Baby blood, Target theft, and running on fumes in North Dakota (5×8 – 1/14/14)

By the end of the day, the Minnesota Department of Health will destroy about 1.1 million archived dried blood spot cards and newborn screening test results from its archives, MPR’s Lorna Benson reports today.

They didn’t have parental permission to save the samples and a couple dozen of them sued the state.

“Certainly the potential for research is compromised if we aren’t able to have a significant number of [blood] spots available,” the state health commissioner said. “But we have to do it the right way. We have to follow the law.”

That’s something the department hasn’t done since 2011, when the Supreme Court ruled the state couldn’t keep the samples.

It’s a victory for those who see a conspiracy of Big Brother.

“They could look at the two blood spots together, the genetic profile of two individuals and say, ‘You know what, the chance is that you’re going to have a very expensive child and we can’t afford it,'” one said. “There are all these sorts of things that could happen if someone knew what your DNA said.”

It’s tempting to prove that sort of allegation wrong, but the fact is the state expanded its use of the blood samples beyond what the Legislature intended. They weren’t being used for just screening, but for research as well.

At this point, is there any reason to maintain a Target card? The company has upped its estimate of how many people’s data was stolen by hackers after Thanksgiving and lack of specifics certainly gives pause. In his half-hour-long interview with CNBC yesterday, CEO Gregg Steinhafel didn’t provide any specifics about how the hackers got into Target’s system nor provide assurances that it won’t happen again, only that the “malware” had been removed.

“We’re in the middle of a criminal investigation and we can only share so much,” Steinhafel said.

“What can you share?” a reporter asked.

“We don’t know the full extent of what transpired,” he said.

“Who do you think did it?” she persisted.

“I don’t know,” he said.

So, how did they do it? NPR’s Melissa Block spoke with Mark Rasch, former Department of Justice prosecutor for cyber crimes, about it.

He says it was likely taken from two places: The terminal you use when you swipe the card at the checkout, and from inside Target itself. He says the data is supposed to be encrypted, but the hackers are probably using “ram scrapers,” which allows the hackers to get the information before it’s encrypted. But it still doesn’t answer the most interesting question: How did the malicious software get put where it got put?

He also didn’t sound particularly optimistic that anyone will be caught.

  1. Listen NPR’s Melissa Block speaks with Mark Rasch about the Target data theft

    January 13, 2013

A young woman was lured to North Dakota for a truck-driving job. Jonnie Cassens, 38, brought hospital bills and other debt with her but found it easy to find work. “Jonnie’s story calls into question whether hard work and courage can eventually bring a decent living in contemporary America,” the New York Times says, introducing her video op-ed. “A longstanding promise this nation makes to its citizens. As it happens, we can’t all be winners. Not even in a boomtown.”


Caution: Spoiler alert! (Downton Abbey)

PBS is getting an earful because Sunday night’s episode of Downton Abbey included the rape of Anna Bates. “Rape is not entertainment,” one letter said, according to the PBS ombudsman, who replied:

As a viewer, and as just a personal observation, I was not offended. The scene was painful, as it should be. But the pain was conveyed by screaming. The visuals — so common on almost everything else on American television and in American movies — were thankfully absent. Downton is a drama unfolding in early 20th century England and the reason I found such a scene at least potentially worthy is because it could lead to exploration about what a woman could do or felt she had to do in such circumstances during such times. I have no idea what lies ahead in the series, but would a servant such as Anna lose her job if she complained? What chance would she have with the police or the justice system of that era if she brought charges, with no witnesses, against the male valet of an aristocrat, Lord Gillingham, an invited guest to Downton? How does a smart young woman of that time — probably the most perceptive figure in the drama, and possibly impregnated — deal with such an act, which is ageless? Does she lose control of her decisions because she can’t keep others in a gossip-filled mansion from finding out, becoming involved and taking matters into their hands? Finally, although this attack is distasteful but real, it is about the only thing in the first three hours of the new season that seems to me to have produced any dramatic tension or interest other than Lady Mary’s switching from her black “I’m still grieving” dress to a purple outfit, signifying something.

It took a few months but bus driver supervisor Bill Bierman of Milwaukee finally got his job back. He was punished for preventing a woman from getting beaten up. While working on a broken-down bus last fall, he heard a woman screaming so he stepped in and broke up a fight. He got fired for violating the bus company’s workplace violence policy.

“I’m not gonna watch someone be a victim,” said Bierman.

Last week he was honored by city and county officials for preventing a woman from being beaten up, a ceremony which made it hard for the bus service to continue to ignore the obvious wrong it had done.

BONUS I: Every day, illustrator Maria Fabrizio posts a news-inspired image on her blog. This week she’s using inspiration from NPR’s Morning Edition.

BONUS II: How to torment telemarketers (Los Angeles Times).

BONUS III: Full court shot.: 13-year-old swishes a 2nd time (KMSP-TV).

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: How can Target recover from the security breach?

Second hour: Extreme food trends.

Third hour: Leibovich’s ‘This Town’ portrays DC as swamp of corruption, dysfunction.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – In advance of next week’s Syria peace conference in Geneva, a special report from the America Abroad series: “Syria and the Responsibility to Protect.”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Why one economist is arguing that the American economy has bounced back since the recession.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with its Ode to Joy lyrics, is an unmistakably familiar tune around the world. And its been the soundtrack for protests from China to Chile. NPR talks with the director of “Following the Ninth,” a new documentary about the power of music.