National / International News

Islamic State Defector: 'If You Turn Against ISIS, They Will Kill You'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 12:12

A Syrian defector from the self-proclaimed Islamic State says he had happy moments when he first joined the militants. But he began to see brutality and cruelty that was impossible for him to support.

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Families Want Federal Investigations Into Black Men's Deaths

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 12:07

Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last month. Eric Garner died in July after being placed in a chokehold by a New York officer. Their families say they want justice.

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New York and New Jersey bet on casinos

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:57

The casino industry needs a winning streak. According to Moody’s, with the exception of Las Vegas, the gaming industry is in the red. But even so, more and more cash-strapped communities are betting big on gambling. In New York, municipalities are competing to be one of four potential spots developers build on. In New Jersey, Paul Fireman, the billionaire founder of Reebok, is seemingly unfazed by the growing number of bankrupt casinos in Atlantic City and pushing plans for a mega-casino.

But despite a lot of talk about Fireman's multibillion-dollar plan – and promises of tens of thousands of jobs – the details are hard to come by. Fireman’s company isn't talking. Steven Fulop, the Mayor of Jersey City, also didn't respond to requests for interviews. The only local politician who would talk was the pro-casino Democratic state senator Ray Lesniak.

"When I saw this, I said 'Wow,'" Lesniak says, referring to a shiny, full-color brochure promoting the benefits of the new casino. But while he let a reporter thumb through the brochure, he only allowed access for the briefest of moments. "I’ve already shown you too much," he says. "It’s just something for us to consider as legislatures."

The project, says Lesniak, is expected to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue a year. But while a brief look at the brochure revealed a lot of pretty pictures and big numbers, few details were apparent. Even so, Lesniak says the new casino would transform New Jersey into a global destination, drawing tourists from as far as Singapore and even those from just across the river. He thinks visitors to Manhattan would be interested in taking a trip to New Jersey for the planned convention center, hotel, racetrack and the world’s largest Ferris wheel, where they'd be able to look back across to New York City. 

"Can you imagine being on this Ferris wheel and overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty? People will put this on their bucket list," said Lesniak.  "It’s an experience that does not exist anywhere in the world," he says. "Everyone who comes to Manhattan – this will be on their list. This will be a must-see."

If the project does goes ahead, it will be built next to Liberty State Park. It’s not yet on the radar of many community members, but Yvonne Balcer, a local activist and retired teacher, has concerns.

“You’re talking about maybe 100,ooo people coming to the city,” she says.

Balcer says she's worried about everything from traffic capacity to the unsavory types gambling might bring, even prostitution. She says Jersey City isn’t prepared to handle large crowds, and, as a taxpayer, she doesn’t want to foot the bills.

“The developers don't put in the infrastructure at all; I mean water, I mean sewage, I mean roads. Those are the things done on the backs of taxpayers. It’s not done on the backs of developers at all,” she says.

It's hard to know who would foot the bill for what, or how the new project might affect Atlantic City’s financially troubled casinos. Alex Bumazhny, director of gaming, lodging and leisure at Fitch Ratings notes that even though there’s talk of Atlantic City sharing in the revenues from the new project, the plans are uncertain and the Northeast is already oversaturated with casinos.

“Having another casino in northern New Jersey would be pretty detrimental to Atlantic City,” he says. 

The discussion remains theoretical at this point. Plus, there is another issue that looms larger than fuzzy details or potentially clogged roads. Gambling in New Jersey is illegal, outside of Atlantic City. And the next time a vote can take place to change that issue is next year.

50 Years Ago, A Fluid Border Made The U.S. 1 Square Mile Smaller

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:49

Since Texas became a state, the Rio Grande has marked the border between the U.S. and Mexico. But, like rivers do, it moved. In 1964, the U.S. finally gave back 437 acres of land.

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Alice Gross 'last walk' replayed

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:44
A reconstruction of the last known movements of missing schoolgirl Alice Gross is staged in west London.

Swinney to join Smith commission

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:41
John Swinney will be named as one of the SNP's two representatives on Lord Smith's cross-party devolution commission, BBC Scotland understands.

First Heartbleed, now Shellshock

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:37

You might remember back in April when thousands of servers were hit with the Heartbleed bug. Well, the Department of Homeland Security warned Thursday against a new bug called Shellshock, which could be far worse.

"Shellshock is a new security hole and this is a way for hackers to get access to our information that we don’t want to give up," says "Marketplace Tech" host Ben Johnson.

While Heartbleed gave hackers access to a user’s data, Johnson says, the Shellshock bug allows hackers to take total control of a person’s computer.

So, what now? Unfortunately it's too early to tell.

"There’s not much you can do here except wait for the people who know what they’re doing to build the patches and fix these things on the back end," Johnson says. "In the meantime, I think you should be extra careful about clicking on links that come from mysterious people on your email, and just ride it out and hope for the best."

For more on Shellshock, click the audio player above.

Spain's Abortion Debate Shakes Government That Pledged To Ban It

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:35

Supporters and opponents of abortion have taken turns taking to the streets. After months of protests, the conservative prime minister has dropped his plan to enact a strict anti-abortion law.

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Apple says bent iPhones are 'rare'

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:31
Apple responds to claims that its new handsets are prone to bending by saying such damage would be "rare" during normal use.

Kenyan death penalty for abortion

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:17
A Kenyan nurse is sentenced to death after being found guilty of carrying out an abortion five years ago on a woman who later bled to death.

Do you know what your college is doing with your data?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:16

By the time most college freshmen step on campus, it’s a good bet Facebook knows who their friends are, Amazon knows what they buy, Netflix knows what they watch and Google knows …well, pretty much everything they do online.

What students may not realize is that their colleges are collecting data about them, too.

It’s not just grades and transcripts. Most colleges are completely wired. Students turn over their data when they take a book out of the library, when they log on to the campus Wi-Fi network, when they swipe their student ID to get into their dorms, when they buy lunch at the dining hall, when they post an assignment on a class discussion board and at almost every other point throughout their day.

Students typically don’t sign a blanket data-use agreement when they arrive on campus, like they do when they sign up for Facebook or Gmail. But the data colleges collect could be just as valuable.

So who owns these data? The students, who create it? Or the colleges, who collect it?

The short answer: No one knows.

“I think it’s unclear at this point,” says Bruce Maas, chief information officer at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. “We’re in a learning phase right now about this.”

A lot of student data can be used to make colleges operate better, Maas says. Knowing that students prefer pizza over chicken in the cafeteria, for instance, can help food-service operators be more efficient. Data on what time students return to their dorms could be used to improve campus security. Data on how many use the library could affect staffing or inventory.

Data can also make a difference in the bottom line, as colleges fight to get more students in the door — and turn them into successful graduates in six years or less.

From the moment a student first inquires about a college, admissions offices are learning about them through social media, campus visits and interviews. Applications, which are often submitted online through the ubiquitous Common Application, have long been rich sources of data about a student’s academic history, interests, family and finances.

Many colleges are using this trove of data, along with information gleaned from digital school work, to predict student behavior, to craft interventions for students at risk of dropping out and even to direct students to the classes and majors in which they are most likely to succeed. Companies like Naviance, which provide college-counseling services to high school students, make this easier by collecting even more detailed data on students.

"It’s difficult, because if we can help the student to be more successful through the analysis of disparate pieces of data, is that by itself sufficient to justify that we’re using it this way?” Maas says. “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

To the extent that students are even aware of what data are being collected about them, they don’t like the idea of college officials tracking their movements. Does anyone really want administrators to know that they didn’t get back to their dorm until 3 a.m. when they had a discussion section at 9 the next morning?

“I actually didn’t really think about it at all,” said Rae Friedman, a freshman at Oberlin College, when confronted with the fact that her college collects data every time she swipes her student ID card. “The swiping was just kind of like, ‘Oh, I have to get into my dorm, I have to eat.’ But now that I think about it, it’s kind of a weird tracking device on each student.”

Of course, colleges say they aren’t actually tracking students. Instead, these location data could be useful in drawing connections if students begin to do poorly. But they could track students, which is enough to worry privacy advocates.

“There’s definitely an imbalance of power and an imbalance of knowledge about the extent to which things are being collected,” says Michael Zimmer, associate professor of information studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who writes about online privacy. “We really need to be educating parents and students.”

It’s unclear what rights, if any, students have to protect this data. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the law that governs what data about students educational institutions can disclose, protects “education records.” Experts disagree on whether metadata created when a specific student logs on to the Wi-Fi network or enters the library are protected under FERPA. After all, the law was written when student records were kept on paper.

“A lot of the student information that we see today unfortunately falls out of the scope of the very narrow definition of education records,” says Khaliah Barnes, director of the EPIC Student Privacy Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Which could give colleges the ability to sell student data to the highest bidder. It’s not hard to imagine PepsiCo, say, being interested in the eating habits of undergraduates. Under current law, there is little stopping the university — or the third parties to whom they contract out many campus services, including data storage — from selling data about this valuable, captive, 18-to-22-year-old demographic.

Colleges already sell access to their students to banks through campus debit cards, which are typically linked directly to a student’s ID card. The lucrative contracts often offer colleges incentives for signing up more students, who then become bank customers.

And with hacks becoming commonplace, security is a big issue, no matter who is collecting the data. Colleges and universities are juicy targets for hackers, because student records typically include social security numbers, and may also include credit card information and financial information on family members. (Explore our graphic on data breaches.)

Some students are hoping schools will do a better job of protecting and using student data out of sheer regard for their reputations. Kyle M.L. Jones, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in library and information studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, believes it's in universities’ best interests to be at the forefront of responsible data-privacy practices.

“I think it’s our ethical responsibility as academic institutions to understand what’s going on with Google and Amazon and to say, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way,’” says Jones. “We can be a model for how data can be used.”

Jones, who recently wrote an article about ownership of student data, says that this model would require colleges to be transparent about what data the collect and what they do with it, and only to use it to advance students’ interests.

That’s asking students to put a lot of trust in their educational institutions, Barnes says. Luckily for the colleges, most students already feel an affinity for their universities.

“If I’m going to feel uncomfortable about giving data out, it’s going to be about giving it to big social network companies, not about giving it to my college, which I feel a personal connection with,” says Friedman, the Oberlin freshman. “I trust Facebook less than the college that I’m giving $60,000 to a year.”

But with technology moving faster than many schools' and regulators' ability to keep up with it, Friedman may look back one day and find she was just another idealistic college student.

Lebanon raids Arsal refugee camps

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:13
At least one person was killed and two wounded during a search for militants at refugee camps near Lebanon's border with Syria, the Lebanese army says.

On The Cusp: 11-Year-Olds Around The World Share Their Wisdom

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:12

Age 11 is when you're most passionate and optimistic, says Australian filmmaker Genevieve Bailey. So she created a documentary looking at the world through the eyes of 11-year-olds in 15 countries.

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Remembering Mandolin Hero U. Srinivas

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 11:03

The gifted Indian musician died Sept. 19 at just 45. Hear his music and celebrate his unlikely achievement — bringing a Western instrument into the heart of South Indian classical music.

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Cardiff hit-and-runs 'unpreventable'

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 10:48
A series of hit-and-runs in Cardiff which killed a mother and injured 20 others could not have been prevented, a report finds.

Masked man in IS videos 'identified'

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 10:46
The FBI has identified the militant in the videos depicting the killings of two US journalists and a British aid worker, the agency's director says.

Man Utd 'have one fit centre-back'

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 10:39
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal says he has only one fit centre-back and could turn to youth against West Ham.

Mars rover bites mountain's base

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 10:36
Nasa's Curiosity rover on Mars drills its first full hole since May - into a mudstone at the base of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater.

Man jailed for digger rampage at tip

BBC - Thu, 2014-09-25 10:35
A man who went on a rampage in a digger at a council recycling centre in West Yorkshire is jailed for three years.

FBI Chief Says U.S. Has Identified Man Who Beheaded Americans

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-25 10:34

The Islamic State released a video that appears to show a masked man beheading two American journalists. FBI Director James Comey would not name the suspect.

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