National News

Two cybersecurity agencies diverged in a wood...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:00

In the last month, President Barack Obama has spoken about new cybersecurity initiatives several times. This week, his administration announced that it will establish a new government agency to fight the growing threat of cyberattacks.

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, as it will be called, is expected to coordinate intelligence from similar agencies across the U.S. government — agencies that already exist within the FBI, the NSA, and the Department of Homeland Security.

But that’s easier said than done, says Stephen Cobb, a security researcher at ESET North America. For one, there is already an agency called the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, whose purpose is to protect the U.S.’ “critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.” The only difference, Cobb says, is that it reports to the Department of Homeland Security, whereas the new agency will answer to the Office of Director of National Intelligence.

Sound like the two cybersecurity agencies are being driven apart?

“I hope not but that is the fear,” says Cobb. “The best and most effective role of our government is to identify and sanction people doing this, which is something which is very hard for the private sector to do."


Adding up the costs of new Common Core tests

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:00

The Washington, D.C. headquarters of PARCC seem pretty quiet for an organization about to face its own big test. Starting next week, millions of students will take the first of two rounds of new assessments the group developed.

“It’s like two or three minutes before game time and we’re ready to hit the road running,” says Jeff Nellhaus, director of assessment for PARCC, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s one of two large groups of states that have spent more than four years and $360 million in federal grants building new tests tied to the Common Core state standards.

To explain where all that time and money went, Nellhaus brings up a sample problem on his computer from a fifth grade English test. Students are asked to read a passage from a novel called “Moon Over Manifest.”

It’s copyrighted, so there are royalties to be paid. PARCC also pays a testing company to write questions that reveal how well students have mastered various skills, like reading comprehension.

“Literally dozens of people are looking at the question after that,” he says. The question goes through several phases of review, field testing and revision, with the meter running the whole time.

All that costs around $1,000 for a single multiple-choice question, says Scott Marion, an advisor to PARCC and associate director of the Center for Assessment. A more open-ended question can cost up to $5,000 to develop, he says.

“What started out as a little innocent process of somebody sitting in a room writing a question to a passage is now this sort of Rube Goldberg-esque kind of process that it goes through to actually land on the operational test,” he says.

Every year, the process repeats, as old questions go to the testing graveyard and new ones replace them.

It’s a necessary investment, says Bob Rothman with the reform group Alliance for Excellent Education, as long as tests carry so much weight. They’re used to judge not only students, but teachers and schools.

“If you really want this information about how students are performing, then just buying something on the cheap won’t get you very much,” Rothman says.

Still, to keep costs down, PARCC made a shorter test with more multiple choice questions than originally planned. The price works out to about $24 per student, around the average PARCC says states paid for tests in the past.


In safety Rx, NFL makes high-profile recruit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:00

In its efforts to improve player safety, the National Football League has recruited a prominent physician, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, as its first chief health advisor.

Nabel, a cardiologist, is the president of the prestigious, Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She is also a professor of medicine at Harvard.

In her new advisory role at the NFL, which is expected to consume about one day a month of her time, she will have broad oversight over internal and external medical staff, a league spokesperson said in an emailed response to questions. That oversight includes potentially changing what the NFL spends its research dollars on, which totaled more than $30 million last year.

"My first order of business is to review the medical, health and scientific priorities that the NFL currently has in place, as well as assess the medical protocols and ongoing scientific research collaborations," Nabel said in a written statement.

Last year, the NFL agreed to settle a class action lawsuit for $765 million. The lawsuit was brought by thousands of former football players over head injuries and concussions.

"It's been a very serious problem for a long time," says Robert Cantu, professor of neurosurgery at Boston University and one of about 80 medical experts who advise the NFL. Their research, safety recommendations, and resultant rules changes have reduced concussions by 36 percent over three years, says Cantu.

Elizabeth Nabel will be looking at the work the NFL's advisors have already done and are currently engaged in. Cantu says Nabel will bring her leadership background in running a major hospital, and the resultant skill set of working with many medical experts.

"As an administrator of a high-profile hospital, with the natural egos that go with very outstanding staff, it is a little bit like herding cats," says Cantu.

"The NFL is on such a ubiquitous platform, and it's had such a spotlight on it," says Dan Lebowitz, who heads the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University.

"Looking at the practices within the league around safety ... is not only smart," he says. "It's important in terms of the sustainability of the league."

Wal-Mart, eh?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 01:30
$710.7 billion

That's Apple's market value at the end of the day Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported, making them the first U.S. company to pass a $700 billion market cap. WSJ attributes the growth to Apple's sales in China, which grew a whooping 70 percent during the last quarter alone. 


That's how much it can cost to develop a multiple choice question for the new tests tied to Common Core standards that will be rolled out next week. The high price tag can come from paying for the rights to copyrighted text, outsourcing to a third-party company to write the question, and several layers of vetting—it works out to around $24 per test-taking student. But many say the weight these tests carry merits the costs.


That's what the Disney-owned Marvel Studios reportedly to "lease" Spider-Man for its movies while Sony Pictures keeps the rights to the Marvel Comics character. The arrangement benefits both parties: Sony has struggled with diminishing box office returns and hopes Marvel will give them a boost, while Marvel still holds merchandising rights to the character, and stands to make a mint if "Spider-Man" movies do well. The Hollywood Reporter also cites insiders who say Disney is getting its ducks in a row to potentially buy Sony Pictures.

$765 million

That's how much the NFL agreed to pay towards care and neurological testing for retired players in last year's settlement over concussions sustained during game play. In its efforts to improve player safety, the league has recruited a prominent physician, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, as its first chief health advisor. In her new advisory role at the NFL, which is expected to consume about one day a month of her time, she will have broad oversight over internal and external medical staff.

29 supercenters

That's how many supercenters Wal-Mart says it will build in Canada. Wednesday's announcement comes not long after Target announced it would exit the country after launching its own Canadian expansion in 2013. As reported by the WSJ, the Wal-Mart says the expansion will create nearly 5,000 construction, store and distribution center jobs in Canada.

10 years

That's how long you have to up your earnings before things start to stagnate, the Washington Post reported. A new report from the New York Fed shows wages rise mostly during the first ten years of one's career, in their twenties. The only people who keep making more over their whole career are the to earners, according to the Fed data.

What Causes Breast Cancer? These Families Want To Help Find Out

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 23:40

Many things raise the risk for cancer, including exposure to various toxins and radiation. But our knowledge about the range of chemicals and compounds that can trigger cancer is limited.

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Know Your Exposure: A Cancer Quiz

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 23:03

Throughout life we are subjected to many things that can affect our risk for developing cancer. Take our quiz to learn more.

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U.S. Says Ebola Mission In West Africa Is Coming To An End

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 16:56

At the peak of the Ebola outbreak, the U.S. sent 2,800 Department of Defense personnel. Most who are still there will be back home by April 30.

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New Report Examines Lynchings And Their Legacy In The United States

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 16:44

The report by the Equal Justice Initiative says that the number of victims in the American South was more than 20 percent higher than was thought, and that the phenomenon was a form of terrorism.

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NBC Suspends Brian Williams For 6 Months, Without Pay

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 16:00

The evening news anchor had stepped down voluntarily after he said on air that a helicopter he was on had been hit by fire over Iraq. He later admitted he had "misremembered" the episode.

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Jon Stewart Will Leave 'The Daily Show' This Year

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 14:56

Stewart let the news slip during a taping of his show today. Comedy Central said Stewart will remain at the helm of the influential satire show until "later this year."

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Proposed Law In Puerto Rico Would Fine Parents Of Obese Children

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:49

Education officials would identify the children and parents would have six months to get them to lose weight. If they don't, after another six-month period, parents could face a hefty fine.

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Chelsea Manning To Be 'Guardian' Columnist

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:43

The former Army intelligence analyst, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information, will write for the newspaper's U.S. website. She won't be paid.

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After Ruling, Alabama Faces Hodgepodge Of Same-Sex Marriage Policies

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:33

Gay rights advocates have asked a federal court to order probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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Newly Discovered Footage Shows Sinking Of SS Eastland

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:23

Robert Siegel speaks with grad student Jeff Nichols about his recent find of footage from the 1915 SS Eastland disaster in Chicago.

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Guess How Much Of Uncle Sam's Money Goes To Foreign Aid! Guess Again!

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:17

A poll shows that Americans have no clue about the percent of the budget pie that is directed to foreign aid. But maybe it's not our fault.

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California's Strawberry Feud Ends, But Who Will Breed New Berries?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:06

Strawberry farmers have dropped a lawsuit against the University of California, Davis, and the university has hired a new strawberry breeder. But the future of academic berry breeding is uncertain.

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When It's Hard To Get A Vaccine Exemption, More Kids Get Shots

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 13:00

Robert Siegel speaks to Emory University epidemiologist Dr. Saad Omer about his research into state laws covering non-medical vaccine exemptions.

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With New Moves, Russia's Parliament Looks To Rewrite History

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:58

Russia's seizure of Crimea has been widely criticized. But what if Crimea was given away illegally to Ukraine back in 1954? Russian lawmakers are hard at work on their own version of history.

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Texas Insurance Brokers Play Bigger Obamacare Role

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:54

Despite an uneasy relationship to the health law, insurance brokers are touting their expertise and helping Texans sign up for Affordable Care Act insurance.

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Failing Bridges Taking A Toll; Some States Move To Raise Gas Tax

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:54

With gas prices down, a growing number of states are turning to a gas tax increase. New Jersey looks at following suit to fund much-needed projects, but some drivers aren't eager to pay up.

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