National News

Will Smart Clothing Amp Up Your Workout?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 06:53

Startups are developing clothing with sensors that measure heart rate, breathing and muscle activity. Fitness enthusiasts are the target market. But the garments could be used for health care, too.

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Did A 19th-Century Brothel Tunnel Cause A Sinkhole In Dublin?

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 06:27

An Irish historian says "there are tunnels under here going down Dame Street which are linked to the Bank of Ireland up the block, which was formerly the House of Commons and the House of Lords."

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If A Caller Says, 'I Am With The IRS,' He's Not

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 05:56

The IRS says if you are surprised to be getting a call from the agency, it's not them on the line. Don't fall for it! Scammers are trying to trick you into giving up personal information or cash.

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You won't die if you don't go to Harvard or Stanford

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 05:46

It's college acceptance season — or perhaps, more accurately, rejection season — at the most elite schools. Harvard and Stanford turned away about 95 percent of applicants this year, a new record for Harvard.

There are lots of reasons top-ranked colleges are turning away more applicants. They're getting more, thanks to more aggressive recruiting. And because some kids are so unsure of what it will take to get accepted, they're applying everywhere. 

All of this can be crazy-making and heartbreaking for a lot of kids and their parents. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni says it doesn't have to be. He's out with a new book: "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be."

The fixation on getting into top colleges is nothing new for hyper-talented and extra, extracurricular-engaged high school students. But with 95 percent rejection rates, the competition is all the more intense. 

"It's fed by a whole industry of admissions consultants and coaches," Bruni says, adding the demand has deeper roots in parents' fears about the economy. "I think in their anxiety about the country's prosperity and its future, they want to give kids any leg up, anything that might be a leg up, and they see elite schools as one of those things."

One reason that the volume of applications have increased: ease. Most elite colleges and universities use the common app, an electronic form that allows students to apply to send the same information, scores and essays to an array of schools. Schools also market themselves aggressively to see as many applicants as possible. 

"They want to get the best students and they want the most diverse student bodies, so that's the good impulse behind it," Bruni says. "But they also just want big, big numbers because we've entered an era here where a low acceptance rate – proof that you've turned away masses of people – is bragging rights among colleges."

For low-income students in particular, research shows that going to a selective school can make a big difference in graduation rates and future earnings. 

"It's not fair to say that the brand doesn't buy opportunities," Bruni says of the most elite and selective colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. "But it's not a do-or-die, make-or-break advantage. It's not going to last your whole life."

Listen to the complete interview below to find out which school produces the strongest startup founders, according to venture capitalist and Y Combinator President Sam Altman. (That question comes at 3:21). 

Netanyahu: In Any Final Deal, Iran Must Recognize Israel's Right To Exist

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 05:28

The Israeli prime minister, who has long called Iran an existential threat, reiterated his opposition to the framework agreement Iran reached with six world powers over its nuclear program.

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Economy Adds A Disappointing 126,000 Jobs In March.

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 04:35

The monthly numbers from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics was well short of the 245,000 jobs economists had expected.

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Sailor, Missing For 66 Days, Rescued Off Hatteras By Passing Ship

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 04:27

Louis Jordan, who sailed out of a small marina in South Carolina in late January, had not been heard from until Thursday. That's when he was spotted on the upturned hull of his sailboat.

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Kenya Copes With Deadliest Attack Since 1998 Bombing

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 04:14

Students are debating whether to return to Garissa University College. A teachers' union says the school should shut down.

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PODCAST: March jobs report and our National Parks Service

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 03:00

A surprisingly weak jobs report this morning has investors and economist rethinking our economic recovery. According the the Department of Labor, only 126,000 jobs were created last month — half what economists had expected. More on that. Why Nevada's Supreme Court is facing a funding shortage? The answer might lie in how fast people are driving. Finally, a visit to our national parks and their billion-dollar maintenance costs. 

Chrysler found liable in crash, may appeal

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 03:00

A Georgia jury awarded $150 million to the family of a four-year-old boy killed when the 1999 Grand Cherokee Jeep he was riding in exploded after it was rear-ended by a pickup truck. 

The Jeep's fuel tank was in the back, apparently with little protection around it. So, when the Jeep was hit, the fuel tank blew up.

Chrysler has issued a statement saying it was disappointed, and would consider an appeal.

But that could be difficult because the jury based the penalty partly on the value of the boy’s life. 

“I think it’ll be an uphill fight for Chrysler," says Carl Tobias, a professor of product liability law at the University of Richmond. "What’s  more likely is they may threaten to appeal and then maybe settle at some lower figure than the amount the jury brought in yesterday.”

Tobias also says people who were involved in Jeep accidents may re-evaluate lawsuits against Chrysler, since they’re now more aware of the apparent problems with these rear fuel tanks.

“They may be encouraged to sue where they weren’t before or may learn that their accident was caused by some defect in the vehicle," he says. 

But Chrysler says the Georgia jury was prevented from taking into account data that Chrysler says shows that the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee does not “pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

 

 

 

Germanwings Co-Pilot Accelerated Toward Crash, Officials Say

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 02:51

France's aviation safety agency says co-pilot Andreas Lubitz "changed the automatic pilot settings to increase the speed of the airplane in its descent" before last week's deadly crash.

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Fights On 'Religious Freedom' And Gay Rights Are Costing Republicans

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 02:03

The party and its leading 2016 contenders are finding themselves between a rock and hard place on Indiana's and Arkansas' recently amended laws.

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Nevada Supreme Court faces budget shortfall

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 02:00

Nevada's Chief Justice says the court is facing a funding shortfall of $700,000. He blamed the deficit on police issuing fewer traffic and parking tickets. Many people in Nevada were unaware that the state's highest court relies on lead-footed drivers to keep it fiscally afloat. Critics say tying court funding to the issuance of tickets could create a quota system in which police officers feel compelled to hand out higher numbers of tickets. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

Is this the most elaborate Easter egg ever?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 02:00

The Easter egg—as in the the hidden message in computer programs or video games—got pretty interesting as the sixth season of the animated series Archer unraveled. The show’s creators plotted an elaborate Easter egg, thanks to lead motion designer Mark Paterson, who hid around 40 clues for an internet journey that superfans slowly but faithfully decrypted.  

If you’re wondering how complicated can it really get: the list of clues included a so-called HEX code, which led to a URL, which led to a weird YouTube video and then a craigslist advertisement and it goes on.

This isn’t the first time Archer’s creators tried something like this. They have planted jokes and hidden messages in previous episodes, but they were usually isolated; independent of each other.

“This time I wanted to do something that connected them all together so there was some kind of trail,” said Mark Paterson. “So it would constantly keep it going. They had to go from one to the next and maybe come back to the episode to get the next clue.”

Although he planned most of it ahead of time, he also kept adding to it, deepening the trail and making it more complicated.

“I spent a weekend adding in about 30 to 40 additional steps,” said Paterson.  

One of the most complex clues involved a spectrogram, which, Paterson explained, is “a way of encoding or hiding the message within the audio data.”

Basically, it’s something visual that’s in the audio data but you cannot see it in waveform.

“Most audio programs would show you the waveform by default,” said Paterson. “You have to go the extra step to find the spectrogram.”

But who could possibly succeed at this without some help?

“The nice thing about Archer is the fans are ... always looking out for this kind of thing,” said Paterson. “I was banking on them knowing to be looking for stuff. They have previously shown that they have found stuff.”

Bonus: Click below to hear Casey Willis, the show's co-Executive Producer, in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

The economics of arcade claw games

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 01:59
126,000

That's how many U.S. jobs were added in March, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics's jobs report released on Friday. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.5 percent.

$64,432

Another bummer from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: average household income dropped for the second year in a row to $64,432. The Washington Post's Wonkblog notes the richest fifth of Americans saw their income rise by 0.9 percent before taxes, while the poorest fifth lost 3.5 percent.

$11.5 billion

That's the total costs of deferred maintenance for the National Parks Service. Of that figure, $850 million is attributed to the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Which means monuments like the Jefferson Memorial will have to wait on repairs such as a new ceiling.

4 percent

The portion of homes in Cuba with Internet access, one potential hurtle in Airbnb's recent expansion there, Bloomberg reported. There are about 1,000 listings up now, with more surely on the way. Airbnb is one of the first American companies to have a presence in Cuba since the U.S. reestablished diplomatic ties there.

1 in 23

The number of wins an arcade claw machine would have to allow to give the owner 50 percent profits. Vox looked into just how rigged those games are, finding that most machines let the owner adjust how often a claw grabs at stuffed animals with their full strength, tightly managing wins and losses.

40 clues

That's about how many hidden clues lead motion designer Mark Paterson hid in a single episode of FX's Archer. The Easter egg hunt led viewers on an epic internet journey, which included a so-called HEX code, which led to a URL, which led to a weird YouTube video and then a craigslist advertisement ... the list goes on. 

Silicon Tally: $19.99 problems, but low-def aint one

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 01:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Aminatou Sow, co-founder of Tech LadyMafia and co-host of the podcast, Call Your Girlfriend.

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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same As 'Mad Men' Winds Down

NPR News - Fri, 2015-04-03 01:05

AMC's award-winning drama Mad Men returns for its final seven episodes Sunday. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says these last few installments explore how little people change, even in tumultuous times.

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What to look for in the jobs report, in four charts

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 01:00

On Friday, the Labor Department reports on job creation and unemployment for March.

The consensus among economists: The economy added approximately 250,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent. This would represent a modest pull-back from February, when 295,000 jobs were added and the unemployment rate fell. 

However, several anomalous factors could throw a wrench into March's employment figures, like severe winter weather, a West Coast port strike and the rapidly strengthening U.S. dollar and plummeting oil prices.

Here are four things to look for in the March jobs report (click on each chart for more detailed information):

As the unemployment rate falls, are more people coming back into the labor force to try to find jobs?

Labor-force participation — that is, the percentage of adults working or looking for work — hasn't been this low since the late 1970s. If people are entering the labor market after schooling, or coming back after they got discouraged in the recession, that's a sign of deepening economic strength.

Are average hourly wages rising more than inflation? Are they rising at all?

Wages have been stuck for years, even as the unemployment rate has declined. Lower unemployment should theoretically make employers scramble to hire new workers, and offer more pay to get and keep them.

If employers don't raise wages, it may mean there's more "slack" (more competition for jobs) in the labor market than 5.5 percent unemployment suggests. It could be people waiting in the wings to come back into the labor market and people working part-time who want full-time work.

Are more people who say they can only find part-time work but need more hours to support themselves, finally landing full-time jobs?

This would indicate a tightening labor market. 

Is the rate of long-term unemployment, which is still historically high after the Great Recession, gradually coming down?

If so, we may dodge a Europe-like problem of persistent long-term unemployment lasting years. 

The National Park Service's $11.5 billion repair bill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-04-03 00:40

Washington, D.C.’s famed cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom, and with them they will bring 1.5 million tourists to the narrow path around the Tidal Basin, beside the Jefferson Memorial.

But the National Park Service, which administers the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin as part of its National Mall and Memorial Parks (NMMP) zone, has $11.5 billion on its backlog of deferred maintenance costs. Of that figure, $850 million is slated for the NMMP. So while the Jefferson Memorial may look good from afar, when you get closer you can see that it's falling apart.

“If you look up you can see the portion of the ceiling of the portico has fallen,” said Sean Kenneally, acting deputy superintendent for the National Mall & Memorial Parks. “Fortunately, no one was injured.”

But somebody might have been —a heavy piece of marble falling 50 feet onto a tourist would have generated headlines, and the system is still waiting on a replacement roof. Water, leaking through the 20+ year old roof, runs through the spaces in the monument’s marble, dissolving grout and leaving ugly black stains on the ceiling.

There are plenty of other blackened spots that look like the spot where the marble fell. Until money is appropriated for a new roof however, there’s just a fence and a plan to install a net.

The Lincoln Memorial also needs a new roof, but it’s harder to see the damage—only one of the Alabama marble ceiling panels is missing (There’s a piece of plywood instead). Otherwise, Honest Abe’s house looks pretty good.

Sean Gormley of Rye Neck, N.Y., was visiting Washington and suggested that philanthropic money be used to meet part of the $11.5 billion repair bill. “We already pay enough taxes here, whether it be our federal taxes, real estate taxes, et cetera,” Gormley said. “Things get built up, moths and rust do decay; I tell ya, it’ll crumble one day.”

Craig Obey, the senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said that the federal neglect of the National Park Service’s funding is a bipartisan problem that has grown more severe in the past 30 years.

“I think the parks have been dealing with less for quite a while, they’ve been asked to do more with less and we are at the point where they’re able to do less with less,” Obey said.

And indeed, the “less” is lessening, Obey said, “because the Park Service gets about between $200 and $300 million less than they need each year just to keep it even, not even to begin reducing it.”

Obey said National Parks aren’t just rock formations that sit in the desert. Most of them are east of the Mississippi and historic, not natural. People go on vacations, drive cars, flush toilets, ask for directions, climb stairs. While it is true that all this takes a toll on the infrastructure of our parks, they also generate economic activity: about $37 billion each and every year.

March Employment Report Expected To Show Continued Job Growth

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-02 23:44

Over the past year, the economy has added more than 200,000 jobs each month. That level of job creation hasn't happened since a 13-month run that began in 1994.

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