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Keith Hall, director of the Congressional Budget Office, will offer his first Senate testimony Tuesday since taking the helm of the nonpartisan agency in early April. It’s also the first oversight hearings for CBO in over three decades, according to the Senate Budget Committee.
The primary focus will be the agency’s 2016 budget, drafted under Hall’s predecessor.
While Congress often uses a director’s testimony to question the assumptions and findings of CBO reports, the agency refrains from offering policy recommendations, says Phil Joyce, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland.
“I heard someone at CBO say once, 'If you ask us how much something costs, we’ll tell you how much it costs. If you ask us whether it’s a good idea, we’ll tell you how much it costs,'” he says.
In fact, Joyce says it’s often members of the director’s own party who are most disappointed with the agency’s reports.
“It’s very much like being the referee in a college basketball game,” agrees Douglas Holtz-Eakin , who led the CBO from 2003 to 2005 and is now president of the conservative think tank American Action Forum. “There’s always a coach standing on the sidelines screaming at the referee, and it’s not usually over the call the referee just made. It’s over the next call. 'Can we soften him up for the next call?'”
By now, a lot of video gamers and law enforcement officers are familiar with this bit of viral video. It's professional Video Gamer Jordan Matthewson, a.k.a. Kootra, doing what pro gamers like him do: Broadcasting his game play to viewers from his offices in Littleton, Colorado. In the middle of tactical movements with his teammates online, Matthewson is interrupted by sounds of police activity down the hall in real life. Moments later, he's forced to the ground by members of a real live SWAT team.
Matthewson was the victim of a prank called swatting. It's been around for decades, and it works like this: A prankster calls an emergency hotline claiming to be at the scene of a hostage situation—sometimes the perpetrator of said hostage situation—sending police and other first responders to an address, weapons and gurneys at the ready. But the prankster isn't actually at the location, and instead law enforcement surprises unsuspecting targets at the address.
For hackers, new technology is making swatting both easier to pull off and more attractive. The rise of live-streaming video games and other content online means the potential audience for swatting has gone from a few targets and the people sent to check up on them to thousands or tens of thousands.
For emergency call centers, fighting swatting or distributed denial of service attacks is a perennial cost. Christopher Carver is a director at the National Emergency Number Association in Virginia. He says that the process of updating emergency call center systems has a price tag in the "billions." These days, a 911 dispatcher can see caller ID and location information in a matter of seconds. But now that a majority of calls can come in from smartphones or over online services like Skype or Google Voice, there are also more tools to "spoof" the location of a call.
Spoofing is a hacker method that is used in lots of different ways. Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer at the security firm ThreatMetrix, says it's one of the most common tools for hackers to take your identity. Swatting attacks from British Columbia to Florida have been made possible in part thanks to the use of spoofing.
Last month in the city of Rochester New York, Lieutenant Aaron Springer and his 30-member SWAT team got a taste. They raced to a residential building where there was actually no hostage situation. How much did swatting set his department back?
"My guys? Maybe fifteen hundred bucks, maybe three thousand dollars," he says. When you add 30 more officers sent to the scene to direct traffic, the fire department, an ambulance, and multiple department chiefs, Lieutenant Springer ballparks the total cost closer to $15,000.
Springer says swatting doesn't happen often enough to make a big change to operations—the last occurrence was several years ago—but the growing costs to law enforcement and emergency services helped inspire New York Senator Chuck Schumer to introduce a piece of legislation that would carry stricter punishments for swatting.
Lieutenant Springer is worried about a different cost; that he'll hesitate the next time his team gets a call, in a scenario when every second counts.
Wal-Mart announces its first quarter results Tuesday. There’s been a lot of buzz about the world’s biggest retailer bumping up wages. Earlier this year, CEO Doug McMillon announced the company would raise starting pay to at least $9 an hour, effective last last month, and at least $10 an hour starting next year.
Sure, paying employees more comes with a cost—An estimated $1 billion. But Wal-Mart is taking the long view here, says University of California, Berkeley economics professor Enrico Moretti.
“First of all, they’re going to have lower turnover cost, and probably they’re going to be able to attract a better pool of workers,” Moretti says.
The downside: it’ll probably be at least several months before the benefits start to really sink in.
Still, cutting turnover is smart for a company like Wal-Mart, says Neil Stern, senior partner with retail consulting firm McMillan Doolittle. “Turnover is a huge cost for retailers,” he says.
Stern says it costs money to look for replacements, to hire, and to train new workers. And that cuts into profits.
Increasing pay is fine, Stern says, but other things also matter when you’re trying to retain workers; like promotion opportunities and how much fun you have on the job.
That's the size of the market for administering 401(k)s. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that employees have the right to sue employers if they find a lack of due diligence in combating high management fees on their 401(k). Most don't tend to notice the 1 or 2 percent fees, but as the LA Times points out, that can add up over the span of a career.30 percent
That's the commission Uber is collecting from some new drivers, testing a tiered system in which partners work up to keeping 80 percent of their fares after giving 40 rides each week. This would be Uber's highest commission yet, and Forbes notes in the competitive ride-sharing space companies like Uber and Lyft frequently tweak commissions to stay competitive.5,767 times
That's how many times postal workers were bitten by dogs last year, according to new statistics. That's up almost 200 bites from last year. So in this case, the bite is actually worse than the bark.One-fifth
That's the portion of Target's $73 billion in revenue that comes from groceries, the Wall Street Journal reported. The retailer is changing its approach to food, stocking more organic and specialty items, downplaying processed, packaged offerings.$15,000
That's how much Lieutenant Aaron Springer of Rochester, New York, estimates was spent on a single SWAT team response to an emergency call. The problem? The call was a fake. In a prank known as swatting, a fake call is placed to an emergency hotline, often with claims of a hostage situation. As video gamers who stream themselves live online have become more popular, so has the practice of swatting them to see the ensuing chaos. But aside from creating a dangerous situation, the practice is also causing police departments more and more money.2.75 million
That's about how many Republican voters from the 2012 election will be dead by November 2016, about 453,000 more those who voted Democratic. That's according to a back-of-the-envelope analysis from Politico, which reports that the GOP could be at a real disadvantage if it can't gather younger voters.