National News

The Most Corrupt State In The Country Is ...

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:11

A new poll says Americans think New York is the most corrupt state in the country. But is it? There are lots of ways to calculate it.

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Confusion over computers in the classroom

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:08

The educational technologies sector has become a $13 billion industry, with a growing list of start-ups and big companies vying for school district funds. At the same time, a lot of school districts are having trouble keeping up with fast-moving changes.

This trend may have something to do with news that the Los Angeles Unified School District wants some of its money back, after halting a plan estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars to buy iPads loaded with educational software from Pearson. The LAUSD complains that the combo of Pearson's software and Apple's iPad has simply not delivered on its promise.

While there is a lot of money and growth in the educational technology sector, LAUSD's travails are signs of what education consultant Allison Bailey of Boston Consulting Group calls the "pitfalls" of fast change. Bailey says part of the problem is that while school districts have been spending money on new technologies, many haven't planned for additional resources needed to train teachers and implement technologies in the classroom. 

A lot of teachers are tech-savvy, Bailey says, just like many students, but "in order for things to be rolled out and fully implemented, we need all teachers to feel comfortable and to understand practically how to get ... best use out of technology."

There are other hurdles for districts, too. New technologies are often unproven by their very nature, so it also makes it hard for districts to figure out what will be useful for them and how to evaluate a product before purchase, Bailey says. 

"Because of the flood of offerings that are emerging in the market," she says, "It's a lot for school districts to actually think through and manage on their own." She says the kind of data that districts will need to make informed decisions will come in the years ahead, as technologies are used and assessed. 

Michael Moe, CEO of GSV Capital, says of the $400 million he manages, he's invested about 30 percent into educational technology firms. He describes the current trend as less of a flood, and more of an "explosion."

"Today, increasingly every teacher has a smartphone," he says, "mainly every school in America is connected."

That has created the right conditions for a lot of start-ups to want to enter into the educational technology arena, Moe says. Venture capital firms have been pouring a lot of money into education technology. Moe's firm runs a summit for ed-tech start-ups, which included about 30 firms five years ago. In the latest summit, says Moe, there were nearly 300 companies.

Big firms are also in the game. Google, Microsoft and Apple are all trying to grab a share of the ed-tech market, as are big educational publishers, such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson. Stephen Baker of NDP Group, a market research firm, says two-thirds of Google's 2014 sales of Chromebook notebooks went to organizations, "and the market assumes that almost all of that has been into education."

Baker also uses the "explosion" word to describe the accelerating ed-tech trend. "What we've definitely seen in certainly the last two to three years is a real explosion of personal devices available ... for students in big educational institutions." 

Smile! We're analyzing how you're feeling using videos

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:05

The advertising world spends a lot of money trying to make you feel something. They want to make you laugh, cry, feel hungry even...anything to sell their products and build brand loyalty. However, tracking whether or not their commercials are working is hard to do. A company called Affectiva says it can help by using video footage to collect emotional data.

Co-founder and Chief Science Officer Rana El Kaliouby says, “Emotions influence every aspect of our life; from how we connect and communicate with each other and also how we make decisions. We feel that our emotions are missing from the digital world and our digital experiences.” Affectiva is trying to change that.

Their flagship program, Affdex, asks viewers to consent to be monitored, and then users’ facial expressions are captured while they watch advertisements. Affectiva has collected 2.7 million videos in 75 different countries. That data is aggregated to analyze how emotionally engaged users are with a service or ad. The program is able to detect smiles, confusion, brow furrow, even how wrinkles may move around an eye. Affdex is now able to understand smiles better than most people can.  

The program is being used primarily for advertising companies, but they are also working on real time video communication with multiple people in a conversation. It may be used to track engagement in online courses, webinars, business meetings, even job interview videos.

Kaliouby recognizes that there are some applications that blur the line, but Affectiva has stayed away from anything without a clear opt in. “We’re more focused on the ones where we feel we can bridge a communication gap,” says Kaliouby. 

Kaliouby’s background is in computer science. She says, “I spent many many hours with my computer and it really bugged me that it was very oblivious to my emotional state and that kind of inspired and motivated me to build an emotionally intelligent computer.”

Watch Kai test out Affdex below:

Etsy's CEO wore all Etsy for the first day of trading

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

File this story under "practicing what you preach."

Etsy — the crafty-sales-retail-homemade items site — started trading this morning, and did really well. Shares popped 88 percent, $30 apiece at the close.

More to the point, though: Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson told Business Insider that everything he was wearing to celebrate the IPO — all the way down to his socks — was bought on the site.

When we had Dickerson on the show about a year ago, he told us his favorite thing he bought on the site: a computer bag made from a French army tent, a leather bomber jacket and a Navy kit bag.

Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce


Etsy's CEO wore all Etsy for the first day of trading

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

File this story under "practicing what you preach."

Etsy — the crafty-sales-retail-homemade items site — started trading this morning, and did really well. Shares popped 88 percent, $30 apiece at the close.

More to the point though: Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson told Business Insider that everything he was wearing to celebrate the IPO — all the way down to his socks — was bought on the site.

When we had Dickerson on the show about a year ago, he told us his favorite thing he bought on the site: a computer bag made from a French army tent, a leather bomber jacket and a Navy kit bag.

Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce


Bankruptcy shields GM from some liability cases

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 13:00

A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that General Motors is shielded from potential liability related to defective ignition switches that occurred before the company's 2009 bankruptcy.

The ruling, from Judge Robert Gerber, is a huge victory for GM as it walks a fine line between accepting responsibility for a safety crisis that has been linked to the deaths of 84 people, and trying to position the post-bankruptcy organization for success going forward.

John Pottow is a law professor at the University of Michigan. He says the ruling is great for GM.

“It’s a big deal because what they were trying to do is bulletproof their bankruptcy reorganization plan,” Pottow says.

The ruling establishes a clear legal separation between the “Old GM”, and the new post-bankruptcy GM. 

Still, the legal cases in this matter are far from resolved. Pottow said the fact that the “New GM” knew about the defective switches, but did not bring up the issue during bankruptcy, could end up helping the plaintiffs.

"The law takes notice incredibly seriously and if someone figures out they did something wrong they have to send out notice right away, particularly if they've discharged something in bankruptcy,” Pottow said.

“So, that could be another hook they're trying to grab on to, to say we still have a second bite at the apple."

Steve Berman, a partner with Seattle-based Hagens-Berman, is co-counsel in the suit against General Motors.  He said they will appeal Judge Gerber’s ruling.

Even factoring out the cars that are shielded from liability, GM could still be on the hook for economic losses for people who bought cars after the bankruptcy.

“Let’s just say conservatively there's still 10 million cars left and the average value of diminution was $700—that's $7 Billion,” Berman said.

In addition to ongoing lawsuits for economic loses, the company also faces legal action from people who were insured in crashes.

In a statement, GM praised the decision and stated that any future claims not barred by the ruling must still be proven in court.

L.A. Schools To Apple: You Owe Us

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 12:37

The Los Angeles Unified School District wants Apple to pay up for poorly performing software on its iPads.

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They Speak Hebrew And Keep Kosher: The Left-Behind Ethiopian Jews

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 12:17

Two years ago, Israel ended with great fanfare a program that brought tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. But many are in limbo, separated from family, the result of stricter religious law.

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New Asian Development Bank Seen As Sign Of China's Growing Influence

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 12:17

China says 57 countries have signed on as members of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but the U.S. is not among them. Some analysts say the bank is a sign of diminished U.S. power.

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In Or Out In Congress? Gyrocopters, Tweets To Iran, Downton Abbey

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 11:55

In Congress, just like at any storied American institution — McDonald's, New York Fashion Week, the Bush and Clinton families — trends come and go.

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Adrian Peterson To Be Reinstated By NFL

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 11:37

The Minnesota Vikings running back was suspended by the league last fall amid allegations of child abuse involving his 4-year-old son.

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Etsy CEO: Leading a country of commerce

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-16 11:02

[Ed note: In honor of Etsy's IPO, our December 2013 interview with Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson]

When you think about the really big names in online retailing just a couple of companies probably come to mind: Amazon, eBay, maybe Apple. But there's another name that can arguably be added to that list. Just 8 years after it started, Etsy does almost a billion dollars a year in annual transactions. Chad Dickerson is the guy who's been running Etsy for the past five years, and we popped into the company's corporate headquarters in Brooklyn to pay him a visit. Etsy's business has doubled under Dickerson's lead, and he says as Etsy grows, so goes its sellers.

"One of our sellers who was doing Etsy as an escape from nursing school, she started to achieve success and some exposure. Fast-forwarding she was noticed buy Nordstrom and did a deal with Nordstrom and now not only has she quit her job but her husband quit his finance job to help her. In this particular case this is literally a mom and pop. Etsy is really about making a life not just a living so we're just giving them the ability to grow and really change their lives."

Dickerson says the growth is just the start of the mark Etsy strives to make. He says the company hopes it won't just give other online retailers a run for the money,  they'll change the whole marketplace.  

"What I see Etsy doing is changing the way things are made. I think the ethos of Etsy, this idea that buying and selling should be all about people will start extending into areas like manufacturing and distribution and all of these things. When I think about what Etsy can do over the next 10 or 20 years it's really humanizing the whole supply chain."


Yoda? Is It Thou? Figure In 14th-Century Manuscript Looks Familiar

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 10:55

A long time ago, in a place far away, a manuscript was created with an enigmatic figure who looks a great deal like a certain little — and yet powerful — green guy from the Star Wars films.

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Scientists Probe Puppy Love

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 10:45

Research shows the mutual gazing between pooches and people spurs release of a "trust hormone" in both. The results suggest dogs really may love us back.

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The Chinese-Mexican Cuisine Born Of U.S. Prejudice

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 10:31

Fried yellow chilis. Baja-style fish. Not the typical Chinese restaurant fare, unless you're near the U.S.-Mexico border. The reasons why go back to an 1882 law enacted to keep Chinese out of the U.S.

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The Fences Where Spain And Africa Meet

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:54

Spain has two tiny enclaves in North Africa, separated from Morocco by fences. Both of them are hugely tempting targets for migrants from across Africa who are desperate to reach Europe.

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In Posthumous Riposte, Editor Of 'Charlie Hebdo' Targets 'Islamophobia'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:44

Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed in the Jan. 7 attack on the French satirical magazine, says the term Islamophobia protects Islam more than it does Muslims — and plays into the hands of racists.

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Study: Insurers Fail To Cover All Prescribed Contraceptives

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:38

An analysis of health plans in five states found limited or no coverage for some forms of contraception. Insurers sometimes imposed copays or required women to pay the full cost of the contraceptives.

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Men Strive To Give More To Charity When The Fundraiser Is Cute

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 09:00

If you're wondering how to get more people to contribute to your online charity drive, consider a photo of you smiling. Even better if you're an attractive woman. Biology is to blame, researchers say.

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Homeless Shelter Opts To Close Instead Of Accepting People On Drugs, Alcohol

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-16 08:43

A group that runs a homeless shelter in Manchester, Conn., will close its 40-bed facility rather than change its rules to comply with a state funding order.

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