National News

4 Key Things To Know About The Islamist Surge In Iraq

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 13:37

The extremist Sunni group ISIS has taken several cities and is threatening to take more. But the triumphs have come in Sunni areas and the fighting will get much harder if ISIS attacks Shiite turf.

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Tesla shows their car-ds

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 13:34

Elon Musk, founder of the electric car company Tesla, said today he's basically going open source.

He's going to let anyone who wants to, in good faith, use Tesla's patents in the hopes of getting more electric cars on the road faster.

As excited as he was back in the day by his first patent, now Musk says more often than not it's just an invitation to a lawsuit.

Brain Injuries Rose In Cities After Bike-Sharing Rolled Out

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 13:33

When you rent a bike, you usually have to bring your own helmet or go without one. If you ride with your hair flapping in the breeze, your risk for a brain injury goes up.

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New Poet Laureate: 'The Meaning Has Always Stayed The Same'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 13:29

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Wright, who will serve as the next poet laureate, tells NPR's Melissa Block that his inspirations — landscape, language and God — have stayed constant for 50 years.

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What is Amazon? Whatever Amazon wants to be

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 13:04

When Amazon Prime launched in 2005, it was just a way to prepay for two-day shipping. Since then, many of the things customers used to get delivered—books, music, and movies—are now digital files. 

So, Amazon has been adding other benefits to Prime, like streaming movies, and starting this week, music. Critics say its new Amazon Music is far from the most expansive or current list of songs, but it’s another way Amazon is trying to infuse itself into our lives and become the first place we spend our money.  

This is also part of a big transformation in what, exactly, Amazon is. 

 “The company has reached out and become a true platform. It has both the hardware and software offerings," says Colin Gillis, director of research at BGC Financial. 

Amazon builds its own Kindles and has its own smartphone coming out next week. It may even become a delivery company, cutting out UPS and the Post Office. And, its servers—called Amazon Web Services—host many of its competitors, including Netflix. 

“Who would have thought that Amazon is running some major 30-40 percent of the internet and now running data storage for the United States government,” says  Dave Selinger, the former manager of Amazon’s customer behavior research and site optimization. He’s now CEO of RichRelevance. 

Amazon’s servers will host a revamped HealthCare.gov. Selinger says Amazon, at its core, is whatever its founder Jeff Bezos wants it to be. 

“If he believes he can do something better, faster or cheaper, you can expect he will, at the very least, think long and hard about whether he’s going to do that,” Selinger says.  

That’s why you hear rumors of Amazon taking on Angie’s List and Yelp. 

“I view it as a company that simply won’t cede any ground on the internet,” says Brad Stone, who wrote the book about Amazon called "The Everything Store". 

Amazon is willing to lose millions of dollars on experiments like selling groceries, just to ensure it’s the first place we shop. 

“They think they can do it all better,” Stone says. 

That’s even if early reviews say Amazon Music is just OK. 

Is E3 actually mind-blowing?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 13:00

I came to E3, the video game industry’s annual convention, with the hope of having my mind blown. The tag line of this year’s event is "The Future Revealed." This is the year that the promise of virtual reality was going to be revealed.

Even before I entered the convention hall in Los Angeles, people were raving about VR goggles. “It’s crazy! You get a little bit of motion sickness, but wherever you look you are in the game,” said a very enthusiastic Skylar Harper.

I was excited to try on a pair of VR goggles, and I did, and it was cool, but it didn’t blow my mind, and I wasn’t alone.

“I think VR is really cool and closer to being a thing,” said Justin McElroy, managing editor of the gaming site Polygon. But he also found VR to be a little scary. His great fear of VR, and fear of video games in general, is that they can be an isolating experience.

“When I look at something like VR, it is not a social experience. Almost by definition you are closed out from the rest of the world, and there is a place for that in gaming sure, but I worry about the effect and the cost of that. I don’t know that we need to be more cut off from everybody and everything.”

Polygon managing editor Justin McElroy posing in his makeshift E3 work space with Paris Hilton and Brandy.

David Weinberg/ Marketplace

My next stop at the convention was a giant, 180-degree, wraparound movie screen. I was there to see the trailer for "Destiny," the most expensive video game ever made. At $500 million, its budget is nearly double that of "Spider Man 3," which holds the record for the most expensive movie ever made. The trailer had lots of cool alien monsters but nothing mind-blowing.

Afterwards I wandered over to a giant poster of Jesus holding an Xbox controller. It was an ad for gamechurch.com. “We really think that gaming is more than just a fun thing to do," said Gamechurch.com founder Michael Bridges. "It speaks to the human condition, and we’re speaking through a Christian lens, but we're not doing it in a judgmental way. We’re not the morality police.”

I asked him what he thought Jesus’s favorite video game would be. “Your favorite game,” he said without hesitation, “because he wants to play with you.  You know, he just wants to hang.”

David Weinberg/ Marketplace

After talking to Bridges I heard a rumor that the videogame "Gauntlet had a food truck" parked outside and was handing out free turkey legs. The rumor was true. I watched a man devour a piece of charred meat about the size of his head. Next to him, a life-size tank was rolling over a taxi cab.

It was kind of mind blowing.

Much of E3 now consists of watching other people play video games.

David Weinberg/ Marketplace

Thai Junta To Foreign Journalists: 'Don't Call It A Coup'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:42

A spokesman for Thailand's new military regime says that the action by the army last month to topple the elected government "is totally different" from previous coups.

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Call it 'protein', not 'meat'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:29

General Mills launched a new cereal: Cheerios Protein. The big selling point: It contains eleven grams of protein when paired with milk.

So what is it about protein that drives consumers to add so much of it into their diets -- and spend so much on it in grocery stores?

"Protein helps you feel full throughout the day and keeps you energized," says Venessa Wong, associate editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. "It actually works out in favor of food manufacturers," says Wong. "Consumers are so interested in protein and yet have no idea how much they’re supposed to consume a day."

No surprise there because in business, it’s all about the branding. For instance, meat companies, like Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson, prefer to think of themselves as a "protein company" as opposed to a "meat company."

"Last year, a data company found that conversations that mentioned meats were highly negative on social media," says Wong. "Where as those that mentioned proteins were associated with positive things like good, delicious and healthy."

So will the protein popularity grow? Or is this just another fleeting food trend?

"It’s a hot trend," says Wong. "Several companies are making bets on the marketing power of protein to consumers."

Listen to our full interview with Venessa Wong in the audio player above.

5 examples when the word "protein" does not mean "meat"

Via Wikimedia Commons

1. Brussels Sprouts

Nobody ever wanted to eat them when they were kids, but these little miniature cabbages pack a solid three grams of protein in each 1-cup serving.

Aizar Raldes/AFP/Getty Images

2. Quinoa

It's not technically a grain (it's a seed), but it has as much protein as some other whole grains and then some. One cup of quinoa contains a whopping 24 grams of protein--nearly five times that of a cup of brown rice.

Via Wikimedia Commons

3. Pumpkin seeds

Might want to save the seeds from your next Halloween pumpkin. Also called "pepitas" in Spanish, pumpkin seeds boast a hefty 12 grams of protein per cup. There's a caveat, however, as nuts and seeds tend to pack a lot of calories and fat along with them.

David Paul Morris/Getty Images News

4. Ice cream

Again, the usual moderation caveats apply, but the National Dairy Council reports ice cream is not only a source of protein, but also calcium, riboflavin, and other vitamins and minerals. But don't use this to justify your consumption of it--while a half-cup of chocolate ice cream contains 2.5 grams of protein, it also comes with 7 grams of fat.

Via Wikimedia Commons

5. Silk pupae

Called beondegi in Korean--which translates to "pupa" or "chrysalis"--steamed and lightly seasoned silkworm pupae are often sold by street vendors in Korea. Canned silk pupae can contain up to nine grams of protein.

Starbucks Makes Itself More Addictive With Wireless Phone Charging

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:29

If you have a capable device, no more cords or outlets required to charge your smartphone — not at Starbucks locations, anyway.

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A famous London bookstore hits back at digital trends

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:04

Amazon and the e-book have spelled doom for many bookshops, especially in the U.S. and the U.K. Hundreds have closed. But tomorrow in London, one of the world’s best known bookstores defies the trend: Foyles on Charing Cross Road is officially opening a new $60 million flagship store. Can it survive the digital onslaught?

“Some people think we’re mad. Some people think we’re very brave. Some people think we’re now going to reverse the trend back towards physical books and bricks and mortar book retailing, ” says Christopher Foyle, grandson of one of the store’s founders and the current chairman.

The early signs are encouraging. Even before the official opening, the new, four story bookshop was full of book-loving customers.

"I do love the atmosphere of bookshops... the calmness,” says Nina Muehlemann. "I feel it’s a luxury spending time here."

Simon Shaw said shopping in a book store is far more satisfying than doing it online. “It’s the serendipity of coming across something that you didn’t know you were looking for,” he said.

And Lila Burkeman spoke of her preference for the printed word: “I love books,” she said. “ I do have a computer, but there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands.”  

Some publishing industry observers claim that these physical book lovers are a vanishing breed, and that eventually e-books will command a 95 percent share of the market. But Patrick O’Brien of Verdict Retail research isn’t so sure.

“We are seeing that the e-book market is really starting to mature already.” he says. “ So we do not believe that it’s going to destroy the physical book market in the near term. We think it could end up with a 50/50 split”

Foyles is calling its new flagship store “ the traditional bookshop of the future”. Ironically, since digital technology has been eating into its business, the company has equipped the new store with state-of-the-art digital equipment – including a smartphone system for guiding customers to the book they’re looking for. Christopher Foyle believes that high-tech and tradition will prove an irresistible combination, although there is one tradition he is eager to stamp out. Such was the chaos and the clutter of the old store, such was its status as a national institution , that book stealing became endemic and even respectable.

“I’ve even got a letter in the archive from one academic gentleman who bitterly resented being prosecuted for stealing vast quantities of books. He thought it was his right – as a poor academic – it was his God-given right to steal as many books from us as he possibly could,” says Foyle.

The new store is bristling with the latest security and surveillance equipment. Technology – a threat to physical books and bookshops – is fully deployed throughout the store to combat theft.

Brazilians Greet The World Cup Kickoff With Protests And Tear Gas

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:01

In Brazil, thousands of protesters clashed with police just hours before the World Cup opening ceremony. The streets of Sao Paolo were filled with tear gas and concussion grenades.

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The Majority Leader Has Lost. Long Live The Majority Leader

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:01

Shortly after Rep. Eric Cantor's surprise defeat in the Republican primary, Cantor announced his plans to step down soon from his position as House majority leader. This will leave a void in the GOP leadership, an open spot that's sure to attract plenty of interest.

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As Iraq Comes Apart At The Seams, Washington Weighs What To Do

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:01

Grave questions face the Iraqi government, and U.S. officials are scrambling to decide what to do. The U.S. helped shape the country; is there anything it can — or would — do to keep it together?

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As Militants Sweep South Across Iraq, A View From The North

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:01

A shift in power is underway in Iraq, where the jihadi group ISIS has captured several cities in a recent offensive. Jane Arraf is a reporter for Al Jazeera America, and she comments on the violence.

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Facebook Announces Plans To Sell More User Data To Advertisers

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:01

Facebook will share users' Web browsing habits with advertisers in order to help the latter target their ads more effectively. At the same time, Facebook announced a feature that allows users to see why targeted ads are coming their way.

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On The Hill, Debate Reawakens Over Tired Truckers

NPR News - Thu, 2014-06-12 12:01

The accident that seriously injured comic Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian has focused attention on truck driving safety. New regulations limited the amount of overnights truckers could work, but the trucking industry and its congressional allies are trying to roll back the limits.

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Tech companies don't just recruit from the Ivies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 11:17

If you think working for a big technology  company like Microsoft, Apple or IBM, requires attending an Ivy League school first, you might want to think again.

Turns out, tech companies recruit their employees from a variety of different universities and state colleges.

 "Yahoo’s top place where it gets its workers from is actually San Jose State University," says Joanna Pearlstein, deputy managing editor at Wired Magazine. "And it’s also the top supplier of workers to  Apple."

@kairyssdal: Top schools for APM staff: U. Minn., USC, St. Olaf. NPR: U. Maryland, Berkeley, American. NY Times: NYU, Columbia, Harvard

— Joanna Pearlstein (@jopearl) June 12, 2014

Pearlstein’s research also shows that four out of five of the top universities that Microsoft is getting its employees from are located in the Washington state.

Check out Wired's breakdown of what colleges feed the big tech companies:

Luca Masud and Brittney Everett/Wired

Tech companies don't just recruit from the Ivies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 11:17

If you think working for a big technology  company like Microsoft, Apple or IBM, requires attending an Ivy League school first, you might want to think again.

Turns out, tech companies recruit their employees from a variety of different universities and state colleges.

 "Yahoo’s top place where it gets its workers from is actually San Jose State University," says Joanna Pearlstein, deputy managing editor at Wired Magazine. "And it’s also the top supplier of workers to  Apple."

@kairyssdal: Top schools for APM staff: U. Minn., USC, St. Olaf. NPR: U. Maryland, Berkeley, American. NY Times: NYU, Columbia, Harvard

— Joanna Pearlstein (@jopearl) June 12, 2014

Pearlstein’s research also shows that four out of five of the top universities that Microsoft is getting its employees from are located in the Washington state.

Check out Wired's breakdown of what colleges feed the big tech companies:

Luca Masud and Brittney Everett/Wired

Getting tickets for the NBA Finals is a game itself

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-06-12 10:47

For Miami Heat season ticket holders, the NBA Finals should be all LeBron jerseys and cocky tweets.

After all, the Heat are one of just four teams to ever play in four straight NBA Finals. And season ticket holders have first crack at snagging highly-coveted playoff tickets and buying them at a relative steal.

“The Eastern Conference Finals will generally go for anywhere from three to four times face value,” says Ayeh Ashong with Miami-based broker Tickets of America. “And the NBA Finals can go for anywhere from four to five times face value.”

Season ticket holders can cover a good chunk -- if not all -- of their expenses by selling just their conference finals and finals tickets. Depending on where NBA Finals seats are located, says Ashong, tickets can sell for anywhere from $275 to $25,000.

For a subset of season ticket holders, the playoffs becomes a complicated affair. Like a timeshare, some fans join informal season ticket pools with colleagues, friends, and friends of friends.

Ashong says at least twice a year, he turns into a counselor for group season ticket holders. There’s an extra playoff game left. Who gets to go? Should they just sell the seats and split the money?

“Oh wow, we’ve done all kinds of things,” says Ayeh Ashong with Miami-based broker Tickets of America, “from pulling straws to flipping coins.”

Perhaps the easiest way to fairly break up playoff tickets is to liquidate them all and split the profits among the group.

But many season ticket holders, like Gregg Gelber, wouldn’t dream of selling their seat to a stranger. He and six long-time friends share four season tickets. “Like everything with our group, it starts with a spreadsheet,” says Gelber, a financial advisor who keeps obsessive records of who attends which game.

For the playoffs, Gelber’s group uses a rotation system to distribute playoff seats. An order is randomly generated, and each group member gets a ticket when his name is up. Four of the seven guys go to each game this way.

Over the last four years, the group has developed a small bible of playoff-specific rules.

“Giving your ticket to anybody without prior approval is complete banishment,” says Gelber. “Immediately.”

Group members are also prohibited from selling their ticket. “If you can’t go, you can offer to trade. If that is rejected... it goes to the next person automatically,” says Gelber.

In Gelber’s rotation system, all of the group members have the same chances of getting any given ticket. That is one way to think about “fairness.”

But there’s at least one other way. “A property that mathematicians call ‘envy free-ness,’” says Mike Rosenthal, who teaches math at Florida International University.

Rosenthal suggests splitting up season tickets with a method that originated as a way to divvy up an estate when no will had been written:  the Knaster system.

“[It] was developed during World War II,” says Rosenthal, “by a Polish Mathematician: Bronisław Knaster.”

Using the Knaster system, each ticket holder would write down what a given game is worth to them. The person who values a game most gets the ticket, but has to reimburse the other members for not going.

And then there’s the Peltz family system. Which is to say no system, really.

The Peltzs have owned a pair of Heat season tickets for about two decades, since their kids were just babies. Now that the Heat are a regular fixture in the Finals, and the kids are adults, there’s a good deal of jostling for use of the family seats.

The youngest son, Jonathan Peltz, used to strategically pass on earlier playoff games to claim the rights to later, more important playoff games.

Last year, Jonathan and his brother Moish were all set to go to one of the first two finals games against the Spurs. At the last second, his sister Maxine booked a flight home from New York.

“Like literally 24 hours notice,” says Jonathan.

Word came down that Maxine would get to go to the game instead of Jonathan.

“I mean I wish I didn't have to play that card,” says Maxine, “I would have rather been here for all of the playoff games.”

“It’s like a corporation,” says Jonathan, “She’s like: I cleared it with mom. So it’s like then she doesn’t have to ask me.”

Explicit texts were exchanged. A livid Jonathan, at some point, had to be talked down while pacing and fuming. Maxine considered canceling her flight and not coming home.

“[Jonathan] was really mad at me,” says Maxine, “and I was like: this is World War III in the Peltz family.”

Their dad, Arvin Peltz, says at this point he’s essentially given up on ever using the family tickets.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with WLRNA version of this article also ran on WLRN.

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