National / International News

Chinese Authorities Ensure Tiananmen Anniversary Passes Quietly

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

Twenty-five years ago, Chinese soldiers backed by tanks cracked down on protesters, shooting hundreds and possibly thousands of unarmed civilians in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The Chinese mourned victims in private Wednesday, as Tiananmen Square evinced a heavy security presence.

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After State Lawmaker Comes Out, Campaign Becomes Battle Of Write-ins

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

Mike Fleck, who was re-elected three times before he came out as gay in 2012, lost the Republican state house primary to a write-in candidate. So he won as a write-in on the Democratic ballot instead.

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New Pollution Rules Leave Utilities Frustrated, As Details Remain Up In Air

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

The Obama administration has proposed rules for limiting greenhouse gases, but many of the details must still be set by states, leaving utilities unsure about specifics they'll be expected to achieve.

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In Keynote Speech, Obama Marks A Quarter-Century Of Polish Democracy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

President Obama is delivering the keynote address of his current trip to Europe in Poland. Earlier in the day, Obama is meeting with the president-elect of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.

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Prisoner Swap Ignites Political Firestorm On The Hill

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:08

Everything the Obama administration touches seems to set off a political firestorm. The latest involves Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the prisoner exchange that led to his release by the Taliban.

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Obama condemns Russia 'dark tactics'

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 12:07
US President Barack Obama condemns Russian "aggression" and "dark tactics" in Ukraine, during a speech to mark 25 years of Polish democracy.

Heart baby 'youngest in the world'

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 11:34
A 13-day old girl at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, becomes the youngest in the world to be fitted with an artificial heart, doctors say.

VA Health Care's Chronic Ailments: Long Waits And Red Tape

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 11:34

Problems at the VA are not new; the system has struggled for years to deliver health care in a timely manner. Most of those enduring long waits are older vets from Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

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1 Baby, 3 Parents: Scientists Say Due Date Is In Two Years

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 11:27

A medical procedure uses material from three people to target problems in mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles that have their own DNA.

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The student-debt burden: online vs traditional schools

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 11:05

There were dueling Congressional hearings on student loans today.

The Senate Banking and Budget committees talked about what a trillion dollars in student-loan debt might mean for the economy.

Our colleague, Sally Herships reported on legislation proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; it would allow students to refinance their federal student loans. 

We thought we’d compare the debt load for students who graduated from exclusively online program, to the debt load for students whose programs were not entirely online.  Financial-aid expert Mark Kantrowitz ran the numbers for us, based on data from  the 2011-2012 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS).

&nbsp Average debt at graduation, by program type | Create Infographics
  Percentage of students graduating with debt, by program type | Create Infographics  

Eimear McBride wins Baileys prize

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:54
Irish author Eimear McBride wins the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction with A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, the debut novel she spent nine years trying to get published.

Last Of The Navajo 'Code Talkers' Dies At 93

NPR News - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:54

Chester Nez, one of 29 Navajo men who used their native language to secure U.S. military communications during World War II, died of kidney failure on Wednesday.

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This summer's most boring read

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:41

There's a new book out today, but it's not exactly the hottest of summer reads.

It's commonly called "The Beige Book", but its formal name is "Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions." Sound exciting?

The Beige Book is a Federal Reserve report that compiles information from local banks and businesses in different districts of the country.

But New York Times Washington Correspondent Binyamin Applebaum says its contents are so dull, they spawned the very idea of the book in the first place back in 1970:

“The head of The Fed was bored of listening to the regional reserve presidents show up at meetings and read long, prepared speeches about how things were going in California and Kansas City and Chicago, and he basically said, ‘Enough! I don’t want to listen to this stuff anymore. I want you all to submit it before the meeting and we’ll make a nice fancy book and distribute it. And anyone who is interested can read it.”

The book’s original cover was actually red, and it was only distributed within The Fed. Until Paul Volker took over the reigns as Fed Chair and came up with an idea:

“Volker had a problem,” Applebaum says. “He was engaged in this big war on inflation and he was trying to drive inflation down. It was making people unhappy, unemployment was high, the economy was not doing that well, Congress was breathing down his neck and they wanted more information about what he was doing. They wanted him to explain what’s going on inside the Fed, and he didn’t want to do that. So he came up with an idea. He said, ‘Hey, we’ll give you this book we’ve been publishing for 13 years at that point. You can have it. Maybe you’ll like to read it. No one around here reads it, but it’s all yours.”

How can you make a book you don’t want people to read even more boring?

“The Fed actually gave it a beige cover to make the point that it was pretty boring,” Applebaum says. “It’s no accident.”

Applebaum says it worked so well that Congress considered changing the cover colors of some of its other reports from green and blue to beige as well.

Cameron steps into extremism row

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:38
Prime Minister David Cameron asks for a full account of the dispute between the home secretary and education secretary over allegations of extremism in schools.

Rebels take bases in east Ukraine

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:33
Separatist rebels take Ukrainian military bases in the eastern region of Luhansk as fighting continues near the rebel-held town of Sloviansk.

Where all those digital cookies came from

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:19

I’m at work, taking a little web surfing break. I check out vacation rentals on Airbnb, I update my Netflix queue, I glance over a New York Times article. Then I go to Marketplace’s website. That five-minute break was a lucrative one for data brokers: 53 companies are now tracking me, from just those four sites, most using cookies (the top cookie host, by far, was Marketplace itself, 25! trackers hitchhiking on our URL). 

But the cookie wasn’t always the sinister character it is today.

 "The cookie was invented shortly after HTML itself was invented, in the early to mid 1990s," says Aram Sinnreich, a professor of media at Rutgers University and author of "The Piracy Crusade." Sinnreich says the cookie was created because websites needed to tell advertisers how many visitors they got, and they needed a way to tell the difference between 10 different people visiting their site and one person visiting their site 10 times.

"The easiest way to accomplish this without getting internet users themselves to install a bunch of clunky software," he says, "was to just drop a little piece of code without their knowledge or consent onto their computers, so that the next time they visited, you’d be able to read that code and recognize that they were the same person."

Then websites started using cookies to interact more seamlessly with consumers. 

"It was about consumer convenience," says Ryan Calo, a professor of internet and privacy law at the University of Washington. "The idea is that you drop a little file on a person’s computer and then you know them again when you see them."

You have cookies to thank for being auto-logged onto your email, having Amazon remember what you put in your virtual shopping cart last week and having Google remember that you like the mountain landscape background.

Cookies made the internet faster, more convenient and more personal. Consumers and cookies had a sweet, uncomplicated relationship.

"I think the turning point in all this is when ad networks really started to take off," says Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of non-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo. "What the ad network realized is they could drop a cookie and then track you across many different sites and, in essence, build a profile about your browsing habits."

The once-sweet and humble cookie became the linchpin of the $16 billion data mining industry. Those little, innocent files that were making the internet easier to use were spying on us.

But… maybe not for long. For the most part, cookies don’t work on mobile devices. And now companies like Facebook and Google have found a way to replace the cookie.

"If you’ve ever been to a website, and it’s said, 'Log in with your username and password or log in with  Facebook,' you’ve seen that technology in action," Sinnreich says. 

If you log in the regular way, you’re in cookie-land, but if you log in with Facebook, Google or Twitter, those companies get all of your web surfing information.

"That puts Facebook in a really, really powerful position to really pick up where the cookie left off," Sinnreich says. He says that technology will likely put a handful of companies in control of most of our data.

So…the cookie’s life as the internet’s tracker of choice is crumbling, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away. "We will see tracking move to other fields," Ryan Calo says. "And basically what will be left will be the kinds of uses of cookies for which they were originally developed."

Like remembering what was in your Amazon shopping cart; logging you into your email and remembering the mountain landscape theme you like Google to have.

And consumers’ relationship with the cookie can become uncomplicated once again…. More or less.

"Back to the original cookie… like your grandmother used to make," Calo says.

Irish consider child deaths inquiry

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 10:03
Ireland considers an inquiry after the remains of nearly 800 children are discovered buried in the grounds of a former Catholic institution.

VIDEO: Soldier: 'I just wanted to save her'

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 09:53
Soldier Billy McPhail has explained to the BBC how he jumped from a railway platform and rescued a woman from the tracks as a train approached.

Ebola death toll hits 208 in Guinea

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 09:46
Some 208 people have now died from the Ebola virus in Guinea after a deadly spike in cases in recent days, world health officials say.

VIDEO: 'Foolish' woman on rail track sought

BBC - Wed, 2014-06-04 09:37
A woman caught on camera lying across railway tracks in Milton Keynes is being sought by police.
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