National / International News

VIDEO: Looking for the faces of our ancestors

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:15
Today we can all look online to find out who our ancestors were, and soon geneticists hope that DNA can show us their faces as well.

VIDEO: Should women have kids before uni?

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:15
TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp and Vagenda magazine editor Holly Baxter discuss whether or not women should prioritise education over starting a family while they are young.

US child migrant numbers rising

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:13
President Barack Obama says the growing number of unaccompanied children travelling illegally to the US has created an "urgent humanitarian situation".

How to conduct your staff

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:00
What great conductors can teach about managing a business

Councils 'wasting millions' on IT

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:00
Are county councils wasting millions on expensive IT?

Same street, different property market

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:00
The road that says so much about UK property

More to Milner than meets the eye

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:40
Why there is more to James Milner than meets the eye

New EPA Rules Burn Red State Democrats

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:32

In coal-producing Kentucky and West Virginia, Democrats can't put enough distance between themselves and the Obama administration.

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Dozens Of Haitian Migrants Abandoned Near Puerto Rico

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:30

Smuggling Haitians has become a big — and deadly — business. In recent days, several groups of migrants have been abandoned by smugglers on uninhabited islands in the Caribbean.

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Eriksson backs England psychiatrist

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:23
Former manager Sven-Goran Eriksson backs England's decision to take psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters to the World Cup.

Vox CEO Jim Bankoff on which numbers matter

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:21

Economists love the numbers. For some companies, the numbers that are most important are the ones that say how many clicks and hits they’re getting on their website.

"ComScore.com is definitely one of the many metric sites we look at for sure," says Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media. "ComScore reports monthly. We have metric services that report in real time. We can literally look at a dashboard and just be obsessed with what’s going on, who’s looking at our content and how many people at any given moment."

So how interested are companies like Vox Media in having people understand the numbers by which they do their job?

"We make money by growing our metrics and those metrics are largely transparent," says Bankoff. "For instance, you can go to your favorite website and see how many people shared your favorite article on Facebook or Twitter. A lot of these metrics are now transparent and we’re making them more transparent. In our case, our ratings are transparent to our advertisers too."

Is there such thing as too much data?

"Absolutely," says Bankoff. "We like to tell our people that they should be data-informed as opposed to data-driven."

Bankoff says that although the numbers allow companies to produce content in a more targeted and efficient way, technology should be used to assist the story telling and assist the consumption, not replace it.

VIDEO: Spanish King abdicates in favour of son

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:19
The Spanish King Juan Carlos has announced that he is abdicating after nearly 40 years on the throne.

Double Rape, Lynching In India Exposes Caste Fault Lines

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:17

The men accused in the girls' murder belong to their area's dominant caste. Protesters and politicians are lashing out at delays and indifference in a case that is creating a political maelstrom.

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Vaughan has doubts on Flintoff return

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 14:13
Former England captain Michael Vaughan says cricket has moved on since Andrew Flintoff retired five years ago.

A revision to the revision

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 13:59

Today we present a number not to be loved.

Economic indicators are often revised, higher or lower, usually a month or two after they come out. Right?

Well, today's report from the Institute of Supply Management, the ISM for short, which measure how American factories are doing, was revised twice in the space of about three hours. Wall Street sold off hard on the initial weak, but incorrect, report.

The excuse:

"Software glitches," the ISM said.

Facial Recognition: From the NSA to Facebook to Vegas

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 13:57

The NSA, the New York Times reports, is harvesting people’s images, millions of them per day. It's using them, we are told, to search for terrorists and other intelligence targets. 

If the targets are U.S. citizens, the NSA must obtain court approval.  

Facial recognition technology has taken our present national Gordian knot of privacy and security concerns through a circuitous path.

“The NSA and CIA have quite openly been working with facial recognition technology at least for the past 20 years,” says Chris Green, chief technology analyst at the Davies Murphy Group. 

For a time, as that technology filtered into the private sector, it developed a life of its own. Notably “in Las Vegas,” Green says. A banned card counter can cost a casino half a million dollars in 20 minutes, so it was important for the private security industry to work on quick identification. “Vegas has been a great proving ground for facial recognition technology. It’s put a lot of money into it and really refined and honed it down.”

The groundwork laid by government agencies and the military, says Green, “created a secondary market in the private sector which is in turn is now feeding back” into government.

That feedback into government is also largely being financed by the government. Especially since 9/11.  

“I would have to guess its 70 percent or higher government dollars,” says Chris Boehnen, who leads the Secure Computer Vision Team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

When it comes down to what that public and private investment has brought us, it’s important to separate the fanciful from the factual, says Boehnen. 

Looking at Facebook’s tagging feature, for example, “you could easily get the idea that modern technology is capable of taking all of Facebook’s images and telling who you are, and that’s very inaccurate from a technical standpoint.”

Facebook, says Boehnen, almost certainly employs shortcuts that make it appear far more advanced than it is. For example, Facebook most likely isn’t comparing your photo album to all photo albums on Facebook from here to Mongolia. It’s comparing the faces in your album, most likely, to your friends, or maybe your friends’ friends. 

In the real world, facial recognition technology can be both much better, and much worse.  Patrick Grother tests commercially developed facial recognition technologies for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He says in a recent test, theyenrolled 1.6 million people and achieved a 96 percent recognition rate. Meaning that if they were searching for one person out of a group of 1.6 million, they could pick that person out successfully 96 percent of the time. 

But that comes with a big if: it only works if the photos being used are controlled – well lit, frontal photos like a passport or a driver’s license photo. (Incidentally, that’s why you’re not supposed to smile in those photos – all the better to identify you or someone impersonating you). 

This is tremendously useful for government agencies who are trying to determine if someone is fraudulently registering a new passport or driver’s license under another name.  Less so if you’re trying to pick a bomber out of a crowded mall.  

Grother is not privy to what the NSA or CIA use. Green, with Davies Murphy Group, suspects those agencies enjoy even higher success rates “in the high 99 percent range.” But even then, the accuracy is only as good as the data, a.k.a., the photos one is comparing. Clear photos make for high identification rates. Green says modern day surveillance cameras and Closed Circuit TV cameras can often provide such clear images.

We're already halfway toward the EPA's new CO2 limits

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-06-02 13:55

This morning, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced proposed regulations that call for a 30 percent reduction by 2030 in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. But it’s not 30 percent from today's levels. It’s 30 percent from where the U.S. was in 2005— when emissions were a lot higher. In fact, they’ve dropped 15 percent since then.  If the country has already coasted halfway to the finish line, the next half promises to be tougher. 

It's worth remembering that the last nine years haven’t been an easy ride. "The biggest thing since 2005 has been the slow economic times since 2009, so that’s nothing to get excited about," says Lucas Davis, an energy economist at the University of California at Berkeley. The recession meant lower demand for energy— especially from industries that use electricity to run factories.

Doug Vine at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions offers another contender for what’s been driving emissions down: "The largest force is the natural gas boom that we’ve seen in this country," he says. Burning natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal for the same amount of energy.

However, another trend that's pushed emissions down—more efficiency, more solar, and more wind power — stems partly from higher natural gas prices, from the years before 2005.

"Those increases in natural gas prices were leading to increases in electricity prices," says Susan Tierney of the Analysis Group, "and that was making a lot of people very concerned." Those concerns prompted a lot of states to start promoting wind and solar power, and energy-efficiency.

That trend got a push from the federal government. "The 2009 federal stimulus put a big slug of money into energy efficiency and renewable energy," says Dan Bakal of Ceres.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $31 billion in energy programs, with the biggest chunk going toward energy-efficiency.

But the stimulus is over. The recession too. Natural gas prices have started going back up, and coal is making a small comeback. WIthout a policy like the EPA’s new regulations, analysts say we would expect to see greenhouse gas emissions start going up again.

US considers allowing media drones

BBC - Mon, 2014-06-02 13:27
For the first time, US authorities are considering allowing the film and television industries to use drones, citing 'tangible economic benefits'.

Study: Americans Less Fearful Of Storms Named After Women

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 13:23

People are less likely to seek shelter or otherwise prepare for storms given female names, researchers say. As a result, such storms result in nearly twice as many deaths as those with male names.

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Will EPA's New Emission Rules Boost Your Power Bill? It Depends

NPR News - Mon, 2014-06-02 13:17

The Environmental Protection Agency wants power plants to cut carbon pollution by 30 percent. Analysts say the impact on consumers will hinge on how individual states move to meet the standards.

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