National News

Vaccination Gaps Helped Fuel Disneyland Measles Spread

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 09:15

The quick rise of measles infections in the wake of cases reported among Disneyland visitors underscores how even a small dip in vaccination rates can allow the virus to spread.

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FTC changes its procedures for challenging mergers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:31

The Federal Trade Commission has announced changes to the way it challenges mergers it believes are anti-competitive or bad for consumers. The new rules come as the commission faces criticism from Republican lawmakers, some of whom are pitching legislation that would press the FTC to rely on federal courts instead of its own in-house system.

Under its old procedures, when the FTC views a merger as anti-competitive, it typically goes down two different paths: It asks a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction -- which essentially freezes the merger-- while it also holds a trial in its own in-house administrative court system.

Under the new rules, if the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction is denied, merging parties can request to withdraw from the administrative proceeding -- a request which will now be automatically granted. This allows the parties to be able talk to the commission, which they can't do when the case is ongoing, and gives them the opportunity to try to settle or convince the commissioners to abandon the administrative case altogether. However, the FTC retains the option to re-start administrative proceeding if it believes it's in the public's interest.

This approach means companies will get a faster resolution to their cases, says John Coffee,  a professor at Columbia Law School.

“This is a big victory for the corporate community,” he explains. “Mergers need to be resolved in the near term. If they stretch on for a year without being resolved, many of the benefits are lost.”

The cost of keeping social media sites in check

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:27

Facebook has a new set of "community standards" — the rules governing what you can and cannot do on the platform. It's nearly three times as long as the previous version thanks to more detail about, for example, what kind of nude photos are acceptable. 

Rebecca MacKinnon, director of the New America Foundation's Ranking Digital Rights project, says it's in part a reaction to criticism that Facebook has clamped down too much on free speech, from photographs to pseudonyms of anonymous protesters. 

Twitter, in contrast, has taken flak for being too permissive of bullying.

"Twitter is a much easier place to kind of drop in, drop a little bomb, and go away," says Fatemeh Khatibloo, analyst at Forrester.

Jonathon Morgan, a data scientist who co-authored a report on the use of Twitter by the terrorist group ISIS, says the difference between the two social networks' approach to free speech is more about being different products than having different philosophies.

Advice to would-be 'Jeopardy' contestants

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:27

If you ever find yourself on the "Jeopardy" stage in front of Alex Trebek and you're totally stumped, what's your best Hail Mary guess?

Well, someone has gone through every Jeopardy episode between 1984 and 2012, He looked at close to 200,000 clues and found that one has been the answer, or question in this case, 216 times.

The answer is, "What is China?"

Based on this analysis: You'd be wise to "focus on science, literature, history, and geography." And the most common final Jeopardy category, at least recently, is "word origins."

Looks Matter: A Century Of Iconic Food Packaging

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:23

Many of the boxes, bags and bottles that contain our edibles were once groundbreaking —both in their design and in how they changed our perception of what's inside. Designers tell us their favorites.

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There's Officially An Upside To Boston's Brutal Winter

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:16

Nearly 3 inches fell Sunday night in Boston — making this winter the city's snowiest ever.

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An environmental movement is awakening in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 07:51

China’s Premier Li Keqiang said this week the government is serious about cutting smog and will impose harsher fines on polluters. Keqiang's comments came after the online release this month of a groundbreaking — at least, for China — documentary on the country’s air pollution crisis, called “Under the Dome” (video).

The country’s environment minister compared it to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the book that paved the way for the U.S. environmental movement, but Chinese officials have been silent on the film since — and it’s even been taken offline in the country, presumably by government censors.

Still, China observers say this may be the country’s “Silent Spring” moment.

“The Chinese public has come to believe they have a right to a clean environment,” says Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center. 

Like the early U.S. anti-air pollution movement, mothers worried about pollution's health effects have initiated much of the dissent, and big polluting industries are resisting change. Change in China is complicated by the fact that powerful local governments have little incentive to curb the dirty industries that fuel their economies, and often try to skirt the central government’s regulations.

PODCAST: Doing the numbers on police misconduct

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 07:46

The FTC is changing the way it fights mergers it doesn't like, cutting back on challenges in its own internal court and relying more on federal injunctions. We check in with Marketplace's Tracey Samuelson on what the rule changes could mean for pending, controversial mergers. Then, China has reportedly passed Germany to become the world's third-largest arms exporter. That hardware is primarily going to equipping African and other Asian armies, many of them at odds with the U.S. and its allies. Finally, police misconduct trials and settlements can be hugely expensive, but departments keep surprisingly little data on suits and frequent offenders. Dan Weissmann investigates.

Pew: Nearly One-Third Of Americans Hiding Information Online

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 07:12

While Americans are deeply divided over whether government surveillance is serving the public interest, one-third of those surveyed are taking steps to hide their personal information online.

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After 'Monster' Storm Hits Vanuatu, Leader Pleads For Aid

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 06:57

"This is a very devastating cyclone in Vanuatu. I term it as a monster, a monster," President Baldwin Lonsdale says. He was at a conference in Japan when the storm hit.

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Quiz: Swarms of small colleges

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 06:38

The closure of Sweet Briar College, a women’s college with about 700 students, put a spotlight on small schools.

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Russia's Putin: 'Life Would Be Too Dull Without Rumors'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 05:37

Vladimir Putin's disappearance from the public eye prompted a flurry of rumors about his health, or even a possible coup. He dismissed all that Monday.

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Former AOL CEO Steve Case on the web's 'third wave'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 03:57

This week Marketplace Tech is exploring South by Southwest Interactive, the tech-oriented event that draws tens of thousands of people to Austin, Texas. That audience comes to talk about what’s next in tech and to pitch their ideas.

Steve Case is no exception. The Billionaire and AOL CEO turned venture capitalist is here to advocate for tech hubs outside of Silicon Valley. We sat down with him to talk about the past, present and future of the Internet.

Twenty years ago, AOL had just hit 1 million subscribers. That feels like centuries ago, not decades ago.

It was a long time ago. I agree with that. And we had actually been at it for more than a decade at that point. We started AOL 30 years ago this year. At the time only 3% of people were online, and they were only online an hour a week. It’s also worth remembering it wans’t until 1982 that it was even legal for people to connect to the internet. The first wave of the internet in the 70s and 80s was restricted to government use and university use, so scientists and educators and bureaurats could use it, but real people couldn’t.

What’s shocked you about the way the online world has changed since you first got in the game?

Well actually, what shocked me the first time was it actually took longer than I thought for the idea to take hold. PC manufacturers didn’t want to build in communications modems, because they thought, “Most people don’t want this, so why would we add that?”

Every start up needs a true believer

Every concept needs a tribe of true believers.

Speaking of which, talk to me about Washington

Well Washington, actually, is emerging very quickly as a hot startup center. It was not true 30 years ago when we started AOL in Virginia, across the river from D.C., and now you see the debates around net neutrality and other things, and the government role is heating up again. I think key parts of our economy are going to require more interaciton with the government as a regulator and a customer. The government spends more money on learning and health than any other organization. It’s going to require a different kind of entrepreneur.

You mention net neutrality. How do you feel about that issue? Where do you come down on it?

I think it’s important. AOL could not have been possible without breaking up the phone company. The key ruling there said that companies like AOL could connect to the telecomm system. Up until then, they couldn’t.

Is Facebook the next AOL?

In some ways it is, because our core was always people. Facebook has taken that baton and developed a strategy with a broad global footprint that’s really been quite impressive.

It seems like they’re trying to build a place where you go to do everything. In the early days it seems like AOL was similar. You were going into a space that was controlled by one company, even if there was plenty of community within that space.

That’s partially true. Our strategy was really to be the internet and a whole lot more.

Were most of your users getting outside of it?

In the early years the vast majority of the use was custom services that were exclusive to AOL. Over itme the broader internet services got more traciton. But even when I stopped running the company 15 years ago, the majority of the services used were the services that were part of the AOL package of unique services.

Tell me about the third wave of the internet.

The first wave was 1985 to 2000. That was really building the internet. And the second phase, over the last 15 years, has been building on top of the internet. But the next phase, the third wave, is going to be integrating the internet more seamlessly and pervasively in our everyday lives.

We’re asking a lot of people what they’re here to pitch. What’s your pitch?

It’s really what we’ve been talking about. I think there’s a new wave of innovation that’s about to break. And it’s going to be around this third wave of the internet, which is disrupting sectors like education and healthcare and energy. If you’re an entreprenneur in St. Louis or Des Moines or Minneapolis or Pittsburgh, you’re gonna have great opportunities to build companies on the back of these trends, but you need to know what battle you’re gearing up for.

And, because we couldn’t resist...

Vanuatu President Calls For Help After 'Monster' Cyclone

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 03:33

President Baldwin Lonsdale told The Associated Press that the storm, which hit over the weekend, damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the buildings in the capital. Six are confirmed dead, he said.

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A Man's Incomplete Brain Reveals Cerebellum's Role in Thought And Emotion

NPR News - Sun, 2015-03-15 23:08

Jonathan Keleher is one of a handful of people known to have lived their entire lives without a cerebellum. His experiences are helping scientists show how this brain structure helps shape who we are.

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A Rail Line That Crosses Jerusalem's Divide, But Can't Unite It

NPR News - Sun, 2015-03-15 23:05

The city's light rail has attracted Israeli and Palestinian riders. But it has also been a source of controversy in a conflict where even the trains are freighted with political significance.

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Spring Training Has Begun — For Baseball, And For Candidates

NPR News - Sun, 2015-03-15 23:02

Baseball has long been labeled America's pastime, but some have argued that politics actually deserves that title. It turns out there are more than a few parallels between the two this time of year.

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Amid Rising Concern About Addiction, Universities Focus On Recovery

NPR News - Sun, 2015-03-15 13:17

The Center for Students in Recovery at the University of Texas is one of a small but growing number of programs catering to former addicts at U.S. colleges and universities.

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Nuclear Talks Resume With Iran

NPR News - Sun, 2015-03-15 13:15

NPR's Arun Rath talks with international correspondent Peter Kenyon about the resumption of nuclear talks with Iran, as Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran's foreign minister in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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Arrest Made In Ferguson Police Shooting

NPR News - Sun, 2015-03-15 13:15

The St. Louis County Police Department arrested a suspect in the shooting that wounded two police officers last Thursday in Ferguson, Mo. NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Emanuele Berry of St. Louis Public Radio about the arrest and investigation.

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