Sense Of Place Minneapolis: Hippo Campus

Hippo Campus.
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Hippo Campus. Taylor Hanson/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Taylor Hanson/Courtesy of the artist

  • “Souls”
  • “Suicide Saturdays”
  • “South”

Hippo Campus is a young, intricate rock band whose members are fresh out of music-conservatory high school in the Twin Cities. The band has enormous confidence in its music and live show, and has even appeared on late-night TV.

The group’s debut album, The Halocline EPs, was partially produced by Low’s Alan Sparhawk. In this World Cafe segment, we’ll hear Hippo Campus on stage and discuss the youthful rock ‘n’ roll life its members lead.

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Man named Bud Weisser accused of trespassing at Budweiser plant

A Missouri man named Bud Weisser was taken into custody for trespassing into – of all places – a Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, police said on Monday.

Police apprehended the 19-year-old St. Louis man on Thursday when he entered a secure area at the brewery and refused to leave, the St. Louis Police Department said in a statement.

Weisser was issued summonses for trespassing and resisting arrest and authorities continue to investigate the incident, police said.

Weisser pleaded guilty to burglary in July and his sentence was suspended, online court records showed.

There was no public listing of a lawyer representing Weisser and it was not immediately possible to contact him.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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At School And At Home, How Much Does The Internet Know About Kids?

Charlize, 8, plays with the Kidizoom Multimedia Digital Camera made by VTech in 2009. A recent data breach hacking sensitive information, including kid's photos, is prompting parents to look twice at their children's technology usage.
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Charlize, 8, plays with the Kidizoom Multimedia Digital Camera made by VTech in 2009. A recent data breach hacking sensitive information, including kid’s photos, is prompting parents to look twice at their children’s technology usage. Oli Scarff/Getty Images hide caption

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Children’s personal information isn’t supposed to be an online commodity. But whether kids are using Google apps at school or Internet-connected toys at home, they’re generating a stream of data about themselves. And some advocates say that information can be collected too easily and sometimes, protected too poorly.

Last month, a hacker stole personal information and photos of more than six million children after breaking into the computer records of a educational toy company, VTech.

VTech says that they’ve since hired a security company to deal with the breach. That might not be enough to convince Congress — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) sent a letter to VTech, wanting to know if the company is complying with a law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The issue, of course, spans beyond VTech. In the toy world, there’s the new Internet-connected Barbie doll, which has also been found to have security flaws, for example. And privacy advocates have long waged a battle against cookies and other data collection based on kids’ Internet activity.

Google is one of the companies that have come under fire. A nonprofit advocacy group called Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over Google’s data mining practices. More than half of classroom computers in the U.S. are Chromebooks and many students and teachers are using Google Apps For Education, a group of tools that include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and the purpose-built Google Classroom.

Anya Kamenetz of NPR’s Ed Team and Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, a staff writer for the tech news website Motherboard who has reported on the VTech data hack, spoke to All Things Considered about the issue of children’s privacy. Here are a few takeaways.


LORENZO FRANCESCHI-BICCHIERAI

On the VTech hacker’s motivation

He realized their services were really easy to break into. And he just took a peek in and found there was a lot of personal data and he was like, whoa, I should not be able to get this.

On what the hacker discovered

He analyzed it (the data) a little bit further, and he realized that you could actually link the two databases, and basically figure out who the kids were. The children database only had their first names, so you couldn’t really identify the children because you only had Mike, Lucy, Sarah, whatever. But from some other data in the files, Troy Hunt (an Internet security analyst) realized that you could actually link the two databases and figure out who the kids were, who were their parents, and effectively find where the kids lived and all this creepy information.

On sharing addresses with toy companies

If you’re a parent and you buy a V-Tech toy, put in a fake address. If the company doesn’t need that address, you might want to not give it out. And that way, there’s no damage there.

On planning for the future

The big takeaway here is that these things can happen, and as we connect more stuff to the Internet, we’re going to lose data. That’s unfortunate but that’s the reality. So we have to accept it and find ways to limit the damage if it happens — and also, hold more companies accountable as well.

ANYA KAMENETZ

On what happens when you type a search into Google

When you or I are logged in to Google, whether we’re using search, or Maps, or gmail, we have one account and that’s following us around — sometimes literally in the physical world — and it’s collecting information. When you’re logged in and using Chrome, which is their web browser, Google can actually, with permission, track your entire browsing history, every site you visit. And Google uses all this data to better target ads and search results and to improve its services, not only for you but for everyone.

On why that can pose a problem in schools

For students, the rules are supposed to be a little bit different. When students are using the Google Apps for Education and “Core Services” within them — gmail, docs, sheets, slides — Google says that they don’t collect personal data to target ads. In fact, they stopped collecting student data for ad-targeting last year after a California lawsuit questioned that practice.

But the EFF says that there’s a little bit of a sliding door, a back door: when students are logged into their student Google accounts but they’re using other Google services like YouTube videos or they’re searching Maps — that Google is collecting that information after all. And when students are using Chrome on these school-issued computers, they’re browsing the web and Google potentially has access to their entire browsing history as well.

On legal implications of such data collection

Well, that depends on who you ask. Google denies any wrongdoing here. They have signed a voluntary but binding pledge called the Student Privacy Pledge, along with 200 other companies. And that pledge says that Google will seek parental authorization before collecting data that isn’t being used explicitly for educational purposes. And EFF told me that they’re not necessarily digging into what Google is doing with this information, they just want Google to get permission.

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FTC Sues To Block The Merger Of Office Depot And Staples

The planned merger by Staples and Office Depot faces opposition from federal regulators, who say it would hurt competition for businesses buying office supplies.

The planned merger by Staples and Office Depot faces opposition from federal regulators, who say it would hurt competition for businesses buying office supplies. Steven Senne/AP hide caption

toggle caption Steven Senne/AP

The Federal Trade Commission has taken the first step toward blocking the proposed $6.3 billion merger of Staples and Office Depot, saying the deal would hurt competition in the market for office supplies sold to large corporations.

The commission filed an administrative complaint charging that the merger between Massachusetts-based Staples, the world’s largest seller of office supplies, and Florida-based Office Depot would violate antitrust laws.

“The Commission has reason to believe that the proposed merger between Staples and Office Depot is likely to eliminate beneficial competition that large companies rely on to reduce the costs of office supplies,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

Many large business customers buy office supplies by contract, the FTC said. That provides them with a wide range of office supplies at competitive prices, fast and reliable nationwide delivery, dedicated customer service and customized online catalogs, among other things, it said.

“That business-to-business market is distinct from the more competitive retail markets for office supplies sold to consumers,” Ramirez said.

The FTC blocked a merger between the companies in 1997, but the companies were hoping the changes in the market since then would persuade regulators to see this deal differently. Big-box stores and Internet retailers play a much bigger part in the business.

Staples and Home Depot issued a joint statement saying the FTC’s vision of the office supply market is outmoded and “based on a flawed analysis and misunderstanding of the intensely competitive landscape in which Staples and Office Depot operate”:

“The FTC underestimates the disruptive effect of new competitors in the digital economy. It also ignores the vigorous existing and expanding competition Staples and Office Depot face from numerous strong competitors, including office products dealers supported by large national wholesalers, manufacturers selling office supplies directly to business customers, dealers in adjacent categories, cooperatives of regional players, Internet resellers, big-box chains, and club stores.”

In addition to the administrative complaint, the FTC has authorized its staff to seek an injunction against the merger. An administrative trial will begin on the FTC’s complaint on May 10, 2016.

The FTC conducted its investigation with the Canadian Competition Bureau, which has also sued to block the merger.

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Heavy Rotation: Twin Cities Edition

Minneapolis' Gospel Machine is one of Andrea Swensson's favorite local bands right now.
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Minneapolis’ Gospel Machine is one of Andrea Swensson’s favorite local bands right now. Sarah White/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Andrea Swensson is host of The Local Show and a blog at St. Paul, Minn., public radio station The Current. As part of this week’s Sense Of Place series, World Cafe asked her to pick five bands representing the best the Twin Cities scene has to offer right now. You can hear and download each song in the playlist on this page.

Hear The Songs

Bruise Violet, ‘Sketchy Jeff’

  • From: Survival Of The Prettiest

This raucous punk trio from Minneapolis wears its influences on its flannel-clad sleeves, borrowing its band name from a Babes In Toyland song and its ferocity from the riot grrrls that came before. Two of Bruise Violet’s members are still in high school, making their tightly woven harmonies and unbridled passion all the more impressive.

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Dizzy Fae, ‘Color Me Bad’

  • From: Color Me Bad

This 17-year-old nocturnal pop artist from St. Paul has crafted a unique, alluring style. Dizzy Fae is just starting to make waves locally (she made her live debut in October, opening for The Internet), and she’s more in tune with forward-thinking R&B and electro artists like The Weeknd and FKA Twigs than other artists in the Twin Cities.

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Perfume Monster, ‘You Don’t Know (A Damn Thing)’

  • From: A Slow Drip

Perfume Monster is a dream-pop band whose lead singer has a gorgeous, magnetic voice. The band is just as compelling live as it is on this debut EP — at Perfume Monster’s second show ever, a man in the crowd ran up to me and screamed, “These guys are going to be huge!”

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Fury Things, ‘Some Things’

  • From: Split EP

Clearly influenced by Hüsker Dü and other pioneering Minneapolis punk bands, Fury Things combines chugging guitars with dreamy, shoegazey vocals that would make Bob Mould proud. In fact, the band has already won Mould over — he taps Fury Things to open his shows every time he comes through his hometown.

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Gospel Machine, ‘Just Call Me’

  • From: Tracks Of Your Holy Ghost

Gospel Machine is a self-described “garage gospel” band with a powerful lead singer, Jayanthi Kyle. With a voice that can be equal parts sweet, scintillating and hair-raising, Kyle has already established herself as a force in Minneapolis, and the songwriting in this project propels her abilities to a whole new level.

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Small, Surprising Dip In World's Carbon Emissions Traced To China

Young boys in Beijing check a smartphone in front of their home, near a coal-fired power plant. As China's economy slowed in 2015, its industrial use of coal likely dropped, too, researchers say. That may be behind the slight drop in global CO2 emissions.

Young boys in Beijing check a smartphone in front of their home, near a coal-fired power plant. As China’s economy slowed in 2015, its industrial use of coal likely dropped, too, researchers say. That may be behind the slight drop in global CO2 emissions. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

So far, the international climate meeting in Paris has primarily been about words, as diplomats wrestle with the precise language of a treaty. But some surprising climate science was unveiled this week, too — a new measurement of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere that suggests the world’s production of the globe-warming gas has taken a small dip.

Since the 1960s, scientists have tracked what’s been an almost inexorable rise in the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. It’s the main contributor to global warming, so more CO2 means more warming.

Last year, however, that rise apparently flattened out. And this year, CO2 emissions around the world actually seem to have dropped slightly, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Science.

Climate scientist Rob Jackson from Stanford University says it’s a small dip — less than one percent. Still, even that amount is significant. As economies surge they usually use more energy, Jackson says, which means they put out more CO2. But that’s not what happened this year.

“I was surprised by the result,” he says. “Previously we’ve only seen this sort of thing when global economies were in crisis. That’s the most exciting piece of this puzzle: We’re seeing a flattening or decline in emissions at a time when the global economy is still growing robustly.”

Jackson and an international team used data from the Global Carbon Project, which tracks worldwide CO2 emissions, to come up with their result.

Climate scientist Corinne Le Quere from the University of East Anglia, in the United Kingdom, says there’s one main reason for the good news: “It’s mostly down to China’s use of coal,” she says.

China burns an enormous amount of coal — creating an enormous amount of CO2. But as China has started to deal with its air pollution problem, and the country’s economic growth has slowed, “all of a sudden, it looks like their use of coal in 2015 actually has gone down,” le Quere says.

And China’s CO2 emissions have, consequently, dropped a startling 4 percent this year.

Worldwide, the total decline in emissions is much less — less than one percent. Still, it reverses a relentless increase the world has experienced over the past few years.

The team notes in the published report that emissions from Western Europe and the U.S. have also flattened out. That’s largely because of an increase in the amount of power coming from solar, wind and natural gas — instead of coal — in the U.S.

China's air pollution is legendary. Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, experienced what officials called its worst smog of the year on Dec. 1 (top), until a strong north wind dispersed the air pollution 24 hours later (bottom).

China’s air pollution is legendary. Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, experienced what officials called its worst smog of the year on Dec. 1 (top), until a strong north wind dispersed the air pollution 24 hours later (bottom). Kevin Frayer/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

But le Quere says it’s China, the world’s biggest source of CO2, that will drive the ups and downs in the emissions numbers for the world in the near future. And no one should expect the downturn from China to last.

“Whether the emissions are going to pick up again in China? I certainly think they will,” le Quere says, because China’s economy is bound to revive. Also, it’s worth remembering that the findings are based on emissions reports from China — which have not always been accurate.

But John Holdren, the science advisor to the White House, says whether the decline is a blip or more lasting, it suggests that a real decline in emissions is within reach.

“The global total should absolutely be going down after 2020,” Holdren says, “so what we are seeing now is a good sign and should not be regarded as cause for false hope, but cause for real hope that the world is turning this around.” Still, he says, “we’ll need to do much more.”

The need is great because India will soon be the world’s biggest source of CO2 instead of China, as India embraces coal to bring electricity to hundreds of millions of its citizens.

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Sense Of Place Minneapolis: Polica's 'United Crushers'

David Dye (left) interviews Polica's Ryan Olson (center) and Channy Leaneagh (right).
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David Dye (left) interviews Polica’s Ryan Olson (center) and Channy Leaneagh (right). John Vettese/WXPN hide caption

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  • Polica, “Lime Habit” from United Crushers

Polica is about to release a new album, United Crushers, this March. In a visit to the band’s home studio, we hear one of the new songs and talk with lead singer Channy Leaneagh and her partner Ryan Olson about the life of Polica — and about their two-week-old son, who was there for the interview as well.

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Marijuana Extract May Help Some Children With Epilepsy, Study Finds

A strain of high-cannabidiol marijuana is to create concentrated cannabidiol used in epilepsy treatments.

A strain of high-cannabidiol marijuana is to create concentrated cannabidiol used in epilepsy treatments. GW Pharmaceuticals hide caption

toggle caption GW Pharmaceuticals

Parents of children with severe epilepsy have reported incredible recoveries when their children were given cannabidiol, a derivative of marijuana. The drug, a non-psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in cannabis, has been marketed with epithets like Charlotte’s Web and Haleigh’s Hope.

But those parents were taking a risk; there has been no clinical data on cannabidiol’s safety of efficacy as an anti-epileptic. This week, doctors are presenting the first studies trying to figure out if cannabidiol actually works. They say the studies’ results are promising, but with a grain of salt.

The largest study being presented at the American Epilepsy Society meeting in Philadelphia this week was started in 2014 with 313 children from 16 different epilepsy centers around the country. Over the course of the three-month trial, 16 percent of the participants withdrew because the cannabidiol was either ineffective or had adverse side-effects, says Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at the New York University Langone Medical Center and lead author on the study.

But for the 261 patients that continued taking cannabidiol, the number of convulsive seizures, called grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures, went down by about half on average. Devinsky says that some children continued to experience benefits on cannabidiol after the trial ended. “In the subsequent periods, which are very encouraging, 9 percent of all patients and 13 percent of those with Dravet Syndrome epilepsy were seizure-free. Many have never been seizure-free before,” he says. It’s one of several [at least four. checking] papers on cannabidiol being presented this week at the American Epilepsy Society meeting in Philadelphia.

25 of those patients were followed for a year-long study also presented at the meeting. Some of those patients did better, but one ended up doing worse. “A drug can induce an increase in seizures,” says Dr. Maria Roberta Cilio, a pediatric neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital who led that study. This happened with one of her patients. “For one particular child, the more the dose of [cannabidiol] was increasing, that increase was paralleled with an increase in seizure frequency,” she says.

Some patients in Devinsky’s trial also did worse while on cannabidiol, but he thinks there’s no way to tell if it was because of the drug or something else. He says we won’t know until a full clinical trial has run its course. Without that, the perceived effects of the drug might be a placebo effect or it could be some other confounding factor that hasn’t been caught in the study. What’s more, a few hundred patients isn’t a lot of patients, and doctors still need to see what will happen when a patient is on cannabidiol for more than a few months.

Epilepsy can be one of the most difficult syndromes to treat. About a third of patients have an intractable form of epilepsy. It’s common for children and adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy to exhaust the list of anti-seizure medications to little or no effect.

Jaren Hansen is a 7-year-old boy with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a form of treatment-resistant epilepsy. When he was 2, he started having seizures. His doctors diagnosed him with epilepsy and started him on one anti-seizure medication. Then they added another, and then another.

None of them seemed to be working. “He tail spun again and had a tonic-clonic seizure every day. At that point, he was on three seizure medications, and we weren’t seeing any control. Things were just tumbling downward,” says his mother, Nicole Hansen from Necedah, Wisc. “At one point, blood levels of Depakote [an anti-epileptic medication] were toxically high. We needed to try something else. We were scared for his long-term health based on just the side effects of the medicine.”

Hansen, who works as a cranberry grower in Wisconsin, started researching her son’s illness. She found an online chat group with other parents who were discussing medical cannabis, and decided to try it. But it was difficult. States like Wisconsin do allow the shipment of cannabidiol supplements and oils that don’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, but most doctors won’t touch it. “They won’t even prescribe it because there are too many loopholes and too much work,” Hansen says.

Lack of physician input often leaves parents on their own, Hansen says. That presents more challenges. “You have to make sure the company can replicate the same product over and over. A small change in the ratio of THC to cannabidiol can cause the child’s seizures to increase or come back. You have to make sure there are no microbial issues like molds or funguses or pesticides.”

That people are treating themselves or their children with cannabis products is troubling to physicians. “It’s a very worrisome time. People go off and do their own thing, if things go wrong, you don’t know why. You want data, and you don’t have it, and all the families are just trying things,” says Dr. Brenda Porter, a pediatric neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

Devinsky says parents either have to purchase the cannabidiol from an artisanal distributor of hemp products or compound the drug themselves. Either way, “the consistency from batch to batch is quite uncertain,” he says.

And people sometimes try different formulations from several companies in the hope one will work. “As a practitioner, I have had families move to Colorado, and many tried multiple different products,” Devinsky says. That makes it really difficult to tell what is or isn’t working. “As a doctor, I often don’t feel like I know which of many factors is contributing to a patient doing better or worse. We absolutely need rigorous, scientific data on this,” he says.

Even though the results presented at the American Epilepsy Society meeting look encouraging, researchers caution that there’s no promise cannabidiol is really going to work for many of these treatment resistant epilepsy syndromes. Until there is a full clinical trial done with a placebo-controlled element, Devinsky and others say it’s impossible to tell if cannabidiol is having a real effect on epilepsy. That takes time and puts parents in a difficult position, he says. “Parents are desperate and they feel the medical community has failed them, which is true in many cases.”

Hansen agrees with Devinsky; she feels that the clinical trials need to be finished as fast as possible. “There are parents out there doing whatever they can and experimenting with cannabis. We need the medical professionals so they can help make the proper recommendations,” she says. “But I can’t blame them for trying. When you are seeing your child dying, and knowing that you could do something to help them, how can you not do something as a parent?”

After Hansen put her son on cannabidiol he continued to have seizures, but the number of convulsive seizures went down. Then he caught a stomach flu, and things spiraled out of control. The tonic-clonic seizures came back, violently, and he nearly died. “They put him into am medically induced coma in hopes that it would reset his brain.” she says. “By God’s grace, truly, and by a miracle it did.”

Jaren is not on cannabidiol anymore. He’s on three different medications now, including a benzodiazepine and a barbiturate. “Both in the long-term can cause brain atrophy,” Hansen says. “At some point, we have to start weaning him off, and nothing else has worked. And he needs more than just cannabidiol.” She’s hopeful that cannabis research will bring the science to a point where doctors can begin looking into mixtures of cannabidiol and THC together.

Full on, randomized clinical trials testing cannabidiol for epilepsy are already underway, but it will still be some time until the results are out. Until then, Devinsky says, “Wait.”

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