National News

4 Years Of Lessons Learned About Drugmakers' Payments To Doctors

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 11:36

American doctors received at least $1.4 billion in payments from drug companies last year. What did the companies get for their money?

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Sandwich Monday: The Pizza Cake

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 11:05

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try the Pizza Cake, which is a fancy way of saying "a bunch of pizzas stacked on top of each other."

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After Fire, FAA Orders Review Of Contingency Plans, Security

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 10:28

On Friday, a contractor intentionally set fire to an FAA air traffic facility that has caused flight delays and cancellations for days.

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More Active Play Equals Better Thinking Skills For Kids

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 10:12

How long can you sit still in a desk? How about your 7-year-old? Maybe you could both use a break. A study shows that kids who get to run around and play after school are better at paying attention.

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This is a generic brand video

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 10:10

It's the ad that comes before the YouTube video you're trying to watch: a hopeful message from a company trying to sell you on its brand and outlook, usually with no shortage of inspirational imagery and plenty of metaphors.

Kendra Eash captured the language and tone brands use in a piece for McSweeneys.

Listen to the story in the player above with an active imagination (or watch the video) to see what she's talking about.

'Breaking Bad' and Albuquerque: One year later

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 10:06

AMC's critically acclaimed series "Breaking Bad," created by Vince Gilligan, ran its very last episode one year ago. The show takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and although production has stopped, the town continues to experience an economic boom. Even tourism rates grew exponentially.

In 2013, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed what was called the "Breaking Bad bill" into law, a film incentive that increases subsidies for television crews from 25 percent to 30 percent in some areas of expenditure. The law increases New Mexico's rebate for series television production to 30 percent of a producer's total qualified spend in the state.

"We actually see people that will come here specifically to go and see the sites," says Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry. "I have been as far as Beijing where people have asked me about 'Breaking Bad,' so, yeah, it surely has put us on the map internationally."

Another positive outcome was the number of jobs the show produced. Actors and television producers weren’t the only ones to benefit job-wise from filming, Berry says.

"It’s electricians, the lumber yard selling lumber, and it is craft, and it is the local places that rent their businesses out to film," says Berry. "It really hits our economy from top to bottom."

"Breaking Bad" has a spinoff show called "Better Call Saul," also created by Gilligan, and also set in Albuquerque. It is scheduled to premiere in February 2015.

The show has already been picked up for a second season.

 "When 'Breaking Bad' filmed here, almost $70 million came into our economy," says Berry. "We think that 'Better Call Saul' is going to be another great opportunity for us."

Is that Thai food genuine? Ask a robot.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:36

This story, found in the pages of the New York Times, when you think about it, is a thing of pure genius.

Scientists in Thailand are set to unveil a robot that will be able to tell whether Thai food is actually genuine Thai food.

Proper proportions, the right taste — you get the idea.

The possibilities, honestly, are endless...testing Mexican food, Chinese, Indian.

Of course, it's entirely possible we Americans have just come to prefer "fake" ethnic food.

The battle over which company has your number

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:30

Telecom security, consumer privacy and the tension that lies therein is a hot topic. In the spotlight on Capitol Hill right now? Negotiations over a federal contract for which company will route phone calls.  

Once upon a time, if you switched phone carriers, you had to switch your telephone number. In 1997, Congress said you can keep your number even if you switch, said Ahmed Ghappour, a law professor at UC Hastings.

“And so that resulted in a great deal of confusion,” Ghappour said.

He said that’s because, before that law, each phone service provider was awarded blocks of numbers. If the police wanted to tap a number, they would know which company to go to. But once you could keep your number, that system was gone.

So the government contracted a company named Neustar to keep track of all phone numbers. Also, every time you make a call, it's Neustar that routes your call to the right carrier.

“It’s essentially a central pathway for all calls to and from telephone lines that utilize U.S. telecom services,” Ghappour said.

Now Neustar might lose the contract to Ericsson, which is based in Sweden. Neustar says this would be bad for national security, said Jonathan Mayer, a fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation.

“It certainly is a legitimate concern that the company that routes calls is in position to know a fair amount about law enforcement and intelligence investigations,” Mayer said.

For example, a hostile country could break in and see that law enforcement is asking about the phone numbers of its spies.

Christopher Soghoian, a technologist at the ACLU, said an American-based company can’t protect data any better than one in based in Europe.

“The security community doesn’t know how to build a system that allows access to one party but keeps others out,” Soghoian said.

Soghoian said the only way to keep data out of the hands of the bad guys is to secure it from everybody — even law enforcement. 

Is Facebook's new ad tool a game changer?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:28

Facebook is rolling out an advertising tool today that the company claims will be a real game changer. It wants to merge data from its over 1 billion active monthly users with their travels across the Internet on computers and mobile phones alike.

The end result is that advertisers can use the tool to buy ads outside of Facebook.

Currently, there’s a black hole between people’s internet use on smartphones and computers, says Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester Research.

“So you can target people who like the New York Yankees on the PC, you target people who like the New York Yankees on a phone, but you’re never quite sure, today, if you’re catching the same people on both of those platforms,” he explains.

Facebook’s Atlas service wants to close that gap and let advertisers better measure whether their ads were effective.

But Elliott cautions that Facebook’s announcement is short on details about how Atlas works.

“Today they’ve presented us with some nicely packaged sausage, but they haven’t told us much about how the sausage is being made,” Elliott says.

If the service is as good as the company claims, Karen North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, says it could help Facebook better compete in its ad wars with Google.

“Where Facebook has struggled in the past is that people don’t go to Facebook to buy things,” she says. “So now they’re deciding, 'Well maybe the whole Facebook ad idea isn’t the right answer.' Maybe it’s, ‘We’ll just be the place to come to buy ads for wherever you are.’”

A couple of years ago, Facebook watchers were bemoaning its lack of a mobile strategy. So this is fast progress, says Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

But it may elevate the privacy concerns many users already have with Facebook.

“If it’s done well, you will notice it,” says Kay. “Because what you’ll find is the creepy effect; that you’ll visit a site and then you’ll go somewhere else and notice an ad for something that seems to be related to that site you just visited. “

Facebook declined an interview request for this story, but the company has said it won’t give advertisers identifying information about users.

Just lots and lots of data.

What you need to know about Occupy Central

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:27

Stocks have been on a rollercoaster ride recently, and geopolitical events aren't helping. Last week it was the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. On Monday it was Hong Kong, where demonstrators are demanding that future elections be free from Beijing's interference.

Here's what you need to know about the movement, commonly referred to as Occupy Central.

What's happening? 

The thousands of demonstrators — mostly students — don’t want Bejing to vet their political candidates. Hong Kong was slated to gain universal suffrage and hold its first fully democratic election for chief executive in 2017.

Chinese president Xi Jinping reportedly reasserted his stance on the issue in a meeting with business leaders from the region. Protesters began gathering in Hong Kong's business district Wednesday, clogging roads, closing schools and businesses and canceling civic events.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

What's the history behind it?

Hong Kong used to be a British territory, returning to Chinese control in 1997. A document called Basic Law was ratified during the transition, guaranteeing certain freedoms and eventually democratic elections to Hong Kong under the ethos "one country, two systems."

"There are things you can talk about, there are books you can buy in Hong Kong, even though it's part of the People's Republic of China, that are off limits in other parts of the People's Republic of China," says Jeff Wasserstrom, who studies protest movements in China.

This isn't the first time Hong Kong has pushed back against policies from mainland China to keep their semi-autonomy. New national security laws and education efforts have been points of protest, and Hong Kong is still the only place where people can legally hold vigils for the 1989 massacre near Tiananmen Square.

What's Hong Kong's role in the economy?

Hong Kong has freer capital flows than mainland China, as well as more financial regulations and legal freedoms. All that is attractive to businesses.

“On the surface, Hong Kong’s economy is tiny,” says IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh. “But … you’ve got a lot of Western banks having big operations there. You’ve got a lot of Chinese banks. So Hong Kong plays a very important role financially in Asia, but especially with respect to financial flows and capital flows in and out of China.”

Hong Kong is often called a gateway to China. An American or European manufacturer might set up a plant in mainland China to lower labor costs. But the company could also set up shop in Hong Kong, where’s it’s easier to raise capital in the Asian markets.

The protests may cause short-term market disruptions, but Johns Hopkins economist Heiwai Tang says Western businesses will have to grapple with Hong Kong’s integration with China over the next several years, especially if China's in charge.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

How has the government responded?

About 40 people have been injured in the protests, which have largely been peaceful. Riot police deployed tear gas over the weekend, but were less confrontational Monday while still urging the crowd to disperse.

Occupy Central presents a test for President Jinping, the New York Times reported, who has positioned himself as a political strongman, drawing a hard line against dissent in the mainland. Making concessions to the protesters would be a sign of weakness, but a show of force large enough to dispel these protests could bring back dark memories of Tiananmen Square

Wasserstorm told Vox the protests could end with Hong Kong's current chief executive stepping down, which wouldn't likely change election policies for the time being but could be a small victory for pro-democracy groups nonetheless.

What's the role of social media in this?

As with many, many recent protests around the world, social media has played an important role, especially since the Internet is censored in mainland China. The government reportedly blocked Instagram over the weekend, and state-owned messaging service Sina Weibo saw a record number of posts deleted. A number of journalists have been providing live coverage on Twitter, which is blocked in mainland China.

Protesters have begun organizing through the chatroom app FireChat, which saw 100,000 new users sign up over the weekend and 33,000 people using it simultaneously in Hong Kong. FireChat is particularly useful to protesters because it's difficult to censor or shut down. However, FireChat doesn't allow private chat and it's not encrypted, limiting its utility for protesters.

#OccupyCentral #HKStudentStrike
Pls remember msgs not encrypted yet. Dont use your real name.
http://t.co/hFrrfffFMu pic.twitter.com/JPtK7ZRLrC

— OpenGarden (@OpenGarden) September 28, 2014

Swedish Scientists Square Off Over Who Can Sneak In Most Dylan Lyrics

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:25

It all started in 1997, when two professors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm published an article on flatulence titled "Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind."

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What We Don't Know About Heart Disease Can Kill Us

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 09:10

People in the United Kingdom failed big time when they took a poll on risk factors for heart disease. Think you're more up to speed? Try our quickie quiz and find out.

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How Hong Kong Protesters Are Connecting, Without Cell Or Wi-Fi Networks

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 08:57

Pro-democracy protesters are downloading a fast-growing app called FireChat to stay in touch. It has been used around the world during political unrest.

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California Enacts 'Yes Means Yes' Law, Defining Sexual Consent

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 08:27

The new law requires an "affirmative consent" and states that consent can't be given if someone is asleep or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

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Everything But The Squeal: How The Hog Industry Cuts Food Waste

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 08:25

Large-scale hog operations get a bad environmental rap. But when it comes to processing the animals, the industry is a model of efficiency, making use of every last bit in sometimes surprising ways.

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The numbers for September 29, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 07:51

Police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at the Occupy Central protesters in Hong Kong Sunday, injuring at least 40, but the pro-democracy activists stayed put on Monday. Riot police have reportedly backed off from the crowd, but are still urging protesters to disperse. The crowd is protesting a move from Beijing they say will put restrictions on the election for city executive in 2017.

As we keep an eye on the situation in Hong Kong, here are some of the other stories we're reading Monday.

$85 billion

The value of the Federal Reserve's loan to AIG, amid the 2008 financial crisis. Starting Monday, a federal judge will weigh whether the bailout, which gave the government a nearly 80 percent stake in the company, was legal. The six-week trial will call on former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury secretaries Timothy Geithner and Henry "Hank" Paulson, Reuters reported.

$780 to $930 million

The estimated cost of U.S.-led airstrikes against the extremist group ISIS in Syria, according to a report from Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The report also gives projected costs of the conflict, depending on the continued airstrikes and the number of ground forces potentially deployed. Some estimates were as high as $22 billion per year.

1.3 billion

Facebook's massive user base's data will be used in a new advertising platform called Atlas, launching Monday. The service, bought from Microsoft last year, will use Facebook data for targeted ads across the web and in mobile apps, The New York Times reported. Like all things Facebook, it comes with a bevy of privacy concerns.

Afghanistan's New President: 'Hold Me Accountable'

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 07:50

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai takes over from Hamid Karzai after a disputed election that forced a unity government with rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah.

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Should You Do The Do-Over If There's A Chance For A Second Chance?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-09-29 07:11

As world-class violinist Joshua Bell plans a second Washington, D.C. Metro performance, we reflect on the rare opportunity to try something again.

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Biting the hand that feeds you?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-29 07:00

On Monday, the federal government will be on trial in Washington. It’s being sued over the government bailout of the insurance giant American International Group, or AIG.

In the fall of 2008, the government made an offer to AIG. In essence: We’ll loan you $85 billion. In return, we get a nearly 80 percent stake in AIG.

The suit is being spearheaded by a former CEO of the company, Hank Greenberg, who now heads Starr International Co. He says the government violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says the government can’t seize private property without just compensation.  

Hester Peirce is a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. She’s not unsympathetic to Greenberg. But she thinks he’ll lose.

“Arguing that you were entitled to government assistance during a crisis is a pretty weak argument,” she says.

The government says AIG’s board approved the bailout, and the company couldn’t dictate the terms of its rescue. If the government wins, the case could set some loose ground rules for future bailouts of financial institutions.

“The institutions do have to agree to government terms if they want the assistance," says Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform.

And, he says, they can’t go back and object to the terms, long after the bailout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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