National News

Protecting yourself from fraud protection

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:54

We don’t want to make you paranoid. But these days, you have to be on the lookout for fraud, even via products that are supposed to prevent fraud. 

"It’s quite an irony that these identity theft products have been consistently found to be sold in a deceptive manner,” says Prentiss Cox, an associate professor of  law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just fined U.S. Bank in connection with identity protection and credit monitoring services it was selling. Customers were charged for credit monitoring by a company the bank hired, called Affinion. 

Banks need written permission to monitor a person’s credit report. But the CFPB says U.S. Bank started charging consumers before they signed permission forms the bank sent out. Their credit was never monitored, but they were charged anyway, according to the CFPB.

“The bureau determined that this conduct was an unfair practice and ordered U.S. Bank to repay consumers approximately $48 million,” says Deb Morris, the deputy enforcement director at the CFPB. 

Neither U.S. Bank nor Affinion would agree to an interview, but both sent statements. Affinion says it "proactively built and implemented a solution over two years ago to obtain the required authorizations upon enrollment to our service."

The U.S. Bank statement says the problem was with Affinion: "As soon as we became aware of the issues with Affinion, we took swift action to protect our customers, and ultimately, discontinued our relationship with Affinion approximately two years ago."

‘That’s that Bart Simpson defense," says Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "I wasn’t there. I didn’t do it. You can’t prove anything.”

Mierzwinski says fraud in these anti-fraud products is widespread because they're profitable, and banks can automatically charge us once we sign up. Mierzwinski says don’t even sign up for stuff that’s free at first.

“The free trial offer only lasts for three or five days," he says. "And if you forget to or fail to cancel, they start billing your credit card on a monthly basis.”

The Bottom line: Depressing as it may be, always watch out for fraud even from those who offer to help for free. 

A social network with no ads?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:51

You've heard the grousing about Facebook? It’s usually about the advertising cluttering up your feed or the fact that they’re mining users' data.

While that might cause some people to see red, a startup named Ello saw a business opportunity. The social media site promises not to show its users ads or mine their data. And Ello is striking a chord with consumers: The social media site said it's getting 45,000 requests to join an hour.

So that’s all well and good, but there’s the billion-dollar question? How’re they going to pay for all this?

Paul Budnitz, CEO and co-founder at Ello, says, unlike Facebook, the social media site isn’t trying to get everyone on Earth to sign up.

“It doesn’t have to be worth $30 billion to be successful. It can just be a good business,” Budnitz said.

Budnitz says Ello won't charge users. Instead, to make money, the site plans to sell special features, like the ability to manage multiple accounts. They could also sell emojis and stickers.

Roseanne Wincek, a venture capitalists with Canaan Partners, said there is money to be made in hawking those goods. But, she says, if Ello plans to accept the 45,000 invitations it claims to be getting every hour, the social network will need big money.

“I think it’ll be hard to have investors and a ton of users and a ton of data and then say you’re not going to use it” to make a lot of money, Wincek said.

Brett Kopf is the CEO of Remind, a messaging app that’s aimed at teachers and students. Like Ello, Remind doesn’t sell advertising or user data. Kopf said while it might be hard to get mass consumers to pay for privacy, there are businesses that’ll shell out money for it.

“Like in education and in health care, there are real privacy concerns,” Kopf said.

And if there are real privacy concerns, he thinks people will be willing to pay real money for it.

N.J. Braces For Future Disasters By Fleeing, And Fortifying, The Coast

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:51

Federal funds are supporting two different disaster-prevention approaches — coastal retreat, or people leaving flood zones, and coastal defense, or building infrastructure to protect at-risk areas.

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Rotten Tomatoes turns its Tomatometer to television

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:43

Matt Atchity is the editor-in-chief at Rotten Tomatoes, the website known for its film reviews and its signature “Tomatometer.” The site is now a year into featuring television reviews alongside its long-running film reviews. Atchity reflects on the reasons that TV has moved so much more into the spotlight in recent years.

People want more of it
Film watchers are passionate, but the buzz usually dies down after opening weekend. Atchity says television audiences don’t want the coverage to stop after a season premiere. They want to read and talk about the show episode by episode.

“People have really emotional relationships with the characters and you hear people talk about, ‘Oh god, did you see what happened with Walter White and his wife last night?’ It’s gossip. They invite these people into their homes because they’re invested in those characters’ lives.”

Television is the new film
Television series are increasingly filmed all at once, similar to the way feature-length movies are shot. Atchity gives "The Knick," a drama series from Cinemax, as an example.  “They shot that like a movie. That was a 70-day shoot.”

Beau Willimon did the same thing with "House of Cards," the series he created for Netflix. That’s also the way creator and director Jill Soloway shot her new Amazon series "Transparent."

When audiences are able to binge-watch 12 or 13 or even more hours of a television series, it can certainly feel like they’re watching a very long movie.

TV is more convenient
Atchity says Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, is right when he told Kai Ryssdal that TV should start when the viewer wants it to start. That’s a common theme among television services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and Showtime Now.

Atchity also points out that younger viewers — like his 10-year-old son — are already comfortable watching 30- or 40-minute TV shows on their smartphones. The services and networks that figure out how to serve those audiences are going to win in the long run.

It's time to break out the decorative gourds

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:40

It's pumpkin-spice latte time.

What, you ask, does that have to do with anything?

Well, the good people — who clearly have too much time on their hands — at the Washington Post have run the numbers and figured out when peak "Decorative Gourd Season" is.

You know, pumpkins, squash and the like that show up carved and on people's porches and mantels this time of year?

Based on Google searches, Decorative Gourd Season runs from late August to early November. Specifically, the third Thursday in October is peak Decorative Gourd Day.

So, now you know.

The 'Bond King' Leaves His $2 Trillion Kingdom

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:36

Bill Gross built Pacific Investment Management Co., or PIMCO, into a $2 trillion powerhouse. But this week, he abruptly left, roiling the bond-investing world.

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Weekly Wrap: Inside Goldman Sachs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 13:08

Linette Lopez from Business Insider and Cardiff Garcia from FT Alphaville talked with Kai Ryssdal about the week that was: The GDP is revised upward, what does it mean? What happens when the head of the world's largest hedge fund resigns? And we look at the report from "This American Life" on the role of Goldman Sachs and the New York Federal Reserve in the run up to the financial crisis.

Listen to their conversation in the audio player above.

What will TV be like in 25 years?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 12:42

As part of "Screen Wars," our series exploring the future of television, we asked a bunch of the industry's brightest where they see the medium moving in the next 25 years. Here's what they said, some answers have been condensed for clarity.

Starcom President Amanda Richman, already exploring the possibilities of the second screen, focused on interactivity:

"Television will still exist but we'll think of it perhaps more as a screen that certainly has much more interactivity and opportunity for us to choose the shows that we want. Not through a remote control [but] more voice activated like, you've already seen with Xbox and Kinect over the last year. we'll be able to really program our old channels and that will be the biggest change. [TV] will look a lot more like the app world of mobile: choosing how you engage with the shows you want on an interactive screen."

Showtime head David Nevins looked to the future challenges of raising revenue without commercials:

"I don't think the demand is going anywhere. The challenge, the 'How do we get paid for it' challenge comes out of the captive audience [that] has to watch the 30 second ad. That's where some of the challenges are: There are other ways that people are demanding to see [TV], and some of them aren't so conducive to the 30-second ad. But I think people are rapidly figuring it out. I think as long as demand for television doesn't go away, we'll figure out the business model challenges."

Marlene King, showrunner of the very buzzy drama "Pretty Little Liars," said in the future the buzz around a show will keep up all year:

"This is the second golden age of television, I think it's such an exciting time to be in TV ... Netflix releases "House of Cards" or "Orange is the New Black" and it stays relevant — people are talking about it on social media — for about month, and then it kind of goes away until the next one comes out. What's next is finding a way to create a show that you binge-watch, but people keep talking about all year long. [You] find ways to stay out there in the universe. I think that's what people are trying to do, and I think in 25 years maybe there will be those types of shows."

Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, said he's frustrated at scrolling through hundreds of channels and landing in the middle of a show he wanted to watch:

"My prediction is that everything or anything that you may find inconvenient or annoying about TV now is going to be innovated away ... I think we can do better ... With the exception of sports and live events, even the concept of coming into a show in the middle of the show will soon be part of the past ... It should start when you start, you should be the boss."

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson had a few ideas, particularly about all the different places we'll watch TV:

We're going to see the nature of screens change in the home. It's not going to be a television anymore but maybe it will be a wall in your home ... that plays content that you deliver from your mobile device. You tell the wall what to play for you...Another place that I think we're going to be watching a lot of television is in our cars...It's early days right now, but a lot of estimates say that in 25 years we're going to see a lot more self-driving cars on the road. I think we're going to be watching a lot of TV while we are moving in vehicles. Not just as it is now, when you're sitting on a plane, but when you're sitting in a car doing every day things as you're traveling.

After asking all these guests that question for two weeks, Kai Ryssdal's prediction had gone full sci-fi. After all, who could have predicted all the advances in the past 25 years?

I am much more on the 'In 25 years we're all going to have chips in our brain' spectrum, and I'm only being a little bit factious... You heard Roy Price at Amazon say you're not going to have to scroll through menus and all that. I think we're going to be a step beyond that, and I don't know what that is...I think it's going to be much more innate, much more sub conscious, much more intuitive than actually having to decide to watch something. We're almost just going to think it and it's going to be there.

Finally, we asked you all to let us know what you thought TV would be like in the future. Most predicted that the platform won't even exist:

Weekend Brunch: The NFL's future, changing the climate and whither Olive Garden?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 12:39

Joe Weisenthal from Business Insider and FT’s Shannon Bond chat about the week’s news. Click play above to hear them break down the NFL in pop culture and the market effects of climate change.

This weekend’s reading list:

New York Times: Roger Goodell Says N.F.L. Will Overhaul Personal Conduct Policy

Daily Beast: Capitalism Is Saving the Climate, You Hippies

Salon: Wall Street won’t save the world: Why “free-market solutions” are a recipe for disaster

Bloomberg Businessweek: A Hedge Fund's 294-Page Recipe for Fixing Olive Garden

Florida's Manatees: Big, Beloved And Bitterly Contested

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 12:11

In one coastal community, some residents are trying to get manatees off the endangered species list. But manatee advocates say the sea cows, threatened by ecotourism, need more protection, not less.

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As The Ebola Outbreak Worsens, A Book About Compassion

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 12:11

This week, the CDC predicted there could be tens of thousands of Ebola cases if the disease is not controlled soon. Author Alaya Dawn Johnson turns to a favorite novel for wisdom amid this epidemic.

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The Ebola Survivor Who Works In An Ebola Ward

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 12:03

When the 23-year-old Sierra Leonean tells patients to follow their doctors' orders and to keep fighting, they really listen.

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Oklahoma Police Ask FBI To Investigate Beheading Incident

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 11:37

A man, who police say recently tried to convert co-workers to Islam, allegedly severed the head of one of his colleagues after he was fired from his job.

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Gilligan's Island At 50: A Goofy Show From A Time Of TV Innocence

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 11:35

As classic sitcom Gilligan's Island celebrates its 50th birthday, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says it is an example of a show much loved by fans despite widely acknowledged mediocrity.

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Your Wallet: Getting financial aid, and getting out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 10:16

This week, we learned that defaults on federal student loans declined in 2013 for the first time in years. 13.7 percent of student borrowers *who were in their third year of repayment defaulted on payments after they started coming due, that’s about a point lower than last year. But defaults are still far above what they were before the recession. Student loans can be scary and emotional… but key to getting an education.

How would you redesign student financial aid?

Here's what students at the University of Southern California had to say.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this article did not clarify that this applies to borrowers who were in their third year of repayment.

Your Wallet: Getting financial aid, and getting out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 10:16

This week, we learned that defaults on federal student loans declined in 2013 for the first time in years. 13.7 percent of student borrowers defaulted on payments after they started coming due, that’s about a point lower than last year. But defaults are still far above what they were before the recession. Student loans can be scary and emotional… but key to getting an education.

How would you redesign student financial aid?

Here's what students at the University of Southern California had to say.

Thai Leader Threatens New Takeover: The TV Soaps

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 09:57

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha says he's ordered a complete rewrite of Thailand's daily fare of infidelity and violence, and if it's not done right, he's threatened to do the job himself.

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A Concert With Jay-Z (And India's Leader) Aims To End Poverty

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 09:32

The Global Citizen Festival is live in New York (and on TV) on Saturday. The superstar-studded event is designed to encourage concertgoers to care about the issues as well as the celebrities.

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Will .Health Make It More Likely That You'll Get Scammed?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 08:55

New websites ending in "health," "doctor" and "clinic" will soon start appearing online. But anyone can buy those names. Some public health researchers worry that they'll purvey bogus medical advice.

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The numbers for September 26, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 08:20

The news has been dominated this week by U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS compounds in Syria, and today is no different. After a seven-hour debate, the U.K. parliament voted Friday to take military action against extremist groups in Iraq, the BBC reported. After being recalled by Prime Minister David Cameron, Parliament supported airstrikes beginning as early as Sunday, in a 524-43 vote.

Here's what we're reading — and some other numbers we're watching — Friday:

25 percent

The portion of auto loans made last year that are considered subprime — a number that has jumped in the last five years, and caught the attention of federal regulators. There's a side effect of this new subprime boom: More cars are being outfitted with a device allowing lenders to shut the engine down remotely if the owner misses a payment. These devices have become more and more common, the New York Times reported, and borrowers are raising serious safety concerns.

31,000

That's how many requests the much-hyped, invite-only social networking site Ello was getting every hour on Thursday, BetaBeat reported. Ello has billed itself as a sort of anti-Facebook, pledging to stay ad-free and never sell user data. The site's staff was blindsided by the high traffic and considered temporarily freezing account creation, but resolved to limit new users to about five to ten invites instead. 

50 percent

Half of all mercury found in public water treatment plants comes from discarded dental fillings, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday. To reduce waste, the EPA is pushing for dentist offices to use special devices that pull bits of mercury from water before it goes down the drain, the National Journal reported.

$6

Surprise album releases are the new endlessly hyped album releases. Thom Yorke just put out a new solo record, "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes," on BitTorrent for $6. That model is meant as an experiment, Pitchfork reported. Yorke's band Radiohead has done stuff like this before, self-releasing new music through a pay-what-you like model, surprise announcements and even an iOS app.

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