certainly the busiest time of my career and I’ve been doing this for close to 20 years," says Chester Wisniewski, a senior security advisor at Sophos. "Many of these criminals are making millions of dollars a month and with that kind of resource on the line, they’re not going to roll over and lie down, right?"

Which means the online security business, in one form or another, won’t be dead anytime soon.

*CORRECTION: A photo caption in an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified senior vice president of Symantec Information Security Brian Dye. The text has been corrected.

The Comeback Of Polio Is A Public Health Emergency

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 14:09

The paralyzing virus had seemed on the verge of disappearing. But this year cases are being reported in 10 countries. The World Health Organization has responded with strict vaccination rules.

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When 4 out of 5 teachers are white

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-05 13:31

Close to 50 percent of U.S. public school students are young people of color, but 4 out of 5 teachers are white, according to new research from the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association. Education researchers say a lack of diversity among educators leaves children less prepared for the increasingly diverse workplaces they'll be entering. 

Researchers say there are several reasons for the dearth of diverse teachers, among them, a changing workplace landscape that is more inclusive of African-Americans, Hispanics and others. 

LaRuth Gray, a scholar in residence at NYU's Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, says a few decades ago, teaching was one of a few professions by which African-Americans could gain entry into the middle class. 

Gray said when she was growing up in Texarkana, TX, in the 1950s, "You either became a teacher (which was respected), a funeral parlor director, you worked as a railroad porter, (where you got good tips), or maybe you went to work for the post office. In terms of economics, that's where you went in order to provide a step and a ladder up for your family." 

These days, Gray says, there's simply more opportunity for African-Americans. "The next generation, my daughter, that generation, they're lawyers, doctors. Economically, in the next generation, I can do all kinds of things. I don't have to be a teacher."

Gray, who speaks warmly of the supportive and nurturing environment provided by the African-American teachers of her youth, nonetheless, says that her horizons as a child might have been broadened had she been taught by staff of different backgrounds. 

"It is important in a population of students for the 21st centrury and beyond, we're moving toward a global world, that students see teachers of all backgrounds," Gray said. 

Ulrich Boser, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, who co-authored a new report on diversity among educators, says that in many schools today, the teaching workforce "look[s] like it meandered out of the 1950s." Boser says diversity is important for two very crucial reasons. 

"Research shows students of color do much better in terms of academic outcomes with teachers of color," Boser said. "They see them as role models. Student achievement, graduation rates, test scores all go up."

And for white students, having non-white teachers is a critical part of preparing for the increasingly diverse, "real" world. 

"It's important for white students to engage with Hispanic teachers, to engage with Black teachers," Boser said, "because the world of work is a world in which we have to engage and cooperate and communicate with people who come from different backgrounds." 

What a new CEO at Target will face

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-05 13:11

It’s not just the data breach that sealed Target CEO’s Gregg Steinhafel’s fate. He resigned Monday, effective immediately - and Target is facing existential questions in his wake . 

“What is Target’s real value proposition in today’s retail environment?” says Rajiv Lal, retailing professor at Harvard Business School. 

Since Steinhafel became CEO in 2008, Target’s sales have struggled. Online competition is fierce. It spent a lot of money trying to get a toehold in Canada. And, Target misfired trying to be more like a supermarket.  

“You can’t really have a cachet in terms of design and in terms of fashion, and at the same time sell food,” Lal says.  

Many other retailers now sell designer wares at Walmart prices. But since that data breach, sales have tumbled at Target even faster.   

Finding a better leader isn’t always so easy, though.  

“It’s costly to fire a CEO,” says Luke Taylor, assistant professor of finance at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  

And, according to his research, over the last 20 years top CEO’s are getting fired more often: about 2 percent each year.  

But for companies like Target, it’s expensive and unpleasant to search for someone new. And, new ideas might not be an improvement.  

“Bringing on someone with a new vision is risky," Taylor says. "Sometimes the risks pay off. Sometimes they don’t.”

And many CEOs don’t stay on the job long. Most just last about five years, according to a new report. 

“They can’t come up with eight year plans when you’re talking more like five year turnover,” says Gary Neilson, who co-wrote the report at the consultancy Strategy&, formerly known as Booz & Company. 

Target now has to find someone who can both restore customer confidence after the data breach, and survive in the retail climate more generally. 

More Health Insurance Equals Fewer Deaths In Massachusetts

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 13:08

The state's death rate declined in the four years after Massachusetts passed a law requiring health insurance. The state's minority residents posted the biggest gains in life expectancy.

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Yeezy Or The Bard: Who's The Best Wordsmith In Hip-Hop?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 13:01

A data scientist pitted rappers against Shakespeare to see who had the more extensive vocabulary. But he says he isn't trying to make some sweeping statement about the lyrical prowess of hip-hop.

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How the VIX index tracks investor fear

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-05 12:52

Let’s talk about the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index -- luckily it’s also known as "the VIX".

"Basically it’s just a fancy name for what the market views in terms of risk, going forward,” says Eric Augustyn, head of options strategy group for Wells Fargo Private Bank.

So when markets are going down, the VIX is going up.

"The VIX,  well I sometimes look at it a little bit as a temperature," says Augustyn.

That would be the temperature of fear.  When things are uncertain -- like when U.S. credit was downgrading, the whole debt ceiling debacle, or when Russia was becoming a presence in Ukraine --  the VIX jumps. It’s a measurement of the price of calls and puts, a complicated way investors try to hedge their bets. This week, it’s around 13, but in 2008, during the financial crisis Augustyn notes "the VIX went from 14 to 80.”

So the VIX looks at the price of the insurance that investors are buying.

To understand why that matters just think back to the beginning of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's house, with her in it, gets picked up by a tornado and blown away. The VIX is like a weather report, and Chris Geczy, Academic director of the Wharton Wealth Management initiative and adjunct associate professor of finance at Wharton, says if Auntie Em or Uncle Henry had been able to check it, they might have known tornado season was coming up.

“If you think about the situation with Dorothy," says Geczy, "Dorothy really cares about insurance when the wind is blowing. And the VIX gives us a picture, and a forecast, for how the wind is going to blow.”

Remember, says Geczy, the VIX is forward looking. Most methods of measuring the markets use data from the past.  So if Auntie Em and Uncle Henry had know the twister was coming they could have bought insurance on their house?
“That’s a possibility," says Geczy, though "they’d have to work very fast though, because the weather was coming in.”

Which means last minute insurance would be a lot more expensive. But Geczy says, if Dorothy had been watching the VIX, she would have known what the weather was going to do. And at least she would have had some options.

Failure Of Steel D-Ring May Have Caused Circus Accident

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 12:49

Eleven people, including nine acrobats, were injured on Sunday in Providence, R.I., when support equipment failed and the performers fell to the ground.

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Sinn Fein Leader's Questioning Dredges Memories Of 'Troubles'

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 12:25

Gerry Adams, a leader of Sinn Fein, was questioned in Northern Ireland in connection with an infamous murder 42 years ago. The investigation threatens to impact the fragile peace agreement there.

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Max Planck Goes To Florida, Invites Brain Scientists To Join

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-05 12:25

Germany's famous Max Planck Society has opened a brain research institute in Jupiter, Fla. It's another move in the international competition to attract the best brain researchers.

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Boats Carrying Migrants Capsize Off Greece; At Least 22 Dead

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

The two boats, one a 6-foot dinghy, were carrying dozens of illegal migrants hoping to reach the Greek coast. Four of the dead are children.

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In Venezuela Protests, Report Condemns Police's 'Pattern Of Abuse'

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

A Human Rights Watch report documents brutal force used by Venezuelan security forces against peaceful demonstrators — including beatings, shootings and, in some cases, torture. The report also shows how security forces work in cahoots with pro-government armed gangs, calling the abuses the worst they have seen in years.

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Remembering Economist Gary Becker, Who Described 'Marriage Market'

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

The University of Chicago economist won the Nobel Prize in 1992 for broadening the horizons of economics, using economic analysis to explore social issues. Becker died Saturday at the age of 83.

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To Fight Polio Outbreaks, WHO Lays Down New Rules

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

The World Health Organization is warning that recent outbreaks of polio in the Middle East, Africa and Asia mark a setback to the decades-long effort to eradicate the disease. In response, the WHO has declared a world health emergency. It's asking Syria, Pakistan and Cameroon — current polio hotspots — to require all travelers leaving those countries to show proof of vaccination.

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A Narrow High Court Win For Prayer Before Government Meetings

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

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the government can use Christian prayers to start town meetings, so long as legislators don't discriminate against non-Christians. It's a new chapter in the long-running fight over prayer in public places and on public occasions. NPR's Carrie Johnson explains what happened in the town of Greece, New York.

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Target's Top Executive Steps Down, Brought Low By Data Breach

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

Target is ousting its CEO, months after a massive data breach and amid some other business issues.

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The Intra-Party Landscape, Seen From The Edge Of Primary Season

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

Three states go to the polls Tuesday, starting what will be an eight-week stretch of primaries in the U.S. For a look at the intra-party political landscape, NPR's Charlie Mahtesian has this overview.

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