National News

Baseball players make out like one-percenters

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 07:00

Major League Baseball’s next commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been involved with labor negotiations for the league since the 1994 players strike. Since then, player salaries have risen far more quickly than pay for the average worker. For instance, the minimum salary for major league players has risen from $109,000 in 1995 to $500,000 today.  

In 1995, a major league baseball player making the minimum salary earned about 4.4 times more than the average full-time worker. Today it’s 12 times more.

However, minor league players filed a lawsuit this year protesting low wages, with most earning between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season, which translates to an annual wage of $7,200 to $18,000 a year.

Even major-league ball has a one percent. For minimum-salary earners, “the percentage increase is not as big as for the top players. The top players got a lot more,” says Barry Krissoff, a retired economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a Mets (and Senators) fan, and the author of a 2013 article called “Society and Baseball Face Rising Inequality."

That comparison seems overstated to Scott Rosner, associate director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. Income inequality is “a little more acute for society as a whole than it is for baseball,” he says. “No one who is a major-league baseball player is going hungry by any means.”

Owners have done well too. “Salaries are very much proportional to revenue growth as a whole,” says Joel Maxcy, a sports economist at Temple University.

And star baseball players don’t get paid as much as other top celebrities, says Michael Haupert, a sports economist at the University of Wisconsin. The sport’s best-paid player, Alex Rodriguez, took home $29 million in 2013. According to Forbes, Ellen DeGeneres earned $72 million.

Even other athletes out-earn baseball’s stars.

“Tiger Woods made a lot more money last year — even when he had a crappy year — than Alex Rodriguez,” says Haupert. Forbes estimated Woods’ earnings at $61 million.

Indonesian Police Detain U.S. Couple In Murder Probe

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 06:48

A 19-year-old woman and her 21-year-old boyfriend are being held in connection with the brutal death of the woman's mother on the resort island of Bali.

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What The U.S. Health Care System Can Learn From Ebola Outbreak

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 06:35

Future outbreaks of superbugs that resist treatment will test the American health care system's ability to respond. A prominent patient advocate says we need to be ready.

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Ferguson Police Release Name Of Officer Who Shot Michael Brown

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 05:50

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson says the officer who shot an unarmed black teenager is Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran. Police also released data about a robbery they say is related.

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Kiev: Russian Armor Destroyed After Crossing Border

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 05:10

Ukraine's president said a "significant" part of a Russian armored column said to have crossed the border overnight was destroyed by Kiev's artillery.

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Radio In Liberia Seems Like It's All Ebola, All The Time

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 04:21

Deejays talk about it. Singers sing about it. Press conferences are broadcast live. Liberia's radio stations are devoting much of their airtime to spreading the word: Ebola is real.

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Helping Students Make Sense Of A Young Black Man's Death In Missouri

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 04:03

The shooting of Michael Brown may raise questions for students, and teachers need to be prepared.

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'They're Talking To People': Tensions Ease In Ferguson As Police Change Tactics

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 04:01

Instead of meeting demonstrators with tear gas, police walked with them.

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When Snails Lose Their Way

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 03:03

There are happy snails. There are lonely snails. And there are lost snails. This one is lost. Totally. But it sings.

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PODCAST: The rise of the SWAT team

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 03:00

Ferguson, Missouri has been dominating the news this week. Front and center in the photos and footage of the protests there are SWAT teams. Police officers who have been trained to use "special weapons and tactics." Turns out, it's a kind of policing that's caught on across the country. And it used to be that frequent flier miles were mostly used to buy airline miles. But these days, people are using their frequent flier stash to buy everything from cosmetics to back-to-school supplies. And the airlines are loving that. Plus, when the San Francisco 49ers take the field on Sunday for a pre-season game against Denver, it will be in their brand new stadium in Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley. Considering that the 49ers were named in honor of San Francisco's first big economic boom, it's perhaps fitting that the team's new home is in the heart of tech-land.

 

SWAT teams are a growing presence in law enforcement

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 02:00

SWAT teams are comprised of police officers trained to use “special weapons and tactics,” and they have been front and center in photos and footage of protests in Ferguson, Mo.

According to Jack Greene, who teaches criminology at Northeastern University, these tactical teams were created in the 1960s with a simple objective: “They are there to deal with high violence, high profile situations.”

It used to be only big departments in big cities had SWAT teams, says David Harris, a policing expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. “Now, most departments of any size, except for the very smallest ones, have a SWAT team.”

These departments are worried about terrorism and other threats.

But, Harris says, there are departments that just want to keep up with other departments: “You have situations where we wouldn’t have thought in the past you needed a SWAT team, and the SWAT team is there, shows up, and it’s ready to go.”

Many departments, Harris argues, could spend more time thinking about equipment and training, “using it in a way and only in situations where it makes sense,” and recognizing that the weapons, the uniforms, and the armored vehicles all send a very powerful message.

Heard of the Internet of Things? So have hackers.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 02:00

At Defcon, a hacker conference recently held in Las Vegas, the big theme was the "Internet of Things."

Or more to the point: "How to hack all the things," says Amir Etemadieh, a security researcher at Accuvant.

Etemadieh reaches into the bag and pulls out the Wink Hub. It's a device that allows you to connect all kinds of smart devices to the hub, and control them from your phone.

“You can have light bulbs, thermostats, motion sensors,” Etemadieh says.

Pretty cool, right? Except Etemadieh isn’t showing me how it works, he’s showing me how to hack into it. He places a smart lock on the table; it's the kind you might find on a front door. He says if he can hop onto your WiFi, he can break into the hub.

“If I tell it true,” he says as he's typing in the command on his computer, “it’ll lock the door.” 

Tell the computer “false,” and it unlocks.

The hacker community is shining a spotlight on the Internet of Things because they say a lot of manufacturers aren’t taking really basic steps to secure their smart devices from other hackers.

Mark Stanislav is with Duo Security. He says if hackers can break into one smart thing in your home, they can potentially go after every other smart device. He also says many companies are ignoring that risk.

“The type of company we see in the 'Internet of Things' right now is a company that’s crowdfunded or maybe one that’s Kickstarter-ing,” Stanislav said. “So, [they] really don’t have any money for security testing.”

Big manufacturers that can afford to take cybersecurity measures are often lax, too, says Cameron Camp, a security researcher at ESET. He says cybersecurity can add an extra layer of work that risks turning off consumers.

“It’s in the middle of the night, and you get up to get a snack, now you have to type in a password,” says Camp.

There’s also the fact that in consumer electronics, it’s all about getting your TV or refrigerator to market first. Cybersecurity adds time.

The hackers at Defcon say manufacturers are going to have to take that time once consumers find out just how vulnerable they are.

Don't waste your frequent flier miles!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 02:00

If you’ve flown lately, you know there aren’t many empty seats for frequent fliers. In fact, airlines don’t actually have enough seats to redeem all the frequent flier miles they’ve awarded.

So, they have to convince us to use them for other things; like school supplies, hotels, or magazines. 

“The cost of giving away a free seat is higher than ever. And so airlines would love to get us to use our miles in some other way,” says Seth Kaplan, an analyst at Airline Weekly.

But that may not be the best use of your miles.

Think about it: “Would you rather have a $70 calculator or fly first class to the Bahamas?” asks Brian Kelly, founder and editor-in-chief of thepointsguy.com. “There’s an opportunity cost to every redemption.”

Kelly says it may be easier to just redeem your points for that calculator rather than trying to negotiate a free flight. But he says the best use for miles is, well, on planes. That’s where you get the most value per mile.

Still Kelly says, if your miles are about to expire, yeah, go ahead and get that calculator.

 

 

49ers new stadium is a high-tech showcase

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 01:30

When the San Francisco 49ers take the field on Sunday for a pre-season game against Denver, it will be in their brand new stadium in Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley. For a football team named in honor of San Francisco’s first big economic boom, it’s only fitting that their new home is pure tech.

First of all, there’s the mobile app. It can pull up your tickets and direct you to your seat. You can use it to order food and beer, and have it delivered to your seat. And if you’re so glued to your phone that you miss a game-changing interception, the app has instant replay.

 

A screenshot of the Levi’s Stadium app. It can even direct you to your parking spot.

Molly Samuel

 

“It enables an enhanced fan experience that more closely simulates what you can get on your couch,” says Paul Kapustka, editor-in-chief of Mobile Sports Report, which tracks technology in stadiums.

The $1.3 billion venue has wi-fi, cell service and room to grow, technologically.

“This may be the sort of new standard that new stadiums are aiming for,” says Kapustka.

The team is also making a big deal about how green its new home is.    

I went to check out Levi’s Stadium when it was still under construction, at the end of last year. Jack Hill, who oversees all the construction, showed me around.

“You see the purple pipe? That’s all recycled water,” Hill said, pointing up at the ceiling on field level. The water for the field comes from a nearby water treatment plant.

And up on the roof, he pointed out the solar panels, mounted on top of a tower of suites the length of, well, of a football field. Solar panels also cover pedestrian bridges between the parking lot and the stadium. Those panels will collect enough energy to offset game-day electricity use.

 

Niners fans on one of the solar-panel covered pedestrian bridges, coming to tour the stadium before the season starts.

Molly Samuel

 

“The Niners have said this: they are absolutely using this as a showcase,” says Andy Dallin, one of the principals of ADC Partners, a sports marketing agency in the Bay Area. “It’s their goal to make sure the stadium manifests everything that Silicon Valley represents.”

Dallin says sure, the 49ers have the tech side down.

“I think the much harder thing to do is the human side of this,” he says.

On a sort of test-run, at a soccer game earlier this month, traffic was a mess. So the Niners are working out some real life kinks at this high-tech stadium.

Silicon Tally: 1 fish, 2 fish, red fish, cannon fish

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-15 01:00

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

This week, we're joined by Mike Pesca, host of the Slate podcast "The Gist."

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Has An Ebola Corner Been Turned? One Perspective: 'No, No, No, No'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 01:00

A health educator working in Sierra Leone says her organization, Doctors Without Borders, is "at max capacity" and more help is needed to control an outbreak that is still raging.

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Fleeing War And Finding Work

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-15 00:00

Most countries in the developing world won't let refugees work. But Uganda is trying something different.

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Back-To-School Shoppers: Hunting For Tax Breaks And Bargains

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-14 23:31

Retailers are optimistic about back-to-school sales because the job market has been strengthening and gas prices falling. Still, many retailers count on sales-tax holidays to lure shoppers to malls.

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Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Crosses Milestone

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-14 22:42

A Class A share of Berkshire Hathaway is now worth more than $200,000. Warren Buffett created the conglomerate about 50 years ago, and he has refused to split Berkshire's shares.

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