National News

The economic backdrop to China's terrorist attacks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-22 04:19

Chinese officials are calling it a terrorist attack. Early this morning in the western city of Urumqi, 31 people were killed and at least 90 others injured when vehicles plowed into a crowded market and then exploded. It’s the latest in a series of attacks in China. In March, a knife attack by a group of men killed dozens in Southwest China, and just a few weeks ago, a bombing and knife attack at a train station in Urumqi, injured dozens more. China’s government have blamed the previous attacks on Uighur separatists -- Uighurs are an ethnic Muslim minority who live in China’s vast Northwest region of Xinjiang, a Chinese province roughly the size of Alaska that borders Central Asia. China has so far not blamed any particular group for today’s attack.

#Xinjiang blast: Police cordoned off the scene after the explosion that has killed unknown number of people on May 22 pic.twitter.com/lZQRIAOC8C

— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) May 22, 2014

Today’s attack comes a week after the trial runs for a line that will connect Xinjiang with the rest of China by high-speed rail for the first time. In the past, Xinjiang was always considered very far away from the rest of China -- parts of it are closer to Baghdad than they are to Beijing and the people who live their have Caucasian facial features, many Uighurs don’t speak Chinese. But now a new train will reduce what was a trip that took days into hours, and that underscores China’s political control over this region, extending to economic control. Historically, Uighurs have always been businessmen -- this is the home to the ancient silk route. But these days, many Uighurs are frustrated because they feel they’ve lost a lot of economic decision-making power over their homeland to people they consider outsiders from Eastern China who now dominate government and business there.

Terrorist attack kills at least 31, injures 94 at Urumqi market http://t.co/f7G9RxXCQp

— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) May 22, 2014

 

The economic backdrop to China's terrorist attacks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-22 04:19

Chinese officials are calling it a terrorist attack. Early this morning in the western city of Urumqi, 31 people were killed and at least 90 others injured when vehicles plowed into a crowded market and then exploded. It’s the latest in a series of attacks in China. In March, a knife attack by a group of men killed dozens in Southwest China, and just a few weeks ago, a bombing and knife attack at a train station in Urumqi, injured dozens more. China’s government have blamed the previous attacks on Uighur separatists -- Uighurs are an ethnic Muslim minority who live in China’s vast Northwest region of Xinjiang, a Chinese province roughly the size of Alaska that borders Central Asia. China has so far not blamed any particular group for today’s attack.

#Xinjiang blast: Police cordoned off the scene after the explosion that has killed unknown number of people on May 22 pic.twitter.com/lZQRIAOC8C

— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) May 22, 2014

Today’s attack comes a week after the trial runs for a line that will connect Xinjiang with the rest of China by high-speed rail for the first time. In the past, Xinjiang was always considered very far away from the rest of China -- parts of it are closer to Baghdad than they are to Beijing and the people who live their have Caucasian facial features, many Uighurs don’t speak Chinese. But now a new train will reduce what was a trip that took days into hours, and that underscores China’s political control over this region, extending to economic control. Historically, Uighurs have always been businessmen -- this is the home to the ancient silk route. But these days, many Uighurs are frustrated because they feel they’ve lost a lot of economic decision-making power over their homeland to people they consider outsiders from Eastern China who now dominate government and business there.

Terrorist attack kills at least 31, injures 94 at Urumqi market http://t.co/f7G9RxXCQp

— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) May 22, 2014

 

Coup In Thailand: Military Seizes Control Of Country

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:53

Two days after declaring martial law — and saying it wasn't staging a coup — the military has changed its mind, Thailand's army chief says.

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The most prolific video game voice actress ever

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:49

Jennifer Hale holds the Guinness World Record for most prolific video game voice actress. 

Check out the audio above to hear more on her career, her favorite sound effects while "dying," and how the industry has changed for female gamers.

Hale decided to lend her multiple voices to Marketplace Tech. Check out these three "characters" she brought into the studio:

The most prolific video game voice actress ever

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:49

Jennifer Hale holds the Guinness World Record for most prolific video game voice actress. 

Check out the audio above to hear more on her career, her favorite sound effects while "dying," and how the industry has changed for female gamers.

Hale decided to lend her multiple voices to Marketplace Tech. Check out these three "characters" she brought into the studio:

Best Buy's website is trying to take on Amazon

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:42

Best Buy announces its first quarter earnings Thursday. 

The retailer has struggled to compete online against companies like Amazon and Overstock.com, which matters more as more people shop online.

The University of Washington's Jake Thornock said traditional retailers like Best Buy are trying to take back what they’ve lost from e-tail companies.

“What we’re seeing at a higher level is unfettered competition in the retail space,” he said.

“There was this sort of fragmented perception that consumers would always go towards an online only company if they wanted to make an online purchase.”

But Ravi Bapna, who teaches information systems at the University of Minnesota, said it’s tough to compete against a digitally sophisticated company like Amazon.

“Best Buy being a traditional company, I don’t think it has that sort of mindset or that sort of infrastructure digitally to be at that level of sophistication right now,” he said.

Best Buy's website is trying to take on Amazon

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:42

Best Buy announces its first quarter earnings Thursday. 

The retailer has struggled to compete online against companies like Amazon and Overstock.com, which matters more as more people shop online.

The University of Washington's Jake Thornock said traditional retailers like Best Buy are trying to take back what they’ve lost from e-tail companies.

“What we’re seeing at a higher level is unfettered competition in the retail space,” he said.

“There was this sort of fragmented perception that consumers would always go towards an online only company if they wanted to make an online purchase.”

But Ravi Bapna, who teaches information systems at the University of Minnesota, said it’s tough to compete against a digitally sophisticated company like Amazon.

“Best Buy being a traditional company, I don’t think it has that sort of mindset or that sort of infrastructure digitally to be at that level of sophistication right now,” he said.

Book News: Sam Greenlee, Author Of 'The Spook Who Sat By The Door,' Dies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:33

Also: Philip Roth schedules another interview; Neil Patrick Harris' autobiography.

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Attack On Street Market In Northwest China Kills 31

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-22 03:06

Bombs and cars were used in the attack at the outdoor market early Thursday. A witness says, "The air was full of the smell of gunpowder and the sound of sobbing." More than 90 people were injured.

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Dentist, mechanic... security expert?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:58

When I was interviewing Anup Ghosh for today's roundup of hacking news, he expressed a setniment all too familiar.

"Never a dull day in the security world," he said. And it's true -- this week, we've learned about an Ebay data breach impacting 145 million users, a member of the Navy stealing identities of fellow servicemen from inside an aircraft carrier and a government report that suggests attacking public utilities connected to the Internet is as easy as Googling. That's just this week.

I can say "Target hack" and you know exactly what I'm talking about, right? The truth is that hacking -- the bad kind -- is becoming a regular part of our lives whether we're "into tech" or not. But here's a question I keep coming back to: how do we know the difference between a run-of-the-mill hack job, and a Heartbleed bug?

When I interviewed Brian Krebs last month about Heartbleed on one of the first days it was a story, his advice was "stay off the Internet." No modifiers, no caveats, just one simple sentence.

At that moment Krebs's statement felt like hyperbole, but as the days wore on, the emails from companies and social networks started piling up in inboxes. We talked to people who were actually trying to patch the security holes left open by Heartbleed, and they were barely sleeping. Heartbleed seemed to prove just as serious as Krebs had suggested. But it was also hard to tell what the impact really was. When there's smoke there's fire. But where there's just a ton of kindling and a book of matches... there's... ?

Hacking, as an idea, is really hard to get your head around. It's not as palpable as other kinds of threats. You might suffer from it, but you can't really see it. It's not an explosion, and you need some pretty legitimate tech creds to know how it actually works. In fact, the thing that worries me is that the vast majority of people who interact with technology every day -- and this includes me -- have a pretty simplistic understanding of how it all really works.

We're total noobs, to use the online parlance of our times. So the majority of us have to rely on obvious signs or people who know more than us if we want to identify it and calculate where a hack falls on the threat spectrum.

It's like going to a mechanic or the dentist. You have to trust someone who knows way more than you. And to be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable with that.

I've had dentists who I know attempted to get me to pay for their X-ray machine by telling me to get an X-ray every time I came in for a cleaning. And I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that if we came up with perfect security tools, a lot of cybersecurity companies would go out of business. That's a cynical idea that doesn't take into account the simple fact that most competing cybersecurity companies are trying to build the perfect cybersecurity tools so that all the other companies go out of business.

But it's a factor.

All this reminds me of another quote. It comes from cybersecurity expert at Sophos and Marketplace Tech regular Chester Wisniewski. A funny saying in the cybersecurity world, says Chester, is that "there's no patch for human stupidity." As in, people are fallible. They make mistakes no matter how powerful your security software is. And that might be a place to start from for us regulars, us noobs. To acknowledge how little we know, and promise to learn more about the technology we use, in the hope of protecting ourselves. Because hacking is here to stay.

Dentist, mechanic... security expert?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:58

When I was interviewing Anup Ghosh for today's roundup of hacking news, he expressed a setniment all too familiar.

"Never a dull day in the security world," he said. And it's true -- this week, we've learned about an Ebay data breach impacting 145 million users, a member of the Navy stealing identities of fellow servicemen from inside an aircraft carrier and a government report that suggests attacking public utilities connected to the Internet is as easy as Googling. That's just this week.

I can say "Target hack" and you know exactly what I'm talking about, right? The truth is that hacking -- the bad kind -- is becoming a regular part of our lives whether we're "into tech" or not. But here's a question I keep coming back to: how do we know the difference between a run-of-the-mill hack job, and a Heartbleed bug?

When I interviewed Brian Krebs last month about Heartbleed on one of the first days it was a story, his advice was "stay off the Internet." No modifiers, no caveats, just one simple sentence.

At that moment Krebs's statement felt like hyperbole, but as the days wore on, the emails from companies and social networks started piling up in inboxes. We talked to people who were actually trying to patch the security holes left open by Heartbleed, and they were barely sleeping. Heartbleed seemed to prove just as serious as Krebs had suggested. But it was also hard to tell what the impact really was. When there's smoke there's fire. But where there's just a ton of kindling and a book of matches... there's... ?

Hacking, as an idea, is really hard to get your head around. It's not as palpable as other kinds of threats. You might suffer from it, but you can't really see it. It's not an explosion, and you need some pretty legitimate tech creds to know how it actually works. In fact, the thing that worries me is that the vast majority of people who interact with technology every day -- and this includes me -- have a pretty simplistic understanding of how it all really works.

We're total noobs, to use the online parlance of our times. So the majority of us have to rely on obvious signs or people who know more than us if we want to identify it and calculate where a hack falls on the threat spectrum.

It's like going to a mechanic or the dentist. You have to trust someone who knows way more than you. And to be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable with that.

I've had dentists who I know attempted to get me to pay for their X-ray machine by telling me to get an X-ray every time I came in for a cleaning. And I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that if we came up with perfect security tools, a lot of cybersecurity companies would go out of business. That's a cynical idea that doesn't take into account the simple fact that most competing cybersecurity companies are trying to build the perfect cybersecurity tools so that all the other companies go out of business.

But it's a factor.

All this reminds me of another quote. It comes from cybersecurity expert at Sophos and Marketplace Tech regular Chester Wisniewski. A funny saying in the cybersecurity world, says Chester, is that "there's no patch for human stupidity." As in, people are fallible. They make mistakes no matter how powerful your security software is. And that might be a place to start from for us regulars, us noobs. To acknowledge how little we know, and promise to learn more about the technology we use, in the hope of protecting ourselves. Because hacking is here to stay.

Marketplace Bombing Kills 31 In Far Western China

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:42

The attack in China's volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang on Thursday was the bloodiest in a series of violent incidents that Chinese authorities have blamed on radical separatist Muslim Uighurs.

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Albuquerque Police Face Federal Scrutiny, Local Outrage

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:31

Police in Albuquerque, N.M., have shown a pattern of excessive force that violates the Constitution, a federal report says. The department is changing policies; families are demanding accountability.

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Former Obama Campaigner Tries Running For Himself In Iowa

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:30

Brad Anderson helped the president in Iowa in 2008 and 2012, but he's never campaigned on his own behalf. He cites Obama as an inspiration, but others might not be as quick to start their own races.

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In A Coal Town Where Jobs Are Few, Wild Ramps Are Plenty

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 23:29

The annual Ramp Feed, which celebrates the ramp, or wild leek, gives the economically depressed mining town of Richwood, W.Va., a reason to celebrate. And you can smell those alliums for miles.

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Rest in poverty?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:59

This is probably the grimmest indicator of Britain's growing inequality: There's been a striking rise in the number of paupers' funerals. 

To be fair, it is not a very precise indicator because the number of British people who cannot afford their own funeral and have to be buried or cremated at the state's expense is shrouded in secrecy.

Local authorities have a legal duty to dispose of the indigent dead – under the Public Health (Control of Disease ) Act - but they don't brag about the subject. In fact they have to be compelled by requests under the U.K.'s freedom of information law to divulge any details.

A series of these requests by the opposition Labour Party has revealed a disturbing trend: Over the past five years, the number of paupers' funerals (or Public Health Funerals as they are more decorously termed) has increased across the country by 35 percent to more than 3,000 a year. In southwest England, the number has doubled.

"It's becoming too expensive for the poor to die," says Dr. Kate Woodthrope, of the Death and Society Centre at Bath University. Woodthorpe is not entirely surprised by the secrecy surrounding this subject. "There is something Dickensian about this. And there is a Victorian legacy of shame about not being able to give someone a decent send-off."

Dr. Woodthorpe – a sociology lecturer - blames a number of factors for the increase in state-funded burials and cremations.

"The costs have been rising. A cremation now costs an average of around [$5,000] and much more for burial because of the shortage of land," she says. "That's too expensive for many poor people."

But she also says Britain's relatively high divorce and separation rates have led to families becoming more dispersed around the country, blurring the lines of responsibility for burying sometimes distant relatives. 

A pauper's funeral sounds like a desperately bleak affair. But Julie Dunk of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management says the service is not perfunctory; it's simple and dignified and although there is usually no memorial marking the grave, the the name of the deceased is always recorded in the cemetary register. And these state-funded funerals can be well attended.

"I once arranged a public health funeral for a homeless man," says Dunk. "And although there was no family or friends to pay for the service, he was such a well known figure in the local neighborhood, that more than hundred people turned up at the funeral to pay their respects."

 

Rest in poverty?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 21:59

This is probably the grimmest indicator of Britain's growing inequality: There's been a striking rise in the number of paupers' funerals. 

To be fair, it is not a very precise indicator because the number of British people who cannot afford their own funeral and have to be buried or cremated at the state's expense is shrouded in secrecy.

Local authorities have a legal duty to dispose of the indigent dead – under the Public Health (Control of Disease ) Act - but they don't brag about the subject. In fact they have to be compelled by requests under the U.K.'s freedom of information law to divulge any details.

A series of these requests by the opposition Labour Party has revealed a disturbing trend: Over the past five years, the number of paupers' funerals (or Public Health Funerals as they are more decorously termed) has increased across the country by 35 percent to more than 3,000 a year. In southwest England, the number has doubled.

"It's becoming too expensive for the poor to die," says Dr. Kate Woodthrope, of the Death and Society Centre at Bath University. Woodthorpe is not entirely surprised by the secrecy surrounding this subject. "There is something Dickensian about this. And there is a Victorian legacy of shame about not being able to give someone a decent send-off."

Dr. Woodthorpe – a sociology lecturer - blames a number of factors for the increase in state-funded burials and cremations.

"The costs have been rising. A cremation now costs an average of around [$5,000] and much more for burial because of the shortage of land," she says. "That's too expensive for many poor people."

But she also says Britain's relatively high divorce and separation rates have led to families becoming more dispersed around the country, blurring the lines of responsibility for burying sometimes distant relatives. 

A pauper's funeral sounds like a desperately bleak affair. But Julie Dunk of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management says the service is not perfunctory; it's simple and dignified and although there is usually no memorial marking the grave, the the name of the deceased is always recorded in the cemetary register. And these state-funded funerals can be well attended.

"I once arranged a public health funeral for a homeless man," says Dunk. "And although there was no family or friends to pay for the service, he was such a well known figure in the local neighborhood, that more than hundred people turned up at the funeral to pay their respects."

 

What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 18:04
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 21:00 ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) applauds during an agreement signing ceremony in Shanghai on May 21, 2014, with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller (C) and Chinese state energy giant CNPC Chairman Zhou Jiping (R) attending the ceremony. China and Russia signed today a monumental, multi-decade gas supply contract in Shanghai, CNPC said, with reports saying it could be worth as much as $400 billion.

In Shanghai Wednesday, China signed an historic deal with Russia's Gazprom, securing a 30-year natural gas supply for the country. Russia and China have been in discussions over building a pipeline to deliver gas from Siberia to China for more than a decade.

This was the perfect time for China to be at the bargaining table with Russia's Gazprom because of the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Russia's government is becoming increasingly nervous about its reliance on selling natural gas to Western Europe and the constant threat of isolation from the West. For Russia, this deal means a more diversified customer bas for its enormous gas supply. For China, the deal means 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year starting in 2018 – equal to a quarter of what China currently consumes each year –will be purchased to the tune of nearly $400 billion.

The deal reveals a future where Russia and China are much closer economic partners than they've been in the past.

China is buying so much natural gas through this deal that it could help Beijing in its efforts to clean up China's environment. Much of the air pollution in China is due to burning coal. Natural gas is cleaner burning, and it's likely Russian gas will be replacing some of China's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

China relies more and more on a diverse array of foreign countries for its energy, and the fact this is a 30-year deal will allow China's government to rest a little easier at night.

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday May 21, 2014Interview with Rob SchmitzPodcast Title What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas dealStory Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

What China gets from the $400 billion Russian gas deal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-21 18:00

In Shanghai Wednesday, China signed an historic deal with Russia's Gazprom, securing a 30-year natural gas supply for the country. Russia and China have been in discussions over building a pipeline to deliver gas from Siberia to China for more than a decade.

This was the perfect time for China to be at the bargaining table with Russia's Gazprom because of the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Russia's government is becoming increasingly nervous about its reliance on selling natural gas to Western Europe and the constant threat of isolation from the West. For Russia, this deal means a more diversified customer bas for its enormous gas supply. For China, the deal means 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year starting in 2018 – equal to a quarter of what China currently consumes each year –will be purchased to the tune of nearly $400 billion.

The deal reveals a future where Russia and China are much closer economic partners than they've been in the past.

China is buying so much natural gas through this deal that it could help Beijing in its efforts to clean up China's environment. Much of the air pollution in China is due to burning coal. Natural gas is cleaner burning, and it's likely Russian gas will be replacing some of China's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

China relies more and more on a diverse array of foreign countries for its energy, and the fact this is a 30-year deal will allow China's government to rest a little easier at night.

Supreme Court Halts Execution Of Missouri Inmate

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-21 15:46

The justices ruled that a lower federal court needs to re-examine the case of Russell Bucklew, who was hours away from being put to death when he was granted a temporary stay on Tuesday.

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