National News

Cities booming, with some left behind

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

The U.S. Conference of Mayors meets this week in Washington to discuss the past and future of urban policy.

But while many urban centers are experiencing economic revitalization, hunger and poverty are also increasing in several major U.S. cities. 

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The other Super Bowl halftime show ... on YouTube

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

For this year's Super Bowl halftime, while Katy Perry entertains a broadcast TV audience, YouTube will be, for the first time, live streaming its own halftime show starring its video celebrities.

Research shows YouTube stars are hugely influential among teens, and that is translating to billions in advertising revenues.

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Is net neutrality the real issue?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

It used to be, way back when — say, two years ago — that when you clicked on a Netflix video, it would take a winding journey from a server in one location, through wires owned by any number of companies, until finally it hit your internet service provider. These days, that journey is a whole lot shorter.   

“A few feet,” says Richard Bennett, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 

More often than not, Netflix just connects a wire from its server to boxes owned by ISPs like Comcast, Verizon or Time Warner. They’re generally in the same building. 

This is called interconnection, and it’s how most of our internet traffic gets to us now. It’s more reliable and efficient. Think: less buffering. And, increasingly, content companies like Apple, Google, and, of course, Netflix are paying fees for this service.  

This is where things get controversial.

“In America, where these very few ISPs have so much market power that they can extract payments, it's just like the mob,” says Susan Crawford, who co-directs Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "Just say, 'you’re not going to reach our subscribers unless you pay us.'” 

The Federal Communications Commission is getting more complaints about these deals. And, now, it has to decide what — if anything — to do about them. It’s not sure whether interconnection should be part of net neutrality regulations expected next month, tackled separately later on, or left alone completely.

That’s what many ISPs would like. 

“We all get the services we want,” says Matthew Brill, a partner at Latham & Watkins who represents many big ISPs. “There’s a real danger that if government gets in the middle of those relationships, it will distort things in a way that ends up very harmful for consumers.” 

But what if Netflix videos are basically unwatchable unless Netflix pays an ISP for a direct connection. Is that fair?

“Comcast could say, well, you’re using a third of our traffic, and we could say, well, we’re providing a third of the value your subscribers are getting, so you should pay us instead,” says Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery.  

What Netflix really wants is to pay nothing. It will be up to the FCC or Congress to decide whether they have a role in these disputes.

What can you make with cardboard and tape? A robot.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

There’s a new DIY robotics toolkit in town, and you don’t need to know anything about electronics or programming to use it. HandiMate, developed by researchers from Purdue and Indiana universities, lets children (or anyone else) build robots with cardboard, velcro, and other cheap, easily available materials. They can even control it wirelessly through hand gestures while wearing a glove that acts as a controller. And, according to Kylie Peppler, one of the researchers and an assistant professor at Indiana University, it’s also “gender neutral.”

“It can be whatever color you want it to be,” says Peppler. The idea is to use the kit to teach children concepts in a way that's fun and engaging. The play — the process of building the robot — lasts about 90 minutes, and in that time students use engineering principles that are typically taught in college.  

Since the toolkit uses recyclable materials like cardboard, Peppler says it’s cost-effective and accessible for schools across the board.

She thinks the DIY approach is a great way to get kids to think on their own and innovate. During the research, for instance, they found that children often improvised with the kit to make their robots different — Like the 11-year-old who wanted to build one with legs, or the 14-year-old who wanted to mount his robot on a car.

“A more playful approach to learning gets us to redesign and rethink,” she says.

And on the seventh day, Amazon applied dynamic pricing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-21 01:30
43.3 percent

Of the proposals delivered during previous State of the Union speeches, 43.3 percent, on average, actually are enacted during the following year, according to data collected from 1965 to 2002. But the actual legislative success varies from year to year. Check out the State of the Union, by the numbers, here.

40 percent

That's how much the largest overseas investor in U.S. shale, BHP Billiton Ltd., will cut its oil rigs in the states, going from 16 to 26 by July. As Bloomberg reports, the move comes amidst worries about lower iron ore earnings as petroleum prices drop. 

115.3 million viewers

That's how many people watched last year's Superbowl halftime show, featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's the largest audience in the history of the game. But this year, viewership may be divided between the televised entertainment, and a YouTube halftime show featuring internet celebrities.

$1 billion

"Shh, I'm trying to Shazam this song," said your friend at every coffee shop ever. As reported by the New York Times, the smartphone app that can identify songs has raised $30 million in new funding, putting the company's valuation at $1 billion.

$8.49 to $16.99

And on the seventh day, Amazon applied dynamic pricing to the Bible. As reported by Quartz, the price of a standard King James version of the Holy Bible on Amazon has fluctuated quite a bit in the last couple years (100 times in five years, to be exact), ranging from $8.49 at its lowest to $16.99 at its highest. Most likely, its an automated algorithm responding to the ups and downs in consumer demand.

To Drive Economy Toward Equality, Obama Requests More Spending

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-21 01:03

His State of the Union address celebrated a year that brought the U.S. jobs and growth, and called on Congress to expand child care and free education. Critics say it's pure politics that won't pass.

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War Over Obamacare Heats Up In States

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-21 01:03

State legislatures are the new battlegrounds for the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers across the country are at odds over hundreds of bills that would either cripple or prop up the sweeping health law.

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First Charges Issued In Connection To Paris Terror Attacks

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-21 00:29

Four men with ties to 1 of the gunmen responsible for 3 days of terror are the first to be charged in connection with the attacks that left 20 people dead, including 3 attackers, the prosecutor said.

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Tax Preparers Get Ready To Be Bearers Of Bad News About Health Law

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 22:59

With Affordable Care Act open enrollment ending Feb. 15, taxpayers could find themselves shut out of health insurance – and saddled with big fines – if they don't deal with taxes early this year.

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Shanghai Fires 4 Officials Over Deadly New Year's Eve Stampede

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 21:23

The city government in Shanghai has fired four top officials and disciplined seven others for insufficient preparation and response to the New Year's Eve stampede that killed 36 people.

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State Of The Union Primer: What President Obama Proposed

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 21:13

After what he called a "breakthrough year," the president set caution aside. He called for expanded tax credits to help working families and for paid sick leave for workers who don't already have it.

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Political Theater, Crazy-Glued GOP Seats And More Congressional Reaction

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 19:54

There was the official GOP response, but many members who didn't get their moment in the spotlight took to Twitter.

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Albuquerque Selects Independent Monitor To Oversee Police Reforms

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 19:51

The monitor is part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the Albuquerque Police Department's excessive use of force.

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Death Row Inmate Whose Lawyers Missed The Appeal Date Gets Another Chance

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 17:05

The Supreme Court has overruled the lower courts and allowed Mark Christeson's new lawyers to appeal based on inadequate representation by his previous attorneys.

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The Obamas' Guests For The 2015 State Of The Union Address

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 16:33

President Obama's guest list for tonight's speech includes Alan Gross, who was freed from a Cuban prison in December. Other guests include a veteran, a police officer and a climate scientist.

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J.C. Penney Brings Back Its Print Catalog, After A 5-Year Hiatus

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 15:23

The company finds that even if people don't order directly from the catalogs, they still serve a purpose.

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Live Blog: President Obama Delivers 2015 State Of The Union Address

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 14:37

The struggles Americans have endured in recent years will be noted in President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday. "But tonight," he says in an excerpt, "we turn the page."

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Would Kids Eat More Veggies If They Had Recess Before Lunch?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 14:18

Many healthy school lunch options end up in the garbage. But two researchers say that students who eat lunch after recess are more likely to eat fruits and veggies than students who eat lunch first.

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Africa's Soccer Tourney Takes Guinea's Mind Off Ebola

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 13:34

Today, Guineans had one thing on their mind: Would their beloved Elephants beat Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations?

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French Quarter Sees Violent Crime Surge; Residents Demand Changes

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 13:34

The neighborhood popular with tourists is no longer an exception to New Orleans' stubborn crime rate. A recent run of robberies has residents criticizing city leaders and calling for more protection.

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