National News

Saudi Women Reportedly Referred To Terrorism Court For Driving

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 08:55

The two women were arrested as they tried to cross the border from UAE, where they had legally obtained driver's licenses. The two also are said to have been active online against the ban.

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Sony and Microsoft fight ... the Lizard Squad

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 07:35

Starting on Christmas Eve, Microsoft's Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Network suffered outages that lasted through Christmas Day and beyond. By the morning of the 26th, XBox was said to be back online, but judging by the continued grumpiness on Twitter, PlayStation Network was still not working.

A group called Lizard Squad posted messages on Twitter, taking responsibility.

Lizard Squad, a group of so-called "black hat" hackers, has a history of attacking gaming networks. In those earlier attacks, Lizard Squad used what’s called D-Dos or Distributed Denial of Service attacks, in which hackers send a bunch of essentially fake online traffic to a website or a service and bring it down by overwhelming the system.

No one is saying that these hacks are related to the earlier attacks on Sony Pictures that President Obama has blamed on North Korea. But it does come at an inopportune moment for the company.

Of the many tweets on the subject, perhaps the most amusing come from someone with a fake Kim Jong-Un account. Starts by quoting a headline from the tech blog Gizmodo: “Xbox Live and PSN are still messed up” and ends: “It wasn’t me, PEACE”

 

PODCAST: How the hacker stole Christmas

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 06:43

Christmas is always a busy day for Microsoft XBox and Sony Playstation's servers, as people unwrap their new game consoles and try to log on. But in what may be the Grinch move of the season, hackers claim to have orchestrated a digital attack that's been slowing or halting those gaming networks since yesterday. 

Want to not make friends or influence people in a bar? Try going on about trade policy. But NAFTA and other trade agreements may have altered the texture of American business and the job market more than any other set of policies. And there are new trade agreements in the works that could play prominently in our coverage in 2015.  

And, some airlines these days are now trying to make life in coach a bit less contemptuous, with fluffier head-rests and bigger video screens. But as Sam Hartnett reports this is happening even as some of the seats are getting smaller.

PODCAST: How the hacker stole Christmas

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 06:43

 

Christmas is always a busy day for Microsoft XBox and Sony Playstation's servers, as people unwrap their new game consoles and try to log on. But in what may be the Grinch move of the season, hackers claim to have orchestrated a digital attack that's been slowing or halting those gaming networks since yesterday. 

Want to not make friends or influence people in a bar? Try going on about trade policy. But NAFTA and other trade agreements may have altered the texture of American business and the job market more than any other set of policies. And there are new trade agreements in the works that could play prominently in our coverage in 2015.  

And, some airlines these days are now trying to make life in coach a bit less contemptuous, with fluffier head-rests and bigger video screens. But as Sam Hartnett reports this is happening even as some of the seats are getting smaller.

Turkey Frees Teenager Who 'Insulted' The President

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 06:26

The most recent crackdown on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's critics is proof for many that Turkey is veering toward authoritarianism.

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Ukrainian Peace Talks Put On Hold

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 06:24

The talks that began on Wednesday were expected to be continued today in Minsk. Belarus, which is hosting the dialogue, declined to comment on the reason.

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Wal-Mart aims to make a buck from your gift card

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 05:29

If you received a gift card for Christmas, Wal-Mart wants to make you an offer: Trade it in for a Wal-Mart gift card... for less than face value. An estimated billion dollars worth of gift cards may go unused this year, and Wal-Mart hopes to take a chunk of that business. 

The retail giant is partnering with an outfit called cardcash.com, which is already in the business of trading in slightly-used gift cards— offering a check, or PayPal, or an Amazon gift card. Here are some examples:

Some sample offers from cardcash.com, as found on the morning of Dec. 26 2014.

Dan Weissmann/screenshot from cardcash.com

Card Cash then turns around and offers the cards for sale through its site— at higher prices than it pays. Target cards sell for face value, for instance. Home Depot cards go for 6 percent off. Starbucks cards go for 12.5 percent off.

Wal-Mart, in this partnership, offers slightly better terms for its cards. Here are some offers retrieved from the partnership site:

Some offers from the Wal-Mart side of cardcash.com, as found the morning of December 26, 2014.

Dan Weissmann/screenshot from walmart.cardcash.com

 

Sucharita Mulpuru,  a retail analyst with Forrester Research, says gift cards are such a big business, it was just a matter of time before Wal-Mart got into secondary markets like this. 

However, she is surprised that Wal-Mart is partnering with a company that does so much business with arch-rival Amazon. "If I were in a partnership with any company, I probably would not want them to have significant relations with my biggest competitor," she says. 

 

Hollywood's Acceptance Of White Privilege Revealed By Sony Hack

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 05:03

While some leaked Sony emails seemed racist, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says they hint at a wider issue: an acceptance of practices, habits and perceptions that limit diversity in Hollywood.

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Possible Hack Of Sony, Microsoft Game Console Sites

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 04:51

A group calling itself Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for a possible denial-of-service attack against the tech companies' online game sites.

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Irish Court OKs Turning Off Life Support For Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 04:08

Doctors told the High Court the 18-week fetus' prospects of survival were low. There have been two similar cases in Ireland since 2001; both fetuses died in the womb. The decision won't be appealed.

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How To Make An Unboring Documentary About Polio

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 03:03

Filmmaker Tom Roberts was definitely not interested when he was first asked to make a movie about the disease. Then he began to do some research. "Every Last Child" is the result.

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Nutmeg Spice Has A Secret Story That Isn't So Nice

NPR News - Fri, 2014-12-26 02:33

Nutmeg is a feel-good holiday spice. But it once caused serious bloodshed and may have even been a reason the Dutch were willing to part with Manhattan in the 1600s.

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Coke to make cuts amid sales slump

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 02:04

The Wall Street Journal reports that Coca Cola has plans to lay off as many as 2,000 employees in the next few weeks. Coke announced in October that it is seeking to cut costs amid falling profits. The company is slashing budgets: asking executives to take taxis instead of limousines, and reportedly canceling a Christmas party for Wall Street analysts.

The belt-tightening comes as America's love affair with soda pop has chilled in recent years. U.S. consumers are increasingly turning to healthier, cheaper beverages to quench their thirst, including water. Coke owns the water brand, Dasani, and recently started selling milk, in an attempt to keep pace with changing tastes. 

Airlines use illusion to make coach seem more spacious

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 02:03

Like most of us, you have probably flown coach recently. Did it seem spacious to you? Probably not. Airlines are hoping to change that—not with bigger seats, but by creating the impression of more room with larger video screens and new headrests.

Joe Brancatelli runs JoeSentMe, a website for business travelers. He says the illusion is just that: an illusion. Coach seats have gotten smaller he says and they continue to get smaller.

The whole shrinking airplane seat situation makes Joe Brancatelli thinks of a Marx Brothers' joke. It's the one where Groucho calls up room service and asks them to send up more room. Instead, they send up more people to his tiny space.

Brancatelli says airplane perks like larger video screens are distractions from slimmer seats which are now seven inches less than an average desk chair. Meanwhile, he says first class keeps getting nicer.

The difference in comfort between first class and coach is growing Brancatelli says. “It really is a yawning gap culturally,” he says, “and people are beginning to seize on this and say it's like what is going on in society.”

Chris Lopinto has noticed the increasing difference between the two airplane classes. Lopinto is co-founder of ExpertFlyer.com. He points to how American Airlines is concentrating more on first class as it upgrades its fleet. Lopinto says, “That's the way it is because that's where a lot of the revenue comes from.”

Lopinto says in American Airlines' new planes, economy fliers will get some upgrades like more personal video screens, power outlets, and pay-as-you-go wifi.

 As for the seats, he says if anything they are going to get a tad smaller.

Blackberry plans self-destructing phone

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-12-26 02:03

The Canadian smartphone company Blackberry has partnered with Boeing to make a phone that can self-destruct if it gets into the wrong hands.

The phone is designed for people in the defense and security industries. Blackberry is hoping this emphasis on security will tap into a growth market and turn the company around. Aptly named the “Boeing Black,” any attempt to crack it open triggers a Mission Impossible-style deletion of data and renders the phone inoperable.

Apple and Samsung may rule the consumer-side of smartphones for some time, “…but on the business-side and the government-side, Blackberry is gold,” notes Jeff Kagan, a tech industry analyst based in Atlanta. He says smartphone security is growth industry, and it won’t be just the Boeings of the world, who want these added protections. 

Sony Hack Highlights The Global Underground Market For Malware

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 23:36

The software used in the Sony data breach is available on the underground market. This makes it easier for criminals to execute an attack but harder to identify the perpetrators.

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The Grocery Delivery Man Who Brings Joy To A Housing Complex

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 23:35

A San Francisco man talks about why he volunteers to deliver groceries to his elderly and disabled neighbors.

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Getting High Safely: Aspen Launches Marijuana Education Campaign

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 23:33

Authorities in the Colorado city have dispersed information brochures on the do's and don'ts of marijuana use. It lists facts such as where pot is legal and how long the high takes to set in.

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A Split View On Obamacare's Past And Future

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 23:33

The Affordable Care Act created insurance subsidies that are under legal challenge. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in 2015 and could rule against a key provision of the law.

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As Uber Expands, It Asks Cities For Forgivness Instead Of Permission

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-25 23:31

In 2014, Uber became one of the most valuable privately held companies on earth. It expanded to more than 200 cities, but criticism and legal battles have ballooned in parallel with its revenues.

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