National News

Sister Of Boston Bombing Suspects Arrested Over Bomb Threat

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 06:35

New York City police allege Ailina Tsarnaeva made threats against her boyfriend's ex. "I know people who can go over there and put a bomb on you," Tsarnaeva allegedly said.

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Russian Hackers Reportedly Hit JPMorgan, Other Banks

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 06:34

The FBI says it is working with the Secret Service to investigate the alleged swiping of account data, which it's thought might be in retaliation for U.S. sanctions on Moscow.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Part Of Utah's Polygamy Ban

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 05:30

The part of the law that prohibits cohabitation with others violates the First and 14th Amendments, the judge ruled. He upheld the part of the law that prohibits multiple marriage licenses.

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State Department 'Looking Into' Reports Of Another Jihadi Killed In Syria

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 05:23

After confirming earlier this week that Douglas McCain was killed fighting with Islamic State militants, U.S. officials say they are probing a report of a second American jihadi killed in Syria.

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USC's Josh Shaw Suspended For Making Up Heroic Tale

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 04:06

Shaw had explained that he sprained both his ankles because he jumped from a second-floor balcony to save his drowning nephew. The cornerback has now admitted that was a lie.

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Ukrainian President Says Russian Troops Have Entered His Country

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 03:23

One official called the latest Russian incursion a "full-scale invasion." Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on the U.N. Security Council to offer an assessment of the "sharp aggravation."

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Telling Crimea's Story Through Children's Books

NPR News - Thu, 2014-08-28 03:02

Blending history, myth and geopolitics, Lily Hyde uses fairy tales to teach children and young adults about Eastern European history. To cover the current unrest, though, she has put fiction on hold.

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PODCAST: iPad giant

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 03:00

First up, we talk to Susan Schmidt, Managing Director at Mesirow Financial in Chicago about signs that the U.S. economy is gathering strength. And it's been the man-bites-dog business story of the summer: the company where they employees didn't loath the boss, they liked him to the point they effectively shut down the business after he was ousted in a family feud for control. Today, at the New England grocery chain Market Basket, those employees and supportive customers got what they were looking for. Arthur T. Demoulis is coming back as CEO after his reported $1.5 billion buyout offer was accepted. Plus, how about an iPad the size of a bathroom mirror? Published reports suggest that what may be on the way is a 13-incher, big as a modest laptop. 

Apple bets bigger is better with new iPad

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:30

Rumors are swirling that Apple has a bigger iPad in the works. Bloomberg reports that the new tablet's screen would be nearly 13 inches diagonally — as big as some laptops. 

Apple's iPads have been losing market share to cheaper, smaller smart phones, according to the research firm International Data Corporation or IDC.  

“Launching a bigger iPad would help them gain a lot more revenue,” says Jitesh Ubrani an analyst at IDC. 

Ubrani says businesses, schools and government offices increasingly use tablets and might like a bigger iPad screen. He says in the second quarter, 16 percent of tablet sales went to those groups. 

Apple recently announced a partnership with IBM to offer businesses more applications and services. Van Baker, research vice president in Mobility at Gartner Inc., says a bigger iPad might be good for companies that want to put spreadsheets or documents on the device. 

“There are productivity type applications like spreadsheet applications — things more on the content creation side than on the content consumption side — that would make sense to have a bigger screen,” he says. 

Apple couldn't be reached for comment. A bigger iPad would theoretically compete with Microsoft's biggest Surface tablet. But analysts say the Windows system has not been popular on tablets.

Harvard hangs up its landlines

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

If you want to disrupt higher education, you’ve gotta look the part.

So when the team at HarvardX,  the university’s online learning initiative, began setting up its new offices in Cambridge, down came the walls and the cubicles, in came the long tables and shared work spaces. And out went the landlines.

Or most of them anyway.

“The space was developed de novo and it was meant to have a kind of start-up feel,” said Michael Patrick Rutter, a spokesman for HarvardX.

Instead of  traditional desk phones, employees at HarvardX use their own cell phones and collect $50 per month from the university to help cover the bills.

As Justin Reich, a 36-year-old researcher at HarvardX, sees it, they’re just embracing the obvious.

“I think it’s more convenient,” he said. “I probably would have just given people my cell phone number anyway.”

The Great Landline Purge started years ago, when colleges began disconnecting dorm-room phones. Americans have also been ditching their relics. About 40 percent of American households were wireless-only at the end of 2013, up from 10 percent in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

When Harvard’s IT department set out a strategic plan in January, one of its main goals was to reduce use of “legacy phone infrastructure.” (Apparently that’s what we’re calling landlines now.)

“The landline system that the university uses is older and rates are increasing,” said Kevin Donovan, a spokesman for Harvard IT.

Donovan says the university isn’t forcing employees to dump their landlines. It’s already happening. And, true to form, Harvard has collected the data to back it up.

The number of calls from Harvard desk phones dropped 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, from more than 6.5 million to fewer than 4 million, according to the IT department.

Which means that most faculty and staff, should their department choose to follow HarvardX’s lead and dispense with office phones, are likely to respond like Reich did — with a shrug and a monthly expense report.

Matching roommates before sparks fly

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

As the university move-in season gets into full swing, many freshmen will be meeting their roommates for the first time. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the housing department is using a service called Room Sync to streamline the process.

Click the media player above to hear Matt Austin, Associate Director for Resident Life at UMass Lowell, in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

The software asks prospective roommates a series of lifestyle questions, allowing them to filter others by majors and other lifestyle preferences. They can then view other freshmen and choose among a list of possible roommates.  

Students can communicate through Facebook accounts, and send roommate requests similar to “friend requests.”

According to Austin, students that don’t use the site request a new roommate 8% of the time, while those who use it and find a match are only 1% likely to change roommates.

“Students that continue with the same roommate throughout the freshman year are more likely to return to housing in their sophomore year, which keeps them more engaged on campus,” says Austin, also citing statistics showing on-campus students receive higher grades.

While Austin admitted that the software may reduce the chances of students living with a roommate markedly different from themselves, he argued that the makeup of the floors and residences as a whole would still provide the opportunity for that cross-pollination of experiences. 

Donations flow in to help Detroit water customers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

The United Way for Southeastern Michigan, which oversees the Detroit Water Fund, is currently helping around 200 households with a payment plan that covers 25 percent of a delinquent resident's bill, while the resident pays the rest. A recent $2 million award from the Michigan Health Endowment will help the fund assist more people. 

"We anticipate we'll be able to help about 6,000 customers," says Doug Plant, the vice president of operations for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Another campaign, the crowdfunded "Detroit Water Project," is connecting donors directly with people who need help. The project's website says it has 7,000 donors.

Greg Eno, a public affairs specialist with Detroit Water and Sewerage says his office has only one goal. "The theme right now is keep the water on," says Eno. "And whether that's through donations, through our payments plans or through any other source of funding, whatever it takes, that's the mission."

 

NFL and the FCC square off over TV blackouts

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 02:00

The Federal Communications Commission is thinking about eliminating what’s known as the "sports blackout rule," which says NFL games can’t be broadcast locally unless they’re sold out 72 hours in advance.

The debate pits government authority against NFL brawn.

The NFL likes things the way they are: The blackout rule fills stadiums, and fans – even teams — will buy up extra tickets to make sure the stadium is full. 

If not, the game can’t be broadcast within a 75-mile radius. 

Hall of Famer Lynn Swann is the NFL’s spokesman in the blackout rule showdown. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl champ says the NFL could move its games to cable TV if the blackout rule were repealed. The rule allows everyone to watch NFL games right now, he says. 

“And it protects a model that allows it to be over the air and free for everyone when the games are sold out,” he explains.

Also on Swann’s side: the Congressional Black Caucus. Caucus members wrote a letter to the FCC, saying minority fans who can’t afford cable rely on free TV broadcasts of games.

“In my view, that argument doesn’t hold water for a couple of different reasons,” says Ajit Pai, an FCC commissioner.

He's on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Pai is demanding that the blackout rule be repealed. He says the NFL is bluffing, and would never take games off free TV because the broadcasts are so profitable.

“Taking the product off the air is simply cutting off your nose to spite your face, ” he says.

Sports economists have been watching anxiously from the sidelines. 

Rob Baade teaches economics at Lake Forest College. He thinks we should use economics to decide the fate of the blackout rule. 

Do the benefits of the rule outweigh the costs? He says no, it’s not fair to require fans to shell out hundreds of dollars to go to a game, and black it out if they don’t.

“And so, $75 a ticket, add to that parking, concessions and paraphernalia, I mean it’s a very expensive family outing,” he maintains.

The FCC could vote on whether to repeal the blackout rule as soon as this fall.

In the meantime, you could just listen to the game on the radio. The blackout rule only applies to TV. 

The dangerous trio of twitch, streaming, and swatting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-08-28 01:00

It is arguably just a synchronicity, but I've been thinking about how two Twitch-related events that happened this week are connected.

The big one is, of course, Amazon's $970 million purchase of the live-streaming video game website, which I chatted about with David Gura.

The second is a smaller event: the shutdown of schools and some buildings in Littleton, Colorado. Littleton may sound familiar because it's near Columbine, where the Columbine High School Massacre occurred in 1999. It's a place where you could probably forgive law enforcement for reacting immediately and intensely to a 9-1-1 caller who claimed to have shot two co-workers and to be holding more hostage.

When that call came in Wednesday, it was taken seriously. But it was apparently fake -- an example of something called "swatting." Swatting is when someone with some technical chops calls 9-1-1 and makes it look like the call is coming from a victim's phone or a location in a building where something has gone very wrong, sending large numbers of law enforcement to a place where they're not actually needed. Hilarious, right?

Admittedly the popular -- get this -- video game streamer and Twitch user Jordan Mathewson, a.k.a. "Kootra" did crack a smile when heavily armed officers busted into his office in search of a shooter. Maybe it was because he realized his Twitch viewers were seeing the whole thing via his live webcam. Or maybe he was actually amused by the irony or meta layers of having your first person shooter video game session be interrupted by actual real life rifles. But Mathewson looks nervous more than anything. Here's the video, where officers burst in on the gamer just after he says "I think we're being swatted." 

Police figured out that the call was fake and luckily there were no injuries. But businesses were evacuated, and parents got a message from a nearby school saying their kids were under lockdown because of an "active shooter situation." Law enforcement now think they've found a Twitter account connected with a person who may have made the phone call. 

Swatting, which is apparently on the rise, is not a good prank. It sends heavily armed law enforcement looking for possible armed resistance to a place where there is none. That's insanely wasteful and dangerous. What is interesting about this case is that people were watching someone's live feed as it all happened.

For a cybercriminal, hacker or troll, the promise of a big live audience via a live streaming website like Twitch could be really attractive. And that might be bad news. 

Former Border Protection Insider Alleges Corruption, Distortion In Agency

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-27 23:47

James Tomsheck was pushed out of his job as internal affairs chief for Customs and Border Protection in June. He warns the agency has become a paramilitary organization with little accountability.

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An Icy Solution To The Mystery Of The Slithering Stones

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-27 23:46

In the moonscape of Death Valley, one mystery stands out: boulders that seem to creep along the desert floor when nobody's looking. Thanks to video and GPS, scientists now think they know why.

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A Mall With Two Minimum Wages

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-27 23:44

There's a mall in California that straddles two cities. Here's what happened when workers on one side of the mall started making 25 percent more because one city voted to raise the minimum wage.

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How Foster Farms Is Solving The Case Of The Mystery Salmonella

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-27 23:43

Foster Farms has been accused of poisoning its customers with salmonella bacteria. But in recent months, the company has become a leader in the poultry industry's fight against the foodborne pathogen.

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Brooklyn Man Fights In Syria. Is He A Threat To The U.S.?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-27 23:42

Yemeni-American Ahmed al-Moflihi likely fought alongside a rebel group with ties to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. But officials are investigating anyway: Fight in Syria, and you raise a red flag.

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FBI Investigates Cyberattacks Against Financial Institutions

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-27 22:46

The FBI said Wednesday it's working with the Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyberattacks against several U.S. financial institutions.

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