National News

Boston's massive snowfall brings in business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:34

Boston is getting pummeled by snow. More than 78 inches have fallen on the city this winter, making it one of the snowiest winters in the city's history.

But it's not over yet. The city is bracing for more snowfall Thursday night.

The winter weather has turned out to be a blessing for entrepreneurs in the snow-clearing business.

Frank Ippolito, who owns Ippolito Snow Services in Boston, offers "flake-to-flake" services for some lucky customers.

"The first flake falls, we have a team there, in front of a retail store or a high-end residence where we're there for the entire storm," he says. "Just pushing snow to the curb, and keeping them clean for the whole time so it doesn't build up."

Ippolito says his company is fielding up to 70 calls a day. But it'll cost to hire him. Ippolito charges around $4,000 to clear a small parking lot.

From The Cold Depths Of Space, A Smile Emerges

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:17

In the Hubble image of a galaxy cluster, two bright galaxies resemble eyes, NASA says, "and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing."

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Kayla Mueller's Death Underscores Risks For Aid Workers Abroad

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:15

Humanitarian groups say the world's more dangerous than 15 years ago. How can they keep their staff safe in places of turmoil?

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At Least 300 Migrants Feared Dead Off Italian Coast

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 07:09

The refugees and migrants had tried to cross the frigid Mediterranean in open vessels without food and water. The estimate comes from the U.N. refugee agency, which spoke to survivors.

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Little League Strips Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Of U.S. Title

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 05:50

Little League International said the team violated residency rules. The U.S. championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.

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An Arrest, But No Motive Announced In Killing Of 3 Muslims In N.C.

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 05:13

Police in Chapel Hill, N.C., have arrested a suspect and charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting of three young Muslims. There's no word on a possible motive.

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Texas Insurance Brokers Play Bigger Role In 2015's Obamacare

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 04:17

Though insurance agents say they initially felt sidelined by the Affordable Care Act, many are working hard this round to help uninsured Texans find a good plan through the federal website.

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White House Will Request War Powers From Congress Today, Senator Says

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

The new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF as it's known, would replace the 2001 authorization that was provided to President Bush in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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PODCAST: First comes hacking, then comes fraud

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 03:00

Truth, democracy, and the branding problem for NBC news without Brian Williams. Plus, first comes the hack, then comes the … tax fraud? That's one of the worries coming out of investigations into two different events last week: A flood of phony tax filings sent using TurboTax, and a major hack of Anthem health insurance. 

The connection between hacking and tax fraud

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 03:00

Last week, TurboTax had to stop filing state tax returns for approximately 24 hours after reports of a flood of fraudulent returns. The Wall Street Journal reports the FBI is considering whether it was the result of a hack, or if it could just be an example of how easy data acquired elsewhere can be used for the growing problem of identity theft tax fraud. 

Avivah Litan, security analyst at Gartner, says the problem is that there are few checks on identity for online tax returns. That means anyone can falsify a return who has access to the proper information; like name, address and social security number—exactly the data that was compromised for as many as 80 million customers by last week's data breach of health insurer Anthem.

The rash of similar data breaches has driven the number of tax fraud cases into the millions according to Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911. He says even though credit card breaches get more attention, they're actually less damaging.

"You call a bank, you change a number," he says. "Tax fraud, different story—Devastating, takes a long time to resolve. A national problem."

Connecticut's Department of Revenue Services has suggested a preventative step for those who think their personal information could be compromised: file your taxes as early as possible. 

Watch Jon Stewart Break The News Of His Departure To An Audience

NPR News - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:56

Taping last night's show before the news of his departure became public, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart faced an awkward task: telling a studio audience that he's leaving the show.

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One cost of starting high school later in the morning

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:30

For almost 20 years, school districts across the country have debated shifting high school start times later to allow for more time for adolescent students to sleep, which studies say helps brain development and school performance.

But an effort to push up start times by an hour in Montgomery County, Maryland, ran into trouble over the cost.

Click the media player above to hear more.

The cost of starting high school later

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:30

For almost 20 years, school districts across the country have debated shifting high school start times later to allow for more time for adolescent students to sleep, which studies say helps brain development and school performance.

But an effort to push up start times by an hour in Montgomery County, MD, ran into trouble over the cost.

Click the media player above to hear more.

The cost of starting High School later

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-11 02:30

For almost 20 years, school districts across the country have debated shifting high school start times later to allow for more time for adolescent students to sleep, which studies say helps brain development and school performance.

But an effort to push up start times by an hour in Montgomery County, MD, ran into trouble over the cost.

Click the media player above to hear more.

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. 

$1,000

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.

$0

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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