National News

World's biggest art heist, 25 years later

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 06:32

On March 18, 1990, two men dressed as police officers stole 13 pieces of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in Boston.

They took rare Rembrandts, a Vermeer, and works by Manet and Degas. All together, the stolen art was worth about $500 million. According to the FBI, it was the largest property crime in U.S. history.  A few days after the incident, the Gardner Museum's president and director said, "It is as if there'd been a death in the family."

A quarter-century later, the case remains unsolved. Kelly Crow covers art for The Wall Street Journal. She says the heist changed the art world. 

"I think both museums and private collectors got a wake-up call," Crow tells Marketplace's David Gura. "Museums have gone back and taken a much tougher look at their protocols."

For example, the security guard on duty that night had only one alarm he could trigger at his post. And when the guard was lured away, there was no way for him to signal for help.

Crow says, even after all these years, the stolen art leaves gaping holes in the museum. Isabella Stewart Gardner hadn't wanted any of the pieces moved. So all that hangs in the place of the stolen masterpieces are empty frames.

Can't Protect The Real White House? Get An $8 Million Fake One

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 06:31

The Secret Service director is asking Congress to give the agency funding to build a replica White House at its training compound in suburban Maryland.

» E-Mail This

Gunmen Storm Tunisian Museum In Deadly Attack

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 05:54

At least eight people died as gunmen opened fire on people visiting the Bardo Museum, a tourist attraction in Tunis. Police reportedly are inside the building and have surrounded two of the attackers.

» E-Mail This

March Madness Starts With A Bang, And A Big Comeback

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 05:39

Ole Miss scored 62 points in the second half last night to dig its way out of a hole and into the big bracket, on the first day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

» E-Mail This

Status update: Facebook Messenger helps split the bill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 05:00

Facebook announced Tuesday it is adding the option to send other users money via its Messenger app.

Messenger is the social network's separate, but required, app for chat — basically an updated version of AOL Instant Messenger, for those of you still using Internet Explorer.

Marketplace's Tracey Samuelson tells us how the move could bring mobile payment into the mainstream, and open up new revenue opportunities for the site. The announcement language suggests users will only be able to transfer money to people who are already their Facebook friends, but Facebook could expand the service in the future, possibly creating more opportunity for businesses.

Facebook reports the money feature will roll out during the next few months in the U.S. To send money, users start a message with a friend, tap the "$" icon and enter the amount they want to send, and then tap "Pay" to send money. The funds are transferred right away, but the first time someone sends of receives money in Messenger, a Visa or MasterCard debit card has to be attached to their account.

A pin, or Touch ID on iOS devices, will add another layer of security, so hopefully toddlers on tablets everywhere don't end up sending strangers cash.

John Maeda on why good design takes decades

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 04:42

This week Marketplace Tech is exploring South by Southwest Interactive, the tech-oriented event that draws tens of thousands of people to Austin, Texas every year.

We spoke with designer John Maeda, who is at SXSW to talk about designing for the tech industry. A graduate of MIT and former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, Maeda is now a design partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. He talked with us about his first Macintosh, the tech industry's diversity problem, and how design can make technology more accessible.

The year you started at MIT — 1984 — is the year that the Apple Macintosh came out and your parents got you one?

Sure did. Brought a Macintosh to MIT and people made fun of me.

Did they?

Oh yeah.

Because you were a weirdo?

At MIT we are all weirdos so that’s okay. It’s the fact that the Mac didn't look like a computer. It had pictures on it.

How did that piece of technology influence your approach to design?

I remember the time I first touched a Mac and it was so much faster at graphics processing. I could draw an ellipse. Drawing ellipse used to take like ... sitting there [saying] "Ahh, draw that ellipse!" And the Mac was flowing with you.

In your role at Kleiner Perkins, you work with companies to build and design from the beginning. At what point in that process do people start to notice good design?

People's first notion of design is ... pretty stuff. And if you're there, I have to get them out of that. It’s about taking an idea and giving it a system behind it because design doesn't happen by buying a part. It happens by having people who can design.

Is there a design solution for the tech industry’s diversity problem?

Well, it’s a systems problem, really. The question is how do you design the system to enable people from different backgrounds to participate?

How do you do that?

Let me give an example. When you recruit for a more diverse student base, you forget that a diverse population will not stay on your campus if there aren't more role models like themselves. I would argue often at MIT, even at RISD, we need more people, more faculty around to role model for. So that’s a systems approach.

What’s a piece of technology that you really enjoy using, that you interact with and you just really appreciate the design of, that’s not a laptop, a smartphone, [and so on]?

Anything we use with our hands is going to feel good. Like a spoon or chopsticks or our glasses. Why do they feel so good? We've spent hundreds of year improving those ... So when we think technology is hard to use we have to remember, it’s like a decades worth of experimentation. So it’s going to get better. It’ll take time.

What role do you think design plays in getting people to adopt new technology? Something that people might even be a little bit skeptical of?

Technology, by nature, we fear because it’s hard to do something new. It’s easier for younger people because they don’t know they are going to die. Older people are like "I am so done with that, I’d rather have fun instead of figuring that new thing out," right? Young people [are like] "Who cares," right? So design helps to bridge that gap. It makes it more interesting. But I want to caution, because design that’s just about desire — the "wow" — is not enough. My friend who designs for Muji — the brand Muji in Japan — talks about how he designs for what’s called the “after-wow” effect. The “after-wow” is: You've bought it, you bring it home, you've had it for a month, you’re sitting there and saying, "Wow, that’s really awesome."

How does one create that? What’s he doing?

I am glad you asked that question. It takes time. Taking time is what is so difficult in the tech industry, which moves so fast.

What are the the tensions of that working in a VC firm?

A lot of my role is to create time for people, to be able to advocate for: "Hey, you know, this design needs more time or this design team is really getting there, so let’s support that," which I find is important.

Why so much hangs on the Fed's choice of words

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 04:30

It’s that time again, the Federal Reserve is meeting later today, and once again many will spend their time parsing the Fed’s words for any hint that an interest rate is coming.

If rates go up, some economists think there will be a land rush to scoop up homes to lock in low interest rates.

The only problem says with that theory says Sterne Agee Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza is that even with today’s sweet rates, prices are too high for too many.

“If we don’t see the wage and income growth needed to fuel the demand, then we will continue to see a sluggish housing market,” she says.

Even though higher interest rates would mean more homes are out of reach. Zillow economist Stan Humphries says he’d welcome higher rates.

“Home buyers for too long have been looking at the home market through this distorted lens at very low rates which is leading them to bid up prices in a lot of metros and instead they should be looking at home prices through a clearer lens so they get an accurate read on how expensive homes are,” he says.

Humphries says new rates would suggest the Fed sees a strengthening economy.

One where more people have money in their pocket, which Humphries says is what the housing market really needs.

Do today's veterans really have trouble getting jobs?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 04:30

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases annual figures on employment for veterans every March. There’s a familiar story that veterans from the post-9/11 era have had an especially hard time finding work. However, the numbers supporting that premise turn out to be elusive. 

There is this striking graph from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University:

This chart from Syracuse University shows that veterans ages 20-24 have higher unemployment rates than older veterans, and than the general population. But other data isn't broken out.

Courtesy:Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Affairs

"If you look back to about ten years or so you start seeing a real spike," says Nicholas Armstrong, the Institute's research director. "A gap in terms of unemployment being higher for vets that are ages 20 to 24."

However, that’s a small group — small enough that the gap isn't always statistically significant, according to Jim Walker, an economist who tracks veteran-employment numbers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "That group, there's very few of them," he says. "It has a very high error rate."

The Syracuse chart also leaves out other numbers that seem like they would make a useful comparison, For instance: What about 25 year-old vets? What happens when those younger vets turn 25? Armstrong’s group hasn't tracked those stats over time.

It’s not that the data undercut the familiar narrative. Only that I haven’t seen an analysis that demonstrates that story.

Neither has Kate Kidder, a researcher who looks at veterans issues at the Center for a New American Security. She says veterans groups, lobbying for resources, do push stories about out-of-work veterans. 

"Individual stories are compelling," she says. "And it’s also — a number of these folks were coming back as the economy was tanking."

Serbia Arrests 8 Accused Of Direct Roles In Srebrenica Massacre

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 04:30

War crimes prosecutors ordered the arrests, believed to be the first that are directly linked to the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

» E-Mail This

Common Core Means Three Tests In Three Years For Michigan Kids

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 03:08

Partisan bickering and lots of stress for kids and teachers as Common Core exams begin.

» E-Mail This

Letter To White House Tested Positive For Cyanide, Secret Service Says

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 02:57

The envelope arrived Monday; the agency did not announce to whom the letter was addressed. Further tests are being conducted to confirm the results.

» E-Mail This

Would Automatic Voter Registration Increase Turnout?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 02:03

A new law in Oregon is designed to make voting easier. Advocates are looking to it to increase turnout, but that might not necessarily be the result.

» E-Mail This

Fighting the "nerd" stereotypes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 02:00

HBO's "Silicon Valley" is about a lot of things: being an underdog, funding a business, succeeding in a competitive field. But it's also about being a techie, and the way in which the world sometimes labels you a "nerd." And as actor and comedian Thomas Middleditch points out, television and film have not always been kind when portraying nerds. 

 

We caught up with him on the streets of Austin during SXSW Interactive. For his part, Middleditch is proud of the research that goes into accurately portraying Silicon Valley. For him, it means the poking fun at the people in the tech industry is earned. And if anyone engrossed in start-up culture is paying attention, he also points out they can learn a lot from improv comedy when it comes to improving their approach to working with others.

Click below for an extended cut of our conversation with Thomas Middleditch:

Silicon Valley premiered at last year's SXSW Interactive conference, and is gearing up for a season 2 premiere on April 12th. 

Even if it's not "123456", change your password

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 01:30
19

The age Rep. Aaron Schock was elected to the Peoria school board, shortly after graduating. He would become board president at 22 and eventually represent Peoria's district as one of the youngest lawmakers on Capitol Hilly. Schock resigned Tuesday amid a spending probe, and the Washington Post has traced the congressman's rapid rise and the never-too-big attitude that may have been his undoing.

9 minutes

The gap between when students were alerted to a shooting at Florida State University via Yik Yak and when the school's emergency notification came through. The app, popular on college campuses, is part of a theme the Marketplace Tech team has seen running through SXSW Interactive this year: Users want more than just data privacy, they value anonymity too.

123456

Speaking of privacy, that's the most common password among 15 million put online by a security analyst and Russian hackers, Quartz reported. That seems obvious, but interestingly that pattern of keystrokes is also the most common, accounting for passwords like "qwerty," "asdfgh" and any other combination of six adjacent keys to the right. Here are the other most common combinations:

Courtesy:WP Engine via Quartz 20-24 years

The age group researchers at Syracuse University found a sizeable gap in employment between veterans and non-vets. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence showing veterans from the post-9/11 era have more trouble finding employment, Marketplace's Dan Weissmann learned hard numbers are difficult to come by.

Kentucky Right-To-Work Battle Shifts To Counties

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 23:24

While 25 states have passed right-to-work laws, Democrats in the Kentucky Legislature have long blocked attempts to pass legislation. Now there's a county-by-county effort to pass these laws locally.

» E-Mail This

After Toxic Ash Spill, Energy Company And Locals Struggle Over Solution

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 23:22

A storage failure at a coal-fired Duke Energy plant sent tens of thousands of tons of ash into a North Carolina river last year. They want to move the waste to two abandoned clay mines.

» E-Mail This

Do TV Cooking Shows Make Us Fat?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 23:12

Women who cooked the meals they saw prepared on television weighed more, on average, than those who simply watched, a study shows. The findings challenge the notion that home cooking is always best.

» E-Mail This

News From The Charity Stripe

NPR News - Tue, 2015-03-17 23:09

Commentator Frank Deford talks about efforts to rattle NCAA basketball players taking free throws.

» E-Mail This

Pages