National News

HBO And 'Game Of Thrones' Haul In The Most Emmy Nominations

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 07:35

HBO got 99 nominations for the 2014 Emmy Awards, the most of any network. HBO's Game of Thrones got 19 nominations, one ahead of FX's miniseries Fargo.

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Germany Asks Top U.S. Spy In Country To Leave

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 07:31

The move comes in the wake of two cases of espionage allegedly involving the U.S. and amid the fallout from the mass surveillance of Germans by the National Security Agency.

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The difference a half second makes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 07:00

A new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago calls for change in the world of high-frequency trading, where firms use superfast computers and connections to buy and sell. Fed senior policy adviser John McPartland is only the latest to weigh in on a debate about the pros and cons of high-frequency trading that has drawn in Wall Street, Congress, and regulators. The fight got the attention of a wider audience after the publication of the best-selling Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys.”

The debate may sound like fodder for Wall Street alone, but it has broad implications for all Americans. Few trade stocks on a regular basis, but many are counting on a pension or 401(k) to be there for them later in life. The companies that manage America’s retirement money deal with the speed trading issue daily, and they disagree whether it’s good or bad overall. Supporters credit high-speed technology with enabling cheaper trading for large and small investors alike. Critics say that same technology is now being used to take advantage of investors.

Among the changes the Chicago Fed paper proposes is to divide trading sessions into half second periods. That’s fast for humans, but a relative lifetime for powerful computers. The hope is that a move like this could end the growing arms race between companies to create ever faster computers and data connections. Variations on this idea have been proposed before, including a 2013 paper from researchers at University of Chicago and University of Maryland recommending a similar policy, with a few key differences.

“That enormously simplifies the market because the incentive to race is gone,” says Peter Cramton, University of Maryland economics professor and a co-author of the earlier study.

Slower and simpler would seem to go hand in hand. But some question whether such a system is feasible in the contemporary financial markets, where trading happens across a myriad of different public and private venues.

“There are some definite advantages to it,” says University of Houston finance professor Craig Pirrong. “My concern is when you have multiple exchanges operating the same way, it’s a very complex interaction.”

High-frequency trading is a deeply complex and polarizing topic, with some of the loudest voices dug into hardened positions, each side waving fistfuls of data and academic studies at the other. Today’s discussion is far from the last word.

Mark Garrison: This debate matters to you. Even if you don’t trade stocks for a living, you’ve probably got a pension or 401(k). Companies managing your retirement money deal with the speed trading issue daily, and they disagree whether it’s good or bad overall. One side points to cheaper trading enabled by high-speed technology. Critics say that same technology is now being used to take advantage of investors. In this new paper, a Fed senior policy adviser calls for trading in half second periods. That’s fast for humans, but a lifetime for computers.

Craig Pirrong: The idea is that there’s too much racing going on, that there’s too much need for speed and this will cut down on that.

University of Houston finance professor Craig Pirrong says a move like this could be positive, but making it work everywhere trading happens would be tricky. Today’s call from the Fed is the latest in a long and sometimes nasty debate, made more prominent following the best-selling Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys.” But it won’t be the last word. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Singapore Anti-Gambling Council Loses Big On World Cup Ad

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 06:43

The country's National Council on Problem Gambling has been airing a cautionary spot featuring a boy whose father wagers his son's savings on Germany.

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Israel's Netanyahu Says No Cease-Fire In Gaza

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 06:28

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a cease-fire with Hamas is "not even on the agenda," as the U.N. Security Council prepared for a special session on the renewed violence.

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Math Nerd Or Bookworm? Many Of The Same Genes Shape Both Abilities

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 05:46

About half the genetic contribution to a child's reading ability also shapes how math-savvy she is, a big study of twins finds. But there's still no telling exactly which genes are involved.

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Results Of Indonesia's Presidential Election In Limbo

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 05:37

Most unofficial counts give Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo a slight lead over his opponent, but authorities have cautioned against celebrating until a full tally is released in about 10 days.

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The dangers of temp work

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 05:00

There are now more than 2.9 million temp workers in the U.S., as the temp staffing business remains one of the fastest growing industries. But the work can sometimes be dangerous, especially if employees are not properly trained.

Univision has partnered with ProPublica to expose the sometimes deadly conditions temp workers are exposed to, often with very little, if any, training. The undercover investigation reveals the obstacles the Occupational Safety & Health Administration faces in its temp worker safety initiative.

Click the media player above to hear Univision’s Tomas Ocana in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

4 Children, 2 Adults Killed In Apparent Domestic Dispute In Texas

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 04:41

The suspect in the shootings in Spring, Texas, engaged police in a three-hour standoff before surrendering.

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Kurdish Leaders Boycott Iraqi Government Meetings

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 04:04

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Kurds of sheltering terrorists and Saddam Hussein loyalists. Kurdish ministers withdrew from meetings, calling on Maliki to resign.

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From Calif. Teachers, More Nuanced Views On Tenure

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 04:03

Some teachers say they want to preserve tenure, but add that it's time for a look at the rules.

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Hackers In China Reportedly Targeted U.S. Federal Workers

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 03:26

According to a report in The New York Times, hackers accessed U.S. government databases in March and apparently targeted files on employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances.

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PODCAST: B-list social media stars

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 03:00

More on what can be learned from the minutes report released by the Federal Reserve from a recent meeting. Plus, tens of thousands of disability claims by vets are going nowhere, as some suspect there is a misunderstanding of how to complete a claim through the VA's online filing system. And with ads popping up on Instagram and Twitter feeds everywhere, a look at how users with modest followings are earning money through their social media accounts.

The long road to doing better business in India

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined his first budget for the country today. Following his landslide election in May, expectations are high for Mr. Modi's plans to help revive India’s economy and jumpstart development.

But can he do enough to make India a more attractive place for foreign companies and investors? Case in point: remember when those floor-vacuuming robots came out back in 2002? Scott Miller led iRobot’s R&D in India, where he says he navigated bad roads, corruption, and time-consuming piles of paperwork.

"Working in the consumer electronics industry, schedule is everything," Miller explains. "If you miss the main holiday season you have to wait another year and that can have a profound impact on your revenue."

Now, Miller is CEO of Dragon Innovation, which guides hardware companies from prototype to high-volume manufacturing. He says he’d love to go back to India if it gets easier to make things there.

"Having as many people as India does, it could be a very credible alternative to China," he says.

Many analysts are optimistic the Modi government will be able to attract more foreign investment.  

"We’ve definitely seen the financial markets react very positively to his election," says  John Derrick, Director of Research at U.S. Global Investors. "So I think we’re just waiting to see if he can, you know, walk the walk as well as talk the talk."  

Derrick adds that for Prime Minister Modi, it could be a long walk.

 

How much are social media followers worth?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

Tamara Peterson stands on a Manhattan street, peering into the screen of her iPhone as she waits for a woman carrying a “I love New York” bag to pass in front of a Brownstone.

“These shadows are beautiful,” she says, composing the shot.

Later, she posts it to her Instagram feed, where hundreds of people like it within just a few minutes. Her photos of New York cityscapes have attracted roughly 70,000 followers.

Social media sites like Twitter and Instagram are increasingly placing ads in users’ feeds – and so, too, are the people who have built large followings on those sites. YouTube’s top star has reportedly earned over $4 million dollars from ad sales. But companies are also interested in more modest followings.

Peterson earns between $500 and $1,000 per sponsored post from big companies like Home Depot, as well as smaller ones like Blue Apron, a subscription meal delivery service. She’s represented by two companies that help her broker deals with advertisers: Niche and Mobile Media Lab.

But Peterson maintains that Instagram is just a hobby and she doesn’t want to leave her full-time job as a professional organizer.

“I’m picky about the jobs I take because I want my feed to look a certain way,” she says, nixing alcohol brands and visible logos.

She’ll often take down sponsored posts if the company doesn’t require her to leave them up.

On the other hand, Sara Hopkins, aka SayHop, could imagine social media eventually becoming a full time gig. She also uses Niche to book ads and has a bigger following – roughly 350,000 followers across a handful of different social networks. Her posts range from selfies (half goofy, half glam) to videos featuring an eerily accurate dolphin voice.

Hopkins is a local TV reporter, but she doubles her salary by posting ads to her followers, whether it’s a six-second video on Vine or a photo on Instagram.

“For Coke, I’m doing two Vines and I think one Instagram post, and it’s about $2,800,” she says. “And for Old Navy, I did one Vine and one Tweet for $2,000.”

So what do her followers say?

 “It varies between people saying, you know, ‘if you’re going to make money off of it, cool,’” she says. “As long as you don’t do it every day, all the time.”

 On one of her recent paid posts, only one person commented that he was unfollowing her because of the ad, but the rest of the nearly 40 comments defended her right to post it.

Thousands of disability claims in limbo at the VA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

The Veterans Affairs Administration is being pounded over scandalous delays for veterans seeking health care.

Now comes a new concern about tens of thousands of veterans' disability claims that are going nowhere; possibly the result of the agency shifting its claims process online.

About a year and a half ago, the VA launched a web portal for submitting disability claims. Since then, vets have initiated nearly 450,000 claims electronically. But about 300,000 claims have sat idle. Some have even expired.

Once applicants start a claim, they have a year to wrap it up.

"What we worry about is that some of these people, having started a claim, may be thinking they've submitted something to the VA, and the VA is just taking their time to take action on it, when in fact they haven't completed the application process," says Gerald Manar, ‎Deputy Director of the National Veterans Service with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Disability payments can range from about $100 a month to several thousand dollars a month.

Robert Reynolds directs the benefits assistance service with the VA. He says the agency made a big push to move the whole claims system online. Vets may be confused about the process.

"This is a huge transformational business change," Reynolds says.

Reynolds says the VA is meeting with veterans service organizations to figure out who opened disability claims online and needs help finishing them.

Shhh! It's time for Formula E!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

The new international championship for fully-electric racing cars just held its first major test session at the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire, England.

The series kicks off with a race through the streets of Beijing in September. It will include events in 10 cities, concluding with an "E-prix" around London's Battersea Park next June.

Organizers hope it will transform the way we think about electric cars, as well as providing a test-bed for new technologies, which can help to improve their performance.

The Donington test marks the first time the cars have run in anger - and the first time members of the public have been able to see how they compare to more traditional racing machines.

The BBC's Theo Leggett went to see how the new cars look - and sound. Watch his report above.

Text and video courtesy of the BBC.

China's Booming Real Estate Market Finally Begins To Slide

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 01:27

After years of stunning growth, China's go-go real estate market is in retreat. It has been one of the engines driving the world's second-largest economy, so economists are watching it closely.

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Companies: stop making your employees use tablets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 01:00

I followed the bank branch manager into one of those little offices to set up a recurring payment from my account. While I pulled out my ID and my bank card, I watched her pull aside tangled cords and guide her tablet through a clumsy re-docking process. The tablet itself - an Android - had a heavy-looking cover with oddly shaped handles and a plug for the dock.

"Is that thing helpful?" I asked. Her bright, officious bank manager expression slid away and was replaced by a rueful grin.

"Ehh..." She sighed. Then she brightened again. "It's much more portable," she said. 

"But are you doing stuff where you need it to be portable?"

"Honestly, not really." 

This is a perfect example of how companies are misreading the mobile revolution. They see that tablets are a hot item, and they want to be part of that hotness. It's why Microsoft still believes its powerful Surface tablets can get a leg up against the iPad and various Android options. It's why PC sales have taken a nosedive in the last few years. It's why, even though tablets are often only really being used for entertainment, companies are buying in. 

But it's not always the right move. At a fundamental level, tablets do the same things computers do, just usually with less powerful software and hardware. They are way more mobile - and that's a significant difference - but they're often less capable. Or we are less capable at using them for certain tasks. 

It's almost like companies are trying to mimic the television commercials showing how a certain company is totally revolutionizing the way you do business. The story boards write themselves:

The guy in America invents a product. He sends the designs from his tablet to a guy in China who looks at them on his tablet, which he also uses to deliver instructions to the production line. Then the shipping company guy in Germany uses his tablet to organize the process of filling orders.

Boom. Awesome. Isn't technology amazing? 

Look, I get it - in some cases, introducing tablets to your business helps your business do better. I have carried my tablet to Marketplace's morning editorial meeting and other workplace huddles. And from boardrooms to factory floors, people are using them to try to be faster, more "nimble." Maybe as a customer, I'm impressed sometimes when the person on the other side of the transaction is using a tablet. We're all wrapped up in how consumer electronics are all the rage these days, and if you squint your eyes and blur your vision enough, putting a tablet or a smartphone in every representatives' hands makes a company look more innovative. Really, it makes a company look cooler. There's value in that. But how much?

This week, Gartner released its latest estimates for tablet and PC sales. While PC sales continue to dip and tablet sales continue to grow, there is some leveling out in the data. That is partly about the cycle of upgrades for businesses and consumers, and the maturing of early adopter markets like the US. But part of it may also be that some companies are discovering more tablets don't always mean better, faster, stronger business. 

I told my bank manager story to someone, and they told me a similar story about going to a brick-and-mortar store for a major wireless carrier. The associate began to input the information into a tablet and started having problems. He threw up his hands, and said "I'll be right back." He disappeared into the back office and returned a few minutes later with all the data input for the transaction done. What magic was in the back room? An old fashioned PC. 

New device aims for paranoid-parent market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 01:00

The electronics-maker LG is, like many of its competitors, making a foray into wearable technology. However, this device has a distinctly different purpose — not to keep the wearer informed, but to keep a parent informed on their child.

The device, the KizON, is a child-tracking wristband — paired with the band is a smartphone app, where parents can look on a map and see where their kid is.

They can also call the wristband and talk to the child — if the child doesn’t answer, it will still connect to the child and hear surrounding sound.

While the device may reduce parental paranoia, it could be hard to get kids, especially older ones, to wear it

“It’s still think it’s going to have a steep climb for total acceptance, and probably easier is something that’s built into something your child already wants,” says Lindsey Turrentine, Editor in Chief of reviews at CNET.

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