National News

Google Announces Foray Into The Wireless Business

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 10:55

The service will only work on Google Nexus phones, but it could potentially disrupt the wireless industry with its pay-only-for-what-you-use data plans.

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Emoticon creator says emoji are :-/

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 10:33

The year was 1982. The internet was in its infancy, and email had just opened up between universities. There was even a kind of social media, remembers Scott Fahlman, computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. You could send an email to a bulletin board to post it up. And just like today, sarcasm was rampant, and often misinterpreted. 

"We would have these flame wars," Fahlman said. "We felt maybe we needed a way to mark the posts that we put up that were just meant to be humorous."

They considered using an asterisk in the subject line, but that wasn't intuitive. Instead, Fahlman threw together three easy-to-find characters: a colon, a dash and a closing parenthesis. :-) 

"I thought, maybe people would turn their heads, and we could make a really nice face in that case," he says. 

Fast-forward a few decades and emoticons moved into work email, chats, and now text messages and tweets in the form of emoji. Fahlman doesn't much care for the cats-with-hearts-for-eyes variant. But he says it's a personal preference.

"People want to make this into a big crusade on my part and it's not. I'm not a fan of the graphical emojis, no," Fahlman says. "I think it took a little bit of creativity to figure out how to make a smiling face out of just text characters. And then for awhile people were inventing more and more complicated ones. Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln and the Pope all being eaten by a python."

An example of ASCII art.


For emoji fans, Fahlman's perspective is less :-) and more . But one thing is clear: pictures help us express emotion and intent where words alone can leave too much ambiguity: softening the tone of a work email, turning a straightforward text into a flirtation, or adding fire to a heated back-and-forth exchange on a message board. And with the vast number of texts, tweets, emails and posts sent each minute, that's an important communicative tool.

Fahlman has worked as a computer scientist for decades, with an eye toward the development of artificial intelligence. Part of his legacy, though, is tied up in the expression of all these feelings, be they textual or graphical. 

"I've reconciled myself to the idea that the first line of my obituary is going to be 'Scott Fahlman who invented the email smiley face (and also made major contributions to artificial intelligence) passed away today.' And depending on how old I am, I guess there will either be a smiley face or a frowny face on the tombstone."

Obama says Elizabeth Warren is 'wrong' on trade

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 10:15

Unions blame job losses on trade deals like NAFTA signed under Bill Clinton. But President Obama argues one he's trying to strike with Pacific Rim countries is different, and it's dividing his party.

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In Its Season Finale, 'Fresh Off The Boat' Is Still Wrestling With Authenticity

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 10:03

Its fiercest critic, Eddie Huang, whose memoir inspired the show, says his life isn't recognizable in it. What's "real" or not is up for debate.

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The bookstore primaries

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 10:02

Before presidential candidates head to Iowa, New Hampshire or Chipotle, they're in your book store.

Looking toward the GOP primaries, Marco Rubio just released his second memoir, "American Dreams"; Ted Cruz's "A Time for Truth" will hit shelves this summer; Rand Paul's second book in three years is out next month; and Jeb Bush is rolling out an e-book. Last year, policy wonks scoured Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices" for clues to a presidential run and an expose about her finances is making headlines ahead of its release.

But writing, selling and releasing a book takes time, even with a ghostwriter. Why is just about every presidential hopeful doing it? What good does it do so early in the election season?

"Primaries are a crazy time, and they are so different from the general election," says D. Sunshine Hillygus, associate professor of political science at Duke University. "So when a candidate can do anything in a primary to get a bit more media attention, a bit more evidence that they might be electable and able to beat the other side, that's ... advantageous."

Sales don't hurt, but the political book is less a moneymaker than it is the foundation of a larger strategy, Hillygus says. As soundbites shrink, a book lets a candidate frame themselves and get out in front of any potential "dirt." In "Dreams of My Father," for example, a young Barack Obama discussed his drug use.

But here's the rub: it's not actually all that important that people read the book.

"Part of the value of the book is not the readership of the book, but the fact that you wrote it," says Craig Allen, an associate professor of journalism at Arizona State University who has written about presidential communication throughout history. Candidates can draw on the book during speeches and debates, he says, giving them an air of thoughtfulness and credibility. Best case scenario: the candidate recaptures the success of John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage," which Allen says inspired many of the politicians who've written books since.

Even if they don't win any Pulitzers, savvy candidates can at least go on a book tour, giving interviews and essentially holding campaign events without ceding media coverage to their opponent under equal-time requirements.

That works if candidates get out their book early enough, says Peter Hildick-Smith, head of the publishing insights firm Codex Group. That's where the current crop of GOP candidates could run into trouble, he says, even if the message is well-crafted.

"If everybody's got their book coming out within a month of each other, it's very hard to get the audience's attention," he says. When candidates release the book early in the election cycle, "you don't have a campaign to run [and you get] to talk to people in a more normal way instead of being on the stump. It's that quiet conversation with Matt Lauer when people aren't really expecting it."

Hildick-Smith's company worked with a candidate on one of last year's political bestsellers. He wouldn't say who, but he did say the book had a larger-than-expected "crossover readership" of independent voters. Part of that comes from striking the right balance between policy and personal writing, along with getting the book out early.

Of course, a candidate's detractors can use similar tactics. The Clinton campaign is already running interference on "Clinton Cash," which comes out May 5 and alleges that foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation lined Hillary's pockets and influenced her policies as secretary of state.

"Clinton Cash" has potential to hurt Clinton because some major news organizations got an early look; the New York Times and Washington Post published deep investigations into the book's claims this week. While Clinton's campaign has a sizable headstart, her long history in politics means she's more vulnerable to this kind of scrutiny, says UC Davis political science assistant professor Amber Boydstun.

"If you took any potential opposing Republican candidate and you put them in public service as long for as she's been in public service, you'd probably have a book about them too," Boydstun says. "In Clinton's case, there's of course going to be dirt, and I'm not sure what the dirt looks like but that could potentially not play well, especially if the media gives credence to [it]."

There's a lot of ink spilled on all sides about candidates, but come Election Day, what impact does it really have? Duke's Hillygus says that's something political scientists are still puzzling out.

"A debate doesn't have much effect, frankly. A single television ad has almost no effect... it's all cumulative and incremental," she says. "What becomes important is: does this book by the candidate help to create a characterization of who they are that sticks? And it's never going to stick on its own."

Spoofing: An explanation using bananas

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 09:37

London-based trader Navinder Singh Sarao, and his company are accused of using software to manipulate the S&P’s futures contracts through a practice known as "spoofing.”

Spoofing means fooling the markets – making it look like you’re doing something, when you’re actually not. How about an analogy?

Imagine you have a booth at the farmers market, where you are selling bananas at two bucks a pound. Suddenly, this guy sets up an empty stall beside you and starts shouting about selling bananas for a dollar a pound. His truck is just coming up the street, he says – the bananas will be here in a minute. All your customers start lining up at his stall! It’s a nightmare!

So now you have to cut your price and sell your bananas for a buck a pound. You sell several boxes to a woman in a green hat. And suddenly, the guy beside you has disappeared! There’s no truckload of bananas coming!

You decide to raise the price back up to two dollars a pound again. When, suddenly, you get a phone call from your wife, who has spotted the truckload of bananas guy at the other end of the market. He’s selling bananas right out of the box, helped by a woman in a green hat. You have been spoofed! They fooled you into selling your bananas at half price, and now they’re selling them at two bucks a pound. 

Site Of Capsized Migrant Boat Was 'Like A Floating Cemetery'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 09:35

Even to experienced emergency crews that have been working to save migrants at sea, it was a shocking sight: survivors bobbing among corpses in the Mediterranean Sea.

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On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow: A Guide To Speedy Vegetables

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 09:31

Impatient gardeners don't have to wait for summer to harvest salad fixings. A surprising variety of crops will bring homegrown produce to your table in as little as three weeks.

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N.Y. Judge Amends 'Habeas Corpus' Order For Chimps

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 09:20

The amended order suggests that the court has made no decision on whether the two research chimps at Stony Brook University can be treated as legal persons.

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At RSA, desperate for data to help understand threats

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:39

The annual RSA Conference is the largest security trade show in the world, and this year, there’s an extra level of desperation in the air. Security vendors and IT chiefs are looking to big data to help them understand how to protect companies from the ever-increasing tide of hackers looking to break in.

 The RSA Conference is, at its heart, a show where the makers of security products come to pitch their wares to big enterprise buyers. Those buyers, of course, are more interested than ever, since big companies and consumers are both reeling from a string of high-profile breaches at <a href="">Sony</a>, JP Morgan, Home Depot, <a href="">Target</a> and others.

 Insiders say there’s a palpable shift in tone from how the security industry used to treat breached companies. They used to be pariahs: companies that had failed and obviously had inferior infrastructure.

 Now, though, the incoming president of RSA tells Fortune magazine flatly that <a href="">"security has failed."</a>

Security products used to promise prevention and protection. At past conferences, a security company might terrify IT officers with tales of potential security flaws and then tout an ironclad fix.

More recently, as breaches got more common and ironclad fixes less believable, the focus shifted to "intrusion detection." Security experts started telling companies that they shouldn’t wonder if a breach might happen — only when.

 So, the next wave of products promised to detect those inevitable breaches sooner, before they got out of control and compromised mass amounts of data (remember, the Target and JP Morgan hackers were roaming around inside the company’s networks for months before anyone noticed). 

So this year, the product focus is something more like troubleshooting.

 "Half the vendors here are talking about some app that can provide intelligence or 'threat intelligence,'" says Chris McClean, a risk and security analyst at Forrester Research. "That’s the buzzword of the year here."

From what I can tell, "threat intelligence" is really just a dramatic way of saying "figure out what’s happening and hopefully what might work to stop the bad guys."

For example, I interviewed Vikram Phatak, CEO of a company called NSS Labs, which is a security research and advisory company that just launched a new product to help companies gather data about where they’re vulnerable to attack and how well their security products are working.

NSS Labs <a href="">just raised $7 million in funding</a> to grow its spectacularly named Cyber Advanced Warning System. It’s basically a subscription service with a web dashboard that offers analytics about a company’s security.

There are lots of points of possible failures. Most companies layer on multiple products, like an intrusion detection service, a firewall and a so-called "endpoint solution" (basically an antivirus or antimalware product like McAfee). And then there’s all the potentially vulnerable software the company runs, like Windows, Java, Flash, Internet Explorer and so on.

The Cyber Advanced Warning System dashboard might show, for example, that lots of attacks are getting through the firewall but being stopped by the antivirus software, but that the company is running an outdated version of Java and needs to update it before someone exploits it and takes over company systems.

 The goal, says Phatak, is to help security pros understand how to better use the software they have, deploy the right settings on their company networks and get "situational awareness" about their overall security systems.  

 McClean says that approach — looking to the data — is a big theme at RSA this year.

 "The message is right," he says. "If you are telling an enterprise, we can take all of the disparate sources of information, we can tell you where you risks are and help you make better business decisions, how to allocate and where to prioritize and whether to use certain vendors in certain regions, then as a vendor, you’re in great shape." 

Still, he says there could be a whole new approach to security by next year, because cybersecurity threats are going to keep increasing for the foreseeable future — that is, there's always something to be afraid of. 

"Every year we say that in the last year we’ve seen breaches that are unprecedented and this totally changes the game," he says. "Next year we’ll say there are new breaches that have changed the game; in three years there will be more breaches that change the game. The game will always have changed."

Bail For Alleged 'Flash Crash' Trader Set At More Than $7M

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:35

U.S. prosecutors say the U.K. man contributed to the 2010 "flash crash" that wiped about $800 billion from the value of shares. He told a London court that he opposes extradition to the U.S.

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Debate: Is It Time To Abolish The Death Penalty?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:15

The practice is under renewed scrutiny after a series of botched executions in several states last year. The emotionally charged issue is at the center of the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

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Why Many Doctors Don't Follow 'Best Practices'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:14

Doctors, it turns out, often don't follow evidence-based guidelines in their practice of medicine. Scientists who study this contrariness think they know why.

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Could It Be? Researchers Find A Hiring Bias That Favors Women

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:03

A new study shows that universities have a 2:1 preference for hiring women for STEM tenure-track positions.

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'People' Names Sandra Bullock, 50, World's Most Beautiful Woman

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 07:57

The actress is the oldest person to head the annual list. But as Clinton and Bush race for the White House, the news seems seems like deja vu — a vision from 1992.

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The 'Folk Feminism' Roots Of The Latina 'Chola' Look

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 07:24

Celebrities like Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Sandra Bullock have appropriated this "tough girl" aesthetic from the cholas of the 90s. But the look actually has some really radical roots.

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Hungary Joins Poland In Condemnation Of FBI Chief's Holocaust Remarks

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 06:48

In a speech last week, James Comey had linked the two countries to the killing of Jews during the Holocaust. They have both said the killings occurred when they were occupied by the Nazis.

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Gift Worth $400 Million To Art Institute Of Chicago Includes Works By Warhol

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 06:43

The donation was confirmed after the museum agreed to display the 42 paintings, silk-screens and sculptures for the next 50 years.

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Saudi Arabia Shifts Military Campaign In Yemen; Airstrikes Continue

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:50

It's unclear what the Saudi-led coalition is planning for the next phase of its military operation in Yemen. The group has said it will protect civilians and ensure the flow of humanitarian aid.

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Why Somali Grandmas And Aid Workers Might Be Short On Cash

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:49

Money transfer agencies are the life blood of Somalia. But Kenya has shut down 13 East African branches to keep money out of the hands of terrorists blamed for a deadly attack early this month.

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