National News

Weekly Wrap: consumers, takeovers and Pacific trade

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 13:00

Joining Adriene to talk about the week's business and economic news are Nela Richardson from Redfin and Cardiff Garcia from FT Alphaville. The big topics this week: a consumer sentiment number decline, fake takeover bids and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. 

What's the hang-up with collecting phone data?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 13:00

Congress is trying to decide whether to change the way spy agencies collect bulk phone data on Americans. Earlier this week, the House decided to end government collection of our phone records.

We wondered, what if you did a cost-benefit analysis of all that metadata? Is it worth all the trouble? We’re talking about huge amounts of data here. 

The National Security Agency stores phone company billing information for calls made and received in the U.S. — which numbers called other numbers and when. So what does that cost?  Well, let’s just say in this case, talk is not cheap.

John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State and the libertarian Cato Institute, says it's in excess of $100 million a year.

Mueller got that number by estimating what the phone companies spend to gather and store their billing records, and adding in some extra for the cost of NSA analysis. 

That’s really hard to measure, though, because it’s classified.

“You get sort of a range," Mueller says. "It’s not trillions of dollars, by any means, and so you have fairly substantial money being spent on it."

OK, now the benefit part of our cost-benefit analysis.  A presidential commission has looked into that.

“There’s no benefit,” says Richard Clarke, who worked as a counter-terrorism adviser in the White House and was on the commission. He says all the phone record metadata wasn’t instrumental in preventing any terrorist attacks.

Clarke says the NSA has done its own cost-benefit analysis of its bulk collection of U.S. phone records.

“Some people at NSA told us that if Snowden hadn’t leaked this thing, they probably would have terminated it anyway,” he says, referring to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

So the commission said, "The phone companies already keep these records. Why should the NSA store them, too? Let’s keep them at the phone company. The NSA can get them with a court order." 

“We found that it was useful to have the ability to find out who has contacted whom," says Peter Swire, another member of the commission.  He teaches privacy and cybersecurity at Georgia Tech. "We believed the better way to do it was not a huge government warehouse.”

Swire says phone records may not be instrumental in preventing terrorist attacks, but they can help, so they should be available to the NSA. Just not at the NSA’s fingertips. 

First In Fish: 'Fully Warm-Blooded' Moonfish Prowls The Deep Seas

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 12:53

"It's hard to stay warm when you're surrounded by cold water but the opah has figured it out," a NOAA Fisheries biologist says.

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What Should Liberia Do With Its Empty Ebola Treatment Units?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 12:31

Now that Liberia is Ebola-free, it has to figure out what to do with 21 Ebola treatment units built during the outbreak.

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Reactions To Death Penalty For Boston Bomber

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 12:23

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he hopes the verdict "provides a small amount of closure to the survivors, families" and others affected by the 2013 marathon bombing.

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Massive Antarctic Ice Shelf Will Be Gone Within Years, NASA Says

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 12:01

What's left of the Larsen B shelf, two-thirds of which underwent a spectacular collapse in 2002, will disappear by the end of the decade, according to a new study.

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Parents find promise and peril in education technology

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 11:16
These days, virtually every school in the country is wired, and students are doing everything from class work to homework on laptops and tablets. This hasn't just changed things for teachers and students, it has also changed life for parents.

In a national, online survey, "Parents' Attitudes Toward Educational Technology," Marketplace asked parents of children in grades 3 through 12 for their opinions on tech in the classroom.

Parents say nearly every child uses a computer, tablet, or smartphone for school work, including turning in homework, writing reports, taking tests and playing math and spelling games. In Atlanta, parent Carl Fields says his daughter uses technology in almost every one of her classes.

"She has her own laptop, and everything is done on Google Drive now, so she very rarely has to write anything. It's just primarily all a laptop, computer or tablet," he says.



Daryl Jackson and his wife are raising 11 children in Atlanta. The Marketplace survey shows most parents — about three-fourths — think technology in school will help children in their future careers.

"I think it's a great thing," Jackson says. "I wish I had it back when I was in school, I think I would be a lot more successful than I am now — not that I'm doing too shabby."

Also, the majority of parents — more than 71 percent — say technology has improved the "overall quality of education."



Technology for school has also allowed the helicopter parent to go digital — no more hiding the report card in the bottom of the backpack. Manny Garcia of Los Angeles has a 12-year-old and 16-year-old. Like most parents, he uses tech to track what's happening at school .

"I do check on their grades all the time," he says. "The good thing about that is that they're always good. So I don't worry too much about that."

But some parents are proudly unplugged, like Kerry Martin in Chicago. She says there's not a computer in her home.

"You've got to do it the old-fashioned way," she says. "We don't use the internet for things like math and science. You've got to dig down and get it done."



For all its advantages, technology has also given parents a new set of worries. Beth Sanders is the mother of a third grade student in Washington, D.C., and says she has to monitor her son carefully.

"It's easy for him to just get on YouTube or search for 'Minecraft' videos when he should be doing his work, so I have to stand over him and make sure he's looking at what he's supposed to be looking at," she says.

For Dominique Bell, who has a 11th grade student in a Chicago high school, "auto-correct is the devil," she says. About 40 percent of the parents we surveyed say they worry school tech makes their child too reliant on technology, and only 57 percent say technology for school has improved critical thinking skills.

"It's not teaching them to critically think. If they want to know the answer, they can just Google the answer instead of just actually having to figure it out or rely on themselves," Bell says.



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Colombia Will End Coca Crop-Dusting, Citing Health Concerns

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 11:05

The U.S.-funded aerial spraying program has been aimed at killing the coca plants that feed the cocaine industry. Colombia says one of the chemicals in the spray may cause illnesses.

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The Transaction: Hawaii condo

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:50

Marketplace listener Tracy Cambre Morales planned a Hawaii vacation for her 50th birthday.

After meticulously planning the trip for almost a year, the Morales family was excited. The plane tickets were purchased, the condo and car rental were secured, the family was set. Right before the family was supposed to depart, Tracy's mother-in-law got sick, and the doctor gave her two months to live.

The Hawaii trip to was postponed indefinitely. After canceling the plane tickets and the rental car, Tracy was faced with canceling the rented condo, which was not refundable. To her surprise, the condo owner had different plans.

Listen to the Morales' story in the audio player above.

Making food more selfie-friendly

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48
25,513

That’s how many people follow Chili’s on Instagram, as of Friday morning, and the chain is sprucing up their dishes to try and attract more. They've started serving fries in stainless steel containers and using burger buns with more visual appeal, Bloomberg reported.

1/3

That’s how many Pedialyte sales are attributed to adult consumers. Yep, the electrolyte-filled drink used to re-hydrate kids with stomach flu is being used frequently by adults to cure hangovers and the like.

71 percent

That’s how many parents are saying technology has improved the “overall quality of education” for their child. The data comes from a new Marketplace survey of about 1,000 parents of kids in grades 3 through 12.

3.4 million

That’s how many rural-area addresses Google plans to capture using drones for their Google Maps. Or is it? Take our Silicon Tally quiz to test your tech news savvy. 

$2 billion

That’s how much money the military spent on “urgent humanitarian” needs in Afghanistan. The money was used to “gain support from the locals for both the U.S. military and the nascent Afghan government,” Pro Publica reported. The items include sweaters, prayer beads for Ramadan and healthcare supplies, among other efforts like community radio and a poetry competition.

Sotheby's courts new buyers with an assist from Drake

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

A Jean-Michel Basquiat painting hangs on a wall in Sotheby’s S2 gallery in New York — two black and red faces in profile on a gray background. On a stand in front of it, an iPad with a pair of Beats by Dre headphones plays a song by ILoveMakonnen.

The pairing is part of a recent show, “I Like It Like This.” While Sotheby’s is best known for its high-end auctions, it sells through gallery exhibitions as well. For this one, curators tapped an unexpected partner: Drake, the Canadian TV actor turned Grammy-winning musician. He selected songs to go with roughly 20 works of art in the show.

The idea is to look at the dialogue between black American art and music, says S2 Director Jackie Wachter.

“You have [Takashi] Murakami doing Kanye West albums, you have Jay Z rapping about Picasso,” Watcher says. “There obviously is this intersection and overlap between the two art forms.”

So what is the dialogue? What do the pairings say? Wachter says they’re just Drake’s interpretations; she didn't ask for explanations, and he didn't say.  

“I sort of think it’ll come out organically here and there,” she says.

To accompany this 2014 painting by artist Kehinde Wiley, “Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Henri, D’Orléans,” Drake chose the song “Multiply” by A$AP Rocky.

Tracey Samuelson/Marketplace

But Wachter is very clear on why Drake makes sense for Sotheby’s: The company is hoping its association with Drake might bring new, younger people in the door.

“We’re just a business that’s trying to grow,” Watcher says. “It’s interesting to look at our numbers and see 'Wow, we really have the same clients every single year.' ”

Plus, Sotheby’s is eager to be seen as cool, says Ben Davis, the national art critic for ArtNet News.

“I really view this as an experiment,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a freakish experiment, like throwing stuff at the wall at seeing what sticks. In this case, like literally just throwing up iPads with music on them and seeing if that amuses people.”

Price tags for the show range from $10,000 to $10 million — songs not included.

Jury Reaches Verdict In Boston Marathon Bomber Trial

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:48

The verdict on whether convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will receive the death penalty will be read at 3 p.m. ET. The 2013 bombing killed three people and left 264 others wounded.

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Why No One Wants The Rohingyas

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 10:39

As thousands of members of the persecuted minority flee Myanmar and Bangladesh on rickety boats, the rest of Southeast Asia is showing a distinct reluctance to take them in.

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Bistro In Vitro: A Virtual Playground To Ponder The Future Of Meat

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 09:56

Dutch artist Koert van Mensvoort has created a virtual restaurant to help us imagine a future when alluring beef, poultry and fish dishes can be concocted with in vitro techniques.

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Luxembourg Prime Minister Becomes First EU Leader To Marry Same-Sex Partner

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 09:53

Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir married her partner five years ago, but Xavier Bettel is the first leader to do so in the European Union.

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Why We Can Depend On The Kindness Of Strangers

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 09:24

Our ability to get along with folks who aren't relatives could be a legacy of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. And it's rooted in the fact that those societies had gender equity.

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'Candidates' Driving Cash-Filled Trucks Through Campaign-Finance Loopholes

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 08:45

Candidates, people likely to become them, and their supporters on both the left and right — from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush — are exploiting holes in campaign-finance law loopholes. Here's how.

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Looted By The Nazis, Matisse's 'Seated Woman' Finally Finds Her Way Home

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 08:45

The painting belonged to renowned art dealer Paul Rosenberg, who fled the Nazis in 1940. The story of its recovery reads like a historical crime novel.

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U.N. Appeals To Syria's Warring Groups To Spare Ancient City Of Palmyra

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 08:02

The city is on UNESCO's World Heritage list and has been badly affected by the four-year civil war. The latest threat to Palmyra is posed by fighting between government troops and ISIS.

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Mitt Romney To Fight Evander Holyfield. You Read That Right.

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-15 07:06

Former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is picking another fight — with Evander Holyfield, the former heavyweight champion of the world. It's all for a good cause.

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