National News

Obama, Merkel Downplay Disagreement Over Ukraine Aid

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:26

With the Ukraine crisis spiraling, President Obama and Germany's leader Angela Merkel met in Washington, D.C.

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Gitmo Trial For Sept. 11 Suspects Resumes — Then Abruptly Halted

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:26

The trial of five men accused in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks resumed on Monday at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and then was abruptly halted. Defendants in the case protested that one of the court interpreters at the hearing had been present years before at secret sites where the men had been held and, they claim, tortured. The judge ordered a recess to look into the matter.

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Authorities Probe Alleged Hate Crime Against Native American Kids

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:26

Racial tensions are high in Rapid City, S.D. as police investigate an incident where white men allegedly shouted racial slurs and dumped beer on a group of Native Americans at a recent hockey game.

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Los Angeles Residents Divided Over Proposed $15 Minimum Wage

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:26

Los Angeles is considering raising its minimum wage from $9 to $15 an hour in order to help its 800,000 residents in poverty. But no major city has yet raised its wage this dramatically and this fast.

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Q&A: Sen. Ed Markey On Protecting Data Our Cars Are Sharing

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:26

We've entered the age of Internet-connected cars, and the Massachusetts lawmaker says they're vulnerable to all kinds of data breaches.

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Auto security? What security?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:19

A report released Monday says the security protocols in connected cars aren't nearly secure enough. It's yet another example of the basic dilemma posed by the Internet of Things: how to connect more devices to each other and the Internet, while making them easy to use, technologically innovative and  private and secure. 

Cars with wireless systems connected to the Internet are vulnerable to hacking and data theft, according to the Senate report, which found that auto-industry security measures are "inconsistent and haphazard." 

"Every time you add a new point of connectivity to a device, you have increased the attack surface — more ways to gain access," says Steve Checkoway, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Checkoway participated in experiments in 2010 that showed how vulnerable cars can be. 

Automakers are designing cars with the same kinds of wireless connectivity technologies that consumers have come to expect from their daily digital devices. Accordingly, cars are becoming subject to the same growing pains facing computers and smartphones – in addition to featuring digital door locks and thermostats.

Silicon Valley is grappling with a delicate balance: Keeping these products easy to use while implementing enough security to keep customers comfortable with using them.

"The out-of-the-box experience when you start up a product [is that] when you unpackage it, put it on the wall, it needs to be very seamless," says Tom Kerber, who heads research into the Internet of Things at Parks Associates. If customers have to grapple with too many steps to implement security protocols, Kerber says, they will reject products instead of adopting them.

In the meantime, Silicon Valley is churning out connected products based on the same model it used to churn out computers and apps. "Innovation in Silicon Valley is all about iteration and experimentation," says analyst Frank Gillett of Forrester Research.

Experimentation tends to mean that products aren't fully cooked when they come to market, he says. "So the idea is: Figure out the minimum viable product that will let you experiment with an idea, develop it and see if there's something there, and then figure out how to improve it, iterate it, make it better," Gillett says.

While companies often think about security when first releasing a product, their process of improving a product after launch means security is often playing catchup, he says, and that model is not likely to change soon.

Average tax refund so far this year is about $3,500

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:16

The Internal Revenue Service said Friday that the average refund so far this year is running at $3,539.

So two things:  First, who's got their taxes done already? Because, cut it out! You're making the rest of us look bad.

And secondly, you know that when you get a refund you've basically given the government an interest-free loan, right?

Right?

 

 

Changing fortunes of nightly news shows

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 12:09

Brian Williams, the host of NBC Nightly News, is embroiled in a scandal over fabricated stories he told about experiences during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He's taken a leave of absence from the show.

But just how important is an anchor like Williams to a news network in an era of declining network news viewership?

NBC took a ratings hit last week, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen. It was a big dip, at 36 percent, but declining viewership for network news isn’t exactly, well, news. Fewer and fewer sets are tuned to these broadcasts after reaching a peak in the 1980s.

Is the evening-news tradition becoming irrelevant in this new era of 24/7 information? Or do the networks see a good reason to continue their investment? Williams' show, after all, is still a major source of ad revenue for NBC.

For more, click on the audio player above.

HSBC Helped Clients Hide Millions, News Report Says

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:53

The Washington-based International Consortium of International Journalist's story was based on documents leaked in 2008. HSBC says it ended those practices starting that year.

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Son's Rare Cancer Leads Family On Quest For Cure

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:52

When a child falls ill with cancer, many of the drugs that might help are either experimental or unapproved for use in kids.

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What if Greece really does leave eurozone?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:30

The man they’re calling “the rock star of anti-austerity” rocked financial markets Monday. Yanis Varoufakis — the new Greek finance minister — sent bank shares reeling on the Athens stock exchange with his comments on the euro.

Over the weekend, he warned that the eurozone would collapse if his country is forced out of the currency union by Germany’s refusal to accept a renegotiation of the terms of Greece’s bailout. Varoufakis said he believes that if Greece left the eurozone, investors will pull their money out of other heavily indebted euro countries – forcing them to leave too. With its biggest export market – the rest of Europe – then in turmoil, Germany could be the biggest loser.

With Common Core testing, you get what you pay for

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:14

Think “standardized test,” and you might picture kids sitting at their desks filling in bubbles with No. 2 pencils or a Scantron machine cranking out scores.

It’s time to update that picture. This spring, millions of kids around the country will take a whole new kind of computer-based test aligned to the Common Core state standards. They’ll be able to use online tools like highlighters and calculators. They’ll be asked to “drag and drop” their answers into boxes and to respond to video.

In one sample from a 7th-grade English test, children read two articles about electricity, and then watch a video clip from a TED talk about building circuits with Playdough. Then they’re asked to write an essay, supporting their response with evidence from each source.

No bubbles in sight.

“Whether it’s the English test or math test, there’s a great emphasis on constructing responses to questions,” says Jeff Nellhaus, chief of assessment for PARCC.

That stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s one of two multi-state consortia that shared $360 million in federal grants to create tests aligned with the common core standards. The standards focus on critical thinking, problem solving and analytic skills. Nellhaus says the old measures won’t do.

In life, he says, there are no multiple-choice answers. “You have to construct your own answers from your own knowledge and drawing on other sources to get information,” Nellhaus says. “That’s what this test focuses on primarily.”

That kind of test is more expensive, says Scott Marion, associate director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational AssessmentEach question has to be written, then reviewed for bias and age-appropriateness, and field tested. Then it may be revised or even thrown out. When you add up nine grade levels, all with different tests in math and English, we’re talking thousands and thousands of questions. Marion estimates a single multiple- choice question costs roughly $1,000 to develop.

“When you get into more open-ended questions, you get into three, four, five thousand dollars per question,” he says.

That’s because it’s harder to write questions that demonstrate different levels of ability. They also have to be changed out every year or so. Those are just the development costs. Then there’s the scoring.

“Scoring open-response questions generally requires human beings to read the papers and then assign scores,” Marion says.

Humans need to be trained and monitored to make sure they’re scoring fairly. Under pressure from states, PARCC has tried to keep costs down through technology. A feature on the math tests lets students type in equations that can be scored by machine. There will still be some multiple choice. Nellhaus says PARCC is also testing technology to score essays by computer.

“We’ll always have humans doing a check on the machines,” he says, but computerized essay scoring could be incorporated in the tests within a few years.

The savings won’t come soon enough for states like Georgia, which withdrew from the consortium when PARCC estimated its tests would cost about three times what the state had been spending. PARCC’s price has since come down to about $24 per student. That’s less than what many states spend, but much more than others. The cost has added to the controversy surrounding the new tests.

For some, though, it’s not enough.

“I think we’re spending actually too little on testing,” says Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “If we’re talking about 30 bucks a kid, to round up, that’s less than the cost of a textbook.”

A few years ago Chingos did a rough estimate of what states spend every year on K-12 assessment. He came up with about $1.7 billion – out of more than $600 billion in total spending on public education.

“We’re really talking about a small amount of money, especially in comparison to the importance that’s attached to the results of these tests, and the uses to which people want to put them, which is to hold teachers accountable, to improve schools, to hold schools accountable,” Chingos says.

There’s another reason tests are so important. They don’t just measure what kids learn. We’ve all heard the phrase “teaching to the test.” PARCC’s Nellhaus says tests send a signal to teachers and principals.

“What the test measures and how it measures it is going to have an impact on what they teach and how they teach it,” he says, “so it’s really incumbent on the test to be great.”

A great test? It’s hard to imagine students will see it that way when get a load of the real thing in the next few months.  Common Core By the Numbers

45
The number of states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards.

2009
The year the Common Core standards were developed.

10
The number of states that are giving standardized tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which are aligned with the Common Core standards.

$23.97
The per-student cost of PARCC exams.

18
The number of states that will use Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests this spring.

$22.50 – $27.30
The per-student costs of SBAC exams.

$1.7 billion
The Brookings Institution estimated in 2012 that states spend $1.7 billion on standardized tests each year. Brookings also noted the entire public education system spends more than $600 billion annually.

Obama Defends Decision Not To Meet With Netanyahu During Upcoming Visit to D.C.

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:04

President Obama says it would break protocol to meet with Netanyahu just two weeks before the Israel elections. Obama adds the two men have "real differences" over Iran.

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With New Rules In Place, Netflix Expands To Cuba

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:42

Starting today, Cubans with an Internet connection and access to international payment methods will have access to a wide array of movies and shows. There are huge hurdles, though.

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Rich School, Poor School

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:08

How the class divide is widened by gaps in counseling kids for college.

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Madoff's Victims Are Repaid Another $355 Million, Trustee Says

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 08:56

More than half of the accounts with allowable claims against disgraced financier Bernard Madoff have now been fully repaid, according to the trustee handling recovery efforts.

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Graphic Novelist Adrian Tomine Takes On The Notorious Long Duk Dong

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 07:44

The cartoonist shared how the cartoonish Sixteen Candles character affected him IRL.

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Time's 'Person Of The Year' Is Feeling Kinda Lost

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 07:00

A newly returned "Ebola fighter" tells why she didn't feel like a hero when she got back. Instead, she felt lost, beset by Ebola dreams and virtually a prisoner in her own home.

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Ukraine Likely To Top Obama-Merkel Talks Agenda

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 06:25

The German chancellor meets the president today amid an apparent disagreement between the two allies on how best to help Ukraine, which has been in a prolonged battle against pro-Russia separatists.

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From Soy Sauce To Bullet Trains: Famed Japanese Designer Dies At 85

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 06:07

Decades after Kenji Ekuan created Kikkoman's iconic soy sauce bottles with their red caps, he designed Japan's bullet train, in a career driven by a desire to make good design accessible to everyone.

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