National / International News

Harvard hangs up its landlines

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

If you want to disrupt higher education, you’ve gotta look the part.

So when the team at HarvardX,  the university’s online learning initiative, began setting up its new offices in Cambridge, down came the walls and the cubicles, in came the long tables and shared work spaces. And out went the landlines.

Or most of them anyway.

“The space was developed de novo and it was meant to have a kind of start-up feel,” said Michael Patrick Rutter, a spokesman for HarvardX.

Instead of  traditional desk phones, employees at HarvardX use their own cell phones and collect $50 per month from the university to help cover the bills.

As Justin Reich, a 36-year-old researcher at HarvardX, sees it, they’re just embracing the obvious.

“I think it’s more convenient,” he said. “I probably would have just given people my cell phone number anyway.”

The Great Landline Purge started years ago, when colleges began disconnecting dorm-room phones. Americans have also been ditching their relics. About 40 percent of American households were wireless-only at the end of 2013, up from 10 percent in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

When Harvard’s IT department set out a strategic plan in January, one of its main goals was to reduce use of “legacy phone infrastructure.” (Apparently that’s what we’re calling landlines now.)

“The landline system that the university uses is older and rates are increasing,” said Kevin Donovan, a spokesman for Harvard IT.

Donovan says the university isn’t forcing employees to dump their landlines. It’s already happening. And, true to form, Harvard has collected the data to back it up.

The number of calls from Harvard desk phones dropped 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, from more than 6.5 million to fewer than 4 million, according to the IT department.

Which means that most faculty and staff, should their department choose to follow HarvardX’s lead and dispense with office phones, are likely to respond like Reich did — with a shrug and a monthly expense report.

Matching roommates before sparks fly

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

As the university move-in season gets into full swing, many freshmen will be meeting their roommates for the first time. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the housing department is using a service called Room Sync to streamline the process.

Click the media player above to hear Matt Austin, Associate Director for Resident Life at UMass Lowell, in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

The software asks prospective roommates a series of lifestyle questions, allowing them to filter others by majors and other lifestyle preferences. They can then view other freshmen and choose among a list of possible roommates.  

Students can communicate through Facebook accounts, and send roommate requests similar to “friend requests.”

According to Austin, students that don’t use the site request a new roommate 8% of the time, while those who use it and find a match are only 1% likely to change roommates.

“Students that continue with the same roommate throughout the freshman year are more likely to return to housing in their sophomore year, which keeps them more engaged on campus,” says Austin, also citing statistics showing on-campus students receive higher grades.

While Austin admitted that the software may reduce the chances of students living with a roommate markedly different from themselves, he argued that the makeup of the floors and residences as a whole would still provide the opportunity for that cross-pollination of experiences. 

Donations flow in to help Detroit water customers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

The United Way for Southeastern Michigan, which oversees the Detroit Water Fund, is currently helping around 200 households with a payment plan that covers 25 percent of a delinquent resident's bill, while the resident pays the rest. A recent $2 million award from the Michigan Health Endowment will help the fund assist more people. 

"We anticipate we'll be able to help about 6,000 customers," says Doug Plant, the vice president of operations for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Another campaign, the crowdfunded "Detroit Water Project," is connecting donors directly with people who need help. The project's website says it has 7,000 donors.

Greg Eno, a public affairs specialist with Detroit Water and Sewerage says his office has only one goal. "The theme right now is keep the water on," says Eno. "And whether that's through donations, through our payments plans or through any other source of funding, whatever it takes, that's the mission."

 

NFL and the FCC square off over TV blackouts

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

The Federal Communications Commission is thinking about eliminating what’s known as the "sports blackout rule," which says NFL games can’t be broadcast locally unless they’re sold out 72 hours in advance.

The debate pits government authority against NFL brawn.

The NFL likes things the way they are: The blackout rule fills stadiums, and fans – even teams — will buy up extra tickets to make sure the stadium is full. 

If not, the game can’t be broadcast within a 75-mile radius. 

Hall of Famer Lynn Swann is the NFL’s spokesman in the blackout rule showdown. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl champ says the NFL could move its games to cable TV if the blackout rule were repealed. The rule allows everyone to watch NFL games right now, he says. 

“And it protects a model that allows it to be over the air and free for everyone when the games are sold out,” he explains.

Also on Swann’s side: the Congressional Black Caucus. Caucus members wrote a letter to the FCC, saying minority fans who can’t afford cable rely on free TV broadcasts of games.

“In my view, that argument doesn’t hold water for a couple of different reasons,” says Ajit Pai, an FCC commissioner.

He's on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Pai is demanding that the blackout rule be repealed. He says the NFL is bluffing, and would never take games off free TV because the broadcasts are so profitable.

“Taking the product off the air is simply cutting off your nose to spite your face, ” he says.

Sports economists have been watching anxiously from the sidelines. 

Rob Baade teaches economics at Lake Forest College. He thinks we should use economics to decide the fate of the blackout rule. 

Do the benefits of the rule outweigh the costs? He says no, it’s not fair to require fans to shell out hundreds of dollars to go to a game, and black it out if they don’t.

“And so, $75 a ticket, add to that parking, concessions and paraphernalia, I mean it’s a very expensive family outing,” he maintains.

The FCC could vote on whether to repeal the blackout rule as soon as this fall.

In the meantime, you could just listen to the game on the radio. The blackout rule only applies to TV. 

'Many Russians' fighting in Ukraine

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:55
Pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine say thousands of Russians are fighting with them, as they take Novoazovsk in the south-east and threaten the port of Mariupol.

Ex-charity boss fraud trial jury out

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:50
The jury in the trial of a former race equality charity boss accused of fraud retires to consider its verdict.

Swimming hero traces young fan

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:47
A five-year-old boy who wrote an "amazing" fan letter to Scottish Commonwealth swimming champion Ross Murdoch is traced after an appeal on Twitter.

VIDEO: Holmes's Olympic triumph: 10 years on

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:39
Dame Kelly Holmes talks to BBC Sport's Brendan Foster on the 10th anniversary of her double gold triumph at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

NHS complaints rise to 480 every day

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:38
The number of complaints made about NHS care in England increased to an average of 480 every day, according to official data.

Platini will not challenge Blatter

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:35
Uefa president Michel Platini announces he will not challenge Sepp Blatter by running for the leadership of Fifa.

AUDIO: Can school uniform ever be cool?

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:02
School uniform will never be cool, and it is not meant to be, says Mr Drew from TV's Educating Essex

The dangerous trio of twitch, streaming, and swatting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:00

It is arguably just a synchronicity, but I've been thinking about how two Twitch-related events that happened this week are connected.

The big one is, of course, Amazon's $970 million purchase of the live-streaming video game website, which I chatted about with David Gura.

The second is a smaller event: the shutdown of schools and some buildings in Littleton, Colorado. Littleton may sound familiar because it's near Columbine, where the Columbine High School Massacre occurred in 1999. It's a place where you could probably forgive law enforcement for reacting immediately and intensely to a 9-1-1 caller who claimed to have shot two co-workers and to be holding more hostage.

When that call came in Wednesday, it was taken seriously. But it was apparently fake -- an example of something called "swatting." Swatting is when someone with some technical chops calls 9-1-1 and makes it look like the call is coming from a victim's phone or a location in a building where something has gone very wrong, sending large numbers of law enforcement to a place where they're not actually needed. Hilarious, right?

Admittedly the popular -- get this -- video game streamer and Twitch user Jordan Mathewson, a.k.a. "Kootra" did crack a smile when heavily armed officers busted into his office in search of a shooter. Maybe it was because he realized his Twitch viewers were seeing the whole thing via his live webcam. Or maybe he was actually amused by the irony or meta layers of having your first person shooter video game session be interrupted by actual real life rifles. But Mathewson looks nervous more than anything. Here's the video, where officers burst in on the gamer just after he says "I think we're being swatted." 

Police figured out that the call was fake and luckily there were no injuries. But businesses were evacuated, and parents got a message from a nearby school saying their kids were under lockdown because of an "active shooter situation." Law enforcement now think they've found a Twitter account connected with a person who may have made the phone call. 

Swatting, which is apparently on the rise, is not a good prank. It sends heavily armed law enforcement looking for possible armed resistance to a place where there is none. That's insanely wasteful and dangerous. What is interesting about this case is that people were watching someone's live feed as it all happened.

For a cybercriminal, hacker or troll, the promise of a big live audience via a live streaming website like Twitch could be really attractive. And that might be bad news. 

VIDEO: England's legendary leaders

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:55
With England coach Roy Hodgson set to name a new captain, BBC Sport takes a look back at those who have had the honour of captaining the Three Lions the most times.

Food safety warning over budget cuts

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:47
The closure of Wales' only publicly-run food testing laboratory due to cuts mean councils may struggle to respond to another incident like the horsemeat scandal, a food safety expert warns.

VIDEO: 'Uzi accident couldn't happen in UK'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:45
Shooting instructor Peter Wroe tells the BBC why an incident in the US where a nine-year-old girl shot a gun range worker could not happen in the UK.

Venice kicks off with Birdman film

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:43
The Venice Film Festival gets under way in Italy with Birdman, a comedy drama about an actor trying to escape from the shadow of his most famous role.

Easyjet plane in emergency landing

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:34
An Easyjet plane carrying 157 passengers makes an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport after smoke was detected in the cockpit.

Thai ex-PM murder charge dismissed

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:28
A Thai court dismisses murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva linked to a bloody crackdown on protesters in 2010.

Physio 'bit client while growling'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:15
A physiotherapist bit a client's shoulder and growled "like a baby lion" for sexual gratification, a tribunal hears.

'Abysmal NI leaders stuck in past'

BBC - Thu, 2014-08-28 00:04
A senior aide to former US president Bill Clinton accuses Northern Ireland politicians of an "abysmal abdication of leadership".
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