"March madness" is around the corner. So is the selection of a new pope. Religion News Service is bringing the two together.
The restaurant chain hopes a new system for analyzing big data sets will help it spot patterns of complaints across its more than 170 outlets in a matter of hours, not weeks. The goal: to spot problems small and big (soggy pickles? foodborne illness?) before they balloon.
Apple has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought by angry parents who said their kids racked up big bills on iTunes purchases. They're called "in-app" purchases and they usually let players of a free game buy extra weapons or to get to a new level or get a whole bunch of virtual goldfish.
That's what happend to Mike Betrand of Boca Raton, Fla. A couple of years ago, his three young children got very into a free iPad game called Tap Fish. "It’s a little virtual aquarium," he explains. "If you want to buy different tanks or you want to buy little castles or little fish, you have to use what appears to be play money."
Thing is, it's not play money. Bertrand discovered this when he happend to notice an Apple iTunes receipt in his email for $149.
"I started going through some other receipts that were trapped in my spam folder and found out that, over the course of about a week, my kids tallied about $1,500 on the game."
Bertrand says his kids had no idea what they'd done. "The kids were very surprised to learn that they were spending real money and really confused about it."
In the proposed settlement, Apple will compensate 23 million angry parents who say the company didn't have proper parental controls in place for in-app purchases. Apple will dole out $5 iTunes gift cards to many parents. Those whose charges topped $30 will get a seperate reimbursement.
Colby Zintl of advocacy group Common Sense Media applauds the ruling, a notes that Apple has since put in place an option that will allow parents to block those purchases. Still, Zintl says, these supposedly free games need standard protections.
"In the case of a game like Smurfs, these kids aren’t even reading," she says. "The ability to press a button and you’re charging your parents’ credit card, you have to question what the business practices are."
Rene Ritchie, editor in chief of tech news site iMore. says those business practices grew out of Apple's app marketplace. He points out early app games charged as much as $10. But nobody wanted to pay that much, "and this model emerged called 'fremium,'" he says.
That’s when the game itself is free, but things inside the game cost money. "Instead of having to earn something in a game, you just buy it," Ritchie says. "Instead of having to wait for your car to get more power or your solider to get more life back, you can buy it immediately. People lose patience and spend money on the game."
Betting on impatience works. Ritchie says all of the top grossing games right now are free...ish.
And they're going to stay free if Mike Bertrand has anything to say about it. "My kids don't know my iTunes password anymore," he laughs.
After a somewhat stormy debate in the Senate over his confirmation, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) has taken over the top job at the Pentagon.
D.) marmelade:Harrison Ford
The answer is obvious, of course, and you should feel deeply, deeply ashamed if it's not. Just close your web browser or phone now, and leave. Otherwise, read on.
The SAT is about to undergo some major changes. According to a letter from David Coleman, the president of the College Board, the main purpose is to "increase the value of the SAT." For students, that means, "focusing on a core set of knowledge and skills that are essential to college and career success." For admissions officers, it means being a better predictor of college success, and for K-12 educators, it means making the test more reflective of what's taught in classes.
From a business perspective, there may be another reason: market share. Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, says many people suspect “the reason the SAT is changing is that the ACT last year overtook the SAT by a very small margin.”
The ACT is the other big admissions test, and the number of students who take it grew 50 percent in the past decade -- 1,666,017 students took the ACT at least once in 2012, versus 1,664,479 who took the SAT.
The ACT used to be primarily a mid-west phenomenon, but it has expanded its range. It's become a required high school exit exam in some states, and it's sometimes viewed as more closely connected to a high school curriculum. The ACT may also just be another exam for people who didn't like how they did on the SAT.
But fighting over market share aside, both ACT and SAT are facing a certain amount of criticism. Wake Forest University, for example, is "test-optional" -- you don't have to take the SAT or the ACT.
“So are 38 percent of all four-year degree granting institutions in the united states," says Joseph Soares, professor of sociology at Wake Forest University and author of "SAT Wars." "It conveys no additional useful information over and above what the high school transcript tells us,” he argues -- and even does so at a cost.
Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, says standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, "reinforce racial and socioeconomic inequality."
But he also says selective schools will still be interested in the exams for their predictive power. "The SAT provides a way of comparing between high schools," he says. Comparing different high schools can sometimes be like comparing apples and oranges, but Kahlenberg says, "It does have predictive value in the first year of school. Which is not irrelevant, because you don’t want to admit students who are likely to fail."
Either way, many schools still value the ACT and SAT and require at least one. Plus, more than a million and a half students each year continue to take one or both standardized tests, whether their favorite school cares or not. According to Scott Jaschik with InsideHigherEd, most colleges that go test-optional still accept SAT and ACT scores, and two-thirds of applicants continue to submit them.
In other words, students will never pass up an opportunity to prove themselves.
Representatives for Iran and the world powers say they are encouraged, but there's still a long way to go before any agreement is possible.
Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced last year that he would build a replica of the famous passenger ship. Now the new ship's designer has released images of what the ship is due to look like. Would you want to sail on it?
Among those watching the papal transition closely are survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including a handful who were selected to secretly meet with Pope Benedict five years ago. They left the meeting hoping the pope would help the church handle past and current cases. Do they think he did help?
Two days away from the sequester, the Dow is pretty much right where it was a month ago. Why is Wall Street seemingly unfazed by Washington's latest fiscal deadline?
Can Groupon revive the daily deal and itself? As the company reports fourth quarter earnings, its new business model will be in the spotlight.
And Internet service providers are rolling out a "six strikes" policy to educate rather than punish people for illegal downloads.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is back on Capitol Hill today to field another round of questions from lawmakers. Yesterday, he warned members of the Senate Banking Committee that the sequester's spending cuts, which kick in on Friday, will harm the already fragile economic recovery.
Juli Niemann, analyst with Smith Moore and Company, joins Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson to break down how the cuts could trickle out into the consumer economy.
Also: Flooding follows snow in the Midwest; Iran will continue international nuclear talks; Taliban uses poison to kill Afghan police and civilians; and Ill. candidate field narrowed for elections to fill Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat.
Yesterday wasn’t a good day for Anheuser-Busch InBev. The company announced its profits fell last quarter, by almost five percent, and it got saddled with three lawsuits alleging the company has misrepresented how much alcohol is in its beer.
Budweiser is what’s called an American lager. For many years, Anheuser-Busch was run by a family with exacting standards.
“They specified the barley, the hops,” says Peter Reid, the publisher of Modern Brewery Age, a magazine about the beer industry. “All the ingredients were top notch.”
He says that InBev, the company that bought Anheuser-Busch in 2008, has a reputation for cost-cutting, but still, he says he is skeptical of what the plaintiffs claim.
“I was surprised in the suit that they hadn’t done independent testing of the alcohol content.”
In a statement, Anheuser-Busch says the claims are “completely false,” and these lawsuits are “groundless.”
Many large-scale beer makers do brew high-alcohol beer, then water it down to a normal level, to sell to consumers.
“It’s much quicker, easier, and cheaper to water down a product later on,” says Matt Simpson, owner of “The Beer Sommelier.” He says that’s one thing, but if the company mislabeled what it was selling, that’s another.