National News

More Than 2,000 Mourners Gather To Lay Michael Brown To Rest

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

Funeral services were held Monday for Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

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A New Strain Of Ebola Emerges In Democratic Republic Of Congo

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

A new outbreak of Ebola is being reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But scientists say it's not related to the Ebola epidemic going on in West Africa.

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In Michael Brown's Memory, Pleas For Justice And Calm

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

More than 2,000 attended the funeral for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Both family and clergy referred to Brown's death as a sacrifice for the greater good.

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Director Richard Attenborough Brought Intimacy To Big Ideas

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

Attenborough engaged audiences in the struggle for apartheid in Cry Freedom, and spent 20 years and his own fortune to bring Gandhi's story to the screen. NPR's Bob Mondello has this remembrance.

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Mexico Swears In A New Police Force, But Many Aren't Impressed

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

Mexico is inaugurating a new elite police force, a gendarmerie of 5,000 highly trained officers. The force was a campaign pledge by President Enrique Pena Nieto. His administration has touted a decrease in violent crimes, but despite the dip, the rate of kidnappings is up in many of the country's states.

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Wine Country Quake Leaves Behind Bottles In Shards

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

The wine industry in California's Napa Valley is taking stock of the damage from this weekend's magnitude 6.0 earthquake.

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To Make A Move North, Burger King Eyes Buying A Canadian Icon

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 12:06

The fast-food restaurant operator Burger King has announced that it's in talks to buy Tim Horton's, a Canadian chain of restaurants. The acquisition would likely herald the move of Burger King's headquarters to Canada, in an attempted tax inversion.

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Ukraine's President Dissolves Parliament, Calls For New Elections

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 11:55

Petro Poroshenko said fresh elections would be held Oct. 26. The move comes as his country continues to accuse Russia of backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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Rival Leaders, Rival Governments In Libya As Crisis Deepens

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 11:43

Days after Islamist militias captured Tripoli's airport, the outgoing Parliament picked a new Islamist-backed government. Neighboring Egypt says the development threatens the entire region.

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What it's like to Doodle for Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-25 11:35

When Google's co-founders went to the Burning Man music festival back in August of 1998, they changed the Google logo on their homepage while they were gone.

They put a little Burning Man stick figure behind one of the "o"s in Google. It was the first Google Doodle.

Today, Google has a whole team of employees who design Doodles commemorating birthdays, big events, anniversaries, and more.

Sophia Foster-Dimino, an illustrator and Google Doodler based in San Francisco, told host David Gura about the process.

"For the first several years that doodles were sort of an operation, we did doodles that were more freebies, like Leonardo DaVinci or Einstein, people that everyone has heard of," says Foster-Dimino. "As time has gone on, we have sort of wanted to broaden our reach. We know that in the course of history, certain people aren’t as well remembered as they should be. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to dig a little deeper, try and find people that have maybe fallen out of the spotlight and let them share the stage with these other famous individuals that we celebrate."

Sophia Foster-Dimino

Sophia Foster-Dimino

Sophia Foster-Dimino

Her latest doodle commemorates Althea Gibson’s 87th birthday. Gibson was the first African-American athlete of either gender to cross the color line of international tennis. Foster-Dimino says she didn’t know who Gibson was when she was assigned to create the doodle. So, she researched by reading Gibson’s autobiography and watching videos of her playing tennis at Wimbledon and at the U.S Nationals.

A Doodle in its early concept stages.

"It’s really a good idea to immerse yourself in the source material and try to pick out the things that will be recognizable to those who are already fans to the person and intriguing to those who are not familiar with them," says Foster-Dimino.

Foster-Dimino says she wanted to illustrate Gibson’s talent and strengths on the field.

A rejected Doodle idea.

"Although the option was on the table, to just do a simple portrait, we really wanted to show her grace and elegance on the field, which captivate anyone watching her play, which was why I pitched my boss to do an animation," says Foster-Dimino.

On @Marketplace tonight, I'll talk to @hellophia about @GoogleDoodles. (She drew today's #AltheaGibson Doodle.) http://t.co/lq3Dcdi6NR

— David Gura (@davidgura) August 25, 2014

Despite Crackdowns, China's President Rides A Wave Of Popularity

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 11:14

President Xi Jinping has suppressed Internet speech, imposed greater censorship and jailed critics. But his battle against corruption has made him broadly popular among ordinary Chinese.

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The story of John Sperling, University of Phoenix founder

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-25 10:26

John G. Sperling died this week at the age of 93. If you haven't heard of him, you probably have heard of the school he founded, the for-profit University of Phoenix.

The University of Phoenix has served over 1 million people since its founding, and taught hundreds of thousands of students at once through online programs and locations spread across the U.S. Since it was founded in 1978, the school has sought to help working adults complete their degree, though it's faced criticism over how much debt students take on, and how few of them graduate.

Sperling did a fair amount of bootstrap-pulling himself. He left behind a humble, abusive upbringing to become a merchant marine before eventually getting his own formal education. Only after a career as a professor, in his 50s, did Sperling branch out into for-profit education and start on the road to becoming a billionaire. He ran the company until just two years ago.  

Emily Hanford is the education correspondent for American Radio Works who had the last interview with Sperling nearly two years ago. He spent part of their conversation defending his school:

"Traditional education has slammed the door. Where in the hell are you going to educate these people? Well, it's going to be places like the University of Phoenix, or they aren't going to be educated, period," Sperling said.

Here are some facts Hanford learned about Sperling:

He was highly critical of elite higher education, even though he was himself a product of that system. Starting in community college, Sperling transferred to Reed College in Oregon and went on to receive two doctorates: one from UC Berkeley and one from the University of Cambridge. His downtown Phoenix office held the complete works of Emily Dickinson.

Of his fellow undergraduates at Reed, he said, "I loathed them... because of their privilege." In his words, they were always saying: "'I got where I did because of all the hard work,' and I thought, 'You stupid son of a bitch, you don't know how privileged you are.'"

He was politically liberal, and at one point identified as a socialist. He was passionate about union organizing and led a faculty strike in 1968.

Even so, Sperling ultimately had no qualms about making money. Starting with just eight students in 1976, the University of Phoenix initially catered to older adults finishing bachelor's careers by paying out of pocket. Now, 90 percent of its income stream comes from the federal government in the form of student loan funds.

Hanford's documentary is called "The Rise of Phoenix".

Is it time to rename the Common Core?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-25 09:31

Marketing professionals know that the key to improving lousy sales or a bad image is sometimes as simple as a new name or snazzier packaging– "rebranding,” as it’s known in the biz.

But what about an unpopular public policy, like, say, the Common Core?  Experts think the Obama-backed education standards for reading, writing and math may be in line for a do-over.

Two recent opinion polls showed that public support for the standards, which have been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia, is slipping. But just how much can depend on how you talk about it: Use the name, and support drops.  

When the education-policy journal Education Next, for instance, asked people two very similar questions about the Common Core,  but didn’t use the name “Common Core”  in one of them, support for the standards jumped from 53 to 69 percent.

Partisan differences, which have turned the Core into a political punching bag, also disappeared. While only 43 percent of Republicans said they support the standards when asked about the “Common Core,” 68 percent said they support them when the name was removed from the question—on par with the percent of Democrats who supported the standards.

“Most Americans and most educators agree with the concept of more rigorous college and career ready standards,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, a strong proponent of the standards. “Where we started losing public support for Common Core is that the term ‘Common Core’ has become polarized.”

SOUND FAMILIAR?

Obamacare had a similar problem.  People liked a lot of the components, like the ability to keep a child on your insurance policy until he or she is 26 and no longer allowing pre-existing conditions to disqualify someone from being insured.

A November 2013 poll showed that slightly more people approved of the health care reform law when it was referred to by its official name, the Affordable Care Act, than when it was referred to as “Obamacare.”

As with Obamacare, opposition to the Common Core standards may stem, in part, from misconceptions about what exactly they comprise. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in March 2013 found that 40 percent of people had an unfavorable view of the health care law. The same proportion of people believed—incorrectly—that the law allowed a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care.

Similarly, about 70 percent of the respondents in the Education Next poll thought, wrongly, that the Common Core would allow the federal government to collect detailed data on individual students’ test scores.

Half of respondents held the misconception that the Common Core was a federal program that all states were required to adopt. More than one-third thought that states using the Common Core couldn’t choose their own textbooks or class materials.

“A lot of folks see the common core as federal overreach,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which helped devise the standards. “Clearly we have to get our message out that these are just standards and they aren’t telling teachers what to teach.”

So would changing the name really make a difference?

“The name is the name. I don’t think that’s what will necessarily do it,” Minnich said.

But Holliday, who is also the current president of the CCSSO, said he thinks changing the name is inevitable.

“I think the name is probably going to have to be changed in the future,” he said.

So what’s his proposal for a new, improved Common Core brand?

“We should change it to ‘College and Career Ready Standards,’” he said. “Who doesn’t agree that a kid ought to graduate from high school ready for college and career?”

Not exactly snappy.  But in this case, a boring brand might be better than an unpopular one.

Pediatricians Say School Should Start Later For Teens' Health

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 09:18

The science is clear that teenagers need more than eight hours of sleep a night. The nation's pediatricians say school districts need to buck up and change schedules to let kids sleep later.

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Want to learn cybersecurity? Head to Def Con.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-25 08:37

I wanted to talk to people who are learning how to become cybersecurity professionals. With all the security break-ins that we've seen recently, I thought they would be easy to find. At a Silicon Valley university, maybe? Or in a Bay Area tech school?

Nope! In the end I had to go to Vegas, of all places, to a hacker conference called Def Con.

I watched Google’s Parisa Tabriz take the stage. She asked the audience to help the search giant find bugs: “You can make anywhere between $100 and  $150,000 for a security bug, and you can also get a job!”

Tabriz, the engineering manager for the security team that protects Google Chrome, was speaking to the right audience. Def Con is a group of people learning to become cybersecurity specialists via computer system break-ins. In other words, they were learning to hack.

There’s even a kid’s track at Def Con called r00tz Asylum.  One participant - "Cryptina," 12 - wouldn't give me her real name “for privacy reasons."

I asked her: Would you hack for Google?

“Yeah, I've definitely considered it,” Cryptina said. “I've always wanted to be a computer scientist or a forensic scientist.”

“You can call it a recruiting trip,” Tabriz said when I caught up with her later. She meant it to come off tongue-in-cheek, she was mostly there to teach kids hacking.

She said, there is truth to the joke, though. Google does have a program that pays hackers to report security bugs.

“We run a couple of vulnerability award programs at Google, and there are a lot of kids who are underage and find bugs or contribute to this code,” Tabriz said.

Tabriz has hired one of those kids. He started submitting bugs when he was around 12 and she kept track of him. She says it doesn't happen very often at Google, but that it happens at all illustrates the severe shortage of cybersecurity experts in tech.

Nico Sell, a co-founder of r00tz Asylum, says you can see it in the competition for talent.

“It’s really amazing because nowadays you could get a job without a high school degree for six figures if you know how to hack,” Sell said.  

Sell says there are a couple of reasons for this shortage in cybersecurity.

Mobile computing, apps and the Internet of Things has given rise to criminal hackers, who can now break into almost every part of our lives. At the same time, universities are failing to train cybersecurity professionals, which is why so many people go to Def Con.

“Something that my parents get a little upset about me saying...the education that I received at Def Con is way more valuable than my Ivy league education, by 10 times,” Sell said.

Companies that are looking for cybersecurity talent say, in part, it’s because the basic curriculum for computer engineering degrees was set about 50 years ago. It teaches students to build systems instead of breaking into them.

Two universities, Cleveland State University and nearby Case Western University, are trying to change that paradigm. At Case Western, professors like Swarup Bhunia have started teaching students how to break into computer systems.

“It’s basically an approach of 'hacking for credit,'” Bhania said.

Bhunia says the curriculum is controversial. Hacking can be illegal, and lots of universities aren’t comfortable teaching it. He said the debate boils down to this: “Is it ethical to teach hacking to our students?”

Lots of schools have decided it isn’t ethical, and so they teach the theory behind hacking instead. Bhunia says unless students learn how to hack themselves, it’s nearly impossible for them to figure out how to defend vulnerable systems.  

“They take these theoretical courses and go to these companies... they’re not capable of understanding the different security vulnerabilities,” Bhunia said. “And they’re also not capable of coming up with solutions.”

Bhunia hopes Case Western’s program will convince universities that teaching hacking is vital to any cybersecurity program.

Until universities make that change, people who want to work in cybersecurity are relying on hackathons and conferences like Def Con to learn the real-world skills they need to keep us safe.

A Somber Show Of Support At Michael Brown's Funeral

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 07:49

It's been two weeks since the 18-year-old was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo. Large crowds are expected to attend Brown's funeral Monday; his dad asked for peace after weeks of protests.

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Ukraine Says Russian Military Vehicles Have Crossed Border

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 07:35

One Ukrainian military commander told the BBC that pro-Russian rebels may be trying to open a new front in the conflict.

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Sony recovers from cyber-attack

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-25 07:00

Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) is back online as of Monday after being crippled by a cyber-attack over the weekend. A Twitter user called Lizard Squad openly gloated about the attack, and even tweeted a bomb scare at an American Airlines flight carrying a top Sony executive. Though this weekend’s events were particularly bizarre, this isn’t the first time hackers have overwhelmed Sony’s defenses.

The PlayStation Network is what allows people to play games against each other online - someone flooded it with artificially high traffic and overwhelmed it. Sony says the personal information of its millions of PSN users was not compromised during this weekend’s attack, known as a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack.

It’s kind of like “you and I and 20 of our best friends all calling the pizza joint, every second. So nobody can ever call and order a pizza,” says Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor with the data protection firm Sophos.

Lizard Squad, which has been referred to as a hacker/vandal collective, implied it was trying to pressure Sony into spending more money to improve its PlayStation Network.

Sony, yet another large company, but they aren't spending the waves of cash they obtain on their customers' PSN service. End the greed.

— Lizard Squad (@LizardSquad) August 24, 2014

In 2011, Sony’s PlayStation Network suffered a big security breach, during which account information was accessed. The denial of service attack that accompanied that attack was likely a smokescreen, says Wisniewski.

“It’s believed in 2011 that was used as a cover, to confuse the Sony security staff while other people infiltrated the network to steal sensitive information about their customers,” he says.

Sony recently agreed to a multi-million dollar preliminary court settlement to address claims arising from that breach.

This weekend’s DDoS attack was followed by a beyond-digital threat. Lizard Squad tweeted that an American Airlines flight carrying Sony’s online entertainment president John Smedley could also have explosives on-board.

.@AmericanAir We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley's plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this.

— Lizard Squad (@LizardSquad) August 24, 2014

The flight was diverted. Sony says the FBI is investigating. 

   

America's Middle East Scorecard: Many Interventions, Few Successes

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 06:40

U.S. actions have not resolved the multiple conflicts raging in the region. Are U.S. policies at fault, or are these convulsed lands simply beyond anyone's control?

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British Embassy Apologizes For Humorous Tweet About Burning The White House

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-25 05:46

The tweet joked about the burning of the White House 200 years ago by the British. It unleashed many tweets from Americans who didn't think relations were special enough for that kind of ribbing.

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