National / International News

#NPRreads: If You've Got 2016 Winners Penciled In, Think Again

NPR News - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:03

Political scientists say it won't be all the political tussling that will predict a new president in 2016. Instead, look at the economy.

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Zen and the art of coding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Shawnee is 14. She didn't know anything about coding before she was sent to Wyoming Girls’ School in Sheridan, roughly five months ago. 

Then, she took her first coding class. When it was over, she started another class — online — in her free time. The school is a secure juvenile justice facility, working to bring better technology into its classrooms.

Here’s her account of how she became a coding convert:

I didn't particularly like computers. I didn't like technology. I was just that teenager who texted all the time and who was talking on the phone all the time. I didn't really bother to find out how things work.

So when I first started coding, I thought “This is weird,” because I don’t usually like this stuff. Then our class did Hour of Code, [a one-hour introduction to computer science, teaching anyone who wants to participate the basics]. And I knew I needed to know more about it. I asked my teacher to give me some paper. I was takin' notes.

My grandma always told me that if you’re doing something you love, you’re at peace with yourself. And when I think about coding, and do coding, I’m at peace with myself.

Sometimes I get really stressed out, with all the things that are going on in my life. And when I code I realize it helps me think about that, and not about the things I can’t change. It also reminds me that there are things I can change, and that even when it’s hard to overcome obstacles, you can.

After her first coding class at Wyoming Girls' School, Shawnee discovered her hidden passion for the work.

Photo by Justin Sheely

People have asked me what you want to do when you grow up, and I used to say, “I don’t know, get rich quick somehow, I guess.” And now, with coding, I feel like I can have a steady job and a job that I have a passion for. And people always ask me, “What about retirement, and what if you turn 60 and want to retire and live out in the field somewhere and have a family and stuff?” and I always tell them, that when you’re doing something you have a passion for, it’s not going to matter whether it includes retirement or not, because you’re gonna want to do it forever.

To hear more of Shawnee's story, click the audio player above.

Click here to share your thoughts on this story.
Email us at learningcurve@marketplace.org or send us a tweet @LearningCurveEd

Zen and the art of coding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Shawnee is 14. She didn't know anything about coding before she was sent to Wyoming Girls’ School in Sheridan, Wy., roughly five months ago.

Then, she took her first coding class. When it was over, she started another class — online — in her free time.

Here’s her account of how she became a coding convert:

I didn't particularly like computers. I didn't like technology. I was just that teenager who texted all the time and who was talking on the phone all the time. I didn't really bother to find out how things work. So when I first started coding, I thought “This is weird,” because I don’t usually like this stuff. Then our class did Hour of Code, [a one-hour introduction to computer science, teaching anyone who wants to participate the basics]. And I knew I needed to know more about it. I asked my teacher to give me some paper. I was takin' notes.

My grandma always told me that if you’re doing something you love, you’re at peace with yourself. And when I think about coding, and do coding, I’m at peace with myself.

Sometimes I get really stressed out, with all the things that are going on in my life. And when I code I realize it helps me think about that, and not about the things I can’t change. It also reminds me that there are things I can change, and that even when it’s hard to overcome obstacles, you can.

After her first coding class at Wyoming Girls' School, Shawnee discovered her hidden passion for the work.

Photo by Justin Sheely

People have asked me what you want to do when you grow up, and I used to say, “I don’t know, get rich quick somehow, I guess.” And now, with coding, I feel like I can have a steady job and a job that I have a passion for. And people always ask me, “What about retirement, and what if you turn 60 and want to retire and live out in the field somewhere and have a family and stuff?” and I always tell them, that when you’re doing something you have a passion for, it’s not going to matter whether it includes retirement or not, because you’re gonna want to do it forever.

To hear more of Shawnee's story, click the audio player above.

Click here to share your thoughts on this story.
Email us at learningcurve@marketplace.org or send us a tweet @LearningCurveEd

Unlocking the digital classroom for kids in lock up

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Technology has become an integral part of education. Students are increasingly learning with help from laptops, iPads and other digital technology. Schools are embracing blended classrooms, which mix traditional and online learning.

But technology presents unique hurdles for the juvenile justice system, which has been reluctant to introduce computers and the internet into secure facilities.

Since 2013, San Diego County has been confronting the challenges of introducing laptops — and digital learning — into its juvenile justice facilities.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Marketplace takes a look at the surprising results. Check back then for the full story.

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The Comcast merger with Time Warner isn't a sure thing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Last February, when Comcast announced it was buying Time Warner Cable, federal approval of the merger didn't seem like a major hurdle. The two biggest cable companies said their merger wouldn’t reduce competition — and wouldn’t result in higher rates —  because geographically, they served different markets.

However, as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to rule on the merger in late March, investors seem to think the deal may fall through. Time Warner's stock has been trading at prices below the amount Comcast has offered to pay.

"There’s a lot changing in how people consume media," says Amy Yong, an analyst with Macquarie Group. "And that’s why it’s become a lot more contentious than a lot of people originally anticipated."

She means cord-cutting — getting video on the Internet instead of over cable TV — has started to look more like a reality. For instance, HBO announced last fall that it would soon offer a stand-alone online service, no cable package required.

That prospect raises new questions about Comcast and Time-Warner, companies that sell both cable TV and broadband services. As broadband providers, might they choke out cord-cutting services to protect their TV business?

The FCC has started looking at new regulations to prevent just that, including a proposal to regulate broadband services as a utility.

"The actions that we've seen may suggest a mindset that is more concerned about competition in broadband, and simply less hospitable to further mergers in this sector," says Kevin Werbach, a Wharton School professor and former counsel to the FCC.

The FCC's concern might spell trouble for the Comcast merger. 

However, Jeff Wlodarczak, CEO of Pivotal Research Group, thinks Comcast's interests in selling broadband services, and the FCC's interests in protecting video services like Netflix or the new HBO service, line up just fine.

"Cable has no real interest right now in doing anything that makes Netflix less attractive," says Wlodaczak. "Netflix consumes massive amounts of bandwidth." And as a broadband provider, Comcast wants to sell more bandwidth, not less.

Who should have the key to your messages?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

Remember when UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he wanted to pass a law that would compel messaging apps to provide a backdoor for security agencies? That would, in effect, ban encrypted software that has no key. President Barack Obama agreed with him.  

In response to that proposal, Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of internet law at Harvard University, wrote an open letter to Cameron, explaining why he thinks it’s a “very bad idea.”

It’s one thing to try and regulate WhastApp, says Zittrain, because the government knows  where Facebook “lives,” and the Silicon Valley company has assets that could be seized.

But what happens when someone produces the next wildly popular messaging app? What if that someone happens to be, as Zittrain wrote in his letter, “two caffeine-fueled university sophomores?” They would be pretty hard to regulate, or even find, according to him.

“You’re kind of stuck, which means you have to go double or nothing,” says Zittrain. “You now have to try to regulate the entire app ecosystem.”  

Even if that were to work, which he doubts, he believes the price is not worth the reward. The way he sees it, it’s similar to a rule that would allow the police to walk into people's homes without a warrant and look around to make sure everything is fine.

“That might well reduce crime, but it’s just not something that a free society would tolerate,” says Zittrain.

 

Gas prices inch up as refinery strike continues

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

The nation’s largest refinery strike in decades continues. The United Steelworkers’ strike began on the first of February and has now expanded to 12 facilities, including the nation’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. The union is striking over the use of contract workers and worker safety, among other issues.  

Since the strike started, average gasoline prices have risen modestly. Most of the affected oil refineries are still running, staffed by managers and most likely, some contractors. Shell Oil is the leading oil company negotiator in the labor dispute.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Why water should cost a lot more

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 02:00

In today’s markets, the price for water does not follow typical supply and demand considerations and does not reflect water scarcity. In many high-growth regions of the world, the price of water is actually inverse to its scarcity. The disconnect between market price and risk makes it hard to substantiate the business case to invest in water conservation strategies. It also encourages growth in regions where water is scarce – and therefore where growth will be least sustainable.

In many major cities shown on the infographic, the price businesses pay for water is much less than its full value. Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, for example, have a risk premium 2 ½ to 4 times higher than the current price of water. Looking ahead, this risk is also expected to grow over the next ten years as populations grow and the demand for water grows. For cities like Las Vegas, Dallas, or Phoenix, whose populations and economies are forecasted to grow significantly, water scarcity presents a significant risk to businesses vitality and profitability. 

Data provided by Trucost and Ecolab.

Patient waiting time targets missed

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:58
Figures show that the NHS in Scotland has missed a target to treat 90% of patients within 18 weeks.

Police officer formally disciplined

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:56
A police officer is formally disciplined for "alarming failures" in his investigation of an assault, and for misleading senior police officers and Police Ombudsman investigators.

Is Weibo on the way out?

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:56
The BBC's Celia Hatton looks at why Chinese internet users are deserting the Weibo microblogging platform - and the pressures driving the exodus.

VIDEO: Speedboat crashes into beach restaurant

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:51
A speedboat has crashed into a waterfront restaurant on a beach in Florida.

Wonga to cut third of workforce

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:48
Payday lender Wonga says it expects to cut 325 jobs - more than a third of its workforce - as it meets new regulations.

Top Panama judge guilty of corruption

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:44
The suspended chief of Panama's supreme court pleads guilty to charges of illicit enrichment and is sentenced to five years in detention.

IS 'abducts 90 Syrian Christians'

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:44
Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted at least 90 people from Assyrian Christian villages in north-eastern Syria, monitoring groups say.

Rifkind steps down as security chair

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:41
Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to step down as chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee following criticism over "cash-for-access" claims.

VIDEO: Manatees pulled from drainage pipe

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:40
More than a dozen manatees which got stuck in a drainage pipe in Satellite Beach, Florida, have been rescued by police and firefighters.

Gunmen kidnap 30 Afghan Hazaras

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:37
Masked gunmen in southern Afghanistan abduct 30 ethnic Hazara men who were travelling by bus from neighbouring Iran.

Farm fined over toxic gas death

BBC - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:34
The owner of a Dorset farm where a worker died after being overcome by toxic hydrogen sulphide gas is fined for serious safety failings.

Uber's valuation is surging

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-02-24 01:30
.925

That's the Austin, Texas metro area's "economic segregation index," and it's the highest of the country's big cities. Two researchers from the University of Toronto devised the metric, the Washington Post reported, which shows how likely residents with disparate income, education and occupation are to live in separate neighborhoods.

$1.49

That's how much a cubic metre of water costs businesses in Los Angeles. That's pretty cheap, especially considering that when you factor in water scarcity and the likelihood of drought, it should cost more like $5.97. And L.A. isn't the only city where water costs beer prices for champagne tastes. It's a problem across the U.S.

$2.6 billion

Speaking of water, it will cost Washington D.C. an estimated $2.6 billion to complete an underground tunnel system that can handle excess water when storms hit. Right now, flooding water can only go into sewage pipes, creating a cocktail of rain and raw sewage that ends up flowing directly into the rivers. With the new pipe system, the mixture will have a place to go to be stored and treated. And for those who scoff at the price tag, some would argue that its better to pay preventative costs to handle flooding rather than deal with the damage after the fact.

$41 billion

Uber's valuation as of its latest round of fundraising, more than double what it was worth in June. The Verge has an interactive graphic showing just how far the the tech start-up bubble has expanded, with valuations and fundraising for the biggest companies on a spectacular rise in the last year alone.

$1.087 billion

The global box office gross of "Transformers: Age of Extinction," which was set in the U.S. but featured an explosive climax in Hong Kong. That diversity in setting — or having no Earth-bound setting at all — defined global box office winners in 2014, according to an analysis by CityLab.

8 regions

Napa Valley may soon be sour grapes. Over at Bloomberg, they've profiled 8 regions which are up-and-coming in the wine industry. Thanks to factors like changing tastes and climate change, places like Tokaj, Hungary and the Republic of Georgia are producing bottles worth uncorking.

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