National News

Deep South, Meet Deep Freeze

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 13:00

Winter weather is sweeping through the Deep South on Tuesday. It's cold and snowing in areas that rarely ever see arctic blasts such as this one. Southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama have all seen snow today.

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Hoping For Hope: Obama Seeks A Return To Optimism In Address

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 13:00

On Tuesday night, President Obama will lay out his priorities before Congress and, more importantly, the country at large. NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, speaks with Audie Cornish about what the president hopes to accomplish with this year's State of the Union.

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On Obama's Agenda: Immigration, Inequality And Unfinished Business

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 13:00

Ahead of the State of the Union, Robert Siegel sits down with White House press secretary Jay Carney. They discuss President Obama's plans for Tuesday night's address to Congress and millions of Americans.

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In Israeli Prison, An Elaborate Theater Of Interrogation

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 13:00

Palestinian Ala'a Miqbel thought he was going for a brief interview with Israeli security for a permit for work travel to the West Bank. Instead, he was arrested and taken to prison. There, he met Palestinian informants known as "sparrows," who masquerade as fellow prisoners and elicit information for the Israelis.

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A Homemade Wooden Luge Track Launches Teen To Sochi

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 13:00

When Tucker West was 6, his father built an 800-foot-long luge track in their backyard. Now, at 18, West is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic luge team.

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A Chinese Company Brings Hope To Former GM Workers In Ohio

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:58

For years, industrial cities across the U.S. have watched factories pack up and leave, taking their operations to Mexico or China. But recently a Chinese auto glass maker announced plans to bring new life to a former General Motors plant near Dayton, Ohio.

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Whither Europe on emissions?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:48

Is Europe blowing hot and cold over climate change?

The European Union has been in the forefront of the campaign against global warming, but its latest climate plan has been attacked for being much weaker than it should be. Some scientists say that by 2030, the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent of 1990 levels if it is to avert a catastrophe. Europe is proposing a 40 percent cut instead.

"Although it’s better than doing nothing at all, it’s not an awful lot better,” says Dr. Doug Parr of Greenpeace,”The leadership that Europe has displayed up to now is slipping back."

Other campaigners are concerned about Europe’s new target for renewable energy use. It commits the EU to producing around a quarter of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2030. But the target is for Europe as a whole, and is not binding for each of the 28 individual member states. 

"Some member states will be more virtuous, and some will be less virtuous," says Monica Frassoni of the European Alliance to Save Energy. She believes the member states will bicker over this commitment, the target will be hard to enforce, and that won’t encourage companies to invest and innovate.

"The combined effect will be much less development and research of technologies on energy efficiency and renewables," says Frassoni.

The European Commissioner for Climate Action defended her targets. Connie Hedegaard said that in these tough economic times ,the Europeans would have rejected a more stringent and ambitious plan. She pointed out that Europe still leads the world in climate action, lamenting the fact that other big economies had not followed Europe’s example by adopting emissions targets.

"That should be telling the Europeans something," argues James Sproule of Britain’s Institute of Directors.He says no one else wants to sacrifice economic growth in the name of saving the planet. And he says the new, softer targets are a sign that Europe’s enthusiasm for climate action is also waning.

What the NSA can learn from Angry Birds

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:30

The NSA has been reportedly snooping into the data collected by mobile apps. What does Angry Birds know that the NSA doesn’t? 

Well, in general, here is what your gaming app knows about you:

LEVEL 1: Whether you suck at the game. 

"It’ll see that you’re getting stuck in a particular part of the game, or a place where most people are getting stuck," says Kelly McIvor with the mobile fundraising service TapFunder.   

That kind of internal analytic can be kept within the publisher’s purview, and used to improve the game. 

ULTRA LEVEL 2:  Your location.  

Some apps may ask for information that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the game – like your GPS location.  This, again, can be kept in house and used for marketing.

"They want to know, 'Is this game really being played a lot in North America, versus Asia, versus wherever,'" explains Amal Graafstra, Director of Awesome at AtomicMobile.

SUPER MEGA LEVEL 3: Your Social Media profile.

"By granting a game app access to your Facebook profile, you tell people where you are, what your birthday is, who your friends are, the cities you live and vacation in," says Will Riegel, a marketing and advertising consultant.   

When you start letting your game access your Facebook profile (or Google+, or Pinterest, or any other social network), perhaps for the ostensible purpose of posting about your score, then the data really starts pouring in. 

And don’t forget that with some apps – perhaps not games as much, but some mobile apps – there’s plenty of information that you tell the app yourself when you register.   

"Sexual orientation or relationship status," says Riegel. Think Grindr or OkCupid.

Add to this the information associated with your phone’s browsing habits, and you’ve got a ton of information.


Some apps share, some don’t. But the more there is, the more lucrative it is to share it. 

"There are some companies that make money as brokers,” says Graafstra. A game maker may have no reason to gather GPS data, but "along comes this other company and says if you add GPS coordinates to your app and periodically report those to us, we can pay you for that data." 

On the other end of the spectrum, information can also be shared in an aggregated way (no individual identifiers) to ad networks.


Usually, it is uniquely identifiable but not personally identifiable.  As in, it could be traced to a particular phone or a “user 5013820” but not “James Jones, 35, New York based circus performer and socialite."

But not everyone is convinced of that.  

"Anonymization gets difficult once you start coupling a lot of disparate data sets," says Nathan Eagle, CEO of Jana, a mobile technology platform that connects global brands with emerging market consumers.

"There’s not anything guaranteeing that all this data is anonymized," says AtomicMobile’s Graafstra. "I would bet apps that collect this data nefariously do so with the highest degree of accuracy, because that’s where the more value lies."

Basically, the data is more valuable when it’s not anonymized. 


"It’s used for one purpose and one purpose only – to increase the probability that you click on that banner ad," says Eagle. 

Unless, of course, you’re the NSA and you’re hacking into app servers to get this data.  Then, well, you have other purposes. 

[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "Why does the NSA collect info on Angry Birds?" on Storify</a>]

No more Sunday ad supplements -- unless you subscribe

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:25

Time for another installment in the ongoing drama:  The Death of Print. 

For decades, many newspapers have been delivering their Sunday ad supplements to everybody in their circulation area—even non-subscribers.  The Chicago Tribune is about to end that practice.  

Once upon a time, sending the Sunday ads to everybody used to be great for advertisers, says Owen Youngman.  He teaches digital strategy at the Medill School of Journalism, and he ran the Tribune's interactive side in the 1990s. 

"It was the best way to make sure that every household in Chicago knew what the price of lettuce was going to be this week," he says.

That was then.

"Now, thanks to Google and other technology, we’re in a world where, instead of one audience of 3 million, which the Tribune might have served with its million copies, it's now 3 million audiences of one," he says.

Interesting bit of history:  This practice—blanketing the whole ciruculation area with the ad supplement—was actually an early innovation in using databases to target audiences. 

In this case, the trick was getting the database to identify which households were subscribers and which weren’t.  That way, a newspaper could promise advertisers they weren’t paying to hit the same household twice.

That data has only gotten more refined, says Randy Novak, an executive with NSA Media, a company that sells ads in local papers to national advertisers.  

It’s not a million copies of the same ad that are getting distributed, he says.  Actually, it goes down to the ZIP code-- and sometimes to smaller areas than that.

"So, if I'm a grocer," says Novak, "and I've got a location with three, four, five competitors out there, then one way I can try to drive traffic is by being very competitive on the price of milk."  

In other words, cut the price just at that location.  And target the ad to people who live right by that location.

Another surprise:  The Tribune actually has a new print product that’s a hit. And Novak thinks its success has to do with why this blanket delivery is going away. 

That print product? The Sunday ads.  People actually sign up to subscribe to them. They don’t want the day-old news cluttering up their doorstep, but the ads are still a draw.

"Studies show that people still want to look at the ads in print," says Novak. "They still want to do their comparison shopping."

In this way, readers are catching up with the way advertisers have always looked at newspapers.

"As news consumers, we look at the newspaper as editorial product," Novak says. "It's really a distribution vehicle, and if you think about it, they have the people going out at five in the morning anyway."

So why not use that infrastructure, he says, "and continue delivering ads even if we can't deliver the news?"

$10.10: Just a nice even number?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:25

It was just last year's State of the Union, when President Obama offered up this plan: “Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.”  

Now, he wants $10.10.  A number from where?

The short answer is, from a plan by two democrats, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller. “It's going to lift the family of three with one worker above the poverty line,” says Julia Krahe, a spokesperson for Miller. She says $10.10 will help restore the value the minimum wage has lost since its peak in the 1960s. And, it's in-line with past increases.

“This is the number that was settled at that got at the three big things we wanted to do,” says Krahe. It’s also “a nice easy number to repeat.” Way better than $10.09. Or $9.97.

According to Demos, a progressive policy group, hundreds of thousands of federal contract workers currently make less than $10.10. “They are people cleaning the floor in federal buildings, people taking care of the grounds of these buildings,” says Amy Traub, a Demos analyst.

“It shows just how dependent the federal government is on contractors,” says David Van Slyke, a professor of business and government policy at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. He says, especially since the 1980s, the government has done more and more contracting for all sorts of labor.

 Jobs that will soon pay at least $10.10 an hour.


Why no women in the story on Silicon Valley fashion?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:13

We've gotten a ton of response as to why we didn't include any women in my piece about the unwritten dress code in Silicon Valley. First off, I want to say it was my bad not to address women in the story.

<br /> [<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "...OK, so what do women wear in Silicon Valley?" on Storify</a>]


In fact, I approached quite a few of them during my reporting. However, I didn't see a dress code among women and none of them could articulate one. Perhaps it exists? But the women I approached said it wasn't as obvious as it was with the men. 

I've actually done a few stories about the issue of women and the male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley (Why aren't more women on tech boards?Why one company wants to hire more women in techHey brogrammer, let's crush some code), and my New Year's resolution was to try and be more conscious of this issue in several ways. The challenge is that tech is dominated by men. And when you work under tight deadlines, you sometimes end up calling the people who are already on your source list -- mostly men -- and the people noted as experts by the media -- again, mostly men.

That sounds like an excuse, right? In a way, it is.

Culture doesn't change without people going above-and-beyond. So thanks for calling me out on it and pushing me to go beyond.

(Also, email me if you're a woman in tech and an expert in a field!)

Illinois Train Conductor's Challenge: Keep The Beer From Freezing

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 12:01

In extreme cold, beer is particularly vulnerable when it's waiting to go into "the beer house." The bottles and cans are fairly safe as long as the cars they're in are kept moving, a train conductor says.

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China Is Poised To Force 'Times' Reporter Out Of Country

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 11:07

The development comes despite objections from Vice President Joe Biden, who has urged senior officials in Beijing not to punish U.S. journalists with de facto expulsion. China has not granted a request for a new visa that was made last summer.

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No, Queen Elizabeth Is Not Down To Her 'Last Million'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 10:52

She's not going to be a pauper anytime soon. Yes, the royal household has drawn down its rainy day fund. But the queen is still worth about $500 million — not counting the billions more in assets that belong to the crown estate.

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Sushi Chefs Aren't Feeling California's New Glove Law

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 10:46

The new law aimed at improving food safety requires chefs and others who handle raw food in restaurants to wear gloves. Sushi chefs say it takes the feel out of hands-on sushi.

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Top Moments In State Of The Union History

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 10:34

When was the first State of the Union delivered? Did every president give one? Who delivered the "Four Freedoms" speech? Find out here.

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Super Bowl Tickets Are 'Cheap,' And Weather Isn't Only Reason

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 09:41

The forecast for temperatures near or below freezing on Sunday has likely kept resale prices down a bit, brokers say. But an even more important factor may be that the matchup — the Denver Broncos vs. the Seattle Seahawks — just isn't drawing interest from some fans.

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College Students Can Learn To Drink Less, If Schools Help

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 09:36

Drinking too much may seem like an essential part of college life for many students. But interventions aimed at getting students to drink less dangerously do work, a study finds. The efforts need to go beyond generic online courses and involve students on a personal level.

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Obama's State Of The Union, Playing On A Second Screen Near You

NPR News - Tue, 2014-01-28 08:58

The Obama administration is flooding just about every major social media platform in its major digital push before — and during — the State of the Union address.

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