National News

Anti-Bloomberg ad signals new political trend

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:58

Experts expect between $6 and 7 billion will be spent on messaging during the 2016 campaign season and its run-up. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision opened the door to more outside spending on advertising, and that has changed a lot of things – including who gets attacked by attack ads.  

Last week, the National Rifle Association kicked off a multi-million dollar ad campaign with a 30-second spot.

“Liberals call this flyover country,” it begins. “It’s an insult.  But nobody insults your life like this guy: Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, elitist, hypocrite.”

The NRA says Bloomberg “has declared war” on the organization and its five million members. The former mayor of New York City has pledged to spend at least $50 million pushing for more background checks on gun buyers.

But Bloomberg is out of office.  He is not running for anything – at least right now.  And according to Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, that is what makes the NRA’s campaign so novel.

“To see him be the target of the ad is, in many ways, something we have never seen before,” he says.

In the past, attack ads have tied politicians to other politicians and donors to their campaigns. Franz believes this is the first advertisement not tied to a candidate or a campaign.

“This is the post-'Citizens United' world that we live in,” he says.

Franz and others say it is hard to overstate how much the landscape has changed over the last few years.

“The way we’ve organized now, since ‘Citizens United,’ essentially everything is on the table,” says Danilo Yanich, a professor of public policy at the University of Delaware. Everything and everyone.

Ken Goldstein, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco, says Michael Bloomberg and other big donors are being cast as outsiders.

"The message here is that there is something improper about these people being involved in politics," he says. "That their money is trying to fool you."

This is an update, Goldstein says, of a technique campaign operatives have used for a long time.

“One of the first things one does in opposition research is see if they can tie the other side to someone who is unsavory or unpopular."

What the NRA is hoping, Goldstein says, is that this ad — and others it plans to run nationwide — will affect how Americans see Michael Bloomberg and the cause he backs.

Texas Voter ID Law Goes To Trial

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:46

A federal court will hear a challenge to the controversial law next week. It's an important and closely watched voting rights case that could end up before the Supreme Court.

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The business of preventing sexual assault on campus

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:09

The federal government is cracking down on college sexual assaults by putting more than 70 schools under investigation for their handling of such cases - and entrepreneurs and consultants are finding business opportunities. 

They’re creating smartphone apps to let students easily notify friends or campus police if they get into a scary situation, and developing training programs for campus-led sexual assault investigations.

“With a heavily-regulated industry, you're going to see a lot of products and services offered,” says Peter Lake, a campus safety expert at Stetson University College of Law.

Stetson says many schools aren't set up to deal with new rules governing sexual assault prevention and reporting. They need the extra help.

“A lot of us were using coconuts and Dixie cups with string to communicate, and now we have complicated software programs that actually work to get data in real time,” he says.

One app, called LiveSafe, lets students give campus security anonymous tips about crimes or potentially dangerous situations in real time. Schools pay a few bucks per student on up for the services. 

By some estimates, as many as 80 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. LiveSafe chief executive Jenny Abramson thinks apps like hers can help change that.

“We find that in a number of places we're in, they're getting twice as many - or even ten times as many - tips from a student to the safety official, around things they ordinarily wouldn't share by calling or other more traditional means,” she says.

In addition to entrepreneurs like Abramson, lots of consultants and lawyers are marketing videos and training programs around sexual assaults. They're betting schools would rather pay their fees than face much stiffer penalties from the government. Without the proper programs in place, colleges can jeopardize federal funding and get fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Dana Bolger is skeptical about some of the products getting marketed as a means to reduce sexual assaults, such as a nail polish that can detect date rape drugs when you dip your fingers into a drink.  Bolger was a rape victim in college and is now an activist and co-founder of the organization Know Your IX. She's worried the technology may be more dazzling than effective.

“These products, while often well-intentioned, try to lull us into a false sense of security,” she says, “as though we can just innovate our way out of systemic violence against women.”

The business of preventing sexual assault on campus

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:09

The federal government is cracking down on college sexual assaults by putting more than 70 schools under investigation for their handling of such cases - and entrepreneurs and consultants are finding business opportunities. 

They’re creating smartphone apps to let students easily notify friends or campus police if they get into a scary situation, and developing training programs for campus-led sexual assault investigations.

“With a heavily-regulated industry, you're going to see a lot of products and services offered,” says Peter Lake, a campus safety expert at Stetson University College of Law.

Stetson says many schools aren't set up to deal with new rules governing sexual assault prevention and reporting. They need the extra help.

“A lot of us were using coconuts and Dixie cups with string to communicate, and now we have complicated software programs that actually work to get data in real time,” he says.

One app, called LiveSafe, lets students give campus security anonymous tips about crimes or potentially dangerous situations in real time. Schools pay a few bucks per student on up for the services. 

By some estimates, as many as 80 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. LiveSafe chief executive Jenny Abramson thinks apps like hers can help change that.

“We find that in a number of places we're in, they're getting twice as many - or even ten times as many - tips from a student to the safety official, around things they ordinarily wouldn't share by calling or other more traditional means,” she says.

In addition to entrepreneurs like Abramson, lots of consultants and lawyers are marketing videos and training programs around sexual assaults. They're betting schools would rather pay their fees than face much stiffer penalties from the government. Without the proper programs in place, colleges can jeopardize federal funding and get fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Dana Bolger is skeptical about some of the products getting marketed as a means to reduce sexual assaults, such as a nail polish that can detect date rape drugs when you dip your fingers into a drink.  Bolger was a rape victim in college and is now an activist and co-founder of the organization Know Your IX. She's worried the technology may be more dazzling than effective.

“These products, while often well-intentioned, try to lull us into a false sense of security,” she says, “as though we can just innovate our way out of systemic violence against women.”

Abercrombie abandons logos to keep up with the trends

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 09:40

Abercrombie & Fitch, the retailer that's known for its hunky models and clothes that scream "Abercrombie" says it's ditching its logo. From now on, the retailer says its clothes will be logo-free, at least in North America.

It’s an odd twist considering Abercrombie helped create the demand for teen clothing with big logos.

Well, no surprise, teens are fickle, said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at Wharton.  

“In general, I think there is a trend that kids are not into logos as they once were because there’s more of an emphasis on showing your own individuality,” Kahn said, adding that it also depends on the logo - and right now Abercrombie’s is out of fashion.

Ronnie Moas, an analyst at Standpoint Research, says the the fast-fashion trend has created a big shift in the teen clothing industry and knocked Abercrombie off its perch. He downgraded the stock in early July. Moas said retailers like Forever 21 and H&M are putting out the newest fashions quickly and cheaply.

“At Abercrombie you’re paying $50-$60-$70 for a dress and at H&M it’s $20,” Moas said.

There’s no logo, so teens can mix-and-match and feel like they’re creating their own, individual style. While this is good news for young shoppers, it’s bad news for retailers, said Simeon Siegel, an analyst at Nomura.

“Leaving the brand premium means your pricing power probably erodes,” Siegel said.

Siegel said it’s not just Abercrombie that's having problems, but all teen retailers that have relied on brands in the past.

With Homegrown Technology, Israel Becomes Leading Arms Exporter

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 09:22

Israel's recurring wars with its Arab neighbors have resulted in a weapons industry that keeps coming up with new technologies, which can then be sold abroad.

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Experimental Drug Saves Monkeys Stricken With Ebola

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 09:09

Even when monkeys were near death, an Ebola treatment called ZMapp was able to save them. The drug has been used in a few people, but the limited supply has been exhausted.

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The Most Bizarre Bits To Come Out Of The Trial Of Virginia's Ex-Governor

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 09:02

At issue are serious allegations of corruption, but the trial has also unveiled some unfortunate details of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's personal life.

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Malaysia Airlines Cuts A Third Of Its Workforce After Steep Losses

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 08:29

The disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17 in recent months have compounded the hit to the carrier's already shaky bottom line.

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A Peace Corps Stint In Madagascar Gave Him A Vision Of Vanilla

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 07:28

The top source of vanilla beans sends its fragrant crop abroad for processing into extract. Now a former Peace Corps volunteer aims to boost Madagascar's economy by building a bean-to-bottle business.

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Britain Raises Terror Alert Level, But Cites No Specific Threat

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 07:00

The warning was raised to "severe," the second-highest level, as British Prime Minister David Cameron said Islamic extremism poses a "greater and deeper" threat to the U.K. than ever before.

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California Lawmakers Pass 'Affirmative Consent' Sexual Assault Bill

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 06:19

The bill states that students on college campuses would need "affirmative consent" before engaging in sexual activity. Silence or a lack of resistance would not constitute consent.

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Life Under The Islamic State: Sharia Law And Few Services

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 06:17

News from Mosul has been scarce since the Islamic State took power. Speaking by phone, Iraqis say the group has imposed strict controls that are alienating residents and are providing few services.

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Volcanoes In Iceland, Papua New Guinea Keep Residents On Edge

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 05:09

Two eruptions a half a world apart have caused evacuations and aviation warnings, but so far no injuries.

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Plea To Ferguson's Leaders: To Help Heal, Acknowledge Our Hurt

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 04:53

NPR's Michel Martin was invited by St. Louis Public Radio to moderate an intensely emotional community conversation around race, police tactics and leadership.

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U.N.: Syrian Refugee Crisis Is 'Biggest Humanitarian Emergency Of Our Era'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 04:09

The number of refugees from the Syrian civil war is on the verge of surpassing 3 million, the United Nations said. Almost half of all Syrians have been forced out of their homes.

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PODCAST: Nashville's parking crisis

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 03:00

In a digital world where our personal data is sometimes passed around like popcorn at the stadium, Apple is getting strict. The Financial Times and the Guardian newspapers are reporting that Apple has told its developers they cannot sell to third parties health data generated by its devices. The tightening of privacy rules comes as Apple is preparing to launch an updated operating system and a new platform for health and fitness. Plus, Alibaba -- known as the Amazon of China or the Paypal of China or the Ebay of China -- is going public this month in what may well be the largest new stock offering in U.S. history. And as any company must, Alibaba will be doing what's called a "road show" - where executives meet with investors to gin up interest.  We take a look at how this road show will be different. And the city of Nashville's urban core is bubbling over with growth, bumping up land prices and gobbling up parking spots. For business owners, this means parking lots are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Enter, on the wings of supply and demand, valet parking companies.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Says Government Will Seek NATO Membership

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-29 02:58

Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Kiev was sending a bill to parliament to get the process rolling. Meanwhile, NATO held an emergency meeting to discuss further Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory.

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Weekly Wrap: 'Confident but careful' and Snapchat

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 02:39

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal discusses the week that was in business and the economy with Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin, and Cardiff Garcia, of FT Alphaville. 

Silicon Tally: Charlotte's Web...in your Suzuki

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-29 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

Our guest this week is Marketplace senior reporter Stacey Vanek Smith. Smith stops by for one last game before heading off to join our colleagues at NPR's Planet Money. 

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