National News

At RSA, desperate for data to help understand threats

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:39

The annual RSA Conference is the largest security trade show in the world, and this year, there’s an extra level of desperation in the air. Security vendors and IT chiefs are looking to big data to help them understand how to protect companies from the ever-increasing tide of hackers looking to break in.

 The RSA Conference is, at its heart, a show where the makers of security products come to pitch their wares to big enterprise buyers. Those buyers, of course, are more interested than ever, since big companies and consumers are both reeling from a string of high-profile breaches at <a href="">Sony</a>, JP Morgan, Home Depot, <a href="">Target</a> and others.

 Insiders say there’s a palpable shift in tone from how the security industry used to treat breached companies. They used to be pariahs: companies that had failed and obviously had inferior infrastructure.

 Now, though, the incoming president of RSA tells Fortune magazine flatly that <a href="">"security has failed."</a>

Security products used to promise prevention and protection. At past conferences, a security company might terrify IT officers with tales of potential security flaws and then tout an ironclad fix.

More recently, as breaches got more common and ironclad fixes less believable, the focus shifted to "intrusion detection." Security experts started telling companies that they shouldn’t wonder if a breach might happen — only when.

 So, the next wave of products promised to detect those inevitable breaches sooner, before they got out of control and compromised mass amounts of data (remember, the Target and JP Morgan hackers were roaming around inside the company’s networks for months before anyone noticed). 

So this year, the product focus is something more like troubleshooting.

 "Half the vendors here are talking about some app that can provide intelligence or 'threat intelligence,'" says Chris McClean, a risk and security analyst at Forrester Research. "That’s the buzzword of the year here."

From what I can tell, "threat intelligence" is really just a dramatic way of saying "figure out what’s happening and hopefully what might work to stop the bad guys."

For example, I interviewed Vikram Phatak, CEO of a company called NSS Labs, which is a security research and advisory company that just launched a new product to help companies gather data about where they’re vulnerable to attack and how well their security products are working.

NSS Labs <a href="">just raised $7 million in funding</a> to grow its spectacularly named Cyber Advanced Warning System. It’s basically a subscription service with a web dashboard that offers analytics about a company’s security.

There are lots of points of possible failures. Most companies layer on multiple products, like an intrusion detection service, a firewall and a so-called "endpoint solution" (basically an antivirus or antimalware product like McAfee). And then there’s all the potentially vulnerable software the company runs, like Windows, Java, Flash, Internet Explorer and so on.

The Cyber Advanced Warning System dashboard might show, for example, that lots of attacks are getting through the firewall but being stopped by the antivirus software, but that the company is running an outdated version of Java and needs to update it before someone exploits it and takes over company systems.

 The goal, says Phatak, is to help security pros understand how to better use the software they have, deploy the right settings on their company networks and get "situational awareness" about their overall security systems.  

 McClean says that approach — looking to the data — is a big theme at RSA this year.

 "The message is right," he says. "If you are telling an enterprise, we can take all of the disparate sources of information, we can tell you where you risks are and help you make better business decisions, how to allocate and where to prioritize and whether to use certain vendors in certain regions, then as a vendor, you’re in great shape." 

Still, he says there could be a whole new approach to security by next year, because cybersecurity threats are going to keep increasing for the foreseeable future — that is, there's always something to be afraid of. 

"Every year we say that in the last year we’ve seen breaches that are unprecedented and this totally changes the game," he says. "Next year we’ll say there are new breaches that have changed the game; in three years there will be more breaches that change the game. The game will always have changed."

Bail For Alleged 'Flash Crash' Trader Set At More Than $7M

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:35

U.S. prosecutors say the U.K. man contributed to the 2010 "flash crash" that wiped about $800 billion from the value of shares. He told a London court that he opposes extradition to the U.S.

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Debate: Is It Time To Abolish The Death Penalty?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:15

The practice is under renewed scrutiny after a series of botched executions in several states last year. The emotionally charged issue is at the center of the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

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Why Many Doctors Don't Follow 'Best Practices'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:14

Doctors, it turns out, often don't follow evidence-based guidelines in their practice of medicine. Scientists who study this contrariness think they know why.

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Could It Be? Researchers Find A Hiring Bias That Favors Women

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 08:03

A new study shows that universities have a 2:1 preference for hiring women for STEM tenure-track positions.

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'People' Names Sandra Bullock, 50, World's Most Beautiful Woman

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 07:57

The actress is the oldest person to head the annual list. But as Clinton and Bush race for the White House, the news seems seems like deja vu — a vision from 1992.

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The 'Folk Feminism' Roots Of The Latina 'Chola' Look

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 07:24

Celebrities like Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Sandra Bullock have appropriated this "tough girl" aesthetic from the cholas of the 90s. But the look actually has some really radical roots.

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Hungary Joins Poland In Condemnation Of FBI Chief's Holocaust Remarks

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 06:48

In a speech last week, James Comey had linked the two countries to the killing of Jews during the Holocaust. They have both said the killings occurred when they were occupied by the Nazis.

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Gift Worth $400 Million To Art Institute Of Chicago Includes Works By Warhol

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 06:43

The donation was confirmed after the museum agreed to display the 42 paintings, silk-screens and sculptures for the next 50 years.

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Saudi Arabia Shifts Military Campaign In Yemen; Airstrikes Continue

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:50

It's unclear what the Saudi-led coalition is planning for the next phase of its military operation in Yemen. The group has said it will protect civilians and ensure the flow of humanitarian aid.

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Why Somali Grandmas And Aid Workers Might Be Short On Cash

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:49

Money transfer agencies are the life blood of Somalia. But Kenya has shut down 13 East African branches to keep money out of the hands of terrorists blamed for a deadly attack early this month.

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Wilding? Ruff Ride? Dog's Road Romp On Tractor Sparks Puns

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 04:19

Traffic Scotland took pains to say it was a serious event, not a joke. But that didn't stop people from putting their own spin on the story of the border collie who took control of a tractor.

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Is It Time To Make Medical And Family Leave Paid?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 03:56

Democrats in Congress have reintroduced a bill that would create a national paid leave program, covering two thirds of people's wages for up to 60 days a year. But small business owners are wary.

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'Sliver Of Hope' In Freddie Gray Case, Former Baltimore Police Chief Says

NPR News - Wed, 2015-04-22 03:22

"This is possibly the spark that's going to ignite change, real change, in this city, and with the Baltimore Police Department," says former commissioner Leonard Hamm.

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PODCAST: The spark behind the "Flash Crash"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 03:00

First up, we talk about the challenge of proving that a trader is out to manipulate a financial market. We talk to Joel Hasbrouck, a financial industry consultant and Professor of Business Administration and Professor of Finance at the NYU Stern School of Business, for more. Plus, search giant Google could launch its new wireless service as early as today. The Wall Street Journal reports a key feature is customers paying only for the data they use instead of buying data in bulk, whether they use it or not. And a California appeals court has ruled that one city's special system of charging for water—the more you use, the higher the price—is invalid. Pricing water is tough, even in places not beset by drought.

A look at how you're doing based on where you vote

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:30

One useful way to answer the question of how America is doing is to consult a new statistical analysis out Wednesday called "Geographies of Opportunity."

It looks at statistics on health, education, and what we earn and produce what's called a Human Development Index. As the campaign gears up, the report offers a breakdown by congressional district in the U.S., compiled by an outfit called Measure of America.

The report also allows for comparison between congressional districts on everything from median earnings, to level of education, to life expectancy.

Measure of America

Especially interesting among the findings: The higher the proportion of foreign-born residents in a congressional district, the longer people live. For example, data shows foreign-born Latinos live much longer than native-born Latinos.

Measure of America co-director Kristen Lewis says one possible theory points to social cohesion and family support buffering the effects of poverty to create better outcomes.

Click the media player above to hear Kristen Lewis in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Police departments grapple with body camera costs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:01

In light of recent high profile police use-of-force headlines, form Ferguson to New York, to North Charleston, there's been a lot of talk of arming police officers with body cameras.

President Barack Obama this past December proposed spending hundreds of millions to equip police departments.

But the costs don't just end at the initial expense of buying cameras. Police departments that are already using the devices, from trials to full implementation, report that maintaining and managing volumes of video data is the bigger cost.

There seems to be little doubt among police executives on the merits of the cameras, according to a report by the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization that provides research and support to police chiefs. PERF reports that many police chiefs think the cameras make a measurable difference in reducing complaints against officers.

Mary D. Powers, 92, of Chicago can attest to the benefits of introducing cameras in policing. Powers first became a watchdog thorn on the Chicago police department's side more than 45 years ago.

"In the early days, people thought you were a kook if you were talking about police brutality," Powers says.

Still, Powers and those in her now-disbanded watchdog group Citizens Alert, successfully fought to get cameras installed in Chicago's police interrogation rooms. Powers says many commanders reported reductions in abusive interrogation tactics — tactics such as the ones that this month led the city of Chicago to pay reparations to victims of former commander Jon Burge. Burge oversaw a program of police torture of suspects using tactics such as electric shock and mock executions to elicit confessions. 

Powers says public attitudes have changed, and quickly, with the mass availability of cheap smartphone cameras that have captured the kinds of abuse she used to report one flier and public meeting at a time.

"The public is certainly a lot more aware," Powers says, and more "acknowledging that some of these things do happen, which was unpatriotic to admit that in the old days. You were questioning your government."

Powers is in favor of police body cameras, saying the devices represent the next step in the evolution of police transparency and accountability.

A recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, a group that conducts research for law enforcement chiefs, found that many chiefs agree with Powers. In many departments that already use them, police executives report body cameras correlate to a noticeable drop in complaints against officers.

"Certainly there are chiefs who see the potential here," says Brian Jackson, a researcher with the Rand Corporation's Center on Quality Policing. But Jackson says implementing cameras worn on uniforms comes with a whole host of questions, and policy and budget considerations, which all still have to be worked out.

For example, "deciding when they have to be turned on," says Jackson, "And when you're a department who's ... taking video a good chunk of every day, the amount of that data just adds up very fast."

Storing all of that data, according to the PERF survey, costs departments more than the cameras themselves. The survey found that 39 percent of police executives cite cost as the primary reason for not implementing body cameras at their departments.

In Baltimore, the city's mayor initially vetoed a body camera bill because of the costs. A city-wide program to furnish cameras to officers would cost between $5.5 million and $7.9 million annually. The city is now consider a limited trial program.  

But other departments see clear benefits that outweigh the costs.

"If the purpose is to use those cameras to get at the truth: what happened between an officer and a citizen ... how can you not afford ... to outfit your officers?" asks Michael Wagers, the chief operating officer of the Seattle Police Department.

His department plans to spend $2 million on 1,000 cameras. He is now testing a system to automatically redact the videos those cameras will produce, and upload them all on YouTube. The idea is to reduce manpower costs and allow access to the videos, which will be blurred and without sound. The YouTube videos will be used as an index, from which people can then request specific segments of video.

The idea is to have people request minutes, not hours, of tape, which workers would then sift through, redact any sensitive information (such as children's identities) that they are legally required to, and release the clear versions of the videos to the public.

Right now, the Seattle Police Department already has its own channel on YouTube, with some experimental videos uploaded. Wagers says the hope is to eventually blur the videos less. He's employing volunteer coders to figure out how to do that, perhaps only automatically blurring faces, in the near future. As they are now, the videos are fuzzy and unclear.

Wagers was recently invited to a White House meeting held with a number of law enforcement experts, to discuss body cameras and the various issues involved with their implementation. 

Longtime police watchdog Mary Powers applauds Seattle's attempts, but she's underwhelmed by their project.

"It doesn't seem to be all that practical, but I think it's wonderful that they have the intent of sharing all this information, making it available. Why not?" Powers says.

Raising water rates isn't just a California problem

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:00

A California appeals court found that one city’s tiered rate system violates a constitutional limit on fees. The ruling has potentially serious implications for California, which is deep in drought.

But California isn’t the only state struggling to set an appropriate cost for water, and scarcity isn’t the only factor putting pressure on prices.

Newsha Ajami is director of urban water policy at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. “You might now have a water scarcity problem, but you might also have a water quality problem,” she says.

Furthermore, the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure is rarely fully accounted for in water rates. “There are a lot of other municipalities that might not have the capacity or manpower or expertise to set up the rates properly ... or they just don't do it," Ajami says.

Peter Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute. "The proper pricing of water is, frankly, a global issue,” Gleick says. “We argue about it in the West, and in California in the context of drought, but it’s a national issue as well. We ought to pay the full price of the water services we get."

Gleick says raising rates to reflect the true cost of water is the best way to develop better infrastructure and encourage people to use less.

You're mortal, so write your will

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 02:00

Just 56 percent of American parents have gone through the fairly uncomfortable process of writing up a last will and testament to divide up their assets among beneficiaries upon their death, according to a new survey from

Not having an estate well ordered before your death can result in turmoil after your passing. Some famous examples are the estates of Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robin Williams. 

"If the person has gotten their lives and their paperwork in order then it should be a fairly simple process," says Sally Hurme, author of ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes.

But it's not always so easy. Andy Cohen, CEO of, says using an additional step—placing assets into a living trust—can help keep your estate out of probate court, in which a judge determines who gets what.

If you don't do that, "the estate goes to probate. It can drag on in the courts for years, it can cost a lot of money and most importantly it’s a lot of heartache for the families."

Spoof, there it is

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-04-22 01:59
600 points

That's how many points the Dow rapidly dropped in 2010 in what became known as the "Flash Crash." Regulators have continually struggled to pinpoint exactly what happened. But now there may be some answers. Navinder Singh Sarao, a British futures trader, was arrested on Tuesday, and charged with manipulating the market via spoofing, in which large orders are placed and then almost immediately cancelled. The practice forces other investors to move on false figures. As the NY Times reports, Sarao is alleged to have made $40 million in profits.

Prop 218

That's an amendment to the California state constitution. Passed about two decades ago, prop 2018 protects against utility fees, but it's had unintended consequences, curbing attempts at tried pricing, a water-saving measure in a state ravaged by drought. 

$5.5 million to $7.9 million

That's the potential cost to the city of Baltimore, MD to outfit all of its police officers with body cameras. The mayor vetoed the plan initially, but now the city is considering a trial run. With President Barack Obama's (now on hold) proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to equip police departments, we take a look at the pros and cons of using body cameras, and the costs after the cameras start rolling.

44.8 percent

The portion of emoji typed by SwiftKey users showing a happy face, according to new data released by the company this week. That may seem mundane, but it's actually widest-reaching data we have about emoji use, and it has some surprises. Fusion notes the U.S. leads all countries in use of the eggplant emoji, for example, while Canadians prefer the poop emoji.

$900 million

That's what start-up Fad was once valued at, though it went onto be acquired for about $30 million. The problem? Overspending. Sam Altman, head of tech incubator Y Combinator, says too many start-ups are aggressively burning through money so they can grow. He's reaching out to YC alumni, Business Insider reported, warning that burning cash are threatening the industry more than ballooning valuations.