National / International News

Argentina Crisis Puts Focus On Role Of Distressed-Debt Funds

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-22 12:06

Argentina calls them vulture funds, but those hedge funds have a legal right to demand payment. Still, is that moral when a nation is the debtor and its citizens will suffer as a result?

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Tech IRL: Apps to get lost in familiar places

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-22 11:34

With the increasing reliance on smartphones and technology to get around, it's easy to fall into routines -- taking the most efficient route to get to work or walking to the same corner coffee shop at lunch. 

But a few new apps are hoping to force us to get lost and discover more of the cities around us:

Drift 

From Broken City Lab, the Drift app "helps you get lost in familiar places by guiding you on a walk using randomly assembled instructions. Each instruction will ask you to move in a specific direction and, using the compass, look for something normally hidden or unnoticed in our everyday experiences." Drift is free and is currently only available on the iOS store

Dérive 

Dérive (named after an interesting Parisian movement in the 1940s, by the way) was created as a "simple but engaging platform that allows users to explore their urban spaces in a care-free and casual way. Too often in urban centers we are controlled by our day to day activities thus closing off urban experiences that exist around us. Dérive app was created to try to nudge those people who are in this repetitive cycle to allow the suggestions and subjectivities of others to enter into their urban existences." Dérive is available through their website.

What's your favorite way to explore a city? Let us know in the comments

A tale of two Fergusons

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-22 11:34

The story in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by the police, is one that can change a lot depending on where you stand, and how you look at it. 

Noel King and Lindsay Foster Thomas from Marketplace's Wealth and Poverty Desk reported from Ferguson this week, and discuss their experience there. 

The city has made efforts to attract new businesses to this part of town, and the efforts seem to be paying off. South Florissant Street boasts a new wine bar, a bike shop, and a handful of new restaurants. On the outdoor patio of the Ferguson Brewing Company, diners chatter over their meals. 

This economic revival, however, doesn't define Ferguson. Like a lot of cities across the U.S., it also has neighborhoods presently experiencing little or no financial investment. Here, those areas have been characterized by different types of protests. 

Noel King, Lindsay Foster Thomas/Marketplace

Read more: The emotional and economic toll on Ferguson, Missouri

Beyond ad clicks: using 'Big Data' for social good

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-22 11:32

There is a growing interest in “big data,” the science of collecting large amounts of information and making sense of it.

For a long time, this was the provenance of companies. Why? Because they have collected so much data – about what we buy, what we spend, and what ads we respond to, among other things. But the field is evolving. In 2008 and 2012, data science became a major part of political campaigns. Now, governments and nonprofits are beginning to see it as a way to tackle social problems.

After a decade digging through corporate data, Rayid Ghani wanted to do something different. “I decided one day just to arbitrarily pick a date to quit,” he says.

Ghani, an expert on information retrieval and machine learning, gave himself three months to find a job – a position with the potential for what he calls “social impact.” A few weeks later, he became the chief scientist on President Obama’s re-election campaign. “It was a fairly random detour,” he says. Ghani and his team did pioneering work on fundraising and analytics.

For now, Ghani is done with politics, but he says that detour was eye-opening. It showed him that data science has other applications. Today, Ghani teaches at the University of Chicago, where he runs The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship. “The reason I started the program was really looking back at myself and saying, 'I would have loved to be in a program like that.'"  

Rayid Ghani directs The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship at the University of Chicago.

David Gura/Marketplace

Forty-eight of the world’s brightest data scientists – students from more than 30 universities – have spent 12 weeks in Chicago. They have worked with community organizations, nongovernmental organizations and governments to tackle social problems, including maternal mortality and homelessness.

“They had no idea that those problems have data, and that their skills can be helpful in solving those problems,” Ghani says.

The fellows set up shop in an unfinished office space in downtown Chicago, and started programming in Python and R.  Those are the hammer and hacksaw in a data scientist’s toolbox. The fellows made themselves at home. In the kitchen, behind a stack of boxes, there is coffee and a half-eaten pie, and tucked in a corner, there is a ping-pong table.

The outside groups – the Sunlight Foundation, WikiEnergy, Chicago Public Schools, to name a few – gave the fellows two things: problems to tackle and data. Lots and lots of data.

This week, participants in the program gathered at 1871, a tech incubator high above the Chicago River, to show off what they accomplished.  One group devised a new way for the World Bank to look for corporate collusion in development projects. Right now, that organization has to rely on whistleblowers. The fellows found a way for the Bank to flag contracts where corporate collusion is most likely to occur.

Another group helped the Chicago Department of Public Health to pinpoint homes where children are at the highest risk of lead poisoning. Right now, the Department has a list of tens of thousands of housing units where kids could be at risk. The fellows narrowed that down considerably, creating a model that suggests the Department could focus its attention on 378 units where the risk is highest. That would take just two months, and it would cost the city less than $200,000.

After the presentations, the data scientists fielded questions. Sam Zhang, who worked on a way to improve outreach to Americans who don’t have health insurance, said he and his fellow data scientists had a lot to learn about the organizations they partnered with. “I came, and I didn’t know what Medicare, Medicaid, what the health care subsidies were,” he admitted. “The first few weeks were 'print out a bunch of papers about it, and just read.'”

And those organizations, he says, had a lot to learn about big data – what it can do, and what someone trained in analytics or econometrics can do with it.  Zhang went to Swarthmore College, and he acknowledged he could have wound up in Silicon Valley. “The thing is Rayid is trying to steal us away from the people optimizing ad click,” he said. “And I think he’s pretty successful.”

Some fellows will return to Ph.D. programs, and a handful will remain in Chicago, where they will continue to work on these projects. Ghani’s hope is all of them will leave with a new sense of what data can do.

Beyond ad clicks: using 'Big Data' for social good

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-22 11:32

There is a growing interest in “big data,” the science of collecting large amounts of information and making sense of it.

For a long time, this was the provenance of companies. Why? Because they have collected so much data – about what we buy, what we spend, and what ads we respond to, among other things. But the field is evolving. In 2008 and 2012, data science became a major part of political campaigns. Now, governments and nonprofits are beginning to see it as a way to tackle social problems.

After a decade digging through corporate data, Rayid Ghani wanted to do something different. “I decided one day just to arbitrarily pick a date to quit,” he says.

Ghani, an expert on information retrieval and machine learning, gave himself three months to find a job – a position with the potential for what he calls “social impact.” A few weeks later, he became the chief scientist on President Obama’s re-election campaign. “It was a fairly random detour,” he says. Ghani and his team did pioneering work on fundraising and analytics.

For now, Ghani is done with politics, but he says that detour was eye-opening. It showed him that data science has other applications. Today, Ghani teaches at the University of Chicago, where he runs The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship. “The reason I started the program was really looking back at myself and saying, 'I would have loved to be in a program like that.'"  

Rayid Ghani directs The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship at the University of Chicago.

David Gura/Marketplace

Forty-eight of the world’s brightest data scientists – students from more than 30 universities – have spent 12 weeks in Chicago. They have worked with community organizations, nongovernmental organizations and governments to tackle social problems, including maternal mortality and homelessness.

“They had no idea that those problems have data, and that their skills can be helpful in solving those problems,” Ghani says.

The fellows set up shop in an unfinished office space in downtown Chicago, and started programming in Python and R.  Those are the hammer and hacksaw in a data scientist’s toolbox. The fellows made themselves at home. In the kitchen, behind a stack of boxes, there is coffee and a half-eaten pie, and tucked in a corner, there is a ping-pong table.

The outside groups – the Sunlight Foundation, WikiEnergy, Chicago Public Schools, to name a few – gave the fellows two things: problems to tackle and data. Lots and lots of data.

This week, participants in the program gathered at 1871, a tech incubator high above the Chicago River, to show off what they accomplished.  One group devised a new way for the World Bank to look for corporate collusion in development projects. Right now, that organization has to rely on whistleblowers. The fellows found a way for the Bank to flag contracts where corporate collusion is most likely to occur.

Another group helped the Chicago Department of Public Health to pinpoint homes where children are at the highest risk of lead poisoning. Right now, the Department has a list of tens of thousands of housing units where kids could be at risk. The fellows narrowed that down considerably, creating a model that suggests the Department could focus its attention on 378 units where the risk is highest. That would take just two months, and it would cost the city less than $200,000.

After the presentations, the data scientists fielded questions. Sam Zhang, who worked on a way to improve outreach to Americans who don’t have health insurance, said he and his fellow data scientists had a lot to learn about the organizations they partnered with. “I came, and I didn’t know what Medicare, Medicaid, what the health care subsidies were,” he admitted. “The first few weeks were 'print out a bunch of papers about it, and just read.'”

And those organizations, he says, had a lot to learn about big data – what it can do, and what someone trained in analytics or econometrics can do with it.  Zhang went to Swarthmore College, and he acknowledged he could have wound up in Silicon Valley. “The thing is Rayid is trying to steal us away from the people optimizing ad click,” he said. “And I think he’s pretty successful.”

Some fellows will return to Ph.D. programs, and a handful will remain in Chicago, where they will continue to work on these projects. Ghani’s hope is all of them will leave with a new sense of what data can do.

California Trees Nailed As The Source Of Mystery Infections

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-22 11:32

Nobody knew how people in Southern California were getting infected with the life-threatening fungus C. gattii. A 13-year-old helped figure out the source: three types of trees.

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Manning 'denied gender treatment'

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 11:15
The US military has yet to offer imprisoned Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning sex change treatment despite medical recommendations, her lawyer says.

VIDEO: Work starts on Celtic coin hoard

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:59
Work to uncover the secrets of the world's largest hoard of Celtic coins starts in Jersey.

White House: Islamic State Has 'Gained Capacity' In Recent Months

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:56

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the beheading of American journalist James Foley is tantamount to an act of terror against the U.S.

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I'm not racist nor sexist - Mackay

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:37
Ex-Cardiff boss Malky Mackay says he is no "racist, sexist, homophobe or anti-Semite" after sending offensive text messages.

First Rule Of This Fight Club: You Must Be A Veteran

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:33

There are countless programs to help veterans readjust to civilian life. One of the most unusual is in San Diego, where vets get together in a caged boxing ring and punch each other in the face.

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Lithuania envoy killed in Ukraine

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:31
Lithuania says its honorary consul has been murdered by "terrorists" in Luhansk, in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Cliff police and BBC to face MPs

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:28
BBC and South Yorkshire Police chiefs are summoned before MPs after a claim of a "cover-up" over the raid on Sir Cliff Richard's home.

Experts to review stroke clot-buster

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:20
The UK medicines watchdog is setting up a review to look at the safety of alteplase, a clot-busting drug often used to treat strokes.

Pet Shop Boys to make Archers cameo

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 10:17
Ambridge is to get a dose of pop star royalty after it was revealed that pop duo Pet Shop Boys are to make a cameo appearance on Radio 4's The Archers.

VIDEO: Film Review - the week's new films

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 09:56
Film critic Anna Smiths reviews the week's film releases.

Peaty sets breaststroke world record

BBC - Fri, 2014-08-22 09:54
Britain's Adam Peaty breaks the 50m breaststroke world record in the semi-finals of the European Championships.

'More That Could Have Been Done' To Help Foley, His Brother Says

NPR News - Fri, 2014-08-22 09:53

Faulting the U.S. approach to hostage situations like the one his brother, James Foley, was in, Michael Foley says, "We are sitting on prisoners in Guantanamo. It doesn't even have to be financial."

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Your Wallet: The rising cost of school supplies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-08-22 09:51

We are creeping up to the end of summer. Which means it's back to school time across the country.

This week, we've been talking with parents about what they buy for their kids' classrooms. Marketplace's Adriene Hill joins the show to discuss how more and more parents are expected to chip in for supplies in the classroom.

 

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