National News

Syrian War Sparks A Spike In Worldwide Level Of Displaced People

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:36

On World Refugee Day, the United Nations' refugee agency is reporting that the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes grew to more than 50 million — a level unseen since World War II.

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Twisty Miss. Primary May Mean End Of Road For Longtime Senator

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

GOP Sen. Thad Cochran faces a tough runoff election against challenger Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party-backed state senator. Mississippi voters will decide whether Cochran gets a chance at a seventh term.

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IRS Chief Tangles With Lawmakers Over Missing Emails

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

IRS commissioner John Koskinen appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee. He tells lawmakers how emails that possibly reveal scrutiny given to Tea Party groups vanished from IRS computers.

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VA Bill Was An Easy Sell, But Some Senators Still Feel Sticker Shock

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

A preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says that a Veterans Affairs bill recently passed by the Senate could cost $50 billion per year. No lawmaker wants to vote against veterans, but the price tag has a lot of lawmakers nervous.

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The Mystery Tweeter Inside ISIS

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

Jacob Siegel of The Daily Beast wrote about an insider with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who is documenting the militant group's squabbles online. Siegel speaks with host Robert Siegel about what he learned of life inside ISIS.

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In Trafficking Report, A Stark Warning About Thai Fishing Industry

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

The U.S. state department has issued its annual report on human trafficking. And the report includes a warning to American seafood importers: Clean up supply chains that include Thailand.

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Brimming With Extras, Palestinian Government Feels Unity Pains

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

After a deal between Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian Authority faces a puzzle: What do you do with an extra 40,000 employees? Thousands of Fatah workers want their posts back, which poses a problem for the government workers who have kept things running since the groups' split seven years ago.

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Down From The Mountains, Pakistanis Flee Military Offensive

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

In Pakistan, people continue to flood out of the mountains bordering Afghanistan. An estimated 200,000 people have abandoned their homes and livestock to escape a new phase of war underway in the North Waziristan tribal area.

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In Obama's Iraq Plan, An Answer That Breeds More Questions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:20

President Obama says U.S. military personnel will advise Iraqi forces, not to serve in combat. But the proposal raises more questions: What are the rules of engagement? And how long will they stay?

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From Organic Pioneers, Son Inherits Passion, Just Not For Farming

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 12:17

Arlo Crawford's parents started the kind of small, organic farm that's now trendy, back before it was trendy. But it was his parents' dream, not his. He's now written a book about the experience.

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For-profit schools, loan defaults and the federal ATM

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-20 11:24

The type of school you attend can determine how likely it is you will default on your loans. The graphic below looks at students who began repaying their loans in 2010.  It compares the percentage of students with loans at a given type of school, with the three-year default rate for that type of school.

 

The second chart looks at 2,057 for-profit schools grouped by the percentage of revenue they get from federal grants and loans:

You can check out individual for-profit schools at the full federal report here.

Hold up on aid threatens for-profit college

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-20 11:20

The U.S. Department of Education is tightening the screws on Corinthian Colleges Inc., the parent company of Everest, Heald and WyoTech for-profit colleges.

The federal body charges that Corinthian is evading questions about improper marketing to prospective students and allegations that some schools changed students' grades and altered attendance reports.

Corinthian will be prohibited from accessing any federal financial aid funds for 21 days, a sharp blow to a company that relies on those funds for the majority of its income. In a report filed with the S.E.C, Corinthian said "...the company's cash flows will not be sufficient to meet its obligations as they become due, which would cause the company to be unable to continue as a going concern."

If the company shutters schools, Corinthian's approximately 72,000 students, who are enrolled in everything from degree programs to trade schools, will need backup plans. It's not clear just yet what their options will be.

'Central Park 5' Win $40 Million From NYC For False Convictions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 11:14

Five black and Hispanic men who were falsely accused in the sensational 1989 attack on a white woman in Central Park said they were railroaded by police.

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Bobbleheadmania hits Dodger Stadium

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-20 11:04

When it comes to the Los Angeles Dodgers' performance on the field this season, it’s been a disappointment; the team is playing barely above .500.

But if you take attendance, the Dodgers are clear winners, leading the majors with an average 46,088 attendance.  As it turns out, the biggest draw for fans has nothing to do with who’s playing on the field.

When looking at the most-attended Dodger games of the season – excluding Opening Day – they all have one thing in common: Something is being given away, whether it be a zip-up hooded sweatshirt, a mother’s day clutch, or the most popular item of all, a bobblehead.

“The bobbleheads are worth more than a ticket,” Tony Manrique exclaimed a few weeks ago, as he walked through a turnstile on the upper deck of Dodger Stadium after picking up his bobblehead honoring ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

The cheapest seats on Stubhub for the Kershaw bobblehead night were $32, more than five times what tickets went for the night before even though the opponent remained the same (the Philadelphia Phillies).

When the Dodgers offered a package selling just tickets to games where bobbleheads were given out, it sold more than every other package combined. The popularity of the giveaway isn't surprising to Stephanie Rosil, who stood on the upper deck of the stadium with her Kershaw bobblehead still safely in its box.

“Everyone collects them," said Rosil. "It’s like bringing a little player home. Who wouldn’t want to take Kershaw home with them?”

Like many fans, Rosil says she chooses which game to go to months in advance based solely on the giveaway.

“If you come to a game you pay the money, you pay for parking, you might as well get something that you like,” said Rosil.

Dodgers look beyond baseball to attract fans

Major League clubs handed out 2.59 million bobbleheads in 2013, twice as many as they did five years ago, according to Sports Business Journal.

No team gives away as many bobbleheads as the Dodgers. David Siegel, vice president of ticket sales, says when it comes to getting people in seats, giveaways are as close to a sure thing as there is in baseball.

“Regardless of how popular the team is, there could be as much as a 15,000-20,000 seat bump depending on what we’re giving away,” said Siegel.

Siegel won’t disclose how much the Dodgers spend on giveaways, which get more elaborate every year. Some of the cost is defrayed by sponsorships. Regardless, he says the money is well-spent.

The Dodgers field the most expensive sports team in the world, but a roster of stars provides no guarantee of winning. Siegel says that means the Dodgers try to to think beyond baseball.

“Obviously, we are tied to that and this is our core business, but we want people to come out here regardless of how the team is playing,” said Siegel.

The toy in the box of crackerjacks 

The key to the giveaways is uniqueness: There are only 50,000 or so made, you can’t buy them in the shop, and like the little toy buried in the crackerjack box, there’s no underestimating the value of free prizes. There’s also the nostalgia factor, says Irving Rein, a professor of communications at Northwestern and author of the book "The Elusive Fan: Reinventing Sports in a Crowded Marketplace."

"It almost reminds me of a carnival, getting the Kewpie doll," said Rein.  “I think it invokes memories. Those giveaways mark relationships. You can say 'I remember three years ago when I took  Jimmy to the game for the first time and we got this bobblehead doll.' You can look at the bobblehead in the house and it ties up the brand identity.”

The person credited with inventing sports souvenirs is Danny Goodman, a marketing executive who was hired by the Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley soon after the team moved to Los Angeles. Dodgers team historian Mark Langill says under Goodman, the team hosted batting glove and cap nights in the 1960’s.

"And it’s just evolved over the years," said Langill. "As people are drawn more to watching the game on television it’s important for teams to say, 'Let’s get the people out here.' Nowadays you don’t hear people say they want to see the Phillies or the Giants. It’s 'I want to go Hello Kitty Night.' They don’t care who we play, what time, or what day of the week it is.”

The rise of the bobblehead craze

Ceramic bobbleheads have been sold at ballparks for decades, but before the late 1990’s usually the only figurines available were historic or simply a generic version for each team. There were fears that featuring one active player would be bad for clubhouse chemistry.

The Dodgers' rivals, The San Francisco Giants, are credited with hosting the first modern bobblehead giveaway in 1999, handing out 35,000 plastic Willie Mays statues. 

The Dodgers hosted their first bobblehead nights in 2001 with three team legends: Tommy Lasorda, Kirk Gibson, and Fernando Valenzuela.

Langill says it wasn’t until a bobblehead promotion five years ago featuring a popular active player, Manny Ramirez, that he truly saw the power of the giveaway.

"It was a Wednesday afternoon game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and normally at that type of game you’d be lucky to get 20,000 people," said Langill. "It was just packed. And that really shows you the impact of the right promotion at the right time. It doesn’t matter if you play the game at six in the morning on a Tuesday, people are going to want their prize.”

There have been some notable misses over the years, including a baseball giveaway in 1995 that sold out Dodger Stadium -- The game had to be suspended when fans threw their free baseballs on the field as a protest to then manager Tommy Lasorda and right fielder Raul Mondesi being ejected from the game for arguing a call. 

It was the first National League game to be forfeited in 41 years. And all because of a giveaway gone wrong.

West Africa Is 'Overwhelmed' By Ebola

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 11:01

The sheer number of places where Ebola is popping up — in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — puts a strain on medical workers. They're still trying to control the outbreak that began in February.

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U.S. To Open Immigrant Family Detention Centers In Response To Influx

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 10:21

The Obama administration says it will boost enforcement efforts — and try to dispel beliefs among migrants that new U.S. policies allow them to enter the country illegally.

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There's No Run Like A Prison Run

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 10:16

In Oregon, organizers of a program that lets inmates of a maximum-security prison run with regular citizens say the goal is to provide a sense of purpose, and normalcy.

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Ukraine Orders Unilateral Cease-Fire With Separatists

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 09:58

President Petro Poroshenko announced the weeklong halt to the fighting, but there was no indication whether pro-Russia rebels would follow suit.

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Yo, stop making a big deal out of the Yo hack

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-06-20 09:57

Maybe it's because summer is almost here, or maybe it's because the Amazon Fire phone did not blow anyone's mind this week, but Yo has officially blown up. The App, which through the right lens could almost be considered tech industry self-parody, works like this: You and your friends sign up, and then with a click of the button trade one singular message. "Yo." And that's it. It's reportedly raised $1 million in funding, and it's already cracked the top five apps in Apple's App Store.

Here's the other way Yo has blown up: it has also had its security flaws exposed. Three students told TechCrunch today that they were able to mine the app for user phone numbers. Other developers seem to have backed that up, also saying that Yo can allow non "yo" messages to be sent.

But hold on. If this sounds truly scary to you, then you might need a reality check. Security flaws in popular apps are a serious issue, no question. But..."major security flaws" ? Ehhh. Just remember: getting random people's phone numbers and sending people messages that don't consist of the word "yo" is something you can do with a phone book. Any 7th grader with a taste for prank calls knows that.

I asked one of our Marketplace Tech regulars, Chester Wisniewski of Sophos, to characterize just how big of a deal the yo hack was, and he quoted the Bard. "Much ado about nothing." What Wisniewski did say was that Yo's security flaws are demonstrative of a larger problem: the low barrier to entry in the app universe for thrown-together software that doesn't have proper security. That's a bigger challenge for the app world, and Yo is a pretty low-priority example. 

So until this particular issue turns into something more serious--like access to your credit card data, or delivering your phone a virus--remember that like apps, not all "hacks" are created equal. Anyone still worried about this should look at the app permissions screen: 

 

 

This narrative can change of course, but it's not time to go Chicken Little on Yo just yet. If you want to see a list of app/web hacks that you should pay more attention to, look below:

6 notable tech hacks

The Tweetdeck Dictionary.

Via Creative Commons/Flickr/Sean MacEntee

 

1. Tweetdeck

 

The social media managing program briefly shut down after a "security issue" which caused bizarre tweets to show up in users' feeds. Twitter user @Firoxl, who uncovered the issue, later tweeted to CNN that his discovery "was some sort of accident."

The WhatsApp icon on an iPhone home screen.

Via Creative Commons/Flickr/Jan Persiel

 

2. WhatsApp

 

A group called KDMS Team took credit for defacing the website of the popular messaging app. The group left a message that simply appeared to raise awareness about Palestine, saying "Palestinian people has [sic] the right to live in peace." WhatsApp said in a statement that "no user data was lost or compromised" while their website had been hijacked.

Spotify HQ.

Via Creative Commons/Flickr/Sorosh Tavakoli

 

3. Spotify

 

Though the security breach only appeared to affect one unlucky user, Spotify decided it wasn't taking any chances. It pushed out a new version of the app to Android users that prompted users to uninstall the previous version, and asked users to re-enter their login details. As for the one user who was hacked, the company blog said "this did not include any password, financial or payment information."

Via Wikimedia Commons

 

4. Pinterest

 

Pinterest couldn't catch a break--it was hacked twice in the span of four months. The first time, users reported spam images of women in underwear, usually accompanying a weight loss spam message. The second time around, users' feeds were littered with messages advertising a strange Asian fruit purported to burn fat. Pinterest put affected accounts into safe mode, and encouraged its users to use "unique and strong passwords" to prevent another episode.

 

Skype's booth at SXSW 2012.

Via Creative Commons/Flickr/1000heads

5. Skype

 

2014 got off to an auspicious start for Skype when it became the latest victim of a hack attack from the Syrian Electronic Army. Skype's Twitter and Facebook pages, along with its company blog, were hijacked with identical messages calling for an end to government spying. The messages were quickly removed, and Skype tweeted the following day that no user information had been compromised.

 

Via Wikimedia Commons

6. Snapchat

 

Out of all the hacks on this list, Snapchat probably got hit the worst. Early in January 2014, hackers exploited a security flaw in the app's "Find Friends" function that was used to download the usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and later posted the data online. Though the company had previously acknowledged that this was possible, they later released an updated version of the app that came with an option to opt out of Find Friends.

 

Former Foster Care Youths Get Help Paying For Health Care

NPR News - Fri, 2014-06-20 08:39

Young adults who grew up in foster care are at higher risk for medical and mental health problems, but often don't have insurance. A little-known provision in the Affordable Care Act helps.

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