National / International News

In Kansas, Professors Must Now Watch What They Tweet

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:12

Last fall, a University of Kansas professor criticized the National Rifle Association in a tweet. Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a strict social media policy for university employees.

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Nigerians defy terror to keep learning

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:07
Nigerian students defy terror to keep learning

VIDEO: Street art, indoors - and other arts stories

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:05
An exhibition of international street art in Portugal, examining the role of women in modern Iran through the paintings of Afshin Pirhashemi - and more from the world of arts.

VIDEO: Glimpse of Victorian life in London

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:04
Whistler's pictures of Victorian life along the River Thames

Regulators Couldn't Close U.S. Mine Despite Poor Safety Record

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:04

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says it had no authority to shut down the W.Va. mine where two people were killed this week, despite having cited it for numerous violations.

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Can economics be a laughing matter?

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:03
Can economics be a laughing matter?

VIDEO: What's hot at Cannes film festival?

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:02
Tom Brook looks at the films in competition and investigates the mix of pictures at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

End-of-life care 'deeply concerning'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:00
The care given to people dying in hospital is "deeply concerning", according to doctors who have carried out a review of standards in England.

The $24 admission fee to the 9/11 Museum in context

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-14 15:00

The 9/11 Memorial Museum opens to the public this week, but the journey to its unveiling has not been without controversy. Questions over the purpose of the museum have been well-reported, but recent concerns have been raised over the relatively high cost of admission.

Those wishing to visit the memorial will have to pay a $24 admission fee.

At a recent press conference, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that those upset by the high cost should write to Congress. His point? While the U.S. government has provided $250 million towards the contruction of the 9/11 Memorial, more financial resources are needed to maintain security and its high operating costs.

Federal and state support are issues that factor into the price of admission at other memorials in the U.S. and around the world.

Brandi Simons/Getty Images

The Oklahoma City National Memorial, for example, does not receive any federal funding to contribute to the cost of its annual operation. Though, like the 9/11 Memorial, the museum did receive funding for the initial construction costs. Along with the $10 entrance fee paid by visitors, the self-sustaining museum covers its expenses using "store sales, the OKC Memorial Marathon, [and] earnings from an endowment and private fundraising."

Getty Images

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam also charges an admission fee -- a practice it began in the early 1970s when the Anne Frank Foundation began having diffuclty shouldering the costs of maintaining the house. Revenue from visitors to the museum now covers 95 percent of the organization's annual budget. While it does receive funding from the EU and the Dutch government, the money is reserved exclusively for projects not involved in running the museum.

Back in the U.S, while legislation was introduced in 2011 to set up a regular subsidy for the 9/11 Memorial, it was basically shelved. It would seem that for now, the price of admission remains.

Venezuela detains dozens in protest

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:59
Police in Venezuela detain some 80 demonstrators who were marching to demand the release of those arrested in recent anti-government protests.

The NHS and 'cradle to the grave'

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:59
Is the NHS still providing cradle to the grave care?

Electricity as utility. A model for the internet?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:54

As Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler moves closer to releasing new rules on net neutrality and internet "fast lanes," many open internet advocates have been calling for the FCC to reclassify internet service providers as "common carriers."

Doing so would effectively turn them into public utilities like power, gas and water services, and thereby subject them to more strict regulation.

But some of those utilities themselves started out as products sold on the open market, just like internet service. So how did they get regulated as public utilities? For the best comparison with the internet's current situation, look at how another "new" technology went from market good to public good: electricity.

In the case of electricity, it starts with Edison.

With a patent for the first practical light bulb in 1879, Thomas Edison needed an actual market of people who could use his invention, meaning a way to get power to his customers. In 1882 his Edison Illuminating Company constructed the first central power plant in the United States, the Pearl Street Station in New York.

The catch with early direct current power plants, however, was that they couldn't generate power at very high voltages. The power couldn't travel that far along the copper wires without weakening the further it went. But as electricity gained popularity and more appliances were created to use it, numerous companies began building power plants to supply electricity to individual neighborhoods, each station selling power to customers within a small radius.

This is where goverment regulation entered the picture, in the form of municipal franchise agreements. Those agreements allowed the companies to dig up streets and build infrastructure. In exchange, they had to meet certain price caps and service standards. These controls, usually administered by city governments, were in fact very weak.

The large investment costs usually prohibited one company from owning all the power stations in a single city at first, but the different firms would often compete over customers in areas where their services overlapped. As companies were able to expand their reach, customers in large cities like New York and Chicago actually experienced a sort of golden age of price wars with many local companies competing against each other.

The competition was short lived, however, as single companies gained monopolies over large cities and increasingly advancing technology made for high barriers of investment in infrastructure needed for a new competitor to enter a market. The market for internet service providers is kind of at the same point right now in terms of barriers to entry, as telecom and cable companies have consolidated to a certain extent, buying up smaller regional ISPs. This has made it pretty much unfeasable for new competitors to get in the the game without considerable resources.

The old municipal franchises that governed electric companies also became prone to corruption from city politicians. In the early 1900s, an entrepreneur named Samuel Insull who had exploited the economies of scale to dominate the Chicago market argued along with other electric utilites that they were "natural monopolies," that resulted from the inherent barriers to competition in large markets.

State governments attempted to regulate these monopolies with legislation, but power barons like Insull were able to outmaneuver the efforts by restructuring their businesses with holding companies that were not covered by the reforms. By the late 1920s, the Federal Trade Commission was investigating the holding companies for market manipulations.

It wasn't until the onset of the Great Depression, and the strong reforms of the New Deal that power over electric utilites was taken away from the holding companies in the form of the Public Utility Holding Company Act and the Federal Power Act of 1935, transferring much of the regulatory power over eletricity over to the federal goverment.

This was significant not because power utility monopolies were split up, but that the "natural monopolies" were in fact legitimated; they could exist, but they had to be under government control. The federal legislation, along with other New Deal legislation, actually provided for the creation of a number of government monopolies over public goods.

As it stands now, internet service providers are sort of stuck in between being a wholly private good or a heavily-regulated public utility. Until recently, the FCC has successfully imposed on ISPs to treat all content the same in terms of speed of access, but they haven't set caps on how much they can charge or set standards for quality of service as are required of utilites like water and power.

The federal government has also subsidized ISPs to the tune of $200 billion to build a fiber broadband infrastructure for schools and low-income regions, which many activists contend they never completed. Following the model of electic utilites, further government investment could hypothetically result in internet infrastructure owned by the government itself.

It's unclear whether the internet will go along the same route to regulation as a utility, but with nearly a third of Americans having no choice for their internet service provider, the circumstances are starting to look very similar.

VIDEO: Assessing the threat of Boko Haram

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:35
Nigeria's president has said there is no question of swapping any of the girls kidnapped by the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram, for prisoners of the insurgency held by the government.

After Referendum In Eastern Ukraine, Different Visions Emerge

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:29

Residents of eastern Ukraine are trying to figure out what happens next, now that pro-Russian separatists have claimed independence. But there's even disagreement over what's feasible.

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Kerry and Abbas in Mid-East talks

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:29
The US Secretary of State holds "informal" talks with the Palestinian president for the first time since peace talks with Israel collapsed last month.

Feinstein Wants CIA To Speed 'Torture Report' Release

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:22

With a bipartisan vote in April, the Senate Intelligence Committee told the CIA to declassify and make public parts of the "Torture Report." The agency isn't exactly rushing to do so.

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New Mexico shoot for 'Bad' spin-off

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:14
Better Call Saul, a spin-off of hit television show Breaking Bad, will be filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the shows are set, officials say.

Levy not a football man - Allen

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:09
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is an "incredible" businessman but not a "football man", says ex-Spurs player Clive Allen.

How Food Companies Court Nutrition Educators With Junk Food

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:09

Corporate sponsorship of professional events for nutritionists has been on the rise. But should the gatekeepers of nutrition information be taking free meals and snacks from McDonald's and Hershey's?

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Where do nudists keep their bitcoin?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-14 14:04

The following public relations email landed in my inbox this morning:   I'll just paste the first line here: "Bitcoin is now accpeted for payment at Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park."   It brings to mind the opening scene in my colleague David Brancaccio's book from a decade or so ago in which he went to report on the economics of a French nudist colony, and finds himself clutching a a fistful of French banknotes... with nowhere to put them.   Think about it.   The book's called "Squandering Aimlessly".  It's on Amazon.  

At the end of tonight's @Marketplace, @kairyssdal references a book by @DavidBrancaccio WITH AN AMAZING COVER. pic.twitter.com/iNJ5PIu3RA

— David Gura (@davidgura) May 14, 2014

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